Friday, October 22, 2010

Final Preparation and Packing for the Dental Clinic in November

We've been very busy for the last few weeks on the dental side of the mission trip procuring last minute items such as headlamps for the Nairobi dental team, batteries to run them and the like.  We (Martha, Howard, Louise and myself) had the "party" described in my previous post on Wednesday night, October 13th at Casa Genz.  We consumed a large pizza and counted, bagged and labeled thousands of pills.  There were antibiotics, painkillers and Benadryl, which is used to curb allergic reactions.  I brought my laptop and a small laser printer and handled creating the labels as needed and affixed most of them to the bags the others had already filled.  I had bought 3 pill counting trays from one of my customers, Nucara Pharmacy, and once the gang got used to using them, it was pretty amazing how quickly things went.  It only took about 4 hours to complete the job.  Tomorrow, Saturday October 23rd, Martha and I are going to meet Gus Jacob and Dr. Terry Councill (our Houston dentist) at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball to pack the dozen or so footlockers with the medications, dental instruments and other supplies that will be needed.  The next time we see these footlockers will be November 11th at Bush International Airport.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Look at Preparation for the Fall 2010 Kenya Mission or What I Did During Summer Vacation!

Welcome back to to the Notes from the Mission Field blog after a summer hiatus between mission trips.  While there have been no recent postings to the blog, this doesn't mean we have not been hard at work planning for our November 11-21 mission to the Nairobi slum of Kawangware to put on a vision and dental clinic for the community surrounding the Lutheran church there.  Even while we were still in Kenya, during our May trip to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera, we were already meeting with local church leaders, LCMS World Mission workers and others to begin to set expectations for our upcoming mission.

The summer was spent working by phone, email and in person with our good friends and mentors at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball.  We have been going over the million and one details that fielding a team totaling 35-40 missionaries half way around the world entails.  A particularly eye-opening aspect of our planning has been what goes into supporting a dental team.  For the first time, Redeemer will be largely responsible for the dental clinic.  In the past, the team from Salem has shouldered this responsibility for us.  Like all great mentors, they have begun to nudge us out of the comfort and safety of the nest and are gently forcing us to take our first flight lesson.  In the past, Redeemer supplied Dr. Zoch and his wife Diana to run the team and we handled the dozen footlockers that the clinic requires during our travel to and from Nairobi.  All of the supplies and medications to be used or dispensed to the patients at previous clinics had been provided by Salem and their donors.  For this trip, we have purchased the medications and are currently assembling the incidental supplies that are necessary, everything from duct tape to the portable headlamps and required batteries that the dentists need to be able to do their work.  There are many things such as these that we will need to bring with us, as well as a list of items that we need to purchase in Nairobi upon our arrival.

Our team was in Tomball last Saturday for orientation.  This was a great refresher course for the old hands and it helped to answer questions and assuage any worries that first time members of the team may have had.  The one point that can never be overemphasized that was made is this:  our first and foremost purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission.  Even though a wonderful human care ministry takes place in these clinics by which we can demonstrate the love of Christ, we must never lose sight of reaching lost souls with the Good News.  We had a wonderful speaker in the morning, Emmanuel Agook from Sudan, who in a two hour presentation described the main tenets of Islam in great detail and gave us many practical pointers on how to witness to the people of this faith that we will undoubtedly encounter.  The question and answer session was particularly valuable, as members of previous mission teams were able to also share what had worked for them and were able to ask Emmanuel for his suggestions for ways in which we can be even more effective. 

Once again, our team will have a core group of veterans being led by Pastor Kevin Westergren. They include Howard and Martha Faske, myself, Ralph and Louise Genz, Dan Zieschang and Dr. Robert and Diana Zoch. One newcomer from Redeemer, David Hanson, will man the autorefractor station, while the Zoch's son, Jonathan, who is a DCE in the Houston area, will help with the dental clinic. Three first time travelers from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cedar Park will be Pastor Richard and Patricia Goodwill, and Rick Masselink, who is involved with outreach and missions. Our twelfth and final team member will be Dr. Terry Councill, a dentist from Houston who is a veteran of many dental missions to Honduras and Kenya.

There are two major pretrip tasks that remain.  After the orientation, we gathered up the thousands of pills that will be prescribed during the clinic to bring them back to Austin.  We are able to get great prices on these antibiotics, pain killers and other medications because we buy them in bulk and they are for charitable purposes.  The practical downside of this is that we have to count and package the medications into standard sized doses.  An example is the 6,000 acetaminophen tablets that need to be broken down into small Zip-Loc bags in groups of 30 and then labeled, with the required expiration date (or we may have trouble with customs) and the doctor's recommended usage notes.  We are planning on having BBQ one night very soon at the Genz residence, and instead of playing cards or 42, we will be having a pill counting party!  We will have a small team of volunteers return to Tomball on October 23rd to pack up all of the dental tools, supplies and medicines into the dozen footlockers according to a very detailed manifest.  We can't just throw a hodgepodge into any old trunk, since we have a weight restriction of 50lbs per footlocker.  We are very grateful that Dr. Councill has gladly agreed to be there with us to supervise and identify what each item is as we pack it.  While we do have a good list to work from, our volunteers that weekend will not include any other dental professionals and we might as well be monkees packing transmission parts were it not for Terry!
Please keep an eye on this blog, as the postings will be more frequent as the final stages of preparation for the trip unfold.  Once we are on the ground in Africa, I will try once again to make daily postings, along with pictures, to keep you informed of our comings and goings.  As always, please keep final planning as well as our safety and effectiveness in spreading the Gospel in your prayers.