Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Response - A Very Good Day

It's been 11 days since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. We've all seen pictures that were hard to comprehend and our hearts have gone out to the people who's homes have been damaged.

Samaritan's Purse had disaster relief units heading North while the storm was still raging. Now they have 4 sites where they are working to help homeowners clear out the debris and find hope in the midst of despair. They are in Teterboro, Tom's River and Lynwood, New Jersey and in Lynbrook, NY on Long Island.

We were part of a group of 8 from our church who arrived in the NYC area last night to volunteer in the Long Island area. Thanks to our sister church, Queens Alliance, we are staying in a vacant house about a half hour from the Samaritan's Purse (SP) site. We're basically camping in this house but its warm and we have food and hot water. That's more than I can say for many who live in the affected areas! We are thankful!!!

Our 2 drivers have never driven in NYC before so that alone has been an adventure! I'm willing to let John do the driving! We have seen many gas stations that are closed and some with lines and police cars to keep order but it hasn't been as scary as what I'd heard. Maybe it's because things are getting better or maybe we just have t seen the worst of it.

This morning we drove to Lynbrook where SP is set up at a local church. We handed in our paperwork, had orientation and received our bright orange shirts. They say, "Helping in the Name of Jesus". After being assigned to a team leader and loading tools, we were off to our assignment for the day. We worked in a home about 6 blocks from the ocean and 2 blocks from a canal. Apparently, the canal flooded and the water came up about 5 feet high on this street. Every home in the vicinity got flooded.

Do something for me. Go out in your front yard and measure 5 feet from the ground and look around. What would be under water? Your car? All the cars in your neighborhood? Probably a good portion of the stuff in your garage? Your basement, certainly! Everything in it would likely be lost. Did it come high enough to enter your living area? What was lost there? Appliances, clothes, electronics, keepsakes? What are you going to do and how are you going to get everything out? Do you even know what needs to be done?

This particular homeowner lost his car in the storm. They also had water at about knee high on the main floor. They had already cleared out much of their furniture but we took out what was left and started cutting out the walls at 4 ft. high. We go higher than the water so we get everything that soaked up water and 4 ft is easier when putting in new Sheetrock. We took up the beautiful hardwood floors and piled everything on the curb. Our team of 15 worked all day to clear everything out.

SP has a saying, "The Quality of our work is our witness." We do very good work! Every exposed nail is pulled and the mess is swept up. There is even a team that comes in to spray everything to kill mold. We do our best to leave the home ready to be rebuilt. If we do a poor job, our witness for Christ is tarnished because we make it clear that we're there in His Name.

When we are done at a home, everyone on the team signs a study Bible which we present to the homeowners. We talk to them about why we are there, usually explaining the story of the Good Samaritan and how that Jesus told that story and then said to "go and do likewise".

As we pray with the homeowners, they are usually overwhelmed with the love that we've shown and the gift that we e given them. See, it isn't about the work we've done. It's about the love that we've shown by coming alongside them when they've felt alone and hopeless. The most important thing we can do on a job site is put our arm around them and hug them. Or ask, "Where were you when..." Or listen to them talk about how they're feeling. Quite simply, they are overwhelmed by Christ's love in us.

Today was a good day! We worked hard and have the aches to prove it!we went from being a group of people who attend the same church to being a team who respects and lives each other in a new way. We were given the opportunity for God to grow us - not everything on a job site I'd easy. Sometimes, God teaches us patience and grace for others! The best part though, was that we were able to show His love to a hurting family. A family that had problems (just like us) before this storm. My prayer is that the seeds we planted today will bring this family to Christ. As I told the homeowner before we left, "Jesus can heal anything!" I am praying that he learns that for himself and his family very soon.

Yes. Today was a very good day!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Water and Electricity - Valuable Commodities

We, in America, don't always understand how difficult life can be without water or electricity. I can tell you that I have a new appreciation for both now!

