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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love anyway

After two weeks of stress, frustration, and pure exhaustion, I successfully passed my final grad school comprehensive exam. I was assigned to a group of four other graduating MPH students and given the task of developing an effective strategy for preventing a pertussis epidemic in Utah. I learned so much about pertussis (whooping cough), immunization policies and programs, statistical analysis in real life, and effective program planning and evaluation. Perhaps most significantly however, I learned more about myself and about life.
We had a bit of a conflict with one group member who struggled to complete her portion of the work correctly, on time, or even at all. I was sort of thrust into the role of group leader, and as such was the one who had to confront this girl about her performance, or lack thereof. I prayed every day that she would meet her deadlines, but each time found myself spending extra hours either helping her finish, or finishing for her. When the final paper and presentation were complete and we were informed that the whole group had passed, I felt relieved. However, I'll admit that I was also slightly disappointed that this girl who had contributed so little still received the same reward as the rest of us who had worked so hard. It really bothered me, until I thought about it a little differently. I had to remember that sometimes life just isn’t fair, but you just have to love people anyway.
I thought about Christ and how many times he had to rebuke people, help them see what they were doing wrong and call them to repentance. How many times did he do this, but they still didn’t listen? I thought of when the people chose to release Barabbas and crucify Christ instead. I know that this was necessary, but at face value, clearly it wasn’t fair. Yet Christ suffered it willingly and loved both Barabbas and even those who threw him to the wolves anyway.
Did this girl deserve to pass? I don't know. That decision was out of my hands. But what I do know is that in life, nobody deserves to fail. We all came to this earth to take the same test. Some of us perform better on it than others, but the bottom line is that Christ wants us all to succeed. He understands our strengths and our limitations, and I'm sure it pains him when we choose not to do our part of the work correctly, on time, or even at all; yet he loves us anyway. He puts people in our lives to help us when we are weak, and He atoned for our sins to finish what we will never be able to finish ourselves.
As challenging as the experience was, I'm grateful that the Lord gave me the chance to strengthen my testimony as well as my intellect.

The Good Doctor

"Umm, I need to tell you something about hard things. Sometimes if something is hard, you just try and try and it will get better." Pearls of wisdom from 4-year-old, Josh
Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
If there's one thing I've learned over the last several months, it is that I can do hard things. I can do hard things because I am not alone. I have the Lord, great friends, a supportive family, and a true saint of a husband. Actually, it is my saintly husband to whom this post will be dedicated.

I have been married for seven and a half months. I love my husband. He is the best. My husband is going to be a doctor...a really good doctor. Okay, so I know he's only in his first year of medical school, but I can already see that he's just one of those people who has a gift. Actually, he has lots of gifts. He knows everything you could imagine about anatomy; he actually understands biochemistry; he can look at cells under a microscope and tell you whether they came from liver or lung tissue... But best of all, my husband really cares about people. You know how the scriptures describe God as no respecter of persons? Well, I guess I sorta think of my husband that way. He loves everyone regardless of their background, race, income, education, ability, etc.? I think his love for others is one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with him. He can make a child feel important, a teenager feel respected, an adult feel appreciated, and an elderly person feel valued. He makes me feel all of those things every day.
My husband is my biggest fan. And I am his. He is supportive and cares about my dreams as much as his own. I remember my final breakup before meeting my husband. I had been planning for a long time to go to India, but held off because the guy I was dating wanted me to stick around. When we broke up, I remember thinking, "It doesn't matter that he didn't care about India. But it does matter that he didn't care that I care about India."
Almost four years later when I was dating my husband,I found myself in a similar situation, planning a trip to Africa. But this time it was different. This time,I was dealing with someone special who could see how important this opportunity was to me and rather than holding me back encouraged me to follow my dream.

My husband has given me that same encouragement to finish graduate school, even though it means that we've had to live in separate states for the last six months. What a lucky girl I am to have such a wonderful husband!
He is patient, kind, thoughtful, cheerful, optimistic, helpful, selfless, generous, humorous, fun, adventurous, smart, honest, gracious, humble, determined, diligent, faithful, and genuine. He is everything a good doctor and a good husband should be. I'm glad he's mine!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Light


I found some old note cards hidden between the pages of my Book of Mormon as I was reading the other day. Written on the cards were verses of scripture and some of my own thoughts about light. I'm not sure why, but light really began to intrigue me a few years ago. I'm not just talking about the physics of light, but really, the deeper meaning of light.
I remember starting to truly contemplate it while I was on my mission as it related to the gospel, to my investigators, to my responsibilities as a member of the church and as a missionary, to intelligence, understanding,truth, purity, vision, hope, and Christ himself.
I can't think of light without having the vision of a beautiful African woman I met in a camp for internally displaced people in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. She and her family had been driven from their home after the 2007 post-election riots and violence, and were living in a patchwork tent of sticks, and pieces of plastic tarps and bags. She invited a group of us into her tiny shelter and told us about her life, her children, her battle with HIV, and her hopes for the future. Someone asked her what her most valuable possession was and she pulled out a small blue metal lantern that had been given to her as a humanitarian gift. What a profound impression that moment left on my mind and heart. How simple a thing to be so grateful for--light. And it wasn't just the physical glow of the flame in the lantern that meant so much as what I believe it represented. That light represented sight, vision, and hope. That light was not only what allowed her to see in the darkness of her piecemeal home, but figuratively through the darkness of trouble and despair. It was what illuminated her path and gave her greater vision of the bright future that she so desperately wanted for herself and even more for her children. It was that light that allowed her to see the words on the pages of tattered books donated by volunteers who had given her another gift of light--understanding and knowledge.
Does light mean that much to me? And is that light, in every sense of the word something I treasure as one of my most valuable possessions? Just something to think about.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Step by Step. Progress!

