Monday, November 14, 2016

Asher's Birth



A few weeks back I had the joy of helping some friends welcome their third child (and first boy!) into the world. Since the clinic was not open yet (more paperwork delays) and they were open to the possibility, we decided to have a homebirth!

The best part about it was how active and helpful the father-to-be was through it all. He helped labor watch, massaged her back, brought her water, encouraged her throughout.

It was a challenging birth and from the beginning showed possible indications for transport. However, this couple was prayerful and expectant. Together we were able to watch God move on our behalf!

The joy in the room when Asher made his first cry was tremendous! The praises and prayers that filled the room still fill my heart.

Praise God with me for such a lovely memory and wonderful promise of good things to come!


Short-Term Missions 2016


Amy Brewer from Texas
This year God has blessed us with some amazing short-term visitors. As I look back, I see such extraordinary people that God called to work alongside us.

In February, a loving nurse named Amy joined us. She is American and came for three months. She served faithfully in the clinic, helping with the day to day running of the clinic. Her help and impact on the patients cannot be understated. She was a blessing and I’m thankful she was able to come.

Gerrit and Herma from the Netherlands
In April, a couple named Gerrit and Herma came out do a vision tour of the work at the clinic and at Maforga as a whole. They run a wonderful ministry called Follow Ministries which serves to equip and encourage medical charity ministries such as ours. We had an amazing time getting to know each other and planned how and when they would return with a larger missions team later in the year.

Marilize Jordaan from S. Africa
In July, a sweet friend named Marilize joined us for several weeks. She was hoping to help with the clinic but by that time we had already temporarily closed. So instead we spent our time preparing the clinic for re-opening, chasing down paperwork, cleaning, organizing, and learning the guitar. She was a joy to have and came at such an important time for us, encouraging us in the work. I cannot wait to have her back!

In August, my nephew from the States came for several weeks. His name is Luis and is studying to be a physical therapist. Originally he hoped to help out with the clinic but again things were stalled in the re-opening of the clinic. So instead he became my personal assistant making even the smallest of tasks easier. I loved having him here and hope he can return.

Luis Hafen-Lopez from Texas
In September, a construction crew of two joined us for several weeks. Rudy and Dave are from Calvary Chapel Johannesburg. They brought us so many blessings, but the biggest blessings were the repairs they did on the clinic. They helped solve our leaky roof issues and exercised the electrical demons in the clinic. The most amazing of course what the fact they were able to give us running water at the clinic for the first time in a year and a half. What a blessing they were!
Dave and Rudy from South Africa

In October, a Dutch construction team came through and did a whirlwind of building and fixing, teaching and loving! These eleven men and women had such a beautiful impact on us. It was so hard putting them back on the plane. I seriously wanted them all to stay. I look forward to when they can return!

Look for a blog post about them in the near future.

Furlough Season


 I have much to praise the Lord for this year and much to apologize to you all for in not sharing it sooner. I didn’t understand then --and I’m still trying to fully understand now-- what was going on in the spiritual realm concerning this ministry (and my life in general) to be in so much chaos.

Believe me when I say this year has been a strange one.

Despite all the odd twists and turns my path has taken me, the Lord has walked beside me all of the way, supernaturally protecting me when I tried to run headlong into briars and pits.

I have learned so much and am finally thankful for this potholed, muddy, disaster of a road. For not only was God with me but he also sent me encouragers (so I wouldn’t turn back), prophets (so I would be warned what lay ahead), and companions (so I wouldn’t lose heart). Lord, thank you!

Now this odd road is leading me back to the States on furlough. It has been two years since I have been able to return. It feels longer though and I miss you all very much.

I don’t have a rigid itinerary right now. But I do plan on spending time with family first, then doing some intense missions training/debriefing. After that, I hope to travel and catch up with you (i.e. you super-cool, awesome people).

However, as I travel to see family I am reminded of how many of you live near them and wanted to reach out to you for a visit as well. So below is a loose outline of where I’ll be and when. If you live near any of these locations and would like to catch up, please message me so we can set something up.

Schedule:

November
  • Nov 21 - 28: I’ll be in Dallas, TX. I’m spending Thanksgiving with friends and family but have time to catch up for coffee/lunch if any of you are free.
  • Nov 29 - Dec 2: I’ll be in Milwaukee, WI. I’m visiting family but hope friends in the area can reach out for a hug.

December
  • Dec 3rd onward: I’ll start my journey in Colorado (mostly Durango area), then travel south on I-15 through Utah, Arizona, Nevada, etc. Eventually I’ll head north to Northern California and possibly Oregon as well. I have TONS of friends and family to see along the way. Please let me know if you want me to drop in for a hug, coffee, or... or you know a hug. 

January
  • Jan 2 - 6: Calvary Chapel Missions Conference in Murrietta Springs, CA. For those who are in Southern California and want to catch up, I’d be thrilled to spend time with you and ask that you come see me during missions week!
  • Jan 8 - 13: Missions Training International seminar in Colorado Springs, CO. I’ve been trying to get into this debriefing program for years but it never worked out until now. If you live in the area and want to catch up, please let me know so I can make appropriate travel arrangements. I’d love to spend time with you.
  • Rest of January: I’ll be bouncing around from church to church in Las Vegas and Mesquite, NV. I also hope to speak at churches in Southern Utah region and Phoenix, AZ area. As the time gets a bit closer, I’ll try and send out a calendar so people can join in on speaking dates and fellowship meetings.

January - February
  • I’m available for 6 weeks to speak at churches, home fellowships, youth groups, and Sunday school meetings. I don’t have exact dates yet of where I’ll be sharing but hope to arrange it soon so those of you in these areas can come and hang out.

How you can help:

  • If you would like to host a fellowship potluck, please let me know. It’s a wonderful way to catch up and meet new friends.
  • If you know of anyone who has a car I can use for 2 months (January and February) in the Utah-Nevada-Arizona area starting January 1st, 2017 please let me know.
  • As you can see, I’ll be traveling a lot. Please pray for supernatural rest in the midst of this busy-than-normal season of ministry.

I cannot wait to see you all! I’m so excited and grateful for this furlough season. Please do not hesitate to reach out and let me know you want to spend time together!

Monday, October 31, 2016

God’s Own Fool.

Getting my equivalencia (aka: my midwifery degree recognized in Mozambique) has been a journey --a long and difficult journey. One that I hope never to have to do again!

I started the process in October of 2013. For several years, the powers that be kept misplacing, ignoring, and ultimately passing my application around until it was looked at and pondered by just about everyone in the great city of Maputo.

It didn’t help that in the process of shuffling my application about and wasting so much time, that it got lost. Again and again. I had to re-submit my application four times.

Yes, four.

Nor did it seem to phase my would-be torturers that it was taking so long.

The fact of the matter was that they just didn’t know what to do with me or my degree. They didn’t want to deny me straight out (which of course is a good thing) but they couldn’t figure out what to approve me as. Was I a doctor? No. Was I a nurse? Not exactly. My degrees said I was more qualified than their nurses. I had specialty knowledge that gave me special privileges. If the closest thing was to call me a nurse... then what level of nurse would they make me? These questions and many more where their daily confusion...

... and my daily trial.

Meanwhile the coming and going, the constant (and ridiculously difficult) following up I had to do, was taking its toll. I couldn’t imagine taking another (horrendous) bus to Maputo only to find out that they were still doing nothing but losing my files. I was ready to give up.

It had been over two years by this point.

After yet another fruitless and exhausting trop to Maputo, I told a Mozambican friend that I was giving up. He lives in Maputo and understood the system. He told me it was too early to give up and encouraged me to hold on. I reminded him of all the crazy hoops I’d had to jump through and complained that I was unable to jump through another. He reminded me that giving up was not the same thing as a closed door.

I agreed with a sigh.

But then he did something even better. He offered to beat on the government doors, then he proceeded to do just that. As I bused my way back to Maforga, he went weekly and sometimes daily to chase after a response. He made himself known and liked. He pushed and pushed, smiled when he wanted to wring necks, and basically played the system.

Every now and again, he’d call me to say that it could be done MUCH faster if I’d just concede to paying a bribe. Tempting though it was at times, I’d remind him that I would not pay a bribe of any kind. If God didn’t want me here in the country, then He’d shut the door.

Another year went by.

But this year was different; things moved. After our first sign of progress, I was disheartened to learn that the powers-that-be decided to tentatively approve my degree. But before they’d put the final stamp of approval, I had to take a practical exam.

My stomach dropped at the very idea.

The exam had to be scheduled through a medical university in Maputo. I’d have eight or nine practical skills to complete and each skill would be evaluated and graded by a different teacher.

Bile rose in my throat.

