Spit, Hassle, Steves, Whatever, Wind…


About two weeks ago, three women suffering from vesicovaginal fistulas arrived in Cavango on the same day, with urinary incontinence for 3, 17 and 22 years from prolonged labor of a full-term, dead baby. They’ve been largely abandoned by their families and know no intimate contact with other people because they smell horribly. There isn’t much water, daily laundry isn’t possible and they have few clothes. 


They are incredibly beautiful illustrations of Jesus’ body and the hundreds (thousands?) of parts involved in their resulting physical healing and introduction to Jesus.  The Cavango Mission was founded in 1950 as a leprosarium and established a country-wide reputation for caring.  It was destroyed during the war and rebuilding was begun by Samaritan’s Purse and Peter and Shelley Duplantis with SIM in 2007 (all these people are still involved in people’s healings today because of their initiation, courage and efforts in the building of a reputation of care over generations). These women heard about us through other women who came here and had their lives transformed by the surgery which they will receive at the hands of our colleagues in Lubango.  Their caring families brought them to us, traveling many hours, one family walking and hitching motorbike rides for two days. The Fistula Foundation and Hope for our Sisters are nonprofit organizations which collect contributions from all over the world for women with this specific problem, and they will pay for their surgeries. Our ambulance, bought by extravagant contributions by many in our home church, VCDC, in Sunbury, Ohio, transported them an hour over dirt to a dirt airstrip. The plane is owned by MAF Canada (which is a mission supported by contributions from so many people from Canada and the US) and the MAFC pilots, whose presence here is possible only because of the contributions of many in Holland and Canada respectively, flew them two hours from our very remote area (3-5hr from the nearest city) to Lubango (10hr by car), using fuel purchased by contributors to MAFC. Betsy and I are only able to be here because of our many faithful friends/supporters and, along with the beautiful and devoted local staff in Cavango, we’ve established a new, widespread reputation for excellent medical and spiritual care.


We provided for them adult diapers preop via a generous donation of thousands of diapers and absorbent pads by a company in Bowling Green, OH, called Tranquility, arranged enthusiastically through my sister, Judy. The mission organization, AGA (many beautiful and committed people in the US, led by Paul Hockersmith – remember his name for a below story – who contribute to causes in Angola and Cavango such as this and our current construction project, which will serve so many for years), transported the diapers here via ocean container.  The incredible missionary surgeons at CEML in Lubango will skillfully perform the challenging surgeries and each of the CEML surgeons is able to work here because of many people from all over the world supporting them financially.


At CEML, they will become part of a group of supportive women recovering from the same difficulties.  They will be embraced and hear of Jesus’ care for them from several missionary women (supported by people from all over the world) who will meet with them several times/week.  They will be taught new skills to help them integrate again into, and contribute to, their communities and families.


Unknown, uncounted, and beautiful people, all contributing sacrificially, in Jesus’ name, to the care of a few hurting, very remote and beautiful African women, who have suffered immeasurably, physically, emotionally and socially, through no fault of their own.  In Jn 9, Jesus says the most curious thing about a similarly ostracized blind man forced to beg for many years to survive – he was blind and healed so God might be seen/known.  These women’s lives were so damaged because of no one’s “sin”… and yet healed… by the hands, feet, elbows, saliva of Jesus, each playing a small part.


Betsy and I are in Lubango, seeking to secure various legal documents for the work in Cavango.  We receive frequent, unannounced visits from authorities and armed military/police, always bringing threats from government officials that they will close us down because they are still suspicious, even after seven years of undeniable service (and all of the above history), that our health care work is a front for self-serving, profitable pursuits that they haven’t yet discovered.  The latest this year was that we were mining gold in our nearby river and transporting it out of the country via MAF under the guise of transporting patients needing surgery, like the women above.  Most often I respond to the blatant antagonism with tact, sometimes I don’t.  Legal documents will be protective and we are confident that the church denomination who owns the mission will be able to obtain these documents soon.  We will also get away for a week or two (likely somewhere in Angola because of closed borders secondary to CoVid restrictions) for a much needed break before returning to Cavango.


