Thursday, March 27, 2008

Run or hide (most likely run)

I can't do this, it is too hard. My second night back at work, it was worse than the first. I can't interact with my co-workers, roommates, patents. I just want to run or hide. I find myself practically locked in my room for hours at a time or doing endless circles on the track. What is wrong with me? I tiny part of me wants to just "go back to how it was" because this hurts too much. But the thought of just settling back into life and work is even worse. I can't stand feeling like this but it must mean that I'm a changed person which is good right? Like it is pouring rain and the sun is shining so there must be a rainbow somewhere. (Meanwhile I'm soaking wet and cold and searching the sky for that elusive spectrum of color.) My friends ask how things are going and I mention my difficulties but it is with a smile on my face and a chuckle in my voice. Why?! This is not what I'm feeling! I think it is neither funny nor something to smile about. I feel like I'm cracking up inside and just can't describe any of it.
I'm honestly not sure why I'm sharing all of this in this forum but if anyone is still reading this and praying for me please.... I guess, I don't even know what to ask.

I keep going back to II Corinthians 12:9. I clung to this verse in Burkina for one reason. Now I cling to it for another.
But He said to me "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pat this one is for you

The library that you worked so hard to set up seemed to be a huge success. The day that I took these pictures was a thursday afternoon (the kids have this one afternoon off with no class- usually they like to go out "into the bush". )

There were no empty chairs and they were keeping your librarian busy!
This is unlike anything else they have to do in their "free time".

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Now what God?

The thought ran though my head way too many times tonight that maybe it’s time to get off this unit. Several times while I was seeing kids with rashes I didn’t recognize and considering stitching or stapling things I thought it would have been nice to have seen something like this somewhere else first. I loved this unit at one time but that love is gone so maybe it is time for me to go too. I’d better give it a few more weeks before I do anything rash (Greg said don’t make any major decisions in the first week you are home) but maybe I’ll start to look...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back at work...

Wow, it feels like I've been gone way longer than 6 weeks. Amiodarone and nexium drips (a couple of the easiest, no titration needed) but I didn't miss this stuff at all. Also in charge.... as my co-workers know my least favorite responsibility. Coming back is harder than I though it was going to be. Not because I can't remember my computer passwords or that I have lost all of my time management skills (For those who have been to Africa do you know what I'm talking about? I would ask what time something is, for example church on Sunday morning, and be told après, which means later or after, no after what or how much later, just après. In Africa there is no problem if you show up for something an hour or more late. Waiting is just a way of life.) Anyway, back to my struggle at work. I came home knowing pretty clearly that Village of Hope is not where I'm supposed to be long term but God did solidify that I'm supposed to be working in Africa. I wish I could describe how I know but there was no audible voice or writing on the wall. Just a perfectly clear conviction. So now I'm back to struggling with where, when, and with what organization. Meanwhile, I want to do a good job at work but just can't get my heart back into it. This is really hard.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


So a few of you have seen me and know that I'm home but for those that have not- I'm home. A few little difficulties getting home (though for anyone who as traveled internationally they know these are practically nothing). I had trouble getting through customs in Burkina because I didn't have an address or phone number, had a very supprising layover in Niger and was delayed in Cincinnati but on the up side had no difficulty getting through Paris and that was the one I was most nervous about. I have several more posts that I wrote while on the trip that over the next few days I'll post. I also want to add pictures. But I have to start going to work again tonight so it may take me a little longer. Once again- thank you to all that prayed for me and have supported me. God was clearly present and at work! Now I just have to wait patiently until I get the next step.....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


So, I've begun packing, figuring out what I can leave and what has to be washed to wear home. I think I'm mentally ready to go. Honestly, I'm tired of disagreeing with Monsieur Farmer and feeling like we could be doing a much better job with these kids. My mental monologue about doing the best I can with what I've got is about dried up.
Some parts of leaving are hard. These kids need so much that I could do if my hands were not so tied. I'm finally connecting with them a little. It took them so long to open up and now I'm like everyone else and am going to leave them. Far too many have already done this. The adult community is finally starting to accept me a little more too. I think they have realized that I'm not a spy for Lydia. They finally accepted a few of my gifts. Ann I think helped with that by wearing my bra and telling everyone that I gave it to here. (I was clearly using some of the wrong French for that conversation but God used it to good and I have two left so no harm done.) I've finally adjusted to the heat and have no difficulty at 2:00 with the afternoon sun. But oddly enough I'm ready for some macaroni and cheese (you know- something as artificial and full of chemicals as possible.) I need to get someone to confirm my flights so I'm off to find someone who speaks english...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Some things I know that I won't miss....

