What I’m Reading: Twisted

I’m currently reading a devotional on my bible app, Twisted, subtitled Most Misused Verses of The Bible.

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Le ne tordez pas!

Each day, when I open the plan and read the focus scripture for the day, I almost always start laughing. It is as though I can guess what the author has in mind, and cannot help but agree that, surely, those verses must have been misused. The author delves into the context in which those verses were written, who wrote them, and at what time, to help his readers understand the verses better and not misuse them.

“When purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable.” – (Late) Dr. Myles Munroe

I found today’s devotional content particularly illuminating, and thought to share, to cast light abroad more hearts:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

Who hasn’t thought of Philippians 4:13 before a big test, meeting, or game? Maybe you were the athlete who quoted it after completing a nearly impossible feat. Or maybe it was quoted to you by an old acquaintance after they explained an, “amazing business opportunity.” “Sure it sounds risky,” they said, “but just like the Bible says, ‘You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.’”

Too often, Philippians 4:13 is quoted for self-motivation alone. A more secular version might sound like, “If we set our mind to it, whatever it is, we’ll accomplish it.” Sure, “through Christ” is in our Bible version, but hopefully He’s not there to just give us strength to accomplish our goals. Does Christ give us strength to do wonderful things including athletic feats? Yes. However, the original author of this coffee-mug verse wasn’t trying to win the Iron Man or triple his income in as little as three months (neither of which are necessarily bad things). Paul was writing—from jail—to the church he helped start in Philippi.

If Paul had the power to do all things, wouldn’t “get out of jail” be at the top of his to-do list? After all, if he could really do all things, he’d be all-powerful. The next three verses give additional meaning to verse 13. Paul described experiencing poverty, hunger, want, and despite it all, contentment. Then, he added verse 13 to basically say he could do all this only because of Christ. Paul’s words were less about motivating the Philippians to accomplish great things and more about inspiring them to trust God despite horrible things. In fact, the original language reads more like, “I have strength for all things. Why? Because Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Are you in a bad break up? Rebound to Him; He makes you whole. Bad medical news? Cling to Him; He is life. Lost your job? Submit to Him; He’s your provider. Are you “in want” like Paul? Come to Him; you can be content. Through Christ, you have strength for all these things.

Consider: What trial are you facing? How can you rely on Christ for strength?”

If I were to go first, and give answer to the question posed at the end for reflection, I will say waiting; waiting for my induction ceremony into the Medical and Dental Council Nigeria. It’s been over three months since completion of my final exams. This wait has not been very palatable. Initially, it felt like a holiday, but you know how you can grow weary when it feels like you are stuck. Through it all, I have tried to maintain a positive attitude and make the most of the time. I often say, in Medicine, you don’t get a lot of spare time. So, why don’t you utilize this: Learn something new, travel to some place new, read something different, learn a skill, a language… Add value to yourself, so you can be of more value to others. I am trying to stay productive.

How am I relying on Christ for strength?

He gives me inspiration. As I lean on Him, I learn more about Him and about myself in the process. This can also be applied to the single season. You can let yourself be miserable, wishing to move out of that phase, that you fail to maximize the season. As if to buttress this, I’m on my way to church while developing this post. In the course of the sermon titled Faith For Finances, the man of God asks a question: “What level of skill/training do you have now, while you are waiting for “the opportunity?” Then he goes further, “For some of you, the training you need now is financial literacy.” I grab that and hold onto it. The waiting time is time for preparation. “Winter is coming!!!” You prepare for war in time of peace.  Now, over to you. Your answer to the question posed for reflection. I hope you learnt a number of things. I will be happy to hear in the comments section.

