Sunday, December 9, 2012

Preparing to drive away from the mountain

Six months ago I arrived in Lome, the capital city of Togo.  After an overnight stay, our group drove 2 hours on a paved road until just past the town of Kpalime, then another hour on the road with such largee potholes that you just end up swerving from one side of the road to the other to try and avoid as many as possible!  Once we arrived in the village of Adeta, we turn left and drive about 10 minutes until we pass through the even smaller village of Tsiko and another 5 minutes brought us to the entrance of Hopital Baptist Biblique sitting just at the base of the mountain. 

I worked with the Cedarville University Nursing group for the first month that I was here, and then they left, and I started working with the Togolese nursing students.  I’ve been able to spend time with the Community Health group going to different villages, and getting to know patients and families staying here for long periods of time.  There are many different roles and responsibilities here that keep me busy, but I still often find myself asking, why am I here??? 

I enjoy walking out the hospital gate and heading up that mountain.  It’s great for exercise and provides a great view of the surrounding valley and mountains.  Walks up the mountain have been times of getting to know others serving here, times to pray, times to cry over patients at the hospital, and times to think – and often the questions are, what is God doing here, what am I doing here, and how can God use me here????


I’m not sure I will ever know the answers.  God asks me to be obedient, to show His glory, and to love others.  Why am I here at this time and in this situation?  As I start to think about wrapping up my time here, I do pray that God can use my meager attempts to serve Him to have an eternal impact in lives.  It seems like there have been almost daily lessons here and reminders that I have to keep my focus on the Lord and that He is my source of strength from moment to moment!!!

In just a few days I will leave this place that I have come to know and love.  Instead of going up the mountain, we will drive away from the mountain and go past smiling faces, small mud hut communities,food being cooked over fires, road side stands, palm trees, hardworking farmers in their fields, ladies carrying something on their head and babies on their backs and off to the airport. 



What a change this will all be.  It's hard to know how to prepare for all the changes that will take place.  It's hard to say goodbyes to people here.  It's hard to think about leaving behind warm sunny days and head into the cold.  But beyond my surroundings, I pray that the biggest change has been in the hearts and lives of people that I’ve met here, and that my heart would have a deeper joy and dependence on the Lord in all things and in all circumstances!!!    


Thank you for all who have prayed with and for me and the people of Togo during my time here!  Thank you for each penny that you have donated to help me spend the time here and meet some small financial needs of people here in Togo!  What a privilege to be entrusted with God’s resources!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Aug - Oct. update

Supervising Nursing Students
The nursing students continue to work hard through their classes and clinical time in the hospital.  They face many daily challenges and often request prayer that they would not become discouraged.  I recently talked about them on my blog and added a few photos!  Please pray that I would know how to encourage the students to continue striving for excellence!!!  Please pray for me to have wisdom and patience while communicating with the students through an interpreter!!!

The Cuisine

I was so thankful for the time I was able to spend getting to know Angel while shestayed at The Cuisine.  God has given her a gift of teaching and she would read the Bible to groups of 8-15 people in their native language!!! As many people started requesting their own Bible, I asked them to first memorize 6 verses.  For many, this was easy, but others worked very hard at it!!!  So far, 12 people have memorized the verses and have received their own Bible!!!  Angele has gone back to her village, but there is a new group of women that I’ve been able to spend time with.  
Please pray forAngele to be a strong follower of Jesus who is a light in her own home and village!!!  Please pray that I would have wisdom in this ministry in The Cuisine and for Rashida who I have been able to spend time with and who has even come to church with me!!!   
God’s healing hand

Jacque is a 12 year old that came to the hospital in May with severe health problems.  As we prayed, we often did not know if he would live through the night or what the outcome would be.  Slowly Jacque started improving and was well enough to leave the hospital, but he and his mother stayed close by in The Cuisine for frequent follow up visits.  Due to some complications, Jacque was very stoic and disinterested in everything.  Little by little as his health improved, he started coming to listen to the Bible stories, and would even tell me what they were about the next day.  Over the next couple weeks, he slowly started to smile more and become more interactive.  By the end of August, he was kicking around a soccer ball, smiling, laughing, and teasing me.  I am still amazed that God chose to heal his body!!!  Please pray for Jacque’s continued healing and that God would use these very difficult past few months in an amazing way in this family’s life!!!

