Thursday, January 28, 2010

Under an Acacia Tree

Health Classes being taught by clinic staff under an acacia tree

Just this month our clinic has launched Dental and Optometry Services. We are in the process of doing some community outreach for both of these departments. We are currently going on the road and visiting local primary and secondary schools. At each visit we let the children and teachers know about the services that are now available at the clinic. Then Jeremiah does a dental presentation and Kemboi gives a presentation on eyes and eye-care.

Kemboi using a model eye to teach about the lens.

Jeremiah demonstrates what can happen to your teeth if you don't take care of them!

At the end of the presentation Jeremiah questioned the children about main points from the talk. This young man answered enough questions correctly to earn a toothbrush and toothpaste!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This weekend was a bit difficult for me. I lost uncle David on Friday and missed my little sister's baby shower on Saturday. I have to confess that Saturday afternoon was one of those times that I was really wishing I was in America and not in Kenya. Yet over Sunday and Monday my spirits were lifted as I took some time to count my blessings. Among those blessings are the people in our life who support William's and my work in Kenya.

This morning I'm taking a moment to be thankful for the amazing team that helps William and I to be here doing what we do in Kenya.

I'm so blessed with the support we regularly receive. I appreciate the little things like encouraging comments on this blog and uplifting e-mails. And let me tell you those care packages make my month when they come! The teams and interns that come and give of their time to volunteer in our village are such a blessing. I'm incredibly grateful for the partners who stand with us daily in prayer for our work here. And of course I am very thankful for the financial supporters who make it physically possible for us to be here. From the one-time donors to the monthly supporters, please know that you are making a difference in Africa through your giving. If you fall into any of the above categories please know that I thanked God for you this morning!

So as I move into the busy parts of my day let me begin with the thought that "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FYI from Haiti

I know that there are nurses who follow my blog. The following post is from a physician working in Haiti. They have an urgent need for qualified nurses to come and volunteer in their hospital. As I'm unable to go myself I thought I would pass the post along to those who may be willing and able.


We are in urgent need of nurses who are able to come down here and volunteer ASAP. We are specifically looking for people who are able to leave within the next 2 days, and stay for 2 weeks or longer.

Your role could include the following:
  • Wound care (wound debridement, dressings, wound vac placement, etc)
  • Med/surg inpatient care (with shifts being 12 hour days or nights, likely 5-6 shifts per week) with a probable patient load of 10-20 patients per nurse
  • Acute care ER/OR nursing, assisting doctors in the care of injured and ill patients
  • Managing the flow of patients, assisting doctors with completing medical records, gathering medications and supplies, providing discharge instructions, restocking supplies, managing the central administration desk, etc

MUST have the following qualifications:
  • Be able to leave by Monday or Tuesday and stay for at least 1 week (prefer longer)
  • RN certification
  • At least 2 years clinical experience in an inpatient, ER, ICU, or OR setting. WOUND CARE nurses are especially needed, especially if you are also skilled in ER/inpatient care
  • Previous travel to the developing (3rd) world
  • Flexibility (you may be asked to do things that are not officially a part of your job description)
  • Ability to work long hours and function in less than ideal conditions with less than adequate sleep
  • Ability to submit to our medical chain of command that is already in place; we do not want people who are going to come down here and try to do their own thing (in other words...leave your egos at the door)
  • Be able to fund your own travel to Florida, and possibly to Haiti (we are currently bringing in medical professionals free of charge on many flights from various locations in Florida, but this opportunity may not last)
We prefer the following qualifications:
  • Previous medical experience in the developing world
  • Ability to speak Haitian Creole
  • Ability to stay 2 weeks or longer
While you are here, you will be staying in cramped quarters. You will likely eat snack foods most of the time and may not eat a hot meal for several days in a row. It is hot and dusty here. You will get dirty. You may not be able to shower every day. You will need to pack your bags with medical supplies from our needs list, and also bring in food for yourself (things like granola bars, fruit snacks, cereal, etc).

