January 1, 2019
Happy New Year!
We have seen God accomplish so much this year! Hope Radio is broadcasting in local languages and sharing the hope that only God can give. We have seen dozens of people from different villages and tribes choose to express their belief in the Hope that Christ brings by being baptized after studying God's Word. We have worked beside and been encouraged by volunteers from different corners of the globe and we've welcomed long-term teammates. The hospital and clinic have treated thousands of people this past year and we've seen many lives spared. There have been daily opportunities to display God's love and grace to a broken world. We count it a great privilege to work beside such a wonderful team of missionaries and Togolese employees and we are beyond grateful for the small part that we're allowed to play in God's story here in Togo.
God gives, God takes – Blessed be His name
Half-way through my shift on a busy Saturday, a mother rushed her 9-year-old girl into our emergency area. She was unconscious and barely breathing. Despite intensive life-saving efforts over the next hour, the girl died without ever regaining consciousness. I suspected malaria and overwhelming infection. The family took the body home for burial and I had to turn my thoughts back to the many other sick patients already hospitalized. Just over an hour later, the same family brought in a 4-year-old girl – the little sister of the girl who had just died. She was also very ill with a similar diagnosis as her sister and we worked very hard to try to save her. It looked grim though and I prayed with her family and tried to prepare them for the worst. Through God’s grace and life-saving medications, Moudjana lived. As I saw her each day, I marveled with the family at the work that God had done in her life and grieved with them at the loss of Moudjana’s sister. A few weeks later, I was able to visit the family’s home with one of our hospital chaplains. This family is M* but through the hospital’s care for Moudjana, and through the care of other family members, we have been able to build a bridge into their lives.
This malaria season has continued to be a brutal one claiming the lives of countless children over the course of the past 5 months. Last Sunday night, I was called to the bedside of a little girl who had abruptly stopped breathing. The malaria parasites had reached her brain and were causing massive swelling. The mother began crying and the story slowly unfolded. She had lost her husband last year in Nigeria. She had had 8 children; this little girl was the 7th to die. One little boy was left, and he was mentally handicapped. The mother told me that she had no reason left to live and wanted God to take her life as well. The hopeless grief and despair on her face was palpable. I called for a chaplain who came and was able to comfort the mother. Through the hospital’s benevolence fund, we were able to pay for the hospital bill that would have otherwise been overwhelming. Two days later a group of chaplains visited her in her home and reported that she listened intently as they shared Hope with her. This family is also M* and we continue to pray that God will bring good out of brokenness.
His Kingdom grows – even where we cannot go.
Our clinic receives many people from Burkina Faso (the country directly north of us). Recently, the wait time to be seen for non-urgent problems was more than a week. These patients would camp outside of the gate and each day hope that they would be able to see a provider. For many of these patients our hospital offers their first interaction with a Christian. These kind and grateful people are looking for physical help after hearing of our hospital’s reputation. Over the past month, I (Melissa) have had the opportunity to call our chaplains numerous times to help me explain and deliver bad news (usually end-stage heart failure or cancer). On two different occasions last month, I have had the privilege of seeing 2 middle-aged men from a typically very closed tribe chose to follow Christ. One of them has returned for follow-up care and continues to grow in his faith. We are absolutely thrilled to see how God is building His kingdom even in areas where we are unable to go!
Snakes and Blood
With the end of rainy season comes the harvesting of crops. As people are in their fields, picking cotton, threshing corn, or bundling crops for transportation, we see an increase in the number of poisonous snake bites. The saw-scaled viper is especially common and causes bleeding problems that can be deadly if not treated quickly. It has been very difficult to keep a supply of antivenin in stock given the number of victims each week and a shortage in the available antivenom. We are thankful for many of you who have contributed to our antivenin fund which allows us to subsidize the cost of snake bite treatments.
