Eid al-Adha

For those of you who may have missed it, last Monday, September 12 was one of two main Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice. You guessed it, it commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his first born son Ishmael. It also marks the end of the annual Hajj to Mecca.

We live in a predominantly Muslim country (60%), so as soon as the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia set the date officially as September 12, it became a national holiday. So Mobile Clinic was cancelled, but things were pretty much as usual at the hospital. A hospital, like Las Vegas, never sleeps you know, or takes vacation.

That being said it was pretty much an uneventful quiet day until about 4:30 in the afternoon. Mr. Fobbie came to my office as I was starting to pack things up to go home.

“Mr. Abu is going to Mamamah to attend to Mr. Augustine Conteh”, he told me.

“Oh, why is that? What happened?”

“He was on his way home and was in an accident.”

“Is it serious?”

“I think so, they took him to his house.”

I am a surgeon after all, and so I thought I should go along and check it out for myself, plus I figured it would be a morale booster for Mr. Conteh, who is our head nurse.

Mr. Abu and I quickly got together a few supplies, not having a clue what we would find. Afterwards I realized we left the BP cuff and IV supplies behind. Next time we will try to have an emergency kit prepared.

Pa Sanko, our intrepid driver, the man who has no fear, holding Augustine's older girl, Rachel.

Pa Sanko, our intrepid driver, the man who has no fear, holding Augustine’s older girl, Rachel.

We hopped in the van with Pa Sanko and Mr. Abu had prayer. We desperately needed that prayer. I have spent many hours in the van with Pa Sanko at the wheel. He is a pretty aggressive driver. This time it was the Indy 500 and we were making up for too much time lost in the pits. I buckled in tight, and tried to concentrate on my solitaire game and not count the times we passed one or two cars going our direction while being passed by cars going in the opposite direction. These guys have incredible depth perception, they miss each other by millimeters, or sometimes not.
The vambulance

The vambulance

20 minutes later (of the usual 30 minute trip) we pulled into Augustine’s front yard. Abu and I hopped out and followed the sounds of wailing to the little carport behind the house, where they had held the naming ceremony for Augustine’s baby girl, Sarah.

Mr. Conteh was laid out on the cement on a pink lacy sheet. He was surrounded by probably 50 friends and relatives, many of whom were wailing and wringing their hands. One woman was standing over him pointing to a mass protruding from his bare abdomen. At first I thought he was dead, but then I noticed he was breathing. We did a quick primary survey and found nothing imminently life threatening, other than all the noise and commotion. His pulse was full and strong and didn’t feel too fast. I breathed a sigh of relief as we began the secondary survey.
The mass in his abdomen turned out to be an old hernia, apparently this woman had not seen him before without his shirt, so she thought it was new. He was able to talk fairly normally and answer questions. They said his left leg was broken and it had a traditional splint in place. Abdomen was soft and non tender, chest was normal. Glasgow Coma Scale was 15.

OK, this is good. I really didn’t want my head nurse dying on me in front of all these people, actually I didn’t want him dying on me at all. But I did want him back at the hospital where we could watch him in case something did show up.

I suggested we get him moved to the van, so 5 guys got on the right side of the sheet leaving me and one other skinny Sierra Leonean for the left side. I had visions of this not going well, but it was still better than the Tchadien method of transport; 4 men, each one holding a different limb with the head flopping around loose. We got him in the van without incident and tried to reassure the weeping crowd that he was going to be alright. Unfortunately, it is a van, so he had to sit semi-upright on the seat so we could fit all of him inside.

As we headed out I told Sankoh that Augustine was OK and we could go a little slower. I have always been opposed to accidents involving rescue vehicles, especially if I am inside.

I was now able to talk with Augustine and find out what had happened. He had been on his moto and was turning left onto the road going to Mamamah and failed to see the other motorcycle trying to pass him on his left (very common practice). So the left side of his body took all the force.

As we drove along I reflected on all the people weeping and wailing as they gathered around Augustine as he lay there. I realized that they had seen this before and knew that he was badly injured and for all they knew he was going to die. Augustine is the one who has the good job, so he supports a large part of the family. Their future lay on that sheet. What would happen to them if he died, or was no longer able to work? So it was truly a cry of frightened desperate people who had no control over the situation or the future.

When we got to Waterloo his brother-in law, who had come with us, said he was hungry so we stopped at a favorite cafe and picked up some food. At that point Augustine still looked pretty good, but then he commented that he was tired. I was really hoping that it was all the excitement and the broken leg talking…

At the hospital he was loaded up on a gurney and quickly moved to the private room that had already been prepared for him. I found out later that while we were gone the whole staff had gathered together and prayed for Augustine and for our safety as well. God answers prayer is all I can say.

As we moved Augustine onto the bed I noticed his skin, previously dry and warm was now cool and clammy. Oh boy, direct left side hit, hard enough to break a leg. Hard enough to break a spleen, too? His pulse, once full, regular and slow was now fast and thready. While the staff got things together for starting an IV I got my ultrasound to do a quick scan of his abdomen. I really am not very experienced at these, and frankly not very good, but by God’s grace I quickly found his spleen and it looked pretty good. I didn’t like the black at the end of it though. I looked in the pelvis, a little black around the outside of the bladder. Then I looked at the left abdomen, black in the gutter, and I could see the bowels floating in a black sea. Black on normal mode ultrasound is liquid. In this case blood. Great.

My head nurse has a ruptured spleen. I have no night time OR, yet. I hope and pray he is not one of the few that don’t stop bleeding on their own. Mr. Abu got two IV’s going. I noted that we would need to be talking about the concept of “LARGE” bore IV’s for trauma. But the 22 gauges worked. 500 cc of fluid later he started to look around again and he quit sweating. After a liter he was talking normally and his skin started to warm up. Adequate blood pressure for brain perfusion has always been a favorite of mine.

Augustine feeling much better.

Augustine feeling much better.

I examined his leg and decided he just had a broken fibula, the little bone on the outside of the leg. The main bone, the tibia, was fine. I put a splint on it and then had prayer with him and told him I would be back in a couple hours to check on him.

