June 2009

Porthole View - June 2009 edition 

Go Back Download PDF

Greetings from Liberia!

We have now spent six months in Liberia without a Mercy Ship in port and almost a year of living on land.  We continue to be amazed and overwhelmed by the poverty and incredible needs of the Liberian people.  We are challenged daily to know when we should give tangible help and when we should pray for God to provide for their needs.   The needs range from food to eat, clothes to wear, money to pay for school fees, a roof/tarp to keep dry during the rainy season, mosquito nets and medical assistance.  For Karen, who stays home during the day, this has become especially challenging.  As a nurse she finds it impossible to turn away a mother with a sick child.





Kaleb and Kaitlyn delivering clothes and toys to Baby Karen and her big sister Thelma

When the ship sailed, in December 2008, Karen helped facilitate follow-up care for some of the Mercy Ship patients.  One of these was a boy named Koliwo that had come from Guinea.  He received surgery on board the Africa Mercy for repair of a frontal encephalocele but experienced complications requiring further neurosurgery unavailable on board the ship.  Thankfully, a visiting neurosurgeon from Alaska, Dr. Estrada Bernard, was arriving to spend the Christmas and New Year Holidays with his family.  His mother is the sister of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the President of Liberia.  Dr. Bernard was able to remove Koliwo’s infected drain but needed to leave before he was infection-free and ready for a VP shunt placement.  After countless hours on the phone, Karen arranged for Koliwo to go to the Kijabe Children’s Hospital in Kenya where he was able to have the shunt placed.   Dr. Bernard’s Presidential connection proved invaluable when Kenyan Immigration declined the entry of Koliwo and his father as the result of a military coup in Guinea following the death of President Conte.  Without a letter from the President promising re-entry into Liberia, Kenya would not have allowed them to come for surgery.  We are all still amazed when we reflect on the team that God put together to assist this child: from the Kenya Airways Manager to the President of Liberia – all worked for the common goal of helping Koliwo, who underwent successful shunt placement surgery and is now safely reunited with his family in Guinea.

Kaitlyn visiting Koliwo at JFK Hospital
before he travels to Kenya

Koliwo and his father returning from Kenya after successful shunt placement

During Dr. Bernard’s visit Karen met several other excellent Liberian surgeons that have since become great friends and co-laborers in the effort to help Liberian patients.  Karen has enjoyed being an advocate for those who would not normally receive help.  We have been especially grateful for our home church, Foothill Covenant, which has overwhelmed us with their generosity in helping us set up an Emergency Medical Fund.  Through this fund we have been able to assist over 70 individuals with medical care.  The needs have ranged from setting broken bones, emergency surgeries (c-section and appendectomies),  elective surgeries (hernia repair and removal of uterine cysts), and many other medical conditions – prenatal care and delivery, hookworm, malnourishment, typhoid fever, malaria, seizures, TB, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, caustic soda ingestion causing esophageal burning and scarring, sickle cell anemia, congestive heart failure, liver failure and a variety of skin and bone infections needing daily dressing changes.  We have also participated in financial and pastoral needs associated with burying four patients – Pastor Samuel Wheeger, 44 years old, who needed a liver transplant, Baby Faith, three weeks old, who died a few days after having neurosurgery to repair a congenital birth defect, Zinnah, 25, who just died this week from leukemia and a 2-day old baby that experienced a traumatic delivery.

Karen is amazed at how quickly word has spread about the “white lady that helps people who are sick.”  Almost every morning, starting around 7:00, a new patient arrives asking for assistance.  After assessing them and determining which facility is best for treatment, Karen either gives them money from the medical fund and has them return with the receipt or she drives them herself for treatment – depending on the illness and whether or not she has the time.  It has been challenging to balance the needs of our own family with the outside needs of others – but many times it is a team effort by all the family.  The kids help by playing with the visiting children and often sharing their toys or clothes with them while Kreig has been an excellent consultant, financial advisor/accountant and ambulance driver at all hours of the day and night.  Each day we thank God that He is able to use our time in Liberia to be His hands and feet to people in need.  Here are a few pictures of some of the patients we have been able to assist (click on any picture to view a larger version):





