Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jordan was out clearing up some old trees that had been laying around the other day, and next thing I noticed he had picked up a couple passengers. The little guy in the gray shirt has been living here at the clinic for several months since his mother is here with severe burns to her face. She is epileptic and fell in her cooking fire and is now going through skin grafts and facial repairs. These two guys rode around without saying a word and in absolute awe with the whole situation.

Last week pretty much wrapped up our biggest goal here, and that is to get both houses finished up and ready for new staff. This week, our last week of work :(, will be spent primarily getting a better organized and equipped maintenance facility. Hope Clinic has grown so fast that it has nearly outpaced it's own ability to be prepared for maintenance and new projects. We hope to have it all organized into plumbing, electrical, welding, mechanical and woodworking sections by the time we leave, with two men , Gbato and Ce'Kona, being better trained and equipped to handle the jobs. Sandy's been keeping a sewing machine pretty warm, making curtains for different homes here and doing some small mending/altering jobs for some of the ladies here. She has made a big difference around here, making some of the houses feel more like homes.

It's beginning to look like there is going to be some significant growth here in the coming years, with the first area of focus being maternity. This is so desperately needed in this area with many mothers and children dying unnecessary deaths simply because of a complete lack of health care in this area. Just two weeks ago, the groundskeeper's wife was having troubles during delivery of her child. After waiting far too long, they finally took her to a hospital in N'Zerekore where they attempted a C-section. The baby was born dead. This is an example of what happens all too often, and is quite preventable. As soon as the finances and resources come in through gifts and donations, the vision is to build a 40-50 bed maternity ward with delivery rooms and all of the things necessary for baby care. This will be quite exciting, and we're hoping that it is made possible in the near future. Partnerships and donations are always welcome.

Christmas day for us this year was different than any Christmas day has ever been. We took off in the Landcruiser at 8:00 AM and drove to the village of Yalenzou. Yalenzou is the village where some of you may remember us talking about the local witch doctor and the devil society tearing down the church and driving all of the local believers out of the village a couple years ago. But as a testimony to the enduring truth of the gospel, it was decided that Yalenzou would be the location for a great Christmas gathering and celebration of many churchs from surrounding villages. Hundreds of people met in the center of the village and then walked through the village singing as we all went to a small stream at the edge of the village. There is very little organization or protocol which made it even more enjoyable, but made it take quite a while to get the crowd there and the new converts all ready. With much singing and dancing, and a lengthy prayer, Moise and Jon began to baptize the 31 people that had decided to follow Jesus over the past several months. The stream, which is actually on the border between Guinea and Liberia, was hardly deep enough for the job, not even coming up to the knees. No problem, just push a few rocks aside, sit them down in the water and lay them down on their backs. Such celebrations, singing and dancing I have never seen. At one point, Moise thought it was a little too quiet so he reminded the crowd that this wasn't a funeral but a new birth at which point they got all wound up again! When they were done at the stream, they all began to sing their way back in a long procession to the center of town, where they had prepared a building to have a church service in. I estimated there was around 400-450 people in that building including all of the children. The service lasted about 3 hours with much singing and then sharing communion together after the preaching. We drove back to the clinic in the afternoon and shared a late afternoon feast with all of the missionaries here for our Christmas dinner. It's quite difficult to think "Christmas" in a culture that doesn't even recognize Jesus. However, that is the primary vision of everyone here at Hope, and that is to make sure that Jesus is introduced to all, and that the little stream at the edge of Yalenzou will be even busier through the next year!

It doesn't take but a few minutes after getting into a new village, that all the local children come running to see the "white skins". Our kids are soon swarmed with dirty little kids all wanting to be the closest, and all wanting to shake their greasy little hands.
We trust you are all having a great Christmas filled with Love, Joy and Peace! This is the great message of Jesus that wraps around the globe to every nation, kindred, tongue and tribe!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The kids made it!

Not that we really had any concerns, but it sure is good that the kids made it here safe and sound. They left home Thursday evening, and arrived in Africa Friday evening about 10:00 PM. They got about four hours of sleep and then departed at 5:00 AM for the drive down here to N'zao. They managed to make the drive in 17 1/2 hours, which is more than the human body should be able to take, let alone the tired little Toyota that took the beating, and rolled in here around 10:30. It's only been 6 weeks, but it sure is good to see them again. Jordan, Katie, Luke and one of Luke's friends, Grant Miller came out.

Picture of Jon on the tractor mowing the roadside at the edge of the village. School had just let out so he had quite an audience. (We continue to love the tractor over here!!)

