Vivent les Guinea Pigs!

(from the Kibuye Kids)

The kids at Kibuye love their guinea pigs. If you’ve ever had one you will understand just how loveable they are, how fun it is to play with them, and how great it is to look after them. Guinea pigs make great pets because they help little kids learn responsibility, they are cheap to own, and you get to watch part of God’s creation up close. When the guinea pigs you own are about to have babies, guinea pig ownership becomes a science lesson.

Kibuye kids have owned and loved guinea pigs as far back as the summer of 2015. The Miller family came, bringing Twix, Zeus, and Galaxy. It was only the Jason Fader Family, Millers, and Aunt Alyssa (Pfister) in Kibuye that summer, because the others were in America. The guinea pigs thrived. It wasn’t long before one of the pigs gave birth to twins, Panda and Bamboo. Everyone was excited. Later, Twix gave birth to Pistachio and Mustach-io. They were so cute! Galaxy seemed to be the father. As summer neared its end, Zeus got pregnant and gave birth to three babies. The kids named them Mocha, Peanut, and Moosetracks. The next day, there was a dog attack. All of the guinea pigs died. A while later, four new guinea pigs – Milky Way, Natalie, Colonel Popcorn, and Dr. Pepper – came to live in Kibuye. Milky Way and Colonel Popcorn had spiky hair. Colonel Popcorn had a signature pose – he would stand erect, two front legs straight and look kind of off to the side, in a very colonel-like fashion. All of these guinea pigs have somehow met Jesus, in his zoo in heaven where the kids are certain their beloved pets wait for them.

Micah Watts remembers the first time he visited Kibuye. While playing Capture the Flag, he heard the guinea pigs saying, “squeak, squeak.” He enjoyed holding them and playing with them on that visit. Now he lives in Kibuye with his family, and he got his own guinea pig, Imbeba (mouse). Unfortunately, shortly after, she got sick and died. Elise Cropsey and her brothers, Micah and Sammy, purchased a guinea pig, Abraham (named for Abraham Paternoster), at the same time that Micah Watts got his guinea pig. Later, they found that he was a she (Mrs. Abraham). Later, she fell head over heels in love with Charles, Matea and Alma’s guinea pig. After a couple weeks, she got pregnant. The Cropseys didn’t want other people to hold her, so they made a signed notice that said, “Please do NOT hold the pigs.” The notice was signed not only by them but by the guinea pigs too. They put their paws in mud and stamped them on the notice. Later that week, a dog attacked the cage. Mrs. Abraham was never found, but Charles was – an answer to Aunt Becky (Baskin)’s prayers.

Carmel, Benjamin, Clover, Chocolate, Twitter, and Oreo (the bunny) came to live in Kibuye at the same time as Mrs. Abraham, Imbeba, and Charles, bringing delight to Maggie, the Baskin kids, Abi, Anna, and Madeline who was not an owner but an awesome caretaker. When not being held by the children or adults, these guinea pigs enjoyed playing in tubes and Styrofoam boxes. They liked to burrow into the grasses in their cage and play tag with one another. It was so cute to watch! Anna felt like Twitter was the best guinea pig she had ever owned, because, when she held her, she made a twittering sound, and they could have long conversations. When Anna was sad, she could talk to Twitter and be comforted. Unfortunately, the cage that was home to these guinea pigs was insecure and was often knocked open. Despite efforts to secure the cage with bricks, the cage was knocked open, and the guinea pigs escaped. Rumors immediately began to form about how this may have happened. They were never found.

Now, the children enjoy playing with their new guinea pigs – Peanut butter, Christopher, and Frank. Everyone was thrilled to discover Peanut butter’s pregnancy! Aunt Rachel (McLaughlin), the team’s OBGYN, was asked to do an ultrasound on Peanut butter. She said, “yes.” Everyone met on January 13th to proceed up to the hospital to perform the sonogram. When they arrived at the hospital, Aunt Rachel got her machine ready and looked around on Peanut butter’s belly. When the first ultrasound machine didn’t reveal an image, she brought out a stronger one. The audience saw a spine and a head that confirmed her pregnancy. A happy bunch went home from the hospital.

