Monday, April 23, 2018

Travels that bring us back

It's nearing the end of April and we have already been back in the USA for 2 weeks. We began our travels saying good-bye to our Kalukembe family in March and embarked on a journey that took us through 3 weeks; 7 airports; both sets of parents and one pair of grandparents; innumerably inspiring colleagues in medical missions; 3 bottles of lice shampoo (for our 2 youngest--not easy to find time and place for a haircut--be careful with your airplane seats!); and delivered some travel-weary but sturdy children to a new home in Wilmington, DE.

We finished our time in Angola with encouraging farewells and hopes for returns. Then we passed 2 weeks in Greece, first at a medical missions conference and then a long weekend with Daniel's parents sightseeing Athens. The conference drew missionaries in the medical profession from all around the world, mostly Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. . . quite inspiring and encouraging to hear others share their experiences and what they've learned in their service. Greece's ancient and rich history enthralled our family, and we had the privilege to see the beauty of the Adriatic Sea (though not quite warm to swim in beyond a few seconds; i write that, but we did see an elderly man taking a leisurely swim for what must have been an hour!). And in Holland, we spent few days with Priscila's parents and sister, who made a cozy cottage warm with many Dutch delicacies. Zeke loved going to a pancake restaurant with his great-grandparents and swimming in an indoor pool. . . Pri's Opa and Oma are an inspiration--they just returned from a return trip to Brazil for 5 weeks and Opa's 90 year-old eyes lit up as he told us about the many times he was able to preach and share the Word in his "native" Portuguese.

And we are now in a big house in Wilmington, where we are settling in to stay for the upcoming months. Daniel is preparing for a return to work in the emergency departments of hospitals in the Christiana system. Priscila is homeschooling Zeke and managing Eliel and Naomi's energies with mushroom hunts in the backyard and dissections at the dinner table. What a fascinating world we live in!
We would love to hear from you while we are back in the States and with fast internet connection! We hope to settle in to a routine here soon, figure out our travel plans, etc, though most of our travels won't occur till next spring around the time we hope to return to Angola. Please keep remembering and praying for Kalukembe, the workers who carry on and the patients who continue to need care and healing.

The day before we left Angola, an ambulance arrived from the government as a donation to the hospital. The hospital had been struggling with an old vehicle that was used for carrying water, construction materials, and transporting on call staff and had no longer been reliable to transfer patients to Lubango for more complex care. Though not equipped with what a standard American ambulance would carry (which would cover 1-2 pages in supply stock alone), it did at least come with a stretcher!

Our home church, Belem, is in the middle of the patient villa. Walking to and from church, Naomi would enjoy seeing how peoples' meal preparations were progressing. Most food is prepared over charcoal fires as seen in the foreground. Most church members come from this neighborhood. In their farewell song, they sang that we are all journeying to the New Jerusalem. We look forward to reunite with our brothers and sisters either there or back in Kalukembe!

Our miracle premie who's mom arrived at 27weeks gestation with ruptured membranes and delivered at 28weeks at 1.2kg. She was tenderly loved, fought for and kept vigilantly in kangaroo care (since we have no functional incubator anymore - the hospital has 5 broken ones) for 2 months. Every morning the first thing I'd ask was "How is our baby" and even with the 20 others on the floor, the nurses knew who I meant. She was always the last patient and I loved doing my "you've-gained-dance" on the good days.  We finally sent her home a "fat" smiling baby and mom grinning ear-to-ear. We all did our celebratory dance that day.   

Naomi at church, happily sitting by a little "ne-ne". 

Zeke and Eliel, swimming at the waterhole with their friends this rainy season.

The 3 matrons of "cuida de mulhere": Priscila (chief of everything OB and GYN) with Tia Julia (chief of maternity) and Marta (chief of women's ward). What a privilege to work with these beautiful, intelligent hearts and hands--Priscila, too!

Monday, March 05, 2018

Catching up in 2018

It's March and we've already had 2 visitors from the States this year--wow! We are now wrapping up our work at the hospital and putting in our good-byes; packing up the house; picking our last sweet potatoes from the garden; flying (and losing) our last kites; maybe squeezing in a last health talk or two; and planning for a discussion of our work with the hospital thus far with church leadership. We hope to return in 2019, even with another physician through Samaritans Purse, Dr. Lena Gamble. Thus, a time for reflection and a time to anticipate our returning.
We are anticipating going to a medical missions conference in Greece, stay a few days afterward with Daniel's parents; visit Priscila's parents and grandparents in the Netherlands; then touch down in Philadelphia in April. Daniel anticipates re-entering work at Christiana with his physician group, DFES (which has been generously supporting us while here in Angola) and Priscila with manage the homeschooling, new home arrangements in Wilmington, and be back with Esperanza clinic in September. As plans take shape, we hope to scatter visits to see you and other partners during our time back. 

Naomi enjoying a laugh with a now-cured vesicovaginal fistula patient and family. i am often impressed with how optimistic and positive women with fistulae are. Even those in very difficult social circumstances with very little materials to their names hold to a peace in their situation that puts me to shame. God continues to teach me much about my complaining and discontent through the contentment of others.
Workers of the warehouse posing with donation from US Embassy of mattresses! We will be working on vinyl or other waterproof covering for them, but given the desperate condition of our beds, some have already been distributed and the patients are sleeping better already.

Zeke at the end of his day translating for Dr. Lena Gamble at a rural health clinic. He has mastered questions related to prenatal screening, and can now place on his CV "medical translation" as a skill next to "cooking popcorn over an outdoor fire".

A delightful answer to prayer: J, one of Zeke's friends is here happily showing his scar. He had been sick since October with a necrotizing pulmonary infection, spitting up the same foul-smelling material that came out of his lung space. After an operation in December, he's been gaining weight, breathing better and smiling lots more. It's been a real joy to witness healing here in Kalukembe, especially in one of our friends.

District hospital reality. This baby with cleft lip and palate was born at our hospital. We usually evaluate about 2-3 babies like this a month. If they can maintain growth, then our visiting surgical team will close the cleft lip at the age of 6 months. We do not have means to close a cleft palate at our facility and patients in the provinces of Angola do not have access to any surgeons who perform cleft palate repair.

Dr. Joel Atwood with one of our nursing  seminar participants. Dr. Atwood visited during the month of January and hit the ground running with lectures on neonatal infections the day after he arrived in country. As ever, visitors who have contributed to seminars have helped greatly in educating nurses from area and rural health posts. We usually have a mix of government nurses, nurses from our hospital and ones from other clinics in the IESA denomination. As there is huge lack of medical information available to health workers in Angola, these seminars have been well received. We hope to supplement these seminars with further discussions and visits in the remote clinics in the future. Indeed, there is much work to be done for the health of Angola, and we feel privileged to be involved in a small part of that work.

Priscila explaining the daunting vaginal exam box with nurse Mariana preparing her extra-long glove at our January nurse education seminar. Audience participation was a must during Priscila's sessions!