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!!!