Truly Free: Risking Everything for God
The Forgotten Need Overseas: Surgery

The following story is one of the most important you can read, particularly for those interested in medicine, giving, missions, or third-world outreach.  More than any other article I have read, it encapsulates my frustrations and observations during my time in Africa last year.  It also reaffirms my desire to serve overseas as a surgeon.  Take the time to read through it!

The truth is that massive amounts of money are slated to go overseas which is earmarked for specific buzzword issues, such as AIDS or the ever popular “orphan” cause.  While problems are certainly present in those areas, the amount of funding to those hard-to-contain scourges is disproportionate to other needs.  Of particular interest to me is this article’s focus on the tremendous need for surgeons and surgery teams overseas.  It was three years ago at GYC where Paul Howe told those of us in Louisville that the greatest need overseas was surgeons.  For me, that was the final piece in the puzzle inspiring me to switch from pre-vet to pre-med.  While in Africa serving as the Projects Director / ADRA Grant Coordinator at Gimbie Adventist Hospital, I saw that time and time again our biggest problem was personnel, in particular the surgeon position.

It is tempting for me to go through and pull out my favorite parts of the article here, but I would end up putting the whole article here.  Suffice it to say I resonate with most of the article!  In particular, these points:

"The need for surgeons in sub-Saharan Africa is so profound that it’s genuinely difficult to comprehend. "I was born by C-section, and when I was two months old I had an emergency operation on my stomach. When I was 23, I had appendicitis," Adam Kushner, a lecturer at Columbia Medical School, told me. "Those are three relatively simple procedures. A lot of people that have problems like those in say, Sierra Leone, just die," he said. "I mean, can you imagine a kid falling out of a tree, and then being disabled for the rest of their life because they couldn’t get their arm fracture fixed? It’s insane." Kushner’s organization, Surgeons OverSeas, estimates 56 million people are in need of surgical care on the continent — twice the population suffering from HIV/AIDS."(emphasis added)  And yet, as the article points out, to the point of making the surgical funding insignificant the majority of funding goes to AIDS.  The ministry outlined in this article operates on an annual budget of a couple hundred thousand dollars.  That is the minutest of a fraction of some of the budgets of other areas.

"All 28 PAACS graduates remain working in underserved communities. "It’s about that Christian heart," Jim Brown, the associate director of the Mbingo program, told me. "It’s about choosing to live sacrificially and not moving somewhere where you can make a buck," Brown said, as we climbed one of the mountains that peer over Mbingo. "The Christian part of the name is non-negotiable. We could not do this without His strength. A lot of the time it’s brutal down there.""   Powerful!  This is not written up in the Adventist Review either!  I do not know when people will move beyond being selfish and failing to see that God is calling His people to live radically different lives from the "American Dream" Stereotype, apart from materialistic drives and no trust in His providence.  Do we think that God is really calling everybody to stay in California and make bank, buy the mansion, buy the boats, and take life easy?  Really?  And please, do not give me the whole "I’ll give money to missions" line unless you are going to give the difference between your income in the USA and your income in the third world to missions.  Regardless, if I had a billion dollars in money but 2 surgeons overseas, people would die anyway.  People and funding are needed, not just money.

"Brown told me that he had done a number of short mission trips over the years, to Honduras, Armenia, and Ecuador, among other places. “I love having all the consultations and the scans and the labs they have at home,” Brown said. “I’m still always thinking about who I can refer things to. But I think there’s something about me that needs to be out on that edge to really trust God.” A trip to Cameroon, he said, played a decisive role in bringing him to work as a missionary full-time. “I loved those short-term trips, and I was always thinking about the next one,” he said. “But it was always really about us. You’d do 50, maybe 100 surgeries, but nothing would really change.””   Short-term mission trips are great, but as pointed out here it often benefits those who go more than making a difference.  The needs are huge and we need troops in the field full-time.  I was on a short-term mission trip really (9 months).  But I could see how much more I was able to do than those who came for a few weeks, while noting the difference those who stayed longer were able to achieve.  At Gimbie, we were blessed to have some amazing short-term surgical teams come and do operations for a few weeks.  They were a success in treating a very specific condition (uterine prolapse).  But without the careful management of our long-term ground team, those trips would not have worked either.  Nothing can replace people who are called to be overseas full-time.

"Although disease treatable by surgery remains a ranking killer of the world’s poor, major financers of public health have shown that they do not regard surgical disease as a priority." In Africa, they wrote, "surgery can be thought of as the neglected stepchild of global public health."   I need add no more that statement besides AMEN.

I’m not sure where God will lead me.  But on this New Year’s Day, I felt inspired to post this article.  It has reminded me once again of God’s calling for my life to serve in fields of need for Him as a medical professional.  I think that if more young people were honest with themselves and God, they would recognize His calling them overseas as well.  Do not bother making excuses to me or others about your rationale for not answering the call (money, retirement, debt, families, children).  2 Corinthians 9:8:  “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  God will provide!  We must break loose from the moorings of apathy and indifference, of selfish motives and unwillingness to serve.  People are dying from treatable causes right now.

Next year I head to Loma Linda for my first year of medical school, obviously I have some time before I can head overseas.  Nonetheless, I am planning (with a healthy respect for the Lord’s ability to change my plans) ahead.  I want to form a network of medical professionals who are committed to service for God as the ONLY motive for them in the field.  Come talk to me or others, we need to encourage each other in this goal.  In my class at Andrews University which is just one group of people I know, there is so much talent that could be utilized for God overseas.  People with interests in all medical fields from surgery to OB/GYN, people skilled in business, accountants, communications / logistics gurus, writers, etc.  Truly, “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world!” - EGW.

You have the talent to make a difference for God in this world.  Will you?

Happy New Year everyone!  May God bless in 2013!

The Stench of Adventism: The Murder of God

Introduction:  Selections from Nietzsche’s “Parable of the Madman”:

            Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—-As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—-Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—-you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him…

            It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”


      Do you smell something decaying in Adventism, or in the general modern Christian paradigm?  Is there something rotten in the core of our churches, something permeating the air?  Have we lost something?  Could the general feeling that something is not right be explained by the death of the All-mighty we claim to serve?  I would like to propose that we have killed God.  Perhaps the deed was done years ago, perhaps recently, but I believe we can detect the stench of, to quote the Madman, “divine decomposition.”  What other explanation can there be?

If God is still alive, how do we explain the apathy seeping through the church?  Starting in August 2011, I was a Student Missionary to Ethiopia.  Upon return to the USA in May 2012, I worked in the Rocky Mountain Conference Student Literature Program.  Thus, I was able to observe a wide range of Adventists and see a fascinating picture of different continents.  The things I have seen and heard do not make sense if God is alive.  We have become a church so far removed from the principles of Biblical holiness, we shy from making waves for the God of the universe.

            After hearing the sermon at PMC on September 1, 2012, I was so filled with emotion I left right after the closing song and went and thought.  The sentiments from the student missionary in Bangkok echoed in my soul.  Here is one line from his blog:  “Here in the middle of the world there is so much darkness, and the candles that could be out there or any other dark place shining in the darkness are wrapped up in other lighted rooms…”  We see presented in this blog a reflection of the frustrations those in the mission field see in the general church.  Nobody is going out, nobody cares.  That is why I propose we have killed God.

