Tuesday, August 2, 2016

He is a Good, Good Father!

     This post is all about giving praise to my Father. I am so loved, not because of anything I have done, but just because of who He is! I would like to give just a few examples of His love and leading in my life the last few months. First, He allowed me to come home for a 6 week vacation to reconnect and love on my kids and grandkids. This was not a planned trip, but He orchestrated it for me. It's a little complicated, but the upcoming election  in Gabon, and having to avoid certain weeks in the capitol, made it possible for me to return to the U.S. At the time I was concerned about missing the time of testing and interviewing of new students for our nursing school. But again, He knew that this was going to get postponed until September, and that I would be back in time to participate. I am thankful for His timing. Sometimes we can't see ahead, but He always has perfect vision. God is good!
     He also opened a door for me to go visit family in Oklahoma. This had not been on my agenda when I came home, but what a blessing it was for me! One of my cousins has been struggling with cancer for several years and it was so good to connect with her and her husband, and to see her health improving. God has given her an "all clear" on the cancer front. What a miracle! I also had really good times with my uncle and other cousins. God is good!
     After 2 weeks of being home, I received an e-mail from my sending organization that I needed to have a full physical while home. I also would have to be approved by their doctor before I could return to Africa. This was a little frustrating for me, because I only had 4 more weeks to get all the tests done, get results to my G.P., and then everything sent to the CMA doc, and get approval. Also, I had already booked my flights back. I wasn't sure it would be possible to accomplish all this in 4 weeks, but again, God  opened doors for appointments, and I was able to get all accomplished and received my OK to return with a week to spare. God is good!
     The first week I arrived home I saw my orthopedic doctor about my knee and he ordered another "Synvisc" injection to be administered before I return to Africa. Getting this through the red tape of my insurance to get the medication in a timely manner has been frustrating. Last Friday after spending another 2 hours on the phone between doctor, insurance, back to doctor again (you get the picture), I finally told the Lord, this is in your hands. I've done what I could. If you want me to have the injection before I leave, you have to fix the problem. If not, help my knee to maintain until I come back next year. Well, within one hour my doctor's office called and said it's taken care of and we will call you next week to come in. God is good!
    I have had a good time reconnecting with my grandkids, and was so happy to bond with "Nora", who was only 4 months old when I left. She is now smiling at me, letting me play with her, and letting me hold her. God is good!
    There have been a lot of other things I could share, but I hope you get the idea that God is a good Father, He is in control (even of the small details), and I am thankful that He is my Dad!
     As I return next week to France first (dropping off my granddaughter who will be working at the language school I went to), and then to Africa, I would like to ask for prayers for the following:
- good travel without sickness or delayed flights or lost luggage
- a great time in Albertville, France for a few days with Sonia, and that God would help her settle in and adjust to her new life there for the next 11 months.
- readjustment as I settle back into life in Africa (relationships, heat, humidity, ministry, start of the nursing school)
- that God would continue to do a mighty work at Bongolo Hospital and that He would receive all the glory.
Thanks for all your prayers. I am so blessed to have prayer warriors, and I feel your prayers always! Sandie