Last Saturday we had a very interesting day. Jacque, the pharmacist here at the clinic, asked if we'd like to go see a rubber plantation. We borrowed a car and Sandy, Sara, Jacque, his wife and daughter and I drove about 2 1/2 hours west toward the Liberian border. It didn't take 2 1/2 hours because it was so far, but because we only averaged about 25 mph. Jacque's wife even got sick at one point from the twisting rough roads, but seeing a rubber plantation from the tree to the factory and then to the exporter was worth the rough drive and a lot more. I had almost no idea how you harvest the raw product from the tree, much less process it and get it ready to export. Most of the containers in the warehouse waiting to be shipped were marked "Michelin", so they must have been a large supplier for Michelin tires. This particular area of Guinea has thousands of acres of rubber trees, all planted in nice rows with a little pot hanging on the side collecting the white rubber resin that drips from a groove cut around the tree. A most fascinating day.

But the most exciting thing about this week was the news we got from Jordan and Katie last night! We had been over at Katie's families house for the evening, and we noticed when we left to walk home about 9:00 PM, that Jordan and Katie went another direction. It was a beautiful full moon and a nice evening to go for a walk (and hope the snakes weren't out), so we smiled and went home to bed. About 45 minutes later they walked in, burst right into our bedroom, and Katie nearly leaped across the room with a huge smile showing us a nice diamond ring on her finger! The timing was perfect for everyone here, it's certainly the only time they could be with both her parents and us at the same time. Plus, it fulfilled Katie's dream of being proposed to in the land she's spent most of her life in. It looks like we'll be having a wedding sometime next summer when Stephen and Lori will be in the States on a short home assignment.

Sara and I had another interesting experience last week. We were finishing up the doctors house we've been working on when we heard some loud popping and snapping, almost like a gun on the other side of the wall along the road. We ran to a high place to see that the 10' tall grass along the road had caught on fire, and in this baking hot weather with a slight breeze, it was burning hot and starting to spread pretty fast. We sent out a shout and went running. Gbato, Ce'Kona and one of the guards grabbed buckets, and I hopped on the tractor. A few more came running from the village and helped carry water up from the swamp. I started clearing a bare area ahead of the fire to stop it while all the others fought the fire with buckets. For a while we thought it was going to take out one of the neighbors pig pens, but we were succesful before it caused any damage. The funniest thing I've seen in a while was Ce'kona racing around through the smoke and burning grass fighting the fire in flip-flops! I think his feet must be made of organic cast iron.

CAMA services is the umbrella organization that is now running this clinic. One of their other ministries in this part of the world is working with refugees. With the problems going on across our southern border in the Ivory Coast right now, there is talk around here of what could happen if refugees begin to flee Ivory Coast and come this direction. Just a couple weeks ago we thought we might have to leave Guinea, and now it looks like our neighbors might have to flee this direction. The lack of any kind of political stability is most incredible, and you would think it would make me complain less about our own government......but it probably won't :)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Jesus focused time of celebration!!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things really have quieted down around here in one way and have gotten much noisier in another way. The medical team left which made the guest house we are staying in seem nearly empty, but the village has now gotten much noiser. Since the election violence seems to have settled down, they have lifted the curfew and the state of emergency that was keeping everyone in their houses after dark. Now it seems like they are making up for lost time and wanting to make a racket all night. Last Saturday night they didn't settle down until 7:30 Sunday morning.

Saturday I took Moise (one of the founders of the clinic and school) over to the school on the tractor. I spent several hours teaching him the basics of tractor care and operation. He has picked it up amazingly well for never even seeing a machine like that. We started out by leveling out several large termite mounds, moving a few small stumps, and filling in some low areas. The first goal is to get a large enough area cleared and leveled to make a soccer field. The second goal will be to level and area to pour some cement and make a basketball court. They don't know anything about basketball here, but since they only know soccer, it would be good for them to have another sport to be a little more diverse and involve more kids. At this time they are only up to the 10th grade, so they are waiting on more money to keep building classrooms. Hopefully it will come in before another school year so the current 10th graders won't have to quit or go to a state-run school which is hopelessly inadequate and corrupt. This pic is of Moise and his first solo attempt!!

Even though the surgical team has left, the usual weekly patients continue to come. There is an average of 50 patients a day show up for a wide variety of illnesses. As we would expect, some are quite minor and some quite serious. Two recent patients have been burn patients, each with an odd cause of injury. One lady is epileptic and accidently fell into her cooking fire. She has been here several months enduring skin grafting and a very painful recovery. The other burn patient is a lady whose brother-in-law got upset with her because she wouldn't be friendly enough to him and poured acid over her face. Unfortunately, there isn't any policemen or legal means of dealing with the offender, so his life goes on as normal. Now this lady will have permanent scarring and loss of vision in one eye the rest of her life. Today as I was walking up to the clinic, I noticed Jon and Bernard carrying a corpse out and sliding it in the back of the land cruiser. It was an 8 year old boy that the family waited too long to bring, and he died during initial examination. So sad, had they only gotten here quicker, there wouldn't have been such sadness in their hut tonight. What kept them from coming? The witch doctor run out of options? No money, no trust in the "white people", no transportation? But on the brighter side, the little 4 year old girl that had her arm amputated last week is running around here with the cutest smile. She just loves to come up and shake your hand and get a pat on the head.
Sandy has faithfully made powdered milk, banana, orange and peanut butter smoothies to serve to the patients each afternoon. They just love it and it gives her a good opportunity to spend some time with them.

