Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5-1-2014 Before breakfast, Thursday morning

The dinner last night was a nice break from the routine of the week.  I had been to this Brazilian steak house once before, but the others hadn’t, so it was nice to show them something new.  The meat was excellent and ranged from camel to pork sausage to chicken to lamb to beef ribs and others.  My favorite was the beef ribs, the meat fell off the bone and it was nice and juicy.  It was a good evening of fellowship with the team, Catherine and Shara.  Lots of laughs and a few memories.

Just about time to head down for breakfast.  Because it’s a national holiday, May Day, traffic should be very light, so the team is going to stop at Java House for some coffee to go.  In all of the lodgings, everywhere I have stayed in Kenya over the years, there is a thermos of hot water and instant tea or coffee nearby.  A cup of good strong coffee will be a nice treat on the way to work.  With the holiday, we are all excited that the clinic may be bigger than ever today.  I hope that proves to be the case.  Well, gotta start packing up.  Keep us in your prayers for a continued safe and blessed clinic.

4-30-2014 Yet another new high total for the clinic on Wednesday

Our day started as usual with breakfast at Rosa Mystica and the short ride to the clinic.  By the time noon rolled around, we had only seen about 250 people, well behind the pace that had been set on Tuesday.  And, after lunch, there was a definite lull when things ground to a halt for a while.  I would have been surprised if we had gotten to 400 patients for the whole day if I had to judge at that point. My attitude about the number of people we see on any given day at the clinic is that we not worry so much about the number, but that we love and serve each person that God brings us that day.  It was to everyone’s surprise that a small but steady stream of people began to come to the clinic and by the time we shut down, we had served 553 people, 8 more than Tuesday.  As I have noted here before, a well run clinic almost seems as if it’s not really all that busy.  Our total for the week now is at 1548.  The interview that Emmanuel and I had done for the radio station on Monday began airing this morning, Helen was out with the bullhorn once again and word of mouth probably helped us as well.  Our team all tried working in different facets of the clinic and things continued to roll.  Thanks be to God!

We are about to leave for our nice dinner at the Brazilian steak house, with Catherine, Shara and our driver Steven.  And, Howard, Martha and I will be having dinner at Catherine’s mother’s home tomorrow night, a real blessing since we showed her and her family around Texas 2 years ago during Catherine’s son’s graduation.  More to follow as I have the time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4-30-2014 Early morning musings

Had a good, if a little short, night’s sleep.  Probably is due to the extended nap before dinner last night. Some random thoughts on the trip and the clinic so far are in order in the brief time I have before breakfast and packing up for our next work day. 

Yesterday, we began to swap our team members around the clinic a bit, to give each of them a new experience and also, in some cases, to switch between standing and sitting jobs.  Shirley spent some time helping with dispensing reading glasses, since the eye chart jobs she had been performing involved almost 100% standing and it gave her a chance to interact with the people a little more.  Merrilee has been on the eyechart, helped some in triage and helped with pulling the lenses to spell Martha.  Charles has been keeping an eye on the glasses assembly crew, helping in triage, fitting glasses and helping with traffic flow.  As the week goes on, those that have a heart for triage are all encouraged to give it an hour or two.  This station involves determining what kind of vision treatment we may be able to provide, but it has a large spiritual component, since we have conversations about each patient’s faith life.  We see a large number of Christians, but yesterday the numbers of Muslims began to swell due to word of mouth from Monday’s clinic.  Regardless of the outcome of any talks we have, we almost always are able to pray one on one with each person for any needs they may have identified or just to bless them.  This is a very powerful experience indeed for both parties.  Many of these prayers end in tears or in praising God for all of His blessings.
I’m sure we’ll move more of our people around to give them a different experience today.  The clinic is running so well, we can afford to experiment a bit and we can always go back to what was working if there are problems. 

Time to start getting ready.  More to follow!

