Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More pictures and a funny story

Kenya Mission - Fall 2010

Click the photo above to see all of the pictures that have been added to the mission photo album so far. Now there are around 260 of them and I'll be adding captions and replacing some of them with better ones as the team continues to get their pictures to me.

I forgot to mention a very klutzy move on my part after we had cleared security at Bush International Airport and were already out in the arrivals area with our footlockers waiting for a truck from Salem to pick them up. Tammy and Jack had come to pick up Pastor Kevin and I was waiting to help stack my footlockers with the others. I stepped back to get a hug from Tammy, forgetting there was about an eight inch drop off of a curb right behind me. I started dancing backwards, falling through various bystanders as I tried feverishly to regain my balance. It seemed like I was falling, falling for ages when I finally crashed through a bunch of empty airport carts and ended up on my backside. It felt like I was on Dancing with the Stars for over 100 yards by the time I came to a stop. Everyone was looking to see if I'd broken my neck or not. Only my pride and my backside were the worse for the wear, and I got up and made sure I still got my hug! After nearly 30 hours and 8,000 miles of travel, leave it to me to make a smooth move like that near the very end of the journey.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reflections on the mission trip

This mission trip was the first time I have been involved with a dental clinic. I learned that I am not squeamish, given the number of things that I saw that would make most people faint or at least not feel very good! My role was to do everything I could to make life easier for our dentists and volunteers and to help make the overall dental clinic run efficiently, thus freeing Pastor Kevin to concentrate on bigger picture issues, since he was the leader of the entire mission. This included jumping in to help with traffic control, making sure our hygienist always had patients at the ready as she completed cleanings, resupplying the cleaning station with fresh water, dumping the inevitable large bottles of blood that some of the cleanings produced, supplying our volunteers with needed bottles of water, especially in the heat of the sunny afternoons, helping to decide with Dr. Zoch and Pastor Kevin when the opportune time was to quit accepting any more patients for the day, aiding with setting up and tearing down the clinic both daily and at the beginning and end of the mission, and anything else that would promote the sharing of the Gospel through this vehicle.

My respect for the great job Salem has done mentoring Redeemer during the seven mission trips we have partnered with them on has grown with each journey. The number of details that have to all come together to sponsor both a vision and a dental clinic is pretty staggering and it took a lot of effort on the part of our Redeemer mission leadership, key team members, Gus Jacob, Kevin Pieper and Paul Althoff of Salem and Terry Councill (our Houston based dentist) to make this mission trip the most successful one we have done yet. With each passing mission, our Redeemer team has been given and has accepted more and more responsibility, both financially and logistically. We are at the point now where we supply both the vision and dental clinic with inventories of instruments, consumables and medications. While we still have a little ways to go before we can independently field teams of our own, handling travel details, dealing with the local Kenyan church and governmental authorities and many other matters that Salem still helps us with, I’m sure the day will come when we are in an even more equal partnering relationship with Salem. The inclusion of the Good Shepherd team and their invaluable contributions to the success of this mission show that our efforts at mentoring and partnering with other local congregations are beginning to bear good fruit. Like all excellent mentors, the Salem team is most satisfied when we pay it forward, doing for other new congregations what they have done for us, which, when you think about it, is the putting of Christian principles into practice.

What’s next?
The team will get together soon to celebrate our very successful mission and will review what went well and what could use some improvement. Most of us will begin immediately to concentrate on planning and preparing for our next trip to Kenya, scheduled for May 12-22, 2011. There will be a vision clinic at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in the Nairobi slum of Kibera at that time. We will be looking with a critical eye at whether we can field a dental team there also or possibly at Kawangware again. Our ideal plan would be to have a dental team at one church and a vision clinic at the other and then alternate them every 6 months. This would help us avoid saturating a mature market for one service or the other and would mean we would have a steady, long-term presence at both of the churches we are committed to. These are only some of my ideas and Pastor Kevin and others on the team will certainly have different perspectives as well. That’s one reason working with this team has been so gratifying. We all have a single purpose, fulfilling the Great Commission. But we are also able to brainstorm and tweak the process to make it more effective than it already is. And once we have agreement, everyone gives it their all, even if their particular idea was rejected or put on hold. What a wonderful group of sharing, caring saints to work with!

Each of us comes back from Kenya every single time recharged and renewed by the spiritual experiences that God had in store for us there. I can’t name one member of the team who is not very involved both at Redeemer or their home congregation and/or in our local community. Rather than becoming fanatical or single-minded and only worrying about serving our brothers and sisters in Kenya, instead we are all the more energized to use our gifts and the growth in faith that these trips produce to the betterment of the ministries each of us has at church, at work, in school or wherever our daily lives place us. I always have to ask myself if I am continuing to serve in Kenya for all the right reasons, the main one being that we all feel called by God to minister in this way, or do I do it because of selfishly wanting the awesome spiritual growth and gifts that result each time from “getting out of the boat”? I have concluded that it is a little of each, and if we continue to do these good things, always remembering and submitting to Him who sent us, it is not only OK to continue this work and other ministries that take us outside of our comfort zone, it is also just fine to accept the gifts that God showers on us for obeying his call. He is like all good fathers and wants to give good gifts to His obedient children.

A call to service
Please seriously consider this advice if you are one who has never done work in the mission field. It comes from one who was a prodigal son for over 25 years before returning to the Good Shepherd’s flock. I was broken beyond repair and He put me back together in a way that gave me a heart for Him and others. There is nothing more worthwhile than seeking and discovering God’s purpose for your unique personality and talents and then finding a way to fulfill His will in some way that serves others and glorifies Him in the process. He will bless you beyond your wildest dreams. I’m living proof. It doesn’t have to be a mission halfway around the world, although getting out of your everyday context is a great way to cut through all the clutter and “busyness” that make His call nearly impossible to hear over the din of our culture. It can be as simple as serving in a soup kitchen for the homeless, taking special needs kids bowling, building a ramp with the Texas Ramp Project for one of your neighbors who is imprisoned by his front steps, taking meals to those who need them with Meals on Wheels or maybe volunteering at the hospital. We have opportunities to do these kinds of things and many, many more at Redeemer or there are plenty more out in the community at large, if you are uncomfortable at first at the thought of being branded as some kind of do-gooder Christian. It’s all the same however you decide to serve and is valued highly in His sight. Trust me. The rewards outweigh the effort you will expend by at least a hundredfold. Again, if you are not already involved in some sort of service to others, just do it! What do you have to lose? A little time you might spend watching TV? Just try it! I’m not saying to go looking for ways to serve others because of the rewards that I know you will receive, just that if you serve others with the right motives, God's blessings will certainly follow. What are you waiting for?

Keep an eye on this blog for the next few weeks, since I am still gathering the pictures from other team members and I want to get photos of their perpectives available for all to see as well. I will also continue to post more reflections on the meaning of this trip and begin to chronicle the preparation for our next African evangelism effort.

To God be the Glory!

Travel Home

Travel Home – Nairobi to London
The team is currently flying at 36,000 feet southwest of Stuttgart on the way to London. We left our compound at 6:45pm after our usual heartfelt goodbyes with Catherine, Claude, Rhoda and team member who are taking later flights tomorrow. We battled some traffic getting to the airport, only to find that any rush was in vain, since our plane had been delayed until 1am, instead of the scheduled 11pm. The good news is that we had a planned five hour layover at London Heathrow anyway and we should be able to make our connection. The bad news is that the time was spent in the Nairobi airport, where they don’t believe in air conditioning (the may actually use the heat to torture us!). It was probably 70 outside, but some of the terminal waiting areas had to easily be 95 degrees. We were fortunate that our area was only about 85-90 when we were waiting to board. Pastor Goodwill made a point of greeting each crew member warmly as they passed through in front of us, and all but one or two responded with pretty good humor. We dared him to try his greeting technique on the general public and the first traveler went away scratching his head, after giving us a very funny look. But the next guy was a gem. He had gone to UT Austin years before and wanted to know what was wrong with the football team, with them having just played in the national championship game last year and now being just far too painful to talk about or watch. Pastor and the other Aggies in our group had some good-natured fun with him and made the usual predictions about the upcoming Thanksgiving game. After that light banter, we told him about our mission and he told us that he has been working to save the animals and the natural habitat in Africa. The heavy three year drought that finally ended this year had literally decimated cattle herds and other wildlife. Poachers are now going after elephants, lions, rhinos and other species, some for food, others doing it for big black market money. He pointed us to a National Geographic Wild episode that is going to air on December 8th, detailing what he fears is becoming a losing battle. When it was time to board, we wished him well with his noble calling. While most of us on this trip are pretty outgoing (or we wouldn’t be evangelizing halfway around the world!), Pastor Goodwill takes it to a whole different level, using his gift for dealing with people to pretty quickly getting at what makes them tick. He, Patricia and Rick from Good Shepherd have been a blessing and a great addition to the team, each tirelessly spreading the Gospel in their own ways.