In spite of all the challenges they face in keeping the clinic up and running, Moffat and the Fremo staff and volunteers work tirelessly to reach out and meet the health needs of the Kawangware community. Here's the latest on what they've been up to over the last couple of weeks:
March 8, 2011 Fremo staff spent the day in Kawangware doing Antenatal Care awareness. A 2006 report about reproductive health published by the University of Nairobi stated that an estimated 414 women per 100,000 live births die due to pregnancy related complication in Kenya every year. Over half of births are delivered at home without the supervision of a health professional.And the problems of malaria, anemia, TB, STD/HIV/AIDS only add to the high maternal mortality ratio. The statistics for children in Kenya are just as grim.
The awareness activities of March 8, were successful in reaching several women in the Kawangware area. With continued efforts we can increase awareness even further in hopes of reducing maternal and infant deaths in Kenya.
March 21, 2011 Fremo welcomed the Kawangware community to the clinic for free HIV testing.
Over 1.5 million people in Kenya are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV cannot be cured, but it can be treated and prevented. Unfortunately, misunderstandings about the cause, transmission, and treatment of HIV abound. As Fremo encourages community members to "know your status", myths about HIV can be dispelled, preventative measures can be taken, and not only treatment, but also hope can be given.
March 19,2011, Moffat posted a message on Facebook that read, "Hard work ahead this week. Making Hospital beds and tables. We need to make FreMo provide the best Quality healthcare to people of Kawangware. Support us all. Nice week."
In the midst of their community outreach, education, and testing, the Fremo staff still has to make time to improve their facilities. They do not, however, have the luxury of placing orders at the local medical supply store for hospital beds, so they have to use their resources to make their own. Whatever it takes to provide a clean, safe place for the people of Kawangware to receive decent health care.
I have a deep respect and admiration for these wonderful Kenyans helping their fellow community members.
Don't forget, you can help too! Donations are always welcome!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nairobi Needs Your Help!


You may have noticed the new "donate" button on the right side of this page.
If you've been following my blog, you'll know a little bit about the cause I'm trying to support.
I spent several weeks in Kenya last spring working with Fremo Medical Centre, a small clinic that services the Kawangware slum district of Nairobi. Moffat Osoro, together with his brother, Fred, a physician in Kenya, founded the clinic in November, 2009 with the purpose of providing affordable, accessible health care to the under-served people of the Nairobi slums.


Not without struggle, Fremo has successfully survived a year of growth and progress, and is continuing forward with its goal to not only provide community medical services, but also to become a full-service hospital by 2030.
Moffat's leadership and committment to the success of Fremo, and the talent of local nurses and lab technicians driven by a desire to serve their fellow Kenyans has brought the clinic a long way. However, more than desire is needed to keep Fremo going.
Fremo's patients are humble, beautiful, and deserving of quality care, but many are poverty-stricken and are often unable to pay for their services. Moffat has been applying for bank loans, and has relied heavily on personal savings and the generosity of friends and family in order to supplement what little money does come in from patients. In spite of financial limitations, Fremo does its best, but unfortunately, the money they have is not always enough to provide the most appropriate sanitary care to patients, maintain the facility, buy medications, and pay staff members.
This is where you can help!
A little bit of money goes a long way in Kenya! I was able to help tile an entire room at the clinic for less than USD $100 (including labor). Any size contribution you are able to make will be meaningful, and 100% of all the money donated will go toward filling the most pressing needs of the clinic, e.g., sanitary plastic covers for beds, additional floor tiling (to prevent blood and fluids from soaking into dirt floors), proper toilets, delivery kits, lab analysis equipment...
With your help, the future of Fremo Medical Centre is bright, and so are the lives of the people of Kawangware!
To learn more about the Fremo Medical Center and how you can help, visit http://fremomc.brinkster.net/ or email me directly: cimcarr@gmail.com
Thanks for your support!
Stay posted for personal fund-raising ideas and progress with Fremo

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus!


Today I looked up the newspaper column that made famous the phrase, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." It first appeared in The New York Sun in 1897 as editor, Francis Church's response to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon. It really is a beautiful little piece--worthy of my posting here for you to see. However, I do have a few more cents to add about the subject. I love the Christmas season! I love the lights, the music, the snow, the eggnog, the decorations, and all the Christmas movies that run non-stop on TV...so, about those Christmas movies. The other night as I was winding down from a long day of studying, I flipped on the TV and stumbled upon a made for TV movie on some inspirational religious channel. This one was unique in that it actually focused on what Christmas is really about--Christ!Go figure. Anyway,it made me think. It seems that Christmas movies are always associating the spirit of Christmas with the spirit of Santa Claus, not the spirit of Christ. I mean, really, think about all the Christmas movies you know where the whole point is to get the cynical workaholic or the deprived, disbelieving child to renew hope and happiness by believing in Santa Claus. Need a little help? Try Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, The Polar Express...I'm not saying these are bad. I enjoy them as much as anyone else, and I think that the purpose of these movies is the same as the purpose of Church's letter to Virginia--to remind people about simple child-like faith and joy. It's just funny to me that it takes a big fat man with a white beard and a flying reindeer to spark that faith in people--a spark that's lit on black Friday, and sputters out when people recover from their hang-overs Jan 2nd. I have to pause and ask, what happened here? The name of the holiday isn't Santamas, it's Christmas. Why not spend our time trying to remind people about the REAL man of the season. Isn't it more important to remember Christ than it is to remember Santa? Yes, "Santa" brings presents and holiday cheer, but Jesus Christ has given us a gift that can't be wrapped in paper and ribbons. He gave us his life. And he can bring us joy that will last everyday of the year. He doesn't appear at the mall once a year for us to climb onto his lap and tell him what we want. He doesn't need us to send him a letter listing our requests. Christ is ALWAYS there for us. He already knows our needs and our deepest desires. The spirit of Christmas, is the spirit of love, kindness, and charity, everything that Christ is. So, this year, I want to reword Church's response to that little 8-year old girl and say, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus!"

Here's the letter and the response:
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

"VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
"115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."

"VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

"Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

"Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

"You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

"No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Purpose

You know, it's kinda cool how life can be wonderful no matter where you are, and no matter what's happening in the world around you. Right now, my world is so different than it was a couple of months ago in Africa. Sometimes my heart aches, wishing I were back there able to do more to help the people there who need it so much. Sometimes I wish I were back in Nepal, or China, or Thailand, or India doing the same. I don't have any question in my mind that someday I'll make it back to these wonderful people and places, but right now, I know I am where I am supposed to be. I'm surrounded by wonderful people right here, right now who may need me just as much, perhaps for different reasons, but just as much as people half a world away.
You've heard me say it a million times, but I truly believe that God puts specific people in specific places at specific times for specific purposes. I think a person can spend their whole life searching for their purpose and end up feeling perpetually empty because they keep not quite finding it. I've met so many people around the world who are out traveling the planet trying to "find themselves", looking for truth, searching for meaning, happiness, fulfillment, and purpose. The truth is, there is purpose in every day if only we create it! We can question ourselves and constantly be wondering what? and why?, or we can live. True, I don't always know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing or where I'm supposed to be, or who I'm supposed to help, but the point is that RIGHT NOW, I can bloom where I'm planted, and maybe it doesn't matter who I help, as long as I step out the door to simply do it. Life is my purpose.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Photo Highlights of Africa











video

Monday, May 10, 2010

Giraffe Fight!!

