Monday, December 29, 2008

End of Year Giving

I don't often talk about finances. In fact I think this week is the first time I will have ever written anything about money in one of my blog postings. As you know, William and I are here in the USA over the holidays. During our time here we have had a lot of great conversations connecting with a lot of great people. During some of these conversations it's come to my attention that many people don't understand just how our ministry is funded. So I figured what better time than in the last few days of the year to explain?

Since we have been in the states we have been asked the question "What are your needs?" on a regular basis. And it is true that there are some items that we need to purchase while we are here in the states to take back with us to Kenya. But quite honestly our biggest physical need (we have no need as great as the one for prayer!) is financial support.

We work for a Christian non-government-mission organization. Now that's a mouthful! It's rather small with only a handful of Western missionaries on staff. Because it isn't a huge organization the ministry doesn't have a huge budget. Due to this fact William and I are required to raise both our salary and our ministry funds. I'm finding that many people are surprised by this. A lot of you probably knew that we had to raise our own salary but may be surprised to know that we have a financial responsibility in helping our ministry to happen as well.

In truth more than half of our monthly budget is used for ministry purposes that are not related to our daily living expenses. When we work with a family like Chelagat's we don't have an official fund to tap into. We simply take the funds out of our own account. The same goes for many purchases like new equipment, seeds for William's home-based-care patients etc.

Our current monthly giving is about 50% of our projected budget for 2009. So yes, one of our purposes for being here in the States right now is to try to bring that figure up closer to the projected budget. I don't want to make this a sappy message pleading for donations. But I do want to say that we would not be doing what we do in Africa without the support of financial partners around the world. The work we do happens because of people like you who help make it happen. One of our supporters recently said "I know I'm not the one physically delivering those babies, but when you deliver a baby I feel like I've been a part of it." And in a way it is true!

You should know that 100% of donations made to our account go into our account. If you have further questions please feel free to send me an e-mail here. I'd be happy to answer questions or even get together to chat while we are in CA.

So why get this information out today? Well because it seems like the end of the year is a good time to talk about tax-deductible-donations. If you would like to make an end-of-the-year gift it does need to be postmarked or electronically posted by December 31st. Every donation whether small or large helps. Some people choose to make one annual donation; others make monthly contributions. Some sign up for electronic monthly giving and others send donations at sporadic times throughout the year. We have had donations as big as $1,500 and as small as $10. Every little big makes a difference.

So how do you give? You can give electronically be following the links from the ELI Home Page or you can make a check payable to Empowering Lives Int'l. If you choose to write a check our name should not appear on the check. In the memo section you should write "Fund 323" which is our account number at the office. Checks can be mailed to:

Empowering Lives International
P.O. Box 67
Upland, CA 91785

Remember that for donations to count towards this years taxes they need to be postmarked or electronically posted by the 31st. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact William and I!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

UGH

Since arriving in CA William and I have been on the go. It has been rush here, rush there, meet with someone here, speak there. etc. You get the idea! The problem is that I really love all of it! I want to see as many people as possible and experience as much of America as we can in the time that we are here. But it has been a lot and I've been feeling pretty run down for the last week.

Three days ago my throat started getting sore and I noticed that my tonsils were rather big. Well I have chronic allergies and so I basically attributed the swelling to some post-nasal drip as well as general fatigue. I've felt tired and icky but no other symptoms. Well last night my mom thought I had a fever. When I woke up this AM my throat was burning. So I decided to pull out my good old torch (flashlight) and take a look.

I have never had strep-throat before but I'm a medical professional and I've certainly diagnosed and treated it. One look at my swollen-pus-covered tonsils and I knew I had strep. Unfortunately I don't have health insurance. But I know that strep can be pretty serious. If untreated it can affect the kidneys, heart and even neurological system. So I decided I needed to suck it up and go see someone.

I was contemplating going to a homeless clinic when I remembered that CVS now has Minute Clinics where you pay cash to be treated for basic medical problems. I went to my local clinic and was treated by a really sweet NP. She took one look at my throat and agreed that I had a classic case of strep. She kept telling me "can you feel how swollen your lymph nodes are?? You are really sick girl!". No kidding! That's why I'm here. Sure enough the rapid test came back positive.

So I'm now in isolation for the next 24hrs while I wait for the penicillin to knock the bacteria down to a non-contagious level. Fun stuff! At least I should be feeling good by Christmas day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

William's Observations


Since arriving in the USA the number one question we have been asked is "What does William think of America?" He wants to let everyone know that he thinks America is a wonderful country. One of his surprises has been how kind and welcoming people are. Most of our American visitors to Kenya make comments about how they find Kenyans to be more friendly than Americans. So he was prepared for a colder welcome. He has been amazed at how friendly, open and welcoming people have been to him.

However I do believe that meeting so many new people has been a bit overwhelming. The vast number of choices available are also a bit much to take in. He actually isn't quite sure how to respond to the "what do you think?" question. Some people seem surprised when he says it is a wonderful country. Almost as if they expect him to say that he is disgusted by materialism and picking up on the not-so-nice things about our country.

I know that I have been overwhelmed with realizations over and over again this last year about how wonderful a country America is. Yes, she has her faults. But when you stack her up against what a lot of countries deal with on a day-to-day basis, America is a pretty amazing and wonderful country. A land of opportunity.

So my take on William's impressions is that he has not been shocked. He has been hearing from me and from visiting Americans for years about what America is like. I think there have been adjustments but not major shocks. Not sure if that makes sense?

I hope that answers questions a bit. William told me this week that the biggest highlight of this year has been getting to come and visit America and learn about my world. Thank you to all of those who have given us this wonderful welcome! We just had an amazing getaway to San Diego. It was a gift from a friend I used to work with. Thank you so much Iberay for that wonderful treat!

I'll try to get some more San Diego pictures up later this week. We were blessed with not only the gift of a hotel room with a bay view, but with trips to the Zoo and Sea World!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Observations

As I prepare to get in bed (yes at 8:30 PM!!!) I was mulling over just a few observations I have made about life these past few days:
  • The toilet paper in America is a whole lot softer than in Kenya
  • Jet lag seems to get harder to recover from with each passing year
  • Women in the western world wear a lot of makeup (especially airline stewardesses)
  • In America I get to take an AWESOME, HOT shower with GREAT water pressure, even when I don't really NEED a shower; in Kenya I sometimes skip my bucket bath because it is so inconvenient even though I probably really do need it!
  • American grocery stores are truly amazing. Seriously! I almost got lost in Albertsons the other night
  • I'm back to using Kleenex instead of a hankie to blow my nose
  • It's wonderful to be around close friends and family where you can just be yourself
  • The dogs here are larger than in Kenya
  • The cars are larger, newer, and go faster than in Kenya
  • The roads here are amazing! As in you can get from point A to point B without any teeth rattling out of your head
  • Not only can I buy tortillas, but I have like 15 different types and brands to choose from
  • William and I have been blessed with some incredibly special and supportive people in our lives. Without them we couldn't be in Kenya. Connecting with just a few of them so far has been great!
  • It is wonderful to put on a pair of trousers (in Kenya the word pants is equivalent to panties) and actually wear them outside my home. I'm used to always wearing skirts in Africa.
  • Life in general is way more convenient here
  • I don't really feel at home in CA anymore; but I don't really feel at home in Kenya either. Does that make me a nomad or something like that?
  • And lastly, I'm very very very tired. I'm sure I will make many many more observations about my home culture in the coming weeks. But for now I'm going to study the back of my eyelids and crawl into bed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Parole???

After nearly a year of marriage I'm officially becoming a Kiprop. I spent most of yesterday going to Social Security, the DMV and the bank to get paperwork processed for changing my name. My mom and Ashley came along to keep me company. William was kidnapped by my father. While we were waiting in eternal lines they were enjoying In-N-Out and experiencing American stores like the Bass Pro Shop, Target, Home Depot and Big 5 Sporting Goods.

