Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roadblocks, protests, detours and broken bones!!

Wow!  What an exciting week we had here in Bolivia!

Last Sunday, a team of doctors, nurses and children’s ministry workers arrived – 30 in all!  They came with the purpose of providing medical and dental care to the people of Bolivia and using that to share the Gospel with them.  Word of Life partnered with us and provided an Evangelism team that went with us to all the ministry sites.  Word of Life also cooked all our meals.  I could not have survived the week without their help!

Here is an overview of the week:


We went just down the road to the village of Kaluyo and attended in the “Posta”.  There were several hundred people in attendance, we saw about 260 medically and dentally.

The Evangelism team was relentless and made certain that everyone who walked through the gate heard the Gospel.  The community was so excited about our presence that they turned it into a health fair of sorts.  They even sent a representative from the mayor’s office to thank us!


We left at 4:00 A.M. to get up to a mountain village before some announced blockades began.  We were unsuccessful.  At 5:30, we came around a curve in the road at the top of a mountain and there were about 20 protesters that had built fires and littered the road with rocks and boulders.  We explained the situation; that we were trying to help their people, etc. – no go, they would not let us pass.  In fact, while we were standing there, a bus tried to just barge its way through and the people began hitting it with rocks.    This was a great concern for me.  The people here are very docile, but they can become violent in an instant – I was worried about the safety of my team.

We realized that we needed to turn around and go back the way we came to try and find a village to attend in for the day.  This is easier said than done!  We were in a 40 passenger bus, on the side of the mountain with a 3 foot median to turn around on.

Yes, that is as close as it looks and yes, it does drop off about 50 feet.

Needless to say, the Americans became restless and despite the danger from the protesters of having them outside the bus, they eventually all got off and stood to watch the “90-point” turn.

I guess you could say we had our own blockade - no one was going anywhere until this bus was turned around!

We got back down the mountain to realize that there were more blockades below us – we were stuck.

But, God had a plan!  

We went into the village of Punata, found some contacts and they let us set up in their town theatre.  The people were so grateful!  People kept coming, asking for help.  Also, I got to do two radio interviews and 2 television interviews, one of which was with the mayor herself!  They even brought us lunch in appreciation!

Interview with the Mayor (the one in the vest).  I am in the blue scrub top with the Helping Hands logo.

We attended to about 250 patients there.  Of course, our Evangelism team was hard working all day long, making sure everyone heard the Gospel.

  At 5:30 the blockades were lifted and we continued traveling to the town of Copachuncho, a three hour drive through the mountains.  We were all exhausted and hungry when we arrived.


We were able to attend in Copachuncho all day Wednesday.  People came from all over to receive medical and dental care.  Approximately 250 were seen there also.  The Gospel was shared with all.


We went to Cochabamba and attended the prisoners in the male and female prisons of San Sebastian.  Our children’s ministry team went to the Casa de Amistad and worked with the prison kids there.  I got the Men’s team situated and then went over to work with the Women.  We had a great time, the prisoners were so thankful and happy to be able to see a doctor.  We stayed until the prison doors were reopened at 2:00 and then left. (sorry, cameras are not allowed inside the prison)

That night the whole American Team and the entire Word of Life Bolivia team went to Bufalos for dinner.  There were 85 of us!  It was a great night of fellowship and food.


We went to the mountain village of Mojon for our last day of ministry.  We attended at a school.  The principal said that she was so happy to see her students happy; the parents of most of the students neglect their children because they are constantly working to provide enough food for their families.  She said that this was the first time in a long time they had been laughing and playing like children should.  We saw around 200 patients- all hearing the Gospel.

One team member who was helping with check-in fell down some uneven steps.  She cut her arm open (17 outside stitches, 3 inside) and fractured her pelvis (we didn’t know about the fracture until later)!  She was so brave and strong.  She would grit her teeth but not say a word.  We were 3 hours from Cochabamba and an x-ray machine.  The doctors sewed her arm up and treated her for the pain.  Finally, at 8:00 that night we got her to a hospital and confirmed that she had a fracture.  The problem was that they were flying back to the U.S. the next day!  What to do?