            Ironic, that on the Sabbath where Dwight Nelson poured his heart into a sermon designed to wake those asleep to the true darkness of the night enshrouding this planet, the services for the campus churches pushed back their starting times later in the morning and made the services shorter to try to persuade a few more people to get out of their beds and come to church.  Try going overseas where people walk for miles just to come to church.  Ironic, that the primary reason driving the different worship locations on campus are that we cannot get past our differences in worship or race.  I know the arguments on both sides of these issues.  However, the fact that we have arguments on these issues at all probably points to a divine murder.  Interesting, that the peak amount of mission activity we can persuade our youth to do is at most a year of student missionary work.  Anything more than that and they might actually become full-time missionaries!  Tragic, that our church has decided to join in the collective joking regarding the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses for living their faith out in distinctive ways while we do our best to fit in with the rest of the mainstream heading over the waterfall (do not even try to argue with me on this one, I have heard the jokes and so have you).  Have we ever considered that we should be that aggressive in our outreach too? 

Our church is spending its collective energies doing its best to work on in-reach of every way.  Shorter services?  You got it!  More technology in the worship service?  Sure!  Maybe eventually we can reach the point where everyone on campus can tune in at exactly noon on their Ipads from their dorm room for a 30 second worship service.  We have made our worship services cooler, shorter, more hip, more entertaining, less condemning, and more “accepting.”  We know this must be working, because these strategies were designed by 14 different committees at every level of the church’s massive bureaucracy.  We spend energy on a range of “hot topics,” from Women’s Ordination to sexual orientation.  Others engage in debates on which political candidate this fall can transform our troubled nation.  Meanwhile, the churches gradually turn into morgues, silent places for reflection on what our church could be.  While we bicker over the details of how to get the youth into the church, the last angels slip away unnoticed to a place where God is still viewed as alive.

            My conversations with members of our generation have been sobering, at best.  I talked to a young man this summer who explained to me how he was not interested in being involved with God because his parents had divorced.  Somehow the actions of two other moral, mortal beings other than himself had been enough for him to write off the entire existence of the creator of the universe.  Oh, you say, maybe he still believed in the existence of God?  Really?  So let me get this straight:  you are able to believe that God is real, that by default His words are true, which by extension means you have a crystal clear outline of how to live your life, and you can ignore all of that while saying he exists?  No, there we have a dead God.  If you believe God is alive and live differently you are committing spiritual and physical suicide.

            In my own circle of conversation with other pre-professional students, I have seen the growing casualty list stating that they have killed God as well.  I have seen students change their tune from impassioned statements a few years back pledging mission service to now a maximum time overseas of a week here or there on trips that primarily benefit those who go from the USA.  “Vacationaries” instead of missionaries.  Excuses for not being a missionary include:

-          “What about my kids and future family?”  Interesting to note that in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus did not say anything about exceptions.  Recall that the God of the universe loves little children, do you think He would take care of them if you served overseas?  Try explaining that you feel your children might be “socially off” if you went overseas to the Father who sent His son to certain death on a miserable planet for you.  Besides, what is “socially on” anyway?  Having your children raised in the cesspool that is popular culture, likely by the television while you frantically work to preserve your way of life?

-          “I would serve overseas, but I have to set up my retirement.”  Definitely a good trade-off, you making sure you can play golf when you are 60 while people die of things you could prevent by serving overseas and without the hope of Jesus.  Give me a break!  Quit lying to yourself, does this indicate that God is alive?  God’s “retirement plan” is out of this world and He has pledged to take care of His own.  Mansions in heaven are completely unaffected by fluctuations in the stock market.

-          “You know, we are just not all called overseas.”  True, very true.  However, I highly doubt that such a vast majority of Seventh Day Adventists are called to work in the United States, working comfortable jobs, and giving minimally to missions.  Besides, only you know if God is calling you overseas.  I would venture to guess that many people say this as a reflex when they feel God calling them.  If God has called you to a mission field by your home, by all means go forward.  But be careful whether the call is true and of your motives.  God knows.

-          “I’ll support missions with my money!”  My personal least favorite line.  Response:  Missions are about people.  Relationships matter.  We need to reach people for Jesus!  We have the greatest message in the world and we need every last member involved.  There are people that only you can reach.  Besides, I only will accept this excuse if you give such a large percentage of your money that you live in the USA at the same level you would live if you were overseas.  Uh oh, that messes up your pretty little model of the American Dream, does it not?  Let me assure you, this level of giving is not occurring.  Regardless, even if every member gave at that level, we would have tremendous funding for a tiny group of people.  We would still need missionaries in every field!  The largest challenge I faced as part of the management team of Gimbie Adventist Hospital was finding personnel.  Right now, they still have empty positions for the next year.  Truly, the harvest is great but the laborers few.


God is not a game.  If we are to take seriously the message of Jesus, if we believe He is alive, we have to live our lives in a way that honors that belief.  Otherwise, we cannot continue to pretend we believe God is alive.  A divine entity that exists and died for you requires greater obedience and passion than passively acknowledging His existence while continuing your present course.  Consider it this way:  You are gently floating down a small creek in a canoe, head back, sun on your face, watching the clouds shuffle against the brilliant blue sky, only to have a man’s passionate voice break into your reverie… “THERE IS A WATERFALL AHEAD!”  If you believe him, will you not sit up and immediately ground your boat against the bank?  At the least, you will stop and walk ahead to check.  What lunatic would wave at the man and say, “Yes, I believe you.  However, I am going to continue floating.”  Further remonstrations are met with the same reassurance that you “believe” the message but wish to continue onward.  At some point, the normal force opposing the attraction between your mass and the mass of the earth would be removed and as you hurdled to your doom over the waterfall, at THAT moment, you would truly believe.

It is not necessary for us to lose the battle.  It is not necessary for a world to continue on in the pitch darkness, only to realize they have lost the last opportunity to repent.  However, it will require a shift in thinking.  We must realize that every component of our lives is secondary to the greater purpose – to live for God.  We have to stop thinking of our service to God as optional activities after we have ensured our own personal security.

Morning is coming.  God has foretold it and it will come to pass.  Each one of us has a choice to make.  Right now, there are but a few candles piercing the gloom.  There are a few areas of great light, but the interesting feature about these lighted areas is that without sending out candles into the darkness the lights are gradually going out.  They flicker uselessly and finally fade away, relying on the lights of others.  The isolated candles valiantly press on against the forces of darkness but without support and possibility of back-up, they too begin to flicker.  The danger is that if we do not choose now to take our candles to the darkness, when the morning finally breaks we will have allowed the tendrils of evil to so ensnare our hearts that we will be destroyed by the glory of the Son.  Now is the time to act.  At first, the movement may be slow.  You may take your candle to a wild location and never seem to make progress.  Your friends and relatives will think you are crazy.  They will ask you when you are going “to get a ‘real’ job.”  However, your candle will be visible.  That is meaningful.  When will we realize that the morning cannot come if the first wave of candles does not move out to inspire the rest?  WHO IS IT GOING TO BE??  I am talking to you.  Do you think it is someone else’s job description?  Do you think God is dead?  If God is alive, do you think you could handle living your life for Him even if everyone else opposed you?  The end will not come unless we change.  I have heard people say we cannot condemn those in the church or push missions because it “hurts people’s feelings.”  It is not about feelings, it is about truth.  Every moment we waste, the trends cited by Dwight Nelson continue… a person starving to death every 3.6 seconds… one million suicides a year worldwide…somebody being sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in the US alone.  While we delay, content to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, people suffer and die in the dark.  A soul is the most precious thing on earth and yet we appear unconcerned about the souls slipping away. 

