Sunday, October 30, 2005


It’s been a little over two months since I’ve done any newsletters or any more refugee stories. I had a great break – there was some quality time with family and some friends. Some connections were also made, linking up what I’m doing on the refugee camp and in Kassoa with some people and organizations in the U.S.A. I had a break, and accomplished a lot, both personally and related to my work here in Ghana.

I’ve been back a little over two weeks now. And it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a time. It’s contained one of the things that continually draws me back to work in West Africa – the extremes. There are wonderful moments where you feel on top of the world and that everything is going as it should. Then, maybe five minutes later, maybe the next day – but you can be sure it will be sometime – the “lowest of lows” comes.

Some of you will remember me talking in the past of Abbie – the young woman (24 yrs.) with cancer. She’s the one who came from Liberia because she was told that they couldn’t treat her there and she needed to go outside for treatment. An SMA priest (now in the U.S.) who has seen her grow up helped her to come to Ghana for her care. He also played a huge role in raising the funds needed for Abbie to have her operation, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, because the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) would not help her since she was not a registered refugee – she had only come for medical treatment (which she’d been sent for since she couldn’t receive it where she was). I helped on this end by raising a few funds, by getting to know Abbie and helping to be sure that funds were available so her treatments could take place as scheduled.

In the past year and a half I’ve come to know this sweet, intelligent young woman. She has a beautiful heart and I’ve been blessed to have come to know her during the time I’ve been here. She finished her last round of chemo shortly after I left for my break in the U.S. Not long after that, though, she started to experience pain again. My colleagues kept me informed via email and were able to advance some money so she could be examined again, take more x-rays and an ultra sound. She was told she needed at least 6 more rounds of chemo at a cost of more than 4 times what it had been for the past year!

A couple days after I returned to Ghana I received a call from Abbie. I hadn’t gotten completely unpacked or organized and caught up yet, so hadn’t yet been out to visit people. She was in tears on the phone, begged me to come. When I arrived the tears were continuing – I’ve learned she’s been in tears and pain for the past month. She has two large pear sized lumps growing from just in front of her armpit and her breast is swollen and red. We immediately made plans to go the following day to the doctor who had been treating her.

The doctor turned out to be . . . ah . . . not the most cooperative, to put it nicely. So from him we went across town to the doctor who had performed her surgery upon her arrival last year and then referred her to the other doctor for her treatments. This doctor was able to provide me with much more information. Her cancer is called Rhabdomyosarcoma and it’s pretty severe. In addition, the cancer has spread into her breast – so her next surgery will require removing her right breast. She needs an operation and treatment as soon as possible. This doctor said that if he had a choice she would go for treatment somewhere outside of Ghana – somewhere in the ‘west’ – meaning U.S., Europe, etc. He doesn’t hold high hopes for her, unless she can get her treatment managed elsewhere.

So, we’re trying to see how to go about that – any suggestions anyone has will be greatly appreciated. We have been up and down to Accra and the different doctors getting documentation of her condition and the treatments she’s received in the past. Meanwhile, even when money comes available to pursue treatment here, it’s questionable what good will come from that, other than a prolongation of her suffering.

Prayer is a part of our lives here. I’m not out there ‘evangelizing/bible banging/etc.’ as missionaries are pictured to do. People have heard of the Bible, of Jesus, of God and are trying to have their faith as they are feeling called to do it. The Society of African Missions (SMA – the missionary organization I’m with) reaches out to people of Africa and African decent who are among the most abandoned, such as Abbie, people with disabilities, street children, orphans, homeless, refugees, people with leprosy, and some of the poorest of the poor. Actions show love more loudly than words – however, they do go hand and hand. I’ve not experienced as intensely this combination of action and prayer as I have with Abbie in the past couple of weeks. As I’ve said – for over a month she’s been in constant tears and pain, unable to sleep or do much else. When I’m with her, the times she stops crying and becomes calm are the times we stop and pray, asking God to give us the strength, understanding, trust and wisdom needed. We remind ourselves that, even though we don’t understand the reasons, He doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and He is with us through it. It’s about trust.


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