Bush Clinic and the Maasai

When Mel and I received the opportunity to “getaway” from the daily routine of work, home, eat, sleep, etc., we excitedly worked around our schedules in order to venture out to Maasai Mara and help out at the Maasai Dental Clinic (MDC). Mel knew about this clinic from his colleagues while he was at LLUSD who volunteered some years back.

Brief history about MDC:
It was founded by Dr. Ray Damazo and his wife Gail Damazo. The clinic became operational on December 20, 2008. For 3 years (2010-2013), the National Association of Seventh-day Adventist Dentists (NASDAD) operated this clinic until Dr. Jim Libby and his wife Pam Libby took over the leadership role from 2015. A teaching center was built which offered school programs, English classes, Momma and Baby clinics for the Maasai people. The clinic is currently funded by the World Health Dental Organization (WHDO), a nonprofit organization based in U.S.

After getting approval from my charge nurse for a 2 week leave, I was ecstatic! The thought of being back at the Mara and especially during this time of the Great Migration or high season gave me all the more reason to start packing after my last shift at work.

Despite the pandemic, it was great to be on the road again. Fun fact: There are now paved roads leading up to the main entrance (Sekanani gate) of Maasai Mara National Reserve! No more headaches or feeling nauseous from the bumpy dirt rough roads.

The sun had already set by the time we arrived at the clinic on Friday, August 21st. William, the manager of MDC, showed us to our room and how to operate the stove oven and answered other questions we had. We had a quick fix dinner of beans, eggs, and toast before heading to bed.

On Sunday, we woke up at 7am and went on a game drive. William drove us around the Maasai Mara National Park and our private game drive was amazing! In less than 3 hours, Mel and I saw most of the Big 5 except for the leopard and rhino. This was probably the best game drive we’ve been on so far. Kudos to William for an awesome experience!

We started our Monday morning with prayer with the MDC team thanking God that we’re able to reopen the clinic again. Due to the pandemic, international flights were not allowed to fly in since March so those that had scheduled to volunteer from overseas couldn’t come. As a result, this clinic has been without a dentist since mid-March. Mel saw only 8 patients the first day. William said more will come, as word gets out. Here in Maasai, everything is by word of mouth. It was interesting to see some people pointing at their teeth as a sign they wanted their teeth checked as we drove to the Maasai open market, which only happens on Mondays. However it rained and our time there was cut short. We just bought what fruits and vegetables we needed for the week and left.

Tuesday was a busy day! Mel treated 18 patients. I even took care of 2 patients! One was a boy who fell down while he was playing and a man who was involved in a MVA. This boy had a wound that needed incision and drainage (I&D). He was truly a Maasai who showed no fear and even did the incision using the surgical blade himself! He wouldn’t let me or his mom do it. I cleaned it up and placed a dressing. Told him he was very brave and advised him to return for another dressing but he never did. 😦

Next couple days were filled with watching Mel do extractions, place fillings, and the occasional prophy/full mouth scaling. I’d watch and then once each procedure was finished, I’d don my PPE and take the tray to the sterilization room to clean instruments and place them in this soaking solution.

We never got tired of watching monkeys, bushbuck deer grazing, and baboons outside the electric fence. One day, Mel was brave enough to try and get a closeup video of one of the baboons in the trash fire pit eating scraps of veggies and food. However, he almost got attacked by the male baboon as it chased him away. So scary!!! Later, we realized we could just fly the drone over the baboon from a safe distance. It didn’t seem to mind.

The best part of staying at the clinic was the food! Dennis and William cooked us lunch and dinner as Siana Springs tented camp did not have much guests due to the pandemic. Sometimes we would get special treatment and a chef from the Siana Springs tented camp would come and cook for us! One of the chefs even showed us how they made their soft bread buns from scratch. It’s like the African version of Filipino Pandesal! We were so spoiled and there was always too much food.

We spent our Sabbath and weekend enjoying God’s creation. Just being immersed to the sounds of birds chirping and the animals adding to the symphony brought a sense of calmness despite the horrible news happening all over the world.

Oh and we finally saw a leopard! We can now say we’ve seen the Big 5 during our time here in Kenya. It was a rare sight to see a leopard trying to take a nap while all the safari jeeps circled around it. We even saw a momma cheetah and 2 cubs. God truly made that weekend extra special.

Back to the grind… it was another busy Tuesday! It started as a good day… (read Mel’s post below)

Late that afternoon there were only a few patients left waiting to be seen. I was seated on the chair next to the Stereo/CD machine, switching up the music. Suddenly I heard Mel yell, “Does anyone have orange juice or something sweet??? Maureen grab the chocolate upstairs!” Confused as to why Mel demanded these things, I looked at his patient and saw she had fainted. I quickly ran upstairs to grab the chocolate spread/Nutella and gave it to Mel. Then Mel quickly smeared chocolate inside her mouth. We took her outside and safely placed her side-lying position. The staff and Mel prayed with the remaining patients who were waiting outside and after about 40minutes, she thankfully regained consciousness. William gave her some milk which we mixed with some bananas and chocolate for her to drink. After she was better, William took her and her relative to the clinic nearby for further follow-up treatment. From this experience, I learned that situations like this can happen not only in a hospital setting but anywhere and at any time. Who knew someone can become hypoglycemic/dehydrated and pass out on a dental chair! But God is good! William reported that she’s “100% ok”.

Out of the forty-two tribes in Kenya, the Maasai tribe is very different yet one where their ceremonies, traditions and values should be preserved and appreciated for years to come. It’s interesting that most of them try their best to show no emotion especially if great work has been done to them. One of my favorite moments was this young man in his teens who Mel did some composite masking to hide his fluorosis stains on his anterior teeth. When he finally looked at the mirror he couldn’t stop smiling!

Despite Covid-19 shutting down the #maasaidentalclinic earlier this year, it was a huge blessing to help safely re-open the clinic and provide free emergency dental treatment and education to the 112 Maasai patients we saw in 2 weeks. We saw some odd things like thorns being used as pulpectomy/root canal/post material to keep primary teeth in place longer than usual and also some pleasant and joyful experiences seeing Maasai kids smile after initially being scared to do so. Rare moments like these is what we feel gives life meaning or purpose. Huge thank you to Dr. Doyle Nick, Carla Caldwell, Dr. John Barett, Dr. Dave Rempel and the #worldhealthdentalorganization for giving us this opportunity. Our experience here has forever changed our outlook in serving our fellow man, no matter our differences. We made such great friends here and this was a great opportunity that unfortunately was only made possible due to COVID-19. We wanted to stay longer and can’t wait to be back again.

Although it’s been challenging getting volunteer dentists to come due to the pandemic, we hope this post and highlight video below encourages those that are reading to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever you are in our broken world, until He comes again. Please continue to pray for the efforts of the MDC staff and World Health Dental Organization to get more volunteer dentists to come help provide free treatment to those that desperately need it.


“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” ~Matthew 9:38

Prayers for Kenya

So where to begin… Life for me since late March has pretty much been indoors; mainly catching up on some Continuing Education (CE) courses, FaceTime sessions with family, Netflix, car repairs and the occasional grocery shopping every 2-3 weeks or so. Maureen however hasn’t stopped working as a nurse at our hospital since the pandemic started.

Our apartment complex closed the common workout areas & swimming pool since the police notified them to see if people were observing social distancing. Government initially had a 7pm-5am curfew implemented which has now been changed to 9pm-4am despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases.

After about 2 months, our dental clinic decided to open on May 4th with two teams of 2 doctors/dentists and 2 assistants rotating every two weeks due to fears of cross-contamination, lack of patients and initial restrictions from the Ministry of Health on the use of aerosol generating equipment such as dental handpieces and ultrasonic scalers. PPE’s were hard to come by and boxes ordered came at $35 each which is way more than a $15 consultation or $30 extraction. Initially we tried to charge patients for these but realized most people just couldn’t afford paying for them on top of the treatment.

I guess you can say we are fortunate, but others definitely aren’t. While I stayed home, I got 3 calls from my barber pleading for me to come in so he can work and earn a bit for his family. Unfortunately, we had just bought a hair clipper from the supermarket so Maureen has been happily experimenting cutting most of my hair since March. Despite the government’s efforts, Kenya’s COVID-19 cases keep on climbing. As of Saturday, June 20th, 2020 Kenya has 4,478 cases with 121 fatalities. Most people have learned to just live with corona with the added precaution measures of temperature checks, hand sanitizers, face masks and providing gloves upon entering certain grocery stores. I’ve heard countless people and some coworkers say they would rather die from coronavirus than starve which is understandable. People are getting desperate and just 30 minutes away in Mathare, police injustice is happening on a regular basis.

