Monday, August 31, 2009


This morning I sat with a mama and her two year old daughter, Lily. We talked about how there was no treatment, how the tumor, unless by miracle, would not go away. We talked about God, how our hope has to be in Him. We prayed for freedom from pain, peace of mind, and protection over the sweet family of Lily.
Later this morning I sat and faced Clement, our patient who continues to battle his cancer head on. The most recent fight is sending him to Ghana. He doesn't have enough money for the full course of radiation, the radiation that may not even work, "unlikely" is the term our doctors used. When I saw Clement last week for the first time after working on the wards for the summer, he shook my hand so hard my bones felt as though they were rattling inside. Today as we dropped him off to catch his cab to Ghana, he hugged me tight, sending the breath out of my lungs. He is a big, strong, tough, gentle man, who is scared for his life that is slipping away as he watches the cancer grow on his face.

This afternoon we got a call that a two year old had shown up at the ship, his cancer rapidly advancing with no hope for a suitable treatment available. His mom told us that it had started as a small bump on his cheek when he was 6 months old. He timidly sat in the back of the landrover as we drove him home, occasionally flashing a crooked smile, momentarily taking the focus off the disfiguring tumor protruding from his small face. We sat and cried along with the family as we discussed the fact that little Pania's life may be cut drastically short by this heinous disease. His mother, who at first had been holding herself together, told me in broken english,"his name means life", and unfortunately, not for the first time, I saw a mother with pain so deep in her eyes she looked for a moment like she will fall into a thousand pieces. That came right as she broke down for the first time during our encounter.

After dinner I made my way back to my cabin and remembered Aimee downstairs in B ward. He is a three year old with Burkitt's Lymphoma, a highly treatable form of childhood cancer. The problem is that this little body isn't responding to our attempts. We admitted him yesterday to give him a third dose of chemo, scheduled for today. When I was leaving the ship earlier with Pania, Ali stopped me to tell me I should go see him, they had just discussed his poor prognosis with his broken mama. We can't even start the chemo due to the respiratory distress he is in. His cheeks are big and heavy, round tumors on both sides of his face. They sit underneath deeply set, sad, liquid black eyes. His belly is swollen with the fluid accumulating around even more tumors. I let the familiar warm tears fall down my cheeks as I prayed with a mama who clutched her small boy, her lips finding, then gently kissing his silky, soft, brown hand.

Broken myself, I walked towards my friend Liz at the nurses station. She handed me a piece of paper on which a poem of appreciation from a patient was written (I'll share the whole thing when I have more energy to sit here and type). It was exactly what I needed to read it right at that moment. I nearly fell apart a few minutes too early when I read the following line;

Some in this life are born to pass and some are born in life to live, yet these angels are born to preserve humanity...Your labor in the Lord shall not be in vain. For every life you touch and every soul you save. For every bone you mend and weary face you straight. The lord of life and light will light your path and guide your life.

Life isn't easy, you probably have figured that much out yourself.
Life, living, is about real moments. Moments that rock your world, leave you weak in the knees, with tears on your face, completely poured out.
Life is about holding a hand, smiling at a baby, letting yourself melt into a hug, looking someone in the eye out of sincere honesty even if you have nothing good to say, and showing emotion.
Tonight, at the end of my day, life was about crying so hard I had trouble catching my breath. It was prayers through those tears for Lily and Clement, little Pania and Aimee.

Over a year ago, I was here in Benin and God answered a very specific request I had to help open my heart, show me how to love. The morning after that prayer, someone shared Deuteronomy 30:6;

"The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live"

Here I am, a year later, living in Africa, soaking up every moment that entails. Some days find me gasping for breath through sobs, but most find my heart smiling. Everyday however, finds me saying this;

Thank you, God. Thank you for this life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

so what are you trying to say?

