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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

80 Days...

Every once in a while, I (Scott) must chime in to tell a story from the Obstetric side of our shared building.  Pull up a chair and a coffee, this will take a while.

This is a story of creeping towards and then slowly backing away from the precipice of death – many times. This is the story of Mary (not her real name).

On May 26th, one of the medical officers on our service performed what seemed like a relatively routine Cesarean Section on Mary.  For reasons that are not clear to us, she developed a severe post-operative infection a little less than a week after her surgery.  The infection was so severe, she was taken back to the “operating theatre” for a re-exploration.  To look for anything that could have been left behind in the previous surgery (like a sponge or gauze).  Nothing was found.  The abdomen was washed out and second-line antibiotics started.

A week later, the surgical site opened up again showing more signs of severe infection.  She was taken back to theatre for another exploration.  Again, no explanation found.  Washed out.  Closed. And taken back for more post-operative care.

At Naivasha District Hospital, we don’t have the benefit of microbiologic cultures, so we could not culture any of the fluids or pus.  We had no way of knowing what bacteria was causing this infection or which antibiotic would best fight the infection.  But shortly before this event, Jennifer had sent a baby to Kijabe Hospital who was critically ill and beyond our capacity.  They did blood cultures which grew a bacteria (Klebsiella) resistant to all but two antibiotics. Based on that culture result, we began to wonder if Mary could have been infected with this resistant Klebsiella (there is a lot of traffic between the Post-Op Ward and the Newborn Unit).  At this point, I began to doubt whether Mary might survive.  She was critically ill.  She should have been in an ICU, but that was beyond our capacity and her financial resources.  And our hospital didn’t even have either of the ideal antibiotics to fight the Klebsiella.  So, I decided to go to an outside pharmacy and purchased the Meropenem out of our own pocket.  That pocket is not really my own.  We live and work in Kenya as the hands and feet of many generous churches and donors.  From their generous support, I was able to buy a full ten days’ worth of Meropenem at a cost of about $500 (which is about 9 months’ salary for the average person in our area).

After a few days of the Meropenem, Mary started to improve and I began to feel hopeful, but then I came in to change her abdominal wound bandage and found fecal material oozing from her surgical wound.  Somehow, her bowel had been injured in the second exploratory surgery and now her abdomen was filling with feces.  We called the general surgeon.  Understandably, he didn’t really want to touch her.  She’s like a hand grenade.  Nobody wants to be the last one to touch her before she dies.  But finally, he was convinced and he did yet another exploratory surgery.  Surprisingly, he couldn’t find the bowel injury.  So, he did a colostomy on the proximal part of her gut to let the lower part “rest and heal.”  This left her with a stump of intestine draining from the skin into an adhesive bag.  And the hospital didn’t have these in stock either, so we purchased those @$12 each from the outside pharmacy (who gave them to us at his cost).

After getting the colostomy and a full course of Meropenem, Mary finally turned the corner.  She began to gain strength and to eat again.  She grimaced whenever the colostomy bag had to be changed, but she improved.  She got her baby back from the nursery and began breastfeeding again.  The milk came back.  But she still had that colostomy.

The surgeon said he would reverse the colostomy after six weeks.  That put the surgery date perilously close to the Presidential Election.  But we thought it could get done.  And then the surgeon tragically died.  That is a story for another time.

So, we had no consultant surgeon to reverse the colostomy.  What to do?  There is a law that government hospitals are not supposed to refer patients to private hospitals.  This is to prevent a conflict-of-interest scenario in which a government employee refers patients to a private facility in which they have a financial interest.  But in this case, I felt like Mary’s best hope was to go to Kijabe Hospital where there are competent surgeons (who I know).  So I contacted Kijabe and the head of surgery agreed to take her.  That was contingent upon her clearing her bill at Naivasha and paying for her care at Kijabe.  The estimate for the care at Kijabe was going to be about $1000.  With the help of our donors, I thought we could handle that.  Maternity Care in Kenya is “basically free” (subsidized by the government).  Her bill at Naivasha was $5.

