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, 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, 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


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

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!

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 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. 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!

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'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' 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!

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


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.