Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photos and Videos

Here are links you may be interested in:

and the videogram Greenville Oaks sent to Caleb & Jenny.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cast of Characters

If you're like me, it is hard to tell who is who here in Rwanda. Here is a partial cast of characters:



  • Caleb & Jenny Beck - Caleb works in many circles of ATN.  Jenny works at Kics in the business and HR office as well as working in the Peace House for girls.
  • Heath & Rebecca Amos - Heath works at ATN teaching English the Bible & leads DBSs. Rebecca is a stay at home mom for their 3 kids. They live next door to the Becks in the same compound.
  • Marty and Lousie Koonce - Marty uses taekwondo as a way of leading people to Christ. The sport has been very successful in competition locally and internationally.  Lousie is a stay at home mom.


A separate team works independently from the one in Kigali:

  • Crowson Murphy Christine
  • Millers Matt and Andrea

Unfortunately, we didn't meet or talk about them on this trip.

Rwandan Teammates


These are the locals who lead and work in ATN as described in previous posts:

  • Charles Kabeza - Spokesperson, fundraiser, founder of XtraMile
  • Charles Mapendo
  • Bunani Emmanuel
  • Charlotte - Peace House
  • Deborah - Peace House
  • Nzamutashya - Agriculture & wells
  • Gaston - Media
  • Jules

Center Peace

These are the leaders of the church next door to the Becks:

  • Emile
  • Maureen

Behind the Scenes

In many countries like Rwanda, having people who help around the house is expected and normal.  These are the people that work for the Beck household allowing them to focus on Kingdom building activities:

  • Vadese - nighttime security
  • Olivie - cleaning and laundry
  • Mama Rainie - cooking

Short Term Missionaries

I've learned a lot from my fellow short term missionaries:

  • Gerry Taylor - Leadership, vision, confession, and passion
  • Donna Taylor - Generosity & amiability
  • David Bruce - Humor and saying the right things
  • Valinda Bruce - Affirmation and love for children

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Peace House

Charlotte and Debra run the Peace House for at risk woman and prostitutes. They've found success through love, trade skills, and obedience in Discovery Bible Studies (DBS). Their story epitomizes why Rwanda is the most vibrant mission I have ever seen - foreign or domestic.

Charlotte had a young woman named Josey come to here door after dark one night asking for help to get back home.  Josey had been abused at home and became a prostitute at the age of 12.  She eventually met a man who offered her a job in Barundi.  Once she arrived, the man made her his "wife" and prevented her from leaving. After a few years, she didn't get pregnant so the man kicked her out and took her back to Rwanda. Josey couldn't go back home because her family and community wouldn't accept her.

 Prostitutes in Rwanda are taboo and outcast. Many are sent to the streets by their family. They don't openly advertise themselves because the stigma, but instead "disguise" themselves by selling fruit or other merchandise. A typical prostitur costs around $1 to $3 dollars.

This is about the time Charlotte met Josey. Charlotte grew up as a Christian and her heart was pricked but she wasn't sure what to do. She knew there were others with similar horror stories, so it occurred to her to try to form a support group of some kind. Getting girls to come to such a group was initial very hard because of the stigma and shame.

Peace House offers girls a place to transition away from their desperate circumstances. Girls come and stay for a year. Sometimes there kids stay at the Peace House for kids. During their stay, girls learn a trade. At first it was making jewelry out of tightly round paper. They now make several other things they can sell to make a living without having to abuse themselves in the process. Girls that have been there longer teach the girls that have not been there as long.

This is also true spitiually.  The girls engage everyday in a DBS. They are hungry for the word of God. DBSs call people to obedience based on what they have personally discovered about God by studying the Bible. This is the engine of transformation. The girls form a community around shares struggles.

At one point they learned of a woman in the hospital that was doing very badly. In Rwanda, there is no food service or people taking care of you like you would expect.  Rwanda has a very poor idea of customer service. They don't take care of their sick very well. So, when the girls heard of this woman, even though they didn't know her, they took shifts around the clock nursing her and just sitting with her.

The woman eventually died. Afterward, her family (who wasn't taking care of her) ask what church they went to and how they could join.  To their surprise, they were told this isn't a church, it is just a Kingdom community. This is an interesting twist: they intentionally don't start a "church" because it brings too much baggage with it. Instead, they form Kingdom communities modeling God's Kingdom on earth and send the participants back into their home churches to model the Kingdom. They become the leaven and the change agents in their community.

What happened to Josey? She eventually left the Peace House with new job skills, moved out of Kigali, and became a leader in her community. A girl who could barely lift her head and speak aloud has now formed a second Peace House in her community. The mayor of that town brags on her as shining bright and standing out above all othersmin her community.  There is also a new third group that has started.

This is how you can recognize success: the disciples that Charlotte disciples have now independently begun to disciple others. If we don't see this, we haven't fulfilled the full mission of God.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Worship


After purchasing land, the Becks were the first in the area granted a permit to build. Soon afterwards, a church called PeaceLoadge was allowed to build next door up a little hill. Originally founded by a Canadian,  it is now led by a group of 10 including Caleb.

We were privileged to go to that church this morning. I can't post the videos because of the WiFi, but you should definitely watch them once I post them next week once I get back. It is a traditional Rwandan church. It provides a middle ground between the Catholic and Pentecostal churches that are more common.

The service mostly consisted do performances by children and adult choirs as well as a dance team.  Everything was authentic African.  Wow! It was really awesome.

The sermon was given by a Canadian married to a Rwandan who are trying to move back here. Caleb has been asked to teach on Thursday nights. He is hoping to use this as an opportunity to introduce discipline concepts through DBS. The new building is already used as a community center.  There is a soccer field next door.  Caleb views the church as being a portal into his local community.


We worshipped at the Koonce house tonight. It was a large crowd because we welcomed a large group from  Pepperdine studying abroad. All the locals introduced themselves and described their ministry. Because Rwanda requires everyone to have a vocational job, we heard from teachers, principles, accountants, and taekwondo coaches who one by one named their job and how they use it to bring people to Christ. How awesome it would be if everyone in the U.S. saw themselves as being a missionary first and their profession  as the vehicle to serve.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Going Native

Day in the Life

We spent most of the day simulating a day in the life of a Rwandan.   African Transformation Network (ATN) just recently started doing these simulations behind the welding shop.  They have a small house and demonstration fields.  The house is a traditional one you'd find in rural areas with walls made of clay and are painted white inside using flour.  If you touch the wall, you'll get some powder on you.  A small house to the side had a kitchen which amounted to an indoor fire with a pot of boiling water on it.  This is where they (Denise  with her baby on her back) cooked our lunch of boiled bananas, sweet potatoes, and beans accompanied by avocados, Japanese plums, and passion fruit.