Malaria continues, and one of the major side effects of malaria is often critical levels of anemia through the destruction of the red blood cells by the parasites. Area hospitals often run out of blood or the family can’t afford a transfusion (in the government hospitals you must pay before you receive any care). Many families have shown up at our gate with a limp, pale child in their arms asking if we have blood for their child. Through a variety of methods, we have been able to keep our stock up until the past week when we have run out twice. Our missionary team has pulled together and donated enough blood to keep us going – we even have MK teenagers offering to donate! This is such a tangible way to love our neighbors and be able to share how Someone much greater than us has given His blood to provide hope for humanity. Please pray that we will be able to keep our blood bank and anti-venom stock fully supplied!
Boys being boys.
Two weeks ago a breathless Aden showed up at our house telling me to come quickly as they had found a snake. I jumped on my bike and headed over to the school yard. Some of the boys were building a bike jump and in moving some bricks, a snake had uncoiled and slithered through one of the boy’s legs! Given our recent problems with an anti-venom shortage, I was thankful that it had kept going! We are also thankful for the safety God has given our boys as they climb trees, search for critters, ride motos and do other “boy” things. The boys love having their friends (the DeKryger boys) back! We are also so thankful for the education they are receiving from Aunt Kelli and Aunt Megan. Please pray that a 3rd teacher (Aunt Amanda) will quickly raise the rest of her support so that she can fill in when Aunt Kelli retires in a few years!
Thank you again for your support and encouragement. We couldn’t be here without you!
August 26, 2018
So Much Loss
Her shoulders shook with silent sobs as she leaned against the tiled wall for support. Her husband stood quietly next to the bedside where the still form of their six-year-old daughter lay, her pink, flowered skirt and gold hoop earrings a stark contrast to the piles of discarded medical equipment that surrounded her. The piles evidence of our desperate attempts to pull back the life that ebbed away in front of our eyes. Another young life cut short by malaria. I had just admitted her. Prayed with her family. Ordered life-saving medications and a blood transfusion. The malaria had chewed through her red blood cells, leaving the blood in her veins a watery reddish-pink liquid. The replacement blood hadn’t come in time and her heart simply gave out. Her father accepted our defeat with the words…”As Allah wills” and thanked us for trying. I held myself together as I talked with the team, turned to care for yet another patient and while writing up the death certificate but I couldn’t hold back the tears as I went to comfort her mother.
My mama’s heart ached. My physician’s heart wondered if there was something else I could have done. My believer’s heart struggled knowing that God is good and sovereign and yet overwhelmed with discouragement for the hurt and pain in this broken world so evident in life here. And yet, I am thankful that we are here to care for the physical needs. I am thankful that I was able to pray with them. I am thankful that through your support, we were able to help this family with their medical bill, so they would not have to leave without a daughter and yet with a debilitating debt.
Rainy season is in full swing and with the cooler weather and greener landscape comes the plague of malaria. It is not surprising to admit 5 or more children a day who are dangerously anemic and/or seizing because of severe malaria. This number does not take into consideration the many patients who are seen in the clinic or who are given life-saving transfusions and then released home to continue their oral anti-malarial treatment. We are often the only hospital in our region who has blood available for transfusions and it is often daily that a desperate parent shows up with a very pale, lethargic child in their arms hoping that we might be able to save them. Malaria season hits the children under 5 years of age the hardest and lasts until October. Malaria never truly goes away, but it does become much less common during the dry season.
What's Ethan doing?
While Melissa has the opportunity to treat and interact with patients and families, I (Ethan) have been very busy in my role as general director of the hospital. It's never a boring job. Every week there are employee issues, supply issues, volunteer situations, and the list goes on. Sometimes they're humorous situations and sometimes they're just sad, but every day the need for God's wisdom, patience, and forgiveness can be seen. The hospital employs more than 140 people and after being gone for a year, I'm trying to build relationships with our employees and seek to find ways to encourage and equip them both in their jobs and in their personal lives. I still enjoy hopping on the moto (with Melissa or one of the boys) to visit an employee's home as they celebrate births of babies and mourn the passing of loved ones. I try to also stay involved in a local ministry and visit new believers and small groups as time allows.
And the Boys...
