Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Half Way

Today marks the half way point here in Zimba. Time is flying too quickly. As I looked at my calendar last night, the reality sank in. Half way. I should be longing for the familiarity of home but mostly I'm craving more time in this unfamiliar new place, with its glorious sunsets, its beautiful people, its sweet simplicity. 
I can't describe it, maybe its the quiet, maybe its the time to disconnect, but something in the deepest part of my being comes awake when I am in Africa. Unlike any other place, I experience a freedom here, the ability to breathe more deeply, a clarity of mind, and a peace that only confirms what I felt so strongly in Uganda... this is what I was created for. 
Even in the most frustrating moments when the X-rays are blurry and the labs are missing and the roosters are crowing every hour of the night, I haven't wanted to pack up and go home. Even in the loneliest moments, I truly haven't been homesick. Evidence of God's grace and the interceding of my people back home. Certainly not of anything I'm capable of. Thankful, so incredibly thankful. 

My day at the hospital ends with a walk home to the mission house. A daily display of God's splendor. Fields of dried corn stalks, sun peaking through the trees right before the sky burns shades of orange, then deep reds, then bright pinks. The hospital with the small chapel behind me finally quieting from the day's normal chaos. One day closer to Nashville is one day less to soak up Zimba. The two halves of my heart. Pray that time slows down. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hope Remains

This week at the hospital was too much to describe with words. I suppose most of my experiences here are. It seemed each patient had a tragic story of unrelenting sickness, abandonment, and hopelessness. 

I was in charge of the Female Ward and in five days, we admitted three suicide attempts. Three women caught in the enemy's lie that all was lost, this life was not worth it. Each one had a different story but all three had the same sad, lifeless look in their eyes, eyes searching for a glimmer of hope. 

Two more patients were admitted last week with severe sickness and neither were improving. We had done all we could do, used every antibiotic in the hospital (which is only 3 or 4 on a good day), ordered every lab available (which is as basic as it gets), prayed for a miracle, and were now just waiting. 

The Female Ward was packed all week & by the end of the day on Friday, I was physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted. All I wanted was rest. All I could think of was those patients. I could feel the weight of it.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 

I woke up Saturday morning two hours before my alarm and couldn't go back to sleep. I made some coffee, sat outside on our front porch, prayed, and waited for the sun come up. And like the sun creeping over the wall of the mission, I felt this hope welling up in me. I could feel the weight lifting. 
I headed over to the hospital at 8am for morning rounds and walked into a half empty ward. Many of the patients had been well enough to go home. Praise the Lord. Like Esther, who had been there for a week with congestive heart failure and gastroenteritis. Such a sweet spirit. 
Irene, the patient who had been the most critically ill, barely able to move or communicate the day before, was not in her bed when I walked by. As I turned around, her mother was pushing her into the ward in a wheelchair. She was alert and sitting up on her own. 
Two of the women who had attempted suicide were discharged with the remaining patient doing remarkably well. I had the opportunity to spend time with all three, holding their hands, praying for them, watching the life return to their eyes. Hope. There is always hope.

But I will hope continually & will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. (Ps 71:14-15) 

I left the hospital feeling like I was able to take a deep breath for the first time since Monday. We all met back at the house, packed up the van, and headed to Livingstone for a day out of Zimba. 

Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural world wonders and I hope some day you get to see it with your own eyes. I promise pictures and words don't do it justice. We hiked, climbed, explored, and got absolutely drenched. We hung out with Zebras, drank Coke Zero, and watched the sunset over the Zambezi River. It was a much needed break. 
Hope is not lost. Hope remains. 
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom 12:12)

You may have noticed, I am not a great photographer but guess who is. This guy. If you want to see more photos of our adventure, check out his photojournal

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Day, New Breath

Today has been exhilarating and exhausting. I was assigned to work with the surgical team and there definitely was not a dull moment. 

It started with rounds in the female ward with Dr. Joan then I headed over to OPD to find 100+ patients waiting to be seen. Classic Monday. Tanner was making the best of it and seeing patients as fast as he could. I jumped in and saw a handful of patients before being called by the surgery guys. Dr. Greg Alty is an American surgeon working at Zimba with his son for a month doing pretty much any and every procedure you could imagine. 

Surgery clinic basically entails reviewing each patient's case file, physical exam, determining if the patient needs an inpatient or outpatient procedure, and scheduling the surgery or doing the procedure there in the minor theatre (ORs are called theatres here.) Two men with BPH in retention needing Foley catheters, three hydroceles, two inguinal hernias... basically all urology surg cases, right up my alley (thanks to Alison, Dr. Locke, & Dr. Tissot). Two pediatric burn cases, which despite seeing many here, never gets easier to stomach, and a dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (yep, it's a real word) and the day was wrapping up. 

