Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Donation Reminder

If you want a tax-deduction for this year, remember that your envelops (and checks) need to be post-marked by December 31, 2013.  Of course, we'll accept donations any time.  Many thanks for supporting the new hospital addition buildings, for educating future Tchadian medical personnel, for the ladies needing fistula repairs, and for all the many other areas in which you financially support us. You will notice on our blog, missionarydoctors.blogspot.com, that we have a link for donations. This is through Adventist Health International’s website. We believe strongly in the mission of AHI. We feel that AHI is an organization worth supporting. By donating through AHI, you can be reassured that there is a strong measure of accountability following your donation. Just mark the donation for ‘Bere.’ And remember that your gift is 100% tax-deductible.

But we crave your prayers the most.  We also pray God's blessings for you and yours in 2014.  Thanks again for everything you do for Bere Adventist Hospital.



Olen: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae: +235 90 19 30 38

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hôpital Adventiste de Bere
Boîte Postale 52
Kelo, Tchad

Volunteers Welcome!!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Speaking in Tongues

There are over 120 languages in Tchad. Hausa is not one of them.

A woman came into our hospital. Nobody could understand what she was saying, but she brought her baby with her. Her baby was obviously sick. Before we could find a translator for her, we identified the sickness as malaria and started the child on an intravenous quinine drip. The mother clearly had no money.

We finally determined that the mother spoke Hausa, a language in northern Nigeria. Can you imagine going to a land that has over 120 different languages... and still nobody there understands you?!?!?!

Miraculously, one of the women who works for us, Naomie, had spent some years in Nigeria and spoke fluent Hausa. Naomie talked to this woman and got her incredible story...

A Tchadian man moved to Nigeria for work. He was from the Nangere tribe, which is located in Bere and the surrounding villages. He met and married this woman and they had a child. Boko Haram, a terrorist group from the same part of Nigeria, in Maiduguri, began targeting and killing all foreigners, including Tchadians. The father got caught in an ambush and took off for the African bush, disappearing for a long time.

After quite some time, the mother became worried her husband had returned to Tchad, so she came to look for him. She crossed into Cameroon and went from church to church, asking for just enough money to get her to the next church. She arrived in Tchad and tried to ask where she could find the Nangere tribe. As she traveled farther and farther from home, she found it more and more difficult to find a person who knew Hausa. She began spending days in each village, most of her time spent trying to find somebody who spoke her language. She arrived in Kelo, a village 42 kilometers from Bere and learned she was close to the epicenter of the Nangere tribe. So she trekked the 42 kilometers to Bere with a baby on her back..

Once she arrived in Bere, her troubles were still not over. She spent three days living and sleeping in the market, seeking somebody who spoke Hausa. And she did not find anything to eat. When her child fell ill with malaria, she came to our hospital.

Her baby required three days of intravenous quinine drip just to start eating again. Then we kept the baby for another day while trying to figure out what to do with this family. The mother has arrived to the home district of her husband, but the territory of the Nangere spans over 1000 square kilometers. And the Nangere people are not creative with their names, so her husband's name is very common.

In the meantime, we fed the woman and she began to get her strength back and began smiling. Life returned to her eyes, just as it did in the eyes of her child. Through it all, she continued to read her Hausa Bible every day.

Naomie, herself a single mother, came to me in tears on behalf of the woman. Naomie begged me to allow her to take the woman and her baby to her house. Who am I to say no?

Naomie and this woman are now living together with many children under their roof. But they are safe, happy and healthy.

I don't know what the ending to this story is. I don't know if this woman will ever find her husband or his family. I don't know if the husband was killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. I don't know if he's still hiding in the African bush somewhere. I don't know if he's looking for his wife and child, desperate to know if they are ok. I don't know if he's returned to Tchad.

But I do know that God put Naomie in this woman's path at exactly the right time. And I also know that this child was going to die without the life-saving medications he received.

Mother and child both came to visit me today. Both look to be well-fed and healthy and in excellent spirits. The mother wanted to thank me endlessly and couldn't stop wishing God's blessings on me for the healing her child received.

I wish you could have been there to receive the blessings with me.

olen and danae


Olen Tigo: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae Tigo: +235 90 19 30 38
Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad
Volunteers Welcome!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy National Philanthropy Day!!!

I know you’ve had it circled on your calendar for days now!

Usually when people ask how they can help, they are talking about money. Well, guess what… Money can help! And we would be proud and honored to enter into that financial partnership with you. We take financial donations very seriously and ensure that the money is spent wisely and is used for the purpose it was intended.

So let me tell you about a few projects and opportunities we have that require funding…

1.   My silly dream of the perfect missionary hospital that treats everybody for free. Price tag: Estimated at $400,000/year. We take cash or credit. No problem, right? ;)

2.   Ok, ok. We’ll do something a bit more feasible and cheaper and less on-going. We have the nursing school to finish. This has been a dream for years, which should become a reality within the next few years, as we are building the buildings and educating the professors already. Quality Christian (or Muslim or animist or…) nursing is such a desperate need here. To do the school right would probably take a few hundred thousand bucks. But with what we’ve already invested in the professors’ schooling and the school buildings, we will just do the best we can with what we have. It will still be better than the other schools here. We’ll make sure of that. It would be hard to be worse!

3.   As we mentioned, the construction project has been huge. Through the generosity of the One-Day Project, ASI and Maranatha, the foundations and building shells, as well as some of the costs of sidewalks, property walls and electrical wiring, has been completed with absolute minimal cost to AHI. This has been a blessing that can’t be overstated. However, there is a great deal of work (and cost) left. All interior walls, paint, plumbing supplies, medical equipment, counters, furniture, etc, has yet to be funded. We are moving ahead with finishing off the insides with what money there is, but progress will probably need to come to a halt around February or March, with the rate at which we are going. The cost to finish the medical side of the new buildings is $40,000. The cost to finish the ex-patriate housing (where you will stay when you come visit us!) is $30,000.

