Sometimes Journeys Start with Making Legs

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This update is from Jean-Pierre and Virginia in Republic of the Congo.

“Two of the most lucky amputees in the whole region are here at the hospital, and another man is on the waiting list to get a new leg! Kyria, physiotherapist from France, our niece, has been working on a new leg for Joselyn, a young man in his twenties. It is so exciting to see how it has taken shape! Every day we saw the leg ‘grow’ towards completion. More than once she had to throw it to the scrap pile and start again. With plaster, varnish, a few socks, tape, leather, and a piece of bamboo that we went out to cut down ourselves, and many hours of work, Kyria has been creating a prosthesis. Never had she made a leg before, but with the encouragement from Christine Groves, a short term re-hab doctor who was here for only 3 weeks, and with the help of a book, Kyria has made a leg for Joselyn and he is walking without crutches, only a cane, with his new leg. The first day he wore it only 10 minutes and will increase the time everyday. Joselyn reads his Bible every day and with the help of a patient-pastor, is growing in the faith.”

We pray that as he learns to walk with this new leg, that he will also learn to walk faithfully with the Lord.

“Another amputee is 10 year old Sammy, the most smiling boy you have ever seen. His leg is almost finished but in the mean time he has been busy playing frisbee, football, and can do almost anything that we do with both feet. I could go on to tell other stories of different patients, like a little girl named José who accompanies Sammy everywhere, who gave her life to Jesus…”

“All these people will stay ingrained in our memories as we leave. Saying goodbye to the patients, nurses and doctors, friends, disciples and fellow missionaries is not easy. One chapter ends and another begins. God makes all things work together for our good and we know that He is leading us on to other pastures. We have been enriched and immensely blessed during our time here seeing the hand of God working wonders in and through us and in the lives of many others. Jean-Pierre has taught so many and now it is time for them to disciple others. We will leave but who will obey His voice and come help?”

As Jean-Pierre and Virginia make preparations to return home, we pray that God would clearly speak a new dream into their lives, and that their valuable contribution would be picked up by others.

Stark Realities of Christmas

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The following is probably remarkably different than your experience of Christmas 2009. I was going to condense this story from Jean-Pierre and Virginia in the Republic of the Congo, but I’ve elected to post it almost exactly as I received it:

“Christmas day was special. After reading the Bible together with Jean-Pierre and letting him decorate the cake, I started preparing the vegetables in advance. Then the plan was to take goodies to our sick patients.

“What could we give to our patients on Christmas day? Bananas? No that is nothing special. Cake? That’s special but not too nourishing. Siko thought that sardines and kwanga = Manioc which is their ‘bread’ would be a good idea. So that was the plan. Jean-Pierre, Siko, Anna, the pediatrician’s wife and their three children and I went along (as if we were going carolling) to visit all the sick patients and distribute the hospital’s small Christmas ‘food basket’ to each.

“So in each ward Siko explained what we were doing then started singing ‘Yesu azali awa’ (Jesus is here) to which most of the patients heartily joined in. Then Jean-Pierre preached a short Christmas message telling of the great gift that God gave in the person of His only son. Then with the help of the 3 missionary children we distributed a big piece of their ‘manioc-bread’ along with a can of sardines, a small package of cookies, an envelope of powdered juice and a sucker. This we did in each of the 7 wards or small pavilions as we call them. There are from 5 to 8 beds in each of these little houses. For the moment the hospital is at its limit with about 45 patients. So Jean-Pierre preached 7 times Christmas morning, but in the last pavilion which is the emergency ward there are 5 rebel soldiers. Here, as he preached he explained how we are all sinners whether we lie, steal or kill and that God gave His only son to pay for our sins. He emphasized repentance and felt called to give an ‘alter call’. With each patient there is at least one or 2 members of the family who accompany him to prepare food and care for him, so there were at least 10 to 15 people in the small room (not counting us) where the Gospel was clearly given. Of the 5 wounded 4 lifted their hand, as well as 2 of the wives. But our attention was drawn to one man who cried, with heavy sobbing, probably weeping tears of repentance. Isn’t God wonderful to forgive us all our sins. There is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over 99 who are self-righteous.

“Tired, but happy, we went back to our house to finish preparing our Christmas dinner which was not sardines and manioc. We had a leg of goat- or lamb- whatever-  and even instant mashed potatoes which is a rare treat which we shared with our visiting doctors from Ecuador and Rachel.

“The next day we were sad to say goodbye to these visiting doctors: Eckehart & Klaudia, and Juan-Carlos whom God sent to us just at the right time when we needed an orthopedic surgeon to care for all the wounded patients, his wife who brought counselling to the traumatized and Juan-Carlos, the general practitioner, who gave a good helping hand to Dr. Harvey in his heavy task of doctor-director.