Our outdoor, early morning meetings have been crowded, kind-of-well spaced and interactive.  As I was explaining to the group last week that we needed to leave for a time to secure documents, 50-something-year-old Antonio who had arrived with severe TB a month ago and is recovering dramatically, stood and began to cry, saying that he had suffered for years and walked for four days to get his treatment in Cavango and that this hospital must remain for people like him who have nowhere else to go. He went on to say that he never knew God cared for Him until he came and heard of His love, apart from religion, in our morning talks.  He said he was going to tell everyone about Cavango and that there is no place like it.  He spoke for several minutes to our large, silent group of about 120 adults (patients and families), who applauded when he finished.  The people we reach are completely Jesus ignorant, as the war stopped communication of Jesus and His kingdom for two generations.  What a privilege to introduce them to the One most worthy of our devotion and love, the Way, the Truth, and the Life… apart from any kind of religious setting or service…


We had the privileged joy of a two-week visit from Steve Collins, who is 82 and as busy as ever, traveling to remote areas (like Cavango) every month to do thousands of annual delicate surgeries for those blind from cataracts, which are so common here because these folks live their entire lives outside under the African sun at a mile elevation.  He is energetic, enthusiastic and perhaps a man I admire more than any other.  He exudes love for Jesus and love for the people he serves so tirelessly.  He spoke to those at our morning meetings and they loved hearing his stories and his passion.  His years of humble, sweaty service give weight to his words like nothing else can…


One woman who received her sight was 75 and had been completely blind for about two years, seeing little for many years prior.  She was all smiles when she first arrived for a consultation and told me quite a story. She said her father’s life was transformed by Jesus when she was young and she still remembers his radical transformation.  He learned of Jesus through a relationship with a US missionary, Darrell Hockersmith, in the 1970s.  Darrell would travel to their little village and teach about Jesus and invite people to know Him.  Her father abandoned his life to Jesus and never looked back.  She said that she and his whole family eventually encountered Jesus through the impact of her father and many in the village met Jesus through him, as well.  This woman’s brother was born soon after and was named “Hoksmit” after Darrell.  Elisa grinned for fifteen minutes as she recounted the story for us, while her nephew, the son of Hoksmit, stood by smiling, after bringing Elisa to our hospital on his motorbike over the dirt roads for several hours.  A couple weeks later, she returned, had surgery via Dr Collins, and went home seeing, along with fourteen others.  Every impact we make has the potential to ripple for generations…


Our medical leader, Steve Foster, 72, whose life and years of sweat and service I also greatly admire, came out to Cavango for several days of surgery with fellow surgeon, Sandy Yeh.  Sandy has completed her Canadian surgical residency and is considering Angola full-time.  She visited us in 2014 as a med-student and went with me on my first extended trip to the southeast province of Cuando Cubango.  She recalled with me that our first patient in Rivungo, on the border with Zambia, was a young man of about 23 in heart failure because of Rheumatic Heart Disease.  We easily and quickly made his diagnosis and sorted out the meds that would help him and asked to see him the following morning.  As part of his initial treatment, I gave him an injection of penicillin and, in less than a minute, he began sweating profusely and fell to the floor in cardiac arrest (no breathing and no heartbeat) from a severe anaphylactic reaction to the penicillin.  Over an hour, we resuscitated him several times and he walked home the same day, but it was a harrowing few minutes with our first of many patients in Rivungo. I’ve seen him since and he is thriving on heart meds (without penicillin).


Steve and Sandy did many surgeries over several days, for people who had been on our surgery list for more than a year, with illnesses such as skin cancer, hernias, hydroceles, benign tumors, abdominal bladder catheters, etc.  We make a list of people eligible for these surgeries, that can be completed with minimal anesthesia, for which we charge the minimal price of about $50US.  A week prior to their arrival, we sent out thirty notices on five motorbikes to the same number of villages to notify all those on the list that their day had arrived.  So many lives will never be the same…


Steve also met with the sobas (chiefs) of the surrounding local villages and noticed that the brick in our Jango (grass-roofed meeting area outside of our house) used for cooking over an open fire, had survived intact with a “fired” date on it of 1951.  Cavango was a newly opened leprosarium in 1951. One day the people from those years will share their stories with us…


A seven-year-old boy, Alberto, came to us after worsening distension of his abdomen, fever and horrible abdominal pain for a week.  We aspirated 2-3L of frank pus from his abdomen, improvised a drain for continual draining and arranged transport by our MAF colleagues to our surgical colleagues at CEML for life-saving surgery of an intestinal perforation from Typhoid Fever.  He improved greatly from the draining of his abdomen and, before leaving for his reparative surgery in Lubango, I took a picture of him in bed with a sucker in one hand and his dad’s cell phone in the other as first world meets third world. There is another photo of him with quite a smile (and a sucker) after his return.


Overland Missions is a beautiful organization that sends missionaries to especially difficult places where other missionaries won’t go.  They are in multiple countries and the rural people of Angola are a priority and a fit for their vision.  They are looking to expand their operation in Angola from the three beautiful, young families here currently to many more, because of the vast numbers of people in Angola who have never been introduced to Jesus.  They currently work among the Mucabal, a very remote, desert tribe, which I came to Angola to serve, but with whom I’ve only done a few clinics.  The motto of Overland Missions is beautiful, striking and impossible to embrace for the faint of heart, timid or self-focused.  “Whatever it takes!”  Whatever it takes to serve the naked, poor, and wounded…  Whatever it takes to introduce them to Jesus… Whatever it takes to communicate our Father’s truth to them about Himself, them and the world…  Whatever it takes to love them and communicate our love for them…  Whatever it takes!  These guys are kindred spirits and their lives, along with the other missionaries we serve with in Angola, demonstrate the same abandonment and resolve.  Will you join us in this motivation to serve those in your community and elsewhere with an attitude of self-abandonment and, “whatever it takes”?


