Tuesday, November 15, 2016

From Heathrow, one more flight go!

This is being written at 38000 feet, high above Zurich, Switzerland.  We are about an hour from London and should arrive on time at 4:33 am local time.  This is unusual, since Heathrow has never opened before 6 am in my experience  because  the neighbors wouldn’t allow it. Maybe the new international terminal has a different flight path or the neighborhood was overruled.  In any case, I won’t have to rush through security since I’ll have a  6 hour layover.

We had an easy drive to the  airport last night.  Over the last few trips there has been heightened security in place. As we reached the airport, Bill and I had to leave our vehicle for a metal detector scan. Meanwhile, Julius, our driver, had to open the car and our luggage was screened. After he cleared a checkpoint which resembled a tollbooth, he picked us up and it was business as usual after that. I  am thankful for any extra precautions with the history that EL Shabab and others have in Nairobi over the years.
I got some good sleep overnight on the  flight.  I will need to time a nap or two on the London to Austin leg of the trip to help with overcoming a 9 hour time difference and the resulting jet lag that inevitably ensues.  The extra 2 days of photo safaris this time had both Bill and I  much more relaxed than ever before. I am pretty wound up right after all of the  pandemonium of finishing a clinic, taking  inventory and packing up. This was much more leisurely, so maybe I’ll adapt to Austin time quicker than in the past.

We made it to London right on time, took a bus from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 and breezed right through security. Now for the long layover at Heathrow. Bill and I are having a light breakfast at Huxley’s and using my new WiFi Hotspot to check email.  It works in 75 countries and knew it was in the UK when it woke up. Cool! I started a 24 hour day pass yesterday in Nairobi and it finishes as I board my plane home.  My field test of this device has been good. I give it two thumbs up!

More to come once I get home.  It will be good to sleep in my own bed, see my 18 year old cat who will be mad at me, walk Adrienne’s dog Pete who will be overjoyed to see me and of course, to be with Adrienne again.  And all of my friends and family I’ve been in not so good touch with over the last two weeks. And have a great Internet connection and all of the other blessings we Americans take for granted like clean water at the press of a button or turn of the faucet.  One of the greatest benefits of these missions is the reality check I get each time. I  admire the great faith and quiet joy of my Kenyan friends. They are not as wrapped up in the worship of material things as we are.  We learn from each other and there are positive features of our culture that rub off as well. The benefits of  short term missions with long term commitment are many. 

That’s about all for now. I’m going to start wading through a mountain of email that has piled up and get back into the right frame of mind to re-enter the “real” world. What a blessing this whole experience has been this time! Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Made it through security at Nairobi Airport

We're having dinner at the Java House, think Starbuck's with good food.  We have about 2 hours before our flight to London.  Bill leaves for Houston around 9am, I leave for Austin around 11am and arrive at ABIA at 4 pm on Tuesday. Let the trip begin!

About an hour before we leave for the airport...

We had a good time at the Bird Sanctuary, there were hiking trails through the woods and an occasional bird feeding tray with benches nearby from which we could observe and photograph the many colorful birds.  One bird we both saw was black and about the size of a crow.  It would fly back and forth across the trail every time we got too near for comfort. It had bright, Cardinal red wings when it flew.  It was too quick to get a photo of, but I'm hoping we'll at least identify it.

We hiked the trails for about an hour and a half before going to the Botanical Garden.  The Garden was free and we got some good pictures of some flowers and a few birds, but it was late in the morning, not the prime time for viewing wildlife feeding or on the move.  After about 45 minutes, we headed for lunch.  We tried to get into a very nice place called the Talisman, only to be told by the guard at the gate that it was closed on Mondays.  Instead we went to Dari, another good eatery with outdoor seating, water features and many birds including a Grey Crowned Crane, Peacocks and others.  Some of our best pictures of the day were taken there right after lunch.

We got back to Rosa Mystica a little after 2 pm, got naps and showers to freshen up for long journey home.  Please keep us in your prayers for travel mercies.  I will post from the road as I can.  We have a little layover in London, so I may be able to shed some light on the first half of our trip when we get through security there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winding down in Nairobi

For the first time in 16 trips, I have stayed over two extra days.  Catherine saw Ralph, Dora and the teams from Salem and Bloomington off at the airport Saturday night and they should have arrived in the States sometime late Sunday afternoon.  My friend from Salem, Bill Goodoff and I, went to Lake Nakuru Saturday for an incredible bird safari with our driver Simon.  Simon is 68 years old and has been birding and observing wildlife for most of his life. He had the exact same bird guide as Bill, so he could call out what page number and plate (picture) number each bird was as we saw them.  Bill took copious notes and had three or four pages by the time we were done.

Simon picked me up in Nairobi at 5:30 am and we drove a little over  an hour to the Panorama Lodge in Lake Naivasha where the Salem team was staying.  It was about a 7 story set of buildings with a magnificent view.  Unfortunately for me, no Bill at the gate.  We got a guard to open the gate, told him Bill had messaged me on Facebook that he would be ready at the gate by 7, but might have breakfast while waiting for us.  Mark, the guard, motioned for me to follow him.  7 stories of cobblestone steps later, we reached the top where the restaurant is located.  I was half dead.  We are at altitude, so anyone that has hiked around Vail will know the kind of winded you can get.  I'm surprised I didn't have a heart attack!  Guess I'm still in pretty good shape.  Bill was waiting at the gate, there is also one at the top of the lodge.  Mark hiked all the way back down to guide Simon and our van up the steep, winding road that goes to the top.  What a start to the day!  But, on the bright side, I slept great Saturday night.

We were at the game park at Lake Nakuru for about 6 hours and saw literally hundreds of birds.  I was like a kid in a candy store as we saw colorful bird after exotic bird as well as rhinos, water buffalo and other wildlife.  We drove back to Nairobi and had dinner at the Java House in the Junction Mall by Rosa Mystica.

Sunday, I skipped church for the first time in ages, but I consider being out marveling in God's creation worshiping in the BIG church that has no roof!  Catherine had a big surprise for us.  Not only was Simon our driver again, but Edwin, one of our favorite drivers and also a wildlife enthusiast, came along for the drive.  We got the deluxe treatment.  We were picked up at 6 am, were in the park a little after 6:30 and spent the next eight and a half hours in birder's heaven.  Plus, we saw rhinos, lions, giraffes, two or three crocodiles at various times, a Nile Monitor lizard, the list goes on and on.  I was blessed to have my friend Barrack along for the day.  We didn't break for lunch but kept snacking on various things that we, Edwin and Simon had brought along.  By the end of the day, Barrack and I had shot nearly 3500 pictures and I'm sure Bill had a high shutter count as well. He was breaking in a Sigma 150-600 lens I had suggested he get for the trip.  I also shot with the same lens on my Nikon D500 and Barrack manned my trusty Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 18-300 lens.  It will be a while before those pictures are posted, but they are special.  We saw birds I could only dream of, from tiny Pygmy Kingfishers that were a burst of color to Fish Eagle to Sacred Ibises, it was a very special day indeed.

Today, Monday, we are going to Botanical Garden and then a Bird Sanctuary before we come back to Rosa Mystica to freshen up for the long flights home.  We leave Nairobi around 11pm and I'll arrive in Austin around 4pm Tuesday afternoon.

Stay tuned, I will begin posting pictures of the clinic first and then will sort through the massive numbers of bird and wildlife pictures.  We are all in for a treat.  I can't waiting to see how the pictures from the various safaris turned out.  What a great way to conclude a trip that first and foremost was all about spreading the saving Gospel of our Lord and Savior.  Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The clinic closes with a bang!

We had a very steady day of treating patients as the clinic ran very smoothly.  By noon, we had already seen over 300 patients and there were over 100 more waiting in line.  By day's end, 628 people had come through the gate.  I haven't completed counting the registration cards yet, although they are divided up into groups for the statistics we keep both for our project and the Kenyan Ministry of Health.  My best guess is that we saw nearly 2800 people this week.  Wow!

We didn't begin to shut the clinic down until after 4 pm, later than usual, since we still needed to take an inventory of many of our items so we know what to order to replenish for our next mission in May 2017.  We are blessed to have Gloria Sauck, our missionary with the Vision for Africa Project available to help with keeping our supplies orderly and for her great ability to procure all of the medicines we need.

We had nice diploma quality certificates printed up for all the volunteers that participated during the week.  Dora used on of my cameras to take pictures as each one came forward to receive their Certificate of Appreciation from me.  Everyone was all smiles and a few tears were shed as we left our friends at Waithaka.  I hope to return there to do another clinic soon.

I'm pretty beat.  We went to the food court at the Junction Mall and finished off the meal once again with Italian Gelato Ice Cream.  I head our for a photo safari at 5:30 tomorrow morning, while Dora and Ralph will go to the Elephant Orphanage and a Giraffe attraction where you feed them from a balcony, eye to eye.  So that's about it for now, since it's 9 pm here.  We had an incredible clinic and now I get a couple of extra days of wildlife photography, something I haven't taken the opportunity to pursue before.  I'll keep posting while I'm here and will get pictures posted soon after my return to the States.  If the past is any guide, it may take a few weeks, but stay tuned, they'll be here and other places on the web that I will point you to.

