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

Rainy Season

The rains have come. We thought it rained in Tillamook, and then we thought we knew rain in Tchad. NOOOO…it really rains here, and this is just the beginning. Little trickles of creeks are now gushing rivers, drains overflow, it pours, takes a breather then pours some more. It seems that everything floods, then finally the rain stops and all the water disappears. That is one nice feature, apparently they have the drainage part figured out.

They have a thing here they call 7-day. That is when it rains for 7 days straight, usually in August. I am not sure I am ready for that. Plus, we will soon be in our house, God willing, but then it means a quarter mile walk through the rain to the hospital instead of a 50 foot walk. We will see how that goes.

The road from our house to the hospital, basically it is now a river bed .

The road from our house to the hospital, basically it is now a river bed .

Flooding in Freetown.

Flooding in Freetown.

Every thirteenth Sabbath, the last Sabbath of each quarter the churches in each district have a combined service. Everyone gathers at one church and there is a big celebration. Actually most of it is Sabbath School. That (Sabbath School) lasted until noon. Well 10 days ago we had our combined service at the Salem Church in Waterloo. Unfortunately, they don’t have real church building. They did take up an offering to purchase land for a church, but for now they meet, well, kind of under the second floor of a partially finished building? I am really not sure how to describe it. Anyway with the addition of the members from the other churches there was not enough room, so they put up a nice blue tarp cover on the ubiquitous wood poles to keep us out of the sun.

Dr. Koroma giving his health talk

Dr. Koroma giving his health talk

It worked great, it kept the sun off of us all through Sabbath School and into church. Each church choir performed a special number or two and Dr. Koroma gave a nice health talk on the benefits of ginger. Shortly after the pastor got up to speak we heard a little tap-tap on the tarp. Eyes widened, ears lost interest in the message from the front, but then the tapping stopped and there was a collective sigh of relief. However, all too soon the tapping started again and this time rapidly increased in speed and volume. Anxious eyes scanned the tarp looking at the many holes in them and gaps where they didn’t quite meet. Soon enough we were in a bona fide deluge. Those directly under the holes began to move their chairs, and interest in the ongoing sermon was rapidly lost. It did not take long for the tarps to sag under the weight of the water and people started for the front, under the unfinished second story. It was about then that some of the poles started to give way and gallons of water poured down on the now vacant chairs. Needless to say the sermon, church, the combined service was over.
It was pandelerium as the tarps gave up their load of water.

It was pandelerium as the tarps gave up their load of water.

As we drove home in the van through the latest deluge I for one was checking out the exits on the van, and planning my escape route should we be swept away by one of the many rivers of water cascading across our path (it did not deserve the name “road”). I also remembered the advice to never venture across moving water in a flood when you don’t know the depth. Advice that obviously had never been heard before in Sierra Leone. But by God’s grace we made it home without being swept away.

Some other random news for those of you not on facebook, half our checked luggage decided to spend an extra few days in Brussels thanks to a wild-cat baggage handlers strike at the Brussels Airport. Probably asking for combat pay. Fortunately, as you can see they finally made it home. This was a huge blessing as those two pieces contained parts of the new Ultrasound machine, and my new surgical headlight, as well as the new HB201 hemoglobin machine and test strips.

Our box and trunk!!!!!!

Our box and trunk!!!!!!

It has been so great to have that headlight to use. I can actually see what I am doing when operating. I can’t begin to tell you how much easier it makes surgery. Again a huge thank you to the donors who made it possible.

My headlight, lightweight, bright and comfortable.  And a six hour battery.

My headlight, lightweight, bright and comfortable. And a six hour battery.

It is the custom here to ask God’s blessing on and dedicate everything. We had a special dedicatory prayer for the new curtain in the school classroom/sanctuary we use for church. So we had a special prayer with laying on of hands for our new Hemoglobin machine. For those of you medical types, our lab guys would take a small pipette of blood, let it settle and then hold it up to a chart to get the hematocrit. Divide by 3 and bam you have the hemoglobin. I didn’t even bother looking up the reported accuracy of this method, this is simply not appropriate if you want to be taken seriously as a lab or hospital. So again, thanks to our donor support we were able to purchase the HB201 Point of Care Hemoglobin machine and some test strips.

Dedicating the HB201.  I know, I know, I had my eyes open during prayer.

Dedicating the HB201. I know, I know, I had my eyes open during prayer.

