Sunday, February 23, 2014

Helping the Church Be the Church

Posted by Joni

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy concluded his Inaugural Address with the famous statement:

“Ask not what your country can do for you —

ask what you can do for your country.”

I stumbled across this statement today, and it reminded me a lot of what our Church Mobilization Program (CMP) is working towards.  In the areas we work in, it is very typical to find 2-3 different church denominations in a small village community, yet they will not work together or fellowship with each other because of denominational differences.  If denominational division isn’t a big enough problem, most Christians in the church believe they must not associate themselves with non-Christians.  The activities of the church benefit those that attend the church.  It is “in-reach” versus “out-reach.”

The CMP program, in short, takes pastors and church leaders through an envisioning curriculum, studying the life and ministry of Christ.  When looking at Christ’s ministry, He never addressed only the spiritual side of a person and left the physical, or healed them physically but didn’t address the spiritual. He always addressed both. CMP leads the pastors and leaders through a process of learning what Christ meant the Church to be- not divided, but united, and helping to reach out to the needs of their community, both physically and spiritually.

As a result, Pastors are realizing that even though there are denominational differences, if the church is serving Jesus Christ, we can be unified as Christians.

Church congregations are reaching out using their own resources, not to benefit their own church members, but to benefit the entire community as a whole, which in turn creates opportunities for the non-believers to ask “why are they doing this for us?”  For example, our CMP project in Lofa County focuses on broken hand-pumps.  Instead of Samaritan’s Purse coming in, fixing the hand pump and leaving the community, we are training members of the church on how to repair, maintain and service these hand pumps, so the Church can be the one to help restore the physical need of clean drinking water for the community. 

Samaritan’s Purse will not always be in Liberia, but the Church will remain after we leave.  We don’t want the community to see Samaritan’s Purse- we want them to see the Church reaching out, meeting those needs.  It is not about Samaritan’s Purse- it is about Jesus Christ.

The CMP project is helping the Liberian Church, reach Liberians.  “Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country.”

Exciting things happening through this project, please consider donating!

As for Marathon training, we are entering probably the most important three weeks of the training, with our longest runs looming ahead!  As we get deeper into the schedule, I have felt pain I have never had before… today my right hip was screaming at me!  Nothing some ice packs, stretches and a foam roller can’t cure… hopefully!  Last week Kendell and I entered in new territory with a 15 mile run, and this week we will increase that to 16.  Jamie continues to cruise by us on her 20 milers, with a smile on her face the entire way!  Please pray for us as we train in this dry season heat and humidity. It is HOT!  We keep telling ourselves that it will benefit us when we get to chilly London for the actual marathon…

Don’t forget to get in your donation, or to spread the word about how to get involved!

If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:

Kendell and I at about the 4 out of 12 mile mark

Rusty and Jamie, synchronizing watches!

Made it- glad to be done for the day!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Humility and Leadership

 Posted by Kendell

Mercy, this training stuff is tough.  This week Joni and I ran 27 miles, hang on, that’s a marathon now if only they would allow me to run the London marathon over 7 days.  This morning’s run was crazy, it was 15 miles, that’s right Kendell covered 15 miles.   The run was incredibly tough, at the end of the run the temperature was 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit (can you say sweat).  But I tell you all this to let you know that we continue to work towards our goal of running the London Marathon on April 13th, less than two months away (okay that is scary). 
The reason I am running the marathon is to raise money to support the projects that Samaritan’s Purse is undertaking here in Liberia.  So over the next few posts I want to highlight some of our projects.  But before I do that let me tell you that it is a privilege to work for Samaritan’s Purse (SP) an organization that is concerned not only for the person physical state but more importantly the person spiritual state.  This is why I have served in Liberia for the past 9 years. 
Let me tell you about our literacy project.  About 70% of the adults in rural Liberia cannot read or write at a first grade level and so some years back SP began a literacy project to change this statistic. This project is one of the coolest projects we do.  Seeing elderly women and men write their name for the first time with pride and restored dignity is inspirational.