Thank you Lord for a very effective mission duing which 82 people came to know you and hundreds of people had their physical needs met.  In your Name, Amen!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thursday clinic worked out well

Even with the early morning rain, we had about 25 people waiting for us when we got to the clinic site.  We got setup in record time and began working after a short prayer led by Gloria, our wonderful local missionary.  Our volunteers and doctors trickled in, having been delayed a bit by traffic and the rain.  Nevertheless, by noon we had seen nearly 300 patients and by the time we closed, 589 people had crossed into the clinic.  I don't have a count yet on total patients seen, but I'm guessing we surpassed our high point of the week set on Monday.

Our little boy Wayne, with the tear duct problem and his father Joseph, stopped by on their way to the hospital to see what could be done to correct the hole in his lower eyelid.  Late that afternoon, they returned with the paperwork and an estimate of $233 to perform the surgery he needed.  That was the price, until Catherine got on the phone and began negotiating.  She got $100 knocked off and Wayne will be getting treated soon.

We had a man come into the clinic in the afternoon who was over 100 years old.  He looked a bit like I picture Morgan Freeman in about 20 years.  He needed reading glasses and nothing we had would work.  Our doctors said to try +7.00 strength lenses, bordering on what you would call Coke bottle lenses.  I made the glasses for him from these lenses that are normally used for distance glasses and lo and behold, they worked!  He was happy and praising God for bringing us to Waithaka.  Thank you Jesus, what a blessing!

We had dinner with Catherine at the Mediterranean Restaurant right after a quick change of clothes when we got back to Rosa Mystica.  It's a fine Italian restaurant in the Junction Mall a block away, so we walked in the cool evening air.  I almost was able to finish the huge lasagna that I love there, while the remainder of Dora's went home in a doggie bag with Catherine.  A great end to a very good day.

Stay tuned.  I'm heading to bed soon, knowing that Friday can be the toughest day of the week.  It will include seeing large numbers of people and closing down the clinic.  I will have a rather short night Friday, since I will be heading out to Lake Nakuru at 5:30am for a day-trip photo safari.  Blessings everybody!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Rainy Thursday morning

I'm writing this at 6am and we've got a steady rain, the one sure thing that can slow down a clinic.  The area where we have our tents for registration and evangelism will quickly turn to mud.  I'm hoping the clouds burn off rapidly.  If not, there are plenty of things we can do to be a little more prepared for shutting down the clinic, taking inventory and packing up tomorrow.  If we have a break in the action, we can get a good count on where we are and make sure that we only break out supplies as we need them.  I haven't found the time to file all of the lenses we brought over from the States.  Some won't fit in the boxes they are intended for and I will probably have to start with Box 1 and shift things towards Box 27 as I move through the ordered lenses.  If so, it will give me time to adjust our lens pulling guide sheets to reflect where inventory really is.  Right now, the sheets may say a certain lens is in Box 15 when it is in Box 16 due to changing inventory needs over time.

As usual, we will have breakfast at 7am, leave Rosa Mystica at 7:30 and arrive a little before 8 am at the Waithaka clinic.  It will be interesting to see if we have any hardy souls already waiting for the clinic to open today.  Please continue to pray for an effective mission and that many more people will know Jesus as their Lord and Savior before we are done!

November 8th – Another very good day at the clinic

 We arrived as usual a little before 8 am and there were about 25 people already waiting for us.  We got the clinic supplies unpacked and were in business pretty quickly after Thomas led a devotion and prayed for the us and the people that we would serve.

We had a few notable experiences during the day that come to mind.  Our evangelist and triage station member John Karanja brought a group of 5 youth to Christ and we gave them each their own Swahili Bible.  Of course, I got a picture of this and it will appear when I edit the photos from the trip after my return to the States next week.  Catherine’s brother brought his daughter Sasha in for a checkup and she passed the eyechart with flying colors.  She was cute as a button.  We did receive word about the U.S. presidential election, everybody seemed to have an opinion that we talked to.  I tried to stay above the fray and pointed out that no matter who won, half of the people would not be happy and an attempt had to be made to unite the American public.  I also said that there is only One who is really in charge and He has used both good and bad rulers for His purpose throughout the centuries and that St. Paul correctly pointed out that we should respect our civil authorities, whoever they may be.  I am praying for calm and a peaceful transfer of power, which is the hallmark of our democracy.  And that’s all the more political you will ever see me get, since I want nothing to get in the way of the Gospel proclamation I have been blessed to be a part of.

Once again we had good numbers for the third day straight.  515 people attended the clinic and we treated 494 of them with care for their eyes and, of course, each of them received a Gospel presentation and were prayed over individually when asked, if they wanted.

We have noted something different culturally about this heavily Kikuyu neighborhood.  At every clinic I’ve been a part of since 2009, nearly 100% of the people would have prayer requests for us or at least let us pray a blessing over them.  While we are seeing a population that is at least 90% Christian this time, many are resistant to being prayed over.  Perhaps we need a different technique in the way we approach the subject, or maybe these folks are more self-reliant, much like we are in the U.S.  In any case, an average of about 20 people a day have been coming to Christ a day or returning to the faith as a result of this vision clinic in Waithaka. 

We have just returned from a wonderful dinner at Pampa, a Brazilian Steakhouse only about a mile from Rosa Mystica.  They have a very good self-serve salad bar, after which the staff keeps bringing meat, meat and more meat.  There was sausage, pork, lamb, steak, crocodile, turkey and so on.  They have a signature dessert, warm pineapples coated with cinnamon and sugar that are brought to the table on skewers and shaved off in strips for you just like the meat is.  It is exactly the right finish to a great meal.

Time to get some shuteye so I can get up and do it again.  Thank you Jesus for another rewarding day in Your mission field!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday's clinic was excellent

When we arrived this morning, there were about 75 people already waiting.  We were able to get the clinic setup in short order compared to Monday, since we knew where each set of footlockers should go and only had to position them and setup the room.  We did modify where the eyechart and the triage stations were located, to reduce glare on the charts and to open up an area that had been the source of some bottlenecks on Monday.  We also reconfigured the registration and evangelism areas for better traffic flow.  I have become a junior Pastor Kevin, he is still the master of making the trains run on time, but I am gaining on him with the help of Catherine.

We had a busy morning and had seen nearly 250 people by 11:30.  There was a bit of a lull during the afternoon, but we still managed to serve 527 patients out of 542 that came through the gate.  I am not nearly as dog tired as I was last night, since things are beginning to run like clockwork.  Occasionally, we are still letting a few too many people into the clinic at a time and it gets a little loud and chaotic.  I would rather have people wait a while longer outside and keep it more serene inside.  We still see the same number of people anyway; it just makes a world of difference in how calm it is.

We went over to the Junction Mall next door in the food court for chicken and chip (fries) and we had Italian Gelato handmade ice cream as a treat after dinner at a nearby shop.

Well, time to get a good night’s rest before doing it again.  Thanks everybody for following our progress and keep those prayers coming that we might continue to boldly spread the Gospel! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tuesday morning reflections on our new clinic

I am nothing short of amazed at the number of people that showed up for the first day of the clinic.  This is a testament to the hard work of the congregations at Kawangware and Waithaka in spreading the word to their friends and the community and to the tireless work of our friend Catherine Wangari, who does the behind the scenes preparation for our Nairobi based teams.  She gets permits for the clinics from each of the proper authorities, permission to post signs and banners advertising that we are coming, the list goes on and on!

We feel right at home with our volunteers. They have been very friendly hosts, even cooking lunch for everyone on the team.  It was rice and some excellent beans with some very sweet bananas for dessert.  We always have to let the local cooks know that we Americans eat much smaller portions, so it’s best if we serve ourselves, since we don’t want to waste food or leave the impression that we don’t like the meal.  We take all we want and we eat all of that.  In the past, we have had issues with this at some clinics where the food was piled high and we just plain couldn’t finish it, so we always gently discuss this issue before we have a meal.  It’s just bridging cultural differences that can lead to misunderstandings if everyone is not on the same page.

Even though we had a very successful first day, there is always room for improvement.  Catherine and I are going to make some changes to the layout of the clinic for better flow and fewer bottlenecks and we are also going to reinforce some of the training in each station since we discovered some mistakes when analyzing the registration cards last night.

I had a couple of neat experiences yesterday.  Catherine brought a small boy, maybe three years old, to me and had me look closely at his left eye.  He had a hole in his lower eyelid the size of a pencil lead that kept his tears from remaining near his eye.  A simple surgery will fix his tear duct.  He was a little sweetie, I’m glad we’ll be able to help in this way. 

Another nice surprise was I got to meet a Facebook friend in person.  While I was posting wildlife photos from our last trip, Kelvin friended me and helped me identify various birds and animals that I either didn’t know or had misidentified.  It turns out he works with at risk youth in the Waithaka neighborhood and was conducting a soccer camp in the field right next to the clinic.  He wanted me to greet his boys yesterday, but we were right in the middle of putting away the clinic for the night for the first time.  I hope I am able to take a few minutes sometime this week.  He knows some of our Kawangware friends that also work with street youth.  I really admire the commitment many of my young friends like Kelvin have in paying forward the blessings they have received.

