Thursday, January 17, 2019

Happy New Year from the Blue Ridge Mountains

January 2018


We have officially been back in the US for about 6weeks now!  We apologize for the lapse in blog postings.  We are doing fine and nestled down in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for the wintertime.  We are living in the mountain home we bought last year, a completely unexpected blessing.  A friend recently said “I love that often when you come back from Congo you get to be in the snow.”  It hasn’t been intentional and isn’t always so convenient, but it has been fun for Emmanuel to experience snow.



Our minds have been thinking a lot about what we left behind in Nyankunde.  Just before Christmas there was a Ebola confirmed death in our village.  A pregnant women from a village where there are active cases was admitted and promptly died.  Many of our staff members were exposed and it was a scary time.  Mass ring vaccination occurred within 48hours and since then there have been no other positive cases.  It is a huge blessing that no one contracted the disease, and a reminder that medicine is a risky occupation.   This women was tested and had a safe burial.  Funerals are very public events and often when Ebola spreads to the community.   This was completely avoided.  We continue to pray for eastern DRC and our village.  I have posted several articles about the situation in eastern DRC and the risk Ebola poses to central Africa.  They are very sobering articles.  Here is one of the links:  https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/15/ebola-has-gotten-so-bad-its-normal.  This is the time for the international community to rally around this outbreak.  This week Samaritan's Purse has officially opened an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETC) in the neighboring community of Komanda.  Here is a video about the center:  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/ebola-treatment-center-now-open-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo/.

What can I say after this?  My life right now nestled in the mountains is in stark contrast to my life in eastern Congo.  I have a hard time reconciling the two.  There is no real way to transition in words.  Pray for me as I struggle with this from afar.

Now I will transition to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This is a place where fog is prolific, ice falls off trees and accumulates like snow, and wind is amplified at higher elevations.  Our son Emmanuel was literally blown over going up stairs to our house the other day!  The climate can be extreme.  In our first week home we geared up for our first major snowstorm.  More than 2 feet of snow fell over about a day just plastering the trees with white powder.  It was really beautiful!  We learned several things during this storm: park at the end of the road (not in the garage), have an alternate mode of transportation (and even heat if power is lost), chainsaws are useful to clear downed trees, and generally don’t plan to travel. Up here they use a grater to clear roads of snow, as snowplows can’t make it up the hills.



We have had the blessing of both of our families visiting these last few weeks over the holidays.  We are thankful for this uninterrupted time together and realize what a rare occurrence it really is!  There was lots of cookie baking, learning old recipes from my grandma, and play when my parents visited.  We got my mom and dad in the side-by-side 4 wheeler once each!  We rode a holiday train and Emmanuel received his very first train set for Christmas!  Then Warren’s brother’s family and sister came for a visit.  We did lots of hiking, movies, cooking, and catching up.  In the evenings Warren has worked on the insulation and drywall of the upper room of our garage.









After a month’s work on the garage, the upper multi-purpose room is finally finished!  Warren has done an amazing job with very little help.  He is largely self taught and gifted with his hands.  It will be nice to have a place to store our things when we are not here as well as having office space.   I am more of the interior decorator who wants to change things around inside.  I enjoy running most of the time, but I have learned that running in the hills is serious work and commitment!  One feels like a superstar running down hills, that is until one turns around.  Confession:  sometimes I call for a ride home from the base!  My uphills are improving slowly.  No complaints...we love living on Buck Mountain!  Today was a typical afternoon of exploring the trails around us on foot and 4-wheeled side-by-side cart, spotting deer and turkey.

Emmanuel has made some nice friends here, but his heart misses his friends in Congo.  He loves looking at our photo book from DRC and showing friends and family his life over there.  We are trying to still read and pray in French.  It is fun to hear him say he is from Nyankunde.  It has been a blessing to be more or less in one place this time, as last furlough we traveled so much and it was hard on him.

We are looking forward to a trip to Thailand in a few weeks!  It will be lovely to reconnect with friends and fellow missionaries around the world.

We would love to connect with you during our time in the States.  Send us a “hello,” we would love to hear from you!

-Pray for an effective response to the Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, for the field hospital in Komanda.
-Pray for wisdom for us to know the timing of our return.
-Pray for our family as we adjust to living in the USA and our spiritual growth.


Blessings
Lindsey for the Coopers





Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cross cultural lessons, some profound and others less so

NOVEMBER 11, 2018
Our goat Elsa had two beautiful babies this past week


THE HAMBURGER:  A LESSON IN CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION

Just when I thought I was being clear..

Cross cultural communication is always interesting.  There are misunderstandings, some annoyances, but in the end it is mostly funny.  Let me share with you my experience ordering a hamburger in Bunia last week.  Warren was like, “Of course the waitress did that!

