Friday, June 7, 2019

The last day of the clinic was non-stop and a good finish

We went continuously from the time we started this morning until 5 pm when we were loading our equipment and supplies into a pickup truck.  We saw 426 patients and the day literally flew by.  We said our heartfelt goodbyes to our old and new friends after a challenging day of figuring out what to do for the people as our stock of lenses, frames, reading glasses, etc. dwindled, as they always do at the end of a trip.  The last half hour of the day was filled with taking inventory of our various supplies, packing a locking up our footlockers and making sure we had not forgotten anything.

I am currently packing up for an extra 4 days here in Kenya, mostly doing wildlife safaris with a concentration on birds, first at Samburu, which has nearly 700 species and then at Nanyuki, another good game park.  We hope to have dinner with Catherine on Tuesday afternoon before heading to the Nairobi airport for our flights home on Lufthansa.  I may or may not have good Internet for the next few days, so don't quit looking here.  I will catch up and begin posting again on the journey home and will get a nice album of pictures together of the clinic and then of our nature subjects as my time permits.

Cynthia and Alex will be going to Lake Naivasha with one of the teams from Trinity Klein tomorrow and will fly back ahead of us on Sunday night.

Blessings until I can post here again!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

After a rainy start, the Thursday clinic picked up steam

Here is what greeted us when we arrived after rain overnight:

I wouldn't have given us much chance of a good day at that point, but it usually dries out pretty quickly after the rain stops.  It stayed pretty muddy but we made due.

This is Alex with his new friends.  All of the young men of the congregation are first class and have a great sense of humor.  They need to because I fire each of them three times a day or more just to keep them on their toes.  It's a running joke.

We begin each day with some wonderful a Capella praise and African songs. It is very moving, the harmonies are delicious.

Bill, Alex and I each gave a personal testimony to people in the tents waiting to get into the clinic on Wednesday. Today, Bishop Bakari Kea asked her to share her gift of music with the clinic and the whole place came to a stop as she did a full on rendition of two verses of Amazing Grace. Thunderous applause followed.... Bishop is filming it with his phone and I'm sure she's gone viral by now and a recording contract can't be to far behind!

Alex helped this Muslim man get some pretty powerful glasses and he was very happy with the results.

This patient got some glasses with some of our most powerful lenses and was overjoyed!  

The day actually turned out about the same as the previous two day's clinics with around 320 patients being seen.  I've never seen such regular numbers, but we did have a Muslim holiday, rain and other complications that probably held our numbers down.  But we did serve everyone the Lord brought us and that's the best goal to have.

Well, it's been a long day and we have the giant task of running a clinic tomorrow, performing an inventory on our supplies and then packing everything up to be shipped across town to our storage facility.  Bill and I will also be packing up for our extra days here on wildlife safaris, we head out Saturday morning for Samburu, a national game park with nearly 700 species of birds.  I guess I had better get to bed for some rest, I'll need it!  Thank you Jesus for such a good clinic to this point!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday Clinic and a word or two about our prayer ministry here

I am very happy with our clinic today, we saw almost exactly the same number of patients as yesterday even on a national holiday and with the Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan.  We only saw 8 Muslims for care, so my feeling is the clinic would have been much bigger without those factors.  I am bracing myself for tomorrow, it may be very big and we are running full blast all day as it is.  Pray for strength for us and for us to continue to treat every patient as if they were the only person in the world.  These clinics are great for teaching you the discipline of living in the moment.

