Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the worst blogger of all time....

is me, megan bell :) an appropriate title to this blog. i was amazed when i realized it has been over a MONTH since i last blogged. time flies when you live on a ship. kidding...partially. today marks 7.5 weeks that i have been on the africa mercy--and honestly, it felt like moving to a new city where you knew no one...and im finally comfortable with my surroundings and community life. the Lord is so faithful to let us feel that we cling to Him alone. i wouldnt say i am learning all new things here--just re-learning the things i refuse to "get". lets simplify this entry with the good old highs and lows game. i will start with lows to get that out of the way.

lows: sharing a room with 6 complete strangers, eating what is prepared for you--forget having a craving, not speaking the local language of french much less the 10 other tribal tongues, having NO experience with plastics patients and walking in as the resident expert, sharing space with 400 other people--including the laundry room, being an outsider to a tight-knit community, living in a port--stinky, trash filled water, everyday is a BAD hair day when you have curly hair, and lastly....missing familiarity. i have a new appreciation for old friendships and family.

highs: sharing a room with 6 people...from 4 different countries who have turned out to be good friends, never doing dishes or grocery shopping and being thankful for exactly what is on your plate...b/c you can look out the window and see what hunger looks like, stumbling through french daily---and laughing at myself, working with patient surgeons from all over the world---and learning new skills, learning to depend on the Lord as a friend and seeing His hand bring the perfect friends into my life here, the growing pains that come from "forced community", seeing the sun rise and set on the ocean, coming to grips that i will have a permanent afro here...there are not enough hair products on this continent to change that and lastly.....knowing my life is so rich at home...yet feeling the hand of God place me here.

so yeah, all of my lows...have become highs. ive learned that...if you dont bend break. i feel the Lord constantly whispering.."megs, this isnt about you. its about me. my glory. my love for these people. and yes, im ok with you being uncomfortable." He is faithful...through and through.

i had a great day today--a 40 yr old lady was located at a local hospital that had been in a car accident. i do not know the specifics other than she lost her left leg and had no money for a prosthesis. a few people on the ship chipped in and bought her a leg for roughly 400 usd. she arrived to me a month ago...with an enthusiastic desire to walk but the prosthetist that was making her leg--suddenly died. she was back to square 1. she has 4 children at home and used to be the bread winner of the family. she sold goods--would walk from village to village and sell whatever she found--food, ect.

so today, felicienne, came for gait training (walking)...session 1. i had plans to work on standing balance...she blew that out of the water. she stood straight up on her own. my mouth dropped. long story short---she walked for 15 mins on her new leg--with 1 crutch. thats pretty amazing seeing as she hasnt walked in 8 months :) you should have seen her face--pure joy. she told me she never thought she would walk again...can you imagine that at 40 with 4 children? never walking with your babies? she will be coming for rehab 3 x week for the next 4-5 weeks. i bet she will be walking unassisted within 2 weeks. she told me...she will teach me how to dance in 4 weeks :)

the Lord is so strategic....He placed me in her life for such a time as learn to walk. also, He gave me something I feel comfortable doing and I love. so often, i feel like i have to sacrifice and suffer in order to serve Him but in reality--He loves to see His children using their gifts and enjoying their work.

i am continually blown away by the patients here--the pain they have endured, the stories of their lives, and their resilience in the face of debility. it inspires me, humbles me...and changes the way i see the world. I pray that I am never the same....and that the Lord burns a mark on my heart for the under served.

im off to bed now...i be a better blogger. that sounds so geeky. i will pics of patients. for those of you who have facebook--i posted a ton of pics there. if you have read this far--thanks and be encouraged, the Lord is NEAR and FAITHFUL.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ship life, french and west africa

bonjour! i have not been good at setting aside time to blog. i will improve, promise. lets back up a bit....i left last thursday for paris, france. i took a few days there to just walk around and hang out on my own. it was fabulous. i had been there once on my own a few years back--so there were a few things i still wanted to see and do. i did the whole backpack thing as opposed to a suitcase...which i payed for regarding back pain. you really start re-thinking every item in your bag :) anywho--i have now been in Benin, West Africa for a week. CRAZY!! this week flew by and crawled at times, i will admit.