At home I filled Bekki in and confessed my worries about what I was going to do if he didn’t stop bleeding like the book said he was supposed to. Patients have a nasty habit of not reading the books before coming into the hospital. We are not really set up yet to do surgery outside of regular hours. We are working on it, but it will take some time yet. So she called on her prayer team through e-mail and face book.

About 9:00 pm we went down the hospital and checked in on him. He looked pretty good, awake, alert, pulse good, abdomen soft, no pain except in the leg. I gave the nurses their final instructions and told them to call if he got sweaty again.

I have to confess I did not sleep well that night, waiting for my phone to ring. Praise God my phone stayed silent all night. I hurried down to the hospital early so I could check on him before worship, and was greatly relieved to see him holding court in his room very awake and alert and already busy disobeying doctor’s orders.

The big grin is because he had been eating against my orders.

The big grin is because he had been eating against my orders.

At worship that morning I noticed that Augustine was the scheduled speaker. I told him later that if he really didn’t want to do worship all he needed to do was talk with someone, having an accident was really not necessary. He got a good laugh out of that.

A very relieved Mrs. Conteh holding the baby Sarah, and a shy Rachel standing next to the bed.

A very relieved Mrs. Conteh holding the baby Sarah, and a shy Rachel standing next to the bed.

By Friday he was well enough to go home. Sunday morning at 6:30 my phone rang. Augustine called to thank me for taking good care of him, and to assure me that he was doing OK. I thanked him for calling, but have to confess that my thoughts were more of, “If you really want to thank me, don’t call me at 6:30 on Sunday morning:)”

Intercessory prayer works, it kept us alive during Sankoh’s mad dash to Mamamah, it stopped the bleeding in Augustine’s spleen, it helped us get the IV’s going in time. I cannot praise God enough that I was not faced with doing a splenectomy on him at 2 in the morning. We are not set up to deal with major trauma’s, but by God’s grace our head nurse will be back at work in early October.

It also showed me that we really do need an ambulance. Lights and siren would have been nice. A real ambulance gurney in the back of an ambulance that was already stocked with the supplies we needed would be nicer. As we grow, these kind of emergencies are going to be more common, we need to be ready to meet them. When we do the best we can with what we have, God makes up the difference. When we are just lazy and don’t plan ahead, and don’t work to remedy our deficiencies and ask God for help, it is presumption.

Despite the fact that Bekki did not serve mutton for supper that Monday night, it was an Eid al-Adha I won’t soon forget.

Paul checking Augustine's BP at his home today.

Paul checking Augustine’s BP at his home today.

Epilogue: We visited Augustine today as he lives just a couple hundred yards from our Mobile Clinic in Mamamah. He is doing well. Hemoglobin is stable, he is eating, no dizziness, minimal pain. We praise God for His mercies and healing. sg

A very happy Mr. Conteh on his bed at home, showing off his fancy cast-boot, and sitting up with no dizzyness.

A very happy Mr. Conteh on his bed at home, showing off his fancy cast-boot, and sitting up with no dizzyness.

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

Is A Human Life Worth $200?

I happened to glance out my office window yesterday to the front parking lot of the hospital. I watched bemusedly as a yellow cab pulled in, the front seat passenger got out and opened the right rear passenger door. My curiosity was piqued as I watched him pull out a young man by his arms. As if out of nowhere a crowd appeared and several pitched in to help carry the patient up the steps into the hospital.

It didn’t look good, but it also didn’t look surgical, I hoped. We had just cancelled my one case for the day because the young lady had eaten breakfast so I was looking forward to being able to get caught up on paperwork and other administrative stuff. Not long after I ventured out of my office and ran into Mr. James Abu, our CHO (Community Health Officer, basically a nurse practitioner).

“Doctor”, he said with his usual sly smile, “Doctor, I just admitted a patient with a bowel obstruction I would like you to see.”

“OK, no problem.” This is my usual response whether it is a problem or not, always hoping the lilt in my voice would put a smile on my otherwise sour face (those of you who know me will understand).

I asked if this was the young man they had just brought in. Sure enough it was. So much for being nonsurgical.

We went to the mens ward and found a young man, Sahr, in his early twenties laying on his side facing the wall. He had little ulcers on his right leg. I found out he had fallen from a mango tree some years back and has been paralyzed since.

The history was three days of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Indeed, he looked like a bowel obstruction, distended abdomen, tight, tympanic (sounded like a drum when I tapped), no evidence of an incarcerated hernia and no peritonitis.

Here, our only non-invasive diagnostic is an ultrasound done by a rank amateur (me), so the only real decision is does this patient need an operation and if so, when? Well, he needed an operation, and since the crew was there and anesthesia was present, now was good.

As I walked back to the OR, Mr. Abu stopped me and said, “Doctor, his family has not paid anything yet. What should we do, who will pay the 1.5 million leones ($200) for the surgery?”
My response was simple, “He needs surgery and he needs it now, we will worry about the money later.”

I am done with not treating someone with a life threatening or emergency condition simply because they cannot pay. We will get what payment we can from them later. But as a hospital it is our creed to treat everyone regardless of ability to pay. God will either make up the difference, which so far He has, or we will go under. But I am going home if I have to turn someone out because they don’t have money.

Back to the story. In the OR, I was explaining the necessity of being careful when opening the abdomen on cases like this to the surgical team. Because the abdominal wall is stretched thin and the dilated bowel will be just underneath it is easy to slice into the intestine. (Most teaching of this nature is from personal experience, this was no different). This time though, as I gently opened the peritoneum there was a rush of odorless air. It was followed by thick yellow fluid, 5 liters of it. The surgery people among you know exactly where I am going with this. No bowel obstruction, but instead a 1 centimeter (1/2 inch) hole in the duodenum, just below the stomach. Diagnosis, perforated ulcer.

As I repaired the hole and cleaned him up, I marveled at how far God had brought us in such a short time. A month ago I would never have dreamed we would be ready to do a case like this, but with our new suction and cautery and OR Table and the reorganization of the OR, we were ready. The case went well, and I am happy to say that today he looked as good as anyone can look with an NG tube hanging out their nose. He has a long way to go, and many bad things can happen, but so far a life has been saved by God’s grace.

Sahr the morning after surgery.

