Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movin' On Up

Elijah is now officially in Junior High!  When Grace moved up from Elementary to Junior High she and Dara went out with the other kids that were also moving up and their moms.  We continued the tradition except this time I (Peter) took Elijah out with the other kids moving up (all two of them) and their dads.  We went to Cote de Jardin in Lome.  It is not exactly fine dining but is one of the nicest restaurants I've seen in West Africa.  It looks pretty bland from the outside but is gorgeous inside.

Outside of the restaurant.
One of the highlights is the English menu, which is literally translated from French.  Here are a couple of humorous options:

I can't even figure out where "Feeling Falling" comes from in a side dish description. 
"Plate of Rawness" is a personal favorite
We had a wonderful time celebrating the kids' move to Junior High (6th grade in our school system) and prayed for their lives and their future.

Front Row: Elijah, Rick, & Ananda.  Back Row: Dan, Kylie, and Peter

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hittin' the Books

The kids finish their school year next week.  I've got six weeks left in my term!  Yes, that's right, I've gone back to school.  Through much prayer and discussion Dara and I decided that it was time.  I am seeking a degree in Organizational Leadership from Regent University, a Christian university in Virginia Beach.  I didn't get a degree out of high school, though I did take some community college courses that have transferred over.  I am technically a Sophomore.  Regent offers several degrees that are entirely available through online learning.  It has been a bit of a challenge to adjust to non-classroom learning but I'm getting used to it now. 

My first session I took Public Speaking, which was a significant challenge as it required uploading recorded videos of the speeches I delivered.  Seems straightforward enough - except that our incredibly narrow satellite internet bandwidth doesn't support large uploads or any streaming media.  Thankfully our Information Services department took pity on me and made a few timely exceptions.  Last session (Regent has a semester system that they then break into two, eight week session each) I took Academic Research and Writing and Making of the Christian Mind (a Christian worldview course).  I got 4.0 in all three courses.  I am currently taking Shakespeare, which is proving my most difficult class so far, and Introduction to Christian History and Thought.  These classes, as you can see, are general education requirements and are not Organizational Leadership specific.  I am taking a hiatus from classes for the second summer session but will take my first Organizational Leadership course in the Fall along with French. 

The kids start their Summer Program soon.  It is sort of like day camp.  They do art projects, games, go on field trips, etc.  They start school again in August.

We pay school fees for the kids and tuition, of course, for my university courses.  I have received the Pell Grant which covers a fair bit of the cost but not all of it.  And there are still books to buy, which we have to ship via international mail at a very high cost because the required course book list is not published early enough for us to have them shipped via container.  If you are interested in helping to cover school costs for the kids or me, you can do so via this web page: http://mercyships-us.donorpages.com/crewmates/koontzp/.  There is a note section where you can write in what the donation is for. 

We would also appreciate your prayers, both for our current courses (Grace has finals next week) and the next school year.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Perfect Timing for Romeo

Romeo in 2010 very malnourished.
In 2010, one-week-old Romeo Touloulou was one of the youngest patients ever to board the Africa Mercy hospital ship. Romeo, born with a cleft lip and palate, was in dire condition. He was unable to take nourishment. Weighing only 5.75 pounds (2.61 kilograms), he was on the perilous brink of malnutrition.

Romeo was immediately put under the tender care of volunteer nurse Melissa Davey in the Mercy Ships Infant Feeding Program. Melissa and Romeo’s mom, Badokideou, worked hand-in-hand. They were very patient as they gently encouraged and helped Romeo feed on infant formula from a plastic cup. Spectacular progress was achieved. Romeo gained the weight needed in order to have surgery to repair his cleft lip. Following his successful surgery and now very proficient at feeding from his cup, Romeo soon tipped the scales at 13.5 pounds (6.12 kilograms). Everyone was overjoyed at the progress of the smiling and chortling baby boy.

Romeo’s mother felt deep gratitude. “My Romeo was blessed with perfect timing. He was blessed to have been born at a time when the Africa Mercy was in port in Lomé, Togo. Thanks to Mercy Ships, Romeo is a now a healthy and happy five-month-old boy,” she said happily.

Romeo's cleft palate visible.
However, Romeo’s cleft palate, a hole in the roof of his mouth, could not be repaired while he was still so young. Nurse Melissa was ecstatic when she learned that Romeo would be a Mercy Ships patient again during the 2012 Togo field service. Once more, Romeo was blessed with perfect timing.

“It was wonderful to see Romeo’s name on the admissions list for a cleft palate repair. While Romeo would not remember me, I recalled his sweet smile as if we had seen each other yesterday,” Melissa remarked.

Badokideou, Romeo’s mom, recalls that, “within minutes of being with Melissa, Romeo was smiling and eagerly reaching for his welcome hug.” 

For this visit to the Africa Mercy, Romeo was under the gentle care of dietician Jessica King in the Infant Feeding Program. She shared the joy of following Romeo through his cleft palate surgery. “Being here for moments such as this to witness Romeo’s triumph over a very hard challenge is so special. I am so glad for Romeo and his family to have the peace that comes with this restorative surgery,” she explained.

For Romeo and his family, there is much happiness and more gratitude for the second blessing of perfect timing. In the words of Romeo’s mom, “Thank you, thank you, Mercy Ships!”

Story by Joanne Thibault
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell, Lesley Buffington, JJ Tiziou, and Melissa Davey