28.12.08

The McCropders and The Mayo

Several months ago, Jason and I had breakfast with Dr. Andy Haig, spine specialist at UofM and all-around nice guy. I think that the forecast inside his mind is a constant brainstorm, which makes him a very interesting person to share a meal and a conversation with. We previously told a bit about his involvement in Ghana and Liberia. In addition to learning about these projects, talking with Dr. Haig was great because he was very optimistic about our work, and was excited to be a liason between us and the University in the future.

At one point, his eyes lit up in an obvious epiphany, and he exclaimed "The Mayo Clinic!" There was, of course, a moment of puzzlement on our faces, but he quickly elaborated. "You guys are the Mayo Clinic!" For those who are not in medicine or have never picked up a Reader's Digest, the Mayo Clinic is a gigantic medical center, arguably the best in the U.S. It is also in Rochester, Minnesota, a small town south of the Twin Cities with not a lot in the way of civic excitment and weather that people only write home about in order to brag about personal pain. And yet they have managed to bring together the best in the field, professionals who could have lived anywhere.
We have an interest in the bush. We are also very open to living in a city, if that seems the best place to serve, but our hearts are in the bush. This brings up a big question about brain drain. Most professionals in Africa depart the continent for better employment options. Those who stay often go to other countries within Africa, and those who stay in Africa congregate in the cities. Why? For most of the same reasons as in the US: better pay, more cosmopolitan life, better access to the rest of the world. Dr. Haig's very interesting connection is that we should be paying attention to the Mayo Clinic, for maybe we can learn how they went against the forces of nature and provided rural Minnesota with premier health care.
Ideas? He suggested investing in civic life: bring in a pro football (soccer) team; hire a national painter to use your landscapes as his/her subject matter; pursue other forms of professional industry to create jobs for other non-medical professionals. Or my favorite, Jason's subsequent idea: enlist elite US runners Ryan and Sara Hall to move to Africa (land of some serious marathon enthusiasm) and start a running school/orphanage.

22.12.08

The Philadelphia Inquirer

I'll beat John and Jess to the punch and post this link from the Philadelphia Inquirer on us. We're surprised and honored for the attention. Welcome to anyone who found their way to this site via this article. (Note: great picture of John in the 80's found at the link.)

There's also a summary of the article on the Republic of Togo's website (in French).

Why Christmas Matters

“Why are you going to Africa?” I’m often asked. Some people don’t understand why Jessica and I would leave loved ones or give up promising careers in the U.S. with prestige, money and security. Why subject oneself and family to tropical diseases like schistosomiasis, typhoid, hepatitis, amoebas and malaria? Why would we raise our children in the third world? Interestingly, it has everything to do with Christmas.

Some people assume I’m going to Africa as a medical missionary because I have a heart of gold. But quite the opposite is true. In fact, I’ve seen my heart, and it isn’t pretty. Just like everyone else in this world, I struggle with pride, lies, selfishness, fear, anxiety, identity and many other dark matters of the heart. As the ancient prophet Jeremiah wrote, “the heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it?” We trick ourselves if we think we are “good.” Upon deep introspection, I know Jeremiah is right – I’m sinful. Even my best intentions are marred with hidden agendas.

Then perhaps my impetus for going to Africa is to balance out all the bad in my life with good in order to please God or to be at peace with myself? Maybe it is a form of self-punishment or penance? But when it comes down to it, I know I’m incapable of saving myself, and to believe otherwise is to think much too highly of myself. I’m going to Africa because of Christmas.

Christmas is the story where people with hearts like mine find hope in the strangest of places. The King of Kings, God, looked upon us, and saw our broken hearts and lives. He saw mankind’s plight and was moved by love to intervene on our behalf. What was Spirit became flesh. Almighty God became Emmanuel, God with us, in the form of the helpless baby Jesus. Why? Why would God give up His throne for a feeding trough? Why would God expose himself to disease, pain and death? Why would He exchange His royal robes for swaddling clothes? Why would He leave paradise for a place where He would be spit upon, homeless and eventually beaten and crucified on a cross?

It was out of love – out of love for our broken, helpless souls. He came to partake of our suffering and to bear on His own back the justice our sin deserves. He came to set us free so that we might have life – life most abundant! Because of God’s love, I no longer have to despair of my black heart this Christmas. God has dealt with it. I can now truly love my neighbor. I don’t have to be motivated by easing my guilt, feeling good about myself or gaining “points” with God. I am now free to live by the love, grace and mercy God has shown me. It is by His example and empowerment that I can leave the hidden agendas and pride behind and show others God’s love.

God’s concern for the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners, disenfranchised and other social outcasts permeates the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. You don’t need to go to Africa to find these folks. They are living next to us. Jesus said that loving God and your neighbor sums up all the commandments of God. It is the Christmas story that teaches us what true love looks like. God has placed a burden on me and Jessica’s hearts to make Africans our neighbors, but you can love your neighbor right where you are if you are willing to humble yourself and receive God’s love.

Merry Christmas,
John, Jessica & Elise Cropsey

Gingerbread Hut, McCropder Style

Last night the Faders attended a Gingerbread House Construction Party. Believe it or not, their creation was the only African hut. And the only house with an open fire and an outhouse. Merry Christmas!

17.12.08

Boards Reflections

I just want to relay a brief story regarding the oral board exam I took last week. It starts 7 years ago after my surgery rotation as a medical student. A very well-respected, yet harsh and cynical surgeon took me into his office and told me that I did not have what it takes to be a surgeon and that I should pursue another specialty. This tore a big hole in what I thought were my God-given dreams of becoming a missionary surgeon in Africa. I went home and found comfort in Ephesians 3:20 where I saw that God could do immeasurably more than I could imagine through Christ's power in me. It was a short encounter with this surgeon, but one that has raised its head at times of doubt since then, and I have found myself having to come back to that verse again and again.

That surgeon retired shortly thereafter, and I know he doesn't remember me or the advice he gave me. I thought about writing to him after finishing residency earlier this year to "show him" that I had made it despite his advice. I'm glad I didn't. During our orientation last Monday of "how to take the Oral Boards" the person orienting us said, "...and in some of your rooms there will be an extra person...he is there just to make sure things are fair, etc." Well, lo and behold, against all odds, it was this same surgeon, and he was in my room during my exam!

In many ways I know that this surgeon was right - I DON'T have all that it takes to be a surgeon, but I also know that God's strength is demonstrated in our weakness.

