Thursday, November 24, 2011

Risa's pictures added today


Click on the picture above to access the pictures of the trip that have been posted so far.

I added in about 75 pictures from Risa and sprinkled them throughout the slideshow.  I hope you enjoy them.  Keep coming back for the next several weeks as we gather up more pictures from the rest of the team.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pictures have been added


Click on the picture above to access the pictures of the trip that have been posted so far.

Pictures from my camera have been added rather quickly today.  I will add captions to them as I get time so that it's easier to tell what's going on.  Over the next week or two, I will be gathering what usually turns out to be about 8,000 pictures from the rest of the team and adding the best of the best to the Picasweb album that this blog is linked to.  Also, I will be adding stories and reflections on this trip for a while to come.  Technical glitches, extreme business and just plain exhaustion all played a part in the blog for this trip being pretty terse and factual, with almost no mention of the incredible spiritual things going on around us.  Stay tuned and enjoy the pictures for now!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday and Sunday travel, we're home!


Please click on the picture above to see pictures from the November 2011 mission.  More pictures will be added soon.

Saturday November 19 and Sunday November 20, activities and travel home
Everyone was able to sleep in relatively late, since the safari to Lake Naivasha was not scheduled to leave Scripture Mission until 8am.  Howard, Martha and I stayed behind to complete the inventory of our unused lenses, frames and supplies.  While the group was waiting for the bus, a bunch of velvet monkees that stays at the compound came out and mugged for us.  Terry went back inside a brought out a few slices of watermelon and bananas and we flung them around the lawn.  Guess what?  They scrambled to get the food.  Imagine that!  Once we got a good start on the inventory, I went to the LCMS offices and finished putting the stats together for the mission, got our expenses in order in preparation for changing our money from Kenyan shillings to dollars and waited to get into Catherine's office so I could cleanup /tuneup her computers.  She got delayed and so I went back to my room, got a shower and packed up my souvenirs and the rest of my stuff.  Other groups began returning from the mission field throughout the day.  Prior to a scheduled debriefing meeting between our U.S. team leaders and Bishop Bakari and others from the ELCK, our local LCMS missionary and his staff and John Maina of LHM, I got my chance to take care of Catherine's laptops.  I also lightened my load for the trip home by leaving unused snacks, pens, etc.  The Payday candy bars and Nature Valley granola bars were particularly appreciated by Shauen for his family, since many foods and treats we take for granted are not available worldwide.

We left on 2 buses for the airport at 6:30pm, after loading a large truck up with our footlockers.  Our route took us through downtown Nairobi, a way we had not used on previous trips.  Traffic was horrendous, so it was a good thing we got an early start.  The bus I was on got to make one extra stop.  As we pulled into a gas station while still at least a half hour from the airport, those of us in the back of the bus heard our leader ask the driver "Are you telling me we are stopping for gas?", to which the bus driver replied "Yes."  We got 17 liters of petrol (about 4 gallons because this was what 2000 shillings would buy) and proceeded the rest of the way to the airport without  further incident.  It took a while to get enough carts for our footlockers, but once we were all loaded, we had a pretty smooth time getting checked in and through the first security screening.  I exchanged Redeemer's remaining petty cash back from shillings to dollars.  Our group met in the terminal cafe for one last meal and the traditional Tuskers, a very good Kenyan beer.  It was a nice reward for a job well done, although I had an iced tea, since I don't drink.  Like many foreign missions, our time in Kenya had been absolutely alcohol free, so as not to offend any of our hosts, pastors or the different tribes and ethnic groups we dealt with.  In our case, drugs and alcohol are a big problem in the slums, one reason Islam looks like a better way of life on the surface.  Since our purpose is evangelism, this tee totaling is a small price to pay and sets a good example.  We went as a group to Gate 10, checked in and went through two more security scans.  After about another 45 minutes spent in the terminal, we boarded British Airways Flight BA65 and said goodbye to Nairobi around midnight.  The plane was warm, but the area around my seat was especially so.  I complained to flight crew, but to no avail. It was a completely full flight, so I wasn't able to get my preferred aisle seat.  I've found that I do much better if I get up every hour and a half to stretch and keep the circulation going in my legs. Also, taking my shoes off is more comfortable, but it can be hard to get them back on at the end of the flight due to the natural swelling of the feet and ankles that occurs during flight.  I can now empathize more fully with pregnant friends! 

