Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week

It's Holy Week.  We are back in the States.  It's tougher than you might think coming back--much harder than adjusting to being in TZ.  When we come back here, to our native culture, we expect to fit in.  But we find that we don't.  We have changed.  America has gotten perhaps a bit more crazy.  A short anecdote that exemplifies the cognitive dissonance we experience:

Carnival Cruise Lines recently had a ship full of reveling Americans lose power and have to be towed into port.  For a few days, cocktails were not properly cooled and food was not properly hot.  People may have gotten sick.  There were surely other inconveniences.  But I'm pretty sure no one died.  I'm not saying that these people did not have a bummer of a vacation.  They should get their money back and even a free upgraded cruise in the future.  But apparently many of them are suing Carnival for the hardship!  I'll quote a friend's comment on this: "What a first world problem.  'Oh no!  My giant party boat broke down.  What a disaster!'"  I see mini versions of this discordant reality every day, and I find it disconcerting.

To counter that pathetic story, I have a better one I wish I could tell you, but I think I had better not.  It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.  But it took place in South Sudan and I  shouldn't put the details of it on the internet.  Those of you who know me have possibly heard me tell the story.  I won't relate it here, but perhaps I can give you something even better:

The man who is at the nexus of that story--who made a statement that shattered my understanding of what is at stake in the world--will be on 60 minutes this Sunday (Easter) evening on CBS.  His name is Abraham Nhial.  He was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  He is now a Bishop of the Anglican Church in South Sudan.  His story is absolutely incredible.  Don't miss him.  You can find out a little bit here: Abraham Nhial on You Tube, and here is a website and book about his story: Lost Boy No More.  He tells his story much better than I can.

We live in two worlds, but they're the same world.  On one side a giant party stalls, and it's considered a disaster.  On the other side, unimaginable suffering and evil on a vast scale is commonplace--it can't even be put into words.  It's tough to digest.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Terrible Burn (Part 2)

Guest blog post written by Jessica, a 4th year med student. 

Finishing our morning devotions at the clinic, we looked up as a quiet form filled the doorway.  We all smiled to see that the mother and baby were back. Moving into the exam room, we begin the challenging task of taking off the old dressings and cleansing the delicate, burned tissue. This can be one of the hardest parts for both patient and physician as all the skin is raw and tender and has to be cleansed and touched. The baby began to whimper a bit, and all of us began to silently pray, hating the pain that we knew was present, but knowing that the treatment was necessary. As we were working, Megan began subconsciously humming the hymn tune from our devotions, and someone else heard and began to sing. The baby quieted at the sound of the singing, and we were reminded of God again answering prayer. We soon finished, gently applying burn cream and re-wrapping the wounded areas.
A few days later, the family appeared again. We were very glad to see them, as it had been longer than we had hoped between visits. Again, we carefully examined the burned tissue and sang, remarking at changes in the week since this had happened. The baby was healing well, but we were concerned about some high fevers. Malaria was suspected, and we tested the baby’s blood. It was positive for malaria, and we tried to explain to the family how they could build a burn tent to keep the mosquitoes off of the little girl, while allowing the open air to facilitate healing to the wound. (We had been doing a lot of reading on the best way to care for burns and prevent infection in this setting of dust, dirt, mosquitoes, and more.) As the mom and baby prepared to leave, Ty asked if Stephen and I wanted to accompany the mom home so we could check up on them. We eagerly said yes, and hurried to mission house to grab water and a friend who speaks Kouria.