During the first weekend of February while the team was away on a retreat, Peanut Butter had three babies! Feeling more than ecstatic, Anna, Abi, and Madeline became the proud owners of Nutella, Speculoos, and Elsa.

The Kibuye kids’ guinea pigs are loved, cherished, and treasured even after they die. The memories of past and present guinea pigs remain with the kids always. There are always new memories and fun times enjoyed with the guinea pigs, and the kids look forward to owning even more if possible.


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord

(by Michelle, adapted from our blog)

I married into the team in 2015 via Carlan, the ER doctor. My husband and I are currently in France attending language school, along with the Sund family (Greg wrote the previous post). We are now half way though and eagerly look forward to reuniting with the team in Kibuye this September. Yay!  Along with studying French, we’ve had the opportunity to get to know people from the Albertville community along with our local French-speaking church

Our hearts long to be back in Burundi with our team but God has us here in France and it’s exciting to see how He has been using us here even as we equip ourselves for our ministry ahead. 

One unanticipated opportunity came around Christmastime.  During the month of December we had the occasion to participate in a Christmas concert put on by the local church and in partnership with the local town mayor and held in Albertville's concert hall. I was one of the pianists, along with Greg while Carlan worked the lighting. 

This concert was a first for our local French church so we weren't sure how many people would come. After months of planning, rehearsing and practicing the concert day came. The concert hall was nearly full with eager spectators (300-400), many of whom had heard about the concert by the flyers put up around town. Another 400 watched via Facebook livestream. 

In total it was a 2 hour concert of both classical and contemporary Christmas music. The concert had a warm reception and we were called back for two encores!

Greg Sund and I played a beautiful arrangement of Angels From The Realms Of Glory written by Dan Forest for 4 hand piano, cello and vocals. We also played a few solo piano arrangements and accompanied the singers. 

But the unsung heroes of the concert were the behind the scenes people, one of which was Carlan. He was assigned the job of doing all the lighting. This involved him climbing scaffolding and making his own filters for all the lights. Here he is working hard during one of the rehearsals.

In a recent class devotional I was convicted in how I often am so focused on the task ahead that I forget to stop and enjoy and live in the present. At the beginning of language school my mentality was "let's get through this." Yet, as I look back from this halfway point I can see how God is using us and our feeble talents in the here and right now. 

I'll end with this short video clip from backstage at the concert. 



On French Language and Culture

(by Greg)

Our family served in Kibuye for 9 months in 2014-2015.  Since our time in Burundi, we felt God’s call to serve alongside the long-term team working there.  And so, after a year of support raising and preparation, we are currently in Albertville, France, trying to improve our French before returning to Kibuye this summer.

To be honest with you, I actually enjoy studying a new language.  I know, I am a geek.  I know many people who do not enjoy learning a new language, and I hold no ill will toward them.  But I have always been fascinated by what you can discover about a culture through their language.  I enjoy learning new vocabulary, new ways of expressing everyday phrases.  I even enjoy conjugating verbs.  Shameful, I know.

Although our time in France has not always been easy, I have tried to remind myself daily what a gift it is to live in another culture, to explore, to experience life in a new way for 10 months.  I am fascinated by the way different cultures use language and the insight you gain as you study their vocabulary.  For example, as an American I would often use a phrase such as, “I am excited to do this or that”, or “I am looking forward to this or that”.  So, upon our arrival in France, it seemed like a no brainer to me, to translate this word for word from English.  There is a French word for excited almost identical to the English word.  The problem, as I learned about a month after our arrival, is that this expression has a, shall we say, romantic connotation.  I was asked to please stop using this phrase.  Okay, but then how do I express to someone that I am indeed looking forward to something, or that I am excited in the American sense of the word?  I asked my language partner, who is French.  He thought about it for a moment, then said “we don’t really have that emotion”.  I have since asked several other French people, and the best I have been able to come up with is, “j’attends avec impatience”, which translates directly to, “I am waiting with impatience”.  I now use this phrase often, reciting it with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.