we arrived late last sunday and i was pretty exhausted. tours, paper signing, room assignments, ect filled the next day. i actually started work on monday morning by choice. i really felt like i needed a schedule and normality. ive been traveling and going with the flow for a few months now...and i was craving a schedule. i love my co-workers--olivia is a PA from dallas and mariechen is an OT from south africa. we all get along really well--and i enjoy being with them all day. this is a HUGE blessing.

regarding work--i have spent the majority of my time finishing up the orthopedic patients that they saw a few months ago--ie--giving them exs, gait training, casting club foot kiddos, and doing ROM with ward patients. i make rounds every morning with the MDs so i can see what is needed for the day. everyone is friendly..for the most part...and we work well as a team. people are here because they want to be. no one is overworked and the attitude in an american hospital. we are all underpaid...we all volunteer :) i really enjoy working with people from all over the world. i am trying to learn french in order to communicate with patients and people in general...we have translators tho...which makes life a lot easier.

ship life--is interesting. 400 people from over 40 countries...all living on 1 ship. there are rules for everything---but there needs to be. the ship is run very well--from security to firedrills to meal times. its quite impressive. there are a ton of opportunities to leave the ship for both ministries and to play. i went to a place called Babs Dock yesterday---and just layed out and read all day. i needed some peace and quiet. today--im headed to a world cup qualifier game between mali and benin. should be interesting. im praying against fighting and stampedes :) i am trying to stretch things i dont normally order to meet people and establish relationships. community life is very important on the ship--and its hard to not feel like an outsider when so many people have been here together for months. i pray against this daily--as the devil is constantly trying to make me feel uneasy. the Lord has been He is always is.

so yeah, that is me so far. i will post pics soon.....need to find someone who knows how to do that. im a tad challenged when it comes to technology.

alright--love you all. there is so much more to tell you off to soccer. go benin!!!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

crescent island, masai mara and home

hey all! the last week has been nothing less than epic. recap. thursday--a few of us on the team went to crescent island in navaisha, kenya. unreal. we packed lunches and took a boat to the island. from the island...we hiked around for 4 hrs, chased wildabeests, walked and had lunch with giraffes, ect. im telling you-i felt like i was in national geographic. the great part of the island is-there are NO predators other than hippos. you have to watch out for those. they kill more people in africa than any other animal. very territorial and quite violent. anywho-ill post my pics on facebook soon. Friday--masai mara. everyone should go there. hands down. it is just another way of seeing--God showing off. this place is FULL of animals. if you have heard of the african serengeti...well that is in Tanzania (a neighbor to kenya)...and the serengeti becomes the masai mara once you cross into kenya. the greatest part of this time of year: the wildabeest migration. Millions of wildabeest and zebras begin their annual migration in july which lasts until sept. i was able to see the 1st groups come into kenya. so surreal. highlights of the trip--FINALLY SEEING ELEPHANTS IN THE WILD!!!!! im telling you--im obsessed. i can not get enough of them. the 1st herd i spotted--i yelped and said STOPPPP. they were off in the distance...little did i know i would see hundreds and they would walk infront of my car. magical. we also saw lions (quite a few--even caught 2 different couples mating--really felt like natl geographic), cheetahs (wait for those pics!), monkeys, tons of birds, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, tons of deer like things, hippos and crocs. nothing makes you feel pulling up to a few lions basking in the sun.

so now...i write to you from good ole katy texas. got home yesterday afternoon after 24 hrs of travel. praise the Lord we were upgraded to business class from kenya to london...makes such a difference on an overnight flight. yesterday was NOT my day of traveling though. i was "randomly" searched 3 times yesterday. yes, 3. then...they took my carry on and checked it because i had 2 wooden letter openers. whoops. so yeah, i was worn out and ready to be home. 1st stop off the plane--DIET DR PEPPER. hmm hmm good. i am home for 5 days--then off to new zealand and australia for vacation. no work. all play. amen. hope to see many of you in the next few days.

