Friday, November 20, 2015
From a December 2014 post:
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 would 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.’
Monday, November 16, 2015
I put the footlockers in my garage, moved my luggage into the house, got a hot shower, added a few lines to the blog and then crashed about 8:30 pm. I actually did pretty well for a first night back and slept until 3 am. I'll probably make it until 4 am tomorrow morning and finally 5 am or so on Wednesday morning, which is pretty close to my usual routine. My 16 year old cat was very unhappy with me for being gone so long, but she finally calmed down around midnight. I really thank my good friends Jom and Kathy Binneboese for wathcing my house, getting the mail, feeding the cat and taking care of cat box duties while I was away. It takes a village...
I planned on taking today to decompress a bit and get a work schedule laid out for the rest of the week, as well as doing mid-month invoicing. ATT had a different plan. I looked through my snail mail and had received a letter stating that if I didn't pay a past due amount by November 13th, (which has been in dispute since June and which ATT has admitted was charged in error), my service would be cut off. They were true to their word. No Internet, no phone and no TV when I got up. It took exactly one hour and five minutes on the phone with a very nice lady in Pakistan to get it turned back on. It's kind of hard to run a computer repair business without a phone or Internet connection! I was promised it would be taken care of, but I've heard that now for 5 months in a row. The disputed charge for equipment I never ordered and had returned right away is the gift that keeps on giving. ATT has a record of receiving the item, but can't seem to remove it from their account system. My agreement is up in February and I WILL be shopping around.
I also changed my credit card info on a half a dozen vendor and service accounts that I have auto-pay options for. I found another $600 divided among 4 fraudulent charges on the cancelled credit card account and spent more time on the phone with Citibank about those items, three were at Autozone and one was at O'Reilly Auto Parts on November 12th, right after the legitimate charge was made at the restaurant in Nairobi. What a mess...
I did learn through Alison that the Salem teams arrived in Houston with very few team leaders, but managed to get all of their footlockers and luggage OK. Also, Paul, Kevin and Catherine had been able to get out of Nairobi after all on Saturday night and had traveled back to Houston by way of Germany, arriving as the Salem teams finished getting their baggage. Thank you Jesus! I guess one of the themes of this trip was leaders getting separated from their teams. In each case, everyone picked up the slack and it all worked out in the end.
Keep an eye on the blog, I'll be adding more stories and pictures for the foreseeable future. The team is all thankful for a great clinic, it was well worth the challenges we overcame. Seeing old friends and making new ones, serving the people of Kawangware and spending time in Nairobi far outweigh any inconveniences. Plus, we have some stories now and it will all look funny after a while! As usual, I'll let the trip sink in for a few weeks and will right a final reflection on what it meant to us. That is easier after a little time passes and we have a different perspective. Thanks again for all the prayers for a successful mission and for our safety during our travels to and from Africa.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
We got through the security almost without incident, my autorefractor shot right through, while they examined and swabbed the one Sandra was carrying for explosives. We thanked the security people for keeping us safe. With our long layover, it was easier not to get testy at delays.
I switched over to my laptop here at the airport, they have free unlimited wifi that is pretty fast, and premium speeds for a fee. Much easier to write with a keyboard and wireless mouse. The Zochs have gone to check out the terminal, while we stayed here in a coffee shop 10 gates away to relax for a while, email our families and post updates on Facebook and here on the mission blog.
I was able to gather up all of mine and Sandra's pictures and will see what the Zochs can share. I also have some great pictures my friends Barrack, Frank and Jarrod got around the clinic and in the immediate neighborhood that no "muzungu" (Swahili descriptive term for white person) could ever get because the situation would change by our mere presence. I'll begin posting some pictures soon after our return and hope to have a completed nice album to share well before Christmas so our team can share with their families over the holidays. That's all for now, I'm praying my next post is from Austin. If it's from Paris, it means we had some more travel fun. Keep those prayers coming!
Our flight from Nairobi left about 45 minutes late, but we've made up for it and will arrive in Paris on time. It is a pretty full plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Kenya Airways. This is my first time flying with them. The food and the service have been very good. Dinner shortly after takeoff was a choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian. I had the beef with mashed potatoes, green beans and then strawberry shortcake for dessert. They occasionally bring a refreshing cold wipe for your hands and face. I like that about as well as the hot towels on KLM. We just had a light breakfast of a croissant, yogurts and fruit salad. At this point, we're about an hour from Paris and are not sure what to expect. We have a four and a half hour layover, so even if security is very heavy, we should make our Air France flight to Houston. From what I have read so far, the French are determined to keep all flights operational. I say good for them. If that wasn't the case, the bad guys have won.
