Thank you so much for praying with us and for us. God has moved hearts and changed minds and the doctors are returning to work!!! We are so relieved. Now comes the rebuilding. Will you continue to pray as the country finds it way forward? It takes more than a minute to get over a doctors' strike that lasted 100 days.
outpatient waiting room
eye clinic and waiting room
beginning each surgery with prayer
Xray waiting area/post op eye surgery
inpatient mama/waiting area for surgical clinic
I want to tell you one of the coolest stories. One of the big things I get to be involved in at Tenwek is a bible study for women called Tabitha Ministry. This is a bible study that started with one missionary mom and two Kenyan women that met together weekly to study the bible. More and more women showed up each week and it just kept growing. That was roughly ten years ago. Today there are hundreds of women along the countryside around Tenwek that meet in small groups to study God's word together. If a woman attends the weekly study for a month and memorizes 17 bibles verses, she can earn a Kipsigis bible. Presently, there have been over 10,000 bibles earned and received. I know its easy to get excited about numbers, but that's not even the cool part of the story.
Recently we got word that there was a group that had started three hard hours away. And they were asking for someone to come listen as they recited the memory verses. WHAT?!? Three hours away? How did that happen? Well, here comes the cool part...
A leader from one of the groups right by Tenwek moved three hours away to a place called Kuresoi. She had earned her bible and had kept some of the studies she had worked through. She started a small group of about 20 women in her church there and read to the women from a bible in their native tongue. After some time, things changed in her life and she stopped teaching the group of women that had formed. But the women had gotten a taste really studying the bible and now they were hooked.
After a while another woman from around Tenwek, named Selly, moved to that same area. The women who had been in the first bible study asked Selly if she could teach them and read from the bible that she had earned. At first Selly said no, she had too much work to do around her house and family plot of land. The women would not take no for an answer. They said they would weed her garden while she sat and read to them. So for about a year, they would come and weed her garden and help with her crops so she could have time to teach them from the Word!!! Amazing!
So when she sent word back to us, she said they had been meeting together and were ready to recite verses and receive their bibles. We were excited and wanted to know how many women were waiting for us so we could know how to prepare. A FEW HUNDRED!!!! Again, amazing. We made arrangements to go and visit them.
When the day was set, we left at 5am to arrive by 9am. We were ten in total, and most of us were sick by the time we got there because of the rough roads. We stopped at Selly’s house first for chai and chapati. Her home is overlooking the tea fields on one side and the Mau Forest on the other. It was a beautiful place for so many reasons. After we finished breakfast, we continued on to the church where the women were waiting for us.
Along the dirt road to the church I could see some women walking ahead and wondered if they were coming to say their verses. When they recognized it was their visitors in the van, they ran out of sight. As we crawled along the bumpy, rocky road we could heard singing. A whole mob of women spilled out onto the road singing, swaying and waving peices of cloth. They completely enveloped the truck until the driver just gave up and stopped. As we piled out of the van, they surrounded us and began escorting us the rest of the way to the church. Nearing the entrance to the church yard, I could see a plastic string that had been stretched over the top of the gate. Hanging on it were clippings of flowers and bushes from nearby. It was a banner that we all walked underneath as the women each embraced us saying welcome, welcome, welcome.
Reciting verses. The pic on the bottom right is their faces while watching a drama based on the story of Adam and Eve.
Once inside the gate, the women formed two lines for us to walk between on our way into the church building. I had such a hard time holding it together as I was looking at each face, listening to their words of welcome and hearing over and over again - Amen, Amen, Amen. It was a day that they had worked so hard for, preparing and memorizing scripture in anticipation of receiving a bible in their heart language.
Once introductions were made, we had 10 Tabitha Overall Leaders with us in our van. As each woman stood and said the area they came from, there was so much joy on the faces of the women from Kuresoi. Then each bible study group leader who came that day to recite said where they were from. Some of the small groups were ‘200 shillings one way’ away. It speaks volumes to hear distances of how far the women travel in terms of the cost to travel. Even after going so far to get there, we were hearing that the small groups in that area were even further away and had to walk, ‘footing it’, to this church we were in. All in all almost 200 bibles were earned and received.
Bibles packed and ready for delivery.
Every time I think of this day and the amazing things the Lord is doing here, touching hearts, drawing people to himself, and changing lives, I am in awe. I told you it was a cool story. God is really doing things!!!
