Bolivia, Kenya, and other updates from 2008

Stories and pictures from 2008 (Bolivia, Kenya, Mission Medics, Global Missions Health Conference).


Saturday, January 31, 2009, 1:45 PM

This was my second time in Kenya. These two weeks were diverse and wonderful. Our team worked in four different towns, treated hundreds of patients, and saw dozens of Kenyans accept Christ as Lord. My role on this trip was to coordinate and run the pharmacy - which went extremely smoothly.

A few of my thoughts and journal entries:

We have three counselors on our team this time - 2 Americans and 1 Kenyan. They are working with Kenyan pastors to start offering counseling for displaced victims of violence, children who've been orphaned, and women who've been abused. I'm really impressed with the things they are teaching and the healing God is already bringing through this.

Prayer and Praise
We had two wonderful people on our team who lead us in music and prayer several times a day. This has been a huge blessing for me. I love to sing and have really appreciated these uplifting times. I've also watched prayers offered up during these times be answered quickly and specifically!

We are really blessed to spend these two weeks with Andrea, a British friend I originally met in the Philippines! She's recently finished medical school and married a man who is working for USAID in Kenya for a year. When we found out we'd be in Kenya at the same time I was very excited and it has been fun to have her join us. It was amazing to see her waiting at the airport in Nairobi when we arrived. On our second clinic day she lead a patient to Christ for the first time, and she's been glowing ever since (despite the dirt coating all of us!)

Food and vitamin distribution
We were in the Kamai Camp for Internally Displaced People Friday. After a whirlwind clinic (complete with puppet show for the children and a very busy prayer room) we handed out food, vitamins, and worm medications for every family in the village. This is the second time I've been part of a distribution in this camp. It is wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. It was particularly hard when we ran out of children's vitamins toward the end.

Early this morning villagers brought a very sick woman to our gate. Her name was Marilyn (?). We packed all clinic supplies in the bus the night before, so I must admit I was not excited about locating the tests and medications needed to treat her. But after some digging we found exactly what she needed. We talked with her about Jesus and before  we got onto the bus to leave Kirasha, Margaret prayed with a Kenyan pastor to accept Christ. She told me her pain was already better. Oh, Father, I'm so sorry to be hesitant to do your work in YOUR timing. Thank you for using me anyway!

Mombasa (Kikambala)
Our last week was spent in Mombasa on the southeastern coast of Kenya. The weather was HOT,  the bugs were large, and the ocean was beautiful. Most people in this area are Muslim. An evangelical Kenyan organization called Faith Evangelical Ministries partnered with us to put on the medical clinic and children's programs. 

"I can breath!"
One afternoon in Mombasa a man came to the pharmacy for an albuterol nebulizer treatment. I didn't have a translator so I'm sure I looked pretty funny as I hooked up the nebulizer through a power adapter and converter, then pantomimed how to hold the nebulizer mouthpiece. A few minutes into the treatment he pounded on the table to get my attention. Worried something was wrong, I quickly found a translator. "I can breathe!" he told me. This man struggled with a reactive airway disease his entire life and this was the first time he'd received proper treatment. I told him we had albuterol inhalers so he could give himself a similar treatment every time he has this problem and he was so excited he had trouble relaxing his smile long enough to finish the treatment!

Fun with elephants and camels
The pastors took us on a short hike into the Kamai Forest one morning to see wild elephants! I've been on a few safaris now, but is was amazing to just walk into the forest and look across the ravine to see elephants eating their breakfast - almost like seeing a deer in the woods at home. Amazing.
On our day off we spent the afternoon on the Mombasa coast. After snorkeling and seeing some beautiful coral reefs, I got to take a brief ride up the beach on a camel (the Kenyan coast is not far from the middle east so there is a lot of Arab influence, including camel rides for the tourists).

You can see my Kenya pictures here 
"Thank You" song

Thoughts from the Global Missions Health Conference

November 2008

I attended the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY November 13-15, 2008. It is the biggest conference of its kind - great speakers and lots of networking with other believers involved in healthcare missions.

The second night of the conference I stood in an auditorium singing praise songs with over 6000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals and students. I suddenly realized all these people had submitted their lives to Christ and were together in that room seeking God's direction for their lives and professions!  It was worth the trip just for that moment.

