McCropder Prayer Requests

Dear Friends, 

Many of you pray for us regularly and for that we are deeply grateful.  Below is a list of prayer requests that can help guide your times of prayer over the coming months as we prepare to head back overseas.  


1.  The Gospel to remain central in our daily lives, our message and our work in these busy days of travel, chaotic schedules, constant family transitions and intermittent medical practice.

2.  That God will use us to bless and challenge our American brothers and sisters as we share with them about WHM’s new work in Burundi and the Gospel’s calling on their lives.

3.  The support teams that will be caring for us through prayer, financial support and encouragement over the coming years of service.  Pray that they will have wisdom and spiritual gifting to help keep us vibrant in ministry and accountable to our calling.  We all hope to depart for language school in Albertville, France, at the end of August 2012.

4.  John and Jessica Cropsey as they lead the Burundi team.  Since 2007, the team has functioned by consensus without a stated team leader.  Pray that John and Jessica will help the team transition well to this new dynamic of team life.  The team is very grateful for the many years of shared community and deep trust that God has established among them already.

5.  Hope Africa University and its Rector, Bishop Elie Buconyori.  He is a vital leader.  Pray for his physical and spiritual protection.  Enrollment at the university is exploding (100 students in 2003, now approaching 5,000 in 2012), so pray that they will have wisdom in weighing quality vs quantity. 

6.  The needed infrastructure at Kibuye Hope Hospital to be put in place soon (on site well, significantly increased power supply, septic/sewer) as Hope Africa University prepares for our arrival in the summer of 2013.  Pray that the needed team of engineers for these key projects will be assembled soon to help the hospital create a strategic 10-year development plan.

7.  Our language (French and Kirundi) and cultural acquisition skills to flourish so that we can communicate effectively and become a part of our community in Burundi.  We will all be participating in Mission Training Intl’s programs in Colorado throughout the coming months before departure.

8.  Team unity and a common vision for preaching, teaching and healing.  Pray that we will have healthy conflict void of gossip and malice.   Pray that the team will have wisdom in knowing how fast to grow and that we will be able to make future team members a welcomed part of our established community.

9.  That God will use the Burundi team to bring compassionate, Christ centered medical care to the war-torn Great Lakes Region of Africa and to empower a generation of Christian, African physicians to do the same.

10.  World Harvest Mission as they trust God to provide for their significant financial needs for the fiscal year ending in May, 2012.

Grace and Peace,
John Cropsey for the McCropders


The Container Store

Since we plan, God-willing, to be in Burundi for the next decade or two, there are things that we all want to take with us from here. Some things are not readily obtainable in Burundi. Certainly medical equipment tops the list, but books, pots and pans, tools, homeschooling material, etc. would also be helpful. There are also some items that certainly aren't necessary, but would be great to have - like a piano, a fuse-ball and/or ping pong table for the medical students, and some good quality appliances. To that end, together we are preparing to ship a container to Burundi. I (Jason) volunteered to obtain the container, and I enjoyed hunting for one. The purchase was completed last week, and today it came into McCropder possession.

This morning I met a truck driver at a container yard in Detroit, and I happily met our container for the first time. It looks great.

A specialized forklift put the container on the semi-truck trailer.

The driver strapped down the container with some heavy-duty straps.

We followed the semi driver as he transported the container to a friend's farm close to our house, who has graciously allowed us to keep it on his property.

The container arrived safely at its new home for the next year.

It seems pretty roomy inside, but I'm sure that with 3 families and 2 single people, we will be able to fill this up completely.

We will be packing the container over the next few months, and then while we are learning French in France, it will sit here in Michigan until next spring. At that time, we will have it shipped to Burundi. This has been fun foray for me into a new world, learning all about the types of containers, shipping companies, etc. And what a great morning for this kid trapped inside an adult body to see some big trucks and forklifts and toys.


The Journey Blesses Time

I've been writing songs for over half of my life.  One result of that is that I don't really remember all the songs I've written.  Maybe I won't hear them for years at a time.  One upside of this is that, since I often write about some lesson that I'm learning, this rediscovery gives me a chance to relearn it.

And this is surprisingly useful.  Being able to describe or express a concept is notably different from internalizing it, and I am living proof.  It's like reading an old journal entry.  Sometimes I can't believe that I could express something so many years ago, and yet feel like I've never really learned it at all.  It may even be true that writing a song about a given truth is my way of closing the issue prematurely, of me pretending that I've got that issue under wraps.

