Ping Pong Practice
These days, Greg and I enjoy daily ping pong rallies, ever since we received a table generously on loan from a friend. I love the predictable rhythm of the ball back and forth, the challenge of its changing direction and speed. Being a missionary in Malawi during this time is a bit like trying to keep that plastic ball in motion. We set a policy for a triage system outside the hospital, but there is concern from community members with proximity to houses. So we move the triage station inside the gate. We formulate a plan for staff to earn incentives while doing extra triage duty, but there is no money. We apply for tens of thousands of dollars in grants from existing partners to fund personal protective equipment and additional salaries. But there is concern about the equity of staff incentives between groups. We screen thousands of patients and work with the Ministry of Health on some suspected (but ultimately negative) cases, discovering in the process a dozen surprises which send us in new directions. We formulate standards for protective equipment based on international best practice. We revise the plan again and again after asking all departments and cadres of staff for their input and concerns. We work together on a plan to source more supplies and sterilize and reuse the supplies we have. Then the Ministry of Health begins to draft a set of recommendations with some components which we never anticipated. We struggle to prepare to accommodate even as the policy is still under draft. It’s like a constant volley, back and forth, moving and adjusting, doing the best we can. At this time, we expect the ricochet, we look for the bounce back like a familiar rhythm. We create plans for community education, everyone from community and religious leaders to clinics which depend on us near and far. Then the government plans a lockdown, limiting travel and meetings. Next an injunction is granted so that the lockdown cannot happen, not now at least. We poise ourselves to handle whatever comes next. Then nurses and doctors and clinicians throughout the country withdraw from the workforce as a unified group. We can’t predict the impact on our private rural hospital, but we take a breath and consider how to keep things from dropping to a dreaded standstill.
Maybe that’s why we like ping pong, it’s a metaphor for life and work here, but that ball is so much easier to control, and easier to set down and the end of a game, than the systems-level issues of trying to prepare for a pandemic in a low income country. Ultimately we need to be able to step back and realize that alone we cannot manage the preparations for this incoming disaster, and we’ve begun to see the need for building resilience and setting boundaries even now. So we play ping pong, we swing on our new backyard swing, we call friends and family, and enjoy our precious down time. We make contingency plans as a couple, as well as a hospital and a community. These are hard times for us, same as everyone. But God is good, and we will bounce back.
This month, please join us in prayer: - For healthcare professionals in Malawi and around the world to stay healthy and serve faithfully - For safety in Malawi, that people will work together and not let fear cause violence
Thank you for your prayers and support,
Greg and Christina