Plus, the exam was going to be in Portuguese.

Ugg.

To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. To say that I was terrified of failing and having all this effort wasted... would be closer to the truth.

I was a ball of tightly wound nerves and could find no peace.

Plus, the topics they suggested I study were very difficult to wrap my brain around. They were things I knew well but the things that they emphasized as important were odd (i.e. I could fail if I didn’t palpate in a clockwise rotation or greet the patient/mannequin by their last name and title). Basically, they could fail me over the smallest infraction.

Finding time to study was a challenge as well. Mind you, the clinic had just opened and I was needed on every side to juggle the chaos.

Time rolled on and eventually, my exam date neared. I had to go whether I was ready or not. And let me just say this right now... I did not feel ready. Not one bit!

I showed up for my exam on the day scheduled only to learn that the main teacher had forgotten to arrange my exam. They asked me to come back the following day.

My nerves continued to fray.

The Lord kept trying to encourage me but no matter how hard I tried, I felt no peace. I’d vacillate from faith to fear, to joy then despair. It was probably very difficult to watch. It was much more difficult to experience, let me tell you!

I’m not proud of this... but most of my fears were bound up in pride. What if I failed? I’d have to leave and would never be able to teach nurse-midwives from the villages, nor deliver babies on my own. I worried and worried. What if all I had done up to this point had been wasted and for naught?

I was physically sick at the thought.

To understand what comes next I need to explain two things. First, I am NOT a nervous test taker. I cannot remember the last time I worried over a test, other than this one. Second, among the Mozambican educational system, there appears to be a significant hierarchal structure. Students are expected to never question what they are taught and show intense deferential respect to their teachers.

On the day of my exam, I didn’t recognize myself. My fears of failure brought on a severe case of the nerves, which brought on massive doubt, which left me looking like an insecure, incompetent fool.

I was physically trembling.

My examiners tried to put me at ease and I tried to be at ease. But then the stop clocks came out.

What? I would be timed on this? What on earth for? Who completes a baby exam in less than ten minutes while still somehow teaching the mother on best care methods?

Every exam module I passed proved to increase my sense of impending doom. After each test, all I could think of was what I had forgotten to do or rushed to do too quickly in a desperate attempt to finish ‘on time’.

By the time I finished my fourth procedure, one of the nurses suggested I take a break. I was sweating bullets, trembling, and forgetting silly things. But I refused to take a break, focusing on finishing at all costs.

After the following exam module (a neonatal resuscitation) was a massacre of hurried motions and baffling non-starts, they finally insisted I go outside for a breath of fresh air.

I was a mess.

I was drenched in sweat, and breathing hard. I cannot remember the last time I was such a chaotic mess. What was happening to me?

I prayed and asked God for help. But nothing changed. No peace came. All I could think about was how I was fouling this up big time.

Five minutes passed and I returned to the exam room.

It got worse.

Seriously, where was my brain?

I kept forgetting things that made no sense. Why didn’t I lift that mannequin's legs? She was obviously in shock! What on earth was I doing trying to fill the indwelling catheter with the needle and not the syringe? Seriously, I was losing it.

By the time two more skills had been completed, I was convinced without a shadow of a doubt that I had failed. I finished the last few skills exams in utter despair.

I’d failed. I’d let myself down. But more importantly, I’d let God down.

The examiners asked me to wait outside while they compared my scores. It was a sad ten minutes. I wallowed in despair and doubt.

Had I been in their shoes, there is NO way I would have passed me. None.

When they called me in, they first asked me how I felt I did. I was honest. I told them, I was very nervous and that I think I failed. I didn’t make any excuses but confessed I could not understand why I was so nervous.

Then they went around the room and told me how they thought I did. Some of the teachers were less than impressed but could see that I had skills. Over and over they remarked on how nervous I was and wondered at it.

Finally, the main examiner said, “We know that you did not learn your skills on mannequins like we do here. But we can see that you know what you are doing. Congratulations, you passed!”

The shock I felt at those words cannot be expressed in words.

“What? Really? I’m a Mozambican midwife now?”, I stuttered.

“Yes. You are. Congratulations!” She added, bright with excitement for me.

Smiling ear to ear, I repeated in shock, “I’m one of you? I’m a Mozambican midwife? Really?”

They all smiled and nodded. Happy laughter filled the room.

We continued to laugh, I took photos, and a few of my examiners filtered out of the room. I stayed in stunned joy. God had done a miracle. They had had grace towards me. They could have rejected me, but didn’t. Praise Him!

Before I left, the head examiner asked for all my contact details. She wanted to stay in touch in case I ever wanted a job.

A job?

I laughed at the thought. How could such a poor showing end in a job offer? But she was serious. She said she liked that I spoke Portuguese so well (a huge shocker!) and that she could see I had lots to offer other students in the program.

I thanked her and told her I had my hands full at the moment with the clinic. But the offer was kind. Very kind. 

I left that day in awe of God’s graciousness. I left in absolute wonder. And as I shared with my friends later on they rejoiced with me.

More than once, however, the enemy tried to convince me that I passed because I’m just so smart and capable. Pride tried to sneak in again and again. When these thoughts surfaced, I would stop them and seriously remember just how miserably I did. 

No! There is NO way that my skills, my talent, or my studying made one iota of difference in this miracle.

No. God did this. He alone gets all the glory!

When I shared what happened with some seasoned expats, one pointed out something I had not considered. She remarked that my nervousness no doubt put them in a position of power.

Confused by her statement, I asked her to explain.

She pointed out that my nervousness was a good thing because it put them in the position to be gracious and gain honor. Granting me mercy (by passing me despite my many mistakes) made them look good and brought them honor. She also suggested that had I come in there with confidence and proud expectation, they could have very well reacted quite differently.

I think she might be on to something. 

Now when I look back, I see the Lord’s hand so much clearer. It explains why His peace never came. He needed me nervous.

In such a shame based culture, I think He decided to make the nervous things of the world, to confound the confident.

Whatever the reason or plan, I praise Him.

Once again, I’m reminded how He uses foolish, flawed, and faithless vessels to do the miraculous.

Happy Addendum:

A few months later when my official equivalencia diploma was mailed out, I got another surprise.

Instead of making me a nurse, they made me a physician’s assistant. By so doing, they have given me more flexibility in running the clinic and more freedom to teach in the future.

I didn’t ask for it, nor did I even know that such a thing could happen.

When God does a thing, He does it well!

Ultra Blessings!

The first year I arrived in Mozambique, I met a missions-minded South African man named Danie. He was visiting Maforga after many years, and worked for a company called Siemens.

For those that don’t know, Siemens makes specialized machines. And Danie happened to work for the medical equipment department of Siemens.

During a conversation one day, I mentioned my desire to get an ultrasound machine for the prenatal program. Danie told me that they had machines turned in form time to time that might be donated. He said he’d look into it for us, and we agreed to stay in contact.

A year or more went by and no eligible machines came through. But I didn’t worry since the clinic was having troubles opening.

But then early this year, I got an email from Danie. He told me that he had not one, but two machines for us.

It was great news and a happy answer to prayer, as the clinic was due to open in a matter of days.

Fast forward a few months (mid-April). The clinic was in full swing and the machines were ready to ship. Siemens (bless them!) decided to fly me to South Africa for a two day training on the machines. Plus, during that trip I would meet with the higher-ups who made such an excellent gift possible.

While we talked, I got to tell Siemens’ directors of the work we were doing at Maforga. One of the directors seemed keen to know more and more. However, busy as he was, we had to cut our time short.

Fast forward a bit more. Siemens requested that both machines were too much for our small clinic. They wanted us to find a place to donate the second machine.

When I prayed, God reminded me of the university in Beira I volunteered at the previous year. I contact a doctor I had worked with there and he instantly agreed another ultrasound machine would be a huge blessing to their department.

Things kept moving forward in a beautiful way.

When word got out that Siemens was donation the machines, a partner of theirs in Maputo offered to facilitate the importation and pay for all the custom fees!

We were over the top thrilled!

Then even DHL got on board by agreeing to cover all the shipping costs!

I’m thrilled and in awe at how God is making these machines available to us. He’s amazing!

Although it took almost six months, the machines arrived a few weeks ago.

Before we plugged them in though, we got two new exciting pieces of news. First, those who arranged it all wanted to come see us in person. They are arranging a visit in a few weeks time. We are planning a ribbon cutting and promotional photo shoot while they are here.

Moreover, those that helped with importing the machines will join us, as will the man who prayed and patiently worked to make this a reality, Danie.

God is so good!

I’m excited for the countdown to the ribbon cutting.

Please pray over all the details that have to converge for the re-opening to occur and for the donors to come mid-November. 

