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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In the Congo!

I got a call from Brad today saying that they made it to Bukavu- they are officially within the borders of the Congo!! He says it's a really different place from what they saw in Kigali- in the three minutes we had to talk, he described it as "poor, and smoky." He said that the drive there was "actually really fun," but told me I wouldn't have liked it. I am not going to let my imagination roam too freely about this comment because one of my chief fears about him going on this trip was that the bus carrying them to Bukavu would roll off a mountain somewhere- my own limited experience with drivers in foreign countries leaves me with a few cold-sweat type memories! But he said he never felt unsafe and he's having a good time. I have to admit, some small party of me is a little jealous because this is a grand adventure- quite apart from doing the Lord's work out there, it has to be pretty cool to get to see this other part of the world- to expand your horizons beyond our limited experience here in the abundantly blessed USA. But for now I think I have my hands full chasing my toddler and housing a growing miracle inside me- and that, too, is the Lord's work for me right now, and a great adventure in its own right.

Brad said to tell you all that everyone on the team is in good spirits, but all are tired- keep lifting them up in prayer because tomorrow is when the trip really "starts!" They will travel a few hours (I think that's how long it's supposed to take?) to the small village of Nyengezi tomorrow where they will begin working at the clinic. Brad said that there will be a big party with a bunch of government officials and the press to celebrate the official dedication of the clinic- and no doubt so many white people arriving with all the stuff they brought for the clinic has to make some sort of a sensation as well. :) I know they are all excited to get there and begin actually DOING what they set forth to do!

I hope to speak with Brad again tomorrow night and hear about what the place looks like and see what ideas he has for how he will proceed medically. Keep him especially in your prayers as a doctor- that God would give him great wisdom to discern what CAN be done in a place where the need is likely to be so staggering that it will be difficult to know where to start. Pray for his skills, that God would guide his hands and be the Great Physician standing behind him, helping him to know what to do and how to bring healing to a hurting people. He has gone with a humble heart and skilled, willing hands- we know that God will faithfully bring forth the fruit.

Monday, July 21, 2008

From Brad

I got this email today from Brad! So you can hear about how the trip has been so far from the horse's mouth. :)

Hey yall, They have an internet cafe where we are staying. Things have been going well on the trip so far. We really have been doing nothing but travelling since we started. The different countries are fascinating. Reality sets in when we had a short layover in brundi today and you could just see the vast rural country side with dirt roads and many foothills. We had many delays of one or another in all of our flights so far. We calculated that we traveled 34=36 hrs straight from Chi to Addis Abba... 4 hrs in Rome for fuel and a part... a luggage handler ran the lift into the wing of our first flight this morning so we had to change planes.

the funniest thing so far was we get to rwanda, get our 19 bags and are moving out to the parking lot and a friendly american strtikes up a conversation with some members of our trip. He looks familiar... it turns out to be senator Bill Frist who is here on some medical mission work for a couple non-profits. I got his card, and a few pictures... I will try to load some later if I get a chance. The computers here are a bit old. Everyone's doing well.

Tomorrow we go to cross the boarder in the Congo where we will really see what war torn Africa is like. Rwanda is clean, Kigali is big, mountainous and very populated. Reminds me of Jamica... Tonight we have nice acomodations with a cold shower and beds with netting. We had a good meal of mushroom soup, fish, fried potatoes and some passion fruit for dessert. It was good. I ate it and took pictures :)

I guess the burning question everyone may have is am i safe... yes, I haven't felt unsafe at all.. probably at greater risk of bugs than people at this point. Everyone is very friendly. Yeah, they don't have OSHA out here, and there isn't much of a strict sched for day to day activities. Buildings of bamboo and mud, but modern looking ones too. The planes have all been new boeings... not much to say. We are all doing well. The real meat of the trip is still ahead, so keep that in prayer.

Our group is praying for EB's family as her granny passed away, and I truley wish I could be there to celebrate her life. I am sure God hears our hearts from over here too. I was pleased to hear that EB had a good OB appt today though.

I've taken lots of pictures and will continue to do so. Hopefully will be able to send some soon! I miss everyone and look forward to updating you on how we are ministerring out here. I love you and miss you all!Brad


No time for a real post now, have to get to work, but I just heard from Brad. They are in Kigali, Rwanda. Travel has been slow, but they're getting places within a few hours of when they're supposed to. :) They even met Senator Bill Frist in the Kigali airport- how cool is that? He said he's taking lots of pictures- I can't wait to see them.

