CHRONOLOGY OF TENWEK HOSPITAL
1935: Colonial Kenyan government granted Mr. Hotchkiss 10 acres at the Tenwek site. Mr. Hotchkiss then turned the property over to World Gospel Mission. Robert Smith and his family moved to Tenwek and began work on the earliest buildings. Mrs. Catherine Smith began treating illnesses, delivering babies, and dispensing medicines from the new mission station. At the same time Robert Smith looked to the falls as a potential power source. He dreamed of installing a hydroelectric plant.
1936: Miss Mildred Fernum joined the Smiths. Mildred had been through some nursing training, but was not a fully trained nurse. Still, she used her limited training in taking up the dispensary work. Upon her arrival she delivered 10 babies in 10 weeks!
1937: Gertrude “Trudy” Shyrock joined the team as Tenwek station's first fully trained nurse. Seeing that the medical work was growing quickly and was a great aid in ministering to the Kipsigis people, the missionaries at Tenwek began asking the board of WGM to send them a doctor.
1947: Trudy’s load was somewhat lightened by the coming of Edna Boroff. Edna had been trained as a laboratory technician and with her arrival came the addition of a lab at the clinic. This was a great help in providing more accurate diagnoses. However, Edna is best known for her maternity work, having delivered around 20,000 babies!
1948: Another big change was soon to come to Tenwek. While on furlough in the U.S., Bob and Catherine Smith met the McNeal family who asked how they could help the ministry of Tenwek. The Smiths relayed the need for electricity at the growing compound. The McNeals donated the necessary funds for a diesel/electric light plant.
1949: The light plant arrived and in the same year an extra plot of land was granted to the mission for building a hospital. The first permanent building on the new hospital plot was the chapel. This chapel, located in the center of the hospital grounds is still in use today, and is a testimony to the Christ-centered nature of Tenwek Hospital.
Pursuing the dream
1951: A tragedy brought hope for the hydro prospect. While on an evangelistic trip with her husband Mrs. Ruth Smith Hahn was killed in a car accident near Nairobi. Through this tragedy a fund was set up in the name of Mrs. Hahn for a memorial project in Kenya. WGM missionaries decided that a hydroelectric plant would be a fitting memorial to this woman who had brought spiritual light to many people around the world.
1954: Funds were coming in for the Hahn memorial and the Local Native Council had approved the mission’s request to use the falls for water and power.
1955: Dr. James Probst of Africa Inland Mission and Mr. Hack Smith suggested that a water wheel could be used at the falls for pumping water to the compound.
June 1956: Tenwek’s Water and Power Scheme was presented to the African District Council, and arrangements were already being made to purchase a generator and turbine from the U.S.
January 1958: Carl Waggoner reported that permission had been given for the mission to take water from above the falls for station use.
June 1958: Jerry Fish and Carl Waggoner attended meetings of both the African District Council and the Local Native Council. At both meetings the mission was denied the rights to use the falls for power and water.
1959: The McNeal light plant, which was now struggling to supply enough power for the work at Tenwek, was retired. In its place the Mrs. Ruth Smith Hahn Memorial Power House was set up which included 2 diesel generators.
Blessings Outweigh the Struggles The hydro scheme was defeated for the time being and would not be seriously discussed again for several years, but that does not mean the work at Tenwek was stalled also.
May 1959: Twenty-two years after the field began asking for a doctor, Dr. Ernie Steury and his wife Sue arrived in Kenya along with their daughter Cindy. The clinic had grown into Tenwek Hospital. Proposal for a new administrative building at the hospital. The building was completed in 1962 and was a great improvement to the care that Dr. Steury and the nurses could provide.
New Projects and New Horizons
July of 1959: The mission’s executive committee passed a motion that a school for nurses be considered in Tenwek’s future.
1960: Tenwek began training nurses.
1964: Another opportunity for expansion came in when Dr. Steury and Johana Ng’etich were approached about beginning a school and clinic in Naikarra.
