The Team!

The Team!
Collin Miller, Dr. Lamarr Widmer, Dr. Ray Norman, Sarah Finney, Nate Kamban, Dena Steiner

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Miracle of Miracles

We all made it with our luggage, health and sanity. Rest is now an order. Thank you for the prayers and support that helped put God-given ideas into action.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And a good time was had by all...

A whole lot of prayers preceded the early morning meeting with the PROPHETE center. Nate and Dena met with the director and professor of the PROPHETE center seeking permission for her research project. An hour and a half later, with much grinding and gnashing of teeth, permission was granted and research began. Their strict policies were relaxed for her project. The Physical Therapist who took on the project was trained by 1:30, leaving the team time to check in early for the flight that evening. We made it out just in time to return for Nate’s skype appointment at 2:30 back at the base. Dena left to continue to discuss research protocol with the physical therapist for the rest of the afternoon while the team packed and relaxed. Eating our last dinner in Mali was a joyous occasion: mostly because Dena was so thrilled with the fact that the research proposal worked out, Collin and Nate were excited to return to their loved ones, and Sarah was ready to sleep in her own bed. Everyone had a very positive outlook. The flight went well from Mali to Paris, and the team safely joined the Burkina Faso team in the airport to relax before the last long haul.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Answered Prayer

Cereal and milk, for the first time this trip, greeted us this morning as we awoke to visit the World Vision center and PROPHETE center. A meeting was arranged to meet with Albertine, a woman receiving knee surgery Sarah had met on her last trip, to see how she was recovering. Meanwhile, Nate and Dena made their way to the PROPHETE center to see if she would be allowed to start research that day. A brief meeting made it clear that no, starting without the express permission of the doctor and director would not be possible. But, there is significant hope for tomorrow.

So, rather than spend the day at the prophete center, Dena and Nate joined the rest of the group to visit Albertine. After, of course, the taxi was pulled over for license and insurance verification by the police. Often, tourists will hire the cheapest (though uninsured) taxi driver for their vacation. When caught, the police man will ask for a bribe to let them pass. This supplementary income encourages their vigilance. Their low salary barely covers the cost of living.

Once we arrived, we saw that Albertine was in a secluded compound in a room with one other bed, a TV and a nightstand. Her upper thigh was surrounded by metal scaffolding holding screws and supports in place inside of her leg. She seemed to be in good spirits and welcomed our visit. The only thing that disturbed us was the movie airing on general TV in the background--monsters were emerging from the sand and killing people with blow darts. After bidding goodbye we returned home to lunch.

The first bite was very telling. Salty. We had noodles and meat and vegetable sauce, but all of those ingredients seemed secondary to the salt content. When the cook arrived, a quick explanation unveiled all: the cap on the salt container had fallen off when she was pouring it. The special eggrolls Nate bought to surprise us ended up being a God-send.

Speaking of God-send, several other miracles quickly followed the eggrolls: Collin confirmed recovery, and a phone call from the PROPHETE center announced the choice of the physical therapist in charge of Dena's research! The physical therapist was to visit that evening. The communications director was extremely apologetic for the unexpected bureaucracy.

The visit of the therapist was extremely encouraging. He told story after story of how he had implemented things like appointment times (in all the other centers, people come when they please and simply wait), private doctors (other places do not have private examination rooms), and research (a new concept to most here). All had been successful. Having trained in Maroc, he had been trained in a much more Western style and hoped to develop a sustainable humanitarian rehabilitation center free from corruption in the Cameroon. Here, often the highest paying customer is treated first and doctors give bogus prescriptions for physical therapy in hopes to get a cash 'thank you' from the therapist with increased business. His strong commitment to integrity, empowerment of the poor and sustainable medical care was refreshing. He is the first West African I have talked to that embraced, respected, and understood the concept behind 'informed consent'.

