Dear Friends in Mission,
Last Friday night I was invited to deliver the message at a men's fellowship meeting in Phoenix, South Africa.There is no lighting off the main roads of Phoenix, so I was carefully finding my way up the hill, in the midst of exploding fireworks. Car hijackings are particularly common in Phoenix, especially on Friday night. I committed myself to God and drove up in the dark to a group of men standing around off the unlit road.Boom!!! A big firework goes off about 100 yards away. The air is still and humid with an acrid taste as I step out of the car and amble down a rough hillside to the gathered men. Nobody has the keys for the building, as more men arrive with a coffee maker, guitars, and sound equipment. We mill around and chat for a few minutes while somebody runs down the hill to a deacon's house to fetch the key for the building. The nearby fireworks I'm told are in honor of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, and this is the beginning of Divali, the festival of lights. Hindu people put out lights and candles around their home.The tradition holds that the lights will attract the goddess Lakshmi, and she will visit the homes during the night and bring prosperity and good fortune in the coming year.
Phoenix was formerly an Indian township under apartheid. With a current population of about 500,000 it has the greatest concentration of persons of Indian descent in the world outside the Indian subcontinent. South African Indians are coming back for this weekend to celebrate Divali in Phoenix from all over South Africa. As we stand in the fireworks-punctuated darkness, a young man who just drove in from Johannesburg six hours away tells me that many Christians will join with their Hindu extended families in the celebration of the festival this weekend.
As we finally got into the Christian Worship Tabernacle (CWT) where we were meeting and found the lights, an abundance of pieces of inch-long ash covers all the chairs and floor space. This was from the sugar cane fields nearby, which are burnt down several times a year before harvest times. High winds combined with gaps in the make-shift corrugated galvanized tin and wooden plank walls of the Tabernacle gave the ashes access to this worship space. Our first task was to sweep up ashes and prepare the space for worship, praise, and fellowship.
While we were doing this, and waiting for later arrivals from other invited churches, a man named R. pulled me aside. He says to me "I heard you're a fundi (Zulu for teacher or learned person, and used by all people groups here to describe somebody with expertise in a field) in diabetes."He describes his current problems with his diabetes, including his most recent sugar of 430 mg/dL and his dissatisfaction with the medical care he receives. R. has no means of checking his own sugars. Two other men join into our discussion, and we spend about 20 minutes together. These three men all have diabetes, it turns out. They get their sugar checked at public clinics about once per month. In the end, they conclude that their care is poor because they never get to see the same doctor twice at the public clinic, and they receive little education about their condition. They also feel that since there are so many people suffering from AIDS related infections and disease here, there is little attention given to their diabetes. There is certainly a shortage of doctors and nurses here in South Africa, as many have left the country, and this has overwhelmed those who remain to serve this population.
Later, R. shares with me that seven years ago he was hospitalized with an abscessed right foot and scheduled for an amputation of the same. He called his Pastor Kris Govender and church elder Uncle Harry, a former Hindu priest and sorcerer who is attributed with healing and exorcism gifts. Pastor Kris and Uncle Harry came to the hospital and prayed over R. and for his infected and puss-filled foot, and R. told me that he could see the color return over seconds to the foot and experienced a miraculous healing of the foot. He did not require the amputation. My casual observation of the right leg and ankle today was that they looked good, and I didn't ask R. to take his shoe off or check his foot pulses. I don't have any problem with miraculous healing, nor was this the first description of miraculous healing that I have heard concerning Uncle Harry. I wrote a previous account of how Pastor Kris himself received Christ mediated healing at the beginning of his walk with Christ in 1973 (The Healing of a Hindu Youth 1/18/03 journal entry).
I encouraged R. to buy a glucose monitor and start recording his blood sugars daily, and bring in a month's worth of records to his next public clinic visit. This way, whichever doctor he sees will have some additional basis for treatment decisions. I think about how difficult it is for this man to get a handle on his diabetes, and how seven years after receiving a healing of his foot, he is still struggling with the practical aspects of caring for his diabetes. That is what is missing here. He is familiar with miracle, but he has not learned the practical things that could prevent complications in the first place. And for this reason, Jesus Christ has brought Anita and me to Phoenix, and this is why I am here tonight. Miracle is wonderful, but God requires our daily obedience as well, and relating to diabetes this translates into practical actions involving diet, exercise, medication, and proper monitoring and screening for complications.
I would like to make glucose monitoring available at all the churches that we work with, so that members and people in the nearby buildings can have more regular access to this needed service. We would train people to check their own sugars, train others to train others, and create access to a safe and accurate instrument. Local people would need to donate towards this service in order to make it a sustainable one. I am currently investigating the regulatory requirements we must satisfy to make this screening service available to the community via the church.
After we sang praises and opened with prayer and introductions and a time for sharing and testimonies, I delivered a message based on Luke 9:1, Ephesians 4:11-16 and Romans 1:20. A review of these scripture passages will show that they related well to R.'s testimony of miraculous healing seven years prior, as well as Pastor Kris' and Uncle Harry's ministry of Christ mediated healing. The role of Anita and I here in South Africa is to augment the miraculous gifts of such Christian saints by teaching people about ongoing health maintenance and prevention of diseases, and preparing God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. In this room tonight were perhaps twenty men who were added to the body of Christ from Hindu backgrounds. Many men like this have come to Jesus after prayers for healing or overcoming addiction to drugs or alcohol were answered, and they were healed by the Blood of the Lamb.
In a discussion session that followed, I was asked about my views on spiritually mediated disease and miraculous healings, by Uncle Harry himself. I told Uncle Harry that he and I were two hands, and that we needed to work together. I see no clear distinction between what I do and what gift God has given Uncle Harry. What he does is done in the name of Jesus Christ and claimed to the Glory of God. Same here.I have often told my patients when they were happy with my care or an outcome that all healing comes from God as a divine gift. In practice, this is what I believe, and this is why I have prayed for my patients and for my work. These are practical ways that I can request God's less conventional gifts of healing (such as miracle) in addition to his more conventional gifts. I continue to study current medical and scientific literature, just as I study the word of God. These are both tools used by God's servants, and while the Scriptures are foundational, God has allowed for science within boundaries by his integrity in the Creation and giving us rational minds to discern patterns in his Creation. He has also given some people gifts of creativity and particular vision in discerning these patterns, and communicating them to others.
We ended the evening with numerous items of Indian cuisine, almost all deep fried, including some curries and samosas of various types. I reflected that these men where here on this particular Friday night, and not partaking of the Divali festivities. The foods we were eating no doubt were being consumed with verve in many Hindu homes around us tonight. These men had found their treasure in Jesus, and were not waiting on the goddess Lakshmi anymore.
Jesus is my priceless treasure,