A couple of weeks ago we had asked for prayers for a baby who had emergency surgery while weighing only a pound and a half. After a couple of weeks of struggling, he ultimately died this past weekend. Thank you for your prayers for him. Please continue as the parents, and even staff, grieve.
Tenwek lost one of it's buildings Friday night due to a terrible fire. It was a crazy night and not one many of us will soon forget.
Our kitchen that fed our patients and the restaurant that fed our staff and visitors are both gone. The Wound Ward is also gone along with Statistics, our Visiting Staff offices (where we coordinate so many doctors/nurses/trainees/and many others) and other offices. The laundry room and sterilizing room were affected but the machines themselves seem OK. These two rooms are a huge resource for us to enable us to keep patients in clean gowns and beds while preparing sterile equipment for whatever procedures they have come to us for.
The real story though is God's grace and the community who make up Tenwek.
Amazingly we didn't have a single person on a ventilator that night. Lately that's a very rare night. While many people needed oxygen, we were able to move them to other places temporarily where they could receive that life saving help away from the fire. Later, we moved them back. Amazing grace.
A tiny child was undergoing open heart surgery with a visiting pediatric cardiac surgery team. It was an incredibly challenging case that lasted 7 hours. How they kept going while the hospital was burning is incredible. And the equipment/power that worked along with them. The child is alive and doing well today. Amazing grace.
Upon seeing the fire (which lit up Tenwek's hillside for a long way), people ran TOWARD the fire to help. Patients were wisked out of wound ward to safety. Then anything flammable was taken out of the building to try and limit the fire. Incredibly that included gas cylinders that fueled various items. People were carrying propane tanks while embers fell all around them. Had those tanks exploded they certainly would have been killed. But had they left them the fire likely would have crossed the street to one of the residents' apartment buildings where families with babies stay, or crossed into our church, or gone the other way into the boiler room where a huge amount of fuel sits. Had that been involved, the devastation would have been horrible. Brave souls putting themselves in harms way to save others.
I wasn't included in that group. I was having a wonderful night with our two kids camping in our backyard while Julie was away for the weekend. It wasn't until our neighbors' kids found us and told me about the fire that I left the kids next door and ran to the hospital. At this point it was the controlled chaos of keeping our patients safe as the fire was extinguished. Tenuous oxygen supplies in temporary locations left us with the challenge of when to bring the patients back to the hospital and our more robust oxygen supply (highly flammable for those who don't know).
I was impressed by our community - hospital staff and the surrounding community, doctors/nurses/students/guards/administrators, Kenyans and expats, new and longstanding Tenwek people, senior staff and teens... it was incredible to see. Just running out of my house, I had a maze of abandoned cars, trucks, motorcycles to weave thru as I went up the hill to the hospital. So many had seen the blaze and came to help.
Today we gathered in our local church just 20 feet from the site of the fire. Several people cleared the remaining debris out of the entrance so we could all safely enter. One of the fire hoses was still crossing the path and into a window of the burned building - so it had to be moved for our church members to come in... It was a sobering reminder of all that had happened just the day before.
And yet we celebrated together. God had kept everyone safe. Everyone. Patients, staff, our neighbors who came to help. And we could tangibly see the community that God has built at Tenwek. It's an honor to be serving here.
Donate to the Emergency Fire Fund
Many questions are unanswered at this time but Dr. Stephen Burgert, Medical Superintendent, has expressed appreciation for your prayers and Praise to God for His provision.
If you would like to make a donation to the Emergency Fire Fund, click the link above.
100% of all donations will go directly for the critical needs at Tenwek Hospital.
Friends of Tenwek is a non-profit support for Tenwek through which many projects have been undertaken to serve the patients and community of Tenwek. All donations are tax deductible in the USA.
PRAISE GOD!!!! Thank you to all of you who have been praying and who have partnered with us! WE ARE FULLY FUNDED and ready to head back to Kenya the first week of Jan. We are so grateful and just so blessed at the response......as you can see below....
There are still projects to get involved in at Tenwek financially if you are interested. Let us know and we can send you some information. As far as our monthly support, we have reached 100%.
On occasion something comes up and we let people know about opportunities to give money. It's unlikely that we do that in the way everyone would prefer, but we try very hard to do it "right" - whatever that means.
Right now we have a need. We came back to the US this fall fully funded. However, financial challenges have led some to reduce or stop their financial support of our monthly costs to remain at Tenwek. This is relatively new information to us and though we kept it to ourselves largely, it seems important to share with those who have supported us in various ways to know this need.
To return to our fully funded status and fly home to Tenwek on January 7th as scheduled, we need a total of $900 more per month.
If you aren’t already, would you prayerfully consider joining our team and taking on a portion of that cost? Email if you have questions or click here to donate.
