March 9, 2012
Reflections of a old new or new old missionary
We have been here just past the end of the earth in the country of Tchad since February 5, after being in Kenya since January 11 when we left Tulsa. Contrary to appearances we are alive and well but we have almost no internet connections (only through Olen and Danae). Apparently our modem is defective.Sometimes I wonder if I am too old to learn another language, i.e., French and Arabic and other languages that are spoken here. But then I should be experienced by this time. After all, we were in the mission field of Nigeria 40 years ago for three years and have been in various countries on 2- or 3-week mission projects, mostly building churches with Maranatha. The fact remains that I need to spend more time with Rosetta Stone and various books, as it just doesn’t soak in real fast. It takes WORK! But that is what we are here for, to work for the advancement of the cause of Christ. French and Arabic are the official languages of the country so we have to learn French at least. Danae and Olen (our daughter and son-in-law here) are doing very well with language but they are younger (excuses and I just gave a sermon about excuses not too long ago at Jay).
But some more excuses, i.e., electricity only part time and the voltage fluctuates quite a bit, or no wheels but our vehicle and container might arrive by October if we are lucky. It is difficult to tell others about God and what He means to you if you can’t communicate. The weather is hot and dry and dusty but actually cooler when the dust shields the sun somewhat. So be thankful for the dust storms. They say it gets hotter and muggier next month just before rainy season should begin. Presently, clothes will dry in the sun about as fast as if they were in a dryer. The humidity is below 10%.
Fast food has not invaded this country yet, so no Wendy’s, McDonald’s, KFC, or any chain stores, i.e., no Walmart either, so that part is good. There are very few smokers. (It's too expensive if you live on $2 per day). Maybe they should charge two days wages per pack of cigarettes at home.
We are fortunate in that we live in an apartment with a bed with mosquito net around and a small gas burner to cook with and a flush toilet (no float valve but otherwise it works). The student missionaries live with the locals in huts and have latrines and eat like the locals and shower by pouring water over their heads. (At least there is water out of a well, so don’t complain.) We are fortunate that we have two of our grandchildren here. In fact Dolores takes care of them during the day most of the time while Danae works.
The culture is definitely different than we are accustomed to. The idea of borrowing and returning something ... probably not happening. (Just if the lender needs it worse than you do.) The “music” even in church has no harmony at all, or tune either most of the time. Maybe even a high pitched shrill thrown in at times and the drums. Whatever happens is the the will of Allah. For some reason they want to give water instead of breast milk for the first three days of life. So many are malnourished and 21% die before age 5. One does not shake hands with your left hand because that is the hand that you clean your self with. They farm by hand as they have done for many many years but they have cell phones, although internet is very minimal. There are very few vehicles other than motorcycles and bicycles and ox carts. In a town of 60,000, there is no need of stoplights but neither are there paved roads nor streets. If you need some electricity for something, you better have a generator.
Medical has been interesting although a lot of work. I am in “charge of surgery” and have done about 150 cases so far. We had two ectopic pregnancies back to back and two appendiceal abcesses back to back and today three strangulated hernias, including a bowel resection and reanastomosis for necrotic bowel. We had a necrotic left colon that had been operated on at another hospital and was allowed to remain for three days and finally came here unsure what the original problem was. We did a left colon resection and colostomy. We had eye enucleations for retinal blastoma bilaterally. This week a little girl age 8 with bilateral ovarian masses, one 20 cm and the other 10 cm. We had a ruptured uterus that lived. We had a very large thyroid mass, about 15 cm and underlying the carotid and jugular, that had to be trached but appears he is going to survive. Also a very thick imperforate hymen with actually almost no sign of vaginal opening but she is doing well now. Also a z-plasty for stricture from burns on a neck in a 3 year old. One died post op with miliary tuberculosis throughout his abdomen, which we had only opened enough to look to see what was going on. We have no CT or x-ray or EKG, and lab is minimal. We do have a little portable ultrasound that we donated and brought over a year ago when we visited here. We have done three vesico-vaginal fistulas so far which were very difficult technically because we don’t have everything we need or the right needles and sutures but so far they are holding.
Working with our daughter and son-in-law is a real privilege. I’m not biased but they are very sharp and are doing excellent work. One has to keep in mind that if you can’t help the patient, probably no one else in the country can either. There is no one to refer difficult cases to. In fact, some are coming here from the capital city as referrals although mostly patients come on their own. In church this past week someone said they were hearing in Moundou (the second largest city in country and two hours away) that Bere Adventist Hospital was the best place to go for care. I want to get acquainted with some of the doctors from other places, especially when I learn language better.
Love to all,
Rollin and Dolores