A RAY OF LIGHT

For four years now I have been living in the stronghold of the devil. For those of you living in Christian countries it is almost impossible to describe. Everything up is down, inside is outside, evil rules. The locals tell us the country is 65% Muslim, 35% Christian. However, when the chips are down and things are not going well, all but the most devoted Christians and Muslims abandon their faith and their God. They return to their native roots, consulting the witch doctors and performing the traditional rituals.

It is election season here in Salone. No less than weekly we are told stories of the horrors that accompany this every 5 year event. The ten year old neighbor of one of our nurses did not come home from school one csday. Three days later his dismembered body appeared on the doorstep of his home. He was almost certainly murdered in a Satanic ritual carried out by a sorcerer at the behest of some politician (or political party). I was told about eight men murdered and cannibalized in another ritual killing, presumably for the same goal, to be elected. No one is safe here, everyone is afraid. Orphanages keep their kids from school because orphans are a prime target. After all who cares about finding out why an orphan went missing.

However, this country is not Godless, people true to Him exist, shining out like that ray of sunshine coming through a break in the clouds on a rainy day, or for the millennials like the bright beam of the LED on their phone lighting their path on a dark night. One such ray of light is Albert Cole Jr., the son of our most faithful security guard.

Albert Jr. is all of 17 or 18 years old. The sweetest young man you will ever meet. Always with a smile on his face, always singing one of the hymns out of the SDA hymnal. In fact we could give him almost any number in the hymnal and he could sing that song without looking it up. I can reliably do that with two hymns, #1 “Praise to the Lord”, and #530 “When Peace Like a River”. Albert could do that with probably 75% of the hymns.

I remember one of our hikes up Mount Erin with the youth of the church, Albert was with us. He was always the odd one, you know the type, sweet, the adults love him, but the other kids, well he never quite fit in. So, on this hike he brought his drum and was beating on it as we hiked up the very steep hill (Tillamook friends, think King Mountain), he was leading us in singing “I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day; Still praying as I onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” It was Albert who suggested we pray together as we stood at the top and looked out over the plain below us.

We first met Albert because of one of his many little side business, quite the little entrepreneur, that young man. He sharpened our knives for us. Then he has become well known to our volunteers, and to us because of his role as a retail seller of African clothes. He has sold me most of my African shirts. Every time we get new volunteers, I set up an appointment with Albert to come to our house in the evening and sells shirts and dresses. Good stuff for a reasonable price, no haggling. But what with living in one of the five poorest countries in the world you would think Albert would save his money for himself, or at least spend it on a new smart phone or fancy shoes. Not Albert. He used his money to buy things for his AHS church. He called Mr. Danquah, our district evangelist last night, all excited. He had made the last payment on some musical instruments for the youth. They are coming tomorrow.

Albert likes to come to the house in the evening to visit, often just to say “hi”, or show us his grades. He will come into the house and Bekki gives him a glass of water and cookies if she has them. It is funny to watch him try American food, it is clear by his facial expression that he is really not sure about it, but he is always gracious. He stays for a bit and then heads on his way, just leaving his ray of light wherever he goes, shining through the darkness that is this world.

That beautiful ray of light given to us by God went out sometime early this morning. His family found him face down. He had a seizure disorder and all we can figure is that he had a major seizure and maybe he choked on his tongue, maybe he vomited and aspirated, maybe he fell and hit his head. We will never know. All we know is he was here, and now he is not, and his bright beam will be sorely missed.

The question always comes up, “Why, God, why?” Why young, dear, sweet Albert whose true religion puts the rest of us to shame, who never hurt anyone or anything, why has God let his light go out and the evil or sorcery continues. Everyone around the world wrestles with that question, everyone reading this blog has wrestled with that question. Its just that during my time in West Africa I have had to face that question on a far more regular basis than I ever did before. The only answer I can come up with is, there is no answer. Sometimes it is clear why, but most of the time it is not evident why this happened. And as unsatisfying as that is, it is reality. God never promised us answers on this earth, He only promised to be there with us through the valleys and on the mountains, and that someday all would be made plain, but until then He just asks us to trust Him.

Albert Cole, Jr. on one of our hikes up Mount Erin, this time without his drum. Unfortunately, the drive with my other pictures of Albert on it was stolen from our house last month.