The boys have enjoyed being back where they are able to roam much of the 60-acre compound, climb trees, play on the big dirt piles and practice their slingshot accuracy. Much to their dismay, they have been expected to do some math and writing assignments to keep up their skills. We have been memorizing Hebrews 11 as a family which has been a great encouragement. Classes at the MK school start on August 27th – Aaron will be in 6th grade, Eli in 4th grade and Aden in 1st grade. Ezra (age 4) will be home for another year before starting kindergarten. There is a kind Togolese woman ("Z") who helped another missionary family last year with their children before they left on furlough. She will be staying with Ezra on the days that Melissa works. Please pray for “Z”, she is open to the gospel but has shared that she is afraid of what her family would say if she chose to follow Christ. Ezra loves her already because she makes him a special rice dish (a Togolese version of rice pudding). Aden was the first of our family to succumb to malaria this season. He is slowly improving and we are thankful for the access to a good hospital, blood tests and appropriate medications. Overall, we have been very healthy since our return for which we are thankful!
We are grateful to be back in Mango and for the privilege of serving here at the Hospital of Hope. It was so encouraging to have had the chance to talk with so many of you who have faithfully prayed for and sacrificially given to the work that God is doing here. We are your “outposts” here in Mango. Please let us know if there are ways that we can pray for you and your church.
Praying and Praising...
- For opportunities to build relationships with our employees and neighbors.
- That needed volunteer staff would be found (short-term nurses from October-June, general surgeons from December-June).
- For unity as our team grows and changes.
- That the hospital would be an effective tool to spread God's story of hope in our region.
- For wisdom as we put together an advisory board for the hospital and together seek to address some legal matters.
- For this Sunday's baptisms of new believers.
- That we are almost back to 100% of our required support level.
- For the many wonderful short and long-term teammates we get to serve alongside.
May 4, 2018
Are we there yet? We heard that a lot this year and some of you may be wondering that too. We left Seattle yesterday morning for our return to Togo but due to airline delays and a missed flight we ended up spending the night in Newark, NJ and will be leaving this evening for a direct flight to Lomé, Togo. The past couple of weeks have included lots of packing, selling our travel trailer (home) and saying goodbyes.
We have had an incredible year despite a busy schedule. Over the past 12 months we have had the privilege of sharing with close to 40 individual churches (some several times) and multiple conferences. We have driven over 30,000 miles and enjoyed dozens of audiobooks to help pass the time. We have renewed relationships with our faithful supporters and made many new friends. As we face the next four years in Togo, we are thankful to have so many people praying for our family, our team, and the ministry of the Hospital of Hope.
Despite the busyness, we have fit in special times with family. The boys have loved the time spent with cousins and grandparents and have made so many great memories with them. Our leaving is bittersweet with difficult goodbyes but with the joy of rejoining our team in Mango. We recently talked as a family about what an incredible blessing it is to love and be loved in two places!
Our team in Mango is still in need of nurses and medical providers to help with our staffing needs. Also, we are asked often how this Lassa fever season is going. Thankfully, there has not been any confirmed cases of Lassa fever so far this season (approximately February – May). Unfortunately, Nigeria has had quite a few cases and with the trade routes and travel between countries, we are still at risk of receiving infected patients.
Once we arrive in Mango, we will spend the first week unpacking, setting up our house (it is currently totally empty) and greeting friends. The following week we will dive back in to our responsibilities.
Back to Work
Melissa’s role will remain the same as our first term. She would like to work 3-4 days/week in the clinic and hospital allowing her time with the boys.
The boys will technically be out of school for just over four months between our arrival and the start of school this fall, so she will be arranging educational opportunities to maintain their math, reading and writing skills. They are looking forward to seeing their friends, wearing shorts and going barefoot.
Ethan will be diving back into hospital administration duties and anticipates a busy year between his hospital and team leadership tasks, his heart to stay involved in church planting efforts, and continuing studies for a strategic leadership MBA.
According to the Boys...
What's your favorite audio book from our travels?
- Amos Fortune, Freeman
- The Grandma Dowdel series
- Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimack
- Adam of the Road
What's a fun memory from this past year?
