Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wishing you a...

I'll be hanging out at a tree house in the chimp reserve tonight but will be back online in the new year. As we enter this New Year I am reminded of Him who gives me life. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 He gave. We received. He loves. We believe. It always seems complicated but it's really that simple. In Him we can have LIFE.

Back from upline...

After a 12+ hour journey yesterday, we found ourselves back in our home in Freetown. Our trip upcountry was excellent, filled with all sorts of adventures. There were many cultural experiences. Many fun times but also sad times. More blog posts to follow in the New Year...but here is a glimpse of the diversity.

From picking potato leaves in the garden for our dinner to hearing about a very sick 13 year old.
From meeting the 13 year old and taking her urgently to a hospital across the border to walking around Koindu and seeing its ruins.
From eating dinner at the 'cookery' in the evenings (local 'restaurant' with rice and sauce) to playing with the kids outside of our guest house.
From walking to the place our neighbor fetches her water to touring diamond mines.
From bucket showers to standing in a hut praying with the family who lost their 13 year old daughter.
From star gazing in the silence of the night to driving on a bumpy road for hours.

It has been an incredible trip and I have learned a lot over the past few days. My mind has definitely been on the run with lots to think about. One of the verses that sticks out to me is: "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 (New Living Translation). So, even though I have questions, even though I faced an unexpected (or unhoped for) outcome, I need to remember He has a plan. We can't see the big picture. He can. All I need to do is trust in Him. He has never let me down. What a great thought to carry into the New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

East bound...

Early tomorrow morning 6 of us, plus our Sierra Leonean driver and his wife, are heading to the east of the country for a 4 day adventure trip. We have little planned but our driver is from that area so will give us the grand tour I'm sure. We're hoping for a good, safe, fun trip. I'll be back on the 30th; in time to go to the chimp reserve on the 31st for New Year's eve...

Christmas Day...

MERRY CHRISTMAS from River 2 beach!!!

We had an amazing day at the beach. I especially enjoyed the amazing views. The ocean. The lagoon. The islands. The mountains. The huts. And last of all the sunset. God's creation. Amazing.

An amazing day.
Remembering an amazing time in history.
History that can change our future.
The birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God, giving us His son, as a gift.
So that we may have LIFE!
And spend eternity with Him.


Eve by candlelight...

Christmas Eve.
An evening with friends.
Unfortunately without family.
We had some time to mingle.
A lovely dinner.
Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Gravy. Cranberry Sauce. Salad. Green bean dish.
The works.
And a dessert for those who still had room of fruit and jello.
There's always room for jello in my books.
Then we did our team gift exchange.
Everyone got each other little gifts, so we exchanged and opened.
Then we were joined by more expats for our Christmas video: Elf.
And there were more treats to enjoy; cookies, mince pies, mulled wine.
Following the movie we moved out into the candle lit gazebo.
Time for our Christmas Eve service.
A humurous skit with Mary, Joseph and the angel.
A time to remember that He descended deep so that we may ascend high.
He came to earth to die, so that we may have life.

At the orphanage...

This year we again decided to celebrate Christmas with the children in one of the orphanages that my friend Vez (children's physio) works at. Last year we did sports/games, this year it was time for crafts. When I heard from Vez that the kids did not have a Christmas tree I had the brilliant idea to make a big paper tree for the children, stick it on the wall and have them decorate it. On Sunday morning we loaded a box of gifts, the paper tree, soft drinks and lots of craft supplies into Vez's land rover, went to church and then continued on over the mountain to the East side of town. After a welcoming song by the kids, we sang some carols and then Vez explained/quizzed about the Christmas story and talked about how we can be close to God and can talk to Him. We then started on the big paper tree; making ornaments for it. Momoh was very excited to put the first ornament on the initially very bare Christmas tree...
The youngest in the orphanage, Binta, was thrilled to show off her very own ornament master piece! She was later the chosen one to glue the big yellow star onto the top of the tree, which also brought a big smile to her face.

We had a little trouble finding good spots for the last few ornaments, but I suppose there's always room for more. The children (and adults) loved decorating the tree with all sorts of items: twisted tissue paper glued onto the paper, feathers, stickers, glitter (known as "shine shine" in Krio), surgical peanuts (which we had to get rid of), etc. Lots of colors, lots of fun. Everyone pitched in and the orphanage now has a great tree. The younger children pose in front of their FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE.

After the BIG tree, it was time for the children to decorate their smaller personal trees. By now they knew exactly what to off they went... The 'shine shine' was a big hit this time. And by the end the floor and most of us were covered with glitter!

