Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Africa Update Part 2: Working with Residents

Part 1: Going Back to Africa is here
Part 3: Tanzania is here

Once we realized we needed to go back to Africa, we had just enough time to make plans to attend the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville in November 2010. We were hoping that the conference would help confirm that this was the direction we should be going, which it did. It was also a great time to visit with my family. My parents and brother helped with Daniel while we were in the sessions and he had such a great time with them - hurray for hometown conferences!!

We ended up making some key connections at the conference (in a very providential way, but that's a whole 'nother story) and found out about an organization that runs general surgery residency programs in several mission hospitals across Africa (the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons, or PAACS). The more we considered this, the more we were drawn to the idea of training residents.

This was a bit of a mental shift for me, because I had always envisioned that we would be working in some remote area (ahem, westen Kenya) where there is a significant need for doctors and not a lot of other expats (foreigners). I thought that would be the place we'd have the biggest impact, plus there's something really special about living in the village (though I do recognize that I tend to romanticize village life and sometimes have selective memory about my own experiences. That's a whole 'nother story too, though!) But remote rural communities are not really where you find teaching hospitals that have the capacity for advanced surgical training.

As we considered it (and as I let go of my expectations about where we would live and work), we realized that Dave could spend the rest of his career or even his life working in a remote hospital filling an urgent need but that the need would still be there when he's gone. By training African surgeons, he would be doing surgery in a way that is developmental and building local capacity.

This was huge for us. I knew that surgery could be very useful and good, but I had not really seen how surgery could be truly developmental. When I thought of health and development, most of what I saw related to primary care and public health. Surgery seemed more about meeting an immediate need.

We also realized that teaching and mentoring residents would be a really good fit for Dave. He’s a great teacher, able to explain complicated medical information in a way that a lay person can easily understand. He works best relationally in one-on-one or in small group settings. As a senior resident, he does a lot of teaching of junior residents and he both enjoys it and is good at it. As a chief resident this year, he’s getting more experience with the logistics of administering a residency program. He’s always had a long term interest in teaching, but now has a strong desire to work specifically with residents.

Once again, more to come about where we’re thinking of going.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Africa Update Part 1: Going Back to Africa

Part 2: Working with residents is here
Part 3: Tanzania is here

Back in March, I posted that we were making plans to move to Africa after Dave finishes his residency. I’m finally making time to share more about how we got here and how our plans are shaping up.

First a little background. For those who don’t know, in college I spent 6 months living in a rural community in western Kenya, teaching in a primary school, learning about life in the village and exploring issues surrounding poverty and development. As a graduate student studying community development, I spent another 5 months in that same community studying local development efforts. I also studied Swahili, both at Michigan State and in Tanzania and Dave spent six weeks during his medical training working at a hospital in Malawi.

We always thought that we would end up in Africa eventually, probably in rural Kenya. Then we landed in Detroit and realized that this was a great place to put down some roots, build relationships, and engage in transforming our community. We had never dreamed we’d be in Detroit, but once we got connected, we were absolutely sure that God had placed us here. So we began to wonder whether we should stay here in Detroit. We knew we’d be here for a while (General Surgery residency is LONG!), but would this be the place for us long term?

We began asking God what was next. We entertained ideas of all the “fun” places we could live. We considered what life in Detroit would really look like and all the things we would miss if we were not here. We wondered about the possibilities for serving in Africa. But as Dave asked, “what’s next?” God clearly showed him: “You’re not ready yet to hear what’s next.” So we waited and wondered, prayed and pondered, all the while seeking to learn and grow.

Then one day, we both knew that we needed to go back to Africa. It was different circumstances for each of us, but on the same day, we each came home convicted that we needed to go. Our calling has never been to live in America, make a doctor salary, give away a lot of money and take short term trips overseas (the justification we used for the “live in a fun place” fantasies.) We also realized that our time in Detroit is for a season. We’ve learned so much while we’ve been here and have grown in so many ways. But this is not the place for us to stay.

More to come...

