Reunite, Celebrate, and Head “Home”!

A little background first:

Two months ago today, the girls and I landed on American soil. With the news of the ebola outbreak in West Africa, and a patient traveling through the city near where we live, the decision was made to have some of the non-essential staff living on the ELWA campus leave temporarily until the disease was contained.  Ebola had arrived in Guinea and Liberia for the first time. Much needed to be done to train hospital staff not only to care for ebola patients safely but also to screen potential victims in such a way as to not further the spread of this disease. John and the other doctors, along with many others worked long hours preparing ELWA Hospital to receive ebola patients. Many organizations and government officials, near and far, worked together to respond to the great needs – mobilizing workers throughout the country as well as sending in personal protective suits and other supplies not yet available in the region. Ready to respond with a newly opened triage tent and isolation unit, the staff remained on alert.  Patients arriving with any of  the symptoms that could indicate infection with the ebola virus were carefully screened. Although there were cases of ebola in Liberia during this time period, they ended up being admitted at other hospitals throughout the country. By Mid-May, 42 days had passed since the last new case of ebola, a critical amount of time revealing that the outbreak was seemingly under control. Non-essential staff were informed they could return. So eager to go back and yet already planning to be in the States in June, the girls and I remained, eagerly anticipating the day John would join us in America.

REUNITE!  John arrives on Tuesday! After nine weeks of separation, we are so excited to be together as a family once again!

CELEBRATE! Before we moved to Liberia back in November, we made plans to return briefly to celebrate our son’s graduation from university. Josh will be graduating on Saturday and several members of our extended family will be traveling to join us for this joyous occasion. We are so proud of his accomplishments!

Head “HOME”!! Yes, Liberia is home to us now. We felt it so strongly when we left our new home in April. There are so many people we long to see and ministries we cannot wait to be a part of once again. This unexpected chapter of our lives has revealed in new ways the faithfulness of God in all circumstances.  We didn’t “write this into the script” when looking into the future of our lives in Liberia last November, and yet God has provided and strengthened us in the journey.  We are so thankful to partner with the Liberians, showing the love of Jesus, and sharing life together.  In just two weeks, our feet will be on African soil (sand) once again.

***Update on the ebola situation: a new outbreak of ebola has occurred in Sierra Leone and there have been new cases in the last ten days or so in Guinea. Here is a link to read more: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/  We ask that you keep the people of this region in your thoughts and prayers.

 

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Teaching and Learning

elwa-12“Typical” ELWA Hospital visits;  Typhoid fever looking like appendicitis, malaria causing sore throat, tuberculosis patients with large pericardial effusions (fluid in the sack surrounding the heart), tetanus causing abdominal muscle spasm, and severe leg burns from using “bush medicine” to “treat” a spinal cord injury.

The past 4 months have been an incredible learning experience.  I have been working with a wonderful team of doctors, nurses and staff.

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At 7:30 am chapel, Pastor Moses begins with a teaching from scripture that relates to our lives and service at ELWA hospital.

 

After chapel the team starts the morning with sign out from the night before. The doctor who was on call shares about the patients that he or she cared for during the night and the doctors on the team have the opportunity to ask questions and give input into the care.

 

elwa-13During rounds we split into 3 teams. One team sees patients on the maternity ward and pediatrics, one team cares for the general medicine patients and the surgeons round on their surgical patients. Each team includes expatriates and African doctors, all of us using our own experience and knowledge to offer insight into some of the more challenging cases.

 

ultrasound 4We have had several teaching conferences in the past two months. I have had the opportunity to present multiple sessions on obstetrical ultrasound to doctors and nurses.  Ultrasound is one of the few imaging studies available here and, as many of you know, this skill is one of my favorite things to teach.

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IMG_2422I also had the chance to teach vacuum assisted delivery. This is a procedure that has proved to be life saving on a couple of occasions in the past two months here at ELWA hospital.  We did not have an obstetrical mannequin, so my family helped me construct a model from a cardboard box, duct tape, West African cloth, and a children’s toy ball. This was quite an enjoyable and interactive session.

elwa-39I am so grateful for the chance to learn and teach in Liberia. God is using each of us on the team to encourage others, share God’s love, and provide the best care that we are able to the patients that we are privileged to serve.

 

 

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I Feel Super!

In the female ward Esther’s phone rang.   It was her older sister who had been at Esther’s bedside every day during her 3-week hospitalization.  I heard her speak to Esther in Liberian English then ask, “howa you?”  Esther, who one week earlier was fighting for her life, smiled brightly and answered, “I feel fine…I feel super!”  Esther (not her real name) was admitted to ELWA hospital in mid December after she developed a fever and collapsed.  Her sister told us that she had become increasingly weak over the past year and was vomiting frequently and losing weight.  In the ER she was fading in and out of consciousness with a temperature that exceeded 103 degrees.  Her blood work showed severe malaria and her HIV test was positive.  After a week of IV fluids, antibiotics and antimalarial medication, Esther became increasingly alert and was able to eat.  She was seen by the HIV counselors at the hospital.  After gaining a clear understanding of her illness and the importance of taking her medication, she began anti-HIV therapy.  Shortly after starting the medication, Esther became critically ill again, a condition brought about by the reconstitution of her ailing immune system. With diligent nursing care and continued antibiotics and fluids, slowly her strength returned.