As I prepare to leave these are some of I things that I know that I won't miss...
*They get the kids up every morning between 5 and 5:30. Living as near as I do to the girls dorm once they are up, I'm up. My "alarm" is a piece of a drive shaft hitting an old rim of a 16 wheeler about 15 times. More if the young man is feeling particularly fine that morning. Needless to say this setup does not come with a snooze feature.
*The heat and dust. The dust is thick on every surface and it is nearly as oppressive as the temperature. At least the weather is consistent. It will be the same every day for the next three months.
*Understanding about 10% of what is going on around me and only about 2% of the conversation. But I'm learning French far faster than I thought I would. (Most days Rasmata is the only other person who speaks English in a minimum of 5K radius from the village.) Volia!
*Doing laundry by hand about every 4th day. Oddly enough my socks are only lasting about 3 hours after I put them on before they stink so bad it is painful. I understand now why all the kids go barefoot.
*Lack of seatbelts, or maybe it is the lack of paved roads, of the crowds of pedestrians and bikes I could do without. Lines on the road would help, but that would necessitate traffic laws and crazy things like driver's licenses and driving classes. Then we wouldn't have all of the exciting passing options that are currently experimented with.

Some things I know that I will miss...

As I prepare to leave there are several things that I know that I'll miss....
* My own personal cook and cleaning crew. It took me a little while to get used to being served like this but it was explained to me that they are paid a little to do this so my being here is allowing them to have a little income. I got used to it very quickly.
*Watching the sun rise and set... everyday. There is something very relaxing and reliable about having this part of your daily routine.
* Mangos so ripe they practically drip from the pit. I eat at least one a day, there is nothing like this in Michigan.
* A minimum of 2 hours alone with God everyday. I am really enjoying the complete lack of TV and the myriad of other distractions that I allow in my life at home. I have found that the verse in James 4:8 is so true! (Come near to God and he will come near to you.) One might think, 2 hours! thats nuts. But I can't even begin to describe it. If this is is the only reason that I'm here it is all worth it.
* Fresh, home made chi every morning from the same Santa bowl. For me there is something so perfect about having chi in Africa.
* Being surrounded by such a close knit, Christian community. If only I spoke the language...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Random thoughts

These are a taste of some of the thoughts that ran through my head while I was at the clinic the past few days.
  • "OH! What have we here? A lizard in my box of gloves... so can I still use them?"

  • While peeling of a dressing: "I don't remember doing this one recently. I think this was from a week ago....surprise! Infected".

  • "And for you I prescribe shoes... if only."

  • "A 10 year old epidural kit. Great, just what I needed."

  • "No, not more betadine, anything but the betadine! I have some nice sterile water here, or some perxoide. How about some antibiotic ointment?! .... O.K. more betadine. "

  • "A multivitamin for you and a multivitamin for you and a multivitamin for you and a multivitamin ...." 360 times.

  • "So, what shall I do with 40 denture cups?"

  • "Can I/ should I dose percoset to a 7 year old" while having the simultaneous thought "I wonder if I can use the staple gun on this?"


The more I dwell on this concept that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, the more I grow to love it. (John 15) Abiding in him is simply recognizing my complete weakness and giving it all to him. When I am attached to the vine, the same "sap" that flows through him, is the power that I can claim! The purpose that comes with this is so much greater than anything of this world! The daily reassurance that I'm where I should be, doing what he has asked of me wipes away the frustration that I have been struggling with every day here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

If only I spoke the same language as my cook...

  • We could discuss the difference between the fridge and the freezer.

  • I could ask why she chooses laundry soap for ALL of her washing and bathing needs. (I know my dishes are clean when the soup tastes like tide.)

  • I would understand why I get scolded when I put things like meat in the fridge.

  • We could discuss the theory behind keeping some things covered to keep the lizards out.

  • I could request that she makes my dinner slightly nearer to the time that I will eat it. Though I have no reason to complain- Even though she makes it at 2:00 it is still plenty warm at 6:30.
These are all in jest. Ann is a wonderful woman who does a good job preparing food for me- a picky westerner. She does a great job with the very limited resources that she has and clearly am not starving. (though I am very white!)

