Thursday, December 21, 2017

Only Ten Days Left!!!

Bere Adventist Hospital first opened its doors in 1974. It now serves as the only hospital for a district of 200,000 people. Despite it’s location 42 kilometers from the nearest paved road, and far away from publicly-available electricity and running water, patients come to Bere Adventist Hospital from every corner of Tchad. The majority of our patients come from outside of the Bere Health District. In fact, during the last couple years, Bere Adventist Hospital has treated citizens from every neighboring country (Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan and Libya), and also those from every inhabited continent who find themselves ill while working or living in Chad.

Bere Adventist Hospital is known for many things. We perform more surgeries than any other hospital in Chad. We were the only hospital to remain open during the civil war. We are the only hospital to never have gone on strike. Our commitment to patient care is unparalleled. Recognizing our service, the International Healthcare Commission awarded Bere Adventist Hospital the title of Best International Hospital in the country of Chad.

In the last few years, Bere Adventist Hospital has seen impressive sustainable growth. Income has tripled with patient volume doubling to tripling on all services. In addition, fenced-in acreage has tripled, square footage under roofs and with concrete has tripled, patient beds have increased dramatically, staffing has more than doubled and we have installed the first electronic medical record system in the country of Chad. Most of this unprecedented physical growth is in large part due to a group of volunteers who came via ‘Maranatha’, a faith-based non-governmental organization. They sent five containers of materials and built prefabricated structures, which are currently being used as a pediatric ward, a maternity ward, a labor and delivery unit, a prenatal consultation unit, two other patient wards, a public health building treating mostly malnourished children and HIV-positive or tuberculosis-positive patients, a laboratory, a pharmacy, a cashier’s office, to patient-family sleeping quarters, a kitchen, a meeting area, housing, several storage sites and our one-year-old nursing school! We have been incredibly blessed.

However, ‘Maranatha’ is not a medical organization and was not able to acquire medical supplies. So we still have an intensive care unit, an outpatient center, an ophthalmology office, a dental office, a pre-operative waiting area and two surgical operating theaters yet completely and entirely unfurnished. It is with the funding we receive that we have been able to accomplish what we have done and the patient-generated income that we pay all our bills. However, the price of medical equipment prevents us from being able to realize our dream of completing our intensive care unit and our operating theaters.

As we stand, we are a fully functioning hospital and we current perform over 1200 major surgeries each year, all cycled through one single operating room. It is sadly all-too common for one surgeon the push his surgical table to the side slightly while another surgeon is required to bring a second emergency patient into the same operating room on a stretcher. They then operate side-by-side, the routine surgery which had started and has already been anesthetized, with the emergency surgery right next to them. This is obviously far from ideal, for reasons from anesthesia and monitoring to lighting and suction and supplies to surgeon freedom of movement to patient sterility and infection prevention and bleeding cessation, not to mention privacy. Supplying our two new operating theaters will allow us to provide high quality care in a safe and comfortable manner. In addition, during busier months our operating room will process through 200 surgeries or more. Being that there is only one theater in which the surgeons can work, the logistics often require the surgeons to operate from six o'clock in the morning until eight o’clock at night, taxing the team in a way that would be completely unnecessary were all three operating rooms functional.

Lastly, we have noticed the severe and desperate need for quality surgical care in Chad specifically, but also in Africa in general. We are hoping to become the first Adventist hospital in West and Central Africa to be accredited as a Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) surgical training center. With the medical equipment, we will be able to do just that, training the next generation of African surgeons to care for patients and save lives.

Adventist Health International - Tchad, our managing body, is committed to educating Africans. As it is, just last week we approved supporting five Chadians through medical school, as well as all the Chadian nurses we are supporting through Master’s programs. The addition of a surgical training center to our already existing nursing school, along with our unwavering commitment to seeing Chadian doctors and doctors-in-training succeed, would lift the country of Chad from the lower echelons of medical care on the continent.

In various recent years from various sources, Chad has been credited with the world’s worst maternal mortality rate, the world's worst neonatal mortality rate, the world’s worst under-5 mortality rate and was named both The Worst Country in the World to be a Woman (due in no minor part to the atrocious maternal mortality rate) and The Worst Place in the World for a Child to Fall Sick. These are the reasons we are here. These are the reasons we work. These are the reasons we serve. With a little outside material help, we can train surgeons and we can change the reality for hundreds of thousands of Chadians, and the continent at large.

Of note, we have agreements with two different Chadian government ministries, including one with the Ministry of Health, allowing us to import medical equipment duty free.

