Wednesday, December 10, 2008

O Christmas Tree...

This Sabbath I got to go find a Christmas tree to cut down with my friends Keri and David. I couldn't help but think of when Liz and I decided we needed to find and cut one down in Africa last year. That "tree" had 3-inch thorns sticking out of it, but otherwise I would have to say that trees here in Nebraska look as Charlie Brownish as the bushes we found in Africa -- rather sparse. But it smells good! Everyone on our hall can smell our tree.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A week pursuing God...

So yesterday ever since I woke up, I had this intense feeling that God was trying to get my attention. I spent a while praying, contemplating, listening...but felt like I wasn't every truly giving God all of my attention because of all the distractions on my mind. I also haven't had the time with God these last couple weeks that I wish to have each day. So this led me to my decision that I am going on a fast this week. I have never fasted before, but felt lead to do it, so I will be fasting until Sabbath - just liquids and some fruit to keep me from my propensity to pass out :-) I'm also going to cut my study time in half each day, and use the extra time to completely focus on God and my relationship with him. I think it is going to be difficult but also very rewarding. I don't expect necessarily that God is going to reveal some amazing thing to me...maybe all he wants is for me to see how such a daily focus on him can change my thoughts and keep me looking up more. I just ask that you keep me in your prayers this week. I just realized that God sure picked the right week to challenge me in making time for him as I just received my French course that adds 3 credits to my already full class load. AND I am starting my 2nd job tomorrow that will probably add about 20 hrs. of work to my week. But I'm determined to do this - this week.

Part of my goal...

"The place where we must always register God's presence is in our minds, our thoughts and feelings, our inner being. That means that my job in my spiritual life is to learn to continually focus my attention on God...the practice of spiritual life boils down to one single statement from Scripture: 'I have set the Lord always before me.' Psalm 16:8"
-Now What by John Ortberg (one of my favorite authors)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Romans 12

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you:

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

Embracing what God does for you
is the best thing you can do for him.

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God.
You'll be changed from the inside out.

Readily recognize what he wants from you, and
quickly respond to it.

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Little things here and there send my mind whirling back to memories of last year. We just dissected pig lungs in my EMT II class and the clamps and scalpel in my hand felt strangely familiar. I can see a vision right now of Dr. Bond doing a gallbladder surgery and suddenly hitting a bleeder that shot out spurting blood all over both of us. He kept trying to clamp it, but the area was too small and deep to get his hand into. So while holding pressure on it, he gave me a quick 30 second lesson on what I should do, handed me the clamp and had me stick my small hand down into the hole and clamp it off.

Today I was washing my hands in the dorm bathroom. When finished I realized there was no more paper to dry my hands off with. As I walked back to my room with my hands held up dripping, I started having visions of scrubbing in to surgeries in the outer room of the OR in Bere and then learning to kick with my foot just the right way on the door handle to open it so that I could enter without contaminating my hands. (It didn't work on my dorm door)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So forget that last post. It doesn't matter what I do, my mind is completely caught up in Africa. I've tried so hard to focus on my studies, on my dorm pastor job, on making new friends, on ANYTHING!!! But my thoughts are consumed with Africa, the people in Bere, and mostly - Darfur. The fact that thousands are being killed while I'm listening to lectures is driving me crazy. I've done everything I can think of to be a part of what's happening over there, without actually dropping everything that I'm doing to focus on it. But calling representatives and senators feels like a lost cause. Telling the people around me has been frustrating as they don't care. I've been careful to conceal the battle going on inside me as I do the expected duties as a student, but I'm afraid of breaking apart soon.

This evening I felt so tormented by it, that I was pacing back and forth in my room,
not knowing what was happening to me or why I am so obsessed with this. My mind is a multitude of thoughts and pictures that keep reeling around and around and multiplying. If I sit around another week just going along with my little American life, I'm going to go insane! Why am I feeling so much anguish God? Are you trying to tell me something? Should I forget society's expectations and go follow my heart and get involved? Or is this just another phase I need to work through and get over? I am so confused! I cry almost every night now for people that I don't even know. Why? It takes me hours to fall asleep at night because of my thoughts. Why?

Why can't people ever see our world as just that - one whole world, one group of people. Everything is broken up and divided into our countries, jealous for our own prestige and success, only reaching out to others when it helps us. We are all humans! One people created by God. When will the horror over there stop?

I've tried to ask for advice from the people I usually do, and explain the anguish I feel, but this time it seems no one has understood. I get told to focus on the ministry around me, and I've tried! I get the feeling from others that they think I'm just in a transition phase still from last year...and maybe I am. One person I talked to and poured out all my feelings and frustrations and horror on the terror going on over in Darfur. After I finished, I heard a pause, and then they asked, "How is the weather over there in Nebraska right now?" I couldn't believe it! Did everything I just say just pass through deaf ears? Am I just a maniac with crazy thoughts that no one else thinks? Tonight as the tears came again, I searched my phone for someone to call who I could talk to about it, but finally gave up. So I'm writing in this blog again to at least maybe give me enough release from my thoughts so that I can sleep.

I could just go on with my life and ignore everything, or make a rash decision and quit school to be a part of something, but I'm not satisfied with either action until I feel God with me in it. So I guess I will just keep searching and asking God for answers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Love God, Love People, Love Life

I've felt the weeks of school dragging by as my mind is constantly on Africa. I constantly bemoan the fact that I can't be there and have seen no point to the endless lectures and classes.

Today, though, I realized that it is time wake up and enjoy the life God has given me! Close to a year ago, I should have died, but God showed that He still has plans for my life here on earth. So why am I living every moment in the past?! There will always be a part of me in Bere and maybe I'll even go back, but right now is the time to focus on what I'm doing here and now. And I'm not talking about focusing on myself, I'm talking about focusing on the people around me right now. God has called each of us, individually, to serve.

This new outlook is making my mood better, and has started to reveal areas that I've changed since I was in Africa. I was sitting in the cafeteria today listening to the people around me talk and I was amazed. The popular topic was the new chapel credits that everyone is "forced" to get each semester. Most students are upset that they are now required to go to some chapels and are even finding ways to protest. While I understand some of the frustration and feelings that we should be free to decide what we want to go to, why do we always just see the negative side of things? We are given such an opportunity to have a place to worship, to have such wonderful services planned for us! Last year I would have died to go to a vespers/worship/chapel service just once! I missed the fellowship and worshiping of God so much.

That thought led me to the next topic of how expensive the cafe food is, which I am guilty of complaining of almost daily :) Why do we complain so much?! I looked at my meal today and thought how blessed I've been to have so many different choices, and amazing tastes. No boule or spit sauce. And the water...we have clean clear water by the gallons! No worries of diseases or of our well going dry.

If you have $10 in your pocket, food in abundance, a friend to talk to, a comfy bed, and can smell the scent of flowers in the air...count yourself blessed!

