Monday, October 27, 2014


Life changes. And sometimes that means your blog title is no longer accurate. I am still adjusting to the reality that I am no longer "Lisette in Kenya", but God has been faithful and I am grateful for a fresh word and a new beginning.

There will be updates on very soon. Check it out.

And thank you for being a part of my life, wherever I am.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Over 75 years ago, a group of students from Asbury College (now University) were led by God to Kenya to share the story of the Gospel and the Hope of Christ. They arrived in Nairobi, then a small but growing railroad crossroads, and set out in search of a area that had not heard the story of the Gospel.
Their prayerful search let them west, into the land of the Kipsigis people. There they discovered a beautiful hillside that had been abandoned. Small caves on the hill overlooking a waterfall had been the site of a female circumcision camp and a number of the girls had contracted infections and died as a result. The Kipsigis considered the land cursed and in 1936 happily gave official permission for the missionaries, Robert and Catherine Smith, to build a mission station on this piece of prime property. 
Elah, a young girl who traveled to Tenwek with
her mother from Ghana for heart surgery
Photo credit: Hannah Veilling
As Robert began sharing the story of Christ with the people in the area, Catherine, a nurse, began ministering to their physical needs and very quickly saw the necessity for more help. The Smiths began asking World Gospel Mission to send a doctor. The next year another nurse arrived and then again the next year, another one. But it was not enough. They prayed for more help. 
Ten years later, in 1947, Edna Boroff brought not only her midwifery skills to Tenwek, but also laboratory training, greatly enhancing the diagnostic capabilities of this little rural clinic. (Fun fact: In her 40 years of service at Tenwek, Edna Boroff delivered over 20,000 babies and it is not unusual to hear the name Edna or Boroff in the community.)
But the still need was great and they prayed for more help. 
In 1959, Dr. Ernie Steury (also an Asbury graduate) arrived with his wife Sue and their young daughter Cindy. Twenty-two years after the Smiths first started praying and asking for a doctor, God answered their prayer. 
The little one-nurse clinic had transformed into an actual hospital. The original two buildings are still there today. They are so small that when Dr. Steury was operating on a patient and needed to work from the other side, he actually had to crawl under the table--there was no room to go around.
Faith, one of my Bible quizzers
In time, other doctors joined him. Soon, Tenwek began training Kenyan nurses and building more buildings. They began clinics in outlying communities.
In 1980, they began a community health outreach to teach about disease prevention. Today, Tenwek Community Health and Development is a model for programs around the  world.
Through it all, they have held true to the motto “We Treat, Jesus Heals”. The Hope of the Gospel has always been at the forefront of all they do. 
The current medical staff at Tenwek
Photo Credit: Hannah Veilling
Today, Tenwek is one of the largest mission hospitals in Africa. 

They treat 140,000 outpatients each year and admit another 14,000 for inpatient care. The nursing school is still here, and there is also a chaplaincy school.
Tenwek is now a training hospital for medical students. In the past ten years, they have added residencies for family medicine and surgery and are exploring the addition of even more.
Just a month ago, they broke ground for a new eye and dental building and plans are in the works for a women’s pavilion in the near future. (This one is particularly exciting, given the history of Tenwek's land.)
The story of Tenwek Hospital involves more people than we can count this side of heaven. There have been hundreds, probably thousands, of doctors who have come over the years, some for a few weeks, some for decades. Nurses, residents, medical students, teachers, community health workers, pastors, physical therapists, pharmacists, lab technicians have all played a role in the history of this fascinating place. 
And of course, there are the thousands of faithful who have never set foot in Africa, but have supported the work of Tenwek through prayer and finances from afar. 
Last night, I attended a dinner sponsored by Friends of Tenwek and listened to the list of exciting new projects and buildings in Tenwek’s future.
An aerial shot of the hospital, 2014
Photo credit: Samaritan's Purse
There is so much happening here. Seventy-seven years after World Gospel Mission missionaries first arrived in these beautiful green hills, we are still growing and responding to the medical and spiritual needs of the Kenyan people. It is an exciting time. I cannot wait to see what God has planned in the next five and ten years for Tenwek Hospital. 
However, that future will not involve me. Yesterday, as I was walking into the Friends of Tenwek presentation, I received the phone call I had been praying against for months: my work permit has been finally denied and there is nothing we can do to change it. 
I love the history of Tenwek, because I love the Tenwek community. I love being a very tiny part of this grand story, of God’s grace and His hand of healing in this land. I loved and embraced this story because I thought this would be my home and my land, too. 
I am still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of leaving permanently in just 8 days. It does not seem real. I keep thinking that something will change, God will open this door for me. Surely I will be back. But it seems that will not happen. We have explored every option, pursued every lead and God has, for reasons I don’t understand, said “no”. 
A particularly lovely spot on my morning hiking/running route
My heart is heavy. 
There is so much discussion about the future of Tenwek right now. New buildings, new missionaries, new training programs, all of which mean new MKs to teach. And I thought I would be here to see all that happen.
However, as a very wise friend reminded me today, “The last place you want to be is somewhere God does not want you.” 
I do not know why, but God is calling me somewhere else. I am looking at my options for next year and praying for clear direction for the road ahead (which is difficult when I can hardly bear to take my eyes off the rearview mirror). 

