Saturday, August 7, 2010

Final Reflections from Swaziland

On Thursday Sara (who is here with her family thru AIM and is also a nursing student) and I went to Skhalini, one of the most rural carepoints, to set up a mini clinic. We laid some mats down under a tree, set up all our supplies (lots of medicine, bandages, stethoscopes, etc), and formed a system for children and others to come one by one and sit down and tell us their symptoms (Nombali, our wonderful translator was also sitting with us on the mat).

As we were still setting up and people were gathering around, I felt someone behind me, it was a small girl. She was kind of leaning on me and as I turned to interact with her, the gogo spoke to her immediately and obviously told her to get up and go away as she quickly retreated. I didn’t think much of it and went back to the task at hand.

We saw about 10-12 people, which was a nice number because we got to treat each person in a non-rushed way. We saw coughs, skin lesions, headaches, sore throats, and everything in between. As we were on our last patient, I was listening to her breath sounds to make sure her lungs didn’t have fluid and Sara was just sitting to the side. The same little girl from the beginning plopped down. With a stethoscope in hand, and experience to be gained, Sara figured why not listen to her little heart?

Thankfully she did.

Her pulse was very high at 180 beats per minute and it was bounding. You could listen to any spot on her abdomen and hear it clearly. As we took a closer look we discovered her breathing was very labored and she even had a fever. Soon our previous patient was handed medicine and our focus became this little girl.

As it turned out, she was 3 years old but had no older sibling, cousin, or gogo to represent her. Whereas all the previous kids we saw had that. She had come the carepoint by herself entirely. No one was there to put her in the front of the line. No one was there to even bring her to the mat to let us know she was ill. And for that matter no one even knew she was sick (as they shooed her away unknowingly). After a little more assessing and a phone call to a more experienced health care professional, we determined she was dehydrated and probably also needed an antibiotic for her ailment. We didn’t have the antibiotic in hand, but we did have something for her fever and some water. This particular carepoint is very far from a water source, so we had packed a jug, and sooo glad we did as we poured a cup and she just chugged it. Then another. Then the medicine. She was one thirsty little girl.

We sat there a little longer with her and told the gogo’s to make sure she had water the next day too (we left the jug), but as I reflect, this story is symbolic of so much more than just giving a little girl water.

So many times in life we have a system to serve people. Think about it, whether it’s a church outreach or feeding people at the city mission—there is structure. And sometimes structure is completely necessary, but serving doesn’t need to only occur in structure. Because of our system we were creating, the gogo obviously saw this little girl as a mere distraction to our “mission”. She didn’t see her need, her sickness, or her thirst. She just saw a hang up in the smooth operation. And if we only focus on operations, outreaches, and structured events, we are missing out on so much!!

Serving people, loving people, being the hands and feet of Jesus is not always convenient, efficient, or easy. It does not only occur in planned settings, missions trips, or camps. Nor should it. Serving should not be a once a week event…it should be a mindset. But before we can serve others, we must know the need. And knowing the need takes a little time and effort. We must open our eyes or ask God to give us His eyes. We must be mindful of those around us, not just so focused on our own agenda that anything aside from our desire is a “distraction”. The biggest step however, is after knowing the need, practically meeting it. So often WE are the answer to the prayer we lift up. So many times we think that a system or structure should be put in place to solve a problem, but really…maybe it’s as simple as a cup of water. Maybe it’s as simple as giving that homeless man a cheeseburger. Maybe it’s as simple as visiting your Grandma. And maybe the cups of water and cheeseburgers and visits will add up and make something beautiful. Something people see, something that is contagious, something that is bigger than ourselves.

So may we not be distracted by details today. May we not be bogged down with outlines and itineraries—although very useful sometimes. May we see the pain around us whether it be under our same roof or across the ocean, and may we respond with it in confidence knowing that we can’t do everything, be each of us can do something, and something is always better than nothing!