(sorry ahead of time. i did not proofread this and understand it is way too long... just trying to get it out asap because of the urgency! sorry)
Mmmm, it is time. Finally time to tell you just a little bit about four people who have become a huge part of my life over the past several months.
First, there is Lucy… beautiful, joyful, faithful, believing Lucy. A portion of her beauty can be explained by the tribe she belongs to, which is known around the world for their riveting features. But the beauty that far outweighs any other Masaai woman I have met is a result of her joy in the Lord, who is her strength and her song. She is in her 20s and has been very sick for months and months now. When she first became ill, her husband moved out and left her alone—still sick and with three young children to care for. Mercy is 11, Pinky is 3, and Obama is 1. Once she finally had scrounged up enough money to get herself to a hospital, her sickness had progressed to such a degree that doctor after doctor after doctor sent her home to die, saying they could do nothing for her situation. Her bed in the district hospital, where she lay dying as her children watched, was soon seen as wasted by this woman whose death was eminent. She was moved to the floor(yes--a dirty, dusty, stone floor of a crowded hospital) and told that she could no longer steal a bed from someone who might actually live through their illness.
When the good Samaritans (and yes, I think they absolutely deserve that title) found her, she was trying to catch a ride—wasted away, barely standing, and with three small and weary children in tow. They soon learned about her predicament and that she was trying to reach her mother’s home, just adjacent to the Mission (please take a moment to check out their website... sooooo many needs you could help them with also!!!), where these people live and love. They took her in and made a home for her in their clinic… blessing her with company, friendship, a comfortable bed, medical care, and just love. Her children stayed with their grandmother and were able to visit their mom whenever they wanted. She grew stronger and stronger and stronger in both her physical strength and her spiritual strength. I met her soon after this time of restoration began… I sat on her bed as she told the story of her past year. We listened with tears in our eyes and those smiles you get on your face that only God needs to see as she told about His glory. She was like a broken record (a beautiful one) that sang and shouted and whispered and laughed and cried of His glory… what she knew of who He was and His deep care and concern for her. I learned quickly the Kiswahili words for “I’m healed!” because she could not stop saying it as she clasped her hands together, smiled wide, and looked towards Heaven.
Though she continued to proclaim healing, I abhorred my doubting eyes and mind that emerged when I saw the tumors on her foot and leg and reviewed the discharge papers she left the hospital with. We prayed and prayed and prayed that night and rejoiced for what He had done--what He was doing--and what He was still going to do. As we sat on her bed, amazed and rejuvenated by her childlike faith, she shared her concerns about her children. To maintain dignity for this family and only say what I know to be absolutely true, I will just share that she worried about the situation her children were in while she was away from them. I will eventually tell the stories of her beautiful children, because they are very much a part of her (and me), but now is not the time—or rather, this is not the avenue I want to use.
Since cancer was always supposed, never confirmed, we went to the closest city (multiply the most ‘middle of nowhere’ place you’ve ever been by 5000 and then you’ll have an idea of how far out in the bush we are) and got a biopsy of her tumors. I sat there next to her, holding her inquisitive 3 year old as the doctor bluntly told us in both Swahili and English that though the results would not be in for 10 days, she probably had several more months to live. She could not beat this cancer that had ravaged her body without any opposition for so long. Both of us held it together until we got outside of the hospital… Lucy hobbling on crutches, being drained of more and more life with each step; me trying to hold both a 3 year old who refused to walk and a pile of medicines the doctor had prescribed to subsidize the pain that Lucy was enduring. We all sat on the grass just steps from the hospital entrance and cried with abandon. The same door we walked into with hope, we exited with significantly less. The doctor’s “If only you had come to us sooner” rang through my ears. The echo was louder -- “If only her husband had taken her to a doctor instead of leaving her for dead. If only her community had joined together and offered a portion of their earnings to pay for her to be seen by a doctor when this issue first arose. If only the good Samaritans had found her sooner.”
Lucy cried. I cried. Pinky wondered and sat in silence, her eyes never leaving our faces. I looked at Lucy sympathetically (because though the pain I felt in that moment and moments to follow was extremely intense, I know it paled in comparison to her own and so calling it empathy seems deceptive) and reminded her of the promises I knew of our God, though they seemed so much fainter than they were just hours ago. I held onto the hope that we had not seen any biopsy results and until they were in our hands, we had no reason to believe this doctor was correct in his bold assumption. Her tears did not lessen and I think mine increased, but He held us tightly.
We waited, though plans for the future were being discussed and while we said we held onto hope, our actions and attitudes contradicted our words. Mercy. Pinky. Obama. What would come of these little ones who are most precious to a woman who has been told she is leaving this earth momentarily? What would come of these little ones whose earthly defender and protector was exiting the battle prematurely? The results came back and confirmed cancer and all that the doctor had spoken. I regretted how easily I let this news enter my ears… was my hope so easily distinguished? We prayed… alone and collectively. The Mt. Bethel young adult team was able to meet Lucy around this time and the night we spent praying over her was one of the most incredible things I’ve been blessed to be a part of. Ever. When my belief was small and my hope was crushed and my heart was weary and my cheeks were stained and my heart was shattered and my anger was broiling, they were there to counteract it all. They were there with fresh hope and unhindered belief and overflowing compassion. They prayed over her and I was able to be silent, sitting at His feet as I echoed the prayers that I was too weak to speak myself. Lucy was being held by her maker as a room of warriors were face down on the floor begging Him to heal her, BELIEVING Him to heal her. Life went on, but with an increase in expectance and belief as we trusted our King with a renewed and reckless faith.