Even though we took off from Nairobi about half an hour late, we got to London's Heathrow Airport nearly on time at about 5am local time.  I took Josh to the Giraffe Restaurant for a light breakfast.  Eying the menu, one of the first choices was Huevo Rancheros, which was not going to happen out of deference to our good friend Lupe.  I couldn't see anything good coming out of ordering an English attempt at this dish!  During the 5 hour layover, some of the team shopped and we all mingled and shared stories of the past week, some funny, some moving and more than a few heartbreaking.  The flight from London to Houston boarded on time, but we were delayed by fog from taking off for about 30 minutes.  As I write this, we are about 40 minutes out from Houston and did not make up any time, so we'll probably be a little later than usual getting back to Austin for several reasons. In the past, we were sometimes the lone flight arriving at 2:45 and the lines for the initial border entry screening would not be too bad.  Much later than this and the crowd can triple, adding considerably to the rest of the process that also includes gathering our footlockers and luggage, getting personal items from the lockers and then going through one last screening.

Yes! Things went well in Houston, we had a good trip home from Houston including the traditional stop for Blue Bell.  Pastor Dave drove the whole way and dropped me off around 7:30pm.  All is well.  Time for a hot shower and then sleeping in my OWN bed!  Thank you Jesus!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday preparing to come home

I'm sitting in our LCMS International Mission offices in Nairobi down the road from where we stay. Howard, Martha and I saw the rest of the team off on their safari around 8am and then worked on taking inventory of our remaining supplies.  I am waiting for Catherine to come and unlock her office so I can tuneup her computers.  After that, I'll get some lunch and a shower, a little nap and a I may be be able to add to the blog before we head for the airport around 6:30pm.  We totaled up the vision clinic stats this morning and we saw 2,452 people.  I don't have a total for dental yet, but I suspect they had 12-1300 patients, all of whom were evangelized and prayed over by our triage team. Thank you Jesus!

Over the next week, as the jet lag subsides, I will have some profound and some funny stories about this mission.  We have had lots of technical Internet glitches this time, so several hundred pictures that should be available to you by now will be posted soon after our return.

We fly out around midnight Nairobi time and arrive back in Houston around 3pm Sunday.  Please pray that we have a safe, uneventful and restful trip home.  After customs and the drive back to Austin, I should be in my own shower and then my own bed around 8:30pm if past history is any guide.

Thursday and Friday clinics

Click on the picture above to see the preparation during the past months and new pictures that will be added as access to the Internet permits throughout the mission trip.

Friday November 18
The last 2 days have been so hectic that they have gone by in a blur.   The Lutheran Hour representative, Peter, showed a King David movie Wednesday night and the Jesus Film on Thursday. Both Thursday and Friday we had more than 550 in the vision clinic while we had 303 for dental on Thursday and upwards of 225 today. We took our LCMS missionary, Shauen Trump and his family, along with Catherine to the Carnivore, a Brazilian style steakhouse with every kind of meat known to man in unlimited quantities. It was a great break from the slum. I'll try to fill in more details of our week tomorrow, since I'll be staying here in Nairobi while the others go on a safari at Lake Naivasha. I will be meeting with other team leaders and the leadership of the ELCK Saturday afternoon. More to follow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday and Wednesday clinics

Click on the picture above to see the preparation during the past months and new pictures that will be added as access to the Internet permits throughout the mission trip.

Tuesday, November 15
Pastor Dave started our day with Moses and the burning bush, talked about God's purpose for each of us and concluded with a powerful "use me" prayer. We boarded our bus at 7am, which is the pattern for the rest of the week, now that the clinic is up and running. Dr. Terry was able to break away for our morning devotion with the volunteers and announced that we were not lined up in a zebra. We all laughed and alternated between each team member and our hosts. Pastor Dave did a devotion based on Psalm 145, teaching us that God is good, God is great and we are here to glorify him. This, along with some praise music in Swahili got us ready to man the clinic on a high note. We never seemed as busy nor as chaotic as Monday, but we saw more people in each clinic. The Lutheran Hour team was unsuccessful Monday night in showing the Jesus film due to speaker problems. Even so, we saw about 440 patients in the eye clinic and around 170 came for dental work, both topping the previous day's totals. We had dinner at 6:30 and shared experiences around the table, before either playing games or just hanging out checking emails, phoning home or visiting with each other. It was the end of a good day.

