Wednesday, November 18, 2009


November 19, 2009

How’s the Weather in Kenya?.…Rainy….Blessed Rain!

We’re often asked: “So, what’s the weather like in Kenya?” Although Tenwek Hospital is within 150 miles of the equator, it is located at about 7,000 ft elevation, which gives us a very temperate climate. The temperatures range from the 50’s to the 90’s year-round. We don’t have “summer” and “winter” as we do in USA, but we instead have “rainy seasons” and “dry seasons.” Right now we are in one of the two rainy seasons: September-October-November (with the other March-April-May). The people of the Tenwek area are most grateful that they have been spared from the extreme drought that has affected other broad areas of Kenya. We did witness dry areas starting to recover from drought near Nakuru (100 miles north of here) and we have listened to eye-witness reports from a little south of here of dry land devoid of vegetation with cattle found dead on the roadside or existing as skeletons covered with hide. So the Kenyan people definitely do not take rainfall for granted and appreciate your prayers for adequate moisture.

The rainy season here does not typically have “typhoon-like” rains. A typical day now will have about 3 or 4 episodes of light rain each lasting for about 20 to 30 minutes. Then the sun usually comes out shining brightly between the rainy episodes and it does not seem to take long for the ground to dry up after these brief showers and be ready for the next shower. The rolling hills around Tenwek are currently fully green in a beautiful patchwork of fields and the people have gotten their maize (corn) and other crops planted. The frequent rains do make drying clothes on a clothesline a challenge, because there are no clothes dryers here. (We have a back-up clothesline system inside the apartment, but the humidity still necessitates much longer drying times.) Even though the rains may interrupt activities a bit, we (along with the Kenyans) are most thankful for the rains.

Bwana asifiwe! (The Lord be praised!)

Getting around in Kenya

Our daily transportation (as for most Kenyans) is primarily by foot. Our apartment is located down a steep road below the hospital, so we do get a good work-out daily with the 10-minute climb. We are very thankful to be acclimated to the elevation, coming from Colorado. So far, we’ve twice made the one-hour uphill hike to the home of Pastor Wesley and Charity. We’ve learned for the Kipsigis people (the local tribal group) that it is very important even during short walks for us to take time to greet others and shake their hands whether a child or an adult. We’ve also learned how to respond “Not today” in Kipsigis to our many invitations to come to their homes for chai (tea)! As pedestrians, we need to be vigilant for cars and motorcycles driving on the left side of the road…. or really on ANY side of the road! Drivers of vehicles seek out the least-muddy and least-rutted part of the road and it is our responsibility as pedestrians to give THEM the right-of-way. Then there are, of course, cows, donkeys, and sheep that need to use the same roads and even the same walkway over the dam that we use.

There are more, better quality, paved roads in Kenya than when we were here in 2008 and especially in the Tenwek area. This has been a blessing for patients being driven to the hospital and for us in our journeys, such as for our trip to Bomet (5 kilometers away) in a matatu. Although I see that our Swahili dictionary defines a matatu as a “minibus, “ most really are just cars, which are now being used for public transportation. The front seat is usually split in to two “buckets” with a stick-shift between the seats and the back seat is of a “bench” type. For our ride we sat in “luxury” with only three in the back seat while each of the two front buckets had two passengers, including in the drivers seat! (We think that the driver actually did the gear-shifting himself!)

The better roads have also been a great boon for the motorcyclists who have intruded on the matatu business by selling rides to one or two passengers at a time. We counted 25 motorcycles during our 5-kilometer drive from Bomet to Tenwek when we first arrived. Unfortunately, there is apparently little regulation on motorcycle licensing or driving and we are told that there are many new motorcycle accident patients arriving on the Orthopedic Ward at Tenwek each day. Oh, such is the price for “progress!” We will enjoy the smoother and shorter ride between Tenwek and Nairobi. We have not yet tried driving in Kenya…on the left side of the road (…mostly!)…and shifting gears with the left hand….more adventures to come!


The American holiday Thanksgiving is not nationally observed here in Kenya, but we as a Tenwek missionary community will share time together as a huge family on Saturday (two days after Thanksgiving Day) to celebrate our thankfulness. We certainly could each make a very long list of ALL of the MANY things for which we are thankful and it is important to reflect on those blessings. We are personally thankful for all those who have made our presence at Tenwek possible through their support, prayers, love, and encouragement.

We would like to conclude with a Thanksgiving inspiration from the daily devotional book, “Experiencing God” by Henry T. Blackaby & Richard Blackaby:

“Thankfulness is a conscious response that comes from looking beyond our blessings to their source. As Christians, we have been forgiven, saved from death, and adopted as God’s children. There could be no better reason for a grateful heart!”

Blessings to each of you as you reflect and celebrate Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Photo albums updated 11-10-2009

Please note the link in upper right corner to view our recently updated photo albums.

Monday, November 9, 2009

KARIBU - Welcome back to Kenya!

Karibu! – We truly feel welcome back in Kenya!