I recognized that several years ago.  I even wrote a song in 2003 about how, when I write a song, I tend to stop learning the lesson or appreciating the wonder of whatever the subject is.  It ended with the idea (which I thought clever) that if I write a song about this issue, then maybe I'll bring the premature closure to a premature closure.  People liked the song, but as you might have guessed, the whole "idea pun" part of it was lost on half the people, and considered confusing to the point of unappreciation by the other half.

"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."  I look forward to next year, when I will be able to pronounce that phrase accurately in French.  For now, I rely on the English translation:  "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  I was driving across the state of Michigan tonight thinking about the challenges of this year.  Among them is being between two places.  There is a joy in getting up most days and putting your hands to a defined, practical task in front of you.  Even if it is slow work, even if you're spinning your wheels, at least you hand is to the plow.  This year is like a super-long preparation for a very complicated journey.  And part of me would like to get on to the next thing.

And lo and behold, I get to rediscover a song of mine from 2009.  "Time will bless the journey that's in store, as the journey blesses time."  The images of the song are all about the continuity of a journey.  It's about walking or sailing, where you cover every inch.  This is in contrast to a plane or elevator ride, where the door closes, some time passes, and when it opens, it's like some magic just eliminated all the points between here and there.  It's a reminder that so many things require time to make them what they are.  Even the particular turn of a musical phrase is all about the passage of time.  You can't rush it, because it's the time itself which is blessing the music, just as the music has blessed the time you've spent listening.

So, the waiting.  The anticipation.  The preparation.  Even the tension.  Something is forged in the fires of time.  Does it require faith to trust that God is working something good out of this time, and that it's not just passing as a matter of fruitless necessity?  Yes, of course.  And it always will.

But God holds time.  And what we've seen of him declares him to be trustworthy.  What we have learned of him may be small and limited, but I suspect he is working some good thing, maybe something below the surface, some undercurrent that is vital even if quiet and underrated.  I don't know this for sure, neither can I prove it.  But it fits with what God has revealed of his character, and so, by his grace, let us trust him with our hours, our days, and our years.

Time Blesses The Journey

Tolkien ambles home along a garden lane
Sold his car and then discovered once again
All the cobbles in the street
And more than that, the movements of his feet

It's been planes and elevators for too long
Until I was getting off, the windows all were drawn
So, though I've arrived, there's still
Something that I missed along the way

I've been away from this ocean town
Reminds me of all that stretches past the shore
But these points on a line remind
That time will bless the journey that's in store
As the journey blesses time

Think I can see Vespucci on the open waves
Nothing on his horizon now for days
He cuts through every blade of tide
And sails under every inch of sky

I've been afraid of these mountain views
All of the heights that still are left to climb
But these points on a line remind
That time will bless the journey that's in store
As the journey blesses time

So the hour sits behind the tutor's desk
Dons the Oxford robe and teaches me the rest
That much will come and go
That much will collide and then fade away


Book of the Month: Miracles & Moments of Grace

A bit of a disclaimer here...this month's BOTM was actually chosen because it features some authors you may know.  Us. :)  Last year, we received an email from a woman named Nancy Kennedy.  She was interested in writing a book of stories from Christian physicians and had found our blog, wondering if she could use some of our material.  Nancy had just finished a book entitled Miracles and Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories from Military Chaplains, and was continuing the series by sharing medical stories.  

We agreed to share whatever she was interested in, and so she chose and adapted several stories from our blogs.  One is John's "Sudan on a Wing and a Prayer," Eric's blog on resembling Jesus, and my blog on a miraculous cord prolapse survival story.  Also featured are stories from some of our fellow Post Residents:  Malin and Sara Friess, who worked at Tenwek and Kijabe Hospitals, and Dan Benedick, who worked at Shell Hospital in Ecuador.  

In all, there are 50 different short stories about doctors and their experiences with patients.  I haven't actually read most of it, since it was just published this week and arrived at our house today, but I look forward to reading some more miraculous, emotional, and humorous stories.  I'm not sure if this is the kind of thing you can find at the library, but it is available for purchase on amazon.  


Off To Africa

We (the Cropsey family) arrived back in Michigan this morning (Friday) at 4:45AM after an all night drive from Chattanooga. We spent a few hours sleeping and then packed John up to leave for the airport at 4PM.  It's been a crazy 24 hours.  As I write this, John is now in the air on his way to Africa for two weeks.