Anyway! I drove into what I remembered being the social security office and found it closed. In the next parking lot over I noted a building in the same style with the same color paint. So I figured "Oh, they moved next door." I pulled in and noticed that all the characters (at least a dozen) hanging out in the front looked a little rough around the edges. But I figured that all types show up at Social Security. As we walked up to the building I was getting the feeling that I just may have been wrong. I asked a lady leaving if this was social security and the response was "Heck no, this is the parole office!". Oops! I did find the new just office about a mile down the street.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Countdown

Tomorrow William and I will leave the village and beginning three days of travel to head to the USA for two months of re-connecting and support raising. It is amazing to me all that has happened in my just-over-a-year of being in Kenya. Some things that stand out about this last year:
  • Getting married!!
  • Post Election Violence (with homes in our neighborhood burning down)
  • A crazy, scary, car ride through multiple illegal roadblocks on Jan 31 when one of our parliament members was shot to death a few blocks from us
  • William's alcoholic mother moving in with us for a few months
  • William's mother sobering up, giving her life to the Lord, and being baptized!
  • Being a suburbia girl suddenly turned farm-girl (yes I know a lot about cows and chickens now!!)
  • Rolling, and totaling a friend's Land Rover
  • Living to tell about the car accident
  • William changing departments in ministry (He now works in Agricultural Development with our Home Based Care and AIDS patients)
  • Starting a new charting system and opening a well baby clinic at the ELI Dispensary
  • Rescuing several children who were starving to death
  • Losing a few of our clients and attending an AIDS baby's funeral
  • Rejoicing that I could hold a 60 second conversation in Swahili with a 5-year-old
  • Losing my grandmother and not being able to tell her goodbye
  • Getting electricity after months of doing without
  • Encountering some really scary snakes (and also living to tell about it!)
  • Building our house up around us as we lived in it
  • Surviving interesting tropical diseases
  • Meeting and making friends with some really special people here in Africa
And many many many many more!!! Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of the Kiprops!

Michelle Update

Here is the cutey pie! She is doing great! Her and Victoria came over to our house (just next door) for dinner the other night. Michelle slept through most of the visit though.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Day of Victories!!!

Today was a day that saw many dreams come true!

William has his visa!!!! He had to make three separate trips to the US embassy to pick it up but he finally has it in his hands! We will be arriving in the states before Thanksgiving and staying through the end of January.

Well Baby Clinic Launched!!! I've been dreaming, planning and working hard towards starting a well baby clinic at our health center. Today was our first day implementing the new plan. We did physical exams and started medical records for the first nine babies. One baby was referred to a specialist for treatment of a foot deformity that will likely require surgery. Being able to refer that little boy was a reminder to me of just why I wanted this clinic up and functioning. It is my hope that we catch physical problems while the babies are still young so that early intervention can be performed. It was great to have the first payoff on the first day!!!

We had a delivery. Okay, so delivering babies in our clinic is really nothing very new or unusual. But it is always a miracle. The mom arrived at 8AM and delivered a healthy baby boy at 8:15AM!!! She walked home carrying her son at 11:30AM. Yeah, these Kenyan ladies are pretty hard core. It was a wonderful delivery without a single complication. What a wonderful way to start a wonderful day!

Well I confess that I am now thoroughly exhausted. I was ready for the day to be over by lunch time. But it is a wonderful day for which I thank the Lord! Now I get to go back to scheduling our USA trip. It is amazing how many details need to be worked out in just a week!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Baby Michelle

I am pleased to announce that baby Michelle has gained two lbs in her two weeks with us at the Home Based Care office. She is now two months old and just over nine lbs. She is very alert and loves watching the adults around her make funny faces. My camera is currently missing in action. I'm sincerely hoping that we are looking right at it and just not seeing it. But I don't know where it could be. Once I find it I will get more pictures of Miss Michelle uploaded. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Diagnoses

Well I finally wrapped up my visits to the tropical medicine specialists. The final consensus was that I have two bacterial infections and lots of worms. Fun stuff! So I'm now on strong drugs to kill all of the above-mentioned critters. I'm also battling a sprained ankle and some bruising from a fall on a bus in Nairobi. I feel like the walking wounded!!

But the good news is that everything should be taken care of by the time we travel before Thanksgiving. I'm hoping to go see baby Michelle this afternoon. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Coming to America

After two years of working towards a visa for my wonderful husband I am pleased to announce that we have success! William is hesitant to share the news here in Kenya because he doesn't actually have the visa in his hands yet. He comes back to Nairobi to pick it up on Nov 12th. But the interviewer assured us that "yes, this was the last step in the process and yes it was approved"!!!!

We will be in CA for all of December and part of January. I'm looking forward to seeing many of you. And I'm excited to introduce you to William! It will be nice to have a Christmas in CA. My last two have been here in Kenya.

Things William will miss about Kenya:
  • Watching out for our animals (Cows, sheep, chickens, dogs and cat!)
  • Eating ugali Kenya's staple food
  • Taking chai from freshly boiled milk
  • His cell phone with the free incoming calls
  • Hearing and speaking his mother tongue
  • Knowing everyone within a 5 mile radius of the house
  • His clients and the work that he does with them
Some things he is looking forward to:
  • Meeting my extended family
  • Experiencing snow for the first time
  • Traffic that drives on the right (as in correct) side of the road
  • Seeing the Pacific ocean
  • Finding out about this "Starbucks" that his wife always raves about
  • Catching up with friends who have come on teams or for visits here in Kenya
  • Finding out what it is like to sit on an airplane for hours and hours on end
  • Going to my home church with me
  • Seeing the whales at Sea World (I have two free tickets that have been burning a hole in my pocket)
  • And of course, sharing with you about our life here in Kenya!

eeyyyyaahhh

I realize that eeyyyyaahh is an interesting title for this blog. But I am in an interesting place. This week so far has been rather eventful. Let's start with Obama.

So Obama has been a craze here ever since he visited in 2006. He is a "son of the soil" and loved by every Kenyan I meet. You would think he was running for office in Kenya the way all of the country is talking about and campaigning for him. In fact every day this week he has been on the front page of every newspaper with no less than 6 articles inside the paper about him. Immediately following McCain's concession speech President Kibaki (Kenya's president) declared that tomorrow will be a national holiday to celebrate Obama's victory.

Which brings me to my next point. Let me first give a disclaimer here. Those of you who don't like reading/talking about bodily functions or medical stuff can skip the next two paragraphs. For the last seven or eight months I've been having all sorts of gastrointestinal issues. Every two to six weeks they come on and last for 1-4 days and then go away. Sometimes I play doctor on myself. Once I had a malaria test. But the entire time I've been rather baffled at what the source is. I've had several friends recommend a tropical medicine specialist in Nairobi. But ever time I'm in Nairobi I feel great and thus I don't go. Well the interval between episodes has decreased. And I'm getting ready to make a trip back to the USA for the holidays (yes, there will be more info on that one) so I decided I better get this taken care of now. Especially since I have no health insurance.

So today I decided it was time to go to the specialist. The doctor was wonderful. He is married to a mzungu (white lady) from Europe. They have been married for 28 years! When he heard I was a medical missionary he gave me a discount. After some basic tests we discovered that I have a chronic infection of some sort (my WBC's are off for those of you medical people out there). But unfortunately I was not able to produce THE sample that was needed to determine if I have worms, parasites, etc. They are also strongly suspecting that I have an ulcer. So they want to do a test for the bacteria which causes ulcers. Unfortunately said test also requires the above-mentioned specimen that I could not produce. All day I tried. I walked several miles, and ate salad and fruit. When I got back to the lab I was told "try coffee, really strong coffee". So I went to Java House and ordered a mocha with an extra shot of espresso. Now I probably won't sleep tonight and I wasn't able to produce the desired specimen. Due to this fact I now get to spend two more days in Nairobi. That's right, TWO days. Because tomorrow everything will be closed to celebrate Obama. So Friday I'll finish my workup and get the meds I need to hopefully cure what ails me!