Quote of the Day

Me: (After a bath) Let's dry off your back, your side, your arm
Daniel: Other side, other arm.
Me: left leg, left foot
Daniel: other left foot

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A few Danielisms

The other night, Dave was singing Daniel a bedtime song and Daniel said, "No. ABCDEFG" asking for him to sing the alphabet song instead.

Today Daniel and I were playing at the playground and he wanted me to go down the big slide. Then he said "Catch you!" ran down the stairs and around to catch me at the bottom of the slide. When I got to the bottom, he clapped!

On the way up for a nap today, I had Daniel say night-night to all the things downstairs since he was feeling a little reluctant to go upstairs. He got pretty into it and we said goodnight to about 20 things in the kitchen, his toy train, several things in the dining room, his toy train, things in the living room and entryway, and then to his train a couple more times on the way up the stairs. I suggested a few things to say night night to in the bathroom and then he just kept going: "Night night sink. Night-night lights. Night-night tub..." It was really fun to hear the things he noticed to say goodnight to.

Daniel has been learning to count for several months now. At first he counted "one, two, one, two, two, one, two." Then the next thing I knew, he counted, "one, two, three, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven." At first, I was excited he got three and then he rattled off all the way to eleven. Now he can count to nineteen: "One, two three, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen" is about how it goes. Someday we'll get four and five :) To me, it shows just how much kids pick up just from listening and engaging in what's going on around them. I didn't try to teach him to count that far. He just did.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two years old!

My baby is two years old today. We're at our annual family reunion/vacation so he's had quite a fun day! We rode bikes along Lake Michigan, watched boats in the harbor, played in the fountain, went for a wagon ride, played with cousins, touched a fish, pushed a baby in a stroller and had fifty-some people sing him happy birthday!

Daniel's favorite trick lately is to hiccup. He says "hippup!" and then makes a hiccuping sound, complete with shoulder jumps. He's talking all the time these days and repeats everything we say. It's really fun to hear him say big words in his little voice and for him to be able to communicate with us so much more easily. Except for the times when I have absolutely no idea what he's trying to say!

He's very good at jumping and gets a kick out of walking backwards. He's quite a climber and he loves to run. The other night, he went out on the deck and ran circles around the table. He'd stop and sit for a few seconds on the step and then take off running again. He ran for almost half an hour straight!

He has favorite books that he asks for by name and can finish some of the sentences. He has several favorite songs too. He can sing a lot of the ABCs, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Jesus Loves Me. Recently we were driving in the car and I heard him in the back seat singing "double, x, y, z... now know ... sing me."

He likes to share things with people and is a great little helper. He loves trains and trucks and playing in sand and water. His fine motor skills are pretty good and he enjoys building things. He's also loved cutting things lately. We had watermelon last week and he very intently cut it up into very small pieces. He might have eaten one! He's tends to be pretty focused and notices the details.

(helping daddy fix the dishwasher)

He really enjoys being around people, though it takes him a little while to warm up to someone. He's having so much fun this week with all his aunts and uncles and cousins. And he's still enough of a snuggle bug to make mama happy :) I love this little boy so much and am having a whole lotta fun being his mama. He's pretty special and we're really proud of him! Happy Birthday Daniel!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daniel's First Haircut

Daniel had his first hair cut a few weeks ago. Incidentally, he also had his first sunburn the same day. It's taken me a while to go through the pictures and post them and I think it's about time for another haircut already. I tried to keep it fairly long, mostly because I like it that way, but also partly because I wanted to leave room for someone else to fix it if I really messed it up!

Before (Notice the wings. They used to curl up and be cute):

Ready or not, here we go!

I read a suggestion online to put them in front of a video to keep them occupied and still. The spray bottle definitely kept him occupied, though not necessarily so still :)

After (not bad for my first try!):

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Fun

We've had a really great summer so far - and it's only June! No scrambling to get in all the things I wanted to do but never got a chance to do! It certainly helps that Dave has been on a light rotation this month and has been off 3.5 out of 4 weekends. Unheard of! Plus, I don't think he's worked more than 60 hrs a week all month. It almost feels like we're a normal family.

