There is book near our front door,- “Snakes and Us” -Herpetology and the snakes of East Africa. It is readily available, as we use it often,- it has a crumpled cover and some pages that stick together due to the occasion where Jay used a dead snake as a bookmark… (which turned out to be not a great idea after a certain number of days). Chapter One is called “what is a snake”, the print progresses quite quickly to chapter 8 entitled, “Will you die?” Good reference chapters if in need of a quick consult. Last week Nathan, who was in the yard with his bow and arrow, came in rather downcast and pale looking,- “Mom, I think a snake just bit me”. Heart sinks, pulse surges ahead, pit in the stomach. My first thought,- it is too late in the day for a plane to medivac. mild pale panic. In the end it was not a bite from a snake, perhaps biting ants in the grass (which bite quite hard!) or a wasp, but the relief was in proportion to the degree of thankfulness that we have that Nathan was safe, and for God’s protection and for those who pray for our safety here. It is hard to take many things for granted here, as we are daily reminded of the blessing we have to enjoy them. food, safety, shelter, Jesus, family, health.
Mystery and Revelation
You know the kind of psychological tests they make you do prior to leaving for the mission field? I am convinced they are not to determine whether or not psychiatric deficits exist, but to ensure that there are enough of them to sustain you while you are here… in other words, are you crazy enough to survive the crazy.
While working in mental health I realized that the year I spent not able to speak to strangers (or anyone for that matter) in University probably had a label attached to explain such behaviour….anxiety. Jay laughs when I admit that at times I ‘can be a little anxious’. …. smiling he replies, “You, Laura, no!” all the while knowing that my internal anxiety is directily proportional to the external cleanliness of our house. And our house, like most houses with 5 children and numerous pets is disastrous, but there are some weeks where our house is tidier than usual. When I am anxious I clean, i put things in order in the world around me that can not seem to be put in order in my mind. I arrange and solve problems of pantry storage and look to fix broken toys that have lost parts all in an effort to work out the internal wonderings and worry of life that can be unpredictable. The funny thing is, too much predictability and I also respond with an anxious response, feeling trapped, stuck… I have come to the conclusion that my world evolves in the precarious and ever changing balance of mystery and revelation.
And there are many mysteries for us these days. Home assignment, where to live, support changes, finding work, details of returning and all the work here with the Samburu between now and then. And I realize that I need to readily embrace these unknowns, these mysteries, in light of the grace of His revelation. It is because of who He that I am able to overcome my worries and anxieties, revelation reminds me of His provision, of His character, of His grace. Remember is a term used often, “Look back, remember what I have done, how I have provided, the Love I have shown to make my Presence known.” I am glad that within His character is wonder and mystery. Yesterday I was held captive by the sky, the moon illuminating the mountains from behind creating a euphoric glow to end the day. Kids fighting over ‘table clean up’, baby crying, toddler running without pants in post supper PJ transition, clean up from the 10 supper guests who arrived for a church conference and all I could do was stare at wonder at the sight before me. How could I live without such wonder and beauty, such largeness of Him which creates and surrounds and draws me in to share in the mystery of Him. And as much as I am lured to his mystery and thrilled by wonder, I am also comforted by His revelation. His love, His care, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His compassion, His ability to redeem and restore and make new. And so, I embrace the mysteries of my life I suppose in a way to look forward to the wonder that He has for me, trying to cast off fear, doubt, I cling to the revelation of His character to give me the power to do so. I think perhaps I should have mastered this by now… Jonathan Swift says, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible” Perhaps then, looking ahead to the future and what those days hold for me can only be seen by truly looking to the Invisible One.
Morning Has Broken…
There is a beautiful light that filters through my window. The dawn is captured in the grey of the skylights which lighten with each minute passing, transfusing into the dark of the night. As the room gathers sight, the curtains hide the glory of the sunrise. The sun crests the peak, moving beyond the shadow of the mountain and I can see on the curtain dancing white sunbeams shining through in between shadow and silhouetted leaves. A sunlight serenade of shapes and movement, it is dawn, it is, morning.
Amin is at the door by 8:00am eager to get a TB report for a patient he is going to assess later this morning. He requests some help with a ride into the village/town of South Horr 10km up the road. The two people who were tested and diagnosed yesterday with TB, were too weak to walk to the government clinic to be put on the TB roster which will allow them to start therapy. could we assist….
