Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stuff I Learned on My Trip to Nigeria and Cameroon, 10/26 - 11/3, 2011

·        Richard Inyang, my Nigerian travel companion, is a very loyal friend; and his sponsors, the Northern Light Church of Christ, are very generous.  A head shorter than I am, Richard carried me to the third floor of the hospital on his back.
·        The people at the Ikop Usen Church of Christ and at the nearby Palma memorial Hospital were very glad to see me.  The last American who had been scheduled to visit them had cancelled because of security warnings.  They were anxious to use my visit to invite American visitors again.  The hospital needs new mattresses.  I don't know what else.
·        Because of the reception we got from the Ikop Usen church and the Palma Hospital, I say that at least in their eyes the trip was a success.  The church gave us each an expensive looking authentic African set of clothing, and the hospital gave me a large woven hanging with my name and the date on it commemorating our visit.  Richard's parents killed a goat in our honor and fed the whole church Sunday after church.
·        African countries are not much like Haiti.  The Black/White relationships are different somehow.  I can't really put my finger on it.  Not necessarily better or worse in general, just different. It would take a lot of study and is probably not worth it.  Relationships are what they are.
·        Take cash money - cash cards and credit cards are not reliable.
·        Take a watch.
·        The speed boat ride from Nigeria to Cameroon was very crowded with cargo and passengers.  They fill them up, then add 5 or 6 more people.  The sun on the water, two degrees above the equator, was gruesome, especially for a 70 year old.  I will never again complain about the leg room on airplanes.  The round trip boat ride threw my sodium levels way out of kilter.
·        Cameroon officials, at least the one I met, are rule followers, if not people who make up rules.  I believe that in another place, they might have let me fly back to Nigeria for health reasons rather than put me back on the four hour speed boat ride.
·        Being deported is not a pleasant experience.  We spent the night in the immigration office on the docks.
12 hours in or near coma status

·        Being nearly in a coma, and speaking to people for whom English is a second language made it hard for me to communicate to the staff of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital that my problem was one of very low sodium chloride levels in my system.  It was also difficult for them to obtain the cortisone supplements I needed.  The people, however, were friendly, concerned, and solicitous.  At one time I counted six medical professionals gathered around my bed.
·        Coca-Cola is harder to come by in Nigeria.  
I remember very little of this
·        Delta Airlines' people are friendly and well organized.  Their seats on the 11.5 hour overnight flight to and from Nigeria do not incline as far as the domestic flights, but they served two meals and a snack.
·        Don't expect people overseas to know the phone access code for the US.
·        In Nigeria the airports, roads and cities are more modern than Haiti - the villages not so much so.
·        If you travel with Richard there is no need to take along two novels.  He moves fast and steadily
·        Start international trips with the conviction that nothing is unexpected.   Therefore, I was not really surprised when Richard could not arrange to fly from Lagos to Ugo as planned and we had to go the following day; when neither Richard nor I could access our money through our credit or debit cards; when I lost one lens from my glasses; when the speed boat ride was so hard; when my immigration to Cameroon was denied at the dock; when I kept losing things, among them my hand lotion that could have prevented the sunburn I got on my face on the speed boat rides, the book I was 3/4 finished with, and even the other half of my glasses on the plane home, but another passenger found them and turned them in; when I figured out that what I had brought along was Kaopectate when what I needed was Imodium A-D (look them up); when I ended up in the emergency room of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital; and when my cell phone started buzzing and refused to turn on - grave yard dead.
·        There are no coins in Nigeria - just paper money.
·        Life is not necessarily something to hold on to.
·        God is still good and is still in charge, even half way around the world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Eagan Church at Feed My Starving Children 11.7.2011

The labeling crew
Sue McNamara filling packets
Several affiliated with the Eagan church went to make food packets at Feed My Starving Children Monday night.  It was great fun!  Some of us labeled the packets; some filled them with four ingredients, sealed and boxed them; and some of us worked the warehouse, keeping ingredients handy and weighing, sealing and palleting full boxes.  Along with other groups, in an hour and a half, we filled 61 boxes.  That is 13,176 meals that will feed 61 children one meal a day for a year!  Afterward most of us retired to McDonald's for dinner or ice cream.

