Well, I would say yeah, it's a fair criticism. But first off, the Nuba Mountains are mixed: Maybe 40 percent Christian, maybe 40 or 50 percent Muslim, the rest are animist. We as a church, the mission of the church is to be available to the people. Myself as a missionary, I'm trying to present to you a face of Jesus in what I'm doing. I don't preach, I don't say you've got to be Christian or else we won't take care of you, or you've got to be Christian or we won't treat you as well. This is how I believe Christ would react to this situation and I try to emulate that. The Nuba people can see how I'm behaving, good or bad.
FP: You see a lot of horrors on a daily basis. Has your faith ever been tested? Have you had cause to look upwards and think, "Where the hell are you?"
Yeah, where is God in all this when you see children being maimed and slaughtered and dying? Sometimes I wonder, why does God allow this? And in the end, the only conclusion I can come to is: There is so little I know about the world -- the here-and-now and the hereafter. My role is not to question everything. It's just to be of service, to do my best in this earthly realm. Perhaps after I die, I'll know a little bit more. There's a lot that we as humans have no idea about. Somehow, all this stuff makes some kind of sense in the end. This is a temporary existence.
FP: On the other hand, you look into the face if a child, and regardless of what will happen after or what happened before, that child is in excruciating pain.
The only thing I can think of is: whatever suffering we have in this life, the afterlife is so much grander than anything that we can imagine, all the suffering, all the chaos is overshadowed and forgotten and goes away. Maybe the suffering has some redemptive value. I don't know. [tears well up briefly in Catena's eyes at this point, and he removes his glasses.] Watching a kid die, hearing that mother wailing, for me is so excruciatingly painful. It's excruciating. Those are the only times I feel, I've got to get out of here. Hearing that screaming.
FP: Tell me about patients who have really stuck with you, that can't get out of your memory.
There was one kid who was hit by shrapnel from an Antonov bomb. I can't remember his name; he was about 12 years old. He came about a year ago. The bomb exploded and the shrapnel just tore his face apart. Anyway, he went to some clinic somewhere, a few hours from us, and had some crude surgery. They stitched the wound and you don't want to do that; it traps the bacteria and bugs. He was a total mess. There was pus and stuff oozing from his wounds. We took the sutures out, and inside his wounds was dirt and grass. We cleaned it out and packed the wounds.
He was doing okay for a couple of weeks. The wounds were healing. But every time the Antonov would come overhead, and we'd hear it, he'd just put his face into the wall and moan. He was terrified. Then we saw him one morning and he was going rigid, and we thought, oh no, he's getting tetanus. So we put him in isolation and put a feeding tube down, and started our standard tetanus treatment. He was spiking high fevers, so we put him on antibiotics. And after a couple of days, he just up and died. And it was excruciating.
He was recovering from his wounds. He was doing fine. I discussed it with one of the Comboni Sisters who was in charge of the children's ward. We talked and talked about it. She said, "What can we do? Maybe it was God's will. He would have suffered the rest of his life."
Then there's a guy named Daniel, who is still alive. Daniel was hit by an Antonov. He's 14 years old. The Antonov came over, and he fell to the ground and wrapped his arms around a tree. The shrapnel hit him and severed both of his arms. He came in with spaghetti arms, you know? So I had to take off both of his arms.
To amputate somebody's arm is not a nice operation. A leg is better. If you take off a leg, there is a possibility of giving him a prosthesis so he can walk again. But take off somebody's arms, particularly a kid like that, you are screwing that kid. He's left to a life of constant dependency on somebody else.
We just set Daniel up with a program to get him prosthetic arms, but they're cosmetic arms, like a mannequin -- non-functioning. We're hoping we can later give him some kind of a claw or latch [that can grasp things]. But he's depressed now. He needs to have somebody help him pass his stool, to help him wash his butt. He can't eat.