The day after Christmas I awoke to find my door decorated for my feast day which is also Father Johnny's feast day. The sisters and staff had a party for me with flowers, cake, chai, and a present. For many people, feast days are a bigger deal than birthdays. Since my birthday is a national holiday - August 15th is India's Independence Day - it's always a big day for everyone!
Greetings to my sponsoring congregations. When I left you last time I was about to set off to Calcutta and points beyond. Before I left, Dr. Sarah from Delhi stopped by the office with some sweets from Delhi. I made sure we ate them right away because the last time she brought sweets, the box got put away - for safety - and by the time anyone remembered they were there, they had gone all green! Also, before I went, I went to Chennai for a meeting to plan a new association to help the 35 Lutheran missions throughout India. We hoped to start by getting some details and statistics - a data base of sorts - and then some evaluation visits will be done by teams.
After a night in Calcutta, I was off to Mohulpahari. My first morning there was the first time I skipped a morning bath in a long time. The water choices were cold and colder! I had to wash my hair as it was off in all directions, and afterwards my brain was either very awake or frozen! This is one place I visit where there is no geyser ( British English - pronounced geezer - a water heating system) and no hot water is available by hand, pot, or fire, until well after the time I would normally bathe. I guess evening baths will be the thing here!
The next day was a national holiday - Republic Day - and I went to the flag raising ceremony which included some nice patriotic music from students and staff and well as a dance. Then it was sports day. The next day I went to a wedding reception. One of the Santali tribal customs has the mothers of the wedding party wiping the faces of their children and giving them water and sweets. Then the mothers do the same for the new members of the family. All feel welcomed and nourished by parents and in-laws alike.
Then it was back to Calcutta and I was lucky to get there! I missed the train I was supposed to be on because I was caught up in a traffic jam - stuck behind 500 trucks for more than two hours. I missed my train but caught another to Calcutta which was two hours late itself and I got a lot of work done on the train ride. That's when I wrote the letters to all of you about my 2010 Home Assignment!
From Calcutta I flew to Guwahati and Dr. Iswary met me and drove me to Parkijuli where I always enjoy the food and fellowship because Dr. Iswary has his guests eat with him. His family is in Guwahati because his children are school aged and the schools in Guwahati are better. I spent most of the day in the Out Patient Department with Dr. Iswary seeing patients with him, and then we went to a wedding reception. It was Day 8 of the reception when the bride and groom come to the bride's home. After some food and socializing, we went back to the hospital and we worked on his prioritized needs list - my main reason for being there. His list is long as he is looking at building a new hospital that needs to be staffed and furnished. And Dr. Iswary was very happy to be hear that an orthopedic team from CMC (Christian Medical College) is coming soon. I can say, "I helped."
My next destination was Delhi where I held classes with several groups. One class was for nurses who are new staff at St. Stephen's Hospital, one for senior staff nurses, one for clergy, and one for a mixed group of people from different faiths. All the classes went well. I was also able to meet with the Executive Secretary of CMAI (Christian Medical Association of India) and he happily accepted my offer of help - planning, teaching, and motivating their palliative care work. I think some very good things can happen! A few of those good things that were related to nursing were initiated immediately, so I will be having a meeting in Nagpur and one in Bangalore to do a presentation on getting palliative care content into the curriculum of nursing programs. CMAI has good connections with seminaries and that may be our way in there too. That will be the rather whirlwind four-day, three-city trip I'll be finishing about the time I send this - first to Delhi and then on to Nagpur and Bangalore. Opinions have been offer that I am crazy, but that has not daunted me! Tune in next month and I'll let you know how that trip went and if I was, in fact, crazy!
I leave for my time in Liberia in early March, so please keep my journey in your prayers, and know that you are my fuel. Love, John
I spent the first few days of March getting ready to depart for Liberia, but before Africa, I had stops to make at trip to Jharkhand for a meeting of the Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church and one with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. Necessary stops but since it meant I had to depart for my safari to Africa from Calcutta and Mumbai, it made packing a little more challenging. I was also trying to sort out some problems before I left India. Three doctors from the hospital in Padhar had agreed to go to Cameroon this summer to cover for a doctor there so he could be on home leave, like me. I have been trying to help them get their visas and this has proven to be a gigantic problem which I am still struggling with.