Luckily, there were lots of doctors on the team – a fractured pelvis is inoperable, the body has to heal on its own.  So, they decided to fly her back, as comfortable as possible, so she could rest there in her own home.


The team went souvenir shopping and then we (myself, the injured team member and a few others) met them for pizza and on to the airport.  At 6:00 their flight left for Santa Cruz.


It was a wonderful week, full of challenges – both physically, mentally and emotionally.  This was the largest team that I have been responsible for.  I was overwhelmed at times but with God’s help and guidance it was a great week where Bolivians heard the Gospel.  As I think back, trying to see how I could improve and do better, I see all the ways that God’s hand was guiding us throughout the week.  I had never thought or considered going to Punata for ministry, but God had.  He knew that His people there needed to hear His Word.  I was also unsure about the openness or effectiveness of attending in the city prisons.  But, once again God had His plan.  The prisoners were so grateful; doors were opened for future work with these people in such need.

Personal Update

I have to admit it was a great struggle this week.  I was stretched and pulled and torn many times.  Just the daunting task of leading such a large group would be enough, but the added factor of still being sick made it a job of mammoth proportions that only God could handle.

We have decided that I have a resistant strain of Typhoid.  This means a very strong, specific medicine.  God provided.  One of the doctors had the medicine I need donated to him before he came on this trip – it was prescribed to a patient but it was not needed  - it is “several hundred dollars” worth of medicine and only enough for one patient!  I am receiving 2 shots a day of this antibiotic in hopes that along with rest I will recover.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back in USA - beating Typhoid with a stick!

Well, I am back on U.S. soil.  I arrived on Friday, mid-day.  It was a rough trip.

Let me catch some of you up:  On Tuesday I started feeling pretty rough.  Wednesday I was not getting any better so we started a Malaria med.   Thursday, I was supposed to leave at 10:00 AM to make the 4 hour drive to the airport and catch my 11:30 PM flight.  Brenda suggested I go back to the clinic and get another Malaria test and a Typhoid test - just to be careful.  Well, this time the Malaria was negative but the Typhoid was positive!

Q:  How can I get Malaria AND Typhoid in the same month? 

 A:  I am just a LUCKY, LUCKY GIRL!

Well, I couldn't start the med for Typhoid right off because I still had the malaria meds in my system and the combination of the two could cause SUDDEN DEATH.  (The warning was just like that on the website, in red and caps - it got my attention)  I had to wait 12 hours to begin treatment.

In the meantime, I traveled to Kampala - Brenda came with me which was such a blessing.  We ate a snack and they got back on the road to head back to Busia.

I was alone.  Trying to make the most of it but feeling awful.  Mom was calling every few hours checking on me.  I was so relieved to get on that plane and take off for Amsterdam.  That was my goal, thinking "Europe has great medical facilities, I just need to make it there and I will be fine."  God blessed me and gave me two seats to lie down it and sleep the entire 9 hour flight.  I arrived in Amsterdam and was relieved to see that I only had a two hour layover!  Another blessing - usually it is at least 6 hours!

I made the next flight, counting the hours til I landed, got through customs and immigration.  There waiting for me was Mom and Dad.  Another blessing!  Mom's greeting was "Hey, you look so tall."  Not what I was expecting, but ok.

I was still not feeling much  better on Sunday morning so Mom went to church, then came home and she and Lisa took me to the ER.  The nurse made me wear a mask and put me in the isolation,  zero pressure room they use for highly contagious patients.  The doctor laughed because she knew that Typhoid is NOT an airborne disease.  Another blessing! - I got a doctor who was very experienced and knew how to treat Typhoid.  My nurse said they asked him when he walked in what he knew about typhoid - he doesn't know anything and admitted it to me as he was putting in my IV (he did know how to put in an IV though)  Apparently typhoid was one of the more interesting cases yesterday and all the nurses were discussing it.

