Liberia 2017

Kwendin #1 | February 15, 2017

So our 2017 journey begins. For me, it starts with a ferry ride over to Tsawaassen, so here I am writing a few things and getting organized. We have a team of five this year and we should all gather this afternoon at Bob's home.

Our team leader is Bob Swann, who is the Minister for Mission at First Baptist Church in downtown Vancouver. Bob and I were roommates at UBC in the 70's, so that is now over 40 years ago. Bob and his wife Anne were missionaries with the Baptist church in Liberia in 1980, and when the president was assassinated they had to flee for their lives. That is a long story but it is the reason we are going back to Liberia, and in particular back to Kwendin, every year now for a month. Bob and I also were in Kenya for quite a few years so we have lots in common. This is our sixth trip I think.

Spencer Willis RN lives and works in Vancouver, and is part of the same church as Bob. Spencer has been with us 3 times before and always gets a visit from a little boy that was born during our first visit in 2011. The boy is named Spencer!

Kate Hensman RN came with us last year. Her parents live in Ladysmith and are good friends of ours. Kate lives and works in Victoria. She has trained as a Disaster Advanced Response Team member with Samaritan's Purse, so she was in Ecuador after the earthquake in April, and has just come back from spending the month of January in the SP field hospital in Mosul, Iraq.

Kristie Hornett RN is new to the team. She lives and works in Ladysmith and attends the same church that I do. She has never been on a mission trip and her excitement is infectious. She talked to a sales rep from the Abbott company who is lending us a small lab machine and donating the needed cartridges, so we should have access to a few lab tests this time.

So I think this is going to be a great month. There will be lots of work, lots of heat, very little snow (!) and a chance to work together as a close knit team.

The plan today is for Kate to ride the ferry from Victoria, meeting me in Tsawassen, where Bob will collect us to go to his place. Spencer will meet us there and Kristie is already in Vancouver so she will meet us there too. We should have the afternoon together to sort luggage and get to know each other.

So that's the team. Once we get to Kwendin I'll try and remember to summarize who is who so you can all keep track of what I am talking about. Lots of the Liberians that we work with will be the same as before, but every year there are some changes--people move on to other things in life.

Mostly in the village things change very slowly.

Kwendin is a fair sized village with a few shops, a government school and the little medical clinic where we work. There is no electricity, no running water, no paved roads. I don't think there is a single computer in the village. But many cell phones! About 2 km out of town is the campus of the Kwendin Vocational Training College KVTC where our staff house is. That was a thriving and well organized campus in 1980 but 30 years of war have left it completely run down. The electrical grid is gone, the pipes for running water are all corroded and blocked, and the buildings all need renovation. There is currently a low functioning primary school and we have left little solar panels on several of the buildings over the years, so people can charge their cell phones all year long. We stay in one of the staff houses, which we have been slowly repairing over the 6 years. In particular it has rain tanks with pipes that feed our kitchen and bathrooms, so if there is rain we actually do have running water. If there is rain.

The nearest hospital is Tappita, abut 30 minutes drive away. We are planning to organize some surgical days to operate on patients who need hernia repairs. Just how many days and which days is yet to be determined--always a sensitive process of negotiation with the staff.

Dr. John Potts