Saturday, December 31, 2016



I was encouraged to let our friends know about my upcoming medical mission service.  I was requested to visit Sierra Leone to help with anesthesia and training and will be going for 2 weeks in March.  Just after buying my plane ticket I received an email requesting me to travel to Nepal to provide anesthesia coverage (and presumably offer ongoing education).  After talking it over with Kim, I accepted and will spend 2 weeks in Nepal in February.  The timing is not ideal having two large trips back to back but we are motivated to help wherever the need exists. 

If you might be interested in continuing to support our work, you can make a donation through our 501c3 non-profit Comfort Ministries.  100% of your donations are used to support this type of ongoing service.  If you are looking for an opportunity for end of year giving, please go to our website: and click on the “donate now” button. 
Thanks friends and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Christmas Letter :-) 24Dec2015

Almost missed out on our annual letter... Here it is hot off the press:
There once was a family of four
who tried to do something more.
They sold off their stuff
and lived with no fluff
yet they grew like never before.
In an era of caution, extra insurance and even fear, we took a chance and answered God’s call to serve. Since June 2014, we have enjoyed some of the best and worst times of our lives in Chad, Africa. Even though we envisioned staying longer, a State Department recommendation to evacuate Chad ultimately capped our time. So now, we find ourselves living back in the United States and reflecting on lessons learned. 
Top 5 Things the McDowells learned in 2015:
#1. It is possible to live with less of everything. 
We survived in a smaller home with much less money, clothing and personal belongings (and no air conditioning). It really gave us a fresh perspective and helped reshape our expectations for life back in the United States. Unfortunately, we also lived with less and less body weight. Occasional disruptive illnesses were part of the package deal while serving in Chad. I even pooped in the bed once. Yes, really. I could live with less of that. Merry Christmas. 
#2. Friendships matter.
You know that new guy/girl that talks funny and doesn’t quite fit in? That was us (and maybe it’s still us?). Despite that, the very people we were serving were often times reaching out to serve us too. Before moving to Chad we were taught to “seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” We made friendships, first and foremost. Several of those friendships are able to persist even as we live back home thanks to (of all things) Facebook! Personally, I’m notorious for not feeding and watering my relationships and they can get spindly. We are now rekindling friendships here in America. If you are reading this, you are cordially invited to visit us. I will wash the sheets. (See #1)
#3. The internet is everywhere. 
I’ve heard it said that there are more cell phones than toothbrushes in all of Africa. I believe it. I’m not saying people have bad breath in Chad, but I am saying that more and more people are getting access to “devices” and the internet. I truly believe access to modernized technology in much of Africa will be a game changer and accelerate advancement…Right up to the point where they learn about Minecraft and Pinterest. Seriously people, put down that device…And brush your teeth. 
#4. Beware of comfort… but a little is good!
We could have not moved to Chad. Life was typically pretty easy for us here in the U.S. I think an abundance of comfort can be like a rut that offers security and ushers you to familiarity. That is inherently satisfying, but it can also be limiting. I think moving to Chad showed our family that its good to have faith and try something new. And yes, you can be better because of it even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you envisioned. For now, we are regaining some comfort surrounded by farmland just outside of Asheville… oh, and we all got Pinterest accounts. I still don’t use Snapchat. Don’t judge us .
#5. Its good to ask for help.
In addition to making incredible friendships in Chad, we found that friends (and a few strangers) back home were supporting us through prayer and donations to assist us with the many projects that occupied our time and effort. We asked for your help and you made a huge difference! After abruptly returning home, we were given free housing and loved on until we could get back on our feet emotionally and financially. So while 2015 wasn’t exactly as we envisioned, isn’t that the way life goes sometimes? “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” 
Make your resolutions for 2016 and then embrace those unexpected forks in the road. And if you need our help, send us a snap chat. 
Merry Christmas friends!
Mason, Kim, Maddie, & Emmie
480 Buckeye Cove Rd Swannanoa, NC 28778
828.712.5785 (Mason) 828.676.8207 (Kim)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I haven't finished calling your name 19 Sept 2015

"I haven't finished calling your name..."

Kim, Kim, Kim, I haven't finished calling your name," she sobbed into my shoulder as we sat together on the cement floor of my home. This is the lamentation that cut through me, heart and soul. Naomi is my closest friend in Bèrè and was devastated by the news. She broke our embrace to pull both of my girls onto her lap crying "my girls, my girls!" She is a single mom of 5 boys and we often joked of swapping one or two. Emmie and Grace adore her and Mason would tease, if I ever succumbed to malaria she would be their new mom and they always happily agreed. Her children were my children and mine were hers.

The gathering of women surrounding us expressed their emotions as well, in tears, moans and desperate cries. "How will we care for our children? What will we do? Why? Please do not forget us..." People were streaming into our home as the news spread that the entire mission team was given notice of evacuation. The scene closely resembled a Tchadian wake, as new mourners arrived, others moved out onto the porch to rest on mats while they continued to grieve. It is always a fervent and palpable experience.
Those closest to us stayed all day. I can't count the number of cups of tea    I served with the help of my girls and Nicolas who ensured there was enough sugar in each pot.

We always knew we would say goodbye one day... But not this moment, not this manner, not this fast. I am still grief stricken as I write this with tears streaming down my face.  Goodbyes are never easy but those that come with the knowledge you will likely not see them again while on this earth are heart wrenching and extremely difficult.

Pray for the people of Tchad who suffer daily in extreme hardship and poverty. Please pray for Naomi, Celine and Babey, all single moms whose names I will not call again in this life. Looking forward to our reunion.  Until we meet again... I shall not forget you.


Welcome "home" 16 Sept 2015

Welcome "home"?
Though we don't actually know where to call home anymore, its great to be in Asheville, NC.

Chad, Africa to Asheville:
One muddy rainy truck ride, a bus ride, 2 taxi rides, 3 airplanes, and finally into the van... We have arrived.
Bent but not completely broken.

12 Sept 2015 Evacuation?

Due to a recommendation by the US Dept of State, we are leaving Chad.
Not sure what is happening but the only good exit is through the capital N'Djamena so we are taking it seriously. Our flight will be Tuesday night :-(
Please pray for Chad and the work that is ongoing here. Our departure is sooner than we had planned :-(

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Chad and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Chad depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from N’Djamena on September 11, 2015.  Consequently, the U.S. Embassy is able to provide only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Chad.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on February 26, 2015.

The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services in remote and rural areas is extremely limited.  U.S. citizens should take steps to mitigate the risk of becoming a victim of violent crime, and maintain caution at public gathering spaces and locations frequented by foreigners, including markets, restaurants, bars, and places of worship.

The Government of Chad requires all individuals traveling to or residing in areas hosting refugee populations in Chad to obtain movement permits (“autorisation de circuler”) from the Ministry of Interior and Public Security in N'Djamena.  All U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad should have an evacuation plan developed with the United Nations agency coordinating their work.  In addition, U.S. citizens are strongly urged to adhere closely to the policies and procedures of their host organizations to mitigate risks of becoming the victim of violent crime.  All U.S. citizens should prepare personal evacuation or safe-haven plans and be prepared to implement those plans on short notice.  U.S. citizens intending to enter Cameroon, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, or Sudan from Chad should consult the Department's Travel Warnings for those countries and obtain any requisite visas or travel permits prior to traveling.

The Government of Chad has limited means to guarantee the safety of visitors in rural Chad. Incidents of robbery, carjacking at gunpoint, and murder have been reported in N’Djamena and throughout the country.  Violence is also associated with car accidents where crowds may form. If involved in an accident, it is essential to call the police. While there are presently no known specific threats against U.S. citizens in Chad, there are violent extremist organizations in the region, such as Boko Haram and al-Qai’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which are intent on harming westerners and western interests and are able to cross borders easily. Kidnapping for ransom is a potential threat in the region.

All U.S. government personnel require authorization to travel to areas outside of the capital, N'Djamena, and may be subject to restrictions within the capital.  As security situations warrant, the U.S. Embassy may periodically impose further travel restrictions, including curfews, on U.S. government personnel. While private U.S. citizens are not required to follow these practices, U.S. citizens should consider taking similar precautions when making travel plans. Review security precautions and consider measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime and other threats.  U.S. citizens residing in Chad should exercise caution throughout the country, especially at night.

Medical services in Chad are limited.  U.S. citizens entering Chad are strongly encouraged to verify their medical coverage extends to traveling within Chad – including medical evacuation – prior to arrival.
For further information:
•       See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Chad.

•       Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

•       U.S. citizens who decide to travel to or remain in Cameroon despite this Travel Warning are urged to provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information through STEP.

•       Contact the U.S. Embassy in Chad located on Avenue Felix Eboue in N’Djamena, at +(235) 2251-62-11, 2251-70-09, 2251-77-59, 2251-90-52, 2251-92-18 or 2251-92-33. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +235 6662-2100.

•       Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Positive 07 Sept 2015

07 Sept 2015

I have a 10year old boy on the pediatric service...he only weighs 15kg (just over 30lbs). You probably can't imagine just how small that is.

On rounds this morning I greeted him in Arabic and he responded and gave me a huge smile. He is pretty sick.
His dad abandoned him and his mom when he was born. His mom is out of money so we gave her beans and rice today and bought his medicine.
Unfortunately his HIV test is positive. I was so hoping to be wrong...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

You is kind. You is smart. You is important. 25 July 2015

You is kind. You is smart. You is important. 
25 July 2015

     I recently watched "The Help" and I love the recurrent line in the movie when the maid, Aibileen, speaks words of truth and encouragement to a little girl who needed someone to show her she was valuable. (You is kind. You is smart. You is important. )
     In the past few months, I've started talking to parents and children about their future. During rounds on Pediatrics, I often ask a mother or father to please tell their daughter/son to come back to the hospital when they are 15 to begin their formation to be a doctor here in Bere, Chad (Its a random age but its the idea that matters). All the other families gathered around us smile and laugh and the parents usually beam with pride and agree.   Usually I get a smile and nod from the child too as they think "Yes,I will be a doctor and help people."  I don't know what this will mean for their future but I'm trying to plant a seed of success as I whisper a prayer and offer encouragement to each family. They can be something more if they believe it. I want kids in school here. And I want them to know someone believes in them.   I need you to believe in someone too. 
If you can speak words of truth and offer financial support, we can help a child, a community and a country. 
     Children here need help with money for tuition, uniforms and school supplies.  I haven't yet seen the tuition cost for the approaching school year but it has been (unfortunately) raised. 
Kim and I are budgeting about $30 per YEAR for primary school and possibly $60/year for high school (this includes a uniform for $12 and supplies ~$3). 

     If you are willing to "adopt" a student and commit to their future, please visit our blog and make a donation via Paypal (use PayPal acct or a credit card). 
Your donation is 100% tax deductible but more importantly changes someone's life. 

You is kind. You is smart. You is important. 
Words worth sharing!