28 December 2011

The One Percent and Me

I (Jim) have been wanting to write something about this for quite some time but I've been busy and I don't really know where to start.  I've been reading a lot about the "Occupy" movement - for quite a while.  First off, this isn't a political article - just some perspective.

It's been hard for me to get a real clear picture of what exactly the protests are about, but hearing the facts about the 1% making 1/3 of Americans' income made me start thinking.

In the US, I felt poor.  I had a masters degree and a steady teaching job and yet our family qualified for WIC (Food aid for low-income moms and children), our heating bill was subsidized through LEAP (again, for low-income families), and our kids qualified for free (but nearly impossible to use) state medical care - all because we were considered a low-income family.  From that perspective, it's easy to agree with the occupy movement - income distributions in the US are not fair.

Here, I feel wealthy.  We end up giving a lot of money away, lending money to people with hospital bills, buying antibiotics for people...  We 'bring home' even less now that we're missionaries but here in Kenya it's a lot easier to see how wealthy we really are.  I feel guilty when our house-helper sees avocados growing nasty molds - especially on days she has no lunch.  When the crippled guy peddling flowers asks if he can have a ten-dollar loan to buy his weekly batch of flowers to sell because he spent all his capital on medicines for his son who has pneumonia I see how richly we've been blessed.

Because I was curious, I looked up some facts about incomes worldwide - here's one that really hit home for me:  over 50% of the world's population lives on under two dollars per day.  (Over 80% live on under ten dollars per day.)

My parents visited last month and we celebrated an early Christmas with them - ham, cranberry sauce and all.  After eating, I took some of the traditional meal to our yard-worker, Edward.  He had a great time trying all the foods.  He really liked cranberry sauce, enjoyed the ham.  His favorite part was the stuffing; he didn't care for the olives.  NONE of it was familiar to him. After he'd eaten it and had seconds of the stuffing and that precious cranberry sauce he asked, "You eat like this every Christmas?"

"Yep."  I couldn't admit to him that I would have normally eaten twice the amount he'd just had OR that we'd had a meal like that only a month ago when we celebrated Thanksgiving or that we'd probably do it all over again when Easter came around.

"Wow!"  Wonder filled his face.  That he couldn't really fathom being wealthy enough to eat one meal like that was obvious - and Edward's a guy living on MORE than two dollars per day - better than over 50% of the world population!

I'm rich.  I use the internet, own a car, buy health insurance, have running water (hot water, no less) and listen to an ipod.  Maybe I'm not the one percent - but I eat until I'm full.

I'm not sure what to make of all this but reading Luke 16 has a different feel now.
Visiting Edward's House for Christmas.

22 December 2011

We weren't eaten by lions, I promise

It's been almost a month since the classrooms were emptied... we've been winding down from a whirlwind first term at Rift Valley Academy.

We've been busy learning to eat,
learning to hunt,

  and trying to stay dry in the very abnormal, very wet weather of Kijabe these last few months,
which, if you are Joel, has its advantage of a yummy termite crop!
 So we took off in search of some warmer adventures... which sometimes were more than we bargained for.  Yes, we crossed this in our car.  It's not lions that might keep us from blogging, but it's the raging rivers we should be afraid of.
Oh yes, and Grandma and Grandpa came and we were able to show them our home and the beautiful country we live in.
 We've prepared our home and our hearts for remembering the birth of our Savior,
 and also celebrated with our neighbors around us.  

Our hearts and minds are full of so many wonderful things.  We've had a lot to think about this term, and frankly, since we've come to Kenya.  Where does the Lord want us to be?  More importantly, what is he asking us to be doing with our lives?  We pray that we can grow to honor him in what we do, more and more each day and in the coming year.  

30 October 2011


We've now been here at RVA for 15 months.  It's given us time to grieve our loss of 'home' in the states, get adjusted to a different lifestyle here in Kijabe (read: fight the differences with plenty of frustration), get to know students and let them get to know us, and settle in general as a family.

Learning to understand and incorporate the Kijabe station lifestyle was one of the challenges we didn't really anticipate when arriving at RVA.  We were thrilled that we could live within walking distance from school, friends, grocery, library, church, doctors, and pretty much everything else that we would need on a day-to-day basis.  But we didn't really think beyond that.  Pretty soon, we realized that whether we liked it (or them!) or not, we worked, played, worshiped, vacationed, shopped, and lived with everyone here.  The same people.  Everywhere.  ALL THE TIME.  We hadn't spent much time recognizing the fact that that in the states, we had church friends, work friends, ministry friends, mommy friends, camping friends, old friends and new friends, who were often in their own separate categories.  There was some overlap, but certainly not total overlap.

