Trip Report from the President ~ February 26, 2019
Loneliness is a feeling like few others. I never travel alone, but I often feel the lonely weight of having to make decisions that impact lives. On this trip, for many reasons, I have experienced loneliness thick enough to cut with a knife.
I believe and teach that “God will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That verse in the original text literally says, “God will NEVER NEVER (double negative) leave you NOR EVER EVER EVER (triple negative) forsake you.” In Hebrew, triplicates mean perfection.
Knowing and feeling are two different things, though, and this trip has imprinted on my heart how very alone I feel at times. Yet God was present in so many miraculous ways. The one I want to share with you is very personal.
My husband, Phil, and I have traveled over the years to places with no electricity, doctors, or hospitals. We raised our children in war-torn countries and drove (or ran!) with them through riots. We’ve faced off with the KGB, been held in a deportation lounge by officials wanting bribes, gone toe-to-toe with traffickers, and stood up to mafia and angry Taliban. We’ve had typhoid fever together and lain in bed side by side, reminding each other of where our will and life insurance are. Just when you think you’ve seen it all … God makes Himself known all over again in a new way.
On this trip, Phil became violently sick with pains that made him vomit and yell like a woman in labor. Thankfully, the American doctors who traveled with us for our two medical clinics recognized it immediately as kidney stones. We began praying to find a pharmacy open late at night in this backwater place.
Our African driver and one doctor went out searching for medication and came to a roadblock. The only 24-hour pharmacy was just before the roadblock. When our doctor showed the African pharmacist his US medical license and started talking protocol, it became clear that he was for real. Only then was he given morphine and narcotics.
Meanwhile, I was calling a prayer warrior back in the states. I’d emailed her earlier that evening, along with another prayer warrior — both women seem to have a “pipeline to heaven,” so to speak. This one had asked me to call, so I put her on speaker phone. She and her husband, a Navy Seal, prayed aloud over Phil. For a few minutes, the pain subsided while we waited for medication.
Our doctor came back to the hotel and sedated Phil. He also gave me his cell number in case Phil woke and started passing stones again. At 5:51 am, he woke and told me the pain was returning. I put my phone between our pillows.
The AC was off, the electricity had not been working for days, and we’d stood in the hot African sun for 10 hours that day doing a medical clinic in the village. We had running water but no hot water. I racked my brain. I had no idea where our doctor’s room was, and the phone in our room didn’t work. I had to watch the man I love groan and muffle his roar in pain. It was returning. He was telling me what to do if he died. I felt deeply alone.
For five minutes I prayed. Should I start knocking on doors until I found our doctor? I knew my hotel phone did not work, but would our cell phones work? Would the doctor get my text? Phil was not making a sound yet. We had no lights on. I was about to get dressed, when suddenly there was a soft knock at our door. I opened it and there stood Dr. John. “Did you call me?” he asked. Stunned, I told him I hadn’t.
He went on to tell me, “A female African voice called and said, ‘Your colleague needs you. Come to reception,’ and then hung up.” He had dressed hurriedly and run through the dark garden area to the reception area, only to find no one there. He wondered what to do. Why hadn’t I called him myself? Deciding to stop at our room, he heard our voices from outside our door and knocked.
Amazed, we all burst out laughing. He gave Phil more medication, then walked with me down to the bottom of our stairwell and pointed to his room in case we I needed him again.
As I walked back up the stairs, I wept. I felt so alone. But I AM NEVER ALONE. Freaky as it may sound, God was on call that night. The timing of it all was incredible: the minute Phil woke, some non-existent front desk person from far away called Dr. John and told him to wake up and come.
The next day we held a banquet for 200 widows and some of the girls from our partnering safe house. Phil was medicated the entire day, allowing him to sleep, heal, and recover. The banquet was nothing short of heaven on earth, but I’ll write more about that later.
Right now, I have to celebrate the God of angel armies that never sleeps or slumbers and has angels with African accents serving as phone operators! I also want to celebrate the fact that American doctors were traveling with us and hovered not only over desperately needy widows, orphans, girls and men, but also over my husband and me; that we found the last open pharmacy just before the roadblock; and that we were given morphine, narcotics, and more to manage the crisis.
Our medical team was scheduled to leave the day after the banquet. Phil, Laura (a WAR, Int’l board member), and I were supposed to stay another three days. Alone, I made the difficult decision to move the three of us to the city where the airport was located, which meant canceling three days of meetings. We met with our partners for breakfast and crammed three days into three hours. We then left with the medical team so that I could get Phil to an American hotel near the airport with on-call board-certified doctors, air conditioning, and running water.
Our doctors showed Laura how to give morphine shots and stagger meds. As they told us what to watch for and what not to do, we frantically wrote it all down. The more they talked, the more I prayed. They advised us to carry the narcotics on the plane with us in case of another bout with the kidney stones. They signed papers explaining why two women were carrying controlled substances. They mentioned that drug-sniffing dogs would smell our meds. We hugged them goodbye and began watching Phil like a hawk.
Yesterday, I called the local hospital and requested a “wellness visit” from an African doctor. Getting him to the hotel is another story of God’s grace, but he showed up at 9 pm. We talked for an hour. He also signed the papers that explain why we are carrying drugs. Still, I wait and pray.
As I write this, Phil is resting well. He is eating and keeping food down. He seems to be “over it.” Tonight, we’ll board a plane in Uganda and travel to New York via Nigeria. I have not decided whether to take the medications with me. I have no peace about that. Imagine the headline: “Humanitarian nonprofit founder and board treasurer jailed for carrying drugs.” I need to make this decision before we get to the airport.
I know the God of Angel Armies is going before me, behind me, beside me, beneath me, above me, and most of all, within me. I am not alone. He gave me American doctors, a friend closer than a sister to stay by my side, an unrequested phone call made by a disappearing receptionist with an African accent, and medication, should we need it.
Next adventure … get home!