Today, after multiple attempts, Allison and the kids flew out to Dallas toward Nairobi. Allison received her tourist visa this morning, and so we got up early and had the tickets changed and put everyone but me on a plane today at 3PM. I am so glad for them. It allows them to avoid sitting in a 2 week quarantine in Kijabe before they could attend school in person. So tomorrow around noon our time in Dallas, Allison and the kids should be landing in Nairobi. Yeah!
As of this writing, Kenya has all schools closed at all levels. Our hospital does not have its nursing school open. Medical schools are closed in the country along with theological schools, high schools, universities, and grade schools. Even most training programs are shut down, which means many of our Kijabe students in advanced areas such as anesthesia and critical care are not in classes. We still have our interns, but we cannot do large classes with them. So with all of that stopped, it is not a surprise that Rift Valley
Academy is closed as well. Our next term does not start until the very end of August, so you could propose that there is a chance it could possibly be open in the fall if the government changes its rules. However, schools are not scheduled to restart until September at the earliest, and then only in stages. And there is word that boarding schools may be some of the last to open. RVA is basically in an all or nothing situation. We open all the way with all or our grades and students, or we offer online classes. There is not the staffing to do it any other way. And so the school had to close for the fall. We are praying for the Spring. I want to get back to the hospital, and David, as a Senior next year, wants to be a graduate of RVA. Allison wants to teach her students in person, and the others want to see their friends and be back to their normal lives which are here in Kijabe.
We fly home tomorrow. I have been working in the ICU all week and Allison has been working on her online teaching and department evaluations. The kids are still in school because RVA does not end classes until mid July. So there is a lot of packing that has to happen tonight to prepare for a 6 month visit to the US! We are looking forward to being home for an unexpectedly long period of time. It gives David more chances to visit some colleges. Maybe the kids can be in marching bands (is that even possibly going to happen)? We can see our parents, grandparents, and cousins. We can happily see our friends! Maybe I can go snow skiing! Maybe Allison can do BSF in person? There is lots to look forward to even as we try to not look behind too much.
Last week there was a golf tournament at RVA. One of the staff at the kid’s school put together a small par three course around the upper field. So now this spring instead of rugby cheers on the paddock, you hear cries of “Fore!” Small groups moved around the course, with a closest to the pin contest and free cokes for each hole in one. The low scorer won two free pizzas from the local Pizza Inn. Its a tiny course, but it is a lot of fun for a quick nine holes. Tennis courts are water hazards. Soccer goals are tall trees in the fairway. The wind blows across the pitch toward Mt. Longonot in the valley. You are considered in the hole when your ball is within a club length of the flag. There are no greens and the fairways are deep as rough. David and Peter have picked up clubs for almost the first time, and progress is being made by all of us in our nine iron game.
How are you, friends, during this topsy turvy time? It is hard to imagine the places we love emptied of worshippers, groceries, patrons, and pedestrians. We pray that you have peace, confidence, and toilet paper.
A few of you have asked how we are. I am sorry that we have been such sporadic communicators on the blog. I confess that I forget to be grateful for all the people around the world who care about us and pray for us. I’m afraid I focus on the people and projects here in Kenya and I neglect to look around and give thanks for those who allow us to be here.
So, into the third paragraph, how are we? We are fine. Kenya is behind the curve, as it were, in the development of the coronavirus. We have a few cases, brought in by travelers, but it is not spread through community transmission yet. We don’t have a documented case in our hospital, but Will and the Kijabe Hospital staff are gearing up for the influx of patients. They are surprised at the relative calm thus far. Will has been watching lots of medical videos about treating COVID-19 and how to best use the available ventilators in the hospital.
Rift Valley Academy decided to end school two and a half weeks before our scheduled term break. There was a Herculean effort to get almost 300 dorm kids scheduled on planes, trains, and buses out of Kenya and to the countries where their families live with only 4 days’ notice. Amazing stories trickled in over the weekend of students’ flights being received only minutes before the border was closed, of students who were going to be quarantined in the airport, but some kindly official released them to their friends’ father, a medical missionary, and of arduous 40-hour bus rides that ended in successful border crossings.
