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Four Missionaries from Christ Church

This is Dr Martin, Nurse Anne, Dr Andy and volunteer Jane celebrating the end of two weeks of Medical clinics in five Northern Ghanaian villages. We have on our African clothes made for us by local seamstresses in Carpenter. 

Thank you to our amazing Church family for your prayers and support.

Four missionaries from Christ Church.  L-R: Dr. Martin, volunteer Jane, Nurse Anne and Dr. Andy

Four missionaries from Christ Church. L-R: Dr. Martin, volunteer Jane, Nurse Anne and Dr. Andy

Moving Mountains

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Our day began with morning devotions under the gazebo with all of the NEA staff. The pastoral staff sang two beautiful songs for us, testimonies were given and Dr. David Mensah gave another inspiring address. He wanted us to know that our mission of medical, surgical, dental and eye care to Northern Ghana has had unspeakable proportions. He described an enormous ripple effect as we have been steadfast about saving lives over this past decade, and concluded with a text from Galatians 6:9 that encourages us all to not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest.

It was hard to get everyone to breakfast as Peter the artisan returned with another gazebo full of goods. Our suitcases are full and Peter is one happy man.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning, taking inventory and packing away our equipment for 2019 under the skillful direction of Joan, after which leftover medicine and supplies were organized for distribution to the local health care facilities.

Tonight we had a feast under the stars with all of the NEA staff, translators and volunteers along with their families. There were well over 200 of us. The children were over the moon with excitement. Our expat team were sporting new outfits, thanks to Esther and her seamstress team that made 34 outfits in total. A cow was killed and the kitchen prepared a wonderful roast beef dinner.

Dancing under the stars.

Dancing under the stars.

The kitchen team making their way to the dance off!

The kitchen team making their way to the dance off!

We were all surprised when David announced that the Chief of Yaara travelled to Carpenter in order to see our team off. Chief Joseph gave a beautiful speech asking God to give us the proper thanks due for our sacrifice. He asked that the Lord send us home safely. 

The NEA team presented each of us with a fresh jar of NEA’s organic peanut butter. David asked us to tell our families that they are loved by NEA every time they eat it. The music and dancing began after which David called each team, along with our translators, to the stage for a dance-off. It was quite a sight. The prize was given to Nana Tibalakala (Dr. Mensah) and his brother Nana Yaara Kooko (Yaara Chief Joseph). Their dance was so fantastic. The children’s’ performance was definitely runner-up. It was a perfect end to our mission.

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph

Presentation of fresh peanut butter.

Presentation of fresh peanut butter.

There is an African proverb that states,

If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today.

This team of Ghanaians, Canadians and Europeans lifted a lot of stones over this fortnight, and the mountain of poverty and ill health was moved just a little bit more. It has been an honour and a privilege for us to serve NEA, and we return home having gained much more than we have given. We return home better than when we came as the lives of our brothers and sisters in Ghana have been imprinted in our minds and on our hearts forever.

All eyes are on the Leyaata Hospital that will be built on these very grounds over the next two years. Our collective vision of sustainable health care is almost here. This is the biggest mountain that NEA has ever considered moving but we are committed to cheering them on towards their vision and assisting them in any way we can. Please help us.

On behalf of our team and all of the patients we were privileged to serve, I want to sign off by thanking God for all he has done.

I want to thank NEA for inviting us into this partnership.

I want to thank our leadership for their wholehearted commitment to every detail of this mission.

I want to thank each and every member of this outstanding 2018 Ghana health team for the unique role they played in making this mission an overwhelming success.

And finally, I want to thank all of our family, friends, donors and supporters who have made it possible for us to come alongside side the people of Ghana for such a time as this.

Let us never grow weary of doing good. Let us never grow weary of doing good. Amen.

GHT 2018

GHT 2018

We are Brothers and Sisters Now

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

I know there are many wonderful definitions of teamwork, but what we witnessed on the NEA compound today redefines the word for many of us.

We knew it was going to be a big day and we were ready.


The waiting room

The waiting room

After breakfast, we gathered for a team photo under the surgical tree, and with fist pumps and well-wishes we were seeing patients and operating by 7:30 am. Each person on our team and on the NEA team did everything imaginable to support one another in caring for as many patients as possible. The kitchen staff even kept a 60-cup coffee percolator going all day in case anyone needed a pick- me-up. (I noticed Dr. Carlye and Dr. Charlie had four mugs on their desks by the end of the day.)

Those of us who have been to Ghana before noticed a marked improvement in the health of the population that today’s clinic served. Health is improving in this area around Carpenter thanks to NEA’s sustainable development, and it was noticeable to us. What stood out to me more than anything was that almost all the women were carrying purses today. It sounds like a strange thing to notice but in the past, I have rarely seen women carrying purses, as usually they use their skirt or a little black plastic bag to carry their belongings. Today, I saw purses. We did still see many diseases of poverty, such as elephantiasis, dysentery from drinking dirty river water, HIV, skin ulcers, and one case of severe malnutrition but overall, the health of this area is improving significantly.

Diagnostic station

Diagnostic station

Preparing laser patients

Preparing laser patients

Nursing treatment

Nursing treatment

Glaucoma patient receiving treatment

Glaucoma patient receiving treatment

Every team saw a record number of patients today, and by the time we gathered in the dining hall for dinner at 7:00 pm Kim informed us that over 1000 patients received care today. Our surgical team smashed their target of 300 procedures. Despite all teams reaching unexpectedly high levels of productivity on this mission, our medications, anaesthetics, supplies and eyeglasses did not run out. I am reminded of the story in the Bible about the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes and in fact, some of us were specifically praying for this miracle to occur.

There are many wonderful stories to tell of the individuals that we had the honour of serving today but there are two stand-out moments for me.

Emmanuel is the 13-year old boy who is in charge of the Monopoly Board that I mentioned earlier in the week. Today he found his way through the crowds to my chair and informed me that he was having trouble seeing the blackboard at school. Off to the eye clinic with a VIP wrist band he went, returning an hour later with a trendy pair of donated eyeglasses. These glasses will impact his ability to receive his education. (And to excel at Monopoly.)

Eye clinic waiting room

Eye clinic waiting room


Emmanuel with new glasses

Emmanuel with new glasses

The second memorable moment for me was when a young woman we had looked after on our first mission in 2007 came with a special thank you. It is a long story of how she was helped, but now, eleven years later, she returned as a successful businesswoman and wanted to thank our teams past and present.

At dinner tonight, Abraham expressed his opinion that the success of this mission is due to the fact that we are all brothers and sisters now. It is so true that the unity and friendship between our Ghanaian team and expat team has elevated our teamwork to a very high level and this unity allowed us to accomplish what seemed impossible. With God’s help, along with the support of so many friends and family and colleagues in our home countries, we have accomplished the objectives that NEA has given us and in doing so, we have gained much more than we have given.

Tomorrow we will gather at 7:30 am with all of the NEA staff for a final devotional time in the great gazebo. After breakfast there will be few small surgical and laser procedures whilst the rest of us clean, inventory and pack away all the clinic supplies for 2019. Leftover medication will be divided up and distributed to the local health clinics. Gifts will be given and gifts will be received. And then we will party. An end of mission celebration is planned for tomorrow evening and I’m told that food preparation for this celebration has already begun.

It has been a great day and we are truly, truly thankful for every moment of it.

Finished!

Finished!

A Great Day in Carpenter

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Today was one of those days that is hard to put into words so I will let the pictures tell the story of the health care that was delivered on the NEA compound. The only station I “forgot” to visit was the eye clinic and that might have something to do with the fact that temperatures rose to 45 degrees in there today.

I’m told that the little girl we prayed for with cerebral malaria last week was seen running around the grounds today. As she played, two other kids were on their way to the hospital as their care exceeded what we could provide. One had complications from a snake bite and the other was in a sickle cell crisis. Our colleagues at that hospital were alerted and prepared for their arrival.

Despite a record number of cases that included 11 children and an add-on emergency, the surgical and anaesthetic team beat the medical team to dinner for the first time in history. They are amazing!

It was a very long and challenging day for every single team member, but together we accomplished our objectives and are in great spirits. There was much joy and much laughter when we finally gathered for dinner well after 7:00 pm.

We can hardly believe that tomorrow is our last clinic day and look forward to doing everything we can to ensure that together, we finish strong, finish well, and give our best the to people of Ghana.


Carpenter Crowd

Carpenter Crowd

Triage under the kapok tree.

Triage under the kapok tree.

Nursing station under the gazebo.

Nursing station under the gazebo.

Weights and temperature station.

Weights and temperature station.

Dentistry under a mango tree.

Dentistry under a mango tree.

Pharmacy counselling.

Pharmacy counselling.

Physicians set up in NEA conference room.

Physicians set up in NEA conference room.

Pharmacy

Pharmacy

Recovery Room

Recovery Room

Surgery

Surgery

Happy post operative patients!

Happy post operative patients!

Paw Patrol stickers make everything okay. (Thanks Jill B.)

Paw Patrol stickers make everything okay. (Thanks Jill B.)

Super Doctors!

Super Doctors!

Smashed It!

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Our day in the village started with wonderfully comfortable temperatures of 27-28 degrees and we arrived to a large but orderly crowd. The logistics team were in control and even reorganized the location of the waiting room to reduce noise outside the physician consulting area.

