Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Video Update from the Horns

We had intended to do this several months ago, but alas, it didn't happen till now.  But we finally made a video update for your viewing pleasure!  We sent this to our supporting churches and are putting it here also.  Here's an update after eight months in Kenya:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Home for the Holidays

Last weekend we talked with my extended family as they were celebrating both Thanksgiving and my Grandma's 90th birthday.  It was wonderful to see their faces and hear their voices and imagine the smells from the kitchen behind them.  But afterwards I had an instant bout of homesickness, thinking, "Well this stinks.  My family is together and eating good food, and we're just going to bed!"  It was a moment of missing home while at the same time being at home right here.  Eli and I have lived in seven different places in the last ten years, and in so doing we've garnered an ability to be at home wherever the Lord has us for each season of life.  This place is no different.  We've already been in Kenya for eight months, and this is very much home for now.

home: we live in the upper left apartment 
of this 5-plex building

With that said, this is the first time we've had to broaden our concept of home.  This past year we adopted the adage, "When we're together we're home" because we wanted our kids to understand that despite our seemingly rootlessness that we could be at home anywhere.  We occasionally still say that to them even though they have such a concrete understanding of the world to assume that home is wherever they eat breakfast and read books and lay down at night.  It's not our kids' understanding of home that has needed to expand, however.  It's ours.  We haven't put much stock in typical things that make a home home, like certain decor or planting a garden or even owning a house, but it never occurred to me how much other aspects of life in America have defined home for me until this year, and certainly this holiday season.

What feels like home to me?  Dropping temperatures do, plus leaves changing color and falling off the trees, plus the occasional snowfall, plus the sun setting before 6pm, plus the anticipation of lots of cups of cocoa.  Here, the temperature remains relatively the same all year round, as does the timing of the sunrise and sunset, and there are no leaves falling let alone snow falling.  I do, however, have the occasional cup of hot chocolate in the mornings and evenings when the air is cooler.  Since we moved here, the realization has struck that spending 32 years in the Midwest has cultivated a connection between the changing seasons and a sense of home.

sometimes on the weekends I'll sit 
on the balcony by myself 
with a cup of hot chocolate
while Eli handles the kids inside

Thankfully, there have been other aspects of the fall and winter seasons that were replicated here, to help it feel more like home in America, namely gathering with friends and celebrating the holidays together.  The Harvest Festival encouraged us to carve pumpkins with the boys and trick-or-treat among the missionary houses, and our Thanksgiving celebration was complete with turkey and dressing and bursting bellies, and the upcoming Christmas activities will include gingerbread houses for the kids and caroling around the hospital and a party with the missionaries.  So there are plenty of gatherings to make it feel like home around here.

Which reasserts the point that people make a place home.  "When we're together, we're home."  Even though we're literally half a world away from our family and friends in America, we have so many new friends here who have become special and important to us, and who already feel like family to us, and who we're able to be at home with.  We thank God for the people he's placed in our lives for this season and for the house that's become our home too, which is why, despite bouts of homesickness here and there, we can confidently say that we'll be home for the holidays this year!


Here's a tour of our home in Kenya:

the Pepper Tree right in front of our house, 
our boys' favorite tree to climb

living room

fireplace, which we barely use because of the kids, 
but most missionaries use them 
because it can get quite chilly at night

what our living room normally looks like


the table where we do preschool lessons

dining room

kitchen (the largest one we've ever had!)

we have all the normal appliances here

bathroom with plenty of hot water, 
although the water pressure is usually terrible

sink that's usually soaked because little boys 
like to play in the water too much!

flushing toilet!

Caleb and Kai's room

they share a dresser in the closet

Asa's room

view from the changing table

our room

the fan is mostly for white noise 
since there's a road right behind our house

decorated for Christmas

our Charlie Brown tree,
and 2/3 boys willing to sit for a photo

Our boys are very excited for Christmas this year!  We walked to the river yesterday to find a tree, which meant finding any evergreen-looking tree and cutting off a branch to suit our needs.  So we found this and hauled it home, and the boys were very excited to put on lights (which we got from a fellow missionary family who had extra) and ornaments (a select few we brought over with us).  We've had a real tree every year and this year is no different, even though it's a bit unique this time.  We thank God for the chance to celebrate Christmas in Kenya!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ninajifunza Kiswahili

Today I said that the elephant was my husband.  Last week I said that the towel was mean.  The week before that I said that the bored person was looking at wealth.

