March 23, 2010

I am feeling content. Rain is thundering down on our tin roof. Suddenly it is cool. I feel like I can breath again and the banana palm leaves are dancing and bouncing with joy outside my window. The air has been as hazy as tooley fog, but the thickness, instead of moisture, was dust- still and dry and choking. The sun filtered hot through the haze. Dust covered everything, it veiled the views of the hills and it filled our lungs with particles. Now clear air is rushing through the windows and I can already see the hills across the valley. Hurray!

But rain is not the only thing I have to be thankful about this evening. I imagine I am feeling something like a General after winning a battle. Our battle has been with disease. Mark, Jonah and I have all been sick for the last week and a half. I thought at first we had the flu. But Friday night, poor little Jonah was limp with fatigue and on his sixth day of fever and getting worse. Nothing seemed to help- he got ice packs to the head and tepid baths, Tylenol and Motrin and after four hours of treatment he was still 102.7f and climbing. In desperation I sent Mark up to get Thadeus from the lab. We pulled Jonah out of the tub for a blood draw and an hour later we had our diagnosis- it was Typhoid Fever (or at least we think that’s what it was- we are not actually able to do cultures -we have to depend on Widal’s). Dr Lukens gave Jonah Amoxicillin. All night we cared for Jonah, trying to keep down the fever, praying and trying not to worry too much. There is nothing like a sick child to make one feel helpless and scared. By morning his fever had broken, and today (Monday) Jonah is almost back to normal, bouncing about.

Mark and I also tested positive for Typhoid and we are on Cipro. We are still dragging around a bit. Being really sick has made us thankful for health…and for antibiotics (so we don’t need to pack our stuff in coffins on the way over to Africa like the early missionaries did)…. and for Becky (who was sick herself, but came over and gave me hydrotherapy treatments during the worst of it)…. and for Paul and Petra (who made us carrot juice)…and for all our fearless friends (who braved the “casa de morta” to visit us)…and for Bobby (who held things together for Mark in the office)…and for Bagalech (who did our laundry and cooked for us when we couldn’t get out of bed)…. and that when we feel like we’ve done everything we can do and pulled every resource, we’re not out of luck- there is still a God up in heaven who says “I am here, I love you, cast your cares on Me… I’ll get you through this.”


We are back home in Gimbie. Our family had a wonderful, strenuous, and rewarding trip home to America. At first when we arrived in America some things were quite a shock: The huge Walmart with a parking lots full of shiny cars. The wide, fast, paved and landscaped highways and byways of MD. The beauty of orderliness and the byproducts of relative wealth. Being able to drink water from the tap. Prepared food. Salad bars. Big green lawns. Silence. Anonymity. Wild Wilderness. Solitude. It was joyful to hug loved ones tight and talk face to face. It was comforting and memorable to finally be home for the holidays after two years abroad. It was Jonah’s first traditional Christmas that he could remember and it was fun. We ate good food and gained 20lbs + between Mark and I (don’t worry we are already losing it back in Africa-traveler’s revenge was upon me before two days in Addis). We chose a Doug Fir at a Christmas tree farm excursion with family. We read the story of Jesus’s birth each day of the Advent. Jonah wondered why there were so many Santas in America and hardly any Africans in Sabbath School. He made re-acquaintance with his babyhood buddies Luke, Noah, Jocelyn, Aris and Aleko and cousins and friends but he missed Boni and Maron and was concerned he would be forgotten. He got lots of spoiling from aunties, uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas.

But, being on the road constantly with a three year old was not easy. Along with personal networking for GAH Mark spoke at nine different locations on the topic of GAH and we lived out of suitcases the majority of our time home. I am glad now to be settling into the beauty of a home routine. And, thanks to God’s blessing through generous donations for GAH there is lots of work for Mark to do from improving our water system to provide clean campus water to importing a new generator and hospital vehicle. We are so encouraged.

Our Gimbie home is relatively cozy despite a water pipe being broken during our absence, a toilet that leaves a huge puddle on the floor after you flush it and the continued precariousness of our mud brick living room wall (which is cracked through in six places and appears to have moved a bit). Bagelech (our helper) had kept a garden in our monkey cage and there is fresh basil and parsley in abundance. She cleaned the house and baked fresh bread for us when we arrived home. What a blessing she has been to our family!