Thanks for the cell phone prayers- it is WORKING! We are hoping to be able to speak nightly. It makes me feel so much better just to hear his voice- and I got to tell him that I heard our new little baby's heartbeat today for the first time at the doctor's office!! :)

Brad says there's an internet cafe where they're staying tonight, so maybe he will be able to write a post himself!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Addis

I've been carrying my cell phone at all times, not wanting to miss a call. And I heard from Brad tonight at about 6:15pm. He told me we had 3 minutes so to talk fast! It was quick, but it was so wonderful to hear his voice. He said the long flight turned out to be longer even than it was scheduled to be- they were apparently delayed for about 4 or 5 hours with leaving late from DC and being stuck at their fuel stop in Rome (of course they couldn't get off the plane!)- so what was to be a 16 hour flight turned out to be over 20 hours! Yikes! When I talked to him, he said they'd eaten something for dinner and were getting ready to get a few hours' sleep before their next flight leaves... in about 6 or 7 hours... He sounded really tired!

He is hoping to be able to call me again tomorrow after they get to Rwanda. He said there are some equipment problems with the cell phone they are hoping to be able to use in Congo- I guess it won't power up properly. So let's all pray for life and health for that cell phone because I really am hoping to hear from him periodically after he actually gets where he is going! Thanks to all of you who have commented or emailed. It is a hard thing for me to have him gone, and somehow putting on the "journalist hat" enables me to cope with it better- instead of thinking about how much I miss him and how scared I feel sometimes- I can just think of what I'm going to post on my blog and somehow it all seems less scary in black and white print than it feels in my head.

The Far Side of The Moon

I feel a little bit like the wife in Apollo 13 whose husband was up in space and traveling around the moon through the hours of static "radio blackout." I'm glad my husband isn't floating around in a crippled lunar module though- he is flying on a 777! :) It's still a bit of a bummer that I can't just pick up the phone and talk to him, though. In this day and age we as a society are so constantly "connected" that it feels weird not to know that I could reach him at any time!

I talked with Brad last night while he was on the airplane getting ready to leave Washington DC for Addis Ababa. Everything went pretty well with checking in for the big flight- other than a small snafu over some carryon rules, everyone and all their luggage made it. They made the flight on time, had some good old American food in the airport before leaving, and everyone was getting ready to try to get some sleep on the flight. They were supposed to stop in Rome to refuel, but they should be past there now, I expect, and in about 5 hours, they'll land in Ethiopia. Then there will be Customs to sort through (which will be fun, I imagine, with all the medical paraphenalia they're bringing along!) and they'll crash at a hotel in Addis for the night. It will be evening there when they land, so probably nighttime over there by the time they get all settled. I am expecting to hear from Brad sometime after they get settled as they think the phone they have will work. I can't wait to talk to him!

Carolyn is very cute. We have been talking about Daddy's trip to Africa for awhile now, praying about it before bed and at meals, and if you ask her where Daddy is going, she says "Going to Af-uh-cah!" and when I asked her the other night what Daddy was going to do there she said he was going to "Be Jesus." :) I had told her that he was going to help people and tell them about Jesus- but she has a better way of putting it. :) Being a huge fan of the Wheels on the Bus song, she was very interested in the big white bus that Daddy drove away in. I had to work all day yesterday (and today, AND tomorrow! ugh!) but my mom who was watching her said that she talked all day about the big bus and how stinky it was and how Daddy got on!

Well that's about it from here. I don't have any more information or anything insightful to say, so I'll come back for more when I have more to report. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

They're Off

Well, the bus has left the church! They're officially on their way! It was hard to let Brad go... but I knew it was the right thing to do. Pray especially today for the family of his teammate Laura (lady in red)- she is a brave woman who left three small children crying behind today because she was following the call God placed on her heart.From left: Rachel, Brad, Fred, Ardyth (Artie), Lois, Katie, Laura, Bonnie, Pastor Bruce Baker
Daddy waved to Carolyn from the Big Bus! Carolyn gave him a sweet smile back. :)

I raise my eyes to the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip. Your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.
The Lord is your Protector. The Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all harm.
He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.
-Psalm 121

Friday, July 18, 2008


As promised, here is Brad's itinerary so we can all follow along with him.

