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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Courage




Walking through Casualty last Friday night, making one more round to see if anything was brewing before heading home for our weekly family “pizza night,” I saw two young Masai men, both significantly bruised and bloody, bandages on their heads, sitting stoically awaiting their turn for x-rays. “What happened to those guys,” I asked a nearby intern, thinking perhaps they engaged each other in a good mid-December drunken brawl. The intern replied, “They were tired of the lion that was killing off their livestock, so together, they speared it.” I could only imagine the scene as it unfolded, an obvious grapple, as evidenced by the wounds sustained by both men, and since they were both still alive, I surmised the lion had met her match. I walked up to one of the men, and looked him in the face, admittedly obviously impressed by the courage he demonstrated. He looked at me, and since I don’t speak a word Masai, I spoke the universal language that all men understand…I gave him the “thumbs-up sign." He responded back with a barely perceptible crack of a smile from the corner of his mouth as if to say, “I killed me a lion today.”

I thought of David, who proclaimed to Saul, when told he was unable to face Goliath because of his youth and size, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God." Sometimes God asks us to do things that seem impossible to us, well beyond our own strength and ability, like for David, killing lions, facing Goliaths, or being a King. But these times are divine opportunities to demonstrate courage, which is more a decision of the will than an emotion of the heart, and undergirded by faith that a stronger Power is at work in our lives, accomplishing great things in and through us. Then, when these great things happen, knowing who we truly are in our own strength, all we can say is, “God, you did that…the Glory goes to You.” Were the Masai warriors afraid when they attacked the lion? Perhaps…but fear obviously did not dictate their actions. Necessity did. Sometimes you just “got to do it,” in faith, and trust that God will give what is needed to get the job done. That’s what the heroes of the faith did, normal men and women like you and me, driven often by necessity and a passion for God’s Glory, refusing to bow to fear and cowardice, willing to trust God’s promise to be near. That’s how great things happen.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hope

Young boy with bilateral femur fractures and open left tibia fracture after being hit by a car. Plates and screws for the femurs and a cast for the tibia allowed him to get out of bed early. He quickly became adept with handling his wheelchair.

Young lady at first followup appointment after having long screws placed across her sacrum to hold fractured pelvis in place. I especially like her husband's sweet hat...

The orthopedic surgical team...pushing the large cart of freshly sterilized implants and instruments to theatre at the start of a long day.

Man with acetabular fracture (hip socket) laying in bed in traction for 6 weeks...plently of time for reading and spiritual growth...

We are blessed to have our current set of visitors...from the left, Drs. Gaw and Morris. Dr. Araka (next to me) is the current intern on our service. Yes, I am needing a haircut...



December is classically the season for orthopedic trauma at Tenwek hospital, the busiest month in terms of admissions and surgical cases, most of which are related to road traffic accidents and/or alcohol (which is more easily obtained with the “bonuses” commonly given this month). As if on cue, on December 1st, two young men were admitted (one 18 and the other 20), with incredibly severe pelvic fractures. Both were very inexperienced drivers of “boda-bodas” (motorcycle taxis), and both looked more like 14 rather than their stated age. On December 2nd, three more young men were admitted with severe lower extremity injuries (yes, boda-boda plus alcohol), one man with bilateral open (meaning bone poking through skin) tibia fractures, and femur fractures. Yesterday (December 3rd), a 37 year old man was admitted after falling from a tree. He was paralyzed from the chest down, with two badly crushed thoracic vertebrae. Today, December 4th, is still young…

To be honest, one of the temptations working at a busy mission hospital is to succumb to feelings of hopelessness. Many of the patients we see have injuries and conditions that are well beyond the help of western medicine. Last week, we admitted a 17-year-old young man with a mass on his hip the size of a small football. Biopsy revealed sarcoma, and a simple chest x-ray showed that the cancer had already spread to his lungs and shoulder. How do you explain to a patient this young that he likely only has a few more years to live? Personally, we also feel the physical and emotional burden of continually trying to stay ahead of the relentless workload in our attempts to alleviate suffering in patients. Adding “injury to insult”, tomorrow, December 5th, a nation-wide strike of all national (Kenyan) physicians is scheduled to begin (including, unfortunately, our own interns at Tenwek). If the strike materializes, patients will soon flood into Tenwek, which would literally be one of the remaining few open hospitals in the country. Perfect timing during this busy season…