Also during that same week, the doctor from the university in Beira will be coming out to do intense training on the machines. We’ll be inviting women from the community to come in for free ultrasounds.

I can’t wait!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

He Gives and Takes Away.

What I have to share now is hard. This is my sixth attempt at a beginning and it still sticks in my throat. I have attempted to dress it up with pretty little half-truths and a lot of chistianese but each time God forbade me to print it. Who knows, perhaps this too will find it’s way to my virtual trash can.

If so, praise Him!

Either way... I am going to attempt once again.

To those in my life who doubt, let me set the record straight. I desire a husband. I desire children. I have for decades. I thought for sure by now, God would have married me off. But the older I get, the less optimistic I become.

Plus, I’m tired of the open rebukes and glossed-over platitudes.

I’m tired of my married friends hinting that I don’t have enough faith, patience or spirituality and if I would only be more of this or less of that then God would bless me. I cannot help but roll my eyes when (some of) my family members jest that I must be a lesbian. Honestly, when did celibacy become so unnatural? I argue with those would-be-encouragers who insist it MUST happen because God promised to give me the desires of my heart. Since I desire it, God HAS TO do it. Right?

Wrong.

The Bible also says that my heart is desperately wicked. What if I desire something that is wrong, wicked, ill-timed, or going to destroy me? Would a good God grant me those desires too?

But more to the point, does this passage really say that God HAS TO give me a family just because I desire it? No. I don’t believe it does.

Nevertheless, I do desire these things. God knows this and yet keeps me single and childless. He must have His reasons.

Meanwhile I continue to ride the emotional rollercoaster of envy, bitterness, heartbreak, and longing. I’m not some super-human, spiritual giant who somehow lives unaffected by longings. I don’t possess the ‘gift of singleness’. And the older I get, the more I weep at the possibility of barrenness.

This. This is the hard that I have to share with you today.

Why?

Well, it is front and center to the breaking and crushing that the Lord has being doing in me this year.

I’ve already shared with you what God has been showing me through the giving and taking away of the clinic. In fact, when I take a closer look -- a more honest look-- it was me that grasped for and took it. I didn’t wait for the Lord to give it.

I was wrong. I sinned.

Lord, forgive me!

This same grasping for and taking way happened with a would-be child, and a would-be husband.

Let me explain.

A year ago, I took in an abandoned newborn. When I first saw him, my heart leapt within me. I wanted him as my own and I rejoiced to hold him in my arms. I had been waiting for a true orphan (meaning a child with no known living relative) to come to the orphanage to adopt. I desired a boy. He seemed like an answer to prayer.

Then I learned that he was to be given to another. But the couple was not sure yet. They didn’t want him if he was HIV positive and needed to meet him before they could decide. So my agony was prolonged.

I cannot tell you the story without weeping.

Long story short, he was taken from my arms and given to another.

The Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

A few months later, a South African missionary reached out to me and started courting me. The relationship moved quickly and I found myself carried away. He seemed to be everything I was looking for, praying for. He seemed like a perfect fit and we started talking about marriage. I was excited.

But... then one day he disappeared.

I was confused. It stirred up insecurities and dashed hopes. What was worse is he refused to explain why. Later I learned that he was talking to several women at the same time and had chosen another.

What I thought was for me, was meant for another.

Again.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

I don’t know why God decided that this would be the year to reveal the dark secrets of my heart. I don’t know why... nor do I have to. I’m not proud of the envies, jealousies  and anguished insecurities that surfaced through this process. But my prayer is that my heartache would not be wasted, that I would learn to wait more patiently, love more fully, and enjoy more completely the what-is instead of the what-ifs.

He gives and He takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Co-Laborer.

 

When I look back at all the great gifts the Lord provided this year, the greatest gift by far is that of a fellow long-term laborer --Sheri.

For those who know her, she needs no introduction. You know how blessed I am and you might even be feeling a deep longing to see her again. Believe me, I get that!

To know Sheri is to love her. She is a prayer warrior and a confidant. She’s a faithful servant with a longing to glorify God. In the short time she has been here, she has encouraged me, prayed for me, and stood in the gap when I needed her most.

For those who don’t know her yet, she is a nurse from the States with a heart for the Lord. She specializes in wound care and is excellent at it. It’s beautiful to watch her work.

I love her. When you meet her, so will you.

And if you will... please pray for her.
  • Health: she has been bombarded with health issues since she arrived.
  • Language: she is struggling to learn the language and needs a breakthrough.
  • Supernatural Rest: she is burdened with the need and struggling to not break under the pressure of doing.
  • Transport: she bought a truck that needed some repairs. She needs transport soon.
  • Finances: I’m not sure where she is financially, in all honestly. But as I type this, the Lord is telling me to ask you to pray for her. May the floodgates of heaven open and shower mana from heaven.

And please pray for other long-term (and short-term) missionaries to join us in this work. Right now, I see the need for many workers. Please pray the Lord of the harvest to send more workers!

We need:
  • a general administrator or hospital administrator
  • nurses, nurse/midwives, midwives, doctors,  ultrasound technicians, pharmacists, etc.
  • builders, superintendents/foremen, construction managers, engineers, etc.
  • mechanics, handymen and women, general servant-hearted people, etc.
  • preachers, teachers, church planters, evangelists, etc.

Is it you? If so... please tell you pastors and then contact me. If not you... please pray for God to send more laborers into the harvest. Thanks.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pride and Impatience: Part Three

As promised, I’ll now tell you the end of the paperwork progress. Keep in mind though... that the process is on-going.

And the story picks up with...

When I discovered that we were missing so many documents and not registered with several important ministry departments, I panicked. This was serious! How had I gotten to this point?

Sigh.

Fortunately, my Christian business friends who understood the system agreed to walk me though the process. They assured me that it would take two weeks at most. It was a matter of stamps, signatures and such. No big thing.

So I told my workers and volunteers that they should take the month off and once we had what we needed, we’d call.

But two weeks turned into two months. Two months turned into four.

I’d bore you to tell you the number of hoops we’ve had to jump through and the number of obstacles we’ve had to scale. The biggest obstacle is a lack of imagination.

What we represent (a non-profit charity clinic) has no precedence in this region (and possibly country). They just cannot figure out what to do with us. Their forms don’t have a box to check and they are unwilling to pencil one in without a stamped signature from every department on file. If they had access to the Mozambican president himself, I’m sure our documents would have gone for his approval too.

Other major obstacles are cultural and linguistic. Let’s face it. My DNA clearly states that I’m of the feminine persuasion. African men struggle to see women as capable and equal --An unfair and possibly over-simplified exaggeration, but one that experience has taught me to be accurate.
It would appear that in Africa, explaining one’s actions to a woman seems counter-intuitive and frankly pushing the envelop too far.

Sigh.

Add to this, the (incredibly frustrating) cultural acceptance of lying and you might begin to understand some of the problems.

In short, the Mozambicans helping me refused to give me updates, explain processes, and bold-faced lied to me so many times I’ve lost count.

They failed to do their work for close to three months because (wait for it!)... I hadn’t proof read their work. Take that in for a minute. Two educated, adult administrative lawyer assistants could not submit the clinic documents because they needed a foreigner (aka: me) who has only been speaking their language for three years to proof read their documents. Does that make sense to any of you?

So once they had basically blamed me for all the delays, their boss got in their face for incompetence... and they finally did their own proof reading. I was told I only needed to show up the next morning for a signature. When I got there to sign it, however, I found so many spelling mistakes that it took another two hours to correct.

What an indictment on the educational system of this nation! How is it possible that I know how to spell better than these men? This must be a joke. A very sad joke.

Sigh.

Let me refocus a bit.

Almost five months have passed and I’m still waiting. I’m millimeters from completing this race and I’m no longer tired. God has given me an adrenaline push. I’m running rested. They keep moving the finish line but I don’t care. God has lifted me up on eagle’s wings. I’m running and I’m not weary.

Oh sure... I’m irritated at times but I’m not weary. This is the Lord’s doing and it is good. Very good.

I don’t know if we’ll actually get the papers back from Maputo. I’m actually passed the point of caring. If I can only accomplish a work here through corruption, then I will not stay. I’ll move on. Period.

I don’t know if the clinic will pass the last ministry of health inspection. If we do, excellent. If not, the Lord be magnified. This time will not have been wasted. He has done good things in me and shown me great and mighty things. The Lord be praised!

My prayer is that we will succeed. I know the Lord can do it. If it is His will, then let Him show Himself mighty on our behalf. I have done all that I can. I can do nothing more but wait and pray.

So I pray. And I wait.

