Thursday, January 29, 2009


I don't even know where to begin. I'm sitting at TEAM, a sort of missionary hotel in N'Djamena, and I've decided that I want to write about our voyage today because man, was it exciting.

Ansley's dad is coming to Tchad for a visit. So, Ansley, Levi (the hospital chauffeur), and I set out on a journey from Bere to N'Djamena to pick him up from the airport and run a few errands.

We all walked to the market this morning to find some clandos to take to Kelo. Ansley and I shared a clando and strapped our two bags onto the back. We were pretty cozy (it always is with two people on the back of a clando), but not uncomfortable.

I felt so liberated riding on that clando. I love riding clandos (clando is another name for a moto… just in case I've never explained that before). It's seriously one of my favorite things to do, but I only get to do it when we go on trips, and it's a bit expensive. Well, expensive for Chad; it's about 2500 francs, which is the equivalent of $5, for an hour ride to Kelo. Anyway, I love riding clandos­ cool wind blowing in your face, sun shining brightly but not too hot, and miles of African expanse before your eyes. Amazing.

Toward the end of our trip to Kelo, the clando started making a funny noise that sounded an awful lot like the tire rubbing against the underside of the moto frame. Sure enough it was, and so we stopped and took the bags off the back to reduce the weight. It still made some noise, but we made it safely to Kelo without much problem. Once we got there, we had to wait for Levi and his driver to show up, which was a little nerve wracking because Levi had taken the bag with most of our money, passport copies, and phone. Thankfully he came within 5 or 10 minutes and then we had to figure out how we would get from Kelo to N'Djamena.

Usually we take a bus, but there were none and we would have to wait. Our other option was a little van packed full of people that would be hot, sweaty, and pretty smelly. We decided to wait, but while we were waiting, we met a friend. Abdoulaye, one of the shop owners from Bere's market walked over to us, and started talking with Levi. Next thing we know, we're walking up to a little four door Toyota and piling in.

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Before we piled in, I asked Levi, "Do you think there's a bathroom around here?" knowing that likely the answer was no. But God bless Levi. He went to someone's home and asked if I could use their bathroom, and they said sure. It was a little weird because it was different than the toilet area we have at my hut.

At my hut, we have a little closed off area with a hole in the middle. At this house, there was no hole. And they gave me a little plastic kettle thing full of water, which I thankfully didn't have to use because Ansley had thought to bring some toilet paper. Anyway, that was an interesting experience…

So we piled into the car­ Levi, Ansley, Abdoulaye, and me in the back, the driver and some other guy in the front. I started out on Ansley's lap, but soon realized that this would not last long. So, the driver pulled over and I got to sit up in the front seat with some guy. I pretty much sat on the console and just put my legs over on the passenger's side.

Amazingly enough, I was really tired and kept almost falling asleep. But when my head would start nodding, one of the Arabs would poke me and wake me up. They kept telling me that it wasn't good to sleep. I was confused, but whatever.

Then all the guys in the car started eating something small and reddish, and Levi broke off little pieces for me and Ansley. He warned us, saying that it was really bitter. Ansley and I, both highly confused as to why they would eat something that they knew was bitter, decided to try as well. You only live once, right? I chewed and chewed, trying to have the courage to swallow the dry, bitter nastiness in my mouth. I finally choked it down and wondered at how anyone could eat such a thing.

As I sat there, I started to have a little stomach-ache and nausea. Apparently it wasn't sitting well in my stomach. Then, something popped into my head. I remembered going to the market with a girl here named Pidi. Some woman was with us and was trying to get us to buy some of these little reddish things, and Pidi said, "No, don't buy it. You don't eat that if you're Christian." I had been confused at the time, but I trusted her knowledge over my own.

At this memory, I was slightly horrified. What had I just eaten that Christians are not supposed to eat?? I relayed my memory to Ansley, and she said, "I bet it's some kind of stimulant."

I asked Levi about it later, and sure enough, it is. He said it was called cola, and that if you eat it you won't sleep. He said that sometimes when he's driving and he's tired, he'll stop and buy one, but he doesn't eat it all the time because he said that it's habit-forming. No worries, I promise I won't ever eat it again.

Anyway, we got to Bongor after maybe two hours of driving, and so we stopped to eat. Levi kindly helped Ansley and I find a restaurant that would have vegetarian dishes. When I say vegetarian dishes, I mean a nice saucer full of chopped tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and hard boiled egg all soaked in peanut oil. This is the dip that you get with a long, fresh baguette.

