Saturday, April 4, 2020

And so it begins..

When you talk to my dad about 9/11, he has a hard time relating to the raw emotion that most of us experienced on that day. That’s because when you ask him, “where were you when you heard about the attack on the twin towers?”, he says, “Haiti.” In fact, he was in a remote area of Haiti and was told by a Haitian national that “your country was attacked today.” But there was no television, no watching people fall out of buildings from the 40thfloor, no live plane crashes. So, while he is able to relate to the sorrow the day brought, it’s not really the same. 

Many of us Africa missionaries, I think, have felt this way about Coronavirus. No matter how many news updates I read or numbers I see ticking across the screen, we have been, up to this point, quite removed from the impact of it all. Africa, until very recently, had been quite spared from the pandemic and we’ve been feeling as though Mango, Togo was the safest place in the world.

Our hospital is no stranger to epidemics and the fear they cause. As the site of Togo’s first ever Viral Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak, we have spent many hours in PPE with hands cracking from chlorine. So, it’s been quite surreal for the last 2 months or so, as we’ve watched Americans experience things that, in many ways, are norms for us here: a lack of finding food items, lack of personnel and equipment, distance from friends and relatives, and even medical workers doing jobs they weren’t trained for. In no way did this bring any feelings of “it’s about time!” or “what’s the big deal?!” In many ways, it made it easy to empathize with all the emotions that our friends and families were and are going through. But it was also all through a looking-glass, as we were still unaffected by the chaos going around the world. In fact, if internet hadn’t improved so much in the last few years, we would likely still be largely unaware of the COVID pandemic ravaging the world. (I still have Togolese friends here that don’t know that World War II happened or that any wars are taking place right now!) 

Form March 7th— March 18, Togo only had 1 imported case of COVID—a Togolese national returning from Belgium and France. We held our breath to see if she had been isolated quickly enough. Slowing more cases came, imported cases mostly from travelers returning to Togo from abroad. More than half our medical team had plans and tickets to go to a medical conference in Greece that circles around every 2 years. It was a much-anticipated time where we would get both training, reunion time with friends serving around the world, and much needed vacation time as well. But as the virus continued to spread around the world, our hopes of travel faded away. Even after the conference was cancelled, I adjusted my ticket to fly direct from Togo to the U.S for a 3-month furlough that had been planned prior to COVID. 

But finally, on March 28ththere was case in Togo that couldn’t be traced back to a known contact with the disease. In the world of epidemiology, this is the sign of an outbreak that is now un-controlled. Not only was this new case a marker of things to come, the case was a woman that was from right here in Mango. Suddenly, our corner of the world wasn’t so immune anymore. As we are someone used to epidemics here, I still thought I wouldn’t be affected the way I had seen on news and social media. I would watch the U.S make more and more restrictions to keep the virus from spreading and try and encourage stateside friends that the quarantines were truly necessary. I made the hard decision to postpone by furlough time for a month since Togo had stopped all incoming flights which meant no volunteers could come to cover my absence. Meanwhile, I still felt immune to the stress and fear of it all. 

In the week before our case in Mango, though, my great-aunt passed away. A few days after, my grandmother passed away. She was my last living grandparent and there was no sweeter soul on this earth. I had spent time with her on my last furlough and asked her to stay alive for 2 more years so I could see her again. She thought about it for a second and said, “2 years?! Maybe you can just write me a letter.” Both woman dearly loved the Lord and were ready to see Him face to face. I couldn’t admire either woman more. I knew I would likely not see my grandmother again, but suddenly she was gone and my solace was that I would be home in time to at least be at the funeral. Postponing my furlough time was necessary for many reasons, but as the days went on, I now could feel the stress and frustration this virus was causing in my own heart: 
missed vacation, 
missed family during a time of need, 
when will I finally be able to leave Togo? 
what will cases do in Togo?
where will our supplies come from?
how will our cancer kids get to the hospital with border and road closures?
.....
....
....