So much love,

God’s love and mine,

Annie. ❤

First Outing As A Doctor x Practicing In My Village

I was preoccupied with preparing for my final qualifying exam as a medical doctor, when a call came in from my mum, asking if I would be available to participate in a rural health outreach they were planning in August.
Someone had wisely chipped in during the planning phase, “Why outsource a doctor when one of our own is a doctor?
It was an honour to say the least, and my people defiled the popular saying, “A prophet is not honoured in their own home.”
That was in sometime in May, I would have completed my exam by August, would be free, and certified a medical doctor. So, I accepted.
I almost forgot about this agreement, until a few weeks to the time, when my mum reminded me of it.
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When it was confirmed I was listed as one of the doctors and was going to travel, my excitement knew no bounds. The joy in my heart must have rung louder than a grade six murmur. The prospects of clerking in Igbo, and most importantly treating my own people was too exhilarating to keep calm.
Having trained in Rivers state, interacting with people from its various tribes, and even doing a compulsory one-month rural posting in a community in Rivers state – Kegbara-Dere, sometimes having a colleague who is a native act as an interpreter, and learning a few of their language to get by, this was much-welcomed opportunity.
As we approached the venue for the outreach, my aunt who was with me in the vehicle worried about my proficiency in Igbo; if I would be able to communicate effectively with the villagers.
I did not hesitate in letting her know how grounded I was for this. I boasted: “We have been effectively trained for this. One of the things you have to get right in medical school is the ability to communicate with your patient – whatever their level of education was. That included finding ways to surmount the barriers of language and religion also.” By the time I had gone on to lecture her on the expediency of passing the counselling station in the exam, and explaining a patient’s medical condition in the simplest of terms, she was forced to believe more in my ability.
I alighted the vehicle feeling comfortable in my ordinary attire, no white coat or stethoscope to give me away as a doctor, when to my uttermost amazement some other person alighting from a motorcycle greeted me, Doctor.
Poker-faced, looking down at my bag to crosscheck that my ward coat and stethoscope were safely tucked in, I stared back in his direction blankly, wondering what gave me away as a doctor. After he settled the bike guy, he repeated his greeting, as if to erase any doubt I had, concluding that I probably didn’t recognize him. The doctor who was to become a partner and a potential friend explained that we had the same Alma Mata and he knew me while we were in school. He was some classes ahead of me, had seen me a couple of times in the library and was currently serving in my village. Small world.
In no time, the patients were ready to start seeing the doctors, and the doctor and I were initially positioned in different consulting rooms.
“I mere añunu?” I started. The only Igbo Isuikwuato I was sure of.
The elderly woman began her compliant. At some point, I wanted to plead with her to stick to basic Igbo but decided against it.
When I had gotten all of her complaints and had an understanding of her condition, I proceeded to prescribe her medications.
One thing I didn’t do was fake knowledge where I would have used some guidance. That would be grave and foolish of me. So, I asked questions and sought clarifications when I needed one. If that made me seem “incompetent” or not schooled enough, that was your thinking.
“Better be humble and learn more, than prideful and kill innocent persons,” I admonished myself.
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Shortly afterward, we were joined by an older doctor who had been in practice for years. He was from my village and owned a hospital in a neighbouring town. I gave up my consulting room to share space with the other doctor who was serving in my village.
At intervals, my aunt came to check on me; to be sure I had no difficulty communicating with the patients and help if I had one.
I reassured her that I was doing fine, with a smile. The other doctor was from Akwa Ibom and didn’t understand a lot of Igbo. My aunt helped out when I was busy, and I took on the task of interpreting when I was less busy. I was too happy to.
He understood some words. When they said ishi/isi, he knew they were talking about their head… So, headache. When they said ukwu, they were referring to their waist. And so on.
The majority of the patients complained of headache, waist pain, leg pain, and general body pain. And of course malaria. This was to be expected considering their major source of livelihood is farming, my village is hilly, and the major age group of the presenting population elderly.
Children also came. If you have treated malaria, then the other most likely complaints were cough, ukwara and its accomplice, catarrh, mmiri ukwara.
Everyone that presented to the health center was dewormed.
Among the mpas and mmas, hypertension, as expected, was predominant and a few accompanying or isolated cases of diabetes.
There were few other random cases, and patients were referred to the General Hospital, and to be followed up when there was a need.
It was obvious some came for a refill of their medications, which was OK. That was why we were organizing the free medical outreach, everyone should make the most of the opportunity.
Of particular note was a certain old man, who looked vaguely familiar when he stepped in. On interaction with him, I asked him if he knew my grandpa and he answered in the affirmative, recounting some fun memories with him.
I was more than impressed when he took out a small note, where he had beautifully written down his complaints. I had to show my partner, he didn’t seem as impressed as I was, but I was and made sure the old man knew I was. He smiled and said he used to be a teacher. I scribbled his name on a paper and made a mental note to ask my uncle or granny when I got home.
I also met some other persons who knew me as a child or knew my family, and when they tried to place whose child in particular I was and were told “nwa Moses, Ada ya,” I could see them wearing the happiness in their hearts on their faces. Their own daughter was treating them. And I, too, found satisfaction and inexplicable delight and gave them my best.
We were joined by another doctor, who is from my village and works at the General Hospital.
His family is based in Port Harcourt, but he has a love for community medicine and enjoys working in the village to give back to his community. A lot of persons attested to his humanitarian and selfless service to the community.
The three of us soon got along and by the end of the second day, the last day of the outreach, we were heartily retelling stories of medical school. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was at the end of the day until I lay to sleep, but one thing was certain: The joy in my heart had no match, and my people were more than happy, blessed.
Tired, but surely excited, I managed to pose for photos at the end of the day:
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*I mere añunu? – How are you? (in my dialect)
*Mpas and mmas – Fathers and mothers (the elderly)
*nwa Moses, Ada ya – Moses’ child, his first daughter
Love,
Annie (or I should sign off with my Igbo name, Chioma? 😁)
Ps – This outreach was part of the infamous August Meeting, the annual meeting Igbo women attend in their village. Isn’t it cool that it has evolved to become an avenue these women seek ways to give back to the community? Shout out to the Onicha Amiyi-Uhu women of Isuikwuato local government area, Abia state. Onicha Amiyi-Uhu to the world! ❤

Dear Younger Me

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Yesterday, I was given the honour of speaking to some teenagers and children about their health. When I was first called, I was not given a specific topic. The caller just said, “You know teenagers now… You can speak to them on anything that applies to their health.” Then she suggested topics like HIVSTDs, the regular things, and made me promise I would be able to make it. I was away at the time she called, but would be back by the time and so I assented to her request, still leaving room for a possible change of mind.

