11/9/2010 (Kenyans use the European date configuration—it really is September)
I am not a faithful correspondent, but will attempt to improve on my past record. I wanted to share with you what has happened since our departure from Madison. It is hard to believe that we have been here just over a week.
The summer in Madison was quite hard—we worked well over 50 hour weeks every week at the hospital, then kept busy with cleaning/keeping the yard/clearing out the house in the hours we were home. Despite all of our efforts toward making the house saleable, we were not able to find either a buyer or renter for the house. We seriously misjudged on the day we left and were so grateful for the help of Deb McLeish, a dear friend and colleague at UW, who came to help drive us and our things to the airport. She ended up helping to clean out the refrigerator, wipe off the kitchen counter, run to Home Depot for more rope, and take our mail to the post office.
We left Madison on 31/8/2010 after a 50 minute delay because of a serious thunderstorm (no, Madison was not weeping for us). The departure was also somewhat complicated because the ticket agent inadvertently tore up the receipts for the 10 additional checked boxes (each just under the allowed weight of 50 pounds—our home scale is correct). It took him about 15 minutes to retrieve the pieces from the trash and tape them together. Our connection in Detroit was already tight; we did a variation on the OJ/Hertz theme and found our seats 2 minutes before they closed the doors of the plane. The flight landed in Amsterdam; once again, the connection was fairly tight, and I was pretty convinced that we would be separated from most if not all of the checked baggage (14 pieces in all).
We arrived in Nairobi around 8 pm on 1/9/2010 with ALL of our baggage. I figure that was pretty miraculous. As we came toward the customs agents, with 3 carts stacked Susan-high with baggage, a lady waved to us to come to her station. She thought she recognized Leland from previous visits and started praising God that Leland was back to do God’s work. She said, “Go take care of the children, then tell them about Jesus”. It took about a minute to get through customs, and she never even asked what was in the baggage. Since we had bought some new things as well as brought some expensive medical equipment, we had not looked forward to the customs inspection—so this was another amazing event for us. Leland doesn’t think he ever saw the woman before. We were met at the airport by John Githii, a Kenyan driver who has driven us many times before—it was so good to see his familiar face in the mass of people waiting for travelers at the airport. We spent the first 2 nights at the Mayfield House, a very welcoming and spare place where missionaries and others stay while in Nairobi. At dinner, we sat with a lady who had just brought her two older children from their home in Benin to the Rift Valley Academy (RVA) for the opening of the school year. Whenever she spoke of them, she’d tear up and hold her heart. I realized how fortunate I was to have had my kids home with me while they went to school.
During those two days, we set up an account at the Forex and exchanged US dollars for Kenyan shillings (80 Ksh = $1). We spent several hours trying to arrange phone service for my cell phone (waiting in lines graciously is a skill that will be called upon frequently over the next 3-4 years). Surprisingly, the easiest part of those two days in Nairobi was finding a car—Kamal Jabez, a man who converted to Christianity 22 years ago, arranges car leasing and purchasing for expats and missionaries. We learned quite a lot from him (and others) about buying cars in Kenya. First, if you want to buy a car that is less than 7 years old, expect to pay at least $60K (American)—to cover the cost of importing a car and all the customs/tax fees. Secondly, insurance costs about 7.5% of the purchase price/year. Kamal is able to arrange 7% with creditable insurance companies. There is lower cost insurance available, but that is through independent agents who are notoriously unreliable. Kamal brought two cars to the Mayfield House—our plan was to lease a car for a month, then buy a car. We leased a 2002 Honda CR-V—no money was exchanged, no papers were signed. He said that if we decided to keep that car, the monthly leasing fee would be waived. Kamal also applied for the taxpayer PIN number for Leland that is a necessary item for almost any sizeable transaction in Kenya.
Having been daunted by the Nairobi traffic (as well as the thought of driving on the wrong side of the road—Kenya being a former British colony), we called John Githii to lead us to the Nakumatt/Westgate Mall to do our grocery shopping before driving to Kijabe on Friday. He waited while we did our shopping (and ate a wonderful lunch on the patio of the Art Café—an Italian restaurant in the mall). Then he led us to a gas station and explained how to get to the road to Kijabe. Leland was masterful in his driving (using a driving style I’ll term cautious aggression) and we arrived in Kijabe around 4 pm on Friday 3/9/2010.
