Paul – 60,792 KES – Looking for funds
Thomas – 83,977 KES – Pending NHIF approval
Lillian – 261,970 KES – No plan
Weldon – 142,923 KES – Looking for funds
Jane – 1,400,982 KES – No hope in bill payment
Edward – 190,066 KES – NHIF issues
Geoffrey – 243,308 KES – Brother not responding to calls
Carol – 81,714 KES – Waiting for funds from home
Wesley – 314,586 KES – Fundraising on Thursday
Mercy – 141,359 KES – Looking for funds
Evans – 1,162,110 KES – Looking for funds
Brightone – 362,814 KES – Looking for funds
This is an excerpt from the list of Tenwek Hospital needy patient discharges from the week of November 7.
There are 20 discharges who cannot pay their hospital bill. The total of outstanding bills from last week amounts to $55,706 USD. Just last week.
Tenwek forgave over $3 million USD in needy patient hospital bills in 2021.
Each Wednesday morning at 8:30am, the credit control committee meets in the upstairs doctor’s cubicles to discuss the patient discharges. This committee is made up of social workers, accountants, security officers and in-charges across each department – gathering to discuss and strategize about the never-ending list of need.
“There is no plan.”
“The person who caused the accident switched off his phone.”
“He said there is no money.”
“We could not find the caretaker.”
“Because of the drought, they are not able to sell the cows.”
“The dad went to look for funds. He might be back today,” Jennifer, one of Tenwek’s two social workers, says. She looks at me. “Usually it will not be ‘today’.”
This is Rosaline. She suffers from epilepsy. Back in August, she had an episode, fell into an open fire and was badly burned. She waited two weeks before seeking treatment at Tenwek. Jennifer tells me that Rosaline did not have the funds for transport to the hospital.
This is Rosaline’s house. Yesterday I accompanied Jennifer on a home visit to assess Rosaline’s needs and determine her ability to pay her hospital bill.
We bump along on the packed red dirt road. A few wrong turns later, I wonder if Google Maps would work out here.
We arrive unannounced, because Rosaline doesn’t own a cell phone.
The home is tiny. I suddenly feel aware of how nice my clothes are, how clean my hair is, the sparkle of my grandmother’s gold hoop earrings that I’m wearing.
Rosaline uses her scarred and deformed hands to quickly scoop the piles of grimy clothes off the wooden sofa to make space for us to sit.
I brush animal feces off the flat cushion.
Curious neighbors peer into the small, dark home, wondering about the muzungu visitor.
Rosaline has one child, a nine-year-old son. She lives with her sister Mercy, who has three children. I heard no mention of a husband.
Mercy works in the fields, picking tea leaves. She can earn 7 KES per kilogram of tea leaves. 50 KES a day. 41 cents. A day.
Rosaline owes the hospital 164,000 KES, which is equivalent to $1,377 USD.
Jennifer is interpreting. “So she is saying that in a day, she can just make 50 shillings. And that 50 shillings… they need to buy food, for the whole family.” Jennifer pauses. “So it’s really tough.“
Flies swarm around the two wooden beds crammed on the opposite side of the room. The house is dank. One of the babies is crying. The entire scene feels dismal.
I ask Jennifer if I can pray. “They are just asking that you pray for Rosaline’s health. They believe that God can heal and they are saying that you pray and ask God to heal her epilepsy.“
“Do you feel prepared for this job?” I ask Jennifer as we head back to the hospital.
She laughs. “Somewhat.”
Jennifer is right. It is really tough. The storylines are overwhelming. I feel hopeless. It’s hard to know what to do.
In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6)
I cry out to God. I ask Him for help. His heart breaks for Rosaline in her suffering. So does mine.
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)
Rosaline is just one story. Tenwek served over 250,000 patients last year. Around the world, 689 million people live in extreme poverty – less than $1.90 a day (World Bank). The poor will not cease to be with us.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.(Proverbs 31:8-9)
I’m advocating for Rosaline. And for Mercy. And Paul. Thomas. Lillian. Weldon. Jane. And their children. Their neighbors. Schools. Churches. Communities. The never-ending list. Do not forget the people of Kenya.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34)
I ask myself: where is my treasure? where is my heart? The world tugs. I’m writing this letter from a comfortable hotel in Nairobi. I’m thinking about my family’s Christmas vacation. Most days, it feels like my treasure is stocked up here on earth.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18)
But the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is UPON US! And we are anointed to proclaim good news to the poor! and sight for the blind! release for the captives! freedom for the oppressed!
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice [for Paul]
and untie the cords of the yoke [for Thomas],
to set the oppressed [Lillian] free
and break every yoke [for Weldon]?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry [Jane]
and to provide the poor wanderer [Edward] with shelter—
when you see the naked [Carol], to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood [Evans]?
If you do away with the yoke of oppression [for Geoffrey],
with the pointing finger and malicious talk [against Brightone],
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry [Wesley]
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed [Mercy]..
This is the fast that God has chosen. This is the fast that God desires of us.
How will we respond?
Will we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry? provide the wanderer with shelter? clothe the naked? loose the chains of injustice? set the oppressed free?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday…
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,(Isaiah 58)
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
May our light rise in the darkness. Break forth like the dawn. May the glory of the Lord be our rear guard. May we be called Repairs of Broken Walls. Restorers of Streets with Dwellings.
Would you consider helping Tenwek Hospital pay for the cost of patients who cannot afford health care? Prayerfully consider even a monthly donation to the needy patient fund to help offset this financial strain for Tenwek. Together, we can support these patients. To make a gift, click here.
To learn more about making a gift toward Tenwek’s many ministries, click here.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. (Proverbs 19:17)
He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. (Job 5:15-16)