Friday, October 31, 2008


Yesterday baby Michelle and her caregiver Victoria moved into their new living quarters. They will be here the next two months while we work to help Michelle gain weight and strength. I have a feeling that she is going to do very well. By last night she was more alert than I had seen her before.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CPR Class


William (in the center) demonstrating back blows for a choking victim in the CPR class.

Michelle and Michelle


About a month ago we had some chaos at the clinic in the middle of the night. William (unbeknown to me as I was sleeping like a baby) got up to check it out. He came home and woke me up with these words "There is a big crisis at the clinic". So I hopped out of bed to start pulling on my boots. Then he said "Don't bother, she's already dead".

It turned out that a woman who lives on the other side of the river had given birth at home. She had a retained placenta and began hemorrhaging. After a few hours of trying to stop the bleeding her family and neighbors put her on a plastic tarp and carried her to the clinic. She died shortly after arriving at our dispensary. The baby however lived.

A few days later I met the baby for the first time. Her name is Michelle. Her grandmother has been taking care of her since she was born. As a clinic and Home Based Care staff we have tried to provide as much support as possible. But Michelle is still really struggling. She is not developing well and definitely not thriving. So this week the decision was made that she will come and stay with us on the clinic grounds. She will be living in the new Home Based Care office along with Victoria who was the caregiver for our last clinic charge, Flovia. Please pray that she begins gaining both weight and energy. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Busy Busy

Wow! It's been a busy and emotional week or so. I still haven't gotten around to moving pictures from my camera to my computer. I'm really hoping it will happen sometime this week.

This weekend was super full as we attended David and Allison's (colleagues) wedding. I went with some of the ladies the day before the wedding to help decorate. We spent the night at the place where the wedding was to be held. It was the same venue that William and I had our second wedding reception. So it brought back a lot of special memories. I still can't get over how much has happened in those short ten months since we said our vows.

This week also promises to be long and emotional. Today we have a ladies party for Allison, it's a national holiday here in Kenya. Wed is my 29th birthday. It will be my first one away from CA and my parents. Due to the chaos we have been experiencing lately we haven't made any plans at all. I think I'll have a few friends over to share dinner though.

Speaking of friends, a dear friend of mine is moving away this week. Adele believes that God is calling her on to something new and different from ELI. Thursday night we will say goodbye to her. My eyes fill with tears as I just think about saying goodbye.

Well hopefully somewhere in the course of this week I'll get some pictures and more interesting stories up for you. In the meantime know that we are pressing on in what God has for us. Hugs from Africa!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Zebras, Baboons and Gazelle's - Oh My!

It has been an exhausting and draining few weeks. I keep meaning to post and keep running out of time and or energy. I wanted to put pictures up but just realized that I forgot to bring my camera along with me; I'm in Nairobi once again.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting the US Embassy to pick up a letter regarding William's visa application. I have no idea yet what it says. But I am sincerely hoping it is a letter of approval. If that is the case we will be able to schedule his physical exam and an interview. Once he passes the exam and interview we would have a visa. I'm hoping that all will work out so that we can be in CA for Christmas. I'll keep you posted!

I mentioned it had been a busy week. We had an incredible team from Salem OR here this last week. I had the privilege of working with two of the ladies in the clinic. One was a physical therapy assistant. She gave some great trainings to our staff. The other works for the Red Cross. We were able to hold a full CPR and First Aid course over the course of the week. Some days we had up to 26 people in attendance. Nineteen people completed the entire course and earned certificates of completion. Doing a first aid training was one of my dreams/goals for this year. So thanks team for helping make it happen!!

I also had a visit from a friend of mine who is a missionary in Sudan. Anna came in on Friday and spent the weekend with us. She is amazing. I call her super-nurse and super-missionary. It was refreshing to share stories and just spend time together. Unfortunately she has been suffering from malaria. So I got to play nurse to my friend this weekend. We are praying she will be back on her feet before heading back to Sudan on Wed.

Anna and I took the shuttle down to Nairobi together this morning. The last few times I've made the drive I haven't seen any wildlife whatsoever (unless you want to count cows, pigs, sheep and goats!) but today we hit the jackpot! We saw zebras, baboons and gazelles between home and Nairobi. We were keeping our eyes peeled for a lion or giraffe (not too likely to be spotted from the road). I'll be flying home with my colleague Adele on Wed AM.

Friday, October 03, 2008

oops

I just realized that it's going on two weeks since my last post. I guess I've been busy! I've actually had a few stories on my mind that I want to get on the blog. I just haven't had the time to upload the pictures and sit with the computer to get them written.

Getting home from Nairobi was a bit of a rough week. We actually had two funerals that week. A young lady died in childbirth (more on that story to come in a future post), and we lost one of the leaders in our church. I don't know if I will ever get used to the fact that death is a normal part of life here. Then I was down last weekend with some sort of gastro-intestinal bug. But I'm back on my feet and in full swing now.

We have a team coming in from Salem, OR today. I'm pretty excited because two of the ladies will be joining us in the clinic. We have been e-mailing plans back and forth over the last few weeks. One of the ladies works for the Red Cross. It looks like we will be holding our very first CPR and First Aid training. Our staff is pretty excited. They study CPR in school but there are no certification/re-cert programs required by the Ministry of Health here. It should be a good, if busy, week!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Address

I just wanted to let everyone know that from now on William and I will have our own private mailbox. So we would prefer to receive any correspondance or packages at the new address. The old address belongs to ELI and we will still work for ELI; so if you have sent anything to that address don't panic, we should still get it. Here is the new address:

William and Michelle Kiprop
P.O. Box 6367
Eldoret
KENYA

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tired but Hopeful

It's been a long day; it's been a good day. Today I was "very Kenyan" and used all public transportation to get from Eldoret to the Nairobi guest house where I stay when traveling through the city. I left the house at 6:30AM and arrived at the guest house at 4:30PM.

Had I flown the flight would have been much shorter than the trip to the airport. But I also would have spent nine times the price of the public transport. That's right, NINE times!!! That's what I kept reminding myself as my teeth were rattling out of my head down the bumpy road.

Then I had the privilege of hauling my luggage from the mini-bus shuttle to a matatu (14 passenger van) to do inner-city transfers. This also cost me a fraction of what hiring a taxi would have. It was my first time ever navigating public transport without William at my side. I was pretty proud that I arrived in one piece without anything lost or stolen in the process.

So why am I in Nairobi? I'm carrying out the next step in applying for William's visa to the USA. We are really really really hoping we can make it to CA for Christmas. But we have no idea how the timeline is going to go. I have an appointment to turn in an application tomorrow afternoon. From there it will be 30 to 60 days before we can move to the next step of a physical exam, immunizations and background checks.

But for some reason I'm feeling hopeful tonight. I'm remembering how for two years we tried to get William a passport. And then the doors opened just weeks before traveling to Congo. So I know that when the time is right we will get the visa. I have a good feeling about this application.

I'm also smiling after catching up with a friend who is a missionary in Sudan. It just worked out that we were both staying at the same guest house this week. She is also a nurse and we spent a few hours this afternoon laughing and sharing crazy stories about nursing in Africa.

But I'm also missing my hubby. He called to tell me that the house was feeling big, quiet and lonely without me there. He tells me that even Jack (our cat) is sad that I'm gone. But I'll be back by Wed. This is an in-and-out trip to get the paperwork filed. I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open after this long day. I think it's time to call it a night and fall into the wonderful Mayfield bed! Lala Salama (Sleep in Peace!)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some D.R.C. Highlights


There are approximately 600 children attending the ELI school in Bukavu. The school is located in the heart of the slum of Keredi. Most of the families living in the slum were originally from villages. They fled to Bukavu for the safety of the city during the war. Due to overcrowding they have wound up in the slum. Every day lunch is served at the school. For many of these children this is the only meal they take for the entire day!