At the same time, you will have an very rewarding experience caring for some special and grateful patients. You will be helping save lives. And you will be working with some incredible people. This work is demanding, but very gratifying.

If you meet these qualifications and are interested, please contact Shelley Stammis ASAP at and please cc me on the e-mail ( In your e-mail, please describe in detail how you meet the above qualifications. If you are interested but do not meet ALL of these qualifications, we are grateful for your interest, but please do not contact Shelley or me at this time, as we simply do not have the time to respond to every inquiry we get.

THANK YOU in advance for your interest and for caring about Haiti! We so appreciate your support and willingness to help.

Jen Halverson, M.D.
Heartline Clinic & Hospital

Photo of Robenson,
4 year old boy that came in very lethargic with a broken arm -
now doing really well.

Kids in Simone Pele, taken on one of the runs to pick-up patients.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Loving Memory

Uncle David and Aunt Betty

After a long battle with ALS my Uncle David passed away at 7:30PM on January 21st. I can't write enough here to describe what a wonderful and amazing man he was. First and foremost he loved the Lord. He was a man who knew what he believed and lived his life by those principles. He loved my Aunt Betty and he loved his family. He was never afraid of hard work. He loved America and was proud to have served his country.

I remember as a little girl being amazed at his skillful style as he poured me a glass of milk. When I was fourteen and preparing to leave for my first mission trip he pulled me aside and said that he knew many people wouldn't understand what I was doing, but that he did and he was proud of me.

In recent years it has been hard to see my strong and vibrant uncle begin to lose coordination and mobility. I knew that his disease was progressing. But when I left the USA a year ago I imagined to myself that Uncle David would be there for my next visit. It's really hard to know that I'll never see that amazing smile and get one of those special hugs again. It's hard to know that I never got a chance to say goodbye. And yet at the same time I wouldn't want him to be here suffering. And I know that he is once again full and complete. I bet he is jumping around in heaven and doing a jig now that he is no longer constrained by ALS! His greatest desire was "That every one would come to Jesus for eternal salvation."

I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my family during this time of loss. Please pray especially for Aunt Betty as she has just lost her life partner. Thank you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


This is Scantania. She is four-years-old and much cuter than a bugs ear! Scanti (as her mom calls her) recently suffered an injury that is all to common in our rural community. She fell into a cooking pot of boiling fluid. She actually fell backwards and burned her bottom badly. She threw her arms back to try and break her fall and had her hands burned as well.

She had pretty horrific third degree burns and spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. She was discharged earlier this week and is coming to our clinic for regular debrieding and dressing changes. The debrieding involves the removal of the dead tissue. It is a pretty traumatic procedure for poor little Scanti. If you look closely at her right hand you will see the pink skin showing through after we removed all of the dead crusted skin over it. She is such a trooper. And she is probably one of the most eloquent four-year-olds I've ever met.

She was given a doll at her last visit. During the procedure she cried out in Swahili "I don't need your things, take the doll back and stop!".

Please pray with us for the quick healing and recovery of Scantania. Also pray for wisdom on how best to approach this issue in our community. The challenge is that women cook over fires on the ground. Unfortunately we see these types of injuries all too often. I'd like to start doing more education in our community about putting up some sort of barrier around the cooking fire.

Children's Home Shout-Out

Yesterday Kenya's newspaper "The Standard" ran a two page article on ELI's children's home here in Kipkaren. What's really exciting is that this is the main national newspaper for Kenya. Click here if you would like to see the online version of the article.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Journey to Kenya - Part 3

All right, today I'm back on track with the story of how I came to be in Kenya.

Needless to say those mission trips as a high-school student had a huge impact on my future. I actually went back twice with TMI as a leader spending time in Madagascar, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

I was pretty sure that I was going to wind up as a full-time-medical missionary somewhere in either Zimbabwe or Mozambique.

