Africa personal, I think.

Africa personal, I think.

Welcome to chaos

Welcome to chaos

“Bekki, where does this box go, Tennessee or Africa?”


“Hospital donations, or personal stuff?”


“What about this box?”

“That one goes to Tennessee.”

“Long term storage, or open right away?”

“What color tape?” (Weary sigh from Bekki)

“Yellow, that means long term, right? Or is yellow open right away and pink is long term?” (I can never keep it straight.)

“OK, for the one hundred sixty-second time, yellow is long term, Pink is open right away, orange is for Jonathan’s things, and green is for Lindsay’s” (Insert another weary sigh from Bekki)

And so the weekend has gone. Packing, sifting, packing, organizing, packing, deciding, packing, putting stuff in the trash, packing, taking the same stuff out of the trash, packing…. Yea, you all know what I’m talking about. Moving, oh the joys and oh the agonies. As much as I am dreading the tearful goodbyes and “Last Things” that I wrote about in the previous post, I am really looking forward to June 19 when all the packing is done. When the decisions, for better or for worse, are made. When the last box is put on the U-Haul and the door is closed and we hit the road. I don’t know anyone who likes moving, and I would worry about their mental health if they did.

As I was packing the pictures from my study wall and putting them in a box tagged with yellow tape the thought struck me that I will not see these things for at least 6 years, and it may be more than that. It could be 2025 before I see them again. And much of what is being packed in the yellow tagged boxes are special memories. The oar from our mission trip to Guyana that the missionaries and villagers from Mashabo signed. The peacock plate we received from our villages in India. The stone carvings from Belize we got on our 25th anniversary cruise, and so on. This box is going to be like a time capsule when we open it. Wow! That will be really cool.

But there is another thought that has been with us pretty much constantly the last several weeks. What will we need in Africa? The question has intensified now that we have less than a week before the movers come to take all the Africa stuff to Loma Linda. What do we take, what do we leave? And so every day, and multiple times through the day we pray:

“God, please give us wisdom, You know what we will need. Guide our hands to put just the right things in the right box.”

When I was an earliteen, one of my favorite books was called, “It Came in Handy”. It was the story of a pioneer missionary to the Far East back in the 1920’s. He was a doctor, and went to medical school in the day when you learned to compound your own drugs. Fortunately there were not as many of them. As he worked in the mission field, he found that God had prepared him in any number of ways through experiences he had in his childhood and youth. I think about that story a lot now, and I think about it as I pack. I pray, “God you know if this will come in handy or not, should it go to Africa, Tennessee, or the trash?” And I really believe that God is answering that prayer for us. I am looking forward to seeing how all this stuff we are packing will come in handy.

–Scott Gardner

Last Things

I am really pumped, it is Saturday night on my last call weekend, hopefully ever. I have been looking forward to this for weeks, the first time in years that I have actually looked forward to a call weekend. Most doctors and nurses who have to take call really don’t like it. It is a weekend spent waiting for the phone to ring. First you worry that it will ring, then when it doesn’t ring you worry that something is wrong, so you check your phone, make sure it is not on vibrate, and that the battery is not dead. In the meantime you can’t relax, always afraid to start doing something for fear that it will get interrupted. So busy or slow you never get anything done on a call weekend, and never get to enjoy it. Then of course there is the potential of getting woken up three nights in a row. And to top it off at the end of the weekend you get to look forward to–you guessed it–Monday. So all in all it is not typically something we enjoy. In fact through the week before my weekends on call I go through the four stages of grief. Denial on Monday (“It can’t be true, someone messed with the schedule), anger on Tuesday (“Why did I choose this stupid job anyway?), bargaining on Wednesday (Brian will you please take my call this weekend?), and finally quiet acceptance of my fate on Thursday.

So that is why I am so pumped, I don’t have to do this anymore. Now granted I am trading 1 in 5 call for call 24/7, but it is a different mindset (at least that is the delusion I keep telling myself). However, I do get Sabbaths off, at least as long as there is no emergency, and if I want to go somewhere I can just say, “I’m out of here”. So it is different.

But as I thought about it I realized that this is the beginning of a month of last things. The reality that we are leaving soon is hitting home. Up to now it has been more theoretical, exciting, but more surreal than real.

Tonight was another last. It was our last vespers with our church family. Now our church (the Clarkston SDA Church) doesn’t do vespers very often, but this one was special. You see the church did a special musical program for Bekki and I that was taped so we could take it with us to Cameroon and watch it when we get homesick. It was so great, we will treasure the DVD and watch it over and over. We will remember the love of our church family and it will sustain us.

But it was still hard because it reminded us that we are leaving people we have come to love, and who have become our parents, and brothers and sisters. And other lasts are coming that will be equally difficult. Our last Sabbath, our last French class with the best French teacher ever, Allison Hayes.

Then there is the lasts at work, my last day in the OR and in Special Procedures with nurses and techs that I love to work with (and with equipment that actually works). My last day of rounds on 4C with the best set of charge nurses I have ever rounded with. And the last day with my nurses and staff at Valley Medical Center. That is really going to be tough. I have shared so much with all these wonderful people, we have laughed together, shared stories about our spouses, SO’s, and kids, sweated through difficult cases together, and we have developed a bond I will never forget. It will be truly difficult to say goodbye.

And so as I enjoy going through my last weekend of call, it is not without mixed emotions, realizing that this is the beginning of a long list of lasts, and only one “last” will be enjoyable.

-Scott Gardner

“The Plan”

Bekki and I had it all figured out. We knew that my dad, the last of our parents had acute leukemia and was nearing the end of his life. Both kids were in college, long departed from home, and we had a plan. We had been doing mission trips since 2005, and we were up to seven, India, Africa, South America. We loved it. Thought we wanted to do more of it. Thought we could contribute, I am a doctor, Bekki is a nurse with a passion for public health. We love to travel, we love to experience new cultures, see new sights, eat exotic foods (OK, not so much, unless it has rice as the base).

So we had “The Plan”. After dad passed away we would put the house on the market and when it sold I would transition to doing locum tenens work (rent-a-doc). We would spend six months earning a living and six months being short term missionaries. Independent. In control. We had talked about working for the world-wide church, and had decided against it. Too bureaucratic, too confining, too many rules. Hence “The Plan”.

God, as He so often does, had a plan of His own. And so the end of May, 2012 I received a simple e-mail from Dr. Richard Hart, President of Adventist Health International, asking if we had any interest in serving as full time missionaries, working for the church. I took the e-mail to Bekki, with a bit of excitement in my heart, but expecting her to reference “the plan” and put the lid on it. But she didn’t put a lid on it. In fact something happened to both of us that night. The best description is that the Holy Spirit flipped a switch in our brains, and all of a sudden we were excited. We forgot about the bureaucracy, the rules, the lack of independence, all we heard was the call of our God, asking us to serve Him in Koza, Cameroon as full time missionaries. And we said, “Yes, we will go.”

And that is how “Our Plan” became “God’s Plan”, and that is how we became missionaries-in-training.

-Scott Gardner