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Grief and insecurity

Grafity in Dakar

About a year ago a good friend and fellow doctor warned us, and unfortunately, over the past months, we experienced what he warned us for: we and the church in Senegal are suffering the loss of a number of loved ones due to COVID-19. In the past month, three important church leaders have passed away. They are indispensable leaders and they leave big voids in their families (with teenage children), and in their church and many committees. The board of directors of Senegal’s only mission hospital, of which Tabitha is also a part, has lost its president and secretary and is now inactive.

 

In de rij voor Simon’s school

Our house rules :
1) Don’t wear a face mask in company
2) Compliment each other
3) Be nice and everything that goes with it

who die at home without being tested. Due to crowded hospitals and travel restrictions, non-corona related care is also much less available.

Although the figures are much lower than in the many Western countries – but we have to take into consideration that there is much less testing – the impact of the second wave is enormous. There are many stories of people 

Some churches have resumed their services, others are connecting through a Facebook page. But all churches see a loss of commitment. Activities and events, such as medical campaigns or gospel concerts, that are important to the unity of the Church are cancelled. Our annual conference for Christians in Medical Care was also cancelled and was given online. Despite the good turnout with small groups gathering in front of computers all over the country, real contact is being missed. The recently launched student work in particular, suffered from a year with virtually no meetings.

The government has now started to vaccinate the population. The foundation for Christians in Health Care assumes an informative role towards the Christian community (see this video for example). The recent riots in Senegal have shown that the wounds left by the Corona crisis are deep. We pray for the restoration of the land, physically and spiritually.


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Children’s songs in dozens of schools

Corrie ten Boom once said: “When the Lord closes a door, he opens a window.” It is clear that many doors were closed for the music ministry in 2020: live music was prohibited for months; our study was out of work. Traveling was prohibited; so the guesthouse remained empty. But “on the shelf” was still a children’s program with songs and life lessons, which came in handy when primary schools were allowed to reopen after the 9 months.

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Maternity ward opens in Galle Kisal

A car approaches the clinic at high speeds and breaks at the last second. A woman yells and makes wide arm gestures. A baby, apparently born on the way, is wrapped in some cloths in the back of the pick-up. The placenta still attached to the umbilical cord. The woman tells us that the baby has not cried yet. We quickly carry the package to the maternity ward and we fortunately hear a noise soon. It had taken the mother so long to find money for transportation that she didn’t make it in time for her to give birth at the clinic. Imagine all the risks that entailed for the small baby. Since April this year the maternity ward has been opened in the clinic in Northern Senegal. In an area where the breadwinner is often for weeks away from home with his cattle. There is little confidence in health care, so we face major challenges.

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Conference for doctors and nurses in 7 regions

Doctors and nurses in Senegal are, just like anywhere in the world, tired of the Corona crisis and the uncertainty and stress. How can you continually show compassion in the midst of this difficult time? “Compassion in Action” was the theme of the annual conference, which this time was held decentralized. In 7 regions of the country, small groups of colleagues gathered around a computer in a hospital or health post. A surgeon and international coordinator of the foundation was the inspiring speaker.

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A Church in the Studio…

“Since I started reading the Bible again, my inner life changed so deeply”, replies Ndongo* when I ask him at the end of 4 months of intensive discipleship if he wants to meet again in two weeks. Large gatherings and open-air concerts are still prohibited, and there is little clientele in the studio and the guesthouse is empty. This silence did give room for reflection and contemplation. The most important lesson for us was that we spent a lot of time working and that we didn’t give the right priority to prayer. We have now started with 1 on 1 discipleship, a daily half an hour prayer with all employees of the studio, and a prayer meeting every Wednesday evening. It is a small team of about 6-8 people who are permanently present in the studio, and on Wednesdays, they bring their friends.

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Galle Kisal Clinic 10 years!

Last month we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the clinic Galle Kisal (House of Peace) in Northern Senegal. It has been a difficult year for the staff as they continued the vision following the death of the founder Dr. Ousmane Soh. At many times he is still sorely missed by colleagues and patients. The clinic staff, some family members, and some people from the nearby church had come to celebrate the anniversary with a rural picnic and sports activities. The rainy season has transformed the landscape into a green oasis.

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From civil servant to hospital director

We would like to introduce you to Kane. He considers his work as a civil servant as his spiritual calling. When he became a Christian as a teenager, his pastor encouraged him to become a pastor or a teacher. He, however, decided to pursue a career as a civil servant. He was accepted into a very sought-after government training program, and he is now a regional work inspector. Since the death of Dr. Soh, I (Tabitha) have been working closely with Kane on the board of the clinic. His management experience now proofs to be an indispensable qualification. His dedication however goes much deeper and that has everything to do with his special life story.

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Not just any dentist…

I already noticed that Dr. Omar* is not just a dentist: he and a number of colleagues voluntarily travel in turns to Dahra to start up dental care in the clinic, a major need among the population. He tirelessly offers consults, extracts molars and often opens the Bible in the treatment room. He shines when he tells me his special story.

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Christian radio station in the city

The radio is on wherever you go in Senegal: on the bus, in shops, at the market, and on the street. The music follows the latest hit list and social themes are discussed in all kinds of talk programs. For the Senegalese population, half of whom are illiterate even in the city, radio is the medium to connect, share knowledge, and to widen the horizon. It is not surprising that the gospel singer Bernard has been dreaming of a Christian radio station in the city for years.

