2015 Kenya Medical Mission Trip—Reflecting on a Transformative Experience

As the mosquito bites, jet lag, sunburn, and headaches start to fade, I am left with a variety of feelings, mementos, and memories of the trip. Recently, I have felt especially moved by music. Before, after, and during the trip, I had lots of songs playing in my head. “Bless The Lord, Oh my Soul, Ohh, my Soul. Worship His Holy Name.”

“Break my heart for what breaks yours.”

“It is well, it is well, with my soul.” “Sing with me, How great is Our God.”

I felt close to God in Kenya, and excited to see Him shine through our work. I sensed it in the land, the sun, and in the hearts of people there. At times I felt like I was in an “outdoor classroom”…where the Lord was the instructor and we were the students.

In Kenya, fine means good. If you ask someone how they are doing & they say “fine”, that is with a full heart. I experienced far less complaining, irritability, and negativity than I often do in the United States. I was overwhelmed by the loving and joyful spirits of the people in Kenya. Also, the praise and worship was amazing! We saw dancing in people’s eyes & bodies, and heard music much of the time….which I think affected people’s hearts, souls, and spirits in quite a healthy way. Many of the people we met were hungry, poor, in pain, without shoes, & missing relatives, yet still grateful, patient, smiling, joyful, and loving. The prayerfulness and faith demonstrated in a foreign country was awesome. It was an honor to be a part of it. 

Hearing “Jambo” [meaning Hello! In Swahili] in sing song voices from cheerful children rings in my ears. The memory of it makes me smile inside. How could these little children have so much love and joy in their hearts, while they had so little in terms of material resources? It boggles my mind. Another thing I noticed is how often I was asked “How are you?”…in such a genuine and caring way. There’s a value and simplicity in this that I really admire.   

The book of Isaiah was a theme in our team’s adventure. I’m reminded of Isaiah 12 verses 2-5 (which is about singing, water, strength, and salvation) as I reflect on this trip. I hope and pray that we can help carry on some of the powerful seeds of change that we experienced while we were there.

It’s amazing to go all the way to Africa to demonstrate (and receive) acts of service & love with our neighbors that we are called to do. It’s interesting how you go to a place, thinking you will be the one serving or teaching, and you actually end up learning and receiving more than you expected. One of the things we are considering, as individuals and as a team, is how to carry on this special spirit of fellowship & community that we had while in Kenya, here in the United States, and across the nations. Also, how to keep making the world a smaller place & sharing God’s love and living out our purpose on this Earth.


I received some advice from a mentor who told me, “do what makes your heart sing.” I want to encourage each of you to do the same. “Shout it…go on and scream it from the mountains…go on and tell it to the masses.”


“All blessings and honor and glory and power forever to Our God.”

In Christ’s love,

Rachael

2015 Kenya Medical Mission Trip- Reflecting after our Return

After coming home just 2 days ago, I took some time to collect my thoughts and try to wrap my head around what we did the past 10 days in Kenya. It felt like a bittersweet end to the journey. Indeed, saying goodbye is never easy, especially to the people who were alongside us from Nairobi Baptist Church and to our host families. I felt sad to leave, yet after sharing a final supper together, I also felt encouraged to go back home and share the adventure with people of Park Community Church, as well as family and friends. I want to share not only about what we did, but also how this trip has changed my perspective on life and especially on God’s work in and through all of us.

