Monday, April 29, 2013

On The Field: Jen in East Africa

I'm really excited to introduce a new feature to the blog, one that I hope will continue for a good while. When we were in Kenya, I started thinking about all the people we know doing incredible things in amazing places all over the world. I wondered about ways to share all this coolness with friends at home. Then it dawned on me...the blog! What a perfect place to share the stories of our friends with all of you who have followed us on our own journeys. Yay!

So today I introduce you to Jen, our very first guest blogger on the feature we'll be calling On The Field. Jen and her husband, Todd, are currently living in Kenya, but she's been all over the world. We first met Jen and Todd in the Amsterdam airport back in January on our way to Kenya. They saw Pete near our gate and noticed he was wearing a Samaritan's Purse shirt. They struck up a conversation and realized we were all headed to the same hospital in Kenya. Sweet! We had a great two months with them going to local churches and explored the area, and having picnics, movie nights, and dinners together. They will be spending two years at Tenwek Hospital, and we really, really hope we get to work with them again in the future!

Without further ado, here's Jen's guest post!


Jen Lavery
missionary in Kenya with World Medical Mission, a part of Samaritan's Purse

with my husband around Tenwek
It didn’t dawn on me until I was in college that my parents’ lives and, therefore, my own home life weren’t normal. I think whatever we’re raised with becomes our norm. Knowing that my parents got on a plane for the first time at age 22 to move from their small farming community in Northwest Iowa to teach English for two years on the Arabian Gulf island nation of Bahrain seemed perfectly normal to me. That my Dutch American dad cooked Indian curry, that I could say “thank you” in Arabic at age three because we spent a year in Cairo, and that we moved all our earthly belongings from New York to Salalah, Oman when I was eight was also normal.

in Egypt
By the time I started college, I had lived in New Jersey, Egypt, New York, two different cities in Oman, and back to my birthplace of Bahrain. My international classmates growing up lived equally geographically haphazard lives. I didn’t know anyone apart from my cousins in Iowa who lived in the same place their whole lives.

in Oman

I have continued to move around as an adult: from Michigan to Honduras to Texas to England to Mozambique to Texas to Michigan and now to Kenya. What drives me? It depends on the move. Sometimes the driving force is education (as a student or as a teacher), sometimes for an interesting job, and sometimes for love of a man. Ultimately, just as my parents made each of their moves, I believe I make mine based on guidance from God and a desire to serve Him in underserved areas.

flying into South Sudan
One of the first conversations my husband and I had when we met was about why he wanted to go to Africa when there was so much need in Detroit. He was in surgical residency in Detroit at the time where he had also gone to medical school. He was intentionally living in the ghetto and was involved in an inner-city church plant. He seemed invested in serving the poor of Detroit, but I knew he wanted to go to Africa after residency, so I asked him why. He explained: “Yes, Detroit is very poor, and there is a lot of need here. But everyone has access to medical care. They don’t in Africa, and I think that’s wrong.” His words resonated so strongly with me as that was exactly why I had left teaching in a needy area of Houston to pursue educational development in Mozambique.

the compound where I stay in South Sudan
My husband, by the way, has spent his entire life in Michigan. His parents still live in the same suburban house they moved into when Todd was five. Even though it was a big deal for his parents that he moved into downtown Detroit (and now to Africa!), he makes his moves seem effortless and normal.

neighborhood kids in South Sudan
Nine months into marriage and three months into our two years at Tenwek Hospital in Western Kenya, Todd and I are pursuing our dream of helping to develop medicine and education in Africa. I never anticipated that we’d end up in one of the most developed and most Christian countries in Africa. But it’s a perfect place for us now, for Todd to learn about surgery in Africa and how to train national residents, and for us to live in a slightly easier, more comfortable African environment with a large English-speaking community as we focus on establishing a solid marriage.

typical South Sudanese market
I still do, however, get my “African challenge” as I travel five times a year to South Sudan. In 2005, I explored a teaching position at a teacher training college in South Sudan. It didn’t work out to go at the time, yet my heart has very much been inclined toward South Sudan since then but with no apparent open doors to go. As Todd and I prayed about coming to Tenwek and explored how I could be involved beyond simply tagging along as “spouse”, a Tenwek doctor connected me to Joy Phillips of Mango Ministries, who invited me to join her on her community health trips to South Sudan to begin educational projects. After a visioning trip in February, I am now working on preparing trainings on Community Health and Evangelism for Children, workshops for adolescent girls focusing on delaying marriage and promoting education, and a campaign for HIV/AIDS.

women coming to market
Surgery at Tenwek and community health and education in South Sudan will be our norm for the next two years, and it really does feel normal for both of us. What makes it normal? The same thing that made it normal for my parents to raise their children in the Middle East: We get to do what God has made us passionate about and what He’s given us skills for. We simply get to do what we love doing.

boys mimicking their older brothers making bricks


Jen and her husband have a great blog that follows their adventures and daily life in East Africa. You can find it by clicking HERE. Also, Jen wrote a beautiful post last fall about how South Sudan was put on her heart. Click HERE to read it.