I really wanted to enjoy this summer with Daniel. We've been hiking, biking, swimming and strawberry picking. We gone to the zoo, the library, museums and a concert. We've played at the playground, in the sandbox and with the ball in the yard. We've gone for walks in the wagon and walks by the river.

I don't have very many good pictures so far, but here are a few from our hike in the woods today:

Monday, June 20, 2011


Living around the corner from a major hospital has several, um, advantages, especially when you're a little boy who's almost two. We hear ambulance sirens and helicopters flying over multiple times a day. I wonder how many other toddlers can distinguish between a helicopter and an airplane just by listening. Daniel loves to watch the helicopters go by and we knew he would love to see one up close.

Having a little experience with such things, Dave informed me that unloading a helicopter takes a while. If we saw one flying in to the hospital, we should have plenty of time to walk over and see it before it took off again.We've been saying for a while that we should take Daniel over to the hospital to see one. So on Saturday, when we heard a helicopter flying over just after dinner, we decided it would be a beautiful evening for a walk.

Daniel enjoyed seeing the helicopter. I think he would have really enjoyed watching it land or take off. Maybe another day. We think the crew was probably taking a dinner break.

After we saw the helicopter, Daniel pulled the wagon all the way home, pretty much by himself.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I turned 30 and I won't be blogging for a while

I turned 30 on Saturday. Funny how 30 seems pretty young these days! My parents came for the weekend to help celebrate (This makes 30 years that my mom's been a mother too!) They toopk Daniel to play on Saturday afternoon/evening and Dave and I went out for dinner and coffee.

Now that I'm 30, I can't blog anymore. Just kidding. Actually, during lent we are fasting from certain things as a church community and one of them is media and electronic devices. Therefore I will not be blogging for the next six weeks. I'm hoping to have some time to write and process and some of it may find it's way here after a while.

During this time, we are especially asking God for direction as it relates to our post-residency plans (Dave finishes his general surgery residency in June 2012). As of now, we are making plans to move to East Africa where Dave will hopefully be able to work with a residency program training African surgeons. I've been wanting to write more about this, and I will when I start blogging again, but I mention it now to ask you to pray as you think of us in the next six weeks - that we would continue to grow and press into God, that we would trust in His provisions, and that He would lead us, guide us and make the next steps clear.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Enjoying the flowers, the warmth and the light

Last week we went to the conservatory at Belle Isle. It's a beautiful place any time of year, but it's an especially nice place to be when it's cold outside. The lighting also makes it a great place to take pictures. I'm glad I grabbed my camera on the way out the door!

Daniel reaching for the camera, which is what most of my pictures are lately! (I do let him have a turn too.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snow Day!

We had the unthinkable happen yesterday. Dave had a snow day. Let me repeat - Dave had a snow day. This does NOT happen. Ever. Residents (and any health professionals, really) do NOT get snow days. But the other senior resident who's on the same service with Dave was on call yesterday so he had to be there and had to stay all night. After looking at the number of patients they had Sunday night he called Dave and told him not to worry about trying to get in to the hospital on Monday. What an amazing blessing for our family.

Dave worked a 30 hr shift Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. We works another one today and another on Thursday. Plus he needed to prepare two lectures to give on Thursday. This was going to be a really challenging week, for all three of us. I was praying that the Lord would strengthen us and see us through. But he was so gracious and gave Dave a snow day. He was able to sleep until almost 8:00!! He got to spend some time with Daniel and with me. He shoveled almost all of the driveway and sidewalk (though Daniel and I did help). Despite all that he was able to work quite a few hours on his presentations. And I spent the day overwhelmed with gratitude for this blessing.

(You probably noticed that Daniel is not wearing his mittens. If he has on mittens, he cannot hold shovels and snow brushes and do what mom and dad are doing, so he takes them off. Any ideas for how to let him use his hands while still keeping them warm?)