Thursday, August 19, 2010

Home from China!

We are home, but it was not an easy trip. Ron left one day earlier than us to make a side trip to Hangzhou to meet with a man interested in helping with our work. He said we could take the bus from Pingliang to Xi'an with the medical team and then fly to Shanghai and meet him at the hotel. From the Pudong airport, I know where to take the hotel shuttle bus to the hotel where we always stay. Sounded easy enough.

Three of our workers were helping to take four orphan babies back to Beijing and Mongolia (along with a lady doctor traveling with the babies). We all took the four hour bus to Xi'an. Then we took a taxi to the airport, arriving there about noon. Leigh Ann and I were to catch our flight at 7 p.m. but could not check in until 5:00 p.m. One of the workers found a buffet inside the airport and paid for us to all have a meal. He got the waitresses to let us have a back table and stay in the restaurant until time for our flights. They were kind, seeing that we had four babies under one year of age that had just had surgery a few days before. A young male worker took one of the babies with him to Beijing on a 3 p.m. flight. That baby was sick during the medical mission and unable to have surgery. The other three babies were not flying out with workers until 8 p.m.

Leigh Ann and I helped with the babies so everyone could take turns to eat. They were good babies but they were active and wore us all out after a few hours.

Jackie (our medical mission coordinator) booked our flight from Xi'an to Shanghai to the wrong airport, but I didn't know that at the time. Our flight was late so it was about 10:30 p.m. when we arrived. After wandering around for an hour in the airport, not recognizing anything and unable to find the bus to the hotel, I got someone to call Ron. I didn't even have a cell phone in China. He said he had checked on our flight and we had landed at another airport (about 50 miles away). It was too late to get the bus between the airports. We got a taxi (which cost us $45 U.S.) but the driver took us to the wrong hotel. I knew immediately it was wrong but could not communicate with the taxi driver. I called Ron from that hotel which was close to the Pudong Airport. He asked if I could get another taxi and go to the Pudong Airport Gate 28. It was about 11:30 p.m. I told him NO, I could not communicate with taxi drivers and I might end up at the first airport again. He said O.K. and got a taxi to bring him to this hotel to find us. I thought this would not be difficult but when just one thing goes wrong, then I'm in trouble in China traveling alone.

We had to get up early to be at the Pudong Shanghai Airport the next morning at 7 a.m. We got on the flight from Shanghai to Detroit. We were able to get first class seats so that was a great help. We were already so tired. It was a 14 hour flight to Detroit. We arrived about noon on Sunday. We spent the next 9 hours in the Detroit airport trying to find a flight to Atlanta or any other city that would connect and get us to Atlanta. All flights were over sold. We gave up and got a hotel for the night and left Detroit on Monday but had to fly to Nashville and then to Atlanta. It was an all-day trip. It was about 6 p.m. Monday night when we got home.

I started taking a sore throat about the time we landed in Detroit so I really felt bad the rest of the day and all day on Monday. It's better now and I'm finally getting some sleep.

This was a hard trip and the most difficult of our missions. So many things were disorganized but we learned some lessons if we do another medical mission. I have to remember that no matter how hard it was for all of us, there were a lot of little children helped.

Ronald arrived home a week before us to get some needed rest. He is doing fine but arrived home to find that his renters have skipped out (leaving his house and yard in a mess). He has many repairs and cleaning to do before it can be rented again. We will help him work on it next week. He's trying to get the grass cut and yard back in shape.

Today, Ronald and I went to the Botanical Gardens. He didn't feel like going to work in the yard with the heat and wanted to do something fun. I had never been to the gardens so when he invited me to go with him, I jumped at the chance. I enjoyed being with him very much. He won't get to do much in the way of fun things while he's home, so this was a good day for both of us.

