Sunday, 20 March 2022

Time Marches On

 Suddenly it's late March!  

Our weeks have been flying by.  The weather has heated up and humidity has increased since the dry, dusty harmattan season seems to be done.  That doesn't make it easier to work, that's for sure.  The occasional rain breaks the heat and humidity for a bit of relief - but then it comes right back!

Everything is turning green again now that the rains have
returned.  I was told we were 84 days without rain.

Just yesterday we were given an awesome storm.  The sky darkened, the clouds rolled as the winds picked up, giving some very impressive skies!  Then the raindrops started to fall, slowly at first.  But you just could feel that so many more were coming!  We could watch the wall of rain closing in on us, allowing us to judge it's arrival and beat a very hasty and barely dry retreat to the shelter of home.


Standing outside watching the show the clouds were
putting on.

                 "He loads the thick cloud with moisture: the clouds scatter his lightning.

               They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he

               commands them on the face of the habitable world."

                                                                                                                              Job 37:11-12

Right side of the picture, no rain.
Left side of the picture, a wall of rain!

A Change of Plans

We have had a change of plans as far as our time here and our future serving at HBB.  We'll be coming home earlier than planned.  Our initial plan was to be here in southern Togo for 18 months.  We're cutting that short, down to 12 months, meaning we'll be home this summer.  We have a couple of reasons for this change.  

First, Christine feels she could be (and clearly would be) more effective in the hospital's surgery department with some additional training as an anaesthesia assistant.  She's been accepted to the program at Fanshawe College in London for a one year course to earn this accreditation on top of her existing.  That likely means more (more frequent? for longer time?) trips to Togo, to put this training into practice.  We're taking baby steps here, but trusting, knowing that God will open and close doors as we look to follow His direction for us as we go forward.  

Second, Logan, our oldest of the three boys, is college aged, as well.  He's planning on getting an apprenticeship as a millwright, meaning he'll need to be back in Canada to find a company to sponsor him for the program offered through Fanshawe.  We want to be there, as his parents, to make sure he is launched into this next phase of his life in a way that gives him support yet freedom to make choices for his future.  We're certainly not the first parents to go through this, but it's our first time.

So, that's the biggest news.  If you think of us, pray that we'll see God's guidance in all of our lives; that we'll not put our desires to the forefront; that we'll be examples of God's love.

A Team Is Coming...

Our teens from all three team locations in Togo (South, Central and North) are gearing up for a retreat put on by a team coming from Stoney Creek Baptist Church in London.  This will be a five day invasion of 34 teens onto the campus here in Tsiko!  There will be games, food, activities, study sessions, food, a little sleep and of course, more food!

The excitement is starting to build as the date of the team's arrival gets closer, and the start of the retreat closes in.  This will be a great way to spend spring break here in country and build friendships between the kids from different teams.  This will be the first event of this sort for the youth.  We're hoping it could become a regular occurrence for them to look forward to.

Pictures definitely coming!

Mobile Medical Clinic

Finally, after being shut down due to Covid restrictions (yes, they had a few here), the hospital has been able to restart the mobile clinic program, heading into needy, underserviced villages.

I was able to drive one of the vehicles loaded with some medical staff, chaplains and supplies to the village of Gladjoe.  Now, there is no direct route to this village.  In fact, there isn't even a real road for the last couple of kilometres, just a lumpy, bumpy path through fields!  In the rainy season vehicles can't get through the fields to the village because they'd get stuck.  It was an adventurous five hour trip one way - on some not-very-good to non-existent roads - to cover 250km.  Check out the GPS route for the trip.

The red pin, that's where the village is located.
No road goes there.

Gladjoe was the village that had a new well installed recently by a missionary couple with our team.  I was able to check it out near the end of the day as the patients were winding down.  I asked some village folks if they were getting good use from it.  They were overjoyed, as it saved them close to six kilometres in travel to get to the next nearest water source.  

We set up in the three room school building, the doctors seeing patients and sending them out with any prescriptions they might need filled.  So, I became a worker in the open-air dispensary, handing out medications as prescribed and finding a translator if the patient couldn't understand (my) French. 