The devil has been quite successful as of late.  Missionary numbers have shrunk to 1/3 their numbers from the 1970s.  That was not that long ago!  What have we lost?  Whom have we killed?  Is it possible that we have murdered the source of life itself?  Again from the Madman:  “Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to LIGHT lanterns in the morning?”  Even in our own existence, we have to realize how terrible this earth is.  Have we not felt sad, broken, and depressed?  When we will wrap our minds around the idea that we have the option of going to a place where there will never be a tear?  The end will come only when you recognize your responsibility and move out.  The first moves will be the hardest.  The first valiant ones to forsake the materialistic secure approach will be met with questioning and disapproval, ESPECIALLY from within the dead church.  However, as more and more people realize that God is not dead and that He is alive, they will move out.  Gradually the force will grow.  “Here am I Lord, send me!”  Candles will be mobilized and spread across the globe, “Jesus is coming again, He loves you, and wants you to live with Him for eternity!”  Concerns about financial security will melt away as we see the security found in Christ.  People’s differences will not be as important because we will be focused on Jesus and His purity, to which none of us can attain without His grace.  The lonely missionaries in the field now will be bolstered by a wave of reinforcements and assistance.  Resistance will come to this push of course.  Satan, at long last forced to reveal himself after decades of convincing everyone that God was dead and satan did not exist, will marshal the forces of evil and the Great Controversy will rush to its glorious finish… and we serve the winning side.  Jesus will return and the Morning Star will defeat the dark knight’s night once and for all.

Are you with God?  Only you and God know your true motives behind your actions.  If you have read this, maybe you feel challenged.  I urge you to pray as never before for God to reveal to you how He wants to use you.  Be honest… is He calling you to do something outside of your comfort zone?  Will it mean changing your plans?  It will not be easy.  It is in satan’s interests for you to stay immobilized as your candle dies.  You will be opposed.  But you will have the greatest force in the universe on your side.  Satan will attempt to convince you that you act alone, but you do not.  Contact me, contact others, there are many under conviction, but collectively we are not moving.  Be the first!  We are promised that the final events will be rapid ones.  Realize that all that is necessary for the sudden explosion of light could be your candle!

Is God alive?  You are showing the answer in your life right now.

The Little Things

God at Gimbie.  Gimbie Gazette.  March 2012.

The Little Things

Everyone has heard that the little things are important but I still feel that at times we can forget that simple fact.  Perhaps we have all heard the stories about the little things being important but never processed them fully.  If in doubt, just ask NASA how important a little O-ring was for the space shuttle Challenger.  Ask Robert E. Lee how important not gaining the high ground on the night before the battle of Gettysburg turned out to be.  Ask the basketball coach whose star player who has carried the team all night with a dizzying array of jumpers and dunks but misses the crucial free throw to win the game.

In reality, most great successes or tragedies come down to the slimmest of margins, pushed over by a combination of small factors.  It would be possible to dissolve into semantics on this point, as due to the large impact eventually conveyed are those things indeed little or are they big?  The point of this article is to address those things which are actually little but can appear big, in contrast to the above examples which appeared small but were actually big.

I believe it is a principle of missions that the devil attacks you through those little things.  It is similar to wounds.  I have had some of my most painful, yell out loud moments from a slammed finger.  In contrast, I am sure we have all been laid open, been bleeding and felt relatively fine despite the more serious nature of the injury.  It is the same with temptations.  I think the devil can see the opening through those small avenues that we do not guard as closely.  At Gimbie Adventist Hospital, there are a large number of really serious faults I could commit.  I could re-direct all of hospital operations to my personal bank account and leave the country.  I could go steal milk from orphaned babies in female ward.  I could go burn down the house of a troublesome employee and kill his goat.  However, I have never seriously considered any of these things.  But what about being tired and not smiling at hospital staff?  Or being impatient with a claim from kitchen?  Or speaking negatively about hospital staff in a gossiping manner?  Somehow, these smaller actions can be slip at times undetected beneath my conscience.

On a recent trip on the Ethiopian Transportation system up North, a few of these small events occurred.  I was trying to get a bus south and this guy told me the bus would be 50 ETB.  I thought this was reasonable and got into the bus.  However, I forgot the favorite tactic by the bus drivers of having some guy telling people a lower price to get them in the bus then running away and hiding.  The bus driver will then show up, state a higher fee and inquire as to where the guy who told you the lower price is.  When you are left to gesture weakly in various directions he will look at you as if YOU are trying to cheat him.  In this case the bus driver wanted to increase the fee to 100 ETB.  Already stuck in the bus with luggage on top and really needing to get there, my bargaining power was limited.  I paid up but I was not happy.  As we drove, I was fuming.  I mentally wrote off all Ethiopians as corrupt individuals.  Every child we passed I knew would grow up to be a swindler of foreigners.  Every town was a rodent’s nest of corruption.  I saw no point in further missionary efforts to this desolate wasteland full of the devil’s children.  Obviously, losing my salvation in this manner over less than $3 is totally ridiculous.  However the frustration of usually being swindled as a foreigner got to me.  It was a small thing that I let become a big thing.  Fortunately, God’s grace is boundless and small things can work both ways.

Once the bus arrived safely in the desired town I got out and put as much distance as I could between me and that vehicle of corruption, heading west on the blacktop.  Finally, I stopped by some trucks.  There, a man approached me and asked me where I was going.  I was pretty leery of him as this is the start-up line for every “agent” who will then try to make some money to find you a bus.  However, he persisted so I told him.  He then outlined the prices of different vehicles to reach my destination.  I was still a bit skeptical but then he offered to talk to the driver of one of the parked trucks so I agreed that it was okay for him to do that.  It was not like I could make any progress in that direction due to the language barrier!  The guy bounced into the nearby hotel, which it turned out he owned, and asked the driver.  The driver knew a grand total of two words of English, “there” and “filter,” but he was a super nice guy.  The hotel owner turned to me and said that the driver was willing for me to ride with him.  Upon my asking how much, the driver acted offended I would ask and said I could ride for free.  Then, the hotel owner insisted on providing ME some warm herbal tea, instead of letting me buy him some.  Both of these guys were quality people and represented everything that I love about Ethiopian culture.  Albeit, knowledge I had allowed myself to forget after the bus driver ripped me off.  After rehydrating the foreigner, the trucker drove me a substantial distance and remained cheerful throughout.  I was really touched.  On this leg of the trip, I again saw the cute children on the sides of the road in a positive light and knew the reason I was a missionary in this country.

It was amazing for me to see how my attitude could change so dramatically due to influence of small actions.  Getting ripped off in a minibus spiraled me downward, but the gracious hospitality of a innkeeper and a trucker restored my frame of mind.  From this, I learned several things.  First, I must be careful to not let little things become dramatic incidents which cause me to sin.  It may not be large scale corruption, but if a perceived wrong causes me to treat others wrongly it is sin.  In addition, I should always be alert to detect the positive little things that can revolutionize my attitude.  Second, we should always be careful to watch the way little things are influencing others.  That man who just snapped your head off may have just heard some bad news, or stubbed his toe.  However, your kind words and smile may be just the little thing needed to turn his day around.  Never underestimate the power of little things.  Whether crammed into an Ethiopian bus or in an office space in America, little things can have a huge impact.  Pray that God guides you to view every event in life with the proper perspective.