The road to my nursing career took many twists and turns along the way. I spent time as a pre-med student, pre-PA student and then finally decided that I ultimately wanted to be a Nurse Practitioner.

After finishing my bachelor's degree in nursing I was starting to think about master's programs and about mission agencies. That's when my church decided to send a short-term team to Kenya with Empowering Lives International (ELI). I have to be honest and tell you that I never had much interest in Kenya. I always thought it was a very commercialized country with a huge tourism industry. I had a passion for the remote and wanted to serve somewhere where I felt like I was really making a difference. I also knew that I wanted to work with an organization that valued nationals and the strengths that they brought to the table. I hated the old-school model of missionaries coming in as the "Great White Hope".

So although I never thought I would have a long-term interest in Kenya I was very interested in going to do some short-term work with my church.

When I got to the village of Kipkaren I was blown away by what I found. I discovered that Kenya actually does have rural villages. I found national Kenyans striving to make a difference in their community. I found a health clinic that was doing the things I had dreamed of doing.

And I met William... We spent a bit of time each afternoon just talking and getting to know each other. At the time that I left I felt like there might be something there but also thought I could be imagining things.

I went back to the states and wound up applying to UCLA's Family Nurse Practitioner program. I also approached ELI and told them I would like to go back to Kipkaren on my own to really see what day-to-day life and ministry were like there. I stacked all of my vacation time together and did an internship in the clinic in the spring of 2005. I loved my work in the clinic. It was a privilege to finally get a taste of the work I had dreamed of for so many years. During my time there it became clear that there definitely was something there with William and I.

William told me that he was interested in pursuing a relationship leading toward marriage. I told him that I had just been accepted into a two-year master's program at UCLA. He told me he would wait for me.

When I returned to the states, William and I stayed in close contact. We spent time praying and seeking the Lord's will for our future. It became apparent to me that I was going to need to spend an extended period of time in his village before I could know for sure if this was where God was leading me. I approached the ELI leadership and told them of our situation. I told them that I wanted to be honest and up-front about my relationship with William before scheduling a return to the village.

In 2006 I spent my entire summer break in Kipkaren. The timing was perfect because ELI was getting ready to open their children's home in the village. I was able to do the medical intake on the first 60 children to enter the home. That summer William and I became engaged.

I graduated the summer of 2007 and moved to Kenya later that year to join full-time staff with ELI. William and I were married on December 14, 2007.

So here I am in Kenya living out my high-school dream of providing medical care in rural Africa. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Side trip on my Journey to Kenya

Okay so I have to say that I've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. While I was thinking about my summer in Mozambique I couldn't help but remember the crazy journey from Mozambique back to the USA. So let me head down a little rabbit trail today and take you along on the memory train. Okay, so maybe it's actually a big rabbit trail, but I think the story is too entertaining to miss out on sharing. Now it's been almost 15 years so hopefully my memory serves me right. Fellow Mozambique team members please feel free to add your memories or correct mine if you deem necessary!

I remember that leaving Mozambique was very emotional for me. God had done so much in my heart during that summer that I didn't want to leave the place behind.

After leaving Mozambique but before going back to the USA we spent some time in Zimbabwe debriefing and preparing for re-entry to US culture. On our way to our debriefing site we took an overnight train. (Just picture early American trains traveling across an African countryside that looks like it is out of the Lion King.)

As we were waiting for the train to depart I decided to step away from the group to get a bit of personal space. Now I could still see the group so I really wasn't that far away. But I definitely wasn't right next to anyone from the team. Well a man came up and grabbed my arm and started pulling me with him. I said no and pulled my arm back. He grabbed me once more and this time I pulled my whole body away and shouted NO! By then a few of my team members/leaders had noticed what was going on and headed my way. The man immediately left. This is the first time I have publicly told that part of the story. If my parents had known back then I doubt they would have EVER let me go back to Africa!