Due to the current state of our hospital and lack of production, massive pay cuts are being implemented while staff motivation is at an all-time low. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what may come next. The Union office and management are doing their very best to stay afloat but we fear losing some of our best and capable staff due to the crisis and effects of the pandemic on our institution.

Despite the church being closed, our dental clinic being shut down for a couple months and social distancing, we know God is still in control. The state of the world at the moment saddens us, especially with all the police brutality, racism and injustice in this world. It’s evident though that corruption here in this country has gone on too long. As someone who’s personally been pulled over by Kenyan Police twice seeking bribes from myself or my Uber driver, we question if things will change for the better. The past couple of weeks have made me feel a little overwhelmed and at times hopeless. As I’ve driven around the city, there have been many adults/children knocking on my car window trying to sell things or asking for some spare change, but the reality is we can only do so much and can’t help everyone.

They say the more privilege one has, the more impotent their empathy for others. Living in Kenya has definitely taught us to live less materialistically than what we are used to in the US. Yet, we are still so blessed as our experience here has taught us there is more than one way to share and be a witness to others in these uncertain times. We may not be planning outreaches or free clinics, but we can still do something.

Most of time, all we need to do is be willing to listen and show people we care.


“Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” ~ Matthew 24:40

Xenophobia & COVID-19 in Kenya

Maureen and I welcomed the New Year of 2020 with relatively good spirits. A lot has happened since our last post as we got to attend a wedding in Uganda, met some old friends in Dubai during Christmas break and eventually moved into a much better and more secure 2-bedroom apartment compound. Things were looking up as we were also set on implementing digital radiographs at our dental clinic thanks to the efforts and donations from NASDAD, Dr. Nick, Dr. Dumitrescu & Dr. Chon. Unfortunately, we did not expect our first blog post this year to be quite like this.

I’ve grown up being a part of the minority for most of my life; from our Filipino family living in the Middle East in the Sultanate of Oman; to being one of the few Asians attending various schools in New Zealand and then eventually studying at the University of Nevada, Reno upon our move to the United States in late 2006. Being a minority is something I’ve been very familiar with despite a couple of racist incidents in high school I simply brushed aside. The truth is, it was only during dental school that I really felt I was part of the majority as there were more Asians in my class than I was normally accustomed to. Being a part of the minority for so long probably played a role as to why I initially agreed and was comfortable enough to come to Africa.

As news first came out earlier this year concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, like most people, many did not expect it to reach Africa. I’ve heard many inaccurate theories stating Africans are tough skinned, have immunity or that the heat would kill the virus if it ever came here. Sadly, I’ve also read multiple stories from Asian friends on Facebook/Instagram about the bigotry and racism they have faced in light of COVID-19. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.

On Friday, March 13th 2020, Kenya reported its first COVID-19 case. People rushed to supermarkets to stock up and buy soaps, cleaning equipment and hand sanitizers. After two more cases were announced on Sunday (March 15th), schools, universities and learning institutions were ordered to close the following day. Kenyan citizens and residents were the only people allowed into the country on the condition that they self-quarantine for 14 days. Most businesses or offices were advised to work from home.

Forwarded Image of the scene at Carrefour after the 1st case in Kenya was announced

As of March 24th 2020, the country currently has 25 confirmed cases with many still waiting for testing or those who are in isolation. Kenya is now pretty much on lockdown with the government banning all flights after tomorrow. Churches, mosques, pubs, bars, nightclubs and entertainment spots and neighboring borders have been ordered to close. Weddings are banned and funerals are limited to immediate family members only. Most of the locals have fled to the villages and left the once thriving city of Nairobi. The truth is, Kenya and most of Africa is incapable of dealing with this pandemic once it gets worse due to the lack of testing kits, PPE’s and hospital equipment. Numerous people have already lost their jobs as many businesses have shut down. It would also be really unfortunate if people are unable to work for an extended period of time as the majority of the population are living paycheck to paycheck. One can only leave for work, groceries and possible takeaway services at certain restaurants.

Our clinic finally decided to close yesterday until further notice. We are only providing on call emergency treatments due to the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE’s) and the fact that it now costs more to buy PPE’s than treating our patients. The SDA Division and Union offices actually closed much earlier before advising our institution and staff on how to proceed. The doctors at our hospital pretty much had to organize and collectively decide to shut down due to safety concerns.

Living in Nairobi for nearly 2 years as a mzungu or “foreigner” has presented its fair share of challenges but for the most part, Maureen and I accepted the fact that most Kenyans basically think all Asians are Chinese. We’ve gotten used to many people saying “Ni hao” as we’ve walked past them in church, work and during our grocery runs. A couple of weeks ago, a patient told my assistant in clinic, “I don’t want to be treated by that Chinese Coronavirus”. I was told this after the patient had been treated and seen by another colleague, so thankfully I did not know who originally said this. Once again, I brushed it off as there was nothing I could do about it. The other day I read a great article by David Coffey published on March 19th about his recent experience at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Kenya. David’s article was really insightful and his eventual decision to leave is a sad reality to what most foreigners currently feel about living in Kenya.


Nairobi was preparing for the worst, as the full lock-down of Italy hit the headlines. As a mzungu (Swahili for European) on the streets of the Kenyan capital, one is used to being approached by hawkers, taxi drivers and kids asking for coins. By the middle of last week, all that had come to a halt.

In a local bar – MoJo’s – just a stone’s throw from Kenyatta Avenue, regulars would rise from their tables, mumbling “corona” as they resettled at a safe distance from the foreigner, me.

“Are you from Italy?” shouted a woman from her barstool. “You’re not from Italy, are you?” All ears appeared to prick up as I replied in the negative. One could view the reaction as understandable, reasonable even, given the reach of the outbreak and the draconian measures that have still failed to contain Covid-19.

Yet it was curious to feel stigmatised in a city I know so well.

As with the subtle evolution of precautionary measures that crept into our daily lives at the office – the purchase of extra sanitisers and the sourcing of protective masks – I found myself essentially self-isolating at my hotel after work, as the Nairobi streets became less and less welcoming.

–David Coffey

Fast forward to Monday when I desperately needed to process vital personal documents for the hospital I work for. We had called the facility I needed to go to previously so that they would sort me out upon my arrival. I took a short drive to the location and got there with no issues. Being a health care provider, I wore a face mask when I went into the facility as an extra precaution in addition to using hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving my car. Once I got there and made my way to the front desk, I was basically ignored due to the fact that I looked Chinese. The person I was supposed to meet saw me and said the person I was looking for had left and to see someone else. The other people I approached ignored me and one lady even covered their mouth and twice asked me, “Are you Chinese?” Upon replying, “No, I’m Filipino”, this lady ran off into her managers office to inform him and hide. The manager eventually came out, stared at me and firmly stated that their online system I needed help on was not working and that I needed to come back next week. I tried to explain my predicament, but he was not having any of it. He disdainfully said the same thing over and over in a louder tone. I replied, “You didn’t have to shout at me, but thank you for your hospitality.” That was pretty much the end of our conversation. Now I don’t know if I should have worn a mask or not but looking back at it now, I truly feel foreigners and especially Asians would be looked down on regardless of the situation. Mind you there were no other customers there and all offices might potentially be closed by next week due to the outbreak and inevitable lockdown. It was pretty clear however that I was not welcome there.

After getting back to my workplace and talking to some cooler heads about the situation, I was directed to write a complaint letter about what transpired to the facility’s CEO and Human Resource Department. We’ll see where that goes but I sincerely hope their staff are better educated especially since the majority of the people who have tested positive here are Kenyans. Writing that letter and thinking about what I could have done or said differently deeply hurt and saddened me on a very personal level. Yesterday was probably the darkest day I’ve felt in my whole life living overseas. The reality is, I’m still learning to process and analyze how to go about expressing what I just went through. I realize though that this needed to be shared. These xenophobic incidents feel different and going through them as an adult definitely hurt much more than when I was younger.

Despite these unfortunate incidents, I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last Asian or foreigner going through similar if not worse situations. I feel as though as I’ve been punched really hard in the chest, yet the pain or sting simply won’t go away. While I was initially furious and let my emotions/foul language get the best of me, reflecting on it now shows that I still have many flaws that God is still trying to show me. He’s taken care of us this far and is still very much in control even though Maureen and I personally think we might not be making as much of a difference in our time serving here.

Looking ahead to the future and brighter news, our 2013 Silver Toyota Ractis finally arrived from Japan! A curious Chinese kid living in our compound even photobombed our picture. I did not ask for photo consent since the kid basically jumped into our picture. He tried to press all the buttons in our car. He’s probably been super bored since he’s been stuck at home with schools being closed since last Monday.