4-29-2014 Tuesday was another big day at the clinic in many ways

I was right.  The majority of the team slept very well after the initial day of the clinic.  We had breakfast and were on the road at 7:30 to begin another day.  There were only a few people waiting this morning, unlike yesterday when there were reports of people queuing up at 6am.  We unlocked or footlockers, got the various stations setup and ready to go and then waited for Pastor James, the evangelists and the rest of the team to join us for a morning devotion.  We began with another Swahili song and then I did a reading from Acts 2:42-47, which is about the fellowship of the early church, the miracles that were performed and their number being added to daily.  I pointed out that every one of the things mentioned in this passage occurs at every clinic that we have conducted and had been evident already on Monday.  Eyesight was restored to the blind through surgeries that we will fund, we shared in great fellowship in many ways, both in our work and during our sporadic breaks.  The body of Christ had also grown through the 21 new believers that the Holy Spirit blessed us with on Monday.  Our team is truly blessed to be a part of this wonderful experience.  We closed with a prayer and the clinic was opened. 

By 10:30, we had already seen about 225 people at the registration table.  By the end of the day, we had served 545 people, leaving us just 5 short of 1,000 for the first two days.  Thank you, Jesus!  Of course, seeing large numbers of people is one thing that might be expected in a densely populated slum.  But a great deal of the credit for the success of our first two days at Kibera lies squarely on the preparation of the local congregation at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church.  When I first saw Pastor James on Sunday, 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 Kibera church.  He said some of our friends might visit, but that this would be a partnership between our team and this church.  I was sad 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, 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 have already treated is a direct result of the commitment and dedication of the Pastor, the elders and the members have shown this week.  Our friend Helen has been in the neighborhood with a bullhorn and Emmanuel arranged for a local radio station to interview him in Swahili and me in English on Monday about the clinic.  By Monday afternoon, almost every facet of the clinic was being manned by the volunteers and our roles as team members were mostly relegated to helping solve bottlenecks, managing the traffic control and flow of the clinic and providing encouragement and any support that the volunteers required.  We never looked busy all day, which is the way a well-run clinic should look. In fact Pastor James commented that we weren’t moving people through quickly enough, which is what a first impression would tell you, but at the end of the day, a steady drip, drip, drip gets the job done.  What a blessing to have everyone pulling together from both our team and the church.

Three more member of Evelyn’s family were treated this afternoon.  I was able to get to know them, Nancy and her children, as I squired them around the clinic.  We had a nice discussion ranging from the ministry the she and Evelyn are a part of at their large church to personal situations that she was facing.  We prayed together in a corner over everything that was on her mind, it was a very moving experience.  I am looking forward to seeing Evelyn’s father tomorrow morning for a cataract exam and possible referral for surgery to correct it.  There were also several other situations today that always come to a team leader’s attention where we have to decide how much help we can give individuals out of our limited funds.  Sometime we agree to pay half for a procedure if the family and community can come up with the balance, thus stretching our resources further.  Other times, it’s a decision like whether to help a child versus maybe 4 cataract surgeries for adults.  I’m not sure Solomon could figure some of these out and really feel good about the decision either way it fell.  Please pray for guidance for me when these circumstances arise. 
We were surprised to find when we returned from work that our compound was experiencing a power failure.  I wasn’t concerned about the thought of cold showers or no lights, this has happened before.  I was concerned that we couldn’t recharge the four dead batteries for our eye exam equipment.  Rosa Mystica fired up a big generator and I got a cold shower and fell asleep for a brief nap to the drone of the generator.  I slept through my alarm and went down to dinner about 10 minutes late.  We later learned through Catherine that there had been a nationwide power failure caused by a substation going down.  Power was restored shortly after dinner. I already have two batteries ready to go and am hopeful that the other two will complete overnight.  Life in another country can get interesting, you learn to go with the flow from these trips, it’s a good lesson and builds character!
After work tomorrow night, we will be going to a Brazilian steakhouse for our one nice night out on the town and our friends Catherine and Shara will be joining us.  We will have a brief time after the clinic to shower and change, so if there is any blog posting tomorrow, it will probably be fairly terse and factual rather than my usual ramblings.  Blessings to all, please keep us in your prayers for a continued safe and effective mission.  Glory be to God!

