Budding Ballerinas

With so many little girls around, there are many "girlie" activities going on all the time around the McCropder-plex at Tenwek. Not so many days ago, Elise Cropsey, Anna Fader, and Hannah Bemm all got on their ballerina skirts. Maggie McLaughlin joined in the action (by putting on her bathing suit). The girls were all posed and ready for their photo shoot in front of a bush when some biting ants made their appearance. Hysterics ensued. Then calm. And a re-posing in a safe place by the stairs. :)


Truth is Stranger than...

Our friend James Paternoster sent us this story...a TRUE story, which occurred just recently in the DRC (Congo). Read on and be amazed.

A small airliner crashed into a house, killing a British pilot and 19 others after a crocodile smuggled into the aircraft in a sports bag escaped and started a panic.

It has now emerged that the crash was caused by the concealed reptile escaping and causing a stampede in the cabin, throwing the aircraft off-balance.

A lone survivor apparently relayed the bizarre tale to investigators.

The crocodile survived the crash, only to be dispatched with a blow from a machete.

Danny Philemotte, the Dutch pilot and 62-year-old owner of the plane's operator, Filair, struggled in vain with the controls, with Chris Wilson, his 39-year-old First Officer from Shurdington, near Cheltenham, Glocs. The plane was on a routine flight from the capital, Kinshasa, to the regional airport at Bandundu when the incident unfolded, on August 25. It crashed into a house just a few hundred feet from its destination. The occupants of the property were outside at the time.

According to the inquiry report and the testimony of the only survivor, the crash happened because of a panic sparked by the escape of a crocodile hidden in a sports bag. One of the passengers had hidden the animal, which he planned to sell, in a big sports bag, from which the reptile escaped as the plane began its descent into Bandundu.

A report of the incident said: "The terrified air hostess hurried towards the cockpit, followed by the passengers." The plane was then sent off-balance "despite the desperate efforts of the pilot", said the report. The plane was a Czech-made Let L-410 Turbolet, one of more than 1,100 produced as short-range transport aircraft and used mainly for passenger services.



Tanzania Surgical Safari 2010: To Tanganyika and Back Again

I'll be honest, life's been a bit crazy lately and the impending Tanzania (TZ) trip wasn't helping much in that category.  For the past six months I had been struggling with bureaucracies to get a Tanzanian medical license despite having spent a lot of money.  I was tired enough that the prospect of not getting my license and having to cancel the trip actually had a bit of appeal.  But, sure enough, my medical license was approved with just a bit of time to spare.  Then there was packing. 

The week leading into the expedition I was away at a much needed retreat in Mombasa and could not be involved in packing whatsoever.  As I left for Mombasa, I knew we were critically low on viscoelastic (a clear gel needed for eye surgery which had been on order for 6 months and still hadn't arrived!) and our portable surgical microscope was broken.  Both are essential.  I was consciously trying to trust God and the eye staff, but the OCD devil in me sure wasn't happy.  He was saying, "Think of the 40+ person team and hundreds of patients in TZ depending on you.  Think of the thousands of dollars invested.  All it takes is one thing missing (viscoelastic, microscope, generator, blown microscope bulb with no spare, wrong power cord...) to ruin the mission." 

No worries.  Even if I wasn't feeling particularly up to going on a surgical expedition, apparently God was interested in making it happen.  The eye staff seamlessly packed without me, and honestly, they did a much better job than I could have done.  During my week away in Mombasa, a visitor from the USA brought out the part needed to fix the microscope, and, although 6 months late, we finally received our order of 1,000 vials of viscoelastic.  Wow.  So off we left for Nairobi packed into the Jolly Green Giant (perhaps her max load to date) to spend the night near the airport.

We were up at 5:00 am to catch our Cesana Caravan from Wilson Airport.

After a small hassle from the customs folks about our strange, expensive-looking eye equipment, we were in the air with AIM AIR.

After one refueling stop and 5+ hours in the sky, we officially reached the "back forty" of TZ.  Our airstrip was on the edge of Lake Tanganyika (world's longest lake) and at the foot of the Mahale Mountains which form the boundary of Mahale National Park, one of the more remote national parks in the world.  Once dropped off on its shores by airplane or boat, it is accessible only on foot. 