Our nursing team had an extremely busy day in all the stations from triage to weights and temps to diagnostics to nursing station. Jennifer M. gave the nursing report at dinner describing how Leslie just kept pulling sick babies out of the crowd, straight to Joan’s IV station and into a corner which functioned as a little paediatric ICU. Anne was extremely busy with the many kids who needed ORS (oral rehydration solution). We are thankful to report that all of these precious little ones made excellent recoveries.

Leslie pulling the sickest babies from the crowd.

Leslie pulling the sickest babies from the crowd.

Our physicians provided care to about 900 patients over these past two days in Asantekwaa and several hundred more were treated in the pain clinic. Even though we were all set up in one big room, we didn’t see much of one another as every one of us were glued to our seats and focused on our task. Facing a crowd like this can be overwhelming and paralyzing, but the approach of the entire team is to give the best care we can to the person in front of us irrespective of how many people are waiting to be seen.

Asantekwaa Crowd

Asantekwaa Crowd

Dr. Dan was the mobile surgeon today. By 11:00, his hernia line-up was finished. He thought he would take some well-deserved leisure time to enjoy some jazz music but as the earbuds went in, Dr. Carlye had other ideas. Before Dan knew it, she had him set up at the other end of her consulting table and he dove in to help us with the medical patients. After a quick refresher on how to use a stethoscope and how to turn on an otoscope, Dan re-entered the world of being a medical doctor. At supper, he gave a brief report on his experience that began with, “I smashed it!”  Smashed it he did as he made some exciting diagnoses for a surgeon to make such as scabies and tinea capitus. Dr. Carlye gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up at the other end of the table for these excellent bread and butter diagnoses.

Dr. Dan reorienting himself to a stethoscope.

Dr. Dan reorienting himself to a stethoscope.

Speaking of smashed it, we do enjoy learning and trying out British phrases and vocabulary that we do not use in Canada. Dr. Magdi asked Jessica if she would like to join him in theatre and she was surprised Carpenter had a movie theatre. Despite all efforts we cannot pronounce “whilst.” Katie is one of my favourite team members because she always greets me with, “Hello, my lovely.” After a few days, I realized that she uses that phrase when talking to everyone else on the team, but nonetheless it always makes me feel so special. I’m hoping my husband might consider adopting this greeting moving forward.

Our dental station saw 46 patients today, 45 of whom were people. One of them was a scorpion. Together with the pharmacists, who were in the adjacent classroom, the beast met his demise with Sherry’s box cutter. Linda quickly made a coffin out of a pack of Zinc tablets which we use to treat kids with diarrhea. He is now in our residence freezer becoming “more dead” prior to Francois claiming him.

Mr. Scorpion visits the dentist.

Mr. Scorpion visits the dentist.

Our eye team saw over 200 patients in the two days in this village. They have their system down pat and miraculously are not running out of medication or eyeglasses. Martin and Marion were busy with 24 laser procedures today (according to Dr. Martin’s limerick report). These patients all leave with a laminated card explaining the details of their procedure in case they need follow up after we leave. Many of last year’s patients are constantly flowing through the eye clinic for reassessments and Dr. Mai, Dr. Josh and Dr. Pete are reporting great results of one year post laser surgery on these patients.

Our surgical program recorded 35 cases, 6 spinals and another fire. Ashley is down to one sterilizer but it has not dampened his energy or sense of humour. Special mention goes out today to our recovery team of Sue and Becky. They are responsible for the care of patients after their surgery. Becky is on the evening shift, administering medications and checking all the patients who stay over after their surgery. Sue, who I heard referred to as Mary Poppins of the program, takes the early shift and makes rounds on all the patients prior to breakfast to prepare them for discharge. These two kindhearted nurses have such long hours.

Believe it or not, our entire team (except Becky who was getting the post-op patients settled) were at the dinner table by 6:30 pm. Dr. Mensah gave an inspiring address to our group that I hope to say more about in the future. Apparently, Leslie was inquiring about NEA’s cashew and cocoa program and so David thought he would do a little show-and-tell session. He brought fruit from a cocoa tree and a cashew tree and explained them to us. NEA currently has 70 acres of cashews.

Show and tell with Dr. Mensah.

Show and tell with Dr. Mensah.

The quote that landed on the workstations of the 60 of us and all our volunteers at 3:00 pm really does reflect this day:

Each new day is a new beginning: To learn more about ourselves. To care more about others. To laugh more than we did. To accomplish more than we thought we could. And to be more than we were before. (Author Unknown)

I Actually Feel at Home

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Alexandria is one of our Ghanaian nurses who has worked with us for many years now. On Friday, she became sick and had to stay back on the compound to rest. Once she had recovered, she shared with me how overwhelmed she was by the way the NEA staff took care of her. While she was sick, plates of watermelon would be left outside her door and someone would check in on her every few hours bringing cold water, asking what they could do to help her. She told me, “I actually feel at home in this place.”


Medical Team Residence: Nim House

Medical Team Residence: Nim House

She expressed something that this 2018 Health Team is feeling as well. Not enough can be said for this NEA staff and the entire support team for their hospitality and commitment to the success of this program. Tonight’s blog is dedicated to them — the behind-the-scenes heroes that make our work possible.

The indoor kitchen staff that prepares food for our team starts at 3:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm every day. The quality, colour, flavour and creative presentations with which they prepare the meals is unbelievable. Tonight, we had peanut soup over rice balls, chicken and roast potatoes, salad garnished with fresh vegetables and tuna and fresh watermelon. On talent show night, the kitchen sent up a Ghanaian appetizer platter to contribute to the celebration. It was mini-skewers of chicken gizzards with fresh jalapeño pepper and onion. There is also an outdoor cooking team that prepares three traditional meals a day for all of the translators, volunteers, staff, compound kids and post-operative patients. It is a massive operation.

Kitchen staff led by Patience in pink.

Kitchen staff led by Patience in pink.

Ghanaian Party Platter

Ghanaian Party Platter

Every three days, each team member’s laundry is done for them. We send it out in a personalized black bag and it is returned to us at the end of the day. A large group of women from local villages make up this team. Once a week, our sheets and towels are laundered as well.

We never see the cleaning staff, but we arrive home every day to find our residences and washrooms absolutely spic and span. Tea, coffee, crackers and Laughing Cow cheese are set out for our enjoyment with a fridge full of water and pop.

The compound has never looked better in my opinion. The groundskeeping staff have created a place of true beauty, and the attention to detail in the landscaping and the maintenance of the property and buildings is breathtaking.

Our security staff are on duty 24 hours a day and a security team travels with us. We don’t notice their presence but we know they are there and as a result, we feel safe and completely at ease at all times.

We have an amazing team of NEA drivers. Manoeuvring three busses in convoy down bumpy, pothole-ridden village roads takes skill, and these drivers are the best. Despite the dust and the dirt, the buses are always spotless inside and out, and we have yet to have any mechanical problems.

Our translators wear blue shirts, and they are by our sides at all times while we work. We are lost without them.

The clinic volunteers are the heroes in the yellow shirts. Today’s team left at 3:00 am. When we arrived in Asantekwaa, the crowd was well organized and the entire clinic was already set up, ready for us to begin working. These volunteers also control the flow of patients through the stations, run prescriptions to pharmacy and assist with the taking down of the clinic and transporting it back to Carpenter at night.

The surgical volunteers are responsible to manage all transportation, housing, and feeding of the hernia patients during their two-day stay in Carpenter.

Translators and volunteers finally sitting down after a busy day!

Translators and volunteers finally sitting down after a busy day!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the pastoral team. This large, dedicated team has the important task of praying for us, for our patients, and for the mission as a whole. They pray constantly from the moment we leave our homes and will continue until a word is received that we have all returned safely to our loved ones.

I’ve shared with you what this NEA team does but what I have not done is communicated how each of these individuals discharges their duties with such kindness and love. This is what Alexandria was talking about . It is this love that they show us in such practical ways that makes this NEA compound in this remote area of this small African country a second home to so many of us.

PS: The entire team had a beyond busy day but we managed to all make it to the dining hall by 7:00 pm for dinner and team reports. We were off to bed early as we know what we are in store for tomorrow! Apparently a patient arrived from another country yesterday to get in line for our Wednesday clinic!

Fun in the Sun

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Two days of rest, relaxation and fun in the Ghanaian sun are great for the soul. We are so sorry to hear we are missing Canadian winter!

Saturday morning the team enjoyed a lovely sleep-in with the exception of the running club who were on the trails at 6:30 am. En route to breakfast we discovered the big NEA gazebo was full of African crafts, carvings, baskets, fabrics and clothing for our purchasing pleasure. This team clearly has a case of shopping withdrawal.

After breakfast David Mensah played the role of tour guide as team members walked around the vast NEA compound to witness the different sectors of development taking place. They received lessons in aquaculture, mushroom farming, shea butter production and animal husbandry to mention a few. How wonderful for our team to understand the context into which our health care delivery fits. The rest of the day was filled with napping, puzzling, yoga classes with Bex, book clubs, a tour of the village, a trip to a local market and some rehearsals for…

GHANA’S GOT TALENT!

