Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pictures are being added daily

Kenya Spring 2011
I intend to have about 300 representative pictures up after the long Memorial Day holiday weekend here in the States. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have reviewing them. More posts to follow after I've had a little more time to reflect on the mountain top experiences we had during this mission.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saturday events and travel home to Texas

Leslie, Lupe and Tom got an early start with our driver Joseph on some in town sightseeing, but not before we had Joseph assemble one last pair of glasses. As mentioned previously, the whole team worked on inventorying our remaining supplies, completing statistics for the clinic and finishing up 2 last pairs of glasses for staff at the Scripture House after dinner Friday night until after 9pm. Howard, Lupe and I had incredibly bad luck and just could not get any frames to work with for the last pair of glasses with the required lenses. Joseph had the job completed in about 45 seconds. In our defense, we were at the end of about a 14 hour day the night before, nothing was making any sense after about 7:30pm and the light was better in the morning. I had breakfast with them before they left to see Nairobi and then made my way with Howard and Martha over to the LCMS World Missions offices to work my magic on several computers. The Faskes checked their email on my laptop before leaving with friends from Kawangware while I started on an older desktop system that was short on memory. When I was unpacking my computer bag earlier in the week, a stick of memory had fallen out and I had thought it was funny that it had made it to Nairobi completely unbeknownst to me, obviously stuck in my bag after a repair at one of my clients. In fact it was a rather rare type and speed of memory. Lo and behold, it was exactly the part that was needed for the office computer. I have had too many experiences like this over the last several years to believe in coincidences or accidents anymore. It was plain to me that God had provided for his missionaries in Kenya. Pretty cool, huh? I completed my work on the computers a little after noon just as Catherine arrived at the office. I helped her with a few questions and then we took an empty footlocker over to the Scripture House and loaded it up with real Cokes made with cane sugar. That’s a real treat compared to the corn syrup variety that we have in the States these days. I was able to get in one last hot shower before the other teams began to arrive back from their various mission posts and then a little 20 minute nap before a 3pm team leader meeting. I had just enough time before the meeting to buy a couple of souvenirs from the mission ladies who were just beginning to setup shop in anticipation of the returning teams. The leader’s meeting was a good time of sharing some tremendous stories of God using all of us to build His church during the past week and some strategizing on what worked and where we could improve next time around. The usual pizzas and Cokes were served to the team members as they returned from the other 5 locations, but there was also a treat that Lupe had whipped up with the help of our cooks for everybody. It was a full meal with rice, vegetables and meat. Everyone was very appreciative of Lupe’s efforts and the other teams continued in their efforts to try to steal him from us! The answer was “Still no deal!”.

We left for the airport around 6:30pm Nairobi time and it was a good thing, since we ran into heavy traffic caused by a 2 car wreck. As we were stalled in traffic, children of various ages descended on our buses and other vehicles trying to sell their varied wares of trinkets, snacks and assorted junk. We passed through security without incident once we reached the airport and then we changed our Kenyan shillings back into dollars, bought more souvenirs in the many shops and fellowshipped in the coffee bar over sandwiches and drinks until it was time to go to our gate. Our flight took off nearly 45 minutes late when it was thought there was extra baggage on board that didn’t match any of the passengers. Better safe than sorry. This had been the day that the world was supposed to come to an end and, since I’m still here on the plane from London to Houston writing this, I guess it didn’t happen. Our layover was a little shorter, but adequate for everyone to clear security in a very crowded Heathrow Airport. There were no signs of a bad economy there, the place was packed with travelers. While I’m on the subject of travel, we gave out travel time estimates during our commissioning at Redeemer at different services that ranged from 18 to 35 hours and I want to clear up any confusion. Yes, it is true that our two flights total from 18 to 20 hours depending on delays waiting to take off, security issues, etc. The bigger number comes from when I count from the time I leave my home in Austin until I am at the Scripture House in Nairobi or from when we leave for the airport in Nairobi until I am on my front porch. Typically, we leave around 8am for Houston, with stops for Blue Bell in Brenham and then lunch outside of Bush International. We get to the airport and begin to go through security around 1:15pm and usually fly out around 4pm. After the flight to London and a layover, then the flight to Nairobi, the clearing of customs and the bus ride to the Scripture house, we are usually there at midnight local time. This time of year, Nairobi is 8 hours ahead of Austin, so that would be 8am Austin time Thursday until 4pm Austin time Friday. That adds up to 32 hours from end to end for a good trip. Our worst one was several hours longer coming back last May during the volcano in Iceland. We had to wait in London on the tarmac for over 2 hours for a flight slot back to the States, then our normal 9 hour flight was 11 hours because we had to fly into the Arctic Circle before heading south to Houston to avoid the volcanic ash cloud. To top it off, we were missing a footlocker with some of our team’s personal items and that meant a late getaway from Houston. My recollection was it was 38 hours total, with 13 hours spent on the London to Houston plane, my longest stint on a plane including trips to Israel, England, Germany and Hawaii over the years. I hope this clears up any confusion, the travel is definitely long, but we get to meet complete strangers on the plane rides whom we are able to befriend and witness to since it seems everyone is interested in why we have name tags, cross necklaces and are part of a large group. This "salting" of the plane with team members is intentional and has led many great discussions about faith over the years.