It's almost time for breakfast, I’m going to post this and there will be plenty more to tell the rest of the week, I’m quite sure.  Please continue to pray for a safe and effective mission for us, so far this has been an incredible clinic.

The clinic begins!

It’s Monday morning and I write this first part just after having awakened from a fitful night.  I was sleeping pretty well until it sounded like a pack of dogs went nuts outside of my window at 2am.  I never really got more than a few minutes of good sleep until a rooster began crowing at about 5:40, a little before I needed to get up anyway.  I never sleep real soundly the night before the start of a clinic, with all of the details that need to be handled to get the show on the road running around in my head, but I think this one takes the cake!  On the brighter side, I know I’ll sleep great tonight, since Monday is always our hardest day and you wonder how you can do a whole week of this.  It gets easier and smoother as the clinic begins to function on all cylinders as the week goes on.  Time to see if the staff was able to pull off a 6:30 breakfast to get us on the road before 7:15!

This section is being written after 8pm after a very good, long, hard day.  We sis get an early breakfast and got to the clinic before 8am to find over 200 people already waiting outside.  They welcomed us and, after we waited a few minutes for the large room we would be working in to be unlocked, we got down to the business of getting about 15 footlockers situated in the areas where they would be needed, we got tables in place, ordered more tables to brought in from the nearby church in Kawangware and the tents were beginning to be setup.  We were ready to see our first patients after a short devotion in which Catherine led us in singing “This is the day” a song based on the Bible verse which says “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.”  Pastor James led us in prayer and our work day began.  By noon, over 500 people were already through the clinic or on the grounds and being registered.  Catherine and I decided to stop letting people in if we reached 600 patients, since we wanted to make sure we could serve everybody before closing time.  At the end of the day, 571 people had attended the clinic and a remarkable 565 of them got treatment of one kind or another.  There is usually more slippage between people coming through the door and actual patients as people have to leave for one reason or another. 

We got back to Rosa Mystica around 5:45 and were able to shower and take short naps before a 7pm dinner of liver, chicken, kale, rice, potatoes and bananas for dessert.  The three of us counted the registration cards to get statistics for both our project and for the Kenya Ministry of Health.  We are all now ready for bed after a very eventful day.  Thank you, Jesus for letting us show your love to the people we met today!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November 6 Sunday worship and other activities

I got up early and helped the Salem and Trinity teams bring their footlockers and other gear up from the basement of Rosa Mystica and out into the parking lot to their waiting vans.  The others realized that I only have a team of 3, so they also graciously helped me get our clinic supplies staged and ready to go to be picked up.  We had breakfast around 7am and we said our goodbyes to old and new found friends that we had made on Saturday during the safari, lunch, worship and dinner together.
Catherine took the team to church in Kawangware, the church where we got our start with this project and where we built the water well.  We were going to worship at the church in Waithaka that the Kawangware church is planting, but the roof had not been put on the building yet.  Worship was wonderful, as usual, with songs from many different choirs and a sermon from our friend, Immanuel, the evangelist at the church.  Another dear friend, Thomas, the caretaker at the church, graciously translated the sermon into English for us.  It was based on the Beatitudes and some scripture from Revelation describing who the saints are.  Also, as usual, it was such a Spirit filled worship that the three hour service just flew by.  After church, we fellowshipped with old and new friends alike and determined who was going to be able to help us with the clinic during the week.  We said our goodbyes and Catherine drove us to a welcome lunch.

We ate a Java House in the Junction Mall near where we are staying.  Gloria, our friend, missionary and nurse, joined us after she had attended church elsewhere.  Ralph and I recommended the fish and chips, since he and I have made it our Sunday afternoon tradition.  Everyone ordered the same as well.  I just had to be different and ordered my French fries spicy, which gave our waitress a good laugh.  Everyone was pleased with the fish and chips, even Catherine who usually decreases the chicken population of Kenya by one every time we go to the Java House.

Following lunch, we drove to the Ministry of Health clinic where we will be conducting our clinic.  It was locked, but we could see through the windows that it was plenty spacious and we tentatively planned where each station of the clinic would be for best traffic flow and for other considerations.  We also figured out where to put tents up outside for evangelism and for our “waiting room.”  We then drove over to the nearby Waikatha church and met the man who had donated the land for the building and some of the elders of the church.

Catherine brought us back to Rosa Mystica, where we all decided to take an hour and a half off until 6pm before going back to the Junction to change money and to buy our snacks and clinic supplies for the week. 

As I am able, I will post pictures from our adventures.  Time is usually short and Internet access is not always the best, so editing and posting pictures has taken a back seat so far.  Dora has posted a few pictures to my Facebook timeline, I am Dave DeVore there, so if you do Facebook, feel free to look there.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Arrival in Nairobi and Saturday happenings

We got to Nairobi at 8:30, right on time.  Our trip through Immigration and Customs was relatively uneventful, as was our ride to Rosa Mystica, where Ralph, Dora and I will be staying all week. We were unloaded and in our rooms by around 11:15pm.  I took a hot shower to freshen up and got about 4 hours of sleep.  I had a barking dog outside my window, a nightclub nearby was loud and a rooster began to crow at about 5:45 this morning.  I should do better tonight.

We had a good safari at the Game Park, it was the first time I have brought my big Sigma 150-600mm lens and my new Nikon D500.  They performed very well together and we got pictures of all the usual suspects.  I also have my Nikon D7200 and a Sigma 18-300 lens for wider angle shots.  The one thing I am missing is a Ziploc bag with my spare batteries in it.  Both cameras usually last all day, and I do have a charger with me, but I hate not having extra batteries just in case.

We had a nice lunch at the Veranda, where I had fried prawns and chips, which is British for shrimp and fries.  It was very good.  After lunch, we headed back to our lodgings and I got a little nap before we had a nice worship service with the other teams at 5:30, followed by dinner at 7pm.  Many of our friends from Nairobi were there, it was a joyful evening.  I'll be heading to bed soon, it's almost 10pm here.  DST will not effect our time her, but the change will make us 9 hours ahead of Austin time rather than 8 hours by tomorrow morning.  We have to keep this in mind when we phone home.

I'll have more about our comings and goings tomorrow after a full day of church, lunch. scouting out the clinic location, buying team supplies and finally having dinner in the evening.

I am writing this using an Internet connection to a hotspot I bought on Amazon from an outfit called Skyroam.  The device works in 75 countries and you don't need a SIM card to use it.  The various SIM settings are programmed in and they are adding more countries by the day.  Basically, you buy the device for about $100 and it includes 3 days worth of usage.  You use 24 hours at a time and can buy more at either $10 per day or a 5 day pass for $40.  It uses the cel phone network to get Internet and the data is unlimited usage.  It's fairly quicky, you wouldn't want to stream a movie on it or upload massive amounts of pictures, but it works almost anywhere and lasts 8 hours on a charge or you can plug it in via a USB cable.  5 people or devices can use it at once.  I'm field testing it to see if I like it and so far, so good for those days where you aren't near good wifi.  It's about the size of a pack of cigarretes.

That's it for now, it's been a very blessed day!

London to Nairobi

Our flight from JFK to London was uneventful and was about six and a half hours.  We had dinner about an hour after takeoff and then I tried to get some sleep, with mixed results.  About 45 minutes before landing, we were served coffee or tea, no breakfast this time.  I did ask one of our flight attendants about the gates closing an hour before international flights and he said there was no way that would happen.  As evidence of this, he pointed out the 3 people we waited for at JFK.  He was right.  While it took about 15 minutes to deplane, since Ralph, Dora and I were all in row 50 or higher, we were rapidly moved from Terminal 5 to a connecting point by a tram and then road a bus from there to Terminal 3.  The security system was much improved and we made it to our gate about 15 minutes before boarding.  We met up with the other teams from Salem and other churches and renewed old friendships for a few minutes before we boarded the 777 that would be taking us to Nairobi.

While I was supposed to have an aisle seat, it turned out I had seat 30B, the middle seat out of three on the left side of the plane.  The window seat was empty, so I took that and am glad I did.  I have gotten some very nice pictures with my cell phone of cloud cover, Munich and the Alps as we passed over Germany and several other places so far.  As I write this, we are over Greece with about five and a half hours to go until we reach Nairobi.  I feel a little bit like an astronaut watching features on the ground below as I check the in-flight entertainment system map to see where we are.
We were served an English breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, ham and tow kind of biscuits along with a fruit cup.  It was actually pretty good, then again, as my Dad always used to say “Hunger is the best seasoning!”  Almost anything would have tasted good at that point.

We are now about 2 hours from landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  It’s been a very smooth ride, I don’t think the Fasten Seat Belt light has been on even once, unless it was while I catnapped occasionally.  We will get a light box lunch, if the past is any indicator, it will have a sandwich in it with some mysterious substance resembling egg salad or chicken salad, nobody really knows what it is.  We’ll have to clear Immigration and Customs, but with the new electronic visa system, it tends to go a little better until the inevitable problems retrieving luggage and getting it through security.  It would be nice if the Red Sea parted for once and we just walked right out.
We’ll load up all of our luggage and footlockers onto a truck and then take a small bus or several vans across town to Rosa Mystica, a Catholic convent that we have stayed at many times before.  The grounds are beautiful and the staff and the sisters are very nice.  We will only be a block from the Junction Mall, which is anchored by a Walmart-like store called Naku-matt.  You can buy everything from food to a moped there!  For once, we won’t have to move to another location but will be there during our entire stay.