As we were returning from our game drive the second night of our safari, we came upon one of the most awesome sights: a giraffe fight! You see this kind of thing on the discovery channel or in National Geographic, but this was real life!!
I only caught a bit of it on film, but it gives you a little taste of what beautiful animals these giraffes are...even when they're fighting!

video

Coming Home: last letter home from Kenya






Hi everyone,
...I'm back in Nairobi safely after a great, adventure filled trip last week to Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC (Congo). Africa is such an amazingly beautiful place!! I wish I could bring you all here to show you the breathtaking places I've been and introduce you to the wonderful people I've met! I was able to go bungy jumping over the Nile, and 4-wheeling through some of the jungle villages in Uganda. We visited the sobering genocide memorial sites in Rwanda, and a couple of us walked over to DRCongo for a few hours and bought french pastries and strawberry soda. I'll share the details of these places when I have more time.
I've been trying to tie up loose ends here before I come home. I was able to purchase tiles for the delivery room at the clinic, and they were all put in place Monday evening! Just in time for the government inspection this Thursday.

Since the free medical camp, the business of the clinic has nearly tripled! I even brought one of my mzungu(white) friends in today to be tested for malaria, typhoid, and amoebas...turns out she has mild malaria, but she's going to be just fine.
My experiences here have been unforgettable, and I thank all of you for supporting me in getting here!
It really is funny how a person can visit so many wonderfully unique beautiful, peaceful, exciting places in the world, yet at each one can say, "I think this is one of the most amazing places I've ever been!" I've felt that several times since being here in Africa. I was thinking the other day about how people often say to me, "you've traveled a lot, so where's you're favorite place in the world?" I have a long list, each place making it on the list for its own reason--sometimes not even because of the place itself, but usually because of the experiences I've had the relationships I've built there. I think however, that perhaps my favorite place in the world is home--wherever home may be. As much as I love seeing and experiencing the world, I love the comfort, stability, love, and peace of having a place you can always go back to; a place where you are loved, accepted, given responsibility, where you can relax, where people know you, care about you, where you're heart just seems to fit. I think perhaps home is really more of a feeling than a place.
Even though I'll miss this place, I look forward to coming home and I pray that my flight plans won't be interrupted by the volcano in Iceland! If all goes smoothly, I should be getting on a plane here in Nairobi at 10:30pm Friday April 23, switching planes in Amsterdam at about 7:30 am, Saturday April 24, and arriving back in Salt Lake at 2:30pm Saturday April 24.
I'll let you know if I hear anything from KLM or Delta.

HIV, CT, and Goats: Fifth letter home from Kenya



Hi Everyone!
This one's going to be quick (I know you're sighing with relief after the last super long email i sent).
The free medical camp we organized this weekend was a great success! We saw over 300 people and did TB, HIV, Blood sugar, and blood pressure testing, as well as blood grouping (testing to see their blood type). I learned so much and met so many great people! I spent most of my time doing HIV testing. People here really have so many misconceptions about hIV and how it is spread. They are so afraid to be tested because they they basically view a positive test result as a death sentence, both physically and socially. My heart dropped into my stomach the first time I tested someone positive. I knew that he would have to go home and tell his wife and family, and that his friends and neigbors would probably start to shun him. The next morning his wife came in to be tested as well. She turned out positive too. I just hope they are willing to seek help and not give up hope!
I was also able to take the sister of the woman i live with to get a CT scan to try and figure out what has been giving her constant headaches for over two months. It only cost $70 USD, but for this woman, that was almost two months pay. I was able to cover it for her and gratefully the scan showed nothing abnormal. We tested her at the clinic the next day for typhoid and it looks like that's her problem. Thankfully the treatment for that is a little bit less costly.
This morning, I witnessed another birth...but not a human this time :) Our goat had a baby! Wow! the poor thing sounded like it was in so much pain, and she was pushing to get the baby out for over 30 minutes! Yet again, I am amazed by the miracle of life!
I'm heading off to Uganda and Rwanda for a few days with some friends, so I'll write again when I get back. I hope you all have a great week!

Fremo Medical Clinic, IDP medical camp, and Church: third letter from Kenya



Hi everyone!
It's been another great week in Kenya! This past weekend I had some interesting experiences that made me especially grateful for the gospel, my standards, my health, my education, and all of my blessings.
Things have been going well at the Fremo medical clinic. The staff there is so wonderful and so gracious about having us there. They have so little to work with, but care so much about the community. They realize that most of the people in the area we serve cannot afford to pay for services, yet they never refuse to help anyone who comes in. They simply let the patients know that they can pay a little at a time when they are able. I sat down with them and really talked to them about what equipment and supplies they really need that they're lacking in the clinic. We also got an estimate to see how much it would cost to put a proper tile floor in their small delivery room--right now they have a clay floor that cracks when it gets wet and that absorbs the smells of water and blood. We also got an estimate for a proper walkway to replace the bumpy dirt alleyway that connects the four rooms of the clinic and outdoor toilets. We have a long way to go, but we're helping them set some good goals. We'll be distributing flyers about the free medical camp we're doing next weekend--free TB, HIV, blood sugar testing, and blood pressure and children's checkups--I'm looking forward to it!
Saturday we went back to the IDP camp to help with a free medical camp there. We held it at the little school where we built chalkboards and dug trenches last weekend. It was a truly humbling experience. We arrived late because of transportation issues on the way, but as soon as we got set up, the lines started to form! I was in charge of getting people registered and taking blood pressure, others mixed, packaged and distributed medication, a couple of our medically certified volunteers did injections and vaccinations. We did rapid HIV testing, pregnancy testing, and urin testing. From about 12-4pm we saw 190 people. Many of them walked several km to reach us, some with great difficulty walking with leg braces and walking sticks. 12 year old children were coming on their own, bringing their younger siblings to be checked because their parents couldn't be there. Again, I felt so grateful for the blessing of health and access to quality care so close to home!