Margaret sealing packets
If you cannot attend one of these sessions (we go 3X a year), or if you prefer not to, you can still help by contributing to purchase of ingredients.  $20 will buy enough to feed a child for almost 3 months.  $50 buys one box of food and $90 will feed one child for a year.  93% of all donations go directly to the feeding program.

Charlene adding veggies to the packets

Shalee and Mike filling the bags

Tommy and David keeping empty boxes handy

Tommy keeping the work tables with enough soy

Dave, still showing up, enjoying a shake after

Part of the crew at McDonalds

Nigeria and Cameroon

To the faithful, loving, longsuffering supporters of my trip to Nigeria and Cameroon:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your love and support.   I am now safe and well.  Whether the trip was a success or not, you will have to judge.

This is of course not a full account of everything we did.  My hope is that it is enough to give you an understanding of what we did accomplish and why we came home early.  I will also attach (or enclose) a copy of a second document, "Stuff I learned on my trip to Nigeria and Cameroon" that may help you further understand.

Richard Inyang and the goals of our trip
I was traveling with my friend, Richard, who is a native Nigerian and was a long term missionary to Cameroon.  This was essentially his trip and I was there to support him.  Richard is currently the preacher for the Roseville church in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  He has not been at Roseville long, but he is doing a marvelous job connecting with churches in the area and reestablishing connections between the churches.

Our primary goals for the trip were two.  The first goal was to visit Richard's home congregation in Ikop Usen, Nigeria, preach there and visit the Palma Memorial Christian Hospital nearby.  The Ikop Usen Church of Christ is reported to be the first church of Christ in western Africa.  The Palma Memorial Hospital is supported by African Christian Hospitals of Searcy Arkansas.  Our second goal was to go to neighboring Cameroon and conduct a three day seminar, then to visit local churches, giving them encouragement and teaching.

Ikop Usen
We visited the hospital and people were delighted that we had come.  There I was presented with a woven hanging with my name and the date woven into it acknowledging my visit.  Richard preached at the congregation Sunday morning and I taught the class.  Richard's older brother wanted to be baptized.  This thrilled Richard in particular because Richard had been "preaching to him" for decades.  About a dozen of us left the church to go down to the nearby river for the baptism and, when we returned, the church took the Lord's supper together along with the new brother. 

After the service we took a lot of pictures.  Everyone wanted to be photographed with the visitors from the United States.  They explained that the last person who was scheduled to visit, someone from a well known preaching and missions training center, cancelled because his bosses thought it was too dangerous for him to be there.  The Ikop Usen church wanted to use the photos of me to illustrate that a white man can indeed go there and come away unharmed.  Afterward they presented Richard and me with an expensive looking set of authentic, traditional African clothes and then Richard's mom and dad invited the whole church to their house where the night before they had killed a goat in honor of our visit!

Why we didn't do the workshop in Cameroon and came home early.
Our plan had been to travel to Cameroon on an overnight ship, but the ship that was supposed to go the night we needed to travel "was broken" and the next one was three days later, after the seminar was scheduled to start.  We decided to travel on a speedboat, a decision that, in retrospect was a mistake for me to accept.

In 1994 I had surgery on my pituitary gland which controls the hormone system throughout the body.  As a result I have to supplement the salt and the cortisone in my system with pills.  Normally this is not a problem for me and does not limit my activities in any way other than I need to keep the pills nearby.  The speedboat ride was open to the equatorial sun.  Cameroon is about 2 degrees north of the equator and, for comparison, Minnesota is 45 degrees north.  Since my luggage was stowed I could not get access to my medicines or to water and, frankly, I didn't recognize the danger to myself.  The hot sun depleted the water in my system as well as the sodium levels.  When we arrived in Cameroon, I was weak and wobbly.

