As many of you know, I was away the last few weeks in South East Asia on a mission trip. Of course many of you have been asking about the trip, and what stories I might have to bring back. Might I suggest checking out the sermon I preached this week, where I give a pretty broad over-view of what we did on the trip by downloading it here. But here on the blog, we’ll dive a little deeper into some of the stories, and I thought I’d start with the grossest story from the trip, just to make sure no one wants to read any of the rest of them! It’s a pretty long story, so sit back, relax, and prepare to be grossed out.
So naturally for part of our trip we stayed in a four star hotel. Why not, right? It was marvelous. You could see the beach from the window in our room. We had a breakfast that would rival any buffet that Las Vegas could throw at it. And every night when we stayed at this particularly location, we had shrimp the size of my hand for dinner, dipped in this incredible salty/peppery/limey sauce I’m determined to replicate here in the states. But they also had a pool, a big pool with a hot tub and all the fix ins. So naturally when one of our team members informed me that he had never learned to swim before, Honest J’s Swimming School was opened for business.
We swam for maybe, maybe, 45 minutes. After I got out (without anyone drowning mind you, so I will call myself a successful swim instructor!) I noticed that I had some water left in my ear. Praise be to the Lord I had the foresight to bring along my ear drops from home. I don’t even really know why I brought them, as I almost never need to use them. So I threw some drops in my ear that night and woke up the next morning with more water in my ear. Odd, I thought, but whatever. We spent the rest of the day in a van driving around, and the water remained. Eventually, my ear clogged up completely. I couldn’t hear anything out of my right ear. This was more than just a little bit frustrating. Every meeting we were in I could hear at most 50% of what was going on. We were spending time with people who would quickly qualify for saint status, people who I would normally hang off of every word they said because they were modern day Jacobs, wrestling with God and Man and overcoming. And I couldn’t hear them.
About 5 days into this affliction, I was at a low point. I was frustrated, tired, and annoyed. I had spent all this money and all this time to get over to this country and spend time with these people, and I couldn’t hear what was going on. I was picking up bits and pieces, but I wasn’t getting the whole experience. Something had to be done, and the sooner the better.
So as our team arrived back in a major city on Sunday, we had access to a major international doctors office. So our trip leader and I went on Sunday to the doctors, where we found the entire office completely abandoned save for one man in a lab coat. This guy looked Asian, but spoke incredibly good English. After an incredibly quick exam, he determined that I had congestion in my ear, not much wax, and prescribed more ear drops and pills to take. I thought the diagnosis sounded weird, but he was the guy with the lab coat, so who am I to argue! I thanked him, paid my $75, and hit the road. The Doc said to come back on Wednesday if things had not improved, but that he would be surprised if that was the case. I was excited, things were on their way back to normal.
By Tuesday afternoon however, things had still not improved. So I got impatient, and went to the doctors a whole twelve hours before I was requested to. At this point, several things came to my attention that called my previous visit into question. For starters, the previously abandoned office was now bustling with activity, including doctors and nurses and receptionists and patients, just teeming with life. It was at this point that I noticed a sign which informed us that this particular doctors office had no hours on Sunday, even though that’s when I had been seen. Pretty fishy. Then our trip leader noticed a wall which contained the business cards and photos of everyone that worked in the office, and suggested that I find the guy who saw me on Sunday and use his card as a reference. Upon careful examination, the man in the lab coat from Sunday was nowhere to be found. It is at this point that I formulated the theory that I was actually seen on Sunday by the janitor who assumed he had seen it done enough that he could play the doctor, and that the ear drops were in fact formula 409, because that junk will clean up anything!
Tuesday, I saw a short French Doctor, who had the incredible benefit of actually being a doctor. His name was on the office after all, so this felt like it was a step in the right direction. It turned out that my swimming had caused a buildup of a tremendous amount of ear wax (told you this was gross!) and that was the reason for the clog. Usually, the doctors could put an attachment on a garden hose and squirt your ear until all the wax came out. This was painful, but effective, and usually pretty quick. However, my new French friend informed me, they were without such equipment. And so he was going to have to go in manually to remove the wax. He had what looked to me like a metal toothpick, and began the process of removing each and every piece of wax. He narrated the entire ordeal in a heavy French accent. “Ok, now I’m going to go in and get dis one.” After saying that, the toothpick would scrape against my inflamed and agitated ear drum, sending sharp pain through my entire body. Even now, weeks removed from this experience, I cannot think about his voice saying “Dis one” without feeling some sort of residual pain. It was easily the most painful 20 minutes of my life.
But then, after he went in for about his 30th “Dis one”, my ear was opened and I could suddenly hear. I asked him to stop, and he asked if I was in too much pain. I told him no, that actually a sense that had been missing for the better part of a week had just returned to me, and I wanted to take a moment to listen and just hear things. I heard birds outside the window. I heard motorbikes and the congestion of a major Asian city. I heard the sounds of the now appropriately busy waiting room just on the other side of the wall. I heard things. And it was beautiful.
There are lots of lessons to learn from this. I spent a lot of time thinking about the body of Christ that Paul talks about, how when one member is suffering all the other members suffer with it. I don’t typically spend a lot of time thinking about my right ear, but I did that week. My whole being became consumed with what was wrong, rather than what was going right. But my mind also turns itself to miracles. Maybe a lot of Christians out there don’t believe in miracles, and I’ll admit there are times that I am skeptical. But after 7 days of prayer, I firmly believe God sent me a miracle wrapped in a lab coat and carrying a thick French accent. I also believe that he sent a joke a few days earlier, with a “doctor” to see me and send me home with a funny story. But I do know this, in my day to day life, I’m going to be a bit more open to God working miracles, even if they happen through normal people like you and I.
Many more stories to come. Stay tuned.