If these lawyers are to be believed, they have approximately two weeks more of paperwork to file. Detail stuff mainly. And the last ministry of health inspection is due sometime this week. If we pass it, we have all we need to open again in November.

Please pray for God’s will to be done.

Thanks.

Pride and Impatience: Part Two

During the busy-ness of trying to run the clinic, help my new teammates settle and navigate the social labyrinth of Mozambican work culture, I also had two huge blessings: the ultrasound machines and my equivalencia exam.

Both of these blessings kept me running and deserve a blog post of their own. But what I will say now is that they required me to travel at an already exceedingly busy time.

Why was it so busy you ask? Well... the clinic was caring for roughly 50-100 patients a day. This was complicated by electric and water shortages. Staff was new and needed my attention. There were lots of cultural, educational, logistical question marks that had to be addressed. And it felt like... (whether this was true or not, I don’t know)... I was the only one who could do anything about it. Add to this the fact that I received two short-term teams at the same time and you might get an idea.

Some days I felt like I was walking on water. Other days I was clearly drowning. It was perhaps the busiest and most chaotic time of ministry I’ve yet to experience.

I will say that I am so grateful for the help God provided in the new volunteers (Amy B and Sheri G) and the Mozambican staff (M, J & P). Their tireless servant-heartedness is what really made the day to day miracles possible.

However, I’m not proud of where my heart was at this time. I had let busy-ness supersede intimacy with God and pushed obedience aside for expediency. Unsurprisingly, I was miserable.

Lord, forgive me!

Moreover, I was so busy I wasn’t soaking in the word of God. I was running on my own strength. And when that ran out I became a cranky, controlling mess. It was ugly. Very ugly.

Lord, please forgive me!

I share this with you because I value transparency. And who knows, perhaps this will serve as a warning to others. But I also share it as my open confession. Hidden and glossed over sin has a way of festering and coming out again and again. I want it exposed so I can heal and be made more like Him.

But I also share this to tell you where the Lord, Our Great Shepherd, has recently led me. It’s a place of intimacy, purity and rest such that I have never experienced before.

Getting to a place of intimacy required cutting many things out of my life. This freed me so I had the time to spend with Him. Some of these things were ‘good’ but still technically clutter. He is still cutting things away but I don’t mind... I love that I have more time with Him. Oh, how I want more of Him!

Getting to a place of purity required showing me areas of life that are/were hiding pet sins. Some of these sins are more obvious than others but all of them stumble me and others. All of them make it impossible to run the race of endurance. May He make me holy as He is holy!

Getting to a place of rest was perhaps the greatest surprise of all. It is absolutely supernatural. In fact... as I try to describe it, I’m at a loss for words. It’s so beautiful and so comprehensive that... it must be experienced to be understood. Words alone don’t help. I will say this, for me at least, it is the absence of rushing, anxiety, or despair. And it is good.

But what about the clinic? What about the paperwork? You ask. Fair questions. That too is a long-ish affair. It will have to wait until next time. I have so much to say... I’m going to take it slow and easy. And I’m going to try and share it in the order that it happened. Putting some stories in order won’t be possible but I’ll do my best.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pride and Impatience: Part One

Some of you might know that we opened the clinic in March and ran a semi-organized affair for several months. Some of you might not know this fact since it was such a chaotic time, I barely mentioned any of these developments on social media.

For those of you who were left in the dark, here is a rough outline of what happened:

First, a lot of wonderful things finally started falling into place for us. By the middle of February, two American nurses had arrived. One who would work with us for three months, the other who would work indefinitely. Add to this the fact that we had finally found a wonderful, God-fearing, Mozambican nurse. Plus, my director kept telling me that the last little paperwork needed (the AVARA) was due to arrive any day. It seemed like it was finally time to open. I was eager... and it made sense that God would send help when help was needed. It must be time, right?

Wrong.

I confess. I was impatient. I made excuses to God that it must be time. Everyone was pressuring me to open, things looked like they were in alignment, and well... I’d only have to do one tiny little thing that was illegal in order to make it happen. He would forgive that right? It was just a little bit illegal. Plus... everyone does it here. God would understand, right?

Wrong.

What was I willing to compromise on? You ask. It was not bribes. Heavens no! It was a different kind of corruption --black market deals. I bought drugs stollen from government hospitals. I participated in the misappropriation of medications. Yeah. That. In my own (inexcusable and flimsy) defense, the first time I bought the medications I thought it was all legit. I was buying them from a licensed pharmacist. He was getting me them in large quantities for reasonable prices. It had to be legal, right?

Wrong.

My greatest regret, after realizing that the medications I was buying had been stolen, was to continue buying them. Oh sure, I had stopped purchasing them from that corrupt pharmacist, but I did allow my pride to push me into buying from street peddlers and pill pushers. Oh, God forgive me! I confess that my desire to ‘get it done’ started outweighing my desire to please God, trust Him, or walk in righteousness. How could I admit to everyone I was wrong to open the clinic so soon? That would be failure, right?

Wrong.

Mind you, during this time I was feeling very convicted by the Lord. Nevertheless, I made excuses. I justified that it would be silly to go backwards. Surely, it’s better I just keep going. I worried that I would fail my volunteers and workers if we closed. What would they do? I argued (foolishly) that everyone buys meds on the black market. It is just the way things are done here. But I didn’t believe my own lies. I tried to numb the conviction by saying that it was only temporary. The AVARA was due any day, and then I wouldn’t have to do it anymore. Right?

Wrong.

Although things looked good on the outside, I didn’t have any peace. I had other things though. I finally had approval from my strongest critics, who were sick of me waiting on the Lord to do it right. What they wanted were results. They saw my desire to do things legally as a useless complication and delay. More than once they told me that my failure to ‘just open it already’ was a lack of faith on my part. Although I strongly disagreed with them, I justified compromising in this way to please them and to get them off my back.

Lord, forgive me!

Three months into the process, God started speaking to me louder than before. If fact He started yelling. The warnings were so clear and repeated three times that I finally took notice. What He warned was that I had more than just one paper missing and that it would be a huge financial fee if I didn’t get them in order.

I confess this surprised me at first. Why? Well... I’d been in this country for 3 years. I’d gone to countless people for advice and counsel. Not one of them mentioned that I needed to do anything other than what I was doing. But God wouldn’t let me sleep. He took away my peace and He stirred in me action. So one day, I went to a group of business leaders and lawyers for advice. I showed them all my documents and asked them what they thought.

Long story short, instead of missing one document, I was missing nineteen. One missing document would result in a fine of several thousand dollars. I was in a fix. How had I gotten to this point?

Oh yeah... I remember now. It was my impatience, pride, and desire to please men rather than God.

The next day I laid off my workers, closed the clinic doors, and began doing all the proper paperwork for the clinic.

Again.

There is more to share. Tons in fact. But I’ll have to pick this story up at another time. This is just the tip of the ice burg.

Season of Silence.

To say I’ve been quiet this year would be an understatement. I’ve been more than quiet... I’ve been dead silent.

Sorry.

This year, in all honesty, has crushed me. Flat. This crushing has been so fresh, so gruesome, and so intense at times that the only way I knew how to keep going was to crawl into a hole and hide. But hiding... meant remaining silent. Silent, meant leaving you all in the dark with me. 

For that... I’m sorry.

This dark, self-inflicted exile made it impossible for many of you to pray accurately or fight this battle with me. I regret this mainly because there have been massive praise reports along the way that I failed to share. And you have not had the chance to be encouraged with me.

For that too... I’m sorry.

Honestly, there were times I had much to say but felt no freedom to share. It was as if I had been muzzled by the Lord. At other times, I remained silent because I no longer trusted what would come out of my mouth. Sometimes, however, it was sheer exhaustion or busy-ness that made finding the time impossible.

For that and so much more... I’m sorry.

But mostly, I’m sorry because I feel like my silence has somehow distanced us.

Please forgive me.

Oh my most faithful prayer warriors and my most passionate supporters, I have failed you. I have selfishly kept this dark, soul sucking hurt and frustration to myself. I didn’t feel like I could share it with you.

I am convinced (then and now) that much of what I have had to deal with was too gruesome and raw to share in anything but a whisper to God.

He had to teach me to pry open my bloodied grip and leave my hurts and pains at His feet. I wasn’t a pleasant lesson to learn. I struggle still.

Had I written... it would have come out in groanings and moanings -- a visceral cry of the broken hearted. The crushed.

Believe it or not, I was afraid.

Not of God, mind you! No. Never that! I was afraid of what you might think. I was terrified of misrepresenting God, stumbling others’ walks, and voicing my pain.

“Afraid? But... why?”, you ask.

How could I be afraid to speak the truth? How could I be afraid to share my life with those who love me?

