31.10.09

McCropder-plex Revealed!

Jess Cropsey just spent some time taking pictures of our new digs and passed them along! All three families will be living in the same building. There are five units: 2 upstairs and 3 downstairs. The Cropseys are on the top right, the Faders on the bottom right, and McLaughlins bottom middle in this picture.
Here's the view out the front, where another Post Residency family (the Galats, see blog on right hand side of our blog) live. I'm sure anyone old enough will be spending a lot of time climbing that tree!This is the McLaughlin front door...And the Fader front door...Here's the McCropder garden, which we decided to jointly hire a gardener for. Fresh produce, coming right up!
This is the Fader kitchen and some lovely women who are cleaning up our apartments for us. They might stay on to help out one of our families when we arrive.
The Fader living room. Looks almost identical to the McLaughlin living room (and I'm assuming, the Cropsey living room as well). You can see Elise in front of the fireplace, too.The bedrooms and bathrooms are pretty standard (flush toilets! running water!). This makes our imminent departure seem all the more real!

30.10.09

Responsibility and Compassion

Yesterday, a chronic low back pain patient sits across from me. "My back has been killing me for the last few days, since I ran out of my meds."

He is one of the few who has the privilege of having a primary doctor, this area of IHS being severely understaffed. "When is your next appointment with your regular doctor?" I ask.

"Oh, I missed my last appointment, and they were going to set another one up for me, and I haven't heard back from them. That was in September." September? That's almost two months ago.

I pause for a moment and try to sort out the right thing to say. I've heard lines like this so many times in the past month. There's a bunch of thoughts and emotions spinning around in my head, and I'm not sure which direction to go.

"Look, I know the system can be difficult, and I know sometimes you might have limited communication resources, but this is your health and therefore your responsibility. If you don't hear back from them, call them. And then call them again. You've had two months. I know it would be nice if everything would be done for you, but it is and will always ultimately be your responsibility."

He nods graciously and doesn't seem overly put off by my miniature rant. I pray for the ability to be merciful as I walk out the door to work on his paperwork.

There's another chart waiting for me at my desk area. "Dr. McLaughlin, this is a patient you had instructed to follow-up today, and he didn't show." He is a new diagnosis of diabetes, and terribly symptomatic from it. There's a form for me to fill out, as to whether I called him or sent him a letter, and what follow up he needs. What does he need? He needs to show up for his appointment! If he doesn't care enough about his own health, why should I? The words of Cain spring to my mind, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Important aside: Domestically and abroad, the question of how aid work can stifle initiative and responsibility is an important one. I haven't decided whether my actions or my words were inappropriate, in and of themselves. But that's not the point at present. The point is this:

I tell this to Rachel over a dinner of a precious jar of curry we imported from Phoenix, wanting her to agree that I'm in the right. "Hmm, that doesn't sound very compassionate," she says softly. She also reminds me that this is likely to be all the more potent in Africa, where we have been told (i.e. warned) that losing your temper or speaking in anger is the greatest of cultural sins, and is the quickest way to sever ties with Africans.

Paul says "speak the truth in love." I'd like to think that being right is enough, but it's not.

Bob Lynn is fond of pointing out that the Good Samaritan parable was in response to the question "Who is my neighbor?", and Jesus gives the answer that we are to extended neighborliness wherever it is needed. Am I my brother's keeper? Maybe not by any natural right, but as a Christian, I make others my neighbors, and accept the responsibility that comes with that.

I am grateful that I have a month more to work on this, prior to heading to Kenya. Could this be the reason why God brought us here? I won't presume to say, but we're here, and "as long as it is called Today, let none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

I found this the other day:

“Oh God of Abraham, please give us humble hearts. Oh God of Isaac, please give us thankful hearts. Oh God of Jacob, please give us faith. Let us see Jesus.”

24.10.09

200,000


One of the many things I was hoping to accomplish before we leave for Kenya was to get our 1995 Toyota Camry over 200,000 miles. Not that I was driving with abandon, but we did preferentially use this car over the past few months. Just in time, we have passed this mark with 5 weeks until our departure. The amazing thing is that the car still has no major problems. As the McCropders plan what kind of car to buy in Kenya to share amongst ourselves, my experience with this Toyota will certainly push me to put my vote in for another one – though maybe a Landcruiser instead of a Camry. I wonder how many miles we can clock on our McCropder vehicle over the next many years. Perhaps not 200,000, since the road conditions can be slightly more challenging in Kenya!

22.10.09

Kenya and the Navajo Nation

All is well with the McLaughlin family in the city of Gallup, New Mexico, where we are spending our brief detour on the way to Kenya working at the Gallup Indian Medical Center, which serves the Navajo population, as well as some Zuni as well.

