“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” –Frederick Buechner
For the past two years, Africa has lingered with me, like the scent of a dryer sheet on an old cotton t-shirt, just barely noticeable, familiar in a way. It hovers over me, and day to day, I find myself thinking of Africa. Once I entered an exam room to find a Sénégalese-American 6-year-old (elle peut parler français, mais elle ne veut pas); sometimes it’s Bono’s voice on the radio that reminds me that this other world exists. Honestly, I think the Holy Spirit tugs me towards Africa with a very long rope, pulling in the slack as I loosen my grip on my home culture. Matt and I have both looked forward to returning to Zambia since our last trip in 2007. This is an account of our experience, but it’s not really about us. We hope anyone reading will be able to see as we did, that this world is desperate, and our current situation is absolutely critical.
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.” –Isaiah 55:8
Planning to take 25 medical professionals to Zambia is no easy task. Even though this trip to Kitwe is in its 5th year, difficulties peppered our preparations for this year’s travel. At a critical time during our planning, economic hardship forced our organization’s central office to downsize, laying off support staff. During this time, our trip dates were rescheduled three times, twice by our organization, and once because our airline cancelled our flight. Lack of personnel at the office caused delays in shipping medical supplies to each team member, and we each found ourselves scrambling to pack everything in time. Once our plans were straightened stateside, we still had to work with Zambia. This year, the Zambian government changed their credentialing process which created a time-consuming stack of paperwork for each physician, nurse practitioner, and dentist to complete. Even after sending multiple copies of official documents, they didn’t seem to have all the necessary information to license us to practice in Kitwe. For a country with a shortage of health care workers, they certainly make it difficult for American docs to practice there. Prior to our departure, we also found several of our team members suffering with health problems of various kinds. One of our newer members was diagnosed with lymphoma weeks before our departure. Fortunately, it was an early stage and he was able to undergo surgical resection and still join us. Two of our other team members dropped out just a week before our departure due to health problems. Unfortunately, we were unable to retrieve the supplies that had been shipped to them, so we left without suture materials, bandages, IV fluids, and angiocaths. We also left without two of the most experienced internal medicine providers on the team. After all of this, our team leader called for extra prayer warriors stateside to intercede for us during our travels.