Coming up for air…

By:  Ann

It has been a hard few months.  Everybody tells you before you go on missions that it’s going to be difficult…that moving your entire family across the world is heart-wrenching…that assimilating into a new culture is one of the hardest things you will ever do…that you will doubt this decision at least a  hundred times within the first twelve months.  It is all true.

Although we have an assurance and peace that Kijabe is where we are supposed to be for this season of our lives, it has been a difficult time of transition.  We hit the ground running this time last year and didn’t stop until we literally ran out of steam.  The need here is so overwhelming.  The opportunities to get involved and help make a difference…limitless.  The daily “in your face” disparities between what you have and what others don’t…endless.  The feelings of not understanding this culture and desperately trying to make sense of our new home…exhausting.  The realization that the impact we hope to make here will take time, patience and perseverance.  There is so much that could be done and should be done.  I think that both Mike and I are high achievers and results-orientated so we are learning valuable lessons in  slowing down and taking one day at a time…

The cold “winter” here didn’t help matters!  It was overcast and cold every single day – not what you might expect living close to the equator.  Clothes were impossible to dry outside leaving a moldy odor that made the kids gag on numerous occasions!  Night times were spent huddled around a log fire in the house and going to bed early with hot water bottles, sweaters, and socks!  The kids had seven weeks off school and we were all at a bit of a loss as to how to fill the days, in addition to moving forward with my own work at the hospital.

By the time August rolled around, we were tired and depleted.  Mike commonly works twelve hour days, beginning at 6:00 in the morning.  Despite the hours that he puts in, there is always so much more to do.  The orthopedic department is incredibly busy and the patients keep on coming.  There is no “catching up” on surgery lists, just the constant scrambling to keep things moving.  The orthopedic doctors (Mike and two Kenya consultants) do a phenomenal job at ensuring excellent patient care under extreme pressure and long work hours.

In mid-August, we took a much-needed break at the coast.  At this point, we were feeling quite hopeless.  We were at the end of ourselves…exactly where we believe God brought us in order to realize that we cannot do this alone and in our own strength.  Nobody can.  Quite literally, we were asking ourselves how we were going to be able to return to Kijabe when the week was over.  And then God showed up…

Playing with spider crabs in the tide pools

Playing with spider crabs in the tide pools

The week in Watamu was just what we needed in terms of spending time together as a family.  We relaxed, played in the waves, ate delicious foods, read novels, went for walks on the beach, basked in the sun, and took stock of where we were at – both physically and emotionally.

Crocodile meat for dinner on our first night - tasted and enjoyed by all!

Crocodile meat for dinner on our first night – tasted and enjoyed by all!

Playing in the waves while Mike took wind-surfing lessons in the background!

Playing in the waves while Mike took wind-surfing lessons in the background!

On day two, we were just beginning to unwind.  We were playing in the waves in the warm Indian ocean when I looked at Michael and noticed that he was still wearing his insulin pump, which cannot be immersed in water!!!  Our hearts about nearly stopped.  We quickly called Medtronic in the US and they confirmed that his pump to the value of USD$4,000 was indeed fried beyond repair!  We were going to have to revert back to injections at least 4 times a day, which upset Michael greatly as you can imagine.  When on shots, you need a long-acting and a short-acting insulin to stabilize and manage blood sugars.  We had no long-acting insulin with us.  There we were, in the middle of a small, rural village, with little or no resources at hand.  We talked about flying back to Kijabe the next day and were devastated at Michael’s distress at having to go back to injections and us having to cut our holiday short.  We were literally on our knees, desperate for God’s intervention.

We walked up to the front desk and asked if the hotel knew of a local doctor.  They did and called him straight away.  Mike spoke to him on the phone and explained the situation and what we needed.  He told us what we already knew.  People with type 1 diabetes in Kenya use a insulin that has a short and long acting insulin mixed together, which we were totally unfamiliar with.  We told him that we specifically needed a vial of Lantus.  He told Mike to walk over to his clinic which he did with the help of a security guard from the hotel.  They picked their ways through dark and dusty alleyways, passing small fruit and vegetable stands along the way, lit only by kerosene lamps.  Finally, they reached a small “clinic” where the doctor was waiting.  Inside the clinic were rows of bare shelves with hardly any medical supplies except for a few bottles here and there.  Towards the back of the clinic was a tiny, box-shaped fridge.  The doctor explained to Mike as he opened the door to the fridge that he had no idea how he happened to have ONE vial of Lantus, but that it must have been previously donated to the clinic.  Of course, Mike’s eyes nearly left his head as he quickly checked the expiration date on the vial to make sure that it hadn’t expired.  It hadn’t.  The doctor refused to take any money for the insulin as it had been donated to his clinic.  As Mike walked back to the hotel with this precious vial of insulin, Michael’s diabetes doctor called me back from Nairobi and ensured me that he would courier a replacement pump to us within 24 hours!