I was grateful to get to church on Sunday--it was refreshing! The members are so lovely and so welcoming and kind. The topic of sacrament meeting was the atonement, and it was humbling to hear their perspective on what the atonement does for them. One sister missionary from Zimbabwe spoke and talked about how the atonement equalizes us all, it unifies us, and removes race, tribe, ecomomic status... another speaker talked about how the atonement will make fair all that is now unjust in life...(just like what you mentioned in your email, Kent!). These people are so humble and understand the atonement in ways that most of us will never experience.
My days are so full and I feel exhausted when i lie down at night...I sorta feel like a missionary again :) Every night the rain pours so hard, and everything is made of tin, so it sounds like a herd of antalope on the roof...it makes for a messy walk down the dirt road every morning, but it's wonderful!!
I'll be heading out on safari this weekend and I'm excited about seeing the big 5 and visiting a Maasai village. I'm thinking about going to Zanzibar, and I'm trying to figure out how to get over to Mt. Kilimanjaro....so much to do, so little time!

Getting Humbled in Kenya: second letter home


Hi everyone!
So many amazing things have happened over the past week! I hardly know
where to begin!
Last week I think I told you that I was able to spend some time at the
orphanage/school that the pastors I live with run. The children are
beautiful and happy and the teachers try so hard despite their lack of
resources. I'm working on an art project with a couple of classes
there--another volunteer and I are taking photos of the kids, printing
them for them, then making paper photo frames that they can decorate
and take home. Most people I meet in developing countries have never
had a printed photograph of themselves, so I think this will be a real
treat for them.
Last week I was also able to go out with another volunteer and a
couple of local village women to visit some HIV patients in their
homes. The first woman we visited, Judi, was taking her antiretroviral
drugs (ARVs), but was pretty weak and unable to work. She didn't have
any money, and really couldn't afford food, so we went down the street
to buy a bit of maize flour, rice, cooking fat, and some spinach for
her, then took it back to her home and cooked lunch for her and ate
together. The food most everyone eats here is called ugali, which is
basically maize flour and water mixed together until it thickens--it's
decent, and everyone here likes it, I think probably because it can be
so filling if you're hungry...which most people are.
The next woman we went to visit was Mary. She was actually not being
treated for HIV, but showed me that she was being treated for TB. I
noticed that she was quite a bit thinner that a photo she had from
about a year earlier and asked if she had ever been tested for HIV,
and she said that she hadn't. TB and HIV kinda go hand in hand in a
setting like this, and so I suggested to her that at her doctor visit
the next day she be tested for HIV. We found out the next day that
she was HIV+.
The next day we went to visit another HIV patient, but when we arrived
at her home, found out that she had passed away a couple of weeks
earlier. Everyone seemed so casual about the fact that she had died--I
think that it's because everyone here sees sickness and death here a
lot more frequently than we usually do.
We were able to visit with a wonderfully positive group of HIV
infected women who get together ever day to make beads and jewelry as
a way to try and make a living. These woman are so strong. They're
living with a disease that they know will never be cured, but are
taking their ARVs and trying to support one another and push forward
with their lives.

There is such a stigma here against HIV. People are so ashamed of it.
People are afraid even to be tested for HIV for fear of what their
neighbors will think of them. So many of the HIV infected people we
meet get no support from their families or communities, when the
reality is that many of the people who shun them probably have HIV
themselves, but are just to afraid to be tested. So many people have
major misunderstanding about HIV, and how it's spread!
This weekend we went to a place called Hell's Gate National Park. It
was amazing!! We biked about 14km up a dirt road through wilderness,
passing zebras, warthogs, gazelles, baboons, and a few people even saw
a giraffe. It was amazing! Then we hiked through Hells Gate gorge
which is a lot like the narrows, only greener and with little
waterfalls and hotsprings.

We were also able to go to three IDP camps (Internally displaced
people). These are camps where groups of Kenyans were displaced to
after the 2007 election and civil conflicts in Kenya. Over 300,000
Kenyan families were driven from their homes because of civil conflict
and violence. We visited an area that had about 600 of those families.
A very basic school had just been built near one of the camps, so we
went to build and paint chalkboards for them and dig trenches around
the buildings so they would not be flooded during the rainy season.
It was hard but rewarding work. We also spent the night packaging bags
of flour, rice, and cooking fat and took it to the camps to give to
the families. It was such a humbling experience to hand a mother a
small bag of flour, a bag of rice, and about a cup of cooking fat,
knowing that that would be all the food she would have to feed her
family for the next two weeks. We were able to go inside the homes of
a couple of the families. Their homes are patched together with
sticks, peices of plastic and bits of old tarps. It's windy and cold,
they have no light other than a tiny little bottle full of oil with a
wick that burns out in the wind. one of the women we went to visit was
pregnant with her 9th child.


Yesterday we went to visit 4 different medical clinics, just to see
where we could be of the most help. I was blown away by how primitive
some of these places really are! We stood in one room that served as
the doctors consultation room, operating room, pharmacy, and records
room--he had a patient behind a curtain and was removing an absess
from under the man's arm--he didn't use any kind of numbing agent or
give him any pain killer. He just cleaned it, then started cutting.
The man sounded like he was in so much pain! As we were walking
through the slums on our way to the next clinic, I had to hold back
the tears as I thought about how difficult it must be for so many of
the people here to get the medical help they really need, and how
blessed I am to have a world class hospital so close to home.
The clinic that I decided I'm going to be working with is a new clinic
that just opened about 3 months ago. They have so little, but I see so
much potential to really help things get going there! They have a
really primitive maternity ward (one small room with a delivery table
and a bed--no monitors or electronic equipment) and are working to
open up two more rooms for treating other patients. They have a small
lab with a sink, a mini fridge, and a microscope--no centrifuge
machine or anything you would find in a lab at home. They are so
positive and so excited about having help.

The emotions I've felt over this past week have been indescribable. I
felt a bit overwhelmed yesterday! EVERYWHERE I go here, someone needs
help. Whether it's medical, emotional, educational, financial...there
is so much to do, and I have to remind myself that I can't help
everyone, but who do you CHOOSE to help?! I'm really excited about
working with this new medical clinic, doing the photo project at the
school, and I'll also be helping with a new mushroom growing project
that some of the HIV infected women in the area are undertaking in
order to make a living.
There is so much more I could write, and I'll have to send photos of
some of the places I've been and people I've met so you can get a
better idea of what it's really like here.
It's challenging, and overwhelming, but also a blessing to be
surrounded by opportunities to serve! We are soooooo blessed! Never
forget that!