We were all amazed by the creativity and variety of acts that took the stage for our 3rd annual talent show. As tradition dictates, the night was opened up by the simultaneous singing of the national anthems of our home countries Egypt, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Britain, Jamaica, Ghana, Canada, France, Germany and Senegal. The line up was fantastic. We enjoyed a game of Family Feud hosted by the eye team, poetry by Martha, stand-up comedy with Greg, a monologue about Francois’ new charity “Hoarders Without Boarders” (pronounced Hordairs Widout Boardairs), a nursing team skit entitled “Staying Alive” and a beautiful song called “Thank You My Friends” by Abraham. The physicians pulled off a coordinated hand-clapping skit which impressed! Dr. Dan brought his portable keyboard and expertly accompanied a number of parodies for Carlye and I, pharmacy and surgery. One of my favourite choruses belonged to the surgical team, sung to the tune of “Day Dream Believer:”

Cheer up knackered team
How hard can it be
To fix, 300 hernias
and we’re living the dream

One of my favourite moments of the night was when Dr. Carolyn, who was brilliantly playing the bachelorette in the “Dating Game,” asked Dr. Neil, Kyle and Francois (who were playing the bachelors) the final question of this hilarious skit. “If you could be a tooth … what tooth would you be?” After considering their answers, she wisely declined all three of them and decided to buy a cat. It is true that laughter is very good medicine.

Today was a wonderful day of rest. There are too many of us to fit into the local church so the surgical courtyard became our sanctuary. There was singing, drumming, dancing and joyous celebration for all God has done over this past week. Noah shared a moving testimony about a man with epilepsy who has received treatment from our team for a number of years. Prior to this, due to his regular convulsions, he was an outcast and banned from eating meat in his village. Now he is seizure-free, reintegrated into society, and invited to eat meat in the village.

David Mensah’s mother shared a testimony as well. Having lost her husband and her father due to hernia, she stood in the centre of the surgical centre that is preventing hundreds of deaths from hernia and thanked God for our team. It was quite a moment.

Dr. Martin McDowell led us in a medley of This Little Light of Mine and Give Me Oil in My Lamp and I must say we sounded beautiful. Pastor Rans preached a message about Queen Esther. He challenged us that we all have a purpose for which we were created but often we let fear stand in our way. Esther faced her fear, rose up and took action due to the imminent death of her tribe. Rans thanked God for our willingness rise up like Esther and act even though his people are not even our people. “Good works shall never be in vain,” he concluded.

Once the temperature dropped in the late afternoon, an NEA vs expat volleyball match was enjoyed by all. We lost by only one point in game one and then got creamed in games two and three. I think we are all such good friends now than NEA no longer feels they need to take it easy on us!

European football was next on the agenda. The local men’s football team arrived to take us on. We could tell by their warm up that we were in big, big trouble but thankfully NEA staff joined our team. Prior to the match, Dr. Rob presented them with brand new football jerseys which they promptly put on. It was an amazing match that ended in a tie even though we had 17 players and 17 subs to their 11 with no subs.

Next up was American football. Quarterbacks Dr. Martin, Greg, Dan and Dave gave a quick crash course to our friends and the game was on. It ended in a tie as well with big touchdowns being scored by our Dr. David Cressey and Dr. Kate.

It certainly has been a great weekend with some good ol’ fashioned fun. Speaking of old fashioned fun, I cannot conclude without sharing two Monopoly stories. Dr. Josh received some blog comments from home about a “Monopoly episode.” At the talent show, he was forced to stand up and give a monologue about the Monopoly incident of his youth. Turns out he was a rather mean banker, forcing his younger siblings to play for hours until he had all their money. Interestingly, Saturday morning I had a chance to present a Monopoly Board to the kids on the compound. Last year, some of the pre-teen boys on the compound asked my daughter Amelia if she could help them get a Monopoly board. We have no idea how they even heard about this game. With Brenda Mensah’s blessing, a deluxe Monopoly board was presented to Emmanuel, a 13 year old boy who is now the President of the NEA Monopoly Club. After reading the instructions, the boys played for 7 hours on Saturday and five hours today. I’m hoping they don’t invite Dr. Josh to play.

After we celebrated Debbie’s birthday at supper, our fun and games came to an end as all our supplies and medicines needed to be prepped and loaded onto the truck which will leave very early. Everyone went to bed early as we anticipate a full day in the village and in the theatres. We are rested, healthy and excited to finish strong as, over the next four days, we continue to serve each patient we meet with our whole hearts.

A Fulani Boy’s Speech

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Every morning at 5:45 am, a group of us from Canada, UK and Ghana gather to pray for our mission and our teammates. While it is early for us, the NEA staff have already been up for hours making breakfast, packing lunches, washing buses, and organizing surgical patients. The logistics team leaves at 4:00 am to organize the crowds and set up the clinic prior to our arrival. Dr. Kyle’s translator Moses looked a little sleepy today at the dental station: he had stayed in Yaara all night to guard the building that contained our supplies and medications. The commitment of the NEA staff towards this health program is hard to describe in words. It truly is their program.

Breakfast was extra special as Abraham presented Dr. Magdi with his gift-wrapped personal luggage which finally arrived from London at 3:00 am. Katie and Bex almost missed their breakfast as they discovered the ostriches on a morning walk and could not pull themselves away from these magnificent creatures.


The lost luggage

The lost luggage

Off to Yaara we went, and despite our long journey the physicians were consulting at their desks by 9:15 am. I cannot say enough about my colleagues. We are used to practicing in quiet consultation rooms where we can concentrate, examine patients under good lighting, and use specialized equipment to help us arrive at the correct diagnosis and treat the problem. Here, Drs. Carlye, Charlie, Sue, Kate, Helen, Mary, Andy, Anne, Karen and I are working in the hottest, most noisy environment imaginable, gathering information through a translator, dealing with unfamiliar diseases, while always ready to respond to an emergency.

Dr. Carlye

Dr. Carlye

Dr. Helen

Dr. Helen

Dr. Mary

Dr. Mary

Our ability to diagnose and treat with excellence is only possible due to the support and clinical information we receive from our nursing colleagues in triage, weights and temps, diagnostics, the nursing station, and then from our team of pharmacists at the end of the line who so professionally dispense the medication needed along with the counselling required. Our Ghanaian health care providers are the most invaluable resource of all. Today, was an extremely well run clinic and we were on the road by 3:45, thanks to an outstanding team effort.

Nurse Practitioner Sandra

Nurse Practitioner Sandra

Pharmacist Martha and Daniel, her Ghanaian colleague and translator, serving a patient

Pharmacist Martha and Daniel, her Ghanaian colleague and translator, serving a patient

I took a few moments today to visit our eye clinic. I watched as every patient moved through Barb’s auto refraction station, Dan’s intraocular pressure check followed by a full eye exam and slit lamp by Dr. Pete, Dr. Mai, Dr. Josh or Dr. Martin. After this, Jane checked her database for the required prescription and finally, our Ghanaian volunteers pulled out a pair of donated eye glasses they required. In addition, hundreds of sunglasses and safety glasses are being dispensed. It is a truly amazing operation and I’m hoping my pictures will come through to you so you can see for yourself.

Auto refraction station

Auto refraction station

Intraocular pressure check

Intraocular pressure check

Full eye exam

Full eye exam

Slit lamp

Slit lamp

Jane checking her database for the required prescription.

Jane checking her database for the required prescription.


Dispensing glasses

Dispensing glasses

The laser clinic only ran for a half-day today, but rather than taking a well deserved afternoon off, Martin took a short cut to Yaara to help his team in the village, and Marion popped into the OR to see if help was needed. They next thing she knew, she was scrubbed in and assisting Magdi with a hernia repair. What a change of pace for Marion who, although a nurse by training, has worked faithfully on our eye team since 2007.

Marion assisting Dr. Magdi.

Marion assisting Dr. Magdi.

You know you are a great leader when your team can function without you. Dr. Rob, surgical team leader, joined us in Yaara and in his absence his team worked non-stop from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, completing 35 procedures. They are now up to 180 in total and we thank God that there have been no complications. (Nothing blew up or caught fire either.)

What would a trip to Africa be without an insect story? Today, it is all about the ants. Poor Dr. Carlye set her backpack down on the grass and when she picked it up and slung it on her back, it became apparent that she had set it down on a fire ant hill. The back pack flew off and a group of translators rushed to her and began slapping her head to toe trying to knock off hundreds of little ants without much progress. Finally one of them said, ”Madame, you must take off your clothes!” which is the only way to properly deal with these type of ants in your pants. Thankfully, there was a latrine nearby for Carlye to duck into.

This evening, Kim and Dr. Mai went into their room to find a group of a larger ants having a party. There were thousands of them pouring from a hole in the wall and the floor was almost black. We considered blowing three whistles but Kyle our protector kicked into action with a broom and Birkenstock. I ran like a mad woman with arms flailing to find Soale, because that is what you do when you have a problem in Ghana. I frantically explained the situation to him. He paused (as he always does) and responded, “They say good luck comes to those with ants in their room.” Kim and Mai did not find that funny. He followed up with “This is very normal for us,” Well, it’s not normal for us, Soale! But the best response came when I asked him if these ants bite. Another pause. “Just a little, but it is not critical. Don’t worry, I will send for silicone.”

