Amy and I have been called by God to serve Him full time at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, Africa. We are eager to get there, but understand there is process and training necessary to serve in another culture. We started the application process with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in May of 2014 and have been progressing through their requirements and interviews over the last 15 months. While this may seem a long time, as is usually the case, God's timing prevails. He has taught us many things through the process and will continue as we progress to working at Bongolo.
We sold our house and moved to a condo a few months back. We are getting settled in and continue to "downsize" and get rid of our "junk". This summer we also completed medical exams, personality assessments, and language learning assessments. I have no idea how I scored "above-average" on the this test.
The next step is our final interview with the CMA. It is with the International Ministries leadership and will be held in Lexington, KY on August 18 from 9a-12noon. Please pray for our preparations for the August 18 interview. Also pray for the interview, specifically that we would communicate our calling and answer any questions clearly.
There are still many steps until we see God's calling fulfilled. We remain obedient to the call and simply concentrate on the next step. That's all God asks of us. He will work out the details.
Thank you for your prayers, counsel, and support to date. We may be the ones heading overseas, but you all are a much needed and significant part of our ministry. Join us on this journey. God bless you as you surrender to Him daily.
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" --Romans 10:14-15
In a recent BBC article, the author quotes a study by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery - "Five billion people have no access to safe surgery." Another staggering statistic from the study shows that "a third of all deaths in 2010 (16.9 million) were from conditions which were treatable with surgery. That was more than the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined."
People sometimes ask me, "why do you spend your time and money to make short-term trips to Africa and why are you on a path to go there full-time?" Aside from the primary reason, a call of God to go, I am burdened by the abysmal health care situation in sub-Saharan Africa, especially as it relates to surgical services. People are dying of very treatable surgical diseases due to lack of resources and education. Here in the US, if you have belly pain and it is determined you have appendicitis, you undergo a relatively simple and safe surgical procedure with safe anesthesia. In a lot of areas of Africa, people with this very treatable disease die due to lack of resources or qualified surgeons. Even if the procedure is attempted, the patient may die from the anesthesia. This same scenario is played out daily with other surgical and obstetric conditions as well.
While it seems like an overwhelming task to even make a dent in the substandard surgical care in Africa, people are making a difference. One program I work with is the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons - PAACS. The organization trains and disciples African Christian doctors in a Western equivalent surgical residency program. After training, these qualified surgeons then go to underserved areas to serve as leaders and improve the care in these locations. One of my long term goals is to start an anesthetist training program at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon in a similar style, training and discipling Christian anesthesia personnel to go to underserved areas to be leaders in perioperative safety to improve care and save lives.
Thelander visit - We had a wonderful time this past week with Keir and Joanna. They stayed at our home from Thursday through Monday. It was a joy to connect and "hang out" and dream of future times in Bongolo. Keir and Joanna had opportunities to speak with small groups at our church, Centerville Community Church. Keir and I spoke at the Sunday services. Keir gave a short message on "the fight" for men and women and their souls. I had the opportunity to give testimony to God's calling for the Lanes to serve at Bongolo. For those interested, the audio is posted at the CCC website - click here.
CMA Application - We continue through this process, finishing up the required Alliance Polity course. We are awaiting notice from the International Missions office to schedule a Level 2 interview. After that I am told the next step is Board approval and commissioning in Sept or Oct. We look to then start fundraising with plans to begin language school in mid-2016.
Downsizing - God is so good. We put our home up for sale and sold it within one week. Praise Him. We will be moving to a condo in June. We plan to keep this for our use when home and for others to use while we are away. Busy next few months of packing stuff, selling stuff, and moving stuff.
More great stories from a plastic surgeon friend of mine who recently visited Bongolo Hospital. It is a blessing to see how God uses visiting doctors to teach and serve there--making a difference in the hearts and lives of the patients and residents.
Dr. Rigano's story
God's perfect timing was on display earlier this year bringing the needed healthcare resources to Bongolo when a major trauma occurred. The two teens lives were saved and now they are sharing not only the good news of their return to health, but the great news of Jesus Christ.
Click here for the story.
