Thursday, January 21, 2016

The reality of hard emotions

A woman at one of my mobile clinics (photo by Nathan Clendenin)

(The front of my clinic - El Arbol de la Vida - logo designed and painted by Madison Pettengill)

When we arrived in Honduras, we arrived to an empty airport, no one waiting for us, and no clue what we were going to do, what kind of ministry we were going to start, or what life would look like.  We are now leaving Honduras the same way - headed to the airport by ourselves, leaving quietly and moving toward the new path that God has placed before us.

We have taken time to say good-bye.  In a previous blog I wrote about our time in the village that Madison, Mike and I were able to see so many Hondurans we have known to grow and love over the last 8 years of our lives, but we leave knowing that we will most likely never return. This is heart is starting to feel the impact of the reality of what is going to happen...I've been weepy, thinking of how my life has been impacted by the beautiful Honduran people I've come to know, and those who I've treated, the clinics I've put on, and the thousands of children who came through my children's program.

In addition, we had to leave our dogs - who have been an important part of our lives...we are leaving our daughter, Madison, so very far away, and 8 hours time change difference.  We are leaving our parents, who are entering later stages of life...our friends seem like they are so very far away (and they are).  All of these things are pressing deeply on our hearts.

My brother wrote something to me that truly spoke to my heart and speaks volumes to the life we live and will try and replicate in Africa.  He quoted a Greek proverb - "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."  I don't know what lives I've touched, I don't know if anyone heard the words I spoke...I don't know if the children I cuddled and gave clothing to and food to will go hungry tonight, or even remember who I am.  But that's not my job...that's not the thing I cling to.  I cling for that shade that I pray they will have...that I've planted the tree, and now leave it to flourish.  I will most likely die and people will not remember who I am, and not know what I've done...but the tree....the tree will be there - and there I pray that the roots are deep, and many shall be able to sit under. 

My clinic in Honduras is called the El Arbol de la Vida - the Tree of Life.  The bible reference for this is from Revelation 22:1-5..1Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. 

In 18 days Mike and I leave Honduras...for good...I pray the roots have grown deep, the tree is spreading it's branches, and that shade is soothing to the soul.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why Belgium?

Part of mandatory training for our mission board (MTW) is to attend a month long training of cross-cultural acclimation, language acquisition skills, and navigating a place you've never been to before.  We did our training in New York.  However, MTW has moved all of their training over to Belgium. 

Part of my group
But why am I here?  Good question. I'm here to act as a mentor for new missionaries.  I have 5 people I am mentoring and we meet as a group and individually.  They also have personal journals they submit to me to talk about how they are processing things, and what they are experiencing.  In addition, they submit three different cultural analysis papers.  These papers give them structured ways of looking at a culture and making observations about it.

During the week there are practical lessons about team dynamics, language acquisition, etc. And then on the weekend there are some churches that have activities that they are involved in.  This is a great way to get to know a community, a church body, and figure out ways to figure things out!

It's my first time to Belgium and I'm really enjoying the mentoring aspects and training aspects of being here.  In addition, we have the opportunity to see some of Belgium on the weekends in our "free time." 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New clinic in Equitorial Guinea

village in Equitorial Guinea
So what does it take to start a new clinic in a new country?  Well... it takes

$617.40 from one company and
$75 from another

What will that give me?!  All the basic medications and supplies to get things going.  Prior to coming to Honduras, I went to hospitals that donated medical supplies to me, I put on vitamin/over-the-counter medication drives at various churches, and my own home church put on a "baby-shower" for me and brought me in all sorts of infant supplies.  I'm in a different situation right now as I'm not in the States, and everything that I collected for 2 years prior to leaving for Honduras, and all the medication/supplies I collected over the last 8 years while in Honduras, I am leaving behind.  So I need YOUR help!  Let's see what I can raise in the next month to go toward the purchase of the medications and supplies.

It's SUPER easy to give - just click HERE and your tax-free donation  will go toward the purchase of supplies and medication.  Send me a quick e-mail at to let me know the donation is toward this drive, and together we can make this happen!