Despite the lockdown, it’s a huge relief to be able to drive to work and run errands without having to use Uber and get upset at long wait times and numerous cancellations possibly due to the xenophobia. As Kenya and the rest of the world prepares to control this growing pandemic, all we can do is pray for those in the frontlines and hope that most of us use the time we are blessed with wisely. I hope reading this inspires you to treat one another with kindness regardless of ethnicity, color or background. Despite all the bigotry, racial profiling and stereotypes going on in this cruel world, we are all human after-all.

The COVID-19 virus has shown that it does not discriminate.

The good news is that God also does not.

Although social distancing may now be advised, right now might be the best time to align ourselves closer to the One who knows us best.

As Whitney Phipps once said, “African music and European music both are acceptable to God. Both are very different. Different doesn’t mean deficient.”

Stay safe and stay blessed everyone.

Check-In Miracle

Upon arriving London’s Heathrow Airport, we all headed to Cambridge and did some punting and touristy stuff. There were a lot of people walking around, relaxing and having picnics at the park/river which made it seem like a pretty busy spot. Weather was perfect and we had a great time before driving back to Nhin’s place at Bury St Edmunds for some hotpot.

The following day, we flew out to Edinburgh, Scotland and got settled at our Airbnb 3-bedroom apartment. We toured the city a bit and visited the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and picked up a couple souvenirs. We even got to see them fire the 1pm cannon which was pretty cool.

Since it was mom’s birthday on Sept 24th, we decided to hike Arthur’s seat before sunrise. We took an Uber up to the park and then hiked about an hour to reach the summit overlooking the city which was pretty! As the chilly air and rain got our shoes and socks wet, I can’t help but contemplate on how unfit I am now which made me realize I need to work out more often lol. After reaching the summit and taking some pictures, we asked a guy to take some pictures of our family and we ended up chatting and getting to know him and inviting him for brunch.

After hiking Arthur’s Seat and attempting to fly the drone, we had breakfast with our new friend Mirza at The Edinburgh Larder, a local restaurant which actually had pretty good vegetarian haggis. We had no idea it was a popular vegetarian spot as there were multiple groups trying to catch breakfast waiting outside. We walked around for a bit and stumbled upon Miss Katie Cupcake, where a scene with Scarlet Witch and Vision was shot from “Avengers Infinity War”. Before parting ways with Mirza, we were on a hunt to try the traditional haggis, a national dish of Scotland. After being disappointed to find out that several restaurants were still closed, we finally found The Royal McGregor Restaurant/Pub and tried the traditional haggis, which was pretty good in my opinion but had a meatier spicy kick to it compared to the vegetarian one.

It rained pretty hard in the afternoon, so we decided to stay in and relax the rest of the day before deciding to have dinner at Holy Cow Restaurant. Mom could not eat however due to her peanut allergy, but the food was pretty great for a vegetarian spot.

After getting back to England, we woke up early and drove to Stonehenge on Sept 26th. It was a good thing we left early because we beat the London tourist buses and heavy crowds. Thanks Ate Elaine for organizing the trip and Nhin for driving us all in the van you guys rented! We were the first group there so were able to get some great shots of Stonehenge and see it up close. It’s pretty crazy how this ancient site came to be and to this day it’s unknown why it was built!

On Maureen’s birthday we visited the Royal Mews Buckingham Palace. We saw the coaches and carriages used for ceremonial events and royal weddings, the state limousines used by the royal family for official engagements, as well as the working stables and horses. Even got some great pictures and posed with the royal family! 😛 Inay/Grandma’s shot was the best!

On Sabbath, September 28th we visited the Battersea SDA Church. Greeted with friendly smiles and warm hugs, we felt right at home. Pastor Bobby Bovell spoke about stepping out “from isolation into a community and allowing the heart of God to lead.” Much like a newborn baby needing skin-to-skin contact from his/her parents, as humans, we too need that sense of connection with others.

The divine service was a blessing and we felt more blessed to be invited for potluck. We got to know the church members at the same time enjoyed the delicious food, which later we found out that the ingredients were home grown from their garden. As our time together came to a close, we wanted to remember them, so we took a group photo before we left. We had planned to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral but it was raining and closed early so we ended up just cooking dinner and had a great fellowship back at our rented Airbnb apartment.

Sunday’s packed activities consisted visiting the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, walking on Tower Bridge before having a late lunch around Shad Thames. To close our afternoon we even drove to check out the iconic Elizabeth Tower or “Big Ben”, London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Neal’s Yard. It’s so unfortunate that the Big Ben is under construction until 2021 so we basically just tried to imagine it through all the scaffolding.

After checking out of our Airbnb on Monday morning, we visited the London Outlet for late lunch and shopping. Mom and dad took an Uber to the airport for their flight back home while we stayed a little longer for lunch and to buy some gifts to thank Inay/Grandma Adoring for coming along with Tita Elma and Tito Ponch Cudiamat before heading to the airport.

When queuing up to check-in and pick up our boarding passes, we noted that Etihad Airways was pretty strict on the weight of check-in and carry-on luggage. Every single passenger check-in bag, carry-on and backpacks were being weighed and cleared, causing the process to be pretty long and tedious. The problem was that we each had two items (carry-on and backpacks) that were over the weight limit. I saw the sign and expected to pay about $360 for each carry-on or ~$720 for both of our luggage to be checked in. At the time I was thinking of the donations sent by NASDAD and other friends who specially requested it to be used for future free clinic and outreaches in Kenya.

Maureen’s Carry-on: 10kg

Maureen’s backpack: 6-7kg

Mel’s Carry-on: 13 kg 

Mel’s backpack: 8-9kg

Allowed per person:

1 carry on 7kg

Backpack or hand carry 5kg

Upon reaching the front we were assigned to what initially seemed like a disinterested, grumpy older gentleman. I pleaded my case briefly as we had traveled from Kenya, USA, Scotland and England with no issues but kindly handed the guy my credit card and waited for his response. The gentleman however surprisingly checked in Maureen’s bag and just told me to take 3kg from my heavy carry-on to place on our backpacks. He then placed a tag on Maureen’s carry-on that stated it was checked and only 7kg and said we can go. He did not even take my credit card in front of him and saved us a ton of money in the process! I was stunned but quickly got out of there as I felt like we definitely just witnessed a miracle or answer to prayer. That stressful moment with the weight lifted off our shoulders definitely gave me goosebumps as it felt way better than winning the lottery! I’m thankful God answered our prayer and allowed a way for that kind gentleman to let us go.

We eventually flew out later that night and arrived Abu Dhabi on October 1st, Tuesday early morning at 7:30am. We didn’t do much that day as we slept for 5 or so hours upon arriving Pastor Akhan and Auntie Sherlin’s apartment but were able to visit the Al Bahar towers or the one of a kind “pineapple buildings” or “Honeycombs-like towers”. Its unique design featured a protective moving shield around the outside which is composed of more than 2,000 umbrella-like elements that can be opened or closed in response to the sun’s path, helping cool and insulate the building upon the movement of the sun.

Posing behind Al Bahar towers aka “Pineapple buildings”

On Wednesday, October 2nd, we decided to go visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Construction began in 1997 but it was not completed and open to the public until 2007 so it took about 11 years. It can fit about 55,000 outside the mosque and 7,800 inside. 7 majestic chandeliers adorn the mosque, all decorated with gold color frames, Italian glass and Austrian Swarovski crystals which were imported from the company Faustig in Munich, Germany. The largest chandelier is the 2nd largest known chandelier inside a mosque, the 3rd largest in the world and is 10m in diameter and 15m in height. It got super busy when we left so it was good we went there first thing in the morning.

We then headed to Abu Dhabi’s Heritage Village and saw how people traditionally lived in the desert back in the day. They also had a lot of vendors, various crafts workshops & monthly cultural festivals held there.

It was very interesting that “Arish” is a name given to a house made of palm fronds and they even have carpets made of dried palm leaves to help your feet not get burned as you walk on the scorching sand. Lastly, we headed to Emirates Palace for a visit to walk inside and take some pictures of that along with the majestic Etihad towers. However, we didn’t last very long outside in the scorching heat.

Since we were all super hungry, we decided to try a traditional Arab lunch with Pastor Akhan, auntie Sherlin and Dany at Saudi Kitchen. The chicken and lamb effortlessly came off the bone and melted in your mouth. Probably one of the best meals we’ve ever had and something I highly recommend if you ever visit Abu Dhabi.

After a quick nap we headed out to Al Shahama which is about a 45min drive from Abu Dhabi for a midweek Vespers. It’s at this little gazebo where people meet around 9pm on Wednesdays for regular bible studies. Here, Pastor Akhan arranged for Maureen and I to share our testimony about our experience in Kenya. It was a huge blessing to be there as it reminded me a lot of what my parents used to do by meeting at different houses and worshipping before the church was recognized in the Middle East.

