Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spring 2017 Kibera Team is getting ready to saddle up

Our team was commissioned this morning at both the 9:30 and the 10:45 services.  There will be seven of us including Pastor Kevin and his entire family (Tammy, Jack and Ben), Diane and Elena Henderson and myself.  We will be serving in the Nairobi slum of Kibera at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church, where we have many friends from previous vision clinics there.

Click the pictures above to see full screen versions of them.  Depending on whether you are on a computer, a tablet or a smartphone, they may display differently embedded in this text.

Our dear friend Catherine Wangari has been working very hard to assemble an all star team of doctors, Pastors, evangelists and local volunteers to help us with serve the community.  Those of us that have made multiple trips will get big hugs from good friends there and our new team members will rapidly make friends.  It is a very welcoming place.  Please keep an eye on this space, as I will be posting daily reports when possible, and hope to include a picture or two.  Spotty Internet and time constraints many times mean that the bulk of the pictures will be posted after our return to the States.  I have already started a Google Photos Album with these two pictures and will add to it as I can.  I'll occasionally post a link to it as it grows.

Elena, Diane and I fly out of Houston this time, as we got a very good deal on airfare, less than $1000 round-trip.  We have a stop in London before heading on to Nairobi.  Pastor Kevin and his family are traveling separately and are laying over in London for an extra day.  We will be joined by them next Saturday after we have a full day of activities, probably including a photo safari out away from town.

That's it for now, stay tuned, more to follow as we begin our travels later this week!  Please keep us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission and especially that the Holy Spirit would work on the hearts, minds and souls of the patients we will encounter with human care on our mercy mission and more importantly, with the saving message of the Gospel.  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Reflections on the Fall 2016 Mission - includes pictures!

Now that the holidays are over and things have settled down a bit, I've had some time to put our Fall 2016 Vision Clinic in Waithaka in perspective.  This clinic was done in cooperation with the ELCK and their church in the slum of Kawangware.  It is walking distance to the Kawangware church and many of the members of that congregation live nearby and are helping to plant the new church in Waithaka.  They have a new building that is being improved upon daily and are already worshiping more than 60 people on a given Sunday. In addition to our normal goal of spreading the Gospel to large numbers of people through the vehicle of the clinic, we also were interested in helping to get word out about the new congregation in the neighborhood.

We saw about 2800 people and we were blessed with good weather all week and the many experienced volunteers from Kawangware as well as dedicated new friends from Waithaka.  This was the smallest team of muzungus (white people) I had ever led.  There were only 3 of us from the States along with Gloria Sauck, our local missionary and good friend. The clinic worked very well because of the experience of our friends that we had served with many times before.

We had 82 people come to Christ as their Lord and Savior during the week and all were given a Gospel presentation in the evangelism tents and everyone was talked to about their spiritual lives and prayed over individually in the triage station.  The Holy Spirit will surely move in more lives that we may never know about.

I was blessed with being able to stay 2 extra day with Bill Goodoff from Salem Lutheran Church to do a lot of wildlife photography.  I got over 5000 photos in about 2 and a half days and am still working on them as I write this!  It was a great way to decompress after a hectic week at the clinic and I left for the U.S. completely relaxed for the first time ever.

I have published a photo album of the clinic at the following link.  A photo album of the best pictures from the wildlife safaris will be published soon and I will note it in this blog when it is done.

Fall 2016 Waithaka Clinic

Thanks everybody for continuing to follow our progress, pray for us and support our efforts as we work to obey the command of Jesus in the Great Commission to "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To God be the Glory!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

From Heathrow, one more flight go!

This is being written at 38000 feet, high above Zurich, Switzerland.  We are about an hour from London and should arrive on time at 4:33 am local time.  This is unusual, since Heathrow has never opened before 6 am in my experience  because  the neighbors wouldn’t allow it. Maybe the new international terminal has a different flight path or the neighborhood was overruled.  In any case, I won’t have to rush through security since I’ll have a  6 hour layover.

