When I tell people at home that I am coming to Africa, there are several reactions: worry that I will never come home, amazement that I would go so far, excitement for the adventure that awaits, and joy that I am able to do this.
Honestly, I feel all the same emotions as the trip nears and then I arrive here. One of my responsibilities when I am here is to see the women who are not candidates for surgery. These women have had multiple surgeries for their fistula in the past, usually because the damage done by childbirth is so severe. Their tissue is so damaged that the chance of a successful repair is tiny and not worth the risk of surgery.
Once or twice per mission, we give a “do not operate” talk. We explain, with the help of a Rwandan medical student, why we cannot operate. Some of the women have heard this before while others are hearing it for the first time. We did this talk yesterday, and it was heartbreaking, as usual.
Barbara, the founder of IOWD, brings waterproof fabric from the US for a Rwandan woman to make underwear for these “do not operate” patients. The underwear can help to keep the woman from leaking urine onto her clothes for a few hours. I also give them soap and some Vaseline for their skin.
After we gave our talk and each woman her underwear, one of the women told us, “It’s ok, I am not sad. This is what God had planned for me.” I cannot explain the emotions I felt hearing that–it’s probably the same ones you are feeling now. She has leaked urine for 15+ years, and will continue to leak for the rest of her life.
So if you worry about my coming, I would tell you: don’t worry about me. This is what God had planned for me.