I have plenty of work to do but felt he was more important. He will return to China Sept. 7th. We will leave again for another long RV trip across to Texas on September 8th. I don't know how long we will be gone this time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Death of a Child Brings Sadness to the Medical Mission

Our medical mission is underway in Pingliang, Gansu. It is not far from the Tibet border in Central China. We have mountains in this area. The weather has been very cool at night and nice during the day. Although there is early morning smog, we have seen sunshine and nice skies some days. The people in this area are poor. We don’t see anyone walking the streets in fashionable clothing. They are all very curious about us, having never seen a foreigner in this area. A middle school student asked me yesterday, “Where are you from?” Some stop to stare but almost everyone glances at us. We smile and wave at the children and most of them smile back and then parents smile too.

Leigh Ann has had people wanting to take a picture with her (on planes, trains and various places). We tease her that she should be charging for these photo sessions.

The medical team from the U.S. arrived about 3 p.m. last Monday afternoon. It was a rush to get everyone to their rooms to unload their bags and get to the hotel dining room for a quick lunch. Everyone had to be at the hospital by 4:30 for the hospital welcoming and orientation.

Some workers from Angel Moms (a charity group in Beijing and Shanghai) and caretakers with children from an orphanage came on the bus with the team. Two of our little girls from the Jackson Family Care Center in Zigong arrived by train, a 30-hour trip, each with a grandparent. One had a cleft lip and the other a cleft palate. (They were so happy to see us and their grandparents could not thank us enough for all we have done for these little girls). It was a joy to see them go home a few days later with their surgeries healing.

Monday night, we all gathered in two of the hotel dining rooms for a meal paid for by the hospital. It was a very elaborate and delicious meal.
The team was tired from their long trip. Most of them flew to Beijing and came together on an all-night train to Xi’an. From Xi’an, it was a five-hour bus ride. A bus was rented for the entire team; otherwise, they would not have all arrived on time. Almost every bus and train to every city in China is full to capacity no matter what day of the week you travel.

Things got off to a slow start Tuesday morning. Surgeries did not start until late morning because children had to be tested and having fasted for six hours prior to surgery. It was difficult to get this over to parents because they worried about their children being hungry and some fed them anyway, which set them back on the schedule for surgery. Nurses settled into their routine, checking patients already in the hospital rooms, with a translator’s help.

We had seven young high school or university students volunteering as translators but they were not always where they should be. They tended to want to hang out together rather than being where they should be. Often a nurse was wandering around looking for one of them.

The hospital officials and nurses have been much more cooperative this year than they were last year in Chengde. They have interfered very little in every phase of our work and been helpful when asked. This hospital is also cleaner and brighter. Last year, we had dark and dirty rooms on the ward and the Chinese nurses didn’t trust our nurses to do anything. Saying all of this does not mean that this hospital is perfect. It is probably an excellent hospital for this remote area of China. However, in ICU, there is a leak over a bed from the ceiling above. Could it be a toilet leaking? We don’t know. We are on the 10th floor of a 15 story building so it isn’t coming from the roof. There are a few western toilets (commodes) on the ward but we aren’t allowed to use them. I think the night nurses have cleaned them and used them when the rest of the staff is gone and no one is using those areas for examinations. One nurse has a picture of a shower head and right underneath is a power outlet. It has a little plastic cover but I doubt that could prevent water from running inside. At night, the nurses report that the doors to the ward are padlocked to prevent anyone from coming in. However, no one could get out either because you have to go out the doors to get to the stairway.

Barry, our anesthetist from Beijing said this hospital has a very low mortality rate with a certain number of surgeries. Compared to the best hospitals in Beijing, it is lower. He questions that being correct because of the lack of equipment and skill but I guess you can publish whatever rate you wish.

Everything seemed routine by Tuesday afternoon and everyone was settling into their jobs but on Wednesday afternoon tragedy appeared unexpectedly. A little boy, 2-l/2 years of age, went for cleft palate surgery. Everything seems to be going fine. They had completed his surgery and began to bring him out of sleep when his little body started shutting down. Oxygen levels dropped drastically and the child died before they could do anything to reverse the situation. It was a heart-breaking event for the doctors and nurses as well as all of the medical team. The parents of the child were wailing and crying uncontrollably. The hospital official took over handling the child’s relatives.

