These are a few of the questions that have been asked of us as we prepare to return to Kenya. Probably the easiest way to answer them is to provide a little bit of background on who we are and how we arrived at the decision to serve at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, East Africa.
Aaron grew up as a PK (preacher’s kid) and therefore spent a lot of time serving at his church and in the community. He also saw his mother and grandfather regularly go on mission trips to the Dominican Republic, which gave him insight into the need for foreign missions. The first international mission trip Aaron took was together with Stephanie in late 1998 to the Dominican Republic. This trip opened our eyes to the need for and blessing of serving others
From there we both continued to work towards our undergraduate degrees, not knowing exactly how we would be involved in missions. While still in medical school, Aaron was able to participate in a short-term trip with Word of Life Ministries to Honduras.
Emergency medicine residency did not allow for time for foreign mission trips but later during fellowship, he was able to travel to Jamaica with TEAMS for Medical Missions. Both of these trips reinforced his desire to serve in overseas medical missions.
It was during Aaron’s fellowship that we first learned about the Post-Residency Program through World Medical Mission (the mission arm of Samaritan’s Purse). This program helps to get young physicians to the mission field soon after completion of their training in hopes of eventually transitioning them to long-term sending mission organizations.
We applied, were accepted, and in January 2013, we found ourselves on a plane to a hospital we had never visited in a country we had never seen on a continent we had only ever read about.
Overall, everyone transitioned well to our new life in Kenya. The kids loved the freedom and room to play outdoors with new friends. While challenging, Aaron adapted to a new clinical working environment. And Steph learned how to run a house without many of the luxuries we had grown accustomed to in America (like drinkable water from the tap).
After several weeks, our fourth child and only daughter, Hannah, became ill. It quickly became apparent that something serious was wrong. In the early hours on March 13th, Hannah stopped breathing. Aaron along with other Tenwek missionaries resuscitated her. When she was stable enough to get a CT of her head, it showed that instead of an infectious disease causing her symptoms, it was a brain tumor.
Although we were able to get Hannah to another mission hospital where a U.S. based pediatric neurosurgeon operated on her, she ultimately went to her forever home on March 14th when she was just 13 months old. (To read more about this part of our story, click here.)
Serving in Tenwek for the next 2 1/2 years.
While unexpected for us, God has used this part of our story to reach many people and we continue to see the impact in the lives of many people. We have seen people’s faith strengthened and we have seen souls impacted for eternity from the life and death of our daughter. Aaron even wrote a short children’s story that was illustrated by our eldest son. (You can read it here) Although we were shaken, we both felt strongly that Hannah’s death had not removed our calling to serve at Tenwek Hospital. So after six weeks in the U.S., we returned to Kenya and resumed the work that God had called us to.
We remained at Tenwek for 2 ½ years. During this time, we were involved in various forms of ministry. Aaron worked and taught at the hospital. He served as the internship director, helping to ensure medical training and spiritual growth for sixteen interns each year. He also worked on several committees including the disaster preparedness committee, quality control committee, and outpatient department oversight committee. Stephanie was involved in the homeschooling co-op, helped with Bible quizzing, and assisted with the orphan ministry.
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