A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"

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Super-conference and a birthday marathon

Not just another conference…

It’s hard to believe that we’re well into March already! February was a very full but fabulous month as it was the every-two-year Continuing Medical Education (CME) meeting for health professionals working in cross-cultural health settings across Asia.

The conference is designed for North American (because we tend to have stricter requirements) health professionals who need valuable CME to maintain their practice license. It is of course a full schedule of medical lectures (all optional), but it is much more than straight medical lectures. Workshops in reading ECGs, “ultrasound for dummies”, and use of other techniques and modalities to help those of us working in areas where there is no other specialty consult service (such as when I was working at Kwai River Christian Hospital). The faculty who come take their own time and spend their own money to come and teach us. THANK YOU!

However, it is even MORE than a medical conference! Every two years I get to spend a couple of weeks with friends from all over the world learning, worshiping, crying, laughing, and enjoying each other. These people are truly my peers and it is so refreshing to come together again. Many of us will drag ourselves in haggard and weary – barely hanging on until we can get to Chiang Mai (location of the meeting since 2001). The week is tiring enough, but it is a break from our normal schedules and routines. Although I left quite exhausted – having maxed out my capacity for people interaction several times over – I was also thoroughly refreshed.

Therefore, I want to encourage all of you who support cross-cultural medical workers to support them financially to attend meetings such as this one. It is important professionally, of course. But I know it is also a lifeline for many of us and it is a component of “member care” that enables us to go back and keep going in our work abroad. It is a break for health care professionals AND their families (many are 2-profession families). Another thing to consider in support of your worker is to come and serve as a child care worker at similar conferences. Not a “glamorous” short term mission, but an absolutely essential one! If you are a member of CMDA (Christian Medical Dental Association), consider contributing towards this very valuable medical missions endeavor – your sponsorship helps keep the costs down for us.


birthday marathon start 7 March 2013My birthday was last week and of course I had to celebrate with a special run! The marathon distance is basically 42km (26.2 miles) and so I had a birthday marathon to celebrate 42 years! Three running buddies showed up for coffee before heading out at the 6am start time. Two ran the first 10km loop, but then had to get off to work. The third gutted it out to the last. He is fit, but I had the special birthday adrenaline and just could not slow down… until he asked if we could walk. <WALK!?!> To his credit, we actually went 44.6km because I found a new trail and didn’t want to turn back so soon. The only thing pulling me back was that I had another (non-running) friend coming to my house to make pancakes for my post-run treat! Besides, I had to be back, cleaned up and fed before my scheduled massage! That evening I spent with another couple of friends at my favorite live music hangout place.


It is just a few weeks until Easter. I don’t know what traditions you follow for the Lenten season – I actually never really heard of Lent, or thought it was something for me until I was older – but I like to read one of two books to be mindful of the season. This year it is Henri Nouwen’s “Show Me The Way” that takes one through every day of Lent. Nouwen has always been a sort of pastor to me. I know that you will also be enriched from his writing as well. What kinds of practices do you follow for the season, if any?



Catching up on 2012

I hope that this finds your new year a happy one so far! Although I want to jump ahead and start discussing this year, I still have some unfinished business to write about 2012.

RELENTLESS After returning from the States in November, I dove into deep water preparing a series of workshops on child abuse and neglect for residents at Chiang Mai University School of Medicine. Please see this post on the Relentless weblog for more about that. Another few days in Bangkok in December saw some partnerships down there solidly come together.

The heavy cotton skirt got pretty hot, and I had constant wardrobe malfunctions, but it was a lot of fun. All the smiles were worth it!

The heavy cotton skirt got pretty hot, and I had constant wardrobe malfunctions, but it was a lot of fun. All the smiles were worth it!

RUNNING The Chiang Mai Marathon was held on 23 December. Due to some injuries and health issues, my training had not been what I had hoped it would be so I thought of a way to take the pressure off myself and not take myself too seriously: run in costume! A friend of mine had the perfect idea to run as a Thai school girl! I called a colleague who works in a children’s home and asked if I could borrow one of the girl’s uniforms. Perfect! It was immediately culturally recognizable, and very perplexing (and funny!) that a farang woman would be running in such an outfit! I still did OK – good enough for 3rd place in my age group which gave me an extra $100 towards my vacation fund.

