Sunday, December 16, 2012

Welcome Home

Distance from our house in C'burg to the guest house in Nairobi: 7,760 miles

Our journey began early Monday morning as we buckled ourselves up in the minivan and headed up the driveway. Looking back at our house the kids said “Goodbye house! Goodbye Buddy!” I noticed the smoke drifting away from our chimney, which seems so surreal now as I hear the rustle of banana leaves outside my window in Ntagatcha.

We were tremendously blessed with happy, energetic children the entire way to Nairobi. Not a whine or whimper, tear or complaint. Someone must be praying, for this is surely a miracle! And many thanks of course, to in-flight entertainment. During our 4 hour layover in London we set out to find the “children's play area” which required a tram ride followed by a bus ride away, in another terminal, which we figured couldn't be too far. An hour later we got to the play area! Just in time to play for a while and make the reverse trip again. The kids were absolutely thrilled and they had the full attention of 2 sweet British Indian girls who like to call me “Mummy” and refer to diapers as “nappies”. I love the British. This was the only little reprieve from fully focused parenting that we had, and it was welcomed. We enjoyed exorbitantly expensive coffee (guilt-free, thank you Barb!) and 3 kinds of croissants while watching the kids play.

Our flight into Nairobi was delayed for a couple hours which caused or arrival to be really late at night. By the time we got our baggage and arrived at the guest house, it was 1:30AM. Thanks to all the good napping W. did on the plane, she was nothing close to ready for sleeping. Around 3AM finally we were all asleep. 3.5 hours later we were up again and headed to Wilson Airport for our charter flight, not without a quick stop to the grocery store for the essentials: coffee, yogurt (to use as a starter) and airtime (cell phone/internet minutes).
Wilson Airport, boarding the Cessna
"Don't forget my booster seat!"
The 6 seater Cessna 210 flight was smooth and in about an hour we arrived at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, in Migori. The same trip by bus would take 8+ hours so we are really thankful we can take the plane. The rest of the trip is honestly the very hardest part for me. The road is terrible, bumpy, dusty...and everyone is so tired. Once we get to the border we have to be processed through customs and immigration, which requires standing in line, dealing with officials (normally pretty serious business) and keeping the kids from melting down. They don't do well waiting in line in the sun for what appears to them, to be no good reason. Normally by this point they are hot, hungry, over tired and impossible to control—and I have sympathy on them because they have been on such a long journey—but it makes it no easier when they won't stand remotely still in line. But we got through it...and once over the border it's another bumpy journey to the City of Hope.

Along the way we experienced a first for us—large groups of people in the road celebrating the circumcision (female genital mutilation) of individual girls. Although it is illegal in Tanzania, the practice still takes place. There were 4 separate groups in all. Mobs basically, of about 40-50 people all packed in tightly around this highly decorated young girl, while she walks from the place of her circumcision back to her home. Can you imagine walking anywhere after being mutilated in such a way? The girls appeared to be in such pain, and weak from blood loss, in a daze, supported physically on all sides so they could walk. The crowds around them were also decorated and dressed up in their most elaborate and sparkly adornments. I saw lots of Christmas tree tinsel wrapped around hats and draped across shoulders. The atmosphere was very dark. Lots of shouting and chanting--many of them pounding on the van as we slowly made our way through the crowds. I covered T's eyes, worried that he would be afraid.

City of Hope offers refuge for any girl from the community who wishes to resist the ceremony. If she can hide for just this one month (the circumcisions are on a two year cycle according to age) she will be spared for the rest of her life, for if the officially sanctioned window is missed, it will not be done at all. There is one girl from the village taking refuge here at City of Hope in order to escape the ritual for herself. Pray for her, as she is brave and courageous to fight her tradition and culture, and she will be shunned by her community and will be limiting her opportunities for marriage. I wish there were many more like her.
jet lag
We were greeted at the City of Hope by all the kids from the orphanage singing and clapping their favorite welcome song. It was a joy to be received so lovingly.

The past 5 days have been a blur of unpacking, greeting old friends, sleeping (or not sleeping!) getting our technology figured out (the reason updating the blog is taking a while-please contact me if you want to volunteer to post things for us—email is decent but loading web pages is loathsome), discovering “new” toys (the same old toys that were here before), interviewing new hospital employees, drawing up house plans and making paper airplanes (T's most recent hobby).

A couple days ago the kids discovered a mama hen and her 10 chicks. Only a few days old, these chicks were easy to pick up and lure into places (like our house!). At one point True was standing with one foot one each side of a chick, and the hen decided that she has just had it with him. She flew up into his face and gave him a big peck on the chin! Boy did he wail! “Why did she do that??? Why did she hurt me???” I explained that she was protecting her chick. He cried and asked me, “Why didn't she know I wasn't going to hurt them????” He was heartbroken more than hurt, I think. I haven't seen him go anywhere near this chickens since then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Local, Organic, Fair Trade?

Lovely Leslie roasting the beans
Ty and I were given the greatest gift of all: truly local (like right down the road), hand picked, totally organic, Tanzania coffee beans! (Not exactly a fair trade, since we didn't give anything to them except friendship.) The only catch is, they are GREEN! We decided we couldn't wait until we got home to enjoy the coffee-so we set up our own *very small batch* roasting company. First we roasted the beans in a single layer over a propane stove. It took several batches to get the roast right, but we settled on about 5 minutes of roasting (after the first "pop"), which makes a super dark and oily roast. It also takes out some of the "fruity" notes, which I don't prefer. Then we sifted the little flakey bits away, using a rice sorting basket and some wind. Next comes the hard part…how do you grind coffee without electricity? We tried several methods (mortar and pestle, rolling a coke bottle on top of the beans while pushing down, meat grinder) and finally settled on hitting the beans with a hammer!  T. LOVED that part. I imagine this is not really good grinding technique but it worked for us. The smell of the coffee while being ground was divine. We brewed up a pot via "pour over" method and it was declared some of the finest coffee ever consumed. Very smooth, not a hint of bitterness. I'm sure the freshness factor played a huge part. 