Wednesday, November 16
Everybody got a good night's sleep after the hard work of Tuesday. In my experience, it is usually finally Tuesday night before one gets acclimated to the 9 hour time difference with Austin. We breakfasted and I led a devotion based on 1 Corinthians 12 which discusses the necessity within the body of Christ for different skills and talents, all of which are used and inspired by the same Holy Spirit. The clinics began on time and without a hitch. Traffic to each clinic was fairly steady all day long and we had almost 500 vision patients and 252 dental patients by the end of the day. At this pace, and if the weather cooperates, we will end up with about the same or more patients for each clinic than we had last November. The Lutheran Hour team was able to show a portion of the Jesus Film Tuesday night and planned on showing a movie about David tonight, then one about Jeremiah Thursday and yet another film Friday. Even though the clinic ends Friday afternoon, the LHM staff will encourage church attendance the following Sunday with the Friday screening. After dinner tonight, we met to discuss recreation options for Saturday while other teams are returning from their sites. We had several power outages, and since the Internet is iffy at this point, I am going to post these abbreviated descriptions of our comings and goings for now and fill in more details later.

After the power failures
We had many laughes in the dark as I got into a competition with Josh.   We had a shootout between the apps on my Android phone and his iPad.  My phone had a flashlight app, his had goofy screensavers.  My phone had Angry Birds, of course he matched me since this game was born on the iPad.  It went on and on, back and forth, until we were all laughing to the point of tears.  It was a combination of exhaustion and silliness that was sublime.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday Kenya mission news

Monday November 14
This post was all written and ready to go last night and was lost during an Android tablet glitch.  We had a wonderful first day's clinic, everyone was in bed and I had put in an extra hour telling the story of our day.  This is my second attempt and I am now using a different method which has frequent automatic saves to prevent a recurrence of last night's disaster. I couldn't even use a phone right last night, my Skype calls to Adrienne and even cell phone calls all had problems, so I finally gave up and went to bed, comforted that at least Adrienne knew I had tried.

Back to Monday.  Because it was the first day of the clinic, we needed to be breakfasted, have our daily devotion done and be on the bus by 6:30am.  I did one of my favorite devotions from Oswald Chambers called "What is a Missionary" which has a main point of keeping the primary focus on the One who sent us, rather than the overwhelming needs and suffering of the people.  This lesson is always valuable, particularly for new team members.  I use this devotion at the start of every mission I am involved with.  Upon arrival, our goal was to have the vision clinic setup, devotions done and up and running by 8:30.  We hoped for a 9am start at the dental clinic and came close.  As usual, it seemed like mass chaos for the first couple of hours of both clinics, which would have been true to the untrained eye.  At all of our previous clinics, it took nearly a full day to get things tweaked out, especially with many new team members.  Well before noon, things were starting to go very smoothly.  On the dental side, I asked Dan and Mark to help figure out a better physical layout that would be more conducive to "second touches".  They really came through.  They turned the tent backwards and they had a banner hung that would shield waiting patients from seeing the clinic's outside aspects.  The sight of patients getting numbed up and of surgeries and extractions being performed on the open porch had made it difficult for Pastor Kevin and I the previous year to keep clinic goer's minds on the Gospel message we were sharing.  Dan and Mark have continued tweaking traffic control and the process and have been praying over each and every patient, along with occasional help from Josh, Risa and Pastor Dave.  This is a first for any dental clinic I have been involved with and I am sure it will have eternal consequences for some who came today.  We ended the day with 409 vision clinic patients treated and around 160 dental procedures performed

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A wonderful weekend in Nairobi

