Friday, November 23, 2012

First of the mission trip pictures are ready

Less than 1 week after our return, I now have almost 400 of the best of my own pictures from my two cameras ready for viewing, each with captions so you can get some idea of what we were doing at the time.  They are in chronological order beginning with our orientation at Redeemer, then showing our commissioning services and finally the trip itself, including travel, safaris, our lodging, Sunday worship, our daily devotions and, of course, the vision clinic at Kiambu.  Over the next 10 days or so I will be gathering up possibly as many as 5,000-6,000 more pictures from the rest of my Kiambu team and from the other Redeemer team that served at the church in Kitengela.  I will replace my pictures with any that are better from the other team members and will add in what happened at Kitengela as soon as possible.  For now, I hope you enjoy what is here, realizing that it is Dave-centric at this point and will become more balanced over time.  I love it when I get to see the different perspectives that the others had on the trip through what interested them as evidenced by their photos.  Some people are drawn to nature pictures, such as landscapes, flowers, animals and such, while others capture moments with people in their own unique way while yet others are more into buildings, architecture and man-made places.  The finished album will likely have from 500-600 pictures, meaning it will be watchable as a slide show in less than an hour. 

This is just the first step in memorializing this mission trip.  Once I have this online album in place, I will go to work on a nice Hollywood style DVD, divided into 5 or 6 chapters, so that it can be viewed in bite-sized 10 minute segments or in its entirety.  The purpose behind these DVD projects is two-fold.  First, they make a nice remembrance for the team members and it gives them something they can show their families.  In the case of this trip, my goal is to have the project done in time for everyone to have a copy in time for the Christmas-New Year's holiday, when families gather.  The second set of reasons I feel these DVDs are important involve visibility of the project and recruiting of new team members for future missions.  I usually give away around 100 disks of each trip, some to prospective team members, others to sister churches showing an interest joining us on an upcoming trip and finally to people who have donated to the Vision Kenya Project in the past or who might be considering helping us make these clinics possible.   

I remember when I first joined a group of men from Redeemer in building churches in Mexico in 2005.  I hadn't even seen one picture of where we would be going or what we would be doing.  I felt like I was taking a tremendous leap of faith into the great unknown. I just wish I would have had access to something like one of my DVD slideshows back then.  The anxiety level might have been lower and it would have made it easier to say yes to the mission trip if I'd had some idea of what I was getting into.  I'm hoping to pay it forward to our future team members and their families by what I do with these picture shows.

With all of that said, follow the link below to get to the online pictures.  Enjoy!  Praise God!