In the beginning of the trip, I saw this time as an opportunity to simply use the talent that God gifted me with to bless others and glorify Him with it. I think that was accomplished given the overwhelming number of clients that sat down in the massage chair, which left me feeling humbled. What really jumped out at me was the love from everyone around me, and seeing it in the villagers that walked miles and miles to get medical attention, as well as in the loving hearts of the people of Nairobi Baptist Church. We served well over 2,000 people in our time in both Kibera and Kwale. Another thing that got to me while I was there was the ministry that Nairobi Baptist Church is doing to help the churches in Kwale and continue to support their Church in Kibera. It was amazing to see the impact that the churches have on the communities by educating them about who Jesus Christ is and providing guidance to the people following Him. I would also say that they are the most genuine people I have ever met. They showed great hospitality and all around love to us from the moment that we got there. It was kind of interesting after we left Kibera and went to Kwale, then finished work there and came back to Nairobi, I felt a sense of comfort in coming back. Over the hills we saw the rooftops of Kibera and I felt a desire to go back there. God had us in Kenya not only to be glorified through the work we do, but also to embrace the people there with love. Yet, I felt at the end of the trip, when all was said and done, the people of Kenya showed us love and refreshed our perspective on life and all we take for granted on a day-to-day basis. Whether it is simply the clothes on our back, or fresh and clean running water in our faucets, so many times we complain and get distracted by the negatives that we forget to simply thank God for our blessings. Please join me as we continually ask God to look after the people in Kibera and Kwale, specifically that they look to God for grace and mercy. Also, let’s pray for our partner church Nairobi Baptist and Dima Church in Kwale, that they continue the great ministry they are doing in Kenya!

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8-9

As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Ps. 112:9

2015 Kenya Medical Missions – Day 4

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.  -Jeremiah 33:3

Antony, a member of Nairobi Baptist Church (NBC) who was supervising construction of the new multipurpose building in Kwale, shared this verse with me and a teammate one evening as we were talking about the unexpected things we had been learning during our trip. 

As I prepared to depart for Kenya, my third international short term missions trip, I fathomed myself prepared for what I would learn and experience.  I knew that I would learn and grow a lot.  But I did not expect that God would break my heart for His people of Kenya, specifically the poor in Kibera and Kwale, and also change my heart for His people of the world. 

As we near the conclusion of our trip, we (I think I speak for the whole team and not just myself) are exhausted but rejuvenated for Christ. 

We are exhausted because the time has been both physically grueling and emotionally intense.  We packed what seems like three weeks of activity into 9 short days in Kenya.  We spent 1 day in Nairobi in preparation, then jumped right into a 2 busy days of service in Kibera including a day in the schools and a day of medical camp at the Chemi Chemi Clinic.  After morning church service and lunch with our host family, we flew into Mombasa on Sunday and drove to Ukundu in Kwale County.  Bright and early the next morning, we embarked upon 3 long days of medical camps held at churches and schools at various villages deep in rural Kwale.  Each day included several hours of winding through bumpy dirt roads in the mountains.  We traveled back to Nairobi on Thursday.  Friday, our last day in Kenya, was a day of fun.  It started with a 5:30AM checkout from our guest house, a morning sojourn through Nairobi National Park, an afternoon shopping excursion, followed by a celebration dinner with the teams from NBC and our host families before we headed to the airport for our 1:20AM flight to Doha. 

In the medical camps, we worked alongside health care providers and teammates from NBC, as well as some local pastors and teachers who served as interpreters.  We provided free doctors’ evaluations and medications.  Our panel of about 10 clinicians in Kibera saw over 400 patients and our panel of 6 clinicians in Kwale saw between 200-350 patients per day for a total of more than 1200 patients in 4 days! 

We have been blessed and rejuvenated by God’s work and the relationships we have built.   I am proud to be part of this partnership between Park Community Church and Nairobi Baptist Church.   I am refreshed by the servant’s hearts of all those alongside whom we worked, both the team from Nairobi as well as the people of Kwale.  I am excited by the ongoing nature of the work in both Kibera and Kwale: in Kibera a church has been planted and is robust and growing, the Dima Clinic in Kwale, where locals can receive outpatient medical care and medications every weekday for a very low cost, celebrates its 1 year anniversary on March 29, and the multipurpose building beside it will open shortly to greatly expand the community outreach capabilities of Nairobi Baptist Church.  Each early morning in Kwale was blessed by a gorgeous sunrise, reminding me of God’s glory and popping me out of bed with a smile. 

As we prepare to return to our lives in Chicago, please pray with us for the following:

Continued blessing of the ministry in Kwale

Continued growth of the partnership between Nairobi Baptist Church and Park Community Church

Persistent change in each our hearts (including YOU) as we think of how we will serve globally throughout our lives

Thank you!