Yet, we continue to hope, because we know our God specializes in bringing good out of seemingly hopeless situations. This is the essence of the Advent Season leading up to Christmas…at the darkest time in history, the Christ-child, God in the flesh, entered humanity with the sole purpose of redeeming mankind from its bondage to sin through His eventual death on the cross. Imagine the God who is both perfectly just, and perfectly loving, in that he took our sin on His own shoulders! No wonder the angel proclaimed to the shepherds on the night Christ was born, “I bring you good news of great joy!” And God continues to bring hope in the midst of suffering here at Tenwek. He provides the orthopedic implants we need at just the right time, so that we can help many of the patients God sovereignly brings us…the young man with sarcoma accepted his news with peace while clinging to his bible…a 75 year old alcoholic who broke his hip after a drunken fall accepted Christ as his Savior (after he recovered from his delirium tremens)…patients are healed in Jesus' name…

The truth is, we all have hope. The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Where do we place it?” Job security? Money? Position? Family? Education? Entertainment? Food? Do we view these things as our source of hope, or as “gifts” from God who purchased all good things we enjoy by His death on the cross? During this Advent Season, may we all put our hope in the true Source, and worship the Creator rather than the created. Christ is the ultimate gift from God to us…Hope in the darkness…Good news of Great Joy.

Psalm 130:7-8 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Father’s Heart



Two weeks ago, a young 13 year old boy named Washington was admitted to Tenwek after his leg was crushed by a boulder which fell on him while he was bathing in a river. He arrived more than 24 hours after the injury, having been first “treated” at a small hospital near his hometown. His shattered shin bone was plainly visible beneath a huge defect in the surrounding skin. The dirtiness of the river water, combined with the severity of the open wounds and delay in adequate treatment, meant that infection would be inevitable and difficult to treat.

I spoke with the boy’s father, a young man himself in his 30s, not wanting to paint a false picture, explaining that although we would do what we could to save his son’s leg, amputation might be unavoidable. The man seemed to understand and said, “Please do what you can.” So I prayed with him, asking God to do a miracle.

What followed was a series of surgeries to try to control the infection. At Tenwek, for pediatric patients, we use a drug called ketamine, a relative to PCP (angel dust) to provide sedation for short surgical procedures. Ketamine produces a “dissociative anesthesia,” meaning that although the patient is completely awake during the procedure, he neither feels pain, nor is cognizant of his environment. Often, patients under ketamine communicate very interesting things, and, like a truth serum, can reveal the deeper contents of the heart. Washington told us during his first surgery (in which we removed a large amount of dead skin and bone), in very good English: “My name is Washington, as in Washington D.C., and when I grow up, I want to be a doctor.” Then, speaking in Swahili, over and over again he said the word “babba” followed by the same repeated phrase. I asked the scrub techs what he was saying and they translated, “Daddy, don’t leave me.” And his daddy never did, always sitting by his side in the pediatric ward, constantly there.

At first, it looked as if the infection was under control. However, a few days ago, the leg took a major turn for the worse. Despite multiple surgical debridements and treatment with three IV antibiotics, a foul smell began to emanate from the wound, and Washington spiked high fevers. I spoke again with Washington’s dad, explaining the next surgery would need to be an amputation. “How will he walk?” the father understandably asked with a combined look of anger and desperation. Although I try to avoid making promises I may not be able to keep, I told him, “I will personally make sure he gets a good prosthesis from the U.S.”

My experience with Washington and his father opened my eyes to finally notice the many other fathers on the pediatric ward, constantly there, offering comfort in the midst of tragedy and pain. They remind me of our true Father, whose perfectly strong and tenacious love never lets us go…constantly patient…continually there…comforting when we are hurting…upholding when we are weak…providing hope in the midst of darkness.