One day we made the two-and-a-half hour drive out to Mudakereza's home village of Chihonga. It was quite an experience!! We crossed dozens of bridges that looked like the one above. William was checking this one out before we attempted to cross.


William and I were both blown away by the village. Or maybe I should I say we were blown away by the needs in the village. One of the first things that we noticed was the lack of animals. Being from a village in Kenya we are used to seeing tons of cows, goats, sheep, chickens and dogs running around. We drove for two hours before we spotted our first cow; it was skin and bones. Mudakereza told us that most of the animals were taken during raids from rebel armies during the war. The villages are still trying desperately to recover. The cows that are still around only produce about 1 -2 liters of milk a day. (Our cows in Kenya typically produce 15 - 20 liters/day.)

We participated in a training session for delegates from surrounding communities. Each delegate represented a group of 100 to 150 people who are working on community development projects. The delegates collect the information from the training session then go back to their communities to hold their own training sessions.

William taught an agricultural session on planting beans. The audience was very receptive and had many questions for him. As I was sitting and preparing for my session I was honestly having a terrible time trying to figure out what to talk about. I kept asking Mudakereza questions like "Do you have problems with malaria here?" His answers were always "Yes! It's a huge problem!" He would then follow up with a comment like "But don't talk about using mosquito nets to prevent it because these people don't have access to nets." So my session turned into a Q&A with me doing my best to answer questions about low back pain, falling uterus's, arthritis, skin disorders and a host of other problems.
Then I began to ask some questions of my own:

"Where is the closest medical facility?"

"20 miles away. "

"How do you get there?"

"We walk."

"What if you are too sick to walk?"

"Someone carries you."

"Where do you buy your medicines?"

"We can get Tylenol at the clinic 20 miles away."

"How can I pray for you today?"

"Please pray that God sends someone to start a clinic in our community."


I'm currently uploading photos to my Flickr account that have stories and captions with them. So if you are interested in even more on our Congo trip click here to go check it out.








Thursday, September 11, 2008

Child Soldier


Child Soldier, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

My first exposure to child soldiers was doing the 30-Hour-Famine as a student in high school. World Vision was talking about creating rehabilitation camps for children who had been forced to fight in violent wars. About a decade later I found out about Invisible Children and their movement to create awareness and stop child soldiers in Uganda.

Last year I read the book "Long Way Gone" which was an autobiography by a child soldier. It was powerful and I read it with different eyes. You see I was aware that I might be spending some time in the DRC, a country with a huge track record for child soldiers.

Sure enough there are children living in the Keredi slum who are former soldiers. This boy, Just, came to us asking if he can please join the school to begin getting an education. He formerly fought as a soldier in a rebel army in Congo.

Some D.R. Congo Photos


Visiting a hospital in the city of Bukavu.


William serving uji (porridge) to the children at the school.





When we arrived at the ELI school in the slum of Keredi we were welcomed with traditional dancing and songs.






William's first international flight!





Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

It's been one of those days. We had an amazing time in Bukavu and Chihonga, D.R. Congo. We've been trying to get back to Kenya all day. Our airplane* had a stop in Burundi before coming to Rwanda to pick us up and take us to Nairobi. As it taxied into the Kigali (Rwanda's capital) airport one of the wings clipped an electric pole. So the wing was damaged and we began the hurry up and wait process.

After several hours we were finally told that the plane would come at 8PM and we could leave the airport for a few hours if we wanted. We joined up with another waiting passenger and headed to a local Italian place. I must say I've been rather impressed with Kigali. For starters they drive on the right side of the road!!! And it is amazing how clean and organized the city is.

Well it's now after 8. We have gone through tons of security checks. And I think I've filled out more customs forms on this single trip to Kigali than in all of my Nairobi trips combined!

I'm now hearing an announcement saying that we will be departing at 11PM. Ah, gotta love international travel in Africa!!! I'm running low on battery. But hopefully tomorrow I'll get a chance to load up some Congo pictures and stories. In the meantime let me keep hurrying up and waiting!!!

Before I finish up I just have to share that there is an Australian man screaming at the top of his lungs "Who is running this show!!??? Who is running this show???!!!" I believe security officials are making their way here to quiet him down. I'm starting to wonder if we should have taken them up on the earlier suggestion to spend the night in the city and come back tomorrow. It's reminding me of a layover I once had in Zimbabwe that became 24hrs.

*This incident occurred before prior to us getting on the plane, so NO I was NOT in a crash of any sort.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Yum Yum


Matumbo is a much desired delicacy here. Want to take a guess what it is??? Goat intestines!!! The white stuff is ugali. It's made of maize flour, salt and water. It is the staple food here in Kenya. We saved a bit of matumbo from William's birthday party. I was looking for some scraps for the dog and William said "Don't touch my matumbo!". Just the smell of it makes me nauseous!

William's Party

A few of the birthday guests after speech time. All of the guests received a seedling avacado tree from William as a token of thanks for helping him celebrate his birthday.

The Kiprop Kritters

Here are just a few of the Kiprop Kritters. We also have a pregnant cow, a dog named Rex (who does not like to be photographed), a dog who thinks she belongs to us, a sheep, and 20 chickens!


Jack is the king of the Kiprop household. He is one spoiled kitty cat. I give him cat food (virtually unheard of in Kenya) and William and all house guests feed him from the table (the traditional way of caring for cats!)


Our new puppy, Socks. It's nice to have another girl in the house! We were supposed to pick a puppy from her litter a month from now. But her mother was killed so she came home early. As you can see she is having fun with her milk and puppy food!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thoughts on Care Packages

Hhhmmmmm I've been debating all week on whether or not to write this post. You see I don't want to give the wrong impression or come off selfish, greedy, whiny or demanding. I've recently had several people ask me about receiving care packages. So after just answering another e-mail on the topic I decided to go ahead and write a post about care packages. So there is my disclaimer, please don't read this as me begging for care packages! No I don't have running water or a normal stove/oven, but I'm not suffering in agony in the bush as some may imagine. But that being said, I will confess that in being human there are some things that I do get homesick for. And there is always a happy dance associated with the receiving of cards, pictures, letters, or care packages.

OK, enough rambling! Yes, we can receive packages. No they don't always arrive or arrive in a timely manner. I am pleased to say that we did receive all of our Christmas packages. They all arrived on January 31st! So far I've had one big (as in bulky AND expensive) package fail to arrive. And who knows, it may still show up... My colleague Juli once got Christmas cookies from her grandmother nine months after Christmas!

All international packages typically go through a customs office before getting to us. Anything in a box gets opened, inspected and often taxed. Envelopes are very rarely opened or taxed. They also seem to arrive in a more timely manner. Even bulky bubble wrap envelopes. So the trick I think is to send small quantities in envelopes instead of big expensive boxes.

What do we like to get? Here are some ideas:
  • Seasoning Packets for Cooking (especially taco, and fajita seasoning!!!)
  • Crystal Light Packets
  • M&M's (regular and peanut butter are our favorites)
  • Dried Parmesan Cheese
  • Tazo Passion Tea
  • Hot Chocolate Packets/Apple Cider Packets
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Worship Music/Christian CD's
  • DVD's (we can watch them on our computer)
  • Updated picture(s) of your family
  • Personal notes/cards with encouraging scriptures
  • Flavored instant coffee
  • Books (inspirational, Christian fiction, interesting biographies etc.)
  • Just about anything Bath and Body Works
Where do you send them to?
William and Michelle Kiprop
c/o Empowering Lives International
P.O. Box 8199
Eldoret
KENYA

It actually helps if both of our names are on the package. We have to show ID when we pick up a package. And if my name is the only one on the package William can't pick them up and bring them home.

Again, let me reiterate the best thing you can do is pray for us! We can and do live fine without care packages. They are not a must by any means. And we love getting cards from the USA that don't come with packages. Just knowing that someone thought about us and cared enough to send a word of encouragement is a huge blessing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Birthday William!!!