By God's grace I passed the exam. I feel that having this surgeon there (unknowingly) presiding over me successfully completing the final step to becoming a certified surgeon was a gift from God to bring closure to the era of his voice echoing in the back of my head. It has also been a reminder that "it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." (Psalm 118:8)

-Jason

20.11.08

Lessons Learned in Louisville

As some of you may already know, four of the McCropder adults (Jason, John, Eric, and Rachel) got a chance to head down to the annual Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY last weekend. This event is a significant one for many reasons. One (the nearest and dearest to my heart) is that this conference, in 2003, is where Eric and I first met. We celebrated our five year anniversary of knowing each other this time around. :) Two, only slightly less significant, is that the McCropders were officially formed at the Louisville conference last year, 2007. All three couples were able to meet together and after fellowship and prayer, decided to throw in our lots together, trusting that God was leading us in that direction.

This year, we officially made known our decision to head to Tenwek Hospital next fall as a first step in what will hopefully turn out to be many years of fruitful ministry together. Part of what makes the GMHC great is a chance to network with tons of people and organizations, as well as see old friends and classmates and people we have served with on short term trips. On Friday at lunch the four of us enjoyed spending an hour or so with docs and spouses who have or are serving at Tenwek. This was a great source of encouragement, and I also got some good questions answered (the answer is no, we don't have to bring our own refrigerator to Kenya...)!

For those of you who who have never been to the conference, but have an interest in health, public health, community development, short term missions, long term missions, etc etc, it comes highly recommended. Some highlights from this year's conference, at least for me, seemed to center around the cost of serving God. For starters, there was an amazing plenary lecture by Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, head of the President's Task Force on Malaria. I didn't even know this existed, but apparently President Bush dedicated over two billion dollars towards malaria treatment and prevention in Africa. More powerful, though, was Adm Ziemer's personal story about growing up as the kid of missionary parents serving in Vietnam just before the Vietnam War. His father was martyred there by the North Vietnam Army. Another breakout session by Jeff McKinney (surgeon in Honduras) talked about "Counting the Cost," centering around the fact that sacrifice is supposed to cost us. And Rick Donlan, a doc serving in the inner city of Memphis, spoke on the David/Goliath battle in the context of risk and serving God. So many great themes that hopefully we'll be exploring in more depth over the weeks to come in our blog posts.

In the meantime, we're looking forward to a McCropder "summit" this weekend as the Cropseys will be in town--the first time we've all been together since June. Stay tuned for more adventures and musings on our future together.

19.11.08

Where in Kenya is Tenwek?

Finding a map of Tenwek's location has proved surprisingly hard, so I thought I would provide one (with help from MapQuest), in a "zooming in" series for orientation. Tenwek is the red star. You can click on each image to enlarge it for detail. The big body of water nearby is Lake Victoria. The primary tribal group is Kipsigis, but they provide care for a number of other tribal groups, including the more nomadic Masai.



18.11.08

Big News: Hospital Location

For approximately 1,001 years, we have been asked by friends, families, and casual acquaintences, "What are you doing when you're done?" Our response: "We're moving to Africa to practice medicine." Of course, this is followed by the question, "Oh really! Where in Africa?" Umm, we don't quite know.
The interesting thing is that we have been asking lots of questions and even finding some answers regarding future plans, but the specific geographic location has remained undecided. Nevertheless (and we interact with other people in the same way), this is the question that people ask first, likely because of the natural desire to grasp something concrete about our aspirations. Well, the time has come.
We will be moving to Tenwek Hospital in southwest Kenya, for two years, sponsored by World Medical Mission, for a time of training, service, and vision building. Tenwek is just off the equator, but at an altitude of over 7000 feet, resulting in a very temperate climate. We are very excited about this, particularly because there are great opportunities for us in all of our particular medical specialties, as well as chances to work with the Kenyan surgical and family practice residency programs. Most of us just got back from the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY, and had a chance to meet face-to-face with some of the people we will be working alongside. This was tremendous, and just further added to our excitement.
After all these years, to watch our future plans gain clarity as they emerge out of the fog. This is wonderful, and we are thankful for the fruition.

1.11.08

The Growing McCropder Family

As noted previously, the McCropders consists of three families and 2 children, for a total of 8 individuals. Recent events have pretty dramatically increased that to 11 individuals.

As many know, little Elise Cropsey is set to have a baby brother in the early part of the next calendar year. After an enthusiastic conversation with a Swaziland ophthalmologist a few months ago, John has taken to calling his new son "The Swaz". Of course, John is kidding (we think), but this no longer matters, as the rest of us will most certainly call this kid The Swaz for the rest of his childhood. In fact, the "the" part must also stay, as in "Hey The Swaz, come here for a minute."

The McLaughlin family will be increasing by 50% with the coming of a new baby in late April. We may choose to save the more flamboyant baby names for later children, but we are nonetheless very excited.

And Anna Fader will be getting up close and personal with Amharic culture, as the Faders adopt a little girl from Ethiopia, some time between now and the time we depart for Africa. We are blessed and we thank God, who has filled us to overflowing.

16.10.08

Sharing with the Studs

Last week, one of the national medical student organizations was holding "Primary Care Week" to spotlight some of the disparities and needs in primary care. As part of this, some medical students at the U of M were holding a series of lunchtime talks. One was centered on international medicine, and I was invited to speak.

It was a great opportunity, and fairly well attended by the medical students (or "studs"), with whom international medicine is a very popular topic. For my part, I talked a little about what our plans are for the future, as well as my past experiences abroad both as a medical student and as a resident.

Afterwards, multiple students came up and asked us about a number of topics. The motivations towards international work are various, and for the most part, admirable. The enthusiasm seems to be highest earlier on in medical education, when principles shine bright, and seeming problems with practicalities seem easy to overcome. Given that the options entertained in Africa for us now all have to do with education of Africans, the way to most effectively guide students and residents remains a particularly important topic.

10.10.08

Operating Onboard the Africa Mercyship, Part II


The most poignant and thought-provoking case I experienced while in Liberia was that of the 6 week old boy pictured here. He was finally brought to the Mercyship after a one week history of a painful lump in his groin accompanied by persistent vomiting and lethargy. It turned out to be a strangulated hernia (intestines which died as a result of getting stuck in a defect in the abdominal wall). When he came to us he was severely dehydrated, weighing only 3 pounds! He was too sick to even survive an operation, so we did our best to resuscitate him. In the end, we could not save him, and he died in his father's arms the following day. The father's faith challenged me, as through tears he acknowledged God's sovereignty saying, "God gives and God takes away." This was also Job's response to losing his entire household and all his children as a result of Satan testing his devotion to God in Job 1:21.