The only glitch I'm aware of for our travel so far is we understand that the Salem leaders, Paul, Kevin and Catherine got bumped from their very full KLM flight to Amsterdam. There seems to be a theme here, teams arriving without their leaders. The other teams arrive in Houston about 45 minutes after we do, and Alison is with them. I'm hoping she clears Customs about the time we're loading my truck for the ride back to Redeemer with the footlockers, since she's riding with me. I'm glad to have her since after the long journey a second driver can be a Godsend. There have been times I've made it to Giddings or Elgin and had to pull over for a short truckers nap.
I'm writing this on my smartphone, so please pardon typos and weird spellchecker grammar that may have crept in. Hopefully, I'll be able to post this and more from Paris.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Friday, November 13, 2015
We breakfasted and got to the clinic a little early, where Pastor James prayed over us and the day ahead and we began work. It was pretty steady all day long, and when we finished, we had the usual 300 or so patients, even with a day shortened by packing up the foot lockers and recognizing our volunteers for a job well done. We finished the week with 1546 patients having been served and exposed to the saving Gospel message, a respectable number given how rainy it has been. At the closing of this clinic, rather than award Certificates of Appreciation, we gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste to everyone. Sandra had brought these supplies from her dentist and we got pictures of everyone individually getting their dental supplies from Sandra, Dr. Zoch and Diana. It was a nice change of pace.
We said our goodbyes and our "until we meet agains" and got back to Rosa Mystica. Our driver Mambo walked Sandra to Kentucky Fried Chicken nearby where she bought dinner for the two of them, I believe the Zochs rested until the 7 pm dinner at the compound and I got a shower and went over to Java House for a quiet dinner by myself before going back to Mediterraneo to let the manager know what had happened with my credit card. It was all cordial, the damage had already been done, I was just trying to give him the courtesy of informing him of a possible problem with his staff or their credit processing procedures. I said Hakuna Matata ("no worries" for you Lion King fans) and came back to my room to write this blog post, check into my flight for tomorrow night and to begin packing, since we are checking out in the morning.
Tomorrow morning, the team will breakfast at Rosa Mystica from 7 to 8 am and then Sandra, our friend Barrack and myself will head out to Lake Naivasha for a photo safari with Mambo as our driver. The Zochs chose to remain at Rosa Mystica until he has to check out the condition of our dental equipment stored in Nairobi tomorrow afternoon after several years without doing a dental clinic.
We will all meet up with the other teams at the Little Daughters of St. Joseph compound Saturday afternoon before heading to the airport together for our respective flights. If all goes well, we will be flying Kenya Airways to Paris and ten Air France to Houston, arriving in Houston around 3pm Sunday afternoon. We'll gather up our footlockers and luggage, make our way through Customs and Immigration and then depart for Austin, hopefully by around 4 pm. Stay tuned for more updates as it is possible...
Thursday, November 12, 2015
In the afternoon, one of our surgical successes from a previous trip was revisited. The little girl Blessing, whom we were able to help last year when she was about 2 years old was there with her mother to thank us. Blessing had been born with cataracts on both eyes and we were able to help her get the surgery she needed to have a full life. She looked like any other cute little 3 year old girl today and her mother was very moving in her praise for us and the work we do here in Kenya. We accepted her thanks and told her, through Catherine, since she only spoke Swahili, that cases like Blessing's are what keep us coming back over and over again and that we thanked Jesus that we were being used in this way. I'll post pictures when I can.
Pastor Kevin headed back to the airport this evening for his journey back to Austin. We all pray that he doesn't have any more adventures! The rest of us went to the Mediterraneo Restaurant at the Junction Mall with Catherine and Shara Cunningham, one of our missionaries for East Africa who is stationed in Nairobi. It was a real joy to introduce Shara and her wonderful ministry to team members who hadn't had the pleasure of meeting her yet. A good time was had by all. We all headed back across the street to Rosa Mystica to turn in early, since tomorrow will be a very big day. First we will run the clinic, and then near the end of the day, we will be taking inventory of our supplies, packing up our equipment and saying our goodbyes.
That's all for now, to be continued as I can...