We arrived at my house precisely at 8pm, making the return trip 33 1/2 hours accounting for the 8 hour time difference, about average. Leslie unloaded her things into her SUV, Lupe's family came to pick him up and we all shared one last hug. The end of a most blessed adventure! Praise be to God!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday - an amazing end to the week

We came prepared to work hard the last day of the week and were greeted at the clinic by Paul, one of the Conquerors singing group from the church in Kawangware. He had a guitar and was awaiting the arrival of his 4 or 5 other band members. They either had traffic problems or something else came up. While he couldn't do the multiple part intricate vocal harmonies they are known for, it wasn't long before the we raised the roof of the sanctuary with a joyful noise. Our Kenyan hosts and the local volunteers have an outstanding ability to learn a simple song and then improvise around the basic theme until you can't stand still and it's all to the glory of God. The music has always been and will always be one of my favorite parts of these mission trips. The quiet dignity, profound faith and deep joy of our friends here just can't help coming out in their music. We ended our morning devotion time with words of encouragement and a prayer from Pastor Bakary. Since it was threatening to rain for the first time all week, our evangelists were working with 15 people at a time rather than the ideal of 8 to a group in order to move our patients up to the large 100 person registration area tent for protection from the elements. Once it was apparent that the thick cloud cover was going to burn off, we got back to our ideal sized group in which people are more comfortable sharing intimate questions about faith. About mid-morning, I was making my rounds when, coming up the hill walking directly towards me, were 2 policemen with machine guns. A few thoughts went through my mind, such as hoping we weren't doing anything illegal and whether we had all necessary permits to run the clinic. As it turned out, one of them is a member of the church and needed an eye exam. Since they were on duty, I fast-tracked them through the registration. When it came to the eye chart exam, Leslie put her hands up and mock surrendered before pointing at the various lines of the eyechart. We had a lot of fun at each clinic station and then we got our new friend in front of the local eye doctors. When he sat down, his gun was lying across his lap and was pointed directly at our friend Dr. John, who was going to do the exam. Dr. John scooted to the side rather quickly! Meanwhile, the other policeman, Augustine, motioned for me to come outside with him. He was very appreciative of what the church and our team were doing in the slum. He is a Christian and said that while sometimes his job involves going after bad guys, for the most part he tries to do his work with the attitude of a servant and gets his greatest satisfaction out of helping people. We had a great conversation and he intends to bring others to our clinic in Kawangware in November. When his partner was done in the clinic, I got a picture of the two of them and then they had me stand with Augustine holding a machine gun for another photo. I showed the picture to the rest of the team and told them they needed to follow my orders or I would go and get my weapon! We all had a good laugh out of that one. By 11:30 we already had nearly 350 people on the church grounds in various stages of going through the clinic and were well on our way to our best day of the week. Right after lunch, which we didn't stop for but snacked on the run instead, about 120 uniformed children from a nearby school arrived wanting eye exams. I could see mass chaos beginning to ensue. Our registration volunteers wanted to send 10 children in at a time and then 10 of our regular neighborhood patients, 10 children, etc. There is no way that would have worked and our orderly clinic would have gone up in flames. Dr. John came to the rescue and we put an eyechart outside on the wall of the parsonage. He trained Allen, one of our local volunteers, to look for 20-20 vision and we began rapidly separating the sheep from the goats. Out of the 120 or so kids, only about 20 were candidates for further examination. But, to my surprise, it didn't end there. The doctor told me some of the children had been told by their friends what letters to call out on the eyechart while others were less than truthful because they wanted glasses whether they were needed or not. The doctor ran a second quick screening and weeded out 5 more children. Everybody won, the clinic was kept from bogging down, every child got an eyechart exam and those that needed help were routed through the clinic. We closed the gate at 3:00pm because there were about the number already inside that we could serve without making anybody wait for an hour or more, only to be turned away later. We finished the day exhausted, having seen 727 patients, our best day of the week. For the week, our grand total ws 2822, with about half being Muslims. We packed up our footlockers so some of Catherine's people could get them back to the Scripture House. We then had a very special service to close the clinic. There were several songs, and then Pastor Bakary delivered a rousing sermon that he had prepared for the occasion. After that, Isaac, a congregation member and worker with the Lutheran Hour and I handed out certificates of appreciation to our volunteers. Their faces were beaming as each came forward to receive a certificate and have their picture taken with me. I'm not sure if a picture with me is any big deal, but they seemed to like it. Pastor had me say a few words to the team. I thanked them on behalf of Redeemer for their service and told them what a blessing they all had been to each of us. Halfway through my impromptu remarks, Pastor cut in and said that all week long they had all been listening to me and that I talked funny, like an American, then he made some unintelligle noises to demonstrate how I sound to them. It was a huge laugh at my expense and I loved every minute of it, feigning hurt feelings in an overly dramatic way. You know that we have a very special relationship with the Springs of Life Lutheran Church when we are this comfortable with each other. I finished our thanking of the volunteers and praised God. The congregation then had all of our team come forward and sang a blessing over us with each of them having both of their arms raised up towards us. Martha had us do the same, to reflect the blessing back onto them. What a moving moment. We were then given a gift by the congregation, a large thank you card signed by everyone with their wishes for us, and none of us had a dry eye. Finally, we sang a benediction together and each congregation member lined up and everyone in the church hugged each other and us individually. There were many smiles, laughs and tears as we parted company until next May's mission to Kibera. We barely made it out of the slum before dark, as required by our mission rules, but we did. We had dinner and then all worked on counting the day's totals, inventorying our remaining supplies and making one last set of glasses for one of the compound's security guards, finishing after 9pm. A long, hard day's work of serving others to wrap up the mission had come to an end. Thank you, Jesus!

