To see some of Glen Smith's best photos, a professional photographer who visited the clinic one morning, click the link below:
Our week at the clinic started out slowly, but that's normal. Unfortunately, we were missing our bullhorn, or as our Kenyan friends call it, our megaphone. Kiambu is in an area where many people work on the tea and coffee plantations during the day or at other jobs in the area and they are more spread out than it is in the slums in Nairobi that we are accustomed to working in. In the slums, we have local radio ads for the clinic and, due to the much higher density of the population there, word of mouth spreads much more quickly to greater numbers of people once the clinic is up and running. Catherine was able to finally procure a megaphone for us from our team out in Rongai and it arrived Thursday morning. We immediately sent Barrack out with Allan in the popup van to announce the clinic and our daily patient totals for Thursday and Friday nearly doubled as a result. Note to self: we need to make absolutely sure that the next time we field a clinic in Kiambu that we have a megaphone on day one! The only other minor glitch we experienced was that our box of Bibles was mistakenly taken by one of the other teams on their way out to the mission field Sunday morning and we didn't get them back until Wednesday morning. These Bibles are handed out at the discretion of our Pastors and evangelists, usually being reserved for new believers or people who have decided to join the local congregation. This was actually a blessing in disguise, because we were able to promise Bibles to people if they would only come back later in the week and we thus got to form stronger relationships with them than otherwise might have been the case. By week's end, we had seen nearly 1300 patients in the clinic, had referred 30 people for cataract surgeries, had been involved with getting 2 young boys setup for sight-saving surgeries and nearly 2000 people had heard the Gospel message. Thank you, Jesus!
As has become my custom, I always give each trip a little bit of time to sink in before I write a wrapup detailing what stood out for me about a particular mission. In the case of our April mission to Kiambu, there seem to be many more spiritual highlights and interesting stories to chronicle than usual. Before saddling up for each of these trips, it has always been my practice to fervently pray what my Pastor Dave calls a "use me" prayer, in which I ask the Lord to strengthen me for what lies ahead, to use me in whatever way He chooses, and to please let me know that it's Him working through me. I don't want to be out there doing what I think is the right thing to do without his guidance, since His plan is always perfect and my plans are, at best, just so-so. And there is no way to know in advance who He will place in my path or what situation I will fall into. On most of these missions, we as a team are able to discuss what kind of "God things" we have been a part of during the work day at our evening mealtime. We had other groups of incredible Christians staying at Africa Heart and sharing the dining room with us on this trip, so we shared some things with each other, but also got to experience what amazing projects that the others were doing. One group was working on shaken baby syndrome, educating doctors and parents alike that it's not OK to shake a baby and what symptoms medical professionals should look for. Another group was operating dental clinics throughout Kenya and performing an occasional operation far afield from dentistry or maybe assisting in the birth of a child when the situation presented itself. Others were doing marriage encounters in the local churches. One group of youth pastors was there to teach local church workers about ministering to the next generation. The list went on and on and changed nearly every day with each group that was passing through. What a blessing it was to encourage and to be encouraged by other people who had gotten out of the boat when Jesus called them.
It has been my experience over the 9 trips I have now made to Kenya since November of 2009, that there has always been one outstanding occurrence or encounter with someone that fits the category of being a real "God thing" for each member of the group. Maybe I'm growing in my faith, maybe my eyes see things they didn't before, but I need more than one hand to count the things that happened on this trip that I was personally involved in. I know that each of the others had multiple encounters with the Divine on this trip as well. Some of the following stories have been discussed previously in the daily reports on the blog and are expanded on here while others are being told for the first time.
Our first experience of God moving in our lives on this trip started on the way back to Nairobi from our first day's outing to Lake Naivasha for a safari. Our driver, Edwin, thought we could take a more scenic route back to town through the tea and coffee plantation country just north of Nairobi, near where we would be serving in Kiambu. As soon as we began to see lush fields of tea, Edwin spotted a small driveway and turned in. This stop was not part of our planned itinerary, at least not mine! After about a quarter of a mile, we saw a very nice white mansion with incredible grounds, including numerous plants, a lush lawn and many birds, all backing up to a forest. A maid came out from the house and spoke with Edwin for a minute. She went back to the house and conferred with a man we would later come to know as Joseph and even though they were closed for the day, they decided if we wanted to have tea and biscuits (British for cookies), they would accommodate us.
It was nearly 4pm, the perfect time for tea. While we waited for the tea to be prepared, we walked the grounds and got many beautiful pictures of the plants, birds and of the mansion itself. It began to rain heavily, driving us up on to the front porch just in time for our afternoon snack. Joseph asked what we were doing in Kenya and we told him about the eyeglass clinic in Kiambu, probably 15 miles from the plantation. Imagine our surprise when he showed up Tuesday morning with freshly baked cookies for the team, seeking some reading glasses so he could read his Bible.