Hey there, and welcome to my 100th post. Kinda cool I guess, but now I feel some self-inflicted pressure to make it a good one, but I'll let you be the judge.
I was thinking about writing a post about the funny observations I made this weekend, the absolutely random collection of the different things I do or see in a 24 hour period.
Like last night, for instance. I was watching a couple of the cutest kids ever (yes, ever) and when it was time to read the bible stories before bed and I asked where we should read them. They said on the couch, in my lap.
The littlest one said, as only a three year old can;
"I want to sit on this lap" as he claimed my right leg, clumsily climbing his way to the right spot. In return, the four year old quickly exclaimed;
"Well, I want this lap" as if he had wanted to sit on my left leg all along, and definitely well before his younger brother came up with the idea.
Did I mention they have British accents? Because that totally makes the story all the better.

Instead I'll share one of those "coincidences" that has left me smiling. I heard someone say once that God created us, so He knows how many times it will take for us to understand something. If it takes 46, He won't grow frustrated at number 28.
This morning I went to ward church where a Liberian crew member gave the message. He started off with a title of,
"I urge you to wait on God"
The message was good, in speaking about Moses, the conclusion was as follows;
"So don't be like the Israelites and go a stray-o. Wait upon God-o"

Tonight, after an international night of worship where 8 countries were represented by their respective crew members singing in their native language (part of my fun, random collection from the weekend), I came back to my cabin and read today's devotional from Blue Letter Bible. My eyebrows raised as I saw the screen in front of me.
"Wait on the Lord." — Psalm 27:14
In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly, and are heartily willing to be guided by the will of God. But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord...

Wait in quiet patience,
not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it. Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, "Now, Lord, not my will, but Thine be done."

I can't remember a time in my life when I was waiting on more answers than I am now. The funny thing is, I'm content to wait. I'm happy to listen to these reminders and find that sweet simplicity of soul gently tucked into each one.

Maybe I'll get to share some answers in the next 100 posts...We shall see!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Its ok

We said goodbye to Hubert this morning. He went to be with Jesus while being rocked by his dad, something so beautiful, so precious, I'm not sure I'll do it justice by trying to explain.
Over the last few days your prayers and mine have been answered, just not necessarily always as we would have had it.
On Friday evening I talked about how there was a peace in the small ICU room. I truly believe that day, as countless people prayed, a small fire was sparked and began to grow. There was love in the room that before was void of any affection. There was life in the eyes of Hubert, Pauline his older sister, and their mama. The nurses closest to them felt it, we knew in our hearts that all would be well in the end, that God had started a work in that small families life.
When I checked in this morning and Ali let me know it wouldn't be long, I was at peace. Of course its hard, of course my heart breaks, obviously I hurt, but it is ok.

A few weeks ago I told you about a mom who would ignore her baby's cries, who nearly let her son starve to death. Her eyes were dead, unfeeling. She had no regard for her daughter whose shoulders withered every time her mom spoke to her in harsh tones. This week, as we all prayed, that mama started looking at her son with loving eyes. Instead of half-heartedly holding him during his care, she carefully placed cool clothes on his feverish body, holding him close. She had tears in her eyes as she watched him decline. Pauline started chatting and playing, unfolding smiles buried deep within her mamas heart. The father who admittedly wouldn't take ownership of his own son, asked to give him a bath on Friday night, and then held him today as he drew his last breaths.
As we all prayed, God worked hard, His signature was all over that sanctuary we call the ICU.

The seeds of life have been planted in that family. I promise you I believe that with everything in me, all that I am.
Hubert's life was short, but wow, what a life. He was the face of love, the representation of why we do what we do. His short life may very well be the start of an amazing journey for countless people. That, my friends, is what a miracle looks like. It is sad when a baby dies, I don't have tears left after the last few days.