Egbe hospital compound has a shortage of water. They have several bore holes which are pumped to a holding tank. From there, it's gravity fed to the buildings in the compound. The problem is that there isn't enough to keep it on all the time so it's rationed. We have water from 6-8 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening. While it's running, we have to shower, run the washing machine and fill our water buckets so we have water when it shuts off.
The bathroom in our guest house. 
The black can is plastic and holds water for washing and flushing
when we don't have running water.

Our shower.  Our guest house needs renovations but is holding up
until the house across the way is ready to house teams.
 What happens when the water is off? We have a large covered container in the bathroom which we dip out of to wash with. I haven't washed with hot water since I've been here. We can't flush the toilet without water so we all use it and flush with the bucket when necessary, if you get my point. The ladies keep water in bowls in the kitchen for washing dishes and filling the filters. See the water isn't totally clean. It's fine for washing but we can't drink it. We have 2 Katadyn water filter systems for our drinking water. Ronke and Duro clean our used water bottles, refill them with the filtered water and put them in the freezer. That leads me to electricity.

Ronke and Duro's domain!  This is the kitchen in our guest house. 
There are many containers for water. 
The 2 in the foreground are for trash and compost.

We have 3 forms of electricity here. NEPA - Nigeria Electric Power Authority; the hospital generator; and house generators. NEPA cannot be counted on. It goes off and on at will. We would like to have a discussion with the guy who throws the switch! Sometimes it comes on and goes out again within minutes, sometimes, it's on for hours. We've been woke up more than once in the middle of the night when it came on and with it every light and fan in the house!

The hospital generator is on from 8:30 to 9:30 every night unless NEPA is running. I'm not sure if it's on through the day or not.

We have a generator in the garage at the house which we use at meal times when the other 2 aren't on. There is a switch that has to be thrown to go from the outside power to the gen. We have a light bulb that comes on when we have power from NEPA or the hospital. When it stays on more than 3-4 minutes, we flip it over from the house gen, if we've been using it.

Back to putting the water in the freezer. With the power off and on all day, our water doesn't get cold enough in the fridge. Sometimes, it's a little icy in the freezer and sometimes it's slightly chilled. It depends on how much the power has been on that day or night. Abby keeps the big freezer full so things don't thaw too fast. Stuff in the fridge doesn't last quite as long as they would in your fridge.

We have learned to keep our flashlights handy at night because you never know when the lights will go out. As I'm writing this, we were on NEPA and John went to get his flashlight. As he came out, the lights went out. Good timing! It just came back on. Wonder how long it will stay on this time? It's nice when it comes on at night. The fans help us to sleep better.

As hard as this is to live with, we have it easy here on the compound. Few, if any have water piped into their homes. There are water tanks around town that people walk to. The women and children carry it on their heads and in buckets. It hurts my neck just watching it!! As for electricity, some people have NEPA in their houses when it's on but few have generators. Abby was telling us how frustrating it is to go pick up a load of wood from the planer only to be told they haven't had NEPA so it isn's ready. Hard to run a business with no power.

It hasn't been terrible to deal with all of this but I'm only here for 2 weeks. I can't imagine living my life like this. I don't think I'll take water or power for granted ever again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stories From Egbe

Thank you for your prayers for our team. After I posted last time, we all woke up the next morning, feeling more refreshed than we have since we've been here. My feet and legs had also gone down. It's good to know people are praying!

I have so much to tell you about that I hardly know where to begin. I'm a few days behind on my stories and I'm constantly thinking of new things to share.

Ronke and Toyin pounding the yam. 
On Wednesday, we had pounded yam for lunch. This is the best dish of the Nigerian people. I thought it would be like sweet potatoes but it is white and not at all sweet. It is peeled and boiled like potatoes and then put in a large bowl made from a hollowed out log. They add salt and water and pound it with wooden paddles or sticks. 2 people do it together and it takes a lot of work. Ronke, our cook needed a helper but she refused a couple of Abby's suggestions because they "have no power"! She finally allowed Toyin (To-een) to help her pound.

