Hospice in the Bahamas

Andros' coral reef

Andros’ coral reef

To those of us in the States and Europe, hospice and palliative care are things we take for granted. If someone has a terminal friend or relative, it is a natural question to ask, “Have they signed up for hospice?” We have come to understand the value of hospice care, of dying at home, of help for caretakers, and the like. In other words, we completely take it for granted.

In Uganda, there are six hospices in the entire country. I work with two of them. Hospice Jinja, with a dozen staff and two vehicles, is supposed to service a population of 8.5 million. Hospice Tororo, newly begun in the Tororo Hospital, is near the Kenyan border. Their supposed reach is probably in the neighborhood of 4-5 million, if I had to guess. Their first vehicle has just arrived (it hasn’t gotten it’s paperwork yet, though), so they’ve been visiting patients by boda or at the hospital.

In one of my first conversations about Andros, before I had visited this Easter (I’d been once, for something totally different, for 1 day 4 years ago), I found out that there is nothing for the elderly on Andros. So naturally, after working with hospice in Uganda for over three years, that was the first thing I thought of. Once we returned, I started doing some research. I thought that, surely, there would be a hospice in Nassau I could talk to. And maybe in Freeport, too. But the internet didn’t find anything except a newspaper article about an in-patient hospice opening in Freeport late last year. However, the Cancer Society of the Bahamas was involved with that, so I decided to call them.

The secretary/treasurer of the Cancer Society called me back, and we had a nice long chat. What I learned right off the bat is that there IS no hospice in the Bahamas. At all. The four room facility in Freeport is technically hospice, but it’s expensive to run and all there is. There is no outreach, no visiting, no training, no care. My contact said that the culture is somewhat resistant, but then, so has been Ugandan culture until they learn what hospice does and how it benefits them.

I have been in touch with Dr. Frank and Dr. Patricia, the retired Irish couple who go to Uganda twice a year for a month at a time to volunteer. They’ve given me a long list of things we’ll need to do to get hospice off the ground in the Bahamas. We will have some challenges… well, a lot of challenges, but some that they don’t have. For one thing, in Uganda, nurses are allowed to prescribe morphine and other drugs, so that a doctor doesn’t always have to accompany the team in the field. This is good because there is no staff doctor, only volunteers that come. They carry a portable pharmacy (otherwise known as a suitcase) and are able to dispense meds right away when they see a patient. This is an obstacle for us, as I’m sure nurses aren’t allowed to do that. We’ll need a doctor, physicians assistant, or nurse practicioner, which is expensive and complicated. (I’m hoping we can get volunteers from Florida on a regular basis, since it’s so cheap and fast to get to Andros from there…)

We’ll have to work with the government, which is always delightful (*cough*), and will no doubt be doubly so on an island where the government seems to be too involved in life.

We’ll need community volunteers and community training about what hospice/palliative care is, how it helps, and why they need it.

Finally, I believe we’ll need a vision that isn’t limited to Andros. There are only 8,000 people on Andros. But there’s also no hospice in Nassau/New Providence, where there are over 250,000 people. None in Freeport with 50,000 people. None in the Abacos or other family islands that make up the rest of the Bahamas. Eleuthra. Exuma. Inagua. 700 islands. No hospice.

It’s a big task. It’s too big to think of as a whole, really. But I firmly believe that it is something that God has called me to, and so He will give us the ability and the funds and the favor to accomplish it. Who am I? Nobody. But the God I serve is big enough!

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Missions are NOT about you!

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I sent this letter to the Andros team today, but am copying it here. I am not the only one that is bothered by this. I’ve spoken to several of my Ugandan friends who are, as well.

I was reminded today of something that I meant to discuss at the meeting, before we were so rudely interrupted by the nice fireman evacuating us… Please share this with your kids, since I don’t have everyone’s email address.

Something has swept the short term missions trip world over the last 5-10 years. I noticed it for the first time 3 or 4 years ago, and have been watching it play out in successive short term missions teams that I’ve encountered and stayed in the same location with in Uganda. And that’s this philosophy (this is a quote from a blog I read today):

The trip is primarily about us, not them. And that’s OK. This is an insight trip to expand our spiritual horizons, see how faith works when resources are severely limited, discover how God is at work among culturally and theologically diverse people.

I’m not sure where this sprung up, but I can tell you that, in my opinion and those of Ugandans who house and interpret for and guide missions teams, it has been extremely detrimental to the good work that short term missions trips should be doing to advance the Kingdom. Now, the article also talks about not encouraging a victim/give-me mentality with a lot of free stuff, and that’s fine. But this idea of “The trip is primarily about us, not them” is a dangerously slippery spiritual slope.

it's not about you
Americans always think things are about us, unfortunately. I guess Brits and Congolese and Japanese do, too. But when you feel God pressing you to go on a missions trip, He is NOT saying that that trip is about you. That trip is about HIM. The single purpose of the trip is to go where He is sending you, tell the people that you are there because He loves them enough to send you, and then share that love with them. That can take the form of evangelism, a sports camp, a VBS, hospital visits, or building an orphanage. The WHAT isn’t important, except that you are obedient to God’s vision of the what. But the WHY is vitally important!