Our well got finished and the electric pump installed, and our own water tower at the house is full. Of course we are not moved in yet. Allegedly our container is out of customs, so maybe we will have it in a few days (or weeks, or months…). But it is a blessing for Dr. Koroma and his family who live next door to us, as the well provides them with water now, so they do not have to send the teenage boys all the way to the hospital and carry back 20 liters each of water every day. Another blessing from donors who paid for the digging of the well and for the pump.

Our well being dug

Our well being dug

The completed well!!!

The completed well!!!

I know I have mentioned a lot of donors, and we so appreciate all of you. But a sad reality is that we serve very poor people, and 60% of them cannot pay the minimal fees we charge for being in the hospital, for their lab tests and for their medications. A hernia surgery with meds, anesthesia, pre-op lab and the surgery is $100 for example. We have made a commitment to treat people regardless of ability to pay, so when 60% of our patients cannot pay their bill, or can only pay a portion of it, it makes it difficult for us to have funds to pay our staff, pay for the fuel for the generator etc. Let alone pay for extra things like lab equipment, headlights or wells. So your donations allow us to function. Thank you and God bless.

To follow us between blog posts on Facebook type “Waterloo Adventist Hospital” in the search line, then “like” us when the page comes up. There are two Facebook pages, one is Waterloo Adventist Hospital, run by us. The other is Adventist Health System – Waterloo Hospital and is run by our administrator, Mr. Joseph Fobbie, also a great page to follow.

To follow us on Instagram look for us as “scottnbekki” or “Scott N Bekki Gardner”

To follow us on Twitter we are @ahswaterloo60 or Scott Gardner.

If you like our posts, pictures, or stories, please repost, retweet, share with your friends. We want the world to know about Sierra Leone, and the remarkable people who live and work at the Adventist Health System in that beautiful tropical country.

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

Annual Leave

Our time in the United States is just about over. On Tuesday, June 14 we head back to Sierra Leone to again take up our work there. To be frank it has not been much of a vacation in the usual sense of the word, as we have crisscrossed the country doing presentations, meeting with potential donors and volunteers and doing everything we can to tell the incredible story of the Adventist Health System in Sierra Leone.

OK, please give a proud dad a little slack.  We came back for Lindsay's graduation from Southern Adventist University.

OK, please give a proud dad a little slack. We came back for Lindsay’s graduation from Southern Adventist University.

Jon and Lindsay love their mom.

Jon and Lindsay love their mom.

And God has blessed our efforts. Thanks to Adventist Health International (AHI), Brothers Brother Foundation, and Healey Foundation we have a new OR table, suction machines and cautery on a container headed to Freetown. Thanks to donors we have not one, but two operating headlights to use until we get the overhead lights repaired or replaced. We have leads on a refurbished affordable autoclave, we have two anesthesia providers who have committed to coming in the next 8 months to do teaching, and a chaplain who is coming this winter as well. We have hospitals, clinics, and churches who are considering partnering (read adopting) us. I just heard that one of the medical school classes at Loma Linda University is considering taking us on a project.

So it has been busy, but there is still much to be done, please pray that God will give us grace, wisdom and strength to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

So Lindsay, at the last minute, got me to teach her classes for her.  She learned how to put on PPE, from Sierra Leone.

So Lindsay, at the last minute, got me to teach her classes for her. She learned how to put on PPE, from Sierra Leone.

Bekki and I in our Africa duds with Lindsay in her PPE.

Bekki and I in our Africa duds with Lindsay in her PPE.

On our blog page we added a “Projects” page to keep you updated on the status of the various projects we are working on at the hospital. We also added a “How to Donate” page to give simple, clear instructions on how followers can help out financially. We updated the pictures, and are currently sharing a series of posts sharing the story of Ebola and health care in Sierra Leone.

Bekki and I have been convinced of the new reality that is life in the digital age, and the age of social media. So in addition to our blog we have a Facebook page for Waterloo Adventist Hospital, you can follow us on twitter, and Instagram.

To follow us on Facebook type “Waterloo Adventist Hospital” in the search line, then “like” us when the page comes up. There are two Facebook pages, one is Waterloo Adventist Hospital, run by us. The other is Adventist Health System – Waterloo Hospital and it is run by our administrator, Mr. Joseph Fobbie, it is also a great page to follow.

To follow us on Instagram look for us as “scottnbekki” or “Scott N Bekki Gardner

To follow us on Twitter we are @ahswaterloo60 or Scott Gardner.

