Wednesday, December 30, 2015

OpenMRS Worldwide Summit 2015 Event Report

I was privileged to attend the OpenMRS Worldwide Summit 2015, held in Singapore on 8-14 December 2015. I was one of the lucky recipients of a travel grant, which made it possible for me to attend. Without the travel grant, I would not have been able to participate. I want to express a special thanks to all of the sponsors of OpenMRS Worldwide Summit 2015, especially those that enabled me to participate through the travel grant!

During the summit, I was able to attend various talks, participate in many activities, meet new people, and be encouraged to continue and deepen my involvement with OpenMRS.

Talks I Attended
I arrived a few days before the summit so I could participate in the OpenMRS Concept Management tutorial led by community experts Andrew Kanter and Ellen Ball. Although this was a subject that I was quite familiar with, I was able to capture some history, learn about the latest tools (Open Concept Lab) and leave with some new best-practices to implement. I was not planning to attend the Getting Data Out tutorial, but was requested to demonstrating some tools that I was familiar with by the reporting community expert, Mike Seaton. So, as is so common in the OpenMRS community I shared the limited knowledge that I had on the subject, edifying others.

During the summit there were scheduled group plenary sessions, unscheduled “unconference” sessions, as well as “birds of a feather” sessions.

My favorite plenary session was certainly the “Lightening Talks”; where multiple people each talked for a short amount of time (about 5-minutes) on any subject. This gave a good introduction to people and what they were doing in the OpenMRS community. In future events, I would like to have organizational lightening talks, where each organization or person represented would give a brief overview of their work. Another favorite plenary session was the “fish-bowl” where we talked about Growing the OpenMRS Community. In this session, there was a rotating panel of “experts” who sat on stage and gave their thoughts on the subject. The time was divided in half, the first part spent identifying problems (like making it easier for “newbies” and the need for improving documentation), and the second part identifying potential solutions.

One of the unconference sessions that I attended was Installing and Configuring Bhamni. Bhamni is now an official distribution of OpenMRS; integrating OpenMRS (Electronic Medical Record), OpenELIS (Lab Information System) and OpenERP (Enterprise Management). In this session each participate was given a Bhamni instance running on a virtual machine. Bhamni has a great deal of configurability built-in through JSON files which can be edited in the filesystem. We were given various tasks to perform in configuring Bhamni, for example adding a new app button on the home page.

My favorite “birds of a feather” session was held in the cafeteria where we informally discussed OpenELIS over lunch. This was a joint discussion between I-TECH and Bhamni (ThoughtWorks) who had forked the OpenELIS software. We discussed how to combine the work (and the work of others) into an even better software.

Activities I Participated In
There were many extracurricular activities which I participated in, for example the Pre-Summit BBQ Dinner at beautiful Labrador Park, sponsored by Google. The most fun activity was PowerPoint Karaoke, where I participated as a contestant. Laughs were had by all (except a few who were still suffering from jetlag and took a nap). This event was graciously hosted by ThoughtWorks in their Singapore office. They gave us snacks too!

PowerPoint Karaoke - Thanks to Kaweesi Joseph For Photo 
New People I Met
Having attended previous OpenMRS Implementer’s Meetings, many of the folks I encountered were old friends. I did meet a new friend in person, Mayank Sharma. He was a previous Google Summer of Code student, and is now the Release Manager for OpenMRS Platform 2.0. I have seen his name in the forums, but never met in person. He is a really cool member of the OpenMRS community. First, he shared about FHIR during his lightening talk, which introduced a new technology to me. Second, he humbly sat me down and asked me for comments about things he should consider during the release of OpenMRS 2.0. Third, he took us on a great visit to “Little India”, ending with dinner at the Banana Leaf Restaurant.

Another really cool person I met was Neha Goel. Not only is she a champion “new implementer” of OpenMRS, but she was also our PowerPoint Karaoke champion, unseating the former champion and taking home the Kaweesi Joseph PowerPoint Karaoke Trophy. One afternoon I got to show her some tricks of configuring OpenMRS. I love preying on unsuspecting new implementers with my vast experience and limited knowledge.

How This Event Changed or Encouraged My Involvement in OpenMRS
I love the OpenMRS community! It feels good to have an open invitation to participate in leading the community forward. Being able to attend encourages my continued involvement. Being asked straight-up, “What do you want to do in the OpenMRS community?” strengthens that connection even more.

I also participated in the OpenMRS Hackathon that was held after the summit. My contribution was somewhat unconventional as I am not one of OpenMRS’ skilled programmers. But, I was able to use my videography skills to record various interviews (and b-roll) of the folks at the hackathon which will be used to produce a promotional video. One of the questions I asked the interviewees was “What is the best part about OpenMRS?” The majority responded “The Community”. I completely agree! OpenMRS is not software. OpenMRS is a community of people from all over the world working together to write code and save lives! I am proud to be a part of this community; a little piece that makes up the whole.

Here is a “shout-out” to anyone that is interested in being a part of the OpenMRS community… “Come find your place”!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Time in Asia Ending

My time in Singapore and Malaysia are coming to an end.  As I sit at the airport waiting for my flight to Beijing, I reflect on all of the beautiful things I have seen and done; one of them being this video I took of kids singing "Feliz Navidad" at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Singapore, Malaysia and America; Here I Come

The days are quickly approaching for my departure to Singapore, Malaysia and America!  I received a miracle grant making all of this travel possible!  It enables me to attend the OpenMRS Worldwide Summit. While I'm traveling, I extended the dates (to actually get cheaper flights) to see Malaysia and many of you in Virginia over Christmas!

After the conference I plan to venture into Malaysia via train.  I've also got an overnight in China on the way back!  I plan to be in Virginia from December 21st until January 1st. If you want to connect/re-connect please drop me a message.

I have been very busy in the past month with various clients who I am helping implement the OpenMRS medical record software.  I was able to squeeze in a few movie showings here in Port-au-Prince, and to play the part of Jesus in a music video.

James Playing Jesus
I've become social!  Connect with me on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn.

As always, thanks for your prayers!  That's what keeps me going!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mom's Operation and Activities

Today was the big day for my mother to have the cancerous lump surgically removed from her breast. We are praising the Lord that the operation went well.  Thanks to those of you that were/are praying.

Tomorrow I head to Mibalè (Mirebalais) to choose the exact spot I want to buy to build on. The surveyor will help to measure, place boundary markers, and draw up the necessary paperwork. I plan to take Lovely along to the hospital there, which will hopefully be the last visit related to the accident.

This weekend I plan to head up to Maissade to show movies. This is a special occasion for the Oasis church there because it will the first Sunday in their new building.

Thanks so much for all of your prayers!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Land for Little "Mission Base"

For months, I've been sharing snippets of where God was taking me; how I was seeing wonderful (and miraculous) results in ministry, how I was receiving unusual (and miraculous) financial gifts, and how I have been vigorously praying for God to use me most effectively for His kingdom! Intertwined with all of this, was the God given desire to build a little "mission base" to allow me to do more media ministry; a resting place upon return from exhausting ministry trips and a place to produce future movies.

When I first started sharing about the idea of doing more "full-time" ministry and building a little "mission base" to work out of, God performed a miracle!  I was soliciting prayer; prayer for direction and wisdom to discern the leading of the LORD.  God had spoken earlier in the day to one of the folks I was sharing with. He asked, "Is there some way that he could contribute financially now"?  A few days later I was brought to tears of joy and laughter when in disbelief I received an unreasonably large check in the mail to purchase land.  A few days later another friend asked how he could help, and it continues. This is what God did to confirm the next step; to buy land!

The same night God revealed the idea of building a little place, I was also directed that a national ministry was in order, and a central location was key.  Thus, I had a starting place for the search for land. Using my network of Haitian missionaries, pastors and friends I put out the word that I was looking for land.  I got results and started to investigate them one at a time.  All of the other properties failed for one reason or another; not enough land, too close to the road, too close to other houses, too far from Port-au-Prince, not a clear title, a non-reputable seller, etc.

After lots of prayer and several trips to Mibalè (Mirebalais), I have found the perfect land to base my ministry out of. All of my advisers have given their approval.  The owner will allow me to choose the exact piece of land that I want from his acreage and whatever amount I can afford. I will get 1/2 "kawo de tè" or 1/2 "carreau" which is roughly 1.6 acres.   Wonder what a "carreau" is, check out this interesting Haiti Land Measurement page; it also explains the "metric foot". We have set the date to do the survey of the land; Thursday, September 17th. I have negotiated a price with the seller. Thanks to the generous contributions I mentioned previously, I already have the money to purchase the land!

Beautiful Land On a Plateau With a Million Dollar View

From my limited understanding of Haitian law, as soon as we negotiated the price the land was sold! Of course there are tedious steps required to make it official.  Please pray that God will continue to prepare the way for where He wants me!

Future Driveway in Blue (1700 feet long)

This weekend I am scheduled to show movies Saturday and Sunday nights in the Port-au-Prince area.

Please remember to keep my mother in your prayers as she is to have a lumpectomy to treat her breast cancer on Wednesday, September 16th.

Thanks for all of your prayers, they make all of the difference!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sharing at Mountain View Mennonite Church

While in the United States, we got many opportunities to share about out work and ministry.  On Wednesday, September 2nd, Pastor Nestor Pierre and I were given the opportunity to share at Mountain View Mennonite Church about our ministries in Haiti.  I translated for Pastor Nestor, which brought a few laughs; "un-huh".  He talked about his work and vision with “Hephrata Mission”.  He has a true heart for the people who live in the area where he ministers.  His heart especially goes out the children in his school.  He is waiting for a miracle to support nine government approved teachers, and curriculum director.  Please hold him up in your prayers.

James Translating For Pastor Nestor

I shared the parable of “The Society for the Picking of Apples”, which I gleaned from a book I read recently; Let's Quit Kidding Ourselves About Missions. Please take a minute to read this fascinating parable.  It will challenge you in a unique and non-threatening way.

I also shared about the direction the LORD is slowly revealing for me. Yes, it includes doing more media ministry, being in Haiti for the long haul, and establishing myself on a little “mission base”.  More details on this soon.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Needs Met, Visit and Supporting Mom

Greetings in the name of Christ.

Needs Met
I continue to reap the benefits of your unceasing prayers. Although I have dedicated myself wholly to ministry and have not been working a regular job (receiving the steady income I previously enjoyed), it is exciting to see how the LORD continues to meet ALL of my needs. I was reminded of this yesterday when I went to get my prescription polarized glasses fixed, and they decided to give me a brand new pair for free! It is true as it says in Matthew 6:33 CEV, "Put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well." I will share more news about this as the plans unfold for a property and a little mission base in Haiti.

I am currently visiting the United States with a Haitian pastor/friend (Nestor Pierre) and have enjoyed seeing many of you, and look forward to seeing the rest, if possible. I have two opportunities for this...
Supporting Mom
Last week, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through God's divine timing, I already had my ticket purchased and plans made to be together with my family. Although I didn't know the importance of my presence to my mother and father at this time, God did. Thank you so much for your prayers, especially for healing of my mother (Miriam Arbaugh).

I am having a wonderful time loving, being loved and enjoying time with my family.

Dad, James, Nestor and Mom

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Showing Movies and Amiga Island

I have been in the North of Haiti for a few days now.  I've been partnering with Joel Trimble (Haiti for Christ) to show movies in rural communities.

Getting to a Movie Showing at Labadie Village

Inviting People to Attend the Movie
I have also been able to do some fun activities during the day while here in the area.  One of those fun activities was sport fishing and snorkeling on the reef of Amiga Island.  Please enjoy this video of pictures and video clips taken while on the reef using an underwater camera enclosure.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


On Thursday, June 25th at about 4PM near Gonaives, I was involved in a "little" accident.  A 13 year old girl (Lovely) ran out in front of us as we were going to show movies.  She ran smack into the front fender (side) and bounced backwards.  She left a dent in the fender and broke her arm.  Trying to avoid her, we swerved off the road, over a low shoulder and nearly crashed into a canal; which could have killed us all.  We scooped her up before she got run over by another vehicle or a crowd gathered, and rushed her to the hospital in Gonaives.  She was conscious and gave us a phone number to call her aunt, who she lived with.  It's pretty much a miracle it was no worse than a broken arm.

Lovely and James After Hospital Return Visit

The hospital in Gonaives was unable to operate on her arm for several days, and the family pushed for her to be transferred.  We took her to the Mirebalais University Hospital (about 3 hours drive away), and she was given a return visit for later that week, and they operated.  After the operation, they cleaned the wound and eventually took the stitches out locally in Gonaives. Today we took her back for her return visit.  Everything appears to be OK, and a return visit is scheduled in 2 weeks.

Lovely was a restavek; living with her aunt.  This is a form of modern day slavery.  The father and mother have taken Lovely back home today as a result of the accident.  God can produce good results through our trials!

Things in Haiti aren't as simple as calling 911 and the gecko agent (insurance)!

Thanks so much for your continued prayer for complete healing and resolution.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Our Trip West - May 2015 Video

We are back and rested from our trip West.  We got to see so many wonderful sites including Yellowstone National Park, Teton National Park, Mount Rushmore and the South Dakota Badlands.

Enjoy this video which summarizes the wonderful time that we had.

I plan to return to Haiti next week, where I will be hosting a team doing children's and women's ministry.  After the team leaves, I plan to show movies during summer vacation.  This is always a receptive and welcomed time for showing Christian evangelistic movies.

Thank you for your continued prayers as I seek the Lord for future "full-time" ministry in Haiti. It is exciting to see God at work!