It is funny how long it took to pack our 14 suitcases/boxes/containers; it took exactly 75 minutes to unpack everything. By 6 pm, our clothes were hung in closets, our dishes were washed and placed on shelves, and the groceries were put away. Kijabe missionaries have a wonderful way of welcoming new arrivals—they supply a dinner for you in your home the first night, then a family has you to dinner the second night. Millie Bransford had us to dinner on Saturday—with homemade pizza and fruit salad. She also offered a desk and a sewing machine for me to have (not to use—to keep). We picked those up on Sunday afternoon after church.
There are two options for church here: the AIC (African Inland Church) which has an English service at 8:30 am and a Kiswahili/English service at 10:30 am) or the RVA service (not sure when it starts—we’ve always arrived too late to get a seat, so have to find out the time it starts and get there earlier). RVA does not meet the first Sunday of each month—so that Sunday, everyone goes to the AIC; Holy Communion is available that Sunday AFTER the service. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, we went to AIC for a nearly 2 hour service (including communion). The service was packed—they brought in plastic lawn chairs to set in the aisles for the overflow. As in any service, I could not hear the sermon (because of my hearing loss), but I really appreciated the singing—especially the choir’s presentation (dancing/singing to a Swahili song—with Swahili and English words projected in the front of the church).
Although Leland had planned to have meetings and establish relationships this week rather than see patients and operate, that plan was not communicated to the nursing staff who arrange patient appointments. So, there were full clinics with people who had waited months to see Dr. Albright. Needless to say, he did operate this week—and is operating this morning (Saturday) on two patients who came yesterday and need urgent operations. One is a girl who suddenly went blind 3 days ago (after having a severe headache 5 days ago) and the other is a boy with severe hydrocephalus from a large tumor in his cerebellum.
I had been led to believe that I’d have to apply for a Kenyan nursing license before I could see patients, so I waited until I could talk to the Matron (Director of Nursing). That appointment never quite got arranged, so yesterday I went down to see the nurses in OPD (outpatient department) with whom I’d worked the past 2 times I’ve been in Kijabe. Janet Otieno made a call for me; I will know Monday if I can work under Leland’s license (if so, I could start working immediately). If I have to apply for a Kenyan RN license, Leland learned from the hospital administrator that it is a 1-2 year process to obtain an RN license (not the 3-6 month ordeal I’d expected)! He also learned that his emigration papers had been applied for 3 months ago, so he can expect to receive them in the next 1-3 months. I cannot apply as his dependent until after he receives his; if I do not receive my E papers within 3 months (the time on my entrance visitor’s visa), then I have to leave the country—in fact have to leave East Africa and then reenter on another visitor’s visa. If I want to apply for emigration papers on my own, then I’d first have to obtain the Kenyan RN license (remember, that is a 1-2 year process), then apply for E papers. So, the bottom line here is that it pays to marry well.
Spiritually, it has been a meaningful week for me. It is so helpful to be removed from the distractions that inundate our days in the US. We continue to subscribe to the New York Times—which ironically enough was the source of one of the most provocative Christian books I have read recently. David Brooks (not noted for his Christian spiritual musings) wrote an editorial on 7 September about a book by David Platt, a megachurch pastor from Birmingham Alabama. Dr. Platt writes that the “American Dream” that so many in the US pursue relentlessly is completely unbiblical and antithetical to what Christ taught. Because of that editorial, I downloaded and read the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. I’d discourage anyone who wants to remain comfortable in life and faith from reading this book. However, if you want to be challenged, please read the book.
Finally, I ask for your prayers for this mission and ministry. We are surrounded by Christians here in Kijabe, both Kenyan and expat missionaries who are trying to carry out what Christ commanded: to go into the world, preach the Word, make disciples. Please pray that we will become part of a community that continues to reach out and minister to the poor, the sick, the hungry. We have been here too short a time to really know the needs; but we take on the following charge: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Take care, God bless.