While I know that God can, and will, ultimately bring good out of this situation (Romans 8:28), I am also convinced that God did not design for this child to die for lack of a simple surgical procedure. So how is it that this baby died? The simplest answer is that we live in a fallen world, where death is as certain as life. All the same, God has chosen to redeem this fallen world through his church (Ephesians 2:10). What a privilege to be a part of bringing about the Kingdom of God on this earth! Though everything will not be made completely new until Jesus comes again, until then, I hope to be found redeeming the world, one hernia at a time.

Fat = Healthy

The Tompkins family at Mukinge Hospital, Zambia, who are currently part of the Post-Residency Training Program (which we will enter next year), have a great comment on one of my favorite Africa cross-culture-isms. Their blog is here. Enjoy:

"While we were sitting outside at Violet’s house, several kids came around to stare at the funny visitors. Some of the kids were Violet’s grandchildren or nieces/nephews and some were just neighbors. Violet was commenting on the fact that Zachary is as tall as her 5 year old granddaughter and then she said that it made good sense that he was tall because “his father is tall and fat, and his mother is tall and fat.” She said this complete with hand motions demonstrating the enormity of my body habitus. Well excuse me, but Elissa is with child (and looks beautiful by the way) and I’m down over 20lbs in the last 3 months. So I’m not sure if by fat she meant “healthy” or just “fat”, and I didn’t bother to ask. We laughed and I know she didn’t mean anything hurtful but, speaking only for myself, I know I’m quite huge compared to most folks in the village. However, by my calculations, if I continue to drop pounds at this rate, I’ll weigh about 13 lbs when we return home in 2 years. And in 6wks Elissa is going to drop 30lbs pretty quickly. So there you go…there is hope for us after all."

24.9.08

Most and Least Corrupt Countries

This was getting some press today, as the new rankings of corruption have been published. I have no idea how valid these are, or what the criteria are. Out of 180 countries, here are some selected corruption rankings:

#1: Tie between New Zealand, Sweden, and Denmark
#4: Singapore
#18: USA (in case you wanted to know), tied with Belgium and Japan
#36: Botswana, the best ranked in Africa
#54: South Africa
#72: Swaziland (interestingly high for the last absolute monarchy in Africa)
#115: Niger, Zambia tied with others
#138: Liberia
#141: Cameroon
#147: Kenya
#166: Zimbabwe
#171: Equatorial Guinea
#173: Sudan
#180: Somalia

Most of the above African countries have received some attention (sometimes just a bit), so for those trying to catch of hint of our future location from the above list, take your best shot. =)

We're not at all trying to be secretive about that question, but there's a lot of exciting stuff happening on that front, and we'll be better equipped to give you some news in a little while, we think.

22.9.08

Operating Onboard the Africa Mercyship


The large vessel pictured here is my temporary residence in Monrovia. This enormous hospital boat is docked here in the country of Liberia for a couple of months and is run by Mercyships. I am here for 3 weeks doing surgery (mainly hernia repairs).

The six operating rooms on board are shockingly well-equipped, and the amenities are fabulous - we even have air conditioning. The boat is so large that I sometimes forget that I am even on a boat, until I look out and see the horizon bobbing up and down.

One highlight thus far has been experiencing the community life on the boat. Eating, working, worshiping, playing, and interacting with the same 400 people from dozens of countries creates a very unique environment on board. Despite the diversity and rapid turnover of short term personnel, relationships are rich and the hospital care is of a very high quality. I'm looking forward to 2 more great weeks.

10.9.08

Jason Departs

The Faders are driving to Chicago tonight and Jason will depart for Monrovia, Liberia, tomorrow, as Heather and Anna go on an extended road trip visiting family and friends while he is gone. There is some Internet connection on the ship, so check in to the blog in the next few weeks, as we hope that Jason will be able to relay some of his experiences. Please remember the Fader family in your prayers until their return (and even afterwards, if you really want to).

The University of Michigan and Africa

All of the McCropders have lived in Ann Arbor for part of the years of medical training, and this makes for an irresistible association with the University of Michigan, stronger for some of us than others.

As a whole, we see this as a huge plus, and the connections with the University will likely have effects in years to come that we can only hypothesize about at the present. As it turns out, within this vast health system, there are a number of medical projects in Africa, and we have been trying to understand these and how we might fit in.

Yesterday morning, Jason and Eric had breakfast with Dr. Andy Haig, Professor of PM&R (physical rehabilitation), who has been involved in two of U of M's Africa projects. The largest project is in Accra, Ghana, where for many years the health system, particularly the OB-GYN department, has been involved in medical education. The most impressive thing that I've heard from this thus far is that, during the time of their involvement, the number of trained OB-GYNs who finished and then stayed to practice in Ghana has risen dramatically. In these times of the highest educated Africans leaving their homes in the so-called "Brain Drain", the significance of this can not be overstated. It is our understanding that U of M is wanting to expand their involvement in Ghana in a big way over the next several years across the board, to include not only different medical fields, but business, pharmacy, nursing, engineering, social work, etc. - a very large endeavor with ambitious but feasible goals.

Dr. Haig has been involved in a smaller project in Liberia, in conjunction with Mercy Ships, in which he has met with numerous people in the government and medical education, regarding possibly developing some kind of Rehabilitation program, which is virtually non-existent there at present. He told us about the state of education, namely that clinical faculty to teach the students are exceedingly rare in these years of post-civil unrest, and thus the graduating physicians are notably undertrained. It's interesting for us to consider this (or a similar opportunity) as a place to invest in the future.

The last project with which we've become acquainted is headed up with the help of Dr. Rusty Chavey, who is also Eric's advisor within Family Medicine. A couple years ago, he teamed up with the U of M business school and they have been working with a hospital in Uganda, with a goal of helping them to improve the delivery of medical services and their own business model, to the end that they could be more financially self-sustainable, and stretch their resources further to provide more care.

5.9.08

What is the PRTP?

We have written a little bit about this before, but given the recent news that all of us will, in fact, be spending our first two years abroad with this program, we thought it worthwhile to give a little more explanation.

The Post-Residency Training Program is a 2-year fellowship funded by World Medical Mission, the medical arm of the larger international relief organization Samaritan's Purse (which is chaired by Billy Graham's son Franklin). WMM does a lot of short term work (including sending the McLaughlins to Bangladesh last year), but is not a long-term agency, and thus we will be looking for another sending agency when our 2 years is up. This fellowship program has been sending people out for a few years now (not just to Africa, but all over the globe), and its purpose is to bridge the gap between residency and longer term work by providing funding and mentorship while you work in a hospital in the developing world.

WMM partners with dozens of hospitals around the world, that are run by other organizations. When someone (like us) is accepted into the PRTP, they will work under one of these mission hospitals, where the fellow provides staffing, and the long-term docs provide mentorship - medical, cultural, spiritual, etc... A big plus for this is that expenses are covered by WMM, including travel, and they partner with Project MedSend, who, in the past, has been very ready to cover student loan payments for the fellows for the 2 year period.

