Two and a half weeks ago we received the fateful phone call from our tropical medicines doctor at Stanford. She had received our blood results from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. The results confirmed that both Kristi and I have had schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia). Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms. More than 200 million people are infected worldwide, and it is the second most devastating parasitic disease in the world (after malaria). Kristi and I have both taken the medication which will kill off the worm and will effectively heal us. Living in Africa does have risks, eh?
So, how are we feeling? Because Kristi has been asymptomatic to begin with, her health is relatively good. For me however, the lingering fatigue and malaise remain. We were semi-hopeful that the medication for the “schisto” would turn things around. However, it seems that my health problems may be multi-faceted. Our best guess is that I am suffering from two or three other conditions. The first condition is often referred to as Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Exhaustion. Some doctors might refer to it as Non-Addisons Hypoadrenia. Adrenal Fatigue is caused by constant stress and poor nutrition, which in turn weaken the adrenal glands. Adrenal dysfunction disrupts the body’s blood sugar metabolism, causing fatigue and weakness and causing one to feel run down. Constant stress has been our life story living in Congo. Learning a new language, trying to understand Congolese culture, and dealing with constant requests/demands have taken their toll. On the other hand, our nutrition in Congo has actually been quite good; thus, there is the probability that my immune system has been weakened by the schisto parasite and perhaps by other parasites as well, and it is therefore probable that I haven’t been able to “absorb” the nutrients of the foods we have been eating. Thus, a weakened immune system is a second condition we are seeking to address. A third condition I may be suffering from is low thyroid. My thyroid tests came back within the normal range, but on the low side. I have done some reading on low thyroid condition, I am currently doing some extra self-testing, and I will see a specialist again soon to assess the possibility of this condition.
So, the big question, “When will we return to Congo?” We recently met with our mission leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Louisville, KY. We were so encouraged by this visit. They took the time to listen, to pray, and to provide wisdom. They encouraged us to stay “State side” until I am feeling 90-100% better for a consistent period. They recognize that going back prematurely will have negative consequences. They also understand that some of the decisions we make regarding our health and emotions will have ramifications that will affect us for the rest of our lives.
Kristi and I are currently doing a fifty-two day meditation on Psalm 27, following the book A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble (2009), by Paul David Tripp. This morning’s meditation came from the final verse, verse 14:
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Right now Kristi and I are being called to wait. We are in a “holding tank,” waiting for the right time to return to Congo. While waiting never seems easy, God is giving us this time to deepen our trust in Him and to strength our faith. We believe that God has called us to serve Him in Congo, and that He will work all things out in His time. May our meditation at this time be upon God’s goodness and power, not upon our weakness and infirmity. As Abraham of old was able to hope against all hope in the promises of God (Romans 4: 18 – 21), may we also hold onto hope. “God,” writes Tripp, “will guide us on a path we could never have discovered or would never have been wise enough to choose. He will supply for us every good thing that we need to be what he has called us to be, and to do what he has called us to do in the place where he has put us.” As we consider the facts of our situation and the challenges we currently face, may we stand resolutely in the knowledge that we have a powerful, mighty God who will see us through and enable us to do the work He has called us to. With Him we will gain the victory!