Saturday, January 16, 2016

We're Still Here

Written by Jamie:

It’s been a pretty long time since we updated our blog. For two people who don’t generally have a ton to say anyway, it’s hard to think up something to write. I think mostly though we just go about our lives and it is “normal” for us, so we forget that it isn’t for our family and friends back home. Just maybe you want to hear about our daily lives?

Since our return to Liberia in June we have mostly jumped right back in where we left off. Only this time we are two boys short. That has been very hard for me, as I’ve discovered how much of my social life revolved around them! It was wonderful to be able to bring them here for Christmas!! The other big changes are that Blessing is going to the classroom for school every day and I too have started taking some college courses online.  Colton continues to do high school on line through North-Star Academy and the twins just keep getting bigger and busier!!   Rusty of course is back to work on the ELWA hospital construction.  Things are moving along and the hope is that it will be complete this summer.

We have been talking a lot the last month or so about our future. What will we do when the hospital is complete this year? Are we going “home” to the USA or will we look for another opportunity overseas? While I think it is human nature to want to have a plan because it makes us feel more stable, today I was reminded that only God knows what our future holds.

We spent the morning as we do about every other Saturday, grocery shopping! Not the most fun and I have to admit I was feeling pretty callous. We have had so many requests for money the last month, school fees were due, Doreen needed help because Emmanuel had pneumonia, one guy needs $400 loan for rent so he doesn’t have to move his family, another wants $300 to start constructing a house… We have a hard time saying no to people and I’ve really just been thinking it’s time to move on from Liberia because we just can’t afford to live here much longer.

Then when we arrived home with our load of groceries, someone was waiting to speak to Rusty. His name is George and he needed a small loan so he could buy some food for his five children.  You see, his wife died unexpectedly a few months ago and to cover the burial costs he had to take a loan from the bank. Although yesterday was pay day, he had to give every bit of it to the bank to pay on that loan. To make matters more complicated he already has debt because his wife was going to college. She was just two months away from graduating. They had a plan; she was 12 years younger than him so they decided she should get a degree, that way when he died (before her) she would have a means to support herself and the family. As often happens in this life things didn’t go as planned and she died first.

“We saved the little bit of money I make so she could go to college so if I died she could support the children.  It was supposed to go that way…I don’t know why it didn’t go that way.  I go home and sleep in the bed she slept in with me, use the dishes she ate off with me, take a bath with the bucket we took baths with…I don’t know how I am supposed to forget her.”

After we helped him with some money he was extremely grateful and commented how he could send for his youngest son to come home Monday.  He sent him away for the weekend to his brother’s house because he didn’t want to have him spend the weekend at home with no food in the house.

God pierced my heart today. He peeled away some of that callous I’ve allowed to build up and well it stings a bit. While life isn’t always easy, I can say that God has never failed me. My children do not go hungry or get put out of school, we have money to see the doctor if need be. He always provides a way for us. So I want say to each of you, THANK YOU! Thank you for helping us to be His hands and feet here. Thank you for donating to all these causes we put before you. Thank you for praying for us. I am so blessed to get to live this life, thank you for being a part of it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Finishing up

Well my 2-1/2 weeks went by quickly and I'm back in the US now.  The last week was spent mostly finishing up preparations for the water treatment containers and making sure the hospital project is OK to hibernate for a few more months.

Our friend Wilson Fallah brought a couple paintings for me to bring back to the US.  Our friends in Spokane, the Glanvilles, continue to work with Wilson and help sell his paintings at fair trade events.  I wish I would have posted this a couple of days ago before the sale, but I'm sure if you get ahold of Peter or Amber they can get some of his work to you.

SIM continues to try to expand services at ELWA Hospital.  The medical communities struggles to treat malaria, typhoid and other "normal" illnesses have been fairly well documented in the media.  Almost every hospital shut down in July and August due to health workers falling sick, and then struggled to reopen due to the dangers and nurses being lured away by international medical groups with higher pay.  ELWA Hospital is open and operating under new protocols.  All patients must come through a single entrance and are screened for Ebola symptoms before being admitted.  It is a little hard to even recognize for those who are familiar with the hospital...