Romans 8:15: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

If you would like to donate to Tenwek’s Compassionate Surgical Fund, which helps patients like Washington, please email donations@wgm.org and mention project ID 125-35224. Thanks for all your support of our family!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Camping in the Aberdares

The drive to the Aberdares.


The campsite. Note the small "adult" tent that was pitched under this shelter.
The view from our campsite when we awoke in the morning. The mist in the center of the picture is from the nearby waterfall.

"Native" Jeremiah, barefoot as usual, trying his hand at trout fishing.

To appreciate the size of this waterfall, note the person standing to the right.

Another view...

Trout cooked over an open fire...as the Kenyans' say, "very sweet."

After the rains...

Trying to dry out and get warm. Of note, it is about 50 degrees F.

Jeremiah's legs...remnants of a great weekend.


A few weeks ago, Jeremiah and his entire dorm of sixteen young adolescent males went camping in one of Kenya’s national parks, the Aberdares, a central mountain range about 100 km north of Nairobi, rife with huge waterfalls, forest elephants, rainbow trout, and…rain (the entire water supply of central Kenya comes from this region). The chaperones? Jeremiah’s “dorm dad” (Rodney) and his “genetic dad” (me). After driving 3 hours on slippery dirt roads, stuffed into our “new” used Toyota Regius Ace with 10 somewhat stinky boys, Jeremiah riding shotgun, we arrived at our site and set up camp in the dark. Soon, the sloppy joe meat pot was steaming over the fire, and we settled in for the evening. Rodney and I had no shame in setting up our tent under the makeshift tarp shelter we erected. I found out later why this was such a solid move.

The following morning, while I was cooking breakfast, Jeremiah and about 6 of his buddies emerged from their tents wearing only homemade loin cloths, saying they wanted to “go native” and “blend in” with the environment (which I can assure you did not happen). Aside from this unwanted sight, (which reminded me of a scene from the movie “Lord of the Flies”), the morning was incredibly scenic; and, viewing the surroundings for the first time, I understood why some people call this area the most beautiful part of Kenya. Later, Rodney, an avid outdoorsman, set us all up for fly fishing in the mountain brooks that flowed nearby.

About 1pm, it began to precipitate. At first, this was a novelty for the boys, who were running about, getting pelted with the falling rain and hail, not thinking about how cold they could potentially be in the very near future without dry clothes or a roaring campfire. After a solid two hours and 3 inches of rain, however, the fun was over, and our campsite, including “the adult tent,” was beginning to flood. The majority of the boys took shelter in our van, which was only somewhat dry. We literally built a dike around our tent and dug drainage ditches to protect our only remaining precious resource: dry clothes. The rains let up around 4pm…for about a half hour. It then continued into the evening, and thus we decided to “turn in” early (which for the boys was about 1am). Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up, noticed that the rain had ended, and looked out the widow of the tent to see the “southern cross” surrounded by the starriest night I have ever witnessed.

The next morning was cloudless, and when the sun edged over the mountains, our campsite began to dry out. After breakfast, Rodney led the boys in a discussion on a Christian view of relationships with the opposite sex, specifically how this relates to the new dating policies at Rift Valley Academy. As I sat listening to these boys share their collective thoughts on the subject (actually with more wisdom than I anticipated), I thought to myself, “Here is an incredible group of young men, missionary kids, each with a unique story of how God got them to this place at this time in life.” And I wondered what each of them would become in the future, products of the rich lives they have been privileged to live.

After one more round of fly fishing, we broke camp and headed home. When I arrived back at Tenwek later that evening, I took a long and very hot shower, amazed at how thankful I could be for something we so easily take for granted. It was a great weekend. Next camping trip in the works: the Suswa caves.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The (Not-So) Typical Work Week at Tenwek

Jeremiah, recovering with cup of chai in hand, after removal of the plates and screws in his knees and ankles.


Total knee replacement done with implants sourced from Nairobi. The goal is to help patients with bad arthritis, and use the funds generated by this program to subsidize care for the poor.