They say a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon basin can cause a hurricane in the Atlantic. If that is true then the brightness of Albert’s ray of light should have equally far reaching consequences. Albert’s light is out, his seat on the aisle right front row will be empty, the world will be a noticeably darker place. But that just means the rest of us need to let the light of Jesus shine through us, wherever we are, to make up for it.
When Albert wakes up from his post-ictal sleep, he will have no more seizures, he will have a collection of musical instruments waiting for him that will exceed his wildest imaginations, and he will sing with the angels, and we will join him- “when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.” Amen.

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

Advertisements

INTRODUCING JONATHAN PORTNEY

Dear Readers, I am sharing a blog post written by our newest long term volunteer, Jonathan Portney. “JP” comes to us from Loma Linda University, having just graduated with his Public Health degree, with an emphasis in international public health. He, like all our long term volunteers, has taken on his responsibilities with gusto and enthusiasm, or as they would say here, lustfully. I appreciate his post as it shares his thoughts, feelings and reactions to life here in a poor hospital in Sierra Leone. If you want to see his other posts, check out jpinternationaltraveler.wordpress.com. Or you can see his posts on our Waterloo Adventist Hospital facebook page.

JP leading out in stretches at morning worship

It’s 8:00 AM on a Monday morning. Sounds of praise radiate from the chapel located near the front of the hospital where the staff of the Waterloo Hospital gathers every morning to partake in worship. Inside this common area is a nursing station and at any given time a patient can be ushered through the staff worship to the nursing station to receive patient care. This particular morning was emotional for me because a few nights before a child aged 2 years came into the hospital with what was perceived as an untreated case of Malaria. The child was gasping for air, you could hear the fluid gurgling in his lungs. Beneath him, on the bed, there was a pool of blood that he had peed — the child was unconscious. As orders are being shouted by the nurses around me, I do what I can to help “Give me the oxygen mask” one nurse shouts looking at me. I held my headlamp over the child so the nurses could see what they were doing, I had to do this because there was no electricity, this is a common problem at our hospital because the electrical power is hit or miss and we can only run our generators at certain times due to hospital finances. The light I had focused on the patient was shaking, and I began to feel nauseous, I could feel myself becoming very hot, and had to continuously tell myself to breathe so that I would not pass out. For some, experiencing death is a common occurrence. For me, this was my first time seeing anyone on the brink of death, laying right in front of me, and I wish I could say it would be the last. The nurses did everything they could, but it was to no avail, the child aged 2 years died. It was quiet in the room once the child was pronounced dead, some staff cried, and other staff members walked away to be alone because I’m sure we all felt that this should not happen to a child this young. However, here at Waterloo Hospital this is a reality and does happen on a regular basis. We are here trying to do everything we can with the limited education and supplies that we have. Could WE do more? Yes, should WE do more? Absolutely. Unfortunately, we have limited equipment and funds to reach this goal, and this is just a reality.

On Monday morning I decided to take a shortcut to the chapel room which passes by the connecting nursing station. Songs of praise are heard radiating from the building. I peer in the nursing station window and see a child around the same age, if not younger, peering out the window with Dr. Scott, our physician, leaning over the child checking her pulse. The child had a little pink beanie on its head with matching footies and blanket. The child was so young that it still had that baby smell which we all love. The child had her eyes open wide, and her mouth opened as if she were yawning. For a brief second, I smiled because the child almost looked scared, often children this age are afraid of Opotu people “white people” because the encounter is probably their first introduction to someone with white skin. As I entered the chapel, I decide to see the baby because it was so cute. I walk in the nursing station, the child has the same facial expression that I noticed before with eyes big and mouth open. The mother is standing at the door of the nursing station holding back tears, saying a soft prayer, the dad is standing at the nursing station bed next to Dr. Scott with a hopeless almost blank stare expressed across his face. I look at the child and notice she is not blinking. I think to myself, this surely isn’t going to be a repeat of the night before. After this thought passed, Dr. Scott pulls his stethoscope away from the child and looks at the father and says gently “I’m sorry, she is gone.” I crumbled emotionally along with the parents as they wrapped the baby in the blanket and carried her off.