-Elaine

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2015 Kenya Medical Missions – Day 3

Good morning from rainy Kenya! It’s Thursday today, our departure day from Kwale. Our time here has been amazing and God has blessed us immensely.

We have been talking a lot about expectations. What were our expectations of missions in Africa? What was the expectation of what we would be doing? What would my expectation be of the time in Kwale? To be honest, I didn’t have many expectations of Kwale. The words that people used to describe this place were so unfamiliar to me. Witchcraft. Coastal town. Muslim. No electricity. Unreached. Living in a major metropolitan city like Chicago, expecting or picturing a place like this was hard for me. So I came with little expectations of our three days here.

One thing I could not have expected was my task on Monday. We visited the Dima Primary School and our mission was to wash the feet of all children with jiggers, apply a treatment, and give them new TOMS shoes (so for those who wear TOMS, please know they do actually send a pair to a child in Africa!).  Jiggers are a type of parasite and burrow in to exposed skin and remain there for a few weeks while developing eggs. During that time, the area swells dramatically; causing intense irritation and growing very large. If not treated, the jiggers can cause an infection that will cause the toe to fall off completely.  As of Monday morning, I didn’t even know what jiggers were. As of Monday evening, my team of five had washed over 75 feet, worked for at least six hours straight, and handed out shoes to the entire school.

With the first little foot I saw come to my station, a huge rush of emotion came over me and I had to fight very hard to hold back tears. This experience was humbling in a way I have never experienced. My thoughts immediately rushed to Jesus and his time washing his disciples feet. Not only did he wash all of his disciples’ feet, but he also washed the feet of the man who would betray him. One of his disciples, Simon Peter was so confused as to why Jesus was washing his feet, but Jesus replied, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).  Jesus paved the way for our team to be able to do this difficult task. Without Christ’s example in my life, I’m not sure how I would not have been able to complete the task. I started praying for each child while washing which distracted me from the feet and shifted my focus to God. I reminded myself that God created each of those ten little toes perfectly in His image. And He loves them immensely. Even with the language barrier, I hope that the children felt His love through our action, smiles, and occasional tickling of their feet! I truly thank God for blowing my expectations out of the water with this opportunity. He brought me to a place of extreme discomfort until I had no choice but to completely surrender to Him. But He met me there, and will continue to meet our team throughout the last few days of our trip.

Love,

Colleen

2015 Kenya Medical Missions – Day 3

  I have a question for you: Do you live your life in the past, present or future? What brings you joy today? Let me tell you a story. As we walked with the missions group to children’s schools in

Kibera, we passed by a little hut that was one of the few to have windows in it, and behind was what seemed to be a half of skinned cow hanging on a hook. The sign above it read “The butcher shop: Fresh meat”. One of my group members asked the Kenyan volunteer “shouldn’t the meat be in the freezer?” To which she replied “There’s never any meat left over at the end of the day. People will all buy a piece on their way from work to cook for the night.” So my friend asked “Do they have fridges in their homes?” And the answer was “No. People only buy enough meat/flour/toothpaste/etc to last one day. The way Israilites lived on manna and quails.”

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Kind of gives us an example don’t you think? So often we let the regrets of the past engulf us and affect the way we live today, as well as constant thrive for the better future take away the joy of the present. People in Kibera sleep on dirt floors, go to outhouses, drink dirty water, and have next to nothing. Yet they find joy in TODAY. Shouldn’t we? Jesus said  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Sadly, it takes something like a trip to Africa to see just how literal that teaching is. So……count your blessing TODAY!!

2015 Kenya Medical Missions – Day 2

As I type there are 100’s of Kibera residents awaiting medical services. The small clinic is nearly busting at the seams with people seeking care. There are 3-4 physicians per 15×15 rooms and 2 tables packed with boxes of syrup and pills in the pharmacy.  This is now our second day in the slum that over 1 million people call home. It is difficult to put into words the feelings we have experienced the last two days. The first thing that hit me coming to the slum was the smell. It is distinct and I don’t think I will ever forget it. To others it may have been the site of rotting garbage littering the streets, they are more like a winding maze paths, leading to places without addresses. It is difficult to know which buildings are business or homes. There is an immense population of people sitting, standing, walking, working, and staring, lots of staring, hungry eyes. 

