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From runner to missionary doctor… thoughts of an American in East Africa

Growing up, my identity was wrapped in that of being a runner. Many of the greatest long-distance runners in my sport hailed from East Africa—Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and surrounding countries. The only time I seriously competed with East Africans was when I was 20 years old and in a college cross-country race… and even then I was 2-3 minutes behind the Kenyans who dominated the 5 mile competition. Around that time, I committed my life fully to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and running became far secondary to following Him. As I progressed in my medical education, my dream of being a sportsmedicine doctor was reshaped by the Lord to being a doctor to those that had basic health needs unmet.

Fast-forward to age 40, when I am helping to open a mission hospital in South Sudan, and have occasion to visit an established mission hospital in the heart of the Kipsigi tribe in Kenya. On the surgery schedule, I see all the names that I used to hear as those of the marathon and 10,000 meter greats from Kenya. I have learned that it is not all Kenyans that are naturally gifted runners, but only those of a particular group of tribes (Talatchin—including the Kipsigis, Maasai, and others). And when one sees where they live, you can understand—hilly, forested, temperate (not too hot to run for long distances), and elevation of 7-8,000 feet. Yet I don’t run while there, but observe a radical hysterectomy done to attempt some treatment for an advanced case of cervical cancer in a patient with AIDS.

Then, we visit Uganda shortly after Kiprotich, a Ugandan, wins the London 2012 Olympic marathon gold. As I run one morning, some schoolchildren start running with me, and I reference their recent Olympic medalist. They have a blank look about them, as they obviously have never heard of him or much about the sport of athletics. For most people in the world, life is about surviving day to day, not extras like sports.

I still enjoy running, but now I run with my wife through the jungle, so we can have a few moments peace to talk and relieve the stress of work and life in East Africa. Occasionally I run with one of the South Sudanese high school boys, which usually ends up with me close to death, walking, while they finish the run well ahead of me. Or, I am humbled when a drunk man or a schoolgirl of 11 keeps pace with me for a good distance—wearing flip-flops and a school uniform.

I dreamed of being a great runner and keeping pace with the East Africans. But thanks to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ, I find he has given me the greater gift of a calling with purpose-- of being part of His work of redeeming people for Him. And yet, He hasn’t taken away the enjoyment I have in running, and has actually given me some of the greater desires of my heart (see Psalm 37:4)—an amazing wife and children with whom I get to journey through this life, and with whom I also do run with the East Africans. Our good God hears our hearts, but knows what we want and need better than we ourselves do.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:16

Delivering Babies in South Sudan

South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world (1 in 7).  As His House of Hope has started delivering babies, we regularly see cases that highlight why that is true.  When a baby or mother dies, we pray with them and attend the funeral if possible.  When a death is avoided, we are quick to say "Shukran ta Rabuna Tanina Kweys" (Thanks to our good God!).  We pray before, during, and after these difficult cases, and our prayer is that the "labor prompted by love" (1 Thess 1:3) that occurs at HHH will lead more people to trust fully in the hope that is found in Jesus.

Some recent cases at HHH (in parentheses are some of the reasons for the high maternal mortality here):

 

  • A mama delivering her 9th baby comes to the hospital after delivering the previous 8 at home.  The baby is large, and in a breech position.  Drs. Perry and Poole decide to deliver by C-section, and a 4.1 kg (9#2oz) girl is delivered, who requires more than an hour of intensive resuscitation.  A day after birth, baby is still on oxygen but is doing better and able to feed. (Breech presentation, large baby)
  • A woman pregnant with her 8th child but only 7 months along comes to the hospital because she is having labour pains and has not felt the baby move for one week.  Ultrasound confirms that baby is not alive, is breech, and exam shows a bulging bag of waters, apparently dilated.  Her blood count is low, but transfusion is not available as the lab tech is unable to get to the hospital due to a rainstorm and it being late at night.  The patient is ruptured, the fluid filled with pus, and cervix then felt to be too tight to safely deliver baby quickly and avoid risk of mother hemorrhaging.  A C-section is performed, and the mother does well.  Her blood count actually went up the next day, likely due to a temperamental lab machine.  (Fetal death, breech, chorioamnionitis/infection, severe anemia)
  • A mother presents to the hospital 4 hours after delivering a baby (who was doing well) at home, with a large amount of bleeding reported.  She is agitated, has still not delivered the placenta, and has some bleeding.  She is taken to the delivery room for removal of the placenta and control of bleeding.  The placenta easily comes out, but the patient dies just as it is removed due to near complete loss of her blood volume. (Post-partum hemorrhage)
  • A woman is pushing her baby out, but her pelvis is too small and baby's heart rate begins dropping.  Decision is made to go to C-section, and baby is delivered and resuscitated successfully.  (Obstructed labor due to small pelvis relative to baby-- a very common occurrence)
  • A first time mother-to-be presents in active labor, but cervix is only dilated to 4cm (less than halfway).  After monitoring progress for an hour, she was 5cm, so the doctor (Dr. Perry) decided to go to church (about 250 meters away) for a bit.  An hour later, he receives a call that the baby is out.  The cook made it to the bedside first and delivered the baby, while the nurse was busy cutting the cord when the doctor arrived!  (Illustrating that sometimes the doctor is NOT needed, and the importance of cross-training staff.)  Dr. Perry offered to do the cooking the next day since she did his job that day, but in the end he did not, as everyone realized that might be harmful to the patients' health.
There are many issues which make delivering healthy babies here in South Sudan a very difficult undertaking.  There are the medical reasons above, which are then complicated by cultural, social, economic, and spiritual barriers that limit people coming to the hospital for the care they need.  For example, a woman is thought to be "courageous" if she delivers at home, while at the same time not costing her husband any hospital fees.  Once the patient is at the hospital, the struggle for us is making sure there is adequate staff and supplies to provide good care.  Due to the many years of war, there are few trained medical personnel in South Sudan, making it hard to find and maintain a good indigenous crew.  The regulations and costs of importing medicines and supplies into a country that produces none of these items for itself makes for an exhaustive process-- one that is barely a second thought in the West.