Prepreparing for the Day

The woman started the day by putting on traditional wraps and head scarfs.  The men chopped wood for the cooking fire.  We all took turns peeling green plantains for boiling.  The juice under the skin was very sticky and hard to get off our hands.

There are three types of bananas grown in Rwanda: table bananas for that look like the little "manzanita" bananas you find in Latin America, plantains that are typically boiled, and bananas they make beer out of.  We were shown an earthen oven where the unpeeled green beer bananas are baked, fermented, and added to sorghum to become beer.

Farming God's Way

ATN teaches agriculture to the locals.  Anyone with land grows bananas, beans, & vegetables that form a major portion of their diet. ATN teaches them how to farm God's way without tilling yielding up to four times the yield of traditional Rwandan farms and gardens in a way that is sustainable. Tilling produces hard land and let's moisture escape. ATN teaches how to use ground cover instead of tilling. The ground cover serves as both mulch and soil for the seedlings.

Then group got to practice this form of farming in ATN's demonstration fields. The men weeded and pruned banana trees. The flowers of the tree need to be cut, dead bark cut, and flayed bark tied back to the tree.

We were taught to grow three generations of trees together at the same base: the oldest generation to yield fruit, a younger less mature generation with no fruit (yet), and a sampling.  This way, you have bananas year round.

The women made hats out of the banana leaves. These aren't ornamental, they are functional.  Woman carry large heavy things on their head and the hats provide a cushion, support, and balance.

Clean Water

Rwandans struggle to find clean drinking water. Many walk miles to fill a 50 lb "Gerry Can" of water from mud puddles and marshes with hippos in them. This water has all sorts of nasty stuff I it causing large parts of the population to have intestinal problems.

ATN combats this by drilling wells. The western approach brings in heavy machinery and gets the job done fast.  The problem is that it cost $10,000 and the well falls into disrepair because the locals don't feel like they own it nor do they have the ability to fix it when it breaks.

ATN finds communities who are willing to partner in the creation and maintenance of the well. Drilling is a manual and very long process.  A big tripod is erected and drilling begins with two people turning a drill bit.  The first few feet go fast.  When they hit rock, they may only a few inches in a day.  It can take 3 months to drill down to the 45 feet it takes to make a well.  Even then, there is no promise that the well will make.  One  out of the five wells they've drilled so far was too salty to be used. They'd  like to find a motor to use  that can turn the crank on the drill bit.  The current manual process takes several people and is slow.

Once the well is drilled, the welding shop creates the pump for the well. It is made simply with local parts that the locals can fix if/when it breaks. The pump is locked at night to prevent abuse.  During the day, a man stays at the pump to protect it and help pump the water. Locals pay the guard $0.03 per haul for clean water closer than the bad water before.

We were then privileged to haul water for the family that lives in the house where we ate lunch. We carried Gerry Cans down hill 2 kilometers to a well drilled behind ATN. We then carried the cans back up hill to the house. It is hard for me to imagine how people do this every day.  We were all huffing and puffing at the top of the hill!

Irene's Well

We drove out into the rural countryside to see a new well being dug.  This well is partially funded by donations made in memory of Donna's mother Irene who passed away not too long ago. We took the opportunity to bless the well and dedicate it to Irene's memory.

Street Boys

ATN started a ministry back in 2011 with boys who live on the street. These are children of prostitutes and families without fathers who are malnourished and illiterate. They are around 14 years old and in the first or second grade.  All of them are very small for their age due to malnutrition.

These at risk kids leave their families and move into a peace house run by ATN.  The house has a few rooms with bunk beds. It is a place where kids can escape the cycle of bad choices, live in a safe environment with peers, study the Bible, and learn about Jesus.

Kids rotate through the peace house annually in January.  Twelve kids spend a year transitioning from a live of despair into one of hope. After a year is up, they go back to their families, stay in school, and go onto a better life than they would have had before. For some, finishing sixth grade is a success because they will be literate enough to get a job.  Many go on to secondary school.


The workers did great work on the playground.  You can see from the photos how it is coming along nicely. They made then painted the merry-go-round and slide fort.  The rock wall is half done.  We took the big sand pile and spread it over a third of the ground after picking up rocks and smoothing out the dirt. More loads of dirt will come next week to finish out the playground.

The street boys helped spread the sand around.  There aren't many playgrounds in Rwanda.  Since this one is visible from the street, they are hoping to attract more kids. There aren't primary schools in that area, so one of the dreams is to open a primary school on the ATN campus.  This would be a Christian school that could impact lives of the area kids and street kids.  It could also be a needed revenue source because people will pay for their kids to go to a quality school close by.


Another dream is to build dorms. They are going to start raising funds for that next summer.  The dorms would house the iron working students.  They would receive room and board and ATN would get paying students that would make the ministry self sustaining.  They could also triple the number of students with this.

Giving people skills is part of the secret sauce at ATN.  People come for help and education, they get involved in Bible studies, and stay for the Kingdom community.

Rwandan Weddings

There are some men that won't marry a woman until she is pregnant.  Children are a very important part of Rwandan culture and the men don't want to commit to anything before they know the woman can deliver the goods.

Rwandan weddings have three ceremonies: the dowry, the civil, and the religious.  Weddings last all day (and night).  Brides hide in with the crowd while old men pretend to argue for an hour over whether or not the bride should be allowed to marry the groom. Finally, they relent at which point the bride pretends to not want to go because she will miss her family.  When the bride has no family, others step into that role To fill the gap.


Everything in Rwanda is prepaid.  You buy minutes for your phone and use it until they run out and then you buy more.  You by electricity and use it until you run out and then you buy more.  Being able to send and receive money over low end phones is a critical aspect of how this works. It would be interesting to see how this impacts the debt people live with.


We went to visit one of the former ATN folk whose college education was funded by generous members of Greenville Oaks.  Josian lived in a remote area close to the Burundi border. Her college degree helped double her expected income and allowed her to meet a husband with a similar education. Together, they bought 200 square meters of land on a hillside near upscale new homes where Kilgali is expanding into.  Once the infrastructure is in place, they'll be able to sell the land beside their house for a nice profit. None of this would be possible without the help of generous donors.

ATN People

The Kingdom is flourishing in Rwanda because their are so many Rwandans who lead the disciple making movement.  The colonial approach to Christianity hasn't worked. What does work is partnering with the locals on their vision and letting them lead the way.