Please keep an eye on this space for then next few weeks as I get pictures, more stories and reflections on this mission trip posted to the blog. The spotty communications this time around has precluded me from being more immediate, particularly with pictures and movie clips. We have thousands of pictures to choose from among the group, so that work will begin once we are back to our daily lives in the States.

Thursday - Our largest clinic yet

We did our usual routine of 6am breakfast, got in the van at 7am and rode into Kibera. There were some people already waiting for the clinic to open when we arrived. We had a daily devotion and prayer along with some wonderful acapella music that the entire group of volunteers participated in, with our friend Rosemary leading the song. It was a solo and response number, first in Swahili and then in English which basically said Jesus is the winner for one verse, Satan is the loser for another and wrapping up with trusting in what the blood of Jesus has done. A great way to kick off the clinic. 641 patients were seen during the day, we barely stopped for anything. Several people visited during the day, including a Finnish Lutheran pastor and the owner of the transportation company we use, John. We had dinner at a newer Italian restaurant in town called Osteria with our LCMS missionaries Shauen and Crystal Trump, their young son Josiah who was remarkably well-behaved even though he was in the throes of teething and Catherine, our superhero mission coordinator, without whom these missions would be much less successful, if possible at all. All of the behind the scenes work she does in preparation for fielding multiple teams several times a year is nothing short of astonishing. It may be something as mundane as making sure our customs process goes smoothly by standing in line for hours getting permits of one sort or another or it might entail working out budgets for each location based on their unique needs. I know her cell phone bill must be astronomical, since she is never more than a minute away from being called or needing to contact someone to avoid or put out a potential fire. It was a joy for the team to break bread with them. We got back to our lodgings around 9pm and everyone hit the sack in preparation for the hard work of the last day of the clinic.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An inspiring Wednesday in Kibera