John will be heading first to Burundi to spend 5 days there.  He will be meeting with the HAU (Hope Africa University) leadership and discussing an MOU (memorandum of understanding) between World Harvest and HAU.  He also hopes to meet with eye care providers and scope out building materials to determine what we should or shouldn't bring with us from the U.S.

Next, he will fly to Uganda for the World Harvest Africa Team Leader meetings.  The team leaders from Kenya, South Sudan & Uganda will join him along with some of the leaders from the WHM home office in Pennsylvania.

Please keep these specific requests in your prayers over the next two weeks:

  • Safe travels (he will be traveling by air as well as using local transportation in Uganda and Burundi, both unfamiliar places for him)
  • Good communication with the HAU leadership as both WHM and HAU try to articulate goals, vision, expectations, etc.
  • Positive networking experiences with eye care providers
  • Information gathering in Burundi to determine what supplies to put on a shipping container
  • Spiritual refreshment and encouragement as he spends time with WHM leadership and develops those relationships
  • Physical health (John didn't start his malaria prophylaxis until TODAY. You're supposed to start it a week before you leave.  They say that doctors make the worst patients!)
Thanks so much for your prayers!


Ultimate Missionary Mom...Or Not

By Jessica Cropsey

As you might guess, there are many "pioneer woman"-type skills that would be useful in Africa such as gardening, sewing, cooking and baking (completely from scratch, of course), canning, and the list could go on.  One of the missionary biographies that I read before going to Kenya told about the missionary mom who had to skin, clean, and then cook the meat that her husband shot and brought home.  I think it was boar or something.  I knew I would never be that hard core, but I thought it was a reasonable goal to learn at least one skill each time I was back in the U.S.  My mom and mother-in-law can do all the things on my aforementioned list, so why couldn't I learn too?

We are now more than halfway through our time back in the U.S. and I have yet to begin learning any of those skills.  I'm going to blame it on my husband's insane travel schedule and my newborn baby.  Of course, women "back in the day" had way more babies and their husbands were gone all the time too.  Perhaps my generation is a bit...oh, how shall I put it...softer?

I recently had a small glimmer of hope.  My Aunt Sandi used to decorate cakes and she did our wedding cake.  I asked her to help me with Elise's birthday cake a few weeks ago because I wanted to know how to do that in Burundi.  Party supplies will be scarce there, so I thought a fun cake would be one way to spice things up.  She kindly bought me all the basic supplies that I'll need, including a couple how-to books.  She was a wonderful teacher and so sweetly encouraged me and gave me tips along the way.  This was the final result.

Of course, I still have a lot to learn, but my birthday princess sure was excited.      

I had a lot of fun doing it and practiced some of my new-found knowledge on birthday cupcakes for her pre-school class a few days later.

Now my plan has changed.  I'm not going to try to be the ultimate missionary mom.  I'm banking on Heather and Rachel for their gardening skills.  I can hire someone to help with sewing.  Canning can be dangerous anyways, right?  I'm doing okay in the cooking and baking department so far.  I'll buy my boar from the meat store.  


Link: "...Stealing the World's Doctors"

Here is a link to a very interesting article passed on to the McCropders from Drew Huang, a rather crazy surgeon friend from Kenya/California.  It's a pretty thoughtful article surrounding the issue of foreign doctors leaving doctor-poor countries to seek better opportunities in the West.  

This will loom very large for us in coming years, as we train doctors to meet the incredible health needs of Africa.  We have many friends in the US who are doctors who have come from the developing world.  We have many friends who are doctors working still in their homelands abroad.  For all of them, these issues are always a part of their world.

"The Poorest Country in the World"

(and now another geeky post from Eric McLaughlin...)

What is the poorest country in the world?  Somalia?  Sudan?  Afghanistan?  Haiti?  Bangladesh?  In my experience, even more countries are referred to as the "second poorest country in the world".  One thing is sure, right?  That only one country is the poorest country in the world.

And I guess that must be true, but discovering which one it is is remarkably hard.  Consider the following:  Many countries have very limited data collection on personal incomes.  Many places utilize a lot of barter systems.  Income is earned in a certain currency, and all currencies are constantly fluctuating in reference to each other.  And the poorest countries often have the currencies in the greatest flux.  And currencies have different buying powers, i.e. $1 US can buy you a coke in the USA, but good luck turning that into Euros and trying to buy a coke in Paris.  Yet you could buy 3 in Kenya.

