Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mission work at home - ramp build this morning


To see pictures of the ramp build, click the picture above.

Sometimes, when we are explaining the incredible international mission trips that Redeemer has sponsored, the question comes up "Why don't you serve others right here in Austin? We have plenty of homeless people, hungry people, spiritually lost or seeking people, etc." You get the idea. My stock answer to these objections is usually to thank the person for having a heart for these areas of ministry and then challenging them to organize an effort to address whatever need they have brought up. This is the way ministry works at Redeemer. Somebody identifies a need, runs it by our Pastors and then is empowered to lead the project. Some absolutely amazing ministries have resulted from this bottom-up approach, including some of our members being involved in a breakfast for the homeless each month, others doing regular blood drives, a disaster relief team working on everything from Hurricanes Ike and Katrina relief to working with families that lost their homes in the recent central Texas wildfires. The list goes on and on. I am going to amend my stock answer to this question to include the following observation. While some of us have been called to get out of our comfort zones, saddle up and do the Lord's work in faraway places, it is not possible to obey God's call to the mission field and not be deeply effected by it. Every one of us that has participated in these trips (in my case, first helping to build two churches in Mexico and now preparing to go on my sixth trip in the past two years to Kenya) has come back with what Pastor Dave calls "Jesus eyes." We are more sensitive to the needs around us in our day to day surroundings and are more involved than ever in our local communities. This morning, I had the pleasure of helping build a wheelchair ramp for a woman in her 90's. Her daughter, who is in her 70's, explained that the ramp would make it much easier to get her mother out and about, since she had fallen recently and was afraid of falling again going from the house to the car. The work amounted to five of us having some fun with power tools, telling tall tales and sharing a few laughs on a Saturday morning. We were done in less than three hours. It was huge, however, to the lady who had been trapped, for all practical purposes, in her home. A group of men from Redeemer is involved in this caring ministry along with the Texas Ramp Project, about once a month. No special skills are required, but the good you can do and the rewards it brings to both us and those we serve are abundant. I guess my point is that the fact that some of us are called to work on foreign missions in no way limits us when we get back to Austin, but in fact spurs us on to being even more involved locally than we ever were before. You don't need to go halfway around the world to serve the Lord and others, your mission field might be as close as your neighborhood, your school or your workplace. If you aren't already active in some sort of serving, helping ministry, I would encourage you to check with Redeemer or your church and see what the needs are. If nothing interests you, perhaps you already feel tugged by the Holy Spirit to address someone's need in a different area. Pick up the ball and run with it! If you do, you will never be the same and I can promise you that the change will be for the better for you and for all those you touch. Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A word about security concerns for the upcoming trip


Please click on the picture above to view pictures related to the November 2011 mission. Come back often, especially between November 10th and 20th while we are in the field. We'll be posting new stories and pictures on a daily basis when possible.

There have been a number of news stories lately about the unrest in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu and along the Kenya/Somalia border. Pastor Dave and myself, as well as the leaders of the other teams that are part of the upcoming mission have been staying on top of things and want to put all of our supporter's minds at ease. Paul Althoff and Kevin Pieper have just returned from their advance trip to Kenya and are convinced that everything will be just fine. Our LCMS missionary rules stress our personal safety above all else. All of the groups stay in secure locations and are at their lodgings by dark every day. The church locations where we do the Lord's work are also secure. We never travel alone, but only in large groups and we don't go to venues such as sporting events where large crowds might become a problem. The best advice I've heard so far is from our wonderful liaison with LCMS International Missions in Nairobi, Catherine Wangari. She suggests that anyone that is concerned about us do a Google search and get a map of East Africa. They will see that Nairobi and Mogadishu are 752 miles apart by road and that all of our teams will be 300-400 miles away from the border, regardless of where they are serving. I am personally on a State Department email list for security alerts about Kenya and appreciate the fact that there is now heightened security in place to take care of any threat. After all, tourism is one of Kenya's biggest economic engines, the authorities certainly don't want that jeopardized. Please continue to pray for an effective mission for all involved. May we bless those we come to serve. I know we will be blessed abundantly in return. To God be the Glory!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dental Clinic Preparation


Please click on the picture above to view pictures related to the November 2011 mission. Come back often, especially between November 10th and 20th while we are in the field. We'll be posting new stories and pictures on a daily basis when possible.