Please pray with us for these challenges-- medical, cultural, logistical, and spiritual.  Thanks for standing with us in this battle!

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:16

Accidental Foster Parents: Twins go back to birth family

Below is the prayer update we sent out just after the biological family of the twins asked that they be returned to them.  If you would like to be added to our "prayer posse" and get these updates regularly, please contact us.

Shukran Baba Fi Sama -- Thank you Father in Heaven for the privilege of caring for these two little lives for these last 10 weeks. We are honored that you entrusted us with them for this first season of their life, and we commit them wholeheartedly into your care. Raise them up for You Lord, to make an early decision to follow You and worship you all the days of their lives. Protect them Lord as they transition to the family of their clan.  Engage their family and motivate them to provide the care that these twins so desperately need. Cause the birth father and all the members to love these boys and look out for their best interests above their own desires.  In Jesus Name we Pray with Thanksgiving, Amen.


On June 25, we handed the boys over to their family. We are sad, yes, and at peace that we did what we were called to do -- that is to obey the leading of the Father. We prayed the never fail prayer, "Thy Will Be Done", and believe with our whole hearts that God has answered just that. In our devotional that morning we read, "Sin and sorrow and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God made a mistake in allowing them. Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness (Oswald Chambers, June 25)."

We are thankful for those that stood with us throughout. We ask that people pray we would keep our eyes on the Father, receiving from Him the healing and help we need to move on in Him. May we become more like Jesus as we share in His sufferings. May it be true of us all that, we "receive ourselves in the fires of sorrow, that God would make us nourishment for other people (O.C.)." May our joy be restored.

Update: About 2 1/2 weeks later, the father and several other family members brought the boys to the clinic to get formula, and they looked healthy and gained weight.  It was bittersweet to see them, but we felt compelled to see how they were.  Hudson was yelling his lungs out like he typically did, while Taylor was the mellow fellow.  The Lord continues to ease the hole that was left in our lives when they left.  On a practical note, we gave the boys' cribs (just made-- not ever used by them) to the hospital, and have been encouraged that others have been blessed by our step out in faith.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:16

It's twin boys!

We have much to share with you-- both praise and prayer!

We Praise God because He is...
  • Truth
  • Our Salvation and Righteousness (because we can't be these for ourselves!)
We thank Him for:
  • Allowing the hospital and clinic to open, at least partially: 2 deliveries so far, 3-6 inpatients at any given time, 25+ patients in clinic most days, praying with many of them and our pastors bringing the word...
  • Most supplies are here, with more en route
  • Growth in our language understanding (learning to listen more than talk... hmmm-- important to learn how to do in any language!)
  • Rains are here-- cooler weather (some of the time)
Please pray with us for:
  • Our ability to care for patients when we are still establishing what supplies we have, where we have it, and if our staff know what to do with it; some cases are very difficult and resources are limited
  • Endurance for Jeff and Elizabeth as we are pulled in many directions with regards to caring for patients, setting up systems/records/organizations/protocols/etc, coordinating further equipment and supply needs, and balancing all that with our life and ministry as a family!
  • Which brings us to the other big piece of news: newborn twin boys in the Perry home!
The story of how this came about...
On Monday April 16, Jeff's lab tech shared about his cousin who died after childbirth, leaving twins. On Tuesday, the father of the babies brought a letter to Harvesters requesting they be taken into the orphanage, but they did not have the staff to take in 2 newborns, so referred them to the medical director (ie, Jeff) to enroll them in the formula program. Jeff read the letter handed to him, which stated the twins were boys. He shared that with Elizabeth.