They have never taken on a team of 3 families (4 doctors) before, and we appreciate the flexibility they have shown in working with us. Now begins the location question, but more on that later.

4.9.08

A Big Step Forward

As of yesterday, we received word from Scott Reichenbach, director of the Post-Residency Training Program for World Medical Mission, that all of us have been accepted as fellows into their program, for the two year term starting next fall (2009).

We will be posting more in the next few days regarding this development, regarding more specifics of the program, as well as what this means for location, which is always everyone's big question (ourselves not excluded). For the time being, we'll say that we are all very excited, because (1) this was our preferred path for starting out on this road to African medicine, and (2) that after many months of plans and discussions, we are taking a large step forward together.

23.8.08

Liberia?

Throughout the summer, we McCropders have continued to ponder long-term locations: Sudan, Swaziland, Niger, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia? Each option presents its own interesting mixture of situational intricacies.

One of the countries we have discussed is Liberia, a post-conflict nation in West Africa. The medical need is great, and the post-war situation affords opportunities to positively impact the rebuilding process. We have entertained the possibility of pursuing faculty positions at the medical school.

I, Jason, was recently presented with an opportunity to work in Liberia from September 14 to October 4 as a surgeon with Mercy Ships. I jumped at the opportunity, eager to help and excited to explore future McCropder possibilities. I also anticipate stretching my surgeon wings on what should be some interesting and challenging cases. Like a cantaloupe-sized thyroid for example.


I am looking forward to a stretching, exciting, and enlightening three weeks with Mercy Ships!

8.8.08

Paradigms - Part II: Henri Nouwen Book Titles

As the ideas discussed in the prior posting swirl around in my head and heart, a phrase climbs slowly out of the fog, giving itself an extra prominence: The Wounded Healer.

The Wounded Healer is a book written by Catholic priest and contemplative writer Henri Nouwen in 1972. Nouwen was a fascinating man, and the book a worthwhile read, though the title itself has more bearing on the present discussion than does the content of the book. The phrase, of course, makes me think of Jesus, and Nouwen uses it to describe us as we imitate Christ. It does not at all remind me of the medical institution’s image of its own practitioners. There, the two pervading images are, either the healer who needs to be whole himself/herself before extending help to others, or the healer whose personal condition has no bearing on his/her healing work.

How is Christ a “wounded healer”, and in what sense are supposed to imitate this? I can think of two ways. First, Christ’s wounds are substitutionary, as Isaiah wrote centuries before Christ, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (53:5).” Because he was wounded, we no longer have to be. I can envision a few glorious human examples where one might imitate this (such as the end of A Tale of Two Cities), but overall this provides little in the way of guidance for my own medical practice.

But there is a second and more subtle way that Christ may model the “wounded healer”. The unknown writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes that part of the reason Christ is the greatest “high priest” (able to mediate perfectly between God the Father and mankind) is because he “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (5:15).” Did these temptations “wound” Christ? I do not know. But what is evident is that the personal story of Christ (both its ebb and flow) enables his healing of others, instead of detracting or even distracting from it. There is potential here for an appropriate guide for us to model. But how?

I do recommend Ellen's comment from the first post for more food for thought.

1.8.08

Paradigms - Part I: Medical Care for Friends

We were asked the other night how we felt about being the medical provider for our friends. This is hardly a theoretical question, as Rachel has agreed to provide obstetrical care for a good friend of ours. The institution of medicine does not provide a definitive stance on this, but it does provide a thought framework that lends itself to a certain position: We are uncomfortable with it, because though it may be enjoyable and rewarding as long as everything is straightforward, the possible threat to our personal relationship that is created by a possible bad outcome is a risk most are not willing to take. You are caring for a friend, and they are diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Will you ever be able to forgive yourself for not finding it sooner (even if there is nothing to forgive)? What will become of your friendship and the relationships you hold in common?

We recognize that we had better make peace with this. If my appendix ruptures in a couple years, Jason Fader will become intimate with my colon, and will have to deal with the responsibility of operating on me. If little Elise Cropsey gets malaria, it will likely be my treatment plan that will recuperate her. This is part and parcel to a desire to work in an area where there are minimal other medical providers.

The medical paradigm that creates these (and other) levels of discomfort with treating friends seems to be this: You are the patient. You are coming for help. I am the doctor. To best help, I need to be disconnected, and thus objective. I should not be bringing my personal story into yours, because this is about you, not me. And from this comes a separation between your patients and your friends, for friendship requires a give and take, an intermixing of personal stories. I think that our pastor at Knox was correct is stating this is likely an outgrowth of medicine’s modernistic bent.

And so I question this: Is it really possible to separate yourself personally from the patients you treat? If so, does this really provide objectivity? Does objectivity lead to healing? (If a person can be treated as a scientific physical specimen, then perhaps.) Is this a paradigm that will make a drop of sense in Africa? Is this consistent with Christianity?

More to come, but I would appreciate any thoughts from those who may read this.

28.7.08

The Devil Came On Horseback

At the recommendation of the Cropseys, we, the McLaughlins and Faders, got together with some friends last night and had a viewing of The Devil Came on Horseback, a documentary about a young retired US Marine who travels to Darfur and ends up with a photographic exposition of the atrocities there. It is a fine film, chosen for the Sundance Festival last year. We thought it would be an interesting way to learn more about this conflict and engage some of our friends on a situation dear to our hearts.

Jason's brother Caleb, who is heading out next week for 2 years with the Peace Corps in Uganda, spent 2-3 months in Darfur drilling wells last year. Thankfully he was in town and able to be there, and provided some very personal perspective to an already personal documentary.

David Durham (my brother-in-law's father) wrote that much of the sentiment over Africa can be summed up in a single letter: "O". As in, "O Africa!" The tragedy, the joy, the horror, the need, the gift.

As eight young Americans sat around after our movie last night, it seemed that everyone's heart was crying out "O!", but when we tried to decide what to do, the complexity of any solution loomed large. I do not claim any exhaustive knowledge of world affairs, but it does seem that the greatest world crisis currently is Darfur, with millions displaced, and over 400,000 killed. What to do? Be aware? OK, we can do that. Tell others? We can do that, too. Support sending in armed forces and be involved in another nation-building event? Maybe, but our collective wisdom seems not to be sufficient to answer that definitively.

Pray? Yes, we can pray. God, help Darfur. Help us to know how to act justly. Bring healing, wholeness, peace.

