Living letters (19/5/15)
We’re celebrating Kijabe Hospital’s Centennial this week, the culmination of more than a year’s preparation and planning by Mardi and many others. All sorts of last-minute things things are happening…the outside of the hospital getting a lick and a polish with mortar repairs of aged concrete, new signs getting put up here and there, a new gate being furiously constructed. And despite being mopped clean every twenty minutes, the hospital floors covered in mud because we’re in the midst of the long rains. The rain gauge up at RVA says we’ve had more than two feet of rain in two months…I can believe it. The steep road to Kijabe down the mountain remains hilariously covered in spine-shaking potholes…I say ‘hilariously’ because every time I think about an expectant mother or injured patient traversing this minefield, if I don’t laugh I’ll cry.
About a year ago, we sent invitations to the Hospital’s long-serving missionaries and workers who are spread around the world (and still alive!) to join us for our Centennial Week; they started to arrive a few days ago. Having these saints here and hearing some of their stories has been incredibly encouraging to me.
Wondering whether what you do matters if you do it with Jesus? I dare you to think that your vocation is too ‘mundane’ or ‘everyday’ to be important in the Kingdom after meeting these women:
Justy came to Kijabe from Canada in 1961 after completing Bible School and training as a hospital lab tech. She started the hospital’s first lab, overseeing its growth and the training of over 40 lab techs from 1961-1997.
One of the lab techs Justy trained? Our now-pediatric chaplain, Mercy. Mercy has ministered to thousands of pediatric patients and their families over the years, overseeing a discipleship program that connects patient families with churches in their rural communities: ensuring that after they encounter the resurrected Christ at Kijabe Hospital, they continue to deepen in their faith after they return home. The number of people who have come to know Christ and are now active in their faith through Mercy’s efforts sounds like one of those statistics that are just impossibly high: except they aren’t.
Nettie was a Scottish nurse who came to a 30-bed “AIM Medical Centre” (what is currently our physio/specialty clinic and radiology/lab) in 1967. She was the first nurse to have the vision to capacity-build and multiply compassionate care by training Kenyan nurses formally. Despite nearly dying of typhoid in 1971, after 13 years of advocacy and training nurses unofficially, she received recognition and accreditation for Kijabe Hospital’s nursing training by the Nursing Council of Kenya in 1980. The first class of the Kijabe School of Nursing commenced July 1, 1980.
In 1968, Nettie delivered a baby whose mother had been in labour for 3 days, saving both of their lives. That baby was Mary Mungai, who is now Kijabe’s head nurse anesthesia educator, and has trained over 80 nurse anesthetists: saving the lives of thousands more mothers & babies. Mary’s nurse anesthetists now serve all over East Africa, in East Africa’s first nurse anesthetist training program: an innovation started at Kijabe Hospital which allows nurses to receive specialty training so they can function in place of an anesthetist in mission and rural hospitals–low resource hospitals who can’t afford to hire an expensive anesthetist to put patients to sleep so they can have life-saving surgery. No anesthetist = no surgery.
Listening to the stories of these elder saints, who took the little they had in their cups and poured it out with Jesus over decades, I’m convicted that my measures for ‘impact’ or ‘effectiveness’ can have too short of an evaluation timeline. I can be too quick to judge the value of my work.
During the devotional yesterday, the chaplain reminded us of Paul’s metaphor: as followers of Jesus we get to be a “living letter”, written by the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3:3). The challenge? Part of being a living letter is not being in charge of exactly how the letter is read by others. Or by whom it is read. Or how often it is read. Or what impact the letter has on others.
Ladies like Nettie and Justy inspire me to want to be a living letter…to work with Jesus, not being overly aware of or unduly concerned with the “impact” I may be having, just content to let the Spirit do the writing and take care of everything else.