No negligence on the part of our doctors or nurses was detected. The hospital said it could not have been helped. The child appeared healthy, everything had been checked out and everything done by the anesthetist and doctor were consistent with what should have been done. Nevertheless, it put a great and deep sadness in all of our hearts.

Surgeries were stopped for the rest of that day and for the entire next day while the hospital and team re-evaluated procedures. The hospital had a machine flown in to use to determine oxygen level at an early stage of the operation. These are not usually used in China but might save a life. The OR nurses do not feel that a situation can be reversed once it begins even if surgery is stopped early. One of the anesthetists figured out a way to use the machine for two children having surgery at the same time in the same OR.

Thursday, surgeries began again and continue on to this time (Sunday afternoon, August 8). The mission will go until Thursday. Surgeries will end but nurses will have to be on the wards checking post-op patients until they are dismissed to return home.

To see a baby with a cleft lip, maybe even a bi-lateral cleft lip, and then see them when they come back after surgery, is a beautiful thing to behold. The parents are not beaming as much as we are, because they do not fully understand that after healing the lip will look much better. Often, the child is uncomfortable even with some medication for pain so the parent may be concerned. The next day after surgery, children and parents are beaming and thanking us for our help. When they are ready to leave the hospital, they are so appreciative.

Handing out the beanie babies and blankets has been a highlight of our mornings. We make rounds each morning to see which new children have arrived for surgery that day. Handing the child a beanie baby had brightened the face of the child and bridges are established because of the strange way we look. Children will smile and (in most cases) quickly accept the toy. One of our nurses brought some small trucks for older boys and they have really gone over well.

Mothers are very happy to get the blankets. The hospital bed only has a bottom sheet and a down (heavy) comforter in a duvet coverlet on the bed. After a child comes from surgery, the parent wants to cover the child but the comforter is much too hot.
We have offered them a blanket or small quilt and they have been very grateful. We see them walking with the babies in their arms in the hallway with the blankets tucked around the child.

Ladies from Laurel Church of Christ, Laurel, MD, Needles & Knots in North Canton, OH, Florence Hoshall, and Mrs. Dave Halligan and ladies from her congregation are some who have shipped quilts and blankets. Our Peachtree City Church of Christ ladies also made crocheted blankets. We collected beanie babies from several different locations but many of them were from Peachtree City. I am sure I have missed someone who contributed to these gifts of love, but if you were part of this collection of gifts, please accept my grateful thanks. We had blankets every size for the very smallest child to the oldest boy (about 12 or 13) and everyone loved the gifts.

This morning I was walking down the hall with a stack of blankets in my arms as Leigh Ann was handing out beanie babies and getting pictures of the children accepting the toys. A mother walked up and fingered one of the beautiful crochets blankets in my arms. I immediately pulled it out and offered it to her. You would have thought I had given her a $100 bill. She thanked me over and over.

Organizing a medical mission may seem simple. You team up roommates and co-workers according to shifts and specialties. Everyone goes to work. Right? Not really. Although Ron, Leigh Ann and I unpacked the medical supplies in the room assigned to our work team, it is still difficult to have all the things they need.
Each doctor or nurse wants a certain suture or a product for pain or an ointment for moisture, something to reduce swelling or prevent infection. It is impossible to have on hand everything each nurse or doctor wants. Tables and box loads of supplies are grouped together so things can be easily found but nurses are always looking for something we don’t have.

Some of the team has been sick from eating the food. It’s caused a shortage of nurses so sometimes only one nurse is on the entire ward. Shifts are long and tiring and only snack food is available. Although the hospital brings in hot boxed lunch plates at noon, the number of workers who eat it has diminished each day as others get sick. A lot of the workers go out to local restaurants at night so the contamination could have come from those places. However, Ron, Leigh Ann and I have been very careful and eaten only in the hotel restaurant or had fruit and snacks in our rooms. Fruit stands are everywhere but we must wash the fruit in bottled water. (I like ice cream on a stick which is safe to eat. No washing necessary. It’s a good excuse to eat ice cream.) Leigh Ann and I have a favorite stand near the hotel that carries ice cream and cold drinks (not many have a cooler to keep drinks cold). They have some very good cookies, crackers, chips, little cakes, and other snacks. With fruit, we can have a very good lunch and not worry about being sick.