First quick note from Kenya

...I just wanted to let you know that I'm in Kenya and things are going well.
I arrived and was picked up at the airport without any problems Sunday night. Yesterday we met up with a bunch of volunteers, had orientation, found out where our project locations will be, and talked about some different options of other fun things we can do while we're here in Kenya. I live with a couple of other volunteers at the home of a man and woman who are pastors at a local church. They are wonderful! They run a little school and orphanage in addition to their church duties. I don't start my project in HIV work until tomorrow, so I went to the school today and helped one of the teachers with her class. I think I'll go back there pretty often to help with little projects...they have so little, and can use whatever help they can get.
I'll be going to work at a camp for internally displaced people this weekend and will be doing a safari in two weeks.
The people here are so great! Oh, and I was at a little shopping center yesterday and ran into two senior couples and a bishop of one of the wards here--that was a nice little tender mercy from the Lord! When I make contact with the church, my mind is put so much more at ease and I feel just a little bit more at home!

Letters from Africa

I didn't do a very good job of keeping my blog up to date while I was in Africa. So, now that I'm back in the USA, I'm summarizing my experience by posting bits of the letters I wrote home to my family...and I'm adding a few more photos and video as well. Enjoy!
video

Thursday, April 8, 2010

From Kenya,With Love!


This is part of the fourth letter I wrote home from Kenya...enjoy!
Jambo from Kenya!
Get comfortable...it's another long one...but a good one!
I hardly know where to begin!
This past week has been filled with the most amazing, unique, breathtaking experiences!
Yesterday I heard from the Department of Public Health at the University of Utah, letting me know that I have been accepted into their MPH program. I have to let them know by April 29th whether or not I accept, so I'll be doing some fasting and praying to make sure it's the right thing for me to do right now.
Another highlight of my time here in Kenya happened yesterday as well. I delivered a placenta! My friend Natarsha and I got a phone call from a friend of ours who works at one of the clinics we visited and told us that a woman was there, about to have a baby, and that we could come if we had time. We re-scheduled the meeting we were on our way to and raced over to the other clinic. Not 10 minutes after we arrived, the baby started to come. The women here are so strong! She didn't have any drugs for pain, she didn't have a husband there to hold her hand, and we were informed that we should not try to comfort her or give her anything to grab onto--as that would show weakness. All we could do was yell at her to push while the nurses were pushing on her stomach and holding her legs apart. The baby's head popped out and he was stuck. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Someone ran to the other room to get Dr. George who came in, leaned over the woman's stomach and basically gave the woman a reversed heimlich manouver, thrusting at her stomach until the baby shot out like a torpedo. He quickly got the baby breathing, and called Natarsha over to cut the cord. The nurses took the baby to clean it up, then Dr. George called for me to come over to the table. He handed me the clamp that was still attached to the end of the cord connected to the placenta. He gave me a quick instruction on how to safely pull the placenta out and then told me to go for it...and out came the perfect complete placenta! What an unexpected and awesome experience. Dr. George is an amazing Dr.. He's a very generous Kenyan who serves a very poor community. He loves teaching others, and gets so much joy from seeing others get excited about what he loves! I hope to have more opportunities to work with him!
The delivery was a much more pleasant experience than the circumcision we observed last week. They don't circumcise boys when they are baby's here. It's usually done between the ages of 6 and 14. Last Wednesday, a six year old boy came in, and before the procedure even started, the boy was already crying. It only got worse. The nurse cleaned him and prepped him for the procedure...then the drama began! What should have been a short, fairly painless procedure ended up taking nearly an hour! The nurse injected him with what looked like about 5 ccs of lidocane/adrenaline, and as the needle when in, he wailed! I'm convinced that either they didn't give him enough or that they injected it improperly because with every clamp, cut, and suture, the poor child screamed in agony! I was able to keep my composure, but had to turn my head to hide my emotion when the boy hit a super peak of pain and cried our for his "mama!" His father was holding back his arms and upper body, one nurse was bracing and holding down his legs, and the nurse performing the operation had to battle with the jolts of the boy's little body every time he writhed in pain! Finally when he was finished, I handed him two lollypops as he walked out of the room...poor kid. THey say that in the Masai culture, the young men are circumcised with either a knife or a sharp stone and if they even flinch with pain, they bring dishonor on themselves and their families...good thing this kid wasn't a Masai.
Speaking of Masai, my safari this past weekend was AMAZING!!! We spent 4 adventure filled days in the Masai Mara and at Lake Nakuru searching for animals, getting stuck in the mud, off-roading through the bush!

I wish I could describe the feelings of pure awe I felt when I first saw the herds of giraffes towering over the acacia trees and fighting with each other!

We saw wildebeasts, zebras, hyenas, jackals, topis, dik diks, gazelles, lions, elephants, birds of all sorts, warthogs, crocodiles, hippos, rhinos, baboons, blue monkeys, flamingos, buffalo, and were even lucky enough to spot a cheetah and a leopard climbing down from a tree with a bit of prey in it's teeth. The Masai Mara (the Kenya half of the Serengeti) is so expansive and beautiful--I felt like running through the grass singing "Born Free"...but don't worry I didn't...you never know what's hiding there waiting to pounce. Lake Nakuru was probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been and I highly recommend it to anyone who comes to do safari in Kenya!
I'm still enjoying visiting with HIV support groups, hearing these strong women's stories. I love going to their homes and sitting down with them, hearing about how much faith they have in God and how much they truly believe that it is because of Him they live from day to day! Something as small as clearing up painful skin irritations (a frequent side effect of ARV drugs) they attribute to God!
I didn't get to celebrate a traditional Easter this year, but I can't even begin to describe how close I felt to the Lord as I was surrounded by his magnificent creations, as I was able to help new life come into the world, and as I've been able to open my heart to those who are suffering so much, yet who remain strong in their faith in Christ! I love my life!! There is so much to be grateful for!
I hope you all enjoyed General Conference and had a wonderful Easter!
Wish us luck with the Free medical clinic we're doing this weekend!
I'll send photos later...the computer i'm on won't let me upload photos :(
I love you all!
Love,
Cimberly

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because I Have Been Given Much