Our day began with Lupe arising at 4:30am to work on a special surprise for us with Esther, one of our cooks. We were greeted by egg and cheese omelets with all of the fixings when we made our way down to 6am breakfast. I hate see how much weight each of us is gaining on this trip, but it sure tastes good. We stopped at the LCMS World Missions office to pick up a couple of cases of water for our volunteers. We ran very steadily all day again today with very few breaks for anyone, so plenty of water is essential, especially for our evangelists out in the hot tents and any of the positions that require a lot of talking and/or walking. We saw another 519 people today and many more of them were Muslims, especially in the afternoon. There was one Muslim woman and her uncle who came and after talking with the Pastor, Tom and others, decided they wanted to know more about our faith. We gave them Bibles and Tom marked the Gospel of John for them after I told them that was where I would have any new believer start, since it gives you everything you need to know and is aimed straight at the heart. What a blessing it was to see how happy they were. I got a picture of Tom with them that will appear on the blog as soon as I can make it happen along with all of the other notable pictures that are still waiting to be posted. There were some heartbreakers also, such as a woman who was blind in one eye and had good vision in the other. Our doctors decided we needed to protect both eyes, so we gave her a brand new frame with blanks in it. One man approached me outside and really wanted me to help him with his acute hearing loss. All I could do was talk with him and empathize for a while, but he seemed a little better off for the attention. A teacher also came to me asking if she could bring her 30 girls to the clinic, since we had seen several of them during their lunch hours. I let her know we don't do reading glasses for anyone under 40, so any help we could give would be distance glasses or medications for various conditions. We were already ordering more medications to complete the week, so I checked with our doctors and they gave the go ahead for the class to come on Friday morning. What a blessing that will be for any of the girls, ranging in age from 8-15, who can benefit from this care. At the end of the day, the Pastor asked me if I would like to lead our afternoon closing devotion. I had about 15 minutes to find a Bible and I landed on the Great Commission to talk about. Pastor Bakari introduced me as Pastor Dave from Texas, so I guess we now have two Pastor Daves at Redeemer! After reading it, I spoke of how the Great Commission was the real reason behind the clinic, the motivation for our team to come from far away and it is the motivation and the means by which the local church in Kibera will continue to grow. It is why we mission minded people get out of bed everyday looking for someone else to share the Good News with. After my "sermon", we sang the Doxology and a musical benediction. What a great way to end the clinic. And don't worry, the real Pastor Dave has nothing to be afraid of! After our ride home, we arrived at dinner with Catherine to find that Lupe, with Leslie's help, had cooked up a breaded chicken creation that was beyond belief, along with rice, tortillas, beans and pico capped by watermelon for dessert. I know I'll sleep well tonight!

This is the first time I have been able to use the Internet from my room, since it was finally fixed today. It makes my life a great deal easier. This has been the trip where communicating was like pulling teeth. We got the news that Pastor Kevin and Tammy's baby Benjamin had arrived and we are all very excited for them.

As we left the clinic today, our evangelists let us know that they were going to show a film about Mary Magdaline. We got a good bump in traffic Tuesday after a showing of the Jesus film Monday night, so we hope to continue the trend and are well on the way to a week where we might see as many as 2,500 patients. That's it for now, I need a good night's sleep to be able to get up and do it again. Praise God!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's clinic

Our day began with a 6am breakfast and a devotion based on the separating the sheep and the goats section of Matthew by Tom in which he focused on how we needed to treat even the least of our brothers as if they were Jesus himself. We had a good discussion mentioning others who had done so, such as Mother Teresa. We were on the road at 7am in plenty of time to arrive at the church and get the clinic opened by 8am. The evangelists started the day seeing only 8 people at a time in 3 tents and really spent a good amount of time with eah group. This is important, because on the first day, they were seeing far more people at a time and anyone with questions would have been hesitant to speak up, especially Muslims. It is also important because it meant we had a full 100 person waiting tent full at all times on Monday, disrupting the flow that we would have liked to have had. Tuesday was much different and people we waiting to be evangelized rather than for the clinic. It seemed as if the clinic was very quiet all day long,but with the more sane beginning mentioned above, there was a steady drip, drip, drip of activity and we wound the day up with nearly 500 patients having been seen. The steady, more orderly approach is much better and less tiring. While we worked hard on Monday, we were flailing and wasted a lot of time and energy. The second day is always much better than the first and we have high hopes of seeing between 2,500 and 3,000 people at the clinic before we close Friday. That could change if we get any appreciable rain. We have been praying for rain in central Texas for so long that it seems odd to ask the Lord for dry weather until the clinic is over. When it rains, people stat home due to muddy streets everywhere and the need to make sure their shanties and possessions don't wash away. There were many wonderful spiritual stories throughout the day, which we will share with each other after dinner and during breakfast tomorrow. More to follow as the clinic continues. God bless everyone who has been praying for our safety and an effective witness in an area that needs the hope that only our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can bring.

