Sunday, December 25, 2011

Feliz Natal!

Which translates to Merry Christmas! With the sun shining brightly and the warm breeze blowing it feels more like an early June afternoon then Christmas. Today Alyssa and I tried to bake some Christmas cookies. We don’t have a normal oven so we tried a few different methods including cooking/double boiling some on the gas stove, baking others in the solar oven and baked the last batch with hot coals. The solar oven batch turned out pretty well. Tonight we will have the first meat we’ve eaten since we left the States. The boys cleaned a chicken and now she’s marinating and getting all delicious for our Christmas dinner tonight! When I think about everyone at home making cookies, singing Christmas carols, getting ready for Christmas eve services and Christmas day feasts, It’s hard not to be homesick. It really doesn’t feel much like Christmas around here. However, I strongly agree with Pete’s (from the YES team) blog post for this week. Like Pete I have found myself reflecting on that fact that maybe this should serve as a warning that I’ve made Christmas far too much about the magical feeling rather than the Father’s love for us, the fact that he came and died and rose again so that we might never be separated from his great love! The fact remains however, on this Christmas eve, I am missing my family and friends dearly. 
Tomorrow we will have Christmas service at church. Derek (one of the Yes team guys) has been working with some people in the church to put on a Christmas pageant which I’m excited to see. I’m also looking forward to wearing the traditional African outfits (skirt/shirt) that Alyssa and I had made at the village tailor. Hopefully there will be pictures to come! Monday evening a group of church leaders from Gambia will arrive for a conference. It should be a great opportunity to grow and worship with other believers. All-in-all things are going well and I feel God teaching me more and more about the people of Catel, my team, and myself. Thanks for your continued prayers and support!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Walk Through Catel

Warning: so this post is pretty long, but since I haven’t been able to upload any photos I decided to narrate a walk from the mission/church to my residence so that you might have a small glimpse of what life is like in the village of Catel.
As I leave the mission I click the gate shut behind me. I take a step or two and then a large step down off the concrete and into the dusty path.  As I begin on the path from the mission house & church over to our residence I am immediately approaching our neighbor’s veranda.  Our neighbor sits perched on one of the wooden mushroom shaped stools, like the ones we just got made for the clinic. She’s balancing her small child on her lap and she nurses her while shelling peanuts. Run-on sentence  The path cuts between her home and her cooking area. Around the fire sit her husband with 4 or 5 other men speaking Balanta and laughing loudly. “Bu tardi,” I greet them, “Bu tardi, kuma?” they respond politely, though probably laughing at my attempts at the language. I look more closely and see that they’re roasting something which resembles a 10 pound rat on a make-shift spit over the fire. My stomach turns and I continue walking down the path.
My thoughts shift to the beautiful sun which is setting and the pink-orange sky is gorgeous behind the silhouettes of the palms blowing in the dusty sky. Soon I reach a crossing of two paths. A woman who I just saw get off public transport was coming down the path approaching the intersection I was now crossing. She greeted me, “Bu tardi, kumu di corpu?”  I slow my stride. “Sta bang, abo?” “Sta bang, nde ku na bai?” She wonders where I am going, I tell her and she wishes me well and we continue on our way.
Less than 50 yards later some kids announce my presence yelling “t-anne, t-anne.” I smile and wave “bu tardi.” They wave back and run to shake my hand before I continue on my way. To my left I see a neighbor stirring her rice in a large pot over the fire. Two large wild pigs and 5 piglets snort and run across the path in front of me. They don’t look like the pigs at home, and as Sean said, look seemingly less tasty. Ahead I see the poor mama goat who’s pregnant with twins and has looked like she’s ready to pop for the last 2 weeks. She’s grazing and barely takes notice of me as I pass by. A few paces later the small white and brown kid rests in the middle of the path. He’s always lying there alone and I wonder what happens to his mother and if he’s old enough to be weaned and to know how to fend for himself. He doesn’t move as I approach and I have to step over him before he gets up. It causes me to reflect upon people who, like this cute little kid, have for one reason or another, slipped through the cracks and are merely gawked at and stepped over by the rest of society.   
A thin strip of trees now line the right side of the path, a field on the left. A child screams as another grabs a stick out of his hands. The both pause to greet me “bu tardi, bu tardi!” A full grown man stands on the veranda next to them bathing – some things you never get used to when you’re raised in the US. Another 20 paces and the shortcut path to the clinic that Sean macheted is on my right. There are two goats and several kids resting on the shade in the veranda. Ten paces later I arrive at the tin gate with the small pieces of fabric the hangs off the top to tie it shut at night. The sun is low in the sky and the giant baobab trees tower above the orange orchard. The enormity of God’s beautiful creation is breathtaking. Our friend Kinta comes out of the house and approaches me. She greets me, then updates me that she just heard that Augusto, the 16mo boy who was struggling to breathe 10 days ago, is now doing very well. I breathe a sigh of relief and thank God for His faithfulness and His love. I begin to wonder what divine appointment God has planned for tomorrow.   It’s starting to feel like home.
Thank you Lord for the people of Catel, for this opportunity you’ve provided for me to be here with EMM, and for my amazing team. Lord, thank you for all your faithful servants who gave generously so that we might be here to serve you. Lord, I thank you that you are here with us each step of every day, stretching us but also supporting us every step of the way. Father God, You are good, and we praise You!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, its off to LaLa we go...