Being a general lover of Wikipedia and lists of every sort, I have spent a bit of time looking into this question on various websites, and the response to all these difficulties seems to be the "GDP (PPP) per capita".  This is the Gross Domestic Product divided by population (and even the population can be hard to be certain of in some of these places), then corrected by the Purchasing Power Parity, a factor developed by such organizations as the IMF and the World Bank.

So, enough of your methodology difficulties, you say.  What is the answer?

Well, it depends who you ask.  IMF has a list.  The World Bank has a list.  And the US government has a list, through the CIA World Factbook.  And I'm sure there are others.  And humorously enough, they don't even agree on the numbers of countries in the world.

As I've been sharing about Burundi, I've often stated that, by one source, Burundi is tied for the world's poorest country.  Certainly this is an infamous distinction, so it's obviously the farthest things from a contest.  But here's the good news, based on the new 2011 sources, Burundi is no longer the poorest country.  It is either the 2nd or 3rd poorest country in the world, depending on your source.  Maybe this is good news for Burundi's development.  Maybe someone just tweaked one little number somewhere.  Currently, Burundians on average live of $400 US per year, up a bit from last year. (For Jess Cropsey and other math lovers, please note that this is mean and not median-derived.)  

It's really just a bunch of trivia, except that, for me, this information is a useful reality check on the state of the world and the state of my life.

Thus, some more data (from the Wikipedia page):

  • The poorest country by GDP (at about $300/year) in all 3 lists is the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), and arguably our closest international border in Burundi.
  • The bottom 5 is almost always a mix of DR-Congo, Burundi, Liberia, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea.
  • Haiti is indisputably the poorest county in the western hemisphere, by a considerable margin.  It ranges from #17-22 from the bottom globally.
  • Sudan (now Sudan + South Sudan, with the numbers not yet separate) has a GDP per capita of around $3000/year, which is a good example of how this statistic does not account for the huge rich-poor gap that can exist in many places.
  • On the other end, the #1 country is either Qatar or Luxembourg ($89,000+).
  • The USA is #7 or #9 at $47,000.



We may have left Kenya, but it will always be in our hearts.  The difficulties that Tenwek goes through, the difficulties that Kenya goes through--we still feel them.  We hear about them, we pray for them, we wish we were there to help them.  Obviously health care issues are near and dear to our hearts, so it was saddening to hear several months ago that medical officers were on strike.  The MO's (such as the majority of the interns we trained at Tenwek) were striking to try and get an increased salary, as well as better working conditions.  The strike lasted nine days, and it was a trying time in Kenya, to say the least.  We weren't there, so I can't really say what happened from experience, but many of the government facilities had to close down without adequate health professionals.  That left missions hospitals, like Tenwek, to bear the bulk of the patient burden with missionary doctors.  Many of our own MO interns were on strike as well, so there were more patients and less doctors to care for them.  You can read about Kijabe's experience here.  I'm not really sure how the strike ended up resolving.  The MO's all went back to work, and the government promised to look into things.

Now, several months later, the nurses are on strike.  They ask for the same things: better pay, and better working conditions.  The BBC just released an article, revealing that the government has basically just FIRED all 25,000 nurses on strike for failing to report to work.  That was their solution.  A Kenyan friend posted his views on the strike here.

We have always sought to avoid political issues on the blog, so I won't comment about rights and wrongs here.  I won't say that I side with the nurses, or the MO's, or the government, and the opinions shared in the Kenyan blog are not necessarily my opinions.  All I know is that Kenya's medical system, while better than some other African countries, is still in dire need of more doctors, more nurses, more care.  This doesn't seem to be helping.  Change needs to come.  We need  to pray for the country of Kenya, and that ultimately the strikes would be resolved...because the people being hurt most are the poor, the indigent, the sick, the desperate and marginalized of the country.  I await more news...