Us missionaries often sit around the dinner table on Sabbath evenings envisioning what it would be like if we had more funding and resources. In Gods power, we hope they will come eventually, and we have faith that He is molding the hospital just as He sees fit. We have fully come to accept that we are powerless over our current situation. Every morning without fail we wake up with a smile on our face to greet the day, staff, and patients. If we come off as defeated, then the whole morale of the hospital would change. While I have a smile on my face, inside, I am pained. While praying, I question if it would be foolish of me to ask God for just one week where a patient doesn’t die from preventable causes. I continue to pray for this, but my prayers are a little different now. I’m asking for strength, not only for myself, but for the other missionaries, the patients who have lost loved ones, and of course my family. I feel like if I pray for no one to die, I’m trying to play God and I know that is not my role. My role is to let God use my hands, body, and mind, stay out of His way and put a smile on my face to make the lives of those around me better. For me, this prayer is manageable and keeps me waking up to greet the day with a positive attitude despite waking up almost every morning to screams from the courtyard from family members who have lost yet another loved one.

Jonathan C. Portney, MPH — Mobile Clinic Director

Happy New Year

Issa

“His name is Issa.”

“Has he been awake at all?”

“No docteur, not at all since the accident.”

The little boy lying on the gurney just outside my office looked to be about 10 or 11. Cute little guy, but obviously unconscious. A quick check showed that his pulse and blood pressure were OK, no obvious skull fracture, lungs were clear, abdomen soft, but his legs were a different story. No wounds, but his femurs were bending in too many directions. He not only had a closed head injury of some sort, he had bilateral (both sides) femur fractures. This was not good, but I was so glad to have Dr. Orie Kaltenbaugh, an orthopedic surgeon from the US with me.

From what we could gather (histories are always taken with a huge grain of salt, they have a tendency to morph as the days go by) he had been hit by a moto and struck his head on the pavement. And he had been unconscious ever since.

After reviewing his head CT and the MRI of his legs (yea right, the closest thing to a CAT scan here is when I wave our cat over the patient and say “scan”), so really after doing his physical assessment we decided to splint his legs together and see if he would wake up. Not only would operating on his legs with an unknown type of head injury be dangerous, it would also be futile if he didn’t wake up. We did our best to explain this to the parents, and tried to lay plenty of black crepe, doctor speak for preparing the family for the worst. After getting him tucked in under the care of our nursing staff, we headed off to Bere for the day.

Sunday when we reexamined him, he was a little better, with some imagination that is. At that point I really was doubtful he was going to wake up with much brain function. However, by Monday, he was moving a bit. Tuesday, the lights were on, but there was still no one home. His family started giving him some bouille (thin rice milk), and he seemed to be swallowing it, and he wasn’t choking.

We decided to send him over for an x-ray, which confirmed our suspicions, he had broken the proximal femur on the left and the distal one on the right. Now it was a judgment call of when to operate, we wanted to give as much time for his head to heal as possible, but also needed to get those legs fixed. Remember for a little guy like this we have two choices of anesthesia, ketamine with diazepam, or diazepam with ketamine. After careful consideration and much debate we went with the diazepam and ketamine. Some of you medical people may criticize our choice, but I will give you the end, it worked, he was still alive when we wheeled him out of the OR. I was more than happy to hand the knife over to Dr. Orie, and as the operation progressed I realized what an absolutely brilliant move that had been on my part. But he did a masterful job getting the fractures reduced and fixed with plates. Now we surgeons are not known for our patience, but Dr. Orie patiently sorted through our screws looking for just the right one for each new screw hole. In our defense I will point out that we do have our screws sorted by size, small, medium and large, although it is a rather arbitrary sorting, and I will admit there could be some debate about whether this particular screw deserves to be in this particular packet.

So now we have a semi-conscious little boy with two broken, but plated legs. The next day we decided to move him out of the ICU and into the ward, he would either get better or he wouldn’t. We still had no idea of what better was going to be. However, over the next number of days, he gradually improved. He went through all the stages of recovery from a head injury, as the confusion and cobwebs cleared. Just before I left for vacation he was well enough to get up in a wheel chair and go outside. Then, with a week left of vacation I got an e-mail from Diana, our volunteer nurse from Mexico, Issa wanted to go home. He was standing on his legs with crutches. I wrote back and asked him to wait till I got back.