Dual purpose Update

Greetings Friends and Family:

I apologize for the recent dearth of updates on my blog.  I have been extremely busy at the hospital!  So, to overcome these shortcomings in communication I am writing this update which shall be split into two components as follows:

Work Update

First of all, Gimbie Adventist Hospital has undergone a few big changes in Administration.  Austin Dice, who has been serving at the hospital as a Financial Consultant / Accountant since August 2011, is now the Hospital Administrator.  Also new is Dr. Peter Kip as the Medical Director, filling the post which had remained vacant for too long.  I look forward to working more with both of these guys and learning from them.  Paul and Petra Howe, after 4.5 years of service to GAH, have now left.  I really owe a lot to both of them.  Paul was the person responsible for making me aware of the opportunities at Gimbie at GYC and God used him to deliver several key messages to me.  Petra is really neat as well and I learned a lot from her.  I wish them both the best in their future together.  Finally regarding personnel, my friend Ryan Coy has peaced out for the USA, leaving his post of communications director for his new position as fiance to Christine Reynolds.  ;)  I wish them both the best in their upcoming life together.

See the public link below for pictures of the going away party and a trip to Guliso Clinic:

Second, due to my leaving Ethiopia May 1, it has been necessary to select a new ADRA Grant Coordinator so that the project does not stall.  Alex Vercio is going to be the ADRA Grant Coordinator / Projects Director until September 2012, at which time the transition will be made to another one of my best friends, JC Lynch.  Obviously, all of these plans are God willing and will simply be followed till doors close!  Alex and I have started working together this month so that he is familiar with the project.

Work has continued to be rewarding, challenging, fun, taxing, and absorbing.  For these first few months of 2012, we have focused on several new projects while starting some new ones.  Most exciting is the drilling of a well at the remote Green Lake Clinic.  Selam, a student at Macelester University in the USA, received a grant to cover the drilling aspect of this well.  I have been really blessed to work with her, she is the perfect donor:  smart, committed, and also respectful of the facts on the ground.  We have also received pledged support from a few other outside donors for which we are very grateful, including the ADRA Maternal-Child Health Assistance Project.  If you would be interested in donating towards this project, please contact me.  At present, we have completed the Ground Water Survey.  Ground water is present and we have a drilling location selected.  Due to the amount of water present, we are also going to run a water location to the local community to further connect them with the project.  Alex and I have just completed a week in Addis, gathering pro formas from companies for the drilling and the pump installation.  Now, we just have to wait for their responses.  Hopefully, they will respond and we can commence drilling in 2 weeks.

Other projects at work include continued specialist trips.  The most recent one was to Guliso Clinic.  It went very well and we also presented them with a new microscope, courtesy of The Microscope Shop in the United States.  The staff were very grateful!  In one week, we will make a major trip to Green Lake Clinic for a Specialist Trip with several UK medical students. 

We have finally completed several construction projects at the clinics.  We completed a renovation of Mugi Clinic, installing a new fence, gate posts, roofing supports, and roofing sheets.  We also repainted the sign.  The clinic appears brand new!  Second, we installed a incinerator at Guliso Clinic.  It took a long time, but hopefully it will be worth the effort.  Third, we placed a new gate at Dalatti.  Fourth, we rewired most of Green Lake Clinic.  Proposed in the near future:  installing a rock retaining wall around Inango Clinic and installing a fence; finishing the electrical renovation of Green Lake clinic, repainting the clinic, correcting a foundation crack, fixing the windows, and doing other small upgrades.  Of course, the large scale upcoming project is the drilling of the well at Green Lake Clinic.

Personal Update

My cousin, Charmayne Cooley, came to visit Ethiopia.  She is doing Peace Corp in Cameroon.  She was only here a week, so we had to plan a whirlwind tour.  She arrived on a Tuesday, we flew out to Lalibela Wendesday, flight from Lalibela to Aksum Thursday, flight from Aksum back to Lalibela Friday and to Bahir Dar for Sabbath, walked around Bahir Dar Saturday, Blue Nile Falls on Sunday and to Debra Markos Sunday, and then the completion of the last leg to Addis on Monday.  whew!  It was an amazing trip!  While all of the sights were special, the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela are truly a wonder of the world.  Elaborate details, smooth arches, massive amounts of rock removed around and in each church… all enough to make you believe the legend that angels actually assisted directly!  Aksum is just ridiculous, so much history and mystery.  Is the ark actually there?  Personal opinion:  if it was, wouldn’t they just show it and prove to the world it was?  They actually select some poor priest who goes in there and lives for the rest of his life.  He can never leave again, his ashes are buried there.  Sobering devotion..  Bahir Dar is beautiful, although we did not make it out to the island monasteries (helped out by them not allowing women into some of the neatest ones).  However, the falls were incredible!

Throughout our trip, the transportation was interesting to say the least!  Ethiopian Airlines, of course, did their usual stellar job.  However, the fun really began when we started busing from Lalibela to Bahir Dar.  Right off the bat, we were blessed to get a free ride from the airport to the town, which saved us 140 ETB.  We started out on the roads getting ripped off in a minibus from Lalibela to Gashema.  In a bad mood, we then got a free hitch-hike ride via tanker truck about half-way to Bahir Dar with a super nice driver.  We then got a reasonable mini-bus the rest of the way.  In Bahir Dar, we had problems getting out of the city to see the falls and also leaving to go south due to the “agents” problem.  Guys will hang around, wait for foreigners, then try to pounce and guide them to expensive buses or just lie about the costs.  “Stupid” ones just pay up.  “Smart ones” sit there and argue for hours.  Not sure who is smarter or not but the arguing can be fun!  sort of.  I think I will write a blog post later reflecting on the lessons to be learned from these experiences.  In the end, it made me miss Gimbie and the other non-tourist areas of Ethiopia where there is not as big a problem with this.

  I was very grateful the trip went well, God really blessed.  I would also like to thank Charmayne for being a great travel partner and having patience with the wonders of Ethiopia… aka our transportation system.  Also, not slugging me when I tried to slap her face “off” when I mistakenly thought my alarm was located in that direction early one morning.

See below for pictures of our trip.  They are out of order, but I tried to say where each was taken:

As referenced above, I fly out of Addis Ababa May 1, 2012.  I have some conflicting emotions about leaving obviously.  I will really miss Ethiopia, from the people to the food to my work.  I will also be glad to see my friends and family again, especially my lovely, amazing girlfriend Melissa McCormick.  As fun as long distance is with that girl, I am really looking forward to being reunited with her in just 35 days, 23 hours, 14 minutes, and 50 seconds.  ;)

I will try to get my reflective post up this weekend on the transportation here in Ethiopia.  Stay tuned…

Blessings to all my friends and family!  Thanks for your continued prayers and support!

-Tyler Pender

Amazing African Journey Complete!

Greetings Friends and Family!