Before we can go, Jay needs to finish up details for collecting gravel for the soon to be Sunday School building. Streams of mama’s with baby on backs carrying satchels full of sand and rock are filtering into the yard, if there is no sure way to calculate, pay and discern whose rock pile is whose there is likely to soon be pandemonium. Careful calculations to figure out how many measures of earthen supplies are needed to mix with the cement to make concrete. As Jay gathers wheelbarrows, a morani stands in the yard. The Samburu who traditionally owns the trees in our yard is intending to smoke the bees out of the trees… he is wondering if he could he have some rope. He is going to trying and bring the hive down from where it is suspended…mentally thinking of how many bees, how many open windows and to not be near when he attempts this new (possibly untried) method. There must be thousands of bees swarming around, luckily none which take too much notice of us as we prepare the car to help Mzee Amin and these patients. I go in search of a rope, and stope to snap a picture of the “bee- warrior”. Jesse almost dressed, Eve in a fresh diaper, and two mamas on the porch now. Mama Salma comes to bring greetings and ask for some medicine for her baby. The 3 month old smiles and squeals with playful eyes and curly dark hair. Mama Salma has improved since starting TB medication in December. The baby is mildly ill with a cold which I have run out of medicine to assist. But the happy, chubby baby looks strong enough to fight a cold, so we talk about symptoms that would be worrisome if they occur.
Salma is also asking for some food to help her other children who are hungry. (Her husband Makolin, is one of the patients we are supposed to be taking to the clinic….if we can get to the car!). With both parents sick, food has been scarce for this family. We arrange to send some small food items over with a relative later. Mama Jania waits and watches, hoping for some medicine for a child with an ear infection. I do indeed have that medicine and quickly try and provide it and give instructions without an interpreter while Jesse escapes my legs and jiggling a baby on the hip. We get to the car, ready to start on our journey, and see that Mzee Andrea is around requesting we bring his wife some water at the mynyatta. Andrea and his family live between South Horr and Kurungu, meaning that his wife has to walk some distance to fetch the 10 and 20L drums of water. These days various projects have depleted the town’s water source, leaving fetching water a very difficult and timely task. We fill 3 20L drums that we can drop at Andrea’s place….
We get started, first to Andrea’s mynyatta and then for the patients. In these little village and mynyatta areas the mid-morning nursery education is in full swing. Groups of toddlers and young children sitting in groups under trees. We pass by one nursery group and the kids wave, tied to the trees were some string are bristol board papers with the letters of the alphabet, fancy “blackboards” in the bush.
After our little water detour, we arrive to pick Amin, but he has already left with the patient on foot. We catch them up the road and find that the patients have doubled from 2 to 4. Everyone piles in, including a few mamas who are hoping to catch a lift to save the 8 km walk up the road.
We arrive at the clinic. It is quiet and hopeful that our patients can be seen with some expediency. We greet the clinic administrator and nurse, Mzee Lankak and discuss the TB project and his hopes for the TB machine to rest in his clinic while we are gone. He is expecting some important ministers of Health to arrive any minute (from Samburu County) to discuss the work of the clinic. The two patients we brought for the TB registry get weighed, their height, BMI and HIV tests completed. The BMI’s were 13 and 15 respectively for both which suggest significant malnutrition and wasting. I joke with Makolin that I saw his baby this morning, and I ask to be reminded of her name. He responds,- “Oh, I don’t know her name, all I do is make faces at her so she stops crying”. Hmm, interesting. I have also found it interesting that people often do not think to ask or inquire about the sex of a baby when it is born, including the father. If you ask them what kind of baby they had ndito (girl) or leyuni (boy) they often report that they are not sure, they never did check. It seems a few weeks before the father is in the know with the details of the new addition.
