Missions Spotlight: Bill and Joy Irwin, Kenya

On a Wednesday afternoon at Tenwek Hospital in rural Kenya, gynecological consultant Joy Irwin, M.D., saw a patient—-a thirty-eight-year-old woman who had had a stroke, could barely talk, and was suffering from a blood clot in her leg. The prescribed blood thinner was causing heavy bleeding during her menstrual cycle.

“I examine her in our busy clinic” Irwin wrote on a blogpost in May. “It is hot. She cannot move well. She cannot speak. We lift her to the bed.”

Finding no cervical cancer or fibroids, there is little Irwin’s clinic is equipped to treat.

“My eyes fill up with tears. Nothing I can do,” Irwin wrote. “In my mind, I flash to Bethesda: to the man on his [pallet] by the pool. There is no one to lift him into the water. [I Enter] into his frustration, his pain, his helplessness, the dirt, the smell, the chaos.”

“And then Jesus is there. And it is simple. ‘Pick up your bed and walk.’ And he does,” Irwin wrote.

This day is like any other day for Irwin, who is a medical missionary with World Gospel Mission. The only hospital available to women in this part of Kenya, Tenwek, often treats patients in dire condition. For Irwin and the other OB/GYNs, these patients include women who have been laboring at home for days, who are suffering from preeclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication, who are dying from botched, back-alley abortions.

“God is reaching out to touch women’s lives,” Irwin said in a recent interview. “Women are dying from things we don’t often see here [in the U.S.]. But as Christians, we know there is hope beyond . . . Minute by minute, second by second, I am leaning on my Jesus.”

While Joy spends her days treating patients, her husband Bill, an attorney, works with the hospital administration writing grants and brainstorming ways to grow the hospital, both as a healthcare center and a teaching facility for Kenyan doctors and nurses. He also watches their six-year-old son, Walter, and helps look after as many as thirty other children whose parents work at the hospital.

“Often the spotlight is on what I do,” Joy Irwin said. “But Bill and Walter are just as much a part of this as me. I could not be here without them.”

For the rest of 2014, the Irwins will be on home ministry assignment in Richmond, raising support and recruiting new team members. In a report to WEPC, they have asked for your prayers for the following specific needs:

1. Fundraising and expansion of their team: pray that all of the needed support for their return will be raised, and that more individual and churches would join with them in prayer and financial support.

2. The missionaries who are covering the hospital while the Irwins are gone. There are many patients on the OB/GYN service and few hands to help.

3. For peace in Kenya, a nation struggling with terrorism and internal political change.

You can reach the Irwins at joy.draper@wgm.org and bill.irwin@wgm.org. You can learn more about their ministry in Kenya in this short film and at www.wgm.org/irwin. The Irwins also invite you to follow their lives more closely at their blogspot: www.africairwins.blogspot.com.