Thursday, January 28, 2010

Elephant Orphanage

On Saturday we went to Nairobi for the day and went to what is commonly known as the "elephant orphanage". It was just wonderful! It would have been good to know beforehand that they are only open from 11-12 each day. Our driver thought our 9 am departure time would make us quite early but in fact we were there with just about 20 minutes to spare thanks to our various necessary stops (including one for Ford to go potty on his little plastic potty on the roadside in Nairobi - priceless!).

Anyway, you arrive and gather outside the gate then all walk in as a big group and stand around a roped off area. Within a few minutes this is what you see . . .

the most darling parade of baby elephants you can imagine! Some are just a few months old and all have been rescued from poachers or some other horrible situation. But it just keeps getting cuter because then it is time to eat . . .

then it is time to play . . .

It was so much fun seeing these precious animals . . .

Last year sometime the elephants disappeared from the Birmingham Zoo. I kept telling Claire they were just on vacation but I think they traded them for another rhino. Although Rhinos are endangered and interesting they aren't nearly as cool as elephants. I really missed those elephants on our trip to the zoo! What amazing creatures! Did you know that elephants mourn and try to bury their dead? And that they can remember their keepers years and years after they have been released back into the wild? The elephants rescued here and released back into the wild will return to the station with their calves years later if they are sick because they know the calf will be cared for. Amazing.

The Keepers were really knowledgeable and everything was really nice and well done. I highly recommend a visit here on your next trip to Nairobi! Here are some more cute shots . . .

From January 2010

From January 2010

From January 2010

A few of our favorite things - but only because you asked!

It seems as though we often have people asking us what they can send us as care packages. I realize this is a pretty easy thing for people to do for us and, honestly, it is really fun and encouraging to receive a package with some fun things in it. It can be a little tricky though. It takes an average of 6-8 weeks for large envelopes and boxes to reach us if they go through customs. Which means basically that a customs official opens each package, decides how much it is worth and we then have to trot on down to the post office and cough up several thousand shillings in order to get our stuff. So here is some useful information if you feel so inclined: we have heard envelopes come faster than boxes (I think this might be because not all envelopes go through customs but all boxes do), when filling out the customs form at the post office be sure to list a resale or used value on the items - what would you sell this for?, make sure all tags or packaging is gone - use it a few times or wash it (if applicable). Since we have to pay to get stuff I thought I would post a list of little "happys" (at the risk of sounding like I'm asking for things) that we would love to get!

Pop Tarts (these are for the kids and Rhett - not me - yuck!)
Spice packets (salsa, guacamole, fajita, chili, beef stew, brown gravy, italian dressing etc)
drink packets (lemonade is a favorite around here)
CHOCOLATE CHIPS (not available here and we love some chocolate chip cookies!)
seasonal art projects for the kids (especially for American holidays)
brownie mix (I'm starting to get hungry now)
magazines or novels that you have read and would like to pass along
CD jewel cases (so we can mail DVDs back to our family)
decaf tea bags (Constant Comment is my favorite. There is lots and lots of wonderful tea in Kenya but I can't find any decaf!)
powerbars, granola bars, cliff bars etc.
sliced almonds
parmesean cheese
instant grits
Gerber "puffs"
Mam 6+ month pacifiers
Ziploc bags - all sizes and varieties

It's not a good idea to send movie DVDs through the mail as they have a big street market here and sometimes disappear in customs. However, if you are able to burn DVDs from your DVR I think Rhett would be tickled pink to be able to watch any sort of sporting event including but not limited to UGA football games! I doubt they would be very sought after by customs officials.

Also, we have just been loaned the first season of '24' {and are addicted} and we know that season 2 is available here BUT after that we are high and dry. Since watching '24' on our laptop is now our only source of media entertainment we are hoping to come up with a few more seasons soon. Those would need to be hand carried over here so if you can help us out we will let you know how to make that happen.

Rhett also really needs someone to bring him his "AIDS Therapy" textbook (that weighs more than all three of our kids put together) so if you are headed our way and have room for a big textbook let us know. I guess we should prioritized the textbook over season 3 of '24' but it is a close call :)

So there you have it. A few little happy things that either we can't find here (puffs) or are extremely expensive (parmesean cheese) and would be fun to have!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There Is Hope

By Rhett:

Thirty-two years old, ninety pounds, no joy. She was trying to do the right thing. Undoubtedly she had been consumed with regrets and painful introspection, and waged a lonely battle with denial, fear, and shame. Deep secrets had been divulged to the people whom they would hurt the most. The decision to move forward meant confiding in strangers and trusting their motivation.

After clearing all of these hurdles, things did not improve. The medications that were to make her healthier, made her sicker. The decisions that were supposed to be in her best interest, resulted in multiple admissions to the hospital (and multiple hospital bills). She now had no appetite for food, no energy for the demands of daily life, and a marriage that was suffering under the strain. As she was telling me of her plight, she locked my gaze with tearful, sunken eyes. "Is there hope for me?"