I finally wrote an e-mail to my roommate here. Why couldn’t we just talk? It was almost as if saying things out loud would both make them real and unleash a never-ending list of complaints! I couldn’t really put a word to what I was feeling—anger? Frustration? Fear?
Disappointment. I was feeling disappointment and grief. There are two types of grief at play. One is over things you had but are now gone, like the loss of loved ones. This is probably the most standard/familiar form of grief. It feels as though something has been taken, or stolen, from us.  The loss is an experience we had that we can’t have anymore, and we miss it. The other type of grief is the loss of things that will never be, a hope deferred. You can’t miss the experience but you never had it. Instead, you’ve missed out on the experience. There are no memories to rest on or be grateful for time you had, because it never happened. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, which is what I think many of us are feeling.    

There is a beautiful article that came out in TIME this last week. “Christianity offers no answers about the Coronavirus. It’s not Supposed to.” It’s a beautifully written article about lament and the season we are in as Christ-followers. It explains, better than I could, how the Bible rarely gives an answer to “why” for our suffering, but instead offers the “how”.  Our answers are not in how to distract ourselves by finding new series on Netflix or looking for the end of the internet. Instead we are meant to stare straight into the eyes of lost-expectations and disappointments and lament before a Savior who both directed and demonstrated the practice in his own time here on Earth.  

I am clearly not in control. I don’t know when I will get to go home. If I’m able to fly out of Togo, it is also risking not being able to return to Togo for an unforeseeable time given travel bans. I know I will never see my grandma again on this Earth, but I know we will be together again before the Lord one day. I don’t know when this outbreak will end, but I know in Togo, it is only just beginning. 

So, redeem the time, with what time there is. Redeem it for lamenting or redeem it for joy, redeem it for reconciliation or redeem it for solitude. Redeem it for spreading the gospel or redeem it for learning the gospel. The Lord will redeem this Earth one day and all the illness in it, of that I am sure.

In the meantime, please go wash your hands, and stop touching your face. :-)

 
See you at the feet of Jesus sweet lady˜


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

On that very Day









"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day,all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:40-41.

February 26th is, and always will be, an extremely important day with mixed emotions that range from celebration to somber, from praise to lament, from joy to pain. Of course, February 26th was the first day of the opening of the Hospital of Hope. Thousands of people in attendance including the president of Togo himself. Excitement filled the air as well as the bizarre playing of the song Hotel California on repeat the morning of the ceremony by the local station running our sound. (luckily no one understood the English lyrics!) The preparations had been years in the making and we will only see in heaven how everyone's stories wove together to bring us all together on that opening day. 

Fast-forward one year later to February 26, 2016. The call came that Todd Dekryger, our beloved friend, hospital surgeon and Medical Director had passed away shortly after arriving in Germany via his evacuated flight from Togo. We had literally crossed over small mountains being pulled by a semi-tuck with a canvas rope to get him on that flight. It's easy to think, "of course he'll be healed in Germany. We are under-resourced here, but they can do everything there." It wasn't to be and the rest of the story played out in months of managing Togo's first ever Lassa fever outbreak, the horrible disease we later found, was responsible for taking our friend's life. There were no 1-year anniversary celebrations taking place, as the day was instead marked with mourning and shock. 



February 26, 2017 was now the first anniversary of the loss of Todd while spending time celebrating who he was and how the Lord has sustained us during that year. Even though Lassa fever had reared its ugly head once again by this date, we tried not to let us affect the joy of remembering our friend and all He had done to make this hospital a reality for the people of Mango in the name of Christ. By that evening though, my roommate and I received news that a child we cared for over the last 10 months, Tama, often caring for him overnight in our home, had suddenly become ill and quickly passed away. It seemed impossible that the Lord could allow this to take place at all, let alone on this date. 

Over the past 3 years so much more has taken place. Some is recorded in this blog and so much more could never be. And as I think on the verse in Exodus 12, I am reminded that the Lord wastes no detail in His kingdom, especially when it comes to timing. Do you suppose that the Isrealites themselves knew that they and their ancestors had been in captivity 430 years to the day?? Why 430 years? Why not 429 or 477 or 2? the Bible points out with the small praise "to the day", and it seems like only we as the readers get to revel at this supernatural insight into the Lord's plans. 

