Just Another Face

I will never forget Kipkurui. I’ll never forget his emaciated little body and face but what is forever etched in my memory are his eyes. When you look into his eyes you might say you see despair or exhaustion or someone very near death, but it’s interesting, I see something different. I see hope.

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It's Different When You Hold Them

What once was somehow just a “concept” of caring for orphans has become very much a reality that will forever be a part of my heart. I am so thankful for the opportunity to care for these little ones and so thankful that no matter what home they eventually are a part of…they will always be a part of my heart.

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Giving thanks and looking forward

Giving thanks and looking forward

Over the last few months, because of the faithful support of so many people, we have been able to help people all around the world. We were able to give three brand new ultrasound machines to missionaries working in three different countries.  From my personal experience, I can assure you that an ultrasound is an invaluable tool in remote parts of the world.  Often the only diagnostic tool available in these areas is simple x-ray. An ultrasound greatly expands the ability to diagnose and better treat patients.  The ultrasound is especially invaluable in the obstetrics setting–allowing assessment of the baby and allowing doctors to better care for the mother and child. One will go to a new Christian mission hospital in Burundi, Africa.  Dr. Jason Fader is a great friend and he and other doctors are establishing a teaching hospital in Burundi.  Another ultrasound will go to Dr. Arega Fekadu to be used in Malawi, Africa.  The last machine will go to Dr. Alex Philip and his hospital in Bihar, India.  Each and every ultrasound will go to help people in some of the most impoverished areas of the world, helping people with little or no access to quality medical care, reaching out to these people with the kindness and compassion of Jesus. We were able to purchase a new autoclave for a mission hospital in rural Zambia.  An autoclave sterilizes surgical instruments for use in the operating room.  This particular hospital’s autoclave had been malfunctioning for months, at times preventing the doctors from performing necessary surgery.  This new autoclave will assure that surgery will continue to help the people...
At our door

At our door

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.  More than by  fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door  people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “Give them something to eat”.” Pope Francis Evangeilli Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)...
Living with no regrets

Living with no regrets

We took care of a lot of trauma patients in my busy surgical practice in Little Rock. Whether by helicopter or ambulance, patients who had been seriously injured were quickly transported to our hospital. Very often I would spend hours resuscitating and operating on these patients. Most did well. Sadly though, despite rapid transport to the hospital, despite a well-trained staff intervening quickly, sometimes the injuries were too severe, the blood loss too great, the head injury too devastating and the patient would not survive. I can remember so many times going out to the emergency department waiting area, to a small room to one side and speaking to the anxious family members awaiting news. The conversation would always start with “I am so sorry. We did everything we could possibly do.” And the conversation would end with silent embraces and shared tears. And for the next few days I would carry around a lingering sadness as I grieved this sudden loss of life. As I shared the pain of a family’s world forever changed in an instant. For years I made it my routine whenever I would leave the hospital at the end of the day to leave through the emergency department, specifically past the door to the little living room where those conversations had so often taken place. I did this to remind myself that life is uncertain. Life is fragile. Things can change in an instant. I did this to remind myself to be thankful for those close to me. To live and love knowing there is no guarantee of tomorrow. To live and love in...
Mfangano Island

Mfangano Island

Our team consisted of two doctors, one dentist, one nurse and three people working with logistics and evangelism. We loaded all our supplies (almost 1000 pounds!) into a Cessna Caravan and made our way to Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria. We flew through a thunderstorm, had a bumpy landing but arrived safely on the little dirt airstrip. We met teams from Calvary Church in Charlotte and a team from Tenwek mission hospital. Together we divided into two medical teams (and one dental) and each morning we would load our supplies, tents and about 25 people into 60-foot long boats for travel to remote areas that have little or no health care. First we would select a good wind-swept location, then we would set up our tents—usually one for triage, one for pharmacy and one for the medical and dental teams. We are so thankful for Greg, Will and Joyce (from Lakewood) for the way they made all the tent set up, logistics of getting people in and out—go so smoothly. It was amazing to see how many people came to be seen by the doctors, nurses and dentist. We had the opportunity to encourage each person, pray with most and I believe each person felt the care and compassion of Jesus. Many people trusted Jesus as their Savior. I was so proud of how our team worked tirelessly together with the other teams to reach out to these underserved people. Dr. Joi (our dentist) spent her days pulling teeth. Most of the patients were having severe pain, so they were so grateful to Dr. Joi for giving them relief....
Thoughts As I Leave Chitokoloki

