Thursday, September 4, 2008

On Being the Doctor - Very long post....

I must start this by saying it is hard to know how to summarize the many experiences of this trip in a concise manner. First a little background. Most of the readers know that I am in my 5th post doctorate year, in my last year of residency (specialty training) in OBGyn. For some time I have felt called to take part in short term mission trips to use my training for good. It was about December of this year when pastor approached me with the possibility of doing a medically related trip to Africa over the summer… this was a small answer to prayer in that I had been searching for some opportunity to go abroad to do an OBGyn trip.

My pastor and his wife visited the DR Congo the year prior through the same ministry. When they were there many people begged them to come back with a medical team, and especially needed an OBGyn because of the problems there. During the Congolese war (AKA The African World War) close to 5 million people died, and countless were injured. The multiple militias of the war used brutal rape as a weapon. Many women were subjected to gang rape, sodomy with a machete, bottles, bayonet, and in some cases were doused in acid, or even sodomized with a gun and they pulled the trigger. Many women were deliberately raped by HIV+ men. This often didn’t just happen once, but multiple times in some cases.

The war in the Congo is difficult to fathom. It started with a government established by a civil war, but that government was destabilized by a coup in 1998. After the coup multiple countries, governments, parties within the Congo, warlords, and other independent militias all started to fight for power and influence over this poor land with vast amounts of natural resources. When one militia would take territory, they would do as they pleased to the people, then later another militia would gain it and do the same. A very sad part of African society is that when a woman is violated, it is considered her fault. They are shamed and shunned from their home and family when this happens. Many women were displaced to find somewhere to live on their own, and often in refugee camps. Sadly even in the refugee camps these same women were victimized again and again. The effect this had physically was extreme. Many women developed what are called fistulas, in which things like the bladder or bowel would drain out the vagina – and again in African society this is another reason you can be shunned. The effect mentally, well one can’t begin to understand. This was the premise of why I might be needed there. Our team also brought social workers with us. Because of the society in Africa victimized women would not speak with Africans about their lives. They would talk with white people though.



The war in the Congo by definition stopped in 2003, but even today there are still pockets of fighting occurring between rebels and the government. This is where Congo International Ministries (CIM) comes in. This ministry is responsible for reaching out to many of the victims in its region, and is where the new medical clinic was constructed. As it has been described before, CIM was established in a village called Nyangezi, which is about 25 km south of Bukavu (a major border city with Rwanda). This is a peaceful region currently since the end of the war, but obviously still reeling from the effects of it.



In the US the typical OBGyn would maybe encounter a small number of fistulas, typically in relation to childbirth or cancer treatment. They would never see anything to the extent that many of the women in Africa likely had. So as my position as a senior resident I pursued the trip with a certain degree of uncertainty. What would they expect me to do? Do they have the ability to take care of these women? Would I have the skill needed to repair the damage that was done? Are the doctors there already taking care of these women? For this me and my wife had a lot of discussions, talks with people I respected, and a great deal of time in prayer regarding my decision to go or not to go. It became obvious that I was being called to go. So let’s fast forward to the actual part of the trip…

So I came to find the Poll clinic operates much like an urgent care does here. There are some loosely held appointments, but it opens sometime in the morning and people come in and wait. The clinic also has an OR, a small limited lab, and some patient beds where people could stay to recover. The bathroom, well outhouse, was a 100 meter walk from the clinic and consisted of a hole in the ground. I was surprised to see that, unlike America, people really came in who needed to come in. This may be because the people have to pay a fee to be seen (because it is a ministry they pay close to nothing compared to what it would be at other hospitals). In America much of what comes into the ER, or urgent care is really not emergent and really not much of a big problem.


My typical day was to come in the morning, check on the “inpatients” and then start seeing the line up of patients with the doctors at the clinic. Sometimes surgeries would be scheduled, but often changed around depending on when we had power to run the autoclave. Other times they would have patients wait for hours in order to get an ultrasound to aid in their diagnosis. I described before that there were two younger docs, and one more experienced one. My general impression was the younger ones were eager to learn, and expand their abilities. The older doctor, a surgeon, was very nice, but seemed to be more motivated to show off to the American. Now I come to a part that makes me nervous to post, as I really don’t want to generalize and sound all narcissistic. I have been told by many sources that the medical education system in Africa is outdated, not very thorough and in some ways bad. But it’s the best they’ve got. Knowing this I approached the situation with an open mind, with a hope that they would surprise me. I am happy to say that in some ways they did, and in other ways frustrated me to no end. I found that the doctors had a fairly complete knowledge base as far as basic science and pathology. I did find that they had very little to no clinical medicine experience / knowledge to use.


A good example is when you go to your doctor for say, stomach pain, your doctor should ask a series of questions to narrow down the possibilities that could cause your symptoms. They first ask questions that reassure them that no serious problem is occurring. Then as they get closer to what your problem is between a couple different things, they do an exam and order tests to come to what you are diagnosed with. Then after they know what the problem is, treating it becomes a simple issue. In Africa the doctors knew the treatments, but weren’t very skilled at asking those questions that differentiate the diagnoses… So in the case of stomach pain: When did it start? Where in your belly does it hurt? When in relation to eating does the pain occur (before, during, after, or no relation)? Do certain foods bring the pain on more? Does anything make the pain better? Worse? What other symptoms do you have (nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, etc.)? This would then help you differentiate between simple reflux, gall bladder, pancreatitis, gastric ulcer, stomach tumor etc.


One day we had a woman come in with complaints that sounded like reflux, with the exception that it was a constant pain. That didn’t fit the pattern. Instead of just treating her with an antacid, I insisted we should do an exam. We found she had a 10cm stomach tumor. Now the symptoms she had were probably because the tumor was pulling on the valve and she was refluxing all of the time. To the younger African doctors credit he knew how to treat reflux. He didn’t catch that her symptoms didn’t quite fit the pattern, and that warranted more of an exam. Had the woman come in saying she had a lump in her stomach, which she did, it would have been easier. But that is why clinical medicine is not always straight forward.

