Monday, June 29, 2009

Everyone together with me...

Several months ago-

"We take the elevators much more often than the stairs at home"

West African:
"Please, I don't understand this word, elevator?"

"You know, the box-thing you push the button for and get into that pulls you by a cord up to the next floor?"

West African:
"Ah-huh, ok"

Though the course of several months have this conversation 6,341 times (just inserting a different word for elevator)


"You need a walkie-talkie to talk to give Suzanne directions from way back there in the car."

West African:
:blank stare:

"Oh wait, do you know what a walkie-talkie is?"

West African:
"Of course"

"Except we call it a talkie-walkie"

Now everyone together with me...
Clap hands together once and hold your palms up in the air for a second. That's the West African version of an American shoulder shrug, or a French hands up in the air and "pugh" noise.

Disclaimer #1
I'm a bit sarcastic
I second guess whether or not I'm too sarcastic and just discussed with friends the fact that I was going to edit this after posting. They told me I didn't have to. I'm doing it anyways. Clearly.
Disclaimer #3
My translator rocks, and these daily instances make me love Africa even more.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Falling down

I have heard from people on the ship who were here last outreach comment about how Liberians, when sad or upset, would say their "heart was falling down".
I think this is such a perfect, simple description of how I sometimes feel. For the last few days my heart has been falling down. I have been upset over a situation with a patient and his wife, so much so that I haven't had energy to do anything past work and go straight to my room. I have been upset with the system here, the way people mistreat each other, the power struggle within this culture, inefficiency, you name it, and its been on my list of 'things I don't like'. To boot, I've spent zero time with God since Tuesday, since I called on Him for an answer which He gave, one that I am seeing for what it really was just now.

Tuesday afternoon one of our patients said his wife was coming to see us, that she had some wounds on her arm that needed to be looked at. We had suspected, and also been told that this wife was HIV positive, so my assumption before seeing her was that she likely had lesions secondary to advanced AIDS. When she came in and removed the lappa of material from her shoulders, I had one of those reactions that only years of "shocking" situations in nursing can help prevent words being said out loud that go through my head
"Oh.....crap!!" (out loud I probably said something like, "hmm, ok...lets see here"

60% of the flesh on her arm was missing. She was swollen, and her pain was evident by her inability to lift her arm even a fraction of an inch without grimacing. I had NO idea what the heck I was looking at. Three days before she said it had been fine, just some pain, but no wounds. I was clueless and felt utterly helpless. I brought pictures back to the ship and we agreed she needed to go to a local hospital, which we called and asked the husband to do. He told us if he could find the money he would. All night I kept running the situation through my head.

God, what could I have done differently? What am I supposed to do?

Just show her compassion

I have watched this woman quietly and sweetly care for her sick husband for months. In return he has been, (hmm, here I go with needing to not say the words running through my head out loud) um, lets just say he's turning out to be a pretty sleazy character.
The next morning we called to see how it had gone and the husband told us they could not afford the 12 dollars the hospital wanted before they would see her. I decided we needed to pick her up and bring her ourselves. When we arrived to pick up the husband, so he could show us where she was staying, to our surprise he had a brand new 50 dollar cell phone in hand (well, in his son's hand, having him hold the bag in an effort to hide it from us). I was beyond frustrated. The longer I was in the car the more I prayed for God to take the frustration away, I knew I couldn't go all day with such feelings in my chest.

If I'm being honest I have to say I don't have the energy to recount the events of the day to all of you, maybe some other time. Basically, after 8 hours we had found that this woman was indeed HIV positive (which, as it turns out, she didn't know), and she has a horrible case of shingles (which likely indicates she has full blown AIDS)
We were all tired and felt defeated. Oh, I forgot to mention that she is only 25, a year younger than me, which didn't help my efforts at keepin' the old chin up.
I was able to put a dressing on her wound, get her some medications, and asked her to come back Thursday and Friday so I could do the dressing each day. I asked her to come at 8 am, that we had to start by 8. I also asked her to bring her sister who she is staying with so I could teach her how to do them for the weekend. Before she left I asked her again what time she was coming (real time, not African time) and through a sweet, timid smile she said 7:30. Thursday I looked out the window minutes before 8 to see her sitting on the dock. I smiled realizing the trust I had put in her was for good reason, she was there. The day was long, I was tired, and again felt the familiar falling of my heart as I shut myself in my cabin for another night.

