Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Coda and the Hook

We are at the four-year mark here in Tchad, and with the exception of fleeting fantasies, we have no real desire to leave just as of yet. Despite all the challenges, be they political, cultural, language, social, climate or sickness, we still feel blessed every day, knowing God is entrusting to us the care of some of His most precious children, because He loves us, not because He needs us. We are very grateful and humbled to be of use.

Our jobs are never boring. In fact, this is the most rewarding and interesting job I can imagine. It is never JUST a job. We don’t envy anybody anything (unless you’re reading this while eating at Taco Bell). However, in spite of the variety of tasks and people and pathologies we encounter each new day, we fear our blogs become just different verses to the same song, with a never-ending coda and a really annoying hook.

How many times can I write my frustration running out of supplies? Last week it was gauze and HIV tests. This week it’s gloves and syringes. It’s been forever since I’ve had an antihypertensive besides atenolol or a diabetic med besides metformin. We ran out of steroids yesterday. I could go on and on. Nobody can keep a decent stockroom stocked before things run out. Part of the problem is they can’t keep an electronic record. Part of it is the government won’t allow us to import our own medications. Part of it is the fact our regional pharmacy supplier is always bare. Part of it is the fact the national pharmacy, where we’re required to buy our supplies, has cupboards like Mother Hubbard’s. And part of it is the apparent inability to plan in this part of the world. The entire country ran out of Tylenol in July. Awesome.

How many times can I write about tumors the size of grapefruit, if not larger? Or women dying in labor, essentially dead already when they’re dumped on our doorstep? Or babies dead in the uterus prior to arrival? Or kids dying from malaria? Or my own kids being sick with malaria. I know there are tragedies all over the world. I know death is an ultimate common denominator. But there’s a reason Chad has the lowest life expectancy, and is always tops or near tops for maternal mortality, under-5 mortality, neonatal mortality, worst place in the world to be a woman, worst place in the world to be a sick child, most corrupt country in the world, worst country in the world to be a tourist, etc.

And yet on the positive side, how many times can I write about the lives saved, the diagnoses made, the diseases cured, the surgeries done, the free care given, the amazing staff found, the administrative successes, the protocols implemented or the fact we are still growing at a rate our hospital’s infrastructure can’t support, despite our location way out in the bush?

So there is this dissonance which is hard to define and even harder to explain in blog. We love our jobs. Our patients are so interesting. We’re filling a need. We know God wants us here. We have a supportive community of foreigners. We have supportive families in the states. We have friends faithfully praying for us. We work hard. We spend time with our family. We have no time for anything else. There is no free time. There is no leisure time. There are no hobbies. But that’s ok. We are full. We have time for our family and time for service. Life is beautiful.

And then the frustrations.

Every job. Every house. Every situation. There are always pros and cons.

But the cons here are just so… con-ish. So very very con-ish. Way out on the extreme of con. Like you drive out a mile or so to get to the normal con. Then you take a left, go around a hill and past a lake and a guy with a piece of straw between his lips, then continue driving another 2539 miles. Then you arrive at these cons.

But the pros are just so pro-y. And they far outweigh the cons.

How to explain this love-hate relationship with this mission field? I don’t know. Perhaps that’s why we have this deep-rooted desire to recruit help out here. Misery loves company. But it’s also no fun to celebrate your successes alone. And in the end, there is simply no way to explain Tchad to somebody who hasn’t spent time in Tchad. My friends who come visit from other countries in Africa are… impressed, often unaware there are still countries like this one on the same continent. Forgotten. Left behind. Like Kirk Cameron after the rapture. That’s Tchad. Yup. Tchad is Kirk Cameron. Print it.

Stay tuned for more blogs coming very soon.


  1. Thank you for sharing the fullness that comes by serving others! Happy Sabbath from Lincoln, NE.

  2. Uh, yes. The cons in Bere are very, very out there. We spent 10 days there just before you came, and I have the utmost respect for you! And I understand the strange dichotomy of the intense pros and cons - obviously not the same as you who live there, but I get it. Thank you for serving! Alison