Sunday, May 31, 2015

Monday and it's time to go to work!

We did have dinner with Catherine and Eugene last night at Rosa Mystica.  It was a buffet, with potatoes, rice, kale, cole slaw, liver chicken and watermelon for dessert.  It was satisfying and I was glad the team all got to get to meet Catherine, our incredible coordinator in Nairobi for our Vision for Africa Project.  We shared a lot of laughs about old times and she updated us on what to expect in Kibera this week.

We will be getting an early breakfast in a few minutes and then it’s off to work.  We’ll spend the first 30-45 minutes getting all 7 of the stations of the clinic ready to go.  Then we’ll have a devotional with our volunteers and Pastor.  We are hoping to borrow a guitar for William to do a couple of praise songs with the group and then we’ll begin to see patients.  It will be good to see some of our old doctor friends and meet a couple of new doctor faces to start the day.  More to follow after we make a start on the week.  Thank you Jesus for calling us to do this evangelism/vision clinic!  It’s to your glory that we have come to do it!  Amen.

Sunday worship and other goings on

As expected, we were greeted by many of our old friends when we arrive at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church for services this morning.  Our new team members quickly got the idea that the Kenyan people are a very warm and friendly bunch.  Kailey and Amanda made many new friends with the little children, it was heartwarming to see.  We veterans were blessed to see our dear friends Bishop Bakari Kea, Sylvester Opiyo, our evangelist Francis, Emmanuel and a long list of volunteers from previous clinics we have put on in Kibera.  There was lots of joy all around.  Ray and Flora’s team and Rev. Dale Schneider’s team were also on hand before heading out to their missions.  As always, the worship was quite a moving experience.  The Holy Spirit was abundantly present in the music of the various choirs singing a variety of Kenyan and Tanzanian songs as well as praise songs and a Lutheran Hymn or two.  Bishop Kea had each of the team leaders address the congregation to tell a little about each of our teams and our missions this week.  He also wanted us to sing for the church, so I quickly let the others know how much Bakari loves the Doxology, and since every Lutheran knows it, our group of about 20 sang it three times for them in full voice, with our well known 4 part Lutheran harmony and a hearty Amen after the third time through.  It felt good and didn’t sound half bad.  The worship lasted about three hours, with a sermon that was delivered in English by Bishop Kea on the John 15 theme of the vine and the branches.  It was a powerful call to bear fruit as a witness to our faith.  A returning missionary who had been stationed in Somalia supplied the translation in Swahili and also said a few words later including that “the safest place to be is in the middle of God’s will”, a wonderful and true statement if I ever heard one.  He’s living proof, as he was in a dangerous place for some time.  We concluded our worship with sharing of God’s peace in a large circle outside of the church and a blessing by Pastor Dale.  We stayed for about a half hour afterwards to continue renewing and making new acquaintances. 

We came back to Rosa Mystica and mine and Laura’s luggage had arrived, while William, Amanda and Ralph were still out of luck, with a promise that more luggage would be delivered Monday.  I’m loaning t-shirts and socks to William and Amanda, Howard is taking care of Ralph.  If Ralph’s stuff arrives tomorrow, he may still join the team he was going to serve with east of Nakuru, about 3 hours from the city.  If not, he’s a welcome addition to our team.  We got freshened up and went to Java House for lunch, many of us had English Fish and Chips, others had Tex-Mex and several other menu items.  It’s like Starbucks but with a full menu.  The food and fellowship were good as we sat in the outdoor portion of the restaurant.  The only thing missing was Catherine, who was tied up with one of the other teams.  She and Eugene are joining us for dinner tonight.  More to follow later, please keep your prayers for a safe and effective mission coming our way!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday at the Nairobi Game Park and the rest of our day