We were able to bring some new books and things that improve home cooked food such as Brewer’s yeast, gluten flour, Mckays Chicken Seasoning and niceties such as dried apples and tree nuts on our return trip. I brought a cookbook called “ Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian” which is packed full of Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern recipes. Many of the recipes in this book can be made with ingredients available in Ethiopia. Last night I made pancakes out of plain shurro powder (chickpea powder) with cumin, turmeric, beriberi, fresh parsley and water. They were delicious and so healthy. There are many familiar things that aren’t available here in Ethiopia but recipes from these areas of the world lend themselves well here and are often too good.

Jonah is quite well. However, he lost his precious stuffed cat “Milo” somewhere on our trip from America to Gimbie. Milo (I may have mentioned before) was given to him by Iris (a volunteer who stayed at Gimbie for a short while). Milo traveled, played and slept with Jonah most of 2009. Milo has been lost before- once we found her in the travel section of REI after backtracking through a shopping trip to Fresno. But, I have my doubts about her return this time. Today Jonah drew a picture of “the many faces of Milo and a letter telling how we miss her and want her to come home quickly”. In the interim he has been sleeping with a hot pink giraffe with a bow and hearts around its neck, left for him by Renee on her return to America.

We have been greeted by the core group of familiar volunteers left at GAH (Bobby, Becky, Kelsey, Nick, Cassie, Mark P. Jeremy, and Scott.) and have met several new short term volunteers who have recently arrived which include an NP, physicians, a pharmacist and an IT guy (A great blessing for our virus plagued computers). Paul and Petra are still in America but return on January 21rst. Our Ethiopian friends greet us with a strong handshake, a bilateral shoulder bump and enthusiastic comments about how fat we look (a complement in this culture). We anticipate the arrival of the Oxenholt mission group which includes medical, surgical, and dental professionals in February. The Lutz family who will help with our water project also arrive in February for a short stay. We have heard so many amazing stories which happened in our absence. There are many challenges facing GAH right now, but there are plenty of abundant blessings to rejoice in as well. We thank you for your support and prayers. Happy New Year!

Packing for College?

September 15, 2009

We are packing this week for a trip to America!  Jonah waffles between being really excited and saying he wants to stay in Gimbie with his toys. We assure him, Lord willing, we will return to Gimbie and his toys.  The other day he packed up a small wheeled suitcase with his favorite toys and headed out the door. Noticing the sudden silence I dashed out doors to catch him, suitcase bumping along behind, over in our neighbor’s yard. He seemed surprised and had no explanation- not running away, not upset- no agenda he could articulate, just traveling….

Today I was rummaging through our small document folder sorting out what needs to come to America or stay. Passports need to go…. driver’s license renewal (license expired in August)…… tax documents which need to be filed….. new Visas needed….. I was busy writing to do lists and organizing and didn’t have much time to play.  Jonah and Maron (Bogalech’s four year old daughter) had just finished playing “kitchen” with playdough.  Maron had left, and Jonah was hyper and wanted to gab. When he failed to keep my attention, he opened his 1969 edition of Childcraft’s  “How Things Change”  and began his usual commentary and questioning. The book includes predictions that “you” (those reading it in 1969, I presume) may live to eat seaweed flavored like steak or mashed potatoes or candy because, scientists predicted, so many people would be living longer there would not be enough regular food to eat. As a solution it predicted fishboys and frogmen farmers would be growing and harvesting tons and tons of food under the sea and thus no one would have to go hungry…. The book also features futuristic houses with robots doing chores, flying cars, and kids commuting to school with “rocket belts.”  Jonah turned to the page entitled “Trains in the Sky” for what seemed the tenth time over the last couple days to contemplate the sadness of it all once again. The page features the dilapidated, rusty remains of a coal burning train, face forlorn, tears in the eyes, and with a futuristic monorail zipping along above it. After much thought, Jonah had devised a plan to rescue the train, restore it, become an engineer, and then take his parents for a ride around the world in the passenger car…… I had lost track of time and Jonah, when I noticed him patiently trying to stuff more items into a plastic sack and asked him what he was doing.  He had collected his stash of “college money” (he has been saving for college for several months now) comprised of various birr, a Russian coin, some American change and a few Euros,  along with a couple official looking ”documents” gleaned from the trash pile, some discarded wallet cards, his ABC flashcards,  and Bible memory verse booklets. He placed them in a basket, threw in a travel towel and told me “these things are going to be for my college Mommy, when we get to America.” He added, to clarify, that he wanted to go to “Daddy’s college” so that Daddy could live with him. The poor little guy seems to pick up on everything, yet sometimes it isn’t until days later that we find out what he has been trying to process in his three year old mind. He could have picked up on our recent discussions of potential Master’s degree programs for Mark. Or, he could think that America IS college, since most of his best friends here have been student missionaries, medical students, and graduates between college and grad school who eventually leave to return to their studies. Later, concerned that Jonah might be afraid Mark would have to leave to get his Master’s degree, we tried to find out what he was thinking and reassure him.  Jonah said “no Daddy, we just need to get on the same plane to go to college… and I’ll share my money with you, Dad…we just need two glass jars to put the money in.”