Tooth pain… a common and often harmless complaint.  A dentist appointment is costly and inconvenient and no one likes to make one.  What about when there are no dentists for hundreds of miles?  A ten-year old girl came to us who’d had tooth pain for several days, followed by swelling in the area of the tooth, followed by swelling in her face, then around her eyes, closing them both.  Her family still sought no help until she became comatose.  She came to us unresponsive, with a severely rigid neck and a negative malaria test.  She had meningitis which had spread to her brain, through her face and sinuses, from her infected tooth.  She was in a coma for three days with little improvement and her family stole her away in the middle of the night without payment for our services and her (many) medications.  Her family took her to traditional healers, who will mix up a soup of leaves and roots to give to her as an enema, give her small lacerations all over her body, followed by a massage with oils mixed with herbs and roots (all natural) in a manner similar to the soup. She won’t, of course, survive.  All of our patients face a difficult decision in whom to trust for their care.  With no outside world exposure and no education, their decision is not easy and many choose poorly for themselves and their kids.


We’ve just completed our three busiest months in seven years.  Some malaria, much post-influenza pneumonia, some TB and, otherwise, quite a variety.  Perhaps the trust of the people in the region is growing to accept that evidence-based medicine has more value than their traditional methods, which are as “healing”  as placebo, but far more dangerous, because they are trying new plants and herbs all the time.  We all know that many plants are toxic, especially to children because of their smaller body mass, and many unsafe plants appear quite similar to those safe.


People arrive, almost daily, and sleep at the river’s edge about a mile from our house, and begin yelling at sunrise, for anyone who might hear them, to bring the canoe to their side of the river, so they can then cross.  The canoe is left on the bank of the river on the side of the last person’s exit.  Over the years all cable and rope has been broken or stolen.  We have designed a raft over four plastic barrels that we will connect to each side of the river with cables and pulleys, that will assist people needing to cross from either side and it is large enough to carry a motorbike, as well.


Eight year old, Anita, greeted me at the door of the clinic for two months every morning.  She had a huge smile and made me begin every day with one of my own.  She came to us severely malnourished with difficulty walking and a hard mass protruding from her upper thoracic spine, a classic sign of Pott’s disease, or TB of the vertebral column, along with diminishing eye sight.  We began treatment and her sight and pain both worsened, so we put her on a powerful anti-inflammatory.  For about two weeks her sight diminished severely, to the point that she didn’t see me or the sucker I offered her, but her strength increased and her pain decreased. Near the end of her first month of treatment, her vision began to improve and she went home after two months with us with hardly any visual defect.   I had never seen optic TB, but it began to resolve nicely with treatment. The Wind…


Eduardo, in a city hospital with severe renal failure and whole-body edema, with a blood count <1/3 of normal, was sent to his home, several motorbike hours from us, and the family told that nothing further could be done. His father had heard about Cavango and brought him here where we immediately began pretty simple treatment. He’s improving dramatically and will survive without even a blood transfusion. His father, who knows nothing of Jesus, after marveling over his son’s improved condition one morning, said, “Doctor, in the early mornings you’ve been talking about a life with Jesus. I would like to know Jesus. How do I begin?” We had a great discussion about Jesus and how to begin to know Him and be known.  He received a bible and I was able to spend time with him daily until his son’s complete recovery two weeks later.  So, after his son suffered a severe and life-threatening disease, was treated horribly and cluelessly at a local hospital which was out of virtually all meds and staffed by minimally trained personnel, came to Cavango because of the word of a stranger, he saw His son improve, he heard daily who Jesus is, he bowed in surrender to Jesus, and he went home a transformed man with a completely new perspective on everything.  Theologians who believe “Christianity” is black and white and based on “truths” and doctrines instead of the Person of Jesus, will have difficulty putting that story into their god boxes!  The Wind…



  1. Marvelous testimony Tim. May God continue to use and bless you and Betsy. Thank you for the updates.

  2. Keep up your marvelous work, you are his hands and feet eyes, ears and mouth extended. Praying that God protects and uses you every day to further his kingdom and to heal His people.Praying that your time away will bring much-needed rest and refreshment.What can we do to help you, is there anything that you need that we can send you or is just sending some extra funds to SIM the best way. We love you! God bless, Tag and Jan❤️🙏🤗. Let us know.

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