I'm leaving to go to Kenya in three weeks! As I've been preparing, I've thought a lot about other experiences I've had serving abroad in the past, and why I'm doing it again. I think these excerpts from my grad school application letters kinda sum it up:
"As I waved goodbye to Vishal, I wondered if I would ever see him again. He had followed me around the Bal Ashram for over two months, never saying much, but always smiling and peering over my shoulder at the strange, foreign characters I was writing in my journal. Vishal had been brought to the Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation center for rescued Indian and Nepali child laborers and street children, at age four. He was a happy, but frail little boy who frequently fainted as consequence of a failing liver. His mother abandoned him at a train station when he was a baby, and the other orphaned street children who found him, took him in, feeding him scraps of garbage, dirty water, and alcohol. They didn’t know any better. When I left the Bal Ashram in October 2007, six year old Vishal was scheduled to take a two hour journey to Jaipur, the nearest city in India with adequate medical resources to treat his liver disease. He was a lucky one. Far too many individuals around the world like Vishal suffer and die needlessly because of lack of resources, education, and access to quality care. This must change, and my hope is that I will be amongst the public health professionals who are driving that change....
"I have had numerous meaningful preparatory experiences around the world—from volunteering in my local Emergency Room in Utah, to working with rescued child laborers in India and children of prisoners in Nepal, and from tutoring foreign students at the English Language Center at BYU, to teaching English in China and Thailand. I’ve seen the panic of pandemics while working at a Utah County H1N1 screening clinic, as well as while serving as a missionary in Hong Kong during the time of SARS. I have observed the lack of health care resources and its consequences at both individual and general population levels. But perhaps one of the most poignant experiences of my life was working in India and seeing and feeling the struggles of so many of its people. This was the first time I had ever witnessed first hand the devastating blight of leprosy. My heart ached as I encountered many individuals afflicted with this demoralizing disease, begging for money on the streets, stretching out their hands with blackened and missing fingers and deteriorating skin. I often thought of Christ and how He offered so much love, compassion, and healing to these societal outcasts. I remember frequently passing through the outskirts of Jaipur, where some of the poorest of the poor in eastern Rajasthan reside. There the children play in the same piles of garbage where filthy pigs wallow, cows defecate, and helpless adults scavenge for scraps of food to eat and materials with which to patch together shelter. The place reeked of desperation. I often wondered, as I compared my abundant lifestyle to theirs, how and why I ended up in a place and situation so different from theirs. Why was I so fortunate to be blessed with a beautiful home, good health, and economic stability, in a country with freedom, education, and opportunity at my fingertips? Reflecting on these questions made me realize not only how much I have to offer, but also how much I am expected to offer..."

I don't know how much of an impact my short time in Kenya will have on the people there, but I agree with President Hinckley when he said, "I believe in the principle that I can make a difference in this world. It may be ever so small, but it will count for the greater good. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts."
Doctrine & Covenants 82:3 says, "...unto whom much is given, much is required." The Lord has poured countless blessings into my life, and I know He expects me to pass it on!
So, why do I do what I do? Because I have been given much.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Closure

I remember years ago, watching an episode of Oprah where some special psychologist came to talk about closure. "Closure" was a new term I'd never really heard before, but have heard about a million times since then. But really, what is this concept of closure? I understand that it is important for a person to be able to, in the words of John Mayer, "say what you need to say", but honestly, sometimes there are just some situations in which we won't get the kind of closure, the world tells us we need. We can't always fix our own problems. We may not always be able to go to the people we've hurt, or who have hurt us to make things right. There are just some things in life that simply aren't fair, that we can't change, that we can't fix, that we won't understand on our own. No amount of "closure" as the world prescribes it will ever be enough. The only real closure we'll ever get is the closure that comes from the atonement of Jesus Christ. Most of the time in life, Christ is the only one who can truly close the door on sorrow, pain, injustice, frustration, confusion, and fear and give us the peace we're seeking. In fact, I think that peace is a better word than closure.
I'm not an expert, but I do know that once we've allowed Christ to clear our minds and calm our hearts with peace, He will help us "say what we need to say" when we we need to say it...if we need to say it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Thorough Cleaning


I love the beauty and serenity of the temple. I love all that it represents, the meaning it gives to relationships, the eternal light it shines on death, and the hope that it brings to life.

I’ve had the blessing of living in various areas of the world amongst people of different religions, cultures, and customs. In the midst of all of the beautiful, unique differences of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity, a common ideal exists: each people seems drawn to the divine. Each is moved to worship something or someone greater than themselves, and in most cases each is inspired to build spiritual sanctuaries not only as places of religious communion, but also as symbols of their devotion.

For my friends who are reading this who are not Mormon (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), our temples are sacred places of worship for members of our faith all around the world. You might have seen one of these beautiful buildings in Salt Lake, Hong Kong, Hamilton, Boston, Houston, London or Chicago and wondered about it. We revere these temples as houses of God, even more sacred than our churches, and in them we make covenants with God and perform sacred ordinances, such as marriage, that will bind and connect us to those we love even after death. The blessings of the temple are glorious and are available to every person who lives the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed through his living prophets. The goal of each Latter-day Saint is to live a life worthy of entering the temple to receive the eternal blessings God has prepared for us there. Once we have received these blessings for ourselves, we return to the temple often to act in behalf of those who have passed on who did not have the opportunity to receive the ordinances and blessings of the temple during their own mortal lives. What a truly special place the temple is!

Every summer, the temple is closed for about two weeks for deep cleaning and maintenance. During that time, members of the church are invited to come and help with cleaning and various projects there.

Tuesday night we went to help clean the American Fork Temple just up the street from my house. It’s pretty awesome to be able to say I helped clean the Lord’s house. J

I noticed as we were cleaning the temple that nothing is ignored or forgotten. The most minor details are attended to, and even places like the boiler room that most people will never see are cleaned and maintained thoroughly and regularly! This made me think. It stands to reason that if our bodies are temples, just as Timothy says in the Bible, we ought to make sure that we are taking care of the details of our lives, even the aspects of our lives that no one but God and ourselves will ever see. Our thoughts, our motives, and our actions when we think no one is watching are parts of our character that need regular cleaning and maintenance. At the temple, even though the floors had already been swept, the carpets vacuumed, the walls dusted, and the door handles disinfected just a day earlier, there were again scuffs, crumbs, dust and fingerprints that needed to be cleaned again. We too may find scuffs, crumbs, dust, and fingerprints in our temples that need cleaning on a daily basis, and because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can feel that cleansing power in our lives as frequently as we choose to use it.