There is a saying, “if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish he will eat for a lifetime.” Not long after I arrived to the Poll clinic I realized my role there would need to be that of a teacher. Even on the first day some of the things that were being done weren’t what was really needed and in a place where resources are scarce one needs to be frugal. My first day there was spent unpacking all the supplies we were able to bring with us. There was a good portion of it that was completely foreign to them, clue number one. Then I was asked to help them do ultrasounds. They have a nice ultrasound machine. They do only have a transabdominal probe (the other type is a vaginal probe that is useful for many gynecologic conditions). The type of ultrasound they have has a few good uses such as pregnancy, gall bladder, kidneys, but it not powerful enough to see bowel or a nonpregnant uterus. That afternoon they had patient after patient coming in for an ultrasound for such things as infertility, abdominal pain, ulcers, hernias… all things that are not at all helped by an ultrasound. But one of the doctors acted almost as if the ultrasound itself would fix the problem for these patients. I equated it almost like giving a remote control to a toddler. They think they know what to do with it, but really have no clue. Later in the day a woman came into the clinic in labor. Being her fourth baby one would expect her to deliver without a problem. I was told the nurse on at night time took care of that and to not worry. Well the next morning the doctor came to fetch me for a c-section at breakfast. When they arrived they saw she was still in labor, so they called a c-section. When I arrived they had her all ready to go, so I wasn’t able to do any assessment. This was my first experience in the OR there. Very different…


First thing that was obvious was the gowns. They didn’t have any clean ones (we brought many with us, but they weren’t sterilized yet). So we had to don floral print scrub jackets that were sterilized, and wear them backwards so they buttoned along your back. Mine was tight. Next there was virtually no noise. In the OR in the US you will hear a few different types of sounds of monitors, fans, climate control, music, talking, etc. In that OR you could hear a pin drop. Next came the surgical prep – and lets just say old school and outdated. Another thing in Africa, they do things the way they do because it is how it is always been. They are taught that the bikini incision causes infection, so they do all of their surgeries with midline up and down scars. The bikini cuts are more stable, heal better, and look better. They do not get more infected. So most of the people in that OR had never seen one done like that. As c-sections go, it was routine, but there were many things that you tend to take for granted that didn’t happen there that made the repair much more difficult than it had to be. I naturally found myself teaching how to do each step of the operation. They were likely shocked as I didn’t do some steps they placed great importance on, that I know from practicing and reading are good to avoid (closing the peritoneum, and sub Q). The mom did well, and her baby did well too. She did name her son Brad, but not by my suggestion. These are the two new 'Brad' residents of Nyangezi.

It seemed as though each day I had the opportunity to teach something new, or challenge an old way of thinking. I recall having discussions with the doctors there about some of the major differences of American versus African medicine. One thing I learned that impacts how medicine is practiced there is patient expectations. In Africa the people need to feel as though you do something physical such as giving an injection or doing a surgery to address the patients problem, or else it is as though you did nothing. This is backwards. A message I really struggled to get across was that surgery by its nature was invasive, dangerous, and should be reserved as a last resort. It was not uncommon to meet many women with vague abdominal pains with 9 surgeries – major open abdominal surgery. In the US we say lets watch this and see if it gets better or worse, and check back on it. For some reason the doctors didn’t feel they could do that. As a result the majority of the surgeries that were done during my visit there were not really indicated, or in other words didn’t need to be done. This bothered me greatly. I was okay with doing ultrasounds with an illusion that you thought you saw something that wasn’t there, but I was not okay with people getting surgery that was inappropriate and getting hurt by it. As the trip went on I really found that it was the African surgeon who was finding all these people that needed surgery. They quickly put a question to bed, no, the doctors there were not paid and more or any less for doing any of these surgeries. But along the lines of African medical school, the surgical methods that are used are old, and by my standards outdated and dangerous. This also was a great concern to me. Below is a picture of me and Dr Roy. He was one of the younger more eager learners. Here we are closing after finishing a hernia repair. Dr Roy was really excited to learn a new (different) way of doing procedures.


I would have to say that the real rewarding part of the ministry there was being able to see and treat some of the neglected women victims of the Congo. To my surprise I did not see a single fistula, or injury from a rape. I suspect many of the women with injuries either died as a result or went to Panzi hospital in the area, that was touted to be able to fix vaginal fistulas. I can’t really comment, as I am not sure how good of job they do there. I was able to evaluate a few women who had been neglected since being ostracized by their villages. One woman was 65 years old, and had been raped brutally 8 years prior. Since then she wasn’t able to really walk or work. Just the fact that the white people came and listened to her gave her great joy. The day after our social work team visited her, they arranged for a handful of women to come and see me in the clinic. The 65 year old woman had what is likely to be an advanced vaginal cancer that is spreading – and had developed one of the worst yeast infections I have seen. Another had a prolapsed bladder, and another woman had developed chronic muscle spasms from guarding from the pain she experienced from her rape. No fistulas. I was able to admit them and give them treatment, food, and a bed to sleep on for a few nights. The next day I was able to perform a bladder suspension surgery for the woman, which made her very happy. A day later another woman was brought from a similar community who also had significant bladder prolapse, and again I was able to help her in the same way.


My favorite day was the day I had my own translator, Roland assigned to be with me. All the other days me and the other doctors were forced to try to communicate in whatever ways we could. Thankfully they spoke some broken English, so I would guess we could talk at a second grade level, and some of the medical terms in French are pretty close to those in English. The day with Roland was good though. It was good because it was busy, and we were able to really see many patients and talk with them and about their problems. For the first time I was able to thoroughly explain how certain treatments would work, and you could see the light go on for the doctors I was working with. Roland was also a new Christian too, so it gave me some time to get to know him and encourage him in his new faith.


One patient, however, was more troubling. In Africa, or in times when you have limited resources, it is important to recognize your boundaries. The patient was a 6 year old girl. She had been having worsening seizures. They had started months prior, but as time went on they continued to worsen, to where she was having close to 20 in a day. A few days before coming to the clinic she awoke from a seizure and didn’t talk any more. After examining her it became obvious to me that she either had worsening status epilepticus, or a growing brain mass. She already had been on the most powerful anti-seizure meds they had there. It was hard to tell her mother that she had something we were not powerful enough to fix. Thankfully that was really the only truly sad case we encountered. In the US we would likely be able to intervene and figure out what was going on. In the DRC the best we could do was to plead to God for help, and refer her to a bigger city where some of the stronger meds, and tests were more available. Although sad, the mom was still honestly grateful we tried to help.


