December 11, 2017

Telling Another’s Story

Telling Another’s Story

This was written for the Church Times in May 2012

Many years of communicating had not prepared me for writing a biography. It is a sobering task to tell someone else’s story faithfully.

I met British born Lyn Lusi some years ago in D R Congo, when I stayed in her home in Goma. I was visiting the hospital founded by Lyn and her husband, ‘Jo’, a Congolese orthopedic surgeon. Their deep love for each other was cemented in mutual Christian commitment, and their longing for peace and justice for the Congolese people. It shaped their life’s work together. I was enthralled at how God led them to set up the Goma hospital to train young Congolese doctors. Jo was the only orthopaedic surgeon for ten million people in a population constantly battered by war and brutality. Characteristically, they drew on the goodwill of international Christian surgical specialists, who travelled voluntarily to Africa to enjoy the hospitality of their home, and help Jo deliver the training.Nothing seemed to deter them. Even when the hospital building was destroyed by a volcano, they rebuilt and refurbished, and developed the work of ‘Heal Africa.’  By last year they had trained 30 Congolese doctors, qualified in medicine and surgery.

It did not take me long to see Lyn’s vision. Her heart had been broken by the pain of the Congo, by the injustice heaped upon those who were most at risk. She oversaw administration as Jo and his team performed dozens of routine operations each day, sometimes working through the night if the militia had raided. One night she wrote asking for urgent prayer. Jo was ‘putting the liver and intestines back’ for the surviving son of a family mutilated by soldiers. His injuries were appalling. ‘Such cruelty is incomprehensible,’ she wrote.

Lyn found strength in the very word ‘heal’. It spoke of integration: ‘health, education, action, love.’ Heal Africa quickly became far more than a traditional hospital. Advocacy against injustice was part of healing. On any day people might be attending skills workshops, HIV/AIDS prevention training, counseling sessions, family planning –  even singing or dancing. In the midst of bloodshed and turmoil, rape and sexual violence, Heal Africa became a landmark for holistic care and compassion, attracting visitors like Hilary Clinton and George Cluny to see for themselves what could be achieved. More importantly it became home, a refuge, a place of recovery, a beacon of hope for thousands of broken people.

As I got to know Lyn I saw how clearly life was integrated for her in the twin realities of God’s love and human sin. She never hesitated to use the word ‘darkness’ for what she saw in the Congo. When I was there, women were admitted in the most awful conditions: raped, brutalized, blinded, disfigured, needing emergency surgery, fistula operations and months of therapeutic recovery. Lyn never underestimated what they were up against, yet had unfailing faith in the power of God’s healing love.

Lyn own life ended two months ago, through cancer. The loss is palpable in Goma.  People she never knew have written obituaries. Her work and Christian testimony was celebrated in the Economist, on American television, Capitol Hill.  I have to finish Lyn’s biography without her warmth, or the wit and poignancy of her emails.  But at Heal Africa there is a more powerful testimony. This week, a woman fistula patient is finally discharged from hospital after nine years of treatment, having regained her health, hope and means of livelihood (breeding livestock and making clothes). Irrespective of any obituary or biography, Lyn’s story will live, and transform generations through the lives of those she served and loved.

Cambridge

May 2012

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