Recipe for Sukuma Wiki

We (Faders) have received a number of email inquiries about the recipe for sukuma wiki (the dish of tasty cooked greens that we highlighted a few posts ago). So for those of you who might be interested in a new idea for dinner sometime, here's the recipe....Sukuma Wiki Ingredients:
- Large bunch of kale (or sukuma wiki leaves if you live in East Africa)
- 2 Tablespoons of oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 heaping Tablespoon Sukuma Spice Mix

Sukuma Spice Mix Ingredients:
- 1 t cornstarch or 2 t flour
- 1 t salt
- 1 t sugar
- 1 t ginger
- 1 t coriander
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t cumin
- 1 t boullion
- 1 t turmeric
- 1/2 t fennel (we couldn't find ground fennel, so we use fennel seeds)
NOTE: this amount of Sukuma Spice Mix is about right for 2 large bunches of kale, which would feed about 6-8 people.

DISCLAIMER: In Kenya, sukuma wiki is typically made with a Kenyan-made spice mix called Mchuzi Mix. Our homemade mix is similar but not the same. If you're looking for the real Mchuzi Mix, you can find it in every single duka in Kenya for less than 100 Shillings, or in the US, you can sometimes find it on Amazon for about ten times the price. We recommend the homemade Sukuma Spice Mix recipe above.

1. Wash the kale, remove the stems, and chop the leaves into very thin strips/pieces. One chopped bunch equals about 8-10 C of chopped kale. Don't worry; it will cook down to a much smaller-looking amount. Set aside the kale until step 4, and proceed to step 2.
2. Over medium heat, sautee the onion, tomatoes, oil, and 1 heaping Tablespoon of the spice mix.
3. When the onion and tomatoes are soft, add 1/2 cup of water and stir.
4. Add the kale,and continue to cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes

Serve hot with ugali and chapatis. If you're not familiar with making those, you could serve with rice and/or tortillas. If you're curious about ugali and chapatis, we can post about them sometime.

I thought about including a picture of the finished product sukuma wiki, but it doesn't LOOK as appetizing as it TASTES, so we'll leave you now to your cooking . Bon apetit! We would love to hear how you like it if you give sukuma wiki a try.


COTW: Hematocrit 87

(From Alyssa)
After Faders and I worked for a week at Kibuye Hospital in Burundi last May, I reported a "Case of the Week" with two ladies with severe anemia - hemoglobin 1.1 and 1.7 (which translates to hematocrits of 3-5). Today our case of the week is a 7 year old boy I saw in Cuzco, Peru on Thursday with the opposite scenario - a hematocrit of 87 (normal for his age is 40).

Jorge lives at 4000 meters (13,100 feet) in a small village four hours from Cuzco. He's the seventh child in the family and was born at home. His family noticed from a young age that he seemed blue, but most of the children in their area end up with darkened cheeks from the altitude, so they didn't think much of it. They live very far from any clinic and Jorge only received one set of immunizations as an infant. At age five, they noticed Jorge was unable to walk to school because he became very short of breath, so he stayed home. Given their poverty and distance from any medical care, they still did not bring Jorge to the doctor. But his cyanosis and shortness of breath gradually worsened.

For two weeks prior to coming to the hospital, Jorge began spiking high fevers and complaining of headaches. He was treated with herbal medications in his village. Then he had a partial seizure. On evaluation in the emergency room, he was noted to be extremely blue but with almost red conjunctiva. He was breathing very fast and his heart rate was high. His oxygen saturation was 68% (normal is above 92%). His liver and spleen were enlarged and his fingernails were cyanotic and severely clubbed (from chronic low oxygen levels). His blood count (hematocrit) was 87 (more than twice the normal value) and the reason was explained by an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Jorge was diagnosed with Tetrology of Fallot - a congenital heart condition that is relatively easy to repair in a newborn, but in Jorge's case at age 7, his blood is now shunting the wrong direction and the pressure in his lungs as a result is too high for heart surgery to be an option. And really he has the worst case scenario, because not only is his oxygen level low because of his heart condition, but also because of the very high altitude where he lives above Cuzco. That's why his hematocrit is so high - his body is trying to increase his oxygen carrying capacity in any way possible which means making more blood to carry more oxygen.

And the cause of his fever and seizure?

Several large brain abscesses - a known complication of untreated cyanotic congenital heart disease. Jorge is now on IV antibiotics to treat the infection in his brain, and he has not had any more seizures. Because of the severity of his heart condition, though, he likely will not live long. I wish I could have spoken with him, but he only spoke Quechua (not Spanish). He was impressively cooperative with many doctors examining him - if only he had been examined long before age 7 and had been born in a less remote place with more resources and medical care, his outcome likely would have been very different. Pray for peace for him and his family.