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!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

5-3 and 5-4-2014 Final Day in Kenya and Travel

We had a hurried breakfast before the safari because the kitchen staff had to clean up from a rather loud group of about 25 that arrived after 10pm that was also pretty loud while having a meal around 4am before departing for wherever they went.  It made for a short night of fitful sleep.  At least for once in wasn’t ugly Americans, the group clearly was being noisy in Swahili! Our 6:45 scheduled meal turned into after 7am and we scrambled to get to the Nairobi National Game Park on the outskirts of town.  Our driver from during the week, Stephen and I paid the fees for our group and the van to enter the park.  We spotted some giraffes and zebras right away, but Stephen sped past them, much to the group’s dismay.  I knew what was up, he had been alerted to several lions nearby by other drivers over the CB radio.  People love to see giraffes, but they don’t realize if it’s their initial trip to Kenya that getting to get up close and personal with some lions doesn’t happen more than once every 3 or 4 trips.  I got some great pictures in the warm yellow early morning light with my 55-300mm Nikon zoom lens on my DSLR camera, but they seemed a little cloudy.I soon found out why.  I had taken the lens from the warmer drier room into the relatively cool and more humid van and condensation had formed inside the lens.  A good lens has 9 or more elements or lenses within it and this is not good.  If not dried out quickly, mold can form and render the lens ruined.  I removed it from the camera and it road in the sunshine on the dash the rest of the morning. I switched to my standard 18-55mm kit lens and continued shooting.  The good news is that with a 24MP camera like I have, I can crop and zoom in quite a bit on the rest of the pictures and get good results.  We saw almost every bird and animal I had ever seen at this park with the exceptions of the saddle-billed stork and the rhino.  Considering Nairobi had been getting rain, which scatters the animals to higher ground when water is plentiful and it means the grass and other vegetation is much taller and thicker making the animals harder to spot, we had a very successful morning indeed. 
After the safari, we went to the Veranda restaurant and gift shop as planned and had a great lunch.  Charles and Shirley had a dish made out of a huge avocado, Michelle had fired prawns and Stephen and I each had fish and chips.  We went back to the Little Sisters lodge around 2:30pm and waited for the arrival of the Salem team.  They ran a little late and got in around 4pm.  We loaded up our luggage and footlockers in a truck, said our fond farewells to Catherine and headed for the airport a little earlier than planned, around 6pm, because of reports of heavy traffic.  Getting though security was uneventful and we waited about 3 hours to board, sharing meals and stories with other teams at the Java House in the airport.  We took off on time around midnight, our next stop will be early Sunday morning in London.  Dinner was served about 45 minutes after takeoff and the choice was fish or beef. I had the beef, which was actually pretty good.  Then it was lights out, except for those who were reading.  I got a fair amount of sleep, but it was a little more difficult than it needed to be.  A large blonde German man, maybe in his 50’s, came and forced himself into the middle seat next to me.  He wanted more leg room.  He overflowed his seat in both directions.  He was a nice enough guy, but didn’t speak a word of English and I’m no whiz at Deutsch.  I had done it the right way, having gotten up at midnight Friday to choose my seat online.  I got to meet another character in my life. 
As I write this, we are about an hour and a half from London. The cabin lights have just been turned on and the crew is beginning to distribute special meals to passengers who requested them.  A small box breakfast can’t be too far behind.  I was right, the breakfast consisted of a croissant with tomato in it, a Frosted Flakes bar, strawberry yogurt and coffee.  I gave my yogurt to the German guy and another lady from Nairobi gave hers to him as well.  He won the lottery on this flight. 
We arrived at Heathrow about 5 minutes late after circling for about 15 minutes waiting for a landing slot.  Everyone cleared the heightened security smoothly this time and set about to having breakfast with old friends from past missions, shopping or just lazing around.  We have about 2 hours until we need to worry about a gate assignment and checking in for British Air Flight 195 to Houston.  More to follow and plenty of pictures soon after we return to Austin.  Thank you Jesus!

Friday, May 2, 2014

5-2-2014 The Kibera clinic finishes with a bang!

We had our usual breakfast of chicken sausage, cold cereal with hot milk, eggs to order by our cook, fruit, bread, juice and instant coffee or tea.  We were running a little early, so a stop was made at Java House for some real coffee for those that wished.  We arrived and setup the clinic in record time.  I did a devotion based on the one in the Portals of Prayer for today about happiness.  It was based on the Beatitudes and especially about “blessed are the poor in spirit”.  I modified it a bit to compare and contrast worldly happiness with the joy that we Christians have and share that is not based on circumstances but on our relationship with a loving God who gave us an empty tomb to ponder and be amazed by.  Our morning was very steady and we were at slightly over 300 patients in the clinic by noon.  Looming gray clouds threatened all day, but it never rained.  Knowing we would shut down a little early to celebrate the clinic with the volunteers after packing our gear, I never dreamed that we would be blessed with another day bigger than the previous one.  At a little after 4pm, we quit taking in any patients and ended the day at 586 and the week at 2711 people that got vision treatment and the Gospel.  125 people proclaimed Jesus as Lord and the angels are having a big celebration in heaven!