URBANA The workshop series took me right up to 24 December and on Christmas evening I boarded a plane to speak at Urbana. The conference, for the first time, had an emphasis on health care ministries and I was honored to be invited to speak on human trafficking, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as sit on a panel of cross-cultural health care workers. The talks went well and I was talking with students for an hour after each session! Otherwise, I stayed pretty busy with my own work, networking, and meetings – Urbana is a great place for that!

HOLIDAY After Urbana, I made an 8-day lay-over in LA where I stayed with friends in Santa Monica, CA. It was my first true holiday since attending Breathe in 2010! I ran on the beach and in the mountains every day (a total of 101 miles)! I saw movies, went to art galleries, and basically didn’t use my brain for the entire break!

BOOKS I can’t let 2012 go without mentioning some of the best books I read last year and making these recommendations to you!

  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is a most excellent book! In fact, I was preparing an entire blog post to discussing this, but I got really busy so I dropped it. Perhaps if I have time to write in the future…
  • Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden is another gripping true story of the only person born in a North Korean labor camp known to have successfully escaped.
  • The novel of the year for me (perhaps the only novel I read) was Byzantium by Steven Lawhead. Not a new book, but if you haven’t read it you are missing out.
  • Other notables include The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller (psychology) and Waterlogged by Timothy Noakes, MD (endurance hydration).

There is, of course, much more to say and reflect upon between these sterile lines of text. There is more I’d like to share with you. Unfortunately, by the end of the year my margin got totally eaten away by a number of things outside my control (and a few things within it). Now I’m trying to re-establish a better rhythm of life for this year. However, just catching up from a week of vacation can be enough to cause burn out! I’ll not let this happen.

Do take care, and please send me a note…

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Fall Tour 2012

I will soon be returning to the States for over two months but the schedule is packed! Below is a brief overview of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. The dates listed are fairly firm. However, opportunities for speaking at particular venues in those places are still being worked out. I hope that there will be an opportunity for me to meet as many of you as possible. If I’m going to be in your area and you would like to meet with me or host a gathering, please let me know.


2 -6         Arrive Fort Wayne, IN

7-8          Hallucination 100 mile ultramarathon in Pickney, MI

9-11       Novi, MI. Speaking at Christ Covenant Church

12-15     Ft. Wayne

16-29     Sacramento, CA attending a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam training for healthcare professionals presented by the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center, UC Davis.

30 – 3     Orange County, CA


4-10       Los Angeles area, meeting with community groups of Pacific Crossroads Church as well as meeting a number of other people involved in counter-trafficking efforts.

11-13     Lincoln, NE Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at University of Nebraska-Lincoln I’m giving a talk on health and human trafficking

14-16     Denison, IA meeting with supporters and speaking at a local church

17-18     Ft. Wayne

20-21     Tussey Mountainback 50 mile ultramarathon

19-23     Upper Darby, PA (suburb of Philadelphia) to meet with Interserve HQ

24-27     Nashville, TN meeting with Abolition International

28-29     Fort Wayne

30-3       Grand Rapids, MI


4              Fort Wayne (LWCC)

5-7          Indianapolis, IN

8-10       Louisville, KY Global Missions Health Conference (I’m a Dean and Speaker)

11-12     Ft. Wayne (GCC)

13           Depart for Thailand

I’m very much looking forward to seeing so many of you!