Fatima had tetanus, thankfully after a couple weeks she made a complete recovery and was such a sweet little girl!!

Bernadette was prayed for by many of you as she had a brain tumor removed. She still needs prayers, but we are praising God for each day that He gives her!!!


Financial Update

I have been so grateful and amazed by the financial donations that have been given towards this time of ministry here in Togo.  I am humbled to be the steward of such generosity!  My church has continued providing money every month despite a deficit in my account.  I still have an additional $4000.00 of support needs to cover the trip to Chad and my last couple months in Togo.  My church will continue accepting donations toward my trip if you feel that God would still have you financially partner with me in this ministry.  Please pray for me to be a wise steward of all God’s provisions!!!

Donation Info

Checks should be made out to College Park Church, but do NOT write my name on the memo line; Send to:

College Park Church, Attn: Global Outreach, 2606 W. 96th St., Indianapolis, IN, 46268; please include a note that the funds are for Amie Bockstahler.  They will provide tax-deductible receipts at the end of the year.
·         Relationships: with other missionaries, the nursing students, hospital employees, and patients and their families
·         Strength and contentment: that I would rest in the Lord and be available to do whatever He asks  me to do
·         Finishing well : during these last couple weeks
 ·        The Hospital: for the hospital staff and for the patients seeking medical
·         The opportunity to build into the lives of the nursing students and seeing God at work in their lives
·         Seeing God’s faithfulness in my life and in the lives of patients and families
·         My trip to Chad and no problems traveling
·         Improved internet connection which has allowed for some encouraging video calls with family and friends
      I wish that I had a good answer for this question.  Truth is, I don’t!!!  There is the possibility ofextending my leave of absence from work and exploring a few additional fields and missions organizations.  This would mean I would need a whole lot of prayer and another 4 months of financial support.  Otherwise, I’ll be going back to work at Riley until God directs me elsewhere.  I long to have a heart that trusts the Lord no matter what – even if He asks me to step into the unknown for a bit and completely trust HIM!!!  I will keep you updated!!!    
I’m always challenged byJeremiah 17: 5-8 and the reminder that I need to be daily trusting the Lord and only by doing that can I remain fruitful, whether in the midst of abundance or in the midst of a drought.

Thank you for your prayers!!
Please let me know how I can be praying for you!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A trip to Chad, Africa

I had the privilege of visiting TEAM missionaries (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) in the village of Tchaguine, Chad!!!  I arrived into the capital city of N’Djamena and less than 24 hours later, I boarded a small 4 seat airplane to fly the hour and half to the village of Tchaguine, and there spent 10 days with missionaries Mark and Diane Vanderkooi.  They are they only missionaries in that area and are doing Bible translation of the Kwong language as well as finding creative ways to help these people hear and read the Bible in their native language!  They run a radio station that broadcasts twice a day from solar power, and they are teaching the people in the village to read. 


There is a small mission clinic in the village that serves surrounding villages as well, somewhere around 10,000 people.  The clinic staff includes 4 Chadeans, one nurse, one partially trained midwife, and a few assistants.  They have very limited resources, and yet, God is working in spite of their limitations.  While I was there a small boy came in with severe malaria and while he needed to go immediately to a hospital, the family was unable to get him there due to finances and flooded roads.  The boy was treated at the clinic and God spared his life.  I’m still amazed that his condition improved without the standard malaria treatments he needed! Because of their extended stay at the clinic, there were multiple times that the family heard the Gospel.


During my time there, I spent a lot of time at the clinic, or traveling with the clinic staff to nearby villages to see patients, give vaccines, and have prenatal checkups.  In this area, rainy season usually means flooded roads that are impassable by car.  One day we were driving to a village and when we were only about 5 kilometers away, we had to drive through a very large area of water.  The first part was sand, so it was no problem, then we got to a section and the vehicle was slipping and sliding around, but with a bit of skill and 4 wheel drive we got through the mud and started up the slope onto dry land.  As we were all starting to take a sigh of relief, the right side of the vehicle dropped into the mud and we were stuck!!!  