The doctor gave me an IV of Rosephen.  They said that sometimes Typhoid could be resistant to Cipro.  The doctor also gave me some stronger pain medicine for the headaches - Tylenol and Ibuprofen were not even touching it.   

Today, Monday, I am feeling better, the headache is much more manageable and I feel stronger than I have felt all week.  I have promised my parents to lay low and rest.

Right now, I am still planning to return to Bolivia on Thursday, the 11th - given that I continue to improve.

Thank you for all your prayers, calls and concerns.  I really do appreciate them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Divide and Conquer

Oweri, my boda boda driver (a bicycle taxi) asked me today, "What did you do yesterday?"

As I began telling him all the places our team had gone, I realized that we had divided and conquered!

Here is  a breakdown of Tuesday's work:

I went to 4 different bush schools to pay the teachers - Namangodi, Muwero, Nakoola and one more

Bill went to Kenya to visit churches that are needing/wanting a church building.  Some meet under mango trees, others have a thatch structure and others had buildings that have fallen down.

Five team members went back to Syonga to finish giving shoes to the children.  Then they went and did hut - to - hut evangelism around the community.

Mike and John went to the Village of Eden and held a John Maxwell Leadership Conference for 120 local pastors.

Brenda stayed at the Mission House and caught up on accounting and administrative work.

We were all over East Uganda!!!  We were spreading the Word and continuing the Word God has called us to do.

Thank you for your prayers and support as we work here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Catch Up Time

This is a long one but worth it. . .

Thursday, September 27

I rode the 4 hours to the capital city of Kampala again.  We stopped for lunch in Jinja.  I had fried chicken, the first meat I’ve had in several weeks – mostly just beans here.

I had to go on another goose hunt for Brenda.  What happens is she finds an agency that helps with something, finds the address on the internet and sends me to check it out – sound harmless enough.  The problem is that the office has ALWAYS “shifted” (their way of saying “moved”) and the driver doesn’t know Kampala that well.  So, we drive around in circles, asking directions, then more directions with more circles and finally we find the building.  Then I have to go in alone to find the office.  This particular building, the Amber House, is very confusing.  It has several floors and each floor is divided into blocks A – E.  These blocks then have numbered office doors ranging from 100 – 120.  Some of these doors also have their company logo on the door, meant to aid the visitor in finding the correct office.  I think that was the idea a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . .

I was supposed to go to 1st floor, block C, office 106.  Simple enough.  No.  “They have shifted.  They are on the 4th floor.  Just ask around and someone will know which office.”

I asked 10 different people by just walking into these closed door offices, interrupting meetings and work.  Finally, a man that I found behind a graphics design logo on his door said, “He sits here.” He points to an empty desk with nothing but a tray of jumbled business cards, none of which have the name of the man I am looking for and the company is not the one I am looking for.

I reply, “I know he is in the Amber House, I need his office.”  I have found you have to be VERY SPECIFIC here – He sits here could mean he sits in this exact chair at this exact desk OR it could mean he sits somewhere within this labyrinth of offices in the Amber House.

Come to find out, he sits in that desk but he was out.  I got a phone number and then remembered some other pressing business – a bathroom.  I asked where a toilet was I could use.  The man got a key and then took me to an unmarked door.  “Try this door.”  It didn’t work.   “Try this door.”  Success.

I thanked him and said I would return the key when I finished.  I closed the door and did my business, admiring the clean restroom that had toilet paper, soap and running water – top notch!  Then I went to leave – the door had NO HANDLE, just a lever that didn’t do anything!  I panicked!!! How do I get out?  It was locked.  I had already noticed the door was flush to the floor, can’t pass what was probably the only key in the building under the door.  The halls were empty, everyone is behind their unmarked doors, so I can’t yell for help.  The driver doesn’t speak enough English to convey the panicked thought of “I am locked in the bathroom!”  All this passed through my brain in less than a minute.  Then I forced myself to calm down, take a deep breath and begin trying to rip this small little lever off the door.  I pulled, I pushed, I started to panic – finally I twisted – it opened!  RELIEF.  

