Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mission Life

One of the useful things about searching for something is that it often leads to a discovery. This has happened today.
We can talk about ‘mission life’ as though it were something interesting and exciting. Indeed, there are those moments which are wonderfully unforgettable, but they tend to come in between hours devoted to ‘the daily grind’. Today, my serendipitous find was something I wrote one Valentines’ Day some years ago. I include it below as it presents one particularly busy night in Zambia, when I was ‘on call’ for the hospital.


It’s the end of the day and the day has gone on forever. It’s not that there have been major catastrophes for once. It’s little things, such as planning to watch a video that someone has deliberately carried for several hundred kilometres, by way of a relaxing treat. The community relaxes…and the electricity fails. People decide there’s nothing for it but to go to bed early…by candlelight…and ten minutes after the house becomes silent, the electricity returns….and it’s too late to watch the video.

It seems as though it’s only a few minutes since the candles were lit, the electricity returned …and failed again…and it’s 02.00am. The watchman is banging at the door. The chief wants an injection because he has hiccoughs again and he wants the Sister to give it, not the nurse on night duty…. “and when you come, could his relative have a pillow?”

Trying to be charitable and Christlike, you stagger out of bed and find something to disguise the fact that, under the chitenge, you didn’t bother to get completely dressed. No, you don’t remove your shoes to greet the Chief, who mutters about the length of time it’s taken for his injection. (What a shame the needle isn’t longer and thicker and wouldn’t you love to throw the pillow at his relative…and if he sees that you’re wearing shoes? Tough! The disrespect is intended, for once!) The night nurse comes in. She forgot to ask for some syringes and hasn’t enough for the children’s ward….and one of the women is vomiting….and a man has just come in who has fallen from his bicycle in the dark (he was drunk!) and cut himself. Does he need to be sutured and if so, could Sister please do it because there’s a very sick child in the children’s ward.

At 03.00, just as the thought of sleep is becoming an obsession, there’s a noise outside. A group of people have just paddled for five hours in a leaky canoe because a woman is having difficulty in giving birth, and it’s her first baby… she’s terrified and there could be problems. The thought of sleep recedes as you try to be as encouraging, kind and gentle as possible with a young girl whose grandmother has been telling her to push the baby out from the time the poor girl had her first contraction….so there could be problems. At 03.30, with the thought of a couple of hours sleep, you leave the hospital and head towards bed, that wonderful, wonderful place you just don’t see very often…and at 04.30, the girl is having difficulty in delivering the baby and might need to be transferred to a hospital for a caesarean section …but then again, she might just have the baby normally, but could Sister please come to check her out?

00.50. Bed!... and the roosters start to crow, the women are chattering as they go to the spring for water… and so mission life continues. Where’s the glamour?

Sr. Dorothy Stang fought for the landless in Brazil. Fr. Kaiser worked for his parishioners in Kenya. They gave themselves. They gave their lives. Murdered…for the greater glory of the God whom you’d have to be crazy to love and to follow, crazy to have night after night of disturbed sleep.

……but then, you do love him. Crazily!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

God bless,
Sr. Janet