Christmas Highlights

The McCropders’ first Christmas at Tenwek included:

- A festive church celebration of Jesus’s birth
- Christmas carols in the hospital wards after rounds
- Party hats for Micah’s 1st birthday (Christmas Day)- Skype calls with our families- Gifts from the Grandparents- Cookies and gatherings and good food- A Boxing Day picnic- Time with friends- Giving thanks to God for many blessings

Christmas in Kenya did not include:
- Visiting our families and friends in the USA. We really missed you.
- Eggnog
- Ice skating
- Sweaters, jackets, or mittens
- Inflatable yard decorations
- After Christmas sales
- Santa
- Snow
- A dramatization of the nativity stable scene. So Anna came up with her own re-enactment.

Merry Christmas from Kenya


Christmas Eve at Tenwek

530p 24.12.09 -

I'm finishing up in the NICU, seeing just a few more crazy small babies before heading home. We've got plans for Micah Cropsey's 1 year old birthday, and a McCropder dinner and caroling session at 600p. It looks like I should have plenty of time.

"Mass casualty," the nurse says, all too calmly.

I look at the pediatrician "Again?" he says. Again?

Now, I don't want to appear ignorant, but sometimes the truth is hard to hide. "Um, what's going on?"

"Come on, were going to Casualty (i.e. the ER). There's been a big bus accident."

What followed was, at the very least, instructive. Apparently what happens when a "mass casualty" occurs in our cachement area of Kenya is that they pretty much call every doctor, and we all meet in Casualty. I arrived to find the Family Practice docs, the pediatrician, a few surgeons, some OBGYNs, some orthopods, and a slew of interns, residents, and PAs. I also found the first and most severe victim of the accident, who was likely the most mutilated human I've ever seen that was still sitting up, talking, and even flailing around. (Details upon request only)

And then everyone set to work. Xrays were ordered, pupils checked, antibiotics hung, wounds cleaned, and the worst of them taken to theatre (OR). Being as green as I am, I chipped in, but wasn't as busy (or useful) as the veterans, so I had a moment to observe.

I know these professionals, and I know that they want desperately to be with their families on Christmas Eve. But they and their families have been changed by the incarnation of the Son of God, by a baby who caused Mary a good bit of inconvenience, but who bore much much more. There was great need, and so at great cost, God has come and brought salvation. And so do his followers. Regardless of whether they were on call, they were here to meet need, and they bore it with joy. As it turned out, many of the patients went off to another hospital, so our influx was somewhat shortened, and most everyone got home within a few hours. However, no one knew that at the beginning, and yet there was no grumbling, just a desire to make sure that care was delivered, and needs met, as best as could be.


Trust and Real Estate - Part 4

Today, we have special reason to celebrate. Here's the story. After delay and more delay, our real estate saga finished unexpectedly quickly, and with way better terms than we had hoped. We are thankful for this, and thankful to those of you who supported us through this, and thankful to God. We may or may not learn reasons for this saga.

Also, possibly of interest, some shopping tales and a video home tour of our apartment here at Tenwek (in 3 parts).


Tenwek FAQ - Part 2

FAQ #3: What types of animal wildlife live near Tenwek?

Well, I now feel qualified to answer this question, because Anna has already been the proud owner of no less than four small pets. Luckily our apartment does not allow pet monkeys, zebras, or elephants.

First, Anna brought home Sluggie the slug.

When Sluggie perished, she found Snailie the snail.

When Mommy released Snailie the snail, Anna talked her friends into catching her a frog.

Another kid offered to trade Froggie for a cool bug. Thus she was given Deedee the bug, who is still in captivity in the living room.

She is pretty excited about trapping bugs.

Little does Anna know, we also have geckos who roam our walls at night feasting on the mosquitos who like to feast on us.

We also have beautiful butterflies, like this one that we noticed last week while taking a walk.

What Anna really wants is a chameleon like the ones that our neighbors found in their yard.

For now, thankfully, she seems to have changed her focus. Today the object of her affection was a squash.

Pretending to be Mary with her squash named baby Jesus, she insisted upon carrying him around in modified Kenyan baby-carrying style.


Tenwek FAQ – Part 1

Here on the McCropder blogspot, we will attempt to answer our readership’s Frequently Asked Questions. We’ll tackle a few at a time.