London to Houston
We arrived in London at about 7am local time and the three hour layover worked out as scheduled. We all enjoyed the time, visiting with members of other teams and with each other. It is truly amazing, the variety of ways that the Lord used each of the teams for His purposes. We were finally assigned to our gate, which usually happens about 20 minutes before boarding and were put on three buses to take us out to our Boeing 747-400. There was one glitch, however. One of the new members of the Salem team had her luggage mistakenly put on another plane by British Airways, and, due to security rules, was not going to be allowed to fly with us, since her baggage would not have been flying with her. Luckily, Kevin Pieper was able to get her on our flight, which was blessedly about half full and he also managed to get her luggage retrieved and put on board our plane. This was the first truly difficult travel situation that we encountered and even it worked out OK. I'm glad, since she had never flown before and it was her first mission and was so far from home. The Salem crew came through once again! The plane took off right on time and we expect to arrive at Bush International Airport around 2:15pm. What a contrast between this flight and the journey home from the mission to the Nairobi slum of Kibera last May! The Icelandic volcano was still causing major travel problems then and it took over 35 hours from the time we left for the airport in Nairobi until I was on my front doorstep in Austin. The London to Nairobi leg involved 13 hours in one plane, 2 hours on the ground at Heathrow waiting for a flight slot and 11 hours in the air, since we had to fly north of Greenland into the Arctic Circle before the long trek south to Houston. Today’s flight should take less than 9.5 hours and the total trip will probably be around 30 hours from beginning to end. It will likely take about an hour to clear customs and retrieve all of our footlockers and personal items , if past experience is any guide. Then we will be heading back to Austin, with the mandatory stop in Brenham for Blue Bell and gas.

As predicted during my writing on the plane ride that is shown above, we got in around 2:30pm in Houston. As luck would have it, one of the Salem team members had been in the military with a customs agent who came to inspect our footlockers. It's good to have friends, because we sailed right through security like never before. While there were spot checks of personal items, the mission footlockers were not a problem. Only one footlocker didn't make it with the others, of course, it had to be the one with Howard and Martha, Ralph and Louise and Paul's (leader of the entire mission) personal items. Paul is coming through Austin on Wednesday and with any luck will have their possessions with him at that time. We did stop for the Blue Bell and I was deposited on my front porch at about 6:30pm, about 30 hours after we headed for the Nairobi airport.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday preparation for departure

This morning, a group led by Pastor Kevin headed out to the Lake Naivasha game park. The five of us who had been there before in May stayed behind and had a leisurely breakfast. Ralph and Louise, Howard and Martha headed out to see some sights around town. The Zochs are laying low after a pretty exhausting week. I also am hanging around the Norwegian Scripture House to put some final touches on this blog and will be meeting with ELCK representatives and the team leaders of the other mission sites as they arrive back in Nairobi around 2pm at the LCMS World Mission offices a couple of blocks away. Hopefully, Pastor Kevin will be able to join us at some point. These meetings are good debriefings, where ideas are swapped about what has been effective and what needs more improvement. Our team members from Good Shepherd have commented on how well organized our week was and that is a tribute to our Salem friends patiently teaching us the system that they have been fine tuning for a long, long time. Our veterans always spot more ways we can improve the process and we sometimes are our own worst critics. It was an incredibly successful week and we need to be thankful for that, all the while realizing we can always find more efficiencies and should never stop examining every aspect of these missions, while remaining true to our overarching purpose: fulfilling the Great Commission.

As the teams begin to trickle back here, there will be pizza and Cokes waiting for them. We should leave for the airport between 6:30 and 7pm and fly out for London around 11pm. We always allow plenty of time for the inevitable delays in customs that a group with 60 footlockers can expect to encounter.

Once we are on the plane, I will be going to each of the other camera carrying team members so that I can borrow their memory cards and copy their pictures into my laptop. I love the different perspectives each missionary has, some have wonderful pictures of the children, others focus on nature or the places we have been. The pictures that are attached to this blog up to this point are from the 513 I have taken so far and are heavily tilted toward my work in the dental clinic. I expect to have 5,000 or more pictures at my disposal and will create a new photo album and link it to the blog that adds these other unique viewpoints. I always create a DVD for each team member that has all of the pictures from everybody, the good, the bad and the really ugly! This way, if there is a particular purpose they have, they have access to the collective wisdom of the team. Stay tuned, there will be a few more journal entries about our travel adventures, the new pictures mentioned and, as always, some final reflections on this mission. Of course, that won't complete my work by any means. I will be putting together video and pictures for school chapels and classroom talks at Redeemer and for presentations to various groups such as the LWML, LLL, adult Sunday School classes and anyone else that is interested. I love to show people where their time, talents and treasure are going and the tremendous effect they have had on people's lives, both those we serve and on each of us.

I will also be gearing up right after the first of the year for our mission from May 12-22 to the church in Kibera to host at least a vision clinic and possibly the first dental clinic there. Keep an eye on this blog for info as that begins to take shape.

To God be the Glory!

Click on picture below for the most current set of photos:

Kenya Mission - Fall 2010

Friday was even better than Thursday!

We started our day with many people already waiting for both the vision and the dental clinics upon our arrival. This proved true to form, since it seems that people wait until the last minute to finally seek treatment. By 9:30am, we already were working on cutting off the line for the dental clinic. By the end of the day, some people had waited seven hours or more. On the vision side, over 700 people were served and nearly 250 sought and received dental care. For the week, we saw almost 3500 people, around 2400 in the eyeglass clinic and a little over 1100 for dental. Some people were treated in both areas. There were many more heartwarming stories of broken people being led to Christ or at least being willing to give the church a chance. For the week, the number of these seekers was about 130. It wasn't unusual in the triage area after the eyechart exam to see at least 5 of our evangelists praying individually with patients. There were many tears and more than a few laughs. Our highlight in the dental clinic was when the "Mother Teresa of Kawangare" returned with the rest of the children in her care. She has an incredibly deep faith and has totally surrendered herself to God and his calling for her. I spoke with Karin, the Pastor's wife, about whether she and her group of deaconesses might be able to make Mother Teresa part of their ministry, since both churches in Nairobi that we visit have strong ministries for HIV/AIDS orphans. I think there would be a great deal of synergy there. We got some pictures of them arriving at the clinic, with our dentist, Dr. Zoch and during their treatment. The youngest, a child less than a year old by my estimation, had several deformities and a cleft palate that opened into his nasal passage. I am hoping that there is somebody we can refer him to for treatment, since we are not setup to work on such a complicated medical/dental issue, but concentrate on extractions. The other children were amazingly well adjusted and acted just like kids everywhere, laughing, fighting and bothering each other. For me, the whole saga of this incredible woman of God was the highlight of my trip. There is always one stellar moment, and I always pray that the Lord will let me be part of something like this. He has never let me down. You certainly can't predict what it will be, He always has a surprise in store for you!

We were trying to shut down both clinics by around 4 to 4:30pm. The vision clinic was successful in this and dental would have been, but the last three patients had difficult surgeries and we didn't have everything cleaned up, stowed in footlockers and in our bus or a pickup truck until nearly 6pm. We had a final song and some tearful and joyful "til we meet agains" with our volunteer, a closing prayer for the week was led by Pastor Kevin and we boarded our bus. We got to see a different side of the slum on our way home, that of nightfall, little shops starting to be lit by one candle and people walking around and having a good time on a Friday night. After a stop for some final snacks and other goods at the Nakumatt, we arrived at the Scripture House after 8pm, too late for dinner. Catherine ordered some chicken and french fries that were delivered after our evening devotion by a guy on a motorcyle and it was hot and tasted great, probably because it was great and because we were famished.

I have uploaded more pictures from the last 2 days of the trip and they now join the rest of the pictures that are already there. Click on the picture below to see them, either indiviually or as a slide show.
Blessings to all and thanks for your support of this mission to the slum of Kawangware!

Kenya Mission - Fall 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday was our best clinic yet!

My day began at the LCMS World Mission office helping the staff there with some computer issues, it was nice to be able to use my talents for my friends there. I rode into Kawangware with Catherine and even though it was around 10am and traffic should have been light, there was unexpected construction and we had to take a longer back way that I had never seen in my three previous trips to Nairobi. It was a nice change of pace. When we got near the church, it was too muddy to park in front, so we stopped about 100 yards short of it and started towards a small flat spot full of goats. I asked Catherine if they would get out the way and she matter of factly said "They will have to." They did. We brought two cases of water with us for the volunteers and had some of our young friends trek it to where it needed to be. When I arrived at the dental clinic, Alex, our lead local dentist looked at his watch disapprovingly. I said it was OK because I was on Kenya time where no one is ever really late. He just said "A noise was missing!" It's hard to believe he would say such a thing about reserved, quiet Dave DeVore! We all had a good laugh at that one. There was good weather all day and we saw over 700 people in both clinics, with 242 being seen in dental and the remainder going to one or both clinics. In the afternoon, a short, nicely dressed woman brought a young boy to Dr. Jay, a wonderful dentist of Indian descent. She showed him a piece of paper and they talked for a while in Swahili since she spoke no English. Dr. Jay called me over and said :You need to see this." It was an article from the large Nairobi paper, the Daily Nation entitled "The Mother Teresa of Kawangware" and it was about her. She is a woman of strong Christian faith with no visible means of support who takes in unwanted children. She has seven total right now and the little boy she brought in is her most recent addition to the fold. His parents had wanted to kill him, so she stepped in. Once we realized what was going on, I called Dr. Zoch and Dr. Councill over and the were filled in on the situation. She wanted to bring the rest of the kids in tomorrow to make sure they were all right, and we readily agreed. How could we do anything else? It turns out her own son, named Abednego, is one of our volunteer evangelists and is always walking the streets of the slum preaching about Jesus. I always pray before each mission that I will be involved in some small way in an experience such as this and God answered in no uncertain terms. I can't wait to see her with the rest of the children tomorrow. After the clinic, the rest of the team stayed at the compound for R&R, while Pastor Kevin and I went to the home of LCMS Missionary Pastor Carlos and Lidia Winterle for dinner and to do some work on a new computer he had gotten recently. The food was excellent and was prepared by Lidia, who spoke Portuguese and a smattering of English. Not a problem, she was as much a part of the evening as anyone. They are from Brazil and have helped with the Kawangware church during their call over the last four years to the large ELCK national church downtown. They are preparing to head to Capetown, South Africa to minister to a small English speaking congregation there. I help him with his computer via Skype and a remote control software we use in my business called LogMeIn. Once he is relocated after the first of the year, he will be my most distant customer! That's all for now. Last day of the clinic will be tomorrow. More pictures and stories to follow once we wrap things up. Blessings!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday began with a downpour

