Making Friends Makes a Difference

It had been a grueling week in Kinshasa. Heat pressed down on each of us, taking our breaths away and causing sweat to drip off the end of my nose and onto the pill counting tray in front of me. The prescriptions stacked up next to me and there was no way that I could look up from the task at hand to see the faces that the prescriptions represented.

Thirty 200 milligram Ibuprofen. Seven Fluconazole. Ten 250 milligram Cephalexin. And on and on it went. The number swam in front of me. I never looked into the eyes of a single child, but I could describe to you the colors and shapes of each pill in the pharmacy. I could tell you, without looking at an inventory, exactly which trunk held the liquid Diphenhydramine and exactly how much to indicate for a child under the age of twelve. But I never held a child in my arms.

Several days into our trip, Jerri, a retired, seventy-something nurse, ran up the steps to the pharmacy table. Her urgency was immediately obvious.

“Sarah, bring water and liquid infant Tylenol!” She turned and ran back to her station. I didn’t even stop to look at the stack of prescriptions I was leaving behind. I snatched up a bottle of water and the Tylenol she’d requested and ran to catch up. And for the first time in days, I saw.

The mother held the baby as Jerri leaned over him. And I watched her try to resuscitate the dying infant. I watched the naked little chest, willing him to breathe. I saw Jerri’s lips move and instinctively knew she was praying.

“What can I do?” I managed the only four words that came to my mind.

Still working on the infant, Jerri responded: “Nothing.”

I looked up at the hundreds of faces waiting in the line that day and knew that there was absolutely nothing that I could do for them.

My heart broke a little. But my eyes were opened.

Later that night, after dinner, the videographer that was traveling with us called me in to assist him during an interview with one of our doctors. This particular doctor was a tall, handsome, sports medicine specialist from the Midwest, but in Congo, he was experiencing a whole new world.

Jeremiah was behind the camera that night and I was standing, a little to the side, asking the questions. I don’t actually remember the question Jeremiah had me ask, but I’ll never forget as Dr. Lee related the story of one of his patients from that day—a woman whose husband had been killed in the civil war and who, with her children, had been taken captive. In captivity, she and her children were repeatedly raped and forced to eat and drink their own waste. And as Dr. Lee and Jeremiah and I wept together, I saw.

They aren’t numbers. They aren’t statistics. They are people. With stories. And lives. And feelings. They cry. They get angry. Their stomachs growl. They watch their children die. And they have no hope.

Katie says, “The people who had once been anonymous in their suffering were now my friends.”

And when they’re your friends, it changes everything. Meet some of my friends.

 

This post is part of the weekly book discussion that I, my friend Jason, and a group of our friends are having on Wednesdays about the book, Kisses from Katie. Please feel free to stick around and chat, even if you haven’t read the book. There’s something here for everybody and your comments are always welcome! If you’ve written a reaction to this week’s Chapter, please leave your links in the comment section below as my link widget is MIA! And make sure to go by Jason’s (my co-facilitator’s) site to see what he has to say! 

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. Phew. Some powerful experiences you’ve had.

  2. I can’t imagine the emotional toll being in that environment must take. I honestly cannot believe Katie has stuck with it so long. My frail humanity would have quit long ago. God bless you, Katie, and others like you who have taken the time, effort, and heart to serve in such a way.

    My contribution this week: The Power to Save the World http://theoppositepc.blogspot.com/2012/02/power-to-change-world.html

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Andy & Frank, Thanks for coming by, taking the time to read and to leave comments. :-)

  4. Hello Miss Sarah,

    I came here by way of Glynn’s at Faith, Fiction, Friends. We’ve been sponsoring a girl through Amazima and reading Katie’s blog for a few years so when her book came out, I bought one. She is an inspiration to get off our duffers and do something, to do it for the least of these across the seas or those among us here in the states.

    Thank you for sharing part of your walk with Jesus skin on.

    Blessings.

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you for coming by Darlene! It’s always nice to meet friends of friends and Glynn’s a good one! I’d never heard of Katie until her book came out, but as someone who has dabbled in missions for the better part of two decades, I’ve seen many like her. I’m awed by them and I think I actually come to know Christ better by getting to know them and the Jesus they serve. I can’t spend time with them and NOT want to get involved! Thanks again for coming by!

  6. Great pictures and even though the story is difficult–a great point. I’ve shared it before, but I think that was one of the greatest gifts of being a foster parent. It became impossible for us to think of these kids as statistics or cases. They were scared, desperate kids in need of love and protection. Finding out how to best care for them was as individual as anyone else though. You need some patience and understanding. Divine wisdom always comes in handy too. :) Thanks for this!

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, if I want people to recognize me as a person–an individual–then it only makes sense that I would see them that way. And because everybody is different, it makes sense that we can’t meet their needs until we know them, in all of their uniqueness.

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