It might be time to step back for a minute and consider some totals in the first 10 medical clinics, 2008. We can all rejoice, that's for certain.
The Luke Commission team in Swaziland, Africa, has treated 3,503 patients, fitted 1,397 with eyeglasses, tested 537 for HIV, given 24,500 packets of medications, and distributed 1,352 Bibles to new believers.
Everything has been free to the Swazis, thanks to your donations and prayers.
"Due to the tremendous need, we're always running out of medications," Dr. Harry VanderWal said, "so the days we are not out in the bush, we order and restock and repackage from morning to night."
There's more to this medicine story. After a huge Saturday clinic when Harry and Echo, the boys, and the national team were greeted by 1,000 waiting Swazis, the supply of a main antibiotic and cough syrup was depleted.
"We buy from each of the three Swaziland pharmaceutical companies," said Echo. "We purchased all the antibiotics and cough syrup they had in stock, even though I suggested when we first arrived that we would need more."
"I did not know what we were going to do, since we had another clinic scheduled for Monday. It's times like these when we are so aware of God's presence. We went to bed Sunday night not knowing how we would get the medications needed for the next morning." she continued.
Echo again called the companies early Monday. One had just "found" stock no one knew they had. The medications were delivered by 8:30 and The Luke Commission team left for the bush at 9 a.m.
"It was a miracle," Echo said. "Nothing happens quickly in Africa. I thought we might have to go to South Africa for some medicines, which easily could have taken a week."
That day Echo treated a young woman whose dress was so thin and ragged that it covered only parts of her body. "Occasionally we have to leave the trailer full of clothes at home base," Echo said. "I knew we had nothing to give her but my favorite wrap that my aunt had made and that I was wearing over my pants.
"I knew I had to take it off and give it to her, but I didn't want to," Echo admitted. "I told her not to tell anyone, because others would want a new wrap, too."
What happened is predictable, of course. The Swazi lady was so excited that she told her mother who immediately started dancing and singing. "Thanks for taking care of my daughter," she sang.
Echo was tearfully humbled once again, she said.
Let's get to know The Luke Commission national workers, also called translators, a little better.
One night, after a 3-hour drive back to Manzini, Small Sipho (we have a Big Sipho also) asked Echo if she would drive him to his homestead, since he had recently married and missed his wife. "It wasn't too far, so we left while Harry and the boys took others home."
On the way back to town, Echo's vehicle had a flat tire. "It was the first time I have been really scared in Swaziland. It was the middle of the night, I had no money with me, and I was alone."
When someone finally reached Small Sipho by cell phone, he ran 4 kilometers in 20 minutes to reach Echo. "He knew it was dangerous for me to be out there."
Harry arrived later to help change the tire, and all ended well. "I realized how much the Swazis love and protect us," Harry said, "but also how difficult life is in their normal state."
Baby Themba (called Baby because he has taken care of the boys since they were babies, and, yes, we don't want to get him mixed up with Pharmacy Themba) cut his arm on a broken window at one school where a clinic was held.
"I stitched him up without an injection to deaden the area," Echo said. "He didn't make a peep or pull back from the needle. His skin was like leather, but he smiled during the whole procedure."
Pumi and Duzi are becoming experts at HIV testing and counseling. "I want them to have hope when I tell them they're positive," Pumi said. How does Duzi handle this matter? "My goal is that when people leave, they'll be happy." Both are achieving these results, Harry noted, though most of us would be devastated by such news.
Kathy Campbell, Bob and Sabrina Ludka arrived safely from Idaho, to offer two weeks to The Luke Commission and the Swazi people. Their luggage and needed supplies for Harry and Echo were waylaid in Johannesburg, but God intervened.
"Lost luggage in the Johannesburg airport is like a murder in the United States," said Echo. "If it's not solved within 24 hours, the success rate goes from 90% to 10%."
A new shipment of 8,000 SiSwati Bibles should arrive from South Africa this week. Please remember that your contributions are needed now more than ever.
Love in Jesus,
Janet Tuinstra for Harry and Echo and the boys