Thursday, April 30, 2015


(By Stephanie)

I learned a new word in Kirundi this week Imbeba. Imbeba is rat or mouse, the language doesn’t differentiate, but I certainly do.  For the animal I saw running full force towards me along the kitchen counter was most certainly a huge, hideous rat, not a cute little mouse, who admittedly would still be unwanted, yet not seem quite so disgusting.  

So in light of trying to be grateful in all circumstances here’s my gratefulness around the rat:

I am grateful the electricity has been on in the evenings this week, so I could first spot and then be on guard against the rat. 

I am grateful for whomever installed the door between our kitchen and living room which I was able to slam shut and contain the rat. 

I am grateful for guards who, upon my request, searched my kitchen for the rat (but they didn’t find him). 

I am grateful I was able to bring a bit of laughter into our guards night with my reaction to seeing a rat. 

I am grateful it was a rat and not a bat or a snake. 

I am grateful that I am now less bothered by the cockroaches, ants and termites that reside in our kitchen because I see them as less bothersome than a rat. 

I am grateful that it has taken 8 months of living in this house and hearing much movement of rats and skinks in our ceiling before one has found it’s way down into our house.  

Back in November Greg and I were awakened by an earthquake. It wasn’t very strong and didn’t last very long. Greg later told me that his fear during the quake was the prospect of the ceiling collapsing. The ceiling wouldn’t crush us, as it’s not very heavy, but the thought that terrified him was picturing all the rats that would land on us. 

So, after seeing the size of the rat in our kitchen, I am even more grateful that the ceiling held together during the earthquake. 

Our rat is still at large, but we have neither spotted him, nor any further evidence of his presence in our house. For this, I am also quite grateful! 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

New Experiences

One aspect of living in Burundi for 9 months that I have greatly appreciated is the frequent occurrence of “new experiences”, both inside and outside of the hospital.  Today, as I was providing anesthesia for a 3 year old girl, face down, while John our ophthalmologist was lying on his back  on the floor, operating on her eye from below, I began thinking about some of the most memorable new experiences that I have had during our time here.  So, I thought I would jot down a few of them.  

  1. Taking our pet chicken for his daily walk around the compound.  We keep her in a pen most of the time because among the missionaries families here, every other “pet chick” has been picked off by hawks or owls when we were not watching.  We hope Pickley will make it to an age where she can roam freely and defend herself from those winged meanies.  
  2. Leading critical care rounds.  In the U.S. this would be performed by someone, oh, I don’t know, let’s say “qualified” to do this.  
  3. Delivering a baby by C section.
  4. Sticking a needle into someone’s eye socket.  John has graciously offered to teach me how to do a retrobulbar block, to anesthetize an eye.  This is a procedure that anesthesiologists are often taught about but which is usually performed by the ophthalmologist in the U.S.  Fear of litigation is minimal in Burundi.
  5. Eating termites.  
  6. Being asked to reanimate a child who had gone blind.  Yeah, I failed.  
  7. Being given a rooster as a thank-you gift for preaching.
  8. Neonatal resuscitation. Although back home I am occasionally called on to assist the pediatrician and respiratory therapist with airway management, my role in this is limited.  In Burundi, I have lost count of how many babies born by C section I have had to “reanimate”, with my only resource being the maternity nurse who normally just shakes the baby until they ether revive ... or not.
  9. Paying 60 cents for a stick of roasted goat meat hanging on the side of a dusty road.  Yes, I am planning to take de-worming meds once we get home.  
  10. Trying to keep it together while being coughed on by patient with tuberculosis.  Our isolation ward is simply a brick building which they assure me has “good ventilation”. 
  11. Working in the O.R. alongside such critters as flies, wasps, skink lizards, rats and once a bat.  My students quite enjoyed watching my reaction to the bat.  I think it is completely natural for a grown man to cry from time to time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What the heck is a Serge?

As you may know, we are here under the direction of a mission agency named Serge.  To be honest, we did not know a lot about Serge before we came to Burundi, however, the team we were joining, after much prayer and investigation decided to partner with Serge, with Serge serving as their sending agency.  So, we too applied to come to Burundi as short-term “Serge missionaries”.  In fact, my official title is “intern” which our team leader, John Cropsey, has also chosen as my official nick-name … and so, here in Kibuye, I am “the intern”.  This title comes with a large amount of responsibility, including washing John’s car, ironing his clothes and serving coffee just the way he likes it.  All this despite the fact that I have around 5 years more clinical experience than any other member of this team … including John.  

