Saturday, April 30, 2011


After weeks of talking about it, we finally pulled together our Bere Adventist Hospital Sunshine Band. Amongst the group we had three guitars, one violin, one flute, and one mandolin. Let the music start!

Our first stop was in Pediatrics where we sang “God Is So Good,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “If Your Happy and You Know It.” The Netteburg's 2-year-old son, Lyol wandered around handing out balloons and making people smile. By the time we reached Maternity, we had attracted quite the crowd. They were packed into the hallway trying to see into the ward. We moved on to the Surgical ward, where there was more room, and sang “Power in the Blood” and “As the Deer.” Even here, smiles began to crack somber faces, and the dreary ward seemed to brighten. There was a new feeling to this place of metal beds and concrete walls. As we moved on outside, a man with a casted leg thanked us and said, "God was here."

They didn't understand most of words we were singing, but music doesn't need much translation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Thing I Can Do

Hello there little one.
I wish you were looking up at me with bright eyes.
I wish you would giggle when I tickled your foot.
I wish you weren't listless.
I wish your skin didn't hang on your small frame.
I wish . . . I wish

What can I do for you little one?
I can listen to your slowing heart.
I can hear your gasping breaths.
But what can I do?
I can't give you an IV, you already have one.
I can't give you a new medication, you've had them all.
I can't give you my blood, they already have some for you.
I can't breath for you, eat for you, or take your malaria.
Why is it that all I can do is fan your hot body?
Why is it that all I can do is watch and wait?

There is one things I can do for you little one.
"Heavenly Father, Lover of the Children, you see this little one . . . "

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mist of Doubt

Can you a recall a day so misty and foggy you could hardly recognize your own front yard. Familiar things were transformed into shadowy figures. It was easy to get disoriented and be haunted by a vague sense of dread. The mist blocked the sun and crowded in too close for comfort.

In the Christian walk, doubt is the mist and fear is the fog. God occasionally allows a front of mist and fog to roll in and obscure the light of His presence, but only for a time. Several fronts have swept through my life recently. They often hit in the middle of the long hours of night shift. Alone in the darkness I wonder about my effectiveness and purpose. You would think that serving as a nurse in the heart of Africa would make one feel heroic--like a Christian superhero. It doesn't. Instead you realize your absolute helplessness to stop the pain and suffering around you. You realize the limits of your human power and see seemingly insurmountable problems crop up at every turn. As the mist of doubt thickens, there are no emotions of comfort or satisfaction. There is no feeling that I am making a difference for eternity. I don't feel like an effective nurse. I don't feel I'm doing all I can. An awful sense of failure and separation from God rolls over me.

During these times I have a choice. Do I believe the illusions of the mist and fog? Do I let them obliterate my every memory of sunshine? All I can do is cry out to God right there in the middle of the spiritual pea soup. He answers by eventually burning away the illusions. The comfort and assurance that follows these gloomy times is incredible. The relief and freedom is beyond description. When the sun breaks through, everything becomes clear.

In truth, the success of God's work here is not up to me. He called me here to be a tool in His hands. Rather than building my pride with heroic life-saving adventures every day, He wisely leads me through the valley of humility. He often veils from my eyes the effects of my labors. I have to simply trust the results to Him. Am I here for human recognition or am I here to walk in the footsteps of my Master?

Whether I feel I am accomplishing much or little, I can be convinced I'm centered in God's will. What more could I want? Surrendering to Him gives such peace. The success of my day is no longer dependent on whether I successfully place a kid's IV or assist in a delivery. My primary work is no longer administering medications or packing wounds. It is simply to live in His presence continually. It is simply to be made a servant, humble and meek, lifting up those who are weak.

Oh Lord, just let me serve. Whether You brought me to Africa to sweep floors or to save a life, I am here to be Yours. Use me in any way You see fit.

