In the week before Christmas:
—I discussed terminal diagnoses with 6 patients and pointed each of them toward eternal hope.
—I helped a grieving father usher his 9 year-old daughter into eternity after a lengthy battle with cancer.
—I couldn’t resist smiling as I watched a10-year-old girl, who has been in hospital for several months with a chronic illness, and her little sister giggling as they wore red reindeer antler headbands.
—I saw a patient’s face light up with joy when she heard she was cured.
—I saw a patient in clinic who would have died without immediate surgery. He recovered in time to celebrate Christmas at home.
—I ripped a set of premature twin boys from their mother’s womb after the first twin got stuck with his leg (swollen and blue) in the birth canal.
—We welcomed a new missionary family of 6 into this wild adventure that is overseas medical missions.
—Several of our staff where away at two simultaneous haus krais (funerals) for family members.
—My heart was warmed by the gaping smile and excitement of a 5-year-old who had lost his first tooth.
—I witnessed my gardener, who was recently abandoned by her husband, sharing her work and wages with another woman who recently lost everything too.
—I sat with a TB patient, who is only skin and bones, as we sang Christmas Carols on the hospital wards on Christmas Eve.
—I felt the joy of many of our chronic patients as they received recognition and Christmas gifts from the missionaries.
—I felt the awe and wonder of a church full of worshippers singing carols by candlelight.
—My heart leapt with joy and wonder as the youth presented their stunning Christmas drama, complete with magnificent angels and dancing shepherds.
—I heard a devotional about Jesus, the Lamb of God, born into the muck and filth of an animal hovel in order to remove our muck and filth by his perfect sacrifice.
—I watched the new episode of The Chosen which discussed why not everyone is healed here on earth…and I thought about my six patients above. The 9-year-old's haus krai (mourning period) started on Christmas Day.
In the week before Christmas, I reflected on the bittersweet moments, the joy mixed with sorrow, the pain of reality mixed with the hope of future glory. My heart alternated between singing with joy and crying with grief. Life and death seemed all wrapped together this Christmas season.
Holding all of it at the same time reminded me of the journey Frodo and Sam endured in the Lord of the Rings, Two Towers:
Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine all the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you—that meant something—even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back—only they didn’t, because they were holding onto something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
As a new day and a new year dawns, I pray that you may find the good in this world that’s worth fighting for this year. That it will make all the danger and darkness worthwhile so that the sun shines all the clearer on the other side. Blessed New Year.