Sunday, August 30, 2009

We have overcome the jetlag once again!

It has been a very busy week and the tiredness that sets in on a return trip is indescribable. We came home to a huge stack of mail and many things to handle. After a month,the house was dirty and we brought home three suitcases full of dirty clothes. When I could hardly stay awake, I would go walking or do laundry. Finally, I am sleeping most of the night, although I still get only six hours of sleep. It is better than waking after three hours and staying awake the rest of the night. My body kept saying, "It's afternoon in China, you don't need to sleep now!" We will continue our work here until our next trip in November. We must find another location for an orphanage on that trip and begin our research to locate hospitals for the two medical missions that we will have next year. Ron plans an open-heart medical mission in March and another cleft palate/cleft lip medical mission next August or September. I will post anything else that is really news of interest in the meantime. Thanks to everyone for your prayers on our behalf while we are traveling. It is comforting to know that so many people care and are supporting our work. May God bless everyone in your daily lives.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No deal set for orphanage in Hu Zhou

We doubt that anything works out for an orphanage in Hu Zhou although the buildings were in excellent condition. The problem was that they primarily wanted us to take over running the facility to care for the 90 or more old people that live there. There are five or six buildings, most of them vacant. We could house at least 150 orphans and also care for the elderly, but when we got down to facts, they claim there are only about 50 orphans in the area. They were not really interested in us caring for the orphans; only wanted someone to take over the care for the elderly. They said we would not need to be concerned about their medical care; only their food. We would save a lot of money using these pre-existing buildings that only need a little paint and cleaning, but we also want to care for orphaned children. We were very disappointed that it does not seem favorable at this time. Things may change, and they may “find” orphans in the weeks ahead. We left saying to ourselves, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” It is an old saying that still has a lot of meaning, especially if you work in China.

While we were in Hu Zhou, the government worker in charge of the older people took us to some gardens. Some pictures of us at this beautiful place are included in this section. The younger, slimmer man is John. He speaks good English and has just completed his university education in Wuhan. He will go to our orphanages to train to see if he wants to run an orphanage for us. He’s a very nice young Christian man. The other man is Luke, our director at Neil Taylor Christian Care Center in Rongshui.

The streams (canals) flowing all through this area are beautiful with overhanging weeping willows. I was particularly interested in the lotus that was growing in large quantities in shallow lakes. The lotus root is one of my favorite vegetables.

We left Hu Zhou and traveled to Beijing. We were there for a few days to finalize some things with workers and business associates. Last night we left at 9:40 on a night train to Shanghai. Today, we are resting and preparing for our long journey home. We will go to the airport tomorrow afternoon and stand by hoping to get on tomorrow afternoon’s flight. We fly on donated buddy passes so we have to fly on days where seats are available. We know we can get on Sunday’s flight because there are plenty of seats left on that flight. We have completed our work for this trip and are ready to return home.
Medical mission completed in Chengde

It was a rather sad day on Friday when we packed up and left Chengde. We said goodbye to hospital workers who were so good to help us. We hugged and thanked the many university translators who did an excellent job. They were hugging doctors and nurses and crying just like their best friends were leaving.

This was perhaps the most compatible medical team we have ever had. They all enjoyed each other and some were making plans to meet and take trips together. Everyone worked together extremely well and a lot was accomplished.

There were no major illnesses with the team members, although most had some minor problem before we left. We all suffered somewhat from the pollution with allergies and there were a few stomach problems. The hospital provided a special dining room and buffet for us and the food was very good.

We also felt that our rooms were “bugged.” Each time we go to any city and stay in the same hotel, we are given the same room. Some of the medical team saw someone following them when they went to other places after leaving the hospital. We think they were watching to be sure we did not try to convert any of the patients or cause any kind of problem. No one worried about it but noticed the closeness with which our team was watched.

A total of 78 cleft lip and cleft palates were completed. One open heart surgery was also completed but they have four more heart patients. We will pay the hospital to complete those surgeries under a new agreement with them to do heart surgeries for Agape Foundation on a continual basis.

Some of the team left to go back home; others took side trips to Beijing or other cities. Travel is not easy in China, no matter how or where you go. One thing noticed by everyone is the crowds. With so many people in China, every airport, train station and subway is packed with people. It does not matter what time of the day or night, you will see the crowds. I’m going to include a picture I made yesterday at the train station. I wanted to take a picture at the subway but would have gotten run over just stopping to take a picture. The crowds are literally that bad – sometimes you can’t stop but have to go with the flow.