Sahr the morning after surgery.

After surgery I met with the family and explained what we found and what we had done. I also shared with them that Sahr was still very ill and needed lots of prayer, and that God is the One that would need to heal him.

In worship this morning Mr. Abu shared the “rest of the story”. In the days since he became ill the family had taken him to traditional healers and other clinics and hospitals. Sahr had been treated with herbs and other local remedies, which I can attest to as I suctioned out a number of pieces of leaves from his abdomen. The family had spent all its money before coming to AHS. They had only enough to pay the 30,000 leones ($5) for the consultation.

Sahr and his nurse.

Sahr and his nurse.

If we had insisted on some payment yesterday before treatment they likely would have put him back in the taxi and driven off, and he would be dead today, instead of being on the mend. And we would never have had the opportunity to point them to Jesus as the Source of healing.

Will Sahr fully recover? Remains to be seen.

Will the family pay? Probably something, although not likely the entire amount.

Will it hurt us financially? Maybe.

Is a human life worth $200? Definitely.

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year. On the “Videos” page watch a real Ebola survivor, Dalton Kabia, tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

Mobile Clinic

We had our first mobile clinic on Monday, August 29, 2016. It was the first step in fulfilling our vision of taking healthcare to people in all of Sierra Leone. It was the fulfillment of a commitment we made after meeting with Counsellor Bangura of Ward 154 at the naming ceremony for the daughter of our head nurse. (See the blog posted August 8, 2016.)

The Mobile Clinic Team, Mr. Abu, Erin, and Paul

The Mobile Clinic Team, Mr. Abu, Erin, and Paul

Once we set a date the community outreach team of Mr. James Abu, our Community Health Officer (CHO), and Erin Acosta, our Public Health Volunteer from Loma Linda, worked furiously to prepare. There is a lot of work involved in setting up a mobile clinic. You have to try to predict what diseases you are likely to see, and then gather all the supplies and medications you will need to treat those ailments. You have to prepare all the little things like a scale, a method to measure height, registration forms, a calculator (we forgot that one), portable exam beds, and on and on. Then it has to be all packed up and organized into bins and suitcases so it will all fit into the van along with the mobile health personnel.

Then we had to figure out how to price our services. I foolishly thought we would just use the prices we have here at the hospital, but no, I was informed we couldn’t do that. No one would come to the clinic. Apparently a $5 consult is too much for the villagers. I learned that in fact we should do the consults for free and just charge for the medications. Finally, a compromise was reached. We would do blood pressure checks for free, but there would be a 10,000 SLL (Sierra Leone Leone) ($1.25) charge to see Mr. Abu, and then the patients would have to pay for the medications.

I have to admit I was a little nervous with that plan. While I believe in the concept of mobile clinics and believe that it is important to take health care to those who can’t access it, I also believe in being able to pay the hospital staff at the end of each month. We simply don’t have the resources to be subsidizing a mobile clinic. It has to pay for itself. And I was beginning to doubt that it was possible, given the poverty in the villages. But I was game to try. However, in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) we signed with the local government health officials I made sure we could stop the clinics with just a 2 week notice if we found it was too expensive for us run.

Then last week Mr. Bangura, the counsellor (kind of like the mayor for the whole area) of the ward we were going to pulled me aside.

“You should give a small gift to each child who comes,” he told me.

“What kind of gift?” I asked.

“Just a small amount of food, or a small toy is all.” He answered.

Well, I thought he had a good idea. So did the other team members. But where were we going to get the money to buy a small toy for the children, and how were we going to keep from having a riot.

On Wednesday I was sitting in my office mulling this over when I heard the whoosh my phone makes when I have a new email. I opened it up to find a note from Norma Nashed, the President of Restore A Child(RAC). We had worked with them a lot in Tchad, but had had a hard time reconnecting since moving to Sierra Leone. But here was Norma telling me that RAC was sending $5,000 to Waterloo Hospital to help with Children’s programs. Wow, there is not a better program than giving rice to hungry, sick kids. Problem solved, we had money to buy rice to give the kids who came to see us. Moms are happy, we are happy, RAC is happy.

Monday I was up early, for me that is, we were leaving for the clinic at 0800. On the way we picked up the rice and arrived at the village in good time. We then waited for an hour before the man with the key opened up the building we would be using for the clinic. Fortunately, Erin is very organized and so the unpacking and set up went off without a hitch. Soon it was time for Mr. Abu to give the gathered villagers a welcome and health talk, and then, time to see patients.

Moms with their sick kids gathered in the Palava Hut, waiting to see Mr. Abu

Moms with their sick kids gathered in the Palava Hut, waiting to see Mr. Abu

Now, I have to be honest. I really did not want to be there, at the mobile clinic that is. And there was a very practical reason, I didn’t have a job. Everyone else had jobs, Erin would register the patients and collect money, Mr. Abu would see them, and Paul would dispense the meds and give shots. Even Julian had a job as official photographer and videographer. What was I going to do? I had images of sitting in a corner all day, staring off in space.

Little Rachel with one of the dolls Bekki found hidden away in a storage area.

Little Rachel with one of the dolls Bekki found hidden away in a storage area.

Promptly at 10:45 we began with our first patient, and all the job descriptions went flying through the proverbial window. We had two volunteers from the village who helped us out, and it would have been a nightmare without them. We quickly filled new roles as Paul and Theresa registered people and took their vitals, Erin and I became the pharmacy and took the money, and Abraham kind of filled in everywhere, but mostly translated. Only Mr. Abu and Julian kept to their assigned roles.

Another problem soon surfaced. Mothers were bringing their sick children. That was not the problem, the problem was they had no money, or very little money to pay for the needed care. Often the mom would run outside to her husband to get the 10,000 SLL ($1.25) for the consult, but then when it came time to purchase the needed medications they would only have 5,000 or 10,000 SLL for a 20,000 or 30,000 SLL ($2.50 – $3.75) pharmacy bill. The look on those faces would be giving me nightmares if the Holy Spirit had not given me an idea.

Two little girls with their bags of rice already perched on their heads.

Two little girls with their bags of rice already perched on their heads.