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On The Road Again

Lately I’ve been traveling (A LOT!) to different parts of China. Just over a week after getting back from Thailand, I spent a few days in a city in central China to visit a project that reaches out to vulnerable women in the entertainment business. I am not at liberty to say where or the name of the organization because security in there is particularly tight. Nearly all of them have been to prison (due to suspicion of their activities as followers) at least once, but they faithfully continue, and what they are doing in the face of adversity is remarkable – and growing! It was such a privilege and an honor to work with a group of people who have sacrificed so much to love the unlovable. I have never have I been asked to risk or sacrifice so much in my work or to defend my faith. Some of the staff had been trafficked themselves and are now reaching out and helping to get others out of slavery. I was able to go over some basics of reproductive health as well as give an overview of some of the common mental health disorders that they see. I also spent quite a bit of time with some of them in one-on-one sessions discussing anything from insomnia, issues in rearing children and child behavior, and other medical issues. Every minute of time there was a blessing. Remember to ask me about it if I get to share with you in person.

Ma Chi and Rachel examine a baby

Less than a week after that trip, I left for a 10-day trip to SE China to help facilitate and develop Pediatric work with a family medicine training program in Macau. Three of us (two pediatricians and a resident) traveled from our program in Shenyang, and one pediatrician came all the way from Texas to participate. The family med doc and one of the residents came from the Hope Macau program. Six women traveled by van to several places in Guangdong province visiting various places that serve abandoned children in China.

a few of the orphans practice CPR on their toys after watching the adult's do their training! (photo credit: Nancy Y.)

Like anything in China, a wide variety of situations exist among these types of places. A couple places we visited were at government child welfare institutions that had various levels of cooperation with foreigners to help in the daily care and education of the children. Other places were foreign-run foster homes that care for children outside of the institution. Our visits involved a combination of evaluating children with acute as well as chronic health needs, teaching the local physicians about the problems we diagnosed, and training the staff and nannies in basic CPR and other techniques in caring for special needs children.

For example, I diagnosed a child with Apert syndrome, and Turner syndrome, and a colleague diagnosed another with Bloom syndrome. We gave an overview of these syndromes, what the doctors need to check for soon, as well as some anticipatory guidance. Every child was reviewed with one the local physicians regarding their specific care – be it a congenital heart defect, Down Syndrome, or one of the many other problems often seen. We also gave some recommendations for general care of all the children, such as hearing screens and dental care. Whether or not they follow up on any of these recommendations is anyone’s guess, but it seems like they were more invested than at other places I’ve visted.

Generally speaking, many of the doctors assigned to child welfare institutions (if any are assigned at all) are not specifically pediatricians (a few are), and learn about the problems of these children through on-the-job training. Some I have encountered are very eager to learn about pediatric medicine, and some are not teachable at all and just want to keep their low-risk government job. A medical problem is a (if not THE MOST) common reason why a child in China is abandoned, therefore equipping physicians in caring for special needs children is a big need here.

in the square oppoite the Macau Cathedral - one of my favorite places to sit and rest a bit in the midst of a busy city

Before the pediatric road trip I spent a couple of days meeting with organizations that outreach to and care for vulnerable women in Macau. The situation for women in the “entertainment business” Macau is quite different than on the mainland – it is a bit more “open” and “less illegal” and the rule is conveniently ambiguous. Also, mainlanders still need to ask permission to travel to Macau and then can stay only two weeks. Therefore, the temporary service people have a very rapid turn-over. They return over and over again, but not always to the same place. However, it is somewhat difficult to explain well in a blog because I still have to be sensitive in reporting on the situation and who is doing something about it. “Conveniently ambiguous” means that the rules can bend far one way or another – in one’s favor or not – so I’m going to err on the side of providing less information here. Suffice to say that because of the different situation there, the girls, and the outreach to them needs to be creative and adaptive.

Since I had last visited, one particular outreach group has started a clinic for the women! It was good  to check in on how things are truly going, encourage the physician and give input in to how best the non-medical people may maximize their impact through health counseling and follow up. I also visited a Sister of the Good Shepherds, an order that is dedicated to serving women in difficulty. As you can guess, this also includes women who have been trafficked in the entertainment business. She was a delight to speak with and since she had been there for over 20 years, I learned quite a bit about life and work there!

Always, the travel is not glamorous, it is not easy, and can be fraught with frustration. However, at the end of a trip, no matter how exhausted I am, I come away with blessings – gifted more than I have given for sure.

potty brigade!