We waited in the crowded train station almost two hours last night but dealing with three heavy bags has been very difficult. Ron says we are not bringing this many again but half of the stuff in the third bag are his things along with the surgical tools from the medical mission. I could not have survived with fewer clothes for a month. The humidity is so bad, it takes three days for something to dry in the hotel room. We've washed everything we brought about three times and now I'm taking all dirty clothes back home. Anyway, we got a red cap service to take our bags to the train. We were told by two different people who work at the train station that they did not have red cap service but when we saw guys in red caps taking peoples' bags, we knew better. Typical of China. We were cheated however. He charged us 90 rmb for 3 bags. A young Chinese guy behind us told me he wished he had handled it for us before Ron paid him because the guy charged us three times what it should have been. We settled into the upper berths (I climbed up like pro!) and then a large Chinese girl stuck her head in and chewed us out. She demanded to see our tickets and proceeded to tell us (in Chinese) that were in the wrong room. It was the red cap guy who had our tickets in his hand and put our bags in that room. We got down, took our bags and moved to the correct room with the help of the worker on the train. We had two young guys (30's) in the lower beds. Neither of them helped me get my bag to the upper berth. So much for respect for older people. There's a generation in China now that is losing that tradition. We did not sleep very well but it was a smooth train - no stops until 6:30 a.m. when it arrived in Nanjing. The train worker came to be sure we did not get off there. They are usually very helpful, especially to foreigners. We arrived in Shanghai at 8:00 a.m. and waited in a long line (in the basement and hot as it could be) for a taxi. The line up for taxis was about 200 ahead of us. We spend most of our time waiting in China. We stood in a line at the train station to get tickets the day before we left. After 30 minutes and the line not moving, we left. Early the next morning, Ron went to an agent and got the tickets. I think you only pay a couple of dollars more to go through an agent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Possibly the site of our next orphanage

Huzhou is the only city around the Taihu Lake that is named after it. Located in northern Zhejiang Province, it neighbors Shanghai in the east, Hangzhou in the south, Nanjing in the west, and opposite the Taihu Lake from Suzhou and Wuxi in the north. It is an important commodity collecting and distributing center and water and road transportation center on the border of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Shanghai. Huzhou City is composed of the downtown district, Nanxun District, Linghu District, Deqing County, Changxing County and Anji County, with a total area of 5,817 kilometers and a population of 2.54 million.

Nationality: Han
City Flower: Lily
City Tree: Ginkgo

Location: Located in the north part of Zhejiang Province, Huzhou City stands on the south bank of the Taihu Lake and adjacent to Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. It enjoys an advantageous location, 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of Hangzhou, 160 kilometers (99 miles) west of Shanghai.

History: Huzhou is a city with over 2,200 years of history since it was set as a county of Chu Kingdom in the year of 248 BC. The Sui Dynasty (581-618) governed this area as a prefecture and named it as Huzhou for its adjacency to the Taihu Lake.

Physical Features: The city's terrain slopes downward from southwest to northeast. The northern part is a mountainous region whilst the east is a low, flat plain.

Climate: Huzhou City has a subtropical humid monsoon climate with an annual average temperature of 16 C (61 F) and rainfall of 1,200 millimeters (47 inches). Generally, the climate of the city is warm and humid.

When to Go: Visitors can choose to visit Huzhou at any season, but especially in spring and autumn.

Special Local Products: Handicrafts: brocade and silk, Huzhou brush writing, Huzhou feather fans, purple-grit tea pots of Changxing County

Foods: Taihu lily bulbs, ginkgo-nuts of Changxing County and zisun tea.

Tourist Tips: Transportation from Huzhou to Hangzhou is very convenient. Visitors can get there within an hour. Due to the expressway between Shanghai and Zhejiang, the distance between Huzhou and Shanghai is now nearer and takes only 70 minutes.

Huzhou is one of the first cities open to the outside world. In February, 1985, it was listed as one of the coastal economic opening zones in the Yangtze River Delta. In 1992, it was again listed by the State Council as one of the 14 key cities in the Yangtze River Delta or the Yangtze River Valley to be "planned first and developed first." The city has six provincial economic and technological development zones, namely Huzhou, Mogan Mountains, Nanxun, Changxing, Anji and Surrounding Taihu Lake Zones. Since the adoption of opening and reform policy twenty years ago, Huzhou has achieved outstanding success in economic development. In 1997, the GDP of the city reached 29.802 billion yuan RMB, with a per capita GDP of 11,707 yuan RMB. Huzhou is one of the rich cities in the nation, with its farmers earning 3,648 yuan RMB of pure income and its city residents earning 7,183 yuan RMB of disposable income.