Teens packing medication into smaller packets
a couple of days before the clinic

The makeshift triage under the thatched roof
of an outdoor schoolroom.

Lee explaining the dosage of
medication to a chaplain acting
as a translator.

The pharmacy, with boxes of pre-packed 
bags of different medications.

It was so good to see another aspect of the hospital's activities into the villages.  

1000 Words... or just pictures

As usual, here are some pictures that show a little bit more of our life here in Togo.

Whether visiting patients in small villages, looking for great views to photograph or just wandering around exploring the mountains behind the hospital these are the kinds of roads we will travel.

The big, white Land Cruiser in both pictures... that's us!

More natural beauty for us to enjoy!

Husband and wife teaming up to repair one of the OR gas machines.

A tight fit for adult hands!

Macro photography?

This is Gary.  He hangs out on the back tire of 
Hudson's moto when it's parked.  Only on Hudson's moto.

A trailer broke due to the weight of the container 
and poor maintenance on the way out of the port in Lome.  Not many regulations 
for vehicle safety here...

A man looking after his baby, a 1978 Peugeot 504.

Women and kids delivering bananas to the local market from the jungle
behind the hospital.

Veggie shopping!

That was a lot!  

Thanks for taking some time out of your day to see a bit of our life here in Togo.
Thanks for supporting and praying for us.  We aren't doing this alone, you are part of our team and we are grateful for you.

As always, if you'd like to connect with us you can find us here:

If you'd like to contact us via email:
You can follow on Instagram at  5cent_mission
Facebook, too...sometimes  5 Cent Mission

Monday, 24 January 2022

The January Blah's

Farmers burning the grasses off the fields in the mountains behind our hospital compound.
Our house smelled like smoke for several days!

That's Sick!

Just after Christmas we experienced some sickness.  We had just returned home from Lome after a couple of days visiting some family and friends as a Christmas break.  A couple of us were tested for malaria and came back negative.  We missed out on New Year's celebrations because we were not feeling great.  We have been asked by people back home if there is Covid here, are lots getting sick, are there many fatalities, etc.  

Yours truly getting blood drawn for
a malaria test.

Not feeling great, not impressed
with getting a malaria test.

The answer is 'we don't know'.  The government doesn't know.  The Health Department doesn't know.  There isn't much testing being done - except for arriving or departing from the airport.  People here generally are poorer.  The tests are expensive, and sometimes slow to be returned, so why pay to get tested and told you have something that presents flu-like symptoms when that money could be spent on medication to treat the flu-like symptoms.  The tests aren't always accurate, so why get tested if you don't have symptoms?  (See the previous sentence if you do have symptoms.)  The reality is, most on our compound have been exposed to coronavirus either directly because they work in the hospital, or indirectly because it comes home with the medical professional.  Many have been sick with the symptoms Covid presents.  But these are also similar symptoms to influenza, early stages of malaria, and so on.  We've probably had it but we'll never know for sure.

Snake Bite?

There is a possibility that I received a snake bite.  I say 'possibility' because I didn't see it.  I was walking in the field on the compound and thought I stepped on a stick that flipped up and kind of kicked with my ankle.  Later, I noticed a trickle of blood running down to the strap on my sandal and didn't think much of it.  The next day at lunch time I felt some pain and stiffness and noticed some decent swelling around my ankle - and those two tiny prick marks close together around the place where it hurt.  How strange...

Those two tiny marks, they hurt!

After being assessed by a surgeon (that stopped by for birthday cake) he suggested it was a bite.  A couple of days later I showed it to one of the doctors who has been here for a couple of decades.  He's seen enough snake bites in his time.  His comment was interesting to me, but not so to my wife.  "You didn't die within two minutes, so that rules out this, this and this species."  (I forget the exact ones he listed)  "You didn't die after a couple of hours, so that rules out these other species.  You're not bleeding out of your eyes, ears, nose or mouth as far as I can see, so that's good.  Watch for infection and keep it elevated."  So far, so good.  God is watching out for us!