Yesterday was our first day “exploring” Kibera. We met at the church in Kibera, and visited two schools. At the schools we went into dark, overpopulated classrooms, and gave each kid a deworming tablet, checked for rashes or any obvious medical ailments, gave tooth brushing lessons, and passed out toothbrushes and paste. American standards of practice were highly “modified” given the circumstances to balance the hectic schedule, and the fact that the classrooms were seating three to four students to a desk, and we barely had room to turn around.

I think all of us were brought way out of out of our comfort zone, but there was no way of avoiding it, the tidal wave was coming and we had to get swept up in it. Many kids were reserved and shy, maybe this was the first time they had seen a white person, maybe they were confused. Many kids, were curious / excited to see a white person and expressed it by many questions and touching our skin and holding our clothes. The second school that we went to was started and run by mama Jojo 16 years ago, she lives at the school and provides free education and two meals a day to over 300 students. Around 30 orphans live at the school and she provides medication and care for three children with HIV. Undoubtedly she is an amazing woman. To end our time we Give 7-8 graders backpacks, they wore them under their uniforms maybe because they were so happy to receive them they did not want to put them down, or maybe for fear of someone stealing their new bag. I would imagine that this would be one of the only new items the children will have for a long time.

We have an armed guard that escorts us around Kibera. So, yes, mom we are very safe, I do not think anyone has felt unsafe, In fact I think I speak for everyone when saying we feel very loved.  We have formed great friendships with the people in Nairobi. We met our host families and they are nothing but hospitable. It is nice that we each have a unique relationship here in Kenya with our host families. We laugh and joke with those that work with us in Kibera, when we are in the clinic and packing up drugs and labeling them. We have met many teachers from Kibera during a teachers meeting, this included prayer, worship, and when I say worship I mean WORSHIP. We were doing tribal dances and singing and clapping with teachers in the slum. We listened to a message from the head pastor of Nairobi Baptist, which was very moving. We can all tell that there is such a reliance on God here it is to be envied in our comfortable lives.

kibera garbage steve school

2015 Medical Missions Kenya – Day 1

Jambo!

Although a bit late on our day one post, we are staying true to Kenyan time, where being late is truly being Kenyan. So here goes…

As we stepped off the plane at 12 a.m. Thursday, a warm refreshing breeze greeted us for our stay in Nairobi, Kenya. One by one we picked up our luggage, and loaded it into the green bus that had brought members of Nairobi Baptist Church and Campus Outreach to welcome us with enthusiastic smiles, making us feel right at home in a foreign land.  This series of loading and unloading became a highlight of our first day’s trip, as we went thru more than 8 loading and unloading of our baggage from our green van. After a couple of incidents – a forgotten passport and realizing our room for the night had been scheduled for the next night – at 3 a.m. we finally settled in to our beds fully equipped with mosquito nets for our 7 a.m. start of our first day in Kenya. 

With only four hours of sleep and a belly full of a hearty Kenyan breakfast of a slice of juicy pineapple, eggs, savory bacon, warm toast with butter and jam, and the most delicious Kenyan chai tea served with milk, we were ready for what God had in store for each individual involved in our medical mission trip.  Our morning devotion included a prayer of thanksgiving for our health, our safety, and the support we had back home from our family, friends, and supporters.

After our lunch, we loaded into the green van for our ride into Kiberia. We zoomed past cars, people, bikers, and street vendors, maneuvering past the jams that seem ever present in the streets of Nairobi.  As we made our way into the slums of Kiberia, noticeable was the dry dirt roads, an active train track in the middle of the road, the open sewage system, chickens and dogs, and an overcrowding of people at every corner. We finally arrived at the Chemi Chemi Ya Uzima Clinic, and after a quick tour began packing the medicine we would be handing out for Saturday’s clinic event.

