The Summer Team has been busy with teaching school, assisting at Mercy hospital and making repairs. Yesterday we had some children from the community join us unexpectedly for school. I was asked to teach this little group of seven precious children. Team mate Barbara gave me some books, some colored paper (not just white paper) and pencils (very sharp pencils, I must add). We read the book, A Giraffe and a Half. For those of you that don’t know this story, as I didn’t, it is a rhyming book.
I knew we might be in trouble when I realized as we started the book that the children did not know a giraffe. There was a rose on his nose that they knew as a flower – didn’t quite rhyme. There was a whale biting his tail that the children only knew as a fish – again, didn’t work with the rhyme theme. So, most of you who know me, can imagine how much fun I had reading this book with them. I can tell you, they all know now the special creations of a rose and a whale. It was certainly a whale of a tale!
After the story-telling was finally finished, each child was able to choose their color of paper and was given a sharp pencil to draw any parts of the book. They all looked up at me, mouths open. I started drawing on my paper for them and then they got busy. We all had giraffes, flowers, whales and a snake eating cake on our papers. We knew the flowers on our papers, although all very beautiful, were not roses because they didn’t smell like a rose.
We decided to go out on an expedition to the library to find pictures of whales. On the way, still in the Child Rescue compound, my precious children sited several whales (yes, on land). I just loved to see their imaginations unleashed! They ooohed and aaahed over the photographs of the whales in the encyclopedias.
We talked about how all of us together plus our reunified older student (who had joined us while drawing and was instrumental in translating for us) could all fit into the belly of a whale. I wish you could have seen their mouths drop and eyes bug-out on that one. What a fun, fun day! Praise God from whom all blessings flow and the joy of enrichment for His precious children.
God is good; all the time! Glory to God, Amen!
In His service,
I am certainly not being an original thinker when I observe that the people of Sierra Leone, at least those at the Child Rescue Center and Mercy Hospital, are filled with extraordinary faith and hope. In fact, that’s probably the most common comment I’ve heard team members make. Each of their meetings begins with a devotion including song, prayer and devotional thoughts.
We’ve also attended a vespers service at the CRC and experienced a short devotion in a small village before the start of a medical outreach clinic. These events were unlike a typical US worship service in many ways, but perhaps the one that struck me the most is how democratic and participatory they are. It’s a bit like the scene in a bar in Spain my husband recalls where each patron, in turn, took the guitar being passed around and played a beautiful tune as the rest of the crowd sang along. In these worship services the microphone is passed from person to person, as one leads a song, another shares a prayer, and yet another delivers a message. Men, women and children participate fully and equally.
In the beauty and joy of their singing, their faith and hope shine through. In the sincerity and assurance of their prayers, their faith and hope shine through. In the strength and depth of their thoughts, their faith and hope shine through. As a neophyte missioner, I naively thought the goal of the mission trip was to share faith and hope with the people here. Nope. I’ll stick to sharing my knowledge of teaching reading and math, because they clearly don’t need me to give them hope or teach them faith. Quite the contrary, I’ve gained far more than I have to give in those regards.
The Bible tells us that “… faith comes from the hearing of the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) The people of Sierra Leone have undoubtedly heard that message! From where, then, does hope arise? And how is it that these people who have suffered greatly – and often are still experiencing significant obstacles – are so filled with hope? Shouldn’t we, who by comparison have suffered little, be able to give them hope? According to Romans 5:3-5, that’s not how it works. “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
It makes sense, then, that I, who have had a scant thimbleful of suffering in my life, have little to offer in the way of endurance, character and hope. I guess I was right that the mission of this trip is to impart faith and hope. I just misunderstood who would be doing most of the giving and who would be doing the receiving.
After saying our goodbyes we made it to the airport and are now checked in and waiting for our flight.
(filed by Bill Hafker)
It was a shock to wake today and realize that it was already our last day working with our new friends at the CRC and Mercy. Each activity from breakfast, to our meetings through the day, and our devotions in the evening, took on special significance knowing that we were experiencing each for the last time, at least for a while. Seeing how much the folks here have done, and are doing, with such limited resources and against a backdrop of such significant need, is humbling.
While the CRC and the MTC have had consistent internet connectivity through a satellite dish on the CRC property, Mercy has been forced to rely on cell modems for their Internet connection for several years. Today the IT Team connected Mercy to the satellite system, so they no longer have to rely on the the cell modems. They worked that magic with some equipment they found in storage. The IT team also taught a small group of CRC Aunties and older children the operations of the new sound system in the Great Hall, perhaps inspiring a crop of future Sierra Leonian MC's or DJ's.