Please pray for Jen & Todd as they head off to Zambia today. They will be there for at least a few weeks while Todd fills in for a surgeon there. The crazy thing is that he'll be the only surgeon, a common occurrence in African hospitals. Such adventures!

our Sammy with Todd

Friday, April 26, 2013

An Arizona Wedding

Last month Pete & I took a flight down to warm and sunny Phoenix, Arizona. It was my first time there, and I couldn't be more happy about the gorgeous weather. We went for Paden & Mindy's wedding. Pete & Paden have been buddies since their college days at St Olaf. The kids stayed behind with Grandma & Grandpa Olsen, so it was just us. Dreamy.

Do you want to know what I did on the flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix? Slept. I slept the entire way, and not once did I need to walk a curious little Ella to the closet-sized restroom. It was magical. We took a cab to our very chic downtown hotel, but it was 8am so we had a few hours to wait before actually checking in. Instead, I lounged with a coffee and my computer on a cozy couch in the lobby. Shortly after our arrival, Pete left with the guys to golf. Don't feel bad for me, thinking I was left behind. No, no, this was all a part of my plan. After an hour of time to myself, I walked across the street to a very cool salon and had my hair done. Mama was due for a highlight and cut, anyway, so the timing was perfect.

Friday night involved a short rehearsal at the church and then an outside dinner at an eclectic pizza place where Pete, my man who very rarely drinks anything other than a gin and tonic, actually found a wine that he likes. Don't worry, I took a picture of the bottle. It was a big find.

I loved getting to meet more of Pete's college friends. Paden is in the gray suit and his lovely wife is in the black dress beside him.

I've met Melissa before, one of Pete's friends from before I met him, but over the wedding weekend I actually got to hang out with her. She's so great! We had a lot of fun together.

On Saturday, we all headed to the church for a gorgeous ceremony in the oldest church in Phoenix. It just so happens that the bride's sister is the pastor there!

How handsome are these guys? Especially the little one. Too cute.

The ring bearer with his dad.

I can't post about Paden & Mindy's wedding and not tell the story of how they met. Both of their dads are Lutheran pastors. (Mine is too!) Something like 30 years ago, a bunch of guys met in seminary and started getting together every summer at a camp with all of their families. It just so happens that one was Mindy's family and one was Paden's. They grew up together, but they never pursued anything romantically until a few years ago. I guess they were hesitant to even try dating since their families were so close. Isn't that sweet? With so many Lutheran pastors and pastor's kids at the wedding, I felt right at home.

How cute are these fluffy dresses? The little ones are also so cute at a wedding.

The wedding party went out to take photos before the reception at this historic site. Perfect backdrop for pictures.

Pete with his close college friend, Eric. These two had a great time catching up over the weekend.

I have a picture just like this from my wedding, except we never really figured out how to get mine up. Isn't she beautiful?

For real, this reception was one of the chicest I've ever attended. It was on the hotel rooftop in downtown Phoenix.

And there was a cigar bar. We indulged.

What a joy it was to celebrate through the weekend with these two. I hope it isn't long before we see them again. I love watching Pete when he hangs out with close college friends, and I would really like to get to know Mindy better. They are a beautiful couple.

Congrats, Dr and Mrs Hendrickson!


Photo Friday

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

He's Home!

Our Sam is home! He came home yesterday at about noon. We're so happy to have him home, right where he's supposed to be. He still has quite a cough, but he's slowly eating more. And he's sleeping a lot. Big sister is thrilled to have him home. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Our Sammy is Sick

It's true. Our little man has RSV, meaning he is having a hard time breathing and is coughing a lot. The really yucky part is that he doesn't have any desire to eat. When he started that, we knew it was time to take him to the hospital. Pete took him in on Friday evening and he's still there now, Sunday morning. Poor thing. He's eating a little more, but it's very little. He wanted to nurse yesterday but couldn't stop coughing long enough to do so. He's getting nutrients through an IV and occasionally gets a little help with his oxygen. Please pray that he'll start eating today and that he'll be able to come home very soon. The virus needs to run its course, but it can do that at home as long as he eats.  I'll update here when he does get to leave. Thank you!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Photo Friday

