We were in the middle of Kibera Slum when Pastor Fred got the call.

After crossing a small bridge down the hill from Tumaini Church, Fred picked up his ringing phone and answered it.  He walked ahead a bit, listening intently to the voice on the phone.

When he ended the call, I caught up to him.  “My wife was having a small surgery today and there have been some complications,” he told me. “I am going to join her at the hospital.”

His voice remained calm, so I wasn’t worried.  I assumed by his tone that it wasn’t anything serious.

Pastor Fred, speaking with some members of his congregation in Kibera Slum.

That’s why the text message I received from Fred an hour later came as such a shock.  I had written Fred to check if everything was all right.  His response stunned me:

Goretty has regained consciousness, but the doctor says she needs an urgent CT scan. Pray.

Getting the Word Out

The text hit me like a slap in the face.

After an incredible summer living with them back in 2009, Fred and Goretty have become some of my dearest friends.  In many ways, they feel like family.  So you can imagine my horror at learning that Goretty was in such a serious condition.

As soon as I could find a computer, I sent out a quick email to the World Next Door Prayer team and left a short update on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  Within minutes, I was already receiving responses.

“Praying.”

Kenyatta Hospital, a massive structure visible for miles.

“We will pray!!!”

“Praying now.”

Confident that the word was out, I walked over to Kenyatta Hospital to find Fred and Goretty.

Kenyatta

Kenyatta is Kenya’s national hospital.  Not as upscale as Nairobi Hospital or as technologically advanced as Aga Khan, Kenyatta is where the majority of people here go who cannot afford expensive medical care.

The building is an imposing square structure that looks more like a fortress or bunker than a hospital.  As I walked through the gate, I could see why such a huge building was necessary.  There were people everywhere.

Inside, I walked through the crowds and wandered around a bit lost, finally finding Fred after 10 minutes and several phone calls.  He took me into the “casualty” area of the hospital (essentially the ER), where Goretty lay on a gurney in the middle of the hall.

Filled In

As we waited for the CT scan, Fred filled me in on the details of just what was going on.

Goretty was in the hospital for a biopsy.  There is a small growth on her kidney that had caused some complications in the birth of her one-year old son, Fortune.  After a year, she was finally getting the growth checked to see if it was malignant or benign.

Apparently, during the biopsy the doctor became concerned about a “problem” in her brain and ordered an immediate CT scan.  And that was all that Fred knew.  The doctor, too busy to bother explaining what was going on, had simply moved on.

There are people everywhere in Kenyatta.

And that’s when I joined them.  Fred a bit freaked out about this mysterious “brain disease,” Goretty still groggy from the surgery and me, trying to figure out just what needed to be done…

A Look Around

As we waited, I took a look at our surroundings.  The greenish, flickering fluorescent lights gave the hallway an eerie feel. William, Goretty’s brother, held a bag of IV fluid over her.  Apparently, only a handful of gurneys at Kenyatta can hold IV bags.

Honestly, I was a bit shocked to see Goretty laying in the middle of it all, seemingly forgotten by the hospital staff.  We waited and waited, but doctors simply walked by.

I looked around, wondering if I could do something to speed things up. My American sense of entitlement and immediacy had me almost shaking with frustration.  That’s when I started noticing everyone else.

Filling the dark hallway was a long line of gurneys holding one desperately sick patient after another, each one surrounded by a small band of concerned friends and relatives.  Some of the patients were lying on their sides and moaning.  Others were trying to sleep.  As I looked, one woman threw up into a bag.

Every one of them was in line for an “urgent” procedure.  When all was said and done, the only thing they – and we – could do, was wait.

Finally

Goretty lying on her gurney in the hall (there are no photos allowed inside the hospital, so I snapped this one secretly with my phone).

After more than four hours (four HOURS!), Goretty had her CT scan, which returned normal results.  There was nothing wrong with her brain.  She was admitted to the hospital for the night to recover from the surgery, and returned to her home in Kibera shortly thereafter.

Then came the long wait for the biopsy results.  Fred had to take the tissue sample himself to a hospital on the other side of town, wait for five business days, then return to pick up the results.  Finally, he had to take the analysis back to Kenyatta to have it interpreted by a doctor.