3.7.08

Medicine and the 4 Levels of Happiness

Several years ago, I heard John Patrick speak at a conference, and he talked about the 4 levels of happiness. The first and lowest level is animal happiness, that is, our hungers, thirst, physical drives. The next level is discipline happiness, or the happiness that comes from applying yourself and acheiving that goal, such as in athletics or academics. The third level is that of needing to be needed, which can result in altruism. The highest level is that which comes from knowing and loving God (and, I would say, being known by and being loved by God). It's a very Neoplatonic idea, in the sense that we strive to aim for the higher levels, while de-prioritizing but still enjoying the lower levels.

At first blush, I didn't see much more than an interesting thought exercise in this, but later my friend James (of the Lyntelnosters) gave me pause to think how the work of medicine fits into this. I think two things can be gleaned:

1. Medicine is fundamental: This is the gravity of what we do. When physical and mental health deteriorate, the ability to pursue any of the happiness mentioned above is seriously challenged. This is the reason people will drain all their resources to pursue a cure; because what good are all these resources if I'm not alive or functional to pursue any other happiness?

2. Medicine is foundational: To me, this is the other side of the coin. What we do gives people the lowest level of happiness mentioned above, but that's it. Whether anything higher is achieved is up to them. Yes, physicians can help people to pursue higher happiness, but at that point, most people would say they have gone beyong the limits of medicine and into some other service more common to friendships than doctor-patient relationships.

So, in this light, medicine becomes humility and honor. It reminds me of a scene from Lewis' Narnia: "'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. 'And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.'" Those of you who didn't think this was going to come around to CS Lewis ought to have known better.

27.6.08

Jason Graduates from Residency

Another step towards Africa: This week marks the end of my (Jason's) quarter century of education required to become a general surgeon. Last Saturday I officially graduated from general surgery residency. I was thankful to be surrounded by wonderful family including Heather, in-laws, grandmothers, and siblings, as well as some good friends.

Another highlight from the graduation event was definitely having Eric play the piano during the cocktail hour before the ceremony.

Now I begin a one-year "fellowship" in which I will learn various skills to better prepare me for operating as a surgeon in Africa. This will include learning a wide variety of operations such as C-sections, fracture repair, urological procedures, plastic surgery, and various ENT procedures. The light at the end of the tunnel is certainly getting brighter, as I look forward to getting my first "real job" next year, at the age of 32!

19.6.08

Country Profiles on Sudan & Liberia

Sudan & Liberia are two countries that we have considered as long-term locations. Both countries have recently gone through lengthy civil wars and are in desperate need of help on many levels. To find out more about these countries, click on the links below to view country profiles created by BBC News.

Sudan:

Interesting Facts:
*Largest country in Africa

*The two-decade civil war between the north and the south claimed the lives of 1.5 million people and an estimated 200,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict which began in 2003


Liberia:

Interesting Facts:
*Founded by freed American & Caribbean slaves

*250,000 people were killed in the civil war that ended in 2003

*President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa's first female head of state in Jan '06

15.6.08

Drs. Kuhn and "The Impact Factor"

Drs. Ted and Sharon Kuhn, medical leads for Mission To the World (MTW), graciously made the trip up from Atlanta, GA, to meet with us and we really appreciate it. The "Lyn" and "Tel" were also present. MTW is an organization within the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), a cousin denomination to our home church, Knox, that is involved in sundry ways with medical mission work across the globe. We all met at Jessica's parents' home (a.k.a. Rivendell), and Rachel, Eric, and Jason were a few minutes late due to an incredible amount of wind, which delayed their bike ride precisely 26 minutes.

We all sat down and the McCropders, via spokesperson Eric, gave a brief overview of where we're at. The conversation lasted quite a while, and probably posed more questions than answered, which we consider to be a difficult but wonderfully necessary feature of this early stage of our planning. Obviously, a complete recap of this meeting is not possible, but here are a few highlights.
Per the Drs. Kuhn, the two main "first things" questions for us at the outset are the following:
1. What is the relationship between Word and Deed in our overall mission model? As the title of this blog makes quite clear, we are committed to the marriage of these two ideas, but how will this really play out in a day-to-day scenario?
2. What will be the relationship of the church to our work, both the local African church, and churches with which we have relationships in the US?
These questions hint at something we have, in our discussions with each other, come to call "The Impact Factor", which is very dear to us. In short, "The Impact Factor" is the ability to bring the most benefit and blessing to those whom we will serve. One of the ways in which this Factor has continued to guide our thinking through the present time is that the more medically underserved area, the better. And yes, some parts of Africa are more than the others, though need is overall quite pervasive. The spin the Kuhns placed on this was in thinking more long-term about Impact. Should we head to a larger city with established hospitals, in order to maximize Impact by working in medical education? Should we be in a similar area in order to take advantage of the increased accessability to maximize Impact?
These questions are not answered, but are a necessary flavoring to our "question stew" as we plan out our overall mission model. Thank you Kuhns, and we look forward to sharing more time and conversations in the future.
God, grant us grace to serve You well.

Zimbabwe

I suppose there are continually many places of great need in Africa, thus part of our interest. However, hearing the latest from the Zimbabwe elections, we ask that you would be in prayer for that country, that they would be spared war and find justice.

12.6.08

Team Picture, Birthday Pictures




The Faders walloped the Cropseys & McLaughlins at "10 Days in Africa". It's a good game. We recommend it. We also recommend that you all someday spend an actual 10 Days in Africa. Or more. With us. :)

6.6.08

Community Thoughts from Stephen Montgomery

This past week, the Cropseys have been visiting Ann Arbor, and a veritable torrent of meetings have taken place. It's given us all a lot to process, and we're grateful for everyone who has provided input to us. We'll try and update the blog with some of our thoughts and recapitulations.

Stephen Montgomery, 3-year veteran of Niger, soon to return as a hospital administrator to Galmi Hospital, Niger, came as spoke to us regarding Serving in Mission, or SIM, an agency that sends many people, often in medical contexts, to several hospitals in Africa. We enjoyed Moe's burritos together, and then sat in the shade next to Jessica's parents' pool, and talked about many things. Among them, we were interested in his perspectives on life in community, as he not only had lived in the communities in Niger, but also had long-lived in a very close community in the Chicago area. Since we have undertaken to pursue this as 3 families together, we are interested in learning how to best make this aspect of our lives fruitful.

Certainly the take-home quote from Stephen went something like this: "It's true that wisdom can be found within a community, but it's also entirely possible for the sum thoughts of the group to be stupider than any one person's individual wisdom." Noted.

He also spoke from a Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche community, often thought of in connection with Henri Nouwen) book. Namely, that the pursuance of community itself can be held so high as an idea, that one begins to see the faults of the members of the community merely as impedances to the idea. In other words, you can't see the trees because of the forest. Community itself can be important, but it is only important because of the people involved, who thus must be upheld above the community idea.