In short:

  • Great worship times
  • Great networking
  ...I especially enjoyed meeting with pharmacy students who are trying to figure out what their faith looks like in the pharmacy world
  ...And with a nurse who is getting ready to set up a Community Health Evangelism program in Peru. I'm praying about how I can be involved!
  • New resources and ideas (sustainable resources like food dryers that allow children to get Vitamin A from mangos year round...)
  • An underlying theme encouraging me to continue focusing on training mothers and basic volunteer healthcare workers at the village level
  • Good reinforcement of basic healthcare information I learned through Mercy in Action
  • Carl Taylor, MD standing in front of us at 90+ years of age saying he can't think of anything more fun than sitting in a village helping mothers discover what they already know about health - and looking like he was ready to go back to India and do just that
  • "We can't solve ethical problems with technical solutions"

The last quote came from one of the main speakers. An intellectual talk aimed at an intellectual audience but powerfully grounded in TRUTH just like the rest of the conference. Talks and breakout sessions were practical, but continually came back to the theme of spiritual transformation where God is glorified and His kingdom expands. That's my kind of healthcare!
Global Missions Health Conference

Mission Medics training program

I'm having a blast coordinating a medical missions training program through the Vineyard College of Missions here in Boise. This is very similar to my previous work with Mercy in Action. 

Purpose statement: To advance the kingdom of God through healthcare evangelism.

The class meets two nights a week, three hours per night. Our students are adults with no medical background. At the end of the course some will be EMTs and others will be Outdoor Emergency Care technicians. They're learning a wide range of health assessment, treatment, education, and ministry skills for serving the poor. Next spring we'll travel as a group to give students hands-on healthcare experience in a third world village.

To read more about the program, click on the Mission Medics logo on the left.

I've also posted a few pictures from class: Mission Medics '08-'09

Medical School Update

June 2008

I was NOT accepted to medical school for this fall. In the end I only applied to the University of Washington WWAMI program. It was the only program that offered some flexibility for continuing outreach work and allowed me to complete my last two years in Boise.

I'm disappointed - mostly because I'm not used to being turned down! I am also relieved. Jumping into 4 years of medical school and 3 years of residency was a big step.

If I decide to apply again I'll need to retake the MCATs, (I took them before I finished Physics), but that will involve months of studying. I'll spend a lot of time praying and looking into other programs before I consider applying again. 

In the meantime, God is opening new doors. My time in Kenya restored my enthusiasm for short-term medical outreaches. I look forward to returning to Kenya in January to help launch a health ministry in an unreached people group. I'm co-leading a 9-month Mission Medic training course starting this September (see entry above). I'm working with a refugee family in Boise. I continue to enjoy working as many hours as I want as a pharmacist at Saint Alphonsus. Who am I to be showered with so many blessings?

Exploring New England

October 2008

Last summer my Grandma (Lamb) commented she'd never been to New England and really wanted to go in the fall. My response was the same as it usually is - "Let's Go!" Just in time for Grandma's 80th birthday this fall.

Mom and Dad joined us. The trip expanded to include a few days at lake house in New Hampshire, several days on a houseboat in Boston, and two nights in New York City. We saw magnificent fall colors, explored the historical sights of Boston, and went to spectacular Broadway shows.

New England photos  

Distribution of supplies to Kamai Camp

In addition to setting up a medical clinic and seeing hundreds of patients, our team distributed food, blankets, vitamins, worm meds, and bibles (in Swahili and Kikuyu) to each family in the Kamai camp. God miraculously provided the funding for all these supplies - even after our initial estimates were doubled and tripled by the political violence in February. Somehow all those supplies were purchased in Nairobi and transported to the camp nearly on time (4 hours late but for a developing country in a state of emergency that's amazing!)

For more pictures:
Kenya Photos

Kamai Forest Camp for Internally Displaced People

The main focus of this outreach was the Kamai Forest Camp, a refugee camp for internally displaced people. The number of people in the camp grew tremendouly due to political  unrest and major ethnic clashes in January and February of 2008. The stories of murder, rape, and property destruction are heartbreaking.

Yet in one short week I watched God bring tremendous hope to this camp. A huge team of Kenyan pastors and Christian volunteers organized this outreach. Each day they spoke a clear message of love and salvation, the same love we Americans demonstrated with our actions and smiles.

One young woman was raped during the violence months before we arrived. She came to us for an HIV test. Her test was positive. Her symptoms suggested she had already progressed to active AIDS, her disease likely  worsened by malnutrition and horrible living conditions. With a heavy heart, the doctor seeing this patient quietly explained the test results to her. As the translator related the news, the patient's face lit up in a huge grin. Fearing something had been lost in translation, the doctor waited for the patient's reply. I'll paraphrase what she said:

"Yesterday the pastors came here with you and told us about eternal life with God. Now I know Jesus and my children know Jesus. I know I'm going to heaven. Praise God!"

