Kenya adventures, section IV

Help, I’m running out of snappy titles! 😀

May is still the rainy season in Kenya, and rain that started about 8 pm yesterday evening did not stop until about 8 am this morning. Grounds at the health clinic that were already waterlogged became worse, and we were all slogging in mud the majority of the day. On the plus side, we should have beautiful weather for our last clinic day tomorrow, and then for our safari on Saturday. Hard to believe this trip is almost at an end already!

2016-05-19 09.25.162016-05-19 10.19.31

You can see from the photos above just how swampy it got. Still, we had a better crowd today than yesterday. It continues to amuse me that the Kenya residents always want to ask us how we can stand the cold in our short sleeves. It was in the mid-60s to low-70s today, which is normally a bit chilly for me, but with little breeze and high humidity I was quite comfortable with no additional layers.

Amazing things continue to happen this trip – several more people accepted God’s call, and the Pipeline church community has continued to be outstanding in their volunteerism and hosting. One of my favorite happenings of today was a bit simpler, though — a little girl and her brother were waiting by the table you see in the above photo, and I said hello and shook their hands as I passed. Once I turned to go into the tent, I felt a small hand grab mine again, and I turned back around to see the little girl grasping at me and beckoning me down to her level. I leaned down and she whispered, “Give me chocolate!” Choking back the desire to laugh, I had to smile and explain that I had no chocolate on me, but I did share some masala sticks I had in my pocket. This is a local snack of potato shoestrings flavored with masala.

Looking forward to helping more people tomorrow. Signing out for the night. 😀

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Kenya adventures, part C

The third clinic day was a little slow,  slower than expected, perhaps. Or friends from Pipeline explained that it was too cold for people to come – indeed, here you’ll see children bundled up in temperatures that seem too warm for such. It was in the 70s, with a breeze that may have been a little chilly at times,  but that is really cold weather for a population that lives so close to the equator.

All week an inoculation clinic has been taking place in the same health clinic space,  so scores of school children have been coming through. This clinic is a government mandate, as recently one child had come down with measles even after having shots,  so all the children must come through and have their immunization shot again. There is no such thing as an anti-vaxxer here. The nurses did start telling people about the eye clinic,  so we got more traffic from the mothers already there.

Once we packed up for the day, we headed out to a very nice meal with our guide Catherine,  at a place called Carnivore. It is a churrascaria, Kenyan style. Rather than a salad bar,  they bring you first soup and then bread and a salad/sauce tray. Then come all the meats. Most were normal fare, but they also offered crocodile, ostrich meatballs,  rabbit, and ox balls. I tried everything but that last. 😀 Catherine’s son Mark agreed to the ox before he realized what it was,  but I’m pretty sure he didn’t eat it. After a very filling meal, we came back to the hotel and all surrendered to our beds.

It has been raining all night,  so I don’t know what that will mean for today’s clinic,  but we shall see.

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Kenya adventures, part the second

So…clinics. Our mission here with Vision for Kenya/Vision for Africa is to share the gospel as we hold free eye clinics for the people in underprivileged areas. Some teams head out into the villages, some teams (like ours) work in more urban settings. The church we are partnered with is Pipeline, an ELCK church that is located in the Mukuru slum. Although the people acknowledge they are poor, the church members consider themselves all very rich. Throughout the work we’ve done so far, they have been outstanding partners, even having some of the women bring lunch for all the workers each day.

The first day of the clinic, I ran the eye charts. Lining people up in Kenya is not hard – they are used to waiting and very good at knowing exactly whose turn it is. Pole pole – things go slowly. We actually didn’t have too much of a delay getting set up the first day, and I was working with the church choirmistress, a young lady named Judy. She helped me greatly whenever we had people in line having trouble with English. In all the areas of the clinic, it is necessary to have Swahili speakers for those who cannot understand us Mzungus. Of course, we are close to the equator, so I got a little more sun than I had planned for, or at least I didn’t reapply as much sunscreen as I needed. Not a bad sunburn, but not something I wanted to repeat every day. 😀

Reading Glasses

Reading Glasses

 

For the second day, I worked the reading glasses table. Each person coming to the clinic gets a registration card, then follows a path through the clinic, depending on their needs. They open at the evangelism tent, where they hear the gospel story, and from there proceed to have a basic eye chart check to establish their vision level. Those who have bad vision are marked as such and either sent to the autorefractor, or noted to be seen by the doctors. Each person is then sent to triage, which you can see across from my table. Two or three team members take patients one at a time and ask what their eye problems are, to get a better idea of what they need, and then the triage team member will ask the patient if they have any requests to pray with them. For those of you who know me, this is a bit outside my comfort zone, but even I did a little triage when we got busy.