Unfortunately, both Ron and Leigh Ann have been sick. I don’t know where it began (the food the first day at the hospital or elsewhere) but it’s difficult to get rid of. I think you could safely call it “Chairman Mao’s Revenge.” I am becoming known more and more as “Iron Gut Pat” since I am eating almost everything in front of me and not getting sick.

Every afternoon, Leigh Ann and I return to our rooms and work on our computers, trying to keep up with our workload. It has not been easy to find the time. Some plugs in our rooms don’t work and getting internet set up when we arrived was a challenge.

When nurses come off their shift or others are going on duty, we have tried to catch someone to go down for dinner with us. Ordering is a challenge. We have pictures on the menu but without knowing most of the dishes, we don’t know what we are ordering. Some dishes are cold and some hot, but we can’t tell which is which. From the picture, it is difficult to tell what kind of meat may be cooked with the vegetables.
Asking for rice or even tea has been difficult, although those are relatively easy words to pronounce. They just don’t understand “Southern Chinese.”
I find it interesting to listen to a nurse trying to order, using Chinese words, some English words and her hands with sign language, all at the same time. I watch the expression on the face of the waitress and wish I could take a picture. They are stunned to say the least. We believe they are saying, “Oh no, here comes the crazy Americans” each time they see us walk in.

When the mission ends, we will all take a bus back to Xi’an. A few doctors and nurses are scheduled to leave before us due to schedules back home. Some will go to Beijing or stay a few extra days in Xi’an to sightsee before they return home. Ron, Leigh Ann and I will take a night train from Xi’an back to Shanghai and be on standby for our trip home. We fly buddy passes so it is always “if” we get seats that we go home a certain day.

Ronald, our son who has lived in China for one year and just completed the renovation of Refuge of Grace Christian Care Center that will open soon, has returned to Atlanta for a much needed rest. It has been a difficult year for him. Our trips (20-30 days at a time) are difficult enough, but living in a foreign country without knowing the language and not having a skilled translator who knows construction, is not easy. I would imagine that Ronald has tried to communicate with contractors just like the nurses ordering food, but he is probably upset and saying “NO, NO, we don’t do it that way!”

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and concern for us. We can count off the days until our return now. I will post a brief report after our arrival home so everyone will know we are safely at home enjoying the rest but hating the jetlag.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our visit to the Jackson Family Christian Care Center

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I met my parents for the breakfast buffet in the hotel. I ate a boiled egg, lots of steamed vegetables, steamed buns filled with red bean paste and hot tea. It was very good.

Mr. Chen and his wife and daughter, Shi Shi, arrived around 9:15. They were also accompanied with John Li, one of our workers in China, as well as a translator. We walked across the street to a store and the translator asked an employee there which floor the books and toys were located on. We went upstairs a level and found the books and proceeded to select dictionaries, books for older children with information like history and animals and some books for the younger children. Shi Shi, the Chen’s daughter, helped select quite a few of them. It appears she enjoys shopping!

We walked over a few aisles and looked at sports equipment. Mr. Chen indicated they had plenty. We only selected three hula hoops in that section. We had found a book on the art of origami (folding papers to make shapes) so we asked another employee where to find the colored paper to use and we selected two large packages. Mrs. Chen and our translator also selected ink and calligraphy brushes which the children can use to practice their Chinese writing skills.

Shi Shi pushed our shopping cart up to the register and we started to pay for everything. After paying, I still had LOTS of money left! So I told them we had to do more shopping! We took everything out to the van and it was decided we would go to another bookstore. There was some discussion about purchasing another television for the care center but Chinese children tend to get addicted to tv and the internet so we decided books would be a better purchase for their education.