After lunch, Ansley and I waited in the car while at a "service station" of sorts where we got air in the tires and filled up on gas. As we were sitting in the car, random people would stare in the window at us, either from a distance or up close. I lost count of how many people came up to the window and asked us for food or money. It was hard, but we had to say no because if we gave anything to one person, all of Bongor would be crowding around our window begging for food. One woman came up to the window and began asking us if we had anything for her children. This is one of the things I have come to hate about being in crowded places; there are so many people who ask you for things, and they may or may not actually have need of them. But whether or not they do have need, I almost always have to refuse them because I just can't give to everyone. If you give something to one person, others see it, and soon you have a crowd of people demanding that you give them something too.

After Bongor, we drove a little ways and stopped again. The driver informed us that we were stopping for prayer time. We stopped at a little mosque, and the three Arab men went out for their prayers. Ansley and I thought it was really cool that they were so dedicated to God that they would even stop in the middle of a journey to have their prayers. Perhaps I ought to learn some commitment from them.

We set off again, this time with Ansley in the front seat and me in the back between Levi and Abdoulaye. It was definitely not dull. Being squished between two men who are talking loud, fast Arabic in your ears is an experience not to be missed if you have the chance. Especially if you understand very little of Arabic and the only words you can catch are American, Nassara (white people), Dr. Bond, Dr. James, and hospital.

But what I enjoyed more than listening to their Arabic was the times when they would suddenly start talking French in order to ask me or Ansley a question. We had some pretty interesting conversations, and they usually started with, "A chez-vous, en Amerique…" which means at your place or home in America. The funniest question that he asked was, "How much is the dowry for a woman in America?"

I laughed, and then told him that there wasn't one. In complete shock, his eyes got wide and he said, "You mean they're free? You don't pay anything?" I confirmed this information for him, and then explained that usually the bride's father would pay for the whole wedding and that could be pretty expensive. I think that made even less sense to him because here, the men pay a dowry price to the father of the bride, so for the father to pay for the wedding seemed a little backwards to him.

We then talked about the dowry price for a wife here, which is apparently 500,000 francs (exchange rate in dollars is about $1 for every 500 francs, so you can do the math if you choose). Then we talked about how here men can have up to 4 wives (my goodness…). He asked us if men had more than one wife in America, and we told him it was against the law. He was slightly bewildered by this, but then I posed the question, "Isn't one wife enough trouble?" He kind of laughed, but I don't think I convinced him of the virtues of having one wife.

Then Ansley asked, "What if a woman wanted to marry three men?" The whole car full of people erupted in laughter. Of course, they didn't take her seriously, and Abdoulaye began explaining to me that that was ridiculous because women are only worth a half of a man (what he was saying is really difficult to translate…). Oh well, guess you can't change the world in one conversation.

Later, I asked Abdoulaye if women here were allowed to drive because I have never seen a woman driving. He laughed and told me that lots of women drive and that I would see them in N'Djamena. I told him that I knew how to drive a car, but not a moto, and he was a little surprised, but then he asked, "On te donne?" as he pointed to the steering wheel. I laughed and said that I didn't really want to drive here.

While we were driving, we actually had several little safari moments. No, we didn't see any lions or zebras. But we did see a ton of camels! It was actually really funny because we were talking to Abdoulaye about the fact that there aren't any camels in Bere, at which point he insisted that Ansley should buy one because camels are much better than horses. We all laughed, but almost every time we would see a herd of camels he would tell her again that she should buy a baby camel and that it would grow up for her to ride.

By the way, camels are quite possibly one of the most awkward animals I've ever seen run. It was pretty humorous to watch them run off the road when we were honking the horn. Some of them weren't too bright though and just stood there staring at us for a good while before awkwardly trotting off.

Once we got just outside the city limit, we were stopped by a group of gendarmes (local military). There has recently been a ban on charcoal (the main thing used to cook here) in the capital city, so they've set up check points to make sure that no one smuggles any in. A while back, they actually burned several vehicles that were carrying charcoal; we saw what was left of the frames of some of the vans.

So we all got out of the car while the police searched our vehicle for charcoal. I was actually surprised by their kindness. When I brought out one of Ansley's and my bags, they told me to put it back in the car because they didn't need to check it. I suppose they figured that two white girls wouldn't have any reason to smuggle charcoal into the capital.

