Monday, January 23, 2012

#90 Dust and Ashes


I’m tired.

I’m discouraged.

I’m ticked off.

I don’t know how much more I can take.

I never viewed myself as the most morally sound missionary, but I trusted You to see me through. Is this Your challenge?

What am I supposed to do?

My head is spinning.

I need the world to slow down for a few hours. A full day, even.

Christophe got caught asking for bribes from patients again. Nothing new for him. He’s promised to straighten up and never do it again several times already.

Honore asked for a bribe from the same patient. When they wouldn’t fork it over, he made them wait all day to be seen. Finally they paid.

Giscar showed up drunk. Again.

So did Etienne.

And DeGaulle built himself a compound on hospital land without asking permission or paying rent. What’s more, he showed up enough at the hospital to get on payroll. And he doesn’t do anything but grow a garden at the hospital that he takes home to feed his family.

What am I supposed to do?

Can you not give me an honest, sober employee to help me out here?

Honore finally convinced some that it was just a tip and he never showed preference for it and never asked for it. He just accepted it. I still don’t buy it.

Christophe threw the whole lab under the bus and insisted that all four lab guys were in on it and pooling together the bribes they extorted from patients and then splitting it at the end of every day.


So we held our mighty hospital committee today.

Nobody wanted to fire anybody. I pointed out that the rulebook said we needed to fire him. Finally they relented.

So to support their colleague, the other lab guys went on strike. To publicly say that they support demanding bribes from patients to do the job they are already paid to do, they went on strike.

Really? I let them. I told them I’d rather fire them all than support thievery. They went back to work. Except the guy I fired.

So I told the committee, If you’re really serious about catching these people, and we all have admitted already that there’s a bunch of employees extorting from the patients, how about one of you just go around with me and ask patients and their families if they’ve been asked for money by anybody besides the cashier.

And they laughed at me, God. The committee you gave me to direct this hospital to a future of glorifying you. They laughed at the idea of catching the thieves. Why, God?

Are they stealing too, and they’re afraid?

Can You not give me one honest employee to trust and to work with?

Every employee tells me, I’m not stealing, but so-and-so is. The rumors are more than I can process. Everybody is implicated.

God, how does this glorify You? We’re here for You, right? So people come to the Adventist hospital from all over the country, just to find that we extort money? What does that say about our God?

Should I close the hospital? If You tell me that’s what I need to do, I’ll do it. I’d rather close a hospital than continue dirtying the name of Jesus. I’ll fire them all and just see a couple patients a day myself.

Is this stupid pride or righteous indignation? Am I rising above or am I stooping to their recalcitrance? Am I being culturally insensitive? Should I really allow the nurses at Your hospital to continue stealing from patients and the hospital in the name of cultural sensitivity?

Help me out here, God.

Last night I went to bed at midnight. The night before was 2am. The night before was midnight. I have hours and hours of administrative work every night, instead of playing with my children and spending quality time with my wife. Is this really what you called me to? I’m not an administrator. I’m not political. I’m not a fundraiser. Am I really the best You can do? Seriously, I’ll abide by the whole, ‘Here am I, send me’ thing, but couldn’t You find somebody better at this?

I’m trying to fence in the whole property, all 0.8 miles of it. I’m trying to stop the annual fights with neighbors over where they can grow their rice. I’m trying to stop the cows from roaming through. I’m trying to control foot traffic to/from church and school. I’m trying to keep people from building their private compounds and houses and goat pens on our property.

I’m trying to fence in an extra courtyard for a private ward, something to increase our capacity and increase our revenue. No, Your revenue.

I’m trying to build a new OR. One built to be efficient and sterile. One with a delivery suite. One with a lab attached. Something that can be air conditioned.

I’m trying to build a house for my in-laws, who are moving here to be our third doctor. And I’m trying to fence in their house.

I’m trying to start a nursing school. One that requires a year of theology training as a prerequisite to the course. One that filters out the money-seekers. One that teaches ethics from the very beginning. One that will produce honorable nurses who don’t steal and who work hard and who are kind and who glorify You.

I’m trying to start a radio station to spread Your Gospel.

I’m trying to build a hotel for people here for chronic problems or visitors who just need to stay a night or family of patients.

I’m trying to open health centers which will glorify You.

I’m trying to recruit a fourth physician, a construction expert, an accountant, an administrator... anybody honest!

I’m trying to build a new maternity ward.

I’m trying to build medicine wards and surgical wards.

I’m trying to build new toilets for sanitation.

I’m trying to manage current and future volunteers.

I’m trying to keep donors happy.

I’m trying, God. Help me out here. Give me a break. Send me some help. Real help. Not, please let me play surgeon in the OR help. I can’t take any more of that help.

I know the right answers. I know all about how I’m not supposed to be trying it on my own. I know all about how I’m supposed to leave it in Your hands. But I see them take that attitude here all the time. And it’s just an excuse for laziness. Is that really what You want from me? I know all about how it’s not my strength, but Yours. God, seriously, I’m not doing it to glorify myself. Seriously, try me. Test me. Take all the credit. Give me none. See if I complain.

We’re talking crisis point here, God. Give me something.