Such is the humor of learning a language!

My teacher, Carol, has been laughing with me (and at me) during the past 5 weeks of my attempt to learn Swahili.  She is a wonderful and patient teacher who encourages me constantly and who claims that I'm doing quite well.  I love learning, even though my pace has slowed significantly in the last couple weeks due to the amount of words and grammar floating around in my head.

Being able to recognize words as I overhear people speaking is invigorating.  Some examples of words I've recently heard and recognized include: bara bara (road), mgongo (back), safiri (to travel), leta (to bring).  Equally exciting is when I find a way to speak a complete sentence out loud to someone else and have them understand me!  For example, over the weekend I was at Maasai Market in Nairobi and was able to say, "Mume wangu ni daktari kwa Tenwek Hospitali" which means, "My husband is a doctor at Tenwek Hospital" which, for my purposes, essentially meant "I'm not a tourist!  I live here in Kenya, so give me a fair price!"  I was also able to say, "Ninataka kununua ngoma.  Bei gani?" which means, "I want to buy a drum.  How much is it?"  It's empowering to have some Swahili vocabulary under my belt!

My language study will only last for 12 weeks, so I'm nearly halfway done already.  Even so, by the end I will confidently say that the elephant belonged to my husband, the towel was dirty, and the bored person was looking at the boat.

Mungu atasaidia hivyo nitaongea Kiswahili kidogo!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Meet the Residents

We'd like to introduce you to the Family Medicine residents currently working at Tenwek Hospital.  These men have been working on various rotations such as Pediatrics, Medicine and OB as they work through their first year of a 4-year residency program.  Eli is directly involved with teaching the required curriculum for the residents, as well as working with them on their rotations.  These godly men are aiming to bring the healing ministry of Jesus to the people of East Africa.

Elijah Terer

Elijah (on the right in the picture) is well-known around Tenwek.  He's worked in numerous roles over many years and could be a Tenwek Institution in his own right!  Elijah began his medical career by attending the Tenwek School of Nursing and then took a job as a nurse here afterwards.  Then he returned to school to become a Clinical Officer (equivalent of a Physician's Assistant in the States) and took a job here at Tenwek.  After working for several years in that position, Elijah went on to medical school followed by an internship here at Tenwek.  He then worked as a Medical Officer here (equivalent of a General Practitioner in the States) before applying for residency to become a specialized doctor.  He was accepted to the program at Tenwek and now is training to become a Family Medicine doctor!

Elijah is a joyful, welcoming man who is loved by all.  He has an inviting personality and is an intelligent and kind person.  It should be noted that in addition to his role as a medical resident, he's also a pastor at his church.  His obvious leadership skills are being put to good use, and Eli is grateful for the chance to work alongside him as Elijah seeks to improve the healthcare in his community.

Samuel Agot

Samuel (middle in the picture) is from South Sudan.  His complex story sounds like something out of a movie, and it's incredible how God has protected him and led him to this point.  As a child, Samuel was caught in the middle of the Second Sudanese Civil War and became separated from his parents which forced him to join other boys who, together, walked all the way to Ethiopia and ended up in a refugee camp.  Samuel was able to attend school at the refugee camp and performed well enough to be earmarked as a future leader for the provisional government of South Sudan.  As a result, he and some of his classmates were sent to Cuba to attend medical school.  Upon completing medical school, this group of young Sudanese men somehow wound up in Canada working regular jobs.  When the chair of the Family Medicine department at a nearby university heard that a group of medically-trained Sudanese men were more or less "hanging out" in Canada, he created a program for them to get back on track with the hopes of getting them back to Africa to serve as doctors.  Through the efforts of multiple entities, including Samaritan's Purse, Samuel and these other men were ultimately sent back to East Africa, where Samuel did an internship in Kenya before returning to South Sudan to work at a government hospital.  While working there, he was forced to flee from civil conflict yet again, this time with his wife and children along, and again ended up in a refugee camp in Ethiopia where he was the only doctor among 30,000 refugees.  In the long run, Samaritan's Purse helped to facilitate further training for Samuel, which ultimately brought him to the Family Medicine residency here at Tenwek.

