Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Broken Machines and RAIN

July 19, 2017
Visiting friends in the village of Etindey in the forest (after the rain)

It is time for another installment of life in Congo.  Day after day, there doesn’t seem a lot of new things to write about….but after a month there is usually a theme that has developed.  The theme of this past month is “machines breakdown.”

Broken Machines & Rains
As our son Emmanuel says so's broken, so too are many things in the hospital.  This past week the digital x-ray system stopped functioning, the autoclave has an irreparable crack, and the hospital generator for the operating theater/ICU is out of order!  Yes, that is right.  These are really important resources that allow us to have sterile instruments, have oxygen, and really use anything electronic.  There is a lot of troubleshooting going on, local mechanics consulted, and getting by the best we can.  We have come to depend on these resources heavily.  Warren has been operating on machines more than people lately.  Please pray for the hospital as we do the best we can each day to find solutions and have limited solar power due to the rains.

That leads me to the other theme of the month: RAIN!!!  If you didn’t know, Congo is the second largest rainforest in the world (after the Amazon)… “gorillas in the mist.”  A tropical climate, it rains a lot here.  Everything grows like crazy, including weeds.  We have planted crops this season: corn, soybeans, beans, and peanuts in addition to vegetables.  So far the fields seem to be producing well and our gardener is busy.  It really is a blessing to be able to grow crops.  This is the blessing of rainy season…although we miss the sunny days. 

Family Update
Emmanuel has been catching butterflies in his fingers.  He is really oblivious to where he is going, he just follows them from flower to flower.  I find him all over the place.  I may need to put either a cowbell or a GPS tracker on him.  He is becoming so creative with his drawings and sculptures in clay.  We are amazed at his progress in French these last few months.  It is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done, becoming a mom.
See the bus in the middle?  All our family and friends are inside.

Warren had a near miss with a forest cobra snake last week.  He was cutting up some dry wood from a felled tree for our pizza oven.  He detected the snake about two meters away at the level of his head.  He very quickly backed up, calling for a stick, and the snake slithered away.  I was at the hospital and heard that aftermath.  We rarely see snakes…so glad for that.  This serves as a reminder that they live here.  On a different note, Warren also completed work on a beautiful pizza oven.  You can stoke 
the fire to >700degrees and bake right on the tile floor.  Now our outdoor kitchen is complete.

I (Lindsey) broke a record for writing for the most transfusions in one day.  On Monday I wrote for 14 transfusions…all kids with severe malaria!  Perhaps all the mosquitos came out in large numbers on the same day.  Of the 14 kids, 11 received blood the same day!  Two children died before they could receive blood and the third received blood first thing the next morning.  I am really hoping that the malaria vaccine which is currently undergoing trials will be effective, at least to decrease the number of severe cases.  Until there is an effective vaccine I will continue to take malaria prophylaxis.  I actually convinced my husband to start prophylaxis after his second episode of malaria in a month.  Malaria really does take you “out of commission.”  It is lost work and family time and can be really dangerous (especially virulent here).  In the kitchen Lindsey is experimenting with new recipes for fruit crisps: mango, apple, rhubarb and learning new uses for beans and coconut.

Well that is the news from Nyankunde! 
·      We ask for your prayers as we troubleshoot many challenges on a daily basis.  Pray in particular for all the technical challenges. 
·      For those who are following the story of the long-awaited medication called tacrolimus, continue to pray for Jemima’s healing from nephrotic syndrome as takes this medication.  She seems to be responding well, praise God! 
·      Pray that God would continue to use this hospital to bring healing and wholeness to people’s lives.  Pray for a clear witness of the Gospel.
·      Pray for the safe arrival of our friends visiting for the next month from central Congo.


Lindsey for the Coopers
Our favorite hairdresser, Angel

Emmanuel spraying my hair wanting to "couper les cheveux"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pure Joy

June 15, 2017 
Mail service in Congo

Today I had a feeling of pure joy.  Sometimes it feels like God is reaching down and giving you a blessing, reminding you why you do what you do.  I was reminded again that every day is a gift from God and that regardless of the circumstances we are in…there is always something to give thanks for.  We have felt discouraged lately (we have had reasons to feel this way), and yet today I felt encouraged.