Bible Study Location at Al Shahama
Mid-Week Prayer Meeting

Our last day was pretty chill and fun as we were picked up by Tito Donn, who treated us to Warner Bros. World, Ferrari World, lunch and eventually dinner with Tita Cristy after she got out of work. Although we had to leave one of our luggage with Pastor Akhan to pick up at a later date, it’s been a huge blessing to be able to visit friends and family in different parts of the world. The only downside is the fact that we always have to say goodbye/part ways at the end of our leave.

As we start to settle back in Nairobi, our time away traveling to other parts of the world has definitely changed our perspectives and helped us appreciate the things we do have more over things we don’t.

Being in Africa, it’s fitting to leave a quote from Henry Morton Stanley, who traveled to search for missing Scottish physician and missionary, David Livingstone. He eventually found him several months later in present day Tanzania and this is what he had to say.


“In 1871 I went to him as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. I was out there, away from a worldly world. I saw this solitary old man there, and asked myself, “Why on earth does he stop here?” For months after we met I found myself listening to him and wondering at the old man’s carrying out all that was said in the Bible. Little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; mine was awakened; seeing his pity, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went quietly about his business, I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.” – Henry Morton Stanley

Maureen and I undeniably appreciate our family and friends who have always kept in touch. To close, we can’t wait to never have to say goodbye. Imagine a world where every Christian is doing their best to win souls for the Kingdom in these last days of our Earth’s history. We thank you all for your continuous support and prayers while we serve in Kenya. Next up on our list of travel destinations: Mombasa, Uganda, and Dubai to close out the year. Stay tuned! Till we meet again everyone!

Changing Lives – A NASDAD Tribute

People often ask me why I chose to be a missionary dentist full time rather than being involved in annual short-term mission trips. Well hopefully I can answer that by the end of this blog entry. It’s been quite a long time and a lot has happened since we last posted, so let’s get to it.

Dr. Marlin Meharry came back to Kenya to help with a week-long medical/dental outreach with Give Back to Humanity this past June. He served as a DMA (Deferred Mission Appointee) at the same clinic I now work in from 1989-1995.

Another colleague, Dr. Doug Nyakundi (LLUSD c/o 2016) also came to visit to do another outreach in Nyamira/Kisii in July/August. I wish our clinic could have helped more but it was great to see others being able to provide free care to people in need.

Arriving back home to Reno after being in a flight for 21.5 hours gets tiring. Maureen and I pretty much just slept for the first 3 days due to the jet lag. But it was a privilege to be able to attend the NASDAD 76th Convention at South Lake Tahoe Resort and see some familiar faces. We initially had planned to come back to USA for our annual leave during June, but God had other plans. Dr. Doyle Nick mentioned it would be nice for us to come speak about our experience in Kenya and so we were able to share a short testimony during the Sabbath School program. NASDAD was able to raise and collect about $20,000 from the offering to be used for future student mission outreaches and to help other outgoing DMA’s that are willing to serve overseas. Huge shoutout to Dr. Brian Evans for bringing NASDAD to Lake Tahoe and for doing an admirable job as the President for the last couple years.

While we were at Lake Tahoe, we were able to get a copy of the new “Changing Lives” book which was recently published about mission stories from various LLUSD alumni who have been involved in various mission trips around the world. We even got a few autographs before heading over to San Francisco for the ADA FDI Convention. It was pretty cool to see actor Mark Wahlberg speak at the opening ceremony and got to spend some time with an old friend, now pharmacist Hong Vong from my undergrad years at UNR and have breakfast with Sivasa!

Time has definitely flown by in our annual leave. We tried our best to visit as much friends and family while we were here. We are so sorry if we weren’t able to visit you all but many thanks to our friends who reached out and spent time with us such as Francis & Dr. Katie, Mark, Kevin Green, Stephanie & the Dafiesta family, Eryn, Rebecca, Manny Coria & family as well as my home church Sparks SDA. Even got to thank a couple of my great mentors such as Dr. David Shintani, Dr. David White, Dr. Ken & Rian Stewart, and Dr. Brian Evans before flying back down to SoCal and Loma Linda area.

We were able to share our testimony for MIG (Mission Interest Group) Vespers at Loma Linda University Friday evening on September 13th. Thank you to Loma Linda University Global Health Institute for inviting us to share our experience with some of the medical/dental students on campus and for taking us to lunch a couple of days later. It was great to be back on campus for a while as I got to see some old colleagues and professors who stopped by to say hello.

The following day, Maureen and I were also able to share our Kenyan experience during divine service at Victorville SDA Church. The days definitely went by quickly after visiting and catching up with friends and family.

On Tuesday, September 17th we drove to San Diego to visit Dr. Allen Job from All Smiles Pediatric Dentistry. He treated us out to lunch nearby as we ate yummy burritos and horchata. Felt like we were kids again at his awesome dental pediatric office. Got to pretend I was a cool pediatric dentist and did a quick exam on a very compliant patient.

To close, let me end this blog post and update you all on our clinic in Nairobi, Kenya with the video below.

Living in Kenya has definitely presented some challenges for us yet despite this, I strongly believe missionaries are bound together by the belief that we expect Christ to come back in our generation. We serve and continue to do so realizing that the work we do is not for man, but for Him, so that we may help finish the work He started. In turn, we realize that no matter what we do or don’t do, He does not expect results; He just expects us to be faithful regardless of our shortcomings or the dysfunction of our church and institutions. Even though we may not see results, we continue to pray that we can help change lives for the better and leave the rest up to Him.

Lastly, I’d just like to take the time to once again thank NASDAD for all the work they continue to do to support dental missions and students at LLUSD. I myself was fortunate enough and grateful to have been able to help in free clinic outreaches in Jamaica and Botswana during my time as a student and I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. As we fly out to England and later head back to Nairobi, please continue to pray for us and others serving around the world and donate if you are able. Till we meet again friends!

For tax deductible donations to the Better Living Dental Clinic – Nairobi; please click here “Donate Now” or contact Dr. Doyle Nick or Katie Layon at:

NASDAD (National Association of Seventh-Day Adventist Dentists)

Email: nasdad@llu.edu
Contact: 909-558-8187
Fax: 909-558-0209


“I wish mission life were easier. It would be easier if more people would serve. But in the meantime, I try to remind myself that I want to be agent of healing more than I want to have an easy life.” – Sarah Belensky MD, currently serving at Bare Adventist Hospital, Chad, Africa

Adventist World Magazine July 2019

Where Two or Three are Gathered

It’s been a while since we posted, as we have been pretty busy working at the hospital & dental clinic. It’s crazy to think we’ve been in Kenya about 10 months now. Time definitely flew by especially after my family came to visit in December. We got to take them and the Archer family to Maasai Mara National Reserve where Maureen and I were featured at YES Network’s “Wear Brooklyn At?”


Maureen and I also got to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day in Kenya. Earlier this year, we even did a small outreach in Kiserian with Maxwell Adventist Academy teaching ~300 kids about nutrition and the importance of taking care of their teeth.

Sometime last year in December, Dr. Steve H. Chang from Monterey, CA (LLUSD c/o 1990) invited our dental team from Better Living Hospital in Nairobi to join an outreach at Kisii with Weimar Academy & Marantha. Our dental team of 2 dentists and 2 assistants were approved some days off so we could help the medical/dental team from the USA. The hospital gave us some funds for transport and we purchased anesthesia, gloves, masks, gauze and sterilization equipment we needed from our dental suppliers for the outreach. Maureen and I would later come to realize these outreach events would be the first our clinic has participated in for over 5 years.

Dr. Chang, Dr. Neil Nedley and his assistant Eryn Reklei arrived Nairobi on Thursday evening, March 28th. It’s a small world since I met Eryn last year when I was volunteering at Palau Adventist Wellness Center (PAWC). I later found out Eryn went to the Health Seminar at Weimar Academy and eventually stayed to assist Dr. Nedley. It was good to see her doing well and excited about being involved with the outreach in Kenya. After the travel agency took Dr. Nedley and Eryn to the East-Central Africa Division of the SDA Church (ECD) guesthouses, our van took us back to our apartment in town, where Maureen was waiting with some home cooked tofu & vegetable Schwann (adobo style) with garlic rice. We had a long chat with Dr. Chang about life in Kenya, showed him our proposal/wedding videos, and then updated him about the clinic he used to volunteer at ~29 years ago in the year 1990 while he was on his honeymoon and still a 4th year student at LLUSD.


