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 needto do if anything gets rough around here. We'd sure appreciate your prayer.