Baby with malaria
The health needs in Africa are OVERWHELMING!!!!  Here are some statistics to help you see what I'm up against (I've listed my sources as well if you want more information - and...I can't help it - being in a Masters Program makes me site all my sources - so they are here for you as well):

The Infant mortality rate
U.S. – 5.87 / 1,000 live births
Honduras – 18.18 / 1,000 live births
Equitorial Guinea 69.17 / 1,000 live births

Life Expectancy at birth
U.S. - 79.68
Honduras – 71.0
Equitorial Guinea – 63.85

Healthy Life Expectancy
U.S. - 69.3
Honduras – 63.7
Equitorial Guinea – 47.4

Health Expenditures
U.S. – 17.1% of GDP
EG – 3.5%

Major infections in EG:
Bacterial/protozoal diarrhea
Hepatitis A
Typhoid fever
Malaria and dengue fever

Top Causes of Death in The U.S.
       1.  Coronary heart disease
       2.  Alzheimers/dementia
       3. Lung Cancer
       4.  Lung Disease
       5.   Stroke
       6.  Diabetes
       7.   Hypertension
       8.    Colon-rectal cancer
       9.   Kidney disease
1    10.   Influenza/pneumonia

U.S. death rate to AIDS 2.2/100,000 and of the reporting countries, ranks 107th (of 172) of deaths related to AIDS
Top causes of Death in Equitorial Guinea

      1.        HIV/AIDS
      2.       Influenza/pneumonia
      3.       Diarrhoeal disease (i.e. cholera)
      4.       Malaria
      5.       Coronary heart disease
      6.       Stroke
      7.       Low birth rate
      8.       Other injuries
      9.       Birth trauma
     10.   Malnutrition
Equitorial Guinea death rate to aids is 202.13/100,000 and of the reporting countries, ranks the 13th highest in the world of deaths related to AIDS

Sleeping sickness
yaws, a syphilis like infection, measles, tetanus (tetanus infections in newborns accounts for about half of tetanus-related deaths in developing countries) and low birth weights, while all over Equatorial Guinea, during the rainy season, typhoid, spread through unclean and contaminated water, and hepatic amebiasis also become more prevalent (24).
It does not help that the majority Fang population is also traditionally a polygamous group and is also strongly against condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Clean drinking water is often very important in order to maintain a healthy life. In urban areas throughout Equatorial Guinea unsanitary communal taps lead to the spread of diseases including malaria, worms, and gastrointestinal diseases

Clean drinking water has also been identified as one of the main factors leading to poor health and a rise in the number of cases of diseases like tetanus, typhoid and hepatic amebiasis. These are all mostly spread through unsanitary living conditions and dirty or contaminated water.

The U.N. has even recognized the lack of doctors in Africa as one of the worst problems affecting health issues throughout the continent and gone as far too publicly call the problem a "crisis of health man-power" (28). The World Health Organization has even stated that medical facilities in Africa in general were, "barely able to function for lack of qualified, motivated doctors, nurses and other health workers"

24) Sundiata, Ibrahim K. Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search
for Stability. Westview Press: Boulder, 1990.

Other links:
CIA World Fact book (
U.S. Department of State (
Human Development Index (
All Africa (
Amnesty International (
Basic Information (
World Bank (
International Monetary Fund (
U.N. Development Program (
Country Profile (

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What is the cost of a life?

In the United States we are blessed with whatever scan, x-ray, lab test, or whatever we want to help "fix us", to figure out what is wrong with us.  But that's not how it is for the rest of the world. What IS the cost of a life?!  For you - $2500 for someone for some antibiotics, an x-ray, a scan, that will make the difference between life and death.  For someone in a third world country where medications are the price of a pack of bubblegum?  Where life holds no value, where you can't even buy legitimate medication?!  Priceless!

I went to a medical missions conference and found out that the majority of the medication that is brought into Africa is a fraud.  You go to the pharmacy hoping to get a fix for your ailment, only to take medication that is nothing but sugar...and garbage...

Help me know that what I'm doing is right...

I know what I know...and nothing more.  Please...God...allow me to know that what I'm doing is deliver a healthy give medication that will be life make a difference that a "witch doctor" says is the right thing to do - but the medicine they prescribe causes that baby to die instead...that's a is what is happening as we speak.  Bodies are butchered to obtain the organs for a witch craft ceremony .  Instead, God has given me a glimpse into what is needed to help a body in need.  Please God...give me the insight to help your people...I am currently working with a few docs I know to bring in prescription meds, that are GOOD to be able to minister to people in need...people who are in dire straights....babies that are give medications that are life changing instead.

Thank you God.  The thought seems overwhelming...leaves my heart WAY too heavy...but I go forward with the confidence that you  give me everything I equip me...I am weak, but you are strong...

