Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Year-In-Review

Year-End Wrap

Well, it’s December, time for a little 2015 year-in-review.

We kicked off January, our busiest time of year, with the implementation of an electronic medical record. I think I have a whole separate blog about this, but it’s truly incredible. Thanks to several volunteers (Dirk Wunderlich, Zachri Jensen and Adrian Sarli, and a few others too), we took our hospital from majority-of-employees-have-never-touched-a-computer to 100% implementation of an electronic medical record of orders of all medications, lab tests, imaging and surgery in less than two months. We currently track all inventory and most finances with it. We have discovered stealing in the pharmacy with this system and have fired the responsible parties. The simple fact this exists in a place where no school has a computer, where there is no library, where we are 25 miles from pavement, where there is no electric grid besides our generator, where nobody has running water in their home… It’s absolutely amazing. We even use our new network to broadcast evangelistic videos to our patients (and neighbors!) in our waiting area. And it never would have happened without Dirk and Zachri. (And it wouldn’t have gotten to the next level without Adrian.) 

Which brings us to the medical stuff. We will probably have registered 18,000 patients into our electronic medical record system by December 31. We started on January 24, our busiest time, so we will have seen close to 20,000 unique patients in a year. This is a testament to our volunteers, our support, our staff, and our God. We wish you could see the patients we treat every day. I promise volunteers they will see something new every single day they are here. Probably one of the coolest this year was a 17.4kg ovary Danae and Rollin removed. Amazing. We have a blog post on that too!

We are also actively involved in public health, thanks to Charis McClarty, who is no longer with us (She’s not dead, just her time had come. Well, that doesn’t sound better. Her term was up. She’s healthy in America. Don’t worry.) and Zach Gately, who’s still with us (He’s alive too.). These two were/are amazing. They expanded Project 21 from being the 21 neighborhoods of Bere to being the entire 200,000 habitant district of Bere! They take motorcycles out to all the surrounding villages and putting on health lectures. They are also pulling teeth and… There’s just no way I can tell you all of it. It’s an overwhelming list. One of the coolest things they do in my opinion is arrange mobile clinics. We load up the truck with nurses and go out into the villages. It’s insane how many people show up, a total zoo. We will consult on hundreds of patients in a couple hours, until it’s too dark to continue. We will take the ultrasound and do those for free. We refer patients to the local health center for their medications. And we take the acute cases back home. It’s so cool, I just can’t describe it. The last one I went on, I jumped into the back of the truck and all the kids (and adults) came around and we had a quiz on Genesis. It’s really neat because the Muslims have essentially the same knowledge of the book of Genesis (even including the genealogy of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph). We also received a donation of Albendazole, a deworming medication. We paid a couple thousand dollars for the import tax and received millions of pills (literally). We have dewormed all the schools in the district and pass them out for free at all the mobile clinics. We hope to soon give them out for free at all the churches and mosques too. When the government came through our district and did their studies looking for worms, we were the only district in the country where they found none of the typical worms!!! The local authorities give us credit for that. And we give you credit for that.

Along the lines of public service, in partnership with Restore a Child, we have also started projects to raise goats and chickens for patients and their families and the community. To be honest, it fed a few and then petered out, mostly because we didn’t have anybody reliable to oversee the project. Also, we had a bird flu of some sort take out the chickens. There are still some goats alive and reproducing, but we honestly don’t have the infrastructure to ensure it continues its success. We did plant a bunch of trees. Some died and some are growing slowly. Some trees Maranatha had planted earlier are already giving papayas and guavas and mangos and peanuts and corn and other things. It’s really fun to walk over to the pediatric ward and hand out these foods to the hospitalized children! I wish you could be here to see the gratefulness!

Our public health branch is also operating the nutrition center. Thanks to the services of Zach and Charis and the Macombers and Mike and Chris, the nutrition center was able to serve loads of kids. Unfortunately, we will be losing Mike and Chris, the real leaders who went to visit these kids in their home villages and changed entire families. They will be missed by us and by the people they serve. That’s a couple with huge hearts.

Around the hospital, we have slowly continued our construction. We’re still really hurting from Jamie’s absence. God and family called the Parkers back to America last year and boy are we missing ! But we creep along. We have slowly put walls up in our new buildings, as well as doors and layers of paint, thanks to your generosity and the labor of some volunteers (Thanks, Miki!).

