Unconditional Love

Thank you for teaching me a little more about it.

"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21



Darkness at Noon


I just read Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, and when I finished the last sentence, I wept.

Never has the philosophy of the world seemed so utterly dark, and never has the truth of Jesus shone so brightly.

I resolve to make my life count; to live and die pursuing the only worthy objective in the world.

Life must have meaning, else all is darkness.



Undeserved Blessings

Friends, thank you. Thank you for calling me early in the morning to go running with you, even after I've said no the past four times you asked. Thank you for remembering my birthday, even after I forgot yours. Thank you for asking me how my day is, even when I'm scowling. Thank you for writing me thank you cards, and cheery notes, and sending uplifting emails when I'm having a rough time. Thank you for the invitations to your houses and apartments, even though I don't reciprocate. Thank you for making time for me, even when I'm too busy to listen to you. Thank you for bringing me food when you know I don't have time to eat supper. Thank you for bringing me things I've forgotten. Thank you for listening when I want to talk, and talking when I don't. Thank you for encouraging me, for smiling at me, for rebuking me, for playing ultimate frisbee with me, for singing with me, for praying for me. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for sharing Jesus with me. Thank you.



Educate Truth

Check it out - quality website about the La Sierra evolution controversy.



The Adamist

An essay I wrote for Expository Writing, in the style of G. K. Chesterton--specifically "The Methuselahite."

I read an amusing story a while ago that illustrates a central notion in modern morality. A man was imbibing merrily at a bar one evening when he glanced over at the patron seated next to him and noticed, under an upraised glass, a clerical collar. Now to be sure, one finds all sorts in a bar, drinking being, like many vices, no respecter of persons. But the man certainly hadn’t expected to find a minister there. Understandably reluctant to discuss this seemingly incongruous behavior, yet filled with curiosity, the man hesitated for a few moments before greeting his neighbor and asking awkwardly if he was actually a member of the clergy. “Why yes, I am an Adamist minister,” the stranger replied. Confused by this plain admission, the man asked why he was at a bar if he professed to be a minister. The Adamist responded, “I’m doing research for a sermon I’m writing on the evils of strong drink.”

In the interests of complete disclosure, I must confess that I have altered this account in one particular. The minister did not claim Adamism as his professed religion. But insofar as he was demonstrating the same fallacy for which Adam fell in the Garden, and because I do not intend to dispute with a particular religion, but instead with a particular philosophy, I have settled on the designation Adamism.

Now, taking this as an illustration of the prevailing moral sentiment, that answer of that minister says more than a hundred truckloads of movies and TV shows and magazines and popular songs today. All of society seems to be endeavoring to entice us with their particular version of contemporary morality, and yet this one phrase preempts them all. Just as Alexander sliced through the Gordian knot, so the words of this Adamist expose the inherent contradiction at the heart of popular morality.

Now when I am visited by an envoy of contemporary thought (and there is always a very large crowd waiting to accost me) I shall not be bamboozled by their sophisticated veneer. “In a classic tale about how crime doesn’t pay,” one begins, “our heroes steal the stolen gold back from the thieves . . .” “Stop, Adamist,” I shall say sharply, “I know who you are.” “Neo,” shouts another “represents a messianic figure who fights for . . .” “Oh no you don’t,” I shall interject, “there’s the door.” A third figure, dreadlocks flying, rushes in—“In his valiant struggle against the oppressive regime, our patriotic freedom fighter, V, uses terrorist tactics . . . ” “Hail, Adamist,” I will cry, and matching his frantic gesticulations with my own, I shall kindly bid him farewell. “I am not exactly sure what these lyrics mean,” begins the fourth, “but they contain some profound ideas, . . .” “You might not, but I do,” I shall say. “You’re writing a temperance sermon in a bar, and I will not listen any longer!”