Go out and enjoy this fantastic day!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Joy and Tragedy

I am now well into school at Union College out in Nebraska and just recently received some news from Rich & Anne in Tchad. The wonderful news is that Steve has finally been released from the rebel group holding him since last October when I was there!!! Welcome home Steve!
However, that was followed by a horrible accident where 3 of the TEAM missionaries were killed in a car crash with a public bus. Please pray for the group in Tchad and the families involved. It has been quite a shock. I knew Kathrin, and met Rudi once up in the capital. Sandra had just arrived 2 days earlier to be a short-term missionary at a school. Although I didn't know her, her death is almost affecting the most, as I think about her being the same age as me when I arrived in Tchad last year.
I wish I could be there right now.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A God Moment

Time is flying by while I'm at camp. I am finally on my first time off since camp has started. Our small RAD group has had a crazy fun time taking our campers rock-climbing at Smith, cliff-jumping and rafting on the Deschutes river, mtn. biking up Hoodoo, backpacking up into snow, canoeing around the lake, and anything else we could think of to wear them out!

There is still a lot of snow up here but not near as much as when we first arrived for training. The lake has unfrozen and the mosquitos have started coming in swarms. After a week of shoveling snow and preparing for camp, all of the staff were given a day off for solo time, the Sabbath before camp started. I almost went mtn. biking with some of the guys, but then decided to find somewhere to go alone. I looked around on some maps and picked out a trail to hike near here. I drove out to the trailhead and started hiking, hoping to make it to the top of Maxwell Butte. There was so much snow however, that I was having a hard, slow time trying to stay on track with the trail. Getting really frustrated in not making my goal, I finally just stopped in a snowy clearing on a log and decided to have my solo time there after becoming hopelessly far from any trail markings.

Reflecting on the past year and looking toward the summer, I was constantly bombarded with thoughts of how I would relate to the campers and just being back from Africa. I'm coming from living with kids who had nothing of their own and who ate the same thing every day -- to spoiled American campers who come to camp with their huge bags of "essentials" for one week, complaining about the vegetarian food, and 3-minute showers. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to handle it all.

Flipping through my Bible, I couldn't find anything that encouraged me or anything that really spoke to me. Finally giving up on God leading me at all or giving any feeling of His presence, I threw my lunch back into my backpack, stuffed my Bible on top and headed back down the hill to try and find the trail again. A while later after having to climb a tree to eventually see the trail, I jogged back down to my car and jumped in, ready to head back to camp for the music practice I needed to be at.

My cd player happened to be on, so I reached over to turn it off and in the process, accidentally changed it to the radio. Being way out on forest service roads, it came as a bit of a surprise when the radio actually turned on. As I listened more, I was even more surprised to hear someone reading verses out of the Bible. By the time I focused in to what they were saying, they were reading from Philippians chapter 4:

...I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength...

After the end of the chapter, the radio just shut off and all I heard was static. I think I mentioned these verses before in a blog, but it was a great reminder to me that it's not about whether being poor is better than being rich, but about being content wherever God decides to put me, and learning other ways to serve Him. Right now he has put me at camp working with kids, and after getting through my first week, I'm really excited about the possibilities that we have to teach and influence campers spiritually. In Africa, I worked a lot more on the physical well-being of people, but here it is a lot more the spiritual, relational well-being of people. I think it is a harder challenge and I am excited!

Anyways, I don't know how that radio turned on and off at just the right time way out in the woods, except that it was a God moment. Keep looking up!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It is time to write another blog. I don't know if people still read this now that I'm back, but I need to write.

I get lots of people asking me how I'm dealing with being back in the land of luxury. All I can say is that it is a whole different world. I feel like a completely different person, doing different things, thinking different thoughts. Adaptation has come a little quicker than I thought it would, but then that almost worries me, that I am too quickly being pulled back into not realizing what kind of life I am living.

This evening I was finishing up with my packing for camp and going through all the junk in my room. I came across all the cds that I'm getting ready to send out to people with pictures of me in Africa. Any little question from someone, a picture I happen to look at, or hint of something African makes me stop and just think for a while about what I just came back from. Did I really spend 9 months there, doing all those crazy things, or was it just a dream? Then I came across my ipod that I have hardly listened to since I've been back. There isn't as great a need when I have a computer that can be constantly plugged in to play music, a cd player, radio in my car, etc.

I started remembering how sometimes my ipod was my lifeline. Or I should say music was my lifeline. Turning it on, my fingers automatically scrolled through to that one song that kept me going. After work at the hospital, many days I would come home just completely exhausted. Not just physically, but in mind and spirit. I didn't want to interact with my African family or anyone so I would just walk into my hut, toss my bag onto the floor and collapse onto my squeaky cot. I could lay there for hours, doing nothing. Images of patients at the hospital would fly across my mind, hopelessness of their situations would overwhelm me, inadequateness of not knowing what I should do medically, knowing that I was completely uncapable, fighting with relatives to try to save patients lives so I wouldn't have to watch another kid struggle and die right before my eyes when he could be saved...

And that is when I would play this song. Not just once, but over and over and over. Tonight as I turned that same song on for the first time since being back and closed my eyes, I can't even describe the feelings. I instantly imagine myself on that cot listening to it, my feeling of helplessness ever so slowly ebbing away to a clearer vision that this too was all in God's hands. My life truly had never been this clear. I knew I was serving my God.

And I know that I can find you here
'Cause you've promised me you'll always be there.
In times like these, it's so hard to see
but somehow I have a peace you're near.

And I pray that you will use my life
In whatever way your name is glorified.
Even if surrendering means leaving everything behind.

And my life, has never been this clear
Now I know, the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive,
until you know what you would die for
and I would die for You

And I know I don't have much to give,
but I promise you I'll give you all there is
I cannot possibly do less,
when through your own death I live

And my life, has never been this clear
Now I know, the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive,
until you know what you would die for
and I would die for You

Friday, May 23, 2008

Europe Slideshow

Back Home

For those of you who don't know, I am back home in the States. Sonya and I spent a great 10 days in Europe with her mom, traveling to Spain, France, & Switzerland. Everything was so green and beautiful!

Now I am getting used to civilized living again and finding out what has happened in all my friends and family's lives while I've been gone. This summer I'll be working at Big Lake Youth Camp again as a counselor for the RAD camps. Then I'll be headed right away out to Nebraska to Union College. Life sure picks up quick when you live in the States!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Restaurant Nightmare

April 15, 2008

Hans, Liz, and I are in the capital, N'djamena, right now. Dear Sonya was too sick to come. We are waiting to pick up some new volunteers this evening who are going to do a dental clinic for a couple of weeks. Planning to do a little shopping, we came a few days early. It has been strange enough being in such a big, noisy city (really nothing compared to U.S. cities), but nothing prepared me for our experience today.

Yesterday we went shopping at the Grande Marche (market), bartering for all sorts of things. It has been surprising to see so many white people (we are used to maybe seeing a new white person every couple of months), and we had trouble not staring at them or running up to ask them what they are doing here. Last night we went over to Rich & Anne's place (Evangelical missionaries who moved up to the capital for a while from Bere -- they are basically our adopted parents here) and Anne fed us some of her famous delicious pizza. It was great seeing them and as we were leaving, Anne gave us some extra money to go "fatten" ourselves up at a good restaurant for one meal. They recommended a place for breakfast, so this morning, Levi picked us up in the hospital truck and took us to a bakery/cafe.

