Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, Josie and baby Jane

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Willingness to Serve…


John and Dan getting ready to head to the hospital after a large cup of coffee in the morning.


John and Anna's boys (the lady whose house was purchased from funds you donated to our SP account). They were completely entralled with the SUV we borrowed from another missionary to make the muddy visit to her home (4-wheel drive is very useful in rainy season).


For the past two weeks, we have had a visiting heart surgeon exploring the possibilities of a future partnership for a heart valve replacement program at Tenwek. He also happens to be my oldest brother, John. Because of the nature of this initial “vision” trip, his work at the hospital consisted mostly of general surgery cases, which he has not done since residency, over 20 years ago. Although slightly anxious at first, toward the end, like riding a bike, he was whipping through typhoid small bowel resections, sigmoid volvulus, ruptured appendices, and even an orthopedic case or two (although he did mention that he was reminded why he chose to specialize in heart surgery). His willing to serve in simple ways, at times beyond what was comfortable and easy (could heart surgery be easy??), and in ways not so glorious, was a blessing and example to many here at Tenwek. Perhaps his greatest ministry, however, has been directly to our family. Our kids, loving their Uncle John, no doubt smothered him. We enjoyed our daily meals, and evenings reminiscing, laughing, watching “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet” DVDs that he brought for us, looking at family pictures, and dreaming of the future. We will miss him when he returns to the States tomorrow, and look forward to what God may have in store for the future. Following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote telling of a young boy he met at Tenwek:

Dear Church Family and Friends- May 1, 2009
Two days ago I met a boy, twelve years old, who I will call “Edward”. Edward’s father had heard that there was a “mzungu,” a white doctor from America, who does surgery on the heart, visiting Tenwek Hospital. He told me that Edward was unable to run and play with the other kids and always seemed short of breath. Edward appeared small for twelve and as he lifted his dirty oversized shirt, which I was told was likely his best, I could see why. Edward’s small chest had been deformed to accommodate his enlarging heart. When I placed my hand over his chest, I could feel his pounding heart and the turbulent blood flow through a narrowed and badly leaking mitral valve. At some point in his childhood, Edward had gotten strep throat that progressed to rheumatic fever, damaging the connective tissue in the valves of his heart, causing them to thicken and contract. Without replacement of this valve, Edward’s heart failure will certainly progress and he will die a miserable and premature death. Simply treating Edward’s strep throat with Penicillin could have prevented this all. Rheumatic fever has largely been eradicated in the United States because of prompt evaluation and treatment of a sore throat. In poor and under-developed countries like Kenya, this is not possible. The damaged valves can be replaced but surgery has been likened to “attempting to mop up the water on the floor while leaving the faucet open.” As I watched Edward walk away, I felt very tired, sad, and overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and the lack of immediate solutions…


Please keep John in your prayers that God would clearly direct his future, and open doors for heart valve replacement surgery, perhaps as early as next January. We appreciate you so much!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col. 3:23-4.