Sunday, December 25, 2011

This is Why I'm Here

My Christmas started at 5:30 this morning with a phone call.  I was being summoned to the clinic to see a friend who I’ve been doing OB/GYN care for over this past year.  After nearly a year of trying to conceive, and some problems with ovarian cysts, she finally was expecting.  At almost three-months along, I saw her for her first OB appointment on Thurs this last week and immediately had some concerns.  I shared these concerns with both her and her husband.  She was to follow up with me just before I leave for the states next week. I told them to call me sooner if there were any problems.  They were calling this morning to tell me that she was bleeding.

With a heavy heart I got dressed and made the walk to the clinic. As I saw hints of the coming sunrise spreading across the sky this Christmas morning, I asked the Lord “Why? Why today on Christmas does she have to lose this baby she has been longing for?  Why ever Lord?”  I can’t say that I got an answer.  But what I did feel was a calm assurance that this is why I’m here.

This is why I’m in the medical profession.  This is why I’m here in Africa.  This is why I’m here on earth.  God has a calling on my life to use the skills that he has given me to reach out and touch others with a tangible expression of his love.  I don’t know why my friend has to suffer.  But I can be there to walk through the process with her.  I can explain what is happening to her and her husband in a way that they can understand the physical process and know what to expect.  I can ease her physical pain, and hopefully her emotional pain a bit as well.

I took a deep breath and walked in the room.  Tears were streaming down my friend’s face.  Her husband looked up with huge relief when he saw me walk in.  “I’m so glad you came” he said.  I confirmed that they were in fact experiencing a miscarriage.  We spent a while talking about what had likely happened and how she needed to be cared for right now.  I gave her some medicine to ease the pain. I held her in my arms and cried with her.  We prayed together.  It was somehow a sacred moment even through the pain. 

And later as I walked home to prepare for Christmas breakfast with my family I thought again, this is why I’m here….

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

I have several friends who put pictures up on their blogs every Wed. I realized that today is Wed and I have a bunch of pictures I've been wanting to upload.  I think technically I'm only supposed to post one picture on Wordless Wednesday.  And I've obviously already messed up the "wordless" part.  But here are some pictures fromWilliam's famine-relief trip to Samburu a few weeks back.

The team got stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere.

It took hours to dig the truck out.

Some passing zebra stopped to watch the poor team trying to dig their way out.

It was the first large rain that the area had experienced in years. Many roads were flooded.

This man was so excited for the arrival of the maize that he did not want even one kernel to be wasted.

Masai man watches the unloading of the first bags of relief food.

Waiting for the maize to be ready for disbursement.

I love all of the bright colors!
So thankful to receive the maize.

William helping to pass out maize.

Saying "Asante"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Practicing what I Preach

I figure if I'm going to promote dental care in the village I better be taking my own family to the dentist!  Yesterday Jonah and Moses both had their teeth professionally cleaned for the first time ever. Moses was convinced that we were going to kill him and was pretty much sobbing as he was being led to the chair.  The air compressor spitting right before he started didn't help anything either!  So we wound up asking Jonah to go first so that Moses could see that he lived through the procedure.  I unfortunately did not get any pictures of Moses, but here is Jonah just as the dentist is about to get started.  You can see Moses' arm and sleeve in the corner. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Back on the Front Lines

Today I put on my women's health hat and went back to GYN clinic.  Last month I went back to work in our clinic here in Kipkaren, but I had asked my women's health team for an extra month before putting me back on the schedule.  Earlier this year I connected with an incredible team of doctors and nurses who are on the front-lines of fighting cervical cancer here in Kenya.  I've been training under a team of Kenyan, Canadian and American doctors. 

As a way of saying thanks for the training, and also getting on the front lines myself, I've volunteered to rotate through some of their satellite clinics a few times a month. Two of the clinics they rotate through are just 20 and 40 minutes drive from my home.  So this morning I was at the Turbo clinic seeing patients. 

It was my first time in four months re-entering the women's health world.  And I was reminded that this is what I really, really, really want to start doing at our clinic in Chebaiywa.  Please pray with me that God opens the doors for us to get the equipment we need to launch this program.  The exciting thing is that we will not only be screening for cervical cancer, but doing interventions and procedures in simple office visits that can stop it in it's tracks!

The team was excited to have me back.  The nurses asked if I had any pictures of my baby.  I showed them a recent one of my sweet little guy.  The nurse squealed and said with a big smile "Oh look, he's fat just like his mom!"  Um, thanks?......

Anyway! It's exciting to be back on the front lines again.  I've talked with one of the American GYN docs about going into the big Eldoret hospital for some further training in basic surgical procedures used in GYN care.  She was very welcoming.  I'm excited to see what this next year will hold as I continue to train and provide a greater spectrum of services in the more rural areas of Western Kenya.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Three Sons

Okay, so in the most technical sense they are not all mine.  The two oldest ones are sort of foster-sons. 