Huzhou is a city which boasts beautiful scenery with delicate mountains and waters.

It neighbors the boundless Taihu Lake on the north, and the green Tianmu Mountains with an ocean of bamboo forest on the west. The city has both a forest of sky-scrapers with fresh and new atmosphere and the picturesque scene of little bridges and brooks at the countryside. Huzhou is a city with civilized citizens, clean environment and excellent social orders. In recent years, it has obtained the title of the “National Sanitary City.”
Medical mission will be ending at noon on Friday

No surgeries will be done on Friday. Doctors and nurses will check all the patients that remain in the hospital. Some will be dismissed to go home although others may need to stay another day or two, depending on how well they are healing.

Some days have been very busy day with many patients. We never know how many will come in, although from phone calls they say they will come. Our doctors and nurses have been very good to adjust to the full or lighter load of patients.

On Monday, they finished surgeries about 4 pm with only six patients for the day. The medical group decided to go to dinner where they could get "western" food. It is amazing to me that people who really like Chinese food would be hungry for ordinary food from home after just being in China for a week. I asked what they served there and was told Belgium waffles, macaroni & cheese, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, onion rings and pasta. Needless to say, Ron and I went back to the hospital and enjoyed the good Chinese food.

The hospital has tried very hard to provide food that would be pleasing to everyone. They did not make the dishes spicy. There are some Chinese dishes, but they have also had BBQ chicken, rolls, French fries, watermelon, egg custard tarts, etc. There’s always rice and a soup of some kind. We have enjoyed the meals so much that we have not lost any weight this trip.

The bravery of these young people amazes me. I was never that brave and even though I feel more at ease in China each time I come, I still could not do what they do. They don't speak Chinese but explore the cities and sites. The doctors and nurses get off their shifts and take taxis and go everywhere - to get massages, to restaurants, shopping, or to ride bikes around a lake, etc. One nurse left her purse in a taxi and although the police recovered her purse (which seems almost unbelievable to me), her credit card and money were gone. At least she got her passport back. That would really be a problem if she did not have it. You can't travel anywhere without it. I don't know what she would have done in that event.

A couple of nurses were at a restaurant one night when a family fight started and glasses and dishes were thrown and before they could stop it, the plate glass window had also been broken. They said it was very exciting.

After the group went to get “western food,” one nurse said part of the team went to a bar but since she didn’t drink, she went off with two 16 year-old translators. She said they stuck their heads in a dance club to see what was going on. She saw scantily-dressed girls on stage dancing and many of the clientele dancing on the floor. They did not stay but went roller skating instead.

I've heard several talk about their massages and how they don't know exactly what they were asking for. Dr. Bailey's daughter said she was told to sit down and then lie back on the legs of the person doing the treatment. The person leaned back and literally threw her up in the air. She said she didn't know what was going on but it all felt good. After a stressful day, many of them took advantage of this service which costs about $16 U.S. They all seemed to like the treatments - no one had a painful back massage like Ron got one time.

One of the volunteers, a very pretty 24-year old, is from Spain. She is Polish by birth but lives in Spain. She may have found us on the internet because she first wrote and asked about working in an orphanage. She made the decision to come help with the medical mission and everyone loves her. She plans to stay in China a few months and travel around. She doesn't speak any Chinese. She is very religious and plans to find the church service in Beijing on Sunday.

Our translators (both young men and women) have been excellent. Most of them are college students who heard about the mission and wanted to come to practice their English. Some are local, but others have come a long distance and paid their own way to volunteer for this mission. The very good ones have stayed and helped; those with poor English dropped out after a day or two. Some of the translators ask a lot of questions about us personally and about our work in China. They want to know when the next mission will be because they want to help.

We continue to be very impressed with the people of China that get involved with us. Anyone from the team that wanted to go was invited to dinner one night at a Chinese doctor’s home. He works at another hospital. He is a neurosurgeon. Their son and some friends serve as translators for us. They have a very nice apartment in a gated complex and live on the sixth floor. There was no elevator so we walked the stairs. It was easy, but I could not help but think what it would be like to bring groceries up that many flights. They have a deck on top of the building where they grille and entertain. It was very lovely. The food was absolutely wonderful and the hospitality was beyond compare. After dinner, they took us to a nearby park surrounding a lake. It was very beautiful.