I recently wrote about a little girl with a severe nephrotic syndrome in need of a specialty medication called tacrolimus.  The good news is that this medication arrived today after its’ long journey of almost 7 weeks!  We sent it from Kinshasa two weeks ago and it arrived via Goma today!  Praise the Lord!  She starts on this medication tomorrow.  Pray with me that she will have a good response to the medication. 

Today a little boy named Manda, (age 4) walked by himself to receive his therapeutic milk for the first time in a month.  His little legs were trembling, but he has the energy and motivation to do it.  It has taken over a month to regain his strength to walk again.  I can barely recognize him now he has changed so much.  He is smiling and has friends.  His mother says he began to get sick when his father was killed about 6 months ago.  He had a close relationship with his father and it seems that after his passing he slowly lost his appetite and desire to live.  Praise the Lord for this little boy and his slow but steady recovery!

We are the only hospital in our area with a feeding program and we are proud of it!  We use local resources, local cows, and local ingredients.  Why aren’t there more programs like ours?  Sometimes I wonder if other people think malnutrition is really a disease, or if it is a curse, or simply what happens when you are poor.  It is my hope that we can inspire other health providers from other health zones to use the resources available to them to educate and treat malnutrition. 

We recently treated a nurse’s child from another health zone for malnutrition.  This nursing director of another health center recognized that her son had a problem.  She was so discouraged and desperate when she arrived.  After a few weeks her son is doing really well, gaining weight and energy.  He needs to gain weight, but he is well on his way.  As is often the case this nurse has come with her own burdens to bear.  She says that she was able to get pastoral support for her struggling marriage during her time at our hospital.  She and her husband have reconciled and are working on their relationship.  She will spread the word in her health zone about her child’s improvement and encourage others who need help to get help.  She has been so impressed with the little boy Manda’s ability to walk again that she is confident that God is at work at our hospital.

It is our hope at CME-Nyankunde to see lives transformed spiritually, mentally, and physically.  Not just the individual, but the whole family.  We want to see people restored to a right relationship with God, to gain hope for a better future.  Often we see patients arriving in tears, lacking strength to walk.  They leave with a new found strength.

We have our daily struggles here, but we keep counting our blessings!

Lindsey (for the Coopers)
One of my favorite pictures of the Gety wilderness in our backyard

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pomegranates at last!

May 28, 2017

Have you ever waited a long time for something?  Then in the waiting, you forget about what you
were waiting for....until that something happens.  You may wonder what I am talking about...Well I am talking about waiting for my pomegranate tree to grow and produce fruit!  After about 4 years, my bush finally produced its' first fruit!  It was so sweet and special...partly because I forgot all about it!  It is funny to eat it and say, "I waited four years for this!"  There must be a life lesson in here somewhere.  I am just glad I planted the little seedling and now we can enjoy the benefits.

We took a little trip to Bogoro Falls to celebrate Mother's Day and our wedding anniversary.   It is an absolutely stunning landscape looking out over Lake Albert separating us from Uganda.  We took a little hike up a riverbed to the falls and enjoyed splashing around a bit.  It is always fun to find a little adventure.  We are grateful to God for seven years of marriage and pray for many more.
Bogoro Falls

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  This morning I was reminded that the Lord is sufficient for our everyday needs, and how desperately I need to be fed.  We can't go without food for very long.  I was reminded that the Lord wants us to go from strength to strength and to not wear ourselves out.  Like the prophet Elijah, the Lord invites us to rest and have our needs met.  Lately I have been reminded of how human I am.  Working faster and seeing more patients during malaria season is tough!  It is hard to see 50 patients as a part-time pediatrician and feel like you are doing the best you can for each.  It is hard to walk by little bundles after the children die from severe anemia or malnutrition.  I do it almost every.  It is not fair and my heart breaks every time.  It can be a tough balance between work and home and I am so grateful for our nanny Maziga who helps me.  Emmanuel teaches me so much about love, patience, consistency, and gentleness and I pray that this will make me a better doctor.
Learning a few things about elephant grass

It's planting season

Challenge of Caring in Remote Locations
I am caring for a very special young girl named Jemima with nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disease where you lose protein in the urine) that I think has been caused by tuberculosis.  She has been in the hospital for the last 4months and has become dependent on steroids to control her disease.  Her medical regime is just too complicated to follow at home, so we wait for a drug called “tacrolimus” which was special ordered from India.  I hope to receive the medication this week and start it in hopes of tapering her steroids slowly.  This drug has made quite the journey, as it is simply not available in central Africa. 