If you are lucky, I will brew you a cup when we get home…I saved some beans from the hammer and will be happy to make a cup for the first people to come over to the house to welcome us back, next week!

We look forward to seeing you all soon.

My “automatic” coffee grinder

Light, medium and dark roasts!

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Welcome, Welcome Our Visitors!"

Times have been very good (nzuri sana) here at City of Hope.  Since our last update we’ve had some sad goodbyes and some wonderful visitors.  

One group of visitors were comprised of government officials from the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, to salute the work being done at City of Hope.  Each year the government of Tanzania identifies certain places where significant contribution has been made towards the improvement of life in Tanzania.  As a symbol of honor, the Mwenge Torch travels to each of these chosen locations over a period of 2-3 months.  This year, City of Hope was chosen to be the first to host the Mwenge Torch!  On August 13th and14th, we scurried around the compound cleaning up in preparations for the celebration.  The party started around noon on the 14th.  Government trucks filled the drive into City of Hope, dancers moved to the beat of drums, an acrobatic group made tall human pyramids, and we (teachers, interns, missionaries, and students) stood in awe of all the activity surrounding us.  Once all the trucks moved through the gate, the Mwenge torch made it down the main drive in front of the children’s home.  The torch was then placed momentarily inside the children’s home.  Much of what was spoken throughout the torch visit was in Swahili but it was definitely entertaining.  The kids listened to each speaker attentively while Dr. Cha Cha, Regina, Ty, Christopher, and others were honored for the work being done at City of Hope.  Afterwards, we hosted a lunch for the government officials inside the newly decorated mission house.  It was an exciting afternoon to say the least.  Not to mention that our second group of visitors from Duke University arrived the same day!

Mwenge Torch cermony-Kouria traditional dancers
 The Duke nursing students have been a much welcomed addition to our FHD group.  All of them, including “Dr. Mike Scott” as the locals call him, have come with openness and willingness to learn from the Kourian culture of Ntagacha.   Dr. Ty has continued to lead our medical training class in the mornings and discussion times in the afternoons.  It’s been a privilege for those of us who have been here for a longer period of time to help Ty lead the discussions or ask certain thought provoking questions.  Having lost the VCOM students and a few others, we have been thankful to work together as a larger team again.  We have been spending our days working in the medical clinic, going on home visits, participating in various projects at COH, and having many discussions under the acacia tree.  The Duke students have experienced the occasional heavy rainstorms, the crazy awesome African dance parties in the children’s home, chapatis at the chai house, a cinematic showing of “The gods must be crazy”, and so much more.  None of us can believe that our departure time is right around the corner!

Duke U. Nursing students, and Mukwenda
As we wrap up with our time here, please pray that we make the most of every opportunity in this place, and that we are able to bless one another, the children, staff and community here at COH and in Ntagacha.  We will likely have one more dance party with the kids, perhaps another “girl talk” night with the older girls in the children’s home, and a few more house visits, including the home of Joshua tomorrow.  As of today he weights 13 lbs and 8 oz!  His foot wounds are looking much improved, and the little rascal giggled multiple times today.  He is doing very well, praise God!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!  Our team is deeply grateful.

Kwaheri rafiki!

(We hope to add additional photos to this blog please stay tuned :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Beyond Physical Healing

Mark 5:21- 
And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and
touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32And he looked around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Written by Abi

Throughout the past few weeks we have been wrestling with the question, “What is Health?” Thinking through this question, we have spent a lot of time looking at Jesus and His ministry. Last week we looked at the above passage in depth, attempting to understand the woman, as well as the way Jesus interacted with her, and healed her to wholeness. You see, Jesus was definitely a healer of the body, but this was only part of how he healed. The full extent of how Jesus healed came to life to me as we looked at her condition.

Her illness was alienating: As if the probable pain and associated complications of her illness such as anemia were not enough, due to the strict observance of the law, the nature of her condition caused her to be unclean. One could not touch her without becoming unclean as well, and anything she touched was instantly unclean. As a result, she was most likely separated from her family, stripped of the most basic staple of human companionship. Not only that, but due to her uncleanness she was unable to worship in the temple, or to offer sacrifice to her God. Culturally and religiously, this was absolutely devastating.

Her ailment was chronic. She had been living with this issue for 12 years. And for twelve long years she had sought an answer for her problem, going from physician to specialist, spending all she had, and enduring exam after exam, proposed solution followed by failed attempt. And yet still seeking, for her only hope was that one of these times the solution would prove true.

Last week I sat in a small examining room in Ntagatcha Tanzania. I saw woman after woman who reminded me of this woman in a striking way.
After advertising and promoting this clinic featuring 5 American doctors, crowds came from miles and miles away with expectation. Unlike the normal visits we receive at either clinic I have recently worked at, these people were different. The large majority of these patients had been struggling with their ailment for long periods of time. One woman came for answers with her abdominal pain she had suffered with for 3 years, another had been suffering for ten years, and still others had been dealing with the same issue for decades.