As we followed the mother down the dirt path, I was humbled and amazed. The sun was hot as it beat upon us, and the mother shifted the umbrella over her head, trying to keep the baby on her back comfortable. Though the burn was covered by the mother’s fabric khanga, I wondered at how miserable the baby must feel with her dark skin and fever, and the heat hitting the burn through the fabric. Stephen jotted down landmarks on his tiny notebook, trying to make a map, while I noted the compass bearings. We passed cows and goats, winding paths that snaked off to unseen ends, corn fields and bean plantations as the distance wore on. I soon realized that this mother did not live close to clinic. We had already walked at least a half hour, and didn’t seem to be nearing our destination. My Kiswahili is lousy, and I was unable to say much beyond “What is your name? My name is Jessica. What is this called? Sorry, my Swahili is really little.” So, we largely walked in silence, and I prayed hard for this little baby who was suffering, for her mom who was brave enough to walk for an hour in the sun to carry her little girl to the doctor, for what we might find in the home, and for God to use us an encouragement to the family. I prayed that God would give the mom something to make her smile, as she always looked worried and preoccupied when we saw her. Ironically, she smiled at my weak attempts at Swahili, and I thanked God.

My heart marveled at the strength of this mama. We knew very little about her. I was unsure of whether she was married or not, how many other children she had at home to care for, how old she was, and what she thought of these two wazungu who were walking home with her. I longed to know her story. Did she grow up here? Of course she did. Did she have a husband? Was he a kind man? Did she feel guilty for what had happened to her little girl? Who held the baby when she had to go to the bathroom?
What I did know was that the baby had a mother who loved her, and that her mama was strong. I also knew that her Heavenly Father loved her as well, and that He is strong.

We continued to wind down the path on our curious house call, and I noted the murky bog, mentally dubbed it the “Mosquito Swamp” and silently blamed it for the little girl’s malaria. As the path curved, we turned off to the right, and I realized that the circle of huts we were approaching was our destination. We stooped to walk through the low gate in the fence, and eyed the cow pen and maize drying inside the compound. Four huts stood in a circle with a fence made of branches between them. We were ushered into the first hut, and I was given the lone chair. Two stools were brought for Stephen and  our friend and interpreter, V., and as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I took note of my surroundings. Old newspapers hung from ropes stretched across the ceiling, and the sparse room held only a small end table and our chairs. In the midst of such a spartan home, I was surprised by the terracotta colored paintings that covered the cream colored walls. Unsure of how to proceed, we began to ask the mom some of our questions through the interpreter, and she started to relax within the walls of her own home. She was surprised to learn that Stephen and I were married, and we learned that her husband was working in the field. A neighbor stopped in and greeted us warmly in English and told us that it was an honor to have us in their community. We thanked him, and said that we were honored to be there.

Before long, we set out to gather sticks to build a burn tent for the baby to sleep under. Having gathered enough, we asked if there was twine or rope to lash it together. The mom stood on the stool, and carefully reached up to a board that formed a makeshift ceiling, taking down a very neatly rolled bundle of twine. Thanking her, we set to work. Her husband came home in the process and began to help, an action that spoke volumes to us about his care for his wife and daughter. He was very appreciative. I tried to hold the baby, but she looked at me suspiciously and cried, so I handed her back to her mom. Having accomplished our task, we asked if we could pray with them, and did so.  We told the parents that we were very pleased with how the baby was healing, and that we would continue to pray for God to heal her more. We prayed with confidence, because after all, we had already seen Him answer a great many prayers for this precious little girl. Knowing that the sun would soon be on its journey home, we headed that direction as well, rejoicing that we serve a God who cares about a family with a little girl with a severe burn living in middle of a corn field in Tanzania. 

Tending the wounds 
House Calls!
The Mosquito Swamp
Making Burn Tent
Burn Tent - This will have a khanga
(piece of fabric wrapped on top of it).
Making House Calls

Monday, March 4, 2013

An All Too Common Story - Part 1

Written by Jessica Morse, 4th year medical student at VCOM

It was our third day here when we first met her. The mama had come to the hospital and was sitting in her brightly colored kanga in our intake area with the baby on her lap. I didn’t think much of it initially, as I was gathering supplies to suture someone in the next room. However, as I walked passed, the mama dropped the kanga from around the baby, revealing a severe burn. I winced. Burns are exceedingly painful, and this one was really bad. 

Most of the baby’s back and a significant portion of her trunk had been scalded. Hot cornmeal porridge (uji) is a staple here, and this little girl had somehow managed to pull a whole pot of it down on herself. 