Soale

Soale

It has been quite a week indeed. According to Kim, over 2600 patients have received health care in Mo Land since our arrival. The only appropriate way I can find to sum up this week is to tell you about a Fulani boy who came to see me today. The Fulani tribe are nomadic tribe and typically their children are uneducated. I was seeing a Fulani family at my station and one of the boys was standing right beside my chair. His mom, the translator and I were reviewing the children’s histories when this boy started to speak in a loud, strong voice for about 30 seconds. He would stop speaking, looked at me, looked at Dr. Mary sitting at the other end of my table, and repeat this 30 second speech. He did this three times. Curious, I asked my translator to find out what he kept repeating. The translation I received from this 6 year old boy was, “You have such kind hearts. Had it not been for your help, most of us would die.”

I want to thank God for making what happened this week possible and for watching over NEA, our team and our patients. I want to thank each and every one of our families, our friends, our donors and our supporters for your role making it possible for us to be here for this time. Thank you for your prayers, your good wishes and your encouraging comments that are read to us every evening and make us laugh and make us cry.

As they say in the UK, we are knackered. Tomorrow is a day of leisure and we could not be more ready. Tours of the NEA compound and Carpenter village, a trip to market, book clubs, and the third annual Ghana’s Got Talent show are planned. On Sunday, we will go to church and in the afternoon, Ghana will take on a Canada/Europe for a very competitive volleyball and football game. The outcome will not be hard to predict.

Signing off until Monday …

Fanta, Footballs, Fire and Foolishness

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Today was paediatric day in our surgical theatres. Our Ghanaian anaesthetist Eric suggested we consider giving the children a touch of sedation before bringing them in for their anaesthesia so that they would be less scared of our white faces. Dr. Karen, who does a lot of paediatric anaesthesiology at home, took charge and the team made arrangements for all the kids to receive a brand new football along with small drink of Fanta laced with an oral sedative prior to being wheeled into the theatre. Let’s just say that a very happy group of kids came in and out of their surgeries without any complications and barely a cry or whine was heard.

Happy patient

Happy patient

Our anaesthetic nurse Debbie has been just brilliant. We are thankful that these kids not only had their hernias repaired but they and their families had a very positive health care experience overall.

The only complication of the day involved a sterilizer which sort of caught on fire. Apparently Dr. Dan didn’t blink an eye and just kept operating whilst singing his jazz tunes. Thankfully the fire put itself out and no harm was done (except for the sterilizer).

Ashley with the sterilizer that caught fire

Ashley with the sterilizer that caught fire

Miraculously, one of the NEA staff remembered there was another sterilizer on the compound. Before they knew it, a four foot tall industrial sized autoclave suddenly appeared and was in working order. We have no idea where it came from but Ashley and Sara can now sterilize the entire team’s instruments in one batch, saving hours of work.

The medical team was on the road at 0630 for the long and bumpy ride to the remote village of Yaara. Stepping off the bus in Yaara is always one of my favourite moments of the mission and this year was just as special as ever. The drums were beating, the women were dancing in a circle and David’s brother Chief Joseph, the Queen Mother, elders, and women leaders were all ready to greet us. Many of us joined the circle and tried without much success to find the beat of the drums. The village presented our team with yams, bananas, oranges, papaya, watermelon and Jessica received her own yams and a chicken.

Yaara drums

Yaara drums

Abraham tried his best to keep the welcome festivities and speeches short so that we could go straight to work as the crowd was enormous. What amazed me about today is how our team is just so committed to providing the most thorough and compassionate care to each and every patient they come in contact with despite the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other people who are waiting.

There are many amazing stories that could be told about this day but there is only one that I will share tonight.

Word was received that a very ill young woman in the village was too weak to get to us. Our paramedic Greg made a house call to the far corner of the village and when it became apparent that she needed immediate care, a taxi picked her up, drove right through our crowds to the door of our nursing station. Our doctor of the day was Dr. Andy and he was faced with a difficult and heartbreaking situation. It is cases like this that, quite frankly, cause an anger to rise up within me. A situation like this would never happen in Canada or the UK and it is unacceptable that a young mother in a village in Yaara is not given the same opportunity for health and life that we have. If the doors to NEA’s hospital were open today, I have no doubt that this situation would have looked very different for this woman and her three young children. Those of us who came in contact with her today will not soon erase this injustice from our minds.

Every afternoon around 3:00pm each team member, volunteer and translator on the medical, surgical, dental and eye team are handed a quote. This Franciscan Blessing was handed to us yesterday:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at poverty, injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for health justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world.

Amen.

Again and Again and Again

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

The medical clinic was up and running by 0800 in Nyamboi village and we enjoyed overcast skies which lowered the temperature by a few degrees for a few hours. By midday the heat was blistering once again. According to Dr. Mensah, “November isn’t the best month to come to Ghana.” Right.

Val was in charge of our nursing station today and together with Toni-Ann, our Ghanaian nurses, and “doctor of the day” Carlye, they had to kick into action with five very sick kids with malaria all requiring injectable antimalarials and rehydration. It was so busy that Jen McLoughlin (aka wee Jenny) had to be pulled from triage for reinforcement. Miraculously, these five kids walked out of the clinic on their own two feet by lunchtime.

Nursing Station

Nursing Station

Our triage team of Greg, Megan, Leslie, and Jen worked non-stop treating minor problems and sending the more serious patients through. Our diagnostic station run by Alisha, Anne and Anna had a full waiting room all day long and did a marvellous job providing the physicians with important information to assist our decision making.

Diagnostics Station

Diagnostics Station

Dr. Andy had a very unusual case of a pre-teen boy with what appeared to be an infected shoulder joint. When faced with a case like this that is beyond our capacity, we do everything possible to help. Using our connections at the nearest hospital and funds raised through our generous donors he was transported for the care he will need. Dr. Duncan was kept extremely busy with listing hernia patients for next year and accepting referrals from the physician team for procedures such as drainage of abscesses. Surgical nurse Becky dove right in and was a huge help to our nursing team.

Dr. Francois reminded us at breakfast that dentists take Wednesdays off work but we convinced him to join us anyway. These four amazing professionals worked steadily under the canopy with Dr. Carolyn keeping extremely busy with fillings.

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Our eye clinic saw just shy off 100 patients today and a few special cases were shared with all at dinner. Dr. Josh had a patient who was blind in one eye and whose “good” eye was failing due to severe glaucoma. Due to the generosity of our donors, he was able to supply her with one year supply of medications to preserve her vision. Dr. Mai looked after a young woman who was also blind in one eye and about to lose sight in the other eye due to an infection. Dr. Pete saw a 3 month old who was blind from congenital cataracts. We will work with NEA to support this child receiving surgery in Accra, hopeful that a life of blindness will be averted in all three of these patients.

While their colleagues sweated in out in the village, Dr. Martin and Marion preserved vision for 30 patients in the laser clinic. The laser clinic is known as the “country club” as the laser needs air conditioning.

Our clinic day ended with the Nyamboi village presenting our team with a mound of yams, a huge bowl of bananas and a beautiful white ram. It was an incredible display of generosity from this farming community.

The surgical team were faced with some massive hernias today. By repairing them, they are not just preventing death from hernia — they are restoring families’ incomes. These men can barely walk, let alone work on the farm. A hernia repair transforms their lives and thirty-seven lives were transformed on this day alone.

Our anaesthesia program is expanding by the hour and is now capable of administering general anaesthetics, spinal anaesthetics and sedation in all three theatres. Using the second ultrasound machine that we have, Dr. David is now teaching Eric how to do regional anaesthesia (nerve blocks). Eric is over the moon with the training he is receiving and loves working with Dr. David, Dr. Karen and Debbie.

One of our surgical nurses Bex had a birthday today and she received a lovely gift presented by Katie — a special box (empty box of gloves) filled with some treasures (bar of soap, toothpaste and some rocks). She was thrilled.

After dinner, our team was inspired and moved by an address by Dr. Mensah who thanked us for coming to Ghana again and again and again. He thanked us for raising funds again and again and again. He thanked us for our overwhelming professionalism that is displayed again and again and again. He concluded by thanking God for answering a prayer he began to pray in 1972 about his dream to bring medical services to Ghana. Tomorrow, he meets with the architects that will be building NEA’s model hospital called the Leyaata Hospital.

It’s happening again — my blogs are becoming books but there was no way that this day could be described in less than these 800-ish words.

More than Mere Friendship

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Our day began with the news that our little patient with cerebral malaria survived the night but was still in critical condition. Our colleagues at the district hospital are doing everything possible to save her and we continue to pray for a good report tomorrow.

Our Ghanaian logistics team arrived in Nyamboi village at 0400 this morning to set up our canopies and organize the crowds. When our 3 buses of team members and translators arrived at 0800 it took no time at all to man our stations, pop up our incredible pharmacy and begin our task of caring for one patient at time. A small delegation of first-time team members that included Anna, Anne, Alisha, Jessica and myself greeted the chief and elders while the clinic got underway.

Clinic triage

Clinic triage

The clinic ran so smoothly and efficiently thanks to a great team effort. It was a real pleasure to have Dr. Simon and nurse Bex from the surgical team join us and consult on a gangrenous foot as well as a patient with an abscess that needed draining. Midday, the District Director of Health Services and his team arrived to greet us. He toured our clinic and witnessed Ghanaians and Canadians and Europeans working side by side and hand in hand. Abraham remarked to him, “This is more than mere friendship.”