I realized that we had money, for children, for sick children. So very quickly we developed a plan. We would ask for the 10,000 SLL for the registration/consult, and another 10,000 SLL for the meds. That way they paid something. It is generally not good to always give things away, people value things they have paid for. Then we would use the RAC money to make up the difference. Most people were able to pay the $2.50, but not everyone.

Two year old Hawa came in with her grandmother from a village a few miles away. Grandma was able to pay the 10,000 SLL, but when she came to the table for the medications for Hawa’s week old cough and fever she had no more money. Now there was no way we were going to turn a little child away without treatment for a lousy $1.25. So we told them the meds were free. Then we gave Hawa her 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) bag of rice and a little doll, and she was happy and grandma was happy.

Hawa with her grandmother.

Hawa with her grandmother.

It was such a joy to be able to treat these children, and the moms were so grateful for the rice. But we really had no idea what an impact we had made, until the end of the day. After we saw our last patient, a little 4 year-old girl, Mr. Abu shared a story with me.

It seems that this little girl, Princess, had been in the Palava Hut with her mom most of the afternoon. They had been waiting because mom could not get up the courage to go into the clinic because she did not have any money. And so they watched as people came and went all afternoon.
After we saw Hawa, Mr. Abu happened to hear Hawa’s grandmother talking with Princess’s mother. When grandma found out why the mother had not gone into the clinic this is what she said.
“Go to the clinic,” she said, “they have compassion, they will treat Princess even if you don’t have money. Don’t wait.”

And so we had the privilege of caring for little Princess and sending her home with needed medicines and a bag of rice to fill her tummy, because of the compassion and generosity of people who have never met her, and will never meet her, people who live half a world away, but have the love of Jesus in their hearts.

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14 NIV

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

TAASLA

Sometimes in life you make snap decisions that turn out great and sometimes not so great, sometimes even terrible. About 4 weeks ago I made one of those snap decisions. This time I believe it was the Holy Spirit who prompted me, because it turned out better than I could ever have hoped for, especially for an introvert like me who relies on Bekki to make the friends and contacts.

One Sabbath evening Pastor Daniel Sandy, our new Sierra Leone Mission President, came by the little guest room to chat with us. There were a couple items of business he was following up on, but mostly it was to talk about the hospital, the mission and the future of the SDA work in Sierra Leone. (Pastor Sandy is a vice-chairman of our hospital board.) In the course of the conversation he mentioned that he was going to Maryland the first weekend of August to attend a campmeeting of the local SDA Sierra Leone ex-pats living in that area.

When he said that, it was like someone flipped a switch in my brain. “I have to be there”, was the thought. Right on heels of that thought were the rational, how, why, who.

How are you getting there?

How are you paying for this?

Why are you going? You weren’t invited.

Who is going? Are you taking Bekki? Are you really going by your introverted self?

Just as quickly came the answers (in order).

By plane.

I don’t know and I don’t care.

I don’t know and I don’t care.

Me. No. Yes

So I hemmed and hawed with Pastor Sandy, wanting to make sure I would not be raining on his parade, asking if, well what would he think, would it be OK if I went with him. He looked at me for the longest time. I thought, “Great, he is trying to figure out a polite way of telling me to stay home.”

But instead he said that sure, I would be welcome. Wow, OK now I had kind of committed myself. But I gave myself an out. I told him I would have to run it by Donn Gaede our board chair and my administrative team here at the hospital. (Read: I am going to sleep on this and see if I still feel the same way in the morning, if not I will save face by having them tell me no. Smart, huh?)

But by morning the impression and desire to go was just as strong. I got the green light from Gaede, Fobbie and Koroma, and started looking at airline tickets. It was definitely a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I was committed now. Besides the conviction was growing that I needed to be there. To be honest, I really didn’t know why. I mean, beyond the dates I knew nothing about this “campmeeting”. I didn’t even have a speaking appointment.

More questions without answers:

Who would be there?

How many?

Would they resent my being there? You know the American white guy showing up uninvited, unannounced.

Would I be able to overcome my natural shyness and be able to smile and not look grumpy all the time?

And so on.

As the time got closer those questions got bigger, especially since I didn’t get a copy of the schedule until 5 days before I was scheduled to leave. When I looked at the schedule my heart sank a bit. I had thought Pastor Sandy was the featured speaker, being the SLM President and all, and I was hoping that since he knew me he would at least introduce me and give me 5 minutes or so to say something about AHS Waterloo. But he was on the program only Sabbath afternoon, doing a Marriage/Family breakout session. I consoled myself that at least one of his daughters would be there and I really wanted to meet one or both as the oldest Jewel is an ophthalmologist and the younger one Jenny, is a CRNA (Anesthetist). Hannah, his wife would be there and I knew her, and so I was looking forward to seeing her. And I would have a bit of time to spend with Ronnie and Kermit Netteburg, so there were good things. And lastly I had gone into this fully informed that it was a $2500 gamble, but one I felt convicted to take.

The Sabbath before we left was the Thanksgiving service I wrote about. It was during Pastor Sandy’s sermon that I began to get an idea of what I was in for. I found out the reason behind the long pause when I first suggested the idea that I would accompany him. He was not trying to figure out a way to say no, he was trying to get his head around the idea that I would be willing to go. I kind of blind-sided him, in a good way. I also found out who was putting on the campmeeting. TAASLA, The American Association of Sierra Leonean Adventists. There would be folks there from all over the US. And Pastor Sandy was excited I was going to join him. OK, so now I had to go. I was pumped. Until…

The devil is always there to throw curve balls isn’t he? Sunday I got an e-mail from Air France. Seems their Cabin Attendants (Stewards and Stewardesses) were on strike July 27 through August 2, and so a lot of international flights were being cancelled. If I wanted to re-book I could do it for free, or even cancel and bank the fare for use within a year.