Last but certainly not least, we went outside for a group picture, with all the children proudly displaying their own Christmas trees. What an amazing opportunity to share Christmas with others. Not only were we able to have a lot of fun with these kids, but we were also able to remind them of God's love, His gift to us, and His desire to be a part of our lives.

Sunday School Christmas...

Like last year, we spent some time on the Sundays leading up to Christmas, rehearsing our contribution to the Christmas service. Last year we did a play of the nativity story combined with songs. This year we wanted to do it a bit differently. So instead of a play we decided to quote Bible verses mixed with carols, to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. The older kids all memorized 1-2 verses each- from Isaiah and Luke - and learned the carols. The little children, aged 2-5 years learned a song of their own, to the tune of a Krio song. After getting the 55 children seated on the benches at the front of the church, they were ready to begin. They did an excellent job once again. And even most of the little ones joined in on their own song. After the children's program the men's, women's and youth groups did their contributions- none of which were very much related to Christmas. But it was entertaining.

The song the little children sang was singing out what the angels sang in Luke:
"Hear the angels sing, Glory to our God, Peace upon the earth, Favor to all Man"
"Halelujah, Jesus Christ is born"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas prep...

Today was in the spirit of Christmas. First - off to town for some shopping. Actually, a couple of people were going to buy shoes since they were stolen this past week. I tagged along for the ride and picked up a few things for Christmas along the way. Town was busy as usual. The difference now is that besides the usual vendors all along the street; you now have people walking around with 2 or 3 Christmas trees in their hands, for sale. And there are stalls with the most interesting collection of Christmas goods on sale. Lots and lots of tinsel- multi colored and random assortments of lights etc.

When we got home I decided I better sort out my gifts for our expat team. Got that done and gifts wrapped and it looks like Christmas in my room. More so because I have wrapping paper and gift bags scattered all over the place. This is one of the things I like about Christmas- wrapping up gifts for others. Once done, it was then time for some preparation for tomorrow. Followed by a Christmas movie. And followed by wrapping gifts for my local staff, Joshua and his foster family and an amputee football player and his kids. Fun fun fun.

Tomorrow will be busy. Christmas program at church with the Sunday school kids reading out scripture and singing. Prep before hand (during sermon) will be rehearsing, making crowns, and putting on angel outfits. After church Vez and I are going to one of the orphanages she works at (where she does physio). We went there last year to celebrate Christmas with them and will do the same tomorrow. Since they don't have a tree I came up with a brilliant but some what time-consuming idea. Make a tree out of green & brown construction paper and hang it on their wall. The kids can then decorate (pre-cut) ornaments, and stick them to the tree. So, by tomorrow evening, the orphanage will have a decorated Christmas tree. We hope to go through the Christmas story with them, watch a short video and enjoy snacks.

After all of that it'll be Monday before I know it. Last clinic day of the year. Followed by a Tuesday of reviews, statistics, and outpatient clinic Christmas get-together. And then it's time for some rest...after finishing off a few work things on the 24th...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Feeding Center X-mas...

I went down to the government-run therapeutic feeding center today as I often do on Fridays. However, this time I didn't only come to check up on the patients I referred, but to share Christmas with the moms and children. This is one of my favorite parts of Christmas- spending time with those who are less fortunate and being able to make them feel special, loved and not forgotten. I have done this every year so far, so actually, it is kind of expected. A few months ago the head nurse was already asking if we were going to come with Christmas this year. Today was the day, but unfortunately the head nurse was not in.

When I entered the feeding center to check with the nurses that the timing was okay, a little girl of about 2 years ran up to me. Hawa. I met her last week. She's not one of my patients, but is obviously admitted due to malnutrition and tuberculosis. Her mom says she has been there for 1 month now. I picked up little Hawa and she let out a little squeal. Despite being sick, she was happy. And fortunate for me not at all afraid of the 'white man'. Together, we wandered back to the land cruiser to get the rest of our staff and the boxes of gifts.

Before handing out the gifts I thought it important to share the Christmas story with the ladies- not the whole Mary, Joseph, stable, manger, shepherds, wise men bit. But the fact that God sent his ONLY son to die for US so that we could be in RELATIONSHIP with Him. One of my nurses was translating my Krio into perfect Krio and ended up adding a good bit of the gospel message in there. Great chance to minister. During the translation I was playing with little Hawa as she was chatting away, messing up my hair, and tapping me constantly as if to tell me something. I could tell that many of the moms enjoyed me spending time with this little girl.