January 2, 2015, I made rounds. The picture is Issa and his family. If you didn’t guess, Issa is the one smiling. A perfectly normal little boy, with bright eyes, straight legs, and a happy heart. He is a little miracle, one of the ones we see all the time here, but just a bit more obvious. So many things should have gone wrong, he got next to no care for his head injury, he didn’t get blood clots or a fat embolism from his broken femurs, he didn’t get an infection, he didn’t get malaria, he just got better. I told him to not walk on his legs and come back in a month with another x-ray.

Issa with his family, he is the one with the big smile.

Issa with his family, he is the one with the big smile.

Mahamat

“I need to amputate your leg, if I don’t you are probably going to die.”

I was talking to Mahamat. He had come in with an old open distal femur fracture. It was badly infected when he arrived, with pus pouring out of the wound. I had taken him to surgery, washed out his leg, reduced the fracture as best as I could, and put an external fixator on his leg, to hold the bone in place. It looked great for about two days and then the pus started pouring out of the wound again. We faithfully washed it out with betadine every day, had him on antibiotics, but it didn’t get any better. I knew Dr. Orie was coming so I waited until I could show it to him. I was pretty sure he would agree with me that the leg needed to come off, but knowing the fight I was in for, I figured every bit of firepower I had would help.

I was right, Dr. Orie agreed with me, hence the statement above. After Patrice, our nurse, told him this in Ngambay, Mahamat talked to Patrice for a long, long time. When Patrice translated it into French for me, it was not what I expected to hear. Mahamat agreed with me that he needed an amputation. But he said that if he had an amputation, even if he had a prosthesis, when he went home to his village he would be shunned, his family would abandon him, he would be a cripple and alone. He would rather die than face that. It was hard to swallow. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I have seen it too many times. He would drain pus for several weeks, get malaria or something else in his weakened state, but eventually the infection would track up his thigh and he would be septic. At which point he gives in and we do a high amputation with little hope of getting a good prosthesis, or he dies from sepsis. But what could I say, he was in an impossible situation. I had prayer with him, shook his hand, and reassured him we would do everything we could to save his leg, but that he needed a miracle.

When I left for Italy he was still there, not septic, but still draining pus out of his leg, although I optimistically hoped it was less pus.

January 2, 2015, we unwrapped his leg and I inspected his wound. There was no big defect, in fact the bone was almost completely covered. I probed with a q-tip, no defect, no pus. His thigh was soft and not swollen, not hot or painful. No infection at all. He had the biggest grin on his face as we shook hands again and I told him it was a gift from God, a miracle as sure as the paralytic, blind Bartemaeus or any other miracle you have heard about. I don’t know that I have ever been so happy to be wrong.

Mahamat with his external fixator and healing leg.

Mahamat with his external fixator and healing leg.

Happy New Year dear friends.

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 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.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

The Container

Bekki, Scott and Lindsay all dressed up for Church

Bekki, Scott and Lindsay all dressed up for Church

I have waited a long time to write this post. 443 days to be exact. Many of you have prayed diligently for us and for our container, and for that we are grateful. I am happy to report that our container is here, it is parked in front of the hospital and is mostly unloaded. I told Bekki yesterday that if it took until 2 am I was going to set up our bed and sleep in it, with our mosquito net. She beat me to it, while I operated she got the old bed out and the new bed set up. Last night for the first time in 14 ½ months, 443 days to be exact, we slept in our bed. I can’t really describe how wonderful it was to have all my pillows, to have a king size bed again, to not have the guest bed, which frankly is usually not that great. Then tonight we had supper on our table, with our dishes (haven’t found the silverware yet). Yesterday we had Swiss Steak, hmmm, it was soooo good.
Bekki and Jolene surrounded by boxes with the table set, ready for supper.

Bekki and Jolene surrounded by boxes with the table set, ready for supper.

When we made our reconnaissance visit to Tchad and Cameroon in January 2013, Bekki tried to get all the advice she could from the experienced missionaries. They all counseled us to bring a good bed, and bring stuff from home that said “home”, if you know what I mean. I remember thinking at the time and until recently, that I was moving to Africa, I wasn’t living in America anymore, I didn’t need to have a bunch of American stuff, stuff from “home”. Africa would be my home now. Silly me, good thing I have a wife who knows better. Last night when I opened the box with our white dishes, I have to admit there were tears in my eyes. It was so wonderful to see our dishes from home. Now they are on the shelf, the table and chairs are set up, I am sitting in the red recliner/rocker, sleeping in my own bed, there is a pantry full of vegi-food, tomorrow morning for the first time in 8 ½ months I will use soy milk on my cereal, we had real chocolate brownies for desert tonight, all things from “home”.