When we got done freshening up a bit at Rosa Mystica, it was pretty apparent that the trip out to Lake Naivasha was out of the question.  First, it’s a nearly 3 hour round trip and we didn’t want to cut the photo safari short.  Second, it was raining in Nairobi and there had been plentiful rain lately at Naivasha, meaning we probably wouldn’t be able to walk around with the animals on the island, a highpoint of that trip when it’s possible.  So, we decided to go to the Nairobi National Game Park near the airport on the outskirts of town and I’m glad we did.  While it remained overcast, we never really got ourselves or our camera gear wet in the two popup vans we took, four to a van.  We saw all the usual giraffes, water buffalo, various elans, antelopes, gazelles, zebras, etc as well as many bird species I know I’ll spend hours identifying.  We also had a couple of firsts for me.  A python laying across the road blocked our way for quite a while until Jackson stirred it into slithering back into the grass by throwing some small pebbles its way.  We also saw a large turtle walking down the side of the road and he was making decent time for a turtle!  I took over 600 pictures, I’m sure the group has a couple thousand more and I will post some as bandwidth allows, meaning maybe not until we are back in the states and I spend a week or two culling through all of our images from this mission trip to narrow things down to the top 300-400 shots as usual.  I’m sure there are some stunners.  I got several of Ibises in flight and we saw a tree full of Superb Starlings, very colorful birds indeed.  Stay tuned for that.

After the safari, we returned once again to Rosa Mystica for a little freshening up and then made our way to the Junction Mall across the street and ate at the food court.  Many of us had various kinds of pizza and William had Chinese food that looked pretty good.  Afterwards, those uof us without our luggage did some shopping for underwear, socks, toiletries and the like and decided to stay clear of stocking up on clothes like shirts and pants and have faith that our baggage would actually get here Sunday.  I rinsed my stuff in the shower and am wearing damp clothes as I write this early Sunday morning.  Ah, the glamorous life of the missionary!

We will be having breakfast here shortly and will head over to Kibera to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church for worship.  I know the newcomers will be blown away by the presence of the Holy Spirit at these services.  I’m looking forward to it myself.  More to follow as time permits!  Blessings on your day!

Flight to Nairobi and what awaited us there

I met a man from Nairobi, Kiprop Lagat, who was traveling back from business in Paris.  He was very interesting, he had a PhD in History and had worked at museums throughout Nairobi for 17 years, first as a curator and then in administration.  We had a great conversation about our cultural differences, how missions can do more harm than good if not handled properly and a whole range of other topics. We exchanged business cards at the end of our time together and I hope to stay in correspondence with him.  Our time together was a blessing and would not have occurred without the events leading up to it.  I guess you do just bloom where you’re planted and good things happen.

The flight to Nairobi was kind of surreal.  The lights were never really dimmed very much, strange for a flight that finally took to the air around 2am.  As with our other Turkish Air flight, a chef, a female this time in full white smock and chef’s hat, made her way down the aisle before liftoff.  Our previous flight had been on a bigger plane and we never saw that chef again, figuring he was pre-occupied with first class passengers.  On our flight, we were awakened to a full meal at around 4am and our chef was helping to serve drinks.  She did it with gusto, flipping bottles and glasses as she worked, reminding me a little bit of the act in a Japanese steakhouse.  I wasn’t sure if I really saw this or it was only part of the bad dream our travel had become.  

We were relieved when we finally got to Nairobi around 8:30am, nearly 12 hours and a lot of wear and tear after our original plan.  I went through Customs first to clear the way for the team and our footlockers were there right away on the baggage carousel.  I quickly flung them out of the way and got them stacked up.  As the rest of the team joined me to wait for our luggage, Howard and Martha’s bags appeared right away.  Not so good for the rest of us, our baggage had been lost.  We spent the better part of the next hour filing claims for it and making sure that it would be delivered to Rosa Mystica, our lodgings for the next week at a Catholic convent.  It was after 10am when we finally met our drivers.  One was Jackson, one of our best drivers over the years for the weekend excursions and for working with clinics throughout Kenya.  The other was to drive a truck with our belongings, what little there were, and our clinic supplies to the convent.  We got there, checked in and took 15 minutes to freshen up before regrouping to decide what could be salvaged of our first day in Nairobi.  Thank you Jesus for our safe travel and for the mostly graceful way we worked with everyone that was placed in front of us in a trying 2 days of travel.

The Istanbul Airport

We arrived at Istanbul with a little over an hour and a half to go before our final leg to Nairobi and then were out on the runway for several minutes.  We then were let off the plane and down some steps onto the tarmac, so our team can honestly say we’ve been on Turkish soil.  It never was on my bucket list, but we did it just the same.  Once on the ground, we were herded to a waiting bus and started towards the terminal.  All of a sudden, there was a lot of plane and equipment activity on the ground and we sat for the better part of 15 minutes as we all wondered if we would miss yet another flight and be stranded in Turkey for the night.  Once we finally got to the terminal at a little before midnight, we were greeted with a sea of humanity.  Every square inch of the airport seemed to be taken up by people, many of whom had been stranded there for long periods of time.  One guy had been waiting since 7am in the airport and was very vocal about it with the gate agents, who obviously had no control over the situation.  As it worked out, our plane left for Nairobi at least an hour and a half late, so we finally had hopes of ending our travel adventure within the next 12 hours.  Only one 6 or 7 hour flight to go!

