When people asked where we had chosen to go, honestly, I was embarrassed. Tenwek was the first missions hospital I had ever heard of, and it is arguably one of the most "famous" hospitals, largely due to the CMDA staff and several books that have been written. It gets 300-400 visitors PER YEAR. We had been told by people in the past that there was actually a waiting list to serve at Tenwek. Seriously? There are thousands of people dying every day in the world because they don't have access to medical care and there's a WAITING list at one hospital? Why can't people go somewhere else? I felt that in my heart in the beginning. There's so much need everywhere else, and seemingly not at Tenwek. What purpose could God have for our time there?
Fast forward two years. The McCropders have just completed a two year term of service at Tenwek, and I can tell you now it was EXACTLY the place we needed to be. Here's why.
1. Education. Tenwek is a unique place among missions hospitals because of the scope of education going on there. We all had some interest in education of nationals before we arrived in Tenwek, but God definitely honed and refined our calling during those two years. Not only do we think education of nationals is a good idea, but it's now our primary objective. And at any given time, Tenwek is educating 16 interns, 6+ surgery residents, and 2+ family practice residents, not to mention Kenyan and US medical students and nursing students, among others. We got a chance to see three different models of education, all at the same place. This experience will be invaluable to us as we head to a Burundian medical school next.
2. Alyssa. None of us would have guessed it at the beginning, but a big part of why Tenwek was so great for us is our newest team member. We started as 4 doctors and 6 adults, and now we are 6 doctors and 8 adults...Alyssa has been a wonderful friend, an incredible support, and a competent doctor (who helps round out the primary care aspect of our team, as she is med-peds). Had we gone elsewhere, we never would have gotten to know our new teammate!
3. Proximity to Burundi. Being on the African continent was certainly helpful as we sought to find our new location. We were all able to take trips to visit Burundi, only a short 1 1/2 hour flight from Nairobi. In the beginning, we all assumed that we could choose a place based on the recommendations of just the 2 people who had visited, but in the end, all McCropders were able to visit Burundi. This really helped us all feel more comfortable with our decision, which was a blessing.
4. Connections. One of the perks of having 300 visitors per year is that you get to meet a lot of people. We've met surgeons, pediatricians, ENTs, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, internists, urologists, cardiac surgeons, etc. Many of these people would not be able to serve overseas in less equipped hospitals. We are grateful for their help. And we've kept in contact with many, and hope that these people will be willing to come and help us out in Burundi in the future!
5. Transitions. Tenwek has been called "Africa Lite" in the past. Yes, we had hot water, appliances, internet, and fairly regular electricity. We could get many amenities in Nairobi, just three hours away. It was not hot, there were no giant bugs, there was a community of other missionaries. But it was still the Developing World which had its challenges. And we had some wonderful mentors at Tenwek that helped us figure things out: everything from homeschooling and employing househelpers to managing patients with various complications in the hospital. We could have gone to Burundi right away, but I have a feeling it would have been much harder than it will be after two years at Tenwek.
So yes, Tenwek was big and famous and now even has a CT scanner. But God still knew what He was doing when He sent us there. Tenwek has lots of visitors but needs a lot of extra help to run the hospital. We will never forget these past two years in Kenya, no matter where we end up, and are so glad to have had our time there.