Bere Adventist Hospital has a decades-long track record of success and service. But when we perform all deliveries, Cesareans, ectopic pregnancies, gastric and intestinal perforations, incarcerated and strangulated hernias and bowel resections, laparotomies and appendectomies, trauma surgeries and all other emergency surgeries completely free of charge, along with all the non-surgical care and medicines and supplies we give for free to emergency patients or those in challenging social and economic situations, and when elective surgeries such as hysterectomies are done for less than $100, it is impossible to make the leaps and bounds required to provide sophisticated and modern medical care that new equipment would allow.

The infrastructure is solid. The buildings are built. The buildings have electricity. The buildings have plumbing. But the buildings are empty inside. We are ready to go. We simply need the medical equipment. Our intensive care unit and our operating theaters are vacant, calling for completion and eager to treat patients.

Our staff are ready. And more of our people are in nursing school, master’s programs and medical school ready to come and serve. And outfitting our hospital with medical equipment would not only allow excellent quality care, it would give our well-placed team the opportunity to train the country’s best nurses and some of the greatest surgeons on the continent.

We know there are many great organizations doing good work across the world, and all eager to have your prayers and support. We thank you for considering the small effort we give here as worthy of your consideration. We look forward to working hand-in-hand and side-by-side with you to make this world we live in a little better.

If you feel called to help us out financially, you can click on the link on the top right of this blog, or go to Just make sure to zip an email to AHI or write in the Memo line that it’s for ‘Bere’. All the instructions are right there. Fax numbers, phone numbers, addresses for checks, PayPay, you name it.

If you have any more questions about what we do, what we spend money on, what we’ve done, what we will do, etc, (or if you want to volunteer!!!) just email us at and we’ll be happy to reply.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Traversing Water

Traversing Water

‘Il était condamné à traverser l’eau!’

He’s condemned to what? Traverse water?


What does that mean, exactly?

‘Il était condamné à traverser l’eau!’

Yeah, ok. I got that the first time. So like, he has to swim across the river?

‘Non! Pas nager. Se promener!’

Walk? He has to walk on water? Like, Jesus-style?

‘Non! Ce n’est pas profond! Même pas aux genoux!’

Ummm… ok, so this teenage boy needs to walk through knee-deep water without drowning to prove he’s not a liar. I have this right?


Oh, mercy. I mean, Merci.


So here’s the story…

A young man buys a plot of land. Let’s call him Joe. The next day, the previous landowner's son, we’ll call him Tom, comes to the new owner and asks to be paid. Joe asks what for. Tom says he planted three trees on his father’s property, which have now grown into big, productive, fruit-bearing trees. Joe kinda assumed they were included in the deal when he bought the land. Tom begs to differ. Joe says phooey, I’m ain’t paying for no stinking trees. I already bought the land.

Well, the next day Joe goes out to his new land and finds the three trees chopped down. He goes to Tom and asks Tom why he chopped down the trees. Tom insists he didn’t touch them. So Joe takes Tom to court for the three trees he chopped down on Joe’s newly-owned land.

In court, Tom continues to deny he ever chopped down the trees.

‘Well, let’s make him traverse water!’ comes a voice from the back of the room, the voice of Joe’s father.

Apparently, everybody in the room already knows what this entails and the judge thinks it’s a good idea too. So the official court ruling is the boy needs to traverse water. This is in the year 2017. In one of 20 or so regional courts in the country.

Now the deal is that Tom must go to a certain special bend in the river, not just any place. Then somebody must pay the person who manages/owns that part of the river for permission to use his super-special part of the river. And then, wait for it, Tom must walk through knee-deep water to the other side of the river to prove he is telling the truth. If he makes it alive, he’s telling the truth. If he dies trying, he was a big, fat teenage liar liar pants on fire.

I find out about this and I am shocked. I start talking to people and they are shocked too. I am shocked by the stupidity. They are shocked by the gravity of the condemnation. Everybody here has a story of knowing somebody who witnessed somebody drown while crossing the river to prove their innocence.

I express to them, you know, I used to swim kilometers every day in college. I am willing to tell you a nice, juicy lie right now, something that you know is false, then I’ll go swim across any section of river you want. I’ll tell you my name is Huckleberry, show you my passport so you know it isn’t true, then go for a nice swim. I will disprove this right now. Then we can stop the shenanigans and stop this kid from being condemned to traverse water. I mean, come on. The river isn’t more than like 30 yards at its widest. The river is flat and calm and slow.

‘No, no. It’s not like that. As you start crossing, the river starts whipping up into waves. The waves develop hands and fingers and pull you down under.’

Ummm… It pulls me under so I drown in knee-deep water?


I’m still willing to go for a swim. So do you think the river naturally does this?

‘Non! It’s supernatural!’

Ok, do we agree there are good and evil supernatural agencies?


Are there any neutral supernatural agencies, neither good nor evil?


Ok, so tell me, are these good or evil spirits pulling the liar liar pants on fire under the water?

