Monday, December 1, 2014

First Reflections on the November 2014 Mission to Kenya

Joy at seeing with her new glasses
Now that a week has passed since we returned from Nairobi, the jet lag has subsided and I've had some time to reflect on the highlights of the trip and how God worked through us this time.  I’m sure there will be several more posts regarding this mission trip as I review more pictures and share stories with the rest of my team that I may not be aware of at this point.  Our general statistics were that we saw over 2500 patients in the clinic during the week, all were given a presentation of the Gospel and were prayed over individually in the triage station of the clinic.  More than 100 people came to Christ as their Savior during the week and there were many other blessings both given and received by our team.

From a high level project standpoint, there were two firsts that the Redeemer team was able to accomplish.  One involved our travel.  We were able to fly direct to London this time instead of driving to Houston, dropping off our footlockers and luggage at Bush International Airport, getting long-term parking and then going through security.  Normally, there would be a good two hours after all of that waiting to board the plane at around 4pm to London.  All of this added up to at least an extra half a day of travel.  British Airways began non-stop flights from Austin last April.  This was our first chance to give it a try.  Pastor Kevin picked me up at 2:30pm at my house and we met the rest of the team at 3pm at Bergstrom.  It only took a half an hour to clear security, we had time to have a leisurely dinner and the flight left for London at 6:15pm.  What a difference!  Even if the price was a couple of hundred dollars more, when you factor in gas for the round trip to Houston and the expense of long-term parking, it would still be worth it.  Because we bought our tickets well ahead of time, we actually paid a little less for airfare than if we had gone to Houston.  The only downside to the travel was that there is only a one hour and fifteen minute gap between our flight getting to Heathrow and the one to Nairobi taking off.  We actually got to London a few minutes early and we needed every bit of that extra time.  Even though we got into the Fast Trak line to get through the passport check, the actual security check was a s slow as ever and both Ralph and I got torn apart.  We were among the last of the stragglers to be bused out to our waiting plane on the tarmac.  When we go with larger groups, we may need to get the attention of British Air and Heathrow ground personnel to get us shepherded through.

How do these reading glasses look?
The second pioneering thing that we did on this trip was to order the reading glasses that we would need through a supplier in Nairobi that Catherine had found.  This meant that we could take two less footlockers with us than we normally would have had to this time around.  The quality and the price of the glasses was fine, so we left all of our readers that were left over in Nairobi, after we had taken an inventory of what remained.  This will allow us to order for our next mission and will also mean that we will have three less footlockers to deal with next summer.  One reason this is good is that there are a number of less than reputable organizations that enter Kenya under the guise of doing non-profit work that smuggle a lot of contraband into the country and the scrutiny we have had to undergo as a result of this seems to increase with each trip.  Having less baggage simplifies things greatly.

Over the next week or ten days, I’ll be adding more stories about what happened of note on the trip and several more pictures from other team members.  Here is the first of these stories and it deeply moved all of us.  It happened Friday afternoon, on the last day of the clinic.  We always bring a budget of $1500 for each vision clinic team for the purpose of paying for cataract surgeries or other procedures at local Nairobi hospitals.  The average cataract referral costs us about $50, so this means that 30 people regain the sight in at least one eye on each of our missions.  We had already approved 31 cataract surgeries, one more than the budget and had also agreed to help with half payment for a pair of contact lenses for a young boy with keratoconus (a condition where the eyes are shaped like the end of an American football rather than being more spherical) if the family and community could raise the other half.  I thought we were more than done with surgeries and we were already beginning to assess when we have to close the clinic in order to get packed up and have a closing devotion with the volunteers from the congregation. 

God had another plan and brought us a 3 year old little girl named Blessing (shown here with her mother, me and Dr. Patrick).  She had been born with cataracts on both eyes.  Her young mother had been born the same way.  Our doctors had seen this hereditary condition before and recommended surgery for both eyes and said the cost would be around 20,000 Kenyan shillings or approximately $250.  They weren't sure if that would be for one eye or both, but that general anesthesia would be necessary.  Normally, we fund one cataract surgery at a time, mostly for older people because of the chance of infection and the possibility of permanently losing sight in both eyes.  In the case of a young one like Blessing, the risk of going under anesthesia twice far outweighed these other risk factors, so both eyes would need to be corrected at the same time. I asked that the doctors make some calls and firm up the cost that we were talking about and I also asked if there was any way the family and the community could come together to fund raise for half of the cost, as is our custom in cases like this.  After phone consultations with their colleagues at various clinics, our doctors reported that both eyes, including anesthesia would be a little less than 40,000 KSH.  After a few more calls, we learned that there was an angel donor at one of the clinics and if we could arrange for cash to be paid at the time of the procedure, he would pay about a third of it.  After hearing this and a little prayer, I was moved to OK the operation and little Blessing will have the best Christmas gift of her young life, sight in both eyes!  Thank you, Jesus!  But wait, the story gets better.  Since our return to the States, I have spoken via Skype with Catherine.  There was a similar case to Blessing’s at one of our clinics in a rural area and a program to help children in desperate circumstances was found to help pay for his care.  We are now hopeful that Blessing also qualifies.  Looking back on it, I believe that the Lord brought this little one to our attention at the eleventh hour to teach us yet another faith lesson.  He was going to care for His child all along, He just wanted to invite us along for the ride.  I’m so glad that we accepted His invitation.  Matthew 25:40  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pictures of the November Kenya Mission are being posted

Come back often, I hope to have them all available with captions before this weekend is over.  Here is a link to the images below, just remember this is a work in progress and will take several more days to complete.  There were nearly 3,000 pictures to go through, the best 500 or so are being edited, cropped, sharpened, etc., added to the Google+ album and then will be gone through again.  My goal is to end up with 300-400 of the best of the best, have them in an order that tells the story of the past 10 days and then add captions to each so they make sense to our families, friends and followers of this blog.

Click here to see the Fall 2014 Kenya Mission pictures

After the pictures have all been processed and uploaded, I will be publishing at least one more article summarizing this trip, what it meant to us and the wonderful ways that God used us this time around.  He always has surprises in store for us and we are blessed abundantly each time we respond to His call on our lives.

To God be the Glory!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sunday travel from London to Austin, home again! November 23

We boarded British Air Flight 191 to Austin nearly on time around 10:45am London time.  Although we got a slightly late start, the estimates on our in-flight entertainment screens still predict an arrival time of a little before 4pm Austin time this afternoon.  This will be a real blessing, and with any luck, we will clear customs, get our footlockers and personal baggage, and hope to arrive back at my place in central Austin by around 5:30pm.  Many times when we’ve flown out of Houston, I wasn’t home until 8pm or later after getting my truck from long term parking, loading up our gear and driving back to Redeemer.  I think we will all be in the best shape ever because of this.  We are just now over the western coast of Ireland and have about 9 hours remaining of a 10 hour flight.  I expect we will be eating soon and then I’ll try to get a little more sleep. 