Our volunteers straggled in later than usual after having trouble getting to the church this morning during a tremendous half hour burst of rain. Our local dentists spotted an empty matatu (a van that is used for public transport that holds a driver and 14 passengers in very close contact!) and commandeered it by paying the driver more than he would have gotten for a full vehicle if he had been picking up individual riders as needed. Fortunately, our own team had already gotten there just before the sky began to weep. On the way to the clinic, I got to do one of my favorite devotions from Oswald Chambers entitled "What is a Missionary?" The main point of it is to remember Who it is that is sending you and not get so wrapped up in what is going on all around you that you take your eye off of the primary mission that He has given us in the Great Commission. I had a few conversations during the day about aspects of the devotion that tell me that it was received well and had provided food for thought. Even with the rainy start, it was a good day, with over 500 people coming to the clinics and about 200 of them going through the dental clinic. We had a Muslim woman return to the vision clinic asking for Pastor Goodwill (he had spoken to her earlier in the week)and he had a wonderful exchange with her that eventually led to her speaking with Pastor Zedekiah and promising to come to church the next Sunday. Another Muslim woman was very angry with God, and after much probing and back and forth, it was found that she had a paralyzed husband. At first, she didn't want any prayers, but at the end of the conversation, she allowed us to pray for her and her husband in the name of Jesus. We all included her and her husband in our own individual evening prayers, knowing that if her husband was miraculously healed, it would be a powerful witness to her family and community of the healing that only Jesus can bring for both spirit and body. In the evening, we went to the Carnivore, obviously not a vegetarian restaurant. The meal started out with salad and bread. Then a scalding hot plate was set in front of each of us and for the next hour or so, we only dined from the meat food group. There was chicken, pork sausage, ostrich, beef, chicken liver, pork, turkey, chicken gizzards, pork ribs and on and on and on. We took Rhoda, Catherine and her son Eugene with us as our guests. Eugene is 14 and has a scary capacity for food! Rhoda had the staff come and do a birthday celebration for Jon Zoch, which came as a bit of a surprise to him, since his birthday is in April! In the morning, I will meet our mission coordinator at the LCMS World Mission office to use my gifts and get her email working right. She's getting some extra supplies for the dental clinic and I will ride with her to the church in Kawangware when she takes those supplies to the team. Tonight, Pastor Kevin and I will be dinner guests of Pastor Carlos Winterle and his wife, who are from Brazil. I will be doing some tuning on his computer as well and we will compare notes on the water well project and his mission over the years. He has been instrumental in working with the street boys, has been behind a new shower facility for them that was dedicated last July and has been a strong proponent of the water well. He has a blog and his writings have resulted from donations coming to Redeemer for the project from all over the U.S. I am adding new pictures to this site daily, so keep coming back. You can get to them by clicking on the title of this article. Once we are back in Austin and I can gather up all of the pictures that the group has taken, I will redo the picture aspect of the blog. So far, you have only seen what I have seen and I want a more balanced birdseye view of our experience. Each missionary has a different perspective and has had unique encounters. For now, you will have to be satisfied with what has come in through the lens of my camera and my heart.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday and the clinic is picking up steam - click here for pictures

We really had a great day today in both the vision and dental clinics. We saw nearly 500 patients for eyeglasses and 224 people received dental care. At our evening devotion, we shared some of our highlights of the day and the clinic so far. Pastor Goodwill and Ralph had stories of working with people looking for answers that we know only Jesus can provide. Pastor Kevin worked with a Muslim man who felt that Jesus was a great prophet, but hadn't died, finally giving him a Bible so he could compare what he had been told with what is actually in Scripture. He made the point that either Jesus was telling the truth about his sacrifice and resurrection or Islam was wrong about Him and what He had done, but that both could't be true. Hopefully, he will seek further answers from Pastor Zedekiah. Louise dealt with one woman who didn't list a faith or home church on her registration card. She said she didn't go to church. Louise persisted in asking why not and gave a powerful witness to her concerning her final destination and how Louise was sure of her own salvation. The woman was moved and is going to come to church next Sunday! I told the group how working with the dental cleanings for the volunteers with Diana had been so rewarding, once we got over their initial apprehension. We had a morning devotion in the dental clinic and then we held Pastor Zedekiah hostage until he got his cleaning. I'm glad, since I had expended a lot of energy Monday trying to find a time during the course of the day when he wasn't effecting eternal consequences with one of our clinic participants. The young men actually started asking to be next for cleanings today, so I think the word has spread that there's no pain and it's a good thing to have done. I now have a total of 23 people that are interested in cleanings and we should be able to accomodate them. In the past, Diana has had to help with the traffic flow and logistics of the dental clinics and has had no time to practice her vocation. It's nice to see her using her gift from God, since we have more team members supporting the ministry of the dental clinic on this trip. We are even looking ahead to future trips and considering lay volunteers from the church being used to assist the dentists and the hygienist.

Pastor Kevin and Ralph had a meeting with Living Water representatives here in Kenya this afternoon. It went very well and they are scheduled also to meet with church officials to iron out more details of this ministry. Things are looking very good for the well project to begin sooner rather than later, if all of the pieces fall into place.

Tomorrow night, the group will be having dinner at the Carnivore, which is a very aptly named restaurant. I hope to be able to share a few observations after dinner, if we don't get back to our lodging too late.
Blessings!

To see pictures since the beginning of the trip, please click on the title of this post above.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The first day of the clinic bears much fruit (click here for pictures)

Click on the title above to see selected pictures of the trip to date!

The roads were a little worse at 7am than they had been Sunday morning, due to the overnight rains. Our bus didn't even attempt to turn into the church grounds, instead, we parked across the street and walked in. Since we didn't have all of the supplies, an electrical generator, etc., onboard the vehicle was much lighter and the driver was able to handle it better in the even more adverse conditions than he had been able to Sunday. I worked with the dental team completing setup of all of our equipment and organizing our medications, instruments and supplies and we were able to see our first patients by around 10am. The vision clinic required a little less setup, and with a team of eleven there was plenty of manpower to get them open for business a little sooner. The morning was fairly light, due to the road conditions and it being the first day, but by day's end we had seen a respectable 400 people in the vision clinic and had treated 196 in the dental unit. Pastor Zedekiah ended up with 22 people to follow up on who were either interested in Christianity or were Muslims with questions. One man was going to bring his Koran back to continue in his discussions with the Pastor, perhaps a good sign since he is willing to talk about the differences in the faiths. Historically, the first day, regardless of weather, tends to be a little slow, but word of mouth spreads quickly in the slum and succeeding days get busier and busier. Our triage team, consisting of both of our pastors, Dan Zieschang and at times others such as Ralph Genz had many moving stories to tell after dinner during our evening devotions. One involved a 20 year old woman that needed to have a corneal transplant and had been unable to receive treatment due to the high cost. She had come to us in a last ditch attempt to get the surgery. While we do refer patients for cataract surgeries, corneal transplants are outside the scope of what we are set up to do or have a budget for. We were only able to pray with her and leave it in God's hands. There were many lighter moments as well. On this trip, our dental team has decided to do cleanings for the Pastor and any of the volunteers who are interested, since they never get time to be treated under the normal flow of the clinic. I began gathering a list and out of the 20 or so volunteers, only a handful expressed any interest. As I talked to these young people, I came to the realization that they were apprehensive as none of them had ever had a professional cleaning and thought it would be painful. One told me she didn't want instruments in her mouth. One of our volunteers from a previous trip took the plunge and came back to her post smiling after about an hour. Next, I challenged one of the young men by asking him if he had more courage than the girl who had just come back. Hesitantly, he headed for our dental hygienist's station, ably staffed by Diana Zoch and she did the rest, putting him at ease every step of the way. By the end of the day, others, particularly young men who had said "no way,never!" in the morning were wanting to be next! This is the first trip we have carried an ultrasonic scaler with us, similar to what is used in our own dentist's offices in the U.S. I now have a list of 15 people total who will get cleanings (or washings as the Kenyans call them), leaving us with the capability of doing perhaps 25 more cleanings for others not associated with the clinic in any way. We feel this is a nice way of giving back to those volunteers who have helped us trip after trip, and since it is an extra service, it is really not taking away from the main focus of the dental clinic or showing favoritism. The practical purpose of the dental clinic is to do extractions and dental surgeries, all the while meeting our overall puropse of spreading the Gospel through this loving effort. That's about it for today, we need to get rested up for much more of the same tomorrow. Thanks for following our progress and keeping us in your prayers. Thank you Jesus, for the way you have called us to serve others.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday in Kawangware, Reuniting with friends, worshipping together