Speaking of prayer, each of our patients is prayed over individually before receiving the services we provide, such as custom made distance glasses, reading glasses, eyedrops or medications for their eyes or even being referred for cataract or other surgeries.  Once we determine the physical needs that we might be able to address, we ask our Christian clients if there is anything we can offer up in prayer for them.  For people of other faiths, we usually ask if they have any questions about the Gospel presentation they heard before entering the clinic.  Many do have questions and we tell them about our faith, many times with personal testimonies of what the Lord has done for us.  After that conversation, we offer to pray and almost no one, regardless of their faith walk, refuses to be prayed over.  They feel it is special that someone has come halfway around the world to pray for their specific needs.  You hear many heartbreaking cries for help ranging from whole families without jobs, sickness in the family, failing marriages, parents that worry about their college educated children that can't find work, the list just goes on and on.  Almost everyone over 40 years of age that comes to us needs reading glasses and always describes their eye problem as "I can't read my Bible."  That just recharges me, could you imagine hearing almost everyone in our country being as hungry for the Word of God?  For those folks, I always also include a prayer that their faith may be strengthened by being in the Living Word and that they may be a light to their families and to their communities.

One of the most powerful prayers I was part of on this trip was a man that asked the I pray for the hatred he had in his heart for someone.  It was really troubling him and we talked about how hate just eats at the one who hates, many times the other person doesn't even know anything about it.  I prayed fervently with him, laying hands on his shoulders and when we were done, both of us had moist eyes.  I feel that the Lord moved in his heart during the prayer.  Thank you Jesus!

We just got back from dinner at a Mediterranean Restaurant at the mall across the street and it was a very relaxing meal with a lot of good conversation around the table.  Even though we are small in number, I love this team and how incredibly focused each of us has been at the task at hand.  We always keep it light with humor and there is a good chemistry to this group.  I would serve with them anytime, anywhere again.

Just about time for bed, we need to keep our strength up to finish the week strong before Bill and I leave next Saturday for four days of wildlife photography, mostly birds.  Please continue to keep us in our prayers that our mission lead many to the Lord and heal many of their eye maladies.  Praise God!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuesday clinic was bigger but...

Our volunteers opened the day up by singing several hymns and praise songs to set the mood for the day.

The volunteers sing praises
We got a good start this morning, but then quickly realized that it was the last day of Ramadan, so it looked like our numbers of patients would not increase dramatically on the second day of the clinic as has historically been the case.  Tomorrow is a national holiday and that will either be very good or very bad for us, time will tell.  Anyway, we were blessed that several nearby schools sent children over for eye chart screening and we were able to squeeze a pretty large number of them in, which might not have been possible on a normal clinic day.

By the end of the day, 340 people had entered the clinics and 331 of them got treatment of one sort or another and almost all of them were prayed over individually.  I worked several different jobs in addition to trying to do the usual team leader stuff.  The day goes quickly when you don't stop for anything!  One of my favorite moments was when I was working in our triage unit and a 75 year old man who appeared to be about 50 came to me for treatment.  He said that our project had done cataract surgeries for him 2 different times over the years and now he needed glasses, which we were able to provide.  He was a joyful gent and it really lifted up my spirits to know that we do has had such an impact on one life.  Bill Goodoff handled a large share of the triage job during the whole day and I know that I also worked with and prayed with well over 100 people when I could chip in.  It's an amazing experience to be used in this way by the Lord, it's almost an out of body experience in which you feel like you are observing what the Holy Spirit is doing through you as if it is another person you are watching praying over people.  There really aren't adequate words for it, but it multiplies your faith in leaps and bounds.

That's about it for now.  We are all well and making sure we get plenty of rest and are getting hydrated as much as possible.  Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

Monday, June 3, 2019

The latest Kibera vision clinic is up and running!

We arrived at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church grounds a little before 8 am and proceeded to rearrange pews for about 20 minutes to match a diagram that I had drawn for the team Sunday night to give them an idea of the setup that had been successful there in the past.  Pastor Kevin and I had tweaked it over the years to minimize bottlenecks, keep noise to a minimum and generally create an environment for an effective mission, both from the vision care perspective and to enhance our  intentional presentation of the Gospel in our acts and words.  Next came arranging all of our supplies and tables where they belonged for each station.  Even with a small team, we were in pretty good shape in about an hour.

