Mead Minutes: Miracle fruit and hubris

Dr. Tim Mead at work

Greetings from the Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao City, Philippines! Jana and I are settling back in to life here. There are many new faces at the hospital, but it is grand to see and reconnect with those we know. We left the cold temperatures of western Michigan to arrive in a hot and rainy Davao. The rains make all the plant life grow in rapid fashion, but they also push the humidity upward.

Walking the neighborhood, I see trees filled with mangos, papayas, bananas, coconuts, and more in differing stages of development. Down the street, pineapples perch on their stalks above the spiky leaves. I am always amazed how weird this arrangement appears, well, at least to me. Pineapples look very unstable and ready to topple, yet they do not. Another mystery to ponder.

Another of my favorite plants have volleyball-size fruits called, “miracle fruit.” I find these small trees with such large fruits interesting. I have asked many Filipinos what these fruits were used for on the island. No one was very sure. Some thought they had some healing properties of some sort. Another thought you could cook them for food. One friend saw a smoothie advertised in the mall made of miracle fruit. Intrigued, she ordered one. The smoothie was gray-black in color, not a plus for sales. The taste, however, she described as “terrible.” It was very bitter and foul. I put this one on my “not ready to try yet” list.

Another favorite fruit for Filipinos is called durian. These fruits are covered with rough, spiky protrusions ranging from softball to basketball sizes. The fruit is soft and eaten raw, cooked, or as an ingredient in many items including tarts, cookies, candies, and ice cream. Durian has this unique, rotten egg-like odor as you pass by. The smell can be quite offensive and durian are banned from some public transportation. I have had it prepared several ways and found it to be okay, but not a favorite.

The Philippines has many different tropical fruits to explore and enjoy. Pamello, mangos, papayas, mangosteen, jack fruit, rambutan, and various species of bananas! These make for varied meal options and colorful markets. When back in the Midwest, I sometimes see a pale example of the same fruits, but the high prices and doubtful quality usually let me pass them by.

The Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao is maturing quite nicely. It seems like just yesterday the doors opened to start the ministry here. Now, patients are coming from distances after hearing of the care of the CURE staff. Lives are being transformed as the love of the CURE staff reaches out to help those in need.

The CURE staff continually grows and improves as the volume and needs of patients increase. The Spiritual teams has expanded to support families, patients, and staff development. The orthopedic service now has three orthopedic surgeons: Drs. Jun, Shelley, and Nesti and many talented nurses. Rules and regulations abound that require the administrative staff to remain alert to changes. Maintenance crews find never-ending repairs and service needed to keep all running smoothly. The external appearance of our hospital is kept up by our awesome cleaning staff. Food service, lab, X-rays, PT, pharmacy: all feel the pressure of growth. Each day, I am greeted by my security friends keeping our patients and staff comfortable and safe. The CURE team serves Davao City and Mindanao well.

Life does not remain constant and  allow you to rest on past efforts. The Tebow CURE Hospital (TCH) continues to mature and shift gears. Initially, the work was all about getting open and developing a core team. Methods and practices were started and modified as experience was gained. As the new kid on the block, TCH started with a clean slate and worked hard to develop a reputation. Patients arrived to learn CURE hospitals are a different breed of patient care. CURE was more than just a hospital.

Tebow CURE is now entering a second phase of growth. An initial trust has been created. Word is slowly spreading. Children are being cared for emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Partnerships are being formed. TCH is opened and functioning.

Now is the time for questions and plans. How can we care for more disabled children? What can we do better? Where should we invest and where should we cut? How can we educate the public and caregivers about the needs of the children with disabilities? What role should we play with the local church?

The opportunities to serve are staggering. Opportunity is a temptation and risk for CURE. Why? Yes, that is the key. (No, this is not the start of an old Abbot and Costello routine, “Who is on first?”) All decisions must be viewed through the lens of why CURE exists. Good ideas and valid needs tempt you to expand or modify your vision and focus. Well-meaning supporters tell you “CURE must be involved ….” Someone wants to fund a project in order to add a different project to the work; do you turn down funds? “TCH could be really good at ….” Do you start a new role?

The risk for CURE, and really all of us, is not usually the very bad choices. If some activity is obviously bad, then to say “no” is not too difficult. The “good” options are the difficult choices to pass by. But we are not called to the merely good, but to the great. We can be buried investing time, talent, and treasure in the merely good and eliminating time, talent, and treasure for the “great” tasks. We feed our pride and forget this is not our ministry. It is God’s.

Some call it “mission drift” or hubris. We take our eyes off the goal. Our pride leads us to think we are greater than we are and know better than God’s plan. Returning to the “why” daily helps to order and grow our efforts. We strive for the great knowing full well we remain in His grip.