FAQ #1: How are the McCropder apartments furnished?
You will note several apartment amenities in this picture of the Fader living room. Couch, chairs, dining room table with rose bouquet. The door to the left center leads to a small hallway, through which you can see a yellow bedspread, a blue mosquito net, and a bedroom window. The door to the right center is to the kitchen, in which you see a refrigerator. That’s right, we have a refrigerator, an oven, and even a washing machine (for which we are especially grateful, since 4 of the 5 McCropder children wear cloth diapers). We do not have dryers or dishwashers, as you can see.

Running water is a nice feature of these apartments as well. The water comes out of the tap in a murky shade of dirt color. Not good for drinking. So we collect rain water, boil it, and then filter it in a water filter as seen here.

FAQ #2: How do letters, Christmas cards, and packages arrive at Tenwek?

The US Postal system can be used to send mail to Tenwek. Letters and cards usually take approximately two weeks in transit. The McCropders are not opposed to post-holiday arrival of Christmas cards. Bubble-type package mailing envelopes usually arrive within a few weeks as well. The mailing address here is:

Tenwek Hospital
PO Box 39
Bomet, Kenya 20400
East Africa



In a transition like this, one of course builds up more expectations that one realizes, some of which may be totally unfounded. ("I don't know why I thought it would be like that, but I did...") These expectations can lead to surprises, some pleasant, and some less so. A few surprises from our first few days:
Pleasant: Vines growing in through our shower window in Nairobi.

Less-than-pleasant: Our first shower at Tenwek being ice cold and filled with enough sand to make the bathtub floor look like we just returned from the beach.

Pleasant: Each apartment has both 110 and 220 electrical outlets

Less-than-pleasant: We left one appliances' AC adapter in Nashville, Tennessee.

Pleasant: The Rift Valley escarpment is more beautiful than we imagined, and our wildlife viewing began on the road to Tenwek, where we saw about 100 gazelles and 100 zebras.
Pleasant: Our second shower having nice warm water, and less silt than the first.

Pleasant: Our "shamba" (garden) is growing some cilantro.

Less-than-pleasant: Unthinking, I discovered it was really cilantro by chewing down on it, without washing, before remembering that many neighborhood pets relieve themselves in our shamba.

Pleasant: My favorite carbonated beverage, Bitter Lemon, is here in abundance

Less-than-pleasant: Mosquitoes are even more abundant, though apparently malaria is still rare.

Not surprising: Cows on the street by the dukas (shops).
Not surprising: Anna Fader takes to Tenwek like a fish to water.

Not surprising: Two nights ago, when the Cropseys hosted us for a McCropder dinner, John demonstrated how well he is adapting to "Africa Time".


Team McCropder Reunited

The three-part migration is complete. The McLaughlins are settling in. The adventure is underway.


The Perfect Journey

Rachel and I talked a couple days ago about feeling like Daniel Day Lewis and his two buddies, the last 3 Mohicans, when everyone else has gone on. Not just the Cropders, but also many of our friends linked on the sidebar.

But all that has changed. Last night around 11pm, Nairobi time, we pulled into the Mennonite guest house in Nairobi, with visas in our passports, among the newest residents of the country of Kenya. We were delighted at breakfast to find Alyssa Pfister (see sidebar), who came into town to meet us, and tomorrow evening will be the long-awaited southeastern hemisphere McCropder reunion extravaganza! The jetlag is significant, but Maggie is a champ.

If we could have planned the details of such a trip (which one never can), we would have planned it just as it happened. Totally amazing. Things we are very very thankful for:

-Getting to see all of Eric's family within 24 hours of leaving Nashville
-Making all our 3 flights, in Nashville, Detroit, and Amsterdam
-Never having to check Eric's guitar (they let us carry it on for both int'l flights!)
-Getting an empty seat between us to Amsterdam, where Maggie could sleep in her carseat.
-Getting into the "baby row" to Nairobi, where Maggie got to sleep in a wall bassinet.
-Paying the minimum visa fees in Nairobi, with a nice guy to process our application who is from the region near Tenwek Hospital.
-Maggie having zero significant crying spells the entire time
-ALL our luggage (all 8 pieces plus the carseat) arriving the first time through
-the grace that all this represents to us, confirming our decisions, in a time of a whirlwind of change

Thanks to all for supporting us so much in the last days in the US.


