Greetings from Kenya! For all of you enjoying the winter wonderland, I know you can sympathize with my plight today. I was forced to endure a beautiful sunny day and look out over beautifully landscaped gardens and lawn here at the Brackenhurst International Conference Centre. Sometimes, we must suffer for the Lord – and sometimes we can rejoice in His creation! But I rejoiced in my own way. As you can see in the picture to the right, Sean was rejoicing in the NC weather in his own way. He is being home-schooled this semester and therefore thought it highly unfair that all his friends were getting snow-day holidays and he was not. School was released a bit early that day for him as well. Some teachers are just pushovers!
I landed in Nairobi last Friday night and the next morning was driven to Tenwek Hospital. It was great to be back and the next four and a half days were a blessing. I was there largely to see how the PAACs program was going but they were kind enough to let me do a bit of operating as well. It was great to talk with the residents and to teach them a bit. It was also marvelous to spend time with Carol Spears, Jason Fader and Mike Chupp in the Surgery department. I also had the pleasure of seeing many other old friends including the other fantastic doctors working here. It was a productive time administratively as we solved problems, planned for the future and encouraged one another.
If there is a single picture that demonstrates the difference between PAACS and other surgical training programs in Africa, it is one of the pictures to the left. Carol Spears (left) and Jason Fader (right) took part in the washing of the new interns’ feet – a ceremony based on Jesus’ example in John 13. Servant leadership is modeled and reinforced by this experience.
Leaving Tenwek, I drove across the Great Rift Valley early one morning, watching the sun rise as we drove. I spent two days at Kijabe Hospital. What a blessed and productive time. PAACS has a general surgery program there as well as a pediatric surgery program. I was pleased to meet with three new pediatric surgeons serving as faculty. Mike Matlak is from Utah and has been working hard for the past year to improve the academic curriculum. He will spend six months more before leaving in June to begin a well-earned retirement. Ruth Mayforth is a pediatric surgeon who recently moved to Kenya from her position at the Southern Illinois University. She will become the Program Director in June when Dr. Dan Poenaru begins a year-long sabbatical. Erik Hansen is a newly minted pediatric surgeon who was by all reports a superstar in fellowship. However, he felt that serving his Lord was more important to his family and him than anything else. I also talked at length with each of the pediatric surgery fellows.
I also met the new PAACS general resident and his wife . I was very impressed with this young man. I also talked to our outstanding new 4th-year resident and met his wife and child. I also was pleased to meet the new Executive Director of Kijabe Hospital and the new Director of Medical Education, trying to both inform them about PAACS and to solicit their support. Rich Davis, the general surgeon, and Dan Poenaru, the pediatric surgeon, are outstanding men and we have had some great discussions, planning for the future and problem-solving.
Today, I went into Nairobi and met with Dr. Pankaj Jani, one of the influential surgeons there. We talked about COSECSA. He gave some good advice about several things and will work with us to further accredit the programs in Ethiopia and Central Africa. I feel like I now have a very good friend and it was a pleasure and honor to be invited to his home for a home-made Indian meal.
This past week has been very productive, certainly busy, but complicated by a severe case of jet-lag. I think I am almost over it and will be glad to see it go. Tomorrow, I will have my own private worship services and then get all the last-minute details taken care of before starting registration tomorrow afternoon. Handling the logistics for over 40 people coming from all over has been a bit of a hassle and some people are missing planes and so forth. However, I think it is going well overall. Three residents from Cameroon arrived a day early because there were no other options for flights. Two of them are new to me and we had a pleasant dinner together.
Each day this week, we will begin at 6:00 AM in the morning with a small group Bible study and go until 9:00 PM at night with breaks only for meals and a late-afternoon break. Often the PAACS faculty will meet separately from the residents as we pray and work together. Rev. Stan Key, pastor of Loudonville Community Church near Albany NY, is a French-speaking ex-missionary and he will be our spiritual life speaker. I am eager to hear him again – he is fantastic.
Praise and Prayers:
- Please pray for this conference – that the residents will learn a lot and begin to jell into a cohesive unit. Pray that the spiritual disciplining will be as potent as the medical learning. Pray for the program directors – for relaxation, for encouragement and for cohesiveness.
- Please continue to keep my daughter Bethany in your prayers – for healing and for the decision about returning to school sometime this year.
- Pray for Sean and Micky as they home school. They are going to visit Micky’s folks in Florida for the next weeks, so please pray for traveling safety as well.
- Praise God that our schedule is also beginning to jell. We will definitely be going to the Mercy Ships in May to teach 3 PAACS residents. We will be in Sierra Leone.
It is so good to be back in Africa, back in the operating room and to look forward to this coming two weeks. What a pleasure to serve the King of Kings!
Yours, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce for Micky and Sean