Scripture: Living and Active

Scripture: Living and Active
Our most significant scriptures are marked with post it notes.

Continuing the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, JOYFULLY, together.

We gather for worship at 9:30 am on Sunday.
Children go to Sunday school following their special time in worship, about 10:15 am.
Potluck is the first Sunday of the month.

17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, MI 49042

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sickness and Healing by Matthew Bolton: Writing from Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya. In the few quiet moments over the last month, I have been reflecting on healing. My wife, Emily, spent a week in the Aga Khan Hospital here in Nairobi, with a nasty bout of pancreatitis. At the same time, it seems like an unusual number of our friends and family have been struggling with illness.

We also live in a country where sickness and mortality seem so much closer to the surface – a raw daily reality, not a dark little-talked-about fear, pushed to the corners of a well-sanitized, risk-averse society. Poverty, lack of access to healthcare and little effective regulation of safety in the workplace, on the roads or in building codes mean that illness and injury cannot be ignored.

I have come to realize how crucial healing is to the functioning of a community. When living in the West, I often take for granted my health, and that of family and friends. I rarely think about the function of doctors, nurses, therapists, pastors, social workers and others who play such a crucial role in keeping us in equilibrium.

But since time immemorial, humans have sought healing, through medicine, supplication of the divine, ritual, catharsis, ‘talking-it-out’ and the support of the people around them. When we are broken, it is rare we are able to heal ourselves. Even looking up your symptoms in a book relies on the author and the hundreds of people who contributed to that medical knowledge.
Sitting with Emily in a hospital here in Kenya gave me the opportunity to reflect on the cultural dimensions of healing. We discovered that our conceptions of healing are deeply rooted in the scientific tradition. We wanted to know numbers, hear obscure Latin words and be shown diagrams of organs.

The doctors and nurses were willing and able to provide this ‘data’ for us, but some of them also redirected our inquiries to reassurances based on their faith. “What does the enzyme lipase do?” we would ask. “God put it there for reason, we don’t always know what purpose he has,” came one reply.

While we would sometimes find this lack of specificity frustrating, we also came to appreciate the absurdity of our own fixation on medical language, numerical measurements and a belief that a small pill can solve all our problems.

We were surprised too by the number of Kenyan friends who came to visit us, bringing cards, prayers, bags of fruit and good cheer. Some of them took time off work or travelled an hour in a crowded bus to spend time with us. Even the receptionist at the language school we attend, with whom we have only exchanged occasional greetings, called to see how Emily was doing.
It was interesting to discover that our Kenyan friends were genuinely distressed, not about Emily’s particular illness per se, but that she was sick far away from home and that her family could not visit her.

One man expressed that he could not think of anything worse than being in the hospital without a community there to support him. For our Kenyan friends, it seemed, the severity of the illness was, in some ways, less important than whether or not you had people around you who cared. Wellness and wellbeing is not just about the absence of pathogens, but also about one’s connection to community and relationships with people.

As we begin to plan our return to the US, we are again forced to think about health and illness. Having lived overseas, and without jobs that provide health insurance, we will have to rely on short-term insurance that will only cover emergency issues and will exclude pre-existing conditions like the pancreatitis from which Emily has only just recovered.

Moving from a country where an X-ray will cost you only a couple dollars and pills are few cents each, the prospect of massive medical bills is quite scary. Even the US, with its technological marvels of modern medicine, has not yet figured out how to provide healing to all in society who need it.

What I have learned from the stream of visitors, who cheerily dropped by my wife’s Kenyan hospital bed, is that healing is a communal endeavor. None of us can manage it alone, nor can it be left up to a highly corporatized industry of HMOs and overpriced pharmaceuticals. It is the responsibility of all of us to care and support those who have fallen ill in our midst.

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