Saturday a safari is planned at the Nairobi National Game Park and our team will join the others for that as well.  It will be followed by a nice lunch and then the teams that will be serving outside of the Nairobi area will purchase their water, snacks, etc. for the week.  The day will end with a group worship and dinner.  We are always blessed to be able to worship on Sunday at the church where we will be serving.  The other teams need to use Sunday as a travel day.  More to follow as time and Internet access permits.

From JFK to London

We spent much of our 6 hour layover in New York at two different food courts. One in Terminal 8 right after our arrival and one in Terminal 7 after we cleared security as we waited for BA Flight 0174 to begin boarding around 7:30 pm. We had New York style pizza and split a salad that Dora treated us to. The second one featured the fine cuisine of McDonald’s as we got a table, had drinks and I munched on an order of medium fries hot out of the fryer. I posted a few blog entries and we enjoyed the time together.

One we got out to Gateway 6 as boarding neared, we couldn’t find 3 seats together, so I  asked a young man if the seat next to him was taken. It wasn’t and he turned out to be a Kenyan living in Tennessee, after serving in El Pass in the U.S. military.  His wife and 2 kids were with him and I quickly made friends with his 4 year old son Matthew. Young Matt had been given 2 sets of wings by the co-pilot on their previous flight.  He had one set on his sweater and he revealed another set on his shirt underneath. Dora got this picture, isn’t he adorable? He said he was 4 and held up 4 fingers. He asked me how old I am and I held up 10 fingers 6 times and then another 4. He couldn’t fathom that! Sometimes I can’t either.

We boarded the 747 on time, but 3 late arriving passengers caused us to push away from the gate about 20 minutes late. We should still arrive in London on time, but it will be tight making our connection. We will arrive at one gate, all of us are in row 50 or above and after we decline, we will have to take a bus to another terminal, go through security once again and make it to our gate and hour before flight time. Even if we are at the terminal right on time, doing all of this in only an hour will be a minor miracle. Heathrow changed the rules after we got our tickets. They claim on their website that gates will be closed one hour prior to flight times for all long haul trips. Time will tell. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016


We got some lunch at 1pm Austin time and then headed to Terminal 7 from Terminal 8.  We went to the British Airways counter to check our seat assignments and an angel behind the counter named Constance not only got Ralph and I the aisle seats we wanted, but also got Dora and her luggage transferred tour flight AND even got her an aisle seat!  Thank you Jesus!

After that, we had to go through one more security check and the TSA folks wanted to examine our autorefractors, so we got a chance to talk about what we do in Kenya.  One of them had a 2 year old son whose eye had been injured when his 8 year old brother had hit him in the face with a basketball.  He wanted my advice on how it should be treated.  I told him I’m a computer guy, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express.  We all got a good laugh and we all wished each other God’s blessings as we parted company.  We are in another food court now while I write this.  We will be rushing through Heathrow and will have an early morning safari Saturday, so with the 8 hour time difference (9 hours after Saturday night) I may not be able to get another post out on the blog until sometime Saturday.  We will make every effort to let our families know we got to Nairobi OK, though.  Until next time, God’s blessings!

From the flight

I'm writing this at 37000 feet about halfway to New York.  The seat belt sign in our 737 has been on for most of the flight due to lots of turbulence.  We were served a complimentary drink and cookie. I'm ready for lunch but that won't happen until we make it through security at JFK a couple of hours from now.

From Austin to New York

Bob and Dora arrived at my house right on time, just before 6:15am for the ride to the airport.  We loaded our luggage and the team’s three footlockers into the back of his truck and had an easy drive, arriving at ABIA just before 7am, as planned.  Ralph was already there waiting for us.  There was no one at the British Airways desk, so I made my way to the American Airlines counter and asked whether we could check in there.  Bertha, who was my agent, was all business, but let me check in, since our first leg of our journey to New York was on AA.  She asked me how many pieces of luggage I had to check, I told her two, but that it was still down by the BA area.  She had me hurry up and get it.  As she was weighing my red footlocker, she asked me what was in it and I told her it was supplies for a vision clinic in Nairobi.  She asked “Are you a missionary?”.  When I replied “Yes”, she became visibly warmer towards me and the rest of the team waiting to check their bags.  Dora had an even bigger impact on her when Dora realized we had let the first two footlockers get by without Zip ties to hold them closed.  They became fast friends when Bertha offered to have the footlockers retrieved so she could secure them.  By the time it was over, Dora had written down the names of the two check-in agents that had been so helpful and had promised to write to American about the great service.  What a great start to the day!

We took off at 9:20am, right on schedule and our pilot feels we may be up to half an hour early in reaching JFK.  We’ll have about a 5 hour layover there and I’ll continue our story from one of the many food courts at the airport if I can get wifi reception.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Reflections on the eve of our next mission trip to Nairobi

Oops!  Just found this from 2016 that failed to publish for some reason.  Here we are two years later going to serve there  again!  What a coincidence.  Or, is it just part of God's plan?


Well, the time has finally come to finish packing tonight and leave tomorrow morning for our next vision clinic in Nairobi.  We will be helping our friends at the Lutheran Church in the slum of Kawangware plant a new congregation nearby at a place called Waithaka.  Our team will consist of myself, Ralph Genz and Dora Tamez, who is joining us for the first time.  Ralph will be going on his 15th trip and this one will my 16th, so Dora will be in good hands.

You might ask yourself how we expect to conduct a vision clinic with only three muzungus, which is the Swahili word for white person.  We are blessed to have experienced volunteers from Kawangware including Pastor James and my friend and fellow photographer Barrack as well as others that have served with us before.  There are also folks in the new congregation, including our friend Joyce, that have worked with us over the years. Finally, we will be joined by both Gloria, a nurse and missionary we have been blessed to share the Gospel with many times and our evangelist, John Karanja, who has been involved during previous clinics in 25 or more people a day coming to faith in Christ,  We have a superstar team and I am really looking forward to serving everyone the Lord sends to us this time.

As I ran errands and was finishing packing today, I took some time out today and stopped by Redeemer.  I saw all three Pastors at one time or another and Pastor Kevin and Pastor Landon prayed with me over our team for a safe and effective mission.  What a blessing!  I was also there to pick up a card from a women's Bible study that Catherine had addressed about a Rescue Center that our partner church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Kelin, Texas, is instrumental in setting up.  The center takes care of young women fleeing female genital mutilation, arranged marriages and other tribal practices that have been outlawed in Kenya, but that still exist in the areas Trinity has served.  Here is a picture of the ladies with the card I'm going to deliver to Catherine.

Hi Catherine!!!

Finally, our itinerary over the next couple of days has us flying from Austin to New York tomorrow morning, then from New York's JFK Airport to London Heathrow overnight.  We have a very tight connection to make in London before flying to Nairobi and arriving around 8:30 pm Friday night local time.  Please pray for travel  mercies and that the Holy Spirit would open the hearts and minds of the people to the saving message of the Gospel that we will bring to the clinic.  More to follow as time permits and as I have access to the Internet.  Blessings everybody!

Reflections on the eve of our next mission trip to Nairobi

Well, the time has finally come to finish packing tonight and leave tomorrow morning for our next vision clinic in Nairobi.  We will be helping our friends at the Lutheran Church in the slum of Kawangware plant a new congregation nearby at a place called Waithaka.  Our team will consist of myself, Ralph Genz and Dora Tamez, who is joining us for the first time.  Ralph will be going on his 15th trip and this one will my 16th, so Dora will be in good hands.

You might ask yourself how we expect to conduct a vision clinic with only three muzungus, which is the Swahili word for white person.  We are blessed to have experienced volunteers from Kawangware including Pastor James and my friend and fellow photographer Barrack as well as others that have served with us before.  There are also folks in the new congregation, including our friend Joyce, that have worked with us over the years. Finally, we will be joined by both Gloria, a nurse and missionary we have been blessed to share the Gospel with many times and our evangelist, John Karanja, who has been involved during previous clinics in 25 or more people a day coming to faith in Christ,  We have a superstar team and I am really looking forward to serving everyone the Lord sends to us this time.

As I ran errands and was finishing packing today, I took some time out today and stopped by Redeemer.  I saw all three Pastors at one time or another and Pastor Kevin and Pastor Landon prayed with me over our team for a safe and effective mission.  What a blessing!  I was also there to pick up a card from a women's Bible study that Catherine had addressed about a Rescue Center that our partner church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Kelin, Texas, is instrumental in setting up.  The center takes care of young women fleeing female genital mutilation, arranged marriages and other tribal practices that have been outlawed in Kenya, but that still exist in the areas Trinity has served.  Here is a picture of the ladies with the card I'm going to deliver to Catherine.

Hi Catherine!!!