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Large relief campaign for medical clinics

“As a foundation, we want to equip Christians at a national level and help provide holistic care. During the corona crisis, we want to be there for the Christian clinics, which are all struggling with huge costs for protective equipment and other preventive protective equipment. ” Tabitha worked for many years to create this foundation for Christians in healthcare: UCMPS. In times of crisis, it becomes evident how important a good organization is. Even domestic trips were prohibited in Senegal and yet, thanks to the regional coordinators, we were able to assist all 25 Christian clinics!

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Corona relief fund

Fatoumata cannot afford her medicines. She had planned to sell one of her sheep before coming to the clinic, but the cattle market has been canceled for some time. She has diabetes but living without medicines can cause serious complications. For patients like Fatoumata who come to the Dahra clinic, there is support from the relief fund.

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Dahra Campaign

Maimouna shakes my hand and hugs me. She recently consulted me and since the treatment her deaf ear has healed: she can hear again. Now she’s come with her neighbors for a two-day campaign of free consultation and screening at the clinic in North Senegal.

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Corona Song with Gospel Artists

For years there was the idea and desire to work more together as gospel artists in Senegal. During this strange crisis, it was spontaneously suggested: a song with a large variety of gospel artists about the coronavirus. A catchy tune about staying at home and washing hands is alternated by a call to put our trust in the Lord of Life. The main goal is health education, but these music styles and mixed voices are a breakthrough in the Christian music movement in Senegal.

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A shepherd in the doctor’s office

His flock of sheep remains outside the gate when Abdou comes to the hospital for medical consultation. He has not been feeling well for a while, but because of trepidation, he has never been to the hospital before. He is a shepherd of the Fulani people and does not easily open up, not even to the doctor. He had a lot of confidence in Dr. Soh and that’s why he’s knocking on our door.

The health center (300km from Dakar) was founded by Dr. Ousmane Soh. I (Tabitha) have been serving here as an interim medical director and doctor since his sudden death in September 2019. It is just a couple of miles away from one of the largest livestock markets in West Africa. Shepherds from the entire region and even from Mali and Mauritania come here to trade their livestock on Sundays. With the small team of colleagues, we do our best to continue the vision of Dr. Soh: serve the Fulani with good medical care with Jesus as our example.

I have been traveling to the village twice a month for a week at a time until the end of 2019. Since January, a young doctor has been hired and I have reduced my visits to once a month. It takes quite some effort to convince the community that the standards of love and quality set by dr. Soh are still respected. At the same time, the hospital needs to be re-organized without his visionary and dedicated presence. It is our desire to build on the foundation of trust that Dr. Soh has laid in the community We have offered free consultation and all kinds of screening for an entire weekend so everyone could experience that the work continues.


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Yeesu Rekk Concert

“You’re Bernard, the singer, aren’t you?” the employee of the gas station asks, and she continues: “Yeesu Rekk!” (only Jesus), “thank you for what you do for our country.” It is an example of the many conversations that have started since we started the “Yeesu Rekk” campaign. The statement “only Jesus” is meant to be a greeting between the Christians in Senegal, and as a testimony to the rest of the people. In 2019, the social pressure on Christians to conform strongly increased. In this increasingly hostile environment, Bernard realizes that he also has a growing risk of negative reactions.

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The cause of illness

A virus or bacteria can make us sick. Behavior, such as smoking or poor nutrition, can also cause illness, which is why lifestyle medicine is on the rise. It is a revelation to many Senegalese physicians, health care students, and nurses that our values ​​and underlying belief systems and culture can also influence disease. This year, our annual conference of the Foundation for Christians in Healthcare is about worldview and the Biblical view of illness and health. As one of the founders of this movement, the conference for me (Tabitha) is always a highlight of the year.

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On death, hope and perseverance

Maria on the other corner

“A little further to the left Tabitha!” Dr. Soh shouts. It is 2013, we are on the empty site that he has just bought for the construction of the hospital. We (Maria, Tabitha, Simon and Jan and Dr. Soh) are each on a corner of the empty plot so that we can see the size. Then we follow Dr. Soh through the yellow grass while he’s explaining: “this will be the entrance, with on the left a first aid room, on the left the corridor to the women’s wing, on the right the men’s ward, here the lab, there a private room and here my office.” Everything is already in his head, and we start to see the hospital in our minds.

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Research malnutrition in infants published

I can vividly remember the story of Ndeye Fatou. Working with children with malnutrition has long been my passion. In particular infants who are already dealing with weight loss or nutritional problems caught my attention because they are extremely vulnerable and there is little scientific knowledge about their situation. It is therefore an honor that my article about my research on this subject has now been published in BMC Health systems.

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Malnutrition in the slums

Alioune* sweeps the floor of the Koranic school, the room that we use for the church’s malnutrition program in this slum area in Dakar. The beautiful coastline in the distance stands out against the sea of ​​corrugated iron with wooden huts. The sun-drying fish attracts a huge pest of flies. This place, a home for a group of fishermen and a mixed community of refugees and poor people who have sought refuge in the city, is where the church of Alioune started its social project.

