Thursday, December 14, 2017
After going to Kenya 17 times since 2009, I've fallen in love with the country and its people. I've also gone from being a snapshot taker to a serious wildlife photographer and have been on over 30 photo safaris to various national and private game parks throughout Kenya. In the past year, I started my own photography business, Photo Art by Dave and have a web site that I am constantly adding to and tweaking. It's at www.photoartbydave.com. You can view my nature photos from Kenya, Texas and other places for free and everything is also available for sale as canvas prints, prints, downloads, mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets, etc. If you want something and it isn't offered, I can probably get it for you from another vendor.
I bring up the photography business because I am in the planning stages of arranging for several photo safaris to take place during the week after the mission trip. The successful wildlife photographers that I know and admire are either working for National Geographic (the odds of that for me are about the same as me getting drafted by the NBA!), already have built multi-media empires or they are operating photo safaris. I already have the groundwork laid for the safari business since I have our good friend Catherine Wangari and her Mission Opportunities travel agency in my corner and we have a stable of the best wildlife and birding drivers/guides around. I stayed over for 3 extra days in November of 2016 and got over 5,000 pictures, mostly of birds, as this was my primary focus at the time. Out of a possible nearly 1200 possible species in East Africa, we identified nearly 500, which is a home run, when you consider that many birds migrate and are not available in one area all year round. Of course, we got lots of pictures of lions, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles and all of the other usual suspects. I'll have more information by the first of the year, since it's important to book travel early to get the best prices on airfare. If you would like to be added to an email list of prospective participants in these photo safaris, please email me at email@example.com.
It's still amazing to me all of the good things that have come from doing the Lord's work over the years in Kenya. I've made lifelong friends, we've seen sight being given to the blind, little children healed from congenital diseases and thousands of people coming to a saving faith in Christ. God has always blessed both the giver and the receiver in my experience. Many times, the giver is really the receiver and vice versa!
More to follow as more details emerge about both the mission trip and my safari opportunity.
Finally, please look through the blog posts from previous mission trips. There are links to hundreds of pictures of our travel, what we do in the clinics, where we stay, the sights we see, etc.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
We boarded our plane and left the gate right on time but were about 15 minutes late taking off as we waited in line behind others. We are about 2 hours from Houston as I write and it has been a pretty smooth flight so far. The Fasten Seat Belt light only came on as we approached the East coast, a common experience. We were fed a lunch an hour into the flight. I slept a little after that and then watched a 50th Anniversary show celebrating The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan on my phone that CBS aired in 2014. That took up a couple of hours. I'm suspecting we'll get a snack before we land. I've been munching on trail mix I brought from HEB to keep me going.
It looks like we've made up some of the lost time. I'm just hoping we have a smooth time going through Customs and Immigration so we can get headed back to Austin. More to follow once I'm home.
We got through security in Nairobi without a hitch and took off on time at 11:15 pm local time. In the past, our flight left at 11:50. While 35 minutes might not seem like much, it's a big difference when you're dog tired. We all got good sleep on the 8 hour flight to Heathrow and I'm writing this on my phone in Terminal 5. As I noted earlier, I left my laptop with my dear friend Barrack for use in his photography and his Fikisha ministry with the street children in the slum of Kawangware. While my backpack is considerably lighter, it feels very good knowing why. Thank you Lord for providing for your people!
Our next flight to Houston should be about 9 hours. We arrive there at 2:15 pm cst and should clear customs in about an hour. Randy is picking us up and I hope to be home before 7. With any luck, I'll get word out from Bush International airport that we made it that far. I wonder if we'll stop for Blue Bell in Brenham? Only time will tell! Keep following the blog for the next few weeks. There are lots of stories to tell and pictures to share that time, flaky Internet and exhaustion have kept from you so far!
Saturday, June 3, 2017
We had breakfast at Rosa Mystica at 7 and were in the Nairobi National Game Park by 8am. My driver from my 2 extra days of photo safaris last November, Simon, was our driver. He quickly found lions, giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, warthogs, elans, rhinos, water bucks, gazelles, impalas and a large crocodile to name a few. We had a shortened safari so that we could also go to the world famous Elephant Orphanage. It was entertaining and informative. Diane and Elena adopted a 1 year old elephant named Molima.