We have just finished our first HMA (home ministry assignment) and are getting settled back at Tenwek. There are so many ways to do HMA, different lengths, different strategies. We are still processing our time as we get settled back home here in Kenya. Thank you to those who prayed us through our traveling and transitions. While we continue to get our feet, I wanted to share some thoughts from Eden...
We asked Eden if she'd be willing to share her thoughts about being a missionary here. When we've been traveling, we have been pleasantly surprised at how excited she is to talk about her experiences. She's got a lot to say about it....
"I want you to know when I think of Kenya, I think of green fields, thousands of birds, and a bunch of friends. But you probably think of dry grass and a vast plain. But since I've been there, I know what to think of. Instead of homeschool, one missionary parent from every family teaches a different subject to all the missionary kids, including their own child. And very often mom goes out to the Kenyan villages, and dad always seems to have emergency cases and operations. But sometimes we get to play."
What do you miss the most about Kenya?
"Friends, the warm air and room to run and get exercise in."
Where is your favorite place to be in Kenya?
"At the lower field on the Tenwek compound."
What's the hardest and the best thing about being missionary kid?
"The hardest is, when you get to the place you are going overseas to, you become different. You come to love it there. But when you are in the USA you change back to the old you. And you want to be the Kenya you. The best is, when you are in the US, you get to be the center of attention all year."
What characteristics of Kenya have become part of you?
"Drinking chai, waking up at sunrise and I am used to being hot."
What did you think of your first HMA?
"It was pretty hard in America. Nothing really felt familiar anymore. And I really missed friends from Kenya. I did like getting to see my family again, especially my cousins. I really had fun at Christmastown in VA and at Yankee Candle Factory. And I did love dying my own candles."
We are pretty proud of this girl. She's been brave in sharing about her experiences and talking to groups without shying away. She must get that public speaking gene from her father.
I want to tell you a story.
But first, let me give a disclaimer. I am still learning how to tell stories about children at Tenwek Hospital. Mostly I’ve avoided doing so - as I want to protect the children and their families (rightly so). However, for us to continue caring for these kids we need people to join us through finances, prayer, coming to help and other means. People join in often from hearing stories about what God is doing through Tenwek. So somehow I need to learn how to do both - be protective of these young ones and engage those whom God uses to help them. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously so please be gracious with me as I figure this out. I’ve been talking with other organizations that work with children in an effort to do this well. So names will be changed and some details left out or altered to obscure identity even though I will have already spoken to the parent(s) and older children to have their permission to share photos and stories. Julie helps me with this by sitting with them, taking the time to listen and asking for signed/fingerprinted permission. Hopefully those permissions are more honest than having the surgeon ask for something that parents may feel pressure to say ‘yes’ to. Mostly we will avoid faces and photos that reveal too much. It is our hope that families will approve of any communications we make like this. - Mike
Grace* was first brought to my attention in April. A doctor working with a group in her home country had emailed a friend at Tenwek seeking help for her. This was forwarded to me and a very long story began... I’ll try to give you the highlights.
Grace had a very large tumor growing in her abdomen. Other surgeons had attempted to remove it several times. Each requiring hours of careful surgery. But each time it had come back. This new doctor had helped to get the tissue reviewed at a specialty hospital in the US to see if any new information could be gained about the tumor. They confirmed what was already known.
*not her real name.
We were now being contacted to see what could be done. Her last operation was just weeks before and already the tumor had regrown as seen in the photo above (with permission). I spoke to the last surgeon who had operated on her. He had done a great job but yet it came right back. She hadn’t been to school in a few years due to the pain and difficulty eating and walking. Her life was incredibly challenging. You can see it in her face in the photo...
So I phoned a friend. One of the world’s experts on this type of tumor in children. He didn’t have a suggestion but referred me to another colleague. She too was unsure what to do but suggested another colleague. I happened to have met this last surgeon before and emailed her. She replied right away. She knew what the problem was. She had seen it before. It was very rare. But she could help.
Traveling to this specialist (one of a few in the world who have done what this child needed) would be very expensive. Could we possibly do this at Tenwek??? The surgeon later confessed that when she received my email asking her to come, she felt God tell her to go. So she said “yes”. The organization who contacted me offered to pay for the costs. A list of needed resources was generated and I began to see what we could pull together. I managed about 80%. She said it was enough. Could we possibly fit this into a two day window when the surgeon would have some vacation days?
interpreter, mom, visiting surgeon, me
We then began a lengthy bit of logistics to bring the child to a place to receive good nutrition for some weeks so she could endure the operation. Then the steps to cross borders and take flights to reach Tenwek. Her mom would travel with her along with an interpreter. Everyone needed paperwork. So many details to all work or this small window would be missed...