Today is William's 33rd birthday!! We are having a private birthday dinner tonight. Sunday will be a big party. It is going to be completely Kenyan. Meaning that today they bought the goat which will be slaughtered on Saturday night. It is bleating it's little heart out. I don't know how I will be able to cook and eat it! But I truly want it to be a special birthday celebration. So I shall grit my teeth and do it Kenyan style. Happy birthday my love!!

Back in Business

My computer is home!!!! It is so wonderful to have my old friend back. I was going through some serious music withdrawals. I'm sooooooo glad that they did not wipe my hard drive clean!! I also just got an external hard drive so that from now on my work can be backed up properly. But I'm just so thrilled to be back in business. Hopefully I can start getting some pictures uploaded pretty soon now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Prayer Partners

In the past I've tried to send out an updated prayer/praise list on a monthly to bi-monthly basis. When my computer broke I lost all of my pre-set address books. So if you are wanting to receive my prayer updates via e-mail please send me an e-mail to let me know and I will add you to the list. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nostalgia

Wow, three posts in one day, this must be some kind of record for me!!! I'm trying to wrap some things up before heading home to make dinner. But as I'm sitting here working I'm listening to the enthusiastic singing of youth from our community.

Youth camp starts tonight. We are expecting approx 400 youth between the ages of 15 and 25 to come stay at the ELI compound through Sunday. You can feel the energy in the air. Listening to the singing takes me back to a night back in the summer of 1994.... I was at the Lord's Boot Camp in Merritt Island, FL. I was preparing for my first mission trip to Brazil.

They dimmed the lights in the big top tent and asked everyone to close their eyes. Then the crowd was asked to imagine that it is just before dawn and they hear birds singing. In the distance you hear a group of Africans heading on their way to church to worship. As we were imagining, a choir of Africans (from all over Africa) began to dance into the tent singing acapella. It was a moment that will stay with me for as long as I live. I think it was the first moment I felt the call of Africa on my heart.

So as I sit in the office finishing some computer work I'm taken back to that hot summer night. I'm reminded that this is an amazing continent full of amazing people. That this is the place that God put in my heart. That I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be at this exact moment in time.

Two to Go

Juli and I have had the privilege of conducting well child exams at our Children's Home. We have been meeting every Wednesday morning to do the physicals. We have 92 down and 2 to go till we are done for the year.

In 2006 I remember doing the medical intake for the first 56 kids to come into the Home. It has been amazing to see the difference between then and now. As I read the medical notes that I wrote during those initial assessments I'm amazed at the progress that has been made.

There were a few girls who were fearful during their 06' exams. It is so exciting to see those same girls laughing through their exams. Many children were severely malnourished when they arrived; it's exciting to see them climbing the growth charts these days! We have a few with heart murmurs that need to be checked out. But overall it has been amazing to see the progress. What an honor to have a part in these little ones lives.

Technology

Technology and I have never been the best of friends. You could just ask my patients from my old nursing days in the US. Trying to figure out some of those IV pumps was a real nightmare!!

But technology in Kenya is an interesting thing. For example, here I sit in the middle of a Kenyan village in the middle of nowhere and I am on the internet!!!! We use a satellite uplink. Sometimes it works great and sometimes.....well sometimes not so great.

Another interesting thing is cell phones. Almost everyone here has a cell phone. You buy "scratch cards" to put credit on your phone. So it is a pay-as-you-go system. No monthly plans, no paying for incoming calls. It is actually a great system. But it is a bit ironic that you can be sitting by the river where people are watering their cows, and suddenly you hear the tune "Jingle Bells" going off from someones cell phone.

Then there are the showers..... I don't have running water at my house. So I have the privilege of boiling water and hauling it to my outside shower for a bucket bath. But some of my colleagues with running water have these incredible electric shower heads. I know, I know, electricity and water aren't supposed to go together right? Well somehow this incredible shower head flash-heats the water using electricity as the water passes through it. There are certain parts of the shower head that are not advisable to touch. As in you get a wake-up shock. Then there was the shower head that caught on fire, but that is a story for another time and another place..........

Monday, August 18, 2008

Long Awaited Good News

William has his passport!!!!!!

He just called and told me. I'm headed out the door but I wanted to share the good news!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nothing Can Go Wrongo

As a child I remember singing a catchy song with the lyrics "Nothing can go wrongo, I'm in the Congo!" Very soon I may really be in the Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo that is.

William is currently in Nairobi trying to get his passport. He left on Friday but didn't make it in time before the office closed. He is now staying the weekend with some relatives waiting to hit the office first thing Monday AM. We received word on Thurs that his passport is there. So we are praying and hoping that it really is.

As soon as William calls to tell me he has the passport I'll be booking our flights to the Rwanda/DR Congo border. Our tentative schedule has us traveling along with colleagues Kierra and Wendy. After arriving in DRC we will be meeting with the Empowering Lives area director.

ELI has a school for children living in the slum of Keredi in the city of Bukavu. As a team we will be getting to know some of the children and listening to their personal stories. ELI has dreams of eventually opening a pediatric clinic in the slum area. So I'll be investigating where I may fit into health ministry in the DRC. William will also be checking out ministry opportunities where he may be needed.

We are excited to see where God is taking us in future ministry opportunities, whether in Kenya or in the DRC. I have a feeling that this next year may be just as full as this one has already been. Thanks for walking the journey with us. Please pray with us that William's passport is ready by the beginning of next week. And if you are interested in making a donation to help finance our trip to the DRC you can donate to our account using the link at the left. I'll keep you posted!!

Monday, August 04, 2008

oops

It was just brought to my attention that I'm a bit behind in posting updates. Oops! Sorry bout that. I actually wasn't on the computer very much last week. When we traveled to Kijabe I had the computer configured for internet there. So when we got home to Kipkaren I couldn't get back on our connection. I finally caught up with our computer tech who fixed it for me. Then the power went out! So I'm finally sitting down to get caught up on e-mail etc. today.

I actually don't have too much to report at the moment. But I do have a piece of good news. Jeptoo (the mother of Chelagat) is doing really well. She has been diligently working and is now providing the majority of the food for her family herself! In fact she even brought William and I a few ears of corn last week. She came over to say asante (thank you) and to ask if there is anything she can do for us to show her gratitude.

So I want to send out a big thanks to those of you who prayed for and even assisted financially to help Jeptoo and the girls get on their feet again. It's been quite a journey. I'm excited to see where God is taking them at this time.

Now it's back to catching up on those e-mails! Oh, and I want to make sure that I don't come across like catching up on e-mail is a bad thing. I absolutely LOVE getting e-mail. Sometimes it's those messages from friends and family that make my day! Every now and then I get an e-mail that says something like "I know you are so busy that I try not to write and disturb you very often." Please please please know that it is the opposite, getting e-mail makes me smile and brings joy to my heart.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hilarious

Earlier today we were freezing while waiting in line to pay mama's hospital bill. William made the suggestion that maybe we should go sit in the operating waiting room. They had an electric heater and a TV there. We are having a horrible time with the weather here. It is so cold and wet! My teeth have been chattering.

A few minutes ago I was heading out to take a shower. (Bathrooms are shared in most Kenyan guest houses and motels.) I didn't know where William was so I called him to ask if he wanted me to lock the door or leave it open. He told me "Go ahead and lock it, I'm just watching some TV." As I was showering it occurred to me that there is no TV at the motel. He had gone back to the hospital to warm up and catch the news!!!

Sigh

I find myself sighing this afternoon. Mostly with relief but I confess there is a bit of frustration mixed in there. For the last two weeks I've been dreading this week. I must say I'm thankful that it is soon coming to a close. Too many things going on. Taking public ground transportation all the way to Kijabe and Nairobi (shudder!). Mama's double surgery. My grandmother's funeral back in the States. Trying to pick up William's passport. Dealing with the US embassy regarding immigration issues..... A lot for one week!

