Saturday, August 30, 2008

August 29, 2008

  • I have not been on here in ages and so much has been happening. I have been heavily involved with Rebecca’s care and going back and forth to the hospital with food and buying medicines. It would take too long to tell of all the ups and downs with the hospital and what goes on there. The final outcome was that she died at Messer’s house (my sister and brother-in-law). We tried very hard and still do not know what she had. She was treated for most of the possibilities –even TB though there was never a positive skin test. She was so malnourished and even with all that we know “Our days are all numbered.” So, we did our best and leave it with God.
    Meanwhile, the baby boy has been staying with us for these three weeks and the three girls have been with Andy and Becky. Our washing machine just broke two days ago and the diapers are all dirty – I reckon we’ll use hand towels tonight. Dan is in the process of borrowing our brother Sammy’s to help us out till the piece can be brought from America. We have a girl coming out to stay with us for a year and she is coming Sept. 11th.
    I will tell you about one day at the hospital in the midst of the corruption. No one takes care of patients there. The “doctor” (really a nurse) will write a prescription and the patient is to go get it filled at whatever pharmacy he can find it in and then give it to the patient as he sees fit. He can ask the “doctor” and then he has to remember to give it or the patient will not get it.
    Meanwhile when they do labs. or procedures – also up to the family to go get the vials, tubing, cotton, alcohol, or whatever you need; some of them were taking money on the side. We would give the man money to buy food, help buy medicines if we were not around, and they would come and do a procedure and ask for money though that was the part that was their job – like hang the IV, or take out the fluid from the abdomen.
    Well, someone had taken $12.00 for a procedure and I was a bit tired physically and just tired of the whole situation so went and talked to the director. I explained everything and he then went and talked to the head doctor of the medical department. I had been in the room about 10 minutes when he walked in and wanted to know, “Who took this woman’s money?” He got a description of the man who had done the procedure and there on the spot pulled out his own wallet and reimbursed Laurent. I was pleased to say the least. If you know anything about Africa you know that this is almost unheard of.
    In all of this, I had an opportunity to again offer myself to teach a class to the midwives. They are now pursuing that possibility. I sort of did not want to think of that –where will I find that time?—but do think it is important if the opportunity comes my way. The first step will be to show that we are all God’s creation ---establish the importance of life, created by God and a clear gospel witness.
    Rebecca died on Sunday night and the burial was Friday. Dan and Andy preached and clearly gave the gospel. The three little girls accepted Christ with Becky, so that is wonderful. This couple is saved and baptized. The great thought is that Rebecca was living in poverty and pain and truly did die and go to heaven. What a contrast there has been for her.
    Her family has said to bring the children to them. They also said that Rebecca has sisters and he could come and pick another wife. Isn’t that what they did in Bible times? Smile. Maybe this will be a good solution for him. We cautioned him to make sure she is saved and bring her over to visit us.
    We have been going along with school; the kids are great and can do so much on their own. Some sort of headache with chills bug went around – bizarre. Was just like malaria but the kids got better without the treatment; eight of them had it so you can imagine that stress. We are ready to settle down ---is there such a thing? We pray a lot, rely on God and He keeps us sane. Where would we go if not to Him?
    Thanks for all the prayers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

If We Could See Beyond Today...