As we get the patients registered and seen, the “samaki kubwa” (the big fish) show up for the ministry of health/clinic meeting. I try to slink away unnoticed, wanting by now to hurry home to children who are left to their own wiles in the house… it is nearing 1pm, and I am admittedly hungry, hot and tired. Eve sticks to me as I hold her, having fallen asleep in my arms… it is hard to be inconspicuous here and my escape route to the car backfires. I am welcomed to greet and talk about the TB testing and use of the GeneXpert machine in Samburu County. It is a blessing to meet these ministers as we are able to make plans forward for the transition of the machine into their care while we are gone. Jesse listless and bored, lies on the floor in front of us (I force myself to think how many people have stood or spit in the same spot on the concrete where he is resting his face presently, enjoying the cool. I urge him up, but with a baby in my arms while making eye contact with the elders and keeping up with polite conversation, I realize in the moment I will just have to let go of my deep desire to pull a toddler off the floor.
Finally able to pull away we arrive home, of course our trip home frequented by helping mama’s and the pick ups of those with water or food travelling back from the metropolis of South Horr to Kurungu village. The kids hear us pull into the drive, they are hungry but sedate watching Looney Toon’s their post-academic energy spent sitting in the afternoon heat of the inside. There are patients waiting at the front door , a boy with a swollen foot and a few morani with STI’s who urgently are advocating for treatment. I seem to have lost my energy to give them the “speel” on abstinence or monogamy…is it monogamy when you have more than one wife, but stay true to only them…polygamy monogamy?…. I am sure I am known as the “gonorrhoea girl” treating the morani’s off the mountain and surrounding area for every manner of STI’s. They come to me for little else other than “the dawa” which will cure their particular and rather uncomfortable problem. Sexual illness here is actually quite a problem. Multiple wives and open relations in Samburu culture help to spread illness faster than it can be contained. Often women are blamed for spreading these diseases and I strive to ensure that there is an understanding of the nature of the disease and spread, so that burden of ‘fault’ does not fall solely upon the women. Often morani when they hear their wife likely shares the disease threatens violence to their partner, easily excusing their own promiscuity to be of little consequence to their ‘cheating’ wife. Other patients gather who are wanting at TB test. I take their information and will contact them during the next round of screening and testing.
There is one final mama who waits by the door, this lady accompanied by Pastor Peter. She brings forth a baby protectively hidden by her clothes. Without too much evaluation I can detect her baby’s problem of hydrocephalus. The large head is tense with fluid. The baby pensively stares, the mother’s eyes full of anxiety. Peter tells me that the mama has been hiding her baby for many months now. She fears that the family will make her poison or get rid of the baby because of the unusually sized head. For three months she hasn’t let any one see this secret, carrying the baby with her when she fetches water or cooks in her home, this is her burden to bear. We discuss possibilities for treatment, the mainstay being at least a hospital evaluation and hopefully a shunt insertion at Kijabe hospital. We pray together with some plans to discuss further the possibilities of such a venture. I ask her to find some money that will help her with the trip down (we usually try to cover any major expenses at the hospital through “the Least of These” patient fund). She thinks that perhaps she can convince her husband to sell a goat. She asks if I want one? (hmmm… adding a goat to the Crazy Callaghan mix? )I will have to think on that.
The kids are used to these long days and delayed meals. They have come up with terms such as “Lupper” which is combo lunch and supper, or on a really bad day, “Blupper”… I am sure you can deduce accounts for all three meals in one go! I reflect that they are patient kids who have to put up a lot with being ‘second’ to the person at the door. As I am about to close the door, Mama Lareno arrives. She comes and she stands before me, having called over someone to interpret. She is so thin, her hands are wringing, I wonder if something is wrong with her or the children. But not today, Mama Lareno has come to say thank-you. She reports that Lareno has enjoyed the week at school and is so happy to be able to attend. “Asheta, Mama Jesse, Asheta”…
One kind word, one expression of gratitude and my harried and hectic morning seems worthwhile. Inwardly I cringe that I need that kind of external encouragement. She reminds me of the one leper who returns after the nine have left. Sincere”Thank you’s” here are not very common, and although we do not help in order to be acknowledged, when it happens in a sincere, humble and simple way, it does make me truly happy to be in this place and helping.