I returned the key and walked down the four flights of stairs, my legs a little wobbly . . .

Later we picked up an arriving team at the airport.

Friday, September 28

The team and I returned to Busia, stopping to exchange money, buy supplies, eat lunch and shop for souvenirs.  Pretty uneventful, but I did enjoy the pizza for lunch and the ice cream for dessert – both things that are non-existent in Busia.

Saturday, September 29

We had an activities day for the children in the neighborhood around the mission house.  Most of these children are Muslim which means they would not go to an activity put on by the church.  So we rented the soccer field of a government school – a neutral place.  We promoted a bit right before the event – expecting around 200.  We had at least 350 show up!  We played soccer – that went well.  We tried to play kickball with the girls – not so well – they eventually invented their own game.  We played duck – duck – goose, red rover and something with a ball and a circle of children (their invention also).   Then we got out water balloons – if they caught it without busting it, they got a prize!  They went wild!!  The kids had a great time and I think we have opened the door to future work in the neighborhood.

Sunday, September 30

We went to church at Busia Calvary Baptist.  The team taught Sunday School.  Brenda and I had to return to the mission house to dress a wound on a child.  He had bumped his leg on a table, didn't tell anyone and a week later he has two large holes with pus draining out. . . we are dressing it 3 times a day and have him on two different antibiotics.  He is not very consistent on when he shows up for his dressing changes.  He showed up during Sunday School.

We then returned to church.  Bill Compton preached and then they had a baptism.   I went with Brenda to Nabalola clinic.  A child had been running a very high fever despite having been treated for malaria.  We took her and had her tested for malaria, typhoid, HIV and a few more things.  The only positive test was malaria.  The doctor said that it was a poorly treated case.  They put her on an I.V.  We returned later to give the mother sheets, a blanket and food – the hospital does not provide any of that.  I drove for the first time here, on the left side of the road.  (It is now Tuesday and we think the child will be released today)

Monday, October 1

We went back to Syonga to put shoes on the feet of those kids we measured a week ago.  They were so happy!  It was not an easy process – the shoe order was not correct and some feet had already grown – that is my story and I’m sticking to it!  Finally, after a long hard day of washing feet, putting socks on and finding a pair of shoes that fit, we had shod Nursery, Top Nursery, P1, P2, P4 and P5 – They did P3 on Tuesday.

The team also did foot care – digging out jiggers.  These are sacks of sand flea eggs that get into the children’s feet.  They are painful and have to be dug out slowly.  And, yes, they are as gross as they sound and look.

That night we went to a bush church for an encouraging visit.  The idea is that all the Americans go and encourage the struggling bush church.  I have to say I was probably more encouraged than they were.  These people were so excited to be there – they worshiped the Lord, sang, danced and were just joyful in the Lord!

Tuesday, October 2

I went with Mike and John to help get their leadership conference underway.  Then I went all over Timbuktu with the driver!  I had to go to 4 different bush schools to do payroll.  At times we were driving down a lane with bushes higher than the van on both sides – the branches slapping me in the face as they scratched their way down the side of the van.  I was also sure I was going to have to pay for a duck we had hit with the van – How much is a duck anyway? – but the carcass was not there when we returned so I guess I got out of the way just in time.

I arrived at one school and the pastor was there.  He said he had tried to call and inform me that the cook’s daughter had just died.  “She was only 1 month old and had not been doing well.”  He said she had just died within the hour and they showed me in the corner of the room the burlap bag she had been laying upon when she died.  I was overwhelmed with sadness and helplessness.  Another teacher had just left with the body and to make funeral arrangements.  All I could do was offer my condolences.

That was all before lunch!  I am now at the mission house sitting in front of a fan and resting.