Even though my role there was to help teach and treat the people there I have to admit I felt somewhat jealous of some of the other people on our trip. They were able to go out to the people and directly share Christ’s love and the good news to many people eager to hear about it. My pastor had some people hike over a 100 miles to learn from his teaching. I just did what I knew how to do, and tried to tell the patients that God is real and cares for them. None of the work I did there was miraculous, or will make any sort of dent in all the problems of that region. A team member reminded me that my ministry was the work I did there, and that just being there was a blessing for the people. The locals know that the CIM clinic is a Christian clinic, and that CIM is primarily there to strengthen the church. As I have been home for a month now, I reflect and really feel my ministry in the DRC was not only to the patients there, but to the doctors working at the clinic. I think God is challenging those young Christian Doctors to rise above the status quo of African medicine and treat their patients a bit differently and accurately. If you have made it this far in my weave of thoughts and stories please remember to pray for the Poll Clinic in Nyangezi. There is still much to be done, and I know that God will use my experience there in many different ways. I just hope that it will add to the work the Church is doing to help the Congo recover from its wounds, and grow stronger as a result.


Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. I know it wasn’t short.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Coming Soon, a new post!

Hello my fellow blog readers. It seems as though we have experienced a drought of posts recently. As far as I am concerned we have no where near posted enough to give you an adequate picture of what we (hoped to, tried to, possibly) accomplished in the DR Congo. I have been home now for nearly 3 weeks and find I am still processing my thoughts and feelings about the trip. My lovely wife has suggested I post on my experience as a physician on this trip. I've been thinking about this for a few days, and am working on it. I hope to post something soon for you all. Keep checking back, I will also continue to nag the fellow members of the trip to keep contributing.

Pictures: (above) me with Fred the monkey, (below) Dr. Roy here is examining one of the toddlers in the clinic.

The short story of Fred the monkey: Not long into the trip I was able to do a c-section and a normal delivery of a couple babies. Both mothers named their son's Brad, after me. In the spirit of honoring the pasty white guests, the grounds keepers decided to name the monkey Fred after Fred Stephenson as he made sure the monkey and a baby chimp on the grounds had plenty of food and some company. As a result I wasn't completely unique as others on the trip had their namesake etched into the community

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Emotions

Some of our team say they still are dealing with their strong emotions about the trip so I will write a little about the stuff that I could hardly stand. (1) I cried to see a senator at church, on his knees, praying and crying.  He is so happy because there is finally peace in his country and the people have a chance for stability and progress.  Then the next generation can  hear the gospel and study the scriptures. (2) Would someone from the team put one of those pictures of us at the table for Sunday dinner, at Pastor Enoch's house?  I could hardly stand that situation.  We were seated at a lovely table  for the meal and the pastors, the senator, generals, other dignitaries like the Minister of Health and the Minister of Transportation stood or balanced their meals on their laps.   I think we all felt like idiots.  (3) I went, afraid of bugs,  and saw about two.  (4) I went, afraid of soldiers because of the recent National Geographic article about Silverback Gorillas.  The soldiers we saw were obedient, skinny,  and protected us.  One wanted me to take his picture, not knowing we were forbidden to take pictures of soldiers.  Another one seemed solicitous of his wife when he brought her to the Poll Clinique.  (5) The gratitude when we gave someone something.  (6) The feeling when you know you have $20.00 and the mother on the street wants food or money.  (7)  Here is a GOOD strong emotion.  I said "Jesu anakupenda " (Jesus loves you) to a mother in labor, clutching her abdomen, wandering though the Clinique.  She stopped, smiled and said it back to me and I remembered He does.  

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Talking Bibles









Well, since Laura said a lot of what I was going to say (thanks a lot! ;) ), I will discuss passing out the talking Bibles. Florimond took Bonnie, Fred & Artie, Laura, and I out into the villages to pass them out. We walked quite a distance, and as always, the children walked with us. Everyone wanted either a tract, wordless bracelet, or talking Bible. It was hard to ignore people who wanted God's Word, but we had to spread them out so the most people possible could have access to them. Women left their work in the fields to get a Bible, a pastor wanted one to take back to his congregation, a soldier wanted one... these are just a few of the stories. We also presented a Bible to a Catholic brother as well as an 80-year-old man. It was so touching to see their excitement as they received the Bibles. Please continue to pray that God would speak to these people through His Word.




Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The kids, the women and stuff that was difficult