Most contemporary morality is a merely the mixture of some constant good with some new bad. There have been theorists who polluted faith with intolerance, and called it the Defense of the Faith. There have been theorists who contaminated rationality with a contempt for the Scriptures and called it a Scientific Revolution. And we have heard of theorists who concocted that horrid brew combining honest scientific observations with a disavowal of Divinity and called it Naturalistic Evolution. It was only a matter of time before some brave society should stop beating around the bush and get straight to the mixing of plain evil with good. And in this vacuum of moral ambiguity, with what weapons shall we fight? “We must learn the value of filth before we can truly appreciate beauty,” says the artist framing a urinal. “I must know what slop really is before I can create a delectable dessert,” comes the voice of the chef from atop the compost pile. “How could I ever learn to be a successful pilot if I didn’t know how to crash,” queries the man emerging from the rubble of a 747. It would be quite as easy to defend an evil act as it was to call the inquisitor a Defender of the Faith or the atheist a progressive. And indeed, this very thing is happening with great frequency throughout our society today. People everywhere proclaim that they are better able to distinguish right by virtue of their wide exposure to wrong. But unfortunately, they aren’t.

For indeed, the weakness of this philosophy may be found in its blatant disregard for that great principle of the mind: by beholding, we become changed. Therefore, the seeds of its ultimate failure are evident in its very ambitions. As a matter of fact, no men are worse judges of morality than Adamists. The neglected paradox of morality is that the more a man knows of goodness, the better he is at discriminating between good and evil. Surely you have experienced the fallacy of Adamism in real life. For there is one riddle in that case which cannot easily be cleared up. What parishioner would be converted by a sermon about the evils of alcohol when he had been drinking with the minister in the bar the night before?

(c) Joel Kurtz, 2009



Toleration: A Two-Edged Sword


This also originated as an expository writing assignment--isn't it great that I can justify blogging for class?

Toleration is a funny concept great idea. Supposedly it means the act of acknowledging the right of someone else to be different. But if you take this concept to its logical end, you’ll understand how ludicrous wonderful it really is. Let’s say Joe wants to play loud music right outside my room. If I’m a tolerant guy, then I should let him do that, right? And when Ulrikke decides she needs to practice her axe-throwing skills in living room, then I should try to be understanding of our innate differences. Then when she gets bored with my car and starts hurling axes at me, I should just duck tolerantly, right? Can you see how this might not be is such a wonderful concept.

“No, you’ve completely misrepresented toleration!” What’s that? I haven’t presented both sides fairly? Hey, it’s my post, right? But because I'm tolerant, we’ll look at the other side.

Proponents of toleration would say that the above scenarios aren’t fair, because they ignore the fact that Joe and Ulrikke should be tolerant too. Ideally, Joe would realize that I preferred not to have loud music played next to my room and demonstrate toleration by desisting. Ulrikke should be tolerant of my desire not to have to duck flying axes in my living room. Then, we’ll all be tolerant together and we’ll each be tolerant of every other and nobody will be hurt by another’s intolerance.

Is that the way it works? No, obviously our world does not function in this utopian state of idealistic toleration. You can probably call to mind hundreds of instances of intolerance—someone cutting in line ahead of you, living next to a loud roommate, getting a parking ticket, having to abide by a dress code, getting a poor grade on a paper, being shushed in church, being told to turn your music down, etc. Yep, our world is chock full of a lack of tolerance.

You still don’t like my examples? What’s wrong with them now? Why are you feeling uncomfortable?

I’ll tell you why—because these are all examples of people being intolerant to you. It’s a lot harder to think of times when you’ve been intolerant to others than to recall times when you’ve been wronged. And that’s the problem with great thing about the doctrine of toleration. If you’ve been wronged, you can cry ‘intolerance,’ and if someone complains about your actions, just tell them to look up the meaning of the word ‘tolerance.’ It’s diabolical perfect!

Why I Like Mornings

Jonathan Gerrans, Fall '07.

I like the morning because it’s when the Sun shows up. Everything is dark at first—dark and quiet. Then a bird trills, and you realize that the landscape has begun to brighten. More birds begin to sing and there’s this overwhelming sense of excitement. You can almost smell the expectancy in the air.

Suddenly, it happens. A ray of light only eight and a half minutes old streaks over the hill and crashes straight into your face. The moment when the when the door of darkness cracks open and the brightness beams through is the most glorious experience of the day—maybe even of the century. You realize that you have been waiting for this moment all your life without even knowing it. The day is born, the world is new, and you were there to see it happen!

And then your roommate’s alarm goes off and fluorescent light sprays across the room; you remember that you have a test today and a paper to write, and that you really ought to fold your laundry. But somehow, the prospective is not as dreary as it should be. Because it’s morning and the Sun showed up.


my name is Joel, and I’m a senior at Southern Adventist University.