We had a wonderful day, starting with loading up a larger bus than we have used in the past and a truck full of all of our footlockers and other supplies for the trip to Kawangware. The heftier bus barely made it through the rather wet and muddy narrow approach to the church. It is now raining at 9pm as I write this and I'm a little concerned about our journey in the morning. At any rate, we arrived at the church and had a wonderful greeting from all of our friends that we have made on previous missions. We were there in time to get all of our clinic supplies into the area where the dental clinic will be held before we had an outstanding three and a half hour worship service which included a wide variety of music ranging from a children's choir to the women's choir with several other styles in between. Adding to the special feeling of the service was the fact that it was a Communion service. There was one choir number that I got on film that was performed out on the lawn after church. We completed setting up the chairs and compressors for the dental clinic to get a jump on tomorrow morning and rearranged the church so there wouldn't be so much work in the morning. We left the church at around 4pm, famished and ready for a long overdue lunch. We ended the day with a trip to Nakumatt (think Super Wamart) to buy supplies for the clinic, snacks and water for us and to get a bite to eat. Pastor Goodwill led a devotion during dinner, while I was at the LCMS World Mission offices transferring data from Catherine's desktop system to a flash drive, so I could finish prepping the laptop that the mission team had purchased as a gift for her last month. That process went smoothly and I am now ready for a shower and bed, since we leave at 7am for the first day of the clinic. I will post pictures from the last several days tomorrow evening when the clock is not so against me.
What a blessing today has been!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday in Nairobi

Some of the group got up bright and early to be on the road by 6am to go to the wild game park on the outskirts of Nairobi, others decided to sleep a little later and visit the Karen Blitzen Museum, named for the subject in the movie Out of Africa. Another group that rode around town seeing many sites including the U.S. Embassy. They got a special treat when they visited the large downtown national Lutheran church and actually had coffee with Bishop Obare. Pastor Kevin and I took a ride across town to meet with the pastors of the churches that are going to have clinics this week, representatives of the ELCK and some of our Lutheran World Missions staff. It was very interesting hearing the various viewpoints on how the clinics had benefited the churches that have held them and how the kingdom continues to grow through the evangelism associated with these missions. Kevin Pieper of Salem shared how their new member process at Salem works, trying to give the local pastors some ideas on how they might approach accepting new members. In many of the church locations, a person wanting to become a member or be baptized may have to take instruction in the Christian faith similar to confirmation classes. As in the U.S., there is a spectrum concerning these issues and our mission teams just need to adjust and follow the lead of the local pastor.

After all of the groups returned to the Norwegian Lutheran compound we had a worship service led by Claude Houge, who is the LCMS World Missions coordinator for 5 east African countries and Kevin Pieper. It began with songs from the Kawangware Children's choir and included several praise songs, readings by Pastor Houge, Paster Kevin and Pastor Goodwill. It was a very moving, highly spiritual service. I found a little tear running down my cheek during the readings from Isaiah and Luke dealing with Jesus' sacrifice.

After church, some ladies that work with the orphans in the slum came with souvenirs and clothing for sale to support their mission. I got several shirts, since I have been promising a few friends a souvenir for quite some time. We had dinner around 7:15pm and everyone is now winding down in anticipation of a big day tomorrow. The groups going to the outlying areas are leaving as early as 5:45am. We will be loading up all of our footlockers into a truck around 8:45am and will be on the way to church by 9am. After a church service that I am sure will feature several choirs and many musical styles, we will do some preliminary setup for the dental clinic. That's it for now, please come back often for more reports on our comings and our goings.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Travel 11/12/2010

11/12/2010 Enroute to Nairobi from London on British Airways Flight BA065
It’s nearly 6pm Nairobi time and we have made good time today. We should arrive at the airport around 9:30pm, due in part to a shorter than normal layover at Heathrow. This layover was so short I didn’t get a chance to break out my laptop for another report. Our security check went very quickly with no problems that I’m aware of. Dan Zieschang had arrived in London from Chicago about an hour before we did and he found us without a hitch. I have brought a computer projector bulb for Pastor Carlos Winterle, one which can only be purchased in the U.S. Dan and his son Danny have put together a DVD of film clips of greetings from Redeemer kids and we would like to show it Sunday to the children’s Sunday school hour. If there is no projector available at the church, we are hopeful that the first use of Pastor Carlos’ bulb will be for this occasion. I no longer am much of a believer in coincidences, I’m much more inclined to think that God may be intimately involved in this circumstance. I got the request for the bulb with only a week to go before our trip, the supplier had no provision for expedited shipping and UPS tracking had predicted it’s arrival somewhere between November 10th and 16th. We left on the trip early on the morning of November 11th. The package with the bulb was on my porch the evening of November 9th with a full day to spare! Thank you, Jesus!
The rest of our long day looks like this. After arrival in Nairobi, we each will get tourist visas. This process involves filling out a form, paying $25 in new U.S. currency and having our pictures taken. Next, we will proceed to the baggage claim area. There are money exchanges there, so each of us will change $200-$300 into local shillings, which last spring produced about $78 shillings per dollar. Each missionary will then retrieve the two footlockers that they were assigned ages ago in Houston. We will then go through one last security checkpoint, load all of the footlockers up either in a truck or on top of the bus that will take us on a 45 minute ride to the our lodgings at the Norwegian Lutheran Church’s Scripture House compound. We’ll break open the footlockers with our personal effects in them, get assigned to both rooms and roommates for the weekend, have a group prayer, hear some words of instruction from the Salem leaders about options for Saturday activities and maybe get a shower before hitting the sack. It looks at this point like this trip will end up being about 31 hours from start to finish, counting from the group gathering at Ralph and Louise’s house Thursday until our arrival at the Scripture House Friday night. This is not trivial travel, but everyone has been in great spirits the whole way and the entire team of about 40 members really has lifted each other up along the way. Just arrived in Nairobi safe and sound, ready for bed!

Travel 11/11/2010

11/11/10 Enroute to London on British Airways flight 194
As predicted, there were both Blue Bell and The Kettle on the way to the airport. Lutherans like tradition or put another way, we seem to hate change! We ran into very little traffic, it was overcast most of the way and I’m sure the Veteran’s Day holiday contributed to the lack of traffic congestion. We arrived at Bush a little before 1pm and immediately began to help with the footlockers, which had just arrived by truck. Some porters actually did a lot of the work, bringing in footlockers on big carts that held about eight of them at a time. We placed baggage tags on each one and made sure they were clear of UPC tracking labels from previous missions. Those of us that are carrying the twelve expensive autorefractor eye exam machines placed our personal items in empty footlocker space set aside for this purpose and we duly noted the locker numbers that held our own belongings. This will make life much easier when we are looking for our individual items late at night after arrival at our lodgings in Nairobi. All of us were assigned two footlockers to be responsible for, which we also noted the numbers from as if they were our own checked luggage. This saves about $400 per locker in shipping, making these missions feasible, since the cost would be prohibitive otherwise. It never ceases to amaze me how well this system, developed over many mission trips by Salem Lutheran Church to the Honduras and Africa works. I’m sure there has been a fair amount of trial and error over the years, but to look at it now is a thing of beauty in its precision. Check-in went very smoothly until we got to the security check area. It was pretty backed up and very warm. Some of the team members were full body scanned with the latest TSA machines and one of our team, who shall remain nameless, was physically searched pretty aggressively. We had about an hour and a half to kill before boarding the plane, time that was well spent renewing acquaintances with friends from previous mission trips, making new friends with first time travelers and placing final phone calls to loved ones before our departure. I am writing this at around 7pm Austin time, over northern Michigan. According to the running totals on the onboard map, we are about as far north as we are going to get and will follow the coast of Newfoundland before heading out over the Atlantic for London. Arrival there should be in about 6 and a half hours, meaning the flight will have been about nine and a half hours in the air. We are flying at about 35,000 feet at nearly 650 miles per hour on a Boeing 747-400. More to follow during our layover at Heathrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel day is here!

It's around 7:45am in Austin as I write this, Howard and the crew will be picking me up by 8:30 this morning. If past tradition holds true, we will be making great time through Manor, Elgin and Giddings and then the SUV will get a mind of its own and turn into the Blue Bell in Brenham, even if it's only 9:30 or 10am! One last treat before we must pretty much eat whatever is placed in front of us for the next 11 days. We also have made a habit of stoping at The Kettle, just outside of the airport for lunch. You can get an entree or the buffet is pretty good as well. We'll gather up around 1:15pm at Bush International Airport to get all of the footlockers in from a Salem truck, then get two each of them assigned to all of the missionaries. We'll surely have a group prayer before heading through check-in and security en masse. We'll fly out around 4pm for London and arrive very early London time, probably around 5am. Our flight to Nairobi will be around 10am local London time and we'll arrive there around 10:30pm. After clearing customs,getting visas and traveling to our compound, it will be well after midnight Nairobi time. My next post should be sometime Saturday, as we'll be 9 hours ahead of Austin time, so there may be something for those of you in the States to read with your morning coffee. Please continue to pray for our safety and an effective mission that touches many lives with the Good News. To God be the Glory!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pictures from the mission so far

Here are pictures up to and including our commissioning last Sunday.  Click on the "Pictures from the mission so far" link above to see them!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We're all ready to go!