  •       I contact a nephrology and critical care colleague about this patient. 

  •       A colleague in Ohio special orders Tacolimus from India with plans to hand-carry the drug into Congo.  We hope that it will arrive in time.

  •       My colleague’s children get sick and have to delay their flight to Congo by 3days, during which time the drug arrives.

  •       Flight from the USA to Kinshasa

  •       Lindsey contacts about 6 people with various connections to Kinshasa.  Samaritan’s Purse agrees to help coordinate the transport of this medication.

  •       Since there is no official mail system, UNHCR contacted to carry the drug across the Congo from Kinshasa to Bunia.

Pray for Jemima-for this drug to arrive and for recovery from nephrotic syndrome.

Life at Home
These last few weeks we have had personal health issues.  Warren was sick with malaria for about a week.  It is about the sickest I have ever seen him.  For the first time, I had to put an IV in my husband and administer IV medications.  Then this last week Emmanuel took a nose-dive off a chair fracturing his clavicle.  As he usually does he kept asking me to kiss the injury, but it just kept hurting.  After about a dozen kisses I told Warren, “ I think he broke his clavicle.”  Sure enough, a  greenstick fracture with point tenderness.  Poor guy.  It has slowed him down a little, but not too much!  Now I am just hoping that he doesn’t fall again.
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Emmanuel has started preschool with other kids of employees of our hospital.  He is learning words and songs in French everyday.  This is good for his social development to play with other Congolese kids everyday.  He is already using some new words and counting in French.  It is interesting to hear him choose to say certain words in French or Swahili, even if he knows the English word.  Language learning is a fascinating process.  We realize that he is learning on his own curve and how important it is to be intentional about language learning.  It is more difficult for kids hearing multiple languages, but then they are really learning several languages at once.  Some days a giraffe is a giraffe, other days it is a twiga.  Some days a cow is a cow, other days a ngombe.

Prayer Requests
We continue to care for the needy population of Nyankunde and know that this is where God has called us to be. 
  •        Pray for us to find our daily hope and strength in Jesus Christ.  It can be tiring and not so glamorous. 
  •        Pray for the rehabilitation of one of our hospital wards to be complete soon and for the staff working so hard and at great sacrifice. 
  •       Pray for our new administration as they provide leadership and accountability. 
  •       Pray most of all that the name of the Lord would be glorified in and through our lives.
  •       Pray for surgical coverage towards the end of the year/early 2018.
  •     Pray for our teammates as they return to the US for fundraising and family time.

Blessings in Him,

Lindsey for the Coopers

Our pretty dog Cocoa

The youngsters

Our team members the Larochelles headed back to the USA

With our friends and colleages in the treehouse

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Holy Week and Falconry

April 18, 2017
The three rafikis, "friends"
Holy Week Tragedy
This week started out with tragedy.  As we had returned from a church service on Palm Sunday, we read the news that two Coptic churches in Egypt had been targeted by ISIS bombings.  The liturgy had begun and the choir was chanting the Lord’s prayer.  “Our Lord who art in heaven.  Hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come, they will be done.  On earth as it…..”  The remainer of the liturgy was completed by this choir “in heaven.”  This event really shook me up this past week.  I lived in worked in Tanta, Egypt, a few years ago.  I had Coptic friends and colleagues.  They told me how difficult life was, how they felt discriminated against.  The hospital recounted the challenges of starting up a Christian nursing school…My heart aches for Egypt and the many martyrs.  I kept thinking, Jesus must be coming soon.  This kind of thing is too dark and evil.

Suffering is not new in the church.  Jesus suffered as much as a man can suffer.  Humiliation, wrong accusations, separation, betrayal, pain, temptation, abandonment by those that loved Him the most.  Jesus knows the depth of the human condition and suffering.  Somehow this is a consolation that these Coptic Christians were not alone.  There are a lot of things that don’t make much sense on this side of heaven.  But regardless of what we are going through, our God, Emmanuel, walks with us.  He knows and He cares so much for people who are suffering.

