Two weeks ago, Kibuye's first ever chime choir had their debut performance! While at my parents house in California last year, I saw the chime set that we had used in their church years ago. It struck me that this would be a great way of teaching music notation, counting, and ensemble skills while at the same time blessing the community. Our chime choir is made up of both team kids and Burundian youth from the church. Check out the videos at the end. Enjoy!
At the end of the day, she gifted us with her brand-new cutters, scissors, spray bottle, and drape. As an added bonus, her husband (a plumber) went around fixing all of our leaky sinks!
We get to benefit from her unique talents on a long-term basis now that her family has joined our team. (Imagine game show hostess, drama and dance club director, party planner extraordinaire, pep rally leader, etc.)
When was the last time you experienced or did something for the first time?
For our family, this past year has been filled with many first-time experiences. It was our first time moving to another country (France) then yet another (Burundi). It was Eunice’s first time learning to drive stick shift (awesome!). It was my first time getting a speeding ticket in another country, while in France (not so awesome). It was Toby’s first time attending a French preschool, where French was the only language spoken around him all day. It was Amos’s first birthday shortly followed by his first steps walking on his own. And the list goes on…
For me, specifically in the context of the hospital here in Burundi, first time experiences are a daily thing. Such experiences typically come in the form of an operation I’ve never performed (that would be typically done by other surgical specialists in the US) or in a disease I’ve never treated or managed before (like osteomyelitis in children). Some of such first-time operations these past 3 months for me have included a cleft palate repair, an excision of gingival mass, a hip replacement, and an ectopic pregnancy.
Before getting to Burundi, I knew I would be in a radically different hospital environment, and I expected to be learning a lot of new information outside the scope of my training and background in general surgery. With a few months now under my belt, I can attest that there is never a day that goes by where I am able to say to myself, "Self, you knew how to take care of every patient that you encountered today." Fortunately, there is a more experienced and well-seasoned surgeon, Jason Fader, available to mentor us and guide us through the foreign and unknown.
Still, even for things I know and was trained how to do, the pre-operative workup, the intra-operative steps, and post-operative management are totally different, and I am essentially having to reprogram my mind how to think. For example, even a simple biopsy to determine whether a mass is benign or malignant is something which we nearly always obtain in the US to guide our management for surgical diseases. Here, pathology services are not available, and if we think a biopsy would be helpful, we can get results in a few weeks by sending a tissue sample back with a short-term visitor or teammate who is heading to the US in the near future. As another example, we have no CT or MRI imaging, so as a result, we rely heavily on physical exam and ultrasound.
Having so many first times in the hospital context can be challenging and exciting at times, and can bring a sense of great accomplishment. Other times, it can trigger a sense of feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, or helpless. In the medical world, where competence and performance are valued and praised, you would be hard-pressed to find general surgeons (and other physicians) admitting to feelings of inadequacy, which would be a sign of weakness. Conversely, in the context of a mission hospital in a low-resource setting, I would say that you would be hard-pressed to find missionary doctors who are not experiencing inadequacy or helplessness at some level. And I think there is Biblical truth to be found in this. I am reminded of the 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, when Paul writes:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I know that I don’t have all the answers, and that there is a steep learning curve of working in a mission hospital, which keeps me on my toes and keeps me humble. Though experiencing many first times is not comfortable, it is in this state that I am forced to turn to Jesus and to rely on Him, and this is good.
This week I joked with my medical students that we were running an “eternal medicine” service. Surgery is very different than internal medicine and surgeons often feel that internal medicine rounds take an eternity thus the name “eternal medicine.” This is no disrespect to my internal medicine colleagues for whom I am very grateful…I could not manage their patients whose problems tend to be more mentally complicated than my surgical patients, thus the difference in our rounds.
During last year's dry season I had a crazy idea: what if I took a time-lapse video of my walk across the field to the hospital? If I took a photo every day, just one step further, perhaps it would tell the story of dry season. You could watch the field grow more and more yellow and dusty as the season progressed, and then at the end, watch the return of green grass.
It actually worked out pretty well, and I was pleased with the result, except that it was completely silent. I asked our musician teammate, Eric McLaughlin, if he had written any songs that would go well with the theme of dry season. He recommended a song called Banga Hill, that he had written during their very first dry season in Burundi. It talks about our need for God's grace to "rain" into our lives, washing away our sins and quenching all our thirsts.
For I will pour out water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”
Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
More of Eric's music can be found here.
Most of the team recently attended the Serge East Africa retreat that occurs every four years.
And to update you on our ever-growing and transitioning team, check out this video that we shared at retreat - created by our oldest team kid Jonah Watts:
And a few more retreat pictures:
|Our talented teammates leading worship|
|Fun time with friends|
|Running on the beach at sunrise|
|Beautiful creation drawing us to our Creator|
|A preliminary planning sketch|
|The piers for the Power Pac were poured and we waited for the right time to level the corn field to prepare for the solar array|
Volunteers at ITEC spent countless man-hours throughout 2017 and early 2018 purchasing equipment, building and testing the Power Pac. The two containers shipped from Pennsylvania in March of this year and came via New York City, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Suez canal, changed ships in India, the port of Dar es Salaam and then finally by road to Burundi.
|To our great relief the containers arrived safely in early June|
|Greg Sund diligently "supervising" the unloading of the solar panels|
The Power Pac was set in place by two cranes, one of which must have been from the WW2 era.
The container moving attracted lots of curious onlookers
The team laying out the supports for the solar array under the watchful eye of Jack Myhre, our highly-skilled engineering intern
Digging postholes by hand
|Dressed in his awesome pink bathrobe, our charismatic and resourceful welder puts the final touches on the array supports|
Solar panel supports ready for the arrival of the ITEC team.
Power Pac and new generator covered and prepared.
Strong and willing hands.
Solar array going up panel by panel.
|First array installed|
Always donning proper safety equipment, these men are pulling the supply wire to the hospital.
|Inside the Power Pac 15 battery inverters hang on the right side...|
|....and the switchgear and battery bank on the left.|
Just a few of the 28 ITEC expert volunteers who came to install the Power Pac