Seeing Through The Eyes Of A Missionary’s Mother

Posted: November 16, 2014 by Patrice Miles in Egbe, Egbe Hosptial, Egbe Nigeria, Miles In Missions, Missionaries, Nigeria

By: Jolene Eicher

10535820_10152625422743808_3325277467140237254_oMy eyes are glued to the pot holed road ahead. My grandchildren and their parents sleep.  My heart hammers with anticipation and uneasiness. It’s my first time in Africa. Ayo is driving the nine hours to my daughter and son-in-law’s mission field – ECWA Hospital Egbe, Nigeria.  As we slow for mandatory police checkpoints, faces peer into the van. I lock eyes and see them mouth the now familiar word “Oyibo”.  It refers to a person whose ebony skin has been “peeled back” making them white.  I like that concept.

We are arriving a day late and still they come.  The people of Egbe – they come in the rain and the late hour to greet me – to “gift” me.  A startled chicken is thrust in my arms flapping wings wildly.  Faces gather round me to get a “snap” (picture) with me. Greetings ring out from all directions. I am mildly aware of my daughter, Patrice, spraying me with repellent. It is then I notice the bloodied mosquito bites on my ankles. It is real. I am here!

10649900_10152756808032074_7804499075576390099_n“Ek’aro” (Good-morning) the disembodied voice says thru the darkened window at 5:30 am next morning.  He has come to remove yesterday’s garbage. I don’t know his name… “Ek’aro” I say to the person I cannot see.  This is Patrice’s alone time with God and already I see that “alone” is a figure of speech.  Church has already begun as sounds of worship filters thru her gauzy curtains.

“Ek’abo” (welcome) greets me at the 8 am daily women’s devotional that Patrice leads while my son-in-law Lenny leads the men’s devotional. So many names to remember, Seun, Duro, small Shola and office Shola, Tolu, Kemi, Bukola, T.Y.   So many phrases to become familiar with – “small-small”, oga, Eku’sie.  In a week’s time I answer to “momma”. This is what I am called by young and old alike. It is a treasure to me.

Today I am on a tour of the hospital. I see the man with hollowed eyes who accidentally shot himself in the stomach while cleaning his flint rifle.  I see way too many young men with injuries from motorcycle accidents.  I hear a coughing lady.  “Could be TB” says Dr. Oubre, “somebody put a mask on her and move her away from others” he calls out to no one in particular.  Dr. Oubre is the 72 year old medical director and only surgeon (24/7).  I see very thin people but thankfully no swollen belly babies. Egbe hospital is good for the people of Egbe and surrounding towns. Signs of revitalization are everywhere.  But there is still so much to do.  The pristine outpatient clinic stands in stark contrast to the semi-squalid condition of the men’s ward. The men’s ward needs to be moved.  But there are other urgent matters – trenches to dig to keep water out of the central supply room, the new guesthouse that must be built, the x-ray room must be moved, the demolition must be completed..then we can move the men’s ward. So much work and so few to do the work!

10499483_10152624239223808_1540233886715203077_oDr. Oubre dreams of a new surgery for the maternity ward so women in life threatening labor do not have to walk across the compound to the only OR.  He dreams of new huts where families can cook meals for their hospitalized loved ones.  Dreams are good.  I am impatient for God to send the people, right now, who can make those dreams come true.  Forgive my impatience.

I am vegetarian. The Egbe women do not know they are preparing five star vegetarian meals – they apologize for having little meat. Patrice takes me to Big Market where raw meat sits openly on wooden tables – I am glad I am vegetarian. At market there are many greetings and more gifts.  I see how loved my daughter is by how they honor me – her momma from America.  I see how Patrice has fallen in love with the people of Egbe.  My eyes sting at the painful (yet proud) realization that my daughter has lost her heart to Egbe.  This is her home.

10560311_10152630489348808_2696632853291291164_oMoney raised to care for and sustain missionaries quietly fund a child’s tuition, pay a parent’s hospital bill so they can go home to their family, buy baking supplies for a single mother so she can sell the food to pay her rent, and materials purchased for the adult orphan trying to create a ministry for those at risk.  It is good that the American dollar can stretch far.   They need more.

My son-in-law, Lenny, fights the fatigue that hangs on from yet another episode of Malaria. He hurriedly surfs the net, before the connection is lost, for building plans he can use for the new guesthouse. Things that come easy in America are wrought with difficulty in a town with limited resources. Lenny feels the weight of the responsibility – this ECWA Hospital revitalization project.   There is no staff of engineers nor architects, just missionaries like Lenny and the other men with resolve and commitment.

I hear their laughter from the schoolroom in the back of the house. My grandchildren, Cason and Jolie, have discovered the source of the foul smell that plagued their schoolroom all day.  The dog has messed right outside their schoolroom window.  Katie, gentle Katie from North Carolina turned missionary teacher, laughs with them.  What made you come to Nigeria?  “God did it” she says.  So fragile this link between God and those He calls to the mission field. I want something more substantial, but it is sufficient says The Lord. I am glad Katie and her husband Nick were quiet enough to hear the call.

885914_10152654049788808_2754336669475184251_oIt is time to leave. Time to leave these missionaries who have been called.  These ordinary people with eyes wide open and hands unfurled receive what God gives them each day. It is enough -not more than they need.  It is not romantic nor ideal this place they are called to.  The sun is hot, the mosquitos are greedy, stingy electrical power, unvaried food, faulty equipment and pets who get sick with no vet to be found.  They are learning to live together – these strangers thrown together with varied callings and differences of opinions they must learn to tolerate.  This is home.

The truth is quick in coming.  I am not called.  It hurts to acknowledge this truth. To let go of what I have held on to from my youth.  Here is the truth.  The Egbe people with so little have shown me so much.  Be thankful for what you have and don’t dwell on what you have not.  The hospital stands. The missionaries stay.  Ebola has not come to Egbe.  There is food to eat.  It is enough. This is the Nigerian way.  Be thankful for what you have today. Do not worry about tomorrow – I am reminded of Matthew 6:34.

Stay Patrice, stay Lenny…I say through tear ladened eyes. I must leave for I am not called. Stay and become the better for it. Stay and teach the rest of us what is true. There is no joy in owning things – there is joy in not being owned by things.

Thank-you Campions for keeping the doors of ECWA Hospital Egbe open.  Thank you SIM and Samaritan’s Purse missionaries for doing what I cannot do – stay, stay and make a difference. God bless and keep you healthy to do that which He has called you to do. I will tell your story.

  1. Esther Jaggers says:

    I wept when I read this and prayed for you.

  2. Linda Kohn says:

    What a sweet and refreshing visit:) How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news and what a privilege for those that get to wash those feet and encourage those folks to keep stepping! So thankful for your momma! Blessings to you all.

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