Monday, November 17, 2014

Signs of the Times

Since arriving at our new home in Chogoria, we have been gradually integrating into the life of this vibrant community.  Here are a few "signs of the times" that may illustrate some of the events, concerns, and victories of the PCEA Chogoria Mission Hospital and the community we serve.

This part of the Hospital was dedicated by none other than Jomo Kenyatta himself, the first president of the Republic of Kenya.  I think that's very cool.

A Mission Statement that's worth following.

We don't have Ebola in Kenya, and pray that we never will, but the Kenyan government and supporting organizations are ahead of the curve in awareness and prevention.

I like a lab that is so confident with their turnaround times that they post them painted outside the lab.  Among the tests are those for malaria, typhoid, TB, HIV, etc.

'Tis the season.  This crucial part of becoming a man in Kenya is offered as part of a comprehensive program teaching how to be a responsible Christian man, husband, and father.

Mosquito nets have made a big difference in decreasing the number of people suffering with malaria.

Posted in the outpatient area in English, Swahili, and Kimeru is the offer to help in medical and non-medical ways.

This is a good place.  It isn't like the place where I grew up.  Very different, indeed.  But we are exceptionally glad to be allowed to add a shoulder to the wheel here.  The Lord is up to something here.  We are privileged to be along for the ride.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I don't have any problems. (Our first village medical and evangelism outreach)

Yesterday, we had the indescribable privilege of participating in a village medical and evangelism outreach.

(We finished language school in September.  For the last month, we have been living and working at Tenwek Hospital in order to learn some African medicine, become familiar with the medical education system, and get our feet wet with medical missions in this country.  We will be moving to Chogoria around Oct 21st.)

Our friends the Crognales invited our family to go on this outreach to a local village near Tenwek.  All five of us went.  We joined 16 or so other folks and sallied forth on a couple of little buses in the morning.  After a while jolting along on dirt-and-rock mountain roads, we pulled in to a little schoolyard and found about 130 people already waiting for us on the hillside.

Their local pastor had advertised our visit.  After greeting them and sharing prayer and a short interpreted sermon, we started setting up shop.  Triage at this end of the school building, then the room for the docs and nurses, then the room for dental, then the pharmacy.  A little outbuilding served for a procedure room and place for more private exams.  Martha joined the triage team.  Helen, Meredith, and James started work in the pharmacy, arranging medications and systems.  Jim pushed together a couple of desk rails, met his interpreter, Vivian, and started in seeing the patients.  Seven providers (four docs and three nurses (two recent grads from the Tenwek nursing school)) saw patients.

One little disappointment:  few of the patients spoke Kiswahili, the language we spent three months learning.  They spoke Kipsigis.  Oh well.

Some of our patients had very simple complaints, like aches and pains.  We treated their symptoms, prayed with them, and showed them some love.  Some had physical problems that we could really help with, like folks who had undiagnosed asthma and urinary infections.  Some were truly heartbreaking.

One mom handed me (Jim) two triage forms, one for her and one for her 5-year-old girl.  The girl smiled, looking at me happily from under her hoodie, and wanting to hold my hands.  A little sweetheart.  Mom's problem was pretty straightforward- some headaches.  When we finished with mom and I asked how we could help her daughter, I was surprised to see tears.  The little girl had been complaining of headaches, had been crying, and still couldn't walk at 5 years old.  Then mom pulled back the hood.  The little girl had hydrocephalus, and her head was quite enlarged.  There was nothing we could do in the clinic about this, of course.  We explained that she would need a CT scan and some surgery, and explained how much that would cost.  The cost is much less than in the US, but was still well beyond the mom's means.  (The missionary doctors don't charge for services, but the hospital has to charge for materials.)  We provided them with some de-worming medications and vitamins, and gave instructions for how to arrange the surgery, but mom's tears never left and I doubt that they will ever be able to afford the CT or surgery.

Two ladies had large abdominal masses.  One man my age had progressive weakness and could barely walk.  He had been a robust farmer before April.    A lady in her 30's had horrible valvular heart disease and couldn't walk up hills at all.  Cancer.  Strokes.  Heart disease.

I don't have any problems.