First we ordered 2 fish and chips and one hamburger and fries.  There waitress seemed to clarify the order and asked, “You want three orders of fish and chips?”  I repeated myself, asked about adding cheese, and she went to the kitchen to place the order.     This seemed normal.  Then she came back to show me to the cheese cooler so I could a cheese and how much I wanted with my burger.  

Next she brought out a plate of fish and chips.  No hamburger.   I said that I didn’t order fish and showed her a picture of what I wanted on the menu.  She said, I will be back.

She returned with a huge bun with a piece of sausage on the inside, other veggies on the “burger” and a plate of cheese,  no fries.  We pointed out that it was sausage and not what we desired.  It felt a bit rude but I didn't want to eat that.  At this point we cancelled the order and I started eating Warren’s food.

She came back again and said that they would order the beef!  I said “That’s ok,” knowing that this also would probably be different than expected, and lunchtime was over.

What did I learn? Things are oftentimes different than our think.  Burgers are hard to come by in Congo. Rather than say, “we don’t have that,” the cultural thing to do is to serve something else for your customer.  Warren was right, I should have understood what she was saying without saying it directly.  

Hmm. Always a learning experience.  Always humbling.  I still left a tip.

GRACELAND & REFLECTIONS ON CROSS-CULTURAL MINISTRY

One of my favorite albums of all time is “Graceland” by Paul Simon.  Even as a child I loved this album.  There has always been a depth, a certain poetry, varied instrumentation, voice and otherwise.  In the story about the making of the song Graceland, Simon shares some profound lessons about collaboration from making music in South Africa.  Some say that it is one of his best albums.  Why is that?  I think this is because of the collaboration, a mixing of styles and language.  This is a lesson that I learn over and over again here in Africa.  As a Westerner I find myself taking pride in my own independence and accomplishments and humbled by my African neighbors interdependence and assistance of one another.  Out here independence is a weakness, truly a WEAKNESS.  It is more about who you are and how you work together with others that really matters.  We accomplish much more together…watch the movie credits from a favorite movie and see how many people participated.  Everyone had a part.  The Graceland album reminds me too that there is great richness and discovery of uncharted waters when we work together.  Allow me to share a few of Paul Simon’s ideas from the making of Graceland.

He starts out with a certain drum traveling rhythm and a South African (who always plays major chords) adopts a minor chord on the guitar….trying to imitate Simon’s style.  The pedal steel guitar is a country instrument but also a West African instrument and thus music thereupon, a blend of styles. “The Mississippi delta shining like a national guitar.” 


It became a traveling song, not about one culture or another.  Not South African, not American either.  Rather the song is a new creation, a collaboration.  It is about listening to each other, and making associations.  Then, and only then, one can play music that fits into another culture.  There are some beautiful lessons here in life.  Check it out if you don't remember the song "Graceland."

Living life cross culturally is a merging of cultures, an adaptation.  Ministering to others, through learning and communicating effectively in another language requires incredible adaptation and understanding.  It is what the apostle Paul did when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23:
"To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law(though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  
Like music, the church of Jesus Christ deepens in as time goes on with people of all languages and cultures.  The Church is like a piece of music that has the same underlying theme, but more and more complex parts and instruments.  I love this analogy.

CHAPEL UPDATE

Over a week ago the hospital officially broke ground on the chapel rehabilitation.  There is a 

lot of excitement and interest as it is in a very public place.  We have heard people say things like, "It's finally time!" and "We have been so sad to walk by this building in ruins for so long."  It has been inspiring to see the Congolese making bricks and doing some fundraising of their own.  The hospital is grateful for a very generous gift from Redeemer Church in California that has allowed this first phase to move forward.  Phase 1 consists of completing the walls, roofing, and flooring.  This should be done in the next 3-4weeks.  We are awaiting funds to complete Phase 2 which consists of the finishing work: plumbing, electrical, windows, doors, furniture, etc.  If you are interested in giving to this project, please contact our mission at:https://www.healthservicecorps.org/campaigns/nyankunde-hospital-fund/  or contact us privately at warrenandlindsey@gmail.com

PRAYER REQUESTS

-Pray for the chapel rehabilitation as it moves forward.  Pray that the project will bring spiritual encouragement of our staff.  Pray that God would be glorified in this.
-Pray for the continued fight against Ebola in Eastern Congo.  Pray for an end to the fears and insecurity that fuel this outbreak.  It remains a critical situation.
-Pray for us as we prepare for home leave in about 2 weeks.


Many blessings,

Lindsey


Special Samaritan's Purse visitors today


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Winds of Change

October 25, 2018


Ebola Brings Winds of Change

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven."' Ecclesiastes 3:1

Our hospital has experienced a lot of change these past few months, mostly related the Ebola epidemic in our province.  Summer usually the busiest time in the pediatric wards at Nyankunde Hospital.  The months of June and July were a bit of a whirlwind!  We regularly had 80 children on the pediatric service, and 25-30 children in the nutrition program.  Our hospital census tipped 130 cases which is a record for the past few years.  Then along came the official news of a new Ebola epidemic in the neighboring province of North Kivu at the end of July.  Our hospital admissions have plummeted dramatically since this time.  This morning there are 4 hospitalized children!  