4.   Continuing our project of sending Tchadians to school for medical education. We would also love to send people for specific things, like optometry, dental assistant, etc, if we can’t find the volunteers interested in coming long-term to open a training program. To sponsor a student costs around $120/month for their stipend. Many students have finished this year, but we still have three medical students (future physicians for our hospitals), one midwife, three future nursing school professors and three nursing students (there is one more, but he should be finishing in a month or two). There are three more nursing students and one more medical student we would love to take on, but are nervous to. We don’t want to make a commitment to them unless we are certain we can follow-thru and see them to the end. To give you an idea, tuition for a year of schooling is typically less than $1000/year (depending on the school and the year in school, plus various other fees).

5.   Women’s health. Danae is so involved with women’s health and the health of their newborns. She has so many ideas, from T-shirts to water bottles to baby outfits to vesico-vaginal fistula repairs to… well, any number of things. You can imagine that baby outfits are less expensive and the months of care to properly repair a fistula is more expensive. Care for a fistula, from beginning to end, can run nearly $400 for a complicated case, which most of them are. Of course, I suppose some of the care packages packed full of baby clothes can probably run close to $400.

6.   Anesthesia. Surgery in other hospitals in Tchad (not at the AHI institutions in Bere and Moundou!) is virtually a death sentence. The doctors were never trained to operate and nobody is trained to give safe anesthesia. We plan on correcting that. We will start training nurse anesthetists from Adventist institutions around Africa starting in June. We have a nurse anesthetist with his doctorate and years of experience in academia arriving in June with his wife and two daughters full-time. The cost of this program is not insignificant and will be ongoing. If anybody has a love for anesthesia and a desire to see the practice evolve in Africa, this is a great opportunity. The cost is roughly $20,000/year to support this family of four. Airline tickets are not cheap. Similarly, there is the opportunity to support nurses from other hospitals to come to Bere for their training. The cost is simply travel and a stipend.

7.   Support a volunteer. We have many potential long-term volunteer candidates who are having trouble coming because they are having trouble finding support. These include dental professionals, midwives, construction workers and engineers, as well as others.

There are many more projects as well, including surgical training programs, etc.

And not to be too blunt, but the most useful donations are for ‘Bere general funds’. We then apply those funds to whatever project has the greatest need.

Every donation we see come in, be it $5 or $25,000, we are immensely grateful for and both humbled and proud that you would entrust us to use your hard-earned money for the Kingdom. And please never think that your donation is too small or ‘only’ a certain amount. I absolutely love the saying, ‘Many small streams make a river.’ It’s so true. The many small donations we receive add up to a large sum that allows us to do so much.

Most of you are probably reading this on Friday night and having nothing else to do, so I’ll take your time and get up on my soapbox now. Give me just a second. Urghh. I think this soapbox might have been higher than last time. Unnnggggg. Oof. I need to work out more. Or at all. Lunge, strain, grunt. I need to stay on my Tchadian diet next annual leave. Ok, whew. Made it up on the soapbox. Took enough effort to get up here, I might as well make the most of it.

Money is important. No money, no mission. Money makes the world go ‘round. Whatever cliche you like. It’s true. But there’s something else that’s needed…

People!!! You can throw all the money in the world at missions, but if there are no people to carry it out, what’s it good for? Don’t get me wrong, not everybody is called to be a missionary overseas. Some are called be home-town missionaries. Others are called to make money to support the missionaries. That’s fine. But there are many who ARE called to be full-time, long-term missionaries. And they are not coming. There might be several reasons why they are not coming. So let me ask you two questions…

Are you called to come overseas as a missionary volunteer?

The church has vowed to open more budgets for overseas missionaries, in fact, to double the number of budgets. This has been a promise for several years now. I don’t know what the reality is, but the appearance is that these budgets only go to administrators and physicians. But there are so many other useful professions! I can turn any profession into a missionary profession!

So self-supporting volunteers are needed. These are individuals who find funding from generous donors to support them as they live frugally and spend wisely while ministering to those in need. This is genuine living by faith, as they are often acting on funds promised, but not yet received. There are no future promises for them except those God has made. These missionaries are often also referred to as supporting missionaries, as they are seen to be supporting the work of the church. Now the next question…

If you are not called to be a long-term self-supporting volunteer, are you called to support a long-term volunteer?

This can be done by a group of people. Think of the groups you are a part of. Sabbath school, church, conference, union, work, gym, social, Bible study, etc. Obviously, the cost of supporting a long-term volunteer is large and ongoing. It is also a titratable cost. It depends on the size of the family and the size of the work they are going to do.

If you’re interested in volunteering long-term, either at our hospital or some other place, please contact us. We love finding a new home for long-term volunteers, no matter what their trade or lack thereof. God can use you in His Fields!!!

Or if you or a group of people are interested in funding a long-term volunteer, please let us know and we will find a volunteer that has need and appeals to you, either at Bere or elsewhere.

Boy, it looks like a long ways down from this soapbox. I think I may just sleep up here.

The Bible doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil. It says, ‘Love of money is the root of all evil’ (Olen Revised Version). Show your holiness and your disdain for money by sending it to us via Adventist Health International! You can find AHI at www.adventisthealthinternational.org. You can pay via credit card or Paypal. Also, if you prefer check or money order, you may make it out to Adventist Health International and send it to:

Bere Adventist Hospital
Adventist Health International
Magan Hall 111
Loma Linda, CA 92350

We also accept donations of salt blocks, chickens, sheep, small antelope and goats, but they need to be delivered locally.

And if you don’t donate now, who knows, maybe our coffers will be full on December 31 and we won’t accept your last-second tax deduction! (Well, we might make an exception just for you.)

Once again, we are very excited that you are a partner with us, no matter what role you play in our mission. If you are reading this, you are our partner.

olen and danae

missionarydoctors.blogspot.com            danae.netteburg@gmail.com

Olen Tigo: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae Tigo: +235 90 19 30 38

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad

Volunteers Welcome!!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Philanthropy Has Feet!

(This is blog the penultimate and number five in the series. Feel free to take a few minutes and scroll to the first blog and read your way up.)