This was, of course, not our first plan, and thus we are searching for God's reasons for bringing us here. We have not yet found it. Maybe we'll never know, but we've realized that knowing is not the crux of the issue, but rather obedience is.

And so we're here. And since we're here, we have noted a number of striking similarities between our life and work here, and what we anticipate it will be in Kenya:

1. Both are very needy medical populations. There is a difference of degree here, and that is part of what draws us to Kenya, but nonetheless the need in the Native American population is great.

2. Being white puts you as a minority. Certainly in the hospital, I am a minority, but even in the town of Gallup, the majority are Native American, Latino, or some mixture of other races.

3. Neither location has a symphony orchestra. (Though I hear the surgeon at Tenwek is a mean pianist.)

4. The elevation is approximately the same in both places, near 7000 feet. Thus, hopefully we can endure the headaches, insomnia, and getting winded walking short distances now as we adjust, and it will then be easier at Tenwek.

5. Both Gallup and Tenwek have zero Target and Trader Joe's stores.

6. Both locations are very multilingual, and thus patient care requires interpreters in both places. Actually, Navajo and Zuni are probably more difficult to learn than Kipsigis and Maasai.

7. Both of these locations see diseases that are not commonly learned in US medical education. At Tenwek, it will be malaria, TB, schistosomias, etc. At Gallup, it is Hantavirus and Plague (Yersinia pestis). I haven't actually seen these diseases yet, but had to go through some tutorials on them before starting, because they do occur not infrequently.

8. Both locations are roughly equidistant from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Amazing, I know. Could it be that these similarities represent the reason why we're here? Time may tell us. In the meantime, we pray for the grace to care for the sick and glorify the Lord each day, wherever he brings us.

15.10.09

African Awesomeness



Because there are not a lot of stories about African ingenuity, and yet there is this striking sense that African problems will need African ingenuity, I wanted to pass on this clip from the Daily Show about William Kamkwamba, who built a windmill out of scrap materials in his village in Malawi, at the age of 14, using a picture he got in a library book.

9.10.09

Hello from Tenwek!


We (the Cropseys) have arrived safe and sound at Tenwek Mission Hospital!  Thank you so much for all of your love, prayers, encouragement and support that made it all possible throughout so many parts of the journey of life to get here.  We are so excited to be here.  

Here's a quick run-down of our travel adventures so far.  Our 13 pieces of checked luggage mostly weighed in at 50.5 pounds at the airport.  The nice man checking us in said he was fine with anything under 51 pounds.  Because our weight was on the money, I could only stuff Candy Land from our box of goodies that we brought just in case we had extra room.  Merry Christmas, Elise.  Due to their weight, my tools didn't make the cut. 

This is where tactical mistake number one occurred.  Much to my excitement, Jess read online that "dull" tools under 7 inches could be put in carry-on bags.  So I put a pair of pliers and a small crescent wrench in my bag.  Well, TSA was unaware of this generous guideline and worked my carry-on over like it had committed a felony.  They did allow my tools after my extremely well packed back was spread all over DTW.  It took a while to figure out how I had managed to fit it all in there the first time.

Tactical mistake number two was accepting non-traditional baggage stubs in Detroit from the "nice" guy mentioned above.  He assured me they would suffice.

Tactical mistake # 3 & 4:  Taking two small munchkins across the world into the heart of Africa without chocolate milk on board the plane.  Elise slept only two hours overnight to Europe.  Micah took occasional cat naps of unimpressive duration.  Many "I want mommy" and "I want chocy milk" were exclaimed.  Due to your prayers only, no extended screaming spells occurred.  We were quite tired upon landing, but we had to rush to our next flight as we had a tight layover. 

Tactical mistake number five was thinking a carry-on is to be packed with the density of nuclear grade plutonium.  In my experience, if something is really heavy but legal, it should go in the carry-on, thus ensuring a much larger volume of junk can be placed in the checked baggage.  Books being a prime example.  This is what I learned from my father in the 80's.  Well folks, it's no longer the 80's, especially in Europe.

Tactical mistake number six was assuming my carry-on was clear to go once through DTW.  Ahhh, the old Dutch trick of putting security at the boarding gate.  Upon x-ray number one, they didn't like what they saw.  Despite her native strength, Dutch lady #1 liked neither the lead-like weight of my carry-on, nor my tools.  Thankfully, Dutch lady #2, who extracts pounds of flesh for such violations, was not at her desk, so they checked my carry-on as my 14th bag, left my pliers and wrench alone, and didn't charge me with a crime or a fee!  I'm really thankful they never picked up Jess' carry-on which I had packed because it weighed twice as much sans tools!  