We have finally arrived at the point where there is not much more we can do other than pack our personal baggage before the mission trip and pray for God’s will to be done. The many months of planning, ordering and purchasing supplies, countless emails and phone calls are coming to a much appreciated end.

On Sunday, the Redeemer team was commissioned at all three worship services. Pastor Kevin told the congregation about the love of Christ that is shown through both the vision and dental clinics and stressed that while these health services and human care ministry that we provide to the people of Kenya are wonderful and worthy of doing in themselves, they are actually a means to an end. Our primary purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission, as given by Jesus to the disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 which reads:

Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mt 28:19 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, Mt 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As long as we never take our eye off of this overarching purpose, our efforts will be a success, even if only one person comes to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior during our clinics.

I have mixed emotions about our travel.  It is usually a 30-35 hour from start to finish affair, beginning with a drive down to Houston from Austin early Thursday morning, flying to London around 4pm after gathering all of the missionaries together at Bush International airport and assigning each of them two footlockers of vision or dental equipment for their checked luggage.  Because we do this to save on shipping the equipment, each of us will need to live out of a carryon and the small personal item we can take on board for the next 11 days.  You learn to travel light!  We will have a 4 or 5 hour layover in London before flying on to Nairobi.  We'll get to our lodgings around midnight and be in bed by 1am if past experience is a good guide.  While this is not trivial travel, I look forward to the variety of people I'll get to meet and share with.  On one trip back from Kenya, I got to talk to a Kenyan U.N. delegate who was on his way to New York on U.N. business for about half an hour.  He turned out to also be a Christian and we wished each other well, after sweltering while waiting for our plane to start boarding.  Our seats on the planes are always quite scattered, intentionally, so we can interact with other passengers who are not part of the mission team.  Who knows how much evangelism is done just through our travels and chance encounters?  I'm not much of a believer in accidents anymore, so I look at it as showing Christ's love to whomever God has managed to place in my path.  Most people seem genuinely interested in our mission and will ask all kinds of questions, giving us the opportunity to explain what motivates us. 

Please keep our safe travels in your prayers and that things go smoothly as we go through various security checkpoints along the way.  With the heightened security after recent events involving Yemen, it may be a bit more of a hassle herding our large group with all of our supplies through the process at each airport.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Final Preparation and Packing for the Dental Clinic in November

We've been very busy for the last few weeks on the dental side of the mission trip procuring last minute items such as headlamps for the Nairobi dental team, batteries to run them and the like.  We (Martha, Howard, Louise and myself) had the "party" described in my previous post on Wednesday night, October 13th at Casa Genz.  We consumed a large pizza and counted, bagged and labeled thousands of pills.  There were antibiotics, painkillers and Benadryl, which is used to curb allergic reactions.  I brought my laptop and a small laser printer and handled creating the labels as needed and affixed most of them to the bags the others had already filled.  I had bought 3 pill counting trays from one of my customers, Nucara Pharmacy, and once the gang got used to using them, it was pretty amazing how quickly things went.  It only took about 4 hours to complete the job.  Tomorrow, Saturday October 23rd, Martha and I are going to meet Gus Jacob and Dr. Terry Councill (our Houston dentist) at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball to pack the dozen or so footlockers with the medications, dental instruments and other supplies that will be needed.  The next time we see these footlockers will be November 11th at Bush International Airport.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Look at Preparation for the Fall 2010 Kenya Mission or What I Did During Summer Vacation!

Welcome back to to the Notes from the Mission Field blog after a summer hiatus between mission trips.  While there have been no recent postings to the blog, this doesn't mean we have not been hard at work planning for our November 11-21 mission to the Nairobi slum of Kawangware to put on a vision and dental clinic for the community surrounding the Lutheran church there.  Even while we were still in Kenya, during our May trip to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera, we were already meeting with local church leaders, LCMS World Mission workers and others to begin to set expectations for our upcoming mission.

The summer was spent working by phone, email and in person with our good friends and mentors at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball.  We have been going over the million and one details that fielding a team totaling 35-40 missionaries half way around the world entails.  A particularly eye-opening aspect of our planning has been what goes into supporting a dental team.  For the first time, Redeemer will be largely responsible for the dental clinic.  In the past, the team from Salem has shouldered this responsibility for us.  Like all great mentors, they have begun to nudge us out of the comfort and safety of the nest and are gently forcing us to take our first flight lesson.  In the past, Redeemer supplied Dr. Zoch and his wife Diana to run the team and we handled the dozen footlockers that the clinic requires during our travel to and from Nairobi.  All of the supplies and medications to be used or dispensed to the patients at previous clinics had been provided by Salem and their donors.  For this trip, we have purchased the medications and are currently assembling the incidental supplies that are necessary, everything from duct tape to the portable headlamps and required batteries that the dentists need to be able to do their work.  There are many things such as these that we will need to bring with us, as well as a list of items that we need to purchase in Nairobi upon our arrival.

Our team was in Tomball last Saturday for orientation.  This was a great refresher course for the old hands and it helped to answer questions and assuage any worries that first time members of the team may have had.  The one point that can never be overemphasized that was made is this:  our first and foremost purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission.  Even though a wonderful human care ministry takes place in these clinics by which we can demonstrate the love of Christ, we must never lose sight of reaching lost souls with the Good News.  We had a wonderful speaker in the morning, Emmanuel Agook from Sudan, who in a two hour presentation described the main tenets of Islam in great detail and gave us many practical pointers on how to witness to the people of this faith that we will undoubtedly encounter.  The question and answer session was particularly valuable, as members of previous mission teams were able to also share what had worked for them and were able to ask Emmanuel for his suggestions for ways in which we can be even more effective. 

Once again, our team will have a core group of veterans being led by Pastor Kevin Westergren. They include Howard and Martha Faske, myself, Ralph and Louise Genz, Dan Zieschang and Dr. Robert and Diana Zoch. One newcomer from Redeemer, David Hanson, will man the autorefractor station, while the Zoch's son, Jonathan, who is a DCE in the Houston area, will help with the dental clinic. Three first time travelers from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cedar Park will be Pastor Richard and Patricia Goodwill, and Rick Masselink, who is involved with outreach and missions. Our twelfth and final team member will be Dr. Terry Councill, a dentist from Houston who is a veteran of many dental missions to Honduras and Kenya.

There are two major pretrip tasks that remain.  After the orientation, we gathered up the thousands of pills that will be prescribed during the clinic to bring them back to Austin.  We are able to get great prices on these antibiotics, pain killers and other medications because we buy them in bulk and they are for charitable purposes.  The practical downside of this is that we have to count and package the medications into standard sized doses.  An example is the 6,000 acetaminophen tablets that need to be broken down into small Zip-Loc bags in groups of 30 and then labeled, with the required expiration date (or we may have trouble with customs) and the doctor's recommended usage notes.  We are planning on having BBQ one night very soon at the Genz residence, and instead of playing cards or 42, we will be having a pill counting party!  We will have a small team of volunteers return to Tomball on October 23rd to pack up all of the dental tools, supplies and medicines into the dozen footlockers according to a very detailed manifest.  We can't just throw a hodgepodge into any old trunk, since we have a weight restriction of 50lbs per footlocker.  We are very grateful that Dr. Councill has gladly agreed to be there with us to supervise and identify what each item is as we pack it.  While we do have a good list to work from, our volunteers that weekend will not include any other dental professionals and we might as well be monkees packing transmission parts were it not for Terry!
 
Please keep an eye on this blog, as the postings will be more frequent as the final stages of preparation for the trip unfold.  Once we are on the ground in Africa, I will try once again to make daily postings, along with pictures, to keep you informed of our comings and goings.  As always, please keep final planning as well as our safety and effectiveness in spreading the Gospel in your prayers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kenya Mission - Spring 2010

Click on the picture to the right to go to an updated photo album from the mission trip.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

5/15/2010 Final Reflections on the Nairobi Mission

Click on the title line above to go to a photo album from the trip.


From Psalm 36, a paraphrase by praise band Third Day that I particularly like:

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens.

Your faithfulness stretches to the skies.

Your righteousness is like a mighty mountain.

Your justice flows like the ocean’s tides.

I will lift my voice to worship you my King.

And I will find my strength, underneath your wings.

I hope that if you are considering going on a foreign mission with Redeemer or another group, that my daily notes from the mission field will give you encouragement by showing that when you step out in faith and get well outside of your comfort zone, God will be intimately involved in every tiny detail and that He will watch over you. I can honestly say I have never been all that concerned about my personal safety, since He shields those who are doing His will in the most remarkable of ways. Take it from me, He has many surprises in store for you as He teaches you important life lessons that will increase your faith enormously and that will prepare your heart to serve Him boldly for the rest of your life.