Monday, November 19, 2012

More on our final day at Kiambu

I made a sad discovery Thursday afternoon. Among the myriad details involved in putting on a clinic, I had overlooked one that I have come to realize is very important. I had forgotten to design, print and pack the Certificates of Appreciation for our local workers and volunteers. For the past 3 clinics, we had followed Salem's example of handing out diploma-like fancy certificates to express our heartfelt thanks. It has become a tradition during the final devotion of the week to award these certificates individually, calling each one up to the front to receive thanks from the pastor and team leader and to get their very own picture with us. It's a real blessing to see the deep satisfaction that even our evangelists, veteran volunteers from other churches, the young people of the congregation and also the pastor and his wife get from being recognized in this manner. I had stayed up after a late dinner Thursday night until almost midnight to design a quick certificate on my computer back in Austin via remote control from my Android tablet. I then emailed it to Catherine and myself and put it on a thumb drive. My Plan B was to get something printed near the church by having our Kawangware volunteer and good friend Barrack take it to a copy shop. My worrying proved to be unnecessary, since Catherine managed to modify a Vision Kenya Project certificate that Trinity-Klein uses, got it printed and delivered to me at the last possible minute via our driver Allan. Barrack had collected the correct spellings of all 30 or so workers or volunteer's names during the day and I got the info filled in just before closing the doors for the week and packing up the clinic.
We had the final devotion, with myself and then Pastor Michael thanking everyone and praising God for the way He had used each of us during an incredible week together. Larry led us in one last singing of Bless the Lord before the awards ceremony finale of the service. I had put the certificates in an intentional order, calling our evangelists Geoffery and Calistus forward first. They were the first glimpse of Jesus that clinic goers encountered in the evangelism tent and they were as enthusiastic in the late afternoon heat each day as they had been in the cool of the morning. They stayed on long after we were back at our quarters, had showered, eaten and gone to bed each day, showing Christian movies on the outside wall of the church, using a generator, projector and speakers. This is the same setup they use all over Kenya regardless of the availability of power. They were among the first there each day. These two young men and their branch of the Lutheran Hour called Nuru (which means light in Swahili) are some of the most committed Christians I have ever had the pleasure of calling friends. It strengthens my faith, knowing these disciples are running the race the Lord has laid out for them with a passion that is a joy to behold.
Their colleague Nancy was next, she had done free HIV testing every hour the clinic was open, providing an invaluable extra service to any who sought her help. She had done her job with a gentle joy and a professionalism that is a gift of God. She was followed by each of our local and Kawangware volunteers. I saved 3 very special people until last. Allan, our driver for the week had taken care of our every need, which is what he was paid to do. He went far above and beyond that, helping with translation in the clinic, helping the Pastor with crowd control, which at times was a challenge and could have turned into a chaotic situation without his steady, loving way. He served with good humor all week and became a friend to all who worked with him, including myself and the entire team. He went from dawn until well after dark every day and always was of good cheer. Next was Florah, Pastor Michael's wife. She was at the clinic as her job permitted and was always a quiet, strong encourager to all of us. I admire the commitment she and Michael have shown to their church over a very long period of time without wavering. We could all see that they strengthen each other in their mutual service for the Lord. The last Certificate of Appreciation went to Pastor Michael, the driving force, other than God Himself, behind keeping this small congregation intact and an agent for much good in the community. His ministry for much of the week consisted of greetings to all who walked, biked or drove in and out of the neighborhood. Many of his neighbors didn't know that the incomplete building on this fairly large piece of property is a church. Thanks to the vision clinic he had been praying would come to Kiambu, the neighborhood knows there is a strong, growing church with a Pastor who is a powerful witness for a loving Savior. I hope this past week contributes a great deal of momentum towards getting the remainder of the sanctuary constructed. Much more importantly, my prayer is that living stones, new church members, would be added daily until even the expanded building is not sufficiently large without having to hold multiple services. Michael and I smiled broadly for the final picture and then we all spent the next 20 minutes or so laughing and crying over our goodbyes with all of our new friends, at least until we meet again.
After dropping us off at Africa Heart, Allan drove Larry, Howard and Martha to their hotel, in preparation for their extended time in Kenya. I finished our team statistics, arranged for breakfast and the safari for the team to the Nairobi National Park for early Saturday morning. At that point, I barely remembered my own name, but it was happy kind of tired to be. I called Pastor Kevin to let him know how the week ended and to arrange the details of picking up the footlockers for the 2 Redeemer teams with his and my trucks upon arrival in Houston. I went to bed and slept very well indeed!  Thanks be to God for a week that started slowly enough to prepare for larger numbers and for Him enabling us in every way to minister to the needs of all He sent us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Vision Clinic ends with a bang

Larry, Howard and Martha were all packed up as we headed to Kiambu for our last day, since they would be staying near the Wilson Airport and flying out Saturday for a safari. When we arrived, there were already quite a number of people waiting in the tents. We set the clinic up one last time and then headed outside for a devotion. First, Pastor Michael read from the end of the 2nd chapter of Acts in Swahili, which was the text I had selected for the closing morning. Here it is from the NIV translation:

