A Cross Necklace

Being a Christian refugee in this part of the world is a dangerous affair.

Unlike in America, where counting oneself a Christian is increasingly perceived as a designation that affords privilege, sometimes to an unfair degree (I have my doubts on that one), there is no question that the opposite is true in much of the Middle East.

It is easy to see that militant Islamists are actively focused on the eradication of Christianity in at least “Muslim” lands, if not the whole world. This is true to some degree in the refugee camps as well.

Even still, many of the refugees we worked with this week are either committed Christians, or are actively exploring the faith.

The stories of how these people came to their decisions for Christianity vary widely, but most are eye-opening. Few in the Middle East can come to Christ as easily and risk-free as nearly every American can if they wish. Apostasy from Islam is often regarded as an offense punishable by death.

One man I saw this week was openly wearing a prominent silver and gold cross around his neck. I didn’t notice it at first, but as I was listening to his heart with my stethoscope the bright golden object swinging in front of me was suddenly hard to miss.

crossRealizing I wasn’t in America, where crosses are so ubiquitous they’ve become a little trite to me, I exclaimed, “You’re wearing a cross!”

“Yes,” he nodded.

I pondered the implications of wearing that specific symbol in the Islamic world. A cross is better described as cross-hairs for a man like him. Yet he wore the symbol proudly, unapologetically. Should our roles be reversed, would I have the same courage?

“You are a Christian then.” I said, continuing in my new role of Dr. Redundant.

“Yes.” He nodded again, smiling.

Through my translator, I learned that a few months ago in Iran he was awoken in the night by the figure of a man calling him to follow Christ. He said he was convinced that the man speaking to him was Jesus, the Son of God. He knew almost nothing of the Christian faith, as he was raised a Muslim.

Still, upon waking the next day, my patient committed himself for following Christ. He felt he had to do this. It was an inner compulsion; he had been called to a new faith, a new life, no matter the cost to him.

But it was indeed a ‘costly’ decision. Read anything about the Islamic regime of Iran (I recommend the the wonderful autobiography Persepolis as a cursory intro if interested), and you will know that the government of Iran is itself a religious organization. Along with typical functions of any secular government, like providing running water, working roads, electricity and health care (which in many instances, the Iranian government does quite well), it also enforces a highly conservative interpretation of Shia Islam.

How do they enforce such a thing, you ask? How do you get a nation of 77.5 million people to follow extremely strict religious rules? How can you enforce an entire nation to put every woman in robes and headcoverings, to allow no music, no dancing and to enforce frequent observance of Islamic practices like 5x daily prayer?

With “religious police” of course!

As a kid from the suburbs of America, following a Christian faith I was always free to reject, it took some reading and imagination for me to even comprehend such a notion.

It was only in 1979 that the Iranian Revolution took place. Prior to that, Iran probably looked much more like America than it does today. But in ’78-’79, things changed dramatically, as that was the year of the Iranian Revolution. It was then that the Pahlavi dynasty, led by Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was overthrown by the Islamic Republic.

Supporters of the Revolution. Didn’t Turn Out Like Many Expected.

The Republic was initially a political movement, comprised of a collection of leftist thinkers, activist students and numerous Islamic movements. It was led by a powerful Islamic leader named Ruhollah Khomeini, a scholar, author, politician and political revolutionary.

After the Shah was forced from power, to the surprise of nobody, Khomeini was designated as the Supreme Leader of Iran. However, TO the surprise of many, Khomeini was given final authority on both political and religious matters.

The irony of this transformation is hard to miss. Criticism of the Shah centered around how difficult it was for the commoner to be heard. The Shah’s rulership was a dynastic monarchy, with power passing from father to child generation after generation. This meant that nobody could rise from, say, a community organizer and member of a minority comprising 13% of a nation’s population, like Barack Obama, to the highest position of power in the land (Huzzah! Huzzah! Democracy!).

Yet the solution to this problem that emerged in Iran was the Islamic Republic, which consolidated both political and religious power in one man. The power of the rulers of Iran was, effectively, broadened as a result of the revolution. The “little people” never got their say. And, I suspect, many of those who supported the Revolution experienced colossal disappointment. Power just went from one ruling class to another. To this day, a Khomeini rules Iran.

Some version of the above rushed through my mind as I stared at the cross hanging from my patient’s neck. An Iranian, 4 months in Greece, wearing a bright silver and gold cross. Wow.

