Thursday, December 15, 2011

Epilogue 2011

"What will they do now?" people ask about our friends in Maseno.

"God only knows" is once again the answer.

Nan and Gerry Hardison have just returned to the U.S. Their final "Communique" is reprinted below. Hard and faithfully as they tried, over ten years of committed service, to foster sustainability in their corner of Kenya, that was an enormous challenge in a community that has far too little with which to sustain itself. And so we continue to pray. We pray in thanksgiving for Nan's and Gerry's lives of faith and service, and we pray in petition for the future of our brothers and sisters in Maseno. 

Down through the years, there have been hundreds of good-bye songs, both popular and classic. As we draft this, the last of our Communiqués from Kenya, the song that best expresses our emotions is the one adapted from one of Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl ballads by Pete Seeger and the Weavers in the late 40's or early 50's. It goes like this:

         I've sung this song, and I'll sing it again
         Of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been
         ‘Bout some of the troubles that bothered my mind
         And lots of good people that I left behind 
         So long, it’s been good to know you  (x3)
         It’s a long time since I’ve been home
         And I’ve got to be movin’ along.

And so it is with us. We have met lots of people, some good and some bad; a few happy, but more sad. We’ve seen life and death and too much of the latter. We have seen high spirits in the face of poverty and adversity but despair and hopelessness as well. Our 10 years in Kenya have planted lots of troubles that bother our minds, troubles which will continue to bother our minds until our dying days. We are changed persons. What we remember most are the “lots of good people that we left behind.” We cannot take them with us. Nonetheless, “we’ve got to be movin’ along.” It was a blessing to have known them and a grief to leave them. Who would have thought, when Nan and I were young college students, that, in our “twilight years,” we would forge close bonds of friendship with persons half a globe away? The fact is, it was not hard. They are just like us. The same desires, the same aspirations, the same struggles and the same tragedies. Unlike us, however, their desires are less often realized, their aspirations less often achieved, their struggles more unremitting and their tragedies more profound and unexpected than ours will ever be. With the help of all the good people we shall be rejoining on our return, however, we have changed for the better the lives of many. We are eternally grateful for the help and support that our friends and donors have given us. We just wish that we could have boasted more sustainable changes. But, as we implied in our “next to last” communiqué, any batting average more than zero for sustainability is good in this business. I think we have achieved that.

Does it sound like we are really leaving them behind? Of course we cannot. I was once told that in certain Asian countries, if you saved a life, you were obliged to support it thereafter. If that is true, then we have quite a burden to shoulder. Get real; it is too big to shoulder. But we can continue to help so long as we are selective. Therein lies the future. We would like to revive the Orphan Health Initiative which had such a beneficial effect on orphan and caregiver well-being when it was active. The cost was modest, about $2,000 per month; the yield in healthcare was tremendous. Over a two-year period, jiggers and scalp fungus virtually disappeared in the orphans of parishes served by the program. As the program progressed, fewer and fewer patients with formidable acute disease required hospitalization. Where can we find $24,000 per year? I think it can be raised even in the face of the Western Financial meltdown. If it is possible, we know of a very committed and honest Clinical Officer whose main interest is in community health. He would be a great leader of such a program. The program would have dual benefits. It would improve the health of orphans and caregivers and would provide income for the Hospital which will need much help to stay afloat, as Kenyan inflation soars and as the healthcare system remains in turmoil. A Mission Hospital without donor support, supported only by patient income, is no longer a “Mission” Hospital. It has lost its soul.

There is another project which we deem extremely worthy. More importantly, it is a program which the community conceived and for which they and we have identified an honest, smart and committed person. It would be run from Phoebe House. We have mentioned Phoebe House in earlier communiqués. Often when women are diagnosed with AIDS, they are thrown out by their husbands as well as by their own families. Phoebe House was started by a group of women in Luanda township (4 km. from Maseno Hospital) to provide shelter and food for such women. Maseno Hospital has traditionally provided free health care to residents of Phoebe house. It has been successful. The new initiative, proposed by one of the ladies, is aimed at “child-headed households.” Imagine a 12-year-old girl trying to raise and provide for her younger siblings, ages 4 and 7, because both parents are dead and there is no willing “Granny” to take over. The proposal would extend the shelter of Phoebe House to those families. It is not clear what the ultimate costs will be, but start-up costs should be modest. Nancy and I want to help this program to become successful.

So it seems that Nan and I cannot really leave Maseno and the people there. The Hospital, College and the Orphan Feeding Program are perpetually in need of support. Nancy and I shall continue to seek donations on their behalf and will continue to ensure they reach the right places. We shall continue to be accountable to all donors we might be fortunate enough to attract. The conduit through All Souls’ Church will remain to enable donations to be tax deductible.

Many thanks for all your help, encouragement and support.

Nan and Gerry Hardison

Friday, December 9, 2011

Message from Christ's Hope

The following email and accompanying photos were sent to me by the devout Irish missioner who works for an organization called "Christ's Hope." You've read about him in several of my blog entries. Desmond Marshall's sole assignment is to go into remote villages and pray with people who are dying in Kenya. But he also brought many of those people out to our little mission hospital in Maseno. He knows that, unfortunately, in the government hospitals, two or three people share a bed, and medical rounds are held once a week.

Dr. Hardison called him "St. Desmond." And he called Dr. Hardison a miracle-worker. 

You will notice, if you look closely at the photo below, that Gerry Hardison is holding a live chicken in his lap. That is a gift of the highest honor in a country where many people are able to eat meat once a month, at best. (I couldn't resist asking Gerry how he was going to get that critter through Customs!) 

Dianne, this was a very special day for us here at Christ's Hope. We held a "Appreciation Lunch" for Prof and Nan. We had a wonderful day with about 85 former patients attending. I trust it was an encouragement to Prof to see just how many lives he has touched, just in the few years I’ve been taking patients to Maseno. Mama Joshua was there also and spoke of how Prof had cared for Joshua. There were many testimonies of how God used Prof. You may not remember, but many of these people you cared for also. Thank you for coming to Kenya and serving with such a loving heart. Linnet was also there, along with a few others from Maseno.

I will miss him so very much and the patients will also miss him. Many of the people were at death's door, but we thank God today they are doing well. I wish you could have been here…We held it in Kisumu at our office. I trust you are doing well. I hope you are still enjoying your Hospice nursing position? I’ll be in touch again with my Christmas letter! Just want to let you know that we had a blessed day.

Much love,