I am Judas. I am Peter.

002-jesus-questions-peterYou are Jesus. You are the god of your life.

I am Judas. I have betrayed Jesus.

I am Pilate. I have looked for the easy way out.

I am in the multitude. I have preferred my sin and shouted down my Savior

I am Peter. I have run from and denied my Lord.

But as Peter, I will get a second chance to repent and declare my love for Him.

You are Jesus, the god of your life. Good luck at resurrecting yourself.

I worship Jesus. I’ll be waiting for Sunday, the day of the resurrection.

 

Gracious welcoming back

Red Badge5His acute fear was being confronted for having run the first day he saw battle. But Henry Fleming in The Red Badge of Courage was warmly welcomed. There was no mocking derision for his cowardice. His poor lies were accepted easy enough. Why?

Because any body was valuable. So what if he ran the first day? He would be valuable the second day, so his comrades didn’t bother with his inconsistent excuses. In fact, on the second day, Henry led the charge. He proved his courage, his manhood.

RED_BADGE2That’s the way people should be received back into the church. It matters not under what howling circumstances they left. They may have disgraced grace itself, but we shouldn’t scowl. Open arms is what is needed. Why?

Because any body is valuable in the war against Satan.

And because it takes courage to go back to the place of your failure.

Africa medical mission report #3

Africa medical missionBANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From beginning to end, the animals drove Lighthouse Medical Missions personnel… er, batty.

Bats were the culprits behind the recent lethal Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. It scared us.

Pigs were to blame for our return flight delay Saturday, getting sucked into the right jet engine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the flash from the wing. I heard an explosion like a tire blowout. It conjured images of the plane trundling off the edge of the runway and catching fire.

Welcome to standard operating procedure for Lighthouse Medical Missions. Since its inception in 1998, medical practitioners have attended to 50,000 patients. Well, that statistic is not correct anymore. This past week we saw another 1,400 — in spite of Ebola fears working in our minds.

Christians in Africa

I got to pray for Muslims and Christians alike after they saw medical practitioners

Actually, the virulent hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola prompted two-thirds of our team to take of the unusual step of evacuating on April 3.

The epidemic started when somebody ate a natural incubator of the virus: bats. Eating “bushmeat” is not on my bucket list, but to somebody in Guinea Bissau it must have seemed a delicacy, and that’s how the deadliest virus known to man roared onto the human scene, health officials said.

I stayed with 16 team members who decided to weather out their fears and stick with the original travel itinerary. I was just starting to breathe easy as the Brussels Airline jetliner was picking up speed on the runway. Then came the pop and a thud. Then the pilot slammed on the brakes.

medical team in the Gambia

The Lighthouse medical mission team in the Gambia 2014

“That was scary,” said mission leader, Dr. Robert Hamilton. It was an extraordinary admission for him because I have never known the Santa Monica pediatrician to be afraid of anything. It was Dr. Hamilton who persuaded us to stay in The Gambia.

And he was right. We didn’t get sick from Ebola.

And we were safe on the runway.

This was my first African medical mission with the Lighthouse group. As I interviewed veterans of these trips, I pondered the healthy dose of adventure and misadventure, the knack for getting into unheard-of predicaments, only to escape unscathed, as if cheating death.

Where is the borderline separating “dedicated” from “crazy?”

On The Gambia River.

On The Gambia River.

Then I remembered Marco Polo. He made a years-long journey back from China to solicit capable missionaries to evangelize the Chinese, according to his book. After a year, only two dared to accompany Marco Polo, his dad and his uncle. But at the first rumor of war, the pair fled to Rome, leaving Marco Polo and his family to return alone. I realized we must continue to manage risk. After all, this IS Africa.

Prior to the trip, I had steeled my nerves for the worst gore medicine witnesses. On previous missions, doctors had attended to machete-chopped victims of civil war and even performed a mastectomy with only some lidocane injections. Like Joseph Conrad, I was prepared to say, “The horror! The horror!”

As it turned out, the cases were tame. In The Gambia, where half of the 45-member team worked, we saw mostly pain, fungus, malaria and worms. The other half-team traveled 100 miles by bus to Guinea Bissau and didn’t hardly treat anything worse.

One thing emerged to me as an eye witness. Lighthouse Medical Missions has an impact way beyond the temporary relief of 30 Motrin pills. By coordinating with local pastors, they essentially maintain field workers year-round who teach such principles as hygiene and household budgeting.

Because the pastors are Africans, they work at a fraction of what it would cost to maintain an American. They learn from U.S doctors and pastors and transmit it longterm to the local population.

On Sunday morning at the Lighthouse Church in Banjul, Pastor Alusine Kpewa was teaching on financial savings, a lesson virtually ignored by the poor of developing countries.

“I do not want the child of God to live all your life in debt,” said Kpewa (pronounced Peh-wah).