Charles Mapendo

Charles is a major figure in ATN.  Officially he manages the business side of the NGO, dealing with visas and such.  His real value is in leading multiple Discovery Bible Studies (DBSs) and introducing spiritual concepts to everything done at ATN. Charles sees DBSs as critical to letting people discover God or learn about who God is strictly  Bible. He doesn't believe the traditional church model works because it reinforces bad practices: delegation of faith to a priest or pastor, passivity, compartmentalization, etc. Charles sees DBS as a call to obedience to what you recognize in scripture.

Jean Paul (Mzamutashya)

Mzamutashya leads the farming God's way and drilling wells. He describes his mission as a way to connect people with God through something they think they know: growing food and collecting water. He shows them how God created an ecosystem that works a certain way. Man is a part of that ecosystem as both good stewards and consumers, if we do it God's way, it will flourish.  The same is true with our spiritual lives.  When people want to grow more food or get clean water, they also are brought into a Kingdom community.

Gil and Pauli

Gil and Pauli run the peace house for street kids. Gil says his strategy from the moment they arrive is to them Jesus.


Serge isn't a part of ATN.  He just graduated from ACU and has returned to Rwanda to work with a day school for kids. Parents drop off kids before work and pick them up after work. In between, the kids are taught academics and Jesus.


Bunani manages the ATN finances.

Many Others
There are so many others I am unintentionally leaving out.  Sorry!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

We Remember

There's Gold in Them There Turtles!

Rwandans overwhelmingly call themselves Christians, yet struggle to grasp the fundamentals of Christ.  Many abdicate their faith to priests and pastors.  Animism, witch doctors, curses,  etc. still govern people's actions.

One woman asked to see one of the Beck's teammates in private.  She opened a bag, showed him a turtle, and asked how one gets the gold out of the turtle.  She didn't want any others around to find out the secret.  I guess she thought he would know because he was seen as a religious leader.

Caleb has been combating this by talking and walking with people.  It is hard because many have difficulty processing concepts that conflict with what they've been taught and brought up with.  We could all do a better job altering or actions to reflect our professed belief in Christ.


We had a powerful day seeing all the memorials.  We went to two churches that have been turned into memorials.  In the Tutsi killings between '59 and '94, people fleeing could seek refuge in churches.  During the genocide, this changed when priests and pastors were complicit or helped the killers.  In one case, after people found shelter his church, the priest locked the doors & called the Hutus to bulldoze the church.

The churches we visited were mass graves where tens of thousands of people are buried. The pews have the original victim's clothes inside.  Crypts have coffins and shelves of skulls and bones of the dead.  Walls had holes created by grenades thrown to stun victims so make it easier for people with machetes to kill.  Ceilings, floors, and walls had bullet holes.

The main memorial in Kigali was something closer to what we westerners would expect.  It was mostly displays with photos and history starting with the Germans, Belgians, and Hutus winning liberation from Tutsi rule but then immediately killing Tutsis and laying the foundation for the genocide.  We saw the "10 commandments for Hutus" seemingly straight out of Nazi Germany.  Everyone cried.

Mary was the First to be Shot

One Rwandan said that the first victim shot was Mary the mother of Jesus. I don't think he means that literally, although her statue does have pockmarks from bullets.  He meant that Rwandans saw the failure of churches to protect them as being abandoned by God.  They grew up thinking churches were holy ground Satan couldn't penetrate.  Now they see church as just a building.

The Rwandan killed not only families but their idea of God. If the church is just a building, then what is God?  This is what Caleb and Jenny are trying to rebuild out of the ashes of broken lives and broken trust in religious institutions.

Restore the Image of God in People

Caleb emphasized several times today that they view there purpose as to convince people they have God's image.  When you listen to a prostitute trying to better herself, you are giving her back the dignity God gave her she thinks she has lost. Survivors overcome despair by grasping at the hope that comes with being a child of God.

Big Sin, Big Forgiveness
It is frightening what happens when we let Satan have a free reign. I can't explain how the genocide could be explained any other way than Satan in control.

Then we hear stories of survivors seeking out the people who killed their families and friends - not for retribution but rather to forgive. They believe you can't forgive somebody whose name you don't know.  You have to find the person then forgive them.  You have to put yourself in their shoes and learn their story for the healing on both sides to begin. I can't explain how this could happen any other way than God is in control.


We stopped by to see the school where Caris is in Kindergarten and Aiden is in 2nd grade. Jenny volunteers there 2 or 3 times a week and the kids get free tuition.  Jenny was asked to do HR work, but quickly assumed a role of business officer bringing with it more work and more stress than she wanted for a volunteer position.  Next year, she be transitioning into a role where she can work with people, not numbers.

The school has 238 kids and will be over 300 next year.  It is a Christ centered school founded by Brian Dollinger when he and Christy were here. The school is American accredited and highly sought after by missionaries, NGOs, diplomats, etc.  Aiden took the STAAR test today. It is definitely the nicest school I've seen in a 3rd world country.  They are looking to build a larger campus that will allow the school to grow to meet the demand.

Teachers here were originally required to be self supporting. They move receive a small monthly stipend, insurance, and airfare.


We took a quick tour of the African Transformation Network. We'll see more tomorrow. This is where classes in business, entrepreneurship, ethics, welding, and sustainable farming are taught.  They are building a playground hoping to do more with street kids in the future.  We saw bananas grown larger and more abundantly using sustainable techniques.  We saw ironwork, desks, and tables made by people given their dignity back by learning a job skill.

There is so much more to say!  Look at the videos and photos.

Until tomorrow ...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Soldiers of Christ

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

2 Timothy 2:3-8

Imagine a nation at war staffed by an all volunteer army. Soldiers volunteer but have to find their own support from one of many groups.  These groups operate mostly autonomously with no coordinated plan on how to fight. Soldiers bounce between these groups until one or more agree to fund the campaign using a minority percentage of the group's overall budget.  Groups fund soldiers because no one in the group wants to fight in the war themselves even though they know it is their duty and knowing they won't exist if the war is lost.

Many soldiers are immediately deployed into the field.  Some receive academic training on theory of campaigns 2000 years ago.  A few are lucky enough to be given training preparing them for what lies ahead. Almost no one goes through boot camps simulating battle conditions stretching them in controlled situations so they know their own limits and won't be broken when the real fighting breaks out.