We had an easy drive to the  airport last night.  Over the last few trips there has been heightened security in place. As we reached the airport, Bill and I had to leave our vehicle for a metal detector scan. Meanwhile, Julius, our driver, had to open the car and our luggage was screened. After he cleared a checkpoint which resembled a tollbooth, he picked us up and it was business as usual after that. I  am thankful for any extra precautions with the history that EL Shabab and others have in Nairobi over the years.
I got some good sleep overnight on the  flight.  I will need to time a nap or two on the London to Austin leg of the trip to help with overcoming a 9 hour time difference and the resulting jet lag that inevitably ensues.  The extra 2 days of photo safaris this time had both Bill and I  much more relaxed than ever before. I am pretty wound up right after all of the  pandemonium of finishing a clinic, taking  inventory and packing up. This was much more leisurely, so maybe I’ll adapt to Austin time quicker than in the past.

We made it to London right on time, took a bus from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 and breezed right through security. Now for the long layover at Heathrow. Bill and I are having a light breakfast at Huxley’s and using my new WiFi Hotspot to check email.  It works in 75 countries and knew it was in the UK when it woke up. Cool! I started a 24 hour day pass yesterday in Nairobi and it finishes as I board my plane home.  My field test of this device has been good. I give it two thumbs up!

More to come once I get home.  It will be good to sleep in my own bed, see my 18 year old cat who will be mad at me, walk Adrienne’s dog Pete who will be overjoyed to see me and of course, to be with Adrienne again.  And all of my friends and family I’ve been in not so good touch with over the last two weeks. And have a great Internet connection and all of the other blessings we Americans take for granted like clean water at the press of a button or turn of the faucet.  One of the greatest benefits of these missions is the reality check I get each time. I  admire the great faith and quiet joy of my Kenyan friends. They are not as wrapped up in the worship of material things as we are.  We learn from each other and there are positive features of our culture that rub off as well. The benefits of  short term missions with long term commitment are many. 

That’s about all for now. I’m going to start wading through a mountain of email that has piled up and get back into the right frame of mind to re-enter the “real” world. What a blessing this whole experience has been this time! Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Made it through security at Nairobi Airport

We're having dinner at the Java House, think Starbuck's with good food.  We have about 2 hours before our flight to London.  Bill leaves for Houston around 9am, I leave for Austin around 11am and arrive at ABIA at 4 pm on Tuesday. Let the trip begin!

About an hour before we leave for the airport...

We had a good time at the Bird Sanctuary, there were hiking trails through the woods and an occasional bird feeding tray with benches nearby from which we could observe and photograph the many colorful birds.  One bird we both saw was black and about the size of a crow.  It would fly back and forth across the trail every time we got too near for comfort. It had bright, Cardinal red wings when it flew.  It was too quick to get a photo of, but I'm hoping we'll at least identify it.

We hiked the trails for about an hour and a half before going to the Botanical Garden.  The Garden was free and we got some good pictures of some flowers and a few birds, but it was late in the morning, not the prime time for viewing wildlife feeding or on the move.  After about 45 minutes, we headed for lunch.  We tried to get into a very nice place called the Talisman, only to be told by the guard at the gate that it was closed on Mondays.  Instead we went to Dari, another good eatery with outdoor seating, water features and many birds including a Grey Crowned Crane, Peacocks and others.  Some of our best pictures of the day were taken there right after lunch.

We got back to Rosa Mystica a little after 2 pm, got naps and showers to freshen up for long journey home.  Please keep us in your prayers for travel mercies.  I will post from the road as I can.  We have a little layover in London, so I may be able to shed some light on the first half of our trip when we get through security there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winding down in Nairobi

For the first time in 16 trips, I have stayed over two extra days.  Catherine saw Ralph, Dora and the teams from Salem and Bloomington off at the airport Saturday night and they should have arrived in the States sometime late Sunday afternoon.  My friend from Salem, Bill Goodoff and I, went to Lake Nakuru Saturday for an incredible bird safari with our driver Simon.  Simon is 68 years old and has been birding and observing wildlife for most of his life. He had the exact same bird guide as Bill, so he could call out what page number and plate (picture) number each bird was as we saw them.  Bill took copious notes and had three or four pages by the time we were done.

Simon picked me up in Nairobi at 5:30 am and we drove a little over  an hour to the Panorama Lodge in Lake Naivasha where the Salem team was staying.  It was about a 7 story set of buildings with a magnificent view.  Unfortunately for me, no Bill at the gate.  We got a guard to open the gate, told him Bill had messaged me on Facebook that he would be ready at the gate by 7, but might have breakfast while waiting for us.  Mark, the guard, motioned for me to follow him.  7 stories of cobblestone steps later, we reached the top where the restaurant is located.  I was half dead.  We are at altitude, so anyone that has hiked around Vail will know the kind of winded you can get.  I'm surprised I didn't have a heart attack!  Guess I'm still in pretty good shape.  Bill was waiting at the gate, there is also one at the top of the lodge.  Mark hiked all the way back down to guide Simon and our van up the steep, winding road that goes to the top.  What a start to the day!  But, on the bright side, I slept great Saturday night.