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Making History

December 1, 2018 was a historic day in Senegal. After a 5-hour general members meeting during the annual conference for Christian health workers, a vote was taken for the establishment of a foundation for Christians in care. The outcome? The statutes were adopted unanimously and a board was elected! Although it was not covered in the newspapers, this foundation can have a major impact in the country. Not only by bringing Christians together for mutual encouragement and prayer, but also by providing a framework for and awareness to existing mission clinics and other medical projects in the country. The foundation will be offering structural in-service training and in the long term they can be a voice towards politicians and policymakers in particular about (Christian) ethics in health care. It is a privilege to be involved in this process as an initiator and catalyst.

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Be the Saline of the world

NaCl, saline solution, is the standard infusion solution, no matter which country you work in. It is also the name of an internationally used training for Christians in health care, who desire to be ‘salt’ in their environment. 10 Senegalese colleagues traveled to Togo this summer to follow this training, and a number has already started to train others.

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Music changes lives

During our stay in Holland over summer we enjoyed the music and singing in our own language, and Dutch cultural music. Music touches our hearts and the texts change our thinking. There are obvious reasons why singing has an important place in the church service. We are blessed in the Europe and the US with a wide range pf programs and training to develop musical talent. Reality is very different in Senegal. Artists have virtually no opportunity to get lessons, let alone biblical teaching about music.

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Headaches and high blood pressure

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Fatou, a woman of less than 60 years old, comes stumbling into the clinic, supported by a family member. At the door the triage nurse had her cut the long line, and in the emergency room it appears that her paralysis is caused by a stroke. Years ago, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but because the headache disappeared, she had stopped taking her medication. Her high blood pressure and perhaps a number of other risk factors now have dramatic consequences.

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Protection and Proclamation

“…. But then I heard Mamadou call me to look for his bag, and then I knew he was still alive!” It is the rather funny ending of a dramatic experience. Two of the evangelists, that had travelled some hundred miles from up country were in a serious bus accident. The bus had to deviate at high speed to prevent upcoming traffic and tipped over and rolled over several times. Almost all passengers where injured. The man sitting next to Mamadou was brought to the hospital by the firefighters with a large head wound. But Mamadou and Ameth crawled out the bus without a scratch and were able to help the other passengers.

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“MARANATHA”

“Maranatha”, an exclamation of hope that has been expressed since the early church. It reflects a deep-rooted desire for justice in situations of suffering and injustice. The daily confrontation with injustice makes that many people recognize this desire. It is not just by its title that the new album by Bernard Cissa connects people. Various artists that we have come to know at the FIAC are participating on the album. And there is the first connection with Catholic organizations, they are going to sell the album and give it some huge airplay on the radio.

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International Women’s Day

In Senegalese culture it is hilarious when a man serves a woman. Just imagine the laughs when all the male personnel of the clinic, including the director, served the women bowls with food. March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is a day to bring the rights of women to the attention, but in Senegal another special reason for a party.

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Triage and saving lives

Right at the entrance of the Keru Yakaar clinic, the triage nurse sees that toddler Modou has signs of dehydration. His mother has taken him because he has had diarrhea for a day and does not want to eat. Modou gets a red card which allows him to skip the line and go directly to the pediatric clinic. Treatment is immediately started for rehydration and 2 hours later, Modou is already doing a lot better!

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Dutch Discipleship: cheap and direct

As I stand by the water and look out over the ocean and the palm trees beach I wonder whether Pastor Pape does not have some hidden Dutch blood. He always has bargains (like the location of this church retreat, literally on the beach, but cheaper than what we would pay in Dakar) and he is direct. He says what he thinks and does not revolve around things, a quality that is not appreciated by everyone in Senegal, but for me it is very pleasant to work with. We are on leadership retreat with the EEPS and it is exciting to be involved with this passionate group of people!

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On mission in your own country: visiting colleagues in Northern Senegal

How do you find food for the cattle in the dry season? How do you make a tasty meal from a sheep’s leg? How do people from the Fula nomadic people greet each other? What is it like to be the only Christian living in a village? Why are the Fula so long? Why is typhoid fever common in the region?

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A musical revolution!

“This wasn’t a forum, this was a revolution!!” says a pastor at the end of the first edition of the International Forum for Christian Artists. The vision that had been penciled in our agenda for a long time but became concrete this summer when we visited the Christian Artists Seminar in Germany. With an abundance of dedication and a healthy portion of faith, we took on the challenge. And a challenge it was! In the finances, in tracing the artists, in managing the team, in receiving the main speaker, the organizing of the workshops, etc. But something new has revolutionized the network of Christian artists in Senegal, a movement that now seems irreversible!

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Moving together

The wound care nurse and former soldier Carlos is our sports teacher today. Accompanied by some very loud music, all the muscles are loosened on the beach, this early Saturday morning. A cardiologist, an ophthalmologist, an obstetrician and a nursing assistant are lined up and the usual hierarchy of the workplace no longer applies. The beautiful view of the coastline adds to the holiday feeling. It is the second national conference for Christian health workers and nearly a hundred colleagues have come from all regions and people groups of Senegal. The theme is holistic care.