We are often asked, How can I best celebrate National Philanthropy Day tomorrow? Ok, not in so many words. But people love to ask how they can help. Which works out well, because we have needs. Well, I suppose we could continue with the same old, same old, but if we really want to improve, improving involves change. So if you really want to know how you can help and enter into a partnership with us in our ministry in Tchad, get ready…

1.   Continue reading our blog. Looky-there! You’re already helping! You philanthropist, you! Link it on Facebook. Tweet it. Feels good to philanthropize, doesn’t it? (Not to be confused with philander! Way less risky and way more helpful. Also, doesn’t require antibiotics afterward.) Tell people about the work God is doing in Tchad. Don’t tell people about us. It’s truly not about us. You could replace us with any number of people and the work here would continue without a hitch. We are all replaceable. It’s just so humbling that God chooses to use us. What a partnership! Every time we get so caught up with how important and integral we are to spreading God’s Holy Word, we go on vacation and come back to the realization that things actually IMPROVED while we were gone! God can work with ANYBODY!

2.   Pray for us. I bet you can go two for two so far! Who knew being a philanthropist was so easy! And free!!!

3.   Pick a missionary, any missionary. There are a bunch of us, and we’re not all in Tchad. In fact, there are missionaries in whatever country you’re in. Either at home or abroad, adopt a missionary. Maybe as a Sabbath School class, a Bible study group, a school classroom or a school as a whole, a group of colleagues at work, maybe even an entire church, church district, conference, whatever. Adopt a missionary. Send them encouraging emails or even snail mail. Send them a care package.

4.   Visit. Visit us or another mission site. And then imagine, just imagine, what it would be like to be a missionary. It’s stressful, hard, time-consuming and the most rewarding thing you could EVER do with your life. That’s a guarantee. Consider becoming a self-supporting missionary; a missionary or missionary family with a network of people who raise money to pay their travel and living and outreach expenses. Many families are currently doing this. You can too! It’s living by faith at its rawest. It’s intimidating, but amazing.

Ok, the ultimate in our series of Gratitude and Remembrance is tomorrow, National Philanthropy Day!!!

Grateful for Our Hospital

(For those just tuning in, this is the fourth installment of things I’m grateful for this November.)

Boy, with all the stuff we’re thankful for, we haven’t even mentioned the hospital yet! We gotta pay the bills somehow, right?

I’d like to tell you a little bit about how our hospital runs. (Very slowly, because it has no feet! Hahahahahaha! I’m hilarious!)

Ok, seriously, I’d like to tell you how the hospital operates. (It doesn’t, my father-in-law does all the surgery! Ha! I crack myself up!)

Alright, I’ve got my straight face on now:

I’d like to tell you how the hospital functions:

Bere Adventist Hospital is proud to report that we have become financially ‘semi’-independent.

It’s odd to say, but your donations to Bere Adventist Hospital are what have allowed us to gain this independence. The reliance on donations is the ‘semi’ part. Your donations have allowed us to undertake grand projects, improve infrastructure and give us new opportunities to serve the people of Tchad and the surrounding countries. (And in turn, giving us more ways to make money.)

I always imagined missionary hospitals as places providing free care to every patient that walked in the door. But the reality is… We have bills to pay. We have almost fifty employees who depend on their paycheck to care for their families. We need medicine, lab and cleaning supplies, and items for our operating room every day. We have bills. Last year, our bills were over $300,000 for our little bush hospital. This year will be considerably higher.

We earned enough to cover the $300,000+ in expenses from last year. And, barring catastrophe, we will earn enough this year to cover our increasing expenses as well.

To give you a few examples, the hospitalization fee for one week on pediatrics is $3. A doxycycline pill is four cents, while a pill of prednisolone is a penny. A malaria test costs $1.40. A hysterectomy costs $100 (all medications, labs, etc included). These are the patients’ bills that keep us functioning.

If you are not impressed, consider this. We handle all emergencies free of charge. If your child is sick, their initial workup and treatment is free, up to three days. We have never charged for the delivery of a baby, whether vaginal or Cesarean-section. We don’t charge for emergency operations, such as appendectomies, laparotomies, strangulated hernias and many others.

And if you are STILL not impressed, consider this. We even have enough money left over for small projects, such as building an office for our chaplain, a supply building, toilets, etc. Last year, when the our church conference was out of money and couldn’t pay their own salaries, we paid that for them. We also spend several hundred dollars every year on evangelistic efforts. We are proud to be able to help our church.

This financial solvency has always been our goal, and we feel that we have attained it. While we are very sensitive to ensuring patient care remains affordable and accessible to all, dependence on donations to stay afloat is not the ideal and we have avoided that. We are immensely proud. I am also proud of our administrator, Augustin, who deserves much of the credit for this.

However, the improvements we have seen lately in leaps and bounds far surpasses what Bere Adventist Hospital could do on its own in a century. No matter how seriously we take our financial responsibilities, we could never have achieved what we have, were it not for the interventions of extraordinary philanthropy.

It’s your donations that build the patient wards, buy an ultrasound or x-ray machine, pay for shipping containers full of supplies (not to mention organizations like Brother’s Brother Foundation, who just donated 100 pounds of high-quality, mostly new surgical equipment!!!). These are the big project costs the hospital would never have been able to pay for. And it’s these projects which help generate income for the hospital.

The One-Day Project, ASI and Maranatha have generously erected for us these building shells (mentioned in the last blog), and donations from our home church in Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as A Better World-Canada (and Thomas et Sebastian!) are continuing to make it possible to finish the insides. But it’s not just these huge donations that grab our attention. Massive amounts of our support comes in the form of a few dollars here and there. I’m sure there are people wondering if their small donations make a difference. I’m here to say they do!

Not only have the building shells been donated and erected free of charge to the hospital, there have been commitments to pay for part of sidewalks and wall enclosures for the property. So even these ‘side’ projects have been accomplished ahead of schedule and at a heavily discounted price to our wallets.

Through our ongoing projects, we are doing all we can to ensure that Bere Adventist Hospital will continue to be financially responsible and solvent, not to mention medically relevant and capable, for decades to come. This is a place where lives (employees as well as patients and their families) will continue to be changed.