At the next stop, I walked in with the Chens, John Li and the translator. It was a very large bookstore with a much bigger selection. We selected books which had transfer pages to learn Chinese writing, books on art and music, etc. We also selected about five more dictionaries for the children. We paid for our purchases and I told them I still had money left over! In the van, Shi Shi winked at my mom and I over the seat. She was in the seat in front of us sitting with my dad and turned around to look at us. In the first store, she had pointed out a package of gum to me. I knew I had a package with me so I got it out in the van and her eyes lit up. I handed her a piece and she really seemed to enjoy it.

Mr. Chen said the boys had recently received new shoes from some volunteers but the girls could use new shoes. We drove to another area and walked through several different markets. Mr. Chen started negotiating prices at one booth with a lady. They were bargaining back and forth but it didn’t appear she was going to back down much off her price. We walked on to more booths with shoes but discovered all of them were much more expensive. We came back to our first booth and Mr. Chen bargained some more. Our translator helped some in the bargaining process. The lady climbed up a ladder to get more shoes in different sizes down out of an attic area. A man in the booth pulled boxes off of shelves with more sizes. We ended up with two large boxes of shoes for the girls. Guess what? I still had money left over!!! I calculated the average cost of these dressy shoes - only about $5.00 a pair!

I told little Shi Shi, “We must do more shopping!” As we left there with the shoes, we walked by a beautiful fruit stand. Mr. Chen and John selected green grapes, two watermelons, and a bag full of longyans. Longyans are round brown fruits which you peel. Inside they are white and there is a seed in the middle you remove as you eat them.
I still had more money left over because the fruit stand owner was not reasonable on her apple prices. We went to another fruit stand and they bought apples at a much better price and we finally used up all of the money!

We were hot and sweaty by this time and found out later that the day’s temperatures rose to 98 degrees. We piled into the van with all of our goods and drove to the care center around 12:15. There are winding roads to the care center and the scenery is pretty along the way. We arrived in time for lunch there. A few children came outside to see us and then they were all called out by the “auntie” with a whistle to line up for lunch. I walked around the side of the building to take a few photos after I took group photos out front with the children lined up to go eat.

Lunch was delicious. The children all went to wash their hands before entering the lunchroom. They were all eating while we toured the kitchen area. I came into the lunchroom and took more photos of the children eating.

We sat down and they brought out bowls of food for us. We ate rice, tomatoes sautéed with eggs, sautéed eggplant, tofu, garlic shoots with pork and corn on the cob. I was only cautious about not getting too much of the pork but I thought all of the food was very good. There was a darling little puppy dog wandering around. He grabbed up any scraps which fell from the table and outside we saw he had his own little bowl of rice!

I met all of the girls here and most of the boys at the care center. Some of the boys are shy or didn’t want their photos taken as easily as the girls did. They are all sweet, kind, polite, helpful, obedient children.
The older children help with the younger ones and they are always smiling and friendly. I fell in love with so many of them.

I went up to one of the boy’s rooms and took a few individual photos of the boys. I had John Li with me to help identify who they were as I took the photo. There is beautiful countryside all around the care center and I took a lot of pictures of the surrounding scenery too.

Upstairs the girls were all in a room sitting on beds together and I began taking photos of them too. They were all cute and seemed to be such good friends with each other. John helped me identify them in my photos too. He will be leaving JFCCC to go to another care center to become a director there. He is a great worker and very dedicated. He is always happy and loves the children. Stephen, our previous worker here, will be coming back to JFCCC. He has recently been in Luxi to search for orphans there for the next care center which will be opening soon - Refuge of Grace Christian Care Center. I brought four packages of “silly bandz” from Woodstock for the children and laid them out on a table for them to each pick one out. The girls went first and the littlest one (#77 Hu Xiao Xia) decided she’d have two! I let the boys pick from dinosaur and animal shapes. They all seemed happy to get a little something. We saved the rest to be distributed to the children who come back from summer break.

The children lined up in the girl’s room to give us their presentation. There were three young girls with handwritten notes to announce the festivities. The entire group performed together and then smaller groups were formed to do different songs and hand motions.
I took eleven videos of their performances. If you are interested in the videos, please email me and I will be happy to send them to you. The youngest little one at the care center walked over to get some attention from my parents. Her older brother and sister also live there and help take care of her.