Lofty – juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (left)





John – abscess in arm, new prosthetic leg after amputation on the ship (right)





Bobby – seizures related to cerebral malaria





Blessing, Samuel and Garnet – sickle cell crisis, malaria and typhoid fever



Baby Faith and her mother with Dr. Bernard and his team





Kreig holding Baby Kreig – prenatal care, delivery and neonatal sepsis



Baby Faith – 2 days old – in the family hut where she was born with an encephalocele




Silas – struggling to survive after swallowing caustic soda two years ago which caused esophageal scarring and now malnourishment – in order to survive, he will need extensive surgery in the US. Interested in sponsoring him? Contact us!



Musa – spinal cord trauma from falling off a roof causing temporary quadriplegia



Samuel – sickle cell crisis,

Mary – infection in eyelids,

Rachel – abscess

Kreig continues in his work at ELWA

ELWA is a hospital, radio station, school and mission compound founded by SIM.  Before the war, in the 1990’s, ELWA was a well run organization on a pristine campus.  During the war, tens of thousands of people squatted on the campus seeking refuge from the rebels and army forces that fought many battles here.  Today, ELWA is struggling to rebuild the campus and organization in order to serve the Liberian people to a high standard once again.

As an advisor to the Executive Director, Kreig has been helping to establish financial and human resource systems to properly manage the ministry.  Earlier this year, he was primarily involved in establishing proper accounting practices and procedures.  Recently, he has been involved in developing a time sheet and payroll system for the 200 employees and 75 contractors who work at ELWA.  This required correctly calculating and paying the income taxes, which is not common practice in Liberia.  Thankfully, the ELWA Board of Directors and Leadership are committed to do what is right, regardless of the standards held by other institutions.

In spite of the progress in these areas, Kreig continues to be challenged by the underlying corruption in Liberia and the need for systems to be put in place in order to stop the constant temptation for people in Liberia to cheat the system.   Every day brings a new story and new heartbreak.  At times one feels like there is no one you can trust – but then God reminds us of the few that stand out and shine the light of honesty – restoring hope for change.

A new place to call home

This week we are moving onto the ELWA Campus as others had been promised the guesthouse we have been living in.  This has come with mixed emotions.  We have been so grateful for the friendship and generosity of the Shank family in sharing their compound with us and miss them now that they are home on a 3-month furlough.  On the other hand, we are excited about living close to the ocean, Kreig’s office and other good friends.  The house we are moving into is small and needs some work to make it safe for children.  Some of the projects we are trying to complete are:

  • putting up a chain link fence to keep the kids in and the stray dogs and others out (3 weeks ago a dog died of rabies in the yard)
  • moving a gas water heater out of the children’s bedroom that is not vented properly
  • putting up new screens on the windows to keep the mosquitoes out as we are entering into the height of malaria season
  • improved means to secure the steel door at the front of the house – 6 months ago there were armed robbers on campus that broke through wood panel doors, robbed and injured the inhabitants

As with all house projects both time and money are needed – things that seem to be in short supply at present.  These projects are necessary for the safety of our family and will cost $2,500. Our anticipated monthly expenses are: rent $120/month, utilities $500/month, food $400/month, medical insurance $700/month and various household expenses $200/month.   As always, we would be grateful for your continued prayer and financial support at yet another time of transition for our family. 

Click here for directions on to support us.

Returning home

We still hope to return to America by Thanksgiving – but only God knows if this is realistic.  There is still a presidentially-mandated hold on all adoptions in Liberia.  In October, when we are able to apply for an Immigrant Visa for Keyara, we will need a letter from the Liberian Department of Justice allowing Keyara to leave the country.  Dr. Bernard (the President’s nephew) has already offered his assistance, if needed, and we thank God for his friendship and family connections, although we hope they will not be necessary.
We continue to marvel at God’s daily provision for our family and are grateful for you – our friends and family – who allow us to show God’s love and concern for the Liberian people through your partnership with us.

Go Back Download PDF