Moving into the adventure of serving moms and babies in French-speaking West Africa through Global Partners in Hope involves some big leaps of faith as a family. As such, we seek affirmation or signs that we are headed in the wrong direction. For that reason, my Togo trip to inspect the work and move from theory to practice was important. Two themes emerged.
Impact meets the raw need more profoundly than I ever could have imagined.
Healthcare. First, we toured the clinic and met Lea, the Togolese midwife, who has been trained by our team, and Timothe, who will be sponsored to nursing school this Fall. Both staffers will live on site in the housing under construction now. Smiles, enthusiasm and stories of moms that have delivered in the clinic that wouldn’t have had access to a facility or care and of babies that need advanced care for postpartum complications, affirmed the worthiness of the impact. Kansas and Springfield, MO representatives from Complete Weddings, a company that supported much of the clinic, were co-journeyers on this trip. Before the tour was complete, they both spoke up and, with tears in their eyes, courageously committed to funding the final phase of clinic development, two operating rooms. The unmet need humbles and inspires.
Water. After our clinic tour, I walked out to a well built beyond the clinic site. I noticed a few beautiful women and children hanging about and filling huge pots with water. Although I don’t speak French, they were interested in me so I hung around. I was struck by the dignity of the well design. Moms use a shower handle at waist height to fill jugs on their head. A solar powered pump fills many jugs in the short window between the heat of the day and dark.
The walk home can be long and dangerous. As I held space with the ladies, more kids, moms and families joined us at the well, filled up and interacted. It became clear; this is a nightly, survival ritual. After the heat of the day, but before the sun sets, these families collect water for the next day. With healthcare, I needed to translate from Lea’s stories to understand; with water, no translation was required. Especially after viewing other watering holes (pictured on the left): large puddles used by animals and people alike for drinking, washing, and all of the above.
The enemy has a plan for you too.
Rewind to arrival in Lome (after 30 hours of travel), I noticed a pain in my calf. From long-past experience I knew I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Fortunately, there was a pharmacy around the corner with Lovenox! Angela wanted me to get an ultrasound. That sounded like an impossible task given local conditions and some experience with such things in Africa.
Nevertheless, Kouami, our in-country liaison, assured me that I would see a radiologist and have an ultrasound before 11am the next day. Doubtful was a generous description of my confidence. On the ride to the radiologist’s clinic in the morning, Kouami attempted to convince me the Lome clinic would have what we needed by explaining they do in-vitro fertilization??! His encouragement and visual inspection upon arrival confirmed that this was going to be a complete waste of time. Further, the “lobby” was full of very sick and dying people. Catching COVID wasn’t going to help my situation. I elected to wait outside in the dirt road while Kouami made arrangements. However, in just a minute Kouami ushered me back to a private office. And just a short wait later, a Togolese doctor greeted us and took me to an examination room with an ultrasound! And the doctor was a pro. After experiencing many ultrasound techs primarily trained to scan women to unveil baby gender and struggling to find my veins and clots, I know talent when I see it. In just a few seconds, he imaged my clot. And Kouami helped translate discernment between superficial and deep veins.
The doctor recommended Lovenox until I got home to see a hematologist. For his part, Kouami was confident God wouldn’t take me yet, too much Kingdom work left to do. So later that day, we headed a few hours north along the one main highway to the clinic site referenced above. As we drove, awareness that we were leaving the city, pharmacies and the radiologist behind was not lost on me. But I slept that night and woke up with a first thought: I’m alive! That day we loaded up to go to a well dedication 25 kms away down an impassible, washed out “road.” The entire drive, I was all up in my head. My anxiety manifested (into referred chest pain from ribs broken and healed long ago); I was convinced that I was going to die in this village without my wife and kids (and before I wrote down all the passwords for Angela). Ian prayed over me; it didn’t help. For most of the dedication ceremony I lurked near the back and stayed quiet; it was an unusual role for me.
At some point during the ceremony, Vinay, a GPiH intern sat down next to me and wanted to talk religion. Somehow I found myself riffing on what it means to live wholeheartedly in confidence of your sonship to a Heavenly Father. As we talked, the anxiety diminished (didn’t depart), but it was matched by courage. WIth new found courage, I abruptly exited the conversation and crossed the hut to visit with several old village matriarchs that had been cutting a rug during the ceremony. The courage stayed with me until I got home to Boulder days later.
The DVT added a different perspective on the trip. Processing it in retrospect, a few key movements stood out: (i) discovery of the clot and no confidence about finding acceptable healthcare in Togo, (ii) the radiologist, (iii) the 25 km impassable road (on which I was sure I was dying) and (iv) the discussion about wholeheartedness and cover of courage. I’ve considered each movement through the following matrix: (a) who is God?, (b) who am I?, (c) what is the story? and (d) what is my frontier for growth? The exercise revealed some moments when I was fearlessly pursuing God’s vision for our family (obedience and dependence). A glimpse into my true self. Other moments that God was merely a garçon following behind with the bags. In these latter moments, it was all on me to figure it out; a recurring theme of my false self. The hematologist confirmed that with anticoagulation, Togo and France are every bit in the cards. I’m left with a choice: focus on what I want God to do or focus on what God wants me to do. It will take a balance of fear and courage; my role and my Father’s. This trip’s DVT offered the gift of struggling through just those tensions.