After our time of debriefing we again traveled by train to the Harare Airport in Zimbabwe. We were flying on Balkan Airlines. (I was going to allow them to remain anonymous by calling them an Unnamed Eastern European airline. But I just learned they went out of business eight years ago so I will go ahead and name them!)

On our journey to Mozambique this lovely airline somehow managed to load only five or six (my memory is a bit fuzzy on exact number but I know it wasn't more than six) of our approximately 60 bags on the plane. It took more than a week for our luggage to catch up to us.

Well on our way home our lovely Balkan plane was sitting on the runway when we arrived at the airport in Zimbabwe. Shortly after we arrived our flight status went up as being "Delayed one hour". After a while it changed to "Two Hours". Soon it was "Four Hours". Before we knew it our flight was being "Delayed Indefinitely". We wound up spending 24hrs at the airport while they repaired the plane.

The next day we made the flight to Sofia, Bulgaria. We stopped in Lagos, Nigeria and Malta to refuel on our way to Bulgaria. Well somewhere along the ride it occurred to a number of the passengers that Bulgaria only has a few flights to the USA every week. And with our 24hr delay we had missed our connection.

A small group who were also bound for America decided that we should all stay on the plane and refuse to get off until they flew us directly to America. Hello people! Did you not notice that we had to stop TWICE for fuel on the way here? Our team declined the offer to join them in the protest and proceeded to the terminal. Well those that refused to get off the plane caused a bit of a ruckus and the next thing I knew the plane was surrounded with men with machine guns. Our team joked for a long time about the almost hijacking on the runway!

Of course we had missed our connecting flight. But because it was the airline's fault they were forced to put us up in a hotel for the night and then fly us on to London the next morning. Once we arrived in London we were put on Virgin Atlantic (one of the world's BEST airlines) where one of my leaders and I got a standby seat. At the last minute my leader and I were running to the plane to join the rest of our team.

The flight to NY was rather uneventful and before knew it I was home in Alta Loma, CA.

If you made it this far into the post congratulations! In all fairness I did warn you that it would be a rather large rabbit trail! I'll try to wrap up this Journey to Kenya series tomorrow.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

My Journey to Kenya - Part 2

After an amazing summer with Teen Missions International (TMI) in Brazil I flew home to CA.

(Note to high-school students doing missions trips: Please wait at least a few days after getting home from one missions trip before bringing up a future trip to mom and dad.)

I basically got off the plane and told my family that I was supposed to go to Africa the next year. And sure enough I did. I wound up on the 1995 Mozambique Orphanage Team that had captured my attention the previous summer. It was an amazing and life-changing summer for me. It turned out that half of our team members had been sitting in the same TMI training session the year before and had felt the same urgency as myself to be a part of this team. Having a group of young people so united in their desire to serve the Lord was a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Our first night in Mozambique we heard drums beating as local Bible-school students had their evening devotions. It didn't take long for Africa to get under my skin.

During my time in Mozambique I began reading a biography about Paul Brand. He was a physician who did amazing things with leprosy in India. His medical mission work really had an impact on me. If you would like to read his story for yourself you should check out this book: The Gift of Pain.

One day while on the construction site I had an eye injury. A string that had been tightly strung up was accidentally cut while my face was just a foot away. It flew up and whipped across my eyeball leaving a red mark behind. My vision was affected for several days. I remember someone mentioning that perhaps I should be flown out of the country to get medical attention. That's when it really hit me that because I was an American I had access to good health care. I asked myself "What about all of these Africans who have life-threatening medical problems and have no access to health care or options to travel to get it?"

By the end of that summer I knew that I wanted to pursue a medical route to my future missionary career.

After returning home from Mozambique I made a personal commitment to never date anyone who did not have a passion for full time Christian service in Africa. I knew that God had called me to a life overseas and I did not want any relationship to come between me and that calling. I was often questioned about the "radicalism" of such thinking. Once when in a discussion with someone who thought my commitment was ridiculous the other party asked: "So what if you never find anyone to marry then?" My joking response was "Oh heck, I'll just marry an African then!" So be careful what you joke about because it just may come true!