It was a nice, small cafe with croissants, pizza, omelettes, etc. We took our seat at a small round table and tried not to stare at all the white people sitting around us. There was at least half the cafe filled with white people! And the rest were rich, African business men. The problems started with ordering. We were a bit confused with everything, asking all sorts of questions, because it has just been too long since we've been in a place where you order food. I felt like a backwoods country girl, awed by my surroundings. Our drinks were brought to us, and as we waited for our food to come...things started to feel very strange. Everything was too clean and polished, white people were coming in and out, the food was too different and perfect, the building felt enclosed and claustrophobic with lights on during the day?!, women wearing pants and shorts. I felt so uncomfortable and nervous, constantly shifting in my chair and darting my eyes around at everything.

Slowly my chest started tightening, my hands started shaking, and I started feeling light-headed. I'm having an anxiety attack?? This isn't even a real full-scale restaurant! Resting my head down on my hands, and trying to control my breathing, tears started coming out of my eyes. And there in the middle of the cafe, I started crying! I couldn't believe myself! I was finally able to control myself some as Liz and Hans agreed they were feeling really uncomfortable too and tried to distract me with other topics to talk about. I kept looking at Levi to focus my mind on Bere and what we are used to -- open space, no electricity, cooking outside, dirt floors -- everything I'm comfortable with. Our food came, and although my omelette tasted amazing, once it got to my throat, I thought I was going to choke on it. I couldn't get over my nervousness, and kept pushing my tears down over and over. Finally forcing everything down (there was no way I was going to waste any food when it was so expensive), I excused myself and practically ran outside. Walking down the sidewalk a ways, dodging motos, I calmed myself down while the others finished eating. We paid, left, and came straight back to our guest house, all feeling too spent from the experience to go shopping as planned.

Back at the guest house, I feel like things have even changed here for me. When we arrived on Sunday, this place seemed amazing -- real beds, fans, electricity, air-conditioning(!!!), refrigerator, microwave, bathroom with shower and toilet, just about everything you could think of. When the caretakers arrived and showed us everything, I was a bit overwhelmed when they turned on air-conditioning, fans, lights and plugged the computers in all at once. I thought for sure the fuse was going to blow! Now, however, after our experience at the restaurant, it all makes me feel uncomfortable too. Too big, too much. I have definitely changed. I can't even imagine what it will be like going to Europe and back to the States. So be prepared for me being a crying wreck for a couple weeks :) I know I will adjust again with time -- but definitely after TIME! Hopefully Europe will be a good buffer before going home to family and friends.

We all feel a bit better now after handwashing our clothes in buckets of water and hanging them up to dry outside, to the amused look of the housekeeper. They do have a washer and dryer here...but doing what we were used to was much more therapeutic :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Goat Attack

(A short story for Steph & Lisa)

Because of the heat, I almost always sleep outside now on my reed mat, just outside my hut. My family does too, but not quite as often as I. This particular night, it was a bit windy out, and I was the only one out under the stars. As a side note, here in Bere, animals run free. They are not confined by any sort of fence so it is normal, especially at night time, to have them all wander into our courtyard, scrounging for food. I don't mind too much except I particularly dislike awaking to a grunting slobbery monster black pig up by my head (happens a lot. The neighbors own him).

Deep in my slumber this night, I was slightly awoken by something brushing over top my head. Thinking I was dreaming, and too tired to completely pull myself awake, I ignored it. It continued, though, to run across my face and suddenly I awoke in a jerk, with thoughts of snakes at the top of my mind. When I realized it was just a rope, I sighed and laid back down. Wait a minute. Why would the rope be moving? Sitting back up, I squinted through the blackness and finally made out the form of a goat at the end of the rope. No problem. I threw the end of the rope away from me, scaring all the other goats, chickens, pigs, ducks, and dogs in the courtyard. As I laid back down again, it struck me as odd that the goat with the rope didn't shy away. Hmm...maybe he's just half blind....Zzzz....Zzzz...back to thoughts of going home soon to real showers...bread & cheese in abundance....cold drinks....mountains...Zzzz.....

Aaah!!! I was rudely awaken again with something ramming into the side of me. Jumping up, I looked down at the attacker to see that it was that goat again -- with a bucket covering his head! Sometime while he was scrounging around for food, he came across our bucket to draw water from the well and had pushed his head deep inside, getting stuck. At first I wanted to laugh, but then I realized that this was our bucket for our clean water. "You're contaminating it!" Also, if I was going to get any more sleep without being trampled on or attacked again, I would have to free this goat from his unknown prison. He seemed not in the least bit perturbed by it, probably just thinking it was a dark night.

Walking over to the rope, I picked it up and started pulling the goat towards me. He soon realized that something was going on and tried to run away. Which, since I was holding the end of the rope, he could only run in a circle, quickly wrapping the rope around me before I had a chance to turn (I was still a bit tired :) Struggling to keep my balance, I worked hard to get myself untangled with him jerking me here and there across the courtyard. (I'm glad no one was around to watch this. It was probably a bit amusing to see me in my pajamas, wrestling with a goat and a bucket)

Free once again, I set my feet and with a determined pull, began once again to bring the goat closer to me. Finally he was close enough for me to grab the bucket. His head was stuck in deep, though, starting a tug-of-war between the two of us. Back and forth, back and forth. I got knocked off my feet in one big jerk from him and ended up lying out on my stomach, still gripping the bucket as hard as I could. "You aren't getting away!" I said through my gritted teeth.

The goat started to bleat with all he had in him. With the bucket over his head, it echoed for the whole village to hear. "Maaa! Mmaaaa!" Suddenly I heard Anatole bumping around in his hut, probably looking for a light to see what was going on. Not wanting him to see me like this, I gave it one last heroic attempt. Still on the ground, I swung my body around and put my feet up on the goat's chest and pushed as hard as I could while pulling. Pop!! The bucket finally flew off and I went tumbling backwards with it. The goat went galloping off and I was left alone in the courtyard with the bucket in my hands.

Not sure how I could explain this to Anatole in French, I quickly threw the bucket towards the well, leaped over to my mat and threw myself down, shutting my eyes and trying to slow my breathing. The door to Anatole's hut flew open and he stood there, beaming his flashlight in every corner, stopping for a minute at the haphazardly thrown bucket with the rope....leading to me. His light moved to my still form for a long time until finally, unable to solve the mystery, he went back inside. Oh well, they already think I'm strange....crazy white girl.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Birthing 101

April 7

Monday, after work, my African mother, Julie and I headed out to the market. We picked up some soap and coal to cook on and then stopped by a tailor's small shop to pick up Julie's dress that she had made from the leftovers of my fabric. Everything took a while, it's not just a quick run to the store. This is Africa. So after stopping to talk to countless people we ambled along slowly down a dirt path between huts, passing women with pots on their heads.

Julie decided to spend the afternoon visiting, which I would have rather foregone, but it would have been very impolite to leave her,so I resigned myself to not getting home before dark.