I don't normally capture moments like this one, but I got it tonight!  We are doing an advent devotional as a family before supper every night.  Tonight after eating it was reading time while I caught up on the computer.  I glanced up and saw Moses about to fall asleep, cuddled up to Jonah, as Jonah read a book and rocked Ryan at the same time.

William and I assumed responsibility for Jonah a little over two years ago.  He has had a difficult upbringing with a mother who severely mentally ill and no father in the picture.  Although he was quite a few years behind, he somehow managed to score extremely well on his primary school (eighth grade) exit exams.  He was invited to attend a secondary boys boarding school with a very good reputation.  At that time we decided to stand by this young man and assist him in obtaining his goal of getting an education.  The first year we did a harambe (local fundraiser) in our church and community to help raise his school fees.  This year a woman from my church heard his story and helped sponsor him for this school-year.  Last year, whenever he was on school breaks he would come and work with William at the farm.  He would show up at breakfast time and leave in the early evening.  I always assumed he went home to his mom's house.  Half-way through this year I found out that he was moving from place-to-place to sleep and that he never ate supper.  Since then we have pulled him in more and more as a family member.  We are so proud of him.  He finished his sophmore year of high school strong, ranking fifth in his class of fifty-five!

I shared about Moses a few posts back.  Moses has a family in Turkana but they are not in a position to care for him at this time.  So we are fostering Moses as our son until his family is in a position to care for him again. We know for sure that he will be attending Brook of Faith (ELI's primary school) this next school-year starting in January.  We have already had one person step up to assist with school fees for Moses.  If you are interested in helping sponsor either of these special young men please let me know!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks: William's Relief Mission to Famine-Affected Families

On this eve of Thanksgiving my heart and mind are both very full. I find myself especially thankful for the gift of life this year. And I find that I'm asking myself what I am to do to truly make a difference in this world.

I would love to share some pictures with you.  William recently returned from a relief mission to Turkana, one of the areas in Kenya that is currently affected by the drought and famine. The team of four Kenyans were able to distribute relief food to 1,800 families.  Here are some photos documenting their trip.

This is one of the churches in Turkana as they are holding the maize for distribution

In the capital of the region there was a borehole near the church. This is the only source of clean water in that area and people will walk miles to come for the water.

Unloading the Truck

This woman came 40km to receive her relief food.

William was so blessed to bring hope along with food to these struggling people.

Add caption

People all crowded under any piece of shade they could find while waiting for their food distribution

Women waiting for the distribution

Friday, November 18, 2011

And the Kiprop Family Grows Again

William and Moses in front of our Home
William recently returned from a special mission to Northern Kenya to help with a famine relief outreach.  You have likely seen in the news that the horn of Africa is currently undergoing a severe drought which has led to famine.  During William’s mission to the Lake Turkana region he met a struggling pastor with eight children.  His fourth-born, Moses, immediately latched on to William.  After spending some time with William’s team, Moses began to beg to go with William so that he could go back to school.  Do to the family’s current struggles to just survive, Moses had to leave school.  The last class he completed was Standard Two (second grade).  We think he is around 11 years old but we really aren’t certain of his age. His father came to William and asked if there was any possibility that William could take Moses home with him to offer him a better future. At that point William called me.  We both had a strong sensation that this is from the Lord.  
Moses in his home place of Turkana
William spent most of his growing-up years in an unofficial adoptive family.  It was the amazing care of that family that has shaped William into the incredible man he is today.  Before William and I were married he told me that it is in his heart to reach out to other struggling children just as his second family had reached out to him.  So we always knew that sooner or later we would be getting involved in the lives of children like Moses.  

William and Moses arrived home yesterday at 4:30 in the morning.  He is very energetic and outgoing.  I have a feeling he likes to be at the center of attention.  He is double jointed, has a great sense of rhythm and loves to dance.  He could not believe that music was coming out of baby Ryan's stuffed lion.  He just stared at it for about five minutes this morning.  He is terrified of our dogs; absolutely petrified.  And it probably doesn't help that one of them is named Kali (which means harsh!).  He refuses come close to them or let them smell him.  And when William and I have tried to walk him over to them he grabs our arms and tries to hide behind us.  So I'm going to just leave it alone for now.  He may need to just be escorted around the yard until he gets comfortable with them.

He has a big smile and an air of confidence for such a little guy.  He does understand and speak a little English.  I have a feeling he understands more than William first realized, and I think he will pick it up quickly.  Yesterday he was pointing at things and telling me their English names.   The first time I saw that confidence crack was when I put him to bed last night.  As I tucked him in he looked so small and insecure.  He ducked his head under the covers as I prayed with him.  Today when I came home from the clinic for lunch he came running up to greet me.