A fair question.

Oh to those who see love on every side, you are blessed! May that never change! Would it shock you to know I’m not universally loved or appreciated. I have lots of eyes on me. Not all of them are kind or supportive. By sharing... I feared I would equip these would-be enemies with the very tools needed to destroy me.

Silly? Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Despite this (or perhaps because of this) season of silence, my heart has been strengthened and I’ve finally found the courage to crawl out of this hole.

Like David, I sing “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

In the coming days and weeks, I hope to catch you all up on some of the victories and defeats of this year.

Be forewarned. I’m long passed the point of caring what others might think me. I’m ready to speak. Maybe it will come out as a whisper. Maybe it will be a roar. Either way, my prayer is that it would glorify my Lord.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In the Family way...


Shortly before I took off to teach a month and a half ago... my dog had just finished up her first cycle of being in heat.

Not fun.

I felt like a particularly hard-nosed warden as I locked her down day and night, chaining her to poles and chasing away her male suitors.

But I figured it would be worth it in the end not to have to deal with puppies.

Unfortunately, toward the end of her cycle --basically the last day or so-- I got lazy. I decided to let her out of her prison (aka: my house) and let her soak up the sun (while chained to my back porch).

I hadn't seen any suitors in a few days and thought her scent must have changed.

I was wrong.

After taking my eyes away from her for about 10 minutes, everything got errily quiet. So, I went out back to check on her.

Her chain had gotten stuck in my outside pipes and she was cornered by three male dogs. One was stuck with her... if you get my drift.

After almost a month of watching and worrying to avoid this very thing... I managed to mess it all up in 10 inattentive minutes.

Ugg.

Not sure if she could get pregnant on the last day of her cycle, I speculated on the probability of puppies with my neighbor and friend, Sarah.

As we debated the likelihood of it all, my dogs nipples changed.

I worried over them, insisting that she must be expecting. Sarah --always the rainbow to my rain-- suggested that I was overthinking it.

I didn't get to speculate on it too long, as I took the offer to teach a week or so later and left my dog in Sarah's care.

Every now and again, I'd return for a quick trip to Maforga. Initially, I didn't see much change in my dog's physique, so I started second guessing my initial pessimism.

However circumstances with my car prohibited me from returning for the last three weeks. By the time I got back, my dog was unquestionably 'in the family way'.

She is huge!

She waddles. She drools. She steals food from kids.

And have I mentioned.... she's HUGE!

Since I know the day she conceived, I can make the fair guess that she will deliver any day. If websites are to be believed, she will give birth on Wednesday June 10th.

Do EDDs on dogs vary as well? What happens if she goes post-dates? Do I have to induce her?

I will confess that I'm every bit the midwife to my dog as I am to women.

I rub her belly until she groans with pleasure and drools. I feed her every time she looks at me with those pathetically drowsy eyes until she falls into a food coma. And well... I basically let her be as cranky as she wants to be at any time day or night.

Just today, I was able to palpate one of her puppies. It kicked me (tehehe).

And I'm even contemplating shaving her belly so I can listen to their PHT (puppy heart tones).

This is going to be my first time dealing with puppies. I could use all the advice you can offer.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Maternity Ward Observational


During my two week stay at the maternity ward as a clinical instructor, I had the opportunity to note some interesting cultural observations.

Day after day, I'd arrive at the maternity center with students in tow to find a number of first-time mothers in labour. Usually, the first-time mothers laboured the longest, while the multigravidas (aka: women pregnant for the second or more times) came much later in labour.

One G2 (aka: mother for the second time) came striding in, calm as the sea after a storm, only to discover she was fully dilated. She delivered (to my and my students dismay) while we were out of the room. It took her less than five minutes from beginning to end.

But labours like hers were not the norm. Most of the women who laboured and delivered there were first-time mothers-to-be. They arrived after the first or second contractions and then stayed until the baby was born.

For some this was quick. However more often than not, they were there for the long haul. One young girl (having more than likely braxton-hicks contractions) had arrived three days before. She had not had contractions in over two days, but she was not discharged nor did she seem interested in leaving. For the life of me, I am not sure why.

Several women came in at 1 or 2 cms dilated and chose to stay. The maternity ward was bustling but they did not seem to mind. They waddled around and watched as others delivered around them one by one.

When it was their turn to push, they were watched as well.

A lot of the first-time moms had hypertonic (aka: abnormally strong) contractions even though they were only 2 cms dilated.

After talking with the staff about it, I discovered that it was common for women to try and induce labour by drinking traditional herbs. These herbs cause painful and frequent contractions that don't always dilate the cervix. I saw similar things in the Philippines.

One nurse tsked their use of herbs, explaining that usually the ineffective contractions led to exhaustion, an inevitable referral to the hospital, and an (avoidable) cesarean for fetal distress. 

I also saw things done by the staff that caused me to pause.

One nurse sutured a woman up without using local anesthetic. Naturally the woman cried out in pain with each stitch. Meanwhile the nurse yelled and berated her for making so much noise. I didn't stay to watch. I couldn't.

One day while evaluating one of the labours, I noticed her family had purchased cytotec. When I asked her about it, she informed me the nurse had insisted she buy it. The nurse denied this since she was already well advanced in labour. However when I inquired the woman's family about it again later, they presented me with the prescription the nurse had given her. I never saw what the nurse did with those drugs but they were certainly not for the woman who purchased them.

I also saw a nurse be given a 'gift' of a capulana (a traditional cloth) at one point. She hurriedly rushed to put it away in her purse as the gift-giver went back to her friend in labour. I had been told that such 'gifts' were expected by the nursing staff but I confess I was still disappointed to see it.




Labor of Love May 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

On the Road Again!

For those of you who prayed and gave.... thank you! My car is in working order again. It took 3 frustratingly long weeks but my new mechanic, Luis, has finally returned her in excellent condition.

In fact, I don't think she's ever been working so well!

He had to put on a new engine head (as the one that I got fixed in Zimbabwe last year was in fact cracked) and all the valves, gaskets, and what-nots that usually go into such things.

Plus, he fixed my emergency brake (which was loose), replaced my starter (which was finicky), put in a new clutch (which was smashed to bits), and fixed the door handle on my trunk (which had been broken while I was on furlough)!

The man is magic. Magic! I say.

My engine now purrs as she bounces down the road.

Mind you, I still need new tires... but other than that, the car is better than ever.

Thank you for your precious prayers!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stitches?


The third birth I observed seemed normal enough to begin with. The mother was 27 years old and expecting her second child.

When we arrived, her contractions were strong and frequent but she seemed to be handling them well. Within no time, her water broke displaying a yellowish puddle of meconium stained fluid.

The nurse set up the room for the birth (which means she got a bed pan, some non-sterile gauze, and a birth kit and placed it at the foot of the bed). The bed pan was slipped under the mother's bottom and she was told to push.

She pushed for only 5 minutes for the head to be born. But then the nurse reached in and wrenched him out. The mother stayed quiet while the nurse literally pushed and pulled and twisted and turned his little body every which way imaginable.

Two minutes later, the nurse lifted his body free of the mother with a gush of more mec-stained fluid.

The nurse then injected her with oxytocin to precipitate the placental detachment, then started massaging her uterus.

She massaged and pushed on it externally until 4 minutes postpartum it popped out in a gush of clots and blood.

She placed the boy in his mother's arms and evaluated her tear.

There was a tear but it was not deep. At most i would have put it at a shallow 2nd degree. However, as the nurse considered it, I overheard her worry how she was 'out of stock'.

I thought nothing of it, until a few minutes later I watched her suture her up with 3-0 acrylic (aka: non-absorbable) suture material.

She placed interrupted stitch after interrupted stitch, burying the deeper stitched beneath the more shallow ones.

My jaw dropped in surprise and my legs snapped closed in horror... but I didn't say anything. How could I?

We were guests there. I could not make those kind of calls... nor could I criticize them in their work. But I confess, I worry still what those buried sutures might do. Perhaps her body just rejected them and the string fell out as they healed.

That is my hope at least.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fit To Be Tied.

The next birth happened a day or so later.

The young mother-to-be was alone but apparently unconcerned by this fact. Not all of the labours have companions.

So as she laboured, I taught the students how to evaluate her contractions and take her history. She was 20 years old and expecting her first child.

She readily admitted to taking traditional herbs to prepare her body for birth... and even to start her labour.

Since her contractions were strong and frequent, the nurse decided to do a vaginal exam at 10 am. The nurse was VERY aggressive during this exam, manually dilating her cervix despite the patient's vocal protestations.

Afterward the nurse informed us she was 90% effaced but only 6 cm dilated. But after such forceful manipulation of the cervix, I did not think it true for long.