We prayed with everyone.  Or almost everyone.  A couple of people escaped.  But Vivian and I held hands with our patients and asked God to intervene in their lives.  The faith was so apparent in some of them that I wanted to examine them again to see if they had been healed there and then.  I wish I had re-examined them.  All were grateful.

The pastors on our team were wonderful.  They preached on the hillside, sang with the children, prayed, and handled crowd control.  Of course, their work was the most effective of all.

Martha, Helen, Meredith, and James worked tirelessly throughout the day.  They acted as pharmacists, runners, messengers, encouragers, and general servants.  When the smoke cleared at the end of the day, we had seen about 250 patients in the clinic, about 95 patients had been tested and/or counseled for HIV, many had been seen in dental clinic, and at least 1,000 prescriptions had been filled.  The Word had been preached to hundreds.

 I wish I could say that we were able to take care of everyone who came, but I can't.  We had to send many away, because we simply ran out of time.  The sun was setting when we drove away, tired but glad that we were able to do a little something for some eternal souls made in the image of God.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

God's praise in a new form

Since arriving in Kenya, we have been adjusting to life here.  We are re-learning how to cook, speak, drive, shop, greet, hike, study, and so many other functions that were second nature back in the US.  One of our favorite new "functions" is our praise time in the morning in language school at Brackenhurst.  We always sing in Swahili, and until recently, our only accompaniment has been a drum (ngoma).  We also have some Korean classmates.  You should hear the blend of Kenyans, Americans, and Koreans singing Swahili words in English hymns to God.  Check out the video of this.

Sometimes, our morning praise time includes some of that Kenyan praise music.  But more commonly, we use European hymns that have been translated into Swahili (Kiswahili, for you purists).

Here is Amazing Grace, in Swahili:
And here's the translation of the first stanza:
In the grace of Jesus, I am saved; I was lost in sin, blind in soul.

You might say that some important phrases were literally 'lost in translation.'  And you'd be right.  But that's no fault of the translator.  Swahili commonly requires more syllables than English to convey the same information.  So when fitting the words into the song's meter, the translator had to truncate. In order to keep the tune and meter, we finish with words that seem less profound, less lyrical.

Some of our instructors are also prominent singers in their local church's choir.  But don't think of this choir as a stationary arrangement of robed Southern Baptists.  Oh, no.  Their music is festive, responsive, active, harmonious, and thoroughly wonderful.  When our Kenyan instructors give us original African hymns, with words and music not wedged into the grid of European hymnody, oh, how much more appropriate!  Responsive, joyous music with complex rhythms and harmonies.  That's how Swahili music is supposed to sound!

We do love singing tunes we have known for years.  The Sunday before we left the US, our wonderful Church blessed us by singing "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms."  We especially love this hymn, because we get to 'act up' in church (we lean when singing "leaning").  And a very neat thing happened here.  On our first day at Language School, we were very happy to recognize the same tune, this time with Swahili words. 

As we integrate into Kenya, we are trying to keep in mind that we can't wedge our American expectations into Kenyan life.  Those expectations often will not fit, and may produce awkward, truncated relationships.  We need to be ready to stretch and grow and find new, fuller ways of living.  Dwight Gradin taught us a quote:  "Learn a new language; grow a new soul." 

Kiswahili at Brackenhurst

Here we are at Kiswahili (the Swahili language) School at Brackenhurst, near Limuru and Tigoni Kenya.   After landing in Kenya June 12th, our hosts the Steurys, Manchesters, and Vanderhoofs helped us find the stirrups and ride.  They took us to buy phones and food and study materials and pick up the delayed luggage from the airport.  They fed us and held our hands.  And we are very grateful for their expert guidance.

Then three days later, they dropped us about an hour north at Brackenhurst Conference Center, where we checked into freshly renovated rooms and continued learning how to live in this country.  Our language course started on June 16th.  We have completed two weeks and are surprised at how much we have learned in a short time.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Meet our new friend, Ethan.

Ethan is a hero, through choice and dedication and long-term blood, sweat, and tears.  Ethan is a missionary who works with street kids in a gang neighborhood in Honduras.  Almost none of these kids have an engaged father.  Many of them don't know who their father is, and a few of them are orphans.  Ethan is the only father many of them will know.  He's the disciplinarian and the source of reward.  He teaches them how to behave, how to live without stealing, how to love.  Eight of the kids call him "Dad."  He has even taken one of them in, and spends much of his support money paying for the kids' school and clothing.  