As it turns out, the father of this man was a member of this religious police force. This patient had chosen to convert from Islam to Christianity as the son of a man who is tasked with enforcing and promulgating Islam in the country. More irony.

Imagine the shame on their family for such an act! Aside from endangering himself, my patient was possibly even endangering his own father (and mother).

Many immigrants come to Europe because they think it is rich, with jobs and money flowing like wine at a wedding party. Increasingly, they are finding that Europe is no utopia. Millions are unemployed. Millions are poor. Upward mobility is rare.

But one reality of Europe is that it does remain a place where you can follow a religion in nearly any any way you choose, to include no religion at all. Say what you will about the EU, but it remains a place of tremendous religious freedom, rivaled perhaps by only the U.S.

So it is understandable that this man left Iran. But it is still amazing that he was willing to do it. He left with nothing. No family, no friends. He slunk away in the night, alone. As the son of an important man, his life had no doubt been comfortable and safe. He upended all of that.

Pireaus Port. Lucky you if you have a tent.

My patient arrived at the Pireaus Port of Athens after crossing the Agean Sea from Turkey. He arrived nearly destitute, having given most of his money to a trafficker to get him to Greece. I think he slept on the concrete sidewalk the first night.

The next morning, he says he prayed that the God of his new faith would spare him, and shortly thereafter was approached by members of a Christian church in Athens who offered him a bottle of water. It was through this church that I met him.

ellenikoGreek authorities soon placed this man in the Elliniko refugee camp, where he made no secret of his faith, sharing it with any around him who would listen. Not long after his arrival, a riot broke out in the camp with Muslims targeting Christians.

The violence carried on for quite some time, as Greek police made no move to stop it, one even pointing out that if some of the refugees died, “there will be fewer of them for us to deal with.” My patient was beaten severely in the melee.

It is inhumane, of course, for anyone to think as these police did. But their attitude is understandable nonetheless. Would you wade into the middle of that mess?

Somewhere in this story, my patient picked up his cross. I don’t know if it was in Iran or somewhere in Athens. But he wears it daily. It is not merely jewelry to him, given at some Christmas party. It wasn’t bought from one of the ubiquitous Christian Book Stores in America, with every possible permutation of “cross trinkets” available for sale. It was bought for a price; worn for a higher one.

This isn’t necessarily a Christian story, although as a Christian I find it inspiring. But from this anyone can recognize the deep human desire to worship in freedom. This man’s life story is a reminder that people are willing to die for the right to think and act honestly in relation to their understanding of the divine.

The cross symbolizes the reality of this man’s beliefs, even if that symbol marks him for suffering or even death. Would that all Christendom be so committed. Would that all who cherish freedom be so as well.

Headed Back to Athens


The Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
Athens, looking pretty. A rarity, IMHO.

For the second time in less than a year, I’m on my way back to Athens. This will be a short trip with virtually no team. My colleague organizing things in Athens has stated that she “feels sorry” for me, as the number of people signed up for the clinic appears to be quite large.

From what I can tell, the situation in Greece has only gotten worse since I was last there. Many borders and routes into Europe have closed, and migrants are being turned away at far greater numbers than they were last year. But by “turned away,” I’m not describing from Greece itself. Nope. Thousands continue to arrive on the shores of Greece every day. I’m talking about further into Europe. So, the migrant population continues to swell in Greece, especially Athens. Although authorities have begun shipping back some migrants (numbering in the hundreds) in the past few days, this is a small small number.

I say I’m bringing ‘no team’ this time, but in reality this isn’t accurate. Aside from what sounds like a great number of willing helpers in Athens, I also will bring my 14 and 16 year old daughters with me this time. I don’t know what sort of role they will be able to play in the work we do this time. It could be simply watching the children of the patients while they’re waiting the doc.

migrantsHopefully, they can learn a bit about medical care in a refugee and/or underserved situation. As their lives are largely consumed with cheerleading, skinny jeans, teen-lit, French horn, Cello, soccer and boyfriends (ex…EX boyfriends), this might be quite an eye-opening experience for them. I hope so.

My biggest concern is that we will successfully collect accurate data on the patients we see. Last time we did a fair job, under the circumstances, but in my spare time I’m STILL working through the XL spreadsheet and trying to come up with data summaries that will be of some use to the wider medical world.

This time, I hope to have time to ask better questions, and to formalize how we input the data. It is well known among those who do medical research that 80% of the study is done before the study begins. Developing a means to collect data, to college USEFUL data, and to do it in a way that is searchable and accessible at a later date is difficult. It is especially difficult when at that later date, you are dealing with hundreds, maybe thousands of data points.