‘Oh, they’re evil!’

Ok, so you want to tell me that we are relying on evil spirits to reveal to us the truth? They couldn’t lie to us? We want Satan to tell us what’s true and what isn’t? Why wouldn’t he lie to us? Why wouldn’t he just want to kill the boy? Is Satan beholden to a code of honesty toward us? Relying on Satan for truth??? How’s that worked out for humanity so far?

*stunned silence*

So should we condemn people to traverse water?


Ok, then.


You will be happy to know, the boy crossed the river, shockingly. So apparently, it’s true that this boy did not cut down the trees, the same day he got into a fight with the new owner over payment for the trees. Yeah, right. And everybody believes him. They truly believe he could not have crossed the river had he been lying. These are highly educated people with Master’s degrees and spiritual training outside the country, pastors and chaplains. They believe justice has been served and the truth has been found out. And while Adventists by and large denounce this version of justice as sorcery, it was in fact a high-ranking church employee who proposed the condemnation!


In the Market for a Hippo

There are two beliefs here centered on hippopotami. 

The first and far less interesting belief, is that hippos and black horses are the same creature. Not sure which is the original and which is the bastardization. Either hippos are just black horses that walk into water and are magically transformed into hippos. Or black horses are just hippos that walk out of water and are magically transformed into black horses.

The second is both more elegant and much more nefarious. On Saturdays, our big market day, hippos come out of the water, turn into humans, and go to the market. Which makes Saturdays also quite dangerous. Because you never can tell if the person you are doing business with is an actual person, or an evil hippo.

To us this sounds absolutely ridiculous. To a believer, this is terrifying. Folks know to say they don’t believe this. Or to at least downplay their beliefs. But the fear is real.

One of Danae’s employees, who I deeply respect as one of my dearest friends and a very hard worker and a great human being and man of God to whom I entrust my children… Well, we were driving by the hippos once and he was with us. We were telling this story to one of our visitors who didn’t believe us. So I asked my friend. 

He said, ‘That’s not true. (pregnant pause) At least, I don’t think that’s true. (pregnant pause) I know the hippos used to become people and go to the market here in Bere on Saturdays, but I don’t think they do anymore. (pregnant pause) I know they still do in my father’s village. Yes, the hippos still become people and go to market in my father’s village today. (pregnant pause) But I don’t think they do any more in Bere. That's just in the past here or out in other villages. Yes, it’s quite safe here now at the market on Saturdays without hippos. (pregnant pause) I think. But you know, you never can be sure. Better to be safe.’

We talk to other people, people who have traveled to America. They know to say it isn’t true. But then quickly add that they wouldn’t chance it anyway. No reason to tempt fate.


Animism and superstition have such a strong hold here. People are hostages of their own fear. I’ve written several blogs on the topic. Now I know there are people who chalk up all religion to superstition. And that’s ok. It’s their right to have a differing opinion. Just like the folks around me have a right to their superstitions.

We all search for what we believe is truth. It gives us a sense of safety, security, comfort. Some find that in science and evolution and whatever else. Some find that in alcohol and drugs and debauchery. Some find that in nationalism and constitutionalism and guns. Some find that in organized religion and traditions and going through certain rituals. And here, some find that in their traditional tribal beliefs and customs and witchdoctors. So who am I to judge which is right?

Well, we can’t all be right, can we? Can we all be wrong?

As a missionary, there is certainly a set of things I believe in that bring me that sense of comfort. But as a feeble human, I also recognize there are things I can’t possibly comprehend. I believe God controls the universe. But I don’t know what rules there are, if any. So much I’m not privy to.

Could Satan whip up ankle-deep water to drown somebody? I guess. Why not. Could he tell the truth sometimes and give a righteous verdict to a liar or clear the name of an honest person? I dunno.

Could Satan turn hippos into human or horses? I dunno. Maybe. He turned himself into a flying snake.

In a place where absolutely NOBODY denies the supernatural, would Satan stand to gain by doing these things and forcing people to turn to their fetishes and trinkets to protect them, instead of placing their faith in an omnipotent and all-loving God? Probably.

So while I’m so quick to jump to my conclusions of hogwash and heresy, and my judgements of ignorance and immorality… who am I? Why do I have more spiritual light? I believe God has given people certain spiritual lights. I believe what I believe. It makes sense to me and improves my life. It gives me joy and purpose. It gives me a life of love and a love of life.

So I’m a missionary. Here to tell people what I believe, what makes sense to me, what I feel God has revealed to humanity and what His will is for their lives, both mortal and immortal. And to love people.

And for now, I guess that’s good enough for me. I’ll get my answers. Someday.

But I’m still willing to tell you my name is John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt and go jump in a lake.