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!


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!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

5/2/2010 Sunday Evening Report

The team had a dinner of tilapia, new potatoes and a vegetable medley with pineapple for dessert. We discussed our impressions of the day just ended. All of us really liked the different flavors of music in the worship service and the incredible harmony of not only the choir, but also that of the congregation as a whole. Communion was an interesting experience, people got up from their pews in no particularly obvious order to form a row behind the communicants already at the altar rail. After about the fourth rail of believers had communed, our Redeemer crew got up and took our spot. It was common cup and a more traditional serving of the wafer, with the Pastor placing the wafer on our tongues. Knowing the high incidence of HIV and the rise of swine flu in Africa, the thought did cross some of our minds about how safe the common cup might be, given our recent experiences with swine flu practices at Redeemer. But we put it in the Lord’s hands and thankfully received the body and the blood.

After dinner, I led a brief devotion based on John 20:19-23, pointing out that Jesus sends us just as the Father sent Him and he breathes the Holy Spirit on us to strengthen and counsel us. Following some discussion of the missional aspects of this scripture, we set about coming up with a good plan for getting the clinic up and running and keeping the flow under control throughout the day. We modified our original layout for the clinic, having gone through three mockups on paper, and with everyone contributing something of value to our solution. We ended up agreeing to most of what was in our fourth pass at it and I crumpled up the other 3 sheets and discarded them. What a great team to work with, Pastor Kevin has dubbed my group the Dream Team, and with good reason. Everyone is committed to making the clinic work for its highest purpose and we all have an easy and good-natured rapport with one another. We all give our best and are all mature Christians who firmly believe that God has a plan for us and however things turn out, so long as we are in His will, it is pleasing to Him and falls in line with his purpose. What a blessing to have each of our faiths sharpening one another’s faith. We are prepared to make some more modifications to the physical setup of the clinic based on how our current plan works out and any affect that weather or the size of the crowds of patients have.

Hitting the sack now, about 9:30 local time. We need to be up around 5:30 and on the road by 6:45am to get an early 7:30am start on setting things up in Kibera and performing the initial training of the local volunteers. Please keep us in your prayers. It will be a very full day.

P.S.  Just to make sure all of you know, to view the reports from all of the previous days, go down to the bottom of the page and click in the lower right hand corner on Older Posts.  You will be taken back a day at a time as you continue to do this.

5/2/2010 Sunday Worship in Kibera

We got up bright and early and saw the other groups off to their far flung locations. I got to pray with the leaders of the other teams, a very moving experience. We prayed for safe travels for all involved and that the Holy Spirit would move in people’s hearts to come to the clinics, that they would be open to the Good News message we are bringing and that the Spirit supply us with the right words and decisions in every situation to help grow the Kingdom. We loaded up all of our footlockers of vision supplies, medications, Bibles and water and took them to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera. Our worship there was very special. We followed one of the Divine Services and there were children from 3 families that were baptised, about 8 other children were confirmed and we took Communion for the first time in Africa ever, for any of our group, including Ralph and Louise who are on their fifth mission to Kenya. We were introduced to the church and each of us said a little something about ourselves and thanked the congregation for their warm welcome. We told them how much we were looking forward to working with our brothers and sisters in Christ in spreading the Gospel and in helping them to grow their church. We made a big point that our number one priority is to bring people to Jesus and that the eyeglass mission is only a very good means to that end. All told, the services along with announcements took around 3 hours and it was wonderful. They had other activities at the church today, such as working on a new church constitution and they are active in the national referendum on a new Kenyan constitution, with a lot of controversy surrounding whether to teach evolution in schools and whether life begins at conception or at birth as part of the overall abortion debate. Does this sound a little bit familiar to those of you in Texas? We agreed to come back at 7:30am to setup the clinic and begin training the volunteers, with a projected time of seeing our first patient of no later than 9am. We have plenty of trained evangelists, but are a little concerned about the number of other volunteers needed for the actual operation of the clinic, since Pastor issued a call for more people to step up during announcements.

After church we went and had a good lunch at an upscale mall and then shopped for items for lunch and supplies for the clinic at the Nakumatt, a place very much like Walmart. We haven’t had Internet at the guest quarters where we are staying for 36 hours, so I haven’t been able to post my updates, although I have been keeping up with them offline. Tomorrow night, if the Internet is still down, they will allow me to make my longest house call ever as a computer repair guy. I hope I can fix it, no pressure! Other missionaries here depend on the Internet as well. More posts to follow, as I can get the word out. Thanks for all of your support and prayers.