“30 years ago, the clinic was the best in all of East Africa. They need your support and prayers. The funds that can be reinvested (into the dental clinic) is used to support the hospital. The clinicians are just as good but the clinic needs modern equipment to better serve the people. We should do our best to help those who serve.” – Dr. Steve Chang

After taking Dr. Chang for a quick tour of the hospital, we left for Kisii around 1:30pm Friday, March 29th. Our bus arrived an hour later than expected (Kenyan time) but we were on our way. We finally arrived at Auntie Cecilia’s house about 2km away from Kisii town around 8:30pm. At around 9pm, it was time for supper! The whole table was filled with traditional Kenyan food such as ugali, sour milk, sukuma wiki (collared greens w/ spices), beans, fried chicken, chicken soup and watermelons. We were hosted and fed really well by Auntie Cecilia, the mom of Samson and Edwin Mogusu. It was through Samson, Cecilia’s son who goes to the same church in Monterey, CA with Dr. Chang, that they were able to coordinate our accommodation at Kisii. Later we found out Auntie Cecilia hired Daniel, a local chef to cook for us every day since she wrongly assumed we were staying for 2 weeks!

Immediately following breakfast, Cecilia dropped us off at Ufanisi Resort to catch up with the rest of the Weimar/Maranatha team. The 4 buses left and traveled about 1.5 hours to church. We arrived at just before 11AM at Poroko Maranatha SDA Church and were greeted by the local Maasai. Marantha built the church ~ 2 years ago along with a couple of wells. Their Maasai choir and Weimar choir did a couple of special items, which was pretty nice.

A Weimar Academy student, Rose led out children’s story and about 50 or so kids came to the front. They were so well behaved as not a single kid was running around or crying. Dr. Neil Nedley led out church with a short health message. Afterwards, we were welcomed and given shukas and wooden walking sticks by the local Maasai tribe as a Maasai song played in the background translated to “God first in everything”.

Our schedule for the next 3 days were breakfast around 6:30am, travel to Ufanisi Resort and leave on the Maranatha busses to travel by 7:30am. It took about 1.5 hours to get to the clinics where we would be treating patients. On Sunday we went to Riokindo SDA Health Centre. On Monday we were at Nyagichenche and on Tuesday we were at Riakworo Dispensary. We usually set up clinic upon around 9/9:30am and saw patients until 4pm. Since Dr. Julietta Lucas from the local Adventist clinic came to help us on Sunday, we set a limit to see 100 dental patients the first day and about 80 patients on 2nd and 3rd day.

Dr. Alan Mitchel led the Maranatha medical team of 7 physicians. I later found out Dr. Mitchel is the father of Rebecca, one of the dental student missionaries who helped assist me at PAWC last year. Small world indeed! Our dental team consisted of Dr. Steve Chang, Dr. Jeffery Fisher, Dr. Ham Kibuuka, our 2 assistants Helen and Paska, Maureen and myself. We had about 7 Weimar Academy students helping us set up trays, pass instruments and assist as well. Most of the students were able to extract multiple teeth with our supervision. Maureen extracted 3 teeth and was even able to help give local anesthesia to one of our patients! On mission trips, we can call her “Nursist” from now on.

A lot of the patients we saw had broken teeth, multiple cavities, molar or premolar root tips and really heavy calculus. We mostly just tried to treat their main complaint, extract, suture and gave them pain meds or antibiotics. Dr. Chang brought a portable unit and we were able to do some fillings, a couple of root canals and even a surgical wisdom tooth extraction #32 that took a couple hours since the young man’s bone was super dense. His crown fractured and came off as I tried to elevate the tooth. Later, Dr. Chang broke a couple of elevator tips trying to take it out! We eventually had to wait for a compressor and the unit to be functional so he could surgically take off the buccal and distal bone. We weren’t able to do a lot of cleanings as we only brought a few scalers, so we referred patients that wanted root canals or cleanings to the Nyanchwa Adventist Dental Clinic in Kisii, where Dr. Julietta Lucas works at.


Patient: All my teeth are moving! (Translated)

Dr. Chang: “All her teeth are moving? Where are they moving to?” 😛

Over 200 local people were seen each day by the medical and dental team at the various dispensary sites we went to from March 31st-April 2nd. We roughly did about 120 extractions and gave out over 350 toothbrushes and toothpaste over the 3 days of outreach. Some patients even traveled from far away just to come and be treated. Others have not had a check up in years! It was amazing to see God’s work at hand. Also, it was inspiring to see Weimar students interested and willing to help wherever there was a need, whether it was accompanying the patients to different stations, assisting in the dental or medical clinic or praying for the patients. What a joy it was to witness the youth serving all the way in Africa. Although we spent less than a week in Kisii, we were beyond blessed for the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet.

On our way back to Nairobi, we decided to stop by Lake Nakuru National Park to see some flamingos and rhinos! Early Wednesday morning we ate breakfast, said our goodbyes to our host and her neighbors, picked up Michael Chang from Ufanisi Resort, and drove to the park. Up at baboon cliff we saw some rock hyrax on the mountain cliffs come out to greet us as we took pictures overlooking the lake. They are super cute! The flamingos were a disappointment, as we did not see very many of them but seeing rhinos for the first time were pretty special.

By God’s grace and protection, we safely arrived back in Nairobi around 9pm. We returned to work the next day but thankfully the weekend was fast approaching. It was a blessing to hear the president of Weimar Academy, Dr. Neil Nedley speak a couple times during his series talk about “Optimizing your Brain”. Dr. Nedley is a practicing physician in Internal Medicine with emphases in Mental Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Gastroenterology and the difficult-to-diagnose patient. It was quite interesting but one point that stood out to us was the quote below.


“For every disappointment, God has an appointment” – Dr. Neil Nedley

Much like Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery, and ending up in Egypt, there will be many disappointments in our lives that may lead to low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, etc. But we serve a mighty God who can deliver us from darkness and do great things in our lives today despite the disappointments that come our way. We should never give up hope, have faith, and trust in Him regardless of our situation.

So far, it’s been such a privilege to share God’s love through our work to the people of Kenya. But there is still so much work that needs to be done. Maureen and I have come to realize that even though we may have opted to be here on the frontlines serving in Kenya, passionately doing or saying all the right things — we could also as easily opt out and think of this as just a regular gig where we get paid to do certain medical/dental services.

But we realize that we have to be better.

We should not feel satisfied simply with “progress”.

We know we have to be better. So we are trying to push ourselves further regardless of costs to help our clinic or various outreaches we are involved in. We try our best to pray for each patient we see and take the time to listen to his or her concerns and needs.

Everyday, we are all given a choice — we are all granted the same privilege — to be Christ’s hands and feet.

Either we do that, or we fade into the crowd.

We have to be active. I’ll say this again because it’s important. We have to be active.

The reality is, we can as easily fade into the crowd by being comfortable enough observing and listening to whatever may be going on around us, but not do anything about it. More often than not, Maureen and I feel we have more in common with the regular Christian or member at church than our pastors, spiritual mentors or people we have always looked up to. In times like these, we often ask questions such as…

What is it that I actually have to do?

How can I become part of the solution for this lack of activeness in my workplace?

In my church? In my community? In my city? In my country?

Now we don’t have the answers to these questions, but what we do know is this. When God calls, He’s not looking at your age, your gender, or your qualifications. He looks at the heart. Much like the case of the prophet Samuel anointing King David as a young boy (1st Samuel 16), we must realize that God can use both young and old to do improbable and mighty things for His Kingdom. I guess that is why we should not look up to people of the flesh or outward appearances, but more than anything, fix our eyes on Him.

As Seventh-Day Adventists, our mission is to make disciples, following the gospel commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and to “proclaim to all people the everlasting gospel of the Three Angels’ Messages in preparation for His soon return”.

But the real question we should be asking ourselves is — Are most of us merely satisfied and comfortable blending in with the crowd? Are we content with all our good works and various mission trips we’ve been involved in? Unfortunately, some of us may even feel a sense of pride or feel “privileged” being a part of the so-called “Remnant Church of end-time Bible prophecy”. But what can we change or what can realistically be done?

To close this blog entry, we remind you that it’s crucial that we each hold each other accountable. Regardless of your age, sex, color, culture, and religion — we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions but realize that our inaction can cause or create a “safe” space for contentment and satisfaction, which sadly, we often see even in our own institutions, hospitals, clinics, churches and congregations around the world. If you have not been made aware, hundreds of our hospitals and clinics, especially in Africa suffer due to lack of resources, funds or inadequate management. Simply giving back the 10% Tithe that rightly belongs to Him goes a really long way to helping further His work.

We have to be better.

Know that we believe this. We sincerely do.

Know that about us.

Know that we believe all this matters.

We can’t do it alone. But thankfully, we don’t really have to.

