Thursday, March 25, 2010

Obituary for Bob Reed

Dear Friends,

Hannah, Noah and I leave tomorrow (Friday, March 26) for Grand Rapids. It will be so good to get home and be with family. This week would be difficult for anyone losing a spouse, but the added complications of handling death arrangements while being an American in West Africa has made it even more difficult. But the body of Christ has really reached out to us here (especially in the person of Laurie Korum, a dear sister in Christ who is also a nurse at the US Embassy in Ghana) but we long to be with family and friends in Grand Rapids. We have felt the prayers from many people around the world and want to thank you for your kind words, encouragement, and support.

I wanted to correct something from the last blog I wrote relating to the cause of death - it turns out that Bob did not die from a pulmonary embolism as the doctors had believed; rather it appears instead (although the facilities are not here to determine it conclusively) that the Staph infection had invaded not only his lungs (as I had suspected), but also his stomach, liver, and spleen...resulting in Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome. For those of you who like to know the details, the full name of the type of staph infection Bob had is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and it is known as the "superbug". MRSA is a bacterium that is resistant to a large group of antibiotics and is responsible for the death of 18,000 Americans annually. The fact that he was fine Friday night and had no fever at all, in my limited medical knowledge, can be explained by his immune system completely shutting down, allowing the superbug to travel and multiply freely.

Additionally, for those of you who do not live in the Grand Rapids or Lansing area, I wanted to pass on the obituary that will be in the newspaper this Sunday:

Robert "Bob" Allen Reed, age 55, a child of God, went home to be with his Heavenly Father on Saturday, March 20th, 2010 after a sudden illness in Ghana, West Africa. He will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 19 years, Renita (Kranenburg); children, Hannah Adriana and Noah Allen Reed; mother, Lucille & stepfather, Keith Mosher, his brother, Don (Carolyn) Reed, his sister, Sandy (Rick) Dingwell, his brother, Steve (Patricia) Reed, his brother, Bryan Reed as well as his father & mother-in-law, Pastor Peter & Marrie Kranenburg, many other brothers and sisters in law, nieces and nephews, and friends around the world. He is preceded in death by his father, Floyd Allen Reed and his sister, Brenda Beck.

Bob was born on August 9th, 1954 in Lansing, MI where he graduated from Everett High School. In November of 1975, he gave his life to Christ and went to Moody Bible Institute, where he received his B.A. in 1980. He then attended Azusa Pacific University, receiving his Masters in Student Development in 1986, and Michigan State University, receiving his Masters in Counseling in 1992. He worked for fifteen years as a counselor at Calvin College, established the Madison Square Counseling Ministry in 2002, and then followed a call from God to move to West Africa, working with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) addressing peace building and conflict resolution, justice and advocacy, and mental health issues.

His greatest earthly love was his wife, Renita and his children with whom he shared his call to travel from Grand Rapids, MI to Monrovia, Liberia to Accra, Ghana and now, he has arrived at his final destination that of being home free with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on Tuesday, March 30th at 7 pm at Madison Square Christian Reformed Church (1441 Madison SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507) with Pastor David Beelen officiating. The family will receive relatives and friends at 6 pm. Memorial contributions may be made to a memorial fund for funeral expenses and the education of Hannah and Noah Reed (c/o Partners Worldwide, ) or to the West Africa Ministry Team of CRWRC for their ongoing work (; please place "In Memory of Bob Reed" in the memo section.

Hannah and her Daddy, in 2005

Noah and his Dad at the silent retreat last year, 2009

I thank God for the 19 years I was blessed to have with my best friend and partner.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Robert Allen Reed, 09 Aug 1954 - 20 Mar 2010

I can’t believe I have to write these words. It’s difficult to even get my fingers to move on the keyboard. My dear friends, “Yers Trooly,” Robert Allen Reed, passed away on Saturday, March 20, at 2:00 pm GMT, of a pulmonary embolism. He came home from Nigeria on Thursday evening, feeling great. He had so enjoyed the workshops that he had facilitated there, with Christians and Muslims, talking about one of his favorite topics: peace building and conflict resolution. It felt like such a key time for him to be there with the recent conflicts. This past year had been a little dry for him, with being in the US, moving and getting set up in Ghana, not really having any connections in Ghana. This trip to Nigeria seemed to breathe new life into him. I was thrilled to see him so animated.

