Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bel Isi

So I'll be bold as well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So take my flesh and fix my eyes
A tethered mind freed from the lies

Sometimes the hardest thing God asks us to do is wait, slow down, stop or stay.  My personal tendency makes me rush to the next patient, the next ward, the next project.  The great need drives me and I know that I have a lot of work to do.  But I look for one person, each day, that I feel I'm supposed to stop, slow down, wait and find out their real needs and hear their words.

My last night on call I was asked to see a patient on our medical ward in the middle of the night.  Metti is an elderly patient with pneumonia.  For some reason, she quickly deteriorated in the night and was extremely short of breath.  As I came into the ward I saw her gasping for air and sweating buckets.   Seeing her in such a state back in America, I would have put a breathing tube in her lungs and kept her on a ventilator until her lungs improved.  But in Kudjip, we don't have that option.

I gave her as much oxygen as I could, inhaled medicines, injection steroids and a shot of magnesium.  I walked to her and she looked terrified as I grabbed both her hands and shared the Gospel with her.  I prayed for her rather than with because she was so short of breath she couldn't even speak.  I went home.

The next morning I went back to her bed and found she was still alive, and breathing a little more comfortably.  She took both my hands in hers and put her forehead to them saying, "Mi tarnem bel" - "I've given my heart" and this time prayed with me through snatches of heavy breathing.

A few days later I went to check on her and found her bed empty.  It turns out that just hours after she clutched my hands in hers her shortness of breath worsened again and she passed into eternal life.

In Tok Pijin someone who is anxious or angry is said to have a "bel hot", bel meaning anything from stomach to heart.  Bel is a sort of catch-all word for describing a person's essence.  When I cry with a new mother as the two of us watch the nurses stop futile resuscitation efforts, I tell them "Yumi one bel" meaning our spirits feel the same.  In my first couple of weeks here I kept hearing people pray for a "bel easy" which I thought was nice, since I pray against worries and anxiety at home.

Some time later I realized that those who are praying are actually asking God to give them "bel isi" which is a little different.  When you want someone to talk more slowly, calm down, slow down, or wait you use the phrase "isi"

It's interesting that in the US where my culture races along at top speeds all the time, we ask God for peace, calmness and rest from anxiety.  At the same time, we hurry into everything around us - meetings, work and church.  In PNG, where the culture already slows a bit, they still recognize that what they really need is a "slow heart" and ask God for this.

In the book of Mark, Jesus heals a man who previously was so out of his mind that he lived in caves and cut and hurt himself.  When the man finds Jesus he is so excited he asks if he can follow him but Jesus actually says no - you can't go, you can't come, I want you to stop and stay and tell others.  "Makem bel isi"

"Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had compassion on you." - Mark 5:19

This nameless healed follower of Christ stayed home but told others of the great things God did for Him in compassion.

I hope that when God gives me one specific person to help and to change, that I won't be so rushed to miss it.  That I could slow my day on their behalf, and see His compassion do great things for them.

Raise my hands, paint my spirit gold
Bow my head, keep my heart slow

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