many more adventures to come,


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

baboons and broken internet...

both so common in africa :) i was taking breakfast yesterday morning on the back porch which overlooks the rift valley...when a good sized baboon decided to perch 10 ft from me. after i caught my breath, i slowly made my way indoors. they are known for attacking humans....and if you want to remain disease keep clear of them. an experience nonetheless.

to recap--our flights were great from london to tanzania to kenya. didnt get much sleep on the flight which i feel like i am still trying to catch up with time zones and night flights..but im feeling pretty good. the greatest part of my flights--passing over the french alps at sunset. unreal. then...drumroll....MT KILIMANJARO. oh my goodness, no words can express how awesome it is to fly directly over her. she must be climbed....someday.

kenya has been awesome. it feels like i was here just yesterday..though it was a year ago. i was warmly greeted by the hospital workers...who are all the same as last year. kenyans are the warmest and most genuine welcoming committee you could ever want. i love it. i taught yesterday and was given great reviews. apparently, i am a gifted speaker--who knew??? i can barely remember what i said through the profuse sweating and constant thought i making any sense here?? good thing, the Lord takes over and makes all things work. wheeew, thank you Lord.

work is done for just play. tomorrow will entail of a volcano hike and then Friday---4 of us are off to the masai mara for the safari of a lifetime. im not kidding when i say this--i have never been so excited to go see BIG STINKIN animals. elephants and lions here i come...well, in a car and well protected, of course. oh and check this out--our tents are smack in the middle of a moat--so animals can not eat us in the middle of the night. um....AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

the technology transfer workshop for the LEGS knee went really well. its so interesting to see how different cultures embrace technology. we were told that the minister of health in senegal was so impressed that he wants to invite all the neighboring west african countries next year. unbelievable that a small, christian engineering school in east texas--can develop a knee and take it to the other side of the world. purely, the Lords favor.

thats it for me--i will try to post after the safari. i am unable to get online with my computer so no pics until i get home on the 14th. sorry for that.

please pray for safety as we are traveling 4 hrs from nairobi for the safari...the roads and driving here are an adventure in itself. asante (thank you in swahili).


Saturday, July 4, 2009

I can be bought....

for 700 USD. yes sirry, we were bumped off our kenya flight only to be financially reimbursed. initially, we were going to fly to Johannesburg, south africa (11 hrs) then to kenya (7+ hrs) BUT....they re-routed us through Tanzania (a neighboring country to Kenya) it turns out to be only an additional 3 hrs in the air....but another night flight. im not sure if you have slept overnight on a plane...but you might as well pull an all nighter. its pretty uncomfortable...but like i said....for 780 USD...ill miss a night of sleep. that takes me to sitting in the BA business lounge on FREE internet eating FREE yummy food on comfy couches for another 7 hrs until the flight. suffering for Jesus :) josh (a LEGS engineering student) and i are trying to act casual up here....but we keep giggling. life is good. and mom--i now arrive to Kenya July 5th at 11 am.

now to recap the week in senegal. lets go back to sunday where i wore my traditional african clothing and we went to church. it was such a neat experience...although we could barely understand the service. the church is primarily made up of west african many different countries represented. it always amazes a person can be redeemed. just one. then i look at the globe....and i am speechless. the Lord is moving--He is coming to people in dreams, markets, churches, you name it. A great reminder---that He does not need me. I need Him. I want to be a part of this rushing river of salvation.

after church, we went to Ile de Gorree--where the "point of no return" is-- which is the last stop before the slaves were shipped to the americas and europe. unreal. i stood in the doorway and watched the waves crash in...and could carely breath. i can not imagine being torn away from my family and shipped to an unknown land to be a slave to an unknown man. such a dark spot in history.