When I woke up this morning I had to force myself to get going
"You only have 1 patient this morning, you can get through it and go back to bed" I told myself.
It was pouring out. Like pouring so hard the rain physically hurt when it hit you. We called my patient and they said they were making their way over to us. I felt guilty for how they had to travel in the rain, another tick mark on things that were making my heart feel heavy. When they arrived they were soaked through, squeaking down the hallway in their plastic flip flops. One of the women who helps with the laundry offered to dry their clothes. I let them go to get changed and waited down the hall. After a few minutes I went looking for them and found them wrapped in hospital johnnies. I started tying my patients for her, first the ties on top, then wrapping the second one around her waist. Without warning her and her sister burst out laughing. I mean, uncontrollable hysterics. Confused, I looked at my translator and he said,
"They are laughing at how they look"
Their laughter quickly became contagious, and I found myself in a laundry room, filled with half-dressed African women waiting for their clothes to be dried, belly laughing.

As I led the two sisters to our treatment room, we giggled down the whole hallway, catching the looks of innocent bystanders puzzled by the scene we were causing.
Through the whole dressing the two sisters laughed and laughed. They would stop for a minute, and then would start giggling, until they would throw their heads back and erupt again into full blown-gasping-for-air-laughs. Slowly my heart started swelling with each outburst of giggles. I let myself laugh and enjoy the moment. I wanted to cry I was so happy for my patient. She has probably had the worst few days of her life, yet one could see her heart literally healing in that small treatment room. They asked me to take pictures for them which I gladly did. I'll print them so they can have copies, little do they know I will always remember this day and what the love and giggles between two sisters did for my heart. (My patient is the one on the right with the shower cap on)

We have videos of when my younger sister and I were little. One is of us ice skating at 3 and 6 years old. The camera catches my sister fall with a 'thud' just before a guy skates by with a hockey stick (earlier in the video you see him in the background and Jenny admiring his skills). As he passes she says
"Wow, you're good", to which he replies;
"Oh, you'll be better than me in no time."
And then she asks, with possibly the sweetest three year old voice you can imagine,
"You mean, sometimes you fall down?"

We all fall down from time to time. Its funny because these past few days I knew what I needed to do, yet I didn't. I let myself dwell on the bad, and look at the ugliness of this world. I didn't go to God with any of it. Today in that treatment room my heart was restored. God used a simple scenario to open my eyes to all He can do. He can bring redemption and light to every situation, and that makes my heart happy.

Proverbs 4:23
"Above all else, guard you heart, for it is the wellspring of life"

Friday, June 19, 2009

How Sue got her joy back

Two years ago I was in a rough place. I was a new Christian and my life had dramatically changed. Everything I knew was no longer. In light of everything I had decided to take a couple of days away, jump on 95 North and spend some time with God. I packed a toothbrush, some random books, and my bible. People talk about God "showing up". Its a weird concept if you haven't experienced it, I certainly can tell you there is nothing like it. I was sitting reading next to the ocean and read a excerpt on joy. The author said that women are like opals in relation to our connectedness with God. When an opal is in a drawer, hidden from any light it has no shine to it, no luster. When it is brought into the light it shines brilliantly. Are you following?
Ok, the reason an opal is so brilliant is because it is filled with cracks and imperfections. Read: I was a cracked, imperfect mess and only being in the "light" would I be able to shine.
I smiled and suddenly found myself feeling joy after years severely lacking in it. God used a simple metaphor to speak into my heart in astounding ways. I wanted to get a piece of opal jewelry to remember the weekend by, but try as I did, I couldn't find a thing.

On my drive home I stopped in at the house of a woman who sells bunnies. I had one growing up and had been thinking about getting another one. She showed me around and down in one of the bottom cages a little white bunny with grey spots was on his hind legs begging me to pick him. I told the woman I wanted him to which she replied "oh no. He's imperfect. He would need to have at least 10% of his body covered in grey spots to be perfect" (I won't even GO into detail about this. Suffice to say the woman showed bunnies for a 4h club as a living)
"But I really like him, he's the one. I like that he's not perfect"
"The coloring is called broken opal"
"I'll take him"
When people make fun of me for having a pet rabbit I smile because I know he is a literal gift from God. A real, tangible, cute, sweet and funny bunny.

Abe is seriously the man. He comes out of his cage every morning, plays for a while in the living room, eats his green apple and then sprawls out and lays down next to whoever is in the room with him. When I was home, every night I would say goodnight and lean down so he could give me "kisses". I'm not kidding, he would lick my nose after I kissed his forehead. He loves to be loved.