People often ask “What is your typical orthopedic surgery work week like at Tenwek.” Following is a sampling of last week’s schedule, highlighting the most interesting case for each day, and the teamwork worldwide required to make modern orthopedic surgery possible at our rural mission hospital:

Monday: Intramedullary nailing (with a long rod) of a midshaft femur fracture with nails remanufactured by a team of students and professors from Cedarville College. Often times, and not surprisingly, nails that are donated to Tenwek are of extreme sizes, more appropriate for NBA players than the average Kenyan. This team took 80+ of these excessively long nails, and first engineered, then re-manufactured them to the most common lengths (38, 40 and 42 cm). Thank you Cedarville team!

Tuesday: (1) Knee arthroscopy (knee “scope”) in a 34 year old Maasi man who works as a chef at one of the premier safari lodges in Kenya (arthroscopy equipment donated by an orthopedic surgeon from the U.S.). (2) Revision SIGN femoral nailing in a 29 year old Muslim man who reminds me daily to get him the English Bible he requested (I promised him he WILL get it tomorrow!). SIGN Fracture Care International is a company which designs, manufactures and distributes orthopedic implants to medically underserved countries around the world.

Wednesday: Three month old distal clavicle fracture in a 47 year old man. Tough case…that’s all I have to say about that.

Thursday: Total knee replacement in an Indian-Kenyan man from Lake Victoria. The goal is to use the funds earned from this burgeoning “adult reconstruction” program (hip and knee replacement) to subsidize the cost of orthopedic trauma implants for the poor. In the next four weeks, we have 6 additional cases scheduled!

Friday: Ankle fusion in a 73 year old man who was initially (mis)treated at one of the largest hospitals in Nairobi where his broken and dislocated ankle was placed in a cast.

Saturday: Plate and screw removal in a burly, 14-year-old young man by the name of Jeremiah Galat. He insisted that the anesthesiologist NOT give him any sedation so that after he was given the spinal, he could slap his own legs without feeling it, and try to make me laugh during surgery.

Sunday: Sabbath day off! Thank you Dr. Moore (4th year orthopedic resident from University of Alabama) and Dr. Bacon (not-so-retired orthopod from the U.S. who is with us for 4 months) for taking call this weekend. The orthopedic service at Tenwek could not survive without a regular influx of visitors who sacrifice vacation and holiday time to serve along-side us.

In all we do at Tenwek, our goal is to bring glory to the One who saved us because of His own mercy! Thanks for all your prayers and support!!

Titus 3:4-6 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Call

Helen Tangus, one of the lead hospital chaplains, prays with a group of patients.


While dozing off around 11pm last Thursday night, our house phone rang and Heather answered. “Do you want to talk to Dr. Galat?” she asked, clearly a call from the hospital. As she handed me the phone, I could hear chaos in the background, children crying and people talking in heightened tones, obviously stressed by whatever situation was unfolding in Casualty. This, in combination with the strong Kenyan-English accent of the caller, made it difficult for me to understand what was being said. I did, however, hear something about a child with a “traumatic amputation” and thought to myself, I had better head up to the hospital ASAP.

When I walked into Casualty a few minutes later, it was far worse than I anticipated. Over in one corner was a young woman whose right arm was wrapped from hand to shoulder with a blood-saturated dressing. Nearby, a small boy lay quietly on a stretcher, his entire right arm missing, with only a compression dressing on the remaining shoulder. Next to him, several staff members were attending an even younger patient, a little girl about two years old with severe facial and scalp lacerations. Between them stood a dazed, young woman with her own injuries, the mother of these two children, herself completely unable to cope with the trauma or offer any comfort. Across the room sat another, almost juvenile-looking injured mother, ignoring her own pain, desperately trying to nurse the crying child in her lap who also had bandages wrapping both legs. Under the dressings were severe abrasion injuries too horrific to describe. “Will you have to cut them,” the mother asked, looking first at the baby’s legs, and then, with desperation, into my eyes. The entire scene was surreal, and for the first time in years, I found myself slightly nauseated.