While traveling home, I had the opportunity to reflect on this trip to Bongolo. It was different, but in a good sense. It was truly amazing to have my family there to experience the hospital and mission station and to see where we may serve full time someday. It was also wonderful for me to come "home" from the hospital each day to my family. In another sense, this trip (and the lead up to it) brought me to another level of trust in God and His purposes. As many of you know, we were close to not making this trip due to my health. While I was still questioning the advisability of making the trip even up to time of departure, God kept bringing me back to trusting Him on a deeper level--"just take the next step, I'll take care of you." Well, this wonderful trip is over and we are home now. He did indeed take care of us on this trip. Trust.
God taught me an addition lesson with a pediatric case in the eye clinic. In my prior trips things have gone well with very little clinical problems and good outcomes. Yet, this case was different. God reminded me that despite every effort to make anesthesia as safe as possible, things don't always go right. People die. Babies die. Doctors are human. If you want to work here full time, will you be able to handle this? Hurt, suffering, and death are all around us and will continue, yes, even at Bongolo and likely more often. Trust.
Both of these are trust issues and while suffering (experiencing it or observing it) is never pleasant, it does bring us to a new level of dependence on Christ. Over the last few months God has continually brought me back to Philippians 4. While in no way am I equating any of my suffering to Paul's (not even close and never will be), his example of steadfastness and resolve in continuing His ministry despite setbacks is one to follow. He trusted God in all circumstances.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" -Philippians 4:13
We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Paris on the trip home. What a wonderful city and great time exploring a few sites with the family. We will make it a point to go back someday.
It has been a wonderful weekend here in Bongolo. Friday evening we had a delicious dinner and played some games with the Newman's. It was great to fellowship with them and hear their insight on being missionaries for many years.
We slept in Saturday morning. Aaron and Jeff had the opportunity to tour the water filtration plant and electrical power setup at the mission station. As Aaron is interested in engineering, it was good to see the inner workings of this place. God has blessed the mission station and hospital with free electricity and water from the nearby river. Amy and Sarah attended a baby shower for the wife of a PAACS surgery resident. They are soon to have twins!
Dr. Jacques (the surgery resident from Congo who visited the US in March) and his wife Dinah had the family over for dinner on Saturday evening. It was a joy to get to meet his family and fellowship with them.
Sunday morning was a special time to attend the local church with my family. What a joy to have the family join our Gabonese brothers and sisters in Christ in worshipping God!
"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the people's praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the people's praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!"
As we finish up our first week here in Bongolo, thanks again for your prayers and support for this trip. While coming here to help with patient care, education, and ministry is the primary endeavor, the highlight is certainly the ongoing relationship building with the missionaries who work/live here. They are such a blessing to us as we visit and interact with them daily. On Wednesday evening all the missionary and visitor families gathered for a time of singing and praying. The visitors (including our family) had the opportunity to share how God has led them to be a part of this ministry. It was quite a blessing to hear how God is working in the lives of people all around the world to further His kingdom through mercy and compassion.
My health is improving steadily. This is a healing place and perhaps a visit here is just what I needed. Thanks again for your prayers.
We look forward to a restful weekend together as a family. Blessings to you all.
It has been quite a blessing to be here with my family for this trip to Bongolo. The operating room is not quite as busy so I have had some down time to spend with the family here at Bongolo. What a great blessing for them to experience how God is working here! Their first impressions are positive and they are tolerating the bugs. We'll see how they feel this time next week--probably ready to get to Paris.
Aaron has shadowed me in the operating room the past few days taking in the sites and smells of surgery in Africa. Amy and Sarah have been busy helping out some of the other missionaries get things organized in storage and preparing one of the apartments for a new surgery resident moving here next month.
There is a group from Cleveland (family of 3 and 2 other friends) visiting as well and it has been great to work alongside them and get to know them.
Thanks for your prayers.
The first day in Bongolo as a family is going well--mostly just getting settled in our guest apartment and checking things out. Jeff and Aaron delivered medical supplies donated to the operating room and toured the hospital a bit. Amy and Sarah helped in the storage depot as a new container with supplies had just arrived. Sarah helped with school this afternoon. It's good to ease in to the week while overcoming the jet lag and climate change.
Thank you all for your prayers. It's good to be here with the family. May God be glorified in all we do.