Today I got a message to call my sister right away. My roommate said the message was that Abe is sick. My stomach dropped as I dialed the phone, I could barely ask the question, is he ok?
Turns out he has a parasite that is common in bunnies, probably has had it all his life. After a trip to the doctor and 4 prescriptions later, he is home being watched over by my family. We laughed about how they had to give him medicine twice a day for the next month. I cried thinking about him having trouble walking (The bug affects his central nervous system so he is constantly dizzy). I really let the tears go when my mom told me this;
"The vet was really sweet. Abe let her do whatever she needed to. He didn't jump or squirm at all. She made a comment about how he must be held a lot at home" If she only knew...
Roll your eyes, laugh, call me crazy, but this made my heart ache. This bunny is one loved animal.

My roommate and I laughed about how she too was crying while I was on the phone. It seems silly, but for those who understand you know what I am talking about.

I went up for dinner and sat with a friend who works in 'D'ward (read: lots of ridiculously cute babies and children). I realized I needed something cute to hold, a little 'baby' time. We were walking and as she offered some comfort I said "no offense, you don't have black velvety skin OR fur, you won't cut it". Within minutes I had a perfect, fuzzy haired baby in my arms giggling and cooing back and forth with me. He was the perfect fit for the part of my heart that was still aching a little. As the mommas on the ward broke out into singing and clapping (at random, this IS Africa) I heard God whisper

This is joy, I am your joy.

Of course my joy doesn't rest on a rabbit. I swear I'm not that crazy. He is a sweet reminder of a very special day in my life. He is a living symbol of the day I got my joy back. It hasn't left since I was brought out into the light. Tonight as I held baby Rolin and kissed his face I realized that day two years ago was the beginning of something very big in my life. Something much bigger than me.

When I was thinking about names I did a search on 'light' and 'joy', and Abe was one of them. I pray he'll be ok. I smile knowing God, in all His power and might, cares about me in such an amazingly personal way. A couple of years ago I found comfort in a small, oddly colored rabbit. Today I stood and held a beautiful baby, in a ward, on a hospital ship, off the coast of West Africa, listening and dancing to worship sung in a foreign dialect, and felt the astounding familiarity of pure joy deep in my soul.

Of course I have to include pictures of him so you can all see how perfectly "imperfect" he is...just like me.

Of course with everything, there is some real humor in this situation. Earlier I got to hear the ooh's and aahs of my mom and sister giving Abe his medicine which he took like a champ. I suppose when you mix it with applesauce what rabbit could resist? The one coming in the mail will be banana flavored according to the bunny pharmacist. Oh my, what a day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I'm going to let you all in on a little secret...

I've always loved the song "Africa" by Toto. Maybe its the synthesized sound that all 80's bands embraced with such ease and ability. Or maybe its how the lead singer makes you understand and share his passion for the song by so dramatically changing his voice between the verses and the chorus.

According to Wikipedia;

"With Toto IV, the band delivered one of the most commercially successful records of the 80s. The album featured three singles that reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: "Rosanna"; "Africa"; and "I Won't Hold You Back". The album also made several worldwide charts, bringing the band to new audiences. "Africa" topped the charts in February 1983 and was a constant presence on radios across the globe"

Clearly it's an awesome song. Moving on.
My second secret is that since deciding to come here, I have been more than excited to actually "pass some rains down in Africa"(whatever that means...). Yes its cheesy, yes its slightly embarrassing, yes its absolutely true.

I have excitedly been putting together this picture montage to share with all, and I think its finally time for the big reveal. (click on any of the pictures to make them bigger)

I am starting off with my absolute favorite. This is the "beach" road which leads to many fun places. I had NO problem saying yes to driving for this trip, and I am eternally grateful to my friend Tracy who volunteered herself to be dropped off after the puddles, wait while I backed up through them again, and risk getting some mud on her shoes while I floored it, all so we could have a picture to commemorate the day.

People asked me before I left if I really needed to bring rain boots with me. The answer is a resounding "yes".

First "good" storm of the season. My friend and I were sitting in the dining room during lunch when the ominous black clouds rolled in. We looked at each other, immediately got up, and ran up to Deck 7. You know in Forest Gump when he talks about sideways rain? This is me being absolutely assaulted by it (and loving every second).

Perfectly normal

The two pictures below of the roads are from today while we were out visiting patients. I also wanted to make sure I included a picture of how the women all wear their shower caps on days like today. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

Walking into my patients house.

