• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
on good returns. . .

on good returns. . .

As many of you know, we lost my mom in May after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. We had scheduled time in the US for 2021 already, and shifted the timeline to return in May. We balanced grief and reunion, responsibility and rest on the journey around the US. Overall, it was a good time to be with family and to step back during a long season. We returned to Kenya mid-August after 11 weeks away, the longest we have been gone since 2016.

Following are some hodge-podge thoughts on our return:

The best laid plans: One goal that came out of time we spent at a missions debrief retreat was to spend more time walking and watching the sunset, as this is how Arianna is able to process hard things at work in a calm, healthy way. (Yes, after almost 20 years, we realized we are actually very similar in this!). Of course Kijabe had other plans, and the first week of long call nights destroyed that goal, but things have since calmed down a bit, and we’ve been getting out for regular walks. I’m trying to get back in the habit of taking pictures when we’re out and about, remembering the beautiful place we live in.

New diagnoses. . . Arianna jumped back into the hospital 2 days after we returned, and was caring for several super sick children in the PICU with strange symptoms that didn’t seem to fit normal patterns. Recognizing the pattern of the bodies over reaction to a remote COVID infection, she started treatment for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). They improved within the first few days, and eventually antibody tests came back, showing she was correct in her diagnosis and treatment. Back to life in masks and scrubs, it has been good to see all that continued while we were gone and reconnect with the pediatrics team and students

Go team. . .I was happy to see the major projects for Friends of Kijabe continued while I was away. The operating theatre building is nearly finished, but now a chapel will be added to the top story. The ramp that provides access is being constructed and the walls/roof will go up shortly.

Robert, the first person I hired for Friends of Kijabe within the hospital, took excellent care of needy patient funding, sending me reports every month and checking in as needed, but mostly sailing on his own. Leah in the finance office sorted out the students in need of funding, and two more finished their nursing programs. It’s a big shift for me to move from being a doer to serving as a leader, but it’s a blessing only possible with a solid team.

Let’s learn. . .education can be a roller-coaster, largely depending on the students and their eagerness to learn. With two training programs under her watch, this has been a big challenge at times, but right now Arianna has some phenomenal fellows (doctor post-graduate) and emergency medicine trainees (clinical officers). Also, Temoi, a former Kijabe clinical officer, is starting his second year of medical school after losing much of last year to COVID school closings.

Madeline and Annabelle are back to school, 10th and 7th grade. This was the first week, and though they love it, they have come home exhausted with quite a bit of work to do in the evenings. RVA has now walked through two semesters of in-person school, so there are more extra-curricular activities than were available last year and reduced anxieties from staff and students. Most of the rules follow with government requirements, and it’s nice to return to a somewhat normal experience.

Let’s pray. . .returning does have challenges and takes a long adjustment period to fully settle in. Arianna says it takes as long as we were away to fully feel immersed. So pray for us to continue on in good relationships, to find solid footing with her new responsibilities at the hospital and my work with Friends of Kijabe. Pray for us to stay open to the emotional work of processing grief and loss. And pray that we would love the girls well during the big changes of their lives.