Above: the Tenwek Eye Unit team at Mahale airstrip with our fancy new scrubs.  Thanks Ben!

We were then transported to the local government health center by helicopter.  Our equipment had to go by boat.

As expected, the helicopter got the local kids (and me) worked-up into a frenzy.

The obligatory Obama twins were spotted once again, just as they were upon our landing in Akot, Sudan earlier this year (below).  

This whole trip was organized by Hope of the Nations Bible College in Kigoma, TZ.  They stopped classes for the week and boated all the students and faculty down the lake to assist us in caring for the patients physically and spiritually.  They also held kids' clubs and went into the community to mobilize the blind and share the good news of Jesus Christ, The Hope of the Nations.  Below are some of the the key organizers and docs involved. 


(Left to Right: me; Dr. Norbert - medical director of the health center who invited us; Dr. Kabadi - Tanzanian ophthalmologist and friend of Dr. Norbert, Dr. Steve Anderson - ophthalmologist joining us all the way from Indonesia; Dr. Len Ramsey - medical doc and the chopper pilot with Hope of the Nations! 
First, we settled into our abodes for the week.  My bed was strategically placed under the lake front window to absorb in sponge-like fashion as much rainfall as possible during the night storms coming off the lake.

Next, we screened the patients already waiting for us, and we got the OR up and running.  Our very first case that evening was on our own team member who gashed his hand upon arrival by falling into the lake onto sharp rocks.  Thankfully, we had a microscope for his tendon repair.  Other than some numbness of the pinky, he's got full function of the digit despite having me for his hand surgeon using ophthalmic suture.


Below: patients on post-operative day #1waiting to have their patches removed.  This is always a special time.


We had several patients originating from the other side of Lake Tanganyika (Democratic Republic of Congo, aka former Zaire).  They tended to be on the smaller size as you can see from the picture below.   

An Mzee quietly enjoying his first look around in a long time. 

This lady obviously has a huge goiter, but also notice the white pupils.  Those are blinding cataracts.  We did surgery on one eye with great success, but when she heard that her doctor loved Jesus, she was a bit upset.  She was Muslim and couldn't believe someone who loved Jesus would do something like that for her.  She did get over her perplexity and had her other eye done at the end of the week.  She was seeing 20/25 when she left!  She begged us to remove her goiter, but obviously, this was not the setting to attempt such a feat.  

Below is another woman who was accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter.  She left one happy grandma. 

This is the last day's post-ops.  They were a particularly fun group.

All in all, we saw over 400 patients.  Many were given their sight back just with simple glasses that could not otherwise be obtained easily in this area, but seventy eyes needed surgery (mostly cataracts) in order to see again.  Many heard about Jesus for the first time in this mostly Muslim area, and many professions of faith were made.  Ten were baptized publicly on the shore of their village on the last two days of the outreach.  God was touching the lives of these folks indeed.  

I, too, was deeply refreshed during the quiet morning hours spending time in prayer and God's Word at the lake's edge.  God needed me to have my vision for life and ministry renewed as well.  God didn't need me to go on the trip.  I needed to be on the trip.


As I sailed away from this little peninsula for the airstrip, it was evident that God had been at work in me and through me, despite of me.  God is good.  Thanks for all of your prayers.   

This Just In...

From one of our correspondents in the field, Dan Galat. Possibly the ultimate matatu decal -- pretty much impossible to beat.

The Luxury Shuttle featuring Jesus and the Playboy Bunnies.
This gives El-Shedai & Rihanna a run for their money.


Favorite Matatu Decals

Most vehicles in Kenya, especially the matatu "taxis", have phenomenal decals, giving a glimpse into the owner's mind. Tangential thinking, one of my specialties. Thus, I, John, have been commissioned to digitally capture as many as possible for the McCropders. I shamelessly photograph other vehicles whenever possible. I rarely drive without myself or shotgun having a camera ready at all times, and matatu stops in large cities are a proverbial gold-mine. Of the top 50+ captured so far, here are just a few of our favorites to wet your appetite.