Monday, April 28, 2014

4-28-2014 Monday Vision Clinic Opening was Excellent

We had breakfast at 6:45 and were on our way to Kibera by 7:15 as planned.  Traffic is lighter than normal this week because school is out.  There is full year school here, they have three terms with a month off between each.  It’s nice to be able to leave a little later and still arrive at our destination either early or right on time.  We got to the church at 7:30 and began arranging the pews and tables the way we had decided last night would give us the best flow for the clinic.  As usual, we tweaked the layout several times during the day. Pastor Kevin would have been proud of us, he’s the master at envisioning and then implementing efficient work flows in any given physical layout.  They must have a class in that at seminary that got an A in!  Once the clinic was ready from a physical standpoint, we had a devotion which consisted of singing some great praise songs together, Pastor James preaching from the Gospel of Mark and myself going over the evangelism cube for our new and veteran team members.  I like to do that on the first day of a clinic.  It’s something Kevin Pieper of Salem and I hit upon 2 years ago.  We are used to asking clinic goers if they have any questions about what they had heard out in the evangelism tents and it dawned on us that many of the people inside the clinic didn’t have a clue as to what was being said and done out there.  So, since that time, I have liked to show the whole team an abbreviated version of the evangelism presentation using either the cube itself, a colorful cube with 7 pictures that tell the story of the Gospel, or some blown up versions of the same pictures on large cards.  I do think it has made a difference in the way we do what we call our “second touch” with the Gospel message.  The “first touch” is the evangelism tent experience, the “second touch” is a one on one conversation, usually, but not always, at the triage station of the clinic.  We finished with a prayer and opened the clinic at about 9am. 

There was a tent full of people ready to begin the process of going through the vision clinic, some had been there as early as 6am.  The startup of the clinic was as smooth as any that I have been involved in.  It really helps to have a team that has a good mix of veteran members and some who have only been one time or who are novices.  The old hands can look for flaws in the process for about the first hour or so and correct things early in the game.  By the afternoon, the clinic was running as well as most do on Wednesday, after much more practice and time to perfect the process.  By noon, we had already seen about 200 people and the clinic finished with exactly 450 people having been served.  To put this in perspective, this is my 10th vision clinic and to the best of my recollection, we have never had a bigger day.  Everyone was dog tired as we drove back to Rosa Mystica and I’m positive everyone will sleep quite soundly tonight.  We had a good dinner with a buffet that included pork, rice, chapatti bread, mixed vegetables and fruit.  I was hungry, as I had only eaten a granola bar and a king size Payday candy bar along the way during the day. 

One of the highlights of the day for me was when three of Evelyn’s family including her husband and her daughter came to the clinic for treatment.  She was the lady I shared with on the plane between London and Nairobi.  Her father is coming into town tomorrow, he will rest from his journey and then come to the clinic Wednesday morning to be examined for possible cataract surgery.  I talked to her briefly on the phone and we will have at least one patient on the national holiday on Thursday, Evelyn herself.  The blessings continue to flow! 
That’s about all for now.  There will be more daily reports and when it’s all over, I’ll once again compile some reflections on what the trip meant to us and what some of the highlights were as well as get somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 of our best pictures linked to the blog to also help tell the story.  In the meantime, continue to keep a safe and effective mission for us in your prayers.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

