Thursday, June 02, 2016

Medical Mercy Kenya Clinic day 4

(Part 2)

Unconditional love. And more. What would you say if God reached out to you, pointed the way to go, whispered in your ear and said, “Hear Me”? Would you go, would you go willingly even though you didn’t know where you were going and would you say “yes I hear You”? Today was a day that God pointed, spoke and we listened and went.


Several years ago, I met a wonderful man by the name of Julius who was a community health physician. He had polio and wore a leg brace on his right leg. As the story goes, after he toured me through his clinic, I began to walk back out to the car when I heard children laughing. I turned back and asked Julius where that was coming from. He took me to the back of the clinic and there was a safe haven for physically disabled children with their own makeshift wheelchairs and more. It has been there ever since and it has grown and that is where we took the little girl we saw yesterday. Julius and his physical therapist did a quick evaluation, and accepted her as a patient. A CT scan for $70, and two weeks full room and board for both grandmother and the child where there will be a full medical assessment, physical therapy plan implemented and more, for…wait for it…$35. This little girl who for whatever reason had a significant neurologic injury, was now embraced by those who will not only take care of her, but care about her and care for. Unconditionally.


We ended out first part of our medical mission today. We are off to go to Masai Mara for a safari, then 10 of us will be continuing to the most northern part of Kenya: Turkana.  A remote area, truly bush country. We will fly there on Mission Aviation Fellowship planes, two of them, one for our supplies and one for us. We’ll land on a dirt clearing after making a low pass to make sure there are no animals and then land. We start our clinic right after we land.


The team of 23 US and 6 Kenyan healthcare workers, 2 country directors, and 2 security guards worked tirelessly seeing hundreds and hundreds of children. We did what we came to do: serve and to be present when present.


I’ll be back on the blog in few days when we arrive in Turkana. More children to see. More to serve. Wait for it…


In all things give thanks,




(Photo credits: Brandon Cunningham)

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Medical Mercy Kenya clinic day 3

(Part one)

Unconditional love. How often have you felt it? Needed it? Wanted it? Had it? Our God offers it and gives it to us all the time, but we often put up a barrier and block it from entering our hearts simply because we are too self-centered, self-assured and self-absorbed that we don’t want it or need it. What a shame. And then there are times when we see the same unconditional love given by humans to other humans. What gives? It’s relatively simple: there are those who give of themselves with no want or need for anything in return. They are comfortable with who they are and with what their purpose is in life. They don’t have to seek it nor wonder if they have it. It’s just there. Just like the grandmother of this three year old girl who came to us for help.


The cries were loud, persistent, high pitched and unyielding. With each wail, her arms extended outward at an abnormal angle, fingers rigid, hands arched back almost touching her forearm. Her back arched, her head flopped back, and her legs limp. This grandmother and the child’s caretaker, held her, stroked her head and whispered in her ear. She quieted. The child’s mother was absent, having run away after a fight with her husband. She may return the grandmother said, but was not convincing. So what happened?


At the age of seven months this child fell out of bed and was never the same after that. Unable to walk without assistance, floppy legs were the reason, the child never progressed through her normal milestones. Her head was big and probably has hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). The grandmother was clearly loving, engaged and committed to this little girl. Hospitals and doctors were not able to make a diagnosis or help. Here’s what may have happened. She fell out of bed, may have had brain damage from the fall itself and may have stopped breathing with a period without oxygen. All the same, this little girl is significantly disabled.


What struck me was how loving and caring this grandmother was. She was openly loving, giving of herself. We spent a great deal of time with them, asking questions in order to find reasons for why the child was like she was. We prayed with her and then I promised to help them see a local doctor that I know who may be willing to care for this child, find ways to make her life a little better and to ensure that she receives the care she deserves. I couldn’t do anything less. Unconditional love as strong as that grandmother’s, is something that deserves acknowledgement and thanks. Not unlike God’s unconditional love for us. We know its there and give thanks for it.  I’ll be back tomorrow evening with an update.


In all things give thanks,




(photos credit: Brandon Cunningham)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kenya Medical Mercy Clinic Day 2

Life is what life is. We are dealt a hand of cards, and how we play them is up to us. That’s called free will. Sometimes we win and sometimes we loose. And sometimes, regardless of the hand we’ve been dealt,we make it work even though it is a lousy hand. I learned a lesson about that today.

I saw him as soon as I got off the bus. Short in stature, large head for the size of his body, short arms and short legs, and stubby fingers. Short limb dwarfism or achondroplasia is what he had. I expected him to be an outcast from the large number of his peers, some 350 of them that were waiting for us to see them (we saw 330 children and few adults by the time the day was over). I’ve seen this before. If your not like everyone else, you don’t belong and you are cast out. But surprise, surprise. I found him to be engaging, playing with his peers, and some even taking him under their wing so to speak so as to be able to keep up with the soccer game that was going on. I spent a lot of time with him, doing a physical, talking about how things were in school, his friends, and if he felt like he was different. For a 10 year old boy, his answers were mature and to the point: “I am a little different, but so is everyone. I like everyone and they like me.” Life is what life is. In other words, we make do with what we have. We play our hand. This young boy, played his well and I was very proud of him. He accepted who he was and was not ashamed. And by being bold and accepting, those around him accepted him as well. I wonder how well we would do if we were faced with having to play a bad hand. 