This afternoon mama was discharged from the hospital She had an extremely successful thyroidectomy. (Meaning they took out her thyroid!) She also had D&C to deal with some uterus issues and that went off without a hitch as well. What is amazing is that the cost wound up being less for both surgeries than just one would have been at our hospital back home. Not to mention that I was at least twice as happy with the quality of care here than I have been back home. She is now resting in her motel room downstairs. She was so happy we got her out of the hospital and into her private room with the big double bed here.

I have to give great thanks to Leann, an American physician here in Kijabe. She has been a HUGE blessing to us. I honestly think we might have still been in the workup process without all of Leann's help.

Yesterday William and I headed down to Nairobi to pick up his passport. Well it was the same old story, no passport! "But maybe it will be here next week." Yeah right! I'm also having fun dealing with the US embassy. They are giving me the typical US run around. Call this number. But that's the one that just referred me to you! Who knows if we will ever make it to the USA? I'm just glad that it only cost us $7 to use public transportation to get to Nairobi and back again!

Tomorrow we will head home to Kipkaren. It's sounding like transportation is going to be a bit of an issue. (Another big "what else is new!") I must say I'm looking forward to the weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hot Water

No, not like we are in trouble, hot water... real genuine hot water!! Last night I got to take a shower with real hot water running down on my body. What a magnificent thing!!! It was a bit of a long day, so that was a great way to end it.

Saturday night before leaving for Kijabe we were finishing last minute packing. As I zipped up my travel bag the zipper broke. Well one of the good things about living in our village is we have an excellent seamstress who lives practically next door to the training center. So yesterday started BEFORE 6AM when we got up to unpack my travel bag, take it to Prisca, get a new zipper, repack the travel bag and load up the car.

Our friend and colleague, Adele, offered to drive us to town where we would catch our bus. As we turned off of the dirt road and onto the main highway something just didn't sound or feel right with the car. When we got to the gas station and William hopped out of the car to see what was going on. We were leaking oil like crazy. We had to add 2 quarts after just driving for 20 minutes. Not a good sign! So we had to turn around, drive back, get another vehicle and start over again.

We finally arrived in town and were able to catch our matatu (over an hour late and it was still there!). It's like an extra big van. All of my past experiences with matatus have been horrible. It seems like you stop every few feet for people to get on and off. And they have always been way overcrowded. But thankfully we were on a direct shuttle trip. So they sell each seat and you stay in the same seat the whole way to your destination. What a concept!!

The road was actually in much better condition than the last time I took it (about 7 months ago). There is this 30 or 40 min stretch where you feel like your teeth are going to rattle out of your head. But once you get through that part it is pretty smooth going. We finally arrived at Kijabe medical center around 5 in the afternoon.

We got checked into the motel and were pleasently surprised to find that there is wireless internet for only $1.50 extra a day. And I was exstatic to find that there was actually hot water in the shower.

When we arrived we got to meet my internet and phone friend, Leann, in real life for the first time. She is an ICU doctor here at Kijabe Mission Hospital. She advised that we get registered right away so that we could avoid the long lines Mon AM. Thank you Leann! It only took about 10 minutes to get the case file. So we should be seeing a doctor for mama this morning. They will be doing a biopsy of her uterus and starting the preperation for her thyroid surgery. We should know in a few days if she needs a hysterectomy or not. If she does then they will do a double whammy surgery.

In the meantime William and I are going to try to duck out to Nairobi at some point to hopefully pick up his passport and get the ball rolling with his visa. I'll keep you posted. As I said before, it looks to be a full week!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Hard Week

This week has been a hard one for me. On Thurs morning I got a phone call from my mom telling me that my grandmother had passed away. Her circumstances over the last year have been pretty bad. My mom (who also happens to be my hero!) has been bending over backwards trying to do everything she possibly could for grandma. What is really hard for me is that I never got to say goodbye.

I never understood before why people would fly great distances to attend a funeral. It's too late to say goodbye to the person. But now I'm understanding... There is something about the ritual of a funeral that brings a sort of closure. Due to our financial situation and the fact that I'm half way around the world, I won't be able to attend the funeral.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. She faced so many obstacles in life. She became a single parent of four in an era where divorce was not okay. She went back to school to get an education so that she would be able to provide for her family. As a young girl my grandmother insisted that I learn to type. She had one of the first computer models that was available to the public. Every year she would throw swimming parties for all the kids in the neighborhood and her grandchildren. She used to take my sister and I on trips to stay with her in her condo at the beach or in Palm Springs. She was never a huggy, cuddly, type grandma. And she didn't use the words "I love you" very often. But I always knew she did.

I feel emotionally drained right now. My computer is completely broken. I'm trying to make arrangements for it to get back to America to be repaired. In the meantime I've been incredibly blessed with a loaner laptop. But all of my addresses (including my e-mail address book) were in the other computer. I have pictures and data that haven't been backed up in months. We are getting ready to head to Kijabe to take a family member and patient for surgery. We will be taking public transport which is always incredibly draining and exhausting to me. We also need to make a side trip into Nairobi to work on William's passport and visa. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. It looks like another long and tiresome week ahead. Big sigh.........

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A New Challenge

Over the weekend my computer suffered a blunt trauma to the head. As in it slipped while I was putting it in it's case. It only fell a few feet but something has been jarred loose. The monitor is now pitch black. I was told about a month ago by a computer techie in Nairobi that if my Sony every breaks don't even think about trying to repair it here in Kenya.

I'm praising the Lord that I had the sense to purchase the extended warranty on the computer when I bought it. So now it's an issue of trying to get it home to the USA where it can be repaired. I'm likely going to be sending it with some short term missionaries who I've never met. Then once it is repaired we will see if some more short termers can bring it back to Kenya.

In the meantime I'm on a loaner computer from the clinic. My entire address book (e-mail and snail mail) is in the computer I can't access. So it's a bit frustrating to say the least. Some days I just feel like asking "Could something please go right??" Oh well, such is life.

On this coming Sunday (July 20) we will be headed to Kijabe Mission Hospital. We are taking William's mom for surgery there. It looks like we will likely be there for about a week. I'm not sure if I will have any internet access or not during that time. Kijabe is close to Nairobi so we will be trying to pick up William's passport and start work on his visa while we are in the area. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated during this time!

Friday, July 11, 2008

William at Work


William at Work, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

Most of my posts are centered around my daily life, thoughts, feelings etc. So today I decided to share with you a bit about what my husband, William, is doing with Empowering Lives.

William's background is in agricultural education. When I met him he was working as a demonstrator/trainer in the ELI farm. His job centered around teaching others techniques for improving their crops. He worked with small-scale farmers, taught in the practical program of ELI's agricultural program and took visitors on tours of the center.

Earlier this year William moved from the Training Center department to the Tumaini na Afya department. (That means Hope and Health.) He now works with patients in the Home Based Care (HBC) program. The above picture is him tending to the HBC garden. It was taken by our friend Adele.

William spends part of his time caring for the garden which produces food for our patients. The rest of his time is actually working with the patients themselves. He is currently going from home to home giving teachings about nutrition and agriculture. He assists the patients in planning a garden that will suit their needs and work with their current resources and capabilities. Then he brings them seeds and works with them to get the garden going. He also has plans for beehives, and chickens in the works.

This morning I joined him on a few home visits. One patient told me that she was so excited about her new garden that she was going to wake up early tomorrow to start turning the soil.

Thank you William for your hard work and dedication!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Unusual Patient


This morning I encountered an unusual patient. The clinic sits on a hill so we often can see our patients coming towards the clinic. I noticed one of the employees from ELI's training center carrying something towards us.

At first I thought it was a small baby, but as he got closer I realized it was an animal. Kenei brought me a baby goat!!! The poor little girl is only three days old. She was attacked this morning by one of our guard dogs.