Quotes on Leaving Home

The following is a somewhat random collection of quotes that have been running through my head, mostly encouraging, in regards to leaving home:

"Leave your father's land and go to the place that I will show you." God to Abraham

"I'm home anywhere if you are where I am." Rich Mullins

"We ain't never done this thing, but I guess that's how it goes. You breath deep when it comes to you and hold tight when it blows." Don Chaffer

"Heaven holds a promise for all the friends we've left behind. Time is not the ruler that I thought he was." Andrew Osenga

"I believe in... the communion of the saints." The Apostles' Creed

"I'll walk in the rain of his mercy, let it soak me down to the bone, splash in it's puddles and dance in its streams as I go... all the way home." Andrew Peterson

"A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships are for." Matthew Perryman Jones

We're back in Nashville, packing up our own luggage, getting ready to head out. Some many emotions all at the same time.


Faders Arrive at Tenwek

We are so happy to be here at Tenwek! We had a smooth trip, and we have moved into our apartment (with a lot of help from the Cropseys). Jason has done hospital orientation, and he starts work tomorrow. The girls are having a fantastic time, as you will see.
Thank you for your prayers in this move.
Jetlag is hitting in full force here, so in lieu of written descriptions, here are some pictures of our trip and first days at Tenwek.

Anna rides with the luggage in Nairobi. 11 of 12 pieces arrived with us, and the 12th arrived to us today.

We sleep under mosquito nets here. Anna loves it. Yesterday she forgot what to call it, and she called it a spider net.

Here’s our apartment building home. We live on the first floor, these two windows, and the Cropseys live on the top floor. Anna and Elise are good buddies already.


What Would You Pack - Part 2

The Faders are packed and ready to fly to Kenya.

I have concluded that packing for a move to Africa can be particularly challenging for someone of Dutch heritage. I, Heather, am 100 percent Dutch, which means that I have been genetically and culturally preprogrammed for extreme thriftiness.

This causes trouble in that I tend to resist throwing things away and leaving things behind. We Dutch people don’t throw away anything that could still serve a purpose. My father reuses his plastic sandwich bags until they disintegrate. I still run in a sweatshirt that I acquired when I was in 4th grade. It is now 23 years old and unraveling. I thought I should bring it to Kenya, but Jason put his foot down.

In addition to thriftiness, Dutch folks also have a tendency towards caution and preparedness. My parents never let the gas gauge fall below half full. I always keep a stockpile of household necessities, because we Dutch never run out of anything; we wouldn’t want to have to pay full price if we ever bought anything in a pinch.

It seems that these Dutch traits do not encourage the process of condensing one’s belongings down to twelve suitcases. But we did it. Now I really hope that all twelve pieces of luggage will arrive in Nairobi with us on Tuesday.

In other news, Abi is doing GREAT. Here is a picture of how happy she is about heading to Kenya tomorrow.


Short Stories from Tenwek Eye Unit - Son of the Left Handed One

I hear the word "Mosonik" coming from the little, old lady sitting in front of me.  There were many other words, but this one I knew.  It means, "left handed one."  In general, being the left handed one is bad anywhere outside of the West, and this was clearly directed at me.  She seemed nice enough.  She was probably 80-ish, worn by years of labor in the fields.  She had gargantuan earlobes, stretched as is typical of the older Kipsigis, and a particularly captivating smile.  Why the insult?  I had come from Tenwek 150 kms on bad roads to the bush to help her.  Well, after some investigation, she was only calling me the son of Mosonik.  That makes it all better!  Would you rather be called a donkey, or the son of a donkey.  I can't decide.

This is actually the greatest of compliments.  As it turns out, Dr. Steury, who was the first doctor at Tenwek 50 years ago, became known as Daktari Mosonik.  He was not left handed, but when the Kipsigis saw him operate and use his left hand with such agility, word quickly spread through Kipsigis land, and apparently to this nice lady in the bush.  He was much loved and revered.  It is told that people would walk days to be treated by Mosonik, many of them walking by other rural dispensaries on the way.  Why?  "Because his hands are gentle."  He served the Kipsigis with Christ-like compassion and humility.  I'm sure I'm not the first young mission doctor to be called the son of Mosonik, but I still count it a great honor.

As I examined her with my flashlight in our make-shift office in the x-ray room, it was clear that she was blinded in both eyes by cataracts.  Her only chance to see again was to have surgery.  She and several other surgical patients waited for us to finish up our screening camp at this rural government hospital.  Then, we all hopped in the Tenwek Eye Unit bus for the long ride back to the hospital.

