Dear Friends and Family:
Greetings from the country of Ethiopia. I am sending this early because I am not sure I will even be able to get to the Galmi Hospital in Niger. They have clamped travel restrictions for westerners all through the country because of the troubles in neighboring Mali. They haven’t restricted air travel however. If they won’t let me travel out of Niamey, I will just have to figure out how to get home a week earlier than planned.
This has been a week in which Korean missionaries have featured prominently. Last Sunday, Walt Johnson (neurosurgeon from Loma Linda University and member of the PAACS Commission) and I took one of the commercial busses on the four hour trip from Blantyre in the south to Lilongwe in the middle of Malawi. We were met by a missionary friend, Dr. Jon Fielder, who is an internist with a strong interest in HIV/AIDS. He is part of a ministry called “Partners in Hope” just south of town. He is also the CEO of the African Mission Healthcare Foundation, one of our valued partners in PAACS. They completely support the training of 3 of our 44 residents. After a pleasant meal (a hamburger tasted really good after spending a week with vegetarians!), we toured his facility. I was impressed with the quality of their facility and how their ministry is impacting folks here.
He then drove us to the north of town to our next place. Daeyang Luke is a Korean mission hospital that opened approximately four years ago. It and the associated nursing school is the vision of Sister Baek. She was a missionary in Kenya and then came here. Recently, Sister Baek went to Korea to receive the 1st Annual Tae Seok (Tom) Lee Memorial Missionary Award. This award is to commemorate missionary physician - Catholic priest Tom Lee who served many years in Tonj, South Sudan (but died young from colon cancer). The Korean government chose Sister Baek to honor her work in Kenya and Malawi. She didn’t really want to go, but when she did, the officials decided to support the Daeyang Luke Hospital to develop the infrastructure and medical staff so that DLH could become a tertiary care / teaching hospital while not neglecting primary care and community health development. Daeyang is the name of the company owned by a billionaire Korean shipping magnate who underwrote the first development and Luke, of course, is the beloved physician. I had heard of this hospital from a Korean American internist, Chisoo Choi, who I had met somewhere on the medical missions circuit. We have enjoyed our friendship and he is now considering coming here permanently next year. We came to visit him and the hospital.
I can honestly say that Daeyang Luke is one of the most advanced mission hospitals I have visited (at the level of Myungsung Christian Medical Centre in Addis and the Arusha Lutheran Hospital in Tanzania) but certainly the most beautiful and well-designed. There are amazingly beautiful landscaped vistas and courtyards and the design is both generous in space as well as efficient. They are still struggling with the recruitment of adequate medical staff, hence Chisoo’s involvement.
The first night here, a mini-van full of Koreans visiting the country (not related to anything at this hospital) was involved in a road traffic accident; I was asked to look at a few of the injured patients. I was eager to do that – just fun to be back in the saddle again and glad to be of service. Fortunately for them, just one broken leg and some very sore heads, necks and bodies. I did get to teach the staff a bit that night and the next morning – and they lapped it up.
I enjoyed meeting for morning worship (over 200 eager students and faculty singing with gusto) and took a lot of pictures on the tour. It soon became obvious that this would be a great place for PAACS at some time in the future. Identification of the proper surgeon-trainers will be the trick. They are building lots of housing for dormitories, so building resident housing should not be too much of an issue. Dr. Choi is very excited about the idea.
The days at Daeyang Luke Hospital were relaxed, full of great conversation with the Chois and we enjoyed the beautiful vistas with the valley below us and the mountains in the distance. The mountains here are somewhat unusual in size and configuration – they are granite slabs that have been thrust heavenward from the plain below.
Tuesday morning, Walt Johnson left at 11:00 for his early afternoon flight back to the US and I left at 1:00 PM for the airport. It was a four-hour flight to Addis and I was pleased to see a friendly face pick me (and even more damaged suitcase) up at the airport in Addis.
I had only two days in Addis but it was good to see so many good friends. The Chungs and the Pollocks are stationed here at Myungsung Christian Hospital to run the PAACS program at this hospital. I saw Tim Love and his wife (a surgical resident from Emory University – a future PAACS faculty member) and the Paul Gray family (up from Soddo – they had extended their time in Addis Ababa so we could be together for a half a day). Even ran into Jackie and Duane Anderson up from Soddo with a team from their church. The Changs were also here – Daniel is a Korean surgeon who practiced his entire life in Korea and now is serving here. He has been invaluable in bridging the gap between Korean and American culture. I was also very pleased to see our old friend Dan Poenaru (and his wife Dita) and his recently graduated protégé, Frehun Ayele. They are beginning a pediatric surgery service here (with dreams of twin-towered women and children’s hospital) and Dan is also functioning as the Academic Dean of the newly begun medical school. While on the topic, I learned today that foreign medical graduates cannot write the necessary exams to enter the US as a physician without a six-year medical school experience, so all of the Ethiopian medical schools – including this one – are now deliberately only five and a half years. This was done by Ethiopian government in an effort to stop the brain-drain. I did have the opportunity to give my testimony to the eager young medical students today.
I leave for Niger very early this morning.
Here is a story about which I have no memories and cannot vouch for its accuracy. Certainly, however, it does sound a little bit consistent. A woman who I have known most of my life from my home church in Lapeer, Michigan, wrote to us, “When I acted out the Bible story in Preschool class today, I had a child dress up as ME and tell the story like I would. That reminded Barb Arms of when you were in her Sunday School class and you wouldn't shut up (her words). She asked you if you wanted to tell the story next week. Yes, as a matter of fact you did want to. She said that you taught the class the next Sunday and did a very good job!! So, thanks for the memories.”
Praise and Prayer:
- Pray for the development of both Korean hospitals – Daeyang Luke in Malawi and Myungsung CMC in Ethiopia
- Pray that I will be permitted to fly from the capitol Niamey out to the Galmi Mission Hospital.
- Pray for safety for all of us at Galmi, in Niger.
- Pray for wisdom and God to go ahead in all I have yet to do.
- Pray for my mother’s continued recovery – she is still losing weight and has a markedly elevated white count that no one but me seems to take seriously.
- Pray for these amazing missionaries with whom I have the pleasure to work – they face tremendous stresses each and every day.
Pleased to be back in Africa,
Bruce for Micky and Sean