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"They've taught me about joy..." (#ShareYourStOOry)
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, November 07, 2017
She’s quiet and thoughtful, and will quickly tell you that she’d rather you go on a mission trip than to hear her talk about hers. For Gina Blough, life has been transformed by saying “yes” to short-term missions – a decision that began with a longing to travel to Africa.

“I didn’t know which country – I just knew there was something in me prompting me to go,” she says. It was 2012, and a year later, Gina heard a commercial on Orphan Outreach radio partner WCSG in Grand Rapids, Michigan, promoting a mission trip to Kenya.

“My sister had traveled to Russia with Orphan Outreach, so I knew it was a good organization. When I heard that the radio station was going to Kenya, I thought, ‘This is it. This will be awesome.’”

gina 2013

Gina met with the radio station for an interview, and was approved as part of the team. “That first trip to Kenya was a vision trip to visit potential ministry partners. We went to four different schools in Nairobi to work with the kids and teachers, and Mike Douris and Katherine Cheng of Orphan Outreach joined us.” She laughs as she adds, “I guess we were kind of like the guinea pigs – but it was totally cool.”

kenya welcome 2014

The following year, Gina signed up again for Kenya – this time with a team from across the United States providing medical and dental care to a school in Bungoma County, only five miles from the Ugandan border. “It was so different than the first trip,” she shares. “You’re in the same place for three or four days, really getting to know people. I learned a lot on the first trip and fell in love with the country, but it was the second trip where I fell in love with the kids.”

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Gina had traveled on a medical trip once before to Latin America with her church, but setting up clinic in mud and stick schoolrooms with no electricity or running water made for creative solutions that first year. Two afternoons found the team administering care under flashlights as storms raged outside. “I kept thinking about how accessible things are in our own country,” she reflects. “We are granted such privacy as well. We tried to provide that in the school by the way we set up the rooms. No one seemed to mind – they were so thankful. It was evident that few kids had received medical care before, so we had to be particularly gentle in even doing things like taking their vital signs. Showing them we could be trusted with their well-being was important. Some of the students understood English, but often we were using our own version of sign language to help calm fears.”

Gina and the team were not alone in providing medical care to the students. Doctors from Kenya joined the group to work on assessment and treatment plans for illnesses like malaria and typhoid.

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Orphan Outreach medical teams have returned again two times to Madeleine School, and Gina has been with them both times. She says the children are now comfortable with blood pressure cuffs and thermometers. Teachers are now actively involved in the clinic as well, providing translation for students and adults who speak Swahili only. And the summer of 2017 found the team in a new location – a building on the campus designed to provide medical care not only for the students, but also for their families.

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2017 also found Gina in a new place in Kenya – stepping away from medical procedures so she could spend more time with the students she had grown to love over the years. “I wanted to talk to the kids, play with them, help out with the bible stories and activities that were taking place as everyone waited their turn to be seen by the doctors. I’ve got two sponsor kids at Madeleine School, and stepping away from the clinic allowed me to spend time with them and get to know even more about their lives.”

Gina writes her two sponsor children regularly, and she’s also taken the time to write other students who don’t have sponsors. “I just want them to know I love them and Jesus loves them,” she shares. “On the last day of our time at the school, eleven kids brought letters to me. That was really sweet.

gina 2016

“Kids have so much love to give if we let them. Honestly, kids are kids no matter where you go. They want to be known, they want to be heard. And the kids in Kenya have so much joy about the smallest of things. Even an empty water bottle means the world to them, because they can use it for their families or transform it into a toy. They’ve taught me about joy – they’ve taught me that we don’t need much to be content.”

Gina now can’t wait until her next trip to Kenya. “I’m not sure what God is doing in my heart right now, but I’m wondering if maybe someday I’ll get to spend more time there. I’d love to serve the kids even more.”

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