Okay, I have felt the pressure, I must add to the blog. I have now had almost two weeks to "re-enter" our American culture and all it's benefits. Through my work and am bombarded with sadness and difficulty, but not the the degree I was in Congo. I realized through this trip what true power I have to get things accomplished here in the US with the systems I work in through child welfare, state programs, etc. and being in Africa, and seeing the difficulties and powerlessness that the people and mostly the children face daily was almost more than I could stand.
The term poverty really does not describe the problem there. There are just so many deficits that are present that make the whole situation overwhelming and seem insurmountable. Okay, enough on my assessments, the children there wear the same dirty clothing day after day. This is evident because we would see the same group of kids every day. Many do not have shoes, many do, but they are very worn. They are filthy with dirt and many have skin diseases that are evident. While there were few kids that looked to me like they were starving, for food, they were certainly starving for attention and care. Certainly, they were getting the bare minimum for food and water was in short supply too. I did not see many teens, my favorite age group, because they were all working, carrying loads or in the fields. When we would go outside the compound, we immediately drew a crowd of children, many looking for Uncle Fred, the candy man, and most looking for attention from the Muzungu (I will never learn to spell that word correctly!) It almost felt like they believed that if they touched us or got our attention from us, that they believed good would come to them, I felt very sad by this. When I was handing out candy, tyring to get one piece to each child, a struggle ensued for each piece. For me it got to the point where I had to limit how much time I would see the children. Why are my children so blessed with good food, clean water, and clothing? The need was so great, like a bottomless pit, that I was helpless to fill. I think that is probably the main thing I took from the experience there, is my inadequacy as a human being. Only Christ can fill that kind of need.
So, we handed out tracts and most importantly the talking bibles, since many cannot read. It was wonderful to see the look on one of their faces when they saw how the bible worked and that it could be charged through setting it out in the sun. This was something that they would be able to listen to over and over again.
We were blessed with the opportunity to meet with women in a local schoolhouse who had experienced sexual assault. There were at least 50 or more women there. We were able to talk individually with eight of them. Again, the need there was just overwhelming and there was again the logistical problem of getting to talk to all the women, there were simply not enough interpretters for all to be able to gain access to talk. And let me be clear, we had wonderful interpretters to help us while we were there, I just wish we could have cloned a few! (Brad has not learned that medical intervention yet.) But we were able to hear their stories and pray with them and tell them all of our concerns and prayers that we have had for them and will continue to have. Through this intervention we were able to get three women, in desparate need, to arrive at the clinic the following day for treatment. One had been assaulted 8 years ago with no treatment until Brad saw her, another needed surgery for a prolapsed bladder and the other needed some physical theraputic interventions. We were able to get the word out among those in the outer part of the village and other villages, that the clinic is there to help them, and that was satisfying. Initially I was reluctant to go to the clinic, since I am not a medical person, but once we knew we were not in the way, we would visit the people that were staying there and bring them tracts and snacks (probably not the best food for them, but for some, that was all they got). Katie, Bonnie and I saw a baby being born, Katie held the lantern (it was in the evening and getting dark). Those women are tough cookies when they give birth! And Brad made delivering a baby look like a piece of cake.
I must talk about team unity, because it was just unbelievable. Even though I am a social worker, I definitely have my times of unsocialability (is that a word?), I treasure my alone time and expected that near the end of this trip that I would want to hurt someone (sorry, but it's the truth), but you know, that time never came for any of us in the group. Even with the long flights, close quarters (some had to share a bed), less then clean rooms (by our standards) and daily contact, there were no issues of discord or conflict of any kind. That could only be the Lord, especially when it comes to His work in my flawed life. He just smoothed out the rough edges for the whole trip and made it a pleasure. I loved every minute with ALL members of the team and am so glad for each one that I got to know better. Everyone was at their best and demonstrated the individual skills and abilities that God gave them. I had the most wonderful roommate Katie, I knew she would be wonderful, so it was no surprise, but she is a lover of all things clean, just like me, and we had a great shower system devised (with the trickle of cold water we got) and clothes drying technique worked out that cemented our connection. Bonnie was great at listening and gathering everyones thoughts and concerns daily. Ardith has such energy and genuineness with others that was contagious. Every person on our trip was positive and wanted to find ways to serve the Lord each day. It was not always easy to know where we could help, but once we figured out the "rules" of Africa, we were able to go with the flow and add where we could.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

God's Grace:  We all got back intact and even as friends, as far as I know.  For me- almost no arthritis pain the entire time, no muscle spasms and to show that it wasn't diet or anything like that, the aches started coming back at O'Hare.  I lost four pounds eating a lot of food I thought was very good, by the cooks at Nyangezi.  But we missed meals because of traveling.  Even then, I never was hungry.  We were squashed a lot when traveling but we complained very little. 
      My roommate was perfect for me, and if you know Lois, you know why.  She always seemed to have physical things I needed, and scriptures and prayers and grumbles I needed.   One time after the water had run for 5 minutes,  I announced, "There still isn't any hot water."  She mumbled,  "It probably comes from two blocks away."  She made me laugh a lot. 
     I also want to say to our friends in Bukavu and Nyangezi, if you are reading this, we love you. Many of us feel that you  did more for us than we did for you.  We can't ever match what some of you did for us, setting aside your own lives, to care for us.  We won't forget you and will pray for you.  We want to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit regarding the future. 
 There are a lot of things wrong there, just like there are in the rest of the world.  But our struggle is not against flesh and blood , but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Eph. 6:12  And:  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  Matt. 11:29  by Rachel L

"International Incident"

OK... So I finally decided to post something. I've been procrastinating because I didn't know what to write first. There is so much to say! But I decided to start with something light-hearted... namely, the infamous "international incident" that I got mocked for throughout the trip. =)
To preface this, let's just say that this was my first time out of the country. I had not even been to Canada. So I was pretty ignorant of international travel. Not only that, I was extremely excited ("We're in Africa!!!!!! =) ). That's my disclaimer. =)
As we left Rwanda and headed for the Congo border, I was crammed in the front of a vehicle halfway on Pastor's lap and halfway on the middle console. Florimond was driving, and we were laughing and having a good time in our vehicle. Bonnie took my camera and took a picture of me sitting precariously in the front seat. Then I snapped a picture of Florimond driving... on the right side of the vehicle, which I found pretty entertaining. As we approached the Congo border, I said excitedly, "We're in Congo!" while snapping a picture of the road ahead of us.
That of course, is when things went downhill. A guy who apparently worked for customs saw me take the picture, and immediately started yelling "No Photo!" while walking toward our vehicle. I held up my camera so he could watch me put it in the case, and apologized profusely. He was not to be consoled though, and continued shouting angrily about how I shouldn't have taken the photo. Looking back, I wonder why he didn't simply take my camera & delete the photo... but it was Africa, after all. =) I started squirming when I realized how livid this guy really was. Florimond got out of the car to talk with him. They weren't speaking English, but anger can be understood without words. He was gesturing wilding and still visibly upset. Senator David, who had been riding in a different vehicle, joined the discussion as well. A few minutes (which felt eternal) passed, and Pastor Baker went and talked with them too. I was feeling awful by this time, and wanted to crawl under the seat of the car and pretend it never happened.
Finally, Pastor walked up to the car and said, "Katie, I need you to get out of the car." I thought he was kiding at first, so I was like, "Are you serious?" He said, "Yeah, get out of the car." I honestly thought that their debating had been futile, and that I was being arrested. I reluctantly got out of the car, only to realize that Pastor David had smoothed things over and I was simply switching vehicles to give us more room. Talk about relief! So let's just say that my time in Congo started with a bang! I debated on posting "the picture," but have decided against it. =)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The music that welcomed us to the Congo

I wish I had a longer clip to post. This is a small sample of some of the praise and worship music played at the welcome ceremony in the Congo. The people sing with all of their hearts. The music blends one song with another to make a continuous song of praise to God. If someone can understand the dialect they may correct me, but when we were there I was told that they were singing: "There is only one God and Jesus is the Lord". The people gathered in a circle, and clapping and singing. There were some in the middle of the circle playing drums. Others played shaker boxes (tin with bb's) to the beat. There was one lead singer that sang with an amplifier speaker... all together made a spectacular sound. The fun part I don't have on video (others on the trip do), was after watching some saw me tapping my foot and pseudo white-guy dancing and pulled me to the middle of the circle to play one of the shakers. They also pulled Pastor Baker into the circle and thankfully he danced more like a mzungu than I did (again thats a video I don't posses)... They do say its always easy to spot a mzungu during singing. They are the ones not moving :)





video video

The second video, you will also see Fred do what he did best on the trip: gather children to hand out candy...

