Monthly Archives: March 2004

Kalanda

We got the news last night that a good friend of ours and a nurse that worked with Leo for most of the years he did Leprosy work, died yesterday morning in the Congo. 

Kalanda was one of those trustworthy guys that put all he could into doing his work well.  He got to be so good at diagnosing leprosy that he could be driving through a village and spot someone on the side of the road with the disease – early cases, not old burnt out ones with deformities.  Leo trusted his diagnoses and most were confirmed as positive by biopsy. 

Kalanda also cared enough to do a fantastic job of supervising the care and treatment of the leprosy and tuberculosis patients.  The drugs have to be taken consistently over a long period of time and often Kalanda would track patients down to make sure they kept at the treatment till they were cured.

Kalanda succumbed to one of the diseases he helped to treat for so many years – extrapulmonary tuberculosis.  I guess he gave his all.  He leaves behind memories of a man of God doing his best at his work.  Now he has his rest and peace. 

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Normal Kid, Criminal, or Military Genius?

We think nothing of our children trucking off into the woods; building forts with their friends.  Maybe it is part of the North American genetic code, following in the footsteps of our pioneer ancestors.

My children raised in the Congo also had this inclination – from the oldest to the youngest of our biological children.  Our Congolese children seem to have a different pattern – more relationship builders than fort builders. 

Randall’s response to a comment on his photo of dawn breaking, reminded me of an incident involving fort building and my children.

Our oldest son had a strong fort building instinct.  There were a variety of structures; some in trees; some at ground level; some close to home and some far off in locations secret  from me.  Fort building materials were everywhere – grass and sticks and vines and sometimes odd pieces of cast off lumber, screen and nails. 

Our children’s school year was arranged in eight to ten week blocks of time so that in the two week breaks between terms children could travel home to visit parents.  Our children had no where to go – they were at home, but now they were free.  A thirteen year old boy has to make his own entertainment in the Congo so, during the school breaks, life consisted of soccer, hunting and fishing, and sometimes building places to hang out with his two inseparable friends – Massa and Yaunde.  Dad’s motorcycle gave him an additional measure of freedom.

On one of these two week breaks in the year that he was thirteen,  our oldest son provoked a major criminal investigation. 

He was off with his friends, back and forth between home and Zulu for fishing, soccer and who knows what all.  He was safe.  He would let us know where he was going and then he would be gone.  We had our own busy work schedules to keep up with.  This particular vacation he and his friends worked on building a fort in one of the large mango trees in our front yard.  They also spent time hanging out in another fort that they were building up at the far end of the airstrip, on the road to Zulu.

Around this time, there were a string of deaths among elderly women of the area.  People were uptight not knowing why these women had died.  In that culture, there are no accidental deaths or deaths from “natural” causes.  They could have been murders – in any case everyone looked on them as highly unusual.  The police began to investigate.

By the time school was back in full swing, rumors began to fly.  One of the grass fires had burned the area around the airstrip and someone had stumbled on “the murderers lair”.  A large defunct termite hill had been dug out with steps and a ledge to sit around the edge.  Steps led up to the top of the mound.  Sardine cans were scattered around.  The investigators were sure that this was a hideout; the steps to the top of the mound being a lookout over the airfield. 

Eric’s friends were very aware of all the hullabaloo going on.  They were terrified.  This murder’s hideout was none other than their fort.  They came in fear to Eric and in turn to us.  We were sort of amused but aware of the possibility for wild rumors to become out of control.  We knew something had to be done before the whole thing got out of hand – and it was doing that rapidly.

There was some official function coming up and when Leo went to it the military lieutenant in charge of the investigation was present.  Leo felt he had better inform this fellow of the real story behind the existence of the fort.  The lieutenant was upset at first that Leo was discussing this “top secret” military matter till Leo explained it all to him.  Leo and the boys had to go down to the local military headquarters and make statements.  If you can imagine the efficiency of that!  Leo supplied the paper for the clerk to use to take the statements.  Several pages of one fingered peck and find typing later, the boys were free to go. 

The lieutenant was somehow amazed at the  kids “military” knowledge.  He was never convinced that all little kids in North America are inclined to build forts given a stand of trees and some available stuff to build with.  A contingent of several officers came up to our yard to gaze with amazement at the tree house in the mango tree. 

The murderer?  If there ever was one – was never caught.

