Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Well here I am on my way back to Kenya. I survived my first flight, so I'm half-way there now! And I just so happened to luck out with a terminal that has Starbucks! Not only did I find Starbucks, but I managed to find a row of seats that did not have metal bars seperating the seats. It was nice to get a nap in the lying down position as opposed to sitting up like in the plane.

I'm excited to get back to my home away from home. In many ways I feel like I'm living with one foot in both worlds right now. Over the last 6 months I've spent half my time in each country. It's amazing to me to think that after all the years of planning and dreaming I'm finally on the brink of moving to Africa. I'm seeing America through new eyes this year. I must admit that last week I couldn't help but notice I had over six brands of deoderant to choose from at Target. It's a strange feeling to be back and forth between two such drastically different places.

This will be my first time spending the holiday season in Africa. I'm sure that it will be different but beautiful nonetheless. Your prayers and e-mails are always so appreciated! I'll try to get an update (and maybe even pictures?) posted while I'm in Kenya. We will see how things pan out with internet access. So if I don't write or post before then, have a blessed Christmas! May the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts and minds.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Back to Kenya

Tomorrow I'm heading back to my home-away-from home, Kipkaren. I'll be spending Christmas in Africa this year. It will be my first Christmas away from my family. I'm excited and a little sad at the same time. This past month has certainly been packed full of emotions.

My paternal grandmother passed away on Monday last week. She had had a long battle with congestive heart failure. It's been hard to say goodbye, but at the same time it is nice to know that she is now free. She has struggled with severe pain in recent times. I know that now she can dance in the presence of the Lord. I also know that she has her eyesight back.

Last week I finished up with school by taking final exams a week early. That allowed me to be able to head out this week. Today we had a family Christmas celebration. It was nice to have Brett and Danielle over for lasagna and fellowship. Lasagna is a long-time Christmas tradition for my family.

Well as I mentioned earlier, I'm headed back to Kipkaren. I'll be flying out of LAX tomorrow evening at 8:30. I'll fly through London and arrive in Nairobi Wed morning. Then I'll finally make it to Kipkaren that evening. Please pray for safe travels. I don't have that much planned for this trip and I'll only be gone three weeks. I do plan to get the growth and development checks completed for the 94 children in the Children's Home. William told me today that ELI will be hosting a children's camp for the three days shortly after I arrive. Never a dull moment at that training center! However I am hoping for a bit of down time. I'm looking forward to some time just reading and meditating in the gazebo by the river. It's supposed to be the hot season right now. It'll be interesting to listen to "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" as the sun beats down. I do have a Christmas cookie baking date arranged with the two other American ladies in the village. And my mother thoughtfully picked up a small fiber-optic battery powered tree to put up in my hut.

Oh, and did I mention I'll get to spend time with William! That is going to be the highlight of the trip. I miss him so much. I am thankful that we have the phone and the internet, but they just don't take the place of an honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversation! Oh, and you can't get a hug over the phone lines either!

I'll try to get an update or two in while I'm gone. I'm just now sure how often I'll make it into town with this trip being less than a month long. However I will take plenty of pictures and look forward to sharing my adventures with you when I return. May the true spirit of the season reside in your hearts and minds during these coming weeks. God bless!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm Engaged!

Engagement Photos
Originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.
Please allow me to introduce you to the love of my life. This is William Kiprop (it sounds like skip-rope without the s). We plan to be married on December 15, 2007. Our wedding will take place in Kenya and we will have a traditional Kalenjin engagement ceremony the week before.

William and I met on my first trip to Kenya two-and-a-half years ago. My roommates from the Life Bible Team teased me about chemistry at that time. None of us had a clue that that special friendship would one day blossom into a deep love. William works for Empowering Lives International in Kipkaren. He is involved with agricultural education and has a huge heart for ministry. He has a gentle spirit and a servant's heart.

We are currently working on getting him a passport and visa so he can come to the USA to meet my friends and family. Please pray for us as this is quite an undertaking. Approximately 90% of the visa applications from Kenya to the US are rejected. So it is truly going to take an act of God to get him here. Thank you all for your prayers!!

Back in California

My Crazy Schedule
So I've been back in southern CA for around a month now. And of course my life is back to it's usual craziness. =) I'm back in school at UCLA. I must confess I wasn't overly enthusiastic about returning to the grind. However I've been pleasantly surprised to find that this quarter is not the killer that my last one was. I'm spending three days a week doing my internship. Having incredible mentors is making a huge difference. It's great to have the foundational classes completed so I can start really applying what I have learned. Tuesdays and Thursdays I'm in Loma Linda at a women's health clinic with a terrific Nurse Practitioner. Fridays I work with an experienced physician in a Family Practice. Wed is my day on campus in west LA. I have class from 8AM until 7PM. Last week I learned how to suture. I'm having fun practicing the various stitches on a pig's foot. As you can see school eats up quite a bit of my time. That leaves Mondays for me to work my 12hr shift in the ER.