Strong thoughts, and worth learning for us at this point of beginning with this community. Thanks much for your travel and your time, Stephen. God bless your family's work in Niger.

28.5.08

MTOS 5.23.2008

Given our geographical disparities, we have taken to meeting ever so often for a video conference via Skype in a session aptly abbreviated "MTOS" - McCropders Talking Over Skype. Last Friday was the most recent of these, with all McCropders in attendance, with a brief reprieve by Heather to put Anna to bed, and the Parents McLaughlin as guest observers.

A number of things were discussed, mostly centered around 3 ideas:
1. The status of our current applications with different agencies we are exploring that would send us to Africa.
2. The relative pros and cons of the two main options: namely, going to train for 2 years in Africa, then finding a long-term agency and location vs. attempting to find a longterm agency on the front end and having the training abbreviated to some degree. This will be discussed more in depth when the Cropseys spend a week in Michigan in early June.
3. The agenda for the said visit from the Cropseys, in which we will gather to meet with a couple different organizations.

This was all done in the subtext of friendship and banter that gives our lives its true color. Thus the following 3 things were also discussed:
1. McCropders Summit 2008 in a farm house in Kentucky, at the Global Health Missions Conference. Man, we're psyched.
2. Heather and Eric strangely have the exact same birthday in early June whilst the Cropseys sojourn with us, and thus there will be celebration, food, and Catan to commemorate what will likely be the first of decades of joint Heather/Eric birthday celebrations.
3. John Cropsey inner desires: "I've always dreamed of becoming a jungle bunny." That's right, friends: Jungle. Bunny.

19.5.08

Faith in Medicine: Thoughts from Dr. Chang

The miniseries at Knox Presbyterian goes on, and last week, the venerable Dr. Robert Chang, hospitalist extraordinnaire, gave a rockin' talk on what he's learned from his work at the hospital. And he did so on a minimal night's sleep, having just come back from a Honduran hospital early in the a.m. He's in internal medicine, and likes these long, sleepless runs.

There were a lot of great points that he made, but I'll focus on one. There's an old testament story (2 Sam 12) that I've heard for many years. King David, after committing adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers and getting her pregnant, he indirectly murders the husband and marries the woman himself. Through the prophet Nathan, David learns that God is going to punish his actions by the baby dying. That such a renowned hero of the Bible as David was guilty of such heinous actions, and that God took the life of the innocent, are both parts of the story that deserve long conversations not to be found here.

Here's the focal point: David hears this, and fasts and prays and lays prostrate on the ground for days and days, imploring God to change his mind. He was so desparate that, when the infant did die, his men were afraid to tell him this news, not knowing what he might do. But he senses their hesitation, and they tell him the truth. He gets up, bathes, changes clothes, goes and worships in the temple, and then eats. They ask him how he could act like this. He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

Here is a solemn model for the physician. Ardent striving to save, ardent sacrifice on behalf of the sick and dying that we love. And then, peaceful recognition of the limits of our efforts. Acceptance, and the ability to move on and continue to live as God desires. We sense this tension in which we live. Robert, thanks for using this illustration to acknowledge the tension and instruct in the midst of it.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Just to stay with the music theme for a bit... The other day, I was wondering in the world of YouTube and came across these videos. It brought back the amazing local church choirs I found in Zambia. The stunning part is that these guys are amazing, but everyone else is almost as good. I listen and think, "Who wouldn't want to move to Africa?!"

5.5.08

Let the Nations Be Glad!

I (Jess) recently started reading Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper. Here are a few points from the first chapter that stood out to me. Since I’m not much of a writer, I’ll rely heavily on Piper’s more eloquent words.


  • Passion for God and His glory is the fuel for missions, and worship is the goal of missions. “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is….When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.”

  • The Westminster Confession states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Piper agrees, but also contends that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever. He writes, “The most passionate heart for the glorification of God is God’s heart. God’s ultimate goal is to uphold and display the glory of his name.”
Isaiah 48:9-11 "For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

  • Piper states that “…compassion for people must not be detached from passion for the glory of God.” To support this point he quotes from John Dawson’s book Taking Our Cities for God:
    “We should never be Christian humanists, taking Jesus to poor sinful people, reducing Jesus to some kind of product that will better their lot. People deserve to be damned, but Jesus, the suffering Lamb of God, deserves the reward of His suffering.”
  • Summary: “No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into our worship where there is no passion for worship.”
Psalm 67:3-4 "Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!"

Revelations 15:3-4 "Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."


I would really recommend this book. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but it’s already given me a lot to chew on!

To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

4.5.08

Our Church Speaking Debut


Last Sunday the McLaughlins and the Faders made their church speaking debut. We were grateful for the opportunity to speak in Sunday school at our church about medical missions. We seized the opportunity to answer some of the common questions and concerns surrounding medical mission work in Africa. Unfortunately the Cropseys could not be there, but their absence allowed us to tell stories about them freely.

Our church provided the perfect audience for our first official church presentation together. This is because, well, public speaking makes some of us (namely the Faders) pretty nervous. And at church, theoretically, the audience should be a relatively nice and forgiving group. We Faders were also comforted to see that Eric’s hands were occasionally shaking a bit, too.

Easing our nerves wasn’t the only reason that our church was the ideal presentation atmosphere. In addition, our church community is full of wonderful and interested people who will possibly come along side of our mission endeavors. We were encouraged just to think of the possibilities of future partnerships with those in attendance.

29.4.08

"I Want to Be a Dentist"

Physicians don't know anything about teeth. By which, I mean to say you could not possibly underestimate our dental knowledge. The other day, in preparation for this dental education I'm receiving, I asked Rachel, "How many teeth do we have?" Just to put this into perspective.

And yet, we plan on going to a place to practice where there likely are no dentists. And (to state the obvious) this does not at all mean that dental pathology will likewise disappear, in fact it's likely to be all the more severe.

So I'm spending these two weeks working with a fine group of dentists through the UofM dental school. In my first day, I learned a number of helpful tidbits at the hands of some very capable and enthusiastic faculty dentists, and also learned the basics of numbing up pretty much any part of the mouth. One of the residents even let me practice on him. Wow. My hope is that I can learn to do some basic dental assessments, learn regional anesthesia, and even learn how to take teeth out. Anything else is certainly welcome. And I do now know how many teeth we have.

24.4.08

Disabilities and Africa

I have this deep emotional response to people with disabilities. I would guess that this comes from my mom's work as an ASL interpreter and perhaps from medical training. Maybe it's just some innate part of me. It certainly is not pity, rather something more complex.

