We have recently returned to Kenya after a few weeks away. As supported missionaries, there is always a hesitation, a slight anxiety to admit that we took a holiday. Maybe it is hard to acknowledge that you need a break. It was a much needed time away, in this case to visit with parents, grandparents and to just to shed those small stresses that are not really calculated on a day to day level, like, don’t swallow the water when I brush my teeth, or don’t open your mouth in the shower for fear of parasites. It was so nice to enjoy wonderful luxuries like ready-made bread, electricity, toasters, washing machines and pizza. Looking back, our last 15 months since arriving in Kenya until now has been intense, full of cultural, lifestyle and language adjustments, new relationships and great opportunities. A year of digging in, language learning, teaching, taking part in community, setting up rural health care and caring for patients, (a few medivacs of our own), organizing conferences, prayer days, visiting ministry teams and proposing projects. Sometimes we live in denial that we need to take some time away to regroup, refresh, to find some distance from what is so close at hand, to protect ourselves for a moment or two from the rawness of life here. We deny it, because it seems in part, totally unfair that we have the choice to move between different realities. But we balance fine lines between two worlds, jumping from one to the other, finding identity, meaning and a sense of home in both. Jesse started saying the word “home” during our trip. I was hard pressed to ask him or understand where he thinks that is.
Mona Lisa Mosh Pit
Spending some time in France we visited Notre Dame, the eiffel tower and the Louvre. You could spend weeks in the louvre and still not see everything. Of course, with thousands of others, we came to see the iconic “Mona Lisa”. Well protected behind a plexi-glass and rope barrier, streams of people, hundreds of people vied to take a picture of the Mona Lisa. It was madness. For something so wonderful and sacred in the world of art, it was complete chaos. Tourists with every size of camera or tablet were sticking out elbows and pushing forward to get to the front of the viewing area. People were cursing, children were trampled, all in an effort to get their glorified “selfies” with Davinci’s gem. I was struck at the lack of reverence. There was no chance to just observe, to take in, to appreciate, to enjoy. It was all an event, not an experience.
It made me think how easy it is to treat our relationship with Christ to be an event, something we can ‘check off’ on our life’s agenda. We strive towards the role of “Christian” and in our efforts we push forward towards the front of the line, to obtain picture ‘proof’ that we are in it, yet miss entirely the experience of who He is, the subtleties and mysteries of His character. In our efforts here, it can be easy to get caught up in the events, in the tasks and the endless need, that unintentionally, unconsciously we can miss out on the Person of Jesus. In all that we do, we pray that every effort is made to share Him with others in word and action, yet, so often I am too busy taking Jesus and Samburu “selfies” that I myself, fail to actually to wait upon Him, to gaze upon the beauty of His holiness. I would say one of the biggest needs for missionaries would be Spiritual refreshment for their souls.
A few days ago I read Dr. Mara’s blog,- one of the doctors at Kijabe who cared for Jonah. I will post the link. http://marasafari.org/2014/05/13/sad-news-from-kijabe-a-reason-for-hope-and-a-way-to-help/ Dr. Mara is a phenomenal and optimistic writer and I am sure just as good as an orthopaedic surgeon:) Here is just a little bit, but I would encourage you to read his thoughts in entirety.
“So if I am to believe in this God, I have to believe that He suffered with Jonah, and with Jonah’s mother, as Jonah became sick and died. That he loves us so much he came into our world to suffer with us. Compassion: com-with, passio-suffer: to suffer with. I believe God suffers with us, shows compassion for us, as the darkness descends. And one of the ways He shows compassion is to find ways to shine light in the darkest of moments.”
He is shining light in the darkest of moments. In the darkest of your moments, He is there. In the darkest days for Jonah, He suffered alongside.In the days of both joy and sorrow with the Samburu, He is present. He has borne our grief, He has known our sorrow. This is perhaps one of the truths that I cling to most often. His understanding of emotion, His knowledge of the darkness and the surprising, redeeming and unquenchable nature of the Light.”
GeneXpert Has Arrived
One of the reasons we flew to France was to facilitate the pick up of the GeneXpert (the TB testing machine). We found out that the company who manufactures the GeneXpert ships exclusively out of France. Since we were there it gave us a perfect opportunity to bring the GeneXpert back to Kenya. Freight importation of equipment to Kenya can be precarious and very costly. The value of the GeneXpert is high, although 3/4 of the cost is subsidized by the World Health Organization, importation fees would likely be based on the actual cost (80,000 USD) versus the purchase cost. So with a little bit of in trepidation, we had the GeneXpert shipped to our hotel in Paris and we packed and organized for the machine to come back to Kenya along with liquorice, lego and koolaid, some of the other treats we had found! The hardest part was trying to figure out how to manage three suitcases, one hockey bag, a large duffel bag of test kits, 4 carryons, 3 children, 2 backpacks, stroller, carseat and a toddler. Our strategy was to arrive early and look distressed (which is not too hard if anyone has experienced airport travel with 4 children). We easily checked through France, Saudia Arabia (our layover) and Kenya without any difficulties through airports or customs. Thanks for your prayers!
So now, that the machine has arrived, the work of planning a program to support the machines endeavours starts. It would be easy to randomly tests for TB, but our hope is one of prevention and accessible testing, not just treatment for those who happen to stop by the clinic. So, please pray for the months ahead, filled with planning, community engagement, rolling out a plan that will look at how to be strategic in efforts to prevent illness spread, and then the enormous tasks of how to follow up Samburu on treatment to ensure they finish the full 9 month course of medications. There are challenges to be sure in low literacy/no literacy populations. Generally only 2 weeks of medication is distributed, requiring a bimonthly check up at a local clinic. For some Samburu this would mean walking great distances every two weeks to get the next stipend of medications. How do we make this barrier easier, how to we encourage nomads to stay on medication (even when they feel better) knowing that without full treatment they are likely to create drug resistance. There are more questions than answers, but they are questions worthy to be tackled and looked at.
Thanks for your prayers. We are here in Nairobi a few days (staying away from recent bombings and dangerous areas) to get supplies, doctors check ups, car preparations before travelling North to Kurungu, for Lord willing the next 3 months. Please pray for the travel, for no hinderances on the road by police or bandits. Will keep you posted.