(week 2) Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to LaLa we go…
Today was a pretty average day until Sean and I did a home visit.  Two men had arrived at the clinic in the morning and one said that his mother’s legs had been burned the prior week. They stated that they were unable to bring her to Catel on a bike due to her burns and cars are unable to get to their village. We arranged for Sean and I to go to their village (Lala) around 4pm with a man from the church who was heading out there to do evangelism. 
Note: when they say its 2 miles, they mean 2 miles from the road, as the crow flies. Which on a bike from your current location is actually more like 5-6 miles, most of that being through loose sand. 
ALSO note:
-          Riding a bike in a long skirt while remaining modest…. a little tricky, but doable.
-          Riding an old-school “grandpa bike” with a huge seat and Harley style handle bars, not the easiest to steer, but not that bad once you get the hang of it.
-          Biking  through loose sand is pretty tricky and something that I will need a lot of practice at, but I can swing it when I have to.
HOWEVER, riding a grandpa bike, through “the bush,” in a grandma skirt, with a hiking pack heavy with supplies is much easier said than done!
Moving forward, after riding through the bush, through a couple villages, through more bush, then a narrow path across a rice field, then a sketchy bridge across part of a rice field, stopping in a village to visit family of the man with us, quickly seeing 2 patients there, then across more rice fields and across the Senegalese border, voila, we were there in no time!
When we arrived in Lala we were excitedly greeted by the patient’s family. They ushered us to a corner of the yard in front of the house where an elderly woman was perched on a characteristic squatty wooden stool fanning her foot with feathers as another family member poured water over her foot. Well, what was left of it. We came to find out that this woman had seized and fell into the fire about 10 days prior. The wound looked awful but her overall health was remarkable warranting the environmental conditions, how long it had been since the burn, and the extensive bone and tissue damage to her right foot and left calf. I will attempt to upload some pictures at some point when I have a faster internet connection.
This is just an example of some of the house calls we’ve been attending. I also attended to a little boy thought to be around 16 months old who presented with decreased LOC, decreased PO intake, fevers QHS, retractions, tachypnea, and tachycardia. He appeared to be teetering on the edge of respiratory failure. For my non-medical friends I will put the prior sentence into English for you: he was tired, not eating, feverish and had a lot of trouble breathing.  He couldn’t even hold his own head up during the first 24 hours we were treating him. With some albuterol, antibiotics, Tylenol, frequent ORS feedings, and LOTS of prayers… within 72 hours little Augusto was sitting on his mother’s lap eating mushy rice and yabbering at me in infant Kriol! God is so good! J
 When we first started carrying for this little guy I struggled with how I would react and care for the family if the little one didn’t pull through. I also began to struggle with my own limitations due to experience and available resources. It was difficult to accept that my best may not be enough.  My team was incredibly supportive and not only listened but prayed with me through many of these times. We prayed for God to give me wisdom in treating him and that God will help him to get better. We spent most of the prayer time asking that all those involved could have peace and rest in assurance knowing that our heavenly father cares about Augusto more than me, his mother, or anyone else does. I prayed that I could have peace knowing that God is the only life giver, not I, not any physician with years of experience or even the newest medications and technology, but our heavenly father. God is good all the time, and He’s reminded me again and again to give thanks in all things, because when we are seeking Him, He uses all things for His glory.  We give thanks that God not only is giving Augusto more and more strength each day and that he has been able to return to his home village with his mother, but also for everything that he is teaching and growing up in us. We are here, we are well, we are blessed. Eucharistio!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting Here and The 1st Week