“What on earth happened here,” I asked out loud. No one was able to give a solid answer…something about a small bus swerving out of control after hitting a donkey. Stories like this are all too common, but what struck me hard that night was the fact that so many of the victims were multiply-injured women and children. “What are God’s purposes in all this?” I thought to myself as I was completing the amputation of the arm of the first young woman at 2am in the morning. The next day I found my answer, at least in part. Person after person: chaplains, visitors from the U.S., and staff heard about the victims of this accident and visited them, offering prayer and comfort and hope. This is the reason Tenwek Hospital exists, and why we are here, so that the arms of Jesus can be extended to those who are suffering. While answers may often escape us, we can continue, in faith, to reach out to those who are hurting, and trust that God’s purposes are always pure, always loving, and never random.

Please pray for the victims of this accident and the many others that we see at Tenwek on a regular basis. Thank you for all your prayers and support!

2 Cor. 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

Monday, August 29, 2011

An Unexpected Goodbye

The RVA Crew from Tenwek. Only one student is missing, Brendon Steury.

Settling Jeremiah into his new dorm room.

I will miss regularly interacting with Jeremiah (and wrestling...although less frequently now that he is so big...i.e. more at risk for injury).


As missionaries living and working overseas, “goodbyes” are common, but nonetheless painful, especially when involving those closest to us, and even more so when these goodbyes are unexpected. Jeremiah, our oldest, now a strapping 185lb, 14 year-old freshman in high school, was accepted in April 2011 to the Rift Valley Academy (RVA), a well-known and highly academic mission boarding school about an hour outside of Nairobi on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley. About 500 students, K-12, attend this school (which began in 1906), most of which are missionary kids from all over Africa.

The wait list to get accepted to RVA can sometimes be several years long, so when Jeremiah was accepted in April, we were quite surprised. After much discussion and prayer, and with the good advice from many that we should leave the final decision to him, Jeremiah chose, back in April, to defer his acceptance and return to the wait list for the following year. However, when we arrived in Kenya two weeks ago, and after seeing all his friends from Tenwek preparing to go to RVA, Jeremiah began to regret his decision. He came to me and said “Dad, can you call RVA and ask them if that position they offered me is still available.” Knowing the chance of there being an open spot one week from the start of school was next to nil, and wanting to help put the issue to rest for Jeremiah, I said, “Sure, but I don’t think the possibility is good.”

The following day, I emailed the admissions director, just after Heather and I read the devotional in “Jesus Calling” entitled “Entrust your loved ones to me.” We prayed and asked God to open the door if this was His will for Jeremiah’s life. After several hours, and no return email, I decided to call (as Jeremiah originally requested). I reached the assistant principle, and after explaining our situation, and that I knew the request was a longshot, he said, “Let me ask the admissions director…she is sitting right here at my desk!” I could hear her in the background saying “Is that Dr. Galat, Jeremiah’s dad? I was just going to email him to let him know that we have a spot for Jeremiah if he wants it!” This time, we were shocked.

Long story short, we just finished New Parent Orientation with Jeremiah yesterday, and said our unexpected, but peace-filled goodbyes. He is now "on his own" (that is, out of our hands and in God's). It was a hard day for both him and us. But, as is so often the case in our lives, when God works at the last minute and in such a miraculous way, we can be completely confident that He is the one who has done this work. We know we can entrust our son to God, the One who loves Jeremiah (and all our children), far more perfectly than we ever can. Please pray for Jeremiah, that he would adjust well to this new change (yet again), that he would make some really close, solid friends, that he would do well in high school (taking some tough courses), and finally, that he would get fully prepared for rugby season, which starts next spring!

Thank you so much for all your prayers and support!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Home

It is easy to forget how long and grueling the flight from the U.S. to Africa can be…minimal sleep, the logistics of managing 28 pieces of checked containers, carry-ons, etc., and keeping track of Levi (he is a stealthy little fellow). But God blessed this journey greatly…Delta waived $1200 in excess baggage fees and only 2 of 28 pieces did not arrive in Nairobi (not a bad ratio). Customs officials asked only a few questions, and quickly waived us on through without inspecting any bags (after seeing Claire’s big smile).

