Letter from First Lutheran Member Elenn’ Elness who is a Medical Missionary in Pakistan –
They laughed. They wanted to know all about my new family. When I told them that I am now a grandmother, they laughed. The “ammas” (illiterate local ladies who help clean the hospital, assist the nurses, and translate for the doctors) were thrilled to have me back. We all chatted excitedly and enjoyed several chuckles together. Then Amma Dilshad, “my” translator and special “right hand assistant”, paused almost in mid-laugh, and said, “Since the day Dr. Ulla died, we haven’t laughed until today.”
That was over a year ago.
It is so right and good for me to be here at this time with these very special people who have endured so much in the last year. Many of the staff members have asked me to thank my husband for sending me back to them (I explained that it was his idea originally, prior even to our engagement). I dutifully extended this expression of thanks to Steve, as they had requested, and he smiled (I could hear the smile over the international phone call), and said, “You’re welcome. But make sure you send her back!” 🙂
There have been so many feelings shared by so many over the last two days here, it is beyond the scope of my literary prowess to record them. There are a few recurrent themes in our discussions.
1) Dr. Ulla’s death was a huge blow to the hospital, all of the staff, and the community, reaching far into tribal territory. It made the national news. It seemed like half of Pakistan came to attend the funeral on our compound! In the aftermath, being left as the only long-term doctor in Christian Hospital Tank, Dr. Becky was recalled by her mission, and the hospital was left without a doctor for over 2 months.
2) Then came Dr. Esther. She has been faithfully serving as the only doctor, caring for all who come, being stretched, yet gently continuing on with faithful, loyal service to the Tank community. Dr. Esther is from Kyrghistan and originally came to Pakistan in 2005 to help with earthquake relief. I don’t have the whole story (I’ve just met them) but during this time of ministry, she met and married Mr. Simon, a Pakistani. I know Simon’s father well—a very fine Christian evangelical leader with a heart for the Lord which glows in his eyes. Simon has the same bright spirit.
3) Miss Jenni (Haunia) is the only western foreigner who has remained after 12 other foreigners have gone (within the last 2 years). She has been an encouragement to the staff, reminding them that they have not been totally forgotten.
4) My return to help out for 2 months has reassured both staff and the local people who depend upon this hospital, that God still cares for Tank. Many of the staff could have left—but didn’t—and still faithfully serve in this very challenging part of Pakistan (or the world, for that matter). You cannot imagine the outpouring of love which has been expressed upon my return. What a needy place.
5) The floods in Pakistan did affect this area as well as much of Pakistan. Many homes were washed away. The homes are made of mud bricks, sun dried. So, they simply dissolve into glops of mud in the face of flooding. The poor get poorer. There is a lot of emotional pain throughout the region.
I am honored to be an emissary of hope. I am humbled by the flood of loving expressions in welcoming me back to their place of challenge and pain. To find laughter again is truly a gift. How wonderful to be a part of the healing of hearts.
Please pray for:
1) The many flood victims who continue to suffer due to major loss, combined with significant increase in prices of food and daily necessities.
2) The aftermath of the flood—with siginicant health problems. Tonight on call I have admitted 3 very sick patients who have cholera-like diarrhea. They were all in shock and close to death upon arrival. Their lives have been spared tonight. What if we weren’t here? (One was a 3 1/2 yr. old boy who was so dehydrated that he could barely answer his parents, his eyes were rolled back in sunken sockets, and his body was cold and “clamped down”. Even our “sharp shooters” couldn’t get an IV in him. I was able to get a “drip” established in his tibia (lower leg bone). He is recovering nicely and will later be replenished enough to get some perfusion and an IV established in his hand or foot.)
3) Encouragement for the staff–and LAUGHTER. Reassurance that the Lord is with them.
4) More foreigners to help. The Pakistanis themselves proclaim repeatedly the need foreigners to keep things going well here. Pray for Dr. Gabriella (from Equador) who has taken an opportunity to further prepare for long term service in Tank; she has entered a 3 year residency program in Family Medicine. That will serve her well when she is able to finally see the call realized.
5) A visa for Phyliss Hammerstrom, who is simply waiting in the wings for a visa—to come and bring a new era to Tank in compassionate, effective, and visionary leadership in administration.
6) My “new” family back in Michigan, who sent me here with some fear and trepidation, but also with trust in the Lord’s calling and provision.
Thanks so much for all your prayers and well-wishes!
Blessings and JOY,