Most soldiers are deployed with their families but without any fellow soldiers or support staff. They are mostly on their own.  The sending groups get monthly newsletters giving a rosy picture of the campaign.  Soldiers are reluctant to openly talk about real problems for fear of loosing their funding knowing how quickly groups lose interest and move onto something else.  So, they lock their old problems before deployment along with their new cultural and familial problems in a pressure cooker hoping it won't explode.

When soldiers choose to come back home, it is usually because they've reached the limit of their endurance, not because replacements have arrived, the battle is won, or the war is over.  They and their families both bring back the scars of war.  Unfortunately, soldiers are largely unemployable because they don't have any "valuable" skill sets.  Thus, the problems they had before & during deployment follow them home and are compounded by reverse culture shock and an empty bank account.

What people don't understand is that there is a war going on at home.  Because we only send soldiers abroad to fight foreign wars, we have no concept or model on how to fight the same war on our own turf.  Even if the war is being won abroad, we are clearly losing at home.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Is this the way we really want the Kingdom to grow?

When I see success like I see in Rwanda and Cuernavaca, I see nothing less than a miracle knowing how imperfect the system we've created is.  Only God can turn something so broken into something so beautiful.

Let's give our foreign and local missionaries the double honor due them.  While we're at it, let's have a real discussion about fixing this broken man made system.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Foreigners & Exiles

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles ...

1 Peter 2:9-11

I can think of nowhere this is more true than in Rwanda. The genocide destroyed lives by turning communities into isolated survivors.  The gospel binds individuals in Kingdom communities defined by redemption, hope, and support.

Foreign missionaries are constantly bombarded with the message that they are different.  Life is never as easy as it is at "home".  It is ironic that their goal is to make others feel like foreigners in their home country.

Local missionaries struggle with this as well.  We call ourselves and our peers out to form of self exile from the societal norm of compartmentalization.  Instead, we intionally isolate ourselves in comfortable places on a slippery slope to complacency.

What is the secret sauce in Rwanda?  That's what I'm here to find out.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Gospel of Rwanda

Luke was a guy who was curious about Jesus.  He didn't know Him first hand, but he knew the apostles, witnessed the power of gospel and wanted to tell others about it.  Thanks to Luke, we have the gospel of Luke and its sequel Acts.

2000 years later, I'm going to write another sequel - this time set in Rwanda.   While I'm no Luke, I'm going to do my best to investigate and report on what God is doing in Rwanda.  Maybe there is something we can learn together, Theophilus, that we can apply here at home ...

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Links to GO Blogs

Here's a link to the blogs for Greenville Oaks mission trips I went on.

For those who want to hear about our daughter Emma, here's a link to her story.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Closing Thoughts on Grenada 2009

We're Back! To wrap things up, here are some of my closing thoughts on the trip:

The Big Swim
To show they were "real" men, several swam from our hotel all the way to Grand Anse beach. All told, it was about half a mile along the beach. Not an easy chore. As soon as they were finished, they were spirited away for the Wednesday night service.

Wednesday Sing Song

Church Wednesday night church at Grand Anse consisted of mostly of singing intermixed with a few prayers and a devotional thought by Jim. The singing was great. Better yet, Dorthy, a Jamaican who brought us food and sold us recipes, came just to help with the clinic and attend church that night.

The devo was short. We sang a few songs and Drew led our thoughts. He talked about how we are all members of a global body diverse in form and function.

Woody played a couple of jokes on us. First, he said he had some great confession to get off his chest. After several minutes of hem-hawing, we found out that the sin was passing someone on a hill. Considering the offensive driving in Grenada, I chalk this up as Woody going native. Woody then called out several people who sinned by leaving half-drank water bottles lying around. Shame!

As was done last year, Woody later took several out to Peron's house for a crab bake.

Bye Bye
After VBS, Crystal was cleaning up in the Limes Pre-School. After VBS, they close the doors as a hint to the kids that VBS is over. So, when she hears a knock at the door, she ignores it. When the knocking persists, she opens it and politely tells the kid that VBS is over. After several excuses, Crystal thinks he has taken the hint. Then she hears something being put under the door. The kid has put a paper heart with a note that says "Thanks for coming to Grenada, bye-bye" for his special teachers. Turns out, that's all the kid really wanted. Crystal opened the door, apologized, hugged, and talked with the kid. Its bitter sweet when kids remind of why we're really here. What a blessing.

Unfortunately, we had to leave 3 behind. The sick medical professional remains in the hospital but is expected to be released tomorrow. To help him return, Tim and Michelle will fly back with him Saturday.

Carribean Lectureship
Gaynell, Bonnie, and several from Galon's family will attend the Caribbean Lectureship in Barbados starting Sunday. Gaynell and Bonnie flew there straight today while Galon will fly back Sunday. I'm not sure what Gaynell and Bonnie will do in the Bahamas until the lectureships begin. I hope they don't get too bored!

The Final Report
Kathy Mixson has the forms each patient filled out. She will prepare a report for the Grenadian heath department on how many people we saw, common problems, and our assessment of the situation.

The same forms identify who had prayer requests and how to contact them. This information will be given to Jim and Marie for follow-up in the coming weeks.

Thanks Tony!
Tony Samuel, the member from Concord who brought us the fruit basket, carried our luggage to the airport this morning in his flat bed truck. He even let Tim drive his van to shuttle everyone there. When unloading all the luggage at the airport, we left Tony's van alone for too long and it was toed. We'll bail him out and try to find a better way of saying thanks next year.

I gave Noyle my copy of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. I got his email address. As soon as I find another copy, I'm going to trip to startup a long-distance dialogue. When I was reading it, I would have liked to discuss parts with someone. Now God has granted my prayer.

Grenada is easy to love. While the climate is warm, so are the people. They are easy going, quick to smile, and generous with their time. They have lots of problems, but so do I.

Grenada vs. Nicaragua
It is interesting to compare my 2 trips to Nicaragua with this one to Grenada:
  • We saw over 300 hundred total in Grenada over 4 days. In Nicaragua, we saw about 1300-1500 over 3 days.
  • In Nicaragua, we had fewer but longer days were longer because we drove up to 1.5 hours each way to get to our destination. We never turned away patients and we all took a lunch hour to eat a meal prepared by the locals.
  • Grenada had a greater spiritual focus than Nicaragua. It had classes for the adults, teens, and small children. We prayed with many people and made a large efforts to interact with the locals. Nicaragua was almost exclusively focused on the physical needs of the community. I think the language barrier also kept many from effectively ministering to the Nicaraguans.
  • HTI in Nicaragua is a well oiled machine. They've been doing this for almost 20 years. They have great programs that mature young people and prepare them to be the leaders of their local church community in the future.
  • Grenada is much healthier than Nicaragua. Their standard of living is higher, though nothing compared to that of the U.S. Sadly, we barely recognize what God has done for us while for people in Grenada and Nicaragua, it is plain before their eyes. I wonder who among us would trade some of our standard of living for a more acute awareness of how God works in our lives. That's one of the things that make the Sullengers, Dolingers, Becks, etc. so special.

