What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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 numbers 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 that 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.”

And never have truer words been spoken.  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.

For me, it always comes back to the Brooke Fraser song, Albertine:

Now that I have seen, I am responsible
Faith without deeds is dead…

Now that I have held you in my own arms,

I cannot let go…

I am on a plane across a distant sea
But I carry you in me…

I will tell the world,

I will tell them where I’ve been…
I will keep my word…
I will tell them, Albertine.

They are real. And they are counting on us. We’re responsible.

Oh, Lord, let my heart be broken by the things that break Your heart. But let me not stop there. Let me walk with my broken heart, into the broken world, and change lives through the power and shed blood of Christ.

Thanks for coming along on today’s discussion of Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel. Please feel free to stay and comment, whether you’ve read along or not. Your input is always welcome! Please go visit Connecting to Impact, the site of my dear friend and amazing co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen. See what he has to say and then, if you’ve written your own response to Chapter 10, he’ll have a link widget there where you can link up. As always, I hope this has been a blessing and a challenge to you! Thank you for your participation!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Moving…

    May it engender more than an emotional response. May it be a catalyst for love. May it be a call to action.

    Let’s notice. Let’s move. Let’s do what we can, when we can, wherever we can. We are able and needed to share His love, His grace, and His care.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, I felt a little bad for not pulling more out of the book this week… But at the same time, I felt that not sharing this experience would be a mistake. Thanks for coming by!

  3. Sharing this experience is NO mistake…you gave a vital peek into a situation that we (I) have little exposure to. Thank you Sarah, may stories about real people move our hearts to compassion and action.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Jay, I’m so glad that my stories struck a chord in you. They’re hard to tell, but how can we not tell them? And how can we hear them and do nothing? Thanks for coming by!

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