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