28.9.09

Gratuitous Cute Children

I guess this makes them "The Next Next Generation"

The Graduating class of 2027. Abi Fader, Micah "The Swaz" Cropsey, and Maggie McLaughlin. One will be Valedictorian, One Salutatorian, and one the bottom of their class. The competitive pressure is already mounting.

22.9.09

"The Next Generation"

Just thought our faithful readers might like to see the most recent "McCropders as Celebrities" piece. :) Samaritan's Purse, our sending agency, did a little feature article on us in their quarterly newsletter, "On Call." You can check it out by going to the samaritanspurse.org website, or just click here.

16.9.09

Hello from Kathmandu!


Namaste!  Hello from Kathmandu, Nepal.  You may be asking yourself, “What is John doing in Nepal?  I thought he was going to Africa?  Maybe he got on the wrong flight.”  False . . . although highly probable.
Last year I met Dr. Geoff Tabin at an ophthalmology conference focusing on sustainable eye care in the developing world.  In our little sphere of eyeball nerds, he’s kind of like our version of Dr. Paul Farmer of Mountains Beyond Mountains.  Over twenty years ago while summating Everest, Dr. Tabin ran into Sir Edmund Hillary.  At this point, Sir Hillary was opening schools and hospitals in the Himalayas for the Sherpa people.  (You don’t get knighted by Queen Elizabeth to just sit on your laurels.)  Sir Hillary convinced Dr. Tabin to stay in Nepal and assist with the immense medical needs.  It was during this time that he witnessed a Dutch ophthalmic team help a woman regain her sight after years of blindness from cataracts.  Dr. Tabin discovered his calling.  
He returned to the U.S. for an ophthalmology residency at Brown, completed a cornea fellowship in Melbourne, Australia, and then headed back to Nepal.  Upon his return, he met Dr. Ruit, a Nepalese ophthalmologist.  They made a pact to eradicate preventable blindness from Nepal in their lifetimes.  Over the past twenty years, they have developed a model of sustainable eye care to do just that.  Their NGO, the Himalayan Cataract Project, is carrying on work all over Asia and now Africa.  
So, when Dr. Tabin asked if I’d like to join him in Nepal, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from him and the talented Nepali staff at Tilganga Eye Center in Kathmandu.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve been learning their sutureless, small incision cataract surgery technique as well as how they run a sustainable, effective eye program.  It has been great.
As always, flexibility has been needed.  Just before I left the States, I found out that Dr. Tabin was not going to make it to Nepal until the very end of my trip.  Upon my arrival, I learned that the director as well as the head surgeon of the cataract surgery course were both out of the country!  And guess what?  It was also time for the national holidays!  The whole team is now back in country, and I’m excited for an even richer learning experience for the last ten days of my time here.
I’d covet your prayers for strength as Jessica and I prepare for moving our family to Africa while being on opposite sides of the world.  God knew I needed an amazing wife like Jess to make it through life!  I am also trying to coordinate all of the surgical instruments and supplies that will be needed for an effective O.R. in Kenya.  Lastly, pray that I will learn all that God intends for me while I’m here in Nepal, both professionally and personally. 


Top Photo:  Ancient Hindu temple -- cremation ceremony on steps of river is the source of smoke

Middle Photo:  Religious "beggars" outside temple

Bottom Photo:  Outreach eye screening camp in hillside village outside of Kathmandu (I'm the tall white guy in the back!)

14.9.09

Rosetta Stone: A Review

With a little more free time than previously or later, we have spent part of the last couple weeks dipping our feet further into the world of language learning for Swahili. Our prior Swahili exposure having been limited to The Lion King, "Jambo Means Hello" (the Caldecott-winning kids book), and a few rocky games of Settlers of Kisumu, we had a lot of work to do.

Through some generosity on the part of Samaritan's Purse, we picked up a copy of Rosetta Stone Kiswahli. It's been an interesting experience working with it, and multiple people have asked us what we thought of the program, saying that they themselves had considered it for some language or another. So we thought we'd share a few thoughts.

First, it is entirely in Swahili, meaning that if your primary language was Norwegian, you would find this program just as navigable as us. Which is good, I guess. Nothing like immersion to speed the language learning.

Second, their entire philosophy (per the video ad on their website) is that they are trying to mimic your learning of your first language, as in, when you were Maggie's age. There is no discussion of syntax, pronunciation, or even the alphabet. There is simply hearing words, and trying to pick out the image or object that it describes. And this, of course, then builds on itself. It's fascinating, really.

Third, the entire process is like a super-extended version of the old "Sesame Street" game "One of these things is not like the other". See below.