Samuel is a hard-working and compassionate man who has gone through trials we can only imagine, and who is daily undergoing the rigors of training in a foreign place in a language that is neither his first or second or even his third language.  He is passionate about returning to South Sudan to meet the needs of his people there, and Eli is blessed beyond measure to work alongside a man who has gone through so much and who desires to bring hope and healing to a country so desperately in need of the kingdom of God.

Elijah Yulu

Elijah (on the left in the picture) is a resident at Chogoria Hospital in another part of Kenya who spent a few months here at Tenwek in order to do his Pediatrics rotation.  It was an unlooked for yet special blessing to have him here because we were hoping to serve at Chogoria Hospital when we originally applied with WGM.  We ended up at Tenwek instead, but this summer Eli had the chance to work with and teach a resident from Chogoria anyway!  It was an encouragement to us and a reminder that God knows what He's doing and He can cross paths in any way He sees fit.

Elijah is a fun-loving and particularly kind young man who is dedicated to his work and to the vision of bringing Christian healthcare to his community.  It was wonderful to add him to the Family Medicine team for a few months and to be blessed by his contributions to Tenwek.

It is a true honor to be involved in the work of training godly people to minister to the healthcare needs of their own communities.  Africans are better equipped to reach Africans than Americans are.  They speak the language and they know the culture inside and out.  They can communicate the Gospel of Jesus more effectively than we can in this culture, so we are praying and working to prepare them to do just that: to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is Healer, not only of our physical bodies but of our souls as well!  Please join us in praying for these men to grow in leadership, that as they are discipled they will become disciplers themselves and bear fruit for the kingdom of God wherever He leads them.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Missionary Kid

Our kids love Kenya.  They definitely still talk about Michigan and Minnesota, but this is home now because that's just how little kids are - their whole world revolves around the present.  Our life is so different here, but our kids are adaptable and have found wonderful new things to love about our life here while also being anchored in the familiar routines we've always had - playing, eating PBJ sandwiches, playing, napping, and playing some more.

We've officially been in Kenya for five months, and it's amazing to realize how much our kids have grown in that short amount of time.  Little kids change quickly anyway, but our kids in particular have undergone a lot of change and development as they've experienced new people and new places within a new culture.  We've had so many conversations with them about what they're experiencing and routinely attempt to help them understand things that are beyond their comprehension!

So, without further ado, here are multiple snapshots of our three little MKs: Caleb, Kai, and Asa.

Crazy About Chameleons
Chameleons are everywhere around here, and all the MKs take joy in finding them and watching them eat flies.  Caleb and Kai absolutely love these little guys!

The Waterfall
Tenwek's electricity is provided by a hydroelectric dam placed in the Mara River, which is down the hill from the hospital.  The boys love to walk to the waterfall and throw rocks in.  This particular picture was taken during the dry season.  The water really roars during the rainy season!

I work through a preschool curriculum with Caleb and Kai about 2-3 times a week.  We work on letters and numbers, plus a bunch of concepts.  Every so often I'll pull together a craft or hands-on activity to go along with the curriculum.  The boys love when it's time for "a lesson."

Exploring Outside
Tenwek is the Land of Eternal Spring, as we like to say around here.  The weather is virtually perfect all the time: sunny and mid-70s during the day (with some rain during the rainy seasons), and down in the 50s overnight.  All that to say, it's a great place to be outside!

The Garden
We have an amazing garden right behind our house.  We share it with a couple other families and have been growing things like lettuce and green beans and zucchini.  The boys love helping us pick green beans, and also love to help water the garden.  It's the first time we've ever had a garden, and we're particularly grateful since some things (like lettuce) cannot be found anywhere around here unless you grow it yourself.