She was admitted that Monday night to the eye ward.  On Tuesday morning, she and the other folks enjoyed some singing and a brief testimony of God's goodness with the eye staff.  Everyone then walked next door to our pre-op testing area.  My lady was the first to be scanned.  We measured the curve of her cornea (the clear windshield) and the length of her eye with an ultrasound.  This allows us to replace her cataract with an artificial lens of the appropriate strength so she can see clearly with no to minimal correction with glasses.  In the picture below, she is sitting next to me on the far right of the picture.

Did I mention this was going to be my first small incision extracap cataract case in Africa?  Everything is different.  The microscope, the instruments, the staff . . . NO PRESSURE.  I'm just the Son of Mosonik to this lady.  Off to the O.R. we go.  Thankfully, God was gracious and allowed everything to go smoothly.

Post-op day one she looked great.  She and her friends got a ride back to the bush with their new eyes.  Below is our  post-op day 10 visit.  She is waiting to get enough money to do her second eye.  I admit, she's may favorite patient to see.  She always brightens my day.


Introducing Alyssa

There are, of course, many new people that we will be getting to know in the next several months, and we will try to introduce some of them as they come along. Alyssa Pfister is a Internal Medicine and Pediatrics doc (and thus will be an oft-utilized reference point for Eric's work) from Nashville, who has been in Alabama for the last several years. We all met her 1 year ago in Louisville, when it became evident that she would also be in the Post-Residency Program, and she would also be at Tenwek hospital. At that time, we offered to rename our group the PmcCropders (with a silent "P", of course, as in "Pfister"), but she said she wasn't ready for that kind of commitment. We also got to spend some more time with her in Bristol this last spring (as pictured above), and now she is partying hard with the Cropseys in Kenya, as the rest of us wait for our departure dates.

So, her own blog, permanently located on the right sidebar, will offer another insight into our environment at Tenwek, and will also sometimes have overlapping experiences with the McCropders. Currently, you can find pictures of her with the Cropseys, hiking down to the nearby waterfall/hydroelectric dam.

PS. After visiting her blog, you may think all Kenya bloggers are required by international law to use the same blogger template. That is not the case.

Africa is Rich

A link to a very interesting site, Aid Watch, and particularly to their recent post, "Africa is Rich", which is an excellent reminder that people and cultures are multidimensional, and Africa is much more than "the poorest place".


What Would You Pack?

The Cropseys have made it through. The Faders are in the throes of it all. And the McLaughlins see it looming on the horizon. What am I talking about? Packing, of course. I thought it would be an interesting exercise for our faithful readers to think about what you would pack if you were leaving the country for two years...and you had around 8-10 suitcases or so (for your whole family). 50 pound limit, of course. I think the Cropseys had 13 bags, and the Faders get 11, while the McLaughlins get 8 (a complicated algorithm based on the number of children you have and the number of plane tickets purchased for your family). We are moving into furnished apartments, so no worry about carting your bedroom set over, but there are definitely kitchen gadgets that need bringing. The Cropseys brought their Kitchenaid mixer. The McLaughlins are bringing a food processor. And things like laptops are a must. We need to bring some bedsheets, obviously clothes, entertainment, and things that would make our house a home for the next two years.

So I ask again, what would you bring? Things on our list currently include Eric's guitar, Maggie's Christmas toys, and a cuckoo clock from my parents' trip to Germany in 1977. Our Pampered Chef knives, and a down mattress pad. Luxuries? Yeah, I guess. But some things are worth bringing. Do we take the Christmas ornaments to start some traditions? Obviously not if it means we leave the 20 BumGenius diapers for Maggie. Settlers of Catan? Of course! Betty Crocker? Absolutely. But I have a sinking feeling that when it comes time to pack our pile of necessities into 8 suitcases, some things just aren't going to make the cut. Maybe that means they aren't really necessities after all.


Trust and Real Estate - Part 3

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
By God's grace, there will only be 4 parts, and the next one will be one of resolution.

For better or worse, my habit of turning life updates into sermonettes will not avail today, since I can't think of anything new that I've learned from this process. Not to say that I've mastered the old lessons either.

However, since many of you inquire periodically about the state of our home sale, we wanted to give an update. If you are reading this, you likely already know that our departure has been delayed for two months, while we raise some capital to cover any contingency plans for our home sale difficulties, and we are spending that time working at a Navajo facility in Gallup, New Mexico.