4-27-2014 Sunday evening reflections on a good day

We did help the other teams get on their ways and then left the Little Daughters of St Joseph at around 9am.  We had enough time to drop our luggage off at Rosa Mystica, because Sunday morning traffic was very light.  We arrived at the Springs of Life compound around 9:35am and were met by Pastor James.  It was very good to see him.  Sofia, Bishop Bakari’s wife was also on hand and we caught up with her on the happenings of the last 2 years since we had been able to serve in Kibera.  Worship got under way promptly at 10am and it was once again a very moving multi-faceted experience.  There was liturgy with chanting by the pastors.  There were children’s choirs, children’s solos, praise band music, adult choirs doing both standard hymns and native Swahili songs with incredible harmonies and the hypnotic songs that were lead of by female leads and choir responses.  The sermon was delivered by a guest preacher and Pastor James translated it from very good English into Swahili, with some humorous results at times.  No one laughed louder than Pastor James.  The service ended after nearly 3 hours with us singing the last hymn, filing down the stairs while still singing and going outside to form a large prayer circle.  After the prayer, we were dismissed with the Benediction.  We spent about the next half hour catching up with old friends, introducing the new team members to some of the people we will be working with this week and making arrangements for the start of the clinic on Monday.  We will be at the church by 7:30am, traffic will be light because there is a school break at this time, so we won’t need to leave Rosa Mystica until about 7:15.  We should have the physical layout of the clinic in place by about 8am, have a devotion and last minute instructions for our team and the volunteers and hope to be in operation by 9am. 

After church, we went to the Junction Mall, right by our lodgings, and had lunch with Catherine and Shara, one of our LCMS missionaries based in Nairobi.  I bought some Kenyan coffee and had the beans ground for my drip coffee maker.  I like the Kenya AA coffee, one of five varieties.  I think it stacks up to pure Kona coffee in Hawaii.  The Kona we get on the mainland is a blend made with Columbian coffee to hold the high price down.  My pure Kenyan will beat that any day of the week.  It was 990 shiilings for half a kilogram, or about $12 for a little more than a pound.  A little treat to myself!  We got our water, snacks, hand sanitizer and paper goods for the clinic at Nakumatt in the mall, a store that is very similar to Wal-Mart.  Business is very good there, since the recent attack on the nearby Westgate Mall has put the main competition in the area out of business.  No one knows at this point if and when Westgate will reopen.  We got back to our rooms around 4:30 and everyone got much needed naps and showers.
We are about to have dinner at 7pm.  I’ll lead a short devotion on what it means to be a missionary, we’ll do some refresher training on the autorefractor and we’ll finalize what we think the beginning layout of the clinic should be for good traffic flow and for sharing the Gospel effectively.  We’ll turn in early tonight to keep our energy up for what I hope proves to be a very tiring first day of the clinic.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

4-27-2014 Early Sunday morning

It is 5am and soon the teams that have to leave for remote areas of Kenya will be stirring, getting their breakfast, checking out of Little Daughters of St. Joseph and will begin their journeys.  I’ll join them and will help in any way I can and I’m sure the team leaders will be praying over each other, their teams and those they will serve and serve with during the coming week.  One of the great blessings those of us that serve in Nairobi get to enjoy is worshipping with the congregation where we will be working.  Most other teams will be driving for many hours today, which is the reason our whole project worships together on the first Saturday afternoon.  I am looking forward to renewing old friendships after being absent from Kibera for 2 years and introducing our new team members to the amazing worship at Springs of Life Lutheran Church.  If the past is any guide, we will be in for a wide variety of music, a message firmly rooted in the Word and the undeniable presence of the Triune God. 
Catherine has arranged for our footlockers to be delivered to Kibera and our luggage to be transferred to Rosa Mystica, the convent where we will be spending the rest of our week.  After church, I expect that we will have nice lunch and then will finish buying supplies for the upcoming work week.  Once we’re settled in at Rosa Mystica, if we have good Internet access, I’ll do a post describing the events of the day.  Until then, blessing on your Sunday, wherever that is and what time it may be!

