Sunday Morning

2011 March 22

Dear family and friends,

Greetings from Chad, Africa. Below is a description of our Sunday morning, March 13, 2011. We hope it gives you a little flavor of life here.

Yesterday we went to Dabgue for the Sabbath School and church service. Often, a few people with medical needs come to be seen and this day was no exception. Two mothers came with their two small babies. Both babies wore weary faces telling of their struggle with disease and malnutrition. Another boy, an orphan of about 11 years old, hobbled in with one of his relatives. A week ago this boy was bitten by a mad dog (which has since died), and failed to seek help until a week later. Now the 2-3 inch gash on his ankle is still open and the infection has spread into his ankle and foot. The ankle is swollen, masking the true extent of the gash. We gave him a ride to the hospital and got him on antibiotics immediately, then instructed him to come to our house for a treatment next morning.

This Sunday we got up around 4:15 in order to have ample time for reading, prayer, and talk time before the early morning beggars show up. We try to eat breakfast around 6:00. Melody has been making wonderful bread every week and has been experimenting using sorghum flour, since the only whole wheat flour we have we import from the States. While bananas are in season, we often have bread, peanut butter, and bananas for breakfast. From Sunday to Friday, our team meets at Gary's house for prayer and planning at 6:45. People have figured this out and sometimes visit us with produce to sell or to beg before we leave the house. Today, we left people waiting at our house while we left to pray together for various aspects of the project here and for the various people we come into contact with each day.

This morning dog-bite-boy (we often give people our own names) came accompanied by a relative for his treatment. If he watches us clean his wound and change the dressing, we hope he will be able to go home to his village and do his own washing and dressing changes. First, he must wash the wound with soap and plenty of water. Melody prepares a bucket of hot water and a bucket of "cold" water. The "cold" water from the well is probably around 80 degrees, but it is the coldest we have for now. It will have to do. The wound is open to infection, so we demonstrate how to add a small amount of bleach to disinfect the well water. Melody adds a bit of salt to the hot water, and then proceeds to alternate his foot between hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold. Once they seem to understand the process and how often to do it, we send them on a moto-taxi back to their village. We ask them to come back next week for us to check on the progress. "If you do as we say," we tell them, "your wound should heal up after a while. But if you neglect to wash and do the hot and cold treatments, the doctor may have to chop your foot off. It is very important for you to wash every day."

Sometimes when a person gets a small cut from a hoe or a thorn, they fail to wash the wound. This can lead to a massive infection. The only way to save a person's life in some cases is to amputate. One of our worker boys got a infection from a thorn prick while clearing the runway. After several days, his thumb was twice the normal size and the infection was spreading to his wrist. Melody demonstrated the hot and cold treatment to him. As he faithfully treated his hand, the infection diminished and amputation was avoided. Later he told Melody, "Hot and cold is good!" Melody said, "Now you can go tell others about this." Our goal is that as people see God's blessing on using His simple methods of healing, they will tell others.

I briefly discuss a contract with some boys for clearing bushes and roots out of the plot of land we hope to transform into an orchard. People often ask for money or handouts. Having them earn their money is far better for them than just giving them handouts. We are planning on planting an orchard as a long term project. The soil here is poor unless worked with so lately some boys have been working for us by getting wheel barrows full of leaves to put on the orchard. One morning we were happily surprised during breakfast to see a cart full of leaves pulled by two bulls. The leaves will make a big difference after it is mixed into the soil and decomposed a bit. We are excited about planting mango, citrus, guava, and cashew trees. Cashew fruit is so good once one gets used to its unique smell and taste.

The welder from the market came to visit and help me with a steel order. We have run out of steel for the housing project and I do not have the time to go get the steel. I tell him what we need and how much to get. He will take my moto to Kelo, a town about an hour away, and will order the steel we need.

A man comes with his flashlight. "Can you fix this? It doesn't work." "Are the batteries good?" I ask. "Yes, they're fine." "Let me look." The batteries were in the wrong direction. I switch them around, hand it back to him turned on and working, and observe this look of astonishment rise across his face. "Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you."

I pop in our hut and stock up on water. The day is climbing toward 100 degrees and I must drink much water to stay hydrated.

Another boy loafs in. "My mom is sick. I need $4." I know this boy, and it is difficult to stop myself from saying, "You liar. Stop bothering me. Go away." You see, he comes around frequently with notoriously fabricated stories of how his father is in jail or his mom is sick or how he needs this or that. My mind is stressed with all these visitors and all the needs around me. I have to ask God to give me good thoughts and to obliterate these thoughts of frustration. I told the boy that if he wants to work, I'll give him money. He leaves and tells me he'll be back another day. I wonder how sick his mom really was.

A boy who used to work for us came by. I haven't seen him for weeks. He wanted us to give him money to build a house. We replied that if he would put forth some effort (work) and make some bricks, we would help him with his house. He came to tell me that he was nearly done making bricks. Could I come look at them soon? I assured him that I would come and see them sometime.

All this time, my goal has been to get out to the welding site. I'm ready. The welder is out there. The guys have cut the steel. It's ready to weld. But each time I take a step toward what I want to do, it seems like somebody else shows up with a problem or needs help with something. Such is life in Africa, often. Before lunch around noon, I got about one half of an hour of welding accomplished at the job site. This is only Sunday morning! Often Sunday mornings are busier than normal, but thankfully life is not always like this (yet!).

Each day I ask God to direct my thoughts and my words and my actions. I also make plans for each day. Often, my plans do not coincide with God's plans. Apparently this morning, God thought it would be best if I focused on some of the needs of the people around me rather than on the welding project.

"God, please give me discernment to recognize those with genuine needs and those who are the lazy beggars. Give me kind words and Christ-like thoughts as I deal with Your children here in Chad. Give me patience with those who irritate me. Give me compassion for those who need to see Your love. I need encouragement when the project seems slow. Help me recognize true missionary work."

In His service,
Jonathan and Melody

P.S. Dog-bite-boy did come to church last Sabbath. The swelling on his leg was mostly gone and he was able to walk more easily on his leg. The improvement was clearly visible. The wound is still large and will take awhile to heal, but we believe that God will bless his diligent efforts to keep the wound clean and to continue with the hot and cold treatments.