I'm just finishing up the house for the doctor and his family to move into, then tomorrow I have to finish up the apartment for short term medical volunteers to live in. Here's a pic of Ce'kona, one of the maintenance men here, learning how to adjust a hinge on a door. I can see that I only have about 3 more weeks and a huge list of things I still want to get done. Hmmmm...are we going to be able to come home and stay there knowing there is so much to be done?
Jordan, Katy, Luke and Luke's friend Grant are leaving Ohio today to come over. A non-stop overnight from Cincy to Paris, then a flight into Conakry on Friday. Saturday morning they will tackle the 20 hour drive and I hear they're considering trying it in one day. It's going to be good to get them here.
Well, getting late and internet is slowwwwwwww. Happy shivers in the USA!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goodbye to a great team!

Photo; Mt. Golo over the top of our house (the one on the right), and getting lessons in mat weaving !

Tonight was a tough night. We had a farewell party for the team of Doctors and nurses that have been here for the last 4 weeks from the Mercy ship. Over the time they've been here, they have done 42 surgeries and have screened several more for another visit and a few that will be going to the ship in Sierra Leone early next year. One man in particular is carrying around a 10-15 pound growth on the lower portion of his face that has almost completely eliminated his mouth. He can only eat liquids through a small whole in the side of what appears to be the mouth area. They will do the surgery on the ship where they have more staff and better facilities since there is a significant risk that he won't survive the surgery. This team has impacted many, many people in a large way, and it was such a satisfaction to watch it all happen and be a small part of it. With the patients and the patients families, several hundred people have came through the gate and spent some time here over the last several weeks. Each of them experienced God's love and the message of joy and peace through Jesus. We know of 6 people that repented and have accepted the gift of Salvation as a result of their time here at Hope Clinic. The last surgery performed was just this evening, hours before our party. A small girl was brought in that had broken her arm and went to a traditional healer for treatment. He wrapped something on her arm to heal her so tightly that her arm effectively died from the treatment and all the two surgeons here could do was amputate. It must have been terribly painful, and now the loss of her arm, all because they haven't been educated and didn't know to come to this place. These are some of the reasons that this place has stolen a place in our hearts and lives.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A couple miracles!!

Here are a couple of the kids that have been helped here in the last three weeks. When their lip is so badly deformed, it usually allows their teeth to drift out of place, but a couple years after this surgery, the doc's say that the newly formed lip will help correct some of the dental problems. Repairing cleft lips often requires re-aligning the nose also, although neither of these two are too badly postitioned. So far there are over 30 children like this that are discovering completely new lives.

Bintu Sow
Double cleft lip, before and after

Souleyman Sidibe
Cleft lip before and after

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Half way through our stay

It seems like Sunday has been the only time recently we've had for doing updates. Not that we're so busy, it's just that it's been so great being able to go to bed before 9:00! This week has been fairly routine, still spending most of our time trying to get this house done by mid-December. I think we should be able to get it done this week if I don't get too many other jobs tossed in my lap. I try to take advantage of other small repair/maintenance jobs at the clinic that I can use to help train Ce'kona and Batou, the two maintenance men here. It has ranged anywhere from repairing the ventilator machine in surgery with electrical tape to showing them a better way to repair a screen door.

The patients continue to come in, some with great success stories as I've shared, and some not so successful. I shared the story a few weeks ago of a man that had gangrene through his upper body as a result of a tooth infection. He seemed to be pulling out of it, but another infection set in and he died a few days ago. Just yesterday, a 7 year old girl was carried in so malnourished that she only weighed 14 lbs. They still don't know if she'll recover or not. In this part of Africa, there is usually enough food, but the food quality and the diet is very poor and the parasites and worms are all trying to get their share as well. So far the Mercy Ship team have performed over 30 surgeries which are all either cleft lips, NOMA, or tumors. These two photos are before and after of a very successful cleft lip surgery! I'll try to post more of these later.

