Several people have asked me recently how the Mara family wound up moving to Kenya to serve in missions. This is a re-post of an essay from March which describes our journey (Swahili: safari).
“Where you live should not determine whether you live,
or whether you die.”
(Bono, National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C. 2006)
Imagine being in a terrible car wreck. You and your family members have broken bones and life-threatening injuries, but there are no ambulances, hospitals, nurses, or doctors available to help.
Unfortunately, this unimaginable suffering is a daily reality in the East African country of Kenya.
Fewer than 40 fully trained orthopedic surgeons struggle to serve a population of over 40 million people! While some facilities exist for those who can afford them, the majority of those living in poverty have little or no access to surgical care. Many severe injuries simply go untreated, leading to unnecessary suffering, disability, and even death.
What is desperately needed is teachers to raise up a generation of highly trained, Kenyan, orthopedic surgeons. One teacher alone can exponentially expand the number of doctors serving the population of Kenya, dramatically reducing unnecessary suffering.
Standing at the Crossroads
Since first meeting in Tanzania, we have hoped and prayed that God would bring us back to Africa as a family. Despite the busyness of raising two small children and the joy of being surrounded by wonderful friends, God’s call to serve in Africa has persisted and grown stronger over the last ten years.
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
In December 2010, we reached this crossroads. God made it abundantly clear that we were to “throw off everything that hinders,” (Hebrews 12:1) and make ourselves available to return to work in Africa. This call was accompanied by great excitement and joy, but also tinged with sadness and fear, as we acknowledged the hard choices we would have to make. But we fully trust our lives to God and we go with open hearts and ready hands.
A favorite excerpt from the writing of Frederick Buechner has challenged us:
“To Isaiah the voice said ‘Go,’ and for each of us there are many voices… but the question is, which one will we obey with our lives. I believe that it is possible to say at least this…we should go with our lives where we most need to go and where we are most needed.”
Responding to the Need
Through World Harvest Mission, the Maras will be moving to Kenya in the summer of 2012 for a five-year assignment. Mike will be teaching orthopedic surgery at Kijabe Hospital, a Christian mission hospital founded in 1915. The hospital is located in a small village one hour west of the capital city, Nairobi. With 9,000 outpatient visits and over 700 surgeries performed every month, Kijabe Hospital has become a vital referral center for East Africa. However, the volume of patients has completely outstripped the capacity of the current orthopedic surgeons, creating the urgent need for an additional full time surgeon and educator.
This amazing opportunity will see Mike join the faculty of the first orthopedic surgery training program in Kenya. This will leverage his training in orthopedic surgery, his extensive experience in the developing world, and his passion for teaching. His role will involve expanding the capacity for orthopedic care in Kenya, while discipling and educating future Christian leaders in the medical community.
Ann’s consuming interest in Africa began as a teenager. After completing her advanced teaching degree at Trinity College in Dublin, she took her first teaching job in the southern African country of Lesotho. Her passion for work in Africa was confirmed and ignited, and she returned to Ireland to complete her Masters in International Development. She then moved to Musoma, Tanzania, where she was director of an adult leadership training program. She has most recently worked in project management with World Relief and The Justice Conference in Bend, and hopes to continue to serve in a similar capacity in Kenya.
Michael and Jane have both been raised with the idea of one day moving to Africa, and are excitedly looking forward to the move and their new school. As a family, we believe strongly that Kijabe is “where we most need to go and where we are most needed.”
“Where you live should not determine whether you live…”
We cannot embark on this exciting mission alone, and will rely on a group of dedicated advocates who will support us both spiritually and financially. One of the requirements of our new ministry is that we are supported solely through donations pledged by our partners, recognizing that collaboration is the essence of mission. Just as a surgeon is of little use without the support of his or her surgical team, so we rely solely on individuals who will make this mission possible. We believe that all of God’s children deserve the love, compassion, and dignity of medical care in their moment of need. We invite you to join us in making this possible by considering a monthly contribution to this mission.
For our part, we promise to embrace wholeheartedly our new ministry, and to be good stewards of your investment. Please know that we recognize you as a vital part of this mission, and look forward to sharing with you through regular communiqués our challenges, successes, heartaches and triumphs. You will be contributing directly to the care of sick and injured people, as well as the education and discipling of future leaders in Kenya. Thank you for considering a partnership with us.
Mike, Ann, Michael and Jane