Before I start this story, it requires a bit of back-knowledge. Several years ago, Patrice was made the responsible for the Adventist church group about 5 miles south of us in Dabgue (where Jonathan held his Bible work training last year). A man of rare integrity; for instance, one time Patrice heard about some French Bibles that were available nearby a town he was going to visit very soon. He told Jonathan about it, and Jonathan was of course interested in buying them, and arranged with Patrice to buy them for us to distribute. Naturally, Jonathan mentioned he would help with the trip costs, but Patrice declined, saying, “I’m going right by the place anyways. It won’t cost me anything extra.” For us in a place where many do everything they can to milk us to the last penny, it was a welcome reprieve.
Another, similar story, I had flown a medevac and Patrice, as the ER charge nurse that day, managed the unconscious boy. When the boy’s father asked for my contact info, seemingly to ask me for help paying their bill, Patrice refused to give it, because he said it wasn’t right to ask more of me than what I had already given. As I said, I had a lot of respect for him (If you think that’s bad of me, read Olen and Danae’s blog, the “Missionary Doctors” on our recommended list…you’ll see many examples of where people beg for stuff like they have nothing, are refused, then go and pay it themselves with wads of cash to spare. If you STILL don’t believe it, just come live here for a year).
Patrice’s wife Gisele works with Sarah at the Nutrition Center. Sarah always raves about how great of a worker she is, how quick-witted, gentle, kind she is. She also started the Bible School session as the head cook. Together, they have 5 kids, the youngest, Martin Luther King, is 2 months older than Joel.
To start the story; Patrice had been having some health issues recently, and was in and out of the hospital. I stopped by their house one day with some money for food for the Bible school, and Patrice greeted me. I could tell that whatever sickness he had was taking its toll, as he seemed pale, thin, and distant. As I had many things to do, I hurriedly left the money with Gisele and left. I mentioned it to Sarah, and she said, “Yeah, Gisele said he’s been getting better recently, though.” So I thought nothing of it.
About that same time, we received news: Patrice had been caught sleeping with interns at the hospital. I was really frustrated. Here’s a very respectful man, a leader of the church, and he fell. I didn’t know what was going to happen; the church as a whole here isn’t established enough to properly handle it.
A couple days after the baptisms (from the last story), and about a month after Patrice was caught, I got a call from Jonathan. “Patrice died last night,” he reported abruptly. “We’ll have to cancel classes for a couple days so everyone can attend the funeral.” We went to the funeral, and as Sarah sat besides Gisele, she was obviously in a lot of grief and distress. She kept asking Sarah, “What am I going to do for my children? What am I going to do for my children?”
The people who were gathered together listened as church members started talking about the hope we have of the resurrection, and the knowledge we have that Patrice is waiting in the dust for Jesus’ return. Just then, demonic screaming started a block away. Two or three people came running in, stumbling around, screaming, and making such a racket that all attention to the encouragement and biblical truth in it was broken as the crowd turned to see this new distraction. The service ended shortly afterward, and we left.
The burial the next day was uneventful to my knowledge. Attendance was so huge that we couldn’t see anything around the crowd, so we did the culturally acceptable thing to sit under a mango tree and talk.
The doctors say they can’t figure out why he died. He had a weird rash, but medically there was nothing seemingly significant about it. They suspected Hepatitis B, but something (excuse my lack of medical knowledge) indicated otherwise. Nobody knows the full reason why Patrice died. The Chadians, who, as a culture, handle death better than any other group I’ve encountered, stood by their default response, “It was his time to go.”
Our heart goes out to Gisele and her children as they go through this time of loss. Last harvest, much of their rice was stolen right out of their field. Then somebody came and burned the rest. So they didn’t have much food set aside for the year. Now, as Gisele is hosting mourners from all over Chad who have come to give their condolences, she’s obligated to feed them, so all their food for the year is already gone, and Gisele’s salary at the NC isn’t enough to feed them… On top of that, her 5 and 3 year old daughters keep asking, “Where’s Dad? Is he in the field? When is he coming home?” Martin Luther King looks hopefully at every man he sees, hoping it’s Patrice.
Please pray for Gisele and her family. We will help her where we can financially, but it will surely be very difficult for her and her 5 kids in the days and years to come.