23.4.15

In Only Four Months

(By Alyssa)

I recently returned to Burundi after four months HMA in the US. From emails from teammates as well as from missionary training, I expected some things to have changed during my absence. But, wow - I completely underestimated to what extent! When you live in a rural setting and daily struggle with limited resources and "facing African realities", it's easy to think that progress is too slow. Hopefully this blog post will be an encouraging reminder to my teammates as well as to our friends that this corner of the world is indeed developing!

 (Above and below) Burundian physician housing. The above picture is taken from the vantage point of my front yard. McLaughlin's house is just to the right of the picture. In less than four months a site has been chosen next to our houses, funds have been raised, ground broken, and significant construction has been completed including a roof, windows, and walls! We look forward to welcoming our Burundian colleagues to the neighborhood. 

And speaking of neighborhood, we now have four long term missionary houses completed and occupied. My house (shared with our MK teacher) is the first in the below picture followed by Faders and Cropseys. (McLaughlin's house is just behind the photographer.) The kids are loving running back and forth along the shared backyards - we enjoyed a fabulous game of Capture the Flag together on Saturday! Oh, and that Land Cruiser on the right is also new. Our team now shares three vehicles - a 15 passenger van, a small car, and the Land Cruiser. All the vehicles are white - evidently Jason's preferred color for cars. Actually I think he's oblivious to the aesthetics of the vehicles - just as I'm oblivious to what is under the hood!


So now that everyone lives in their newly constructed houses, the quadplex below is empty. It served us well for over a year and now it will be perfect for hosting visitors. You can see that Carlan & Abraham left some tree saplings behind in apartment 1 to welcome the next inhabitants.  

 And it will be easy for us all to greet new visitors on this newly widened path between our houses and the quadplex.

And below we have the other big change in the neighborhood - the Miller family! We miss the McLaughlins as they begin their HMA in the US, but we are happy that their house and some of their clinical roles are being filled in their absence by Drs. Joel and Janette Miller and kids. The Millers have been missionaries in Burundi longer than we have and have graciously hosted us innumerable times in Bujumbura. And now they are not just sweet friends and colleagues at Hope Africa University but neighbors, co-workers, and MK classmates. We're so thankful for their willingness to fill in at this time.

Happy birthday, Janette! 
Miller family with hospital behind
And speaking of missionary kids, the girls wanted to demonstrate the hard work on their garden (which didn't exist a couple months ago). Burundian friends have confirmed that learning to hoe is actually part of the curriculum of elementary school in Burundi, so Elise, Mekdes, and Ella are right on track! You may remember that one of our first Kirundi phrases learned was "The woman hoes"- maybe not such a useful phrase in English but very relevant in a country where subsistence farming is the primary occupation!
 Significant progress has been made on the new church (on left above, on right below) - including many archways, a bell tower, and trusses for the roof. As I understand it, the construction is primarily being done by church members themselves, one brick at a time. This is the church where we worship on Sundays. 
 And, look! Another new path! So much for our frisbee field. Actually it was prime for ankle spraining so better to use a different field for frisbee, and the landscaping looks great. You can't tell in the picture but it is actually outlining the design of the Burundian flag - pretty creative! 

 New student dorm (above) complete and occupied by approximately 60 medical and nursing students

New building on right above and below - the new Salle de Staff. I'm astounded at how fast this building went up. Ground had not been broken when I left 4 months ago and it has been completed and in use for weeks now. This was a huge need as prior to this there was no space big enough to hold all the hospital employees. While some days it seemed like "there's always room for one more on the bench," that wasn't actually true! All hospital staff and students begin each day here with devotions at 7:30am, and the room is also used for morning report, student lectures, hospital meetings, etc. And now no one has to stand outside or crowd in the doorway straining to hear! 