We had a very full Saturday, beginning with leaving our compound for a wild game photo safari. I really enjoyed watching all of the reactions of our team members to the incredible scenery that God had created just for us and the amazing variety of animals from giraffes to zebras to baboons to water buffalo and the list just goes on and on. After the safari, we took a short ride to the elephant orpanage featured on 60 Minutes recently. You can learn about it on YouTube. Next on our agenda was lunch at the Veranda, where we sat outdoors and had some very good entrees for less than $10 including tip. I had deep fried prawns and fries and it was excellent. While we were in the middle of shopping for some souvenirs, Pastor Dave and I were called back to the LCMS offices for a meeting that had been scheduled for an hour and a half later. We were to meet with Bishop Obare, the head of the Kenyan Church, his staff and other interested parties but he and others in the highest level of the national church were forced to leave Nairobi for an installation of a regional bishop the next day. The scheduling for the installation had changed at the last minute and they were facing at least an 8 hour drive late into the night. We worshipped at the Scripture Mission with the other mission teams around 6pm and were nicely surprised that two choirs from Springs of Life Lutheran Church, where we serve each spring, were there to help in the worship. We had dinner and I then participated in a brief meeting with other team leaders. I got to bed and was so exhausted that I slept through the night. Normally, I don't get a really good night's sleep until Tuesday night or so. What a blessing.

Early Sunday morning was spent having breakfast and sending the other teams off. We helped load footlockers and said goodbye to our friends, even if just for a little while.  We made our way to the church in Kawangware for worship. Our driver, Boniface, has driven us on day trips before and is wonderful.  There is new road construction in the slum, so we had to take some back streets there none of us believed a bus could navigate, but he is a master.  He has been the driver for Ralph and Louise during their Meru clinics and everyone highly respects him, both as a driver and as a person.  We were greeted by many old friends and it was a joy to introduce our new team members to Pastor Zedekiah and his congregation, both before and during their wonderful services.  Although church here regularly runs over 3 hours, it goes by too quickly.  There was wonderful music from several choirs and music ranged from liturgical to African to praise songs.  After church, we unloaded our footlockers from the bus and placed them so we could get a jump on things Monday morning.  We went out for a quick lunch and then traveled to Kibera, where we again met with old friends and showed those who had not been there the church.  Our day ended with buying supplies at Nakumatt, a store similar to a Walmart, before returning to our lodgings for dinner.  We will be getting up early in order to be on our bus at 6:30am to begin our first day of the vision and dental clinics.
Please stay tuned and come back often, as I will be editing and adding to these posts both during the trip and afterwards.  I try to get something posted as soon as possible, but the constraints of time, my energy and the tug of details that the leading of the team entails means my first reports may be a little terse.  Their purpose is to give you, dear reader, a blow by blow account as the mission progresses.  Also, pictures will continue to be added during and after the trip. I always reflect on each trip a short time after it is over and will let you know when I consider things to be complete with the blog for this trip.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We are in Nairobi safe and sound!


Click on the picture above to see the preparation during the past months and new pictures that will be added as access to the Internet permits throughout the mission trip.

Thursday, November 10th
We saddled up again at 8:00 this morning as Pastor Dave and Risa picked up Josh and I at my house. We drove to Manor, where we met Howard, Martha, Ralph and Louise at the 290 Cafe. We had an uneventful drive through Elgin and Giddings, arriving in Brenham for our traditional Blue Bell and rest stop at Scoops. While there, we encountered some parents with an adorable little girl that had an ice cream cone as big as she was and more of it on her face than anywhere else! I took her picture and both she and her Mom got a laugh out of it. We proceeded on 290 to what had been The Kettle on the periphery of Bush International Airport but now had a sign announcing it as the Hot Biscuit. We each ordered items ranging from a late breakfast to burgers to my chicken fried steak special. We knew that this would be one of the only meals for the next 10 days that we would have much choice over. From now on, it would be as my Dad used to say "You will eat that AND you WILL like it!" That last part was always the hardest. Our waitress confirmed that only the name had been changed by the chain, allowing that she had been there for 9 years. We left for the long term parking around 12:30, and the Fast Park shuttle got us to our terminal at 1pm. We old hands renewed acquaintances and introduced our new team members to our friends from the other congregations. Check in and going through security were pretty smooth with the exception of my being treated to yet another full body scan. I guess I passed because we spent the next couple of hours in the terminal and I am writing this from British Airways Flight 194 near Newfoundland at 37,000 feet doing 678mph. Dinner was pretty good for airline food, I had curry chicken with a salad, roll and cheesecake while others got a pasta dish. I got a little sleep afterwards, but it's only 9pm at home and sleep will come easier in a while. We gain 6 hours when we get to Heathrow Airport in London and will add another 3 hours to that by the time we land in Nairobi at 9pm or so Friday night local time. We veterans of these mission trips have stressed drinking plenty of water to our teams and making sure to get up every hour or so during these long flights to avoid health issues like phlebitis or deep vein thrombosis in our legs and to get a jump on altitude sickness in Nairobi by getting well hydrated in advance.

