meet elizabeth

I’m blowing the dust off the blog today to give you the first of a few posts introducing you to the people who make up my life here in Kijabe – starting with Elizabeth.

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Elizabeth is a department assistant in our clinic. This job title basically means she does whatever needs to be done for whoever needs her to do it. She runs from room to room assisting with procedures, acting as a translator, sterilizing equipment, picking up lab results, washing window sills, doing hearing tests, bringing inpatients from the hospital into the clinic, acting as back-up receptionist, helping us Westerners understand culture, picking up chai and mandazi for tea time….the list goes on and on. The bottom line is that our clinic would not run without Elizabeth. That is not an exaggeration. When she is out on leave, we all kind of feel like we are missing an arm (or three). At one time or another, we have all told Elizabeth that if she leaves, we will just pack up our bags and head home.

Over the past several years, Elizabeth has taken huge initiative to learn about audiology. She’s a quick study and does a great job with the little training that she has had. She has a high school diploma, but has always wanted to further her education, so we started looking around for opportunities that would allow her to keep working and earn some on-the-job credit for her work with me. I found out about an online training program for international hearing care technicians about a year ago. The hospital agreed to sponsor Elizabeth through the program and she will spend the next 6 months earning her certificate. This will increase Elizabeth’s skills and confidence and allow for the audiology clinic to continue running even while I am on home assignment for a few months next year.

Elizabeth doing a hearing aid orientation for Esther and her family

Elizabeth doing a hearing aid orientation for Esther and her family

As proud as I am of all that Elizabeth has done and as grateful as we are to have her undoubtedly invaluable help around the clinic, I think that what I am most thankful for is what she has taught me. This will sound like hyperbole, but I don’t mean it that way at all – Elizabeth has taught me more about selfless compassion than anyone I have ever met. Our patients know that they are deeply cared for in our clinic because of her. The ENT went to check in on a patient in the hospital during Elizabeth’s lunch hour one day and was surprised to see her at the bedside when he arrived. We found out that she had been going to visit this patient and her mother almost daily because their family was far away and they didn’t have any visitors. She would pray with this mama and share in her grief and joy as her baby healed from having a tumor removed that would have killed her in days if she had not had surgery when she did. The recovery was long and Elizabeth walked alongside the family every step of the way. She has taken patients into her own home when they finished at the clinic too late to get back to theirs. More than once, I have had to find a different translator because Elizabeth is weeping with a family who has received a difficult diagnosis. She has a genuine love for people that cannot be taught or faked. It flows out of her understanding of God’s love and grace for her. Her example has changed the way I view my patients and my job. What a gift.

All of this is done gently and without complaint. Without fail, she is a tangible representation of Christ’s sacrificial love and humility, whether she is interacting with patients or co-workers. I am so grateful to work alongside and learn from such a godly woman. I am so glad I get to introduce her to my friends as well.

If you are a praying friend, here are a few items you can pray for for Elizabeth:

1. Pray for her as she begins her certificate training this week. It will take time and could add some responsibility. Pray for balance and energy to complete all of the coursework in the next 6 months. Praise God for reduced pricing through a World Health Organization program and that the hospital is sponsoring her for the full tuition!

2. Pray for her as she prepares to handle basic audiology clinic tasks while I am away next year. She is already telling me it makes her nervous. I hope that the training will boost her confidence and that she will be ready to go in 10 months time.

3. Pray for her family as her son, Lewis, is away at boarding school for the first time (this is pretty typical for Kenyan schooling). He is only 9 years old and it is difficult to be separated.

4. Pray for her husband’s church. He is a pastor and actually has 2 congregations. One in particular has many children in it orphaned by AIDS. They are trying to find a way to provide a home for those children. Pray that the Lord would provide as the church seeks to care for the orphans among them.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Elizabeth. Next up I’ll introduce you to the rest of our clinic staff.

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