I’m immensely grateful this November for the opportunity I have to serve at Bere Adventist Hospital. We now do more surgeries than any other hospital in the country, to the tune of over 1200 cases/year. In February, when the roads were dry, we averaged over six surgical cases per day, including all weekends and holidays, with only ONE operating room. We turned many people away as we regularly had a backlog of twenty patients waiting for surgery. We now have 10,000 patients passing through our gate each year, most of them accompanied by multiple family members. The opportunities to witness here are immense, humbling and occasionally overwhelming. And I’m so happy to be overwhelmed.

Coming up next…

Philanthropy in Action

olen and danae



Olen Tigo: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae Tigo: +235 90 19 30 38

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad

Volunteers Welcome!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More thanks

Continuing on our themes of Gratitude and Remembrance, I’d be remiss to not remember a few of the specific projects your partnership with us has accomplished, and express my gratitude for it. Actually, I would LOVE to take a few moments of your time to tell you about what’s been going on. I’m very proud of the tiny part we have in the Lord’s work and I sincerely hope you are PROUD of the part you play in the Tchadian mission field as well, because YOU SHOULD BE PROUD!!!
Here’s what your support (be it a prayer, an email, a letter, a comment in passing, a hug, a care package, a moment of volunteering, supporting one of our volunteers, pitching in financially or any number of other means) has allowed us to do:

Our BIG project this year has been construction. It’s been an awesome collaboration of the One-Day Church Project, along with ASI and Maranatha. Before this project, we had three houses, an operating room and three patient wards (OB/surgery, medicine/emergency and pediatrics).

We are ADDING to that nine more houses and a pavilion for expatriates (for YOU when you come visit!), an emergency room waiting area, a pharmacy/cashier/lab building, two private wards, a prenatal consultation and delivery building, a maternity ward, two operating rooms, a public health office, a dental clinic, an outpatient surgical clinic, an intensive care unit, cooking facilities, two sleeping facilities for patients’ families, a meeting room, completely new toileting and bathing facilities and a five-building nursing school. Not to mention planting at least a hundred fruit trees, including more guavas, papayas and mangos than our patients and their families can eat! We can feed everybody!

Can you fathom the change? We’re talking about tripling the square footage of our facility! This is a MASSIVE undertaking. And all of these buildings are already erected except for the nursing school, but we already have those materials and will be erecting them before February.

Just to be a part of this is so humbling. It certainly isn’t on account of anything we have done. We just happened to be the ones guiding the hospital at the time God decided Bere was ready to grow. Fortunate us!!!

Furthermore, we’ve been able to pour sidewalks and enclose large parts of the hospital property with walls.

But I won’t lie, it has been a TON of stress. We thank God for Jamie Parker, who has really been doing the day-to-day gruntwork for over a year now. We pray that God continue to give him health and strength to continue. He is a workhorse.

I can tell you that one of the projects I’m most proud to be a part of is educating young, enthusiastic, energetic, dedicated Adventist Tchadians. This year alone, we are supporting SIXTEEN students through school. Three of them are medical students who will soon be physicians working in our institutions. Three more students are nurses gaining higher degrees to allow them to teach nursing. One is a midwife. Nine more are in other nursing programs. Investing in the future of these young people, their families and in the future of our medical institutions is money I can’t imagine ever regretting spending.

Teskreo, Baikao and their five children are in Yaounde, Cameroon earning their Master’s degrees to teach in our nursing school. Fatime is attending the Adventist University in Cameroon earning a Bachelor’s degree so she can teach in our school as well. Lam Daniel was willing to be a motorcycle taximan at night to help pay his way. Tirmon left home and traveled all the way to Guinea-Conakry to complete medical school. Odei is completing his final year of medical school in Niger with his midwife wife, Rachel. Bruno went to nursing school in Niger. And many others. These students are living on stipends of around $120/month. Can you imagine?

We’ve been blessed by people doing fundraisers. For example, some people at our old hospital in Massachusetts went rock climbing as a fundraiser. Others did a continuing medical education class as a fundraiser.

We received a donation that allowed us to buy puppets to use for children’s Sabbath School and also at the hospital and for public health purposes.

We have also been developing our sister institution, Moundou Adventist Surgical Center, two hours away from Bere. It is being very capably managed by Dr James Appel.

One of the fun activities I’m anticipating to happen later this month is passing out albendazole. Parasites (think worms, yeah, gross) run rampant here and cause all manner of illness, from constipation, bloating and diarrhea to pneumonia to brain infections to abscesses to creepy-crawlies you can see moving under the skin to… well, you name it, parasites can cause it. One of the biggest, or at least broadest, impacts we see here from parasites is malnutrition. These parasites steal all the nutrition from the poor babies’ guts and they can have impressively stunted growth and development.

We have gained verbal permission to travel throughout this district of 200,000 people and treat individuals. We plan to visit as many schools as we can and pop one of these chewable, safe tablets into everybody’s mouths. We also hope to visit churches and do the same thing. One single dose of albendazole can treat many of these parasites.

We have acquired 1,500,000 pills of albendazole at the cost of about six pills per penny! We would love to treat everybody in our district, for free, twice each year for the next two years.

Lastly (for THIS blog), Bere Adventist Hospital has the audacity, with your help, to believe the lives of women and children are worthwhile… and to do something about it! Tchad is routinely named ‘Worst Country in the World to be a Woman’, ‘Worst Country in the World for a Child to Fall Ill’, and at the bottom in terms of maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate and under five years of age mortality rate. The numbers are astounding and appalling.

We have gone on the radio to speak repeatedly about violence (both sexual and non-sexual) against women. It is regularly part of our education for our staff and our public health education. We do the same to advocate for breastfeeding in a place where nobody can afford formula and the only alternative is unclean water. We have even designed and purchased pink T-shirts advocating breastfeeding and passed them out to all healthcare workers and politicians in the area. There’s nothing like seeing the highest-ranking government official in your hyper-paternal society proudly strutting around in a pink breastfeeding T-shirt! We also supported the local women on National Women’s Day in the same manner.

