Posted by: Titus Presler | December 14, 2011

“Our 10 years in Kenya have planted lots of troubles that bother our minds”: Nan & Gerry Hardison

Nan and Gerry Hardison at our home in April 2009

Below is the last Kenya Communiqué from Dr. Nan and Dr. Gerry Hardison as they retire from ten years of faithful, indeed outstanding, mission work in Kenya.  I have a lot of commentary to share at this transition in their lives, but it’s already too long to append, so for now I simply reproduce their letter here and commend it to your reading and reflection:

Down through the years there have been hundreds of good-bye songs, both popular and classic. As we draft this, the last of our Communiqués from Kenya, the song that best expresses our emotions is the one adapted from one of Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl ballads by Pete Seeger and the Weavers in the late 40s or early 50s. It goes like this:

   I’ve sung this song and I’ll sing it again

            Of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been

            ‘Bout some of the troubles that bothered my mind

            And lots of good people that I left behind

                                       So long, it’s been good to know you  (x3)

It’s a long time since I’ve been home

                                      And I’ve got to be movin’ along.

And so it is with us. We have met lots of people, some good and some bad; a few happy, but more sad. We’ve seen life and death and too much of the latter. We have seen high spirits in the face of poverty and adversity but despair and hopelessness as well. Our 10 years in Kenya have planted lots of troubles that bother our minds, troubles which will continue to bother our minds until our dying day. We are changed persons. What we remember most are the “lots of good people that we left behind”. We cannot take them with us. Nonetheless, “we’ve got to be movin’ along.” It was a blessing to have known them and a grief to leave them. Who would have thought, when Nan and I were young college students, that, in our “twilight years”, we would forge close bonds of friendship with persons half a globe away? The fact is, it was not hard. They are just like us. The same desires, the same aspirations, the same struggles and the same tragedies. Unlike us, however, their desires are less often realized, their aspirations less often achieved, their struggles more unremitting and their tragedies more profound and unexpected than ours will ever be. With the help of all the good people we shall be rejoining on our return, however, we have changed for the better the lives of many. We are eternally grateful for the help and support that our friends and donors have given us. We just wish that we could have boasted more sustainable changes. But, as we implied in our “next to last” communiqué, any batting average more than zero for sustainability is good in this business. I think we have achieved that.

Does it sound like we are really leaving them behind? Of course we cannot. I was once told that in certain Asian countries, if you saved a life, you were obliged to support it thereafter. If that is true, then we have quite a burden to shoulder. Get real; it is too big to shoulder. But we can continue to help so long as we are selective. Therein lies the future. We would like to revive the Orphan Health Initiative which had such a beneficial effect on orphan and caregiver well-being when it was active. The cost was modest, about $2,000 per month; the yield in healthcare was tremendous. Over a two-year period, jiggers and scalp fungus virtually disappeared in the orphans of parishes served by the program. As the program progressed, fewer and fewer patients with formidable acute disease required hospitalization. Where can we find $24,000 per year? I think it can be raised even in the face of theWestern Financial meltdown. If it is possible, we know of a very committed and honest Clinical Officer whose main interest is in community health. He would be a great leader of such a program. The program would have dual benefits. It would improve the health of orphans and care-givers and would provide income for the Hospital which will need much help to stay afloat, as Kenyan inflation soars, and the healthcare system remains in turmoil. A Mission Hospital without donor support but supported only by patient income is no longer a “Mission” Hospital. It has lost its soul.

There is another project which we deem extremely worthy. More important, it is a program which the community conceived and for which they and we have identified an honest smart and committed person. It would be run from Phoebe House. We have mentioned Phoebe House in earlier communiqués. Of ten when women are diagnosed with AIDS, they are thrown out by their husbands as well as by their own families. Phoebe House was started by a group of women in Luanda township (4 km. from Maseno Hospital) to provide shelter and food for such women. Maseno Hospital has traditionally provided free health care to residents of Phoebe house. It has been successful. The new initiative, proposed by one of the ladies, is aimed at “child-headed households”. Imagine a 12-year-old girl trying to raise and provide for her younger siblings, ages 4 and 7, because both parents are dead and there is no willing “Granny” to take over. The proposal would extend the shelter of Phoebe House to those families. It is not clear what the ultimate costs will be, but start up costs should be modest. Nancy and I want to help this program to become successful.

So, it seems Nan and I cannot really leave Maseno and the people there. The Hospital, College and the Orphan Feeding Program are perpetually in need of support. Nancy and I shall continue to seek donations on their behalf and will continue to ensure they reach the right places. We shall continue to be accountable to all donors we might be fortunate enough to attract. The conduit through All Souls’ Church will remain to enable donations to be tax deductible.

Many thanks for all your help, encouragement and support.

Nan and Gerry Hardison


  1. Hello, champions. Its only today when I remembered you and your hospitality at A.N.U and particularly how you stood with me at A.N.U. I remember you sent me a mail in 2002 or 2003. I can’t figure how you got my address, but it rejuvenated me. Well, I managed to fulfill my academic dream and goal and attained a bachelors degree in education from Kenyatta University. Let me know how you are. May our Good Lord continue blessing you.

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