Our family recently traveled to Malawi as part of a Make-A-Wish trip related to our youngest daughter’s struggle with cancer. A few more details about her wish and her journey with cancer can be found at:
Kaylee is a very special young lady! When she was asked about her one true wish, she said she wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on others. Through an amazing sequence of events, we were put in contact with a pediatric cancer doctor in Blantyre Malawi and were granted the opportunity to travel to Malawi and minister to young children who were facing many of the same struggles as Kaylee faced just three years ago.
I have become convinced there are times in our Christian journey when God chooses to do more than just show up; He decides to make Himself known in a special way!
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”
As we prepared for this trip, we really had no idea what was going to happen. We certainly had hopes, and we definitely prayed many specific prayers. But we had never been to Malawi and my wife and Kaylee had never been more than a few miles over the border of the United States. There was no organization to receive us in Malawi, only a few brief email contacts through our ministry. However, there was enough confirmation to know that God had a plan. So with more than a little family anxiety, we stepped out…and God showed off. Absolutely every part of this trip far exceeded our expectations. It was immeasurably more than all we asked or imagined!
We saw many sad situations in the cancer ward, but there was also many opportunities to bring a little joy. One of Kaylee’s desires for this trip was to learn about the special needs and challenges faced by cancer patients and doctors in Africa. This desire was completely fulfilled through Dr. Chagaluka. He took many hours out of his busy schedule to tell us about individual patients, introduce us to parents, and give us a complete tour of the pediatric units. Our daughters interviewed nurses, patients, and parents with the intent of detailing and passing on the needs.
One of the needs is simply more cancer awareness education within the local communities and with local doctors. Kaylee spoke with a young girl who has the same cancer as her. But whereas Kaylee began treatment within weeks after initial symptoms, this Malawian girl waited five long months. The mother had never heard about cancer before and the village doctor misdiagnosed her condition until the tumor growth could not be explained away. Early detection of cancer is critical and unfortunately most cancer cases seen at the hospital in Blantyre, which is the main pediatric cancer hospital in all of Malawi, are already at an advanced stage. This hospital also houses the only MRI machine in the whole country.
Another great need is related to the care givers of the cancer patients. The pediatric cancer unit contained 24 beds in one large room. Each patient had a caregiver, who might be a mother or father and perhaps a few siblings. The caregiver’s job is to take care of the basic needs of the patient, but there are no facilities of any kind for the caregivers. Most of them have traveled far to come to the hospital; it is not an option to return home at night and there are no funds for temporary lodging. The result is that the caregivers live at the hospital for the duration of treatment – anywhere from 5 weeks to several months. At night they sleep on the floor around the patient’s bed and during the day, when they are not caring for the patient, they cook their food and clean their clothes outside.
The cancer community in Africa faces many unique challenges. Kaylee hopes to compile her findings into a report and a presentation that can be given to hospitals in other parts of the world. She has already made contact with a group at Harvard Medical School who is interested in the issues of cancer around the world. We are hoping to present her findings to this group later this summer. Kaylee is also looking at starting her own non-profit ministry with a focus on cancer issues in African countries.
There is much more to tell, but I am out of space. I’m not able to tell you about Zachariah and his family who drove us everywhere, advised us in the markets, protected us when necessary, and made sure we fully experienced the culture – we are forever grateful! I’m also not able to tell you about the family from England who just happened to be driving down a deserted mountain road and saved us from a very uncomfortable walk after dark. Nor am I able to tell you about the owner of the lodge where we stayed who was moved by Kaylee’s story, visited the hospital with us, and committed to providing food for the caregivers. We could not have arranged these events if we were given complete control; we would not have even known how to pray for such a successful trip. My only explanation is God, and there are simply times He likes to do more than all we ask or imagine; there are simply times He likes to show off.
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries
**** Reading Plan ****
Jun 7 1 Kings 2:1-3:2; Acts 5:1-42; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 16:25