Finally, our itinerary over the next couple of days has us flying from Austin to New York tomorrow morning, then from New York's JFK Airport to London Heathrow overnight.  We have a very tight connection to make in London before flying to Nairobi and arriving around 8:30 pm Friday night local time.  Please pray for travel  mercies and that the Holy Spirit would open the hearts and minds of the people to the saving message of the Gospel that we will bring to the clinic.  More to follow as time permits and as I have access to the Internet.  Blessings everybody!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Final Album of Spring Mission Trip pictures ready, just in time to do it again in November!

Here are the rest of the Spring trip pictures, there are a few more Nairobi Game Park pictures to go, but they will be added to these existing albums.

This link goes to pictures of our worship with Pipeline and the Vision Clinic


This link takes you to the 2 safaris that we were blessed to enjoy, first at Lake Naivasha and then at the end of the week, at the Nairobi National Game Park


I hope you like these!  Stay tuned, we will be saddling up again in a little over a week to conduct a Vision Clinic at Waithaka, the location of a new church plant that our friends at the Lutheran Church in the slum of Kawangware are working on.  We couldn't be happier to be helping in this effort.

Thank you, Jesus!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Spring 2016 Kenya Mission Trip pictures are now being published

It's been slow going, but so far I have my pictures of the worship on the first Sunday, my pictures from the clinic and a few from Lake Naivasha sorted out and edited.  I've been posting them on my Facebook page a few at a time.  I'm still waiting for some pictures from our other team members, but I thought I would get what I have of the clinic posted here and then add albums of our photo safaris and other photos as I get them.  I usually write a summary of what each mission trip meant to me after I've had some time to reflect on it, that should come in the next few weeks after the pictures have been completed, so stay tuned!  This was a great mission trip, there's lots left to write about.  Hope you like these pictures that are found at this link:

Spring 2016 Vision Clinic pictures

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Home again, home again!

Pastor Kevin, Cynthia and I arrived in Austin at 3:45 pm today. We got through Customs and Immigration and collected our checked luggage in under an hour.  We haven't heard from Merrilee yet, she flew KLM. We are praying for an uneventful journey for her, since she ended up in Dubai at the start of the trip. We are very thankful for travel mercies on the trip home.  More to follow after I conquer jet lag once again.  Stay tuned.

London to Austin, the final leg!

We arrived just after 6 am at Heathrow.  I got some good sleep on that flight. Dinner shortly after our takeoff was either beef or fish and I heard good things about them both.  I had the beef and mashed potatoes, then put on my eye shade and faded away. I woke up with a slight headache halfway through the 8.5 hour trip. I got some water from the crew and went ahead and took my daily meds, malaria prevention and some ibuprofen for the headache.  Soon I was back to sleep.

We had to go from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 just as we had on the way to Kenya. It involves several escalators and a 10 minute bus ride. We got through security with little difficulty and began our 5 hour layover.  We each freshened up and then we took turns watching our luggage as Kevin and Cynthia did a little more shopping and I had a large black coffee and an egg salad sandwich. The little box breakfast before landing wasn't the most terrible thing, but it was just a granola and nut bar, a little banana bread slice, crackers and cheese and some yogurt. I skipped the yogurt because I'm taking antibiotics for malaria prevention and am already balancing that with acidophilus.  I got a big laugh when I loudly told a cabin attendant that it had been the best breakfast of my entire life as he was cleaning up the aftermath before our landing.

At Heathrow, I tried and tried to connect my smartphone to the wifi with no luck. I only needed several minutes to publish blog posts and send emails to let Austin friends, family and our church know that we had made it to London OK. Cynthia and Kevin had no issues with their phones, so I finally gave up and had Cynthia send an email for me. Pretty sad, I'm a computer tech and couldn't connect. The cobblers children have no shoes!

We just finally took off around 12:20pm London time. Our flight will be about 9.5 hours, but with the time zone difference we will arrive in Austin around 4pm. I'm hopeful that we can zoom right through Immigration and Customs and ride right home. So far, my new lucky red travel shirt has done pretty well. Come to think of it, maybe it had something to do with our great photo safari yesterday.  Hmm...

We will be served lunch soon. My eyes are already heavy, I'm pretty sure I'll be down for the count after eating.  I've already alerted our crew to wake me up for lunch if I don't make it that far. I've blown it before and meals are quite a ways apart, although I always bring some snacks and International flights usually have a stock of goodies.

All right, the food carts are on the way! I guess they won't have to poke me with a stick after all.  Whoops, they nearly ran out of lunches so I could have chicken curry or I could have chicken curry. Glad I like it. It came with rice and peas, a salmon salad, crackers and cheese and a Belgian chocolate cup. Very filling. I had some after meal coffee to try to stay awake a bit longer.  I'd like to get just enough nap time in so that I can go to bed sometime after 9 pm once we get home.  A great idea but not easy to execute on. 8 hours difference of jet lag will take a few days to overcome.  It's harder when you come back than when you go on a mission trip.  I think it's partly because we design our weekend activities on these trips to blast you into the new time zone and when Monday rolls around, ready or not we have to do what we came to do.  Coming home, it's a little easier to be a bit lazy about adjusting, especially if you're self employed like I am.  It is what it is.

That's it for this post.  I'm sure I'll get all of the posts since the last one I was able to publish before our travel out to the blog this evening.  Please keep coming back as I add a photo album, more stories and a final set of reflections on what this mission meant to us and to Pipeline and the community we were blessed to serve.

Saturday Safari and travel to London

We had one last breakfast buffet at Milele, the Presbyterian hotel that had been our headquarters for the week. All of the staff there had been very friendly, from the guys at the front desk Pius and Kevin, to the  cleaning crew, to the chefs and to our breakfast waitress Ann, who was always smiling. I taught Ann the nice custom in Hawaii of saying aloha because it means hello and goodbye, in effect meaning until we meet again.  She liked that and we said aloha when  breakfast was over. 

Cynthia helped Merrilee with her online check in for her KLM flight. Each of the rest of us had set our alarms for 11:30 so we could get our seat assignments 24 hours ahead of time and we each got our preferences without any problems.  It's nice when it works.

We gathered up all of our luggage and piled it in the two vans we had contracted for the day and shared a laugh or two with Edwin and Humphrey, two familiar friends from our previous trips. As I've pointed out here many times over the years, Catherine has always gotten us the best drivers.  Every one of them has been attentive to our needs, friendly and they always have our safety as their highest priority. Edwin and Humphrey are among the best of the best, so we knew we would have a great day.

We got to the Nairobi Game Park and met our friends Barrack, Jordan, Kailey and one of her friends from Texas Tech.  Kailey and Jordan had arrived in Nairobi the night before, so they were struggling with the time difference.  They will be doing different mission work with kids in various locations while they are here. I'm very proud of them, they raised the money with a fundraiser at Texas Tech and both have a heart for service and mission.

From the standpoint of numbers of major species seen, this had to be my best photo safari in dozen or so times I've been to this park. Depending on rainy seasons, drought, time of year and many other factors, you may not see certain animals at all.  We were truly blessed to see lions, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, zebras, hartebeests, impalas, water buffalo, warthogs, gazelles, ostriches, secretary birds, sacred Ibises, herons, superior starlings, Egyptian geese, scissortails, plover and more. We caught a baboon out of the corner of our eyes as well. One bit of excitement came when Cynthia yelled "Leopard!" as she saw an animal crossing the road in front of us. Humphrey stopped the van where it had entered the tall grass on the side of the road and I got several pictures as it went away from us with it's ears pointed rearward at us. The leopard is the most elusive of the big five species in Kenya. I have been trying to get a glimpse of one for years. I had even promised Humphrey a "leopard bonus" if he got me one.

Due to the heavy rains all week, many of the low spots were pure mud on the roads throughout this very large game park. Signs posted at the park entrance warned drivers not to stray from the main roads. We heard over the CB which drivers and park service rangers use to communicate with each other that one unfortunate driver had buried his van up to the drivers side front axle. He had been stuck for over an hour with a Kenyan mother and daughter as his clients. Our drivers showed him professional courtesy and tried to extract him. Humphrey took our van down the side road to survey the situation, while Edwin and the others remained up top on the main road. No sense in putting both of our vans at risk. It looked like the best strategy would be to get around the van and try to pull it out from the back. Humphrey got a tow strap out of the back of our 4 wheel drive van and gave it several tries before breaking his strap. Edwin went and got a chain from our other van and it also broke. I thought we were done trying, but no! Humphrey had one more trick to try.  We carefully pulled back around the stuck van and Humphrey pulled up nose to nose while Edwin put a blanket between the two vehicles to minimize damage.  We proceeded to get stuck as well. No good deed goes unpunished.

Barrack got out to help with the muddy job of pushing us out. I stayed in the van, since all had our very last set of clothes on for traveling back to the States.  A few years ago, Pastor Kevin, Ralph, Charles and I had gotten totally muddied out in a similar situation, but that was on the first Saturday of the trip.  After about 6 or 7 tries, we got back on solid ground and continued our safari. 

By this time, it was too late with the wet and muddy road conditions to make it to the Elephant Orphanage, something at least half the group wanted to do. Oh well, another reason to come back! 