Sure enough, an hour later her water broke and she immediately got pushy.

In fact, there was no stopping her. So we called for the nurse. 

The young mother was already fully dilated and wanting to push. The nurse tried to get her to focus and push effectively but she would have none of it.

All she wanted to do was scream. 

One scream was so piercing and so long, it could have shattered glass.

After some negotiation, we convinced her that screaming like that was not actually helping. In her defense, she did really try to push. But each time she did, she would close her legs and withdraw.

It was going no where. 

The nurse was not pleased and she argued with her.

She then tried to push again but ended up kicking the nurse and swatting her hands away.

The nurse was even less pleased with this behavior. 

After more negotiating, the young mother confessed that she needed help controlling herself and requested that two of the male medical students hold her down while she pushed.

Yes. She wanted them to forcibly hold her down so she would not hit or kick the nurse.

So they did.

Mind you, they seemed more than a bit surprised by this. I don't think either one of them woke that morning thinking that they'd have to tackle a pregnant woman while she pushed her baby out. But you know... some days are surprising like that.

I soon found myself out of my depths and stepped away from the melee to watch at the foot of the bed. The remaining two students shuffled a step closer to me with each new scream. One (who plans on being an obstetrician) was wide-eyed and mesmerized by the beauty of it all. The other (who is unlikely to choose obstetrics as a specialty) kept hiding her eyes and furtively glancing my way for assurances that the woman was not in fact dying.

Meanwhile the young mother continued to scream and abuse the staff while pushing. The nurse, more than likely frustrated with the abuse, decided to perform aggressive perineal stretching. The baby was born quickly but caused a significant 2nd degree tear in the process.

The placenta was pulled from her body within minutes of the birth with strong cord traction. It was so strong in fact, that the cord snapped, squirting blood all over the foot of the bed.

The nurse decided to suture the tear before presenting the baby to the mother. The young mother screamed and fought the sutures just about as much as she did the birth, despite being anesthetized.

When the nurse finished up the stitches, she reached down for the baby's ankles, lifted her high in the air and presented her genitals for the mother to see.

The young mother whispered, 'a girl' to herself and smiled.

Then the baby was taken off to be wrapped and weighed.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Normal?

Her contractions were strong and frequent when I first met her. She lay on the bed and her mother held her hand.

The pain contorted her face and forced the occasional groan, but she didn't seem to notice it much. For the most part, she was surprisingly quiet.

So quiet in fact, that I didn't think she was even close.

As a 17 year old G1 (aka: primigravida or woman pregnant for the first time), I expected things to go a little slower. But her body had other plans.

Shortly after we arrived, her waters broke and she started getting grunty. One of the students informed the head nurse, who started setting up the room.

She started pushing before the nurse was ready, so I encouraged her to breathe through contractions and taught her how to push effectively.

The grandmother, looking a mixture of exhausted-relief, excused herself to the corner of the room and said nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The mother pushed effectively despite the five extra medical student faces huddled around her bed. She didn't seem to notice or care in all the pain.

The nurse on duty expedited the birth by doing perineal stretching and the mother remained silent. She pushed only a handful of times before the head was born. The nurse didn't wait for the next contraction, she just reached inside and wrenched the shoulders free. Again, the mother made no noise.

The baby was out less than a minute when the cord was cut. She too made not a sound. Just like her mama.

The nurse grabbed the child by both feet and swung her in the air, presenting her upside down for the mother to see. The mother smiled when she saw it was a girl, then dropped her head back on the bed in a rush of exhaustion.

The nurse lay the child on her breast and it mewed quietly.

Within 3 minutes after the birth, the nurse aggressively massaged the mother's uterus and applied traction on the cord. The placenta wasn't budging. She forced it harder and massaged even more aggressively.

This continued until the nurse found herself with a torn placenta (only 5 minutes postpartum) and decided to do a manual extraction. Reaching her right hand in up to her elbow, the nurse extracted chunk after chunk of the placenta from the uterine wall. Each time she reached in, she came out with chunks, clots and membranes.

The mother made not a sound. 

Afterward, the nurse reached in repeatedly with non-sterile gauze to evacuate the uterus and vaginal canal of any remaining blood. But still the young, new mother remained silent.

Inside, I screamed for her. Inside, I cried out in pain.

For her.

How she remained so stoic... so quiet, I'm still not sure.

As I looked through the nurses' bloodied hands, several baffled expressions caught my eye. "What must these medical students be thinking?"

For many of them, this was their very first experience with birth. I shuddered to think that this was considered 'normal' in Mozambique.

Perhaps... it is normal. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Multiparity


The last two weeks of May involved teaching at a maternity ward downtown. My job was to help introduce fourth year medical students to 'normal' birth. Much of our time was spent labour watching, timing contractions, evaluating fetal heart tones, and palpating fetal positions. However, we also got to do a number of newborn exams and assist in a few births.

One day we arrived to find a young woman occupying one of the labour beds. Naturally, we assumed she was pregnant (as her fundal height was marked), so I told two of the students to time her contractions. Ten minutes later when I came back to see how things were going, I was informed she was not in labour and that her babies were in the other room.

So I instructed them to get her obstetrical history instead.


The new mother explained that she was a 20-years-old mother of six. Earlier that day, she had delivered twins at home. She came to the maternity ward for the birth certificate but did not seem very interested in any other service. Since her babies (a boy and a girl) were cold and covered in sand, the nursing staff had taken them for evaluation and placed them in a warmer.

The mother explained that she had delivered her first child at the age of 11 and that her previous four pregnancies were simple. This was her first set of twins, however. 

She didn't want to talk much about the particulars, so we didn't press her for more information. Although I know 11-year-olds can get pregnant, my heart hurts to think that this mother has so many mouths to feed and so much responsibility...  at such a young age.

What were you doing at the age of 20?


Monday, May 4, 2015

Teaching

As I mentioned previously... during the months of April and May, I was invited to be a clinical instructor for a medical school in a neighboring city. The people I met and the opportunities this experience afforded me were equally wonderful and heartbreaking.

The first four weeks, I worked with nursing students doing clinical rotations in a busy hospital. The school gave me a white coat, a pen, and pointed me to the various departments. I was working in the pediatric department and the malnutrition center.

Needless to say, what I saw was...

Stressful: Each morning I had to rush from where I was staying (my commute was anywhere from 40 to 90 mins one-way) to get to the hospital in time for roll call. The hospital was crowded. The needs were overwhelming.

Disconcerting: The manner of teaching was very different from my own (educational) experience. I felt like I was wading eyebrow-deep in murky waters for the first few days. Every day brought new challenges with no cultural insider to ask if I was making a fool of myself or standing tall. Sigh.

Heartbreaking: No one forgets the gaunt and wasted face of a 8 year old boy dying of AIDS. It's hard to silence the wails of a mother who just watched her two year old die.

Fascinating: One day a 4 day old neonate was brought in to determine the sex. The genitals were ambiguous. After the examination the doctor explained the mother had an hermaphrodite. The news was not well received.

Overall, my time there was...

Exhausting: Most days turned out to be 10 to 12 hr days. Speaking all day in Portuguese was a challenge as well... mentally and physically.

Expensive: Though friends let me stay with them for free, the public transport was either cheap or inconvenient. Getting back and forth from work took an hour and a half in the morning if I went with 'cheap' (costing less than a dollar). But if I needed to get there quickly (30 minutes or so), it cost 8 dollars. Sigh.

Insightful: After two years of stories about policies and practices in governmental hospitals, I was finally able to see first hand that they are true. I saw corruption, neglect, abuse, and incompetence. But I also saw many who did not fit the mold and strived to do well.

Blessed: I was able to make lots of new friends and learn how the medical system works in this country. Often I was impressed by the caliber of medical professionals in this country despite the obstacles they must face to care for their patients.




Thursday, April 30, 2015

Overheated: The Saga Continues

Again, please forgive me for this rant. I feel like I’m complaining all the time. I probably am though. As I have more bad (expensive) news to share.

My car... the one that overheated last fall and got a complete new engine... started having troubles again a few weeks back.

My local mechanics (aka: my team members) poked and prodded and said all was good to drive. I was not so sure.

I took it on short trips for the day and it appeared to be fine. But apparently when I decided to come to Beira to start teaching, everything heated up a notch.

The three hour trip turned out to be too much for my car. It overheated.

But oddly, there was no mad cloud of steam and the engine did not freeze. It just got hot and I stopped to cool it off and eventually add more water.

Delayed but not stuck (Praise God!), I eventually made my destination and started volunteering. But almost immediately, it was using more water and oil and acting all hot and bothered.