The trip from Calcutta to Mumbai to Nairobi to Monrovia was a very long and exhausting one. The only real hitch was a security check in Mumbai where I was stopped after checking in and asked if I had anything metal in my checked luggage. I had to go into the bowels of the airport to open my bags and identify the items in them. The culprit turned out to be a battery charger with four AA batteries in it and ceramic water filter replacements. The small room where my bags were examined had A/C, but was swarming with mosquitoes! I could just feel the malaria!
In Monrovia, I stayed at the Lutheran Church in Liberia's guesthouse which is now connected to the Monrovia power grid which meant a more consistent power supply. The schedule called for power a good part of the day and night which seemed to be a better deal than depending on an iffy generator, but nevertheless, there were frequent outages my first day there and I was glad I had a window in my bathroom so in theory, I wouldn't have to shower in the dark, but showering was a little tricky I didn't know the ins and outs of the water supply! There was no water when I wanted to bathe. The next day the power supply was much better and I found that the water supply came on at 6:30 a.m., so I needed to fill a bucket the night before if I wanted to bathe earlier than that.
While in Monrovia I met with Sister Barbara and Edna who are working with me on the Masters in Nursing Education program. This is actually moving forward and is going to happen! We have 17 students and the house that is being renovated for them to stay in is ready for work. I also went to the Cameroon Embassy to try and get my visa so I can go there and prepare the way for the doctors from India, but that did not go as well. The ambassador was helpful, but not enough so to just give me a visa. I am going to have to work a lot harder to get this visa sorted out.
My journey to Phebe was uneventful and there were some nice decorations on the house to welcome me. My first morning there, I was sitting in a familiar place - the porch of House 11 - in a very familiar situation - the power went out. A generator problem. Thankfully, it was not a serious problem and the power was back on that evening. It runs from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.. My first morning I couldn't use the shower because the tubing to the wand was leaking, so it was bucket bath time again. I had some tubing and was able to replace it, so that is fixed.
I had a very warm welcome at the hospital, but the place is having serious financial problems and equipment-related problems. The network printers are not working and the copier in the business office is without a cartridge because they can't get one. The copy machine in my old office had been taken over by rats and they are not good housekeepers. The portable X-ray machine had been plugged into an outlet with the wrong voltage and was no longer working. The neighboring UN contingent's biomedical technician came to help - I'm hopeful. And the Internet connection is no longer working. I had hoped that could be fixed the first weekend I was there, but with the technical staff being in Nigeria, that proved to be a bigger problem than I hoped and it still is not fixed. As they say in Liberia, "It isn't easy."
My first Sunday worship service back at St. Luke's lasted 3 ½ hours! The first two hours were a "rally" which is a fund raising event. They need a roof for the church and really need the money. The people of Liberia seem to love the rallies but me, not so much! The service itself was wonderful with uplifting music and a good sermon. After that, I had a 2 ½ hour ride to Curran Hospital where I spent the rest of Sunday and the next day talking with Edna, the missionary there, some Lutheran volunteers from Canada and the new Medical Director at Curran. He is a retired doctor in his 70s who grew up five miles from the hospital and went to the Lutheran School at Curran. He came to a challenge and has done a good job of steadying the ship.
There is much to be done and little to do it with, so I ask for your prayers to help with the work. Prayer is a very important tool in the work that needs to be done here! Peace, John
Hello from Phebe Hospital in Liberia. In my last letter, I told you that Phebe's portable X-ray machine was out of commission after being plugged into an outlet with the wrong voltage. Good news - it is now working again. We enlisted the aid of some expert advice from some technicians from the Bangladeshi camp and after 24 hours of charging, it is working once again. Now we just need some film - seems like it hasn't been available in country. We haven't been as fortunate with the generators, the copy machines, the Internet connection, or the computers at the hospital. The generators won't generate, the copy machines were either out of toner or had become homes for rats, the Internet connection took weeks of calls and emails to Nigeria and Canada, and the hospital's computers are full of viruses. As I said last month, in Liberia, "It isn't easy."
I made a lot of trips to Monrovia and a couple of those trips were totally without any A/C in the car. It is hot and it is humid, so I always looked forward to the car trips as a cool place to rest, but the repair for the car's A/C is too expensive for Phebe right now. There were a lot of meetings in Monrovia - meetings with USAID people to get financial help, meetings with officials from Cameroon to try and get a visa to visit there, and interviews with prospective students for the new Masters of Nursing Education program which will be starting in the fall. That program now has 17 students and we seem to be full speed ahead! I am still trying to recruit nursing professors with PhDs - if you know someone - I'd love to be in contact with them. It is such a wonderful opportunity!
