I have made a commitment this year to keep up with both my client and personal blogs. I have past travel blogs that I would love to get up over the next months, so am looking forward to that as well.
I truly am a travel addict. The interesting part is that I had never flown on an airplane until I was in my mid-twenties, and had never traveled outside of the country until 2003!
I graduated from nursing school in 1999 and shortly after saw a story that Oprah Winfrey did on the women of Africa suffering from vaginal fistulas and their need for care. As a labor and delivery nurse, this pulled right at my heart strings and it was the first time I heard the call to Africa, and it was so strong. My children were young and my husband was not on board for a mission trip there at all. I kept it on my horizons and dreamed that the right time would come and that I would know it when it presented itself.
In 2003 I met my dear friend Dawn McClellan through a small church group I belonged to and she inspired me on so many levels. She had been doing mission trips for many years and has spent her entire adult life serving others both locally and internationally and her passion and her drive just really inspired me. She had a trip planned for Sri Lanka in late 2003 and I was able to go with the support of my husband and family. I had signed up months in advance, and as the time drew near to the trip my personal life was in total chaos. We struggled with two teenagers who were lost and hurting and I remember the night before I left crying and wondering what in the heck I had gotten myself into. How could I go help anyone else when my life was such a mess?
But as it has happened so often in my life, God met me right there. I had an incredible awakening into a life outside of myself, I life I really needed to see. I had been so wrapped up in my life and the pain that both my family and myself had been living for a couple of years, that fear and pain was all I could see. I was pretty much hopeless at this point in my life, and through that trip I came to realize just how big this world is.
As we served families living in refugee camps, children’s homes, and rural communities without things we take for granted every day such as basic healthcare, food, water, and electricity we came across happy people, joyful people, with lives so different from mine. I was forever changed. I went on to travel to Sri Lanka on 5 different mission trips over the years as well as Thailand, Brazil, and Mexico. I developed a deep desire to travel, to experience other cultures and see as much of this beautiful and glorious world as I could. I began traveling personally as well and have to say that about every 6 months I begin to hear that call.
But, this post is about Kenya, right? Well, I had to do the lead in, and tell the story of how I came to be here. After all of those years of dreaming of serving in Africa I finally had the opportunity! I had met a beautiful woman Meredith that used to work with me in labor and delivery, she had posted about a trip to Kenya serving the women of eastern Kenya through 410 Bridge’s Women’s Health Initiative. Oh man was I excited! I messaged her right away for more details, did a whole lot of begging to husband, promised all kinds of things, and applied to go. I was so excited when my application was accepted! Another amazing plus was that my dear friend Stephanie who works labor and delivery with me was all in as well, and it was such an incredible experience to do together!
So, without further ado, here is my trip!
Stephanie and I flew out of Vegas together and met up with half of the team in Atlanta. We then flew into Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Nairobi. It took us about 21 hours in just flight time without lay overs. I am a bit quirky and actually love flying even on those ridiculously long flights. It is so worth it to me and it is the perfect way to come down from my crazy life, to just sit and spend some time preparing my heart and my mind.
We landed right before midnight and so spent the night in Nairobi before heading out in the morning for the area we would serve in 5 hours east of Nairobi in the Segera area. This was our ride! It picked us up at the airport and was our transportation for the whole trip. I literally cried on the plane a couple of times, and as we landed and again as we rode in this. It was so surreal to me that such a long time dream of mine had finally come true. God is good!
We saw such beautiful and varied landscape on our drive to our location, from lush greenery to vast landscapes spotted with so much wildlife and flora I had never seen before.
The clinic we worked out of was amazing! It was so functional, and had three treatment rooms, and great areas for triage and additional treatments. We had so much space and a fully staffed pharmacy. The best part of all is that we worked alongside the local care providers that serve in this community and clinic. We spent time learning and working alongside each other. It was amazing! We even had spiritual support with a prayer team that served both the patients we saw and provided us such incredible spiritual support. I cried every single day. I was so deeply touched on so many different levels, it truly was the most life changing trip I have ever been on.
As we drove to and from clinic each day we would see scenery like this-
Our trip included meals and we had the most delicious breakfast and dinners every day and had lunches packed for us daily for clinic!
Because the area we served was so rural, families literally walked for miles to come see us. 410 has served this area for quite some time now and so had developed a really neat relationship with both the community and it’s care givers. We triaged patients, offered HIV testing (it is still quite common here), as well as lots of breathing treatments, cervical screenings, family planning opportunities, pregnacy testing, jiggers treatments, sex education, as well as education on birth kits, and infant CPR.
There were a couple of mornings we were able to get up early enough before clinic to enjoy the amazing Kenyan sunrises.
Not only did I become so attached to this country and it’s beautiful people, but also the amazing people I served along side. Most of this team had traveled to this area before and already knew each other, yet they were so welcoming and so kind. Truly the most incredible hearts and souls.
There was no clinic on Sunday, and instead we visited local churches and were able to visit some of the Maasai homes to learn about their culture and way of life. It truly was fascinating!
My friend Stephanie, she has such a gift of connecting with other people, and just draws children to her.
Jiggers treatments, they were prevalent here especially in children and are found mostly in the feet as they are infected from the dirt. I was able to go out with a group of three of us to a local community where we learned how to treat them and were able to initiate treatments around 10 patients in a community. Sorry, no pictures of that!
Lenee is a pharmacist, but served on our prayer team for this trip. Talk about a powerful woman of God. She inspired me on so many levels!
I was inspired by every single member of our team. Stacy (top middle) was our fearless leader and has been a part of this program for many years and has been an integral part of this program from the beginning in this area as well as Maria (bottom right). Their passion for these people and this program was so infectious. Liz (bottom left) was our medical team leader and I was in awe of her intelligence and ability to lead.
After our last day of clinic women from the surrounding area brought their beautiful handmade jewelry and other beautiful wares for us to look at and purchase if we would like. I was blown away by the intricacy and beauty of their items and of course invested in some for myself!
The last night of our trip we were fortunate enough to stay at a Safari Lodge and experience both a night and an early morning safari. This was a non-hunting conservation area and it was even more amazing than I could have imagined. Pretty much cried this day as well. Shoot, I cried every day.
I thought I wanted to see a kill, until we actually arrived right after a den of lions had killed a baby giraffe. It was so heartbreaking, this mama giraffe stood vigil over her baby’s body to keep the lions from eating it. I know there is the circle of life, but seeing the pain in the mamas eyes was just so heartbreaking.
Sweetwaters Safari Lodge was such an incredible experience. We stayed in a luxury tent and it was the perfect ending to our trip. To say that we were all emotional is an understatement. Experiencing this peaceful morning and final devotions together truly was beautiful. It was so hard to say goodbye.
There are people and places that have deeply impacted my life and changed me for the better. Times when I have seen God’s love and grace in full force so undeniably and so palpable. This trip and this group of women are both of these to me. I will forever be grateful for this experience and these beautiful women!
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