Dr. John Bailey and his family will leave tonight for Beijing to spend a few days. They have two grandchildren with them that will be freshmen at Abilene Christian University so they have to return a few days early for them to enroll in school. Their family has gone on many medical missions so they know what to do. They have been very useful to the mission.

The other team members, as well as Ron and I, will travel back to Changsha Friday afternoon. The hospital will provide transportation. Ron and I will fly from there to Hangzhou, which is supposed to be one of the prettiest places in China. It is south of Shanghai. Luke, our director of the orphanage in Rongshui, will meet us there with a driver and take us to Huzhou, a small city about two hours’ drive from Hangzhou.

Ron will consider the possibility of an orphanage in Huzhou. There are existing buildings that have been used as a home for the elderly. Some elderly men continue to live there, but there are many buildings vacant. Luke believes it can be easily converted into an orphanage. Ron will see what he can work out with the government and how much remodeling will need to be done. I hope I can write in another segment of the blog that this trip was successful and we will have our seventh orphanage ready to open in the near future.

We will be there a few days and then travel to Beijing this weekend. After some meetings early in the week, we will go to Shanghai and depart for the U.S about August 23.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chad and Carlyn Jackson arrive at Medical Mission

We were pleased that Chad and Carlyn could come observe the medical mission a couple of days. One of their firms provided some of the doctors and nurses for the mission, so they have a personal interest in the medical mission work.
The Jackson Family Foundation is providing funds for heart surgeries, funding the construction of the orphanage in Zigong, and will also support the children in that facility. We are very grateful for their generous contribution to our work in China. We are blessed to have them on our team to bring a better life to poor children.

The medical team has completed about 60 surgeries, but some of them are revisions. We had hoped to have at least 100 new patients with cleft palate or cleft lip. Our workers are still calling families and trying to schedule about 10 surgeries per day. Some people are bringing in children that had bad surgeries in the past and want them performed again. Our surgeons are making the decision whether another surgery would improve the scar and if it should be done. I have seen one or two that did not look bad at all, so it is risky to put a child through another surgery just for a minor improvement in the lip. It is possible that it might look worse with more scar tissue.

An old grandmother has been at the hospital all day trying to get us to do surgery on her granddaughter. She is about four years old and cannot talk. She had cleft palate surgery about a year ago. Unless the surgery is done before they start talking, many never learn to speak properly. The surgeons explained that no surgery will improve her speech. She will need speech therapy, but we know they can never afford that. After the grandmother was convinced they would not do the surgery again, she asked if they would do surgery on the child’s nose and make it look better. I’m sure everyone felt like laughing, but were nice enough not to.

A man walked in with a bad lip scar from an automobile wreck some time ago. The Chinese nurses turned him away and said we would not help him. Jackie, our worker, went after him and told him to come back because our surgeons will do it. We are trying to help as many people as we can.

The Chinese nurses have been less than cooperative on this mission. I know they feel threatened that Americans have come in and taken over, but it has put a strain on getting things accomplished in an efficient manner. Chinese nurses were in charge of the ward last night. At 8:00 a.m. this morning, most of the patients who had surgery on Friday were checked by the doctors and dismissed to go home. One child was scheduled for surgery at 7 a.m. but the nurse let the mother feed the child. The child could not have surgery until this afternoon because it must fast at least 6 hours before surgery.

Two heart surgeries are scheduled this week. I heard Ron say Chad and Carlyn might want to observe. When we were in China in May, Ron asked me if I would like to observe a heart surgery. I gave him a blank look and said, “Do you want to pick me up off of the floor when I faint? I look away when someone is getting a shot on ER, so how could I possibly observe a surgery?” I am very grateful for doctors and nurses and those who work in health care, but I’m glad I chose the secretarial field for my career.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Another traveling experience in China

We left Chengde and the medical mission Tuesday afternoon to travel to Zigong. Chad and Carlyn Jackson, of Alpharetta, Georgia, along with sponsors Carol Mitchell from Hendersonville, TN, and Le Ellen Smith and her son, Carl, from Troy, TN, met us in Zigong on Thursday to see the Jackson Family Foundation Care Center.
The building will be a four-story facility and house approximately 100 orphans. Construction is behind due to rain and difficulties getting things done on a timely basis in China. We hoped it would be completed by September but it will probably take another month. They are going up with the walls on the fourth floor and soon the roof can be added. Once the major structure is completed, the finishing work can begin.