The Palm Sunday service at St. Luke's Lutheran Church where I worship is even better than the Easter service. This year I got to preach and I tried to emphasize the importance of every day of Holy Week - not just Palm Sunday and Easter. I must have gotten through to some people because attendance was up at all of the daily services during the week. On Maundy Thursday, Pastor Moses and I washed 100 pairs of feet. It was the nicest Maundy Thursday service I have ever attended or participated in. The Good Friday service included the seven last words of Jesus and it was good too. The Easter service was filled with music from the children, the Kpelle Choir, and the English Choir, Pastor Moses' passionate sermon, and ten baptisms.
I have also made a couple of trips to Zorzor and Curran, the Lutheran hospital there. The road is very bumpy, and once rainy season comes in earnest, it will only get worse. The hospital compound at Curran has power from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. during the work/school week and on the weekend, the electricity is on from 9-11 a.m. and then again from 6:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. I was there for the graduation of 31 students - all mid-wives. I also had time to relax with Edna, a nurse who has been there for almost six years. She always feeds me well when I visit, and we have spent many an evening solving the problems of the world.
Phebe is finally online again and we are working on ridding the computers of viruses and getting their anti-virus programs updated to prevent the invasion of any more nasty bug. We have borrowed a generator to keep the power going while Phebe's generator was repaired and then another generator developed problems. I got one copy machine to work, but the other had been remodeled too extensively by the resident rats and that machine has been retired. Two steps back and two steps forward. It wasn't easy, and it will be some time before anything is easy for the people of Liberia.
When you read this, I will be on my way back to Vellore, India, by way of Yaounde, Cameroon. My visa came through at the very last minute, so I was able to go there and do some logistics work for the three doctors from India who will be coming to the hospital there this summer. After a few days in Nairobi and a few in Yaounde, I will be back in India until my home leave this summer. I look forward to visiting the churches and meeting the people who have been supporting me with fund and with prayers. Until then, keep praying for me and for the people of Liberia and India. Prayer is an important tool in the work I try to do. Peace, John Lunn
I finished my days at Phebe Hospital in Liberia tying up loose ends - or at least trying to do so - like trying to help finishing up the details of a USAID grant that would help support the payroll at Phebe for a year, creating an automatic deduction form for the bank, checking on prices for chemicals to make IV solutions, trying to find spare parts, continuing to work on the Internet connection (yes, that became a problem again!), and emailing curriculum for nursing programs. The sad thing is, nothing goes smoothly and everything takes work. As the Liberians say, "It isn't easy."
My flight from Liberia to Nairobi, Kenya, went smoothly and the car trip to the hospital where I was to stay was fine except for the part where traffic came to a halt behind a truck stuck in the mud just half a mile from hospital. They sent a car to the other side of the stuck truck and I was on my way. I stayed in the guest quarters of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the hospital campus - a congregation of Indian sisters who fed me well on Indian food which I had been missing.
The next day I had a chance to meet a friend who also was in Kenya that week. She is a fellow missionary from the Episcopal Church that I met in Liberia. She's an agricultural specialist, now working in Southern Sudan. We met for a cup of tea and 90 minutes of catching up at a retreat she was attending nearby the hospital. Then, I was on my way to Cameroon. My plane landed in the capital city of Yaoundé late evening and it would have been handy to have been able to speak French when I went through immigration! We (two Regional Reps and my Chicago boss) left by car the next morning for a two day drive to Ngaoundere and the hospital where the three doctors from India will be serving this summer. Cameroon is more developed than Liberia at least as far as roads and electricity. I met with the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Cameroon and the Bishop from South Dakota - their companion synod - who was there for a visit. And I met with the surgeon/missionary, Dr. Jim, and his wife who is a nurse. They are from South Carolina and he's retired Navy. I also met with the head of the Health Unit/Department of the Cameroon Lutheran Church and the palliative care team. There are a lot of traffic accidents - mostly from motorcycles - and so there is a lot of orthopedic work. I am hoping to find an orthopedic surgeon at CMC who would be willing to spend some time there teaching the residents. I went on surgical rounds with Dr. Jim, and then met up with the palliative care team - a nurse and a social worker. I was impressed with them, despite their limited formal training.