Gloria helping with an active young boy

Gloria helping with an active young boy

Pastor Kevin praying with a triage patient

Pastor Kevin praying with a triage patient

From triage, the patient would come to see me at the readers, or go directly to the doctors for vision testing or medication. The slums are very polluted, and all of Nairobi is not

Dave making glasses

Dave making glasses

much better, as there are no limits on car exhausts and other things that add to the smokiness of the air. A lot of people have come through complaining of light sensitivity or tearing eyes, and they get eye drops from the doctors. For those who need more vision correction, those we are able to help get sent to the glasses table to have distance glasses made for them. Some we have ready made, but some require assembly to get the correct prescription. Usually Dave or Pastor Kevin will make the glasses for those who get to this station, as the frames are a little tricky to handle – the lenses we were shipped this time are slightly too large, so assembly has to be done carefully. The beautiful young lady in this photo had the most amazing smile when she discovered that she really could see distance objects clearly.

All in all, it’s been a successful couple of days. We may not have seen as many patients as we hoped, but we’ve had over 500 come through the clinic so far. Word of mouth is a very big thing in the slums, so hopefully more will come as the week progresses.

Signing off for now!

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Kenya adventures, Part 1

Jambo, from Kenya! It’s been a great couple of days here,  after the longest travel period I’ve ever taken.  🙂 Forgive the wordy post,  but Internet access has been spotty. I’ll supplement this with photos hopefully later this week.

We left Austin early Thursday morning, on our way to Nairobi to host a free eye clinic for one of the slums. We’re working with an ELCK church called Pipeline,  which used to worship near the big gas pipeline but was forced to relocate.  They now have a few buildings in the Mukuru slum.

The trip itself was long,  but mostly uneventful – the plane from JFK to London was half empty, so we all got to stretch our legs a bit.  Getting through customs in Nairobi was the most interesting. After 30 hours of travel,  standing around for a couple hours waiting for a customs agent to decide whether you can bring in your supplies is not what I would consider fun. By the grace of God, we finally got through with our footlockers. One of our team members traveling separately had a delay that caused her to get rerouted through Dubai, so I’m glad that didn’t happen to everyone!

We finally got to our lodging near midnight on Friday – a pretty little convent called Little Daughters of St. Joseph. The sisters were very welcoming and I’m glad we were able to stay there.

Saturday morning we left the other mission team to go to Lake Navaisha on a boat safari. We saw mostly birds,  with a few hippos tossed in. On the road there,  we even saw zebras standing around. I got lots of great nature photos,  including shots of a fish eagle diving for some fish we bought for them. That evening we worshiped back at the convent with the Salem team.  A children’s choir came and sang for us,  and I’ve posted some of the video to Facebook.

Sunday morning we said goodbye to the Salem team, as they headed off to a village about 8 hours away. Then we headed into Mukuru to worship at Pipeline. Getting into the slum was an experience – the road is not in good condition,  and the people walking have no care for whether you are driving through. We nearly got stuck in the mud a couple times,  but our driver Rosemary is amazing and got us through (though she was stressed!). It was funny when one of the people passing yelled at us with a smile, “Next time take a helicopter!”

The worship at Pipeline was amazing. Lots of music,  lots of testimony,  and all of it in a mix of Swahili and English. They do not currently have a pastor, and so rely on elders of the church to lead services. Many of the members are involved in worship leading,  either through reading,  giving testimony, leading prayer,  or singing. It was truly a blessing to be involved. At the end of the service,  they brought us up to be recognized, as the church will be volunteer partners with us all week. Then they surprised us with an amazing lunch. The church is located in the slums,  and the members and leaders all live there,  too. They said that they were poor, but always very rich. I can believe that,  as each and every one that I have spoken with has an amazing faith.

This morning (Nairobi time) we headed out for our first clinic session. I’ll cover that in a post to come. Goodnight,  my friends!

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Who I am

I am not good with crowds of people, but I don’t like to be too often alone.
I am not a talented writer, but I have lots of good stories to tell.
I am full of anxiety, but I am militantly optimistic.
I am not an apologetic, but I will fiercely defend my faith.
I am a sinner, but I have been redeemed.
I am a bundle of contradictions, but I am a child of God.

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Another year, another perspective

Well, 2015 was interesting. Not quite in the ancient Chinese curse sense, but it definitely had its share of stuff happening. Earlier this year I finished with the rest of my surgeries and every scan since has shown no evidence of cancer (YAY). Medical bills are a pain, but I’m ever so glad to have that part of my journey behind me. Several other friends have experienced major life changes, but for the most part we’ve all come through better on the other side. My job ended in October, and unfortunately the new offer I thought was on the table did not materialize. However, I continue to interview with some great opportunities. I know God has a plan for my life and I trust that He will guide me.

In the past few years, I’ve avoided using the term “resolutions” for my plan for the coming year. In reality, we all tend to look at resolutions as something that will probably fail. So here’s my plan for 2016 – by the grace and will of God, this is how it will be a fantastic year!

1. No major health issues. I realize that this is not entirely in my control. So far I’ve had great scans, though, and I will continue to make sure that I am doing what I can to remain healthy. Also, I’ve had at least one surgery every year for the past three or four, and I’d really like to break that cycle.

