Sunday, November 23, 2008

Almost Taj Mahal and Back to Bihar

Sunday, 11/02/08 – Besides the great event of the Noida group being organized as a branch which was covered in the previous post, this had been a week we were both looking forward to since we arrived in the mission. All of the senior couples are coming to Delhi tomorrow, Monday, November 3rd, for a Senior Missionary Couples Conference. We will have a full day of training Tuesday and then we are off as a group Wednesday morning for a 2 day trip and visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Sunday evening, Sister Tanner became sick and spent most of the day Monday in bed. We did not go to Delhi to meet the couple we were supposed to host, but called and let the mission office know what was going on. I made a trip to the "chemist" to see what I could get for body aches and intestinal problems. I found out later the correct term in India is "loose motions". I managed to communicate to the druggist who didn’t speak English what I needed and don't ask how I did it.

Monday, 11/03/08 - The pain medication worked and the other problem seemed to abate so Monday evening Sister Tanner decided she was going try and go over for the conference on Tuesday morning. She was so determined to get to Agra and the Taj Mahal to take pictures for our granddaughter Emma Taylor who is doing something in school on the Taj Mahal. Now how cool to have a grandparent conveniently visiting it and you know how Sister Tanner will do anything for her children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, 11/04/08 - We got to President Rick’s home in Delhi ok this morning. Sister Tanner was not looking or acting her normal cheerful self and when we walked into the room, all of the sisters knew immediately something still wasn’t right. Then came offers of Imodium, etc. and they fixed her up with better medications. She seemed to have regained her normal, cheerful self by the afternoon. When we all went to dinner, she said she was feeling about 75% and seemed to be doing great. She ate and drank sparingly as expected, but did eat some. We then headed over to the apartment of one of the senior couples to sleep, anticipating a 7 AM departure for Agra and the Taj in the morning. The conference Tuesday was good and it was really enjoyable hanging out with some other senior missionaries.

Wednesday, 11/05/08 - Sister Tanner was up 3 times during the night and hardly slept, if at all. By the morning, she was wiped out and any thought of spending 5 hours on a bus was out of the question. She was in tears asking if it was alright if we went home. My heart just aches for her thinking of how selfless she is at times. Her disappointment was about not being to go for a granddaughter, not herself. We got ready and went to the mission office where everyone boarded the bus, except for the Tanners. We explained the situation and before we left, we went back into the mission office and President Ricks, Elder Zaugg, and I gave Sister Tanner a blessing. We all had tears in our eyes when it was finished.

President Ricks was kind enough to have the mission driver and car take us back to Noida and the Max Hospital which was closer to home. I had heard that Max was a good place to go for medical care which actually turned out to be fairly accurate. The driver waited to be sure we were going to be ok while I took Sister Tanner inside. We were directed back to the emergency room. It was around 8 AM when we got there. A lot was going on, but they were very attentive and the doctor on duty got to Sister Tanner pretty quick after others had drawn blood and done the usual intake stuff.

She was very dehydrated and they immediately started her on an IV. The final diagnosis was made when the blood tests came back around noon. Sister Tanner had a gastrointestinal infection which was the cause of it all. They wanted to keep her overnight, but there were no private rooms available and I was not going to have her in a shared room unless it became the only option. A dietitian came by and talked with Sister Tanner and shortly thereafter the food started coming. I think there were at least 4 trays, all soft diet things that came to her during the day.

One of the nurses, Tony, was a great guy. He was very patient, kind, and attentive. A rare combination if you were in the states. Sister Tanner really liked him. Actually, all of the staff were kind. By 2 PM Sister Tanner was still in a bed in the ER. There were only 2 beds in the small ER and you can imagine some of the things that had been going on for the past 6 hours. I finally went back to the admitting office and asked when we were going to get a room and the gal said it would be around 4:30 PM. I had been told in the morning that it would be a while because they did not have any private beds available until someone checked out, but that would happen and their first estimate was noon. I gave it until 4:30, but still nothing. I asked Sister Tanner how she felt and if going home was something she was ok with. She was all for it. Then I got the doctor on duty and asked her the same question. Any reason we couldn't leave and go home? She talked with Sister Tanner for a while and satisfied herself that she was doing well enough that leaving wasn't a problem. After I paid the bill, had the discharge paper, and we had been briefed on the medications they gave Sister Tanner, it was 5:30 PM. We went outside and caught an auto, one of the little 3 wheelers, to take us home.

An hour after we got home and Sister Tanner had eaten some toast, a sleepless night and a trying day finally caught up with her. She took the medications the hospital gave her before going to bed and then crashed for over 14 hours.

We had heard about "Delhi Belly" since we got here and it was something that was bound to happen to one or both of us at some point and I'm sure this won’t be the last time, but wow, I’ll take food poisoning over this. It is so frustrating to Sister Tanner because she has been so cautious and diligent in keeping things clean, washing the food, etc. and now for her to be the one to get a bug like this which we think she got at the Young Single Adult conference.

Thursday, 11/06/08 - Not much going on today. Worked on a couple of projects, did a little shopping (seniors can go without their companion, at least I decided that), and spent time taking care of my sweetheart.

Friday, 11/07/08 – I’m afraid I got too optimistic last night because Sister Tanner is such a stoic person it is hard to read her sometimes. She slept in again today until almost 1 PM, got up, took her medicine and then went back to bed. I fixed her something to eat and she spent the afternoon relaxing and reading and seemed to be feeling better, but it wasn't so.

Problem was, the boiled egg, toast, and later some chicken soup didn't process the way they are supposed to. She finally told me the medication hadn't overcome the problem yet. We're hoping tomorrow is the turning point.

Saturday, 11/08/08 – The NRT team arrives in Delhi today and tomorrow I head to Patna with them for the neonatal resuscitation training they will conduct. Sister Tanner said she feels good enough to go, only as a figure of speech, there is no way she could make it. This sickness has really zapped her and she is still trying to recover her strength and the problem has not completely gone yet either. I’m anxious to have the doctors talk with her when we get back from Patna. Dr Bell and Dr Clark are coming down on Thursday evening to conduct training here in Noida on Friday. The rest of the team, Dr Warner, Dr Stokes, and Laura Nielsen RN will stay in Patna to finish the training Friday morning.

Finally got the logistics worked out. Elder Fairbanks, the Country Director, will go with me to Patna, but Sister Tanner will remain home alone as she feels well enough to handle things on her own. I’ll meet Fairbanks at the airport and I’ve got the tickets and rooms arranged. I’m packing a lot of gear up there to put training kits together for the doctors that will be trained who will then use them to conduct training when they go back to their districts and hospitals.

Sunday, 11/09/08 – went to church and attended Sacrament meeting. Sister Tanner was not feeling strong enough to go and now I’m a little worried about leaving her alone. Left church early to get to the airport and she assured me she would be ok until I got back Monday night. I’m not staying up there for the whole training period, just going to take the gear and get the kits set up and then come back.

Uneventful flight that had a stop in Ranchi before continuing back Patna. Got to the hotel and checked in. For Patna, surprisingly good accommodations. Dr Stokes and Laura Nielsen both brought their spouses along and it was a great group at dinner, but I really missed my companion. The room had a TV with 105 channels and several in English. I watched about 15 minutes and turned it off. First TV in over 2 months and I don’t miss it a bit.

Monday, 11/10/08 – We went to the hospital and got set up in a conference room. A number of the doctors that were to attend had transportation problems getting into Patna so the start time was pushed back to noon. The administrator of the Pediatrics section of the hospital offered to give us a tour. The building is old, very old, and you cannot imagine how it is unless you could be there. I doubt the pictures will portray it as it really is. I believe the hospital serves as a training facility for a medical college. It is a government facility that does not seem to have adequate funding by any means. In fact, I latter heard the Pediatrics administrator say the patients that can pay go to the private hospitals leaving them to deal with all the rest.

The tour just about did me in. The doctors and nurses are people who care, doing the best they can, but the conditions are terrible by any standard we could relate to. Just writing this puts a lump back in my throat as I recall walking past infants and children on beds and metal gurneys, and I use the term bed loosely, lined along the side of the hallways. The wards were even worse. One sister in our group went back to the hall with tears running down her face. I have never seen so many blank faces on parents with their children and I have no way to know the emotions they were hiding, but I can imagine. Finally, in the NICU, newborn intensive care unit, actually just a larger room with beds around the periphery dedicated to the age group, I met a mother who smiled. She was sitting on one end of a bed with her back to the wall and her infant lying in front of her. She was crooning to her child and had a smile on her face when she looked up at us and I read hope in her eyes. Her picture is included, but with only a hint of the smile she had. The picture of the father and his little child still brings tears to my eyes looking at it again and remembering.

This is actually a hallway converted to a ward.

Another hallway shot with a mother holding an oxygen mask on her child. Click on this picture to go full screen and you can see the child more clearly.

The only parent I saw that smiled, but not for the picture.

If this shot doesn't get to you, you don't have a heart.

Setting the depressing conditions aside, I was very impressed during the tour by the way that Dr Bell especially asked questions and did so in a way that always resulted in a compliment to the Indian doctors for what they were doing. He was a great role model for dealing with people in a very positive way and finding means to continually compliment them on their efforts even though the conditions they worked under were such a handicap.

Dr Sherin with UNICEF said that 400 newborns and infants die every day in the state of Bihar. That is 16 every hour and after that tour I can believe it because I know the conditions are worse in the other district hospitals, at least in the 2 we visited in September, and I can’t imagine it being better in any other public hospital. And an infant mortality rate over 61 is believable once you’ve been there. That’s 61+ deaths per 1,000 live births. The church’s benchmark to qualify for an NRT project is an IMR of only 15.

Once the training got started, it actually went well, especially when the group broke up into practice sessions with the baby manikins. There is a protocol that is taught along with the use of a bag and mask for respiration and I was impressed with the way the trainers worked with their Indian professionals. A lot of hands on practice and self evaluation was accomplished within each group.

Dr Stokes leading a resuscitation practice session using the manikins and gear LDSC provided.

Laura Nielsen, RN, working with nurses through a Hindi translator. She had great rapport with the ladies.

Dr Warner with his practice group.

Dr Bell and his practice group on the balcony behind the conference room. The other practice groups were using corners of the hospital library.

With the help of Bryan Nielsen and Elder Fairbanks, we made quick work of putting the training kits together in the afternoon and after organizing the rest of the materials, exchanging notes with Dr Clark and Dr Bell, it was off to the airport for Elder Fairbanks and I. Elder Fairbanks had a real eye opening experience with a NRT project first hand.

We made our flight, got Elder Fairbanks to the Browns and reunited with Sister Fairbanks and then the driver got lost once we were in Noida and I didn’t get home until 1 AM. But it was so nice to be back with my sweetheart.

Wednesday, 11/12/08 – Sister Tanner was feeling good enough to venture out with me today. We went to meet with a man who was to have some sample newborn baby blankets that we need to purchase and send to Bihar as part of the flood relief. They will go to hospitals handling a lot of indigent cases and will be welcomed as winter is fast approaching. The samples were a little smaller than what we had given him to go by, but they will be very adequate for newborns and infants. Sure glad Sister Tanner, the baby blanket expert, was along to make the call.

I had a learning experience this week about a little nuance in humanitarian project funding. I learned that a request submitted in dollars and approved in dollars does not mean you will necessarily get the dollar amount, oops. Because of the worldwide nature of the humanitarian work, the money that is available to spend has to be put into the local currency and there is a standardized process used to determine that amount. I won’t bore you with that, but not being aware of it caused a project I submitted, that was approved, to actually come in at 85% of what I thought the dollar amount was going to be. The agency we were working with handled the shortfall very gracefully and understood.

Back to the blankets. Having learned my lesson, I checked into the documents on the blanket project and found out I was using the approved dollar amount and the current exchange rate which was not what was available to spend. Bottom line, the number of blankets we can acquire dropped from over 10,000 to around 8,500. Sure glad I learned that before the order was placed which will happen as soon as we get a checking account opened so Bangalore can transfer funds to us. To a large extent, there is still a lot of cash only business transacted in India. Case in point. Elder Zaugg in the mission office tried to pay a mission insurance policy premium with a check to the rep in the office and he refused a check and insisted on cash. Oh well, when in Rome …

Thursday, 11/13/08 – Sister Tanner lost a little ground and is slowed down this morning, but anticipates going to the Kailash Hospital with me tomorrow to meet Dr Bell and Dr Clark who will be doing an advanced NRT session with IAP (Indian Academy of Pediatricians) sponsorship. This will hopefully get the program started in Uttar Pradesh as all of the doctors attending will become NRT trainers.

Friday, 11/14/08 – We packed up our manikins and training kit bags and headed to the hospital. Being in Noida, it was a short trip, but we had the auto full with us and our gear. I even got invited up to say a few words as the LDSC representative during the opening exercises. Good recognition for LDSC and the church at this event.

This is just one of the conference rooms at Kailash Hospital in Noida, a private hospital. Compare it with what was shown for Patna whose single conference room was on a par with the other pictures.

Once the training was in process, Sister Tanner and I slipped out to go to a market about a mile away and see about getting our checking account opened, copies made of the student workbook for Sister Tanner’s English class, and to pick up a quotation document for the newborn baby blankets. It will take a minimum of 4 days to get the checking account opened and that is after we present our original passports for verification which were locked up in the mission office in Delhi. Got totally misled by someone I called trying to be sure we had everything in order, bummer. By the time we finished running around the Sector 18 market area, Sister Tanner was worn out so we headed home to let her rest and then I went back to the hospital.

One interesting thing happened while we were in the market place. Walking through the market area to pick up the baby blanket quotation, we noticed the vendors that had their stuff on boxes, etc. lining the walkway were pulling everything down and packing it away. We noticed this especially during the last 100’ or so as we walked before turning down a passageway to our destination store. The vendors almost seemed frantic and it was very unusual. The man who gave us the quote had no explanation when I asked him about the activity we had seen. By the time we got back out to the walkway/street, there wasn’t a vendor in sight. They and their goods were all gone. It was amazing to see what had been such a busy place now barren. I later learned something that explained it.

There was a bombing reported in Sector 12 about this time. When we learned the details, it was actually some old fireworks that went off in a dump area and hurt a couple of kids. It was nothing involving terrorists. But the word must have gotten over to Sector 18 and the vendors there were clearing out. The terrorists typically place their bombs in the crowded market places and the word of a bombing nearby caused a minor panic.

After the training at the hospital was over, both doctors came over to our house and read the hospital discharge papers for Sister Tanner and talked with her. They gave her some US drugs they had with them so if something happens again, we’ll be better prepared. The problem though is getting her strength and energy back. This morning at the hospital and running around the market area wore Sister Tanner out.

Saturday, 11/15/08 – Dr Bell went home last night and Dr Clark slept at the Smith’s home up the street. They graciously put him up. Getting a good hotel over here had proven to be problem. Dr Clark stayed the extra day because IAP has a formal “to do” at the Raddison Hotel tonight and they invited him to attend and to speak. Sister Tanner had English classes scheduled and I needed to remain with her so we politely declined an invitation to attend and asked Dr Clark to express our regrets.

In the meantime, Dr Naveen Thacker had arranged a privately guided tour for us at the Akshardham temple, a huge new temple (mandir) of a Hindu sect. We had passed by the huge complex and seen the temple from a distance several times and wondered about it. The senior missionaries went there as a group after the conference we missed. It was great that we had a private tour and the VIP treatment. We were all impressed with the temple and the complex. The stone work was absolutely a wonder. It was unbelievable that it was built in 5 years with 11,000 people working on it. Much of the stonework was done off-site and then brought and assembled in Delhi. The only distraction to me was that the sect has commercialized it. Our hosts even apologetically referred to it as a spiritual theme park. Imagine a boat ride through a church history display, etc. with an admission fee on Temple Square. They claim their founder, born in 1791, was god himself come to earth and impressively tell his story and that of the religion he established. They have temples in Houston, LA, and Chicago as well as multiples in India. You can find pictures on their website. Just Google Akshardham and check it out.

We did not really expect anyone for the English classes, this night anyway for several reasons. But just in case, we went down to the church building to be sure and found the elders teaching 2 investigators. Good job elders!

Dr Clark made it back from the IAP function to get his bags and head to the airport, but he came with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for Sister Tanner. He is a very thoughtful and kind man and we both wished he could stay around, but he has a family, a practice, and a myriad other activities to get back to. I don’t know how he keeps up with it all.

Sunday, 11/16/08 – We both went to church today and Sister Tanner was the accompanist for the services. The keyboard sounds like a real organ. Amazing how they have advanced over the years. By the time the block was over, Sister Tanner was out of energy and had a good nap when we got home. Hey, that’s what we’ve been told to do, but I can’t seem to do it so I write this blog instead. All in all, it has been a very interesting 2 weeks, very trying with worry and concern for my companion, but very productive. But I’d trade all that for a healthy sweetheart again.

I want to thank all of you for your expressions of concern, interest, and prayers in Sister Tanner’s behalf. I know she would not be as well off as she is now without some extra help and I hope it continues until she is back to 100%.

Our love to everyone reading this,
Elder and Sister Tanner

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Noida Is A Branch!!

November 2, 2008

This past week has been busy, busy, busy. I won't even try to recap all that went on, but a couple of highlights that aren't covered in the write up are the Area notified us that approval was received from the Presiding Bishopric for the first emergency relief project that we initiated and went through the humanitarian process on. The project is in partnership with ADRA and I believe I wrote about it in another post. We bought Sister Tanner a sewing machine and she spent hours on it preparing for her workshop at the Young Single Adult conference.

November 1st was the first anniversary of organizing the India New Delhi Mission. October 31st, the East zone held a conference. We really enjoyed meeting with the 12 elders, the assistants, and President and Sister Ricks. It took me back 40+ years to something similar in Argentina, not the first time this weekend that would happen. After lunch, we had to leave to go to the Young Single Adult conference that was being held at a location over the border in Haryana, the 5th Indian state we've been in. Sister Tanner and I had been asked to help with two workshops. We were hauling a sewing machine, 3 large sacks of small pillows, a bag full of embroidery materials and 30 pillow covers that Sister Tanner had prepped for the workshop, an iron, scriptures, and our overnight bag. Fortunately, we had a van to travel in and space was not a problem.

There were over 50 young men and women there. Men outnumbered the women 2-1. When we arrived in the afternoon, it was play time and the young adults were all enjoying a water slide the resort had. Female modesty is still a big thing here in India. The young ladies did not wear bathing suits. They wore shirts and shorts to their knees, but even that did not satisfy the resort people who had them put on flowered pants that went to their ankles. They apparently kept a supply for guests that were not attired to their standard. The resort was old, but in good condition and provided a good venue for a young adult gathering.

After the water activities, we were to meet for workshops, but apparently the planned presenters had failed to show. Plan B was put into effect and Sister Tanner and I were asked to help. They had decided to break the young adults into 4 groups and have them rotate every 30 minutes to stations in the corners of the large conference room. The stations would be hosted by the District President Katuka, Brother Beesa the former president, Elder and Sister Brown, and Sister Tanner and I. The topic we were given was relating pioneers and church heritage to the Indian youth. We had about 15 minutes before it started. I got a flash of inspiration on how to address it and immediately ran, well walked, back to our room and got my scriptures. I'm not going to repeat the discussion, but it worked out really well and what a great spirit we had with the first group. We finished and then I found out we had to do it 3 more times with each of the other groups. Well, the spirit remained to help us and we had a very rewarding time with the youth. Even with language problems for some, I believe they all learned something and felt something in our discussion. Sister Tanner is my hero. She is so willing to help and added a great spirit in relating some of her heritage to the groups. In one group, I had each person look me in the eye and repeat, "I am a pioneer" because they absolutely are. It is hard to appreciate that unless you were there, but it just flowed out of the conversation in that particular group. Almost to a person, they are first generation members of the church. The next day I received a great reward for that bit of service when a young man approached me after lunch and said he had a question and wanted to ask me after being in a group with me the day before. You know how easy it is for me to get emotional, and apparently he is that way too, so we had a kinship based on that.

Sister Tanner's workshop involved the young ladies embroidering the word Hope on a piece of fabric that had been pre-sewn into a pillow front. It also had 3 small daisies that required embroidering. As the girls finished the embroidery, Sister Tanner would sew three sides of the pillow cover together, then the girls would turn the pillow cover right side out, stuff the pillow in, and hand sew the last edge. It was a huge success and the girls were so excited and just loved Sister Tanner. It is amazing how well she relates to the women here whether members or not. She has such a love for them and it just seems to light everyone up and be returned double.

Here is a quote from Sister Tanner that needs to be shared: "The sisters enjoyed the pillows so much!! They worked so diligently and were so very pleased with their project--it was well worth the hours of sewing them together!! They embroidered the word "Hope" in the center of the pillow, and during the testimony meeting one sister stood and said that the pillow means so much to her. She said there are no other members in her family--that 'she's the only one in her family to be able to stand and bear testimony of the Savior and his gospel'--but that she dreams and hopes for the day when others in her family will accept the gospel. She said that she'll look at that pillow and always remember that great hope and it will warm her heart. For only that one sweet sister's words I would sit and sew for weeks--what a precious thank you!!"

Saturday, President and Sister Ricks joined the conference and we learned that the first member had been baptized in Bangladesh. The church has not been recognized by the governments yet in Bangladesh or in Nepal, but how's this for an amazing fact. The Nepal Kathmandu branch has 10 young men serving missions. We also saw a picture from a young single adult conference in Pakistan that had over 200 in attendance. Bet that one amazes you also.

The conference ended with a testimony meeting and that was a real treat to hear the feelings and testimonies expressed by the young men and women. There was a great spirit there and it was an uplifting way to end the conference. We all then headed home and by the time we got to Noida, we were beat. But the best was yet to come the next day, Sunday.

I knew that this morning, Sunday, the Noida group would be formally organized as a branch. That had been in process for some time and President Katuka had shared the new presidency with me Saturday, but when we arrived and came into the building, it was amazing to see so many people there. Granted there were 9 visitors from the mission and district, but the Noida congregation was over 30 including at least 8 investigators. By the time we started, there was standing room only, literally. Very few knew what was going to happen, but what a great spirit and feeling there was. President Katuka conducted the meeting and organized the branch and presented the new branch president and counselors for sustaining. It was his first time through that process and you just have to love the people that are trying so hard and are so faithful to their Savior. After the sacrament service, the new leaders bore their testimonies along with a few of the members before time was up. It was great. Then it took more than 20 minutes to get the Sunday School class going because there was so much hugging and congratulating going on.

Prabhakar blessed the sacrament today, he used the priesthood he received last Sunday. He was so happy. I just love that man and I am so anxious for him to better his English so he can go to work as a software engineer. He has 2 offers, just needs the English skills to be better. I always greet him with a hug and he just lights up. His friend Ravi who was baptized at the same time, was also ordained today after the branch presidency was set apart. I had tried hard to get Prabhakar and Ravi to go to the Young Single Adult conference, but it didn't work out. It was funny today though when Ravi asked me about the conference and having to be single and then told me he has been married 12 years and has 3 children. His family is in Andra Pradesh, his home state, and he is here because that is where he could find well paying work. He misses his family and I'm hoping his current work turns out to be something permanent enough to allow his family to come here and join him.

When we had the YSA roundtable about pioneer and heritage, I drew the parallel with my first mission to Argentina 40 years ago when there were 2 missions, only large cities had branches and elders, some branches had very small membership, (I remember Puerreydon with 1 family and 2 single adult members) and now there are at least 11 missions, stakes from one end of the country to the other, a temple in Buenos Aires, and one just announced last conference that will be built near to my old mission home. I asked the youth what they could picture for India 40 years from now? Could they envision a temple? Would it take 40 years or could it be less? And who would determine how long it took? Anyway, they got the picture and today was more flashback for me as this little branch, the first church branch in the state of Uttar Pradesh by the way, was organized. It brings a major lump in my throat as I write this and think about the growth of the people, the challenges they face, and will face, and the rewards for those that remain faithful. Today was a major mission payday for us.

L-R Delhi Mission President Ricks, New Delhi District Presidency: 1c McIllece, President Katuka, 2c Nabindu
L-R Noida Branch Presidency: 1c Ajit, President Smith, 2c Joseph

Katuka Family

The Noida District missionaries.

Noida Branch Presidency

Elder Josheph and Elder Vanjarapu, the East Zone leader.

The Noida Branch and friends

The Branch and District visitors.

With all that went on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there was still some time last week for establishing a new tradition and throwing in an "of interest" picture.

Sister Tanner is fascinated with the construction methods - the poles holding up the concrete forms. I saw the same thing in Argentina 40 years ago.

Sister Tanner managed to put together her "Scary Halloween Dinner". Will India ever be the same?

Our Elders are the best at "finding"