We left Colorado just a few days before 1½ feet of snow fell there! Even so, the weather did affect our flight from Denver to London on October 25th. It definitely turned out to be a blessing that our flight from Denver was delayed due to de-icing of the wings. Because we missed our flight in London, British Airways put us up in a nice hotel by Heathrow airport and we were given about 23 hours extra in London to rest and recuperate after a whirlwind of activity during the days and weeks before our departure. This also gave us a more gradual change across a total of 9 time zones. Thankfully our hosts in Nairobi, Dr. and Mrs. Spriegel, were very accommodating and actually started doing some of our “moving in” shopping without us. We give a HUGE prayer of thanks that every one of our 24 pieces of luggage made it safely to Nairobi and were sent on to Tenwek Hospital ahead of us!

Meanwhile, our own route from Nairobi to Tenwek was not direct, but provided us with a broader perspective of World Gospel Mission’s activities in Kenya. We did some “power shopping” in Nairobi and then rode with Jim & Alice Vanderhoof (WGM Kenya Field Directors) to their home and the WGM Kenya headquarter offices in Nakuru. It was a special treat to spend several hours at the “Baby Center” in Nakuru, which cares for about 30 orphans up to 5 years of age. Each child was truly precious and eager for attention and affection. We had great appreciation for the quality of care provided and for the wonderful facilities at the Baby Center.

Jim and Alice continually gave us cultural “tid-bits” throughout our time at their home and as they drove us to Kericho. As Jim attended a meeting there, Alice gave us a tour of the Kenya Highlands Bible College. We even were on live Christian radio for several minutes as the announcer interviewed us about our commitment to long-term service at Tenwek Hospital at this season in our lives! After 4 days in Kenya we finally arrived in Tenwek on Friday evening, and found our apartment well-prepared, including beds already made!

It is difficult to pin-point all of the factors about this place that make us feel “welcome” and “at home” here. The people of Kenya and Tenwek Hospital have been a key factor in our feeling welcome. So many friends and colleagues have expressed “Karibu” (pronounced like “Car-EE-boo” meaning “welcome”) in word and deed! Other experiences of sight, sound, and smell have renewed special memories of Kenya: the “call-to-prayer” from the mosque loudspeakers in Nairobi at 4:30 a.m. (after getting to bed at midnight!), the call of unique birds in the mornings and at night, the dramatic view of the Rift Valley, zebra scampering across the road as we drove to Nakuru, verdant green hills around Tenwek , the bright, white teeth of smiling Kenyan children, and a new sign with the same message at Tenwek Hospital: “We Treat – Jesus Heals.” All have played a role in our feeling welcome back to our home at Tenwek! However, there are actually some very welcome changes since we were here 20 month’s ago - many more kilometers of paved rounds around the hospital and on the route between Nairobi and Tenwek!

We are truly blessed with our triplex home, which overlooks the river dam 100 feet below. We can hear the sounds of water as it flows over the dam and are serenaded each evening by the sounds of insects, which we liken to “coke bottle wind-chimes!” There are very tall trees between our home and the river and they provide a home for many brightly colored birds. Steve’s parents have inspired us to enjoy birds over the years and we look forward to continuing that here as well. Our accommodations are very comfortable and we’ll share more details a bit later. Of course, there is no white snow here, but Steve has described the mounds of colorful blossoms shed from some of our huge trees as “purple snow.”

Yes, all of the boxes arrived safely and with no evidence of any damaged or missing items! We are so thankful. It has taken all week to get the kitchen set up and to start unpacking. Steve has described our unpacking as a “battle” with the boxes “winning” at first, but we now seem to have the upper hand. It took a great adventure into the nearby town of Bomet with Pastor Wesley as our guide to find and buy plastic hangers to truly gain momentum in the unpacking process! (Hunting for hangers is a great way to meet a lot of people and get to know many of the shops.)

Of course, we’ve enjoyed being re-united with Pastor Wesley and his family from a nearby village. They helped us with some kitchen set up and we later walked the hour UPHILL to their home to enjoy their hospitality.

So what are we doing now?..... Our specified duties are to concentrate on learning Swahili during the next 3 months. (Steve will have no medical responsibilities until February.) We are blessed to have Daniel (an instructor from Nairobi) as our tutor for 5 hours daily Monday to Friday. We truly are students working on a couple of hours of homework each evening. Alene is a bit more brave to speak up with strangers, but Steve is getting up his courage as well. It is great to be able to practice with each other and to have Pastor Wesley as our language helper as well. Steve has discussed the care given to a couple of patients, but the Tenwek Hospital physicians have honored his commitment to the language learning and have not asked him to actually provide any medical care there.

We are remembering and getting used to the fact that EVERYTHING just takes longer to accomplish here – whether it’s showering, dressing, preparing meals to have clean/safe food, boiling and filtering water to drink, connecting on the internet, walking places with many welcome interruptions to greet Kenyans and Americans alike….

Thanks for your prayers and patience as we proceed with getting settled. We still have 5 more boxes to unpack and our niece, Clara, gave us an incentive to keep unpacking to find the 2nd and 3rd notes that she hid in those remaining boxes while visiting us in Colorado in October.

(More to come and we'll link up some photos soon!)