Many had tried many solutions. They went to other clinics, to the hospital, and many to a  Shaaman, but to no avail. Then they heard of the doctors who had traveled from America. These patients were willing to wait hours, and some even days to be seen. Why? Because many still had not received the answers they sought, and hope of finding someone who had the answer drove them to travel, and to wait. In the story, the woman had such faith that she recklessly sought out Jesus. The crowds were pressing in from every side, yet this woman aggressively found herself next to Jesus, breaking the law of uncleanness which had bound her. After 12 years she found the hope she had been looking for, and with faith reached out and touched His robe.

Instantly she was healed! [By the law-that touch would have made Jesus unclean. Yet in that instance, the touch made her clean. Wow.] Yet Jesus did not stop there. He asked a question. Who touched me? Didn’t Jesus know who she was? Did He not know her chronic condition? Yes, I think He did. But his question had purpose. He asked a question, because he knew the woman needed more than physical healing.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus often asked questions. This is part of the model he was laying out for His followers throughout His ministry. Jesus’ questions led her to tell Him all about her story. It says she told Him her “whole story”. I imagine this involved the lack of health in other areas of her life. The emotional hurt that went along with her isolation, her struggle with trusting God, etc. She had been physically healed with a touch, yet Jesus imparted peace and healing that reached to all areas of her life.

Considering our emphasis on on whole person health over the past weeks, our days of the clinic last week proved to be a valuable learning experience. Ours is a westernized education influenced by a “western” worldview which causes us to struggle a bit with the practice of whole person healthcare. This is especially difficult in a different culture. In the moment it is so easy to look at only the physical, and feel helpless when we can offer no relief. Yet as a team, this realization and understanding of whole person care was very much in our thoughts as we went about our day.

After the fourth and final day of the clinic, as we sat around as a group to debrief, stories began to surface of how deeper issues came to light as questions were asked. In several circumstances, patients came to Christ through the questions and care of our team. Bwana Asifiwe [Praise the Lord!]

Pray for our team! The VCOM med students [and wives] and Jordan are now back in the US. Their challenge is now to enter back into American culture and school, while continuing to explore how to incorporate the Biblical Worldview into medical practice and public health.

Brittney, Steph, Faith, Laura, Amber (yet to arrive) and I will continue here for a time. We also are thinking through how our practice Stateside will be affected, yet are blessed with more time here in Ntagatcha to continue to learn. The truth that keeps resurfacing is how our love and care for people should be an overflow from the love and work of the Lord in the inner life. Pray for us as we continue to learn Swahili, culture, and most importantly seek to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Some Pictures from the Clinic

Ty teaching the students

We're doing our blog viewers a favor by not posting the "before" of this machete wound!

On the first day of the advertised clinic days--- all of these people were waiting in line.

"Strong in the Lord"

Written by Faith.

Mambo vipi everybody! It’s been a while! I have no idea what everyone else has written, but this update is gonna be pretty specific. 

You may remember that in the first post I wrote, I mentioned a baby that came to the clinic and was really malnourished with a ruptured sore on his foot. Actually, I may remember that too. Or do I? I’m not sure at this point. What is time? Anyways. Once upon a time a really long time ago I went to the Amani clinic/hospital for the first time and an older woman had brought a ten-month-old baby that looked like a 3-month-old baby in because of an open wound covering his entire foot. The wound was (allegedly) a ruptured sore, and his other foot and his hands were looking like they might rupture too, and there were some spots on his body that were looking like the skin might break soon as well. You could see every bone in his body and his neck looked like it was a small twig trying to hold up a big rock. Basically, when someone is malnourished, they have a protein deficiency that throws off the concentration of solutes in the blood, which starts to cause it to collect in the peripheries. Also, protein deficiency means weak skin. Also, interestingly, when a baby is malnourished their fontanel sinks in and their skull bones don’t start to form properly. So. I watched my friends (M & C) clean the wound and listened as they talked about how the baby’s mother had run off in April or May, leaving the baby with his grandmother, and that he hadn’t been eating the porridge she had been trying to feed him. He was so weak that as they poured hydrogen peroxide over the exposed tendons of his foot all the sound he could muster up was like a soft wheeze. It seemed to us to be a pretty distinct possibility that they had visited a shaman who had cut open the foot to drain it or something, because normally skin won’t just burst like that on its own. We had a hard time understanding the reasons behind why he wasn’t eating. Was his grandmother just not feeding him? Was he dealing with depression because of his mother abandoning him? 

Over the next few weeks the baby was brought to the clinic by his grandmother almost every day to get his dressing changed. We researched a malnutrition recovery diet and educated his grandmother on how to feed him a mixture of milk, oil and sugar. Teams even visited his house to deliver the oil and sugar and mix it with milk, but as the weeks went by, we got frustrated as we realized that he wasn’t gaining weight. It seemed that despite the education and apparent dedication of his grandmother, something was happening to the oil and sugar and/or the grandmother was consistently failing to get the milk. His wound was healing slowly if at all. 

On Monday afternoon, we were at the clinic and the baby and his grandmother were there, and seeing him barely any different than the first day I saw him a month ago, I had a thought that was not a thought I had first or for the first time, because several people on the team had mentioned it before: why couldn’t we just take over his care for a while until he got stronger? With a team full of nurses and doctors, particularly females--now that kid would never miss a feeding! I’d been afraid to voice the thought before, but that day I just opened my mouth and spit it out to some of the folks in charge. And much to my surprise, they both stopped to think. Then, they both said it wasn’t a bad idea. After some discussion, we decided to propose to the grandmother that we take care of him at the hospital as an in-patient for a week, and she come and stay the nights and bring milk. She went for it. 

