Monday, December 1, 2014

First Reflections on the November 2014 Mission to Kenya

Joy at seeing with her new glasses
Now that a week has passed since we returned from Nairobi, the jet lag has subsided and I've had some time to reflect on the highlights of the trip and how God worked through us this time.  I’m sure there will be several more posts regarding this mission trip as I review more pictures and share stories with the rest of my team that I may not be aware of at this point.  Our general statistics were that we saw over 2500 patients in the clinic during the week, all were given a presentation of the Gospel and were prayed over individually in the triage station of the clinic.  More than 100 people came to Christ as their Savior during the week and there were many other blessings both given and received by our team.

From a high level project standpoint, there were two firsts that the Redeemer team was able to accomplish.  One involved our travel.  We were able to fly direct to London this time instead of driving to Houston, dropping off our footlockers and luggage at Bush International Airport, getting long-term parking and then going through security.  Normally, there would be a good two hours after all of that waiting to board the plane at around 4pm to London.  All of this added up to at least an extra half a day of travel.  British Airways began non-stop flights from Austin last April.  This was our first chance to give it a try.  Pastor Kevin picked me up at 2:30pm at my house and we met the rest of the team at 3pm at Bergstrom.  It only took a half an hour to clear security, we had time to have a leisurely dinner and the flight left for London at 6:15pm.  What a difference!  Even if the price was a couple of hundred dollars more, when you factor in gas for the round trip to Houston and the expense of long-term parking, it would still be worth it.  Because we bought our tickets well ahead of time, we actually paid a little less for airfare than if we had gone to Houston.  The only downside to the travel was that there is only a one hour and fifteen minute gap between our flight getting to Heathrow and the one to Nairobi taking off.  We actually got to London a few minutes early and we needed every bit of that extra time.  Even though we got into the Fast Trak line to get through the passport check, the actual security check was a s slow as ever and both Ralph and I got torn apart.  We were among the last of the stragglers to be bused out to our waiting plane on the tarmac.  When we go with larger groups, we may need to get the attention of British Air and Heathrow ground personnel to get us shepherded through.

How do these reading glasses look?
The second pioneering thing that we did on this trip was to order the reading glasses that we would need through a supplier in Nairobi that Catherine had found.  This meant that we could take two less footlockers with us than we normally would have had to this time around.  The quality and the price of the glasses was fine, so we left all of our readers that were left over in Nairobi, after we had taken an inventory of what remained.  This will allow us to order for our next mission and will also mean that we will have three less footlockers to deal with next summer.  One reason this is good is that there are a number of less than reputable organizations that enter Kenya under the guise of doing non-profit work that smuggle a lot of contraband into the country and the scrutiny we have had to undergo as a result of this seems to increase with each trip.  Having less baggage simplifies things greatly.

Over the next week or ten days, I’ll be adding more stories about what happened of note on the trip and several more pictures from other team members.  Here is the first of these stories and it deeply moved all of us.  It happened Friday afternoon, on the last day of the clinic.  We always bring a budget of $1500 for each vision clinic team for the purpose of paying for cataract surgeries or other procedures at local Nairobi hospitals.  The average cataract referral costs us about $50, so this means that 30 people regain the sight in at least one eye on each of our missions.  We had already approved 31 cataract surgeries, one more than the budget and had also agreed to help with half payment for a pair of contact lenses for a young boy with keratoconus (a condition where the eyes are shaped like the end of an American football rather than being more spherical) if the family and community could raise the other half.  I thought we were more than done with surgeries and we were already beginning to assess when we have to close the clinic in order to get packed up and have a closing devotion with the volunteers from the congregation. 

God had another plan and brought us a 3 year old little girl named Blessing (shown here with her mother, me and Dr. Patrick).  She had been born with cataracts on both eyes.  Her young mother had been born the same way.  Our doctors had seen this hereditary condition before and recommended surgery for both eyes and said the cost would be around 20,000 Kenyan shillings or approximately $250.  They weren't sure if that would be for one eye or both, but that general anesthesia would be necessary.  Normally, we fund one cataract surgery at a time, mostly for older people because of the chance of infection and the possibility of permanently losing sight in both eyes.  In the case of a young one like Blessing, the risk of going under anesthesia twice far outweighed these other risk factors, so both eyes would need to be corrected at the same time. I asked that the doctors make some calls and firm up the cost that we were talking about and I also asked if there was any way the family and the community could come together to fund raise for half of the cost, as is our custom in cases like this.  After phone consultations with their colleagues at various clinics, our doctors reported that both eyes, including anesthesia would be a little less than 40,000 KSH.  After a few more calls, we learned that there was an angel donor at one of the clinics and if we could arrange for cash to be paid at the time of the procedure, he would pay about a third of it.  After hearing this and a little prayer, I was moved to OK the operation and little Blessing will have the best Christmas gift of her young life, sight in both eyes!  Thank you, Jesus!  But wait, the story gets better.  Since our return to the States, I have spoken via Skype with Catherine.  There was a similar case to Blessing’s at one of our clinics in a rural area and a program to help children in desperate circumstances was found to help pay for his care.  We are now hopeful that Blessing also qualifies.  Looking back on it, I believe that the Lord brought this little one to our attention at the eleventh hour to teach us yet another faith lesson.  He was going to care for His child all along, He just wanted to invite us along for the ride.  I’m so glad that we accepted His invitation.  Matthew 25:40  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’