I love being in the temple. I love the Spirit, the peace, love, simplicity, and clarity I feel there. Even being close to the temple, looking at it from the outside, being on the grounds calms my Spirit and gives me peace and joy. I can feel the same way in my own temple if I keep it clean. And I want others to feel those feelings radiating from my temple when they’re close to me.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring

I love spring flowers--sometimes even just thinking about tulips and daffodils and pink tree blossoms makes me happy. I always loved walking down the stairs south of BYU campus in the springtime because bunches of red and yellow tulips and daffodils were starting to pop up in the beds on the hillside. And when the breeze would blow, a shower of pink and white petals would fall down lightly from the trees onto your head. I think the Lord was thinking about me when he said, "Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart..."(Doctrine and Covenants 59:18). Happy spring!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Second Wind

I like to run. I think it can be really therapeutic sometimes. And I like to run without headphones because it gives me a chance to clear my mind and think.
Just the other day as I was out pounding the pavement, I realized that running is a lot like life. What I mean is this: For the longest time, I never really knew what it felt like to get that second wind that everyone always talks about. I never knew, because I had never let myself run far enough to get or need one. I would run until I was tired, and then I would simply stop.
What I never realized was that sometimes, even though you're tired and out of breath, or think you've gone as far as you can go, or are ready to give up,
if you just keep running, the second wind really will come--and suddenly you're able to run further than you ever had before.
Sometimes in life, we never let ourselves "run far enough" in a relationship or in a job, or in the direction of our goals to let the second wind kick in. Sometimes we just stop when we hit a slope or start to get tired or think we can't go any further. Why not keep running? You'll never know how far that second wind can take you unless you try.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Skydiving

So, I guess I kinda left everyone hanging after my skydiving post. FYI I didn't end up going... but never say never!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

About Life

As miraculously strong and resilient as these amazing bodies of ours are, they can also be so vulnerable and fragile. The recent death of a friend's mother after a long and well-fought battle with cancer has made me think a lot about life. Her funeral Thursday was the first I've ever attended, and what a beautiful tribute to the courageous, positive, selfless, fun, full life she led! What touched me the most however, was that there seemed to be no question about her love of life, and about the deep love and care she had for the people around her. There was no question that she loved them, and no question that they knew it! Life, and the people in our lives are two of the most magnificent and generous gifts God has given us. So, the question is, what are we really doing with these gifts?
What are we doing with life? Are we truly living it, creating opportunities for ourselves to see and do all those things we always hoped we’d experience someday? Are we living our dreams, or are we always just dreaming?
Who are we helping? Are we trying to see others as God sees them? Are we really looking beyond ourselves and lifting those around us? G.K. Chesterton wrote: "How much larger your life would be if you could become smaller in it...You would begin to be interested in others. You would break out of this tiny...theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freeer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers."

Are we opening our hearts and letting those around us know how much we care about them? Are we letting others into our own lives? Are we allowing ourselves to love, even at the risk of being heart broken? Perhaps the ability to experience heartbreak is a blessing—a reminder of how fortunate we are to have a heart that is alive, open, and able to deeply love and care about others.

There are aspects of my life and of my relationships that I'm trying to improve each day--I think that's how it is for just about everyone. I realize that I don't always express it in my words and actions, but I hope my family, friends, and associates realize how much I love and care about them. I hope that God can see that I'm trying my best to fully live this amazing life He's given me. Life can be really, truly wonderul if we just make it that way. God wants us to be happy. He knows us. He knows our needs and our wants. He knows our potential, and He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be kind to each other. He wants our relationships to be good and strong. He wants us to love each other and serve each other. It really is because of Him that death has so much meaning, and life has so much purpose!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some people laugh through their noses...


My friend Nate made me cry at work a couple of weeks ago. Now before you start biting your thumb at him, let me explain.
It all started a few months ago when everyone at the office was gathered in our break room for our weekly company meeting. The room was packed, seating was limited, and wall space to lean against had been claimed. So, Nate, being the resourceful person he is, decided to use the edge of our 20 gallon trashcan as his seat (before I continue, you should know that I'm sharing this only with Nate's permission). Perhaps in a brief moment of lapsed judgment, perching his rear on the edge of a giant open trashcan seemed like a bright idea...but then, as you might have anticipated, the edge of the can buckled, and in went Nate to a pile of pizza boxes and apple cores. Fortunately he recovered gracefully without injury to much other than his pride, and without detracting too much attention from the speaker.
I've heard President Monson quote J.M. Barrie a couple of times when he said, "God gave us memories that we might have roses in December." How true this is. On a day when I was exhausted from lack of sleep, school work and other responsibilities, barely keeping my head above water, the simple humorous memory of Nate's trashcan mishap brought a much needed dose of pure gut busting cheer! The kind that brings tears to your eyes!
So the question is this: when was the last time you laughed? I mean REALLY laughed! I'm not talking about your average through-the-nose, closed-mouth, under-the-breath chuckle. I'm talking about that good, crazy, uncontrollable, stomach aching, breath sucking, tears are streaking down my cheeks, I can't finish my sentence laughter!
I highly recommend it if you haven't done it lately. In fact, here are a couple of things you can try if you need a little help getting your mirth on:
1. Think of one of your most embarrassing moments--as humiliating as it was then, its probably funny now... re-read your journal from Jr. High if you need a little inspiration.
2. Spend some time with little kids...and listen to all the profound things they say, watch them play soccer...
3. Play the laughing game-get together with your family or friends and lay on the ground with your head resting on someone else's stomach...and just start laughing. It's head-bobbing fun!
4. Go to the Mechanical Museum in San Francisco and sacrifice a quarter to listen to the giant wax laughing woman. Creepy? Yes. But it left me amused.
5. Watch Brian Regan, Napoleon, Nacho, Raising Arizona, Baby's Day Out, The Phone Call, or better yet, old home videos from the good ol' days.
Just laugh a little. After all, they do say "laughter is the best medicine"...unless of course you have dengue fever or something...
Thanks for the "roses" Nate!

Monday, August 18, 2008

To dive, or not to dive, that is is the question...

Skydiving. What kind of crazy person would willfully agree to participate in such a rediculously insane activity?!! Well...maybe me. The question is, do I have the nerve? I know that might sound strange coming from the girl who has no problem jumping off of bridges; but really, the idea of skydiving makes me a little nervous.
People say that bungy jumping is scarier than skydiving--this doesn't make sense to me. I guess it probably has something to do with what physics do to your stomach on the way down. It just seems to me that a skydiving catastrophe would yield far more serious consequences than a bungy jumping accident. I mean think about it for a second, if your bungy cord snaps, it will probably happen when you've stretched the cord to it's fullest length, which will have slown you down, and at which point you will also be closest to the ground...and even if that logic is faulty, there will probably be water at the bottom of the ravine below to cushion the fall ;).On the other hand, if you jump out of a plane, and your parachute doesn't open, you're pretty much out o'luck!
Yet, I'm still contemplating doing it Saturday anway...call me crazy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Worth a Fortune...Cookie


I cracked open a fortune cookie yesterday and found this message inside: "Look for happiness and you will find it." Seems pretty simple, but it was a nice reminder to always look on the bright side of life.
Oh, and by the way, my lucky numbers are 1,7,10,28,40, and 2.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

