Sunday, July 26, 2009

baby steps

This week with Cincinnati's Vineyard Community Church (VCC) has been amazing! They just got on their plane to head back home after the 7 days. But, we've gotten so much done in just a week. A couple of days were spent doing some construction for the new property to build outlines of where the buildings are planned to be built. One day was spent digging a water well with Self-Sustaining Enterprises (SSE).

The VCC team funded this dig. It was SSE's 50th water well dug and it will provide clean water for the Miango village, a village comprised of Christians that used to be Muslim. The conversion from Muslim to Christianity isn't seen as easy, as the families of the new converts are usually expected to shun them from the family permanently. So it was great to hear the testimonies of the people that comprise this newly formed village.

I spent a lot of time playing with the kids (surprise, surprise). All of the children in primary school (equivalent of our K-5th) haven't been in school for a month as the teachers have been on strike for a month. This isn't rare here at all. Many students don't graduate high school until their mid-20s because of all of the gaps in education due to unexpected strikes. I met a 15-year old girl named Christiana. I hung out with her and her little brother John pretty much all day. She told me that the teacher for her secondary school was running late... as it was 1:30 and school was supposed to start at 12:30. Walking by her classroom, or anywhere in any village here, REALLY made me understand and feel what it's like to be a minority. Conversations just stop and all eyes are on you. Children whisper to each other "Batore..." ("Look, a white person..."). She led me into her classroom where about 60 kids aged 12-20 were waiting for their teacher who was now an hour late. I asked her to show me some of the things that they were learning and she pulled out some small science and math books. As I flipped through her science book, she stopped at a page and asked me to teach something to her. It was a lesson about how flies can contaminate meat by landing, laying eggs, which produce more flies and disease. So I started to read and explain it and I couldn't help but stop and ask, "Are you SURE you do not know this?" as about 10 other children quickly gathered around to hear me read. She assured me that she had no idea and I continued to read. Shortly after, the teacher came in and proceeded to hand out exams, as they had their agricultural science exam today. The teacher welcomed me and gave me a copy. Christiana encouraged me to help her read the questions and answers aloud. I honestly had no idea about any of the answers. Everything on the test ranged from proper plowing techniques to definitions of different kinds of harvesting--no idea.

Outside, several hours later, the well digging machine had finally made it to a sufficient level and clean water was beginning to spew out of the top of the hole. Many Nigerians working for SSE were there dressed to impress--the men in suits and the women head-to-toe in the beautiful Nigerian prints. Later on, I received some Hausa lessons from Christiana in return for the science help. I now know how to say, "Where are you going?" "Are you tired?" "You are beautiful" and "What is your name?" in Hausa. The Nigerians crack up and think it is the funniest thing ever when I throw out my few memorized Hausa phrases. They respond in Hausa and ask me a question, but no matter what they say I usually end up replying with "Yowaaa" (meaning "Yeahhh... awesome") as I don't know how to say anything else... and the laughing continues.

But my favorite day this week, by far, was our medical outreach day on Friday at the Kisayhip village that Back2Back is closely ministering to. The need for medical attention was so great that we continued for half of the day on Saturday. Out of the 14-member Vineyard group, there was one nurse, one medical student, one nursing student, and one occupational therapy student. We had three Nigerian doctors there as well that volunteered their time for the outreach. The occupational therapy student was one of the three VCC group members that sat with translators and were at the "intake" station to understand and record the patients' information and medical needs. The nurse mainly directed the congested traffic going on inside our small little tents and also filled in the gaps whenever a lunch break was needed. The medical student also floated between the intake of patients and the pharmacy area. The nursing student spent about 10 minutes beforehand teaching me how to take vitals alongside her (temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration). The nursing student and I saw about 80-90 patients each between the two days. My ears are still sore from having a stethoscope in them for 6 hours on Friday and 3 hours on Saturday. But honestly, the time spent doing vitals was so amazing and so worth it. That was my first time taking blood pressure outside of physiology class a year ago, and I was sooo nervous to start. But once I had a couple patients, I felt like I got the hang of it real quick.

Although I'm not qualified at all, it was incredible to take the arms of the frailest, skinniest elderly women that I have ever seen and provide them with some sort of healthcare. But, I'd have to say that the time spent with the children and babies were my favorite. This was probably because I knew many of them from church and playing in the village for the last two months. So it was awesome to see the kids that I've been having fun with as my patients. And then I meet the adults, and can see their children and other family members in their faces--it's really cool to be able to mentally recognize the extended families by facial features.

I really admire the women that I see on Sunday at the village church in the choir that bang on the drums and sing at the top of their lungs all for the Lord. So that was great to be able to tell them that I enjoy seeing them at church and playing with their kids. They are so appreciative of the time that we spend here, however, are astonished that most of us will be leaving in a few weeks. "We appreciate and thank you so much for being here. Why you must return home??"

Many of my patients would have an infant on their lap and then 2 or 3 or 4 more kids all under the age of six at their sides; and all patiently waiting to be seen by me in my one small chair. I found that the easiest method for these situations was to just treat mom first so the kids could see that nothing hurts. Then, grab one of the kids and put them on my lap, give them a sucker, then proceed with everything I need to do. The babies were such a hit or miss for me though. Either they were passed out and bundled up so tightly in their clothes making it impossible to get a temperature in under 5 minutes; or, they are crying their eyes out terrified by our white skin or the idea that I'm wanting to hold their tiny wrist for 60 seconds. One baby made my day though when anyone so much as touched him, he let out a giant, hearty laugh. He was 6-mos. and would throw his head back and squeeze his eyes shut and would just crack up.

Over the course of 1.5 days we were able to see over 200 patients and provide medical treatment. The hardest part was cutting off the outreach. More and more people would come as they would hear about the treatment and would walk from their village all day just to be seen by a doctor. The number of individuals was unending and seemingly impossible. I'm praying that God allowed the people that needed the medicine and treatment to make it there. It's hard to see the fruit of the labor when the impact seems so minuscule, but I have to cling to the promise that serving the few is beneficial. It's so true that meeting the physical needs lays a foundation for meeting the spiritual needs. As God goes after the one (Luke 15:8-10; Matt. 18:12-14), I think He finds joy when we do too.

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