Saturday Batou (maintenance man here at Hope) took us for a 3 mile walk out to his coffee plantation. We Americans would look at a farm like his and call it forest or jungle, but to them, it is a working farm or "plantation". Property is handed down from generation to generation with the children working the farm helping to take care of the grandparents in their old age. On Batou's farm, he raises primarily coffee, but also has Palm trees that they make oil from, bananas, pineapple, papaya, casava and he is just starting an area of rubber trees. Their farms are amazingly productive, but require a lot of back-breaking hand labor. He hires people to chop brush with machetes to let his crops grow, and they work day after day chopping and weeding for $1.50 per day. Coffee is harvested, sent to the capital and exported. Palm oil is sold for cooking. The fruit is either eaten or sold in local markets. This photo is one of his sons climbing a palm tree to cut out the nuts.

The political situation seems to have become much more calm. The election results were finally confirmed and irrevocably implemented Thursday evening. This is a day we had been waiting for, and about 9:00 that night we began to hear loud cheering and shouting coming out of the village. That told us that Conte had won, which is the candidate that the tribes in this part of the country supported. This was good news for us, since it helps keep our area calm, and we hope it is good news for the rest of the country. We were afraid that the supporters of the other candidate would start rioting and begin the violence that they had predicted would happen. Fortunately, and by the hand of God, Diallo, the losing candidate made a public announcement just an hour ahead of the Supreme courts announcement, with an appeal for calm and stating that he would work towards reconciliation and peace in this country. His concession of the election and call for unity is probably the biggest factor in stopping the violence that seemed so certain. At this time (Sunday), the borders are still closed but the airport is open. Three days of calm now, so we're hoping that the worst is behind us.

Today Sandy, Sara and I drove to Ce'kona's village of Godi for church. When we arrived before church, there was a "mourning" in progress at the house next door for a 1 year old girl that had died the day before from Malaria. Malaria is the silent killer that stalks these villages and relentlessly claims it's victims. Most will survive the terrible fever, chills and shakes, but way too many don't survive, especially the children under 5. The church there is smaller than the one here in N'zao, but quite lively and very spirited. It was quite enjoyable to be with them and it didn't take long to feel part of the family. I preached from Psalm 27, encouraging them to be strong and confident in the Lord no matter what comes into their lives. Lunch at Ce'konas consisted of Plantains (over sized bananas) cooked in palm oil with some kind of hot peppers cut up over the top and fresh pineapple. How's that for a Sunday dinner feast? The pics are walking through the village of Godi after church and then a visit to Pastor Samuels house.

Oh, another thing. I finally submitted to public opinion (my best advice for one man living with two women) and killed the two geckos that have been living with us. I didn't see that they were eating more than their share or making too much laundry, so I didn't see the problem. But I gave in, removed the geckos, and now I have the new title of "Dragon Slayer"! Would make any man feel proud!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday the 19th update

Photos: Sara and friends in the village of Laapa, and the meal they served us! Yummm!

A fairly pleasant day today, not quite as hot as usual. We're back home from church with our feet propped up and trying to decide if a book or a nap is most important. Guess I'll update the blog instead. Today I preached at church from Acts 17, focusing on v. 28 where Paul says clearly that "In Him (Jesus), we live, move and have our being"! It's always a trick trying to keep a continuity of thought when you have to wait for each sentence to be translated into two different languages. The local language is Mano, but there were some Gerzai people there today and also some French speakers, so there was a guy in the back translating for the third time. There is usually a long time of prayer, with several songs from the "choir", which the whole congregation is encouraged to join. Then they do an open bible study, with one leading the discussion, another translating, and many in the congregation of about 150 contributing to the discussion. After a few more songs and prayer, there are announcements and informational things given, an offering is taken, testimony time is given, then the last 45 minutes is given to preaching. Usually about a 2 1/2 hour meeting. Today a young lady stood up in the back and began to talk a little. When she was done, everyone clapped, they beat on the bongos and tambourines a little and everyone cheered. Moise simply said "She came today to repent"!! When she was finished, 3 more stood and did the same thing. It was quite exciting!

The patients continue to come and the treatments continue to change lives. So far the Mercy Ship team have done around 20 surgeries, 13 of them cleft lips, 4 of them NOMA repairs and 3 tumors. The cleft lips never stop thrilling me when you see how this culture will completely shun and banish someone with facial deformities. To watch people leave here with nicely repaired faces and mouths is so satisfying. I had never heard of NOMA until coming over here. It is a disease that has almost completely disappeared in the developed world, but is still a great problem in this area. For some reason, when someone has had a disease such as Malaria or Typhoid, bad drinking water, poor nutrition or hygiene, the imune system will be weak enough that this disease will start to decay the flesh around their mouth. They say is isn't real painful, but it slowly eats away skin and muscle, leaving faces that hardly even look human. They say this surgeon that is here from the ship has done more NOMA surgeries than anyone else in the world, and is quite creative in using the available flesh on the face to rebuild the missing areas. He is from Great Britain, as most of the team is, and it's been fun getting to know them. One of the tumors they removed from the side of a man's head the other day literally required a saw and chisels to remove it from the side of the skull. I wish I could have seen that one. Sara and I did scrub up the other day and watched a cleft lip surgery from beginning to end. It was quite fascinating to see each step of the reconstruction and repair which included moving her nose to realign with the new upper mouth area. An incredible process that is so routine for Doctor Tony that we chatted about everything from life in England to Theology while he was also explaining the surgery. One of the best parts of the whole effort is the staff sharing the gospel with the patients and their families.