So. For the last four days, all us wazungu girls have been carrying around a very small little boy in kangas (cloths), feeding him "super milk", making cloth diapers, and getting a lot of stares and questions. We’ve also been discussing a lot of our own questions. First of all, who really makes a baby eat? We thought for sure that he would slurp everything up he could get from us, but the very first day we hit a wall. He drank a few sips and then quit. As the afternoon wore on, I think that one by one we realized the very real truth that God alone can heal. God alone could give that kid an appetite. So we prayed. And prayed and prayed. And as we humbled ourselves, we really saw his hunger come back. Now, I’m pretty sure every time he swallows we let out sighs of praise and relief. He seems to be getting stronger, more alert, his foot is healing, and he’s started a new thing today of yelling his head off every time he sees some kind of food being consumed that is out of his reach. However, we can’t seem to get him to smile. He’s ridiculously stoic. Haha. We’ll crack him eventually. It’s been super fun to learn to carry a baby like an African and to take mama shifts. That kid may end up with a leg up on English or in need of some serious counseling due to the trauma of white-woman overload at such a young age. We’ve given him the name Joshua in addition to his Kouria name because Joshua was a man that was "so strong in the Lord", in the words of our doctor friend at the clinic. 

Why did this situation come up? Why are there animals and fields and piles of food everywhere, and yet babies are starving? Why would his mother run away? Why did his grandmother bring him to the clinic for a wound but not seem to understand that the root of his problems is chronic malnutrition? What will happen when we all leave in a few weeks and what would have happened if we hadn’t been here? It’s so frustrating to know that people here could think we have some kind of magic to heal, or that we have inexhaustible resources, when the truth is that we just have compassion for a baby who can’t fight for himself. What’s the underlying difference in our value system and this culture’s value system? Why? Could the presence of the church make a difference? What would happen to a malnourished baby in the US? What happens to other people who can’t really fight for themselves, here and in the US? If we’re upset that the church isn’t stepping in to face issues like this here, is the church at home doing any better? Are we willing to show up at people’s houses and help them in the day-to-day things, in the ways that really make a difference long term?

We’ve been talking about those questions a lot, with each other, and even with people that live in Ntgatcha. Last week some of our students visited one of the local churches to challenge and encourage them to find the places of need in their own community and step in.  We returned there just tonight--bringing Joshua--and he was an awesome tangible example of a place of need. I’d like to encourage anyone who’s reading this at home to think about it too. I’m starting to see the Church in a really different light…I’m starting to wonder why at home we expect the government to do so many things that seem so impossible without the gospel. 

P.S.A shout out to my friends who have already gone back to the US – I miss you terribly and wish you were here not just for taking care of Joshua and seeing him heal but to constantly warn me about dreadful illnesses I could get from going barefoot and to play music on the porch and worship and pray together. I’m praying for y’all's return to school to be smooth and for you to remember all God’s faithfulness. Seriously. I miss you. 

A shout out to my pals at home– I barely shower anymore, I was given a chicken that I’m planning to slaughter and cook in the next few days, Swahili is frying my brain, I did some laundry by the spring today, I’m planning to make you chapati as soon as I get home, and I’m extremely grateful for how God is answering prayers and blessing me with an absolutely incredible and ever-increasing Family here. He’s trying to teach me to SEEK HIM FIRST and to relax; that only one thing is necessary. 

Nakupenda, kaka na dada. Peace be with you, I’ll catch you later!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Habari friends! My name is Rachel Lantz, one of the med students here for the seminar (also the aforementioned "E. coli Mary" who brought the team down with a literal earthquake of vomit and diarrhea). In short, this month has been incredible, and a big part of me does not want to leave. But second year beckons, and there are 97 more exams that demand my attention.
Throughout this month, I have gone through waves of joy and peace strung together by periods of frustration and feelings of defeat. At first, my own sin weighed heavy on my heart. The condition of my life this past year of school has not been what I would have desired or expected of myself. I failed to make an impact for Christ on the people I live with and the people with which I spend most of my time. I failed to show love and was instead impatient, insensitive, and hateful. I failed to live a godly example of a life transformed by Love and instead became a slave to my studies and to pleasing people. I came into this month feeling guilty and unworthy and defeated. But God met me with His grace. "Oh what joys for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!" (Psalm 32:1) 
Next, I sought to change my view of health. We have been learning that God does not just desire our spiritual health, but also our physical and emotional and relational health. True health is when the body, soul, and spirit are united and in right relationship with God. If we, as physicians, are to make any real impact on the lives of our patients, we cannot look only to the physical, because the human being is more than cells and electrical impulses. But when I view the challenge of attending to a person's body, soul, and spirit, I am overwhelmed. I understand that any change in behavior must flow from a change in mindset. But how could I possibly hope to change someone's worldview? And if I don't, it is all useless. I feel defeated because I cannot even begin to fathom how one would put this into practice. I need steps and a process, and this is all faith and grace, always my problems. "Oh how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!" (Romans 11:33) But God has met me with a sense of victory. That feeling of defeat is from Satan, meant to inactivate me from doing anything at all. But overwhelming victory is ours in Christ Jesus. 
Now, I am overwhelmed and frustrated by the immense suffering I have encountered. Again I feel inadequate and angry, but I do not feel defeated. I do not feel that the situation is hopeless. Though we are flawed, broken vessels, God works through us when He chooses. Even I could be used by God. Even I can be forgiven. Even I am loved by the God of Universe. Though many questions have been left unanswered, I have access to the Truth. Freed from a burden of guilt and anxiety, I can enter into God's presence in a fuller way. I have begun to experience more of the rich, abundant life that comes from abiding in Him.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


