- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 25 July 2013 25 July 2013
Exploring Nairobi a bit brought an end to my African adventure. Nairobi was cloudy and cool today, which is most definitely not how I picture Africa. A lazy morning at the Scripture Mission began the day as we all worked to try and repack luggage and sort through medical supplies that will stay in Kenya for the next Mercy Medical Team that will arrive in November.
The first stop of the day was at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an orphanage for elephants and rhinos. The orphanage was founded in 1977 to help protect and raise orphaned animals. To date, the orphanage has successfully helped raise and release back into the wild 150 elephants. The majority of the baby elephants are orphaned due to poaching of their mothers for their tusks. Other elephants have been orphaned due to natural causes, but the majority are due to poaching or other human reasons, such as loss of land due to human infiltration. The baby elephants spend five to ten years at the orphanage and then are released back into the wild, into one of the game parks in Kenya called Tsavo. The wildlife trust follows the elephants for several years as they acclimate to the wild. They say that most of the orphaned elephants are welcomed into herds that contain former orphaned elephants who are surviving successfully now in the wild areas. Such a neat cause! The wildlife trust does not tag the elephants they release back into the wild, but they say that the elephants will remember their human keepers for up to ten years. Pretty amazing!
The elephant orphanage allows viewing of the elephants only once a day for one hour. They want to limit the elephants' human exposure so that they do not become used to this. Currently there are 25 baby elephants at the orphanage. They bring the elephants out to the feeding area in two groups, and you get to see them feed and play for about an hour. The first group contained the younger elephants. One was only three months old and was covered in blankets to help prevent pneumonia. He was absolutely adorable! The second group contained the older elephants and some of them were starting to grow their tusks. It was just awesome to watch them eat. Each elephant gets two bottles of milk, and some of them can even hold their bottles independently with their trunks! They just guzzle the milk down in seconds! Then the elephants graze on some tree branches and leaves. Most of them roll in the dirt and use their trunks to cover themselves in dirt and just play. I was enthralled. What amazing and beautiful creatures! I am just in awe at how God created each creature to be so unique—even the elephants' trunks have multiple uses!
From here we headed to a shopping center to finish up some last-minute shopping and grab lunch. I was surprised that this shopping center reminded me of something you would see in the United States, with jewelry stores, book shops, restaurants, a Woolworth's, etc … . Such a stark contrast from the village of Botoro where we spent most of the week. I almost felt guilty even considering shopping when there are so many others who are missing the basic necessities of life.
In the afternoon we visited the Kazuri Bead Factory, which is a really amazing place. Kazuri means "small and beautiful" in Swahili, and this factory is a place where ceramic beads and pottery are made. The workshop began as a place where single mothers in need of regular employment could work. Today, single mothers continue to run this workshop, which has turned into quite the operation. We were able to tour the factory and see each step in the bead making process, and then, of course, we were able to shop and enjoy the beautiful and artistic finished projects.
Later in the day we were able to debrief with the LCMS office in Kenya and discuss how the Mercy Medical Team trip went in Botoro. The staff at this LCMS office—Pastor Shauen Trump, Shara, and Catherine—are just amazing. They made our stay seamless, and they thought of every detail. Wonderful hosts!
Around 7:00 PM we left for the Nairobi airport to begin our trek home. Nairobi traffic is something else! There are actually people walking through the standstill traffic selling anything from Tupperware to toy trucks to fruit. You can do all of your shopping while waiting in traffic! We even saw one person trade their t-shirt for a toy truck! I have to say that driving through a roundabout while on the left side of the road is just odd compared to how we drive at home. International airports always offer unique experiences, but we all made it through just fine. It will take me almost forty hours to get home, which includes three flights, layovers and transfer time between airports.
I am ready to come home … I miss regular food (items other than chicken and rice), toilets and showers with normal water pressure (or water at all), being able to use the water out of the faucet and many of the conveniences I am used to in the United States.
With that being said, I am blessed to have been able to serve on a Mercy Medical Team in Kenya. The experience was quite rewarding but also very challenging at times. We cared for over 1,200 people during the five days the clinic was open. We worked long, stressful days and yet we were a seamless team. Everyone had their niche and provided excellent teamwork. Our eyes were opened by some of the people and cases that came in—severe malnutrition, brain atrophy in a young child, malaria, and extreme poverty. The local ELCK congregation provided eager workers who helped us control the crowds of people and welcomed us with open arms into their community. I will not forget the eyes of the elderly people and the pure joy in the faces of the young children. The people of Botoro live a different life than I have ever experienced with poverty, lack of resources and days full of manual labor in gardens. People walk miles upon miles each day, sometimes barefoot, to just obtain water or attend school. I was able to see lives and circumstances that seem so foreign to me for an entire week, and I will not forget what these people and this experience taught me.
So, what does a person take away from a short term mission trip? How will this experience affect my life? I hope that I will live my life with humility, compassion and generosity. In the United States we live a different lifestyle than in Africa, for sure. However, this does not mean that I cannot change how I live my life, even in simple terms. Life in the United States is very consumer-driven. One idea our team had is that for every item you buy, you give another item away to either a charity or another deserving recipient. Use your blessings to help others. I also hope to support missions through church and the community. There are so many ways to give back and support those in need, both locally and internationally. And I hope I can find and emanate the joy I witnessed in Botoro. Those farmers, peasants and village people were content with their lifestyle. Some felt forgotten and forlorn, but they were so happy to have us just come and visit with them. I want to find and emulate joy in all I do in my life. God showers us with blessings in all shapes and sizes. How do you share your blessings with others?
Africa has opened my eyes, and the people have taken hold of my heart. It is rewarding to be able to practice your profession and give back to others. The circumstances and cases were challenging. Fears and uncertainties were present. Comfort was found in prayer and the knowledge that we were safe with God in Kenya. What an incredible way to see the world and still provide for others! There are still people in Botoro we turned away and were unable to see. There is another Mercy Medical Team traveling to Kenya in November, but they will be in a different location. The need for healthcare in the outlying villages is huge, and we only made a small dent. However, I think the people of Kenya may have provided us with more than we gave them. Perspective. A reality check. And understanding of how to share abilities, skills and blessings.
I challenge you to find a way to impact another person, either through a mission trip, a servant event, volunteering, supporting missions through a church or organization or finding a way to share your talents and blessings. The effort you put forth should provide a strong reflection back into your life. See the world and your life with new eyes. And be thankful for all of the blessings in your life, big or small as they might be. Let the joy shine through your eyes and face, just like the people in a small town called Botoro in Kenya, Africa.
Saint John's member Kimberly Pepmiller is in Africa through July 25 with ten other doctors and nurses, lending her medical skills at clinics in Kisii, Kenya, operated by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's Mercy Medical Team.