P.S btw, where are those tons and tons of edible sea plants? We could use some over here.

Curious George

September 15, 2009

One morning as I was combing out my wet hair in front of the sink Jonah walked in asking if there were anymore Curious George books. He had been looking at “Curious George Rides a Bike” one of his favorite books. I mumbled something about how I thought there were several more Curious George stories and Jonah replied “yes!”…. “I think there is Mom, I think there is:

Curious George and the Fire and

Curious George Goes to Heaven and

Curious George Flies with the Angels and

Curious George Drinks Tea and

Curious George and the Boat and

Curious George Sleeping and

Curious George Gets Cooked in the Oven and

Curious George Goes on a Hike and

Curious George Comes Back from Home”

At least those are the ones I can remember. I think there were more. It made me laugh. Jonah makes me smile often lately. He loves to talk and talk and talk. The other morning he crawled into bed with me to have his quiet time. Mark was gone to Addis, so I let him have quiet time in bed with me while I read the Bible. Usually, he has quiet time in his own tent. He prays and looks at Bible Story Books and sometimes I hear him making his stuffed cat pray, too. “Dear Jesus, Meow, Meow, Meow”.  This morning he had pulled his stuffed animals, pillow and blanket up onto the bed with me, spent considerable time getting settled and then quietly said “Mommy I think I am getting old and am going to die” I said “yes, most people get old and die sometime Jonah, and likely so will you, but that will be a very, very long time away… you see Mommy isn’t even old yet, you have a long way to go”. But Jonah said “No mommy, I’m getting old and am going to die now, see this spot on my arm?” He held out an arm and very seriously showed me what looked like two insect bites.

Good Impressions

September 15, 2009

Last Friday a distinguished and honorable member of the AHI board arrived from Addis just in time for a bit to eat and vespers. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him Dr X. We were about to begin singing hymns when Dr X and two other important gentlemen walked in. After introductions, Jonah hopped up on Dr X’s lap and began his usual get acquainted banter. But soon something went terribly wrong and he began to deviate from the normal small talk. My heart froze as I heard these words come out of his mouth: “How come you have not very much hair up here Dr X?” (pointing to the top of Dr X’s head) “but a lot of hair on your chin?” he continued. Overcoming my initial pallor, and blushing shades of red as I looked around to see several people had noticed Jonah’s comments and were trying to fight back giggles, I tried to coax Jonah off Dr X’s lap. “It’s ok Mom” Jonah said and Dr X kindly said “it’s ok,” too. Dear patient man, likely exhausted from his travels. Jonah continued “I bet you look different than you used to Dr X…. in fact I’ve never seen you like this before” (fact being Jonah had never seen him before). Later after vespers, stories, and a treat of Alban’s lemon sorbet I thought maybe we could escape and put Jonah to bed without further incident, but it was not to be. Jonah was chatting up Dr X again and between giggles (as this time Jonah was being tickled) I heard this: a pause… then Jonah- poke poking Dr X’s belly with his finger “Dr X, I think you ate too much!” Oh dear me, so much for good impressions.


September 2, 2009

We have been told that our house was built during the Italian occupation (1936-1941). It is constructed of unbaked mud brick and plaster. The back wall has a cracks through the width of the wall across the base, all the way up the right side, across the top and two coming down under the window. The mud bank “holding up” said cracking wall is eroding and there are ant nests undermining the foundation throughout. Mark feared that soon our wall would fall off and I agreed- though he says I am imagining it, I think the cracks have gotten bigger during this last month of rains. Mark began to build a retaining wall to prop up the house. Since our house cannot be accessed by vehicle,  laborers hauled rocks across campus to our yard on pieces of sheet metal suspended with two poles and gripped over their shoulders. The laborers dumped the load of rocks on the bank and a stray rock tumbled down the hill a bit and disappeared into the ground!  The earth had given way to reveal a hidden sewage pit, which had been covered with dirt, leaves and a fragile concrete covering underneath.  I was glad as I looked at the open pit, flies buzzing about it and a stench coming from the depths that Jonah or Bony had not walked across it and ended up where the rock did.