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Alive and well in Antwerp

         As many of you know, I left Africa almost two months ago to take a 3 1/2 month course at the Institute for Tropical Medicine. I am taking the certificate course for nurses and midwives. So after 7 weeks, I would like to share some thoughts about Antwerp. First of all, it's a very "international" city. People from all over the world come here to work or go to school. On any bus or tram ride you can hear 4 or 5 languages being spoken. The students at my school are from all over Europe, Africa, Asia and a few from America. I am the only student in the Nursing course who is from the states (out of 80 students). I have enjoyed getting to know a lot of different people. I am thankful that the Lord has given me two French friends that I can do social things with, like going out for a meal, or visiting a museum. He has also given me some Vietnamese friends who live here in my building.
         What is my life like here? Mostly taking classes and studying. I know it may look "romantic" to get to travel the world, but most of my time here has been spent at my desk in my small dorm room. Thankfully, I have gotten to see a little of this part of the world. The first month I was here our school took us on an outing to the city of Brugge. What a quaint, old, beautiful city! I would love to spend days there, just wandering up and down the small streets and quaint shops. Yesterday, our school took us on another trip to Amsterdam and a small farm/museum outside of the city. We were only in Amsterdam for 4 hours, so not a lot of time to see things. We all took a boat trip through the waterways of the city. That was really fun, and we got to see the house boats that are so famous, and the beautiful architecture. Then we had time for a quick lunch, and some shopping, or whatever we wanted to do. I tried to find the Ann Frank house, but got lost several times, even after asking my way. I finally decided to give up on that, and do some shopping (always a fun 2nd choice!). I hung around most of the day with my Vietnamese friends, because my french friends didn't make the trip. The farm/museum was a beautiful way to learn about Holland. Everything from touring real windmills, to watching them make cheese, and wooden shoes. It was definitely a tourist place, but I enjoyed it very much. I have become involved in an international church here, and even go to a small group on Tuesday evenings. This group is a perfect example of how international this city is; two of us from the U.S., two from France, one from India, two from Africa, and one Dutch. Again, I have found that if we know Christ, we feel at home with anyone who is also part of the body of Christ.
        Prayer requests:
        1) we have our first big exam tomorrow. I have studied the material well, but the test will be in french, so that makes it even more difficult.
        2) that I will have a spiritual impact here. Overall, like most of Europe, Antwerp is a "Godless" city. Most Europeans have turned their back on God. Pray that I will have boldness as I talk to those in my circle here.
        3) that I will have the stamina to make it through this difficult Medical french course. I am learning a lot and speaking better french everyday, and for that I am thankful.
        4) for comfort as I am always missing my family back home. It is definitely a spiritual battle at times to stay positive. I wrote about this in my last blog, and I am thankful it is becoming easier to take those thoughts captive and be in a place of thanksgiving.
       5) health for my knee, which is still giving me troubles. I have to walk everywhere, unless I am going somewhere very far, and then I take the bus or tram. But it is often painful, and a source of frustration!
                                              Signing off from Antwerp! I appreciate your prayers, Sandie

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Journey towards JOY!

             I haven’t journaled in a while. My return to Gabon, Africa for only 2 months before leaving again to go to Belgium was a bit hectic. I had a lot to accomplish in 2 months and God was faithful to help me get those things done. What I want to talk about today is an inward journey, not visible from the outside. About 6 months ago I told the Lord that I wanted a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Him. Oh, I read my bible every day, pray often throughout the day, but I knew that I wanted to go deeper, wanted to really abide in Him. This started a process of “sifting” or “pruning” out some things in my life, so that I could take hold of that deeper relationship. Through several trials (knee surgery, breast biopsy, leaving my family again, heat and bugs of Africa- just to name a few) I have been learning how to take every thought captive and how to use the weapons that God has given us. II Corinthians 10: 3-6 says “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”.  
                This process recently came to a head at a prayer retreat for our team where we studied “The Warrior’s Prayer” (Matthew 6: 9-13). I wish I could share all that we learned, but there isn’t sufficient time or space, but I will share the most significant part that I took from it. We learned that Jesus taught his disciples to pray for protection from the Evil One. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. We need protection because we are in a battle to bring His Kingdom here to earth. Satan knows our “soft” spots, and that’s where he goes. So, it’s important for us to know his tactics and what our “soft” spots are, or we will fall prey to the enemy. I realized my “soft” spot is my thoughts. If I give into certain thoughts and allow my brain to “run” with them, instead of taking them “captive”, he defeats me. When I returned to Africa, I immediately jumped back into the ministries I was involved in, and as usual, I loved it, and eagerly went about serving God. But then negative thoughts started coming… “I miss my family so much”, “I just really bonded with Emma, and now I am leaving again”, “I miss talking to my grandkids and kids, and being a part of their lives”, “I hate some things about Africa- the heat, the bugs and ants, the power outages” … the list goes on. I allowed those thoughts to play out in my head, instead of taking them captive, and I fell into a depression. This lasted until our prayer retreat. When I realized that I had fallen prey to Satan’s attack on me, I got proactive and told Him to get lost! I asked forgiveness for not taking those thoughts captive. Then I started to praise God, thanking Him for all the good things in my life. I reversed the process that Satan wanted to do in me, and I immediately received emotional and spiritual healing.
                I understand this will be an ongoing process. Just Sunday, as I arrived in Belgium, I started having negative thoughts… “another new place to figure out, new language, new culture”, “I don’t know a soul in this whole country, I am so alone”, “my room is so small, can I live in this for the next 3 ½ months?”. But thankfully, I quickly recognized Satan’s attack. I started praising God for all the good things in my life… “Wow, a new country I get to learn about”, “Wow, new people to meet and new friendships to develop”, “Wow, this room serves all my needs… a desk, a comfortable bed, my own bathroom”. “Thank you God for this amazing journey you have me on”. Immediately, those negative thoughts left, and I was glad to be here, and started my journey here in Belgium with JOY, not depression. James 4:7 says that if we submit to God and resist the Devil, he will flee from us. I am taking my Stand here and now, I am learning to take my thoughts captive and experience the Joy that God has for me.
Prayer request:
I have caught a cold, and need to be well to attend class every day. I don’t want to miss out on anything I can learn here.
That I will make friends in my “all French” setting. We had our first class today and I met a couple of possible friends that I connected with a little.
That I will understand this difficult materiel presented in French and that my language learning will continue to grow.