An hour later, things got interesting as we walked into a courtyard to find a bunch of women gathered and a woman in labor! I was finally going to get a chance to see a home birth. Women here only come to the hospital to give birth if there is a problem or if it is their first baby.

The woman was laying out on a reed mat, obviously having close contractions, with a bunch of people fanning her. Julie and I were given chairs to sit on (a luxury since I'm white), and brought water to drink. It's like a show! Everyone sat around just watching her. It was explained to me that this was her sixth pregnancy with 4 living children right now. So we settled in to watch and wait, expecting the baby to pop out easily since she had birthed so many already.

When another hour passed with no progress, I started to watch her more closely. She started to actually yell some which usually means that they are having a harder time then usual because these women hardly make a peep when giving birth. If they do yell out, they usually get scolded by family members.

Some blood started to come out of her and as the worry started to circulate among the women, I glanced at Julie who gave me a little nod. We both stood up and went over to the woman, Julie explaining that I worked as a nurse at the hospital. I started rapidly asking questions, Julie translating my French into Nangjere. It soon came out that she hadn't felt the baby move for over a day and had now been in labor for 6 hours. I checked her pulse and conjunctiva color which was very pale. O God, she's already anemic!

Immediately I turned to the relatives and started explaining that she needed to go to the hospital. She was going to need blood right away and there we could check her out better to determine if the baby was still alive or not, if she would need a c-section, etc. I realized soon that I was talking to deaf ears. They ignored me, only answering with excuses and the usual, "We don't have money."

"What do you mean you don't have money?!" I cried out, easily seeing they were well off. "You can take your bike as collateral and pay for it later." The husband countered that he needed his bike to get to work with a smile on his face. How can he smile about this? "Don't you need your wife to cook for you and give you babies? She is going to die if you don't take her to get blood!" Anemia is one of the biggest reasons for death here among pregnant women.

A loud cry from the woman moved my attention back to her as a gush of blood came out. Kneeling down next to her, I looked into her panicked, sweaty face and knew I couldn't just leave her. Sending up a quick prayer for guidance, I started preparing to help as much as I could. I knew I needed to examine her and see if I could feel how the baby was positioned or if there was a problem, gloves? I've gotten used to some blood on me from IVs or other random little things, but we always use gloves for pelvic exams.

Letting out a sigh of decision, I asked the family for water and soap to wash my hands. Maybe at least I can keep from giving her an infection. Then with a quick mutter under my breath, "I hope she isn't HIV+, God protect me!" I pushed my two fingers up her. She was fully dilated and I could feel the baby's head, but for some reason, she was having a hard time pushing the baby out.

After rinsing off my hand, I went up to her head and started trying to coach her breathing and pushing to coincide with her contractions. Minutes passed and it still wasn't progressing, with her getting weaker. So I ordered a couple women to help her get up and squat.

There was way too much blood coming out of her for my liking but my constant pleas to take her to the hospital were still ignored. In the squatting position, she was able to push better and I started running my fingers inside the edge of the cervix trying to open it up more fore the head that was now showing. Finally, getting desperate, knowing this baby hadn't been moving for over a day, I reached in and put my fingers in the baby's mouth like James has taught us, and started pulling with her contractions.

Suddenly in a rush of blood and fluid, the baby slipped out almost easily. The cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and he was blue and still. After slipping the cord off, I thought, "What do I do now?!" I don't have the instruments to suction its mouth or clamp and cut the cord or bag air into him.

Sweeping mucous out of his mouth with my fingers, I quickly put my lips down on his little blue ones and started sucking and then spitting onto the ground next to me. The family brought string and a knife to cut the cord and I stopped long enough to tell them to wash it and pass it through a match flame in front of me before using it. Then I continued rubbing the baby vigorously, starting chest compressions, hoping it would stimulate the lungs too, and breathing into his little mouth, watching for his chest to rise.

Liz! I wish you were here to help me right now!

Some of the women started their mournful wailing, so I turned to them frustratingly, "He isn't dead yet! I can feel a weak pulse." I was determined not to stop for at least a half hour, remembering a time earlier this year when Liz and I were able to resuscitate a baby in almost the same situation as this one.

Little by little, the blue started to dissipate from his small body and he gave a few weak gasps every few seconds. Picking him up in my arms, I went next to the woman and reached down to show the grandma that she should be massaging the stomach harder. I figured they could deliver the placenta since they've been through so many births. I continued with the vigil of breaths & compressions and slapping his feet and hands. I saw his eyelids flutter a little and kept praying constantly. Finally he let out a weak, but throaty cry that gave me hope that he was going to make it. After letting him cry a few more times, I laid him down next to his mom and tried to get him nursing a little to help the uterus contract to deliver the placenta.

Just as I let go of him, I saw the women pulling the cord, jerk rather harshly, pulling the placenta out...but only part of it. God, could anything else go wrong right now?! What is the matter with these people! Don't they do this all the time?

Knowing we couldn't keep the pieces of placenta in there, I washed my hands and reached up her again, sweeping the inside of her uterus carefully with my hands, pulling out large bloody pieces. Deciding I'd done as much as I could, I rinsed off and stepped back, trying one last time to convince the family to take her in to get blood and antibiotics. I wished I was strong enough to just throw the woman on my back and carry her to the hospital! They responded the same as before, so after sticking a piece of fabric partway up her to hopefully stem any more bleeding, I turned dejectedly away and left. As Jesus says to his disciples, "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home."

Back at home, I changed out of my soiled skirt and repeatedly rinsed out my mouth to get all remnants of bloody mucous gone from my taste. For hours after lying down to sleep under the stars, I lay awake, unable to keep the days events from my mind. Did I do everything I could have? Should I not have helped at all? I am not a doctor or a midwife! I'm not even a nurse like they think I am.....but I work under the guidance of the Great Physician. By his wisdom and power, that baby is alive.

(The woman died this afternoon and now the family is spending tons of money, giving the proper funeral and entertaining guests with tea)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Piano Keys

April 3, 2008

At the missionary's house down at Bengdale, I eagerly pull up a chair, flip the "on" switch, and slowly place my fingers on the familiar black and white keys. They have a keyboard that can be run on their solar power, and even though it is small, after 7 months, I would play anything.

Piano playing has always been my release and going through the hardest, most exhausting and trying year without being able to escape to a piano has been difficult. As my fingers automatically move across the keys, I can already feel tears forming in my eyes. God, take me away from this place for a little while.

The minutes fly by as I play and play and play....forgotten for the moment are all our problems at the hospital, people dying, people coming and then refusing to pay for treatment. Forgotten are all the hours spent standing at the operating table. Forgotten for now, that I am still struggling to get over malaria again, wondering if the nausea and headaches will ever stop.

"O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made"
God, all these different cultures, languages, and worlds, Tchad, the States, India, Australia...

"I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed"
The millions of stars I see as I lay out on my reed mat at night, the magnificent storms that fly through here in a heartbeat, all a small show of Your power

"Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art"
Nothing more to say there, God. A midst everything, that is one thing I can say and know to be true with no questions.

As I continue to play, my mind wanders to what it will be like to go home and play on a real piano. A piano where when you push the keys, you can feel the vibration through your fingertips and resonate throughout the whole piano. Where the keyboard doesn't suddenly stop one octave lower.

