Book Review: The Hospital By the River, by Dr. Catherine Hamlin

About 13 months ago, I (Helen) shared a a short blog post series called And…Action. This series came out of Michael and I leading an intercession time on the issue of gender inequality. The third post in that series focused on health care, and the lack of care available to many women throughout the world. Because boys and men are valued more highly in many nations, families and governments are often less willing to finance the care needed by women, particularly in the areas of pregnancy and birthing. One particular symptom of this tragic worldview is the occurrence of obstetric fistula, which I previously described as thus:

Many women die in childbirth in the developing world, but others are left with fistulas. Fistula is a little-known or talked about subject in the West, because it is virtually unseen here. In Africa and much of Asia, however, where many of the women giving birth are actually young teenagers, and where FGM is an ongoing issue, almost 100,000 women suffer from fistula every year. An obstetric fistula occurs “when the baby’s head puts too much pressure on the mother’s maternal tissues, cutting off the supply of blood. The tissue dies, leaving a hole – or fistula – which causes urine and feces to leak uncontrollably. The shame and stigma is simply unimaginable. Many women are rejected by their husbands, family and friends and left to suffer all alone” ( In addition to the smell that results from fistula (resulting in shame and stigma), women with fistula often cannot walk or stand because of the nerve damage which is a by-product of fistula. Because of the constant leak of urine, women with fistula often develop wounds on their legs because of the acid eating away at the skin (And…Action {Part Three: Health Care}).

Fistula is a horrendous outcome of the lack of valuing women specifically in the area of health care, but as I read about this tragic condition, it became apparent that something is being done about it. Fistulas can be repaired by surgery, and there are some champions of this surgery at work in the world, many of them motivated by the love of Christ. Gynaecologists Catherine and Reg Hamlin are two of these champions. They left Australia in 1959 with the mission of establishing a midwifery school in Ethiopia, but decades later, Catherine Hamlin is still there, running the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, which opened in 1974.


Dr. Catherine Hamlin with women treated by the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Photo from

About two months ago, I came across a post via “A Mighty Girl,” celebrating Catherine Hamlin, and wishing her a happy 91st birthday. The post highlighted her decades of work with “fistula pilgrims” in Ethiopia, and recommended The Hospital By the River as further reading. The Hospital By the River is Dr. Hamlin’s autobiography, and is filled with stories of heartbreak and hope, as she and her late husband, Reg, established a hospital for “these…women most to be pitied in the world. They’re alone and forgotten, bearing their injuries and silent shame” (Dr. Catherine Hamlin).


The Hamlins, with their team of surgeons, have operated on over 25,000 women, and have taught many gynaecologists throughout Africa and developing nations, the techniques of this life-altering surgery. Dr. Catherine Hamlin’s story is one of God’s call on a couple’s life; it is tremendously inspirational and moving, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

To learn more about the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, go to Unfortunately, financial gifts are not set up for Canadians through this website, but I understand World Vision Canada is a supporter of this hospital. I didn’t find any specific links through which you could give to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital on World Vision’s website, but you can donate $100 through World Vision Canada’s gift catalogue towards pre-natal and post-natal care for mother and child. This gift is matched by the Canadian government, multiplying its value. (Fistula is unheard of in the West because of the pre-natal and pregnancy care women receive, and fistula prevention partially comes down to women receiving assistance during childbirth.) If you want to give specifically towards fistula surgery, Christian Blind Mission raises funds for women to receive treatment; each surgery costs approximately $400. You can learn more about their work with fistula patients through their website, at


Recipe of the Week (Month?): My Fave Potato Salad

Yesterday we had beautiful weather. Weeks ago I (Helen) had planned to have a wiener roast for supper, and I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing March day for such an event. As the last day before Spring Break, it seemed appropriate to celebrate, and the weather certainly cooperated with the celebratory, relaxed mood of the evening. I love meals where people linger, and yesterday we all sat outside in the evening sunshine for an hour, grilling hot dogs and taking second helpings of caesar and potato salad.

Potato salad is a great transition food from winter to spring. Potatoes are so wintery and filling, but somehow this salad fits so nicely in with barbecues and cookouts. This potato salad takes people by surprise, as we are accustomed to the mayonnaise-y deli potato salads that come in plastic containers and taste like it. Last night our friends filled up on hot dogs and then had some potato salad as an afterthought, and I consistently heard “this potato salad is really good!” It is fresh, tangy, and because I sprinkle cayenne on the top, has a bit of heat. There is a relatively small amount of mayo in it, but the richness of the mayo is countered by the sharpness of the mustard, the sweet and sour taste of relish, the crunch of the celery, and the boldness of a little grated raw onion.

This recipe is only slightly adapted from, and was submitted by “jewellkay.” I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing the recipe with you! Serves eight.


  • 5 potatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used low fat)


  1. Place eggs in a pot with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat, letting eggs stand in hot water for about 10 minutes. Remove eggs from water and cool. Peel and chop.
  2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Peel potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add potatoes to boiling water, and cook until tender but still firm. Drain potatoes and run under cool water until they are only slightly warm.
  3. In a large bowl, combine celery, onion, relish, garlic salt, celery salt, mustard, pepper, and mayonnaise. Add potatoes and eggs to mix, and toss well. Sprinkle cayenne pepper over top for color and flavor. If you don’t want the heat of the cayenne, paprika is also a nice addition. Refrigerate until chilled.

Book Review: Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist

I (Helen) first read Shauna Niequist’s work while we were in Mexico in the Fall, starting with her second book, Bittersweet. I loved her honest writing style immediately, and quickly set about reading her first book, Cold Tangerines. Bread & Wine is Shauna’s third book, and my favorite of the three. Not only is it beautifully written and thoughtfully presented, it includes recipes! There’s no better way to describe this book than its subtitle: “a love letter to life around the table with recipes.”


Bread & Wine is an appropriate read for me right now, as I am currently managing Food Services at YWAM Turner Valley. This means I set the menu each week, do the grocery shopping, and cook many of the meals we eat as a community. While I can get pretty grumpy when a quiche takes twenty minutes longer to cook than the recipe says, on the most part, I really love this job. I love developing menus I know will be appreciated by the staff and students in our community, whether it’s because I know so-and-so really loves gravy and mashed potatoes, or because nothing gets anyone more excited than naan bread, or because I know the majority of our community loves Thai food and has tasted the real thing in Thailand. I love catering the menu to what people will enjoy, while doing my best to be a good steward of the resources we have. It’s creativity and problem-solving together, two of my favorite things.

Another reason Bread & Wine is a good read for me right now is because I just got back from a trip to Edmonton, where I was shown exemplary hospitality. Shauna puts language to hospitality when she says “the heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved.” This sentence sums up hospitality in so many ways for me, and it sums up the hospitality I received in Edmonton as well. The sentence comes from a chapter about hosting those with food intolerances and allergies, which is important to me as someone with a long list of things I can’t eat, but more than that, this sentence is a reminder that hospitality doesn’t have to be matching napkins, woodland village centerpieces, and a remodeled bathroom. Hospitality is about making people feel safe and welcome: comfortable. I felt so welcomed into the home I stayed at in Edmonton; every allergy was accounted for, but more importantly, I felt part of the life of the house for a few days. Hospitality was extended by the youngest and the oldest, and it was so encouraging and rejuvenating.

Bread & Wine is a collection of short essays about life around the table, but it’s also a discussion about the role food plays in our lives, our homes, and hospitality, whether your “table” is a coffee table or a dining room table, a nightstand or your own hand as you grab something on the way out the door. It’s about baby showers and weeknight meals, dinner parties and the occasional dinner in front of the TV. I loved it.

As for the recipes, I’ve made Shauna’s basic vinaigrette, gaia cookies, and an updated version of her mango chicken curry, available on her blog. I can’t wait to try more, as all three recipes have been excellent, adaptable, and dependable.

If you have a heart for hospitality, or if you feel God calling you to community-building where you are at, I encourage you to pick up Bread & Wine. Read your way through it, cook your way through it, and open your home, table, and heart to those around you.

White, Yellow, Pink: A Story of God’s Provision


We call it the Prayer Board. We were in Mexico participating in Titus Project when it was built, but it has come to dramatically shape the journey God has us on as a YWAM campus this year. I (Michael) wish I could tell the origin story in detail, but instead I’ll focus on the testimony of God’s faithfulness when we come to Him in prayer.

The current season for YWAM Turner Valley has been one many would call “challenging,” but all of us involved have found this season one of our most fruitful and joy-filled. The challenge started with our School of Biblical Studies student numbers being very low: four students to be exact. This was fewer than half of the students we had last year. With school fees being a major source of income for the campus, low student numbers meant that many items laid out in budgets had no foreseeable source of income. We would keep the lights and heat on, and people would not starve, but main key elements of running our campus were not going to happen without miraculous provision. More recently, a major supporter of our ministry – a food bank in Calgary – did not renew its longstanding support of our mission. The food bank had been providing food for our campus for over fifteen years. This was in part how we were able to keep fees for both staff and participants low. With Helen overseeing our Food Services department, this directly affects her day-to-day work life.

Now for the awesome testimony part. All of these needs inspired an increased focus on prayer in our community, but not only for financial issues – for any and every thing we could think to bring to God. The Prayer Board was built and at 5:00pm each day people meet to pray for what is on the board. White pieces of paper have needs and requests on them. Pink pieces of paper have words and pictures from God recorded on them. Finally, the yellow pieces of paper were for answered prayers.

When I got back from Titus Project, the biggest number of papers were white, but quickly there was so much yellow we had to start moving them to the edge of the Prayer Board, as you can see in the above picture. There has been a steady flow of pink also, such an encouragement to our ministry. All that yellow represents thousands of dollars and other miracles, all provided by our heavenly Father. It also represents a season that should have felt like just scraping by, but has instead felt more abundant than any of the past years I have been on this campus. This board as a whole represents a coming together of our community in prayer, and I believe a preparation for an exciting journey with God in the near future. As for our food situation there is a peace in the sense that even though we do not know yet how it will look to see such a major support go away, we are not nervous about it. Actually the people who should be the most nervous, like Helen, are some of the most at peace. There is an excitement growing amongst us, shaped by all the yellow on the Prayer Board, to see what God is going to do in this next season.

I share this because in Revelation it speaks of how people overcame the Accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11) . I know for a fact I am covered by the blood of the Lamb, and through sharing my testimony I come against the lies of Satan both in my own life, but hopefully in yours as you read this. We serve a Father who is our provider and longs to give to us abundantly, but sometimes we hold on so tightly to other sources of provision we miss the adventure of seeing God answer our prayers. I hope this post encourages you wherever you are at. Please feel free to join us in praying for God’s continued provision for our campus, and you can be a part of seeing those white pieces of paper become yellow testimonies.

Recipe of the Week: Carne Asada Tacos

I (Helen) have been away most of the week, spending time with friends and family in the Edmonton area. Before I left, for Tuesday’s supper, I made carne asada tacos. I had lots of help; we spent a lot of time chopping tomatoes and other goodies for fresh pico de gallo, putting the food processor to work making garlicky guac, shredding lettuce, and warming tortillas. I love Mexican food, and after being in Tijuana for three months last Fall, it’s fun to incorporate some authentic Mexican flavors into our week.


Carne Asada Tacos, picture © of James at

The recipes for the grilled meat and pico come from Tyler Florence of Food 911, a show I’ve never seen…I found the recipe on It’s important to get started on these in the morning, marinating the beef in the mojo, for up to eight hours. I skipped out on serving the tacos with cheese, as we’re running low, but also because I didn’t see a whole lot of cheese served with tacos in the part of Mexico we were in. Do warm the tortillas…it makes a world of difference. Yum.