 (Above and below) The inside of the Salle de Staff
New students. Currently the fourth year medical students are at Kibuye - the first time we've had 4th year students as formerly that was considered a pre-clinical year. The med school program previously was a 7 year curriculum (including undergrad) but has now been decreased to 6 years. The fourth year students are pretty green but they are making progress at the end of their four months at Kibuye. And I'm sure they'll have grown leaps and bounds by the time they graduate in 2 1/2 years.

Porridge for patients! I'm so, so happy to see my patients being fed porridge each morning. Most are chronically malnourished and live in extreme physical poverty so I was never sure if they were being fed in the hospital. Now I'm sure they are eating at least one nutritious meal per day. Thanks to many of you who have made that possible! 
 Above is a 10 year old boy significantly improved after arriving comatose with meningitis. It continues to astound me how God heals these kids who would be hospitalized in intensive care and likely on ventilators elsewhere in the world. This is not new but is an encouraging reminder especially after I spent some time visiting the pediatric cardiovascular ICU in the US and was discouraged thinking of how few resources we have comparatively in Burundi. 



"Lenscrafters" at Kibuye - benefitting the eye patients and the hospital

New paintings with Bible verses throughout the hospital
A new classroom (on left above) at the primary school where Jess teaches English, where Sammy and Micah attend Kirundi school, and now where Elise and Anna attend French class
New water reservoir benefitting the hospital and us - hopefully this will make a big difference in reducing water shortages as the dry season begins in a couple months
New ariel view of the hospital from Kibuye rock with the student dorm (blue roof) visible on the right and the new church (with tower) left of center
Some things don't change. I love these familiar sights of colorfully clad patients and visitors at the hospital (above) and happy kids helping with small siblings (below). 


Thanks for joining me on the tour! 

20.4.15

Looking For New Recruits!

by Jess Cropsey

We have been blessed to see enormous change and growth happen at Kibuye Hospital over the last year and a half.  We are deeply grateful to the large number of people that have invested in our lives and the ministry here at Kibuye.  We wouldn’t be here without you.  Thanks for the big hearts that you have for us and the people of Burundi.

Now that our long-term houses are built and we’ve each found a groove of life and ministry, we’ve been able to stop and catch our breath a bit.  Whew!  It’s been a long haul!  As we become more deeply rooted here, we can look around and see need in so many places.  While we recognize that we are not the saviors of this place (Jesus is!), we think there are specific needs that we might be able to help meet that would be tremendously beneficial to the Kibuye community.  Last month, we sat down as a team and brainstormed about the skill sets that are most needed to supplement the ministry already happening.  We want to share this with you, our readers, so that you can pray along with us for God’s provision of these people and think about whether you or someone you know might fit the bill!

Here is our current “wish list” of additional LONG-TERM personnel and we are praying that God would bring the right folks along at the right time:

Teachers:
teach the elementary-aged missionary children at Kibuye Hope Academy

Project/Development Manager:
help provide financial oversight of project expenses
seek & write grants
create “media" exposure - facebook, websites, blogs, hospital newsletter
create fundraising materials (video, power points, brochures)
help interface with large donors and provide reporting on projects in progress
IT:
help manage the internet system and oversee installation of campus wide network
help integrate technology at the hospital & provide computer training for staff
help implement an electronic medical record system (future goal)
opportunity to teach IT classes at the university

Spiritual Discipler:
focus on growth of “word" ministry at the hospital
help with development of a hospital chaplain training program
coordinate student & staff discipleship (in cooperation with national chaplains & missionary doctors)
Note:  Ideally, this person would be gifted in language learning since high levels of French (and possibly Kirundi) would be necessary to do this job well.