One day this week we helped get Jon ready, and his truck loaded for his 2 1/2 week trip to Liberia where he does week-long crusades in Monrovia. It took us all morning to load his tents, chairs, benches, sound equipment, platforms, etc. into the large 4-wheel drive truck that the clinic has. He's battling an infection in his leg, but he wouldn't let that stop him from the trip which took two days of driving over bad roads all alone. That's Jon! He'll sacrifice nearly everything to help these people.

Yesterday Moise took us to one of his palm plantations. It is right beside the village where his mother came from that is about 1 1/2 hours drive from here. He was given a piece of land that he continues to farm, and in turn hires some of the villagers to help tend the trees and work in the harvest. These palm trees produce nuts that they make oil out of that is used for cooking. It is one of the larger agricultural crops here. Rice, bananas, coffee and pineapple are some of the others. Laapa is a village of about 500 people, most of them still living in the round thatch-roofed houses. We had a good time strolling through the village, us gawking at them and them gawking at us. Before we left, different ladies began to bring pots and pans of food. The village chief brought us something to drink and some fresh raw peanuts and "violla", we had a feast prepared! It is always fun to eat a meal in the village, but never too fun for the taste buds and the stomach. (see photo above) Jon often prays at a time like that "Lord, we'll put the food down if you keep it down"! I've borrowed that prayer several times now.

We went into N'zerekore last night to a restaurant that Stephens found. They called ahead to make sure it would be open since all of the curfew challenges, and they said they were, but the man that had the key to the cupboard containing the dishes couldn't be found so we'd have to bring our own. Only in Africa! We had rice, beef slabs cooked in some kind of gravy, french fries and fried bananas. Not too bad really!

We just found out this morning that the borders of the entire country of the country have been closed. That's a different feeling, knowing you are now a few thousand miles away from home and now the country your in has shut it's borders. It seems that the military that declared a state of emergency 10 days ago, are now thinking that next week could get interesting. The supreme court is supposedly going to issue the final election results that everyone has been waiting for for weeks. Evidently they think closing the borders could help keep rabble rousers and rebels out that would like to come in and keep things upset. We're still feeling quite safe and uninvolved here in our area as most of the turmoil is in the north and up around the capital. We also feel good about being here at a medical clinic, so we just keep trusting and knowing that God will show us what we need
to do if anything gets rough around here. We'd sure appreciate your prayer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday night update

Photos; A happy family with a young boy that now has a new face. He had a terrible Cleft Palate. Jon, a farmer and myself gathering information at a local fish/rice farm.

It's Monday evening, and we're listening to another thunderstorm roll through. We got hit by a doozy about 5:30, and it's not even supposedly the rainy season. They get around 180 - 200 inches a year here, so I can't imagine what it must be like during the middle of the rainy season. The good thing about thunderstorms here is that it can't knock your power out. When you're pulling electricty out of a huge battery bank that was filled by the sun earlier in the day, you have more stable electric service than we do at home. One of the few things that is better than home, but......

Saturday we drove out to a family's home that is trying to make a living farming. He raises rice, banana's and pigs. He lives beside a swamp, so he's got this idea of raising fish. Jon and I talked with him for quite a while and figured out a way to make a device that will help him control the water level in his swamp so he can farm the fish. I'm going to make some concrete forms that will make a cement water spillway that will be adjustable when needed. They put the small fish in the swamp at the same time they plant rice, then let the fish and rice grow together with the fish fertilizing the rice and the rice feeding the fish. When the rice is ready to harvest, they drop the water level and harvest the fish at the same time. It is a great advancement for this area. There is another guy in the area that is doing it fairly succesfully, so we're hoping this guy can to. It's one of the many community development projects that Jon is working on, which can help the community in many ways.

Sunday we went to church and Stephen preached about "what Jesus means to you". Good stuff for all of us. After lunch we went for a walk and came back to the compound for a game of volleyball. Too hot for that kind of activity for sure.