After much deliberation and talking over the nuances with a few trusted people, we decided to pursue a short sale of our house. I won't go into the details of this, but basically we find a buyer for less than our mortgage balance, and propose it to the bank, who hopefully then accepts the offer and forgives the rest of the debt. I know we are far from the only people going through real estate difficulties, and if you have questions about the details, you can contact us.

The next step was to find a buyer. Thankfully, we did not have to lower the price too much more before we had an offer. We have now proposed this offer to the bank (with the help of a short sale expert), and we have anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months before we get a verdict. Thankfully, the proposed buyers are local, and thus are more likely to ride out the long wait. Though this may seem like a headache, we are actually quite excited, that this may signal the end of a very long ordeal.

First, we want to thank those of you who have looked at our difficulties and asked whether or not God wants you to be an agent of help. This is amazingly humbling to us, and we believe it is very near the heart of Christian faith. Thank you.

Second, we hope that this update helps you all to know how to pray for our situation, namely that the buyers stay interested, and that the bank says yes. We're pleased to have crossed this threshold, but the need for trusting God is still very prominent, which I guess is a lesson that is worth continuing to learn.


Short Stories from Tenwek Eye Unit - Part 1

We (the Cropsey gang) had just arrived at Tenwek Hospital.  I (John) wasn't officially starting work until the following week, but I was anxious to see the Eye Unit.  It was a "slow" Friday afternoon around 4 pm, so Ben Roberts (the ophthalmologist I'm joining) said to stop in for a quick tour.  There were exactly three patients left to be seen on my arrival.

The first was a six year old girl.  She had bilateral, pan-uveitic, neuro-retinitis.  Even if you don't know what that means, you know it can't be good, right?  Well, our testing is limited and some Western tests are nearly useless.  So, based on her elevated ESR (a blood marker for inflammation in the body) and history, we thought she most likely had tuberculosis in the eyes.  We sent her to peds for a late Friday afternoon lumbar puncture to rule out further central nervous system involvement and systemic treatment.  The peds department is loving me right out of the gate, I'm sure of it.

The next patient Ben runs by me was also a six year old girl presenting with a V-pattern esotropia (eyes turned out and make a V pattern when she looks up and down).  She had swollen optic nerves suggesting possible increased intracranial pressure.  Also, not good.  Imaging with an MRI scan, or at minimum a CT scan is needed.  We don't have either.  The family will have to take the girl over a 100 miles away to find a scanner.  The cost will be an enormous burden for this rural family.  And if the scan confirms an intracranial mass, it will be extremely difficult for them to find a neurosurgeon, let alone pay for one.

To finish my orientation, I finally get to meet an adult.  She is a pleasant 40 y.o. lady who says, "I was sitting under a tree and a fly hit me in the eye.  About five days later I began to lose vision in my right eye."  She is following up several months over due.  Below are pictures of the back of her eye on initial presentation.

For the non-eye folks out there, the pink structure with the white hole in the middle and all the vessels coming out of it is the tip of the brain entering the back of the eye, the optic nerve.  All of the little white "trails" on the nice orange retina are not normal.  It almost looks like worm tracks, doesn't it?  Do you see the larvae next to the right of the optic nerve?  That's right!  He's the white outline chewing away under the retina.  This disease is called "ophthalmomyiasis."  The treatment: cook the bugger with laser!  The problem: he is munching next to the tip of the brain, the part that does the seeing.  Also, not good.  By the time Ben got her to the laser, this is where he had eaten to:

It is clear at the edge of the retina, far away from the optic nerve and central vision!  This is good.  The white patch is from the laser burn which marks the worm's grave.  The woman had done so well after the laser that she did not follow-up as asked.  This was a bummer for Ben because he presented a case series of ophthalmomyiasis x 3 at a retina conference the week before in New York City.

This ends my first hour in the Tenwek Eye Unit.  Needless to say, I have many more stories, many of them deeply moving, from my first month here.  I daily find myself seeing things I've never seen before.  I often ask God for wisdom and compassion in clinic and the O.R.  I try to categorize things: Really BAD, bad, probably not bad, no big deal.  If it's towards the badness end of the spectrum, I might grab a book and look for its ugly cousin in the pictures section, and then figure out if it needs to be cut out, treated or just watched.  You can read and see more in Part 2 to come shortly.  Note: all photos were taken with the patient's permission, and this post is being sent before Jessica proof reads it.  This is always a regrettable choice in my experience, but I'm posting it anyways.


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!