I'm seeing a light. It's at the end of a long, dark tunnel, but I'm moving closer and closer to it. Don't worry, this isn't the kind of light we want to avoid. It means that I am definitely seeing a light at the end of this long tunnel called my grad thesis. Wohoo! I've been away for the last four days writing and transcribing and writing and reading and editing and writing some more. We've had a lot of help with the kids and now Pete has had the weekend off to be with them, so I'm continuing to work. But as a writing break, I thought I'd post a few recent photos (even though I technically missed Friday by one day) since I haven't been great about posting in the midst of all this writing.


just playin'

oh yes! I love my feet!

waiting to see the doc at his 10 month NICU follow-up. it went well!

guess who decorated us

mocha facial mast for the girlies. recipe here


two wee sickies, cuddling on the floor


merry christmas! wait. that's not right.

little boy loves to eat

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Easter Sunday

We had a quiet, cozy little Easter celebration at our house this year. Pete was on call delivering wee Easter babies all day. I woke shortly after he left for the hospital in the hopes of joining my sister at the earliest church service. Alas, 7:30 proved to be too early for my snail pace. I had good intentions. I had planned about a week before that Ella would wear an adorable daisy dress my mom had given her and Sam would wear a little button-up and khakis. They were dressed with hair brushed, looking bright-eyed for the big day when I realized I hadn't given a moment's thought to what I would wear. Good heavens, why must we even make such decisions?! I was so successful getting them ready that I had no remaining creative energy to figure out what I would wear. I quickly vetoed jeans due to the nice occasion. I briefly considered dress pants until I realized I didn't have any pressed shirts. Then I flipped through hangers of dresses until I came across one that actually fits at the moment. It was a winner. I tossed my hair up in a messy bun, got the kids in the car, and did my makeup in the church parking lot. By this time it was a few minutes after 8, so I jokingly told the nursery attendants I thought the service started at 8. Oh well, we all ended up at church and that was the goal. Go team.

The entire service was beautiful. I discovered this when I decided to stay for the 9 o'clock service with Eli & Krista. Easter is probably my favorite time to be at church. There is a joyfulness that can be felt through kind smiles, big families, and bright new dresses. It Christmas things feel a bit more rushed and stressful. On top of that, the promise we are reminded of at Easter is incredible. I am completely humbled by God's goodness to us.

After church, I took the kids home for naps and to prepare an Easter meal. Eli, Krista, and Caleb joined us for a very relaxed afternoon of eating, naps, and an indoor egg hunt. There was just way too much snow to have it outside. Although, it may have been fun to throw the eggs out in the yard and watch Ella tromp through the thigh-high snow to get each of them. She probably would have loved it!

She was pretty hilarious looking for the two dozen eggs I hid in the living and dining rooms. There was a high-pitch squeal and a little dance with every discovered egg. Envision that doubled each time she found two hidden side-by-side. Seriously, the girl has some good egg discovering moves.

The plan yesterday had included dying eggs, but we didn't quite make it that far, so this afternoon Ella and I worked together to color a basket of them.

She was quite focused while working and only cracked one egg. I think it may have been a bit intentional, though.

 At one point I had the idea to get out the glue and googley eyes, so we made a little family. I was really impressed with Ella's drawing skills! She made two of the three!

Little Man had a good time next to the table while we worked.  Currently, this is his favorite thing to do. He's kind of a pro.

We hope your family had a very happy Easter.


Last Wednesday, Sam had a very quick procedure to put tubes in each of his ears. We were at the hospital at 7am and were home by 10:30am. He was a champ. Most kids have multiple ear infections before considering tubes, but Sam didn't have a single one that we're aware of. Instead, we were hoping that his very low hearing skills would improve by clearing out fluid that had built up in his ear. In the end, the doctor was able to remove a lot of gunk, and boy oh boy, have we seen a change. He's now responding when we talk to him and even turns to see us when we make noise. Those are things that very rarely happened before getting his tubes. He seems happier and more engaged. We are thrilled! His hearing will be tested again in a few weeks and then we'll do an ABR (auditory brainstem response) test to see if there are more ways we can continue to improve his hearing. We want to do as much as possible so that he can hear well during his early stages of speech development. This has been the only health challenge we've encountered so far, aside from a few bouts of croup. We know that we are very blessed.


Of course, we cannot forget that today is the day a winner of the paper bead necklace is being announced. There were 22 responses between the blog and two places on Facebook, so I compiled the list and let select the winner.

As you can see, the winner is number 22... Ellen K! Yay, Ellen! I'll get your info and have the necklace in the mail in the next couple days. Enjoy!


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