Morning Worship

Three years ago, or so, wow it does not seem possible, I wrote a blog about worship in Tchad. Well it is time to write one now about worship in Sierra Leone. It is similar but also very, very different.

First the similarities, morning worship starts the day. Day shift and night shift are all expected to attend. The only staff exempted are those working the afternoon/evening shift. We sing, pray, a staff member gives a talk, and often we have “contributions”, comments about whatever the topic was.

We don’t do the handshake thing that was so big in Tchad, probably due to Ebola. That scared the Sierra Leoneans from any physical contact. And the singing here is much better. These guys can carry a tune, and harmonize. Then too, we have worship in the OPD (Out Patient Department) which has awesome acoustics. When the staff ramp it up on their favorite hymns it is positively heavenly.

The Staff doing morning stretches.

Led by JP

And worship time is very structured, Monday is administration day, so a staff member talks about their job, like say a cleaner (janitor), explaining what they do with their time, and often share some of their frustrations. There is usually then a long discussion where the most vocal staff voice their opinion on the topic, usually positive, but sometimes if it is perceived that the staff member is whining unnecessarily, they will be called on it.

Tuesday and Thursday are health talk days, so a clinical staff member will give a treatise on hypertension or diabetes or nutrition, or any health related topic. Lately the focus has been on waste management, and this morning our waste management officer (he is also our anesthetist, seems to me like a natural combination) talked again about proper waste disposal. You know like, putting sharps IN the sharps container, not on the lawn. And putting soiled bloody dressings in the proper dust bin (waste receptacle). Little thing like that. In fact, just last week the Waste Management Team did a skit for worship on that very topic, what waste goes where. This is a good thing to talk about in a country that seems to believe that any public place is a garbage repository, and that the entire country is one giant urinal.

Our Waste Management Team doing their best to get the staff to put the medical waste not only in the trash, but in the right trash.

Wednesday and Friday are reserved for more traditional worship talks, which are often very thought provoking, others, well, not so much. But by and large, morning worship is a great time of fellowship and comradeship.
After worship we have the all important announcements, what committee is meeting that morning in my office, or what our upcoming schedule is. And after worship time is when we celebrate staff birthdays, births, and provide support to those who have lost loved ones. It is the time when we welcome new volunteers, or new staff with our “Welcome, Welcome” song, and it is the time when we say good-by to those who are leaving us. It is the time that the staff receive their certificates for attending and completing educational classes taught by our volunteers.

Nurse Karin giving Mr. Conteh his Certificate of Achievement.

The Loma Linda University Pharmacy Team with their Sierra Leone plaques, signed by the staff.

It is the time when we bless new additions to the hospital, from little things like dressing supplies and point of care hemoglobin monitors to larger items like physio beds, cars and even autoclaves. I have come to love this AHS tradition. It emphasizes the fact that everything we have here, everything we do here is for the glory of God, it is by His hand that we survive and function, and we owe it all to Him. So everything large or small is dedicated to be used to His honor and glory and in His service.

Blessing our new Physio table from the UK.

A particularly difficult farewell as the Peter Turay gives a heartfelt testimony about his brother Douglassss Turay at Douglasssss’s farewell.

Morning worship is held, as I mentioned, in the OPD, so it is not uncommon to have patients and families attend worship with us. What is unusual is what happened last week. Two patients wanted to share their testimonies with the staff after the announcements.

The first was Omo. She is a very brave woman who first came to us with a diabetic foot. It was really bad looking, but seemed to be viable and she was walking on it, so I did my best to save her foot. Sadly, the infection got out of control and started to spread up her leg. By the time we got her to surgery we had to do a high calf amputation and leave it open to let the infection drain out. It made me regret my earlier decision to not push for the amputation sooner. Anyway, when it came time to close the wound I had to explain to her that I could not save the knee. A below knee amputation would not leave enough length of bone below the knee to support a prosthesis, or be anything but in the way. Understandably, she was pretty upset. But she pulled it together and we got the job done, and her wound closed.

Omo

That morning she stood there on one leg, supporting herself with the walker and led the staff in singing “To God Be the Glory.” She then proceeded to praise God for His mercy, love and grace. I was so moved. Here was this woman who had just lost her leg, praising God in spite of it all. We are pretty good at praising God when He heals us, saves us or delivers us, but after losing a leg in a place that does not make it easy for the handicapped. Never saw that in America.

