Ok, I realize that this is a rather unusual title for a missionary blog or update, but this concept has been bouncing around in my brain for about six months. My daughter Melody and I have had a Christmas vacation holiday tradition over several years of doing a 500 or 1,000 piece puzzle between Christmas and New Years. We always have a ton of fun working on this together late into evenings since we are both project focused with good eyes for colors and puzzle piece design. For several years I would get so discouraged that the time came for us to take apart our work of art and put it back into its box until we discovered puzzle glue. For the past few years our completed puzzles have turned into complete pictures, even framed, which remind us of the special times we had as father-daughter over Mel's Christmas break. 500 unique puzzle pieces, each with its own characteristics, contributing to a beautiful picture, e.g. a Thomas Kinkade masterpiece. Each masterpiece made possible by a sticky see-through concoction called "puzzle glue".
Puzzle glue does its work on the back side of the puzzle, out of sight, against the wall, not distracting even the most astute observer. It allows a thousand small pieces to stick together, even hanging on a wall.
"I want you to be like puzzle glue, Mike." No, the voice wasn't audible but the message from the Holy Spirit to me this year has been clear, help the pieces of the Tenwek puzzle stay and work together, even under stress, even when "hanging".
It's not like I didn't know the stress, fatigue, and feelings of being overwhelmed at times were coming when I moved back into the Medical Superintendent office at Tenwek Hospital in June. My one year sabbatical from the office was partially to focus on practicing general surgery and partially to recharge my emotional batteries, preparing for service when Dr. John Spriegel left for Homeland Ministry assignment in July. What I wasn't expecting was a summer with so many demands and crises within the hospital, the mission, and Kenya in such a short period of time! Puzzle glue......yes, the thought occurred to me again and again, I'm meant to be puzzle glue. Whether the issue is
- helping and mentoring a new missionary doctor and family that is plugging into ministry at Tenwek (we have several of these new families right now);
- helping a missionary colleague deal with a new diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer leaving her partially paralyzed and needing referral for emergency neurosurgery in Nairobi and then insuring appropriate and standard care by Nairobi physicians;
- guiding a large task force at Tenwek to handle the new and daunting challenges of incorporating electronic medical records;
- being a mediator and facilitator between the growing medical staff at Tenwek and our administrative leadership team; (see puzzle picture below)
- and many other examples I could give.
The challenge in behaving like puzzle glue is often carrying on my administrative work behind the scenes and NOT getting upset about NOT being in front! My own human nature desires to be noticed and acknowledged. Such attention though can easily detract from the picture that Christ has designed by bringing together the various members of the body of Christ for administering His grace "in its various forms".
Our ultimate example of connecting different "pieces", behind the scenes and without glory, is the Holy Spirit. The only way the Tenwek Hospital ministry puzzle has survived and even thrived over 75 years is due to God's Spirit working in and through literally tens of thousands of believers from many cultures and countries. These workers, members of Christ's body, have stayed together in ministry because of the unseen "spiriutal glue" of the Holy Spirit. We don't give the Holy Spirit enough credit but Jesus did. In John 16 Jesus cast a vision, a beautiful picture if you will, of what his disciples were to do and then he trained them to do it. Beyond that, however, he gave them the power to bring the picture together through the promised Spirit. His Spirit worked through their unique personalities and skills to touch the world with the saving and healing power of Christ......puzzle glue. :-)
2 Corinthians 4:7,8,16 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair.....Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
The Tenwek Medical Staff "Puzzle"
Tenwek Medical staff in early July 2013
Left to right: Chuck Bemm, Joy Draper, Elijah Terer, Steve Burgert, Paul Espy, John Spriegel, Dino Crognale, Aaron Kelley, Todd Lavery, Ben Roberts, Miriam Wanjala, Kiprono Koech, Carol Spears, Matilda Ongondi. Missing from Pic: Russ White, Justus Lando, Meshack Odondi, Janice Crognale, Dan Galat, Steve Manchester