Thoughts As I Leave Chitokoloki

I always struggle with how to adequately summarize a month-long trip. There are so many experiences I’ve had, so many interesting people I’ve encountered, so many facets of stories that I would like to accurately express, so many emotional nuances of situations that, left unconveyed don’t really tell the whole story. But there always seem to be a few moments that are forever imprinted on my memory. Individual moments that seem to distill the month into a few snapshots that summarize the entire gallery, a few brushstrokes that help convey the broad canvas. So here is my attempt at recounting a few moments I’ll never forget. But God… He was 25 years old and lived in a small village far from the western shore of the Zambezi river. He suddenly developed severe abdominal pain one afternoon. He knew he was seriously ill, he knew he needed help, so he called his brother who came immediately. They hired an ox cart and with this young man laid across the back of the cart, they made their way toward Chitokoloki Mission Hospital. I can only imagine the pain he must have gone through as the cart jolted over the rough paths through the bush. Fortunately they made it to the Zambezi River just before dark and hired a canoe to take them across. They laid the young man in the dugout and made the precarious crossing without a problem. The brother then ran to the hospital to get a stretcher and some help. A few minutes later, just before dark, the brother and a helper carried the young man up the...
Chavuma Mission Hospital

Chavuma Mission Hospital

This past Monday we met in the ICU at 6:30 a.m., checked on our sick patients, then loaded up in Dr. David’s four-wheel drive vehicle and headed north from Chitokoloki toward the Angolan border. For most of the trip the roads were soft sand, often nothing more than a narrow path through the high grass that brushed the sides of the vehicle as we drove through. We rarely passed a vehicle; most of the traffic was ox drawn wagons. We went north past the town of Zambezi to within 12 kilometers of the Angolan border to the Chavuma Mission Hospital. This is a small hospital (probably 50 in-patient beds) that services a wide area of this part of Zambia. Two young Japanese nurses who felt that God has called them to this part of Africa and now work full-time at Chavuma run the hospital. The hospital is very clean, efficiently run and has male, female and pediatric wards, an active maternity service and one very well equipped operating theatre. Dr. David makes the trip once a week to Chavuma to see patients and do surgery. During the week, if they have an emergency at Chavuma, they quickly transport the patient to Chitokoloki. The nurses took us on rounds through the wards and then we began a busy day of surgery. We took a few minutes for a great lunch they had prepared for us (grilled perch, rice, carrots, cookies and coffee) then started back with our surgeries in the afternoon. We operated until well after dark—I think we did 14 surgeries in all. After checking to make sure our...
Two Special Ladies

Two Special Ladies

Earlier in the week I had the opportunity to meet two very special ladies. Eva and Emily are 85 and 90 years old and have been working together as missionaries in this area (eastern Angola and western Zambia) since 1948 and 1954 respectively! They live and work in a very remote and isolated area of Zambia where they are still active in their nursing and evangelistic work. They flew in to Chitokoloki on the little airplane (piloted by my friend Phil) for an overnight stay to see some friends. They flew out the next morning, hopped in their Land Rover and drove themselves back to their mission station and to their ministry. I had the opportunity to have a brief lunch with them and it was really incredible to listen to these dear ladies tell a few of the stories of their time here in Africa. The thing that impressed me about them both was they were so alert and bright and energetic. Their minds were sharp and their memories (even for small details) very clear. And they were full of a contagious joy. As the meal was ending, I asked them, “Were you afraid during the years you were in Angola during the war?” Eva answered without hesitation, with a broad confident smile on her face, “Oh, no!” she said. “You see Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us. He holds our hand as we walk along the way. He goes before us and leads us and guides us. His presence overshadows us. His strong arms are beneath us. His goodness and mercy always follows us....
My First Few Weeks

My First Few Weeks

It is just after noon on Sunday, I am sitting in a small courtyard beside my cottage overlooking the Zambezi River below. Chitokoloki Mission Hospital is built on a high embankment on the eastern side of the river. Looking westward I see the Zambezi River and beyond a line of trees that stretches all the way toward Angola (30 miles beyond). I hear the wind rustling in the tops of the trees all around me and bees flying above beautiful red and pink and yellow flowers. Ants scurry at my feet and I can hear children playing in their homes in a nearby village. I can smell the smoke from a fire in the distance. It is a beautiful and serene scene. It has been a very busy week at the hospital. We not only take care of surgical patients but medical, pediatric and obstetrical patients. Dr. David is the only full-time physician here but is assisted by very capable nurse practitioners as well as various visitors that come to help. So I see the usual surgical patients—patients with huge thyroid glands that need surgery, burns, snakebites, hernias and infections, to mention a few. But we also take care of meningitis, malnutrition, diabetes, malaria, typhoid and the like. I saw my first patient with leprosy earlier in the week. The hospital has 100 beds and most of the time all the beds are occupied, with many additional patients being cared for on mattresses on the floor! There is no electricity in the area so all of our power comes from generators or solar power. We are very busy during the...
My First Few Days In Zambia

