TENWEK NICU PROJECT

We are back in the states and settling in.  We dearly miss all our friends and the sweet staff at Tenwek but it has been really good to be able to reconnect with our friends and family here.

Shortly before leaving Tenwek we were able to make a short video detailing some of the exciting plans for growth and development at the hospital.  Please pray for the upcoming NICU and women’s pavilion project mentioned in this video and stay tuned for more updates throughout the year.

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WEEK 17 VIDEO UPDATE

We made it safely back to the states this week.  As we begin to reflect back on our time Kenya we have been overwhelmed with God’s protection and provision for our family.   We know that you have prayed for our family and we can confidently say that the Lord has answered your prayers in so many ways! We look forward to seeing and talking with many of you over the next several weeks.

PARTING THOUGHTS

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Yesterday was my last day in the hospital.  It is such a strange feeling to be finishing.  I did a big four hour cancer case with Dr. Cheryl Cowles, who has become a close friend and a valued colleague, then tried to say goodbye to many of the dedicated nursing and OR staff that have welcomed me and guided me through my time here.

I walked out of a maternity ward yesterday that was swarming with people and overflowing with great medical need, unsure of if or when I might return.  The needs are certainly no less great than when I came but my persecptive has been changed.  I have seen over the past several months that there are a group of young Kenyan physicians here who are being raised up to meet the great medical needs that exist in this country and in all of Africa.  These doctors are bright, willing, eager to learn and they are being trained in medical excellence and Christian leadership.  We are very excited about specific training opportunities for Kenyans in the OB/GYN department.  Stay tuned for more information on that front!

We leave Kenya with full hearts and many more questions than when we came.  We hope that God might make a way for us to return but don’t know how or when that might be.  We have seen truly mighty and miraculous things during our time here.  We have seen new believers come to faith in Christ and have seen many healed in Jesus’ name.  We have seen the name of Jesus repeatedly lifted up and God glorified in a hospital that seeks to love, serve and minister to the world around us for His glory.

I’ll share one recent last story that typifies are time here.  About two weeks ago a 17 year old girl limped through the door of the maternity ward.  She had been referred from a small nearby hospital 1 week after delivering a baby with profound weakness and headaches.  We did blood work and testing but Mercy continued to get worse.  Finally a CT scan showed a massive blot clot in her brain.  The clot was large enough to block nearly all blood leaving the brain which caused the brain to swell significantly.  We started medication to prevent the clot from growing larger but Mercy continued to decline.  Less than twenty four hours later, the swelling had increased to the point that Mercy was in a coma and her heart was beating slow.  Her condition carried extremely high mortality and this was confirmed by our nerugosurgeon on staff.  We prepared her family for the worst.

Three days later, Mercy miraculously began to wake up in the ICU. Over the last week she has been gradually regaining strength as the blockage in her brain gets smaller and the swelling subsides.  It appears Mercy will make a complete recovery and it is only by the might hand of God that this has happened.  We were quickly confronted with the limitations of our medical care in this case but God in His power still made a way.  God has granted this girl life and he has done the same for you and I.  We too all live in a comatose condition of spiritual darkness and depravity, a condition for which only Jesus is the answer. Our family is thankful that while we treat, Jesus is the one who heals!

Thank you for your support and prayers for our family over the past four months. We look forward to talking and visiting with many of your when we return.  We have at least one more video that will be posted soon so be on the lookout for that.

Christmas in Kenya

Christmas time at Tenwek is packed full of traditions built by missionary families who have lived here over the years. We have really enjoyed being a part of all the fun so far and still have more to look forward to! Overall the Christmas season here is refreshingly simple not to mention living down the road from a hospital gives multiple opportunities to spread the love of Christ and spirit of giving at Christmas with patients. Here’s just a few things we have been up to:

Making and putting up decorations in the children’s ward of the hospital

The annual gingerbread house competition between all the missionary families (everyone home-makes all their own gingerbread and cuts all the pieces!!)