The yam comes out looking very much like potatoes mashed with cream. It is patted into balls about the size of a baseball and wrapped in plastic. Most of us could only eat 1/2 of one. It was served with a cooked mixture of beef and greens. You take off pieces of yam with your fingers and use it to pick up the meat mixture. To be honest, I really didn't like it. I probably would have except the greens tasted bitter and I'm not a fan of cooked greens to begin with.

We went to market on Friday. It happens every 9 days so next week, it will be on Sunday. Market was quite an experience. We went in the back of the truck so we had to stand and hold onto the frame in the front. Keep in mind that drivers have to constantly dodge holes and other drivers! When we go anywhere here, people yell out, Oyinbo (O-wee-bo)! Children come running and yell and wave at us. We are quite the spectacle in the back of that truck, yelling, "Good morning!" and waving back at them. We have to be careful how we wave too. It is an insult for us to wave with our left hand and if you wave with your fingers, they think it is a curse! We wave with our right hands - more like the queen, only not as graceful!

Back to the market... The ground is all uneven and it's dusty and dirty. There seems to be little reason to how things are laid out. We saw everyting for sale from packaged foods to sandals to cloth to meat to vegetables. The meat was disgusting! It was out in the sun and dust with flies all over it. We saw one tray with hairy legs with hoofs at the end but quite small. They told us it was bush meat, which must be a small antelope. There was a muslim section which we were warned not to take pictures in. There were items sold for black magic and charms as well. We met a new bride at market for the first time. The first 3 times a bride goes to market, she has a helper (a small girl) to help her carry things and she treks (walks) everywhere. This is so she is seen and people who know her will give her gifts. The one we saw had a white ruffled top like a wedding dress and a beautifully woven wrap around her waist, probably made by a relative. She also had makeup on. Probably a wedding gift. She stopped for us to take her picture. We had children following us all around the market and every chance they got, they posed for us. Many of them were selling things. One girl had a tray of rough black balls on her head. I was a little leary of what they were. They were actually soap made from ashes. Women were carrying large loads on their head and had babies on their backs. There was too much to take in. It was overwhelming but I wanted to stay!

I believe that is dried cassava on the ground.

The sticks in the center are covered in manure.  They're fire starters.
These children followed us all around the market wanting their picture snapped.  Many were selling things from trays on their heads.
We asked what this was and the answer was "bush meat".  It was a very small antelope or something.  Hooves still attached and flies all over it.  Yumm!

Loretta and I purchased fabric at the market and took it to the dress maker the next day. It comes in 5 yard pieces and costs around $6 - $20 depending on what you buy and it will cost less than $10 to get it made up. The dress maker was in her shop which was like a garage off her house. It was tiny and hot and piled with chairs and fabric. She was working on a wedding dress when we came in. To order our dresses, we looked through what I think were Nigerian magazines with many styles of clothing and we showed her what we wanted. This skirt with this ruffle. This top with this sleeve. She took our measurements and we will pick them up before we leave. Men go to a tailor for their clothes. Clothing is VERY important here. I've been told that for weddings and funerals, you HAVE to get a new outfit made. They end up having many beautiful clothes but live in hovels.

John and I were walking up from the computer lab the other night and were greeting the nursing students as usual. As we went by one area that is popular for studying, I asked how their evening was. They seems interested in us so I stopped to talk. One girl was embarrassed and ran away but soon came back. I was quickly surrounded by young girls who were all talking at once! They wanted to know my name and how we liked the weather and what we were eating here. I asked their names and got through about 4 Fruits of the Spirit before I realized they were teasing me! I love hearing their laughter! I showed them pictures on my phone of snow and our family and our dog. They don't understand how we have dogs for pets. They use them for security and most are afraid of them. They certainly don't understand a dog that stays in the house and does tricks! I showed them a picture of Caleb and they all oohed over him. One girls said, "I want to marry him!" I said, "He is only 15!" One girl wanted me to bring her home with me. I think most would do anything to get out of here. They all said, "I love you, Mam! We are so glad you come here!" They are such loving, hospitable people.