The Gang

I've talked a lot about the people in Grenada. Let me say something about the people I went with. I'd like to pick on a few that I talked to and stand out to me. I'm reluctant to call out people since it guarantees I'll leave out somebody. Everyone played a vital role. I'll mention the few I interacted with the most:
  • Tim and Michelle - o.k., really, just Michelle. Wow! A lot of blood, sweat, and work was poured into this trip and it shows. Things went very smoothly. Everyone knew what was expected of them and what was going to happen at all times. They were the oil in our engine.
  • Woody and Drew were invaluable driving us (safely) around everywhere. They were our personal chauffeurs driving us to the market, beach, clinic, VBS, Sullengers, etc. every day all day.
  • Julie Mabry and everyone in the dental area were awesome. They bore the brunt of the patients cheerfully with little time for rest or reprieve.
  • The Becks are cool. Find out for yourself.
  • Gaynell and Mike Kellum are cool. Gaynell was born to teach VBS. Mike is the ideal family doctor. They have a great sense of humor - something we didn't expect in a elder. Of course, while we just found this out by sharing a suite with them, most of you probably already knew it.
  • Jim is a hoot. Marie is the modern day Donna Reed - the mother everyone wishes they had.
  • I loved talking Hillary and Bonnie and listening to their plans for living a life of service. They make my heart glow with hope for the future.
  • Randy and Allison are full of fun and energy. Randy cracks us up with his southern accent, jokes, and outgoing "coach" personality. Allison is a great teacher and puts up with Randy (not so easy a job).
  • I tried my hardest to be near Galon and just soak him up. God has given him a vision of the Kingdom that we need to hear and understand. I think I'm starting to catch on, but I need time to let it stew.
  • Lastly, my wife, Tammy. Her skills as an O.T. allowed her to fit in easily in the pharmacy. What a blessing it is to share a common spiritual mission with your spouse.
One of the big reasons Tammy and I came on the trip was to get to know the locals (at Greenville Oaks). Mission accomplished. It has been a blessing to spend so much time with so many that share so much in common. We're eager to deepen the friendships planted over the last week.

The Shack
A shout out to Jimmy Campbell who kept bugging me to read The Shack. While I might be the last one at Greenville Oaks to read it, I started it and finished it on the trip back today.

Since coming to Greenville Oaks, I've been thinking a lot about the way God works in our lives. I don't live at either end of the spectrum. I'm neither a deist nor do I believe God is a omnipotent micro manager. I've struggled with putting into words my personal belief, but made some progress on the trip back today. Maybe some day I'll write about it - but it won't be soon.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts, posting replies, and most of all your prayers. As of 7/16/9, Google Analytics says 326 of you have read the blog. This is more than I could have hoped for.

God has good things in store for Grenada. We just need to be ready.

Until next time ...


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ditto Ditto

I'm writing this mid-day because tonight is likely to be too busy.

VBS & Clinic
We had our last VBS and clinic today. The clinic ran from 9-3, but we had so many people we stopped taking new people around 10. We saw over 100 today, so our 3 day total will be around 300.

I spent 3+ hours praying with many, many people today. The fall into a few categories:
  • A couple of women expressing interest in baptism
  • A few seeking work
  • The majority were single mothers taking care of their 9 or 10 kids as well as aging family members. I see a great need for spiritual husbands and fathers.
We had several return from previous days.

I don't just play a doctor on TV ...
A local TV station MTV came by yesterday and today. Dr. Kellum starred on last nights 10 o'clock news. Galon talked to the station this afternoon and will try to get a copy of the clip for our personal use.

Tonight we're going to worship with the local church, eat pizza, have a pre-departure meeting, sleep and leave early in the morning.

Until we meet face to face ...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Today was almost a carbon copy of the first day. Here are the highlights and differences:
  • Tony (a member of the church in Concord) brought a large box full of mangoes, pineapple, and cashew fruit.
  • We had two critical medical personnel who could not work today. One had pink eye and one was admitted to a local hospital with pneumonia. Please pray for them.
  • When we arrived at the clinic, there were 30+ people already waiting for us. Chaos ensued. We had to stop taking patients about half way through because we knew we'd never be able to see the rest today. To accelerate things, we stopped cleaning teeth. We ended up seeing 100+ even being short by two.
  • Angela returned from yesterday with salt fish, green bananas, and plantains.
  • We prayed with several people today. A common theme seems to be young woman with babies, no job, and no man. I keep being struck by the number of children taking care of children (their own or others) without adults around.
  • Noyle returned briefly and we continued our conversation on the way God works in the church.
  • I played soccer with the kids at VBS. Even though they called me "old man", they picked me over Randy. I even heard them yell "pass the ball to the white guy" by which they meant me.
  • David shared his story with me. He and his wife (girlfriend at the time) went to a clinic in 1989 at one of the local stadiums. A stranger named Paul Winkler sat down by David, introduced himself, and asked if he wanted to study the Bible. David said yes, was baptized soon after, was married soon after, and now is the minister at the Grand Anse church. He went on to describe the value of regular church attendance in the process of maturing of a christian.
  • Caleb gave the devo tonight. He and Jenny are a huge blessing God has given us.

Tomorrow will be very busy. I'll try to get in one more quick blog before we leave early Thursday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

VBS and Day 1 of the Public Clinic

Hello again. Here's what I saw and have been thinking about:

God is Good ... All the Time
One thing I forgot to mention about yesterday's service was Noyle's contribution. Twice he led the closing prayer. Each time he engaged the congregation in a reader-response that went like this:
  • Noyle - God is good
  • Congregation - All the Time
  • Noyle - and All the Time
  • Congregation - God is good.
Each time, he read a passage, read his student Bible's interpretation of it, and concluded with his own thoughts.

Speaking of Noyle, he dropped by today. I gave him my copy of "Reading the Bible for All its Worth". Hopefully we'll get a chance to share some more on the topic.

Day 2
Our second day has been exhausting. The clinic was from 2 till 8. The sandwiches arrived at 6, we stopped accepting new patients at 7, closed shop at 8, and had a devo at 9.

