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.