Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 12th Blog Posts

Hi everyone, hope all is well.  We have had a fruitful  three days out in the field.  Yesterday, our bus broke down in the mud on the way to the clinic and we walked for about a mile the rest of the way and then saw about 300+ patients and today we saw 435.   By the grace of God, we all worked together like a well oiled machine.  Unfortunately, we had a few sick people past couple of days, but they are on the mend.  The Kenyans are a wonderful and appreciative people and we are the ones who are blessed.  The stories go on and on and we look forward to sharing them with you when we get home.  Our team is great and our team leaders are taking excellent care of us.  Our devotional time at the end of the day are very special and feed us spiritually for the next day.  It truly is exciting  be here.  The Lord continues to be mighty and it is such a blessing to have the opportunity to worship and serve Him here.  God bless you all and see you soon.  Thank you for sending us!

-- Marie

Greetings from Kenya!  We miss all of you and thank you all for your prayers and love.

Serving in this community has been a tremendously challenging, yet enriching experience.  We are in a rural area about an hour outside of Kisumu, where most people depend upon the sweat of their brows to survive.  All homes -- most of them constructed from mud, with corrugated tin roofs -- have a personal plot of maize, and usually a cow or goat grazing out front amid the chickens.  None of the homes have electricity, and we are fortunate that our hotel at least has a generator and running toilets.   The countryside is beautiful, but the poverty is striking.  Villagers eat whatever they grow.  Without a cash crop, there is little opportunity to earn an income.  Most children drop out of secondary school  to help out at home and to eliminate the cost of school fees.  The average age of marriage among women is 14-15, and pregnancy either precedes or shortly follows such unions.  Despite the preponderance of HIV in the community, the stigma remains high, and so very few patients in clinic admit to positivity.  At least half the people travel across mud and dirt roads barefoot -- and many traveled for miles barefoot to attend the clinic, with some elderly patients leaving home at 5 in the morning.

The first two days of clinic were especially challenging, and yesterday evening I wanted to throw in the towel.  The patients here are very sick, with many having advanced stages of disease because they are too poor to afford healthcare.  Our supplies in clinic are rudimentary, and our only diagnostic tests are for malaria and HIV, so we’re limited in the degree to which we can provide care.  We have had a few encouraging “saves” -- e.g., severely malnourished, dehydrated, or septic infants whom we transported to the hospital, who would likely have died had we not intervened -- however, we often recognize very serious illness in patients, but can only tell them, “here’s some Tylenol, but you should really get this checked out at the local hospital”. . . which they won’t do, because they cannot afford the fees.

Initially, I found this tremendously disheartening.  I anticipated ahead of time that the discrepancy in capabilities between Kenya & the States would be the hardest aspect of the mission for me to wrestle with, but that expectation didn’t lessen the frustration and mounting despair.  Add the dirt, spotty electricity, cold showers, distance from loved ones, and sickness among team members (Lynn has had some gastrointestinal trouble, but is doing ok; the rest of us are fine), and yesterday I was ready to apologize to all senders and declare, “Lord, I can‘t quite hear you on this line. . .can you call another time?”

Last night, however, Marie, with her characteristic sincerity and depth of feeling, shared a moment from the chaos of clinic for which I’ll be forever grateful.  She described a patient who had no connection or support, in a community where family and friends are one’s only assets.  She said she felt the Holy Spirit moving her to pray with this gentleman.  She connected him with the local pastor, to ensure he could garner nurturing among his neighbors.

Her anecdote so touched me, that I realized I’d fallen trap to my usual Western focus on efficiency, and had exchanged the Spirit for an emphasis on worldly things that are bound to fail.  With poverty and illness so insurmountable, all people in this community have is hope of Heaven.   After acknowledging this, this morning I read a card from Matthew Beish that he had directed me to open specifically on the 12th -- of all days!  -- and in it, he reminded that God is the Great Physician, and that all will be free from sickness and pain in Heaven.  What tremendous encouragement!

Today, with an open heart and refreshed spirit, I found clinic exhausting, but wonderfully rewarding.  The highlight came when an elderly man named James asked for assistance, because he had continued bleeding after “hemorrhoid” surgery a year ago.  He showed me a pathology report that revealed he had  not hemorrhoids, but rather rectal cancer., which to achieve cure would require complete resection with a colostomy, and likely chemoradiation therapy thereafter.  The practice among local doctors is to withhold diagnoses from patients when they cannot afford treatment, so they “don’t worry”. . . but this patient was clearly distressed by the constant dispensation of pain medication, without discussion of fixing his problem.  Although I came from half the globe away and had only known him for a few minutes, I was the first person to tell him his diagnosis. After a half hour of discussion complete with diagrams, I held his hand and promised I would pray for him.  He looked at me and said, “I know you have sympathy for me.  Thank you so much.  I must leave it to God now.  Whatever comes, He will look after me.”

Our team has been a blessing.  Marie has been a rock and a source of cheer and inspiration for all.  Lynn never shies away from the hard tasks.  Hank is a steadfast presence of wisdom, patience, and wit. And I have never seen a young man work as hard and with such dedication and compassion as Kyle.

We run clinic through Saturday.  Sunday morning, we’ll be attending church in Luanda, and then in the afternoon teaming up with our safari company and heading to the Masai Maara.  We’ll be on safari Sunday & Monday, return to Scripture Mission in Karen on Tuesday, and then board the flight home Wednesday night!

Thank you, all senders, all family members and church friends.  We cannot wait to see you again!