This month I have had the opportunity to get an alternative perspective than the rest of the team, which is primarily comprised of individuals who are medically focused. My background is in education, so I was very excited to work with the school children as much as possible. The City of Hope school has over four-hundred students, ranging from ages 4-14. The students have a great advantage because they are taught English the whole way through their education. The public schools in Tanzania don’t teach English until secondary school, so by the time these students enter secondary school they are already able to speak it fluently. But the fact that the students at COH are taught English is only one of many things that sets the school apart. All you have to do is walk a mile down the road to see the vast differences between the COH school and the local public school, which is severely understaffed and lacks the strategic leadership that is present at the COH school. Truly, this school houses the future leaders of Tanzania. During one lesson we got on the topic of future dreams. I loved listening to students yell out (with great excitement) their dreams of being future doctors, pilots, and presidents. How amazing to be in environment where these dreams are cultivated and encouraged like they are here!

In my undergraduate education I opted to focus my teacher training on secondary school, but I think I would have concentrated on primary school if the children in America were more like they are here! In the classes that I have been able to observe and/or teach, I have noticed that the class time is reserved for teaching and learning and not simply managing bad behavior. What a novel idea! The first day that I taught an English class I called on an individual student by name to answer a question on the story we had read. I was caught of guard as the student promptly stood up to answer the question. Ha! I quickly realized this is what the students have been trained to do when they are asked questions directly. I know that’s a random example, but I think it serves to show how well these children are trained and how seriously they take their education. I can’t wait to hear about how these kids will grow up to change the world. I consider myself blessed simply to have been in their presence.

P.S. Many of the students who go to the school are not orphans at the COH compound, but are from the local community. Families have to pay roughly $1/month to be able to send their children to the school. As miniscule as this amount sounds, it is actually quite a stretch (an impossibility, really) for many families to afford. The COH is not in the business of turning students away, however, which is why they have a sponsorship program not only for the orphans who live here, but also for students who are in the community, so that they are also able to receive a great education. If you are feel God leading you to take part in this sponsorship program, please check out COH’s website ( for more info!

Written by Christine

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Florence Nightengales of Africa: From Earthquake to Outbreak

The past three days here in Tanzania have been eventful to say the least.  On Wednesday a team of medical professionals from the US arrived to help host an expanded services clinic at the medical center here. The plan was to hold the clinic from Thursday to Saturday from 9-5 and help with acutemedical needs but also focus on whole person care.

We saw many different cases and got to pray with several people.  There were also brothers and sisters added to the kingdom as a few prayed to receive Christ!  It was a challenging few days as we all learned the culture and how different medical care is here in Africa and it was very rewarding.
We also faced a few unexpected bumps along the way. 

The first day of the clinic one of our team members became sick after lunch.  She left the clinic and went back to City of Hope to rest.  When everyone else arrived home that evening we found that she had gotten much worse. As Stephanie was giving her a shot of Phenergan we felt the building shake! This was alarming and we were all very confused as to what was happening.  I personally thought a tractor hit the building but I suppose it was an earthquake.  That is still up for debate.  As she became worse an IV was started and we gave her some fluids because she was severely dehydrated. Stephanie and I decided to stay up at the mission house with her through the night, but we did not realize by morning we would be running our own ER.

Through the course of the night, almost hour by hour, more people on the team became sick with
similiar symptoms. By morning a total of eleven people had been up most of the night with
vomiting and diarrhea.  Stephanie and I stayed up the entire night running around the mission's
guest house with shots of Phenergan.  By morning buckets were in short supply and the bathrooms had waiting lines.

At the clinic the next day more people had come than the first.  Even though our team was cut nearly in half we also were able to see more of them.  Stephanie and I struggled to make it to lunch and then came back to sleep because we had been up 36+ hours.

Thankfully the whole team is on the mend now.  Many peole feel back to normal and most of us are leaving to go on Safari tomorrow morning.  It was a crazy time but God carriend us through all of it.

Being here has been such a blessing.  We see things that break our hearts but we know we
serve a God who loves the world and is working to bring healing and restoration.
-Written by Brittany

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our lovely people

The internet seems to be decent this evening so I will quickly post some pictures. Enjoy!

This poster basically says "American doctors are coming to the clinic so  please come!" (This week we will be hosting a team of doctors from a church in North Carolina and will offer expanded services at the clinic.)

Chapatis, beloved chapatis!

Sometimes during "class" we have some four-legged guests.

Fetching water for bathing and flushing.

Bath time on our new patio!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Under the Acacia Tree

God has been amazingly faithful. Each person on our team is clearly meant to be here. We have had fruitful times in our seminar, discussing subjects such as “Who is God? Who is Man? What is the Gospel? What does the gospel do to a culture? What has the gospel done to you? What is health? What is poverty? etc.” All of us are learning much, and being taught by the Holy Spirit who resides within the others sitting around the circle. I have been thrilled to witness students genuinely investigate their own beliefs and evaluate if those beliefs are true, where they come from, and if they are consistent with a biblical worldview. Let me help you imagine a typical day.