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A normal kid, criminal, or military genius?

We think nothing of our children trucking off into the woods; building forts with their friends.  Maybe it is part of the North American genetic code, following in the footsteps of our pioneer ancestors.

My children raised in the Congo also had this inclination – from the oldest to the youngest of our biological children.  Our Congolese children seem to have a different pattern – more relationship builders than fort builders. 

Randall’s response to a comment on his photo of dawn breaking, reminded me of an incident involving fort building and my children.

Our oldest son had a strong fort building instinct.  There were a variety of structures; some in trees; some at ground level; some close to home and some far off in locations secret  from me.  Fort building materials were everywhere – grass and sticks and vines and sometimes odd pieces of cast off lumber, screen and nails. 

Our children’s school year was arranged in eight to ten week blocks of time so that in the two week breaks between terms children could travel home to visit parents.  Our children had no where to go – they were at home, but now they were free.  A thirteen year old boy has to make his own entertainment in the Congo so, during the school breaks, life consisted of soccer, hunting and fishing, and sometimes building places to hang out with his two inseparable friends – Massa and Yaunde.  Dad’s motorcycle gave him an additional measure of freedom.

On one of these two week breaks in the year that he was thirteen,  our oldest son provoked a major criminal investigation. 

He was off with his friends, back and forth between home and Zulu for fishing, soccer and who knows what all.  He was safe.  He would let us know where he was going and then he would be gone.  We had our own busy work schedules to keep up with.  This particular vacation he and his friends worked on building a fort in one of the large mango trees in our front yard.  They also spent time hanging out in another fort that they were building up at the far end of the airstrip, on the road to Zulu.

Around this time, there were a string of deaths among elderly women of the area.  People were uptight not knowing why these women had died.  In that culture, there are no accidental deaths or deaths from “natural” causes.  They could have been murders – in any case everyone looked on them as highly unusual.  The police began to investigate.

By the time school was back in full swing, rumors began to fly.  One of the grass fires had burned the area around the airstrip and someone had stumbled on “the murderers lair”.  A large defunct termite hill had been dug out with steps and a ledge to sit around the edge.  Steps led up to the top of the mound.  Sardine cans were scattered around.  The investigators were sure that this was a hideout; the steps to the top of the mound being a lookout over the airfield. 

Eric’s friends were very aware of all the hullabaloo going on.  They were terrified.  This murder’s hideout was none other than their fort.  They came in fear to Eric and in turn to us.  We were sort of amused but aware of the possibility for wild rumors to become out of control.  We knew something had to be done before the whole thing got out of hand – and it was doing that rapidly.

There was some official function coming up and when Leo went to it the military lieutenant in charge of the investigation was present.  Leo felt he had better inform this fellow of the real story behind the existence of the fort.  The lieutenant was upset at first that Leo was discussing this “top secret” military matter till Leo explained it all to him.  Leo and the boys had to go down to the local military headquarters and make statements.  If you can imagine the efficiency of that!  Leo supplied the paper for the clerk to use to take the statements.  Several pages of one fingered peck and find typing later, the boys were free to go. 

The lieutenant was somehow amazed at the  kids “military” knowledge.  He was never convinced that all little kids in North America are inclined to build forts given a stand of trees and some available stuff to build with.  A contingent of several officers came up to our yard to gaze with amazement at the tree house in the mango tree. 

The murderer?  If there ever was one – was never caught.

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Hope

This morning I was surprised to look out the window and see the cars covered with a fresh layer of white, clean snow.  I don’t know that I like the obvious evidence of winter’s lingering presence, but there it is.  More snow.  Not that it is bad, we need the precipitation.  And it makes everything look clean and new.  All the dirt that shows up as the snow starts to melt has been erased for awhile. 

But it is March.  I have fond memories from long ago of a March birthday on the front porch of my grandparents house in this city.  So it can happen – spring can come early.  One has to appreciate hope.

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Politics and Faith

Such Small Hands linked to a great article about God in politics.  It seems to be a bit more of an American tendency but one that Canadians have also tended to take sides on  in more recent political skirmishes.  And since we may have some sort of election in our near future – for us it is always more of a possibility – it is a good reminder that we should not prejudge a person’s faith by their political leanings.  So I would recommend this article by Anna Quindlan writing for Newsweek.