This difference in lifestyle is more of a subtle one.  Term starts off great, but by the end of the 12 or 13 weeks that we've all spent mostly here on our fenced-in little piece of land, you can tell we're all ready for some space, or peace and quiet, or a vacation on which we don't see anyone we know.  (Although that too, rarely happens.)

Obviously, for the school to function well for its students, and since this element of close community living is a given part of life here, it seems there are some important aspects of healthy relationships that are less-easily ignored here than in the more separated communities that we came from.

The one that stands out to me as I look back on our time here is the importance of an apology.  I can count three very specific, clear times that another staff member has come to the door of our house or called on the phone, asked for me (Heather) and proceeded to apologize for an event that happened that very day, or just the day before.  They admitted wrong, and asked for forgiveness.  It wasn't a big deal, it was just honest, humble, and open.

It has been an incredible lesson to me to see this aspect of our community live out Christ's calling to admit to wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness in a very consistent manner.  Instead of being ashamed or trying to forget or push aside wrongdoings, the vulnerability of a sincere apology has given many relationships a depth of trust, love, and forgiveness.

These events have made me think of my own actions.  I think in the past, when I have done wrong, I am easily shamed by my sin, and my energies and thoughts are directed towards not making mistakes in the same way again.  But the fact is, no matter how hard I try, I'm going to mess up again.  More than once.  Wouldn't it be better if I put my energies towards saying sorry, letting someone trust me, and I them, and accepting my ultimate freedom in Christ?

I'm thankful for this [sometimes messy] body of Christ here in Kijabe that strives to love one another, just as He has loved us.

23 October 2011

Under the (Broom)Tree

Almost exactly one year ago I (Jim) wrote some thoughts I had while lying under the Jacaranda tree in our yard playing hooky from one of the sessions during RVA's Spiritual Emphasis Week.  Most of my thoughts were reflections on God's grace and provision and my struggle to accept His gift and actually trust that God has my best interests in mind. You might want to read it here.

This year at Spiritual Emphasis Week I did not skip a single lesson.  I went to every session.  At one of the last, the speaker was talking about Elijah.  In 1 Kings 18, we hear the story of how Elijah, in great faith, prayed to God in front of the prophets of Baal and how God sent down fire on Elijah's offering, then Elijah killed all 450 prophets of Baal and finally God has Elijah end years of drought.  As if that weren't enough, Elijah is then overcome by the spirit and outruns the chariot of king Ahab to queen Jezebel.  I'm not sure what Elijah was expecting to happen next but apparently hearing Jezebel say that she'd have Elijah killed wasn't it.  Jezebel's threat freaks Elijah out and he begins running for his life - scared - like he's totally forgotten everything that happened that day.  The following day, he's sitting under a broom tree begging God to take his life.  

It's laughable, really.  Elijah has one unbelievably productive day spiritually and then he's caught totally off-guard by one unexpected hurdle and he runs off into the desert and gives up in despair.

I'm pretty sure this wasn't the speaker's point, but as I walked back home in a gentle rain remembering my time under the Jacaranda tree almost exactly one year earlier, I could see myself sitting under that broom tree.  It seems like the last year has been an incredible one - probably the richest of my life - with many lessons and examples of God's provision but spiritually, I feel like I'm in the same place!  I'm sitting there under my broom tree needing some special encouragement after having just witnessed God's provision for our family.  I guess it was just the sort of encouragement I needed at the time - I'm feeling better about things now.  Isn't it great how God provides for us?

24 September 2011


Last Saturday was one of RVA’s once-a-term outreach activities.  During the day, about 75% of our approximately five hundred students participate in various outreach projects surrounding Kijabe ranging from playing soccer at a maximum security prison, to building fuel-efficient rocket stoves for widows or, like Faith did, making a lunch for the campus security guards.
Seedlings waiting to be planted. 

I always end up on the same sort of project.  It’s like being a preacher visiting someone’s house – somehow you’re always the one praying for the meal.   I’m a biology teacher, so I always end up on the ‘environmental option.’  This time was probably one of my favorites.  About one year ago, we helped build a fence for Care of Creation – a Christian organization trying to help educate people throughout Africa about environmental concerns and what it means to be good stewards of natural resources and how to get good crop yields without destroying the environment.

