Two days after I returned from the DRC, I flew for a two-day meeting near Chicago with Susan Koshy, the new Executive Director of PAACS. It was rather a blur as I was severely jet-lagged. I didn’t even try to adjust much since 30 hours after I got home from that trip, I got on a 3:00 AM shuttle to the airport with Micky, Sean and Terry McLamb (my PAACS administrative assistant) to fly to Kenya. We were heading to the 4th Biennial Principles of Surgery conference at Brackenhurst International Conference Centre about an hour’s drive north of Nairobi. Well, actually it is only about 40 kilometers but with the traffic, it took us over 2 hours even on a Saturday afternoon.
This was Terry’s first trip to Africa and it was fun to see everything afresh through her eyes. Her young grandson had very seriously advised her not to get eaten by lions because after all “the lions were not in cages there”. I am pleased to report that she was able to follow that advice. Having someone to help me with all the details of running the conference was a great relief for me and I was able to participate much more than previously.
Given our continued growth of PAACS, this was of course our biggest conference to date. It was centered on the 32 first and second year residents but in addition, there were 28 mission hospital faculty members there, 17 other lecturers (most of the missionaries also spoke), 2 PAACS administrative personnel (three were counted as lecturers) and 22 family members who attended for a total of 101 attendees.
And we kept them busy! The worship service began at 7:30 AM after breakfast and the scheduled activities went until 8:00 PM almost each evening. Rev. Stan Key did a phenomenal job in a Bible study on Jeremiah and there were 64 formal lectures; four informal talks on survival of the residency and one on COSECSA; and four formal and two impromptu workshops. But it was not all work and no play – each evening had some wonderful social hours and Saturday afternoon, all the residents and some of the other attendees went on a walking safari to Crescent Island (the site of the filming of several famous movies on Africa). What was most exciting to us was to see the gelling of the entire group into a cohesive PAACS family and to see the excitement of the new residents.
Although designed for the residents, it was equally valuable to the program directors and faculty. Stan Key spent the rest of each morning with them, expounding on Jeremiah and then having them share the things that only the other people in the room might understand. There were many tears and many fervent prayers, much encouragement and much support.
Forgive me as I brag a bit on my selfless wife. She is amazing. In addition to her homeschooling duties and interactions, she volunteered to watch the children while the other women had their morning meetings and often she continued into the afternoon so the child’s mother (a surgeon) could attend lectures and meetings. She also continued to handle all the book-keeping duties, taking care of the charges, invoices and billing to the faculty members.
One of the highlights for us was to have a lunch with John and Rebecca Fulks. A saved OSU Buckeye fan (yes, I was surprised at God’s mercy, too!) we have been friends since the late 90s. They have recently moved from Uganda to become dorm parents and work at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya just down the road from where we were meeting.
On February 1, Dr. Jim Brown from Mbingo Baptist and I arose very early to drive to the airport to catch a flight to Kampala. We met that day with a SDA group that has started digging for a 400 bed hospital in Kampala. They want it to eventually be a PAACS training site (the son of the bishop is one of our trainees in Cameroon). They have a passion but have a long way to go and we are not able to do many of the things for them that they wish we would. It is not just what we do, but we are encouraged by their enthusiasm and pray that it will come to fruition in a few years. We returned to Nairobi the next day and plunged back into the hectic conference schedule.
So that Terry could have the experience of a real safari and to spend some more time with the Thelander family from Gabon (doesn’t that sound selfless of us?), we went on safari for 2.5 days on the Masai Mara. We were all a little exhausted and spending the days enjoying the wonders of God’s creation (and eating too much) did us all good. Sleep was interrupted each night by the hippos in the river 50 feet away (Terry was convinced they were trying to kill something the first night or that they were coming for her!). After a mad long dash to the airport, we jumped back on the airplane and arrived home this past Monday jet-lagged (still? again?).
Prayers and Praise:
- Praise for the safe trip to Africa and we pray for safety in travel for the upcoming one for us and the hundreds of missionaries coming.
- Pray for the wonderful conference and pray with us for the upcoming continuing medical education conference in Thailand
- Pray for the ongoing search for a Chief Development Officer for PAACS.
- Please pray for my daughter Michelle as her gestational diabetes is not under ideal control and her physicians are concerned. She is due the end of March but they are already talking about inducing her early. May God’s hand be upon her and our grandchild and may God’s peace be upon Joey and upon her.
- Praise God that my mother is doing fairly well and has been given the required medications she needs at a price that she could afford. The standard price is reportedly over $8,000 a month.
- In Kenya, I was asked to consider becoming a co-CEO of the College of Surgery of East, Central and Southern Africa. I don’t really feel led in that way, but was flattered to be asked. Please pray with me that God would make His plan clear for me.
- Please pray for my continued adjustment to my new role within PAACS.
- Please pray for continued issues within PAACS – all of our programs are under stresses of various sorts and some very serious. It remains a spiritual battle in a fallen world – and Satan doesn’t like the success that we have enjoyed!
Bruce, Micky and Sean