The first thirty minutes of each class for both men and women is used to teach the Bible to the participants.  The major story this quarter is about the Love of God as it is being taught from the Four Essential Components of Salvation.  The message of the Love of God, demonstrated by sending His only Son to die for sinners, is the center of discussion for the participants.  One lady said, “if God loves me so much and can forgive me, I should also be willing to forgive others who wrong me.”  One older male participant confessed that he will change his hateful attitude toward his children because he has to express the love that God has for him to his own children.  Another participant (a Muslim lady) said that she has never heard that someone loved her so much to the point of dying in her place.
Hinnah Mgobeh is a 59 years old male participant of the Literacy class at Ngalahun 1&2.  Mr. Mgobeh, a Muslim from as far as he can remember, said that he thinks SP has something special.  According to him, he has never ever allowed anyone to tell him a word about Christianity but he is very surprised to see himself taking part in the Bible presentation during the classes.  He concluded by saying that he is not only a part of the Bible teaching time because he should but he is beginning to want to know more about the Bible.
Please pray for our Literacy project and donate to my effort to run the marathon ensure projects such as the literacy project continue.

Leadership thought………
Today before the 15 mile run I felt great (I looked great too by the way) but I must say the run seriously humbled me, I died at the end and I actually had to walk for 4 minutes in order to finish the run.  So I thought I should talk about humility and leadership.  Jesus taught that leadership requires humility and then He got down and washed his disciples feet and the birth of “servant leadership” happened.  As a leader you must be willing to humble yourself.  The quicker that a leader realizes that it is not about the leader the quicker the leader will begin to lead.  The reality is that as Christian leaders we understand that if it was not for the grace of God in our lives and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we would not be able to do anything.  Recently I was teaching on Unity with my staff and it came to my mind and then confirmed in the Bible that unless humility is practiced unity is not possible.  I remember once I was enjoying a stretch of success as a leader and I was receiving compliments from some very important people and I really was struggling as to how I should handle these compliments.  So I phoned the wisest man I know, my dad, his counsel was so wise and was a lesson in humility I will never forget.  My dad said “accept the complement and as soon as you can deflect the praise to your staff and then to God, give the glory to whom it belongs, God”.  Great advice.  Leaders are humble.
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
Abraham Lincoln

Please remember to join the team and donate.

If you are from the US/Canada, please use this link to donate:
If you are from the UK, please use this link:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's Look at the Facts

One of the most exciting aspects of getting to run the London Marathon is also getting to raise funds for the ELWA Hospital project. This is after all the reason we are currently in Liberia!  I've been doing a little research about health care here in Liberia and here are some statistics I found.

In Liberia there are approximately 28 hospitals and about 0.8 beds per 1000 people. To put this into perspective for you, the USA has approximately 16,000 hospitals and there are 5.4 beds per 1000 people. To break it down even more Washington State has around 100 hospitals with 14,650 beds, that’s 2.1 beds per 1000 people. Currently ELWA hospital is 1 of 7 hospitals in the greater Monrovia area, it has about 35 beds.

The current ELWA Hospital

Construction on the new hospital

When the first and major portion of the hospital is complete, hopefully by the end of 2014, it will have 80 beds. That’s an increase of 45 beds, which may seem small, but every bed means one more person can be treated. There is a potential for 130 beds at the new ELWA hospital, if funding becomes available for more wards. Keep in mind that ELWA hospital was constructed in 1965, when Monrovia had half as many people and ELWA was considered to be located in “the bush." A 30 bed hospital was big! Now days there are times when the beds are full and patients have to be sent to other hospitals (with no guarantee the next hospital will have an open bed) or sit in chairs in the hallways until something becomes available.  Medical equipment is hard to get and very much needed. That includes X-ray equipment, surgical equipment, lab equipment, etc.

Let’s talk about the number of physicians, Liberia has about 215 Doctors for a population of 3.9 million. The USA has just fewer than 750,000 doctors and WA State has about 23,000. That’s 0.05 doctors per 1000 people in Liberia compared to 2.4/1000 in the USA and in WA it’s 3.3/1000. There is only one orthopedic surgeon, only about 5 trained surgeons, and about 6 dentists. The country doesn't have a radiologist, a pathologist, no treatment for cancer, no neurosurgeon, etc... There is no place for a child to receive intensive care. Another government run hospital only has 2 ventilators and even those might not be working.

There is one place where a nurse anesthetist can be trained and even that is an informal program. There are very, very few trained specialists in the country. Most of the doctors have very cursory training—just medical school followed by an informal house job. Part of the lack of trained health care workers is due to the long civil war, professionals fled and have not returned. Another major reason for the lack of doctors in Liberia is that they haven't had a residency program until recently. The new government residency program is now training about 20 doctors at a time divided between four specialties, pediatrics, ObGyn, Internal medicine, and general surgery. 