Our bed, ready for sleep.

Our bed, ready for sleep.

Isaac cutting away the locks on the container door.

Isaac cutting away the locks on the container door.

One of the many things I have learned in the last 8 months is that it turns out all those experienced missionaries were right, you need a piece of “home” in your house. We aren’t Tchadien and never will be, and to keep our sanity we need something familiar, something loved we can cling to. Especially in a developing country where everything is so topsy turvy, and seems so different to us, where everything we do is so difficult, and takes so much energy and effort.

Our container shipped out from LA around November 17, 2013. It took 9 months to get to us. Since we didn’t expect it any earlier than mid March, I would say it is only 5 months late. The container’s voyage here seems to have been, for whatever reason, cursed. It spent 5 months sitting in port in Douala waiting to clear customs. When it finally was ready to leave Douala it was delayed an extra week due to the end of Ramadan. When it arrived here, the usual 1-2 days to get it released from Tchadien customs took 8 days, and only happened because I went down to customs and hung out until they released it. Because it is rainy season the ground is very soft so when the truck brought it to the compound it promptly got stuck in a sink hole and had to be pulled out. They brought a crane to take it off the truck bed (the usual method is to tie the container to stout trees and the driver guns the truck and drives out from under it, letting it drop to the ground with a satisfying thud), and the crane, after digging foot deep holes in our driveway, got stuck before they could do anything. Even when we were able to finally get the container and the crane on solid ground and the crane started to lift it off the truck, one corner got stuck on the pin holding it on the truck bed. It took 15 minutes and a lot of work and discussion to finally get it released, and offloaded.

The ambulance got stuck in the mud and ruts outside our door.

The ambulance got stuck in the mud and ruts outside our door.

To say that the last few months and especially last few days as we anticipated and worked to get the container released have been stressful would be an understatement. But now that we are unpacking and finding things we have been wanting and in many cases desperately needing, the pain of the last few months is already starting to fade. And it is not just personal items, 2/3 of that container is material for the hospital. And not only that, but Nick’s life will now be much easier as he has tools he can use in working on the container apartment (La Petite Maison). His eyes lit up as we came across the boxes of tools (Kelsey’s eyes lit up when we came across the brownie mixes and the teapots). It is truly a blessing to finally have it here.

Our local longshoremen hauling off our things to the house.

Our local longshoremen hauling off our things to the house.

That being said, I have to be honest, I have many times asked God what is the deal here? Why is this taking so long, can’t You just give us a break? Like I said earlier, it was like the container was cursed, nothing went right, for anyone. And I know hundreds or thousands of heartfelt prayers ascended to heaven in our behalf, but seemingly without an answer. The container could not have come at a worse time, except during September when we will be in the US. It is the height of rainy season, so moving it is very risky, we have to hire an extra guard to watch the container because it is outside the wall of the compound, we need it for storage but it is incredibly inconvenient and difficult to take some stuff out and put other stuff in. Besides we want to get it inside the compound walls soon so we can stop paying for an extra guard. Furthermore we leave in less than 2 weeks, and need to have things buttoned up before we go.

But when I really start to feel sorry for myself, I go outside and watch Francis, our yard boy, mow the lawn by hand with a slightly bent power mower blade with a crude handle attached. I watch Frederic, our contractor, and his workers do their work with all hand (almost no power) tools. I look at all the “stuff” we brought over, I look at all the food in our pantry, and then I think, yea, they aren’t ever going to have a container. The people I work with day after day are grateful if I give them a headlight I got in a three pack from Costco. Our cook, Victorine, if I don’t put the milk left in my cereal bowl down the drain, she will drink it when she gets to work at 12:30 in the afternoon. All the packing paper, you know what we do with that? We take it to the back door of the main building of the hospital and leave it on the ground and the staff, and patient families come and take it away, it is wanted, it will get used. This afternoon as we worked on getting more stuff from the container into the ambulance we passed out empty cardboard boxes as gifts. Then I look around me and see all my things, and I realize that this is not even anywhere close to all my things. We sold and gave away a lot before we left, and we have a houseful of stuff in Tennessee. Yea, I do not have thing one to feel sorry for myself about.