Back in Church
For the first time since graduating from nursing school I don't work weekends. I've always been in a position where I was required to work every other weekend. When I left for Kenya this summer I had to quit my job and give up my benefits. I'm now working as an "intermittent employee" which is per-diem for those of you in the nursing world. This basically means I'm working the same job as before minus the benefits. But that also means I am no longer subject to the weekend rule. It has been so refreshing to have the freedom to attend church every week. I've even been able to get involved in a Sunday school class on missions and a small group. We are reading "The PAPA Prayer" by Larry Crabb in my small group. It's an interesting look at what a healthy prayer life should look like.

Back to Kenya
Everyone is asking me "when are you going back to Kenya?" Approximately one year from this month I will be moving to Kenya as a full-time medical missionary. I'll graduate in June and spend the summer preparing to head out to the field. This means I'll start the support raising process sometime around January. Keep me in your prayers as support raising has never been easy or fun for me. Although the big move will be happening next fall I may be making a short trip before then. There is a possibility that I will be spending my Christmas break back in Kipkaren. I'll keep you posted!

Last Day with the Kids

The day before I left Kenya I had to say goodbye to the precious little ones who had stolen my heart. They had just received their new uniforms and were looking very smart! I cried my eyes out after saying goodbye.

Orphans Arriving

Orphans Arriving
Originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.
The children arrived at their new home with only the clothes on their backs. They went from being a nobody to being a somebody; a forgotten orphan to a treasured child.

The Completed New Bridge

Before I left Kipkaren a new bridge was constructed to replace the one that collapsed and washed away. The new bridge restored communication and business between the two sides of the village.


Originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.
This summer I shared with you about Patrick. He is doing very well and settling in to his new home. He is attending school for the first time and celebrate's his tenth birthday this month!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

In The USA We Wear Pants!!

So let me tell you one of the funny cultural situations that has come up. Here in the Kenyan villages, women only wear skirts. To wear pants (known as trousers here) is somewhat scandalous at best, and indicates that you are a street-walker at worst. Well one day I was with a group of Americans who were talking to a group of my Kenyan friends. My Kenyan buddies were asking about cultural differences. The Americans began to explain that in the USA women don't wear skirts but "just wear pants". The Kenyans were horribly shocked at this statement. We were confused because our understanding was that they were already aware of this fact. Then one young man asked "so they don't wear trousers they just walk around in their pants!?". This led to a conversation clarifying definitions. It turns out that in Kenya "pants" is a synonym for underwear!!!!

The Resilience of Children

I'd like to share some more about some of our kids in the Children's Home. We have three brothers at the home who have experienced more in their short years than many of us will in a lifetime. These three children definitely have spunk. They caused mass chaos in my filing system. You see I knew them as Allan (age 6), Ian (age 7) and Francis (age 4). When I went to pull some papers from their social work file I couldn't find them. I was puzzled as the children were obviously in our home. I had completed medical files for each of them. I finally found a file for Francis and saw that he had two older brothers named Bonyface and John. Turns out that the boys had changed their names!! So all of my medical papers were labled incorrectly.

Anyway, on to their story. Their father was found murdered in their house (I believe the children were with his body) and it is believed that the mother was the murderer as she has not been seen or heard from since that night. No one wanted to take the children in and they wound up with a housegirl who had two children of her own and was a single mom. These children are soo precious and so full of life. The other day Francis, the youngest, coverered himself with white chalk and walked around declaring mimi mzungu! (I am a white person!)

