Friday, October 24, 2008

Photo Update

People enjoying the library at the Camphor Mission.
Danny with a chubby healthy baby at the Camphor Mission.
Kathy with one of her students, Mary at church.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Update from Liberia

Kathy has continued to teach the preschool class of 25ish kids. It has been a challenge to teach without many resources. I was ready to quit when I found the key to the library and discovered many books on ABC's, numbers, and colors. I also found small blackboards and chalk that the children can use to practice their numbers and letters, coloring books and even crayons! I am excited about the books and teaching resources in the library. There are over 20 boxes of books that need to be open and organized, once we find shelves. That could take years in Africa to find or to make. I am going to push for it to get done while I am here so that they can be used. I am going to try and establish library time during the afternoons. School is only in session from 8:00-1:15. I plan on being in the library until 4:00 to encourage kids to come and read or talk to me.

Dorothy and Jimmy are our hosts as we live in their home that operates as the guest house on the Camphor Mission. I think she is realizing that we are different guests than others from America. I help with laundry, haul water occasionally, and love eating African food. Dorothy is the dietitian, head cook, and Jimmy is the principal at the boarding school. They have a house full of their own children and many extended family live here too. Our bedroom, the biggest one here with its own bathroom, I am certain is a bedroom full of kids when we are not here. Currently there are three other bedrooms PACKED with people, mostly children.

Danny is enjoying the clinic more and more everyday. He and the nurse are beginning to hear one another's English. There is a Liberian English that is spoken here that is fast, broken, and jumbled. We talk about the need to speak Standard English in order to move forward as a school, person, and nation. He has seen many pregnant women on their 11th pregnancy with a pattern of having lost more than one child to death after birth. So sad. Clean drinking water, malaria, and immunization are the biggest concerns. Mom's don't know when their babies were born so they don't know how old the babies are so there is no way to measure or know where they should be on the growth chart. These are the challenges with little education and exposure to life outside of the village. We really are in rural Africa.

We do miss being in Ohio during the fall, the smells of bon fires, leaves, football games, sounds of crunching leaves, pumpkin coffee, walks through the woods, runs with our dog, I am clicking my heels together, "There is no place like home!" Soon, less than 45 days! Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers! We are sending this email from Buchanan, the second largest city in Liberia, also a port town. Buchanan is about 10 miles from the Camphor Mission. Hope you are doing well in your space on the planet!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Camphor Mission, Liberia

We are at the Camphor Mission about 100 miles outside of Monrovia. We are in the bush, with no electricity until the generator comes on from 7:00-Midnight, 9:30 during the week. We don't have running water in the house. The kids pump from the well and haul to do all washing and cooking. Makes you use much less water for bath and think twice about throwing clothes in the laundry. There is certainly need here. We are living in the home of the Principal/Headmaster of the school Jimmy, his wife, many kids and extended family. We have our own bedroom and bathroom.

Danny will be working at a clinic that currently does not see many patients. There is a well stocked pharmacy, a lab, and a nurse working with him. A few of the medical people are in India for more training so Danny will be filling a hole that has been left in their absence.

The Camphor Mission is the home to the clinic, a Garfield Memorial UMC, and a boarding school. The children who live here, about 80 in total are in primary school through 9th grade. Some of the students are older and off the typical tract of age and grade due to the upheaval of the war. They have only had peace and calm since 2004 and elections in 2005 with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf being elected. I give these 21 year olds who are in 6th grade so much credit for being here living with younger children and following the rules in a boarding school setting. They are not orphans, they have families scattered throughout Liberia who have sent them to school here. The interesting part about the Camphor Mission is that all of this has happened with local initiative and support. There are small partnerships with Annual Conferences in the states but no missionaries have ever worked here long term.

We are spending our time meeting people, hearing stories about Camphor, discovering what is happening in the area and community. As I describe where we are, I realize that I have not taken the time to describe the sounds and sights of nature all around us. At night we see a true African sky that shows almost all of the stars and streaks of the milky way, a crisp bright sharp crescent moon overlooked us last night. Beauty. The sounds at night can only be God's symphony, birds, frogs, bugs, creatures of the night that are singing at full force kept me awake the first night, more in awe than annoyance. The cool end of the rainy season air makes sleeping very pleasant.

In the morning we rise to the quieter sounds and songs of birds waking and the nocturnal creatures now resting from their evening concerto. We can hear roosters crow in the village and small chirpings of many birds. You can hear the chatter of children as they gather water, begin their chores, and eventually gather for morning song and devotions. All of this before 7:00 a.m.

The mission is set in the bush about 2 miles off of a main road. There is over 100 acres of property and the building are all spread out with soccer fields in the center of life at the school. As you arrive and come through the gate the church is on the hill to your right, up a very steep and no so solid road. A straighter more level road on your left takes you past housing for clinic staff and the business manager, then the small clinic with lab, vaccination room, pharmacy, consultation room, and labor and delivery. Continuing up the road is the boy's dorm and the sports fields that separate the boys from the girls. A circle/horse shoe shape is created with the school set on a small hill at the curve, a dining hall, Jimmy's house where we stay, and the girl's dorm at the opposite side of the horse shoe from the boys. Green grass, paths, trees, and all of this is surrounded by jungle.