The Clinic Begins in Kibera

We had breakfast at 5:45 and did a daily devotion that I love on the first day of a trip by Oswald Chambers called “What is a Missionary?”. It stresses the need to focus on the one who sent you, Jesus, and noton the many problems and suffering that will surround you. If you remember who sent you and concentrate on the mission at hand you will be effective, while it is possible if you get distracted by every need you encounter, you will not accomplish anything, let alone what you came to do. After breakfast, we got in the van at 6:30 and our new team members got their first ride through the slum as everyone was leaving for work. The hustle and bustle is amazing. We arrived at the church at 7am to get an early start on setting up the clinic, with a goal of seeing our first patients at 8:30am. We succeeded in that, but we had the usual first day shakedown issues that always occur when new team members, new and old volunteers and leaders who know the “right way” to do things such as myself try to get a big undertaking running for the first time. There are belches of smoke, fits and starts and finally the engine starts to run smoothly. By the end of the day, most bottlenecks and glitches had been overcome. We had many wonderful experiences, making friends with new volunteers, getting to know our new Pastor, Rakary Care and others. The local church and the Diocese have done a very good job of advertising the clinic, both in radio spots and via a wonderful little church lady with a bullhorn. She came to meet me late in the morning and I told her we were an eyeglass clinic and could do nothing for her throat! She laughed and probably was convinced that I am crazy. At the end of the day, she may be right! Around 3pm we had to shut the gate to any more patients, since we had around 125 people waiting to get into the clinic already on the church grounds. We were able to serve everyone who was already there, shut down the clinic and be on the road back to hot showers and dinner by around 5pm. We saw 439 people total today for everything from distance or reading glasses to visits with our doctors for medications for itchy eyes, infections and other ailments as well as referring 10 people for cataract surgery to hospitals in Nairobi, a service that we pay for. Everyone was exhausted once we got back to the Scripture House, since we hadn’t stopped for lunch but opted for quick drinks of water and a snack here and there.

As I said at the end of my last post, this trip has been marked by unusually bad glitches in communication, first and foremost no access to a phone that we could call home on until today and still no Internet in the Scripture House where we are staying. We have lots of great pictures that I haven’t been able to upload yet, so keep an eye on the blog at least until after we are back next week. I will continue to work until there is plenty of material about the trip readily available here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday in Nairobi