Mary’s experience at Kijabe was amazing.  Her colostomy reversal went smoothly and she was discharged after five days.  And while we expected to pay the bill, it turns out they had registered with the Kenya National Health Insurance plan (NHIF) which paid the entirety of her Kijabe bill.  I had given the husband $300 for the initial deposit.  That was refunded to him upon discharge and amazingly enough, he brought that back to me.  That was a true demonstration of his thankfulness and appreciation.

Unfortunately, two days after discharge from Kijabe, Mary’s wound started draining bloody fluid.  Seriously? Yes.  So she was admitted back to Naivasha Hospital – again.  We dressed the wound and Mary spent the Election week in the hospital. 

For ten days we dutifully dressed the draining wound and slowly but surely the drainage dried up.  Today the wound is dry.  And today Mary was discharged home.  80 days after she had her first baby.

It’s a tale of prayer and perseverance.  I don’t think we can necessarily step up with these resources in every complicated case, but God put Mary in my path and seemed to call us to action.  So thankful today for her great smile and her life.


Soli Deo Gloria.

(photo used with permission)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From Nairobi to Charlottesville . .

Last night the IEBC finally finished their tally of papers confirming the election results, and announced the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee party as the winner.  This was the culmination of four days of anxiety, anticipation, rumor, interviews, waiting, accusations, protest and a general sense on the part of the population that anything could happen in spite of fairly consistent updating of results electronically projecting the Uhuru win.  Many stayed close to home, many businesses remained shuttered, many essential services were suspended, as people protected themselves.  Even the announcement was incredibly drawn out as the chairman's speech was paused for important paper-signing by officials, and as he laboriously read out the votes (and percentage) for each of ten candidates in each of 47 counties.  As our friend Martha said, it was like sitting through a graduation for 470 students.  We watched on a Kenyan TV station right to the bitter end when the President gave a conciliatory and unifying speech about 10:30 pm.  Soon after we could hear wildness from town, but it was happy wildness.  Horns, music, shouts, vuvuzelas, cheers.

The opposition, however, had walked out of the process as the Uhuru victory became more and more inevitable, and ominously declared that this time there would be no legal option in the courts.  So while half the country cheered, about another quarter exploded in anger met with swift repression. Previous and current interns we know from opposition strongholds in Western Kenya posted on social media about tear gas being lobbed into residences, about gunfire on the streets.  The Guardian reports 24 deaths based on data gathered by Human Rights Watch.  Reuters earlier reported similarly. In contrast to all that, here in Naivasha I had an intern show back up to work, and a friend who had stayed next door out of fear moved back home confident all was fine, and people went about their business normally today.  So . . . even up close to events, it's hard to really know.  All we can tell is that multiple sources confirmed that Uhuru won a majority, and that left the areas where Odinga won 90% or more feeling defeated, disenfranchised, cheated.  Youth and poverty and desperation and hateful speech are a volatile mix.  The line between a protest and a riot is vague here, with burning tires and throwing rocks and looting shops.  And given the history, the government security reacted with deadly force, justifying that a quick few bullets would end the uprisings quickly and save lives in the end.  But at a high moral cost.  Shameful that politicians excluded from power encourage the young men to cause chaos; shameful that the politicians given power use it to kill.

Which brings us to Charlottesville, where we met on a street corner at UVA 37 years ago.  For 36 of those 37 years it would have been unthinkable that people would parade with Nazi swastika flags mixed with confederate flags, on the absurd premise that white history was under threat of being forgotten because the city wants to rename a park to recognize the Civil War resulted in the emancipation of human beings.  It would have been absurd to imagine the national guard and riot police, violent confrontations, a declared state of emergency, an unlawful assembly. Thankfully students and people of faith and people of conscience formed a counter protest.  The news is still evolving.

