- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 25 October 2014 25 October 2014
The morning began with an early breakfast of pastries and devotions prior to a timely departure for the day. We said farewell to the Lutheran Hospital and guest house and then we took a three-hour drive back towards Antananarivo to find our clinic for the day.
We again drove through agricultural countryside, where we saw workers farming by hand out in their rice, potato and wheat fields. It continues to amaze me how labor-intense their work is here in Madagascar. They hoe and plow by hand in their fields and use machetes to cut wheat and then bag it by hand. Some fields have oxen or zebu pulling plows and carts, but even this is very hard work! We were able to follow the river for a while today on the drive too. This offered majestic views as well as observations of laundry day here in Madagascar. The villagers wash their clothes in the rivers and then lay them out on the banks or on bushes to dry. Can you imagine washing your clothes in this manner? I doubt those clothes end up being too clean! There were railway tracks throughout the countryside as well, but the train is no longer operating. The French set up the train system, but the Malagasy did not keep up the equipment, so it is no longer in working order.
We arrived at our clinic in Ambatofotsy around 10:30 AM. There was a crowd of people waiting for us again outside of the church. I feel that they stare in amazement as we pull up. I would love to know what they are thinking. I am not certain how often they see Caucasian people here in Madagascar, especially in the smaller villages. I also assume they are waiting in anticipation for medical care that is hard to come by. The average Malagasy person earns $1–$2 each day. These minimal earnings allow for very little “extra” money to pay for medical care. Daily needs such as food are prioritized over medical care. Our Mercy Medical Team clinics afford these people the opportunity to receive free medications and free medical care. Hopefully we are also witnessing to them about the church and the love of God.
Today's Malagasy Lutheran Church was a much smaller building than others we have been in earlier in the week. The pharmacy was actually set up in the sacristy, just outside of the church. This small space had a tin roof, door and two windows that opened up. The pharmacy was actually set up much like a “real” pharmacy with pickup and drop off windows. We also had great views out the window. Today the clinic was held much closer to the capitol city of Antananarivo, and we noticed that the people seemed to be a bit healthier today. We again cared for many patients with high blood pressure. We saw what seemed like an entire school of children. When we asked why they weren't in school, one child answered that they were let out for the afternoon (we think to come to the clinic!). Today we successfully saw 367 patients and filled 707 prescriptions. Clinic was packed up by about 4:30 PM. The leftover medications and supplies will either be used at the Lutheran Hospital in Antsirabe or by the next Mercy Medical Team that travels to Madagascar to work with Dr. Harison.
From the clinic site, we all piled back into the vans and headed towards Antananarivo. We drove through the outskirts of the city just before dusk. The traffic in this city is unreal, even on the outside of the city. Our route took us on a highway that is the main road for trucks to haul items to the seaport for export. The drive was quite hilly, so we spent most of the evening trying to get around small, slow-moving semis. The main roads in Madagascar are paved, but there are a fair number of potholes that must be dodged. The roads are not really two lane. Instead they are an extra wide one lane, so driving is kind of like Mario Cart, where you must dodge ox carts, pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles approaching in the opposite direction, and make valiant attempts to pass the slow cars in front of you. This is quite the experience to be a passenger for!
Our driver for our van is amazing. He is Pastor Tantely, and he is actually a pastor at the Lutheran church we attended in Antsirabe. However, the church can only afford to hire one pastor, so he just helps out with various activities at the church. To earn a living Pastor Tantely drives his van for trips such as ours. Such a great man! And his wife was a translator for us on the trip. In fact, most of the Malagasy people who assisted us took a week off from work to serve with us. For instance, the translator for the pharmacy is actually a certified nurse anesthetist at the Lutheran Hospital. Eleanor, one of our translators, teaches English at the Lutheran High School, and she found a substitute for her class while she spent the week with us. Such dedication and love for serving!
As we traveled along this major corridor of a highway, the landscape began to change and became much more lush and green. We followed a river all the way along, and we eventually entered the rainforest. We did see a fair amount of deforestation along the way. According to the Malagasy traveling with us, deforestation of the rainforest is becoming a large problem. The Malagasy people cut down the trees and smolder them in a hole for a couple days to make charcoal that they then sell. Selling charcoal offers a way to earn a living for many, and it is vital to the health and cooking style of the villagers. Most villagers cook inside their homes. There is no ventilation system, so burning charcoal for cooking creates less smoke than a fire would. In addition to charcoal burning, there are also places where the rainforest has been set on fire to clear underbrush, but I am not sure that is the entire story. The sun did set early into our journey. It was interesting to drive through the villages in the dark. The drive was exceptionally dark as there is minimal electricity. In fact, in many places you would only see a single candle burning in the window or in the store front. Such a different lifestyle.
We arrived in Andasibe about four hours after we left from clinic. We pulled up to a rainforest resort with bungalows in a tropical setting. We had a late dinner at 9:00 PM in the hotel restaurant and then all went to sleep in our bungalows. They were cute! The bungalows offered the beginning of short deescalation process after a busy week of clinics.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?