One of the hardest things to get used to has been what they call us. They call us Sir and Mam, Mamma, Papa, etc. Sometimes, they will even do small curtsey. I was appalled at first because I don't feel that I'm above them in any way. What I've come to find out is that these are terms they call anyone they respect. A girl in church today passed something to n elder and curtsied as she left.

John got called Papa the other day by our housekeepers. Papa is someone they think has wisdom. He caused quite stir! He has boards to carry down the hill to the shop so he carried it on his head and steadied it with his hands. Abby heard the ladies laughing and went to see. They said, "Papa looks like a Nigerian!" Mark snapped a picture on his phone so I'll post it later. Ronke also found it amusing that he was helping with dishes today. I told her that he does many household chores at home.

Toyin (To-een) brought his family by after church today. He and Kemy have 4 boys, 2, 4, 6 and 8. They were adorable! The boys were all dressed in matching Nigerian dress and looked like 4 identical stair steps! They arrived on 2 motorcycles (like taxi cabs). Mom and 2 boys with the driver on one and dad and one boy and driver on the other! I gave Kemy a gift of some makeup and I thought she was going to cry. She immediately wanted our picture snapped together. I also gave the boys some crayons and pencils and paper. You would have thought I'd given them the world.
Toyin and Kemy with their 4 boys. 
Motor cycles are used like taxis there but it was a lot of money for this young family to spend to come visit us.

Kim and Kemy!  When I gave her a gift of makeup she immediately wanted a snap of us together.
 We visited HELP Orphanage this afternoon. We played volleyball with the older boys the other day. It is a very nice place for this area but it still isn't anything like what we would call home. There are about 30 boys there right now and they have 6 girls coming this week. It has been opened for 4 years. The children have to be recommended and then people in the States sponsor them. Some come from the state orphanage. Some come from homes where the parents aren't caring for them. It broke my heart to see these beautiful boys and know that they have all come from such difficult situations.

After our tour, we sat in plastic chairs in a covered area with a ping-pong table. One of the older boys brought out pictures (many of the present boys are in them) and as we looked, the little boys crowded around John and I to see them. They were all over us. It was hot but wonderful. I wanted to scoop them all up and hug them! We spent time with one boy in particular. Tersough (Tay-soo) is 15 and wants to be a missionary. I asked where and he said, "Wherever God sends me." He asked us questions about how long we've been married and how we met. They seem to be starved for information about how families work. He and John walked some and sat talking for quite some time and then he took us into the boy's dorm to show us his room and his drawings. He loves to draw. He asked us to come again and bring our son and to tell Caleb he sent his greetings. We took his picture and told him we would be praying for him. We hope to come back and see him again.

One of my favorite moments of the whole trip!  It was hot and they were all over us - pointing at pictures and touching our skin and hair.
We were looking at pictures of the older boys.  The only family these boys have now.

This was across from the kitchen.  It's where they wash the dishes.

The HELP boys singing worship songs for us.  Check out the video below.

Me and Tersough (Tay-su).  What a great young man!

Tersough's room.  There were 3-4 sets of bunk beds. 
The older boys sleep on the top and younger on the bottom.  The older are in charge of the younger.

I'm sure I'm missing things but these are some of the big stories I wanted to share. I'll probably be sharing even after I get home, as things come to mind. If every American could see what we've seen here, we would change the world. There is no way you can see these things and not care.

Tomorrow is another work day. Please pray that we accomplish much and work well together. There is so much to do, it will be hard to leave it unfinished.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"I Can't Believe I'm Here!" Experiences

We have had so many new experiences here that I stop sometimes and marvel at what I'm doing! Let me tell you about some of them.

