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.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.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. 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.
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)!!
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.
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.
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