The church has been advertising on the radio since early July. The 90+ people we saw today proves it was effective. In order to handle the additional load, we called an "all hands on deck" where everyone worked in the clinic. The additional people helped with the meeting & greet and giving relief to miscellaneous workers as needed. We anticipate even more tomorrow.

No Water
Unfortunately, at 4:30, the water shut off. Before panic set in, we recommissioned a water cooler for cleaning dental instruments and such. The same thing happened late yesterday, but few noticed because it was near the end of our shift. Apparently, the water authority periodically shuts off water in areas where it detects spikes usage. I'm guessing we should anticipate it again tomorrow. We'll just bring big coolers of water and force shuttled bathroom breaks en masse.

Prayer List
We are interested in the physical and spiritual health of our patients. Everyone filled out a short form with their contact information. Included at the end of the questionnaire was the ability to ask for prayers. Here's a couple of snapshots of the people I met:

  • Angela is the 5th of 17 children. Her father left her mother to raise 11 by herself as a single mom. Angela has 3 daughters a husband that is emotionally and spiritually distant.
  • Desmond & Esther are boyfriend/girlfriend with 2 children together and 10 overall. They asked for prayers in their relationship.

Grenadians on Grenada
Here are a few comments about Grenada from Grenadians:
  • It is safe.
  • The pace is slow.
  • There's not much crime.
  • There is a drug problem.
  • Garbage collection happens twice a week.
  • If you are willing to do anything, you can find a job.
  • White collar jobs are extremely difficult to obtain and are typically granted based on relationships rather than merit.

Our first day at VBS had 30-40 kids ranging from 4 to 15. Randy brought his "A" game as a coach by tricking even the oldest kids into a coloring contest. The winners were the team captains for the futbol (soccer) game.

With the arrival of our supplies last night, Gaynell did an excellent job teaching lessons about keeping the body pure via Romans 12. Allison used what I would call a Chinese box to show how what you put in affects the box itself. Gaynell and Bonnie even put on a puppet show that was well received.

The kids ate PBJs, had arts and crafts, and left the 2.5 hour experience happy and content.

Kingdom Triad
No, this isn't a new type of Chinese mafia. Galon met with Paron and Peter this afternoon. They discussed the differences between the physical manifestation of the church versus God's Kingdom. How do the two differ? Can you have one without the other? How does have small groups (triads) of believers sharing "God stories" relate to these concepts.

This is food for fodder over the coming weeks, months, and years.

Electrical Outages
Did I mention we have blocks of rooms without electricity? Sometimes we overload the system and have to live without air conditioning, lights, etc.

Patient Outtakes
Here's a notable patients from today:
  • One man in his early 20s came in and announced (loudly) that he was a drug addict. The drugs had obviously caused some mental health issues and led to criminal activity.
  • One poor girl just flat refused to be poked for a glucose test. Kathy Mixon tried every trick, but ultimately lost the battle.
  • A young local member came in yesterday with hearing problems. Dr. Kellum put drops in his ears along with cotton to hold them in. Upon his return today, Dr. Kellum removed the ear wax and now the boy can hear again.

God Lessons
Here's some "God lessons" various peopled shared during tonight's devotional:
  • 30+ people can accomplish a lot when we work as a team.
  • We have nothing to complain about and should reject the negativity of complainers.
  • Using my talents here makes me realize that this is where I belong.
  • Talking with someone isn't about going from a -10 to a 10. Sometimes it is just about going from -9 to -8.
  • It is wonderful when the church, the Kingdom, and the community are all one in the same.

Until tomorrow ...


Sunday Worship and In-House Clinic

Today was spent attending the Grand Anse Church of Christ and conducting a medical clinic for the members of the 7 churches of Christ in Grenada.

The morning worship began at 10 and lasted until 1 p.m. The evening worship began at 7 p.m. and lasted until a little after 8 p.m. Our crew of 30+ slightly outnumbered the number of locals in the morning service. Like most churches, attendance dropped a bit in the evening.

Adam did his usual great job leading singing traditional "Songs of the Church". We even tackled "O Lord Our Lord" and made more than just a joyful noise to the Lord.

The remainder of service was led by the local brothers from Grenada. David spoke on "Everyone needs the Gospel" and the "Power of Satan". Just before worship ended, Chris - who had been taking notes in the back - stood up and gave a summary of the lesson. Rather than being redundant, it was a great way to give the congregants a "take away" as well as boosting his confidence.

Medical Clinic

Today we had the first day of the medical clinic. Between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., we saw around 50 patients. We had
  • 2 general practitioners - Dr. Kellum & Dr. Henson Cummings (a local doctor)
  • 2 dentists - Dr. Burch & Dr. David Goydan
  • 3 dental hygienist - Tina Woodbridge, Julie Mabry, and Ashley
  • 3 nurses - Misty Lawrence, Kathy Mixson, and Lydia Medina
  • 1 eye dude - Kyle Myatt
  • 2 instrument cleaners - Bonnie Kellum and Crystal Spencer
  • 2 pill pushers - Tammy Maxey & Zach Woodbridge
  • 1 patient care coodinator - Gaynell Kellum
  • 2 spiritual outreach - Jim and Marie Sullenger
  • 2 receptionists - Mark Maxey and Adam Looney
We will conduct all the clinics at the Grand Anse church building. It was comfortable, the right size, and had a good "waiting room" outside.

Meet the Members
Let me introduce you to the member of the church I met and a little of what we talked about:

  • David is the preacher. He was converted at a medical clinic years ago. When he preaches, he'll fall into a cadence that is deliberately emphasizes the simple truth of the gospel.

  • Francis is an 86 year old wonder woman. She talked in a fast Caribbean/creole accent that was very difficult to understand. She thinks everything she says was hilarious. While she uses a walking stick, she is very healthy overall.
  • Chris is a quiet seeker who takes notes at the back of the church and then shares his thoughts. His family have been members for 20-30 years. This is true of most of the people.
  • Simon is an elderly gentleman who usually leads singing.
  • Tony is a member of another congregation across the island. He works as a produce distributor for the hotel industry. He goes around from farm to farm, picking up what's fresh and delivering it to restaurants and hotels that need them. He focuses on tomatoes, watermelons, mangoes, and pineapple. I think it was pretty clear that I'm a foodie. He promised to bring me a variety of mangoes (they have 5 different kinds here) and pineapple.
  • Ruth is from Guyana. She moved to Grenada in '95 with her sons. Her sister converted her while in Guyana but has since left the church. She moved to Grenada for the peace and safety she felt she lacked in her home country. She works in the hotel industry and travels back home on vacations to see her family. We talked extensively about the Jim Jones travesty. It was interesting for her to share a local's perspective on the events that shocked the world.