I am tired, the moonlight is bright enough to read by, it is glorious, and perhaps diminished only by the grandeur of the stars when it choses to be absent in form. I hear the echoing call of the hyena, can there be a more eerie night time sound. It is sad and frightening all at once. I can hear the drip of the hot water tank that sits upon the thatch that the monkey’s displace on a regular basis throughout the day, I can hear the hum of bees, the birds as they settle, occasional dog bark, baby cry the snorting of the great owl, and of course (as a testimony to their ridiculous nature) a donkey braying. Many nights there will be singing, the warriors in a chant-like fashion repeating the same phrase over and over. Drum beats, women’s voices. The kids asleep, soft breath upon pillows. It is evening. Morning and Evening and all in between. 24 hours, moments and conversations and opportunities. Discussion and relationship, handshakes and greetings and the hearing of complaints and concerns. Laughter and sorrow, downcast gazes, poverty and nakedness, resilience and joy, flamboyance and fashion. How can all these things be contained but in one day. And He dwells among these things, in these moments, as concerned and interested and apart of them as am I. And I wonder, Am I sharing Him with these? or is He sharing these with me? A paradox perhaps. I do look forward to getting the MP3 treasures to share, so that what is evident, the one who is Presence can be spoken of, revealed and understood by more than my sentiment and these actions. And yet in these days, I rest in the love that He provides, in the assurance that He is compassion working amongst the needy and poor,
TB testing- Enderi Village…
On Tuesday we met a plane at the Sedar airstrip and helped it to refuel. We were rewarded with a few mail packages and letters from Christmas that we will savour! It takes about an 45 minutes to help a plane re-fuel, taking the AV gas and pouring it into buckets and then the pilot takes those buckets and tries to carefully pour (into the wind) the fuel which seems to spray everywhere in an effort to get more into the wing than what flies away.
After our refuelling experience, we drive out to Enderi to do some TB community education and screening. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to gather the mama’s and the wazee (elders) a few youth and morani even come scattered under the shade of ‘the church tree’… as they will sing and pray under the umbrella shaped acacia. We have brought a soccer ball and some pylons. Jay sets up a small field for the young children that are lingering around. As many of the boys would be in school or in the fora (bush/mountain) little girls with their beaded necks, skirts and shoulder tied wrap come running towards the game. They deposit their responsibility in the form of a younger sibling on the ground, leaving them to crawl or sit in the sand while they barefooted run with a joyous abandon for a while shedding the roles and responsibilities of a young samburu girl for a few moments. There are those who are requesting clothes, some medicine and others a pair of spectacles. There are needs for a water pipe to be fixed as the village now has not water source. Jay offers to return with some tools to see what he can do. The teaching goes well. Amin, the CHW who assists seems to make TB education fun? I hear my name and occasional laughter and wonder what is being said. He goes through the teaching book with pictures and people look intently at the pictures while babies crawl over laps or passively suck at the breast. The old wazee seem to be in and out of attention, get up, spit, sit down. Some walk away as this is not of interest for them. One blind man notes he used to have TB but has recovered, could he get another test? Please continue to pray for the TB outreach, we have
Up next… is the District Church Council we are hosting. 12 church leaders and men coming for meetings. And following, an invitation to go ‘zebra hunting’. One of the guests who comes through Kurungu is a wildlife specialist/researcher. Jay and the boys have been invited to capture and collar some Grevvy zebra with the goal of helping to preserve the wildlife in the area.
These are the days, the long days sometimes, the days of blessing, of sand and dirt, of building Sunday School structures, backyard spotting of jackals, the incessant chasing of monkeys, the zebra spotted in the bush. The days of trying to create meals with dwindling supplies (playing pantry poker with our volunteers… “I’ll raise you one almost mouldy carrot to 2 onions”) and 12 visiting church elders to feed. The days of interactions with mama’s and children, morani and elders, offering medicine, a kind word, some soccer ball fun. Heartbreaking days of hearing of small babies with difficult diagnosis. These are the days filled with small tiny moments which collectively make up the time we live in Samburuland.
PICTURES OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL BUILDING CONSTRUCTION
Laura to Lily: “where is dad?”…. Lily: “I don’t know, I asked him but he said he was in an alternate dimension”
In explaining Jesus is with us at all times, Jesse pauses, “Is Jesus in my room? Can he play iPad?”
Laura to Jesse: “Put the lizard tail in the garbage before you come to the dinner table!”
Jesse: ” It is MY turn to pet her!” (speaking of Eve)