I couldn't answer right away because I wasn't confident in my own voice. The truth is that 10 years ago there would have been no medical reason for hope. The truth for too many of my patients today is equally as desperate. HIV affects an estimated 7% of the Kenyan population. Despite aggressive attempts at education and voluntary testing, most of the infected remain undiagnosed. The ramifications are dire, as the virus slowly depletes the immune system of unsuspecting individuals. The result, HIV is discovered only after it has cleared the way for a life-threatening infection.

I was hopeful that my smile would convey my reply as I regained my composure. She was in the right place. While there is no cure for HIV, there is an expanding repertoire of medications that prohibit replication of the virus, and allow for the immune system to recover. She had had multiple adverse side effects to medication, but other options were available. Her husband who was tested HIV negative was holding her hand, and his silent tears professed his love and his loyalty. There is hope.

Of course, despite my optimism I could not assure her that she would not die of a complication of AIDS. Her prognosis remained very guarded, and that was not a notion that was lost on anyone who looked at her. But until Jesus Christ returns for His church it is the destiny of all men and women to die and face judgment. Yet, God revealed the mystery that was hidden through ages and generations, that Jesus Christ dwells in the hearts of his people, and he is their hope of glory (Col 1:26-27). There is hope.

God has provided me with a ministry to provide hope for those without hope. I have the privilege to show desperate people that there is a mighty savior who loves them and is available through prayer. Assurance of medical recovery is often not possible, but spiritual healing is assured for all who repent and follow after Jesus Christ. He has provided a way. Praise God, there is hope.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm a big boy now!

Today was the day! Off with the diapers and into "big boy pants" for Ford! He is so proud and so excited to be a big boy! I'm a fan of the one day - cold turkey- potty training method. It worked well with Claire and so far so good with Ford. We have been getting him hyped up about it for several weeks and he was SO ready today. We asked him last night what was going to happen today and he said "pee pee potty! Big boy pants!". He did great all day and only had an accident when I got side tracked with dinner guests and let him go a little long between visits to the potty. I cannot believe he isn't in diapers anymore. I'm kind of sad actually. Only one in diapers?? Don't you just love the boxer briefs ?:)
This is Ford enjoying a cupcake at his "Potty Party" celebrating his first day in big boy pants!

Not to leave the others out - here is Claire (a little sunburned after spending the entire day outside picking berries and getting really dirty) learning to carry her baby Kenyan-style.

And here is Grizzly Gus. Very cute and quite like a puppy we have decided. He is cuddly, crawls around under the table and eats food that has fallen on the floor and likes to chew on shoes. He also had his first fever this week for 3 days (is afebrile now and feeling better) and is cutting 4 top teeth at the same time. He is actually getting the lateral teeth in before the medial ones which is kind of funny and looks a little fang like. This combination has meant a lot of sleepless nights recently and I'm pretty tired. I hope we can get through this rough patch and get back on our normal routine (which does not include sleeping the entire night but also does not include waking up every hour on the hour!).
Posted by Picasa


On Saturday Claire and I had the opportunity to visit the CURE hospital here at Kijabe with some 5th grade students from RVA. CURE is a hospital that focuses on pediatric orthopedic care and they have many hospitals all over the world. We were so thankful for the opportunity to play with these kids and as Claire said best "Shine the light of Jesus for them".

I was happy to meet the woman who coordinates activities for the patients at CURE (we would call her a "Child Life Specialist" back home) and she was so friendly and welcoming. I am SO thankful to find a ministry that the kids and I can do together that is right here in Kijabe (about 200 yards from my house!). We are hoping to make visiting the kids at CURE a weekly thing. All of the crafts and little projects are strictly donated for that purpose so if you are interested in sending some craft supplies or projects let me know!

This beautiful smile came from a simple game of balloon toss. This little boy just lit up and had a blast bouncing that balloon around! What a joy and encouragement to see such happiness in faces of others!
Posted by Picasa

Total Devastation

I have been paralyzed by the news of the earthquake in Haiti this week. I have spent quite a lot of time in Haiti - working in an orphanage and doing short term medical clinics. God has given me a heart for Haitian people and I truly love the country. I did a post a while ago about Haiti here.
So I guess having such a special connection to Haiti has really personalized this tragedy for me.

The orphanage where I worked was in Cap Haitian which is on the northern coast of the island. There was little direct damage from the quake there but the devastation will be coming in waves. First wave is the carnage from the falling buildings. Chaos, destruction and death. The second wave is the disease that will come from lack of resources like food, potable water and medicine. Even Cap Haitian which is far from Port au Prince will be affected since PaP is basically shut down and hence shipments of food, fuel and supplies are cut off. The third wave is a bit more subtle. It is the loss of hope among the Haitian people. Young Haitians are wondering how they will make a successful life for themselves in a country where the Universities are demolished, the government is not functioning and so many are dead.