Then a couple of days later, an old Muslim man wanted to share his testimony. He is recovering from a stroke and is still very weak, but he managed to walk a few steps and he too started to sing,, “Tell Papa God Tenki (thank you)”. It is a Sierra Leonean favorite, but I didn’t realize the Muslims sang it too. The staff joined in lustfully as they say here. It is a praise chorus, “Tell God thank you for what He does for us, He saved us, He does everything for us.”

Our Muslim brother leads us in singing, bring those hands together.

Paul tells us in everything to be content and to give thanks for all things and in all circumstances. I would do well to learn from a woman with one leg and an old Muslim man.

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

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Worship

Morning worship under the veranda.

Morning worship under the veranda.

It has been a couple of weeks since I have written, and for that I am sorry, the plan is to write something every week. But I have been wanting to write about worship here in Tchad for some time.

We have a custom, which is typical at most mission hospitals I think, of starting each day with worship. All the staff that worked the night before and the staff coming on for the day, including our nursing students, as well as some patients and patient families, gather together under the veranda for morning prayer. We start with prayer and then one of the staff members or sometimes a family member of a patient, or even one of our nursing students will give the morning devotional.

I came over here with the silly notion that I would probably be asked to preach, teach the Sabbath School lesson, you know impart my Biblical knowledge and wisdom to these people we have come to serve. Well, it turns out they don’t need that. In fact they do quite well without me, which is good because I couldn’t keep up the French that well anyway.

The devotionals are pretty good from what I can tell, well developed thoughts from the Bible, with just the right amount of humor mixed in. Then we have prayer requests, always remembering to pray for the patients, the staff and the families. Often the prayer requests are quite touching as family members ask for special prayer for their loved one who is scheduled for surgery, or is ill in the hospital. It helps remind me that as stoic as these people seem, they really have feelings inside, they just keep it buried most of the time.

After prayer we do the handshake thing. This is an African custom that is done everywhere in West Africa that I have been, OK Cameroon and Tchad. Anyway the first person starts around the circle and shakes everyone’s hand, then the second person follows and so on, so everyone shakes everyone’s hand. It is actually one of my favorite parts. It is a way to personally greet everyone in the group, and say good morning. We do it after church, basically after any gathering. Shaking hands is really big here. It means you have a good relationship.

"THe Handshake" after worship

“THe Handshake” after worship

Church is pretty standard. The good news is that the dress is casual. I cannot wear a tie and jacket here. Not unless they want to take me out in the ambulance. Speaking of the ambulance, we routinely have 15 people that we take to Sabbath School and Church. It is a real blessing to have the room. Sabbath School lesson study first, there are two classes, one in French, one in Gumbai (the main local language). After awhile I get brain fatigue and have a hard time following. But there is a lively discussion, just like at Clarkston. The African Adventists tend to be pretty conservative, but they seem pretty knowledgeable about their Bibles. One thing that is cool is when there are breaks in the action, someone will just start singing, and then everyone will join in. A friend of ours gave us a church hymnal in French so we can sing along a little better. But it is just the words.

Worship in the Moundou SDA Church

Worship in the Moundou SDA Church

A word about the choir, they are a pretty lively bunch. Every song, and there are usually at least three during the service, is choreographed. They sway with the music and dance with their feet. It is pretty cool to watch. They have a drum/guitar combo (see the picture) and homemade maracas that keeps the beat for them. My favorite choir member though, is a little 6 year old girl. She is a choir member in training. She is always on the front row, and is always 180 degrees out of phase with everyone else. When everyone moves their feet left, she goes right, and so on. She is so cute.

The Moundou Church Choir, with our choir member-in-training in the white dress.

The Moundou Church Choir, with our choir member-in-training in the white dress.

The pastor speaks pretty good English, and he is on our hospital board, so we have gotten to talk together quite a bit. We talk in French until I get bogged down then he tells me what he said in English. It works.

Our stringed drum

Our stringed drum

???????????????????????????????Worship is the same and yet different everywhere we go. I find worshipping with my Tchadian brothers and sisters to be a huge blessing, and there is much I can learn from them. Enjoy the pictures.

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, where we initially were to be. Soon there will be a new video about 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