After the talk I thought it would be fun to sing. When I asked if they knew a song, they started singing a Krio Christmas song in unison followed by 'We wish you a Merry Christmas'. Little Hawa and I then displayed the various gifts we brought with the help of other staff. Little Hawa proudly showed off her little stuffed animal. Small gifts bringing lots of joy. A cute stuffed animal, baby lotion, baby shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste. Everyone was happy. Funnily enough I think there were more kids playing with the toothbrushes than the stuffed animals! : ) Many of the moms said 'thank you' which is not all too common here. They truely were appreciative.

We had to wait for our driver to pick us up. So in the meantime I hopped from bed to bed seeing the kids, talking to the moms, trying to show them I care. One mom was there with 7 month old triplets- one being normal size, one small and one very small. There was another 9 month old that was very tiny but still managed to giggle when I tickled her. All in all it was a very succesful Christmas celebration. Short but sweet. And special to share Christ with the moms and show love to the children. I was again reminded that these children have a special place in my heart...

Monday, December 15, 2008

We've been thieved...

At 6:15 am today I was woken up by the sound of one of our guards wailing.
My first thought was that one of his family members died.
However, I soon learned that he was crying for fear of losing his job.
We had been thieved and the theft happened during his watch.

Background info:
We have two guards on duty at our compound every night.
We use an official security company for this.
To be honest- it sometimes seems like a bit of a joke.
It seems like we’re often faced with either sleeping guards or stealing guards.

The crime:
So, supposedly at 5 am this guard checked the water level of our water tanks, as usual.
Then about 30 min later his colleague came to him saying there was a problem.
All of the chairs were missing in our gazebo!
And we’re talking about 30 plastic chairs.
Unfortunately some of my colleagues had their trainers and tevas etc outside of their rooms.
Later we realized that these had also been stolen.

The crime scene:
Our own ladder was found leaning against the wall in the corner of the compound.
The glass along the top of the wall had been removed, yet the razor wire was still in place.
Strangely enough- none of us expatriate staff woke up- which means a well-planned, thorough job.
It means I was fast asleep as noise in the gazebo always wakes me- esp. on weekends when I can sleep in!
But weird that our surgeon was in the living room (with view of gazebo) around 5 am.
So, something does not quite make sense here.
What I do know is that we were left with a CHAIRLESS gazebo.

Honestly, there is no point in speculating because we will never get to the bottom of this.
Things here just tend to disappear and no one ever knows who really did it.
I guess Christmas is near; people are looking for a little extra.
Maybe it was an outside job. Maybe it was an inside job.
If people on the inside were involved, then I am again saddened that we cannot trust people working for us.

Bottom line:
Praise God no one was hurt!

Christmas in Salone...

I cannot believe it's just over a week till Christmas! However, having said that, I do realize that I have been playing Christmas music almost everyday since just after Thanksgiving. I guess part of the reason is because life is just SO busy. Work is crazy- today we again worked from 8am-7pm and still had to turn children away at the gate. My 'to do' list just keeps growing everyday and it looks like some of that may just need to wait until the Christmas break. In the midst of the craziness, last night we spent the evening decorating our team house living room, which was a lot of fun! To the rhythm of Christmas carols we assembled our Christmas tree, strung the lights and ordained it with ornaments. We filled the room with candles, strung some more lights, placed our snowman climbing up a chandelier type thing and decorated the fan with crazy ornaments which fly around as the fan spins. A bit of a bizarre combination of things really, however, it REALLY does look like Christmas.

The previous weekend I decorated my own room small small; cutting out stars from yellow construction papers and taping them to my window and wall. Many candles are now scattered throughout my room. And of course I had to blow up my inflatable Christmas tree which stands about a foot tall!!! You can't beat that.

As far as spreading the Christmas cheer goes: we had a football team at our gate today singing carols! And tomorrow night some kids from the children's home are coming to carol. I also hope to be able to reach out to others during this season too- that's my favorite part. I am hoping to bring some gifts to the malnourished kids in the feeding center this coming Friday and go to an orphanage for some Christmas fun on Sunday. I am hoping to be able to spend some time with Joshua and his foster family as well.

All in all- it's still my favorite season and I am sure it will be a great Christmas. I am just a little sad because it will be the FIRST Christmas that I am not with any of my family : ( For the past 31 years I have always spent my brother with either my entire family, just my parents, or my brother. This year, it's just me, which is a bit sad. Especially hard since my parents just left and I know my little nephew is celebrating his first Christmas and Í haven't been able to meet him yet. At least I have my Salone friends to celebrate with...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Doctor needed...