Just please don't be mistaken. My tears are not of injustice, nor are they from loss. My most recent tears came when I felt the weight of Hubert's grieving mom on my shoulder, when I held his small body, free from the tubes and wires, and heard God whisper;

Its ok, he's with me now

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In awe

There was a team meeting today about Hubert. Ali came into my room to wake me up and tell me the details.
"We'll watch him for the next 24 hours and if he doesn't improve we will take him off the ventilator." Baby Hubert's lungs seem too damaged, his body doesn't have enough "reserve" as we call it. I have been in a constant state of communication with God these past days. I am at total peace, it truly is ok if he dies, but I am just so tired. Not defeated, simply tired. Maybe that's why Ali found me sleeping at 6 tonight, I couldn't keep my eyes open this afternoon so I curled up in bed, protected from the world outside my door.

When I walked into church tonight my friend Liz smiled and waved me over to where she was sitting. Edith and nearly a dozen of her family and friends were sitting, perfectly dressed, in the front rows. I shook the hands of the men from her church I had prayed with while she was in surgery. I smiled and firmly grasped the rough hand of her husband while I was introduced to Edith's daughter, Mary.
When I hugged Edith she buried her face into my neck. This has happened only a couple of times in my life, and only during my time in Africa. It is by far the most touching thing I can think of. It humbles me beyond belief.
"God bless you, Suzanne. Thank you, God bless you"

Oh Edith, you have no idea how blessed I am.

Soon Ali was by my side and we found ourselves tearfully singing worship to the God we trust, to the God we love. She slipped her arm under mine and held my hand during my favorite one, funny how things like this come up right when you need them to.

The greatest love that anyone could ever know
That overcame the cross and grave to find my soul
And 'til I see You face to face and grace amazing takes me home
I'll trust in You

With all I am I'll live to see Your kingdom come
And in my heart I pray You'd let Your will be done
And 'til I see You face to face and grace amazing takes me home
I'll trust in You

I will live to love You
I will live to bring You praise
I will live a child in awe of You

You are the voice that calls the universe to be
You are the whisper in my heart that speaks to me
And 'til I see You face to face and grace amazing takes me home
I'll trust in you

You alone are God of all
You alone are worthy Lord
And with all I am my soul will bless Your name

-Till' I see you, Hillsong

One of the guys prayed for where we were tonight. After the culmination of the week that has passed, and in looking forward to this week. He prayed we would find peace in God. My eyes fell on little Mary in front of me, dancing joyfully to the music.

Thank you God for showing me this. Mary gets to have her mama, Edith's life was spared.

In the face of life and death, God has the victory. There is purpose in this life, in every encounter and interaction. I am in awe of everything that surrounds me here, how intensely loved I am. Ali and I prayed to be filled again, to be able to give all of ourselves tomorrow. My heart was mended and began filling tonight while I watched Edith raise her hands in worship, praising our God.
He is good. He is worthy. He will have the victory.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Lamentations 3:32-33 reads;
"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."

My good friend Sarah read this out loud at the pool today when we got word from Ali back on the ship that Hubert had been intubated and was not looking good. We talked while I tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears.
There is a very real gut feeling that we have that Gods will may be to call sweet Hubert home to Him. We discussed that we have peace with that fact. We are thankful for the comfort we find in knowing he truly will be in a better place. He may soon be in the arms of Jesus.

When we came back to the ship we went directly to the ICU where I saw Hubert's mom visibly upset. Not withdrawn, not uncaring, purely sad. I touched her arm and she lifted it ever so slightly so my fingers would slip under her wrist. I leaned my body against her curled up body, I held on tightly to her wrist, praying for this family and this little baby I love with all of my heart. Hubert looks peaceful, he isn't fighting to breath or laboring away anymore. He simply appears to be sleeping. Sarah soon came and asked if I wanted to go pray which I gratefully nodded yes to.

We love you God, we know you are good. We know you will reign. Thank you for Hubert. Thank you for bringing him here.
Thank you for the healing you have brought to this family, we can see it, we know its there.