Richard had been advised by someone in Nigeria that I would not need a visa from the Cameroonian Embassy, that we could appear at immigration and get our passports stamped, and indeed Richard had travelled that way for years.  The Cameroonian immigration official, however, informed us that was only true if your home country bordered on Cameroon.  We had made a grave mistake: I needed a visa, which could only be issued while I was in my home in America.  I was denied admittance; we would have to spend the night in their office (on a bench); and we would be placed back on a speedboat the next morning (deported).  I tried to explain my medical situation to him and asked for permission to fly back instead.  The official said that he doesn't write the rules, he just enforces them.  By this time it was after closing hours for everyone and there was no one to appeal to.  The next morning we left before anything opened.  I did call the American embassy in Cameroon and was told that they have very little influence over the Cameroonian immigration department.

At that point I felt sure that a second boat ride might be seriously hgarmful, but could see no other option.  I did not want to end up in a Cameroonian jail for an extended time.  So we rode back to Nigeria on the open speedboat.  I took extra salt and steroids before and after the boat ride and when we got back to Nigeria I was shaky, but seemed generally okay. 

The Nigerian Teaching Hospital
That night, however, I asked Richard to share a room with me.  Before the night was over I was woozy and was not making a lot of sense.  I could not answer most questions.  Richard and our driver got me up and took me to the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital emergency room.  This is a different hospital than the one mentioned above. 

I was admitted to the hospital and Richard carried me on his back to the third floor.  There were no elevators.  By that time, the only thing I could tell the medical personnel was "sodium chloride and cortef (a brand of steroid)" and to point to the medic alert bracelet on my wrist.  I remember very little of my stay there other than a very nice young man accompanying me to the bathroom numerous times, and at least once realizing that about six medical personnel were gathered around my bed.  Later I asked Richard how long I had been there and he said 12 hours.

At that point Richard made the decision to take me out of the hospital and return me to the states for further treatment, almost a 24 hour ride counting layovers.  It was a good decision.  By the time we got to the airport, I was feeling the effects of the sodium chloride I had been given IV.  I likely would have been okay to return home alone, but to Richard's credit, he was going to accompany me home, postponing the seminar in Cameroon and other visits there.

We have now arrived home safely, having been here about 48 hours.  I have given a copy of the Nigerian hospital report to my endocrinologist and have an appointment Monday

My major regrets are three:

1.  That the money you spent to get me there did not result in the work being done in Cameroon as well as what we did do in Nigeria.  I will always wonder what more could have been accomplished had I been admitted to Cameroon.  I was excited about the seminar and about the visits to the small country churches.  I am disappointed.

2.  That I was not alert enough before the trip to go ahead and get a Cameroonian visa in spite of the advice we had been given from people in Nigeria,  I should have been smart enough, and cautious enough to take that precaution.

3.  That I was not cautious enough about my own medical condition to refuse the speed boat ride.  Frankly the speed boat ride sounded like fun.  It was not; it was too crowded and was extremely uncomfortable.  My medical condition has been so well under control by my excellent Health Partners physicians that I almost never think of it.  I should have.

What's next?
If any of you want part or all of your money back, please let me know.  Those of you who know me well, know that I will pick up and move on.  In the movie "Batman Begins," the young Bruce Lee has fallen into a well (with bats).  After Bruce's rescue, his dad asks him, "Bruce, why do we fall down?"  Then, after a pause, he answers his own question, "So we can learn how to get back up."  I guess that is where I stand today, ready to learn from my experience and to look for the leading of the Spirit of God.  God has a plan for Nigeria.  He has a plan for Cameroon.  He has a plan for Richard.  He has a plan for me.  And He works all things together for our good.  God is in charge.  Satan did not win.  And he will not win.  It is exciting to live God's life.  Each day is a new adventure.