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
We had a pretty steady trickle of people all day, with a few slower times and a couple of brief rushes. I did a little more triage this afternoon and shared in the lives of several interesting people. One man, Elisha, was an ordained pastor without a church. He was over 60 and could not find a position after being forced from his old congregation when a younger pastor had come along. Another man had fallen on his head back in the 80's and he had a large growth on his back right below his neck that he attributed to the aftermath of that accident. We prayed for healing. There were several other moving or funny incidents that we were fortunate enough to get some photos of, so I'll try to get them posted along with the pictures as soon as I can after our return to the States. By day's end, we had seen 312 patients, about the same as Monday and Tuesday. Typical clinics grow in attendance every day, other than the rainy weather, I have no explanation for this. My attitude these days is we will serve the people that the Lord places in front of us and care for them as best as we can, with love and compassion.
We returned to Rosa Mystica and quickly freshened up before heading to Pampa, a Braizilian steakhouse with every kind of meat you would expect, plus crocodile and camel meat. Some of us had the crocodile, nobody special ordered the camel after I related how tough it was on a previous trip at another steakhouse. Catherine was able to join the team and we had a great meal and good conversation since it was quiet enough for all around the table to hear and participate.
Tomorrow will be Pastor Kevin's final day here in Nairobi, he is flying back late Thursday night to perform a wedding. I'll get all of our team leader materials, insurance, petty cash etc. from him prior to his departure. I'll need to instruct the team on how we will finish the clinic Friday, pack up and prepare for our journey home starting Saturday night. Please keep us in your prayers for a strong finish to a good clinic.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Monday, November 9, 2015
It was also good to see many of our old friends from the church, like Jane and Elizabeth, Frank, Mosa, Barrack and Immanuel, the evangelist at the church. And of course, Pastor James. Our longtime Kenyan eye doctors were a joy to greet, as Milliam, Lillian, Chris and Gideon arrived to examine our patient's eyes, dispense drugs and refer those in need of cataract surgeries. For Pastor Kevin and I, we felt right at home again and I'm sure our newer team members felt the love as well.
It was a pretty steady day until we had threats of rain and a few sprinkles late in the afternoon. By the time we were done for the day, we had seen 293 people, which is a decent number, since from this initial group word of mouth will begin to spread.
We came directly back to Rosa Mystica from the clinic, arriving around 5:30 pm. Dinner is served there at 7 pm every night, so we had an hour and a half to shower and relax before meeting for a buffet dinner. We discussed how the day had gone, a few areas that could use improvement and our overall satisfaction with a first day's effort. We were all dog tired and ready for an early night.
I went back to my room and finished tallying the registration cards and entering clinic stats into a spreadsheet before I began writing this. There is a heavy rain continuing to pour outside, the lights flickered several times during dinner as there was thunder and lightning. I figured I would dash off something quick for the blog in case we do lose power and Internet soon. There is a very high chance of rain every day for the rest of the week and if the slum turns into mud, it may seriously impact our clinic. My attitude is we will serve whomever God sends us. It's really all we can do anyway.
Pastor Kevin and I have the high honor of being invited to the home of our East Africa LCMS Missionary Shauen Trump and his wife Krista for dinner tomorrow night. We are looking forward to an evening of good food and fellowship as we share stories of our different ministries. The rest of the team will either eat at Rosa Mystica or grab a bite at the Junction. More to follow as time, electricity, Internet access and my energy permit. Blessings everybody!
Sunday, November 8, 2015
I got up about 6:30 and went down to breakfast with Sandra, the Zochs and the other teams and shared our travelogue with them. Lots of poking fun at me and honest commiserating by those who had their own war stories over the years. We all have a great determination to do this human care ministry, so we just buckle down when the Devil throws us a curve ball or two. And we just keep smiling, he hates that! Pastor Kevin wandered in and shared his perspective on our adventure as well.
We loaded up a truck with our footlockers and larger luggage and our van for the week with our personal items and headed for Rosa Mystica, a familiar place to most of us. It is also a Catholic convent with lodging for missionaries and other Christian workers. It is right next to a nice upscale mall called the Junction, where we can eat and get any supplies during the week that we may need at the Nakumat, a store similar to a Super Wal-Mart that anchors one end of the mall.
Our next stop was the church in Kawangware where we will be serving this week. We saw Pastor James and many old friends including Thomas, Barrack, Elizabeth, Joyce and many others. The worship service was awesome as usual, with traditional Lutheran liturgy and hymns, and choir and congregational music that ran the gamut of styles. One young girl did a solo song that was very complex with no notes or music, it was very well received by all. The children were sent out to their SundaySchool and Sandra went with them and was asked to lead the class which she did. She had a blast and commented on how well behaved the 75 little ones were. Out of deference to us, Pastor James had Thomas translate his sermon as he spoke about Matthew 18 and tied it into the forgiveness found in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He was on fire. Church lasted about the usual 3 hours and then Pastor James had the men of the congregation help us to get the sanctuary organized for the clinic, which was a huge help.