Signing out from Antwerp! God bless you all!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Beyond what we ask or think!

          Recently the Lord has been showing me more and more that it is HIS power that works in me. And when it is HIS power, and not mine, HE does far more than I could begin to imagine. See Ephesians 3: 20 & 21- "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." Just a quick story to give one example of this process in my life. Yesterday, as usual on Sunday, I woke up early to review my Sunday school lesson for the day. We were starting the life of Abraham, who is one of my favorite people in the Old Testament. He is such an example of a life lived with true faith, which acts on that faith and doesn't just sit around talking about it. The story for yesterday was his call from God; God asked him to leave his country, family, and friends to go to a country he didn't know anything about. The promises for obedience would be phenomenal; children and grandchildren who would be as numerous as the stars, a name that would be famous forever, and that he would bless all the nations of the world in the future. While these promises are great, I'm sure Abraham had to think a little before he decided to leave everything familiar and natural, to go to a place unfamiliar and unnatural. I can relate to this process, having recently been going through it. Yet, he was obedient, and went because of his faith and trust in his God. Hebrews 11: 8 says: "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going." As I was reviewing his story to tell the kids, the Lord impressed on me, that I might be giving this message to the whole church. I was a little confused, because the pastor had not called me to tell me he wouldn't be there. I thought I was imagining things. But the feeling kept coming, so I adapted the story to a more adult theme, and a challenge for adults. When I went to pick up the pastor and his wife, they were not at the usual meeting place. My helper, Grace, went to knock on their door, and low and behold, they were sick, and had forgotten to call me. If the Lord hadn't impressed on my heart that this would happen, I probably would have just gone home and not driven out to Moukoundo. But since He had already told me this would happen, I was ready. This would be the first time I would share a message from the Bible with adults. I had lots of doubts if I could pull this off in French. So Grace and I prayed as I drove out to the village. Thankfully, the Lord had sent her to help me, because I couldn't have done it without her. I told the Lord that my "tongue" was not adequate to do this. He told me- My grace was sufficient for you. I told him I was scared. He said -Do not fear, I am with you.
       So the end of the story is that I got through it, the people actually understood me. Grace helped with any words I wasn't sure of, and she also interpreted in Yinzebi (their native tongue). As I was telling the story of what Abraham had to give up to go, I mentioned the things that God had promised him for obedience. He hadn't seen them yet, but he believed that God would come through on his promises. I decided to share a little of my story. I remember having "discussions" with God before coming because of "giving up" certain things, most importantly family and friends, but also comfort, familiarity, easy communication, just to mention a few. He reassured me that if I was obedient He would supply those needs for me. I can happily say that I see Him supplying them above and beyond what I thought or asked for. I wouldn't have imagined after just 6 months that I could get up in front of a church full of people and share a message in French. I couldn't have imagined all the "children" He would give me to love and help (my 30 Sunday school kids). I couldn't have imagined feeling comfortable in a very different culture, but that is beginning, and growing every day. My heart is full as I see HIS power working in me to serve Him here in Gabon. What a privilege to be part of His story here at Bongolo. To Him be all the glory! Until next time, Sandie