August 2008
Hello again from Cote d'Ivoire. I know it is easy to forget where people are with email like it is. Thanks for all your prayers for us. It seemed like the last letter was full of hard times and the puppies dying. We are still here battling hard timeswhat a depressing way to start a letter!
First the good news: we are all fine, in great health, and love each other. The chalk art conferences went very well with many saved and has boosted church attendance as well. We praise the Lord for all the decisions that were made. Now we are doing follow up and wanting to see growth. A new family has started comingman and wife and four kids, and we are excited about that.
I was able to get the school project finisheda huge job. I had all 12 grades laid out, trying to figure out who was coming and going out of each grade, what I need for the States next year, what to use this year, and what to leave here. I call that a brain-drain. But it is now all in order and inventoried, so I will easily be able to tell what we need to order in the States. Ruth graduated from high school, and I have yet to put together some pictures and information for her. I want you to know our beautiful daughter.
Dan was able to get the electricity back on. That cost us an extra $1000 that was definitely not budgeted. We are scraping the bottom, tightening the belt, and trusting God to take care of us. We THANK THE LORD for the electricity. Dan is trying to get an elementary school started at the church this year. Pray they can get the paperwork and red tape completed so the school can start up in October. We want to use it as a tool to reach more into the community and the parents and also, of course, help the kids have an education.
A man got saved on visitation last Sunday. It was so great
to go through the whole plan of salvation and make clear to him that you get saved by faith but that it is also a choice, and you must ask God to forgive your sin and save you. Just repent and ask Him for eternal life. He had been in church a long time, knew a lot, had been "serving"
God, but had never asked for salvation. He was mixed up with dreams and other ideas, and it was wonderful to see the light come into his eyes when he clearly understood the Gospel. Leading people to the Lord always makes living in Africa worthwhile. The harvest truly is ripe.
I probably should not be writing this right now, so then don't. It has been a hard summer and is almost over. Right now, the same woman who earlier had the horrendous experience in the hospital is back at the hospital. Her abdomen was completely distended, and they were able to drain out a liter of fluid on four different days. The symptom they are treating is ascites, but they have no clue as to what is causing it. There are so many causes. Here you can not just put someone in the hospital and trust the doctors to do something about it. I have been reading my medical books on all the causes, talking to a stateside doctor to get his opinion and advice, getting the medicines at the pharmacy and bringing them to her, making sure it happens, and bringing them food. I even went and scrubbed the bathroom that stunk so badly you had to hold your breath before you went in. Everything moves so slowly here, and no one works on the weekends or holidays. The patient just needs to be patientsmile and hang on until someone can figure something out. They are not doing all the tests needed and basically treating potential causes. I went from thinking chronic-active hepatitis, to just severe malnutrition, to liver flux, and now we are thinking tuberculosis of the abdomen. Meanwhile, we are buying and giving medicine for all of these; today we bought the treatment for TB, which will continue for six months. The woman is very skinny and could easily have TB. The old name for that was consumption, and that is what it looks like for sure. Pray much for her. She is still in the hospital, and I do not know what more we can give her. There was also an IV of albumin that Andy and Becky were able to have sent up from Abidjanthat was to treat the malnutrition.
Meanwhile, her two-year-old son is staying with us. He looks like the typical cases you see on TV advertising for malnutritionskinny
arms and legs and big belly. I have treated him for worms and am feeding
him well. Tomorrow I will get the TB test done for him. Becky and Andy Messer are helping out a lot with trips to the hospital (a friendly face and some food go a long way), and also are taking care of their three girls. Momma has been helping with the money side of things, and we are all praying. This is a family in crisis for sure.
Another meanwhile: Ruth's beautiful, well-trained, loveable dog, Angel, the white dog in the picture, seemed to have bitten her tongue and it got infectedshe had done this once before. I immediately started an antibiotic, but two days later (yesterday) she died!!! It has been so bad around here. How could a bitten tongue lead to all that? How come it went so fast? Could I have seen it sooner if I was not so distracted with this whole hospital thing? Whatever the case, she died, and we are all so sad and Ruth has been crying a lot.
I am sorry for this depressing letter. Pray much for us. We will be excited to see you in about a YEAR. We are looking forward to Ruth being able to do chalk art for you or at camp or for ladies' meetings. Dan is doing a lot of mentoring with the man we will leave as pastor here. Paul is doing great with his preaching and now lives on the church property. Dan helped him get a house built and electricity hooked up last Monday. Dan just had to run all the wire and the lightsnothing to do with the city this time. When I write that little word "just," it really means about five hours worth of work. Seth was able to help out and also have some on-the-job training.
Seth was able to preach last month, and it went well. We are looking forward to you seeing the kids and them being able to minister in camps, AWANA, or wherever God would use them as we travel. We now feel instead of it being just Dan and me, it is also Ruth, Hannah, Seth, and the others. We love each other and are a team. It is great.
As far as us coming to the States next year, if anyone (probably a church) has a 15-passenger van we could buy, that is what we will need. It worked quite well last time to drive a van and haul a small trailer.
Pray for us. Grow in grace.
Love in Christ,
Dan and Joan God can see. But we can't. And so we cling to Him the more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

May letter

May 2008

So much has happened this past month and a half that it is hard to know where to begin. We have been keeping you up to date on some of the more in-depth events, so maybe I can keep this short. I feel sometimes like when I go to teach—there is so much to teach that it is hard to focus. The ladies have so much to learn and so far to go, it is hard to know where to begin. I have to remember that growth takes time.