I personally begin the day before dawn with bible study and exercise. Some of the guys have been joining me for exercise. It is 60 degrees and breezy here at dawn—perfect for outdoor exercise as the sun broaches the horizon while the wind rattles the corn and banana trees. We have a communal breakfast at 730, always porridge, pancakes, or french toast. We eat quite well. At 815 we have a group devotion together, some of the leadership and other guests here at City of Hope often joining us. Devotions consist of a few songs, including one in Kiswahili, and then inductive study in small groups led by the students. We are studying through Genesis and John simultaneously, in each case drawing out truths that help us engage with the questions above. God is clearly revealing Himself to each of us. Devotions are meant to end at 900 but always always go until 1000 because our hearts are so gladdened at the truths we glean.

After that the group goes in separate directions. Some go to the clinic to participate in primary care and help us endeavor to implement care of the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. Others are working in small groups to engage with the community here to discuss, learn about, and begin to engage such issues that are shared interests of the students and the community. We hope to come alongside the community as they begin to engage some of these issues with their own ideas and initiative. Thus far, small groups are working on the following issues: improved sanitation, improved cattle and poultry husbandry, female genital mutilation (a.k.a. female circumcision, a complex and devastating issue), how spiritual practices affect health, and traditional childbirth attendant practices and improved education for them as well as an effective partnership between them and our hospital. We have a wonderful, gifted, and teachable group of students. I foresee great fruit for the kingdom as I imagine them entering into various ministries in their futures, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to invest in them.

A few prayer requests:
  • Pray against forces of spiritual darkness. We have experienced no overt attacks, but recently there have been indicators that this is something we need to attend to.
  • Pray for financial providence for the Hopkins family. There are some questions that require God's direction as we seek discernment and strive to serve him with our lives.
  • Pray for a team of seven doctors and nurses who are traveling here to work with us this week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jambo! Hi from City of Hope everybody!

This is Faith Franklin, serving as the first of many (hopefully) blog updaters. I’m not sure what to include here exactly…. The last 5 days have been pretty dang packed. But I think I’ll just try to paint a bit of a picture of what’s been going on since the journey began and what this place is like.

The plane rides were long. I think I came the farthest, being from Texas, but not too much longer of a flight since I think the first leg was 7 ½ hours even from Virginia (where most of the team is from). A group of us were on the same plane from London to Nairobi, and I found and met them (Clay, Dwayne, Jen, Juliana, Brittney, Lauren, Johnny & Cecilia – sorry if I misspelt anyone’s names!) by miracle after boarding the plane. I sat by a couple of Kenyan girls returning home for a visit after several years and I started getting some Swahili and culture lessons, which was awesome. We arrived in Nairobi and went through the easiest customs experience I’ve ever heard of, all our bags made it, and we hung around waiting for Stephanie to get in from Amsterdam after a rather exciting flight with an emergency stop in Cairo. All was well though, we met up with Nimrod and hopped in some vans and took about an hour’s bumpy dark drive to a lovely guest house where we stayed the night after some tea and mandazi (donuts). 

The next morning I got my first look at Africa. Surprisingly green and lush. Another big bunch of the team was there (the Hopkins, Michael and Christine, Abi, Angie and Rachel) and we ate breakfast and they all hopped on another bus to head for the City of Hope. I, however, was extremely blessed to take a plane with Ty, Joi and their kids Wren and True. Just the five of us and a pilot and an hour or so flight over south-western Kenya. We could see Kibera (a huge slum near Nairobi) and the whole of downtown, and then fields and villages and wildlife and mountains and rivers and glory on and on and on. It was astounding. Wren slept on my arm the whole time (she’s 2, so she wasn’t really tall enough to see anyways). [btw, I just had to take a break to put mosquito spray on in the house. Laptops and deet, y’all.] We touched down just before the Tanzanian border and met up with a van from the City of Hope, bringing out some other guests back to the plane to head back to Nairobi. We then drove to the border, through villages and towns and farmland, where, minus an incident where our tires were chained up for parking in the wrong place. We had to talk down some police with large clubs asking us to pay an exorbitant fine.  We speedily signed out of Kenya and paid for Tanzanian visas. I hope the rest of the team was driving the last stretch before dark, because it is truly beautiful here. The land is fertile and so green and there are mountains and bananas and animals everywhere. No elephants yet, but lots of goats and chickens and cows.

City of Hope is in the middle of the village Ntgatcha, which I’ve been told is populated by around 3.000 people . I’ll try to describe it as well as I can, because I knew pretty much nothing about what to expect when I left so I wasn’t able to give much info. It is a compound type thing that has a gate but a huge sign that reads “Karibu!” meaning welcome. And it is the epitome of karibu. The property encompasses quite a number of buildings: a guest house where our team eats in a big rotunda with a fireplace in the middle, which has a lot of rooms and several bathrooms (I am in the guest house now); the childrens home, where they orphans  eat and sleep and used to have class before the new building was put into action today as the new term began, and where 8 of us girls and 5 of the guys are staying; the new building, where the kids will have school and where we had church on Sunday, the Chacha’s house, the chai house (kind of a huge pavilion), and various other things. The property also has huge gardens and farmland full of maize, sukuma, huge avocados, bananas, and who knows what else. They grow all their own food here. The kids are getting an excellent education, vocational training in farming, sewing, business (they sell chai at the chai house) and other things, and most of all, a thorough foundation in Scripture.