Please God, bring us peace and understanding in this. Let us stand united in what your will for this child is.
You know him, you knit him together in his mothers womb. Thank you for letting us love him. Thank you for showing us what perfect love really is. What it feels like when you hold it in your arms.
Surround him with your angels, God. We know you hold him ever so gently in the palm of your hand. You are good. You are mighty to save.
We know you hold onto this baby valiantly, you will not let him go.

As I talked with other nurses, and now as I process this all, alone with my thoughts, I feel a perfect presence I would never be able to put into words. My friend Megan said at home when a baby was dying that she felt special angels were sent to take that baby home. I have been crying thinking about how precious that thought is, how comforting it is.
As I listened to one of my favorite songs today at the pool, putting scripture into song, explaining why I am here, I heard this line like never before;
"For the children who sleep in the cities of dark, let your love come and touch them with your fathers heart.
Help us love mercy, help us do justly, help us walk humbly, with you God."
-Micah 6:8, Charlie Hall

You see, I am on a ship, off the coast of West Africa, with an army of angels. They have surrounded baby Hubert and will be remain there regardless of what the ultimate outcome is. That is where my peace comes from. That is the God I serve. He will reign.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Today I walked onto D ward to find I was assigned to take care of baby Hubert in the ICU. We have him there because we don't know if he has an infectious disease. Afterall, we have no idea what exactly he has. The best guess is measles. If a baby is born in a village, they go without any childhood immunizations unless the parents bring them to the hospital. With his deformities, our best estimate is that his parents didn't put any efforts into his care 9 months ago when he was brought into this world.
All day I worked to collect samples, place tubes, manage pumps, procure orders, and keep Hubert's high temperatures at bay by covering him with cool towels. His mama wouldn't lift her head, never showed expression of any sort.
"We have to check Hubert for HIV, we need your consent."
She just nodded and signed.

Everything came back fine. All of the blood, the samples, all of it. We were no closer to an answer than yesterday, and we were all frustrated. Hubert was failing and we had no answers. As I was getting ready to leave there was talk about intubating, an effort to avoid having to do it emergently if his body decided it was too tired to keep compensating. I talked to the mother, I asked her if she was afraid. She had started looking at Hubert differently. She was responding to his cries, helping me with his care. She replied she had peace, she was not fearful. As I put my hands on her in prayer, with Hubert pulling for each breath in her lap, I couldn't help but cry.

Please God, if it is your will we need your divine healing. Let no stronghold have power in this family, in this room. He is your child. You hold him in the palm of your hand. You know what the plan is for him. Give him rest.

I felt the physical representation of all of you praying for him. I left, promising to check back in tonight.
As I walked in to the ICU tonight, Ali greeted me with a smile and a "go look". My heart leaped as my eyes went straight to the tiny baby. His chest wasn't retracting as much, his eyes were closed in rest. The monitor dispayed numbers that had improved. His little sister was talking away to her 'yovo' baby doll. As I looked at the mama I saw a big smile, something I have never seen in the 6 weeks I have been on the ward. I felt the all too familiar lump rise in my throat.
There is a peace in the ICU right now. There is light where before there was a deep darkness. My soul sang with delight. Hubert has a long way to go, but my goodness, how far this situation has come. I felt it earlier in my shift when I heard his mom singing in English. "Great things he has done, greater things he will do. Unto God be the glory. Great things he has done"
Tonight, as I smiled and watched her smile back I said;
"Mama, praise God. To God be the glory"
and she quietly replied,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do you pray?

