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Showing posts from 2017

27 Weeks: Why It Matters Where You Live

At 27 weeks pregnant, I find myself considering the world this child will enter. If born today in my passport country, our baby would have a 90% chance of living. In rural West Africa, the survival rate (without surfactant, ventilators, or NICU level nursing care) is zero. Zero. Nobody lives here when born this early. Nobody. This is just the beginning of the vast disparity in options that life affords those born in the minority and majority worlds. Where we are born dictates so much about our lives: what (if) we can eat, whether our children can go to school, how we worship, whether we can participate in government, whether we are exposed to war, and what how long we can expect to live. When I read the litany of complaints Americans launch against all things American on social media, my head spins. Have any of us really considered giving up our citizenship and moving elsewhere? Do we not realize that any poor person in any developing country would gladly trade places with even the m

Privilege Is Not Our Fault, But It Is Our Responsibility

When I look at our children in Africa, I see privilege. I probably could've seen it in the U.S., but I didn't. Perhaps I was distracted by how our very broken American systems still generally met the most basic of human needs. Education (variation in quality notwithstanding) is available to every child through high school, free of charge. Healthcare (value notwithstanding) is provided to anyone, at least on a survival level (Emergency Departments cannot turn people away for not paying cash up front). Clean water and working sewage systems are nearly universally afforded. Yes, my children represented privilege in the U.S. They were born into a home with two parents who had completed advanced degrees. Their exposure to language alone gives them a significant advantage over children in poor American homes . They are white. They would never have to explain, on account of the color of their skin, why they are in an expensive car (not that we would ever buy one) or in a particular

Cacophony of Argument vs. Glorifying God with One Voice

Reading through the end of Romans this week, I was struck by the exhortation to avoid conflict over disputable matters. There are true believers who hold different (but strong) convictions about a variety of topics: infant baptism, worship style, practice of the gifts, missiology methods, role of women in church leadership, and many others. Arguing about these differences does not glorify God. While there are issues worth debating (particularly, things that are sinful -- which this post does not address), humility is essential. We are all wrong about some (many?) things. We don't know which they are, or we wouldn't be wrong. There are no "neighborhoods" in Heaven. We need to get comfortable with our fellow believers, using even differences in opinion on non-essential issues to thank God for saving such a diverse lot. Sola fide. Sola gratia. Sola scriptura. Solus Christus. Soli Deo gloria. "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of th

Third-hand News, Branding People, and Other Social Media Problems

My love-hate relationship with social media began far before I moved to the developing world. Amazing to see photos of friends who live states and countries away. Wonderful to share humor and life (in some strange way) with people we wouldn't otherwise contact. Lovely to know we still occasionally cross the minds of people we haven't seen in decades. And. Challenging to realize that mass communication (of personal life details) has replaced individual conversations. Confusing to not receive replies to emails and other forms of contact while continuing to take in information broadcast to hundreds (thousands?) of friends. Discouraging to know so much about other people and still feel so very isolated. My hard drive crashed at the beginning of this month. Aside from teaching me that my work (i.e. my little cog in the enormous machinery of healthcare and research) is but a vapor, I was gifted the invaluable opportunity of being without a computer for several weeks. My husband

I Have an Incomplete Set of Silverware (and Other Things I Can't Care About Anymore)

When I was at the grocery store as a child, I regularly rearranged canned good displays so all the labels faced out. I also avoided stepping on sidewalk cracks, and meticulously lined up every item in my school desk. While (thankfully) I have outgrown many of these compulsive tendencies, I've remained quite particular (read: difficult) into adulthood. And then we moved to Africa, sight unseen. I am still difficult to live with, but God is slowly unraveling my perfectionism here. We've trained several cooks in our kitchen over the past year, which has resulted in countless items being broken. Most African cooking equipment is indestructible (cast iron, aluminum, wood), so working with "white man" plastic and silicone presents a steep learning curve. I would regularly repeat the following mantra aloud: "It's just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. People cannot." A few months ago, I noticed our spoon pile looked shorter. I lined up all the flatware. We move

Loose my hands, Loose my eyes

Jackie (a friend and nurse) called me, “There is a kid here in the ICU with bad burns.  He needs your help.” I was heading that way anyway. “I’ll be there soon.”  On arriving, I saw a child crying in agony, afraid, who had been badly burnt in a fire.  His face was too swollen to open his eyes. “Give me something to drink,” he moaned. “I’m thirsty.” I sat down next to him and said, “We are trying to help you. You have been in a fire. We have to take you to the theater (operating room) to help you, and if you drink water now it could hurt you. We are giving you something to drink through your arm.” He wasn’t having it. “Can I pray with you? He calmed down a bit as we prayed. But he was still in pain, and he was still terrified.  The fire came in the night. It took the life of his little brother. His parents were at the funeral. His Uncle, whom he loved dearly, was in much worse shape than he was. A younger uncle escaped unscathed physically, but appeared emotionally devastated.

