Ann Arbor connection draws three families to mission life in Africa
Currently the group is a few months into its two-year assignment at Tenwek Hospital, where John Cropsey, Jason Fader, Eric and Rachel McLaughin care for patients and extend their post-specialty training mentored by veteran doctors. Tenwek provides primary health care to 600,000 people in the area and serves as a referral center for a much larger region, including some traditional ethnic groups. The range of ailments is very broad, since many from the far-reaching areas delay medical care until they are in dire straits.
The doctors' families are housed in apartments, where Jessica Cropsey and Heather Fader care for their young children and manage the countless responsibilities of family life in a foreign country. According to Jessica Cropsey via email, the transition has been fairly easy to date. Eight other families with children of all ages are currently stationed at Tenwek. Most school-age children are home schooled, sharing classes to lighten the workload. Cropsey, a certified secondary teacher, helps with middle school math. The high school students attend a boarding school outside Nairobi, about three hours away.
Cropsey described the Sudan expedition as “the stuff dreams are made of." He wrote about performing surgery barefoot in the blazing heat, curing a blind grandfather who had never seen his grandchildren, receiving a grateful hug, song and dance from a tribal Spear Master and getting paid in livestock (a beautiful rooster). Not to mention avoiding the boys with AK-47 assault rifles who greeted his plane upon its arrival.
The McCropders certainly wouldn’t have been able to have such experiences had they not chosen to forego a comfortable lifestyle for the adventure of missionary work. The team credits three leaders at Knox Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor for mentoring them through the process: Pastor Bob Lynn, U-M Professor Steve Telian, and campus pastor James Paternoster (affectionately named the “LynnTelNosters”).
Lynn, the church’s pastor in charge of missions, helped coordinate congregational support and will visit the group in Kenya in June. Telian, professor of otolaryngology at the U-M, mentored some of the team members as they navigated medical school and life choices. Paternoster, who grew up as a missionary child like Cropsey and Fader, helped guide their vision of combining multiple skills and talents to make an impact on the developing world.
Knox Presbyterian has continued to provide spiritual and financial support. Describing the commissioning service the church held in September, McLaughlin reflects on their Web site, “One of the things that has been so important to us as a group of families is the idea that we are all coming from one church, sent out from an existing community, and we hope to continue to partner with that community. The church has already contributed a large portion of financial support, and more importantly, prayer and encouragement.”
After the two-year stint in Tenwek is complete, the McCropders are exploring opportunities to continue their work as a team. They aren’t sure where it will lead them, but they know they want to work as a community of families long-term in Africa. They’re thinking big, considering the possibilities of educating African doctors or even starting a new hospital someday, and they want to partner with people of different disciplines - churches, universities, and other organizations - who have a common vision to affect change.
As Pastor Bob Lynn told this reporter, "The three couples already came to Knox with a passion to serve the last, least, and lost where the world is most broken. It has been our joy to support, encourage and pray for them as they work out the most strategic way to use their gifts and talents."
For more information on the McLaughlins, Cropseys, and Faders, visit http://mccropders.blogspot.com or http://doctorsmclaughlin.blogspot.com.
Is your faith community doing something interesting to serve others, either locally or around the world? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story. Pam Stout coordinates Faith and Home & Garden coverage for AnnArbor.com.