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Transforming Smiles: Cleft Trip to Kenya

I got home last week from one of the best short term mission trips I've been on. This one was unique for me, because it was with a medical team performing cleft lip and pallet surgeries. I think what made a difference was that I didn't have a to-do list of things I needed to accomplish for a "successful mission trip abroad". Usually I feel like I need to report back home when people ask about my trip. But this time, I was easier on myself because I knew that I wouldn't be performing surgeries or anything serious, so I was more relaxed. I also had no idea what to expect going into it. The result was that I had more time to watch and experience blessings without feeling the need to create a blessing.

Surprisingly, after the first couple days of prep work, I spent most of my time in one of the operating rooms. I was originally sent back to take photos of the surgeons at work. Being the introvert that I am, I gravitated toward the one doctor that I knew from home. I stood over in the corner, quietly taking pictures, when a man from our group came up behind me and told me that the doctors down in room D were pretty fun. Nodding politely, I told him that I would go take pictures of everyone. He insisted that I should come hang out in room D, that they would tell me all about the procedures and let me get a close look.... no offense, but nothing about that description sounded like something I wanted to do. But I smiled and assured him that I would come down there soon, secretly dreading room D and all it's "fun".

After taking pictures in every other room, I finally meandered down to Room D. Spoiler alert, I didn't leave room D for the rest of the week! Needless to say, Grady was right, that was the happening place. Not only were they jamming to Hillsong, had the most enthusiastic spirit I'd ever witnessed in surgeons but they also got me involved in the procedures. I was happily taking pictures from a distance (which was difficult because the room was so small), when one of the surgeons waved me over for a closer look. It was true, I couldn't see anything from a distance but I was happy that way. Although when called out, I had to get closer. Trying to not look at the blood or them cutting into skin... (yikes, queasy), I listened and nodded as they explained how they fix a cleft lip, inwardly cringing a little. Oddly enough, just watching them for the rest of the day cured me of the queasiness. The next day I was back, and after praying over each procedure and loving on the babies after surgery, everything changed for me. Getting the chance to witness two godly men (and one infectiously joyous CRNA) change one child's life after another, was breathtaking. It was one of those blessings that I couldn't have even asked for, because I didn't know how incredible it would be to witness.

One of my friends from home was shocked when I told her how the trip was going. She asked, "How can you even stand to watch a surgery?!" The question made me realize that I was a designer geeking out about watching procedures and seeing how they would handle unique cases. It was quite the transformation in a few days that I can only say God worked out. My medical experience includes listening to my family discuss gross things from work over the dinner table. I haven't observed anything in the past, worked in a clinic or even worn scrubs. It was all a beautiful combination of firsts that I'm so grateful God sent my way.

And I guess that's the biggest encouragement I can give you to follow the Lord whole-heartedly. This entire trip was spontaneous and unexpected for me. I had just gotten back from Tanzania, when a PA at my church asked me flippantly if I wanted to join him in Kenya. I literally took a week

to think about it and signed up! There was no real consideration, creating expectations, or wondering what I would be doing on a medical trip. I just prayed about it and felt like it was where God wanted me to go, so I agreed to go.

I have been on many trips, but I'll be honest, I wasn't really comfortable on this one. I only knew one person and I didn't travel there with him, so I was constantly meeting new people (which is not my favorite activity). I stayed in a hospital for a week, where there are no art supplies, or outdoors to explore. Yet, I have never felt like I was supposed to be in one place more than I did that week. I woke up every morning smiling because it was an absolute joy to be on my favorite continent with that specific team of people.

All I can say is that when God directs you somewhere, jump up and run that way. When He asks you to lean in and take a closer look, open your eyes and look intently. I'd hate for you to miss the beauty in firsts, overcoming queasiness, meeting new friends, and witnessing sunrises on new horizons.

praying you'll embrace newness with enthusiasm,



After a week at the clinic we went on Safari for three days, which was hands down the most amazing vacation I have been on! Stay tuned for another post with pictures, highlights, and pro tips!

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