The early closure meant that all junior and senior educational trips (called “Interims”) were cancelled, including mine to Spain. David was scheduled to go to Zanzibar, Tanzania. That was a tough blow to all the upperclassmen. The sudden closure meant the seniors had to say their goodbyes in a day or two, not knowing whether they would return from their country nor when. My heart goes out to these seniors whose lives are so full of change and transition anyway and then this unique kink in plans was added. One crazy story from a student whose parents have served in mostly closed countries is that she said that until now, RVA was the only place she had lived from which she had not been evacuated.
Right now, we teachers are knee-deep in tech training so that we can commence online classes with a hope to see our students face-to-face when God allows.
We had been looking forward to returning to the Christian Medical and Dental Association’s medical mission conference in Greece in April. It was a great place to connect with our fellow Christian Health Service Corps missionaries serving in East Africa, plus there was great food and it was fun to be in Europe. Of course, that is cancelled, much to the chagrin of the family.
For now, though, we are thankful for the beautiful weather, the community of fellow missionaries, the (so-far) stocked grocery stores in Nairobi, the people who have helped all of us make big decisions, the hand of God sustaining us.
Many of you are doing BSF, as am I (my class was already a video chat!), so I will leave you with a quote from this weeks’ lesson: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58
Photos of recent shenanigans:
We are looking forward to the Christmas season! Thanksgiving will be a quick after work and school dinner with some of our friends here in Kijabe, then after a half day of school on Friday, Christmas break will begin. (For those who do not know our school runs on a trimester system with three month long breaks each year.) Some much deserved rest for Allison and the kids will be enjoyed afterward. Allison continues to work hard as Head of the Department for International Languages. It is a role with many responsibilities, some enjoyable, others not as much. She and her students inaugurated a Spanish Club which started the year with a Spanish Karaoke party that went off with moderate success. I wanted to get up and sing, but I didn’t want to be that Dad at the party, so I held back. I am now working as Head of Department for Internal Medicine at AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital. I continue to take call in the Obstetrics department, as well as in the ICU and the Internal Medicine wards. I enjoy the work a lot, and I hope that I can grow into the role of HOD. Administration has not always been my strong suit, but I feel privileged to serve, and I know it was a position that needed to be filled. The kids are doing well, and Allison and I are facing the the reality that David will be gone in just around 18 months! He is busy at school with Model United Nations, running a pizza delivery business, creating his vlog, and working at the Teddy’s, the student snack shop. Peter is doing well in his freshman year participating in choir, jazz band, and band as a trumpet player. He also quite fascinated with the guitar. Annie is in junior high band playing trombone. She loves drama and is excited to be a part of the field hockey team. Sarah is thriving as a sixth grader, the top of Titchie (elementary school). She plays piano and is venturing into saxophone. All of them are busy. As a family we try and get into Nairobi for good food when we can, and about once a month we try and head the other direction to Lake Naivasha to escape the hospital and relax in the best part of what Kenya has to offer (besides the awesome people of course), its natural beauty and wildlife. Thanks for thinking of us and praying for us. We trust God for the energy to live cross culturally and to do the good work he has given us to do.
This is the first of what I hope are many years of Jazz band in our future. Peter first picked up a trumpet that was given to him when we lived in Peru. He taught himself a little, got a bit more instruction in his marching band at Colegio Diospi Suyana, then it kicked into gear on arrival to Rift Valley Academy. He is really good, and this year as a freshman he gets to be in the high school jazz band. We just had the Christmas concert, and it was a joy to listen to him and the other kids go for it. I am so thankful for the missionary teachers who have given him instruction over the years. Here is to 3 1/2 more years of trumpet in our house. (He is picking up guitar too!)
Have I posted this before. If not, please go check it out. If you follow his Vlog he would be quite pleased. I recommend the pranks vlog and this most recent linked below. It is a decent glimpse of life at RVA for a Junior.
Here is a little video about our schools celebration of the many cultures of the world! It is a day of fun at school where we recognize all the places we come from and how we can peacefully mix together.