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

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!