It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, I thought an introduction/explanation might be a good idea.

Since last time I have: written an awful lot, read a whole lot more, and learned even more than that, ran in a triathlon, passed my senior oral exam, learned Mendelssohn’s 5th symphony, and received an invitation to Google Wave, among other things.

I have not: exercised very much, spent much time with my friends, had regular meals, been bored, been overwhelmed—barely.

I look forward to a time when I can post more regularly, but that time is not now. Thanks for your patience and your prayers.



Brief Update

It's been a long time since I've posted anything of significance. I'm still around, just pretty busy. Camp ended, then we moved to Massachusetts, then Christy and I came back to Southern, and now I'm studying like crazy for my Senior Oral History Exam. I'll be back from that after the 15th of September--if you see me before then, tell me to go study!



Caritas in Veritate

So, the Pope recently issued a long (like 100 pages) encyclical, section 67 of which contains the following noteworthy paragraph (emphasis original):

In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect[146] and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good[147], and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights[148]. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization[149]. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.

Please understand that I am not the type of person to disseminate wild rumors needlessly... I started reading the encyclical (and I still haven't finished the whole thing yet) for the very purpose of dispelling what I figured was one of those rumors. I'm not going to draw any conclusions for you, and it's probably not time to run for the hills yet, but it's definitely something to pay attention to.

In other news, I was the subject of a very funny blog by a fellow Cherokee native, Francis Kelly. Check it out!



Part 3: A Puzzle Solved!

*Warning, while some parts of the following blog are completely true, others might be considered farcical. Please read at your own risk!

Last December, while exploring off the tourist path, in Lalibela, an ancient complex of underground churches in northern Ethiopia, I came across a deep chasm in the side of a mountain. I managed to find a way down into the crack, and followed it as it wound through the earth. Suddenly, around a corner, I came face to face with a group of people. With no chance of an unnoticed retreat, I made a flash decision to advance and attempt to befriend the strangely-appareled natives. This approach paid off, and they invited me to have tea and chat with them, before pressing a small, wrinkled piece of paper into my hand. I thanked them and made good my escape, up the chasm.

Once safely away, secreted in an abandoned tunnel in another part of the complex, I paused and took a moment to examine the paper. To my surprise, it appeared to be an ancient map! "Hmm," I pondered, "those people must have been archaeologists, (that would explain the funny hats) and perhaps they discovered this paper, but needed to hide it from their unscrupulous overseers (the ones who secretly snapped the shot posted above!)" I knew that there was a well-known legend that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden somewhere in Ethiopia. I had to keep that paper safe!

Fortunately, I managed to hide the scrap of paper in my belongings well enough to elude said searchers' scrutiny, and escaped with the map. Unfortunately, with all the commotion of the next few days, I completely forgot where I had hidden the map! "Oh well," I mused, "perhaps it was all for the best."

I moved on to other things, and it wasn't until recently that the map came back into prominence. The other day, as I was sorting through some of my memorabilia from Ethiopia, I happened upon an unused tube of toothpaste. While applying some of the contents to my toothbrush, I suddenly remembered where I'd hidden the map! I'd stuffed it into an empty jar of Marmite, knowing that no self-respecting thief would attempt to steal Marmite!

I dug it out, and wonder upon wonders, it WAS a map. But as I studied its contours closely, in conjunction with perusing Google Maps, I couldn't find any similarities between the map and the Ethiopian landscape. Finally, giving it up for a lost cause, I sat back in my chair and began eating a peach, hoping somehow to assuage my lack of progress.

Perhaps due to an fugacious anomaly in the Earth's gravitational field, my peach suddenly tumbled out of my hand, bounced off my keyboard, and landed on the scrap of paper. This caused the Google Maps viewing window to oscillate wildly before coming to rest with the Northeastern portion of the United States in focus. I quickly cleaned up the mess on the keyboard and threw the crazy peach away. I would have thought nothing more of the matter, except that while cleaning off the the map, I noticed that some hitherto invisible words were scrawled on the paper. "T..yer Ho... near Was..acc...ond in S.....ancas... The peach juice must have been the catalyst to bring out the invisible ink!

