Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Visit to “The Other Kenya"

Coming & Going - October 2014
Steve & Alene Burgert - Missionaries at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya
 with World Gospel Mission

“O God, my soul thirsts for you, my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

A Visit to “The Other Kenya"
That’s what the locals call it when you cross over the mountains and enter another part of the Rift Valley floor in this northwestern area of Kenya. When we show pictures of our recent trip to Lokichar in the Turkana region, the Kenyans from around home at Tenwek usually gasp and ask “How do they survive in that place?”
They cannot imagine a place without any rain or soil to grow food or grass for  grazing their cows, and they always say something like “I will never complain  again! We are living in a blessed place here!” (Amen to that!)
Susan (pink shirt) gave us a tour around her community
Pastor Joseph (blue shirt) leads with energy and passion
We made the 2-day trip (each way) to visit the home of one of the chaplaincy college students, which we commit to doing for each of our students - but they are not usually so far away! This trip was especially significant, as Susan is an orphan who has been raised by an uncle struggling to support a family unit of 13 children left to him. The landscape was indeed dry and parched, and conditions can be challenging, but we found the people gracious in their hospitality and full of life in their church. Our evening fellowships under the stars and full moon left us with satisfied souls and a little heartache when it was time to leave. It was a joy to connect with brothers and sisters in Christ serving Him faithfully in “the other Kenya.”

During our visit to the home of Susan (one of the Tenwek chaplaincy students) in Lokichar, she worked very hard in the family kitchen to prepare all our meals, most of which included some goat meat. Very nice! (Note the goat head roasting on the grill.)

One of the local Turkana women was busy "closing" the roof of her traditional home. Her skirt is hooked up short so she can work in the heat, but her neck still carries the traditional stacks of beaded necklaces. Women's heads are also shaved on the sides, but have a patch of long hair on top. The local village people are suspicious of cameras, but the grandmother of this family gave permission to take the photo. These houses are left with open, airy sides to allow ventilation in this desert environment. When it rains, they just throw a tarp or blanket on top of the roof. It is not unusual for the people to simply sleep outside on mats to keep cool.

This is an outdoor church used for fellowship gatherings for the herdsmen who migrate through the area in search of water for their cattle, goats, and camels.

This is one of the classrooms for the church's primary school, which moves with the shade during the day. The students sit on the stones and write in the sand with sticks. They attend class from 7am until 1pm, when they are dismissed because of the heat. If it rains in the morning, school is cancelled - it only happened twice last year!

One of our evening fellowships, when the heat would finally go down with the sun! Pastor Joseph and his wife Ann led our prayers and singing.

Steve receives a gift from Pastor Joseph and Asst. Pastor Samuel: the traditional herdsmen's stool, which has a handle to carry it with their walking sticks.
 Steve demonstrates its use, below.

...And Others Visit Kenya!
In July, a team from the US traveling with Heart of Africa Director Rev. Mike Henderson, his wife, and other friends came to Tenwek for a week, and “immersed” themselves in our lives and ministries. Bomet Prison inmates and officers as well as the Correctional Ministry Team were especially encouraged by Pastor Jeff Foote and Elder Jon Upham from Grace Church in Longmont, CO, one of our supportive church partners for the Kenya prison ministry. Their visit was a great blessing to us!
Correctional Ministry team left, Bomet Prison officers right, Rev. Mike (dark blue shirt), Pr. Jeff (center, sportcoat) next to Jon

When the Heart of Africa Team from the US visited Kenya in July, Pastor Jeff Foote from Grace Church of Longmont, CO encouraged the inmates at Bomet Prison.

Pastor Jeff Foote was also requested to give a message to the Bomet Prison officers.

Heart of Africa Director Rev. Mike Henderson, together with Pastor Jeff Foote and Elder Jon Upham Grace Church of Longmont, CO listen to the officers describe their vision for building a chapel on the prison grounds.

Hazel Seavey of Heart of Africa (front, facing away) and WGM volunteer Tascha Fyke traveled to Kisumu with Alene to encourage and pray with a group of women ex-prisoners who are working hard to rebuild their lives.

Correctional Ministry Chaplain Haggai, left, and Board Member Chaplain Nancy Dulo, third from left in flowered shirt, have been working with these women and trying to find partners to provide micro-financing to assist in their efforts.