General Surgeon:
comfortable working in a variety of specialties
eager to teach & train African medical professionals

Nurse Practitioner:
teach nursing students (must have Master’s level training)
provide additional training for nurses currently on staff

Logistics and/or Hospital Finance & Administration:
lots of options here — organizing pharmacy orders/pricing, departmental organization (the eye clinic could use some help here!), … 

Biomedical Technician:
help maintain and repair hospital equipment
facilitate the purchase of new or donated equipment

For those interested in a more SHORT-TERM stint (few weeks - several months - year), we would consider folks with the following areas of expertise:  

physicians from various specialties or upper-level residents
 teachers — for missionary kids or ESL (adults and/or kids)
childcare workers
If you or someone you know might be interested in serving in any of these ways, please contact Jess Cropsey (jesscropsey@yahoo.com). 

Thanks for praying with us as we look to expand our team!  

10.4.15

Return from the Coast

by Jess Cropsey


Our team recently returned from a Serge East Africa retreat on the Kenyan coast.  It was great to interact with Serge leadership that joined us from the USA as well as our Serge missionary colleagues  working in other parts of East Africa.  We enjoyed a wonderful Seder meal on the beach together and walked through 4 days over Easter weekend with the themes of surrender-suffering-loss-resurrection-journey.  

Photo by Scott Myhre

Many of the Serge teams have gone through difficult circumstances in the last few months, including several deaths of family members and evacuations due to unrest, so we spent a lot of time sharing & praying for each other.   

Photo by Scott Myhre

Photo by Scott Myhre

The kids had their own program which included face painting, sand castle contests, seashell hunting, crafts, games, & much more! 


We had a free day in between the team leader portion of the retreat and the regional retreat.  Many of us opted for a boating excursion that included snorkeling, scuba diving, and lunch on an island.  Others stayed at the hotel, enjoying the winding pool with little waterslides and the beautiful beach.    




We try to maximize any opportunities when our kids are around water so that they can actually learn how to swim.  Our family passed some big milestones this time around, with Elise gaining in proficiency, Micah putting his face in the water (he was a rock star with snorkeling!) and cruising around with his floaties, and Sam being willing to even get in the water at all.  Yes, they're still a little behind the curve in this department, but we're working on it!

All of us made it safely back to Kibuye yesterday, but we have come back to a very different place!  Two of our interns, Molly Shankles & Abraham Paternoster, have finished their time with us and are on their way back to the USA.  The McLaughlin family is headed there as well for 9 months.  Carlan has left us for a little while to propose to his sweetheart.  So, we are facing a lot of transition!  Please pray for those headed back to the States and for Alyssa as she transitions to life back in Burundi after 4 months away.  




31.3.15

Engineering Team Visit

A few weeks ago, Kibuye gratefully welcomed a team from Engineering Ministries International who came to help with the development of thoughtful plans for the expansion of Kibuye Hope Hospital.  
EMI team and KHH staff/administration

This is the third time an EMI team has come to Kibuye.  EMI has been hugely helpful in the past with mapping out strategic and responsible infrastructure growth here by creating a Masterplan for the Kibuye Hospital campus.  As we implement hospital and community development, their expertise has been crucial.

The focus of their time here was the detailed design of a 48 patient ward which we hope to start January 2016.  This will not only create much-needed space for patients, but it will provide a well-lit, well-ventilated, and beautiful hospital environment.  

The team also marked out exact locations for basketball courts and football pitches (soccer fields), worked on large scale electrical and water/sewage developments, and proposed various landscape architecture ideas in order to fully capture the beauty of this place.  And the kids loved watching the surveying part of the work.


Thank you so much to the whole team for your tremendous help here for the future of Kibuye, and thanks also for your gracious attitudes, as welcoming 13 people all at once meant that beds were a bit hard to come by.  Thanks Phil, Dan, Caleb, Tony, John, Stanley, Jonathan, Dave, Matthieu, Kesleigh, Tim, David, and Kevin!



28.3.15

Home Cultures and Misfits

(from Eric)

Today was my last day of work at Kibuye for 2015.  We are headed back to the US in a couple weeks, after a Serge East Africa retreat in Kenya (the preparations for which are probably the reason for the recent radio silence on the blog).  We will return in January.  Our families are waiting for us.  Our nieces and nephew that we've been longing to meet for over 2 years.  Our hearts are full in the waiting.