Jessica, Bill B., Vicki, and Ilene joined a nutrition and prenatal care outreach to Nyandehun, a village significantly more impoverished than the one we visited when we first arrived, where they provided vitamins and Benemix (similar to Plumpy'nut) to those who most needed it. They also brought a woman who was having serious difficulty with her pregnancy, and a child suffering from what appeared to be severe malaria, back with them to Mercy. Leo also debriefed Kim on our observations from the prior outreach, which she will share with the Mercy staff.
Bill H. attended the opening devotions/meetings at CRC and Mercy, and was able to thank the teams at both for their openness in allowing him to work with them and offer them some final thoughts on the good things they were already doing, and the areas where they might want to concentrate to go to the next level. He also had fun with the Mercy Manager and CRC Director doing an exercise of each drawing, and explaining, a picture of our visions of how CRC and Mercy should work together. We agreed on many elements of what that would look like, but mostly on the fact that none of us will be moonlighting as artists!
Joseph Junisa, the Sponsor a Child (SAC) Coordinator at the CRC, his assistant Henry, and the guidance counselor Princess, spent an hour with several of us discussing the details of that program, and expressing the hope that we would share this information with our friends back home, in hopes that sponsors might be found for additional children. You can learn more about SAC by clicking here.
We were pleased that before we left Jess was able to be with Dr. Kanneh to confirm that Abu’s burns were healing well.
Tomorrow morning we say goodbye to the MTC and begin our journey back home, taking with us fond memories of meeting shared challenges and light-hearted moments, inspirational stories and images, and new friendships, that we hope we can build on ourselves, and share with our families and friends.
(Filed by Bill Hafker)
The team awoke to the sounds of roosters crowing, birds chirping and the children of the residential program getting ready to head off to school. Shocking weather forecast for today: hot and humid. We did get a little rain in the afternoon, but not enough to cool things down.
Although our days are usually packed with countless tasks which need our attention, we did get a chance to watch in awe the work of a local tree trimmer (note photos below) remove a large tree that could do extensive damage to the CRC or Mercy Hospital if not addressed. The gentleman was standing well over one hundred feet off of the ground, with no safety ropes, swinging a hand axe, only in Africa.
Jessica and Bill B. did morning rounds with Dr. Kannah at Mercy Hospital visiting eight patients ranging from pre-op to labor and delivery. Jessica (physician assistant) supported Dr. Kanneh with two hernia surgeries later in the day.
Ken B., Bill B., Leo F. and Dave H. spent their day testing various options for delivering reliable internet connectivity to Mercy. Challenges remain (which means it still isn’t working), but the team remains confident.
Ilene and Vickie G. continued their quest to finalize work on a spreadsheet that will be used by Mercy personnel to streamline the tracking of drugs and their usage. Vickie spent most of the day working in the Mercy Pharmacy and Drug Storage Room (it should be noted that this room is air-conditioned and probably why she spent so much time there) and has developed a keen understanding of their organization and layout, and is hoping to dramatically increase their productivity.
Bill H. started his day at the CRC morning devotion/staff meeting to which Mercy’s Business Manager and Matron were invited to begin consideration of initiating similar meetings at Mercy. Bill H. also met with Kim Sprout to discuss ideas for maintaining the progress developed this week with both the Mercy and CRC staffs. Finally, Bill H. met with Jinnah (Mercy Hospital’s Business Administrator) to review the draft interview matrix.
Illene H. assisted in developing a spreadsheet format of the final version of the interview matrix to greatly simplify the evaluation of the results.
Kim Sprout took Bill B., Jessica and members of Dr. Kannah’s team on a tour of the Bo Government Hospital. The tour included visits to their Maternity, X-Ray, and Operating wards, and the team at Bo Government Hospital were very gracious and forthcoming with advice and suggestions on how we could best work together.
Ken B., Leo F. and Dave H. spent part of their afternoon configuring the laptops in the Streams of Knowledge classroom with the latest anti-virus software.
We ended our work day with the residential children in the great hall for Wednesday’s Devotions. It was the first time the new speaker system was unveiled, and the CRC staff and children went out of their way to dedicate the speakers to God’s glory.
With one day of work remaining, we are all conscious of the work left to do, and nervous we will leave anything left undone. Lord please bless this team as we do the work you have placed before us.
(Filed by Leo Fox)
Today started off in typical fashion, not too hot and not too humid. Heat and humidity did come, but it was a nice morning at the MTC.
Dave H. and Leo F. made a run into town for some supplies that were to be used for the speaker system. They did find what they were searching for, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite suitable for sound-quality use. Basically, there is some distortion in the speakers (buzz) due to how the power for the Great Hall building was originally put in. Works are currently underway to find a good solution and finalize the speaker delivery.
