“The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Luke 19:37-38
“As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes…’” Luke 19:41-42
Overwhelming joy and glory followed immediately by great sorrow and then righteous anger. I can relate to these paradoxical Palm Sunday emotions. Some days it seems that too much is broken all around us and it’s a miracle that any of our patients survive. Yesterday the power was out almost all day which meant we couldn’t use the oxygen concentrators and the hospital was out of oxygen tanks. And there is limited diesel in the country (I checked three gas stations before I found any on Friday), plus it's expensive, which means we can’t run the generator all day long. And there are over 90 patients just on the pediatric service (with 50 beds) several of whom need oxygen. Yesterday morning in the midst of pouring rain I tried to find a solution to provide oxygen for my little patient Elie who had oxygen saturations of 70% due to acute chest syndrome from sickle cell disease. He’s been admitted many times (below picture from last August) and he really needed to be in an ICU yesterday. We managed to get him a blood transfusion and then the power finally came on again in the evening and we prayed for a miracle. He survived the night, thankfully, but the power is out again now. It’s easy to despair that these broken systems will ever be made new and it’s so sad to see patients suffer as a result, especially ones I know so well like Elie and his loving mother.
But there is still joy in the midst of the sorrow. I was invited to speak on Thursday at the 3rd National Conference of Christian Health Professionals in Burundi. This is a conference put on by the Christian Medical Student Fellowship group here, and our team has participated each year with Eric speaking the first year and John the second. The theme this year was the "Kingdom of God and his Justice Beginning with You and Me"". They asked me to speak about innovation in neonatology in Burundi as an example of solutions to the challenges of health in Burundi. It’s encouraging to see students recognizing the progress we’ve made in neonatology at Kibuye over the last couple years, and I was thankful for the opportunity to reflect on how God has enabled us to care for 172 babies over the last 6 months in creative ways as a community despite limited resources. But the conference also brought me much joy and hope in interacting with many of our current and former Hope Africa University medical students who truly are leading the way in caring for the least of these in Burundi. They’re volunteering their time to care for HIV/AIDS orphans, starting projects to provide health insurance to rural impoverished families, and looking for creative solutions to improve the maternal and infant mortality rates in Burundi. They are persevering in faith despite the many challenges and they give me hope when I think about the future here. Jesus did indeed bring God’s Kingdom to earth and, while we won’t completely see the fulfillment of that till eternity, we can still joyfully praise him for the miracles we see around us like these students, even as we are sorrowful over the not-yet aspects of his Kingdom like our patients without oxygen.