Bishop Bakari Kea summoned the team and the local volunteers to the outside of the church where our first patients had been patiently waiting for over an hour.  A choir from the school and a youth choir from the church each performed for us.  Then the Bishop shared several scriptures with the crowd stressing the urgency of living in the Lord and how fleeting our present circumstances are.  I was blessed when he asked me to pray over the people and the opening of the clinic and the wonderful ministry that will be done over the coming week.  I won't soon forget what an honor and at the same time humbling experience it was.

The school choir

The youth choir

The first hour and a half of the clinic was functional, although several pieces were not up and running right away, such as the autorefractor station where we use battery operated devices to examine patients for distance glasses if they have failed an eye chart exam.  It didn't matter because our experienced team of Kenyan doctors was able to keep up quite nicely until that section was operational.  

We worked steadily throughout the day and it threatened to rain but never did, possibly holding the crowds down.  Nevertheless, by day's end we had seen 275 patients and all were given the best eye care we could muster, had the saving grace of Jesus shared with them and had been prayed over individually.  

Considering we have only 4 team members from the US, the smooth start of the clinic is a testament to the dedication of our local volunteers, our Kenyan doctors and our wonderful workers from the Lutheran Hour Ministries in Kenya who are called Nuru.  Thank you Jesus!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A Big Sunday in Nairobi

The teams that were heading out into the field for Trinity Klein were staggered, with the first one leaving after a 7am breakfast.  I got the best Saturday night's sleep ever, I must have been exhausted from the huge safari and other Saturday activities plus the short night on Friday night after our travel.  I managed to sleep all but about a half an hour between 10 pm and 6:30 am.  I had breakfast with the early team and took a group picture for them with one of their phones and with one of my cameras for good measure. 

I visited with other teams and continued having some coffee while Alex had his breakfast.  Cynthia started having stomach problems on Saturday and we all agreed it would be best if she just took care of herself rather than joining us for worship.  It proved to be a good decision, since the church service from beginning to end was three hours and fifty two minutes and it was all incredible.  I saw my old friend Bishop Bakari Kea before church and when he had Alex and I introduce ourselves to the congregation, he said there was no need to introduce Dave because everybody already knew him!  He loves to give me a hard time.  Alex said a few words about himself and we were greeted warmly by the congregation.  During my remarks, I said it was good to be back home, since Kibera was the first location I was a team leader for back in 2010 and I have always been treated like family there.  As usual, the music was outstanding and included children's choirs, several women's and inter-generational choirs and everything from standard hymns to African music to praise songs that people in our 10:45 service know by heart.  And it all was absolutely excellent.  A guest preacher delivered the sermon and our friend Isaac with Nuru Lutheran Hour ministries translated into Swahili for him. 

Alex being blessed
During one phase of the worship, people were called to be prayed over by Bishop Kea, Isaac, the preacher and our evangelist friend Francis.  It was very moving, each person, including Alex, was prayed over individually for several minutes.  I'm sure when Alex looks back on this trip, this will be one of the signature moments for him.  It was very moving for me because I saw many people who have become life long friends through these mercy missions.

After church, we went to the Junction Mall and had lunch with Isaac.  Cynthia joined us and at a light meal.  After lunch, we went to the large store in the mall that is similar to a Super Walmart and bought the incidentals we would need for the clinic like paper towels, glass cleaner, hand sanitizer, water for our personal use, etc.  We got back to Rosa Mystica a little after 4 and had free time to relax until a 7 pm meeting we had to discuss the layout of the clinic and what it would take to get it up and running as efficiently as possible Monday morning. 

At the meeting, I used a layout I had drawn that we used during our last clinic at Kibera that had worked well and explained step by step the workflow that we usually followed.  Bill Goodoff from Salem was also there, having arrived from serving on a mission last week near the Tanzanian border.  He is joining our team and is a valuable addition as he is also a veteran of many clinics and can do most any job needed.  It will be like having a second leader to help out and use as a sounding board.  He will be joining me for several days of wildlife photo safaris after the clinic, something I'm really looking forward to.  He had some good input on when to send children directly to the doctors and other ways of doing business that I'm sure will pan out nicely.