It was an extremely hot day at the care center. There are fans in the children’s rooms and they were running so that relieved a little of the heat. We met in the office for a little while with Mr. Chen and John Li. I downloaded videos sent from Kevin Johnson and Christina Cruz for their assigned children who were there at the care center during our visit.

Only six children are staying at the care center during the summer holidays. When I told John Li (by email from Georgia) I was disappointed to only be meeting such a small number of children, he and Mr. Chen contacted children who had gone to visit relatives for their summer break and they came back to meet me. They had been practicing for their program for us and I was so happy there were about 30 children there to meet me and for me to see.

We all went upstairs to an activity room since there is more room to present them with gifts from the sponsors as well as an activity we had planned. Peachtree City Church of Christ has a group called, “Little Lambs” and they had each decorated a puzzle piece with stickers, markers and a photo of a child from the church ages 1-8 inside each shape of the puzzle pieces. There were 30 puzzle pieces which would form a heart shape when completed. We gave each of the JFCCC children a puzzle piece since there were 30 children there! The translator and “auntie” called out each number and the child came to the center of the room and put their piece in place each time. When they finished, the auntie got them to circle around the puzzle for a group picture. We think they enjoyed the activity and had fun doing something with us.

Mr. Chen stood at the table with all the purchases we had made that morning and selected four children, two boys and two girls, to come up to receive the gifts. He explained what the purchased items were and these four children thanked us on behalf of everyone. I think they were very pleased with what we had selected and I hope these gifts will be very beneficial to them.

After we met in the office, I wandered around some and took photos of a few boys who were playing in one of the boy’s rooms. I went upstairs and we got the “auntie” to start distributing shoes to the girls in their room. They ran to wash off their feet so they would have clean feet to try on shoes. They were sitting on the edge of the sinks in the bathroom to get their feet clean. The girls enjoyed trying on different shoes to see which ones would fit. The older girls were so kind and patient. They let all the younger ones try them all on first and then when they were finished, some of the older girls tried to see what shoes might fit them. I was so impressed with their actions and polite attitudes.

After distributing everything we had bought and meeting with the director, it was time to leave. By this time it was 5 pm and we were very hot and tired. I did not want to leave these precious children. I told our worker, John Li, if they could install air conditioning in a room for me, I would happily stay forever! A few of the children gathered on the second floor railing and waved down at us. It was a very emotional time for me. I just wanted to run back upstairs and stay!

Thank you so much for your letters, photos, videos and donations for these precious children. I am so thankful to the Jackson Family Foundation for sponsoring this facility and helping out the poor children in China. I love this job and appreciate all the Jackson associates who are a part of this program.

Atlanta to Pingliang - a long, long trip!

We spent almost all day on July 20th at the Atlanta airport. Flying on buddy passes does not guarantee us a seat. We thought first that we had a better chance on the segment to Narita, Japan, to go through NY but the plane to NY filled up, We changed our flight to Seattle and then stood by for the next three flights to Seattle, only to watch them all fill with sold out seats. Our friend, Harvey Boyd, who worked for Delta, checked out flights through Memphis to Seattle but they were all sold out. He told us we might take a chance and standby on the flight directly to Narita from Atlanta. It showed that it was full but we were able to get seats in coach. It was a long 14 hours but we were just pleased to be on our way. We had a few hours in the Narita airport before we took a near-empty flight to Shanghai. We took the high speed train from the airport to the end of the line and then got a taxi to the hotel. From the time we left home until we opened our hotel door in Shanghai, it was 30 hours. It was very hard to keep from sleeping on the last leg of the trip but I was afraid a nap then would keep me from going to sleep once we got to the hotel.