We have arrived home…and it does not feel like we have even been away these past 14 months. The sound of dogs barking last night (our first night in Nairobi) was almost strangely comforting, lulling me back to sleep. We have often wondered where “home” is, as we do not own a physical structure. Multiple times we have told our kids that “home” is wherever we are as a family, whether in Phoenix, Ohio, Minnesota, or now again in Kenya. This perpetual earthly roving reminds us that our ultimate home is yet to come: the place where we will never move again, never have to say goodbye, never have to re-adjust, and most importantly, be forever with the One who loves us with perfect love, saving us by His death on the cross. Then, we will truly be Home.

Hebrews 11:13-16 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Paradox 2.0


Watching from our balcony the approaching dust storm decending upon the Valley...simultaneously beautiful and foreboding.

As we finish our final few days in America, having completed a good, yet periodically difficult year of furlough, our emotions paradoxically toggle between strong joy and deep sadness (joy in the many memories shared with family and friends as an extreme blessing from God//sadness that we are leaving them for another two years), supernatural peace and self-focused anxiety (peace arising from the knowledge that God has called us, and that He is so near//anxiety when contemplating the seemingly impossible and imminent task of yet another transition, moving our family 10,000 miles overseas, checking 27 pieces of luggage, setting up our “new” house at Tenwek, and resuming responsibility in the orthopedic department), and excitement and fear (excitement to return to the places and the people we love in Kenya//fear of the unknown).

We are reminding ourselves that paradoxical, conflicting feelings are completely “normal” in these times of transition (and thus allowing ourselves to “feel” and to not take ourselves too seriously). But we are also reminded how broken we are, and how much we desperately need Jesus to equip us to accomplish these seemingly impossible tasks which lie ahead. Thankfully, God specializes in doing “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:21) and we have seen Him do this time and again. Amazing, however, is the paradoxical fact that God works in these impossible ways, in response to the simple prayers of ordinary people. For some reason, God moves when people pray. As such, we are dependent upon, and partners with, you who are committed to praying for us while we serve in Kenya. If you would like to commit to praying regularly for us over the next year, please let us know and we can add you to our prayer team list. Thank you for your ongoing support of our family!

PS. This past year, many people have asked us the question “Why are you doing this work?” (Interestingly, no one finishes the second half of the question which is “when you could have a much more comfortable life here in the states?”), and it has really made us examine our paradigms. Another question (posed in a sermon preached by Pastor Chris Davis this year) helped us resolve this “why” question. He asked “Do you view your gifts as resources to be shared, or earnings to be hoarded?” Bottom line issue…ALL we have is a GIFT from God.

PSS. Heather and the kids have started their own blog, entitled “Real Life…at Home in Kenya” (click to view). Check it out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Preparations 2.0



Jeremiah, 13





Emma, 11





Claire, 10





Levi, 7




It feels somewhat like déjà vu with endless lists, errands, purchases, planning, etc. for our impending return to Kenya. Making the task more daunting has been the fact that summer is officially full-throttle in Phoenix, with temps easily into the one hundred teens. Thankfully our family is currently in a much cooler Marion, IN at the WGM headquarters completing a week of Orientation Camp (OC) to prepare us again for the challenges of cross-cultural ministry. The kids are participating in their own program, although Jeremiah is finding time to sharpen his archery skills and catch a few bass. After OC, we head to Mansfield for a week to visit Dan’s family, then to Midwest Camp. We arrive back in Phoenix on August 2nd, to complete the packing process prior to our departure to Kenya August 15th.

Overall, we are so thankful for this year of preparation before our upcoming two year stint in Kenya (through summer 2013). Our goal and prayer at the beginning of this year was that God would maximally prepare our family holistically (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually), so that we can, as a family, maximally glorify Christ in the next two years. Sometimes we don’t understand what we are praying, and have preconceived notions on how we think God should answer our prayers, usually in less painful and more convenient ways. But God is not interested in just superficial change, but that which runs deep, into our core.

Thank you for all your prayers and support of our family on this return journey to Kenya!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 2011 Update

Galat Ministry Video

A few months ago, we met a young man named Karl Feller (who is a gifted videographer) at a Medsend dinner in Phoenix. He works as a full-time chaplain at a local hospice, but, in his limited free time, uses his cinematographic talents to assist missionaries. He recently shot a short, 5-minute video of Heather and me highlighing the work we do at Tenwek. To view, click here.

