Happy New Year!
In November, we enjoyed our time in Ethiopia at Soddo Christian Hospital. Stephen was able to spend lots of time observing and performing surgery, mostly the sign nail. We were able to fellowship with the mission community there, including a wonderful potluck Thanksgiving together. There were lots of kids around for our kids to play with, and they all decided we should live in Soddo!
Even though Stephen was working a full schedule, it was a break from the hectic pace of life we had for the previous few months. We were rested and refreshed by the end of our time there.
We returned to the ROC on Dec 5, after a little visa excitement at the airport in Addis Ababa. We had planned to travel the next day to Impfondo, but we were delayed for a few days. The good news is that the extra time in Brazzaville gave us some time to observe the pro-team that came with Sports Ambassadors to play football. (What we Americans call soccer.) The Cuthbert family, recently arrived in Brazzaville from Northern Ireland, planned and organized the tour. Our CMA colleagues in Brazzaville assisted with logistics and translation. It was interesting to see the process and the doors that were opened through the sporting events.
On our return to Impfondo, we jumped back into life- Stephen with work and the rest of us with school. The threat of Ebola has receded, at least for this area. It is a relief to us, but we continue to pray for those still fighting this disease. The work at the hospital to keep Stephen busy with a variety of interesting cases.
The word that really stood out to me this Christmas season was CELEBRATE, and December was a month with many reasons to celebrate. Stephen and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary on December 21. That was followed by four parties in just over one week- from our missionary staff parties for New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve to birthday parties for Sarah Speer and Siko Bambemba.
As usual, Stephen was on call for Christmas. Since we live right on the hospital compound, he is able to come and go as needed. We celebrated a simple, quiet Christmas- not a white Christmas, but a green one! We get to enjoy the beauty of lush green grass and vegetation year round. :)
The highlight of our Christmas in Congo is always the distribution of small gifts to the patients in the hospital. It is organized by the hospital chaplain, and in each room he explains about God’s gift to man- Jesus. After his explanation, we sing a song while handing out the gifts. It is hard to be sick or injured at any time, but to spend the holidays in the hospital is especially difficult. There is one man who is paralyzed, and he has been in and out of the hospital for many years. Of the five years we have been in the Congo for Christmas, he has been in the hospital for at least three, maybe four of those. He has become a Christian since the accident that caused his paralysis, and in spite of his suffering, he always has a smile and kind word for those he meets.
I enjoy it doubly, as a participant and as a parent. As a participant, I’m able to see the happiness such simple gifts bring to people, and my own idea of my “needs” is challenged. As a parent, I’m able to see our kids joyfully participate and the compassion they show for other’s suffering. I know they will remember this part of Christmas all of their lives. We are so thankful to be able to be a part of the gift giving process, and to have our community here while away from our family in the US. We followed with a shared meal with some of the others who were part of the distribution, then our own family celebration.
We carried the celebrating into January, with a family party for Ian’s 15th birthday. We’re now ready for a bit of a break from all the celebrations! It’s back to life as usual- school and work. At least for one week, then Caleb will have his turn for a birthday party. He’s asked for a day off of school for his birthday, and I am happy to oblige.
Praises and Prayer Requests:
1. We thank God for the opportunity to spend time in Ethiopia, and safe traveling on our journeys.
2. Repatriation of those from the DRC seems to be temporarily on hold. The nurse that I mentioned earlier was finally able to return to Impfondo and be reunited with his family after months away. A deadline of January 31 was given for people who still did not have their official paper, but no action has been taken- yet. Please continue to pray for those living in constant uncertainty.
3. Just before Christmas, the Cuthbert family and Amanda Volkmann joined our team in Impfondo. Praise God for this addition to our team!
4. We will be traveling to South Africa for our CMA field forum at the end of January. Pray for safe travels, good memories together, and to accomplish the business that needs to be done during forum.
5. Pray as our missionary staff and hospital employees work to refine the vision of the hospital and mission. Continue to pray for the growth of the hospital, and that above all God will be glorified. Pray for God’s direction and wisdom for leadership as they deal with “growing pains” in the mission and hospital work.