Friday, March 7, 2008


Chicken for lunch again today (I can't believe I'm complaining about food). THANK YOU to whomever left the Kashi. Maybe you didn't want me to eat it but you left it, it is only a little stale and bug free so consequently fair game. I also have figured out which one is the powdered milk so life is good. Also there is quite a bit of peanut butter left so I'm set for a while! (I promise to leave something useful for the next guy.)
Today's challenge in the clinic.... I lanced six boils yesterday and managed to convince all six kids to come back to the clinic today (a challenge all on its own) but in changing the dressings I discovered 3 of the six are full of puss again! I guess my antibiotic ointment isn't cutting it and I should switch to something PO but I just can't stomach giving these kids more amoxicillin. I drained and redressed again.... I'll go to the dorms before the generator goes off tonight and check them, maybe if I just clean them more often they will clear up. Unfortunately I have a strong suspicion that at least one of this guys is HIV positive so I'm not sure how I'll get on top of this infection.
On a mildly lighter note I found a gas mask in the piles of stuff I was sorting.... I have no idea how or why it is here. Or what I'm going to do with it but it was worth a laugh.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Shake it off

I heard something yesterday afternoon that made me pause. I heard crying. Now I'm surrounded by 300+ kids- it shouldn't really be all that odd. But I've been here nearly 3 weeks and that seems like the first time. By the time I put all this together and went to investigate the crying had pretty much stopped and the kid was picking up a bike and limping away. I decided that I didn't need go any further and didn't think about it again until I was at the clinic this morning. One of the CM2 or CP1 (3rd or 4th grade) boys came in with a big, deep, ugly gash on the inside of his leg. The blood and dirt had it mostly caked shut and I think he came to the clinic because he couldn't get his shorts off because the blood had dried it all into one gross mess. Once I started cleaning it, I quickly realized this should have had a boatload of stitches- more than 12 hours ago, way to late now. This was worth only a few minutes of crying and a "shake it off" walk?!
I have got to figure out a way to get these kids to come to me when they need something. They won't come to where I am, they wait until I'm at the clinic. I'm really afraid about infection in this leg and I don't really know how to dress this mess. I had found some antibiotic powder that didn't have an expiration date on it (which may mean that it is so old that it is pre-regulation but I'm not going to dwell on that), threw a bunch of steri strips loosely on it and wrapped it all up pretty tight. On the up side if he does get an infection in it he will never complain about it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Empty vessel

I am daily learning humility because I have nothing to offer but what comes though me from God. I am a neuro nurse, who doesn't do well with kids and doesn't even speak the language. How am I supposed to be here to help?! Everything that is "mine" is all wrong from my skills to my English. Yet I am confident I am where God wants me. I pray daily that I can be an empty vessel that He can use. At least as a vessel I have a purpose.
I wish I had the words to share some of the amazing insight that God has given me. And the subsequent peace, contentment and joy despite my personal failings and circumstances. God is SO good!

Top 10 things that I have NOT missed since arriving...

Top 10 things I have NOT missed since arriving:

10. Snow and cold. It is hot and sunny all the time.

9. My cell phone- oddly enough it hasn't rung once since arriving.

8.MRSA, VRE, C-diff...pretty much anything requiring gowning, gloving and masking to go into the room. Not that we shouldn't be isolating some of the patients that we see, but to say that we are not is an understatement.

6. Room mates- sorry guys, its not that I don't like you but it is really nice to have my own place. Even if it is only a 10 foot diameter circle with nothing more than a bed and a toilet.

5. Cleaning- There are a group of the oldest kids who clean my courtyard and room every day and I can't convince them that they don't really need to do it. So, now I just sit back and enjoy it!

4. Discussions on the political primaries...I have not heard the name Obama in several weeks. And funny thing is I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

3. Patients going through DTs from drugs or alcohol. No need to say more.

2. Working nights/ sleeping days. Once the jet lag passed I remembered how nice it was to sleep when it is dark and be awake when it is light.

And the #1 thing that I don't miss..... Staffing calling me to see if I can pick up a shift. This leave of absence thing is really nice! I highly recommend it!


