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!!!!