It is such a blessing to see the changes that happen in the lives of these children. They arrive often with only the clothes on their backs. Many are withdrawn and fearful. Within just one week you begin to see drastic changes. One girl, Gloria, had me concerned when she arrived. She refused to eat meals and would not make eye contact with anyone. Just two days ago I was at her house and she came running up to me. Chelagat! (My Kalenjin name) do you remember me??? I'm Gloria!!! I stop and wipe away a tear as I thank God for the way he works in the lives of these young ones.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Children's Home
I'm having the time of my life working with the orphans at the Children's Home here in Kipkaren. I've been blessed with the responsibility of managing the healthcare for all of the children. We are up to 56 kids as of yesterday. We are accepting children prior to knowing their HIV status; so one of the first things I do is test them. Thus far we only have one child who is positive, and we knew his status before he came to us. After testing, I conduct the physical exams, growth and development checks and provide general health-maintenance. This includes deworming everyone as well as getting them up to date on their immunizations.What a task! I do have to say that I love my job though. The kids all love me and come running to clobber me with hugs whenever I show up. Although I must admit that they are usually a bit gun-shy the day after immunizations. Pray for the children as many of them have horrific pasts. they are all adapting and adjusting to life in a family with 20-24 other children. Pray that the parents will have wisdom and energy. Pray that I will have wisdom and energy as I have undertaken this huge task of healthcare management. Pray for the health of the children. Many of them are malnourished and suffering from malaria and other various ailments.

Life in Kenya
It doesn't get much better than this. My walk to work is through some of the most beautiful terrain in creation. I frequently sit in a gazebo by the river to work on completing medical charts. Last week I learned how to do milking and yes, I milked a cow!! Our typical meals have a base of either rice, pasta, potatoes or a staple food called ugali. Ugali is made of corn flower and water. The main dish is usually accompanied by vegetables and some fresh fruit. About two to three times a week we have meat. It is usually goat, beef or chicken. I always know when we will e having chicken because I see them (the chickens!) running around the kitchen in the morning. I live in a mud hut with a grass roof. Every morning I get a hot shower although it is from a bucket. I'm getting good at donig the number 11. That's when your two legs make the number 11 as you walk from one place to another.

Kipkaren Bridge is Falling Down!!
A few weeks back we had a bit of a tragedy in our community. Our bridge that spans Kipkaren river collapsed into the river. Thankfully the man who was crossing with his cows was not hurt. He jumped onto the back of one of the cows in the river and made it to shore. This loss has a huge impact on the community. The school, the clinic and the cowdip are all on our side of the river. Those living on the other side are stranded. Pray that funding for a new bridge is found. Pray for the community as they work through this tragedy.

Patrick's Story
I'd like to share with you about one of our children in the Home. His name is Patrick and he is a picture of resilience. He is one of the most affectionate 9-year-olds I have ever met. His mother died of AIDS. After she died he was taken to his father who had previously left the family. His father has another family now and refused to have anything to do with the boy. He kicked him out of the house. Patrick then lived in the bush and on the streets for some time. When he was foundby a good samaratin he was covered from head to toe in scabies and was deathly ill. They took him to the hospital where he was tested for HIV and found to be positive. He wound up living in the hospital for the 6 months prior to when we came for him. This child is amazing! He has the biggest smile and huge hugs for anyone who is willing to receive them. Pray for Patrick to stay strong and healthy. We are facing the challenge of how to keep him from being too close to the other children when they are sick. Pray for wisdom in raising Patrick and that his time with us (however long or short it may be) will be blessed.

Youth Camp
Tis upcoming week we are hosting a youth camp at the Empowering Lives Training Center where I live. We are expecting 300-600 youths. Pray for us during this time. We will have a team of 13 Americans here running the program. We want to see God move in mighty ways. We also would appreciate prayer for the logistics of hosting so many people. Please pray for dry weather while we have the guests with us. Many of them will be sleeping in tents. The center turns into a slippery muddy swamp during the intense rains.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Settling In

The children at the home are settling in with their new families. Yesterday I spent most of the day doing health exams on each child. Some of them will need chest x-rays to rule out the possibility of TB or pneumonia. There are a few with unidentifiable rashes that I definitely need to refer out to an expert. There were a few nasty wounds as well. Most are adjusting really quickly to their new environments. It is amazing how resilient they can be!! One particular girl, Olivia, has been giving her new parents a bit of a challenge. She has a strong spirit and cries at the drop of a hat. Pray that Mike and Dorcas will have wisdom in handling her.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Visit With Jesus

Thursday we were feverishly preparing to receive the first children into the Kipkaren children's Home. I spent much of the day washing windows and hanging mosquito nets. We had a time of discussion and prayer that night. David Tarus (the area director) informed us all that we would be meeting Jesus the next afternoon. He said that if you had never shaken the hand of Jesus you should prepare to do so the next day. Because the Bible says that whatever we do unto the least of these we are doing unto Christ himself.

Throughout the next day you could hear various people saying Jesus is coming! I got a list of the names of the children that morning and spent several hours praying for them by name as I read through their case studies. A caravan of vehicles was sent out to pick up the kids at their current places of residence. As they pulled up to the home with horns honking we all broke out in song. I get chills even as I write this. My eyes were filled with tears as the first 14 orphans left the cars and approached the home. Some of them had never had contact with white people before and were very afraid. Others were so excited they were jumping up and down singing. Several were dressed very well for this special day. And some had nothing but tattered dresses and bare feet. Those of us blessed to be there, were meeting Jesus and given an opportunity to hug him.