As we were getting back into the car, one of the men told me and Ansley that we were pretty and that we should marry some Chadian men. I laughed a little nervously in response and quickly got in the backseat.

Anyway, that was our eventful voyage. We were dropped off at some intersection inside the city, and we walked to TEAM to settle in for the night. More adventures in N'Djamena to come…

P.S. I apologize for the length of this post… but I didn't want to leave anything out.


I want to write about one of my favorite patients that I've seen at the hospital. I think you'll like to hear about her.

When I first arrived in Bere, way back at the end of August, she was already here. I was intrigued by her. All day, every day, she sat in her bed with no smile on her face, nearly expressionless. From the start, I decided that I would make it my goal every day to make her smile.

You may wonder why she didn't smile. I can tell you. Her name is Majoie, which in French means "my joy," and she is about 7 years old. She was in a small accident where she broke her right femur, and broken femurs are extremely difficult to fix here in Chad. But, we do the best we can with whatever walks in the door, and so James had made a sort of traction to help the bone heal straight and in the right place. This meant that the little girl had to stay in bed, in the same place for at least 2 months. Seems like reason enough for a little gloominess.

Each day, I would come and talk to her and try to get her to smile. I brought her a picture and crayons to color with one day, but she refused. She didn't want to. So, I colored it and taped it to the end of her bed. Day by day, she started to warm up a little bit more, and I could even get her to give me a half-smile most days.

Then, one day she asked me for a picture to color. I gladly found another one and gave her some crayons to color with. We posted it on the end of her bed, and the collection of pictures grew with time.

Majoie became more and more friendly each day. She would invite us to eat with her sometimes, and she would call us over to her bed and talk our ears off! Sometimes, I had trouble trying to get away so that I could finish my work because she would call me over to talk.

Little Majoie was very soon a favorite of all the nurses as well as some of the other patients. We all spoiled her; we would bring her little treats, do her school work with her, read to her, give her empty bottles to play with, and all kinds of things.

Her grandfather and grandmother were also favorites at the hospital. They were from N'Djamena, which is far, far away, so her grandparents camped here at the hospital for 3 months so that her parents could go home to work and take care of the other children.

Her grandfather was so kind. There were so many times that he would translate for me with another patient, or he would give water to other patients. He was well respected by all the other patients, and he could often convince them to go to the pharmacy and buy their medicines after I had argued with them for the past 15 minutes. Anyway, the whole family was wonderful.

By early December, she was taken off of traction, and we began to teach her to walk with crutches. At first she was terrified to leave her bed. I think she was afraid of falling. But with a little coaxing, we could convince her each day to walk a little bit farther, or we would carry her outside so she could sit in the sunshine. We all loved walking with Majoie and her crutches. And I would tell her, "Majoie, quelque jour, tu va courir encore" (some day you are going to run again).

Then the day came when it was time for her to leave. Ambivalence abounded; I was so happy to see her up and walking with crutches, so happy that she was healed, but I was also very sad to see her leave.

The morning that they left, I had been working the night shift, so I came over to the van to see them off. I said my goodbyes to Majoie's grandparents first, and then to Majoie. Her face was downcast; she did not want to be leaving all of her new friends.

"Majoie, est-ce que tu peut sourire?" I asked in an attempt to get her to smile.

She shook her head no.

"Pour moi?" I pleaded.

A half-smile crossed her face briefly.

I hadn't seen Majoie and her family since that day that they left in mid-December. There we were in the capital city, and I had her grandfather's phone number. I called him up.

He answered the phone, and when I said, "C'est Kristin de l'hopital de Bere," he responded with a warm greeting and asked how I was doing. I explained that I was doing well and that Ansley and I were in N'Djamena and we wanted to come for a visit. He said that we were welcome and we set up a time.

Levi, Ansley, and I took a public van to their house, but arrived a little bit early. Majoie was still at school and her grandfather was out at the market, but they would be back within half an hour. So for 30 minutes, we ate peanuts and talked to her grandmother, who is also very sweet.

Then, I heard the little kids in the yard start yelling, "Majoie! Majoie!" and I knew she was home. I watched the gate and saw Majoie, dressed in her school uniform, walking in without any crutches and with only a slight limp. It was so good to see her walking.

Her grandfather came in shortly afterward and we all sat down and caught up with each other. He bought us sodas and bananas, and we gave them the oranges that we had bought for them.