We learn about approaching the patient as a whole: body, mind and soul, and bringing them back into contact with their Creator. There are medical workshops and a lot of interaction. Many colleagues work in remote clinics in the interior and the conference gives them the opportunity to hear others’ experiences, follow continuous teaching and receive advice and prayer for their work. News about job opportunities is also exchanged.

The network has become a movement for Christians in the healthcare sector who discover their calling and want to share Christ in their work. We have now also started to organize activities during the year, such as medical training, advice to mission clinics, exchange, and regional prayer groups. Meanwhile, there is a small team of health professionals that want to commit to facilitating this movement and we hope to register as a foundation in the coming year.


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Good news in prison

In partnership with ICF Dakar, we organize concerts every year in several prisons in Dakar. The authorisation needed for these events comes from the highest level at the ministry, and it is never a done deal that we get the permission. This year we went to two women’s prisons and a juvenile prison for boys. When we take in the speakers, cables and the mix table in the morning, we already feel that it will be a special day.

In the courtyard of the boys’ prison, the chairs are already on both sides of the sand. The chairs at the exit are obviously meant for us, the visitors. The young people are already exited when they are brought in. Not just for the concert, but also for the traditional wrestling matches that will be held during the concert.

Bernard has a special talent for connecting with his public. Soon they all sing sing their hearts out: “Il ne faut pas rater le Rendez-Vous avec Jésus” (don’t miss your appointment with Jesus) and “Yesu sama Ndanaan” (Jesus is my hero). Between the songs, Bernard explains their meaning, he urges the boys to treat girls with the same respect they have for their mothers, and invites them to seek God with all their heart and to put their trust in Jesus Christ.

It is actually a miracle that we get so much freedom in the prisons. But as long as the doors are open to bring the Christmas message through music, we seize every opportunity!

 


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Mango’s for sale at the clinic

The immense mango trees in the large garden around the clinic provide shadow and shelter to the many patients who gather. It is rainy season which means busy days for Seni, the head nurse of this small clinic in southern Senegal. Many children have respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition. The clinic is not accessible by car, so we walk 20 minutes from the paved road. Together with a colleague we’ve travelled all the way from Dakar to visit a number of Christian clinics. Such a visit is always an encouragement for these health professionals who are often alone. In addition, I do an evaluation of their programs. Trying to ignore the immense heat, we see patients together until the garden is empty again just before another group arrives. During my previous visit, I gave training on how to set up a malnutrition program, and Seni has put it into practice.

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85 children with scabies

“What’s your name?” I ask while gently smiling at the eight year old boy. He remains silent. After a little while he mentions the name of the quranic teacher where he lives. It has been two years since his parents sent him to this boarding school for him to study the Qur’an. It is a respected religious decision, though it often means the parents won’t see their children ever again. The education and care are now entrusted to the teacher who does not always have the means to do so. Often the young students are sent out on the streets to beg. Poor hygiene makes that the boys get all different kinds of diseases. In this case a group of 85 children has been affected by scabies.

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What is more dangerous: an owl or a scorpion?

A man cries out because of the pain, pulling his swollen leg as he enters the clinic. “What can you do against those nasty scorpions?” My colleague Patricia desperately asks me. She is a young doctor from Dakar who takes some vacation time to work in this mission clinic in the southern forest area of ​​Senegal. Everything is green in this beautiful region, all the more now in the rainy season. A paradise for snakes and scorpions. Fortunately, a scorpion sting is not deadly here and treatment of pain and wound will do.

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A small device that saves lives

In the conference room of the Dakar North regional hospital, about 20 doctors and paramedics meet for a training on emergency care. In an interactive lesson, our good friend and anesthesiologist Hans shares his knowledge and experience with the interested Senegalese colleagues. Two oximeters are donated to each participating hospital, a device for measuring oxygen levels in the blood, providing life-saving information.

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Every one a leader!

Some church members peek around the corner out of curiosity to get an impression of the leadership training Jan is teaching with a colleague. The mostly well educated new believers have questions like “what’s the church”, “what dimension does Gods influence have in my life”, “and how does my faith affect the people around me.” The group soon grows to about fifteen. In an open discussion around the Bible we have been journeying together for four months now. A journey that is bearing fruit.

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Bernard: Bigger stage, same focus

This year was the year of international recognition of Bernards music. After a warm welcome in Côte d’Ivoire in December, a concert in Gambia followed and a nomination for best gospel artist at the French Angels Music Awards. Bernard is currently preparing to come to Europe for a visit to the Christian Artist Seminar in Germany. It is great to see that his music is highly appreciated in many places.

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News from Maria & Simon

The school year has just finished and Maria and Simon are looking forward to the long vacation. We are grateful for a great year for the children.

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A chicken farm on the roof of the church building!

Financial independence is not easily attaint for a small urban church. The idea to start a chicken farm on the roof of the church sounded a bit bizarre to me at the beginning. But with support of the internal church of Dakar and support from church members a large cage was built on the roof last year. No worries… the roofs are flat over here 🙂

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Praying for doctors and nurses

A car packed with health workers pulls over in front of the physiotherapists’ clinic. We’ re not there for a consultation or treatment. We come to pray with the staff. We are in a poor neighborhood at the outskirts of this city and our visit is a great encouragement. In January 2015 I started a prayer group for medical staff in the region. This prayer movement has steadily kept growing, and we now see a network of protestant clinics, that serves for encouragement, prayer and exchange of staff and information. Every other month we visit a health post in one of the suburbs.