IMG_2317Little C.K. is a one-month old infant who is pictured here on his day of discharge from the hospital.  C.K. presented to the emergency room with sepsis and severe malaria.  (One in twelve children in Liberia die before the age of 5 and the most common cause is malaria.  This disease is responsible for taking the lives of nearly 4 thousand Liberians each year).  Little C.K. had not fed well for a week and by the time we saw him he had a high fever and was barely conscious.  After a week of aggressive care in the hospital he began to recover.  He was vigorous, feeding well and gaining weight at the time of discharge.  What this photo does not capture is the huge smile of relief on mom’s face.  She realized that her child had come close to death and she left the hospital repeatedly giving thanks to God for saving her child.

It is a blessing to be here in Liberia, caring for patients like Esther and C.K. whose lives have been touched by the caring staff at ELWA hospital.  We see infants with malaria, typhoid, diarrhea and sepsis, children who have been struck by cars, and adults with stroke, HIV, abdominal infections and tetanus.  The intensity of illness and injuries here is a constant reminder of life’s fragile nature and the importance for our team here at ELWA hospital to continue to share Christ’s love with those that we serve.

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Our First 2 Weeks in Liberia!

Our first night in Liberia was complete with a tropical storm; loud rain drops pounding on our metal roof, lightning flashing in the sky, and thunder drowning out the sound of the waves crashing in our front yard. We spent our first day here taking in everything from the thick, humid, air to the complexity of spoken Liberian english. Several of the other missionaries stopped by our house to visit and welcome us. As the sun set after our first full day in west Africa, we were in awe of God’s faithfulness and goodness and our hearts were full of gratitude for our new home, the community here, and the work God has set before us.

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The past two weeks have consisted of :

  • getting adjusted to the weather! It is warm (usually around 85 degrees) and humid. Most days we can cool off in the ocean mid afternoon, and we are VERY thankful for that.
  • shopping in Monrovia- we have been introduced to several grocery stores, furniture stores, and the fruit and vegetable market on Randall Street (our favorite).
  • meeting new people- the missionaries here and Liberians. The community of missionaries has been a huge encouragement and blessing to our family. Our first week here, we had dinner at a different missionary family’s house each night. On Wednesdays, the SIM missionaries get together for “prayer and share”, a time to share and update the group on how everything is going, and to pray for each other. Several times a week Bethany and Bekah have gotten to go swimming with the other missionary kids. The Liberians we have met are wonderful; their smiles are welcoming and the way they speak Liberian english is beautiful (something we are each working on!)
  • using local ingredients to make DELICIOUS food.. Every Monday, a Liberian named Moses sells us a fish he caught that morning and it lasts for 2-4 meals. There is an abundance of pineapple, bananas, papaya, sweet potatoes, and okra. The grocery stores are mainly run by Lebanese and we have been enjoying flatbread and Middle Eastern spices.
  • attending the Liberian church service on Sunday mornings. There has been something so special about walking as a family through the forest behind our house to a bright blue church building where the church choir is leading worship and the congregation is dancing around, shaking each other’s hands, and praising Jesus.

Bekah is recovering from a cold that she got our first week here (fever and all) and her and Beth spend their mornings homeschooling (although we are still working on getting reliable internet) and have enjoyed many ‘hands on’ lessons as we are learning so much about the culture of Liberia.

Bethany has begun a few photojournalism projects- she had the opportunity to take pictures at Faith Academy, one of the village schools that is part of the SIM Christian Education and Teacher Training Project that Jenny Elphick is running. She also took pictures at the celebration of the 12th anniversary of ELWA Academy, the school down the street from our house. Bethany looks forward to helping tell the stories of what God is doing in Liberia 🙂

John started work at the hospital on Monday morning! Each morning starts with a beautiful chapel service.  The patients are often extremely ill and malaria and other infectious diseases are very common.  Despite this intensity, the team serving these patients, both Liberian and expatriate have been amazing to work with.  He feels blessed to be a part of this team.

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Thank you SO much for your continuous prayers and support. We feel incredibly blessed for the smooth adjustment from our lives in California to our new home in Liberia.

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Waiting: A Blessing in Disguise.

More often than not, when I see friends, they ask why I am not in Africa yet (rightfully so- we originally planned to leave in the beginning of October).

Yes, our departure got delayed and yes, we have our tickets – we leave November 18th. I have been learning so much in the process of transition & waiting.

God’s timing is different than ours and sometimes we don’t understand why. But what I do know is that I am incredibly thankful for the extra time in Ventura. It has been encouraging and a huge blessing having people open up their homes to us for meals, rest, and fellowship.I am thankful for the conversations, adventures, and love that I have encountered.

The longer I wait to be home in Liberia, the more excited I am to be there. Maybe the quote “good things come to those who wait,” isn’t so cliche after all.

-Bethany

 

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Countdown to Departure

We’re excited to share our family newsletter with you

Click here to read the latest edition and find out our departure date.

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Tents, Trout, and Tailings

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In our training last March we were reminded of the need to “say goodbye well.” There is no more important goodbye than the one we will say to Josh, our son. Last week I had the privilege of traveling to University of Colorado, Boulder where he was completing a physics internship. The two of us embarked on a 4-day backpacking trip in the Rockies.

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Fried trout in the mountains is a delicacy that I will never tire of. Fourteen inch cutthroat and an eight inch frying pan…”Houston, we have a problem.”

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On night three, after a particularly difficult hike that included 4 miles at 12,000 feet on the continental divide, we enjoyed one of the most picturesque campsites that either of us has ever experienced. We were perched high on the side of a mountain on a shelf which was made entirely of tailings, the rock that was left over from an 1890’s gold mine. We sat at the campfire until late at night making potato dumplings, chatting, and enjoying the amazing beauty of the Rockies.

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Beth and I are incredibly blessed to be moving to Liberia with Bethany and Bekah, and we are very, very grateful for Josh, our “anchor” in the States.

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