Shanksteps Bere 2017-3

Shanksteps Bere 2017-3

I awake from a relative unrestful sleep- because of jet lag. It is 3:45 in the morning. There are dog barking, insects chirping. I lay there in the heat and toss and turn. I went to bed wet last night, and hoped to sleep before I evaporated. The desert cooled off and I felt cold in the middle of the night. At about 4:20 I hear the familiar Allahu akbar (God is greatest)x4

Ashhadu anna l ila ill Allah (I testify that there is no God but Allah)x2

Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah (I testify that Mohammed is God’s Prophet)x2

Hayya alas salah (Come to prayer)x2

Hayya alai falah (Come to security/salvation)x2

Allahu akbar (God is greatest)x2

La ilah ill Allah (there is no God but Allah)

Assalatu khayrum minan naum (Prayer is better than sleep)

This intonation goes on for about 3 minutes (can be heard online if your interested). I feel at home in West Africa again. I lay awake unable to sleep and have my special time with God. I am also reading a book called “The Bondage Breaker”. Within an hour the sun is coming up and the sound of chickens and dogs increase. It is Friday. We have decided to halt our progress to Bere to stay with some friends in Ndjamena (the Appels).

We all eat an oatmeal breakfast and James and I head to the hospital. It is a mission hospital that James volunteers at here in Ndjamena. We go to see an old man who needs a debridement of his foot. It’s a holiday and the hospital has two nurses on and we can’t find either one. Finally we find one in the “ER” (two bed small room with a curtain in between them). We go to see the man with the foot that’s been infected and draining for many months. He is eating bouii (pourage), meat, and other things for breakfast while he was ordered NPO (nothing by mouth). So it is unsafe to give him sedation and do the debridement. So we tell him not to eat anymore and we will work on him in the afternoon.

We go and find the covering Chadian doctor and do rounds with him. During rounds we see a 10 year old girl that has been treated for myositis (muscle infection) of her upper leg. She lays on the bed very stoic. The antibiotics seem to not be working as her upper leg remains swollen and very tender to touch. There are little healed cut marks on the thigh, which I interpret as the place of most pain. (In Cameroon these cuts were made to let out he bad blood or pus by someone at home with a razor blade). She had an ultrasound 4 days ago and no abscess was seen. Her leg had been wrapped in a gauze and the nurses put alcohol on the gauze. The patient thinks that it may be a little better. We talk to her and her mom and grandma who are at the bedside. I wonder if there isn’t an abscess now, as it isn’t better. So we tell the family we will be doing another ultrasound. The mother wants to wait for the father to make the decision, and we convince them not to wait. She is taken to the ultrasound room. She is lifted onto the exam table with eyes ready to pour forth tears. She doesn’t know what we are doing. Her grandma is there encouraging her. As James looks around her thigh- we find what appears to be a pocket of fluid that seems to be lateral on the leg. After explaining to the mother and grandmother what we’ve found we convince them to let us take her to the operating room for sedation and to open her leg.

In the operating room she is given a shot of ketamine and we wait. She is eventually staring off into space with unconscious eyes. I incise the side of her leg and spread into the muscles. Spreading around I start to wonder if we really saw an abscess. James spreads around to and pus flows out. We put a finger in and break up the loculations all around the femur. We get about 300ml of pus, and the space is about half of her lower thigh. We wash it out with dakins solution and pack it with gauze. I am now content that she will get better.

We are called to the ER again to see a guy with a strangulated inguinal hernia. An old man lies on the bed. His hernia has hurt for 4 days. And yesterday he started to vomit and has been unable to pass stool since yesterday. His abdomen is very bloated. We ask for the operating room crew to be called in for an emergency hernia repair. In about an hour we are in the operating room.

He is given a spinal anesthetic and we start. I incise the skin and I think, either this skin is tough or this blade is dull. I make a number of passes with the knife and am finally through the skin. The hernia is large and firm all the way down to the bottom of the scrotum. Slowly we dissect out the hernia sac. We open the sac and find his colon and omentum(a fat layer it the abdomen) in it. The colon does not look good. I open the hernia site larger and with more space, blood starts to change the color of the colon back towards normal. I’m able then to reduce the colon and omentum back into the abdomen. Within minutes we hear diarrhea coming between his legs. The blockage has been relieved and the odor of success is permeating the room. We close up the hernia site and close the skin.

Later we debrede the infection off the foot of the old man.

After each operation the staff take whatever has been removed out to show the family and they nod and make comments about whatever they see. I’m often curious what they are saying. Especially about the pus from the girl, because there were a lot of facial expressions and talking.

We went back home and ate some rice and beans. It is 95 and dry. We spend the afternoon talking and swinging in hammocks. Night falls and it finally starts to cool off. I’m am very grateful for cooler nights. I’m also grateful for the ability to serve others with trips like this. Seeing other cultures always reminds me of the blessings I have that many others do not have, purely because I was born in a 1st world country.

