Suffering - a Tale of Two People
He had a habit of doing this. Time management and planning ahead have different meanings in Ethiopia, and Dr Mesghina’s skills were finely honed. He jumped up at the end of one of our meetings last October, headed to the front and announced that our group would be having a weekend retreat before Christmas and that “Dr Phil will be doing the talks”. This was the first anyone – the group, the leadership and especially Dr Phil – had heard of this plan.
I grabbed Dr Mesghina after the meeting and gently admonished him that foreigners like me need to be asked first, before it is publicly announced that we will be doing something. He smiled blithely. "This is Ethiopia” he said. Fortunately for my already full schedule, it never came to fruition.
My involvement at the International Evangelical Church (IEC) in teaching, preaching (on one occasion) and on the board of elders is due in no small part to Dr Mesghina’s advocacy, encouragement and support. He gave Chris and I a copy of his book about his homeland of Eritrea and the suffering he had experienced and witnessed there. He had seen his closest friends killed in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia; he had lived in fear for his life; had to flee his own country; he knew what it meant to be a refugee and an exile, and to lose all he had. After finding a role in a university in the USA for 25 years and earning a doctorate in cultural anthropology he would regularly take teams to visit and minister to Eritreans in refugee camps. His recent role in IEC supporting the outreach ministry was punctuated by visits to his own displaced people. A man of great faith, great influence, and a great desire for everyone to hear about Jesus.
On Tuesday evening, Dr Mesghina died.
Recent trips to hospitals and doctors had not revealed a cause for his weakness, weight loss and apparent rapid ageing. He was planning (under pressure from friends and family) to travel to the USA in the near future for further investigation, but he unexpectedly collapsed on Tuesday evening and died shortly afterwards.
Burial here happens within 24 hours of death, so Tigist and I attended the rapidly-arranged funeral at IEC on Wednesday afternoon. The hearse was a black minivan, adorned with wreaths and attended by several men in almost military uniform. They carried the coffin into the church accompanied by unrestrained mourning and weeping from the close family. After a sensitively conducted service that was ultimately uplifting despite the great sorrow we all felt, I was left reflecting on a life born out of great suffering now suddenly ended, leaving grief and anguish in its wake. In coming months IEC in general and our Adult Bible Fellowship group in particular will no doubt reflect on and ponder the great things Dr Mesghina said, did and achieved. But for now, we will sorely miss him.
Standing with a group of people around Ruth’s bed in her private room in the Korean Hospital and praying for her with a big lump in my throat was hard. Chris’s lovely young teaching assistant, so attentive to her work, so happy and smiley, lay there semi-conscious with a fractured skull and a bruised brain. The details of the accident three days before were vague and unreliable. What was certain was that her head had hit the ground very hard in the course of a road traffic accident and she had been brought here after her phone had been used to contact her friends and colleagues.
Ruth was being cared for as best as one could expect in this city, and we met her sister in the hospital for the first time. Ruth lives alone. She is an orphan who after a difficult childhood and some time in Beirut came back to Ethiopia to do child care and then to work at Bingham as a teaching assistant. What will happen to her if she doesn’t fully recover? What if she needs on-going care? If I was her GP in the UK I would be helping to arrange community nursing, social support, perhaps residential care as well as medical monitoring. None of that exists here. The future looked very uncertain.
Since the accident Chris has managed her class with help from a variety of other staff and parents, but misses Ruth deeply. They have a great relationship and Ruth has flourished under Chris’s mentorship. As always finding out hard facts here is very difficult, as rumour and misinformation fly around from all sorts of sources. When I heard that Ruth may be discharged from hospital soon (it’s very expensive to stay there) my senior nurse and I decided to visit again to try to talk to the consultant caring for her and to work out what we needed to try to get into place to support her when she goes home.
On Thursday lunchtime sister Aster and I drove over to the hospital and after several minutes trying unsuccessfully to find the doctor, we went up to Ruth’s room on the 4th floor to receive a huge surprise. Ruth was awake, alert, sitting on the couch, smiling and looking much more like her old self. She recognised us, could walk unsteadily and was able to talk in both English and Amharic. Her left eye wanders, and her strength is lacking, but in the 10 days since we last saw her there had been an extraordinary degree of progress. Her sister was there and was prepared to have Ruth in her home as her recovery progresses.
Ruth was discharged to her sister’s place later that day. If all goes well and the recovery continues maybe several weeks will see her back at work where she belongs. Many thanks to all those who have been praying for Ruth.
Chris wrote up Ruth’s story a couple of years ago – see this post.