A little rain doesn't stop people from gong to church here. I'm so touched by this, I love it. Admit it, you've groan about going to church from time to time. People here will do ANYthing to be able to have the opportunity, even if it means standing on cinder blocks during worship.

They'll give you a "good price" for a mud bath.

Have you taken your malaria meds today? Yes, those are mosquito's, and this picture makes my skin crawl a little.

I love that I live in a place where shower caps are a fashion statement and umbrellas cost double on days when its raining. I love that the guys standing around outside the restaurant carry table-top umbrellas to walk you to your car (but fail to realize they force you to walk through a knee deep puddle in the process). (Thank you Kathleen for posing)

Oh Africa, you rock.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Momma said there'd be days like this

This morning started off like any other Monday, except today we had a new patient to go visit. She came into the eye clinic last week and was diagnosed with advanced retinoblastoma, cancer of the eye. We can't help her, she is suffering.
She is two years old.
I sucked in a deep breath and inwardly squashed the desire to go back to bed, go back to the safety of just an hour prior to that moment.
We got ourselves as close to her house as the sketchy directions allowed us, our patients dad met us then climbed into the car to direct us the rest of the way. We parked and started to snake through cement walls, ducking under brightly colored laundry, waving and smiling at neighbors, wondering what the next corner would reveal. We were brought into a small dark room, big enough to hold a family and all of their earthly possessions, a room probably smaller than your living room.
When her momma turned I saw Harrietts tumor, protruding sharply from her small face. As she was swung forward, pulled loose from the lappa of material that held her in place, she started crying. We quickly realized, and confirmed by asking, that Harriett is completely blind. she settled slowly into her momma, finding comfort like a small baby in drawing close to her mom's bare chest. I held it together throughout the visit. I drew on every reserve I had. At one point I put my fingers next to hers and watched her slowly feel them, tentatively wrapping her tiny fingers around each of mine. While praying I was overcome with emotion.

Please God, if it is your will, heal this little girl. If it isn't, hold her close, comfort her.
She is your child, hold her. Please.

I wiped away tears quickly and grasped for words as her mom tried to thank us.

Please, no. Its ok, its ok.

We came back to the ship, my mind all the while still back in the maze of cement walls and bright fabrics, and Harriett.

I thought I would quickly write my notes, make a phone call, and call it a day. I was numb as I walked through the ship. I casually picked up the phone to make my one call to a woman at the local hospital we were working with concerning the patient who wasn't doing well. (I talked about her here).
She hesitated for a second when she answered the phone "Oh, Suzanne. I was going to call you this evening. Vittorine has died over the weekend"
I don't remember much after that. We talked about how it worked out the best one could have hoped for (here, that is). She said she would call me tomorrow so we could talk more. I hurried through my notes and found my way to my cabin, tears welling up in my eyes with each step.
I picked up the phone and dialed home.

Please pick up

"Hi mom"
"Are you ok?"
:insert those sobs where your shoulders heave and you gasp awkwardly for breaths in between incoherent attempts at speaking:

Withing minutes, my mom, thousands of miles away, was calling on God for peace. She valiantly stormed Heaven with prayers for me, and through her own tears, prayers for Harriett. The peace came like a wave. The comfort enveloped me like warm air does when you step outside on the hottest day of the year (or any day in Africa).
She prayed I would find comfort throughout the evening in friends and my "family" here. We talked about what it is to be in the center of Gods will, how God had affirmed my being here to both of us individually just the day before.

With only 20 minutes to spare to eat dinner I hung up the phone and puff-eyed made my way upstairs. Withing minutes a friend spotted me, recognized my, well, seriously worn-looking face, and gave me a big hug. A few words were exchanged, just enough, and I felt a little bit stronger. I carried on through the evening, finally asking another friend if they wanted to go out for a bit. Within moments six of my 'family' members from gateway training back in TX were ready to hop in the car and head off. For two hours I sat with a group of friends, only one of which knew what my day had held, and let myself settle into funny stories, random quotes, and the not-so-subtle sarcastic undertones of the night. Without knowing, all of them brought me comfort and made me realize I am far from being in this alone. I believe with everything in me that God puts people in our lives, each for specific reasons and purposes. If we allow people in, if we let the walls built up around us crumble, we can truly live. We can know what its like to love and be loved. When you allow these people in you might find yourself walking down the hall, on the worst day you've had in a while, with a friend singing (while conjuring up a smile)...