Why do I do medical mission work? To bring hope to people like this young woman. 

Fighting poverty with... reading glasses?

One evening after our clinic ended, I went to a hut to test an elderly refugee woman for reading glasses. Using hand gestures and mime I started with the lowest strength and worked my way up to stronger and stronger magnification. As she started to put on her 3rd pair of glasses I could tell she was getting discouraged - then her face lit up! She only has 3 teeth but her smile was beautiful. I left the glasses with her and left.

The next morning I passed by her hut on the way to our clinic. The young man caring for her ran up to me and asked me to come see what she was doing. She was sitting in her cooking hut reading a Kikuya Bible, the first time she's been able to read in years. She insisted I take three fresh eggs as a thank you. I ended up accepting the precious gift because they simply wouldn't take no for an answer.

The clinic was extremely busy that day. By the time I left the pharmacy to eat my lunch the food was completely gone and all food supplies had been packed up and shipped off to the next location. Now I can certainly stand to miss a meal here and there, but that particular afternoon I was weak and shaking from hunger and exhaustion. Then I remembered my eggs! My Kenyan friends cooked them up for me and that became my favorite meal in Kenya. 

Off to Kenya!

Friday, April 11th, 2008, 10:15 PM

Tomorrow morning I leave for Kenya with a medical team organized by Genesis World Mission here in Boise.

I'm even more excited than usual about this trip because of the way I'm seeing God work. I don't have time to post much before I leave, but please click on the link below to read details on our team's blog site.

Please join me in praying for each person we will meet on this trip. Pray that our Kenyan patients see much more than free medical care. Our heart is that they see the love,  compassion, and freedom found only in Christ.

Missions - a life of contrasts

My energy and enthusiasm when I get up at 5am to pack up medications for the day's outreach. My grumpiness and exhaustion when I collapse into bed 17 hours later.

Greeting the tree frog that lives in the toilet in the morning. Chasing a big hairy spider out of the sink at night.

Laughing at the antics of my teammates. Crying at the injustices of poverty.

Snow, wind, and 2 degrees (F) in Boise. Humidity (90%), stifling stillness, and 95 degrees (F) in Bolivia.

Delighting in the beauty of South American plants and butterflies. Staring in horror at a village's muddy, sewage-contaminated drinking water.

Rejoicing with a patient in the Boise ER as a clot-busting drug restores the use of his right side. Then suddenly  grieving for the Filippino lady with a similar clot I was unable to adequately treat.

Through all the contrasts, all the joy, and all the pain, God is there. He isn't affected by jet lag or time zones. He doesn't have to worry about cultural barriers. He is simply there. Loving me. Challenging me. Protecting me. Guiding me. Everywhere. Always.

In a life of contrasts, God is my consistency. And He wants to be yours. In the ups and downs of life, what are you clinging to?

A train into the jungle

Click to zoom the imageO.k. So we weren't exactly in the Amazon jungle - just blazing a track along the edge of it. A train track, that is.

We couldn't reach the Manacho village by truck because heavy rains caused excessive flooding this rainy season. Instead, we traveled by  railcart - a short train-like object that travels about 25mph through tall grass and overhanging brush as it rattles into the jungle.

The front car is covered with recycled tin, a nice, hot oven in the Bolivian sun. The heat, cramped quarters, and engine exhaust convinced the Americans to try riding in the open air back cart. "But what about the branches?" the Bolivians asked. "We'll duck," we replied. Famous last words.

Imagine shrinking yourself to six inches tall and then riding just behind the string of a weed whacker as someone blazes a trail through a field of grass. Add to that a beautiful but  HOT and humid day, hilarious teammates who make every adventure fun, and low-hanging branches that require a quick duck every two minutes or so and you have an approximate picture of our 3 hour railcart ride.

The railcart driver stops the cart every hour or so to add some sort of fluid to the engine. The rest of the time he sits watching carefully for railcarts traveling in the opposite direction. There is only one set of tracks, so when we meet up with another cart we have to pile out and  lift one cart off the tracks while the other passes by. An adventure indeed!

