Dear Friends and Family:
Jambo! It is a beautiful afternoon here in the highlands of Kenya and I am having my first real break of the week. We are sitting on the porch of our room and enjoying the sun, fluffy clouds, beautiful birds and wonderful breeze. Much better than the rain and cold earlier this week. It is a blessing to be here with all the PAACS faculty and junior residents.
Our flight from Raleigh to Nairobi through London Heathrow airport was remarkable only for the very cramped seats on American Airline. We arrived on a Wednesday evening and were glad to see the taxi driver with our name who would take us to the guesthouse for a shower and a night’s sleep. The next morning, we drove to Brackenhurst International Conference Centre, located in Limuru about an hour’s drive northwest of Nairobi. We have had so many conferences here that it is like home away from home and the staff greeted us by name.
Last Friday, I spent the day at Kijabe Hospital talking to the residents, the general surgery faculty and a new orthopedic surgeon, Michael Mara. Mike was very interested in creating a PAACS orthopedic program at Kijabe. I hope that Tenwek and Kijabe Hospitals can work together to accomplish something very worthwhile. I spent a few hours with Jack Barasa, the newest faculty member since his graduation early this year. We talked about various things that could be done to strengthen the program. Housing remains the biggest issue at Kijabe and we are praying that one house will come available so we can take another resident there next January.
Last Saturday was relaxing and we spent time with the Sparks, the Browns, Joe Starke, Yakoubou Sanoussi and their residents as they came in during the day. It was a cool and rainy day and it would stay that way for the first few days of this week – we definitely layered our clothing. The Sparks eventually moved to a room with a fireplace so they could stay warm.
Sunday, the remainder of the group came in and we spent time setting up the auditorium and arranging all our materials. It was fun to greet so many folks as they came in and meet some of the new PAACS residents that I had not yet met face to face. Sean, Luke Thelander and Joey Sparks (both missionary children) are all nearly of an age and they found each other good playmates and have become boon companions. Sunday evening, we had a meeting which lasted almost an hour. It was an introduction to each other, a review of the planned events and a review of what God had done with PAACS. Most folks were pretty tired from traveling and were glad that it was over by 8:30 PM.
Our schedule this week has been grueling. Breakfast begins at 6:30, worship is an hour at 7:45 PM and then we have 8 lectures, each of 45 minutes. Two 15 minutes tea breaks, lunch and a break between 4:15 and 6:30 make up the free time. After supper, we have another hour or so of lectures, presentations of the programs and some fun. Most people are doing well to be back in their room by 9 or 9:30, depending on how much conversation they are having. Today, Saturday, we had only a half day schedule. It will resume next week and go through Thursday noon.
The lectures are on anatomy, physiology, trauma, wound care, and pathology. The Spiritual program has been a great program written and presented by Rev. Stan Key, our PAACS Spiritual Dean. We also have some workshops to teach practical skills – wound care, dental wiring, surgical skills, ENT exam, fine needle aspiration are all workshops of this past week. Thursday afternoon, we took a bus trip into Nairobi and did a dry lab on surgical technique at the Nairobi Surgical Skills Centre (at the U. of Nairobi Anatomy Department).
The schedule was arranged so that the Program Directors could meet with Rev. Stan Key to delve deeper into the morning lesson, to share and pray and cry with each other and to discuss the new spiritual curriculum for PAACS. Scheduled only for this one week, it was so popular that they will continue next week. Micky and two of the other faculty wives have been watching the kids so the missionary wives could fully participate. Some individuals and families are seeking private counseling from the Keys at off hours. In addition, Micky and I have used some of the time (including our so-called free time) to meet with the programs individually, to meet as a program director (twice) and to help the residents with their Covenant Eyes and PAACS passwords. And despite that busy schedule, there have been lots of small group conversations as they seek to get to know each other, encourage each other and ask for advice. This may surprise you but some of the missionary wives from less-advantaged countries have also arranged some shopping trips. Also, one day, they all went together to a nearby tea farm for a special trip and meal. The women have also been meeting for special times of prayer.
Today, one of our Commission members underwrote a walking safari at Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha. After a bus trip, they travel to the island and walk among the wild animals (at least most of the animals won’t eat them). All of our residents could go for free due to our friend’s generosity and we had negotiated a discount fare for the missionaries who wanted to go. Micky and I decided that a whole afternoon to just nap and catch up on some chores was badly needed. Sean is going to have his birthday later this week (May 23) and wheedled an early gift out of us which he enjoyed playing with this afternoon. He and the kids will have a small party on Thursday.
Professor Pankaj Jani is a 4th or 5th generation Kenyan of Indian heritage. He has been a real blessing to PAACS and to me. I am going this evening to meet with a Hindu Student Association at the medical school to see if I can offer any manner of help to him. That was why I didn’t go on the walking safari today – they won’t get back in time. I feel obligated to go but the taxi fare will be $55 each way for the hour’s ride. The cost of visiting Nairobi is climbing sharply.
We have posted a lot of pictures taken this week on www.facebook.com/paacs so feel free to go there and look. “Like” the page as long as you are there.
We will be here until mid-day Thursday and then drive with the folks going back to Tenwek Hospital on the other side of the Great Rift Valley. Saturday, Bruce will participate with the spiritual retreat to be held at the Kericho Tea Hotel.
Please pray for the remaining time here at the conference in Kenya. For healing, for encouragement for rest and for a new vision – and that is for everyone here.
Praise and Prayer:
- Praise God for what a fine boy Sean is. He has been a great help with the younger children, settles the fights with the older and is just a real pleasure to be with. Pray that God might use him during his entire life.
- Pray for us as we handle the many details necessary to close this conference. Pray that we will have an open ear and discerning heart and mind be able to help those who need it.
- There is increasing pressure on PAACS to train non-Christians in several countries. Pray that we will be able to successfully resist it. This is spiritual warfare.
- Pray as we establish oral examinations in Cameroon in July.
Yours, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce with Micky and Sean