Monday, April 30, 2012

Tuesday before work

5/1/2012 Tuesday morning before work
We leave for the church in Kibera in about 20 minutes. We were treated this morning by Lupe's best approximation of breakfast migas within the constraints of the ingredients on hand. What a blessing he is! I know none of us will have lost any weight on this trip! We expect large crowds today and are praying for the strength and joy to show the last patient the same loving care as the first one of the day. We will be going to the Carnivore, the eat meat until you surrender restaurant, directly from the clinic to avoid a real late night. We are all bringing a nice shirt or blouse to change into as we make our way there. More to follow as Internet connections and time permit.

Sunday and Monday, late postings due to storms and Internet down here

It is now 5:15am and Lupe has been going strong since 4am. I got our traditional photo with Lupe and the chefs with the wall clock behind them. Tortillas were being rolled out and browned, eggs were being broken, salsa was being stirred and it was already starting to smell real good. The breakfast tacos, bacon, sausage or potato were on the table by 6am for the first set of diners. What a blessing this meal was, especially for those heading out to the rural areas this morning as it strengthened them for their journey. After breakfast, Pastor Preece had a powerful prayer for all of the teams and we began sending groups out into the mission field. Our plan today is to worship in Kibera, set up the clinic if possible, have lunch and complete shopping for supplies for the week.

4/29/2012 Sunday, and end of the day
Our worship this morning was absolutely outstanding, with incredible African praise music by various choirs composed of youth, women and mixed adults. Before services, Pastor Kevin and I met with Bishop-elect Bakari and prayed with him and his ministerial staff for the worship and for a safe and effective clinic during the week. The liturgy was entirely in Swahili, but our hosts provided English references for Bible readings so we could follow along. Pastor Kevin gave a beautiful message based on the reading from Luke 4 in which Jesus reads the scroll from Isaiah about himself and then is rejected by his own hometown. Pastor Bakari kept right up, translating into Swahili as Kevin spoke. Justin took the drum he brought and played along with the African music, while Kevin Pieper added a bass line to most songs. During the announcements at the end of the service, the drum was donated to the choir, which is in the midst of a fund raiser for instruments. We lunched outdoors at the Junction restaurant and then bought our supplies for the week at Nakumatt. I finally heard where the name came from.  It was originally the Nakura Mattress company.  I learn some trivia on every trip. Once we got back to our lodging, we had a team meeting which I had the pleasure of leading off with my favorite missionary devotion by Oswald Chambers. After some discussion of the devotion, we went over details of the clinic opening tomorrow morning in order to insure a smooth start to the week. Ralph got Justin up to speed on the autorefractor in short order. We then had dinner and everyone retired early.

4/30/2012 The Clinic's First Day
We had a hearty breakfast, made a few sandwiches with the bread, jelly and peanut butter that were set out for us and got on the matatu that came for us at 7:15. Driving through rush hour traffic, it was fun to watch the faces of our new team members as they saw the hustle and bustle of the city and then the slum as it awakened. The sensory overload of seeing a hundred things all at once just boggles the mind. Every kind of little shop was beginning to open and they were putting their wares out in front of their businesses for all the world to see. The variety is endless, ranging from furniture to potted plants to ceramic creations up to and including a full sized giraffe. People were boarding their matatus as they made their way to work. Others were walking, all neatly dressed and resolute as they trod through the wet morning air. We arrived at the church a little before 8am, setup the clinic and then had a brief devotion led by Bishop Bakari and the singing of Lord I Lift Your Name on High, since everyone in the room knew it. People were already through with the evangelism process and we're being registered when we popped the door of the church open to begin letting our first patients in. We had the usual minor glitches during the morning, being the first day, but things were running very smoothly before noon. With heavier rains threatening at the end of the day, we closed the clinic a little before 5pm after having seen 345 people. We ended the first day of the clinic with a short devotion and a Masai praise song. We had dinner and a team discussion to go over the highlights of our day, looked for ways to improve our process and then had a free evening for everyone to reflect on the day and get some rest in preparation for what could be a very big day Tuesday. This is because people will go home and tell their friends and families about the clinic, Tuesday is a school holiday (Kenyan Labor Day) here and we will have someone on a bullhorn going throughout the church's neighborhood advertising the free vision clinic. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday in Nairobi

We had a great time on our first full day in Nairobi. Most everybody got at least a couple of fitful hours of sleep between around 1am and needing to be up by around 5:30 in order to breakfast and be ready to leave for the Nairobi National Park on the outskirts of town early enough to see the nocturnal animals coming in from a night of hunting. We had three matatus (14 passenger vans), with popup tops to take our group out, so everyone got a chance at great pictures with no obstructions. We got a very early surprise when we came around a bend and saw 4 or 5 vehicles all facing us stopped in the middle of the road. There was a pride of lions coming towards us from the other vehicles, including a female, her cubs and the first male lion I have seen outside of a zoo. I am writing this post on an Android tablet and need to take some time tomorrow evening to begin to upload pictures of our experiences. Every minute has been full today and I hope to have a little more time tomorrow after church, setting up the clinic and shopping for our supplies for the week. After the lions, anything else was a bonus. We saw lots of giraffes, water buffalo,  gazelles, zebras, baboons, many species of birds and near the end of the day we spotted a large rhino on the side of a big hill. We were the third van to approach the area and as we came down the hill, we noticed that the lead van was stuck up to its front axles in the mud, due to recent heavy rains. Our van was the only four wheel drive vehicle of the bunch, so we drove down to try to rescue our sister van. We also got horribly stuck. We were able to get out of our van and the men pushed and jockied it back away from trouble. Most of us ended up with mud all over us and our shoes completely caked in mud. I knew I had some good material for the blog and Pastor Preece said there were maybe 10 sermons contained in the event as well. We eventually were able to hook two tow straps together and with a lot of mighty pushing from the guys and the towing power our vehicle, we were able to free both vans and drive them to the top of the hill. Both sets of passengers had to hike up the wet and muddy road to get back to our transport. No one was hurt and yes, we did get some good pictures of the rhino!