An X-ray drying in the sun outside the X-ray room.

Some of the guys worked through Liberian Thanksgiving to try to get a ditch backfilled.  They wanted their picture taken when I came by.

Here is a video of some of the guys, and our security staff telling me what they were thankful for on this Thanksgiving.  Hopefully you can make out their Liberian English.

The day before I left we had our typically beautiful sunset over the Atlantic.
Access to all businesses and shops require handwashing, and usually someone taking your temperature.  Here is the line coming into our office at Samaritan's Purse one morning.  Everyone washes their hands in chlorinated water, has their temperature taken with a non-contact thermometer, has their shoes sprayed with a chlorine solution and has their car tires sprayed with the same chlorine.  then a piece of paper with the date, time and your temperature is stapled to your shirt sleeve.

The handwash station at a local grocery store.

And leaving the country my temperature was taken no less than 5 times.

And again when entering Brussels Airport

Then when arriving at Dulles Airport in Washington DC I went through the CDC's enhanced screening.  That went fairly smoothly and everyone was very professional and courteous.  I now get to be "best friends" with my local health department epidemiologist until my 21 day monitoring period is complete.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

November 1

A few more pictures from the past week in Liberia...

It was great to see Doreen and Emmanuel on Tuesday.  Emmanuel is really starting to grow and thrive after his heart surgery in February.  I guess I never posted anything on our poor neglected blog after Emmanuel returned from his surgery, but he and Doreen are doing well.  Doreen was able to rent a small shop and stock it with dry goods to sell with money that was donated to her while she was in the US.  Business is very slow under the current crisis but they are getting by.  I gave him a soccer ball to take home with him and when they went to leave he grabbed a second ball and placed it into his bag.  Doreen laughed and said "Oh, Emmanuel thinks he's taking all two footballs!" He looked up and smiled at me...knowing I would be powerless to resist his charm...and left with both of his new "footballs".

Rainy season is just coming to an end.  The rains and winds were not kind to the first structure that we built to combat Ebola way back in early April.  It was a a triage tent to screen patients for Ebola before admitting them to either the ER or Ebola how things have grown since then. 

Generator problems are never really solved, just fixed for the time being.  And for the time being they are running so I moved on to the next project.  Three containers with water treatment equipment have been donated to ELWA by Parker Hannifin Corp.  Each container will have a sand filter, chlorination equipment, UV treatment, water storage tanks and a pump.  To prepare for their arrival we cast a concrete slab near the new well that Living Water drilled for us earlier this year.  Here the guys are using the slab around the hand pump to mix concrete for the pad.  It made it easy to add water to the concrete mix!

 Utilities around ELWA can be a little tough to sort out after 60+ years of pipe in the ground.  We were able to extend water and power to the pad so when the container arrives they can hook it up quickly and provide clean water for the campus.  Right now there are sand filters on the water system but all water has to be run through filters at houses and the hospital before drinking.  These containers should eliminate that need.

Here a couple of my workers are making a sweeping elbow for our electrical conduit.  The elbows that you can purchase in Liberia have a very small radius, making it tough to pull wire through.  So they are using a small fire to heat the pipe so they can bend it.

I stopped by one of our security guard's house on Sunday.  Sirleaf has been working on the house for quite some time.  As they typically do in Liberia, every month he would set aside as much of his pay as possible to buy a few concrete blocks or sand and build as much as he can each month.  The project took a turn last month when someone in the house they were living in came down with Ebola.  He scrapped together enough money to put a roof over one bedroom and Sirleaf, his wife, two daughters, his son, daughter in law and grandson moved into the bedroom.  It is a little cramped but at least they are free of Ebola.