I think about my piano at home that I've grown up learning to play on with its squeaky pedal.

Or the piano at Milo in the church that I played for hours on, slipping over between classes, praying it was unlocked so I could play by myself in the quiet of the sanctuary with the sun pouring in through the tall windows. Or accompanying the school choir, following Dr. Barnhart's cues, or planning praise music for a worship service with a group of friends, trying to coordinate the piano with guitars and drums.

Then there is my favorite practice piano in the PUC music hall, 4th door on the left that I'd open with my key and pound on for hours before finals. Or the piano in Mrs. Rasmussen's office that I'd go to for my lessons and end up having to reschedule because we'd talk throughout my entire lesson :)

Time's up. Flip the switch again, unplug it, cover the keys with a sheet and head back out into Africa.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Making any difference?

March 25, 2008

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...just like the ones I used to know..."

Strains of music come from the computer as Liz, Sonya, and I sit watching the classic movie that perhaps makes us feel a bit cooler. As we dream of cold snow while sweat drips down our faces, our rest period is suddenly shattered as one of the Tchadian nurse's face appears at our window. "There is a patient at the hospital that I need the doctor to see."

After already doing four surgeries this morning and doing consultations all afternoon with Dr. Bond, I don't really want to get up and go back to the hospital. "Go tell the doctor yourself. He's just next door."

My hope for peace, though, doesn't last as I hear Dr. Bond's voice booming a few minutes later, "Esther! Esther, come here! We have someone to go see at the hospital." Sighing, I get up, throw a scrub top back on, grab the keys, and head across the compound down the little path to the hospital with him.

As we walk in the consultation door, I immediately feel a little guilty for my unwillingness to come as we find a small Arabic girl lying flat on the exam bed. At closer inspection, she appears to be rigid as a board. Her legs are stretched out with her feet curled and pointed, almost like she's doing ballet. Her arms are both bent up close to her, and nearly impossible to extend. Her neck is stiff in one position and her jaw locked so that she can only talk by moving her lips.


After telling David to start an IV on her, I follow Dr. Bond into James' office to look up in books what we can give for tetanus of what we have in our limited pharmacy. Amazingly we find some tetanus antitoxin kept cold in the small kerosene fridge that the lab uses. The problem is that it won't work for a couple days and we have to keep her alive until then. She has already spent two weeks at the hospital in Moundou before being referred here. If the tetanus paralyzes her respiratory muscles, we're going to have a hard time keeping her breathing and we will have to bag air into her constantly.

When Dr. Bond decides on her meds, two of them are very strong drugs that she needs very small dosages of, or they will kill her with too much. Instead of turning her over to the nurses who change with every shift, don't look at dosages carefully, and may give it wrong, Dr. Bond tells me to sleep at the American house and come over to the hospital every six hours to give those two medications.

That evening I set out the two syringes I would need with the dosages already in them and set my alarm for midnight. Stretching out, I try to relax and fall asleep in the heat...

10:30 PM, I've barely fallen asleep as suddenly I hear David in my confused slumber, calling me at the window next to my bed. "There is a woman who came having trouble giving birth."

"Dr. Bond isn't here, he's next door," I answer, knowing, though, that I will probably still have to get up and help.

Sure enough, a little bit later after hearing Dr. Bond go over to the hospital to check her out, I hear him come over to my side and call, "Esther, we need to do a c-section. I called Abel and Simeon to come help so come over when you hear the generator come on."

I get up and change back into scrubs and then try to keep myself awake as I wait for the loud rumble signaling we have power to do a surgery. A whole HOUR later, I finally hear it and grab my OR cap and face mask that we reuse and walk over, still a bit dazed. It is almost midnight, so I quickly give the tetanus girl her meds, one IV and one IM and then walk into the OR. Simeon is preparing the patient with Enoch, a nursing student. Dr. Bond is barking orders and grumbling about Simeon coming so late and Abel not even showing up. "Quick Esther, scrub in!" he commands me. Soon I'm helping him drape the patient with sterile cloths, Simeon is giving anesthesia, and Enoch is getting things ready to resuscitate the baby.

We pray and then Dr. Bond takes the scalpel from me and starts cutting the skin. As I start to hand him clamps, he barks, "No! First we get the baby out, then we worry about the bleeding." He continues cutting quickly through the fat, muscle, and fascia until we are into the abdominal cavity. Quickly I pull the bladder out of the way of his knife and he cuts rapidly through the thick uterus. The baby's head pops out and as he pulls it completely out and clamps the cord, I start suctioning the baby's mouth. Once the cord is cut, we hand the baby over to Enoch and Simeon, and pull the placenta out. As blood splashes everywhere, I understand now why Bond offered for me to wear the rubber boots.

It took under 2 minutes to get the baby out and now we spend half an hour sewing up the uterus, stopping the bleeding, putting a drain in, and finishing up. Now back to bed.

Crawling out of my bed at 6, I stumble back over to the hospital to give the drugs again to the tetanus girl who doesn't look any better yet. The books say that even at the best hospitals, half the cases of tetanus die. What chance do we have at this little bush hospital in Africa? While feeling discouraged, I stop by to see the new mother and baby we delivered. As the little baby's hand clamps over my finger, my frustration dissipates as I am reminded that we are making a difference here at this hospital. Just take it one patient at a time and leave the worries behind.

Friday, March 28, 2008


March 23, 2008

I have been in Africa now for almost 7 months. Sonya and I are heading home very soon (43 days!). My thoughts have changed from, "Will I ever make it to the end?!" to "Will I be ready to leave?" Such conflicting emotions --- I am stuck between two worlds different like night and day. I love both and have gotten to the point of understanding Paul when he says in Philippians,

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (vs 4:12-13)

Both lives are enjoyable as long as I'm living for and with God. I am content...

...whether lying on a cushioned bed with clean sheets at night with a fluffy pillow or lying on a reed mat outside under the stars with Kristel's dark arm slung over me.

...whether cooling off with a flick of the air-conditioning unit or by pouring cold water from the well over me.

...whether throwing my clothes in a washing machine or scrubbing my clothes in a bucket outside and letting the sun dry them.

...whether starting IVs with the protection of gloves or starting them with the freedom of no gloves so I can feel the veins better.

...whether sick at home with the flu or sick in my hut with malaria.

...whether scrubbing the shower with a sponge and cleaner or sweeping out the leaves in the shower with a handful of grass tied together.

...whether eating every food imaginable at anytime of year or eating rice and mangos every day.

...whether dressing up nice and fixing my hair or not even seeing myself in a mirror for days.

...whether wearing comfortable jeans or skirts and scrubs every day.

...whether eating salad with a fork or with my fingers (Sonya and I agree it's much easier with our hands --- we want to walk into an Olive Garden when we get back and eat African style)

...whether jumping into a clear blue cold mountain lake after hiking all day or jumping into a muddy brown river, watching out for hippos, after riding the horses there.

...whether eating at a table with chairs and separate place settings, or squatting on the ground around a communal plate of rice bowl and a communal bowl of water being passed around.

