I was handed a foot long branch of this semi-arid thorn bush last week as I entered church in Werkok, South Sudan on Palm Sunday. As the 6 month dry season is coming to a close green bushes are few and far between. Palm trees - not so much. This branch is clearly the next best thing to a palm frond in Werkok. Good improv. It seemed very fitting that my green branch reminded me not only of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the honor bestowed on King Jesus, but with inch long thorns my branch also reminded me of the sacrifice God made in sending His Son to die for my sins.
In March the WGM South Sudan Executive Committee held a planning retreat. It was great spending time together as a team. There is no substitute to spending time together - we improv with phone calls and skype but face time is best. We were able to clarify our vision and learned new ways to be more effective.
Our vision . . .
. . . transformed Sudanese, transforming their communities and beyond.
We will do that through Church Leader Empowerment. through Community Empowerment. and through Health Care Empowerment.
And that is what my last trip was about. Helping empower Memorial Christian Hospital (MCH) through surgical care.
Our surgical team waiting to leave Nairobi for MCH in Werkok, South Sudan
Joy, Dr. Russ White, Andrew White, Dr. Arega Leta, and David Chelimo (L to R)
During our visit the team was able to do 15 major operations and 8 minor cases. In resource limited settings (South Sudan qualifies!) it's always interesting to observe the art of improvisation. No cautery - cut more carefully, no OR sheets - use a gown instead, no muscle relaxant - more ketamine! The OR team, including MCH's Dr. Ajak on the right, did a great job of giving new life to the patients they ministered to. And for the record: the theater at MCH is a great asset. Do you have any unique improv stories?
I was able to talk with this 'young' man after his hernia surgery. A former freedom fighter for South Sudan with the Sudan People's Liberation Army he had been troubled with his hernia for ten years! He attempted to have it repaired five years ago at another hospital. When the patient ahead of him who was also having a hernia operation was wheeled out of the theater on the way to the 'resting room' (aka morgue) he asked where the bathrooms were. And just like during the war when he was avoiding rebel armies he escaped potential danger and fled the hospital. He managed to get by for the next five years but his buldging hernia was slowing him down. When he heard that there was a surgical team at Memorial Christian Hospital he felt this was a good chance to give surgery another try. He is extremely happy and thankful for the good care he received.
When you're hot, you're hot!! The team along with Dr. Ajak trying to catch a breeze in the shade. With daytime temps reaching 120 degrees in the sun and 107 degrees on the veranda this team was HOT.
A trip to the historic Nile River was very cool. The water is flowing north from Lake Victoria to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Most Kenyan's would not consider themselves short but in South Sudan they are definitely height challenged. Our team's anesthetist, David, looks up to Deng, the Sudanese site-administrator at Memorial Christian Hospital.
Since it's the end of the dry season and tall grasses have been harvested and bundled for roofing. Andrew and I watched as one expert roofer went about his work. Although grass roofs need to be replaced every three years or so it's much cooler than a corrugaged tin roof.
Our first evening in South Sudan found us in Werkok town. We joined the local men under a tree watching a competitive game of dominoes. Our own Dr. White, never one to be intimidated, entered the game after watching a few rounds and wound up a domino champion that evening!
My prayer this Easter is that you won't let the sun go down on God's plans for you . . . whether He's calling you to live a life of extreme abandon for Him right where you are or if He's calling you to be a light for Him in South Sudan. There is no substitute, no winging it, no later when you've got it all figured out, no improv, when He calls you to follow Him.
I'm thankful to those of you who have followed Jesus by physically joining me in Africa, who pray, and give financially. Your partnership means that God is at work, preparing men and women for their world's to be turned up-side down as they increasingly learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
If you're a medical doctor, surgeon, anesthetist, midwife, or nurse and would like to volunteer at a mission hospital to help empower health care ministries in South Sudan let me know. I'd love to discuss opportunities with you. And at the end of the day watch these beautiful sunsets over the new nation of South Sudan.