I hope you enjoy the small samples, I plea to my fellow travellers to post some pictures, stories and maybe some video of the white men dancing. I hope to soon get copies of all of their pictures so I can share more of the trip experience with you. Don't forget to leave a comment every now and then.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Our Travels - How did we get there

As we left for the trip, my lovely wife posted our itinerary of travel on this blog. To reach our final destination it took almost 4 days to get there, and 3 days to get back. Now that it is all done it is hard to believe we really spent a week of the trip traveling.


We first set fourth at Chicago O'hare to fly to Washington DC. In DC we scrambled to reach the Ethiopian Airlines gate in which we got our first taste of how things flow in Africa. Unbeknownst to us the airline had a very restrictive carry on bag rule. Ironically many of us looked online to see if they had a posted policy on carry on's... but no one found it. They allowed two bags, and each had to be under 15lbs's. Well that is what the sign said. But depending on the gate agent you happened to meet, some people had a 20lbs limit, yet other agents didn't bother to check. There was a scale at the gate, but some would use it, others just picked up the bag and sort of guessed if it was too heavy or not. One of our team members had a rolling small suitcase that in all American carriers would have no problem, but the gate agent tried to charge her an extra $135 because it was 25lbs! Thankfully pastor was ready not to be swindled and talked him down to $50, and they checked her bag. The other snafu was they required all of our bag tag's to ensure that they made it on the plane... some people lost them and had to trek back to our gate where we arrived and have them reprinted... After our sub par American meal (at least we didn't have to insist on bottled water) we boarded our flight to Addis Abba via Rome to re-fuel... At Rome we sat on the jet way for about 4 hrs while they found a "part" before take off. As you can see Pastor and Bonnie came prepared for the long overnight flight.

One part that wasn't too much fun in Rome, while they looked for the mysterious part, the flight attendants weren't allowed to serve water or any snacks... so we got to sit and wait. Laura hypothesized that they were waiting for the pilots to get over a hang-over :) Here is a view of the Sahara Desert from the airplane.

We eventually arrived to Ethiopia with all 19 of our bags (Praise God for that), and made our way through customs and eventually to our hotel for the evening. Thankfully the hotel provided a meal, and a place to lay our heads for a few hours until we departed early the next morning. This is a view of Addis Abba from my 10th floor hotel room balcony. It rained the night before. Not quite like the Chicago skyline. The next photo is a an interesting tree outside the Addis airport.


The next day brought another fun adventure in travel. As we boarded our plane destined to Kigali, there was an announcement overhead telling us they were having difficulty on the left side of the plane with the cargo door. Interestingly on the right side of the plane a hydraulic lift truck could easily be seen wedged under the wing, with many men in suits, white coats, technician outfits, and security officials all milling around the truck. Some were even taking pictures of the wing... I took a picture of my own. (notice how the tall posts are up almost all of the way? There's no OSHA in Africa)

Thankfully they eventually announced that we needed to change planes. Now instead of a half full plane, we moved to a smaller plane that was full and with no assigned seats... it was a chaotic scene when everyone was trying push to the front of the line, yet again in Africa no common rule such as a line, if you want to be in front you push to the front... We eventually arrived safely to Kigali Rwanda a couple hours late but Thank the Lord all of our bags made it.

One of the more interesting parts of the trip occurred at the Kigali Airport. As we were getting our bags out to the parking lot where cars were waiting, there was another American in front of the airport who struck up some conversation with our team. He introduced himself as a senator, and as I looked closer you could recognize him as Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader 2002-2007! He is a cardiothoracic surgeon and was in Rwanda for a few medical missions as well as a relief group of retired senators. He was very nice and was excited to hear of our trip and was more than happy to have a couple pictures taken. Many thanks to his staff with him who took the pictures!



The last leg of the trip began the next day in which we drove the 6 hrs across the beautiful Rwanda country side, and through the Nyungwe rain forest to end up at the DRC border. Here you see the women carrying their loads on their heads, the typical busyness along the road, the rain forest, and last one of the huge tea fields seen along the drive.



Bukavu is the major city at the border. It is a sharp contrast when you cross the border. I find that words and even pictures have difficulty showing how poor this place is. The roads are mostly in shambles, dust coats everything, thick smoke lingers over all parts of the city. There is constant noise of people, cars, horns, people selling goods, and men / boys selling bottles of pop by tinking on the bottles as they walk around the city. Notice the thick smog of the sky, next notice the typical road of the "nice part of the city", the nice buildings of the city, and last a shout out to a friend of mine who works for food for the hungry (apparently doing some work in Bukavu).Crossing the border Katie snapped a quick picture of the bridge and the lake... a plain clothes officer saw this and confronted her. He tried to incite a crowd of outrage that she would even dare take a picture of the border. A nice welcome to the country. The provincial senator, a personal friend of our group, intervened and informed the man that she did not break the law and that he may be arrested for trying to incite a crowd. It was good to have powerful people going to bat for us. We otherwise were treated as celebrities everywhere else we went in the DRC. We stayed the night in the Hotel Residence. This was one of the best that Bukavu had to offer... at one time I am sure it was quite luxurious at one time, but has been run down along with the city. As it turned out our original reservation was to be at the Swedish Christian Mission compound, but they gave our reservations away without telling us (anyone recognize a theme here?). But speaking of pictures of questionable legality.... (the DRC military compound in
Bukavu)


Some slept well in the Bukavu hotel, some (i.e. me) did not sleep much at all. Early the next morning we finally set off in SUV's to Nyangezi. Again nearly no one in the car spoke as we traveled through Bukavu and the impoverished outskirts of run down wood shacks with tin roof's, people everywhere, and the bumpiest dirt road I have ever ridden on (puts the pink jeeps to shame). The roads were literally so bumpy you can only drive close to 5mph, and you get jostled out of your seat, head hitting the ceiling here and there.

The road is only 25km from Bukavu, but takes 1.5 to 2 hrs to get there. We were told there was going to be an official delegation of dignitaries to open the clinic and training center, and to welcome the mzungu to Nyangezi... (mzungu (miz-'un-goo) is swahili for white person). We saw that a photographer and videographer kept leap frogging our group... they would pull ahead and film us traveling on the road, then see him again pass us... then film again further along...