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blooming in Africa

        A few posts ago I wrote about the process of being uprooted and replanted in a new culture. At the time I wrote that post I was definitely a little "droopy" and struggling in the transplanting process. I realized today that I am starting to bloom again. Praise God! I still have a ways to go, but language and cultural adjustments have really improved over the last few months. For the past 8 weeks I have been teaching full-time in our nurse's aide course. This has really pushed my language development and ability to speak. I am learning so much medical terminology and feel more at home with my new "tongue". Still having problems with the "r's", but overall pronunciation is so much better. I started teaching Sunday school 5 weeks ago and am teaching through the old testament. These children have never heard the stories in the old testament, so it's been such a joy to expose them to Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Enoch, and Noah. Next week- the tower of Babel, which should be interesting. Last week after hearing the story of Noah, 8 children raised their hands to receive Christ. The old testament is so rich, and there are so many images of Christ (like the ark), that children can't help but respond to it's teachings. I am also doing story time, craft time in the Pediatrics ward almost every Thursdays, unless I am teaching. I love being involved with these kids and getting to know the families that are there for  a long time. Today I gave a new testament to a mom who has been there with her child for about 3 months. She is exhausted, discouraged, and needed some encouragement. Her eyes filled with tears as she held that small bible in her hands. Also today one of my students shared her testimony with a young man after taking his vital signs. It's amazing to work alongside and teach such dedicated young men and women. Tomorrow is our last day in clinical with them, and they graduate next Wednesday. I have to admit that I will miss them so much, and have gotten to know each one with them.
         So thank you for all your prayers and encouragement through posts and e-mails. God is hearing your prayers and I am so thankful for your support. A few things that I would appreciate continued prayer about:
1) my right knee- last year I had a stress fractured that occurred on the top of my tibia, and I think it has reoccurred. I have had two steroid injections which have only helped for a little while. I am waiting to get an appointment in Libreville for an MRI.
2) the bugs- I ran out of my good bug repellant, and so they are eating me alive! As of today I have 30 bites in different parts of my body, and often wake up at night with different parts itching terribly! Not life threatening, but VERY annoying!
3) For all the missionaries here- they has been a lot of spiritual attack in the form of injuries and physical illness. Satan would love to stop us, but we're not willing to give in to him. I know that Christ will have the victory, but in the meantime, it's stressful and tiring.
4) I still have a long way to go in understanding the Gabonese. It's getting better, but so often I don't understand the things they say to me.

I think that's all for now. Love you all. I think of you and pray for you often!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Remembering Bob

         5 years ago today my life changed in a dramatic way. My husband of 36 years went to be with the Lord after a long battle with cancer. Today, I would like to honor him with some wonderful memories that I have, and also talk about my journey during the last 5 years. First of all, I still think of him and miss him every day. But thankfully the heavy grief has passed, and now I only cry once in a while. The Lord has replaced the sadness with memories and gratefulness for a life with Bob. I'll start with saying that life with Bob was sometimes complicated! He was a complex guy and our journey together had many ups and downs. Thankfully God kept us glued together and we stayed faithful to each other and loved each other to the end. If I had never met and lived with Bob Freeman I would be a very different person today. I tend to be shy, quiet and very serious. Bob was relaxed, fun loving and very outgoing. God used him in my life to teach me to not take everything so seriously and to enjoy life. He had a great love for people and life, and he helped me in breaking out of my shyness. He could meet a person, and within 10 minutes, you felt like his lifelong friend! Oh, how he loved to talk to people. I would usually have to drag him out of church or gatherings, because he was enjoying himself so much with all the lively conversation! He was artistic and creative, two qualities that elude me. I loved watching him draw and create things that would just pop into his mind. I, on the other hand, am lucky to be able to draw stick-figures! He loved our boys so fiercely, and his grandkids too. I think the hardest thing for him at the end was knowing that he would not see the grandkids grow-up, go to college, get married, and all the other life events.
        What do I miss most about our marriage? Someone to talk to at the end of the day, someone to pray with and confide in (knowing he knew me completely and utterly), someone to walk with and hold hands, enjoying and talking about our family, traveling with him (we both loved to travel so much!), hearing him talk and laugh. What I would give to talk to him one more time! Well, someday in heaven, we will have a long talk. Bob Freeman, you were a one-of-a-kind person, and I thankful to have shared so much of my life with you!
       So, the journey during the last 5 years has also had it's ups and downs. Grief is so hard to work through. I know that some of my dear friends are walking that hard road right now, and I am praying for you. God is faithful, lean on Him, and he will see you through. This process has brought me so close to my Lord. I depend on Him more and more each day. He truly is my husband now, and I rely on Him for everything. He has brought me to a great place, serving Him in Africa. I could have never, in a million years imagined this is what I would be doing at the age of 60. But life with God is exciting and fresh, and full of surprises!
      A few updates before I leave you; I have been teaching classes for the past 4 weeks in French to nurse's aides. It has really pushed my language learning, my medical terminology, and my understanding of the spoken French here in Gabon. I still have a long way to go, but am so pleased with the progress God is giving me, and the hope of what is still to come. I have found a home church, in the village of Moukoundo. I will be teaching Sunday school every other week (working with a national here- one of our former RN students), and driving the new pastor and his wife there (they are replacing Terry and Barry, who have gone on home assignment for a year). I have taken on some of the other responsibilities that Terry performed at the hospital, and also go to Pediatrics most Thursdays to share the gospel, teach bible stories, play with, and do crafts with the kids and their parents. So my days are full, and I am feeling such a purpose and fulfillment here!
      So the moral of this story is, there can be goodness and fulfillment even after experiencing a huge loss. Don't give up on life or God. He has turned my morning into dancing (see Psalm 30:11). In honor of Bob, I will leave with one of his favorite sayings, "Catch you later, bye"!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jungle churches