I puzzled over this cryptic phrase for a while longer, and again, ran headlong into complete failure. I looked back to my computer screen and happened to see that the browser window was directly over a little place called Washaccum Pond, near South Lancaster, Massachusetts. "Weird name," I thought.

Thinking nothing of it, I proceeded to read the news on my iGoogle page, which included a story from the Adventist News Network (an RSS feed I follow) about a commemoration of some historic building, the Thayer House, also in Massachusetts. The article mentioned something about how Norman Wendth, the president of Atlantic Union College was trying to trace the descendents of the Thayer family. "We've gotten as far as the MacDonald family, before losing the trail," he was quoted as saying. "Please contact me if you have any more information about this. There's a possibility that their descendants might have some claim to the Thayer Mansion, and we're willing to arrange a settlement to ensure that this historic building stays in the hands of the College." "That's interesting, my grandmother was a MacDonald before she got married," I pondered, before continuing my browsing.

A few weeks later, I received an official-looking envelope in the mail, with a surprising offer. Apparently the physics teacher at AUC had been in contact with Dr. Kuhlman, a physics professor at Southern who I've worked for in the past. He, remembering that I lived "somewhere up there," had recommended my name to help teach the physics labs at AUC during the summer!

I already have a job for the summer (Camp Cherokee), so I wrote him an email explaining that I couldn't accept the position. Undeterred, he replied with an eloquent argument for me to come work with him--culminating, in a mad flight of fancy, with the ridiculous notion that I might just find the love of my life while at Atlantic Union College. "Poppycock," I exclaimed. "This guy's even more eccentric than Dr. Kuhlman! Besides, I'd be teaching physics, not chemistry!"

Well, to make a long story longer, the next day, Dad informed the family that he had accepted a position at AUC, as Comptroller, and that we were going to be moving there sometime this summer. "Hmm," I mused, "this AUC stuff is starting to get a little over the top! I wonder what I'll find when we get there... "

??? _

Excelsior! :)


Joel's Necessity Network... Part 1

I would like to thank Barry for the thought-provoking entry on his blog and my mother for an insightful conversation on the same topic, which sparked the following cogitations. Oh, and, as I just noticed, Barry recently posted a blog on a similar subject, but with a slightly different perspective. You should read it as well ☺

Joel’s Necessity Network: An Unnecessary—But Hopefully Useful—Theory

Feeling that it could be constructive to establish some sort of a framework from which to discuss the concepts of necessary and unnecessary, I have come up with the following theory to determine what is really necessary, and along the way:
  1. the purpose of life, and
  2. what is required for fulfilling that purpose.
This, hopefully, will then enable a more informed and productive discussion regarding necessary/unnecessary items.

Before I begin in earnest, I want to get one thing out of the way: the answer to the very basic question, “necessary for what?” Necessary for fulfillment, happiness, and peace while alive on Earth, and eternal life, post-Earth.

Okay, first I posit that there is just one fundamental necessity. There are subsequent and dependent necessities, but everything is based on this cornerstone. Necessary #1 is a saving, love relationship with Jesus Christ. This might seem obvious, or simplistic, but I believe it is all that is truly necessary in life.

As long as one has this necessity, even lack of access to such essentials as food, water, shelter, or anything else is not a serious problem in the grand scheme of things. You can still be assured of fulfillment in this life (however short it is) and in the Hereafter. Consider the thief on the cross; he didn’t have any of the so-called essentials, but he did gain fulfillment and entrance into eternity by way of this simple key.

But before you accuse me of advocating a sadhu-type existence; there is a second, dependent, but no less important, point. Once one has entered into a saving, love relationship with Jesus, and assuming that the prospect of continued life is relatively positive, then something else becomes necessary. Accepting Jesus as your Savior means accepting His commission. Necessary #2 is to bring others into a saving, love relationship with Jesus. If God grants us an extended existence on Earth, our “transcendent purpose” becomes to be fishers of men. That’s it. That is our purpose in life!

These first two Necessaries correspond exactly with the two commandments Jesus classified as being of utmost importance when questioned by the truth-seeking scribe. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mt. 12:30-31) If we truly loved our neighbor, wouldn’t our utmost wish for them be to see them in Heaven?