When my parents found out, my dad asked for my golf clubs if I died.  That's compassion!

Waterfall Hike

We were able to take a big group of visitors and a new surgeon and his family on a hike to Wli Falls.  It's the tallest constantly flowing falls (doesn't stop flowing in dry season) in West Africa.  Found straddling the border of Ghana and Togo, the falls offer a strenuous hike with a great reward.  It's like climbing 144 flights of stairs... loose, rocky stairs.  But the view, it's totally worth it! (And my foot was elevated - going up the mountain!)

Here is a view of a part of the trail, the last section before the descent to the base of the falls.  

Work Around The Hospital

The maintenance team removed the old boiler which runs our hospital sterilization and laundry services.  We then installed a larger, more modern, faster boiler in it's place.  With a new feed water system and a new pH balancing filter and aerator, we were ale to get it all wired, plumbed, pipes fitted  and fired up over four solid days of work.  

It is so nice to have new equipment in place of old; equipment that isn't limping along "with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel", as John says.  This should last several years before needing major service.

Nine guys were required just to move this beast 
through the door into its final position!

Up next is the installation of two new autoclaves (sterilizers) for the OR department and a new digital xray (finally, after FOUR years of fundraising and waiting!).  Lots of work but so exciting to replace an obsolete, 40-something year old film xray machine - and accompanying dark room for developing the xray film - with some newer technology!  Pictures to follow.

New Year leftovers

Like some New Years resolutions, these photos didn't make the cut.  There just isn't enough space on this blog post.  That doesn't mean they aren't interesting though, so I'll share them here.

A truck arrived with a container of medical supplies, mostly drugs for our pharmacy.  The entire container was held on the trailer with two 2" ratchet straps.  For a 20,000lb load, for those that don't know, is woefully inadequate and unsafe.  But it arrived safely so...?

But not much of a surprise considering the condition of the rear tires on said trailer.  These following pictures are from the rear tires on the left and right side of the trailer.  Oh, Togo...

A bunch of the shop guys went together and purchased a cow for Christmas / New Years celebrations.  They killed it (I have the video but my sister will be very angry if I post it) and butchered it behind the workshop.  They used no butchering skill.  None whatsoever.  Only a machete was used to hack it apart.  They divided up the entire cow.  I mean, the entire cow.  Guts (intestines, kidneys, stomach), hooves, skull, the hide, all just chopped into pieces and equally shared among the group.

The literal chopping block

Meat divided, men happy!

The last morsels being scavenged.

Stilt walkers on the beach in Lome

A couple of days after the grass-clearing fires, this was the view of the mountain.  Charred grass
with trees still mostly green.  And a moto rider on the switchback, just for good measure!

An old friend came by to visit.
(But left after biting Hudson!)

Thanks for taking the time out of your day to catch up with a bit of what's happening with us.  Thanks for supporting and praying for us.  We couldn't be here, doing what we do, without you.  Our heartfelt thanks.

If you'd like to contact us via email:
You can follow on Instagram at  5cent_mission
Facebook, too...sometimes  5 Cent Mission

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Christmas Wishes

 'Tis the season, 

The season of harmattan (when dust from the Sahara Desert is blown high into the air and south to us, bringing continual overcast, dusty air.  It gives a lovely glow of slightly golden fog.).  The season of higher temperatures but much lower humidity.  The season of dry, cracking feet, especially the heels!  The season of Christmas, Togo style.

There are a few lights on houses around the compound.  There are a few trees decorated.  There are a few houses playing Christmas music.  A couple of weeks before the big day, our Christmas decorations are still tucked in a single small plastic tub.  Well, we didn't actually pack Christmas decorations, so these were provided by the Guest House for us to use.  But it just doesn't feel like Christmas.  No one has shoveled the driveway (a few yards of concrete, perhaps).  There is no snow.  The village and nearby town show little to nothing in the way of decorations.  There is no bustling or frantic shopping.  Not a lot of extra baking and anticipation of family visits.  It's just not the same as home.