Kenya and Charlottesville.  Tribalism.  Fear.  Political manipulation.  Power based on inciting hate.  Identity formed in sharp contrast to the terrifying "other".  Few ideas, quick violence.

This is where we tend without an otherworldly infusion of love.  Tomorrow let us gather and pray and go back out into this mess determined to love.  It's been a hard week.  I know I've been resentful, and felt alone.  The tiny lives that have been held up this week seem a drop in the bucket.  But that's where it starts. If we can humbly do hard tasks in small places, at some cost to ourselves (it was not my ideal to work long hours alone the week Julia came to be with us), so that others can thrive . . well, that's the cross, and we're promised that changes the world.  From Nairobi to Charlottesville and beyond.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Election Anticipation Mounts: Almost Over???

Another 48 hours has gone by, and we still wait.  The IEBC constitutionally has 7 days to count the votes and announce the results.  The TV stations have hours to fill.  So we have continuous reports, rumors, accusations, occasionally suspended when the very confidence-inspiring CEO of the IEBC comes on to calmly explain what is happening next.  

The opposition claims that the official numbers are wrong, that even if the international observers testify to the integrity of the process the opposition alliance has their own vote tallies that prove their candidate leads.  Since corruption and injustice are realities in this place, people take these accusations seriously, particularly in the poorest areas of the country. The opposition candidate gave an exclusive interview to CNN last night basically saying that the electronic transmission of data was unreliable, and he can't be responsible for his supporters if their protests turn unruly. The police prepare to respond.  The international observers including John Kerry are shown intermittently giving details of the process and lending their credibility.  The IEBC calls for patience.  Now 288 of the 290 regional collected reports coming from the 40,883 polling stations have been received and verified on paper, which involves tables of people from all parties physically handling and viewing results.  The final two reports require the presence of the election officials who submitted them to answer questions, so that seems to be what we're waiting for now.  The incumbent President who per the IEBC electronic data (that we're all waiting for the paper ballots to confirm) remains 1.3 million votes ahead, and silent in the media.
Calm Naivasha


Police on horses . . not a common sight . . 

And Kenyans collectively hold their breath.  Babies are born, a 24-week preem delivered on the way from Suswa to Naivasha in the darkness of early morning, .  Kids cough and wheeze and need IV lines.  Nurses and nutritionists and lab techs do their jobs distractedly, clustering around radio reports on their phones or gathering in  front of the lobby TV.  Shops in Naivasha remain largely open, at least half have couches and shovels and T-shirts and mattresses stacked on the roadside.  People meander to the market, the boda motorcycles buzz, the matatus call for business.  In spite of an order that government employees had no excuse for failing to report to work, NO ONE on my team did so today.  Again.  So there is a peculiar overlay of normality, a tense undercurrent of bracing for chaos, and a wearying wait for resolution.

I think my favorite quote of the week came from an article that interviewed a woman in a shop: ""Elections are always bad news for us poor people. I have to pay bills and feed my children. I don't care who wins." 
And I'm told the youth in the slums are coining a slogan that roughly says "We won't bleed for you to lead".  Kenyans have risen up before, and found out that they paid a high price while those they supported did not suffer quite the same way.  One of my friends predicts that there will be brief violence, the police will respond with deadly force, and the collective emotional turmoil will quickly dissipate in favor of survival.

After the election, we still have to live together.  Please do pray for tonight, that there would be a clear winner with a transparent process, and that Kenyans would not die in the process of accepting the results, and that the winner would work for justice rather than personal power.  And pray for us. After a cup of coffee and a cookie, it's back to the sorrows of the world, just called for a sexually abused child, and feeling that I personally have nothing left to give, and don't like how this week pushes on my heart in bitterness.





Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Election Exhaustion

Polls in Kenya closed 22 hours ago.  And results have been flowing in, live.  The IEBC, the nonpartisan agency that manages the election, has a live-feed web site.  As polling stations report their data, the tallies climb.  At this moment, 39 thousand of the 40 thousand sites have reported, and the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta is ahead with 54% of the vote.  He also must win at least 25% of the vote in 24 out of 47 counties, but the data is not geographically disaggregated so that's not clear.  Though the live feed is reassuring, the final declaration will not be official until the head of the IEBC confirms that all is in order.

Not surprisingly, a few hours ago, the main opposition candidate who has 45% of the vote went live with a nationally televised press conference.  He alleges that when the head of IT for the IEBC was murdered a week ago, the murderers got his password and then used it to alter the electronically transmitted data.  He claims the numbers we are seeing are manufactured, and that he is the real winner, and called for protest which could easily turn violent.  People are clustered around TVs and listening to phones, shaking their heads, saying we have to wait and see what will happen.

Meanwhile for the third day in a row, the hospital remains nominally open but with a limited work force.  The nurses were already on strike so we were operating at reduced capacity with temporary nurses.  I had one intern and my colleague pediatrician on Monday morning, but since mid-day Monday I've been working alone.  I thought I wouldn't mind, but it's been a rough couple days.  Monday evening I ended up back in the hospital because a child whom I suspected had been abused still had not had the scans she needed; thank God for Kijabe friends who agreed to take this little 19-month old with scratches and bite marks on her body.  I had to fight hard to get an ambulance after losing my battle to get them a head CT here.  As feared, she had evidence of bleeding inside her skull which could only have come from trauma.  Yesterday as I was struggling with an IV in an 800 gram preem who has been pricked and poked and shriveled for almost 3 weeks, the day nurse in the Newborn Unit slipped out.  There was no afternoon/evening nurse on duty it seems, and she was DONE.  I turned around to ask for help, and found I was alone in a room full of infants, with a needle in baby's neck, and no way to reach gauze or tape.  I could reach my phone and eventually someone came (who was an angel in disguise) but she left to her duties and I ended up babysitting until a nurse could be convinced to double up her post-partum ward OB duty with covering nursery.  In the meantime a mother of preemie twins had been sent home from a clinic in Mai Mahu even though the 33 week babies were less than 3 pounds each, and one died, so she came to Naivasha with the survivor wrapped in six layers of blankets.  I hadn't even had so much as a drink of water all day, so I went home around 4 only to be called back for a dehydrated infant who had been tragically, perhaps fatally (we will see) mismanaged by a private clinic in town where his mom turned for help because of the nursing strike.  He survived the night after fluids into his bone marrow, and is a little perkier today.  This morning however started tragically as I walked in and found the Paeds ward nurse doing CPR.  She hadn't had time to call, but this was the second baby to die within an hour.  Both had some form of encephalitis I think, with fevers, decreased consciousness, seizures, but both had been treated for about 5 days and seemed stable.  We think moms start to worry and want to feed the babies by mouth (though each had a tube for feeding) and then the seizing babies choke . . The first body was already wrapped up, and her mom had fainted on the floor, the second one I tried to revive for about ten minutes but she was long gone by then.  So two moms to pray with, hug, explain, listen, say sorry over and over, call relatives, fill out death forms, wring my hands, wonder what we could have done.  Even though the patients are few now, most are ICU-level sick.  It is humbling that even acting as primary intern-resident-attending-combined, I can't save them.  But I had to go on from there and see the other patients, write notes, draw blood, talk to families, order medications, and all the normal parts of the day.

Intern work . . . 

There is supposed to be a nurse in this picture

So dehydrated, cold hands, the monitor can't read

no one in this picture is listening to my call for help . . 

find the preem in the blankets . . 



Then on the way home, a stop in the police station to file an official report of the abuse case, since the social worker is gone all week (she's working as an election-official too it seems).  I found the Child Protection Officer loading his rifle with ammunition, alongside another officer, which was pretty unsettling given the uncertainty that abounds.  He was professional and kind, and I do appreciate Kenya's attempt to investigate and protect children.  After that unpleasant duty, home to more election news . . .



