Famine has hit East Africa. Food prices across the world are near record highs. Though Bundibugyo is not in famine, the resultant increased food prices combined with the seasonal decrease in harvest has brought over a dozen starving children to our pediatric ward these past 2 weeks.
Today, I took food away from Birra, one of these children. It felt very counterintuitive, mean, rude and even crazy. This 2 year-old child, who weighs 10 pounds, was eating a local banana type fruit called matoke. Her eyelids, hands and feet are swollen from the edema caused by lack of protein and a liver reaction to her slow wasting by starvation. Her mother stared at me in disbelief. Was she not doing the right thing? My friend, the nurse Charles, helped me explain to her that the food the child needed was the formula provided by UNICEF. The formula had all the nutrients she needed. It was also portioned out to help her body adjust to the intake of nutrition and prevent her heart from going into failure. Eating the matoke would fill her body with empty calories and keep her from drinking the not as tasty formula. For her to survive, we had to take the matoke away- until she returned to normal health.
Similarly, last week at our team meeting we discussed the hardship of living here. Sure, it is difficult living here, but what really makes it hard is the inability to sooth the hardship with our normal comforts. If we want to goad each other, we just mention “Breyers Ice Cream,” or “Chic-Fil-A” or “DQ Blizzard” or any other number of unattainable commodities and therefore forbidden words in our house. Beyond delicious foods, we also lack restaurants for dates or time of quietness. People with needs often knock at our door at 7am and we listen, serve, pray with people in desperate situations all day long. Jogs, bike rides and visits to the market are heralded with a cacophony of children’s voices yelling Majungu (white person.) It is hard to get away. Hot showers, let alone baths are not always available. Electricity providing light and internet is not consistent and are reliant on forces outside our control such as sunlight or the government. Yesterday, two phones ran out of charge during an interrupted monthly conversation with my brother. This makes it difficult to escape the troubles and needs that are constantly pressing on us.
Interestingly, David, in Psalms 73 speaks about such a thing. He compares himself to those around him. He sees them as without troubles, swollen fat with indulgences and doing only what they care to do. He, however, feels stuck, probably longing to be a simple shepherd again on the hillside instead of being in charge of a kingdom. He indicates all the normal comforts of his had been stripped away. Nevertheless, God is still with him. He concludes that God is his desire and there is nothing in heaven or earth that he desires more.
I long for Breyers Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream, or a Wendy’s Frosty and large fry. However, not being able to seek solace with these precious commodities is forcing me to learn how to seek comfort from Jesus. He has taken away my matoke that I may feast from the table he has prepared for me.