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!