I just thought it was time to start out with a big THANK YOU. Another missionary wrote so well about the rising costs (there have even been demonstrations in Abidjan because of all the rising prices) along with the falling value of the dollar. I wanted to copy what he had written, but I am sure you have already heard it, so I will just say “ditto” and thank you for your faithfulness in praying for us. Thank you for letting God use you and for your interest in us and the ministry here. We greatly appreciate you.

I wrote about a terrible hospital experience with a lady friend of ours––she almost died. If you didn’t hear about that incident, please write and ask. I went and talked to the administration of the hospital with all the points of malpractice and offered to teach a class to the midwives. So far nothing has come of that, but I do plan to go again and see if they are doing anything about the problem. The administration and the doctors are very knowledgeable and professional. It is carrying that information down to the hands-on people that is not being done.

I have not gotten back to the hospital because the very next week our neighbor (46 years old) died of a possible brain aneurysm. She had high blood pressure, got a headache, and was dead within ten minutes. I am so happy I had the opportunity to clearly present the Gospel to her, but still feel that I could have done more. She was very nice and Catholic. We were to be “neighbors for life” she had said. Dan and I were busy going to the “wake.” They set up a big tent in their yard and people came all day until 11 p.m. and just sit there. The difference here than in America: In America, friends bring food and do not stay long; in the Ivory Coast, people come empty handed, stay a LONG time, and expect to be fed. It is a huge strain on a family––worse than a wedding. This goes on for a whole week. Dan and I were able to witness to the uncle who was very interested, asked many questions, and I think will be saved when he’s alone. We also invited the nephew home for lunch, and he DID GET SAVED. I was so excited. We have known him for a while—nice man (24 years old). He also asked many questions, had been reading the Bible that Dan gave him a long time ago, and had already tried Catholicism, the Moslem religion, the Celeste Church of Christ (a group out here), and the Pentecostals. He was saved on a Tuesday and came to church with us on Wednesday!

This brings us to the next bit of news. The electric cable going to the church was stolen again, so we are without electricity. Dan wanted them to put in street lights on the electric poles, but they would not do it. Now they are saying they will not replace the cable and that we just have to buy it again. (It is not even on our property). This is 210 meters of heavy electric cable coming from the main road up to our church property. Dan has to call the main boss who will not be in his office till next week.

Meanwhile we are taking a little generator back and forth, and Ruth is ready to do chalk art that we have been announcing for a while. The generator acted up, and we were not able to have the chalk art. That was sad because our neighbor came Wednesday night to see it. Anyway, it was nice that he could experience a normal, God-honoring service. Ruth will be doing chalk art every Tuesday and Wednesday of this month and into next month, since we are getting a late start. They will start at the other church on Tuesday that has a larger, more reliable generator, and then bring that one to our church for the Wednesday night service. They will also go to the village where we are trying to get a church started. That group is going well, and last time there were six baptized.

A short update on David: He is doing super and is completely back to normal. The doctor truly did get saved and is growing––but very slowly. He is in Abidjan, and there is not a good church near him. He is so very busy, yet we can see the change in his lifestyle. We continue to pray for these who are newly saved and without the support system that we are used to. There is the doctor, Laurence (our neighbor) and Landry and Audrey (Seth and Hannah’s friends). These are all saved and living where there aren’t any good churches nearby.

During all of this, we had two dogs have their puppies on the same day, and now they are six weeks old. Not only is this a lot of work but also a super-sad time. The puppies got some sort of virus and have been dying one and two at a time. We have had five die so far, and some of the others do not eat well. It has been so sad and depressing on our spirits—you know how we love our pets. It seems to be something that attacks the nervous system. They slow down eating and then fall over–– fading puppy. I am thinking about the people who lived during the bubonic plague. At least these are dogs and not people, and we can thank God for that!

On a lighter note, Josiah asked Ruth on his fifth birthday, “Do you wish you were me?” Ruth: “Why?” Josiah: “I have lots of candy you know, and I can color real good.” The kids are a constant joy and such fun to be with.

Thanks again for your prayers. If you want a summary of our prayer requests, it would be for the newly saved to grow and others to be saved; that we will get electricity back at church (either find the thief, buy more cable, or have the electric company replace it); that no more puppies will die; and that the chalk-art conference would go well and people will be saved and grow in the Lord.




Dan, Joan, Ruth Marie, Hannah, Seth, Lydia, Susanna, Isaiah, Stephen, Rebekah, Josiah, Joseph, and Esther