I am back in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after the conclusion of my big trip through Africa.  It was an amazing experience and God watched over us every step of the way.  I will type some details below, but here are two links to pictures so you can see what I talk about below:

Pictures from my camera:

Pictures from Austin Dice’s camera:

Between the two cameras, it should give a pretty complete picture of our trip.  Both cameras are non-professional with 4X zooms, but the pictures let you see where we went.

Trip Details:

So on December 26, Austin Dice (Gimbie Adventist Hospital Financial Consultant/Accountant) and yours truly (Gimbie Adventist Hospital Projects Coordinator/Administrative Secretary/etc) left Addis Ababa via plane to fly to Lilongwe, Malawi.  We had a stop-over in Lubumbashi, Congo, so Austin and I thought this was a great time to get our shoes on the ground of another country.  Sadly, they wouldn’t let us off the plane.  We continued to Malawi, got through the airport, walked a bit, caught a ride in a landcruiser to the junction, caught a bus, then another bus, finally had to spend the night in Salima.  The next day we continued to Monkey Bay on an extremely crowded bus (7 people on the steps alone including a baby and yours truly) then a short truck ride to Cape Maclear on Lake Malawi.  Already at the lodge was the crew from Malomulu (Helly, IT guy; Tina, OT; and Julia, UK Med student) in addition to our own B. Carlton from Gimbie.  Lake Malawi was absolutely beautiful.  The sunsets and the water were perfect… although swimming in Lake Malawi ensures a parasite load for which we are planning treatment.  We stayed in a gorgeous lodge and got a group rate by all sharing the top loft.  The second day, we went on a boat trip to one of the islands in the lake.  Helly and I tried to go fishing with the local hand-lines, but we could not catch anything.  We decided this was due to the sunscreen we put on our hands, as 2 of the local guys caught some fish.  Then we looped back to the island where the others and went snorkeling.  The fish were absolutely stunning and it was cool to soar above the clouds of fish around the point.  After lunch, we chased some fish eagles and went to a second location to play in the water.  I went snorkeling some, enjoying the underwater topography.  After some group pictures, we headed back.  We gradually discovered we had all gotten sunburned in various degrees.  We left Cape Maclear early the next morning, catching a ride to Liwonde.  Once in Liwonde, we were told it was only 3 km out to the safari camp where we wanted to stay.  There were bicycle guys who offered to take us for 400 quacha ( $3).  Of course, Austin, Becky, and I eschewed such extravagance so we started walking.  After 5 km, the others who had gotten to the camp already on their bikes sent the bikes back to pick us up for the last 2 km, as the actual distance was 7 km.  The concept of walking will be a theme for this trip.  The camp was really pretty and geared to tourists.  Once a storm came up to break the heat, we decided to not wait for our guided canoe safari the next morning but rather go hunt hippos ourselves!  We went exploring out along the river and finally found two.  The next morning, on the canoe trip, we saw a big group of them in addition to impalas and warthogs on the shore.  After eating some snacks, we called the bike guys to come pick us up.  As soon as we got on the bikes, it started to POUR.  Over the course of the 7 km, we got SOAKED.  We wrung ourselves out as best we could and boarded a bus to Zomba mountain.  Once in Zomba, we haggled for several hours to get a good rate up to the lodge.  The problem in Malawi is that there are extreme fuel shortages (, which drives up transport costs. 

The lodge at Zomba was located in a former tourist spot, which was being renovated.  It is a former trout form on a creek in a lush forest.  It was very cool which was a welcome respite from the sticky heat of Malawi.  It barely felt like Africa!  It was a gorgeous location, apart from the puzzling decision to only put in one toilet block which necessitated midnight crossings of the valley for those in the one cabin.  On Saturday, we hiked to the Zomba plateau to see the famous “hole.”  We had visions of a swimming hole or lake.  After a few hours of hiking, we arrived on the top of a ridge, where there was a ring of trees.  The Malawi guys there excitedly pointed out the hole in the ground in the center of the trees… which was a little anti-climatic.  But the views were absolutely amazing and the hike was totally worth it.  We got rained on going up and down, so everything was very wet again.  We prepared a great supper, got some sleep, and left the lodge the next morning.  We caught a string of buses, eventually reaching Malomulu Adventist Hospital in the early afternoon.  The contrast between that hospital and Gimbie is huge!  In comparison to Gimbie, Malomulu is a straight up western hospital.  It is a much bigger hospital, but the lay-out feels much more western.  Here is the way Becky put it:  the difference between Sudan and Gimbie, is like the difference between Gimbie and Malomulu.  The compound is much bigger as well.  The next morning, Austin and I set off on our own for our overland return to Ethiopia.

The first leg involved getting dropped off from a truck which had left Malomulu in Blantyre.  We were told that the bus station was “around the bend.”  A bus offered to drive us for 100 quacha, but we decided that if it was that cheap we could save the money and just walk since it must be close… 2 hours later, we realized that it wasn’t that close.  After our stroll, we flagged the first bus going to Lilongwe.  Unfortunately, it was driven by the worst bus driver in Malawi, he stopped at every mango stand, every pull-off, and other random places.  To help matters, we were standing the whole time in the aisle because they were out of seats.  After 4 hours with this guy, where we were parked at least half the time, he managed to stall out at a check-point.  Then the radiator overheated, then the battery died, and then the driver just runs off because everyone was mad at him.  Fortunately I had made friends with some lady and after an hour I spotted her up the road waving at me to come get on another bus where our conductor had slunk off to and was paying for people from our bus to get on.  We finally got into Lilongwe at 9:30 pm.  All the mini-buses had quit running for the night, only leaving expensive taxis.  Forget that foolishness, we had a map on Austin’s camera, so we set off.  When we left the city, we realized we had went the wrong way, as the places got more seedy.  We re-traced our steps to the bus depot and set off on another loop.  We made much more progress on this loop, but then a security vehicle came by and told us we were walking in an un-safe area and that we should turn around.  So back into town we went, finally catching a street out.  We arrived at the Balacy’s house at 11:30 pm.  Matt Chacko was staying with them, which I had become aware of due to a random fb post, and it was great to catch up with him.  We couldn’t get bus tickets for the next day, so we stayed with the Balacy’s for 2 days.  They were extremely hospitable and we were very grateful.  We went on a few walking tours of Lilongwe with Matt.  The contrast between Malawi and Ethiopia is unreal.  Malawi has actual super-markets where you can get pizza and ice cream.  There are shopping plazas where it feels like you are in the west.  Ethiopia, due to never being colonized, always feels like Africa, even in Addis.  I actually really like Ethiopia for this reason.

After our very nice time in Lilongwe, we boarded an all-night bus from Lilongwe to Dar es Salaam.  We left Lilongwe at 7 pm, arriving at the Malawi/Tanzania border around 6 am.  Crossing the border, we drove on to Dar es Salaam finally arriving just after midnight, quite a long day on the bus!  29 hours.  We had met up with Flo, a volunteer in Kenya who was returning to his post, so we hung out with him in Dar es Salaam, managing to get a room with AC for the first night which was nice as it was pretty sticky.  The next day, we strolled through Dar, getting our feet wet in the Indian ocean, buying an amazing pineapple, eating at an Indian restaurant, and just exploring.  The morning after, we were back on a bus up to Arusha, another all day trip.  Getting off the bus in Arusha, a guy approached and offered a room for 15,000 for all three of us (good price) so we followed him to his hostel.  Then, he asked if we were interested in a safari.  Once we said tentatively yes, he said his Uncle was leaving the next morning and need two more people.  Super sketch… then the guy showed up wearing a suit… more sketch… but he took us to his office, it all looked good, so we booked.  Just another example of how God worked everything out on this trip for us.