The children were moved to HOREC and they became a part of my family immediately. As a sister to Lucy, I was (and AM) committed to do every single thing in my power to love and protect them in her absence… forever. Let me explain (and maybe make way too broad of an assumption in trying to do so), when you struggle to feed your children one meal a day and you struggle to find water for your family that will not do more harm than good and you struggle to afford an education for your children and you struggle to keep a roof over your head—you don’t expect to be able to do much else… you don’t expect to be able to rise up and BEAT the cancer, like we do here in America. You accept your lot. You cope. Not to say these people are not fighters—I know no one who fights more diligently, but some battles are not even something they can imagine engaging in. I took the children to say goodbye to their mom as I was leaving the country in just a week and needed to get them settled at Horec. It was surreal… and I don’t think because of the nature of that sort of visit, I think because it was not a justified farewell.
Fast forward a bit (through lots of kid stuff I’ll share eventually)…I get a call my first night back in America. I saw that is was from the Mission, so did not answer—expecting that I was being alerted that Lucy had died. It was not a conversation I wanted to have, so I deferred it and waited to hear that news over voicemail instead. When I listened to the voicemail hours later, I was speechless. A good 6 weeks after Lucy’s biopsy results had been read, a visiting cancer specialist randomly (ha, I know better) happened upon them and looked them over. He called the Mission immediately and relayed that the results were misread, Lucy still has cancer, but it is a type that generally responds very well to radiation therapy. WHAT!? I had to listen 5 or 6 times before it sunk in. Oh me of little faith. “Do you believe that I am able?” He was asking me all along… now He was saying “Really? Still you don’t believe I am bigger than a couple of tumors?” Humbled.
Now we are here. (Cannot believe you made it this far if you’re still following—congrats!) Lucy is currently lying in a hospital bed in the only hospital in all of Kenya that offers cancer treatment. Most Kenyans do not even know that such treatment is available… it’s expensive. Between $10,000 and $12,000 is the amount we have been given… I’m guessing that’s more than Lucy would make in an entire lifetime. We need help. $700 has already been paid and has brought her this far (she’s been there about a week), but they need more money to move forward in her radiation therapy. Hope is not lost!!!! Not because this tumor is not as vicious as some, but because we serve a God who is able to do immeasurably more than my tiny brain can fathom...more than the most brilliant doctor can fathom.
Please pray with me for Lucy and for Obama, Pinky, and Mercy.
Please pray about contributing to the costs of Lucy’s treatment.
Please pray that He will receive utmost GLORY through every bit of this… that Lucy’s unfaltering faith in this God she trusts will be a proclamation to all of His goodness that cannot be contained.
if you want to help financially--please send any contribution (seriously, ANY size... fifty cents is half a dollar more than she has now!) to :
Mt. Bethel UMC
4385 Lower Roswell Rd.
Marietta, GA 30068
and write "Annie Coppedge--Lucy" on the for line.
One last thing... I want you to be able to imagine this, what I expect to be the picture though I cannot see it with my eyes right now:
A young Kenyan woman (who appears far too young to be afflicted by such) laying on her bed in the corner of a dirty and busy and desperate room of people hurrying towards hope. She lifts her head slightly as the nurse refills her IV bag and gives a weak smile--weak in energy, full in warmth. The nurse wonders at her peaceful existence in such a heavy and burdened environment... her peace does not leave her even for a moment. She cringes as she is moved about the bed, but her smile returns to replace the undesired grimace quickly. She is alone, but surrounded by the greatest company. It does not bother her that Jesus is her only companion in this moment... she has enough praise to sing to Him to fill every second of the day. Her fragile hand grasps a songbook that aids her in putting words to her Great Affection. She sings. Not quietly so as to avoid offending any in her presence, but loudly to proclaim her confidence in a Living God. She smiles as she sings... her whole body reveling in His goodness. She is overtaken. For a moment, the pain seems so secondary--a joy if it increases her dependence on her Maker--the one who crafted her in His great and tender hands. He knew she would undergo this pain but He also knew His grace would be enough for her to endure it. He knew He would not leave her for even a breath, but would pull her so close to Himself that she could breathe her breaths in sync with His. She sings. Her smile grows and she looks around to see the smiles around her. She puts the songbook down and returns to her Bible, reveling in the fact that she is stunned by His character upon every single word that lifts from the page. She is His. She will proclaim His glory until her last breath, whether two days from now or 60 years down the road. She trusts... not because of anything in herself but because of His residence in the depths of her. She knows Him and that is why she believes.