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.