We're about an hour out from London now and the cabin crew is beginning to distribute box breakfasts. I got a bit more sleep during the flight, it's approaching midnight in Austin and 6am in England. Once on the ground, we will probably climb down some portable steps and board buses for the ride to the terminal. Heathrow has been undergoing renovations for the past year or two and it's invariably 50 degrees and raining when we arrive. It would be nice to pull up to a terminal just once! I am currently munching on a mysterious muffin from the breakfast that seems to be made from some form of cardboard, judging by the lack of taste. At least the black coffee they served me is hot, strong and quite good. British Airways takes pride in their Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, I guess Juan Valdez is out of work and his children and burro are now going hungry. I always liked that burro!

Friday, November 11th
It's now Friday both at home and Shannon, Ireland, which we are nearly over. Less than an hour to touchdown now. Once we clear security, we will be getting a leg up on our Saturday lunch in Nairobi at a nice restaurant called the Veranda. Gus was able to obtain a copy of the menu and we're going to try to get a sense of what people might want for lunch a day in advance to allow the restaurant to be better prepared for our large group. Since Pastor Dave and I are scheduled to meet with Bishop Obare and others from the ELCK Saturday afternoon, it would be nice if lunch were a little bit more efficient than usual. The Kenyan culture moves at a graceful, slower pace than our hectic world and it can be maddening to us when things seem to take forever. I, for one, think we can learn from our hosts when it comes to being more relaxed and enjoying the moment. After all, we live in the present, but the western way is to try to rush into the future. We don't savor the present when we get there, because we're already scurrying to the next future. It will be interesting to see if this grand menu experiment pans out.

We're at Heathrow now and we got a very pleasant surprise. The remodeling is done and we pulled right up to a real terminal instead of being bused from the tarmac in the ever present morning mist and drizzle that is London. Not only that, but we went through a much smaller and vastly more efficient security checkpoint in record time. Our layover is a little more than 2 hours, then it's on to Nairobi.

Well, we are finally airborne on British Airways Flight 65 after about a half hour delay waiting to take off. The plane is completely full, so it also took a bit more time for passengers to jostle all of the carry-on luggage to make it fit the always limited space allotted for it. I'm writing this on my Toshiba Thrive Android tablet that I've gotten since the spring Kenya tip. It is much easier than dealing with my small laptop in the very cramped quarters of today's economy class air travel. I'm pretty confident I'll be able to crank out blog postings complete with pictures fairly readily using it as long as we have good Internet access. It will feel very good after this long flight to get some exercise helping to shepherd the approximately 60 footlockers from the baggage area late tonight to the waiting truck that will transport them to our compound. It will feel even better to get a hot shower before bed after a day and a half of travel. With any luck, We'll get some sleep before a very busy Saturday. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kenya Team Commissioning


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.

Pastor Kevin commissioned us at all three services this morning. He told the congregation of our expectation of seeing upwards of 5,000 people this trip at the vision and dental clinics at the Lutheran church in Kawangware. Particularly touching to me was his explanation of the witnessing we do to Muslims merely by our presence. While it is clearly expected of Muslims to take care of the needs of the poor, the widow, the orphan and others within their own faith, it comes as quite a culture shock when they encounter Christians that have come halfway around the world at their own expense to take care of anybody and everybody that shows up at one of our clinics. When they ask why are we caring for non-Christians, it opens the door wide for us to explain the grace that Jesus brought into the world for all. In a quote that has been attributed over time to St. Francis of Assisi, the writer tells us to "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Of course, it is riduclous to think that the Gospel can actually be preached without using words, but the point being made here is that selfless service to others, a smile, a hug, a loving gesture on our parts can go a long way towards making the recipient wonder what in the world we are up to and why we seem to have found a joy that they would like to share in. In other cultures I have come in contact with, it would be considered rude to force the Gospel or any religious or political point of view on someone. But when sincerely asked about your beliefs, it is completely proper to respond with a truthful, heartfelt answer. This is why serious Christians need to be ready at all times, as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 3:15-16 where he says to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." I pray that we all get a chance to give an answer many times on this trip. Praise God!