Thanksgiving is the time during which we pause and stand in awe of all the blessings that God has given to us. We are so truly blessed by our friends and family and how they stand with us in this ministry. We thank God – and we thank you.
We enjoyed the opportunity to present our ministry to our church on Sunday evening, October 30. This was the first time I have been given the opportunity since 2005 and I made the best of it. Sunday evening attendance has been dwindling in our church (as in most churches) and only a hundred attendees or so were there, but they seemed to catch the vision, for which I thank the Lord.
The following weekend was the PAACS Fall Business Meeting which was held in a hotel near O’Hare airport. We celebrated the 15th anniversary of PAACS, held elections of officers and accomplished a lot of work. Due to a combination of reasons, I felt it best to tender my resignation as CEO of PAACS. God was in that meeting and ministered to all of us on the Commission. As a result, a compromise was reached. I will continue to function as CEO until April to fulfill obligations I have already accepted and to allow a reasonable transition. I will then take a six-month sabbatical from the responsibilities of PAACS. The Commission members will look for someone else willing to take the role of CEO. If they find someone, I will come back on board serving in a lesser role, doing the parts I enjoy and am good at it. If they do not, we will consider at that time whether I will resume the CEO position in an organization which will have become more organized and with more decentralization. I am passionate about PAACS and what they are doing and want to stay significantly involved; I just cannot continue as I have been. This has been a gut-wrenching process and I am sure that prying my fingers off the workings of the organization will not be easy, no matter how necessary it is for the health of the organization and me.
November 9-13, Micky and I went to the Global Health Missions Conference at Southeastern Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Micky’s parents were kind enough to come down from Michigan and watch Sean, spoiling him with what has become a tradition – a weekend at Myrtle Beach, SC. I am not entirely sure he was aware we were not there but he certainly came back completely waterlogged from that much time in the pool (too cold for the ocean). We had a very busy time in Kentucky. I spoke four times on various topics, we met dozens of people who are seriously interested in future service in surgical medical missions and we accomplished the usual networking for which such a great conference provides an opportunity. We finished the weekend with another tradition – the Friends of PAACS Dinner held on Saturday night, November 12. Our friend and PAACS surgeon, Dr. Michael Chupp from Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, spoke and it was a great time of celebration. Over 80 attended. There were many new faces in the crowd (over 50%) and much excitement about the possibilities.
Friday, I drove to Ft. Mill, SC (just south of Charlotte, NC) to meet with Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko, the Deputy International Director of SIM (the old Sudan Interior Mission agency, now renamed Serving in Missions) and Dr. Bob Blees (an ex-missionary to Liberia). How it came about was clearly a God-directed thing and I am glad I went. It gave us the unexpected chance to identify and to clear up some unrecognized misconceptions and previous issues with the aborted program at SIM-Galmi Hospital in the late 1990s. This was critical since Galmi is coming back on as a full-fledged program in July of 2012. We all came away with a renewed enthusiasm for the role of PAACS and full of excitement for the possibilities for training in the future at Evangel Hospital and Egbe Hospital in Nigeria as well as the ELWA hospital in Liberia. Training in Nigeria would allow us to identify champions for us in the stalled process of obtaining WACS (West African College of Surgery) recognition.
I arrived back in town in time to help several members of our class set up our Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing process. One of our classmates is absolutely gifted in process engineering and he and his wife have streamlined the process in an amazing way. We took about 90 minutes to set it up Friday evening (and to pack over a thousand shoeboxes already in the auditorium). The hard work paid off, because this morning the class (with help from Sean and some students from a local high school who needed to do community service) packed a thousand shoeboxes in just 24 minutes. That included packing them into larger boxes for trucking them to the collection site. We stopped and prayed over the packed boxes each time we reached a subtotal of 50 boxes. During the church service this morning, hundreds of gifts brought today were displayed. A collective prayer was made over the entire offering of shoeboxes and then after church, we stayed to pack those new shoeboxes into the shipping boxes and all those boxes into the back of a semi-trailer for delivery to Samaritan’s Purse.
Last evening, the last event on a very full day was a meeting with our support team. Each year, several dear friends who have advised us and prayed for us since the beginning gather for an end of the year report. Micky brought some very tasty desserts to make the meeting sweeter. This meeting doubles as the required board of directors meeting for S3 Ministries. We gave our report and had a long discussion. It was agreed that we would contribute 1000 copies of “Your Mission: Get Ready, Get Set, GO!” to the Global Health Outreach Ministry (short-term medical missions) of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations for their use with their short-term medical teams. Despite enthusiasm by most who actually read the book, sales have been lagging and since some of the information is dated, it was felt to be important to get the books into the hands of the people who will actually use the information and serve the Lord in short-term missions. They will be shipped on Monday. Our support group also strongly endorsed a time of sabbatical leave for us but recommended one which would emphasize physical and spiritual renewal, as well as family time. We were encouraged as they recounted many ways in which our ministry has impacted this church and the church in Weaverville. The year-to-date financial report was discussed. We had a cushion of uncommitted funds left from 2010, but that is virtually gone as our expenses have exceeded our income by $22,490 this year.
I leave in less than two weeks for the trip to Zambia. I will be representing PAACS in the oral examination process of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) and will be attending the Annual General Meeting. This is a very important time to create the sorts of relationships that will sustain PAACS within this college. It will be a short trip, leaving November 30 and returning December 10. We have several residents taking the oral exam (I will recuse myself for those trainees to avoid any conflict of interest). I pray that they will do well.
Final examinations for the Methodist University PA program will be the week after I return from Zambia and the graduation of the 2011 class will be held on Saturday, December 17. As always, there are a couple of students in the first year class who are struggling and who will have to take the remediation exams before the first of the year.
We truly thank God for your partnership in this ministry. As mentioned above, fewer donations have been given this year. We want to reassure you that none of the money which you have donated has gone for our personal benefit or living expenses; 100% has gone to mission-related expenses and to support other ministries and missionaries who needed help. We do fully understand the effects of the slow economy on us all. We appreciate your sacrificial giving and hate asking our friends and family for financial gifts – and yet we would be selfish if we didn’t share the tremendous opportunity to invest in God’s work which is bearing eternal dividends. After you have supported your own church, if you have a tug on your heart to donate to S3 Ministries, please do so by sending a check to S3 Ministries, PO Box 300, Linden, NC, 28356. This is tax-deductible and a receipt for tax purposes will be sent. Alternatively, you may give by credit card by going to www.s3ministries.com and clicking on the “Give” button.
We are looking forward to the holidays. One of the blessings that I am going to fully enjoy this coming week is the concept of four straight days without commitment other than time with family. I look forward to helping Sean in the workshop make some Christmas gifts of wood for family. We will be thanking God for His many blessings to us – including you!
Praise and Prayer Requests:
- Please pray for PAACS and for me as we prepare for this upcoming sabbatical.
- Pray for traveling safety and effective time in Zambia
- Please pray for God to provide the resources needed for 2012.
- Pray for the PAACS residents taking the oral exam in Zambia.
Thankful for our Savior, most of all,
Bruce for Micky and Sean