The last few weeks have been busy and full of surprises. We were treated to a visit by Fr. Martin Ritsi and His Grace Bishop Savas, who had just spent time in the Turkana region of Kenya. Katie and I then traveled with Bishop Savas and Fr. Martin back to Nairobi where Katie had made an appointment to receive follow-up care for her appendectomy. This was my first trip to Nairobi, or even Kenya for that matter, so I was happy to go along. Katie was under the care of a doctor who is quite famous, although it’s for something that almost killed him. Dr. Shem Musoke is a General Practitioner who works in a nondescript office at Nairobi Hospital. If you have ever read the book The Hot Zone (a book which inspired the movie Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo), you may remember reading that, back in 1980, Dr. Musoke treated a patient with the Marburg Virus, a virus that is very similar to Ebola. Dr. Musoke, himself, contracted the virus but somehow survived, making him a medical miracle. I had no idea who the guy was until Katie told me, but I feel honored to have had the chance to meet and get to know him.
Our lodging in Nairobi was the Mayfield Guesthouse, a resting place for missionaries, medical professionals, and even businessmen who happen to be passing through on the way to different parts of Kenya. The Mayfield was a place where the family of James Hargrave, who is now our Tanzania Field Coordinator, used to visit while they were missionaries living in Africa, and James had recommended the place to us. In addition to nice, comfortable rooms, we were given full board, and the meals were quite a substantial part of the stay. Katie and I ate food that we hadn’t eaten since leaving the states, and we nearly came to tears at how good it was to have that stuff again. Being a Christian establishment, it was customary for one guestto begin with a devotional before breakfast every morning. One night after dinner, one of the staff members approached me and asked if I would like to lead the next morning’s devotion. Whether you are a long-term missionary or even a short-term team member, there is always a chance that you will be called upon to witness. It’s something that you always have to be prepared for because you never know when it will happen. Even with that in mind, I wasn’t anticipating having to witness away from my “home territory” to a group of non-denominational Christians from all walks of life. I immediately went back to my room to think about what I could present the next morning.
That day had been a busy one. Katie already had a couple of tests done and was sent by Dr. Musoke to have a surgical consult. While we were sitting in the waiting room, Katie picked up a magazine and started reading about a nurse who was helping cholera patients in Haiti. Katie handed me the article when she was done and said, “This is the kind of work I had hoped to be doing.” There have been some “tie-ups” with getting the hospital here in Bukoba open, and because of that, Katie has not felt like she has really been doing what she was called to do yet. I responded that there was still a lot of time left in our two years, and that things could happen unexpectedly. What I didn’t realize at the time was that “unexpectedly” would come about 20 minutes later. On our way out of the building, we stopped at the pharmacy where I happened to recognize a family that was staying at the Mayfield with us. The parents were picking up medication and looked visibly shaken. They had all been in the bush for about three months, and one of their daughters had come down with a serious respiratory infection. They decided to bring their daughter to the hospital a day before they were to leave for home (a 40 hour trip to Alaska). When we met up with them, they were getting ready to take her to Radiology for a chest x-ray. The daughter looked very pale and was having extreme difficulty breathing. Katie immediately went into nurse mode and helped them make their way to the ER. Katie’s experiences in Tanzanian hospitals (and as an ER nurse back in the states) allowed her to help the family through the process of getting her daughter admitted and counseling them on what tests would be done, what those tests would entail, etc. As Katie and I left the hospital, we marveled at how we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. “We were definitely meant to be there,” Katie said.
I decided to incorporate that experience into my devotions session the next morning. I began with one of my favorite verses in scripture: “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) I then asked everyone a very blunt question: “Why are you here?” I followed that up by asking if they knew why they happened to be at the Mayfield Guesthouse in Nairobi, Kenya at that particular moment in time. I explained that we were all there because we answered a calling, but that there was also a plan for each of us at that very moment to be together at the Mayfield. The reason for that would be beyond most of our grasps, and perhaps we would find out much later on, or not at all. I then told the preceding story and concluded by saying that what happened was more than just a coincidence. We really were meant to be at the hospital at that exact time to help that family. The father and one of the daughters from the family we had helped were also at breakfast and attested to that.
It’s experiences like that which help me to feel more relaxed about being here in Africa to do my missionary work. I needed to be here, and now that I’m here, I really shouldn’t have to worry about anything else.
Thank you to my support team!