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Then, I read this passage to our volunteers and the crowd that had gathered in English. I remarked on how we had been in an early church experience all week, sharing with each other, performing miracles (some blind people would see via cataract surgeries), breaking bread together, praying in "the temple" each day and helping to grow the church. It was the perfect text and amazingly enough, 15 minutes beforehand, I had no clue what my Scripture or remarks would be. Yet another miracle. Thank you Jesus! Larry and Elizabeth started a hymn, with a hand written song sheet in English and the congregation had their Swahili hymnals. Something got lost in translation and they turned out to be two different hymns. Larry picked up on what had happened right away and masterfully transitioned into a whole new set of chords on the guitar. What a blessing it is to sing together, even when we're not always on the same page!
The clinic stayed busy all day long and I thought I had made it clear to close the gates at 1:15 when it looked like we could serve about 425 patients.  I knew we needed to start shutting down and packing up by around 4pm.  God had a different plan. On my next rounds, about 45 minutes later, I discovered another 75 people were there. We worked later than planned and ended up with 496 patients for the day! Much more to follow as time permits. I will be writing during our travel home and will post updates as soon as we return. Thank you Jesus for a wonderful mission!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday was a big day

After another good breakfast at Africa Heart, we rode to Kiambu, got everything setup and then had our morning devotion outside once again in the evangelism tent. It was a gorgeous morning. I did a devotion based on John 20:21, Matthew 28:18 to the end of the chapter and 1Peter 3:15. I talked about why we come as missionaries and then how we are to spread the Word through our own testimonies with humility and gentleness. Larry led us in some more music with great gusto.
The clinic went smoothly from the start and we bad a pretty full waiting area, that tent alone holds about 100 people, for most of the day. When we had finished at around 5:30, the steady drip, drip, drip had added up to over 400 patients. There were many stories to tell and I will recount some of them as time permits before we return home and after we get back. As usual, we are taking lots of pictures and they will be added to the mission trip photo album soon.
We had dinner at a fancy hotel called Safari Park, which was similar to the Carnivore that we had frequented in the past. You eat some salad and bread, after which they bring a red hot cast iron plate and then continue to pile meat on until you surrender. There was chicken,  pork ribs, pork sausage, beef, lamb, crocodile, ostrich, camel, turkey, etc. You get the idea.
Time to get ready for our last day. Stay tuned... Praise God!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday clinic continues the momentum

After yet another fine breakfast at Africa Heart, we rode the 20 minutes to Kiambu and got the clinic ready to roll immediately before a nice devotion led by Larry with a good Scripture lesson based on Jeremiah and some more music. It was a gorgeous morning, so we worshipped outside.  Nuru had shown a film about Mary Magdalene last night and our attendance was certainly boosted by it. The Jesus Film will be shown tonight. We stayed steadily busy all day long and at the end of the day had served over 300 patients. There were a few times that some areas such as triage got overrun, and it was a real luxury to be able to throw every available team member at various bottlenecks until things smoothed out again.
There has been a fair amount of excitement and some changes in plan from the very beginning of this mission trip. The most recent one was our friend Gus Jacob from Salem having a kidney stone attack out in the field, 8 hours from Nairobi. He was driven to Mombasa and then flown to Nairobi last night. He is in the Karen Hospital near the LCMS offices. He was given fluids and xrays to determine the best treatment. As of this morning, more scans were in the offing. We ask that everyone please keep him in your prayers. We had hoped to go out for one nice dinner as a group, but we haven't been able to arrange it. Instead, we will drive out about 20 kilometers from Kiambu to see the tea and coffee plantations before dark. There are some fabulous scenic overlooks. Since we will be back too late for the 6:30 supper at Africa Heart, we are looking for our driver Allan or Catherine to suggest a good dining establishment. Each of us has many stories to tell from the clinic so far. Pastor Michael and I were helping in triage this afternoon and saw a young man in his early twenties. He had been raised Baptist and still is a believer but kept falling in with the wrong crowd and he knew it was separating him more and more from God's plan for him. Pastor Michael gave him some sound advice about seeking out a good church home and a new set of friends that would encourage him in the faith and also hold him accountable. I gave a testimony about the 25 lost years in my life from ages 20-45 and begged him not to make the same mistake. We prayed over him and I hope that prayer for bringing him back into the fold bears fruit. Well, it's time for bed, if the trend continues, we'll all need plenty of rest. More to follow as the week progresses.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A blessed Tuesday in Kiambu