Driver and the "fare collector" enticing passengers with a handsome pose for the camera. We weren't sure if PACE MAKER is referring to what the matatu does or what is keeping it alive.

It's not an easy job. Right or left, gas or brake, EL-SHEDAI or RIHANNA?
Tough decisions must be made daily by matatu drivers the world over.

AMPHIBIAN ASSAULT: a plague of biblical proportions indeed.

STUNNING LIKE MY DADDY: Who knew a van could look so good?

The Small Lamb (right) takes on the much larger LAPTOP INTERNET on the Mombasa-Nairobi gauntlet.

CRUNK Aint DEAD: Crunk has a special place in our hearts as it was actually used by the McCropder boys. Anyone have any ideas outside of The Emperor's New Groove (Jay's favorite movie), who Crunk might be? This one if for you, Dykstra.

After leaving Crunk, we then boarded Baby Face with 30+ passengers (official counts all concur, 30+) for the last leg of our journey that day. A picture of Baby Face and Fader was a must.

OBAMA, NIKE swoosh. Yes we can. Just do it!

ISRAEL VIBRATION: Perhaps this is the feeling one gets when alignment gets neglected for too many years. Luckily, this guy has four spares on the roof when all four wheels go simultaneously. Interestingly, there is an ISRAEL VIBRATION JR., but he has been illusive to capture on film.

Speaking of JR's, here's TORMENTA 2. Appropriately named. This will be anyone's fate who dares book a ticket to ride. (Below the windshield says in silver, blood-dripping letters NO PHOTOGRAPHY). It had to be done.

The sheer energy and money that went into this paint job is mind boggling. She does look like a comfy ride though.

Many thanks to Scotch and Baby Face for their contributions to the collection. If you want more, let me know. This is just the tip of the burg, baby.

Yours Truly,

Mashujaa (Heroes') Day

One of the disadvantages of living in another country is that uniquely American holidays (such as the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving) are not recognized which means that we still have to go to work unless we use a vacation day.  On the flip side, we do get to celebrate Kenya’s holidays.  Kenyatta Day, celebrated on October 20th, honors all the heroes who died fighting for independence and was named after Kenya’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta.  The new constitution (adopted only a few months ago) renamed this holiday “Mashujaa Day” (meaning Heroes’ Day).  In a speech today, President Kibaki stated, “Mashujaa are men and women who have made a lasting mark in the lives of fellow Kenyans and in the history and development of our country. They are men and women who have taken great risks in service to save, advance and protect their fellow citizens. These are also men and women whose hard work, courage and perseverance have had a great impact on the socio-economic well being of our people.” 
Photo:  Mzee Jomo Kenyatta

We had our own little Heroes’ Day celebration tonight at Alyssa’s house.  Those in attendance each shared about personal heroes, almost all of whom were family members -- grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, & fathers.  We appreciate all the heroes in our lives who have influenced us and given us a wonderful heritage.  Happy Mashujaa Day!      

This photo was taken on 20/10/2010 @ 20:10PM!!



The dashed and solid yellow lines that sometimes appear down the center of the roads here in Kenya are deceitfully simple. Driving to Mombasa, I constantly ran through a complicated algorithm of factors that must be processed before attempting to pass a vehicle on the highway. My thoughts went something like this:

Hmm, that truck up there is going very slow in front of me (it could be going anywhere from 10 mph to 50 mph depending on its load and the incline of the road). The billowing black exhaust pouring from its muffler has good potential to make one of my daughters carsick if we are stuck behind this truck for a while. Can I pass the truck? Well, I do see a bus coming toward me in the other lane, but it is still quite far off, so I think I could make it around this truck if it is a school bus (which would travel at 50 mph), but not if it is a public bus (which would travel at 70 mph). It looks like a school bus. OK, now are there any potholes in the passing lane that would destroy our van’s suspension? No. Ok, are there any potholes in this lane that would cause the truck ahead to swerve into my passing lane? No. Are there any cars (which can travel at 70-90 mph) passing the bus up ahead which would make this endeavor tight, or any cars coming from behind me which would sideswipe me when I pull out? I don’t think so. Are there any motorcycles in the oncoming lane? If so, is there a shoulder present, and could the motorcycle just drive on the shoulder while I am passing? Our van is pretty loaded down. Can I accelerate fast enough to pass this truck on a mild incline? If I don’t do it now, I have to slow way down and then it will take a long time to gain momentum again. Is the road really wide enough right here to handle passing traffic? Yes. Any curves in the road to block my vision? No. Any police checks ahead, where they lay metal spikes across the road forcing only 1 vehicle to pass at a time? No. OK, it looks like we’ll try this one.