Thank you.
Thank you again for your love and support.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Impacted Bowels

Not a pleasant topic on a sunny day.  But I had one a few months ago.  It was horrible and the treatment as bad as the original problem.  But one unexpected positive result ensued. I now thank God every time I have a successful encounter with a toilet.  One more reminder that all good things come from Him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Agricultural Policy

I have developed an interest in the effect of US Agricultural policy on third world farmers, but have not found a convenient way to explore my interests.  At the fair this year I spotted a US Senator's booth and stopped by to ask who in his office might help me.  The fellow pointed me to the booth of the other US Senator from Minnesota and noted that she is on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate.  I spoke with someone there who referred me to someone else who in turn said that I would likely have to talk to one of the Senator's Washington staffers.  

What I am looking for is not that complicated, if anyone were interested in looking into it.  I am just suspecting that no one has asked the questions.  

While living in South Florida I became aware of what, locally, was known as "Big Sugar."  A couple of Sugar companies around Belle Glade, Florida, were said to make large donations to candidates of both parties in the interest in obtaining legislation favorable to their businesses.  Later I learned that policies that are considered favorable to large agricultural interests, are also very unfavorable to small farmers in the third world - places like Haiti.

The interactions are at the same time political, economic, and sociological; yet they are not that complicated to understand.  My initial questions, when we talk later this month will be:

1.   What are the major goals of the Ag subsidy system?
2.   What is the total of all federal assistance given to farmers?
3.   What are the different kinds of Ag subsidies and how do they break out %wise? 
4.   Is there a breakout of the income level of recipients?
5.   If I were a farmer looking for advice on how to get subsidies, who would you send me to?
6.    How do agricultural tariffs work to help American farmers?
7.   Where can I get an understandable list of ag tariffs?  Are they different depending on where the imports would be coming from?  For example would a tariff be different on sugar from Haiti as compared to sugar from Mexico?
8.   Do you have a sense of what the combined effects are of ag subsidies and ag tariffs on third world farmers?  If not, who might you refer me to?
9.   What do you know about the political activity of the highest  20%, income wise, of farmers?  Who might have done a study and written a coherent report on this subject?
10.       Does Senator Klobuchar have an up to date written policy on agricultural funding issues?  If so may I have a copy? 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

3 Ways to Recover from a Blunder

Today's blog is from the Harvard Business Review's "Tip of the Day."
Eventually, every leader will need to apologize for a mistake. Here are three steps to take when it's your turn:
  • Admit the mistake. Fessing up expedites the recovery process. While it's tempting to shirk responsibility or slink away, it only makes matters worse.
  • Try to laugh at yourself. If it's appropriate, go ahead. Joking around gives others permission to do the same. After all, nobody wants leaders who take themselves
    too seriously.
  • Reframe the discussion. People will want to talk about the mistake forever. Give the blunder its due, but refocus the conversation on what matters most: moving forward.
Harvard Business Review BlogToday's Management Tip was adapted from "How to Recover from a Blunder" by Dorie Clark.

Friday, September 9, 2011


When I was little, "they" said I should brush my teeth.  Regularly.  So I did.  Much later "they" said I needed to floss as well.  I declined.  I even got a dispensation from a real dentist because my teeth were so crooked and I was afraid I would pull out one of the many, many fillings.  But then "they" said I should brush my tongue too.  So i did.  But now, so many years later, "they" are telling me to brush the top of my mouth.  Where does this all end?  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

National Night Out 2011

We did the National Night Out Block Party at our house again this year - second time.  About 35 people showed up, not counting the Mayor, his entourage, the police and fire departments.  No, no one called 911 on us, the officials were part of the city's plan for the evening.  


                                                        Sidewalk Pictures:

Lots of Good Food.

Fire Trucks:

Police Cars:

The Mayor.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"The Box" by Lascelles Abercrombie

I have long loved this poem.  Recently thought of it and looked it up.  Hope you appreciate it as well.

