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.

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