Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Clinic

A small concrete block building, two main rooms with a few smaller spaces made out of flimsy plywood walls and curtained doorways. Unadorned smooth concrete floors meet mismatched plastic chairs lined up in an L-shape along the wall. A rough plywood desk divides the patient area from the pharmacy area. I've been sitting in that small pharmacy area counting out pills for patients and learning to take blood pressure with the automatic cuff every morning this week. I sit under the watchful eyes of Mama Jeanine and Mama Perine. Mama Jeanine is a Bongolo taught nurse that has been running the clinic for years. I've known Mama Jeanine since we first moved to Libreville a little over two years ago but have just begun to help out at the clinic. What can I say about Mama Jeanine... she is a force to be reckoned with, she loves laughter and playing practical jokes, she is a leader, she works hard but believes in having fun along the way. She said to me just the other day, "what will our story be for today?" She is an encouragement to my bruised soul.

The two main rooms at the clinic are two separate clinics, one for the body and one for the eyes. The clinic charges each patient $10.00 for a consultation with a nurse and medicine. It is all inclusive, no matter how much or how little meds each needs. Everything from mulit-vitamins and Tylenol to more complicated meds for high blood pressure or malaria are dispensed.

Mama Jeanine mentioned that with school starting soon, the clinic is a sparce due to money being spent on school supplies and not medicine for the sick. There was a tiny older mama that came into the clinic the third morning I was there, she walked in and held out her hands as if to encompass all that were there and declared in a loud voice, "Hello my children!" She went to everyone and clasped their hand in hers and greeted us individually. She then proceeded to tell Mama Jeanine that she didn't sleep well because there is a crab and a rooster walking inside her stomach. Then Mama Perine leaned in to tell me in an exaggerated whisper that this older woman was clearly a "yanglaie", a crazy person! Earlier Mama Jeanine and Mama Perine were telling me some stories and this term came up. They tell me it is a slang word here in Gabon for crazy people, Yanglaie for women and Yanglo for men. Apparently this women comes in often with her hypertension problems and always arrives as if she the beloved matriarch of a grand family. The grand family being whoever is in the clinic at the time!

This tiny clinic has become a place of healing for me, not in a physical sense but in a spirit sense. Right now I am going through a time of loss. It is, for Steve and me, one of the most difficult times in our married lives together. We have in the two short years here become the most senior members of our American missionary team in Libreville. That is due to many goodbyes as friends have moved on to other places. One most recent goodbye took us by surprise and has left us reeling in shock and heartache. We have also said goodbye to two of our children. Joe and Meg are living in another country to the north of us, Cameroon. They are attending an international school and living with friends of ours there. This move of theirs came after much prayer and discussion and with my heart in my throat I said goodbye to them on August 31st after spending a month with them in their new place. It was the hardest goodbye yet! Steve also recently shipped his broken airplane to the states in container, very discouraging as we have spend years to get the plane here and it was only in use for three months before an emergency landing grounded it, literally. It will be a year before the repairs will be completed. So with all these goodbyes, we find ourselves beginning again.

I had a dream the other night that this time is one of margin. We have time to grieve and time to begin again. We cannot run from this time nor can we rush through it. We must patiently walk through it. "God is, indeed, our Father, He gives only good gifts to His children - even when the wrapping is unattractive to our eyes." -Maxine Hancock

I am learning lots of new terms at the clinic as I pass out meds to the sick, phrases like, "au meme moment" and "dose unique" which translate to "at the same time" and "one sole dose", meaning to be taken all at once. It translates to more than just those I am giving meds to, it translates to my life now as I am going through all sorts of loss at the same time and all at once. I have a heavenly Father who has prescribed this time and given medicine to my soul as I work alongside these sisters of mine, Mama Jeanine and Mama Perine, in a small rough clinic in a messy and chaotic city in central Africa. And we begin each day with prayer.


Work in Progress said...

Hi Alace-- thanks for sharing your heart with us. I have been pondering lately what you had said to me about writing from a position of strength and I think this post shows that it's possible to be transparent and honest about your weakness and still be encouraging to the reader (and hopefully to yourself!). Maybe I told you this already over the summer, but sometimes it feels to me like life is an ongoing series of griefs of varying degrees. Your griefs seem to be piling up on top of each other. I had a "lightbulb" moment a few weeks ago about the verse from Romans 5 ("we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope") when I realized that the hard work and anguish I go through gives me hope and that hope can be tangible instead of just warm and fuzzy. Every time I suffer and grieve He is working on me in my persevering and I am gaining hope, something that I need all the time to help me face the suffering and grief! Not that it hurts any less, but it makes a huge difference to suffer in hope rather than in despair! You are practicing perseverance while serving Him and gaining healing and hope. What a loving Father we have.
Standing with you as patiently walk through this time--

Vicki said...

Alace, I'm so glad that I stumbled upon your blog while procrastinating on facebook this morning... it makes me homesick for Gabon to hear you talk about the clinic and the Mamas whom I spent so much time with this past summer! I will definitey be praying for you with the transitions that you are going through and the new things that God is bringing to you. I want you to know that your heart for God and fun outlook on life were so encouraging to me this summer, and I am blessed to have met you and your family. I hope to come back and visit sometime soon!! Praying for you and for my whole family in Gabon. Say hello to Mama Jeanine and the other mamas for me!

C'est la Bee said...

Holding you close in my heart today.

Maria Buehler

Dear Alace

I can only say...I get it...going through similar season myself. But funny, I never have known joy like I am learning to experience it of late...and in doing so, I cannot imagine every NOT experiencing the hardships. Told Steve...telling case you don't know this, pray for you daily as a family...and have for a few years kids know you well by name and location, wish they knew you in person too...maybe someday! We will continue in prayer for you...and know God is working it all for good...even if it does sting a bit. Love you!