Here I am sitting in another medical waiting area. Today my companion is an Ati woman who’s aged father is on the other side of the waiting area, on a stretcher awaiting his echo-cardiogram. It’s Thursday. This test was ordered upon his transfer to the regional hospital on Sunday afternoon, having a bad case of pneumonia with cardiac complications.
The irony seems lost in the wait. After church we were told about his situation and asked to help with the transfer. Reluctant to start what we knew to be a lengthy process and uninterested in the stomach upsetting speed ride in the ambulance, we gave the family
some money and promised to visit later in the day. But the family had never had a patient transferred before and were uneasy doing so alone, so quickly we adjusted our Sunday afternoon expectations and assisted them in his transfer.
The medical ward in the provincial hospital was already over crowded when they arrived. Fortunately we had been warned and brought a folding bed. The simple aluminum frame stretched with colorful nylon weave reminds me of the folding chaise loungers of summertime in the 1970’s in the USA.
For three nights this would be his bed.
Monday was our family day off. We left the patient’s family with money to pay for the echo-cardiogram. We had a good family day of worship with video from our sending church, and an afternoon of Rusty. Unfortunately, Rusty was starting to get some lower respiratory illness.
Tuesday Rusty, woke up, still feeling sick but needing to check on the patient. He traveled there to discover that no echo was done. The patient looked worse and was complaining of back pain. Rusty pushed to get the echo done Tuesday, that day, the clock won.
Wednesday, Rusty was too sick to travel. I did school with my kids in the AM, then rushed to Kalibo (2 hrs away by public transportation). Guess what? Still no echo. Now the nurses were saying that his heart rate was too high. They had moved the patient to a proper bed, inside the ward, designed for 12 men, that currently housed 24, with the extras in folding beds at the foot of the hospital beds.
The next day, I went back… only to finally find the patient getting the test ordered 5 days ago! The results? We’ll have to come back (4 hr round trip!) tomorrow to get those!
As I watch the receptionist/nurse process intakes for the cardiologist, I think of what a messy life this is. To look at me, in this culture, it is assumed that I am rich. I am white, foreign and overweight. I am assumed to be generous and compassionate because we are helping this society’s “least of these,” the dark skinned tribal Ati people. At this clinic, I am mostly surrounded by what could loosely be called middle class Filipinos. Most probably don’t own a car and some may not have finished houses or glass windows or an oven or microwave or laptop computer.(Things my “western” readers would consider a necessity for a middle class family)
They probably do have a “smart” cellphone, and they are dressed in clothes from a mall with nice shoes and handbags. My patient doesn’t have shoes, his old toes are bent with age and even flip flops are not comfortable for him. But the big difference that sets them apart from those we minister to is this: These “middle class” folks can afford to pay the doctor’s fees, which are equivalent to a full Ati worker’s wages for the day.
People probably imagine my life very different than it really is. They expect that I drove here in my own new car, or perhaps I have a driver. They would expect me to live in a big, fancy concrete house, probably along the coast with a million dollar view. They don’t expect that I have children, but if I did, there would be one or maybe two and they would attend private schools or have their own personal nanny (yaya). They would expect me to have a house helper, a laundry helper, and a cook. They would expect that I fly “home” to the States every year for 2 months at Christmas time.
My reality is very much different. On this day, I woke up to a still sick husband and prayed for his healing as I read my Bible quickly and checked my messages. Today I even had to make my own coffee! Yes, friends, my husband is THAT sick!
Then I woke my five kids and began school lessons with them. About an hour into school our lay pastor came to the house, and all morning the children were disturbed by the workers laying tile in the unfinished upstairs of our rental house that is big, and concrete, but unfinished without windows upstairs, and without a view of the sea. Today, especially I am thankful for my one helper, who made lunch as I rushed out the door and kept the house running while I was gone. Today I was so busy I forgot my own mother’s birthday. I didn’t have time to text my friends in the States. I never even looked at Facebook until the day was nearly over.
After rushing through lessons for the day, I quickly grabbed a cold shower (no hot water heater) and quickly dressed to head to the bus. I did get to enjoy 2 hrs of Bible teaching from David Platt on the trip. The bus dropped us off near the entrance to the hospital and I frustrated the tricycle drivers who wait at the bus stop when I walked to the hospital. I met Nan, the patients daughter coming out of the hospital, while I was walking in. She had returned to get her father’s senior citizens ID in order to get a discount on his echo.
I don’t wear designer clothes or shoes. My current handbag, a lovely, much appreciated gift from an American friend, is already showing signs of heavy wear and effects of high humidity. I didn’t take time for a leisure mid morning merianda, a coffee and bread break that is a “must” in the culture. I ate a quick bowl of leftover mac n cheese on the run between student’s questions and household interruptions. I sent my oldest son out with two different medicine delivery errands as his “recess” this morning. Another son, did a variety of other errands and chores later in the day.
I’m not complaining. Really. It’s just an observation of how things are often not what they seem. And how truly blessed we are to be called here share the love we have found in Christ with those who are less fortunate, many of whom do not know Jesus Christ as Savior. As a wise, an often inspired by God, retired missionary friend recently said;
“We enter into the suffering of others because of love we have first received for ourselves. We do it from love’s overflow, not from obligation.” -Sarita Hartz
My life is messy, full-on crazy some days, but for the most part, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Tonight I am tired. But we had a great Bible study with the kids before bed. Listening to them pray is the highlight of my day. Even when the day has been too busy, I get a precious glimpse into their hearts.
After putting the kids to bed, I remembered again, that it’s my mom’s birthday. We called them back downstairs so we could call and sing, “Happy Birthday.” Now they are back upstairs, three of them on one mattress on the floor, because their room is still tore apart from the tile work. To some we are rich, to others we are not– but I know a secret– we are rich in ways that don’t show up in a bank account or material things!
No matter what God is doing in your life right now– if you days are full of obvious blessings or just precious ones in disguise, we each have the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus to a dark and needy world. And that my friends, is the best kind of beautiful, messy life!