Nick has put up some pictures for me. The top one is the nurses with our translators at the clinic in the capital where we worked for four days. The second one is a bunch of the school girls in their dorm room. Some of these kids clean for me every day. The mud house is out in Yemdi where we met the village chief. The infant is about 4 hours old that Tiffiany helped deliver.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

3 weeks

(There may be some slight exaggerations in this post but the pictures that I hope to eventually post will support most of my claims)
I have shelves! One of my greatest challenges at the clinic has been the condition that it was in. "Stuff" (of a mostly medical nature) seems to have been accumulation here since roughly 1960 near as I can tell. CF seems to send anything they can get their hands on, then when a container arrives the people unload it but don't know what things are or how to use them. But they won't get rid of it because it must be valuable if CF worked to send it over. Everything from rather sophisticated surgical equipment and trach supplies to enough abd pads to absorb gallons (liters?) of drainage. (But can I find eye drops?!) Anyway- the government nurse didn't really trust me enough to sort or clean with much purpose up to just a few days ago. But for some reason (a divine one I suspect) he let me really have at it the middle of last week. And the carpenter, wonderful man that he is , seems to have put a rush on my "order" for shelves and will be finished painting them soon. I also managed to get Monsieur Farmer (the government nurse) to let me give away some the the stuff he should never use. Hopefully wherever it ends up can use it. (For those who know what I'm talking about I brought a truck full to Sorce de Vie who says they will pass what they can't use on to the hospital)
My current struggle is what to do with stuff that no one wants. For example several disposable cauteries that are quite caroded. Or a large box scalples (that would need an autoclave to use), or dental equipment from the middle ages. Or a collection of various sized glass syringes. To "take out the trash" here generally means just toss it aside, not even outside necessarily- in the courtyard is fine or on the floor of the kitchen- the dogs will eat it or the ants will carry it off. What isn't consumed by the wildlife is raked up once in a while and lit on fire. Then the ash blows away eventually. But the cauteries probably shouldn't be burned and the scalpels wouldn't be destroyed- unless, I guess the cauteries burned hot enough to least dull them and the glass... I'll have to keep pondering this.
I'm also trying to figure out what to do with a huge box of expired meds. Most of which I would have used (roughly half of it expired this decade) but Monsieur says it has to go. So, I focus on organizing my selves and pretending to check all the expiration dates. Now-to tackle the challenge of making sure that he knows how to use all of these meds with English labels and these products that he has never seen before. Telfa is a tough one and steri strips are almost beyond him. It would also be much easier if he spoke any English or I spoke any sign language is getting much better though!
But I've gone on and on about the clinic and haven't hardly talked about the kids. This is technically a boarding school- not an orphanage, though it all comes down to how you define it. On school breaks the majority of kids "go home" but for most that means that there is living extended family in their village that will take them in. By government standards this is not an orphan. However, many of these extended families can't afford to care for more children than they already have year round so they are sent to the school.
I interact with the kids mostly at the clinic, though I've spent several afternoons now playing with them with some of the stuff that has been left by other teams. The chalk and face paints are very popular. A few of the youngest girls see me coming and pretty much drop what they are doing to see what the strange white girl is going to come up with next. Unfortunately I live behind the girls dorm so every time I go out...
My next free afternoon I'm going to see if the water balloons are still usable. Maybe I'll go the the boys dorm for that project.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The night watchman

There are so many wonderful people here. One of them is the night watchman who is a wonderful character. He greets me with great enthusiasm every time he sees me with the only English phrase he knows: "HowareyouIamfine." His name is George and he has a full camo outfit that he wears every night. It is long pants, a long sleeved jacket and a hat. All camo. Now, he is a dark black African in the desert. He stands out wearing green camo. On top of that he carries a large ring of keys that jingle quite a bit. He carries a gun too. But the first time that I saw him pump it and realized that it was an airsoft gun I couldn't decide if I was more reassured or less. The good news is this place is very safe and I'm pretty sure the only thing that the gun has killed is pigeons (of which there are still 200+. He could kill a few more).

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I'm hoping the whole purpose of this trip was not just so that God could teach me more about Himself (and consequently more about my self) but I seem to ask God a lot "why am I here?". My hands are so tied at the clinic and it is doing so many things medically wrong. The kids seem to have been hurt so many times by work teams coming in and building relationships then leaving over and over again that I'm having a really hard time getting them to open up to me at all. Considering at this moment all I've got is about 30 4th graders who know how to play uno to show for my time here I'm having a hard time seeing a purpose. But I've got lots of time to listen to God and I've got little else to do. As it seem to happen to all of us I had become complacent at home- I was striving daily to follow Christ but it was time to go to the next step. I'm learning here to do more than follow- to abide. Initially God called his disciples to follow but as they were with him day in and day out he began to tell them to abide in him. (John 15, James 1, I John 2) Abide- this is so much more than merely doing my day to day routine. It is entrusting my whole self to him all the time. Initially, I would have said I am too weak to experience an unbroken fellowship with the God of this universe, yet I'm quickly learning that abiding is for the most weak and feeble! II Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.