As I walked into the operating room to do a cesarean section on a young mother, I was surprised that she was already requesting a bilateral tubal ligation. In a culture where children are important, and many children are considered a blessing, it was surprising. And I wanted to try and understand why she wanted permanent sterilization. As I reviewed her chart I noted that she was HIV positive. This is common in Kenya. As one surgeon colleague has said, “Everyone has HIV!” That is an exaggeration, but sometimes
it feels very true. It made me sad to look at her and to know she carried this burden. She was fortunate, because with her anti-viral medication her disease is in a sort of remission. This means she is less likely to pass it to her child or her husband. Yet it is hard for a young woman to know that she has an incurable disease. There is compassion to give in these cases. A friendly touch, a word of encouragement to do our best to keep her and her baby safe, and a prayer before surgery may sometimes be all we can offer. I try and do my best to do for her as I would want her to do for me if our positions were reversed. I am thankful that I can be part of God’s work to care for the least of these in Kijabe Mission Hospital. God has been good to us, and we try our best to extend that good to others.
These ridges on the edges of this great valley have been occupied for thousands of years by small communities. We now live in one of them. It's name is Kijabe which means "Place of the Wind", or so we have been told. Can you imagine the great winds falling off these ridges and gaining speed as they tumble down the walls to push angrily across the valley floor? Almost every afternoon we are witnesses. There is another wind blowing through Africa, and we are part of its testimony. Pray for us in Kenya!
The following quote comes from a good article called “Risk Your Kids for the Kingdom?” from the “Desiring God” website that encouraged me, because sometimes I doubt our decision to be in Africa in light of the considerations we have for our children. They quote Abigail Adams in a letter she wrote to her son John Quincy Adams before he was sent off to Europe with his father for many years. It contains much truth, and I wish I had the ability to express myself so well to my own children.
These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.
I have been studying Swahili intensely for the past several months. It is an interesting language with hard consonants combined with a floating lyrical song of vowels. Imagine a combination of German consonants against Hawaiian vowels. The structure is not too difficult, but the language has noun families that change every word associated with the noun in the sentence which can then make things confusing, especially for a beginner. I have enjoyed my teachers who have taught me a lot about culture as they have taught me about the language. Gideon is my primary teacher, and Kelvin is in training with him. Gideon being from Tanzania is quite proud of his Swahili, and he will state that Swahili was born in Tanzania, got sick in Kenya, and died in Uganda. I hope that knowing some Swahili will help me as I try and serve my patients in the hospital. Gideon is also a musician, and he states that he has to express himself in his clothing as he expresses himself in song. You may see what he means in the picture below.