There have been other phrases that I find sometimes puzzling, sometimes amusing.  For example, the French do not say a man “grows a beard”, rather they say he “pushes out a beard” (pousser une barbe).  Maybe I have just not been pushing hard enough?  Also, a woman does not “become pregnant”, she “falls down pregnant” (tomber enceinte).  And finally, the phrase “mind your own business” is translated more appropriately as “occupy yourself with your own onions”.  These make me giggle every time I hear them.

The French have many beautiful customs, one of which is “la bise”.  Recently, I wrote a blog post (on our family blog) about how awkward I have been with regards to this French custom of kissing on each cheek when greeting someone (http://beyondourbackdoor.blogspot.fr).   Since writing the blog I have received more helpful advice about how and when to “faire le bise”. One piece of advice involved taking off my glasses before kissing someone, so as to avoid eye injury.  So, this week, in preparation for a “bisous”, I took off my glasses.  I then dropped them on the ground mid-bise, kicked them across the room, shuffled to retrieve them like a blind mole-rat, then apologized for how awkward I am.  It seems I still have a ways to go.

Another troublesome point for me (and other Americans) is the ubiquitous use of “tu” versus “vous”, which mean “you”, tu being informal, and vous being formal.  The point at which two people switch from the formal vous to the informal tu remains to me infinitely mysterious.  There are rules, but at some point in a relationship, which is not clear to me, you switch.  A fellow student found the table below to help us hopeless Americans parse through this issue.  It reminded me of the algorithm for cardiac clearance before elective surgery.  God help me, I love a good algorithm. Now I just need to memorize it, apply it, stop dropping my glasses when I try to kiss someone, and stop giggling when I hear someone say that they have “fallen down pregnant”, and I will be good to go.  I am eager to get back to Burundi and start using the knowledge we have gained here in France.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that I wait with impatience!!!


Transitions: An Ever-Renewing Perspective

(from Becky)

It happened without my consent or attention. I noticed it just a few nights ago. I was putting my little girls to bed, sitting on the edge of the bed scratching their backs, when it hit me, “Wow, I don’t hate this mosquito net anymore!”  I had the same realization the other day when I threw away some old food and didn’t have the gut wrenching guilt that I had experienced in our first few months here.  

We have lived in Burundi now for 4 months.  The transition has been more difficult for us than we anticipated and in ways that were unexpected….i.e. the trash and mosquito nets.  Yet, life has ever…..so…..slowly found it’s new rhythm and patterns.  Trash is no longer an issue of angst.  I was so worried about offending our Burundian househelper every time my kids didn’t eat all of the food on their plate, or when I would throw away a huge casserole that tasted bad from the very beginning. And the mosquito nets…ugh, they sound so fun right? Like a little tent for your kids, a safe little place for them to sleep. But oh no, they have a mind of their own. They grab your shoe, stick to the pillow, hang too low in some places…..it has been a pain. Yet, now, I can see their appeal and the safety that they offer. I actually wonder now if sleeping without them on furloughs will be an issue.  

Transition is a funny thing.  I remember our first week here, life was so different for all of us that I didn’t have the time or ability to teach my kids how to brush their teeth without using tap water, so they didn’t. They didn’t even take a bath the first week. Every single one of your senses is overwhelmed each day and the only thing you can do is take one new reality at a time and deal with it. I pictured it like this. Our world was turned upside down with every single ball floating in space, and each day you grab one of those balls and tackle it.  Day one, the food and water ball, What do we eat here, how do we want our water filter set up? How do we make COFFEE? Day two, trash/compost ball, what can we throw away in front of a Burundian, what needs to be done under cover of darkness? 

To me, it’s a very difficult thing to go through a major life transition like this with 7 kids following behind you.  To tell yourself to only use filtered water is one thing, but to get all of your children to understand this, and do it, is an entirely different challenge.  

I know that our transitions are not done here, and maybe they never will be. Africa has a way of keeping you on your toes. But God has been gracious in this season. He meets us in our weak moments, in the times when buying a plane ticket to America sounds like the best idea EVER. Yet we keep staying, keep going to bed, waking up and taking on another day.  And slowly a love for this life is growing. It’s just a seedling now, I’m not even sure if the sprout has come up above the ground,  but it’s there. 