This year, February 26, 2020 falls on Ash Wednesday. And while not all Christian denominations spend time recognizing this day in the same way, my sending church has always make this day and the period of lent, a part of our yearly rhythm. This year they sent out an explanation of Ash Wednesday as we believe it applies to us as evangelical believers: 

"Ash Wednesday is an ancient practice that opens the season of Lent—a season of reflection, fasting, prayer, and lament—that incites us to remember and confront the reality of our mortal existence. The act of drawing a cross with ashes signifies that we are from dust, and to dust we will return. (Genesis3:19). The world around us moves at a rapid pace and seems to forget that it is not eternal. So, we commemorate this event publicly, and as a community, to remember our frailty. The ashes used to make the sign of the cross are not a sacrament nor a moral duty. The ashes are not magic. This is simply a visual activity that reminds us of the sad truth of our mortality and points us forward to the hope we should cling to in Jesus’s rising from the dead—his victory over sin, death, and the devil." 


I can think of no better way to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of HOH and the anniversaries of loved ones that have gone before us, but to take time to humbly recognize my own weaknesses and frailty while clinging to the awesomeness of truth demonstrated by Christ's victory over death, sin, and the devil Himself. My sadness is almost turned to laughter when I imagine how Satan thought these things would devastate us to the point of despair and the loss of Hope. While I can mark several days when I thought this may be true, that I couldn't carry on any longer, the victory is the Lord's and it has already been accomplished and will continue to be accomplished until the very dayHe decides to take us Home.  It will not be a day too soon nor a day behind the appointed time....and maybe it will even be on a February 26th....... wouldn't that be wonderful......

See you soon friend.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Where's the Snow?!

Confession: I don't really look forward to Christmas in Togo. The problem is, I grew up in Chicago and Christmas = cold, snow, and lighting a candle as you sing silent night at a midnight service at church. So far (despite my high hopes and many prayers) snow has yet to fall here in Mango and the high temp was 98 degrees with cool low of 68. Being away from home on holidays makes your realize how much of the emotion of the holiday is steeped in family and cultural tradition, over what we are actually celebrating-- God incarnate, given to us, the lasting gift of grace and promise of glory. 

Neimatou's last day of chemo
The promise of glory can seem very far away at times. Such of mix of highs and lows, day to day it becomes easy to feel as though not much has happened at all. Like anything in life, the mundane can set in and it becomes hard to look back and see any progress. But as I look back at my last post, I am encouraged to realize that both Neimatou and Denise have completed their chemo treatments, and Fatimata and Djamilajoin continue faithfully in theirs. We also have had 2 other children that have since started cancer treatment programs. We sadly lost Mounirou and Abraham, which were very hard losses. Both families expressed gratitude for the efforts and time we spent trying to bring healing to their children, but the loss was heavy. 

Here in Togo, heaviness is never far from joy, though, and we are very close to discharging home Baby S who was born weighting 770 grams (1 pound, 11 ounces) at 28 weeks. She is now over 35 weeks (gestational age) and mom is eager to bring her home. Although Baby S is only now 2 lb. 14oz, mom spends her days trying to convince us that everyone in her family is small, so we should keep this in mind and let her go now. (I'm trying to imagine what a Neonatologist would say in the US to a mom that tried to use that argument! LOL!) We having yet bought into that argument but look forward to the approaching day when she will head to home for the first time. 


We are also weeks aways from sending a sweet boy to the United States for heart surgery. He came to us early 2019 and despite living in Burkina Faso, the family has gone through a lot to keep his appointments and get him where he is today. Through the generosity of Healing the Children and Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville, KY, our little friend will have his heart repaired in mid-January. Please pray for the final paperwork and other logistics to be completed quickly and for his complete healing. Pray that we may find some Mossi (Moh-see) or "More-ay" speakers in Louisville to help his transition as a parents will not be accompanying him to the states. 

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for those of you who have recently given to the HOH Peds Cancer Fund--both outright and trough the t-shirt campaign. The t-shirt campaign  was automatically re-launched when more people decided to buy shirts, so if you missed it, please know that there's still an opportunity to get yours: https://www.bonfire.com/hospital-of-hope-1/. You can also give a tax-deductible donation directly to the account at https://www.abwe.org/work/projects/hoh-togo-pediatric-care and mention Peds Cancer in the comments boxy when giving. (We will SOON have our own page for giving..stay tuned). We have also started a new Facebook page called Surviving Takes Hope, so please find us and follow us so you can stay up to date on what is happening with our chemo kids here in Togo!