Over the next few days, I will be getting my feet back on the ground, shaking off the jet lag from a 9 hour time difference and will celebrate Thanksgiving with Redeemer, friends and family. As always, I will be reflecting on what this trip has meant to us in the near future, the God things that we witnessed and were blessed to be a part of.  As stated earlier in this space, I will also begin tackling the job of sorting through several thousand pictures, selecting the best of those, making them even a little better and then will post them out on the web.  Stay tuned for the next week to 10 days as the finishing touches are put on my account of the trip, the images are published and we settle in on the dates for our next mission to Kenya in June of 2015.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saturday at Fourteen Falls and travel to Heathrow, November 22

This was written beginning at about 11pm as we waited for our slightly delayed flight to London, which was to depart at 12:15am, worked on for a while as we approached London and at Heathrow. 
I did wake up at midnight Friday night and was able to get an aisle seat for myself, but when I tried for 45 minutes to check in for Martha, Howard and Ralph, the Internet connection at Rosa Mystica got flaky and the British Air web site was unresponsive. I tried again around 3am and also came up empty.  At 6am, I was able to take care of the Faskes, but Ralph’s booking had problems and he had to wait until we got to the airport to get a seat assignment.  After a night like that, I got one last shower at Rosa Mystica and finished packing.  We had breakfast with our driver Mambo and Barrack and said our goodbyes to the kitchen crew.  We loaded up the last of the cases of water from our rooms and our luggage and were on the road to Fourteen Falls by 8am.  We stopped and topped of the air in the tires and bought some gas to cover the rest of our travels.  The price was 108.90 Kenyan shillings per liter, which translates to about $5.25 per gallon. We only saw one gas station that was a slightly different price, less than a penny’s difference, since the government controls the price. 
We headed out, went through downtown Nairobi and then out on one of the new super highways that the Chinese have helped to build.  It was similar to an American interstate, with a few exceptions. One was that because there has been massive development of apartments, businesses and schools along the route of this expressway, there is a need to cross it on foot occasionally, since many Kenyans don’t drive or at least tend to walk much more than we do.  You could be driving along at highway speeds and then, out of nowhere, if you weren’t paying attention, is a large speed bump and a crosswalk, where pedestrians are navigating from one side to the other, perhaps to shop or to take a matatu (van) into town or to their jobs.  I’m sure that vehicles are supposed to yield to pedestrians, but like all traffic n Kenya, there appears to be unwritten, but generally understood, rules that make it seem more like a high speed video game.  I wonder how many rear end collisions and pedestrians being hit that this setup causes. I also wonder if this is the way such highways are designed in China or if this is unique to Africa.    An elevated walkway like we use would seem to be a better solution all around.  As a side note, Kenyans refer to one of these speed bumps, found on any and all roads, as a “sleeping policeman”, since it is a passive form of traffic control.  There is always one right before and right after a school, no matter where you are, whether in a city or in a remote area.  Sometimes the driver of one of vans will remember the first bump, but speed up and smack into the second one, often with us going airborne and/or bottoming out the van as well.  It’s quite an experience!  The other big difference from our highways is that they are not nearly so limited access, with many more exits and areas to pull off due to the need for matatus to pick up and drop off passengers frequently. 

It took us about an hour and a half to reach the Fourteen Falls National Park.  Once we got off the main road, it was maybe 2 or 3 miles to the park entrance, where the red dirt road was obviously muddy in some places.  One of the locals on a motorcycle had us follow him into the park after we had paid our admission fees.  There was a fee for each non-resident (us), a resident fee that was next to nothing for Barrack and mambo and a charge per camera.  They only saw one camera, so that worked out OK.   The motorcyclist went around to the right and lured us into a muddy area where we proceeded to get stuck.  This is not the first time I had seen this.  There was about 10 minutes of getting buried deeper and deeper and then, miracle of all miracles, some other guys showed up to push us out.  We paid them for their kindness.  If this had been my first trip, I would have written about the harrowing experience, the worry of maybe not being able to get unstuck, our relief and thankfulness at being saved by friendly people.  I’m not going to write any of those things.  This was a well-orchestrated trap that always turns out this way.  We aren't mad about this, it’s a fact of life when you have people that are wealthy by world standards visiting areas where people are just getting by.  I look at it as supporting the local economy and it didn’t cost more than $10 and a little of our time.  We were never in any danger, and with a veteran team, none of us were ever concerned about the eventual outcome.  We made it the rest of the way into the park and left the van on a high and dry spot.  Two young men, John and Peter, came along and were our guides.  Taking us down one side of the river, helping us as we climbed up and down the even rocky terrain and getting us to some great vantage points to get pictures of the magnificent falls.  The area is called Fourteen Falls, because when the water is at an average depth and flow in the river, there are fourteen distinct falls and they counted them off for us to prove it.  During rainy times the water can be up to 8 to 10 feet deeper and then the fourteen falls become one big falls.

I had my Nikon D5200 DSLR setup with a Sigma zoom lens that would go from 18-250mm (the equivalent of 24-375mm on a 35mm camera) which is from wide angle to zoomed in pretty far for things like birds in flight or animals you don’t want to get very close to.  I had given Barrack my backup camera, a Canon SX-510 superzoom bridge camera to also get some shots with.  Both are good cameras and I expect to be able to post some outstanding images within the next week or so.  Please stay tuned for that, it will be well worth it, I promise. 

We eventually made our way to where there were some old, green wooden boats along the short near a rope that was stretched across the rapidly flowing river.  The boatman said he would take us across for 500 Kenyan shillings each and back again for another 500 Kenyan shillings, so I invited Barrack to go with me as my guest while the others waited for us.  I told the boatman we would pay upon our return.  The terrain is very rocky and slippery near the falls.  I play a lot of singles tennis and am in pretty good shape for a 62 year old man, but the next 45 minutes was quite a workout.  First, we climbed into the boat and then the guys poled it over to the rope.  They then pulled us about 100 yards across the river.  We disembarked and then went up, up, up, stopping at 3 or 4 plateaus for increasingly beautiful views of the falls and the river below.  It was rough going, jumping from one rock to the next, steadying ourselves, sometimes needing one of the boys to pull me to the next stop, since I was using one hand to protect my camera.  I have a new appreciation for mountain goats!  We finally made it to a spot right below one of the bigger falls, about 100 feet above the river.  There was a cliff diver at the top and I got some great stop action shots of him raising his hands above his head and then leaping down to the base of the falls below.  John said it is about 36 feet deep there, so striking the bottom was not one of the risks the diver needed to worry about.  We slowly made our way back down, which was actually harder than the climb had been, with much more slipping and sliding.  After several stops along the way to get some more pictures from various angles, we finally arrived back at ground level, where we got some pictures of storks or pelicans (need to identify what they were) and some other birds on the water and in flight.  I made it back to within about 10 yards of the boat and then stepping all the way over my ankle in mud with my right foot.  John quickly was able to wash it off at the river side.  I’m glad this was the only minor disaster, a bad fall would have been much worse.  All in all, it was quite worth it.  We made our way back across the river, paid the boatman and tipped John and Peter.  While were gone, one of the locals washed the van for 200 Kenyan shillings (about $2.50).  I think this was the last part of the getting stuck scam, these guys are really good! 

Please don’t think that everywhere you go in Kenya, people are out to take advantage of you.  Our day probably cost us less than $100 for the six of us and we had a great time.  One of Kenya’s biggest economic drivers is tourism, so most experiences are perfectly wonderful, the people are very friendly and we always feel safe and welcome.  In defense of trying to get a little extra cash out of us, tourism is hurting a little bit the last few weeks due to Americans and Europeans being overly concerned with ebola and not realizing that this terrible, real problem is over 3,000 miles away from Kenya on the other side of the African continent.  I can understand when every news story about Africa seem to have the word ebola in it, how unreasonable worries would tend to prevail.  My prayer is that reason and common sense would come the fore and that people would resume coming to Kenya in droves.  It is a wonderful country, full of friendly people, natural wonders, incredible flowers and food.  I consider it the closest thing to paradise I’ve ever seen.
We drove back to Nairobi and had one final lunch at the Junction before going back to the Little Daughters of St. Joseph convent to meet the other teams prior to heading to the airport as a group.  The teams flying KLM had to wait for us to arrive on the first Friday night, now it was our turn to repay the favor.  We headed to the airport a little after 5pm, after saying our goodbyes to Catherine, our drivers and Barrack.   The KLM flight was leaving around 10:30pm and we were slated for 11:55pm, but were delayed until about 12:15 because our plane had not arrived from London yet.  We had some food and conversation with other teams in a Java House in the airport and groups began to leave one at a time until 3 teams were left to fly with us back to London.  The London flight was great.  Right after dinner, I slept almost the whole night, straight through until we were only about an hour and a half from London.  I must have needed it.  I am finishing this post at Heathrow, where we have about a 4 hour layover before our team flies alone back to Austin.  We are glad we missed the cold snap while were gone and will be returning to seasonal weather.  We are all looking forward to worshipping on Wednesday night at Redeemer for Thanksgiving services and to give thanks for God’s providence on this trip.  To God be the Glory!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday ends a great clinic. November 21

We had our customary breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast and bananas at Rosa Mystica and then drove to the church for the last time this trip.  It was cool and dry and patients began flowing into the clinic from about 8:15am onwards.  We had seen around 300 people by noon and saw a total of 684 people before we shut down the clinic at 4:15 to pack up and then have a final devotion with our volunteers.  The total for the week was 2560 patients, a good week by any standard.  We handed out the certificates and everyone was appreciative of them.  As always, it was hard to say our goodbyes, but many of us have been doing so since 2009 or even before.  We said to our friends that you have to say goodbye so we can say hello again next time. 