After packing up, we awarded our certificates of appreciation to our volunteers, the evangelists and Pastor James, with each getting their photo taken with me and the Pastor.  The congregation serenaded us with a blessing song and we sang the Doxology for them.  Simultaneous tearful and joyful goodbyes were said, hugs and promises to come back were said.  We loaded up our footlockers into a truck headed for Little Sisters.  We got back to Rosa Mystica, got cleaned up and were ready to walk to the Junction to eat at an Italian restaurant when a torrential downpour began.  We were blessed all week by rain holding off during the amazing clinic and I think the Lord wanted us to know that he had held it at bay for us.  We took 2 cabs the block and a half to the Junction and enjoyed a great meal with Catherine.  Some had baked lasagna, Catherine had a spring chicken, Shirley had veal, Michelle enjoyed a lobster and I had calamari and shrimp with chips (British for French fries).
I am finishing packing up because Charles, Michelle, Shirley and I will be doing a safari in the morning at the National Game Park and need to take our stuff with us.  Afterwards, we will lunch and shop at the Veranda restaurant and gift shop.  Evelyn, the Godly woman from the plane ride from London to Nairobi, has just called and is going to meet us, along with her husband, for lunch as well.  What a blessing that will be.  Howard, Martha and Jane will laze around tomorrow morning, shop at the Junction and will meet up with us later at Little Sisters before we depart for the airport.  I may have one more story before we leave Nairobi, depending on Internet access and how much time I have.  Otherwise, I expect to be able to make another post from Heathrow early Saturday morning London time.  We have had a dream clinic and I praise God that everyone worked well together and we all stayed healthy, despite all the ways one can fall ill from food or drink during any foreign travel.  Many miracles occurred this week and, even though we’re all dog tired, I am already getting excited about coming back to Nairobi in the fall to continue our ministry.  Thanks be to God!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

5-1-2014 Thursday evening before bed, what a day!

We were able to get some good Starbucks type coffee at Java House on our way to the clinic this morning, what a nice change of pace from Nescafe.  Because of the May Day holiday, traffic was even less than the lighter than usual traffic of the school break had been so far.  Pastor James led a devotion after a nice song was sung by all and we got to work right away.  Once again, we only had around 250 patients by noon.  This time, I didn’t doubt God’s power to finish out the day and when He was done, we had served 577 patients.  Our grand total for the week is now over 2100 people who have been helped with vision problems and all have been prayed over individually and given a Gospel presentation. 

I have just returned with Howard and Martha from Catherine’s mother’s house for dinner.  Her brother, his wife, a daughter and a granddaughter were there and our driver Stephen joined us also.  The food was marvelous, with chapatti bread, spinach, a dish made from potatoes and peas about the consistency of mashed potatoes and greenish in color, some meat, green beans, rice and some other dishes.  It was serve yourself and we ate very well.  The only thing better than the meal was the fellowship.  A good time was had by all and our exhausted crew ended the night with me being asked to pray for Mama’s health concerns and for the group as a whole.  Afterwards, Mama finished the night off with a beautiful prayer in Swahili.  Even though we didn’t understand much of it, it was very powerful and it had an exquisite rhythm to it.  She is truly a woman of God.  Catherine later told us it was a sweet prayer beyond all measure.  What a special way to end a perfect evening!
The rest of the team went to the Junction Mall next to Rosa Mystica for dinner and some shopping with the exception of Jane.  She had eaten a big lunch late in the afternoon with the volunteers, a special treat indeed.  The Holy Spirit had also used her in a mighty way as she witnessed to many people in every situation she was in.  An unchurched man came to Jesus as his Lord and Savior during her time with him and she was on Cloud 9 after that.  I'm sure God moved in many more situations during the day among us, this is just one special one that I'm aware of.  What a blessing.
It’s been a long day and we have a very full one tomorrow, first running the clinic, then deciding when to shut down so that we see as many patients as possible while still allowing us to pack up all of our supplies and equipment, have an awards ceremony for our volunteers and still leave in time for Merrilee to be ready to leave our lodgings for the airport at 7pm for her flight to London and then back to the U.S. for her grandson's Confirmation this coming Sunday.  We will be on a safari Saturday morning at the local game park, will have a nice lunch and do some shopping and then will gather the teams up at Little Sisters (Daughters?, we keep hearing it both ways) of St. Joseph prior to our heading to the airport as a group.  More reports to follow as I have the time and Internet access.  Lights out!  I need some rest… Thank you, Jesus!