Majoie was suddenly all shy again, and we could hardly get her to smile, much less talk to us very much. As we talked to her grandfather, we found out that not only could Majoie walk without crutches, but she could run.

Praise God.

Capital Shopping

I'm lying on the bed at TEAM again. I wanted to write about what we did today, but didn't know where to start, so I asked Ansley, "What did we do today, Ans?"

"Market," came the response.

Big sigh. "The market here is so overwhelming. I don't want to write about it."

So that's that. I'm not going to write about the market; maybe some other time. Or, when I come home, if you want to hear about the market in N'Djamena, ask.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lazy Days

Lately working day shift at the hospital has been pretty lax. Most days, we have about 5 staff working with 20 ish medical, surgical, and maternity patients. I've been blessed to be able to work the last couple of days with Emily-- her taking care of the surgical patients, and me taking care of the maternity patients.

One day this past week, there was seriously nothing to do. All the dressing changes were done, vital signs taken, and we were just waiting for noon to come so that we could give the medications. As we sat in the nurses office wondering what to do, one of us said, "Why don't we get the guitar and sing to the patients?"

It has been a long time since we've sung to the patients, which used to be a weekly Sabbath afternoon activity. So we excitedly ran over to the middle house to grab the guitar. When we got back, we had to figure out what to sing. We sang "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" and we also decided to sing "God is so Good" because it's simple and Emily knew it in Nangjere, and we both know it in French.

We set out on our mission, and began singing to the patients. They loved it! They were laughing and smiling the whole time. At one point, we were in the maternity ward singing, and we told them to sing along with us if they caught on. So, two of the ladies began singing with us. Then we asked them, "How do you sing this in Gumbaye? And how do you sing it in Arabic?" They were more than willing to teach us, and we thought it was awesome that we were learning a song in so many languages. I now know how to sing "God is so Good" in 5 languages, almost 6, but the Moundung language is really hard and I keep forgetting.

After the maternity patients, we moved on to the isolation ward where there are some AIDS patients, tuberculosis patients, and sometimes pneumonia patients. While we were singing in there, one of the patient's family members, a very large, outspoken lady, started singing to us in French. We thanked her and said that she sang very nicely. That was all the encouragement that she needed to get up, stand right in front of us in our faces, and sing the song again. We laughed and thanked her once more for her beautiful song, and went outside to sing to some more people.

As we were walking out, one of the Arabic women who had heard us singing in the maternity ward motioned for us to come with her. We followed her to her grass mat on the sidewalk outside the ward where a few other Arabic family members were sitting. She wanted us to sing for them. So we did.

We sang "God is so Good" in Arabic for them, and then taught them to sing it in English. It was such an awesome experience to have these two Arabic women and one Arabic man singing "God is so good, God is so good...." It just made my heart so happy to be there with these people that I can hardly communicate with, praising God in different languages.

Kouma Koura

Working night shifts is rarely fun. Some nights are not as bad as others, but for the most part I would say that I don't like working night shifts. Honestly, who would voluntarily work 17 hours straight, from 3 pm until 8 am the next morning taking care of 23 patients all by themself and actually enjoy it? Maybe I paint too dark a picture. I shouldn't complain because it's usually not that bad; it's just not something I look forward to.

In any case, I'm pretty sure that last night (Thursday night) was one of the most miserable night shifts that I've worked yet. It's funny because when I was getting on work, I had a feeling that things would not be good when the nursing student began giving me report because the actual nurse was busy with maternity patient, especially when I asked him questions about the patients and he repeatedly responded with an irritated, "I don't know." It also didn't help knowing that the two people I was scheduled to work with both had malaria. Emily ended up not working because she felt so awful, which left me and Augustin, who was feeling much better than the day before when he was getting IV Quinine.

By the time I had gotten report on all the patients, it was already 4 pm, and they were lots of problems to solve. Two IVs needed to be restarted, some patients had just gotten out of surgery and the family wanted explanations on how to give the medicines, one patient's blood sugar was in the 500s and the insulin was locked in the fridge, which only the lab guys have a key to (they go home at 3 pm), and the list went on. I had the most awful time restarting the IVs, and I had to prick one woman about 5 times before I got a good vein.

I didn't finish giving out the six o'clock medications until 10 pm, at which point I began to give the nine o'clock meds. By the time I finished those, it was 11:30 pm and I figured I might as well go straight into giving midnight medications. Needless to say, at that point I was so tired, physically and emotionally. But I finished the meds and was able to get some sleep between 2 am and 4 am, when I began the morning medications.

