Thursday, April 2, 2015

Challenges and good-byes

We said good-bye to Edna today.  Since tomorrow is Good Friday today was her last day.  She left the apartment shiney clean.  Liam drew her a picture of our family and Hayden gave her a rubber band bracelet.  They were dragging their feet when I asked them to do something to thank her so I had to dish out a big mommy lecture about thankfulness on them.  I wanted to thank her someway and asked around to see what would be appropriate.  I was told she would probably appreciate food items for her family the most.  So we gave her a big bag of rice, some beans, and a bag of salt.  I'm thinking it would be nice if we were a little more practical in our gift giving back home.  The next birthday party one of the kids goes to I'm sending them with a bag of beans.   

I was asking Edna yesterday what her mornings were like before she came to our house.  She told me she wakes up at 5:30, milks her cow and then takes the milk to use for her morning cup of chai.  It helps her get her day started.  Kinda like our morning coffee.... except cow teets required.  Then she gets her older kids off to school and showers, gets dressed, and mops her floors.  Her children leave for school at 6:00 am and don't get home until 6:00pm!  After she drops her 2 year old off with her mother-in-law, she walks an hour to get to my house!  She works from 9:00 to 4:00 and then walks the hour home to then cook and clean for her own family.  It fascinates me to hear about how she lives.  There are similarities between us but lots of obvious differences too.  I have often wondered what in the world she really thinks about me and my family.

We've had a couple of days with challenges but they seem pretty minimal after hearing about Edna's daily challenges.  

Charley woke up yesterday with her arm chewed up by some kind of bugs.  We aren't entirely sure what is happening with her.  We thought the bed bug problem was fixed.  After a new mattress and new bedding she appeared to be clearing up but we took a step backwards yesterday morning.  Her arm was welpy and swollen and she kept saying "my arm hurts" and clawing at it.  Liam also woke up with his face and arms chewed up.  So now we suspect something going on with his bed.  Wondering if it could be scabies? 

The kids didn't let it slow them down and they spent yesterday running around with friends and reading the new books they borrowed from the White's house.  We had pancakes for dinner and then walked across the lawn to the Bemm's house.  Chuck Bemm is a pediatrician at Tenwek and his wife Amy is a nurse.  They have 7 kids, 3 biological and 4 adopted here in Kenya.  Super fun family.  My kids are contsantly wanting to go over to their house to play with their kids and see their pet  bunnies and rabbits in their backyard.  Chuck and Amy looked at Charley and seemed to think it was an increase in the bed bug problem not scabies.  We've been giving her Benadryl to help with the itch.

Today she looked a little bit better but it is still bothering her.  All the kids were wonky today, fussing about a whole bunch of nothing.  

My day-to-day existance is similar at Tenwek to what it is back in the states as far as spending my time and energy taking care of kids - feeding them over and over and over, breaking up fights, disciplining, reading books, keeping them clean, etc.  I wonder what would ministry look like for me here?  Not entirely sure but I know it would be a lot of mothering.  The wives here spend the majority of their time homeschooling, taking care of their homes and children, and supporting their husbands.  That's not to say there aren't ministry opportunities but it will look alot different for me than it will for Will.  He will go to the hospital everyday with distinct opportunities to help people and share the gospel.  I pray for eyes to see the opportunities around me as I go about day-to-day life.  

We had dinner at Carol Spears' house tonight.  She is a general surgeon at Tenwek and is also the assistant director of the residents.  I talked with her about Side By Side for a little while and she sees great potential for it here.  There is a need for some kind of outreach for the Kenyan women married to residents.  She gave me the name of a person that would be interested in talking more about it and I hope to connect with her tomorrow sometime.  

A friend from home just sent me this email and I so appreciated it:

Praying for you all daily, Psalm 115:1 "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your Name's sake." That you would have ears to hear His will, open hands to do His work, a heart and desire to be obedient in whatever He may call you to today, and JOY in your efforts for the Kingdom! 

Thank you so much to everyone that has been praying for us during our time at Tenwek.  We are so encouraged and have certainly felt God's hand over the past weeks.  

Really a surgeon?

Tuesday, April 1
Yesterday we had a long morning.  I know if we moved here for a longer period of time then we would have more structure to our day with school but some mornings here have been hairy.  Liam was not cooperative or respectful so he spent a chunk of his morning copying Bible verses down in his room.  

I had chai with Edna and then we all went outside with a blanket to read by the trees for a while.  This is becoming a favorite thing to do because one, the weather is beautiful - no Minnesota chill in the air.  And two, people are always walking around the compound and will stop and visit/play with us.  

The Tenwek community is so unique.  You certainly aren't plopped in the middle of Africa to fend for yourself.  It's a very communal feel here - many families living, working and serving together.  I have enjoyed so much getting to know the other women here, hearing about their lives, how God brought them here and what is next for them.  

For lunch we had our new friend and neighbor Claire over for tacos. (not the little Claire that Hayden's been playing with)
Hannah, Charley and Claire hanging out in the hammock

I always tell Will that for all I know he's not really a surgeon.  I've never actually seen him do anything surgeony.  He could be doing dishes in the cafeteria for all I know.  He is a gifted dish-washer.

After lunch Claire and I threw on some scrubs and walked up to the hospital with another friend to see if we could catch Will at work in the OR.  Erin Mitchell had generously offered to watch my kids so I could have a chance to see Will operate.  

