Monday, September 20, 2010

Tinder Fungus

Last night I walked into the living room (where Sam and Steve were watching Ultimate Survivor) just in time to see Bear Grylls' eyes light up as he cried out "tinder fungus!" He then crashed through the soggy forest floor, running towards a slender tree with a shelf-like mushroom growth jutting out of it. He pulled it off the tree and began to explain that Tinder Fungus is a type of fungus that holds a coal very well for a long period of time, and ignites easily. This was, Bear explained, an important discovery in early civilizations that enabled hunters to go farther from home without the fear of being without a fire. Wow, portable fire nestled within fungus. That Bear Grylls, always a fount of knowledge!

Tinder Fungus is a natural way to transport a spark of fire covered with moss long distances. Bear, in fact, lit a bit of tinder and pushed it deep into the fungus then covered it with moss and put it in his ever present backpack. He took it out from time to time to blow on it, to keep the spark alive. He later had the reward of being able to light a fire to boil eggs he had found in a pheasants nest with, I might add, some filthy, disgusting, muddy water. As a side note, never eat while watching Ultimate Survivor. The pheasant egg when cracked open by Bear contained a partially developed pheasant fetus... need I say more?

I thought about this tinder fungus as I was drifting off to sleep last night. It occurred to me that I am far from home facing a sometimes cold hearth in my heart. Yet, I have the Holy Spirit residing within me. My very own spark to light dark nights and give heat in cold moments of loneliness. And I also must tend to the spark lest it go out. I must daily, hourly, minute by minute, attend to the Spirit within me.

It's also a fun thing to say... Tinder Fungus... Go ahead, say it! It's even better with an English accent. The next bright idea I get I'm going to shout out "tinder fungus!" with perhaps the same wild-eyed expression that Bear had just before he charged through the forest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Clinic

A small concrete block building, two main rooms with a few smaller spaces made out of flimsy plywood walls and curtained doorways. Unadorned smooth concrete floors meet mismatched plastic chairs lined up in an L-shape along the wall. A rough plywood desk divides the patient area from the pharmacy area. I've been sitting in that small pharmacy area counting out pills for patients and learning to take blood pressure with the automatic cuff every morning this week. I sit under the watchful eyes of Mama Jeanine and Mama Perine. Mama Jeanine is a Bongolo taught nurse that has been running the clinic for years. I've known Mama Jeanine since we first moved to Libreville a little over two years ago but have just begun to help out at the clinic. What can I say about Mama Jeanine... she is a force to be reckoned with, she loves laughter and playing practical jokes, she is a leader, she works hard but believes in having fun along the way. She said to me just the other day, "what will our story be for today?" She is an encouragement to my bruised soul.

The two main rooms at the clinic are two separate clinics, one for the body and one for the eyes. The clinic charges each patient $10.00 for a consultation with a nurse and medicine. It is all inclusive, no matter how much or how little meds each needs. Everything from mulit-vitamins and Tylenol to more complicated meds for high blood pressure or malaria are dispensed.

Mama Jeanine mentioned that with school starting soon, the clinic is a sparce due to money being spent on school supplies and not medicine for the sick. There was a tiny older mama that came into the clinic the third morning I was there, she walked in and held out her hands as if to encompass all that were there and declared in a loud voice, "Hello my children!" She went to everyone and clasped their hand in hers and greeted us individually. She then proceeded to tell Mama Jeanine that she didn't sleep well because there is a crab and a rooster walking inside her stomach. Then Mama Perine leaned in to tell me in an exaggerated whisper that this older woman was clearly a "yanglaie", a crazy person! Earlier Mama Jeanine and Mama Perine were telling me some stories and this term came up. They tell me it is a slang word here in Gabon for crazy people, Yanglaie for women and Yanglo for men. Apparently this women comes in often with her hypertension problems and always arrives as if she the beloved matriarch of a grand family. The grand family being whoever is in the clinic at the time!

This tiny clinic has become a place of healing for me, not in a physical sense but in a spirit sense. Right now I am going through a time of loss. It is, for Steve and me, one of the most difficult times in our married lives together. We have in the two short years here become the most senior members of our American missionary team in Libreville. That is due to many goodbyes as friends have moved on to other places. One most recent goodbye took us by surprise and has left us reeling in shock and heartache. We have also said goodbye to two of our children. Joe and Meg are living in another country to the north of us, Cameroon. They are attending an international school and living with friends of ours there. This move of theirs came after much prayer and discussion and with my heart in my throat I said goodbye to them on August 31st after spending a month with them in their new place. It was the hardest goodbye yet! Steve also recently shipped his broken airplane to the states in container, very discouraging as we have spend years to get the plane here and it was only in use for three months before an emergency landing grounded it, literally. It will be a year before the repairs will be completed. So with all these goodbyes, we find ourselves beginning again.

I had a dream the other night that this time is one of margin. We have time to grieve and time to begin again. We cannot run from this time nor can we rush through it. We must patiently walk through it. "God is, indeed, our Father, He gives only good gifts to His children - even when the wrapping is unattractive to our eyes." -Maxine Hancock

I am learning lots of new terms at the clinic as I pass out meds to the sick, phrases like, "au meme moment" and "dose unique" which translate to "at the same time" and "one sole dose", meaning to be taken all at once. It translates to more than just those I am giving meds to, it translates to my life now as I am going through all sorts of loss at the same time and all at once. I have a heavenly Father who has prescribed this time and given medicine to my soul as I work alongside these sisters of mine, Mama Jeanine and Mama Perine, in a small rough clinic in a messy and chaotic city in central Africa. And we begin each day with prayer.