I wanted to go on home visits with the palliative care team, but they go on motorcycles and I wanted no part of the crazy cyclists of Ngaoundere, so I arranged to borrow a car and driver. We visited two older men who had suffered strokes. The first lived in a magnificent old house that was in a sad state of disrepair. I was able to help the team solve a couple of his pain related problems. The second man lived in a mud house. He was 72 years old and the father of 12 children, ages 3-30. He spent his days in a dark room on a mattress on the floor. I suggested that a raised bed would help him be able to sit up and maybe get out of bed, but I'm not sure they had the money or even the interest. I got a feel for what the know and maybe I can help plan some future training. There are people from Global Health Ministries at the end of the summer so I hope I can help come up with a program of some sorts.
Then it was time to begin my journey back to India. The two day trip back to Yaoundé went well - I would have said smoothly, but it was often quite bumpy! The airport there in the capital is new and beautiful and mostly empty as there is more traffic in and out of another city called Douala. I had a night flight to Nairobi and then a night flight to India. It was good to be back in Vellore, but it is definitely summer here and very hot! I got home during a power cut, but once the power came back on, I could turn on the A/C and that was very welcome.
The end of June, I will leave for the US and my home leave and I will see many of you during that time. Please keep me in your prayers - those prayers fuel my work! Peace, John.
When I wrote to you last, I was just back in India after my yearly time in Liberia. I got back in time for mango season which was great because I love mangoes! I also got back in time for some good and welcome rain which settled the dust and took a little humidity out of the hot air. Along with the rain came the power cuts - that happens more with the rain and related storms.
I was back in India but still working on the Masters Program in Liberia. There were faculty questions to answer via email and forms to fill out and paperwork to take care of. But it is coming along well and I am very thankful for that. I also spent a lot of time trying to coordinate the satellite Internet service for Phebe Hospital in Liberia. There are constant problems with it, and a technician has to come from Monrovia which becomes expensive. I think the problem is finally solved. I certainly hope so!
I also needed to meet with the doctors from Padhar Hospital who are going to Cameroon to fill in for their surgeon when he goes on home leave. They have been a little anxious about it and rightfully so! It is a very different experience for them. I spent four hours with them answering questions, showing them pictures, and generally clarifying things for them. I think some of their fears were quelled because they seem very excited about going.
On June 7th, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of my ordination. My sister sent me a photo taken that day and that brought back memories. The Palliative Care Team had tea and coconut cookies for me in the afternoon and we discovered that our nurse, Shakila, had graduated from nursing school 20 years ago in June and Dr. Reena who is head of the team has been a doctor for 20 years! The folks at Sneha Deepam had a celebratory meal for me that evening, so it was a very good day.
I am working on a palliative care handbook for parish pastors - with the help of several of my colleagues - so that has been keeping me busy. It is meant to aid pastors who are ministering to dying parishioners by giving them a little more insight into the aim of palliative care and how they can work with the medical people to help the dying person attain comfort, both physical and spiritual.
In past letters to you, I have mentioned the weekly Anointing Service that we have. I usually do it with my fellow pastor Grace, but when she was on leave, I was on my own for the very hot but well attended service. People of all faiths come to the anointing - patients and family and friends of patients at Christian Medical Center - and we are all hot! After one service, I found the Chaplaincy Office locked, so I had to go home in my cassock. I was a bit of an attraction while I was waiting for the car to pick me up - even more so than usual!
The Medical Superintendent from Parkijuli asked me to come to Assam to help him decide on an X-ray machine and an ultrasound. We decided to meet in Guwahati, where I could get an air-conditioned room. I was a bit relieved because the guest room at the hospital often does not have electricity at night and the room doesn't have any windows - only doors! The hotel turned out to be nice and I enjoyed the A/C and appreciated the WiFi. I also met with the doctors and staff from the Palliative Care program in town and the staff of the hospice there. They asked me for some feedback on their handling of some difficult cases they had treated and I enjoyed trying to give some insight and suggestions. On the way back to Vellore, I made a stop in Kolkata to meet with the Missionaries of Charity - Mother Teresa's order - about the counseling training we will be doing with about 15 of their sisters who are either older or physically unable to do regular duties.
Now I am getting ready for my trip to the US and my visits to many of you sponsoring churches. I look forward to meeting those whose prayers have helped me so much with my work. Keep those prayers coming - they are so important to me! Peace, John
As I write to you, I am in the midst of my home assignment and my visits to sponsoring churches. I wish I had time to come to each and every church that has supported me, but the home assignment only lasts two months and so my visits had to be first come, first served. Even though there are nine Sundays in July and August this year and I did one mid week visit, that's still only ten churches!