In Our Yard
His situation has reminded me of stories I have heard about families giving out their children during the great depression because they were unable to care for them.  I can’t imagine being so desperate for my child to get food and education that I would be willing to send him with strangers.  But that is exactly what happened to Moses.  

It is our hope to enroll Moses in ELI’s private school.  They have just completed the school–year and will open school again in January.  We would appreciate your prayers for this special little boy as he adjusts to new people in a new environment.  If you would like to partner with us in financially helping to support Moses to go to school please let me know.  We are unsure of how long he will be with us.  But we do know that we want to do everything in our ability to help him pursue his education until his family is in a position where they are able to provide for him again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

TIA - This is Africa!

Nothing is easy in Africa. Okay, I really shouldn't say "nothing" because there certainly are some things that are easy here. But today is one of those days when that statement feels really true. On one of my earlier visits to this community, my friend who has lived here for a number of years told me "Michelle nothing here is simple or easy." And she really had a point.

Our electric shower-head (yes we do combine electricity and water here, and yes it is a bit scary!) quit working a few nights ago.  My hubby is off on an incredible mission for a few days (which I'll blog about when he gets back) so I'm here fighting cold showers and bucket baths with just a two-month-old for moral support. I decided to do the logical thing and call the electrician to come and take a look at it.

The last time I called an electrician, he took our money for new parts and disappeared for a few days. William had to hunt him down to get him to actually apply the money to what it was intended for. When he finally came and got the job done William wasn't home so he charged me twice as much as he should have for labor.  Seeing as I would like to use the shower sooner rather than later and William is not here to help me negotiate labor costs, I decided to call someone else.

After very quietly working in the bathroom for about fifteen minutes he came out carrying the shower head. The conversation went something like this:

Electrician:  So some of the holes are blocked, do you have a needle so I can clear them?

Michelle: Sure, but is that really the reason that the water is not getting hot?

Electrician: No, that shouldn't make the water cold. There was some rust inside, but I fixed it and it's working now.

Michelle: Can you show me how it is working?

Electrician: Okay let me just re-attach the head.  See it's okay, the water is flowing here.  (And the water certainly is flowing, in fact it seems to have flowed all over my entire bathroom.  I'm starting to wonder if there is a single square-inch anywhere in the room that is not covered in water.)

Michelle: But the water is cold.

Electrician:  It's not that cold, did you really need it to be hot? (Note, the water is COLD, not even lukewarm.)

Michelle:  Umm, yeah.  That's why I called you.  The water is not getting hot and it needs to be hot.

Electrician: Okay, let me work on it a little longer.  (Another 15 minutes and he re-emerges.)  So it's time for you to buy a new shower head.  This one is finished.  (Which is what I had kind of suspected from the get go.)

Michelle: Really?  It's only two years old.  (We finally got indoor plumbing exactly two years ago.)

Electrician: Two years! It's amazing it lasted that long.

Michelle: Okay well how much is the new one going to cost?

Electrician: Well you know that with the current inflation (which is a whole other blog post) it's almost double what it used to cost.  And he gave me a price range based on the different qualities available.

Michelle: Well I obviously need to get the higher quality one this time.

Electrician:  Oh you had the highest quality one last time, that's why it lasted you so long.

Sigh...... Sometimes you just have to say TIA (This is Africa!) and take a deep breath and go on with your day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Growing Up

Our kids from the Children's Home are growing up.  I'm so proud of how they are maturing into lovely young men and women.  I remember so clearly the day the first children arrived.  You can read about it here.  This week some of our children completed eighth grade.  They are required to take an important exam that will determine their high school eligibility.  It's almost like taking SAT's and applying for college.  High schools choose students based on how well they score in these national exams.  We invited the kids who just finished exams to come take chai and visit with us.  We went around the room and had each child share what they want to be when they grow up.  They asked me a lot of questions about my career choice, education, and how I came to be in Africa.  We had a great time of sharing together and discussing the future.  We ran outside to snap a few pictures before the rain came. The kids chose their own poses for the photos.

The Girls

The Boys

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


In our community people have been extremely busy these last two months getting their maize harvested and stored. It's been a fight with the weather as the rains have lasted much longer than normal and have caused many farmers to lose portions of their crops.  Nonetheless, Kenyans are hardy people who know how to push through challenges.  Here are some snapshots of the harvest this year.

Resting in the Shade While Mommy is Working

Removing the dry maize from the stalks that have been put into stacks for drying

Spread Out in the Sun to Dry
The Process of Removing the Maize Kernels from the Cobs