As you may remember, he had been battling a staph infection on and off since September. Privately, we called this his “year of pain” as it seemed to be one thing after another for him – infections, bulging discs, malaria, bursitis, etc. While the staph infection had given him a break in Nigeria, for some reason as soon as he came back to Ghana it exploded again, and Friday evening I counted seventeen painful sores on his head. But he repeated to me that he wasn’t angry about being sick again – he was embracing this year of pain as something from God, learning what he can from it. Saturday morning he informed me that he was feeling very uncomfortable – his head felt like it was on fire and it hurt for him to breathe deeply. Fearing that the staph infection had moved into his lungs, we decided to go to a clinic. But it was very difficult for Bob to get out of bed – he was not getting oxygen and kept saying he would pass out if he got up. We finally got him in the car but on the way his speech started slurring and his lips turned blue. We rushed to the hospital instead. Once there, they got him on oxygen, did some lab tests confirming staph, and concluded that it was staph pneumonia, even though he had no fever nor did his lungs sound congested. They started him on antibiotics; about an hour later he started complaining of severe chest pain and started fighting to breath. The doctor again listed to his chest and suddenly heard what he thought could be a pulmonary embolism. They immediately gave a shot to dissolve the clot, but about thirty minutes later, Bob passed away.

Hannah and Noah were brought to the hospital by a friend, where we all were able to spend some time crying and saying goodbye. One of the Reed family traditions is that when anyone goes on a trip, we all gather around that person, lay hands on them and pray – we had just done that two weeks earlier when Bob left for Nigeria. At Bob’s bedside, Noah said, “This is just another journey that Dad has gone on. We’ll see him again.” So we laid hands on him and prayed.

We know that he was received into the loving arms of his Savior with a loud exclamation of, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” We know that he is having the time of his life exploring heaven, meeting many saints, asking many questions of people who have gone before him, and probably getting into many debates. But we also know that his time here was too short. There was parenting still to do, partnering still to do, and ministry still to do – all of it in a way that could only be done by Bob Reed.

Why did this happen? I don’t know and can’t afford to go there right now, except to acknowledge that I trust my Father in heaven – who loves me and my children more than Bob did. And He loves the people of Liberia, the people of Nigeria, the people of Madison Square Church, our neighbors from Prospect Street….so we have to trust that even though Satan may have meant this for evil, God will use it for good. Whether we see that or not, I don’t know.

To those of you who have been faithfully reading his blog, I’m sorry for your loss as well. He loved you and doing the blog was a very important part of every week for him. Thank you for your faithfulness in reading and encouraging him through this forum.

Memorial Service celebrating Bob’s life will be Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 7:00 pm, at Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, MI.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More from Renita

Poverty Eradication Myths
Bob returns from Nigeria on Thursday. Today he is beginning his third round of workshops, this time in Makurdi which is about 250 kms south (or so) of Jos. Overall he seems to be doing well and enjoying the dialogue with those he is meeting. He had one chance to get online since leaving and left the following post on Facebook:

Bob Reed In Jos now. A sobering place, so many angry people. Our workshop on justice and conflict was fitting, and we had many lively conversations. Curfew dusk to dawn. Visited the villages and areas where so many lost their lives. The city is tense as rumor fly each night about more coming attacks. Picture is of the parsonage of the church Renita and I attended while here in 2008.

We are thankful to God that there has been peace in Jos but continue to pray for wisdom as fingers are pointed and rebuilding begins.

The rest of the family is doing well in Ghana. It’s been a little cloudier recently and the breeze seems to be picking up again, so we have hope that the rainy season (and a break from the heat and humidity) is on its way.

I want to add one more piece to the “What is Poverty” piece from last week. I just finished the book, Out of Poverty by Paul Polak, who talks about “Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths” that I wanted to share. Just as last week I commented that there are more questions than answers, we can’t help but look for answers and we all know that people have been talking about this for decades. In this book I found three responses to poverty that this author claims do not work…unfortunately, no answers here either (although I do like his approach – you have to read the book for thatJ).

1. We can donate people out of poverty. This is something that has been discussed over and over again, but we tend to continue going back to this method. Mr. Polak writes, “To move out of poverty, poor people have to invest their own time and money. The path out of poverty lies in releasing the energy of Third World entrepreneurs. The good news is that the small-acreage farmers who make up the majority of dollar-a-day people are already entrepreneurs and they are surrounded by thousands of other small-scale entrepreneurs operating workshops, stores and repair shops. All these entrepreneurs are willing and able to invest in creating their own wealth if they can gain access to opportunities that are affordable and profitable enough to attract them.”

2. National Economic Growth will End Poverty Polak writes, “If sustained economic growth does end poverty, how is it that India and China, two developing countries with admirable sustained growth rates, still have some 575 million people who live in extreme poverty, most of whom also experience hunger? It is because most of the poor people in the world live in remote rural areas that will likely continue to be bypassed by successive waves of urban-centered industrial growth…But it is economic growth in remote rural areas on one-acre farms where poor people live that we need, not generic per capita GDP growth that takes place primarily through industrialization in urban areas.”

3. Big Business will end poverty. Mr. Polak writes, “…twenty-five years ago, poverty workers saw multinational corporations as evil oppressors of the poor, and business as the enemy. Now many see them as white knights ready to slay the poverty dragon…But a multinational corporation is inherently neither of these. It is an organizational structure for doing business. If most multinationals continue to operate the way they do now, the belief that big business will end poverty will remain nothing more than a tantalizing myth…Very few multinationals know how to make a profit serving customers who survive on less than a dollar a day, who may be illiterate, and who have no access to mass media…To make an impact on poverty, big business has to learn how to provide affordable goods and services capable of increasing the income of very poor people, do it in volume, and make a profit doing it.”

Women in Danane, Cote d'Ivoire, working with coffee beans.
Rick Slager and Dea Lieu do a little bridge repair on our way
to the border of Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What is Poverty?

[As Bob is traveling to Jos, Nigeria, I (Mrs. Yers Trooly) have been assigned to write the blog for the week. While in the past, it would leave me feeling inadequate, I have now realized that the role I play in the blog is to help you look forward to his return:-). Please pray for the situation in Jos, as the massacre yesterday has left tensions very high. Please pray for peace.]

One thing I love about the work that I am involved in is that it continues to challenge me by offering more questions than answers. I am realizing that I am not the type of person that could work in a job with much routine or predictability. I just completed 20 days with seven North American guests, taking them through Ghana, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. It was great to travel and converse with them as we spent many miles on the road together.

One of the conversations in particular has stayed with me. On the way to Gbarnga, in Liberia, James Nowell asked the question, “How do we know when there has been enough intervention for poverty reduction?” This started a long conversation/debate that continued on and off for the rest of the trip. Here is an example of what James was referring to: as we drove by a village, we saw a young boy playing with two rusty cans and a piece of string. My heart immediately went out to him as I thought about all the nice Fisher-Price toys that my children played with…but then I also immediately realized that he was probably happy playing with that toy. So how do we know where to intervene and when… when is enough, enough…and when are we beginning to impose our (Fisher-Price) culture on someone else’s who may understand contentment better than us?

We concluded that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes into play – every human being should have food, water and shelter…but then we struggled with what those words mean. Should every human being have meat in their diet every day or is some form of protein enough? What does “access to clean water” mean – does it mean it should pass every water test, or is a closed well that kills most things good enough? Is a mile from a home too far for a well? And regarding shelter, is a mud house with a thatch roof the standard? Or should everyone at least have a zinc roof?

And what about health care? Education?

Just as I came to a conclusion about a toy, the same could be said about food. For example, in Cote d’Ivoire, Rick Slager and I were walking with Dea and Pastor Dah through a market when we saw something strange being sold. When asked, Dea said, “Oh, that is our manna.” When asked further, he explained that those are termites – there is a time of year when the rains fall and the huge termite mounds begin to cave in and the termites all fly out. Somehow people know this and at four in the morning they will gather and by flashing a light, they are able to collect millions of these and then fry them, dry them, and salt them for a tasty snack. Should we pity the family feeding termites to their children?

We then debated that all these things could be up to individuals to decide should they all have meaningful labor and access to work. Then their individual initiative and work ethic would decide what type of food, shelter and water to have access to. But then we ran into debates about meaningful labor…..

You get the picture. Lots of driving…lots of talking…lots of questions…not a lot of answers. The fun thing about this trip was that it was not all North Americans doing the talking because everywhere we went we had Liberians, Ghanaians, or Ivoirians with us.

One thing we are convinced of is that the goal is not to create mini-Americas.

Upon our return to Monrovia, we picked up a newspaper and found the following piece, which again left us with more questions than answers:

Letter to God with Festus Poquie

(published in The New Democrat, Friday, February 26, 2010)

I’m Poor, Waiting to Enter Your Kingdom

Dear Father,

So many things are happening in this Your Creation that I am no longer in the position to understand. Frustration is not the word. Try despair and anger. And if I cannot understand them, then why should I bother You, Almighty, with endless complaints?

I am very much aware of the many burdens on your shoulders such as caring for the people of Haiti suffering from the after-effects of some of Your curses – the earthquake, for I know that only You are capable of throwing such calamities on man or ending them.

Perhaps it is due to that country’s every-backward slide into the past, as the first black republic, that Your anger has erupted on its poor creatures as a warning. It is listed as one of the most corrupt and violent black-man run states on the face of Your Creation. Is this the punishment for that, Father? But why didn’t You send the wrath for the rulers alone, since they are the main pillars of its problems? Why the poor, the children and the old?

If it is the price for corruption, then it is left to be seen what You have in store for this other black republic, the first in Africa. Did You not say in your laws that “Thou shalt not steal”? Yes, You said it. And since You said and decreed it, what do You do to those who steal? I know You have decreed punishment for them, but in this Your Creation, I have seen none. The more they steal, the more they get. Is this the meaning of him or she that has more shall be added? They are really added more from the loot of the war years. Times are so good for them, Father, that You must believe on this one.

You said it is harder for a rich man (or woman since the women are getting richer here now that they are in power) to enter Your Kingdom than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. That makes me feel good, because I live in Doe Community in one zinc shack. I eat once a day, if I get it. I have no possessions except my miserable clothes, just a few of them. So the rich should envy me, right? But this is not the case, Father. Do You know what they do even in Your houses of worship? They buy seats, special places for them to sit so that simple and lesser beings in their eyes cannot mix with them. Are they not already in Heaven, Father? But they think so. When they get headache, they fly out of the country to the best hospitals while people like me, waiting to enter Your Kingdom, cannot get simple tablets. The schools here are amongst the worst. But do You think they care? Their children and grandchildren are elsewhere in school, some of the best ones.

But I feel good. My time is coming. When I enter Your Kingdom and see them at Hell’s flaming door, smiles will not do.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Manna? Or pest? (Termites in Cote d’Ivoire, sold as a snack food – tastes like sesame seeds)

Cooking hut on a farm outside of Ganta, Nimba County, Liberia. Kitchen doubles as a place to dry rice, which is hung up after harvesting and is slowly smoked and dried as the daily food is cooked. Adequate kitchen?

Cassava Farm in Aden-Krebi, Ghana. Machete as a tool – 19th century tool or appropriate technology?