Once we finished with the game park around 1pm, we lunched at the Veranda,  a nice restaurant and souvenir shop. I gave Barrack a refurbished laptop for his ministry with Fikisha that mentors orphans and street kids.
He was very glad, and so was I, since I had been instrumental in ruining his previous computer and he had been reduced to doing social media with his smartphone for the last 6 months.  I'll expand on that story soon.

After lunch, we made our way to the Little Daughters compound where we saw our friend Sylvester for a few minutes and were waiting for the Salem team to arrive when we found out that there had been a bad traffic accident between the Rift Valley and town. They needed to turn  around and go back to Lake Naivasha and try to work their way around the east side of town, so they were heading directly to the airport.  We visited with Catherine a little more, got to go to her friend Hannah gift shop and then it was off to the airport.

Now that new terminals are being built, and since the Paris and Belgium attacks, security is obviously at a heightened level.  Humphrey took the van through a checkpoint outside the airport and each of us was screened before we were allowed back in the van for the ride to our terminal.  We said what we thought was farewell to Merrilee, since her plane would depart from a different terminal.  We got checked in with no incidents and had about 3 hours to visit with our friends from Salem.  We boarded our 777 and headed for London.

We are in London now waiting for our direct flight to Austin.  One more leg and we are home! Stay tuned, more to follow!

Some stories from the clinic

I am beginning to write this as we wait to board our flight from Nairobi to London.  We should be on the plane in about half an hour.

During the clinic work week, there's not much spare time either before breakfast or after dinner to do justice to the many things that occur on a daily basis in an operation of this size. Over the coming days, I will try to fill in the blanks that were glossed over the first time around in order to give you a more complete picture of what this past week has been like. I may tell about a small detail or something that is much bigger in scope.  I hope you like my second go at it!

My first post clinic reminiscence is from Friday afternoon around 1:30.  My evangelist friend John Karanja was outside for a minute when he saw a young toddler of about 18 months walking in the muddy water near the entrance to the health clinic. Her mother apparently had left her for a minute to use the restroom.  He saw her suddenly disappear from sight as she fell through an uncovered manhole. He sprang into action.  She had gone in head first and was completely submerged.  He reached into the coffee colored water and pulled her out by her leg.  She was OK. She surely would have drowned if he had not been aware of what had happened. He told us about it as we joined the Pipeline ladies for a lunch of ugali, kale and cabbage.  We were all amazed at how matter of fact he was right after such an experience.  The health clinic was made aware of this incident and action was taken immediately.

I am proud to number John among my friends. He has a gift for leading people to the Lord and is like me in one regard. Neither one of us believes in accidents or coincidences.  He was in exactly the right place at the right time, doing exactly what he was intended to do. Thanks be to God!

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Wonderful End to the Clinic

It rained ed most of the night Thursday and it was pouring as we pulled into the clinic parking lot. Pastor Kevin and I had resigned ourselves to cold, wet feet for another day. We pushed the tent tops up with plastic chairs to remove the water that was threatening to bring them down.  Rosemary our driver went and bought "gum boots" for Merrilee and Cynthia which is what the Kenyans call rubber boots.

The clinic was slow, but steady all day, even with the terrible conditions. When we had finished, we had seen around 280 patients, our best day of the week.  We ended up with 1190 patients and 90 people coming to Christ for the clinic. With better weather, I'm convinced we could have easily served over 2000. A very good week in the mission field anyway.

There are many stories still to be told, and I will continue telling them over the next few weeks.  A picture album is high on my list as well. It just hasn't been possible to do much with photos this time due to spotty Internet and the constraints of time.

We are going down for our last breakfast at the hotel soon, after which we leave for a photo safari at the Nairobi Game Park.  We hope to see the feeding of the baby elephants at 11am at the Elephant Orphanage adjacent to the park. We will then lunch at the Veranda, a nice restaurant with a good gift shop.  Finally, we end up back at Little Daughters of St Joseph to freshen up, fellowship with our other teams and then head for the airport. We fly out around 11:30 local time.

I'll be writing more posts on the plane rides and publishing them as I can. Please keep us in your prayers for travel mercies.  I know the difference can be quite large between a smooth, uneventful trip and one with lots of excitement!

Thank you Jesus for sending us to serve in a clinic where many regained their sight or improved their vision. But most of all, thank you for sending us many who did not know you before and now are your sheep. Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday spent in the mud

We got to the clinic to find the end of the parking lot near the main clinic tents under about 4 inches of water and lots of mud around the tents. I made the right decision in wearing my wet sneakers.  The conditions slowed us down but didn't stop us by any means.  We ended up seeing around 200 patients who slowly trickled in all day.

One incident stood out for me today.  Gloria came to me and told me about an infant with a fresh burn on its leg. The mother had gone to the clinic for measles inoculation and had also tried to get treatment for the burn, but was told she needed to go to a different clinic since they didn't have the drugs for this. Gloria wanted to know if we had the funds to help get the mother and child to the other hospital, and of course we said yes but wanted to know the cost. She went back into the clinic and talked to a supervisor about it and it turned out 2 out of the 3 drugs were there and they prescribed the 3rd one.  Gloria came back and told us we needed to pay for the last drug. It turned out to be 50 shillings, about 50 cents. I had a 50 shilling note in my pocket and paid this incredible sum! Gloria's persistence reminded me of the woman and the judge in the New Testament who wouldn't take no for an answer.  Well done good and faithful servant!

It's hard to believe we only have one more day of the vision clinic to go. We had another 20 souls get saved today, it's been a very successful week in that regard. We inventoried a lot of our supplies today during slow spells, so tearing down and packing up should be easier tomorrow afternoon.

That's it for now, thanks for continuing to follow us and for all of your prayers.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thursday morning

It rained all night and I slept very well in spite of the massive quantity of meat I consumed at the Carnivore.  I made the decision to put on my damp sneakers, since I don't think my hiking boots would do any better. No sense in having two pairs of wet and miserable shoes!

I'm hoping the rain doesn't slow the clinic too much. If it does, we'll have more time for each patient.  It's all good. I always remind myself that we can only take care of those whom God sends us. It's our job to do it as best as we can.

Time to load the matatu.  More tonight!

Wednesday began with rain and ended with meat

We had quite a bit of rain overnight and when we arrived at the clinic, the tops of our tents were sagging from pools of trapped water.  We proceeded to get our feet drenched in the process of clearing the water, which made the rest of the day a little less comfortable.  We rearranged the stations of the clinic to get everyone under a tent. The rain slowed our attendance, but the blessing was those people got closer attention.  It cleared up before 10am and stayed a bit cooler than previous days.  We were still in scrubs while our Kenyan volunteers were bundled up. We northern European types are always warm while our equatorial friends are usually cold first.  We saw about 200 patients today, so for the week so far we are at about 700. 11 more folks turned their lives over to Christ, bringing that total to 56 people that we might see in Heaven one day.  Thanks be to God!

After the clinic, we got hurried showers and drove to the Carnivore. It's like a Brazilian steakhouse with all the normal meats plus crocodile, ostrich and others.  I hope I can sleep tonight! This was our one nice team dinner of the trip, always a highlight.  We were joined by Rosemary, our driver, Gloria, our missionary friend who has been helping us all week, and our dear friend Catherine, who coordinates our trips for us. Her son Mark, who is home from Concordia University in Austin, joined us part way into the meal, but he caught up rapidly!

Time for bed, keep coming back as the saga unfolds.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday as the clinic continues

We repeated Monday morning, but didn't leave our hotel until 7:30 for the ride to the clinic. We thought we would see if traffic would be any worse. Sometimes a few minutes later can add a lot to travel time. We go against the normal rush hour flow, heading away from the heart of the city.  Our only bottleneck came at a roundabout that was hopelessly snarled.  Every one wanted to be first. A conductor from the matatu behind us got it sorted out with the help of several other conductors.  For those of you who haven't read all of my blog posts over the years, a matatu is a 14 passenger van, either under a private contract to a company or certain riders or it is licensed as public transportation.  On a public one, the conductor hangs out of the side door, scoops people into the van and snags their money all in one move. It's pretty amazing to see. Since time is money and matatus are used to get people to near their destination, when traffic gets jammed up, the conductors become instant traffic cops. We were on our way in a few minutes and arrived on time at the clinic.

We got the clinic setup quickly, since Pastor Kevin had taken the step of getting our essential gear into only a few of the footlockers yesterday afternoon.  We also have a better idea now of which extra footlocker to go to for more of a particular item.  This is good, since we need to setup and tear down the clinic each day.  We had clear skies in the morning, so it warmed up fast.  Cynthia had done the eye chart Monday, and being close to the equator, the sun is stronger than you think. Even with a good sized hat she got some sunburn.  She did the reading glasses and Merrilee took the eye chart, wearing sunglasses and a ball cap. We saw about 225 patients, but more importantly, 24 people confessed Christ as their Savior, including one Muslim man.  Praise God!

We have been blessed by clear weather so far.  The long range Nairobi forecast had high chances of rain for our whole stay here.  It is lightly drizzling Tuesday around 9 pm as I write this. We're hopeful the good weather in the daytime will continue.