More than mere friendship

More than mere friendship

Our eye clinic really suffered today as temperatures soared into the high 30s in their dark window-covered church clinic. They never complain, but Dr.Martin did declare at supper they are the “hottest team” of all. Many of last year’s glaucoma patients were reviewed in clinic today and are all doing very well.

Our dentists worked extremely hard today and didn’t seem to even notice the goats continually grazing around their canopies.

Back on the compound the surgical team had a full and challenging day with four emergency cases in addition to all of their booked surgeries. Dealing with a few dodgy stomachs they pushed through with incredible resilience. Ashley shared at dinner how proud he was of all the surgical nursing staff who have very long days arriving early and staying late to prepare the theatres and sterilize everyone’s instruments. There was one marriage proposal in the OR and it involved a dowry of bush meat — I will leave you guessing on that one!

Dr. Dan’s last patient of the day was unexpectedly complicated. When Dr. Simon arrived back from the village he immediately scrubbed in to assist. I popped in to see how they were doing to find our UK anaesthetist Dr. Karen and our Ghanaian anaesthetist Eric talking through advanced sedation techniques that were suddenly required due to the complexity of the case. Meanwhile Dan and Simon were able to successfully complete the surgery during which they explained to me that they were medical school classmates, best men at each other’s weddings but have never once operated together until that very moment. What a memory for them.

Good friends Dr. Simon & Dr. Dan working together with Eric on a complicated case

Good friends Dr. Simon & Dr. Dan working together with Eric on a complicated case

After our tomato soup, cashew-beef, rice and yam fries dinner (I know, right?!), Soale who leads NEA operations shared with us two important observations from today. Firstly, he noticed that his people were really touched emotionally by the care they received. A very elderly woman that Dr. Charlie and our nursing team cared for said to Soale, “Who said the world is bad now? Look at these people who come from another continent to help us beyond measure.” Secondly he shared a verse in the Bible from Psalm 133:1 that says “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.” He feels that the unity between the NEA leadership and the Ghana Health Team leadership and the unity amongst all of our team members is driving the success of this program. He thanked God for His hand on our work.

Abraham is right — this is more than mere friendship. It is about friends new and old who are wholeheartedly united in purpose and who truly do believe it is possible to make a difference in this great big world.

More than friends: our Ghanaian, British, and Canadian nurses

More than friends: our Ghanaian, British, and Canadian nurses

PS: We got your message Nicky Blunt and you name is already on the list for 2019!
PPS: We might just be teasing Josh Smith a lot over how much his family loves him.

Best First Day Ever

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

NEA decided to treat us to a “sleep-in” after our long journey, so our day began at 7:30am under the gazebo. The NEA staff gather every morning to pray before they start their work and this morning, they invited us and all our translators to attend. Beautiful multi-part harmonies rang out as the staff led us in a song called “My God is Good.” David, who is an NEA accountant, shared a message from the Bible from Matthew 25 that talks about how whatever we do for the least of humanity we do for God himself.

A superb breakfast of oatmeal, omelettes, beans, fresh bread, peanut butter, watermelon and bananas along with Tim Horton’s coffee (we don’t leave home without it) was enjoyed by all. Dr. David joined us for breakfast. David is a young Ghanaian physician who is one of NEA’s scholars. He will be working with both the medical and surgical team for the second year in a row and we are excited about the mutual transfer of skills that will take place. “We will never forget this. We will always have you in our hearts,” he told us.

Dr. David and Dr. Kate discussing ultrasound images of a trauma patient.

Dr. David and Dr. Kate discussing ultrasound images of a trauma patient.

After breakfast, all the teams made their final preparations to begin our work and our automated pharmacy went live. The physicians spent a good hour with our local medical assistant Ernestina reviewing illnesses we are less familiar with, such as malaria, HIV and tropical ulcers to name a few.

The operating theatres were up and running by 10:30am, and despite the later than normal start, the team completed 35 hernia successful surgeries with zero complications. It is unusual for Day 1 to be so efficient, especially with so many first time surgical team members, but, Dr. Rob (aka Mr. Rob in the UK) declared it the “best first day ever.” Way to go surgical team! Imagine what they can do with a full day work.

We ran a very important medical clinic this afternoon for the NEA staff and their family members. What an honour for us to care for and provide medicine to these dear friends and their families. As seems to be the pattern, the clinic began with an emergency when a pregnant patient fell off a motorcycle on the road outside the compound. We were thankful that Dr. Kate brought an ultrasound machine from Edmonton which was a key diagnostic tool in this situation. Thankfully mom and baby are doing well.

Emergencies continued and today’s rapid response team of our paramedic Greg and Dr. Sue and Joan responded to a collapsed patient in the eye clinic as well as a toddler who was convulsing with cerebral malaria. The child was stabilized and after consulting with our paediatrician Dr. Anne, was transferred to the nearest hospital. We were thankful to receive word that the child was still alive this evening, but the situation is critical, and we pray she will survive the night. (Malaria is a leading cause of death among children under 5 in Ghana.)


Nursing leaders Joan and Sandra poring over clinic maps.

Nursing leaders Joan and Sandra poring over clinic maps.

The eye clinic worked until the sun went down (no power in their building), and they too had an exceptional first day — including a lovely fireworks show when their sterilizer sort of blew up. Thankfully, Ashley in the OR is a really, really nice guy who offered to provide sterilization services to our eye team for a nominal fee.

Our dental team were extremely busy and were faced with some challenging cases that Dr. Francois admitted were very humbling. I think we would all agree, this is humbling work for all of us. None of us are foolish enough to feel overconfident — we simply do our best one patient at a time.

Dr. Neil and Dr. Carolyn under the dental tent.

Dr. Neil and Dr. Carolyn under the dental tent.

According to the queen of logistics (BTW isn’t Kim looking fabulous in the new logistical team color of bright yellow), we saw 386 medical, surgical, dental and eye patients on this compound today. I’m just so glad it was the best first day ever. Not so much for us, but for NEA. The men and women and their families who do the very, very hard work of development 365 days a year deserve nothing less.


Queen of Logistics

Queen of Logistics

Because of Love

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By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

After just a few short hours of sleep we boarded the coach buses and enjoyed a smooth and beautiful journey to the North. Just after 11:00am local time we paused together under a mango tree for a Remembrance Day reading by Dr. Josh and a moment of silence.

Pausing to remember

Pausing to remember

Our journey lasted nine hours. As we pulled into the gates of the NEA compound, the driver laid on his horn for a solid three minutes to announce our arrival. We think this is how we might begin to announce our arrival home in the future! All of the NEA staff and their families greeted us in a receiving line that seems to get longer and longer every year. It was a sweet reunion. After a song and prayer of thanksgiving to God for our safe arrival, Abraham thanked us for our commitment to this program. He believes the motivation for people who take risks and make sacrifices of this magnitude is simply because of love.

Over the next two hours I witnessed the epitome of teamwork and cooperation as a medical clinic, nursing station, fully stocked pharmacy, eye clinic, dental clinic as well a surgical theatres and a recovery room popped out of nowhere. Everyone pitched in, even the children.

Our traditional spaghetti dinner, enjoyed by all in the dining hall, was prepared by Patience, who looked stunning in her white uniform and cap. It is also a tradition during our first dinner together that Dr. Carlye, who is our team doctor, gives us strict instructions regarding the two most common team health issues in Ghana: diarrhea or constipation. Funny how none of us mind this type of conversation over supper.

The work continued throughout the evening until eyelids literally started to drop. A well deserved night’s sleep awaits us all under our mosquito nets. As I drift off to sleep I’m thinking of so many special moments that I noticed today. I’ll leave you with a few….

I noticed Val caring for a little boy with a cut on his leg who somehow found his way in to the unpacking area.

In the midst of setting up the surgical theatres, I noticed Dr. Dan and Dr. Simon tucked away in a consulting room already examining tomorrow’s surgical patients.

Early consulting for patients

Early consulting for patients

I noticed Ashley and Emilia skipping across the field late at night to the theatre making sure the sterilizer wasn’t blowing the place up.

I noticed team members sitting in a large circle helping pharmacy prepare 5000 doses of deworming medication.

Prepping deworming

Prepping deworming

I noticed the massive task that our pharmacists Linda, Sherry, Martha, Alexa, Lisa and Kirlis have to set up an entire pharmacy in a few short hours. They would have pulled an all-nighter if we had let them.

I noticed Sandra coaching our first time nurse Toni-Ann on our triage system while Joan was coaching Alisha Anna and Anne on how to use the rapid HIV and malaria tests.

I noticed Greg, our paramedic, sitting on the floor with our trauma bag contents sprawled out just to be sure he was prepared for any emergency.

And finally, just as the sun was setting, I noticed our eye team had recruited a long line of children who were, with such pride and such ease, transporting all the boxes of eyeglasses to the clinic on their little heads.

It is time for our work to begin. Tomorrow as we have the honour of providing care to all the NEA development staff and their extended families, while operations will begin in the surgical theatres.

All because of love, indeed.

History Will Mark This

By Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Ghana Health Team

The young Ghanaian man in the Amsterdam airport listened as Dr. Sue and my daughter Jessica shared who we were and why we’re going to Ghana. He knew very well the challenges of the Northern Region of his country. He thanked us on behalf of all Ghanaians for crossing continents to help strangers and concluded by saying, “History will mark this.”