Pray for our hospital and staff as they struggle to make ends meet during this Ebola crisis.  I have not previously considered the impact of Ebola on the economics of an entire region.  There is less transport of people and goods, and definitely less people seeking medical care.  There is a lot of fear to seek care, fear of being isolated or being identified as a suspect case.  To respond to all of this there are a lot of community efforts to educate the population and identify people who need medical attention.  It may in fact be true that the mortality from the "fallout" of this epidemic will exceed the number of deaths from the disease itself.  What I mean by "fallout" is the people not seeking care for ordinary problems, the increased cases of violence, and the patients fleeing health structures.

Although our numbers are decreased, we continue to treat children for malnutrition.  We integrate them into community programs.  Here are a couple of stories from the last few months.  One of the stories demonstrates the need to isolate suspicious patients, but also that this too can have negative consequences.  

Baby Furaha 
 Furaha is a special little 1.5year old girl that we met in unfortunate circumstances.
We were caring for her teenage mother who was suffering from a severe intestinal infection with bleeding and malnutrition.  As we see altogether too often, young post-partum women are at an increased risk of malnutrition.  We learned that this mother had fled the tribal conflict in this village in 2002 and was probably raised as a toddler in a displaced persons camp around Oicha.  She had lived a difficult life already and was supporting a young baby all alone.  Often new mothers are not able to take in enough calories in the post-partum period to feed their infants and remain healthy.  This mother was desperately ill and continued to have on-going intestinal bleeding.  She died suddenly of complications of infection and anemia.  The family left the hospital to bury the mother and care for her baby.  Our experience is that this doesn’t usually go well, especially when the father is unknown.  Orphan babies such as this have a high risk of dying.

Unsure of where the family lived, we sent Pastor Remy out on a search to find a family in mourning.  The first, second, and third trips were unsuccessful.  Finally our chaplain found the father’s extended family.  It turns out that a pastor and his wife in the father’s family had accepted the responsibility to raise the child.  The following day the pastor’s wife agreed to come into the chaplain’s office to see what kind of support they needed.

We sat across from the pastor’s wife holding this little girl.  Most toddlers at this age are able to sit independently, talk, and crawl all over the place.  This little girl was content to be supported in the lap of her adopted mother, touch, and examine her hands.  She seemed completely at peace and unaware of her difficult circumstances.  What a grace!  What were we to do to help?  This was an infant who never really received significant breast milk.  The baby was significantly under-weight and would qualify for a hospitalization.  Yet this was a special circumstance where family bonding was so important, perhaps just as important as good nutrition.  We agreed to start with initial infant formula (rich in Vitamin D) as an outpatient (in addition to solid foods) and transition to another formula in a few months.  With close family follow-up, pastoral visits, and regular weights we felt we would succeed.

One of our pastors prayed over the family in Lingala and the family returned home with a stock of formula to last a month.  It is such a joy to see this child find a loving home and an honor to be a small part of her story.

Chantal
Little Chantal was admitted to the hospital in August, at the beginning of the Ebola
Undergoing testing
epidemic.  She had signs of malaria and sepsis (bloodstream infection).  One night she got really sick and was transferred to the ICU.  Then she had a bloody stool, which is reason enough to isolate someone during an Ebola epidemic.  The medical team saw her from a distance for the next few days, gave oral antibiotics and malaria treatment, and observed continued fevers.  She looked anemic and was barely able to sit on her own.  She was refusing food and we needed to get her tested for Ebola and hopefully cleared of isolation restrictions.  The testing was done just in time and it allow us to provide life-saving care.  She tested negative for Ebola and was transferred directly to the ICU.  She received blood, fluids, wound debridement, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and therapeutic milk.  

As it turns out malnutrition was a significant medical problem for Chantal.  After 3weeks she has recovered enough weight and strength to be discharged.  She will continue in the outpatient malnutrition program.  Many children from her village of Tumbiabo attend our weekly outpatient nutrition program.  They walk for three hours to attend our programs, obtain education and 1-2kg of nutritional corn/soy flour for porridge, and then walk three hours home again.  It always surprises me that people are willing to travel such long distances for our outpatient programs.  Nyankunde Hospital is meeting a needed niche in the community. We provide the nutritional and social support that families need.  

Watch for more frequent postings in upcoming weeks.
Keep praying for our family and the ministry of Nyankunde Hospital.

The old hospital chapel, soon to undergo renovation!





In Mama Ruth's kitchen

Blessings,

Lindsey for us