Tuesday was Valentine's Day and we were all invited to a party at the nursing school. It was a beauty pageant at the student commons and they had lots of music and dancing in between. I brought a bag full of Mary Kay stuff that I was going to give away and Abby suggested that I take some of it as a gift to the winner. I took a little gold bag that had some makeup in it and we went over. We didn't see the girls who invited us so we stood in the back for awhile and watched. A few young men offered us there chairs and we said no, but would they make sure that our gift was given to the winner. A few minuted later the girls who invited us saw us and took us to where they were sitting. They gave up their seats and shared one so we could sit with them. The student union president came over to thank us for the gift and took us to the front left to sit at the high table! A few minutes later, the announcer said that they had 2 white people with them and said our names. This was all very surreal. We were the only 2 white people among about 200+ students! They were playing both American and Nigerian music very loudly and dancing. We felt very old and frumpy! The contestants came out at different times and were asked medical questions. We were getting so tired but sitting at the front, we didn't feel we could leave gracefully. Near then end, they took a cake up to the front and did some kind of game or something that we couldn't understand. Then they had a few people go up and called us to the front! We had NO idea what was going to happen or what they wanted us to do! It ended up that they were doing a ceremony that they do at many gatherings. They have the honored guests some up and everyone puts their hand on the knife and take a picture with all of them cutting the cake. We felt very humbled to be included as their honored guests. The winner was announced shortly after and her friends all rushed her and she ended up on the ground under a pile of people! After several pictures, the winner was given a prize from the student union and then the announcer said, "This has never happened before. We have been honored with a gift from the white lady, Mrs. Kim." Everyone applauded! This was a small, inexpensive makeup set but they treated it like I had given them a great honor. As a matter of fact, makeup is quite a rarity here so the girl who won is probably quite envied. She came up to me at chapel the next day to thank me.

There is an orphanage near here and the older kids came over to play volleyball and basketball yesterday. We usually work until 5:00 but we got off a half hour early and went down to play. I don't know how we got the energy to do it but we had a lot of fun with them! They have been around more white people and also watch American movies so they tend to understand us better.

That is the pastor of 1st ECWA on the right. 
He came to play because he played in college.  He was quite good!

I got to "back a baby" yesterday! One of the things I really wanted to try while I was here was carrying a baby on my back. There was a young mother visiting the security guard (her brother) so we went over and asked if she would show us. She took her 2 year old off her back and showed us how to put the wrap around to hold him in and then she helped each of the 3 of us to do it. It's really quite comfortable! Did you know they potty train their baby's at 6 months here?? They run water over them in a certain way to make them go and do it on a schedule, much like you would with a puppy. Eventually, they know when they need to go and just unwrap them and hold them out so they can pee. Makes me think we waste an awful lot of diapers in America!

Well, I need to walk down the hill so I can get on the wifi and post this. Please pray for all of us as we deal with the heat. Some of the guys have been getting heat rash and my feet and have been swollen and painful. I've been sleeping with 2 sofa cushions under my legs to keep them elevated. It's also more tiring to work in the heat but we're getting lots accomplished. We've been working on a prepping/ painting built-in wardrobes and windows, smoothing a bathroom wall (harder than you think without the right materials) and building kitchen cabinets. John is on that project. He's amazed that he's building them out of mahogany! They even use it for shims! He's never built cabinets before but he's picked up a new skill and he's doing a great job!

Good night everyone!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ECWA Hospital, Egbe

All is quiet in ECWA Hospital compound tonight. It's 2:30 am and I can't sleep. It must have been the tea that Moses made for us after dinner. After more than 20 years in England, he makes a great cup of tea! I've been wanting to get some quiet time to tell you about the hospital so I guess this is as good a time as any.

When we arrived here on Saturday we had been through a 7 hour car ride that pretty much shocked us out of our culture and into this one. After being greeted by Mark and Abby and some local church leaders, we were taken to the guest house to settle in and then Abby took us on tour.