The elementary and middle schools are very near. There is a rock fence all around the property so the children will be secure. The view from the dorm rooms will be spectacular. There are hills and valleys with crops growing and lakes which makes it a very beautiful setting.

It was a delight to spend time with the group from the U.S. After seeing the orphanage, the group went to the dinosaur museum. It’s really an exciting place to visit. The museum is built directly over the burial grounds where they excavated all of the skeletons of the dinosaurs. I doubt there is a more complete collection of skeletons, bones and petrified portions of dinosaurs anywhere in the world.
The local government officials treated us to a very elegant dinner at the hotel where Ron and I stayed. We didn’t know what we were eating most of the evening but the food was not only delicious, it was also displayed beautifully and served in a very elegant style. Everyone really enjoyed this treat. It is the Chinese way to welcome visitors to their area. This time, it was in appreciation for the Jackson family and their contribution to build the orphanage and provide care for the children. We will not need sponsors for these 100 children because the Jackson Family Foundation will also care for the children. We are overwhelmed at their generosity.

After dinner, our workers drove the group, also Ron and me, to Chengdu. We arrived about 12 p.m. in our hotel room. The group was going to see the pandas today in that area before leaving for Xi’an this afternoon. Ron and I got up at 6 a.m. to catch a flight to return to Changde. From Chengdu, we flew to Changsha where a driver from the hospital met us to drive us back to Changde. We arrived back at our hotel at 2 p.m. today.

When we left on Tuesday afternoon, the hospital driver drove us the 3 hours to Chengdu. We took a flight to Chongching but it was over two hours late leaving. When we arrived there, it was pouring rain. A government driver and one of our workers planned to meet us at the airport but due to the heavy rain they could not get through the flooded roads leading up to the airport. After a couple of phone calls, they instructed us to take the airport bus because it could get through the flooded streets. We got off at the first stop and called them again.

It was 12:00 p.m. and the bus stop was just a shelter in the middle of nowhere. We could not see any hotels or recognizable businesses anywhere around us. Other people who got off the bus were taking taxis on home. A man was sitting on a motorcycle with an umbrella attached waiting to take a passenger but he was out of luck with no single person wanting a ride. Ron handed the cell phone to this man to talk to our driver to explain where we were.

Chongqing is a very large city; maybe the third largest in China. Our driver lives in Zigong, a much smaller town three hours away. I didn’t think he could possibly find us at the first airport bus stop easily. However, by the time Ron put his cell phone in his pocket, up walked Robert, one of our workers. I told Ron I was beginning to believe in a direct miracle when I saw him appear. The driver spoke with the man on the motorcycle. We knew he was asking directions back to the highway to Zigong. Shortly after we left, the motorcycle appeared in front of us and led us all the way to the toll booth that headed to Zigong.

The drive on to Zigong that night was dangerous with rain slick highways, many large trucks on the road and a sleepy driver that had a lot of trouble staying awake. We arrived at our hotel at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. We got about six hours of sleep and then went to the job site to see the construction. Our son, Ronald, who went ahead of us to Zigong about 10 days ago, joined us to see the building and have lunch with us and the top workers. They came to our hotel room for a meeting about the construction work. Ronald spent the rest of the afternoon with us.

It was decided that Ronald will go on to Wesley’s House in Pingguo later this week or early next week. He’s not really needed in Zigong to help with the construction work. As Ron put it, there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians there already. The school across from Wesley’s house can be remodeled for dorm rooms and house more students. Only one floor of the building is used for classes. Ronald will have less difficulty working there with Peter, who speaks good English. Ronald was finding the limited English of our workers in Zigong a real challenge.

Four days of this week were spent on our trip to Zigong since it is so difficult to travel there. We will remain in Chengde this coming week to finish up the medical mission. After the first day of the mission, everything has gone smoothly. They have completed 50 surgeries in five days. The team will take tomorrow off as a holiday and rest time. The hospital has scheduled a day sight-seeing trip for those who want to go. Ron and I feel we need the rest after the travel this week so we will not go on the day trip.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Medical Mission Begins

Saturday night, Dr. John Bailey from the Caris Foundation, along with several members of his family, arrived from Tian Dien. They visited the John Connor Brown Christian Care Center, which was funded by them in memory of their grandson who was killed in an automobile accident a few years ago. He was planning to come to the medical mission that year and the accident changed the lives of his family forever. They were very pleased to see the orphanage that carries his name in his memory.