monday-thursday was spent working at the handicap center. by work, i mean...the LEGS workshop. the engineers went with the prosthetists...and taught them how to make the knee. its so neat to see how hungry the senagalese are for independence and for technology. the Nevius's (host family) shared with us that because Senegal was colonized by the French--and while it is free now---many of the large corporations are owned by French who will not relinquish control and knowledge. thus--by us coming to senegal to TEACH them technology so they are no longer dependent on others--gives them dignity. what is better than diginity? they were so thankful and joyful to learn. i worked with 2 local PTs who were european trained--thus--were extremely savvy. the teaching aspect quickly turned to discussion. i love an exchange of knowledge and experience. i found myself really wishing i could speak french but very thankful for my translators who were both believers. the week ended with a closing ceremony that was on national TV and attended by the head administrator to all Senegalese hospitals. this is huge as we want to find favor with the government. God is strategic...

as for me, i am doing well. i have been sick the last 3 days with the oh so fun "intestinal travelers tummy". im pretty sick of just eating bread and water....but there are worse things. i tell you dont complain about food in africa. starvation and poverty is so tangible. thankfulness abounds. senegal was incredible--i connected with so many people and some--i will stay in contact for life. His favor was evident...and i think i realized one of my gifts. I am not so hot at all out evangelism....but I am gifted at encouraging those on the ground that are evangelizing. i come alive when given the chance to pour into others.

the schedule in senegal was exhausting b/c we had to be together 100% of the time due to traveling across the capital town to the hospitals. we left the house daily at 7:30 am and didnt return until 6 pm. long days in heat without AC. im not complaining though--there is something great about working hard, sweating, and being exhausted at the end of the day.

so yeah, all is well. we will arrive in kenya tom and i will update you all. off to enjoy the business lounge taking a nap :)


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Neighborhood kids and chebya

hey all..the last few days have been a whirlwind. we, as a team, went out into the bush to see some agriculture sites and landed in a city named st louis. obvisouly, i know nothing about ag..but some of the other engineers are looking for projects to partner with from the US. really neat. anywho--i posted pics on my facebook account from the last few days. ok back to saint louis--it was the former capital of senegal until the 1900s. it is a run down version of new orleans. pretty interesting history that i will not bore you with. onto the highlights---hmmm, let me see. we stayed in a rustic hotel--no AC and complimentary room bombing for bugs and mosquito nets. needless to say, i might have slept 4 hrs. a good experience, nonetheless.

the best part of the trip was yesterday. Pastor Malik and his wife Feliune--who are the only known people trying to minister to the most unreached people group in senegal--the Wolof. these 2 individuals blew me away. they set up a womens center a few years ago and the Lord has given them favor. within the center--is a school where women from 14+ can be trained in sewing, embroidere, cooking,ect so they have a valuable trade. most importantly, they share the gospel with them daily. the women know when they attend this school--they will hear about Jesus. they are meeting such a practical need to change the lives of so many women--as well as meeting a spirital need. imagine how this opportunity will change generations to come.

this brings me to the highlight of yesterday--KIDDOS! it is really hard to take pics of people as a whole here b/c they believe you are going to later cast a spell on them or take the pic to a Maribou who will. Maribou are prestigious men in the muslim faith who dabble in the occult. their shrouded veil images are ALL over here. you havent seen creepy until you have seen this. the most mind blowing aspect is--people give, yes give, their children to these men. one maribou may have 50-200 kids that he takes loving care of...NOT exactly. he makes them panhandle all day and if they do not come back with 500 CFA (~1 USD), they are mistreated. because giving alms is one of the 5 pillars of islam, money is frequently given to kids. ok so--feloiune and her husband contacted a maribou (which is rather unheard of) and with Gods favor--they provide a free meal and heathcare for the boys once a month. a nurse is on staff who checks them out, takes a pic for documentation, and basic meds that are donated from the US are given. is traveling and now 3 maribou have allowed their boys to come. i was able to witness 53 boys being taken care. some of my pics are the young ones--who are still longing for attention. they were in my face, holding my hand, singing to me and so excited to just be kids for a day. the older boys--are so hardened. they have this certain glaze over their eyes...breaks my heart.

also in the pics---are the neighborhood kiddos that heard we had balloons. they LOVED them. we played for hours though i can not speak wolof. they sang song to me...i tried to sing along...they laughed. it was awesome. little girls just wanting to be held, doing my hair, and scratching my arms to see if there was black underneath. so sweet.

a great day...needless to say. today--i was able to be alone for the 1st time since arriving. it has been wonderful. we are going to the market again today and tommorow is church where...drumroll....i will be wearing my african outfit. a beautiful top and skirt. i cant wait!!! pics to come with that on. my host family says they can find a groom for me--esp with that outfit on. im sure my dad would love that.

everytime i sit down to write just a bit---i write a novel. sorry for that. love you all....