I’ve had enough training in this element of the medical world to feel a gnawing sense of anxiety as I approach the issue. My medical school heavily emphasizes epidemiology and biostatistics, and I was part-way through an Master’s in Public Health degree until I ran out of money. So I have a sense for how easy it is to do this stuff badly. But I wish I had a collaborator or better skills to know I could do it well.

Still, I’ve had some help from a colleague at work who maintains a quizzical affection for XL (I can’t judge, I was once in a steady relationship with Photoshop), and he has helped me clean up our data from October. And I have a much better sense for what I need to do this time around.

14_athens_imgIt should be mentioned that most relief agencies don’t actually do any of this, even the good agencies who actually help people (lots of them are there for the photo-op and little else, it seems). I received some generous help from a professor at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine prior to my last trip, and he noted only a small number of agencies who provide care AND do good, statistical research on the populations they serve.

So, it makes sense that I’m somewhat on my own here. It’s not easy to focus on research and practical care at the same time, as one is more empathy-driven, the other much more analytical and “cold.”

Example: if someone comes in coughing up blood, you can either turn and enter “hemoptysis” into your spreadsheet (and then get the heck out of there because…ew), or you can throw on some gloves, hopefully a mask, get them on a bed and start working them up for any of the many many possible reasons for that symptom (most of those reasons being prit-TEE bad).

So, we will see how this goes. We leave tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.


Who Dies from Typhoid?

salm4Hardly anybody.  In America, anyway.

This is why it was so shocking to hear that one of our translators in Haiti – a healthy father with children – died of typhoid fever recently.

I didn’t work much with this particular translator, Daniel, mostly because he spent so much time interlocuting between our group and the local community leaders, especially in Noyo.

I spent my second week in the very rural village of Noyo, and my experience there was vastly different than the one I had during my first week in Thomaseau.  The physical village looks like a bunch of twig huts that all unrolled themselves from one giant ball as it bounced down a mountainside.  

Despite this scattered layout, the people there were a tight-knit bunch; working with them required constant communication.  Work of the kind we did in Haiti brings with it nearly endless opportunities for misunderstanding.  Daniel was a big part of that because he was well-connected with the local leaders.  

A few times, I wondered what besides common humanity kept the locals from simply overrunning our tiny isolated clinic, taking all the medicine and holding us hostage.  We’re not just talking about picking up some bling bling, either.  They could demand HUGE ransoms for each of us, and never be in poverty again.  

I thought about this frequently in Noyo because the village clings to lost and forgotten hillsides so far from roads that you can’t find it on most maps.  We hiked for over an hour to get there.  And the road that brought us to the beginning of our hike arguably ended miles back from where we actually stopped our battered 4-wheel drive monster trucks.

I think the moral fabric of Haitian culture gets most of the credit for keeping us protected during our time in the mountains.  But some also should be given to people like Daniel, who moved easily between native, locally-powerful villagers and obtuse, big-hearted, mildly-guilt motivated Americans.

 More than once I saw disappoinment in the faces of patients as I sent them out the door with not much more than a toothbrush and some TUMS.

I’m sure I projected a bit, but often I felt their dismay at my ineffectiveness in the midst of so many very real problems.  I could almost hear some of them say, “This is all you have for me?  Look at all that medicine in the back of the church!  Look at those nice tents you live in!  Look at that nice watch and thousand-dollar camera you have.  All you have for me is some antacids?  Do you know that I could feed this child for weeks with just the money I could get for your sparkly watch?  How is it worth that much to you?  How can you still cling to your expensive camera when it could feed a family for months?  Is that moral?

If you claim to be a Christian…how is this not a sin?” 

Often I reflect on how much I care about my children – the lengths I would go to protect and provide for them.  In that light, I do not think I would be nearly so gracious if it were my child wasting away in my arms and some rich foreign king gave me only calcium tablets and a toothbrush (until we ran out of them and just gave the calcium).

Although the Haitians displayed celestial graciousness because I believe they are by nature a gracious people, translators like Daniel helped undergird that goodwill.

Being Haitian, he could agree that yes, these people come from a rich country and enjoy many things that people can’t even dream of in Noyo.  

But he could also point but these particular people don’t have as much as it seems.  He could explain that these kings used a very large amount of their own money just to be there, in the suffering, trying to help however they could.  He could explain that even with the best medicine, their children might still be very sick.  He could point out that ALL the medicine we have left over will be given to the village, to the most in need.