This time I joined Care of Creation with close to twenty RVA high schoolers.  We drove down to Old Kijabe Primary School, about 20 minutes down a four-wheel drive road under deforested hills and across dried-up streams.  This was probably my favorite trip so far.  We met up with around twenty students from Kijabe Primary and planted around 200 trees.  The kids were excited about what they were doing and had a great attitude about working to restore the forest.

The best part? Watching Kenyan primary students teach RVA kids about stewardship.

Hauling water to give each seedling a good start was the hardest part.

22 September 2011

The Monkey In The Classroom

Today was one of my most difficult days in the classroom ever.  Shaken by the news of the passing of an RVA staff member on furlough this term, classes were awkward, painful and full of tears.  By fourth period, my students and I were emotionally spent.  Nobody wanted to talk anymore, but our minds were consumed.  We decided to proceed with the lesson as planned.  This decision was followed by a totally unexpected, and much needed, distraction:

Today we were learning about cells.  About 15 minutes into class, I was demonstrating to students the preparation of a good slide with a leaf in order to observe some cell structures under the microscope.  Just your average, everyday, biology stuff.  A student raised his hand with a quizzical look on his face, and I waited until I’d finished explaining the particular sequence I was demonstrating to call on him.  Before I was able to finish, I was interrupted by a second student asking a question about a specific step I was explaining.  All the while, the first student was engaged in all kinds of facial gymnastics. 

Finally, his body language becoming more and more animated and his face cycling from curiosity to repulsion to panic in comical fashion, he pointed to the place I had been standing only seconds before and blurted out, “Mr. Frazier, what is THAT!?” 

There, next to the class set of Biology books, laid a full-grown Syke’s Monkey – dead.

Turns out, there was a monkey that somehow got hung on a power-line last night.  The electrician who took it down brought it by to see if we could use it.  I wasn’t in the room, so they just left it on the counter.  Only in Africa…

17 September 2011

What's a kid to think?

Today we took an impromptu trip into Nairobi as a family after the morning's Titchie field day games, and a lunch of Senior Store (a class fundraiser).  Jim and the kids sat at Java House, drinking milkshakes, while I made my way around Nakumatt (our supermarket) stocking up for the month.  

On our way home this busy Saturday afternoon, Jim got to practice his best Kenyan driving skills.  We were making our way through a few busy intersections back to the main thoroughfare that takes us up to Kijabe.  We came upon one that happened to have one of the five stop signs in Kenya.  

Joel, who has now witnessed Kenyan driving and traffic rules (or lack thereof) for over a year, exclaimed: "When you see that kind of a stop sign, it means you can keep going!"  And sure enough, the cars in front of us drove ahead as if it weren't there, and then so did we.

Every once in a while, amidst daily life that has become normal, and in a place that has become home, Faith and Joel make comments like this that remind us that we have been raising them in a different culture than we came from.  I'm just glad that he'll maybe have a few years to forget what he learned here before he's sitting behind the wheel!

08 September 2011

No deep thoughts; just cuteness.

We're almost two weeks into our new school year here at RVA, and the kids are back into their routine...

Faith is now a big first grader, with morning AND afternoon class!  Her quote after the first day: "It was too short!"

With sister off at school, Joel is back to his sandbox.  Here he is in his "big hole".  He loves spending time digging around with his trucks, as evidenced by the dirt that finds its way into his pockets and onto our couch!

And Aaron is busy growing!  After having one completely-under-the-curve child, and one 15th percentile child, we're not sure where this 95th percentile child came from.  But I suppose we'll keep him!

06 September 2011

On Being a Boring Missionary

It's amazing the pressure missionaries feel (whether it comes from our own expectations or through the expectations of supporters) to have exciting news and big thoughts.  As a church, we are in the habit of viewing spiritual experiences as intense and exciting and missionaries as super-spiritual people.  Spiritual experiences should be more exciting, shouldn't they?  David Platt in his book Radical speaks of how the Christian mega-church has become just another mass-marketed interpretation of the American Dream with entertaining speakers, an emotional concert-quality worship set, engaging programs...  exciting entertainment.  Is it any wonder that we then expect that same level of entertainment from even our own spiritual lives?