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Have I Ever Told You…

Have I ever told you how I decided to go into Dentistry?  I get questioned about this a lot and find it hard to explain.  So, usually, I say It’s a long story” and leave it at that. 

The question arose again, a couple of weeks ago, as I was once again the patient and I told my partner’s assistant how bad a dental patient I was when I was a kid.  I was a dentist’s nightmare, hating needles” as much as anyone, neglecting to look after my teeth, and being a worse patient than most.   So once again I said, It’s a long story.” 

How do I tell someone who only has a superficial understanding of God, that God told me to do this, that He called” me to this career, without sounding completely loony? That this is my ministry, my vocation?  That a voice spoke?  That I did actually follow God in this a career choice that was way out of my range of choices?  Heck, there is hardly any way to tell this to anyone non-Christians will think I’m weird and Christians may think I’m arrogant.

But the fact is; it is true.  This was one of the times when God did speak to me, fairly directly, in a way that I knew it was specific to me and specifically about what I should do.  It was maybe the third time in my life that I heard Him so plainly.  The first time I was four He called me to be His child.  The second time I was thirteen and He called me to go wherever He sent me.  Hearing Him call me to choose a specific career was not at all something I had been searching for but there He was anyway speaking to me.   

I was working at camp for the summer as a cook or a counselor that part of the memory is fuzzy and doesn’t really matter.  The missionary speaker for the camp was Harvey Widman a huge man with a bald head full of stories that he told with his own wild sense of humor.  He was easy to listen to.  So there I was listening, engrossed in his stories.  Hearing him tell how God wanted us to consider missions as an option.  Then he listed off the various careers that God might use us in.  When he said dentist” it was spoken to me.  God had somehow singled me out and planted his wish right in the middle of my mind. 

I began to prepare.  My dentist must have been amazed at my sudden change in attitude towards his profession.  He was a Christian so I wonder what he heard from God or saw in me to make the necessary recommendations to the college.  Before I knew it I was in pre-dent and although I was not a brilliant student, I obtained one of ten spots in the new college at the U. of  Saskatchewan.  That in itself was incredible.  I was extremely shy and reserved.  Maybe they were looking for women who were not rabid feminists someone they could tolerate who knows, but we, the two women in the class, were both daughters of the clergy.  Maybe it was the great manual dexterity on the DAT (as if!!!).  Or the recommendation.  Or maybe…  I knew that if I was accepted that it was definitely God. 

And it was.  And for the past thirty two years it has been(for the most part) a fantastic time of letting my hands be His hands at work, in a profession I thoroughly enjoy.  Half of my career has been spent as a dentist in the Congo and most of the other half in Prince Albert.  Time off has been scarce one year as a non-resident alien in the USA, a few weeks off before and after the babies were born and a few months here and there moving or adjusting to moves and evacuations.  It’s been a good career and I still have a few years left, I think.  My profession and any ability I have to do it well has been His gift to me. 

And now…well, He seems to be calling again to go back.  That was one of the things I heard from Him at the weekend retreat.  Back to people and a place that I learned to love.  Back to practicing and teaching dentistry at Karawa for a couple of weeks.  Back a little more mature physically and spiritually.  It will be such a short visit but I think it will be good.

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Imprinting

One of the interesting things I heard at the women’s retreat was I. P. talking about her horses being imprinted.  The horses which drew the cutter we rode in were young.  They followed the commands almost flawlessly.  M. had even put a saddle on and ridden one for the first time with no problems.  They had been imprinted – the P’s had caressed them, blown into their faces  – had been intimately close to them since birth – and now the horses knew them and they knew the horses.  Brought up rememberances of the movie “The Horse Whisperer”.

Last night my daughter, who is working on finishing her essay for Philosophy, called.  She spoke about the “ought” word and how it kept bringing to mind a chorus I used to sing when she was just small – “Everybody Ought To Know”.

Everybody ought to know
Everybody ought to know
Everybody ought to know
Who Jesus is.   (repeat)

He’s the Lily of the Valley
He’s the bright and morning star
He’s the fairest of ten thousand
Everybody ought to know.

I guess some of the things we imprint on our kids minds stay there and emerge later at seemingly strange times – with word associations, peoples actions, etc. 

I think (and pray) that I have imprinted enough God things on my kids minds that they will  be able to recognise his voice when he whispers in their ears. 

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