"I miss the rains down in Africa"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My dad left for Tanzania yesterday. He goes two to three times a year. He'll be traveling for about 24 hours which is absolutely awful, but will be worth it in the end.

He has assisted in starting 5 primary schools (take that Oprah) in some of the poorest villages in the country with the support of Perimeter church. And he is now looking at starting a secondary school. It's really incredible the way God chooses to use him.

I have loved Tanzania, felt called to it, or passionate about it...whatever term you choose, since the 10th grade. I remember reading in my world history book about poor countries and at the time Tanzania was the poorest country in the world based upon GDP.

I remember thinking that there must be so many people there that needed help. And I couldn't imagine a place where orphans outnumber the employed and you are lucky if you have a meal of rice and beans every other day.

My church "happened" to be going to Tanzania the following summer, so I went. And my Dad requested to come along with me.

I now sometimes wonder if the reason God got me so interested in Africa was just to get my Dad over there. To get him passionate and involved. To use him in something so much bigger than himself.

In my family Africa is my Dad and I's thing. No one else really gets it. Simply because they haven't seen it. In fact, I think everyone who has been to East Africa sorta has this shared part of themselves. When I meet people who have been there we often share a humble smile and really don't have to say much else.

There is nothing that changes you like witnessing utter joy and hope in God in the midst of devastating poverty and disease. There is no one as beautifully hopeful as Africans.

After living there for ten weeks the summer of 2006 and working with the HIV/AIDS training branch of a mission organization, I decided that I want to help start hospices in some of Africa's larger cities. To host those dying of AIDS. I saw too many people rotting away on the floor of mud huts...yes, it's really like the commercials, and the starch white sheets and electric beds at my hospital remind me of it far too often.

I don't know when or how or if I'll ever actually live in Africa. But I know I'll be involved. I know I want to be a part of something that will last, just like my Father's schools. I know I want to be used in something much bigger than myself.

gray skies, are all i see. nothin' but gray skies...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
First let me say that I am really not an unhappy person. I feel like most of my posting are really dark, but honestly it's just the tough stuff that's in my head and sometimes I have to let it out. I do it mostly for me anyway, but I just wanna get that out there so no one freaks out on me. I love my job, my church, my family, my roommates and so on. I've just been thinking a lot lately.

I also hate it when people make disclaimers before they talk. So I apologize.

I'm just really tired of how black and white things have been the last 23 years of my life. And no, that has nothing to do with Obama/McCain. I mean right and wrong. True and false. Life and death.

You see, I was raised in this phenomenal world view and value system where things are either good or evil, right or wrong. There isn't that much gray area. And if someone mentions that there is, it is usually a cop-out answer to some theological question or a way of avoiding talking about hard issues.

I was reading this article a couple of days ago in National Geographic...random, I know. About King Herod and how he gets a bad rap because people just remember him as the dude that slaughtered all the babies trying to save his kingdom from Jesus. Anyway, the article claimed that it was very unlikely that Herod even did that because the only account of it is in the gospel of Matthew. When I read that I quit reading the article because I figured I would not agree with anything else it had to say.

Later I got so angry with myself. Why is it that I really think someone is capable of having all the answers? And yes, I do believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, so therefore I disagree with some of that article. But where exactly do I get off in thinking that I can therefore learn nothing from its contents?

I'm not sure how that story even relates to my point in this posting. But what I'm getting at is that I've decided it's just not that easy. For as long as I can remember it's been you either know Jesus or you don't. To put it frankly, it's either heaven or hell.

And right now I'm having a hell of a time believing that. I mean, I get the gospel. As much as I can anyway. I'm not struggling with whether it's true or not, or how you get to heaven, or if babies that die in utero are damned...none of that stuff. I've been down those roads before.

The new issue is the whole life and death thing. Something that I never questioned before because I was never spending most of my week around dying people before. And yeah, as much as I hate it, most of the people that read this won't be able to relate.

I just don't get where your soul is. I mean, I know my friend Jess's soul who died last year is with Jesus, and I'm fairly confident that Hitler's is in hell. But I see so many people weekly that I'm not sure are anywhere.

There is this one man who has been IN MY HOSPITAL for over two and a half years. I have taken care of him in two different ICU's and his family refuses to let him go. But he is not there. He's completely contracted, nonverbal and unresponsive to any stimuli. But his eyes remain open. His heart is still beating. But I don't think I really believe that he is alive. Maybe I just don't want to.

Sometimes I feel that way about my grandmother. I love her so much, but I feel like she died several years ago when her Alzheimer's took her mind from her, so that she doesn't even know her own children.

And what about brain dead patients? Ones that we keep on ventilators and cardiac drugs that keep their bodies alive. Where are their souls?

I guess the black and white answer says that it doesn't matter. Either they knew Jesus or they didn't and they are either going to be with Him or they aren't. The gray answer says that we cannot know, God didn't intend for us to know everything. But that's just not good enough.

Because then what's the point? What's the point in praying for them or sharing Jesus with them...are they already gone?

Can a body still be alive when there is no hope for its soul?

That's what I don't get. And nothing about it looks white or black to me.

the right to death.

Friday, January 9, 2009
I have considered myself pro-life for as long as I can remember. Even as a little kid I remember carrying signs in silent marches through downtown Atlanta. We were declaring that life begins at conception and that no amount of scientific research has ever proven otherwise. I will always be anti-abortion.

But in order to really consider oneself pro-life doesn't that have to extend into every possible scenario? I still don't completely understand why most conservative, anti-abortionists also support the death penalty...but that's not really the direction I'm headed in here.

Sure, I believe in the right to life. But is it possible that we also have a right to death?

There are currently two patients in my unit who attempted suicide and failed. It's very sad. Tragic. And they are being treated as equally as anyone else. But how long can a nurse and doctor really ignore the fact that the person whose life we are fighting for, didn't want our help in the first place?

And what exactly classifies as life anyway? I remember sitting through a family meeting months ago with the parents of an 18 year old girl and her neurosurgeon. The surgeon basically told the family that although their daughter could not legally be declared brain dead, she had no hope for anything more than a vegetative state.

Is that really life?

I guess I just don't understand how much authority God really wants us to have on the issue. I know that He is the giver, and taker of life. I've got no argument there. But what about when the decision falls into our hands?

And to further complicate the issue, one of the attempted suicide patients mentioned above, committed murder before turning the gun on himself.

Still feeling pro-life? I know I'm not sure.

Is our system really so politically correct that we spend thousands of dollars and immeasurable labor on caring for a person who will likely face the death penalty? And is that justice?

I have no idea.

And fortunately that's not a decision I have to make. Every nurse and doctor I work with took an oath. To protect and preserve life, to do no harm. To do no injustice. To treat all patient's with equality...

But I can't help but be left with questions. Questions that will likely continue to go unanswered.