We had planned to watch Will operate on a patient that was scheduled for some kind of spine surgery along with a simultaneous leg amputation.  Yikes.  A c-section would have been more my speed.  But that guy's surgery got pushed off so we saw Will do the last part of another spine case.  The patient was awake which gave me the willies.  He had a spinal so he couldn't feel anything but he would jump a little sometimes when they were operating.  God did not design me to do medical things.  Ick.  Will was overseeing the residents do most of the surgery so I didn't really get to see him in action.  But I think I saw enough evidence to confirm that he is indeed a surgeon.  

After our long morning yesterday we got up this morning and walked to Beth White's house.  She and her husband Russ have lived at Tenwek for 18 years.  I met her at church on Sunday and she offered for us to come look through her book shelves for children's books.  So each of the kids picked a few things out.  She also sent a huge bucket of Duplo blocks back with us so between the blocks and books the kids were happily occuppied for the morning.

Liam has been wanting to eat chicken and fries at the hospital canteen so Will came and picked him up for lunch.  The girls and I had ugali and sukuma at home.  I tried to make them eat it and they were pretty bothered by that cultural experience.  

Hayden had another playdate with her friend Claire, and I spent the afternoon getting ready for guests.  We had invited the Mitchells over for dinner to thank them for being such great hosts during our stay here.  They have become good friends and we look forward to staying connected with them after we leave.  I had brought two giant boxes of Kraft mac-n-cheese from home so I made that up for an American feast with fruit salad and baked chicken nuggets that Edna helped me make earlier today.  Love her.

Hard to believe we are coming to the end of our second week here!  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Daddy time

Sunday, March 29, 2015

On Friday morning Amy Bemm, a super cool lady here, took the older kids and me up to the hospital for a tour.  At one point we went to the OB wing and saw where babies are delivered.  A baby had just been born and she was there just minutes old in a warmer.  The kids’ eyes were huge taking everything in, but it wasn’t the sweetness of the newborn baby – the mom had been moved over to a different bed that we couldn’t see, but the bed she had been in still had the remnants of giving birth on it.  We walked on and then there were most certainly questions to answer – what in the world was going on in there? Giving birth, my dears.  It ain’t always pretty.

Will came home Friday night and we had the whole weekend together.  We have been looking forward to having him home with us for a couple of days.  He has worked hard all week and will write soon about some of the work he has done at the hospital. 

Outside of the entrance to the hospital grounds

His schedule here is totally different than back home.  He walks up to the hospital around 7:00 and we usually catch a glimpse of him before he leaves.  Then many days he is home for lunch sometime between 1:00 and 2:00. 

The main meal of the day is typically eaten at 1:00.  So our house helper Edna will cook a bigger meal at the beginning of the day that we eat for lunch.  Then for dinner we will warm up leftovers or just eat a sandwich.  It’s such a better system than we have in the states!  It eliminates that awful 5:00 hour - when daddy isn’t home yet, the kids are crazy and you’re trying to get a full meal on the table.  Genius. 

Will walks back to the hospital after lunch to finish his workday.  He has been home every night for dinner around 6:00 and then bedtime.  For all my peeps back in Minnesota, you know this is absolutely out of the ordinary.  The time we have had as a family has been one of the greatest parts of being here.  I’m wondering… will all this togetherness get old?  For this two weeks, no.  On the flight home, yes. 

Edna had made spaghetti sauce and breadsticks for us so I just boiled some pasta and we had an easy dinner.  Then we watched a movie on a borrowed portable DVD player from one of our neighbors.  The kids loved having some time to veg.  I was so tired and fell asleep while they were still watching.  Super Dad got everyone tucked in without me. 

On Saturday morning Liam went with Will to do rounds.  Pretty cool that he is able to do that.  The girls and I baked some snickerdoodles and then we all walked up to the doukas, or little shops, to get some mangos and bottled cokes.  The kids all got Fanta or Sprite in a glass bottle and it was a treat.  I could eat a mango everyday.  Yum! 

 Liam and Will in front of our apartment on their way to do rounds

Saturday night we had been invited for “supper club” to the Galats.  It was us, the Mitchells, and another visiting couple.  The Galats have a brick oven and they made some delicious pizza.  Charley ate 5 pieces!  I contributed some Ranch dressing from home and cookies.  Besides the great food, the company was even better and I felt like I received some valuable advice.  I’ll share more on that later.

We got up early today for a fancy breakfast at Barbara Pinkley’s house, a sweet long-term missionary lady that lives close to us. And then we all walked up to worship together.  The church is a pretty even mix of missionary families and Kenyans.  I liked how they had open prayer request time for the whole congregation to share requests and praises.

Three things stuck in my brain as I left that morning: 
First, a man got up to pray and said how thankful he was for the privilege to be at Tenwek.  It is a privilege.  That is a small statement but it rang in my ears.  It is a privilege.  I think I’ve spent the first week too much inside my own head – thinking about what I have and don’t have to eat, or what I wish I had brought from home, what conveniences from home would make things easier, etc.  The privilege of being at Tenwek had been pushed to the back of my brain.  I needed the reminder of what a privilege God has given me.

Second, the pastor touched on how everything we have belongs to the Lord, none of our money or things are actually ours, we are stewards of them.  All these things I have heard before.  But the reminder sat heavily on me.  Will and I carry debt with us that is not only from college and medical school, but also from irresponsible spending.  Budget is a dirty word that I usually avoid.  But going to Africa will shine a light on your excessive living real quick.  I have changes to make when I get home.  But if any of you ask me how my budget is going when I get back, I will pretend I don’t know you.

Third, there was a verse written on the back of a bunch of the kids’ t-shirts at church, a verse I have know since I was a little kid:  Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Now it’s buzzing in my head.  The Spirit is pressing it on me…seek FIRST His kingdom, seek FIRST His kingdom, seek FIRST His kingdom.