We were joined both Monday and Tuesday by several of our veteran volunteers from the church in Kawangware, Barrack, Tobias and James. It really helped us to get up and running quickly. We have become good friends with all three of them over the years and it reminds us of how much we treasure our relationship with the Kawangware congregation. We started out a little slow, just like Monday, but by noon we had seen about 85 patients.  Barrack went out around 10:30 with a bullhorn, driven in a pop up van by our wonderful driver Allan. The results were evident by the end of the day. We finished with 221 patients, another woman  pledging to join the church and several more cataract referrals.
The Nuru team is going to show the Jesus Film tonight, which I think will add greatly to the clinics success the rest of the week. Also, today was a market day, which may have held our numbers down a bit. So, I wouldn't be surprised if we see pretty large numbers of people, even on the order of 500 or more. While statistics are a good thing, the ones that really matter relate to how many lost and broken people meet Jesus for the first time and come to a saving relationship with Him. We are planting seeds here and may never see how far the ripples reach from our actions this week.
We have a situation with a seven year old boy name Alex that we would like for you to keep in your prayers. He was brought to us by a woman that said he had been abandoned by his parents. The local church doesn't have the resources to handle this and we are exploring options with the diocese and other churches. She will be back for an answer today. Pray that the Lord's will be done in His grace and mercy and that he use us to help find a solution.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A new clinic in Kiambu is born!

Breakfast was at 6:30am and we arrived at Kiambu around 7:30 after a 15 minute van ride.  We had secured the clinic footlockers and supplies on the 3rd floor of a building next door to the church. All of that needed to be moved into the sanctuary and sorted out. Tents were being erected and tables were arriving via truck. Another vision clinic was being born.
The congregation's president, Michael, opened our morning devotion with a prayer, then Geoffery, our evangelist from Nuru ( the Lutheran Hour), showed the evangelism cube to us and explained how he worked with the people sharing the Gospel with it. I said a few words of first day encouragement and then Larry led us all in a praise song. What a great way to start the day! I talked with Michael several times throughout the day and he was incredibly appreciative that we had brought a clinic to his church. As we stood outside, everyone who passed by called out to him "Hello Pastor Michael!" He confided to me that he was not really a pastor, but had been serving the church in Kiambu since 1989. His parents had raised him in the Lutheran Church and were distressed when their old church was failing. A wealthy friend gave some of the money as part of his inheritance to help Michael buy the land the church now stands on. Our friend Pastor Carlos Winterle was involved with the diocese in constructing the church in its present condition. They have a foundation already in place that will allow them to double the size of the building when it becomes necessary.
For a first day, the clinic went well and we shook some bugs out of the process and the physical layout that we were trying. It is a real blessing to have a mix of veteran and new team members, The new ones give us energy and enthusiasm while the old hands can train and look for glitches that need addressing. We ended up seeing 147 patients, got referrals for 2 cataract surgeries and 1 person is coming to church next Sunday. All in all a good first day. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday and worship in Kiambu

We breakfasted, got our stuff together and staged to load up the vans and trucks that would take our two teams to Kiambu and Kitengela. We had a brief team meeting and prayed over each other before getting a group picture of the two Redeemer teams.  We departed Rosa Mystica and headed for the church in Kiambu. We arrived to the beautiful sound of a responsive Swahili praise song with superb African harmonies. Although I had my sermon prepared, I didn't get to use it since one of the ELCK evangelists that we had worked with in Kibera last spring named Francis was there. The worship was very lively and included all tbe liturgical elements as.well as traditional Lutheran hymns from a hymnal and a capella Swahili songs.  Catherine gave a brief history of the Vision Kenya Project and I introduced the members of our team to the congregation.
We had lunch after church at a nice restaurant called Java Cafe and then checked in at Africa Heart, our lodging for the rest of the trip. It is a very nice facility with spacious rooms, in room shower and commode and pretty good wifi access.  There was a power failure in the neighborhood, so we all took a much needed nap while waiting for dinner. The food was scrumptious and we met members of Bayside Church there. It's a 20,000 member mega church in the San Francisco area and these men are on a month long mission doing mostly construction projects. A very cool bunch of people. Some of the crew played 42 while others of us conversed with our new found friends. We then retired to our rooms to prepare for the first day of the clinic.

