Hello from Gabon!
These past months we have focused on building connections – connecting with people, connecting our skills & giftings to visible needs, connecting with African believers who are already at work around us, and connecting with non-believers to build bridges through which the Gospel might be shared.
Christopher has been connecting his skills & giftings with the tech and media needs at the hospital.
His primary projects recently have included managing continued development of the Bongolo Hospital website, creating a tool for reporting medication usage to inform ordering, and providing oversight on a number of projects with a young Gabonese man named Ulrich, who has been doing photography and communications for the hospital.
Inpatient surgery isn’t the only surgery happening at the hospital! As the resident tech guy (or what passes for one around here!), Christopher’s phone, tablet, and computer troubleshooting and repair skills have been put to good use.
The Nursing School is in the 2nd Trimester of a 3 year program. The class of 15 nursing students have come from all over Gabon to Bongolo to be discipled and trained as nurses.
The program is intense, but the students are strong academically and are performing well! They have completed a foundations course, Dermatology, and will finish their Anatomy & Physiology course in a couple of weeks.
Starting in the top L corner: Nina, Cynthia, Jerry, Hurany, Marlene, Judicov, Sonia, LoJeanr, Dan, Doria, Claude, Dacline, Natacha, Franciana and Triphene.
Amanda has been stretching those French skills with teaching, especially with A&P.
It’s a fun challenge to build connections between what is known and what is unknown for the students.
They have not received a lot of science in their general education, and our life experiences are so different.
When you are the first person to ever tell them that Calcium exists, or that there is such a thing as the Periodic Table, your approach to teaching A&P changes.
For example, the A&P textbooks compare the gallbladder to a pear, but the students have never seen or eaten a pear. Pears exist in Gabon, but these students can’t afford them.
It was fun to have pears for them all to eat during our next lecture. Maybe they won’t forget the shape of the gallbladder!
Connecting the known to the unknown.
The connections we find together are often not what you’d expect. I was trying to explain necrotic tissue and gangrene, so I tried to compare it to something they might know, like dead or rotting fruit.
Suddenly a light bulb went on and they all said, “Oooh! You mean like when you’re walking through the forest and you find a dead body?”
They all personally related to that life experience (!) and that’s what helped them understand. (!?)
We come from very different life experiences – building connections.
Connecting the known to the unknown.
Below:Nursing students ambulating a young man post-op.
We are building connections at the Hospital.
So much patient care relies on the availability of various medications and supplies. For example, this past week the hospital ran out of glucose testing strips, meaning we couldn’t check blood sugar levels on any of our patients. A diabetic patient recovering from surgery on the surgical ward kept experiencing symptomatic hypoglycemia in the middle of the night. There is only 1 nurse staffing the whole unit on nights, so his wife, knowing her husband well and picking up on his early hypoglycemic cues, took the initiative herself to function as a sort of a human glucose strip. She would sleep by his side and pop him a sugar cube each time he was symptomatic and make sure he returned to acting normal before falling back asleep. She did a great job and praise God it worked, but Christopher has been working on a tool to help minimize these kinds of shortages in the future.
The medications and supplies we rely on at Bongolo come from a variety of vendors that represent widely-ranging price-points and delivery timelines. Medication usage at Bongolo is tracked using an app-based inventory management system that is great for monitoring current inventory levels, but our remote location means that simply knowing when a medication or supply is running low does not always mean it can be replaced quickly, or economically. The only way to prevent shortages without paying steep markups is to plan ahead.
This is why Christopher has been working on a complex Excel workbook that takes thousands of lines of historical medication inventory transactions and extracts, compiles, and summarizes the relevant information into more useful metrics, such as “Total Usage by Medication over the past 12 months.” Translating historical usage data into more meaningful figures in this way allows for much more informed medication and supply ordering, which in turn allows the hospital to economize often scarce funds by avoiding both over-ordering, which leads to medications expiring before they can be used, and under-ordering, which leads to shortages like the one described above, and/or emergency stop-gap orders from much more expensive vendors that can deliver more quickly. Christopher felt blessed to be able to help in this way with a large recent order that should provide for many of the hospital’s medication and supply needs for the next year.
Amanda is at the hospital in the mornings for clinicals with the nursing students and is building connections with the hospital staff, particularly on the surgical unit where she is assigned to students.