By God’s grace it’s growing and will one day be a plant…and then maybe even a tree.  A tree of love for Burundi, for Africa, for serving the poorest of the poor in Jesus’ name.  

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 


A Week in the Life...

(from Nicole)

I would like to try to describe a ‘normal’ week of life in Kibuye but, there really isn’t such a thing. This week felt particularly abnormal. 
Over the weekend a group of us took the three-hour trek to Bujumbura to attend the wedding of one of Kibuye Hope Hospital’s Burundian doctors. I have had the privilege of attending many Burundian weddings in my year and a half here – I believe this was number seven but, it was my first in the city. It may have been quite a bit hotter than a village wedding, but it was quite a bit more extravagant to make up for it. Replacing the strands of paper often hung from the church ceilings for decoration, the walls were covered in billowing red and white fabric. The bridesmaids all wore modern matching red dresses, and the groom wore a white tuxedo. At the reception, the wall behind the couple was covered in fabric and twinkle lights, and there were white slips covering all the chairs. 

Some of my favorite bits of the wedding were when a group of girls followed the couples every move throughout the ceremony tossing copious amounts of confetti over them, the bride and groom each surprised each other with an original song which they performed at different points in the day, and as the car took the couple between locations a group of men from the wedding party walked next to and in front of the car resembling the secret service. We bowed out after formally presenting our gift so we could make it back to our friends’ house before dark. Nights in Bujumbura are usually filled with downloading, updating, and skyping. 

Back in Kibuye, on Monday afternoon we welcomed the first of the 27 (!!) total visitors that will be passing through Kibuye this week (as I said, this is not a normal week). One of these visitors happened to be the American Ambassador. As her caravan of three SUVs pulled up we all stood at attention at the front gate a bit nervously, prepared for a very formal welcome, only to be greeted by a few dozen hugs and smiles! She came on Thursday and stayed the night, giving us all a chance to share lunch at the hospital canteen, an informal ‘meet and greet’ / shamelessly ask for selfies, and of course a dessert social. I believe it was the first US Ambassador to visit Kibuye since 1989. Needless to say we were honored, and thankful for the work she is doing.


Botfly Bonanza

by Jess Cropsey

WARNING — The following blog is a little gross.  Read at your own risk.

Our son (8) woke up a few mornings ago with about 15 mysterious bites on different parts of his body.  We thought a mosquito or flea went to town on him at night.  Bug bites of unknown origin are not an uncommon occurrence, so we didn’t think much of it.  After a couple days we noticed that one of the “bites” had come to a white head with a black dot in the center and red lines streaking away from the center.  Well, perhaps this is a jigger (although a very odd place for one) or an infected bug bite.  We tried to give it a squeeze, but it was pretty painful and didn’t prove effective.  We also noticed that some of Micah’s other bites looked infected as well, so we started him on some antibiotics.  Nearly two days later, things weren’t really improving and he complained about them throughout the day.  As recommended by our beloved & talented pediatrician Dr. Alyssa, we soaked him in a nice warm bath.  It soon became clear that something alive was inside those “bites”.  After letting him soak for about 15 minutes, we began the squeezing process.  We lost count after a little while, but we think we removed around 17!  One from his head, his ear, several from his face/neck, armpit, back, leg, etc.  Poor  kid was feeling pretty woozy by the end.  It was traumatic for some and thrilling for others.  

Of course, we decided to look up some information online after we treated him and discovered that you’re not actually supposed to squeeze them out.  (Note to self for a next time we hope never happens.)  Apparently, petroleum jelly will suffocate them and you can then extract them with tweezers.  Fortunately, I think the attempted drowning technique worked pretty well and they came out intact.  

This might go down in the Kibuye infestation record books.  While I am competitive, that’s one record I hope no one else in our family (or on our team, for that matter) ever beats.    