So I asked around for a good mechanic. That’s how I met Luis.

Luis is Zimbabwean of Indian descent. Nice guy from all appearances. He took a few hours to check ‘Hot and Bothered’ out. The diagnosis was not pleasant.

Though he won’t know for sure until he takes the engine out --Yep. The engine must come out. He says I got really bad work done in Zimbabwe last year. The hack job they did has to be re-done.

All of it.

The price tag is likely to be the same.

This news has been just one more thing in a series of bad this week (i.e. lost paperwork, roofing delays, team drama, etc.). Fortunately, it has not got me shaking in my boots.

Though pressed on every side, I know I’m never abandoned. I feel His presence so intensely. I feel so close to birthing this clinic.

So. Very. Close.

The enemy is shaking in his boots. If he thinks that by frustrating my papers and breaking my car that I’ll somehow turn tail and leave, than he’s a mighty big idiot.

His tactics are base, desperate and ultimately powerless in the face of God’s divine will.

He will fail.

Please pray for me (and the team here at Maforga) to daily find ways to become more than conquerors.

Some battle scars are still fresh. To be honest... some are actively bleeding. But I turn to my Healer for these wounds to be bound up and make whole.

May I come out of this battle stronger and more suited for the next task at hand.

Oh... that His people would PRAY.

Labor of Love: April 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lost in Maputo-land.

I’m not sure how to update you all on my equivalencia paperwork without coming off as hostile, morose, or defeated. So I’ll try to stick to the facts.

Fact number one. I got promises for immediate action (meaning an answer in less than one week) from the director of education in Maputo.... 5 weeks ago.

Fact number two. Last week, I got a call that there was an answer to my paperwork but since it was a Friday, no one could be bothered to open the envelop and read those results over the phone. My friend in Maputo would have to show up in person on Monday.

Fact number three. My friend was busy so he went in on Tuesday. While there he was told that the department of education had LOST my most recent application. We’d have to resubmit everything. --everything since January that is. That equates to 5 months of wasted time.

Fact number four. I’m really disappointed, somewhat angry, and overall unimpressed.

How does a country, that has lost or misdirected my application four times in almost two years, get anything done?

Seriously, are you kidding me?!

Please pray as this next round of paperwork should be submitted next week. Pray for supernatural results.

This is beyond ridiculous.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Roof Going On...


Your prayers for the roofing material were heard. Last week I got the call that they had arrived and were ready for pick-up. I arranged for my friend to cart them out to our community but the following day... I was informed that not all of them had been picked up. I had to pay (again) for the remaining two roofing sheets to be delivered before I could start thinking about tearing things up.

The thing is... since the roofing material took 4 1/2 weeks longer than expected to arrive, I was no longer able to oversee the project. (I had already committed myself to teach for 6 weeks at a medical university several hours drive away.) So I asked a team member to do it for me.

Thankfully, he agreed.

This week, the old roof was torn off and the new roof is going on! Yeah!!!

Though I’ve missed the process, it is probably for the best. I’m discovering that I’m too nit-picky when it comes to construction in this country.

For example on the first day of construction, when my team member told me that a quarter of the roof had been torn off but they still hadn’t purchased the nails to put the new roofing on, I almost started hyperventilating.

Not good.

After first reassuring myself that the sky above was a perfect cerulean blue, I told him that it was probably best not to know the details. We’ve had too much rain in the last few weeks for me to comfortably tear off the clinic roof... and leave it off.

Even for a day.

Since then, I’ve heard nothing but good things. Apparently, the old roof has come off completely... and the new roof is more or less on.

A team member is taking pictures. I’ll be sure to add them as soon as I can.

Thank you for your prayers. And thank you to all those who have given to make this new roof possible! You all are awesome!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

More Papers Than Sense

Last year after getting the license to open the clinic, I headed off to Beira with a spring in my step to buy supplies for the clinic. Beira is the best place to buy medicines since it’s a coastal city and there are a number of pharmaceutical companies that import medicines directly to the port. 

When I approached them for catalogs and supply lists, they told me with tight-lipped condescending smiles they could only sell them to me if I had an AVARA.

Never having heard of this document before, I returned to Maforga empty handed. I asked around for help in obtaining it and got a LOT of conflicting information. Once the dust settled and I was able to filter though yet ANOTHER set of paperwork requirements, things got even more confusing.

I won’t bore you with the details. But I will share that I’ve been working on the process for over 9 months and I don’t feel even one step closer.

After spending lots of money getting the building inspected and registered, I was informed that my efforts were wasted. You see... I had been seeking a way to establish a pharmaceutical license/AVARA for the clinic. That way I could buy the medicines in Beira and then provide them to the community.

But I should have done my homework better.

The Mozambican laws prohibit a private clinic from also owning a private pharmacy. And even though the clinic is a charity/non-profit clinic, there is no way to have a non-profit pharmacy.

So... I was denied that route.

The only route that remains is to get the AVARA for the clinic. This is still a possibility and it might permit me to buy some medicines. I’m not sure. But to complete the process, I must wait on others.

So I wait.

And I pray.

Please pray with me.

Thanks.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Water Anyone?

As I alluded to in my earlier posts, our water situation at Maforga still has a few leaks in the system.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Last fall after almost a year of no and/or very poor water supply, we were able to reconnect the water for the orphans. This dearly improved the quality of life on a whole. But if memory serves me right, that fix appeared to be electrical, resulting from a faulty pump.

If you recall, that was also around the time I was pushing for the water tank at the clinic to be completed. After months of delays, a wonderful short-term team of construction workers in connection with local workers finished the water tower and installed the tank.

However due to continued water shortages, I was not able to test out the tank until I returned from furlough in January. Only then did I learn that the water supply was not good enough to fill it as well as provide for the orphans.

Fortunately, God had foreseen this problem and had already provided through some very generous donors enough money to dig another well.

However after some months of unforeseeable delays, Roy (the director of Maforga Mission) was finally able to contract the well digging company to come out last February.

I’m told the first place they dug was no good. They hit granite. We didn’t have enough money to pay them to dig again and again, so Roy asked them to re-dig an unused well instead.

Though they did re-dig it, they then did not have the right casing or pipes or even a pump to fit it and so it sits waiting.

The un-used well, I’m told by Roy, was abandoned after having to repeatedly repair the pump due to sand clogging the system. He expressed a hope that with new casings and a better pump it could be much better and the water would be diverted directly to the clinic. This would avoid having to share the water with the orphans.

The problem is... no one seems to have the right size of pump for this kind of casing. He must look for it in S. Africa. He tells me he intends to get it next time he goes.

I’m sorry I don’t have better information than that. Please pray that the parts come together for the well to be useful or for us to find another way to resolve the water issue.
Currently, there is no water at all to the clinic and I cannot open it without it.

Thank you for your prayers.

Overheated.

So on Monday, one of the team borrowed my car. After a day of running errands, he returned with news that it appeared to be overheating.

Not good.

I took a look at it, and sure enough. It was hot and bothered.

The water boiled furiously out the hoses. The engine strained and sizzled each time it started. And even the tires appeared to be constantly losing air.

Sigh.

I tried a little bit of this... and a little bit of that; I asked you all to pray; And then finally, on day three of the confusion, it became clear.

There was a hose problem.

Another team member lent me his hose to see if it was something so simple. And now it works like a charm.

Please pray for me to know how to take care of this precious ministry tool. Getting from point A to point B is more important than I can express. Everything hinges on transportation in a place as remote as this.

Thanks.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Invitation to Teach

You’ll be happy to know my mud-encrusted toe nails are bright and shiny again. It’s amazing what a tepid bucket bath can do for the spirits!

I don’t remember ever going so long without a shower --when one was available, that is-- and I can only attribute it to my muddled mind and burdened heart. I forget to do things like eat and shower when I’m tied up emotionally.

To say, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately would be inaccurate. ‘A lot’ indicates more than the usual load. What word describes more than ‘a lot’?

A ton? A mountainous weight? Atlas’ burden?

No. That’s not accurate either. Because it’s the number, not the weight, of the issues that trouble me most these days.

As I sit and type, I’m reminded of one of my dad’s favorite sayings: ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another.’

So yesterday I shared about one of the things. In the days to come, I’ll be sharing even more. I’m finding it’s remarkably helpful to write them down.

The simple task of typing them out reminds me of catching butterflies. I bounce after each thought in my head, trap it with a gossamer net, and gently pull it free. As I examen the specimen, I marvel at its intricate markings.

So delicate. So beautiful. So distracting.

I lay this butterfly aside and it stays... remarkably.

And I pick up my net for the next.

So... as every good story needs a beginning. That is where I’ll start. Here goes...