I would appreciate your prayers as well. Thank you for our love and support as I look to the next chapter in my story.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I have been incredibly lax about updating my website. There are several reasons. Internet here had been very spotty recently, busy classes, etc, etc, but mostly, I struggle to know what to to write on here.

It seems like I should have plenty to talk about. I live in rural Africa, right? My life is full wild adventures involving elephants and Masai warriors, right? Not really.

My daily life is incredibly mundane. I go to school every day and teach kids; how many of you get online to read about a typical teacher’s day in the classroom? No one, not even teachers, would do that.

However, much has happened since I last posted at Thanksgiving. (Thanksgiving!!) So here some snapshots of the past few months.

Here at Tenwek, we have many Christmas traditions. Caroling up at the hospital, decorating the children’s ward. But few are as sacred as the gingerbread building bonanza. It is a wild morning filled with candy, sticky icing fingers, and hyped-up kids, but it's a treasured, time honored tradition.

No, this is not Mt. Kilimanjaro. Those are the Alps. And, no, you aren't confused. The Alps are not in Africa. I had the chance right after Christmas to head up to Germany to spend a few days with my cousin and his family, who were there visiting his in-laws. It was beautiful and cold and completely different than any of my other European adventures. 

This Noah, one of my second graders. I walked into math class one and he was sitting in my chair, grinning. I told him that if he was going to sit in the teacher’s chair, he would have to teach us something. So he did a quick (and impressive) demonstration of how to draw a crayfish. Not too shabby for a spur-of-the-moment art lesson, is it?

These are more of my second graders. We made rockets in science class and attempted to launch them (at least a foot or two) use little film containers filled with baking soda and vinegar. I have done it before and had it work. It did not work this time, but they loved making the rockets, complete with the loading docks (their idea, of course).

In January, we launched our new season of Bible Quizzing at Bethesda Africa Gospel Church. Mike and Pam Chupp have organized it for years and now we have 250 kids studying the book of 1 Samuel. My team (whom I have yet to remember to photograph) chose to be called “King David’s Conquerors” and so far it has fit: we are undefeated! In addition to the 200-something kids from the Tenwek community who meet every Sunday afternoon, we have a satellite group based at Mosop School about twenty minutes from us. Mosop is a mission school that serves orphans and the children of Africa Gospel Church missionaries. They were interested in being a part of the Bible Quizzing competition, but were situated to far away to participate in the Tenwek quizzes. So they invited two other public schools nearby (Chebole and Kamerieto) to compete with them. Every Friday afternoon, another missionary and I travel out and visit Mosop, Chebole, and Kamereito and meet with the coaches and kids. It’s been fun and a great way to get involved with other schools. 

Also, it's totally normal to have cows in the school yard here in Kenya. Occasionally, we even have them wander past the Tenwek MK School door. Here at Mosop School, they are a constant presence.

When I returned to Tenwek in September, I was disappointed to discover that one of my favorite spots down by the river, a nice rock overlooking the waterfall, had been plowed up to create a garden, thus destroying the lovely thick brush that shielded it from the nearby walking path. The rocks is still there, but my early morning retreats are not so quiet and peaceful when I am in full view of everyone walking up the hill to work. I have had to search out a new early morning location makes me less of an object of curiosity and have found a (relatively) uncrowded path behind my house. If I make it out early enough, I get views like this.

I love MKs for many, many reasons. Reason #237: They make their own tiki torches (splitting their own sticks and creating a light from--I think--an old sock, saw dust and lighter fluid). Then they knock on your door late at night to show it off.

Why I love MKs #238: Sometimes you have to settle arguments over who actually gets to take the chameleon home. (A strange conversation to have because these guys are all over the place. We are hardly running short on chameleons.) Also, they make faces like that. And this.

And this. (Made during chai time with their pretzels.)

A few weeks ago, I took a matatu (a taxi) into Bomet, the nearest town to get a few things and spend some time off the compound. Guess what I found in the tiny bookstore? Yep, that’s my dad’s book. 

I also found a lady with this car. I never did understand if she was buying this many mangoes or selling. Either way, I was tempted to hijack the car.

This is my new house (or, more accurately, apartment). Before Christmas, I had been living in a (real, non-apartment) house that actually belonged to a family on furlough. Once they got back, housing shifted around and I ended up back here, in my old place. It's a little more worn than when I left in 2008, but I still love it. 

I am working on another post about a visit to a tea factory, but it may be a while--it took me three days of intermittent internet access to get all these pictures uploaded and formatted correctly. But it's coming soon!