- Christmas spent with Ethan’s family in the snowy mountains of Idaho
- Camping and huckleberry picking near Mt. St. Helens
- Two weeks spent at Camp Pinewood in McCall, Idaho
What's a food you enjoyed this year?
- Elk sausage (thanks to PA and ID friends)
- Ice cream
What's a memorable battlefield?
- (Ethan proposed "The backseat of the Excursion" but that doesn't seem fitting for a missionary letter)
Thank you seems so small after all the acts of kindness we've experienced this past year. There were so many of you who encouraged us, prayed for us, and opened your homes sharing meals, laughter, and sometimes tears. Our boys were loved and cared for and encouraged too, and that means so much.
Praying and Praising...
- For more people and opportunities to share God's hope both in the US and abroad.
- That we find a healthy work-life balance as we return to Togo duties.
- For unity as our team grows and changes.
- That we would continue to see God use the ministry in Togo to bring Him glory.
- Recent baptisms of new believers in Togo.
- That we are almost back to 100% of our required support level
- For our sending church’s generosity in allowing us to camp in the parking lot for the past six months saving us money and allowing opportunities to catch up with its members despite our busy schedule.
See Photos on the Photo Blog
January 2, 2018
January began in Togo, West Africa as we wrapped up our first term of service at the Hospital of Hope and delayed our return to the States until April due to needs on the field.
February 26th was the 2nd anniversary of the opening of the Hospital of Hope.
March was a month for wrapping things up in Togo and saying goodbyes as we prepared for our year-long stateside ministry assignment, visiting churches, supporters, and family.
April was the month we flew back to Washington state after being gone for almost 5 years. April held lots of firsts for the boys and fun reunions for us all with friends and family.
May was the month we moved into our tiny home for the year (a 32 foot travel trailer).
June found us speaking at churches, conferences, and Camp Pinewood where Aaron and Eli got to be campers. Melissa ran a half marathon in June and we attended family gatherings.
July included traveling through 14 States and seeing many teammates from Togo.
August brought more traveling, more church presentations, taking in the total solar eclipse, more nights in national parks and on the road, and dental appointments for all.
September held a couple of missions conferences, church presentations, and a trip to visit a supporting church in California via the Grand Canyon and Zion Park and stops with family.
October held the Insanity of God Encounter, church visits, missions conferences, and Aaron’s first orthodontist visit.
November was full of medical conferences, missions conferences, and more church visits.
December finds us visiting churches and heading to Idaho to have Christmas with Idaho family.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
We started 2017 on the other side of the globe in Togo and since arriving back in the US we’ve traveled coast to coast. We have been reminded that we live in a broken world where people desperately need the hope that Christmas declares. Our brokenness is not a surprise to God. He knew we needed help. That’s the message of Christmas. The God of the universe made a way for us to have a relationship and hope through the person of Jesus who was born, lived a sinless life, and died so that we could have hope. Increasingly we find ourselves living beside people who have never heard this message, this hope, this love. Will you join us in declaring that for the sake of the world and with the help of His Spirit, we will live for God’s glory and declare his HOPE in 2018?
Our Life in Numbers...
Since opening its doors on March 2, 2015...
The Hospital of Hope has seen more than 33,000 people from Togo and ten surrounding countries.
More than a dozen small and large Bible studies and prayer groups are taking place each week in nearby villages because of the hospital’s impact.
Since arriving in the States in May...
We’ve driven more than 25,000 miles, most of them pulling our home on wheels (a 32 foot travel trailer).
We’ve been through 25 states and spent at least one night in 21 of them.
We’ve met with more than 75 people from all over the US who served as volunteers in Mango, Togo over these past couple of years.
We’ve visited 12 national parks or monuments including Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mt. Rainer, Mammoth Cave, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Crater Lake, Badlands, Mt. St. Helens, and Devils Tower.
At the end of our year-long stateside assignment...
We will have presented the ministry of the Hospital of Hope in more than 35 churches.
We will have taken part in 8 missions conferences, 2 medical conferences, and countless retreats, camps, and seminars.
