Miracles in Gimbie
Hey everybody! Thank you for your prayers! God has definitely been busy here lately. The number of amazing events I've witnessed just in the past few weeks is astounding! If you want some assurance that God is still in the miracle business, read on.
As you may know, we're working on building another building for the nursing school. So, we needed gravel to mix with the concrete, and apparently the only way to get it was on the black market (diverting truckloads from the local road construction project.) That's what everybody else was doing. But I wasn't too sure if that was a good idea. So we decided to go directly to the Chinese contractors and ask if they would sell us the gravel. That was an adventure. A few days later, Henock (young Ethiopian accountant I work with) and Justin (SM from Walla Walla) and I drove out to where they were working on the road and tried to explain our situation to the Chinese foremen. That seemed like it was going to be a dead end, until one guy made us understand that we would have to ask his boss at their camp 70k out of town, and wrote us an introduction letter to this mysterious Mr. Li. A few days later Justin drove out to see Mr. Li. He was apparently very friendly and willing to help us, except he had to have permission from the local government to use the gravel for anything other than the road construction project. So the next day Justin and Yohannes (our well-connected HR director) went to see the mayor of Gimbie. That was also a successful visit; the mayor agreed to tell the Chinese to give us the gravel, and what's more, he would also ask them to pave the driveway to the hospital!!
Another huge dilemma we've been dealing with recently is keeping the hospital stocked with medicine. Patients frequently have to go into town to get the medicine the doctors prescribe because our pharmacy doesn't have it, which is not good. We're going through drugs at a rapid clip, and as you can imagine, they're not cheap! Well, Keresa, the hospital druggist (we don't have a pharmacist, which is a huge problem in itself—no pharmacist's license means we can't buy certain drugs, and we can't get discounts on others) was in Addis to purchase drugs and he needed money—about 50,000 ETB. Which we didn't have. I checked the cash balance and it was hovering at about 4,000. AHI donated money a few months ago to pay for large credit pharmaceutical purchases the hospital had made, but there wasn't enough left from those funds to pay for these drugs. Tadese, the head cashier hadn't deposited the patient receipts for about three days, but we usually make 6,000-10,000 per day, and there was no way that it would be even close to the 50,000 we needed. But we asked Tadese to expedite his deposit anyway because it was our only chance. We prayed frequently that morning as Tadese counted the money. When he left to go to the bank, we asked anxiously how much he was going to deposit; 53,000 birr. It was a miracle: there's no other explanation! And then God worked another miracle to help us to wire the money to Keresa in Addis in time so he could pick it up before the bank closed. Pretty amazing day!
So our cash balance was still basically at zero, because we had used the money to purchase drugs. And payroll is coming up. There were about 10 days between then and payroll, and even less working days. Even my most optimistic calculations showed us missing payroll by a large amount. But God wasn't going to let us down. The hospital works closely with a group called Maternity Worldwide; basically they subsidize Labor and Delivery procedures through something called the Safe Birth Fund. Well, we decided to calculate how much money the hospital was going to receive from the SBF for the month. Usually we get something like 30,000-40,000 birr per month—no small sum, but not nearly enough for us to meet payroll. You can probably guess what happened; when we totaled everything up, the SBF subsidy was over 80,000. The biggest one-month total yet. Incredible!
(FYI, we met payroll today!)