We went to the Junction and had lunch around 2:30 at the Java House, which is like a Starbucks with a good restaurant. We ate outdoors, at a table under an umbrella. From there, we exchanged some of dollars for Kenyan shillings. The rate is about 100 Ksh per dollar right now, so our usually 1000 shilling notes are almost exactly $10. On previous trips, this was worth as much as maybe $13. We finished by buying snacks and incidentals for the clinic at Nakumat.
Upon our return to Rosa Mystica, we gathered for a devotion I like to do before each clinic from Oswald Chambers and each shared our reasons for coming on this trip and what we expected the upcoming week to bring. It's fun to compare these thoughts at the end of the week.
Since we had such a late lunch, we all did personal things for the rest of the evening. Some calling home on our team phone, me catching up on the blog and others getting an early night's sleep. All is well and we are ready to begin our work tomorrow. Please keep us in ou prayers for a joyful, safe and effective mission. Time to try to get back to sleep...
I headed for the line that was handling people who already had their evisa in hand. Pastor Kevin went to a regular line, expecting to pay $50 to manually get a visa. But when he showed his receipt for the evisa system, he was told to proceed to a different line and he returned shortly, whereupon they issued his visa promptly at no charge. Meanwhile, one person after another went right through the manual process, while those who had the evisa, like me, took much more time to get through the system. When it was finally my turn, the lady at the counter looked through my passport to find a place to stamp it and kept thumbing one page after another, most of which proudly stated Kenya. She finally looked at me and said "Just who are you?" I said, "Someone who loves Kenya, maybe I can become a citizen." She said, "To do that, you need to marry a Kenyan." She was playing along, so I asked if she were available for marriage. She sadly told me no, she was already taken. We got a good laugh out of it and I joined Kevin in the baggage claim area. Three of our four footlockers were already there, but it took about 40 minutes for the last one to finally show up. We only could find one cart, so we precariously stacked all the footlockers on it and headed for the final customs inspection. We had to open and explain every item we had, but we got through OK after we mentioned that we worked through the Ministry of Health. Those apparently are the magic words, I'll try to remember them for our next trip.
After we got outside, there were about 100 drivers with signs with the names of the passengers they were to pick up. I had looked through about 20 of them when I heard someone call out "Dave!" It was Henry, a driver we had worked with several times before. We had to roll the top heavy cart through a bunch of pedestrians, across a busy street, load up the vehicle and then fight a traffic jam to get to our lodgings across town.
We arrived at the Little Daughters of St.Joseph compound where the other teams were already staying, unloaded our footlockers, checked into our rooms and I was heading for the only thing I wanted, a hot shower at 11:30 pm. It was not to be. All the hot water was gone and, ulnike the other places we stay, they have a central hot water system, not the individual electric heaters on each shower head like Europe has. I got a cold shower, but at least it was wet. I got about 6 hours of good sleep, a rarity for the first night, but Kevin and I were completely exhausted after our travel extravaganza. This marks the end of the travel reporting.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
I stopped for dinner in Hempstead at a McDonald's after battling Houston rush hour and eating a candy bar and a granola bar to tide me over. I thought I could try the evisa again on their wi-fi, but it was pitiful, so I gave up until I got back to Austin. I got a hot shower around 8pm and went to work. The visa system kept crashing. I gave up at 10:30 and went to bed, figuring I would try anytime I woke up in the night. I tried at 1 am with no luck, but got it to work at 3 am by taking a fresh scan of my passport and a selfie with my phone and making them nice in Adobe Lightroom. I usually don't do photo editing in the middle of the night, but I have to say, I made myself look GOOD! And it worked. Woohoo.
I'm writing this about an hour before heading to Houston once more. I'm good to go, Pastor Kevin has a receipt for his application, but it hasn't been issued yet. We hope KLM is not as strict as Air France and we do have copies of emails showing that we could get a visa in Kenya and also Catherine, our friend and liaison there has suggested we have them call the Nairobi aiport to verify it, since we couldn't make contact with the Kenyan Consul in Houston yesterday.
We did get word back from our team that they made it to Paris and should be in Nairobi by around noon today, Austin time. Thank you, Jesus!
I'm ready for another round, wish us luck and keep the prayers coming!
Thursday, November 5, 2015
|Pastor Kevin describes our trip to the congregation before praying over the team for a safe and effective mssion|