Kibuye in the News

Not to flood your feeds and inboxes with more of the same, but we wanted to share a few more articles and a video with our readers.  Christianity Today just did a piece on Jason winning the Gerson L'Chaim prize.  You can read it here:


Also, when the team from African Mission Healthcare Foundation came to announce the prize last month, they brought a reporter from the Christian Broadcasting Network with them.  He put together a video piece that will be airing on their networks tonight (January 12).  If you don't have access to a CBN network, or if you miss the airing, you can watch the video and read his story here:


We continue to be proud of Jason and beyond grateful for the support our work has been receiving.  And as a team, we continue to pray God will use us here in Burundi, for many years to come.

Update: A Third article from WORLD magazine:  A really great look at the Gerson family:



African Road Trip

(It is my pleasure to introduce a new blogger.  Audrey Ward is our intern for ten months who has been here since August.  She is somewhere in limbo between graduate studies in comparative literature and medicine, and where better to pass such a limbo than in Burundi.  We're thankful for being willing to share her perspective.)

It sounds like an absurd story problem in math class: 14 sunburnt yet happy buzungu and 28 cans of Pringles are in a 15-passenger van whose fuel tank is only 1/8 full of diesel. They want to travel from Kigoma,Tanzania to Kibuye, Burundi after a camping trip with monkeys. 

If the visas are all in order, but it’s also New Year’s Eve, and 2 out of 3 filling stations will NOT have diesel fuel, then how many hours will it take for the buzungu to reach Kibuye? And how many cans of Pringles will be left over? (When calculating your answer, make sure to consider that Son Excellence the President of Burundi himself is alsocurrently on a road trip.)

I was blissfully unaware of the answer to this story problem as I popped a Dramamine for carsickness and crammed into the last row of the van. We stopped in the town of Kigoma to shop at the excitingly clean minimart with glorious products like cocoa mix and chips,stuffed ourselves back into the van with grocery bags on our laps, and headed towards the border.

We made it to the border pretty quickly, only a few hours, including the short stop by a Tanzanian policeman in an immaculately white suit who waved us on after a cheerful conversation.

To cross the Tanzanian/Burundian border by car, there is no one-stop international tollbooth gate or something, as I had imagined. Instead, the trip requires two separate stops, one on each side, to get visas checked twice and stamped for exiting and for (re-) entering. On theTanzanian side, we stopped at the office next to a Burundian refugee camp. The officials were fairly efficient, and we stepped across the road to buy a stalk of bananas and to exchange some money.

A little while later, we stopped at the Burundian border office. One guy passing by on foot peered in the windows of the van curiously while several of us cued up at the desk of the border official. A Tanzanian nun traveling on foot glanced at the long line and the stacks of passports obviously all in one group, and asked meekly if she could be allowed to go to the head of the line. We of course ushered her to the front. (It’s pretty bad form to be a missionary and snub a nun.)

After what felt like ages, there were just two people left in line: George Watts, with his family’s stack of passports, and me. The border office uses large hardbound books full of blank graphing paper to record information by hand. Just as the border official had finishedpainstakingly copying all of the information (country, name, passport number, occupation, visa number) from the second passport in his stack, she came to the end of the current page in her notebook.

Slowly, she turned the page.

She looked at the blank paper.

She took out a ruler from her desk.

She placed the ruler on the page and drew her pen down to create a column.

She removed the ruler and touched-up the line she drew with a few gentle strokes.

She continued this process until both of the open-faced pages had the correct number of columns.

She double-checked her work with the previous page.

For the sake of future efficiency (I suppose), she turned another page and drew all of those columns as well.

Finally, she reached out for the third passport as George and I breathed a sigh of relief. I have never felt more Western in my sense of time passing. Thankfully, she seemed to speed up a little bit as she took down the information for each passport, although she did look at my visa for several moments and then asked me if it was a visa, which was briefly concerning.

“What happened in there? Are you guys even legal or what??” John called when George and I finally made it back to the car with our passports.

We lurched back onto the road, and for the next hour everything went smoothly, despite another stop by a policeman who just wanted to chat (and hold Jess’s hand through the window for an awkward amount of time).

Then, we started looking for diesel, but the first few attempts yielded nothing but stares from pedestrians who stopped to watch us through the windows. We were only slightly concerned about the time we had left on the engine when the biggest delay in the road tripoccurred. Son Excellence.