As mentioned, Lupe indeed did wander down to the kitchen at 4am, I followed an hour later with my camera and found him chopping up about a quarter of a pig, while our two cooks were working on eggs, hand made tortillas and other breakfast taco fixings under Lupe’s direction. Lupe had brought some spices with him, but his salsa was taken away from him during one of the airport searches. It didn’t matter, he managed to make an incredible salsa with fresh ingredients anyway. The 40 or so who had breakfast before heading out to their respective missions were all surprised and it was a wonderful, joyous occasion. On many of our previous trips, it was much more subdued as we encouraged each other and talked about the different challenges and opportunities that each clinic location presented. This time it was pretty raucous and more than one of the other team leaders tried to trade me two or more team members for Lupe. No way, no deal!
As the different groups all loaded up their vans for travel to their respective clinic locations, the leaders all gathered in a prayer circle and Paul lifted up a beautiful prayer asking for a safe and effective mission for all involved and, of course, that many would be saved by hearing the message of salvation through Christ that we would be spreading throughout the country.
We met our driver for the week, Joseph, and he has turned out to be a wonderful guy to be around. He has a good sense of humor, although he didn’t quite know what to make of Howard and I going round and round at first when Howard insisted I ride up front with Joseph in the “Suicide Seat.” This was a reference to a previous trip in which we came to a screeching halt inches from the side of a large truck at a roundabout with Pastor Kevin in the same spot. As the day went on, Joseph told me I was the funniest passenger he had ever worked for. I’m not sure it was a compliment, but we have already had lots of laughs together.
We arrived at Kawangware for the 10am church service. It was wonderful, as usual, and features many readings, several traditional Lutheran hymns and a wide variety of music performed by 2 adult choirs, the teem choir we had been blessed by the previous night and some incredible praise songs led by members of the Conquerors and others. Pastor Zedekiah asked me to come up early in the service to thank Redeemer for the donation of a large bongo and T-Shirts for the teen choir. I expressed greetings from Redeemer and told the congregation we are happy to help them in their ministry in any way we can. Later in the service, I had the pleasure of introducing Tom Krueger as we celebrated the water well project soon coming online with fresh water for the church compound and for the Living Water ministry to the nearby community that it will provide. Tom and I both praised God for this miracle and he also made a point of stressing that we always receive many more blessings than we could ever give when we serve them and their ministry. Leslie proved to be a human “kid magnet” as every little kid flocked to her and sat with us during the bulk of the service. It was a great experience. Pastor’s sermon was based on readings from the Gospel of John and we were doubly blessed in that this Sunday proved to be a communion Sunday. The whole team was communed by Pastor Zedekiah. When all was said and done, church let out around 1:15 and we stayed for a little while to see which congregation members might be coming to Kibera to help us get up and running faster and to also renew acquantances with many of our friends who were in church with us.
From Kawangware, we went to the Junction for lunch, a nice restaurant in a pretty nice area of town. It was chosen for good, reasonably priced food and for its proximity in the same mall to Nakumat, a large store similar to a Super Wal-Mart. It was very busy, being nearly 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, but we did get snacks, water, etc., for the early part of the week and we headed to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church to go over the setup of the clinic with the Pastor.
Catherine already had our footlockers and other equipment at the church and we were not able to actually get to setup in the sanctuary for Monday because there was a function going on. We did get some ideas for improved traffic flow for this week that we might try. We went back to our compound, dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Our Internet and phone access has been very spotty and we hope for that to improve as time goes on. All of us are well and are very geared up to start the clinic.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday, Lupe's Birthday in Nairobi

Saturday May 14th, Lupe’s Birthday in Nairobi
Our day began with a 5am breakfast for those of us going to a wild game park on the city limits of Nairobi. There were less than 5 hours of sleep possible, but in fact we all got anywhere from zero sleep to maybe 2 hours of on and off sleep at the most. This early hour was necessary to give us the most chance of seeing nocturnal animals as they began heading off to bed themselves. It also helps to shock us into a time zone that is 8 hours ahead of our own CST so that we will be more effective when we start work Monday at the clinic. The entrance fee was a nice surprise as it was only $40 in U.S. money. Those of us who had gone during any previous November trip remembered it being $60. We all road in the big bus that we had taken from the airport the night before and it was pretty full, with about 25 of us opting for the game park. Others were able to leave at more respectable hours to see the Karen Blitzen House and Museum and a factory where beads and beaded products are made. Our first hour and a half of the safari was just OK, during which we saw plenty of giraffes up close and personal, elands, water buffalo, water bucks, ostriches and severals species of birds, including crested cranes. We felt like it had been a good, but not great morning so far. All that changed. Leslie and another member of the group spotted a lioness in a distant tree that the rest of us completely missed. We had our driver, Boniface, back up about 50 yards for a better view and then those of us with a range of fancy cameras proceeded to work our zooms pretty hard, since we were at least a couple of hundred yards away from her. I wound up with a very nice shot of her lounging in a nook about halfway up the tree. Not long after that, we ran across quite a few velvet monkeys near the road and enticed them in closer to us by throwing them a banana and some nuts and dried fruit. They put on quite a show for us and we were a little concerned they might jump into a bus window in order to get some more goodies. We rounded out the end of the trip with some great pictures of baboons hamming it up right near the exit of the park. Our next stop was the Veranda restaurant, where we sat outside and enjoyed a beautiful birthday lunch with everyone singing Happy Birthday and God’s Blessings to You in four part Lutheran harmony for our friend Lupe. We got back to the Norwegian compound about 2:30 and I got a much needed 20 minute nap, after which I went over to the LCMS World Missions office and began work on 2 computer that need some maintenance. This was also the first chance to let our loved ones know via email that we arrived safely and I was able to post our first report about our travel. I walked the several hundred yards back to the Scripture House for worship, which was led by Shauen Trump, our LCMS missionary here. He had a wonderful, inspiring message that explained the unusual Moroccan derivation of his first name also was very encouraging about how the Lord protects those he calls, based on Psalm 121. I’ll never pray that Psalm the say way again. We relaxed for a while, I bought a shirt from the local ladies and then we had dinner around 7pm. We fellowshipped with our fellow missionaries on our last evening as a large group, some of us did some refresher training on their assigned clinic stations and Howard and I ended the evening by attending a leaders meeting to go over final details for the week. It was led by Gus Jacob, Paul Althoff and Kevin Pieper of Salem Lutheran Church and I found it very uplifting. What great mentors they have been to all of the churches that have been blessed to share in their mission ministry. Lupe was in bed when I got back to the room because he had arranged a very special treat. He was going to work with our cooks starting at 4am to make breakfast tacos for the early teams that would be having breakfast at 6:30am before their travels to the outlying clinics. It is impossible to stop him from using his special gifts for hospitality. Of course, we would never try, but this does explain why we gain weight on every trip he is involved with!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Travel May 12 and 13th