So I pull out, only to realize I forgot to look to the side of the road where there is a herd of livestock, and one cow looks like it is going to make a break for it. So I slow back down and crouch behind the lumbering truck to await my next opportunity.

All this lurching around can be quite perilous for those who get carsick.


Post-Resident Mombasa Retreat

The Jolly Green Giant (AKA the McCropder van) rolled back into Tenwek on Saturday afternoon after spending a week at the beach in Mombasa.  It was a great time of refreshment and encouragement for all of us.  Here's a brief recap of our week away....

The week began last Saturday with all the Samaritan's Purse Post-Residents gathering at a guesthouse in Nairobi.  Altogether, there were 10 Post-Residents along with their spouses and 13 children, from three different mission hospitals in Kenya.  We had lunch together (a LOT of pizza) and enjoyed catching up.  Two of these families weren't able to continue on with us to the retreat, so it was good to spend some time with them.  (Pictured below from left to right:  Sarah & Malin Friess, Alyssa Pfister, Faders, John, Christina Francis, McLaughlins, Rhett Shirley, Kyle & Vanessa Jones, with Jessica & Megan Shirley kneeling in the front.)

On Sunday morning, the guys left early for the 10-hour drive to Mombasa while the ladies took the 45-minute flight from Nairobi with 4 lap babies.  We settled into the two beach houses that we had rented for the week & decided who was going to stay where (a good exercise in teamwork and decision-making).  After the kids were in bed, we enjoyed a time of worship.  The main house had great gathering places for all of us to eat and meet together. 

James Paternoster, one of the elders from our home church, was able to come & lead our retreat.  He has worked for InterVarsity at the University of Michigan for several decades, with a focus on the graduate schools (law, medical/dental, business).  He’s also a missionary kid from Nigeria, so he was able to understand and speak to our specific situation. 

The focus of the retreat was on being sons and daughters of Abraham.  We studied the story of Abraham and had a different theme for each day – leaving behind, living in waiting, and ordering to hope.  It was a great time to reflect on our experiences over the last year and to think about God’s calling on our lives for the future.  Thank you Paternoster family for the sacrifices that you made to serve us and thank you Tang family for the goodies that you sent our way! 

During our morning sessions at the main house, the kids were busy partying at the second house.  They had a good time together.  We are really thankful that Ednah, who works for two of the families from Kapsowar Hospital, was able to come and help with the children.  Childcare was one of our concerns going into the retreat, but each parent only ended up missing one hour out of all the sessions. 

The afternoons were free for family time.  The pool and the beach were both fantastic and easily accessible for the kids.  Aunt Alyssa gave daily swim classes for the older kids.  

Each of the couples took turns going out on a date which was a real treat!  John & Jason also had a dirt bike (piki-piki) "date".  

On Thursday, we all enjoyed a glass bottom boat ride, complete with snorkeling. 

On our last night together, we ventured out to a local restaurant.  We tested the limits of Jolly and discovered that we are able to fit 20 people as long as 8 of those people are under the age of 5.  

We closed out the evening with the best ice cream yet in Kenya, rivaling Ben & Jerry’s in my opinion.  Then again, maybe I’m just starting to forget what some things taste like after a year. 

We arrived home safe and refreshed, yet grateful to have the kids back in their own beds!  Thank you for your prayers during our travels and time together. 

Genesis 15:1  “Fear not, Abram:  I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

Faith grasps the promise, rests on the promise-maker, rejects alternative offers, and reaches toward the goal.