Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Tory, Emma, Tye, Claire, Levi, Josie, Jane and Ethan

Friday, May 15, 2009

Six months at Tenwek: Highs and Lows

The sole cause of chronic neck pain in Africa.

Heather, Anna and Bryan.

Dr. Kisorio and Stephen with studious patient who daily reads the newspaper.

"Positive Kisii sign."

A daily reminder that without God there is no way....

Humor is often a healthy means of dealing with daily stress and this is certainly the case for me here at Tenwek. Sometimes you just have to laugh, and as a missionary, this is most often at yourself. One thing I find amusing are the various signs I see erected around Tenwek hospital. Our newest sign, which is posted just beyond the back entrance to the hospital, greets me every morning. It simply reads “No way.” I understand the intended meaning which is “please do not walk on the grass…stay on the sidewalk.” But instead it taunts me daily, simple writing on a wooden placard, reminding me that there is no way I can continue to serve the relentless onslaught of orthopedic patients at the hospital…no way except by the certain grace of God, who continues to provide strength, wisdom, and refreshment at just the right time. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13. Another sign was recently posted adjacent to a broken floor drain directly outside my operating room, in order to protect people from stepping into the small opening. It read “Warning. A hole ahead.” I chuckled to myself, wondering if they where referring to me, or to the actual drain hole.

We have now been here six months at Tenwek, and what has amazed me is variability of emotion which has been experienced, by both Heather and me. The spectrum is wide, with the highs high and the lows low. Certainly the biggest joy has been the fulfillment of the calling that God gave us over 17 years ago. Although there were rough patches along the way that threatened to derail the plan, God, by his sovereignty, remained faithful, and brought us here, despite ourselves. This calling encourages us to persevere and continue, even when we feel completely depleted. The orthopedic department is such that when you think the workload is managed, another four highly complex patients from Kisii District Hospital are admitted. Our most recent patient from Kisii was a 19 year old boy with a “floating knee” (both femur and tibia fractures on the same leg). Normally this is not difficult to treat, one incision in the knee with rods in both the femur and tibia. However, the “positive Kisii sign” (as Josh Carter, a medical student/soon to be orthopedic resident visiting from the states coined) was the fact that the tibia fracture was open, two months old, with a 10 cm segment of exposed, dead, infected, putrid bone. Another man recently admitted at Tenwek suffered bilateral femur fractures over a month ago. After lying in skin traction at Kisii hospital for more than a month, he discharged himself, and headed straight for Tenwek. The irony is that the medical officer made him sign a form that he was being discharged “AMA” which stands for “against medical advice.”
God provides continually. In April, Dr. Kisorio, our first visiting Kenyan orthopedic resident from Moi University arrived, and he has been a great partner and helpful colleague with skills well beyond his years of training. Additionally, Stephen Leimgruber, Heather’s cousin and recently graduated RN, arrived at Tenwek for a minimum one year stint with plans for two, and will be working directly in orthopedics. Stephen and Dr. Kisorio (and future visiting residents from Moi) are sharing a two bedroom apartment furnished by funds donated into our project account. As Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder sang in the 80s: “Ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony.”

Heather would testify that homeschooling and the continual, unremitting needs of the community around us provide her greatest source of highs and lows. Although Heather often questions her ability and effectiveness as a teacher, the kids are learning amazingly. Our curriculum focuses on literature, reading, logic and writing…even Claire, in second grade, writes papers full of rich language. The needs around us are massive, and we have often thought that we could give all we have and still not make any effect. I wrote earlier about Anna, whose house we purchased with funds from our project account. When my brother John was at Tenwek, we visited Anna, who although thankful for the gift from you in the states, still feels the daily pressure to feed her children, and provide for their future as a single mother. We are currently “cow shopping” for Anna, who, with this asset, will have both a source of nourishment and income for her family. Thank you for donating into our Samaritan’s Purse account for needs such as these. There are countless other stories of people who have been blessed, in this way, by your generosity.

What we are reminded of daily is simply this: we need Jesus. In truth, we all do, whether or not we know it consciously, or choose to acknowledge it. We just have the luxury of living in a place where we feel it acutely every day. At times, we feel so inadequate, broken, unworthy, unequipped, and ineffective. But I have the sense this is exactly where we are supposed to be. In this way, paradoxically, the power of God is shown through the cracks, so that God, and not us, is glorified.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. II Cor. 4:7


Tommy Sweets said...

I love the picture of the "Kisii sign." Is there a "Longisa" or "Transmara" sign?

Roxanne said...

This is such a great update! I'm blessed to read it. Heather, remember that Emma, Claire, Jeremiah, and Levi are His children too. Give them the opportunity to learn and they will soak it up. Much love to all of you.

Anonymous said...


Some of the brightest and most educated children I have known were home-schooled on the mission field by their mother. I know that God will take your gift of little and make it far exceeding.- Jackie

Julie said...

Can't believe y'all have been there 6 months! JI found 2 box turtles yesterday. We can only imagine the creatures your family finds. :)