We, especially several of our children, have been praying for God's direction for our family for the past 2 years. In particular, we all felt a strong sense that if there were ever twin boys that needed a family, we should be willing to be that. Though many children have tugged at our hearts since moving here almost a year ago, we knew that the timing was not right. This was confirmed by the fact that in South Sudan, one must live in the country 3 years before being able to adopt a child. However, upon being approached about this specific situation, Elizabeth & I were compelled to ask the question "what can we do" on behalf of these little guys? To complicate matters, the children were the only children of a second wife, which means no one in the clan would take care of them (particularly father or first wife).

After praying and talking about it for a day, we felt we should offer these boys the haven of our family, if the birth father and clan understood the finality of adoption as we understand it. Through interpretation and some of our rudimentary Arabic, they overwhelmingly embraced the idea. With Mama Lilly, Mr. Mourice (compound director from Kenya), and our lab tech present, we signed all the necessary papers, took pictures of them handing the boys over to us, and even took video of the father signing the form. We are fully aware that there is risk still of misunderstanding and changing minds, yet it seems adoption is something that officials here are okay with. As a positive sign, it appears that we will have no problems getting travel documents allowing them to travel with us to Kenya and Uganda next month.

Hudson-and-TaylorSo without further adieu, meet Hudson Jeffrey (6#2oz) and Taylor Moses (4#6oz), born April 14, 2012 in Yei, South Sudan.
See more pictures (April) in our gallery. The rest of the Perryclan is ecstatic to say the least, and eagerly helping out. Seriously, it is amazing to welcome twins into a family in which the 5 oldest do all household chores, hold the babies (safely), change diapers... And, we will be keeping our house helper Christine instead of letting her go as we had planned on in May.

Pray for their health (Taylor is low birth weight, and a nasty skin infection)-- that they would eat, grow, and become strong, free from infection.

Thank you for laboring alongside through the work of prayer!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:16

IHORB: Look for one opening near you!

ihorbAs we enter into our 8th month of eating rice and beans, creativity enters in.  Perhaps we have come up with an idea for a new chain of restaurants: IHORB-- International House of Rice and Beans.  For pennies a plate, a whole menu can be created.  Here is a preview:

 

  1. Indian Rice and Beans: curry on R&B (rice and beans, not rhythm and blues)
  2. Texas Rice and Beans: barbecue sauce on R&B
  3. Southwest Rice and Beans: chipotle on R&B
  4. Lemon Pepper Rice and Beans: lemon pepper on R&B
  5. Huge Plate O' Rice and Beans: you guessed it...R&B, and lots of 'em (salt optional)
  6. Thai Rice and Beans: coconut milk with R&B.  Hmm...sounds good-- haven't tried that one yet!
  7. Italian Rice & Beans: parmesan cheese with beans on rice (or add pasta for a real flair)
  8. Sudanese Sushi: rice, beans, and cabbage wrapped in seaweed (it's actually quite good)
  9. Balsamic Blast: balsamic vinegar on R&B (imported, so must be used sparingly)
  10. Dessert: bananas, pineapple, or mango

We are thankful to enjoy such spices (sent by friends and family) to add some variety to our daily fare!  Yes, we have actually had all of these varieties (well, not the Thai option, but the ingredients are available!).  Please send in your menu ideas and we may even name a dish after you (such as the "Hungry Man" or the "Proctor Special")!

We are challenged that here in South Sudan, eating is for the purpose of filling one's stomach in order to make it through the day's work-- it is not an activity meant for pleasure or diversion.  The Western diet is ingrained in us, and we are convicted by Paul's words to the Philippians about those whose "god is their stomach" (Phil 3:18-19).  How unlike Christ we are that a lack of variety in our diet is an issue for us!

Thankfully, the power to become like Him doesn't come from us but from Him.  "But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil 3:20-21).  So, pray with us that "if we have food and clothes, we will be content with that" (1 Tim 6:8).

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:16

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Our Mission:

Share the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthen His Church through medical care and education, discipleship, and loving the people of South Sudan as a family.

 

Exciting Bridge Jeff and Elizabeth had to cross
Filtering water one bottle at a time
Moyo District - our new home
Our property with Mango and Avacado trees and a soccer area for kids to play once we mow.
Hazel in our new kitchen.  Here you have to provide everything:  cabinets, counters, applicances
Exciting Bridge Jeff and Elizabeth had to cross
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