4-26-2014 A very short night and a very nice day

Between a little after 1am and 6am I got probably 3 hours of pretty sound sleep.  I was able to finally post to this blog by connecting my phone to my laptop and copying a Word file to the phone, after which I copied and pasted the necessary text into the blog.  While my laptop has never been able to connect to the web here, my phone has had no problem.  Go figure.  I’m hoping the upgraded Internet service they were working on at Rosa Mystica the last time we were there is in place when we transfer to there tomorrow.  If it is better there, I hope to be able to post a few pictures prior to our return.  As usual, I expect to have about 300 of our best pictures out on the blog within a week or two of the trip for you and the team members to enjoy.  I breakfasted at 6:30 with the group that was heading out to the local Nairobi National Game Park and then 6 of us from the Redeemer team joined 7 others in 2 vans and headed for Lake Naivasha at 8:30 or so.  We stopped at the scenic overlook at the Great Rift Valley and the new members of the teams seemed to really like it.  We had to stop once on the way to the lake when a herd of wild zebras decided to cross the road.  I’m hoping a few of the snapshots of that mayhem are good enough to post here.  The safari this time was heavy on lots of incredible birds in flight and in trees, nests, etc. pictures as well as some great encounters with hippos.  During our 2 hour boat ride, we saw several sets of African Fish Eagles (which are very similar to our bald eagles) and were blessed when one came down from the tree tops to snatch a fish from the water that one of our guides had enticed him with.  First the guide whistles to get the bird of prey’s attention and waves the fish in a large arcing motion to fix the eagle’s eyes on the prize.  Then, with any luck, we get an opportunity to take some nice shots.  Only one out of three succumbed to the temptation.  They were either not hungry and/or other boats had gotten there before us.  We were not able to get out and walk around on the island with the animals.  Recent rains had drastically raised the lake levels and the lush green new vegetation hid the land animals from view pretty well.  We only saw a few water bucks and gazelles.  We had a nice lunch at the lodge on the lake under the trees on what was a gorgeous morning/early afternoon.  Following lunch, we headed back to the city and saw many large herds of sheep, goats and cattle that were not in view earlier in the day.  We were also rewarded by a pretty large colony of baboons gathered along side of the road and we stopped to take their portraits.  We got back to our lodgings at round 3 and I went to get some rest while others went to the Nakumatt a block away to shop or did other things.  Evening worship was to be at 5pm, but the children’s choir from the church in Kibera went to the wrong convent and then proceeded to get stuck in traffic.  Worship didn’t start til well after 6pm with the singing of several hyms and a powerful sermon on the Great Commissionby John Maina, the head of the Lutheran Hour Missions in Kenya.  He touched both first time mission trip members and old-timers alike as he explained why we do what we do and under what authority.  The choir finally arrived and sang, dinner was very late and I was back to my room around 8:30pm. 
If you see this Saturday afternoon in Texas, I have succeeded in transferring the text once again to the cell phone and invoking the process described above.  Sometimes, blogging can be hard work, particularly at the end of a long day when you’re fighting jet lag.  If you see it Sunday, you’ll know I had to wait until Sunday late in the afternoon here n Kenya to post it from Rosa Mystic after church, lunch and shopping for our supplies for the week.  Blessings everybody!

Friday, April 25, 2014

4-25-2014 Travel to Nairobi and a remarkable woman

Everlyn and Dave on British Air to Nairobi

We did depart London as planned right on schedule.  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 Evelyn 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!
I passed blank Kenyan visa forms out to our team members and encouraged everyone to use mine as a template, so at least we are on the same page and ahead of the game when we get to the airport in Nairobi.  It is always kind of a madhouse upon our arrival.  First, we all need to get visas with the current price being $50.  Once we clear that hurdle, there are footlockers and baggage to gather up and conversion of some our team petty cash and personal money to Kenyan shillings.  For more than 30 people to make it through all these steps without some delays would be unusual.  Then, we have to clear customs with all of our supplies and luggage, which can take a while as well.  Next, is getting all of our stuff to the vehicles that will transport us to the Little Daughters of St. Joseph lodgings that will be our base of operations until Sunday morning.  Finally, there will be unloading and claiming all of our belongings, getting a briefing on room assignments and timing of Saturday morning’s activities, grabbing a shower and going to bed, probably somewhere in the ballpark of 1am local time.
Stay tuned for more stories of anything unusual that happens during our arrival as well as a report on Saturday’s activities and the worship we share in with the other teams that is always late Saturday afternoon, since many of the teams won’t be able to worship with the congregations they will serve with because they will be traveling to outlying areas.