We had a pill counting party at Adrienne's house Tuesday night. Ralph and Louise Genz and Martha Faske joined us for BBQ from Mann's (we needed to get our strength up first!). We counted approximately 28,000 pills into little zip lock bags and labeled them, finally gathering them up into one gallon storage bags for each type of drug. We started at 6:30pm and were done with the bulk of it by 11pm. There was just a little left to do that Adrienne and I finished up Friday evening. The medications for the dental clinic range from simple aspirin to a mixture of Tylenol and Hydrocodone to antibiotics such as Amoxicillin or CIPRO. The dental clinic will focus mostly on extractions and minor surgeries with an eye on doing the most good for the largest number of people. Like the vision clinic, the dental clinic is being used as a caring vehicle for sharing the Gospel. Last November, we treated over 1,100 patients, some of whom may have died from tooth infections or other conditions we would take for granted in the U.S., had we not been able to give them dental care and life saving antibiotics. What a blessing this ministry is! The team will be led by Dr. Terry Councill, who is associated with the Salem Lutheran Church team in Tomball. He was with us last November as well. We are eager to work together with him and the local Kenyan dentists again. He will jump in to take care of the toughest cases and will instruct the local dentists in new or different techniques, something they are always hungry for.

We're into the home stretch leading up to the November mission!

It's that time again, about a month before our next mission trip to Nairobi's slum of Kawangware and the incredible Lutheran church there. We will soon be back among our friends, worshiping with Pastor Zedekiah and then serving the community during the work week with both a vision and a dental clinic. It seems like we just got back in May from Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Nairobi's largest slum of Kibera. The work on the next mission trip always begins behind the scenes almost immediately after returning from the previous one.

This past Sunday, October 9th, was a very full day. Pastor Kevin and I were at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Giddings, along with Gus Jacob from Salem to present what we are doing on our African missions as part of their Missions Sunday. Pastor Kevin preached at both services and I showed a slide show during their fellowship time between worship. The pastors and the congregation all showed a great deal of interest in how the clinics are used as a vehicle for spreading the Gospel. They took a door offering to help support the mission and that money will be set aside to help enable one or more of them to join us on a future mission.  After the presentation, a 2nd grade teacher wanted to know if her class could help us by making our beaded cross necklaces as a crafts progress for her class. We use these necklaces in explaining the Gospel by the meaning of each of the colored beads and accompanying Scripture. Each team gets about four dozen of them and we will probably have seven teams next April, so they'll need to make about 350 of them for us. What a great way to get the kids involved!

Gus and I headed back to Austin, while Pastor Kevin preached at the late service. Of course, we couldn't make it through Elgin without stopping for BBQ for lunch and this time it was Southside Market. The brisket and sausage were great, afficianados of Meyer's liek Pastor Kevin prefer the sauce there. I just keep trying BBQ at new places in small Texas towns every chance I get and I have many favorites.

Back in Austin, we arrived at Redeemer around 12:30pm and loaded up a cart with all of the materials Gus had brought with him to help us conduct our very first orientation. We were expecting about 25 team members from both Redeemer and Good Shepherd in Cedar Park. Our team will be returning to Kawangware, while the Good Shepherd team, led by Pastor Goodwill, is slated to serve in the rural church in Chesenende. I had already been planning on taking any team members that couldn't make it for one reason or another to Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball for their orientation on October 29th. Against all odds of perfect attendance for a group of this size, everybody was present and accounted for when we started the training at 1:30pm, including one extra missionary from St. Paul Lutheran in Vernon, Mark Kieschnick. He attended our orientation because October 29th wouldn't work for him and Austin is a little closer. Gus did a great job of going over the numerous travel and mission rules and pointers during the first hour. The next two hours were filled with each team member being trained in two or more of the vision clinic's six stations. This is important for several reasons. Some of the jobs involve lots of standing, others mostly sitting, so it's good to be able to change tasks occasionally. Some of the stations, particularly triage, involve hearing intimate stories and praying with the people over their most private or painful thoughts and situations, so being able to decompress a bit occasionally by doing a more mundane job is welcome. Everything went very well and we were able to dismiss everybody by 4:30pm. Many thanks to Gus for his help in making this a great afternoon.

I am most impressed by the number of people coming on the November trip for the first time. I'm guessing that about 60 percent of our two teams are new. This is wonderful, since their enthusiasm, joy and energy are great for recharging the batteries of those of us that have been on multiple trips. In turn, we veterans can help channel that energy and hopefully keep some of the same mistakes we've made in the past from being repeated. This mix of old and new will be a blessing for all involved.