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Pain medicine, clean water and Christ’s mercy
Kisumu, Kenya July 2, 2012
After a wonderful few days in Tanzania, and a harried, “running through the Nairobi airport” trek to catch the last flight to Kisumu, I arrived a week ago, July 2, to see the smiling faces of Rev. David Chuchu and driver Samwell. While not recognizing this new “international” airport, the familiar faces of my friends gave me such a feeling of coming home. This homecoming was highlighted throughout this past week.
Let me begin with a quote from a book I am reading by Heather King:
The scandal of Christ is that to have a relationship with him means to share in his suffering. The truth is that we are going to share in his sufferings, whether or not we want to, whether or not we know it as such. Christ invites us to share in his sufferings consciously. He invites us to share in his suffering, not by taking on extra suffering but by fully participating in the mostly small myriad instances of suffering that come to us unbidden each day.
Reading this today helped me make sense, if that is possible, of all I see here in Kenya.
Again, like the slums of Nairobi, the rural areas around Kisumu, have their own level of poverty and suffering. Life in the slums means very little natural beauty surrounding people, but there is the gift of community. OK, it would be way too much community for me, but I’ve never really experienced a lack of food or resources before. Life in the rural areas lends itself to the beauty of creation right outside a hut, but what struck me was the isolation. The close proximity of neighbors in the slums is simply not existent in many rural areas. If you are too sick to tend to a garden or sell items to make money, you just don’t eat. A neighbor may be too far away to provide help. You may have to walk long distances to fetch water. Children and the elderly are often the most vulnerable here. Water is not clean. Food is scare due to the drought. Isolation can be devastating. Suffering is evident.
Entering into this suffering, are deaconesses like Agnes, Elizabeth and Pamela who, as the Diakonia Compassionate Ministry, mission states, “bring hope to the hopeless”. Accompanying the deaconesses on home visits shows me the mercy these women bring to those in need. We visited numerous people during the three days of visitation.
I mentioned John in an earlier post. John is a man who spent many years as a soccer coach. He is a strapping, handsome man whose presence lights up a room. He also has breast cancer. He, who was once running down the soccer field, now lies in his warm- up pants and soccer shirt, on a small wooden couch, in the family room. On our second visit, the effort of walking about 20 feet from his bedroom to the front room left him short of breath and grimacing. The Panadol (basically Tylenol) I left him a few days before did nothing to take care of his pain. His left arm, from shoulder to hand, is swollen and very painful. The wound on his chest is sensitive to cleaning. After showing his wife, Helen, how to change the dressing on his wound, I asked him if there was anything else we might do for him. He asked if we might get him something stronger for his pain. Dr. Just talked about the 23rd Psalm, and then sang him the hymn, Jesus Thy Boundless Love.
After our first visit to this family, Carrie Beth said, “We have to give this family a water filtration system”. Owen, John and Helen’s eighteen- year old son, had told Carrie Beth how they had all suffered from waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and amoebas. On this subsequent visit, we came with the water filter kit and a five gallon plastic bucket. Putting the system together took all of five minutes. Demonstrating its use and how to clean the filter took another 10 minutes. To see a family drink purified water in a matter of minutes was so rewarding. If I haven’t said it already, Carrie Beth is a remarkable young woman with a passion to bring purified water to those in need. Her desire to help those in need is matched by her dedication and mercy.
Following up on John’s request to get some pain medicine, I discovered that in Kenya, an R.N. could write prescriptions for pain meds. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say I was able to procure a two- month supply of a Vicodin-like medication, which cost about $36. The reality here is that there are not enough M.D.s to cover the needs of the people. In the rural areas, nurses often write prescriptions (and in my case, it was the desired medication written on a piece of scrap paper with my signature scribbled on the bottom). Sort of scary, really.