Made it to Nairobi OK

It's after 1am here. We have a safari in the morning. Wrote a story on my laptop on the plane but it won't connect to the wifi here right now so I'm posting this from my phone. Blessings. More to follow as I'm able.

Let the Mission Trip Begin!

4/24/14 - It’s time to go to Nairobi once again for a vision clinic in the slum of Kibera with a team of 11 from Redeemer.  All of the endless details of the last few months including recruiting veteran and new team members, arranging airfare, taking inventory, ordering supplies and packing up and weighing footlockers, etc. have come to fruition.  It’s finally time for action!

I got to Redeemer at 8am to finish packing and getting footlockers loaded into Kevin’s truck.  Merilee was already there and helped us.  She, Jane, Kevin and I drove to Manor where we met the rest of the Austin team members,  Howard, Martha, Ralph, Louise and Caroline at the 290 CafĂ©.  We caravanned to Brenham for our traditional Blue Bell stop and then drove to Houston, arriving at Bush International at about 12:15.  We waited for Salem footlockers and other team members to arrive.  I finally met Shirley in person, she had come in from Colorado the night before and we shared a laugh or two. I gave her some additional orientation material to read on the flights.  We all made it through security very smoothly and without any incidents for once.  Even me.  Given my history, this is nothing short of remarkable.  I had the privilege of having a late lunch around 2pm with Paul Althoff and Kevin Pieper, of the Vision for Kenya project leadership from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball and two new team members from Selma.  Good food and good company.  It’s always nice to get recharged by breaking bread with the committed people we have the privilege of serving with.  BA Flight 194 took off right on time at 4:30pm.  We did experience a little turbulence over much of the US, so the Fasten Seat Belt light was lit for the most part.  Dinner was served about an hour into the flight, a choice between mac and cheese or chicken curry.  I sat next to an interesting young engineer who got orders at the last minute to fly to Norway.  His Houston based company works on capping off oil wells in such a way that if a blowout occurs, the well can continue producing without any leakage while a fix is put into place. Real nice guy, he was interested in what we would be doing in Kenya.

4/25/14 We arrived in London about 15 minutes early, but had to circle before landing.  Security was very strict, including some members of our team getting wanded after a full body scan.  Our bags were also gone over much more meticulously than usual.  I’m glad for the sense of safety this gives us all, even if it is inconvenient and even a little embarrassing at times.  I’m writing this as I drink a cup of strong black coffee at Pret’s, a coffe and sandwich shop at Heathrow.  It’s very good and is right next to a Starbucks.  It’s a little less pricey.

Our next flight, British Air 65, should lift off about 10:50am.  We’ll get to Nairobi about 9pm, gather up our luggage and get our visa and money changed to Kenyan shillings.  For our group of 35 or so, I expect all of this will take until about 10:30 and we should be at our lodgings, the Little Daughters of St. Joseph, around midnight.  Most of us will be going on a photo safari out at Lake Naivasha early Saturday morning, some will just stay at the lodge, while others will do local activities in around Nairobi.  I expect to be back at our lodge by late afternoon and, depending on the availability of an Internet connection, I may be able to post another story then.  We will be 8 hours ahead of Austin time, so you may see something here Saturday.  Anyway, all is well here so far and we are hoping the rest of the trip is just as uneventful (Pastor Kevin’s favorite word on one of these missions!).  Thanks to everyone for keeping us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission and for your gifts of  your time, talents and treasure that have made this project possible for the last 7 years.