Saturday, January 28, 2017

Unmentionables... mentioned

The Curse

How do you know when you are being offensive?  I would be comfortable with saying most anything to someone in person.  You can’t really offend me by what you say.  I mean, I talk about sex and vaginas all day long with strangers.  It’s my job.  Now get me in front of a crowd and that’s a different story.  Olen… he’s a whole other story.  He can say most anything to anyone and NEVER BE EMBARRASSED!!  Add this to the fact we have been on our own in rural Africa for the last 6+ years, and… well, we might not be the most conventional at social conversation.  Our filters are pretty unrefined.

So this last summer we had the honor of being invited to speak at New Market Camp Meeting.  We had the privilege of gaining a whole new group of friends there.  There is a group of ladies in Virginia with a passion for others.  Those ladies became so close to my heart.  They wanted a sewing project for the women of Bere, Tchad, something that could help young women feel more connected with our church.  And they wanted to find a way to help young women stay in school.  The suggestion was made to create homemade menstrual kits.  Boom!  These ladies were on it!  They were crazy on it!  They were stronger than the Red Army!  They were off and surfing on the crimson wave!

All girls are plagued with an annoying period.  Tchadian, American, Martian, doesn’t matter.  (Well, I don’t actually know if Martian girls have periods or not.)  If it were up to me, I would just put them all on Depo-Provera injections that would make a lot of them not ever even have the painters in.  But, some women don’t feel womanly if they don’t menstruate (for reasons that bewilder me), so my plan doesn’t work.

We do not have the nicest facilities at our schools here in Chad.  Pit toilets.  No running water.  Not the easiest thing to clean up with when Aunt Flo decides to drop by for her monthly visit.  Girls typically have a string around their waist and tie a strip of cloth from front to back to collect the blood.  Over that, they rarely have underwear.  Often just a yard of fabric they tie around their waist as a rudimentary skirt, occasionally with a lose pair of baggy shorts underneath.  Girls are often embarrassed to step out of class if they need to change or adjust themselves.  Or the dilemma of what to do with the soiled cloth.  Or how to wash up.  Or the embarrassment of bleeding through the cloth and onto their skirt.  So oftentimes the girls will just stay at home.  They miss education.  The cycle of being inferior to men continues.  Everyone loses.

Well this project changes everything.  New Market women to the rescue!  My new New Market friends sewed cool, fancy pads!  They made care packages of nice bags with Bible verses printed on them, a ziplock bag (to keep things dry and clean), a washcloth, several pair of underwear, a bar of soap and several of the most awesome sanitary napkins the world has ever seen, sewn from bright and durable cloth!  Our girls can now go to school or the market or work or wherever they want, any time of the month they want, and discretely change pads as they need, go home and wash them, hang out the beautifully designed pads to dry and voila!  Good to go for next month!

We have the most remarkable unmentionables in the country! (If that’s not an oxymoron.)

Today was the day I got to distribute the second half of these packets.  A gaggle of young ladies from church and community came.  We passed out the kits.  We explained them.  The ladies were so incredibly grateful.  And we had time to talk about the birds and the bees.  We laughed.  We giggled.  We even had some question time about that time of the month.

What a fun evening to connect with our young girls!  How I wish our New Market friends could have been here.

There was just one tiny problem.  I ran out of kits!  They love them so much and insisted I pass along a big Thank You!!!

At camp meeting we weren’t exactly allowed to call the project anything that might offend a man or child. So we called it the “Women’s Project”. That’s the polite way to do things.  Apparently “Vaginal Bleeding Collection System Project” was already taken.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Motorcycle Gangs

Ever heard of Hell’s Angels? The group of motorcyclists who… well, anyway… Heard of them?

Well, we started a little motorcycle gang of our own… with your help… and here’s the story:

We’ve been here for over six years now. Some other missionaries here, mostly Jonathan and Melody Dietrich and Gary and Wendy Roberts and others still, started ‘Bush Churches’ or ‘Branch Sabbath Schools’. On any typical Sabbath morning, we would hop on a motorcycle and drive out to one of the surrounding villages and meet, sometimes under a tree, sometimes under and metal hangar, and tell Bible stories and sing and pray. And a couple of these places now have over 20 baptized members meeting each week and have built churches for their services. And one of these brand new churches is even going to their neighboring villages to have evangelistic meetings!

