10 on the 10th, Here We Go Again!

We are so very excited to be returning to Kenya, hopefully at the end of next Summer. Our final decision was made around the same time Hurricane Fran raged through our community, so it took us a while to start talking about it with friends and family. Well, the cat’s out of the bag now and we couldn’t be happier to have this news to share! As we talk with folks about our plans, we are getting lots of great questions from those who love and support us. While I’d love nothing more than to sit and talk one-on-one with everyone who wants to know about our plans, it’s just not feasible. Instead, I thought I’d fire our blog  back up with the first post in over a year, and do my best to answer the most popular questions we are getting. So, for all (that’s at least four, our parents!) of you who’ve just been missing it desperately, here we go with a new round of our good ol’ fashioned 10 on the 10th!

The Great Rift Valley, where we will live again!

1. When are you going back? And how long will you be gone?

We hope to return to Kijabe next August (2019), in time for the kids to begin their school year on time. The two things that will dictate our timing will be the availability of housing in Kijabe (it’s looking good for us right now!) and raising the support we need to live while we are there. We don’t get paid by the hospital, so we have to prove to AIM (our sending agency) that we will be fully supported a month before we leave. If it doesn’t happen by July 2019, we will probably push our departure back to January 2020, but that’s not our hope! On how long we’ll be there…we’ve learned not to make too many hard and fast plans, but we see being in Kijabe for at least 2 years or until we feel led to move on to someplace else.

2. Are you going back to the same place?

YES! We loved our little village life in Kijabe. When we left, not thinking we’d get to return, our hearts broke. Seriously, broken. Like, cried all the way to the airport broken.  We knew it was the right thing to do at the time, but it sure wasn’t easy. We are elated to get to return to work/life/ministry at Kijabe Hospital!

3. Where was it you guys were again?

Kijabe, Kenya in East Africa. Kijabe is about one hour north of the capital, Nairobi. The hospital we worked with is AIC Kijabe Hospital. It’s been around for over 100 years and we think it may be the biggest mission hospital in the world, but we aren’t sure about that.

4. Were you planning on going back this soon? Didn’t Nate start a practice in Wilmington?

We were not planning on returning this soon (see no. 2 on being heartbroken). We returned July 2017 and remained active with AIM through the end of last year, with hopes that we would find another place to serve. We loved Kijabe, but through a lot of prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t deny we felt a strong pull to return to the States. With that 20/20 hindsight vision, we of course now see many reasons we have been here for this time…the biggest, of course, being the adoption of our precious daughter, Maggie Joy Genevieve! We started our Home Assignment visiting with supporters and talking with churches about the ministry of Kijabe Hospital and some of the other things we were able to do during our two years. We stayed in touch with AIM, but there just didn’t seem to be any other places that stood out to us. November came quickly and all of a sudden, we were matched with our daughter. Between Nate’s starting the practice, our kids adjusting to school, living on next to no sleep with a newborn and moving from one house to another our consideration for moving overseas moved to the back burner of our lives. As for Dockside Pediatrics, Nate has certainly poured heart and soul into building this practice. We still believe it’s the very best way to do medicine and have grown to love his partner, Marc and his family. But from the very start, Nate told his partner this was always an option for us, to move back overseas when we felt it was right. Again, none of us thought it would be quite this soon, but Marc is a fellow Believer and as such, is very supportive of our move. Nate hopes to remain a part of the business and plans to return to Wilmington to work at Dockside a couple times each year.