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Ordinary Special

“Last week’s  show caused serious political upheaval between Senegal and Mauritania. The president even had to pronounce himself in order to solve it! “Bernard and I sit in the waiting room of a large Senegalese television station, preparing for the filming of the country’s largest talk show. Comparable in popularity with Saturday Night Life but no soundbites here; only endless monologues. It almost feels ‘normal’ now to sit here, but it certainly is not. Especially when we realize the impact this broadcast can have!

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A conversation under the Baobab: health care in rural areas

20170208_103152A little girl carrying a small bowl walks towards the large baobab tree in the courtyard of the village. She starts to run faster and waving as she sees us. Together with a local Christian nurse I’ve come to visit Mama Helen in Tiadiaye, a village in a dry region. Mama Helen, the wife of the pastor, has been running a health project in this village for more than 10 years. Every week she makes porridge for the children and talk to mothers about healthy nutrition. Although it is mostly millet and peanuts growing in the region, most mothers know now how to use local products to make a healthy meal for their children. Still there are many other health problems in the village. And as we sit under the Baobab tree, the mothers share their stories…

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World Cancer Day: a day of extra attention for our patients

image001The emotions are running high in the meeting room of our clinic. Women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer have the opportunity to speak to different specialists. There is an oncologist from the University Hospital, a dietitian and members of the national cancer foundation. “The treatment is expensive and my family does not support me anymore”, “my neighbor thinks it’s contagious”, “in the hospital they always give me the runaround.” All exclamations of despair and frustration. Is there an answer?

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CPR: practicing and practice!

DSC_0263“The airway is free!” Etienne calls out pointing to the old manikin whose head has fallen of the body. Laughter fills the training room at Keru Yakaar, where some 15 staff has come for CPR lesson. A Canadian military nurse teaches the class voluntarily: He is strict … so everyone pays attention! Thanks to him and a trained KY employee he trained, we now have been teaching almost all our staff – and that of a number of sister clinics – for  first aid and CPR.

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New video for a warm Christmas

“I like to listen to your music, even though I am Muslim.” It is a reaction of a teenager on Facebook and it shows once again that the music of Bernard reaches a very wide audience. And after weeks of planning, script writing, casting, construction a decor, finding locations, fundraising and filming it’s GREAT to read this response to our new video. The song “Sacrifice” on the feast that the Lord is preparing for all nations (Isaiah 25).

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An orange ribbon for the pediatric ward

img_20161130_162546“And then I call it … the Orange Room”, with these words the Dutch ambassador cuts the orange ribbon and opens the new building for the pediatric ward. What started four years ago just once a week, has now become an important pillar of care in the clinic. Thanks to the Dutch Embassy and other sponsors, the pediatric ward now has its highly needed building.

img_20161130_161550Each day 50 to 60 children under age 5 receive basic medical care at the pediatric ward. Malnutrition is early diagnosed, and treated in a separate nutritional program. Vaccinations are provided and we are alert to outbreaks, such as the recent measles outbreak that was discovered in our program.

img_20161130_162648Since the construction and the set-up of the program are completed, Tabitha focusses on supervision and training. As a team we try to create a continuous learning environment with educational sessions that are even visited by many other mission clinics. By so doing, we keep a high level of care and we can offer internships to new Christian medical personnel, who will often go and work in a mission clinic in rural areas.

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Christian Medical Care: a national network

dsc_0315_small“A Christian hospital does not exist”, states the medical director of the only  Protestant Mission hospital in Senegal. Confusion arises in the room of this first national conference for Christians working in healthcare.” The over 60 participants wonder how they can make a difference and a significant contribution to healthcare in Senegal. The medical director challenges us again: “The difference is in US”.

dsc_0126_smallThrough the story of the Good Samaritan we discover what it means to have true compassion. As a nurse or doctor in Senegal this often implies sacrificing comfort, wealth, and time off for the wellbeing of the patients. Christs sets us an example in his sacrifice, now it is up to us to follow in his steps.

dsc_0099_smallTabitha has the privilege to initiate and facilitate this movement and network of Christian health projects. More important than this annual conference are the contacts and training sessions that improve the everyday practice for quality healthcare. Tabitha regularly travels to the villages to give medical training and to help implement new health services. Together we can make a difference in the country!

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On sin, sacrifice and friendship

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As my eyes follow the blood streaming into the drain, I realize how high the price is that has to be paid for sin. Evil can not last forever; sin leads to death. We celebrate the feast of the sacrifice with our Senegalese friends in a village far from Dakar. The sheep we bought yesterday, now lies lifeless on the ground. The coming days will be full of cultural experiences and life lessons.

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Discovering a measles outbreak!

20160930_174307 “Your clinic has discovered the measles outbreak and thanks to you we can prevent it getting out of hand!” It’s no small compliment that I get from Mrs. Mbeye while we are together on the way to a house visit. Mrs. Mbeye is the government responsible for the vaccination program in the northern part of Dakar with over half a million inhabitants. Because I know most of the patients, I join her as she goes to the slums.