I was scheduled to leave August 2, on a flight from Freetown to Paris. It seems like African flights are always the ones cut, you know the old thing, “no one cares about Africa.” Seriously if you have a choice of cutting a flight between JFK and Paris or Freetown and Paris, which do you think Air France will choose to cut. And it is not like there are flights out of Sierra Leone every few hours. Not even every day. By now the conviction that I needed to be there was overwhelming, and so we prayed. Bekki got her prayer warriors praying. In worship the next morning, Monday, James Abu led us in a special prayer that my flight would depart as scheduled. I went to the Air France office on Monday to talk with them. They assured me the flight was a go. Although that was better than, “No it is cancelled,” I was still nervous. We kept praying. Tuesday morning I finally got the e-mail that I could check in for my flight, I began to relax. God intervened and Air France cancelled lots of other flights but mine was on time. Praise the Lord.

With the Sandy Family, Pastor Daniel on the Left, then Jewel, Jenny and Hannah.

With the Sandy Family, Pastor Daniel on the Left, then Jewel, Jenny and Hannah.

Pastor Sandy and I went to the airport together. We had two hours to talk and share visions and dreams that we had for Sierra Leone, and just to get to know each other better. The respect I already had for this man just exploded.

The trip across the pond was uneventful, I had a great time with Ronnie and Kermit, enjoyed an Olive Garden Salad, listened to the Marine Band on the Capital Steps, and made a needed trip to the General Conference to deal with some matters.

The weekend song leaders.

The weekend song leaders.

Thursday afternoon I drove up to Hagerstown to Highland View Academy. Registration was from 1-5 pm, I got there a few minutes after 5. No signs, in fact the place seemed deserted. I went to administration and they directed me to the Boys dorm. I went there. Someone was putting a sign up on the door. I went inside. No registration desk, no one in the lobby, but I heard voices down the hall. And there I found Mr and Mrs. Kamara talking with the boys dean. Now one advantage I had the whole weekend is that I kind of stood out, if you get my drift. And my AHS Waterloo Hospital shirt didn’t hurt either. Since it was obvious I didn’t work at the school, and was here for the campmeeting introductions were soon made. When Kamara found out who I was he wrapped me in the biggest bear hug and with tears in his voice welcomed me to campmeeting. That set the stage for the entire weekend.
Mr. Kamara, my first greeter

Mr. Kamara, my first greeter

Jenny Sandy with Mr. Kamara and Jacob Conteh.

Jenny Sandy with Mr. Kamara and Jacob Conteh.

I don’t think I have ever been so completely and unconditionally adopted by any group of people like I was by TAASLA. I was immediately an honorary Sierra Leonean. Most of them had grown up in SL and had gone to school together. This was the first campmeeting they had had in 4 years, and they did indeed come from all parts of the country, even one family from Mexico. So it was a homecoming of sorts. Pastor and I were accorded all the time we needed to share about the gospel and health ministry that is happening at home. We emphasized the close relationship the SLM (Serra Leone Mission), AHS (Adventist Health System) and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Association) have in SL. We shared our vision for higher education, ie a university in SL, we shared our vision for the health work, and for the ultimate spread of the gospel.
Pastor Sesay, the new TAASLA President and our weekend chairman.

Pastor Sesay, the new TAASLA President and our weekend chairman.

Greetings from TAASLA!

Greetings from TAASLA!

I got to spend time with the Sandy girls. Jewel, the ophthalmologist, shared with me her vision for starting an eye clinic at Waterloo, and even developing a residency program there. Jenny would love to come and spend time in our OR, helping and doing education. I received invitations to speak at their churches, and may even get a chance to speak at the academy this fall. It was a blessed, inspiring, Spirit filled weekend, that gave me memories I will cherish forever. I count it a privilege and honor to work in Sierra Leone, and to be able to connect with this dear group of ex-pats. Next campmeeting I will be there, and by God’s grace Bekki will be there with me.

Epilogue: Sabbath morning while I was at Campmeeting, Bekki and Erin exited our front gate to find this little gift.

Happy Day

Happy Day


Meet Happy Day, or HD for short. Here when someone says “Happy Sabbath”, the response is “Happy Day”. Since HD was found Sabbath morning, she was named Happy Day. She was extremely malnourished, exhausted and covered with sores. She ate well Sabbath, like a starving little pup, then threw it all up. For two days she barely ate or drank. We started forcing water with coconut milk down her with a syringe and after 36 hours of that she decided enough already and began to eat. She is still skin and bones, but now acts like a puppy, hopping, jumping, playing, barking at the intruder dog in the oven door, and eating like a pig, even getting a bit choosy. You will most likely hear more about our new addition, and her brother who is currently in Erin’s generator shed with his brother and sisters. He will join us when he is weaned. It starts, ominously.

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

FROM NAMING CEREMONY TO MOBILE CLINICS

Mother and baby

Mother and baby

About 6 weeks ago the wife of our head nurse, Augustin Conteh, had a baby, a little girl to be exact. Since we don’t do OB, yet, she had the baby at a nearby health center. Apparently it was a bit rough, but, praise God, mom and baby came through in fine shape.

Here, moms go home as soon as possible after the delivery, but always without giving the new born a name. Maybe the custom has its roots in the high infant mortality, or maybe that is just the way it has always been done. Whatever the reason, the babies are nameless for 10-14 days until the naming ceremony.

Samuel Danqua giving the charge to the family and church to help bring up the child in the Lord.

Samuel Danqua giving the charge to the family and church to help bring up the child in the Lord.

The naming ceremony is a big, huge deal here. And so it was that on a Sunday afternoon we loaded up the hospital van and Fobbie’s car and headed the 18 miles to Augustin’s home for the above noted naming ceremony.
The home where this was held was out in one of the villages, fortunately not too far off the main road as once again we were offroading it and avoiding sinkholes (too big to be called pot holes) in what was left of the pavement to keep the vehicles from being swallowed whole. I kind of understood how Korah, Dathan, and Abiram felt (see Numbers 16), only we had a better outcome than they did. But I digress. We all gathered behind the house under a shelter from the rain and/or sun. Finally after much waiting mom and baby appeared. As is typical around the world baby was passed from woman to woman, finally stopping with Fatmata, one of our nurses who pretty much kept the baby to herself the rest of the program. It would soon be evident why.

With the announcement of each name guests would bring up an offering of money to give the baby or the mother.

With the announcement of each name guests would bring up an offering of money to give the baby or the mother.