As I write this, it is 9pm and we have just come from dinner in the food court at the Junction where we all had a quarter chicken, fries and cole slaw.  It hit the spot.  I am getting ready to start packing my stuff up, since we will have a 7am breakfast and then drive out to Fourteen Falls, a nice national park that I have not been to yet.  We will meet the other teams at the convent we spent the first two nights in on Saturday afternoon and will leave for the airport around 5:30pm.  One group is flying KLM and will have an earlier flight than hours and will get back to Houston via Amsterdam.  Our team and a couple of others will be flying British Air to London around midnight.  I have all of our travel info next to my laptop and will wake up at midnight to try to get us the best possible seats, since we can't check-in online until 24 hours prior to our flight.  We all like aisle seats, since you can get up at will, drink lots of water to stay hydrated and get up again when the inevitable results occur.  This post is relatively short because of time constraints and the hour.  I will try to post another story before we leave Nairobi, but if this is not possible, I should be able to get something out to this blog when we are at Heathrow on Sunday morning London time, since we will have about a 3 hour layover.  Once home in Austin, I will begin posting pictures as soon as possible.  Normally, I put the 300 best pictures on the web, but have to choose them from several thousand and then work on each of them a bit.  I hope to complete this task by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.  Thanks for all of your well wishes and prayers.  It means a lot to us.  Thank you Jesus for a great clinic that brought many people to know you for the first time or that helped others to grow in their faith!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday's clinic reached new peaks. November 20

It was nice all day, just a little damp in the morning.  We had a pretty steady flow of people coming all day, with the exception of the lunchtime lull that has become the norm.  By the time we were finished letting the last people in around 4:30pm, we had seen 561 patients, although 583 people had been counted at the gate.  There is always some discrepancy between those that register at the gate and how many people are actually treated, but it is usually not quite this large.  It’s possible some patient treatment cards will turn up in the morning.  Either way, it was a busy day. In addition, we had many more cataract referrals than on previous days.  We have now agreed to pay for cataract or other eye surgeries at a Nairobi hospital for 27 people.  We typically bring enough money to cover 30 procedures.  You might be surprised to know that these sight restoring surgeries average only $50 each, so this part of our clinic budget amounts to the best $1500 value you will ever find.  Our doctors arrange for the operations, we do one eye at a time, and I almost always see some of the same faces on our next mission come back to have the other eye healed.  Thank you, Jesus!

The team and I just returned from dinner at the Junction’s new food court.  It’s on the second floor of the mall and had previously been enclosed.  Now the street facing side has had the wall of that floor removed, so it has a nice open air feel to it.  A waiter comes by, gets you drink orders and then you can select items from any of the different food booths.  Ralph and Martha had Chinese, while Howard and I chose pizza.  Pretty weird, go halfway around the world and have a pepperoni pizza, but that’s exactly what we did!

We have spent the last half hour preparing the Certificates of Appreciation for our clinic volunteers.  We will hand them out at the end of the day and each volunteer will get their picture taken with Pastor James and I.  These diploma quality certificates really mean a lot to the young people at the church.  One young man had his name misspelled last year when we were here and has fretted about it since.  I am going to issue a replacement for last year to patch things up.  This just demonstrates how working with us and being given responsibility for the various jobs in the clinic has a profound impact on the self-worth of these kids.   I hope it has a lasting effect.

Well, it’s about time to call it another day.  Tomorrow will be very busy and it will be hard to shut down the clinic since many people will show up expecting last minute care.  We will have the closing ceremony and will need to inventory and pack up our supplies for shipment back to the States or for storage in Nairobi.  I’m sure there will be more stories to tell tomorrow.  Keep your prayers coming our way for our team and the congregation at the church in Kawangware as we share the Gospel and meet human needs through our clinic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thursday morning musings, November 20

Looking out my window before breakfast, it is cloudy but dry.  I’m hoping we get a solid day of sunshine, since Thursday is typically one of our biggest days for a vision clinic.  Word of mouth has spread to friends and families of our clinic visitors that the care that the people are getting is good and it is indeed free.  We always have to fight the battle of being mistaken for other clinics that come to town that purport to be free but are really a scam.  Once we overcome that hurdle, the floodgates always open and we see a steady stream of people all day.  

Now that the clinic is more than halfway through, it is already becoming a little bittersweet that the end is in sight and we will soon be saying our goodbyes once again, doing inventory, packing up and preparing to make the long journey back home.  We are already planning a recruiting for two teams from Redeemer to come back to Kenya in June of 2015.  If you feel that God is calling you to join us, please contact either Pastor Kevin or myself at 512-459-1500 and we’ll be glad to give you all the information you need.  Time to get organized before heading down to breakfast and another day!  Blessings everybody!

The Wednesday clinic was crippled by afternoon rain! November 19

We had a steady stream of people in the morning and had seen nearly 250 patients by noon.  There was a lull, as usual around lunch time and things were going great when the skies opened around 3pm.  It reduced our traffic to a trickle, but we didn't close the gate until around 4:30 so that we could give proper treatment to each patient that was already on the grounds.  We made several pairs of “Coke bottle” glasses today, very strong prescriptions for people with very bad vision.  To see someone’s eyes light up and a smile break out across their face as they can recognize things around them is both humbling and gratifying.  To a person, they praised God for this blessing.  What a joy to be a part of a miracle like this.  We could all be doing something else with our lives at this point, but everyone on this team has chosen to do something significant for others through this project of ours.  The funny thing is the rewards are so great that it often seems to be downright selfish on our part to want to continue to come to Kenya, doing what He has called us to do.  We always have to remind ourselves that we have a loving Father that loves us and blesses us abundantly when we get out of the boat, out of our comfort zone, to be obedient.  It’s a win-win situation if there ever was one!  We get to help bless other people and are also blessed in the process.

After we got back to Rosa Mystica, we had some time to shower and get a little nap before walking over to the Mediterranean restaurant in the Junction shopping center next door.  Catherine met us there and we had a very nice, relaxed meal. It was quiet enough for about an hour and a half of cordial conversation.  Good company, good food and a good time was had by all.  I’m back in the room and it’s just about time to turn in and do it all over again tomorrow.  Please continue to keep our mission and ur team members in your prayers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wednesday, the start of another day! November 19

It’s 6am and I had a very restful night with one exception.   Catherine has been having some issues with a new smartphone, it has been calling people at random.  It called me several times during the day on Monday and called Shara during dinner last night.  The evil phone’s next victim was me at 12:11am, I have the proof in the call register in the old school cell phone we use for the team here.  We’re having breakfast with her today before we head into the slum and I’m sure we’ll all get a good laugh out it.  I’m also sure I am going to either fix the settings on her phone or smash it! 