When you have those two necessities, then a third becomes applicable. Necessary #3 is wisely managing the resources God has given us to fulfill our commission in Necessary #2. These resources include such things as time, money and other assets, talents and abilities, health (physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional), heritage, education, and relationships. This is where everything else comes into the picture. These are things God has given to each of us, for the purpose of bringing other people into the Kingdom. They are not merely for our enjoyment (although that is an undeniable aspect); they are tools, provided to be used for a specific task.

This concept is illustrated in the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25. The master gave his servants resources to invest for the purpose of earning a good return. Likewise, our Master has entrusted us with His possessions—His wealth, His creativity, even His life—to gain a bountiful harvest.

-Parenthetical Remark: Granted, this parable, and much of my argument only emphasize one aspect of God’s relationship with us and there are many other facets, which are ignored to our detriment! Christ calls us His children, His people, His body, even His bride! These elements are equally true and equally worthy of emphasis, I’m just working on the puzzle from a purely practical, business-minded perspective, because that’s my strength.

Perhaps a diagram would be helpful at this point.

As you can see, each successive level is built upon the ones below it, and is hence untenable by itself.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Unpacking Necessary #3 will have to be the subject of another blog.


Puzzle: Part 2

Okay, so the answer of the first puzzle has been discovered. The picture is indeed of a tree in South Lancaster, MA, on the campus of Atlantic Union College.

The second part of the puzzle is a little more straight-forward: why did I post a picture of AUC when I'm registered for classes at SAU?


A Few Things More

I'm adding a resource page. This page will basically be a place for me to store the text of news items I find interesting, as well as facilitating any discussion that happens to spring from the reading thereof. If you're interested in seeing what interests me, feel free to check in from time to time. Think of it as kind of my personal Drudge Report :)



A Puzzle

Can you tell me where this is?
If you figure it out, then I'll post the second part of the puzzle.


My First Ultra

On Sunday, Christy, Barry, and I participated in the 4th annual Pineland Farms Trail Challenge, in the 25k, 50 mile, and 50k races, respectively. Amazingly enough, we were all able to finish (although I had had my doubts, considering that I'd sprained my ankle pretty badly five days prior to the race), and even do decently well. The human body is quite an amazing creation!

The course consisted of a 15.5 mile loop through woods and fields--quite a scenic trail. Barry started his 50 miles, or a little over three loops at 6:00 am, I started the two loop, 50k race at 8:00 am, and Christy ran the 25k loop once, starting at 10:00 am. The weather was about perfect, in the 60s and overcast most of the time, gradually turning into a drizzle, and then a decent rainstorm around 12:30, with the sun reappearing around 2:30.

Christy finished strongly in 2 hours 22 minutes, with a 9:10 mile pace, I staggered across the finish line about an hour later for a total time of 5 hours 20 minutes and a 10:20 pace, and Barry cruised across the finish line after a grueling 10 hours and 40 minutes, to finish 50 miles at an average pace of 12:49 per mile.

Although during the race I made several firm promises to myself never to attempt such a foolish venture again, I've since decided that it really was quite satisfying to run that far, and perhaps I I could even do better with more training. And that silver cowbell is pretty cool! Thanks to the Howes for their hospitality, Barry for your inspiration, and Christy for helping me walk back to the car!



Simple Abundance

I was motivated to write this post after looking at your blogs and thinking, "I wish they would update their blogs more often!" . . . .

Well, I'm home now. I haven't had any trouble adjusting really. In a sense, it's like I just woke up from a nine-month-long dream. I can still drive American-style. I wasn't swamped by the overwhelming swell of people at Southern's graduation (although there were a few moments of terror right at the beginning of the weekend!) And I've figured out what to do on the internet other than just checking my email (read people's blogs on the no-longer-blocked blogspot!)

Here at home I've been busy catching up on books I haven't seen in a while, chatting with my friends, and working around the house. I've definitely enjoyed using reliable internet, being able to pick up the phone and call most anybody, and eating a huge variety of delicious food. But something inside me has changed.

One of the things I've learned from my time in Gimbie is that more isn't always more. I actually kind of miss the slow, spotty internet (more time with real people) and the simplicity and joy of having plain food most of the time (it really made the weekends, when we cooked for ourselves, more enjoyable.) Sometimes excessive variety can get monotonous.