I am a finger, but others are the hand, and the arm, and the rest of the body - that together we can make a difference!  JOIN me in prayer...join me in knowing that others are there to supply what I need to make a difference!!!

I am currently trying to raise some money to take medication with me to Equitorial Guinea - so I can bring some REAL medication with me - if this is something you feel led to do...the let me know, and you can give VERY EASY through our mission agency - and it's tax FREE!!!!
 Follow the link and you can give to help make this happen!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's not too can you help with the new ministry in Africa?

So for the second time in our lives we have sold our entire belongings.  We leave with a few duffel bags, and nothing more.  We are going to have to re-invent our lives in Africa.  This means all the basics...and the new ways we have to live (NO potable water in the entire country), women wear skirts and dresses (NO pants/shorts allowed), and starting a clinic all over again!  So...we need YOUR help...

Two wish lists below include our personal needs and what it will take to start a new medical/mercy clinic in Africa.  All of the items are going to be delivered to our daughter whom we will see again during Spring Break.  We will take whatever we get with us to start our new lives there.  Maybe something will catch your eye, and you may feel led to give...

personal wish list is HERE

and ministry wish list is HERE

As we figure out what it means to avoid typhoid, hepatitis, dengue, malaria, guinea worm, schistosomiasis, and cryptosporidium by purifying all our own water, using a hand-pump shower, solar panels for power outages, and collecting rain water from the roof top, anything you can do to help make life a "little" easier - I won't turn away!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My tree is empty...but my heart is full...

So we come to the last Christmas we are going to spend in is SO bittersweet!

We have nothing under our Christmas tree as we are moving...and having "things" seems inappropriate and unrealistic...and yet...I don't need anything to fill that space under the tree as today fulfilled that spot...

An awesome church, led by Pastor Ed at Grace Christian Fellowship PCA, and their congregation have sent us Christmas bags every year we have been here!  It has been an AWESOME opportunity to give to the kiddos in Armenia Bonito a few gifts and love from the body of Christ that they would NEVER have otherwise received!  This church has faithfully given, and we have obediently handed out gifts to the children every year for Christmas.  In the past we have given them to kiddos during  Kids Club...but as I am no longer running Kids Club, they still wanted to send them, so we took this opportunity to say goodbye, and hand out Christmas bags to the children in the community.  To see the faces of the sweet children, and the delight as they opened their gift bags and beheld the wonder that was there, was incredible!  I always go and serve to bless others...but almost without question...God blesses me back!  I was grinning from ear to ear as each child received their bag, I wished them Merry Christmas, and asked for God's blessings upon them, and they gave me a smile back and a huge heart was full!!!
A family with 12 children, receiving a food basket

Oneida, the mute child that captured my heart from the first day I entered Armenia

Mike giving a basket to the sweetest of families

1 of 60 gift bags we gave out...

In addition, the physical needs of the community are HUGE!!!  Single moms are the majority of the community, and being able to put food on the table is sometimes more  than they are able to do.  At my clinic I've always had food baskets for the most needy, and have given out dozens of food baskets over  the year that my sweet father has provided the funds to make happen.  My dad had come to visit, and I had gone to the grocery store and had two separate shopping carts.  He finally asked me what in the world I was doing.  I explained to him that one basket was for me, but the other was for a food basket I was putting together for a needy family in Armenia.  That tore at his heart...and from that day on he pledged monthly funds to purchase a food basket for a family in Armenia.  As we are no longer an integral part of Armenia, I am no longer there to hand out food baskets, but I wanted to make sure that four families would not go hungry for I purchased enough food to help a family out for a included flour, salt, sugar, flour, corn flour, powdered milk, dish soap, chlorine, laundry soap, sponge, rice, beans, cookies, a Snickers bar, 2 dozen eggs, tooth paste, and toilet paper.  I put all of this inside of a large plastic container that will serve as a laundry or dish cleaning container.

We then entered the community and handed out the gift bags from the church, and visited four houses that I knew were in dire need.  I left the community for the last time feeling sad, elated, loved, prayed for, and knowing that I had done my best.  I had followed where God had called me, and had tried to be an obedient servant. all I do...I do it for the glory of God, and long to hear that maybe one day, when I've run my race, and I am done, that I hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

"Just" a nurse - Making a difference, One life at a time.