We arrived at Nyangezi and the locals were there gathered, singing praise songs to God. The music is wonderful... I will post a video of some sining soon. Alas we made it there with all of our bags, supplies, limbs, and minds. Needless to say we were ready to start our ministry to the people there.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I want to try to explain what it is like to be in developing countries.  The airports have the wealthier people and they are in the the most variety of dress.   They range from completely western to their own traditional costumes. For example, a man was wearing the red checked head scarf  like Arafat wore.  In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we only went directly to the hotel, Le Leopold, and their level of comfort was very nice.  They had individual bathroom hot water heaters which I had never seen.  Then we flew to Kigali, Rwanda, and that night we stayed in a place like a motel but run by a Presbyterian group.  Each bed had mosquito netting over it. Hot water was delivered in the morning by large yellow plastic jugs, with a few bugs in them.  Even without bugs, the water was only for bathing, not drinking.  Drink bottled water only.   Then we were driven over a very hilly road, for 5 hours, weaving to avoid the many people walking along the road, and also to avoid the potholes.   The first time I really felt like it was "third world" was at the border, leaving Rwanda.  We were out of the van, on bare dirt, next to a lot of people who looked poor, were staring at us and weren't even smiling. We were mzungos, white people. You will surely read about Our Own International Border Incident going into DR Congo, from the perpetrator or someone else, later.  Then we went to Bukavu, DR Congo and our rooms, at another church-run stop over, had been given away.  So we went to the Bukavu Hotel which had seen better days.  You could see they started well with nice tile and a glass walled elevator, for example, but apparently were not able to keep up repairs.  The staff was speaking French.  I didn't like it that a little old man was carrying our 50 pound bags around but that's how he makes a living.  In the morning we were driven over a very bumpy dirt road for 1 1/2 hours and finally arrived at Nyangezi.  We were driven into what you might call a compound though I think the barrier between it and the town was a one pole fence.  But the people, including the kids, had apparently been told to stay out of the Poll Clinique compound.  And the people who were there officially, such as the family members caring for the hospital patients, stayed in their own area, mostly by the outdoor kitchen provided for them.  So, whenever we proceeded from our rooms,  we knew we were stared at.  Now for the poverty part.  Even the hospital staff asked us for things, anything.  "We are so poor and life is very hard."  We soon learned that the gesture of moving the hand from the mouth and then the abdomen meant, "Give me something, anything."  The patients did that often.  When we ventured from what I am calling the compound,  there were little boys who surrounded us and gestured for:  anything.  Fred had been in countries like this before and he had brought about 500 pounds (it seemed like), of candy, so he made a lot of kids happy. We'll write more later.  Rachel L    

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Poll Clinic - Nyangezi DR-Congo

For those who are curious of what this clinic is like in Nyangezi (ne'on-gez-zee) allow me to explain how it came to be and what my role was there on the trip. I first must explain how it came to be. Our connection to this place is a man named Florimond Kabanda. In the '90's he had strong presence in the government as a human rights advocate. As the war loomed in Rwanda and spread over to the Congo some weren't too happy with his influence and there was a plan to assassinate him. Enough people got word to him a long story short he was whisked out of the country by the US and was relocated to Grandville MI. Already a Christian he went to work and earned his doctorate in psychology at GVSU, and also got a masters in divinity from Cornerstone University. He eventually started the Congo International Ministries (CIM), an NGO, that established itself in Nyangezi.

CIM set up a community type center in Nyangezi, and worked with the local government to provide some vital services to the area. The big project was to build a training center for to be used to help strengthen the Christian church in the region, the medical clinic, and Florimond has many future plans for the area such as establishing a university in the area and there was talk of opening a medical school in the area... In Africa I learned they like to make many big plans, and see what can come to fruition..

The Poll clinic is named after a generous family in West Michigan. They worked with Florimond early to get it started and worked to arrange to get modern equipment there. They do have an autoclave, a transabdominal ultrasound, basic surgical equipment, an OR table and the typical attachments, a basic lab with microscope and various equipment, a pharmacy with many types of antibiotics, OTC drugs, creams, and some IV/IM meds with various uses, and power is provided via generator and water by faucet (i think by well?).

The outside view of the Poll Clinique.














The building has an OR, a prep room for the OR, a treatment / exam / labor and delivery room, an interview room, patient waiting, a pharmacy and dispensary area, and then there were three patient rooms with multiple beds.

The view of the OR.... yes small but it works. For those curious, they use Ketamine for anesthesia and titrate to sleep but breathing. Archaic yes, but don't have anything else! Anyone want to donate an anesthesia machine?











The autoclave... small but gets the job done...


So my day was a relatively simple one. I was the first western physician to come and work there. Basically I helped with the normal activities of the clinic. When I arrived they already had some surgeries scheduled... various things such as hernia repairs, appendectomies, oophorectomies.... My first surgery was a c-section the second day we were there... It serves as a good example of my role there. They did all their c-sections with a vertical incision (old) and it was a challenge for me to do a pfannenstiel incision (bikini cut). The medicine practiced in much of Africa is 50 years out of date... They prepped the belly with rubbing alcohol, didn't place a foley... The doctors assumed that I did general surg cases in the US too (like they do in Africa) and it wasn't towards the end of the trip that they realized I specialize in OBGyn cases... oh well.

They have 3 doctors on staff there. Two are relatively new med school grads, and one (part time) is a surgeon for the last 25 yrs. I found that my role was to teach a lot of basic clinical medicine, and challenge many of the old or out of date methods of medicine practiced there. The big frustration I had was that many of the surgeries that were done were really not necessary... but I found the mind set there was if you don't actively do something you are doing nothing... where in the US surgery is often a last resort. So in a place where resources are scarce, it did not make sense to waste them on unesessary things that could potentially hurt, kill, or just not work. One example was a scheduled appendectomy on a old man. When they were getting him ready for surgery I found that he didn't look painful, had a soft belly, no pain on palpation, no rebound tenderness, no other symptoms other than having some abd pain a day or two prior (i.e. not an appy...). When I challenge the surgeon (the older) he chuckled and still went on and removed the mans normal appendix....