We trained four nurses in anesthesia this year. I say we, but it was really Mason. Unfortunately, we lost the Mason and his family this year too. Real life called them back to America, but their hearts will always be for missions, no matter where they are. The number of people they touched in just over a year is extraordinary. Their stay here with us was also funded by donations. Donor money is responsible for four well-trained anesthetists covering two (and soon to be three) hospitals in Tchad, providing much safer surgical care.

Speaking of training, donors have sent 17 students to training last year. Three are in Master’s of Nursing programs. Three are in medical school (and a fourth and fifth are approved). The balance are in nursing school. And speaking of nursing school, we are hoping our nursing school can be opened this next year. We would still ideally have a Francophone nurse practitioner to head it up, but we will work with who we have. There is really only one quality nursing school in Tchad, and it simply cannot generate enough graduates to keep up with demand in the country. This will be the big game-changer. And eventually we see it branching out to offer anesthesia and midwifery training, as well as other specialties.

I also had the opportunity to visit a lot of our sister hospitals and clinics in Cameroon, and the nursing school there too. Boy, were they ever inspirational. Great stuff is going on in the world and it’s so thrilling to be a small part of it.

Our biggest reason for existing is showing the world the love of our God. And we try to be active in that too. The Adventist volunteers in Bere are operating nine Sabbath Schools. This takes a lot of energy. Many people do two Sabbath Schools each Sabbath. Motorcycling on the edge of the Sahel to tell people about Jesus is really exciting stuff, and even though we are tired, it’s usually the highlight of our week. Telling Bible stories, singing and dancing, high-fiving. It’s just awesome. Something everybody should be able to experience. And perhaps the most exciting part is we have some local Adventists who go with us and can tell the Bible stories in the native tongue without translation. In fact, often they will go out by themselves on Sabbath, and even during the week, to tell these Bible stories and sing these songs about God. All we do is loan them the motorcycle. It’s really exciting when the Muslims stop by and realize how many of the same Bible stories we share!

The year hasn’t been entirely without challenges. We have had many bombings in Tchad, thanks to our local terrorist group, Boko Haram. They don’t get as much publicity, but Boko Haram has actually killed more people this year than ISIS/ISIL. This causes much angst among our family and friends. Which kinda does make us feel loved and cared for. However, Boko Haram headquarters is quite a ways away. They would need to cross multiple borders and police checkpoints to get to us. So far, all their strikes have been in the capital, 6-8 hours north of us, or in the lake region, which is even farther still. While it’s true somebody could come and kill us, I think recent events in America have shown us that can happen anywhere. The only way to truly be safe, is to be where God wants you. And we feel very strongly God still wants us in Tchad.

There was a stretch, however, that had us questioning that. In early September, the American State Department put out a warning encouraging all Americans to evacuate the country. We decided to comply with the state department and the General Conference and evacuated everyone but myself and James Appel, who would keep the Adventist Surgical Center of Moundou running. Finally, in mid October, it was agreed that necessary personnel could return. The very next week, Rollin and Dolores came back to Bere so I could head back to America for…


We have a new BABY!!! November 8, Juniper Belle Netteburg was born.

And that makes 2015, a VERY good year.

(What follows are a TON of pictures from 2015. People who have been to Bere might recognize some places and faces of locals and volunteers. All these pictures are incredibly self-indulgent. But you know what? It's my blog and I can do what I want!)

(Second parenthetical remark: The photos at the end of Juniper were taken by an incredible photographer Denise Feagans. Checker her out at


  1. Thanks for the pictures and the update! I wish I did recognize something in the pictures! A lot has changed since I was there in 07-08! Bon Ane!

  2. Love the family and newborn photos. Priceless!

  3. Have followed your blog since Janna W. spent time with you. Really fine honest commentary on mission life. From family who also were called, I appreciate the real challenges and the wonderful contributions you are both making. God bless you always. Joelle(sister to Janna's grandfather)

  4. Vous êtes si loin de chez vous, si proche de chez nous.Je vous regarde et ne peux m’empêcher d’avoir de l’admiration pour vous et de la peine pour nous; Il est temps que nous nous réveillons et nous abandonnons ENTIÈREMENT à l’ETERNEL. Peut etre prendra t’il pitie de nous et donnera de prendre part à son service comme il le fait avec vous.

    Be bless Danae, Olen, your children, Naomie, Nagodé, and all the staff.