Yes, we are still alive, and doing OK. Although we are empty nesting as we have no volunteers at the moment, so it is quiet and a bit lonely. But we are back in Tchad and back at work. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with our friends and family in the States, while at the same time being bummed about not being able to get to everywhere and see everyone. For those of you we did not see, we really did miss not being able to see you, and hope to make it there one of these days.
After a few days of real relaxation in the Smokies we headed back to Tchad on September 29. It was a fairly uneventful trip until we landed in N’djamena and found out our luggage was not on the plane. We filed a report and then brother-in-law Kermit Netteburg found our luggage in Paris, and is supposedly would be in on the next flight, two days hence. So we spent an extra two lovely days in N’djamena, praying all the while that our luggage truly would be on that flight. Praise God all six bags showed up.
Since being back, our lives have been fairly uneventful, in fact we didn’t get back to Moundou until last Friday, 9 days ago, and this Friday, 2 days ago we had to make an urgent trip up to Bere. Nothing serious, but necessary nonetheless.
I wanted to share some of my observations after living outside of the US in a poor African country for 8 months. The first thing I noticed was how fast everyone drives. On our trip back from Bere today, for the first 25 miles (45 km) I averaged 14 mph (25 kph). The last 60 miles (100 km) I did better, probably averaged 45 (65), but I was on the main highway in Tchad, so nothing was slowing me down. OK, except the potholes, the pedestrians, the ox carts, the dos-d’ans (speed bumps), and the fact that I start to get nervous when I go over 55 mph (80). But I got used to it after being home for a few weeks and cranked Lindsay’s car up to 75 mph (120 kph) on I-75. Whew, feel the rush.
The other thing I noticed was how clean the US is. I mean almost sterile. No trash on the streets, the sidewalks, or anywhere else visible. The yards were well kept, with manicured lawns, houses all in good repair. And the cars, all the cars, very few motorcycles, and they were all brand new, like just off the lot. That is how it looked to this wide-eyed missionary. Seriously, about the trash, I know there is trash where it shouldn’t be, but I looked for 4 weeks, and I honestly cannot remember seeing trash anywhere except in a trash can. Great job America, keep it up. GO GREEN!
When we went home I wondered how I would feel about going back after being in the US for a month. And I have to admit it was hard to come back to Tchad, and both of us think if we had been home for two months it would have been well nigh impossible to return. But a month was not really long enough to get settled back in to the US.
For me returning or not is always about answering the question, “Am I really making a difference? And if not why am I here?” I know I have whined about this before, but seriously it weighs heavily on me. The normal benchmarks that you use at home for determining your professional performance and competence are frankly not applicable here. And there is no one here to evaluate me, objectively. And I am one who has always remembered his last disaster with clarity, while quickly forgetting the successes. And the Friday night before we left one of the nurses came to the door.
“Docteur, the patient Iin bed 11 has a lot of pus draining out of his leg.”
“There is no cotton-picking way”, I told him, “I just changed the dressing myself this morning and probed the wound, it was clean as could be.”
The nurse was insistent, so to humor him I went and looked at the nicely dressed wound, which was, now drenched in pus. I took off the dressing and pus just poured out. I was devastated. I had thought we had him on the mend. The problem was he has a metal rod in his femur, and now what? Is he going to lose the leg, can we get it to heal, and I am leaving in 56 hours for a month. I left a bunch of other guys with broken bones in various stages of healing and pus output, really not sure which way they would go. (Hang in there I will be getting to my point shortly.)
So that is what I left, and frankly I felt like a failure. I really wasn’t sure I had helped these guys at all, so I went back to Tchad with something of a heavy heart. Unsure of what I would find, unsure of what I would be able to do.
The first couple of days didn’t help, and I admit I was dragging. I started praying about it, and I specifically asked God to please somehow let me know that I was on the right track, that I was making a difference, that my being here was good for Moundou, good for Tchad.
Tuesday afternoon. Clinic. I call in the next patient. Now in the States I had trouble remembering patients by name, here with names like Mbaigolonaim, it is pretty much impossible. So this young man walks in, pretty much normal, no crutches. I look over his carnet (medical record), he had a metal rod in his femur. I had put it in in early August. Wow! After getting my eyes put back in place, I examined him, no pain, walks without crutches, knee bends normally, wounds well healed, no infections. Even in my most pessimistic, self doubting moments, I could not deny it. A success!! I had truly helped someone. I had made a difference. In the space of 30 minutes I saw three young men, all with metal rods in their legs, all walking (one used one crutch), no pain, no infections, toes all pointing the correct direction, both legs the same length. God used those three young men to answer my prayer. By His grace, by His might and power, He was using me to make a difference. And that keeps me going.
It’s a good thing, too because the next day I tried to fix a non-union of the two bones in the forearm. What with barely functioning anesthesia, the wrong instruments, the wrong plates and screw, and never having done this before, yea it was pretty much a 3 ½ hour nightmare. But again by the grace of God, lots of silent prayer during the case, and the persistence you quickly learn out here, we got his bones together. Eventually he should have a solid functional, if not perfect arm.
And the man with the pus pouring out of his leg? Well again thanks to the miraculous healing power of our heavenly Father, and the hard work of the team led by our volunteer Patricia and my replacement Samedi, his leg is better. No pus now, and it is steadily healing in.
God needs the willing, not the able.
For those of you 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. 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. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg, Jaime and Tammy Parker and others. 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. For our Francophone friends there is a French translation of our blog that you can find at http://gardnersenafrique.wordpress.com.
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