The Most Difficult Thing So Far

As our time here in Kenya comes to a close, I have been reflecting on what has been the most difficult part  of our mission trip so far.

Certainly some things come quickly to mind:  the language barrier or the cultural differences, the challenging travel conditions (did I mention small planes!), the diseases that are a constant threat to all of us, especially our children (malaria, typhoid, TB, worms), the conflict and violence all around our mission hospital and the constant news of encroaching threats, sleeping under mosquito nets (at least once I was nearly killed when I entangled myself in mine in an attempt to quickly get to the hospital in the middle of the night, thanks to Jenn for releasing me from its strangulating hold!), missing many of the “comforts” that we are so used to, having to collect rain water from our roof top, boil it for 10 minutes, then filter it and pour it into our month old, reused water bottles…

All these thing have certainly been different for us and in many ways have added to the difficulty of this mission trip.  But by far the most difficult thing we have experienced so far has been having to say good bye to some of the finest people we have ever had the privilege to meet.

Good bye to the Kenyan people–some of the most kind and caring and hospitable people on the planet.  When you say “karibu” (welcome), you mean it…you have opened your arms and your hearts to us and welcomed us into your lives.

Good bye to all the mission hospital staff who have accepted us as if we had been there forever–to Vincent in the theatre, Collins on the ward, David and Andrew in anesthesia, Solomon in PT, and I could go on and on.

Goodbye to Mr. John Wright a great man and a great administrator. Your joy is infectious.  The sacrifice you make for the Kingdom admirable.  Thanks for coffee and cinnamon rolls and a genuine interest in my family, especially my children.  Thanks for the coffee cake on the morning we left when we had very little food in the cottage.

Goodbye to Dr. Russ and Beth White, Dr. Carol Spears, Dr. Mike and Pam Chupp, Dr. Mike and Julie Ganey, Dr. Chuck and Amy Bemm, Dr. Ben and Jeni Roberts and Dr. John and Linda Sprigel–long term missionary doctors.  You “risk it all” for the sake of the Kingdom.  You are true heroes of the faith.  I admire you all. Russ, Carol and Mike–thanks for watching over me as I was re-introduced to surgery.  Words can’t express my appreciation to the three of you.

Goodbye to Dr. Zach Kasapoi, Dr. Geoffrey Kiprono and Dr. Agneta Odera three of the finest doctors I have ever met.

Goodbye to Adam and Jamie, and Julie and Mel and David and Luke and every other missionary kid who so welcomed my children and made them feel at home.  Goodbye to Jack’s Kenyan “best friends” the Bii’s. The valentine card you gave him will forever be a memory.

Goodbye to Dr. Carolyn Stickney and Dr. Brent and Marg Mundy and Dr. Fritz and Elaine Westerhaut–short-term missionary doctors (just like us) who we came to know and appreciate.  Fritz, thanks for teaching me how to do a C-section, thanks for choosing to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary on the mission field advancing the Kingdom.  What an example you all are to us. Marg and Elaine, thanks for allowing Jack into your lives and into your cottages (at all hours and without our knowledge!).

Goodbye to Dr. Mary Hermes, a 30 + year missionary nurse and educator.  We will never forget your smile and your joy.

Goodbye to Trish and Scott Hughett, our new friends.  Thanks for your overwhelming generosity to us.

The most difficult thing so far on our missions trip to Kenya has been saying goodbye.  We take great comfort though, in knowing goodbye won’t be forever.

From Africa with love,
Paul

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentines Day! I hope your day was filled with Love. There was a Valentine’s party at one of the missionary’s homes for all the kids! We made Valentine cards for everyone….with very little resources. It was so much fun making them. I couldn’t wait until we gave them out! Yesterday there was a kipagenga which means ‘coming together’. It was very fun! I ate so much….which most of my friends in the U.S. aren’t surprised. Yes, it’s true…I do eat a lot!

And last night the girls and I baby sat three boys 5, 3, and 1. We wanted to give these missionaries a night out.  I babysat the littlest boy, he is so cute! There were no problems…until ‘bedtime’. Well, I’ll keep you posted.

Georgia Grace

Hands and words

We often refer to hospitals as “facilities” and we talk about how big they are, how many patients they can take care of, how many beds and operating rooms and the newest technology. But hospitals—just like churches—are made up of people. And people determine the level of excellence of the hospital; people determine the “tone” and “spirit” of a hospital. Let me tell you about the mission hospital where I’m working for this month.