Each screen looks something like this. And maybe you've learned the word for "chicken" (we haven't), and so you pick out the square that is sans chicken, and thus you might have learned the word for "rabbit". Or maybe you know the words for black and white (we have learned those), and you don't see those words, so you go for the yellow one.

Thus, after 17 lessons, we don't know how to say "hello", "my name is", "good", "bad", or "where is the toilet?". But I have mastered "Mwanamume amevaa kofia mbili." The man wears two hats. We're trusting that the more applicable stuff comes later, but are still puzzled as to how some of the necessary terms above will be depicted in purely pictorial form.

So, the upsides are that it's user friendly, it's completely in Swahili, and the format makes it kind of like a game, so you never get bored or disengaged. As to whether it's effective, we'll have to wait to find out.

5.9.09

Shot Through

A while back, our Knox pastor Chuck Jacob made a comment to the effect that, if you were hoping to avoid getting your hands dirty in the problems of life, then you probably have the wrong religion. In other words, that's what we do.
This was remarkable to me, because as a physician, sometimes I would be overcome with all the brokenness around me. Broken homes, broken bodies, broken minds, broken relationships. I just wanted to spend some time with someone who was whole. And though there is something to be said for the idea of a retreat, by and large, I wouldn't begrudge anyone the observation that "You're a doctor. What did you expect?"
And then, stunned at my own amazing connection, I realized that Jesus had made it thousands of years ago, and in fact I've heard it innumberable times. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." (Matt 9:12)


Shot Through

The world is shot through with holes
Riddled with bullets, haggard and old
It seemed to be fresh, the breezes new
But you put your nose down to the ground and find that it’s not true

I set out to heal what I thought was a leak
Loosened the dirt, my feet in a creek
Downstream a rapid that weathers me down
Shooting me through with current that threatens to drown

And it’s always been this way, whether I would let it be seen

And if you would bring light
You must dive into the darkness
before you find the tinder you can strike to break the night
And if you’d bring a balm
You must dress the wound
and bring your fingers to the skin
where you can pour the ointment on
For it is the sick
It is the broken that need a physician

It’s still hard to believe
That such a change can spread so quickly through the trees
From afar, the leaves are whole and new
But autumn knows that really they have been shot through

Never looking in, and never looking close would cause me to believe
That everything is void of scars, but never looking hard
Would let me think that all is whole
All the while the sun is shining in where all the gaps are

They’re not as they once were, tremble when breezes stir

And if you would bring love,
then come and wrap arms around the terrified
Who’ve caused the crimes you never have dreamed of
For you and I have been loved like this

3.9.09

Trust and Real Estate - Part 2

I wrote earlier about the lessons learned thus far from the difficulties in selling our home. I was struck, as I just reread those words how all of the lessons learned up until that posting have continued to be my education from that day until the present. And I guess they will continue from here, as well.

However, since it has been a few months, I thought I would post an update regarding our progress, and maybe some "thought nuggets" from it.

We still have our home on the market, and a couple weeks ago, came finally to the decision point that we were going to further lower our home price, which means delaying our departure to Kenya a bit, so that we can work some locum tenens (physician temp work) to raise capital to pay back the mortgage. (I won't delve into the reasons behind this decision. Suffice to say that Plan A did not happen, and we're doing some adjusting.)

So, for the months of October and November, I will be a staff physician at an urgent care in Gallup, New Mexico, for an Indian Health Service Navajo facility. It is an opportunity to serve a needy population and work in cross-cultural settings, but still not where we want to be. Then, in early December, we will be the last of the McCropder families to arrive in Kenya.

A few thoughts:

1. This process has reminded me of a comment regarding a passage of John's Gospel: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes." (3:8) The comment was that we often think of this as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, but the following verse corrects this: "So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." It's a metaphor for us, instead.

I've felt a lot like this recently, living each day unsure of where we'll be and when, living to wake up and find the manna on the ground. Before landing in New Mexico, I thought we were headed to Alaska, Maine, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, and Michigan. It's a wild ride, and it refreshes my spirit, while it stresses my flesh.

2. This process brings up the question: What do I do with this unwelcome turn of events in my life? The Christian discussion of this is incomplete without mentioning that we can trust that God is working his will, even when we don't see it. We are little children, or even less intelligently, little sheep, and he is wiser, and knows what is going on.

Can I know this? Or will it always require faith to say that this is true? Yes, it does require faith. On the flip side, to assert that God isn't working out his good (and even best) plans through these unwelcome circumstances is equally a statement that requires faith, since the truth of the situation requires a knowledge of all ends of a scenario, which is not, and likely never will be, available to us in total.

Thus, this unwelcome scenario has me asking the same questions (although I ask them on a smaller scale) that my patients ask when they get sick. Uncertainty. Change of plans. And a need for faith, if one is to continue to believe that God is at work. Valuable lessons, I admit.