Monday, September 26, 2011

The OT Journey: Parting of the Waters

As some of you may remember, we learned of James' need for an OT (Occupational Therapist) about 2 weeks before leaving the US. That was simply not enough time to get in to see one. We returned to Africa in faith that we would find the Sensory Assessment we needed somehow somewhere. We tried working with two different OT's by Email long-distance in July. Neither one could help us.

We planned extra time in Kampala, Uganda last month to search one out. We went to town armed with 4 possible contacts. One by one they fell through: out of town, not an OT but a PT, on vacation, etc. I had one last lead in Nairobi an hour's flight away, but really hesitated to spend a lot of money chasing a lead that might fall through like the others. If Nairobi fell through, South Africa or Europe were our next options.

Now begins the long list of the ways God provided for James and I on this trip, miracle upon miracle to the point that I felt like Moses must have felt standing in the Red Sea watching walls of water stand up straight in the sky:

--This popular Belgian OT had exactly the experience, training and recommendations we needed, but was 'hard to get in to see'... She answered the phone the first time, took time to talk with me, Emailed me right away some forms to fill out (even though she was traveling to another country the next day), introduced me to her 'Autism Team' who arranged all our appointments for us, set up an appointment with her one week away, and her associates even did some shopping for snacks that were on James' diet! (Thank you Karolien and Trixie!!) Like I said, walls of water.

--With the encouragement I had from the Emails, my conscience said to go ahead and plan this trip to Kenya. We would need a place to stay, and had heard of a new guesthouse on our office compound. I wrote and it was booked already for the two nights we needed. The same day I got a second Email saying that the previous guests were actually leaving the day we would arrive and someone else was coming in the day we would leave. It was available to us for the two nights we needed. Exactly. I couldn't have even planned that. Walls of water.

--I knew we should book it, Kent gave me the green light, but the cost was prohibitive to buy two plane tickets at the last minute. We usually fly this back and forth to Congo. And now we were flying in this! (You would have to chuckle with me at James in the window seat eating his mixed nuts like a king!) We asked our team to pray for provision of costs. Immediately someone wrote who felt led to cover the entire cost. Walls. of. water.

--So off James and I went up to 35,000 feet. Kent always handles the money side of life. My plan was to arrive and get Kenyan shillings from an ATM. I forgot contingency cash and it wasn't until we started the descent that I realized I had no way to pay for our visas to get into the country. They have to be paid in Euros or Dollars. I had neither. Yes, God can provide for my stupidity. James and I prayed right then and there that God would make a way. Upon arrival I noted the airport has changed a lot in the past 3 years. There were ATM machines everywhere! I got one to work for me right in the concourse and walked up to the nicest immigration official I have ever met. She let me pay in shillings! AND charged me $20 instead of $50 because we would only be there 48 hours. Dry path through the reef.

--The night before our flight, we got out passports and realized that mine only had one page left. Doh! The tourist and transit visas take up one page each! It was the weekend, and no embassy was open anywhere. We looked up the consular officer online and called the emergency number. She was very kind and said if I could get into Kenya Monday morning, they could install new pages in 15 minutes while we waited Monday afternoon! It is a little nerve-wracking to know you can almost get into a country, but won't be able to get out until something is fixed. The one page I had left, did have a small corner date stamp, so I would have to beg that they work around it and not cover it up... The exit guy from Uganda snuck in his stamp on a busy page just because he was nice. He didn't have to! And the entry into Kenya lady was a saint who stuck her sticker right on the edge and had to wrap on edge over the other side. Why do I worry?? Our office team in Nairobi were waiting for us to arrive, praying all would work out for the extra passport pages. They are awesome! We love you RBS! As we drove off in one direction to our first of three appointments, they drove off in the other direction with my passport to get the extra pages added. Marvel with me.

--So now that we were in the right country, with a taxi to our guesthouse, we needed to figure out food. It is pretty easy to stay on James' diet here in Congo where everything has to be made from scratch everyday anyway. But driving by Java House and Pizza Inn at lunchtime was pretty tough! I had written ahead asking my colleagues to buy a few staples for us so we could prepare our own foods. Not only did Karen buy my whole list, she scrubbed and soaked all the fruits and veggies for me ahead of time and had them in ziploc bags! James and I thoroughly enjoyed lots of apples, grapes, chicken and broccoli (things we can't get here)! Water standing up.

--Nairobi has a shortage of roads. Or an excess of cars. Either way, there is smog and bad traffic. Everywhere. All day long. The taximan we used is a good friend of a friend. He somehow skirted most all traffic jams. Where I planned 60 minutes to get across downtown, he would make it in 30. Where I planned 30 to get a few miles away, he would make it 15. We ended up slightly early to every appointment. And every appointment was a bit like drinking from a firehose, but exactly where we needed to be and learning things that we can do here at home. I brought James his DVD player with Lassie season 1 and he never used it. (Though we did borrow 2 Hardy Boys books and the Secrets of Nimh and he read all of those in his 48 hrs...)

--James scored below 2% for processing and reacting to the sense of touch. We suspected as much. This was confirmation. What was wonderful news is that he doesn't have other sensory troubles. YAY! He had so much fun at the OT studio, he didn't want to leave - even to go on an airplane. We came back with pages of advice and ideas for therapy at home, and better than that, the therapists are happy to help over Email until we see them again next year! Can you see that water standing up?

Oh me of little faith.

It was truly marvelous to watch God move every obstacle right out of our way. And much of that was possible through a multi-cultural, multi-national, amazing team of colleagues! I am grateful to work alongside them.

Hugest thanks to all those who gave and prayed us through the water. Also to Karen, Olivia, Judith, Emily, Serge, Joseph, Trixie, Liz, Karolien, Josh, Audra, Gabe, Raeleigh, Rod, Emergency Consular Officer lady, Embassy people, and RBS!

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