So what do we do now, God? I’d love some explicit instructions.

You are not a God created by human hands.
You are not a God dependent on any mortal man.
You are not a God in need of anything I can give.
By Your plan, that’s just the way it is.
You are God alone.
From before time began, You are on Your throne.
You are God alone.
And right now, in the good times and bad, You are on Your throne.
You are God alone.
Unchangeable, unshakable, unstoppable. That’s what You are.

I know that You’re up there on Your throne. I know that You see and understand from the East to the West, from the North to the South, from the Depths to the Heights, from Millennia past to the Present to the Future. I know that Your understanding is not limited to my finite three-dimensional reality. I know that Tchad in 2012 is but a speck of physical space in just a moment of quantifiable time. I know that You have reasons beyond my reasoning.

But these people are suffering. This is a country and a people forgotten by the world for so long. These are children of Yours that are so ripe for the harvest. All they need are some leaders to show them the way. God, send me kind, honest, hard-working men and women to lead this hospital to You.

I’m tired.

I’m discouraged.

I’m ticked off.

I don’t know how much more I can take.


  1. Prayers for you guys and the work there!

    Africa is .... still Africa...not likely to change any time soon, but God will bless your efforts though it won't be without trial.


  2. HI: Our family doesn't know you, but we saw the article in FOCUS. We are dedicated to praying for you, your wife and your family, your hospital and Africa. Don't give up hope. You are the hands for people who can not be there. Someday, you will hear, 'well done, good and faithful servant, well done.' Hang in there.

  3. I write a daily blog on the Bible. I've been in Psalms now for about 90 days. If Psalms were still be written, this would be #151. I'm sure you've seen a WWJD bracelet or bumper sticker. Your life is a daily answer to that question. I doubt He was often more satisfied than you find yourself at present. But what is left to God's friends than to get down in the muck with Him and struggle? I know He's glad for the company! You bring a smile to His face!

  4. Bon Courage, dear Olen & Danae! You are the 'apple of His eye'. He will never leave nor forsake you. Wisdom and strength will be yours, moment by moment. Onward through the fog! Your Captain will lead you through, carry you through. You are not alone! He has walked this lonesome valley before you. Hugs, prayers, courage!

  5. God loves you so much.....hold on...hold guys will make it...and God will answer your prayer...praying for you, your family, and the ministry you are part....

  6. "The Impossible Dream"

    Why do you do these things?

    What things?

    These ridiculous... the things you do!

    I hope to add some measure of grace to the world.

    The world's a dung heap and we are maggots that crawl on it!

    My Lady knows better in her heart.

    What's in my heart will get me halfway to hell.
    And you, Señor Don Quixote-you're going to take
    such a beating!

    Whether I win or lose does not matter.

    What does?

    Only that I follow the quest.

    That for your Quest!
    (turns, marches away; stops, turns bock
    and asks, awkwardly)
    What does that mean... quest?

    It is the mission of each true knight...
    His duty... nay, his privilege!
    To dream the impossible dream,
    To fight the unbeatable foe,
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go;
    To right the unrightable wrong.

    To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
    To try, when your arms are too weary,
    To reach the unreachable star!

    This is my Quest to follow that star,
    No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
    To fight for the right
    Without question or pause,
    To be willing to march into hell
    For a heavenly cause!

    And I know, if I'll only be true
    To this glorious Quest,
    That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
    When I'm laid to my rest.

    And the world will be better for this,
    That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
    Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
    To reach the unreachable stars!"

    I can't wait to come back and try to help a little. You may not see it, but you guys are doing an extraordinary job. keep climbing, even when you can't see the mountain, and keep dreaming impossible dreams - those dreams are the only ones that ever changed the world. and you are changing it.

  7. Guys-- I totally get every frustration you are talking about in this blog. I live in Tanzania and while the circumstances are a little different, the culture of bribery and lies rings true here! And my heartfelt sentiments and sympathy extend your way.

    So here's the thing:

    Get pissed.
    Get frustrated.
    Allow conflict.
    stick to your goals.
    Call bluffs.
    Feel empowered.
    Don't shun the negative feelings.
    Don't ignore the warm fuzzies.
    Bounce it back to God.
    That is why he chose you...He needs you to communicate it all to Him.

    I know we don't know each other, but through your blog I have come to know you. I think about you guys from time to time and uplift you in prayer. Our work, whether its medical, spiritual, social, teaching, preaching, or just existing as one positive influence on one other recipient is a GOOD thing.

    Its good even when the day feels crappy. Chin up.


  8. Mes amis, mes amis, Mon Dieu,
    please be close to my friends, please keep me on my knees for them fighting the battles on my knees pleading for the heavenly army for them while I cannot be there. Please keep me on my knees for the work only the Holy Spirit can do on the hearts of the people you have sent to help them work. God please take the hearts of stone and transform them to hearts of flesh. please God give mes amis what you gave Moses when he turned to you when those you gave him turned against him even his blood relatives.
    please God i know you love them more than I do I know you do please show them give them that hope not the hope deferred that makes the heart sick... Thank you God for seeing what we cannot and providing what we cannot...
    Jim and neeta