I do hope that you are having a beautiful Christmas season and that we are all able to take time and reflect on the beautiful way the Savior of the world humbled Himself for us, and we can look forward to the day when we see Him face to face. 



Wednesday, September 25, 2019

From Death to Life

The story of Lazarus is familiar to many, even if biblical literacy is not your trade.  Lazarus was a close friend to Jesus and brother to Mary and Martha. Jesus was told that he was sick and to come quickly but he purposefully waited and said, "it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it." By the time Jesus did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days. Everyone was in mourning and Jesus, seeing this, "was deeply moved in spirit and troubled."
Jesus then proceeded to call Lazarus forth and all watched in amazement as Lazarus rose from the dead. 

The last blog post mentioned the loss of a couple of our children in our chemo program.  Often, we only know a child had died because they stop showing up. Phone calls are attempted but often reach non-charged telephones or are somehow the phone number of someone in a nearby village who doesn't know the family well. This was the case for Jonathan. Jonathan had come to us extremely malnourished--the kind of malnourished you see on TV. He was hospitalized for over a month and didn't smile once. He had completed 4 rounds of chemo and his family was very faithful to keep appointments, until one day....he stopped coming. We called and called. Finally, we reached someone in the village who said, "oh yes, I know that family and their son died over the weekend." The news was a troubling blow. Although he had a complicated beginning, his cancer had responded well to treatment and is a cancer that comes with an 85% survival rate (even in the developing world!). As my previous post mentioned, he was among the cases that made me think twice of even continuing cancer care here in Togo. 

The day after I posted the last blog, Jonathan and his parents walked into the clinic. There is no way I can describe the emotions I felt other than comparing it to those outside of Lazarus' tomb that day! 

You. Were. Dead. 
And now you're alive. 

I realize that some of you are thinking, "but he was never dead, clearly". Clearly this is true. The political climate on the Ghana border were the family lived had become very tenuous which prevented them from crossing the border in Togo to get to our hospital. But from our perspective (and from the perspective of those mourning Lazarus), the outcome was already final, and only Jesus knew otherwise. 


When we told his parents that we thought he was dead, and that someone in his village confirmed this, they threw their hands up and laughed and said, "well of course he's not dead, he helps me work in the fields!!" All we could do is laugh in joy alongside of them and praise our Lord that this was the case. Because just as in the plan of Lazarus, these things take place so that God's Son may be glorified through it. I likely would not have considered praising Jesus for Jonathan showing up at his routine visit for cycle 5 of chemo. But you better be sure I was praising Him now!! 

Who can know the mind of the Lord? I may never understand the full extent of why Jonathan's story took the turn it did. Johnathan did finish chemo and is doing well. He has even smiled for us. 

Another patient, a 21 year-old student named Lamboni has also completed his chemotherapy for a rhabdomyosarcoma. We celebrate deeply with these patients as they become like family to us during their long chemo courses. Even as I type, we have 2 new 21-year old students diagnosed with osteosarcomas (malignant cancer of the bone). Pray for them and their families as we provide them with their only opportunity for treatment.



Neimatou
Pray also for our other kiddos as they continue ongoing cancer treatment here at HOH:
Denise- 2 years old with a Wilms Tumor
Mounirou- 3 year old boy with a Wilms Tumor
Neimatou- 16 year old girl with osteosarcoma
Fatimata- 12 year old girl with leukemia
Djamilatou- 12 year old girl with liposarcoma

Want to know how to financially help these children with cancer? Go to www.abwe.org/give and Use Account number 0763831-002. This account goes directly towards paying for the care of each individual patient receiving pediatric cancer care at HOH. 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Onward

Today I saw Martin who came into the hospital as an outpatient for a cough. Martin was our first child to ever be cured from Leukemia here. It was surreal to see him today as I just received news from a village that another one of our cancer kids passed away at home. We’ve lost 4 of 5 cancer kids over the last month which makes you wonder if the oncology program is something to continue. Who can’t help but think that? 