That is, until Dr. Dan called for me to assist him with a C section. The baby was breech so delivery would've been dangerous. The experience was nerve wracking and surreal and glorious. I was the first person to wrap my hands around that baby girl. I cut the cord and watched her first breath. Praise Him. Less than an hour later, we were wheeling the mother into recovery and the newborn baby girl was doing great. 

I can't help but think back to the stark contrast one week ago when death and mourning had filled my first day at Zimba. Today was filled with new life and rejoicing. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Eccl 3) In death and life, we see His hand. The hand of the Holy God we serve. Our hope is not in this life for this world is not our home. May our patients rest in the truth. Praise the King of Glory.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


It is 8:00 Saturday morning in Zimba. Monday through Friday, we have chapel services before starting work but Saturdays we get to rest a bit more. The last two days, I have worked in the outpatient department (OPD) on my own, seeing patients with the help of my sweet translator, Purity. I'm learning some Tonga here and there but obviously it is slow going. I think I only saw four or five patients in the morning on Thursday while there was a long line waiting. As I apologized to several patients for having to wait, they all said the same thing with smiles, that they did not mind waiting, they were just grateful for care. So different from the States. 

The learning curve here is huge. The medications have unrecognizable names, the dosing is different, labs have British values, my brain is overwhelmed. Most nights, I come from clinic to study meds and a slew of infectious disease facts. And all of it is awesome. Because each day I return to clinic a little bit faster and a little bit better at helping those waiting for care. Yesterday was much smoother and I suspect I will eventually get the hang of it. 

Saturdays we work half days either in OPD or rounding on patients so that's where I'm headed now. Thank you for continued prayer support and encouraging words! 

This is Dr. Joan. She and her husband are the head physicians at ZMH. I am working with her the most  and learning a ridiculous amount from her teaching. 
Not exactly how we would fix a broken femur in the States. 
A pin through the tibia tied to a jug of water to provide traction. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Zimba Mission Hospital Day 1

We awoke this morning, still fighting the jetlag, and excited about the day ahead. Every morning, we start with a chapel service of worship in Tonga (the local language) and a short message. I hope that heaven sounds like that. There is truly nothing like acapella African worship.  

After chapel, I began rounds with Dr. Dan in the maternity ward and let me start by saying, I knew these 6 weeks were not going to be easy. I just could not have imagined the reality of how hard it would be. It was a hard day. One hopeful pregnant woman tells me her story through a translator. Pregnant for the 6th time and she has no children. 2 late term stillbirths, 1 miscarriage, 2 newborns dead from malaria and pneumonia. Many women had similar stories. While not completely uncommon in her culture, her pain and tears were as real as any American woman hoping to be a mom. Heartbreaking. 

Next, we made our way across to the pediatrics ward. The first bed we walked up to there was a small child who looked to be about 8 or 9, curled up beneath a blanket hooked up to IV and oxygen. She was brought in last night after being sick many weeks and was thought to have pneumonia. The child's family sat anxiously by her bedside. As Dr. Dan pulled back the blanket to examine her, it was clear she had died several hours before. My first pediatric case here in Zambia. Heartbroken.

The remainder of the day I worked in the outpatient and the HIV clinic as a steady stream of sick patients filed in. It was not an easy day. 

But there were also moments of joy today. Children with giant smiles making faces at me and giggling as I treated patients in clinic. Watching the expansive Zambian sky turn 15 shades of red and orange as the sun went down. There will be more moments of joy here, there will be moments of dancing and singing and healing. His mercies are new every morning. 

Today was a reminder that God is God, I am not. Today was a reminder that this life is a gift that will fade like the dust. Today was a reminder that this world is not our home. God is still good all the time, on the best days and on the most heartbreaking days. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Tomorrow I will be rounding on patients and working in outpatient clinic on my own. Prayers appreciated. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Today's the day

Today we will be traveling to Zimba, entering the rural African life and beautiful people that I fell in love with 3 years ago. Outside of the big cities, in the tiny villages, in the mud made churches, with those voices singing praise and those precious babies' big brown eyes staring back at me. That is where my heart awakens. That is where my soul is overwhelmed with joy. These are the people who impacted me so much before and I know they will do the same again. "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." You can't understand it until you've been, then it all makes sense. 