Got to Kenya safe and sound. See details below!
Travel May 12 and 13th
Tom, Leslie and Lupe all arrived at my house a little after 8am and we stowed all of our baggage in the bed of my truck under my handy dandy tarp and cargo net in case we ran into rain. It’s a good thing we did. We made the short ride out to Manor and were joined around 8:45 by Howard, Martha and Ralph. We were surprised to find out that Louise had fallen ill and would not be making the trip. Leslie transferred to Howard’s Expedition and we followed them through blinding rain, with water stacking up on the road to the point that we were forced to slow down for fear of hydroplaning. We made our traditional stop in Brenham at Scoops for Blue Bell and a rest stop before heading to Bush International in Houston. The rain let up during that leg of the trip and it was dry when we arrived at the Kettle Restaurant on the outskirts of the airport for a final American meal. This would be the last meal for a while where we had any say so over what we would be eating, so most of the group had the soup and salad bar, while Ralph and I indulged in good old fashioned burgers and fries. It’s nice to know what the source of the meat in your burger is, something you are not always sure of when you travel the world!
We arrived at the airport at 1:15 as planned to meet with many of our old friends from previous mission trips and began to also make new friends. We placed our gallon Zip-Loc bags with our liquids, razors and other sharp objects in a foot locker designated for this purpose. Those of us assigned to carry an Autorefractor, Howard, Tom, Ralph and myself also place our small carry-on item in footlockers and noted the number, so we could retrieve our stuff in Nairobi. The Autorefractors are amazing devices that automatically examine eyes for distance vision and produce a thermal paper prescription when all goes as planned. They are sensitive and expensive, so we keep them with us at all times, since the vision clinics could not be run as quickly, efficiently or effectively without them. They are a key piece of equipment. We cleared security in about an hour, it was very warm and several of us got varying levels of extra attention, including the dreaded full body scan. I got one in London last year and was the butt of many jokes, so I had no sympathy! We boarded our plane after last minute cell phone calls to loved ones and took off about 15 minutes late due to weather delays. The first half of the ride was pretty bumpy, so the flight attendants really earned their pay serving dinner. For once, the food was not half bad, the choice was curry chicken or lasagna. I had the latter and it filled me up. Dessert was a very good Eli’s strawberry cheesecake from Chicago. I finally started to nod off about the time we were nearing the east coast and there was a really big bump that awoke many of us and the ride became rough for about another half an hour. I probably got a total of three hours of on and off again sleep on the way to London, which is the flight that we really try to sleep on in order to get lined up more easily with Nairobi time. The pilot made up the little bit of lost time from the late start and we arrived in London right on time at 7:30am local time.
We had about a 3 hour layover at Heathrow, taking most of the first hour going through security once again. As usual, several of us were pretty thoroughly searched, both our persons and our possessions. I had bought a small snow globe in Houston as a little gift for Catherine, our liaison in Nairobi, and suddenly realized that it would probably count as something with liquid in it. Duh! I had carefully stowed all of my gels, liquids and pastes in a footlocker in Houston to avoid the hassle of yet another check and here I was with a snow globe with the space shuttle in it. The security lady pointed out it didn’t even have snow in it, but shiny little floating stars. She had mercy on me and let me keep it with a laugh, even letting the guy x-raying the baggage know what to expect. Our flight from London to Nairobi was much smoother than the first leg of the trip, with mostly sunny weather along the way. The food was not very good and pretty much met my low expectations. I ate it anyway, since I needed to keep body and soul together. It reminded me of my Dad when I was a kid telling me “David, you will eat that AND you will like it!” It was the part about liking it that was always particularly hard.
We arrived in Nairobi a little before 9pm local time, got visitor’s visas, collected up all of our footlockers, exchanged some of our money for Kenyan shillings at a rate of 82.75 per dollar. You have so many 1000 shilling bills when you are done you feel like a billionaire. We keep some U.S. dollars because there are tourist attractions and some merchants along the way that prefer them for payment. We loaded up the footlockers into a large truck and took the 45 minute ride to the Norwegian Lutheran Scripture House compound where the whole group will stay for the first 2 nights. It will be the Redeemer team’s home for the entire mission trip. Once there, we brought the footlockers into the compound, retrieved our personal items from them and got our room and roommate assignments before hitting the sack at around midnight. Saturday will bring excursions to local attractions, shopping for snacks, bottled water and other supplies for the week ahead, some afternoon training in various clinic duties, a team leader’s meeting and the day will conclude with a group worship service and then dinner. Sunday will be a travel day for the other teams to get to their respective locations. Those of us in Nairobi will worship at the church in Kawangware and celebrate the progress on the water well with the congregation. We will then go to lunch at a nice restaurant before taking all of our vision supplies and equipment to Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera where we will be serving.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Preparation for May 2011 Kenyan Mission