The Balcony
We live on the second floor of a 5-plex building and have a great balcony with locking gates on either end.  It's perfect for sitting outside and reading a book while remaining within earshot of napping kids.  It's also great for being outside with said kids while also keeping them contained!

We live less than three hours away from Maasai Mara, one of the most popular places to go on safari in all of Kenya.  We've been twice already, once just for a day trip and once to stay overnight during the Great Wildebeest Migration this past month.  It was amazing!  When you live this close to one of God's greatest creations, it's imperative to take advantage of it!  The boys talk about safari a lot.  Caleb's recent repeated phrase is, "I can't believe we saw the big cats!"

We've gone into Nairobi a few times for supplies and to get a break from the hospital.  Usually we try to do something fun in the midst of our supply run, like taking the kids to the Giraffe Center to feed giraffes or taking Caleb to the Snake Park at the Nairobi National Museum, or simply eating chicken nuggets at KFC.

Betty and Ebenezer
Betty is one of our househelpers, and she and Asa became fast friends.  She adores him and he adores her!  Betty's son is named Ebenezer, and he's the same age as Kai.  Caleb, Kai and Ebenezer can often be seen chasing each other around the house or finding trouble outside.  Even though Ebenezer barely speaks English and our kids don't speak any Kipsigis or Swahili, they play together really well.  And Ebenezer loves Eli too!  He quickly learned from our own kids that when Daddy comes home for lunch it's time to run and jump into his arms.  All three of them do it every time Eli walks in the door!

Trips to the Hospital
All three boys have been up to the hospital exactly once.  Asa was the first, with a weight check when he turned 9 months old.  They still use an old-fashioned scale here, and Asa had fun hanging out and getting weighed!  Caleb was next, so Eli could check his ears with an otoscope for a suspected ear infection.  He was excited to go because I said he'd earn a sticker on his Culture Chart for it.  (Caleb and Kai each have a sticker chart for having new cultural experiences.  We've discovered that it helps to motivate them and keep them brave when they're nervous about new things here.)  And lastly, Kai made his debut trip to the hospital for an x-ray, which thankfully showed no broken bones after he jumped out of a tree and injured his foot and was limping around for over a day.  After the x-ray was done, he proudly claimed, "I did a good job working at the hospital!"

MK Tie-Dye Day
Another missionary family hosted an event for all the MKs to do tie-dye T-shirts.  It was a blast!  In the end I had to do all of our kids' shirts for them, but they loved the end-product and proudly wear their shirts with all the other MKs here at Tenwek.

Crazy About Chameleons, Part 2
These creatures really are everywhere around here, and our kids really do love them!

Cooking from scratch
Most of our cooking has to be done from scratch, and occasionally I let the kids help me.  They love to stir and taste test and make an absolute mess!  But they're learning a ton about cooking, which is a good thing.

There's a 12-year old MK that lives below us and she quickly became a very important part of our life.  Madison officially babysits the boys once a week for me, and unofficially helps out in all manner of ways the rest of the week.  She is amazing and our kids absolutely adore her!  In fact, Caleb has a complete crush on her.  He talks about her when she's not here, he gets shy but excited whenever she comes over, and he boldly declares, "Mom, I reeeaaallly like Madison."  She's like a part of our family.  I honestly don't know what we'd do without her!

Solar Eclipse
Just this morning there was a partial solar eclipse that could be seen from East Africa, and we joined all the other MKs for "science class" and saw the phenomenon through special glasses.  Another mom made donuts for the occasion and it was great fun to see all the kids admire the moon blocking the sun.  Caleb never actually looked through the glasses, and Kai wouldn't do it more than once, but they've been talking about it all day, so clearly the event made an impression!

These kinds of things cement the MK experience - learning and exploring and playing together in a unique setting, and watching them help each other and love each other through it all.  These kids are living a unique but extraordinary life, and we're excited to see how our own kids will grow and develop continually through their own journey as an MK.