He had taken a matatu, a van that is the most prevalent form of ground transportation, to Kiambu and then began to ask for the whereabouts of our clinic. It's nothing short of a miracle that he found us! A totally unplanned stop at the plantation Saturday had resulted in our new friend Joseph getting the reading glasses he needed the following Tuesday. Thank you, Jesus!
Saturday also brought another huge experience for me. Last May, I was privileged to be the matatu driver for Catherine and her family when they were in the U.S for her son Mark's graduation from St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, Missouri, about an hour east of Kansas City. I spent a week, along with Catherine's many friends in Austin, showing them around our town and central Texas. Her mother, whom I call Mama (the highest term of respect for an older woman in Kenya), fell in love with me and was upset when I couldn't come to her house last November for dinner. I was the only leader on our team then and couldn't find a way to break away during that trip. This time, Pastor Kevin was around to hold down the fort and he graciously gave his blessing to my little outing. Saturday was the best night, because Mama only lives about 5 minutes from our lodgings at Rosa Mystica, but it would have been a drive clear across Nairobi from where we would be staying the rest of the week. During that wonderful evening, I got to meet Catherine's sister, her brother-in-law and her nephew. Mama told Catherine in Swahili that she now has a son, meaning me. I looked around at her walls and saw pictures of her entire family, and then I asked why she had no pictures of her new son!
I'm going to fix that, since we took several nice photos that night with Mama and I plan on bringing one of them back, nicely framed, on our October trip. Another big blessing and the work week hadn't even started yet!
On Tuesday morning, a woman in her early 40's approached me and asked if I remembered her. Indeed I did. Her name was Alice and she had come to our clinic in Kiambu in November. Her husband had died some years before, leaving her alone to raise small children. Then, she had gone blind from cataracts. We had paid for her referral to the hospital in Nairobi to have the cataract removed from one of her eyes. She had come to tell us that she now had perfect vision in that eye and was praising God, Jesus, our clinic, our doctors and anyone else she could think of for the miracle of having her sight restored. What a blessing to be with her again! I took her to our doctors right away and they wrote a referral to have the other eye taken care of. I was happy to sign it. This incident with Alice alone made coming back to Kiambu worth it all for me.
But God wasn't done yet. A woman in her 70's, Salome, arrived within an hour of Alice and the same story was repeated in her life. She was full of thanks and praise for God's blessings and she could also see perfectly in the eye that had been operated on as a result of our clinic this past November. She too will get her vision restored in her second eye. Thank you, Jesus, for letting us be part of your healing miracles!
When Wednesday arrived, the Lord was still hard at work providing more miracles. A young boy named Robert was brought to the clinic in a suit and tie by his concerned father and was diagnosed with keratoconus by our doctors, a disease that would surely lead to blindness without treatment. His father had brought him to us and was looking for help for an operation that could cost as much as 250,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $3000). Our doctors knew of a hospital that could do the procedure for about a tenth of that, which was still out of the reach of the family. We decided to pay for half of the cost and let the community, his family and other resources supply the rest. These are the kind of decisions we have to make sometimes. Do we spend the money on about 3 cataract surgeries for older people or do we give a young boy a chance at seeing and being able to lead a productive life? This one was not that hard, Pastor Kevin and I agreed that the boy needed our help and would get it. Robert and his father came back the next day and they had been able to raise the other half of the money needed and had already been in contact with the clinic our doctors were referring him to.
No sooner had we taken care of this boy on Wednesday, than another father and his young boy came in with exactly the same condition, only his eyes were also in a bad way from allergies, possibly infected or worse. We also are going to give him the help he needs, but his eyes will need to clear up before anything more can be done. Our doctors gave him some eye drops, and if they work, then he also has the possibility of getting the sight saving procedure. We won't know if either boy will get treated, it is up to the hospital to do more screening and then their doctor's decisions will determine the final outcome in each case. Please keep these two young men in your prayers. I pray that we learn of a good outcome for both of them when we return in October.
On Friday, as I alluded to in my daily blog posting from Kiambu, I was blessed to work in the triage station for most of the day by Pastor Kevin's side. We worked on determining the eye treatments each patient would get based on the eye chart screening, autorefractor readings and self-reported eye problems. More importantly, we were also there to talk to each person about the Gospel and to pray over each one individually. This is a very powerful aspect of our ministry. In contrast to some of our earlier clinics that have been held in heavily Muslim areas in the slums of Nairobi, the overwhelming majority of our patients were Christians already and were thankful for the human care ministry we were doing. We met some people who wanted nothing more than a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the blessings in their lives. There were far more who were broken in one way or another. Some had abusive husbands, others had able bodied family members who could not get a job. Many had health issues themselves or family members who were terribly sick.