Grateful to Give

For years, Dr. Steve Davis, orthopedic surgeon at Ministry Door County Medical Center, and his wife Carol discussed travelling overseas to serve as medical missionaries. This past September, the time was finally right, and the couple spent 2 ½ weeks in Bomet, Kenya, where Steve worked at the city’s main hospital.

Steve is an orthopedist with more than 20 years experience and Carol is a registered nurse and author. The Davis’ strong religious faith motivated them to serve, and a few months ago they “felt the nudge” to make their dream come true. Departing Door County for Africa, they left expectations behind, knowing that they were entering unfamiliar territory.

Steve Davis put his orthopedic skills to work in Kenya, treating high-level trauma cases.

“I told my church congregation that I was leaving my comfort zone far behind me,” laughs Steve.

The journey to Kenya was arduous, more than 30 hours, and when Steve and Carol arrived in Nairobi they found themselves at an airport that had been partially burned out in a major fire months before. But after spending the night with other missionaries, they found rejuvenation in an hour-long hymn sing with other volunteers passing through the area.

The next day, the Davises traveled to Tenwek Hospital, where Steve was to serve at the 300-bed hospital that draws from a nearby population of 600,000 people. Contrasted with Ministry Door County’s draw of 60,000, the hospital’s size and scope is tremendous. Even as an experienced orthopedic surgeon, Steve did not realize that he would be consistently treating high-level trauma cases.

“In Kenya, many people travel on small motorcycles, called piki-pikis. Often people will ride three, four and five to a cycle. The vast majority of what we saw in the orthopedic ward were traffic accidents,” he explains. He also encountered difficult cases of family abuse, including a young boy who had been cut with a machete by his father. “It was overwhelming,” he says. “The injuries just kept coming.”

Davis credits his colleagues, other missionary doctors as well as Kenyan nationals for helping him work, day-by-day, through the challenging circumstances. “This was a group of extremely competent, committed physicians.”

He developed a special relationship with a young traumatologist from the U.S. named Brandon. “I had my own little trauma fellowship working with him,” he says. “His expertise with the types of injuries we saw was outstanding.”

Carol worked with a group of local women, teaching them how to sew reusable sanitary napkin.

Carol Davis works with a group of Kenyan teens, teaching them to sew their own feminine hygiene products.

“Before we left for Kenya, I learned that many young girls drop out of school at about the sixth grade,” explains Carol. The girls leave school due to a factor women in developed countries take for granted: feminine hygiene supplies. “These girls start menstruating, and they don’t have adequate supplies, so they just stop going to school.”

Carol worked with a local seamstress, who in turn taught some young women how to sew the supplies. She gave them to the head nurse in the obstetrics department who distributed them to women being discharged from the hospital. “I hope that this project will continue to be sustainable for them,” says Carol. “It’s hard to know what will happen, but we made the effort.”

Above all, it was Steve and Carol’s faith that gave them strength to serve. Steve recounts a memorable encounter with a patient, John, who had survived a piki-piki accident with both arms broken and massive chest trauma.

The Davises were able to work in some sightseeing during their missionary trip to Kenya.

“This man was in the ICU, and things were very touch and go. When we managed to get him out of the ICU, and were able to perform surgery on his arms, we were thrilled.”

One day, Steve and Brandon were making rounds, and encountered John, who was finally able to speak. He told them that he was one of the original pastors for a local congregation, and thanked them for healing him. “Then he said, ‘I would like to lead us all in prayer.’ That was something that had never happened to me before. It was a wonderful gift.”

Steve says that he and Carol are still processing their experience, and trying to make sense of it. But he knows how he feels about his time in Kenya.

“I am very humbled at the overwhelming need of this place, and also inspired by how gentle and kind the people are.” He thinks that he and Carol will serve again as missionaries, though he’s not sure where or when.

“What I do know is that in God’s economy, we were brought there, and we were changed. And for that we are grateful.”