I am expecting to see at least 500 people in the clinic today, based on past experience.  It wouldn't be unusual, if the weather cooperates, for many more than that to be served.  No matter how many folks God sends to us, each will get introduced to the Gospel and will have their vision needs treated individually with love and respect.  It doesn't get any better than that!  My hope is that my next report this evening is about a very successful day with a personal story or two such as a visit yesterday from Abednego.  He’s a young man that is the son of the Mother Teresa of Kawangware, whom we wrote about in previous missions.  She cares for orphans in the slum and is known for this work throughout the world.  He was always evangelizing when we saw him in the past, a committed street preacher.  He informed me that he had just completed the next level of his theological studies and is now a recognized evangelist and is well on his way to becoming a pastor.  He had always looked frail and underweight in the past, he is the picture of health today.  He and Mother Teresa hope to bring some of the children in her care to the clinic today or Thursday.   This is what our project is all about, we do short term missions with long term commitments.  If we had been doing trips to different locales each time, we would never see the fruits of the seeds we had planted.  Instead, stories like this abound as we renew old friendships and continue to forge new ones.  Blessings everybody, stay tuned!

Dinner with friends in Nairobi, November 18th

We had a wonderful dinner at Java House.  I once again had English fish and chips, one of my favorites there, and so did Catherine and her Mom.  Howard had pork chops, Shara (one of our LCMS missionaries and friends) had a chicken curry dish and I’m not sure what Martha had, but it was good.  It was all good and so was the conversation. We talked about our families, news of the day, Shara’s travels to Madagascar and all of the things that friends talk about that haven’t seen each other in a while.  It was a very enjoyable evening.  We all came back to Rosa Mystica for a while and Howard showed Mama some pictures on his iPhone of his family and an incredible clip of an ice bucket challenge that his family did dumping ice water on themselves with a tractor.  Wow!  It’s the end of a very busy and productive day.  We are all getting ready for bed a little before 10pm, and are using the team phone to call our families in the States to tell tell them about our doings.  Time to get some rest before another big day at the vision clinic. Blessings everybody!

Tuesday's clinic picked up steam! November 18

We had a good breakfast once again of eggs, toast, sausage and bananas at Rosa Mystica and were able to leave a few minutes later now that the clinic had been setup on Monday.  We arrived got our supplies and equipment out and arranged.  Our evangelist, John Karanja, opened our day with a beautiful prayer and we began seeing patients.  It was a nice dry day, with a high in the mid-70’s.  We had a few less patients by noon than we had seen on Monday, but it was pretty steady all day long and we ended up seeing 451 patients and another 21 people committed their lives to the Lord. 

As I write this, we are about ten  minutes from walking over to the Junction to join Catherine and her mother at Java House for a 7pm dinner.  We subsisted on snacks today like Payday candy bars, beef jerky, granola bars and a cookie or two, so we’re all pretty hungry.  There is more to tell after dinner when I return to our lodgings.  This dinner will be a great way to end a beautiful day here in Nairobi.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A good first day, November 17 Kawangware clinic opens, November 17

Our breakfast did turn out to be hurried, but good, as expected.  We had made to order omelets, sausage from an indeterminate animal, toast, mango juice, a fresh pot of coffee (unusual, Sanka or Nescafe is the norm) and some sweet bananas as a dessert.  We arrived well before 8am and began to set the clinic up, moving pews, bringing in tables and chairs, hanging eyecharts and station numbers on the wall, etc.  Like all Monday mornings we have experienced in the past, it was so chaotic that any first time observer would conclude that a clinic could never get off the ground.  Looks can be deceiving, since we had already seen around 200 patients by noon, with only minor tweaking to the process and continued training of volunteers. The afternoon was sunny and very nice, so it was a little slower.  We finished the day having seen a total of 338 patients.  People we talked to on the street outside the church were confused as to whether our services were really free.  Every clinic starts this way, but word of mouth is a powerful ally.  People go home and tell their friends and family about their experiences and before you know it, you are seeing many more people in a day.  Also, once the clinic begins to run smoothly, it hardly seems as if we’re working at all and the numbers really begin to soar.  Many times, rather than a mad rush of people and mass chaos, a clinic that is running well will be more of a steady drip, drip, drip.  At the end of the day, you can’t believe that you saw 3 or 4 times as many people and you don’t really feel it.

We stopped for some more hand sanitizer at Nakumatt on the way home and I changed some personal and team money at a currency exchange to get us through the rest of the week.  We had dinner at 7pm at Rosa Mystica.  It was a fried whole fish with sauce, something like tilapia, and many different sides including kale, rice, a vegetable medley, chapatti bread, bananas, beans and more.  We had subsisted on just a few snacks and water all day, so we were all famished and ate like it!  We’re all going to call it an early evening and I’m sure we’ll sleep extremely well.  Keep coming back regularly to follow our eploits and keep us in your prayers.  Blessings, everybody!  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monday morning! Let the clinic begin! November 17

It rained throughout the night.  At the moment, at 6am, it’s just overcast and if it’s going to be a sunny day, that will burn off by 10am or so.  We will be scrambling to get some breakfast when the cafeteria opens at 7am to wolf down some breakfast because we hope to be loaded up and on the road by 7:20.  There is no school this week, so traffic should be lighter than usual.  Our first tasks when we get to the church will be to get the physical layout of the clinic setup and begin to train our volunteers in the various stations of the clinic.  With a small team, our roles will be to get things up and running and to supervise more so than actually man each part of the operation.  We are all looking forward to seeing many old friends, including the doctors that will serve with us this week.  Stay tuned for a report at the end of the day on how things went.  Continue to pray for a successful week of spreading the Gospel through human care ministry. To God be the Glory!

Sunday worship and other happenings... November 16

It continued to drizzle as we helped the other teams load up their footlockers and personal luggage as they headed out into the mission field.  We were the last to depart the Little Daughters of St. Joseph facilities at around 9am.  We had a little extra time, so we swung by Rosa Mystica and dropped off our luggage and claimed our rooms there.  We arrived at the church at 10am, right on time for worship.  With the rainy morning, we were among the first ones there, since rain, puddles and mud makes it difficult to travel in the slum.  It was a blessing, because we got to catch up with our old friends there.  Some of them were Emmanuel, the evangelist tapped to do the sermon, Thomas, the caretaker of the church and Pastor James, who was still suffering with a bad throat and not much voice.  The worship service was wonderful, as usual, with a mix of more traditional hymns, choir music with Tanzanian, Somalian and other African influences and the Liturgy.  Church let out around 1pm, we said some m ore hellos and goodbyes and headed to the Junction for lunch at Java House.  We got a nice surprise, our friend from Kawangware, Mambo, joined us and we found out he would be our driver for the week.  He has helped in previous clinics and will effectively be a 5th team member for us. 

After lunch, we shopped at the Nakumatt for snacks, water and clinic supplies such as paper towels, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  All items that don’t make much sense to transport halfway around the world and that are readily available within walking distance of Rosa Mystica.  Our driver for the day, Simon, dropped us off, along with about 14 cases of water and some boxes of Bibles.  We divvied these things up among our three rooms and will dole them out as needed during the clinic.  Since we had such a late lunch we decided not to opt for the dinner at Rosa Mystica.  In fact, unless we order dinner, they won’t have it or charge us for it.  I’m guessing we will be eating out at least 3 times with friends this week, so that works just fine.  While dinner is actually part of our travel package, the food is so good at the mall next door with quite a variety of restaurants that it makes sense to entertain our local friends there when we can. 