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bonjour from Senegal

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

back in the groove of writing...

so here goes nothing. oh and i am not capitalizing or using proper english...b/c its my blog :) lets recap the last few days. i flew to london on thurs evening, BA stole my brand new nikon camera
( i think), and i spent 3 great days in england. had a great time with my friend nicola and reunited with an elementary school friend that is marrying a brit. i love how paths twist and turn in life--and if you are lucly enough--you get to re-meet some people. anywho--after 3 days in england, i met the LEGS team and we took the "chunnel" to paris then a flight to senegal. yes, that means i was in 3 countries in 1 day. i felt like i was on the amazing race...minus the glam. landing in senegal was surreal...looking out the window onto a flat, dry, dusty and unknown country sent a rush to my heart--with a tad of fear, if i am honest. after making it through customs, i always take deeper breaths and thank the Lord for his provision. all of our bags arrived and we were off to the missionary home. oh--key thing--we were greeted by missionaries that have been in west africa for 20 years--and they speak wolof and french. my french is improving by the hour--as i am trying to communicate. as far as wolof--well, im in trouble :)

today was our 1st day on the ground and it was incredible. we met with 2 handicap centers--to discuss our role, goals, and i offered up my services. they were excited to have me--so i will spend tom with a group of 15 physiotherapists (some of which were trained in europe). should be interesting. here is where i wish i could rattle off french and didnt need a translator. unfortunately, bonjour doesnt get too far.

my translator today was awesome--her name is Ndeye and she shared her testimony with me when we had an alone moment in the taxi. keep in mind that 95% of this country is muslim as i tell you this. she distinctly remembers thinking Jesus Christ was truth at 5 yrs old. how she had not been taught about him in her muslim home. at 20, she prayed for the Lord to confirm that He was the hope for her future and eternity. She asked that He would confirm that mohammad was not the true savior. in that very moment, she felt a flood of peace. she knew Jesus was her Lord and saviour. this made my eyes well up with the tears. the cost of becoming a beliver for ndeye: her husband left her with 2 small boys. she was a single parent in a 3rd world country with few opportunities. the reward--her father saw her strength amongst the pain and accepted the Lord as his saviour. this is what life is about. the pain and refinement--so that the Lord is given glory. Her story makes me want to get up in the morning. I love that we serve a God who redeems and restores. He is indeed good.

another highlight of the day--i had a meeting with a group of PTs which was a tad unnerving. i walked into a room with 5 women and 2 men--and my lovely translator. they wanted to hear from me. about what i asked??? i hate feeling unprepared. its not as if i knew id meet them...but still, its like showing up to a test without studying. i took a deep breath and prayed that the Lord would bridge our cultural gaps. He did. He gave me peace, words, and we became friends. how you might ask?? fashion. these woman are decked out in the most beautiful african clothing, gold jewerly galore and head coverings that would make your jaw drop. after discussing business, i commented on their clothing and how i admire that they do rehab in this. they laughed...and walls fell down. its amazing how laughter does that. i commented on one woman's bracelets--and she quickly removed one and put in on my wrist. she insisted i keep it. i said all i know to say--merci beaucoup--thank you very much. so i sported a beautiful gold bracelet with my boring scrubs today. its always humbling how giving people are.

alright--your eyes must be tired from this novel. thank you for taking time to read my thoughts and life. please pray that the Lord would make use of me tom in the handicap center. pray that i would be salt and light in a muslim country.



ps--i stood on the western most tip of the african continent today. thus--i was the closest i could ever be to you guys while in africa :)