It takes over 100,000 of these (Salmonella) to cause disease in an average human.  A closely-related organism, Shigella, only needs about 100.
It takes over 100,000 of these (Salmonella) to cause typhoid fever in an average human. A closely-related organism - Shigella - only needs about 100 to cause disease.

Typhoid fever shouldn’t kill anyone.  It causes some fevers, some abdominal pain, some gnarly diarrhea and maybe some delerium.  Throw any of a number of antibiotics at the problem, and the odds of dying from it drop to about 1%.  If I gave you a 99% chance of winning big in Vegas, I bet you would put a good part of your inheritance on those odds.


Even untreated, typhoid fever is fatal in only about 30% of cases.

So Daniel’s story is a tragedy simply because death is a tragedy.  His death is a tragedy because there is a wife somewhere who loves him and is now alone.  It is a tragedy because there are children huddling around their mother wondering in pain and incomplete understanding what happened to Daddy.  It is a tragedy because his role was so valuable to our work and efforts in Haiti.

But most agonizing…Daniel’s death is a tragedy because it didn’t need to happen.

Left To Die On A Tile Floor

“Dr. SW101,”  said Father Larry, “There’s a woman lying unconscious in the church courtyard.  Can you go see her?”

With little more than a quick nod, I grabbed my interpreter and headed out the door. How, I wondered as harsh sunlight spilled into my eyes, is a doctor supposed to help an unconscious patient?  In Haiti.

I tried to think of all the reasons a woman might collapse, and what sort of assistance I might be able to offer.  Again…in Haiti.

Quickly, I reviewed ACLS in my head.  I tried to revise the arcane algorithms based on the fact that we probably did not have ONE SINGLE med used in a typical code.  I thought through hypoglycemic coma, and stroke signs and symptoms.  I tried to recall how I might distinguish between ischemic and hemorrhagic types (and would it help to know the difference?).

Our team working on the patient

Also on my list of worries were seizures, pulmonary emboli, electrolyte disorders, dehydration and the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Distantly, I pondered the probability of this being a simple “waiting delirium” where people fake a collapse to get to the front of a line.

I approach what must be the patient but of course I can’t see her.  All I see is a giant throng of people hovering in a circle; a shark frenzy of curiosity.

My interpreter helps me push through the crowd to a thin elderly woman lying with eyes half closed on a tattered blanket.  She was placed in the half-shade of a skinny, leafless tree on dusty cobblestones just outside the church offices.  People are yelling and pointing in all directions.  They give me space grudgingly.

I learn that the woman had a seizure sometime in the night, passed out, and has been seizing regularly ever since.  She is completely unresponsive.  Someone tells me she’s around 70 years old.  Someone mentions that she’s a grandma.  Someone says it’s hot out.

After a brief exam, I have her brought into our clinic and placed her on a army-issue stretcher.  I rummage around our supplies with the help of a spectacular nursing student named Kim.  Together we come up with an angiocath (for IV’s), a bag of normal saline…even some gauze.

We place the IV and get some fluids running to treat possible dehydration.  Kim and an OB nurse place a foley urine catheter we happen to have too.  Clear urine runs into the bag, ruling out dehydration.  We find urine test kits and note that there is no blood or glucose in the urine, thus arguing against diabetic problems or UTI.

The immediate problem was the seizures.  And we had no medicines we could give a patient who, every 15 minutes or so, had a full seizure on the entire left side of her body.  Kim and I riffled through the meds again and found some dilantin (good for seizures)…but in pill form, which made them totally useless.

Knowing the patient would die in her current state, I wrestled with the problem of how to get some sort of sedative – ANY sedative – into her tortured body.  At one point a group of us seriously considered IV Haitian Rum.  I thought about crushing up the dilantin and trying to trip a slurry down her throat, or pushing it rectally.

We eventually found liquid dilantin; made for oral administration.  The discovery felt like a ray of sunshine in a mausoleum.  Now all we needed was a naso-gastric (NG) tube.  Gotta be lots of those lying around, right?

None.  The patient is seizing again, Dr. SW101.  The family is getting frantic.  People are looking in at the patient through every window.  What do we do?

Kim and I did find a feeding bag. Looking at it, I envisioned how we could fashion some version of an NG tube out of the tubing from the bag.  I talked up my plan to Kim.  Seeming like this kind of thing was a daily occurrence for her, she retrofitted the tubing, reversed the adapter connections…lubed the thing up and slid it right down into the patient’s stomach.  Perfect.  I had my tube.

