Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Logistical Blessings



When we began our journey into surgical missions, we didn’t quite realize the extent of what was involved in bringing safe, affordable and compassionate surgery to the developing world.

As you know from our last post, we are making plans to move to the northern Madagascar. It is a mission filled with new excitement but also complex logistical challenges.

Shortly after returning to Canada, we learned that Samaritan’s Purse wanted to help us send a 40 foot shipping container to the hospital in Madagascar. They had unexpectedly shipped a container there 25 years ago after diverting it from another country due to instability. This original container was instrumental in helping start the hospital and contents from it are still being used 25 years later. Containers like this are lifelines to mission hospitals.

Needless to say, a container is a huge blessing, especially as we were planning on just bringing checked air luggage! 

But what goes into packing a shipping container anyway?

From our family’s perspective, this is where Julie comes in. She is not just good looks but is also the brains behind our family packing. With 4 international moves in 3 years across the the Atlantic and the continent of Africa, she could write a book on how a family can travel internationally on a budget. 


Julie has advanced skills in planning what our kids will wear for the next 2-3 years. She also plans their education, what books they will read, what Christmas presents they might want and what toys they will play with. She calculates how many tooth brushes and how much toothpaste we will need and assesses what foods and ingredients are available in county and what she will need to cook with. Printer paper, printer ink, transformers, adapters all have to be planned in advance. She does all this while balancing the value of wanting to live modestly in order to not separate us too much from the community around us. We try to avoid bringing things we can purchase or have made in country to support the local economy.

These items are then packed into our famous yellow and black bins. Why do we always use yellow and black bins anyway? Well, they are cheap, reasonably disposable if broken, stackable and durable. Their dimensions also exactly fit airline requirements thus maximizing volume as air luggage if needed.

With these bins and a number of other purchased surgical supplies, I travelled with a U-haul trailer 16 hours one way from Ontario, Canada to Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The trip was also necessary to carefully select surgical instruments, patient monitors, crutches and equipment. Essentially, what Julie does for our family, I do on a surgery level trying to anticipate what we can use and what we will need. 

And this is where the help of Samaritan’s Purse World Medical Mission is invaluable! Their warehouse is packed with donated and carefully acquired medical and surgical supplies. They also have a wealth of knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in a developing hospital environment

I try to plan for what the surgery department will look like with a newly constructed surgical building, operating theatres and recovery rooms. Additionally we hope to start performing higher level orthopaedic surgery and that needs to be planned so we have the right tools to do the job. If a tool breaks what can be used as a back-up? Are the tools compatible with country’s electrical systems? I am in constant communication with my future colleague in Madagascar in order to avoid shipping items that are not useful.

It was incredible to see the World Medical Mission Warehouse. Imagine a building the size of a Costco and filled with donated items to support missions hospitals around the world. 

Talk about impacting the world through healthcare in Jesus name! 

Performing life-saving and disability preventing surgery overseas requires equipment and this equipment requires a skilled team of people to service, prepare and package it for transport. Equipment is serviced by the on site biomedical team and adapted to fit the electrical requirements of the destination country. Discussions are also held about the capacity of the hospital to maintain and operate the equipment. It’s a tedious process as we do not want to ship equipment that is beyond the ability of the hospital to maintain or use.

All these items are then organized, categorized and prepared for loading into the container. 

SP logistics coordinators then must carefully plan the shipment of the container taking into account a potentially devastating cyclone season and a rainy season when the road between the port city and hospital is impassable for a container to travel by land.

As the surgeon who will end up using much of this equipment, I am humbled to see the complexity of the process and countless people who serve with their professions to help missions hospitals around the world. Our prayer is that all his work will bless the Good New Hospital, it's staff and patients and that ultimately Christ would be glorified through our actions!

By Jesh