Concerned, our team assessed and tended the wound in conjunction with the Tanzanian attending doctor. I came back in the room just as they finished dressing the wound, and we gave the mother instructions to return the following morning. Later, when we discussed the case with Ty, we came to realize how life-threatening burns like this can be in this setting. The mama and baby had already left the clinic to go back home, and we tried to figure out the best way to contact them to “admit” them to the hospital overnight for observation. Landline phones are non-existent, as are addresses. Someone had seen the family make a left turn out of the clinic. We decided to send our night guard after the family to ask them to return sooner. He set off down a narrow dirt path between two cornfields as dusk settled in. Unable to do anything more, we began to pray- to pray that he would find them, to pray that they would know how important it was to come back, to pray that God would somehow intervene in this little girl’s life, to pray that He would heal her, to pray that she would make it through the night.
Several hours later, as we joined the children at City of Hope for their evening music and dancing, we saw Dr. Ben come and get Ty. Though I was tired, I waited up, hoping to hear news of the little girl. 

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that they had found her, that the family was willing to spend the night at the hospital, that the burn looked better than Ty had initially anticipated. God had answered the first of our prayers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Friends, Food, Family

T. has been introduced to computer games on this trip (educational of course)
and here he is teaching a passel of Tanzanian kids how to "right click!"
He loves the computer...maybe too much... 
So he says to me,"Can I get a new game, Mom? I mastered this one."

After a run-in with a blade of grass that got stuck in his eye for about 10 minutes,
T. insisted on wearing this cold pack around his head like a wounded solider.
Oh, and a movie.  Which according to him "always helps eyes feel better."

Thanks to Uncle Matt we have a beautiful blue bicycle that gives T.
and Daddy tons of freedom!

Boys and trucks and girls and dolls...but don't be fooled.  Moments earlier they were switched.

After a long day of playing with the kids, T. falls asleep with a twizzler in his hand.
You gotta be tired to do that!

Our own little shamba. (Garden)

Super Clips Africa: Before

After: POLL: Did I take a cool shaggy hipster and turn him into a nerd???
Can you believe this kid said he was bored later this day???
It's hard to see but he has a huge smile on his face...
Big T was demolishing a mud house in order to prepare the ground for the
new 200 capacity dining room for the children and school.

Another newly discovered source of freedom: Victor!
The compound dog who is normally tied to a dog house on the opposite side of
the property is now a good friend to T. and W.
When taken for a walk NOBODY messes with these white kids!

Homemade granola

Homemade Injera
(Ethiopian flat bread--much easier to make than I ever guessed! And really yummy!)

Whole Wheat Monk Bread...and I will not show you a picture of the
horrible soft pretzels I tried to make. Absolutely terrible.

PIZZA! Did you know Kraft parmesan cheese is a decent substitute for
"real" cheese when you have a craving for pizza?

Speaking of cravings...here is T. offering up his best guess as to the
gender of our new little one coming in July...he says,
"BOY!" and the doctor agrees!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Tribute to Daniel Fountain, a great man, my hero.

Dr. Dan Fountain has gone to glory.  It is so hard to wrap my head around.  I have spent much of the past 24 hours feeling bewildered, disoriented, profoundly sad.  He was my great mentor, teacher, and friend.  My kids called him "Grandpa" Dan.  Sometimes I got emails from him that he had written for his family, signed, "Dad."  What a privilege it has been to sit as his feet this past decade.

No other person has shaped who I am more than Dan.  I have quite literally hundreds of pages of notes written while sitting at his feet.  I can hardly set pen to paper without thinking of him--all that he has taught me, how he has encouraged me, how he has been an example to me.  I can quote word for word so many things that he has said to me.  He has given me words of encouragement along the way that I will never forget--monuments along the path of my journey.  All of the time--especially when I am teaching--I find myself saying to others, "Dan Fountain, my mentor, says..."