Part 3 to come soon...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My Journey to Kenya - Part 1

My journey to full-time medical mission work in Kenya actually began when I was just fourteen years old. My parents had given me a subscription to Brio a Christian teen girls magazine. One of the magazines had a brochure for Teen Missions International (TMI) in it. As I read through the brochure I felt this incredible pull towards a team that would be going to Brazil to do construction and evangelism in the rain forest.

I went to my mom and told her "I really think I'm supposed to go to Brazil next summer." Her reply was something along the lines of "Okay honey, why don't you take some time to pray about it." I did just that. Then I went back to her again and told her that I really believed that God wanted me to go to Brazil. So she agreed that her and my dad would start praying about it as well. After some time they told me that I could apply for the team but that God would need to provide the money to go. If the money didn't come through, I wouldn't go.

I was accepted to the team and began to send out support letters. This was my first faith-building experience in the area of raising support for ministry. The money came very slowly. In fact just a week before I was scheduled to leave it was looking like the trip wouldn't happen after all. Then God worked miracles in the final days and provided me with the full funds for the trip.

The next thing I knew I was on a converted school-bus traveling from CA to FL to attend TMI's training camp. God began doing some amazing things in my heart during those two weeks of intensive training.

One night a man from Liberia spoke. He spoke about his country being from the "dark continent" and how great the need was for strong believers to go and make a difference. During his talk I somehow just knew that that would be my destiny. That God was calling me to a life of full time service overseas.

At the end of the message each night they would have a type of an alter call where students could go forward to do business with God. That night my heart was pounding and my mind was full. I knew that God was calling me and that I needed to respond. So on June 30, 1994 I made my way to the front and told God I was ready to go wherever he would lead me.

Shortly before our training time came to an end, the organization shared some of the plans for the following summer. They talked about teams that would be heading overseas in 1995. One of the teams they talked about was going to Mozambique, Africa to build an orphanage for children who had been orphaned due to AIDS. As they talked about this team my heart again began to pound. I believe the seeds of my love for Africa were planted that day...

Part 2 to Follow in the Coming Days

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Mzungu in the Clinic

After several weeks of sickness I'm finally back in the saddle. I'm still coughing quite a bit. But with my asthma and recovering from pneumonia I expect that will likely continue for a few weeks. But I'm definitely a thousand times better than I was Christmas week.

The other night William and I were settling in to watch a movie on the computer before heading to bed. We heard a vehicle outside. Now you have to understand that our village is a bit off the beaten path and hearing a vehicle at night is not part of our norm. So William went outside to check it out. Shortly later he called me and told me I was needed at the clinic.

"There is a mzungu (white) lady there and Kiptoo (the Kenyan nurse on call) wants your help." As I put on my boots I kept thinking. What the heck is a white lady doing at our clinic in the middle of nowhere at this hour?

It turned out that she was a college student from Wisconsin. She was with a team of 9 other students and teachers who were staying about 20 min from our clinic. They are in Kenya for a few weeks and are running a children's camp. She had just arrived a few days earlier and was super jet-lagged and having some altitude issues. More than anything she was overtired and afraid of getting sick in a foreign country. We gave her some medicine to help her sleep and some oral-rehydration-solution just to give her a little boost. I prayed with her and instructed her to come back the next day if she didn't improve. Well she didn't come back so I'm assuming everything was okay. It was just a funny way to start 2010 with one of my first patients being a college student from the USA.

This week I'm busy getting reports filed, clinic schedules organized, and paperwork ready for patient care in the new year. We are launching dental services at the clinic this week so I'm also getting the dental tech oriented and settled in. It's a week full of paperwork and admin. I'm definitely looking forward to what 2010 holds for the clinic as well as for William and I. Thanks for joining us in the journey!