Other than surgery the clinic operates like a walk in clinic. Patients bring a small booklet with scribbles of medical information. They come with rashes, infertility, pain, seizures... whatever the ailment. They come in, we talk and do the exam, then decide if they need reassurance, meds, or in some cases discuss surgery. Some patients they would schedule for ultrasound to evaluate pain. One of my other frustrations was they thought that the transabdominal ultrasound was a great diagnostic tool... so they used it to look at the gall bladder (ok), the uterus and ovaries (not very good use, but acceptable), but also for gastric ulcers (not a use), or for other abdominal pains (again not a great use). We brought a number of meds a supplies with us on the trip. We had some limited abilities to admit (if there were spaces open). They did very little prenatal care, but if someone came in in labor they would manage that and do the delivery. At night time the doctors were all gone, so the nurse there for the night watch then would do the delivery.

I did a couple deliveries while there. I had to challenge the doctors again as they routinely cut episiotomies on most deliveries, and employ the use of fundal pressure to speed the delivery. This is dangerous and potentially can cause nerve injury for the baby... This is how they were taught to do things... They did stop, and hopefully will continue to not do that any more... The mother of that baby named her little boy Brad :)

A picture of the medical record....











They see a great variety of problems in the population. Somethings we had to just realize that we didn't have the abilities to take care of things. Things such as a 6 year old with status epilepticus and likely brain damage (lost speech weeks before)... all we had was phenobarbital, and she already had failed that treatment... So the only solution was to plead to a higher power and see if there was another way to get her a CT and a way to talk with a neurologist. If any readers out there know anyone who can help, I have her information.

It was a blessing to be able to minister with my training. The two younger doctors are Christians, and all the people in that region and country could use your prayers. I will post other topics as time allows this week. Other team members had drastically different roles in our ministry to the people of Nyangezi.

Friday, August 1, 2008

First Post - We're home!

Hello all. We officially have made it back to US soil safely, however, our bags have been mixed up between DC and Chicago. I will be working on a series of posts this week with pictures and stories. I think I will open the blog to the other team members to post as well so this blog can paint a whole picture of our trip.
Speaking for the team I think that each member had a different experience and all contributed in their own way. All in all, we all came with a commitment to serve Christ, and we all served in our own unique way. Overall I had a lot of frustrations with many things. Frustrations with old school medicine, lack of resources, and with cultural norms...

Below is a picture of our team on one of our last days in the DR Congo. We all were blessed to have the opportunity to serve. We also continue to pray for a different team from Jenison Bible Church that is now landing and getting settled in Russia, to help the believers there with construction and refurbishing their churches. Pastor and Bonnie Baker left us in Addis Abba to head to Russia to meet with the team. We all thank you for your prayers and support on this trip, and hope our posts can inform you about the work and the mountain of problems in Africa.

below: Before leaving Bukavu, posing with Senator / Pastor David, who was invaluable member of the ministry. His influence inspires and in some ways protected us in different situations (Katie :) ).
















above right: Me with two of the three doctors of the clinic, and Georgette. Dr. Bora (left), Georgette, and Dr. Roy. I worked closely with Dr's Bora and Roy in all aspects of their clinic work . Georgette is a pastor's wife, who was available to help translate into swahili for our nurses.
As they say in Congo: Mongarrebe Jema - have a good night

LANDED!

They are back on US soil!!! I just heard from Brad! They landed in DC! HURRAH! HURRAH! HURRAH!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Letter

Thank you to all of you who've commented, sent emails, called, made me feel like I'm not walking this alone. Part of me wants to delete my previous post so it's not just out there for everyone to see how truly mixed up I can be sometimes... but I have found that in the cyber-world, it is easy to make yourself appear like you've got it all together- and sometimes it is good for everyone to see how human you really are. I didn't win any gold medals for faith performance today. But God is still gracious... and long after I had assumed that the African crew would be in bed (after 12:30am their time!), Brad sent a long, newsy email! I will copy it for you here- maybe you will be as encouraged as I was to hear from him in his own words.

From Brad: titled "After all, it's Africa"
So I've learned manythings in the past few days! I wanted to write to let you all know we are back in kigali safely. Its been a long travel day. First I should say that the mission trip was very successful and all involved have really felt they were able to make a difference. We all have found that africa is layer upon layer of problems on problems. There is jsut so much that is to be done, and then even more problems will arise. I had a great deal of frustration with one of the doctors at the clinic, but despite that, I was able to plant some seeds to help them practice better medicine. I'll post more later. Today we traveld from bukavu to kigali rwanda. AS you will all hear there are no such things as plans or an itinerary in AFrica. We had a long bus / van ride to kigali and got to our hotel to find they gave most of our hotel rooms away to others. I guess unless you come and pay in cash early, reservations are more like well.. eraseable? So we had to wait with our grumpy taxi drivers for about 2.5 hrs to make sure we had a place to lay our heads. So we found a nicer western style hotel that ate a bunch of our fun money, so no safari tomorrow... but instead we aer going to go to the genocide museum, and more tourist shopping for coffee, etc. (rwandan coffee is really good i have come to find. ) Then we get to start the long journey home tomorrow, I'm ready to go.
Medically I never felt pushed to do anything i wasn't qualified for. I did do a couple anterior colporrhaphy's for women with pretty severe bladder prolapse. And I didn't see a single fistula... but i know they are out there. My biggest task was to really challenge the way the african doctors are taught how to practice, and practice clinical medicine. They don't have the complete care and well RESOURCES to be up to date on many things, and many decisions become knee jerk. It was difficult to deal with old ways of things that in the US have been out of date or old ways of doing things for quite some time. By the end of my time I had the two full time doctors of the clinic excited for all the ways they were learning to treat patients. They also learned many new surgical techniques in my time there. The others in my team were really effective in reaaching out to the community and other areas around Nyangezi. the funny thing is that white people visit so seldom, we were treated as very important dignitaries anywhere we went. I had some meetings with the minister of health, and the lead health inspector for the region to give them my opinion of how they can improve things there. Pastor had a huge turnout for is theology teaching, some of the pastors at his conference walked over 600km (2 weeks) to attend. The people in nyangezi felt very blessed to have the mzungu there. The DR congo was excited to. They had an official government ceremony to welcome us to the area, and to declare fulll opening to the shiloh center. It was on the national news, newspapers, and the television news for a number of days. Florimond our host was going to try to gather newspaper clippings and TV recordings for us all.
I will call when we are stable on US soil sometime on friday! Thanks for praying for me and the team... keep it up for a few more days now! WE also have a team now heading to Russia from our church to do more ministry work, so if you remembers them in your prayers I wold appriciate it! But it is late here... 1235am on the 31st... so its time for bed. I look forward to seeing you all soon!
Love brad

Hard Moments

I don't know how many of you are checking this blog, but I do know that we have many friends "out there" in cyberspace. I don't really know why, but today has been a very hard day for me. In the interest of being honest and availing myself of the great support that God has given us for this trip, I wanted to tell any of you who happen to read today so that maybe you can pray for me to have strength greater than what I feel right now to meet the challenges I'm facing.