One of the little girls was very sick with malaria and had to be carried to the home. She was taken to the clinic for intravenous rehydration shortly after arriving. The children immediately began to settle into their new home. They were introduced to their parents. One of whom is my friend Dorcas. In the afternoon I came back to ask Dorcas how she was doing. She told me that the children were so excited when they saw their room. They asked her how many girls to each bed. When she told them that they could each have their own bed they were shocked and amazed. They proudly showed me their beds and their new toothbrushes.

Monday I will be starting physical exams and growth & development checks. I am excited and a little nervous. At this point we do not know the HIV status of any of these children. They range from age 5 to 10. Eventually we will be getting some as young as 3. Pray that I will have wisdom and sensitivity as I work with these children. Many of them have seen more in their 6 or 7 years than many of us will in a lifetime. Thank you again for your continued prayers and encouragement. I always love to hear from you!

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Mzungu Daktari!!

I am loving being able to put my medical training into practice here in the rural parts of East Africa. I am in fact, a Mzungu Daktari! That means a medical professional with white skin. Let me share with you a little about how I am implementing nursing into day-to-day ministry in Kenya.

The Kipkaren Childrens Home
On Friday the first children will arrive in the Kipkaren Childrens Home. ELI has chosen to not use the word orphanage because they truly want the children to feel that they are a part of a family. I will be helping to provide the medical care for the children. We will be accepting HIV+ children, and that has caused a bit of upset in the government. They are hesitant to approve for these children to live with those who test negative. Pray that God will soften hearts and open doors. I am currently preparing health forms for the physical exams and follow-up visits for the children. I will also help to give a training to the parents on basic health first-aid, HIV, and general child development.

Labuiywet Mobile Health Clinic
Once a month ELI journeys to the nearby village of Labuiywet. This village does not have any medical services available. They set up at a home and begin to see patients and provide HIV testing and counseling. Last week I joined another RN and a nursing assistant at this clinic. It was a wonderful and amazing experience. I treated malaria case after malaria case. It is amazing to me the lack of resources. From past experience I knew that that would be the case, however it seems I never cease to be amazed at how we treat them and send them on their way. So many patients I see here would be hospitalized in the states. We are hoping to up the visits to this area to weekly instead of just monthly.

Chebaiywa Health Clinic
This is the clinic that is partially funded by ELI. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work here several times each week. I am seeing patients and providing primary care alongside two incredible Kenyan nurses. Last week I had two patients who arrived in hypertensive crisis. I was seeing blood pressures of 230/120!! I was able to assume care of these patients and successfully bring them down to a safe range before, you guessed it! sending them home!!! I really hope to have an opportunity to do some education regarding this condition and its treatement.

On Thurs a woman was carried to the clinic and presented to me while my colleague was at lunch. She had a severe case of malaria. I was so thankul for the IV starting skills I have learned through ER work. She was severely dehydrated. We treated her with intravenous fluids, Quinine, SP, Tylenol and then sent her on her way. She left the clinic able to smile and walk on her own. What a blessing to be able to make a tangible difference in someones life!!

Specific Prayer Requests
After a little over a week of settling in I am ready to embark on the adventure of trying to learn Swahili. I must confessed that I am more than a little intimidated by some of the interns living in the village. It seems that they have somehow become close to fluent in under a month!! (ok, that is an exageration but it feels that way!) I am convinced that somehow the language acquisition part of my brain has been switched off. So pray that I will be a fast and studious learner.

Things truly are in high gear at the training center. Pray for energy and enthusiasm as I often pursue three or four projects at a time.

Please pray for my relationships. I am learning so much about the Kenyan culture. I am making many new friends and building relationships with old ones. I was able to spend a day in the kitchen cooking over a fire. I felt like I had stepped into the 1800s in the USA. The Kenyan ladies have been so gracious in welcoming and teaching me.

Continue to pray that Christ will draw me closer and closer to his heart. I want to know my savior on an even deeper level. I want others to see his love in my life every day. Know that you are all in my prayers as well. I would love to hear from home so send me your e-mails with updates!

My Day With the Ladies of the Night

Shortly after my arrival in Kipkaren Kenya I was able to spend a day with a special group of ladies. Empowering Lives International (ELI) has been very involved in HIV and AIDS awareness in this area of the country. They are frequently hosting special campaigns to promote education and awareness. At a recent campaign the area director was approached by a woman. She told him that she is a prostitute and she knows she is HIV positive. She wants to stop spreading the disease and to leave the lifestyle. However, she did not know how else she could support herself and her children.