A few years ago, we were flush with volunteers eager to be involved in this work. We could cover all our bush churches, Delbian, Guissa, Dabgue, Bendele and Broum Toussou. So one Sabbath morning we loaded up our motorcycle and took off to have some church alone as a family. But on the way home, we stopped in the village of Nangere and threw a blanket under a mango tree next to the village foot-pump well. Kids came out in droves, as did a few adults. We told the story of the flood and taught them some songs and prayed together. They asked us to come back and tell more Bible stories the next week. And so we did. And then we started going to more villages.

On a typical Sabbath morning, we could load up the pickup and leave at 7am and go to Nangere (the village), where Olen or Danae would tell the story in French and have it translated into Nangere (the language). Then we would go to Tchible, where maybe Little John would tell the story. Then on to Kassere, where maybe Brya would tell the story. Then perhaps Regis would tell the story in Tchoua. In Guissa Goro it might be Papa’s turn. Then in Moungoulou it could be that Gomde would tell the story. Romuald and Tony and Allah and any number of other people could be along any given Sabbath to tell stories and sing and pray as well. And we could get home as late and 1 or 2pm. It wasn’t always a day of rest, but it was always fun. And the villages probably average 50-100 people each Sabbath, of which 75% are usually children.

In addition to this, these young adults accompanying us to translate and then tell the story in their own language… they ASKED if they could go out and visit with the villages three times during the week as well! Of course we said yes.

Obviously none of these kids could drive a truck, but they learned to drive motorcycles and they would take our two motorcycles out into the villages on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, giving Bible stories each day. This is in addition to their regular school activities and going out with us every Sabbath. And any time one of the kids didn’t have time to go out into the villages during the week, the local villagers would chastise us the next Sabbath. For each kid to prepare and visit a couple villages and spend the time giving a quality Bible lesson, then get back in the dark and go to a home without electricity to study for school… it is hard, but a challenge and a responsibility they gladly welcome.

And now on Sabbath morning, so we could spend more time in each village, we have split up. Two on a motorcycle to Kassere and Tchoua. A couple to Guissa Goro and Moungoulou. And a couple to Nangere and Tchible. And sometimes we mix it up.

We have wanted to split up further and give more in-depth lessons or expand to more villages, but we are out of transport.

Or, should I say, we were…!!!

Until our amazing friends from the New Market campmeeting pitched in and helped us buy three new hogs! (Not pigs, motorcycles!!!)

They aren’t exactly Harleys, but they are great new Honda bikes, perfect for here. The day they were delivered, the young adults took them out for a joyride to test them out. Boy, were they excited!

So maybe we could call them Heaven’s Angels for the time being.

These kids are amazing. I know some worry about sending out people so young to witness, but if they don’t go, who will?!?!?!? To everybody who has questioned this, I ask them to propose another person to go in their place and tell the rudimentary stories in the Bible to entire villages who don’t know who Jesus is, let alone Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and David and Daniel and and and… When they don’t have anybody as an alternative, I’m reminded of just how proud I am of these young men and women. What age do you have to be before you can read the stories from the Bible? What education or training do you need? Why should I stop these guys and girls from telling about their Jesus? Come and listen to them passionately tell the story of Salvation. Come and watch the people listening intently. Come and hear the young and old reciting dozens of memory verses despite their illiteracy.

We’ve also handed out literature, GodPods (Google them, they’re awesome!), Bibles, etc, and we will soon be buying bicycles for local evangelists also.

This is really exciting stuff and, at the end of the day, the reason we are here.

But we do need some help coming up with a new name for our motorcycle gang. What do you think? The Hardly Davidsons? Hogs and kisses? Veggie Hogs? What good ones can you come up with?

We hope you are also excited by this, and if you want to join in the effort, come on over and play! If that’s not an option, feel free to go to and look for the ‘Donate’ button. It’s tax-deductible and 100% comes to us. Just email them and let them know you are donating to ‘Bere’.

Please pray for the villages hearing the Word for the first time. And please keep these young people in your prayers. Pray they are safe on the roads, pray God gives them the wisdom and the words to speak, and pray for them as they continue their own upward growth toward the Kingdom.



I had the talk with Ropine’s husband a week or so ago.  I told him that I didn’t know if it was going to work this next time.  If there was someone else I could refer her to I would.  I know there is a fistula hospital in the capital, but I don’t know anyone there, and it is likely to only have visiting professionals.  As it is, all of the country hospitals have been on a strike for months now.

Ropine’s husband is such a hard worker.  They come from far away so I have given him day labor jobs to help provide money for them both to be able to stay here.  Ugh….Why am I HELPING people stay here to be a pain in my side???  It’s like I am paying to have my failures stare me right in my face!