Amadou came to us because another hospital refused to treat him.
He was best known for giving fist bumps to all the nurses.
We lost him at the end of week 4 of ALL treatment.
(Picture used with permission)
But right on cue, 6-year-old Martin walks in looking as normal as any other 6 year old boy—trying to pretend not to smile; too cool for his team of Pediatricians and nurses. He’s a big brother now, which is something much more wonderful to focus on then his monthly chemotherapy visits from a time passed. 

I have no doubt that Satan himself spends time bringing up defeats in our minds and making them seem so much bigger than the triumphs that run parallel to them. Discouragement is not just a difficult emotion but instead a powerful weapon aimed at handicapping our hopes and crippling our callings. 

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun” and Satan’s method of discouragement is no exception. Thankfully, the Lord established a counter-measure for us, thousands of years ago, often referred to as alters, or stones of remembrance. In Genesis 28, Jacob took a stone to sleep on at which time the Lord gave him a vision and promise to give Him the land and bless the families of the Earth through his offspring. Jacob then took that stone and set it up as a pillar, marking the place of promise. 

We also see this happen when Joshua leads the Israelites into the promise-land after the Lord parted the Jordan river for the 12 tribes to walk across safely. Each tribe took a stone out of the river and were instructed to put them together as a marker of remembrance “so that the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever!”

Something we (I) often don’t do well at the hospital is marking the successes, the healings, the discharges home. A story was told to me today of someone’s guard who was thanking us as a team for the presence of the hospital here and all it has done for the town. My friend responded with “actually, we are grateful to God for allowing us to be here and become a part of your community.” He responded, “yes, yes. Of course, we are thankful to God, but we must thank YOU as well.  Often people don’t have money to pay ahead of treatment, which is how all other hospitals function. My son had a cough last year but we had no money since it was planting season. My mother-in-law told me to go to the Hospital of Hope because they will treat your son right away and allow you time to go find money. We went, and it turns out he has asthma. He got better, and now when he coughs he has a medicine and gets better. What would we have done if you weren’t there?”

I have no doubt that when that child came to the hospital, it was a “bread-and-butter” asthma episode that we didn’t take too much notice to—albuterol, steroids, maybe some oxygen and home! Nothing glamourous and nothing to post pictures of to show the miracles happening here….
….or is it? Is it part of the miracle happening here? 

One of the other great lies of Satan is the idea of the ‘mundane’. One definition of mundane is “lacking interest or excitement” and the other is “of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one”. Is there any other greater lie that the people, the work, the lives around us (including our own) are of this earthly world rather than a heavenly one?! The Lord’s hand is at work in constant motion all around us—from the warm wind, to the muddy terrain, from the 80-year old patient to the premature infant, it is all a wonder of excitement and awe. We will only fully understand the depth of it all when we are face to face with our Creator one day. It is each of our callings, not to be doing medicine in Africa, but to see things as Christ sees them; to open our eyes and see the story unfolding before us day by day; to hear the stories of how the Lord is working and using others to bring healing to hurting people. Our calling is to be a part of it, to enter in, and refuse to believe there is anything mundane about it. 

While walking around our hospital compound a few months ago with a friend, I stopped suddenly as I saw this bare bush on one of our corners and was way more excited than my bystander friend. “Look at those fractals!” I exclaimed, showing my true math-nerd heart. As to avoid sounding too nerdy, a fractal at its simplest is something in which each smaller part has the same characteristic as the larger whole in increasing detail. The bush I was staring at had branches and twigs and even thorns all branching out at perfect 30-degree angles. Each one perfectly separated and changing directions at the exact moment and the exact angle it was designed to be at. Fractals are found throughout nature (snowflakes, galaxy formation, pulmonary vessels and even some varieties of broccoli!). The question for each person is, is my life is reflecting one part of what whole?I often look at trees that have grown tall but done so despite years of wind and rain trying to blow them over. You can see the exact moments where they were designed to grow in one direction but had to turn and twist in order to fight against the elements, in order to stay where they were meant to be. The result isn’t a perfect fractal, but instead another work of art and beauty all-together. All of our lives are reflecting a part of a whole for the time we are given. None of our lives will look like perfect fractals either, but instead, as we fight the notions of discouragement and the mundane, we fight to stay in the fight, to stay a part of the whole, HIS whole, until we are made perfectly whole for all of eternity. 