I got to watch something beautiful yesterday. I was riding the bus home from the hospital, and at a particular stop, about a dozen people with various physical and mental disabilities got on the bus, with some assistants. One of the gentleman already on the bus, whom I had not noticed before, apparently also had some mild disability. As soon as his friends got on the bus, he lit up and greeted each of them with an enthusiastic hug, asking them if they would sit with him, and promising them that he was going to teach them how to dance. And for some reason, I just sat there watching, overwhelmed with joy.

I'm no expert opinion on the matter, but my limited experience and observations makes me think that to live with a disability is to live a high stakes life. The joyful moments seem hearbreakingly joyful and the sorrows are heartbreakingly sorrowful. Either way, the heart is always breaking. Such depth seems to make a beautiful life, and reminds me of the emotional responses of children, and that reminds me of Jesus' words about children inheriting the kingdom of God.

What does this have to do with medicine and Africa? I have often thought that working in Africa is also high stakes. For instance, we have looked into working in South Sudan, possibly moving there permanently after some extra training in 2011. Around that same time, South Sudan is set to hold a referendum as to whether they want to secede from the North. So, either we could be in on the ground level of the world's newest sovreign nation, or maybe it could devolve into the 3rd Sudanese Civil war. High Stakes. Great joy or great sorrow. Either way the heart is breaking.

My friend Luke traveled to the Ukraine and worked briefly with the disabled there, finding that only minimal physical care was given, and more or less no thought was given to try to improve their quality of life and instill the dignity due to each man and woman. I can only begin to imagine what I might encounter in this arena in Africa, but I imagine the stakes might be even higher.

19.4.08

Learning from Jesus the Healer

Our church is doing this awesome miniseries of classes on “Faith in Medicine”. Seeing as though this website is to be a forum for all things Faith, Medicine, and Africa (and the intersections of these themes), this may not be the last posting from the aforementioned miniseries. It’s part of a broader goal the church has of trying to help people discover how to serve God in the work they do.

The first week was Dr. Steve Telian (of dubious Lyntelnoster fame) speaking on what we can learn from the healings of Jesus as well as the worldview from which he seems to have been healing. Here are a couple of my favorite take home points:

1. Healing through medicine is a good gift of God against the destructive effects of sin in this world, regardless of the motivation of the practitioner. It is not only those with a wrong motivation who often presume on God’s grace to accomplish healing through medicine.

2. Health is a gift of God, since He is keeping and preserving (in addition to healing) everything in nature. Thus, it is fitting that we praise God for our health, since the hand of God is not less active here than in health restored after sickness.

3. Sometimes glorious redeeming work comes through suffering. This is a mystery and a difficult thing to find appropriate application for in medicine, but it is certainly in line with Jesus’ teaching. It is plausible because of the fact that we are never at a position to know the whole story and all the ramifications of a given suffering.

Maybe these paraphrases won’t communicate the same as stand-alone ideas, but food for thought…

15.4.08

Jailed for Espionage

Paul Salopek. Man wins Pullitzer Prize for journalism. Man goes to Sudan to write article. Man is jailed for espionage for 34 days. After release, which took a visit to Sudan by his home governor Bill Richardson, he apparently returned to the country in order to finish his article. Man writes cover story for National Geographic last month.

Given our interest in Sudan as a possible long-term goal, I found this article fascinating, especially as it focuses on all the Sahel (the southern border of the Sahara across Africa). Partly, it scared me a whole whole lot. For the record, we are more interested in South Sudan, further away from the heart of conflict currently in Darfur where Salopek was jailed. But overall I thought his article was thoughtful and had a large amount of insight into the culture there. And his willingness to go through a jailing and return to Sudan demonstrates an admirable committment to journalism, if not to Africa and their struggle.

5.4.08

Masai Creed

A little while ago, I heard Jaroslav Pelikan on NPR talking about various creeds of the world. The whole podcast can be found here. He used the Masai Creed as an example of a people who had initially taken on the creed of the missionaries sent to them, and later were able to make the creed their own, but at the same time keep the central truths they were given. An interesting discussion point. Enjoy.

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created Man and wanted Man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know Him in the light.

God promised in the book of His word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all the nations and tribes. We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love.

He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies.

He is the Lord. We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

3.4.08

The Sunds


Greg became acquainted with the team during a short mission trip to Kenya in 2010.  The family joined the McCropders in the fall of 2014 to serve in Burundi during a 9 month internship. During this time it became evident that God was placing a call on the Sund's hearts to join the team long term. 

The Sund's American home is in Bellingham, WA.

Greg is an anesthesiologist and amateur bluegrass musician.  When in Bellingham he plays mandolin in an all-physician bluegrass band named Runaway Truck Ramp.

Stephanie grew up outside Boston and worked for several years as an RN prior to starting a family. Stephanie loves outdoors and of course is a huge fan of the band Runaway Truck Ramp. 

Ella enjoys playing piano, reading and geocaching.

Mekdes enjoys cooking, playing soccer, playing the piano and reading. 

Biniyam enjoys being a ninja and hopes to one day make a living as a stand-up comedian.

Donation information for the Sunds can be found by clicking here.

28.3.08

The McLaughlins



Eric and Rachel met in 2003 at the world famous Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY (held every November--we HIGHLY recommend it!). They were married in 2005 just in time for the tax deduction. Since then, they have tramped all over this good earth, meeting many wonderful people along the way.  Their personal blog is found here.  Some fun facts below:

Eric
Born: Anchorage, Alaska - 1981
Grew up: mostly Tennessee
Favorite Bible passage: Hebrews 2:8-9 - "Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus..."
What he does all day: Family Medicine physician, teacher, songwriter, worship leader
Favorite authors: CS Lewis, Frederick Buechner, NT Wright, Thomas Hardy, Tim Keller

Rachel
Born: Cleveland, Ohio - 1979
Grew up: Minnesota, etc
Favorite Bible passage: Rev 21-22 (I am making everything new)
What she does all day: OBGYN, teacher, supermom, travel agent, list maker
Favorite authors: JK Rowling, Tracy Kidder, Stephen Lawhead, CS Lewis, Andrew Peterson

Maggie
Born: Ann Arbor, MI - 2009
Growing up: Bomet, Kenya, Albertville, France, and Kibuye, Burundi
Favorite Bible passage: Esther
What she does all day: Go to school, play with friends, practice piano, read books
Favorite authors: Mary Pope Osborne, Roald Dahl, Daisy Meadows, and Louis Sachar

Ben
Born: Tenwek Hospital, Kenya - 2011
Growing up: Albertville, France and Kibuye, Burundi
Favorite Bible passage:  1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love"
What he does all day: Go to school, Climb trees, play with friends, play Legos/games
Favorite authors: Goscinny (Asterix comics)

Toby
Born: Albertville, France - 2013
Growing up: Kibuye, Burundi
Favorite Bible passage: David and Goliath
What he does all day: preschool, ride his bike, and be involved in anything his brother and sister are doing
Favorite authors: Stan & Jan Berenstain, Arnold Lobel, Where's Waldo?