We are here. All sixty of us and all of our medications and supplies arrived safely (minus one personal bag which is en route from London). Our program and protocols and systems are ready to go, and I noticed some of our leaders fine tuning these things even as we flew through the night. (I love my Type A friends who may have a touch of OCD.) Other than one small flight delay, our travel was seamless, and we are grateful for those who prayed for our safe arrival.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal at a lovely hotel. Soon we will begin our journey northward. Our dear friends at NEA will be waiting to greet us under the mango trees and once our reunion with them is complete, we will begin the massive task of unpacking.

“History will mark this” was a thought-provoking comment for me, and I realized that perhaps the significance of this mission for the Ghanaian people has dimmed for me over this past year. How easy it is to forget what life would be like without access to a doctor or a dentist or medication. How can we even fathom that a surgical illness — even a simple hernia— could be a death sentence for many? What would a day be like for us without our contact lenses and glasses? I choke up when I remember that without health care, only two of my five kids would probably be alive and well today.

My BBC news app reminds me every day of the evil and destructive events that seem to be marking our current times. What a privilege for us to be part of an effort that is born out of kindness, love, compassion, and justice for our global neighbours. While we may never show up in any history books, I’m reminded that our annual visit to the Mo Land marks something very significant — the arrival of hope and healing for men, women and children who are just like you and me.



GHT2018 Canadian Team Members Departing Pearson International Airport on November 9, 2018, including Christ Church’s Dr. Martin McDowell, Dr. Andy Patterson, Anne Embleton and Jane Smith.

GHT2018 Canadian Team Members Departing Pearson International Airport on November 9, 2018, including Christ Church’s Dr. Martin McDowell, Dr. Andy Patterson, Anne Embleton and Jane Smith.

Read and Recommended

The Quilted Heart by Mona Hodgson

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Here we have 3 Novellas in one book, each one focuses on a woman in Missouri, in 1865, right after the Confederate War.  Each of these three women, have different hardships, and trials as they try to navigate through a difficult time in history. 

In the first novella, Maren, has travelled from Denmark, to marry a man, who did not want her once he saw her, and now she is losing her sight. 

In the second tale, a young Emile, lives with her widowed father who has grand ideas who she should see and who she should marry. 

The third story is about a young wife Caroline, who finds out that he young husband has been killed in the  war, so as a widow what should she now do, and when the idea of joining a wagon train to California comes up, she is thwarted by a gentleman she does not like or does she.  

Review: A good read, suitable for the women of our congregation.  This book can be found in the fiction part of the church Library. Check it out today!

Reviewed by: Susan Walmsley

 

Top 5 Ways to Serve at Church

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It is possible to come to church and never serve.  But this doesn’t make for a very dynamic or spiritual experience.  According to an article on Christianity Today, the number one reason why people don’t help out at church is because they don’t know how they can help or they feel like they don’t have the talents or gifts to help. But God has given us each a unique gift to share. Here’s 5 easy ways you can serve at church.

1.    Greet people: Each week, we say hi to the people we know, but what about the people who are visiting or new to our church?  It's awkward and uncomfortable to be in a room of strangers with no one to talk to and not knowing where the facilities are. The simple act of saying hi to a newcomer and showing them around is a great way to help them feel more comfortable, and is a practical way to love others as we would like to be loved (who enjoys standing awkwardly on their own?!).

2.    Pray: Don’t discount the power of prayer. Sometimes it can seem like it’s the “least you can do”, but it’s actually one of the most important. In addition to praying for someone to heal or have a problem fixed, pray for them to grow strong in the Lord.  In the first chapter of each of St. Paul’s books, he prayed less for situations to be resolved positively and more for people to grow in their spirituality.

3.    Read a book and share it with others: Our church library is an underused resource that we are fortunate to have. Have you read a great Christian based novel or book lately? Recommend and share it with others. Spread the word – literally.  

4.    Host a coffee hour: Everything goes better with coffee. It’s easy to get to know those in our church whom you may not have spoken to before over a cup of steaming hot joe.

5.    Invite others to church: Share your faith! One of the best ways you can do this and serve the church at the same time is to simply invite your friends to attend a church service or event with you.

“Serve one another humbly in love”

Galatians 5:13

 

The John Strachan Trust Launched at Film Gala

On May 23, The John Strachan Trust, named after the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto, had its official kickoff at the Eglinton Grand, a former movie theatre and historic landmark in midtown Toronto. The gala evening attracted over 100 attendees and included a short film and comments by Archbishop Colin Johnson. http://bit.ly/2J1PAeH

John Strachan, our visionary first bishop, made bold and courageous decisions that ripple forward hundreds of years. Over a century and a half ago, Bishop Strachan called for an endowment to fund the Bishop’s Office. He presented a vision of what might be possible, but it wasn’t something he could achieve on his own.

The John Strachan Trust is the endowment that helps fund the Office of the Bishop of Toronto. At present, the endowment is $2.5 million away from ensuring the Bishop’s Office is sustainable for generations.

With your financial support, we can act now to leave a legacy for the future Church and support the Bishop’s ministry as a leader, shepherd, teacher and advocate.

For more information on The John Strachan Trust, visit www.toronto.anglican.ca/foundation or contact Michael Cassabon at 416-363-6021, ext. 242 or mcassabon@toronto.anglican.ca.

The Right Reverend John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto

The Right Reverend John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto

The Emergence of the English Church

By Rev. Don Beyers, Assistant Curate

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey, London

As many of you know, we began this week our Lenten study series, Anglican 101. We had a great turnout at both our Tuesday and Wednesday sessions. While many attended, some were not able to join us for various reasons. All are welcome to our next session, offered again next week on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Each week I will post an overview of our discussion to help you share more fully in our time together.

Henry VIII: Founder of the Anglican Church?

We launched our series with an overview of our denomination’s history. I began our discussion this week with a question: when did the Anglican Church begin? As I suspected, each group identified Henry VIII’s break with the Church of Rome as the beginning of the church. The response didn’t surprise me.

Popularly speaking, most of us locate our church’s beginnings with Henry’s defiance of Rome. Henry, we learn in our history lessons, wanted to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon but the pope refused, leaving Henry with no choice but to establish himself as head of the Church in England. Unfortunately, this is a rather simplistic overview of our church’s beginnings.

The Early History of Christianity in the British Isles

The seeds that gave birth to an independent English church were planted long before Henry. One could almost argue they were sown at the very dawn of Christianity to the British Isles. Evidence suggests that Christianity first developed in the region in the late fourth century. Unlike other missions, the Christian communities that dotted the isles were centred around monasteries and not cathedrals. Furthermore, Christianity was shaped and formed by Celtic influences.

St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Thus the Christianity of the British Isles took on a distinctive form and shape than the Christianity of continental Europe. Easter, for example, was celebrated on a different date than what was customary in Rome.

St. Augustine of Canterbury

By the end of the sixth century, Irish missionaries were traveling across the isles and continental Europe on missionary expeditions. Yet Christianity had yet to take root in other regions of the isles, namely the English south. As such, Pope Gregory the Great commissioned a Benedictine monk by the name of Augustine to travel to the isles to convert the remaining pagans and bring the churches into conformity with Roman practice and custom.

The Early Seeds of English Reformation

The Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede

According to Venerable Bede, one of the earliest historians of the English peoples and of the English church, Augustine’s efforts to align Christians with Roman practice were not always well received. It would be many decades before Christians would celebrate Easter according to Roman practice. Often the implementation of the date of Easter was imposed on peoples by force by kings and military might. The earliest seeds of the English Reformation were planted in this period, with the very resistance to Roman influence over the life of the English church.

As the English kings grew in power and might and slowly took control of larger parts of the British Isles, they questioned the power of the Church. The Church was a mighty force throughout Europe and in England. Monasteries attained great wealth and bishops often inherited greater wealth than many nobles. Kings were threatened by the influence of the bishops, particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury.

St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket

The well-know story of St. Thomas Becket illustrates the conflict between the Church and the kings of England. Originally a close ally of King Henry II, Thomas served as the king’s chancellor until his election and consecration as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Despite Henry’s hopes that Thomas would subject the Church to the king’s might, Thomas instead defended the rights and privileges of the Church. Given the Church’s tremendous temporal and religious power, Thomas’ actions proved too much for the king. In the end, Henry II ordered the death of Thomas. Thomas was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

Although scholars contend many of the details of Thomas’ martyrdom, his death reminds us that well before Henry VIII, English kings were determined to exercise supreme control of the Church within their realm. And the English kings were not alone in their quest for authority over the Church. Other kings exercised varying degrees of authority over the Church, often appointing bishops to major dioceses.

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe

The conditions for the English Reformation were just about set by the end of the 15th century. In addition to the distinctive character and diversity of Christianity throughout the British Isles and the monarchy’s desire for control of the Church, early reform movements revealed a growing desire to renew people’s faith life.

John Wycliffe was one of the earliest of English reformers. He firmly believed the Bible to be the source of all Christian teaching. He challenged the importance of popes and monasteries in the life of the Church. Although Wycliffe died of a stroke, a later Church council declared him a heretic and had his remains removed from consecrated ground and burned.

Church in Turmoil

Despite attempts to quell any reform movement, many felt it was time for the Church to return to the Gospel. Tragically, few bishops listened. Scandals plagued the Church, with priests, bishops, and even popes abusing their authority and committing great abuses. Many clergy lacked fundamental education and often were incapable of ministering to their people.