At the end of June, Grace arrived at Tenwek. We met for the first time. She looked bright eyed and hopeful. But this operation would be very risky and had never been done before in sub-Saharan Africa. There was a chance she could die. We had a lengthy conversation. They seemed to understand. I then asked if they had seen our hospital sign - “We treat, Jesus heals”. Their eyes lit up and the interpreter said “Yes!” They were very excited. They believed the same thing and were trusting in God to care for Grace whether thru healing or not. It was amazing to see. We prayed together and they went off to do a long list of tests to prepare for surgery.
Several days later all was set. The specialist surgeon arrived from the US and we went to meet Grace. After preparations were made, we got some rest for a very, very long operation.
The next morning we began. Grace came to the operating room at 9am. The following day at 7am Grace was wheeled out to the recovery room - 22 hours later.
Grace had endured an incredible operation. The visiting surgeon along with myself and our chief resident spent so many hours carefully removing this tumor. It was very challenging. Then we infused warmed chemotherapy into her abdomen to hopefully prevent the tumor from regrowing. Now she needed to survive the effects of the chemotherapy and recover from this huge insult to her little body intended to help her.
Six weeks. It took six weeks for Grace to recover at Tenwek. There were many challenges. Our team at Tenwek faithfully cared for her day after day. I would come by and try to encourage her and her mom - but the interpreter had to return to their home country as her own daughter had fallen ill (she’s ok now). So without the ability to have extensive communication, we would simply pray together. I can’t imagine what her mom was thinking during that long, long wait.
When Grace was finally ready to leave Tenwek, our chief resident Mark took this picture with her. The former interpreter’s husband then flew to Kenya and came out to Tenwek to escort Grace and her mom back home. Upon arriving there, her mom went straight to their church to thank God. Their village was amazed to see Grace. They assumed she had died after such a long time. So they too were thanking God for bringing her back to them. It sounds like a celebration I would have enjoyed...
Grace is now home. She sent this photo of herself to say “Thank you”. She is so excited. She now wants to get back to school and study. Maybe God will allow her to become a doctor, she wrote, as he used doctors to give her back her life.
*photos with permission
We are gearing up for the Missions Conference at Loudonville Community Church in New York starting this Sunday. If you are in the area this coming Sunday or the next, come on over!! There will be great speakers and lots of missionaries from all over the world. We'd love to see you!
- Mike, Julie, Eden and Caleb
We are in the US for a few months and want to take time to say “Thank you” to all of you who have supported us in being at Tenwek in one way or another. We do hope and plan to spend time with as many of you as we can while stateside.
Moving back to Kenya in 2015 with our family was a big change from being there as a young couple without children. God has helped us to get settled at Tenwek and even gave us a brand new home to live in (if it is in fact done by the time we get back in January!). All of us feel at “home” there and are eager to return.
Our sense is that these first two years back have been a healthy start to our service at Tenwek Hospital. Certainly many children have been helped in surgery - with our first survivors of particular congenital problems now thriving at home. The surgical trainees have learned about the specialty of children’s surgery and together we have struggled with issues of faith alongside one another, our patients and their families. Julie has been able to enjoy serving with the Tabitha women’s ministry and beams when she tells their stories. Eden has found ways to be involved that fit her well and have been a great blessing - both to others and to her parents. Caleb is doing well and God has provided excellent people to care for his congenital eye problem.
So we are grateful to God for his faithfulness and to you - those who have by word or deed enabled and encouraged us to be at Tenwek. We simply want to say “Thank you”.
Praying for Peace
Kenya Presidential Election 2017
Tuesday Kenya has its Presidential Election. Please pray with us for a peaceful process.
10 years ago we were serving at Tenwek Hospital when the election process was a very challenging time for the country, for our friends, neighbors, and coworkers, although less so for us.
Please pray with us for Kenya.
You remember the bibles Eden bought? Well, she got to deliver them too!!!
The day didn't start well. We were planning to go to a church about 20 minutes away to give the bibles out during service. We ended up leaving over an hour late. We were really piled into the vehicle. The kids were in the way, way back of the truck and with all the bumpy roads Eden got sick all over her dress. Then we got lost, so the 20 minute drive was much, much, much longer. It was one of those 'what are we even doing' kinda mornings. But she was stronger than I would've been and pressed on. We were so late, but the people were gracious who had been waiting for us. It was a hard morning. Mike spoke. Eden passed out bibles. And at the end of the day, Eden said, 'Mom, those ladies were really beautiful.' YES!! That's exactly it!! I want her to see that, yes, we are here to serve. But its not us coming in with capes to save the poor and pitiful. Its us being obedient, and having the privilege of walking beside people who are resourceful and kind and BEAUTIFUL. People who know things about God that we don't because of their culture and heritage. Things that we can learn. There are things we can teach, but also things that we can learn. Yes, they are beautiful. And this is a hard and beautiful thing we get to be a part of.
Mike (pediatric surgeon) and Julie (nurse/mother to two) living in Kenya, East Africa