I want my life to be simple, because I think that's when it's truly abundant.


P.S. Have suggestions about how to live life simply? Let me know!

A Few Farewell Photos

Gamachis and Mulisa (Assistants Extraordinaires)

Woginesh and Birassa (Accounting Clerk and Purchasing Officer)

Jonah and a Big Red Ball

Keressa (Head of Pharmacy)

Mark Squires (COO)

Pink and Orange Flowers

Tadese (Head Cashier)

Jirata and Damaqa

Sister Consuela and Sister Susie



Going Home

Going Home

I'm going home soon!
Just a little under two weeks now.
I'm trying not to think about it very much...

Last Saturday night the hospital had a farewell party for me and a few
other volunteers who are leaving soon. I hear it was a really nice
event, with speeches and games and food. I wasn't there because I had
to drive to Addis at the last minute, Friday morning. They even
presented Shaunda with a nice native costume for me--somewhat baggy,
but nice:)

Now the employees know that I'm going soon, and they've been coming to
talk to me. Some to tell me how much they've appreciated having me
here. Some just to ask (politely) for money before I leave. But all
of them seem genuinely sad that I'm going.

I'm going to miss my friends. Firomsa, the faithful gardener.
Alemayehu, our loyal head guard. Tamiru, the slow, cheerful cleaner.
Belaynesh, my shy, diligent billing officer. Tadese, the meticulous,
stickler-for-the-rules cashier. Mulisa, cheerful, competent,
heart-of-gold administrative assistant. And Tinsay, and Teka, and
ticklish, wistful Tsegaye, and Yohannes (both of them, actually) and
Birassa, and Gamachis, and on and on...

And that list doesn't even include any of the expat volunteers!! My
housemates and death-march pals and fellow strategists, cooking
buddies and juice-bar attendees, painting partners and Hogan's Hero
watchers, Rook players and egg sandwich cookers, late night office
workers and early morning running friends... Renée and Shaunda and
Mark and Trudy and Jonah and Paul and Petra and Stephanie and Stevie
and Zach and Alicia and Allana and Monica and Ansley and Kristin.

It's been a good eight months, and I'm happy to be going home to see
my family again. And I'm sad to be leaving home and departing from my
new family.

Thank you God, for new experiences and new friends. Thank you for
African sunrises, for ripe mangos and pesky monkeys, for the perfume
of Eucalyptus trees while I pant up the steep hills in the morning.

Please come soon so I won't have to say goodbye any more.






Today I drove a girl home from the hospital. Her family wanted her to
die at home. I drove the green truck very carefully, trying to avoid
as many of the bumps as possible. Every so often her family and the
staff who had come to help with the stretcher and try to provide
comfort had to get out so I could drive across a stick bridge or make
it up a steep hill. I did my best, but she still cried out in pain.

Seventeen-year old Asaitu didn't know that by choosing to become
intimately involved with her friend would lead to pregnancy. Trying to
salvage her reputation and get rid of her "problem," she decided to
try to self-abort with a stick. She had no clue about the
consequences of these decisions. How could she have predicted that
she would get an infection, that her left leg would become gangrenous
and have to be cut off at the groin, and that the infection would
spread to her other leg, sealing her fate?

Sleeping with her boyfriend and then having an abortion; obviously bad
decisions, but still, two mistakes and now she has to die? Why does
she have to bear the brunt of her choices, and so many other people
don't? I've sinned before, and I'm still alive; why her? These are
the thoughts that whirl in my mind as I grip the steering wheel
tightly, trying, by sheer determination to keep from jarring the
stretcher balanced on the bed of the truck.

Later, at her house, I tried to think of a scripture to read. All I
could think of was "Even though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." Scott
Barlow, the hospital matron, shared about the hope we have in Jesus,
and then prayed and annointed her. A few Ormos also gave little
sermonettes while the flies gathered and the sweat dripped from our

Most of the people who rode back to Gimbie with us weren't notably
sad. In fact, one boy asked me if I was all right. Life is
difficult, he said. Yes, I guess so.

So, I keep living, meeting my own challenges, making my own poor
choices. I don't often think about the consequences of my decisions.
I usually just do whatever seems best to me, given the information I

So did she...