And there will be also be the joy of entering our "home culture".  Sometimes I wonder to what extent the US is still my "home culture", since, as the years pass, I'm not sure I fit in there the same way I did before.  I forget what normal is.  Glimpses of US life strike me as foreign.  Maybe hanging out with my fellow Serge missionaries in Kenya will be a type of "home culture".

But, a couple days ago, a brief conversation reminded me that yes, the US culture is still very much home.

Rachel said something about the days when she is at home with the kids, that she has to change out of her pajama pants before the Burundian guy that works in our house arrives.  Why is that?  It's not that she is trying to dress up to a certain extent for someone who is not family.  And it's not modesty.  She can wear pants at home here with no one getting offended.  It's because any Burundian is likely to think that it's weird to stay in old pajama pants, when you could spend the day in nicer (and more formal, and less comfortable) clothes.

And we know that.  So, you get out of the pajama pants.

(aside:  many of the more village Burundians don't know pajama pants from normal pants, and thus wear them to church.  But the point stands.)

This is an example of the long-term "strain" of living cross-culturally.  Because, in the US, everyone agrees that it's just nice sometimes to spend the morning relaxing in your pajama pants, and few of us would begrudge that to our neighbor or friend.

In fact (and I think this is the point), the question would never even come up because, living in your home culture means that your values and preferences are those of the culture around you, and therefore you can just glide along with what is already ingrained in you.

And that makes my heart yearn, here at the "32 months since leaving the US" mark.  A yearning for it being easier.  A yearning to not have a subtle, but daily and persistent, tension between what seems "right" to me, and what seems "right" to the culture around me.  I would just like those things to automatically be the same, and so not have to think about it sometimes.

There are probably those in the US that constantly feel like what they want is always at odds with the culture around them.  I think we might call them "misfits".  They don't "fit".  And that must be terribly difficult.  And in a sense, that is what you become when you live cross-culturally.  The good news is that, for the most part, people expect you to be weird, "foreign", or in the best of times "exotic".  But even with that extension of grace, it is still grace extended to the "misfit".  

Wendell Berry writes:

The frog with lichened back and golden thigh
Sits still, almost invisible
On leafed and lichened stem,
Invisibility
Its sign of being at home
There in its given place, and well.

I am not that frog.  Because we don't fit, we stand out.  We are always the furthest thing from invisible.  And if invisibility is a "sign of being at home", then we are not at home.

And when you know that there is a place where you could be invisible, where your heart is not a "misfit" in the same way - it's out there, but you just haven't seen it in a very long time - that can be both a comfort and a further challenge.  

Or maybe it's just a good reason to be thankful on the eve of your return.

17.3.15

COTW: Unexpected Birthday "Gift"

by Rachel

Last Wednesday was my 36th birthday.  Somewhere along the way, I guess I started to fall into the trap of thinking that on my birthday, everything is supposed to go “my way.”  It’s my special day, all about me, etc etc.  The kids are supposed to sleep in, I’m not supposed to have to work, other people will cook all my meals for me, and in general I will spend the day with my feet up eating chocolate.  When I write it out, it sounds a bit ridiculous but never the less, those are the subconscious or slightly conscious thoughts rolling around in my head every time a birthday comes up.

Well, things didn’t exactly go “my way” last Wednesday.  For one thing, we were having medical visitors from Buja up for the day and I had agreed not only to meetings but to provide lunch for everyone as well.  I figured it would only make the day slightly more busy.  Ha.  The medical visitors showed up minutes after the power cut out (which was to be a 28 hr outage, something obviously not known at the time).  I pushed away thoughts of my failing crockpot dinner out of my mind and spent some time talking about cervical cancer screening.  Half an hour later, we were ready to head up to the hospital to check out the ultrasound machine when a hospital worker came literally running up to my door.  This is significant, because no one runs here.  There was a lady at the hospital with a ruptured uterus.  She needed help, immediately.  While I was trying to rearrange the visitors’ schedules quickly, I received calls from both Eric and Greg, trying to get ahold of me for this emergency.  Time to go.

