Like the dust filling the air this dry season, troubles and difficulties hover in this place. Almost every breath breathes them in, breathes them out. You think that maybe the dust has settled, but then a passerby or a rolling tire comes and poofs it back up to fill the air. Even when you haven’t noticed it as much, its still there. You go to blow your nose and there’s half dust, half snot. Just like even the decent days are filled with struggle mixed in, constant dirt in what otherwise could be a nice scene.
Effort has been significant, difference made has been minimal. I will qualify “minimal” by saying that for individuals served by the physician- patient relationship, lives have been changed, spirits lifted, maybe even hearts opened. But in the systemic plagues that define medicine in the developing world, little to no change. Pages could be written about culture, or departmental issues, or education, or mission hospitals, or accountability, or sustainability, but the words would only describe, they couldn’t in themselves actually bring resolution. I have spoken them over and over, and am weary of speaking to issues beyond my strength to change. I have fought hard, a good fight with worthy goals, but winning is not possible. My encouragement is that disappointment now is often looked back on with gratitude for what we have learned in the process.
For now, there are hard, jagged days that I wonder multiple times “how much longer?” Where I check the calendar on the phone attached to my hip to see if the time is drawing near. The constancy of the struggle turns my gaze away from the here and now to something that may someday be. To faces that I love, people that I miss, the gentle blanket of familiarity. For those moments the wonder is gone for distant places and things, and returns to the place where my roots hold fast. The romance in my imagination returns to home. Beauty, and warmth, and acceptance, snuggled alongside those I love most, tucked in between mountains and streams, familiar places, delightful people. And when I think of it, I remember that there is an even better home waiting, an eternal home. One filled with ultimate purpose and pleasure and love. A home where He is. A home that I am one day meant for.
Home. There is no comfort in that word, no heart connection for millions who roam the earth. I do not speak of here in Cameroon specifically, not for the moment. But in nations not too far to the north or east or west or south, and then further countries spotted all over the globe, they are there wandering, wallowing in despair. Daily struggles for survival and basic necessities are considered normal for many. Hopelessness sets in, trying to overtake any other emotion. Children dying untimely deaths, men and women with no semblance of honor left, disease, war, and decay ruining what could be a beautiful world. Yet there are those with a glimpse of hope, not for here and now, but for somewhere and forever. They stop in the midst of the struggle to imagine what it will be like “in a little while”. They long for a better world. The desperate spirit inside calls out to the God above, yearning to be freed from all the horrors that have come to make up life. Longing for the time to come.
And yet, amazement will always be ignited within me when I recall the reality of the God who hears. I can’t understand even the worst days that come and go in my own life. How much less the much worse horrors in the most desperate of places. I can’t give you the right answer for why bad things exist, sometimes even thrive. But God does hear and is at work from the broken-hearted wealthy, residing in penthouses, to the hungry refugee within the barbed-wire encircled camp. And the rest of those who read this, who are somewhere in between.
I lie down sometimes in my bed at the end of a disheartening day, and in the darkness remember that on the wall just above my head is written “I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety”. I am reminded of His presence. Even when the night comes on thick in its darkness I can take cover, give a little grin and think “in a little while”. Better things are yet to come.