Today was spent as another routine day working on the new house. We have to have it done for the Yaradouno family that is coming around Mid-December. They are a family from about 10 hours north in this country, and he has been in Gabon training to be a surgeon for the last 5 years. This will be another great step forward for Hope Clinic, and a greater step forward for the people in this part of the world. Watching the terrible things that walk in here everyday leave a few days later as a new person is just a thrill. The surgical team that is visiting right now fixed 4 more faces today. I hope to be able to get some pictures of some of the patients that are arriving each day to share here. We that take basic health care for granted can all use a good dose of seeing this kind of reality. Some faces hardly look human and it's really difficult not to just stare at them.

We had a tough event happen this afternoon around quitting time. I had came back to our house for a few minutes to talk to the guys at the shop when Batou came running out of the new house we are building very urgently. Dan, the guy from Alaska that is here for a month helping with plumbing and electrical, fell through the ceiling when a board broke loose and fell about 10' onto a tile floor. We rushed him up to the clinic where they treated a long gash on his head, misc bruises and two broken bones in his left foot. They took him into surgery about 7:00 this evening, and we are still waiting for the outcome. Doctor Van Roekle isn't sure if he can fix it or if Dan will have to have orthopedic suregery when he gets back home. We're praying for a small miracle here tonight. Dan has contributed soooo much to this clinic, this is about his 7th or 8th trip here. He has given an incredible amount of time and money to make this place happen and it's hard to see this happen to him. Looks like we'll have a little more to do now.

Oh, one more cool thing. Last week Sara and I made a cabinet that contains a wide screen monitor with a DVD player that was donated, and then put it in front of the waiting area. This will be used for health/hygiene lessons and evangelism as well. Friday night was our maiden voyage "movie night" for all the patients and patients families that are here for these surgeries. It was so fun to watch the people start coming when they heard the movie start, and then sit spell-bound while watching the "Jesus" film. That film is incredibly inpacting to people that have never heard the story or even seen a movie before. THIS is what it's all about! Tell em about Jesus! Doesn't get much better!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First day of surgery

Today was a rewarding day, three children were given a new chance at life. In this culture, someone with Cleft Palate is regarded as; a) demon possesed, b) a family curse, or c) too much of a drain on the family so they are put to death at birth. So those that survive have survived because there was enough value placed on them by their family to face all of the scorn and ostracising and keep the child. Today, the Mercy Ship team performed three surgeries, two on small children and one 14 year old, repairing very bad cases of Cleft palate, and giving them a brand new life. This is so exciting! Yesterday was the first day that these surgery candidates were told they could come and 61 people showed up. Well, 61 potential patients showed up, but they all brought family with them so it was a large group of people. It is very difficult to describe the scene. There were tumors, growths, cleft plates, double tongues, facial deformities and some so bad they kept covered with cloths all patiently waiting and hoping, just hoping that these people could heal them and give them a chance a life again. Most of them will be operated on here over the next 4 weeks, with more scheduled to come later. Some of the worst cases will be sent to the Mercy Ship which will soon be in Sierra Leone. While we (our family) can't directly impact peoples lives in this way, or evangelize as effectively in this culture, we are able to help make these things possible so others that can are able to.

We thought that things would finally settle down when the election results were over and a president was named. However, you may have noticed in the news that it has not settled down. Since Tuesday, over a dozen people have been killed and hundreds injured in street violence and rioting from those dissatisfied with the election results. The government has now imposed what is basically martial law in all the towns, which prevents more than a few people being in a group at once, and total curfew from 7:00 PM until 7:00 AM. The only ones that are allowed on the street during curfew is the military. We've just hunkered down here at the Clinic and wouldn't even know anything was going on. The village of N'zao where we are at was all happy with the election results, so we are in a relatively peaceful area. Even so it wouldn't be wise for us to go to market in the local town of N'zerekore. The airport is shut down now, so we're still counting on the same angels that have always watched over us to continue since they don't seem to need airports.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Post elections

Photos; Portable sawmill Africa style (notice the steel toed work boots) and Ce'kona and his family on their porch.