I dose out my best guess for the patient’s weight, not knowing her renal function, her hepatic status, her chronic diseases or her current metabolic state.  I gave it my best guess – shooting for safety and efficacy – and we started a regimen of dilantin.

Along with trying to treat this patient urgently, we knew this woman needed to be in a hospital, and Father Larry had been working on the weirdly complicated logistics of transporting a critical patient to General Hospital in Port Au Prince.  Father Larry also supported my desire to stay with my patient to make sure that someone on the receiving end knew the story and could adaquately take over for us.

Our best effort at an ambulance

Not ungently, we put the woman in the back of a tough Isuzu jeep and then blasted out of Thomaseau over rocks and roots and dusty country roads, headed for the thriving city of Port Au Prince.  Nearly 2 hours later, sweaty and dusty, we pulled in through the hospital gates.

My driver and translator is something of a celebrity in the village and knows many people in Port Au Prince also.  He did some quick talking at a back entrance to the ER, and ran back to our car and told me to, “help me pick her up…quick!  They’re letting us in the back.  Otherwise we have to go through the front and it will be at least 8 hours until she is seen.”

We carry the woman through wards teeming with people.  I sense many stares as I pass as quickly as possible through hordes of sick patients, family members, hospital staff and equipment.  We enter an austere room made of tile and bricks, with windows high above us grudgingly tossing some light to the floor.  A kid of about 15 is walking back and forth, tears streaming down his face as he intermittantly screams and jams his hands down his pants (psych?  testicular tortion maybe?).

“Lay her here.”  Instructs Bobby, my interpreter, the celebrity-guy.

“Right here?  On the tile?”  I reply, looking around anxiously.  “Where’s the bed?”

“No beds.  There won’t be one for hours.  Maybe days.  It’s leave her here or we take her back.”

We lay her on the floor.  Two of her family members that came with us huddle on the cold linoleum next to her.  I tell her story to a bored and tired looking orderly.

“Ok.  They’ve got it from here.”  Says Bobby, already heading for the exit.  “Stay any longer and they’re going to demand more money to keep her.  We need to get out now while we can.”

Fighting a sense of revulsion at the place where I’m leaving my patient, and vicerally wrestling with nearly-overwhelming waves of guilt for abandoning her, I snap a quick photo and leave.

As we walked away, I knew she would die on that cold, lonely floor.  Her family trusted her to me, and I left her lying in a tile grave.

Her Final Moments

Not long after we returned to Thomaseau, after a harrowing drive through some of the worst slums in Port Au Prince – and in the entire Western Hemisphere – after hours and hours of efforts to save a life…she died.  Probably from a stroke that occurred before we found her in the courtyard.  Within 2 hours of our return to the village we were notified that the patient was gone.  Please come collect the body.  We wouldn’t have given her a bed in the hospital anyway because you didn’t pay for food and supplies.

We did calm down the seizures, by the way.  By the second dose of dilantin, the repeated convulsions faded away and our patient clearly became more peaceful. 

A small consolation.

The news of this woman’s death was somehow devastating to me, even though I knew she had no chance.  I couldn’t help but get emotionally involved in something that required so much effort and focus. 

And for all that work, I ended up with a dead patient; her last moments spent in squalor, destitution and abandon. 

I have now spent hours trying to frame this experience in some sort of meaningful context; actively resisting raw emotions of fury and hopelessness and sheer nhilism.  So far, I know only this:  all I can really do for Haiti, is care about the suffering there. 

And never, ever forget…

Haiti Musings

jugI recently returned from a 2-week medical relief trip to the country of Haiti.  You will notice that my blogs mostly describe this topic these days.  Later, I’ll collect all of the posts and give them their very own Tab at the top of the page.

The independent country of Haiti shares a caribbean island with the Dominican Republic.  Unlike its relatively wealthy and stable neighbor, Haiti is poor.  Destitute.  The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of 15 poorest in the world.  Haiti suffers from high infant mortality, devastating chronic diseases, illiteracy, poor education, over population, deforestation, soil erosion, rapid urbanization, high unemployment and a weak government that grapples with violent uprisings on a regular basis.  The country has been manipulated and abused over the years by the French, the U.S., the U.N., the W.H.O. and many others.  1% of the population possesses 97% of the country’s wealth.

