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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Obscure Missionaries of Tenwek

Solomon placing a cast on a young boy during a busy clinic day.

When I arrived in Kenya in November 2008, I was introduced to a Kenyan man named Solomon Rop, the head physiotherapist of the orthopedic department at Tenwek hospital. I quickly came to understand that he was much more than a physiotherapist, according to my western definition. In America, physical therapists help people recover from various musculoskeletal injuries through exercise, gait training and other modalities. But in Kenya, a physical therapist is more like a non-operative orthopedic surgeon, doing everything from conventional physical therapy, to correcting club feet, reducing and casting closed fractures, fitting prosthesis for patients with leg amputations, and even placing traction pins and halos (i.e. barbaric orthopedic devices).

The first day I spent in clinic, I pulled Solomon close to my side, and said “you ain’t going nowhere!” I needed him to help me navigate the myriad of patients with conditions that I had never seen before in my training. In one room was an 8 year old boy with pus draining from several sinuses in his leg from a chronic bone infection. Trying to be cool, I leaned toward Solomon, and said quietly, “What do I do with this one?” In another room was a 50 year old man with a femur fracture that was 5 inches short, and 8 months old. “How about this guy?” I said, losing more pride and confidence with every new patient seen. Very patiently, and never condescendingly, he would guide me through decision making processes that were completely foreign to me. Soon Solomon became more than a colleague, but a partner and close friend.

But beyond Solomon’s orthopedic knowledge and skills, and what became blaringly evident, was his commitment to tell patients about Christ (not just Solomon, but Meshack, Daniel, Joel, David, Vincent, Malel, Mailu and many others). In this way, we became true partners and brothers, missionaries working together to not only raise the standard of orthopedic care in this small part of the world, but to tell people of the only Hope that is true Hope. Underscoring this concept is the fact that all the Kenyan men and women who work at Tenwek (over 500) could be making two, sometimes three times what they earn at our small mission hospital, by working at one of the big government hospitals, while working less hours. And some are leaving for higher paying jobs. But for those who remain, when questioned about this, the common answer is, “God called me here, and this is where I belong.” Their example humbles and challenges me.

The work at Tenwek can only be done via partnership…all of us working together to bring glory to God. Where has God called you? Please keep these Kenyan missionaries in your prayers as you think of them. And as always, thank you for your prayers and support for our family!


Heather said...

Love the new family picture! We miss you guys.

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Unknown said...

I have always been curious about the musculoskeletal clinic shot. Especially because you always hear about professional athletes getting them. Good luck with your race (and injury).
musculoskeletal clinic