Sermon-prior to leaving for East Timor
July 19, 2009
The Liddles in East Timor Information and Blog
Last year, I attended a birth at home here in the Duluth area. The birth went very well, and a 9# baby girl was born. A home visit shortly after the birth, however, raised my concerns about the baby’s health, and warranted a trip to the Emergency Room. The baby was admitted to St. Mary’s neonatal intensive care unit, and then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Six weeks later, this little girl had open heart surgery to correct a malformed heart. A lifesaving procedure. This baby is a growing, thriving healthy girl today. Thank God.
A few months later, Tom, Hannah and I were in East Timor. I was the acting interim doctor in a village medical clinic for about 2 months. One day, a mother brought her baby girl into the clinic. Actually, every day, dozens of mothers brought babies in, but I want to tell you about this one, Baby Marcelina.
On first glance, I knew Baby Marcelina was a very sick child. I read her chart, and was startled to see that she was 15 months old. She was extremely pale, so weak she couldn’t sit up on her own. She weighed less than 10#. Her cry was that of a hurt kitten, and her eyes said what she could not say in words: “I’m sick. I’m tired. I’m scared.”
Baby Marcelina’s X-ray showed an enlarged heart, and she had the galloping heart rhythm of congestive heart failure. In East Timor, there is no open heart surgery. Baby Marcelina passed away the day that we left Timor to return to the States.
My call to mission has been a long time in the works. Tom and I are in the process of selling our house, selling our vehicles, storing things we think we will want in 3 years and giving away the rest. I’ve closed my family practice in Naturopathic Medicine that I started 6 years ago, Tom has ended his job in construction, we’re finalizing our will with a lawyer and our taxed with our accountant. We are still deciding on how much luggage to take…and how to best to get all of our stuff from here to there….Not exactly the idea Jesus had for his disciples when he told them to bring nothing but a walking stick. Still, it is 2009, and what our family is doing seems almost as radical to some.
To me, I feel that I am at last responding to a compelling, persistent nudge from God, who is saying: Go home to East Timor and start your work! You’ve waited long enough, you know your skills are good enough. Be yourself. Do what you do as the Naturopathic Physician you’ve been trained as. Don’t be afraid; I will be with you. Get on with it!
I have felt a calling to work with the people of East Timor since 2003, when I spent 2 months there training in a medical clinic. It is a strange thing to find yourself compelled to go to a country that you didn’t know even existed a few months before, and then to arrive there, and within days, have the feeling that you have come home.
Tom and I, with Hannah in utero, returned from that journey in 2003 with plans to move to Duluth, where I would begin my practice. Before we had left Timor, though, I had 3 different people-Timorese people-say to me: “Start a clinic here. Start a women’s clinic in East Timor. There are lots of clinics in America…start a clinic here, in Timor.”
There are lots of clinics in America—why don’t you start a clinic in East Timor?
I admit to you, when I think about what I have seen in my experiences in East Timor, I feel a little overwhelmed by this call. I know that I will see far more physical suffering there than I encounter in my practice here. And remember, I help women give birth without pain medication.
I know my clinical skills will be pushed to their edges, which means that I will develop new skills, but also, that I will face failure. For the Baby Marcelina’s I meet, I may have little to offer in the setting I will be providing care in. But, this nagging call to mission won’t go away.
I have been told by Global Ministries elders that if I think I am going on mission to somehow “FIX” things over there, that I will surely fail. We are being asked to take and use our skills, our open minds, and our willingness to be present with others. Nothing more, nothing less.