Two days after Martin left, I received a call from the clinic. “Kelly, I have a young girl in my room that has an abdominal mass. Another hospital thinks it’s a Wilms Tumor and sent them to Lomé. They won’t go to Lomé because it’s too far. Can we treat her here?”  

And so, the program pushes onward. 

                        Denise is our newest addition to the HOH Heme-Onc program. She is being treated here for an abdominal Tumor. If you would like to Donate to the Pediatric Oncology Fund that allows these families and children to receive care here at the Hospital of Hope- please go to www.abwe.org/give and use the account number 0763831-002.     
Thank you in advance.(Picture used with permission)



















Saturday, January 19, 2019

Stay


I received news a few weeks back of a baptism that took place in a village I know well. A witch-doctor father of a child I knew and loved who often refused to even come to our hospital, is now a baptized follower of Christ. As I sit far away from Togo here in DRC, I am reminded of how our call is to be obedient, then get out of the way. There is no one that changes hearts and minds other than Christ himself; no one other that turns water to wine, ashes to beauty, or witchdoctors to believers. 

Coming over to DRC to help with the Ebola response so soon after returning to Togo was not a decision taken lightly.  But it many ways, it was a culmination of many experiences, desires and skill sets both planned and unplanned. Much of my time has actually been spent in government and NGO partner meetings. Any frustrations I have had in Togo with government dealings now seem dwarfed in comparison. But even in these, I’ve had sweet moments of seeing how the Lord always gives someone nearby, often from unlikely sources, an ally— Someone who has protected me in a situation, offered encouragement where it wasn’t expected, or a helping hand without being asked. 

I do not think this outbreak shows any signs of slowing and it is painful to imagine what this region may have in store for the months to come. We now have an open Ebola Treatment Center in the community, but suspicion is rampant as is widespread denial that Ebola exists at all.  But the sweet moments continue as a patient says to us “You all have treated me so well here, I wonder if I can work here for you after I get discharged?” After asking him what he wanted to do for work, he said, “maybe I can be one of the men that makes sure people are washing their hands.” 

While many in the community are resisting transfer to isolation units and hiding illness in communities, our patient is trying to find out a way to stay among us, and it’s nothing but a beautiful picture—not of us—but of the invitation that the love of Christ is to those who experience it. Don’t we all long to stay in those moments of life where we feel surrounded by the grace and love of the body of Christ? These glimpses of heaven, when we experience Christ among us, are what allow us to continue in a work that is often juxtaposed by trauma and devastation. And the irony is that even during those devastating times, Christ has not parted, but remains in the midst of us, reminding us of that day of victory that will come, a day we long for more and more with each passing hour. 

I will soon be leaving DRC and heading back to Togo. In many ways, my three months here has felt more like nine. In many other ways, I feel like we just started. Please continue to pray for the team that remains and for this land to heal both physically and spiritually. Pray that we all may continue to walk in a way worthy to the calling of Christ as he serves his people through us.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Furlough and Beyond....

Furlough time is when a missionary leaves their home of service and spends time back in their home from which they have been sent. I arrived back in the US in November 2017 to spend this time recovering, working, visiting and recruiting. No matter how many months this furlough time is, it somehow passes quickly with things, sadly, still left undone and people left unseen. 

Hiking in Banff, Canada

Fun on Lake Michigan with mom and dad!
Disney with my sister Jessica and family










I started my time at home with my parents in Kenosha, WI. Six weeks later I a major surgery (donated a kidney to a friend) and spent the next six weeks recovering. (It turns out that when the surgeon tells you it will take 6 weeks to recover, that number isn’t just for people over 60, but does, in fact, apply to you personally!!) In mid-January I moved back to Louisville and began working at the hospital where I did my Pediatrics training. Thankfully, the hospital has always been kind enough to let me slip back into the department and fill-in gaps in various places including the Emergency Department, the hospitalist service and Heme/Onc. 
The set-up for a presentation a Valley
Baptist Church's missions week in CT
more friends in Banff

birthday fun!
I did a fair bit of traveling during my time at home as well. I was able to visit Canada for the first time (I know, I know…..how did it take me this long to go to Canada?!) and visiting Banff national park while meeting up with friends and supporters (who are also friends!). I was able to take a trip to see one of my aunts and her family as well as my grandmother. It was a bitter-sweet reunion as I realize that I may not see her again this side of heaven. I told her to wait for me to come back again from Africa in 2-3 years. Her response: “Maybe you can just write me a letter.” She longs to see the Lord and her husband of 50 years. Who can argue with that?