President Hinckley

“Things will work out. Keep trying. Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.”
--President Gordon B. Hinckley


Sunday night at about 7:oo pm, President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away. It's hard to put into words, exactly how I feel about his death.
I smile and feel so much genuine joy when I think of the happiness President Hinckley must have experienced as he was finally reunited with his wife again. I think we could all sense how much he truly loved and missed her during the years after her death. I hope to have a marriage like President and Sister Hinkley's some day.
I feel gratitude and awe when I think of the "unwearyingness" with which Pres. Hinckley served. He was a man with a truly selfless, kind, loving, pure, generous, accepting, Christ-like heart, as well as a hard-working, diligent, wise, unshakable character.
He valued both secular and spiritual knowledge, and his testimony of the beautiful, simple, fundament principles of the gospel was borne with unwavering conviction. My own heart has been deeply moved, and my own testimony fortified as I've listened to President Hinckley bear witness of the reality of a loving Heavenly Father, the divinity of His Son Jesus Christ, and of Joseph Smith's miraculous vision of these two glorious beings.
President Hinckley's testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon was stiring, and his invitation to the church to study from its pages was inspired. And just as he promised, my life has been blessed with an added measure of the Spirit as I've made time to feast upon the words of Christ.
Perhaps of all the contributions President Hinckley has made to the church and to the world during his time as a general authority and as President of the church, his work in building temples is among the most significant. I am especially grateful for President Hinckley's inspired plan for the construction of the Hong Kong temple. It is a unique and beautiful building, the presence of which is truly blessing the lives of members of the church throughout Southeast Asia. Just three weeks ago I had the pleasure of going back to the Hong Kong temple. On my way out, I met up with Brother Pun, a member of the church I had the opportunity to help teach and see baptized when I was serving as a missionary in the New Territories. He was on his way in! Because of the inspired work of President Hinckley in bringing a temple to the people of Southeast Asia, Brother Pun and his wife have been able to receive all of the blessings that come from service in the Lord's house.
I love President Hinckley and will miss him! I know he was a true prophet of God, led by the hand of the Lord in his direction of the church! Ialso know that President Hinckley's successor, President Monson, will be led by that same loving hand. God loves us. He won't leave us in the dark, and giving us living prophets to guide us is a manifestation of that love.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007



Merry Christmas family and friends! This will look familiar to some of you. It's a copy of the Christmas email I sent out a few days ago. Enjoy:

I hope the holiday season is finding you all healthy, happy and safe! And I hope you've all been enjoying the spirit of the season. There's just something so special about the feeling this time of year. I think our hearts tend to open up, and we recognize the needs of others around us more than we usually do at other times. I hope these feelings of generosity and love motivate us to take action and really give what we can to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

I've learned so many great lesson about kindness and generosity from the lovely family and village who have taken me in during my time in Thailand. I've been living with a little Thai family in their home out in a very rural village called Keng Sanam Nang. Although these people lack many of the comfortable conveniences most of us are blessed with every day, they are some of the most cheerful, loving, giving people on earth! They go out of their way to make sure you are happy and taken care of. Each day as I walked through the village on my way to the school where I taught, the people would come out to the street just to wave and say hello as I passed by, and often offered me some of the food they were preparing for their own families. They help eachother harvest their crops without expecting payment, and simply show their gratitude by helping or sharing the harvest in return.
My host "mom", Suwaluk has been raising her neice's daughter for eight years, has provided housing and paid for the education of three poor college students, and gives clothing and support to their struggling families.
Wednesday was my last day in the village. At school, each of the students, one by one, handed me flowers they'd picked, flower leighs they'd made, notes they'd written, and pictures they'd drawn. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness. And as I walked home through the village, stopping by shops and people's homes to say goodbye, many of the people ran inside to find something...anything, they could give me as a going-away gift.
What wonderful people! They've taught me so much, not only about Thai cooking, rice cutting, Buddhism, and culture, but also about enjoying life, and caring for others. I just arrived in Malaysia today and will be spending Christmas here with my friend Carla, who was also doing volunteer work in Thailand. I'll miss being home with everyone,but I'm excited to be in a fun new country. I hope everyone enjoys their celebrations and remembers the true meaning of Christmas. I think that regardless of our religious beliefs, the principles of love, charity, sacrifice, and selflessness that Jesus Christ taught can be beneficial for us all! I am so grateful for Christ's influence in my life. I know that he is my Savior and that he strengthens me beyond my own capacity every day of my life. It's because of him that not only Christmas, but also LIFE is so meaningful for me. I love you all and hope the best for you this Christmas...and every day!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the day before Christmas...


Christmas eve this year was truly a unique one for me.
To start out the day, Carla and I headed down to China town in Kuala Lumpur to look for some breakfast. As we wandered through the shop lined streets with chinese lanters hanging overhead, we stumbled upon an inscense filled Buddhist temple. As we kept walking, we came across an ornately decorated Hindu temple. The brightly clothed patrons with their wreaths of marigolds almost made me feel like I was back in India for a moment.
Later, a little further into the city, we stepped into a small mosque where dozens of men were lying down waiting for prayer to begin. The sound of busy car traffic on the street outside, the monorail above, and the mellow prayer call was quite an interesting combination.
We then made our way to the national museum and bird park. We ate lunch on the balcony of a great little restaurant overlooking the bird park and even had a few colorful flying visitors join us during our meal.
Late that afternoon we drove down to a lighthouse overlooking the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia. The trees surrounding the lighthouse were crawling with little silver monkeys...the friendly kind, not the mean ones who try to steal your stuff:) Apparently they really like green beans and peanuts, so we fed them as they climbed all over us with excitement. (Just a side note, little monkey hands are so human like! Almost like the hands of a little kid with slightly tough skin).
After feeding the monkeys, we fed ourselves too. We had a great seafood dinner of crab, prawns, fish, and veggies in an open air restaurant on stilts over the river.
We finished our meal just as the sun set then headed off to take a boat ride. But, this was no ordinary boat ride. The night sky was dark, the nearly full moon was dimmed slightly by surrounding clouds, and most incredibly, fireflies lit up the bushes on the sides of the river. It almost didn't seem real! There were sooo many fireflies twinkling in the bushes, it almost looked like the bushes were covered in flashing Christmas lights. Phenomenal!
There were monsoon rains on and off all day long, but luckily we had perfect timing and were either inside or in the car every time the rain was the hardest.
And to top it all off, when we finally returned home, I was able to sit alone quietly reading the New Testament accounts of Christ's birth!
What a memorable Christmas eve!