SPLICE: Paradox

(From Alyssa)
Given everyone's different timing considerations during this transition year, we're taking the SPLICE (Spiritual, Personal, Lifestyles, Interpersonal, Cultural, Endurance, Enjoyment) missionary training course at separate sessions offered throughout the year. We look forward to reuniting in France for language school in August and discussing our observations, reflections, & experiences with our shared SPLICE language. I blogged about the language acquisition portion of the training here and I'm sure you'll hear more about that as other teammates complete that course and we all put our phonics and language acquisition techniques to practice in France and Burundi.

During this first week of SPLICE, the message highlighted for most of my fellow missionaries here this session has been "Paradox." "It was the best of times! It was the worst of times!" Or, as they explain this to the missionary kids: a "pair of ducks" ("yuck duck and yeah duck"). This is the tension we live in as we look to our unknown future.  We look forward to the anticipated joys of our work in Burundi and yet we mourn aspects of distance from family, cross cultural adjustments, etc. Lots of yeah ducks and lots of yuck ducks.

"Allowing the seemingly contradictory statements to lie side by side without weakening one statement is a goal of SPLICE."

So yesterday morning, we participated in this exercise (illustrated above) with both adult and kid SPLICE participants. The tension on the strings included reality vs. expectations, joys vs. sorrows (yeah and yuck ducks), others' expectations, & intensity. The other interesting addition was a jacket to insulate the person from the sorrows (unfortunately also insulating against feeling some of the joys).

Following this discussion, the children all went on a field trip to Garden of the gods.
Garden of the gods (pics taken on my recent visit there)

They enjoyed their morning hiking there on a beautiful day and then stopped for a picnic lunch. As they finished eating and the kids began running and playing in the area again, suddenly a gust of wind blew a large dead tree down on the children.

One child was pinned under the tree. Another sustained whiplash and head/neck lacerations as the tree brushed his head when it fell. Quite a few kids were scraped by branches.

A trauma nurse who "happened" to be walking by was on the scene within seconds. The teenagers and childcare staff quickly moved the tree off the 11 year old boy. Ambulances, park rangers, police began to arrive. The two boys mentioned above were taken to the hospital in an ambulance and their parents met them there. The other children were brought back to MTI and underwent an extended debriefing time with their parents and SPLICE teachers drawing pictures about their experiences and discussing their fears.

After CT scans, x rays, and evaluations in the emergency department, both boys were determined to be ok with only minor injuries and were released home.

We praised the Lord for His protection of all the children and spent significant time in worship today as a community.

Amazingly when the family of the 6 year old boy arrived at the hospital and found their son lying on a stretcher in a neck brace, he told them immediately, "Mom and Dad, I had three yeah ducks today and one yuck duck. But the yuck duck was a really big one!" His "yeah ducks" were hiking at Garden of the gods, that his team won the game they played, and that he got to ride in an ambulance. :) He didn't like the neck brace, and his mom explained that it was necessary for his protection until they knew if his neck was ok. His response, "Yeah, it's a paradox!" Pretty impressive understanding and application for a 6 year old! Hopefully this experience will continue to encourage his faith as his family heads to a difficult mission field.

One funny moment of the traumatic events of yesterday was when the police started asking the kids their addresses. They didn't know what they were. No, it wasn't concussion, just a bunch of homeless missionary kids in transition between worlds. Another paradox we were able to laugh about as a community!

We're thankful for this training beneficial for kids and adults and we appreciate your continued prayers for our McCropder team as we live with paradox.


Another McCropder!

By Jessica Cropsey

Two and a half months ago we heard about a teacher who was looking for a long-term placement with a team.  She initially heard about the McCropders through Jason Fader's mom and another Post-Resident physician at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya.  She got in touch with our team and after several phone conversations, a skype meeting, face-to-face meetings with various McCropder team members, and a site visit to Burundi, she has decided to join us!  It is my privilege to introduce you to our newest team member...

Sarah Crockett grew up in the Chicago area and graduated from Bethel College in Indiana with a degree in elementary education.  She completed her student teaching at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) in Kenya and stayed on for three more years after that.  We are super excited about having Sarah join us to take the lead in educating our children (7 under the age of 8...for now).

Here's a portion of her reflections after her site visit to Burundi in April:
One of my prayers as I visited Burundi and in particular Kibuye, was that God would give me a passion and vision for the medical training & care that the McCropder team will be delivering. Being non-medical it was important to me to gain a greater sense of how I fit into the vision of the McCropder team. Through the tour of Kibuye Hope Hospital and conversations with medical students and on site missionaries I saw the great need for the McCropders giftings as a team and the desire of Burundians to openly welcome the McCropder team. I found my heart excited to better understand the medical world and support the McCropder doctors. I am always amazed at the gift God gives in relationships and this was abundantly true as I visited with a few HAU students. Hearing their stories and dreams for future ministry as doctors offering healing and hope to people in great need gripped my heart.