We have had much help from the US providing ‘bribes’ for women. If they deliver at our hospital and breastfeed only and listen to our tirades against violence and malnutrition, we provide them with baby hats, blankets, socks, clothes and water bottles. (The water bottles are for the mother, not the baby!!!)

We also have developed grief kits for women who lose their babies at birth here. It consists of a picture of Jesus’ triumphant return and a card with their baby’s footprints, plus an angel, all in a ziplock bag.

We have received a donation for a fund to pay for children’s medical care. Families who can’t pay for their child’s care can now receive free care at our hospital.

A final challenge we face along the lines of women’s care is that of fistulas. Women often are left to labor at home in a hot, dark mud hut with an untrained traditional birth attendant. Due to prolonged labor, the tissue between the bladder and the vagina is pushed on by the baby’s head long enough and hard enough that it dies. When it heals, it heals with an open tract between the bladder and the vagina, so urine continually leaks from the woman’s vagina. She stinks of urine. She then becomes an outcast; unfed and poor. These women are beginning to trickle (poor word choice) into our hospital for surgery. The surgery is incredibly challenging, occasionally requiring closure in multiple stages (multiple surgeries). We perform all the surgeries for free, as the woman’s husband and family will not support them. In addition, due to not being fed, the women arrive in poor health and can require months of ‘fattening up’ to make them fit for surgery.

I hope you feel a sense of pride reading through these triumphs. These accomplishments were possible with your various means of supporting us. This is just a pathetic beginning to try and express the gratitude I have for this opportunity to represent you in service to the people here in Tchad.

I have a thankful heart. I’m not done yet! We’ll be back soon with more about what we have to be thankful for, specifically at our hospital.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Giving Thanks

(Some of you may have heard via Facebook or other means that Zane is sick. He has malaria again, as does Lyol. Lyol seems to be doing quite well, as he always does. Zane, however, was acting frighteningly as he did in June, when he seized. He was febrile, vomiting and lethargic. After Danae left to teach Sabbath School in a village church some distance away, I moved Zane and his favorite stuffed animal and his blanket out under the fan. I laboriously got him to take some Tylenol and Motrin. Then I got a washcloth, laid down beside his still form and started wiping him down to cool him off. With every twitch of his restless dreams, I would wonder if he was starting another seizure. I developed the hyper-vigilance of PTSD. I couldn’t get him to wake up and drink any fluids. He was virtually unresponsive for over an hour, although he never seized and breathed fine the entire time. We put out the word on Facebook that Zane was sick. Immediately, despite it being 5AM in America, there were people praying for my little boy. While I had developed a sense of franticness and utter helplessness flashing back to June, I learned of the amassing community presenting my son to the Lord on their knees. And although I’m sad to say that I still lacked a bit of faith and calm, a creeping sense of peace came to me. And at 10:30AM, he sat up, drank some fluids and started talking. His Nana came to watch him and I went to church to translate the sermon. When I came home, he met me at the door, laughing at whatever it is two-year-olds laugh at. He still isn’t well. He drooped in the afternoon and had a long nap and then fussed pretty well when his Tylenol and Motrin wore off, but he seems to have turned a corner. Praise God.)

In gratitude and humility, I’d love to take this chance to explain what some of you have been doing in Tchad this year, whether or not you knew it! With apologies, we often get caught up in the rush of what we do here and we forget to thank those who make it possible.

First of all, thanks to every one of you reading these words. As we’ve stated in the past, this blog gives us an opportunity to be honest that no other media offers. And you reading it gives us a deeper sense of connection, meaning, and is drastically cheaper and more convenient than a therapist. When we hear of our blog address being passed around the web and reaching people we never knew, we are awed. Thank you. With humble gratitude, I am remembering you today.

We also would be doing ourselves a disservice not to thank you for your prayers. They are awesome. We often feel a sense of being lifted up in prayer. We see miracles happen. I imagine the angels in Heaven holding shut the doors of a bulging silo. Suddenly, with a simple prayer for blessings, they let the doors fly open and the blessings pour out. What you do for us while you are on your knees in prayer… you’ll never know their results in this life, but we feel it here. We covet your prayers. Keep them coming. Thank you. With prayerful gratitude, I am remembering you all in a very special way this month.

Many of you write us emails, letters and blog comments of encouragement. You have no idea how these can fall like manna from Heaven, spaced at intervals exactly when we need it. Life as a missionary is not all sunshine, sparkles and rainbows. We can have very low lows. Partly from how intense the daily spiritual battle is, partly from the incomprehensible and indescribable depth of suffering around us, partly from the physical environments and health challenges, and partly from the sense of isolation we can have. An encouraging email can turn a bad day around. And these come from around the world. Marko’s encouragement and Dirk’s thoughts from Germany or Nicole’s quotes from America to… I could go on and on… they are so uplifting. And then the messages we get from Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Romania, Brazil… around the world… are just shocking. I sometimes wonder if there is somebody praying for us 24 hours/day with the encouragement we receive from around the globe. Thank you. With e-gratitude (or iGratitude, if you wrote the email from a Mac), I remember you every time I turn on the computer.

Some people even go so far as to send us care packages. I can tell you, a good care package will be talked about for weeks, if not months, afterward. And it’s not just the children who talk. Junk food comes from ex-missionaries who know the market. The world’s greatest jams come from Montana, I’ve learned. Letters come from high schools. Cookie cutters come from friends. It’s amazing and humbling the personal thought and time that goes into these. It goes neither unnoticed nor unappreciated. Thank you. With fattening gratitude (and a watchful eye on the lookout for my nosy children and/or wife), I think of you every time I swipe a candy from the bug-proof tupperware bucket!