The program consisted of prayers and talks by various dignitaries, much like an expanded child dedication service held in Adventist churches. Finally the big moment arrived, the unveiling of the name of the baby, or in this case, names. She was given 3 names, (4 if you include her last name, Conteh):

Sarah-named after the wife of Abraham and mother of nations

Millicent-named after our nurse who died in the Ebola plague

Fatmata-named after one of Conteh’s favorite nurses, and the one who kept the baby with her during the ceremony.

It is actually pretty cool, much thought is put into each name, and each name is special. Unlike “Scott” which really has no meaning to me, other than that is what I answer to. I really have no idea why my parents named me that. I think I asked once but obviously did not get a memorable answer. I think they just like it. Frankly that is why we named Jon and Lindsay, Jonathan and Lindsay, we liked the names. In Jonathan’s case so did half the other parents in our generation, a fact which he reminds us of every time he can.

After the ceremony we were all served refreshments, fried rice with chicken or fish, complete with soda. It was during this time that I was approached by a dignified looking man I would come to know as Ahmad Bangura. Turns out that Mr. Bangura is one of the counselors for the district. He has over 7 wards, each one containing thousands of villagers. He approached me with a request, “Would we please come to this ward, Mamamaw, and establish a mobile clinic?” He explained that the people in only one of his seven wards has access to health care, without having to travel a significant (for them) distance. He told me he had been constructing an administrative building that he felt would be useful for a clinic as well.

He took me to see the building. It looked nice. It was locked and the contractor had the key so we just looked through the windows. I told him I would take it back to the administrative team and the community outreach team at the hospital and get back to him. I have learned not to make promises until I find out the “rest of the story”. This sounded like one of those things with a hidden agenda.

Counselor Ahmad Bangura in front of the building to be used for our mobile clinic.

Counselor Ahmad Bangura in front of the building to be used for our mobile clinic.

On the way back to the hospital I discussed it with Mr. Fobbie, then ran it by James Abu, our director of community outreach, and the one who is in charge of the mobile clinic program. Turns out there really was no hidden agenda. He really wants us to come once a week and see his people. He won’t even charge us rent for using the building. He told me he has pleaded with the government for more health centers or clinics in his wards, but to no avail. They just don’t have the money, or the people to man (or woman) them. So he was told to go find his own source of health care. Thanks to the fact that Augustin Conteh lives there, and thanks to the fact that Mr. Bangura went to SDA schools he knew about our hospital, and so he approached us.

A couple of weeks later we went back for a formal meeting to discuss the possibility further. I expected a small meeting with Fobbie, Abu, me and Erin Acosta, our MPH who is helping establish the community outreach programs with a Bangura, and a couple of the village elders. We (Erin and Mr. Abu) worked furiously to establish a budget and figure how this mobile clinic thing would work without costing us money that we don’t have. The problem is of course we are going to villagers who need health care and medications, but they haven’t got much money to pay for these things.

The appointed day came. Mr. Bangura had called me three times that week to make sure we would be there, and on time. It turned out to be a real all-village meeting. The village leadership was there to be sure, but so were many of the villagers. We all gathered in the Palava Hut, which is exactly what it is for. The Palava huts are basically city hall for the villages. It is where the chief or counselor or village elders meet and discuss issues, they resolve disputes, and carry on the village business. Kind of reminds me of the story of Ruth when Boaz went to the gate of the city to meet with the elders to work things out with Ruth’s nearest kinsman.

The meeting started late of course, as everyone gathered, but it was very serious, there was an agenda, and protocol and everything followed in strict order, making sure that everyone had their opportunity to speak. The first item on the agenda was prayer. Now remember that this was not an AHS led meeting. We start every meeting with prayer, but we are a religious based organization, we are supposed to do that (and we believe in it). This was actually a government led meeting. What took me off guard even more is that there were two prayers. The first by a Muslim representative and the second by a Christian. So we had a Muslim and a Christian prayer. Now I have been told that Sierra Leone is very proud of the fact that the Muslims and Christians here co-exist side by side with no religious discrimination or acrimony. This was, to me, a confirmation of that fact. There was peaceful, happy acknowledgement of the beliefs and ceremonies of both religions, with no attempt to place one above the other. It was really a cool thing to witness.

The village meeting under the Palava Hut.

The village meeting under the Palava Hut.

The meeting went well, other than being long, and pretty much the message was the same, we need you to come have a clinic here, we will support it, and we need it yesterday. As many as possible (which is a surprisingly large number crammed into the new building to look at it and see how we could make it work for a clinic. Abu was happy with it, which is what counts, he is the one who has to run it.

So it looks like we have our first mobile clinic. All because of a discussion after a naming ceremony. There is another meeting with the local district health team, but that should just be a formality. There is no reason for them to nix the plan of their own counselor. We have a few details yet to work out as to inventory of supplies we need to take, and meds we will take and how the pricing structure will work, but the ground work for those is done, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Hopefully we can hold the first clinic by the end of August. And it is not too far off the road so hopefully the van will hold out until we can find the money to purchase a 4WD Pathfinder or 4Runner, God willing.

On the way to the airport (I am attending a Sierra Leone Campmeeting in Maryland this weekend) I spent a good two hours talking with Pastor Daniel Sandy, our new Mission President. He told me of a new SDA clinic in diamond country that would like to be under the AHS umbrella. Hmmm, didn’t know about this one, but that is what we are about, that is our Vision:

To transform the physical, social, spiritual and mental well-being of people in Sierra Leone through the Adventist Health System, as we accomplish our Mission, which is to demonstrate the healthcare ministry of Jesus Christ.

So bring it on, let’s get out of Waterloo, we have got a whole country to reach!!

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

THIS IS WHAT FAITH LOOKS LIKE

This is what faith looks like.

This is what faith looks like.

Yesterday I posted this picture on Instagram (you who are our facebook friends can follow us on Instagram to get immediate news and pictures) with the caption that read, “This is what faith looks like.” I promised a blog to share the rest of the story, well here it is.

In late May while we were still in the US I sent an e-mail to Joseph Fobbie, our manager, suggesting that for our physical therapy building it would be good if he and the rest of the AHS (Adventist Health System, Waterloo Hospital) team there in Waterloo did some fundraising with the Adventists on the peninsula and with the local community. That way everyone gets involved and takes ownership of the project and it is not just the westerners coming in and taking over.