. . . and the mist melted.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Culture Shock in Africa

Written 4/10/2011
For nearly 2 months I have lived in a one room hut with dirt floors. I've slept on the ground outside my hut in a mosquito tent. A hole in the ground has served as my bathroom and bathing area. My bathing system consists of a bucket with water while wearing a swimming suit. I have relied on three water bottles for drinkable water, which I fill at the hospital compound, and lived by headlamp in the evenings. With time I have adjusted to these living conditions and been quite content. As is so often true, simplicity is joy.

This weekend our missionary doctors took a small vacation. They asked me to stay at their house and keep an eye on things. I happily agreed. Within a couple hours of arriving at the house I found myself in culture shock. I had a kitchen to cook in, a flushing toilet, running water I could drink, a real shower, and electricity. Not only was the water drinkable, but I could have a cold glass of water! What a gift from God!

Plugging in my computer, I turned on Sabbath music and headed for the kitchen. I was itching to make my own food, and thoroughly enjoyed whipping up biscuits and baking some seasoned potato slices. (Before the weekend was over I had made garlic noodles and oatmeal raisin cookies too!) It was very satisfying. As the sun disappeared I welcomed the Sabbath by lighting some candles, as is my custom in America. I soaked in the stillness and solitude. It was like a sanctuary of peace. That night, sleeping on a soft mattress with a fan blowing on me felt like a 6-star hotel—simply heavenly!

For one terrible moment I was afraid this weekend might ruin me for village life. I shouldn't have worried. This evening I visited my African family briefly. The children swarmed me and I soon had a lap full of them. My family greeted me with broad smiles. I joined them on the mat, but explained I wasn't back to stay yet. It was then I realized, I’m looking forward to going home. My batteries have been recharged. I miss my African family. I'll be ready to return tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love Hurts

It was the first new life I witnessed being brought into the world in Chad. The mother had been rushed into an emergency C-section due to Eclampsia. No one knew if the baby would be developed enough to live outside the womb. I helped set up the resuscitation equipment. We were bound and determined to give the little mite a fighting chance. There was expectancy and tension snapping in the room when the little tike was handed off to a waiting maternity nurse. Olen, the nurse and I descended on him with bulb syringe and vigorous toweling. The next few minutes were filled with much slapping, tickling and cold water splashes, after which Olen yelled out "Hey, we've got one, dear!" Danae's response was a doubtful ". . . for now."

My heart melted as I watched him turn from floppy blue to squirming pink. They handed him to me to go show the family. As I carried him through the surgery doors he opened his eyes and squinted up at me. "Hello there buddy!" I cooed. "Welcome to the world!" Since Danae wanted to keep him under observation I got to hold him for the first 30 minutes of his life. He was tiny but very alert and spunky.

Unfortunately all our efforts were not enough to save his mother’s life. Her life of sixteen years was far too short. When I heard, I immediately wondered what would become of "my" little baby. None of the family seemed to want him, so Danae and Olen took him in, until something could be worked out. No one knew what would happen, or for how long we would have him, but everyone pitched in to care for baby. As much as we tried to stay unattached, his adorable face was hard to resist. After only a day or two I knew I loved him. It’s scary feeling love for someone who's future is so uncertain. When I sat and fed him, I silently prayed God would make this little man into a warrior for God. Certainly he had been saved for a purpose.

In the ensuing weeks we all took a long trip to see his family. The family did indeed love him, but was unsure if they were able to care for such a small baby. While we all hoped a happy situation would work out with his family, there was also a silent dread of the day when they might really take him away. He was finally, hesitantly, dubbed "Baby Zeke.” We all delighted in talking to and joking with "our boy" as he slept the hours away in typical baby fashion. He was beautiful, perfect, and bright eyed.

Just a day or two ago Baby Zeke got malaria. He was feverish and fretful. We hated that he was sick. I told him often that I would gladly take the malaria for him if I could. Then just yesterday evening they noticed him taking a turn for the worse. I went home promising to pray for him. And pray, I did.