*Christmas parties at the orphanage: There are groups traveling to the 4 orphanages closest to Tenwek to throw Christmas parties for the kids- our family helped with one on Saturday. We were in charge of organizing outdoor games and relays…perfect for our family of boys! We also had crafts, cupcakes, and a time to share the Christmas story with the kids. There is a group of volunteers here from Charlotte, NC that have raised money and brought supplies to put on all these parties. They raised enough money to buy each orphanage a cow, each child a new pair of shoes and a new school uniform. They are a huge blessing. As our group gave each child their new pair of shoes they first washed their feet and told the story of Jesus watching the disciples feet (see pic below of Drew and Cooper washing feet). It was truly a beautiful and humbling experience. This Charlotte group is associated with Friends of Tenwek which is a non-profit that supports the hospital and its needs in huge ways! To find out more about it or to be involved check out this website http://friendsoftenwek.org

Still to come:

*Christmas Caroling at the hospital

*Christmas Eve Service at Africa Gospel Church

*Help pack and hand out goody bags in the children’s ward on Christmas day

We also have had the privilege of hosting one of Hannah’s old young life girls this week that is currently a nursing major at Clemson. She has been able to shadow Drew at the hospital, visit the children’s ward, help the nurses feed babies in the NICU, and attend the weekly staff wide devotional. She will also participate in the Christmas activities with us. It has truly been a sweet time of seeing worlds collide…providing an opportunity to share some of Africa with her and especially to expose her to the work that is happening at a mission hospital as she starts her journey training for a career in the medical field.

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Although the Christmas season feels much slower paced here in Kenya, our hearts and minds have been moving at breakneck speed as we begin to say our goodbyes, pack, prepare for Christmas and do the best we can to end our time here well. We ask for your prayers as even just after 4 short months we will have some hard goodbyes. We definitely feel the weight of leaving the huge medical needs (especially in OBGYN!) along with leaving so many long term missionaries here who have opened their hearts and homes to us. It will be bittersweet in so many ways. Last, please pray for travel mercies as we start to make the trek back this coming Tuesday!

Finally, I’ll leave you with this quote I have been thinking about this Christmas from an advent devotional by Paul David Tripp “There is only one word that captures the one amazing, history altering event: glory. The angels sang a glory song not only because the events about which they sang were glorious, but also because the One who came was, is and ever will be the sum and definition of glory. The angels sang of glory because Glory has come to earth to rescue us from the inglory of sin and to unleash the forgiving and transforming glory of his grace on all who would believe.” 

May we all take advantage of moments to stop and realize how truly glorious the miracle of Christmas is. We look forward to seeing many of you soon!

 

 

ESTHER, WINNIE and NORAH

ESTHER came to Tenwek after years of heavy bleeding, pain and difficulty walking.  We diagnosed her with uterine cancer based on biospy results and made plans to remove the tumor surgically.  Her surgery was successful and I recently had the chance to see Esther back in the clinic.  She looked great!  The pathology report showed that the cancer was removed entirely.  When Esther came to clinic she started stumbling around the exam room then jumping up and down.  I was so confused by her actions only to find our from our intern Gloria that she was imitating how she felt before surgery compared to how she feels now.  Her smile tells the story!

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(Esther, Gloria and I at her clinic appointment last week)

WINNIE came to maternity with high blood pressure and swelling of the hands, feet and face.  She was diagnosed with pre-ecaclampsia very early in her pregnancy.  Her condition worsened over time to the point that multiple organs were being affected and we had to delivery her baby 30 weeks into the pregnancy.  Seven months gestation and a birth weight of around 1 kg are the lower limits of survival for babies in Kenya right now.  Winnie’s baby weighed 1 kg exactly.  After giving birth to her son Ryan, Winnie quickly improved but Ryan’s fight was just beginning. Ryan has been in the NICU for 80 days now (nearly as long as our family has been in Africa). His weight has been increasing slowly, the pediatricians are happy with his development and he should get to go home this week.  Most babies born his age don’t survive here but Ryan has seemingly made it through.  We thank God for his life and for a healthy and happy mom.