When we got back to the hotel, I took a quick shower. I gathered up my wildlife camera and headed for the front desk.  I always have tried to hit it off with our staff everywhere we stay from cooks to waiters to cleaning staff. I asked my friend at the front desk if he could tell me a good place to view the sunset, maybe a balcony. We get a good sunrise from the courtyard, but the west is not visible. He told me to follow him. We climbed 5 stories worth of stairs and then went up another half flight that ended at about a 3 by 3 foot open hatch.  We ducked down, went past a lot of the staff's laundry hanging to dry over the hotel plaza below, came to another hatch and emerged up on the roof. The sky was stunning about an hour before sunset. He stayed with me for about 20 minutes chatting about what camera he should get. I got pictures during the 45 minutes I was up there of the sunset as it progessed, some of the Nairobi skyline and many birds in flight including Sacred Ibises, Pied Crows, the biggest hawk I've ever seen and what appeared to be herons. Wow! I'm going good to take Cynthia up there with her Canon camera Thursday evening, weather permitting.

Time to wrap it up for now. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A good first day at the clinic

We had a wonderful buffet breakfast and then headed for the clinic around 7am. We made good time and were soon hauling footlockers to the various stations, putting up signage and deciding where a couple of extra gazebo tents would be placed.  Once our volunteers arrived, we all gathered together and Pastor Kevin blessed the start of our week with prayer. We continued getting set up and trained our volunteers in the areas in which they would be working.

Our patients began to trickle in and we began to serve them. It was a beautiful day, and when we were done, we had seen nearly 300 people. A respectable start for a clinic in a new location. We were most impressed with the dedication of the Pipeline elders and members. They are a joy to work with. They even had a special surprise for us, as we got taken a couple at a time to enjoy lentils, rice and cabbage they had cooked for lunch. It was a high honor for us to be invited to break bread with them in such a way that it had no impact on the flow of the clinic. Well done, Pipeline!
I have high hopes for the rest of the week. As people go home and tell their friends and families that our clinic was good and indeed was free for one and all, our numbers will grow with each passing day if the past is any guide.
Things started to slow down a bit around 4pm, so we began the process of doing an orderly shutdown of the clinic. Unlike previous clinics I have been a part of, we will have to setup and tear down each day. It's a lot of work, but it is well worth it. We had more than 20 people come to Christ for the first time or repent after years of backsliding.  Thank you Jesus!

We just finished another nice meal at the Presbyterian lodgings where we are staying.  I have multiple batteries for the refractors charging in my room in order to be ready for a bigger day tomorrow.  Time for me to recharge as well. More to follow as the week unfolds.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A few more thoughts on our mission

We occasionally get asked the reasons for taking time out of our daily lives and dedicating our personal and church resources to a project halfway around the world.  While much good comes out of the human care ministry that we do, first and foremost is the Great Commission. I've always felt that last instructions are very important.  When He said "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...", I've always believed that Jesus meant what He said. Not everyone hears that call on their lives and fewer still act on it. Those of us who have done so learn the lesson very quickly that when you get out of the boat and serve others according to His will, the Lord not only blesses others through you, but you are abundantly blessed in countless ways as well. Everybody wins!

At Redeemer, our rallying cry is "Meeting needs, changing lives, through Jesus Christ." We are committed to doing this in our own community, throughout Texas, our country and the world. I am blessed to be a small part of this effort to bring the Gospel to those who haven't heard, to love others that really need our help and to be a part of growing the Kingdom.  My prayer is that if you ever hear that small, still voice urging you to go into His mission field, that the Holy Spirit strengthens you so that you boldly say "Here I am Lord, send me, send me!"

Sunday worship and new lodgings

We breakfasted with the team from Salem and said our goodbyes and good lucks to each other as we packed up our vans and headed our separate ways.  We drove across Nairobi to the slum area where our clinic will be held and worshipped with the Pipeline congregation. On the way, we nearly got stuck on a muddy corner, a result of recent rains. While trying to make the corner and avoid the throngs of people, one guy walked by and said "Next time take a helicopter! " We all got a big laugh out of that.  The service was overflowing the small structure with maybe 75 adults and about 30 kids. To start a mission on Pentecost is a real treat.  The Holy Spirit is in full force and I expect a week full of miracles for large numbers of people. This small church has very committed members.  They have been wanting one of our teams to help them grow to the point of needing a new larger location. We have also been praying that we could partner with them somehow. Prayers have been answered and now it's time to do the Lord's work.

After church, the elders of the church had a special surprise for us. A wonderful meal had been prepared and we broke bread together.  After lunch, we made our way to the outskirts of the slum to the Ministry of Health building where the actual clinic will take place. We figured out the layout of the clinic while our Nuru friend Geoffrey trained our local evangelists in explaining how the Evangelism Cube, a wonderful visual aid in explaining the Gospel.
We then drove to a Presbyterian compound called Milele where we will be staying this week. It is very nice and the food is good, an important factor when we are working hard during the day.

We have an earlier than usual morning tomorrow since we need to setup the clinic, so I'm going to call it a night.  Blessings everybody!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday activities

Merrilee finally got here after problems in Detroit, being diverted from Amsterdam to Dubai and then working her way through the  Nairobi airport. She was a real trooper and got a quick shower and came with us after 48 hours of travel. She met interesting people along the way.  Cynthia was happy to see her suitcase that Merrilee had checked for her. All was finally well.

We drove out to Naivasha with a new driver to us. Her name is Rosemary and she was great. She has worked in several clinics with other teams, so I asked Catherine if we could have her for the week and we got her. It's like gaining another team member.  A good driver makes things easy and safe.  One that helps in the clinic is precious. We look forward to working with her.

Due to the late start, we were only able to be on the water for about an hour. I gave our boat driver, who called himself Captain Peter 300 Kenyan shillings, about $3, and he bought 4 dead fish to bait eagles with.  He succeeded in coaxing 4 African Fish Eagles to come down from trees to snag the fish.  Cynthia and I got some great action shots. We also saw many other birds and a few hippos.

After the safari, we had a very good lunch nearby. We arrived back in Nairobi in time for a 5 pm worship service with the other teams and then had dinner.

Wifi is spotty this evening, so I'm going to call it a day and hit the sack. More to follow...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Arrival in Nairobi, Saturday plans, where's Merrilee?

Our flight arrived on time and it took 3 buses to ferry all of us to the cargo terminal, since the new International terminal isn't finished.  Going through Immigration wasn't too bad, but I was the last one through since I had been in the tail of the plane.  Customs was another story. We were there for what seemed like an eternity as the Salem team dickered with the agent in charge who has given us a really hard each of the last 3 trips. She's relatively new and is a stickler. She insisted that we had told her we would have 3 footlockers when  we had about 20. We finally got through, only to find out Merrilee had not made it. The airline would give no info to our people. Our friend Catherine's phone number is in our team member packets and she got no word either.  Pastor Kevin stayed at the airport with Catherine while the rest of us and our luggage went to the Little Daughters of St. Joseph. Pastor Kevin called Ron and he had not heard from Merrilee either.

Kevin and Catherine finally got to our lodgings at 1 am with no word on Merrilee.  During breakfast this morning, our team phone went off with the good news that Merrilee is in Nairobi.  Our drive for the safari this morning is picking her up and we'll see if she's in any shape to join us. Kevin called Ron to give him the good news.

We will be going to Lake Naivasha to see the hippos and other animals and birds. I'll report on it as soon as I can. Lord, thanks for bringing Merrilee safely to us. Bless all that we do while we're here answering your call on our lives. Amen.

On to Nairobi, the last leg!

I had a completely new travel experience after we touched down in London.  We arrived at our gate pretty close to being on schedule as well the plane stopped just short of the terminal.  The captain announced that a piece of equipment had been left right in front of the gate and we would be waiting until someone could be found to move it. This may have happened before, but I don't remember ever being told about it. We sat for about 10 minutes and finally were allowed to disembark. After all of our travel triumphs and woes over the years, there's not much we haven't seen before.  We can add this one to the long list.

Once inside Terminal 5, we traversed probably a couple of miles of escalators, moving walkways, a tram and just plain walking before we boarded a bus to take us to Terminal 3 where our plane would be waiting. Kevin and Cynthia breezed through security. I got  a full body scan, was patted down and both of my shoes were swabbed and tested for who knows what. At least it didn't take long. There was one final passport and evisa check before we made our way to our gate.
We found a power tap and I used my UK adapter to charge all of our phones and also one for a Kenyan woman who was lacking an adapter. I posted the blog journal entry I had written on my smartphone on the previous flight and the team from Salem Tomball arrived. They had been in an eternal holding pattern and had just cleared security only minutes before boarding.  I'm glad they made it just under the wire.

I'm writing this post from BA Flight 65, a Boeing 777, a much more modern craft than our previous one with all the amenities we were lacking on the New York to London portion of our trip.  I'm on the left hand aisle seat in the middle of the plane and I've had a great conversation with a man named Michael on the right hand middle aisle. The seat between us is empty, so we have a little extra room for us and our stuff.  He works for a nonprofit affiliated with the Gideon Society. He's based in the UK, but lived in Nairobi for 2 years. I shared what we do and he's familiar with all the places we've served in the past.  We exchanged business cards and I hope to follow his ministry after the trip.