It's totally natural, then, that when our lives feel boring or mundane we begin to feel like we need to 'be more spiritual.'  This pressure is even greater when you're in 'ministry.'  A few weeks ago, there was an article flying around Facebook called We Need Boring Christians.  You should read it; It ties in perfectly with the other day's 'focused on me' Rugby post.  Basically, this guy writes about feeling like God was calling him to the mission field and winding up stranded and out-of-touch with God. This paragraph pretty much nails the missionary dilemma:
"Following Jesus is not to be romanticized through impressive Facebook status updates or photos of exotic places on our blog. Discipleship is often ugly, messy and painful. Faithful service will regularly lead us into dull labors and bewildering struggles that would make unexciting press. To romanticize social justice or cross-cultural evangelism is to promote an idealism that will be inevitably vaporized on the field, inadvertently leading to burnout and cynicism."

A lot of our life here as missionaries is boring.  Most of it, really.  To be completely honest, my greatest spiritual triumph right now would be finding the time and self discipline to get assignments back to students a little faster with some really meaningful feedback - feedback about biology.  Often stories from the mission field include intense spiritual warfare, but so far the most intense spiritual warfare I've experienced here has been the 'boring' fight against a stubborn self-righteous flesh that works to do good while pushing the real issue, that of total obedience to Christ, comfortably out of mind.  Instead, it's easy to sit and think of how I am spiritually above grading papers and how much greater my impact could be - to think how awesome I could be for Christ, not how HE is doing amazing things.  I begin thinking of how my spiritual life can entertain me - not in those words, of course, but eventually, being 'more spiritual' begins to replace being obedient.

04 September 2011


RVA is not like many other schools in a lot of ways.  Here's a good example:  At the end of last term I was asked if I'd like to play in the faculty vs JV rugby game.  I said sure.  I figured it would probably be just a bunch of hopelessly slow and awkward American staff running around desperately grasping at flags.

The day before the game we had a faculty practice.  It was there I found out that this was a full-contact tackles-and-all game.  Some of the guys knew a lot about rugby.  I hadn't even heard of a 'ruck'.  One of the experts spent about 15 minutes showing us how to tackle properly - with your head behind the runner's legs "so you don't get knocked out."  The whole thing seemed like a good way to get hurt.

At the end of the practice I was asked if I could play wing.  I had no idea what a 'wing' was.  I googled it.  After spending about an hour on wikipedia reading about the role of a wing and working through a who's who of outstanding wings from past international leagues and how each had "redefined the position" I felt much better; The wing plays on the edge of the field and while the goal is always to get the ball to the wing so he can advance it, I felt confident we'd be so overmatched the ball would rarely be coming all the way to me.

Game day it poured rain.  I offered extra credit to any varsity player willing to loan me a pair of size ten and a half cleats.  Warming up on the field I was told I'd no longer be playing 'wing' but 'fullback'.

"What's THAT?" I asked.

"It's kind of like a punt returner, but you always have to be ready because they can kick the ball whenever they want.  Just make sure you catch the ball and it'll be fine."

I listened as they continued to describe how I was supposed to tackle anybody that got past the defense "kind of like a free safety," to join the 'line' on offense and several other things that I can no longer remember.  It sounded impossible!

The game started with the faculty receiving the kick, me waiting back deep, by myself, hoping just to avoid embarrassment.  Nobody's ever accused me of having good hands, and I guessed (rightly) that the JV team would be extra willing to kick the ball at me just to see if I could catch.  Sure enough, the ball came right at me.  Surprisingly, I caught it.  Even more so, I ran past the first two or three defenders untouched.  I made it across midfield.  The crowd was getting pretty loud.

"This is really fun!" I thought.  I actually broke two or three tackles before being taken down quite a ways across midfield.  'Fullback' was going much better than I had anticipated.

Almost immediately, they got the ball.  I didn't know where I was supposed to be.  Thankfully, some of the students in the audience started yelling, "Mr. Frazier! Scoot back!"  I did and then a student broke free around the end of our line.  He was really fast!  I was the only one left between him and the try zone.  I hadn't tackled anybody since my eighth grade lightweight football days.  I got in front of him and made the tackle!  The only problem was, I forgot to put my head behind the runner and I took a hard blow to the chin.  Somehow my lip got pulled downward by something and that little flap of tissue in the middle of the bottom lip that keeps it from getting pulled down too far tore free.  My whole chin was totally numb.  I felt like I had lost the lower half of my face and had a huge rubber prosthetic chin put there to replace it.  I couldn't tell if I was bleeding, so I stayed in the game.

