Saturday we took a moto ride with the Morales’, last night we had dinner together, and today they leave for whatever God has for their next adventure. It’s always hard saying goodbye to people who we’ve worked alongside for many months and this precious couple is no exception. They arrived one year ago and have given their all to be great nurses, encouragers, and great friends. They were very involved in Todd’s care and evacuation and just days later they were themselves evacuated so that Andres could be treated for Lassa by the CDC. They remained encouragers and returned to finish out their service with hospital after his recovery in the States. They’ve got huge hearts, are hard workers, and have committed their lives to serving others. We’re praying for their next stop and so grateful for their service and that God brought them to the Hospital of Hope for such a time as this.
This evening on the way home from the hospital I stopped by the schoolhouse to visit the Art Show which was organized by our teachers. We are SO blessed to have teachers who use their talents and training to teach our children. This is a vital part of the work here in Mango. If you know of a school teacher who would like to teach in Mango for a year (or more), our team needs teachers for next year.
Almost a year ago the young man standing next to Andres and me in this photo was brought to the Hospital of Hope by family members after he’d digested poison hoping to end his life before other powers did it for him. He was convinced that the curse that had been put on his life was going to take his life. He’s a part of the Gamgan people and it’s not terribly uncommon among these people for a young man to steal a young girl to be his wife. When this young man stole the girl to be his wife, the girl’s family found him and took their daughter back they then also got together and put a curse on him that was meant to kill him. Being convinced that this curse would end his life this young man instead decided to take his own life and thus his arrival at the hospital.
Alain and the chaplains talked with him extensively and while there was some improvement physically, he remained certain the curse would kill him and was very discouraged. Since he was staying with his uncle near our Thursday Bible study we visited and prayed with him a few times before he returned to his parents house.
Today, months after our last visit, we stopped in to see him and invite him to attend a Bible study near his home and it was great to see the difference in his life. He thanked us over and over and asked for us to pray for him. I think God has big plans for this young man and I’m praying he continues to seek a relationship with the one true God.
The last Saturday moto ride of 2016 ended earlier than expected when we had a flat tire while traveling about 50 MPH on our way back to Mango. Thankfully we were able to keep it upright and bring it to a stop when I discovered it had also been leaking a lot of oil so we flagged down a taxi and put the moto on top and we joined the 6 other people already inside for the trip back to Mango. It was still a successful ride as we were able to visit a number of towns we hadn’t been to where our patients come from and see a new part of Togo (Northeast corner) before breaking down.
Thursdays I usually go with one of our chaplains to a village Bible study that began when one of Todd’s surgery patients wanted to share the hope he’d heard while he was hospitalized, with his family. This study has been going for more than a year. Today’s lesson was on the death of Lazarus from John chapter 11 where Jesus declares “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live again, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
As these hard-working men and women, young and old, sat in a circle just outside their huts and listened to this Bible story and then worked on memorizing that verse in Gangam (the only language most of them speak or understand), it was hard not to think of death, to think of Todd, to think of the funeral I visited just over a week ago here in this same village so full of idol worship and attempts to reach out to the spirit world. This life is so fleeting and death is certain. I need these reminders to prioritize my life, my time, my resources…
After the Bible study the young man who’s father’s funeral we attended here two week ago, asked for us to come by his house as his family had an announcement they wanted to share with us. This young man came to faith in Christ because of attending this Bible study, and showed so much interest in learning and growing that we suggested he attend monthly Bible classes in Kara organized by a couple of missionaries that serve there. However, at the time of his father’s funeral two weeks ago he, and possibly his wife, were the only believers in his family. Upon arriving at his family’s “house” (group of huts), they brought out benches and chairs and gathered this young man’s siblings and their children. And then in Gangam they declared that as a family they’ve talked a lot since their father’s death and they know he was a follower of idols and fetishes all his life but they’ve decided as a family they are leaving that, and those that have converted to Islam are leaving that, and together they’ve decided their family will follow the teachings of Christ. They asked for prayer that they’d remain strong in this new decision. So here, just feet from where a thin layer of cement has been applied to the mound of dirt that marks the grave of Nakim’s papa, we prayed that God would protect them and give them strength to grow in their knowledge of Him. Strewn in the field not far from his grave were the items that this old man had wore and given a place of prominence in his home with the belief that they possessed the power to ward off evil spirits and give protection. These items would normally be cherished and worn by his children upon his death and later passed on to their children but for this home they’re no longer needed, fear is being replaced by hope. Pray for this family and pray for the Gangam people of Togo and West Africa.
