Twas the Night Before Surgery
‘Twas the night before surgery…and, all through our shelter house not a person was stirring not even the most prominent mouse’
It was a dark night in Malawi, Africa. Proper lighting is always scarce among many other things; but tonight was a night like no other–for them and myself.
Many of these precious people had walked for days to get to the city where our team was set-up for the first time in this country. Many had never seen a white person. The stories that went through the villages of this country kept many those suffering with facial defects-away.
“Don’t go! Those white people will kill you!” “Stay back you will be harmed!”
But of the many sufferers in this small country–150 of them trusted God enough to take their journey. Although, for many the journey was long and treacherous; with limited resources they spent and risked it all to come. Adults as well as children were in need of this cleft lip/palate surgery we freely offered. So against their own culture norm-the few risked a step in faith and boldness.
Tonight, it was the night before their lives would be forever changed.
If there was a nighttime fear it was chased away by the strong bonding of the like-minded; like-hearted; like in the suffering group. Many had never met and yet, together…tonight, they had become family. Each looking after the other; sharing in their hopes, dreams and even comforted in their personal fears.
I wonder if the shepherds found comfort in each other the night the sky lit up in the brightest of brilliance just for them? I mean here we have the unaccepted; the lowly, poor, cast-outs of society gathering each night and on one special night they became privileged guests to witness the hope of heaven!! That night, they journeyed together into the city of Bethlehem-their lives to be changed forever.
Checking to see that all were tucked in safe and tight before I left to go back to my hotel, I saw a dim light flickering coming from underneath a door down the long corridor. I slowly walked to this dim light as not wanting to disturb anyone. As I got nearer there were a dozen women and their babies sitting on blankets on the floor-just talking and laughing. I asked if everything was ok… They beckoned me in.
It was as if I had come to the light of the stable.
….just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings
I think that is why Jesus chose to come to us dressed as a human being.
In that overcrowded room I sat down on the floor to join in their discussions. For the course of a few hours I was transferred from being an American to an African. They began to fill me in on their lives. They told me stories filled with severe pain, loss, struggle and despair. They shared with me about the routine of a ‘normal’ day in their villages. I sat spellbound.
The one thing that was so striking was that not one of these women knew each other. They had just met; coming from different villages. And yet, they all shared the same stories. Community is their way of survival.
If one family cannot make it in their villages-another family was there offering them their last piece of bread. If there was a child ill-the entire village prayed. If someone needed to journey far away somewhere-there was always another to come and offer assistance. When they plant their crops the entire village does it together. If a mother cannot attend to her children-the other mothers’ take the child and care for him. If both parents die-a neighbor takes over and cares for the children. But ultimately, and they would say this over and over that it is God’s help that sustains them through every hardship and struggle; every famine and drought.
As they talked of their way of life-I sat there feeling as if I had been birthed on another planet. Oh, how strange it would seem to them if I had said I didn’t even bother to know my neighbors! How even stranger it would seem to tell them my parents lived three days journey by car away from me.
My struggles felt so trite in comparison to anyone’s in the room-and yet, in so many way so much heavier. Where every struggle in the villages of Malawi is equally shared and felt; our struggles in the USA are so much of the time made heavier by our self-imposed isolation. Where they are not afraid to involve others in their lives—we are.
We don’t openly share; nor do we openly give assistance to those we don’t know. We would never give away our last piece of bread to our neighbor; nor would a neighbor come in and care for my family as if it was their own-free of charge. We don’t ‘own’ anyone’s hardships. It’s also as if our own personal struggles are weaknesses or a curse in which we don’t want anyone to see or bear witness of. We don’t actively put ourselves in that place to share in the need; and yet we know we all have it.
I was so absorbed in their conversations; transposed into their lives that I clearly missed the dreaded question…
“Tell us what life is like in America”
I sat stunned; not knowing what to say. One sweet elderly lady broke my silence, “We hear you don’t need God as much as we do”… “We are so desperate for Him, here.. Please won’t you pray for us?”
I don’t deny they need God here. There is starvation. The hospitals are stacked full. Sometimes even three lay on one bed while the stockrooms of supplies are empty. There is only one pediatric ventilator in the entire country. Family, relatives and neighbors take shifts keeping children alive with breathing tubes-by hand-breathing with a bag/valve. People with fractured limbs wait days for a volunteer orthopedic surgeon to come. Those in need of anesthesia wait for a desperately needed surgery until anesthesea is available. Sick patients wait in the halls for a bed in a ward to open up; only opening because another dies. There is no water to drink in the heat of the summer and no heat in the winter. Equipment breaks without the proper tools or maneuverings to fix it. Children die from simple things they shouldn’t.
And yet, I tell you the churches are full. Faith is strong. There are no books, courses, DVD’s, or studies to reveal the truth of God to these people. They just know Him….. They just Know Him. It’s as if the slighter the resources in a country-the stronger the faith and purer the worship. It’s as if the poor are the privileged ones that God opens the heavens of the heart with such a brilliance and revealing that can’t be seen or felt in those of affluence.
“Oh, God is so good to bring you here. Thank you for coming to our country. It’s a privilege for us. I want to name my baby-your name. It would be honor for me and my family to have my baby named after someone from the America.” She then placed her hands on her large swollen belly-with child. I blessed this little one and as I did tears could not be held back. For, in shame I felt just the opposite. If I was pregnant with child I would consider it the greatest of honor and privilege to bless my baby with an African name….
I think God knew something all along.
When God chose to bring His Son to earth He chose to do it in such a way that His Son would be welcomed by those who would do so with the purest and truest of worship. He knew that only the lowly, the poor, the disadvantaged and those void of hope would consider it among the highest of honors to take the proper time to journey to the lowliest of mangers-the place most worthy of the grandest of worship.
God did not want His Son to come to earth as a ‘human being’ without the support of an ‘entire village of lowly shepherds’ because He knew and knows today, that the greatest gift He gives to each and every open human heart on this earth is the gift of another open human heart.
Twas the night before surgery—as Twas night before Christmas. The night was quiet and dark; the stars were out and yet, one star shone brighter than the others. For me, the star on the night before this surgery night was this room filled with the brilliance light of hope.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”—–JESUS