Sunday morning, we all met in Dr. Bailey’s room (10 of us) for the family service. A grandson led singing and a nephew presented the lesson. It was a short but very inspiring time together to focus on the reason we are so blessed and the hope that HE has given us.

Sunday night, the majority of the medical team arrived from the U.S. It’s always a great mixture of people. Several doctors and nurses are Asian (from the U.S. and Hong Kong). One nurse is from Spain but of Polish descent. They come from many areas of the country, but all are excited about the work and excited to be here to participate.

We have had wonderful cooperation from the Peoples’ Republic Hospital of Chengde. They are very pleased to have us and work with us but there is much coordination that must be done to make the work go smoothly. There are regulations regarding practices and procedures and they want things to be done their way and use medications they are familiar with. This is not necessarily the way the U.S. doctors learned or practice medicine so compromises must be made. Although there is a schedule made far in advance of the mission, some workers may not do what they have been assigned. Some will go to the area where they want to work so there may be too many workers in some areas and not enough in other areas. Judy has done a wonderful job putting the mission together. Jackie has been very busy communicating with the hospital and getting things ready. Ron floats around in all areas throughout the day and evening to answer questions, taking care of things or assisting in many ways. In spite of good planning, there’s much to coordinate on a day-to-day basis once the work begins.

The opening ceremony, consisting of hospital officials, the health department and Red Cross personnel, along with Ron and Dr. John Bailey, welcomed the team of medical professionals and volunteers. A large number of the hospital staff and nurses attended. As we will have two shifts of surgeries, only half of our team assembled for the welcoming ceremony. Some doctors and nurses are still arriving. The ceremony was held outside under hazy skies but the humidity made it feel like 100 degrees. We were glad it only lasted thirty minutes.

We will kick off a joint cooperation with this hospital to begin congenital heart surgeries at this hospital as well. They have heart surgeons that can do the rather simple surgeries but the poor people cannot afford the surgery. We have two children that qualify for surgery while we are here, but at least one more will need to be taken to the U.S. I saw this child and her mother this morning. She’s a very cute and sweet little girl about three or four years old. It breaks your heart to see a beautiful child and know that unless someone helps them get the surgery, the child will die in a few years.

The little cleft palate and cleft lip children are so pitiful. They try to smile but the disfigurement is so horrible for some. It did not gross anyone out to look at them but it does cause pain in your heart to see them and the sadness of their parents. The cleft lip will be done during this mission and the cleft palate will be a later surgery. They cannot do both at the same time. The children will be beautiful when the lip has been sewn together. There are a few with no visible sign of anything which indicates they only have a cleft palate. The cleft palate surgery takes much longer to repair than the lip.

We had a walk-in patient this morning. A young woman 23 years old has a tumor inside her jaw on one side of her face. Dr. Bailey asked the surgeons to examine her. They took her for a cat scan and feel certain the growth is not malignant. They also do not feel that it will require bone relocation or anything more than removal of the tumor. There will be a lot of blood loss so the hospital is reluctant for us to do it; however, Dr. Bailey said Caris Foundation can fund it because it is not going to be much more than a cleft palate surgery, according to the physicians. We had one baby with a similar growth but the doctors told the parents last night that this type growth may shrink without surgery. The child is inoperable at this time. It would require removing a good portion of the child’s tongue.

We are so blessed when a child is born healthy. We should never take health for granted and should always be very grateful when we have perfectly formed children and grandchildren.

A woman with a baby boy with a cleft lip was there with her three other children (all girls). As it turns out, she has adopted these children. Two of the girls are twins. One of the twins was born with spinal bifida and somehow the mother got in touch with our workers about two years ago. We paid for the child’s surgery. The child was brought to Xi’an for surgery and accompanied by a young woman from Biyang, who volunteered to assist the mother. This little girl is about 3 years old and is now walking perfectly, a rare thing for a child with spinal bifida.

This story is interesting enough with just these facts, but there’s more. The young woman who accompanied the child for surgery came up to me at the hospital (she’s helping the mother with the four children this time also). She showed me a picture and asked if I knew these people. I was so shocked to see a picture of Chris and Martha West, friends from Peachtree City who moved to Wisconsin a couple of years ago. I said, “Yes, this is Chris and Martha West.” She said, “They were my sponsors and I want to get in touch with them because I am so grateful for their help.” We exchanged e-mail addresses and will make the contact complete with pictures for Martha and Chris. She wanted many pictures made with me today and hugged me like I was her long-lost grandmother.