Here's the crazy thing. Throughout the whole night, inside I could feel the stress mounting; inside I felt like I wanted to burst into tears or just pack up my stuff and go home right then. Usually when I feel this way at work, it's easy for me to get irritated at the patients' family members who come up to me while I'm in the middle of doing something. I can't begin to count how many times I'll have someone come up to me while I'm starting an IV or drawing up some medication and say, "The water's finished," or "The water's stopped," or "S'il vous plait, j'ai te besoin (Please, I need you)." And when they do this, it's difficult for me to be patient and not snap at them. But last night, despite my inner turmoil, I was surprisingly calm, polite, and helpful. I astonished myself; and I am pretty sure I can credit it to my many prayers that I sent up before and during work for God to give me patience and get me through the night.

In fact, every once in a while, while I was walking somewhere to give a med or find a patient's family member, I would send up a quick prayer, "God, please don't leave me. Please, just help me through this night." It honestly didn't give me much peace. It didn't seem to make me feel any better inside, but I know that God was with me and was keeping me calm.

When morning came, and I was busying myself with giving out meds and taking vital signs, I was thinking about how tired I was and how glad I was that my shift was almost over. Then a tune popped into my head, and I started humming it to myself as I was working (the patients probably thought I was a little crazy). It's a simple song that I've learned in several languages since being here, and when it came into my head, I was actually singing it in Nangjere, not English.

As I walked about singing, "Kouma Koura, Kouma Koura, Kouma Koura, Kouma kong koura," I realized the significance, I realized why I was singing that song. You probably know the song in English: "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me." I think God put that song into my head to remind me of how good He is. To remind me that He stayed with me all night and that He got me through the night, just as I prayed He would.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Amniotic Fluid Anyone?

I can't remember if I wrote a blog about 6 liter lady or not. So I'll give a brief description just for background purposes. A while back we had a lady come in to deliver her baby. Most Chadian pregnant women are large, but not very large. They could be nine months pregnant and look like they're about 6 months pregnant.

Anyway, this one woman came in, and she was huge. I looked at her and wondered if she was going to have twins. We had some trouble finding the baby's heartbeat, but we could hear it. Her water hadn't broken yet, and she was fully dilated, so Augustin came and was going to artificially rupture the pouch of water. We got a basin to empty it, got her all ready, and he poked a hole in the sac.

As I watched it drain, I wondered if it would ever stop. I had never seen so much amniotic fluid. By the time it was finished, we measured it, and there were 6 liters of fluid, which is an incredibly large amount. After all the fluid drained, we could hear the baby's hearbeat fine, and she was significantly smaller in the stomach area. The birth continued normally and I don't think there were any more problems.

So yesterday, Sabbath afternoon, I was summoned to the OR for an emergency c-section. As I walked in and saw the woman lying on the OR table, I immediately thought of 6 liter lady. This woman was, believe it or not, even larger than 6 liter lady. We were doing the c-section because at first they couldn't find a heartbeat for the baby, and when they did it was about 80 beats per minute. A normal fetal heart rate is about 140 beats per minute.

We had a new missionary come in on Friday evening whose name is Caroline. She's from Loma Linda and was an orthopedic nurse there. Dr. Bond had her come in to the OR so that she could get some good experience (what a first day of work....). We use different shoes in the OR to cut down on tracking in germs and to keep the environment in the OR more sterile. So, Caroline had no shoes, and I let her use mine. This meant that I was going in barefoot, which we are allowed to do, but I don't usually do.

Dr. Bond allowed me to scrub in as second assist (Dr. Jacques was first assist), which meant that I was standing right next to him to help him hold back retractors, hand him instruments, and other helpful things. I was watching intently as he made incisions through the different layers. Then he got to the layer just before the baby, and he went to rupture the amniotic sac. No sooner had he made the cut than a stream of amniotic fluid literally burst out, showering everyone and flooding the floor. I had tried to turn my head, but must have been just a little late because I got the brunt of the shower; fluid went in my ear, inside my face mask, soaked the top half of my scrub shirt, and I found myself standing barefoot in a puddle of amniotic fluid and blood, with the bottom part of my scrub pants dripping as well.

To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. Everyone else was also rather shocked and wet themselves. Even Ansley who had been doing anesthesia at the head of the table got a pretty good shower.