The group we went with is called Friends of Haiti.  If you ever wonder where you can give money that will truly help humanity, check these guys out.  Led by a catholic priest named Father Larry Canavera – but ecumenical and non-evangelical in mission – this organization provides medical care and support to numerous villages in Haiti.  The volunteer teams return to Haiti every 6 months and stay for 2 weeks.  They work principally in Thomaseau, a town about an hour NE of Port Au Prince.  During the 2 weeks, smaller teams also move out into the Haitian countryside and work in rural villages with names like Grand Boulage and Noyo.

Friends of Haiti is based in Green Bay, WI.  Our WA contingent consisted of another 3rd year family med resident like myself, one of our full-time faculty members and two part-time faculty.  The costs of my trip were largely supplanted by a $1000 grant from two different foundations associated with my hospital and clinic.

hatI can’t describe this experience in singular words; can’t distill it into one major theme or valuable impression.  The time I spent there wove itself around me like a dense, intricate and finely-detailed tapistry.  Dozens of times a day I found myself thinking, in the midst of a nearly-overwhelming experience, “Somehow, you need to figure out a way to describe this in words.  Somehow you have to capture all this fury and sadness, this joy and passion and fear and loss and desire and music and…this incomprehensible hope.”

These stories are my best attempt at such an impossible task.

Haiti – Part 1

I’m leaving for a medical mission trip to Haiti for 2 weeks in a matter of days.  Naturally, my life – aside from residency – has been largely focused on this big deal.

This is the season of Lent – a time of giving up and doing without, in Christian circles.  Well, let’s be specific: Lent is commonly practiced in more traditional branches of Christianity where guilt historically ran its totalitarian regime on the human soul.  Back then, the guilt-vibe generated extreme and wonderfully creative (in a Nazian sort of way) acts of suffering and penitence.  Think dull iron hooks and exposed collar bones.  Anyway, these days, many Lenten observers give up something rather level-headed, like T.V., to remind them of the suffering of Christ.

My family – slouching ever closer toward the Episcopal church, thanks largely to this wishy, squishy, lukewarm, doubtful Christian in the loosest sense of the word (as charged by my hyper-conservative heritage) – is observing Lent this year.

Wife is giving up chocolate.  Eldest daughter is giving up goldfish (the crackers, not the creatures).  Next daughter threw out the same.  Things get hazy in the lower echelons.  I’m trying to give up desert, but…lukewarm, you see.  We’re all giving up restaurants.

map_of_haitiBut what we’re really giving up is 2 weeks when I’m in Haiti, doing work I had once hoped to do full-time.  Truth is, I sold my soul to medicine in a mist of Christian charity back when I was debt-free, young, rather dumb and convinced I could do anything.  Something about, “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Then I ended up $300,000 in debt and unlikely to be free of it until after retirement.  Couple that with the recent incident where guys uttering something similar to the above scripture – but in Arabic – blew up the World Trade Center and Pentagon in firey madness.  Suddenly, relativism and reality colluded to hamper as many elements of my personal life force as existentially possible.

So, I’m soon off to do for 2 weeks – jaded, hopeless about the lofty ideals I once had for my career – what I once had hoped to do with my professional life.  Not the last 5 years of it, but the first 40.  And to do these 2 weeks, my kids will give up their Dad.  For some of the younger and more empirical kids, there will be a lingering question about whether or not Dad is gone forever.  The older ones will have to deal with a MUCH quieter and decidedly feminine-heavy abode, with all the accompanying sorrows drama and virtues.

My wife will give up my daily witty commentary on  politics and my clothes flung to every corner of the house (actually, her Lent may get under way not long after I return).  She will also take care of everyone by herself for 2 weeks.  I flatter myself to suggest that this is much different that usual…but I suppose I have put a diaper on someone in the past month or so.

Me?  I can’t say I’m giving up much at all.  My passion for travel and curiosity about the rest of the world trumps the negatives of dusty, sweaty days in a medical clinic.

Long ago, I figured I needed to just be honest and admit that the reason I wanted to be a missionary had much more to do with the love of knowledge and travel that it did the lost souls of Ximbiaha.  Sure, Jesus loved me enough to die for my purity and for our relationship – yeah, I really do actually believe that, lukewarmness notwithstanding – and if you push me you’ll find that I do have a reasonable amount of energy for passing some semblance of that kind of altruism on to someone else.  So, Haiti won’t be much of a sacrifice for me.  There are lots of upsides in my world.  It’s a brier patch sort of thing.

Except that malaria is endemic there.  So’s dengue and typhus.  I gotta say, if I end up crapping my innards out for 3 weeks…consider my debt to Lent paid in FULL!