...whether riding in an ambulance with the excitement of going on a call as an EMT or wheeling a patient into the African OR with the excitement of scrubbing in and assisting the surgeon.

...whether reading with a big light, illuminating the whole room at night or reading under the dim light of an oil lamp.

...whether driving around in a car or walking everywhere.

It's not about what is right or better than the other. It's about being content wherever God sends me. I am very excited about being home soon, and seeing everybody, but I also wouldn't mind staying here longer, being able to tangibly see the need.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taco Bell in Africa

February 24, 2008

Have you ever gone without a Taco Bell burrito for a year? If you have then you would understand why our eyes widened in disbelief and wonder as Stan, our newest volunteer, pulled out four burritos that he had brought all the way from the States for us. No worries about mold, he ingeniously put them in dry ice! We fried them a little and slowly savored each bite with real Taco Bell sauce that he brought along. Amazing! Stan is a mechanic from Tennessee and is going to be a big help hopefully getting our generators working well again and working with Gary on the plane. It is always great to get new people over here. James and Sarah have sadly taken off already on furlough and are at this moment eating wonderful foods in Denmark and planning ski trips up in Norway. But I’m not jealous….because we have Taco Bell!!!

Rats & Snakes

February 23, 2008

We have gotten a wonderful chance through the last couple weeks to really experience Chadian creatures to the fullest.

Gary (pilot) and Wendy arrived home one evening with their two little kids and waited patiently while Caleb attempted to unlock the screen door. Finally Wendy pushed past him as he finally opened it, preparing to walk in…until she suddenly saw a big black snake curled between the screen and door. Gary and her each grabbed one of Caleb’s arms and jerked him back. Gary then proceeded to pin it down with a shovel and kill it. They say it was trying to bite itself which is characteristic of poisonous snakes as a defense mechanism if they think they’re going to be killed anyway. Afterwards, Gary identified it as a Black Mamba, neurotoxic…not the kind of snake I ever want to come across!

All the excitement is happening at Gary’s and Wendy’s house. A week ago, while Gary was gone taking James and Sarah to the capital, we went to hang out with Wendy one evening and while getting ready to leave, we thought we saw a cat run around the side of the house. Hans went to check it out and suddenly exclaimed, “Wow! That’s the biggest rat I’ve ever seen!” We all hurried over to check it out and immediately backed away as we saw a big fat rat about a foot long with a 2 foot long tail. From our position of safety (we thought), all of us girls yelled, “Kill it! Kill it!” Hans picked up a large rock and threw it at the nasty rodent. Before we realized it, the rat ran around the corner right into the alleyway that all of us were huddled into. I’m sure the whole village of Bere heard our screams as the confused rat scampered around our dancing feet. Wendy and I have battle wounds from throwing our bodies against the wall to get away. Hans cornered it and proceeded to throw rock after rock until it was dead, belly up. He, of course wanted to save it as a trophy to show the other guys when they returned, but our protests led to launching it over the wall into their neighbor’s courtyard.

Tonight we met the rat’s younger brother while leaving their house again after a great Sabbath. Gary and Hans eagerly took off on the chase to kill it. It tried to crawl up over their fence, but Gary knocked it down with a rock and they beat it to death. After gathering around to ooh and aah over their handiwork, we ended up giving it to the guard who was excited about having a delicious rat dinner that night. He already had the fire going by the time we finally headed home.

Who knows what we’ll find next. I hear scorpion season has started…

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sarah is Safe in Chad & God is in Control

I talked to Sarah today. The phone lines (and internet) were shut down last weekend by the Chad government to keep the rebels from communicating with each other. The phone lines have been opened back up, but not internet. All your comments and emails are waiting for Sarah to log in once the internet is back on. Please continue to pray for the safety of the missionaries in Bere and for those still planning to travel in the near future (in & out of Chad). The rebels have been sent back to Sudan, but could return (last time they waited over a year to return).

Rich's radio is not an international ham radio, so they are not able to talk outside of Chad on it. I have received comforting news from the missionary group TEAM (that Rich & Anne belong to). They informed me that Gary (with his Cessna plane) is ready to evacuate the SM girls to Cameroon if the need arises. Lets all pray that it won't get to that.

Please post comments for Sarah to read your encouraging words once the internet is back on in Chad. There are still patients to help at the hospital and God's work must continue in Bere.
...posted by Sarah's dad (Terry).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chad needs your Prayers

Please pray for God to control the political situation in Chad. Some Rebels from Sudan (Darfur region) have taken over the capital of N'Djamena today and may overthrow the current government. Sarah is located far from the capital in a small village off the main roads, so should not see results from the fighting. They have a contact in N'Djamena to keep them informed by ham radio. Your prayers would be appreciated. See comment section for link to the latest news in Chad.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kissed by the Devil

Well, it was not as extreme as that title sounds, but I knew it would get your attention :)

The pilot, Gary, and his family decided to move from Cameroon, out here to Tchad and settle in our little village of Bere for a while. Some of us went to meet the plane as Gary brought part of their things to move in. Soon the plane had landed and we started helping him unload into the hospital truck. The crowd of kids and curious onlookers grew to a sea of black faces. As a couple men acted as guards with sticks to keep people away from the plane, Sonya and I had fun pretending to walk through the Red Sea (actually brown sea). We'd walk straight through the crowd that would part perfectly on both sides with everyone staring & avoiding touching us.

As we finished covering the plane, though, we noticed that we were no longer the main entertainment. A little ways away, the crowd had gathered around a woman who seemed to be acting quite strangely. Whatever she was doing was making everyone erupt into laughter, and though I was curious, we continued with the truck over to the house that Gary was moving into.

We carried boxes and bags full of rice and other essentials back and forth from the truck to the house. While waiting for Gary to finish checking everything out, Sonya, James, and I hung around outside. The crowd had continued on over to us and soon the lady that had entertained everyone at the plane, was again center of attention right in front of us. She was gesturing wildly while yelling out a constant stream of words, apparently funny, to the crowd. Soon she was throwing herself all over the place, on the ground, running at people and then very rudely dancing at the delight of everyone.

I watched her strange jerky movements, confused, until James mentioned that she was acting like the demon-possessed patients he's had come to the hospital. I disgustedly looked away as she singled out Tony, the guard, and half pulled her shirt off while dancing practically on top of the poor guy cornered against a wall. But then, almost returning to normal, she walked over to us and stuck her hand out to James. He took it and she shook hands with him quite vigorously. When she then stepped in front of me, I figured there was no harm in greeting her like James had.

As I grabbed hold of her outstretched hand, suddenly I felt myself being jerked towards her. With surprising strength, and quicker than a blink, she had grabbed the back of my head with her free hand and aimed for a straight-on kiss. Just in time, I moved my head enough to receive the loud smack on my cheek. She jerked my head around and tried again, but this time I got a hand up to block it and pushed her away with the help of James pulling her off. Bewildered and a bit shaken, I looked up to see the crowd laughing hysterically. So I shrugged my shoulders and smiled, figuring a little love never hurts anyone.