And we get the occasional volunteer here as well, offering their time for the betterment of us and the people we serve. But we remember that it’s not only the volunteer who sacrifices, it’s also the families who go without their loved ones during their stay. It’s the bosses who provide the time off. It’s the coworkers who pick up the slack. It’s the churches who provide the financial support. Don’t think for a second that your sacrifices go unnoticed. We fully recognize that it takes a village to send a missionary volunteer. Tammy may be the one passing out baby formula, but it’s the church members in Tennessee who give her the means. Greg might be performing a Cesarean-section, but it’s his wife in Oregon sending him the daily emails of encouragement. Scott might be setting a broken leg, but it’s his kids who are lifting him up in prayer. Anne may be giving my nurses their first lecture in physical therapy, but it’s her coworkers picking up the slack in Canada to make it possible. Ross might be the one out doing all the heavy construction work in the heat, but it’s the student missions office at Andrews that helped get his paperwork through so he could come. Marci may have been the one leading the parade for our Project 21 public health outreach, but it’s her husband who lent a listening ear when she needed it at 2AM his time (and he paid the phone bill too!). It may have been Mayline brightening every room she entered with her smile, but it was her family coming to visit her halfway through her year that buoyed her spirits when she needed it. It may have been Roland from Romania, Bronwyn from Britain and South Africa, Ajayeoba from Nigeria or any number of others serving the least of these, but it was the people thousands of miles away that provided the opportunity. Our lives would be worse had it not been for the crossing of paths with the many more volunteers that have lived and worked along side us. With collegial gratitude, I am remembering you and what you did for us during your duration here.

And it may have been Minnie who sacrificed her life while ministering to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of both the missionaries and the Tchadians, but it was her family who supported her in so many ways both before and during her stay here. They knew she felt a calling and they knew the risk. And they committed her to the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and all-loving care of the Father. And when she died tragically, it was her family, the Pardillos in the Philippines, who lifted us up, when it should have been the other way around. With eternal gratitude, I will always remember Minnie and her amazing family.

With all the gratitude and remembrance and thanks going around, this blog has become quite lengthy. But it’s healthy and refreshing (better than a cucumber facial!), isn’t it? We’re not all doom and gloom in Bere (so long as our kids are healthy). We’ll continue in the next few days with more ways in which you are changing the lives of the missionaries in Bere and the people they serve.

(And one more thing I’m thankful for: Bears over Packers.)

olen and danae


Olen Tigo: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae Tigo: +235 90 19 30 38

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad

Volunteers Welcome!!!

Friday, November 8, 2013


November. It’s not just for Turkey anymore!

When you think about November, what do you think about? If you’re anything like me, you think about a huge Thanksgiving spread. I think about going to Joni Pitton’s house and watching football and loosening my belt several notches. Then going back for thirds and fourths on dessert. Then going around to see the various family and friends in different rooms of the house, some watching the first Christmas movies of the season (which personally I think should be illegal until December 1, but that’s just my Scrooge-y nature), others playing games, most just chatting and enjoying the company.

These memories make me thankful for all I’ve been blessed with. I hope you can relate.

But did you know that Thanksgiving is not the only day in November set aside for remembrance and gratitude?

For my Canadian friends (both of them), November 11 is Remembrance Day to honor those who gave their lives in World War I and World War II.

Remembrance Sunday is essentially the same holiday in the UK and across Europe, the Sunday nearest November 11, to remember those lost in conflicts. Red poppies dot the lapels of coats everywhere to commemorate their sacrifice.

And November 15 is National Philanthropy Day, a holiday enacted by Ronald Reagan to recognize the good nonprofits do.

So what are you grateful for? What are you remembering? Feel free to post in the comments section. Let’s start of November the right way.

I’ll go first:

I would like to remember you. You are important to me. You read my blog. You give me a sense of connectedness and meaning when isolation and depression come knocking. The knowledge that you are reading our blog (and maybe even telling your friends about what the Lord is doing in Tchad), that you find it worthwhile and worthy of your time leaves me awestruck.

I would like to thank you for your Philanthropy, your voluntary service for the public good.

I’m remembering you for entrusting to us your Philanthropy, be it your time, your prayers, your money, your care packages, your words of encouragement, your hugs and occasionally even your tears. It keeps us here, laboring in His Fields. It honors and humbles us. From the ground, I can tell you that what you do for us makes a difference. You are teamed up with us in a partnership of ministry to the people of Tchad.

We could not do it alone, so I remember you this November. And I thank you.

Over the course of the next week or so, I will daily (or nearly-daily) be taking the opportunity to remember some of you more specifically. I’m excited and proud of what has been going on here and would love to share with you specific ways in which you have helped our hospital witness to the people of Tchad. In upcoming blogs, I will mention some of you by name, by anonymous deed or by generalization. You are making a difference in Tchad.

If you read this blog, you are already precious to me. And I remember you.
olen and danae



Olen Tigo: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae Tigo: +235 90 19 30 38

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad

Volunteers Welcome!!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Addison Noel

You. Are. Awesome. I am so in love with you.

You’re brothers were cute, but you take the cake. Honestly, going through newborn pictures of other kids on Facebook recently had kinda freaked me out with the renewed realization that all newborns are ugly. It’s an unfortunate reality. However fortunately, newborns make up for their ugliness with endearing tricks, such as crying all night long, stealing wives from their husbands, and pooping in their pants (and occasionally shirts, hair and even mouth), not to mention the uncanny ability to hold their urine for possibly days before letting fly all over my new shirt with a stream that could extinguish dante’s inferno. It’s these activities and behaviors which convince parents to continue caring for the screaming and defecating piles of protoplasm until they eventually become actual human beings.

I’ll pick up the story with vomiting. Not yours (which you’ve already done), but mine.

In the evangelical mission headquarters in N’Djamena, I started to get fevers the day before our flight left back to the US to have you. I took Coartem… and vomited it. I took Fansidar… and vomited it. I went to a four-hour Adventist Health International meeting, which I had to chair, and didn’t vomit. Then I went back to our room at the mission, took Malarone… and vomited it.

Your mother let me know her utter disappointment in me after she discovered my evil plan to time my illness to coincide with travel on an airplane. She also called in a nurse who happened to be on vacation in N’Djamena to come and start IV quinine on me in the middle of the night. The next day, I got my second dose of IV quinine about 20 minutes before arriving at the airport.

