I am an incurable optimist. Usually. However, in this situation, I saw no way that we could fit six adults, all of our luggage, and the mountains of medical equipment and supplies that had been showered on us at the last minute before leaving Texas, into this smaller-than-average MINI-van. I had already checked the roof, looking for a way to anchor some of the luggage on top. Nothing. So I climbed in the back and started on what was to be the best packing job of my life! It all fit! There wasn’t much room left for the humans, and eleven hours of traveling like this, packed in like sardines, was tough, but we finally made it from Nairobi to Western Kenya sometime after dark.
Unloading didn’t take nearly as long, as there were so many helping hands. Our arrival had been anticipated for hours. C.H. and Kathy took up residence inside the Clinic building, and Michelle and I headed up the hill in the dark to the Missionary House. We were thankful for journey mercies, and ready to kick back and unwind a bit. The closest thing I could find to a glass was a plastic measuring cup. Hey! I wasn’t complaining!
We arrived on a Thursday night, and the Clinic was scheduled to open on Monday. As a reminder, this is the Clinic that John and I discovered, sitting empty, last summer when we visited Western Kenya. When I walked in that first day, I immediately sat down and e-mailed our dear college friend, C.H. McClure, a retired and disabled family physician and said, “C.H.!! This place has your name written all over it!” He agreed that if we could find the staff, he would come and do the training. Five months later, here we are, ready to get started!
We hadn’t even finished unpacking the medicine Friday morning when sick people started showing up. At first, we didn’t even know who was helping us unpack. This is Aggrey, the nurse, and Matthew, the pastor.
The nearest medical facility is many kilometers away, and forget calling for an ambulance. This is what we found when we drove there.
It took several trips to the pharmacy in Kakamega throughout the week as we began to assess the needs in the Clinic.
By Monday morning, having already treated twenty or so patients over the weekend, we were set. People started showing up at daylight and the line soon stretched out the building. All day, there were people sitting or lying on the ground outside, some under the shade of a tree, some just stretched out in the sun.
We quickly fell into a routine as we attended to the needs of each patient, some with everyday aches and pains, some desperately ill. On that first day, we saw over 100 patients, three of whom would probably not have lived another 48 hours had they not been treated. One such case was this precious 2-month-old baby girl, so severely dehydrated that her eyes were sunken in and glazed over.
There was no moisture whatsoever in her mouth. Her color, her unresponsiveness, and her erratic breathing all indicated that she was near the end of her life. Her veins had collapsed, and it was difficult to even find one to insert an IV, but after administering fluids and antibiotics to settle her GI tract, her mother took her home for the night. The next day, she looked like a different child, sleeping peacefully in her mother’s arms! God is good!
Another young woman named Abigail came in, already going into shock from a pelvic abscess resulting from a miscarriage the month before. Her blood pressure was 90/53 and falling. A round of IV antibiotics and fluids stabilized her, but it became evident by the next morning, doubled over in pain, that she would require surgery. The only way her family had to transport her to the hospital in Kakamega (an hour away) was on the back of a hired piki-piki (motorbike), down bumpy, dusty roads. Thankfully, Nixon was on his way to the Clinic in the mini-van. When he arrived, I took the blanket off of C.H. & Kathy’s bed and folded it several times, trying to make a soft mattress for her, placing it on the back seat. Her family members rode along, as Nixon played ambulance driver. After being admitted, it was found that she needed 3 units of blood before she could safely undergo surgery. The local blood bank only had one unit of B-positive blood, and she had to wait several days before it was available. Eventually, she did receive the surgery she needed and was released several weeks later from the hospital.
At the end of Day One, when we collapsed at the dinner table, we soon realized that the day wasn’t quite over. Another patient had shown up. C.H. started to get up and make his way back into the exam room, but I suggested that he just stay put, and I would bring the patient to him.
In addition to the patients we saw here, there were several “field trips” to Mobile (or Branch) Clinics, hours away from our home base at Ematsayi. People in these districts had been alerted ahead of time that there would be a doctor to see them, and they lined up by the dozens! C.H. and the gifted nurse from Ematsayi, Aggrey Ingutia, administered loving and skillful treatment, working together as if they had done so forever.
Even in the midst of so much sickness and suffering, we were all filled with indescribable joy. The hectic and demanding nature of our schedule did not prevent moments of absolute hilarity. Other than the supplies from Christian Alliance for Humanitarian Aid, showered on us at the last minute before leaving Texas, and the medicine we purchased with money from Cherokee Baptist Church in our little hometown, we had to make do. Sometimes we worked in the dark . . .