China is a very large country and the odds of things like this happening are staggering to my imagination. The only logical explanation is that God’s hand is in everything we do and everywhere we go. We do the work, not from selfish gain, but for HIS glory and for the joy of helping the downtrodden, the ill and those in need. We learn more everyday what a blessing it is to give and what a great impact it has on the lives of other people.

We are conducting the medical mission in an old part of the hospital. It’s a busy hospital and they have many patients. The wing where we are located is dark and dreary, basically plain and very hot. There are about six patient beds in most rooms. They have allotted us 60 beds because as the children come back from recovery, they will be brought to the rooms where volunteers (and an OR nurse overseer) will care for the children, checking vital signs, feeding, changing and holding the babies. Once they begin arriving, things will get louder and busier. Most of us were sitting around this morning because the babies waiting for surgery were all quiet and no surgeries had been completed before noon.

It’s funny to me when people come to China but do not want Chinese food. Ron and I think most of the food is really good. It is much more delicious than Chinese food in the restaurants in the U.S. The hospital will prepare a buffet lunch and dinner for all the workers each day. So far, it’s been very good to me. Today, the beef was a little tough but everything else was delicious. They are trying to add a few more things that they think are American (bread or rolls – stuffed with meat or vegetables) or some fried sweet treats. There were chicken legs and wings roasted along with noodles, vegetables and watermelon.

Our hotel has a breakfast buffet and has opened it an hour early (6:30 a.m.) to accommodate our medical team. One table consists of cold dishes (tofu, noodles, green beans, relishes, and roasted peanuts). There are usually two kinds of soup (one is rice congee), spicy noodles, cooked hot cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and stuffed steamed breads. Small spring rolls are filled with either vegetable or chocolate (really delicious). Calling it a Western breakfast, they have pieces of white bread with butter and boiled eggs available. They have an orange drink (not juice), tea and coffee. I’ve given up on the coffee, however. It’s so strong, no amount of canned milk will cut the bitterness.

A new food was introduced to me this past week. It is the lotus seed. I have had it cooked in dishes but didn’t know what it was. I have never eaten it raw. The seeds come in pods like the picture here. You punch out the green seeds, and remove the outer green shell. There’s a thin film around the white inner seed that needs to be removed. The core of the seed is green and bitter so it’s also removed if you are eating them raw. They are crunchy but have little flavor. I saw a large cart of them on the sidewalk for sale today. You could buy the pods or the loose green seeds that they had already shelled.

Ron and I shopped at Wal-Mart, which is a 20-minute walk from our hotel. We picked up fruits, nuts and snacks. It’s very interesting to walk in the deli section because there are many foods we cannot even identify. Even the bakery section is a mystery to us for the most part. Even if you can read enough English on packages to identify things, it will not even be close to the same thing you buy in the U.S.

China is a great experience if you come expecting to learn and get educated about another country. People who come and only see the dirty conditions, the inconveniences (things not ever done like the U.S) and the poverty, will not enjoy their stay. We cannot change the country or its practices, but we can help the people have a better life by supporting the orphans, providing homes and the necessities of life for them. We can assist those with health problems. It is what Jesus Christ would have us do. It is what HE would do if HE walked these streets. We are grateful for the opportunities that have been opened for us in China. We are very grateful for each and every sponsor and supporter that makes our work possible. Through our gifts to the Chinese people, they can see Christ.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

24 hours and over 7,000 miles…

From the time we left home in Sharpsburg, Georgia and arrived at Motel 168 in Shanghai, it had been exactly 24 hours. Our flight was very good. We flew Delta in business class and had the latest arrangement in seating. The seats were at an angle to each other instead of two side-by-side. It was convenient, easy and private. Ron and I had our heads almost to each other and could lean over and talk a little. It was not as cozy this way but Ron keeps his eyes closed with music on the entire trip anyway.

Our son, Ronald, came with us to China to go on to the construction site of the orphanage in Zigong. He flew Continental through Newark and left Atlanta two hours before us. We arrived in Shanghai one hour before he arrived. We waited for him and got him checked into his China Air flight to Changdu where he was met by Jacob and Robert, two of our workers.