“Thank you for your prayers. We do hear gun shots once in a while from the other side of the river but do not feel as though we are in danger, even though in some of our wards we have wounded civilian patients even along side the rebel soldiers. The first few days the atmosphere was tense so please keep praying that nothing worse happens.”

Hard Realities in an African Hospital (Updated)

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miracle baby

Recently Hopital Evangelique le Pionnier (HELP) admitted a woman who was pregnant with triplets, and in premature labour. Though the birth went smoothly and quickly, there were complications due to the fact that these babies were two months early. After long hours of effort, two of the infants did not survive. The smallest one is continuing on, though she weighs less than a pound-and-a-half. Ginny, our missionary on the scene, was pressed into service that she has no training for, and which is well outside of her comfort zone, simply because she was there and available.

The mother is obviously going through the emotional wringer. She will need time and comfort as she grieves her loss, and patience to deal with the uncertainties presented by her last little child. This critical bonding stage is challenged by the fact that the child needs to be under constant medical supervision. In the absence of high-tech incubators and monitors, the child is being ‘incubated’ by being held by nurses and volunteers, including Ginny, who are sharing their own body warmth with this little girl.

The hospital doctors and nurses at HELP need your prayers. This level of intensity has become their normal. It’s usual to be interacting with people who are facing the biggest crises of their lives. They need God’s ability to stay focussed, not allowing themselves to become desensitised, and yet staying balanced too. This is demanding work. But they can clearly and regularly see God’s direction and intervention. May he continue to give them strength and endurance, and use them to introduce his truth and hope to many.

Update: I just received word that the third infant also did not survive. I’m struck by the selfless investment of time and energy of the hospital staff and volunteers. My request above takes on even more significance in the face of such sad news.

Another Update from Africa

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I just got this from Jean-Pierre and Ginny, serving in the Republic of the Congo. The doctors and staff at this hospital face some rather unusual challenges, that’s for sure:

At the end of the day, it was visible that Dr. Joe was exhausted. That would be normal for almost anyone surviving this heat and not even doing very much, but this was a hard day for the doctor. Taking care of AIDS patients is not easy. Six AIDS patients in one day is exhausting. Each one takes time. The doctor must ask so many questions and then care for their mental, physical and spiritual condition. Dr. Fuka has his hands full with his own patients, treating all the surgery cases as well as others. While our short-term doctor (Sean) was here, three doctors were an absolute necessity. I wonder how Dr. Fuka and Dr. Joe manage without that extra help. We are counting on Drs. Wolfe in the fall but until then what are we going to do?

In barely three weeks Dr. Joe must go back to the United States to write an important exam to enable him to stay registered as a doctor there. His children will be writing their exams there too. Dr. Fuka will continue his surgeries caring for the patients. But he can’t do it all! I wonder how the Lord is going to fill this gap while Dr. Joe will be gone for 4 months. Maybe no one will be sick during that time… :-)

Thank you for praying for our doctors who have their hands full. We are very thankful for their consecration to the Lord, because without that, they wouldn’t stay. This work is hard and they are dependent on the Lord every day for each case.

As if the doctor-director didn’t have enough to fill his already busy days, these last few days have been busy, stressful, and full of unknowns. Preceding the elections, the president of the Republic of Congo goes to visit all the main cities of the country, trying to remind the population of all the good deeds he has done for them. On his itinerary, is of course Impfondo, so the whole city prepares for his coming and all of us missionaries are prepared to lodge dignitaries and people accompanying the president. The doctor must be prepared to open his home and give any extra beds and bedrooms to visitors during this time. Becky is trying her best to finish up school, get ready for new missionaries coming, and get packed to leave in three weeks, and on top of that, prepare her house and other possible rooms for guests… To say the least, it’s a stressful time. Suzy and Sarah barely closed an eye waiting for possible visitors who never came last night. I was ready, but slept anyway. At least it was worth while giving a tour of the hospital to the ladies-in-waiting of the President’s wife. In 2005 the First Lady did actually come to visit the hospital.

Thank you for praying for Dr. Joe , his wife Becky, and their children: Olivia, Claire, Isabelle and Noah trying to finish up the year’s schooling and getting ready to go to the States for 4 months.

Please pray that God will send at least one doctor at a time here to help Dr. Fuka during the absence of Dr. Joe.

Congo: Urgent Need for Doctor

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We just got an urgent request for a short-term doctor and/or surgeon that could go to the Republic of the Congo in the new year. Jean-Pierre and Ginny are currently serving in the area of health care, and the doctor and surgeon they’re working with have left for the month of January.

If you know people who are qualified, and who might be available to go, please let them know about this opportunity. (Being able to communicate in French would be an asset.) They can get in touch with Rich at Home Office, either by e-mail (richp@efccm.org) or by phone (604.513.2183 or toll-free 1.877.888.9911).

Please pray for this need — it’s a critical component of the ministry we’re involved with in the country!