It is somewhat disconcerting how difficult this is for me.  I really do feel disoriented--like I can't think straight.  The scientific side of my brain has been telling me for some time that this day was coming.  Dan was in his eighties, and he had been in and out of the hospital for a year.  I know those odds are not good.  But I held on to him.  I know that Dan is certainly more alive now than he has ever been.  But I miss him terribly.  He has been for me an immovable landmark--an ebenezer stone.  To lose that milestone is more disorienting that I would have expected.  I am in a fog.  But Dan was not the lighthouse, he was just the lighthouse keeper.  Jesus is the lighthouse that guides us to safe harbor.  Dan pointed the way.  God has called me to do the same.  What a privilege to have been his apprentice.  And there are dozens, if not hundreds, more like me.  What a legacy!

Today there is great rejoicing in heaven.  A real hero has come home.  He has been told, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  Dan, we are so proud of you.  Thank you for investing in us.  We strive to follow in your footsteps.  I can't wait to see you again, over yonder shore...

~ Ty

Friday, February 8, 2013

"And that's why I'm a doctor..."

Written by Jessica M., 4th year medical student, who is here for a month with her husband, Stephen.

Ty and W. at the clinic.

It was a quiet morning, and Ty had decided that little W could walk with us up to the clinic for morning devotions. As we sat down to sing though, we saw with delight that the baby we had been greatly concerned about for a week was back. We stopped what we were doing, and went into the exam room, and Stephen and I began to take off the gauze that we had applied the day before. The baby whimpered and began to cry. 

W asked “Daddy, what’s wrong with the baby?”

Ty looked down at W and explained that the baby girl had gotten badly burned.

“Awww, poor baby”, said W sympathetically.

He explained that she had gotten too close to a pot of hot porridge and that we were helping to take care of her and help her get better. 

As Ty held his own little girl in his arms, he gently explained to her “And that’s why I’m a doctor…”

His proclamation struck me with full force-What a profoundly true statement! Being here to take care of a little girl who got too close to a scalding pot of porridge is why we are in medicine. Being here to help her mom through the tedious job of caring for a badly burned infant and through the guilt associated with it is why we have come. We are here to extend compassion to those who are hurting and suffering, and to do it with Jesus’ love in our hearts and on our lips. We are student doctors so that we can one day be doctors, maybe the only ones within an hour’s walking distance in a community such as this one. We are here because Jesus cares about little girls who get burned, and old men with malaria, and children with wounds. He cares, and He cares through our hands at work, doing what we have been trained to do.

I am humbled at the talent we’ve been given, and the mighty reminder to invest it in our Father’s kingdom for his glory. May it be so!

Monday, February 4, 2013


"Hello!  My name is Megan K. and I am a sophomore pre-med student.  I go to Wofford College, which is a school with a January or J-term or Interm.  With this special schedule, I had the opportunity to take the month of January to travel before spring semester classes started.  God really blessed that time because I was privileged enough to go on a medical mission trip to Tanzania. I went to the City of Hope to volunteer in the medical clinic and help as needed and have time free from distractions to spend with the Lord.  Those were my expectations of the trip, but as it turns out God taught me much more than I expected.

Learning.  I have been learning since I walked through the City Of Hope gates.  Learning about African culture, learning to be taught by the holy spirit, learning about forming relationships and the importance of putting people above projects, learning how to cook with minimal resources, learning about treating diseases and infection without electricity or running water, learning to be joyful in suffering, learning that mission work is hard and far from glamorous, learning that T.I.A. or “This Is Africa” and nothing goes according to plan, learning that busyness can be problematic and prevent proper rest, but most importantly learning that the Lord will present me with opportunities to further His kingdom and pursue a lifestyle pleasing
to Him.

My first emotions on the trip were frustration and impatience, but God bestowed a new blessing on the group each day even if the day did not go according to plan—and I thank Him for that!  Comparing the initial goals and motivation for this trip with the actual experience, I have been pleasantly surprised that the two were not the same.  My first day was bogged down by the mindset that I was a pre-med student interested in missions who was there to learn only about medicine and how to spend more time with the Lord.   I was so eager to jump into medicine and do something productive and purposeful, but luckily God made me wait.