So the week is only half over but feels quite long.  Kenyans are collectively anxious.  Will the results be confirmed?  Is there any credibility to rumors of fraud?  Peaceful acceptance would be good if the results are legitimate; if there has been injustice then we are hoping for lawful responses involving the court, and not a call to revolt.


So . . . in short, the post-election has been quite tiring.  Living hour to hour when you don't know what will happen takes a toll.  Bumping up against raw evil in a beaten child, an abandoned baby, hungry children, without having others to share the burden with, takes a toll.  Failing patients and grieving with their families takes a toll.  Listening to the rumors, the suspicion of the electronic data (it's all made up, the same old fake news accusations that rile up America too) takes a toll.  Knowing that corruption abounds and not knowing who to believe takes a toll.  Being responsible for all the Serge families in Kenya takes a toll.

I think the prayer now needs to be for clarity--was the system compromised or not?  If so, pray for the courts to respond.  If not, pray for the citizens to accept and the rumors to be disproven.  And pray for all of us to remember that God is not surprised, that God sees the truth, that justice will win in the end.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Election Day



For today, just listen to the national anthem (or here choral) while praying for Kenya.  The melody is haunting, supposedly based on a Pokot traditional lullaby, and so unlike many of the national anthems around the continent which are pompous trumpeting of European tunes.  Here are the words:
Ee Mungu nguvu yetu
Ilete baraka kwetu
Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi
Natukae na udugu
Amani na uhuru
Raha tupate na ustawi.
Oh God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.
Second stanza
Amkeni ndugu zetu
Tufanye sote bidii
Nasi tujitoe kwa nguvu
Nchi yetu ya Kenya
Tunayoipenda
Tuwe tayari kuilinda
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend
Third stanza
Natujenge taifa letu
Ee, ndio wajibu wetu
Kenya istahili heshima
Tuungane mikono
Pamoja kazini
Kila siku tuwe na shukrani
Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

Amen.

Kenya Elections Tomorrow: A Timely Transfiguration Celebration

The 7th of August.  Here in Naivasha the shops are open, carpenters plane new bed headboards by the road, families cluster at the hospital gates, nurses change burn dressings, cleaners push mud off the sidewalks from a cataclysmic downpour last night, boda drivers buzz too fast down the paved roads.  There is a somber undertone of expectation and uncertainty.  But no one looks particularly bent upon evil.  The campaigning is at last, mercifully, over, and now it is just a matter of waiting for the polls to open tomorrow morning.




 My pediatrician colleague and I did the work of our usual intern team of 8 today . . thankfully not too many patients. Scott was similarly lonely but plowing on.  Except for government workers laying low and traffic being light, the day progressed normally with calculations and examinations and putting in lines.

And if one only sees the surface of the ordinary, tomorrow's election can seem more momentous and dangerous than it should.  Which is why the Transfiguration Day in the church calendar arrives at an auspicious moment, trailing the shimmer of Daniel 7, Psalm 97, and Luke 9 . .  "His throne was fiery flames . . a thousand thousand served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him . . to him was given dominion and glory and kingship . . that shall never be destroyed . . the earth trembled . . mountains melt like wax . . light has sprung up for the righteous . . and while he was praying the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white . . and they were terrified as they entered the cloud . . "

No matter what happens tomorrow, the reality behind the surface of this world remains the same.  God reigns.  

We see the squabbles and the poverty. We see the crumbling pavement and hear the complaints of striking workers.  We read the news, the accusations, the missing funds, the political murder.  But today we remember that this is not the full story.  There are also moments of transfiguring glory when the Newborn Unit mothers gather to sing praise songs,  and one is bathing a baby who was abandoned, shining selflessness. When people find a reason to laugh in spite of not being sure of their safety tomorrow.  When we pray with believers who love their country.  Because behind this whole sorry beautiful mess is a true weight of glory that would burn our eyes out if we could truly perceive that dimension.