The J.V. team thought I was pretty good.  I didn't have many more kicks come my way.  I only badly missed one tackle the rest of the half.  By that time, I knew I was bleeding... a lot.  I'd spit out a bunch and now my mouth was dry with it.  I decided to rinse it out and get a drink.  I filled my mouth with water and swished it around.  That was a terrible idea.  NOW I could feel.  It stung - badly.  But the admiring groan from those who saw me spit a bright red stream of water soothed pain.

The rest of the game is just a blur of bodies and tackles.  The staff began to pull away, scoring several tries.  A large portion of the student audience coached me through the game, telling me to run back, to join the line, to watch for the kick...

Toward the end of the game, I was trying to tackle a guy. I was very careful to put my head behind the runner, but as I did, something out of nowhere collided with my face.  It ended up being a team-mate's knee. (a picture of the instant after the collision at right)

I could feel my lip getting pulled even farther out of place, and my nose started pouring blood.  I wobbled off the field.  On the sidelines I gave a pained grin to my teammates.

"Was your nose crooked before?"
"Not really."
"That nose is broken!"

I went home to check out the damage and to put ice on my nose.  I walked in the house and avoided seeing Heather who was sick in bed, snuck into the bathroom and began to wash up.

"Are you ok?" she asked.
"Just a bloody nose."

And I thought it was just a bloody nose.  My lip hurt a lot more.  Now both have healed just fine, but the nose is just a little different.

The next day in class, I had a lot of comments about how great I'd played, how fast I was, how tough I must be for staying in the game...   I think what they meant was that I was faster and better than they'd expected from an uber-ackward science nerd.  It still felt really good - to be praised by men, and have my ego fed.  I think the experience helped me see how much I crave that external validation.

So I've been thinking about it a lot the last few months. I think a lot of the time when we do bigger and better things as Christians our motivation is often that others will notice us and praise us more.  Even when my initial motives are pure, the siren song of recognition can easily pull me under.  "Great job in chapel today, Jim!" or "I can tell students really like you" are a couple of comments that make me feel great, and more often than not, I just soak it all in.

God calls us to something much different.  Deitrich Bonhoeffer in his book "The Cost of Discipleship" wrote, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him, 'Come and die.'"  I've begun to realize that all my thoughts about the rugby game were about how awesome I was.  In fact, my whole method of appraising my success (even my spiritual life) concerns what I am doing.  What if my reflections on the tasks I've undertaken all made me think about how awesome HE is and about what HE is doing?

01 September 2011

And We're Off!

It's been a while since we posted (again).  We just started a new school year, which means we just finished the shortest summer vacation of my life.  I (Jim) thought the last month was going to be a good time to catch up on the blog (and life in general).  Turns out, it was a good time for disrupting routine and causing family chaos and getting further behind on the blog (and life in general).  It's an interesting example, I guess, of how total freedom brings total Chaos.  So now we're hoping for a return to normalcy and a schedule.  Maybe we'll catch up on the last three months of thoughts and events too.

12 August 2011

A long time now...

It's been quite a while now since we posted!  I (Jim) think we ended the school-year (July 17th) out of gas.   Physically and mentally exhausted.  I'm sure having a newborn and the accompanying short nights has contributed, but still.  I had great plans for posts at the beginning of he break.  It's been a busy break.  We've gone on a couple of great family trips and taken care of lots of loose ends... we may even have a birth certificate and passport for Aaron soon!  At any rate, time has gotten away from us.  We still have dozens of things to share, but we just haven't found the time or energy to actually DO it!  Hopefully that will come eventually, but here is what I've really been thinking about lately:

Being as worn-out as we were at the end of this past term, I've done a lot of thinking about why.  I can't remember which term it was but Tim Cook (our now-retired superintendent) shared what he'd been reading about the Cycle of Grace - an idea written about by Dr. Frank Lake and explained well on this guy's blog. (I don't know what else is on the site, so if it's weird, sorry!)  The natural cycle is something like this:  I work to achieve goals that give me a sense of personal significance and feel success when the world notices.  Successful work (properly recognized by others) stokes my ego and gives a sense of acceptance; all is right with the world - and me.  But it doesn't stop there.  Unless I continue to work, significance fades and with it, success and that sense of acceptance.  I am no longer right with the world.  I fall into this cycle naturally: in my work, in my relationships with colleagues, my marriage, my relationship with God...