I spent the next several hours in the OR, performing a hysterectomy and trying to stop the giant puddle of blood on the floor from growing larger.  The patient was on an adrenaline drip to keep her heart rate up and had actually received SIX units of blood (previously unheard of here).  The rupture had started at the top of her uterus and continued all the way down the left uterine wall and then backwards into her retroperitoneum up towards her renal vein and artery.  Friends, I was WAY out of my league.  I put in stitch after stitch and finally stuck in a bunch of surgicel and started praying that the bleeding would stop.  It did, or at least it stopped enough to close her up.  I had minimal hopes that she would survive, but thanks to great anesthesia care (there’s a reason they call Greg the “Reanimationist” in French) she not only made it through the day, but I’m hoping she will be going home this week.  Miraculous.

The miracle wasn’t exactly the focus of my day, though.  I returned home over an hour late to the lunch I was supposed to be preparing.  The power was out the rest of the day.  The phone networks were down.  The kids were grumpy.  What kind of a birthday was this after all?  Blah.  But now that a few days have passed, I’ve had some time to reflect.  Greg told me that the chance to save a life on my birthday was perhaps the greatest gift possible.  He did say it as a joke, but maybe he was right.  Maybe the chance to focus on something other than “my special day” was really what I needed.

What was it that bothered me so much about the day, the fact that I got to go and help a mother of 5 return home to her family and live a (hopefully) long and healthy life?  Of course not, that’s one of the reasons I’m here.  I think that the problem was that it wasn’t how I PLANNED the day would go.  I wasn’t in control of the situation.  I wanted my day to look a certain way and it didn’t.  But who’s to say it wasn’t a better way to spend the day?  Perhaps the birthday gift was, in the end, a stripping away of my closely held illusions of control.  When are we ever, really, in control of everything around us?  Perhaps the scattered, fragmented, crazy day was a reminder to me of who directs my steps, who holds me in the palm of his hand, and who is ultimately in control of everything around me.  

10.3.15

Congo: Revisiting Hero Bubble Gum

(from Eric)

As some of you very faithful blog readers may remember, in early 2010, we posted this after encountering our first "Yes We Can-dy" in Kenya: Obama Gum.  It remains a favorite phenomenon, and though it is Kenya that has a claim to President Obama, all of Africa feels a certain fascination with the American President.  In fact, as enthusiasm in Kenya has waned a bit (seeing that Obama being President of the US means little for Kenyans), Obama Gum has become harder to find there.  

However, there is a pecking order for these things within Africa, and Kenya's leftovers get sent to...Burundi.  So, we can still find Obama Gum here, though I don't like to think about when it might have been produced.

Obamania in Gum Form: 2010
Last month, visiting DR Congo for the first time with the Eye Team, I was delighted to find that the Hero Gum is, in fact, quite egalitarian.  So, I'm happy to present to you another Hero Gum: Nelson Mandela.

Seeing as though I only found the wrapper, I unfortunately cannot provide you with a side-by-side taste comparison, which (I think we can all agree) would have been absolutely fascinating.

Hero Bubble Gum #2: Nelson Mandela
What this shows us is that, if one day we are able to post a photo of McCropder bubble gum, then all the world will know, with the utmost degree of objectivity, that the mission for which God has prepared us has been, in fact, fulfilled.