 And last but not least here was my office on Thursday.  I walked in and it looked like a dressing room.  Gentry purchased a bale of long sleeve shirts and was selling them to co-workers.  Many people right now prefer long sleeves to cover as much skin as possible while out and about.  You can purchase all sorts of used clothing in tightly compacted bales here that comes from donated or purchased thrift shop clothing in the Gentry went out and purchased one to help keep people covered up.  I told him I wasn't coming to work the day he brought in a bale of pants!

The rest of this past week was spent at the new hospital site making sure things were secure.  When we left in August it was sudden and we didn't really get a chance to walk around on the site and make sure everything was stored properly and covered and secure.  A couple of the containers that materials are stored in started leaking so we repaired the tops of all of our containers and repainted them with anti-rust paint.  Hopefully the project will be able to resume sometime early next year.

Well I have one more week here before I head back.  I'll be going to a private location that SP is having all their staff spend their 21 days in quarantine.  Hopefully I will have time to post some more pictures before I go.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

ELWA October 2014

Not a lot of time to type stories right now but here are a few pictures from the last couple days.

On the left with the roof partially finished is the female ward for the new ELWA Hospital, below that is the OR with just the floor cast.  Both have been sitting since construction stopped on July 28th.

On the right behind the red containers is the Kitchen/Laundry, which was the first building we converted into an Ebola Treatment Unit "ELWA-2".  It has expanded into the old ELWA clinic with the red asbestos roof, and further into the red white and blue tents that the German's provided.  Current capacity is about 50.

Ben Yoko working on the John Deere engine #4 in the ELWA generator house. About 5 minutes after I took this picture generator #3 shut down right as we were finishing the repair to #4.

An aerial view of "ELWA-3" ETU run by MSF.  This picture is taken from the roof of Samaritan's Purse's office.
(Select picture to view full screen)

Moses Kpahn, one of our security guard's son.  He was helping his dad out at their dry goods store when I walked by after purchasing some concrete blocks.

Enoch Cooper laying block for a concrete pad that will support a 20' shipping container with water treatment equipment.

Country Boy checking level

S.K.D. has been doing masonry so long he does it with his eyes closed.

Peter Swen repairing the entry to the ELWA Hospital.  

An ambulance that was recently donated to ELWA.  Some ambulances have sterile dividers between the cab and the back...we have a lovely quilt.

ELWA-3 as seen from the entrance to ELWA.

Signs about Ebola are everywhere, these two are on ELWA's fence.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

(By Jamie)
The last couple of weeks here have been like living out a movie or book. As some of you may know there has been a major out break of Ebola in Guinea. When we first heard the news it wasn't too big of a deal as we are quite a distance from the border with Guinea. However, it still greatly affected Samaritan's Purse as a large number of our projects are located in Foya, near the border. The cases there were people who had come across the border to seek help and I really thought it was going to remain up country because organizations like WHO and MSF were already aware of the issue. That means it should be easy to contain right? What I didn't take into consideration is the drastic lack of medical knowledge and resources here in Liberia. 

Then it happened, someone sick traveled to Monrovia and on to Firestone. We (spouses and children) have been asked to evacuate. Which means separation for an unknown amount of time, uprooting my kids while we are trying to finish up our school year, and taking the little ones away from what they know. While this is a bit overwhelming, at least we can leave.  We have many dear friends that cannot just go thousands of miles away from the problem. I have done my best to help my friends understand what they need to do to prevent it but it is real and it is scary.
Ministry of Health informational flyers on Ebola

Hygiene has been emphasized and re-emphasized
 I am so proud of my boys for going up to the hospital to help set up an isolation unit. They sorted a large number of supplies and help to hang plastic partitions. Today Rusty and the boys helped to start the set up of a temporary triage tent so if a suspected case does come to ELWA there is a place to screen and isolate them, protecting the rest of the patients.