Tickets are purchased!

We are very happy to report that we have a date set for our return to Kenya....August 15, 2011! Our original plan was to leave for Kenya in June, but we have some additional required training at WGM headquarters in July. We will begin Kiswahili language training by the end of August (after we settle into our “new” home at Tenwek). Please pray for our family as we plan and pack for this next two year stint in Kenya.

Arcadia Rabbits Beware

Jeremiah’s newest interest is bow hunting with his new compound bow. We currently live with Heather’s parents in a heavily populated, urban neighborhood (Arcadia), which also happens to be overrun with hares. So far Jeremiah has bagged four, the most recent one from 30 yards. I am anticipating that any day now, I will have a visit from the police with questions about a young adolescent male stalking the neighborhood with a compound bow. Jeremiah assures me that he is safe, and that he only kills animals for food (grandma does not like the fact that there are rabbits in her freezer).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thailand Update


Examining a young boy with cerebral palsy for hip problems.



Jeremiah and Sutee, hanging out at the House of Love.



Jeremiah adeptly handles a "fish ball" with a pair of chop sticks.


Pickup truck ride to CDPD.



CDPD physiotherapy staff were well-trained.



Jeremiah and I returned Sunday night from our trip to Thailand and were so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the lives of children who would, according to Jesus, be rightly considered the “least of these.” During the week, Jeremiah and I did a study of the book of James, and we were struck especially by James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” There is a tremendous amount of paradox in this because the world completely rejects these kids at the House of Love…orphans, many HIV+, ethnic minorities, disabled…and accepts those who are strong, capable, “loveable.” But God promises to be a Father to the fatherless, the defender of the defenseless…He loves the outcasts and rejected. This is what makes Hope for Hilltribes (and other ministries focused on “the least of these”) so unique and “blessed” by God.

We arrived in Chiang Mai on Monday afternoon and after checking into the “M.D. House” (which proudly advertised itself as the 3rd best hostel in Thailand?), headed to the House of Love via a sweet, three-wheeled “tuk-tuk.” There, we met the kids, including Sutee, a 10-year-old boy who came to the House of Love about 3 years ago…deaf, mute, HIV+ and an orphan with no family, considered the “village idiot” because of his inability to communicate (perhaps the result of having been affected by congenital syphilis which can cause deafness, and the characteristic flattened nose which Sutee demonstrated) and with multiple scars marking the resultant abuse he suffered. According to Kim, the missionary who started the House of Love, Sutee was completely detached emotionally when he first arrived. But now, he is one of the most animated kids I have ever seen, almost annoyingly so, communicating with a self-developed, and fairly sophisticated sign language which included a lot of touching (no concept of personal space with Sutee, but that was just fine). God continues to teach me to love the way He loves.

The following day, we took the kids swimming at a “resort” with a very fine, slightly murky green pool, where there was much frolicking, slashing and cannonballs, as demonstrated by the master, Jeremiah. On Wednesday, it starting raining, and the temperature dropped into the 50’s (according to Kim, the coldest she had seen in Thailand during her 26 year stint), just in time for our 5 hour road trip via pickup truck stuffed with 4 adults and 6 kids into the hills of the ‘golden triangle’ region of Thailand, to the small town of Mai Sariang, the location of the Christian Center for the Development of People with Disabilities (CDPD). Jeremiah and 3 others rode in the back of the pickup, covered by a make-shift cap, but unsealed from the elements. They persevered the cold rain for 5 hours, the trip unbroken except by a short lunch of trademark Thai soup with noodles and “fishballs”(foul-smelling, gelatinous morsels that even Jeremiah -the teenage version of Andrew Zimmern - could barely stomach) at a road-side café. At the CDPD, we met the incredible Thai staff dedicated to ministering to families with disabled children and we delivered the wheelchair Fred brought all the way from Columbus Ohio for a girl with cerebral palsy. We made the return trip to Chiang Mai the following day after staying a night at the “luxurious” Northwest Lodge, where I don’t think the sheets had been changed in at least a month, as evidenced by the strange scent and blood stains which prompted me to request they be changed.
On the return trip, Jeremiah developed a headache, fever and chills, no doubt the result of his cold ride up the mountain the previous day. He had no other symptoms however…no GI distress, no sore throat, no cough…just this recurring and high fever (mixed with a little delirium), held at bay by steady administration of ibuprofen. Finally after two days of worsening symptoms, I started him on antibiotics which I brought along “just in case” and the fever broke. Only afterwards, did he develop a sore throat with inflamed and purulent tonsils…likely strep throat. Thank God for antibiotics!