After several mosquito bites and amazing stories, dinner of fried plantains, quinoa, and meat sauce awaited. Devos and an overview of the next day finished off the day. Tomorrow will be early for Dena and Nate as they pray and head to the PROPHETE center by 8:00 to try to convince the doctor and director to consent to the research project. All the workers are ready--we just need the green light.


Praise: recovery of Collin, physical therapist for research, and beginning positive feedback from the PROPHETE center
petition: Permission from the PROPHETE center for research, safe travels (Mali and Burkina Faso Collaboratory Site teams), quick learning and cooperative children for research, fruitful processing of the trip

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day of Rest

An early start to our day enabled us to make it to two church sites with Gordon, one of the welcoming missionaries we already talked about. The first church site was rather large--so large, in fact, that they planted several other churches in surrounding neighborhoods. They had one temporary building set up and construction going on for a LARGE permanent chuch building. Unfortunately, they ran out of money before they could put a roof on it, so they are stuck in the temporary building. While we were listening to the story, the missionary sighed and told us: "They shared a well donated to them by an NGO. That well really impressed the community, that christians would share water with nonchristians in the community. It is a shame that they cannot finish this building, because a beautiful building can attract people teetering between deciding to go to church or not. It is sad that it has to work like that...They just tell me that the catholics build their own churches, the mosques are build by their followers, why shouldn't protestant churches be built by their members?"

While still in the temporary building, there are no lack of miracles. Government officials have supported the growth of the church much more than ever imagined, in spite of their differing religious beliefs. However, people that would go to this church go to a less crowded church instead. We were led to one of the planted churches for our actual service.

Greeted by several people in Bombara, the local language, we were given seats behind the pulpit in front of the church. We had the best seats to see the choir, childrens choir, mens chorus, and French music group. Gordon brought hymnals to sing from, and since bombara is a phonetical language, we were able to sing with them. The three drummers beside us went faster and faster for each verse until everyone was dancing and clapping, and praising God. Even the children were dancing and jumping around. This was the main part of the service.

During the sermon, the missionary spoke in Bombara (perfectly, as far as we could tell) to an enraptured audience--except for an adorable little boy who kept trying to shine the shoes that went with his little suit. After the sermon, the church elders gave us soft drinks and every single church member shook our hand while giving us a little bow of respect as they left. It was very humbling.

We returned back to the base to find Francoise, our cook, making our meal riz au gras, a meal that has rice with the sauce mixed in, served with steamed vegetables like squash, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. This is a meal we have had several times here and is many native's favorite meal. Since Collin is sick and the rest of the team has head colds, we all decided to nap after lunch. Dinner was a comforting beef stew. After devotions and a brief game, we went our separate ways. We all fell asleep to the music of the Sunday evening local dance club.

Prayer requests: Collin's sickness to go away, Dena to be welcomed into the PROPHETE center and supported for her research, the travels of Sarah and Dr. Widmer as they visit a friend they made in a previous trip, and Nate as he leads all of these activities.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Waking up was fairly easy until we stepped outside to experience the harmitan, the white, dusty wind from the sahara, again. With nescent colds in half of the team, fresher air would have been appreciated. Nevertheless, we were excited to help teach an entire class of level two English as a Second Language with the Reddings, the missionary couple who has welcomed and oriented us the most. The lesson was centered around transportation. When discussing the differences between transportaion in Mali and the US, we found out that the entire class thought that a car in America was free. After much laughing, they were gently informed of their error, and the lesson continued.

We returned back to the station in time to have lunch with a World Vision chauffeur we have grown to love, Charles. He brought his wife and daughter and they treated us to his favorite dish, spiced (but not hot spicy) chicken with vegetables on tomato seasoned rice. The portions, as usual were more than generous and the meal and conversation was wonderful. Coca-cola and other soft drinks, we have found, are integral in having a welcoming dinner--they are offered at every meal we have had from outside people. We tried to spoil them with some chocolate covered cookies for dessert, but they had melted during transport to the store we bought them from, so they received an entire stack of chocolate cookies melted together instead.