The boys have been helping the past couple days get an isolation ward set-up
While we don't know when or how long it will take to contain this, there are still things to be done. Rusty will be taking our five youngest to our family in Washington on Monday, and then return to Liberia. This is so I (along with Christopher) can go as planned to London on Wednesday to run the Marathon. It has become even more important and meaningful to be able to raise funds in this manner for the hospital project. There is such a huge need here and it is an honor to be able to help in this small way. Now more then ever Liberia needs a hospital that has proper equipment, well educated medical staff, and larger capacity to treat people! Please consider donating something, anything to this cause. Every dollar will make a real and lasting difference for the people of Liberia. Just click on the link at the bottom to make your donation.
Work at the hospital continues

Installing trusses
 And it's not all serious all the time...
No caption needed
If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:

Sunday, March 02, 2014


 Earlier this week I came across these verses: 
Hebrews 12:11-13 -Discipline leads to Fruit
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
                                               1 Timothy 4:8 - - Training and Godliness
for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
As I've reflected on these passages this week, I've been reminded how much discipline it has taken to get me to the place I am with my running. And that with continued discipline I can achieve even more but it has also reminded me that while physical discipline is important for my physical health; I also need to keep up with my spiritual disciplines. I keep thinking how amazing it is that I can train my body to run these long distances in the heat and humidity and not feel like I'm going to die! How is it that this training has become easy to keep up but my spiritual life is easily discarded at times? I have concluded that it is all about priorities. I have made running a priority and it has become a habit. This is my challenge for myself for the next six weeks as I finish up my training for the London marathon; put as much time into my spiritual life as I do my physical life.

Here is a glimpse into what we are doing for our physical training:
Most days training runs are done here on the ELWA campus. It's convenient, safe and has lovely scenery. Hard to beat running along a beautiful tropical beach. I especially love being able get up early, walk out my front door before it get overly hot and get my run done. There is one major draw back when it comes to the long runs though. If I do a figure eight around the campus road it is about 1.75 miles. So, as you can imagine after a few laps it gets a bit monotonous! In an effort to change things up we decided to take our long Sunday training runs out to the road to Marshall. It is currently a dirt road that they are working on improving. For now the dirt road provides the benefit of being flat, fairly long and a bit more forgiving then the pavement. This is the third Sunday we've run the road. The first Sunday was great because it rained the night before and knocked down all the dust. Today we were not so lucky...

Just some small dust after a car went speeding by.

Many thanks to Bev for letting me use her Camelbak so I stay hydrated!

Joni and Bev synchronized running. 

Some interesting sights along the way.

Just finishing up my 12 miles.


Handmade construction sign :)

           Joni finishing up her 16 miles!  
We were missing Kendell today, who was up country and had to run solo this week. Please remember us in your prayers this week as we continue to up our miles. The heat and humidity can really take it's toll as can injury.

Remember we are doing all of this to raise money for SP Liberia's ELWA hospital project and it's Church Mobilization Program (CMP). Please read our previous posts for more information on these projects and consider donating! Thanks in advance for your help.

If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is: 

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Health care in Liberia

One of the most exciting aspects of getting to run the London Marathon is also getting to raise funds for the ELWA Hospital project. This is after all the reason we are currently in Liberia!  I've been doing a little research about health care here in Liberia and here are some statistics I found.

In Liberia there are approximately 28 hospitals and about 0.8 beds per 1000 people. To put this into perspective for you, the USA has approximately 16,000 hospitals and there are 5.4 beds per 1000 people. To break it down even more Washington State has around 100 hospitals with 14,650 beds, that’s 2.1 beds per 1000 people. Currently ELWA hospital is 1 of 7 hospitals in the greater Monrovia area, it has about 35 beds. When the first and major portion of the hospital is complete, hopefully by the end of 2014, it will have 80 beds. That’s an increase of 45 beds, which may seem small, but every bed means one more person can be treated. There is a potential for 130 beds at the new ELWA hospital, if funding becomes available for more wards. Keep in mind that ELWA hospital was constructed in 1965, when Monrovia had half as many people and ELWA was considered to be located in “the bush”. A 30 bed hospital was big! Now days there are times when the beds are full and patients have to be sent to other hospitals (with no guarantee the next hospital will have an open bed) or sit in chairs in the hallways until something becomes available.  Medical equipment is hard to get and very much needed. That includes X-ray equipment, surgical equipment, lab equipment, etc.