There are 3 parts that make up the ECWA compound. 1 is the housing. It houses the doctors and other full-time staff. There are several houses, some of which are duplexes and all of which are in severe disrepair. One duplex has been renovated and now houses Dr. Laura and the other side will house the new foreman who will be here soon. We will be doing finish work on both sides while we're here. Some of the others are being used by doctors, some with their families. As houses are finished, the staff will move into them and their older houses will be renovated.

The 2nd part of the compound is the school area. This houses a nursing school, mid-wife school and the church. We have enjoyed meeting the students as they walk around outside. They are very open and like to talk to us, as limited as the conversation is. We were out for a walk tonight and many were outside studying with battery operated lights. There was a gathering of them outside one building in particular. We laughed saying it was like our college coffee shops only without the electricity and the coffee!

The 3rd and main part of the compound is the hospital. There is a building that will be torn down and rebuilt because it is so far gone. I believe that hasn't started yet, just because they haven't had the skilled labor to do it and because there are so many other projects on the list. Our tour of the hospital was very difficult for us. It wasn't anything like I expected.

We went through the men's ward first. The beds are very old metal frames with paint peeling and mattresses split apart with age. I shudder when I think about the bathroom and shower area! A church had donated curtains to separate the beds so they looked nice except they had teddy bears on them. I'm sure they were meant for the maternity ward but the men needed them more.

Next was the maternity ward. There were several babies there and it was fun to see them and tell the famlies how beautiful their babies were. There were no wheeled bassinets or beds. The babies were lying on the beds so I assume they sleep with Mom at night. The closest thing they have to a neonatal unit is a separate room with a unit fitted with lamps. There was a jaundiced baby in it when we went through. It made me think about Caleb as he was jaundiced when he was born.

Next was the women's ward. There were no women there that day but sometimes, it's completely full. This room has been painted and fixed up somewhat. More will be done later.

This shows the times that people can bring food for the patients
A side note here is that people in the hospital here are cared for by family members. There is no one who goes around with a menu for them to pick what they want to eat for their 3 meals each day. One of the doctor's here actually started a restaurant. It's about the size of a closet but it serves inexpensive meals to family members.

The labor and delivery area was the hardest to see. The rooms are mostly concrete and have very little that we would think was a neccessity. Every doctor's office I have ever been in was better equipped. The labor beds were old and cracked. There was a table for the baby to be worked on but it was just a regular table. The hospital is run on a generator for a few hours each day. If you are delivering a baby, they don't turn the lights on for you. Everything is done by flashlight!!!

We saw the lab next. About all they can really do there are CBC's. At home, lab tech's have a machine that spits out the blood count. Here, they actually count each blood cell!!! I thought about my friend, Kim N. who is a lab tech and wished she could see it.

 The other part that really stood out to me was the pharmacy. It was in a downtairs room that was like a cave. They get their meds from a town several hours away and it mostly comes from China. Not the best quality, I've been told. When the renovation is complete, it will be moved to a better space. Right now, they can only fill scripts for inpatients. When it moves, it will serve more people.

I can't tell you how hard it was to see all of this. I have had people ask why I don't help people in the US because there are so many who need help. I start by telling them that we have and do help them but I go on to tell them why I have to help these people. I don't think we American's have ANY idea how good even the poorest of American's have it. We can complain all we want about our government and our medical system but when it comes right down to it, we will have medical care whether we can afford it or not. These people don't. Even if they can afford to come to a hospital, they won't have any of the things we think are a neccessity for basic health care. It's a little too much to wrap my brain around at times.

When the renovation is complete, they will be looking for healthcare people to come and train staff on new procedures and equipment. We would love to come back with a team of construction and medical people. Be praying about whether you might be on it.

More Hospital Pics


They could use a little electrical help

Bathroom in the Men's Ward

Men's Shower

Operating Room

Sterile Room

Back up Operating Room

A hot mess