We were at the game park at Lake Nakuru for about 6 hours and saw literally hundreds of birds.  I was like a kid in a candy store as we saw colorful bird after exotic bird as well as rhinos, water buffalo and other wildlife.  We drove back to Nairobi and had dinner at the Java House in the Junction Mall by Rosa Mystica.

Sunday, I skipped church for the first time in ages, but I consider being out marveling in God's creation worshiping in the BIG church that has no roof!  Catherine had a big surprise for us.  Not only was Simon our driver again, but Edwin, one of our favorite drivers and also a wildlife enthusiast, came along for the drive.  We got the deluxe treatment.  We were picked up at 6 am, were in the park a little after 6:30 and spent the next eight and a half hours in birder's heaven.  Plus, we saw rhinos, lions, giraffes, two or three crocodiles at various times, a Nile Monitor lizard, the list goes on and on.  I was blessed to have my friend Barrack along for the day.  We didn't break for lunch but kept snacking on various things that we, Edwin and Simon had brought along.  By the end of the day, Barrack and I had shot nearly 3500 pictures and I'm sure Bill had a high shutter count as well. He was breaking in a Sigma 150-600 lens I had suggested he get for the trip.  I also shot with the same lens on my Nikon D500 and Barrack manned my trusty Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 18-300 lens.  It will be a while before those pictures are posted, but they are special.  We saw birds I could only dream of, from tiny Pygmy Kingfishers that were a burst of color to Fish Eagle to Sacred Ibises, it was a very special day indeed.

Today, Monday, we are going to Botanical Garden and then a Bird Sanctuary before we come back to Rosa Mystica to freshen up for the long flights home.  We leave Nairobi around 11pm and I'll arrive in Austin around 4pm Tuesday afternoon.

Stay tuned, I will begin posting pictures of the clinic first and then will sort through the massive numbers of bird and wildlife pictures.  We are all in for a treat.  I can't waiting to see how the pictures from the various safaris turned out.  What a great way to conclude a trip that first and foremost was all about spreading the saving Gospel of our Lord and Savior.  Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The clinic closes with a bang!

We had a very steady day of treating patients as the clinic ran very smoothly.  By noon, we had already seen over 300 patients and there were over 100 more waiting in line.  By day's end, 628 people had come through the gate.  I haven't completed counting the registration cards yet, although they are divided up into groups for the statistics we keep both for our project and the Kenyan Ministry of Health.  My best guess is that we saw nearly 2800 people this week.  Wow!

We didn't begin to shut the clinic down until after 4 pm, later than usual, since we still needed to take an inventory of many of our items so we know what to order to replenish for our next mission in May 2017.  We are blessed to have Gloria Sauck, our missionary with the Vision for Africa Project available to help with keeping our supplies orderly and for her great ability to procure all of the medicines we need.

We had nice diploma quality certificates printed up for all the volunteers that participated during the week.  Dora used on of my cameras to take pictures as each one came forward to receive their Certificate of Appreciation from me.  Everyone was all smiles and a few tears were shed as we left our friends at Waithaka.  I hope to return there to do another clinic soon.

I'm pretty beat.  We went to the food court at the Junction Mall and finished off the meal once again with Italian Gelato Ice Cream.  I head our for a photo safari at 5:30 tomorrow morning, while Dora and Ralph will go to the Elephant Orphanage and a Giraffe attraction where you feed them from a balcony, eye to eye.  So that's about it for now, since it's 9 pm here.  We had an incredible clinic and now I get a couple of extra days of wildlife photography, something I haven't taken the opportunity to pursue before.  I'll keep posting while I'm here and will get pictures posted soon after my return to the States.  If the past is any guide, it may take a few weeks, but stay tuned, they'll be here and other places on the web that I will point you to.

Thank you Lord for a very effective mission duing which 82 people came to know you and hundreds of people had their physical needs met.  In your Name, Amen!