Even with the attempted help of many people, including a caravan of Arabs and about 30 men from the village, it took 3 hours to get unstuck.  As we tried to get the vehicle turned onto more sturdy ground, the left side of the vehicle became stuck.  Thankfully, the second time it only took about 15 min to get unstuck.  The men used their machetes to cut down branches and make a bridge to the section of better road.  Then the missionary and a man from the village waded out through the area of water to find a pathway that would allow us to get back through the large area of water and mud, and once they were happy with a path, the missionary and I head back while the clinic staff walked, rode bikes, or took a moto to get to the original destination and see the patients as planned for the day! 

 Another day, I borrowed a bike and rode with the clinic staff the 30 minute to the nearby village for a clinic.  After a long clinic day with only some hot milk and hot tea, someone in the village invited us to eat.  I was so hungry I couldn’t wait!!!  In this cultural, typically the men usually eat outside and the women eat inside, but they never eat together.  The clinic staff consisted of both men and woman, so, after prayer and washing our hands, I follow the other lady into the dark room where we had done some prenatal exams earlier in the day.  We sat on the rug on the dirt floor and she closed the door so that we could not see the men, but yet still had some light since there was no electricity. 

 There was always a lot of activity happening around the house, from women gathering for Bible study to children coming to play with legos, uno cards, read, or use the soccer ball.  Their soccer field was overgrown with weeds and their soccer ball about to fall apart, so we used the new soccer ball I brought with me to help motivate them to clear the weeds on the soccer field.  Each day they had to clear a certain amount of weeds before they could get the soccer ball.  By the time I left it was almost cleared!!!  And the ball has the same colors on it as a wordless book does, so every time they asked for it, we also shared the Gospel with them!!!



Millet is the staple of the people’s diet there.  They grow it and then store it and it is usually barely enough to get them through until the next crop.  One day we were able to go with a family to their day of planting the millet seeds in what is like a nursery for the seeds.  Once the plants start they are then transferred to different fields in the more flooded areas where they will continue to grow.  How do you plant these seeds?   With your feet!!!  It’s simple, shoes off, follow behind somebody dropping seeds, and cover them with a bit of dirt!  It was fun and nice to be able to help them in a practical way!

 The missionaries flew back to the capital, N’Djamena, Chad to refill supplies.  So, as we prepared to leave, the people from the village lined the side of the airstrip to say goodbye and see us off.  Daily life in a village like that would be very, very difficult, but what a neat place and amazing time I had there!!!

This experience was amazing, and I’m so thankful for the time in the village and with the missionaries there!  It gives me a lot to think about as far as where God would have me in the future.  In a remote village doing primarily community health work, or in an area with more access to health care and then traveling out to the villages.  I’m still praying through these things and know that God will give me clarity about it as I follow Him step by step!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nursing Students

Most of my time here is spent working with Togolese nursing students.  So, I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into what that looks like! 

There are 20 students, and they are half way through their 3 year program.  A new class starts every 4 years because they do not have enough faculty or space to train multiple classes at the same time.  A new hospital is being built in northern Togo and this class of nursing students have all committed to move to northern Togo is they are needed to fill nursing positions in that hospital.  Their week consists of 3 days of lecture and 2 days of clinicals.  The students are from all different towns around Togo and move to the nearby villages of Tsiko or Adeta while they complete their nursing education. 
Each day starts with prayer, singing, and Bible study. Here is a song in the Ewe language, I really enjoy hearing them sing, even if I can't sing along!
My role has been to work with them during their hospital clinicals.  This is an interesting challenge as we have to communicate through a translator.  The students all speak French as well as another tribal language.  My translator also speaks another tribal language, so it's a blessing to be able to communicate with patients who speak many different languages!  The students are very patient with me and if they know English they practice using it as much as possible!  At this point, I have even been able to communicate a little in French, and have the students understand me!!!

I spend as much time in the pediatric ward as possible!!! 