So, what is City of Hope exactly? Well, I thought it was mainly a hospital and a school. It turns out, the hospital is in another part of the village about a ten or fifteen minute walk away, and the City of Hope is actually mainly the children’s home. There are about a hundred kids that actually live here, most of whom are orphans. There’s several hundred kids that come in to go to the school, because it’s one of the best schools in the country. And, there’s some kids that board here because the school is so good that wealthy people in other cities send their kids here. This place was started by Dr. John Chacha, who has traveled and preached and written many books in his time, and was actually born here in Ntgatcha. I’ve heard and seen a lot of very wonderful things about him…but the main thing is that on Wednesday and Friday nights, he DJs an out of control dance party for the kids with African gospel music. And so far, it has been not just Friday night, but also Saturday night, and the epic culmination last night with an all out dance off between the guys and girls. I’ve never even imagined such dancing. College parties seem extremely dull at this point. Hopefully we’ll all bring back some of the sick moves they’ve been teaching us. Seriously…I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much fun in one place.

The weather is amazing. The food has been delightful (ugali and sukuma tonight and chai after dinner). Everyone says “Karibu!” all the time, and they really mean it. Such warmth and service and joy. The singing and dancing are totally astounding. It’s a bit dusty, the solar power gives us some lights at night, the internet connection sucks, cold bucket showers are totally refreshing, mosquito nets are totally effective, you don’t really need sweets, and I’m loving that I don’t even have a watch and I never know what time it is except at meals. Africans love people so much more than schedules. There is a “mountain” about a mile away that about 60 of the kids took a bunch of us to yesterday, and the view was breathtaking. They climbed trees and picked tons of these tiny orange fruits for us. They’ve been giving us all Swahili lessons, writing us notes, and slowly starting to let us in. For me, that’s been an unexpected adventure J  The team here for the seminar is so awesome. I’m amazed by the depth of character and wisdom in each of them, and am feeling blessed down to my soul to get to talk with them all the time about everything under the sun, sing with them, and pray with them.  Most of them are second year med students, a few are nurses or in nursing school. There’s three guys from Kenya (Daniel, Benjamin and Joram) that joined us, which is a massive blessing since they not only speak Swahili, but they are doing ministry like this as well in another village and have a lot of insight on the culture. The Chachas, interns, and other various brothers and sisters around here have also been very wonderful.

I hung around at the hospital for a bit today and sat in on Ben and Denis (the nurse practitioners from somewhere near here that run it) treating a ten month old baby so malnourished that edema was about to rupture the skin in 4 or 5 places on his little body. His mother left in May and his grandmother said he’d barely been eating the porridge she’d been trying to feed him, and so she had apparently been to a shaman  that punctured the sore on his foot, tearing open most of the skin. He was in so much pain, and you could see every bone in his body. It was like something out of National Geographic, with the flies swarming and everything. Suddenly things we’ve all been talking about are no longer theoretical issues, but very close and real. We are divided into groups that will be picking and tackling problems in the community over the month, like trying to understand birthing practices, HIV, infant mortality, and who knows. That will be the practical time each day, as well as each group getting to spend a day at the hospital.

We took the weekend to recoup, and today we broke into what should be an African-style of normal for the rest of the time here. Devotions, breakfast, practical time, lunch, discussion under the Tree, break, dinner, chillax. Today during practical time we went down to the hospital and got a tour and a very thought provoking discussion about how health care is being practiced here and how it is working…talks like these will be many more in coming, and so far the questions brought up have been many and exciting and scary and altogether very much taking us all to the Lord. The culture is so incredibly different here. Honestly…. I have already realized that my faith is very much too small. This place has mostly made me feel small and foolish and helpless. It seems almost impossible to make a difference, and impossible to know how to tell the difference between the Lord’s desires for people in areas like this, so undeveloped and full of pain and malnutrition and illness and seeming darkness, and our own desires and thoughts. But we are all planning to spend a lot of time at His feet over the next month, and we’re trusting Him to teach us. He is so good! And so very big. I love you guys, na ku penda. Thank you for the prayers, more than I can say. Lala salama!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

“What is New?”

A bit of background: We arrived safely last night after an uncharacteristically unburdensome trans-Atlantic journey. Twenty American students, three Kenyans, and three Tanzanians are currently gathering for a 4-8 week seminar entitled “Foundations in Health and Development.” I am not 100% sure of what God is up to... but I am confident that it is good.

Africa, you make my pen flow. This morning I rose very late for me (9AM local time, but 2AM at home) and was greeted at the front door by wondrously familiar sensations: the aroma of woodsmoke and African flowers (bougainvillaeas, I think), and a near cacophony of tropical birds. I sat down to think. The pen flowed.

A letter to the students:

If you will let Him, God will use Africa to give you new eyes. It is not a special power of Africa that allows this. It is just that Africa is so different from what we are used to. Let me challenge you to see and hear God newly. Let us study scripture together (I believe we are being led to John and Genesis) and see them again for the first time. Ask God: Who are you? Who am I?

Your assignment is to take things in. Keep a list of issues God brings to light. What questions do you have? What ought we to be asking? What is the proper response to what God is putting in front of us?

Usually our great strengths are at the same time our great weaknesses. One of our strengths in the American church is our education. Most Christians have many Bibles. Most us can quote Lewis or Augustine, Luther or Chesterton. We have Bible software, copious choices at Sunday school, readily available online seminary degrees, and little to no persecution when we choose to indulge in these good things. In terms of resources, we might metaphorically be called obese.

But can we see things with a fresh eye? Have we been so steeped in our resource rich church culture that we do not readily recognize and engage with the daily fresh fruit He provides for us? Do we have so much that hardly anything can make an impression?

God promises to “make all things new.” He tells us that His mercies are “new every morning.” How do we lay hold of that?

Any time we learn anything, it is “new” to us. Are we ready for new?