When we began our application process with Serge they were actually known as World Harvest Mission, but for various reasons recently changed their name to Serge. So, what is a serge?  Serge is a sewing term that means “joining together rough edges to form a smooth seam”.  This is what Serge promotes.  In their own words:

“We believe God weaves His goodness and grace into the ragged parts of our lives, making the tattered beautiful.  It’s here we see His grace at the fray, in our lives and in our work.  This is the heart of Serge.”

During our time in Burundi, we have been able to learn much more about Serge and the work they do, and have in fact been visited here at Kibuye by several members of the Serge leadership team.  And the more we learn about Serge, the more we love who they are and what they do.  They have served us well in many ways, including helping us arrange our airline tickets, evacuation insurance, support-raising, and in general preparing us for our time “on the field”.  

At the beginning of this month we were blessed to get to attend Serge’s annual East African retreat and meet most of the Serge missionaries serving in East Africa.  The retreat gave us an opportunity to hear much more about the work that individual teams are doing around East Africa, and to encourage and pray for one another.  The retreat was held at a resort on the Kenyan coast, south of Mombassa.  Sadly, the day after we arrived was when the attack in Garissa occurred.  We were told that because of fears of terrorism in Kenya, over 20,000 Kenyans working in the tourist industry along the coast have lost their jobs.  

We were grateful for the vigilance of our team leaders regarding our security, in light of the attack in Garissa, and felt safe and well-protected during our time there.  And thankfully, the retreat went as planned, and I hope it was as refreshing and encouraging for all the long-term missionaries as it was for us, the intern and the intern’s family.

If you would like to learn more about Serge, you can visit the following site:

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support us in the remainder of our time here, you can do so here:

 Sunset over the Indian Ocean

Dinner by the pool

Mount Kilamanjaro from the plane

A day of snorkeling before the retreat

New friends.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Masai Mara

It’s hard not to go crazy with Safari pictures, and believe it or not, I did restrain myself. But, since we are still in Kenya with fast internet access I will share some of our favorite photos.  Our time in Massai Mara was amazing. We only had a short time to be on Safari before heading to a mission retreat on the coast of Kenya (our real reason for traveling to Kenya) So it really was a blessing that on the evening that we arrived it started to rain.  There hadn't been rain in a very long time (and in fact the well at our safari camp had run dry and water was being delivered by truck). For us what this meant was that for the one full day we had on Safari we were able to go on an all day Safari drive. Usually it's too hot during the mid day and the animals are not active, but because of the cooler weather (and God's answer to our prayers) we had amazing animal sightings. Our guide told us it usually takes 3 days to see all that we saw.

We enjoyed telling the kids that we'd be sleeping in tents on Safari and then seeing their reaction to the tents.  Not exactly roughing it. 
Ella is under the red blanket on the couch above, enjoying the early morning view. 

Water Buffalo,  this male exited the water and was posturing to charge our vehicle, exciting! 
The lions gave us quite a show as they devoured a zebra rather close to the road.  You can see Ella and Mekdes viewing them from our vehicle (above Mekdes' head)

This was the view out of the other side of our vehicle as we watched the lions. This zebra was being stalked but escaped. 

cheetahs with herds of buffalo behind them 
 As we were watching the cheetahs, the elephants were in the distance. Our driver told us they were headed our way and we sat and watched them approach (as did the cheetah above) they then walked very close and around to our car, it was amazing, and a bit scary.

 Our "Bush Lunch"
 Two Hyenas were resting in a puddle on the road, a rare sighting during the day
 Cute warthogs, their tails stick straight up when they run.
 Hippos, these guys made me the most nervous of all the animals!

 Martial Eagle

If you look to the right of Greg's ear you'll spot more giraffes 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blogger's Guilt

Blogger's guilt is what I typically experience when going for more than one week without posting anything on this blog.  Perhaps this stems from an overinflated view of how many people are actually checking in with us, but nonetheless, the guilt remains.

Once again, for those of you following Ella's blog, you know that last week we went on a wonderful safari for 2 days.  It really was a beautiful and exciting trip.  Below are a few low quality photos taken from my ipad.  We will post more high quality photos later.

As for what we have been doing since the safari, I would love to fill you in .... but I need to wait a few more days to do so.