My final reflections on the mission to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in the slum of Kibera are these. We set out to spread the Good News to those who had not yet heard it, answering the call of the Great Commission. Many now have a new relationship with Jesus, and with that will come salvation and a new life here in this world will have begun that includes peace, comfort, joy, love of God and fellow men and all of the other fruits of the spirit that personally knowing the Good Shepherd bring. This was the ultimate purpose for this trip and I feel very good about the results. The nearly 2,400 plus people that came to the vision clinic and the hundreds that received glasses, medication or referals for cataract surgeries was a wonderful bonus, but for the nearly 100 people that confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the consequences are eternal, starting right now. Of course, one can't be part of a mission like this without it having profound life-changing effects. I know that each of us will continue to marvel and struggle with what we have seen and heard in the slum. It won't be quite so easy ever again to live in the comfort of the most amazingly blessed nation on earth after having seen the other side of life up close. I am always very thankful to get back to my average, middle class home in Austin, TX. I am keenly aware that I am blessed in material ways that 97% of the world can’t even imagine. Of course, the gentleness, family closeness and strong faith in less than ideal circumstances of the brothers and sisters we’ve worked with and met over the last 10 days in Africa is a great example for us. There are many stark contrasts on both the spiritual and the material planes that are full of teaching moments. Our missionaries have done such a good job over the years that our friends in Africa are now holding up a mirror to our country and are serious about sending missionaries to America! I say, bring them on and let them start in Austin, TX!

As has happened with the past mission experiences I've had in working in some of the poorest areas of Mexico and Africa, I know that when I see each of the team members in their Sunday finest in the Narthex between church services, that we will not need to say a word, but will simply shake hands, embrace and laugh. There is a unique bond that develops after sharing the love of Jesus together with others under the circumstances we have overcome and enjoyed as a group, under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. I am well aware that there are well-intentioned people who question why Redeemer sends people to Africa, Mexico, China, Russia, India and other far flung places, when there is so much to do in Austin, the most unchurched city of its size in Texas, if not in all of America. I can only tell you that you come back from these missions with the eyes of Jesus, looking for more ways that you can serve right here. I know that without my foreign mission experiences of the past 6 years, I never would have been involved with Redeemer’s participation in the Texas Ramp Project, helped in Hurricane Ike relief in the Beaumont/Bridge City area or done any of a number of things around Redeemer. Instead, I more than likely would have been content to sit in a pew on Sunday and maybe only would have practiced my faith among my family and close friends. Redeemer's emphasis over the last several years on making each and every member of the church a missionary in their daily lives here in Austin, Texas and beyond has increased the size of my comfort zone to the point where I'm not sure I have one anymore! The very best advice I can give is that if you think you hear the least little small still voice calling you to step out and serve God and others, here at home or in a bigger mission effort, I would highly advise you to take heed of it. That voice is very hard to hear over all of the commotion and “busyness” of modern life. In fact, it is a good discipline to seek the will of God through Bible study, worship, prayer and fellowship with other believers. Seeking to discern the will of God for your life takes devotion, time and intent listening. Once you have heard His call, don’t let the wisdom of the world get in the way. The blessing that you can be to others and the blessings you receive when you step out in faith will truly amaze you.

To God be the glory!

Dave

Sunday, May 9, 2010

5/9/2010 Travel Travails

The team staying in Kenya for the next week sent us off with a mission song as our bus left from the Norwegian compound at 7:15pm local time Saturday. The ride should have taken about 30-40 minutes, but about halfway to the airport, traffic came to a 3 lane wide screeching halt, with us in the middle lane. Traffic was backed up for as far as we could see. The next 25 minutes were filled with local young men and children trying to sell us every piece of junk imaginable and, with no air flow through the windows, things got pretty warm and stuffy in the bus. We were all beginning to be concerned about getting through security with 60 footlockers and checking in before boarding our flight. Kevin Pieper said a beautiful prayer asking for God’s help in resolving whatever was causing the traffic jam, and within 2 minutes, the traffic seemed to part like the Red Sea and we were suddenly doing about 50mph on our way to the airport. The entire bus sang the Doxology, praising the Lord’s answering of our prayers. I’m sure everyone on that bus suddenly felt very near to God.

After arriving at the airport, we unloaded all of the footlockers onto carts, with most of the group taking 2 footlockers as their checked luggage. Paul Althoff was first in line and security randomly opened 2 of the footlockers, with the first one containing the Faske’s and my backpacks. Somehow, Paul was able to do a little talking about the clinics that we had conducted throughout the country and, after a few tense moments, the group was cleared to come through security. Check in for the British Airways flight to London went very smoothly and in record time. I think maybe God’s answer to the prayers on the bus flowed over into the airport procedures as well. Our flight left right on time for London. I stayed up long enough to be served dinner and then slept for 4-5 hours. I was on the aisle and neither of the other 2 people in my section stirred either. It was the best and longest rest I’ve ever had on a flight, bar none. There was a young Kenyan man next to me who was heading back to Dallas to continue his studies at Dallas Baptist University. We talked about the clinics and his views on the Kenyan constitutional referendum. He was already missing his family and Nairobi, which he said was the best city in the world. After our quick tour of the nicer parts of town yesterday, I can understand that.

We had about a 3 hour layover in London and we appeared to be right on schedule even after boarding British Airways Flight BA195. That is, until the Captain came on the intercom and explained that the Icelandic volcano had takeoffs and landings for the northern routes scrambled and that we would be waiting on the ground for an hour before taking off. That hour came and went fairly quickly, as I got to know a lawyer from Houston in my row and he got to hear my mission and computer guy stories. We also got to play musical chairs as couples found ways to trade others for their seats so they could sit together on Mother’s Day. The Captain announced another hour’s delay and we all groaned, since about the best the Redeemer team could now hope for was an arrival in the Austin area between 9 and 10pm, assuming a perfect drive back from Houston, and that we would encounter no issues at the immigration and customs checkpoints. This time, the Captain’s word was good and we were taxiing down the runway almost exactly 2 hours after our tickets said that we should be. All told, we ended up in that plane for nearly 13 hours. Even though none of us would have wished or tried for it willingly, we set a new world’s record of 34 hours and 15 minutes for the return trip, counting from the time we left for the airport in Nairobi. That's one long day of travel, coming right after a full day Saturday at the Lake Naivasha game park and driving around the sights of Nairobi. This was a very small price to pay, considering all of the travel mercies and wonderful encounters with the people that God had brought to us during the last 11 days in many situations.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

5/8/2010 Back from Naivasha, Ready to Come Home!

We had the most amazing day, starting around 5am. My friends from Trinity-Klein arrived from London late last night and I got to have breakfast with them, shared what we had done and wished them the best during their mission to Namonga, Kumpa and Narok. Our team headed out for Lake Naivasha at 7am and arrived there around 9am. We each paid about $25 for the privilege of riding in a very long boat and viewing hippos in the water at close range. We also saw an African eagle that is very similar to a bald eagle, impalas, water bucks and assorted other wildlife from the boat. After about a half an hour, we got out of the boat and were able to walk within yards of giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and impalas. Wow! I’ll post pictures on this blog over the next week or so of this adventure and other nice moments from the trip once I get back.

We have pizza and sodas here in Nairobi at 4pm as the rest of the teams begin to arrive back from the field. We leave for the airport around 7pm, get through security, customs and immigration and then fly out around 11pm. We still had use of our rooms, so the Redeemer team is showering and freshening up prior to what is usually about a 32 hour trip from the time we hit the Nairobi airport until we are back in our homes in Austin.  Please continue to pray for our safe travels.  We are all really excited about sharing our experiences with everyone in person once we return.  Blessings to all who have been reading our reports, there will be a few more to follow as I have a chance to reflect more on this mission.

Friday, May 7, 2010

5/8/2010 Saturday excursion begins

The Trinity-Klein group got here late last night, they made it through London without a hitch.  They will be splitting into 2 teams, one going to Narok and the other going to Namonga and Kumpa, which is Masai warrior territory.  I visited all of these places on the planning trip in late March.  We are breakfasted already and will beleaving soon for the hippos.  The final tally for the week was 2371 people came through the clinic and a solid 75 received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Many more are already signed up for baptism classes, and a multitude of seeds were planted with our Muslim brothers and sisters.  We are going to let God be God and take care of the rest.  We have obeyed the Great Commission and done our part, now the Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of those we have touched and the Lord will use others to water and nurture these seeds further.  Anyway, we are looking forward to today, being out in God's creation and decompressing from our week in the slum.  What a blessing! I hope to get one more brief report off before we quit Nairobi until the next time.

5/7/2010 Our Final Day in the Mission Field

This last day was bittersweet in many ways. The young man that wanted his dying father baptized never came, even though we talked to him in the morning and everything pointed to it happening. Pastor Dennis and Vicar Paul will pursue this until they come to a resolution one way or another, I’m sure. The clinic had a steady and mounting stream of people, and by noon, over 350 patients had entered the church grounds. We ended the day with 606 patients, many of them Muslim, our best day yet. As our LCMS contact Catherine pointed out once again, “We are a last minute people!” Today definitely proved it to be true. We shut the gates at around 3:30pm, since our doctors were only contracted until 5pm and we estimated it would take that long to move everyone through the process that was already waiting. Still, several people managed to straggle in anyway. Catherine was not so fortunate. She didn’t have her car today, so she rode a matatu, a public transportation van that packs 14 or more people in. When she got there a little after 4pm, the 2 Masai warrior guards would not let her past the gate. She tried to call me and my phone was on silent ring somehow. One of the guards pressed a Masai club to her stomach to keep her from passing when she insisted that she needed to get in. She eventually convinced them that she worked with us and they finally recognized her without her car. I commented that I bet no one ever told her how hard church work could be! She took it all in stride and saw the strange humor in the situation. No harm, no foul.