  • Noyle is a seeker. When I told him I worked with computers, he said he loved to use the Internet to pursue his passions like making stained glass and apologetics. He showed me some pictures of the glass he's made (its quite good). We spent the next hour or so talking about Bible translations, themes of the Bible, and sharing with each other our love for the truth found in God's word. He uses a student Bible I had not seen before that has summaries of each passage and spoke frequently of how everything needs to be checked against the KJV for authenticity. I shared with him the 4 different ways to translate the Bible and walked him through our study of Jude. I brought my copy of "Reading the Bible for all its Worth" and will share it with him when I see him next. Hopefully, that will spurn more conversations that will sharpen us both.

Gone Native
Maybe its just me, but it seems like Jim has acclimated quickly to Grenada. Maybe its is his perpetual relax extroverted personality, maybe its the way he is frequently seen with his button down shirt untucked and completely unbuttoned.

We got all our luggage! Some of the recently arrived luggage included the VBS materials. Just in time!

Shout Outs
Let me give a shout out to all the spouses, grandparents, family members, who are supporting us while we're gone. Thanks!

Another shout out to Hillary who delivered my lunch yesterday. Thanks!

Please continue to pray that God reveals his message for us here in Grenada. I know I've already been encouraged by the conversations I've had with Noyle, Galon, Caleb & Jenny and many others. What a blessing!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pills, Purity, Pants, Patience, Power, and Prodigal Packages

What a blessed day!

Before I start talking about today, let me mention a couple of things I forgot about yesterday ...

God's Valentine
While were were eating Cuban food at a restaurant called Carreta in the Miami airport, an elderly Hispanic "bus boy" walked up to me and handed me some lyrics. We struck up a conversation in Spanish and before I knew it, he had handed me several sets of song lyrics. All were worship songs he had written and wanted to share with us.

The one that sticks out the most is "14 de Febrero". As he was half reading half singing the song to me, it struck me as a love song. Because I am a man and as such predisposed to ask stupid questions, I asked him what was special about that date. He said "it is Valentine's day". Duh!

I think it is great that someone writes a love song to God. Even more so, I think it is great that there are people who are bold enough to walk up to a stranger and start a spiritual conversation in a different language (he didn't know I spoke a bit of Spanish when he approached me).

There's a dress code in Grenada?
One humorous side note - Adam wore camouflage short pants on the plane from Miami to Grenada. Before passing through customs, Adam was informed that he would not be allowed to "leave the compound" unless he changed pants. Thankfully, Adam had a change in his carry on luggage.

Finally, here's a run down of the day's events:

Pill Packing
The medical team started the day by allocating medication and vitamins into pre-packaged doses. Some of us wrote the dosages on plastic baggies. Some of us counted pills. We're looking forward to putting them to good use tomorrow when we have a clinic for the local church members.

Marriage Workshop
Tim and Michelle hosted a marriage enrichment workshop for the adults. Two people came and were given an abbreviated intimate version of the full set of lessons prepared. While disappointed in the turnout, we can't say what God's plan is. Maybe we'll find others throughout the week who are interested. Maybe God has something special in mind for these two people. Maybe this is just "rocky soil". We'll wait and pray that God will reveal to us where this will go.

Purity Retreat
Hillary led the purity retreat for the youth today. While the kids didn't show up until almost an hour after it was suppose to start, they did show up. There were 3 girls and 7 or so boys. We knew several from previous trips.

The retreat was broken down into 4 lessons taught by different people dealing with the world's view of purity, God's view of purity, dating, and forgiveness. They had group sessions, split into groups for boys and girls, played games, ate lunch, etc.

Talking about sexual purity is difficult in any circumstances. Talking about it with strangers from another culture is super-tough. That's why we are so happy that a few of the Grenadians opened up about their culture and personal struggles to us. Hillary said that she thought it went about as well as she could hope.

We still have several days left. I pray with confidence that God will bless these young people in our common struggle to remain pure in a world that mocks purity.

Beck Power
I had a great conversation with Caleb and Jenny Beck. What a fantastic family! I wish I had their maturity and courage.

They shared with me their work in Rwanda with the "Extra Mile" program, the Franco/Anglo influence in Rwanda, the segregation of Christians according to their ethnicity or tribe, and the difficulty in communicating openly and directly. I could try to repeat what they said, but I think it better for you to reward yourself by asking them directly. Getting to know Christians like them is one of the main reasons I come on trips like this.

Prodigal Packages
Good news! We got 9 of 14 pieces of luggage tonight. They arrived on the 9 p.m. flight from San Jaun. 5 more to go ...

Off Road Adventures
After pill packing and making 40 or so sandwiches, the medical crew had the afternoon off. Some went to the beach and some went to see the 2nd floor apartment the Sullingers are renting. A few were lucky recipients of a 4.5 hour tour of the island. Along the bumpy rolling way, they got a flat and were chased by a drunken mechanic demanding payment for services not rendered. Sounds like an episode of "Cops: Grenada", huh?!

Galon closed our evening with a devotional thought on Kingdom Living. He started by asking the following question: What is God telling us when things don't go according to our plan? Some of us planned on having a change of clothes. Tim and Michelle planned on having more than two people at the adult workshop. Before letting depression and anxiety take over our spirit and actions, we need to ask what God is saying to us in these moments.

As an illustration, he brought up the story in Luke 7:36 of when Jesus was anointed by the "sinful woman". While the host (Simon) wanted to reject Jesus because of his association with a social outcast, Jesus saw something different. We in the world are tainted by hidden presumptions and biases that drive our thoughts and actions. Not so God. When things do go as we anticipated, these are great opportunities to introspect on what the Kingdom view is.

Remember that when Jesus sent out the disciples, he gave them explicit instructions to "take nothing with you". Control is an illusion. The fallacy of self-reliance is a hard lesson for us to learn. That's why God gives us so many opportunities to learn this over and over again.

Until tomorrow ...


Friday, July 10, 2009

We made it!

Hello from Grenada!

I'm excited to be writing you from the restaurant in the Lexus Inn in St. George Grenada. God has blessed us with a safe journey and good stories of how we got here.

Lost in Translation
As most of you know, Jim and Marie Sullinger moved here to Grenada for 3 years to work with the local church. To help them move, several of us checked moving boxes full of their household supplies to save the expense of shipping them here separately.