The 'Cycle of Grace' has all the same components, but starts with our acceptance by God and proceeds backward from that.  The realization that we are accepted through Christ as adopted children (Romans 8:15) gives the perspective that success is then through Christ alone... who has already accepted me.  This gives every action significance and drives my work: now an act of obedience to God... who has already accepted me!  Really it's just a simple change in attitude but what if I approached my work (in whatever context) this way?

Believe it or not, there are a LOT of Christians (especially missionaries) who have this cycle backwards.  And I think this is dangerous for Christians...  Working to achieve significance will lead to burn-out and I think that's where I was heading at the end of our 1st year here (as you can see from the previous post).  So... my new goal is to begin working from that position of acceptance.  We'll see.  It's interesting how the gospel Christ preached takes just about every natural tendency and commands the exact opposite.

19 July 2011

Coming soon to a mailbox near you...

Just a quick note to say that we are putting together a mailing to send out summarizing our first year in Kenya.  There will be a new prayer card enclosed, and of course, a photo of our newest family member.  If you'd like to receive this, and you know you are not on our list, please click on "Join Our Mailing List", found on the right side of your screen.

Also, AIM has updated their online giving link, so in case you found that ours has been faulty as of late, I have fixed that too.

Asante sana!  (Thank you very much!)

The Fraziers

15 July 2011

The End of the Year Trainwreck

So Thursday was the end of the school-year.  Maybe you weren't expecting that.  We didn't really communicate that here on the blog - maybe because it kind of snuck up on us.  I think there's also the truth that we've been a little overwhelmed.  A little more than a month ago, we welcomed Baby Frazier #3 into the world which brought nights of sleeping like a baby (not good) and loads of laundry and visitors and...  Heather recovered slowly due to some sort of infection, then Faith got sick.  Joel and I were plugging along just fine - but busy.

A few days ago, it looked like Joel had a bug-bite on his chin, but a couple of days later it exploded into this huge raw blistering sore - it looked a little like pictures of the early stages of a brown recluse bite that I've seen.  We asked around and, surprisingly, there are no spiders or insects in Kenya with a bite like that.

Monday was my Birthday and we didn't have class.  I was very grateful because I didn't feel very good.  I had this intermittent fever and a really sore throat.  I felt a little better and kept teaching Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday night I felt really bad.  Dr. Entwistle who lives next door and works at Kijabe Hospital came over just then to take a look at Joel's chin: Impetigo.  He heard I hadn't been feeling well either and took a look down my throat with our little wind-up flashlight.  After some uuughs, wows and grimaces he said it looked like I had strep.  He said he'd leave a prescription at the hospital chemist in the morning.  That night I couldn't sleep.  My fever was really high, I was having weird thoughts, and sweating buckets and in the morning I knew there was no way I was going to school.

Faith had a wonderful year at Titchie!
Heather walked Faith up to her last day of Kindergarten and then went down to the hospital to wait for my prescription... sometimes a morning-long process and never fun but Heather went cheerfully.  It seemed like she suddenly had a lot of energy.

I dragged myself out of bed and hobbled to the bathroom.  I glanced in the mirror and saw my right lymph node bulging out the side of my neck like a second trachea.  I was miserable.  I climbed back in bed and stayed there until evening.  The most frustrating part was, I didn't feel good enough to read or write and I couldn't fall asleep, so I had a lot of time to sit and think and pray.  It ended up being a great time of reflection on the year.  The one which I didn't quite finish.

My reflections had a recurring theme:  God has really provided for us.  We've had some rough stretches and some trials, certainly, but we've grown a lot and seen the faithfulness of God through them.  The last few weeks have been a good example.  I was sick for the last week of school and I don't think I had the physical energy to fight off sickness or to finish well.  There was no way I was finishing the tasks of the year without everything somehow falling in my favor and time after time, things did.

Aaron's been hard to put to sleep and I somehow have the knack.  Heather fed him and tried putting him down for quite a while, but he just fussed.  "I can't do this," she said.  I dragged myself out of bed and tried putting him to sleep.  It took a while and he was practically gone so I crawled back into bed, freezing.  He was quiet for a minute, maybe.