Eventually I was exposed to a lot of medicine and came face to face with the patients and their wounds and infections, but to tell you the truth the more valuable skills and lessons I learned were from the mission house “family” members and Africans around me.   These people not only welcomed my fumbling questions and confusion but also offered advice and encouragement to support and help me discern how the Lord calls His servants.  Eagerly, I soaked up everything these wonderful people were pouring into me because they are godly role models who have already experienced the things that I will experience in the next few stages of my life.  Glory to God for bringing these Christ followers together and inviting me to join their close-knit group.

The City of Hope is a special place and feels like paradise, but your time here can be unfruitful unless your heart is in the right place and you learn to appreciate that the Lord has more control over your life because He knows better—He does all things for your own good!"

Me and Jessica (also 4th year) and some girls from the children's home.

My 20th birthday!! Made from the coconut, coconut cream pie!!

Stephen, 4th year medical student, teaching me.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

5 Years Old

Today we celebrate 5 years of blessings from T!

6:30 AM FINALLY! My birthday!!!

The day began with baking 2 cakes.  W and I licked the batter before breakfast!

Mommy called me the "chocolate warrior."

First birthday present from Grandma and Grandpa H.  An awesome RC car.  Still not even 8 AM!

By noon we were carving and decorating the cake.

Can you tell what it's going to be yet??

Final product and the inspiration!!
7 PM after lots of very patient waiting I finally get to eat it!
8 PM opened presents from Grandma and Grandpa J. We had a GREAT day and I was so tired I asked to go to bed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Big Mac Tanzanian Style

This blog entry was written by Jessica, one of our medical students from VCOM.  Jessica and her husband Stephen are here rotating with us this month.   

It takes a whole village to make…

…A hamburger!

We came home from church today to find a large chunk of meat sitting on the counter, which is a treat in and of itself. However, we became even more animated as J decided that we should make hamburgers out it! Cooking here is, of course, a wee bit different from home. 

We began by putting our “Hamburger Helpers” to work…Meat was chopped into chunks, and then Pete and Stephen took turns grinding it. When I asked what I could do, I was sent on a quest to see if I could find tomatoes. We had none in the garden, so I went to ask the matron of the children’s home if she knew where we could find/buy some. After locating her in the school room, she assured me that there would be some at the local market in the village. Keep in mind that this “market” is NOT like your neighborhood Walmart Market- it is a few stands made out of branches in a wide spot by the road. She assigned one of the older boys the job of going into the village to get the tomatoes. Pete, a volunteer from North Carolina, decided to join him on the journey. Meanwhile, back at the children’s home, J was kneading homemade dough into rolls, letting them rise on the awning for the porch swing!

With Stephen still grinding meat, some of the girls began to form and cook patties on the griddle that traveled across the sea for just such a purpose! The guys soon returned from their quest, having been to 2 neighboring villages to find and buy tomatoes. I played search and rescue with trucks in the “sandbox” with the kids so that everyone else could finish their part in preparing the meal.

Several hours after beginning, we were finally ready to enjoy our not-so-fast food- freshly ground beef turned into yummy hamburgers, local avocadoes and tomatoes sliced up, and rolls cooked to perfection! We even had local perfectly ripe watermelon! Trust me, we savored every single bite of it all!

Hamburger Helper grinding the meat. 

The cast iron griddle we brought with us came in handy.

The fruit of our labors - long sought-after tomatoes.

Not quite fast food.

Big Mac Tanzanian Style

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Few More Pics

Playing dodgeball with City of Hope kids.

W. and her doll baby.

Love my rugby, love my sister!

Special dance teams were brought in to entertain the kids.

W. dancing African style at the annual end of the year celebration
with all the kids from the City of Hope children's home.

T. and the kids from the children's home love to play board games.

Home repair -- resurrecting a very cheap oven.  I think T. had this thing in
60 parts at one point.  It is working much better now.

Step 1: Launch water balloons across the shamba (garden).

Step 2: "Catch" the balloons!

Before and after juice making!

Carrot, passion fruit, orange juice! Amazing!