We tried to ignore the woman after that, as the crowd dispersed and she hung around the truck with us. As I rested my arms on the side of the truck and talked to Sonya, I noticed she was right across from me copying my movements. Only she moved at the exact same time as I did, staring straight at me.

As we finally left, I laughed with everyone else, although it was quite unnerving to me. These people are caught up in such a terrible, tangible battle between God and Satan. But, they don't see it when the master deceiver makes it funny to them, interesting to try, and pleasurable.

Monday, January 21, 2008

It is Well

January 21

.... When peace like a river attendeth my way
.... When sorrow like sea billows roll
.... Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
.... It is well, it is well, with my soul

The words of this old hymn really hit me hard last night. Whatever my lot, especially in Africa right now, God has taught me to say, "It is well, with my soul." It is my choice whether to believe in His faithfulness and say them. Even if my conflicting emotions say different, it is what I know to be true that matters...It is well.

I got home from Cameroon and headed to work to see all the patients that came in while we were gone. One was an old man who got too close to the fire to warm himself. Half his skin was severely burned along his back, chest, neck and one arm. It brought tears to my eyes to see everyone avoid him like the plague while his wife led him bent & stinking, rasping for air, covered in flies, inside for his dressing change. The nurses stood as far away from him as possible while gingerly picking his bandages off without touching a hair on his head.

I finally couldn't stand to see the poor man alone, naked for all to see as they passed, swaying back & forth with no support. So I sat down next to him and cradled the side of his body with the least burns against me. Immediately he leaned hard onto me, clasping my hand with his swollen one, and turning to muffle his agonizing cries into my chest. As the burn ointment, mingled with blood & pus ran down over both of us, I stroked his head with my free hand, whispering to him in English, and wishing I could bear just some of his pain. His rasping screams felt like they were coming straight from my own heart.

The injustice of the situation sprang open in my mind. All the special procedures for burn patients in the States...and this man in Africa, dealing with raw indescribable pain constantly, in a place reeking with infection, with barely a few ibuprophen pills to stem the pain a notch. "God, why such suffering to the undeserving?!"

As the man sobbed onto my scrubs, tears soaking in, I let my chin rest onto his head and glanced up. "No, God, You are faithful and holding this man closer than I am. It is all in Your hands...It is well.

Some of you have been asking how I'm doing and all I can say is, God has taught me to say, "It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Sunday, January 20, 2008


January 16
So Hans and I are suffering from a bad strain of Giardia. It is an awful parasite that I deem worse than malaria. Half of the problem is the medicine for it, my most hated: metronidazole. It is a nasty, despicable, incredibly awful yellow pill that I have to take 8 of at once for three days. I can be feeling fairly ok, despite the ongoing diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Then I take my metronidazole dose...Aah!!! The nausea goes on and on so that I can't even sleep at night, sometimes ending in finally throwing up. It leaves a nasty bitter, yellow taste in my mouth constantly and drains me of all energy. Thankfully I took my last dose today, so I should be feeling better in a couple days. I just warn you to never, Never, NEVER!!!! get Giardia or any kind of bug that requires taking metronidazole to get rid of it!

Well, there aren't very many diseases left for me to get here. I've only had malaria twice, while poor Sonya has suffered from it every month. Never take for granted your health! It is a wonderful thing to be healthy; something we all enjoy here when we have it, since it gets taken from us so often.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Travels of Hans and His 3 Wives

December 28

There is nothing more certain to be unpredictable than traveling in Africa. Sonya, Liz, Hans, and I headed off for Cameroon the day after Christmas, in hopes of making it to the Koza Adventist Hospital that evening. Before we even left, troubles began. Well, I shouldn't call them troubles because changes and different circumstances tend to make life more exciting. We had hoped to leave by 6 o'clock in the hospital truck which would take us through Kelo, on to Bangor, a border town. However, Liz and Sonya had worked that night and their replacement did not show up on time. While we waited, the truck driver decided that the oil filter needed to be changed. While we waiting for him to finish, Andre, the hospital administrator, decided he needed to go to Moundou, the opposite direction from Bangor.

Eventually we got underway around 8 o'clock with the driver, Andre, the 4 of us, Gary (in case the truck broke down along the way), and George, who wanted to just ride along for fun and visit some markets. We had hardly passed the river when we came upon a whole group of hippos lounging around by some water! Being the first time we've seen some here in Tchad, we excitedly jumped out to take some pictures by the water's edge. A man tried to convince us to get closer in his canoe, but seeing it was half-filled with water and remembering the fates of some people that ended up at our hospital, we decided to continue to look from a distance. Gary acted as tour guide, informing us on many interesting facts about hippos (sometime, ask me how they poop), and then we were on our way once more.

Once we bumped and lurched into Kelo, we headed to the post office to pick up packages! Piling them into the back of the truck and telling George to guard them with his life, the 4 of us headed off to find public transportation while the hospital truck continued on to Moundou for Andre.

Lucky for us, a "bus" was almost filled for Bangor. We took the last 4 seats on a bench facing backward, squished behind the driver seats, expecting to leave any moment. Now I must describe this "bus" to you. It is about the size of a van with racks on top to carry luggage. They add a bench behind the driver where we sat and a long seat in the back where the trunk is. The goal is to fit as many people as possible in order to make the most money possible. Besides looking like a piece of junk patched together on the outside, everything is stripped off the inside leaving just the metal frame of the bus and seats. Pieces of molding foam were hanging off the ceiling, and windows were smashed out, leaving just tape covering them.

Eventually they were ready to go and attempted to shut the side door by Liz. While trying to jerk it closed, the top runner came out, the only part connecting the door to the bus. They put it back in, but could only get the door half closed, where they tied it with a rubber strap. Then came the problem of getting the bus started. We could hear the engine grunting and hissing, but not starting. A bunch of people outside started pushing us down the road, faster and faster, but still it wouldn't start. We rolled to a stop and the 4 of us were asked to get out so that they could get to the engine under us. The engine finally roared to life and we all scrambled back in quickly as they took off.

We got a good breeze from the open door for the 3-hr. trip. Sitting facing everyone, we felt like the travel entertainment. It wasn't very far into the trip that we realized how much we looked like Hans' three wives since it isn't uncommon in this culture to have many wives. This was confirmed many times when people asked us if he was our husband. I always just answered, "yes," figuring they'd mess with us less if they thought we "belonged" to him as the culture sees it.

Rumbling into Bangor, we made a quick jump onto some motos waiting and headed for the border. We stopped to register at a customs building, hoping we could actually go across the border. We assumed we'd have to buy visas for about a week, but who knows how much they would try to charge us, or if it was even possible. It ended up going very well. Elise, the lady we went to talk to, was very friendly. She was excited to hear we were from the Bere Adventist Hospital and gave us her address and number so that she could have a hospital built in her village. She stamped our passports and charged us only 1000 CFA each, about 2 dollars. Excited over how well it went, we were off again.