People can escape the syndrome of the eternally extended beggar’s hand.

As a fruit of twice yearly Lighthouse Medical Mission, there are over a 100 churches, concentrated in West Africa. They are ramping up operations. They have dug wells and founded schools.

So whether it’s bats or pigs harrying us, we must continue to take to Africa the love of God manifested in a practical way.

If you would like to participate with finances or volunteering, check out the webpage www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com . The ministry is a part of the Lighthouse Church and the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Virtually anyone can come on an Africa medical mission, but come prayed up.

This time it was bats and pigs. Next time, it will be something else.

This report first appeared on the santamonica.patch.com

What type of person goes on medical missions to Africa?

dr. janice hull

Dr. Janice Hull with the 9th generation descendant of the brother of Kunta Kinteh.

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA — Dr. Janice Hull leads a double life. She has a clinic in Century City and another in Inglewood.

Not Dr. Jeckle and Ms. Hyde. Rather, Dr. Janice and Mother Teresa.

The humanitarian side bubbled up strongly when she saw patients for free in Guinea Bissau as part of the Lighthouse Medical Missions March 31 and April 1. Together with team leader Dr. Robert Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician, and nursing students, they saw 450 patients in that nation. It’s called blitzkrieg medicine.

Sadly, the mission was cut short as an unprecedented Ebola virus outbreak in adjacent-nation Guinea whipped fears. Doctors opted to play it safe and return 100 miles north by bus to The Gambia, where they had started their medical foray. Premature clinic closure seemed prudent given that 25% of Ebola contagion is health workers.

Dr. Robert Hamilton in Africa

Dr. Robert Hamilton in Africa.

“I thought I was going to see more pathology, but we didn’t get to see the more serious cases because we returned so quickly,” Dr. Hull said. Lighthouse Medical Missions have run week-longs clinics in Africa since 1998, and usually more serious health cases arrive later as word gets out.

Rumors of Ebola outbreak in Gambia fizzled April 3 when health officials here got back negative results from the grade 4 lab in Dakar, Senegal, of the samples of two patients with symptoms who had recently emigrated from Conakry, the capital of Guinea where more than 80 have died.

While the virus kills 90% of infected, transmissions is not quite so easy. It’s not airborne but requires exchange of bodily fluids. While in theory mosquitoes and ticks can transmit it, in practice there has not been evidence, said Dr. Lawrence Czer, who led the Lighthouse team in The Gambia.

Dr. Lawrence Czer with his daughter, Christa, workinng in Africa medical mission

Dr. Lawrence Czer with his daughter, Christa, working in Africa medical mission

The explosion of Ebola on April 1 sparked panic among some Lighthouse team members. In addition to the deaths in Conakry, there were cases reported in Liberia and fears of it spreading to Gambia — all on April 1. The two cases followed here were quarantined at a hospital only a block away from where we were staying.

As a result, two-thirds of the team members left April 2. Only 16 chose to weather out, come what may, sticking with the original travel itinerary.

But as quickly as Ebola burst onto world health scene, it faded.

Lighthouse Medical MissionsThose of us who stayed visited Kunta Kinteh Island in The Gambia River, where slaves were infamously imprisoned before shipping to America in squalor. We saw the fort where Europeans oversaw transactions in humans and punished severely slaves who dared to resist, as did the ancestor to Alex Haley, the author of Roots.

“It was moving to be in the place of my ancestors,” said Dr. Hull. “It was an overwhelming experience.”

An obstetrics gynecology doctor, Hull mostly practiced general medicine, with an emphasis in tropical diseases, while in Guinea Bissau. She said she was surprised that virtually everyone suffers pain. The women, in particular, feel chronic pain, since they carry water and firewood to their homes and they handwash clothes.

West Africans frequently suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. The doctors also saw cases of river blindness, which is cases by a worm that swims around in your eye. If observe closely enough, you can see the worm. Everybody, without fail, was given a chewable dewormer pill.

Without proper laboratory testing, the doctors rely on their interpretation of the symptoms, like old school doctors, to diagnose and prescribe. Before starting the clinics, veteran Lighthouse Medical Missions doctors give a crash course on tropical medicine to practitioners new to Africa.

Dr. Hull flew out with the team Aug. 6. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. To participate in a medical mission, click on Africa medical missions.

This article appeared in the SantaMonica.Patch.com on April 5.

Africa medical mission report 1

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From Southern Italy to California to West Africa, Dr. Kevin White’s participation on the Lighthouse Medical Mission is as improbable as it is unusual.

Africa medical missions

Dr. Kevin White in Africa medical mission.

On March 31, Dr. White, a cardiologist and two nurse practitioners attended to 300 patients here, kicking off a clinic that is likely to grow in numbers and seriousness of cases as the week progresses.