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A businessman as development worker

img_1888“Blessed is the day we met for the first time!” One would not expect that these words are spoken at the end of a seminar on finance. This participant is impressed with the program and he is sure it is going to help his company to the next stage. “Supporting the middle class is an effective way to fight poverty” is the vision of our American partner organization of Christian businessmen. I coordinate their program in Senegal. Have I become a businessman? With suit and tie it may seem so, but no …

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An unusual week for the paediatrics consultation

p1010088Finally: the paediatrician consultation has moved to the new building! We are extremely thankful for all the donations, prayer and support in the period of construction and preparation. This new space was very much needed and even before it was equipped an decorated we started using it last week. A short impression of this unusual week:

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CDs and DVDs for sale

2016 - CD Booklet Cissa [Connexion] FRONTWe have already been able to produce many amazing albums. You can order an album by sending an email to Jan [@] kieviet.org. The CDs and DVDs are € 10.- each + € 1.99 postage.

 

The album “Connexion” announces again a new dimension in the musicality of Bernard. With a powerful featuring with Elbert Smelt Trinity (Samm Kat) and the dreamy “Voyage“; the musical diversity of Bernard is again beautifully expressed.

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  1. Keith Brinkman #
    1

    Jan – bon jour – we talked about the music of Bernard – but I failed to purchase one of his latest CD from you – next time. Thanks friend.



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Dance moves and other musical movements

_M7L9156_small“I’m sure you would have shed a tear of joy if you would have been present” Cissa writes in an email last week about the meeting with pastors and other leaders in Thiès last week. On June 26th we organized a big gospel concert and on this evaluation it becomes clear that the people have been deeply touched by the power of music. I doubt whether I would have actually shed a tear, well maybe, we did put in tremendous efforts to see this movement in the church arise.

Since Bernard and I started journeying and working together we’ve seen a long list of beautiful things come about. Music videos on national television, interviews in which was freely shared about the meaning of the songs, concerts with over a thousand visitors, training sessions in villages where all churches were represented, and so on and so on.

Our deepest desire is to see a movement of Christian musicians in Senegal. Four years ago there was close to nothing in this area. But now we see young people practicing instruments, forming bands, as start to see the impact of music in their surroundings they start to write songs and make music videos. The movement is starting! And we are thankful for the role we are privileged to play.

Thanks to our own music recording studio the work has become much easier than in the early days. Yet for the moment we’re still in need of financial support to develop our vision. For instance for training in the villages, for recording videos, or for the organisation of gospel concerts.

 

You can support this ministry by ordering a CD through this link

Or you can donate from the US through this website: https://secure.cmalliance.org/give/ go to the Give to International Workers and Special Projects search bar and type “Christian Music in a Muslim Context”

 

From Europe you can make a bank transfer to:

Cama Zending in Driebergen

IBAN: NL76 ABNA 0484 6740 48
BIC: ABNANL2A
Marked Senegal project Music

or from Holland by online giving, follow this link

 

Leila, background singer on the albums Près du Coeur and Jakaarlo recently released her own music video: https://youtu.be/r-uZdYh64HM


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Getting used to your home country…

deze in de nieuwsbrief“Bye Simon!”, “see you tomorrow Simon!, “hi there Simon!” my heart leaps as I hear how Simon is waved goodbye by his classmates after his first week at school. One of the most foundational conditions to work effectively abroad is that your kids do well. The children are very much at home in Senegal, but living in a different place for three months is exiting (even when it’s at your grandparents’). We are thankful for how they have been welcomed and how much they enjoyed school these two months.

Biking to school was a bit scary for all of us the first weeks. Even though it is straight ahead on the same road, we are not used to this. Also walking on the sidewalk without holding hands and playing on the small playground are hard for us to get used to. The “safe” Netherlands still feel a bit uncomfortable. But the children do great, the respect the rules and enjoy the freedom the have out on the streets!

As the children grow up we value giving them a good impression of their motherland. Outings to Madurodam, the Open Air Museum and the Castle of Muiden were great cultural experiences just as well as fun days with friends and family. Maria and Simon had another new cultural experiences as they took their first flute lessons at the ´Culture Factory`.

Simons greatest experience in The Netherlands was Speeltuin de Pol, but he didn’t like the absence of good climbing trees (like mango trees). Maria must have read half of the library’s books, but she did miss her friends!


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The Netherlands in 2016: What’s New!?

20160528_111609It has been two years since we’ve spend a prolonged time in the Netherlands. It is remarkable to see how fast our country changes! What struck us the most? Swaying cars, stranges bikes and technological development.

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Out of key

20160227_125812Passionately the newly formed band “Shalom” plays their first performance. It is the final concert after a full weekend music workshop by Cissa and friends for youth from different churches in the Casamance. People begged him the whole weekend to do a big solo performance. But even though “Shalom” does not sound too great, Bernard is sitting on the back of the stage, out of side, enjoying. He prefers to give space to this young talent, rather than claiming all the attention.