I feel like I am getting a little desperate when it gets to the point that I need to advertise on my blog for a position but here it goes. It’s worth a try. To put things simply- I need a doctor to come and help out in the clinic since no one is lined up for all of 2009. If I can’t find anyone it means running the clinic on my own again (which means turning away even more patients at the gate everyday and more stress again for me). It would also mean possible having to close the clinic when I go on holiday – I have been advised not to cancel my holiday – since it’ll have been 9 months without. ANYWAY- see if you think you know someone who meets the criteria and might be interested. Otherwise you can simply join me in PRAYER that God will send the suitable person my/our way. Thanks!

Some info: Mercy Ships is seeking a volunteer doctor to work in a land based outpatient clinic for children 12 years old and under in Freetown, Sierra Leone as of early January 2009. The outpatient clinic’s mission is to serve as a primary care facility for the children of the Aberdeen community as well as in the Greater Freetown area. The doctors and national nurses provide initial diagnosis, treatment, and immunizations, seeing an average of 55-60 patients per day. Most children are treated as outpatients. Those needing admission are referred to hospitals with in-patient care. Criteria: The ideal candidate should have a valid doctor’s license, preferably 2 years post graduate experience, is committed to serve the poor by following the example of Jesus, and could commit to serving with us for 6-12 months. Shorter posts (minimum of 2 months) are sometimes available. Experience in a cross cultural setting and in pediatric medicine would be helpful but is not required. Candidates must cover travel costs to and from Sierra Leone, room and board at the team house and have health insurance.

Trusting Him...

Where's Sandra...

Well, it's not hard to find me in a picture since I'm the only white face. I love this picture. It was taken half a year ago at Joshua's school. He's the little guy who is squased next to me! Anyway, this picture reminds me of those 'Where's Waldo (or is it Wally)?' books. I know I have not been blogging very regularly...but I am still around and as busy as ever. Fortunately today is a public holiday so a day for me to catch up on work and personal admin! I'm happy to have electricity today.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Tribute to my mom...

Saying goodbye is the part I don't like about missions work. And when it's your parents it's even harder. Waving my mom off at the heliport Thursday night was particularly strange. My mom and I are very close and it's strange to think that she won't be in Salone anymore. I have loved being out here with her and wrote a special tribute to her. Here is part of will give you an idea of what we've experienced together and how much she'll be missed!

Dear mom,


When I was in Liverpool and you suggested me joining you I said: ‘no way’.
Fortunately I did consider the offer.
And look at where we are today; 3 years and 9 months later.
It’s been quite a journey.

We have been through so much together in Salone.
Good times, bad times, fun times, crazy times.
So many experiences together.
Making memories that will last forever.

A construction site turned into a medical facility.
Angry councilors turning into a thankful community.
400 application letters leading to recruitment of 50+ amazing staff.
0 patients to start with to over 13,000 women and children being served.

Spending hours in the dark or rain off loading containers.
Catching security guards sleeping at the team house.
Drinking liters of tea in the gazebo.
Going for runs along Lumley beach.

Water problems.
Electricity issues.
Scary roads.
And much more.

We have worn many matching outfits to Sierra Leonean weddings.
Enjoyed many trips to Lakka and River number 2.
Traveled to the Anastasis together.
First the sail from Liberia to Ghana then a last Easter onboard.

Our times with Joshua were always good fun.
Going to the beach with him, eating ice cream, visiting him for his birthday.
Him staying over at our place for Christmas and Easter.
He has won our hearts over once again and I know he will miss you!

Working together has been great.
Pharmacy orders and dispensary stocking to lab needs and procurement.

Bouncing ideas off of each other and trouble shooting.

Barging into your office to print stuff or show you one of my patients.

You have been a tremendous support to me.
Went I felt alone in the OPC and somewhat distant from the whole project, you were there for me.
You have encouraged and supported me every step of the way.
I couldn’t have come this far without you.

You and dad have made this place into what it is today.
Your dedication, hard work and perseverance have been amazing.
The people in Sierra Leone will be forever grateful.
And I feel privileged to have been a part of your work here.

I love you. I appreciate you. I will definitely miss you. And I will be thinking of and praying for you often.

With much love forever, San

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mercy Ships and Continental...

Mercy Ships is featured on every Continental Airlines flight in November and December. We have a 2 minute video that showcases our effort and encourages all to join us in helping the forgotten poor of the world. We are also mentioned in their onboard magazine during this time. Click on the following link to watch the clip: MERCY SHIPS VIDEO CLIP (keep an eye out for me...)

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~