Engineering Ministries International - Guinea Project trip, Sept 2012

Sunset out over the Atlantic Ocean. The land you see are
small islands that are a part of Guinea. With the routine
display of tumultuous skies offshore, it's not hard to imagine
that the powerful hurricanes in the West Atlantic and
Caribbean Seas typically originate off the West African coast.

Friday-Saturday Sept 21-22
So much has happened in the last few days it’s hard sum it up in words, so I thought I’d use the rapid fire bullet method:

Once on site, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all. That's
one thing I've learned through living in and traveling to Africa
all these years: 'riots' always seem to sound worse in the news
than they are in person.
* We were notified early Friday morning that all off-shore activities were suspended until further notice due to an uprising in town. Ironically, the disturbances had nothing to do with the anti-American protests from earlier in the week, but instead were a result of tribal tensions boiling over between the two predominant tribes here in Guinea.

* I went down into the medical wards on board tonight and spent a little time with the patients. It’s sad to see these people, mostly children, with major abnormalities – either facial tumors or leg deformities. The really sad part is that some of the kids were awaiting biopsy results. If the results come back bad and they have little chance for long-term success, they will be discharged without surgery – there are too many people whose lives can be spared to work on people who have certain terminal illnesses. Plus, the risks of doing surgery are unwarranted when they have little time left. So if someone is terminal and the surgery won’t make a big difference, they dismiss them. One such little girl, about 7 years old, I saw down in the ward with a huge tumor between her eyes had her mom staying in the ward on the ship with her. The tumor greatly disfigured her face. The next day when we returned from being out in town, the girl and her mom were out front on the dock leaving the ship. Not good news since she clearly hadn’t had any surgery done. It was especially sad as it looked like her and her mother seemed somewhat unaware of the fate they’d been dealt as they were very smiley. It was a tough thing to see.
You wouldn't want the 3 people on the left operating on
you, that's for sure!

* Three of the team members went down in the hospital yesterday to watch a surgery. Since there are no lawyers involved keeping people out, the ship allows a small number to view certain surgeries. Our 3 EMI’ers were in there for about 3 hours – except for one of them, who passed out after several minutes and had to be helped to his own recovery bed! Of course, we didn’t give him a bad time about it or anything. And to be nice, I promised I wouldn’t mention intern Brian’s name.
* We presented our report to a small group of about 30 attendees Friday night. The presentation went very well – the team did an excellent job of presenting.
At the presentation in the 'International Lounge' on board
the ship. The room holds over 500 people, so the 40 people
in the room made what by EMI standards is a large crowd
for a trip presentation, feel more like a sparse turnout.
* We depart today, Saturday. However, around noon the uprising in town restarted. I’m currently on the ship typing this, bags packed and ready to go on a moment’s notice. The problem is, Conakry is like a long, slender finger so it is very easy for the end of the ‘finger’ (where we are) to be cut-off from the inland area where the airport is.  This bit of drama is still unfolding so we’ll see…

Sunday Sept 23
Well, we made it out safe and sound afterall. Mercy Ships took our trek to the airport pretty seriously – we had a 5-car caravan with our flashers going and the driver’s in full ship uniform to look important. Also, the ship’s Captain, the Director of the ministry, and the Purser were all stationed in a make-shift command center keeping in constant radio contact with our little motorcade. In the end, other than seeing a dozen riot police nearest to where the hot spot allegedly was, everything appeared to be completely normal.
The flights home were uneventful – which is always the best-case scenario for flying. I will say, it was a night and day difference (literally!) to be returning to the UK instead of the US. No jet lag and half the flying time. Re-entering the UK was no problem with the visa in my passport, and it has been great being back home with Alisha and the boys.

Great people make for a great team. And this was,
once again, a great team.
As I’ve reflected on this trip, once again I’m amazed at how connected you can feel to people after such a short time. Here I am missing our EMI team - people who two weeks ago I hadn’t even met yet before. It’s a good lesson to me, as I tend to resist going out and meeting people sometimes. I think God has wired us to be in relationship not only with himself, but with other people as well. And when we step out of our comfort zones and invest in other people, we find out how much other people have to offer us (and how much we have to offer other people as well). Being ‘home’ in the UK now, I realize that not having friends here is something I need to be diligent at working on. It would be far too easy to hole up and just live my nice life out here. But I don’t want to settle for that, even if it is more ‘comfortable’.  So a big thank you to Tony A., Tony S., Beth B., Clare T., John A., Brian K., KC M., and Ruedi T. for reminding me that there are some truly outstanding people out there in this world.
These two cats were so cute. The one of the left is the mom,
with the other one of her kittens now grown. However, they
were together every single time we saw them, sitting, laying
down, or walking around. The full-grown kitten still nurses
too, so the apron strings have clearly yet to be cut.
Walking around on the site, it's hard not to daydream about
what it would be like for a hospital like this to be your reality.
I imagined bringing one of my boys, sick with some illness,
to this hospital and how desperate and hopeless I would feel.
Intern Brian, holding a wad of 5,000 Guinean
Franc bills. I think the amount in his hand here
is the equivalent of around $50 US Dollars.

Touring the engineering plant in the bottom of the ship, we
came across so many knobs and buttons. I know we were
all a little curious to see what would happen if we pushed or
pulled something. The temptation got the best of me, and
clearly volunteer Tony doesn't approve.
The tide varies significantly in Conakry, so when it goes out
it leaves behind enough trash on the beach to disgust anyone
with even the slightest glimmer of an environmental conscience.

Random Shots...
Above: The section of the hospital where the hospital director
has brought 'urban renewal' to the hospital grounds, trying
to making the hospital a more sanitary environment.
Middle: The fleet of Mercy Ships vehicles. The ship has a crane
that lifts them on board when it's time to head out to sea.
Bottom: Flying into and out of Africa can be a tricky affair. It's
a rare day indeed that pilots aren't forced to dodge thunderstorms
on take-off and landing.


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