About a week ago, we celebrated the fourth class of residents to graduate from the Surgical Training Program at Tenwek. It was so exciting to see four very qualified, godly residents finish their training well. What an encouraging highlight in the midst of some very hard weeks. Please keep praying for the doctors' strike in Kenya. We haven't seen any movement toward a resolution. The patients are suffering and those still working are growing weary.
The four graduating surgical residents, Dr. Ivan Seno, Dr. Liz Mwachiro, Dr. John Kanyi and Dr. Mike Mwachiro.
The four new residents that started their surgical training this January at Tenwek.
As we looked back as a family at 2016, we talked about some of the highs and some of the lows. There were many of both. Last year when we finally finished language study and settled in here, there was only one other second grader at Tenwek. And since we were halfway through the academic year already, Eden finished the curriculum she had already started and first grade without any classmates.
Then over the summer, there were many transitions with lots of other families coming and going. July found Eden to be the only girl near her age here. Thankfully God brought more families in by September. And now, Eden is one of five kids in second grade!! I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but after spending many long months together at the dining room table, just she and I, trying to get through school, 5 classmates seems like a million....in a good way.
So this morning as I went up the hill to the schoolroom to start back up teaching the second graders again, I thought back to this time last year. I'm grateful for the lessons learned in the transition of last year, but I'm also grateful for a fuller classroom this year, and all that that means.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Thank you so much for all of you who have taken the time to pray for the current situation with the doctor's strike. I am writing to ask that you continue to pray for Kenya, especially those sick and in need of medical assistance.
We are now finishing the fourth week of the nation wide doctors strike which has seen over 5000 doctors leave their posts, resulting in the closing of most government hospitals. There does not appear at this time to be resolution in the immediate future.
This leaves mission and private hospitals to care for nearly double the number of patients typically seen. Our hospital, by the grace of God has been able to accommodate most of the people who have come to us from other facilities, but both the hospital space and the staff have been overwhelmed and personnel have become exhausted from the workload. Patients in other parts of the country, away from any mission hospitals, have not been able to access any medical care for four weeks now. Please pray for the staff of Tenwek and other mission and private hospitals as they take up the call to serve with compassion in these circumstances.
One amazing answer to prayer is that our nearest government hospital has chosen not to go on strike. I believe this has kept us at Tenwek from overflowing even more than we are! Praise God for the doctors and nurses who have stayed to serve their people. Many of the doctors working in that facility were trained at Tenwek including their medical superintendent who was one of our Family Medicine residents.
Within the difficulty also comes opportunity. Many people coming to us now might never have come to Tenwek, instead seeking care at a closer facility. Please pray that Tenwek can be a beacon of hope and love to these patients who so desperately need God's healing both physically and spiritually.
As we begin this week, may we have open hearts to see each one with compassion, and to share the love and hope of Jesus
Many thanks for standing with us in service to the people of Kenya.
This is the end of our first full calendar year here at Tenwek as a family. We are so grateful for all of the support we have received from so many - including you.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Mike, Julie, Eden and Caleb
Story and photos used with mom's permission
A month ago I received an urgent page from the head nurse at Tenwek. A hospital was calling to send us a very sick newborn girl. She was only 2 kg and had been vomiting since she was born three days before. The transfer was arranged emergently.
On arrival to Tenwek, we found her to be quite ill. Gravely so. We emergently took her to theatre to find what we feared - over half of her small intestine was twisted and black. It needed to be removed. Had it been much more she would not be able to survive without very expensive nutrition through her IV - perhaps indefinitely. Something that doesn't happen here in subSaharan Africa. Some places can manage short term treatment like that, but not long term. We have been striving to provide such short term treatment for little ones like this and we thought we might be able to do so for her. For a little while...
So we removed the dying intestine. But she was so sick we were worried she wouldn't survive. We decided we would bring her back in two days (if she survived) to make sure no further intestine needed to be removed. Just before closing her little abdomen, I reached up with a finger to check her stomach and make sure the drain we placed through her nose was properly positioned inside the stomach to keep it decompressed after surgery. A routine thing. But instead of finding the tube as expected, I found her stomach was mostly dead.
Two thirds of her stomach was falling apart. I quickly removed the portion that was affected and placed the tube inside the good portion that remained. Then I quickly sewed up the large hole where most of her stomach should have been. We placed a drainage catheter next to the repair and closed up her belly. I didn't expect her to survive.