. . . and sometimes we were cracking jokes like, “You might be a Redneck Doctor if you use the bottom half of a plastic Diet Coke bottle as a urine specimen container!”
Now that the Clinic at Ematsayi is open and operational, it continues to be staffed, not only by Aggrey, but also by Jane Otieno Mutuli, the new Clinical Officer. She and her sweet daughter, Phanice, arrived by piki-piki on the first Monday morning we were officially open, and her husband arrived a couple of weeks later. They now live on the grounds of the Mission.
One of the sweetest ‘coincidences’ during our time at Ematsayi was the arrival of this anointed and gifted Child of God, John Okwadho. He quickly dubbed himself my newly born Kenyan son.
John’s actual purpose in being there during our visit was to fill in for Pastor Matthew Wabuko at the church at Ematsayi that first Sunday, while we trekked off to a church several hours away at Navakholo. After catching just a few minutes of John’s singing and leading the worship at Ematsayi, it was difficult to leave, but we were greeted with a beautiful sight upon arrival at Navakholo. Children. Beautiful children! I think that’s one of the things I love most about Kenya. There are beautiful, loving, delightful children everywhere you look!
The worship was wonderful! In the midst of abject poverty, these people are rich beyond our wildest imagination.
Back at Ematsayi, I quickly called upon John to help with interpretation with our patients. His English is impeccable, and he was a valuable addition to the staff. He showed up bright and early, spit-polished, in his very best clothes. Leaving his flip-flops behind, he donned dress shoes. Unfortunately, his size 10 foot was crammed into a size 9 shoe, and I noticed him that evening rubbing his aching feet, yet never complaining!
John is 24 years old, one of five siblings whose father died some years ago. Although he is the thirdborn, he is the firstborn son, and it has fallen upon him to support not only his mother and younger siblings, but also his wife and 9-month-old baby. None of his brothers and sisters (nor he) was able to go beyond the 8th grade because of the death of their father. I learned that it is John’s fervent desire to complete his education. He has tried to return to school twice. The most recent attempt was in an orphanage that closed down because of corruption before he completed the first term of the 9th grade.
After learning of his plight, and realizing what a gifted young man he is — so full of the Spirit of God, so full of determination and a positive outlook — we worked to obtain a spot for him at a school in Nairobi. He will enter on Monday, March 11, in the first term of the 10th grade, and will finish high school in 2015. This is a young man with dreams and a vision. It was God who arranged for his path to cross ours; it is God who has plans to prosper John, and not to harm him; plans to give him hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) He is stepping out in faith, leaving his family in Western Kenya, to pursue the dream that God has placed in his heart. I know that God will use John in a mighty way! My life has been blessed by crossing his path, and by being used of God to provide for His precious child. He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. He is already pouring out blessings to provide for this precious child of His, and to see that his family doesn’t go hungry in the process.
Last summer, one of the precious pastors we met and have continued to be in touch with is Absalom Tadayo. Absalom has a church in Bungoma, quite a distance from Ematsayi. I had hoped to see him on this trip, but it was impossible to find the time to even send him a text message. Finally, right before it was time for me to go, I contacted him. He jumped on a matatu and then a piki-piki, traveling for 3 hours just to come say hello, then turn around after 45 minutes and head back home. An unseasonable rainstorm changed all that! When I say rainstorm, I’m talking horizontal rain storm!!
We got caught on the gazebo outside the clinic, and looked like a bunch of drowned rats by the time we could run inside. Someone had to take a big red tarp out and hold it over C.H.’s head so he could make his way inside on his walker.
The rain didn’t let up, and it soon became apparent that Absalom was stuck. Whoopee! What a blessing! It gave us time for a wonderful visit and a time of prayer with Stanley Shitandi, a pastor and Bible professor who lives near the Mission.
Absalom stayed with the other pastors that night in a building not too far from the Missionary House where Michelle and I were staying. I know we kept them awake into the wee hours with our laughter and Michelle’s screams. (That was when she jumped onto a chair in the living room because she had opened the door to the kitchen in time to see a rat run up the wall.)
I haven’t said much about Michelle, the 19-year-old daughter of C.H.’s wife, Kathy. That’s because her story will take another entire post! In fact, I believe that you will be hearing a lot about Michelle in all my future posts. What an incredible heart for children and orphans God has given her!
I believe that an orphanage is in the future for The Hope Factory. And land on which to grow food for the children. And I believe that Michelle, and Absalom, and Harun, are all being woven into the beautiful tapestry that God is creating as He directs our thoughts and our steps, one day at a time.
Much love to all of you!