2. To that end, lose the 10-20 pounds that have been creeping around the last couple years. I am actually the same weight today as I was a year ago, and still well under my heaviest weight ever. Despite some of the issues that keep me fluffier than I’d like, I am still determined to get into better shape.

3. Build my business. I launched a small business as an independent Perfectly Posh consultant this year. It is still at the hobby business stage, and may stay that way for a while to come, but I’d like to see what I can do with it.

4. Find a job that makes me truly happy. I’ve loved most of the people I’ve worked with over the years, and that kept me going in positions which I might have left long before if it were not the case. Life is too short to be stressed out all the time.

5. Connect more. I tend to rely on methods like Facebook to keep people posted about what’s happening, but I don’t always keep up the personal touch of cards, phone calls, and visits. Some of that is due to my own personal anxieties, but rather than secluding myself behind my computer screen facade, I will make the effort to be more present in life.

God has blessed me a lot this year, and 2015 was better than 2014 in almost every regard. I look forward to the opportunities 2016 will bring.

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Musical Notes

*Achoo!* Sorry, it got a little dusty in here. Life got a little crazy for a while, with its ups and downs. I keep saying I should write more, and yet…

At any rate, it occurred to me at rehearsal tonight that in every group with which I’ve sung, things…happen. The sort of things that require a story retelling later, often to friends over some form of alcohol. Some of these are only funny or interesting to those who have a musical background, and some may amuse only me, but upon occasion I will share here a few of the observations I’ve made. So, here are tonight’s musical notes.

  1. It causes me almost physical pain to see someone mark their scores with pen. Is this just me? Even highlighter usage can be suspect, although that doesn’t bother me as much. Pencils, people! (My elementary, middle, and high school orchestra teachers may now get out of my head.)
  2. Does anyone else consistently use the mnemonic “Every Good Boy Does Fine” for the treble clef lines? Every time we’re told to look at a particular note in the score, I find myself reciting that mentally to find the location. I never have that problem with notes on the bass clef, but then again, I learned most of my music theory playing cello from an early age.
  3. No double-entendre, however unintentional, will ever go unnoticed by the chorus. If, for example, the sopranos are told to sing a particular run as though they were descending a staircase dressed in something silky, the men will instantly lose it. We’re all just a bunch of middle-schoolers at heart.

God blessed me with a talent for and love of music, and I hope that I am returning interest on that talent to His glory. Life may go sideways at times, but music keeps me sane(ish). 😀 I shall be back soon with more musical notes!

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Goodbye 2014, Hello New Year!

It’s a new year, new beginnings, new possibilities.

2014 was a challenging year for me, to say the least. It began with uncertainty that turned into a diagnosis of breast cancer – which turned into a fight that I’m happy to say that I’ve won, by the grace of God. Through it all I kept working, which has proven its own challenge, but thankfully I was blessed with a very supportive team at work. Outside my own struggles, I’ve had friends who have gone through their own. A couple have passed away, to my great sorrow. Others have had their fair share of medical, relationship, or other personal issues.

On the positive side, new friends have been made, new lives have begun, and new opportunities have arisen. A friend’s daughter has expressed her interest in being baptized. I’ve gotten lots of support from friends and family over the year and reconnected with some people with whom I’d lost touch.

Even more importantly, I think, God used the struggles I’ve had this year to remind me how much I need to rely on Him. I have prayed more this year, not just for myself but for all of you, than I think I have at any time in the past. It has not been an easy road to walk, and at times I have felt desperately alone and afraid, but I know He is with me and guiding my path. And that is a very comforting thing.

Thank you all again for all the support and love you’ve shown. Each and every one of you does make a difference. I’m looking forward to 2015 and the possibilities it carries. May God continue to bless you all throughout the new year!

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Twelve years!

Yes, my blog has been up and running in one format or another for twelve years now. Happy Bloggiversary to me!

The original title of the blog was Yarn Utopia, and I started it primarily as a craft blog. Now I post a lot less frequently, but my topics range all over. Crazy how time marches on, but it is also neat to look back at my own little chunk of history.

My original intent today was to post something witty or thought-provoking, but honestly I never found inspiration. So instead I’ll leave you with a quote from Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

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Blessed in the Journey

There is a song I learned when I was much younger, called Blessed in the Journey. It was a gathering song for a youth gathering, and before today I think I was really limiting its application.

“We are blessed in the Journey,
We are blessed on the road,
And together we will sing to our Savior and our King
Who has blessed us in this journey with His love.”

Much of life is a journey. Not, perhaps, always a literal physical walk, but a transition between states. Some days I lose sight of the blessings I have been granted, but in the last couple of days so many reminders of these have landed in front of me. Being an emotional person anyway, of course I have shed more than a few tears in the re-realization, but I am very happy for the lesson. God has blessed me greatly, and I am thankful for all those He has placed in my path to demonstrate that Grace.

May the Grace and Peace of God be with you all.

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