Martin’s Luther’s Reformation

Matters turned for the worse in the early sixteenth century. Certain friars took advantage of the practice of indulgences.

At that time Christians believed in purgatory, a place where one would go after death if a person wasn’t completely purified of sin. Although assured of the promise of heaven, many Christians believed those in purgatory suffered tremendous punishments for great lengths of time. Many hoped to minimize their time in purgatory, if not altogether avoid going there.

To help Christians avoid purgatory or any punishment for their sins, popes would grant an indulgence, or remission of punishment, if a person performed certain penitential acts and went to confession. Some clergy took advantage of people’s fear of purgatory and hell. Instead, they proposed a person could buy an indulgence. People soon turned to buying indulgences for their hope of salvation.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

A young German monk by the name of Martin Luther learned of the selling of indulgences and renounced the practice. Luther argued we could do nothing to achieve our salvation. Instead, Christ has won for us our salvation by his death and resurrection. A Christian simply needs to have faith in Christ and trust in his promises.

Despite Church leaders’ attempts to stop Luther, Luther’s message quickly spread throughout Europe. To his great fortune, Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press made it possible for pamphlets and books to be quickly printed and disseminated. Luther’s reform quickly launched and he won many to his cause.

Henry, the Defender of the Faith

King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII

Luther’s reforms, however, were met with strong opposition back in England. There a young and ambitious king by the name of Henry VIII was assuming great power. While evidence suggests he was a man of great faith and learning, Henry likely feared the political instability caused by the German Reformation.

Henry wrote a defence of the sacraments and the ministry of the popes. Pope Leo X, the Bishop of Rome at the time, rewarded Henry for his work and granted him the title, Defender of the Faith, a title that Queen Elizabeth II continues to hold to our own day.

The Break from Rome

Within a short time, however, Henry VIII found himself embroiled in controversy. His marriage to Catherine of Aragon was in turmoil. Henry believed his wife was incapable of bearing him a male heir. This not only endangered his lineage but also the relative peace of the kingdom. Were he to die without a male heir, his successor could be contested.

Henry sought to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He appealed to Pope Clement VII but was not granted an annulment. In part because the pope had granted permission for Henry to marry Catherine in the first place and the pope further feared political turmoil with European kingdoms aligned with Catherine.

Unbeknownst to the pope, Henry appointed Ann Boleyn’s confidant, Thomas Cranmer, as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The pope confirmed the appointment only to later learn that Cranmer defended the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine. Soon Henry declared himself the head of the Church of England; in turn, the pope excommunicated Henry, the once renowned Defender of the Faith.

The English Reformation

Despite Henry’s new role as the head of the Church of England, there were few drastic changes in the life of most Christians. Certain parts of public worship were translated into English and certain “Catholic” practices abolished. Some reformers were critical of Henry and Cranmer for not doing more. Henry remained thoroughly Catholic to the end. He did, however, abolish monasteries and assumed the monasteries’ property as his own.

Following Henry’s death, the English reformers, under the leadership of Thomas Cranmer, quickly went to work in reforming the English Church. Yet many reformers remained less than satisfied with Cranmer’s reforms. Still others believed Cranmer had gone too far.

Although Cranmer embraced many reforms, such as the reading of scripture and abolishment of clerical celibacy, he continued certain Catholic practices. For example, his first edition of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 still named the celebration of Eucharist as the service of Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass. Later editions abolished the term Mass and simply refer to the liturgy as the Lord’s Supper. In many places, clergy continued to wear vestments, despite the desire of reformers for more simple attire, often consisting of a black cassock, white surplice and preaching scarf. 

Catholic or Reformed?

A question the English reformers faced by the middle of the 1500s was whether the English church was Catholic or Reformed. A word of clarification is helpful here. The English church still understood itself to be catholic, in the sense that it remained a part of the Church of Christ. And as we continue to profess today in the Creed each Sunday, we believe that the Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

The Church is one for we are united in one Lord, one Body, the Body of Christ. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. And the Church is catholic, because its mission is broad, universal, and far-reaching. Finally, the Church is apostolic, as it continues to proclaim Christ’s teaching as handed down to us by the Apostles.  

However, the word catholic carried another meaning for the Reformers. It was a term used to describe external appearances, teachings, and practices as one would find in the Church of Rome. Incense, vestments, and statues were all perceived to be catholic customs. Reformers opposed such practices as they considered them to be non-biblical.

Furthermore, any teaching considered Roman was considered suspect, if not wrong, such as belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Many Reformers insisted the Eucharist to be a memorial, whereas those on the more “catholic” side maintained an understanding of the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ.

For centuries the Church of England would be torn between those on either side of the catholic and reformed debate. At times, the conflict between the two positions would be violent and deadly.

Interesting enough, the Church of England, unlike its fellow Catholic and Lutheran churches, did not establish a formal catechism or definitive church teaching. Instead, the foundations of the church’s teachings were the Bible, the apostolic creeds, and the Book of Common Prayer, which included the 39 Articles affirming the same.

In a way, the church’s lack of a clearly defined authoritative teaching has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that the church allows for a wide range of theological opinion. A curse in that a lack of clear teaching has led to some division in the Anglican Communion today. The challenge for the Anglican Communion today is to hold a prayerful unity and respect for dialogue among those of differing opinion.

Fortunately, another position has been proposed over time, otherwise known as the via mediaor middle way. That position argues the Anglican Church to be both catholic and reformed. Although, as we shall discover next week, there are critics of even this position.

The issues that gave rise to the Church of England continue to challenge the Church today. Can the Church welcome diversity of theological opinion, discipline, and practice and still remain united as one? Who, or what, serves as the ultimate authority in interpreting the Bible and guidance of the Church? The Archbishop of Canterbury? The primates of the national churches? Bishops of local dioceses? These are the questions facing the Anglican Communion today. Interesting enough, they are also the very issues facing many other Christian churches, such as the Roman, Lutheran, and United churches.

Easily Deceived

Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent 2017
Rev. Don Beyers, Assistant Curate

deceived.jpg

 

Well, my friends, the season of spring is upon us. But not the spring you imagine. Certainly the weather outside makes that clear. No, I speak of another spring: the springtime of faith, the season of Lent. A season for spiritual renewal, a time for pruning the weeds that strap our soul, a time to clean the cobwebs that cloud our vision of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Our season of Lent has its origins in the early Church when persons preparing for Baptism at Easter would be instructed in the faith and made ready for the great Easter feast. Through study, prayer, and penitential acts, the candidates would renounce their former ways so as to embrace the way of Christ. Over time, the preparation for Easter included all members and involved acts of penance.

Among those penitential acts was the practice of confession, a custom we continue to offer in our own time. Unlike our modern practice, Christians in the early Church made their confession publicly before the whole assembly of the church. They rightly understood that sin not only damaged our relationship with God, but with each other, the entire Body of Christ. It seems, however, that the public confession of sins loss its popularity — I wonder why — and took on a new form, that of individual confession with a priest.

Today, I am going to briefly return to that ancient practice. Fortunately for you, I am not going to call any of you forward to make your confession of sins before the congregation, but rather make a confession of a sin of which I am guilty: I depend too much on myself and don’t always trust God. While some of you might have hoped for a more provocative confession, you will be sorely disappointed. But hear me out for a moment.

Although my sin may seem mundane to you, it is one that I am profoundly aware of its dangers. If left unchecked, the deception that I can rely on myself can lead me to commit a greater sin, the sin of pride — the very sin that has brought humanity to its knees and left countless generations wounded. It is the sin of which the authors of the Book of Genesis were profoundly aware of its deadly venom. Thus their tale of the archetypal humans’ fall from grace, Adam and Eve. While not meant to be an account of a historical act, the temptation in the Garden of Eden painfully reminds us of our weakness, the fundamental brokenness that we experience and from which we can only be redeemed by God’s grace.

My often lack of trust in God manifests itself in subtle ways. At times, it is expressed in my anxiety about the future and my erroneous belief that somehow I can control what is to come, only to discover God’s plans are often greater than mine. Other times, I find myself filled with worry about even the smallest of things and I forget to entrust to God those matters for which I need his care. I can be easily deceived into thinking that I have all I need to accomplish all things. I often find that as soon as I fall into that trap, God makes a point of reminding me that there is nothing I can do, but simply entrust matters to his care.

I wonder, how often do we deceive ourselves into thinking we are more than what we are, much as Adam and Eve do in the story of Genesis. There we read that Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge believing that they would be like God and truly wise.

How often do we judge others as we believe God would judge them and condemn them for their acts? How often do we deceive ourselves into believing we know all things when words of gossip pass from our lips and shatter others’ lives? How often do we try to control others, stubbornly believing we will get our way if only we try? When we judge others, condemn others with our words, and control others, we fall trap to the very sin of Adam and Eve and trust in ourselves and not in God.

These are the very weeds that we must prune from our souls and minds this Lent, this springtime of faith. Rather than partake of the fruit of the tree, we are called to embrace Christ and follow his way.

Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus does not partake of the fruit of the tree, but bears the weight of the wood of the tree of life, the cross of our salvation. Rather than exalt himself, Jesus humbles himself and gives his life for the life of the world.