I thought about these children and what I could possibly teach them. “If it were women, then I could tell them about breast cancer, cervical cancer, and their cohorts,” I worried. At another end I thought that HIV, STDs as the caller suggested were worn-out topics; they have heard those a hundred times over. Then personal hygiene was too mundane. “What’s that?” I mocked the idea. “Bathe twice a day, brush your teeth, wash your undies… Oh, please! They don’t need me to tell them those. They should know those already,” I continued to struggle about what to teach them.

I even took up some teen devotional plans on my bible app, to find some ideas. Are you wondering why I was looking in my bible, rather than my textbooks or online to find what to teach the kids about their health? I did wonder, too. Especially as they were in a camp organized by a church, and surely would have had several persons talk to them about “their spiritual life.” Won’t they? To answer that thought, I reminded myself that: I am first a child of God, before a doctor. Then, isn’t every Word of God God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for conviction, for correction, for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately–behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]? Wasn’t that what I desired for these children and teens, above all? If so then, it was not out of place to look there for inspiration and guide.

I, however, could not still reach a decision on what to teach the children and teens. I was almost reaching an impasse and frankly thought about calling the organizer to cancel. That was a day before the event. I had thought about it all week but had not taken the necessary steps to cancel. While having my bath the night before the D-Day, I thought about myself in my teenage years,“What did I wish I knew more about?” I also knew I could not pass over any opportunity to speak to young children. That would be doing too much harm to the younger generation; a decision I could not live with or forgive myself for taking.

“We owe it to each to tell our stories.”

Ideas started forming in my head. I knew just where to start and how to continue from there, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me with the right words. Are you still wondering if I am talking about their health? Yes, health, their “social health.” As defined by W.H.O, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. I was very much in tune, unconventional, maybe, if you like. I was going to talk to the teens about sex; making responsible decisions about it, having and owning their values – positive values, and of course all the in-between: menstrual cycle, contraception, unplanned pregnancy, in addition. Things I was not taught. I was going to be honest with them, open about it, and available to answer their questions, using my own story.

When I got to the venue, trepidation began to creep in. I ministered to myself: “I have the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit gives me boldness. I am bold and not timid.” It was my first time deciding to be very open with my story. I was always going to tell it, put it in a book, and tell of how God gave me grace and helped me! Oh, don’t think it is a sanctimonious story of me or one of a wanton child saved by grace. It is simply my story, of how life happened to me, and how life can happen to anyone. All the more reason I would be doing a great disservice to the younger generation, by not sharing my story with them. I may not have had someone teach me, but I can be the one to teach others.

I mounted the stage, looking into the familiar faces of some children I had always known growing up, some of whom had fast grown into teenagers and ‘young adults.’ And some not too familiar faces, too. It was my home church, which meant I grew up in their midst. Had always been among them. Still among them, even though more away than with them presently. So, they knew me. Most of them knew me.

After building on this premise, I began to teach them. And somewhere along the line, I got candid with them, about details of my story which was unknown to even some relatives. It came as a shock. My youngest brother was in their midst, I saw him look up in a mix of emotions I can’t clearly tell. I didn’t back down or flinch, I plunged ahead. It was the debut telling of my story; unplanned and unrehearsed. At some point, I was not sure if I clearly communicated it to them. I didn’t let that bother me. I would get better at this, I encouraged myself. There is still the book. I did my best to answer their questions; I made them feel comfortable to ask and pointed out that I was available to answer any questions, even beyond the meeting. I was not sure how I felt when I got back home, but I had one prayer as I left my house and all through the while I spoke to the children and teens: “God, please, use me to preserve some destinies here.” I can rest in the promise that God answers prayers.

If you could tell your younger self everything you have learned so far, so they could be one step ahead, where would you start?

God is […]

The first time I developed an interest in the variegated names of God was when Kachee of KacheeTee.com made a post about 15 Uplifting Bible Verses on the Power & Strength of God’s Arm/Hand. A post that stemmed for the #HallelujahChallenge that took the media by storm a month ago, popularizing the Yoruba name of God, Olowogbogboro, that was hitherto unknown to many and took on a new and more powerful meaning for the few who knew it prior to the time.

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Of particular attraction to me, in the comments section of the aforementioned post, was another Yoruba name for God – Asoromaye, meaning “He who prophesizes and it comes to pass.” Maybe because I was believing God for a miracle at the time and had just (re-)read some uplifting verses, it carried great significance for me. In addition, it made me wonder just how many more beautiful names of God were out there, lying hidden from God’s people. Continue reading “God is […]”