I received an email this afternoon from a good friend of mine and Redeemer, Dr. Paul Maier.  He is having some computer issues that are interfering with the final edits on his new book.  I’m working on making contact and seeing if there is anything I can do by remote control, phone or email.  The world is certainly a smaller place these days.  I’m thinking my fee for doing international computer consulting has got to be a personally signed and dedicated copy of his new book.  Pretty cool, huh?  That’s about all for now, the others are starting a game of dominos and threatening to teach me how to be ruthless at it like they are.  If I can get the computer repair handled, I may have to take them up on it.  We’ll call it an early night, we’ll need to be fresh to get the clinic up and running in the morning.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers for an effective mission, both from the human care/medical perspective and from the evangelism point of view.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Early Sunday morning November 16

Alarms began going off starting at a little before 6am, which was what mine was reset for after being up for a while in the middle of the night.  It’s dry this morning and I’m thankful for that, since we’ll be helping the other teams pack up for their journeys to their clinic locations after a 7am breakfast.  Even though I a had a bit of a rough night, I’m pretty well rested and I’m comforted by knowing that on my last few missions to Africa, I usually got a pretty sound sleep on the first Sunday night.  Definitely something to look forward to.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life!

The Redeemer team is scheduled to leave for the church in Kawangware around 9:15.  Pastor James has lost some of his voice, so or friend Emmanuel is slated to do the sermon this morning.  This is good, because if the past is any guide, Pastor James will be needing his voice for the rest of the week.  Best to rest it on the Sabbath. 

I spoke too soon, a steady rain has begun at 6:40, which might mean I’ll get to break out my rain poncho.  I always get a cheap poncho at Academy sporting goods for each trip.  On one of my first missions, one of the old hands told me, “If you don’t use something for three mission trips in a row, don’t pack it again, with one exception.  Your rain gear.”  True words, when you need one here, especially in Nairobi, you really need one.  Many times, we’ve had a beautiful day until about 4pm.   Then, late afternoon clouds will come into the elevated city, which is from 5500 to maybe 6500 feet above sea level” and a downpour of Biblical proportions will ensue, just as we are packing up and needed to get to our vehicle.  At that point, a $4 poncho is a great investment.  More to follow after we get moved over Rosa Mystica, our lodgings for the rest of the week.  

Saturday afternoon, lunch and an excursion to see crocodiles and more! November 15

Ben was able to procure a van so they we could ride in comfort with him, Maggie and their two young daughters. It was still drizzling when we pulled into the dirt parking lot of Nairobi Mamba Village, a wild game display attraction that has numerous crocodiles of all ages, some very large giraffes, some large turtles and a small lake that is home to cormorants and other water fowl.  We were nearly the only ones there, so Ben checked on the prices and it was about $10 apiece for each of us and $3 for residents’ of Kenya.  We decided to wait and see if the rain was going to burn off and went to the Veranda for lunch.  Each of us had a great meal, some had sandwiches, some had chicken dishes, Howard and I had fried shrimp and fries, while Ralph got a hollowed out avocado filled with shrimp and an avocado sauce.  As we were eating our leisurely lunch, sure enough, the sun broke through and things began to dry out rapidly. 
By the time we returned the Mamba Village, only about 10 minutes away, the parking lot was nearly full. The mud and the puddles were already drying out nicely.  Howard treated the group to admission to the park and then we were greeted by Francis, who was to be our guide for the day.  He was a very knowledgeable young man about the many birds and wildlife throughout Kenya and had a very deep knowledge of each species he show us.  Our first stop was a pond that was surrounded by many large crocodiles, sunning themselves, apparently dead or maybe replicas.  I couldn’t detect any breathing or other signs of life.  He took about a six foot piece of4 inch diameter PVC pipe and poked one of the larger crocs, and we all jumped back at how suddenly and violently the crocodile reacted.  We got quite a few good pictures of several of them with their mouths open, looking very menacing, from only a few feet away.  Francis showed us a lot about this species, including the fact that it has no tongue and that they keep their mouths open when they are warm to help regulate the heat, since they don’t sweat.  Our next stop was a baby alligator pond, and some of us got to hold one that was about two and a half feet long.  Francis showed us a crocodile egg and we also learned that if the eggs are incubated at less than 70 degrees, the offspring will be female, above that, male.
Our final exhibit inside was several large and small turtles.  We learned about their lifespan, how to tell male from female and lots of other facts.  Some of us held a medium sized one for another great set of photo opportunities.  Nothing like a selfie with a giant turtle, I always say!
Once we got back outside, we started to take a walk around one side of the small lake that was there.  We saw some folks floating in boat, waterfowl in and around the water and signs for Egypt, Libya and other African countries.  Each area had plant life from that region.  As we wound around the lake, we came to a small field inhabited by several very large ostriches.  We have seen them before on photo safaris from a distance, they are quite large up close and personal.  Francis broke off a piece of lantana from a nearby bush and fed one of them through the fence.  He absolutely loved this treat!  My close-up pictures revealed they have eyelashes that most women would die for! 
We finished the afternoon by walking back towards the park entrance, with Francis continuing to point out various birds and other creatures.  I got several chances to take rapid fire photo sequences of larger bird in flight, one of my hobbies.  I hope some of them turn out well.
We went back to our compound, Little Daughters of St. Joseph for well-deserved naps, prior to worshiping with the rest of the team members that still remained in Nairobi.  The team going to Kitui left after lunch for Kitui, so they could worship with the congregation they would be serving there on Sunday morning.  We had about 20 of our team left and we were outnumbered by our many friends who included church leaders, evangelists, volunteers from Nuru (the Lutheran Hour Ministries in Kenya) and an adult choir that came from the church in Kawangware to provide the music.  It was great renewing old acquaintances and introducing first time team members to our friends that we had served with on past missions.

Our services were followed by a buffet dinner and we all called it an early night around 8pm.  I started writing this post and then went to bed around 10pm.  I am now finishing it up at 2am after getting up when I couldn't sleep.  I took a shower to save time in the morning and to make sure I got hot water, sometimes a precious commodity when we have large numbers of people wanting the same thing in the morning or in the evening.  It’ll be back to bed after publishing this.  Stay tuned, I will hopefully have both the time and an Internet connection Sunday afternoon (we’re 9 hours ahead of Austin here) to bring you up to date.  Also, I hope to have enough bandwidth to post a picture or two, sometimes this works out, sometimes we just have to be patient until a few days after we get back to the States. Please keep us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission.  Blessings everybody! 

A rainy Saturday morning, November 15th

As predicted, our group arrived just before 10pm in Nairobi and we were bused to the international cargo area, which has doubled as the arrival terminal since the airport fire in August of 2013.  They had a scanning system as we entered the building that was looking for passengers running a fever.  My understanding is they had previously been taking temperatures individually, this was a high tech beam of what appeared to be infrared light that everyone passed through.  They are taking the threat of infectious disease very seriously here and we were glad to see that. 

It’s 7am here.  I was supposed to go on a photo safari to the Nairobi Game Park near the airport.  Our original group of 14 dwindled to 9 hardy souls, mostly first timers, because it has been raining all night.  I really didn't want to subject my nice camera to those conditions and I have had several experiences in the past of needing to help push vans when they had gotten stuck in the mud.  I’ll leave that adventure for others!

The four of us had breakfast at 8am and were able to contact our friends Ben and Maggie. They are coming to pick us up around 10:30 or 11 to show us around a few sights in Nairobi and get some lunch.  We will be worshiping here at the convent at 5:30pm with the other teams, followed by dinner.  More to follow!