Post-Post-Modernism: A Place With No Earthly Bests

Americans love superlatives. Consider our affinity for the word "best". On any given holiday, social media is flooded with posts about the world's best mom, dad, sibling, spouse, child(ren), and friend(s). All one billion of them (Google just told me one billion people have active Facebook accounts, which I both believe and find mind boggling). Which leaves us wondering: if everyone is the best, is anyone really the best? When I lived in Western New York, I could easily have named the best free place(s) to take children in the winter, the best Indian buffet, the best store to buy items 90% off, the best local coffee shop, the best playgrounds, the best school, the best place of worship, the best hospital. I probably could have named at least three or four women I considered my best friends, who knew almost everything going on in my life. Now, I live in a town without public libraries, restaurants, discount stores, coffee shops, playgrounds and functioning schools (the

Was Jesus a Third Culture Kid?

On Good Friday, Christians remember the ultimate sacrifice: God took on flesh, suffered, and died to demonstrate the extent of His love and justice. I've heard it put it this way: does God hate sin? Yes, look at the cross. Does God love sinners? Yes, look at the cross. Christ, whose ultimate citizenship is in Heaven, became fully man and immersed Himself in the culture of humanity. Living outside of His Father's (but not His mother's) country of origin, He most certainly possesses a special understanding of the third culture kid life. Third culture kids (TCKs) are those who spend a good portion of their formative years outside of their parents' [and their own] passport country.  We are living in an area of the country where the internet has been shut off for the past few months, due to political unrest in a nearby city. Our hospital was granted an exemption (thankfully, as it is difficult -- if not impossible -- for millennial physicians to practice medicine wit

When Every Day Is Saturday, Children Preach

Children here have been out of school since November, when strikes in the Anglophone regions of our country began. What initially seemed like an extended holiday has become something entirely less positive. A full year of school is lost for tens of thousands of students, despite the fees that families scraped together to enroll their children last September. Every day, multiple children knock on our door, desperate for something to do. They work on their family farms some of the time, but their minds are begging to be engaged. Most have never owned a book, except for the occasional required textbook for school (which are sold back or given to family members the following year). We are living in a no-end-in-sight extrapolation of the Summer Slide. If this were happening in any state in America, it would be all over every major news outlet. But this is Africa. And who knows what's happening in Africa? Moreover, who cares? While media cowboys (social and otherwise) pontificate about

Death, Joy, and a New Reading Plan

Friends, first of all, I am sorry I do not write more often.  When I try to write about life in Cameroon, what comes out is often really depressing, because my job often involves children dying.  So when I start to write, I inevitably get to a point where I say, "man, you are representing your job poorly, your job is full of so much joy," and when I make this realization I quickly abandon my writing.  I want to write more.  I probably need to write more. At the same time, I do not want to be so fixated on the bad news of sin and death that I represent our work here in a negative light.  I find much joy in working as a pediatrician in M'Bingo.  I love my job.  I am very blessed to be here. That's not the point of this post.  I recently finished my bible in a year plan.  For the past 12 or so years, I have frequently done bible in a year reading plans.  I decided I wanted to do something different, and I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for on the interne

Not Goodbye: Maranatha!

It wasn't the first time one of my best friends waved through the window of a white van that bounced down the dirt road away from our house in Cameroon. Despite all our talk of "it's not 'goodbye' -- just 'see you later' ", farewells don't seem to get easier with practice. I stood at our kitchen sink, which (thankfully) seems to be consistently producing water after two days of heavy rain. Cleaning the breakfast dishes in a small bucket of chunky water may have been more than I could have handled without tears. Ours are a different sort of goodbye, from a country that has been "home" for only fifteen months. In sending loved ones back to the U.S., we aren't merely ending social visits. We are facing separation from teammates: people who have (for a short time) battled disease and poverty alongside us. Yes, we are still on the same team. These people continue to fight beside us in a hundred ways, regardless of their physical

I Have House Help (And So Do You)

I may have laughed out loud when experienced missionaries told me I would “need to hire house help”. Where was I moving? The Deep South in the 1950s? The irony of watching The Help on a plane just before moving abroad was not lost on me. I did not need “help”. I had worked full time, while doing nearly all of the picking up and dropping off from daycare, cooking, cleaning, and shopping -- because I was married to a resident who worked unspeakable hours. I had not needed help then, and I certainly would not need help in the future. Or so I thought, in my little individualistic cloud of American superiority. I had not anticipated the amount of time required to walk to market with two children in tow, barter (include cost paid for “white man” markup), wash/bleach all produce, raise/kill/prep chickens (skills I have no desire to acquire), make tortillas/bread/bagels/granola/yogurt/dressings/chips/cookies/sauce, reconstitute milk, filter (and recently, haul) water, find recipes

You Can't Make These Things Up (But He Can)

On more than one occasion in the past year, I've been completely culturally befuddled. Today, I reached a new level of confusion. New Year's Day has been a quiet one, in part because almost all of the townspeople were in church until 5 A.M. (singing) (exuberantly). The annual "Crossover" Service commemorates the end of the old year, and the collective crossing into the new. So, on New Years Day most Christians are asleep. Most Christians except us, since we struggle too much with sleep in this household to be up all night by choice. So, Josiah and I were using the quiet afternoon to build Africa's largest Magnatile structure. Suddenly, I heard a greeting at the door. "Hello?" I called. Two elderly Fulani women entered my home, gesturing and speaking in something (several things?) other than English. At some point, I realized they were asking for food. I had them sit down and did a quick inventory. Dinner: not yet prepared. Lunch: ham and cheese mel