Dear Friends and Family:
I hope you are enjoying this new year and that God is more real and precious than ever before.
It seems odd not to be in Africa at this time of the year. I have been getting a bit of a rest (another odd thing I am not used to but I must admit I enjoy the novelty) and spending a lot of time doing the boring but necessary. It has been more than a month since we last communicated, so I will catch you up a bit.
We enjoyed our time over the holidays with my mother and Micky’s family in Lapeer but did not particularly enjoy the bitter cold and nasty weather. When we left, we drove all the way to West Virginia before we found an adequately plowed road – we made a game of counting those cars who had left the road. We saw 48!
The Executive Council of PAACS (Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons) had a retreat at the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) headquarters in Bristol, TN on January 3 and 4. The issue is not just the search for my replacement as Executive Director but perhaps more importantly, how do we expand the infrastructure to support the expanded vision of PAACS. They also agreed that I will continue in a new position called the Chief Medical Officer. In that role, I will be the face of PAACS in Africa, working hand in hand with the Academic Dean to strengthen the programs and to support the faculty. It was productive as such meetings go and the next step is to seek the approval to go ahead from the whole Commission.
Based on that new vision, I have been working with my administrative assistant to restructure and reposition things within the organization. One of my dreams for years has been to centralize and organize our 60,000 files (80 gigabytes). After considering our own server as an option, we felt the best choice was to use the Dropbox Business which can be accessed easily and automatically updated on our computers. We have spent hours each day just renaming and reorganizing files and folders – and have barely scratched the surface. But it will be good when done and we are finding gaps in our records. We are also developing some new tracking databases. We have also worked on restructuring the roles within the organization in preparation for hiring a mid-level administrator in addition to the new ED and possibly moving the organization to Bristol TN after the ED is hired. I am also exploring a commercial examination software and database in hopes that we can utilize it for storing and organizing our question database and for writing quizzes and exams easily. We are also trying to develop a new program to encourage medical students and residents who are interested in PAACS. I have also midwifed (at a distance) the birth of two new programs – one in Egypt and one in Tanzania. That went well and we now have four new bouncing boys in the PAACS family. Eleven new residents in all have joined the program. I am very encouraged that our giving to PAACS is on budget and thrilled with a gift of $100,000 this last week! God is good.
Micky and Sean have started home-schooling this month and that is going well. They are exploring the available resources on the web and have found some superb lectures on various topics there, so they are supplementing the desk work with those. Sean, now almost 5’6”, has outgrown his small school desk and is excited about getting a new adult-sized desk delivered this week. The one advantage of home schooling is that they can travel – so they are suffering in Orlando for a week with Micky’s folks.
When not working on the PAACS projects, I am working on my project for the discipleship class that I am taking as my last undergraduate course. I am about 75% done. We may use the lessons I am preparing as part of the spiritual curriculum for the PAACS residents. That curriculum project is under the supervision of Rev. Stan Key. Stan Key is a wonderful preacher man (ex-missionary to France) who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a great friend and functions wonderfully as the Spiritual Dean of PAACS. In the medical arena, he admits to being over his head, but he still manages to hold his own in that testosterone-filled forum. He recently found himself in the middle of an e-mail debate about something and this was his reply:
I have to confess how much I actually ENJOY reading your email correspondence (banter, dialogue, debate, humor, and ___'s obvious arrogance and pride). It is no secret that my ability to actually UNDERSTAND what you are saying registers somewhere between a "moron" and an "imbecile" on the IQ scale of intelligence. As a preacher boy, stepping into this rarefied air of medical jargon and academic debate feels a bit like being asked to play football with Peyton Manning. Sometimes I guess I just need to manifest some ontological realism into your verbal obfuscations so that the eschatological purposes of the beatific vision will transcend the pedantic banalities caused by inbred harmatological decadence in yet unmortified sarx in those contaminated by hubris and pneumatological vacuity so that any hope of discursive rationality will not be made tohu and bohu. Can I get a witness? Stan
Other than his embarrassing error which should read “tohu wa bohu” (the phrase in Genesis 1:2 translated “without form and void” which of course was obvious to the most casual observer), and the fact that I smarted a bit at the jibes at our overweening hubris (and did he really say we were vacuous?), I felt moved to give him the desired witness – and chuckled all evening. Let no one complain about my vocabulary!
We are still in the process of interviewing new students for next year’s class at the Physician Assistant program and I spent one day last week and one this coming week doing that. I also spent one day at the local hospital teaching Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) – that is necessary to keep my credentials so I can teach at the upcoming CMDA Continuing Medical and Dental Education Conference for the missionaries. I have also had a series of appointments with doctors this month. I like to say that I am in pretty good shape for the shape I am in, but the truth is that I am struggling with one particular health issue and would appreciate your prayers.
We also had our annual meeting of our support group (combined with the officers’ meeting for S3 Ministries). We reviewed the last year’s ministry report, went over the finances and talked about plans for the future. It was a great encouragement – and some really good pound cake! This group of friends holds us accountable and they are real Christian brothers and sisters. We truly appreciate them. We are getting down to a few hundred of our books of each type and we were thinking that we probably won’t reprint any more – but then this week, World Medical Mission wanted to order 500 – 1000 copies. They have a special edition (which makes our ministry no money – just the good feeling of having helped them) but it was an encouragement to hear they are still giving it to each physician that goes out under their aegis to do short-term missions. Micky has spent time getting all the end of the year tax records out to donors to S3 and getting funds sent from PAACS to the various programs. I sure don’t know what I would do without her – her work for PAACS and CMDE has been invaluable and time-consuming for her.
February will be much the same sort of schedule (with ten days of holiday in Florida – intermixed with some meetings and one lecture at the University of Florida). We leave for Tanzania and Egypt on March 9. We covet your prayers for that trip - for both safety and effectiveness.
Praise and Prayer:
- Continue to pray for PAACS, especially for the new programs, the new residents and the new faculty. Pray for the faculty who are under stress and suffering from burn-out.
- Pray for Bruce so he can focus on getting everything done both in school and for PAACS.
- Pray for God’s guidance for the future involvement in ministry and for the search for my replacement.
- Pray for Micky and Sean as they home school.
Bruce, Micky and Sean