I remember the first time I saw her this past April.  I helped her to the floor in the OR consulting area since she was so weak.  I took down her cloth that was wrapped around her bottom and tried not to gasp.  She was covered in feces and urine.  (Hey, not so different than me recently, ha ha.  Seriously it’s all about the bodily fluids here in Chad)!  When the bodily fluids don’t stay where they are supposed to be because of fistulas, then….it’s a bad, bad thing.  She is one of the worst cases I have ever seen.

I knew then and there that it would be very, very difficult to restore her health and control of her bodily fluids.

She was less than a month out from her delivery and unfortunately someone had already operated on her twice in Moundou.  But here she was.  Her vagina was like cement.  Cement with leaking urine and rectal incontinence.  I would later discover with a better exam that she had basically no urethra.  She had a sliver of urethra near the opening, but over 3-4 cm of space with nothing in between the sliver of urethral opening and the bladder.


I decided to do her first surgery in July, since it worked out well with our vacations and needing to wait a while after the initial damage.

July.  Ugh.  The start of my case collections for oral boards.

The start of my case collections…take 2!  (I’m an open book in case you haven’t read the last blog).  Ya, this isn’t really a good one to go on my case list.
Okay, Ropine.  Sorry, you’ll have to come back next year when I’m done with my perfect list.  One without mistakes.  One where the surgery will actually work!

This one.  This one is impossible.

I can do a simple fistula.  I can even do a hard one.  But this one.


I’m a pretty positive person.

But not this.

First surgery in July.  Difficult.  Bilateral huge episiotomies to even see inside.  Found the bladder edges.  Brought it forward to create a new urethra with extra vaginal and labial tissue.  Could this possibly work?

Nah, that was too much to hope for.  Leaked after a while.  Like I said.  Impossible.  

Second surgery in October.  Bilateral episiotomies again to even see inside.  Wow.  Can’t believe a lot of that new urethra tissue actually took!  Fixed some small places that didn’t quite stay together.  Maybe it’s going to take after all???


I send them back home in November and pay for there trip to go.  I’m tired of seeing them around…every day.

They come back.  I have the talk with hubby.  I tell him it’s probably not going to work this time.  If he is willing to be patient with me, I will keep trying.  I tell him it’s impossible.  But with God all things are possible.

This is seriously impossible.  She had basically NO URETHRA!  All of that stuff we’ve done to repair her I’ve just read about in the books!  I am no expert!  There are many other people qualified in the world.  I even just read an article in the Green Journal about fistulas (finally something applicable to me!).  It talks about when to refer them out.  I think this one would definitely qualify as needing a reference!  I just don’t trust anyone else here!

Hubby decides to stay and wants me to keep trying.  (Of course he does!  He has a job—I’m paying him for my misery!)

Wednesday I actually had 2 vesico vaginal fistula repairs (which is odd because I only do about 10-15 per year).  I started with the ‘easy’ one.  Turns out it wasn’t so easy, but it wasn’t that complicated either.  Was so thankful!

Then Dad and I repaired a poor old lady’s foot that had been bitten almost in two by a donkey.  What can I say?  Hazards of Chad!

Next was Ropine.  Uggh….I was dreading her so much!  You know, you almost look forward to the surgery that you ‘know’ is going to work.  Where you can say with almost 100% certainty that it’s going to work God willing.  This was not that type of surgery.  This was more like, do I even dare try again?  I feel like a failure already.  Every day I walk into work I see her husband watering the flowers…Failure.

Today God made the impossible become possible.  The surgery went really well.  She had two small fistulas (½ cm) just under her urethral opening. It’s a very delicate place given that tissue is all grafted from her vagina and labia from before.

Please, please keep Ropine in your prayers.  Pray the recovery to this surgery works and that the tissue heals well and solid.  They are such a sweet couple.  And many other husbands would have left her by now here in Chad.

Update: She’s now postop day 2 and doing well.  Continued prayers coveted.  

Update-ier Update: She leaked again from two tiny holes, which have been closed again now (a big no no to do so soon after the last surgery), but I just couldn’t help myself.  So please keep praying for her.

Update-ierest Update 1/1/17: Well poo.  That lasted 3 days.  She’s leaking urine again.  Will have to wait another 6 weeks from now to do her again.  Do not know why the urine will not just all go out the foley.  The fistulas are so small but leak so much even with the foley!

On the bright side, the other fistula girl done on the same day is doing great and dry.