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Maria & Simon in the Senegalese jungle

Our journey to the far south of Senegal was a true adventure for Maria and Simon. Highlight of the 15 hour boat trip was enjoying the jumping and tumbling dolphins that accompanied the boat. The region is very green and fertile with lots of fruit trees. The kids soon found out that mango trees make very good climbing trees 🙂 In the vegetable garden at the church we pick oranges and grapefruits the size of a soccer ball. Gigantic spiders scare you at night when going to the unlit toilet, but are a good study object in a glass jar. And when the campfire is lit and songs are sung, it is very hard to go to bed… 

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Washing the dishes with Fulani women

20160327_124525Aminata shines when she talks about her daughters. They both go to school and one is the best in her class. She herself has never had that opportunity. Growing up as a shepherd’s daughter in a small village there was no school to attend. This Easter Sunday we wash the dishes together and chat in mixture of languages. I greatly admire this woman, whose daily life looks so different than mine. In recent years, we have developed a strong relationship with her and the other families with whom we sit together on the floor during the Easter service.

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  1. Ann Searing #
    2

    I enjoy reading your newsletter and seeing your pictures. I especially enjoy seeing your children growing up with the national children. Love, love, love it that love is color blind!!

    Hope you have a restful furlough and good times with family and friends. Praying for you and your ministries.

    Gods blessing on you and your family.

    Ann



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Twenty white coats in the green south

20160226_110807“It’s really not far away, let’s just walk” says the nurse as he takes me to show me the clinic. Right behind those trees over there. The sun burns on my head while I’m walking from orange tree to mango tree, saluting everyone on the way as we try not to trip over chickens and pigs. I will soon learn that here in the Casamance people really like to walk… But then, for me to visit and train these Christian health posts is definitely worth an hour walk in the burning sun.

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Travelling with a camera crew

DSC_3610_small “We’re on a journey, a journey, we are not from here, we’re just passing through …” The lyrics gives food for thought, the melody gets stuck in your head, and the images give a wonderful impression of one of the most beautiful places in Senegal.  

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Happy kids, happy colleagues

SDW_0280 It does not sound very heroic when I say that the greatest success of the pediatric consultation is the amazing team spirit. Since October the clinic now offers a separate consultation for children from 0 to 5 years old. The specially trained nurses examine children through a comprehensive system so they won’t miss any disease. Moreover, the children are always weighed and measured, vaccinations are checked and there is more time for education and prevention. The enthusiasm that the nurses now radiate has not always been present at the beginning.

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The main connection…

DSC00264bw_small Connexion, the title of the last Cissa CD is a good indicator of what happened during the Christmas Concert. It was not just the chemistry with the audience or the fact that the program was recorded for television. Several young gospel artists were given a podium and gave a varied program, surprising acts and a new boost in Christian music in Senegal. The pictures say it all…

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A Christmas struggle…

IMG_4410Cheers rise from the crowd; the more than one hundred inmate boys scream with loud voices. The wrestler representing cell 4 has just thrown his opponent on the back. I’m in the boys’ prison in Dakar where we organize a Christmas program with the international church. The boys are incarcerated because of theft, drug trafficking or murder. They live here with 25 boys per cell in very basic conditions. The relaxed atmosphere and joy almost makes one forget there was a big prison revolt just a few weeks back…

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Swimming lessons in Dakar

ZwemlesDakar is a peninsula, and just like “Holland Waterland” it is important to know how to swim. Swimming lessons however are not easy to be found… Maria joined the sport center for a while, but when 20 children swim laps one by one, there’s not much advancements. And when you see your child shivering on the side of the pool despite the 30 degrees Celsius, it is very evident that she’s waiting too long.

 

Fortunately the grandparents of one of Maria’s friends have a pool in their garden. And with the help of the private teacher the girls advance quickly. ZwemmenThere is no swimming diploma yet in Senegal, but the A Diploma criteria we translated to French provides him with enough inspiration. Breast stroke, crawl, watertrappelen, he passionately teaches them everything. Well, except for swimming with clothes on, he had never heard of that practice before!


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Safely home; the story of Veronique

240820151597 small“Would we arrive home safely today?” I can’t help but wonder as I’m spending the last few hours with some colleagues stuck in traffic. We are returning from a prayer meeting at another mission clinic in the far suburbs of Dakar. We had a great time encouraging our colleagues and spending time in prayer, but our ride home is a nightmare caused by heavy rainfalls and bad roads.

Veronique is sitting next to me. She is a dental assistant and a faithful prayer warrior. She gazes out the window with a concerned look on her face. She still has to prepare food for her sick father when she arrives home. Her father had a caesurae three years ago and has been dependent ever since. Since Veronique is the only one amongst her siblings who has a job, the financial responsibility fell on her. Her sisters took her father to the village and Veronique would send them money every month. After a little while she found out that the money was not used to care for her father, in fact he was neglected. She confesses that the sad situation didn’t surprise her, as she explains that “there never was any love in our home.”

After the death of her father’s first wife, his second wife became responsible for the care of the family. But her children and the children of the first wife would always fight. Her family was catholic and Veronique would always pray. Despite her faithful prayers, she never has the impression God was ever listening to what she was saying to him. One day an evangelist started to visit their family. Every time he would read about Jesus Veronique would be annoyed. Until one day he read a verse that got stuck in her mind: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23,24)

050920151613 smallVeronique realized that she carried a lot of hatred in her heart. She was simply not able to love. This verse from the Bible made her realize that this was sin, and a desire for grace grew in her heart. When she surrendered her heart to Jesus everything changed. She suddenly felt love in her heart even for her hating sisters. Although her sisters rejected her and what they considered religious extremism, she kept loving them.