ELWA hospital which is run by SIM (Serving In Mission)  is hoping to start the first family medicine residency program in the new facility! They hope to start with training two or three new physicians a year. Many of these doctors will be sent into areas in which there are no specialists. They will be trained to care for patients of all ages including newborns and geriatric patients. Their training will include both inpatient and outpatient care. They will learn some basic surgeries such as hernia repair and appendectomy. They will also have training in obstetrics and cesarean sections. ELWA currently has outstanding faculty members in General Surgery and Family Medicine and they will be recruiting more faculty to join in teaching these residents. It is their hope that in training family physicians for Liberia, they will make a longstanding impact on the care in many counties, towns and villages throughout Liberia.

Leading causes of death in Liberia are malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections compared to the US; heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory infections. Many people in Liberia do not live long enough for heart disease, cancer and other such disease to become major factors in death, as average life expectancy is a mere 56 years. Liberia’s infant mortality rate is 71/1000 and maternal mortality rate is 7.7/1000.  The rate in the USA: infant 6.1/1000, maternal .21/1000 and in WA 4.5/1000 and .15/1000. According to UNICEF:
Liberia’s infant and under-5 mortality rates remain among the five highest in the world. More than 15 per cent of children die before reaching their first birthday.
Preventable diseases like malaria and measles are among the leading killers of children. Malnutrition and respiratory infections kill thousands of children each year.

So, how can you help? First, pass this on to all your family and friends. Second, click on one of the links below and donate! The more we raise the more we can do for the people of Liberia.

If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Turning the Corner

Posted by Joni

It’s always difficult that first week back in Liberia after spending time at home.  No matter how much you know you are supposed to be here, that first week of transition is hard.  You know your surroundings, the people and the projects, but that odd realization that nothing stops even though you are away.  That transition of turning your “work brain” on, when your mind is still trying to figure out which continent it is on can be tough.  Some transitions are better and smoother than others.  This one, for me, was a bit tougher.  I had spent an amazing time at home with family and friends, and was ready to begin the new year with our team.  I knew it was going to be a different beginning to the year, after the sudden passing of our finance manager, David.  My first day back in Liberia was David’s memorial service held at our office.  It was a beautiful service with our staff, providing an opportunity to share about what an amazing man he was, and provided the avenue we needed as a team to mourn and process together. 

Overwhelmed with jet lag, grieving a co-worker and friend, and trying to play catch up on everything I purposefully ignored during my break led to a small emotional breakdown for me.  I am so grateful for my friends both here and across the pond, who encourage me, especially during those times.  It took me a few days, but I soon turned the corner mentally on wanting to be back in Liberia.  Of being ‘all in’ on everything taking place here.  Because if you allow yourself to ask the tough questions during that time, it is easy to lead your mind down a path that is not helpful at all.  Do they even need me here? Am I even useful? Should I even be here?  If you choose to believe those questions are true because of transition and exhaustion, you will be miserable for a long time- not only for yourself but for your team, and paralyzes you.  I am thankful that I was able to turn that corner rather quickly.

To my surprise, and I am quite sure it is because of you praying, I turned the corner mentally about running as well!  I have never enjoyed running in particular, and when I agreed to do the London Marathon to raise funds for SP Liberia projects, it was more of a  ‘if Kendell does it, I will do it” type of attitude.  But in the last couple of weeks that has shifted significantly.  Long runs do not haunt me for days beforehand- in fact, I even look forward to them!  Committing to the marathon doesn’t make me run to the bathroom full of nerves, but brings a feeling of excitement instead.    

I have heard it said many times, how life on earth is like a marathon.  Each run I have teaches me more about it.  Some days are good- I feel great and I want to go faster and faster!  Other days, I drag myself out there knowing I need to get my run in, but also knowing my body is tired. Some days there is physical pain that makes me question what did I do differently?  How do I treat it? But the difference now is, instead of trying to justify quitting, I have mentally chosen to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what may cross my path- even during the lowest of lows, I will keep on moving.  Thank God for the strength that He gives me to do that in life as well, no matter what may come my way. 

Boy am I glad for both of these attitude changes!  As the picture says, it is a beautiful transition when I know that I can do this.  Five hours of pain is nothing if it means providing thousands upon thousands of people reliable health care and clean water, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

I am excited to run a marathon (did I just write that!?) but I am MORE excited about what will happen as a result.  Will you be a part of my team?  Please pray for us as we train- pray for no injuries, and the strength to make it through no matter what may arise.  And that is my prayer for you, as well.
If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:
If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:
Kendell and I on our ten mile run this morning.  It was hot-o!

Ten miles, done.

Nice work team!