In April of last year we held a two day strategic planning meeting. We came out of it with a bold, and to many minds, ridiculous, vision and plan. I of course was one of those who thought, “It can’t be done,” at least not anytime soon. Well, I thought I would just let you know what has happened to that Strategic Plan and how God apparently views it. And all that I am going to tell you is His doing, not ours. This is Part 3 of a Three Part Series.

Chapel: Our mission is to demonstrate the healthcare ministry of Jesus. But Jesus did more than just heal people’s bodies, He healed their souls. In fact, that really is what it is all about. It is nice to help someone feel better for a time, but we all die eventually don’t we? So then what happens? If we have done nothing for their eternity, we have failed them. That is why we have put a strong emphasis on our spiritual ministries department, and that is why we have made construction of a chapel on the campus a high priority.

The AHS church plant currently meets in one of the school rooms across from the hospital. It works OK, but it is too far for staff on duty to attend services, and too far for families and patients to join us. Furthermore, the outpatient department where we hold our morning worship is packed each morning with just the staff. It was clear we need our own chapel, as part of the hospital complex.

The Chapel waiting for the roof, which will come after the Physio Building is done.

A site was chosen and a 40X48 foot chapel floor has been poured. We also have a 20X20 foot room attached to the chapel that will service as patient and staff library and conference room. Very soon, by the grace of God, the walls will begin to rise and hopefully by the end of 2017 we will be in our new chapel.

The AHS church members are working hard to furnish the new chapel. The first model pew has been constructed, and they currently have funds for another 15 pews. A new pulpit and desk have already been fabricated and are in use now. Much work remains, but soon there will be a house of prayer for all, that will be open any time during the day that people need a place for meditation and prayer.

Vehicles: O ye of little faith. How Jesus could have been saying that about me. A year ago when our strategic planning committee met we discussed the need for hospital vehicles. At the time we had a Toyota 12 passenger van which served us well, but we needed a 4WD vehicle, especially for our mobile clinics which reach village well off the main roads. But the committee did not stop there, oh no, they felt that as a hospital we needed an ambulance as well. I clearly remember thinking, “Where are we going to get a 4WD vehicle, let alone an ambulance too?”

In November, 2016 the women’s auxiliary from Loma Linda donated the money for the 4WD vehicle. It came at just the right time too, because not 2 weeks after we licensed that vehicle the van was involved in an accident that has knocked it out of commission for 4 months now. (Hopefully it is coming home the first week of April.) Our Nissan XTerra has been a little workhorse for us, taking our mobile clinic team to places no vehicle should go.

Blessing the new (to us) Nissan XTerra.

But the ambulance, where to get an ambulance? About the same time our friends from French speaking Europe, specifically AMALF which is the Adventist French speaking medical association found a Mitsubishi that, thanks to Remy Herschey from Geneva, was able to be retrofitted as an ambulance. It landed here in Salone the last week of March, so there you have it. Less than a year from the strategic planning and we have all the vehicles under our roof, so to speak.

Our Mitsubishi Ambulance,

Mobile Clinic/Community Outreach: Before Ebola AHS had an active mobile clinic program. They had a large ambulance that could serve as a small clinic, and the staff would take it on outreach missions. The ambulance had seen better days and was sold to a man who had plans for it, I guess. Really it was not in usable shape. But…we wanted to revive our mobile clinic program.

The elected head (Councilor) of a large area with many rural villages about 15 miles from here came to us, imploring us to come to his villages and do mobile clinics. If you could see the roads these people have to travel on you would understand how difficult it is to get to medical care unless it is in your village.

So, Mr. Abu, our Community Health Officer (CHO) and Erin Acosta, our Public Health volunteer, got to work and set up a mobile clinic program. It is quite a production with everything organized into tubs and boxes, complete with collapsible tables and chairs so all will fit in a vehicle. A pharmacy formulary was carefully chosen and then modified as we had needs and all the meds prepackaged in unit doses for easy and rapid dispensing. The mobile clinic goes out every week to a different site and usually sees around 30-40 patients, although some days as many as 120 have been seen. It should be noted though, that this is not a “screening clinic” as many mobile clinics are that see 200-300 patients in a few hours. This is a full clinic where we obtain demographic data, full vitals, consultation and dispensing of medications, dressings and injections as needed.

Mobile Clinic Team packed up and ready to go.

Early on it was clear that the population most in need of care was the children, it also became clear that the people in these small villages are desperately poor and are often faced with the choice of food or medications, and even $2 or $3 is too much. Thanks to a grant from Restore a Child we were able to develop a charity mobile children’s clinic. For 3000 leones ($0.40) each children are evaluated and treated and given a 1 kilogram bag of rice. Restore a Child underwrites the expenses with a grant (gift) for which we and the people in rural Sierra Leone are grateful. The program is wildly popular as now mothers and fathers can bring their sick children to the mobile clinic knowing that they will be able to get care.

Little one getting checked in

This year we expanded the mobile clinic to a more traditional screening clinic, for hypertension. Hypertension is a huge problem for Africa, and as the “silent killer” most people have no idea they have it. Once a week the mobile clinic team goes out (now in the ambulance) to one of the markets or some other well populated, busy place and sets up their free Blood Pressure Clinic. They will usually screen 140 to 180 people and find about 20 to 30 people with high BP, sometimes very high. The staff carry BP meds with them which is then dispensed for those willing to start treatment. Thanks to the generosity of some of our supporters we also have funds to assist those who need the medications but can’t afford them. The staff then do lifestyle teaching and encourage the folks to follow up, either at the hospital or at least at the next BP screening.

A little guy with his bag of rice on his head.

Remote Clinics: I have often repeated the story of my first day at Waterloo Hospital. Everywhere I saw ”AHS”, which I learned stood for “Adventist Health System”. I tried to find out where the other facilities were located, since “System” implies more than one hospital or clinic. I was told, with a smile, that there aren’t any, yet. But since 2000 when AHS was created, they have been praying, planning and hoping that someday they would be a system. And in fact, the vision statement of AHS gives us a clear mandate to provide care to all people in Sierra Leone, not just those around Waterloo.

It was not long after we arrived that the first call came in. The Adventist Church in Bo, in central SL, wanted to re-open their clinic. It had closed down during Ebola and they felt the time had come to try it again, this time under the AHS umbrella.

About that time we were approached by an NGO out of the UK, Home Leone, which is in the process of building a 380 unit village for inhabitants of the slums in Freetown. Part of the village plan is a clinic, and they wanted to know if AHS would manage it.

Then a couple of months later we received word that the Adventists in Kono District, better known as the site of the “Blood Diamonds” story, were asking if we would consider opening an AHS clinic in their town of Kimbadu, on the outskirts of Koidu.

Three potential new clinics was a bit overwhelming, but AHS had learned to keep moving as long as God seemed to be leading, and see where He would take us. We had no idea where we would get the money for the necessary capital expenditures in Bo and Kimbadu, but as we spread the news, the SDA elementary school in Simi Valley was touched by the story of Bo and took it on as their mission project. Then the Loma Linda University School of Medicine Class of 2019 adopted AHS as their class mission project, specifically raising money for the Kimbadu clinic. Finally, our relationship with Home Leone has continued to grow, as we are sharing resources to benefit both organizations in our mutual quest to help the people here.

For more frequent, up to the minute short updates please follow us on Instagram or on Facebook, we are Scott N Bekki Gardner.

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