5/1/2010 Saturday in Nairobi

We all feel much better after getting some rest. Being able to lie down horizontally is a big improvement over airplane seats. There were two options for the team today, either get up in and breakfast in time for a 6:30am ride out to the wild game park near Nairobi that some of us had already gone to last November or do some sightseeing around Karen, including the Karen Blitzen museum, seeing bead necklaces being made, a giraffe petting zoo, etc. Some of the group did that while I was in meetings all day with the pastors from each church which is going to host a clinic, the Salem team leaders, the LCMS missionaries and representatives at the national and diocese levels of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya. We met all morning and had lunch around 1:30pm. We continued our meetings after lunch until about 3:30pm. I am very thankful I was able to work with all of these church leaders today. In addition to the church business we covered, our pastor from Kawangware, who is an expert on Islam, gave a presentation on how to effectively witness to Muslims who come to our clinics and how the pastors should work with them afterwards over the long haul. I got a much needed nap and then bought a shirt from the same lady who makes custom made shirts in support of her mission to the children in the slums of Nairobi. She remembered me from our November trip because we wouldn’t pay her asking price but insisted on paying more. She had never seen crazy American people barter her price upwards. We were all glad to help with her much needed ministry. We worshipped as a group tonight at 6pm along with our pastor friends. Our pastor at Kibera, Pastor Dennis Meeker led Vespers and said he hadn’t done it in English in ages. Rhoda played piano and the hymns we sang out of the old blue hymnal were “Lift High the Cross”, “Abide with Me” and "The Church's One Foundation". Pastor had a wonderful sermon on serving others, very appropriate for our group. After services, dinner was served which consisted of chicken, rice and salad with watermelon for dessert. While the rest of the group ate, the team leaders met for about half an hour going over last minute details, so there wasn’t a lot of food left by the time we got into the dining room. I snacked a little after dinner to break even. In the morning, the groups that are going out into the countryside will begin their travel, while our team in Nairobi will worship at 10am at the church in Kibera. Some of the teams are less than three hours away from their host churches and are leaving very early in order to be able to worship with the local congregations where they will be serving.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

4/29-4/30/2010 Travel to Nairobi

The team, except for Sharon, rode to Houston Friday morning for our British Airways flight to London. We couldn’t resist stopping in Brenham for a final taste of Blue Bell. We also stopped near the airport at The Kettle for a quick lunch, knowing it would be the last time for the next 11 days or so that we would have much of a choice in what we were going to eat. On the way, we will eat whatever the airline places in front of us and once in Kenya, our breakfast and dinner will be what is served in the cafeteria. It’s all pretty good food, but we Americans like to have lots of choices! Maybe there’s a lesson here that we should be a little more thankful for the fact that we have food at all, given the conditions that we will witness and the stories we will hear in the slum of Kibera during the week. All of us will stock up on snacks and items for lunch, but we don’t expect to be able to stop for longer than it takes to wolf down something in between patients. We are praying that the Lord sends us an average of 1,000 patients a day for healing of their vision needs and that we are also able to be Jesus’ instruments in healing their souls by introducing them to the true Light of the World.

Our journey through security at Bush International was uneventful. We had 16 extra foot lockers with us so that each team member could place their personal item in half of one. This turned out to be unnecessary after all of the gyrations that the Salem leaders went through earlier. The day before our flight, the TSA rescinded their order banning personal items on the way back into the U.S. There was no outbound restriction, but rather than cause confusion with our large group, the original plan was to use footlockers both going to and coming from Nairobi. Because this change was at the last minute, we went ahead and stuck with the original plan. Some good will come out of this, it means we will have more room to bring souvenirs back with us and it is not costing anything, since there were enough team members to account for 2 footlockers each to be counted as their check-in luggage allotment. We flew out of Houston around 4:30pm local time. Our flight was very full and very warm and it wasn’t easy to get much sleep. This is the leg of the trip that the veterans recommend sleeping as much as possible, because it helps get you closer to being on Nairobi time, which is 8 hours ahead of us this time of year We normally try to remain awake from London to Nairobi, since we get to our lodging and are ready for bed by around midnight each trip.

We arrived in London around 1:30am Austin time or 7:30am London time. I considered calling Adrienne and Pastor Kevin to let them know we had arrived in one piece, and the rest of the tram dared me to do it, but I came to my senses. I’ve vacationed in London 3 times and been through Heathrow on a few more occasions and it was the most beautiful sunny morning I can recall. We saw the sunrise from the air and it was full sun and about 55 degrees as we were taken from the plane to the terminal by bus. Our body clocks said it was the middle of the night, but our eyes told us otherwise. I had a little difficulty getting through security. The highly automated equipment detected that I had liquids in my carry-on. Each and every single item was removed from my duffle bag one by one and swabbed with a “magic wand”. After swabbing all of my electronics and the inside surfaces of my bag, all of my stuff was sent back through the equipment with nothing out of order being detected. The swab was taken off of the wand and deposited into a little “magic box” and its test results also came back clean after about 2 minutes of analysis. I thanked the security folks for their diligence. Of course, I was left to repack all of my stuff while the rest of the team “cheered” me on. I’m glad we weren’t too pressed for time and I do have to admit it was kind of funny, what with some of the loving comments that were made by my dear friends that shall not be repeated here!

Our next hurdle was to meet up with Sharon, who was supposed to arrive in London about the same time as we were. Martha checked and her flight showed up as having been on time, which turned out to be untrue. Her plane had been stuck on the tarmac in Chicago for 2 hours due to problems with the onboard computer. We didn’t see her until we were nearly ready to board buses to take us out to our plane, which was not parked at a gate. She had just gone through the same experience with her carry-on that I was blessed with. You always seem to have security issues when they sense that you’re in a hurry. We had thought there was plenty of time for her to rendezvous with us when we double-checked our itineraries earlier in the week, but with all of the adventure and drama, she just made it. All’s well that ends well!

The last leg of our trip was much better. The flight wasn’t nearly as full and it was very cool, so much so that I needed my blue jean shirt and a blanket. This was great, as we all got some much needed sleep. We were concerned about customs problems with the 60  or so footlockers and so about 10 of us formed a prayer circle. Kevin Pieper asked that God would work in this situation and things went without a hitch.  Praise God! It was about a half hour ride to our lodgings at the Norwegian Scripture House. After pairing people up for room assigments, we all retrieved our personal items from the footlockers and called it a night after much needed showers. Thank you Lord for travel mercies, we are now in place to serve you in the mission that you have planned for each of us.