Saturday happenings

Our lodging at Rosa Mystica has turned out to be very nice.  It's priced a bit cheaper than our regular abode of Scripture House, and each team member has their own room with a shower and commode. Breakfast was good after a short night's sleep. We headed out to Lake Naivasha for a safari with 3 vans, stopping at a Great Rift Valley scenic overlook for pictures and souvenirs. We had a very adventurous boat ride as it took many attempts to fight our way through thick weeds in the river as we made our way out to Crescent Island.  We tried to help an injured bald eagle sitting on the surface of the weeds, saw hippos and many interesting birds including pelicans along the way.
On the island we saw zebras, water bucks, wildebeests and other animals.  We got off the water in time to avoid a rain shower. A nice lunch followed with chicken sandwiches and real Cokes made with sugar cane as the featured drinks.
Upon our return to town, we stopped at the Nakumatt for some shopping, got freshened up and then had an evening service led by Pastor Goodwill. Our friends, The Conquerors came over from Kawangware and supplied incredible music. Also, Double Dave, from past missions in Kawangware, was there with his group called Acoustic Zeze (which means guitar in Swahili). It was great to see all of them.
Catherine informed me after dinner that we would not have a pastor in Kiambu Sunday morning and that I needed to prepare a sermon, so I spent the rest of the night working on that. More to follow as time and Internet access permit.  I hope to post some pictures soon. As always, this blog gets cleaned up once I am back home and several hundred of the best pictures will be available not long after that, so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Arrival in Nairobi

When we landed at Heathrow we were told that there were no open terminals and so we had to disembark via a portable stairway into two buses at a time.  They didn't have enough buses ready so it took about 7 buses and way too much time to clear our fully loaded 777.  We didn't have a lot of extra time to make it through immigration and the security check before we had to board our flight to Nairobi. Some of us were pretty well torn apart, but we all made it onto the plane in time. We are looking forward to meeting up with our last team member, Elizabeth, at the Nairobi airport.
We are about 25 minutes from landing in Nairobi and this trip has been pretty smooth for the most part.  I am hopeful that we get through immigration and security in a timely manner and have a quick drive across town to our lodgings.
Nairobi touch down was right on time at 9:20pm.  Getting our visa took a little while longer than usual and by the time I came down to change the team's money, most of the footlockers were already on the ground, ready to be arranged and counted. We ended up several short due to circumstances we discovered later. They are en route to the correct destinations as of this writing. Arrival at Rosa Mystica, our lodging for the weekend for the group of 60, was at midnight and I was showered and in bed by 1:15am after calling Adrienne to let her know we made it OK.  She passed the word on to Pastor Kevin. Thanks be to God for another safe journey.

