Carmel Plays with a Cobra
Caught your attention? Good. We’ll get to that cobra business presently. For now, let’s just start reading at the beginning.
Where do the days go? If there isn’t a sudden shortage of some important medicine or emergency maintenance request, there’s a regular stream of conflicting vacation requests to deal with, or a disciplinary matter, or the necessity of figuring out how to fill out the new monthly report that the government has mandated but for which it has not given any training. This on top of the daily routine of putting out drugs to the pharmacy, counting payroll, filing paperwork, and making sure employees are at their workstations when they are supposed to be. Chloe and I are managing a majority of the mission workers these days now that the Tricaricos have left, and Carmel is inching toward two years, and Chloe toward delivery.
Throw in station meetings, orienting visitors, a major renovation project happening next door to our house, and the odd wedding in Kapchorwa, and before you know it, three months have gone by without any news getting out about the mission or our lives more specifically (Chloe, of course, hasn’t been as irregular as I). Really, this isn’t meant to be some elaborate excuse tacked on to an apology; it’s not that we’ve been holding out on you. If asked about how the last few months have been for the Verdick family, I’m not sure I could give a satisfactory answer even given the time to think about it. We’ve been so busy just trying to keep up and anticipate the next fire before it flares up, that it hasn’t left me much time or energy for reflection. This is a season in our lives that seems almost removed from time. Perhaps memory and clarity will fill in the gaps of the last months over time, but for now we keep careening ahead.
We were, thankfully and joyfully, reminded this morning of the the big picture of which each mundane decision we make from day to day is but a minute detail. Nakaale Presbyterian Church today baptized five covenant children and received one new member.
Whether it’s putting out antibiotic syrups on Monday or driving to Tokora hospital and fighting with the staff there to make sure we have enough measles vaccine on hand for child immunization day or spending two hours on the phone on Christmas Eve trying to make sure that our lab tests will be delivered before the supplier closes for the holidays, I find myself going through the motions because I know that the clinic has to keep running. Our staff really does serve very well in a very needy community, and I want them to have the tools they need to continue doing excellent work healing and preventing disease.
But what I was reminded of this morning as five families stood before our congregation and took vows to raise their children to know and love Jesus was that one of the children baptized has already had a case of pneumonia, for which she was treated at our clinic. Almost all of these children have come to Akisyon a Yesu (the name of our clinic, translated The Compassion of Jesus) to have their early immunizations. One of them was delivered by one of our nurses. I drove one of the mothers to Tokora so that she could have a C-section.
More broadly than that, the payroll that Chloe manages enabled Dave to have time to counsel the woman who was received for membership today, along with her husband (who had previously joined the church) about what it means to honor God in their marriage and about the importance of living a faithful Christian life. Two of the father’s of baptized children, Lokwii David, and Lokeris Simon Peter, are involved in the Word ministry, the former in translation and the latter in regularly teaching the weekly village Bible studies. Another father, Anyakun Zechariah, has sat for many years under our mission’s ministry and brought his fifth child for baptism today.
This is not to say that Chloe and I are superior Christians, nor is it to discount the manifold contributions made by our colleagues toward the overall goals of the mission. It simply struck me today that it is so easy to slip into the routine of work without much thought to the meaning of what we do, but that God is faithful to bring all our efforts—the critical successes and abysmal failures both—to his good ends whether we are paying attention or not.
After church, we were able to have two of the families to dinner. The adults sat around the table together talking and playing a local version of mancala. Carmel played with the four children of Lokwii, and Chloe held the newly baptized daughter of Acia Nicholas as she cried so that Agnes, her mother, could eat. Everyone stayed over two hours (a new record for the Verdicks!) and, as far as we could tell, had a wonderful time. Again, I am reminded that this is all the work of the Gospel both in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors, and a picture of that great wedding feast for which we all long. It is not simply that people of every tribe and nation will sit down together, as the Bible says. It is that Christopher and Chloe Verdick will sit down with Lokwii David and Asio Hellen. Carmel may play near the hole of the cobra, but she will do it together with Lotee Nathan. These are not abstract visions, but concrete promises. This afternoon was immensely enjoyable, and I have the hope that I will sit, in the consummated kingdom of Christ, at a similar meal with these very same people. And we’ll even be able to understand each other as we speak (plus, I’m betting no eggplant in heaven).