For the most part the work routine on the hospital units functions, in broad strokes, in a way similar to any unit in the U.S.
There are however random reminders that we’re “not in Kansas anymore”.
Like the Gabonese viper killed on the Surgical Ward, the lady who gave birth in the grass in front of the hospital (because after the potentially long, bouncy journey to Bongolo she just couldn’t quite make it inside!), using empty cleaner bottles as sharps containers because the hospital is out, the medical supplies in a third language like the German alcohol swabs in the picture above, the people selling fresh fish from a cooler with a weight scale in the parking lot, trying to avoid grass clippings getting in people’s wounds while the maintenance guys are mowing next to the open air hallways where dressings changes are done, washing and re-sterilizing suction tubing, having one pulse ox per unit but multiple patients on O2, and the list goes on…
Top Photo: a fav lunch spot for the hospital staff – serving the highly sought after bean sandwich
Bottom photo: a patient kitchen, where family members cook food for the patients while they are hospitalized
One of the Internal Medicine Nursing Consultants and a Nurse on the Medical Unit
Building connections in our home:
We feel that one of the Lord‘s life purposes for us as a family is to use our home as ministry, wherever we are.
We are still in the early phases on our list of connectedness goals in our home here in Gabon, but we’ve been able to make some steps towards those goals in the midst of balancing adjustment to a new lifestyle, climate, rhythm and routine, and building connectedness together as a little family.
We’ve enjoyed hosting Teammates, neighbors, colleagues, nursing students and friends from the neighboring village & town.
We also enjoy getting out and building connections and experiencing the Gabonese culture in other people’s homes and in new contexts.
Matthias making friends while we had a flat on the side of the road.
We are learning to connect what is “known” with what is “unknown” in order to adapt our day-to-day life routine into a little bit different rhythm.
Building connections with non-believers: The glass bottle in the lower left photo is the communal “rolling pin” that is passed around from house to house as needed in that part of the village. And of course her countertop, which is a piece of plywood balanced on an old baby bath.
Matthias & Cora are building good connections with friends, the dirt, and our nanny – Mama Bernadette (or “MamaDette” as the kids affectionately call her : )
TCK Life – playing on shipping crates
2-3 baths a day for these dirt-loving littles : ) We love all the hours of fun they have with their friends playing in the red Gabonese dirt – even if they do come out looking like they’re wearing streaky sunless tanner ; )
Matthias & Cora love spending time with Mamadette : )
Mamadette is a fellow believer and has become a part of our family. She is a salaried worker in our home during work hours Monday-Fridays while Christopher & Amanda are at work, to look after Matthias & Cora, clean, and sometimes cook delicious Gabonese meals for us.
We are so thankful for Mamadette and the ministry she has in our home and to our family.
We have been able to spend time with Mamadette’s family at her house and her high-school aged children sometimes stop by to visit.
We have been working to cultivate a connection of family and community with Mamadette and her family, in a way that would resonate in her Gabonese heart culture. Here a big element of living in community is to feed each other’s children when you’re able. Early on we noticed that Mamadette was bringing extra food up from her house to feed Matthias & Cora (second) breakfast, because they liked the local bread she brought up from the village so much. So we started mirroring that cultural practice and feed her kids whenever we were able.
It seemed to have an impact.
Not too long after, a worker from the Hospital Station that is a friend of Mamadette’s stopped by. The friend hadn’t eaten. Mamadette said, “It’s ok, here it’s like being at your own house, they live life with an open hand.”
A while later, we felt led by the Spirit to contribute to their family in a small, specific way.
Mamadette with tears said, “Last night my husband and I were praying because an unexpected obligation came up for our son’s education – we had no idea how we were going to meet it – but we asked God to provide.
We didn’t feel like we were supposed to ask for money.”
She said what we had given to their family was the exact amount of the unexpected need for their son’s education.
The next morning she came to work at our home and said, “The people who live around us in the village, they don’t believe in Jesus, they worship the spirits. But last night I told them what happened and how God had provided and they said, “Mamadette – the god you pray to – truly he is a god who is alive.”
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high
Who died eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die
Awake my soul and sing
Of Him who died for Thee
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity
Thank you for partnering alongside us together, as through your praying, giving, & sending we begin to build lasting connections here in Gabon, so that the God who is truly alive may be lifted high.
With Love from Bongolo,
Christopher, Amanda, Matthias & Cora