My First Few Days In Zambia

Wow, what a journey! Houston to Amsterdam (9 hours), Amsterdam to Nairobi (9 hours), arrived late, slept for a few hours then back to the airport for a flight to Lilongwe, Malawi, then to Lusaka, Zambia (4 hours), then I hopped on a small Cessna 206 for a 3 ½ hour flight to Chitokoloki! Needless to say, I was glad to finally be “here”! Even though the journey was long, every segment was enjoyable, all my bags arrived with me (!) and I am excited to be here in far western Zambia. The hospital is almost 100 years old! It was founded and is still run by Brethren missionaries, many from Ireland and Canada. It is very remote so people must travel great distances to receive care here. Each and every one of the missionaries has been so kind and helpful to me. It is so obvious that they have created a warm, caring, close, welcoming community of believers here at the mission compound. My first day (Thursday) started with a bang. Dr. McAdams (the only missionary surgeon here) informed me that he was going to an outlying clinic to do surgery and left me “in charge” for the day. Quite a surprise! I did round on almost 100 patients that first day. We started early and finished late but it was a great orientation and “immersion” into where I will be working for then next month. There are no other full time doctors here, so Dr. McAdams and his team of nurses care for of all types of patients—obstetrics, pediatric and medical—in addition to taking care of all...
In Route To Africa

In Route To Africa

I want to let everyone know that I am leaving today for Africa to spend one month at a rural mission hospital in Zambia. I travel through Nairobi for one night, then off early the next morning to Lusaka, Zambia where I will be met by the missionary pilot who will fly me to the far western part of Zambia to a mission hospital called Chitokoloki Mission Hospital. If you want to look my location up on Google Maps, look for Zambezi (the town not the river), Zambia. This will give you a pretty close idea of where I am. The purpose of the trip is not only to help the resident missionary surgeon—Dr. David McAdams; but also to see if this might be a place that I could bring the family back next year to give Dr. McAdams a 3 or 4 month furlough. Please pray for “journey mercies”, pray that my luggage (and supplies!) arrive with me so there is no delay. Pray that I would transition well to a new hospital and system and that I would be a blessing to the missionaries and the people that I am going to help. Pray for health and safety and for Jenn and the family while I am gone. They tell me that the internet works at Chitokoloki, so I will try to send updates as often as I can. Many blessings!...
Ngaoundere, Cameroon

Ngaoundere, Cameroon

Several months ago I was asked to relieve a missionary surgeon in Cameroon for a couple of weeks in February. The first thing I had to do was to find out exactly where Cameroon is located! Cameroon is located in West Africa and is bordered by Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic (north, east and west) and by Gabon, Congo and Equitorial Guinea on the south. Even though I was tired from my recent trip to Haiti, I really felt like the Lord wanted me to keep my commitment to help this missionary surgeon and his wife. I really felt God’s confirmation when my sweet and beautiful wife Jennifer agreed to leave the kids in capable hands and accompany me!! It is the best I could do for Valentine’s Day this year! So on Sunday afternoon (after speaking at the church that weekend), Jenn and I boarded a plane bound for Cameroon. After a brief layover and change of planes in Paris, twenty hours later we landed in Yaonde, the capital of Cameroon. We spent one night at a Christian retreat center hosted by 35-year career missionaries. We so enjoyed the two meals they prepared for us and so admire their “long obedience in the same direction” as they have followed Jesus and His great commission. We then met Rob–our missionary bush pilot. Rob is a single young man, his parents were missionaries for almost 40 years with the Wycliffe Bible translator ministry in the Phillipines. Rob’s dad was a missionary bush pilot for many of those 40 years. Rob felt God leading him in the same direction and,...
Headed to Haiti

Headed to Haiti

I know your heart has been moved over the last week as the tragedy in Haiti unfolded before our eyes. The needs are overwhelming, the resources extremely limited and the infrastructure almost non-existent. It has been so moving to watch the world respond…the Chinese, first on the scene, the Belgian search and rescue teams looking through rubble for survivors, the Israeli medical contingency and our own government’s massive relief effort, to mention just a few. As the search and rescue efforts continue, the major needs of the Haitian people are for shelter, food and water and medical care. I have the incredible opportunity to travel to Haiti Monday morning with a 10-member surgical team from Samaritan’s Purse. We will stay two weeks, working mostly at a fully functioning (but depleted in supplies) Baptist Hospital 4 miles from the center of Port-au-Prince. They have 200 patients presently awaiting us for surgical care. Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti. Please keep our team in your prayers as well. If possible, I will keep you updated on my time there. If you would like to make a donation to the Haitian relief effort…please go to the Lakewood website. Many blessings!...
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