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

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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