Time at home was also made particularly sweet by being at my church home. Despite several trials our church body has gone through recently, there is a comfort of being present during that suffering, opposed to just hearing about it from afar. We are also blessed to have a growing missions department with a supportive staff including missionary counselors and prayer staff. Our first ever missions retreat took place in mid-October where all of Sojourns missionaries gathered together at a “central world location” for a time of teaching, prayer, debriefing and fellowship. It was an incredible time to get to fellowship with missionaries all over the world, all serving as members of one church body. 

As my time on furlough was coming to an end, I was asked by Samaritan’s Purse to fill in for a month as a staff doctor at the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh where they had set up a cholera center. I started my time in Togo working for SP and had been following the situation with the Rohingyan refugees very closely, since their displacement from Burma back in August 2017. This refugee camp has been the largest in the world as it overflows with 1.2 million people. I wish I could better describe what is it to look out and see that many people living in temporary bamboo, tarp and tin dwellings in a square mileage not meant for this purpose. There is a heaviness to it all as a solution to all the needs seems impossible and never-ending. 

clinic staff and friends from Bangladesh
During my time at the clinic, we ironically did not have many patients. It was a good problem to have as groups had gone through the camp several times to do cholera vaccine campaigns. The blessing is that it worked! The hard part was that we were a cholera center! JThe clinic has since transitioned to urgent care, but during my time there, we took advantage of the low census by building into the nurses, WASH staff and translators we employed at the clinic. I spent a lot of time teaching and a lot of time simply hearing peoples’ stories. One of the translators who is also one of the Rohingyan refugees started playing a song on his phone one day. I recognized the song immediately and was taken off-guard that he had it on his phone—complete with youtube video displaying all the words. Kari Jobe’s “I am not alone”, was playing loudly and confidently from the phone of this Muslim, Rohingyan man’s phone! You can imagine my surprise. I asked him, “Where did you get this song?” He said, “it is my song.” I replied, “ yes, but who gave it to you?” He said again, “It is mysong. It is for me.” I realized that the English barrier was not going to be overcome, and he began to sing and show me the familiar lyrics: 

           When I walk through deep waters
I know that you will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear 

            I am not alone
            I am not alone
            You will go before me
            You will never leave me

            I am not alone
            I am not alone
            You will go before me
            You will never leave me

He said, “we are so afraid. This song is for me.” 

I have no doubt that however he got that song on his phone, it was a gift from the Lord.  Later in the month I was invited to have a meal in his home. Another person and I ate together with our friend from the clinic as his wife, mother and children looked on. (this is customary. Even in Togo, the wife and family will not eat with the guest, but wait until they have finished and eat after they leave). It was a humbling experience. He read my face and told me, “do not worry that we are refugees.” The honor of hospitality in many countries is far beyond that of our own country, and it’s a hard pill to swallow. 

We later had the privilege of watching him read Luke in his own language for the first time ever. Pray for him and his people, that during this difficult time, the Lord would draw them to Himself. 

Fun new friends form around the world
all working at the SP Rohingya clinic
Lastly….. I am back in Togo! I arrived on September 4thand have already been back to work for the last couple weeks. More on that later though. I want to thank all of you for praying for my time at home--including time for emotional, physical and spiritual recovery. I also want to say that there are many of you I was unable to see and visit with during my time, and for that I am very sorry.  You will surely be among the first I see on the next time back in the US! Please continue to pray for the Hospital of Hope and all of our national and ex-pat staff serving here. 

Stay tuned….



saying good-bye at the airport with
Emma, Luke and Mary