Saturday, July 19
-7:45am: leave from church to drive to Chicago
-2:15pm: flight departs for Washington
-8:30pm: Big flight leaves to travel from Washington, stop in Rome to refuel, and land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The flight itself is about 16 hours!

Sunday, July 20: the flight lands in Ethiopia at 12:40pm Michigan time. This is 7:40pm Ethiopia time.

Monday, July 21: at 3:15am our time (10:15 Ethiopia time), Brad leaves to fly from Addis Ababa to Kigali, Rwanda. He lands at 5:45am our time (10:45am Rwanda time). They are planning to spend Monday night in Kigali to allow plenty of time for border crossing.

Tuesday, July 22: the team will travel via some sort of motorized transport form Kigali, Rwanda, to Bukavu, DR Congo. This drive will take about 5 hours and is supposed to be pretty crazy! Please pray for safe travel and a smooth border crossing.

Wednesday, July 23: I think the team will be taking their "fun day" this day: apparently it worked out better with the schedule of the team to do it on the way in rather than on the way out. They will be doing a safari. I hope Brad gets lots of pictures.

Thursday, July 24: Travel to Nyangezi, and set up shop in the village/clinic where they will be working for the next week.

Wednesday, July 30: Begin the grueling trip home- they will be traveling pretty much straight through this time without much time allowed for rest. This day, their goal is to make it back to Kigali.

Thursday, July 31:
-11:00am (5:00pm local time): depart Kigali for Addis Ababa, arriving at 1:30pm our time (8:30pm local time)
-3:15pm (10:15pm local time): depart Addis Ababa for Washington

Friday, August 1:
-7:20am: arrive back in the Good Old USA! They fly into DC and will have to go through customs there.
-10:00am: leave for Chicago and arrive at 11:00am- we will be waiting for them!!

I am not sure how much contact I will have with Brad, but I'm praying that he will find a way to contact me at as many points along this journey as possible. It will be really nice to be able to check each leg off the trip.

And now it is time to sleep... at least for me! I think he may be up all night working on last-minute stuff! :)

Packed Up!

Well, it was a CRAZY day, a fitting end to a really crazy week full of last-minute errands and stuffing all sorts of things into suitcases, surely forgetting something but hoping it's nothing important. Tonight the team gathered at the church for the big Weigh-In (of the suitcases) and Stuff Shuffle to be sure each bag is 50 pounds or less. Carolyn was especially interested in helping pack (and unpack) the Snack Suitcase. :) Everyone seemed a little nervous, but excited. All the bags are now loaded on the bus... everything's ready to go! We meet tomorrow morning at 7:30am to see them off! :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting Ready!

Welcome to our new blog, set up just for this trip! I thought it would be nice to have a place away from the family blog to document all the details of Brad's upcoming trip to Africa so that those of you who are supporting our family in prayer during this time will have as many details about things as I do. I imagine that there won't always be a lot of news and communication will probably be a little patchy, though they will have a cell phone that is "supposed" to work- but as often as I hear something, I will be posting. Soon I'll post an itinerary for him so we can "follow" him on his trip together.

The team had a meeting this week to collect all the "stuff" that's been donated to this trip in a central location and sort through it all to determine what can go and how to organize it all. I thought that WE had a lot of stuff in our basement- but they needed one of the team members' outbuildings on a farm to get it all together! God has moved people to be so generous for this trip.There are so many things that will be so helpful for these people who live on next to nothing. We're especially happy that so many great medical supplies were donated because this will make Brad's job as the doctor/surgeon on the trip so much easier. It definitely won't be just like home, but we think that with the equipment already at the clinic and the supplies provided, he should be able to make an impact medically on this community.
For a drug pusher like me (hee hee... I'm a pharmacist in case you didn't know :)) nothing's more exciting than seeing bottles like this going overseas! A wonderful independent pharmacy in our area (Parkwood Pharmacy) gave us several stock bottles of basic antibiotics at cost to take over there. My own employer wouldn't help us out! But I'm glad God moved the heart of this man to help us to bring medicine to people who desperately need it.
Well, thanks for joining us on this adventure of faith- faith required no less for those of us who remain at home! It encourages my heart to know that so many are holding this trip and our family up in prayer. It is at times like this when we truly recognize our human frailty and the great and mighty sovereignty of God- when He takes our impression of control away and leaves us with an opportunity to step out in faith, or crumble. We're choosing to step out in faith and believe that God will do a mighty work in the next two weeks. Come along and we'll all grow together! :)