Friday November 14th Travel

Our experience in flying out of Austin was a dream come true.  We all arrived at ABIA at 3pm, Pastor Kevin helped get all the footlockers into the terminal and we were checked in and had cleared security by 3:30.  We had plenty of time to eat in the food court and make last minute calls to friends and family.  I even fixed one of my customer’s computers by phone.  The only disappointment came when the front row seats that Howard and Martha had reserved at extra expense had been given to a young family.  I’m hoping they can get a refund for this.  British Air Flight 190 was one of the 787 Dreamliners.  They have a very nice touchscreen entertainment system that allows you to pause, rewind and play just like a DVR.  There were USB jacks for keeping your phones charged up and for displaying pictures from smartphones on the display.  Each seat also had a 110 volt power tap underneath it, handy for laptops and other devices.  We all were able to get a little sleep on the flight after dinner, which was a choice between chicken curry and vegetable pasta.  While it wasn't the greatest food, it filled us up and it was way better than British Air’s food used to be.  We were awakened about an hour before touchdown for a light breakfast and hot tea or coffee.  We had a good jet stream at our backs and arrived in London about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

The early arrival was a good thing, since we had to take a bus across the rainy tarmac in 50 degree weather to Terminal 5, where we found that we needed to go through security, even though we were flying out of the same terminal.  We were waved into the longest lines, even though we pointed out we had a tight connection, with only about 45 minutes to go before our gate would close.  Martha was able to get the attention of a different agent and we were sent to the Fast Trak line, only to wait forever for our carry-ons to be screened.  Martha and Howard made it through, but Ralph and I got diverted, me for my laptop and he for his suitcase.  We sent the Faskes ahead to the gate to let them know we were on the way.  They swabbed my laptop for explosives and tore Ralph’s carry-on completely apart and spent quite a bit of time examining each and every item.  I walked away, I was afraid I’d say something, cause an even bigger problem and we’d miss our flight to Nairobi for sure.  Once Ralph was free to go, we dashed through the airport, got to the Departures display and it said our gate was closing.  We got to the gate and were pointed to another bus, which took us and about 30 other latecomers to our waiting plane.  We climbed the stairs and breathed a sigh of relief once we were seated.  After we were airborne, the meal choice was the same as the night before, so we all got the opposite of our previous selections!  I am writing this with about 4 hours to go until we arrive in Nairobi. Another group of ours will arrive an hour before us, flying from Houston to Amsterdam via KLM.  Our plane also has a team from Dallas and one from Illinois.  We get to Nairobi about 10:30, so after going through customs, getting our visas, loading up our footlockers and taking the 45 minute ride to ur lodgings, I’m counting on bedtime being no earlier than 1am after a much needed shower.   We’ll be staying the first two nights at Little Daughters of St. Joseph convent in Karen, a nice suburb of Nairobi.  Following church on Sunday, we’ll move to Rosa Mystica, another convent a block away from a nice shopping center.  We’ve stayed there before, we’ll have individual rooms with breakfast and dinner provided, although we expect to go out a couple of times for supper.  That’s all for now.  This will probably be posted sometime Saturday afternoon after activities of the day.  There is a 9 hour time difference, so this blog post will probably be available before noon Austin time.  Check back here often as our adventure unfolds!  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Head 'em on out! November 13 is here...

The day has finally arrived.  As I write this, I am about half an hour from Pastor Kevin arriving with his pickup truck full of footlockers.  He's going to take me to the airport here in Austin, where we'll meet Ralph, Howard and Martha for the flight to London.   British Air just added direct flights to Heathrow last April.  This will take the place of driving down to Bush International in Houston, paying for long-term parking and reversing the process at the end of the trip.  It should knock nearly a day of travel out of the total.  Our only concern at this point is that we only have an hour and a ten minute layover in London.  Even though we will be flying into the same terminal, Terminal 5, that we will be departing from, we will almost certainly have to go through security.  I'm praying that our flight from Austin makes good time and there will be some British Air employees on the ground that can shepherd us through the whole process.  If we miss our flight, we will be given vouchers for a Kenyan Air flight later in the day, but wouldn't get to Nairobi until 5am Saturday, rather than 10:30pm Friday night as originally planned.  I'm supposed to help lead a group in two vans on a local safari early Saturday to the Nairobi Game Park.  Should be interesting, to say the least, if we're on that other flight.  I know I'll sleep well Saturday night if that happens!

More to follow as I have time, Internet and electricity.  All three can be in short supply at times!  If we miss the flight in London, you'll see more written from Heathrow.  If not, it may be Saturday or even Sunday before the next entry appears here.  We'll be staying at Rosa Mystica, a Catholic convent, during the week and will be a block from a coffee shop called Java House that has good wifi.  So, I should be pretty regular during the week in telling tall tales about our adventures in and around Nairobi.  Blessings, everybody!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Almost time to saddle up for Nairobi again! Some thoughts on ebola, our safety and more...

We’re now about a month away from our next mission trip to Kenya. We’ll be back in the slum of Kawangware, in Nairobi, where Redeemer got its start doing these vision clinics.  We will have a team of 4 this time, just like last October, when the Westgate Mall attack had all of our friends and families showing heightened concern for us.  This time, the buzz word is ebola.  You can’t turn the TV or radio on, or pick up a newspaper without the words Africa and ebola occupying the same sentence.  This has proved to be a hindrance in recruiting a larger team, but many blessings flowed from having a smaller crew last fall.  Among these was the empowering of our local volunteers, because of the necessity of them taking responsibility for larger portions of our vision clinic than ever before.  Everyone involved rose to the occasion and it was a joy to see the sense of accomplishment as our friends at the church in Kawangware truly shined while doing the Lord’s work.  It also humbled us quite a bit, as we realized we are not nearly as important or necessary as we would sometimes like to think.  The only thing that saddened me as one of the leaders of our group, was that we only had veterans of previous missions with us, which will be the case this time as the team will consist of Ralph Genz, Howard and Martha Faske and myself. One of my great satisfactions in life is to take newcomers with us on these missions.  I always wait to see when it dawns on them that they are really in Africa. Many times, it’s when we are on an early morning safari the first Saturday, after arriving in Nairobi late Friday night.  Up until this point, all they have seen is airports, airplanes and a late night ride through a very large city with billboards and neon signs in English that could be anywhere in the world. When they see their first giraffe, zebra, monkey or lion, the light bulb goes off.  We veterans feed off of the energy and enthusiasm of our first time team members, while our role is to keep everybody safe, show them some of the sights that we have come to love and make sure we have an effective clinic, both from a medical and from an evangelism standpoint.  Ralph and I will each be making our 12th foray into Kenya, while the Faskes are not too far behind.
You might ask yourself, are we incredibly brave or incredibly foolish, making this trip during the ebola outbreak?  I have pointed out several factors to our concerned friends and loved ones when bombarded with variations on this question recently, sometimes with folks begging us not to go.  First, the continent of Africa is huge, well beyond what most Americans realize.  You could put 3 continental United States into Africa and have some room left over.  Second, the ebola outbreak in west Africa is from 3,000 to 3,300 miles away from Nairobi.  Check it for yourself, just Google how far Monrovia, Liberia is from Nairobi, Kenya.  We currently have a case of ebola in Dallas, only 200 miles from our home town of Austin, fifteen times closer.  Third, Kenya and other east African countries closed their borders and airports to people from west Africa earlier this year.  I would maintain that they are doing a better job of this than the United States is at this point.  I am probably more concerned with possible exposure to ebola or any other emerging infectious disease when we will be at London’s Heathrow Airport or some of our other teams go through Amsterdam, each are airports where people from all over the world get connecting flights.  The claims we hear in the U.S. is that you need contact with bodily fluids, that the virus doesn’t live on surfaces like jet plane seats or restrooms and is not transmitted through the air.  I’ve seen conflicting reports on each of these claims, and I’m sure we’ll be diligent about washing our hands and taking other precautions.  None of us is in any hurry to be a martyr, and each of us trusts our dear friends in Kenya when they say that it is safe there.  We have been guests in their homes and they have visited us in Texas as well.  I would be the first to recommend canceling this trip if I thought there was undue risk, but we follow the international news daily and I don’t think it is any less safe than it’s ever been for us.   Finally, my thought is that if we live our lives in fear, we are not really living, and the forces of terror and disease have robbed us of the abundant life we have been promised in the Gospel.  We would never take unnecessary risks, in fact, we always travel in groups, are out of the slums well before dark, always hire drivers that know the safest routes to take and stay in gated, guarded, secure lodgings every night.  We sleep very well.  I want to thank everybody for their heartfelt concerns for us, they are much appreciated.  My hope is that what I have just written has calmed some of those fears.  Please keep us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission as we take vision care and the lifesaving message of salvation through Jesus back to the slum of Kawangware this November.
If you want to know more about our mission trips, past, present and future, please go through the summaries, the daily posts and pictures from our many experiences right here at this blog.  If you feel called to join us next Spring, we hope to take 2 teams to Kenya from Redeemer, since we will be leaving on the first Thursday after Memorial Day, later than we ever have gone.  This should allow couples with kids in school that couldn’t come before, as well as teachers and others that usually have more free time after the school year to make this incredible journey.  For more info, contact Pastor Kevin Westergren at or me, Dave DeVore at
Stay tuned to this blog, much more material will be added here as the trip approaches and of course, during the mission itself.