I don’t know why it took so long to get our container. I don’t know why it took so long for our house to sell, or why we got such a low price for it. I don’t know why, especially after we prayed so earnestly, and had so many other people praying for those very specific things. I mean really God, we left our comfortable home and our family to come to Africa to serve You, doesn’t that give us some kind of, you know, special dispensation or credit or something? Instead, it seems that everything was harder and took longer. Maybe Nephew Olen was right, it means we are doing something good and Satan is attacking us. I don’t know, maybe. Or maybe it will someday be clear what God was doing behind the scenes, but then again maybe not. I really don’t know.

But I do know this, God asks us to trust Him, even, no especially when, it doesn’t make any sense, and the way is not clear, and things are not going well. I haven’t done a very good job of that the last few days, and I am ashamed. Because I am, more than most people on this earth, truly a blessed man, and have absolutely no reason to doubt our heavenly Father. I also know that what we do for God doesn’t change our status in His eyes. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or less, or care for us more or less. I forgot. It wasn’t pretty. Thanks be to God that I can confess my sins and know that He will forgive them and love me as always. And thanks be to God for our container.

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.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

September 15

September 14 with our beloved Lindsay after church.  Jon is in Israel, but with us in spirit.

September 14 with our beloved Lindsay after church. Jon is in Israel, but with us in spirit.

It is early Sunday morning, September 15. In the words of that old song from my generation, all our bags are packed, we are ready to go, we are leaving on a jet plane. It was exactly one year ago that Dad passed away and we received our call from the GC. What a year it has been. And now the time has come to go.

What a kaleidoscope of emotions. I was telling Bekki last night that I don’t ever remember a time when I have been so conflicted, excited and terrified, happy and sad, full of eager anticipation and full of dread, watching the minutes tick by on the clock, sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow. It just depends on the moment as to which emotion holds sway. But no matter what in six and a half hours we will be on a plane for the first leg of our journey.

No that is not right, it is not the first leg, it is the next leg. And although we were called by the GC a year ago, God has been preparing us for this for a lot longer. Even when we lived in Tillamook He was working with us, teaching us how to ride dirt bikes in terrain very similar to Koza. He changed our thinking and attitudes on mission trips, leading us to expand our horizons and start experiencing the joy of working for Him in other lands. Then in Clarkston He got us together with Allison Hayes, our French teacher, so we go to Collognes with a solid background in French. And this last year He has led us to many wonderful people who have helped guide us and equip us for this work. Even this last week, when I was in Florida at the Ultrasound course (which was fantastic) he led a US Army Colonel to sit by me. As we talked I found out that his unit is going to Cameroon this winter for a two month training mission. He was able to give me invaluable contact information for the US mission there, which may come in very useful someday.

Our Sabbath School lesson yesterday was on “Revival and Our Thoughts”, the teacher used that background to emphasize our need to keep our eyes on Jesus. I wondered how we keep our eyes on Someone we can’t even see and it occurred to me that we do it by focusing our thoughts on Him. When discouragement and fear come we think about Jesus and what He has done for us in our individual lives, how He has led and guided and cared for us, and what He promises to do for us in the future. And when things go badly, or at least not as we would wish them to (such as the house not selling) we can remember that this earth is not our home and in the context of eternity our time here is just a speck.

So although I wish I had two more years to prepare (6 months OB-Gyn rotation, 3 months Internal medicine, 3 month tropical medicine course, and a full year to learn French), I will study as hard as I can the next three months. And then I will go to Cameroon on December 12 confident that God has called us to do this, and that He will make up any deficiencies. And when my courage flags and depression sets in, I will look to Jesus and remember what He did for me 2000 years ago, 2 years ago, 2 months ago, 2 days ago, and even 2 minutes ago.

Let’s do this.

For those of you new to our blog, read about us and our upcoming mission to Africa in the “About Us” page, then there is a “Timeline” page that tells you where we will be this year, and finally a “Definitions” page that explains some terms that may be unfamiliar to some of you. Also check out the links to other Mission Hospitals to find other missionary blogs.

– Scott Gardner