Many people have asked how they can pray for us. It is so greatly appreciated!
Pray that we are given enlightened eyes to see each of our patients as our Abba does. Ps 68:5-6 "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing." 
Pray for miracles, healings, revivals, and giftings that the Spirit would rush like a mighty wind and the King of Glory would be renowned. 
Pray for words of compassion, hands of gentleness and love, and boldness to speak the truth of the gospel. Ps 147:3 - "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." 
Pray for daily revelation of the power we have in Christ, that we are more than conquerors when we feel defeated, and humble spirits that we are capable of nothing in our own strength. 
Pray for physical and mental endurance, focused minds, and good health that we may serve well. The jet lag has definitely set in. Thank you, thank you, thank you! 
You can also follow Tanner's photojournal here: 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nashville -> Johannesburg

At 5:40pm yesterday, after a last American meal of chipotle (thank you Dulles), Tanner and I settled in for the long 17 hour flight to South Africa. I have this issue where I revert to a newborn baby on international flights, only waking to eat and use the bathroom and then turning back over to sleep. I did, however, manage to watch Silver Linings Playbook, Date Night, & about 17 minutes of Les Mis. 
We stopped for an hour to refuel in Dakar, Senegal and then flew 8 more hours to arrive here in Johannesburg, South Africa. We took a bus to our hotel and got to see a quick glimpse of this bustling city. It reminds me of the old school section of the Vegas strip. Tons of neon lighting. 
Right now, I'm sitting in my hotel room thinking that its actually almost 1pm and not quarter til 8pm as it is here, thankful for wifi, and excited for the adventure to come. Tomorrow we fly to Livingstone, Zambia around 11am before driving to our final destination, Zimba.
Thank you for your continued prayer and words of support! My sweet friends sent me off with a card to encourage me every single day and those words have already given life to my exhausted heart. Thank you! Miss you! Much love! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

And away we go

I'm not sure what the Internet situation will be once we get to Zambia but hopefully I'll be able to give updates as much as possible. Tanner and I are minutes away from take-off in DC and in 17 hours we will land in Johannesburg, South Africa. From there we fly to Livingstone, Zambia before traveling to Zimba.

This journey began last summer when I was told I'd been given one of the spots for Africa and I have been completely humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayer, finances, support, & encouragement by my friends and family. Thank you! Thank you for helping this dream become a reality and for pushing me to step outside of my box. 

God is good all the time! All the time God is good! Praise His name! Let's do this!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Four Days, Four Years

Four days until we take off. 1:22pm on Sunday to be exact. 
Hopefully by this time next week I will be settled in Zimba. 
In the meantime, I am finishing my to do lists and attempting to get packed up. 

Fun fact: Did you know that you can be arrested for drug trafficking if you try to bring Benadryl (diphenhydramine) into Zambia?! It's considered a controlled substance there and since I'm not quite ready to tour the inside of a Zambian prison, I'll be leaving the Tylenol PM at home. Sheeeesh. I digress. 

I'm not sure I've ever felt more bipolar than I have this week. One minute I'm overwhelmed with excitement and ready to jump on the plane and the next I'm wondering what I've gotten myself into and why I would choose to leave my safe, sweet, comfortable life in Nashville. The past two weeks have been filled with coffee dates and parties and snuggles with my best friends' munchkins and naps in the sunshine in Sevier park - all of the people and places that make Nashville home. They've also been filled with prayers that have covered me and a church that stands beside me and hugs that I struggled to let go of and long, tearful goodbyes. I'm tasting the sweetness of my community & feeling how unbelievably blessed I am & part of me wants to stay right here to soak it up. 

But all week the Lord has been whispering to my fearful heart, "I was faithful once, I'll be faithful again." You see, this weekend marks my four year anniversary of moving to Nashville. I too often forget how terrified I was to take that leap of faith and move to such a scary and unfamiliar place. I almost let fear paralyze me then. I almost talked myself out of Nashville. I thought I had the best in SC. But God kept pushing. He knew what was ahead. He knew the sweetness of what was to come. He had gone before me and was planting seeds of community before I ever stepped foot in this city. He asked me to follow and He blew my expectations out of the water. 

And He'll be faithful to do it again because that is who He is. It is His character. The problem is most of us love to hold tight to the comfortable, the safe, the expectations because our human minds cannot imagine anything better. We are blinded by the illusion of security. We attempt to minimize risk at every corner. We let our fear of the unknown box us in. But Scripture clearly says God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). He is faithful. 

So here I am fighting fears and trembling hands, certain He has asked me to again take the leap of faith and follow Him to Zambia, believing He has gone before me and will once again do far more than I can imagine. Four years later, with the story still being written, Nashville reminds me every day that my God is trustworthy. 

Take a leap, choose the risky path, follow where He is leading. He is faithful.