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.

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.