Going into a foreign country, especially one with great poverty, and presuming to tell people what they need without asking their needs is a problem. Many missions trips do this, and they don’t see anything wrong with it because “it’s about them, and that’s ok.” You are there for one reason, and one reason only: God. He has something that He wants to impart to the people you are serving, something that will show them that He hasn’t forgotten them, that He loves them just as much as He loves you, and that we are all part of one body.

Your spiritual journey might be advanced by a short term missions trip, and that’s certainly a blessing. But it’s not why you go. If this is why you have signed up for the Andros trip, I would encourage you to really seek the Lord about it. I hope that we all have fun, that the trip goes as we’ve planned, and that everyone is safe. I hope that the trip opens your eyes to things about God and the world that you didn’t know before, and that you receive a revelation that will lead you into bigger and greater things in His Kingdom. But that’s not why we’re going.

God has called me to both Uganda and Andros for relationships., to show the people there the things that He wants and needs to show them through me or my kids or the people we bring. It’s about knowing and loving the people as God knows and loves the people. For me, it is vitally important that we all prepare for the trip with this mind- and heart-set. This trip is NOT primarily about us, and we will only accomplish what God has in mind for the trip if we embrace that fact.

Thanks for your willingness to go and represent Him.

PS. Oswald Chambers has a lot to say about “workers for God.” I’d encourage you to read him!

A meeting and an evacuation

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We had our first meeting for the Andros missions trip today, and it was going great… Until a fireman knocked on the door and told us we had to evacuate because there was a broken gas line up the street! The ended things quickly!

We did get our information covered, and I showed a slideshow, which you can see here as a video.

As it turned out, we didn’t totally evacuate. We got the dog out right away, and then my son and I spent 15 min looking for the cat. By the time we got her into her carrier, the gas smell was gone and my husband was standing in road talking to a neighbor. The police and firemen didn’t ask us to leave, so we put the animals in the car and hung out in the yard. Apparently getting blown up in the yard would have been preferable to getting blown up in the house…!  Anyway, although there were more than a half dozen vehicles with flashing lights in the street, it was over in less than an hour from start to finish and all is well.

With the much excitement at the meeting, just think how exciting the trip will be!

Project Friendship Call to Action

I just totalled up the number of frienship bracelets we’re going to need between the Andros trip in August and the Uganda trip in September, and realized it is between 500-600. Then I had a heart attack…

If you are already part of Project Friendship and can commit to making bracelets, please let me know. If you’re not and want to be, ditto. And if you are in some group that would love to do this project — Bible study, Sunday school, youth group, etc — DITTO. We need all the help we can get!

Thanks so much for your support!

Project Friendship bracelets and tees at the basketball camp reunion party

Project Friendship bracelets and tees at the basketball camp reunion party

Project Friendship!

Project Friendship!

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Project Friendship!

Project Friendship!

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Just take one! yeah… that didn’t happen!

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Age is no barrier – EVERYONE loves the friendship bracelets!

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New nation, same focus

Beneby's!

Beneby’s!

The planning for our youth camp in Andros in August is proceeding well, and I’m so excited! Butterflies in the stomach excited. When God moves, you just have to go with Him. Make it a point not to ask Him to join you – just jump in and join Him!

We are proceeding with the vision we got for Andros when we were there over Easter. I’m going to establish a Bahamian NGO/non-profit, which will give us a locally established presence for things like land and buildings and other assets, as well as for getting residence status. Getting anything done in the islands is always interesting – a lot of phone calls to get information, since people are on “island time” – but we’re pushing through! I’m also in contact with a poultry expert from NCSU to find out about having an egg farm. She asked me a lot of questions I didn’t know the answers to; I don’t even know how many eggs a chicken can lay in a week! But we’ll get all that figured out, too, eventually.

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Meanwhile, Zeke is going to Uganda in mid-August, and I’ll probably be going in late September or early October. Our work there will continue, and we’re always excited to go see our friends, eat yummy food, and check on all the people we’re sponsoring and helping.

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So Ten Eighteen is no longer a ministry to Uganda only. We are being stretched, but going happily. We ask for your prayers for both Uganda and Andros, and for us as we navigate what we see and hear from the Lord in both these wonderful locations.

As always, thanks for your thoughts, prayers, and donations!

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A Missions Trip – to Andros, Bahamas!

Yep, you read that right. Ten Eighteen, up til now focusing on Uganda, is taking a missions trip to Andros, Bahamas. We have spent Easter weekend in Andros, trying to listen to the Lord about why He sent us there (and he very clearly did). We don’t know everything yet, but what we do know is that we will be doing a youth camp at the National Church of God in Mastic Point, North Andros. Here are the details (as we know them at this early date), as well as pictures and some information on Andros.

WHEN:  August 10-17, 2013

WHERE: Mastic Point, North Andros, Bahamas

WHAT:  Youth Camp for kids 5-18, at National Church of God

WHO:  We can sleep 13 at Beneby’s Bayside Motel (a 5 room guest house). It is possible we can fit in a few air mattresses, but I’d need to confirm that with Mrs. Beneby.

