Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kenyan Birthdays & More

June 4, 2011

We want to share with you a bit about Kenyan birthdays and some recent updates from Kenya!

Blessings to you!

Kenyan Birthdays
We have learned that the Kenyans in this area (who are mainly of the Kipsigis tribe) traditionally have a different concept of birthday celebrations. First of all, most of those over age 30 or 40 have no idea what month or season in which they were born and often they do not know in which year they were born. It used to bother me (Steve) when I would see a Tenwek patient with a stated age of 60, who on a return visit in a few weeks was now 50 years old! They try their best to figure out the year based on a national event. Although they may not know their year of birth they usually know what time of day they were born! A child's name is based on the time of day - such as "when the cows were coming in"- and other variables such as whether it was raining or whether visitors were present. It is not the parents, but rather the women in attendance at the delivery who actually name the child. So based on my birth between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. on a sunny day with no visitors, I know that my Kipsigis name would have been "Kipkoech." (Boys have the "Kip-" prefix and girls have the "Chep-" prefix.) Based on her time of birth, Alene's name would have been "Chepngeno."

Our Western influence has encouraged the practice of children around the world celebrating their birthdays each year. Alene's sister and husband, Paula and Rich, adopted two young children, Guy and Geordanne, in Haiti in the late 90's. After some x-rays to confirm his age, it was evident that Guy was actually a year older than the orphanage had indicated. Guy was judged to be 6 years old and had only been in USA a few months, but he knew enough to ask his parents if he could have a "catch-up" birthday party!

Our dear friend and partner in ministry in Kenya, Pastor Wesley Koech, honors us as his "parents" and is probably about 43 years old. He saw people, including his wife and children, now celebrating their birthdays, but he had no idea on what day he was born. We had an inspiration on how to address our son Wesley's concern and checked our prior daily journal from our May 2006 initial visit to Tenwek Hospital. We learned that we first met Pastor Wesley and were welcomed into his home on May 20, 2006. That was the first day that he came into our lives, so we celebrated his "5th" birthday this weekend! We must say that he was just like a little kid blowing out his five candles and eating some
cake with frosting! So Wesley now shares the birthdate of May 20th with my brother, Mark.

Pastor Wesley (on the right) and his cake for his "5th" birthday!

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and it is great to celebrate our birth and the life that the Lord God has given us. However, too often our focus is on the gifts that we will receive at our birthday celebrations. As Christians, we rejoice in different gifts: we have a new birth (John 3:1- 21, 2 Corinthians 5: 17) and a new life in Christ (Galatians 2:20). We are to leave behind our prior life, receive salvation, and live a new life worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:10-14). We are adopted into God's family. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1). We pray that you have accepted a new life in Christ and can also joyously celebrate your own spiritual birthday.

Former prisoner, Peter, starts Pastor's College

We give praise to the Lord that Peter has been able to start his studies at Kaboson Pastor's Training College this month. Peter is enthusiastic to be equipped to serve as a pastor to prisoners and former inmates. Please continue in prayer for his studies and future ministry.

Peter (2nd from the left) at Kaboson Pastor's Training College

Chaplain School Resumes

The second group of students has begun classes at the International Chaplaincy College at Tenwek and Alene is teaching a class on "Ministry to the Dying and Bereaved." The school is living up to being international as one of the students, Julius, is from Tanzania. Please join us as we pray for these new students and their teachers.

New Chaplain students with instructor, Pastor John Langat (Center)

Tenwek Endoscopy Team

The endoscopy team had a great safari day-trip for team-building in April. This was the first opportunity for most of these national Kenyans to see the wildlife for which their country is famous. We had time to share about functioning as a team and working together for a common purpose. We focused that purpose on Tenwek's mission statement: A Christian community committed to excellence in compassionate health care, spiritual ministry, and training for service.

Tenwek Endoscopy team safari

Lions, cubs, zebras, and Thompson's gazelles at the Maasai Mara

Endoscopy STEP Study research team with our new caps

Chaplain Elijah Bii presents a Bible to a new believer in Christ.

GI Endoscopy Services in 2012

In 2012, we will have about 9 months of Home Ministry Assignment (furlough) in USA. This time will be devoted to reconnecting with our family, friends and supporters and confirming our support base for long-term, career mission service.

I (Steve) want to ensure that there will be continuity in our delivery of endoscopy services at Tenwek Hospital even when I will not be present. We are in the process of arranging for coverage during my absence. If you know of anyone providing endoscopy services that might be interested in serving at Tenwek, please let us know. Please join us in prayer for the continuation of excellent endoscopy services in 2012.

Thank you!

Steve & Alene Burgert, Missionaries with World Gospel Mission

Tenwek Hospital - Bomet , Kenya

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