True to form, lunch was served and the choice was, get ready for it, chicken or vegetarian pasta. How original! But once again, the pollo filled me up. I'm sure I'll nap a few more times before the end of this flight, but I don't want to get too much sleep or it will be very hard to rest in Nairobi tonight.

After we passed Greece it got pretty choppy and the Fasten Seat Belt sign has been on for about 30 minutes now.  We have about 4 and a half hours until Nairobi and we are flying at around 37000 feet with speed of 605 miles per hour. I expect that things will get smoother once we are over northern Africa.  Other than this bit of turbulence, the flight has been pretty uneventful.  I made friends with a pair of Kenyan nuns when I showed them how to work their entertainment center.  I noticed them getting frustrated across the aisle when swiping get on the touch screen was doing no good.  I turned it on and they gave me the biggest smiles! I guess I'm the tech guy no matter where I am.

We now have a little over 2 hours to go and we'll be at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  I'm hoping to get a few cell phone pictures during the sunset over Africa from the rear of the plane.  At the moment, we're in some choppy air again at 39000 feet and traveling at 520 miles per hour.

Our last challenge will be getting through Customs and Immigration.  Some recent teams were taxed on some of the medical supplies they brought. We have paperwork from the Ministry of Health and we are a registered charity in Kenya, but not everyone gets the message.  Kenya is not unique, much of the world has local ways of conducting business and we just adapt as required. It is what it is.

I'm hoping to post this and email that we made it to Nairobi OK from the airport with my phone, since it will be late and Internet access is iffy where we stay. If not, I may not have another chance until after our Saturday safari out in the country. So if you see this by 2 or 3 pm in Austin, we made it! Stay tuned, we're just getting started! Thank you Jesus for a relatively smooth voyage this time. Amen.

Flight to Heathrow

Our 747-400 pulled away from Terminal 7 right on time. We are waiting to take off as I start to write this.  We all made calls to loved ones and friends in the minutes leading up to boarding. This plane is huge, with the characteristic hump up front housing a second story of first class seats.   It is also pretty outdated on the inside. Our previous plane had USB plugs and power taps for every seat and an on demand entertainment system plus roomier seats. None of these amenities is on this flight. Not really a problem since this is the flight we will try to get the most sleep on after dinner is served.

There's a large group of French teens on the flight, I'm guessing they have been on a field trip to the States.  Now that we're air borne, all 5 of them are swapping seats at once. Quite a sight to behold. I'll try to talk to one of the adults to get the story.

The dinner choice was chicken or vegetarian pasta. Some things never change.  I had the chicken and it did fill me up. I did manage to get quite a bit of sleep, our early start and the long layover in New York wore me out.  We are currently in a holding pattern since Heathrow doesn't open until 7 am and the whole world arrives at the same time.  This can  make For long delays in security. Our 3 hour or less layover in London is barely enough sometimes. I'm hoping for the best but ready for the worst.

I was able to determine that the youth group was indeed from France and had spent a week in New York.  The parents are heroes in my book! The kids were typical, full of energy and fun, but well behaved and polite. It is good to see them have the opportunity to travel at a young age.

More to follow after whatever our experience at Heathrow turns out to be.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

An afternoon at JFK

It was almost 2pm Eastern time when we deplaned in New York.  We went up and down various escalators and traversed more than a few moving sidewalks before finally taking a tram to Terminal 7 where our flight would be departing for London.  Once there, I made sure to get aisle seats reserved for the next 2 legs of our trip, then we spent about 20 minutes getting through security so we could go to our gate in the International terminal.

We ate at the food court and, while all the choices were airport plus New York expensive, we were so hungry anything would have tasted wonderful and it did.

We've got about another hour before we board. I'll try to report from London, sometimes with delays in security we have to literally run to make our flight to Nairobi. Thanks for continuing to follow our progress and for keeping us and our mission in your prayers.

Flight to New York

Thursday Flight to New York

Our friend Jay Jennings was on duty with the airport fire department and stopped by for a minute to see us off. What a nice surprise!

We took off from ABIA right on time and the air was choppy all the way to JFK. The captain never did turn off the Fasten Seat Belt sign. Passengers still made their way to the rest rooms as needed, but there was no unnecessary milling around.  There was no meal provided, so I bought a ham and cheese croissant sandwich for $10 with my American Airlines Mastercard, maybe I got a mile or two in return.  It was fresh and good but for $10 I would rather have Texas BBQ! Free soft drinks and a cookie were on the next cart. I'm sure we'll get something to eat at JFK and there should be dinner and  maybe  breakfast on the flight to London.

I sat with a young couple on their way to Baltimore and Washington DC and told them about the mission trip.  Since I was recently in the area and have been to many of the sights and museums before, I was able to steer them in the right direction. It's always more fun if people share in conversation on these long trips and it gives us a chance to witness to them. Even when we used to book flights as large groups of 60 or more missionaries, we would split up the seating on purpose. We view the entire trip as a great way to share the Good News. Who knows?  One encounter might have eternal and profound worldly consequences.

Thursday morning, let the mission begin!

Cynthia and I arrived at Pastor Kevin’s house as planned at 6am for the drive to the airport in his truck with Tammy.  We got there in record time because of the light traffic and we heard from her that she got back to the Redeemer neighborhood quickly as well.  We got through security with very little trouble, one footlocker with my backpack and toiletries in it got searched and swabbed and then we were good to go.  We’ve got about an hour until we board, I’m having a cup of hot coffee because it’s best if we stay up.  I always have a fitful night’s sleep before each trip, just sure that I’ve forgotten SOMETHING.  I shouldn’t worry, after 14 trips I’ve got a checklist of the essential items such as my passport that I go over just before we leave.  The passport and a rain poncho for when we get a real gully-washer are the only two things you absolutely can’t live without.  Working in the city limits of Nairobi, we can get most anything we may have forgotten after the clinic each day anyway.
We fly to New York from Austin at 9:15am and then we have about a 3 hour layover before taking British Air to London.  After another 3 hour layover (with a major security check), we fly to Nairobi before noon London time.  We will arrive in Nairobi about 8pm local time, spend about an hour going through immigration and customs and then will ride for about an hour  to the Little Daughters of St. Joseph convent  where we will be staying the first 2 nights with teams from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball. 

We plan on going out to Lake Naivasha for a river and lake photo safari Saturday morning.  Even if we don’t sleep well, it’s good to try to get onto local time as soon as possible so we will be in good shape for the start of the clinic Monday.  I expect we’ll see hippos in the river, many different water birds and, if it’s dry enough, we will get to walk around the island among zebras, giraffes and other non-predators.  There’s an 80% chance of rain there on Saturday, but many times those are late afternoon thunderstorms.  We will be there from about 9:30am until maybe 1pm, with lunch near the water’s edge.

That’s about it for now.  I’ll try to get a little more in from New York and London as we progress in our travels.  Thanks for keeping up with the blog and keep coming back.  I’ll report as often as it’s possible.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Preparing for our next mission to Nairobi later this week

It's time to crank up the blog again, as we are in the final stages of preparing to head to Nairobi Thursday.  This time we will be serving with a new congregation near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport called Pipeline.  We will be serving with some of our old friends from the churches in Kawangware and Kibera including Pastor James, volunteers from Nuru (the Lutheran Hour Ministries in Kenya) and Gloria.  There will be 5 of us coming from the States and Gloria will join us as our 6th team member.  We will also have many volunteers from the Pipeline congregation.  The team will be led by Pastor Kevin and myself and we will be joined by Ralph Genz, Merrilee Walker and Cynthia Lux, who will be on her first trip with us.

We were commissioned and prayed over this morning at Redeemer on Mother's Day, which made it very special.  Pastor Dave explained from Scripture the reasons we do mission, both as a congregation and as individual missionaries.  He prayed a beautiful blessing over us as we opened the 9:30am worship service.

I say a few words to the congregation about where we are going and what we expect to accomplish

Pastor Dave commissions the team

4 of us are flying British Air out of Austin this time.  With the tourist season just beginning, we couldn't get a direct flight to Europe, so we will be flying the JFK in New York and will have a layover there before catching a flight to Heathrow in London.  From there we will fly to Nairobi.  Merrilee was able to book an outstanding deal on KLM and she will be flying by way of Amsterdam and will eventually meet us in Nairobi late Friday night.  I will be going on my 15th trip.  On all previous trips, I have traveled wearing my lucky red Adidas shirt, making me easy to spot for the rest of the team as we globe trot.  Two trips ago we got diverted to Istanbul and last time Pastor Kevin and I were refused passage by Air France over a mix-up with our visas.  I am retiring the lucky shirt after it has failed on 2 trips in a row!  Now I need to decide on a new one.  All kidding aside, the Holy Spirit has always been with us on each of these trips and no really serious incident has ever occurred.  We have been blessed as we blessed others.  

More to follow in the days ahead.  Please come back to this blog often, I will be updating it during out travel and as often as time and the availability of both electricity and Internet access allow.