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.