I am no veterinarian!!! But I do know how to do a bit of wound care. Unfortunately this kid really could have used a vet. The tear went deep into her muscle and severed a few tendons. Stitching the muscle of a goat would have been a bit too much for our little clinic. (Especially when we have patients who have a hard time affording to pay for their suture jobs when they need stitches!) So I just did some basic wound care and antibiotics. I think some people were pretty surprised that I even agreed to treat her.

William told me over lunch that people at the training center were already talking about how I was nursing their goat back to health.

Her caregivers from the training center have decided to name her Survivor! I checked on her this afternoon and she seems to be doing okay. Just another day in Kenya!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Homesick

OK, so today is the fourth of July and I confess I am feeling homesick. I've had waves of homesickness that come and go over the past few months. At first I felt really guilty when I would long for America. In many ways I feel like I should think of Africa as home. But a few months back when William and I were at the Mayfield (a missionary guest house in Nairobi) we were talking to some missionaries of 20+ years who were talking about looking forward to going "home" to America. It made me feel a bit better.

Maybe it makes me a bad missionary; but some days I long for a cup of Starbucks with the companionship of one of my lifelong friends. There are days when I'm exhausted at the end of the day I wish I could swing by Baja Fresh to grab something for dinner. Or even run into the grocery store to get a can of soup, a real salad and some fresh bread. Making everything from scratch on the stove top gets old every now and then. Sometimes I actually miss just driving down the CA freeways. I never realized how blessed I was with the excellent Biblical teachers I sat under at church. Worshiping in English with a body of believers is something I look forward to doing again whenver we make it back to the states. I miss going to the beach for the day. I miss being able to talk to friends and family without one of us stressing over how much the phone bill is going to be. Sometimes I just feel downright lonely.

But all that being said I know that I am where I'm supposed to be. And I have to smile when I remind myself of the many years that I longed to live in Africa. Every now and then as I'm walking through the village I stop and say to myself "Wow! I live here!" I've been blessed with the world's greatest husband. He is so gentle and compassionate when I have days like today. And the reality is that none of this is home. My true home waits for me. The day that I leave this earth will be the day when I finally begin to understand just what home really is.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Flovia's New Family

On Sunday Flovia was welcomed into her new family. She is joining Joseph and Maggie Simatwo who are parents at our children's home here in Kipkaren. She now has 24 new brothers and sisters!

Monday, June 30, 2008

My Brain is Tired

Today in my Swahili lesson I was learning times of day. WOW!! Talk about brain strain! I learned my numbers a few months back. So one would think that times of day would be easy. But no, the system here is complicated. The clock doesn't work like my American clock. Here seven in the morning is one. So twelve noon is actually six. Which is difficult enough. Then you put the numbers in a different language.

So when my teacher tells me it is kumi na robo I mentally translate the numbers to mean a quarter after ten. But if I answer in English that it is a quarter after ten I'm wrong. Because it's actually a quarter after four in the afternoon. UGH!!! I keep praying one of these days I will be zapped with a miraculous ability to understand and speak. But in the meantime I'll just keep chugging along at my my pole pole (slowly by slowly) pace!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Flovia Then


Day One, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

Day one as a resident of the Chebaiywa Health Dispensary.

Flovia Now


Flovia and Victoria, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

Two months, and lots of TLC, later. She has gained eight lbs and is doing great. She has a baby doll she loves to carry around on her back. Click on her picture to see more of her improvement.

Jeptoo

Jeptoo is the mother of the five girls living next door to us. Some days we feel like we are making great progress with the family. Other days it is two steps forward, one step back. Then weeks like this one feel more like one step forward, two steps back.

We are having a hard time getting her gainfully employed. She doesn't seem to have much motivation to work or provide for her family. It's hard enough to find a job for someone who is ambitious and hard working. So we are feeling some concern about how we are going to help her stand on her own two feet. Plus last week she fell and injured her right arm. So now she is even more limited in what she can do.

We want so badly to see the girls thrive. But it is so hard to know how best to help them when their mama doesn't seem to have anything to give. There are days when I so wish we had social services here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chelagat Update

"Chamgei baba?" That means "How are you dad?" in the Kalenjin language. William reported to me that this is what Chelagat said to him when he came home from work the other day. He was glowing. He has never asked the girls to call him dad, but they are really liking having a kind and caring man in their lives. All five girls are doing great! It brings joy to my heart to hear them laughing and watch them run around the yard without a care. I even enjoyed Jepkemboi's temper tantrum the other day. When we met these girls the three youngest didn't show any emotional expression whatsoever.

Stovetop Lasagna

So for the past six months I've been cooking over a flame of some sort. It has ranged from charcoal, to kerosene, to my lovely-wonderful-magnificent two burner gas stove! Did I mention I love the stove!! However I have not had and probably will not have an oven anytime soon. So I recently decided that it was time to experiment.

My first venture into the world of stovetop baking was pizza. I made pizza, put it into my big skillet, sealed it with a lid and simmered for about 45 minutes. It turned out pretty good. So I decided to venture into the world of meat and tried meatloaf. It was delicious! SOOOO last night...... drum roll please! Lasagna!! And it turned out. It was so so so so good.

My fellow missionary Jenn Davis has told me you can make banana bread on a stovetop. I don't know if I'm brave enough to try it yet. I'll let you know if any great new experiments wind up turning into missionary classics.

By the way, I still haven't gotten around to bringing my camera to the clinic. But I will try to remember this week!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Movie Time

I’ve been promising Victoria (Flovia’s primary caregiver) that I would try to bring a movie with the computer one of these days. So Friday I decided it was the day. I rushed through some projects in the morning then made some fresh buttery popcorn after lunch. We watched The Little Mermaid at the clinic while we munched on popcorn. Flovia had a blast. She would scream whenever the birds or fish appeared on the screen. I think I’ll try to bring either Aladdin or Anastasia next week.

Flovia is doing really well right now. She was a bit confused about where Felix disappeared to. Several times she has pointed at his cup enquiring about where he is. But I think she has adjusted to “only child” status very well. She has always needed a lot of attention and is really getting it right now. She has grown so much it is amazing. I’ll try to get some before and after photos up later this week. The difference is pretty amazing.

Jack


William and I are doing pretty well. Yesterday we had a bit of a scare with our new kitten. We have had him for almost a month now. His name is Jack and he is adorable! We have really gotten attached to the little booger. Well he is in that kitten phase where he likes to attack virtually everything in the house. The other day he was sitting on top of a cabbage doing his best to kill it.

Well I decided that he needed some outside time so I locked him out when I went to the shower. Let me just clarify that our shower is attached to our cho (outside pit toilet). So I boil water, mix it with cold, then carry it down to the shower. So I told Jack to go and play while I washed. When I finished I locked up the shower and didn’t see him anywhere. I noticed the back door was cracked and figured he must have gone back inside. After a thorough search he was nowhere to be found. Later William came home and made a search without any success. Two searches and six hours later we were getting pretty worried about him. He has never left our compound before. We started to think maybe he was either kitty-napped or carried off by a village dog. I was feeling sick for making him go out against his will.

Before bedtime I made one last trip down to the cho and was calling him all the way. Then I heard a little meow. I called again and realized the sound was coming from…… the shower!! As I was picking up my washing bucket he must have snuck in around my ankles. The poor guy was locked in the shower for six hours. Thankfully he is none the worse for the wear!

Back Online

We have been internet-less for long enough to get frustrating. But we are now back online; gotta love life in a third world country!! When it rains the power goes out more frequently. Since this is the rainy season we are dealing with quite a few power outages. And when the power goes out the internet needs to be re-set. Sometimes it needs to have something actually re-loaded and re-configured by our computer tech.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Welcome Home Felix

Sunday morning, June first, Felix went home to be with Jesus. I confess that I cried when I heard the news. We have been pouring so much into that little one. He was more than a patient, he was adopted by the clinic staff.