Work began the next morning on a new sewage pit farther down the hill. By afternoon, the diggers had uncovered a sizeable munitions dump. There were various anti personnel bombs and a very large mortar shell with a brass tip. We were standing around inspecting the shambles of our yard that evening when Bobby spotted a long thin black snake wriggling across the fresh dirt pilled to the side of the new sewage pit. Mark ran down to look at it and several workers trailed after, hoes and shovels in hand. Immediately the workers chopped the snake in four places. The workers explained that  the snake must be chopped up, because if only the head was chopped off the body, the snake would grow a new head, come alive again and wriggle out of the ground where it was buried. The workers all agreed the snake was very dangerous, and very poisonous.  Petra (the chaplain) and Kelsey (an RN volunteer) hearing the commotion came running over from the yard next door. Petra, quick to defend one of God’s creatures took the head of the snake and placed it in her refrigerator to be dissected later. She wanted to determine if it was truly venomous (and thus I suspect whether death was warranted).  The next day word was out that Gimbie Adventist Hospital had ammunition.  Mark called in the local police to inspect the stash found in our yard.  The police took an  antipersonnel bomb and the large mortal shell for further inspection. Petra reported finding four fangs and venom sacs in the snake’s head. She does not think it was a Black Mamba, though it was black and venomous. Last week, someone reported killing a green Mamba. I do not have a clue about what is what in snakes around here, but I can always expect with each new day will come a new adventure.

Good Morning

August 26, 2009

This morning we slept in until 7:00 a.m.. For some reason Jonah didn’t wake up at his usual 6:30 a.m. time and Mark didn’t wake up at 5:30 a.m. being tired because he had been awake during the night with back pain (his leg wound is healing well btw, it started to look infected but we started putting charcoal poultices on it regularly and prayed a lot). I woke up to tiny taps on our glass window. Looking closer, I saw that it was a hummingbird trying to sip nector from our faded chintz curtains. Some of the birds that look like hummingbirds are very large here, maybe the size of a robin with long thin beaks. I don’t know if they actually are hummingbirds. The other day a bird like this was trying to sip nectar from a red sweatshirt hanging on the clothes line. Jonah woke up. “Mommy, I don’t feel very well” he said.  I went in to investigate. He said his waist hurt, probably because he had worn his belt to tight the day before, he suggested. I felt his abdomen, discovering his bladder was distended and took him downstairs to remedy the situation. What a relief that it was something simple.  All being well, I took him back up stairs to bounce on his sleeping Father. “Daddy, he said I put my “tancocks” in, did you put in yours, Daddy?” “Your what?” Mark replied. “My “tancocks”, Jonah replied, pointing to his eyes. It was good for a laugh. Laughing is good in the morning.

A Miracle

August 13, 2009

We have just finished our 18 day Share Him Evangelistic Series!  The sermons, preached by three local Ethiopian young men in the Oromifa language, drew crowds of 175 to 225. The auditorium was full to standing room only most nights. There were many requests for Baptism.  There were many more adults interested in Baptism who wanted to study more and also those who said they were going to start coming to church. The series was also a blessing for local SDA’s who learned more about the Bible and felt revived. Many had never seen some of the pictures well known to Western SDAs depicting Jesus’s Second Coming and others, including beautiful pictures of other parts of the world. In addition, many of the pictures in each power point presentation were relevant to Africans as they were of different people and places in Africa. They enjoyed the lectures on topics such as Bible Prophesy, Creation, The Holy Spirit, Righteousness by Faith, The Sabbath, Health and many others. Some notes said “please continue the lectures forever, we want to learn more” and many were thankful for what they had heard.  One of the biggest miracles during the Evangelistic series is that for 18 nights it did not rain during the 60-90 minute presentations!  As it is one of the rainiest months in Ethiopia, we have rain intermittently every day and night. We were concerned at first, having the series in the auditorium, as it has a high tin roof which echoes very loudly when it rains, especially the torrential rains we have during this time of year. If  it had rained during the presentation, people would not have been able to hear anything but noise. But, praise the Lord!  It never rained once during the lectures! Five times, it began to rain during the singing and welcome, but each time there was an earnest prayer for the rain to stop and before the lecture began, the rain did stop. After 18 nights of this happening we are sure it was nothing short of a miracle. It is encouraging to see tangibly how powerful God is, and that He cares. But also, not only were the people able to hear the presentations, but it never rained immediately after the meeting while people were walking home in the dark. Since it is cold and many locals are not dressed properly for rain and do not have umbrellas or cars this was a blessing for their comfort.

