A Letter From Sophie

I wanted to share this recent update from my sister Sophie, who moved to Ethiopia this summer to do medical missions work. Last spring on this blog many of you contributed money toward the work Sophie is doing there in Ethiopia. Sophie brought the money with her to Ethiopia, thinking she’d know more about how to spend that money once she’d been there awhile. Here’s what she came up with. I think you guys will like it!


Hi there!
I was talking to Dr. Mary when we were driving home from clinic the other day about money. She had just placed her medication order for the year, and was blown away by how expensive things were. She had to greatly reduce her supply of several meds, including those for tuberculosis. I was trying to think of how I could help, and remembered the money that was raised in the fundraiser on your blog.

I offered to help with medications, and we talked about the logistics of that. Then she gave me the option of running and funding the feeding program. I loved that idea, so decided that I would do it. So, starting in a few weeks, I’ll be the one making the special granola and purchasing the corn that Mary provides for those on her feeding program at our Thursday clinic.

Adults can get on the feeding program if they are desperately poor, and that poverty is validated by their malnourished appearance, and by the confirmation of others in the community. Infants are also a part of this program. Currently, we have 3 sets of twin babies that are “fed.” The high-protein granola is given to the infant’s breastfeeding mother so that she can produce enough milk to feed them. In order to get a refill (every other week), the babies are weighed to ensure that they are getting the benefit of the food.

Two of the twins currently on the program are now 4 months old, and the fattest little Ethiopian babies I have ever seen! It’s always so fun to weigh them because their mom is so proud, and the babies are so smiley and adorable. Mary says that when they started 3 months ago, mom was completely emaciated, and the babies were not looking any better. She gave the mom the granola, and the next week, she looked less emaciated, and the babies were vigorous and bright-eyed–they were a whole different family because of their little tin of granola!

I am so excited to be in charge of this simple but life-changing program. And because of your contributions, you are a part of it too! I will take some pictures of the kiddos that this program feeds in the next few weeks so you can see the lives that you are changing. Thank you so much for being so generous, and God bless you!

Why do with less?

One of the reasons we decided to do the 30 Days of Nothing is simple: bills. Our daughter’s health issues this summer used our medical savings plan faster than we’d anticipated, and I’m eager to get things paid off. We don’t have much debt, and I get uncomfortable when the bills stack deeper than usual. But there’s a deeper reason to take this journey, one I haven’t talked a lot about this year. It has to do with the concept of entitlement.

Currently I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a Mexican mocha steaming in a cup in front of me. Once a week I take a writing day, and this is just what I do: head off to a coffee shop, and plow through some writing assignments undisturbed. Thinking of next week, I’m not sure what I’ll do on my writing day. Part of me thinks, oh, it’s $3. Let’s call that an essential. I’m entitled after rassling a zillion kids all week long.

But that sense of entitlement is a tricky thing.

I’m entitled to a cup of coffee, even though I can make something just as good at home. I deserve a new blouse, even though my closet is bulging. I earned the money (or at least the stellar credit rating) to buy a new car- never mind that my 10 year old paid-for rig is still chugging along. And the chipped-up vinyl floor in my kitchen– no one’s floor should look like that– we really should do something about that. Or so the thoughts go in my mind.

Meanwhile, the coffee farmer who grew my posh coffee can barely feed his family. My closet could clothe half a village, and the clothes I just discarded from my little girls’ room could clothe the other half. My 1998 Ford Econoline would make most people in this world feel as rich as a sultan (though, granted, the gas would bankrupt them). And kitchen floors in homes all over the world are just dirt.

How much am I really entitled to? And if I didn’t have such a large sense of entitlement, what could just a bit of my excess accomplish for someone else? Tough questions. Questions we’ll be thinking about this month.

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.