The next day, we left Shanghai by train for Nanchang with Vivian, a volunteer worker from Shanghai. Another Chinese girl went with us. Ron met her father, a businessman, who is the owner of an engineering firm, on our last trip to Shanghai. Vivian had arranged a meeting for us with a Youth Foundation run by the government. They met us at the train station and took us to dinner. The next morning (Sunday), the four of us met in our hotel room for a brief service and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We met the foundation folks at breakfast and then went to a meeting at their office headquarters. They run three orphanages (with less than 150 children in all three facilities). In the meeting, we learned that they have access to 20 acres of land and want to develop it into an orphanage, school and other facilities. We drove to the site (about 45 minutes away) but it was so over-grown in trees, bushes and undergrowth, we could tell very little about it. You could not even walk through it because of the thickness, which is much like a jungle.

From this site, we went to see a new school that will be ready to open this fall. They are very proud of the modern facility and wanted us to see it. Then we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch, we were planning to drive to see one of their orphanages that was half-way to Changsha, our next destination.
Unfortunately, there was an 18-wheeler truck overturned in the middle of the highway and we were sitting in traffic for well over an hour.
That wasted time and in addition to the two or three hour drive it put us at the orphanage late in the afternoon. When we drove in a line of little girls were on one side of the drive and little boys were on the other side and they were singing to welcome us. They wore uniforms and were very cute. Their tops were white with navy skirts for the girls and navy pants for the boys. They all had the red scarf around their necks signifying that they are members of the Youth Communist Party League. We were escorted to see their rooms and throughout the facility. The main building in front is new but one-story buildings in a U-shape behind the main building were older with wood shingle roofs. The children’s rooms were plain with just the usual bunk beds (each with a mosquito net) and a bamboo mat to sleep on. This is typical for summer because it’s cooler to sleep on.

The rooms in the older building were classrooms, craft and reading rooms as well as many displays of Chinese memorabilia. They spent a lot of money on this facility but much of the funds went into the displays of things to teach the children about the history of China.

The son of the headmaster is preparing to leave to go to Boston to get his master’s degree this fall. He spoke good English so he followed us around to translate for us and just to practice his English. The twenty-four children were eating dinner in the dining room by the time we finished our tour. A private room was already set up for us to have dinner. The food was very good – some dishes were ordinary things but others I could not identify and didn’t try them. The government men and the headmaster spent most of their time drinking and having toasts but we continued to eat and enjoy the meal. Drinking at meals is a big part of the social aspect of meals for the government people. We have to keep on explaining that we do not drink any alcohol. They understand a little because we are “strange” Americans, but the two Chinese girls (who are Christians) did not drink.

We parted ways with Vivian and the other girl and they went back to Nanchang with the drivers in one car while two of the men drove us on to Changsha. It was late when we arrived and they had difficulty finding our hotel. We got to bed about 11:30 that night and were dead-tired. I had not felt well all day and slept quite a bit in the car as we drove, which is very unusual for me.

Jackie, our worker in charge of medical in China, picked us up and drove us the two-hour drive to Chengde. We have had time to rest this week as well as oversee how things are shaping up for the medical mission to begin.

The Chinese workers had over 200 names of people to call to see about scheduling their children for surgery this week. Some have already had the surgery; others were wrong numbers. Some people were reluctant to talk with the workers, not understanding that anyone would give free surgery to their child. As of today, over 50 have agreed to come. We may not have enough patients for the two weeks but when the TV and newspapers publish the opening ceremony on Monday morning, we know there will be others to come that we did not know about.

The hospital officials are wonderfully cooperative and nice. They have shown us so much kindness and courtesy. The hotel is nice but has the usual drawbacks – noisy, things not working like they should, poor communication, etc. The breakfast buffet is adequate but not great. The city is nice – typical of a smaller town.
Wal-Mart is a good 30-minute walk from the hotel. We have walked it once to get a few things. There is a walk along the river and we have taken advantage of this beautiful scenery and gotten some exercise at the same time.

Dr. John Bailey and his family from Texas will arrive this evening. They have been to visit the John Connor Brown Christian Care Center already. They provided the funds for that orphanage in memory of their grandson, who the facility is named for. John Connor Brown was a young man scheduled to come on a medical mission with his grandparents a couple of years ago but he was killed in an accident only a few weeks before the mission. We are pleased that his family has honored this young man with an orphanage that provides a very good home to almost 100 poor children.
The medical team consisting of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses, etc. and many volunteer workers will arrive tomorrow. My next section will tell about the Opening Ceremony and the beginning of the cleft palate medical mission.