I sit on my bed, reading. Next to the bed is a bedside table. None of the drawers open or close properly, so most of my belongings are piled on top of it. On another small table, a black-and-orange lizard walks over my books, stopping every now and then to perform funny little push-ups.
A light rain is failing (I can see it through a hole in my ceiling) and squirrels playing on the tin roof keep sleep away.
I've been thinking about home, looking at a map and trying to comprehend the distance between here and there. I'm a long way from home. In fact, I'm a long way from many "home" things: telephone, television, a regular electricity supply, hot water--any running water for that matter.
Here you can't go down to the shop or a takeaway (although you can buy cooked rats on a stick). It's a totally different world, and I've been wondering why.
I'm not really thinking about the comforts and conveniences of Western life--cars, computers, neat houses and good hospitals-- I'm concerned as to why so many people here are fighting to just survive.
Here, diseases unheard of at home lower life expectancy to just 45 years. Here, people know about God and His goodness, and spend a lot of time praying, for it is all they can do. Here, life is a downward slope: no money, no food, no quality of life, no health and premature death.
I recall, as a young person, listening to missionaries speaking at my church. I felt envious of the role they played in fulfilling the gospel commission in those far-off lands. Now, some 20 years on, it seems our only taste of the mission field is what we hear in Sabbath school.
Has your heart been immunised against images of starving children by too many appeals? Do television news images of their diseased and dying parents still affect you? If not, how do you rationalise the apathy?
I look out the window toward the mission hospital. At risk, right now, is its Residency Training Program, which is in danger of failing, not from a lack of money (although more wouldn't go astray) or equipment (and we could always use more). No, it's from a lack of appropriate, qualified personnel--long- and short-term, professional, skilled and unskilled--who are willing to live without home comforts for a time.
If that's you, perhaps plan to do more than just give an offering, more than saying a prayer for missionaries and those in their care. Shift your focus away from your own church's needs for a moment and consider such places as Ile-Ife, Nigeria, in the 10-40 window, where many are dying--physically, emotionally as well as spiritually. Consider something more direct and tangible.
Sabbath has now passed. Outside it's pitch black, but my room is filled with the soft light of a candle flaming in a broken holder. Dozens of mosquitoes buzz with anticipation at my door. The squirrels have finished their game, and their noise has been replaced with that of croaking frogs. The steady beat of African drums comes from a night vigil at the church behind the compound.
A large puddle has formed on my floor, as it's now teeming with rain. (Ah! Running water at last!)
Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28.
Denise Krklec is a physiotherapist from Brisbane, who wrote this while working as a volunteer at the Adventist hospital at Ile-Ife, Nigeria.