Dear Friends and Family:
It is Christmas Eve. It is a time of reflection and thanksgiving as well as an appropriate time to wish you Merry Christmas! We are especially thankful that God loved us enough to send His Son to redeem a lost world. At a recent living Christmas tree performance at a local church, they used a live child in the crèche scenes. He was remarkably well-tempered, but as I saw the little child reach up to caress his mother’s face during the performance, it brought to life for me the reality of this amazing miracle. God Himself incarnate!
Our holiday season will be quiet. We got our Christmas cards out early and have enjoyed receiving those from each of you. We have avoided the craziness of the season and mail-order shopping allowed us to avoid the crowds at the mall. Instead, we have concentrated on each other and reflected on the goodness of God. The only real craziness came from trying to sign up Micky and Sean for Obamacare – it took days and multiple phone calls as well as the foolishness of trying to prove to the government that Micky was unemployed! This was necessitated when Methodist University dropped spouse coverage from their insurance plan.
Tomorrow, we will drive to Michigan to spend the remainder of the holidays with Bruce’s mother and Micky’s family. We will stay through New Year’s and stop on the way back in Bristol, Tennessee for a two-day PAACS administrative retreat at the headquarters of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.
Bruce has finished up his responsibilities to the Methodist University PA program. It is always good to start classes and always better to finish. Exams were given and remediation was set up for those who failed. One student was let go for academic dishonesty (in keeping with our zero tolerance policy) and despite the fact that she likely would have flunked out if we had permitted her to continue, that has created the predicted angst, uproar and the threat of legal action. One other student flunked out as well. Please pray for them. On the other side of the coin, it was good to attend graduation December 14 and see how these students have matured over the past 28 months, from wide-eyed “deer in the headlights” to accomplished professionals. Makes one proud (in the proper non-sinful sense!)
Bruce flew to Zimbabwe the Friday after Thanksgiving and returned home just seven days later. He was going to participate in the oral examinations of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa. As part of a team, he examined students from several countries, but had to recuse himself for the PAACS applicants. Two residents and one faculty member passed the higher level exam (FCS) in general surgery. One of those residents got the highest score of all those taking it and won a medal. One resident from Ethiopia, slated to sit the exam, never was able to get a visa and so he will try again next year. Two pediatric surgeons passed their certification exam (the only three who have COSECSA certification in pediatric surgery are PAACS trained). Two faculty members passed their certification exams in orthopedics. They will begin our first orthopedic training program at Tenwek Hospital. At the lower MCS level, 13 of 15 PAACS residents passed their oral exam. The evening of the last exam, Bruce hosted a dinner for all the PAACS personnel in attendance. Five graduates from last year and some other faculty members were there in addition to those taking the test. It was a time of great celebration and rejoicing in what the Lord has done over the years. It was a remarkable and heart-warming contrast to the first time we celebrated with just a handful of people at the table.
Going seven time zones and the resultant jet-lag was difficult enough but some health issues made it worse. Bruce developed a serious infection of his face and his diabetes went wildly out of control. Fortunately, with some strong antibiotics, prayer, a strict diet and prayer, things slowly improved and have continued to do so while on a strict diet. It was a frightening turn of events – hospitalization in Zimbabwe is not an encouraging thought. The event did serve to underline the wisdom of continuing the search for his replacement as the Executive Director of PAACS.
Bruce has begun work on his last-ever college course. It is actually a post-graduate level course on discipleship and Bruce hopes to use this to develop a module for use in the new PAACS Spiritual Curriculum. Rev. Stan Key, the PAACS spiritual Dean, has led the way in the development of an excellent five-year curriculum for use by the Program Directors and the residents. He is editing it and has selected the majority of resources from two excellent Afrocentric programs designed for church planters. Bruce is seeking approval from his professor (Dr. Dennis Wilhite – a college classmate at Baptist Bible College back in 1969-1970) to use this as his project.
We are continuing to consolidate next year’s itinerary. We were scheduled to speak at a mission conference in Lakeland, but they called in early December and withdrew the invitation. We scrambled to change our plans but still plan to visit dear friends in the area while we are in Florida. Our first trip to Africa will be in March.
Micky is preparing to begin home-schooling after the first of the year. We will spend some time over the holidays scanning the books so while we travel, we can carry the files rather than the books (a full suitcase worth). School has been a challenge for Sean this year and he got pretty stressed out over the end of the semester exams. He has worked hard to maintain his A-B average and we are proud of him.
Bruce continues to coach the two new teams at Harpur Memorial Hospital (Menouf, Egypt) and Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (Arusha, Tanzania). They will take in their first class of students in the beginning of January. We are helping get them set up in terms of programs, records and finances. A third program will open in Malawi in July and Bruce is coaching them in preparation for the COSECSA accreditation visit in March. Normally, we don’t have such a visit until the program has been open for a year or so, but at the recent meeting in Zimbabwe, God opened doors and we will walk through. Please pray for all of these new programs and particularly for safety in Egypt.
As you are aware, we generally avoid making appeals for financial support. You already get enough of those. The reality is, however, that we couldn’t do what we do without your help and we trust and pray that we have gotten the maximal bang for the buck on your behalf. We truly appreciate those of you who partner with us in this way. If you would like to help support, after you meet your obligation to your local church please send your tax-deductible gift to “S3 Ministries”, PO Box 300, Linden, NC 28356. If you prefer to pay by credit card, please contact us and we have a way set up through PayPal.
That piece of business finished, we return to the spirit of the day and again want to thank you all for your prayers, for your encouragement and for your support in so many ways. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
Praise and Prayer:
- Continue to pray for PAACS. Pray especially for the program in Ethiopia and the two new ones opening in January. Pray for the 9 new residents beginning in July.
- Praise God that Mom’s myelofibrosis is remaining minimally symptomatic for the time being.
- Praise God that Bethany has done well in her first on-line courses. We are encouraged in the progress we have seen in her healing this year, but please continue to keep her in your prayers.
- Pray for God’s guidance for the future involvement in ministry.
- Pray for Micky and Sean as they transition into home schooling next semester.
Thank you for all you do to help, to encourage, to support and to pray for us. Have a blessed New Year!
Bruce, Micky and Sean