To God be the Glory!!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Great Mission! Final Reflections on the Spring 2014 Kenya Trip

This is the summary blog entry for the Spring 2014 vision clinic mission to Kibera and Kericho.  As has become the custom at this space, the link to the final set of pictures is directly below and it's time to reflect on what this mission trip meant to me and the other team members.  The captions for the photos are still being worked on, a few more pictures will be added to the mix and I still need some help with identifying people, birds, animals, places and things from our various adventures.

Click here to go to Kenya Spring photos

One great blessing and joy for me has been, as always, to introduce new members of the team to our mission work in the wonderful country of Kenya and it's people, places, wildlife and flowers.  It was a pleasure to have Michelle join us this time as she got to travel with her father, Charles.  She had intended to come on one of our previous trips to Kiambu, but was unable to make it due to an emergency appendectomy shortly before we left.  She had tried to talk her doctors into letting her come anyway, but it was just too soon.  She fit right in, loved the people we worked with and is already talking about coming on a future trip.

Michelle and Charles at the Great Rift Valley

We were also blessed by the addition of Caroline Bullock to the team.  She has taught at Redeemer and has a huge heart for children.  She served in Kericho with Ralph and Louise and I'm sure she's already shared stories with the preschool kids at Redeemer that she works with.

Caroline at the clinic in Kericho

Finally, Merrilee's friend Shirley joined us on the Kibera team.  They met on a Paul Maier tour of the travels of St. Paul several years ago as roommates and have remained friends since.  She fit right in with all of the veteran team members and was a lot of fun to have around.  She told us amusing stories at dinner of having danced on Broadway and her life in Aspen, Colorado.  Our volunteers loved her little dance steps she would suddenly perform when she was overjoyed!

Merrilee and Shirley

For me, the renewing of old friendships at Kibera after a two year absence was very exciting.  We had finally been allowed to go back to the Nairobi slum of Kawangware last October after two years of security concerns which had required us to serve in the more rural area of Kiambu just outside of town. We only took a team of 4 members on that trip because it was just after the Westgate Mall incident and some of our prospective team members and their families were quite understandably nervous and canceled out, some after already having purchased plane tickets.  That was my tenth mission to Kenya and it taught us all a strong faith lesson as we were forced to completely rely on God and our local volunteers for the first time in my experience with these clinics.  Neither God nor the volunteers let us down and we had a very successful mission any way it could be measured.  In fact, the volunteers were overjoyed that they had been allowed to step up to the plate and be responsible for almost all of the functions of the clinic.  To see more about last October's mission, read the blog entries for that trip.

Worship in Kibera

Back to our recent Kibera trip.  We were glad to see our old friends and make new ones.  It was a joy to worship there on Sunday, the service and the music are at a whole new level.  The Holy Spirit was definitely present that morning!  Our Nairobi teams are particularly lucky because we get to worship with the congregations we will be serving, while other teams that go to outlying areas of Kenya must use their Sunday for travel.  Thus, we always get a head start on building relationships with our volunteers and the Pastor.

Springs of Life Lutheran Church, Kibera

A great deal of the credit for the success of our mission to Kibera lies squarely with the preparation that the local congregation at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church did prior to our arrival.  When I first saw Pastor James on Sunday before church, I had asked if any of our friends from the other Nairobi churches where we have served in the past would be supplying us with volunteers.  He was adamant that the whole clinic would be staffed only by volunteers from the local Springs of Life Lutheran Church.  He said some of our friends might pay us a visit, but that this clinic would be a partnership between our team and this church.  I was saddened at first, because I wanted to see my other good friends.  But, after some thought, I realized that this was a large step for the people of this flock, since they had never been able in the past to entertain a clinic without some outside help.  Not only that, when the volunteers arrived Monday morning, all of them were in medical scrubs, a nice display of the teamwork that had been instilled in the young people since our last visit two years ago.  The high volume of patients we treated very efficiently is a direct result of the commitment and dedication of the Pastor, the elders and the congregation members showed throughout the week.  

The Kericho Team

Redeemer had 11 members ready to serve on our team.  A good size for a team is 7 or 8, although, as mentioned above, with veteran volunteers a clinic can be fielded with as few as 4 of us.  Salem needed reinforcements for their team that was going to be serving in rural Kericho.  Ralph and Louise have always had a heart for serving in new and exciting places, so they, along with Caroline, went there with them.  From everything I have heard, it was a wonderful experience for both our team members and the local volunteers that they worked with.

Everlyn and me enroute to Nairobi

After every trip, I do a recap of the "God things" that I was personally involved in or witnessed.  On this mission, some of my "God things" actually began to happen before we ever got to Kenya.  As I wrote previously in the blog:

I thought I was going to have a whole row to myself for the trip to Nairobi.  God had a different plan.  Just before the doors were scheduled to be closed, a woman arrived at my row, carrying a large bag that would barely fit under one of the seats.  She was breathing hard and was obviously relieved to be on the plane.  If she had missed our flight, she would have spent a day in London waiting for the next one.  We made small talk and I learned her name is Everlyn and that she works for a large bank in Nairobi.  More importantly, once she and I had discussed our vision clinic for a minute or two, she let me know that she was head of the women’s ministry at a large Baptist congregation that worships more than 10,000 on any given weekend near where we would be staying.  Each ministry in her church is expected to do a mission of some sort and they are very strong on discipling their members.  Does this remind anyone at Redeemer of our Vision 20/20 blueprint? Also, her sister lives a short distance from Kibera, the site of our clinic.  By the time we were done with the first of a few wonderful and uplifting conversations about our respective walks of faith, I had given her my business card so she could follow this blog and she was planning to come to our clinic for some eye problems she is experiencing.  She plans on bringing some of her family and friends to the clinic as well.  She had begun her trek in California, we had started our travels in Texas and the Lord made sure we met in row 43 on this flight from London to Nairobi.  It is so amazing when a "God thing" is happening right in front of your eyes and you actually know it at the time.  Thank you, Jesus!

Dr. Chris performs a distance vision exam

Some members of Everlyn's family

The story didn't end there.  Six or seven of Everlyn's family, including her husband, came to the clinic during the week.  She was supposed to bring her father for a possible cataract surgery referral, but that didn't happen.  Also, I was hoping to see her and her husband for lunch on Saturday, but due to a mixup on my part, that also didn't happen.  I would love to make contact with her and see her again on our next trip to Kenya in November.  It was truly a pleasure to meet her and her remarkable family, what a deep faith they have.  It is humbling, especially when you already think you are a mature Christian, to meet people that inspire you to take your walk with God to the next level of faith.

Waiting tent and registration table

One day, during the heat of the afternoon, Howard and I were on the porch of the church looking over at the waiting tent, the last stop before registration and entry into the clinic for our patients.  This tent has about 150 plastic chairs that we rent, along with all the tents.  As several people would be summoned to the registration table, everyone would move over two or three seats as they inched toward the front of the line.  A person might move fifty or more times in the course of a half hour to forty five minute stay in the tent.  As we were watching, Pastor James and several of our evangelists passed in front of the tent and an old man leaped out at him.  He was very angry, had his walking stick raised in his hand and had to be pushed back down into his chair.  The crowd became pretty restless and I was beginning to think that things were about to go up for grabs.  All of a sudden, the old-timer became very repentant and asked for forgiveness.  By this time, several other elders of the congregation had arrived and before you knew it, they had all raised both arms to the sky over the man and were praying a blessing on him.  We found out later that the heat and being around too many women and children had been more than he could take!  We promptly got him registered for the clinic.