The week ended with the hope of the resurrection and the celebration of Easter.  This year I was reminded how much I need to struggle to really understand who Jesus is and was.  I need to hear and receive the Good News regularly.  I am often slow to believe God’s promises even after hearing them clearly.  The disciples struggled to understand Jesus’ words when he talked about his death and resurrection.  Jesus appeared to people after the resurrection and many did not recognize him.  He was not what they expected.  After hearing his voice Mary called Him “Rabboni,” or Teacher.  Thomas needed to touch his hands and side and then calls him, “My Lord and my God!”  Everyone had different responses to seeing Jesus again, but what is common is that everyone had to experience His presence in some way. 

How do we experience the presence of Jesus in our everyday lives?  Through the poor…the needy…children…our spouses…through the Word of God.  We desperately need to seek out these experiences that bring us closer to Jesus so we can see, hear, and touch Him. 

On the homefront
There is always something new going on at our house.  This last week my husband has decided to take up falconry!  Last week we rescued a baby falcon who fell out of his nest, unable to fly.  All week we thought it was an eaglette, but on closer inspection it is definitely a falcon.  It is learning to fly, but does not yet have the ability to fly independently yet.  He tried to kill a mouse, but couldn’t quite do it, so the cat did it.  It seems that falcons eat only raw meat (and insects)!  In the US falconry requires a certificate acquired after two years of apprenticeship…in the Congo no such laws apply.  It should be an interesting process.  His name is Nimrod, a old testament character who is known to be a great hunter.  Stay tuned for more adventures with Nimrod as he learns to fly!

In other news, Emmanuel has a baby cat named Fiona.  He loves this cat so much and carries it around everywhere.  He likes to feed it milk and identify it’s ears, tail, and feet.  He hugs (more like squeezes) and kisses it until it runs away.

At the hospital
The nurses at the hospital went on strike two weeks ago due to delayed and reduced salary.  It has been a rough couple of months and the surgery department has not been very busy due to Warren’s absence in Iraq.  Hopefully things will be back on track soon and morale improves.  Keep Nyankunde Hospital in your prayers as we go through difficult economic times and the staff struggles to provide for their families.

Easter Celebrations

Yesterday we hosted an Easter egg hunt in the rain.  It’s funny because it hasn’t rained much for a couple of months and we are experiencing a serious drought.  .Just when it was time for the egg hunt, the rain started to fall!  The kids had a good time regardless.  It is my hope that they begin to associate spiritual meaning to the joy of searching and finding…to the beauty of the season of new life.  Here are a few photos from our Sunday morning service and Easter egg hunt…

Sunday morning sunrise service

Anna telling the resurrection story to the kids

Making rice crispie chicks

We'll miss you Martin family

Do you see any adults having fun?

He looks thrilled about the prep work!

Celebrating Victories in the Malnutrition Program
We recently had a special celebration of God's blessings in the malnutrition program.  Women and children were given the opportunity to give testimonies of what God was doing in their lives.  It was wonderful to hear about their special needs being met in the form of community, housing, farming, basic needs.  These women really see that God is their provider.

Specifically we gathered to honor women who were admitted and cured of malnutrition in 2016.  We had five graduates of the nutrition program, most if not all in the postpartum period.  Nursing their babies and pregnancy was too much of a stress on their bodies.  The ladies had new dresses for the occasion (see two of them pictured below).  We prepared mandazis (doughnuts) by hand and served drinks to all in attendance.  A good time was had by all!

Mama Ruth and Alice preparing mandazis

Ruth showing me how it is done

I rolled & fried these doughnuts myself

Noella and Bolini in their colorful new attire

We ask for your prayers as we continue to believe what God is doing here in Nyankunde.  
-Pray that we would provide spiritual care for people in great need.  
-Pray that we would be known for making Jesus known (and our good medical care).  
-Pray for the difficult financial times that we find ourselves in.  Pray for our colleagues who are struggling to put food on the table.
-Pray that the radical life of Jesus would cause us to live sacrificial lives for others.
-Thank God for the beginning of rainy season and hopefully the start of a good planting season.

Blessings and love,
Lindsey (for the Coopers)

Warren's other job...keeping this tractor running!
Mango season has begun!!!  I have no idea how many mangoes this kid eats while I am at work.😀