It's the day after elections here in Guinea, and things are finally calming down around here. There was a lot of tension right up to the last because it was so close and both guys were claiming they had won and blaming the other guy for cheating. There were riots in several of the bigger towns, with many injuries and a few deaths. We made sure we didn't leave the compound all day yesterday. Finally, about 7:00 PM last night, we heard a great shout go up from the village. To those that understood the culture, it could only mean that Mr. Conde' won. That is a good thing for us, because all of the area around us is pro-Conde', which means it should be pretty peaceful since most towns and villages around us are happy with the outcome. So, as long as something new doesn't from either tribe, we're hoping that the tension will die down and life will return to normal. That was close enough!
The Mercy Ship team, with Jon Ericson taking care of them, managed to get out of Conakry yesterday before the worst of the violence hit. We prayed quite seriously for them and it seemed like God provided a little window to get them out of the capital and through any towns that would have been too serious. We are expecting them to pull through the gate here any minute if the journey went well for them again today.
We were able to get part of the new duplex done today, at least enough for one of the couples to live in. I also finished up the outdoor kitchen that will be needed for the families of the patients that come to cook in. They will only cook on outdoor fires, so this provides a roof over 4 small cooking areas. It's been a fun project.
After church Sunday, we went for a drive to Ce'kona's (One of the maintenance guys here) village to see the new house he is building. A very pretty drive through the bush for about 7 miles, saw his house, his church, and visited with his wife and children for a while; well, if you can call sitting on a porch with another family that you can't speak the same language. Over 30, litterally, kids from the village came to witness the big event. They are quite enthralled with white skin and the wierd things that white people do. It's fun to entertain them.
It seems like there is always something quite unusual here at the clinic. There is a man in one of the patient rooms, he's been here for a couple weeks now, that originally got a badly infected tooth. Since there is no help anywhere around here except for Hope Clinic, he did what most people do and toughed it out. The problem is, the infection spread down into his jaw, out into his skin, and gangrene set in. The gangrene began to move down his neck and chest and they finally got the spreading stopped just below his waist. He goes in for surgery every day to remove more diseased flesh and to treat all of the areas that are open and neading to heal. Dr. Hube is quite surprised that he has survived, and he thinks that he is looking like he might be on the road to recovery. Hopefully the gospel message that is being shared with him and his family each day will begin to make sense to him and the whole family can start over with a new chance at life!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Critters, work and French

Photos; A guy in the village making new roofing for his house and Sara learning to operate Hope Clinic's new tractor!

Critters! We've had quite a few of them this week. In fact, we can't even sleep without listening all night long to a loud, and I mean loud chorus from our bullfrog choir. There must be thousands of them down in the swamp, and they are so loud, they make conversation hard from one side of the house to the other, not to mention trying to sleep. This morning, my native helper opened a box of screws that we were using, and a very brightly colored bird flew out. He couldn't find his way to the door and eventually wore out trying to get through a screen. I was able to catch him and bring him to our house where we have a African wildlife identification book, and it was an African Pygmy Kingfisher. I have never seen such brilliant colors on a bird, a brilliant almost phlorescent beek, with bright blue and red markings all over. Later in the day Sandy was walking back from the clinic through the grass and almost stepped on a snake. She said it was bright green with a blueish head, and we were told it was either an Emerald or a Boomslang. The Boomslang is one of the most poisonous in all of Africa, and my helper said you only have about 5-10 minutes if you don't get help right away. Sandy was really tickled to hear that. But the best one today happened to Sandy also. She still isn't laughing about it and I haven't quit. She went to take a shower, turned on the water valve which sticks through an oversized hole in the masonary wall, and out jumped a lizard! The lizard wasn't able to get out of the shower area, so it's just him and Sandy in the shower. He very quickly had the shower all to himself, she changed her mind. Oh, and one last critter observation....did you know termites can build a tunnel across your floor at the rate of 6 inches an hour? I watched them a few hours before pouring boiling water on them. That doesn't work so we're going to have to find something more potent.

This week has been spent trying to get this new house at least partially done before the medical team gets here next Tuesday. I've pretty much been working sunup to sundown on this house, and it looks like we're barely going to make it. There is a team of 10 surgeons coming from the Mercy Ship to work here at Hope Clinic for about 4 weeks. They specialize in Cleft palates and tumor removals, along with a lot of other specialized facio-cranial surgeries. It should be a very enjoyable month. They have been getting word throughout the country over the last year, letting people know that this would be available. It should be quite interesting to see who comes and what kinds of conditions we might see here. I'm sure I'll be talking about this quite a bit more over the next several weeks.

Bintou has agreed to Tutor Sara on her French language studies. Sara has been working on it both in school and with Rosetta Stone before we came over, but this should be a great help to have someone here help teach her that speaks the language. Bintou is a 25 year old single girl whose father Jairus is an anesthesiologist here at the clinic. I'm hoping Sara can pick it up, it sure would be a help to have an in-house interpeter.