Nearly two weeks after the surgery, we finally received the news that we had been waiting for.  The growth was benign.  Goretty is going to be ok.

A Breathtaking View

For obvious reasons, the whole experience was an emotional one for me.  At the hospital, seeing people I love in such physical and emotional distress, it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.

Watching as soft-spoken Fred politely asked doctors how much longer it would be, I was infuriated by their indifference.

Seeing the conditions faced by patients in Kenyatta, I was wrecked by the injustice of it all.

But amidst the injustice and the waiting and the pain, there was one moment that truly overwhelmed me.  The moment came while I was standing at the side of Goretty’s gurney.  I remembered the request for prayer I had left on Facebook and Twitter a few hours before.

Fred and Goretty’s two boys, Fadhili and Fortune.

I realized that, at that exact moment, there were believers all over the world praying for Goretty.  Indianapolis, Port-au-Prince, Baltimore, Zhytomyr… Brothers and sisters in Christ, lifting up one of their own.

In that moment I left the tight confines of that hospital hallway and looked around me at a breathtaking and unprecedented view: the global Church awakening in ways that we could have never imagined just a few decades ago.

It was a powerful, moving experience and one that I won’t soon forget.

Surrounded by poverty and sickness and despair, I had a smile on my face – a smile not caused by callousness or indifference.…

It was a smile caused by hope.

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Next Steps
    • Are you connected to any international faith communities like Tumaini Church? If not, consider praying regularly for some of the friends we’ve written about for World Next Door.
    • Read the book Mountains Beyond Mountains to get a glimpse into the difficult world of healthcare in impoverished nations.
    • Pray for Fred, Goretty and their two boys Fadhili and Fortune. Pray that their family would continue to experience blessings as they faithfully serve God in such a difficult place.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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Comments

  1. Fred Faradays. said... 

    Reply

    July 17th, 2011 at 1:03 pm  

    IMMACULATE. Thanks for being there for us. We cherish ur true friendship Barry. You are us.

  2. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker said... 

    Reply

    July 17th, 2011 at 2:14 pm  

    As Americans, we do not realize how blessed and easy our lives are until we experience something like what you did with your friends. Glad that she is doing well. Thank you for sharing this on Twitter which is where I found it.

  3. LeAnne Hardy said... 

    Reply

    July 17th, 2011 at 6:22 pm  

    It has been a busy week, and I am just now catching up on blogs. Every one is deeply moving and insightful. I keep thinking I should comment, but you leave me speechless. May God bless each one of you and use you powerfully, both in Kenya and on the Internet.

  4. Pam said... 

    Reply

    July 17th, 2011 at 6:50 pm  

    Thanking God that the growth was benign! May God continue to bless and keep you, Barry, and the Faradays as His glory shines through all of you and His kingdom is increased by your witness.

  5. Dave Rod said... 

    Reply

    July 18th, 2011 at 3:20 pm  

    Please convey to Pastor Fred, Goretty and the boys our love and care. Yes, many around the world have prayed for them and will continue to do so! I feel the lesser for having not met them myself! Perhaps one day.

  6. Mary Glass said... 

    Reply

    July 19th, 2011 at 4:12 pm  

    Brought tears to my eyes and a renewed strength to my soul! It is so easy to forget that magnificent sight…the beauty of the Body! Thank you, Barry for the reminder! God has given you the gift of speech and exhortation! I will continue to pray for you and this ministry!

  7. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    July 20th, 2011 at 8:03 pm  

    Barry,

    Even here and now in our own back yard people await test results with the same anxious anticipation. Demanding the “now” answer as if the anger in their cry will hasten the answer, or somehow change the outcome. We can never know the answer fast enough, and with enough precision. Entitled…that’s the word.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you view it, the pace is so much quicker here, the results are so quick in coming…we simple forget about God in the process, asking Him is “not needed” when you have so much technology at your fingertips. When results are not immediate someone should carry the burden of blame.

    Waiting is sometimes an unrecognized blessing.

    Being forced to get on our knees and turn it over to the One who cares most about us is long forgotten and replaced with “I am the center of this”.

    What a poignant story…, you my friend have been given another gift along your journey.

    Being surrounded in Love and Prayer from around the globe was beautiful, leaning on the one true God and being patient was more than that.

    Praise God that Goretty is OK.

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