39 hours. What can you do in that time? You could take a much needed weekend vacation. You could drive from LA to New York. You could watch all 8 Harry Potter movies…twice. Or, you could travel from Jos, Nigeria to Charlotte, NC. Really. It was a looong day. But the weird thing is, that means that I’m done.
So what’s it been like you ask? Why was I there? What did I learn? Well, while I can’t answer any of those questions to the amount of detail I would like on a simple little blog, allow me to share with you a story that might at least give you an idea of what I experienced.
We walk in on three middle-age, Nigerian women with an older lady laying on the bed. The “we” in that sentence is the Nigerian physician, nurse, and me. This is a new experience for me because for the first time, I am observing in a private clinic instead of at Bingham University Teaching Hospital. While I’m used to being in a ward with something like twenty patients all in the same room, here, this lady and her daughters are the only ones in the clinic at all. I’m thankful, but not surprised, to find they all speak decent English; I say not surprised because being at a private clinic means this person most likely has more money to pay for care than the average patient at BhUTH, which also usually means a higher level of education or opportunity, translating to a greater English ability. I am, again, pleasantly surprised by the coolness from the AC and cleanliness of the less-used room.
But the patient hardly seems to notice these amenities.
You see, this approximately 80 year-old Nigerian woman, who according to the physician, is usually pretty active, talkative, and interactive, is now lying on the bed, almost completely unaware of her surroundings. Her eyes are closed; her voice is almost a whisper, when she answers a question at all; she is dehydrated; and her blood pressure is unsettlingly low. If actions aren’t taken soon, the physician tells me, this lady could very well die shortly. Through questioning one of the daughters, the physician learns this lady has had a history of knee pain, vomiting, weakness, and loss of appetite among some other symptoms. Ok, interesting – where is this going? In a turn of events surprising for this American medical student, we then learn that, yes, the woman and her daughters have determined that since western medicine wasn’t giving her relief for her knee pain, there is obviously an underlying problem, either social or spiritual. This has led to them finding a local herbalist/traditional shaman to help with the knee pain. This has led to this elderly lady drinking a “blessed” herbal tea for the past few days. And this has led to serious GI issues (suspected gastritis by the physician) leading to the extreme malnutrition seen here. Oh, and did I mention all four of these ladies are “Christian”?
This story, while unpleasant, is not uncommon in Nigeria or many parts of Africa. Whereas us in the Western cultures have almost completely forsaken anything spiritual, Africans fully embrace the spiritual world and its connection with the physical in all aspects of life, and even those who say they know Jesus and are Christians can still be held by the traditional belief in other spirits that must be appeased, avoided, or used; they just add Jesus and the Christian God in as a new, more powerful entity.
You can see the problem, both physically and spiritually. These people, physically, need access to healthcare and health education. Sure, while being in Nigeria, I saw a lot of patients with malaria, and thanks to healthcare workers and appropriate medication, they are going to get better. But how many aren’t going to get that? How many will die unseen by anyone medically trained because they live 8 hours away from the nearest hospital or clinic or because they don’t have the money to go or because their problem is spiritual instead of physical and so go see a shaman instead of a doctor? And spiritually, how many of these people are going to die without hearing about the love of Christ and His gospel or with only hearing the good news, but not being discipled or followed up with to make sure they understand all it entails – that Jesus isn’t just “another god”, that He is The God, and He does have answers, love, and hope for His people here in this current, physical life?
These people don’t need a quick fix. They don’t need Americans. They don’t need a belief system that provides problems but no answers.
These people need doctors. They need mature Christian disciplers. They need Jesus.
So there you have it, my last post. Hopefully now you can see the part of the “why” behind the “what” that I have been doing all summer. Again, if you have any questions or would like to talk more, just shoot me an email, text, Facebook message, whatever. I’m back state-side now and even though I start classes back in three days on Monday, I would love to catch up with people. And again, I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all of you reading this who have kept up with me, prayed for me, supported me financially and emotionally; it means more than you probably know or imagine! And now for the last time, prayer requests:
- Pray for the full-time SIM team over in Jos. Pray for their various ministries throughout the city and their different visions for seeing God’s name glorified in the country of Nigeria.
- Pray for Nigeria. Pray for the 75 million believers there, many who are in need of someone to come alongside them and disciple them. Pray for the 75 million nonbelievers there who are deceived and long for the love and hope that is found in Christ.
- Pray for myself and the other SIM STA’s and healthcare students from the Preceptorship. Pray that we would all transition back to work, school, life smoothly, live lives changed by this summer, and that we would be able to share our stories effectively and in a way that glorifies God above all.
Again, thank you all so much! This opportunity has in very obvious ways been the best way I could have used this last summer in med school. It will truly be a summer that lasts a lifetime. Who knows where God may take me in the future or what I’ll be doing, but one thing I’ve definitely learned in the past few months: if you give God an unconditional “Yes”, He’ll use it and in incredible, life-changing ways.
Thank you. And as always, it would be helpful if you prayed for me.