My sister Amy spent her first day in the clinic today. I tagged along to scope out the operation with the full understanding that I would be of little help. It's a good thing that I was there because Amy had a little trouble, in the beginning, in getting past the accent of those who spoke English. In fairness, this is her first trip to Africa. For those who have never been there, being in a foreign country with no means of communication can be more than a bit daunting. So when Flory left for other business, I stuck around for moral support. After about an hour, Amy had tuned her ear and communication came easier. By the end of the day she had made friends and was eager to return.
It's hard to communicate the essence of a place: the smells, the sounds, the texture, all the sensations you've experienced before but never in the unique concentrations or combinations of a particular location. This morning I was struck by the smell of the maternity ward. It consisted of a single bed, a lamp, and a pole for an IV. It had the smell of a room cleaned as well as soap and water could clean it without the benefit of antiseptics. Right now, as I sit in the café and write, there are songs being blared over loudspeakers across the street. It's a Pentecostal church holding midweek service. This afternoon Flory and I fought the traffic and finally (after five previous tries) found a gas station that still had fuel to sell. People jockeyed for position in line, afraid the supply might be exhausted before their turn. We filled up for our trip to Rugombo tomorrow.
Still, the essence of a place is its people. Lost people always behave as lost people. But with those with whom share the same Spirit, the people of God, there is a link which those on the outside simply don't have the ability to comprehend. Amy worked with Jackson, the nurse who sees people initially. He is an extremely pleasant man who smiles quickly and often. But his smile, broad by US standards, doesn't hold a candle to one of the other nurses.
Her given name is Françiose, but she's earned the nickname "Funny." She explained that she always smiles and likes to laugh and that's why everyone agreed on her new name. She sat down next to me and, with a conspiratorial smile, told me that since I smiled and laughed so much that should be my name as well. So she started calling me "Funny" from that point forward.
You'd think that with a name like that, her life would have been easy. But that's seldom the case in central Africa. She was a refugee from the violence in Burundi and was taken to Tanzania as a little girl. It was there that she learned English. She moved back to Burundi after going to school to be a nurse. Currently she has six children ages 2-15. Her husband is a plumber, and she loves him very much. Considering her past, she feels extraordinarily blessed.
Some people travel just to travel. They enjoy the unique sensations of new places. People like that seldom come to central Africa. For me, the joy of travel is to connect with God's people. It's getting to fellowship and share in the joy of other members of the Body of Christ. There's no denying that ministry is hard. But the rewards are great as well.