Matthew 18:20 states, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them”. Christ has already promised His presence will be with us no matter what. We simply just have to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Just as much as the Maranatha/Weimar Academy team has inspired and encouraged Maureen and I as missionaries here in Kenya to be better, we hope to do the same at the 76th NASDAD Convention at Lake Tahoe and the congregations/churches we speak at in Reno and Southern California during our annual leave later this year. Please continue to pray for us as we try to reach the unreachable and teach, heal, and preach the gospel to all. We encourage you as well to grow in your relationship with Christ, to never stop being a witness, until He comes again.

Thanks for reading. Blessings!

Updates from Kenya

One of the highlights while living here in Kenya has been visiting the beautiful Maasai Mara. We had an awesome opportunity to join Mara Vision Outreach, Anita Jepson and Pastor Taj Pacleb from August 24th-September 3rd on their recent mission trip and were extremely blessed. After a long 6.5-7.5 hour drive from Nairobi, we finally arrived at our camp. Our group stayed at Olumara Tented Camp, with full board meals and lovely accommodation and an excellent staff who treated us really well. We were able to meet so many people from this trip, even people who worked in the same compound we worked in but never knew before. From what we were told, it was the first time the Samburu people of new believers had come to a camp meeting to join the Maasai. There were numerous people that were baptized and some powerful sermons preached. Be sure to check out this amazing video down below made by Pastor Jasper and Kuya VJ Matias if you have not already done so.


“Jesus gave us parables so we can go around our excuses to spread the Gospel. Even though we are few in Maasai land, I believe whatever the challenges, through God’s help, we will make a difference in Maasai land. The door to mission work is not closed. My friends; see to it that you have not come to Africa in vain. By God’s Grace, He will give us the world. He will provide what we need. And one day, when the saints go marching in, from east, west, south and north, we pray we will all be there.” -Robert Tinega

The following month, from October 10-14, we went on the Better Living Hospital retreat with some of the staff. It was our first time going to Ukunda, which is about 2 hours away from Kenya’s second largest city of Mombasa, found on the east coast of the country. It was a nice getaway after the exhausting, tiring, yet fulfilling days of hard work at the hospital. We shared an early Uber ride with Dr. Ham Kibuuka to the airport suspecting that there might be some traffic. When we arrived at Wilson Airport, we were early. In fact we were so early that there was no rush checking in, which was nice. We checked in our luggage and lined up to get our tickets. Then all of a sudden, something was amiss. Thinking we were going to Mombasa, our luggage was headed to the wrong destination!!! Without delay, we went back to the check-in counter and explained to the guy that we checked our baggage to the wrong place. He looked at our ticket and said something in Swahili to another guy who briskly walked away. Flustered and slightly stressed just thinking about the worst-case scenario, our luggage appeared in the guy’s hand. Filled with relief, we thanked the guys who retrieved our luggage. Everything got sorted out and we sat back down and looked forward to our flight.

The flight from Wilson Airport to Ukunda took less than 1 hour. When we landed, the humid heat welcomed us and we were just ready to go to the Kaskazi Beach Hotel. A big bus drove all of us to the hotel, which took less than 15 minutes as it was only about 2.6km away. We finally arrived somewhat tired but excited. One of the hotel workers handed a cool face towel and it felt so good!!! They served us coconuts and to our surprise it was not the usual coconuts you get in Hawaii, Palau or Philippines. It had a carbonated taste to it, which we did not really expect (or like to be honest).

Too exhausted, we decided to just chill in our room. The next few days were so relaxing and felt like paradise. We swam in the swimming pool, had 3 buffet meals a day, napped in an AC room, enjoyed the sound of the ocean (which was walking distance from the hotel), and enjoyed the company of our co-workers and friends.

The best part of the trip was going on the Pilli Pippa Dolphin Safari for snorkeling and scuba diving. We also saw some dolphins along the way, which was a very special treat. Since Maureen didn’t have her PADI scuba diving license yet, Mel decided to just go without her so he could experience the diving sites here in Kenya. But Maureen didn’t mind, she still enjoyed snorkeling and seeing a tortoise up close. It was breathtaking to see the sea creatures and the colorful life under the sea. What’s even more amazing is the Creator who created all these awesome animals and habitats.

After scuba diving and snorkeling at 2 different reefs at Kisite National Marine Park, it was time for lunch. We were brought to a nice secluded island where the workers welcomed us and directed us to our table. The food was delicious and the view of the ocean was beautiful! We will definitely come back and visit. As the short excursion came to a close, we bought some Kenyan candy called “mabuyu”, which are made from the seeds of the Baobab tree fruit. They usually sell these candies for 20-30 KES (20-30 cents) a piece but since they saw us as “mzungus” or foreigners, they charged extra :/ #kenyanshustling

On Sabbath morning, we took a “tuktuk”, a tricycle bike with seats at the back, heading toward the local SDA Church. The church service was outside since there was a lot of people and not enough space inside the church building. It was a special day because they were recognizing and appreciating the pastors there. It was a very, VERY long service… Let’s just say that Kenyans enjoy singing and 2-3 songs is clearly not enough.

Overall, we enjoyed our time there. It’s always nice to just take a break once in a while to relax and enjoy God’s creation. The more of God’s nature we come to know and experience, the more we may reflect Him to our surroundings.

Last month, we had an unexpected surprise visit by Dr. Doyle Nick. He was Mel’s professor at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry (LLUSD) and dental director for the Deferred Mission Appointee (DMA) program. Shortly after their Botswana service learning dental mission trip in 2016, Dr. Nick suggested we come serve in Kenya. He and his wife came to visit our clinic and even treated our dental staff to a late lunch at Sarova Panafric Hotel on Thursday, November 15th. We eventually caught up with them again on Sabbath at Maxwell Academy and had an amazing Ethiopian lunch at Dr. Fesaha’s place. Many thanks go out to NASDAD (National Association of Seventh-Day Adventist Dentists), Dr. Doyle Nick, Dr. Jongsung Kim, and Dr. James Trott for the dental equipment donations and the never-ending support and prayers.

It’s quite surprising to know that we’ve been here in Kenya for nearly 6 months now. After months of waiting, Maureen finally got her Kenyan nursing license and we also received our work permits and Alien Resident cards. In addition, our shipment of belongings is set to arrive sometime this month after landing in Mombasa a couple of days ago. We are expecting it to arrive just before Christmas. Oh and we get an early Christmas present this year as Mel’s parents, sister, grandma and auntie are coming to visit! Maasai Mara Round 2, here we come!


“The Big Five… Here in Kenya you have the Big Six. The Big Six is the Maasai.” -Anonymous

Karibu Kenya!

After about 28 long hours, we finally landed at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport. Our plane landed pretty late on Thursday night (June 7th, 2018) at about 10:30pm. It wasn’t an easy or perfect trip as we headed out from Victorville, CA to Ontario International airport on the early morning hours of June 6th, got on our flight, stopped for a couple of layovers at Salt Lake City and Amsterdam before heading to Nairobi, Kenya. We had a 2-hour delay coming from Amsterdam and some minor issues with our seats. Upon entering the plane and arriving at our assigned seats, we found out they were already occupied by a nursing mother and her other kids who mistakenly got their seat numbers wrong. Too tired to complain, we sat where they were supposed to sit on the opposite side of the plane but ended up with seats that were pretty cramped, stuffy and uncomfortable. Sure we had a couple hurdles when we arrived such waiting in line for our visas to be approved, finding all 7 of our luggage, getting through customs and then finding our assigned transportation arranged by the East-Central Africa Division (ECD). Kenya Customs had to stop us to open a couple of our luggage to check and make sure we were not bringing anything we weren’t supposed to bring. The guy almost charged us a tax fee due to all the dental equipment we brought for donation to the Better Living Hospital. However, since it was super late or close to midnight, the guy miraculously just let us through. We were picked up on a white mini-van and arrived at LMS Guest House inside the Better Living Hospital (BLH) compound around 1:00AM. Praise the Lord we arrived safely!

Friday morning, June 8th came and we were hungry! Titus, who works at the LMS Guest House Restaurant, greeted us with a smile as we walked in the restaurant downstairs and showed us the food options they were serving for their buffet breakfast. Little did we know that we’d spend the next 2 ½ weeks here. I must say, the lacto-vegetarian food at LMS is healthy… sometimes too healthy!