"Kindly do not touch, it's war."

Once upon a time, in the land of Hush-A-Bye,
Around about the wondrous days of yore,
They came across a kind of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled "Kindly do not touch; it's war."
A decree was issued round about, and all with a flourish and a shout
And a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on before.
Don't fiddle with this deadly box,Or break the chains, or pick the locks.
And please don't ever play about with war.
The children understood. Children happen to be good
And they were just as good around the time of yore.
They didn't try to pick the locks, Or break into that deadly box.
They never tried to play about with war.
Mommies didn't either; sisters, aunts, grannies neither
'Cause they were quiet, and sweet, and pretty
In those wondrous days of yore.
Well, very much the same as now,
And not the ones to blame somehow
For opening up that deadly box of war.
But someone did. Someone battered in the lid
And spilled the insides out across the floor.
A kind of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags
And all the tears, and horror, and death that comes with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about,
Bumping into everything in store.And what was sad and most unfair
Was that it didn't really seem to care
Much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly. And I'll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them every day and more, and more,
And leaves them dead, and burned, and dying
Thousands of them sick and crying.
'Cause when it bumps, it's really very sore.
Now there's a way to stop the ball. It isn't difficult at all.
All it takes is wisdom, and I'm absolutely sure
That we can get it back into the box,And bind the chains, and lock the locks.
But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.
Well, that's the way it all appears, 'cause it's been bouncing round
for years and years
In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
And the time they came across the box,
Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled "Kindly do not touch; it's war."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Alex's Grad Party

Al's Graduation for Facebook

Click the pic for 12 of the better pictures from Alex's big graduation open house.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About ItThe Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a hard read for me, but I finished it. It counters a lot of what I have read about what keeps poor countries poor. It is very well documented and is quite convincing. The solutions are sometimes difficult to understand and are always difficult to implement, making the book discouraging to me and to others who are looking for easier answers. I recommend it for any serious student of the elimination of poverty.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Haiti Report April 2011

Who: Charlie McGee: Preacher, St. Joseph (MI) Church of Christ & Proprietor Piggin & Grinnin BBQ Joint. Matt May: Minneapolis, MN, #3 son of David May, 1st trip to Haiti. David May: Author & Lecturer, Inver Grove, MN.

What: Mission trip to deliver four lessons on Faith, Peace, Hope, and Love and otherwise speak and help out as the opportunity arose. We delivered the four lessons twice and otherwise lost count of speaking engagements. We also reviewed an orphanage on behalf of Orphan’s Lifeline.

When: April 12 – 23, 2011

Where: Port au Prince, Cap Haitian, and Port de Paix Haiti and the roads and airways between.

The Short Story: On Tuesday we met up in Miami then flew to Port au Prince together, each with 100 pounds of frozen meat for Roberta Edwards’ children’s home (total 300 pounds). In Port we stayed in the new guest house operated by the Estes Church in Henderson TN. There were several very interesting and helpful people there. To tell their stories would take more space than I have here, but I will say that they represent a great deal of wisdom and lasting concern for Haiti that transcends the problems they encounter along the way.

Days 1-5, Wednesday- Sunday, Port au Prince: Early on Matt decided he could be of best use to Roberta helping her with maintenance and repairs at the children’s home. He went with the guys building houses for refugees about three days, then he developed his own list of things that needed doing and Roberta had one for him as well. Roberta left the country on Tuesday of the second week we were there.

Larry Waymire of Caribbean Ministries, Lexington TN, is working with Estes on the Haitian disaster relief effort. He took us to the (Home Depot style) hardware store to pick up supplies and to see a church building and some individual homes the Estes church is funding. Joe Holley, Lexington, AL, is staying long term to help Roberta with driving, repairs and in any other way he can. We went with him to a huge warehouse to pick up two large truck loads of beans and rice and unloaded them at Roberta’s. From there they will be further distributed.