Overall, the trip was humbling, yet, simply, a lot of fun. Thanks for praying for Jeremiah and I and for praying for these kids. If you are interested in learning more about Hope for Hilltribes, I encourage you to visit Freddy’s website. Let us encourage one another to be involved with “religion that is pure and faultless”…and receive the incredible joy and satisfaction that accompanies it, all made possible by the Cross of Christ.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mission Trip to Thailand




I recently received a phone call from one of my best friends in high school inviting me to travel with him to Thailand for a short, one week mission trip. At first, I thought we was joking (as Fred is so gifted), and I quickly dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way with our busy furlough schedule of traveling and work. As a background, a few years ago, God led Fred Haring to start a non-profit organization called Hope for Hilltribes with the purpose of raising awareness and funds for a home in Thailand for women and children affected by HIV/AIDs called the “House of Love.” (Click here for short video highlighting the problem). Following is an excerpt from his website:

The House of Love is a home for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. This includes women who had been sold into prostitution, AIDS orphans, and children taken out of their homes by the Social Welfare Department because of abuse. Many of the residents do not have Thai citizenship and have few rights in Thailand. Now in its 16th year, the House of Love has been a refuge to approximately one hundred displaced women and children, most of whom have been affected by HIV/AIDS—and many of whom had been trafficked to brothels. While most children have been affected by AIDS, many children deal with the emotional scars from events surrounding their life at home or on the streets or feeling unloved because their family can’t care for them. It’s not just physical and medical needs that the ministry serves, the House Of Love staff also works to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of each child. The House of Love is a home—and, more importantly, it is a family.

After a few day of prayer and processing (and after realizing Fred was serious), I really sensed God urging me to go…and to bring my oldest son Jeremiah along. So, long story short, on March 12th, Jeremiah and I are headed to Thailand for a father-and-son short term missions trip! Our goal is to work primarily with the young boys who live in this home, many of whom do not have a father-figure, showing them the love of Christ. We will also be spending a few days on the border of Myanmar at the Christian Center for the Development of People with Disabilities (CDPD), working with disabled kids and doing some primary care medical work (I need to find my stethoscope – a tool not carried by an orthopod!).

Following is a brief outline of our rigorous schedule:
March 12-14 – Travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand (via LAX, Tokyo, and Bangkok).
March 14-15 – At the “House of Love” working primarily with the boys at this orphanage, hanging out, camping, swimming, connecting.
March 16 – Travel 4 hours by truck to Mae Hong Song Province on the boarder of Myanmar.
March 16-18 – At the Christian Center for People with Disabilities (CDPD), working with disabled kids and holding basic medical clinics.
March 18 – Travel back to Chiang Mai to the House of Love for one more day.
March 19-20 – Back to the U.S.

God is teaching me that prayer is the essence of our walk with Christ (as John Piper says, “feasting at His table of GRACE”). That is the only way we can survive as we press on to serve Christ, and finish this race well. So, here are a few prayer requests for this trip, and if you could join us in this, we are partners together in this work:

(1) That Jeremiah and I would be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly show Christ’s love to the kids at both the House of Love and CDPD.
(2) That we are really able to connect emotionally and spiritually with the kids and staff at both places.
(3) For protection from attacks from the enemy who does not want these kids to find freedom and healing in Christ.
(4) For safely while we travel to remote areas in Thailand.
(5) For connection for Jeremiah and I, as we serve together as father and son.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our family as we are headed back to Kenya this June!