Last night, I spoke to a chapel full of hearing aids and walkers . . . I may have been the only one in the room still sporting real teeth . . . I certainly had the least amount of gray hair! But there was no doubt about it, I was clearly the only rookie too!
'How many of you served at Galmi Hospital?' I asked. About a third of the hands were raised. 'And in Niger?' That brought us to about half.
And there I stood, still green from my first-term, before All Those Who Had Gone Before.
SIM has a retirement community in Florida. I had been there before to drop some stuff off . . . but this was the first time I had a chance to meet any of the residence.
As I set up my computer, the feisty little-old-lady sitting at the piano approached me. 'And who might you be?' she asked. I told her my name and that I work at Galmi Hospital.
'Well, isn't that interesting' she said with a long pause. 'We started that place!'
I blinked at her. 'Mrs. Long, it's an honor to meet you! And we chatted for a few minutes, before she made her way back to begin the hymns.
A few minutes later, an old man wearing khaki shorts and a plaid fisherman's jacket, approached her and whispered something in her ear. She nodded in my direction. Slowly he made his way toward me, 'I'm married to the pianist' he said. 'How nice to meet you Dr. Long.'
In 1950 this doctor/nurse couple made their way to The Middle of Nowhere, drove another half a day, and set up shop. Their new home would become what we now know as L'Hôpital de la SIM-Galmi.
I had heard a lot about Likita Tsoho (the Old Doctor) from my own Tsoho. As a young man, just barely twenty, my Tsoho had a very badly infected ulcer in his left thigh. He made the long trip from his village to see this likita that people had begun talking about. His infection was severe and his recovery long.
During that time, my Tsoho met Jesus at Galmi Hospital.
Tsoho told me that when got well, he returned to his village, but he wasn't welcomed back since he had become a Christian. So he went back to Galmi. He began to learn to read, helped start an Awana program for the kids in the community, and began training from Likita Tsoho to work as a surgical assistant in the hospital.
When I left Niger, I was given strict instructions to greet this Likita for my Tsoho. And so, that's just what I did.
'I'll bet he's an old man now too!' Dr. Long said with a chuckle as I shared about our surprise friendship and the position Tsoho holds as My Favorite Nigerien.
After I spoke, sharing all of the What's New Since You All Retired, two L-O-L's (little-old-ladies) sitting behind me began whispering to me. 'Do you know Nana? And Ai? And Salamatou? And what about Abdou, is he still living? Oh, and Lydia, do you know a Lydia? . . . .' And since I know at least ONE of each of those, I simply said 'Why yes, she's doing just fine. She greets you and all of your family.'
And just as I was about to leave, Dr. Long approached us and said to the ladies 'Guess what she calls Halilou?! OLD MAN!' and simultaneously, they all erupted with laughter. 'Imagine, HALILOU! A tsoho now!'
It was an absolute treasure to listen as they reminisced about Back-in-the-Day . . . as they gasped at the Way-Things-Are-Now . . . and as their eyes misted over as friends were named and discussed, friends they will meet again someday, in Heaven.