Evening heat, and each of us finally arrived at our host’s home.  Elaine and I stayed at Rebecca and Henry’s home, a sweet couple who treated as if we were one of their four daughters.  Waiting for us was a meal fit for two, tired hungry American’s. Chapoti, chicken stew, rice, and veggies filled our bellies that night, and we could not have been happier to shower and sleep.

Being a foreign in Nairobi was overshadowed by the love we received from each person on our first day. I truly witnessed God’s call to be one in Christ as strangers became like family. As we continue with the days ahead, I know God will continue to reveal himself thru the work done in Nairobi.

Till Later

-Jen

2015 Kenya Medical Missions – Traveling to Kenya

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8

Here we are, Lord. Send us! … and off we go!

Today marks our first day of the actual journey to Kenya – and it’s certainly been filled with a variety of emotions.

We all made it safely to O’Hare Airport, enveloped in excitement, preparedness, and a bit of anxiety – (especially when one of our teammates was asked for a current passport at the check-in counter. She accidentally brought her expired version! – But, thanks be to God, her roommate maneuvered the traffic of I-94W and delivered the “golden passport”. Our nervous teammate made it literally just in time – running up to the gate as we were boarding).

While the team is disappointed that our beautiful leader, Donna, was unable to join us at the last minute, we are resting in the comfort that this, along with all things, is in God’s hands.

Donna – thank you for thoroughly preparing us for this journey. We will be lifting you up in prayer, and will of course be missing you along the way!

We are currently 11 hours in to our first 13-hour leg of the trip – A quick layover in Qatar, and then just 5 more hours to Nairobi. We’ve already enjoyed 2 meals and several snacks – so don’t worry, we are being well taken care of on Qatar Airlines! I think at one point we were all sound asleep adorning our Qatar eye/sleep masks and airplane socks ☺

While we are overwhelmed with thankfulness and excitement, I ask you to pray for our continued safety, our health, our ability to handle upcoming obstacles with grace, and strength to act in kind and loving ways, despite unavoidable weariness from jetlag and emotions.

Thank you for being a part of our journey. And all glory be to God for bringing this group together to humbly serve the people of Kibera and Kwale.

Written by: AnnaMary H. Richmond – March 18th, 2015

2015 Kenya Medical Missions

Hello Park Family!

The 2015 Kenya Medical Missions team is gearing up to leave March 17th! It has been a whirlwind for all of us in preparation for this trip. Nevertheless, we are eager to experience what God has planned for us in Kenya.

We have already gathered for all of our preparation team meetings. Our meetings started from sharing who we are and our backgrounds that led us to this trip. Then, we started digging deeper to sharing how our emotions about the trip are shifting throughout this preparation period. We prayed for Kenya and the hearts of the people in Kibera and Kwale who we will be serving and learning from. We also have been saying prayers of thanksgiving for those of you who are supporting us whether financially and/or prayerfully.

In my own personal preparation for the trip, I have enjoyed learning about Kenyan culture. We will be spending half of our time in Kibera and the other half in Kwale; though both are towns in Kenya, they have their own sub-cultures. As a team, we read “A Muslim’s Heart” in preparation for sharing the gospel with Muslims. This resource will be especially helpful in Kwale, which is one region where most Kenyan Muslims are concentrated. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Likewise, I hope to be able to narrow the gap between our different cultural backgrounds to develop a strong rapport with the people. Not only to help the people with their physical ailments, but to give them hope for spiritual healing in Christ.

As the date of departure draws near, we have been so encouraged by and thankful for the support we have been receiving. Here are some ways you can partner with us:

PRAYER SUPPORT:

We ask for prayer for our team. Please pray that we continue to grow together, support and encourage one another, and be examples of Christ-like love and grace. Please pray for our health, safety, travel and our work in Kenya. Please pray that we will have humble hearts eager to learn from those we serve. Also, we ask that you pray for Nairobi Baptist Church, our host families and the Kenyan healthcare professionals who will be working with us.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT:

Your contributions help make our trip to Kenya possible. If you would like to contribute, you can donate online.

Praying for you & thankful for your support!

-Joanna

Conversation with Sam Allberry

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