Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Unexpected Visit to Guyana - Sublime to Ridiculous

Michael Pryse, Bishop of Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, gave me the opportunity to be the Canadian representative to the convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Guyana.  So in a hurry I arranged a visit [with Nellie Follings of Golinger's Travel doing most of the work] to New Amsterdam and, of course, some time at "my"  Mercy Hospital in Georgetown.
With the New President, ELCG
Moses Prashad 
Looking Official 

It did take me some time to find my clergy robes and to practice looking ministerial.   As you may have guessed, finding the robe was easier.      I was excited about going to the convention, amazing as I have provided some unique excuses for not attending the Canadian one for many years.   However, from my ten years of volunteering at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and doing the occasional preaching at some of the Lutheran Churches, I knew most of the pastors and leaders by name, and now had the opportunity to get to know them better.  Also, my long-term Guyana friend was there, Erv Janssen, a child psychiatrist from Tulsa, Oklahoma  who has had an ongoing relationship with the people of Guyana for 18 years.   He has led medical and construction teams; recently, he has concentrated his efforts on resurrecting the National Music Festival and the opening of the Lutheran Music Academy in New Amsterdam.

The "New" Reverend Kampta Karran
who was one the four ordinands.
The "Old" Doctor Erv Janssen
with the sign proof that I was there.

One of the benefits of attending the convention is that I celebrate my 40th Anniversary of my ordination.  In the pictures above the cross that I am wearing was given to me at my ordination by another "old" best friend, Dennis LeBlanc.   However,  my form fitting robes of 1973 had to be replaced by a more forgiving one-size-fits-all.   And my stole is a custom made one by Rev. Gloria Sampson.  I was at Mt. Zion, Sand Hills, and was fascinated by her making a rag floor mat... I said, "Can you make me a stole like that?"  After a few minutes of bewilderment and laughter, she agreed to make me one.   I like the servant symbolism of the stole, plus I no longer have to check what the liturgical colour is for the day.

June 10,1973 St James Lutheran Church, Hespeler, Cambridge, Ontario.  l-r: Sister Margaret Kreller; My Dad, John; my Mother, Jane; Sister Florence Weicker; Me; my Daughter, Kristin Margaret; Sister Anna Ebert; my Wife, Joan Bauer.
John Aaron hadn't made the scene yet.  Joan was a Deaconess with the others before she had to leave to marry me.
[*Kristin pointed out that everyone in the picture is dead except the two of us. Guess it has been awhile, eh?]

Another bonus of my surprise visit is that I got to connect with many at Mercy Hospital.  Helen Browman, CEO, and her team, found a flat for me to stay for the days that I wasn't in New Amsterdam.   *** Advisory Note to all Prospective Volunteers ***  I stayed in Doctor Daniel's old flat and there was no fridge, no stove and I showered like an "almost" Indian; I stood up rather than sat while I pored a bucket on my head; it did have screens in the bedroom.    I was quite fine with the accommodation as it was only a few days.  Everyone was amazed that I didn't complain, but I did tell them that I was saving all my gripes up for my usual three month stay in September.    

I got to do some In-service Education with  the nurses about Palliative Care and End of Life Care, especially Do Not Resuscitate Orders.   I realized that I have been talking about DNR's for over 30 years.   I really don't think the conversation has changed in all those years.  Doctors and other health professionals don't like to have conversations with people/patients who are probably not going to do well.   So this ongoing  avoidance creates havoc when a resuscitation attempt might be called... And then - the DNR Order gets blamed... Give me a break!   Enough of that rant...

It was also International Nurses' Week and my last day, Friday, was the Nurses' Appreciation Event at Mercy.   Each of the groups of nurses and students got to put on a show:  some sang, some read poetry, a few danced and my group "tried to dance"...   the 2011 first year asked if I could do the Harlem Shake.  Well, I haven't done that since I used to play handball in Harlem and win some coin, so I had to flee to the subway!    That wasn't what they were talking about but it was too late.   I ended up as the lead dancer too.  Evidence below:  

Roberta can really dance
Alicia belting out a tune

My biggest surprise and joy was being able to present the "Most Outstanding Student" award to Lexann.   While I probably wouldn't have guessed her last... she is a tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit and hers in particular.   She was one of the few students who I have had as a student in my classes. A wonderful and unexpected daughter presented herself in 2007.  Even though she had passed my courses, the rules were that she had to take the "whole" year over again.   When she began again in 2010 our PBL programme, her world was very exhausting, so she sometimes slept through Tony presentations [Hey, it's my blog and that's my version.]  She will be an excellent nurse and I am honoured to have been a small part of her success. 

What an accomplishment.. Congratulations Lexann.

First Year Prison Shot

Before I go... I did get to St. Ann's to say hello to my girls,  I gave my camera to Olivia and she took pictures of Olivia!

Olivia with her [ and almost all the girls'] idol... who still hasn't sent them any "stuff".
They can't understand as he lives near Father John.
I do have to share a story:  When I left Guyana in November 2011, a young girl had been found with no relatives, spoke an Amerindian dialect no one understood, didn't know where she came from, and wouldn't say a word.    She was there to greet me this week and say hello, her name was Niom and would not stop talking and following me and playing games with me, including my "slap hands" which she says she remembers me teaching her.  She is such a success story for the hard working Sisters and Matrons at St. Ann's.   Amazing.
Niomi [in pink] with another girl [who will "kill me" for forgetting her name]
Way more than enough for now. Thanks for coming.  John