Flight out of Heathrow or I never thought I'd find myself in Istanbul!

Our plane to Istanbul didn't have a gate assignment with only half an hour before scheduled take off.  The automated screens said 'Please wait' and warned us not to make the 15 minute walk to our possible gate, B41, until instructed to do so. We double checked with a gate agent who acted like we were crazy for believing the screen after he thought it was B41.  As it turned out, our plane was late arriving from Istanbul and needed fueling and cleaning.  We departed Heathrow about 45 minutes late. We had a 3 hour Istanbul layover and now that's tightening up.  We are due for some better luck.

We did have the blessing of meeting a wonderful young woman named Madison when we were in line at Heathrow getting switched over to Turkish Air. She was obviously distraught and near tears. She was also a victim of our late flight from DFW and couldn't get any cooperatIon in making her way to Kurgistan, where she was going to study Russian in an intense 10 week course. She had a cross necklace and an Aggie tshirt on when we first saw her and Amanda immediately began to comfort her.  We all tried to help her resolve a horrible first time experience with international travel.  Her big adventure seemed to be going up in flames.  We spent the whole layover with her and had lunch at a restaurant that had great pot pies and soups. She is on the flight to Istanbul with us and will spend the night there before figuring out her next move.  She has been a blessing to us and we have enjoyed getting to know her and being there for her.  I was right.  God did place Madison and the team in each other’s company for a reason. We exchanged contact info with her and we are all interested in how her time in Kurgistan works out. Thank you, Jesus!

We will soon be having dinner. It starts with Smoked salmon with yogurt potato salad, a choice of Turkish style minced beef or stuffed eggplant with chicken followed by cheese cake and a choice of oven fresh breads.  It sounds good, anyway.  And, now that I’ve eaten it sometime later, it was indeed good.

Friday, May 29, 2015

More Fun at Heathrow

We arrived at Heathrow about half an hour after our flight to Nairobi had boarded and was probably already on it's way.  We've been switched over to Turkish Airways and have to fly to Istanbul at 4:30pm London time,  This is another 6 hour layover now here in London and we will have have a four hour layover in Istanbul and then will take a flight at about 1:00 am to Nairobi, arriving at around 7:30am.  We will set a new record for the longest trip by a Redeemer team, which isn't easy, considering our problems on one of the trips caused by the volcano in Iceland.  I have been trying to reach our friend Catherine in Nairobi to alert her to our situation.  We could conceivably still go out to Lake Naivasha directly from the airport if she can arrange for our luggage to be delivered to our hotel.

Hurray! I just got an email from Catherine and all might not be lost.  She's working on us still doing our usual activities Saturday since we really do need to get used to Kenyan time.  If we can sleep from Istanbul to Nairobi, it might not be too bad.  It'll just be tough not getting a shower until Saturday afternoon.  Travel is glamorous!

I'll be able to cross Istanbul off of my bucket list now, wait a minute, it wasn't there!  Our big hurdle now is whether American Airlines can manage to get our luggage to Turkish Air.  If nothing else major happens, this should all work out pretty well, considering what's happened so far.

Please pray for travel mercies and I'll post another report as soon as I can.  

Travel Woes at DFW

We had a nearly four hour extra layover at DFW due to mechanical problems our plane experienced in London prior to coming to pick us up. We are half an hour from landing in London and our flight to Nairobi is scheduled to board 10 minutes later. Impossible with security taking up to an hour or more. I've already prayed for a miracle or that the Lord would use us as witnesses to others in all of this. My understanding at this point is that we would probably have about a 12 hour layover and be put on a Kenyan Airways flight that arrives Saturday morning.  I'd hate for my new team members to miss our long awaited Lake Naivasha photo safari. Time will tell.