In the middle of nowhere, with fields on either side, is an intersection with two main highways (they must have been main highways, because they were paved). All we had to do was turn left at the intersection and we would be only an hour and a half or so fromKibuye. But just as we approached the intersection, we noticed a police officer stopping all oncoming traffic from either direction.

“This can’t be a good sign,” someone muttered, and suspicions were confirmed when some official police and then military vehicles started to pass through the intersection on the road up ahead. We realized that it must be the entourage for some sort of important official.  After the kids got bored of counting the cars that passed after about 36 SUVs and military trucks with soldiers hanging out on the back, we realized that it must be the entourage for the MOST important official. The President had apparently been on a tour or doing a fieldcampaign in a province and was heading back to the capital. We spotted a black SUV with Burundian flags and thought it must be him, but ten minutes later after another barrage of military vehicles another identical SUV passed. When this had happened about five times, we had to hand it to the Burundian security force for not taking any chances. There were more than enough decoys.

Meanwhile, we had to turn off the AC in order to conserve fuel. It was a sunny day and we hadn’t climbed the mountains yet, so it was humid and HOT in that car. To make it worse, we couldn’t roll down all of the windows: word apparently spread to the neighborhood kids that a white van with a bunch of buzungu was stopped at the presidential parade. About a dozen kids and teenagers forgot all about the parade as they surrounded the windows, cupping their hands against the glass to peer in and occasionally tapping it or yelling at us to see if we would react. Sometimes we talked to them, to break up the boredom, but soon we felt too lethargic to say anything. Sweat trickled down our backs. Every time there was a pause in the passing military cars, our hopes would rise that the parade was over—only to be dashed again as yet another truck or SUV appeared.

I’m not entirely sure how long we stayed there, but it felt like at least 45 minutes. Finally, the policeman waved us on, and we escaped the crowd and rolled down the windows for the most refreshing breeze I’ve ever felt.

But we still had to find fuel. When we finally discovered a gas station with diesel, it was in a very crowded corner of the town and once more our van was surrounded with onlookers and even grown men who cupped their hands against the windows to stare at us. But the waitingpaid off, and finally we had a full fuel tank and set off on the final leg of the journey.

We arrived in Kibuye about 3 PM. In reality, the trip was only about an hour longer than we originally estimated—so as far as African travel goes, this was pretty successful.

In the end, the answers to the story problem are: five hours. And no Pringles remaining.


Gerson L'Chaim Prize Winner

It is with a great deal of excitement that we are proud to announce that Jason was selected yesterday as the winner of the first ever Gerson L'Chaim prize.  The grant gives $500,000 to help us complete the new hospital ward, buy needed orthopedic equipment (Jason does unique developing world surgeries for multiple types of fractures, allowing people to walk immediately instead of spending weeks in traction), and expand the lab facilities at the medical school.  Below is the announcement video and the official press release.  We are grateful for this gift and hope to steward it well.



Dr. Jason Fader of Burundi: Only Full-Time Surgeon Outside Capital City, in Nation of 10 Million People


Dr. Jason Fader--a son of medical missionaries, and on a team of American physicians in Burundi, the world's hungriest nation--will bolster his work with $500,000 from the first-ever Gerson L'Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service.

"Because of this prize, hundreds of people will walk, thousands will receive care, and tens of thousands will be helped by the doctors we will train," Dr. Fader said.

The L'Chaim Prize, the largest ever in clinical care, is from the African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF)-founded by New York entrepreneur Mark Gerson and his friend, Dr. Jon Fielder, a medical missionary serving in Kenya.

"Missionary doctors are the untold humanitarian story of our era," said Gerson, who underwrites the prize with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson. "Forsaking every comfort and convenience, they bring skilled, compassionate care to the continent's poor. Across Africa, Dr. Fader and his team are a link in a string of unsung heroes."

With the L'Chaim prize, Fader and his colleagues--serving with the agency SERGE--will:
add critically needed hospital beds at rural Kibuye Hope Hospital
create Burundi's first postgraduate medical training
expand lower-limb fracture care in a nation that travels by foot

"It's hard to overstate the effect," Fader said. "In one of the world's poorest countries, a prize of this magnitude, in one hospital, is far reaching."