Because if you do I have a very important request.
Remember Hubert?
We have been watching him slowly put on ounces and grams, loving him with everything in us and encouraging mom to take ownership of his little life. Over the last two days little Hubert has been sick and is continuing to decline. His heart is racing, his breathing is fast and labored, his temperature no longer responds to our medicines, and the doctors here have gone through every option they can think of. You see here, it could be so many different things. The malaria we treated last week may be resistant to the medication we have, or this could be a bad viral infection, or, well, the list goes on.
So I have a little boy who needs you to pray for him. Pray for this infection to cease, pray for healing over his undeveloped body.
Hubert's dad told us that the reason they haven't marked his face with the usual tribal markings is because they haven't decided if they will take ownership of him yet. In his parents eyes he is absolutly disposable. They openly admit to practicing voodoo, our battle is not against flesh and blood. Please pray for that too.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stickers, they make the world go round'

Yesterday marked my third shift in a row. I came yesterday morning to my two boys, Sabingore and Godson sleeping soundly, snoring slightly, and looking sweeter than ever.

Friday evening the same couldn't necessarily be said for these (cough) angels. Although I wasn't assigned to Sabingore that night, our paths seemed to cross more than he would have liked. After taking it upon himself to remove his thrid IV, we knew we would be in for a fight in placing the 4th. After all, he flipped his lid every time we tried to adjust the small probe on his toe, vain attempts to trace his pulse and O2 sat.
I stood, the only nurse in the room with pediatric experience, and gently recommended sedation as means of helping our case with the IV. You see, its counter intuitive to wrestle with a 4 year old who has just had his entire mouth and throat operated on. Something about screaming bloody murder and sutures, etc...

Then there was Luc over in bed 10. No smile, sitting next to his mom who displayed the same solemn look. I used silly faces, tickling, you name it. I left Friday evening without a single new friend. I did get some handshakes, but I knew deep down these boys were not ready to commit to the level of friendship this yovo was looking for.

Saturday morning I set about with my small assignment of the two boys, Sabingore and Godson. It felt good to have the responsibility of two acutely post-surgical kids to take care of, I was right at home. Sabingore luckily didn't seem to recognize me as the one who stuck him for his IV the night before. I suppose that through sedatives and STILL fighting 4 adults while he was held down was enough ruckus to ignore specific faces. Crisis averted.
My day was full, the tasks were endless, and I was getting zero love in the smiles department. Even little Luc, who wasn't my patient, met his fate with a needle when I was asked to draw his labs. I didn't take him as a fighter, but again, a 4 year old completely owned four of us adults while we held him down. After the big to-do I approached the still-wailing boy with 4 books of stickers. Through sign language and his mothers prompting he realized I had come with a peace offering. The tears ceased and he casually started pointing to where he wanted the stickers placed on his face and hands. And then the best part of my day, he agreeably kissed me on the cheek. Friend number 1...check.

I kept the stickers out and all throughout the day they became my new bartering tool. Even at the age of 4, these kids understand this art form.
"If you stay still while I take these sharp scissors and cut that tiny stitch holding the tube in your nose which I have been suctioning and torturing you with all day I'll let you pick 5... (said with extreme excitement) stickers!"
They stayed still with tears in their eyes, and gradually, through each procedure, gained faces, hands, and arms full of stickers. Still, no smiles, no additional friends.

"Sunday, I'll get them to smile on Sunday"
I was banking on Godson for sure. He was timid and kinda spaced out, the best responder to the bribes, I mean, attempts at friendship. Sabingore, on the other hand, was a flailing maniac every time I went near him. By days end Sunday, after 32 hours in 3 days of caring for these children I was beginning to lose hope. After removing a rather large tube from Godson's nose (its hard to reason with a 4 year old that this was a good thing) I asked him if he would be my friend. He deliberately turned his entire body with his back then facing me and nodded his head no. I had put a grumpy looking spongebob sticker on his forehead earlier that morning when he wouldn't cooperate, and now it seemed even more appropriate. After a good laugh with the translators and his mama (on the inside I so wasn't laughing) I made my way over to Sabingore. AS IF he would be excited for me to also have a go at pulling out his equally large nasal tube.
Afterwards, I needed to suction him, generally a procedure that sent him into hysterics. I sat down across from him, tired and weary, nearly defeated by a couple of kids, holding the suction in my hand and playfully stuck my tongue out at my pint-sized patient. He responded by doing the same. In fact, every silly face, expression, and action I did after that, he mimicked perfectly. When I said "ah" he returned the gesture, and slowly his eyes crossed as he watched me put the suction in his mouth. Then he smiled. Then he gave me a high five. Then he smiled again when I kissed his forehead. My cheeks ached and soul sang as I added his name to my hearts 'friends' list.