Then, he started screaming.  I thought, "I can't do this," and, "Jesus, help him fall asleep."  Heather (who had no idea how badly I felt at that point) asked me if I was going to help him.  I mumbled something to the effect of, "I think he'll fall back asleep."  I was just stalling; his crying sounded nothing like a baby about to fall asleep and I didn't think he would.  I felt like I was just about to pass out.  Then he just stopped crying and fell asleep.

I think sometimes we say prayers like that and God says, "No."  Maybe most of the time, actually.  But I think we can usually look back later and see exactly why he said it: a lesson learned, a truth reinforced, humility gained...  but it is comforting to know that those other times when we actually are spent he really is in control of our circumstances and blesses us with little things. 1 Peter 5:6-10

The whole week was full of those small, convenient blessings!  Now another conveniently-timed blessing:  Break!  Over the next few weeks, we'll be able to recover.  And the reason there's been very little on the blog in the last month is not for lack of news!  We'll try to catch up on that too.

03 July 2011

Out of Kijabe hospital

Here's a video Jim took as we walked with newborn Aaron from the hospital room to the car on Monday morning.  It's a good glimpse of a small part of the hospital and what it looks like on a daily basis.

30 June 2011

The story of Aaron Hudson

Phew, it's been a quiet almost-three-weeks on the blog, we know.  It hasn't exactly been a quiet almost-three-weeks at home, though I think we are getting a handle on being parents of three.  I (Heather) lost quite a bit of blood after the delivery of Aaron, so it's taken a bit to get my strength back, and we've all been battling our share of illnesses, but now we are starting to come out of the fog, and we're feeling pretty good.  

I've been wanting to share a little about Aaron's birth and our experience of having a baby in Kenya, so we'll see if I can put my thoughts together.

The weekend Aaron was born was the long-awaited Sophomore Restaurant.  On Saturday night, the staff of RVA, lower station families (those who work at the hospital or other surrounding ministries... RVA is "upper station"), and junior and senior students, all got dressed up to be served by the sophomore class.  The sophomores plan and prepare all year to put on "dinner and a show" as a fundraiser for the banquet their junior year.  So here we are, ready for our big date on Saturday night.  As it was three days prior to my due date, we had reserved a table for two not knowing if we'd have a newborn or not.  Lo and behold, here we are, still waiting.  
The funny thing about living in this community, is you do everything together.  Both my doctor and the nurse who would attend to my birth were both there, with their spouses, enjoying the night out.  Dr. Myrick finds us and jokingly tells me to please wait until after dinner to have a baby.  I did have a few contractions throughout dinner, but went home to a quiet night, thankful for some rest.

I woke up at 4 am, rather uncomfortable and unable to sleep, but kept resting until about 10.  Jim got the kids off to sunday school, and I got up for church.  Church starts at 11, so we went down to the chapel to worship with the rest of the community.  I was starting to notice contractions, but nothing very regular, and it felt much different than my other two labors, so I wasn't very convinced anything was happening.  After church, our Sunday tradition is to eat in the cafeteria, and Jim asked if I was up for that.  I told him only if there were mashed potatoes.  Well, there were mashed potatoes, so we had a nice lunch together.  However, the contractions were feeling a bit stronger, so we hurried home and I laid down while Jim put the kids down for a nap.  That's when everything picked up.  Instead of ten minutes apart like they had been all morning, labor seemed to be speeding up... 8 minutes... 7 minutes...

After resting and walking for an hour, we called Jacqui, the nurse, at 3:00.  She came to the house, we visited between contractions, and she was timing them, something I had lost concentration to be able to do.  Labor seemed a bit erratic still, but we decided the baby was probably coming, sooner or later.  Jacqui called Dr. Myrick, who was playing Sunday-afternoon ultimate frisbee on campus.  She told him he could probably finish his game, but would he please come by afterward.  He came to the house around 4:00 (also the time my baby shower started... needless to say I missed my own party!) and decided we'd better head down to the hospital.  On the way, Jacqui ran into our neighbor's house, who happened to be the pediatrician on call for the day, and told him there'd be a baby to check out in a little bit.  There really are some nice things about having a baby here...
Here I am at the hospital, in the hall, waiting for the private room to be set up.  Dr. Myrick decided that if the baby and I continued to look okay, he'd be fine delivering in the private room.   This was a very nice accommodation that we did not expect.  It is much more private than the conventional experience at Kijabe hospital.  After 15 minutes in the hallway or so, we made our way to the room.  Jim took some quick pictures before things got very serious.
 The call button.
 The sterile delivery sheets and gowns.  Yes, really sterile.  The hospital found that this system would save quite a bit of money, and help to employ more people.  
Myself, Jacqui, and Faith, a good friend who I asked to attend the birth.  She knows the Kijabe hospital ropes quite well.  Two of her four children were born here.  Oh-- and note the dress.  It was what I wore to restaurant, church, and to have my baby.  Seriously multi-purpose.
 And then things got going.  Right outside that window is a big sidewalk where a lot of people and visitors wait, as well as the cafeteria.  

