I directed the taxi driver towards one of the worst slums in Kenya…he questioned, “You want me to drive through there??” “Yes.” The car stopped where the streets turned to small tunnels of rusted sheet metal; the same ‘streets’ that turned into rivers of sewage when it rained. Ducking under clothes lines and stepping over waste, I squatted down and entered the tiny and dark one room home that houses orphans. I had spent the previous day here with the Mt. Bethel young adult team--it was the day of their departure back to America.
We could hear the distressed cough coming from behind a sheet that divided the sleeping area from the sitting area. It was the precious 8 month old baby, Marion, who I had met several weeks earlier. She was coughing excessively and had a fever… her mom said they had been to a clinic and were given medicine 2 weeks ago: no change. I planned with her mother to come and pick them up the following day so Marion could be seen by a pediatrician. After an hour in the waiting room, we were taken back to triage. When getting her vital signs, the nurse called a doctor in. Two minutes later, we were moved to the E.R. and baby Marion was put on oxygen. This was the first time (of about a million) that I was in a hospital with a sick child and the doctor’s actually decided to admit. Even when I have begged when Carol was so ill I expected her to die in my arms on a moment’s notice, admission procedures are nothing like those of children’s hospitals in America.
She was admitted—as I signed the paperwork as the benefactor for this child’s care, I inwardly trembled as I recalled that my bank account was nearly empty (as I was leaving Kenya the following week). Severe pneumonia is the diagnosis we received and were told again and again that she might not have survived another week in this condition. As darkness approached, I left the hospital to take David (who insisted upon coming along for the adventure, you may remember him from a previous post) back to Mathare and to pick up clothes for Marion and her mom, as they were not expecting to stay the night.
The doctors called me every couple of days and updated me on Marion’s care as I was in a different city, spending my last week in Kenya with the kids at HOREC. She was improving and would be ready for discharge on Sunday, the day I departed for America. I spent that morning at the hospital holding Marion and rejoicing that her smile and sweet personality had returned. She was wearing the same clothes we brought her in 10 days before—a cute Elmo dress that the Mt. Bethel team had given her the week prior. I was concerned when after spending 15-20 minutes with Marion, I heard the same, choking cough that had concerned me so much the day before we brought her to the hospital. After speaking with the doctor, I was handed the bill that almost matched the amount of money I had lived off of in Kenya for the past 4.5 months. I am embarrassed by this reaction, but my face turned red and I had to go to the bathroom and cry a couple of angry/frustrated tears before proceeding to the financial department to pay this huge sum. I could feel the injustice in my bones… a sick baby from one of the roughest places in Kenya—unable to access quality health care unless a wealthy foreigner was there to put the bill on her parent’s credit card and pray that it will be paid off sooner rather than later. Yes, an incredible hospital (one of few with reliable pediatric services), but completely out of reach for 99% of the NATION it resides in. How do they see such great need in their country and continue to close their eyes to the poor and only treat the rich? I was mad because she was going home with the same symptoms I had brought her in with. At the same time, I was assured that this sweet baby girl was worth the money spent… yes, she was. She was ALIVE. Glory.
I heard several weeks after returning to America that baby Marion had died. In the slum… she died. She was dead. Really? Because I took her to the hospital and paid that humongous bill so she would live. Right? I was looking for that result—LIFE, when I took her there. I walked away thinking that result had been reached and was okay with paying any cost because her life was worth it. But now she was dead. I was crushed…
The enemy was quick to bring up the idea that this love I showed Marion and her family was a complete failure. I could literally hear the taunts… It was easy for me to believe she was worth it when I imagined her future years and gave myself some (ridiculously unmerited) credit for her making it there. It was easy for me to believe she was worth it when I saw the joy on her mother’s face as they walked with gratitude out of the pristine hospital with freshly carpeted floors and back into the slum reeking with human feces and rotten food. It was easy for me to believe she was worth it when I was praising Him for letting me be a part of His demonstration of love for this family. I am publicly repenting of this to you—hoping that you can learn from it as I have.
Was this an unsuccessful attempt to care for the orphan and widow (hey, in one foul swoop too)? Was this an unsuccessful attempt at administering justice in a small, small way by enabling a sick child to receive the care she deserves? Was this an unsuccessful attempt at living out His Word? Was this an unsuccessful attempt at LOVING both Marion and her mother?
I heard about some girls in Uganda who had taken in a 35 lb young woman (Nabakosa) who was dying of malnutrition. They fought so hard for this sweet woman. Long nights of holding her in their arms to keep her warm, hours of concocting varying meals that would hopefully put some meat on her weak bones, countless hours of devoted prayer to the Lord on her behalf, broken hearts after begging hospital after hospital to care for this woman medically, their HEARTS poured out. She gained weight, she smiled, she responded to their love, she grew stronger. I followed their blogs and was prayerful and hopeful and thankful that the Lord was using them to speak His love into her life. And then, a week or so later, she died. She died. She was dead. Did they fail? I honestly asked myself that question... did they need an encouraging email "Hey, at least you tried, girls..."?
Even with Lucy and raising money for her treatment.... I have not the slightest idea whether or not she will live to see tomorrow. I don't know that the minute after her gigantic bill is paid, she will not die. That's scary to me... scarier than it should be. I worry about asking you to come alongside of us and joining with us as we do what we can to provide her with the medical care that can perhaps save her life. I worry because financially, I cannot truthfully tell you this is a wise investment. Financially, it's probably pretty stupid to put your money towards this knowing the chances of survival....
But this is what HE is saying to me through all of this... He is saying that loving is worth it. It's worth the tears, it's worth the pain, it's worth the money, it's worth the sacrifice, it's worth the sweat, it's WORTH IT regardless of the results. ALWAYS..... (trust me, I am preaching to myself more than you with all of this because He is longing for me to believe this every day). If His life and death do not teach us that, without even taking into account His WORDs, I think we are deaf and blind and dumb to His character... He IS this love. There is NO greater love.
Marion was loved and that is what He asked for. Nabakoza was loved and that is what He asked for. Lucy is being loved and that is what He asks for.
We are loving our sister who does not know the Lord and we long for her to lean into Him and receive His love... We are opening our wallets and putting money towards giving Lucy the chance to receive treatment and we long for her to be healed and to continue being the mother to her 3 sweet children... We are offering our time and energy to pour into those around us who need to know how deeply He cares for them and we long for them to believe it... all of these scream SUCCESS SUCCESS SUCCESS regardless of outcome. I believe He gave us our longings so we would love them hard and well and persistently... whether our longings are met or not, we are walking in obedience by extending that Love. It's worth it.
I will say more later about Lucy and how we are really just living out Luke 6 and Mark 2 by loving her in this way... but for now just believe with me for a second that He is glorified when we "spend ourselves on behalf of the poor" (isaiah 58), and He is honored when we obey the command to "love others as ourselves"(matthew 22) and "love others as He has loved us"(john 13), and He is magnified when we "lay down our lives for our brothers"(john 15), regardless of the outcome or results or 'ending'.
"The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.” – Mother Teresa