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…
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.
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.
And 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.