We read of Christ’s humility and total trust in his Father in our Gospel today. I have long wondered why Jesus was tempted. The more I consider it, the more I realise Jesus had to experience what you and I experience each day so that he could reverse the sin of Adam and Eve, transform it, and redeem and save what was lost once so long ago.

Rather than depend on himself — as we are so often prone to do — Jesus gives himself entirely to his Father. Certainly Jesus could have changed rocks into bread, commanded his angels to save him from death, and declared himself king of all nations. Yet he does none of those things. Instead, he trusts his Father. As St. Paul says in our second reading from Romans, Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s will makes us righteous.

We must be likewise obedient to our heavenly Father. Our pruning hook is obedience, it is the tool by which we shall tear up the weeds of sin that weigh our soul down and prohibit us from flourishing in this springtime of faith. That is our task this Lent!

For many of us, the word obedience conjures up negative feelings and thoughts. We think of obedience as limiting our freedom. Yet obedience is nothing like that. Rather, as the Latin root of the word reveals, it means to listen and hearken. When we are obedient to God, we listen to God, and follow God’s will for us.

When we hearken to God’s call for us to be holy people, a priestly people, a people who live as he calls us to live, we discover a freedom beyond our imagination. We become what we are meant to be.

I am frequently reminded of this in my own life. When I abide by God’s command and live as he calls me to live, I experience a profound happiness. And God’s command is simple: love him with our whole heart, mind, and soul, and love our neighbours as ourselves.

It is when I deceive myself into thinking that I have all the answers, know all things, and act as such that I am most miserable. When we sin, a great weight is placed upon us. A burden far greater than what we can handle on our own. But when we renounce the way of darkness and turn to Christ and seek his grace, we experience true joy and freedom. God wants us to flourish.

God wants us to live in joy and happiness, love and peace. To get there, we need but be obedient to him, listen to him, to know our way.

How do we listen? By now, many of you might notice I place a tremendous emphasis on the importance of prayer in our life. I am a firm believer that it is by prayer, both personal and public, that we come to know God and the way we are to go in life. How do we expect to hear God if we do not set aside time each day to listen? Prayer is just that: placing ourselves before God, entrusting to God all our fears and anxieties, and inviting God to transform them by his grace.

To be clear, God may not answer our prayers as quickly as we may wish or even in the ways we want. That is not the point of prayer. Rather, we pray so as to invite God into our lives, into our suffering, our fears, our joys, hopes, and sorrows. With time, we will learn from God the way we are to go. Trust me, I wouldn’t be here were it not for long and dark nights of prayer over many years.

We listen as well when we read the scriptures and hear God’s Word spoken. Christ makes this clear in our Gospel today. Notice how he responds to each temptation with a quote from the scriptures. When we study the scriptures, we allow the Word to become our very breath, the life of our spirit.

Finally, we listen to God when we attend to God’s broken-hearted. When we give of ourselves to others, when we love our brothers and sisters, friends and strangers, we attend to God. We find the culmination of this on Maundy Thursday, at the very beginning of our Easter celebrations, when we kneel down before each other and wash each other’s feet and heed Christ’s command “to love one another as I have loved you.”

Therefore, my friends, our springtime of faith, our season of Lent, is a time for us obey God, to listen to his ways and place our trust and hope in him. Thus we make our lenten journey, our spring cleaning, through prayer, study of scriptures, and service of each other. How will you make your lenten journey?

Transcending Barriers

Image Credit: Rodney Smith

Image Credit: Rodney Smith

Rev. Don Beyers, Assistant Curate

When we think of Baptism, we immediately think of water. Yet there is another, equally important symbol in the baptismal rite: chrism oil. After a person is immersed in the waters, oil is poured over their head or marked on their forehead. 

The anointing is a deeply symbolic gesture. Born into new life through the waters of Baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own. Not only are we marked as sons and daughters of the God who loves us, we become like him who saved us: Jesus. That one small gesture radically reminds us of our new vocation to be Christ to the world.

A little background might help us understand this more fully. In biblical times, kings were anointed as a sign of their new mission to be leaders of God’s people and to ensure God’s kingdom, Israel. Over time, the kingly vocation took on new meaning as Israel’s existence was threatened by foreign conquest. The people began to long for a king who would liberate Israel and make of it a great nation as promised by God. This king would be in the line of David and would be the anointed one of God, otherwise known as the Messiah, a word meaning anointed one.

When Jesus began his ministry, people began to look to him as the Messiah, the liberator of God’s people. As such, his early disciples and Christian communities began to call him the Messiah, for in him they encountered God’s saving and liberating grace. Jesus was the anointed one of God. In Greek, the title messiah is translated as Christos, or anointed one. Thus we call Jesus, the Christ.

Although the gospels and other books of the New Testament attest to Jesus’ complete and total redemption of humanity by his death and resurrection, the early Christian community listened and adhered to Jesus’ command to proclaim, through word and deed, his saving grace to the whole world. The Church, the Body of Christ, became the living presence of Jesus in the world and continues to proclaim through works of justice and peace his saving grace.

Baptism, therefore, became the sacrament by which we are born into new life and into the Body of Christ, the Church. Each and every member of that body has a vocation to be Christ to the world. Symbolizing and manifesting that vocation, we anoint the newly baptized and command them to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.

But how do we do that?

To understand our vocation to be Christ to the world, we turn to the gospels and see how Jesus lived and acted among God’s people. Today’s reading from the Gospel of John offers a profound insight into what our life and ministry ought to be if we are to be Jesus. We, like Jesus, are called to transcend all boundaries and seek relationships with all God’s people.

The story of Jesus’ visit with the Samaritan woman at the well is perhaps one of the most remarkable stories of all the gospels. It stands in striking contrast to the story of Nicodemus we heard proclaimed last week, the story which Fr. Jason spoke about. And if we pay close attention to this story, it ought to challenge us as it did the Jews who heard it proclaimed so long ago.

Unfortunately, however, we romanticize the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. In truth, however, the story is rather scandalous. It is a story of Jesus fundamentally violating the religious laws of his time. First of all, he sits with a woman. A single man never did that. Moreover, he sits with a Samaritan woman, a person from a much-despised ethnic group. Samaritans were once members of the Jewish people and were accused of not maintaining complete fidelity to God’s law because they intermarried with the people who once occupied the promised land. Finally, Jesus sits and talks with a woman who seems to have a questionable past. 

Despite all that, Jesus remains with the woman and talks with her. He forms a relationship with her. He asks her questions about her life and story. Although the woman is hesitant and uneasy about Jesus’ behaviour and questions, she remains with him, astounded by his knowledge of her, and his courage to defy the cherished laws of his day.

Remarkably, the conversation Jesus has with the Samaritan woman is the longest recorded conversation in the entire Gospel of John. No other figure has such a long dialogue with Jesus. It is also the first time Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus’ attentiveness and care for the woman inspires her to go and tell others in her community about Jesus. The Samaritan woman becomes the first evangelist.

Imagine the shock experienced by Jesus’ disciples who come along and find Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman. Jesus talks with a woman! A woman known for her questionable life! And he choses to reveal himself to her and inspires her to proclaim the good news! The early hearers of this gospel story would have been deeply troubled. So, too, should we. Particularly as this account closely follows the story of Nicodemus, a highly-regarded teacher of the faith who was unable to understand Jesus’ teachings and know him. Jesus didn’t reveal himself to him, but rather to a woman.

If we are to be Christ to others, we must live and act as Jesus did so long ago.  We have to listen carefully to this gospel story and ponder it deep in our hearts. Jesus’ words and actions challenge us to go well beyond our comfort zones, well beyond the borders and divisions we make, to proclaim the good news of our salvation. We must sit with all God’s people and form relationship with them. 

To be sure, this is a difficult thing to do. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it difficult to relate to certain people. It’s much more comfortable for me to form relationships with those with whom I agree or identify. But God calls me not to comfort, but to go where I am most challenged and love all God’s people. I am called to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation to everyone, not just the righteous few. And so are you. Remember, you were baptized and called to the same vocation I was: to be Christ to all God’s people.

This is particularly true today, at a time when so many walls and divisions are being made between different peoples. Around our world whole groups of people are being forced out of their homes because of their religious, racial and ethnic identity, and social class. We are creating divisions within our own communities, between the right and left, black and white, rich and poor. Even within our churches there is division, either because of long-held hurts or deeply-held opinions. 

In Christ, however, there is no division. We are neither Anglican or Catholic, Canadian or American, conservative or liberal in Christ. Jesus came not for some and not for others, but for all. In Christ, we are all sons and daughters of the God who loved us. 

As Christians, as persons anointed to be Christ in the world, we are called to rise above our differences and come together in prayer as one. Although we may not always agree with one another on all matters, we should never let our differences cause divisions. Rather, like Jesus, we should seek to form relationship, to listen and talk with all God’s people.

This is why we gather around this table and unite ourselves as one in Christ. The sign of peace we shall soon share with each other is not just another ordinary pleasantry, but an expression of our desire to be as one. Only then can we stand and offer our great sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God. Only then can we partake of the one bread, one cup, and be nourished and fed by Christ himself.

My friends, will you join with me and be Christ to all God’s people? Will you show gracious hospitality and welcome all to the table? We may be amazed if we do. We might just inspire another person to go out, like that Samaritan woman so long ago, and tell others about the love of God encountered in our midst.