I'm sure at this point many people have already donated to relief organizations but I have to give a very high recommendation for Samaritan's Purse Disaster Relief. We became familiar with this ministry when we were in Boone, NC for orientation last summer. We were extremely impressed by the depth and scope of the disaster relief arm of SP. Friends listed some of the strong points of the ministry on their website so I thought I'd borrow [ :)]a few to show you why this is a worthwhile relief effort to support:

By the end of the week they will have materials to build 6000 temporary shelters.

They have cargo planes coming and going daily.

Samaritan's Purse receives a 4 star rating (highest possible) from Charity Navigator (a charity rating service). Their efficiency rating surpasses American Red Cross and World Vision. 89% of their donations go directly to program expenses (in this case relief efforts to Haiti if so designated). Less than 5% go to administration.

We have been to their headquarters in Boone, NC and were astounded by their organization, professionalism, expertise, humility, and Christ focused attitude.

SP will have the ability in the next week to produce half-a-million gallons of fresh water daily in the capital city of Haiti.

SP has relationships with local people and organizations so they were able to almost immediately start assessing the needs and work through their local contacts and network to provide care quickly and efficiently.

The aid (bottled water, shelter, flash lights, food, medicine, hygiene kits, medical care) all comes wrapped in the Gospel message of a God who despite the horror of this tragedy cares for you.

They care for the entire individual as evidenced by the presence of doctors, nurses, logisticians and chaplains on hand to care for the victims mind, body and spirit.

You can give online - super easy.

I would urge everyone to give more than you can "afford" and be a part something way bigger than ourselves. And please, please pray for the Haitian people. Pray for healing, comfort and mercy. Pray for the Church in Haiti who struggles against such incredible darkness there. I have spent many nights in Haiti lying in bed listening to the beating of voodoo drums. There is a real presence of spiritual darkness there that cannot be denied. The voodoo priests are telling prophesy of doom for Cap Haitian worse than what happend in PaP. So now in the aftermath of this terrible earthquake people in Cap Haitian are sleeping outside in the torrential rains for fear of sleeping in their homes and being caught in the next wave of destruction that is being promised. Like some many other things in Haiti . . . unbelievable.

Friday, January 08, 2010

On faith and rain

Kenya has had a severe drought for the past several years. It was estimated earlier this year that about 30% of the food supply might be lost due to lack of rain. Most Kenyans rely on their own personal garden or shamba for food. Without rain the crops will not survive and they will not have food to eat. The expected November rains were short this year and not enough to replenish the shambas with life sustaining water as well as drinking water supplies. We have had several "running water -less " days since we arrived in Kijabe. We the day before Christmas something amazing happened. The heavens opened and it began to rain. A short storm at first then the rain started and didn't stop! For about 10 days or so we had rain every day. Long soaking rains. The dry, brown, crunchy grass has be revived to a lush green and everything is alive and blooming. We had so much rain, however, that in some parts of Kenya they experienced flooding. We are thankful for this rain that so many have been praying would come for so long. We were so excited when the rain started that the kids geared up and went outside to play in it!

I was reading a novel the other day (something I do every day actually since we don't have a TV I now spend any leisure time curled up with a good book) and I came across a passage that struck me: "Faith by it's very nature must be tried . . . What God does with our faith must be something like workouts. He see to it that our faith gets pushed and pulled, stretched and pounded, taken to it's limits so it's limits can expand. If it doesn't get exercised it becomes like a weak muscle that fails us when we need it" it goes on to read " 'Would you agree that we must be willing to thank God for every trial of our faith, no matter how severe, for the greather strength it produces?' the response 'I'm perfectly willing to say it, but I'm continually unable to do it'.

I just loved this. I am learning this lesson now. I have to strech my faith by stepping outside my comfort zone of "home" (and everything that encompasses) to allow room in my heart for further dependence on God and less dependence on myself. It's not always easy - in fact some times I feel like digging my heels in! - but it is good. Really, really good. I look back at other seasons of growth in my life and it is almost always when I've stepped out and put myself in a vulnerable or unfamiliar position and came out the other side with a stronger faith in the One who I followed. It is comforting to know that this is a time of growth and deepening of faith. I yearn for a stronger faith and it feels nice to think that one day I will look back on this time and be able to see how pivotal it was in my journey of faith. Make no mistake, it is not easy. I am renegotiating everything I now about how to "do" life (parenting, marriage, housekeeping, church, friendship, family . . . everything really). In the process I'm praying "more of You and less of me".

I'm hoping Rhett will accept my request for "guest blogging" sometime soon since many of you may be wondering what the heck we are doing here besides taking pictures our kids! This blog is mostly from my perspective of a missionary wife and mother of three small children hence the lack of information on what is going on in the hospital most days and nights that I'm not a part of. Be assured Rhett is up to his eyeballs in the crazy transition of practicing medicine at a world renowned academic hospital in the U.S. to a comparatively smallish teaching hospital in Africa. I don't know if it my place to comment much on that process since I am just a spectator and supporter so hopefully you will hear more about his work and ministry at the hospital soon!
Posted by Picasa