We spent the rest of the day checking out the campus and meeting people and co-workers from both the dental and medical side. The dental clinic downstairs has 5 fully functional operatory chairs. Mel joins the dental team of Dr. Christine Angwenyi, Dr. Radhia Okumu and Dr. Ham Kibuuka. Dr. Angwenyi, the clinic director usually works from 7AM-2PM while the rest schedule patients from 9AM-4PM Monday-Thursday and 9AM-1PM on Fridays. The dental clinic also opens on Sundays from 9AM-1PM where an assigned doctor and assistant rotate every month. After clinic, Dr. Ham Kibuuka took us around Nairobi to do a bit of sightseeing. I have to say, it’s pretty crazy seeing how people drive here and the traffic can be quite hectic. But for most of the pinoys we’ve met here, they simply say, “If you can drive in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world.” *Sigh* Along the way, we were able to stop by a couple of the malls to get our Kenyan phone SIM cards so we can start calling and using data. Since M-Pesa or mobile money is pretty common here (kinda like Venmo), Dr. Ham suggested that one of us use Airtel while the other uses Safaricom. After getting our phones sorted, we tagged along and even got to see where Dr. Ham gets his car washed at Lenana Supershine. What a good day to see a glimpse of where we’ll be for the next few years.

Sabbath came and we joined Dr. Ham and headed to Maxwell Academy/Adventist University of Africa for church. It was graduation day so there wasn’t much of a service. Dr. Ham introduced us to a couple of his friends such as Kaumba, Alex, Brian, Fred and Virgil, who basically form the “For Him Ministries” singing group.

Pizza, french fries and soda were served for lunch after church at Kaumba’s house which was not so healthy… lol. We learned a couple of Nairobi survival tips about matatus, boda bodas (public transportation) & hustling from the guys. Our favorite would probably have to be Fred’s quote about food hustling. We headed back to Nairobi about 4pm that afternoon. Although it initially only took about 45 minutes to get to Maxwell Academy earlier in the morning, the drive back took a little over 2 hours due to the snail like traffic.


“A tip for surviving. If someone gives you food, first refuse… Then they will give you more. Then say, since you insist, then yes.” –Fred Kichari

We basically took the next couple of days or weeks adjusting our time clocks (there’s a 10 hour time difference between USA and Kenya), trying Kenyan comfort food (ugali, managu, githeri, and many more that I can’t remember the names of), understanding the procedures and protocols in the dental clinic and hospital, watching the most soccer we’ve ever watched due to the FIFA World Cup, exploring the city and visiting a number of malls/shopping areas such as The Hub, Sarit Centre, Yaya Centre and the Junction Mall.

There’s so much to do here and even though we don’t have a car yet, we’re able to safely get around using Uber, which is way cheaper than getting a taxi. Going on safaris is a must and we can’t wait to go on our first safari experience together to Maasai Mara on August 24th with Mara Vision Outreach and Pastor Taj Pacleb.

One of the many blessings we praise God for was moving into our new home, which is a 10-15 min walking distance from BLH. As we mentioned earlier, we were basically staying at LMS Guest House as the hospital decided on a suitable location for us to stay at. It was a huge blessing in disguise as the 4-bedroom house we were initially supposed to stay at was about a 15-minute drive to work, which probably meant about a 30-45 minute drive everyday with traffic. That other house also felt too isolated and needed a lot of repairs since it had deteriorated as no one had been living in it for over 4 years. Although our 2-bedroom apartment is a lot smaller, it’s the perfect home for us and very convenient as we get to basically walk to and from work everyday. God knew exactly what we needed and He provided. It brings to mind the verse found in Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

It was also a pleasant surprise and nice to catch up with Dr. Leng and Dr. Lee, who stopped by the dental clinic early July after finishing a mission trip at Maasai Mara. Later that month we even got to celebrate Mel & Fred’s birthday with the Archer family and some of our friends at Artcaffe on July 21st, then followed that up recently with a mini cake celebration with Dr. Ham Kibuuka at the dental clinic.

Looking back at it now, staying at LMS Guest House for over 2 weeks didn’t feel like “home” but more of a prolonged vacation/hotel stay. I guess if there’s one thing we realized, it’s that things can tend to move very slowly in Africa. Our initial visas had to get extended since there was an unexpected delay in getting our work permits as it was processed at a time when the immigration offices were transitioning approvals for all foreigners in Kenya. It’s also been quite an adjustment and challenge working with film X-rays and hand filing each endodontic case due to the lack of equipment (apex locators and rotary). Hopefully we can fundraise enough to get those instruments within the next couple of years to help the clinic run more efficiently. Please continue to pray for us as we patiently wait on the last bit of government documents we need so we can finally get a local bank account, a car and more importantly, a Kenyan Tax ID # so we can get our freight shipment/container of things to be shipped from LA to Nairobi. We anticipate getting them in 3-4 months or worst-case scenario by January next year.

Last but not least, I’ll end with a short testimony. As Maureen and I started to walk to and from work everyday, there was this middle-aged man who awkwardly approached us and asked for food. I guess you can say this is pretty common here, kind of like the streets of Manila, Philippines. The first time we saw him, I gave him 300ksh (~$3.00 USD). A couple of days later he did the same thing and asked for food, this time calling me, “My friend”. Sometimes he comes out of nowhere, behind a car or sometimes from behind a couple of trees or a bush. He usually hangs around outside the gates of the hospital compound cleaning people’s cars with the water he collects from the street gutter on the side of the road. On different occasions, we’ve given him cash, coins, mandazi (Swahili Buns) and even some extra avocados we were carrying on our way home. After one particular rough day at work, Maureen and I saw him crossing the opposite side of the street to meet us as we walked home. I let out a deep sigh since I was expecting the usual request and had no change to give at the time. He approached us and said, “My friend, are you a doctor? I have this tooth that’s very painful.” To cut the long story short, I was able to squeeze him in our schedule the next morning, escort him into clinic, pray for him and extract the tooth that was bothering him at no cost. I finally asked for his name as he sat there waiting to be treated. His name is Daniel, which in Hebrew means, “God is my Judge.” It was a nice way of Him basically reminding me why He brought me here in the first place. Daniel is doing fine now and always greets me the same way whenever I see him; the awkward approach which usually starts with, “My friend” followed with a huge smile on his face and often the usual request. No matter how awkward, God can find ways for us to build relationships with different people as long as we are open and willing to follow Him. #mygodisarighteousjudge

As we spend the next few years learning more about the culture here, it is our prayer that we may continue to seek Him and experience God’s work in our lives as we spend the next 5, maybe 6 years (God willing) in this beautiful country we now get to call home. While there have been times when we seriously missed home and the comfort level we once had with our family and friends, we understand that He is in control. Cheryl Doss’ son once said, “Home is where I am.” As for Maureen and I, we’d like to close by adding, “Home is wherever you feel God can use you to make this world a better place.” #seeyouontheseaofglassmyfriend #3rdculturekidproblems




Mission Training Complete

After the first week of Mission Institute training, which included introductions and multiple classes, it was time for a much-needed break. Thankfully we had the weekends off so a group of us decided to go to Delphi on Sunday (4/22), which was about 3 hours away from where we were staying. Out of all the places in Greece, why Delphi you might ask? Google it! Apparently, it’s one of the more important oracles of ancient Greece. It’s located on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth and the sanctuary erected there was home to the famous Greek god of Apollo. If you ever plan to visit this place, make sure you have at least 22 euros for the tolls. We ended up passing a total of 6 tollgates to and from Delphi. Nevertheless it was a must sight to see! And what an enjoyable experience it was with good company. Thanks Kuya Arjay and the Awungashi family for making this trip memorable! Special thanks to Pastor Akhan for taking these photos!


The following weekend (4/29), Mel and I flew out really early Saturday morning to Santorini, one of the most popular islands in Greece. It’s one of those really magical places we’ve been to and definitely worth visiting. Our chauffeur told us that April was actually the best time to visit since it’s not too hot and there aren’t many tourists. It was interesting to find out that the famous blue and white paint on the buildings were actually done to keep them cool and reflect the sun’s rays. Even though we only stayed in Santorini for one night, we tried to make the most of it. We walked around the area, did some sightseeing and enjoyed the amazing views especially from our room at Oia Mare Villas. There were many cute little shops and eateries. We ended our night by watching the sunset where Kuya Arjay was staying at Golden Sunset Villas. Many people all over watched in anticipation as the sun slowly came down. To our disappointment, the clouds covered the sun and we didn’t get a clear view of the sunset. Kuya Arjay, one of the missionaries who was with us, said that the sunset from the previous day was beautiful. It was so spectacular that everyone clapped in awe. Sad to say, we didn’t catch an amazing sunset but we’re thankful for the opportunity to even step foot in Santorini.

We woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise to make up for missing the sunset the previous night. It was super cold but Mel got a pretty cool time lapse although he didn’t realize he captured a rock instead of the sea. We also ventured off to Fira twice by bus to eat some delicious gyros. It turned out that “Lucky’s Souvlakis” was a really popular place to go to, so we had lunch there on Sunday before our flight back to Athens that evening. Thank you Kuya Arjay for taking our second honeymoon photos. ^_^

The Sabbath before we left Greece, our group had a special dedication service at Athens SDA church. It was a heartfelt service especially since we had our own agape feast the night before to welcome the Sabbath. At the end of the church service, we were all asked to come to the front where we all accepted the Missionary charge below.