From 5:30 until Aaron was born (6:27pm) I worked pretty hard.  I remember looking at Jim's watch at 6:00 and thinking that I wasn't going to ever see my baby!  I was thrilled that he came quite soon after that.  I was so thankful for the support of everyone that was with me.  It was nice to have the gentle encouragement of Jacqui and Faith, and Jim's hand on my back.  The most important thing for me was to not feel alone.  Dr. Myrick is a family practice doctor here at Kijabe.  I'm not sure how many years he has worked here, but before Kenya, he and his wife served in Jordan, so he's got years and years of experience in overseas medicine.  While I was hoping and praying throughout my whole pregnancy that an OB would show up in time to deliver my baby, I really forgot about that in the end, and we were very thankful to have his skill and expertise when the time came.

Being new here, I'm not sure I can accurately put my finger on what makes missionary doctors different.  You can have a specialty or a focus as a doctor, but here, or elsewhere on the field, you've probably done way more than that.  For Dr. Myrick, being a family practice doctor, and having years of experience in overseas medicine, and due to his experience, means he's a regular on the OB rotation, and delivers babies all the time.  I also think being a medical missionary means that you see extreme cases day in and day out, and so when the routine comes along, there's thankfulness, and no need to make something more than it is.  As one of the pediatricians told me last week "why go looking for trouble?"  And of course, there's not the liability or the worry of malpractice here like in the states.  Medical care is a luxury and a privilege, and thankfulness is often the perspective of the patient here, no matter the outcome.  All of this makes Kijabe a wonderful place to have a baby as well... 
Aaron arrived safely at 6:27 pm.  Thinking all along in this pregnancy that I must be having a girl (we really didn't know, however), it was a fun surprise to welcome a little boy, which was cause for lots of giggles and laughter all around.  He was wiped off a little bit, bundled up in a surgical gown, and put into my arms.  Of course, we didn't know he was Aaron (we named him the following morning) so we had to keep from calling him Joel, he looked so much like his older brother.  
 After a few hours, a Kenyan nurse checked him out before we went to bed.  (He was also examined by one of the missionary pediatricians right after her was born.)  No one bothered us again until the next morning, and being our third child, there was no way we were going to wake Aaron up to eat.  We enjoyed the hands-off approach very much!
The next morning, Jim ran around the hospital, getting discharge papers, medicines, paid our bill ($130) and got Aaron's record of birth, which is needed to obtain his Kenyan birth certificate.  By 11:30 we were on our way home!
 Needless to say, there are no car seat checks here... (He will ride in one, I promise, just not the half of a kilometer it took to get back home.)
 The best part of the day: meeting the new sibling!
 First family story time with three kids... we'd been waiting nine months for this!
We are so thankful for our experience here, and although things looked a lot different on the outside, it's really not that different.  We had excellent care, and as in most cases, the labor and delivery went smoothly, and when there was a little bit of trouble, there were resources to help.  It sounds a little cliche, but it really is true... women do have babies everywhere.  For me, the lesson was putting my trust in the Lord and his creation (Aaron and myself) and not into medical practice, buildings, or culture.  

15 June 2011

It's a BOY!

Heather had the baby on Sunday evening, 6:27 Kijabe time.  Much to her (ok... our) surprise, it's a boy!  After several hours, we chose the name Aaron Hudson for our little boy.  He weighed 7 pounds and was 19.5 inches long.  There is a lot to tell about the birth and related events.  At some point Heather will probably have the time and energy to write about her thoughts and experience.  I'll try to put mine down too, but for now, here are a few pictures!
Leaving Kijabe Hospital.

The very Happy BIG brother!

And big sister.

Showing the baby to the grandparents.

And about the name of the blog...