This provoked the founding of a new ministry which some of the staff are referring to as the Samaritan Womens ministry. Several of the women mentioned that they did not have their own Bibles. On the morning after I arrived in Kenya I was asked to mark passages in a group of Swahili Bibles for these women. As I was finishing the women began to arrive. I looked up and saw a young woman in jeans and a baseball cap. I instantly thought to myself that she should changed or she was going to be confused with a streetwalker. Then I remembered that that is exactly who she is!

We shared a devotional with the women and then washed their feet and gave them pedicures. So far we have seen 5 of them come to Christ. Please join me in praying that these women will find productive ways of supporting their families. Another organization called Heavenly Treasures has been meeting with some of them to develop business proposals and do budgeting. I feel so blessed to be involved in a ministry that is truly putting the word of God into practice on a daily basis.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Heading Back

Assessing Orphans
Originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.
Final preparations are well underway! I'm now down to counting hours as opposed to days until I head out to Africa. It is amazing what an undertaking packing for three months can be. This photo is from my last trip to Kenya. At that time I was able to spend a few days at the Children's Home in Illula. I did health assessments for many of the orphans while there. This year most of my "work" will be with the orphans at the new orphanage in Kipkaren. I just found out that the children begin arriving in Kipkaren just two days before me. I am sooo excited to meet them!

Please pray for me as I prepare to step into their lives. The task is not going to be easy but I'm sure it will be one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I'm full of a gazillion thoughts and feelings these days. I can't wait to renew and build relationships with friends in Kenya. I'm sooo excited about meeting the kids. But I'm also going to miss my family while I'm gone. I'll be honest and say that I'm more than just a little drained as well. School was pretty tough this last quarter and I just finished finals last week.

Here are some updated prayer requests:
• Peace and a calm spirit during these final chaotic days as I prepare to leave.
• Safety (and NO MOTION SICKNESS) as I travel. It will take me two days of travel before I arrive in Kipkaren.
• An open heart and flexible spirit for what God has already prepared for me.
• Wisdom and direction.
• That I will grow closer to my Jesus with each new day.

Thanks a million for all of your prayers, support and encouragement! I’ll be checking my e-mail nursechelle@verizon.net every few weeks. I would love to hear from you! I’m just asking that you please not send photos, forwards or attachments. I’m working off of a veeeeeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy slow dial-up modem. The lines get clogged pretty easily. I look forward to hearing from you. Be on the lookout for my next post from the other side of the world!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Countdown to Kenya!!!

The countdown is on!! In less than a month I will be in Kenya. On June 14 I'll take my last final exam of the school-year. Then on June 21 I'll hop on a plane in LAX and fly to Amsterdam. After an 8hr layover I'll continue on to Nairobi. From there I'll take a small plane to the city of Eldoret (in the Western highlands of Kenya). From there I'll head out to the village of Kipkaren. I get tired just thinking about all of that travel!

The organization I'll be working with, Empowering Lives International, will be opening an orphanage in the village right around the time that I arrive. I'll be able to put my skills to work by helping to provide medical care for the orphans. Some of them will be HIV+. This is going to be a new and challenging experience for me. But I must say I'm rather excited and looking forward to whatever God brings my way. My past experience with African orphans is that so many of them just need someone to love them. Many of them have been through horribly traumatic experiences. Some have had to take on the role of head-of-the-household at age 12 or 13. I'll also be working with the local medical clinic and the home-based-care program in the area.

Please be praying for me during these final weeks before I leave. I want to be open to whatever it is that the Lord may have for me this summer. I'll be in Kenya for three months. I know that I will be introduced to the culture in a greater and deeper way than ever before. I really struggle with learning language; but I truly desire to have some rudimentary communication skills in Swahili before I return to the US. I am really looking forward to building my relationships with my Kenyan friends. Here are some ways you can be praying for me as I prepare to head out:

  • That I will continue to grow to know my Lord on a deeper level.
  • Focus and discipline as I complete my final few weeks of school.
  • Organization and a sense of God's presence and peace as I complete preparations to leave.
  • That God will prepare my heart for the things I will see, experience and do this summer.
  • My family's peace as we prepare to say goodbye for a while

Thank you so much for all of your prayers, support and encouragement! You truly are a part of my team. I will be posting updates throughout the summer to keep you up to date on my life in Kenya. Take care and God bless!