Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lessons From A Broken Pinky!

 Blog Author: Beth -- Ratanak's Strategic Operational Manager who is currently in Cambodia with her husband Stephen.

There's been a whole lot of talk and concern about my pinky over the last few days....by me...by others (because it’s not a normal break) - it involves the joint and it is painful and medical care was not available here to address it.  But it's no wonder throughout this that I have felt ashamed and confused.  In light of what I see day to day - how can I complain and be concerned about my pinky?!! 

I am Saskatchewan born and raised - a farm girl...and back many years ago when I was a child (of a pioneer) the culture of the prairies was non-alarmist.  If you had a cut - something was rigged up to keep it from bleeding. Period. If it got infected you poured warm salt water over it.  Still oozing a bit?  Poor peroxide over it.  It'll help you if it doesn't kill you first.  If your tooth ached too much the pliers may come out. It was called – mercy.  This “jungle medicine” has prepared me to be a missionary.  It’s one of the things I have had secret pride about.  I am tough.  Yes, I have even been identified professionally as having a “risk” tolerance of a Navy Seal.
And here I am now.  Humbled.  One ball travelling at 80 kilometers an hour spiked over a volleyball net by a girl from Newsong -  took me out of the game…with a painful injury.  I never drew attention to it…I just re-set it myself and carried on with cheering on at the sidelines.  Later I bought a splint.  Five days later I went to the Doctor.  The Doctor decided that it probably was going to be ok in time…keep it splinted, exercise it a bit so it doesn’t get stiff…and drop a few Advil as necessary. So three weeks after the injury I’m thinking that it needs an x-ray because it doesn’t feel like its healing.  X-rays taken and it’s discovered that it’s broken – with a piece of bone broken off and detached from the joint.  The doctor gets another opinion…it’s decided that I should travel to Singapore to see an Orthopedic Surgeon because it is felt that my pinky needs pins to heal. There are no Orthopedic Surgeons in Cambodia.  We’ve got insurance – shouldn’t be a problem.  Insurance replies…not covered because the injury was 4 weeks ago.  Then, it is even suggested I return to Canada early and have it fixed there.  I contacted some of my Christian physician friends in Thailand, Ethiopia and sought advice from our Missionary Health provider in Canada – sent them all the x-rays and the Doctor’s scripts.  Advice came pouring in.  I posted a face book message about my pinky.  And the upshot of all this kafuffle……my friend Cliff Tam has a friend in Singapore in her last year of medicine who is friends with an Orthopedic Surgeon.  He agreed to help me out!  All x-rays were sent and in return came brilliant advice and diagrams about how to splint my pinky so that the bones are pushed together from the top down.  A do-it-myself solution requiring a Popsicle stick, some gauze, and good tape….6 weeks in the splint without removal and periodic x-rays.  As the bones make contact there is pain but now I’ve even got some codeine to help with that.  

Is my pinky worthy of such fuss?  I thought not.  I even suggested that perhaps cutting off my pinky from the last knuckle would be a good solution. But, the Doctor here explained to me that this is not a “pinky” injury it is a “hand” injury and I need my hand...all of it, if possible.  True, I am at the keyboard for hours every day with my work and to be handicapped in this area would be difficult.

What am I learning from all of this?  

1)      Humility: 
a)      God doesn’t want us to be just tough…He wants us to be broken.  He wants to show himself strong in our weakness.  He doesn’t want us to be confident in our own strength.
b)      He doesn’t want us to be always “self-sufficient” – He wants us to be dependent on Him and on His people.  He is not interested in us “going it alone”…that’s why He gave us his Spirit and His family.
c)       Brokenness is an opportunity for Satan to demean a Christian by whispering words of accusation.  “Here you are to help the most vulnerable in society and you are concerned about your pinky finger.  Shame!”  As I’ve experienced small broken bones, I’ve also experienced the challenge of Satan to break my spirit through shame. 
d)      It’s a requirement on this field to accept that you have to take care of yourself as well as others...because without self-care, you won’t be a useful instrument in God’s hands over the long haul.  Nothing would delight Satan more than to have damaged, miserable Christians toughing it out in Cambodia….a place where serving the Lord with gladness in itself is like a healing balm.

2)      Patience:
a)      I have reflected on the speed with which one can be damaged and the patience it requires to heal.  My finger is one thing...but I think of healing in general.  I recall Pastor Dave Epstein saying “It takes an instant to be saved but a life time to heal”.  This small physical injury has been a reminder to me of emotional injuries…those that no one sees.  The fracture of the spirit can happen in an instant…when your whole world changes and you’ll wear those scars from rape, acid…for a lifetime.  God heals the broken places if we patiently rely on Him.
b)      Reaksa Himm has said...”To work in Cambodia, you need three things.  Number one…patience.  Number two…more patience.  Number three…extreme patience.”  It is becoming clearer to me that my need of patience is not partial but whole.  Concerning this injury, although I sought medical help after a few days, it took three weeks to get a sure diagnosis.  Treatment had to be prescribed out of the country because there are no specialists.  I’m learning about Cambodia.  I am also learning patience.

3)      Perseverance:
a)      Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my time of working in Cambodia on this mission would be thwarted by a small injury like a pinky finger. I had to leave no stone unturned as to treatment for this thing because there was no way I wanted to leave.  Our work is our call.  I knew in my gut that this was a test.  And, it paid off to tenaciously seek orthopedic advice some other way than travelling out of the country. 
b)      It reinforces my respect for people who work with the abused children and women in Cambodia.  In the trenches day after day – dealing with tragedy, loss, injury, brokenness - requires incredible perseverance.  This work is not for sissies.  It will wear you down and maybe ruin you (in a good way). It requires a tenacious spirit and full reliance on God. 

4)      Thanksgiving:
a)      Such a small injury and so many lessons!
b)      I have in the world-wide community of believers, brothers and sisters who care…who pray…and think up solutions for my problem.   What a force!
c)       I realize that those same believers who care for me are also praying for those in Cambodia that Ratanak has the privilege of serving.
d)      That God has placed His hand of protection on us.
e)      That I can continue to stay on here and serve Cambodia for the Lord with passion.
f)       Joy for all the ways I see the Lord has provided for me and taught me.
g)      That my call has been reinforced through some challenging circumstances.

This injury is serving me well.