Taking the Challenge in Greece - 
“Anything, Anytime, Anywhere”
Our trip to attend the Christian Medical and Dental Association conference was a faith-building combination of medical and spiritual study. The spiritual director (Dr. George Murray) took us through a series of foundational Biblical studies, which culminated in this challenge to all the missionary attendees: “Are you truly willing to follow your Lord - to do anything, at anytime, going anywhere?”
It gave us pause to examine our hesitations. Hmmm. How would YOU answer?

Our trip to Greece gave us an opportunity to study the travels of Apostle Paul, including this trip to Philippi in the northeast. Our guide, Cosmas (pointing up), was an excellent teacher and helped us integrate history, the Bible, and Greek culture.

The many hats that we wear...
We have been called to serve in many new capacities beyond our comfort zones here on the mission field. As you know, Steve’s main responsibilities are to direct the patient care, research, teaching, and spiritual mentoring through the Tenwek Hospital Endoscopy Unit. Since May 2013, Steve has also been “wearing another hat” as he serves as the Chairperson for the Quality Care Committee at Tenwek Hospital. It has been a great opportunity to work with 16 others, who represent the variety of departments at the hospital. We pursue measures to improve and maintain the quality of services offered. As Tenwek takes steps towards that goal, it was gratifying to have 50 of the hospital staff members attend each of the four 3-day seminars presented by a visiting quality specialist. A repeated theme of the quality seminars was that “Quality is everyone’s responsibility.” We appreciate your prayers for us to deliver quality care here at Tenwek Hospital that will reflect the love of Christ - to every patient and among our staff. May you also be willing to answer the call to be stretched to “wear a different hat” in serving the Lord!
The proud Tenwek staff displaying their certificates of completion for Quality Training
Doubling the number of Endoscopy/Research Trainees!
To date we have had only one Endoscopy/Research trainee at a time with us for the 2-year training program. Starting in 2015, Tenwek Hospital has authorized us to enroll a new trainee each year, which will “double” our total number of trainees from 1 to 2! We are excited about this opportunity to train even more physicians to provide endoscopy services here in Kenya.
Endoscopy/Research Fellow Dr. Sinkeet Ranketi placing an esophageal stent for a cancer patient
"How safe are you guys there in Kenya?"
Many of you have sent messages recently asking about our safety here in Kenya. First, we want to say that we have been grateful for your concern and communications. The Ebola virus continues to be a very serious issue in western Africa. With this current outbreak and with all prior outbreaks there have never been any Ebola cases here in Kenya, which is in eastern Africa. Please join us in fervent prayers for all of the people in Western Africa (including healthcare providers) who have been affected by this very serious infection.
Terrorist activities have (thankfully) continued to be a significant distance from Tenwek Hospital, which is located in the southwestern part of Kenya. However, we ask you to join your prayers with ours for peace in Kenya, as well as in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia.

Alene was privileged to give the closing prayer at Kaboson Pastors' Training College Graduation in July. 
Pastor Wesley was one of the graduates, receiving his diploma in Christian Counseling. His neck was soon smothered with these customary tinsel garlands of congratulations!

We enjoyed a family safari outing with Pastor Wesley, Charity, and their three children, who were all celebrating their birthdays within the week. Our driver and friend Donald (left) and Maasai guide Immanuel found a great spot for our picnic brunch, just far enough from the wildebeast in the background. It was a cool morning, but warmed up later in the day. The hot chai that Charity had prepared tasted great!

Please thank the Lord with us:
• For a rewarding time at Christian Medical and Dental Assoc. conference in Greece in May
• For valuable endoscopy research assistance from 4 Mayo Clinic physicians who came to Tenwek in May and August
• For health, strength, and safe travels within Kenya, including the long trip to Turkana
• For new ministry opportunities in Kenya prisons for Correctional Ministry
• For faithful support through financial gifts, prayer, and messages from you!

Please pray with us:
• For all those in west Africa affected by Ebola
• For a favorable quality evaluation of Tenwek Hospital in October using new international standards
• For additional endoscopists to provide coverage at Tenwek while Steve is in the USA from April to September of 2015
• For funds to replace our 2001 vehicle, suffering from the rough Kenyan roads!
• For wise planning of our next term of Home Ministry Assignment (“furlough”) in USA from April to September 2015

We thank you for your support, encouragement and prayers!

Contributions: World Gospel Mission, 3783 East State Road 18, PO Box 948, Marion IN 46952 (account 02273-Burgert)


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