This morning I was walking up the stairs when I crossed paths with Luc and his mama. What I didn't tell you is Luc is our newest palliative care patient. He has Burkitts lymphoma and responded fantastically to his first round of chemotherapy, a cute, shining, 4 year old glimmer of beautiful hope. I stopped to say goodbye 'until next time' and as I leaned down and pointed to my cheek I got a wet kiss from my little friend. In return, I kissed him on his forehead, right on top of one of his many stickers.

This. This right here is why I love these kids and this place with every fiber of my being. I can't get over how perfect Gods plan is, and that I get to be a part of it, making these sweet friends, one sticker at a time.

Luke 18:16-17
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Oh, and I am totally taking care of Godson again tomorrow, there is still a chance. And I have plenty of stickers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

And so I continue

I like having a blog. If anything, it keeps a record of whats on my mind, and holds onto the stories and memories that seem to blend together the more months I spend in Africa. You see everyday is an adventure of sorts, that is, if you compare it to living in a first world country. The randomness, chaos, and general craziness gradually become quite normal. Then you have days like last Saturday.
Around midnight Friday night my friend Liz came up to where I was watching the Red Sox game with a fellow Bostonian (we have to stay up really stinkin' late to catch a glimpse worth it). She had just come from the local hospital where she helped drop off one of our day workers from the ship. Edith had an ectopic pregnancy from what our doctor could diagnose, and although considered emergent in any other country, the doctors decided to wait until 6am to do her surgery, simply because she had drank a few sips of porridge. Liz wanted to return to be with Edith before surgery and I volunteered to go with her. We had no idea what was in store.

At 6:15 when we arrived, Edith was noticeably in pain. She had a bottle of IV tylenol still attached to her arm, the line dry and said to have been that way for 6 hours. She was upset that through her suffering the doctors were sleeping. Liz and I just looked around, taking in the sights of the small, dirty room, swatting at the mosquitoes buzzing all around us. Holding Edith's hand, we felt our eyes burn as the housekeeper/nurse used straight bleach to wash the floor. The only comfort in the toxic air being the hope of some level of cleanliness on the dingy gray floors.
We tried to get Edith to sit down when she started getting out of bed, wrapping a lappa of brightly colored fabric around her. We followed as she walked down the muggy outdoor hallway and knocked on the door of where the doctor and nurses were sleeping, waking them in order to ask them to come do her surgery. We prayed after they took Edith in. We prayed again with her husband and the men from their church when they came. We stood in the dust, sun on our backs, and began a waiting game, which soon became interesting.
As we watched the workers sweep the walls and ceilings (?), a man donned in scrubs came out with a prescription, said something in French (or maybe Fon, doesn't matter when you don't understand either) and pointed. We followed Edith's husband towards the pharmacy, smiling at each other, wondering what the slip we held called for.
"If its for the propofol we'll know they haven't started yet"

We walk up to the pharmacy, hand over our slip, and just as quickly got it handed back to us and, with a flick of a wrist, were pointed in a different direction. We looked across the hall to another window where we again offered our small slip of paper. Liz held out her money while Edith's husband picked the coins he wanted and paid. The woman handed us the small slip of paper again, this time with a receipt as well. With another flick of the wrist we were herded over to the original window where the man started looking for our item. It was an ET tube. The tube they use to intubate the patient.
"Guess they haven't started yet"

Several more times throughout the morning we were given a small slip of paper and made the short walk across the courtyard to the hospital pharmacy. One of the trips we were told the hospital had run out of the antibiotic and very casually Edith's husband walked out the gates towards another pharmacy, signaling for us to stay. We were literally retrieving the needed supplies in a play by play manner for the surgery.