Watch Your Step

August 13, 2009

Mark thought, “well this ought to be interesting” as he donned his new running shoes, some hiking pants, a long sleeved shirt and a rain jacket and headed out into the pouring rain for an early morning jog.  It was still dark, but Mark was not alone- Paul and Petra were meeting him for this run, the first since his wife Trudy (that’s me=) had forbad him to go jogging alone (s/p the recent theft of a camera from two medical students while out on an afternoon walk).  Trudy muttered something in her sleep about the craziness of going running when it is still dark and pouring rain as Mark shut the door.

As he sloshed through the mud at the top of campus towards the Gimbie Highroad, Mark realized that the pavement was no longer a road but a river, and hopped up onto the reddish brown Gimbie-dirt colored cement slab which runs alongside the road, covering a three foot deep trench for street water runoff. The trench was full of swirling Gimbie-dirt colored rainwater, trash and sewage. Mark’s rain jacket was no longer repelling water, but rather soaking it up as he strode along the ditch cover.  He was thinking “with all this rain, do I really need a shower this morning?” as the slab under him disappeared and he fell,  hitting first his left shin, then his right thigh soundly on the opposite side of the gap in the cement slab, and then sinking into the putrid run off. He climbed out, feeling as if he had been hit with a crow bar as he limped along home leaving a dripping a path of blood.

When Mark reached home, he showered and then told his sleeping wife he needed a nurse. Nurse Trudy arose to the task and had just finished cleaning the inch deep gash in his leg when seven month old Sifan (an abandoned baby girl she had been watching for a few days) woke up and began to cry. Jonah was still sleeping. Mark was sent to see Dr Priscilla who prescribed a Tetanus shot, a week’s course of antibiotics and then ordered him up onto the grimy ER examination table. As Mark undressed his leg, first his leather cowboy boots, then his clean white socks, and then unzipping the left leg of his favorite hiking pants, his mind began to wander.  He was thinking of how he had always been warned to wear clean underwear in case of an accident landing him in the ER. But now as he sat in this ER, he felt a spectacle because he had socks at all, and leather boots ,and pants that zipped on the side.  He glanced at the group of sockless Gimbieites gathered around in their muddy plastic shoes.  And, he felt a bit overdressed as he looked at the suture kit which was carefully being opened, to reveal ever so slightly rusty surgical instruments and a faded surgical drape laced with holes.  He wondered which hole in the surgical drape Dr Priscilla would choose to use as she sutured up his wound. After several stitches, Mark was sent home to put his leg up and slow the swelling. As he lay on the bed with his feet up, legs aching, he thought of all the work he needed to be doing, though he was glad at least that he hadn’t broken his leg.

A baby snake which was yellow dropped from the ceiling of the delivery ward during the night.  That is all the information we have on said snake, since the courageous housekeeper who killed it promptly threw it away. I’ve found Ethiopians are in general quite adverse to snakes- and with good reason, I think, in my snake phobic mind……there are said to be many varieties of deadly ones in Ethiopia……a whole cornucopia of sizzling, hissing, treacherous ones, and even aggressive ones like the dread Black Mamba…. Ok, I must say here before I get too carried away, that I have never personally seen a snake in Ethiopia yet, I only know that there is at least a two page list of poisonous ones here (I had done my research before we came, wanting to know what I was up against).  Anyway, the delivery room nurses were in a dither as they are sure that where one baby snake is, there are likely more nearby and their Mama. The nurses have asked Mark to get them out. Now finding a supposed snake nest in a false ceiling over a maternity ward packed full of women in various stages of birthing is not an easy task. One resourceful maintenance employee suggested spraying some DDT up into the false ceiling (yes, DDT is still readily available for spraying into false ceilings here=). Mark tactfully brought up the point that DDT might not be the best thing to have filtering down over newborn babies. But, one cannot exactly dismantle the ceiling over top the patients. It’s really a bit of a quandary. Mark has begun the task of hospital snake eviction by putting up new rat bait, hoping to remove the hospital’s culinary appeal for the yellow snakes.