We counted up our totals for the day for each kind of treatment that was delivered and ended with a strong devotion by Pastor Dennis, a prayer and a group picture. There were many touching goodbyes. We took inventory, packed up all of our footlockers, and headed back to our lodge. We went out to dinner at a nice restaurant near the Karen Blitzen museum with Rhoda, Vicar Shauen Trump, an LCMS missionary who will be assuming some of Claude’s duties and Pastor Dennis.

Tomorrow we go out into the countryside at 7am and ride for about 2 hours to Lake Naivasha to see the famous hippos on the island there. We will return by mid afternoon to shower, finish packing, celebrate with the returning mission teams and then will head for the airport for the long trip home. More reports to follow as I am able, with a final report and reflections on the mission soon after we return to Austin. Please continue to keep travel mercies in your prayers for us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

5/6/2010 Incredible Thursday in Kibera

Our usual routine of a 6am breakfast and a 6:45am ride to the church was followed today without incident, although we all concluded that anyone who would ride a motorcycle in Nairobi rush hour traffic has serious suicidal tendencies, based on some of the maneuvers we saw a couple of them make. We arrived and while waiting for the church to be unlocked, had a nice conversation with our Vicar, Paul. He is very committed and told of us what was required to go through seminary and then a vicarage, both in terms of education and financially. I have the deepest respect and admiration for his unbending faith and commitment to serving the Lord. He will make a wonderful pastor.

For once, it was not raining first thing in the morning and, in fact, it stayed sunny and was dry all day. We again had a large percentage of patients that were Muslim, and the Imam of the local mosque even came in and wanted a rush job through the clinic ahead of everyone else, so he would not be late for 4pm prayers. We tried to accommodate him, and we were able to fit him with reading glasses, but he still had to leave without getting a prescription filled for distance glasses. If he returns tomorrow, we may be out of the lenses he needs anyway, since it is a minimal correction. Pastor Zedekiah from Kawangware was back today and his ministry bore much fruit, as did Pastor Dennis’ and Paul’s. There are possibly 10 baptisms lined up for the near future and several Muslims seeking instruction in Christianity will be taught soon.

One of the most moving experiences for me so far involves a man of 25-35 years of age with a young son that he brought to the clinic on Tuesday. After receiving eye medication for the boy, the man (who shall remain nameless) was sitting outside of the building housing the Pastor’s office with the boy in tow, looking rather distraught. I was making my rounds and struck up a conversation with him. He told me that we had taken good care of his son, but he had concerns about his father, who was dying and in the final stages of cancer. He allowed that he was Catholic, had worked in evangelism and was in need of spiritual counseling. I told him I knew that the pastors were all busy at the moment and I would be happy to pray with him right then or anytime, but that I’m not a pastor. He said he needed to leave to meet the visiting nurse that was to come at noon to change his father’s bandages. He said he would be back at 2pm and I told him to find me and I’d see to it that he got to work with a pastor. He didn’t return that afternoon or Wednesday, but I did see him late this morning, sitting near the Pastor’s office once again. I greeted him by name and we talked for awhile, with him saying that his father no longer recognized any of his family. Vicar Paul happened by on his way to the evangelism tent and I quickly flagged him down and the two of them headed for the privacy of the office. Later in the day, Pastor Dennis came to me and told me the rest of the story. The man had told Paul that he had asked his priest to baptize his father and had been refused. Pastor decided after also talking to the man that an emergency baptism was called for and agreed to do it this afternoon. He told me that because this situation had come to light as a direct result of the eye clinic and since I had already worked with the man twice already, he felt that I should go with him and Paul when they perform the baptism. What an awesome privilege! The man promised to be back at 4pm. When 4pm came and went, we called on his cell phone and he said he was on his way. We were going to walk with him a mile or two into the slum from the church, and if the clinic ended and our team needed to leave before dark (a mission rule), Pastor Dennis would have gotten me back to our lodging half an hour away. As 5pm approached, we decided that we would try for in the morning. I am hoping that it all works out then and we are in time. All agreed that it would be better to baptize the father and be in error about it than to not do it, and be in error, especially from the perspective of the father’s eternal life and the burden that the young man was carrying due to this. My prediction is that if we are able to do the baptism, that this man will become the strongest new church member that Pastor Dennis could ever hope for! I am asking that you join me in praying for this man, trying to take care of his young family and suffering so much over his father’s spiritual dilemma.

One last note for tonight. We are all well aware that the Icelandic volcano from the place I can’t pronounce, let alone spell, has begun emitting more ash and that the cloud will be in Ireland, Scotland and maybe England by Friday. Portugal is already canceling flights. The reports that we have seen said the plume contains about 10% of the amount of ash that the original eruption did. We are scheduled to fly out of Nairobi Friday night at 11pm local time and be at London’s Heathrow Airport by mid-morning Saturday local time. We are asking you to pray for a cancellation of our flights so that we can remain here in relative calm, safety and in affordable accommodations if this comes to pass, rather than be stranded with 60 footlockers and maybe 40 people for who knows how long. The original disruption lasted a week and 8 million travelers were affected, including LCMS World Mission workers out of St. Louis that were to be in Kenya for 10 days before our arrival and were also to be with our mission groups for several days to observe what we are doing. They never made it here. Our mission has been blessed beyond belief up to this point. Please join us in praying that we end up in the best possible circumstances, and if we do get stranded somewhere, that we are given the strength to be a help and a witness for Christ to those whom God places in front of us.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5/5/2010 Wednesday in Kibera

We had a heavy thunderstorm overnight and the power kept going on and off at fairly regular intervals. One very good thing about it was that the Internet connection is fine now. That’s one way to reset your cable modem, take down the whole neighborhood several times within a few hours. I’ll have to remember that the next time one of my computer repair customer has a balky Internet connection. I’ll just find the Austin Energy substation for the neighborhood and turn it off for awhile!

We had our usual early morning breakfast and I led a brief devotion and discussion based on Psalm 36. Our ride to church was uneventful, but it was obvious there had been quite a bit of rain, since water was still flowing in the ditches and it was still misting when we arrived. Our Vicar, Paul led a devotion and we began seeing patients around 8:30, since there were not many people waiting in the bad weather conditions. This was to be our first day without our Pastor from the Kawangware church helping us to work with the heavily Muslim clientele we are encountering at the clinic. The team providing the “second touches” of Ralph and Louise, Pastor Meeker and his Vicar Paul proved to be up to the task. Even though it rained most of the day, we all stayed steadily busy with a trickle of patients that never stopped. By day’s end, we had once again seen over 400 in the clinic, 407 to be exact. There were a number of heartwarming stories as there always are. In one case, an 84 year old man needed the strongest prescription for distance glasses I have ever seen. When he put on the “Coke bottle” glasses, he was able to read the tiniest line on our eye chart with no mistakes. I can’t even do that. He was all smiles and we got several pictures with him. I insisted that he take his new glasses off before he went down the steps of the church and we walked him down. The last thing I wanted was for his new found happiness to end in a tragic tumble only a few minutes later. At another time during the day, a young man named Vincent dropped by and said a friend from the UK had given him a bag of reading glasses to donate to a good cause and wanted to know if we can use them. I said we’d find a good home for them one way or another and he walked home and brought them back. What a blessing to receive such a gift from someone in the neighborhood. We also had some fun. We set up Jacob, the small son of our volunteer Jacqueline as if he were assembling distance glasses, complete with a light on his little head, a screwdriver in his hand and some glasses for him to work on. I got several great shots. The whole idea was to show Dan Zieschang that our littlest worker could perform this job in the clinic at a high level, because no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get Dan up to speed on this particular job. We would still be on the mission trip to Kawangware last November now if we had to wait for the first pair of glasses to roll off of Dan’s assembly station! We love and miss Dan a lot, and wish he were here with us. He’d truly be in his element giving his powerful witness to people of all faiths and praying with them for any heartbreak in their lives. Finally, speaking of Dan, we got a surprise visit from his buddy Mosah, the youth leader at the Kawangware church.  He wanted to say hi to us and especially thank Howard and Martha for sending teaching materials over to him via the Pastor.  It was very good seeing him again, he is an incredible young man with a real heart for making the lives of the youth he shepherds better.  There were many other touching and funny moments throughout the day that we’ll all share with our friends and families when we return to Austin. It’s getting to be time for lights out, so I’ll conclude this report by asking the Lord to bless all of you who are with us here in your thoughts and prayers.
Howard shows 11.00 strength lens

Raphael and Martha with happy customer!

Dave and Mosah

Jacob ready to go to work

Jacob shows Dan how it's done!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

5/4/2010 Another very good day at the clinic

We had pretty heavy rain from about 3am to 5am last night and the roads and the ditches were literally overflowing with water in many places. It took a full 45 minutes to get to Springs of Life Lutheran Church, a trip that only took about 25 minutes on Monday. We were there by 7:30 and had to wait for one of the lay leaders to arrive with a key to let us in. The church’s Vicar, Paul, led a short devotion and we had the clinic open at 8am. It was an amazing day, we had less than half of the number of people in the clinic at any one time than we had the previous day, yet we were able to see 446 patients (Monday was 437). When Monday came to an end, we all felt like we had been run over by a truck. Today, we were most assuredly tired, yet it was nothing like opening day. We’re getting better at only letting a limited number into the clinic at a time and our evangelists are working with smaller groups, as we requested. On Monday, there was a rush in the morning that we never really could recover from. On Tuesday, there was a slow start due to the weather, but there was a small steady flow of clinic visitors all day long. We are still making some tweaks to the layout in the church and to moving volunteers to posts where they might be more effective, but for the most part, things are really starting to click.