Missionary Charge:
Because you have known and received God’s unconditional love…
Because you have heard the call of God to the specialized ministry of cross-cultural service…
Do you now commit yourself to obey the divine command to “GO into all the world and make disciples of all nations”…
Do you commit yourself to the hard task of learning the language and the culture and of adapting your ways and your witness for the sake of the gospel…
Do you commit yourself to lead people to Christ and to nurture those you serve to understand and follow all of Jesus’ teachings…
Do you accept the sacred responsibility of protecting yourself and your family— physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially—so that you may not “gain the whole world” but lose your own family…
Do you accept Jesus’ eternal promise that through the Holy Spirit, He will be with you always–to guide, to strengthen, to encourage, to enable, and to stay beside you…
Do you accept these challenges by the grace of God?

After a wonderful Greek potluck hosted by the church members, we walked around downtown Athens with Dr. Jon Kim and his family. A couple meters from the church we saw people injecting themselves with who knows what. It’s kind of sad especially knowing that the country of Greece as a whole and its economy is struggling. I guess everywhere you go, you’ll eventually find numerous people that really need help. As we kept walking we saw a lot of random graffiti on the walls and policemen stationed at certain blocks. At one point we felt lost. However, with the help of some people giving us directions along the way, we managed to make it back to familiar territory, which led us to the Ancient Agora, located pretty close to the Acropolis. Oh and we finally visited the Temple of Zeus! While we were admiring the structure, it started to rain and then it poured heavily. We found shelter under the trees and waited until it calmed down. The Kim family treated at this fancy restaurant called “OASIS Café” before we all headed back to take the Metro/bus to our hotel. #thankfulforthekims When we arrived back at Dolce Attica Riviera, it was already dinner. We said our farewells/see you laters to our Mission Institute friends that were present and our farewell to Greece.

We feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity to come to Greece for Institute of World Mission. We met some pretty incredible and amazing people from all over the world who share the same passion in serving God and sharing His love with others. During our 3 weeks there, we learned a lot through various lectures, area studies, journaling, the 600 page reading requirements and assignments which contributed to helping us understand and learn more about various cultures, transitioning, adapting and self-reflecting on how to approach missions. Our group table  “Chamorya” (a combination of countries where our group will be serving—Chad, Morocco, and Kenya) was awesome! We hope to catch up with the Archer family once they arrive in Kenya later this summer.

Saying our farewells to family and friends is never easy. A feeling of inadequacy also lingers as we make our final preparations to leave for Africa. At this time, we still don’t feel like we had enough time to prepare but maybe that’s how everyone feels right before they head out. There seems to be a lot left to do and take care of aside from the usual packing and farewells. Although there may be people that we may never see again, we pray that we see you all when He returns. But in the event that our paths do cross again, we hope you come visit us and expect to see you in Kenya! It’s never goodbye, merely just another till we meet again! #hakunamatata




“Success in mission does not depend upon our initiative, our fine organization, or our methods. The true missionary is not he who relies on his own strength, but he who offers his weakness to God. The mission work is God’s. He created it, and He always creates out of nothing. We must become nothing in order that God may create something.” -Gottfried Oosterwal [1]

  1. Gottfried Oosterwal (Feb 8, 1930-Nov 9, 2015) Former Director of Institute of World Mission & Author of “Mission: Possible: The Challenge of Mission Today” Southern Publishing Association, 1972

Hello Greece!

IMG_0066After a month and a half in the Republic of Palau, Mel safely arrived back at LAX around 7pm on Tuesday, April 10th 2018. A few days later, we both boarded an early flight at 6:00AM from Ontario airport for Athens, Greece to attend the 153rd Mission Institute hosted by the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. We had a couple of layovers in Seattle and Amsterdam before finally arriving Athens late Friday afternoon. Our hotel chauffer greeted us at the airport arrivals and escorted the Archer family and us to the hotel minivan parked just outside the airport entrance. We finally arrived at the Dolce Attica Riviera hotel just before sunset. The hotel itself is about a 15 min drive from the airport and located on the east coast in Greece. It’s pretty isolated and quiet, which is nice but it’s about a 40 minute drive away from the city of Athens.

After watching the sunrise and grabbing breakfast Sunday morning, we quickly headed to the bus stop around 8:20AM. The 304 bus actually arrived within 10 minutes of us getting there and 30 minutes later we were on the Metro Train headed to Acropolis. All in all it took us a little over an hour to get there. Our first stop after getting our tickets was the Acropolis, since Mel needed to get to the top to find the restroom. Visiting the Acropolis and the north and south slopes actually costs €20 per person, but we decided to get the special package ticket for €30 each which included a number of other sites such as the Roman Agara, Ancient Agora and the Olympieion (aka The Temple of Olympian Zeus) to name a few. We quickly took some shots of the Theatre of Dionysus & the Odeon of Herod Atticus before making our way up to the Propyla or entrance of the Acropolis, which was pretty majestic. The Parthenon was spectacular but it was very crowded since a lot of people wanted to take pictures next to this ancient ruin. Mel decided to go around each side and capture different angles, but in my opinion it all looked the same. He finally found a toilet, so I waited and watched some kids try to catch pigeons with their hands. It was quite amusing but their efforts were in vain. Moving on, we eventually made our way to the Areopagus hill, the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora, which was pretty cool. The Areopagus hill (aka “Mars Hill”) is supposedly where Apostle Paul is said to have preached to the Athenians in Acts 17:24. It was unfortunate though that this place had a lot of graffiti and trash all over the place. By this time, we were famished and hangry so we stopped by “Hans & Gretel” and ordered a chimney cake with cookies ice cream. It was delicious!

Later, we decided to check out the Acropolis museum before eventually grabbing a late lunch. Like I said, we were so tired and hungry we decided to just skip the Olympieion and go find some food. We took the Metro and somehow found “The Greco’s Project” restaurant. We ordered the eggplant stuffing with greek cheese for our appetizer and the chicken gyro plate and a couple of kebabs for our main course. Greek food never tasted so good!

Parthenon MnmIt’s crazy because once Mission Institute started the following day; we found out that the Archer family will also be serving in Kenya starting this July. The goals of the Institute of World Mission is to better equip us in the transition to mission service, to help us gain a support system as well as help us share the gospel more efficiently to the people we may come into contact with. Aside from the 600 or so pages we are required to read, we were each given small blue journals to write on that we would have to submit every morning the following day. Before Cheryl Doss (Director of Mission Institute) gave us the journals she mentioned, “We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on our experiences.” Although Mission Institute just barely started, we hope we will be able to journal/blog often to reflect on how far God has taken us in our journey to Africa.

While Mel and I have struggled to stay patient and even wrestled with God about going to Nairobi, Kenya since Mel’s graduation from dental school, there’s an encouraging quote we recently read from the book “Passport to Mission” which we’d like to share. Hopefully it can sum up why we both decided to go serve in a country we barely know anything about. It states, “God calls us to Him, and then in love we respond and go where He sends us. He does not command results, but He does expect faithfulness. The results are in His hands, but the willingness to respond to His call to mission is ours.”[1]

To close this blog entry, recall that God once called Abraham out of his own country to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12). That great nation of Israel could not have happened without Sarah. God therefore does not just call one person in the family to be a missionary; He actually calls every member of that family. Being a missionary is not about our qualifications, but is about what kind of heart we have. Even though God does not specifically call every Christian to do long term cross-cultural mission work, He does call each of us to love people just as He loved us.

Despite the uncertainty, concerns or fears we ourselves or our family and friends may have, Ellen G. White states, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”[2] He has indeed led us this far, and we truly believe He will continue to lead us safely through the difficult days before us. Just like Peter, James, John and the rest of the disciples and missionaries that have gone before us, we step out in faith and pray that in our trials that lie ahead, we may still be able to praise Him saying, “It is well with my soul” and that He uses us both mightily for His service until He returns.



“From the moment we heard about you, we have never stopped praying. If Jesus doesn’t come soon, then we pray your children will become missionaries. We never cease to serve, until our Jesus comes.” -Cheryl Doss


  1. “Chapter 6/So Why Not?” Passport to Mission, by Cheryl Doss et al., Institute of World Mission / General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, 2017, p. 53.
  2. Life Sketches of Ellen G. White by EGW et al., Ellen G. White Estate, Chapter 31-Burden Bearers p. 196 (1902) -{LS 196.2}