In Burundi--called the world's hungriest nation by the World Bank--only 13 surgeons serve 10 million people. Fader and his on-the-ground team, however, have trained doctors, increased surgical procedures, and upgraded and expanded medical facilities. Every team member raises his or her financial support and has learned both French and Kirundi. Since 2013, the team has served at the Kibuye Hope Hospital, the teaching hospital for Hope Africa University Medical School.

"To move forward, to provide higher volume and better quality care, and to train more national healthcare workers, we have to expand the hospital," said Fader, who intends to serve in Burundi "for many years to come."

Across Africa, medical help is the most endangered species. Since missions and agencies peaked in the last century, the docs still on the job, and their African colleagues, operate on shrinking support despite a rising tide of complex medical challenges-from AIDS to surgical problems to cancer. Fielder and Gerson, with friends and supporters, formed AMHF to bolster Africa's medical heroes and their institutions.


Kid's Prayers and Their Fruit

(from Eric)

Several years ago, in attempt to engage our kids more in bedtime prayers, we came up with a simple system for prayer requests.  We ask them three things:  What are they thankful for?  Who is a friend they want to pray for?  And who is a sick person they want to pray for?  It worked well, I guess.  Maybe a little too well, as I don’t seem to know how to get them to pray for anything else as they get older.  Oh well.  There are worse things.

A couple years ago, I wrote about the time that Maggie, then age 4, wanting to pray for a young boy named Emmanuel at the hospital that she had overheard me talking to Rachel about.  I was reluctant, knowing that the boy’s prognosis was very poor, and fearing having to discuss his death with Maggie.  However, he got better despite my pessimism, and I saw the grace of God through my daughter’s faith.

About a month ago, Maggie and Ben were stuck on their third prayer request.  They couldn’t come up with a sick person to pray for.  So I asked them to pray for a young man named Claude  on my service.  He was 34 years old, and came in with raging meningitis in a deep coma.  We started him on antibiotics, but after about three days, he wasn’t waking up, and almost just as bad, he had stopped making urine.  I was worried about him, and so he came to mind.

We prayed several nights in a row for Claude, and it prompted some interested conversations about “why people are in comas”, etc.  He didn’t immediately get better, but after a couple more days, he woke up.  A few more days and his urine returned, and his kidney function started improving.  He went home in good shape.  It wasn’t impossible, but it was definitely against my expectations.  I remembered Emmanuel from a couple years ago.  I decided to do this more regularly.

After Claude, I moved on to the next case.  Gloriose was 45.  We weren’t sure if she had bad meningitis or bad malaria, but she was alternating between comatose and agitated enough to rip out her IV.  It had been several days on maximal therapy without a lot of benefit.  I told my students I was going to ask my kids to pray for her.  The kids were fine with that.  Her sixth day in the hospital, I walked in to find her sitting on the edge of her bed.  She shook my hand, meeting me for the first time.  I also saw her six-month old baby in the bed next to her.  I sent her home today, so thankful that her baby has a mother.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” - James 5:16

I memorized this verse when I was a teenager.  I don’t know what I thought it meant then.  Maybe I thought it meant that people who followed God’s commands really well could pray and their prayers would change things more than someone who prayed who didn’t follow God’s commands as well.

And maybe that’s basically right.  But it gets more complicated the more deeply I believe that the only righteousness that I have is that which was given freely to me by God because of his unmerited love.  By his gift, I am righteous, so I guess my prayers are powerful.

And it gets a bit more complicated when I think about my kids.  I don’t believe that they are heard because of their obedience to God’s laws.  I do believe their prayers are powerful, and only partly because of what I’ve seen.  Beyond that, it just comes easy to trust that their prayers are heard.  

Maybe I believe that because they are my kids and I love them, and I can’t imagine not wanting to listen to them praying for someone who is suffering.  Maybe God feels the same about me.  Maybe that’s the love that made him sacrifice so much to make me righteous.  Maybe it’s the same love that gives my prayers whatever power they may have.