The next day we headed out to Expo. It has been open since April but there are now approximately 500,000 attending each day. We took the subway and bought our one-day ticket. Leigh Ann wanted to see the Chinese pavilion but we learned very quickly you need a reservation to get in to see it. Reservations were also needed for the Taiwan and Macau buildings. We asked how we made a reservation to see these and were told that every morning at 9:00 a.m. you can make the reservations for those buildings. Our ticket let us inside any other pavilion but they were scattered over several miles and the temperature was about 95 degrees. We waited in an outside line in the hot sun for almost an hour for the Hong Kong building and it was about a 10 minute walk through without anything spectacular to see. After the New Zealand exhibit, we decided it was not worth the effort and headed back to the subway to go back to the hotel.

The next day we took a taxi to the train station and took an all-night train (13 hours) to Pingxiang. Ronald and Mark, one of our workers, met us at the train station. We stopped at a nice hotel and ate breakfast at a nice buffet. It was a 30 minute drive from there to Luxi. We checked in at the hotel and left our luggage so we could head out to see the new care center.

Ronald started the remodeling of the 3-story building the first of May. He will have almost all of it completed in two weeks. It was in the final painting stage, the kitchen equipment is ready to be installed and the rest of the electrical work will be completed in a week. The bathrooms on the first floor are almost completed (they are ready on the other two floors).

This building was originally an office building so there were no showers and only one toilet stall at the end of each floor. It was later used to house old people. Now, there are baths for boys and girls on each floor. Floors will be cleaned and the beds will be assembled and rooms will be completed for the children. About the middle of August, children will begin moving in. What a lovely home it will be for some very poor, unhappy children.

Our only concern is the old people from the other two buildings on the same campus will wander in and out of the building. They put a temporary fence around the building to keep them out but it may be necessary to build a permanent fence for the children’s protection.

The government workers took us to lunch. It was a restaurant in the countryside (very dirty which gives us a little apprehension about the cleanliness of the food preparation). The meal was fair (if you like fish soup and chicken soup with all the parts included). We had smoked pork slices barely cooked, black-eyed peas with hot green peppers, bitter melon, pumpkin, steamed eggs, glutinous dumplings with water chestnuts and canned herbal tea. They wanted us to tour the beautiful gardens (which looked like they had grown up without any tender care for a very long time). The government officials offered to send two cars and drivers to drive us two hours to see some hot springs. Ron politely declined saying he still had much to go over with the workers.

We ate a quiet dinner at a local restaurant with just the four of us. Ronald has eaten there many times with the workers and the waitress spoke some English so ordering was not too difficult.

Today, the workers came to have family services at the hotel and then we went to lunch together. Many of the dishes they ordered at another local restaurant were not what we would have ordered but we managed to eat enough. The little appetizer that was brought first to the table was pickled seaweed. Ronald found a dead fly in it. The waitress brought some roasted peanuts out to replace the seaweed after we showed her the fly. We didn't find anything in the rest of the food but we didn't look very much. Sometimes it is best not to know. We had sweet and sour pork (with bone and fat), beef and potatoes (beef was actually tender like a roast), steamed fish (this one didn't have the head on which is unusual for China), eggplant (spicy with ground beef and hot peppers), cauliflower, greens and fried rice. The three male workers with us put away the food like it was their last meal.

We left this care center the next morning and took an 8-hour train ride to the Jackson Family Christian Care Center in Zigong. I will add Leigh Ann’s write up about the trip there. (Leigh Ann is our daughter and she works in the U.S. handling all the reports for this care center).

From Zigong, we took a 20 hour train to Xi’an. We got on at 10 a.m. one day and arrived in Xi’an the next morning about 6 a.m. We grabbed a bite at McDonalds (including an iced coffee) and boarded a bus for Pingliang, Gansu. It was a 5 hour ride due to a traffic accident that sent us on a detour road over the mountains. The road was narrow and rough and had broken pavement or no pavement part of the way.

We checked into our hotel and went to lunch with Jackie, our worker from Xi’an, who is in charge of the medical mission. Today, our medical team arrives from the U.S. We will have a “welcome” meeting tonight as well as a big dinner.
Tomorrow the surgeries will begin at 7 a.m. We have over 60 children already scheduled for surgery. About five children have arrived from our care centers for either cleft lip or cleft palate surgery.

The mission will end on August 15 and then we return to the U.S. Keep us in your prayers for a successful mission.