Crying under the Tree
There is an African proverb that says that when you cry you should invite people to cry with you so that you are not alone. This morning, as we toured Matema Hospital, we chanced upon a young woman sitting under a tree and wailing because she had just lost her baby. It was a terrible sound and all the women who had come to visit their own at that hospital came one after another to sit under the tree with her and cry. It is what you do.
Sometimes, during these last two days, I felt like inviting people to cry too, because I saw so much that deserves it. We were on the big “tour,” Manow Secondary School, Itete Hospital, Matema Hospital and Matema Beach Retreat Center. All of these places can only be reached by rutted, uneven, gravel and dirt roads. All of them are in remote rural areas. And all of them are supposed to serve the poor that live there. At Manow we learned that the electricty is totally unreliable and sometimes student and faculty go without it for three or four days at a time. The science lab is virtually non-existent and daily hardships are the name of the game. Is there any way we could investigate the possibilities of solar panels for them. When will the books come? And the sports equipment? We don’t have any, they said. We need everything but the grace of God.
At Itete, the brand new x-ray machine cannot be used because it blows every fuse every time. They need a transformer to actually use the instrument. Other equipment sits broken because to call a technician is prohibitively expensive, and there are hardly any of those around. So good, otherwise usuable (and necessary) machines can’t serve those for whom they were sent. The hospital is in terrible financial straights because of new government regulations. Some of the hospital beds are so old and bad that you just want to throw them in a pile and light a fire. And they are chronically understaffed because young doctors do not want to be in the boondocks.
Things were a little better at Matema, but not much. There, a brand new autoclave arrived from China and has NEVER worked. Of the two ultrasound machines only the ancient one functions and that one badly. The EKG is broken. And the reason things are the way they are is because the church made it its business to serve the poor in these remote places and has a hard time getting technicians to come to fix the stuff. It takes a long time to get there. The roads are awful. Parts are not always available. And there are not enough people who know how to do it. They are in desperate need of trained biomedical technicians and have only one school in the entire country that trains them.
There is much to cry about….to sit with the women under a tree and cry about how such a thing is possible. I am hoping that the container will make a tiny dent into all that is daily life for these institutions. And I will keep praying. Lots.