The current ELWA hospital

Construction on the new hospital!

Let’s talk about the number of physicians, Liberia has about 215 Doctors for a population of 3.9 million. The USA has just fewer than 750,000 doctors and WA State has about 23,000. That’s 0.05 doctors per 1000 people in Liberia compared to 2.4/1000 in the USA and in WA it’s 3.3/1000There is only one orthopedic surgeon, only about 5 trained surgeons, and about 6 dentists. The country doesn't have a radiologist, a pathologist, no treatment for cancer, no neurosurgeon, etc... There is no place for a child to receive intensive care. JFK hospital only has 2 ventilators and even those might not be working. There is one place where a nurse anesthetist can be trained and even that is an informal program. There are very, very few trained specialists in the country. Most of the doctors have very cursory training—just medical school followed by an informal house job. Part of the lack of trained health care workers is due to the long civil war, professionals fled and have not returned. Another major reason for the lack of doctors in Liberia is that they haven't had a residency program until recently. The new government residency program is now training about 20 doctors at a time divided between four specialties, pediatrics, ObGyn, Internal medicine, and general surgery.  ELWA hospital which is run by SIM (Serving In Mission)  is hoping to start the first family medicine residency program in the new facility! They hope to start with training two or three new physicians a year. Many of these doctors will be sent into areas in which there are no specialists. They will be trained to care for patients of all ages including newborns and geriatric patients. Their training will include both inpatient and outpatient care. They will learn some basic surgeries such as hernia repair and appendectomy. They will also have training in obstetrics and cesarean sections. ELWA currently has outstanding faculty members in General Surgery and Family Medicine and they will be recruiting more faculty to join in teaching these residents. It is their hope that in training family physicians for Liberia, they will make a longstanding impact on the care in many counties, towns and villages throughout Liberia. 

Leading causes of death in Liberia are malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections compared to the US; heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory infections. Many people in Liberia do not live long enough for heart disease, cancer and other such disease to become major factors in death, as average life expectancy is a mere 56 years. Liberia’s infant mortality rate is 71/1000 and maternal mortality rate is 7.7/1000.  The rate in the USA: infant 6.1/1000, maternal .21/1000 and in WA 4.5/1000 and .15/1000. According to UNICEF:
Liberia’s infant and under-5 mortality rates remain among the five highest in the world. More than 15 per cent of children die before reaching their first birthday.
Preventable diseases like malaria and measles are among the leading killers of children. Malnutrition and respiratory infections kill thousands of children each year.

So, how can you help? First, pass this on to all your family and friends. Second, click on one of the links below and donate! The more we raise the more we can do for the people of Liberia.

If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hospital Update

It has been quite awhile since we've posted any hospital pictures, and I have a bunch I had to take for a report, so I thought I'd throw them up here...

All three of the buildings we are working on right now.  On the left is the Outpatient Clinic, with Pediatric Ward and Administration on the second floor.  In the center is the Male Ward, and on the right is the Female Ward.

Male Ward on left, Female in the center and completed Kitchen/Laundry building in the distance.

Working on the plastering and trusses for the wards right now.

Wetting the walls before plastering

Bethany taking pictures for SIM at the same time.

The interior of the Pediatric Ward
That's all for now.  You can check out the fundraiser for Emmanuel and see how much we've been able to raise at as of the time this blog was posted we are at $2,870 almost 2/3 of the way there!  Lord willing, in one month they will be in Austin, TX getting ready for surgery.