One thing that concerns me is that we only had 2 people come to Jesus or reaffirm their faith on Monday, while I know at least 8 did today. These are small numbers compared to past mission trips, but there are several factors at play here. A larger percentage of our patients were Muslim than at earlier clinic locations. It is not going to be an overnight or rapid Kennedy Evangelism Explosion type of conversion for hardly anyone coming from this background. It will take the time to build relationships and large measures of patience and love will need to be shown before results are seen. Even with low numbers of actual conversions or reaffirmations of faith, there are several Muslims who have been identified as being open to being taught Christianity from a Lutheran perspective, including one woman. Another thing we have run into is that most of our guests who are not Muslim are already Christians in a mainstream denomination, with a smattering of Christian sects. People that didn’t have at least a nominal religious affiliation were pretty few and far between.

We got a surprise visit from some of our friends from Kawangware. A Norwegian short-term missionary brought them so he could get a look at our clinic and film them there singing some of their songs. He also did a brief film of Ralph and I explaining what occurs at the clinic and why we are evangelizing using this method. We exchanged contact information with him, since he should have a video up on the web by the end of the summer. I pointed him to this blog for a more detailed look at what we do. It was incredible seeing our friends David, Joyce, Jackson and others and we thoroughly enjoyed the little time we had with them. David said he and a few others would be back on Friday. What a blessing! I had been a little depressed that we had not been able to get to Kawangware on Sunday and thought we wouldn’t get a chance to see any of these friends until a future mission there.

Making my rounds from station to station as the leader of the team, I get a unique opportunity to talk to a wide variety of local people, the volunteers, the evangelists and others and have heard many very moving experiences of sickness, heartache and suffering as well as some incredible personal testimonies of people in dire circumstances who are staying the course only through their faith in Christ. It has had the effect of a manifold strengthening of my faith. During the past 2 days I have prayed over many problems with people from all different walks of life, shared joys and tragedies alike and have received far more than I have given in return. I am very thankful that I have been used in this way and am anticipating doing far more of this personal ministry as the mission continues. Ralph and Louise have been working the triage and eye chart stations respectively and concur that we have really gotten out of our comfort zones and are exhilarated as the Holy Spirit works through us in the lives of others.

It has just begun to rain extremely hard and the electricity has been going on and off in the whole compound for hours now, so I am going to post this report while I can. More thoughts and accounts of our comings and goings will follow as I am able. May God bless you and keep you the rest of this day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

5/4/2010 - Tuesday begins

We're all much more rested now after a great night's sleep.  Being exhausted does that for you!  It's a very good kind of tired, knowing that your strength had to have come from the Lord, because there's no way any of us could have performed the way we did yesterday on our own power.  I'm really looking forward to getting to know each of our volunteers better today, just like everyone else in the world, they all have a story.  I got to work with Howard's volunteers assembling distance glasses during one of the peak periods yesterday.  One is a young woman named Happiness.  She is 29 and said her  mother named her that because she was born on December 25th, the same day as someone else who has brought many smiles to the world.  She is aptly named because she has a beautiful smile and is always using it.  I asked her if her mother lived nearby and she said no, she had died.  I said how sorry I was, but she was so gracious, saying I had no way of knowing.  We had a long talk about how special a mother's love is.  I told her I had also lost my mother when she was far to young to be going to heaven.  It was special knowing we both understood a universal heartbreak and also that we would be reunited with all of our loved ones someday as believers.  It wasn't all somber.  Later in the day, I was helping again for awhile,and Happiness lost a screw out of one of the frames she was working on.  I told her and the other girls that they each could only lose one more screw the rest of the day or I was going to fire them and Howard, too.  It was a good laugh we all had, since it's pretty hard to find volunteers on either side of the Atlantic and the thought of firing one seemed pretty absurd.  To put it in perspective, we have a spare bag of hundreds of these tiny screws and I'm the worst at slipping and shooting them halfway across the room.  We have a pretty easygoing, appreciative relationship with all of the workers and I'm sure our love for each other will have grown by the end of the week, just as it did last November in Kawangware and there will be tearful goodbyes then.  It's just about time for breakfast, with any luck we'll have Internet after dinner and I can send another update at that point instead of the middle of the night!  God's peace to all of you!

5/3/2010 A New Vision Clinic is Born in Kibera

I had a fitful Sunday night’s sleep and was up every minute from 1am til 3am. I was not worried or concerned about our first day of mission work in Kibera, it was more like the excitement of a kid anticipating Christmas morning. I was secure in the knowledge that the Lord would use us in a mighty way, but my thoughts kept wandering to the new friends that we would make and the lives that we would touch through the Holy Spirit. The others all reported having the same experience.

As predicted, it was a very full day today in Kibera. We arrived at the church a little after 7am to begin configuring the sanctuary for the vision clinic. We got Thomas setup in a darkened room in the building that houses the Pastor’s office for performing eye exams using the autorefractor. We moved pews around to manage the traffic flow we anticipated. Pastor Dennis had a devotion for us just before we began work in earnest at 8am. We saw our first patient around 9am and had 437 people come through the clinic before we were through. 90 people got distance glasses, 26 also got reading glasses and 152 were fitted with reading glasses only. This seems like a much higher percentage of patients getting some kind of glasses than a normal clinic at an established site, maybe because of pent up demand and because those most in need of help might have shown up on the first day. 158 people didn’t get glasses or saw one of the three doctors and got medications or were referred for cataract surgeries, contact lenses or other services to outside sources. We have a budget for cataract surgeries that will pay for them at the rate of $60 to $75 at a Nairobi hospital. What a wonderful gift for a person with such troubles. Of course, only one eye at a time is done using traditional surgery, so a patient with cataracts in both eyes will need to return to one of our future clinics after they heal or find another way to get the other eye treated. Based on the history of the clinics at the slum in Kawangware, we may see as many as 1,000 to 1,200 people on Tuesday after word spreads throughout the community.

As with any operation involving lots of volunteers, there were a few speed bumps the first day and it did take a while to get things working well. We had a debriefing for the Pastor, the evangelists and the other workers at 5pm after we had shut down the clinic and cleaned up the church. I addressed the group and told them what a wonderful first day it had been and how the Lord had used them to reach many people. I had them all applaud for each other and it was very joyous. The constructive criticism involved 2 areas. At the start of the clinic, the evangelists began giving the Good News using the Evangicube to up to 20 people at a time. Some of the weakest and neediest people got pushed aside or were run past by younger late comers and there was, in hindsight, some unnecessary friction. This was resolved soon, but it took all day for myself and others to get the evangelists to understand that based on lots of experience, we know that we get far more people coming to Christ for the first time if groups are held to around 8 people. Just like our own TLC groups, when they get past a certain size, it becomes more uncomfortable to share the intimate details of one’s life. “What could be more personal than someone’s relationship to God?”, I asked. I would say they were still seeing groups of 12-15 people near the end of the day after all of our efforts to change this. The second stop for people coming to see us, the area where people waited under a large tent to register for the clinic, was at capacity most of the day, so there was no need to hurry with the evangelism, and I stressed that our main purpose for these clinics was not to provide free vision help, but was only a means to the end of growing the Kingdom of God. The Pastor jumped in and said he would see to it that the extra chairs would be removed from the 3 evangelism tents, making it impossible to see more than 10 people at a time. The second problem was that we were overwhelmed with more people needing reading glasses than we had anticipated and only Sharon and one volunteer, Esther, had been working that station. By the end of the day, we had a third volunteer, Jacqueline, who is in the music ministry of the church, trained and helping out. I’m sure things will go better tomorrow in this area. Pastor Dennis led a brief devotion and prayed over the workers to end the day.

We returned to our lodge and had a dinner of beef tips, rice and noodles, with pineapple for dessert. I told our chef about the clinic while arranging for what time dinner would be served and he said he has problems with his eyes. I told him I would make sure our driver gives him directions to the clinic and we expect to serve him sometime this week. I told our chef that no matter what he served, it would be delicious to us. We had worked straight through the day with no real breaks. The Pastor did buy 4 large loaves of bread, peanut butter and jelly and some chips after I mentioned we and the volunteers had already consumed a case of water but that we really needed to get the volunteers fed. We were able to stagger breaks of about 15 minutes for everyone and keep things moving. The Redeemer crew had snacks with them like granola bars which we really didn’t get time to eat hardly at all. I’m sure none of us drank enough water, it was warm by the end of the day and we are at altitude, so we need to make a conscious effort to take care of ourselves better. We waited until all the volunteers had been served then each took turns wolfing down a quick sandwich after the chips had run out. This was around 1:30pm. We did each get a soft drink of some kind with the sandwich.

After dinner, we finished our day by counting a tabulating the registration cards. It was a real blessing to have the team ready, willing and able to gladly help with this and we did some good reflecting on the day while we played “cards”. The Internet was down, so I am posting this at 2:38am and am headed back to bed until around 5:30, when we’ll all get up and do it again. What a blessing the first day of the clinic was to all involved, with many being served, new believers getting Bibles (no number available on that yet) and all of our faiths being strengthened by serving others and making friends with brothers and sisters in Christ in a faraway place. Thank you, Jesus!