Two hours ago, I walked into Danae and Olen's house for lunch. They were both home—both dressed in nice clothes. I stopped short. This wasn't normal. Other than soft worship music playing, everything was quiet. I was confused and ask if I should leave. Quietly they told me to come on in—that they were getting ready to "take him back to his family." Suddenly it hit me like a brick wall. "Did he die?" I blurted. They silently nodded. I dropped my backpack and collapsed into the nearest chair, too numb and shocked to think. Suddenly my eyes were full of tears and a terrible grief engulfed me. I knew I cared, but it staggered me, just how much. For a long time we sat in silence, each in our own private pain. Wave after wave of sorrow washed over me. After some time, Olen walked over and gave me baby Zeke. I could no longer keep my tears silent. I openly sobbed. Blood was still bubbling slightly from his mouth and nose, but for the most part he looked beautiful as ever. Oh, how I had loved this little child! My heart had melted as I watched him turn from blue to pink. Now my heart shattered as I watched him turn from pink to blue. At that moment I hated sin. I hated death. I felt so powerless. Here I had come to Africa to save lives, but I had been powerless to spare the life of someone so special to me.

That was two hours ago. Now it’s time for me to report for my 18-hour night shift in Pediatrics. Oh how I pray no child dies tonight. I don't want to deal with any more raw heartache tonight. How the Father's heart must bleed.

Reflections: This is why, some would say, it's never good to get attached. If my only goal was to shield myself from grief and heartache, then this may be true. However, God recklessly got attached to a whole world of dying children. By choosing to care, God gave Himself a trillion broken hearts. Nevertheless, "God so loved . . ." Wherever I look I see beautiful people I can't help but love. To see people I care about suffer is very difficult, but it is part of picking up my cross and following hard after Jesus. He loved as no other.

Love hurts, but it is a good thing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Projects – Part 2

This is Part 2 to a previous blog regarding some projects I was hoping to spearhead before leaving. I have narrowed it down to 2 main projects.

1) Giving the Maternity Department a Face-Lift.

2) Construct Over-Bed Frames for Hanging Mosquito Nets

I've been told a big industrial-sized can of paint is approximately $80. Since the walls in the Maternity Department are already painted so I don't expect them [the walls] to soak up much paint. Maternity isn't a very big department. I could get the majority—if not all of it—done with two of these big buckets of paint. This would end up being $160. I am thinking of picking some warm, "maternity- kind-of-colors" with Danae, the American OB/GYN working here. She is very excited about the project. It would be a huge boost to her.

I haven't talked with Jaime Parker about the potential cost of materials for building over-bed, hanging mosquito-net-frames. I’m picturing something anchored to the ceiling—a simple pole-frame from which the square mosquito net would hang. This framework would also provide a place for the netting to be stored during the day. I won't be able to complete this project, but it would be great if I had $40 -$50 to come up with a design and get the project launched. Then later more money could be raised to duplicate it.

So there it is: My Wish List.

Future needs of Bere Adventist Hospital

1) A church/school group willing to come and paint all the beds. It sounds small, but it would make everything look--and be!--so much cleaner!

2) A Physical Therapist. People often waste away in bed because there is no one to work with them. Some simple rehabilitation and consistent exercises could make the difference between life and death for many. The family won't help. The doctors and nurses are too busy.

3) A student missionary who is an Art Major! Yes! You are needed in the deserts of Africa! Come on over. Even just for a month in the summer would be wonderful!

4) A Midwife/Lactation Consultant. Babies are dying because there isn't anyone to stand over the mothers and make them breast feed. They must be taught not to give their babies water.

Donor Instructions added 4/20/2011:

Donations may be made to Adventist Health International, the umbrella organization for Bere Hospital Chad. Visit their website
1) "How Can I Help"
2) "Financial Donations"
3) Decide if you want to give by Paypal, phone, or postal service
4) Important: Mark you donation
"Bere Hospital Chad: Heather's Wish List"

**To add this note to Paypal donations:
Right under the Shipping Address you will see the words
"Note to Seller"
Click on the word "Add" In the box that pops up type
"Bere Hospital Chad: Heather's Wish List"

Thanks so much. Your friendship means more than you know!
(Posted on Heather's behalf by her mom, Paula Haynes)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Valley of Vision

There are hard times in life and then there are "hard times." There are the dark times and then there are dark times when you can’t even remember what sunshine looks like. These times can strike with hardly a warning. Blessings can be flowing everywhere you look. Joy and friends may be filling your days, but before you know it you are walking in a very frightening valley of trial. This is the experience of every Christian on the road to the Kingdom. My guess is, the above description fits the experience of every one of you. It’s happened to all of us.

