When I agreed to help out at a sub-county government hospital in Kenya, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I had a few assumptions, but tried not to expect too much. When I showed up the first day, they gave me some scrubs and then showed me the medication cart. I was going to administer medications with them. It was a task that I had done hundreds of times, but I was lost. Some medications had different names, I couldn’t read the writing in the chart, some patients kept their medications and gave it to themselves, other patients were in each other’s beds, and Swahili was flying around faster than my poor brain could comprehend. Over the next few weeks and months though, I slowly learned their system and improved my Swahili.
At first, the staff only told me information that I needed to know about the patients, and kept everything else to themselves. As the only non-Kenyan there, I was the outsider. The staff told me what to do, and I did it. I didn’t know if I was making a difference or not.
After about 8 months, one of the nurses passed away suddenly from cancer. When I showed up at the hospital that day, everyone wanted to make sure that I knew. When I told them that I had already found out, they would always reply “good, because you are one of us now.” At that point, I found out that showing up consistently for 8 months and being free labour had paid off. I was more than the white girl who knows how to start IVs on adults when nobody else can, and I can’t really take credit for that. I give the credit to God for answering my prayers that I send out while looking for a vein. The friendships that I had formed with them by working alongside them were mutual. I had unknowingly passed the first stage of initiation.
A few months later, I hit the next milestone; they started asking for my opinion and suggestions. Before, I would give them my opinion, but they didn’t always listen. If they did, it was after they had tried their own way and failed. And since then, they have started inviting me to join them in their work. They say: “there is an emergency c-section, and we are worried, can you come help us?” As they include me more in their medical practice, they also include me into their personal lives. We share food together, talk about life, and stay in contact on our days off. Through these relationships, I have learned a lot about their culture, and been able to share the gospel many times. The secretary for the chief medical officer, Pili, has especially asked good questions, and either phones or texts me daily. This is exciting because she, along with a large portion of the hospital staff, are Digo.
To the hospital staff, I will always be an outsider to some extent. Slowly but surely though, they are bringing me into their circle and sharing their knowledge with me. In return, I am sharing with them what is most important to me: God.