My first stop was in Milaca, Minnesota, where my sister Jan lives. She takes good care of me, making some of my favorite "American foods" - like homemade mac and cheese, pizza and pasties. Milaca is my home base when I am in the US, and Zion - my home church - had asked me to speak there on Sunday, July 4th. I got to Milaca a couple of days before and suddenly, Minnesota had hot and humid weather. Had I brought it with me from India? It was not bad because there were no power cuts and there was a fan available at all times.
After a few days in Minnesota, I flew to New York City where I stayed with a friend from seminary days. And suddenly it was very hot and very humid in New York while Minnesota cooled off! The power went out in parts of the city, but not where I was staying. I took the train to Pennsylvania to check in with The Upper Susquehanna Synod of Pennsylvania - companion Synod to the Lutheran Church in Liberia. I was hosted by a couple with a long history with Liberia and had dinner with a former colleague from Liberia, and then spent Sunday, July 11th, with the people of Holy Spirit Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watsontown, PA. The Gospel text was excellent for speaking about missions - you can't beat the Good Samaritan for material! My sermon went a little long, but I have gotten used to services in India where you are criticized if the sermon is too short! I did my presentation for the first time after worship. I also met with the Liberian Committee of the Upper Susquehanna Synod, had a nice lunch with them, and hopped the train back to New York City.
I spent the following Tuesday at the Wartburg Adult Care Community in Mt. Vernon, NY. They kept me busy with a chapel service where I again preached on the Gospel of the Good Samaritan. Then a luncheon and my presentation about my mission for the members of United Lutheran which is a church on the campus of the Wartburg. The last event of the day was with the folks in their Adult Day Care where I preached on the Good Samaritan again - a story that is always relevant and important to hear.
After that I spend a couple of days catching up with old friends in New York City and eating some NYC food. Then I was off to Florida and a weekend with Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg. I had a day off there and took in a movie and shopped a little. On Sunday morning I preached and then there was a vegetarian lunch and I was taken to a baseball game in the evening. Unfortunately, we only saw two batters. The first one was out at first and the second had a two ball count when the game was postponed and then called for rain. I managed to have peanuts and popcorn and an ice cream bar in that time - not a very balanced diet!
From Florida, I flew back to Minnesota and did my Power Point presentation for Senior Moments, a monthly gathering at Zion in Milaca for anyone who has ever had a senior moment. The following Sunday, I drove up to Isle and visited Faith Lutheran. Pastor John Lundberg invited me to preach the sermon which I was happy to do. After worship, a delicious brunch was served and there was a meat free egg bake for me along with fruit and muffins. After brunch, I did the Power Point presentation about my work in India and Liberia and answered some good questions. The kind people of Faith donated four stethoscopes and money to buy a computer for the Masters in Nursing Education program in Liberia! I am so grateful for their generosity.
The last week of July, I will be at a week-long Summer Missionaries Conference in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for all ELCA missionaries on home assignment. Then I will be back in Minnesota for a trip to Deer River. Please keep me in your prayers as I travel and visit as many of you as possible. Peace, John
Greetings to my sponsoring churches! As I write this, I am packing to go back to India. In the past two months I have had the chance to meet some of you and speak in your churches and it has been a rewarding experience! I ended July with a trip to Wisconsin for the Summer Missionaries Conference. This is a chance for missionaries who serve all over the world to get together and learn from each other.
After the conference, I drove back to Milaca and the last Sunday of July I drove up to Deer River. It was a quiet two hour plus drive and Bethany Lutheran was very welcoming. They have a lovely church in a beautiful pastoral setting just outside of Deer River. I did a shorter version of my Power Point as part of my sermon and we had coffee and conversation after the service.
My next stop was San Bernardino CA. I met with the local conference clergy and then spent most of a day at the Central City Lutheran Mission. The mission works with the homeless and helps provide housing for people with HIV. CCLM has a food pantry and a thrift shop, classes in a number of subjects and a clinic. The next day I spoke at the women's mission group and played a short video I have about the Christian Medical College where I am based in India. Then I did my best to answer some very good questions. Sunday there were two services with a presentation between, lunch, and a women's gathering. The folks in San Bernardino were very good to me and I even got a chance to visit with my friend Robin - who is an Episcopal missionary in the Sudan. We served across the road from one another in Liberia and last met in Kenya. Her Mom is a priest in San Bernardino! Then I was off to the airport again - this time to fly to Hawaii.
