By Torrie B., RN
I never thought I would have a friend in such a short time, being new in a Buddhist country on the other side of the world. But there we were, with a desk and a religion between us but not much more.
I loved getting to know everything about her language and culture that I was now immersed in. She taught me how to wear the traditional wrap skirt, all about the holidays, her beliefs. She welcomed me into her life, her home. She cooked an entire meal for my family, which is no small feat in this country. A meal here is like a seven course affair, several hours spent cooking even before the sun comes up kind of thing. I met her father, mother, and younger brother. Her mother held our small baby and loved on her while we enjoyed the delicious lunch set before us. By the looks of their house, they didn’t have much more than their family, and we were humbled by the opportunity to be a part of it for a short time.
We left feeling loved, but also overwhelmed by the feeling of oppression and darkness in their Buddhist house and neighborhood.
Not quite two months later, my friend’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and in the hospital for a few weeks. While there, she was also newly diagnosed with diabetes. There was so much fear. I helped explain what each medicine was for that she was on and what kind of diet changes needed to be made due to diabetes. My friend also had me look at the incision to make sure it was healing correctly. We visited with her family there for less than an hour. During our visit, another patient– just two beds over — died.
That shook me up.
My friend tried acting like her normal self at work but I knew her mom’s health care needs had taken a toll on her. Things got better a little better, and we found out we would most likely be moving north, five hours away, and I stopped seeing her. We ended up not moving for another six months so I had her come to the apartment we were staying at the time to continue getting lessons in language and culture.
Then her mom was in the hospital again. They thought it was her gallbladder but during an operation, they found pancreatic cancer. I still remember the exact place where I was sitting when my friend called and told me that news. She had no idea what pancreatic cancer was. As a nurse, I knew it was the worst kind. How do you say that? Over the phone? She wanted to know. The doctors weren’t telling them the truth. She had to know.
This occurred not long after Easter, when I learned about how she believes an angel comes down from heaven to see if the people are doing good or bad.
I shared how my Savior was brutally murdered, nailed to a cross, died, and then came back to life, and went back to heaven as well.
She told me, “I know, sis. I know Him. I’ve read His Book. But I am Buddhist. My family is Buddhist. You know?”
Family is everything here. So I prayed. I cried and I read His Word and prayed some more. Then I went to her house to share what I knew.
Depending on the stage of cancer, her mom had between two weeks and six months to live. I was the one who told my friend she was going to lose her mom. It still breaks my heart thinking of it. I pleaded with her and read her words from the Book. I wanted her mom, her family, in Our Family. This was one of the last chances I got.
We were able to see her mom a couple more times in the hospital, but she was wasting into nothing. Her mom died about three months later. I’ve been to a lot of funerals in my young life but that one hurt the worst. Fear is a felt emotion here. That was a terrifying experience.
I think often of Marilyn Laszlow when she brought the Word to an unreached tribe. A man asked her, “What took you so long to bring His Talk to us? So many have died without Him.”This agonizes me so much more now that I have my own friends and loved ones that don’t know Him in a culture and language I have yet to master so I can share His Talk and Love with them.
Sometimes I am so impatient. I used to wish for the gift of tongues. When asked if you had one wish, anything in the world, most kids would answer a million dollars or all the candy in the world-something like that. As a kid, I wished to know all the languages in the world so that I could talk to anyone I came across and help those in need.
Oh I wish that wish would have come true! It would make life so much easier!
So for now, I’m still trudging along learning the best and fastest I can. That first friend of mine is still a close friend. We live far apart but I still get to see her every once in awhile and still think of her often. We just passed the one year anniversary of her mom’s passing and she’s been dealing with a lot since then. My heart aches for her. I will continue showing her love the only way I know how. This is why I’m here.
*Torrie B. (name withheld for security reasons) is a MedSend healthcare professional who is serving in the 10/40 window. There are approximately 275 million Buddhists in the window. A MedSend grant recipient since 2014, this story is taken from one of her reports from the field.