Sunday, June 25, 2017

Trust: God is Good All the Time

The AFM in dry dock
I sit in an empty, muggy hot cabin. The ship is in dry dock, meaning it has been lifted out of the water for maintenance. The air conditioners which require seawater flowing into special compartments in the ships bottom do not work when there is no sea water to cool them. All of my close friends have traveled home, some who will return and some who won’t; I myself will be leaving for a visit to the States in just a few days. Since arriving to Port in Los Palmas, Grand Canary I have been busy on my days off work taking in new surroundings, trying new things, seeing the sights and fitting as much into the short time I will be here as I can, but now as I sit in my cabin after a long walk outside I think about the year and the many things I am processing from it.

This year God has been working with me on trust. I think this is something everyone has a level of difficulty with; trusting something out of one’s control is really hard, it’s even harder when trust means accepting that sometimes things will not turn out the way I hope or pray for.

Innocent near the end of his hospital stay. Innocent had a bleeding complication
 weeks post op which should have been fatal but he is now completely recovered.
Photo credit: Jasper Ringoir.
This year I have learned to trust God with my patients. This is easy when things are going well. It’s easy when I can see patients improving physically and emotionally every day. It easy when patients who are slow to heal make miraculous improvement after being showered in prayer. It’s easy, when I witness a miracle called Innocent walk down the gangway, healed after suffering a surgical complication which should have killed him or at the very least left him brain damaged, but didn’t.
Holding the unit of my blood I would share with B

There are times when trusting God with my patients is very easy, but it has not always been easy this year. Just after Christmas a 1 year old girl, who I will refer to as B, entered my life. A little girl who was very sick, with a large tumor that was sucking away her energy and nutrients and even causing her to be anemic. I donated my blood for B and watched her condition improve as we cared for her, but the improvement was short lived, soon new tumors grew and biopsy results came back positive for cancer.

Mercy Ships is not equipped to handle cancer, but a generous donor promised to cover the cost of the 3 chemo drugs needed to save this little girls life. A drug regimen which for this particular type of cancer had an 80% success rate. Many crew members worked to set up a way to get this little one the medicine she needed. A local hospital, working with the ship, had the capacity to administer the chemo, but the medications needed were not available in Benin.

As we waited for the medications to arrive we watched this little ones condition get worse and worse. New tumors spread to her lungs and breathing took all her energy. When the chemo drugs finally arrived a difficult decision had to be made. Was B strong enough to endure the chemo or would the chemo only cause more pain at the end of her life?

I wish this story had a happy ending, but the reality is that this little one year old girl was placed on palliative care and died because the medications she needed arrived only days too late, medications which would have given her an 80% chance of survival. This little girl didn’t die because of cancer, she died because of poverty and the broken healthcare system it creates. That makes me angry. It’s hard to see the pain of a broken world. It’s hard to trust God when things like this happen.

During this time I was awaken in the morning with thoughts of B. In that moment my spirit was so heavy with despair as I worried about what would happen, I was unable even to pray for her. As I laid in my bed thinking of B, I believe that God gave me a vision because suddenly I saw this little one standing at a crossroads. In my heart I knew that one of the roads led to physical healing and the other road led to physical death. As I agonized over which path she should take, B looked back over her shoulder, staring straight into my eyes. I heard Gods voice speak to my soul “You know that I haven’t left [B]; I am still with her.” As soon as he said this, a great pillar of white sand began circling. It completely engulfed her and I knew it to be the presence of God which would remain with her, and guide her.

This story is hard to tell. It still makes me very sad to think of; however, I think it is important to remember that just because things do not always have joyful endings this side of heaven, and even though I can’t tell you why one patient receives a physical miracle while another does not, God is still good and he is still present.

We live in a fallen world. The curse of sin has created so much pain. Disease and famine take lives; selfishness turns men into corrupt politicians, and unforgiveness leads to war. To many, it would seem that the world is beyond saving, it’s lost, hopeless even. This is the lie that makes trust so very difficult at times, but the truth is that the world is not hopeless. What happens during this physical life is not the end. The reality is that we are at war. We fight in a battle, but one that has already been won. Jesus Christ has paid the price to defeat the curse sin has brought this world. The work we do on the ship is a tiny refection of the hope and healing He brings.

At the moment the fight rages on as two sides fight for the souls of men, but one day Jesus will return to earth to restore it to its original intent and to bind evil, death and destruction from the earth for the rest of eternity. Oh how I look forward to that day! In the meantime, I know of one little girl who is sitting in the presence of God, completely healed. She has no more pain and the tears have been removed from her eyes as she worships her creator and awaits her family whom also love God and will one day be reunited will her.

“See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”   – Isaiah 12:2

Names and details have been specifically removed to protect the privacy of B’s family.  As always, Mercy Ships has not reviewed this blog post. The views shared here are my own and result from my own experiences caring for B and speaking with others involved in her care. Please pray for B’s family, that they would not lose hope, but that God would comfort them and continue to be their strength and song for the future. 

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