I have really done remarkably well, I think, throughout this whole experience, but today I feel much more like "myself." I worry... too much... too often... about things I can't control... and today I feel overcome with it. It is a good thing that I have not been alone very much over the past week and a half because after only 3 days of it, I am already really struggling! I have yet to hear from Brad to say he is in Rwanda... and I rather thought I'd hear something sooner. My mind fills with terrible visions of awful things... and I've never been very good at fighting off bad thoughts when they're threatening to take over.

I'd be so grateful to you if you'd just pause for a moment and pray for Brad and the team- that they would be protected wherever they are right now- and for me, for peace of mind, because no matter how weak I feel- I am still the "tower of strength" to our little girl, and home and nourishment to the little one still growing inside... and right now I sort of feel like I'm crumbling down! Thank you, dear friends. I will let you know as soon as I hear something.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back in Bukavu

I talked to Brad this morning. They are back in Bukavu for the night. They arrived early enough in the day that they should have had time for a little shopping for souvenirs to bring home. The one thing I requested before he went was that a giraffe of some sort come home with him- I hope he found one! And maybe a little something for Carolyn. :) I was very glad to talk with him. He said there were lots of goodbyes in Nyangezi and many requests for them to come back- and stay longer! I got the impression from talking to him that now that they've started the return journey, he is beginning to feel as ready to come home as I am to have him here! He said he should have email access tomorrow night from Rwanda so maybe we will all get a message straight from him! Pray for a safe, secure drive!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Return Trip Begins

Today was to be the team's last day in the village of Nyangezi. I haven't heard from Brad since Saturday, but he was expecting to leave sometime tomorrow to travel back to Bukavu. I am hoping to hear from him when he gets there. I would imagine that leaving the village will feel a bit like leaving a few drops in a huge bucket of need, but I am sure that the blessing that God brought to those people through the team will not quickly be forgotten and it will continue to bring forth fruit even long after those that went are home again. And I for one am ready to have my husband back again! Carolyn has been asking for him more and more the past few days. I think she really misses him, too.

Due to the mass family gathering last week in honor of my Granny, I really haven't been alone at all since Brad left- until today! I find myself missing him more and feeling a bit more on a higher anxiety level today. Pray for me, that I would find peace in knowing that the God who sent Brad out to minister to these people will be faithful to our family, and pray for Brad and the team, that they would have supernatural coverage for their entire return journey and be fully protected and safe at every moment- even the ones that scare me with pictures of overturned buses rolling down mountainsides! Every single one of their flights was late on the way out to Africa- they are on a much tighter schedule time-wise on the way home, so it will be much more important for things to be running on time- so pray for that, too!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Finally! Some news!

Today I talked to Brad for NINE whole minutes! It was great to catch up with him just a little- even though every time I talk to him I spend the whole rest of the day thinking of other things I want to ask him about- I can't wait til he comes home and I can REALLY hear about the trip! But he said to let everyone know that the team is doing well.

He said that he is enjoying working with the African physicians and has done some surgeries with them (I don't remember the long names he used- he can give the specifics later). He says it's a totally different world out there! But he feels like he's making a difference and that he is able to help update some outdated techniques and procedures and especially the younger doctors at the clinic are very happy for the help.

I asked him about the food and he said that overall it's been pretty good- though he is glad he brought some Cipro out there for personal use. :) I snuck a bag of Starburst into his suitcase and he said he was glad for the little taste of home.

I can't remember everything else he said right now because I am SOO tired!! But I knew that everyone else would want to know that all is well in the Congo! They will be in Nyangezi until Tuesday, then they stay again the night in Bukavu, and then on Wednesday they will get to have their Safari before catching their first flight out on Wednesday night. Then he comes home on FRIDAY!!

You know, I really would never have chosen this week for Granny to go home, but it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She is home now with Jesus, in an infinitely better place, no longer suffering with Alzheimer's Disease, no longer confused or unable to communicate, but fully restored. And this week, I have had something so meaningful to do with this time, being part of a time for family to come together to grieve and celebrate together, and I've also had lots of help from the family so I haven't been alone. And now there's less than a week to go! Yay!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Message!

Well, they are safe in Nyangezi. I got a voice mail today from Brad! He said that they are safely there, and the work has started- both the medical team and the counseling team feel like the ministry is successfully under way. He said that they have already started doing some operations out of the clinic! I didn't get a chance to actually speak with him since he called during Granny's memorial service (which was sad, but a beautiful celebration of a life well lived for the Lord and a dear woman well loved) and my ringer was (naturally) off. Still, I was thrilled to get his message, hear his voice, and know that they are safe and doing well- and also that the phone works! Hopefully next time he tries to call, I'll be able to answer! :)

No News

Is good news, I hope? I didn't hear from Brad yesterday- I was bummed, but figured either the phone isn't working as they'd hoped, or maybe that they have been so busy that the only downtime he had was after dark and he didn't feel like it would be a good idea to wander out to a hill outside of town to try and get a signal. I'm hoping that the phone works, but he's just being wise. :) Maybe I will hear from him today. I will let you know if I do! I really miss him and it's a bit of a stretch for me to not have contact and try not to worry when it seems to be programmed into my very nature to do the opposite! :) I know he's in good hands, though, and I have peace that the Lord will care for him- and for me. :)

We have been very busy in Austin with my extended family. This morning is the memorial service for my dear Granny, who went to be with Jesus on Sunday morning. She is in an infinitely better place, but it is hard for those of us left behind. Please pray for our family- especially my Papa, who has been her husband for 59 years, and my mom, aunt, and uncle, to whom this hits as close to home as it can get. We will all miss her.