In Hawaii, I stayed with my good friend JP and his family. JP and I did two different joint presentations on Spiritual Care in Palliative Care at JP's hospital for some of the doctors and nurses working with Palliative Care. I also met with the local clergy and that included old friends and colleagues I hadn't seen for quite awhile. On Sunday I preached at two services and did a Power Point presentation at a luncheon at Calvary by the Sea, my sponsoring church in Honolulu. All the people there were wonderful to me. During my sermon, I quoted my mother - "If you don't have something positive to say, don't get into the pulpit!" After another dinner
presentation and more good Indian cooking by JP's wife Lissy, I was off to California again on a red-eye flight.
Calvary Lutheran in Solana Beach CA was my next stop. I had a chance to eat and meet with a group that has interest in a mission trip to India - they use music to minister to the homebound and others. Preached at Calvary on Sunday morning and got a chance to spend time with my Bishop on Monday. This is the third time that the wonderful people of Solana Beach have hosted a visit from me. And they do it very graciously.
The last Sunday in August marked my last visit to a sponsoring church this trip. I preached at three services at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Cloud MN, just 30 miles from Milaca where I grew up. Of course, we managed to get lost going to Bethlehem for the Saturday evening service and even took a wrong turn Sunday morning! I did a presentation between services, and after a potluck lunch we had a question and answer session with a group of people who had all been in Liberia at one time or another. Everyone was so kind and interested.
I have done a lot of traveling this past two months and it has been tiring, but it has been worth it if I have brought a touch of India and Liberia to you who generously support me with your money and your prayers. You keep supporting and I'll keep being an outlet for the blessings God has given you.
Greetings to my sponsoring churches! I got back to Vellore, India on September 2nd after reasonable smooth flights from Minneapolis to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfort, and Frankfort to Chennai. One of my bags arrived right away and the other didn't come until 30 minutes later. Go figure! I spent the next few days trying to catch up with things at CMC (Christian Medical Center) and the Sneha Deepam Hospice and trying to catch up with the time changes I'd been through. It took a bit of doing to adjust and it seems to get harder every time I need to do it. I heard that it takes one day for each hour of time change to recover from jet lag and this time, I needed all my allotted days.
I was invited to the wedding of a young man I wrote about a few years ago. He was hit by a train and lost both legs. With the help of the nuns who cared for him afterwards, and the Rehab Department at CMC he was fitted for artificial limbs and learned to use them, he studied hard and learned a craft, he got a job, and now he is getting married. Unfortunately, the wedding was on a day when I was away.
I went along with the rest of the CMC Vellore palliative care team to visit the site of a totally new CMC campus in Chitoor in the state of Andhra Pradesh. They were almost ready to begin seeing outpatients. The site has a lot of space and potential but it also has water problems as does CMC in Vellore. It was a nice trip - 25 miles each way.
Dr. Reena and I traveled to Padhar Hospital - a 23 hour trip by train - to do some classes for the staff there. Dr. Reena is a radiation oncologist who specializes in palliative care also traveled there (with her two children who were on break). I thought my big problem on the trip would be getting an Internet connection, but that turned out not to be the case. My big problem was that my computer refused to open Windows! I was able to work with material I had saved on a memory stick so it was not a terrible problem, but it was a bit more work for me. I had classes on breaking bad news, pain, and managing other symptoms with both nurses and doctors and the classes seemed to go well. Dr. Reena and I also consulted on their new hospice - which will open in a few months time. I hope that my computer problem will be easily fixable when I get back to Vellore and can take it to a professional.
By the time you read this, I will have taken the long train ride back to Vellore and will know the fate of my computer. You will have to tune in next month to find out! Please keep me and my work in your prayers along with the people of India and those in Liberia as well. For some problems, prayer is the only solution. Peace, John
Greetings to my sponsoring churches! Good news - the computer wizard I took my ailing laptop computer to was able to do some software surgery and save the hard drive, at least for now. I will certainly back up my essential files in case my computer has a relapse!
