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So Children Can Smile
By Sandie Torres

The Lord’s Prayer, sung in Swahili, played in Daniel’s mind as he and over a dozen other doctors crammed into the old, dented white van.

“Baba Yetu, Yetu Uliye...”

The women’s voices would echo in his memory.

This would be Daniel’s seventh trip from Nairobi to Kijabe and one of the seventy five medical missions he would participate in. The young man that was to assist the doctors on this two-week trip by cooking for them and cleaning their clothes was busy loading up the back of the van with the used and re-furbished supplies Daniel and his team had brought.

Finally, the van pulled away from the large house used for visiting medical teams. Even though the van had no air conditioning, Daniel pushed the window up so that the smog from the diesel engines that crowded the streets and thickened the morning air would not choke him.

Daniel closed his eyes and tried to recover from the 26 hour flight from the United States to Kenya.

“Baba Yetu, Yetu Uliye...”

The beautiful melody circled his head as the van climbed steadily up the mountainside. There was no way he was going to sleep now. As the Nairobi skyscrapers became distant, Daniel recalled trips to Guatemala, Colombia, and Mexico. These are places where prosperity and poverty cohabited in unspoken denial.

Kijabe was a long way from Paradise, California where Daniel was raised. His family was Christian but, it was Daniel who as a child of six or seven, directly spoke to the Lord and asked for Jesus to come into his life. Never did it cross Daniel’s mind that Jesus would have Daniel spread the Gospel through missionary trips, much less medical missionary trips. Daniel was not the most dedicated of students. His favorite classes were Wood and Auto Shop. He was a mechanic who owned a gas station in Colorado Springs. It had been here that Daniel’s family participated in a Presbyterian church which took Daniel, in lieu of military service, to do some volunteer work in Puerto Rico. As fate would have it, it was in Puerto Rico that Daniel met a missionary oral surgeon who mentored and eventually inspired Daniel to graduate from UCLA as a Dental Anesthesiologist.

Specks of sand collected on the edges of the van’s window as Daniel lazily peered out. He was thankful to get out of the city but even the rural areas were wall to wall with people. Folks selling used clothes, bicycle parts, and food. It was such a pretty country side. As the van climbed the hillside, the fauna turned greener and greener. It was summer coming into fall and the cooler climate kept the mosquitoes away. Kenya is a Christian country and in many ways is in better shape than other countries Daniel had visited. Most people here spoke three languages: English, Swahili and a tribal language. Americans were welcome.

There was only one instance when a father, after traveling a long distance to have a successful surgery performed on his child, return to his village with a comment to the surgeons: “you’re still bad people because you are not Muslims.”

“Baba Yetu, Yetu Uliye...”

Daniel remembered the rest of the lyrics “forgive us... as we do forgive those who did us wrong...” “Baba Yetu, Yetu Uliye...”

Love is, after all, the foundation of Christianity. “We teach love” Daniel said to himself as the van parked at the hospital complex whose cornerstone was laid by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. The team poured out, cramped from the three hour ride and began setting up the equipment. Daniel collected many of the medical equipment in this hospital (as in hospitals in South America and the Caribbean), and rebuilt in his basement. God had not wasted those years in Shop class. The refurbished machines functioned but, conditions were less than ideal. Daniel, however, was resourceful and versatile. And, there were too many children waiting for surgery.

The hospitals ward was a large open area. Here, mothers watched over their children while singing beautiful African praise songs. Their magical melodies filled the halls of the complex which shared space with one of most academically challenging schools in the country, arguably, in the world. The singing and clapping brought joy to the children and the doctors alike.

“Baba Yetu, Yetu Uliye...”

The song came to life. From the lips of the mothers with welcoming smiles and beaded neck jewelry, an 18 month old girl was brought to Daniel. Her cleft palate would have been a routine surgery if it was not for her low blood count. In order to keep her alive, Naomi’s mother would puree her food and feed her using a syringe and a tube. Due to Naomi’s low blood the routine surgery became a high-risk surgery. Daniel was concerned that Naomi would not make it through the night. But the next morning, there she was, her eyes shining brightly. She had even taken food. Daniel admitted to Naomi’s mother that he had not been sure if Naomi was going to make it. Naomi’s mother told Daniel with confidence, she knew in her heart throughout the whole operation that Naomi was going to be okay-because she knew God was present.

The faith that Naomi’s mother demonstrated that day is strongly etched in Daniel’s memory, even long after returning from his mission. Daniel knows that medical missions open people’s hearts to the Gospel. When people say, “Some of those places are dangerous, you need to be careful.” Daniel smiles and says “It is a privilege to serve the Lord.”

“Baba Yetu, Yetu Uliye...”

“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” – Matthew 11:5

Dr. Lee currently serves in Iaomai Medical Ministries, a Rock Church's international medical ministry.

For more information about the Medical Ministry, click here »