I managed to get four or five hours of pretty good sleep on the flight and feel ready to do battle with whatever we face at the airport.  The flight was rough and the fasten seat belt sign wasn't dimmed until less than an hour to touch down.  Our plane is a 777-300 and had ample leg room, newer seats that recline more and the food was better than British Air. These flights were booked through BA but we've flown American so far. I had chicken and rice for dinner and it was pretty good. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 28 Travel to Dallas

William and I met Pastor Kevin at Redeemer this morning around 8:30 to load up the footlockers for the trip in Kevin’s truck, get the paperwork together that we would need for the mission and hand over the petty cash that we will need for incidental expenses.  We drove to the airport and met the rest of the team at the American Airlines check-in counter.  We got our luggage and supplies cecked and then found out that our flight to Dallas would be delayed by about 25 minutes.  This turned out not to matter much to us, since our Dallas to London leg of the trip has been delayed by about 3 hours.  We will now arrive in London around 9am local time and only have about an hour and  a half at the most to get to our terminal, clear security and board the flight to Nairobi.  It should be interesting.  During our time here at DFW, William was excited because he found a Bennigan’s and was able to get a Monte Cristo sandwich, one of his favorites.  He met the rest of us at TGI Friday’s, where we had a leisurely lunch.  

The team at DFW TGI Friday's

William's infatuation

The menu looked like it had the British pound sign next to all of the prices and we had a good laugh at Ralph’s expense when He asked our waitress what the exchange rate is.  Wishful thinking, we still have a long flight to London ahead of us tonight.  This is the flight that we encourage the team to sleep on as much as possible, since it will help with overcoming the 8 hour difference between Austin and Nairobi.  We are all very excited to finally be enroute to this latest mission to bring our vision clinic to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in the slum of Kibera.  More to follow as our trip progresses. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Team was Commissioned at Redeemer at all three Services on Sunday

The team and I were blessed by the congregation at all of our services this past Sunday as we were being sent again into the mission field.  I got to say a few words about our mission and then Pastor Kevin prayed over the mission team.  After the third service, we all got to meet various members of the other's families and I'm sure that it gave those not familiar with the Vision for Africa project the comfort of knowing that our safety is of the highest importance and that this will be an incredible experience as we go around the world to serve people in the name of Jesus.  The pictures shown here and in the link below are just the beginning of the photo album for this mission.  I hope you like them.  Stay tuned to this space.  We will report on our comings and goings as our communications allow.  Please keep a safe and effective mission in your prayers.

Spring 2015 Kenya Mission

Pastor Kevin explains our mission to Kibera

Dave gives a bit of history about the vision clinics

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Time to Saddle Up again!

We're a little over a week away from our next mission to Kenya to do a vision clinic as part of Vision for Africa.  Our Redeemer team is blessed to have 2 educators with us this time, William and Amanda.  We are going later in May than we've ever gone just so we could include some teachers, college students, etc.  Kailey has just finished finals and will also be with us.  While this causes the airfares to be a little more, since we're bumping up against the tourist season, it is balanced out by more people being able to come with us at this time of year.

We will be serving at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in the slum of Kibera.  We have many friends there, as we've done multiple clinics at this location since the first team that I led there in the Spring of 2010.  School in Kenya runs year round, they have 3 terms of 3 months each with a month off in between.  The church school is in session, so in addition to helping with the vision clinic, our teachers should be able to interact with the students and teachers and bring another kind of blessing to our friends at the church.

We hope to serve between 3,000 to 5,000 people during the week of the clinic.  All who come will have the Gospel shared with them as they enter the church grounds.  During the vision clinic, they will receive distance glasses, reading glasses, referrals for cataract and other eye surgeries and medications from our team of three to four local Kenyan doctors.  And, everyone will be prayed over individually as their vision needs are addressed.  It's quite an experience to behold!

I am thrilled to have a team this time that is a mix of veterans and first timers.  The veterans will help with getting the clinic up and running smoothly and will renew old friendships.  The newcomers will give us old hands the blessing of seeing their excitement, and we will draw on their energy and their sense of awe as they realize that they have heeded the Lord's call on their lives and as it dawns on them that they really are in Africa!  It can be a little surreal.  I love to see the look on their faces when they spot their first giraffe, zebra or hippo.  We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!

Stay tuned.  I will try to publish daily reports as long as we have Internet and electricity, both of which can be spotty at times.  We always have a local Kenyan cell phone and are able to phone home to let our families know we have arrived safely in Nairobi on the first Friday night there.  Please keep us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission as we share the love of Christ by helping to take care of the many human needs we will encounter.