A pediatrician from Ventura, Dr. White was a chef carousing in Naples in 1985 when he woke up on a park bench to see an Anglican Church. Surprised to see such a thing in the land of Catholicism and wanting to hear some English, he stumbled in — to find his life totally change through Jesus.

Now instead of serving alcohol, he wanted to serve humanity, so he studied dietetics on the American East Coast, then medicine. When he diagnosed an old missionary from Africa with malaria, the patient told Dr. White that God wanted him in Africa.

So Dr. White set up practice in Southern California with the exclusive purpose of raising money to fund his twice-yearly forays into the Dark Continent. He leads teams from his church. Now, two-thirds of his family is in The Gambia with him — as is two-thirds of his office.

beautiful African children

That’s me with the kids. I fell in love with the kids!

“This is the week I go broke,” quipped Dr. White, who left only one doctor behind manning his office. He now is attending three times as many patients as his busiest day is America — 100 patients a day. The need is critical, and West Africans don’t have access or finances for quality medical attention.

On Monday, there were patients with pain, a snake bite, and a keloid. Though the Lighthouse Medical Missions coordinates logistics with local churches, all are welcome to the free clinics. Gambia’s huge majority is Muslim.

I came to observe and report on their activities. I’m impressed with the level of compassion in every team member’s heart. After a breakneck pace for eight hours, the nurses, high school students, nursing students, a retiree and others were still smiling.

On these trips, medical practitioners are a premium, but no one is useless. At the first hour, I was packing pills. Later I was praying for patients and then sweeping up. It seems not too many of our patients and a few of our volunteers didn’t understand the concept of a trash can.

I’m no stranger to the Third World. I was a missionary in Guatemala for 16 years. But even I had trouble plugging in the fan that didn’t have a plug; it was just two wires that were stuck into the outlet.

malaria pills

Don’t forget to take your malaria pills. (I kept forgetting.)

Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to stick, and the fan kept shutting off.That’s when Dr. White surprised me giving me the tip: Stuff two plastic ear speculas in with the wires to wedge them in. It worked, and doctor and patients enjoyed the breeze.

Yeah, he’s been to 17 Africa week-long trips since he started in 2004. But I was a missionary full time for 16 years in a developing nation. How does he know more than me?

I guess Dr. White’s a certified intrepid medical missionary.

If you would like to help pay for volunteers or medicines, or fund a water project, your tax deductible donation can be made at www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com

NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SantaMonica.Patch.com on April 1.

He heals hurting hearts

jesus heals hearting heartsOnly Jesus.

Off to Africa

Social scientists can’t understand altruism.

Africa medical missionsMost of them chalk it up to “wanting to feel important.” This makes me laugh. If I just wanted to feel important, why wouldn’t I make a lot of money and be important? There is more to altruism than they want to recognize.

A number of us are going to Africa Thursday to participate in a medical mission. By any measure, it’s not tourism. It’ll be a whole heck of a lot of inconvenience, uncomfortableness, hard work, sweat, and endangering our own health. So why are 50 people WANTING to go on the Lighthouse Medical Mission’s trip this year to Gambia and Guinea Bissau?

I was packing vitamins last week with Dal Basile, whose self-effacing service to humanity inspires me. She’s the nicest lady, but she’ll turn feisty if you so much as drop one vitamin on the floor. They cost 20 cents each, she says. Donations cannot be wasted at all. Thankfully, I didn’t drop a single pill.

If you wish to donate to Africa medical missions, feel free to go to this webpage.

But I admire her fortitude

ScarletLetterBasically, they find grist to throw stones at the Puritans — and by extension, consciously or unconsciously, at all Christianity — from The Scarlet Letter. But I think they’re missing the major plot focusing on the minor theme.

Hester Prynne is a heroine. She reversed her fortunes by overcoming. When they branded her an adulteress (she got pregnant, not by her husband, who was traveling away from her for two years), publicly shaming her, Hester made the extraordinary decision to stay in the same town and bear the stares.

strength from weaknessInstead of running away, she confronted her detractors. Instead of meeting with open rebellion the unjust and hypocritical reviling, she quietly and unassumingly dedicated herself to help the poor of the town. After 7 years, the red “A” on her bosom came to mean “Able” in the eyes of all the town. She journeyed from sinner to saint.

I can’t throw dynamite sticks at the Puritans. Instead, I want to live the life of Hester. I want to quietly show the work God is doing in my life. I want to do the works of God and demonstrate fruit of repentance. No, I haven’t committed adultery. Her example transcends one sin and speaks about the human virtue of overcoming adversity and the triumph of change. She shows how strength can come from weakness.

The beauty of the Light

jesus the lightHe makes even the ugliness of life turn beautiful. Don’t hide from the Light. His name is Jesus.

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After the storm, freshness

freshness after storm