You’ve Got Mail!

“Is there anything in the mail for me?” This has become the daily refrain. Most days, the answer is a defeating, “No. Nothing but bills and ads.” But occasionally, the kids receive a card from a diligent family member or friend who remembers every major and minor holiday or something that I bought off those daily discount websites. The best days are the days around holidays when a care package from a grandparent arrives. The kids are like raccoons… prying and clawing their way into the box, rooting through its contents, tossing what belongs to the other aside, all in a flurry of tissue paper, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap. It’s over before it even began. Long before I can get the camera ready.

Imagine receiving a box with that same childlike excitement! Imagine tearing into it expectantly only to discover that the contents had been ransacked. The items you were anticipating breathlessly had been stolen out of the box. I don’t think my kids would survive the trauma.

It turns out that this is common in the African mail systems. Last year, CareNow Foundation sent a shipment of 200 kilos worth of pharmaceuticals to Mission Medic Air in Zambia. However, Zambian customs officials opened the boxes, removed about half of the medicines, closed up the boxes, and sent them on as if nothing was missing or awry. These medicines were to treat malaria, parasites and worms, burns, and infections… common ailments in rural Africa. This year, when Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom, of CareNow Foundation and Compassion Tea, traveled to Africa in November, they took seven suitcases full of medicines and medical supplies with them to distribute to the clinics CareNow Foundation supports, including those supplied by Mission Medic Air. While visiting with members of Mission Medic Air, the Bjurstroms saw that certain medicines were almost out. When they returned to the States, they organized a shipment of supplies that was sent out in January. Thankfully, this shipment arrived unscathed within the last weeks!

However, because they were unable to visit Dawn Faith Leppan at the 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa during their November trip, the Bjurstroms organized a shipment of medical supplies to Ms. Leppan and her clinic. Following on the tails of the happy news out of Zambia, came a separate email. The supplies CareNow Foundation sent to 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa did not arrive. Someone along the way ransacked the boxes of supplies, pillaged them, and left only the complimentary pouches of Compassion Tea accompanying the supplies. How disappointing on so many levels! And frustrating and irritating and, well, frankly, it just makes the blood boil. It’s the way things work in Africa. I’ve heard Ed say that while this kind of injustice makes working in Africa so much harder, it is also all the more reason to keep trying.

To her disturbing email, Ms. Leppan attached a couple of pictures of recent cases that had come into the clinic for medical care. One picture showed a woman whose breast had ruptured and was spilling out of her chest cavity. The other showed a man with a 2 -3 inch swath of raw, open wound across the back of his neck. The man was diabetic and had been turned away from another hospital, one that hadn’t been able to treat him. These two individuals were in obvious need of medical care. Dawn and her staff did what they could. But wouldn’t it have been nice if they had had those medical supplies to help them help others?
The other day, our doorbell rang. It was a young lady claiming to live just up the road from us. She gave a long story about how her father is a Marine and she wants to go to aeronautical engineering school and she needs help raising the funds to do so. As she wove her tale, it became more and more evident that there was little reality to what she had to say. And yet, I listened. Somewhere in the back of my head a little thought came forcing its way out, “Jesus calls us to be generous.” I ended up supporting her cause. Shortly thereafter, my neighbor began texting me about this gal. He was obviously upset that she had been to his door. Upset at her lies, upset at her solicitation, upset to be bothered… who knows exactly… but upset. And in my usual way, I began to feel guilty and gullible. What a schmuck I must be to give money to a liar/ door-to-door solicitor. But I did, and as I mulled this over, I threw up this prayer: “Father God, I pray that you help that child. I don’t know what has driven her to create such a wild story and to go door-to-door selling magazines. But it obviously isn’t good. Lord, use that money to help her reach out of her situation, to find you and to know you better. Amen.” The Bible tells us repeatedly that God can take the bad and make it beautiful.

So, will you pray with me that God will take those stolen medicines and medical supplies and turn their theft into something good? I also pray that the next box Dawn Faith Leppan anxiously tears open will hold untold joy… that she will be able to raccoon her way through the contents in obvious delight at the different ways she will be able to help the “least served” in her neck of Africa.

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