18 Apr 2023
I decided to write this for myself, to remember what I’m doing here, just in case I’m forgetting. You can follow along with my conversation with myself if you want.
I already had reasons before residency. I knew in medical school, in college as I studied in pre-med and international rescue and relief classes, in high school when it suddenly occurred to me that this was what I was looking for—the place where my interests and abilities seemed to intersect with some tangible need in the world. But a statement from one of my colleagues in residency really crystallized that vision that I’d started to catch a glimpse of in high school. If you happen to be reading this and remember saying it, then thank you for your candid thoughts that made me think and stuck with me. But it was just an off-hand comment and you might not even remember. Maybe you were just looking for a reaction, as was often the case, and you often got the intended response. The statement:
"If there’s a God, then he hates Africa."
I realized that this was why I was headed to Africa. At the time headed to Uganda, later to Chad. Along with Paul Farmer’s statement that "the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world." I believe the opposite of my residency colleague’s assertion. The idea that all lives are created equal is rooted in the truth that their Creator himself endowed them with their incalculable worth. The fact that some humans have exploited others systematically over centuries and millennia doesn’t mean that God endorses our systems of subjugation or our justifications for the stark disparities. I believe he calls us to live our lives and pour ourselves into work that affirms the worth of every individual human. We’re here in Béré, Chad, Africa to take care of babies and adults who face some of the worst health outcomes in the world and to teach other Chadians who have chosen to work in healthcare to care for their neighbors in a way that improves those outcomes. We’re here because a baby born in rural Chad is worth exactly as much as a baby born in rural Mississippi, where maternal and neonatal outcomes are also less than ideal, or a baby born in a Massachusetts suburb where health outcomes are more on par with wealthy European countries. Baby Koumamerci is created to embody some unique facet of the image of God, in a way no other being in the universe can, and the same is true for baby John Smith in Massachusetts—even if he grows up to be a Patriots fan—and every other human being in whatever corner of the world they happen to be born.
We’re here to live that truth, embody that truth, empower other healthcare workers here to work toward a health system that reflects that truth. Not because we think we’re superheroes who can right all of the wrongs in the world. But just because it is true that baby Koumamerci and baby Noë and baby Moussa and their parents and siblings and grandparents and neighbors are worth the effort.