After they left, we made our way to the artisan market. When we arrived, we were swarmed by people hoping to guide us there. Dr. Widmer, who had been there before, was leading us confidently until two or three people ran up yelling "You can't go to the mosque! It is not open to white people! You must come this way!" We followed them and found that we simply had not walked in the way that took us past their shops and they wanted us to thank them somehow for their generous gift of time and direction. Upon arriving, we found that Dr. Widmer had been leading us correctly--but it is hard to have confidence in one's self when there are four clueless people following you and three Malians shouting at you.

Inside the artisan market, there were less beggars and thieves, so we could let down our guard a little and enjoy the amazing art. Each artisan is very welcoming, hoping to attract potential business. We found that jewelry (at least bracelets) are priced by weight and not as much by their intricacy. When we finished buying what we hoped for, we returned back to the base, exhausted. A skype date, dinner and devos later, we all headed to bed around 8:00. We were tired.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A National Holiday and welcome day of break

Sleeping in for the first time this trip all the way until 8:45, we were much more alert this morning. We walked over to a missionary couple's house who invited us for the Malian holiday today. Upon arriving, we were welcomed into a beautiful bungalow nestled behind the traditional high wall and lounging guard. A parrot greeted us with a cheerful whistle as we made ourselves comfortable in one of the most cozy, welcoming, and comforting houses we have ever been in. We were given a tour of the marketplace and then we filed back to the house to learn about folk islam: a mix of pure islam and traditional beliefs that most Malian people practice. Although they will pray to Allah, they will still make animal sacrifices for blessings to their spirit ancestors in order to gain favor for the coming year.

Just when we finished learning this, we were delighted with the announcement of a meal--a familiar american meal--hamburgers, fries, cole slaw, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. We have been fed VERY well by our Malian cook, Francoise, but it is always nice to come back to our well known and loved American foods, especially when they are prepared so well. We swapped stories until Levy, a mechanic working for the project, arrived.

We relocated back to our base and organized many things for future artisan workshops, fairs and projects. It ended with much success and satisfaction. Levy has so much initiative. After a shared dinner of chicken in tomatoe veggie sauce and rice, we did devotions, played a few games, and retired for the night.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Last Presentation= Success

A groggy early morning was rewarded today with a very successful presentation. We arrived in time to organize and set up everything, then welcome people as we came in. Although we may have had a few French mistakes, the forgiveness of the people was overwhelmingly evident by their enthusiastic participation in discussion questions and demonstrations. Their deep, contagious laughter inspired many stories and memories. We learned a lot about their traditional (though not necessarily still practiced) cultural beliefs including:
-sacrificing people who are albino in order to have success in a coming election
-forbidding the burial of people with dwarfism (still practiced somewhat)
-men having special powers if they slept with a woman with a mental disorder
-people can become handicapped if they enter a certain village

It was very informative and animated--and it did not just stop at cultural discussions. At each workshop we have demonstrations and make people pretend to be handicapped in order to try several tasks we have found to be difficult for people in their situation. The entire group laughed and really took to heart what they experienced and saw. In fact, three people volunteered to take the model wood latrine seat to their villages in order to train one of their village artisans how to make them. This first push for action and volunteerism for helping the handicapped is really encouraging. To top it all off, the workshop participants created an action plan that is planned to be implemented throughout this year and next year. This action plan includes educating communities to be more receptive to the needs of people with disabilities, promoting technologies that fill their needs, and including people with disabilities in development committees. The long years of studying and researching are paying off!

To celebrate, we went to Dr. Norman's hotel, the Sleeping Camel, to eat pizza. We bid him a wonderful trip as he left today at 9:00 (our time).

Prayer requests: Sarah's beginning of a cold, the PROPHETE center to allow Dena to do research with them and provide people to continue it, Nate as he misses his wife and baby Lyla who is turning a month old in two days, and Collin as he is experiencing his first time in Africa