7.3.15

Outgrowing the "McCropder" Name

by Jess Cropsey
As you may remember, last year we announced that a new long-term family would be joining our team. We are excited to welcome Caleb & Krista Fader and their son Liam to Burundi sometime this summer. They are completing their cross-cultural training and fundraising and will soon move to Burundi to begin Kirundi language study.  It has also been a huge blessing to have a teacher with us here this year and she has decided to stay for another year.  We are thrilled!  She’s done a fantastic job with the kids and has also had a wonderful ministry with the medical students.    
Over the last few months, we have also officially added two other families to the team. Darrell & Becky Baskin and Logan & Julie Banks have been accepted by Serge and have begun their support raising efforts to join us here in Burundi on a long-term basis. Both families are in the support-raising/training & preparation phase and hope to go to language school in France sometime in the next 12 months.
Darrell Baskin is a retina specialist that completed his fellowship training at Wills Eye in Philadelphia, where he & John met during John’s residency. He is finishing his final year of service with the U.S. Air Force in a few months. John is very excited to have Darrell join the work in the eye clinic. He will bring many complimentary gifts & skills to the clinic and will also be the very first retina surgeon living in the country of Burundi. His amazing wife Becky and their 6 children are excited for this new phase in their lives.  (Family Blog:  www.baskinbrigade.wordpress.com)

We first met Logan & Julie Banks at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya during our 2 years with the Post-Residency Program. Logan was working for 5 months at Tenwek as part of his international fellowship program. He is a family medicine doctor with specialized fellowships in international medicine and obstetrics. For the last several years, he has been involved in the family medicine residency training program in Missouri. He will be a vital part to the work at Kibuye. As we approach 2 years of service in Burundi, our rotations for time spent in the U.S. have begun and we are realizing that having another doctor that can provide coverage for patient care as well as medical education is hugely important. With his training, Logan is qualified to do that in many areas. In addition, his experience in a residency training program will be valuable as we look to start internship and residency programs in the future. Julie is a woman of many talents (that do not currently exist on our team!) and will bring a lot of creative energy and new ideas.  Their two young boys will be great playmates for the McLaughlin & Cropsey boys.  (Family blog:  www.thebanksoffshore.com) 

We are excited to welcome these new families and look forward to what God has in store for our team and Kibuye Hospital in the future. While the “McCropders” can always be a reference to the 3 families that first started out to Kenya together 6 years ago, we recognize that our team is much larger than this now. Conveniently, Alyssa Pfister & Carlan Wendler both fit into the acronym. With the addition of Caleb & Krista Fader, we now have 4 family units sharing the “- er/-der” ending. We (the CROPseys) are living large with 4 whole letters all to ourselves!  So, with joy for God’s blessings in the expansion of our team, we move on from “the McCropders” and embrace the slightly less interesting “Serge Kibuye Team”.  (For now, our team blog will remain the same.)
Please join us in prayer for these families as they raise support, attend cross-cultural training, pack up their belongings, and begin language study. We understand the unique stresses and challenges of these phases of preparation, but also know how important they are.  

Just in case you were wondering, there are still some specific slots that we’d like to fill on our team.  Stay tuned for more info on folks that we’re looking for (both short-term and long-term)!  

3.3.15

Mama Natalie

by Rachel

I wanted to give everyone an update after the maternal mortality and postpartum hemorrhage blogs.  About six months ago I was over at Alyssa’s house and we were discussing a course she was teaching called “Helping Babies Breathe.”  It’s a pretty awesome way of distilling newborn resuscitation down into a few simple, easy steps that can have a profound impact on short term and long term survival for babies.  A company called Laerdal Global developed the curriculum and sells newborn models (complete with lungs, pulsating umbilical cord, etc) at cost to developing countries with high neonatal mortality rates.  They are called “NeoNatalies,” ha ha.  She was essentially teaching me the course because unlike in the US, the delivering nurse or obstetrician is usually the person who does the newborn resuscitation, not the pediatrician (see previous post about the “Knock at the Door” and response times....).

As I was reviewing the materials, I noticed a line about other products from Laerdal, including something called “MamaNatalie.”  Of course this caught my eye and I went online to learn more.  This company has also developed a low cost model of the uterus and a curriculum entitled, “Helping Mothers Survive.”  It’s essentially a curriculum for lay midwives and community health centers that don’t have physicians, but I figured I could adapt it for our purposes.  So, thanks to some generous donations from you guys, I went ahead and purchased 2 MamaNatalies for our students.  

