The residents and faculty left Friday morning, July 20 for the Fairmont safari club for a time of relaxation and some deep spiritual training. They have not done that since the last time I was here three years ago when we went to Kericho. A pastor and his wife from New Hampshire is going with them and talked to them this week about Christian marriage.
I left the same morning to visit PAACS graduate Jack Okumu and his wife Damaris in the city of Kisumu on Lake Victoria. They have an active little boy and are soon expecting another arrow in the quiver. Jack and Mesh Mwanzia from the Kijabe program are the first to leave the mission hospital environment and are finding similar problems. Both have found the politics and conditions of the county-owned hospitals not tolerable – their PAACS training and even COSECSA certification is not recognized or accepted, the salaries are low (or in Jack’s case nonexistent), there are significant professional barriers (some of which are based on jealousy or fear). Add to that the usual anxieties of any new surgeon building a practice and the financial demand. Jack and I talked a long time. He is now in the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu because that was the only employment he could get. Despite the nominally Islamic nature of the system, he has found strong allies among a few of the staff (including a Moslem physician who deeply respects and admires Tenwek Hospital) and nurses and he is slowly winning over some of his greatest distractors as he lives a humble Christian life before them, demonstrating the quality of his education in how he takes care of patients. His Moslem friend is the clinical director and has given him carte blanch to pray with his patients both in the ward and in the OR. I left there very encouraged with Jack’s development and for his future. I also left with many good take-home lessons including a reinforcement of my conviction that our grads should go to someplace with a mentor, should ideally go in teams of two (as Christ sent out the disciples) and that visits from faculty and administration are deeply meaningful to our graduates.
The next place I visited was Kapsowar Hospital in the Merekwet region. I had been here once before in 2000 when the surgeon, Dr. Bill Rhodes, was home in the US taking a plastic surgery fellowship. He has been here essentially alone since that time. Back in 2000, I came here from Uganda in case a nearby tribal war produced casualties that would arrive here. At the time, I met Dr. Gerhard Schumacher and his wife, Janie, who were here on a short-term mission from Kamloops, British Columbia. He is a family medicine doctor and has subsequently returned many times – he is now here as the medical superintendent in hopes of correcting some of the administrative issues that plague all mission hospitals. In 2000, I had come from much warmer Jinja, Uganda, and had it not been for a fleece that Janie loaned me (and I wore every day and night for 30 days), I would have frozen at this cool and damp 7900 feet ASL.
It was very good to see them again. I had been invited to visit at Gerhard’s and Bill’s desire so that we could talk about whether this hospital could serve as a residency rotation site for our PAACS residents at Tenwek and Kijabe and whether we could help recruit one, and preferably two, graduates to come and work here.
There is an excellent team of young physicians and other professionals here and it could form the basis of an excellent future. One of those physicians is a young ob-gyn who did her training at St. Joseph’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan and she and her husband are here with the World Medical Mission Post-Residency program. Kristen and her husband, Dan (an IT specialist), share something with me. Dan grew up in Lapeer, Michigan, and I have known his uncle, Rev. Arnold Bracy, since I was a teenager. My mother also went for a while to the same church as his parents. Interesting to find two Lapeer boys in remote Kenya.
After leaving Kapsowar, I traveled to Limuru, Kenya. I will visit three more mission hospitals in Kenya and tell you about those in the next edition of the The SteffeScope. In going to and from Kapsowar, we were stopped four times by police who essentially wanted a bribe. One was reportedly for “speeding” (hard to do on those roads!) and the driver had to pay a 2000 KES “fine”. The rest of the time he talked his way out of the shakedown. The constant corruption is discouraging for all – and a hurdle that African countries must surmount to get effective government and economies. I also crossed the Equator twice during that trip.
A glitch in the schedule has given me an unexpected day to rest and work on the computer. It is a blessing.
Prayers and Praise:
- Please pray for continued traveling safety, wisdom and discernment for me as I continue to travel in Kenya and for God’s hand upon Micky and Sean at home.
- Please pray for all of these small mission hospitals which are struggling so mightily. Pray for adequate Kenyan and expatriate personnel to be willing to work at them.