Tenwek Hospital began as a missionary outreach when American pioneer missionaries came to this area in the late 1800’s. Because of the faithful service of one man, Willis Hotchkiss, between 1895 and 1935, a “foothold” for the Kingdom was established in this remote corner of Africa. Reverend Hotchkiss prepared the way for two missionary nurses to set up a dispensary on this site from the mid-1930’s until 1959. It was from this tiny two-room dispensary that patients were seen and treated, medicines were given and babies were birthed. I often think about what it was like for those two women, alone in a dark part of Africa, surrounded by all sorts of danger. It amazes me what courage and perseverance they must have had to do what they did. These two ladies prayed for years that God would send a doctor to Tenwek so they would be able to treat more patients. That prayer was answered when Dr. Ernie Stuery answered the call God had on his life and in 1957 began to make plans to come to Africa. In 1959, after language school, Dr. Steury and his family arrived at Tenwek Hospital. Under Dr. Steury’s leadership for over 35 years, and with the support of so many Christians all over America and all over the world, the hospital began to expand. A male ward was added, then a female, then a separate laboratory, then a cafeteria, then new “theatres”, then mission cottages for the resident missionaries, then a nursing school…and on and on.

Now I have the opportunity to take care of patients in those same male and female wards, send blood to the same laboratory, operate in the same theatres and sit at a computer in the dark of the early morning at one of the same missionary cottages. As I walk by the Hotchkiss Memorial Chapel and sit at the Sue Steury cafeteria and I meet Dr. John Steury (one of the sons)…I am reminded that when I serve at Tenwek Hospital, I serve in the footsteps of a long line of men and women who have courageously given their lives to advance the Kingdom and be the hands and feet of Jesus on the very soil that I now serve.

Last Saturday night, I was taking care of several patients who had traveled for more than four hours over very difficult and dangerous roads to make it to this hospital. I asked the resident physician who was with me this question, “Why is it that these men and women who are so terribly sick and injured would pass so many other hospitals and clinics to get here?” She answered quickly: “Because this hospital has a reputation, it’s known as a place where the hands are gentler and the words are kinder”.

The facilities of this hospital are important, but the “spirit” of this hospital is what draws people here. People drive long distances over terrible roads and walk for miles over the rocky hills because of the reputation of gentle hands and kind words. That reputation didn’t start with me, or the resident physicians or the current missionary staff. We are just a few in the long line of faithful people who have created the spirit of this hospital. And I know in heaven right now, Reverend Hotchkiss, and the pioneer nurses, and Ernie Steury are smiling, knowing that the hands are still gentle and the words still kind at Tenwek Hospital. May it always be so.

It is the goodness and kindness of God that draws men and women…

From Africa with love,

Paul

We are hopeful

The former UN secretary, Kofi Annan, has been in Kenya this week along with other influential world leaders attempting to moderate a plan for peace. The violence has been decreasing for a day or so with only sporadic news of riots and bloodshed. I can tell the mood is hopeful because we were given permission to leave the hospital compound for a brief excursion.

I went by foot with Mrs. Linda into a nearby village to visit, Rachel, one of the ladies involved in her weekly Bible study.  We walked about fifteen minutes outside of the hospital into the village on the side of the sloping mountains to visit Samuel and Rachel’s home.  They met us atop a hill to walk us the rest of the way.  Rachel has been in poor health lately suffering with leg problems related to her diabetes.  She hasn’t been able to attend any of the meetings and needed some encouragement.  Samuel, admittedly, has had problems with drinking.  After Rachel became a Christian, the women in Rachel’s Bible study group began praying for his salvation and he eventually came to know the Lord.  He is a fairly new Christian, his walk has not been easy and he still struggles with the temptations of alcohol. Today he is at home, sober and very hospitable.

We were warmly welcomed into their two room stick and mud hut. Rachel and Samuel have 6 children, 3 grandchildren and many great grandchildren, many of whom live in or around their house.  Samuel farms and sells his crops to provide for his large extended family.

I could tell this was a special visit for Rachel and that she had made special preparations for us. She had a doily spread across her simple table and plenty of handmade wooden stools ready for us all to sit.  She had prepared chai and had her best mugs ready for us to use.

We discussed the state of Kenya, their hopes for peace, Rachel’s health, their children and their financial difficulties. We ended in a time of powerful prayer and thanked them for their hospitality.  It is the custom here in Kenya for each guest to say a word or read a scripture and address the hosts.  I thanked them for letting me share chai and fellowship with them, and told them that I knew Jesus was indeed the answer to all of their needs and He would provide. I told them I would share their story with my church at home and we would remember them and their family in our prayers.  As a special request to these sweet people, I asked for permission to take their picture to share with you.  They graciously agreed.

Please pray for the Kenyan people who are coming to know the Lord and are growing in their faith while overcoming poverty, addictions, sickness and, now, violence. Pray also for the men and women who are sharing their faith and encouraging them in their walk with the Lord.

Today I glimpsed into a family with struggles not unlike the kind many face all over this nation.  The difference is—someone introduced them to Jesus, the hope of the world.  I came away feeling so glad that I can pray for them and be confident they are safe in His hands and He is watching over them.

~Jenn

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