My time in Africa was going so well. Nothing had come up that I couldn't handle. No trial had been too intense, no hardship too great. Happily I cruised along in my own strength. Sure, God was the one giving me the strength, but I was doing pretty good putting it to use. Then my happy world hit something formidable. Malaria. So what? Lots of people have gotten this. I can deal with a little fever and fatigue. One full day into quinine and I don't even have any ringing in my ears or nausea. This is too easy. Seriously, I can't call this a major trial. This is a breeze. I think I'll go ahead and work the guard tonight.

Then I get a little funny feeling. Maybe that was just a fluke of nausea. Did my eyes just go out of focus? That's really strange. Must be because I'm just really tired. Despite this apparent overwhelming fatigue I am unable to sleep a moment all throughout my night shift. The hours drag and my mind doesn't seem to be working anymore. The simplest task takes twice as long and double the effort. By morning vital signs I am barely holding myself together. My world is no longer in focus. It will only get worse from here. Good thing I don't know that now. All I know is that my mind no longer works, I can't see straight and I've hit rock bottom. I desperately search for somewhere to let out some of the stress. I huddle under a mango tree and shake with sobs. Right in the middle of my torrent of tears my African brother spies me. "Rochelle, why are you crying? You should go home." Unable to explain and too tired to protest I obediently get up and stumble towards home. This is my first melt down and they are baffled as to why I am crying. I prop my door closed and try hard to stifle my sobs in my pillow. My African Mother comes to investigate. "Rochelle, what's wrong. Stop crying. Eat some sugar you'll feel better." I try to explain I'm tired and I miss my American Mom, but that is where my explanation stops. There is nothing more to say.

The next 7 days get increasingly long and dark. My vision is fuzzy and causes me to stumble and reel like a drunk. I keep my eyes closed most of the time to avoid vertigo and dizziness. Nausea is my constant companion. I barely choke down enough food to keep down my quinine. By the last few days of quinine my shakes and tremors have gotten very bad. No amount of sugar or hard candy corrects my hypoglycemic tremors. Insomnia was not a fluke. It is yet another side effect that no one ever gets--except me. I can't even sleep the miserable hours away. I just lay there throughout the days of nothingness and endless nights, unable to turn my mind off or get any of the sleep my body is screaming for. Diarrhea keeps me staggering to the toilet every 15 minutes. After a week I would give almost anything to either see straight or get one hour of sleep. Feels like I'll never be normal again. I am doing no one any good laying here. I have no one to turn to except God. I have absolutely no reserves left. I turn to God as only one can who has reached the end of their rope and fallen off the end. Oddly enough other trials choose this malaria week to hit. What timing. I have nothing to fall back on. God, only God. That is all I have. If this is the one and only lesson God brought me here to teach me...blessed be His name.

Valley of Vision

" When you lead me to the valley of vision
I can see you in the heights
Though my humbling wouldn't be my decision
Its here Your glory shines so bright.

So let me learn that the cross proceeds the crown
To be low is to be high
That the valley is where you make me
More like Christ

Let me find your grace in the valley
Let me find your life in my death
Let me find your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You're near with every breath in the valley

In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light

So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley is where
Your power is revealed"
Words & Music by Bob Kauflin

My physical vision doesn't begin to clear until 2 or 3 days after I get off quinine, but my spiritual vision has a new lease on life. I've recovered from most of my physical symptoms, but I am not recovering my self-reliance. I can't go back and pretend I don't know the depths of my own weakness. It is only by the mercy of the Lord that I live day by day. It is only by His blessing that I am preserved to serve. I don't take it for granted.

In both strength and weakness I choose to praise His name.