We are so thankful for the way that God orchestrated this addition to our team.  Before we had much interaction with Sarah, she wrote in her application that she loved ultimate frisbee and Settlers of Catan.  Little did she know that would seal the deal!

Sarah is committing to our team on a long-term basis, so she will be joining us in Albertville, France for language school.  Everything has happened incredibly quickly, so please keep Sarah in your prayers as she plans and prepares for things that the rest of us have been thinking about and planning for a long time (French visa, packing the container, school supplies, curriculum choices, etc.).    


In case you haven't noticed, her last name fits perfectly.  We, the Cropseys, are happy to share our "CRO" with her!  Of course, we would have warmly welcomed her anyways, but for now the McCropder name lives on.  

P.S.  Due to the number of children on our team, we are still hoping to recruit another teacher, so keep your ears peeled and spread the word!  Someone who could commit for 1-2 years would still be most welcome.  


May Book Review - Lit

In his triple-entendre named "Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books," Tony Reinke (Crossway, 2011) outlines a comprehensive and intensive method for extracting more gold from the books we read. Reinke's informal style (who puts an exclamation mark in the title of a book?) belies his time-intensive technique (prepare questions for each chapter before reading, outline each chapter after reading) but serves well to balance the core thesis which is that reading for insight requires disciplined mental effort but yields a better product than what most of us do (not read) and what a select few already do (read with a pencil in hand).

Lit! is a quick read with an argument that does not require any substantive paradigm shift for a Christian already committed to literacy and education - God is the Author of all truth, the Bible is the most concentrated truth in literature, and that other books can serve to enlighten readers on certain aspects of truth even if not completely accurate on all counts. What I found most helpful from Reinke's work was his admonition to consider your purpose in reading your selected book and to have on hand books of various purposes. Classic fiction may make good bus stop or doctor's office reading. Weighty theological tomes are best read during your freshest mental hours (usually dedicated study or devotional times). Solid non-fiction may service best after dinner or before bedtime. And when picking up a non-fiction volume, identify what you wish to learn from it prior to bending its spine back. Pastors, theologians, and writers will find Reinke's specific strategy of chapter outlining and question asking/answering in the margins inspiring if not ambitious.

The single most interesting concept is actually a quote from Socrates who decried the loss of oral tradition in education. He anticipated that teaching students to read and write would soften their recall, dull their intellect, and destroy the strength of rhetoric and argument. Reinke and others have noted that more and more of our information comes via visual rather than literary media - fragments of content, context-less particles of data streaming from innumerable sources somehow stitched together in our psyche to create a picture of truth and the world. Ironically (for Socrates, not so much for Reinke), this made me thankful for the teachers, friends, and parents I've had who imparted to me a love for words.

So if you're done with your last non-fiction book and looking for a moderately motivational, definitely encouraging, relatively relaxed read, spend a couple days with Tony Reinke - he just might ignite a new passion and perspective on 'pencil-in-hand' reading.



The African Man

(from Eric McLaughlin)

The following video was discovered via our friend Jeff Liou, and strikes a chord regarding African culture and stereotypes.  Our hope is that, if you have been reading our stories and thoughts for a while, you have come away with a more well-rounded picture of life in Africa and African people.

I don't know anything about "Mama Hope", the organization that put this video out there, but the set of young men could easily be Kenyan, and interestingly, they are mostly students in medical professions.  Thus, they could easily be a group that we worked with or will continue to work with in Burundi.

(note: if watching with kids, there are a lot of guns in this video)

Some thoughts:
  • I think it's funny that they provided English subtitles, though I'm sure some people were grateful.
  • I have seen most of the movies referenced.  Some are terrible, but some (most notably Blood Diamond) are quite good and even recommended, though it's true that the portrayal of African men is quite one-sided.
  • It's worth thinking about what it would be like as an African man to grow up with the powerful Western world thinking that your only career option or character type is some variation of the "Rebel warlord/child-soldier/purely-physical aggressor.
  • I think we could easily substitute each of the guys in this video for people that we know, and have been a blessing to know.


SPLICE: Grieving

So, another lesson I (Rachel) learned at SPLICE had to do with goodbyes and grieving.  I thought that this was a lesson that I had already learned about enough...I personally have lived in at least 15 places in my life, and nowhere for longer than 4 years since turning 10.  I have said my goodbyes.  I have had my share of grief and loss.  Haven't we all?  Why did I need 2-3 days of training on this?

Kenyans are good at goodbyes, as are most cultures.  Americans, not so much.  When we left Kenya, we were celebrated with almost a month of goodbye speeches, meals, and visits in our honor.  When you leave a Kenyan's house, they don't just say goodbye at the door...they walk you down the walk, maybe even as far as your home.  That signifies that you are an honored guest.  There are special meals, where they bring out the best food they have to offer.  There are special gifts exchanged, like the calabash, a gourd dried and hollowed out and signifying hospitality and friendship.  You know you are loved when a Kenyan says goodbye to you.