"momma said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this my momma said"
"momma said, momma said"

I struggle with how people live here. Its even harder to see how they die.
I don't ever struggle with whether or not God is here, whether or not He cares. I will go to bed in a few minutes and be able to rest in the knowledge and faith I have. I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Philippians 4:7
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

PS-Don't even think about counting my comma's or coming after me like a crazed grammarian...It's been a long day ;)

Monday, June 8, 2009

His Grace is sufficient

Its been an incredible, exhausting couple of days since I last posted. On Sunday I walked around mostly unaware of how I was feeling. It was one of those times where you have no discernible emotion. I wasn't up, I wasn't down, I basically could have melted into myself and absolutely justified a day spent in pajamas, curled around my laptop, half paying attention to movies playing (probably in bed, where then my laptop would get hot enough to start a small fire, making the whole experience quite exciting in the end). Instead I said yes for plans to go to church and made my way through the day until it was time for the service. During worship I felt the familiar tightness in my chest and lump in my throat growing as I often do. Worship affects me in ways I'll never be able to explain, and I pray that will never lessen over time.
During one of the songs, with tears freely falling down my cheeks, I started seeing instances in my life from God's perspective. I saw His literal presence in my life, especially during times when I thought I was the one in control.

Your job at Children's was to prepare you for here. I put you there to hear about Mercy Ships, to teach you so many lessons.

I was there all of those nights you wouldn't look in the mirror because you knew I was calling you back and you were ignoring every plea.

I am here with you, I have called you, I love you.

The song continued on, and memories of my past flooded back. There was no sorrow, no grief. all has been forgiven. Instead, I was able to see Gods presence in very specific circumstances. I got to see just how intricately He has always been working in my life. I was standing in awe of my God, my friend.

"And I, I'm desperate for you.
And I, I'm lost without you"

Today at 7am I faced nearly 1000 people standing in line. They were all waiting for a screening we were expecting we would need to fill spots for surgery, never guessing we would be saying no to nearly every face in the massive crowd.
They were all told through the night as they waited, and that morning, that we had no room.
No one moved.
They all looked at us, some desperate just to be heard. Maybe they thought if we heard their story, if we knew they travelled sometime for days, that this is their only chance at a normal life, maybe then we would say yes.
But we couldn't.
Several were fortunate enough to be put on a "maybe" list, the rest were turned away. We prayed for all those willing, and others walked off with disappointment written harshly across their faces, and there was nothing we could do.
Some of the hardest for me were the people who left their hand on my arm, the gesture they originally used for asking one last time for a chance, and said "Thank you, God bless you". Why would it have been easier if they would just be mad? Yell at me, tell me its unfair, something. Please.
This morning wasn't easy, but it also wasn't impossible. The precious balance I depend on was there, holding me up when I wanted to crumble.
When I got back to the ship I returned a phone call to a woman we are working with at a local hospital. Together we are treating a patient as best we can, with very limited resources. The patient is steadily declining, and now has become too weak to even travel home between dressing changes, instead opting to sleep on a bench outside the hospital. She is more or less slowly dying, and has no one to claim her, no one to take care of her as much as she requires. I hung up the phone feeling totally defeated. I'm upset at the circumstances, I can't stand the system here, or lack thereof. Its too hard, it shouldn't be this hard for people.

At the end of the day I am on my feet, I'm still standing. Tomorrow I will wake up, walk down the gangplank, and step into a new day. Don't ever be confused by thinking I am here on my own strength. I don't have the power to put one foot in front of the other some days. It is sheer Grace that allows me to experience life here without falling into a thousand pieces. In all of this I still feel joy, I am wrapped and soothed in comfort, in His promise.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Saturday, June 6, 2009


"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name

Is this only a Boston thing? Or does the rest of the world know about Cheers? A lot of us always joke that nobody from Boston actually goes to Cheers, its full of tourists snapping pictures of the sign outside a bar made famous by a TV show.
What does this have to do with anything, you may ask?
Well, to be honest this song has been playing in my head recently. I don't know if its because summer is starting up and I have never missed these months soaking up New England summers at the cape. Maybe I am imagining myself missing nights of sitting in the backyard with my friends who have been part of my life for the past 15 years. Maybe its that at the end of a long day or week, sometimes you would rather sit in the presence of someone who knows every little thing about you, someone who requires not a single word to be spoken, someone who knows that I need time to process.
I'm not homesick. I don't think that 3 months is necessarily a long time to be away, or a year for that matter. However, there is something to be said about being "home", surrounded by people who know you. I don't think missing that is abnormal. I also think these feelings stem from something much deeper, such is life, right?
I talk casually about how I'm not sure what the plan is for my life as of December. I have no clue. To be honest, I love that I don't know. Its exciting, its thrilling, its...

making my heart ache.