The day before the student's clinicals I search the whole hospital for patients that would provide a good learning experience for the students.  Then prior to their clinical day, the students go to the hospital and research their patient so they are prepared to answer lots and lots of questions!  After their clinical day, they have to write up dreaded nursing care plans.  Fellow nurses know well what i'm referring to =)   I then share the responsibility of grading these 20 care plans every week.  Grading care plans has felt like an impossible task because they are all written in French.  While I can now recognize quite a bit of French medical terms, in the beginning I knew nothing - imagine looking up every word =(  Needsless to say, I have not even come close to grading my share of the care plans!!!  Google translator has become a handy tool when I can get a good internet connection!!!
I also taught a short section on pediatric cardiology, and will teach a short section on pediatric respiratory coming up in a few weeks.  We have also been working on different skills, one of those was injections!  That was the brave director of the nursing school letting me demonstrate on her =)

The students have a lot of demands on their time and work very hard and desire to be excellent nurses.  Outside of the nursing school, these students also have many demands and responsibilities, a few are married and have small children.  You can imagine that even simple daily tasks can be complicated here in Togo - like cooking meals over a fire, walking 30-45 min. each way, and studying with the electricity frequently going out.

I consider it a priviledge to work with these students and have to opportunity to get to know them!!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Panya

The panya is simply a piece of about 2 – 3 feet of material.  They are sold in the market according to their quality and so the ones on the lowers shelves are cheapers, and ones on the higher shelves are more expensive.  The most expensive one I’ve come across was a fun colorful piece made in Ghana that was 3 panyas for 20,000 cfa, or $40.  The cheapest one I bought was for my curtains, and that was 2 panyas for 1,500 cfa, or $3.   It is very overwhelming when looking for panyas, although lots of fun!  You never know what colors and patters you’ll find that day =)

Panyas come in all color combinations, all styles, even faces of people like the president of Togo or the United States end up on panyas. 

Many times panyas are bought and then taken to the seamstress to have something made out of it.  It takes 3 panyas to have a shirt, skirt, and headdress made.  Other times, panyas are bought just to have a panya.  Why?  So that you can carry many panyas around with you, just in case you need it for:
       Carrying a baby (or stuffed animal)      
Restraints in the hospital
Money pouch
Carrying things on top of the head
Colostomy bag
Burb cloth
Catching throw up or other bodily fluids
Chair cover
Seat cushion
Wall decorations
Hot pad
These seem to be just a few of the uses that I've actually seen, I feel like there are hundres more uses for a panya.
But my favorite use of all so far???  Taking a panya to The Cuisine with me and putting it on the ground and then having it full of children listening to stories from the Bible!!!!   

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hello from Togo!!!

It caught me by surprise that my 3 month visa needed to be renewed, how is it possible that I have already been here for that long???  I apologize for not being able to send out more frequent updates! 
Our internet connection is unpredictable and very slow!  I would appreciate your continued prayers and have included some specific prayer requests throughout the letter.  I’ll try to give you some
glimpses of what has been happening over the last couple months:

Supervising Nursing Students

My ministry here has been primarily to work with the supervision of nursing students in the hospital.  The month of May I worked with four Cedarville University nursing students.  Starting in June I have transitioned to working with the Togolese nursing students.  They are a class of 20 and about half way through their three year program.  There are many challenges as I work through translators and try to grade work done in French.  Please pray that these students would be well prepared for a future ministry as a nurse!!!  Please pray for me to have wisdom in supervising the students and in improving my French to better communicate with them!!!
The Cuisine

On the hospital compound there is a place called The Cuisine for families of patients to cook meals and sleep. Often patients and their families stay after discharge while waiting for follow up appointments, money to pay their bill, or rides home.  I enjoy going there to see former patients and play with the children.  It can be challenging because of the language barrier, but I found a lady who speaks some English as well as French and Ewe, which is one of the local tribal languages.  I started taking a French children’s Bible and having her read stories to the children, but she had to return to her village. God has provided another women who reads the stories in French and then in Ewe.  There are now a consistent group of about 8 women and 4 children who have been coming to listen to her read from the Bible.  Many people are asking for Bibles of their own.  I have asked them to memorize 6 verses and then I will give them a Bible!!!  Please pray for wisdom in this ministry in The Cuisine and for someone to always be able to read the Bible in their native language!!!  Please pray for wisdom in giving out Bibles and the funds to provide them!!!    