We had lunch at the Veranda. Simon regaled us with all kinds of stories. After lunch, we proceeded to the giraffe feeding attraction, where I got a picture of Kelly the Giraffe kissing Elana. Actually, she bad a piece of food in her mouth that Kelly retrieved. We all had a good laugh.
We went back to Little Daughters for showers and joined with incoming teams for a worship service. Elena, Diane and I each got to share about our clinic before Pastor Mike from Catherine's church gave the sermon.
We are now at the airport waiting to board our flight. More to follow from London. Please pardon typos, I'm writing on my cell phone the rest of the trip.
Friday, June 2, 2017
We had another bang up day. Even with closing the clinic gates a little early so we could make sure we served everyone that was already there, we saw 641 patients and several more people confessed Christ. For the week, we ended up with 2765 patients plus 300 school kids got screened for eye problems. 97 souls were won over for the Lord as well! Thanks be to God!
Tomorrow, the Westergren's head to the Masai Mara for a couple of more days of family time in Kenya. We three will do a photo safari at the Nairobi National Game Park followed by lunch and hopefully we will feed some Giraffes at another place. We then will shower at the Little Daughters of St. Joseph before heading to the airport for the long trip home. More to follow as I am able.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Monday, May 29, 2017
Sunday, May 28, 2017
After church, we rearranged the pews and the other contents of the sanctuary to the approximate layout of the clinic. We will fine tune things as the clinic proceeds. We also got all of our supplies safely stowed in a locked room, so everything is staged and at the ready for a quick setup of the clinic tomorrow morning. Our missionary and friend Gloria joined us for lunch at Java House. Following our meal, we exchanged some money at the Forex and got a much better rate than at the airport. I took the ladies into the Naku-Matt and showed them where snacks, water and other necessities for the coming week could be found. I then added about $10 in minutes to our team phone, an old school Nokia candy bar "not so very smart" phone, so that we could contact our families today and during the week. It's only around a quarter a minute, much less than using one of our cell plans overseas. Technology has improved over the years, and much of our communication is done via the Internet, using Whatsapp, Facetime, email and messaging services for free rather than phones. The team phone is still our best lifeline in case of emergency however.
Elena was able to text back and forth with Jack in London and Pastor Kevin was also able to get an email to us letting us know they had boarded a plane bound for Nairobi which is set to arrive here around 9pm local time. We should have our full team in the morning. Thanks for answered prayers, Lord!
The ladies and I will dine in a few minutes here at Rosa Mystica and then call it an early night, getting some much needed rest before a big week ahead. Stay tuned, I hope to report again tomorrow evening after our first day of the clinic. Blessings everybody!
Saturday, May 27, 2017
She was also there to pick up Pastor Kevin, Tammy, Jack and Ben, who had gone to London a little early as family time and were hoping to join us for Sunday worship in Kibera, where we will serve this week. British Airways had a catastrophic worldwide computer crash and they were caught in the middle of the mayhem. Here is a BBC account of yesterday's problems: British Airways Computer Meltdown
We have been in touch with Kevin and they were able to get a hotel room until this all blows over. Just another adventure in international travel! If necessary, we will be able to get the clinic up and running with the three of us that are here. Kevin's big concern was that we would have registration cards and other essentials to be able to get started. I'm sure we do and that our team of experienced local volunteers will step up to the task at hand. To put everyone's mind at ease, I essentially have an all-star team here to help us, many of whom helped our team of only three from Redeemer last fall to see nearly 2800 people in Waithaka, with 82 of them coming to Christ in the process. A partial list of them includes:
Gloria Sauck, a veteran missionary, nurse and dear friend who has conducted clinics in remote areas of Kenya ALL BY HERSELF! She can perform any task in the clinic other than those performed by the local Kenyan eye doctors.
John Karanja, our friend and evangelist who has been gifted by the Holy Spirit with an incredible ability to share Christ's love with one and all.