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(Winnie and Ryan in the NICU)

NORAH  first came to Tenwek in September with a huge pelvic mass.  A CT scan showed an large, vascular ovarian tumor. Her best treatment option involved removing the mass through a risky operation  We discussed the facts of the case with Norah who strongly desired to move forward with surgical treatment, understanding the risks.   It took over two months for Norah to raise the funds for surgery but she came last week for her operation as scheduled .  It took almost 5 hours to remove the tumor.  The initial surgery went well but less than 12 hours later we took her back to the operative room to control persistent bleeding from the massive blood vessels that has previously fed the tumor.  In total Norah received 5 units of blood (which is a lot for Kenya) but this kept her alive and she is now recovering well. Tomorrow Norah will be transferred from the ICU with hopes to leave the hospital in a few days.  God has seen Norah through not one, but two, difficult operations and we thank Him for that.  Here is a picture of Norah’s CT scan and a short video from her surgery:

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I have watched God use our limited medical treatments to bring about incredible and miraculous healing over the past few months.  It has been an honor to daily invite God into the operating room and patient wards to watch Him do His work.  Thanks for praying for us and the people we are able to care for here.

MAUREEN’S STORY

By Drew Benac

I met Maureen the day before her surgery. She had a large pre-cancerous growth in a very personal location. It had become difficult for her to sit or sleep due to the pain and discomfort she was experiencing. She had sought medical care from various doctors but nobody was willing to take on her case. The Tenwek team found Maureen at a community outreach clinic where they prayed with her and offered to help care for her if she could make it to the hospital.

After several months of saving, Maureen eventually made the 5 hour trip to Tenwek with enough money to cover the initial costs for her hospital admission. Our surgical team saw her and made plans to remove the entire growth the following day. The large defect left behind would require moving a flap of skin from her thigh to allow for proper healing. This meant that the risk of wound breakdown or complications following surgery were high but complete removal was the only chance at curing her condition and preventing cancer from spreading in the future.

The surgery went well with an aesthetically pleasing end result but unfortunately half of Maureen’s wound broke down after the first week. The location of her flap, the sanitary conditions in the ward and her HIV+ status all created unique challenges for proper healing.  The best way forward seemed to be twice daily dressing changes to allow the surgical site to heal from the inside out.

For the next two weeks, Maureen’s bandage was painfully changed morning and night, these times fraught with frequent tears and great anxiety for Maureen. It was during this time of praying with Maureen before each dressing change that a bond was formed and we began to hear more of her story.

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Hannah heard about the case and asked if she could go pray with Maureen.  The two became fast friends. Hannah gave her a Bible as well as a children’s Bible for her ten year old son that had been donated and they they began to study the Bible together.  Maureen was certainly no stranger to suffering.  An orphan at the age of 12,  a long struggle with infertility, a diagnosis with HIV then eventual abandonment by her husband had all given Maureen good reason to run from the Lord but her faith continues to grow.  She has been mentored by her God-fearing grandmother and now desires to teach her own son about the Lord and His ways.

Yesterday, Maureen walked out of the hospital after a one month stay. Before she left we were able to tell her that the cost of her hospital bill had been covered (in part by generous donations from you) and that the results from her surgery showed she was cancer free!   She wept in her bed on the ward and  we were able to pray and thank God for His provision and grace. This was truly an example of Jesus healing a women both inside and out.  Maureen left Tenwek physically healed and spiritually encouraged.  Before she left she came over to our house for chai and met our kids. What a sweet moment for us to have her in our home and pray with her before she went home. It was exciting for Hannah and I to team up in caring for a patient and we are thankful for the opportunity to partner with you and the entire team at Tenwek.

This case was a great reminder for us of what God has done in redeeming his children.  He has completely paid the spiritual debts we couldn’t afford and removed our sin completely.  We too have been set free from the cancer of our flesh and covered with the beauty of his righteousness.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

WEEK 11 VIDEO UPDATE

Highlights from the last few weeks: Haircuts, Halloween in Africa, a trip to the countryside to visit a Kenyan farm, Drew’s parents coming to visit, continued work at the hospital and rainy season.  Thanks for praying!

BLESSED WHILE BROKEN

By Drew Benac ** revision from a recent post

Since the beginning of time, God’s people have always been broken.  They repeatedly disown him, often neglect His commands and instead seek to walk in their own.  Throughout history, they have known great struggle yet continue to experience God’s  mercy and His blessing.  Ezekiel tells the story:

Thus says the Lord God, it is not for your sake that I am about to act but for the sake of my holy name…. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules….Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 36:22, 27-28, 36)

The same can be said of God’s people today, the global church.  The end game for Israel then and for the Christian today is not our happiness but the holiness and Lordship of God’s name.  His renown is more important than our reputation, His accomplishments overshadow our accolades and His plans superceed our precious ambition. This tension between my flesh and the fame of our Father has been on full display during our time in Kenya and I have found Pslam 51 particularly convicting.

Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your way, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:10-13)

I hope that our time in Kenya so far has been characterized by “teaching transgressors” God’s ways while watching “sinners returning” to Him and in many ways I think it has.  But I’ve been reminded more than ever lately that I came here both to teach and be taught, to see others return to Him but also to repent myself, to be blessed but be reminded in new ways of my own brokenness.

In coming, I see now all the ways I needed a cleansed heart, a less wayward spirit and a newfound understanding of the joy that comes from being saved by Christ. The order of this passage in Psalms is no mistake. Sharing the great news of God’s saving grace, what missions is thought to be all about, is most effectively done once a few prerequisites have been firmly established.

God knew  my heart in coming here, how often it is divided and distracted by my personal desires rather than His best for my life. My spirit is shaky most days and far from steadfast. God’s presence is frequently an afterthought rather than my first thought. My attitude is one of self-pity instead of set on selfless service and my obedience is usually nonexistent or begrudging at best.  The work God is doing has been slow and painful, yet good. “Creating” a new heart, “renewing” a broken sprit and “restoring” joy where discontentment once ruled is a God-sized undertaking and one that is taking some time.

“C.S. Lewis’ writing on God’s faithfulness in trials has meant a great deal to me lately in light of my struggles. Here are a few of his words from the book, The Problem with Pain.

To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us He must labor to make us lovable.”(pages 40-41)

I am thankful more than ever that He is working to make me more lovable and more like Him. I am deeply honored that he would go through the trouble of bringing me to Africa, a country of blessing and brokenness itself, so He could mold my character, create in me a clean heart, and not leave my in the imperfect place I inhabited just a few months ago.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to grow more like Him and humbled by God’s limitless love. It is my prayer that during this time of growth and great learning that He would continue to save and sanctity those around me despite my shortcomings. “Then they will know that [you] are the LORD.” May it be so!

 

 

Half-Way Point

It’s hard to believe that we have been here 2 months!  We cannot thank each of you for the prayers, support and for tuning in on the blog from time to time to see and hear all that is going on.

We feel so honored to be here in Kenya and have faced both great joys and challenges in our time here so far.  Our family often plays a game at dinner called “hi’s and low’s” where each person at the table shares both a highlight and low point from their day.  With that introduction, here are some of the hi’s and low’s of our time at Tenwek  so far:

HIGHLIGHTS:

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1. The Boys are Thriving: Our boys love it here.  They spend a good part of each day barefoot on the grassy field next to our house where playmates and good times are always to be found.

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2. Tenwek Day School: Hannah taught Bible two days each week to a class of 60 Kenyan third grade students.  They are on school break now and classes will resume in January.

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3. Cancer Surgery: Drew has been able to do 8 major cancer cases so far and counting.  We are thankful for the way God has protected each of his patients through their big operations.

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4. Resident Education/Discipleship: Our family has really enjoyed having the residents oover to our house.  The medial trainees here are hard working, kind and sincere people. Many of them have a strong and vibrant faith.  It has been an honor to teach and work beside each of them.

LOW-POINTS

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1. The Mosquiteos: Bugs are for real here!  We are taking medication to protect against malaria but have still been forced to adopt a 10-15 minute ritual of killing the 10-20 mosquiteos in our house every night before bed.

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2. Learning to be Missionaries: We have met some of the coolest people living at Tenwek but have also experience the day-to-day challenges of communal living.  There are many policies to learn and few things you actually have control over here.  This has been an adjustment for us.

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3. Travel Ban: Drew’s parents had to delay their trip by a month due to civil unrest related to the recent Kenya national election.  If all goes well they will arrive this week! We are so looking forward to having visitors and are thankful for God’s protecting in keeping us safe.

All in all we have seen God’s faithfulness in amazing ways.  Please continue to pray for our last two months here.  To allow for adequate transition time will be arriving back in the states Dec. 28th instead of early January as originally planned. We are thankful to be here and so thankful for all of you!