At one point someone in scrubs came out again (I say 'someone in scrubs' rather than nurse because I am fully unconvinced that all of these people were necessarily in the medical field) and asked Liz and I to follow. We walked through the doors to the operating rooms (which has a doorbell. No other comment needed, the OR has a doorbell) where they had Liz go inside, but wouldn't allow me. You see, Liz was in scrubs, looking all official. With a little convincing, and me just plainly walking in behind her, we got to see Edith's surgery and the screen which displayed what the camera inside her was capturing.
At another point I had left and upon returning couldn't find Liz, so assumed she was back in the operating room. I walked through the doors (past the doorbell) and caught the eye of a giant man. He must have been nearly 6'10'', not someone I would have wanted to mess with. He broke into a huge grin, and within what seemed like only 3 steps he was standing directly in front of me. He took me by the wrist and began leading me towards the room I wanted to go in. He beamed when he figured out I was from America "Ah, my sister" he said, which I know by now has a direct link towards Obama (His brother, my president, in case you were wondering. Their words, not mine)

As Edith was wheeled to the recovery room, I was again stopped at the door because of my lack of scrubs. Both Liz and I looked around at the blood-stained beds and dusty walls, smiling over how with scrubs she was apparently 'cleaner' than I was.

As I waited outside, my friendly giant made his way down the hall, saying,
"Suzy-anne, that is a good name, a very good name. I would like your internet address please."

Another man in scrubs came towards me and handed me a sterile gown, and with the 147th flick of the wrist I had seen that day, showed me I could go inside while wearing the gown (makes total sense?). Within minutes I was sent off holding another slip of paper for more medication. The hospital pharmacy was out, so I headed for the exit where I simply said "pharmacia" and, you guessed it, got a flick pointing me out and to the right of the gates. While I walked through the exhaust fumes, smoke, and heat, I smiled hoping the pharmacy would at least be remotely close. At one point my heel slid on something, and against my better judgment I looked back to see what it had been. To my delight it was only a banana peel.

huh, they actually are slippery, I thought that was only in cartoons

I got to the pharmacy after a brisk 5 minute walk, only to have the woman show me a calculator with a number far higher than the equivalent of 10 dollars I had on me. I walked back out the door, into the smog, past the banana peel, through the courtyard, past the doorbell, pulled my (insufferably hot) green gown back on, and found Liz to collect more money. We were still short, so I found the friends and family of Edith sitting outside. With a lot of sign language, 3 french words, and maybe 2 and a half English words, I got the little money I still needed and made my way back out the gates with the slip of paper in one pocket and the money in another.
I walked back past the holes in the sidewalk, the peanuts being sold in old alcohol bottles, the men making kissing noises in attempts to get my attention, the babies tied to their mama's backs, women selling food, fabric, and an array of other randomness, and into the pharmacy.

Once I had returned, sufficiently sweaty, Liz and I felt comfortable that Edith was going to be ok, and we left the hospital, having spent 8 hours there. Laughing the whole way home while we recalled the events of the day.
"Can you imagine having to wake up your own surgeon?"

Later that night, after a hot shower and long nap, I found my way upstairs for a night of worship some people on the ship had planned. All day, and then again that night I reflected on why I am here, why I do all of this. Then I let warm tears fall as someone felt led to read the following:

Colossians 1:21-23
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

You see, all day I had whispered to God why I do this, why I am here.
Because you first loved me

Everyday I continue in my faith, established and firm. I walk forward with an undeniable love as my driving force. Some days this walk is literal. It is hot, sticky, sweaty, dirty, dusty, and seems to go on forever. Those days are the best, the ones I will remember forever. And I will always continue.
Because He first loved me.

orange oranges and friends

You know you're sick when you wake up and change from one pair of sweatpants to a more 'presentable' pair to go out to the store for soup.
Well, I suppose people who know me read this so I must admit I wear said 'presentable' sweats out even if I'm not sick, but that's neither here nor' there.

