Dear friends and family,

Thanks again for your prayers. God slowed down the patient volume and we have had time to catch up. We even have quite a few empty beds. I’m sure it will pick up again so we’re enjoying the respite. It has also been good to have some time with the family as well. It’s currently a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I’m typing this at the playground while Nathan and Lydia play. Becca is taking advantage of the moment to have a nap. It’s amazing how wonderful naps are; too bad we don’t recognize them for the blessing they are when we are children.

Duane and Jackie are coming back this week. In addition, Dr. Adolph (co-founder of the hospital and founder of St. Luke’s) will be coming to Ethiopia along with additional members of the St. Luke’s board. Please pray for their visit. We are very excited to visit with Dr. Adolph, he hasn’t been to the hospital since he left Ethiopia 6 or so years ago.

We have received several pieces of bad news over email.  Things that are discouraging, but it all just further emphasizes our need to trust in the Lord.  He knows which way is best, even when really good ideas fall through, we have to know He is holding out for something even better. So, we wait and continue to pray.

One piece of scripture that I often pray is from Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is so important to remain thankful and remember how good God is and how much He has done and is doing. In our PAACS Bible study, we are studying the book of Ephesians. Today we talked about the second half of the first chapter. The apostle Paul prayed that God would open the eyes of the hearts of the readers so that they would know “what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” God has given us so much. And we have such a strong and sure hope. It is important to hold on to such realities while living in the midst of challenges. Chaos will not win. Evil is not insurmountable. And someday all wrongs will be righted.

On the note of thanksgiving, I want to share a few encouraging stories of God working for good. First, as follow up, the young woman I’ve written about for the last few weeks, the one with the bad chest infection, is stable and doing relatively well. I’ve had lots of advice from wiser and more experienced people, and everyone is saying to go slow. On their advice, I’ve done something (again) that I’ve never done before, and have cut the tube in her chest to about a few inches sticking out of her body and applied a colostomy bag around it to collect the minimal drainage. We’re probably going to send her home soon on tuberculosis drugs and give her some time to fatten up. Lord willing, we will try to do something definitive in a month or two. Honestly, blowhole notwithstanding, to go from dead-on-the-operating-room-table to walking out the door is something to be thankful for.

We have another young man who was severely injured in a work setting where his arm was mangled in a cement mixer. He broke both forearm bones and had most of the soft tissues on the extensor side of his forearm (side of the back of the hand) ripped off. The extensor side of his radius bone (the bone in the forearm on the side of the thumb) was completely exposed with nothing to cover it. With the exception of the loss of extensor function, his hand was viable. So we have been trying to salvage his arm. We were able to fix both fractures in place with pins and rods, and the wound was fairly clean. We elevated a U-shaped flap of skin and fat off most of the upper half of his abdomen and have sewn it onto his arm as a flap. He has had a not-so-fun week of wound care with his arm sewn to his abdomen and a large, open wound right underneath that arm. But the flap looks good so far and his pain is much improved. In about a week, we are going to cut the flap off his abdominal wall and (Lord willing) he will hopefully have enough blood supply from where it has been sewn to his arm to keep it alive. (Please pray for a good outcome.)

The man is a M. and during his first few days of admission he refused to let us pray with him. It has been amazing to see the Lord working in his heart, though. His countenance has become progressively softer each day and I have enjoyed watching the friendships develop between him and the PAACS residents. Dejene in particular has been spending time with him and talking with him about the Lord. Dejene got him a Bible in his home language and he has been reading it. He has not made any clear professions of faith but God seems to be moving in his heart. Please pray that God would open his heart to respond to the gospel.

God did an interesting 180 on me this week. Last weekend was blissfully peaceful and I had a great time with family. On Monday morning, I popped awake realizing I hadn’t counted out resident stipends to distribute to the residents (payday is the first of the month). So I jumped out of bed and quickly took care of that task. I checked the clock and I still had some time to spend with the Lord before starting the day. We had a busy operative schedule. At 6:30am, I sat down with my Bible and started praying, thanking God for the peaceful weekend and the chance to read the Word that morning. Literally in mid-prayer, the phone rang and I was informed of a young man who was in the operating room with a stab wound to the abdomen. The resident told me that most of his bowels were sitting on his abdominal wall. I had to laugh at God’s sense of humor at the timing. Well, anyway, He’s the sovereign one! So I abandoned morning devotions and headed over to the OR.

This young man was stabbed the night before and had travelled all night to get to the government hospital in Soddo. There he was informed there was no surgeon and he was sent our way. In the OR, he had about half his small bowel extruded from a laceration in the right lower quadrant of his abdomen. There were a few holes in the bowel that were spilling intestinal contents. He had a piece of cloth wrapped around his waist to “hold it in”. We were able to repair some of the holes and had to remove some of the bowel. He had a terrific hole in the tough layer of his abdominal wall that we were able to repair. It never ceases to amaze me how significant the stabbings are here. My theory is that it has to do with everyone being used to killing animals (cows, sheep, goats, etc.) on a routine basis with knives. They know how hard to you have ram it in.

He did well after surgery and will probably go home tomorrow. This morning on rounds, we talked with him about Jesus, and he was soon weeping. He prayed to accept Christ and the residents were able to encourage him. I asked the residents what specifically he was crying about, and they said he was convicted of the life of sin he was living. It is a special blessing to look back now at the timing of this man’s presentation at the hospital, and to see what God had been up to all along. He is so good and He is worthy of our trust.

Thank you all for your prayers. I continue to struggle with patience and irritation. We were visited this week by a surgeon who has been in Ethiopia a very long time and he’s been operating longer than I’ve been alive. He is a prototypical opinionated, old surgeon and he fired off unsolicited opinions all night long, including plenty of expressions of irritation. As he talked, I had this strange vision of staring at myself in the future some day. Yet another reason to confess my utter weakness and throw myself on the mercy of God. He is so good, and I pray that He holds me close to Him and conforms me closer and closer to the image of Christ.

In Him,

Paul

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