COST:  My estimate right now is $900, depending on airfare. It shouldn’t be more than $1,000

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO IF YOU WANT TO GO?

Time is short, but God knew that when He laid this on my heart. Right now, a quick check of Orbitz shows the airfare at $400. We’ve paid as low as $350. Booking the flights as soon as we can is going to be key to locking in our costs, as will working with a consolidator. I know you will need to raise the funds, and the funds other than the airfare won’t be needed until we go. But we will need to get those tickets as soon as possible. Tentatively, I’m hoping we can do that NO LATER THAN MAY 15 or (latest) JUNE 1.  That will give you time to raise the additional money.

Let me know via email or Facebook if you want to go, and I’ll add you to the list. I’m taking people on a first-to-reply basis. We’ll be having a meeting for those interested in going in April, probably the weekend of the 19th – I’ll know more on that once I get back to the States.

INFO ON ANDROS:

Andros is the largest island of the 700 that make up the nation of the Bahamas, and the 5th largest Caribbean island. Andros is the least explored island of the Bahamas. It is HUGE, but only has 8,000 people living on it. The people are divided between South Andros, which is cut off from the rest of the island by bytes, creeks and mangrove swamps, Central Andros, and North Andros. Farming and fishing bring in income, but most people only do the bare minimum to get by. The Navy base at Fresh Creek employs 300 Androsians and is by far the biggest employer. The next biggest is the Bahamian government. The island is shockingly poor, especially when you arrive from Nassau. The other thing you notice is that there is, literally, NOTHING there. There are vast square miles of forest, with settlements dotted along the eastern coast, but mostly it’s just a whole lot of nothing in terms of businesses, infrastructure, commercial enterprises, etc.

95% of the houses are in disrepair. Many people have little to no food on hand. (Mrs. Beneby, who owns the guest house, is retired, and spends a lot of her time distributing food around the island.) Almost no one has internet, although it’s available on the island. Most people are simply unemployed.

But it’s beautiful! It has the largest number of blue holes of anywhere in the world (we saw 2, one just offshore and the other in the middle of the woods). The water and beaches are just as pretty as anywhere else in the country. It has the 3rd longest coral reef in the world, and the best bonefishing on the planet (literally). There is a 6,000 foot drop off to the east of the reef that forms the Tongue of the Ocean. There are caves, including Henry Morgan’s cave, where the famous pirate is said to have buried treasure. The potential is just massive – and yet, there’s nothing but poverty. And the island is only 13 miles from Nassau at the closest point.

To get to Andros, you can take a small (6 seat) charter plane, a larger (30 seat) commercial plane, the “fast” ferry (2 hours, on Mon/Wed/Sun), or the mail ferry (4+ hours, twice a week). The charter is $60 each way and the best way to go – it only takes 15 minutes! (To get from North Andros to South Andros by plane is $400-500, crazily – you have to go to Nassau, then an island in the middle of Andros, then South Andros.) It’s a beautiful trip, up over Nassau’s west coast, across the narrow bit of ocean, across the reef, and then the swaths of forest.

PICTURES:

I haven’t gotten the pictures from the family from their phones yet, but here is a good overview. I’ll add the ones of the caves, a gorgeous cove we went to at Morgan’s Bluff, and others, once we get home!

heading to Andros in the charter plane. It's really fun!

heading to Andros in the charter plane. It’s really fun!

The road to Uncle Charlie's blue hole

The road to Uncle Charlie’s blue hole

Yep! That's a BLUE HOLE! I can cross that off my bucket list!

Yep! That’s a BLUE HOLE! I can cross that off my bucket list!

You can swim in the blue hole... YES PLEASE!

You can swim in the blue hole… YES PLEASE!

Rope swing...

Rope swing…

The water is crystal clear but the hole is dark because it is so deep. You can see something you drop for at least 30-40', and bubbles will come up from a rock for a long time

The water is crystal clear but the hole is dark because it is so deep. You can see something you drop for at least 30-40′, and bubbles will come up from a rock for a long time

Fishing boats at Red Bays, the only settlement on the west side of the island.

Fishing boats at Red Bays, the only settlement on the west side of the island.

This house is in pretty good shape by comparison to most.

This house is in pretty good shape by comparison to most.

The house Mrs. Beneby was born in

The house Mrs. Beneby was born in

The view from the back balcony of Beneby's Bayside Motel

The view from the back balcony of Beneby’s Bayside Motel

The mangroves behind Beneby's (and most of Mastic Point)

The mangroves behind Beneby’s (and most of Mastic Point)

One of the many gorgeous beaches on Andros. With NOTHING on it...

One of the many gorgeous beaches on Andros. With NOTHING on it…

See? nothing!!

See? nothing!!

Walking back to Beneby's from our dinner at Murphy's Chill and Grill (Delicious!)

Walking back to Beneby’s from our dinner at Murphy’s Chill and Grill (Delicious!)

Almost there!

Almost there!

Beneby's!

Beneby’s!

Just for comparison, this is the Sheraton in Nassau... Notice a difference?

Just for comparison, this is the Sheraton in Nassau… Notice a difference?