Sunday, January 29, 2012

my ulterior motive

Have you ever worked oh, so hard to accomplish something you knew to be oh, so wrong? This will be the story of my life for the next month because, in exactly four weeks, I'll be lifting off for Lobosoit, Tanzania with a mission group from one of our local mega-churches. There, we'll be setting up and running a medical clinic for a week.

This is something I oh, so want to do...even though I know that there are strong arguments against providing this kind of aid to Africa. It discourages the local people from educating, training, and staffing the clinic themselves. It provides care that is unsustainable and medication and supplies that are nonrenewable. It raises people's hopes and then leaves them with nothing. All in all, what we can accomplish in a week will amount to less than a submicroscopic drop in a very leaky bucket.

So, why are massive efforts poured into this kind of aid?

I can't speak for anyone else...but, for me, this has everything to do with providing hands-on care to people who would otherwise have none, hopefully providing a modicum of pain relief to some and, God willing, healing to a few.

It has to do with the opportunity to teach about sanitation, hygiene, disease prevention, and self-care. With luck, we may be able to dispel a few medical myths (eg. taking the birth control pill gives you HIV/AIDS). And we get to do it all without regard to reimbursement, without the threat of impending legal entanglements, and without government oversight. The care we provide arises out of our own heartache, out of a spirit of compassion and succor. Not a selfish impulse among them.

Still, I do have an ulterior motive for making this trip and I've already written about it. See "serendipitously", posted on Nov. 26, 2011. Long before I was invited to make this trip, I started my second novel. It takes place in Africa and it involves an orphanage, a clinic, and a safari resort. This mission will place me directly on site and refresh my sensory memories of Africa! I'll have a chance to work alongside a couple of my characters! I will actually be able speak with them! Of course I want to go!

Ours is just one of thousands of medical missions to "third world countries" around the globe. Surely someone among us will bear comfort, healing, and hope to another, if only for a moment, where otherwise, there would be none. I hope that someone is me.

What do you believe about aid to Africa?
 "...the healing of suffering is compassion,
 not expertise."
--Rachel Naomi Remen--
In my next post I'm going to rant and rave about this so-called "winter".


  1. Bless you, Jan, for volunteering your time and skills. You write that your endeavor, "raises people's hopes and leaves them with nothing." That's far too pessimistic. You may save a life or ease someone's suffering or provide an inspirational spark for someone to become a healer. I can think of nothing more noble.

  2. Thanks, Dennis. I was referring to the fact that after we clear out, the people will have no one to turn to for care. It would be ideal if someone were motivated to step in and continue to staff the clinic after we leave. We'll do what we can, while we can.