What we didn't know is that last week, a new "summer traveler" rule went into affect forbidding bulky baggage such as these and the lockers containing the medical supplies (and my luggage). While some of us had no problems checking our boxes and lockers, the airline raised a red flag and wouldn't allow any new boxes & lockers go through. Moreover, the ones that were already checked couldn't go through.

After some prayers and negotiations, the lockers were allowed to go through but the boxes were "unchecked" and were sent via FexEx. Some of the regular luggage didn't make it through either. Hopefully, we'll receive everything soon. I think this is par for the course.

While we rejoice in the 31 that arrived safely, we ended up with one "lost sheep". Katie Phillips had accidentally washed her passport. While functional, it was rejected by the airlines and she was not allowed to board with the rest of us. She will be missed.

Becks are in the house!
Happily, we have Caleb, Jenny, and little Adin with us. They are back from Rwanda and were able to join us on the mission. I look forward to picking their brain about their work in Africa and where they see God leading them.

Kindred Souls
Speaking of Africa, guess who we saw at the airport coming back from D.C.? Brian and Christy Dollinger. While God blessed us with this happy coincidence, this wasn't our only encounter:
  • I met 1st Baptist Garland pastor and his family on the shuttle from express parking. They were heading to Vancouver to work with a sister church their.
  • A security guard at the airport asked us if he could come to our church. He currently goes to Calvary in Irving.
  • We met a group from the Still Water Community Church in Rowlett. They were heading to northern Peru to plant 16 churches.
  • In addition to our 31 from Greenville Oaks flying from Miami to Grenada, we had 2 other church groups coming to work with other local churches.
What a blessing to know God is working in so many lives on this big blue marble.

Who is being ministered to?
I had a short talk with Gaylon about why we're really here. We expend a lot of energy on logistics. We're lucky to have such a fantastic organizer in Michelle! She and Tim have the spiritual gift of organization and are putting it to full use.

While we talk a lot about accommodations, food, heat, etc., let's make room for some God talk too. Seeking God's direction in prayer is essential. Just as important is to not keep what God is showing us individually to ourselves.

As the week progresses, I'll be sharing the works of God with you that I see. I hope you return the favor.

I'll be honest, I go on mission trips for myself. I love to travel. I love to see God working in cultures outside the Bible belt. I love the way God pricks my heart with the message he has for me in people I've never met. As Gaylon put it, "steel sharpens steel".

May God bless you, the words conveyed here, and His work here in Grenada.

Until tomorrow ...


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Schedule

I'm sure many of you are wondering what we'll be doing in Grenada. Here is an abbreviated agenda of the events:

1st Event - Adult Workshop - Couples: Made in God's Image
Friday & Saturday
A study of God's design and plan for men and women to reflect His image to the world, both individually and as a couple.

2nd Event - Teen Purity Retreat
Saturday & Sunday
Design for teenagers to learn the biblical principles and benefits of sexual purity before marriage.

3rd Event - Special Medical/Dental/Vision Clinic
Sunday - Wednesday
Sunday is reserved for members of the church in Grenada. Monday - Wednesday is open to the public.

4th Event -Vacation Bible School
Monday - Wednesday
Open to children in pre-school thru elementary.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

USA 4 - Grenada 0

As my fellow soccer fanatics already know, the USA just defeated Grenada in the U.S. hosted Gold Cup. Watching it made me excitied about the trip to Grenada this Friday.

I've been on a couple of medical missions to Nicaragua (as you can see from this blog). This will be Tammy's first. We'll both be helping in the medical clinic. On the side, we'll report back to you on what we see and hear. It is a blessing for couples to have common spiritual goals and a common spiritual mission. I know it will bring us closer to each other and closer to God.

I want this to be a two-way street. As eager as I am to tell you what I see, we'd love to hear your insights as well. Please post you own thoughts, advice, insights, etc. We need the wisdom of those who've gone before us to guide us to fulfill God's purpose for us in Grenada. Please pray for the team and the people of Grenada.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Nicaragua - The Last Day

I'm Home!

I'm so thrilled to be able to write to you again from the United States. I just created to hold the best of our photos. Be sure to check back every few days as members add their photos to the pool.

The total number of patients we ended up seeing was 1085. Saturday and Monday were our busiest days. That's probably because the clinic at Rene Polanco is open on those days and word got around.

Let me tell you about the patient you probably know best: Ruben Davila. Monday night he was chatting with our doctors while we were cleaning up. Turns out, his family has a history of diabetes. After a simple blood test, Ruben found out he that he too has diabetes. After he found out, there was a line of doctors waiting to lecture him on his diet and medication.

I wish I had the time to tell you about all the special people I met. Let me just focus on a few:
  • Carlos & Sylvia: A couple that work at the hospital in Guatemala. I ate lunch with them Monday. What sweet hearts and hard workers for the Lord! Carlos went to Harding under the HTI scholarship. For every year in school funded by HTI, students must spend that long working for HTI in Guatemala. Carlos now runs the hospital there. I think this type of financial giving is a key to success.
  • Jose: The engine of Rene Polanco. He organizes the kids program, the clinic, the deaf program, etc. Basically, everything. Oh, he has a full time job outside the church too.
  • Carlos Rugama (from Momotombo): He's the preacher at a town outside of Managua. He came to help us even though his church far away was not affected by our presence. He road a bus 2 hours (each way) just to see us.

Let me close these set of blogs about Nicaragua by describing our last Devo Monday night. Pete asked us to talk about what the trip meant to us. Here are some common responses:
  • This is my Christmas.
  • Its a compulsion. I have to go.
  • It rejuvenates my spirit.
  • It makes me aware of what the other 98% of the world is like.
  • This is my family.
  • To give hope to those that have none.
Aye! That last one was a bit controversial. It's actually at the heart of my sentiment. You see, while materially Nicaraguans are greatly lacking, that doesn't translate into someone who is poor in spirit. I've met many Nicaraguans and Latinos in general whose faith is deeper and has been proven by fire. Who of us can say the same?

I also think hope flows both ways. HTI's mission is to show Christ's love to those in need (paraphrased). We certainly do that. What we don't do is anything that will last more than a few weeks or months. Hope that Nicaragua will turn around economically is slim. Hope that Nicaragua will have a spiritual revolution is a certainty. This hope is my great gift given to me by the Nicaraguans.

Finally, I want to say thank you to all the fantastic spiritual giants on this trip. If anything, just being with them and listening to their life of service inspires me to imitate their good works.