I am currently in the middle of teaching a 40 hour Obstetrics course to our current 4th yr med students (that translates to their first clinical year).  Every few weeks we’ve taken a break from lectures to do simulations.  The class breaks up into 2 groups (we have an awesome intern here named Molly who is starting med school in the fall and has been helping me with these simulations) and take turns practicing skills like delivering a breech baby, managing a shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulders after normal delivery) and treating postpartum hemorrhage.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think that of all the lifesaving interventions our students can learn, managing postpartum hemorrhage (and also, probably even more important, newborn resuscitation) are the most important, highest yield skills that will save the most lives.  So I am super excited that with our MamaNatalies, the students aren’t just learning about this by reading a book or listening to a lecture.  They can actually do hands on training, estimate blood loss, practice essential skills so that when the real thing comes, they’re ready for it.


Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this project!  Hopefully in the future we can expand this training not only to med students, but nurses, nursing students, and midwives as well.  There’s a lot of potential in this country...much change is needed, but we are already starting to see some fruits as well.

28.2.15

Vanity, Resurrection, and Kibuye Triplets

(by Eric)

In mid-December, the first set of triplets was admitted to the new neonatology service at Kibuye. The first two were boys, and a bit smaller girl.  They each weighed between 0.9 and 1.1 kilos (2 and 2.5 pounds).  There was even a bit of fanfare.  Some government guy came and gave the mom several cans of formula (otherwise prohibitively expensive), and then we set to work.

They didn’t do too well at the beginning.  No major problems, but it took about 3 weeks to start gaining weight and about a month to reach their birth weights again.  But then they hit a stride.

Day after day, I would visit them, talk with their dedicated mom, and barter with her about their feeding regimen.  But they gained more and more.  It seemed that their tenure in the hospital would match my tenure as Alyssa’s replacement, and I thought that this would be my legacy as the fill-in pediatrician.

Wednesday, we celebrated.  The oldest boy, named Dieudonn√©, had reached discharge weight.  We discharged him, and he would wait in the hospital for his siblings to be ready to go home.  We were thankful.

Thursday morning, I was told that Dieudonn√© had a fever the night before and wasn’t breastfeeding well.  I checked him out.  He didn’t look too bad.  We readmitted him and restarted antibiotics.

Thursday evening he died.

I couldn’t believe it.  Tragic things happen all the time, but to take such a long, steady victory and watch it crash to the ground in such a short time?  I didn’t feel guilty.  Just sad.  And defeated.  It can make you feel like it’s all in vain.  Even his name Dieudonn√©, meaning “God given”, could almost seem like a mockery, now that he has been taken away.

I went to see the mom, to give her my condolences.  She was crying.  She told me that she is afraid the second son is sick, too.  She speaks for the first time of wanting to take the children home.  I don’t think she will.  She’s not defiant, just in despair.

I had a few minutes before rounds, so I walked home and sat down with my old Book of Common Prayer, praying and searching for some comfort.  I thumbed it’s 150-year old pages, remembering that the health state of the original owners of this book was maybe even worse than my patients.

I turned to the Burial of the Dead and found verses of hope in the midst of sadness:  “I am the resurrection and the life.”  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

And then in 1 Corinthians 15: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven...Behold, I show you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump...When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

And it all ends in a surprising way: “Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.”

Not in vain.  So be steadfast.  I couldn’t tell you how the truth of the resurrection makes the difference for whether or not my work is in vain.  But the promise is there.  It has been spoken to me.  And the one who promises is trustworthy.  And so, even if I don’t understand, maybe I can persevere.

Romains 12:15 - “Partagez les larmes avec ceux qui pleurent.”

(Share the tears with those who weep.)