For want of a pen

Last week before I left I got a voice mail from a colleague.  “I hear you’re going to Liberia.  I just got back yesterday and I want to send some stuff over with you if you have room.  Call me.”

I called Jim and told him that if I had room in my suitcase and it wouldn’t get me in trouble with customs that I would be happy to take some stuff over.

He said he had been visiting Ganta United Methodist Hospital.  Ganta is, by Liberian standards, a big hospital.  It serves the nations of Liberia, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.  When things go south at the Camphor Clinic, they send patients to Ganta.  Kinda their version of the Cleveland Clinic.


Jim was talking with an ER physician at Ganta and went to write something down.  He asked the doctor for a pen.  The doc went looking for it.

He came back with the small, flimsy plastic tube that is filled with ink and lives inside a pen.  This was what they were using in the ER.  And Jim was pretty sure it was their only one.

Sure, Jim, I’ll make sure I’ll take the 150 pens you want to send over there.  Then I stopped and bought another 100.  They cost me less than I usually pay for lunch.

As I write that I’m more than a little embarrassed.

Physicians saving lives are scrambling for basics like pens.  Forget an MRI machine.

The needs are great in Liberia, Haiti, and mission outposts around the world.

How many of us would have to pack our lunches once a week to make a difference in the ability of missionaries to change lives?  And how many of us are willing to do so?

It’s going to be an interesting two weeks.

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