Ken B., Bill B. and Ilene H. started off their day testing one of the options developed for getting reliable internet connectivity to Mercy. After Dave and Leo returned from town, they joined up and started working on another possible solution from a different location. Challenges remain for implementing the satellite-based solution to Mercy’s internet. But, a successful connection was achieved from limited locations. Expectation is that it will be able to be distributed to other points in the hospital tomorrow. Confidence is high, but this is still work to do.
Around mid-day, Ilene peeled off from the IT stuff and worked with Vicki G. to finalize their work on a spreadsheet that will be used by Mercy to streamline tracking for drugs and their use.
Bill H. started his day at the devotion held by Mercy staff. He then continued leadership and team building meetings with Sister Augusta and others on today’s topic, “Tools and Techniques for Interviewing.” There was lots of great feedback and ideas on how to approach upcoming interviews later this week.
After lunch, the team from the medical outreach on Monday got together to work on developing some feedback and recommendations for the Mercy team on thoughts and observations. Although everyone agreed that the outreach was a success, we were happy to be asked for the feedback that could be used to improve future outreach engagements.
Leo finalized arrangements to get a dead but very large tree removed from the property near the entrance to the CRC. This project is important because of the risk the tree poses to surrounding structures (and anyone in them or nearby). This tree project has been on the horizon yet incomplete for some time, so there are many who are glad to see it wrapping up.
Outside of the work, another rainstorm in late afternoon cooled off the area before dinner (down to about 82!). A local artisan came by with some handcrafted wooden carvings made from beautiful wood—both the red and black ebony had wonderful wood grain.
And finally, Dave and Ilene were invited to be interviewed by CRC Cares, which is a radio program sponsored by CRC. The interview lasted about an hour, and Dave and Ilene did a great job (we expect autograph seekers tomorrow, or soon after).
As the day closes, we are once again thankful for the opportunity to join the CRC and Mercy in their important work.
(Filed by Bill Bush)
Today saw us all going in different directions.
Bill H, Ken and Bill B were able to attend the morning devotions and staff meetings at CRC. Bill H then met with Mercy staff. It was inspiring to be at an organization where each day starts unambiguously and boldly praising God and seeking His guidance for the activity of the day ahead. Bill also met with Kim, Mercy's onsite director of Medical Projects, Mercy Manager Jinnah, and the CRC Director Nabs, to begin discussions of how to strengthen the teamwork at and between the two organizations, and grow the commitment of everyone on both staffs to their vision and mission.
Dave and Bill were also able to spend time with CRC staff in charge of the Microfinance Program. They have started involving 28 families who have children enrolled in the Child Support Program. Impressively, all 28 families seem poised to complete the training requirements for Phase 1 of the program. We discussed ideas for business projects and mechanisms for managing the funding and loan repayments.
The IT crew, Bill B, Dave, Ken and Leo finalized the placement and testing of the four new speakers in the Great Hall. They replaced a cable from the satellite to a junction box and were able to get the Streams of Knowledge program up and running. An attempt to fix the internet connection to Mercy Hospital failed, but a new plan of action was determined and is planned for tomorrow.
Vicki worked on updating the pharmacy inventory spreadsheet, hoping to streamline the entering and keeping track of medicines and supplies. She said that she had the best job because the pharmacy has air conditioning.
Jessica conducted a suture training class for the nursing staff at Mercy.
Ilene started her day with the IT crew, moved on to Microsoft Office training with some CRC Staff, and helped Vicki in the pharmacy. She then returned to supervise the IT crew at the hospital.
Cindy Cooke went out into Largo village to teach about clean drinking water and proper hand washing methods. Satisfying wash training before the installation of toilet facilities.
Overall a very productive day all around!
(Filed by Ilene Hafker)
Saturday was a day more devoted to learning about Bo, and meeting the residential children, than about working. Despite that, the IT guys did get the third and fourth speakers in the Great Hall working today. Most of us spent a few hours this morning being guided by Fudia through the Bo market where several folks purchased cloth to be made into traditional shirts, skirts, and pants. We also got to see the ingredients for our day’s meals materialize as Fudia bought the fixings for them at various stops on our wanderings.
Our afternoon included an opportunity to participate in CRC’s outdoor game time. It was a uniquely special day to be present. It was the first day that Abu, a young boy who has been at Mercy Hospital since suffering severe burns in December, was able to come outside in his wheelchair. We wore our team t-shirts (design courtesy of Bill B.), gave Abu one, and made him our honorary Team Captain.
Sadly, our guys who joined the soccer match looked mostly like fixed poles in the soccer pitch as the young boys, many playing in bare feet or flip flops, ran circles around us. After about 30 minutes the “poles” called half time, crawled off the pitch for water, and failed to reappear for the second half. Bill B did offer a volleyball clinic after the soccer match, found a couple of naturals among both the boys and girls, and is encouraged about the prospects for the Sierra Leonean Olympic team for about 2025 to 2030.