Proposed Physio Building

Proposed Physio Building

Fobbie thought it was a good idea and e-mailed me back that he would maybe arrange a dinner and invite lots of people. I was pleased, frankly, with whatever he thought they would do. When we returned in June I got quite the surprise that first Sabbath morning. The plan now was to have a Thanksgiving Praise service on July 30 and take up a thank offering for the construction of the physio building. But there was more, Fobbie already had everyone organized into committees, the decorating committee, the music committee, the program committee, etc. And every week at church and during the week at the hospital he made sure the committees came together and did their planning and preparation work.

And work they did, a lot of it. I was pretty impressed as I sat back and watched them go at it. I purposely stayed out of this as it was 100% Sierra Leonean and the last thing they needed was some American messing things up. My role was to sign invitation letters and donation envelopes by the hundreds, these were then passed out and everyone was encouraged to invite at least 5 people.

Last week was a blur of last minute preparations, choir practices and the expected hiccups and trials. Remember it is still rainy season and for 8 days we had about 8 total hours of no rain. Travel was difficult and wet, so the organist didn’t make it one afternoon for practice. Other people on the program couldn’t make it at the last minute. You know the usual disasters that happen with big programs like this.

Friday afternoon was beautiful and Fobbie told me that Sabbath was going to be nice, too. Sabbath morning about 3 am it started to rain. Now, often it will rain for 2 or 3 hours then let up and mist for a while, then rain again, but not this time. It was still raining heavily when I let Brima, our night guard, out of the compound at 6:45. During my morning prayer I pleaded with God to stop the rain. I peaked, it was still raining. At breakfast at 8:15 we prayed again that God would stop the rain so people could and would come to the service. It was still raining as I cleared the table.

This was a “the devil is behind it” rain. Heavy, steady, with rivers running down the middle of the roads, making it very difficult for people to get around. At 8:50 am we headed up to the rented conference hall through the rain. Even with umbrellas we got wet. We arrived promptly at 9:01, I had opening prayer so I figured I had better be on time. Actually I think Mr. Fobbie had me do opening prayer so I would be on time.

Anyway, we arrived in the rain to a dark conference hall. Maybe 4 people were there. It was 2/3 full of probably 150 empty chairs, no lights, no fans, no congregation. Bekki and I were both sick at heart. Mr. Fobbie, and the whole hospital had worked so hard for this program, to get it just right, and now it seemed that the rain would keep everyone away, and it would all be for naught.

About then a truck came in with some of the young men from the hospital bringing a load of more chairs. Inwardly I sadly smiled and shook my head. There was no way they were going to fill the chairs already set up, let alone bring in more. This was crazy, but it was their crazy, not mine. That was when I took the picture, thinking, “Now that is faith, the substance of things hoped for and not yet seen” (Gardner’s paraphrase of Hebrews 11:1).

Since we had nothing better to do we helped dry off chairs and set them up in nice neat, empty rows. And we folded several hundred programs, thinking they would make nice paper airplanes later on. About 9:50 the man came to start the generator so now we at least had lights and fans. And people started to slowly trickle in. At 10:15, 75 minutes late, we started the singing, and as I sat on the platform and looked out over the audience I smiled, there were probably a good 40 or 50 people there. Scattered about so it didn’t look quite so empty. By the time lesson study started and the children were sent off to their program folks were starting to use those extra chairs we had set up and hospital staff were having to find seats in the front section for late comers. This is what it looked like by the end of lesson study as the rain finally stopped and the trickle of people became a stream then a steady river.

A full house

A full house

You know all those extra “faith” chairs, and all the programs destined to be paper airplanes? Good thing we had them, they all got used. Every chair was full with people sitting on the two outside verandas, the proverbial packed house. About 11 the rain stopped and the sun even came out for a bit, kind of a smile from heaven on our service.
Even the verandas were full.

Even the verandas were full.

One of the patients sharing his story with Samson (in the white AHS shirt) our Physical Therapist.

One of the patients sharing his story with Samson (in the white AHS shirt) our Physical Therapist.

It was the longest Sabbath School I have ever attended, over 5 hours, but it was so great. Testimonies were shared how God had used the hospital and physical therapy to help people, the story of the faithfulness of God and the staff from the days in Masanga through to the formation of AHS and its dark days were told again. Staff shared the ways God had blessed the hospital, bringing doctors and staff and funds at just the right times through the years. Choirs and musical groups sang praises to God of His faithfulness.
Dr. Koroma sharing his journey with AHS.

Dr. Koroma sharing his journey with AHS.

The Christ the King Church Choir during the processional.

The Christ the King Church Choir during the processional.

We showed pictures of the proposed physio building and the floor plan and explained what a blessing it would be to the hospital and the community, and then we had one of the more impassioned, energetic appeals for an offering I have ever seen. People came forward with 5,000; 10,000; 30,000 leones, some pledged a million leones, or 2 million. The goal was to raise 20 million leones in offering and pledges. But when it was done and the representatives from the 11 churches represented, the AHS staff and Sierra Leone communities abroad had given their pledges God had moved hearts to raise 35.5 million leones (just over $5,000)!!

Peter Koroma calling for the offering.

Peter Koroma calling for the offering.

In recognition of giving each person was pinned by an AHS staff member with a little lapel feather.

In recognition of giving each person was pinned by an AHS staff member with a little lapel feather.

When you consider that most of the people there make less than $150/month in salary it was a staggering amount of money to raise in one service. It removed in my mind any doubts about the cooperation from the Sierra Leone mission, especially as Daniel Sandy the Mission President gave a wonderful sermon on the giving our best to Jesus and on what AHS means to the SDA church in Sierra Leone. It removed any doubts I might have had about the commitment of the individual members to the health work here in Sierra Leone. It removed any questions I might have had about the willingness of the people here to do all they can for themselves. This whole program was theirs, they did it all, they did not need or want any help from us missionary types. And finally, whatever doubts or questions I have had about whether we are on the path God wants us to be on, headed in the direction He wants us to go, those doubts are gone, those questions are answered.