Unfortunately, the baby came out barely alive. I un-scrubbed to help revive the baby. We must have worked on it for 20 to 30 minutes with no results. We tried everything-- chest compressions, ambu-bagging, oxygen, suctioning, stimulation-- but all to no avail. Every once in a while he would take a deep gasp, but he wasn't breathing regularly, and his lungs were full of amniotic fluid (he must have aspirated some of it) that we just couldn't drain no matter how much we tried.

At one point, his heart rate stopped, and we almost gave up. But it came back at about 40 beats per minute. So we continued reviving. It was really difficult to decide when to stop, but eventually we just knew that there was no more that we could do. The whole time we were working with the baby, I just knew that he wasn't going to make it, but I kept hoping.

It was a really sobering experience, and difficult to deal with. Thankfully the mother was alright, but it was still really sad not to have been able to save the baby as well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Divine Preparation

I truly believe that before I came to Chad, God was preparing me for my experience here. Some of you may recall my nighttime adventure from last summer (if not, you can find the story on my other blog-; I have recently come to believe that that was one of many preparation experiences.

Quite often, when I leave the hospital to go home my family is already sleeping. It gets dark here around 6 pm, and my family is usually in bed by 8 or 8:30. I happen to be a night owl, which has been difficult here, and I usually stay up until 9 or 10 at night. About a month ago, I came home one night in the dark to find that our gate was not only closed, but locked with a small deadbolt from the inside. What to do? I figured that I had about three options:
1. Knock on the door, wake someone up, and be let in
2. Try to reach through the small opening between the wooden
door frame post and the brick wall to unlock the gate
3. Attempt to climb the brick wall

I didn't want to wake anyone up, and I really didn't want to try climbing the wall in crocs and scrubs. So, of course, I tried to squeeze my hand through the opening. I managed to stick my arm through the hole and got to where I could almost just reach the deadbolt, but my arm couldn't bend at the right angle for my hand to get a good grip on the lock. I tried this for about 5 minutes, readjusting my arm every once in while, but with no success. The only things I had to show for my effort were a few scratches from the wooden post and the bricks.

I still didn't want to wake anyone up, and I still didn't really want to climb the wall. But desperate times...

I'm not very good with giving estimates of distances and heights, but I would say that the brick wall is maybe an inch or two short of 6 feet tall. I am not terribly tall, have no experience with rock climbing, and there were not exactly any good footholds. You can probably imagine how silly I looked trying to scramble up the wall in the middle of the night by headlamp light. I got up with fairly few problems, but as I sat perched on top of the brick wall getting ready to descend, several thoughts went through my head. First I thought, "I hope no one in the house wakes up and thinks that I'm a thief coming in, or worse, I hope no other locals pass by the road and think I'm a thief trying to get in." My very next thought was actually somewhat humorous; I remembered the Bible verse about people who don't enter through the gate being thieves and robbers ("I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber" John 10:1), and then I really felt like a criminal. As I was shifting my weight and turning so that I could climb or jump down, I immediately thought, "Oh no. What if I fall and break my ankle or something? Then I will have to wake someone up, which is the whole reason I did this- to avoid waking someone up!"

Praise God, I made it down with no injuries, and there were no observers of my "criminal" activity. Since that night, I have had to climb over the wall many, many times. I've actually gotten quite proficient, although I still very much dislike climbing the wall. After the third time or so, I actually told Hawaa and my family that I had been doing this, and they looked at me in amazement, laughed, and said that I should just knock on the door and wake them up. I have not taken their advice, and will continue to climb the wall whenever the gate is locked.

There's more to the story though. Curiosity got the better of me, and I asked Hawaa why they lock the gate, why they don't just shut it. She told me that sometimes animals try to push the door open in the middle of the night and she doesn't like that. That seemed to make sense to me, but I didn't realize that it was a big problem, especially because pigs and chickens come in the back of the yard through a small opening in the toilet area anyway.

One night recently, I was walking home late at night, and I was rather tired. As I walked home, I prayed, "God, I really don't feel like climbing the wall tonight. I'm so tired. Please let it not be locked."

As I came upon our gate, I looked, and much to my surprise, not only was the door not locked, but it was a little bit ajar. "Odd," I thought, "but nice. Thank you God."