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Catel for a week already. After an almost 8 hour flight we landed in Dakar. Andre then began negotiating the rate for a “taxi” with doors that didn’t shut tight, rusted out holes in the floor and windows which require using the last remaining handle be unsnapped and moved from door to door to put the windows down. We piled our luggage in the truck, tied the piano (keyboard) to the roof, and piled more luggage on our laps.  The taxi took us to the ferry port on the other side of Dakar. By 9 or 10am (local time) we had our luggage checked at the ferry port and had several hours to get food, explore the city, and begin our African adventure!
                We started by having breakfast at a local woman’s business. She had a booth set up across the street from the ferry port. There we experienced our first African meal which consisted of fresh bread filled with mayonnaise, brown beans and a smashed hard-boiled egg. We were tired and hungry and these “breakfast sandwiches” hit the spot!
                Later, before boarding the ferry around 5 or 530pm we visited a few shops and found some roasted nuts, fried dough (which reminded me of the mandasi in Malawi), picked up the cheapest cell phones we could find, and found another booth restaurant. The woman who works there cooked a pot of rice with cabbage, carrots, and fish.  The entire dish smelled fishy and I had some trouble getting it down, especially after noticing the big pieces of fish at the bottom of the bowl.
                By the time we boarded the ferry we were all ready for some much needed rest. Other than getting up for dinner I think most of us slept the majority of the 18 hour ride from Dakar to Ziguinchor. There we spent a few hours finding our luggage and waiting for our visas. Then we took a taxi ride with several “pile outs” at checkpoints and border patrol areas. This ride also included the car stalling multiple times and at one point the driver stopping the car, turning and pointing to Pete and I, who were sitting in the middle seat, and telling us to get out and wait by the side of the road. No one really knew what was going on but Pete and I got out and there we were, the two blonde haired Amish-country kids on the side of the road in Senegal. In hindsight it wasn’t a big deal: the driver had to pay a smaller fee if there were less people in the car. We didn’t know that at the time and were hoping that the Spanish couple we’d seen on the ferry and then passed on our cab ride would happen upon us if we were there for a while.
                By afternoon we were in Catel and were greeted with immeasurable enthusiasm. The car was engulfed in a crowd of children yelling “Andre, Andre!” A few young men from the church helped us to unload and put all of our bags inside. What a journey! We were so excited to finally have reached our destination, but also still weary from travel.
                During our first week in Catel Alyssa and I spent two afternoons with Kinta, a local woman, learning to cook some African dishes. Sean and I were faced with two small girls with nasty burns, one of whom had already been treated with the traditional rabbit hair and was grossly infected, the team ate ankol fruit (nick named “snot fruit” for its visual and texture resemblance of snot), and other adventures which are too numerous recount in just one blog post.
                The team is doing well. We are learning to find our niches here. The team helped Sean and I to move the clinic supplies into the new building and they also began whitewashing the inside. We have been running the clinic Monday-Friday but people come to the house all the time for burns, machete wounds, and the routine aches and pains. So the clinic is basically as we expected… all of the unexpected!
                I’m so thankful for all who are keeping in contact. Your prayers and support mean the world to me! Please continue to pray for myself and the team as the guys labor in the orange orchard and machete cashew trees, the girls help in the school and give art/piano lessons, and Sean and I serve in the clinic.
For more updates on what the YES team is doing, please check out their blog at:
Sean and Alyssa also have their own blogs at: