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A number of years ago I had the cracked idea to do the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon which involved, as one might guess from the name, a swim from the island of Alcatraz back to San Francisco.  Now this might sound a bit crazy to you, and as I look back at it there probably was a little “crazy” to it.  As I was on the ferry boat that took me out to Alcatraz and thought about jumping into 55 degree shark-infested waters I had several thoughts of “WHAT am I doing?”  “OMG, I can’t believe I’m about to do this,”and “How am I supposed to pee with this wetsuit on before I start the race???”

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Please note – not an actual race photo

As we’re about to disembark on our journey to Ethiopia in less than 2 weeks, I might have had a few of the same thoughts, sans the “pee” question (and no, I’m NOT telling you the answer to that particular question).

We’ve been in training at Missions Training International in Colorado for the past 2 weeks and have a little less than 2 weeks more before we leave.  A lot of what we’ve learned so far has involved phonetics, linguistics, and “how’ to learn a new language (for instance “OMG” phonetically is in the title of this blog).  We’re now learning more about how to enter a new culture and not totally freak out and lose our minds.  After working/training pretty-much non-stop for the last 24 years, it’s been odd to not be in that routine.  To have some actual down-time to hike, rest, read, pray, and just BE, along with our training has been good – just a different kind of good.  And, spending time with 39 other amazing people- who are about to do the same as us in countries around the world- has been refreshing and encouraging.

 

When meeting with our coach here in Colorado at MTI, Andrea, and telling her of our upcoming schedule and plans, though, I think she was a little taken aback.  Her words were “so what you’re telling me is that you’re leaving the training here early, flying back to Birmingham for one day to pack up the rest of your things, getting on a plane at 6 a.m. the next day, arriving late in Addis Ababa, unpacking your things the next day, and then starting language school the next day?!?!” Cheryl and I looked at each other and sheepishly said “ummm… yeah…. pretty much” – I then offered her a stress ball and some tips on meditation.

So as we wrap up our training at MTI and prepare for the upcoming whirlwind of travel, we’re excited, eager, and slightly petrified as we venture forward.  But we know that we are not doing this alone.  We have a great God who goes before us and we have amazing friends across the globe that are praying and lifting us up!

If you’d like some additional information about what we’re about to do, or how to get more connected click on the following link.

 

 

 

HOOP there it is…

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Newly arrived Ethiopian business Visas! We be legal!

We had no idea.  The steps that we would have to take to “get stuff done” in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is a little unique in what they require to prove the authenticity of certain documents.  “What documents?” you might ask.  Things like…. college diplomas, college transcripts, residency certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates, drivers licenses, medial licenses… just to name a few.

 

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So how does one go about proving that all these things are authentic?!?  We’re glad you asked.  First you get it “notarized,” which, THANK GOD we have an amazing notary in my office named Jane (I’m pretty sure I owe her BIG TIME).  Next you have the notary “verified” by the County which requires a trip to the always friendly Jefferson County Courthouse, and requires $ (and exact change – in cash – no checks – no bitcoin).  Next you have the County “certified” by the State of Alabama which requires more $$.  Next you send those documents to the State Department of the United States to have it “authenticated” where you pay more $$$ AND get a cool signature from the Secretary of State (so far we have John Kerry, Rex Tillerson, John Sullivan, and Mike Pompeo – this whole Trump situation has really diversified our autograph collection).  THEN you FINALLY send it to the Ethiopian Embassy where it finally gets a GIANT Ethiopian Star stamp and…. you’re done!  Oh, and you need to pay even more $$$$ for that last step.  Notarized – verified – certified – authenticated – and then a final authentication.  All for only around $150 per document.

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Nate’s trying to sell these autographs on eBay

We have quite a collection of documents to take with us on our journey!  Our business visas arrived today and we’ll be getting work visas once we arrive.  Nate’s already jumped through most of these hoops 2 years ago and has an Ethiopian medical license that’s good until 2020.  Unfortunately he’s not able to read any of it and as far as he knows it’s a large movie ticket to attend the newest Star Wars movie in Addis Ababa.

For those of you who want to come and visit us, no worries!  Just grab your Passport and head on over.  We’ve got you covered! 😉

So close and yet so far…

I keep a small quotation taped to my laptop computer. It’s from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” After several years of praying and searching, planning and hoping, crying and laughing, in just one week we head to Colorado for a month of training at Mission Training International and then it’s off to Ethiopia on August 17th for 3 months of language school in Addis and then to Soddo in November.

This crazy dream of using the gifts God’s placed in us to serve in Africa that has been years in the making is so very close. On many occasions it seemed impossible this would actually happen. Of course, we wish we could speed up time and be settled in at Soddo already, but we realize the process of preparing for the challenges ahead is essential, that’s why all along we’ve been using this logo…

There are still a few important matters for us to take care of. Of course, saying proper good-byes is one of those. We have had some sweet times with family, friends, and coworkers over the past months.

 

Fortunately, we are getting close to reaching our fundraising goals.

Since all the missionary doctors raise their own financial support at Soddo, over the past few months we have been busy with that project. Neither of us is very good at asking others for money, but by God’s grace, we are now at 80% of our goal. That does mean there’s still a need! If you’d be interested in joining our team through either a one time gift or monthly support, you can go to our webpage and there’s a donate now button at the bottom http://fullnesscf.org/missions/nate-cheryl-ross. There’s also a text to give option: 205-206-6116…text the word GIVE and then follow the prompts. All gifts are tax deductible. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!!

What we don’t seem to be very close to is selling our house.

It’s been puzzling to us, our realtor, neighbors, and everyone we know. We thought the house would sell immediately when we put it on the market. Would you join us in praying for a buyer SOON? As you can imagine, for many reasons, we would like to have this wrapped up before we move 8000 miles away! We are confident that God has just the right person/people who are meant to live in the house lined up, it’s just challenging being patient with His timing. Yes, we are slow learners sometimes!!

 

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We are so thankful for each of you and your many prayers and well-wishes! We love you!

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Brookwood ‘Bye’ The Numbers

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This is the banner that greeted me 20 years ago – please note the photo…

 

After 20 years serving here at Brookwood Hospital – I’ve recently been reflective over my time here. I’m kind of a numbers guy, always have been, so I’m prone to think of things in those terms.  So here are some numbers that I’ve considered, most of which are my best estimates:

Number of deliveries – probably a little shy of 4,000

Number of cesarean sections – over 1,000

Number of circumcisions – 1,600

Number of nights of call – 1,800

Number of gyn surgeries – 2,100

Number of patients seen in the office – 120,000

Number of miles run – 13,554 (I actually keep track of this number…)

Amount of junk food consumed – too much to count

 

But as I look at those numbers, it only shows part of the picture from these last two decades. The real picture is comprised of the people.  The patients, the doctors, the nurses, the staff, the families that have made these years here such an amazing time.  I couldn’t have had a better group of patients.  I can’t dream of a better group of doctors and nurses to have spent these last 20 years with.  It’s the memories of these people that will be a part of me as I move into the next chapter of my life.  Not the numbers.  The people. So thank you – thank you to all of you who were a part of my life. And thank you for letting me be a part of yours. It means more to me than you will ever know.

And as Cheryl and I enter the next chapter of our lives, 7,859 miles away in Ethiopia, please feel free to follow us along in that journey.

The link to our webpage is here.

 

Not the “W” we had anticipated…

Over the past week a one letter abbreviation flashed through my mind on a number of occasions.  What was the abbreviation? Why, I’m glad you asked!

It was the “W.”

Comedian Zach Galifianakis says, “The word abbreviation sure is long for what it means.”

W can be short for a number of words.  Consider these possibilities…

W– the Win– As in, #FlytheW

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You’re welcome, Natalie Ross Morefield!

W– the Withdraw– As in, “This class is too stinking hard; I need to drop it with a W before I get an F.

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This is no student I’ve ever taught!

Or also as in, we had to W from this location before Nate broke into hives…

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W– the former President George W. Bush- As in the President who used such intriguing malapropisms as, “You misunderestimated me” and “‘Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!'”  (Editorial note: There is no political meaning intended here. Just some fun with language!)

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Last week the meaning of the abbreviation really mattered. We experienced the Withdraw when we were hoping for the Win. Our dog Gracie’s situation with the Hoosiers didn’t work out so well, so she had to drop that course and is back home again- in Alabama.

To be honest, friends, we’re praying for a few more Ws of the WIN type! We’ve got less than six weeks left in Birmingham and during that time, in addition to finding the right home for Gracie, we need to sell our house and close in on our missions support goals. The house has been on the market a little over a month, but things seem to have stalled out and we haven’t had any offers.  Fortunately, we’re at about 60% of our missions fundraising goals! (A HUGE thanks to many of you who partnered with us in this way.) We only have that last 40% to go….You know, I do believe this is where the George W could come in handy, if only we knew him…

There is a 4th W. It’s one that I didn’t think of immediately, but one that is essential.  It’s the abbreviation for the word “with” – as in that southern favorite, biscuits w/gravy.  The With is crucial for us right now. We are so thankful you are w/us on this journey! We could not do it w/outyou!

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Nate w/a group of OB-GYN South employees

Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for all God is doing and for each one of you. Please join w/us in praying that our house would sell soon. Pray for a great home for Gracie. And pray all the resources we will need (financial, as well as emotional and spiritual) will be provided to accomplish the plans in this next season of adventure.

For those who are interested, here’s the link for giving. We also have a new Text to Give option.  You just text the word GIVE to 205-206-6116 and then follow the prompts.

Thanks for your love and support. We appreciate you!!!

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When the dog bites, when the bee stings…

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Ok – so we weren’t bitten by a dog, or stung by a bee, but it sure did hurt as we took Gracie to her new family and then drove away…

 

Gracie entered our life almost 10 years ago. She was found as a stray at a local church and a friend sent us a picture of her and said “This is your new dog.  God told me.” I’m not sure if that was really from God, but having Gracie certainly has been a “God thing” for us. Yes, at times she’s snooty, quirky, mischievous, and high maintenance, but then the same things could probably be said of me (this is Nate writing, Cheryl is of course NONE of these things). But she became an important part of our little family.  And throughout all the ups and downs that we’ve had over those 10 years, Gracie was there. Always ready to listen, comfort, and just be a quiet fixture.

 

 

One of our big prayers during our planning to move to Ethiopia has been “what to do with Gracie.”  Taking her with us was really not an option.  Gracie used to have this tendency to run away and dogs that run away in Ethiopia, well…. it usually doesn’t turn out so good.  We had posted our need on Facebook and we had a woman named Ryann reach out to us.  This is where it gets a little Seinfeldish.  You see, Ryann is a sweet woman who is a former patient (yes – she gave me permission to share this so don’t go all “HEY, Nate’s violating HIPPAA!” on me!) and I had delivered her first 2 children years ago.  Since then she’s moved away to Indiana where she is a math professor and has had a couple of more children.

 

She really felt led that she was to have Gracie, and as it has turned out, she was right!  Funny thing is that Cheryl and I are both from Indiana and we actually met in calculus class.  So 32 years later Gracie moves to Indiana to live with a calculus professor. I’m sure there’s some kind of differential equation that explains all of this, but I think a better explanation is that we serve a great God who saw fit to find Gracie a great home with a great family!

 

Yes, driving away Saturday was the hardest part about this journey so far.  But I’m sure it won’t be the hardest, and I know that it’s all part of His great plan. We all are just watching it unfold and continuing to trust and obey.  Even when our equations are not the same as His.  Because at the end of class, the professor is always right…