The essence of cynicism is to say, “I know better than that.” In other words, we say, “there is nothing new.” This is often the observation of Solomon in Ecclesiastes. And he is not incorrect. In one sense there is “nothing new under the sun.” But there are many things that are new to us as individuals—to you. What does He want to show you that is new to you? You come here to learn. The beginning of that process is to ask God what He wants to show you.

So I challenge you as we get started to take things in. Think. Pray. Write. Consider before speaking and acting. Seek God. He is of course the source of the questions and answers. What is He urging you to ask?

A start: What, really, is the Gospel? How do we respond to Him? What is a right response to Africa? To the challenges in Africa? What issues come to mind as we observe and engage here? What is the essential issue at the core of these issues? How are relationships involved? What does the Bible teach about these issues? Can we read John and Genesis while separating our assumptions about what the texts say from what God is saying to us in them right now—as alien Africa grants us fresh insight?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Greetings from Ntagatcha!

With the exception of some students coming in a few weeks, we are all here at City of Hope, safe and sound! Every bag of luggage arrived with us, which is nothing short of a miracle in and of itself. Everyone is tired, tired, tired. Hopefully we can write more later.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Safe Arrival in Nairobi

Joi, Ty, True, Wren, Rachel, Abi, Angie, Christine, Michael, Joram, Daniel and Ben have arrived safely in Nairobi and we are enjoying chai at the guest house.  The last phase of the team will be arriving landing at the international airport within the hour (it's 8PM here).  Everyone is safe and well.  No problems at all.

There are twenty six of us counting three Kenyans and three Tanzanians!

Please pray that the rest of the group arrives safely tonight and that we have safe travel to Tanzania tomorrow.

More later.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Safely Home, Looking Forward

We've been home over a week now, and we're all well. The kids slept and watched movies most of the way home on the plane, which made it much easier than it was when we traveled eastward a few months ago. When we disembarked after the eight plus hour leg over the Atlantic, the man who had been sitting behind t. remarked how well behaved our kids are. It was the first time I'd ever heard anyone say that about my kiddos. Maybe we are doing something right.
Since we've been home, t. has vacillated back and forth between saying he wants to go back and saying he doesn't want to go back. I can live with that. Because we are going back: this July and August, and then more after that. At least there are some things t. is looking forward to. Though it is difficult for him at his age, and thus vicariously difficult for us, and I am convinced that in the long run it will be good for him. He will not grow up with the same assumptions as other American kids. I can't help but think this will be good for him. Sure he'll be infected to some degree with ipods and shopping malls, and later with cars and houses, but he will at least be aware that that is not the only way to see life. OK, I'll admit it: He's already completely obsessed with both ipods and cars. But still, there is nothing like being transplanted to a different culture, where your family is working toward different goals, for challenging your own assumptions and worldview. It's hard, even for adults, but it's good. It's a way to pursue a true worldview rather than just adopting the one of your own culture.
My own calling has never been so clear to me as it is now--as God has made it over the past months. First and foremost I am a husband and a father. My primary vocational effort is centered around transforming the diminished understanding of health, creation, and personhood that has infected my culture and is thus spreading around the world. We in the West take scarcely little time to even consider what health and personhood are.

If you don't believe me, ask a medical student, who has just finished 8 years of training to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars and who is about to give at least three more years in harsh indentured servitude to residency training: "What is health, actually?" "What does it mean to be a person?" You'll mostly get blank stares. No kidding. But it's not their fault, they've been fed a consistent ten to twenty year diet of institution focused, disease focused, reductionist curricula, which is incapable of answering the deeper questions of life.

That's where my generation of doctors are. The generation before me is probably worse off. And we're just a subset--an example of a culture that is at a loss to engage with its shortcomings. We wonder why addiction, depression, and cynicism are rampant and worsening. We fail to engage with poverty in any real way, and our development projects fail to transform peoples lives--all stemming from a disordered understanding of personhood and all that proceeds from it.

My calling? To engage with the next generation over these issues, and to do it through relational mentorship. As my friend recently put it: "The relationship is the curriculum." I will strive to communicate the truth about personhood, health, and creation to the next generation by investing in trusting relationships. I suspect that if all I did were to rant about it in a blog, it would not make a bit of difference.
So we will be going back to Tanzania, to City of Hope, and taking students and residents along with us. As I said above, there is nothing like being in a different culture to make you evaluate your own assumptions. We will work with Americans and Africans together, to ask honestly: What does it mean to be a person? What does the Bible say about health and healing? And hopefully by God's grace, we will be renewed by the transforming of our minds.
So, if you or anyone you know is interested, we will be facilitating a seminar in Tanzania this summer entitled Foundations of Health and Development. Half day of discussions about the issues above and half day of practical application through community health outreach. Americans and Tanzanians working and dialoguing together. Anyone is welcome. It will be roughly mid-July to mid-August, and we are working with several universities and medical schools to have it listed as an accredited program. Contact us for more details. Here's a link to info:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Safari Njema

In an effort to create some positive memories for t., who has been struggling to adjust here, we took a short trip to the Serengeti National Park this past weekend. Everyone had a great time, and we were even able to bring Esther along, the orphan who has been helping us with the kids for the past couple of weeks. At the lodge she enjoyed her first ever hot shower (I was pretty excited about it myself) and her first visit to the Serengeti. Thankfully the park is free for Tanzanian citizens, so it is accessible to all the kids, if they can only get there and find a vehicle to ride wouldn't really be safe to just walk around, and I think it is not permitted anyway...enoy some of the pictures! This may be the last post until we get home. We leave tomorrow.
Asante sana, Tanzania. We love you.