Recent Clinic Trip

Recent Clinic Trip
On Wednesday, Shaunda, Renée, and I, along with Priscilla, the new
doctor from Argentina and a dentist, druggist, and eyeglass prescriber
from the hospital, and Ashiber, the driver, left in the ambulance to
go visit the four clinics west of the hospital. We stopped at Inango,
Dalati, and Guliso clinics in quick succession. I helped Shaunda do
payroll briefly, but spent most of my time during the stops fixing
latrine doors. I rigged up a couple different several latches and
reattached a door that was falling off the frame. Then we drove three
hours past Guliso and got to Dembi Dollo, where we spent the night.
The next day we drove to Mugi and started seeing patients. Priscilla
worked really hard; in spite of the delay caused by having to
translate everything from either Amharic or Oromifa into English, and
then into Spanish, and then vice versa, she still saw about 90
patients in a day and a half. Tsegaye, the dentist, also stayed
pretty busy, but he wasn't nearly as popular as Yohannes, the
maintenance man turned eye glasses dispenser. Yohannes worked with
Dr. Hans, the German eye guy who was here for a while, and now he's
learned enough to dispense the spare glasses we have by himself.
Everybody crowded around him and the eyechart, and he pulled in a lot
of the money we made on the trip, selling bifocals for $5.50 and
regular glasses for $3.60. I helped Shaunda with inventory, and
Yohannes with the glasses, and measured the well behind the clinic so
we can find out if it's worthwhile to put in a pump to get running
water (it's not, unfortunately; there's only three feet of water in
the bottom of a fifty foot well.)
Thursday afternoon Shaunda and I went to talk with Merdassa, a SDA
nurse who used to work for the hospital, and who has now opened up his
own competing clinic. Last time Shaunda was there, he expressed a
desire to work for the hospital again. The benefits when
self-employed apparently don't measure up to to those we offer. We
were hoping that we could talk him into taking over the management of
the clinic in Mugi, since he's familiar with the place and seems
reasonably competent and trustworthy. However, when we went and
talked with him, he told us that he was sick and tired of Mugi, and
that he was leaving whether we hired him or not. So, we told him we'd
get back to him. I think he would be an asset to the hospital, but
hiring somebody here is a very momentuous decision, because it's very
nearly an irreversible decision.
Thursday night the girls slept in a tent behind the clinic and I slept
in the ambulance. Ivan's Christmas present finally arrived, so we
watched two episodes of Hogan's Heros before retiring :D Friday we
left around 2:30 and drove back to Dembi Dollo, where Shaunda and I
stopped off at the Zonal Health Office. We'd made an appointment when
we came through on Wednesday, but the guy told us no one was there.
Fortunately we persisted, and he finally went and found the assistant
director. We had a good visit with him, basically just explaining
that Mugi clinic was in pretty poor shape financially and that among
the options we were considering was closing the clinic. Initially he
was opposed to this, but when we showed him the financial statements
and other documents, he agreed that it didn't make much sense to
operate a clinic that was losing 3000 birr per month. We haven't
given up completely yet, but we've learned that doing things slowly,
and laying a paper trail is essential when working with anything
involved with the government.
We met up with everyone else and waited for a couple hours while
Ashebir got a two tires fixed on the ambulance. Fortunately we were
able to make good use of our spare time teaching Priscilla how to play
Seven Up, Seven Down, an essential part of the Gimbie experience ;)
By 6:15 the tires were finally fixed (or so we thought), and we
started on the remaining 4.5 hour drive back.
At 10:30, as we were just getting to the paved road outside of Gimbie,
both front tires went flat. This stumped us at first, because we only
had one spare (and the steel belts were showing quite prominently).
But we ended up making do by putting the threadbare spare on one side
and switching the other flat with one of the good tires from the rear
duals. Finally, by 12:30 am, we were on our way again, just in time
to meet Mark Squires and Gadisa and Tinsaye, who had gallantly come to
rescue us. Pity they hadn't arrived in time to help with our
complicated sequence of raising and lowering the ambulance with a
jury-rigged jack handle!
Anyway, we all got back safely, the ambulance suffered no permanent
damage, three latrine doors are fixed, the government feels like
they're in the loop, and most importantly, there are now lots of
satisfied Mugians, with new glasses, fewer teeth, and hopefully, in
better health:)