Joseph Fobbie, our business manager, with a huge smile as people came forward to support the hospital.

Joseph Fobbie, our business manager, with a huge smile as people came forward to support the hospital.

My question for you, our friends and readers from all over the world, can we match that $5,000 raised yesterday? We have over 200 followers on our blog, with more facebook friends, that comes to less than $25/person. Bekki and I will send the first $100 toward that goal. If you feel so moved, please send it to Adventist Health International and mark it for AHI-Waterloo-Physio building (details are on the donations page of this website.)

Faith is moving a hundred chairs in a pouring rain into a dark building with no one there, believing that they will come because God is with you.

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

A Different Kind of Church Service

Church yesterday was a bit different, it was let by the Vacation Bible School students. You see they had VBS this last week, so today was a celebration of that fact. Now most churches when the young people have led out in the church service and Sabbath School it has been the teens and young adults. Not here, they really take this, “a little child shall lead them” thing to heart.

The male quartet singing while the platform participants look on.

The male quartet singing while the platform participants look on.

The kids did it all, they led the song service, they made announcements and called for different ones to have prayer. They even had the mission story. Actually it was the first mission story I have seen here. I have to admit having a mission story in what I consider the mission field, after all I am a missionary here, caused me to pause and consider. It made me realize that no matter where you are, no matter who you are, you can always be a missionary, there is always somewhere else that is worse off than you are, someone else who is worse off than you. So yes it is good for there to be mission stories in the mission field.

Between Sabbath School and Church the kids did a play about a problem the church here is currently facing. It seems they have lost control of their secondary school. It happens because there are often not enough Adventist teachers for the school so they hire non-Adventist teachers. Now there are a lot of great non-Adventist Christian teachers, but the problem is that here in Sierra Leone the standard is to hold classes on Saturdays. The teachers are insisting on having school on Saturdays and insisting that all the students, including the Adventist students, attend classes. So they are in the middle of a power struggle. And you have to understand that the future of these young people depends on their finishing secondary school and getting a good mark on their final examinations. Those test results determine what kind of career they can pursue, what kind of school they can go to. Just shutting down the school won’t solve the problem as then the students will then be forced to go to the government schools and still have to go to school on Saturday. So please pray for this situation, it is a sticky wicket.

A VBS graduate getting his certificate

A VBS graduate getting his certificate

Back to church, the kids called for the offering and even had the sermon. And after church the kids all got their certificates and the audience got food and drink. Other than communion we had never been to a church service where they fed you tuna fish sandwiches and ginger tea. I found a way to return my sandwich without being obvious and insulting anyone. Bekki and Erin drank the ginger tea and paid for it. Apparently it is very strong and burns all the way down, then burns in the stomach for awhile after.

It was all in all a fun interesting Sabbath morning, and good experience for the kids.

The graduates showing off their certificates as parents snap pictures with cell phones.

The graduates showing off their certificates as parents snap pictures with cell phones.

Sabbath afternoon Bekki did her skype thing with the Junior Sabbath School class in Kansas City. She has been doing this for several months now, usually one Sabbath a month, so the kids have been able to see Tchad and now Sierra Leone. It has been pouring buckets so the connection was a challenge. She wanted to show them the choir that was practicing for next weeks Thanksgiving service. But the calls kept getting dropped. The choir was singing a praise song called “One More Time”, so Bekki kept praying and finally tried one more time. This time it worked and she was able to show the kids the choir practice. It truly has been a great experience for the juniors, and for us. If there are any others of you who have Sabbath School classes and would like to skype with us, please let us know. We would be happy to work with you.

First look inside our container.  Everything came through great.

First look inside our container. Everything came through great.

The living room became the recipient of the goods.

The living room became the recipient of the goods.

Last Sunday was a big day, we moved into our house! Hee-haw. It is great, roomy, cooler, and great sleeping in our own bed, with air-conditioning. Then on Thursday we got our first house guests. Our good friends, Suzi and Remy, from Geneva, came to spend a few days with us before flying back to Switzerland. They have been working up at our sister Adventist Hospital, Magbenteh Hospital in McKenni, and came to look us over so they can take a report back to AMALF (French Adventist Medical Association, of which we are members).
Moving day fatigue.

Moving day fatigue.

First meal in the new digs.  Notice the corn chips, America to Tchad to Sierra Leone.

First meal in the new digs. Notice the corn chips, America to Tchad to Sierra Leone.

Suzi working on translating the Dalton Ebola survivor video into French.

Suzi working on translating the Dalton Ebola survivor video into French.

I will never forget the first time we met Suzi and Remy at the AMALF meetings in Valence in 2013. Suzi came up and started talking to us like we had been friends for years, although we had never met before. Little did we know at that moment what a blessing and support they would be through these last few years. Their support and help continued yesterday as Remy, a mechanic extraordinaire, repaired one of our malfunctioning autoclaves and gave us invaluable advice regarding our generators and some vehicles we need to sell. It has been such a delight to spend some time with them. It makes us anticipate even more the AMALF Congress coming up in November when we will be able to share with the other members about what is happening here in Waterloo and spend time with them.
Remy with the autoclave that now works, thanks to his skill.

Remy with the autoclave that now works, thanks to his skill.

Suzi, Erin, Remy and us.

Suzi, Erin, Remy and us.

Blessing the new sign advertising our free BP clinic.

Blessing the new sign advertising our free BP clinic.

This last two weeks have been ones of blessing as we received word that our application for a grant with the Winifred Stevens Foundation had been accepted, we received a major donation from the Buford SDA church which has allowed us to rescue our supplies from the rain and make our outpatient department more usable. And certainly not least God laid a burden on the heart of a young man in Columbia who is coming to spend a year with us to help us with our materials management, inventory and our administration. He has not only his bachelors degree, but his masters as well. Wow, far more than we asked for, and now Erin has someone her own age, rather than just us old geezers. There were tears in my eyes when I read the letter from Teen at the GC telling me about him. God has been good to us and continues to lead us as we slowly move forward.
The river we cross getting to and from the gate to our house.

The river we cross getting to and from the gate to our house.

Bekki crossing the chasm getting to our gate.

Bekki crossing the chasm getting to our gate.


For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner