Sunday, January 28, 2018



We had a planning meeting for our mission to Zambia today at our house in Columbus.  The agency we're working with is Gospelink -

Our Columbus Medical Mission Team has come together with this group from Nebraska.  We are lining up really well for the Eye/ENT surgical team. 

Back L->R Dr. Nila N. Otolaryngologist, John N., MacGyver, Dr. Pete D., Ophthalmologist, Sam W., surgery nurse, Dr. Alicia M., hospitalist, Giana B., PA.
Middle row L->R Kim S., nursing, Sandra W., nursing, Heather N., surgery nurse, Elsa G., Dental asst, translator, Miguel G., MA, translator.
Front L->R Casey S., nursing, Nancy G., nursing, Jenn L., Nurse Anesthetist.

We were only missing a couple of the medical missionaries, but we have 2 others on board - Emily and Namdar, both nursing.

We discussed travel plans, equipment and supplies we'll need and saw photos of the place we'll be going.

Good resources I recommended include getting a copy of Town Nyanja, the local language and Into Africa by Dugard that includes some of the history of the area and tells the story of Stanley and Livingstone. Also, the blog by Dr. Marjie Heier has a lot of interesting information about Chifundo Clinic and Mission Heart on FB has a lot of information and is loading supplies on a cargo container to be shipped soon.  They have shipped two already in the last few months. We are waiting on word about an anesthesia machine that may be donated that we can get on the cargo container.

There is a lot to think about.  We've got some very experienced people and some newbies just applying for their passports who haven't traveled outside the US.  It will be the trip of a lifetime.  Only two of our team has been to Zambia before and we'll be joining some folks from S. Carolina and/or Maryland who are going to help with education and have been to Zambia. Keep us in your prayers.  We are always taking donations of supplies and money.

I will add bios of the team as we approach the trip in July. 

In the meantime, John is heading to Nicaragua with Global Passion Ministries along with Tam B's team in February. I'll see if he can write some of the blog while he's there. 


Monday, January 1, 2018


Now that John is semi retired he has time to pursue other things.  We traveled to Nicaragua 3 times in years past but then Columbus Medical Mission Team passed the torch to Global Passion Ministries.  This February John is joining their group as a Mcgyver.  They got an article in the Columbus Telegram last week to help promote their spaghetti feed fund raiser next Sunday at noon at Peace Lutheran Church.  There are many inaccuracies in the article, but only those who know the mission well will recognize them.

The Columbus Contingent: 
back Dan Smith, Scott Boettcher - McGyvers
front Tam Boettcher, APRN Kevin Harm, APRN and John Novotny - McGyver

Thursday, October 26, 2017



I didn’t think I would blog again, but today included a new area I had not seen before. Some of the photos I thought were in the “Really?” category. 

Other photos are self-explanatory.

An ambulance that burned up in the fire.  

A burned lot for sale 

UPS still delivering to charred remains. Really?

I have the next two days off the recuperate, and will enjoy the beach tomorrow. Also, I thought I would be going to San Francisco alone on Friday, but as it turns out, my ERV mate will be going with me, he is from Connecticut and we will go see some sights there before we both fly out an home on Saturday.

Our site/mission is officially over this Friday, and the primary feeding, sheltering, mass care will end. What will remain is Red Cross mental health workers. They get to clean up and put closure on the human side of this tragedy.

Signing off, and I’d like to say I hope you enjoyed my blogs about this, it’s hard to say “enjoy” but rather process them.

John A. Novotny

Wednesday, October 25, 2017



Today was another interesting day. I have been on the Coffey Park route for 3 days, and today we got transferred to another route. Partially because we just need to rotate and take our turn at seeing the bigger picture of as many fire areas as we can, but because we wanted to as well. The place we went to today was an apartment complex, which is primarily housed by migrant workers, that are now out of jobs, because their bosses/employers lost houses, farms, vineyards, or whatever the case me be. It’s a secondary effect of the fires. 

We had some left over food from this feeding, and was able to take it to the homeless living under a bridge in the area. 

Some of the homeless are now due to their houses being burned down, rather than the traditional homeless we may thing of otherwise. I attached some photos of the bridge area.

On the way home today, we saw  great sunset, so thought I would end my blog with something positive.


Today was my daughter Ashley’s birthday, so I made time to call her. We don’t have a lot of time to do much techy stuff, and we work 12-16 hour days. Most of my blogging is done late at night here. We were back on the Coffey Park route today. Actually, the folks in this area are starting to dwindle. Once residents come back in and sift through the ashes, and get with their insurance agent, there isn’t a big reason to come back again, unless they are helping a neighbor or friend. Tomorrow the 25th will be our last run to this area. The cities are talking about just coming into these areas with contracted commercial cleanup crews, bulldoze and remove, then put 4” of dirt down, then the rebuilding can start. It will take years of course, and not everyone will rebuild here, so it will be a long workout situation.

I was able to visit with the California Fire fighters directly today, (front line folks) , and they said that as of today, all of the remaining fires are contained, but some are still burning, but not out of control.

In light of that, our entire operating is preparing to phase down and out too. This Friday or Saturday may be the end of the assignment/project for Red Cross in these areas. I have attached a map of the counties we were in, in this part of the state.

 I also attached a photo of my current ERV driving mate, 
and the director of our site we have been working at for 2 weeks.

For me, by Thursday (26th), I will have put in 3 weeks without a day off. Since the operation is preparing to phase out anyway, I have been given the opportunity to have two free days at the end of my assignment, and then they will fly me home.  I plan of going to the beach on Thursday with a car load of other Red Cross workers that have the same day off. One of those workers has access to a car, so we will use that for the 16 mile trip to the beach. It is called Bodega Bay, and it is on US highway #1, that is the coast road from San Diego, to Seattle. We will be on a sliver of it, so plan to take a swim suit and get in the cold water, as its been hot here (record high today), and sight see, and eat something other than Red Cross food.  LOL

My second day (Friday) I will be by myself, and I will be taking a shuttle to the San Francisco airport (donated by a local company doing this for free for Red Cross workers). It takes about 1.75 hours to get from here to the airport. Once at the airport on Friday, I will leave my luggage at the hotel I am staying at nearby, then take the commuter train to downtown San Francisco, and ride the cable cars for a day. Then I will fly out early Saturday morning and get to Omaha by about 5:00 pm, then drive home to Columbus.

I the big picture, it was a great experience, and will probably be doing more of these in the future, maybe 1 or 2 a year. But it will be good to get home, it’s been a long journey and I am exhausted physically and mentally.

Signing off, and to all a good night.

John A. Novotny

Monday, October 23, 2017


Somehow a lemonade stand survived.  These are photos from John in California with the Red Cross. When they have leftover food for the day they take it to the homeless under a bridge.

Here's the surviving lemonade stand. Go figure.

Under the bridge
The rest of these pictures are from neighborhoods where John is working and his vehicle and work areas.

Inside the truck.

Saturday, October 21, 2017



Today was an eventful day. Our ERV was selected as one to do a collaborative
effort of feeding with the Salvation Army from Santa Rosa, CA. We leaded our
vehicle with 400 meals of pulled beef sandwiches, green beans, snacks, water
and Gatorade. We met at the Salvation Army location in Santa Rosa and went
as a convoy to a place called Coffey Park, one of the hardest hit places,
with about 1,300 homes that burned. We fed about 375 of those meals, and
about 600+ snack items too.

Just today, the police are just letting residents back into the area a sift
through their remains. They wanted to make sure it was safe from gas and
electrical lines, and also to recover the bodies of those that burned with
their houses.

Tomorrow (21st) will be a repeat, and after that, I am not sure. Once a
resident confirms their house is 100% with their insurance agent, there is
no real reason to go back until the rebuilding process starts with

More tomorrow.


Thursday, October 19, 2017


Posted 10-17-2017

From Sacramento, CA we were deployed to Santa Rosa, CA, where the fires have destroyed many homes and has taken many lives in the area. The fires do not discriminate, they burn homeless abodes all the way to the multi-million dollar houses. It’s either destroyed to the ground, or not touched. So weird. One of the most touching photos was that of the tricycle. 

Houses with cars parked in the driveway or garage were common. We even saw one house that had a moving van that burned up with the house as they were trying to load out before the fire hit, but didn’t make it.

The nights of October 14-16 we stayed at a community center in Santa Rosa, much like any community hall. 120 of us volunteers slept in the same room, with lights out at 10:00 pm, and wake-up at 5:00 am, as a way to make some sort of order. Days are long, but rewarding.

Today (17th) we were moved to Petalina, CA as the fires have moved here. We are now staying at the Coast Guard Training Facility here. We are running routes to the burned areas, and taking food to the various shelters in the area, and on an individual bases to those who remained in the area.  Many areas are closed to the owners, until it is safe to return, only to find nothing but ashes.

We are supposed to get a day a week off, but I have not seen that yet. Hopefully this weekend I can get a day to drive to the beach (about 30 miles to the west) and put my toes in the water. I got a shower tonight at the training facility, has not had one for 4 days.

Scheduled at this point to return to Nebraska on October 28th, but that can change in an instant, so we will see.

Signing off for tonight, more as I can.

Monday, October 16, 2017


John spent last night at the Sonoma County fairgrounds. They had FEMA and armed guards around. People seem really grateful. 

John will go to Napa tomorrow and help with meals as people are returning to their homes. 
This is where they fed people the last couple days. He says the smoke is everywhere and occasionally he sees flames.