Community Health Ministry

I have had the opportunity to see some of the Community Health ministries happening in villages surrounding the hospital.  One village received some pigs to raise, other villages have received machetes to help plant fields and gardens, many hand washing stations have been set up, and village workers have been established to teach people about improving both their physical and spiritual health.  Please pray for this ministry and that the projects they do will empower the community to make needed and lasting changes!!!   

A trip to Chad

In August the nursing school will have a break between their trimesters.  I will take this time to travel to the country of Chad to work with TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) and learn about the Community Health Development ministries in that country.  Their ministry is different from the one here in Togo in that they do not have a hospital, but they are strictly focused on Community Health.  The trip will be from Aug. 25 – Sept. 6.  I will arrive in Ndjamena, Chad, the capital city, and as soon as possible fly to Tchaguine where the community development work is happening.  Please pray for this trip and for all the logistics to continue to come together, as well as for the time there to be beneficial in learning about community health ministries.   

Trip to Ghana

The first 2 weeks of July I enjoyed a trip to the neighboring country of Ghana to join a ministry team that my mom was a part of.  I was able to meet children that my mom has been working with over the past 8 years and it was such a joy to get to know them and spend time with them.  I miss them already and would love another opportunity to go back and visit them!!!  I was a special trip that I am very thankful for!!!    
Financial Update

I have been so grateful and amazed by the financial donations that have been given towards this time of ministry here in Togo.  I am humbled to be the steward of such generosity!  Currently the amount of money donated will pay for my time in Togo through Sept.  The remaining costs for my time here in Togo from October through December and the time in Chad will be approx. $5,000.  My church will continue accepting donations toward my trip through the end of the year if you feel that God would have you financially partner with me in this ministry.  Please pray for me to be a wise steward of all God’s provisions!!!

Donation Info: Checks should be made out to College Park Church, but do NOT write my name on the memo line; Send to: College Park Church, Attn: Global Outreach, 2606 W. 96th St., Indianapolis, IN, 46268; please include a note that the funds are for Amie Bockstahler. They will provide tax-deductible receipts at the end of the year.

·         Relationships: with the many people I interact with in a variety of settings
·         Strength and contentment: that I would rest in the Lord and be available to do whatever He asks me to do
·         Protection from discouragement: especially seeing great needs, and in times of missing family & friends
·         The Hospital: for the hospital staff and for the patients seeking medical treatment
·         Traveling: continued protection
*** Thank you for your prayers!!!***                     
Please let me know how I can be praying for you!!!
·         The community of missionaries and Togolese that surround me
·         The few skype and/or telephone calls that have worked
·         So far I’ve had great health
·         Working primarily in the pediatric ward – which is my favorite!!!

Quick Facts:
·         The house I live in is on the hospital compound and about 2-3 min. walk to the hospital
·         I have only seen one snake . . . and thankfully it was dead!  I still try to never walk in the dark without a flashlight!
·         My French lessons are twice a week
·         The Togolese people are very creative and resourceful!
·         We see many different diseases, including malaria, injuries from fires and accidents, infections, complications from herbal medicines, and many other things.
·         Patients often wait at home or go to a healer before showing up very sick at the hospital
·         I attended a Togolese wedding which was a fun cultural experience!
·         The weather is comfortable and it is currently rainy season
·         I take many walks up the mountain and enjoy a great look out over the hospital compound, valley, and surrounding mountains
·         In August, I might be going to northern Togo to the city of Mango, where this mission is in the process of building another hospital 

I'm glad that i'm here and enjoying this time. It's hard at times when I’m missing family and friends and some of the big events happening in their lives. There have also been times of struggling with not feeling qualified for the responsibilities given to me, and wondering if the ministry I’m doing is having any impact.  But, I still feel a peace about being here for this time. Regardless, any little sacrifice that I am making right now is nothing in comparison to the sacrifice that Jesus made when He died on the cross for us!!! So, sometimes there is lots of smiles and laughter, other times there is frustration and discouragement, and other times there are just lots of tears.  But, in the end, God sustains me through it all!!!  Psalm 66: 8-12 “Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard; He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.  For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.  You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”   My prayer is that I can praise God in the midst of difficulties and challenges and allow God to use those things to bring me to a place of abundance!!!

Amie Bockstahler