My emotions are so mixed. I know that he spent the majority of his short life fighting, struggling and suffering. I know that now he is free. But I will miss him dearly. We were envisioning a future and a hope for that little boy. He had gained weight since coming to us. We really believed he had a fighting chance. But the combo of HIV, TB and malaria were just too much for his little malnourished body to take.

I remember the first day I met him and Flovia. Flovia was so weak she was just laying in bed not moving. She was not at all aware of her circumstances. Felix on the other hand was super alert. His big eyes never missed a trick. He was always taking everything and everyone in. In the week before he died he was getting strong enough to hold his head up a bit. I remember when we all celebrated the day he cut his first tooth. I have many special memories of that little boy that I will treasure in my heart.

Thank you for your prayers for Felix. I know that he is now in a better place. I told William last night that I had a feeling when I kissed Felix and put him in the ambulance Fri night it would be the last time I would see him. I was right. My heart is aching but I am also at peace because I know that Felix is no longer trapped in his frail body. That beautiful spirit is free to sing and dance.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Felix

A few posts back I told you about Felix and Flovia, the two HIV positive children living at the clinic right now. I'm writing with a heavy heart. Felix is very sick right now.

On Tues night he began to run fevers and increased his coughing. He's being treated for TB in addition to having the HIV and malnourishment. Wed morning he tested positive for malaria. He did ok on Thurs and then crashed yesterday. Last night we were called to the clinic because he was doing poorly.

His temperature went up to 105 and he was in severe respiratory distress. Juli and I decided that he needed to get to the hospital immediately. Juli went with him in the ambulance to the emergency room in Eldoret. She took the ambu bag (for performing CPR) in case he should go into respiratory arrest on the way.

He was placed on oxygen and had multiple tests performed. I understand that today he is still on oxygen and still having high fevers. He has been through so much in his short life (a year and a half) but he has always been a fighter. Please pray for this precious little one. He truly is a little angel, all 13 lbs of him!!!

Addendum

I just received an e-mail asking if we had a billion dollars if we would buy Adele a new Land Rover. The answer is YOU BETCHA!!!! In fact William and I feel a definite responsiblity for replacing Adele's "wheels". We have no idea how or what it will look like. But it is on the reality list, not the dream list.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mama Update

This weekend William's mom is being baptized!! Please pray that she will stand strong in her new found faith. She comes from a long history of alcoholism. She has many health problems and is looking at probable surgery later this year. The baptism will take place here in our Kipkaren river on Sunday morning.

My Turn

OK, so in the blog world there is something called being tagged. And I was tagged last month by Amanda. When you are tagged you are supposed to answer random questions about yourself and then tag other people so that you can learn random things about them as well.

Well I'm not following the rules exactly right, my friend Adele was tagged a few months ago and I liked her questions better than sharing seven random things about myself. (Sorry Amanda!) So I'm borrowing her set of rules for my turn as "it".

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 people and posts their name, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What I was Doing 10 Years Ago
Leading a short term team to Madagascar with Teen Missions International. I knew that I wanted to pursue medical missions but I wasn't exactly sure of all the details yet.

Five Snacks I Love


  1. ICE CREAM!!!
  2. Chocolate
  3. Cookies (are you getting that I love sweets?)
  4. Pizza (ok, maybe it is not a snack but I crave it a lot lately)
  5. Popcorn with lots of butter


Things I would do if I were a Billionaire

  1. Tithe the first 10% to the Lord
  2. Pay off my school loans
  3. Give a bunch of money to some very responsible charitable organizations
  4. Found a business which would produce jobs and generate income in remote areas of Africa
  5. Pay off my sister's school loans
  6. Buy everyone in my family a car (William and I have decided that the Toyota Rav4 would work pretty well for us in the village).
Five Jobs that I have had (most recent first)


  1. Medical Missionary with ELI
  2. Family Nurse Practitioner at the UCLA clinic in the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission
  3. Emergency Room RN
  4. Medical Surgical RN
  5. Gymnastics Coach
Three of my Hobbies

  1. Reading a good book or watching a movie with my husband
  2. Traveling and exploring new places
  3. Crocheting


Bad Habits

  1. Tuning out when the conversation is in Swahili (I need to be trying to understand what's going on, not moving to lala land!)
  2. Jumping to conclusions before I hear the whole story.
  3. Feeling the need to be in charge or in control all of the time.


Five place I have Lived

WOW! Would you believe I lived in the Rancho Cucamonga area of Southern CA all of my life before moving to Kenya? However I have visited: Brazil, Mexico, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, England, Vanuatu, Australia, and Bulgaria!!


Five things not many people know about me

  1. I really enjoy crocheting.
  2. To re-charge I need some quiet time alone with a good book and a nice candle burning.
  3. I can milk a cow.
  4. I coached gymnastics before becoming a nurse.
  5. I enjoy singing but don't do it public (believe me this is a good thing!)

Five People I Want to Get to Know Better: (a nice way of saying TAG!)

  1. Kimberly from The Huffmans in Kenya
  2. Hollie at Scraps from Africa
  3. Sheila at Clutterstop
  4. Jill at Wellas World
  5. Juli my colleague in Kipkaren

Friday, May 23, 2008

With the Family Animal

Seeing the baby elephants was such a highlight for us. The elephant is William's family animal.

All ten of the baby elephants at he Sheldrick Orphanage were orphaned in one way or another. They are cared for until they are big enough to be re-introduced to the wild.

They are usually around age three when they go back to the forest or savanah. They get re-introduced to the wild in groups. Then they integrate into a new herd. Historically they do very well. There are currently three living at the orphanage who are getting ready to go home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Michelle and Cheetahs


Michelle and Cheetahs, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

Today we had a relaxing day. We visited both the Elephant and Animal Orphanages in Nairobi. The highlight of the day was getting to pet and interact with three adult female cheetahs!

William and Cheetah


William and Cheetah, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Excellent News and Frustrating News

I have my visa!!!! Starting today I am a permanent resident of Kenya. That is as long as William and I are married and he is alive. So I told him "No dying allowed!" And what is really really nice is that I only have to pay $3.50 a year for unlimited entry/re-entry through Kenyan customs/immigration. Considering it used to be $50 for a 90 day temporary visitor's visa this is really excellent news.

The frustrating news is that I'm going to need a work permit after all. I had three different officials tell me before that once I had residency I would not need to get a work permit. But today we were in the office of one of the bigwigs in immigration. And she says that I absolutely need to have a work permit. However she says that it will be half the cost of the "normal" missionary. Which means that it is either going to be $850 or $1,700 per year.

I also went to the nursing council today to start the process of getting my Kenyan nursing license. I have to get loads of original documents and supporting statements from the USA. So I'll need to start that process as soon as possible.

However, another positive thing was that the bigwig said that she will send our file down to the passport department. Since we already have a file open it just might speed up the process for getting William's passport. Tomorrow we are hoping to take advantage of my new resident status. We are going to see African animals at the Nairobi Game Reserve. Our new friend Anna is coming along with us. We'll try to get some pictures.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Felix and Flovia


Victoria and Felix, originally uploaded by momentswithmichelle.

We've had two little guest living in the clinic for about three weeks now. My colleague Juli works in the Home Based Care department. During the course of some of her home visits she discovered two malnourished children who are HIV positive. Both of them were really failing to thrive. After prayer, discussion and planning Juli made the call that they should be moved to the clinic for intensive intervention.

Felix is one and Flovia is almost three. When they came to us Felix weighed just 4kg and Flovia was 6.5kg. Flovia couldn't walk and Felix could not hold his head up. Felix also has TB.

They moved in and went on around the clock feeding schedules. They are receiving 24hr care from Victoria (in the picture) and the rest of us at the clinic are checking in and helping out as much as we can.

I'm so happy to say that both are doing great! They are both steadily gaining weight. Felix is becoming more and more alert and even trying to hold his head up a bit. Flovia is now walking all over the clinic! She is a little handful. That girl is one temperamental two-year-old! She has determined not to like me. But I keep trying!