Waiting for eye drops to work

After an eyechart exam, Howard shepherded him to the doctors where he was treated for itchy, scratchy eyes, a common ailment in the slum.  

Howard helps test out the new glasses

After a manual distance glasses exam, we made new Coke bottle glasses for him.  He needed lots of help with his distance vision and he could see just fine when we were all done.

Aloise shares a lighter moment

On his way out of the church grounds, the man encountered Aloise, a caretaker, usher and elder at the church who has an incredible joy about him at all times.  We all have come to know and love Aloise over the years we have been coming to Kibera.  They shared a laugh a two and the man was so happy with his new glasses and new found friends at the church that he jumped up, leaning on his cane and clicked his heals together before dancing a little jig. What a difference... Thank you, Jesus!

Dr. Milliam, Esther, Catherine and me

Another "God thing" that I was privileged to be a part of was when Catherine brought a woman wearing sunglasses into the clinic on Friday morning, the last day of the clinic.  The woman said "Dave, do you remember me?"  This happens at every clinic and it comes as no surprise to me that people know my name.  After all, I wear a name tag!  But yes, I did remember her as Esther, a  woman that had been referred for cataract surgery at a previous clinic.  I told her that I bet that she had come back to get the other eye taken care of and we would be glad to do it, since this has happened many times in the past.  I was ready to take her right to the doctors.  But Catherine said there was much more to this story.  When Esther had gone for the cataract surgery, they found fast acting cancer in the eye she was to have treated and an immediate decision had to be made to remove it.  She had come to thank us and was praising God for saving her life.  And, she had just one more request.  She removed her sunglasses to reveal the eye socket that had now healed.  She wanted a prosthetic eye so she could quit wearing the sunglasses.  We bring a budget of $1500 on each trip for cataract surgery referrals and other procedures that our doctors deem necessary that can be performed at a hospital or clinic in Nairobi.  Cataracts surgeries cost about $50-$65 each.  I had already approved 34 cataract referrals and several other possible procedures, so the budget was already more than gone by that Friday morning. I knew that an artificial eye cost maybe $800-$1000 in the U.S.  What could we do?  That's when Dr. Milliam went to work, calling labs in Nairobi that she has connections with.  She was able to write a referral for the glass eye that would only cost about $60.  I would have gladly paid it out of my own pocket if I had to, since we had started with Esther and needed to finish the job.  Redeemer is amazingly generous and I was confident we would find a way.  We always do.  The Lord provides...

This is the kind of encounter that keeps me coming back to Kenya time after time.  After reflecting for the last month on this woman's wonderful faith, I know that if I had been in Esther's shoes, I might very well have shaken my fist at God for the misfortune of losing an eye.  It's a natural reaction and being immersed in the me, me, me culture of America, it would have been totally understandable to say "Why me, Lord?"  Instead, she had a marvelous attitude of thanks and praise that through our clinic her cancer was discovered and her life had been saved. Not only that, her plea for an artificial eye was so humble and sincere that it still gives me chills and brings a tear to my eyes just thinking about it.  I wish I could bottle up the deep and wide faith that I run into everywhere I look in Kenya.  I wish that we here in the States could pray and believe that our loving Father will take care of us in the same trusting and child-like fashion.  There is much to learn when the Lord places people such as Esther in our paths.  It reminds me that our walk of faith is just that, a journey and not a destination.  Thank you Jesus, for teaching us through others by placing them in our lives.

Lions in the soft light of dawn

Our old friend

As on previous mission trips, we were blessed to have Saturday morning to spend as we wished, as the other teams were returning from the field.  Some of the team decided to sleep in late and do brunch and a little more shopping at the Junction Mall near Rosa Mystica.  The rest of us hit the road bright and early for one final photo safari at the National Game Park just on the outskirts of Nairobi.  We used to venture farther out, but when our van broke down two hours from town several years ago and we were lucky to make the flight out of Nairobi, things changed! Now that was an adventure.   I like to call these safaris worshiping in God's big church with no roof.  Being surrounded by the wonders and variety of His creation is a great way to decompress after spending a week in the slums with His children that He brings to us.

The Kibera team with Pastor James

Our next mission trip is tentatively scheduled for November 13-23, 2014.  If you would like more information on how to join us on that trip, please contact Pastor Kevin Westergren at 512-459-1500 or or me, Dave DeVore at or 512-323-5343.  We would love for you to share in the abundant blessings that we have been called to give and in the abundant blessings that he always bestows on us when we get out of the boat, having listened to His small still voice calling us and having responded "Here am I.  Send me, send me!"

To God be the Glory!!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Kenya Spring Mission Trips Pictures are being Published

It's a slow process, especially when the jet lag has been worse than normal and two of my associates in my business are on vacation, leaving me with a little less time than normal.  I hope to have the bulk of the pictures from the Kibera and Kericho clinics available by the end of this weekend.  Please keep coming back often to see them as they are added.  I will be adding captions as time permits to help describe each one and will try to identify any animals or birds from our photo safaris.  Click the following link to get to the pictures.

Kenya Spring 2014 photos

Monday, May 5, 2014

5-4-2014 Flight Delayed from London to Houston

During the final check of our 747, the ground crew spotted a hydraulic fluid leak under one of the wings.  They removed the access panels, fixed whatever was leaking, sealed up the wing and gave the plane a clean bill of health.  We took off about 1 hour and 25 minutes late, but it looks like we are making up some of that time with favorable flying conditions.  I'm glad it was fixed before our flight!  I’ve been gathering up everybody’s camera cards today and just finished getting the last set of pictures, Caroline’s, into my laptop so I can begin work on getting pictures out on the blog and then making a nice DVD for team members to show their families and to remember the trip by.  I will send all of our pictures, the good, the bad and the ugly, to the team sometime within the next week or so.  I know we’ve got at least 2500 pictures from both of our teams that we had people on this time.  I only make sure personal photos from before the trip are erased, but if someone left their camera on and took an out of focus picture of their foot, it will be there.  This way, my team can select pictures they like for whatever their purposes are.  The blog and the DVD project will require me first rating all the pictures from 1-5.  I usually only include the 4s or 5s after I run them through some basic editing in Adobe Lightroom such as cropping, making the exposures better, sharpening or adding a little contrast, etc.  I then try to get to about the 300 best pictures for the blog and maybe 400-500 pictures for an hour long DVD slide show that I produce that can be played on any computer and most TVs.  This has taken 60-80 hours to complete in the past.  These DVDs are worth it, because I make extra copies to help show others what the Vision for Kenya project is all about and they help in recruiting other churches to join us in this mission field.  I still remember my first trip to help build churches in Mexico in 2005 when I had no idea what I was getting into.  I swore then that I would do these kind of photo projects to help make new recruits more comfortable instead of them being required to take such a huge leap of faith.  While I am a firm believer in leaps of faith, if they are too big of a barrier, it’s really hard to get people to come in the first place.  Even going all the way to Africa, one of my team was so impressed by her first time experience that she’s already talking about coming again in a year or so.  Many times, once we get home, the whole experience takes a while to percolate, be digested and processed a little at a time.  Many times, people that have joined us for one trip feel the Holy Spirit tugging at them and that small, still voice of God calling them to continue with the work.  In my case, I was hooked from the very beginning.  Stay tuned as I write a few more stories about the God things that happened on this trip and as I finally conclude with a summary of what the this team accomplished and what the trip meant to us.  Thanks be to God!