Thursday, March 26, 2009

Caring for Body & Soul - Part 3 of 4

The following article is continued from here...
Lutheran Nurse & Kenyan Deaconesses are Making a Difference with AIDS Widows & Orphans in Kenya

(Above: The HIV Widows, after getting better, work to raise vegetables and here, they are digging a pond to raise Tilapia.)
Pamela Bohele-Silva is a parish nurse at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin CA. She travels with Dr. Just, exegetical prof from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. This is the 2nd year they trained deaconesses and Friends of Mercy, with your help, will send them back to train the Kenyan ladies in God's Word and medical assistance. We still need to raise another $7000 so that we can provide transportaion, room, and board for the Kenyan deaconesses.

As you may recall, Dr. Arthur Just and I spent a week with the deaconesses of Kenya teaching them about palliative care which is comfort care given to someone who is chronically or terminally ill. Keep in mind that in most situations, there are no pain medications, no available medical help and limited resources. The deaconesses are called to minister to those in need given these difficult circumstances. Thus, our teaching was geared toward basic comfort care of body and soul.

After our week with the deaconesses, we had 4 more days in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu is a fairly large city next to Lake Victoria. It is green and beautiful and warmer than the capitol city of Nairobi. We were spoiled this time because we stayed at the Sunset Hotel—and I say spoiled because the rooms at the Sunset Hotel are air conditioned, there is always water for a shower (it may not be hot, but at least the water is available), and the view of Lake Victoria is spectacular.

On the grounds of the Sunset Hotel there were often monkeys running around?! It was great fun to watch them frolic and play in the trees.

This hotel was chosen this time for security reasons. The last time I was in Kisumu, we stayed in a small, very “African” hotel which was great, but not in the most stable part of town. One of the highlights of my visit to this area was traveling to Deaconess Josephine’s house in Kisii for an afternoon of feasting and gathering with her family, and the Emesa Church family. Josephine and I have become great friends since my visit in 2006. Holy Cross Sunday school children have exchanged pen pals letters with Josephine’s children, Sylivia and Stephannen. (Some of Holy Cross's mission project monies fund Josephine’s deaconess work with those she serves.)

I was received with open arms, great food, lots of hugs and much appreciation. Josephine’s church is an example of the progress that is being made in Kenya. The women there have started many different projects to provide income for themselves. They have a Tilapia fish farm, sewing projects through the poly technical school, and a new cereal project. All of these projects are considered Income Generating Activities which help people become self-sustaining.

We also visited the Lutheran seminary in Matango. They have built a new “dormitory” for prospective deaconess students. The seminary is set in the hills between Kisumu and Kisii and it is a beautiful setting. Maybe I can go to deaconess school in Matango?

The last 2 days of our time in Kenya was spent in Nairobi with Rev. Dennis Meeker and his wife, Deaconess Lorna Meeker. We spent one day with Nairobi Deaconess Mary Khaenga visiting the slums of Kawangware. These slums are the smaller of the two main slums of Nairobi. Kawangware is home to about 200,000 people.

Our first stop was the Elim House of Grace—a school headed by a lovely woman Veronica who has about 200+ children under her care each day. Due to lack of available funds, no food is served to the children (the smallest ones get milk) and these children go all day without eating. Sometimes, when the Meekers have funding from Friends of Mercy, they will provide occasional lunches to for the children. Yet we were impressed by the singing, dancing and recitations of the children who seemed very happy and enthusiastic.

After this visit, Mary took us to visit an HIV+ widow, Veronica. Veronica lives in a very tiny, dark tin house in the slums. We were able to do the service of healing from Visitation. And just before leaving, we discovered that this woman had also lost her 5 year old son one year before. It was another reminder of the grief and loss that is so pervasive in Kenya. The afternoon was spent at Springs of Life Church with HIV+ widows. They gather regularly and make crafts as a way to support themselves. As with most Kenyans, they embraced us and welcomed us warmly.

The next day, Dr. Just, The Meekers, Pastor Rabe (from Oroville, CA), his team and I, all went to Springs of Life Church in Kibera to meet with People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Lorna and I also went to the Nakumatt (large grocery store in Kenya) to purchase ugali flour and oil to give to those we visited later in the day. Many PLWHA spoke about their histories and current situations.

We heard a very moving speech by Sallie (she and her family receive funds from Friends of Mercy in partnership with CSC, Meeker's nonprofit in Kenya), an HIV+ widow who when diagnosed with HIV was shunned by her family and she resorted to rather desperate means to support her children. She has been embraced by the ELCK and has come home to Springs of Life Church. Sallie and her children were also given refuge with the Meekers in January during the post-election violence.

To be continued ...

If you have questions, please contact Pam Boehle-Silva ( ). She would be more than happy answer questions and speak to your group in Northern California. Pamela is finishing up her degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne for deaconess training.