In all things give thanks,


(photo credit: Brandon Cunningham)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Kenya Medical clinic day 1

So long and so far away. Well, not really. 80 kilometers and 2 hours and a half to get to where we were going. Dirt roads, with ruts and holes, made the progress slow. And so the question is posed: how far do we go to help those in need? The answer: as far as we need to.


This being the first day of clinic for our team, the start was a little slow. The electronic medical record system failed due to a router issue so we went back to paper. A little spiritual warfare ongoing. Not willing to accept defeat, we said fine, and got out our pens and went back to old school record keeping. So there Satan.


The children were for the most part moderately healthy, with evidence of malnutrition the main finding. Skin rashes, scabies, worms and some upper respiratory infections noted. So all in all, a relatively good day. Except…wait for it… the child with only one shoe and the child with fainting spells or as we found out, seizures. I’ll tell you about the child with “fainting spells”. Eight years ago, for no apparent reason, he started having seizures, each lasting 30 minutes or more with a postictal period (unconscious period of recovery after a seizure) of up to three hours. He was been seen by a neurologist and started on an anticonvulsant. He has not attended school for last 3 years. So what now? He is clearly mentally challenged, shy, withdrawn and afraid. He sat in front of me as I examined him, his eyes never looking up. Speaking in gentle tones, I reassured his mother and him that with some minimal changes, he would one again be able to attend school. All that is needed is an adjustment of his medication, some one-on-one care with a special needs teacher and an opportunity for him to belong to the community. But truth be told, it isn’t going to happen. We’ll adjust his medications, but there is no special needs program or a special needs teacher in the project that we are in. Remote is what remote is. Bush country is what bush country is. So you say then, what did we accomplish? Well, the answer may not be what you want to hear. His seizures will eventually be under control, but he may not go back to school. Stigma is a big part of this culture. If you aren’t normal, you’re not welcomed. What we did accomplish was that after a long while of just sitting and being present when present, he looked at me and smiled. And so did his weeping mother. She told us that this was the first time in a very long time that he smiled and thank us. She thanked us for not pushing him away because he was “broken”. It’s not what we bring, but what we leave behind, isn’t it?


In all things give thanks,



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kenya Day 1 - the orphanage

On the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, a mother cries out. She is in a refugee camp, alone, afraid and pregnant. A baby cries out, weak and softly. She delivers a baby with a small head, a baby with microcephaly. She turns and looks at her baby and closes her eyes and weeps. As the baby is being attended to, she climbs from the cot that she just delivered on, and runs from the tent. The placenta is still in her. The baby is now abandoned. 

In another part of Kenya, a baby is born prematurely at 29 weeks, the mother is single, poor and homeless, and gives the baby up. Craniosynostosis or a condition where the baby’s sutures should be open allowing for the brain to grow, are fused. Surgery will be needed.

These two babies are cared for in an orphanage. Caring hands and loving hugs are what each of them are receiving. Medical care will be futile. The cost for corrective surgery will be prohibitive and the child with microcephaly will pass in a few weeks. 

You may have heard me say before that there is a difference between taking care of someone and caring about and caring for them. These two abandoned babies are receiving all three types of caring, the most important of the two, they are cared about and cared for. Little can be done as the funds needed are not there. This orphanage has a strong foundation of loving care givers but limited financial resources. And so these two babies will live a short life, but a life full of unconditional love and caring. 

We’ve started our medical mission and there is a reason why we went to this orphanage today. We prepared our hearts and our minds for the caring that we will give to those who come to us in our clinics starting tomorrow. And as for those two babies, I left with a sense of sadness knowing that there will be little that can be done, but joyful that there are people here who will give of themselves without question. It’s what they leave behind for those babies. Intentionally being present when present with kindness and love.

In all things give thanks,


(pictures taking with permission and credit to: Brandon Cunningham)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kenya May 2016: Say it like it is

Say it like it is. Why do we go and why do we care? I’ve been asking these questions for several years now, and the answers are becoming more evident. The answers are simple: we go because we are told and we care because we care. Not bad answers are they. No need for explanations, for arguments, for neither a display of defensive maneuvers nor a liturgy of words. Just say it like it is. So I’ll do that.


We leave for Kenya in a few days, 27 of us from the US, meeting up with our 11 Kenyan partners, 9 of whom are our healthcare workers who we trained several years ago. We’ll be traveling to Kajiado for the first part of our medical ministry, and then a small group will travel to the northern part of the country, bush country, in Turkana. We’ll see those who come to us and give what we have, leaving behind the most important aspect of human caring: genuine kindness.


There is always the question as to whether genuine kindness is good enough. Shouldn’t we be giving medicines, ensuring continued good health, hygiene, clean drinking water and all things related to a better and healthier life? Of course. And it should be sustainable. But the reality is, all of that is hard to come by, no matter our best intentions. Some of it may flourish, but some may not. So what can we guarantee will be sustainable? For me it is the time we spend with those who come to us, giving them our undivided attention, recognizing them as persons, smiling, holding their hand, listening and yes, hearing their story, being intentional, accountable and giving them the dignity of being who they are without judging or question. Simply, being present when present.


That is what we will be doing. It’s not hard. It just takes commitment and a willingness to give unconditionally. Say it like it is: it’s not what we bring but what we leave behind.

In all things give thanks,