The flight to Nairobi was uneventful other than our children did not sleep (nor we), but they were quite well- behaved for having pulled all-nighters with little sleep.

Having two children with car seats meant being the last off the 747.  Not good for getting through the visa line, but a random agent spotted us at the back of the line and took us to his booth which he was just opening.  He charged only 1/4 of what we thought we would pay for visas.  

We arrived at baggage claim with our baggage on the conveyer belt.  It made it!  Sike.  With amazing efficiency, our luggage made it in near perfect halves (2 of 4 action packers, 3 of 6 rubbermaids, 1 of 2 suitcases, oh and my checked carry-on.  We waited with two kids in melt-down until it was clear no new luggage would be coming.  Upon seeking assistance at the desk, it became quite evident that our  "non-traditional" baggage tags were of "no value."  After significant discussion, signing of papers etc, more screaming of children, we left the airport.

Our very friendly Samaritan's Purse driver took us to the Mennonite Guest house where we met Ben & Jenny Roberts.  We crashed hard, but sadly our kids didn't.  There was a downward spiral of meltdowns lasting for what seemed an eternity.  Because there was only one real mommy, only one child could be quieted at a time.  Sleep.  Then off to the races in the AM to procure all of the stuff we needed before leaving Nairobi.  We spent a lot of money really fast, but our jet-lagged brains didn't really comprehend the true impact of our Shilling spree.  Our luggage showed up at our doorstep, and we left for the 3.5 hour drive across the Rift Valley to Tenwek.  All went smooth.  (Elise is now so tired that she fell asleep while eating her lollipop.)  Our apartment is wonderful.  Everyone has been so helpful getting us settled.  The kids are adjusting well, and we feel very blessed to be here.  Stay tuned for more!

7.10.09

Sent Together to Heal

As many of you readers are aware, the McCropders were commissioned by our home church, Knox Presbyterian in Ann Arbor, several weeks ago (9/27). Although belated, we still thought the important event deserved a post.

Knox was hosting its annual Missions Sunday on the 27th, and the featured topic was Medical Missions. The McLaughlins flew out from Phoenix for the week, John Cropsey flew back from Nepal Friday night, and Abi Fader arrived from Ethiopia two weeks prior, so all 11 McCropders converged (from 3 continents) for the special event. During the service, we were invited up to the front and Pastor Bob and the elders read Scripture over us and prayed for our departure. The Scripture came from Isaiah 61 and Luke 4: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Later on for the special music, Eric and Rachel sang a song entitled, "Sent Together to Heal," written by a woman from Eric's home church in Nashville, and then after the service, we shared both with the adult Sunday school class and with the junior high and high school youth groups. As I think back on the day, it did have a sending out feel to it. The Cropseys departed just one week later, and the McLaughlins left to work in Gallup for 2 months. The next time the McCropders converge, it will be at Tenwek.

One of the things that has been so important to us as a group of families is the idea that we are all coming from one church, sent out from an existing community, and we hope to continue to partner with that community. The church has already contributed a large portion of financial support, and more importantly, prayer and encouragement. It's been incredible to have a chance to meet with all the kids' Sunday school classes, participate in their worship, and know that they are praying for us. Also, Knox members we've never met before have approached us, made connections, and told us they are praying for us and follow our blog. We hope to have at least one group from Knox to come and visit in the next 2 years--pastors, medical professionals, and others with unique gifts willing to serve and encourage the body of Christ.

The idea is partly why I liked the special music song so much. The chorus goes, "You save us, you heal us, you deliver us from every kind of fear. So we'll go wherever you lead; sent together to heal." We go where God leads, and we don't go alone. We go in community, as the McCropders, and we go with the entire body of Christ. The church, Knox specifically but so many more people than just Knox, stands behind us, and goes with us. The great cloud of witnesses. May it be so, even as we are now sent forth.

5.10.09

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Well, the day has finally arrived. The first of the McCropders is departing these shores and crossing over the Big Pond to the land of Africa. The Cropseys depart tonight, connect in Amsterdam, and should arrive in Nairobi around mid-day tomorrow. That just leaves us Mc-Ders lefts over. The Faders will likely be heading over end of November, and the McLaughlins early December, to complete the trio.

Prayer requests for the Cropseys:
-No flight delays or cancellations, and that they make their connection in Amsterdam without difficulty
-All of their bags to arrive on time and in one piece
-Everyone would get some sleep on the plane, and a quick adjustment to the new time zone
-Safety and good health

Hopefully we'll be posting a blog soon with their arrival info and first impressions!