During our devotions tonight we talked about the importance of “perspective”, and how what we are experiencing here in Bo can’t help but bring focus on how much we have to be thankful for, and yet how often we let small stuff that matters little, interfere with our keeping our focus on the “big stuff” God has for us to do.
(Filed by Bill Hafker)
Happy Mothers Day from Sierra Leone! Team …. well, we have not yet settled on a name, but we are still working on it. We began the day with an energetic worship service at Leader United Methodist Church. At that service we all got a chance to honor our mothers, living and deceased, by wearing a ribbon. There were also a couple of heartwarming moments where some of the CRC resident children used their ribbons to honor some of the CRC aunties. The three hour service flew by, and the team was energized by the experience.
After church, team members that sponsor CRC students were able to go visit them in their homes. There were three sponsors that had the opportunity to meet their sponsored children today. Five people went on the trip to visit the homes and there was time for a nice chat, and to deliver a few gifts from the sponsor to their sponsored child. Each sponsor also provided the family a bag of rice.
The first stop was a visit to Hawa and Mohamed, sponsored by Jessica. Next was Hassan, sponsored by Bill and Ilene. The final stop was to see Esther, sponsored by Vicki. It was a beautiful day driving through Bo, with far fewer people in and around the streets, because the markets were closed. In the end, it was very interesting to see the homes and surroundings for each of the children and enjoy fellowship.
When the team returned, it was off to a volleyball game with the residential children. The members split their forces and joined both sides and although the Federation of International Volleyball is still looking into alleged scoring irregularities, both sides seemed to be enjoying the game until it was broken up by a typical Bo thunderstorm.
(Filed by David Horvath)
Our first full day in Bo was a lesson in stewardship, discipleship and perseverance—all great faith and character building opportunities—and a long blog!
Six of us joined the Mercy Hospital “combined outreach” team in the Mende village of Manguama—which was all that could fit in the Toyota 4 wheel drive. Dave and Ken stayed at the Child Rescue Centre (CRC) to start work on the information technology challenges with the IT Director, Johanese Bahn (a CRC alumni). The technical to-do list is always long but this one involved both long-term architecture improvements, as well as fixing things that literally just broke a week before the team’s arrival.
Mercy Hospital has ongoing problems with their internet access, and the computer lab for the CRC residential children loss of connectivity was the most recent outage. The children look forward to their online learning each evening and the number of faces peering in the door of the lab made that outage acute… however, the connection for Mercy will be critical to support the new, soon-to-be-finished operating theatre.
In typical Africa trouble shooting fashion, they started with one project (the hospital) and shifted to the other when that task ran into a wall. By the end of the day, neither task was finished, but in God’s purpose and timing both were better understood and further along than when they started. And as a bonus, Dave and Ken powered up two of the new speakers that the team brought with them so the children could enjoy the improved sound for today’s “movie night”. The speakers will be used for more than movies but it was a great way to start.
The team in Maguama had a fantastic day, powering through to 5:30 P.M. doing what we could to help with the outreach program focused on malaria, HIV, prenatal and nutrition efforts in 5 adjoining villages. It was about an hour’s drive in the MTC 4Runner each way over seriously rutted dirt roads with Bill H. and Vicki in the “trunk”.
Working with the awesome Mercy Staff we helped as we could throughout the day with the just short of 200 moms and kids who visited. Jessica helped with the blood tests for malaria and HIV, Bill H. assisted with the consultations done with those with positive malaria or HIV tests, but mostly with traffic control when the crowds of mothers and children grew very large.
Bill B. and Leo were pharmacy assistants helping dispense medicines, Ilene assisted with the maternity evaluations, and Vicki provided assistance with Benemix distribution (a nutrition supplement for the villages’ children). The people who came to the outreach were almost entirely mothers, and/or expectant mothers, and their young children. It was a classic sight to see the many moms all walking to the clinic with babies riding on their backs tied on in lappas (2 yards of cloth), and some other goods being transported on their heads.
The noise in the clinic was one prolonged background mixture of the wailing of children, the calls of moms, and instructions of the workers, with solo performances of screaming or crying children built on top of them. Still the scene was dominated by the smiles of the kids, the appreciation of the moms, and the feeling of God being there with us as we all worked together to improve the condition of this group of His children.
To see people appreciating the help they were getting, in a setting that would have had any American running screaming for the exits and demanding the closure of the service provider, was a big eye opener on how truly good we have it and how much we have to offer.
(Filed by Ken Beutel and Bill Hafker)