Yesterday as I slept on and off, I managed to miss every meal served, however I could hardly have cared, something about fish when you are sniffling and hacking doesn't sound very appetizing. I joked with my mom about how I could use some homemade soup, really showing just how pathetic we all get when we are sick (admit it, quietly if you must, but you know you do it).
My friend Laura, who knew to find me watching movies in my room, came in after her shift to check in. She quickly sprung into action, boiled some water, and dug through a med stash. Before I knew it I was back in front of my movie with a hot water bottle, ramen noodles, green tea with honey, and lungs filled with a brochodilator that caused my wheezing to cease immediately.
This morning, rather, afternoon, when I emerged from my room in my (nice) sweatpants to go to the ship shop, I ran into Laura. She held in her hand two orange oranges and told me she was on her way to see me with a fresh supply of soup. My eyes were wide looking at the oranges, "they're beautiful" I exclaimed.
"I know, I almost got in trouble for taking 2"
Here in Africa, at least this portion of Africa, oranges are green. Something about chlorophyll and the heat (who cares why) causes them to be green (and not terribly tasty). None of us have had an 'orange orange' in over 5 months, and today we were allowed 1 each.

Laura followed me back to my room, armed with juice and fruit, where I will continue to watch movies and sip green tea with honey, smiling over how blessed I am. Last night we prayed together and once Laura had finished, I prayed a simple 'thanks' for an amazing friend. Here when someone says "God is good", everyone replies, "All the time".
Every need, even the small, unimportant desire for some soup and TLC, is met. Some days all you need is a little gesture to make you realize how much you are loved. Today it is the two oranges sitting next to me. Not only did she think to get one for me, she gave me hers too.

Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times"

Monday, August 3, 2009


Hubert weighs 3.9 kg. He is the size of a healthy newborn, the only problem with that being he is 9 months old.
He is one of two babies right now who after being seen through our feeding program here, were admitted because they were losing weight.
As I sit here and type, Hubert is sleeping in my arms. I just won the two hour fight to get him back to sleep. His crying doesn't wake up his mom anymore, a sign that she has grown used to it, that she maybe is too withdrawn to take care of her own child. For two hours I have bounced, cooed, swayed, and fed this tiny baby. My heart aches with a love so intense that I can hardly take my eyes off of him. I can't stop kissing his smooth, brown forehead, that wrinkles ever so slightly when he arches his eyebrows.

I can't wrap my head around how a mother can watch her child fail. How even with talk of curses and the disfigurement of being born with a cleft lip in a culture dripping with fatalism, she sleeps through cries from her own baby who is quite literally starving .
Hubert is hungry, but for much more than just food. He craves love. He needs sweet, sincere attention. He cries often, but stops the moment you hold him. After you have him secure in your arms he is content to sit and marvel at all that is around him.

As I walked, bounced, and swayed at 4am in our small ward trying to convince this child that it was indeed time to sleep, I thought about how we are all hungry. We are hungry for a love that is unconditional. A love that defies all boundaries and logic. A love that never fails. Just a taste, a small sip of something that perfect would satisfy us forever. I drink from that well. My hope, my contentment, my joy, it all comes from a beautiful, simple, marvelous love that holds me sweetly and sincerely.

John 4:11-14
"Sir, the woman said, "you don't even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?"
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life."

In going through a book I just finished, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, I wrote down this quote earlier tonight. In looking at ourselves, in all of our imperfections and disfigurements, consider this;
"As we glance up, we are astonished to find the eyes of Jesus open with wonder, deep with understanding, and gentle with compassion".

Gotta run, Hubert is gearing up for another battle along with 2 other babies who have decided its kosher to join in the fun at 5am.
Till next time.