If you like our posts, pictures, or stories, please repost, retweet, share with your friends. We want the world to know about Sierra Leone, and the remarkable people who live and work at the Adventist Health System in that beautiful tropical country.

Bekki and I in the Smokies outside of Asheville, North Carolina with the McDowells.  Mason is coming, YEA, to teach anesthesia.

Bekki and I in the Smokies outside of Asheville, North Carolina with the McDowells. Mason is coming, YEA, to teach anesthesia.

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

Call to Action-an Ebola Story

During the spring and early summer of 2014 the Ebola Virus was steadily tightening its grip on the country of Sierra Leone. Stories and rumors flowed throughout the country. Health Centers and Hospitals were closing as medical staffs were either decimated by the virus or fled in terror. Patients with other diseases such as malaria, typhoid, appendicitis, or complications of pregnancy often had no place to go. Chaos in the country was rising as the government and international aid workers struggled to cope with the crisis with a limited healthcare infrastructure.

In the midst of this crisis was a small 20 bed hospital staffed by 38 employees with vision and dreams. They called their hospital, Adventist Health System, Waterloo Hospital, Sierra Leone. The name reflected the commitment this group had to take the Adventist health message throughout their country. Although they only had one facility at the time but they had plans. Plans to expand, to have clinics and other small hospitals serving the people of Sierra Leone and bringing to their countrymen the good news of Jesus Christ.

But for now they had a more urgent matter to contend with. Should they stay open and risk their lives and the lives of their families, or should they take the easy, safe route and do as many of their colleagues throughout the country had done and close the hospital. This was a decision for the entire staff, not just the leadership. And so the entire hospital staff came together. Prayerfully they considered the options, considered the consequences. They thought about the fact that if they died from Ebola they would be of no use to anyone. They considered their families, their community, and their duty towards God.

Throughout the country are billboards giving out Ebola information

Throughout the country are billboards giving out Ebola information

The staff clearly understood the risk they would be taking. They knew that the early stages of Ebola had the same symptoms as Malaria and Typhoid, common diseases in West Africa. Hence without specialized testing, which was not widely available, it was impossible to separate the early cases of Ebola from the other diseases. They could be exposed and not even know it. Although they did not know that a single drop of blood could contain 10 billion copies of the virus, and that it only took 1-10 copies to infect a new victim, they did know that it was incredibly contagious. They knew that in their villages whole families were being wiped out.

In the end they answered the call to action, they could not escape their commitment to be “Medical Missionaries”. The commitment that has been a part of the SDA health work in Sierra Leone since their forbearers took over the leprosy hospital in Masanga. This group could never abandon their heritage, and so they made a conscious decision to keep the doors of their hospital open as long as God allowed. They would serve their community, they would serve their country.

It was not long after this that disaster struck. A new patient arrived at the hospital. He had all the symptoms typical of Malaria and Typhoid Fever, common diseases in this part of West Africa. His blood was drawn and tested positive for both. He was immediately started on intravenous treatment.

In those early days it was not uncommon for people who had been exposed to Ebola to escape from quarantine. They were often not provided with access to enough food and water during quarantine and so they would break out in search of the most basic staples of life.

The following day the District Health Medical Team (DHMT) Ebola Surveillance Officers visited the hospital looking for just such a fugitive. They recognized the patient who had been admitted the day before with Malaria and typhoid as the man they were searching for. The patient was taken from Waterloo Hospital directly to the diagnostic center in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. When it was confirmed that he was positive the government came back to the hospital to close it down. The entire staff had been exposed, they and the entire hospital must be quarantined.

The surveillance team together with government soldiers came with automatic weapons circled the hospital ensuring that no one escaped. The staff were able to call their families to bring food and clothes and other necessities. For 25 days they lived in the small 1 acre hospital compound, sleeping two to a bed. They lived with the knowledge they could be the next victims. They lived with the knowledge that at that time nearly 100% of Ebola victims died a horrific death.

Then they started to hear that the Community of Waterloo was outraged. Not against the government for quarantining the hospital. No, they were angry with the hospital staff for staying open.

There were cries of, “Why did you stay open, now you have brought Ebola to Waterloo, you have doomed us all.”
For a group already facing an uncertain future the guilt and hurt brought on by these accusations was almost too much to bear. Then the administrator of the hospital, Mr. Joseph Fobbie, called into the local radio station and addressed the community.