In addition to all the financial excitement, there have been lots of other crazy happenings. For example, the water situation; the water is always off and on, but lately it's been off more than it's been on. As you can imagine, it is pretty hard to try to operate a hospital without water. Things came to a head one day last week when Tsegaye, head of the OR informed Scott Barlow, the Matron, that he didn't have any water to sterilize instruments, they'd used all of their clean sets, and therefore he couldn't do any surgeries. This presented a pretty serious problem, because in the event of an emergency situation, we couldn't operate. Fortunately Mark Squires and Mamo, the plumber, had succeeded in hooking up the new water tank (remember the miracle of the water tank?:) and it was about half full of water. However, we couldn't use this water for the autoclave because it wasn't connected to that tank; it was connected to our tanks up on top of the hospital. So somehow we had get water into the tanks up on top of the hospital. Mamo was working on a solution to use an old pump to pump water from the tank out front up to the tanks, but it wasn't really working out. Then Paul came up with the idea of forming a bucket brigade! It wouldn't fix the problem, but it might be enough of a temporary solution to provide time to come up with something better. So Paul and I ran around organizing the bucket brigade, drafting the voluntaries from their various jobs around the compound and gathering buckets from anywhere we could find them. In the midst of this, Belinda, the Danish midwife, came in looking for someone to give blood for an emergency case. Most of the volunteers had given recently, but I learned that Mark Squires, our new COO hadn't, and he had the right type of blood, so I found him and sent him down to give blood. In the meantime, we got the buckets moving. Three people were working filling them at the tank and handing them down about six feet to ground level, then others carried them into the lobby, up the stairs to the second floor, down the hall, and then up a ladder where two more people lifted them up and poured whatever water remained into the tanks. It was quite an operation! And it was also a lot of work. All of us were pretty tuckered after about an hour and a half of this. Fortunately by then, Mamo had been able to hook up a direct line from the tank to the OR. But the autoclave ran for about 45 minutes thanks to the bucket brigade:)
That wasn't the end of our water troubles however. Two days later, this past Friday, I found out that again we didn't have water. Only this time we were completely out. None of our tanks had any water. Since Paul and Mark were both gone to Addis, I was kind of responsible to think of something. (Well, I wasn't, God was in charge, but you understand.:) Henock thought it would be a good idea to contact the Chinese and ask if we could use one of their pumper trucks. I also thought we should ask the mayor about what was going on (since he's good friends with Justin now, thanks to the gravel deal:) so Henock and Justin call to see about that. In case that didn't work, I figured it would be a good idea to have a backup plan, so I rounded up some of the voluntaries and some 55-gallon drums and sent them with Tinsaye in our little green truck to the river to get at least a little bit of water. Justin got in touch with the mayor, and he told us that the water company generator was damaged, and nobody had any water. So we decided to go talk to the Chinese. But Tinsaye was taking the truck, and our Landcruiser was gone to Addis. (It would really be helpful to have another vehicle around here…which is why we're hoping to buy one and get it shipped somewhere and drive it here:) So we decided to drive the ambulance! But we promptly figured out that the battery was dead. So much for that idea. Henock and Justin headed out to find the Chinese on foot, and I decided somebody should stay around the hospital in case anything else happened. And of course it did. First I came back to find Mulisa, the Administrative Assistant hiding in the back room from some irate lady who was yelling about something. I finally figured out that she was an employee of the hospital who was mad that Mulisa told her she couldn't get a medical allowance from the hospital for her niece. I solved that problem temporarily and got her to go away only to be confronted with another. The day before, Mamo stopped the water company from shutting off our water (because apparently we were five months behind on paying our bill,) and I had sent him to pay 4,000 birr on our bill. Now he had returned with a notice that they were going to shut off the water if we didn't pay an additional 9,000 birr. So I decided to go talk with them. About that time the green truck came back in with the guys and full barrels of water. They started siphoning the water into our main tank and I was about to leave when Henock and Justin came driving down the driveway in the cab of a big tanker truck! They'd found the Chinese and gotten permission to use one of their tanker trucks!! Henock had also convinced another one of the truck drivers to bring us a truckload of water. Mulisa and I finally got to the water company office, where I found out that they wouldn't even give me our overdue bills—apparently they give you your bill after you pay it!? But they did agree to up to town and make copies and give them to me, and they promised not to turn off the water until Monday at least. As I was walking back to the hospital, the tanker truck drove by with about half of our voluntaries riding on top on their way to the river! By the time the tankers left we had almost a full tank of water, and the water had come back on so our other tanks were starting to fill as well:)