I had just finished thinking this and entered through the gate when my light fell upon an extremely fat pig standing about five feet away from me. I must have startled him as much as he startled me because he squealed and charged straight at my shins. Luckily, my reaction time was short, and I jumped to the side just in time as the pig ran past me and to the gate. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, this was a very fat pig, and when he tried to get through the gate opening, he got stuck, which only made him squeal all the louder. Despite this small difficulty, he made his escape and left me staring wide-eyed at the gate opening with my heart racing from my fright.

I now know why they lock the gate and am glad for it.

In all seriousness though, I do believe that God gave me experiences in the States before I came here to prepare me for my work in Chad. When I worked as a nurse in America, I ended up on an Oncology (cancer) floor. The job was perfect for me-- my nurse manager worked with my school schedule more than I ever could have hoped, the people I worked with were so sweet, and because of the type of floor it was, people were more open to being prayed with despite it being a non-religious hospital. But I remembered thinking, "Why oncology? That's not really something I want to do for the rest of my life."

Working with cancer patients was emotionally draining for me. I cried several many times while at work, and often I would come home feeling exhausted physically and emotionally. Dealing so closely with death and suffering was hard on my heart.

As I prepared to come to Chad, I thanked God for my experience with oncology because I knew that I would be encountering death and suffering much more often than I ever would in the States. Unfortunately, it has been true; since I've been here, I have had to deal with death, with suffering that I can't fix, and it has been so difficult for me. But again, I thank God that He knew what I would be seeing here and that He gave me my experiences with cancer patients and their families to help prepare me for the work here in Chad.

Praise God for divine preparation.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spiritual Warfare

Wednesday, January 7

It's amazing how quickly things can change here. One day, I can be so full of energy and joy, and the next I'm down. Lately I haven't been getting much sleep because I've been working in surgery (the bloc) and helping Dr. Bond see patients. Plus with Ansley being sick, I've been staying with her at night. Unfortunately, today I woke up late and wasn't able to have my God time in the morning before work. As I walked to work, I prayed, "God, no matter what happens today please be with me. Please help me to have strength."

Satan has been working overtime among each of us and I think he must have heard my prayer this morning; we've each had our separate struggles and overwhelming challenges, and today was the worst it's been in quite some time. I reached my breaking point today, again.

I can't even describe all the things that worked together to make it happen, but I think it was a combination of lack of sleep, other people being short with me, lack of food, being slightly overworked, and not feeling good. I don't know what's wrong with me (it's not malaria, I got tested), but yesterday I had a headache so bad I wanted to cry (I did later, but not just because of the headache), and my stomach has been upset, and I've had very little appetite.

In any case, it was one of the days when I felt like giving up. As I walked home late in the evening, I started talking to God again. I wanted to go home. I was tired of fighting, tired of withstanding Satan's attacks, tired of even asking for strength to go on. Sometimes I get that way- I feel like a failure as a Christian, as a nurse, as a person - and I know that it's just Satan getting me down. But even with that knowledge, it's hard to keep moving, to keep praying, to keep trusting that God will pull me through.

Thankfully, I'm here with an amazing group of student missionaries who encouraged me. After talking with them and having a good cry, I felt a little bit better, though still tired and weary of fighting. It's times like these that I really enjoy reading Paul's letters. I'll just include one of my favorite excerpts:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As I led her into the operating room holding her IV fluids and trying to reassure her that everything would be fine, I thought to myself, "This can't be happening."

Monday was my first day working on my own in the operating room, and though I was nervous, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I had mostly been running anesthesia-- giving drugs for sedation, taking vital signs, and fetching things as they were needed-- but Dr. Bond had also let me scrub in and assist for one surgery.

That night however, I was more nervous and tense than I had been all day long. This surgery was different: we were operating on Ansley, one of our fellow SMs. She had been having stomach pain for the last three days, and Dr. Bond thought all along that she had appendicitis, but waited for surgery because neither Ansley nor Dr. Bond wanted to do needless surgery. But finally, Monday night, he decided that the waiting had to end and operation was necessary.

I helped to prep Ansley for surgery, all the while feeling like it was a horrible dream that we would all wake up from any moment. Although, my feelings were no comparison for the thoughts and feelings running through Ansley's mind.

We got her sedated, and Dr. Bond began with many prayers before and during surgery. I was very glad to be doing anesthesia because it put me right by the head of the operating table where I was free to hold Ansley's hand and let her know I was there. As Dr. Bond worked, we could feel the tension through the silence. He successfully found and took out her very inflamed appendix with no problems. I was so thankful for how smoothly the surgery went.