There is a beach, ocean, and a port just 10 miles in the 2nd largest city in Liberia, Buchanan. We will be at this location until the first of November.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

West Africa Travel

Well, we are back in Liberia! What a trip we had getting here! One person told us the trip from Bo, Sierra Leone to the border would be 3 hours, our driver who makes this drive almost everyday told us 5 hours. We left at 1:00 in the afternoon and hoped to arrive at the Liberian border in time to cross before 6:00 p.m. when it closed. We arrived after 10 P.M.! 9 hours! Crazy road. Rainy season, washed out, rocky terrain, bamboo bridges, darkness, no headlights, multiple brake downs, no starter, bad windshield wipers, worst road yet and my scariest experience thus far. The guest house at the border was decent at the small international one dirt road border town. It does feel good to be in Liberia though. The road on this side was paved the whole way to Monrovia and we had a driver with the UMC waiting for us so we did not need to take public transport AGAIN! The driver had been at the border the day before waiting for us! Danny enjoyed haggling with the driver for a new price since he did not get us to the border crossing in time. It really felt like Africa won yesterday! I was just so thankful to not have spent the night on a muddy bridge trapped in a car with mosquitos and five other people in the African
jungle! The car, let me tell you about the car. It was an old Nissan hatchback station wagon of sorts. Loud at the beginning of the trip and even louder when we ended the trip. The front bumper fell off when the driver Patrick drove into a ditch. We saved it though and hauled it on the roof to put back on later. No lights, anywhere, inside or out. The driver held a dull torch outside the window for fine visibility in the rain for three hours. We ran the heater defroster to stop from over heating. At about 8:30 p.m. we came to a dead stop stalling the car, with not enough power in the battery to start the car, oh and no reverse which is bad when you are stuck in the mud. You get the gist. The final comment is that the last 26 miles took over 4 hours to drive. We realize that Danny runs marathon faster than that. Enough said.

We will keep you posted on our time in Liberia with The United Methodist Church.

Child Rescue Center, Bo, Sierra Leone

This week has proven busier than last week. Most of the kids have started school. The guidance counselor and I have put together a leadership week for the older youth who are waiting for test results to tell them what grade they are to enter this year, either 10th grade or college. There are about 18 of those students. We are spending the day together from 8:00-3:00. I think that they preferred sleeping and hanging out with one another! We have put together some fun as well as educational time with games, bible study, leadership seminars, field trips, reading, computer time, music, and practicing a skit to perform for the whole CRC. Between spending the day with them, preparing for the next day, and still participating in reading time, devotions, and bedtime stories with the rest of the kids, I feel like I am back in America with a crazy busy schedule! You won't believe it but I am teaching music; playing the recorder, new songs from the UMC hymnal, and even a bell/chime choir. It is pretty funny seeing as I was not in choir or band! Very limited skill here.

But God is good and we are doing it! Our field trip today found us climbing a small mountain where a radio station sits. We were invited into the DJ booth and a few of us talked on the radio, one being me. The young adults with whom I am working are just like the teens at home, but at times the cultural differences and expectations are glaringly different. There have been moments of challenge but we have done well with one another. I really love these kids. They are usually very loving and supportive of one another and the adults. I will be sad to leave here. One more week.

I have just been asked to do a funeral at another hospital for two babies who died in the last 24 hours. We were out in town and met two of the women from the States who are working at the St. Mary's Hospital. They thought of me this week when the need for a pastor came about. Both of the mothers were Muslim. They are in the hospital on the female ward for fistula repair, a horrible condition for women with either an opening between their vagina and their bladder or their vagina or their rectum. You can imagine the consequences. It is a problem in the developing world when people are delivering at home and things go bad. The women needing this repair have been ostracized in their communities, not well nourished or loved. They come to this ward to await surgery and become strong and then need to stay for three weeks after surgery
to recover. They leave healed with a new life! Can you imagine the joy of arriving in the ward and discovering a group of women who experienced the same hell as you with this condition? And here is a group of women who become sisters to one another and find love and family again. They are learning craft skills as potential money making while they are there. The youngest patient is 15 years old!

Sarah had delivered twins and one of them had died at delivery and the other one died yesterday. Isatu's son died this morning after a complicated C section, she had already had the fistula repair, requiring a C-section for this delivery. Isatu has three other children but this is the third baby she has lost. She is so sad and just cried when I met her. The women all gathered outside on benches for the memorial service. The ecumenical group of women all sang songs about Jesus and God as well as said a Muslim prayer together and a Christian prayer of blessing. Each of these women gathered had experienced similar losses in their life. Sierra Leone has the highest infant mortality rate in the world! It was a beautiful service that I was honored to be a part of. The group of women have invited me back to visit and pray with them. What joy and community I found there! Please keep Isatu and Sarah in your prayers.

Danny has been working with the Sierra Leonian medical officer, providing him with a few much needed days off. Danny typically ran the ward rounds and saw about 40 patients a day in the OPD. He enjoyed working with a reliable lab and a stocked pharmacy. He works more here than he does at home!