Our driver picked us up from our hostel and we said goodbye to Flo.  It was the 2 of us and a couple from Russia.  We headed to Manyara Park on the lake.  Right from the start, our 2 day safari was great.  Our driver was informative and had a great sense of when to stop and let us stare/take pictures or keep moving.  On our first day in this park we saw:  baboons, giraffes, horn bills (ground and air), zebras, gnus, elephants, Egrets, leopards, golden eagles, hippos, flamingos, marabu storks, black faced monkeys, ater buffalo, wart hogs, impalas, dikdik, leopard turtle, thrush, weaver.  Quite a great day!  Austin and I were feeling great about agreeing to sign up by the end of the day.  The leopards especially were a rare sight.  We stayed at a gorgeous lodge.  It felt very spoiled to be staying in places such as that after living missionary style for a few months.  But, since we were paying for it, we enjoyed it.  The next morning we got up early to get into the Ngorogoro Crater.  As it turns out, the first day was good, but the second day was literally a life-time memory.  The crater was gorgeous from all angles and as we descended into it, we began to see a fantastic diversity of animals.  All of the animals were much more plentiful and came closer to the vehicle than the previous day.  On the second day we saw:  zebras, gnus, water buffalo, impala, grant gazelles, thompson gazelles, elands, cheetah, serval cat, lion, elephants, hippo, jackal, baboon, black faced monkey, waterbuck, ostrich, warthog, hyena, kori busterd, fish eagle, chameleon, flamingos, and black rhino.  I was in biology heaven… my only regret was that my favorite biology buddy, Ms. Melissa, was not there with me.  ;)  The cheetah was particularly memorable.  Our driver gunned it over to where some other jeeps were, telling us a cheetah was rumored to be in the area.  Finally, a little head poked out of the grass but then it disappeared.  So we continued on and “bagged” the serval cat.  Then, our driver got word the cheetah was moving (his brother also drives).  So he flies back over and deduces where the cheetah would cross the road.  So the cheetah walked right in front of our jeep!  Very fun.  We also saw a lion in a tree, which allowed me to see all of the Big 5 (black rhino, lion, leopard, water buffalo, and elephant) in 2 days.  It was a highly memorable trip and I am glad we did it.  Once we drove back to Arusha, we discovered that a free hotel room had been included in our trip so we did not complain!  The next morning, we bused up to Nairobi.

Once in Nairobi, where we arrived right after noon, we walked out to our hostel which was nice and cheap and super nice.  Even included breakfast!  I had 6 pieces of toast with every breakfast.  The first day in Nairobi, we walked out to the slum where Austin had volunteered previously.  The project he worked with dealt with providing jobs for young men and women to keep them out of gangs or the sex trade.  We visited two sites.  We left before it got dark, as the community we were on the edge of is known to be a guaranteed robbery site after dark.  The day after that, we slept in, to be honest and it felt great after all of our travel days.  In the afternoon, we went on a walking tour through Nairobi, visiting the SDA church, some schools, the park, the arboretum, and the university.  I really liked Nairobi.  I know it has a reputation as the most dangerous city in Africa aka Nai-robbery, but it is laid out well.  The central park is a great place to hang out in, the architecture on the buildings is solid and attractive, and I appreciate how it is possible to “get out” of the hustle and bustle with the trees or the arboretum.  Also, there is a national park in the city limits.  For our next day in Nairobi, we hiked up to the top of the Ngong hills.  I made it to a new personal elevation high (9500 feet) and the views were incredible.

For our next leg, it was actually the most dangerous.  The Al Shabab group is quite active in the North of Kenya, they are an extremist Islam group that comes over from Somalia.  They killed 4 people in December, including 1 tourist.  Over the last 50 days, they have killed 50 people.  I had people praying and I sure appreciated it.  We left Nairobi about 8:30 am, catching a bus up to Isiolo.  The bus was quite nice, with seats for everybody.  Isiolo is 1/3 of the way to the border, Marsabit is 2/3 of the way, and Moyale is on the border between Kenya and Ethiopia.  So we made it to Isiolo about 1 pm.  We ate lunch, then tried to figure out a way to the border.  We discovered a bus would come through, but would leave at midnight.  While we debated, another guy offered that for a few more shillings, we could ride in the back of a landcruiser up to the border.  The advantage being that with him it would take “10 hours” as opposed to 20 hours on the bus.  However, he wouldn’t leave until 5 or so.  So we waited, fending off a determined little street urchin and a drunk, crazy woman.  As it turns out, not all delays are bad.  While we were chilling in Isiolo, Al Shabab killed their daily target in Marsabit.  Truly a sad situation.  We loaded into the landcruiser bed after 4 pm, as they indicated they were leaving.  We were on metal benches with a very small amount of padding.  Even though the bed was full, we didn’t leave for 2 more hours!!!!!!!!!!!  We finally left just before 7 pm.  There were 12 people in the back of the truck.  We were wedged so tight, my shins were getting bruised by the guy crammed in front of me.  For the first 2 hours, we were on paved roads… then they stopped.  I rapidly discovered that I don’t have any fat in my butt.  None.  It was bone on metal.  The road was pretty rough, which wouldn’t have been a huge problem except we were flying! bam, bam bam, BOOM!  Serious pain.  Then, with the jerks and stuff I developed several lines of bruises:  on my butt, obviously.  On my spine and kidneys from slamming back against the metal truck sides.  On my left shoulder, from the metal bar on the seat in front.  On my shins, from the dude in front.  We couldn’t see either, they had the tarp over the bed.  Since we were not in convoy, although we saw one, I didn’t mind that we were driving fast.  We stopped a few times, and it was very pretty.  The full moon, the vivid stars which felt close enough to touch, and the blackness.  It was as though we stood in an island of light around the truck with the faintly glowing desert stretching out in all directions, only broken up by a faint blue glow on either horizon from distant trucks on the road.  The ride was terrible, but at least I can check that off my life experience list!  Austin and I both were pretty bruised up and had no interest in sitting afterwards when we finally got to the border about 7 am, after 14 hours in the bed of the truck.  We met up with some Belgians and traveled with them for that day.  We had to deal with some persistent “brokers” wanting us to get tickets on buses where they would get cuts.  We got a private bus to Addis at a decent rate and managed to not have to pay for anybody’s cuts.  We made it a good distance back towards Addis, but then our driver’s father died so he wanted to turn around and go back.  So we caught a mini-bus up to Ewossa where we spent the night.  It was refreshing to hear the furious arguing of Ethiopians after a few weeks of “Hakuna Matata” ( no worries) in Kenya and Malawi and Tanzania.  The Belgians could not believe how much fighting there was just getting people on and off buses.  So we kicked back and moaned about our bruises while the furious arguing raged at each stop.  The next morning, we got a bus to Addis and finally returned about 4 pm.  Our trip was complete.

There were so, so many stories from this trip.  I barely told any above, but I have a treasure store of memories.  I am very grateful to God for keeping us safe and guiding us.  I’m also really thankful for Austin being a fantastic travel partner.  The trip was a lot of fun and I was blessed. 