In Job, and elsewhere, when God wants to remind us that we don't get the whole view, that we are underestimating eternal power and love, we are told to look at the created world.  So let's close this last pre-election post with some of Scott's photos from walks to the lake that defines our town, and remember that love and beauty and strength will carry the day.










Sunday, August 06, 2017

One Tribe?

Elections in Kenya: two days away.  We wove through cheering crowds and blaring buses yesterday as the campaigns reached their finale.  After the murder of the man in charge of IT for the IEBC (the independent electoral commission), fear and doubt have gripped more hearts.  The day after the news broke, we spent the evening at a neighbor's from church, praying for the country, for the leaders, for the people.  The trainees have mostly departed from our hospital, claiming fears for their safety since Naivasha has been volatile in the past, or a need to be in the town where they registered to vote before being assigned here. The county health department insists that we should provide full services in spite of a nursing strike and a dwindling workforce, and we spent too many hours in the last week trying to be voices of planning while knowing that people were just going to leave anyway.  Our teams at mission hospitals have tried to absorb more of the patient load, though many can't afford even those reasonable rates.  Every evening helicopters buzz overhead as the highest politicians whizz back to their Nairobi estates after campaigning.  Every day small trucks, buses, vans covered with posters and blaring loudspeakers from the roof cruise the roads, extolling the virtues of their party.  Every space that can be covered is plastered with posters.  Every billboard carries another face, another slogan.

It feels like the long inhale, when we all look around and wait to see what will happen.

And most people we talk to here assume that what always happens will happen:  people will vote along tribal lines for their candidate, and alliances between the largest groups will hold, and are so close to equal, that the outcome depends on which alliance achieves a hair's breadth greater voter turnout.

Ideas, policies, economy, constitution, devolution, corruption, strikes, reforming health care . . . all of these important things have very little impact on the election.  In this place, you vote for the person who will protect you from being sidelined and marginalized, who will ensure the flow of privilege to the people most like you.  

Which, if one thinks about it, seems to pretty well characterize the last American election as well, and perhaps is a deep human truth.  We live in a limited-resources fear that we have to band together to help our kind, and our suspicion and fear grows in proportion to the differences we perceive.

So this morning's passage in church "happened" to be John 17, Jesus' prayer for his inner circle of followers and those that would ripple out from the resurrection.  Jesus knew that the coming hours would mean a seismic shift in reality that would affect every tribe and tongue.  And in that moment, the theme of his prayer:  that they may be ONE.  This week as well, I'm finishing a commentary on Romans, and the latter section of that book grapples with the impending divide between the nucleus of Jewish Jesus-followers that expands to embrace a variety of gentile cultures.  How can the community hold together when cultures collide?  We missionaries stare into cultural chasms all the time.  A few are between us and our hosts, sometimes over subtleties (how do I weigh teaching personal responsibility as a clinician to trainees without invoking public shame), sometimes over lines-in-the-sand matters of justice (female circumcision as a cultural rite versus a way to disempower and control the sexuality of girls).  BUT MOST ARE BETWEEN US AND OUR FELLOW MISSIONARIES--matters of emphasis, personality, preference.  This group judges that group for not living simply enough, that group judges another for valuing lives-saved medical metrics over friendships-formed social metrics.

So, for the struggling church, for uneasy Kenya, for racially-unjust America, these are core questions that we ignore to our peril.  Are we one tribe?

Here are a few pre-election thoughts that I know I need to reflect upon, and ask God to teach me.

1.  Diversity is beautiful.  Kenya's 48 million people belong to at least 43 distinct groups, each with nuances of livelihood, building styles, marriage traditions, names, jewelry, dress, color, dance, music, arts, etc.  This diversity in unity reflects the Trinity, a God who is both one and yet so uncontainable that the world's billions each reflect in their own unique way.  In the church, or on a team, or in the body, we need unique gifts and roles to bless each other.