While in Maputo for my paperwork a few weeks back, I stayed in a missionary guesthouse where I met a missionary couple from Beira. They were leaving to come back North the same day as I was and I asked to hitch a ride. They kindly obliged.

This lovely couple shared their stories with me as we traveled and we told them of my plans as well. We discovered that we had similar interests.

They work with the youth near a Catholic medical school in Beira. Many of their Bible study students attend the school and over the years they have made many friends there. They offered to connect me with their friends.

When they dropped me off, I promised to stay in touch and come visit at the first opportunity. I wanted to meet with the school directors to see if they would send nursing or medical students as volunteers once the clinic opened.

About a week later, I was able to arrange the trip out there and I called them up. They generously invited me to stay the night. However the day I was to head out, I got delayed and called them to say I’d be running a few hours late.

-- “Hi, B. So sorry but I won’t make it for lunch,” I explain by phone. “I’ll see you later in the evening. I had an emergency to take care of this morning... and I’m delayed”.
-- “Oh, dear. But we arranged for you to have a meeting with school director at 2pm,” she worried aloud. 
-- “What?” I stuttered. “Um.... thanks. But had I known I would have tried harder to be there. I’m three hours away.... I don’t think I can make it in time.”
-- “Oh, dear. But they can’t meet tomorrow....”
-- “I’ll try to come now. Please see if you can push it back a bit.”
-- “Okay. See you soon.”

As I made a mad dash back home to pack and raced off down the road, I couldn’t help but be simultaneously confused, irritated, and thankful.

  • Confused.... because I had no idea about the meeting and was surprised. 
  • Irritated... because I was now late for a meeting I never knew was happening and I might not make it in time.
  • Thankful... because they had made such a sweet effort to bless me.

I was three hours away. The meeting was to start in three hours exactly. By the grace of God... I made it.

I had just enough time to park, meet up with my friends, then hurry off to the medical school. They tried to catch me up as we walked.

We arrived and I shook Dr. E’s hand with a smile.

-- “Hi”, he smiled back. ‘We are excited to have you here today... but before we go any further we need to know what kind of midwife you are... and whether or not you expect to be paid?”

I shared my experience with him a bit confused and denied any interest in payment. In my head, why would they pay me to send me interns? I shrugged it off and let him lead the conversation.

He was pleased to know that I didn’t need payment and offered to introduce me to the woman in charge of the nursing department.

I confess, the meeting was one big confusion. There were three languages being spoken simultaneously and questions that didn’t connect with my expectations.

Forty minutes later, I was sitting around my friend’s dining table sipping coffee and trying to make sense of it all. As I strung all the questions together in a play-by-play evaluation, it occurred to me that the meeting felt more like a job interview than anything else.

So I asked the obvious.
-- “Was that a job interview?”
-- “Yes, it was. What do you mean...” he asked in confusion.
-- “But I thought the meeting was so I could ask for volunteers... not be one,” I explained.

This revelation brought on more confusion, prayers, and phone calls of explanation. I called Dr. E to apologize for the miscommunication. He didn’t seem to mind at all and insisted that they could really use volunteers.

Although I no longer saw the reason for another meeting scheduled the next morning, he didn’t want to cancel it. Rather he asked me to come and hear them out about what volunteering would be like.

The next morning I went and met several doctors and directors. They told me they had teaching modules and I could be a huge help in two modules in particular and that I’d be useful as a clinical instructor for both the nursing and medical department.

If I agreed, I’d be teaching students three days a week in the morning and my afternoons could be spent working in their HIV department where I could learn the country’s protocols. This is a HUGE answer to prayer. I know I’m hopelessly uninformed on HIV protocols and treatment options (there was almost no HIV in S. Sudan), but I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to learn them... until now.

Needless to say, I told them I’d pray about it and get back to them.

That was a week ago.

Since then, I’ve talked to my director here at Maforga and he agrees it’s a God-opportunity. Moreover, God has provided a place for me to stay while in Beira and the right uniform. I’m only missing white nursing shoes.

If all goes well, I’ll tentatively start next week. However, that depends on my car working. Since my return from Beira, it has started overheating.

I’m hopefully getting it fixed today. Pray that it can be sorted quickly and that I can volunteer without any issues. I’m eager to see what God has planned for this new adventure.

A Roof-to-be

A Roof-to-be


Last year I planned to put a new roof on the clinic. But before I could arrange the details, my car engine exploded. Resolving my engine problems took precedence and then I had to leave for furlough.

By the time I had returned, the rainy season had made getting a new roof on impracticable as the rain rarely let up long enough to give me hope.

Well, now the rainy season is passed. Mostly.

In anticipation of this drier season, I got the funds together, checked around for the best prices, and ordered the materials. I was informed, at that time, that it would take 10 days at the most.

It has been almost a month.

I went in to the roofing supplier with questions and was told the equipment that cuts the metal roofing tiles is broken. All their orders are backlogged.

They could not promise or even estimate how long it would take to get the roofing.

Foolishly, I pushed and prodded for a time frame. They hedged and made empty promises.

So I wait.

Please pray that the supplies will arrive soon and that I can arrange to get the roof on in the next month or so.

I’m told it’s a week long process.

Only time will tell.

Please pray.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Equivalencia Update

You know it’s an off week when you look down at your mud stained feet and wonder when you took your last shower.

Yes. You read that correctly. And when I say shower... I really mean bucket bath.

In the midst of my feet-inspired reverie this morning, mini flashes of strange and various adventures this week confused my counting and I had to start again.

Finally I determinde --with much self-incriminating horror-- that it has been 7 days.

One week since I showered.

Oh the shame!

It’s at times like this that I’m thankful God hasn’t married me off. Who would share a bed with such a stinker?!

So as I stop to type this out, imagine my grimy toe nails and greasy hair and laugh with me.

I have much to share.

In fact, I have so much to share. I’m going to do it in mini segments because, honestly, who has time to read diatribes on Mozambican corruption or shady mechanics?

I will start at the beginning though. The question is... which beginning?

The Maputo Adventure (and all that came after)

In my most recent newsletter I told you how I went to Maputo to talk to the US ambassador and various heads of departments at the Ministry of Education and Health. I won’t belabor those points again but I will add what has happened since.

The consulate staff has corresponded with me and told me basically their hands are tied. They can (and have) tried to address the delays in my equivalencia process on a more systemic level, but to no avail. They are even willing to make phone calls for me if and when it seems necessary. However, the extent of their influence is limited at best.

I believe them.

Moreover shortly after my visit to Maputo, the Ministry of Education director promised to expedite things (according to my helper in Maputo) but no concrete evidence to this fact has surfaced. She promised to have results by the end of the week. It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since then.

The cogs of bureaucracy move slowly here... if they move at all.

So the long of the short of it is... I must wait and pray. So, I wait and I pray.

The locals are chomping at the bit to see the clinic open. Eyes are on me. Not a day goes by that one of the workers doesn't ask me ‘how long?’.

Can I blame them?

I’ve been encouraged by some on my team to ‘just open it’ and to ‘forget getting government approval’. I’ve been told that the ‘law of love supersedes the laws of man’ and I’m commanded to just start healing people.

How can I argue with that?

Except... except... except, the Bible tells us to abide by the laws of the land. If we don’t abide by them we disgrace God and bring shame to His name.

How do I reconcile the two?

I tell my would-be encouragers that if I practice medicine without a license I can be arrested. No one seems to believe me. No one really thinks I’ll be thrown in prison or kicked out the country for ‘doing good’. But who wants to risk it?

What kind of Christian would I be to openly defy the government on such an important issue? Why put myself in such a predicament, especially in such a litigious society, so I can have the pleasure of handing out medicines?

Yes, the law of love supersedes the laws of man. But am I qualified to pick and chose which laws to obey?

But we are not talking about being forbidden to speak about Jesus or pray in His name. I’m not being forbidden to preach... I’m being told they need to vet me before I dole out malaria meds and catch bambinos.

To me... these are quite different circumstances.

Moreover, I must explain that my equivalencia is not the only thing holding up the clinic’s opening.

The three main issues blocking my way at the moment are:
  • a new clinic roof is needed but delayed.
  • there is currently no water to the clinic and there is no way to determine how long it will be to resolve the problem.
  • the AVARA document process is stuck. This is the document which allows me to buy medicines in bulk and for discounted prices.

Other issues come into play (such as my car is broken again!). But I won’t rant about that at this time. I will, however, promise to write about them all individually and in more detail in the days to come.

But please know... I’m tired and discouraged. I feel like a failure and daily want to give up. I could be inches from my destination... or I could be a million miles away. I cannot know for sure or clearly see what is next. Pray for me.

Please.