Monday, February 2, 2009


Today is the day that Christians around the world celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem. According to an Anglican website, "The day has pagan roots, with great significance in the rural calendar, because the date lies halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, so it marks the day on which winter is half over... There is a sense in which we thank God we are moving into brighter and better days."

You guessed it: Candlemas is traditionally celebrated with a ceremonial lighting of candles -- "for hope," of course! In that vein, I need to share some of the hope that we have, in spite of our losses. There is much to mourn the world over, not just in Kenya. But there is much to celebrate, as well. Among other things, we celebrate in Maseno:

(1) waking up every day (quite literally);

(2) the return of public school teachers to their classrooms after a contentious strike threatened both the security and education of our kids. Kenya's Parliament has agreed to honor a pledge (over three years' time) it had previously made;

(3) the return of Samuel, a much-respected clinical officer, and the departure of Silus, an equally respected clinical officer -- who leaves to begin medical school in Kenya. When he returns, he will be an even finer asset to Kenya than he is already;

(4) the delivery and implementation of two suction machines, two floor lamps, three xray view boxes and a lifesaving oxygen concentrator for the hospital -- thanks to recent very generous donations from the Rotary Club of Martha's Vineyard and St. Barnabas, Falmouth, Massachusetts. Our patients are even more grateful than we are;

(5) the ongoing success of the 15-growing-to-41 orphan feeding programs in the Diocese of Maseno North, thanks to the Diocese of Massachusetts' Jubilee Committee, St. Christopher's Chatham, All Souls' San Diego, and numerous other supporters around the U.S. These feeding programs provide one hot meal a week and basic education classes for thousands of kids every Saturday. They are beginning to be self-supporting, thanks to a recent micro-lending initiative between the local Mothers' Union and Diomass;

(6) last month's visit by Rosemary Kempsell, President of the International Mothers' Union, who heard about Maseno's orphan programs and came to honor the women here who have been quietly tending the needs of "the least of these" for years, under Dr. Nan Hardison's tutelage;

(7) the delivery of 200 kukus (chickens) to 200 kids in the diocese, orphans who can use the protein as well as their egg money to buy the requisite uniforms and books in order to attend "free" primary school in Kenya. Employees and patrons of Chilmark Chocolates on Martha's Vineyard and the Sunday School kids at St. Andrew's, Edgartown, made the "Kids and Kukus" project possible. The Mothers' Union and the parish priests have helped us identify the most needy orphans;

(8) waking up every day (did I mention that?);

(9) a pilot project to empower women, feed children and provide safe (vs. counterfeit) medications at reasonable prices in two new community pharmacies. The women of the Mothers' Union are structuring these ventures, as well, which are supported by start-up funds from Boston and facilitated by Dr. Gerry Hardison and Maseno Hospital's pharmacy;

(10) a fledgling effort to help the 35 students at St. Philip's Theological College, continue their studies under Nan's direction and take their exams. Most of these students have young families that have been hard hit by the triple-digit inflation in Kenya over the past year;

(11) the upcoming visit of SSJE Brothers, who will lead a retreat for those same theological students;

(12) a new long-term program to provide a lightweight washable blanket for every orphan in the diocese (yes, thousands in all) at a cost of $7 each. These kids often have no bed, sleep on a dung floor, and are just plain cold at night. Even in Kenya, the temperature gets down to 60F. That's nippy, especially during "the season of the long rains";

(13) the efforts of the fledgling Rotary Club of Kisumu, which has taken on a community-wide "Jiggers Project" and yesterday completed a new addition with a cement floor for a family living in a jiggers-infested house;

(14) the re-establishment (in process) of a community well; it will better serve the hospital and environs than the current erratic municipal water supply;

(15) and, yes, waking up every day!

For all of these things and many, many more, we thank you, dear God. We thank you, too, dear friends -- for "lighting one candle for hope" with us all. Asante sana!

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