      Last Sunday I accompanied another nurse (Wendy) and a Gabonese couple (Papa Paul & Mama Mado) to visit 6 churches in the jungle southeast of Bongolo hospital. The nurse and the couple minister at one of these churches almost every Sunday, and often stop at the others to encourage the people as they can. Our mission on this particular Sunday was to share about an upcoming course that Wendy and I will be teaching starting the end of March: an 8 week nurse's aide course. Wendy also gave a short message at two of the churches, which Mama Mado interpreted into Yinzebi. This is the local language that is spoken in the home. Everyone learns French, and with the exception of some of the older Papa's and Mama's, can understand it well. But Yinzebi is their heart language, so it's wonderful that they can hear a message from God's word in both languages.
      These are some of my thoughts about our day. First; Gabon is just one big jungle! We drove almost two hours to get to the farthest village, and there is not much between here and there but jungle, a few small villages, a river, and a dirt road. The jungle is all encompassing, everywhere you look, nothing but a million different types of trees and plants, all fighting for space. I was transfixed by the scenery, and was in awe of God's wondrous variety! Second observation; the people are so hungry for God's word! When we arrived in the village, the people were already gathered in the church and the sounds of their voices and drums could be heard from a long way off. They sang with great abandonment and joy, clapping their hands, or holding them high. When we walked in, they clapped with great excitement, because they knew we would be sharing God's precious word. Many of these villages don't have bibles, or if they do, only a few of the people can read them. So to be able to sit and listen to a story or teaching from God's word is very exciting for them. It made me realize how often I take God's word for granted even though I have instant access to it whenever I want! Third observation; the people are very hospitable, even though they have little. After church, we were taken to the home of the "chef" of the church. This is the person who is in charge (not the pastor, because they don't preach). We received a full meal of Maniac root, maniac leaves, bananas, and some other kind of root (can't remember the name). None of the villagers ate, they just sat and watched us eat. It was rather strange, but I'm assuming it was a way to express respect and thanks. So we left, and went to the next church, and did the same thing all over again, including another meal. This one included antelope meat and porcupine, along with the usual fixings of maniac and bananas. Oh my, I was full, but it would be rude not to eat, so we ate. The antelope was really good, but I wasn't too crazy about the porcupine. I guess it's an acquired taste! And so went most of the rest of the day, except thankfully we didn't receive anymore meals, because Papa Paul explained that we still had many villages to visit, and we didn't have time. Thank goodness!
      Overall, this day was amazing, and opened my eyes to the spiritual need in the jungles here in Gabon. There are still "witchdoctors" in every village, and they hold an amazing hold over many of the people. Even the Christians will often go to them for advise. Demon possession is common, and we saw visual evidence of it that day (that's a story for another blog). But the Lord is hitting my heart hard with the truth of the spiritual darkness that is very real here in the jungles. I am praying about where he wants me to serve. The church that Wendy serves in has about 30 kids, but there is no sunday school teacher. So pray with me, as to whether this is where God wants me to serve on sundays. This week, I will visit another jungle church with one of the couples here. I want to visit as many churches as possible, pray, and let God direct my footsteps.
Prayer needs:
1) Language! I am beginning to be able to understand the Gabonese, but still have a long way to go. I am developing lectures in French for the upcoming nurse's aide course. It's very time consuming, and hard.
2) Wisdom for where I should serve on Sundays
3) Continued orientation to the hospital- I am starting to work with the nurses to see what their day consists of. Nurses here actually have a much greater responsibility that they do in the states. They are not many doctors to go around for all the patients. Each nurse can care for up to 30 patients every day. In the clinics, they act as nurse practitioners, and order labs, x-rays and medicines. The doctors often only see the really sick patients at the clinics, and then the patients in the hospital (but not every day). So, I am trying to get my way of thinking to wrap around some of this. Everything is very different.
4) Friendships with both the missionaries and the Gabonese. I am starting to form some friendships here with the missionaries, but not too many with the Gabonese yet (due to communication issues).
Thank you for your continued prayers and thoughts. Good-bye for now from the jungles (English), Au revoir (French), Me- yendi (Yinzebi).