Kenya Spring 2011

It's time for an update on how things are shaping up for our May 12-22, 2011 mission to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in the Nairobi slum of Kibera. At his point, we will have 6 team members: Howard and Martha Faske, Tom Krueger, myself and two newcomers, Lupe Barragan and Leslie Sledge. Ralph and Louise Genz will also be coming with us, but will be helping to start a new rural clinic site at Chesenende, several hours northwest of Nairobi. We went to Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball Saturday, April 8th for training and orientation. It was a real blessing to see our old friends from previous missions and to meet the new people who are on fire to serve the Lord in east Africa. The morning was spent listening to Pastor Emmanuel Agook explain the basic beliefs of Islam and the best ways to witness to the many Muslims we will encounter. In the afternoon, we all took two sessions of training, Lupe and Leslie learned to do the eyechart exam and the autorefractor eye exam, while Martha and I learned about lens pulling according to prescriptions and the available inventory of lenses, as well as boning up on the eyechart. It is important for us to be cross-trained for this trip, since we will more than likely only have 6 team members to cover the 6 stations of the clinic. There is a possibility that one additional missionary from Salem will join the group in London and could be tapped to work with our team. We are all very excited to be going back to Kibera, an area where we held their very first vision clinic last May. During that trip, we saw nearly 2,500 patients, mostly Christians on Monday and Tuesday who had heard about the clinic through church and other sources and mostly Muslims Wednesday through Friday who had heard by word of mouth. It was a pleasure to share the love of Christ with all who came to be served and we look forward with great anticipation to seeing all of the friends we made a year ago at Springs of Life. We will be going to the church in Kawangware on Sunday to worship and to celebrate the dedication of the water well project. If the past is any indicator, chruch will last from 3 to 4 hours, with children being let out of the service in the middle to go to Sunday School. After church and the water well celebration, we will go out for lunch and then will proceed to the Springs of Life Lutheran church to unload and unpack our equipment and supplies in preparation for the Monday-Friday vision clinic. I will be posting updates at the end of each day. We will be 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, so new articles and pictures should begin being posted between 8 and 10pm Nairobi time, meaning you should look for them between maybe noon and 3pm.