After the safari, we had a wonderful outdoor lunch at The Veranda Restaurant and many in the group bought nice souvenirs at the gift shops there. We finished the day with a beautiful worship service at our compound for all of the teams, with music being provided by a choir from Springs of Life Lutheran Church, where we will be conducting our vision clinic. Bishop-elect Bakari Kea gave a wonderful sermon on what it means to be missionaries and we concluded with more choir music, prayers and an acapella rendition by the whole Kenya mission team of "Crown Him Lord of All".

It's now 10:30 Nairobi time and I need to hit the sack, since Lupe will be preparing early morning breakfast tacos for all the teams, including those heading out into the mission field very early.He is just finishing with our chefs on the initial preparation and will resume at 4am. Everyone loves it when Lupe comes on a mission trip!

Let the mission trip begin!

4/27/2012 As I write this, we are at 37,000 feet and traveling past Greece with about 6 hours to go until touchdown in Nairobi.It has been a fairly routine trip so far. I picked up Lupe and Pastor Kevin at Casa Westergren around 8:30 Thursday morning and we drove to Brenham and met Kay, Ralph and Louise for our traditional Blue Bell. It was a little bittersweet for me, since I missed Martha saying "I shouldn't do this, but I'm old enough to have ice cream at 10:30 in the morning if I want to! " Other than an advance trip with Salem, this will be my first time without Howard and Martha Faske and it's not quite the same. They are helping with a new grandbaby and we all thank God for that. We arrived at the Hot Biscuit Restaurant around 11am and proceeded to break bread together in what would be the last meal that we had much say so over for next 10 days. Charles and Jeanine Kriegel joined us at the diner, since they live in Houston.

We got our vehicles stowed at a longterm parking facility and took a shuttle to Terminal D at Bush International Airport, where we met the rest of our team prior to checking in. There are 10 of us this time. Kay Allensworth, Charles Kriegel, Pastor Robert Preece and his son Justin, Ralph and Louise Genz, Lupe Barragan, myself, Kevin Pieper of Salem and Pastor Kevin Westergren, our leader. The two Kevins and I have all led multiple mission trips to Kenya and we have four team members that are new to Africa. It is a good mix of different talents and skills. We all have a heart for spreading the Gospel via this human care ministry.

We were delayed in leaving Houston by nearly an hour, but made up some time and arrived in London about half an hour late. It's a good thing, since we had to circle for about 20 minutes before a spot opened for us at Heathrow. Our normal 3 hour layover was shaved to 2 hours. We were lucky, since many passengers on our Houston to London flight missed their connections. The trip has been fairly uneventful so far, with just the usual glitches getting through security. I was one of the first to get in the security line in Houston only to find that I had been issued two London to Nairobi boarding passes but nothing good for the flight from Houston to London. The kind TSA screener sent me back to the ticket counter and she said I could come right back, since I had already been waiting in the line for about half an hour at that point. I got my new boarding passes printed and then came back through the express lane reserved for first class, crew and VIPs. Lupe and others in our group spotted me and wondered what was up. I explained it to them later and we all had a good laugh! Note to self: look at your tickets closely while you are still at the checkin counter.

If all goes true to form, we will arrive in Nairobi around 9pm local time, will clear security, exchange our money for Kenyan shillings, gather up our footlockers and take a 45 minute ride to Scripture House, where we will be staying. We will get assigned rooms and roommates, find out what time breakfast will be for those of us going on a game park safari at dark thirty Saturday morning and our heads will hit our pillows sometime after midnight depending on whether one wants or needs to shower after a day and a half journey. Let's see how accurate I am in hindsight when I've had time to reflect on the events yet to come this evening.

We are now in Nairobi and all is well. Thank God for a safe trip!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Team Commissioning

Please click on the link above to view pictures of the team commissioning and the trip as it unfolds

We are now in the very last stages of packing and preparing our hearts for the incredible adventure that spreading the Gospel in Kenya has become for those of us that are veterans of multiple trips.  We had a commissioning of the mission team at all three services this past Sunday at Redeemer in Austin for those that could attend.  The others were there in spirit as well and were included in Pastor Kevin's prayers for a safe and effective mission.  It is always wonderful to be on the receiving end of all the encouragement that various members of the congregation give us after each service.  We are blessed to be supported in so many ways by a "missional" congregation.  Whether some are on the front lines in China, India, Moscow, Kenya, Brazil, New Orleans or the many other places we reach out to through our church, we are all called to be missionaries to those in our spheres of influence, whether it is at school, work or play.  Those of us that are fortunate enough to be part of our international missions always return only to find that we are so much more open to witnessing right here in our home town.  Jesus breaks our hearts for what breaks His when we are outside of our normal contexts in foreign lands and then gives us the eyes to see things that need doing around home.  What a blessing!  Please pray for us as we begin our journey on Thursday and stay tuned to this blog for updates and pictures as it is possible, given the quirks of electricity during the rainy season in Nairobi and the somewhat iffy nature of Internet access.