The Wendlers


LOVE Park in Philadelphia in December 2015
Carlan and Michelle mark the first time the McCropder Team has grown via marriage. Carlan met John when he was 16 years old visiting his sister at college. John later recruited him to the University of Michigan for medical school and Knox Presbyterian Church for worship. He quickly bought in to the team vision and, as soon as he completed residency in 2012, joined everyone else in French language study in Albertville, France. Michelle entered the picture in 2014 when the two met at a missionary conference hosted by their home church in Los Angeles, Grace Community. She was on stage playing the piano and by God's grace sat behind him during a Friday night service. They began talking after the sermon and in July 2015 they were married at that same church. They were approved by Serge for service as a family five months later and now plan on deploying first to France for language study and then Burundi afterwards. Please pray that they would build wonderful and strong relationships with each other's family and friends before leaving California in mid-2016.

Alyssa Pfister

Fun facts about Alyssa:

-She lived on the Mexican border during high school
-She was paralyzed for some long period of time when she was young due to transverse myelitis (but she got better and climbs mountains now).
-Wheaton, then East Tennessee State, then U of Alabama Birmingham
-No fancy foods, please, she'll take the mac n' cheese
-Double board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics
-She became interested in missions during travels in South America
-She was the only one of us to visit Tenwek (in med school) before moving here
-Her place has the coolest kid toys and all the McCropder kids know it

Her own blog can be found here.

The Johns




It's been over a decade since God first called Ted into the field of medicine for the purpose of bringing medical help to those who would otherwise have no access. Somewhere along the way, God brought Eunice into the picture through a shared love of children's ministry, particularly children's worship...and Del Taco. They are also both from Southern California and are INFJ's. Together, they have committed their lives to taking the hope of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 


The John family is currently in language school in Albertville, France. They will be joining the Serge-Kibuye team in mid-2018 through World Medical Mission's Post-Residency Program. The Johns look forward to doing life together with the team! 


Theodore (Ted)
Ted is a general surgeon by training. He spent nearly a decade in Ann Arbor, MI where he attended The University of Michigan for medical school and then completed his residency at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. He enjoys running, basketball, hiking, and being outdoors. He also likes eating Mexican cuisine, exploring new cities and cultures, cheering for UM college football (Go Blue!), taking naps, and watching superhero and action movies.

Eunice: 
Eunice is a former middle school math teacher. She taught for 6 wonderful years before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. She loves teaching, children's worship/ministry, heart to hearts, Costco samples, meal planning, trying out new recipes, cleaning (or rather, a clean home!), and watching her kids grow. She has an intense phobia of snakes and is relieved to hear that snake-sightings are far and few between in Kibuye.  

Tobias (Toby): 
Toby was born in 2014 in Ann Arbor, MI. He is full of energy and spirit. He loves garbage trucks (and vehicles/machinery of all types), food, people, "organizing/cleaning", helping, playing outside, dancing, singing -- to sum it up: Toby loves life! He doesn't care for onions and any article of clothing that extends past his knees or elbows. 

Amos: 
Amos was born in 2016 in Pasadena, CA. He is full of smiles and is a sweet baby. He loves hanging out with people and exploring the world around him. He doesn't care for naps but will comply with whatever his mom asks him to wear. He only has two teeth so far, but he has an appetite as big as his brother's!





The Banks


Logan and Julie are old team friends from our first days in Kenya in 2010.  Logan is a full-scope family doc that will be able to serve on the Adult, Pediatric, and Maternity wards, and also comes with five years of residency teaching experience.  We're delighted that their family is going to come out to Burundi to round out our team. 

Find out more about them at www.TheBanksOffshore.com

The Faders (CK)

Caleb, Krista, Liam, Gavin, and Baby Boy #3



Caleb: is a civil engineer (and younger brother of a certain Kibuye surgeon) who spends his days working alongside local engineers, architects, and tradesmen to build and renovate the hospital and surrounding residential areas. 

Krista: is a nurse practitioner who is busy raising the boys and serving part time at the hospital in Burundi’s first chemotherapy program for pediatric patients with retinoblastoma (eye cancer). 

Liam: is an active little boy who loves being outside and playing with other kids.

Gavin: is a sweet toddler who keeps us all on our toes with his never-ending curiosity.

Baby Boy #3: is busy growing and planning his arrival sometime at the end of March 2018.

The Baskins



Darrell is a retina surgeon and Becky is a super-mom.  They are planning to move to Burundi in 2016 after finishing French language school.  We look forward to welcoming the Baskin Brigade to Kibuye.

The Thiessen Family

We are the Thiessen Family

Jesh and Julie knew of each other since childhood but reconnected over coffee and discovered a shared passion for missions. Julie had previously taught primary school in Burundi and Jesh had previously travelled to the Dominican Republic and Myanmar on short-term missions trips. They connected with Jason Fader at the Global Missions Health Conference in 2014 and felt God's desire for them to work towards joining the Kibuye team shortly after. After completing language training in Albertville, France they will join the Kibuye team in June 2018. 



Jesh is a Canadian trained General Surgeon with a background in Electronic Engineering Technology and manufacturing. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, he completed medical school at the University of Calgary and his General Surgery Residency at Queens University in Ontario. While not passionate about food, he does appreciate ice cream and a good steak. He enjoys fixing almost anything. He may have convinced his bride to watch the Lord of Rings Extended Edition on their honeymoon! 

Julie loves hospitality, cooking and being a mother. She has travelled to India and Burundi, teaching in both countries. She is definitely more passionate about food then Jesh, and looks forward to embracing the challenge of cooking and making a home. She has had a long held desire to work overseas, and has been a support to her husband through the many years of schooling. She does not feel the need to watch Lord of the Rings (extended edition) ever again. 




Kaden surprised his parents by arriving early while we were out of town in British Columbia. He loves to build, read and spend time outdoors. He prides himself in keeping all our devices fully charged at all times.

Seija was born in the Northwest Territories in Northern Canada. She loves princesses, cheese, and chocolate, and has been known to beat her parents at games like "Settlers" and "Quirkle".

Kai is the newest member of the family born in Ontario during Jesh's surgical residency. He enjoys things like crackers and bottles of milk at all hours of night. Despite wanting to socialize while all other creatures are sleeping, he is adored by us all.


For more information check out thiessensburundi.blogspot.com