Last Tuesday evening a soccer team on their way to a match crashed their bus about 20 minutes south of Mango when their tire blew and they went off the road. That evening the hospital triaged and admitted 24 people. Thankfully most of them had somewhat minor injuries that just required sutures, bandages, x-rays, etc. In fact, by 10 pm the same evening we had discharged all but 4 of the patients who were more seriously injured. Today, the last two were loaded into a military ambulance and will be driven to Lomé where they will try to find a specialist that can help with their continued treatment and rehabilitation. We are thankful that no one was killed in this accident and that we had the doctors and nursing staff to process and take good care of the members of this soccer team. They left impressed with the hospital and the care they received and we finished impressed with the way our team came together to manage the chaos that comes with a multiple victim accident.
We had a great Christmas day and I hope you all did as well. We began the day with some time together as a family relaxing and opening gifts. Around 10 am or so Ethan and Aaron went to a close village where we’ve been doing a weekly Bible study on Sundays with one of the chaplains and another Togolese believer to greet the village and share the nativity story with them. They were very attentive and asked good questions. We will continue our Bible studies in this village and are planning a time to share the Jesus film here as well. From 1pm to 4pm our family joined with some of our teammates and Togolese believers for a potluck and time of prayer with the small group leaders in Mango and the surrounding region. We finished off the day with a team gathering at the guesthouse where we enjoyed a kids program which was written and organized by our team teachers. Following the program we sang Christmas carols, ate a bit, and finished the evening with a White Elephant gift exchange. Whew… tomorrow it’s back to work! God bless and Merry Christmas!
Tonight the boys decorated Christmas cookies with Melissa and Katie. Melissa and Katie have been working as nurses here for the past few months and they’ll leave this week and boy will they be missed. Saying goodbye all the time isn’t always fun but meeting and serving alongside so many great individuals brings us great joy.
The local church in Mango (Bel Amour) had their first meeting today in their own building. It’s far from finished but it’s finished enough to hold services. They’ve worked so hard to get to this point it was great to see their joy in having their own building. Many of the people that attend this church are hospital employees so it was an extra special Sunday as Joel one of our OR Techs presented his new baby daughter to be dedicated today as well.
Danna our head guard at the hospital is building a home for his family so that he can have a place of his own. In the background is the home of one of our other employees as well. It’s been a hard week for Danna… He comes from a very poor village and he has a great heart. He’s currently raising at least three of his nieces or nephews. His older sister’s boy has lived with Danna since he was just a couple years old and he’s 10 or 11 years old now. This week this boy had to have surgery when he became quite ill. Thankfully, the surgery was done in time and he will make a fully recovery.
Today I went with one of the chaplains to a village where we usually have Bible studies on Thursdays. Today we were there to observe part of the funeral service for the father of a young man who helps with the Bible study. The young man is a new believer who has been growing in his faith but he and his wife are the only believers in his family so since his uncles are responsible for this service it included many parts that reflect the beliefs of this village and their fear of spirits and curses. In the photo below the village men are gathered with the “witch doctor” to determine what the spirits require to be sacrificed to appease them for this death. Finally, it was determined that a dog would be sacrificed (at a later date) and it was announced that his death was not because of the actions of someone in his family. Both of this pieces of information were good news for the family. Others then gathered around the “witch doctor” to use this occasion to ask him to help them with their problems (for a price). The problems that were brought included sicknesses, broken relationships, and women unable to have children. How sad to observe the fear these people have of the spirits, to observe their hopelessness, and to observe how broken their lives seem.
We made a “quick” trip to Lomé with the family to do some errands and attend the wedding of one of the hospital employees on Saturday. Melissa needs to get a new passport so we needed to stop for passport photos before heading to the US embassy. 8
Our tree is up, but because it’s over 85 degrees even at 8PM it’s sort of strange to listen to the traditional Christmas songs while decorating the tree.
Today is day two of two full days of required security training. The team that has come to provide this training for us has done this for many organizations and our training includes both classroom time and hands-on scenarios meant to teach us how to respond in high-stress situations. I don’t think any of us are unaware of the dangers and threats that exist doing what we do and living in the world we live in but it’s still not fun to be reminded of what could happen…
Happy Thanksgiving! We have much to be Thankful for… We love working here in Mango and the team of people beside us in this work. While today was a somewhat normal day for the hospital and clinic, we got together as a team this evening to enjoy a meal together followed by a movie for those that wanted to hang around.