While the whole surgery was rather intense and surreal, there was a little bit of humor as well as a large amount of blessings. First the humor...

One of the drugs I gave Ansley for sedation is something called ketamine. Ketamine is known for its strong side effects; many people on ketamine will say things that they would never say on a normal basis (sometimes bad words, sometimes they talk bad or tell secrets about people they know, etc.), or do crazy things like burst into song at the top of their lungs. It's really rather unpredictable what will happen to a patient on ketamine. Needless to say, Ansley was rather worried about what she might say or do while on ketamine, especially with so many of her close friends in the OR (Dr. Bond, Emily, Jason, and I were there along with a Chadian nurse).

Ansley did really well on ketamine, and was actually pretty silent for the majority of the surgery. However, toward the very end, she began to speak. Once or twice she said my name, mostly because before she went under she knew I was there and had made me promise not to leave. But one of the first things she said was, "Finis ici?" (French for, finished here?). We were all a little surprised that she spoke in French.

"What did she say?" Dr. Bond asked in surprise. I laughed and told him that she was speaking in French.

Once we were finished and were cleaning her up to take her out of the OR, she asked me (in rather slurred speech), "Was my appendix good? Or was it bad?" I reassured her that it was bad and that the surgery had been necessary.

Not two minutes later she said, "C'est bon, ou c'est mauvais?" (French for, is it good or is it bad?" referring again to her appendix. I kind of laughed and said, "It was bad, it needed to come out."

She must have asked me at least 20 times whether or not the appendix had been bad, because before going into surgery one of her biggest fears was that the surgery would be for nothing, that her appendix wasn't really the problem.

What was even funnier than her repeatedly asking was the fact that as she came more and more out of the sedation, she would say, "I'm sorry, I think I've asked you that before." And at one point, Dr. Bond was teasing her a little bit and speaking to her in French a little, to which she replied, "Dr. Bond, don't make fun of me, I'm on ketamine." Which of course made us all choke back laughter for fear of inciting anger.

Now for the huge amount of blessings involved in the whole deal. First of all, we were so blessed to have an actual board certified surgeon here to perform the surgery. On top of that, one of the nurses who happened to be working the night shift was Simeon, one of the OR room nurses. Beyond that, Monday had been my first day in the OR by myself. Previously, I had worked with Ansley in the OR as she was training me in to do anesthesia. If I hadn't spent that day in the OR, I would have been no help at all when Ansley needed surgery, and we would have had to call in someone else to do anesthesia. In addition, Ansley's very angry appendix was still very much un-ruptured, her oxygen saturation never went below 95%, and there were absolutely no problems through the whole surgery.

God is ever faithful.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Syrup in the Butter

So this is ages and ages old. But it's a lot lighter than the other blog I'm posting. Enjoy :)

Sabbaths here in Bere are quite fun. We've made a tradition of making Sabbath meals together after church. One Sabbath we decided to make pancakes because we found this Mennonite "Cook with Less" cookbook that had a recipe for pancakes and syrup.

We made some absolutely amazing pancakes and had so much fun doing it over a charcoal stove. We put almond slivers, hot cocoa mix, and cinnamon, in varying combinations, in the pancakes as we cooked them.

As we were eating the pancakes, we would put margarine on them and then the syrup. Once, Jacob accidentally dripped a little bit of syrup in the margarine container, and I said, "Aww..." to which he replied, "Eh, it's just a little syrup in the butter."

I'm not sure why, but we found it to be rather funny, and we decided it would be our new phrase. So now, whenever something goes wrong, we just shrug it off, and say, "It's just a little syrup in the butter."

PS Jacob, we miss you lots :)

Worlds Apart

So... I was thinking about the things I've seen here, and I wrote a poem. Not anything special, not revised. Just wrote it because I was in the mood. Sadly, each line has a real story behind it. Hopefully I can write about them later; they're certainly not ones that I could forget.

Worlds Apart

Bony arms and love starved eyes;
Gaping wounds and blood soaked clothes--
Sights no eye should see
No eye has seen...

Ragged breaths of a dying child,
A mother's wails for her unmoving son--
Sounds no ear should hear
No ear has heard...

Why doesn't my father want me?
I wish that death would come--
Thoughts no mind should process
No mind has conceived

Radiant faces, streets of gold, life-giving stream,
Ringing laughter, pain-free abundant love
What God has prepared for those who love him.