My afternoon was spent dispensing prescriptions to Manacho villagers. It was hot work, but then I watched a few villagers plucking and preparing chicken for our evening soup and realized my job was comparatively easy. After dinner I filled a bucket with water from the pump and took one of the most refreshing bucket baths of my life. My dark bathing corner turned out to be the wall of someone's home (abandoned buildings in the third world are rarely truly abandoned - you'd think I'd have learned this by now), so my bath was NEARLY a big embarrassment. I'll never know if that family really didn't see me or if they're just polite. Oh, well. I was clean.

The people of this village were extremely poor - subsistence farmers whose houses and fields have been flooded for months. It is amazing how many levels of poverty there are.  I find my definitions keep changing - I now consider a villager who earns 2 dollars a day quite well off. It was a true blessing to provide a little healthcare and hope for these desperate people.
Click to zoom the image

San Juan Project Summary

Most of my time in Bolivia was spent in the San Juan area. My team, coordinated by Medical Ministry International ( came from all over the United States and Canada. Two surgeons, two medical students, a family practice doctor, a pediatrician, an RN, an LPN, a paramedic, and me (the pharmacist). Plus a retired CFO, a retired school teacher, and some wonderful Bolivian volunteers. Lots of diverse backgrounds and personalities but we blended amazingly well. Thank you to those of you who specifically prayed for team unity and bonding - your prayers were answered!

The medical team traveled to villages throughout the area and saw over 1000 patients. Our surgery team stayed closer to San Juan to perform surgeries but sometimes joined us to provide consults. In total I handed out more than 3,100 prescriptions.

Every patient who came through our clinics heard the gospel message. I preached on Sunday. It was humbling to watch God use my words and actions to work in the hearts of both Bolivians and Americans .

I had the usual stomach issues from time to time and my flights were delayed coming home, but overall this was a really smooth trip. God blessed a lot of Bolivians during our two weeks in Bolivia, and we were definitely blessed in return. Thank you for your prayers! 

A day in the life...

I wrote a description of A day in the life of a missionary pharmacist based on one of my days in Bolivia, then decided it was too long to post here. To read it please click below.  
A day in the life of a missionary pharmacist
Click to zoom the image

Bolivia Pictures!

Sunday, February 17, 2008, 7:15 PM
I just uploaded some Bolivia photos. This is my faithful pharmacy crew. I'll add stories and other updates soon. 
Bolivia Photo Album
Click to zoom the image

Off to Bolivia

Friday, February 01, 2008, 7:05 PM

I'm sitting in the Miami airport waiting for my overnight flight to Bolivia. I took pictures of the snow in Boise yesterday just so I remember to appreciate being hot in Bolivia.

I was blessed with lots of help this past week as I frantically prepared to leave. THANK YOU everyone who came over to print medication labels, sort medications, pack boxes, and feed me! I have a wonderful support system and I'm grateful for each of you.

Please keep praying - in 8 hours we'll be in Bolivia and needing to quickly bond as a team. If I find an internet connection somewhere I'll post an update - otherwise I look forward to sharing pictures and stories with you when I return! 

Arizona Sunshine

Click to zoom the image Sunday, January 27, 2008, 9:51 PM

I just returned to Boise from Arizona. I spent most of the past two weeks in front of my computer working through the first half of an on-line Physics II course at lightning speed (I'm going to be in Bolivia for two weeks right in the middle of the semester so I had to get ahead). I seriously spent many hours each day on Physics - ugh! I also spent lots of time  preparing medication lists and medication labels for Bolivia and working on a website project for my employer.

However, I managed to spend a few lovely afternoons at the pool (the temperature was 62 and the natives thought I was crazy, but it seemed warm to this Idaho girl!) This weekend my family went exploring and managed to find water and greenery in the Arizona desert! A link to the pictures is below.

Zion National Park and Arizona (Castlerock Springs) Photos
Click to zoom the image


Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 10:33 PM

In a few weeks I'll travel to Bolivia with a Medical Ministry International team. This is my first time working with this organization. This particular team of doctors, surgeons, medical students, and nurses did not yet have a pharmacist, so I've been hurriedly organizing medications and getting prepared to run a mobile pharmacy.

We'll be working in San Juan, an area in southeastern Bolivia. The surgery team will stay in town, and the medical team will travel into nearby squatter communities and villages. Only a few hours from the relatively prosperous city of Santa Cruz, most people in this area are unemployed or underemployed and have no electricity or running water. The World Health organization reports approximately 40% of the children in Bolivia have stunted growth due to malnutrition.

We will be working the local church to provide healthcare, health education, and the love of Christ. Please pray for our team as we serve the people of Bolivia - and for me as I take on a very busy pharmacy role!

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