I am currently in Addis Ababa, trying to get back to Gimbie as soon as possible but having a hard time getting tickets.  I should be back in Gimbie by, at the latest, Thursday evening.  I am really excited to get back to work.  The projects we have going have a lot of potential and I know God will work powerfully.

Blessings to all of my friends and family around the world!

New Picture Albums

Greetings Friends and Family,

I have just loaded up two picture albums on facebook.  I am currently in Addis Ababa so I had the internet connection to upload the pictures.  Follow the links below, they should work even if you do not have a facebook account:
I will be in Addis until Monday morning, when I leave for Malawi.  I will be off the grid for about three weeks.  Austin Dice and I will be taking buses back from Malawi through Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and finally end up back in Addis around January 15-17.  We plan to spend some time at Lake Malawi with the Carltons, up to Dar Salaam, to Arusha, Ngongoro Crater, Nairobi, then up to the border.  It will be a great trip.  I will attempt to take pictures and such for future posting.  Please keep Austin and I in your prayers!
I would like to thank all of my supporters for their encouragement while I have been in Ethiopia thus far.  From those who have donated financially, to those who wrote notes in my care packages, to those who faithfully pray for me, each person has helped me.  God has truly worked through you!  I also thank God for all of the great Ethiopians I have become friends with during my stay here.  Mulisa, Tsugaye, Henock, Tadele, Gemechis, and all the rest of the Business Office and GAH crew!  Finally, I am also very grateful for an amazing cast of farengis who have been here with me at Gimbie thus far:  Paul, Petra, Becky, Austin, Ryan, for the longer tenured group and Simon, Rob, Annie, Amy, Mary, and Mish for their shorter stays.  I miss all of my friends and family back in the USA and would like to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas!
Airplanes in the Night Sky

There was a song out awhile back that said something about “If airplanes in the night sky were like shooting stars, I could really use a wish right now.”  Tonight, as Tariku, Tsugaye, Alex, and I were crossing the street in Gimbie to avoid swimming against the human current coming down the right side of the road and to minimize the chance of adding to Ethiopia’s highest per capita vehicular death rate in the world, Tariku raised his arm skyward.  “Want to see plane?  There is plane!”  Looking slightly west, I saw the familiar trail of water vapor against the bowl of the sky as the remnants of the setting sun illuminated the plane’s silver wings.  Around the plane, the first stars peeked out and twinkled cheerily.

 I really like planes, the whole mystique and bittersweet feeling of flying.  It seems that few flights do not take you away from some people and to other people.  As I watched this plane, I considered that I arrived in just such a plane and would leave in another in May.  I remembered my flight into Ethiopia, where the lights of Europe shone brightly to break up the monotony of blackness that had been the Atlantic Ocean, but which rapidly gave way to the speckled blackness of Africa.  Periodically there would be a flash of light, or maybe a small cluster of dots showing human habitation, but mostly it was dark as I came into the continent from the North.  I considered the people in this plane over me and their view of the situation.  Did they look down or were they focused on the sunset, or perhaps the smooth and efficient service of Ethiopian Airlines?  If they had looked down, would they have noticed Gimbie?  Sometimes the lights work, so they might have seen the town, sprawled over the ridge and down into the valleys, centered on the main road from Nekemte.  Surely they could not have seen down onto the road where our merry group of friends was walking.  I know they did not see the smile on my face.  If I had a wish on their plane’s lights as it climbed, would I use it to trade places with the people in the plane?  Would they trade with me?

 The people on the plane were probably more comfortable in their seats then I as I scrambled around and through the people.  They probably did not feel the first beginnings of a touch of “Gimbie Gut” prowling through their GI tract.  They certainly were safer, strapped into their airliner than I was dodging cars.  But were they better off?  I had just finished a great day of work.  Today, we processed the purchasing request for the medications for the Outer Clinics.  I responded to several donor’s e-mails, edited a grant proposal, and wrote tons of administrative letters.  There were some challenges, with one of our nurses trading barbs with one of our business office employees (“He is filled with poison!”  “That is nothing to compared to your poison!”) and a spat about the purchasing order for the clinics. There were some rewarding moments, with Yohannes and I getting a number of letters and decisions completed before he left.  I had finished the monthly report the day before so I gave it to Alex to take to Addis.  Shortly before 6, Alex and Tariku decided to go into town for juice.  I determined to leave work early and join them.

 The entire trip was so much fun and affirmation for all of the things I enjoy about Ethiopia and the crew we have here.  We joined Tadele and Tsugaye on our way out of the hospital and headed towards the main gate.  A mini-bus swirled down the roadway leaving behind a trail of dust in the cool evening air which obscured the figures approaching the hospital under the sprawling entrance trees, who are still dropping their purple flowers onto the ground.  Everyone chattered excitedly, fresh with the feeling of leaving work for the day.  We headed onto the main road and joined the throngs of people moving down the street, buoyed by the jostling enthusiasm of the school children who had just left school.  Cries of “Alex!” rang through the air as our most popular farengi dealt with his entourage with cheerful greetings, which is how he got the entourage in the first place.  Further down the street, we passed a large crowd of people bearing a woman on a stretcher with a man on each corner on their way to the hospital.  The woman looked terrible and just as I thought that I hoped she made it Tariku broke up the moment by saying “Ethiopian Helicopter!  Have you seen our helicopter?  Poor African Helicopter! Hahahahaha!”  Tariku, master of the solemn and thoughtful.  The conversation rapidly moved to Tariku’s beer drinking habits, illegitimate children, and multiple women.  Since this conversation bounced from English to Oromiffa I am not sure what is fact or fiction.  The three of us grabbed juice, then swung by Tadele’s house for Coffee and tea.  Every time I enter an Ethiopian’s small house, it is both touching and welcoming.  Tadele, his wife, and 1 year old girl, live in the space of two beds, with their bed occupying one and their living room the other.  Nonetheless they insisted on preparing Buna and tea for us.  I temporarily escaped their eager hospitality by opting out of Buna (coffee) but just when we readied to go, they informed me that I could not leave yet.  They had went and got somebody else to make tea for me and I had to drink it!  Unfortunately, I almost lost the tea when I got it as it was so hot when it touched my lips I about dropped the whole cup.  Tsugaye got a phone call while we were socializing that his daughter is very sick about 50 km away.  However, although he was very sad and almost cried, he recovered and started laughing again.  They can be very resilient.

