We are very excited to have you visit our blog and come with us on our journey to Africa! Over the next 3 months, we hope to share with you our adventures, thoughts, challenges and everything in between.
For those of you who don’t know, I (Scott) am a third year internal medicine resident at Duke University and my wife Whitney and I will be traveling to Kenya on a three-month medical mission trip, where we will serve at or around Tenwek Hospital. This is a calling that God placed on our hearts many months ago, and we are very excited that he has led us to Tenwek. As a first year medical intern, in April 2011, I was working nights on the Duke Cardiology service. Normally, this is an extremely busy service, with frequent admissions and unstable patients. However, one particular night, the service was quite slow which allowed me to think, pray and reflect about life, medicine, and faith. Through the course of the next several hours, I experienced the very real presence of the Holy Spirit, and it was during that time, that the Lord specifically placed Africa on my heart. Further, I specifically heard the word “Kenya” on multiple occasions. I did not know at the time exactly what all of this meant, but felt God was calling us to Kenya in some way. After praying with Whitney (who is always ready for the next adventure), we felt God was indeed calling us to Africa. Over the next few months, we applied for a Global Health Elective through the Duke Global Health program and World Medical Missions, which would allow us to spend three months during residency at one of several global locations in the world. Ultimately, we matched to Tenwek Hospital, in Western Kenya, and the day has finally come for us to depart!
Before we begin our story, we would like to provide a bit of background information and history about where we will be for much of the next three months.
Tenwek is located 200 miles from Nairobi in the Bomet District of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. It is five miles northwest of the town of Bomet (see maps below).
Tenwek is only 100 miles south of the Equator, but the climate is like paradise to us due to the 6,500 ft elevation. We greatly look forward to escaping the North Carolina summers that smother with their heat and humidity. When we leave North Carolina, it will be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but when we arrive at Tenwek, the highs typically range in the mid to low 70s, and the lows are in the upper 50s. Hallelujah!!!
The people group in the Tenwek area are the Kipsigis (KIP-SUH-GEEZ) tribe. The Kipsigis language is their primary dialect although Swahili and English are taught in school, so they are spoken as well by some. Tenwek serves various other tribes as well, including the Maasai people.
Tenwek’s history is a beautiful story of sacrifice, hard work, servant-leadership, obedience, and miracles. In 1936, the hospital started in a small cottage (or perhaps “shack” would be a better word) that served as a clinic and medicine dispensary staffed by a missionary nurse. Today, it is has grown to a 300-bed facility that is one of the larger mission hospitals in Africa. The hospital owes its growth and expansion in large part to the faithfulness of Dr. Ernie Steury. In 1959, after praying and waiting for a doctor to arrive, Ernie, after just one year of surgery internship, moved to Tenwek along with his wife, Sue. Over the next several decades, Ernie would become a highly successful and creative, self-taught surgeon, often performing operations with minimal tools and materials.
Here’s a brief paragraph excerpt from the book Miracle at Tenwek (highly recommend!) from Ernie’s first surgery (an emergency C-section) at Tenwek:
“Ernie had never before performed a caesarian section by himself. His original plans to take a year of surgical residency were canceled because the WGM [World Gospel Mission] board had felt they could wait no longer to get a doctor to Tenwek. So Ernie had received very little surgical training. Now there was no time to dwell on that fact. . . .
The first thing Ernie had to do was find and un-crate the operating table and the surgical instruments he had shipped from the States. Then he set up Tenwek’s first surgical unit in a cramped eight-by-ten foot block building. . . . After he assembled the operating table and the nurses sterilized his instruments in a pressure cooker Sue had brought with her other kitchen supplies, Ernie quickly thumbed through a medical text to review the procedure.”
Both the mother and her baby recovered with the woman actually praying to accept Jesus Christ as her savior before she went home. In addition to performing countless successful operations, Ernie’s humble attitude is likely a large reason for Tenwek’s success. Not only was he the only physician for every patient in the hospital, but for many years, he also served to clean the hospital latrines (toilet equivalent) and seemingly never complained! Truly a Christlike attitude.
Over the next several decades, Tenwek experienced considerable growth under the guidance of Dr. Steury. Several buildings were added over many years, but no matter how much they expanded, the hospital was continually over capacity, necessitating many patients to share beds or sleep on the floor. Every patient who comes to Tenwek for care, not only is treated physically, but also spiritually. Tens of thousands of patients, have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior through Tenwek hospital. Ernie has since passed away, but Tenwek’s ministry and mission lives on as their slogan indicates: “We treat, Jesus Heals”.
As for what Tenwek has become today, we will find out in a few days and let you know! We look forward to sharing with all of you (or ya’all in southern lingo) on our three month journey!
Thanks for following along! We appreciate all of your prayers, and will be posting specific prayer requests over the next few months in the prayer link at the top of the blog.
Scott and Whitney