If we had had any doubts as to whether God had left us to “do life in Kenya” all alone, this assured us that He was right there…sovereign over all of the details…ABLE to provide us with what we need at exactly the point when we need it most…WITH us at every turn, in every struggle, in every accomplishment.  How could we ever have doubted so strongly?  It was a precious reminder that He is in control and that that is enough for us…one day at a time is all we can hope to tackle…is all we really have the strength for.  We came back to Kijabe renewed and restored.  Ready to fully engage in the triumphs and the challenges.

Third gradeAnd this morning, we dropped two very excited kids off to their first day of third grade and first grade!  We took Michael’s teacher aside to run her through Michael’s management of his diabetes, to which she replied, “My mother has type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump just like Michael.  I know the signs to look out for.”  Of course she does!  We were reminded once again of how God so graciously showers our family with His grace and how He is always present.First grade

Categories: Uncategorized | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Coming up for air…

  1. Emma

    Ann & Mike, i am in tears here as I read your update….. tears at how hard it has been for you all, and tears at the awesomeness and love and care and and and of our Heavenly Abba. Thank you for being so honest and sharing from deep within. Am praying for you, Mike and the kids. HE is able, HE is with you, YOU are far more important to HIM than what you do…. I pray you will know His rest and peace and sweet assurance that He is with you. Much love xx ps I was also so shocked the first year in Kolkata when it became so cold. I would go to bed with a hot water bottle, tracksuit, socks and a duvet!!! Bless you all heaps xx

  2. Colleen

    Amen. Beautiful. We love you!!!

  3. Merrilee G Lewis

    Ann and Mike. I am overwhelmed with God’s grace and provision. You two (4) are my heroes. Thank you so much for the work you are doing and for your never ending fortitude and stamina. I pray for you often and right now thank God for his provision with Michael. He is so good. I pray that God give you more peaceful times and continue to give grace – you are such a wonderful example of giving your life away – i love you all, Merrilee

  4. Cynthia DeGroat

    Again, the inspiration of your walks with Christ give me strength.. Praise God for His wonderful Grace and His Perfect timing for young Michael’s Lantus, for keeping you all safe, and for giving you strength… even if it’s one breath at a time. God Bless you and your family Ann. I am lifting you all up in prayer.

  5. Dee & Richie

    So moved and so proud of you all love Mam and Dad

    Sent from my iPad

  6. Cindy Uttley

    Praise God! He is good. He is able. He is faithful. Thank you SO much for sharing!!! We love you.

  7. Ann and Mike,
    This is such an affirmation of what God has planned for your family, despite the trials and difficulties. We are with you in prayer and planning our own missions journey to Africa in the future. So, we rely on your blog for guidance and help….NG

  8. Ann, I cried when I read this post for a couple reasons. First, I miss you all and am so happy that you are sharing your experiences with us this way. Reading them has had a profound affect on my life and has solidified my faith in God and my faith in humanity. I know may cruel things are going on in the world, but I believe that God positions you where He wants you to be and where you will be at your best. I know that you and Mike are doing your best work in Kenya. Second, I felt the emotional roller coaster that you much have gone through in trying to locate insulin for Michael. I am grateful that the Lord provided for Michael when he needed Him. My mom has had diabetes for many years and has needed to resort to injections prior to meals, so I, too, have learned to read the signs. Finally, I feel so inspired by all that you are doing. Your work has given me strength to work hard at what I am doing – going to school, raising Tyler and Lillian, and continuing my work through my church. I feel the Holy Spirit in all I do as I am sure you and Mike do everyday. I continue to hold you all in my prayers and send God’s blessings to you.

  9. Shannon Mara

    Thank you for your story, Ann. And the photos of Michael and Jane on their first day of school – great to see them. I’ll make sure Will and Ian see them! Today is THEIR first day back. Soccer and XC teams are in full-swing. So fun!!!
    BTW, I did NOT like the snake you encountered, and I cannot believe Jane held it, even though it was dead!!!! OMG!

  10. Mary Davitt

    Love getting your updates Ann. So inspiring. Thinking of you all. Mary xxx

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