I can say without doubt that I will go wherever I am called, my trust concerning that is present and accounted for. I will go anywhere, do anything. The only thing I can't imagine right now is this year being the end of missions for me.
It hurts to think about it sometimes.

I won't lie and say its easy to miss my best friends wedding this month, or not be able to hug my family whenever I feel like it. I won't pretend that sitting here, just thinking about this, doesn't make my eyes blur with tears.
My moms voice saying "Take it one day at a time" rings in my ears.
When I step back and look at my life here I see God present in every encounter, every friendship, every trial, and all of the joy I experience. There are people here who are beginning to know me, some seemed to have walked right into my life, right alongside me, as if they've been there all along. I count every kind word, perfectly timed shoulder rub, random hug in the hallway, and every other similar daily occurrence, as God providing comfort. This eases the heaviness, but it doesn't mask the fact that as children of God we are sometimes asked to sacrifice things, and sometimes it hurts.
I would never discount that doing God's will trumps everything else in this life, I have seen both sides, I've been there. I love that this is my life, I am honored to have this privilege.
I have no doubts with where I am or where I'm going. I wouldn't trade being here, and my possible future in missions for anything.
It just that sometimes...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Its that time again!

Matters of the Heart
After three months I must say I have embraced my new home and settled into the organized chaos that is the “norm” of life in Africa. With that, I have been going back and forth with what to write in these newsletters. Do people want to hear the facts? Or experience my journey with me through stories? The answer may be that I’ll change it up from month to month, but for now, I have story I would love to share with all of you. One which I hope will touch your heart as it has mine.

For a week or so I wasn’t feeling well. It wasn’t anything serious, just a bug that made its presence known on the ship, and put a few people out of commission for a bit. I missed work on Wednesday one week, which resulted in missing a visit with one of our pediatric patients, Enock. Enock has lymphoma, a tumor in his neck that we told him a few months ago could not be treated by our teams. In my absence, I sent along a card that was made by a child back home.
(My church’s Sunday school class made cards with scripture verses on them before I left, to give to the kids here.) At the end of the day, as I returned to my cabin, I found a “get well” card stuck to my door from Enock. When he heard I wasn’t feeling well, he decided he wanted to make a card for me too. I smiled, and was so touched at how sweet his gesture was. Later that night I looked over to the card, tacked to my wall, and was overcome with emotion. I allowed myself to cry. I cried for Enock, I cried to God, and I cried about the fact that a little 7 year old boy with a terminal disease, living in a third world country, is making ME a “get well” card. I have always thought that I wouldn’t be able to do pediatric oncology. Every nurse has her area of avoidance, and working with kids who have cancer is one those areas that affect me deeply. I really struggle with it. This single action by a little boy has invaded my heart, which in all honesty, is thrilling and scary all at once. I have never felt so alive, so devastated, and so joy-filled simultaneously.

Romans 15:13 (The message)
“May the God of hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with energy of the holy spirit, will brim over with hope “

This month I have let my patients and their families settle deep into my routine, my life, and my heart. Most days, I am saturated with the love that emanates from the people here. It is hard to avoid the serious faces on the people as we drive down the street, but people may not realize, there is a smile waiting just beneath those stoic faces, ready to be revealed. There are days my cheeks ache from smiling, I’m not sure I can think of anything better than that. This month
has also presented its challenges. OK, that’s an understatement. I recognize that with each challenge, there is a decision that has to be made; to grow and learn, or withdraw. Please continue to pray that I constantly draw on strength from God to face these circumstances, that I can find a balance, and that I am amazed daily at the power of prayer. I have so many tangible, real instances of answered prayer here. I am honored to have a front row seat watching Gods work in Africa; it truly is the experience of a lifetime. The fact that I am here supported by all of you, in so many ways and prayed for everyday makes my heart swell with emotion. I have a patient who said she prayed for God to ease her burden. She told us God sent us to share her sorrow, to help carry her burden, like He promises to do for all of us. In return, we always
remind her how much we gain from sharing in her joy, it’s infectious. I never feel alone here. Many of you share my joy and also my burdens; you don’t know how much that means to me. I look forward to what the next month will bring!

Suzanne |
Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”