But we made it back. I preached two days after getting back (and made Mom very angry again when I stopped my quinine early so I’d be able to preach), then we took off for a great ten days in Massachusetts with your aunt, uncle and cousins. We were waiting every day for your arrival, staying close to Baystate Medical Center, where we wanted you to be delivered. With all the preterm contractions your mother had in Tchad (or at least that was her reason given for staying home and making me round on maternity), we were sure you’d be coming early.

After ten days of nothing doing in the Berkshires, we rented a condo in Palmer for another ten days, now closer to Baystate. We spent those ten days being graciously and generously fed by old friends in the area from work, church and other connections. It was wonderful. But we were getting really anxious for your arrival! We had both been getting baby-antsy (and more specifically, girl-antsy) for months now!

So we finally went for broke. We got a room at the Sheraton in downtown Springfield, right next to the hospital. And it was a NICE room. In fact, your mother was just commenting on how comfortable the bed was, our very first night in this comfortable bed, more comfortable than any bed we had ever lain in before, when she started having contractions. Roughly 1am.

I dropped your brothers off with some friends on the off chance things would progress. At 2:30am, your mother soiled the sheets of room 817 (bed on the right, should you be unlucky enough to find yourself there) with a gush of amniotic fluid. (And I would really recommend that you wear your shoes in that room, just to be on the safe side.)

So we went to the hospital and got into a bed at 3:40am. At 4am, you were born. It was weird. I’ve watched the birth of two of my children already. This started very detached. Just another kid. Just another delivery where your mother makes me sit silently in the corner of the room, not allowed to make eye contact with her. Not dissimilar to Saturday nights.

I first caught a glimpse of the top of your head and was impressed with how non-wrinkly it was. And your head wasn’t coned like a newborn. And then your face came out. Chubby cheeked and perfect. Most beautiful baby ever. At least the most beautiful baby since June 25, 2011.

20 inches, 7lb 15.5oz of pure goodness.

Then I did something very un-Olen-like. I went out shopping for you. I went and bought you stuff. Stuff you didn’t need, but I wanted to get you. It was awesome.

This evening, I realized that you were just lying by yourself in your crib. That wasn’t right. You’re way too cute for that. So I picked you up and carried you for as long as I could, until I had to take your brothers to the hotel. Your cheeks are so unbelievably soft and nuzzly. I don’t want them to change.

We had planned a trip to Hawaii. Carrying you around and looking at your face, I realized that I don’t care where we go on vacation this year. I won’t even notice. I’ll be looking at you.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Birthday to Zane! 

Zane is 2 years old!

Two years ago, on June 25, we were driving from Washington, DC to Massachusetts to deliver. Stupid 6 hour drive I know. Well, we didn’t make it, and Zane decided to come at a random stop in New Jersey!

Turns out my labor was faster than most of my patients I know.

Well, he is turning into quite the intelligent young man. But along with his intelligence is his goofy self too. Which makes him all the more lovable!

His favorite word is “no!” His favorite non-family member is Mahamat our guard, who always picks him up to get mangos or guavas, or maybe even a leaf from the mango tree. Zane loves his cat, Thor, and picks him up even though he is almost half Zane’s size now. His favorite toy is a ball, in any form.

He has a precise way of communicating. He starts off the first part of his sentence in a normal voice volume, then finishes the sentence with a whisper. We’re hoping he stops this by the time he turns 18 and goes on dates.

“I want (in a normal voice) water (in a whisper).”

Not THAT much has changed since Zane’s birth. His favorite outfit is still his birthday suit! Of course who could blame him in the heat of Tchad!

Right now he is trying to jump rope with Daddy. In his birthday suit of course. Zane, not Daddy!

We are very thankful to have Zane a part of our lives! Thank you to all of those who continue to pray for our little missionary.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Potty Training

(Olen’s notes in bold italics)

First of all, we’d like to thank all but three of you for your encouraging words and prayers while Zane was crucially sick from his rapid onset of malaria.  It is very frightful to consider that in five hours, less than the length of one night’s sleep, he went from healthy to seizing.  And while on prophylaxis too.  We are very thankful that he has made a full recovery.  We certainly do not take his healing for granted or make light of how sick he was and could be again.  But he is now done with 2 days of IV quinine and 5 days of oral quinine.  And back to his normal self.  

Except for one thing.  

He is constantly saying pee-pee and ca-ca now.  And actually doing the pee-peeing and ca-caing deed in the proper holes, not in his pants (or on the rug, on the couch, in his high chair, on his plate, on the dog, etc)!  He has not had a wet or poopy diaper since his third day of treatment (except when he’s sleeping, but we don’t count that).  The connection in his brain has finally been made!  

So we’re going to write a book called, “How to potty train your almost 2 year old; a non-homeopathic method.”  Guaranteed best-seller.  New York Times, here we come.  

No, we don’t recommend Malaria.  We’d rather change ten more years of poopy diapers than watch our son seize again.  

But after Zane recovered, the continued IV fluids made him need to go pee-pee more often and with more passion and urgency than an excited Cocker Spaniel with a urinary tract infection watching his master come home after a prolonged absence.  And… with the extra practice of spraying out the crack between the toilet bowl and the toilet seat, thereby soaking whichever parent happened to be standing in front of him, he somehow got the hang of it to go to the toilet.  

And voila!  Now he’s going both pee-pee and ca-ca on (or occasionally beside, behind, in front of, over the top of, on the wall next to, in the general vicinity of, with the accuracy of a melted Chinese sprinkler) the toilet every time he needs to go.  

So, our recommendation:  Hook your kid up to IV fluids when you’re ready to chase after the little guy/gal and get up every five seconds to bring the human geyser child to the toilet whenever they ask.  

Either that or lots and lots of juice mixed up with a little Lasix.  Kidding.  

As a side note:  Olen also has malaria.  Just started the meds tonight.  FYI:  This has nothing to do with potty training. He’s already mostly trained.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Not Mine

There is a certain shade of blue I know very well. All too well. It’s an icy blue. It’s cold. I’ve seen it many times in my career. The first time I saw it was fulfilling a pathology requirement in medical school. And I’ve seen it over and over in the Emergency Department. And it’s a color I hate.