We're not posting this to make anyone feel sorry for us.  We are quite content to be here at this time of year.  We have a great team to spend time with.  We sing carols at our Sunday night church gathering.  We celebrate the Advent, the birth and anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ.  We don't have to endure the commercialization of an important celebration.  We don't have expectations to try to live up to.  Too bad you can't join us!

North, but not to the Pole

We were able to put together a visit to family in Mango, in the north of Togo at the Hospital Of Hope, appointments with a visiting dentist from the States, installing kitchen cupboard doors, training on some new respiratory machines and meetings with team members all in three days.

We were able to bid farewell to Baby Leah, a sweet little thing who was fostered by my sister's family and another family while waiting for the red tape of government to permit her to be taken home to be with her new family, a lovely Togolese couple.  What a happy end to a long couple of months of life with an extremely small and unwanted newborn, who was loved and cared for, nourished and nurtured.

Christine and an uncertain (about the 
new lady holding her) baby Leah

The herd walking out of the hospital
compound in search of pastures

Christmas shopping at 'the mall' with Kokou, 
Betty and Kossi

Water and Air

Our work has allowed us to cross paths a few times.  Christine is a distraction but other than that it is fine!  We worked on a gas machine in the OR one day.  She provided the knowledge and he provided the tools and brawn.  It was a good combination!

Old and breaking down, these machines
need plenty of TLC.

With a new boiler and two autoclaves to be installed in the new year, to improve our sterilization capacity, we had to add an aerator to our water system to bring our pH level up.  This was a lot of work.  There were pipes to plumb in, bigger & heavier pipes to stack up to make a tower, a pump to install, and more than a few valves to figure out.  John (who was working, not taking pictures) made it all come together! 

One more pipe section to add, then 
the fan on top.
Photo credit: Paton Kendall

An almost birds eye view of the exterior
portion of the aerator system


Best Dressed Young Men

Four of the older teenaged boys thought it would be fun to get some very fancy shirts made from some very shiny fabric.  They planned to wear them on the same Sunday evening to our missionary church service.  They garnered enough attention to be all called to the front to lead in the singing of one of the songs.  I recorded video, but I will save you all, faithful readers, the pain of hearing them sing.

Look at them, dashing young men!

(American) Thanksgiving Leftovers

A few photos, some with stories, some without.

People often comment about the driving, the roads and the vehicles we see here.  Coming back from the capital city of Lome, on the second busiest highway in the country, we have road construction.  But here, the lanes are not marked, detours are ambiguous, and the bigger vehicle typically claims the right-of-way.

We were driving up behind this dozer when it just lowered the scrafer teeth and started tearing up the road in front of us.  There was no indication that construction was happening on this particular section of the highway - other than this large bulldozer destroying the road right in front of us!

Oh look, a smaller overloaded vehicle behind a larger overloaded vehicle.  Nothing to see here!

The last of the clouds for a few months!

Anything for coffee!  Dr. Russ was late in grabbing a cup of coffee after our American Thanksgiving dinner.  He couldn't find any cups so he just filled the empty creamer and used that.  He would not be denied his fix!

Tracks in the dirt from a beetle

This is our home.

How was your day?  Did you have to carry wood home
to make a fire to cook supper?  As a 4-year-old?  Or, with
a baby on your back?  

Sunset photography near the port of Lome

A harmattan sunset over the mountains, looking over
the wall to a very small village behind the hospital.

Thanks for reading.  If you've made it this for you can probably handle one more.  This was sent to Christine from a fellow missionary working four or five hours north of us.  A new restaurant opened in her city, catering to those who like to eat... well, read for yourself.

Photo credit: Jane Schmitz

Merry Christmas

Wishing all of you, our faithful supporters, our friends, our family, our church members and those hangers-on, a very Merry Christmas.  Take time to consider the true meaning of the season.  Ponder that first Christmas where, in a frosty Bethlehem, tucked into a little stable, the Saviour was born.

Enjoy time with friends and family.  Embrace the snow and cold.  Be generous to those in need.  

If you'd like to contact us on email:
You can follow on Instagram at  5cent_mission
Facebook, too...sometimes  5 Cent Mission