life on powerpoint. . .
We are finding one of the most difficult things about being in America is trying to describe our life in Kenya well. Since we got off the plane a month ago, we have done seven different official presentations. Each of them has been completely different, each has take a different aspect of our life here and tried to paint the picture.
My first presentation, 72 hours after we landed was at the Global Medical Health Conference in Kentucky. I was one of the youngest presenters, and talked about our infant mortality numbers and all that I have learned from Ima and Sarah and from our clinical officers. I talked about the critical nature of training and the framework with which we teach in Kijabe. Below are just a few of the slides – glimpses of what is possible in Kenya, what the Kenyan doctors are striking to insist on (more on that in another post), and what I am so grateful to be a part of in Kenya.
***Note from David – This was an amazing talk. The doctor sitting next to me kept saying, Wow, Wow, Wow! Several of the audience members from our mission organization and doctors who have visited Kijabe told me they were moved to tears.***
The next presentations were to my parent’s churches in North and South Carolina – reminders of God’s faithfulness to us, and an important part of showing how the Gospel becomes real through medicine, how His miracles still happen today, and to say thank you to people who have walked with us and supported us with prayer and finances. . .
After that, we found ourselves at Furman University, our alma mater. I was there to talk to the medical ethics classes and give a seminar of how relationships define medicine in Africa and what America can learn from that paradigm. For the medical ethics classes, I just put up 10 of my patients from my last call day – their names, their brief story, and I asked them to choose who we would talk about – and we talked about severe malnutrition and its complicated care, about our care for children with hydrocephalus and brain tumors, about triage and emotional involvement, about when each patient seems to break the rules. We talked about things I learned a long time ago – about beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice. We discussed how ethical decisions are difficult in the real world, but essential. No one checked their phones, and several stayed past the end of class.
***Note from David, the students’ eyes were HUGE. They leaned forward in their desks, completely engaged. Arianna’s work is amazing and heartbreaking.****
The night was the same, I sat with pre-med students and philosophy and business majors and talked about how I was applying what I learned in their seats, about how, almost 20 years later I was living lessons absorbed at Furman everyday. In my lecture, I put up a stereotypes of Africa and the brilliant satire of barbiesavior on instagram and attempted to dismantle misconceptions of our new home. I talked about the strength, brilliance, and kindess of our Kenyan friends and colleagues. I talked about the paradigm shift that is so important – from “west is best” to a culture of mutual understanding and collaboration – where relationships trump everything, where we realize with humility how much we have to learn. When I was putting up the slides, a cartoon (first one below) of starving kids in Africa came up, one that commercials have ingrained in so many minds – “That’s not my Kenya,” Belle said, “Why is that there?” I smiled, because that was exactly the point.
We went out for Thai food at the end of the day and I talked with professors-turned-friends about how life had taken us on some crazy twists and turns, but how who we were then and now was fundamentally the same. It was a surreal and beautiful day as I realized how far we really are from Furman, even though it seems as though I am at the beginning of my career. I could be a professor now, although most days I feel like the student.
The funniest moment of the night came when we asked Madeline what she learned while listening to my talk. With sincerity that she brings to everything, she said, ” I just didn’t know that Mommy still had to learn things…”
There are more places – Wake Forest, Redeemer Yadkinville, Eternal Shepherd, Mt. Pisgah, living rooms, restaurants, coffee shops, and classrooms – countless places and conversations with friends, family, colleagues, supporters, and strangers . . .Every time, we hope to shrink the ocean a little bit more and connect our lives in Kenya to lives in America.