Well, it's nearing bedtime and tomorrow will be a big day, the opening of a clinic is always a minor miracle in itself.  Things won't run very smoothly at first and we will be correcting problems with paperwork and traffic control for the bulk of the day after physically getting the clinic set up.  Luckily, it's been rainy lately and the first day is generally the slowest, allowing us to iron out snags as they arise before we hit our stride as the week progresses.  More to follow after the clinic tomorrow!  Please keep us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission as we care for the vision and spiritual needs of the people the God brings to us this week!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Saturday safari, etc.

I was able to manage about 4 hours of sleep between 1 am and 5:15 am, not bad for being all wound up from travel.  Our flights were great this trip, mostly smooth, friendly cabin crew, interesting people to talk to sitting with me, good food, etc.  Unfortunately, the theme of this trip from the start has been long lines in very hot rooms with cranky people.  It began in Houston and carried over to our arrival at Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi.  We arrived right on time at 8:10 pm and then proceeded to take nearly an hour to get through the visa line.  We picked up our luggage pretty quickly after that since it had already been off loaded from the conveyor belts due to how long the visa process took.  Next, we found out that they had implemented at new system for customs, scanning every bag that was leaving the place of folks that declared nothing to claim on their forms.  That line was the better part of an hour and all three of us got flagged by the x-ray machine for our suitcases with the clinic supplies in them.  A customs agent tore us apart and was trying to determine the value of our supplies so that we could pay a duty tax on them.  Even after I protested that it was all for donation, he still insisted we must pay.  I was very tired and a little grouchy, so the next thing I knew I was his office, one on one.  I knew other teams had paid as much as $400 to enter the country and I told him I might as well get on the next plane home if they couldn't let us serve the Kenyan people at our own expense.  Then, I decided since we were alone, I would play the humor card.  While he was putting figures in a spreadsheet on his computer, I told him that this was my 19th trip to Kenya and I wanted to marry a Kenyan woman so I could become a citizen.  The only problem was that all of my Kenyan friends had told me I was not strong enough for a Kenyan woman.  We both laughed until we almost cried and when he finished his figuring, the possible $400 duty had become 3,280 Kenyan shillings.  At first I thought he wanted $3000, but quickly realize that he had magically reduced the cost to about $30.  He walked me over to the currency exchange and I paid the tax on the spot and made a new friend.  I even got a receipt and may not turn it in, but frame it instead since it's such a good story.  I'm sure he was so used to upset people that I caught him off guard with my joke at my own expense.  All's well that ends well except for all the waiting.  We finally got to Rosa Mystica after 12, I got a shower and was finally in bed around 1am.

We had an early breakfast a 6 am and were on the road to the game park by 6:30.  That's when the curse of the long lines kicked in again.  Catherine, our superstar project coordinator, had already wired Friday to the park office to pre-pay for our safaris so that we could drive right in.  The money didn't appear on the other end, so we waited for over an hour while our 3 drivers stood in line to purchase our entry to the park.  Even so, we had one of the best mornings of animals and birds I've ever seen and were done by about 12.30 pm.  Stay tuned here and on my Facebook Page, pictures will begin appearing shortly after the trip.

We had lunch at the Veranda, a nice outdoor venue and then went back to Rosa Mystica for much needed naps and showers.  Our day ended with a worship service of all of the team members, Catherine's Pastor delivered a nice message, I got to do a devotion, we had a Kenyan Choir sing for us and by 6 pm or so we were done and heading for dinner.  That's about it for now, I'm hoping to sleep well tonight, but it's usually Sunday or Monday before we're really in the groove.

Blessings everybody!