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Stretching the Limits of Our Compassion: Courageous Love in Kenyan Hospice Ministry

By Juli Boit

Brave Women Series - Juli's Story


For the past 18 years, I have lived in the same neighborhood in a village in Western Kenya. When I moved here as a single, 25-year-old nurse practitioner, I thought I was coming for a year, maybe two, to be a part of a team doing HIV work in the community. Who I was then versus who I am now is likely connected to the number of miles I’ve walked along the dirt path running through this village.


In 2004, I left my job as a nurse on an HIV unit in Los Angeles, California to come to Kenya. By then, HIV was mostly being treated as a chronic disease in the United States. In Kenya, the story was very different. One couldn’t even say the word out loud, let alone have access to testing or treatment.


No one should die alone.

This was one of the convictions that led me to leave my home and family to move here.


 

"No one should die alone. This was one of the convictions that led me to leave my home and family to move here."

 

What I found when I arrived was a team of humble and compassionate Kenyans that welcomed me to work with them. Together, we were united in mission and committed to providing quality holistic care. As a result, we have witnessed fear and stigma losing its power because of love.


 

"Together, we were united in mission and committed to providing quality holistic care. As a result, we have witnessed fear and stigma losing its power because of love."

 

Compassion and a willingness to try led us to begin something as small as a mustard seed that would grow over time into what has become a hospice ministry known as Living Room. This vision didn’t start out lofty. It began when our Kenyan team met and got to feed an HIV+ malnourished baby and then another, and another. It grew into a one-room care center where we tried to relieve the excruciating pain and suffering of a mother with breast cancer and to get the diabetes of a seventeen-year-old, who had already lost her vision, under control. It began by paying attention to the needs of our neighbors, one person at a time. It started with us asking an important question - What does it look like to love in this situation? And then trying to do that, over and over again.


 

"This vision didn’t start out lofty... It began by paying attention to the needs of our neighbors, one person at a time. It started with us asking an important question - What does it look like to love in this situation? And then trying to do that, over and over again."

 


The answers are often unclear and complex, requiring us to pay closer attention to God, our neighbors and our community in practical ways. The question also challenges us to be courageous in areas where we are afraid or indifferent; it offers opportunities to test and stretch the limits of our compassion.

 

"The question also challenges us to be courageous in areas where we are afraid or indifferent; it offers opportunities to test and stretch the limits of our compassion."

 

Step by step, year after year, as I’ve stayed and continued to walk these dirt roads, I’ve come to understand this place and its people better with time. I’ve learned to appreciate simplicity that should not be confused with ease. I’ve struggled to make sense of needless suffering from abject poverty and treatable diseases, but I have also celebrated life with my neighbors. I’ve sang and danced at weddings to celebrate love as my neighbors have also gathered with me to celebrate when it was my turn to be a bride. I have visited mamas in their homes to say “pongezi” (congratulations) after their baby was born, and they came to mine when I became a mother.


Many a morning, as I go outside to my neighborhood to hear the birds sing and to look for beauty, I am reminded to slow down, to listen longer, to hear Jesus’ words that so often come to me: If I take care of the birds, I will take care of you.


 

"As I go outside to my neighborhood to hear the birds sing and to look for beauty, I am reminded to slow down, to listen longer, to hear Jesus’ words that so often come to me: If I take care of the birds, I will take care of you."

 

Stubborn hope leaves room, in the midst of the brokenness, for curiosity and the possibility of what it might look like to love and be loved within a neighborhood… Yesterday, today, and, God-willing, in the years to come.


 

Brave Woman Manifesto


Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...


You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.



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About Juli


Juli Boit is an author, community builder, and nonprofit leader working at the intersection of faith, global health, and human dignity. For eighteen years, Juli has lived and worked in Africa, founding and serving as International Director of Living Room International, a community-led nonprofit providing hospice and palliative care services to adults and children in Western Kenya. A Family Nurse Practitioner, Juli has combined her dual passions of healthcare and social justice into a unique expression of love that is providing desperately needed services in an underserved community.


Connect with Juli on her website juliboit.com or on Instagram. You can also purchase a copy of Juli's inspiring book From Beyond the Skies and follow Living Room International on Instagram @livingroominternational as well.


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I am so encouraged by this. It gives me a new hope and motivation for my work and the school and neighborhood/community I teach and live in. Thanks Becky and Juli! - Sara Oyela

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