Tag Archives: Third World

Barely — miraculously — escaped from rebels in Sierra Leone

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Pa Gbani

When the Sierra Leonean rebels swept through Kabala torching houses and government buildings, Pa Gbani decided not to run. In his room, he read his Bible, prayed and waited for the inevitable.

As a detective at the police barracks, Pa was among the targets as 30 rebels trained by Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadaffi doused buildings with gas and fired rocket-propelled grenades during the 1994 attack.

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Pastor Ralph’s church Kabala, Sierra Leone, circa 1994

Miraculously, the fire died down before reaching his room. In fact, the same thing happened for everybody in his church.

“Nobody was killed or injured or had property loss that was in our church,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, a missionary from Santa Monica at the time in Sierra Leone. “God just protected them. It was a day of miracles.”

It was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all over again.

One church member hid in a banana tree. Two guys lay quietly on top of a thick wall hidden in the dusk. Pastor Ralph had the good fortune to have a vehicle, in which he fled with his wife and a few disciples.

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Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen

At one point on the road out of town, a total stranger came out to him and warned him to head down an alternative route. The rebels were ahead, he warned. Ralph found out later it was true.

There were an estimated 50 deaths in the rebel attack on Kabala.

The deliverance of the American missionary’s church members was extraordinary because they weren’t known for caution. The fact of the matter is that Ralph and his street-preaching disciples courted danger as a result of their boldness. Read the rest of the dramatic details of American missionary under attack by Sierra Leonean rebels in 1994.

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Fear and loathing in Los Angeles (and Guatemala)

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I conquered fear for 16 years. As a result, there’s a church and Christian school in Guatemala.

It was a contest of scary stories, but these were real — about assaults. The people one-upping each other were pastors in Guatemala. As the only gringo in the group, I begged them to stop since they worked worse in my mind. The Guatemalans gave accounts of the times they were held up at gunpoint or at knifepoint sometimes out of humor. I never got the joke.

Eventually the terror of the reigning insecurity in Guatemala got the best of me, and I high-tailed it to the U.S. Guatemala is nation dominated by drug-traffickers. Government officials are too busy stealing from the country. Police officers join the fray. You never know who to fear more, the crooks or the police officers.

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By the time I succumbed to fear, God had raised up leaders to take over and keep the work going.

I held out in faith for 16 years, but when I got held up by pros, after exchanging money at the bank, I was afraid for my kids. They would rapt them and demand ransom.

Please don’t be glib. You can spout scripture (“perfect love casts out all fear” comes to mind) from here in the United States where you face virtually no threat. But I’ll listen to a person who has been through worse things than me.

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The smiles are worth whatever fears I had. People have come to Christ.

Not all fear is bad. As David Bowie observed grimly: There are no atheists on the battlefield. Those who face death daily don’t have the luxury to flout their intellectual pride and declare themselves free-thinkers. Those who face fear hold to faith. I believe David Bowie, after promoting so much sin during his musical career, came to God at the end. Selling records and making money was cool, but it was useless to solve the death problem. Only God can do that.

Have you conquered all fears? Maybe you just haven’t had a big enough trial yet. You don’t fear God? Some go into eternity sticking to their pridefulness and insisting they don’t believe in God.

 

Hygiene is costly

hygieneIn America, we take hygiene for granted. Why do Third World countries not get it? One reason is lack of money. Soaps and hygienic food is expensive. If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. You make do without.

People get sick. I’m in Guatemala right now, and I got diarrhea. We all got the runs. Lack of funds is to blame. They were trying to stretch a shoe-string budget to host a quince años — like a Sweet Sixteen but at age 15.

It’s a reminder of the blessings in America.

Spiritual hygiene will cost you too! Prayer, church attendance, Bible reading.

Personally, I think it ironic that people who are fastidious for external hygiene give no thought to internal hygiene. As Jesus said to the Pharisees: they are like whitened tombs, beautiful on the outside but full of death and decay inside.

A lot of Guatemalans don’t see the need for external hygiene. They think it’s all annoying and useless habits of gringos. But you can get sick if you’re not clean — physically and spiritually.

*Image Google search.

She cried at her graduation

photo (23)It’s a beautiful gesture, but usually I ask bluntly: Why are you crying?

Jenny graduated from our Guatemalan school in November. And I just found out that she cried because I wasn’t there to celebrate it. I founded the school and opened the doors for her, and many other Guatemalans without a whole lot of money, to attend.

Finding out about the reason for her crying makes me want to cry. It melts my heart to see good produce good. It motivates me to keep on serving Jesus and people.

Teachers who inspire

inspiring friendsIn 2007, Marcelino de Leon saw kids in the his neighborhood who didn’t sign up for first grade. Illiteracy is high in Guatemala, where people struggle to survive and have a hard time supporting their kids in education.

So Marcelino decided to teach them himself. Every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 he taught nine kids first grade materials. When the next year came around four of those kids tested into second grade.

Nobody paid him for this. No one applauded. Marcelino didn’t get any awards. A professional teacher, Marcelino just wanted to help where he could. He lost track of those kids when he moved, but we expect them to find him one day and report on their success at college.

Marcelino helped us at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. As always, it was voluntary, since we were/are strapped for money. We charge most students a minimal fee, and it doesn’t cover expenses.

I was so impressed by his willingness to pitch that I offered to teach him English. Extraordinarily, after I left Guatemala, he continued helping our school.

It’s people like Marcelino who inspire me.  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Heb. 10:24. He came to visit me today. I’m wanting to do more for God.

What type of person goes on medical missions to Africa?

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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.

We have not even begun to give!

 

Someone recently gave a handsome sum of money to a Third World church, and then prayed, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” Since I lived 16 years in the Third World, I have a different perspective than most: We cannot apply this verse to others, only to ourselves.

I know firsthand how the Third World church lives: dirt floors, open sewage, malnutrition, roofs that fall in during a downpour. Christians serve 17-hour days. They walk to and from church 5 miles, through inclement weather, in danger of thieves.

How dare we? How dare we impose on Third World Christians a burden we would not lift ourselves? When we Americans feel like we have given until burnout, we are still FAR better off than 95% of the world.

Today’s blog is brash call to introspection. It is also a rousing cry to continue giving. Banish burnout from your mind and heart and continue to give. Because after all is said and done, we (Americans) only ever give of our excess.