October was a month of planning for a teaching session coming up in November with the Missionaries of Charity sisters - Mother Teresa's order. Mother Teresa said, "I am interested in persons, not programs. Programs are for a purpose; but Christian love is for a person, and I am committed to helping persons." The sisters are very capable in seeing to the care of many of the people that society rejects. That often requires a lot of hard physical work. What happens to the older Sister or a younger Sister who has some physical limitations? How do they continue to contribute? During this November teaching session - we are going to offer these Sisters some additional counseling skills. They will then be better prepared to address some of the psychosocial and spiritual needs of the people that they work with.
Also during October we have had several classes for chaplains and medical students. I have tried to emphasize the importance of pastors being present with the dying person. For the medical students, I introduced the goals of palliative care, the importance of communication, and how to break bad news.
We continue with our weekly anointing services and with the other chaplain out for awhile with pink eye, I ended up anointing, blessing, and praying for a lot of people. The chapel, after hours, doesn't have the fans running and can get pretty hot on a still afternoon.
I have started work on my palliative care course from Cardiff University in the UK. Yes, it is quite a long commute, which is why I am part of their distance learning program. They give me assignments and test and so far I am doing well. When I finish this course, I will have a master's in palliative care. The credential will be helpful as we continue to develop and offer educational programs.
I am back to preaching at Christ Lutheran Church as well. We hope to get through the services while the power is on, because when it goes off, we don't have the musical accompaniment and we don't have fans. It gets hot.
I heard a little about the ELCA's restructuring meeting. More people at headquarters in Chicago have lost their jobs and this time it includes some mission personnel losing their jobs or vacant positions being eliminated. One of my colleagues, who spends much of his time in India, was among this group. It is a hard time for the church. The church needs your prayers and continued support. Our global mission is critical to the ministry of the larger church.
The news from Liberia has been very discouraging as well as encouraging. Early in October I heard that they had not had power at the hospital for a couple of weeks - that has now become many weeks. They needed filters for the generator and I got some people in the US to help with that. They sent, via DHL and with a huge shipping charge, filters and they turned out to be for the wrong generator - the one that still needs to be repaired. That generator's needed parts were first lost and then arrived mangled in a battered box. And then I was informed that Phebe would no longer have their satellite Internet connection as the provider was discontinuing service. (That is the second time that has happened this year.) I am working on that problem now but it is hard to do at a distance and with a limited budget. Nothing is easy in Liberia. The people of Phebe and of all Liberia need your prayers. On the positive side - the masters in nursing education is going on very well. The students are eager learners and very engaged in the program.
And I need your prayers too. When I know I have them, I know I can do my job and be of service to God and to our neighbors. And you all are in my prayers too.
Happy New Year to my sponsoring churches! It's a new church year beginning with the season of Advent when we anticipate baby Jesus coming to us at Christmas, and Jesus' return to us. We are called to be prepared!
November was a month of preparation for me. I spent a long weekend in Bangalore with 20 or so other students in India who are taking distance learning classes towards a Master's degree in palliative care from Cardiff University in Wales. There were four tutors to launch us into the program which includes many projects and audits over the next couple of years.
Then I came back to continue my preparation for classes and lining up speakers and transportation and lodging for a training session at our Palliative Care Study Center at Sneha Deepam for a group of 16 Missionaries of Charity - Mother Teresa's order. As I wrote last month, the sisters are very capable of caring for the people that society rejects and that often requires a lot of hard physical work, but what happens to the Sister who has some physical limitations? How can they continue to contribute? This teaching session will offer these Sisters some additional counseling skills so they will then be better prepared to help with the psycho-social and spiritual needs of the people that they work with. The training sessions occupied the last two weeks of November and went very well. We had regular Bible studies, the Sisters either went off to observe in other departments such as Rehabilitation services and the psychiatry department or had speakers like a pediatrician who works with developmentally disabled children, a psychologist from the rehab department, one of our chaplains, and of course, me. At the end of each day, we had a time of reflection to talk about what had gone on during the day. At the end of the two weeks, the Sisters decorated my door with flowers and a thank you, as well as a touching thank you note. This was a sort of test training session, but the Sisters seemed to find it helpful and feel that they learned something. They are very eager students and have a lot of their own experiences to share.
Once the classes with the Sisters were over, I went back to work on my assignments for the Cardiff program. I worked on an assignment on Information Mastery and an audit of the effectiveness of the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium material in a training that we will be doing in Bihar for the nursing faculty in early December. I'd better get my assignments done on time because when you are learning online, you can't say that the dog ate your homework!
Your support and your prayers continue to keep me going, so don't stop now! And know that you are in my prayers too. Peace, John
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