We have been greatly encouraged as we’ve spoken in churches and at conferences and shared meals with old and new friends. Thank you for your prayers for our family and for the Hospital of Hope (HOH) ministry. Thank you for your encouraging words and acts of kindness and generosity. Thank you for your financial support both for our family and for the Hospital of Hope. Please let us know if you have questions or would like to know more about becoming involved in the HOH ministry. Please continue to pray as we look toward an important year of evaluating the vision and ministry of the Hospital of Hope so that even more people can be impacted with the message of hope.
See Photos on the Photo Blog
August 8, 2017
Hello from the United States! We will be stateside updating churches and supporters on the ministry of the Hospital of Hope and completing required training and assignments until May of 2018 when we will return to serve another four years in Togo. Since our arrival we have enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship with family including meeting many new nieces and nephews. Our boys have absolutely loved playing with their cousins and are enjoying the tastes of America. Ezra especially has had many firsts but is taking the changes in stride.
We have begun visiting supporting churches and individuals. Below you will find a partial schedule of our upcoming visits. Even though we are thankful to be here enjoying time with family and savoring the tastes and beauty of the Pacific Northwest, part of our hearts remains in Togo. We have heard several updates since our departure:
News from Togo
Hope Radio: Several months ago, a strong storm severely damaged several key radio buildings and knocked over the transmitting tower causing about $100,000 in damages. This was incredibly disheartening as the plan was to start broadcasting later this year. Please pray for our families in the radio ministry and for the finances to rebuild. If you would like to contribute financially, please go to http://myaccount.abwe.org/p-2436-hope-radio-rebuild.aspx.
Lassa Fever: It seems that the Lassa fever season has come to a close for this year. There were more cases than last year but none of our employees became ill. Our hospital was asked by the government to care for all of the patients with Lassa fever as none of the other hospitals were prepared. While most of the patients died, there was one survivor. Given the nature of Lassa fever with seasonal variations, it is likely that it will return again next year during the hot season (February – May).
Water/wells: Many of you have asked about the water situation in Mango. Over the past few weeks there were two more drilling attempts resulting in one dry well and one well that produced 1700 gallons/day. This is great news as this is really the first time that a well has produced on the hospital compound. Unfortunately, we need 8-10,000 gallons/day to meet our current usage. Please keep praying.
As many of you know, we bought a travel trailer with personal funds to live in during our year of furlough. We will be traveling mostly around the Northwest but we do have some required training and visits with supporters on the East coast (which we are currently in the process of completing). At this point, we anticipate sharing in around 30 churches and also will be involved in camps and conferences. In addition, Ethan is continuing some of his responsibilities from Togo and is also looking into more training to better equip him in his position at the hospital. Melissa is homeschooling the 3 older boys and will be doing some continuing education for her license.
We are thrilled that our MK teacher, Megan MacKenzie has reached 100% of her support requirements and will be heading to language school this fall. We so thankful that she will be joining the Togo North Team long term. Our other MK teacher, Amanda Bressler, (who just just finished her 2 year short-term trip has officially begun the process of returning long-term to teach at the MK school in Mango.
See Photos on the Photo Blog
Thank you again for your faithful prayers and support. We are looking forward to seeing you over the coming year.
Fall Travel Schedule
August 20th - New Life Bible Church (Long Creek, OR)
August 27th – Tabernacle Baptist Church (Seattle, WA)
September 3rd – The Vine Church (Kenmore, WA)
September 10th – Sleator Kinney Road Baptist Church (Olympia, WA)
September 11th-13th - BNN Ministry Workers Conference (Cannon Beach, OR)
October 1st – Sunrise Valley Baptist Church (San Jose, CA)
October 8th – Faith Baptist Church (Salem, OR)
October 13-14th – Mission Fest (Seattle, WA)
October 15th – The Vine Church (Shoreline, WA)
October 22nd – Temple Baptist Church (Tacoma, WA)
October 29th – Temple Baptist Church (Tacoma, WA)
November 5th – Bonney Lake Community Church (Bonney Lake, WA)
November 8-12th – Global Missions Health Conference (Louisvile, KY)