We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

In Shaddai's Shadow

You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
    spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
    I trust in you and I’m safe!”

These words (and more following) were sent to us in the hospital by a friend during this rather traumatic week and we have been repeating this poet's words!

Amisadai's name comes from the Hebrew, Ammishadai, or Ammi' (meaning people/kinsmen/kindred) of Shaddai (the Almighty). And on Wednesday night, these words of spending the night in Shaddai's shadow and saying "I'm safe!" became particularly real for us!

On Wednesday, I was in a Mwanza hospital with Amisadai, who was in so much pain, trying to turn away from the blood-stained walls, the needles in her arm, the uncertainty of all that was happening so quickly, and fear of what the next day might bring. And yet, in this hospital, in the darkness, with power cutting on and off as a huge thunderstorm storm raged behind the mosquito mesh on the window, we were in Shaddai's shadow and He was our refuge.

Let me go back a little … As I blogged in the last post, as coronavirus arrived in Tanzania, Amisadai was just arriving back with Tim from Kenya after having knee surgery to reconstruct a new ACL from tendons in her hamstring. All had been progressing very well with pain decreasing and mobility improving… until last Friday when she began to feel increasing pain in her knee. The pain became steadily worse and by Monday, even on the strong pain killers, she was in so much pain, her temperature had gone up and we were concerned about infection in the graft. We are so incredibly thankful for a good friend here who is a doctor and he was able to get her on antibiotics and put us in touch with an orthopaedic surgeon here in Mwanza. We were also in contact with her surgeon from Nairobi, but with Coronavirus, all borders were closing and flights halted. It was difficult to know what to do. 

One thing coronavirus is doing right now across the western world is shake people's certainty of what is in their control and what is safe. Living in a different culture to our own, we actually feel we made the personal choice to lose a sense of that certainty when we moved here! And we don't have our own certainty about very much most of the time ... and are pretty ok with that! But here this week, COVID19 still managed to shake that little piece of security that was in the thought that we could always just go somewhere... a Nairobi hospital, or UK or Canada. But now we couldn't ... or even if we could manage to get to another hospital in another country, we knew the chances of getting back home to Tanzania was very unlikely until coronavirus lock-downs were relaxed. So where is our certainty? Where is our refuge?

After a fluid aspiration at the hospital on Tuesday and Amisadai's pain and sickness worsening with a temperature, on Wednesday we admitted her to the hospital to get her straight on IV antibiotics. From the moment Amisadai was carried up a long flight of stairs in a wheelchair by three men (no elevators!), we realised that this was a very different experience to all previous hospital experiences! Here in Tanzania, the relatives or friends of the patient must meet all personal needs … so we came prepared with plenty of water, soap and of course the now legendary COVID19  toilet paper! I had grabbed some plain biscuits and a bar of our rationed chocolate (as I didn't expect Tim to bring us chai and chapatis the next morning) and plenty of khangas for our beds or drying ourselves or any of the million things a khanga is always useful for!
Getting around was not easy!
Thursday was the hardest day. We had so many doctors and nurses coming through; I think we counted 28 different medical staff asking us the same questions and the confusion was rather overwhelming. We read Psalm 91 several times throughout the day, as there were more blood tests, as we waited for synovial fluid and blood culture results, as Amisadai lay exhausted and vomiting in the pain and nausea. We read it as we waited for ages in an ultrasound room after making the difficult descent back downstairs for another draining for testing of fluid, which then was decided against due to the risk of further infection prodding about in the inflamed knee. Several times nurses came to prepare Amisadai for emergency surgery to open up her knee to drain and clean out the infection. But at the same time, Tim was at home, trying to communicate with our friend Rob in Mwanza, the orthopaedic doctor in Mwanza, our surgeon in Kenya and our insurance company in the UK about what the best option was and where we should be.

We didn't know where we would be at the end of that day. But we knew that Shaddai was our refuge and we were safe to trust Him. We were also reminded of this truth by the prayers and encouraging messages sent to us by so many dear friends from Mwanza and all across the world. And truly He heard our cry!
She tried a tea biscuit for breakfast …! 
Our three tremendous doctors agreed they did not need to proceed with cutting open her knee, which was such a huge answer to prayer! Amisadai stayed on IV antibiotics for three days, but she was released to go home to then return the following day to the hospital for another dose. We now keep close watch as she continues on oral antibiotics as well as strong painkillers and anti-inflammatories. We are just waiting to start her on a course of antibiotics tomorrow to specifically attack the staphylococcus aureus. But it has been wonderful to see her improving so quickly! The swelling is down, her temperature is normal, she is no longer nauseous or in pain. We are so thankful!
Louisa came to support Amisadai for the final IV antibiotics
Often fear, the fear of the unknown, the worry of what might come, the anxiety coming from things being out of our control can be hard to overcome. The fear of septic arthritis and all that could follow was a fear. The feeling of being trapped by borders, the fear of surgery, of confused medications or diagnosis.  And I think fear is so real for so many right now as COVID19 stalks the globe. Health, finances, education … they were all things that seemed so secure in the West, yet now suddenly there is insecurity and uncertainty. There is sickness and death and there is financial stress. But I hope that if you are reading this and feeling a sense of fear or worry, that Psalm 91 would also encourage you as it did for us this week! Certain of one good thing … Shaddai's shadow.

His huge outstretched arms protect you—
    under them you’re perfectly safe;
    his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
    not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
    not disaster that erupts at high noon.

Psalm 91 (The Message)


  1. I found this absolutely riveting! Thank you for sharing the worry and stress. Praise God for a good outcome. May the healing will continue. The Lord be with you.


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