Our motos stopped again by a building saying we needed to check in there too. We could see Cameroon, just across a river. Going in to see the military men, we figured it would be a quick stop since we'd worked everything out at the last place. The man looked at our stamps, questioned us a little and waved us on, but as we walked out, an Arab man stopped us asking for our passports. We know not to just give them out to any military man, because the government is corrupt and many will make you pay to get them back. I only brought my passport and visa copies for the trip instead of my original since Gary had told me that was all that was needed. So we refused to give the man our passports and tried to leave. He was persistent, though, and kept asking, grabbing Hans' arm to get him to stay. Hans told him we had already been cleared, but the man became irate. He yelled at Hans and Hans yelled back for a while until I was tempted to just run across the border and leave the screaming man :)

He started telling us that he was with some anti-espionage group and that we were American spies. We wanted to laugh at that, but he was serious. (You know our favorite thing to do is go to Cameroon to set bombs and spy on their amazing military techniques to take back to the States!) Eventually the man we had checked-in with came out and told us that we couldn't leave and needed to be questioned by this man. Hans acted very mad, because usually if you push & bluff your way around, they lay off, but this man was very adamant that we were spies. They took Hans over to a grass shack with a bunch of men while Liz, Sonya, and I waited by the road.

We waited and waited, hearing a very heated conversation going on in the hut. We prayed constantly for Hans, hoping they wouldn't take any of his stuff or charge him an exorbitant amt. of money. After an hour, he came out, looking quite shaken and walked over to us quietly saying, "I don't want to get shot here. Give me your passports." We quickly handed them over and watched him walk back, realizing possible more was at stake than our money and belongings. Not too much later, he came striding out, telling us to quickly get our stuff together. We quickly hoofed it down to the river and crossed the border in a canoe before they changed their minds.

Hans relayed all that had happened. The Arab man kept screaming at him constantly that we were spies and Americans are horrible...on and on. Hans said he looked like he wanted to kill him. Hans explained what we were doing in Tchad & Cameroon and that he had #s for the doctors at both hospitals to confirm if needed. They argued continually and then eventually said they wanted to interrogate us girls one by one. Hans wisely played off of their Muslim beliefs and told them that he was responsible for us. It wouldn't be expected of their woman to appear in front of strange men alone. They could talk to him in regard to us. They agreed and that's when he came to get our passports.

Relieved to finally be across, we made it through the Cameroon registration points fairly easy. Amazing that we were allowed to travel in Cameroon with no visas, just a stamp saying we were leaving Tchad & entering Cameroon! Greg says most of the military men can't read well enough to tell. You could put any stamp on a paper and call it something without them knowing the difference.

We found a driver to take us into Yagoua to catch a bus to Maroua. We looked out, amazed at the difference from Tchad. So many nice houses and power lines! We had to wait 4 hrs. for a bus to finally come to take us to Maroua. We got there at 11 pm and proceeded to try and find a place to stay the night. Greg had arranged for us to stay at the Baptist Mission after hearing we'd be late, but there was some confusion and they wanted 15000 CFA! Thirty dollars for just 6 hours of sleep. So we ended up staying on the floor of a room in YaYa's house. A man Greg arranged to pick us up at the bus station.

It was a sleepless night with lots of mosquitoes. We were up early and on our way on another bus to Mokolo. It is so beautiful in Cameroon with mountains and agriculture. In Mokolo, we jumped on some motos for the last leg of our journey to Koza (after negotiating the price for a while). It was a fun trip up and over mtns. into the town of Koza. We arrived at the hospital by 9:30 that morning, seeing Audrey & Greg running out to meet us. Time for a vacation...


December 25

This year was lacking a bit in the cinnamon smells, colorful lights, cold snowy days, and family visiting that usually accompanies Christmas. Nevertheless, we did our best here in dry, hot Africa, to create a little of the Christmas spirit.

Liz and I, both coming from families that faithfully tromp out to find the best pine-smelling tree every year, were adamant that we needed a Christmas tree. So the two of us headed out one evening in December to find something that would suffice. Our rules were that it had to at least have the promise of being slightly green and had to be able to hold ornaments. Armed with a bucket, shovel, and saw, we marched out into the bush, carefully scanning anything that grew above the ground. After weaving our way around all the squatting people taking a dump out in the fields, we finally picked the lucky bush. From far away, it could almost be mistaken as holly. Soon we had sawed it off, collecting extra pieces for a wreath and headed home, triumphant.

Despite the skeptic looks of Hans, Sonya, & James, we set it upright in a basket filled with dirt and began decorating with colorful little ornaments sent by Liz's family, while Christmas music played in the background, hot chocolate was made, and candles lit.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we watched the classic, "It's a Wonderful life," and constantly played all the holiday music we had. Eventually our tree had to be replaced with a new one, since it died. So we cut down a bush that more resembled a pine tree, although it had 2-inch thorns sticking out everywhere.

On the 23rd, we held a Christmas party for the hospital staff. Sonya made a huge batch of delicious peanut butter cookies and juice, and we showed "The Nativity Story" after the generator came on.

On Christmas Eve, after work, we had a big dinner together with all the "white people" in Bere. It was a feast compared to what we usually eat and a great time to relax and enjoy each other's company. Everyone brought a white-elephant gift (I wrapped mine with mango leaves), and proceeded with exchanging gifts. The favorites were Sweet Pea lotion and chocolate!

Christmas Day wasn't very enjoyable for me. I worked and was sick with what I later found out was strep throat. After work, I ended up sleeping most of the evening and wishing I could be home.

The next morning, we headed off for Cameroon on vacation which is its own story...
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

La Clase de Espanol de Milo

December 14

Wow! You buys are amazing. I just received your letters last night and once I realized what they were, I felt like I held a treasure box in my hands. It is so easy to feel separated and like I'm just writing blindly. It's encouraging to know my blogs are somewhat of an inspiration when many times, here, I feel useless. Just a couple days ago we had a little kid come in with malaria, but the parents refused to pay for hospitalizing him. They took him to the traditional "healers" instead who made cuts all over his stomach and other rituals with promises to cure him. Today they returned, with the boy convulsing. I've spent all day pleading with them to buy meds. for him, and each time they finally do buy one dose, they act as if I'm cheating them out of their money. They don't believe that there is any other reason for me to be here except to make money off of them. Late this afternoon, the boy died, proving to them, that they paid for nothing. And I feel like I failed again.

I must say that any inspiration you get from my experiences are not from me, but are glimpses of God working in my life & in Tchad. Many times I feel weak, discouraged, and not trusting of Him, but He works through the least of us. Don't think (like I used to), that you have to reach a certain level spiritually with God to be used by Him in great ways. Just be willing to relinquish control of your life and say, "God, use me."

Nothing will be the same...imagine if you are tapping into the strength, love, & character of God, where is the limit??!
Then as He uses you, despite your limitations & shortcomings, to touch other people's lives & fulfill His purpose, the most incredible part happens ~ While working through you, He works in you.

Hmm...hope I'm not getting too carried away :) When I write, it kind of sorts out all my own thoughts. Well, I hope you all have a great Christmas and keep up with the Espanol! I was thinking I should write part of this in Spanish for you guys, but every time I tried to think of something, only French came up in my mind. Aah!! It's taking over. You all need to write me some Spanish quick!

Thank you again! I have your letters hanging up all over my hut walls.