This article was  first published at

I graduated nursing school in 1995...I have been a nurse for 20 years, and I get it...I say I am "just" a nurse only to recognize what my limitations are.  And yet...and yet...being "just" a nurse means I can be so much more.  Huh?!  Now that doesn't make sense.

As nurses we find ourselves in a box.  We are a "pediatric nurse," or an, "ICU" nurse, or an "ER" nurse, or an "orthopedic" nurse. 

Right out of nursing school I wrote an article about, "thinking outside of the box." We learn what we do in nursing school to be a general practice nurse.  I look at it this way - we are the jack-of-all-trades and the master of none.  We learn a little about this and a little about that, but don't really become what kind of nurse we are until we invest ourselves in whatever field we choose.

I have spoken to many many nurses along the way that just don't know the best way to be used while seeking God's course for them.  I am one to show that the ONLY limitations on you, as a nurse, are what you place on yourself.  When we stepped foot in Honduras, I looked at the true medical disparity I saw around me and wondered how in the world could I make a difference?!  What could I, "just a nurse" do?!

But God did not equip me to be placed in a box.  He had equipped me by being a pediatric oncology nurse,  an airborne ranger, a Staff Sergeant in the military, an Assistant Nurse Manager, and children's ministry director at church, a mom, a were the tools I is how He equipped me.

So that's what I did.  I took one step, then another, then another.  My very first thing I did in the little village in Armenia Bonito, Honduras, was to hold a pregnancy clinic.  I felt pretty comfortable in that - I had taught childbirth classes before I was even a nurse, did a year internship in labor and delivery, I figured I had something to teach.  I walked the little village of 3,000 people and invited pregnant mommies to come to the clinic.

One of the first mommies that came to my clinic was in definite need!!!  I took her blood pressure - 220/110, took her blood sugar, 550, I measured her belly - and it was more than 50cm.  I asked the question that needed asking - are you sure you don't have twins?  She looked at me like I was stupid and said, "of course not!  This is my 12th child, I think I would know if I was having twins."  Well, I told her, you need to go have your baby NOW.  She told me she was going to have her baby at home just like she had her other 11 children.  I looked at her and implored her to PLEASE go to the hospital, you might not survive this delivery and be able to even care for your other 11 children!!  She looked at me, said NO, and in complete disgust she  left.

I was SO discouraged!  What was I THINKING?!?!?!  How could me..."just" a nurse, make a difference here?!  I couldn't even convince a pre-eclamptic, gestational diabetic mom to go to the hospital to have her baby?!  I won't heart sunk...I don't belong here...I can't make a difference...I can't help anyone....what do I know?!....I feel helpless...

Two days later I was back in the community walking around and making "house calls" - just dropping by houses to see how people were.  A young girl who had come to know me over the last few weeks came running up to me, "TERE!!!!  TERE!!!!  You MUST come!"  (I use my middle name - Teresa - just works better in a Spanish speaking country).  I looked at her in alarm - Que paso?!?! (what happened?!)  "just come!" she I follow a dirt covered floor, wooden lean-to house, and there was the mom, who had been at my clinic, with a grin from ear to ear...holding a baby in her arms.

My house call on the 14 pound baby...
She told me - I went home, really mad!  You trying to tell me what to do...but then I thought about what you said - I need to be here for my other I went to the hospital, and they took one look at me, checked my vital signs, and schedule an immediate c-section.  Thirty minutes later I had a 14 pound baby placed upon my chest!  She looked at me,  "You saved me...and my baby"....tears came to my eyes...tears came to her eyes...and she placed this precious child in my arms - a baby that looked like a 2 month old I had made a difference...

What a precious thing that God showed me that day.  And He didn't have to...He doesn't promise to show us the fruit of our labor...we MUST go in obedience and just DO!  But how sweet it is in those moments when He gives us a glimpse of the difference we make.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.  Psalm 127:3

So STOP thinking you are "just" a nurse...yes, we aren't doctors...we don't have nearly the education they possess...but what a HUGE difference we CAN make in the lives of people - by loving on them, caring for them, being to them what no one else is...just GO!  Make a difference!!!  Be obedient!  And for goodness sake - STOP making excuses that you are "just" a nurse - because for goodness sake - you ARE a nurse!  We want to love, to make a difference, to care...just DO it!  Stop making excuses...stop thinking that you don't have enough letters behind your name...We are nurses because it's in our DNA to make a difference in the life at a time.