In the summer of 2005, I was present for a slide presentation by an author friend of mine, Harry Kraus. But Harry is more than a writer. He is also a surgeon. And more than a surgeon, he is a missionary with AIM (Africa Inland Mission), providing medical care to people who would not otherwise have it. As I watched that slide presentation a year and a half ago, I knew that I had to provide support to Harry and his family so that they, in turn, could bring love and care to the people of Kenya.
This week, I received a Christmas greeting from Harry and his family. I was so moved by it, I asked his permission to use it on my blog. May it bless you as it blessed me.
Dear Robin Lee,
Christmas in Kijabe. Never seems much like the season, here. No snow. No hype. No consumerism. OK, maybe it IS like Christmas, just different. Seventy-five degrees and sunny is what December is like in Kijabe, whether it seems like the holiday season or not.
I’ve never been that thrilled with the way Kenyans sing. Always from the front of their throats. Nasal almost. A bit too squeezed and narrow, not supported and full the way we’re taught to sing in choirs back home. But this morning was different. I’ve been on my own as the only surgeon for the first ten days this month. And it’s been crazy-busy, fun in a twisted way, but stressing me out a bit to be on-call 24/7 for so many days in a row, and wearying, especially when dealing with so many suffering people. Saturday night brought me two assault victims, both with open skull fractures, one a victim of rape. Sunday and Monday brought me two babies, both with intussuception (a rather bizarre condition where the bowel telescopes inside out, rather like one section of bowel being pulled inside out and pushed downstream). Both had emergency surgery. Tuesday, I spent hours doing a complicated burn scar reconstruction to free the arm of a young Somali boy who had healed from a bad burn so that his arm was one with his chest from the shoulder to the elbow. Wednesday, a tired bus driver turned the job over to an assistant who traveled less than three kilometers before crashing. We saw fifty patients from that one accident. The pace was near-brutal and I spent hours in the operating theatre repairing complex facial lacerations, and putting in chest tubes for punctured lung patients along with dealing with all of my elective case-load. Thursday after a full day in clinic, I had to face a revision of a head-and-neck cancer patient, and two abdominal explorations, one with peritonitis from tuberculosis (something I never saw back home, but that is common in Africa) and another with bowel perforations from typhoid fever.
So this morning, I dragged back into the hospital wondering what craziness I would find. And that brings me back to the way the Kenyans sing. I was trying to write a note in a patient’s chart when the private ward nurses gathered at the nurses station for morning devotions. The young female nurse began the song by herself, waiting for the others to join in.
"Burdens are lifted at Calvary.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary.
Jesus is very near."
Immediately, my spirit soared with the message of the song. I cared little about the delivery. The message was water to my thirsty soul. Calvary. That’s what makes all the work worthwhile. My eyes filled with tears. Another nurse asked me a question about one of my patients. Does she see my tears? I try to steady my voice to answer her. The singing in the background continued.
"Days are filled with sorrow and care. Hearts are lonely and drear. Burdens are lifted at Calvary. Jesus is very near."
I joined the chorus, not able to sing much beyond a whisper. "Burdens are lifted at Calvary. Calvary! Calvary!" How easy is it for me to forget that Calvary changed everything! I am forgiven. Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, because He died in my place. I cannot even write these words without tearing up again.
"Cast your care on Jesus today. Leave your worry and fear. Burdens are lifted at Calvary. Jesus is very near."
Yes. Very near. Only I need eyes of faith for the water of the truth to penetrate the dusty cover over my soul.
I worked through the day with the song never far from my lips. Burdens are not necessarily evaporated because of the cross, but I’ve started to understand that God’s grace, supremely manifested in the cross, is the same grace that sometimes comes disguised as daily "burdens". And that knowledge makes the burdens seem lighter. Sent by a sovereign God to work His way in me.
"Troubled soul, the Savior can see. Every heartache and fear. Burdens are lifted at Calvary. Calvary! Calvary! Burdens are lifted at Calvary. Jesus is very near."
I walked away from the private unit towards the operating theatre where I was met by a patient I’d treated months ago. He cried and hugged my neck in gratitude for a service I’d provided to him. He kissed my hand and handed me a large bag of Christmas presents. I am broken to receive his gift of four beautiful pineapples and eight bags of black Kenyan tea. His love to me was the second unexpected grace. Gentle grace water-whispers to dry ground.
Tonight, I returned to the hospital to see a pedestrian struck by a passing vehicle. He was directing his donkey cart a bit too close to fast traffic. He has broken at least five ribs and his scapula. After admitting him, I walk down the hospital corridor and again, I am touched by music, this time coming from the hospital chapel. "Hakuna kama wewe." ("There is none like you.") I let the meaning of the words wash over me. None like you, Jesus. None like you.
I’m here to serve these people, but today, they have served me.
When I arrived home, I saw a single strand of white lights that Sam and Kris strung along the roof of our house today. Inside, a rather pitiful Christmas tree has been decorated with a few choice ornaments that Kris thoughtfully packed and brought to give our family a sense of home. I smiled. Yes, it is Christmas season in Kijabe.
We are so blessed to be His!
Wishing you a joyous Christmas season,
Harry for all the Kraus family
I can’t imagine that you read the above without feeling a stirring in your heart and perhaps even getting tears in your eyes. And if you are seeking a place for your giving in 2007, perhaps Africa In Mission
and the Kraus family might be the one. I would gladly forward your email
address to Harry so he can tell you how.
In the grip of His grace,