On the flip side, I have said so many goodbyes that I breeze over them now.  See you soon.  Thanks for everything...hug...out the door.  Or even, sometimes there "isn't enough time" to say goodbye, and a quick phone call or an email has to suffice.  What does that say about how I value a relationship?  I do value my friends and family, very much.  When I breeze over a goodbye, it is a protective mechanism, because goodbyes hurt.  But I need to recognize that this can be perceived as callous, insensitive, or devaluing the relationship.

On one of the last days of SPLICE, every family got a stone to write on.  Then we made a pile in the middle of the floor, like the Israelites making a memorial alter after crossing the Jordan River, to commemorate God's faithfulness.  We each chose something to write on our stone to remember from SPLICE, something God taught us, something that represents His faithfulness.  This is what I drew:

I realized during my time at SPLICE that I did not always engage well during my time in Kenya.  I don't always engage well in the lives of friends and family.  Why?  Because (among many other reasons) it hurts.  It opens me up to be hurt, and to hurt others, and to get involved in a messy life.  It brings grief.  But that is exactly what God has called us to do--to engage in each others' lives.  To celebrate joys and share sorrows.  To live life abundantly.  The more we engage in the world around us, the more we potentially get hurt.  And grief is hard, but also good--it helps process the hurts, to work through them, to emerge on the other side.  In short, it brings healing to the hurts.  And as we are healed, we can engage more and more in the world and people around us.  Every part of me resists this process, and that is why I drew a cross in the middle of the circle.  It is only through the power of Jesus Christ that I can open up.  To engage deeper, to grieve deeper, to be truly healed.  To love others more than I love myself.  With His help, I step forward into our time in Burundi, ready to engage.


COTW: Appendectomy

By Jason

This is not a typical "Case of the Week" (COTW).  It is also not a case that occurred in Kenya.  I have been working here in Michigan for the last few months at a local hospital and this "case" has happened over and over again, which is one reason it is so remarkable. I will contrast it to an analogous situation in the developing world to give a sense for why it is so amazing.

It usually starts with a page from the ER - a patient has early appendicitis based on the CT findings.  Antibiotics are given.  The ER then transfers the call to the nurse in charge who calls in the Operating Room team - An anesthesiologist, a scrub nurse, a circulating nurse and a recovery room nurse.  While the patient is being transferred upstairs by a transporter person, I log in to the hospital computer system from my couch at home and look at the CT scan (which has usually already been read and reported on by a radiologist) and review the patient's medical record.  As I drive into the hospital, my preference card is pulled by a nurse in the operating room, which lists the sutures, staplers, scalpels, drapes, laparoscopes, needles, medication, ports, and even steristrips that I prefer.  These items are all obtained from the supply room and the room is set up.  I see the patient and dictate a note into the phone, which is typed up and can be reviewed within 30 minutes.  After the anesthesiologist and nurse do their assessments of the patient, we go back to the clean, well-lit, 68-degree operating room.  The patient is put to sleep flawlessly, and I make my incisions.  All of this - from the initial page to incision - routinely takes about 1 hour.  The operation goes well and all the equipment functions perfectly.  The patient goes to the recovery room and will usually be discharged home about 90 minutes after the operation ends. 

How would this go in Burundi, if the same patient showed up to Kibuye Hospital?  The patient probably wouldn't even come to the hospital until a few days later, so the appendix will likely be ruptured.  No CT scan for diagnosis...there is not even an x-ray machine at this point.  Hopefully the phone lines are working, otherwise someone is sent to our house with a note to request me to come.  The single room ER is staffed by a medical student and a nursing student, who are seeing a couple other patients concurrently.  Through them translating, I would get the patient's story and decide how to proceed.  I might try to do an ultrasound, but I am certainly  no radiologist.  We would transport the patient to the Operating Room ourselves and prepare the patient.  I would try and find some suitable suture among some expired donated supplies or low-cost substitutes from India and find a sub-optimal set of instruments which have been sterilized in a pressure cooker over an open fire.  A nurse with no formal anesthesia training would give the patient Ketamine - an anesthesia drug which is primarily relegated to veterinary use in the US.  The patient might be given oxygen through the only machine that can provide it in the whole hospital.  The electricity may or may not be on.  It went out 12 times one recent afternoon.  If it goes out, we will operate by flashlight until someone can power up the 40-year-old generator.  He will be transferred to the ward, where 1 nurse is taking care of 15 or more patients.  The patient will probably do OK, but will remain in the hospital for about 5 days for further antibiotics. 

The differences are astonishing.  No doubt the mortality of such a procedure is 10 or 100 fold different between the two settings...that is, if the Burundian patient manages to get to see one of the 9 surgeons in the country.  May God continue to allow us to play a small role in rectifying this situation through training quality doctors and nurses.
Sutures at hospital in Michigan

Sutures at Kibuye