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,