“Dear friends,” he said, “We stayed open for you, to take care of you, to treat your diseases. We are the ones who were exposed, we are the ones who must bear the consequences, not you. We took the risk so we could serve you.”
The appeal had the desired effect. The people in Waterloo saw the folly of their fear and anger. They rallied around the hospital, they began to bring food and blankets to the inmates of the quarantine. In fact, the support was so strong and the food so good that the soldiers did not want to leave after the quarantine ended. They said they had never eaten so well!

Inside the hospital all was not well. The medical director, Dr. David Koroma had instituted a twice daily temperature check. It was during these checks that three staff members developed fevers, two nurses and the lab tech who had drawn the blood from man who contaminated them. Dr. Koroma cried as he called the government health officers to report the new cases of suspected Ebola. Many more tears were shed when the staff bid good-bye to their friends as they were taken to the diagnostic center in Freetown where it was confirmed, all three had Ebola.

The three were then transferred to the treatment center in Kenema where the two nurses died from the disease. Dalton Kabbia, the lab tech survived by God’s grace. He continues to work at Waterloo Hospital and he shared his story of suffering as he watched those around him die. The day he was told that his colleague, Millicent, had died, he saw at least 20 bodies in the ETC (Ebola Treatment Center). He was sure this was the end, but each day he did his best to eat, and to keep his eyes on Jesus. Slowly he improved until he was ready for discharge.
As the quarantine ended for the employees of Waterloo Hospital they heard the fate of their friends. This staff of 38 had lost two of their number, and only God’s hand prevented that number from being higher.

Ebola Survivor Dalton Kabbia today.  Go to the "Videos" page to hear him tell the story of his journey through Ebola.

Ebola Survivor Dalton Kabbia today. Go to the “Videos” page to hear him tell the story of his journey through Ebola.

The government health officers came to Mr. Fobbie and Dr. Koroma and informed them that the government was taking over the facility to turn it into an ETC. They asked the staff to stay on and work at the new Center.
Now they faced another life or death decision. They were being asked to work in the “Red Zone”, directly caring for known Ebola patients. They knew that the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was not a 100% effective. They knew of health workers who had contracted Ebola even while following all the protocols. They had already lost 2 of their friends, would they risk their lives again?

It was a difficult decision. They were under tremendous pressure from their families to just say “No”. They were afraid.

Only 12 years before the 10 year long rebel war in Sierra Leone had ended. And the staff considered this history. They realized that they were in a war, this time against an invisible microbe instead of rebels. And the war had to be fought with syringes and IV’s instead of with guns. They recognized that in war soldiers die, and this time the soldiers were the health care workers. This was real, two of their friends had already made the ultimate sacrifice.

For the second time in just a few months the staff at Waterloo Hospital answered a call to action, they made a conscious decision to put their lives on the line to serve their country and their God, to fulfill their destiny as medical missionaries.

One of the staff in her ebola PPE (Personal Protective Equiment)

One of the staff in her ebola PPE (Personal Protective Equiment)

They were taken to the national stadium where they underwent an intensive 3 day training course in Ebola protocols. On December 17, 2014 Waterloo Hospital opened as a 60 bed ETC with a staff of over 200. Over the next few months the battle waged against the tiny virus that had invaded their country, but slowly, bit by bit, it was defeated. The last case of Ebola in Sierra Leone was diagnosed in January, 2016.

When the Waterloo ETC closed they celebrated the fact that they were the only ETC in the country to not have one staff member contract Ebola. But they recognized that God had shed His grace on them, because even the most diligent were not completely safe.

A grim reminder of the reality of Ebola

A grim reminder of the reality of Ebola

Adventist Health System, Waterloo Hospital, Sierra Leone re-opened on November 9, 2015 as a general hospital, this time with 22 beds and 36 staff. The health system still only has one facility, but they retain their vision to transform the physical, social, spiritual, and mental well-being of people in Sierra Leone through the Adventist Health System. They have plans to open their first satellite clinic in Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone by the end of 2016. They have been asked to manage a clinic in a new village being built by a British NGO, Home Leone for the habitants of the slums in Freetown. They have selected land throughout the country where they intend to put other clinics.

Handwashing stations like this are throughout the country.

Handwashing stations like this are throughout the country.

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

It is a privilege and very humbling for Bekki and I to work side by side with these incredible, faith driven warriors for God as we together fulfill our mission to demonstrate the healthcare ministry of Jesus Christ in Sierra Leone.

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