Amazingly she woke up right away after the operation and the anesthetist took out her breathing tube. She was vigorous and breathing well. I didn't expect that. Newborns don't usually wake up so well after something like this. So while the team prepared to move her to the nursery, I went to find mom.
Mom was visibly relieved when I told her that her daughter was alive. She hugged her mom who was with her. But then I needed to tell her the huge battle her child was facing. Her face showed her understanding. I tried to share the struggle while preserving some hope. But I had very little and I think mom could tell. Her daughter's name was Tracy.
The next two days are a bit of a blur for me. I checked on Tracy frequently. My wife and I and our daughter Eden prayed for her. Our friends in NY prayed with their daughters. Each time I checked, she was doing well. I had hope that maybe God would spare her little life.
Friday came and we operated again. A small amount of intestine needed to be removed but in general things looked very good. We decided her best chance was to reconnect her intestine (a D3 to mid small bowel anastomosis for those medically inclined). Amazingly she woke up right away again as soon as we were finished. Her characteristically strong cry gave me hope. Maybe God would spare her little life.
The next day she continued to do well. I met with mom and we prayed together for Tracy. We had done all that we could in the operating room. Now we needed her to recover and for her intestines to start working so we could feed her.
Friends of our had sent some little dolls to us for kids in the hospital. Their daughters had used their own money to buy the dolls. They asked if Tracy could get one. So I walked one up to the ward where her mom was staying. All the ladies crowded around as I gave it to her and shared how some girls in the USA had sent it for her daughter. Even now they were praying for her. She was clearly touched by their love for her and Tracy.
Now she needed TPN. TPN or total parenteral nutrition is a way to feed people through their IV into their blood directly. It's expensive and rarely available in our region of the world. But I had been working on a way to do so here at Tenwek for some months. I thought we had a workable solution. We were keeping a small amount in stock for cases like this. But the small supply we had expired a few days before. It would take a bit of time to obtain more. Finally after some challenges, it came. We were able to start giving it to her right away. She had lost some weight in the meantime, but she was doing really well. Just no signs of her intestines working yet.
Slowly over the next week Tracy started to recover some of her weight. And signs that her intestines were starting to work began. So we continued to pray.
A special x-ray was done to make sure her stomach had healed before putting any food into it. The first one had a tiny abnormality that made me nervous there was a small leaking area. So we waited a few days and repeated it. Now it looked perfect. But really small.
Our next hurdle was to see if her remaining intestine would be of sufficient length to support her nutritional needs. It should, but with her small stomach I wasn't 100% sure. We started to give some of mom's breast milk down the tube into her stomach. Just a tiny amount. But she did great. So slowly over the next several days we increased the amount of milk and decreased the amount of TPN through her IV. Amazingly she didn't show any signs of trouble - either with her small stomach or with her lack of intestinal length. God was being gracious to Tracy. And her mom. She was completely being fed by mom now. I was amazed.
I shared with our medical staff one morning how God had spared Tracy's life. And how he used our team at Tenwek to do so. I am so grateful for all of the effort our team has put into saving her life. And I am so grateful that God has been gracious and has allowed our efforts to be successful. She is just one little girl among so many that we couldn't save. But I am grateful for her. She is one that God has allowed us to save. A young life with hope. Her mom's daughter. Tracy.
Tracy has struggled a bit in being able to drink milk. So her feeding tube is still in her nose allowing mom to continue feeding her while we work on her ability to drink. I'm in the capital today and will purchase a bottle to try. People don't use baby bottles in our region much so it's harder to come by. Perhaps it will help. Please pray for Tracy as she continues to struggle. And for her mom. And for the many infants and children that we work so hard to care for. May they see the love of Jesus in our care. And may they find hope for this life - as well as the next.
God has taken me some places I have never been. It's only God."
This mama is one of the center leaders in the Tabitha Bible Studies. She is a mama with young kids, just like me. She travels about an hour on the back of a motorcycle and then walks another half hour to get to her small group. She teaches other leaders from the Word and then they in turn teach their small groups what they've learned. She makes this trip every week.
God is using her faithfulness to influence those around her. When she first started attending the bible studies, she realized that she had a gift for teaching. "Even when the teacher was sharing, I could also have something to add."
It's always so good to see it when God gives someone special talents and they use them for Him. Her heart for spreading His Word and helping others understand it better is inspiring.
Mike (pediatric surgeon) and Julie (nurse/mother to two) living in Kenya, East Africa