It’s always associated with purple lips and cold skin, like you might see on somebody’s grandparents in the funeral home.

It’s the blue of death.

Zane, June 5, 2013, is a day I will never forget. You were that shade of blue. Your lips were purple. Your flesh had the feel of death. You did not breathe. I could not find your heartbeat.

We had decided to take a family getaway from Bere to the big city of Moundou, visiting James and Sarah Appel, and their children Miriam and Noah. Miriam’s twin, Adam, died a year and a half ago from malaria. I remember holding him as he died, turning that awful shade of blue.

Along with us were Mommy, Lyol, Gamma, Wendy and Cherise. Wendy and Gary lost their own little boy to malaria too.

You had woken up happy and eaten a good breakfast. You played and slept on the way to Moundou.

Then, about 11am, while shopping in a hardware store, you became even sleepier. And you started vomiting. And you vomited repeatedly. And you felt hot.

By 1pm, we had IV quinine pumping through your veins, that poisonous medicine that is so effective at curing malaria.

And still, you wouldn’t wake up.

For hours, I sat by your side and watched you, baffled how you got so sick, so fast. Your breathing was rapid, in the 80s; your heart rate was high, in the 180s. And you slept.

Was it sleeping, or being unconscious?

Just before 5pm, less than six hours after you gave us your very first sign of being sick, less than the time it takes to fly across the Atlantic, I noticed your little, tiny twitches. It didn’t look like malaria seizures. It jumped around. A twitch in this finger. A twitch in that leg. Almost like the twitches when you fall asleep.

And then the twitches started to progress.

James came home. Mommy came home.

And then you started vomiting some more.

We got a blood sugar. It was 298. You weren’t hypoglycemic. You were stressed.

We got a hemoglobin. It was 9. Low for a child, but not critical. You were anemic.

And then you seized.

You started crying inconsolably. I held you. I talked to you. I told you it would be ok. I told you I was sorry. I hoped and prayed you understood how much you were loved.

You stopped crying. Your eyes rolled up in the back of your head. Your entire body shook and jerked violently.

It may have been one minute, it may have been ten minutes. It felt like all 712 days since your birth passed before my eyes. The 712 days since I first held you, a swaddled, sleeping bundle with little dots on your nose. And it felt like your entire future, created long ago in my mind to usurp my own future, was being actively and cruelly cut down to mere moments.

You turned blue. That evil blue.

Your lips turned purple.

You stopped breathing.

I couldn’t find your heart rate.

And I broke. I begged you to come back.

Zane, your Daddy had no idea what to do. I had lost you. I, who pride myself on never getting worked up in a crisis. I froze, broken, shattered to pieces. It felt like my heart had been strewn around the world, a million pieces that would never be fit back together.

All that played through my head was James telling me the morning his son died, ‘Adam just seized, stopped breathing and died.’ And only yesterday would have been the eighth birthday of Caleb Roberts, had he not died from the same disease. June 10 will be the fourth anniversary of his death.

But I wasn’t ready to give up on you, Zane. I did the only thing I could think of.

I gave up on me. And I gave you up.

While you were blue, I gave you up. You are no longer my son. I relinquished any and all rights I have concerning you.

In that moment, I told God that you were His. I could not fix you. I had done everything perfectly, and you were dying, if not already dead. I could not protect my own son. And I could not handle losing a son to death. So I gave you to God.  I told God that if He was going to take care of His son, He’d better start doing something.

The next moment, your jaw started to unclench. You started to grind your teeth. Saliva started coming out of your mouth, frothing it’s way to freedom in a marginal sign of life.

And you finally breathed.

And the blue, that awful hard pale blue of death, started to fade from your face, slowly to be replaced by a softer pink. The purple in your lips gave way to a rosier sign of life.

You became a more beautiful version of yourself than you had ever been. More precious still. I stroked your long, light, perfectly-disheveled hair. I touched your nose. I reminisced about what your eyes would look like behind those lids. I found once again your lone freckle on your chest. I opened your mouth to stare at your crooked tooth. I rediscovered how magnificently created you are.

Figuring you had had a febrile seizure and wanting to prevent any further damage, we dumped ice water on you and gave you several Tylenol suppositories. We gave you normal saline to correct any possible hyponatremia.

By the time we finally got around to taking a temperature, you were still over 104 degrees, despite everything.

Very slowly, over the next several hours, your breathing got better and your fever abated. Finally, around 3am, roughly 16 hours since you had last spoken, you opened your eyes and asked cautiously for your Mommy.

Probably your last memory had been in a car during the morning. Now you were awakening in the middle of the night in a strange house with Mommy and me hovering over you, staring.

Mommy and I eagerly started grilling you on members of your family, body parts, anything that could help us know your brain still worked. You responded appropriately, and we prayed a prayer of praise that you had come through unscathed.

And you ate for the first time in almost 24 hours.

After that, you were so tired, you just fell asleep again. 

And we prayed that the next six days of treatment might go better than the first six hours.

Zane, malaria and seizures are common together. I see them all the time in pediatrics. And I’ve seen that only about half of those cases, those children leave the hospital breathing through non-purple lips. In the last four years, the Adventist missionary community in Tchad has lost Caleb, Adam, Minnie and numerous local Tchadians near and dear to us, all on account of malaria. This is why we treat malaria so aggressively. Zane, don’t be the next to succumb to this infuriating disease which would be rapidly eradicated, should it be endemic in America in 2013.

When you’re older, don’t ask me why I brought you here. Don’t ask me what I would do if I knew I was bringing my son into a place where he would be staring down 50/50 odds of survival. I won’t know how to answer that. Am I selfish?

There’s a certain community of missionaries that have lost family members while serving in the mission field. I do not want to join that community. And all those who have lost loved ones while in the mission field… they don’t want to have their numbers added to either.

I caught a glimpse of the pain a parent experiences losing a child. I thought I had lost you, Zane. But I can never lose you again.

You are no longer mine to lose, although I love you more than I ever have.

You have a better Daddy now.