5. Will you be doing the same things as before?

Yes, and no. Sometime in August, we started to talk again about what our future in missions held. Would we do short term trips? Would we consider going back to Kenya, or anywhere else for that matter? To our mutual surprise, we found that we would both love to be back in Kenya. We had already planned to attend a fundraiser for KH in Charlotte that next week, so we knew we could see if they needed a pediatrician or not. As it turns out, they do not need a pediatrician. They are fully staffed. However, the pediatric oncology program is growing and, as a goal of the hospital in response to the great need in East Africa, is expected to grow even more over the next few years. The Kenyan doctor, Dr. Sarah, who is expanding the program is the very doctor I worked with when we were there. She asked if I would return to Kijabe to help her train nurses, work in the clinic and be her right-hand gal. I was pretty nervous about saying yes to this position, but it’s hard to deny that maybe God has prepared me for this work?! I’ve never been huge into academia, but I do love pediatric oncology, Kenyan kids, nursing education and Dr. Muma, so I’m gonna give it my best…and trust that God will equip me to do the rest. And, Nate…well, what they presented to us for Nate to do just so happens to be exactly the thing we wished he could do when we left. I remember trying my best to figure out a way for us to stay, for Nate to work less and be able to do some other things with AIM that bring him fulfillment. I remember him recounting to me, “Do we feel like the Holy Spirit is leading us back to the States? <ugh, yes> Then we can’t force it.” He was and is so wise…and now, just a little over a year later, God seems to be handing us just the jobs Nate has longed to do in Kijabe. He will be working part time helping to revamp the outpatient mother/child clinic, as well as working with AIM’s eastern region and the hospital to expand the reach of the ministry into harder to reach places, as well as training others to do so. Again, we are keeping our plans pretty fluid and are returning to do whatever it is that will change and grow over the next two to 50 years. 🙂 We feel so unworthy and so lucky/blessed to be able to return to Kijabe and do the things we both love!

6. What do your parents think? Didn’t Nate’s parents just move to Wilmington to live by you guys this year? What about Grandma Lori? (Maggie’s birth grandma)

Our parents are incredible. All four of them came to Kenya while we were there and fell in love with the place themselves. They saw how much we loved it, how well our kids adjusted to life there and were surprised when we returned home. Of course they would rather us stay here, with the grandkids right next to them for all of time and eternity, but they are supportive, and even excited. As for Mimi and Pops, they started thinking about moving to Wilmington while we were still in Kenya. They talked about living closer so that when we would return on our home assignments, we’d get to see them more than if they lived in Oklahoma. They love the area, were ready for a move and are happy as clams. And, just as predicted, they will be here when we return for future home assignments. Truth be told, the grandmothers are both pretty excited about getting to go on safari again. Ha! As for Grandma Lori, she may be scheming with some of our other Wilmington friends as to how to thwart our plans! She is appropriately sad, but also very supportive. We really are beyond blessed by the overwhelming support of the many parents in our lives.

7. Are the kids excited? Won’t they miss all the awesome things they get to do in America?

Our kids loved living in Kenya. They each have great friends they remember fondly. They love the dirt-covered, free-playing, rarely-in-the-car lifestyle that Kenya and life at RVA  (their school) affords. They get to do seriously cool things in Kenya too….like ride dirt bikes, walk to the local store for cokes, splash through mud during rainy season and spend loads of time with family and friends. Natalie is most excited about being reunited with her friends and getting to have freedom to run around and play whenever she likes. Sutton is most excited to have dinners most nights with other families at our house. Beckett is excited to live by “Gabe and Gabe”, and Chardonnay again. And Maggie Joy, though she doesn’t know it, is about to experience all the fun a toddler can have making mud pies, going to playgroup and helping with laundry and dishes.

8. What about Maggie Joy? Can she go with you? What will you do with her while you’re working?

Maggie Joy is officially a Cook, as of a few weeks ago. Where we go, she goes. Forever. While I work, she will be with Nate, friends who have baby girls almost exactly her age or with a part-time Kenyan nanny who will help us at home since I will be a working gal.

9. Will you get to live in your same house? Will you get your dog back?!

Our last day in Kenya, saying goodbye to our house and Chardonnay.

We won’t get our house or dog back. We willingly gave both of those over to a family who is also staying in Kijabe.  The leadership at Kijabe will place us in a house that best meets our family’s needs. Hopefully we’ll know which one soon. We will be able to visit Chardy and maybe even see if we can take her on walks for her new family! And there’s already talk of what type of dog we will get once we arrive. I’ll keep you posted as I know this is what many of you care about most! 🙂

10. What’s next?

Now we kinda start over. We are meeting with pastors, speaking at Churches and building our financial and prayer support team back up to what it was. Nate will keep working at Dockside (and other places) until we leave. I am doing my best to research, study and partner with nursing programs to prepare for the work ahead of me.

So that’s it. I think I included most of the details, but if you have any questions, feel free to email us at cooksinafrica@gmail.com. Thank you for following us this far. It’s humbling every time one of you tells me about something you read on the blog, references something from a newsletter or prays for a concern we’ve shared. We are grateful for each of you.