As she shares her story time passed fast, and we are safely approaching home. Veronique’s story continues; she is now caring for her father by herself. “I’ve found a safe home with our heavenly father, and my earthly father is welcome in my own house” she states. “The love I receive from God is more than enough to share with my family in need.” She hasn’t committed herself to something easy. Every morning she helps her father to wash and het dressed. She cooks his meals and feeds him. This is not an easy task, especially in view of the demanding job she has at the clinic. Nobody sees the love she has for her father. That doesn’t worry her at all. She is just thankful that her father has a safe home as well.


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Mud or new glasses?

nieuwe brilThe medical campaign was a great success. Over 300 people received a pair of glasses in a week time. These glasses make an unbelievable difference in the daily lives of these people. An old widow is again able to knit for a living, a young mother is able to remove small stones from the rice, a man can again read the newspaper, and a religious leader his Qur’an. Glasses are luxury in Senegal, and many people can’t afford them. This campaign was facilitated by the mission clinic where I work, and it empowered the local church to show compassion to their community.

An eye nurse helped me to understand the deeper impact of this campaign for medical mission in Senegal. She works in a clinic called Siloam, their vision is to provide eye care to the poor people in Dakar and by so doing being a light in the city. During this eye campaign she joined our clinic. She shares the story of the blind man in Siloam. Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash himself in the water of Siloam. The man’s desire corresponds to that of our patients: they long to see again and have not much hope elsewhere.

IMG_7373b smallWe have a special team of people this week. A couple from the USA and about 10 Senegalese colleagues all serve the community voluntarily. Most of them left their family and work for a number of days, so they could help out during the campaign. We work in good spirits as we carefully measure people’s eyes and help them choose a pair of glasses. Without these people the campaign would have been impossible. They speak the local languages, know a lot of the patients and they share in the enthusiasm when people leave the clinic with restored vision.

In view of the overwhelming need, this eye campaign was just a small gesture. But every life transformed by new glasses is valuable. And God can use it to show his care for people. Just like the simple gesture of Jesus making mud. It might have been simple mud, but it had life changing consequences for the blind man.


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Concert in the Senegalese jungle

It was an amazing celebration in the green south of Senegal, Ziguinchor. Traditional music played on instruments like the Kora with new lyrics written by young Christian artists. Bernard’s idea to give a podium to young Christian talents is an overwhelming success. He shares with enthusiasm: “it was unbelievable, so many different musicians all with their own language and style. It was beautiful to see the different cultures of Senegal perform together, with their unique sounds all for the glory of God. And the room was packed!”

DSCN2589Last year we – almost impulsively – organized a small concert in the same city. While rain poured down the room was packed as well. Ziguinchor is the regional capital, but despite for a few nightclubs there is not much to do for the youth. August 15 is a national holiday and the perfect occasion to travel to the south. And the concert gives an important alternative for the nightclubs!

With limited resources Bernard is capable of organizing a great party. De biggest church opens their doors, another church has us use their sound equipment. For many of the bands this is their first performance, let alone with a lightshow. The concert continues to deep at night. A great encouragement and boost for Christian musicians in the south of Senegal!


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Constructing a pediatric ward, how one slowly catches a monkey

Tabitha-66On a random Thursday morning I am again confronted with the importance of this construction project. I am in the midst of a teaching session for the nurses on common children’s diseases. We are preparing for a specialized pediatric consultancy which will start once the construction is done. Paulin, one of the nurses, walks in with a sick child. He asks if I could please take a look; the child has come twice now and does not seem to improve. I decide, in agreement with the mother, to examine the child in the teaching session. With the whole group we apply the diagnosing system I’ve just been teaching. We conclude that – next to the bronchitis that is currently being treated – the child suffers from four other diseases: malnutrition, anemia, ear infection and chronic diarrhea with dehydration. As we are discussing one of my colleagues remarks: “this child is in danger, only when the new pediatric consultation we will be able to treat these kinds of patients. We have to pray for the construction to continue fast!”

P1010113We are waiting to continue the construction of our Mother & Child Center for almost a year: new rooms for child consultation, prenatal care and the nutrition program. The medical authorities from the government hospital encourage us in our construction efforts. Our health post is contributing significantly to the health care in the Northern District of Dakar. The construction shows we really want to advance. It all started off really well, but a missing permit created trouble. Waiting is a skill I’ve practiced quite much here in Senegal. The first proverb I learned in the local language Wolof says it all: “Slowly, slowly, one catches a monkey in the forest.” So one should not start running after the monkey, but neither should one wait until the monkey crawls on your lap. It’s about the art of being ready when success is within reach. One has to prepare oneself until the moment of swift action arrives. Tabitha-61It reminds me of Jesus as he talks about the mystical cooperation between God and men: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and it’s righteousness, and all other things will be added unto you.” The seeking is up to us, the giving up to God.

The preparations for the pediatric consultancy continue faithfully: the training of the nursing staff, writing of protocols, and of course the resubmission for the building permit. For the time being, the materials are put in our training room. It is like slowly catching a monkey; we have to stay alert. We pray together and encourage one another. This is a search for righteousness, specifically good medical care for children. That is what we fight for.