We still don't know much about the elections. We heard last night that they expect to have all the ballots returned to the capitol tomorrow, and they said the elections results would be announced perhaps Saturday. It continues to be a tense situation, with reports of up to 10,000 people getting displaced in the last 10 days because of threats and intimidation. We're still praying for a miracle that things don't break open when the results are made known.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Sundays in Africa....I love them! I haven't spent so much time doing so little in a long time. Yesterday (Saturday), was spent unpacking all of the things we had shipped ahead in the container and getting our shop reorganized and resupplied. We have a short time to get prepared for the team of surgeons coming in about a week, which means we need to get more housing prepared for the team and cooking/living facilities for the families of all the natives that will be coming. Today (Sunday), as I said, has been a lazy day. Since we were not involved today, and we knew church would all be in the Mano language, we chose to stay home and have devotions at home. Neither did we know what time church would even be since the whole country is prevented from using any form of transportation today because of the elections.
A little bit of info on the elections. Guinea has never had free democratic elections in all of its history. It gained independence from France in 1959, and from that time until now, they have been ruled by a dictator. These men have ruled, not because they were the best for the job or the people's choice, but simply because they had the biggest guns. A couple years ago, the longest ruling dictator died followed by a few short-lived military generals that were even less qualified than he, each claiming that they would initiate free democratic elections which everyone knows they so desperately need. The process started several months ago, narrowing the field down from over 30 candidates to just two. That sounds like a good thing, but the problem is that the two remaining are both from the two largest native tribes in the country, which leaves ethnic tensions on the very edge of an outbreak. The final run-off has been postponed several times because of corruption and internal conflicts, but they actually took place today. The whole country was shut down today to prevent people from voting in one village and then all going to another village to vote again and to prevent the possibility of an organized effort to disrupt the whole process. Everyone is tense, uneasy and anxious about what might happen, with a lot of the country nearly shut down for the last several weeks because of all the uncertainty. There have been several outbreaks and riots over the last several months, with quite a few lives lost in the last year. We cautiously walked into the village this afternooon to see what was going on, and it was surprisingly peaceful. We happened to meet a man we knew that could speak some English, and he was headed to the polling station to see what was going on. He invited us to walk along, so we jumped at the chance. We got to walk through the building and meet all of the election officials, even giving them a blessing which brought smiles and handshakes all around. Now we all sit back and wait on the results, praying and hoping that it will go well, not turn violent and be a big step forward for this country and all of the people that so desperately need a political turn for the better. Please join us in prayer over the next couple days as we await the results.
It was so good to walk through the village today, greeting the people, getting reacquainted with people we have learned to know and trying to make new friends for future conversations. It was a very warm day today, reaching the lower 90's, but has been cooling down into the 70's at night.
We go to bed tonight trusting God for safety and for a better future for these wonderful people.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Road trip

We made it!!! It is good to be settled in to our home away from home, listening to the familiar sounds of the frogs in the swamp and the myrid insects making their night calls. We unpacked, went over to Hueb and Maragrits (a surgeon from Holland) for supper, then back to our house. I boiled some water for a hot shower while Sandy and Sara proved their toughness and took a cold one - straight out of the well! Whatever.....! Last night we spent the night at some missionaries homes in a little village outside of Faranah after a ten hour drive, and then another ten hour drive today landed us at N'zao around 5:30. The roads have deteriorated even more than last time with several places that we needed 4 wheel drive to get through the mud bogs and the rest of the trip needing to wear neck braces from hitting our heads on the ceiling. The political situation here is very tense with elections for a new president scheduled for this coming Sunday. There is a significant possibility of unrest since the two largest tribes in the country are basically running a candidate against each other. We are glad to be here if anything breaks out and praying that nothing too major happens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On land again

A quick post and hello from hot and humid Conakry! The first leg of our journey is over, which is actually the easy part - flying! We had great flights and even had a great birds-eye few of the straights of Gibralter on the flight from Paris to Conakry. It was pretty cool to see a panorama of where the Atlantic meets the Meditranean, and Europe meets Africa all at one time, and then have clear enough weather to see the Sahara all the way across. Tomorrow we leave early to begin the two day drive out to N'zao and Hope Clinic. They say the roads are pretty bad, so it's going to be two long days. We will stop at the home of some missionaries in the town of Faranah tomorrow night, and arrive at N'zao Thursday evening.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just 10 days to go! Something tells me it's going to be 10 days of overwhelming busyness. We leave for our trip on November 2nd, and plan to arrive back home again on January 6th. There are numerous things between now and January that we are totally trusting God to provide, but then as we look back over the last couple months, it doesn't seem like He'll have any problem taking care of our needs. More specifically; the tractor project. 19 months ago when we were there the last time, we were inspired to help purchase and ship a tractor to Hope Medical Clinic. Since then, with God's provisions, lots and lots of help and support from family and friends, and a little sweat and tears, we saw the fulfillment of a vision as the tractor was finally unloaded at the clinic just two weeks ago. The containter that it was in also contained over 400 other boxes of items for a total of 33,725 lbs of supplies. It was an incredible project and we know it's going to make such a huge difference in the work that is going on in that area of West Africa. Here are a couple pics that were sent to us when the container arrived and as the tractor was unloaded. A huge thank you to everyone that helped make this possible!!!!