Shanksteps Bere 2017 #2


I must say that there is the rare mission trip that we take that goes as we planned. Audrey and I are headed to Bere, Chad to help out for about a month. Last night (at least I think it was last night) we drove to Portland and stayed the night. The following early morning we went to the airport and went from Portland to Newark. We had about a 7 hour layover in Newark before leaving for Lome, Togo. In Newark there seemed to be quite a bit of security, police and homeland security roaming around. The police had a dog sniffing stuff too. Hmmmm- what do dogs sniff for? There was no excitement that we heard. The time came for loading the plane and the same security people were asking questions and the dog was sniffing people and bags. The line was extremely slow because of this. Then after sitting on the plane an hour, the pilot announced that security had held up 5 people and that they had to take off all the luggage and find their bags. Then reload the plane with the rest of our luggage. All of this made us leave 2 hours late. We had a nice 10 hour flight to Lome. We initially had a one hour layover, so our flight had left already. We were shifted from line to line at immigration. Passengers’ tensions were rising. Immigration held on to our passports because apparently Ethiopian Airways needed to pay for the visas that we all needed. After about an hour of standing around we got our passports back and found our luggage. Then more standing around. No word on when our next flight would be. The one airways agent there was talking in circles basically deflecting questions.

Three hours after we arrived they arranged a small bus from the hotel to come and get us. There were about 30-40 with plenty of luggage. So it took many trips to make it to the hotel. So here I sit in some air-conditioning, my first time in Togo, sun is setting. Apparently the airline will call the hotel in the morning and let us know when we are to come back to the airport. For those who, this was their first time in Africa it was difficult. For us it was initially frustrating, then we prayed together and realized again that we are safe, God loves us, and we were able to get out a message to those who were going to pick us up. Then we had peace. Travel anywhere, is often not as we plan it, and this is no different. We remember that God is good and loves us. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Shanksteps Here 2017 #1

Hello All,
We are happy to be writing to you again, as this means we are headed overseas to do volunteer work again. The last time i wrote you was about 2 years ago. This time Audrey and I are headed to Bere, Chad. We will be working with the Nettebergs and Blands and others. If I have access to internet (which is doubtful) I will send out shanksteps while there. If not, then we will send them upon returning home.

As you think of us, please pray for us. That we will be able to share Jesus love in a tangable way to those we encounter. We may also be able to meet some people we knew previously in Cameroon. Thanks for your prayers. Greg

Liberia #27

Liberia #27

I leave in the evening with Robert who is driving me to the airport. Traffic that direction is bad in the evening, so we leave 3 hours ahead. We move through the stop and go traffic till we are on the outside of Monrovia about an hour later. For the remaining drive we are able to go 40-80mph. Honking scatters people and animals off the road, so is done very frequently. Arriving at the airport, we approach the large metal gate. A guard questions why we are there. After taking each of our temperatures by pointing the thermometer at our foreheads, we are permitted to enter the airport area. We drive up to the terminal and unload my bags on the ground. Next Robert parks the car and helps me carry my bags up to where there is another person in a gown, mask and gloves to take my temperature again. I am asked to fill out a questionnaire, wash my hands with chlorine, then enter with my bags. At the entry to the baggage counters, another person takes my temperature and I wash my hands in chlorine water again. They review and take my questionnaire. Next I take my bags to the check in counter and get my boarding passes. I’m about 1.5 hours ahead of time. I go through security and wait in the boarding area. Going through security, the security lady asks to look in my carryon. She pulls out my falafel sandwich. She says it’s not permitted to take food in, and asks what I want to do. I said “eat the sandwich”, so she puts it back in my carryon and I go on in with it. Later I eat my sandwich with much appreciation of the flavors. The time comes, and we board the plane. I am so thankful to be leaving Monrovia, being in good health.

In Belgium, our temperatures are checked as we exit the jet way. We turn in another questionnaire that we were given on the plane. We are then shunted outside security, and I have to go through it again to re-enter. I find my terminal and gate then wait about 6 hours till my flight. I watch a number of movies on the plane and eventually sleep a half hour or so.

Arriving in Newark, we walk to immigration. Someone is there reviewing passports and asks where I’m coming from. I know they want to know Liberia, so I say this, even though Belgium was really where I was coming from at the moment. They send me down a side hall to a small room. Behind the counter are immigration officials who ask that I stand beyond a ribbon about 8 feet away from them. She is wearing a face shield, mask and has gloves on as she types information into her computer. She asks a series of questions, which are similar to what I’ve filled out on previous forms. They ask about personal sickness and symptoms in detail, about contact with Ebola patients or dead people. After my answers they decide I need more questioning by CDC personnel. One of the officer’s gowns up in full bunny suit PPE to take me down the hall where I meet two CDC people in a small room with three chairs. I sit down and they ask more questions. They call their hierarchy and eventually decide I am safe to continue my travels. They show me to another desk where I receive a phone and a packet of information on Ebola and how to do the monitoring and am told to contact my health department in the morning. I am taken back to a different immigration area and they take my passport and do the usual things I recheck my baggage to continue on and find my next gate. My flight is cancelled. So at the desk I find I’ve been rerouted to make it home about 3 hours after expected. After about 35 hours of travel I arrived back to meet my beautiful wife and very happy dog, for the drive home. The following morning I meet with the health department to set up the monitoring situation. All are very helpful and pleasant.
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