Ethan works in a tough neighborhood.  When he drives in, if he doesn't give the proper signal, he finds a gun to his head, held by a gang member.  It has happened several times already.  Ethan has been tied up inside his own apartment and robbed, again at gunpoint.  He has delivered a eulogy for an 11-year-old kid, one of his Sunday School kids, who died due to violence.

Often we think of a hero as a guy running into a burning building to rescue someone.  That's a perfectly acceptable definition of hero.  But the "burning building" hero is finished with his deed in a few minutes and (hopefully) goes home.  Ethan is a more profound hero.   Ethan has been risking his life for years to save the lives of these otherwise hopeless kids.  He is currently back in the States, raising support to return to his work saving kids.  

Oh, by the way, Ethan is 23 years old.

Some young people are dissatisfied with the trajectory of their lives, dominated by electronics, and making little difference in others' lives.  Those folks would do well to ask the Lord for a job.  Perhaps He would give them a chance to be a hero, like Ethan.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Studying Hard at MTI

We're in our final week at Missions Training International.  It has been a highly fruitful time of superb training.  During the first two weeks, we concentrated on methods of language learning.  They showed us how to make our tongues and mouths create the most bizarre sounds.  Here are a couple of photos and videos of the training materials and drills.

The pronunciation drills were fun, but the language-learning games and processes were better.  Here's Martha following directions from world language-learning expert Dwight Gradin in the Vietnamese tribal language of Jeh.  
Dwight was one of a small team of missionaries who developed a system of writing for that language.  He is a master teacher.
During the last two weeks, we have been concentrating on cultural integration.  We have been involved in role-playing, simulations, and other imaginative means of teaching us how to thrive in our new home.  Here's a bridge-crossing exercise that may look sort of "summer camp-ish" but was actually packed with profound insights.  

 All of our instructors are former missionaries with extensive experience.  This has been a stellar month.  Helen and Meredith and James have been learning all day, too, in 'tracks' that are sometimes separate, sometimes included with Martha and I.  We are looking forward to putting our new training into practice in Kenya.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Training for New Servants at the Grand Household

We’ve arrived for our final training in the US prior to departure for Kenya.  Our destination for this trip is Mission Training International, in Palmer Lake, Colorado.  We are most excited. 
The COMPASS Course at MTI is universally praised as marvelous preparation for the Field.  The course lasts four weeks.  All of our interactions so far with the MTI folks have been wonderful and professional and gracious.  If I remember correctly, all of the instructors are former missionaries.  They will teach us how to integrate well with our new culture, how to learn language more effectively, and how to deal with some important situations. 
And, of course, it’s in Colorado.  None of our kids have ever seen the Rockies.  Martha and I will enjoy showing them the splendor of that part of God’s creation.  We will have some weekend time open, and hope to spend much of that time outdoors. 
When thinking about the preparatory training, I imagine that we’re like new servants, freshly hired to work in a fine 19th century manor house.  We’re elated to have been hired.  We know we’re not worthy to work there, but we so desperately want to do well to please the Master.  We know He is a wonderful Master, gracious and grand, and we want Him to find us obedient and diligent.  We need to be taught where to stand and how to dress and how He likes his pheasant prepared and how to treat His guests.  We know that He values integrity and honesty and courage and industry.  We know that we’re imperfect in those characteristics, but we’ll try so very hard.  And so we are overwhelmingly grateful for the training, so that we might have a better opportunity to succeed.

After MTI, we will spend the next two weeks in the “Grandparent farewell tour,” returning home on May 10th or so.  The next month will be our final push to pack up, close down the house, and be sure the older kids are tucked in.

Because we have a departure date!  The tickets are bought!  We fly out on June 11th and arrive in Nairobi the next day. We start work in the Master’s house soon afterward.  We are thrilled with anticipation and a bit apprehensive, hoping that we will be ready and able for our place in the Household.  We would be most grateful for your prayers to that end.  Onward, Upward!