 Once we finished our tea, the four of us walked through the gathering dusk onto the main street where Tariku pointed out the plane.  I looked back down from the plane and at the faces of the guys I was with.  A truck rumbled towards us and everyone was lit with the beams of the headlights as they flashed through the crowd and then sped toward us, diesel engine protesting the hill.  As I pondered the question about switching places, Tariku was making jokes about his burgeoning belly being a product of “natural causes” out of his control, which I really doubted as I had just seen him drink a fruit smoothie, three cups of the yeasty juice nastiness, two cups of coffee, and polish off some wat and injera.  Tsugaye, in a more reflective mood after the news of his daughter, told me and Alex that he was glad we liked Ethiopians.  He expressed sadness that other farengis who came did not want to see Ethiopians and get out into Gimbie.  My gaze came back down to the road and glowing Afro in front of me as the truck drew closer.  I am not sure what the previous farengis’ problem was, but they were missing a treasure by not getting to know the people.  Relationships are always the most important thing, no matter when or where.  That is why I know emphatically what would be my answer to a trade with the people in the plane:  no.  Gimbie is a special place and I am thrilled to be here.  The truck rumbled past and we were left grinning at each other in the dark.  The people on the plane could certainly not see that, nor could they feel the bonds within our group.  We walked on, making dreams, wishes, and plans, but not ones that would take us away, but rather ones that would allow others to experience the raw, unbridled, joy of answering the missionary call that each of us have already received.  Let me assure you, being in the plane and not in the field is nowhere as rewarding as being on the ground, with burned lips from hot tea, stained fingers from wat, bloodshot eyes from hours on Excel sheets, reports, and grant proposals, and being surrounded by friends.  The good news is you do not have to wait for a falling star or rising plane to make this happen;  all you need is a simple prayer from an open heart, “Lord, where do you want me to go?  Because I will go.”  He will answer.  Be ready.

Over and out from Gimbie, Ethiopia,

Tyler Pender

Thank you Hickory, NC, SDA Church!

I would like to extend a big thank you to the Hickory, NC, SDA Church!  They are my local church and last week I received a marvelous care package from them which certainly made my day.  I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to write the personalized notes, that was very special and meant a lot to me.  I also was quite excited about the plethora of food options in this marvelous box.  Chili, Cliff Bars, Mojo Bars, and other goodies spilled out, buoyed by the presence of a Nutella Jar (aka manna of heaven).  I was drooling in my office.  I would like to especially thank Lala for arranging the package and mailing it to me!  Each and every item contained therein was greatly appreciated and will be used, I promise.

Thanks to all for their continued support and prayers, especially this latest outpouring of love.  It is great to know I have such a praying and supportive church behind me as I am in Ethiopia.  See you all in May!  God bless!

Simple Moments

One of the defining new mottos of my life is that simple moments are indeed the best.  The feelings of greatest peace and joy are found in activities or after an occurrence that sounds quite simple but feels profound.  Nature’s beauty, holding hands with Melissa, drawing OCHEM mechanisms, solving Physics problems, petting a cat, eating granola, drinking orange juice, sinking a jump-shot.  It is true in the states and it is equally true in Ethiopia.  Even in one day today, there have already been several of these moments… seeing the world change from murky shades of grey to quiet still light as we walked to the stadium this morning at 6 am.  Goofing around on the goal at the stadium playing basketball just to satisfy my addiction.  Perfectly thrown Frisbee passes across the still field, I mean the ones that just spin and hang and are poetry in motion.  A pass that appeared off the whole way but curved into the receiver’s chest at the last second.  Running full-sprint and meeting Alex’s perfectly thrown pass on a jump and snagging it with one hand.  Watching Becky complain about her passing skills but throwing one that went amazingly far despite her claims.  On the way back, seeing the fully alive sun-rise through the rising mists, as houses gradually became visible, dotted through the trees.  My hot shower.

Once at work, I just had another really simply moment that meant a lot to me.  Earlier this month, I had paid the head nurse at Guliso, our best clinic, 150 Birr to hire some labor to move sand and stones next to the construction site of our new incinerator.  There had been much debate on the price, as Gizaw did not think 150 Birr was enough.  But today, he comes trooping in to give his monthly report and brings me his carefully documented receipts to the labor he hired and 10 Birr that was left over.  On one hand, it might seem like this was clearly the right thing to do.  And on the other, it might seem like a very simple matter.  But to me, it served as a reminder of several things:  1.  This is probably why Guliso is our best clinic.  2.  There are good people and people that God is really using working for this hospital.  Gizaw could have easily kept the 10 Birr.  I had already anticipated all the funds would be used and documented it for the 150 Birr with him so I could submit the report.  But he kept records himself and brought it back to me.  He did not even use it for his bus ticket and then explain it, he brought me the 10 Birr note as soon as he got here.  What a guy!

Maybe this story is so simple its significance will be lost on those not formerly associated with working the Outer Clinics of GAH.  But yesterday had plenty of moments that were a little tougher to deal with and this was a refreshing opportunity to remind myself of how blessed I am to be here.  Yesterday, there were many instances of corruption, of shady deals, and of people trying to gain bargaining leverage.  Also, a nurse who had graduated from the hospital’s school, and whose contract we had just terminated to work at one of our clinics, committed suicide.  It was enough to make one think.  The reasons for termination given by the Head Nurse at the clinic he had been assigned to related to his faults as a nurse.  Only after he died did the story come out that he had threatened to kill himself several times there and that is why the Head Nurse did not want him at the clinic.  A perfectly valid reason, but it would have been nice to know that before I helped write up a pretty cold termination letter for professional reasons.  Not that we could have done anything, but the death of a guy under 30, who did very well on my nursing evaluation exam, and you have seen quite a bit, is enough to make you take a second look.  The guy is in several of the pictures I posted from the Mugi specialist trip.  Then last night, I was called to the ER to evaluate whether we treated a patient or kicked her back out on the street.  She was 17 years old and 6 months pregnant.  Her husband had died 2 months before.  She had been unable to make ends meet and had not eaten for several days.  She was anemic, with low blood pressure, and eyelids that were as white as my skin, which is not good for Ethiopians.  She also had no money, which is why I had been called.  Such decisions can seem pretty easy when you are not in the quietly humming hospital, late at night, looking at a patient who is basically a scared little girl.  I desperately wished for a beautifully simple solution to the problem, but none appeared.  When I got done rubbing my tired eyes and peeked out, she still sat there obediently where I had told her to sit, patiently waiting for the promise of some help.

With all of that yesterday, I was in the mood to enjoy all of the simple joys today, and God has not disappointed.  From Gizaw, to the hilarious antics of my Ethiopian friends already this morning, the day is looking amazing.  Daniel, Head Nurse at another one of our best clinics, proudly wore in one of his best t-shirts this morning to present his monthly report.  He was very proud of it.  It was some sort of street-fighting t-shirt designed to be worn by wanna-be gangsters.  It was actually probably supposed to be worn super long, but Daniel is pretty tall so it fit him nicely.  It made a nice contrast, him with his official looking case and reports, with his best jacket, wearing his gangster t-shirt.  You have to love those moments.  Or Yohannes and me buying sheet metal this morning and the guy trying to count the stack and lifting it up while Yohannes is standing obliviously on the other end being a rather large hindrance to the operation as he holds court with me on the merits of buying the welding electrodes today or later.  Or Yohannes insisting we had to have the local guy carry the metal to benefit him not break tradition despite the fact that the guy we ended up with was so painfully thin with nasty welts across his shoulders from loads I felt I could have carried him and the sheet metal back.  Or all of the multitude of happy greetings I get every morning on my way to work from my Business Office friends and people I know who work in the wards.  And of course, the marvelous interest in my Christmas tree that I just brought out today that lights up when plugged into my laptop’s USB port and is sitting on my desk. 

Life is indeed a very rich gift.  We are all surrounded with blessings, if we will but merely make the effort to appreciate them.

Green Lake Trip Pictures!

As promised, here is the link to where I have uploaded the pictures from the Green Lake Trip about which I previously blogged.  Some of them are pretty goofy!  It was a great trip.  Note:  Some of the photos were taken by Becky Carlton.

Thanks and may God bless you all!