Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Civil War

Don't let the title scare you... Back in October (the 11th) there were some minor conflicts between some of the locals that I wanted to write about. So, no worries, all is well and I was and am perfectly safe.

Saturday, October 11 started out as a typical Sabbath in Chad; we went to church and afterwards we went back to the middle house where we cooked our meal and ate together. At about 4 pm, we went over to sing songs to the patients like we usually do. As we finished in the main wards and made our way over to the tuberculosis ward, I heard Sarah say, "Someone carry those two women into Urgence." I looked at the women lying on the grass mats. They looked like they were sleeping, and I was confused about why we would take them to the ER. Jason, Jacob, and some others started carrying them in, and somehow through the confusion, I heard someone say that they had head injuries.

When I walked into Urgence, I saw a young man sitting on one of the exam beds with a deep gash on his neck and blood soaking his pants. Looking at the large wound and the amount of blood on his pants, I was surprised that he was still upright and conscious.

All of us, including Stefan and Nathaniel (non-medical student missionaries), donned gloves and began to work. I took vital signs and tried to assess some of the women. One was pregnant and had a head injury, so we checked the fetal heart rate, started an IV, and transported her to the operating room.

Everything was crazy. Luckily, or I guess I should say Providentially, we had just received a large shipment of 1 liter Ringer's Lactate fluid. So Stefan filled a box with IV catheters, tubing, and IV fluids for us to use. We went through them so quickly.

At first I worked with the pregnant woman with a head injury. Her breathing was ragged and fast, and I tried to open her airway with a jaw thrust as best I could while Abel cut her braids, shaved around her wounds, and cleaned her head. When I had been told that she had a head injury, I had no idea how she got it or what kind of injury it was. But once Abel cut her hair, I could see two 2 1/2 - 3 inch stab wounds on the left back side of her head. In addition to those wounds, she had cuts on her arms, a cut above her eye, a bad bloody nose, and her face was swollen and bruised from being beaten. I watched as Samedi sutured her stab wounds, and I kept trying to make sure she could breathe well. James told me that she was about 32 weeks pregnant so if things went bad, we could do a C-section to save the baby. Thankfully, she remained stable, and I went to help with other patients.

There was an older man who was also badly wounded; he had knife wounds as well-- one right under his left eye, one on his right lower leg where the knife had actually broken his bone, and several other small wounds. He was lucky that the knife just barely missed his eye. Another young man had a chest wound that was really deep. Stefan held pressure on it while the man waited his turn to be sutured. An older man had a knife wound in his back. Both were lucky that their lungs were still intact.

But I think that the most critical patient was a man who had multiple gashes on his back and arms, and one large wound on his left side where something that should have been inside was not. I remember seeing him lying on a metal stretcher vomiting while they were trying to put an NG tube down. I thought it would be a miracle if he made it. I found out later that it was a miracle that he survived. James said that the knife had punctured a hold in his diaphragm and should have punctured the spleen, but somehow miraculously missed.

That night I stayed at the hospital until midnight helping with the wounded people.I think there were a total of 18 people who came through the hospital. Seven died before they made it to the hospital. While I was taking care of people, I was in a numb, unthinking, get-things-done mode. But once I got home, I stood in our yard and tears fell freely. I stood there for a long time just crying and talking to God. I couldn't, and still can't, understand how any human being could be so brutal and unfeeling, no matter how angry they were.

I laid down on my cot, and sleep came quickly. When I woke in the morning, I laid in bed and images of each of the wounded people flashed vividly through my mind. I began to cry again and wondered how God, who knew and loved each of those people infinitely more than I did, could stand the pain of seeing his children fight and treat each other so cruelly.

When I found out the cause of the fighting, I was even more amazed. An Arab cow herder's cows were grazing in a Nangjere farmer's rice field. They exchanged heated words, things got out of hand, and the Arab stabbed the farmer in the back. The farmer fell to the ground, and his family thought he was dead (he wasn't). So his family started rounding up people to strike back at the Arabs. They went running through the village and market shouting, "They killed our brother." The Nangjeres then started attacking any Arabs they saw, including a bunch of pregnant women leaving the market. Throughout the night, attacks went back and forth, and the injured came in waves to the hospital. At some points, we were told that Arabs were going from
home to home attacking any Nangjere people they found. I later found out that Bruno and I were the only ones who slept at home that night; all of the girls went over to the hospital and spent the night at Andre's (the CEO of the hospital) house because they were afraid.

With all of that said, I want to say how I saw God work through this experience. The Nangjere man who was most critical actually survived his wounds. One day, Sarah and I were talking to him while he laid outside on a grass mat getting fresh air. Sarah said she hoped there would be peace now, and he responded, "What kind of peace? I did nothing to provoke an attack." Apparently he had been fishing when some Arabs attacked him from behind. He and Sarah talked some more, and through the course of the conversation Sarah told him that God must have big plans for him because it was a miracle that he survived.

Beyond that, the whole experience strengthened my conviction that God is love. People always ask how a God of love could allow such awful things to happen to innocent people. But it's because God is love that He allows it. Seeing those He loves so much cause such pain to each other must tear God's heart to pieces. Yet He endures the pain because He knows He has to allow the universe to see that Satan's accusations are false.

If I were God, and the people I had created and loved so deeply were causing me so much pain, I would be tempted to say, "I've had enough. I can't stand this pain any longer," and I would be tempted to just put an end to it all. But God in His love endures the pain. He endures because He wants so badly to be with as many of His children as possible.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

African Update

I am sending out an e-mail for Kristin to let everyone know that they are having different problems that have prevented her from posting any blogs.  They are hoping to resolve these issues soon so hopefully you will hear from her soon. 

"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her."       ~Hosea 2:14