1966: Monthly medical trips had begun and a plot was granted to the mission. Gene and Marion Lewton moved to the site before the first house was completed and the next year were joined by Kipsigis evangelist missionary Frederick Makibior, and Nurse Ramona Thomas, who was set in charge of the dispensary. In that same year Vice President Daniel Arap Moi visited Kaboson and broke ground for the new 8-bed ward.
1969: Dr. Steury’s burden as the only full-time doctor at Tenwek was relieved with the coming of Dr. Bob Wesche.The addition of another full time medical doctor was a definite asset to the work of Tenwek Hospital. Prior to Dr. Wesche’s arrival there had been others who came for short-term appointments including Dr. Richard Morse, who later returned as a pediatric specialist.
The Ministry Broadens
1971: The daily business of the hospital was so great the mission realized that there was a need for a hospital administrator. Rev. Ezekiel Kerich was sent to Nairobi for training.
1973: Another outstation clinic developed. Edwin Kirui had been sent by Africa Gospel Church as the first missionary to Chepnyal, West Pokot in 1972, and in '73 he married Sarah, who had previously been a nurse at Tenwek. Upon her arrival in Chepnyal, Sarah set up a dispensary.
1975: Rev. David Kilel took over as the full-time chaplain.
1977: Ramona Thomas began a community health work by immunizing babies against communicable diseases.
1978: Dr. Steury and Dr. Morse hosted co-founder of World Medical Mission, Dr. Lowell Furman, and the director Mr. Franklin Graham.
Greater Community Impact
1980: The staff of Tenwek was joined by Nurse Susan Carter who came as a two year volunteer. At the end of her time of service Dr. Steury shared with Susan his dream of a community health program that could help prevent many of the illnesses that brought patients to the hospital.
1981: After that visit Mr. Graham, through World Medical Mission, raised funds for a major building project at Tenwek. Thanks to his efforts construction on the Johana Ng’etich Medical Center was begun in 1981 and the new ward was opened in 1985.
1983: Susan returned and, along with Dr. David Stevens, who had come in 1981, set up and established the Community Health program. Today the Tenwek Community Health program is a model for similar programs throughout the world.
A Dream Comes True
1982: Dr. Probst recommended to Dr. Steury that the time may be right to once again pursue the dream of a hydroelectric plant. He suggested that this time the mission should seek permission to change the source of their power rather than asking for an entirely new permit for constructing a power plant.
1984: As Dr. Stevens and his family were on furlough in the United States, David was put in contact with Mr. Bruce Rydbeck of World Radio Missionary Fellowship, a civil engineer who had recently finished a hydro project in Ecuador.
October 1984: Dr. Stevens had prepared a proposal seeking the necessary funds for this large project. At the same time Mr. Rydbeck had returned to Ecuador and spoke to his superior, Dr. Eric Moore, about the project. The two men felt led to approach their mission about going to Kenya and helping with the hydro project.
July 1985: The Stevens and Rydbeck families arrived in Kenya. In August it seemed that all the necessary permissions from the Kenya government were forthcoming, so by faith the work was begun on a road down to the river and a diversion of the water for the sake of the river construction.
August 1986: The dam was completed, the river returned to its normal course and the people watched in awe as the water crept up over the spill way down the other side and cascaded down the falls just as it had always done.
On June 30, 1985: Barbara Pinkley completed her course to become a Kenya Registered Community Health Nurse. She had worked as a nurse in previous years but also met the unique requirement of having been trained and practiced as a midwife.
December 25, 1986:The turbine and generator arrived at Tenwek.
October 1986: Official permission had been granted to the hospital to open the school and the Nursing Council of Kenya approved the opening date of July 6, 1987.
February 13, 1987: The installation of the turbine and generator took about a month and a half. Finally, Dr. Eric Moore switched on the hydroelectric plant and a few minutes later shut down the diesel generator.
April of 1987: saw the interviews for the first class at the new Tenwek School of Nursing.
1990: saw the establishment of Tenwek Community Development. This brainchild of Dr. Stevens' was an extension of the Tenwek Community Health program.
1991: Ezekiel Kerich retired.