Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mission trip dates for Spring 2018 have been set!

Hello all!  It's been a while since I posted to this space.  We didn't send a team to Kenya this November, but we are gearing up for our next mission trip, which will be from May 24-June 3, 2018.  We expect to be working in Nairobi again, possibly at some of the smaller church plants that we have served through our clinics in the past, such as Waithaka or Pipeline.  We would like to continue to help these small, but vibrant, churches grow.  Those details are still being worked out with our Kenyan friends.  As always, we will go where we can do the most good, both in terms of the needs of the people for vision care and in regard to our primary purpose of evangelism.  If you are interested in more info about this mission trip, please email kevin.westergren@redeemer.net or me at dave@mrpcaustin.com and we'll send you detailed information.

After going to Kenya 17 times since 2009, I've fallen in love with the country and its people.  I've also gone from being a snapshot taker to a serious wildlife photographer and have been on over 30 photo safaris to various national and private game parks throughout Kenya.  In the past year, I started my own photography business, Photo Art by Dave and have a web site that I am constantly adding to and tweaking.  It's at www.photoartbydave.com.  You can view my nature photos from Kenya, Texas and other places for free and everything is also available for sale as canvas prints, prints, downloads, mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets, etc.  If you want something and it isn't offered, I can probably get it for you from another vendor.

I bring up the photography business because I am in the planning stages of arranging for several photo safaris to take place during the week after the mission trip.  The successful wildlife photographers that I know and admire are either working for National Geographic (the odds of that for me are about the same as me getting drafted by the NBA!), already have built multi-media empires or they are operating photo safaris.  I already have the groundwork laid for the safari business since I have our good friend Catherine Wangari and her Mission Opportunities travel agency in my corner and we have a stable of the best wildlife and birding drivers/guides around.  I stayed over for 3 extra days in November of 2016 and got over 5,000 pictures, mostly of birds, as this was my primary focus at the time.  Out of a possible nearly 1200 possible species in East Africa, we identified nearly 500, which is a home run, when you consider that many birds migrate and are not available in one area all year round.  Of course, we got lots of pictures of lions, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles and all of the other usual suspects.  I'll have more information by the first of the year, since it's important to book travel early to get the best prices on airfare.  If you would like to be added to an email list of prospective participants in these photo safaris, please email me at info@photoartbydave.com.

It's still amazing to me all of the good things that have come from doing the Lord's work over the years in Kenya.  I've made lifelong friends, we've seen sight being given to the blind, little children healed from congenital diseases and thousands of people coming to a saving faith in Christ.  God has always blessed both the giver and the receiver in my experience.  Many times, the giver is really the receiver and vice versa!

More to follow as more details emerge about both the mission trip and my safari opportunity.

Finally, please look through the blog posts from previous mission trips.  There are links to hundreds of pictures of our travel, what we do in the clinics, where we stay, the sights we see, etc. 


Sunday, June 4, 2017

The plane ride to Houston

We boarded our plane and left the gate right on time but were about 15 minutes late taking off as we waited in line behind others.  We are about 2 hours from Houston as I write and it has been a pretty smooth flight so far. The Fasten Seat Belt light only came on as we approached the East coast, a common experience.  We were fed a lunch an hour into the flight.  I slept a little after that and then watched a 50th Anniversary show celebrating The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan on my phone that CBS aired in 2014. That took up a couple of hours.  I'm suspecting we'll get a snack before we land. I've been munching on trail mix I brought from HEB to keep me going.

It looks like we've made up some of the lost time. I'm just hoping we have a smooth time going through Customs and Immigration so we can get headed back to Austin. More to follow once I'm home. 

Got to London OK

We got through security in Nairobi without a hitch and  took off on time at 11:15 pm local time.  In the past, our flight left at 11:50. While 35 minutes might not seem like much, it's a big difference when you're dog tired. We all got good sleep on the 8 hour flight to Heathrow and I'm writing this on my phone in Terminal 5. As I  noted earlier, I left my laptop with my dear friend Barrack for use in his photography and his Fikisha ministry with the street children in the slum of Kawangware. While my backpack is considerably lighter, it feels very good knowing why. Thank you Lord for providing for your people!

Our next flight to Houston should be about 9 hours. We arrive there at 2:15 pm cst and should clear customs in about an hour.  Randy is picking us up and I  hope to be home before 7. With any luck, I'll get word out from Bush International airport that we made it that far. I wonder if we'll stop for Blue Bell in Brenham? Only time will tell! Keep following the blog for the next few weeks. There are lots of stories to tell and  pictures to share that time, flaky Internet and exhaustion have kept from you so far!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Saturday activities and let the travel begin!

We had breakfast at Rosa Mystica at 7 and were in the Nairobi National Game Park by 8am. My driver from my 2 extra days of photo safaris last November, Simon, was our driver. He quickly found lions, giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, warthogs, elans, rhinos, water bucks, gazelles, impalas and a large crocodile to name a few.  We had a shortened safari so that we could also go to the world famous Elephant Orphanage.  It was entertaining and informative. Diane and Elena adopted a 1 year old elephant named Molima.

We had lunch at the Veranda.  Simon regaled us with all kinds of stories.  After lunch,  we proceeded to the giraffe feeding attraction, where I  got a picture of Kelly the Giraffe kissing Elana.  Actually,  she bad a piece of food in her mouth that Kelly retrieved.  We all had a good laugh.

