I carefully organized every hour of my day, writing down at what time each medicine needed to be given, when each lab needed to be drawn, whose IV’s needed to be restarted, and when each premie baby needed a feed. My day had become one massive to-do list.
The best parts of the day, though, happen outside of my to-do list. Like when a woman comes in at nine centimeters and delivers a baby within five minutes. Or when I make a joke to a postpartum mother about taking home one of her twins since she has two babies and I have none, which the entire maternity ward thought was really funny. Or when you have to search all over the hospital for batteries to get your fetal doppler to work, but it turns into a big laugh with your coworkers. It actually seems like the unplanned parts of the day turn out to be the most memorable.
One of my favorite parts of every day at the hospital is when the chaplains make their rounds. This quartet of Togolese, Burkinabé, and American women visit every patient individually to encourage them, pray with them, and offer spiritual care to as much of an extent as the patient is open to receive it. I love watching them love on people.
I also love chatting with the chaplains from time to time and hearing the amazing stories that accumulate as they walk the hospital wards. Every day, they enter through open doors to share the gospel with people. Sometimes the seed falls on good soil; other times the soil is hard, but the seeds are planted all the same.
For me, a nurse who has her head in antibiotics and magnesium and fetal heart tones all the time, I easily forget that God is doing great things in the hospital, and these women lift my eyes to see the fruit of our labor.
I say “our” labor because each member does play a role. The chaplains are more like the mouth getting to proclaim God’s message, but we the medical workers are the hands. We hold open the door so that people can come in and hear.
Many of these people in this area of Togo would never seek out a Christian or have anything to do with Christianity, but they will seek out quality medical care. So when we give compassionate care and God miraculously heals despite our resource limited environment, a crack breaks open in their hard-soiled hearts and a seed falls in.
I used to be envious of those who get to be the mouth, but then the Lord said he needed a door holder and would I be willing to do it.
Around our kitchen table sat five women who were so very different – some older, some younger, some blacker, some whiter. One spoke English and anufo but not french, another spoke french and anufo but not English, and some spoke only French and English…and so the conversation bounced between all three languages, yet no matter what was said, someone had to translate every time!
We chatted over chicken sandwiches with beads of sweat dripping down our foreheads, but we didn’t notice the heat since our hearts were filled with joy. For one thing connected these different women all together.
In fact, it was like every woman who sat around that table had a separate story, like you read about in a great fiction novel. The whole time you wonder how the stories connect, until the very end when it all comes together and makes perfect sense. That’s what I felt when I looked at the faces around this table. Like I was reading the chapter that ties all the loose ends together. I knew a little bit of each of their stories, and I saw how God, the great Author, was remarkably tying them all together in this very sacred moment. And the point where they all come together is Christ.
The reason we got together was mainly to introduce R, our new believing friend, to L, a fellow sister in Christ from her people group. Culturally, these two women already had an invisible link that I will never have with either one of them no matter how long I stay or how hard I try. But now the link goes even deeper since both of these women know Christ.
Years ago, God reached L in a very dark place. Now, she gives her life and heart to reaching her people who are so resistant to the gospel. “I have prayed for a long time that God would save my own family,” she said, “but now I see that all of the T people are my family.” Yet she still feels very isolated, as she is one of the only women among her people that has accepted Christ.
“You have no idea what this means,” Jen leaned over and whispered in my ear as we watched R and L talk rapidly in their tribal language. “Two T women talking about Christ!” Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that I was watching history in the making.
I think all of heaven leaned in to listen to their conversation. I wish I could have recorded it, for I listened like I understood every word. L’s mannerisms and occasional smile radiated her love for Jesus. I don’t know what she said, but truth poured out of her. R’s eyes hung on her every word, like a newborn baby craving spiritual milk. Their conversation had moments of serious hushed tones as well as bursts of laughter and pure joy. They talked equally back and forth, listening to one another, even finishing one another’s sentences.
There was a weight of glory that felt so heavy on my chest that it spilled over into tears on my cheeks. There was a holiness and sacredness that made the room feel utterly different, like God himself was in the room and that angels were crying “holy, holy, holy” all around him.
And it was as if God had a pen in his hand, continuing to write the stories in each of our lives. We are an unusual bunch of characters, each one with its own plot twists, yet all stories colliding at the cross in this very divine moment.
As I watched L and R talk about Jesus in their heart language, I felt absolutely no need to intervene. I didn’t need to say a single word or add my two cents. The Holy Spirit was communicating everything needed in that moment directly between hearts, and all I had to do was serve up sandwiches and open the door.
My eyes darted to the front door, which was still cracked open from when we had welcomed everyone inside.
To be a door holder could be one of the greatest and honorable positions in the unseen realm. Maybe that’s what the psalmist knew when he wrote in Psalm 84:10, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God…”
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