Friday, July 15, 2011

Puking Your Brains Out to the Glory of God in Ethiopia

"It's a calculated risk," says Taylor as I sip the mango juice at the restaurant alongside the highway. We're a few hours south of Addis, taking all of the Transformation Love youth on a retreat. I sip the juice with a wearied eye and set the glass down with a gentle fear. "What do you mean, 'calculated risk'?" I say. "Well, anytime you come to a foreign country you risk getting a microorganism in your system, and sipping that juice is one of those risks. It's not a huge risk, just a calculated one. It could be anything: the meat, the vegetables, touching a table, getting germs from a child. Anything."

Germs from a child. Hmmm. Well, I certainly have been hugging on a lot of little ones with HIV/AIDS who need some love and attention. Sip the juice and calculate the risk anyway. Back to the bus, and we're on our way. I feel fine.

Dinner time, and I'm just not that hungry. We've eaten breakfast, and lunch, and I haven't had much exercise. I order a plate of tebs and vegetables, but the vegetables don't look fully cooked. Bad idea. The bread and soda seem to be sitting on top of my stomach and expanding. I feel bloated. Here's Shewaye--she stuffs some injera into my mouth. It's spicy. "Do you like it?" she asks. Yes, I like it. I smile.

4 am. Everyone's asleep but this bed puts a kink in my neck and shoulder. My stomach seems so full, but I haven't eaten much. Maybe some pepto will help. Take one, and try to get some sleep. Take another. Nothing. 5 am, and dawn approaches. Animals groan and moan outside, and mosquitoes sing in my ear. Slap! Missed. Run to the toilet.

Purge. Intense pain and purging as the body clenches, forcing every ounce of energy and material out of it. Both anterior and posterior floodgates have opened. Beads of sweat form on the forehead, and more clenching, gripping, moans and groans. I'm in a vice, and the pain squeezes my bones so that the aching and shaking limit the ability to breathe. Try to catch a breath between episodes; here it comes again. In Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," one man is tortured by the weight of a heavy stone on his flat body. He won't talk. "More weight," he says. More weight crushes me, forcing out the last bit of mucus, bile or water. Nothing stays down. Episode after episode leaves me listless and limp "as a boned fish" on a bed of sweat and racked full of pain in the bones.

Now I've had enough--I begin to cry. This pain, O God. O God, please. My roommate is still asleep. He hasn't heard? I'll miss the retreat today. I'll miss being with my sponsored child. "Dude, are you ok?" as he rolls over. This retreat, of which I'd anticipated with great joy for so long will pass over me like a shadow, leaving me alone like a balloon in the sky's grey ocean on a rainy Autumn day. With no water in the system, even to urinate brings fire and burning. Do I have a UTI now? God, is this what hell is like? Prayer: I only have you, O Lord. I only have you. Don't abandon me to the grave. Let your presence be here with me. Why do you hide yourself? Be not far away. You seem so far away now. Help me. I'm sapped.

Friends come after a day of joy with the youth. "Hiwot and Shewaye--they both cried when they found you were sick. Hiwot is praying for you," says pastor Nebiyu. He comes to visit me in the evening. I'm feeling better thanks to Pam Corder's antibiotics and anti-nausea medicine. Thanks to the prayers of many, including my sponsored child. And thanks to my roomy's good counsel: this is probably just a 24-hour bug. You'll feel better in a day.

Puking your brains out to the glory of God means risking sickness in order to show love to those who have no parents, who are at risk for sexual exploitation, who have HIV/AIDS, need some encouragement and a just a good, strong hug. It's worth it. "The pressure and pain produces perseverance and is purged by the flames without interference that produces a hope in the glory of God," (Josh Garrels). Amen.


Seriously Though said...

i've had that same thing in Haiti, it does feel like hell. made me pray for the sick with more earnest and compassion. glad I stumbled upon your blog. This is a real blessing to me,

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Oh yes, I've not felt the squeeze on my body like that ever. The pain was so bad, that I actually cried.

What was even more painful was missing a whole day at a beautiful park with my daughter, my sponsored child. That hurt the most.

Beth Piehl said...

Excellent read and most appropriate on this day i cant even get out of bed. I cried too today from the vomiting after about the sixth episode.... :( i think my bug however might have more elementary origins.

Christopher Mark Van Allsburg said...
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