We took Roberta to lunch; drove by “Cananan’s Land,” a very large refugee camp; toured the Santo School; and saw the poorest orphanage I have ever seen. We were at the orphanage courtesy of Harry Hames of Healing Hands International. I will try to raise some funds through Orphan’s Lifeline or elsewhere for the home. There will be a separate report on it.

We had a BBQ dinner one evening courtesy of Charlie and Roberta along with a large medical mission team. Charlie and I delivered our four basic lessons, one each night, for about 300 people. I spoke Sunday morning and we did an extra session of one lesson each for Fedson Gustanville at a little denominational church he is working with. It was followed by a rousing Q&A on baptism.

Days 6-8, Monday - Wednesday, Cap Haitian. Transportation within Haiti was a bit of a nightmare this trip. On our last trip (October 2010), we were able to borrow a vehicle and Brother Fatton travelled with us as tour guide and interpreter. This time we were pretty much on our own. It took two trips to the airport to get tickets to Cap and learn that catching a flight from Cap to Port de Paix was highly unlikely. Roberta said not to worry because Brother Fatton would come after us in Cap to get us to Port de Paix. He had said to me that he would try to get a truck to come get us. He did show up in Cap, but no vehicle. We went to the airport there to try to get airline tickets. No luck. They thought they might have something around four, but by that time it would be too late to get to Port de Paix any other way. In the final analysis, we caught a tap-tap, a small pick-up truck with a lot of people in the back, to ride about four hours over the rough mountain roads to Gonaives where we met Fatton’s cousin for a another long ride to Port de Paix. Along the way we encountered several Rah-Rah parades. Rah-Rah is a voodoo ritual at this time of year. The parades have some interesting music with drums and homemade horns. One of the parades asked for money to let us pass, but Fatton spoke to them and they let us through. All in all, it was the hardest day of the trip.

While we were in Cap we met the new administrators of the Cap Haitian Children’s Home, Hunter and Jillian Kittrell - neat young people with a big new job. We spent one whole afternoon and a long morning with Tabitha who runs a children’s home funded by Orphans’ Lifeline. I was asked by Orphans’ Lifeline to do a thorough update on the home. It was a delightful experience, but a lot of detailed work. Charlie took care of a lot of the detail. I had lunch with them and she sent us off with gifts.

Days 8-10, Wednesday - Friday, Port de Paix. Wednesday night after the grueling rides we went home with Fatton, his wife had prepared a dinner for us. Roberta had warned us that Madame Fatton would treat us like kings. She did indeed. She is a delightful woman and they have a very bright, English speaking, 10 year old daughter. After dinner we went to the church building where I delivered a lesson as a part of an ongoing nightly seminar. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were pretty well wiped out.

The next day, Thursday, we did the four lesson seminar we had done in Port au Prince. That afternoon we toured some mission points in Port de Paix, bought tickets back to Port au Prince, had another dinner with Madame Fatton, and Charlie did a lesson that night. Friday we toured the actual port at Port de Paix at my request. That was fascinating. Then we went to the airport (with an outdoor terminal and a waiting room under a mango tree) to catch our flight back to Port au Prince.

Friday night and Saturday morning we checked out and flew home with a stop in Miami. Our closing meeting was in a food court in the Miami airport with a drink from Starbucks and a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. A fitting ending to a good trip.


1. Charlie in the tap tap

2. Charlie reviewing his lesson at the hotel in Port de Paix

3. A man unloading a boat at the port in Port de Paix

4.Matt, Kerlange, and the garden Matt Weeded.

5. One of the houses Estes is building for refugees.

6. Rice and beans at the warehouse.

7. Charlie unloading 100 pound bags of beans (I waited for the 55 pound bags of rice).

8. Charlie and the toilet for the little new orphanage Harry Hames showed us.

9. Matt and Magalie.

10. David at the plane to Cap.

11. Tabitha jumping rope with her kids.

12. David preaching at Santo.

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