We went back to Little Daughters for showers and joined with incoming teams for a worship service. Elena, Diane and I each got to share about our clinic before Pastor Mike from Catherine's church gave the sermon.

We are now at the airport waiting to board our flight. More to follow from London. Please pardon typos, I'm writing on my cell phone the rest of the trip.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The clinic finishes on a high note

We had another bang up day. Even with closing the clinic gates a little early so we could make sure we served everyone that was already there,  we saw 641 patients and several more people confessed Christ. For the week, we ended up with 2765 patients plus 300 school kids got screened for eye problems.  97 souls were won over for the Lord as well!  Thanks be to God!

Tomorrow, the Westergren's head to the Masai Mara for a couple of more days of family time in Kenya. We three will do a photo safari at the Nairobi National Game Park followed by lunch and hopefully we will feed some Giraffes at another place. We then will shower at the Little Daughters of St. Joseph before heading to the airport for the long trip home. More to follow as I am able.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thursday surpassed all expectations

A little more about last night’s dinner at Pampa.  Catherine’s son Eugene has always been able to outlast all comers at any “all you can eat” affair that I’ve seen him at.  Last night, he met his match.  The new world champion is Ben Westergren.  After all of us had surrendered by turning our green chip in front of our plates over to red, Ben was still sampling everything that was offered to him.  We thought it was hilarious, because got the kids half price deal and buried the rest of us.  The restaurant lost that bet because It was just short of unbelievable.  We all had a lot of fun with it and the conversation around the table was wonderful all night.
We breakfasted and left about 20 minutes later than usual this morning because there was absolutely no traffic, on foot or vehicular, to be seen.  It was the easiest ride to and through the slum of Kibera that I had ever experienced.  We didn’t know whether we would have a big day or if people might be doing other things on their holiday.  It was the former, we served 667 people before it was all over, with 23 new believers coming to Christ today.  Thank you, Jesus!  Just like yesterday, it was a steady flow of people, we never got a chance to really catch our breath.  We do rotate from one station of the clinic to another, because some jobs are standing and some are sitting, some are repetitive, while others, like triage, involve staying engaged in conversation with our patients, so you need to be attentive at all times. 
I was called out of the clinic to meet with Bishop Bakari near one of our evangelism tents.  He was sitting with an 18 year old guy that had obvious problems with his eyes.  It turns out that he has keratoconitis, a condition where the eyes become more and more shaped like the end of an American football.  We have had luck referring boys less than 10 years old to a clinic for treatment, but the older ones sometimes can only get partial treatment or hard contact lenses that temporarily push the eyes back into shape.  He had gone to one of the clinics we use without the benefit of being connected to Vision for Africa, our project and was told it would be at least $2000 per eye.  It might as well be a million dollars.  I worked with our doctors and they feel they can get the price down to possibly $600 per eye.  In these cases, we typically agree to pay a portion and ask that the family and community fundraise for the rest.  It has worked out well almost every time and it results in more people have skin in the game and actively praying for a good outcome.  I will follow up and report on how things go.
This afternoon, Joseph and Wayne from Waithaka came in to have a follow-up visit for Wayne after his successful surgery after our clinic there last November.  He was the young boy that had a hole in his left eye tear duct that resulted in a chronic dry eye condition.  I’ve posted pictures in the past of him before and just after his surgery.  It was a joy to see them both again, and Wayne is just fine now.  I’ve been in contact with Joseph, the father, by email since we first met.  Another thank you, Jesus!
We have a big day tomorrow, probably 500 or so patients before we must begin packing up the clinic and having one final devotion with the Kibera volunteers.  We have prepared diploma quality certificates of appreciation for them and will award them individually.  The recognition goes a long way with the younger volunteers.  In the past, many have framed them and put them on their walls.  We will say our goodbyes through laughs and tears and will spend our last night at Rosa Mystica.

Saturday, we will be going to the Nairobi National Game Park for a photo safari including a stop at the Elephant Orphanage.  Next will be a nice lunch at the Veranda, a wonderful outdoor dining experience, and finally we hope to get to feed the Giraffes at another attraction.  More to come as time permits.  Thanks for following our adventures and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

We had an awesome Hump Day!

We started our day at the clinic by sending all hands down to the school to examine 300 students with an eye chart and for other problems.  I stayed in the clinic and setup each station so we would be prepared to open when the others were done.  It’s a good thing I did, we were swamped all day.  None of us ever had more than a moment’s break the whole day, it was a steady stream of humanity.  By day’s end, we had served 535 patients in the clinic, so including the children, we made a difference in the visual lives of over 800 people. Praise God!


We had dinner with Catherine and her family, including her mother, her son Eugene and her nephew Brian.  We went to a Brazilian steak house named Pampa near Rosa Mystica, because we couldn’t get a reservation at the Carnivore, probably due to it being on the evening of the holiday celebrating Kenya’s independence from the British.  It was real blessing to see Mama again, which is what we call Caherine's mother.  It was a later than usual night for us, so we all turned in when we got back to our lodging.  I’m writing this quickly Thursday morning and will continue after the clinic today.  I hope we have a HUGE day with people being off work.  More details to come about Wednesday and today…t