Travel notes

November 8, 2012
The morning started out with a phone call a little before 7:30 from Pastor Kevin letting me know that he had been ill all night and would see if he felt well enough to join us in Houston in time for our flight to London.  I immediately headed for his place, where Tammy was waiting with the leader's packets for both Redeemer teams.  I went to the church a block away and retrieved the autorefractors for my team and the petty cash we would need for our on the ground expenses at Kitengela and Kiambu.  Allison from Wichita Falls arrived first, followed by Kay, Beth, Chris and finally Cecilia. We drove my truck and Beth's car to Brenham where we met the rest of our group for our traditional Blue Bell ice cream.
We caravanned to Bush International Airport in Houston and broke bread together, having one last American meal at the Hot Biscuit. After parking at Fast Park, we made our way to Terminal D and waited for the Vision Kenya Project's 60 footlockers to arrive by truck from Tomball. Check-in and our journey through airport security went very smoothly, with the only problem I was aware of being Beth and Chris needing to be reticketed because their full names were not on their boarding passes, thus not matching their passports.  We had just gotten done with security when Pastor Dave called saying that Kevin was definitely not going to make it.  A little later, even though he was still not feeling too well, Kevin graciously called and wished us many blessings on the mission. I feel bad for him, knowing how much behind the scenes planning and work goes into fielding a mission team halfway around the world twice a year.  From just about the time we return from one trip, we are already taking inventory of the remaining supplies, guestimating what to order to replenish our kits, recruiting new as well as experienced missionaries for our next adventure and the list goes on and on. We are very blessed at Redeemer to have a core group of committed people who are constantly volunteering to help with every detail and are always looking for ways to improve our processes to make us more effective witnesses for Christ. Everyone on both of our teams and all who know him from the other churches are praying for a speedy recovery and are hopeful Pastor Kevin might still find a way to get to Africa.
As I write this, we are at 37,000 feet and traveling at about 550mph. We are approaching Boston and will be over the Atlantic Ocean soon. There is some turbulence due to the northeaster that is hitting the East coast and the Fasten Seat Belt lights are on. Veterans of these missions know that it works for the best if you get some good sleep on the flight to London and then try to remain awake for much of the London to Nairobi leg of the trip. This usually results in a little less serious jet lag. It's almost 8pm at home, so I'll be off to Never Neverland fairly soon now.
It's now about midnight back in Texas and 6am London time as we've just been served a light breakfast and are about an hour from Heathrow. I did get some sleep as planned and am getting ready to stow my electronics, including this Android tablet I'm writing this post with. After the choppy air off the eastern U. S., the rest of the flight was very smooth.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Commissioning Sunday brought many blessings

We were sent off by the congregation at all three services Sunday morning.  Each service was led by the high school youth of the church and it was very well done.  Not your grandfather's church service, but full of praise, worship and energy.  During the past week, we lost one team member to a medical issue and put out a call at each service for anyone that would like to go on the trip for a reduced price that would cover their on the ground expenses, since the airfare was non-refundable.  I had texted several members of previous teams the day before, knowing that whoever might be able to go at this late date would not only need to make arrangements with work, school, etc. very quickly, but would also need to already have all of the necessary inoculations for travel to Africa. Dan Zieschang was one of these folks.  He had really wanted to come this time, but just couldn't swing it for a number of reasons.  Our mutual friend Cecilia, a nurse working here in Austin, came to church and Dan immediately began working on her.  He had been with her at his son's high school football game Friday night with Cecilia.  She had him text me to ask where we would be serving when she heard that it was no longer going to be Kawangware.  When I replied that it was Kiambu, she couldn't believe it, that's where she's from!  In fact, she had been in Nairobi for a month recently and just got back about three weeks ago.  He asked her to come to Redeemer on Sunday to tell the group about what to expect there.  When she arrived, he told her she had to go, it was meant to be and that we would find a way to make it happen, both financially and in helping to handle the last minute details quickly.  She worshipped at 8am services, saw our commissioning and plea for a volunteer there and then went to an adult Sunday School with Dan during the second service.  By the time Pastor Kevin was praying a blessing over the team during the third service, she was with us as part of the team, holding hands during prayer.  The Sunday School class had helped raise the money needed to send her.  What a blessing!  She's already a good friend, she knows the area and the dialect where we will be holding our clinic and is a nurse with a big heart for the Lord and for people's needs.

Before every mission trip, I always pray that the Lord will once again surprise us with some totally unexpected experience or will bring a special person or circumstance into our path. This time, it happened before we ever left Austin!

Click on the link below to see pictures of our orientation last month and the commissioning.