2.  Unity is essential.  Jesus prayed for it.  Communities and countries and our world depend upon it.  We must collaborate to care for each other.  To grow and distribute food, to build houses, to educate our children, to protect our families from thieves and our countries from dictators.  Kenya's resources of people, ingenuity, land, sky, wildlife, minerals, and on and on require collective cooperation to manage in ways that bless all.  The church also needs to lean into each other with our gifts, to be strong enough to make the blessings flow out to the world.

3.  It's not a choice of my tribe or yours, an either/or limit . . . it's a truth of both/and.  This is the paradox of our existence.  Terminal uniqueness means I can't relate to anyone, I always have to differentiate myself.  Yet assimilation also brings loss.  In our best moments as humans we celebrate the brilliant gifts and colorful surprises we find in others, and we embrace those others as part of our larger community.

Please pray for Kenya over the next week.  Pray the polls on Tuesday will be managed with transparency and safety.  That the votes will be counted truly.  That the people will have confidence in the process.  That the inevitable losers will accept the result, that the inevitable winners will look beyond themselves and work for the good of all.  That this country, and our country, and the church, and humans in general will take the words of God seriously about valuing difference and working in unison.  That we may be one.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Eat this book

Ezekiel is a good read.  For one, as we live in a world of uncertainty at the whims of political maneuvering and the violence of angry fearful humans, it reminds us that this is not a new situation.  Yesterday news broke in Kenya that a senior official in the independent agency that runs the elections (as in importing ballots, securing polling stations, counting votes) was tortured and murdered.  The unease is palpable.  Yet God's people over time and across the world have almost always lived in less than ideal security situations.  And even in times of invasion, exile, and injustice, God reminds them that the whole world is in His hands.  The prophets continuously not only call for repentance, but also give glimpses of the trials ahead.  Then when those come, people are less surprised and more resilient.  Oh, the temple is being destroyed, but we know the bigger picture, God can still bring about good.

As a book devourer, I can relate to the graphic picture of eating a scroll that tasted like manna, a honey flavored wafer.  Books sustain, warn, enlighten, cast light, show paths, give previews to what may come in life.

And last week, I got the AMAZING TREAT of seeing my own books do just that.  We hosted a family whose hearts God had stirred to explore working in rural Kenya, at a struggling mission hospital, to boost the Kenyan colleagues who are leading the work, to train others, to embody the Gospel. All very inspiring, but they also have an 8 and 12 year old.  How can kids make the transition from American heartland life with its state fairs, soccer camps, school plays, library trips, tight-knit church communities, accessible grandparents . . to life in the Kenyan tea fields with mud-floored schools and donkeys carrying water?






Well, it turns out, eating a book can be a start.  Our first night together we went on a hike down by the lake, and the 12-year-old alertly warned us of mpali, the biting soldier ants, crossing our path.  How did he know?  He'd read about them in A Chameleon, A Boy, and A Quest.  While parents toured the hospital, these kids eagerly went to see various school options in town, all a far cry from their previous experience.  How did they process that?  Well, the schools reminded them of various scenes from A Bird, A Girl, and A Rescue.  A wagtail features prominently in that book, common in Uganda but not often seen around us here in Kenya.  So it was a kind touch from God when one hopped on a wall right behind the 8-year-old as we ate lunch on almost our last day. (By the time I whipped out my phone you can barely see the bird in grass to left . . )
 

In September, the third book in the Rwendigo Tales series will be available:  A Forest, A Flood, and an Unlikely Star.  It's a good read for the plot, but watching these two kids encounter Africa for the first time gave me a different hope.  If kids can read about Africa in stories that enfold the hard parts in the reality of adventure and hope, if kids can relate to other children grappling with poverty and hunger as likable fellow humans, if kids can recognize what might have felt foreign as familiar . . there is hope for our world to grow a bit more solid, connected, strong.





PS Also available on Amazon in paperback or KINDLE:  Tale One, Two, and Three.