Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dear Senders,
Not a day goes by that I don't reminisce in the amazing opportunity God provided for me to travel to Kenya.
Serving almost 2000 people in 5 days was no easy task for our Mercy Medical Team. Some of us battled illness, others fought discouragement; all of us dealt with an extended 10-hour bus ride and struggled with fatigue and jet lag. It was clear that Satan did not want us in Kenya and he was doing everything to prevent us from doing the work we were called to do.
But we persevered: during the allotted bible study time, we discussed what it meant to be the "Good and faithful servant" in Kenya and how to avoid the temptation of weaning into the habits of the "Wicked and lazy servant." Through our amazing God's enabling power, we were motivated in our clinical endeavors.
We witnessed malaria (and lots of it); malnutrition; extreme hypertension; tooth decay; chronic chest, leg and back pain; as well as numerous other abnormalities and diseases. Countless patients talked with the nurses and listed over half a dozen chief complaints (while the average patient has 1 or 2 chief complaints). The doctors and practitioners had no way to test or diagnose most diseases, thus their treatment was based solely on the patient's symptoms and practitioner's instincts. The pharmacy, utilizing drugs, medications, and hygiene products donated by our senders and team's individuals, ran out of the most needed drugs and hygiene products, but maintained ample supply of drugs not often used.
This is no easy way to practice medicine: prescribing a toothbrush and toothpaste to a patient that really needs teeth pulled is not ideal; assessing a patient's situation without any sort of diagnostic testing is not ideal; sharing a room with 10 other patient's in a space that does not promote privacy or tranquility is not ideal. Yet throughout all this adversity it was clear that God wanted us to run the clinic, that God wanted us to reach the unreached peoples of Luanda, Kenya, that God wanted us to enable to community churches to provide for those in need.
Through the strength of Christ, this team provided hope for people that do not often see light at the end of the tunnel. I'd provide one story to close out my final blog entry: an 85-year old woman left her home at 5am and walked to our clinic, which did not start until at least 8:30 (depending on whether our bus got stuck or not). She was in pretty poor health and I'll spare you the details but we could not treat her to the necessary extent, so we sent her with our team's bus to a local facility that also was unable to treat her. Consequently she returned home untreated. This elderly lady has no family or friends to support her financially and counts single handedly on a neighbor, who is often out of town, for food and water. But throughout all of this, her poor financial situation, her poor health, and whatever else in life she is going through, she had hope in a Mercy Medical Team. She had so much hope that she walked for 3 hours to a clinic. And although we were not able to directly help her current situation, the long-term LCMS missionaries and local church leaders will be following up with her and investigating community resources to help her.
It is because of hope like this that we travel to Kenya to treat total strangers and screaming children, it is this kind of hope that pushes me to strive for a career in medicine, and it is with this kind of hope that we all should seek out our God in times of despair and in times of celebration: and it is a time like this that I celebrate what God has done in Kenya, what He is doing in Kenya, and what He will continue to do in Kenya! Thanks for all the prayers, love, and support!


My final thoughts on the Kenyan journey:  In reflecting on this trip, first I want to say that when God calls on you to go, JUST GO!  The call may come as a small inkling, desire, thought or may be a strong uncontrollable urge.  However it comes, say yes.  In return, you will have a deepening of faith and trust in Him.  At the beginning I was ambivalent about  leaving my family and the familiar to go to a part of the world I knew very little about except for stories of  great unrest and turmoil  recently depicted on the news.  I had no faith that God would protect me or had my best interest at heart, or more importantly, that He has  plans to fulfill.  Obviously I was going to depend on my own  strength and resources if I decided to go.  Fortunately, each team member received significant support from their church family, small group members and the LCMS synod with prayers and communications outlining conditions and travel risks and supports.  I also prayed to God to give me a willing and obedient heart and a heart that wanted to please and glorify Him.  Eventually, my fears were ameliorated and I was ready to go.  The love and support of friends, church family and continual prayer made all the difference in the world.

The work before us was hard, but God gave us the strength, stamina and courage to complete the task He had set before us.  God provided  before any of us even decided to go on this trip.  He made our paths straight for the journey.  He brought together the group of 13 that encompassed different strengths, gifts, skills, compassions, passions, personalities, and experiences precisely at the right time to do His work.  I continue to marvel that 13 strangers can come together and worked as well as we did together.  When satan acted as an obstructionist against His plans, such as,  buses getting stuck in the mud on clinical opening day; alternative travel routes that were 3-4 hours longer for certain destinations that had to be taken because of political/civil unrest; confusion,frustration,and tension amongst Kenyans waiting to be seen; fatigue, sickness and a sense of overwhelm amongst team members looking at the work placed before them; not knowing what types of medical conditions and emergencies would come through the door and did; facing actual hunger,disease,poverty and desperation in the faces of humanity - God showed us that He can and does care for every single one of His children through our hands,feet,minds and mouths for His glory.  Seeing all these people waiting all day in extremely long lines to be seen by an evangelist and clinical provider has taught me that people are enduring and hopeful and has given me a deeper sense of hopefulness,encouragement and compassion for humanity, not just feeling sorry for them.  Thinking about the throngs of people that crowded Jesus to hear his message and receive His healing gives me a greater sense of urgency not only for the need of physical healing, but more importantly for spiritual healing first, and anyone can be a conduit for Jesus to continue to perform His miracles.  I was touched by a man who was afflicted with a severe skin rash for decades of his life and he felt that this condition was secondary to witchcraft - my immediate thoughts were not to prescribe a cream, but to ask him about his faith.  He answered that he was a “christian”, but could not tell me the name of who he served.  I then proceeded to ask him what would happen to him if he should die that very moment - he said he did not know.  I told him the Good News and he agreed to and was ushered into pastoral counseling on hand at that moment.  I can tell you that this encounter was spirit led and had nothing to do with me, but it impressed upon me the urgency and responsibility that every christian who follows Christ has to speak and make His name known as well as to pray first and foremost for spiritual healing for everyone.  

Our nightly devotional time was very important to each of us, as it provided time to reflect on what God had done each day, as well as renewed our strength for the next day.  Our team pastor, John helped us reflect on how God uses each one of us for His purpose.  Being a tool used by God for His purposes has become of greatest importance to me.  I may not see the fruits of labor on this side of heaven, but I know that I was created in this time and place for His reasons and I also know that His plans for me cannot be surpassed by anything I may have in mind and I don’t need to be afraid of His plans.  I don’t pretend to have made a difference in anyone’s life that I came in contact with during this trip - hopefully I did - but, I do know that God has made a difference and He continues to do his work.  He has compassion for all His children (the situation may look extremely bleak through our lenses)but He is able to use each one of us as a conduit for His plan if we have a willing heart, and in return He continues to mold us more into the likeness of His Son.  What more do we need!  As the saying goes “god doesn’t make junk” - we all have something to give, as He has given to us freely.  Jesus said that He came to serve and not to be served and this trip impressed upon me that no task done for God is too little, because the Lord is mighty and miracles continue to happen through Him.  No offering is too meager for Him to work with.  I guess what I am trying to say in too many words is that placing Jesus first in all our ways, and works and efforts made in His name, will bear witness to Him and our reward will be knowing that we worship and serve God to bring Him pleasure and be a vehicle for his continued grace to ourselves and others as well as continuing to grow in deepening faith and trust in Him no matter the circumstances.  To Him be the glory.  Thank you for sending me - I am forever grateful.