From Hazel in Ethiopia: corn for the poor

This weekend while I am away at Blogher, I am sharing several letters we’ve gotten recently from family on a medical mission trip to Ethiopia. Here is an update from my mom. If you were part of the feeding project on my blog a few weeks ago, be sure to read all the way to the end. You will be amazed at what is being accomplished with your gift.

Today we went to see Dr. Mary at her clinic. The sick folks and their families had all gathered in a clearing where Dr. Mary and Dr. Ruth were making their way from one to the next. The doctors held clipboards with many small pieces of paper on which they were making notations, one paper scrap for each patient. People were removing articles of clothing as needed for an exam in front of the whole village. No one seemed to mind or think the lack of privacy was strange.

The temporal thermometer (complete with handy pack) that we had brought from Idaho was being used with much gratitude – thank you, kind donors! We observed the scene with much interest, noting that there was no opportunity for the doctors to wash their hands between patients and wondering about those little pieces of paper. [The people] looked undernourished and we were told that most of them never eat meat and are very anemic. The beautiful, smiling children were everywhere, and no one left even after their turn with the doctor was complete. I stayed to help Dr. Mary at the clinic. She wanted me to give the shots, which was an easy job. What an experience – I’m so glad I stayed.

I found out that the little scraps of paper told what medication needed to be dispensed to each patient. Dr. Mary moved inside the building with her helpers, and through a window she dispensed drugs that had been pre-assembled in little paper packets or tiny plastic bags. Each person was required to pay a small amount, usually less than 10 birr ($1.00) and each was given verbal instructions about when to take his or her medication. Some were taken out of the package and placed directly into the hand of the patient to be swallowed immediately. This was to prevent selling of the medication to someone else. One person had no money, so no medication was given.

Partway through the process, Dr. Mary looked at me with a twinkle and said, “Don’t tell JCAHO how I do this – I don’t think they’d like it!” Sigh – if only the rest of us could do a fraction of the good that woman does…. When all the medication was dispensed, she packed her supplies into tackle boxes and large plastic bins with locks, and her helpers loaded them into her vehicle. She kept a sharp eye out, saying that “things have a way of growing legs.”

On the trip home, we got acquainted. She used to be an ER physician in Chicago; she has 2 children, one of whom is a missionary in Chad, and 2 grandchildren; she has attention deficit disorder that makes her a social misfit in the US; she wants to work in Ethiopia the rest of her life. She said her worst nightmare is having to go back to the United States! Her husband is dedicated to service in Ethiopia as well.

They are both the plainest looking people in the world, quite thin and somewhat haggard in appearance. Recently she has been suffering from unresolved abdominal pain, for which she will go for a medical workup to Kenya for a week. This weekend she plans to use the money donated by daughter Mary’s blog readers to bring a half ton of corn to the poorest of the poor up in the mountains. If it doesn’t rain too much, and make the roads impassable. She has a local helper who knows the people and determines who is most needy. Wow! Please pray for her mission and her health.

From Sophie in Ethiopia: falling in love with Ethiopia

This weekend while I am at Blogher, I’ll be sharing some more letters from my family in Ethiopia. This letter was written a few days ago by my sister Sophie.

Ethiopia has a way of sucking people in. Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve known that I would work in Africa. I didn’t know what I would do, but I still knew I would be here. After I spent a summer here, I knew that I was hooked. I’ll never be able to stay away. I even took a $20K/year pay cut so that my schedule would allow me to come. And apparently it’s not only me. Kara [fellow mission worker] was asked today if she would like to stay in Ethiopia and run a home for orphans and widows. Ron wants to build a house here so that he can live here for a month at a time. What is it about this place? Is it the beauty? Is it the poverty? Is it the food? Is it the pace of life? Is it the amazing amount of opportunity to make a real, tangible difference in lives?

Stephne [doctor’s wife who runs an orphanage] has a theory. She says that Africa has a very raw spirituality to it. In America, we gloss over our spirituality by going to church and doing all those good Christian things. We are not often reminded that “our battle is not against flesh and blood.” Here, the battle between good and evil is very evident, and raging around us. I am surrounded by just as many muslim mosques as Christian churches. The call to prayer is broadcast across the community on loudspeakers 5 times every day. People are constantly in positions of reverence.

Nearly every day, I learn of a “coincidence” that cannot be anything other than a work of or message from God. The sheer hopelessness in the lives of these people demands that they hold onto something. Their faith is the only thing that keeps them going. While in America, we can go for days/weeks/months without giving God a second thought. Here, that’s not an option.

This week has been a good one. After a great meeting, we had 4 good class sessions. The students came, were attentive, and participated in discussion. Today we looked at Konjit, the plastic forenge woman [a teaching mannequin]. It always makes me chuckle when I see a poor male nurse very nervously reach in to remove the pelvic organs of the plastic woman. Next week will be lots of review of surgical complications, and what nurses can do to prevent and treat these problems.

Having Mom and Ron here has been really fun. Mom is loving her work with the nurses, and Ron wants to build a house here so that he can live here for a month every year