Pastor James Tengencha and his evangelists, who do the initial presentation of the Gospel in tents outside the clinic before our patients come in for treatment. He is a dear friend and is a force of nature when it comes to witnessing for Christ.
Our friends and wonderful Doctors, Milliam, Lilian and Chris, plus maybe one more player to be determined later. We have worked with them many times and I can't wait for a joyful reunion with them.
Edwin, our driver, who has helped in many clinics in many locations before. We are very blessed to have him this time, when multiple teams are here, he is gobbled up quickly, since he is one of the best workers in our incredible pool of very able drivers and he is a good friend as well.
Our friend and local project coordinator Catherine Wangari will also be able to put in some time with us.
Add to this impressive list the many local volunteers that have helped us in Kibera and other locations, and my mind is at ease that things will go well until the rest of the team can join us.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin, Tammy, Jack and Ben for travel mercies as our adventure continues. Never a dull moment!
I will provide updates as I can, hopefully by noon Austin time we will know how the British Airways travel problems are sorting out. Stay tuned and thanks for your thoughts and prayers for us and the team as we get ready to do the work He has prepared for us to do.
Saturday, we had breakfast at 7 and were on the road with our driver Edwin on the way to Lake Naivasha by around 7:45. We had breakfast with Kevin Pieper and his team from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball. They are here to install and instruct people in the proper use of malaria nets, a ministry that is part of our project that has resulted in a significant decline in the spread of malaria in the areas where it has been tried, We stopped at the Great Rift Valley for a photo op and saw some Velvet Monkeys and a herd of Zebras along the side of the road, including a very cute baby Zebra. Once in the park, we boarded a boat with our life jackets on and cameras in hand and got to see several groups of Hippos up close and personal and lots of different water birds ranging from Kingfishers to Storks to Cormorants to Egrets to Herons and everything in between. Our guide was able to coax two African Fish Eagles, very similar to our American Bald Eagle, to come down from trees to snatch up fish he had thrown into the water for them. That's always an exciting photo op and I got some great action sequences. We got to walk around on the island for about an hour as well and saw Impalas, Water Buffalo, Zebras, Water Bucks and other animals up close and personal as well as a pair of Giraffes in the distance. After finishing our boat ride, we had a nice lunch of fish and chips and ate outdoor in what can only be described as paradise. We drove back to Nairobi and after I had gotten some rest, I went with Edwin for a walk around his friend Mike's farm nearby. It was almost sunset, so we didn't get many good photos of the various small birds there, but it was a nice 2 mile or so hike anyway. One of Catherine's friends setup her gifts in the parking lot at the Little Daughters of St. Joseph compound and we bought some shirts, bracelets and other trinkets for our friends and for ourselves. The day ended with dinner at 7pm, consisting of fish, kale and ugali (a side dish that is very filling made from corn meal, think really thick grits in place of mashed potatoes and you are close!). Watermelon was for dessert. We all turned in early in anticipation of a big day of worship in Kibera and the initial setup of the clinic, followed by lunch and buying snacks and supplies for working in the clinic during the week. More to follow as time permits. Thanks be to God for another great day here as we gear up to see many people to serve both their vision and spiritual needs.
Friday, May 26, 2017
We drove to Houston this morning and it took about 3 hours. We made a pit stop along the way in Brenham and had some Blue Bell ice cream.
Once at the airport, Randy was able to park the vehicle and join us for a while before check-in began at 1pm. We got through security with no issues and then had Mexican hamburgers. Mine had some really hot jalapenos on it but it was very good. We boarded our British Airways 777 right on time and were in the air right on schedule at 4:05pm. Dinner will be served shortly and then we'll attempt to sleep most of the way to England. This will help greatly in getting adjusted to the 8 hour time difference once we arrive in Nairobi Friday night. Our choice of meals is either vegetarian pasta or chicken and I must say the BA food has gotten considerably better over the years. Of course, they ran out of chicken on the seat next to me, so I became a vegetable although I was a conscientious objector!
After dinner, I was drifting off to sleep when we hit pretty bad turbulence as we approached the East coast. It lasted for about 45 minutes. After things smoothed out again, I managed maybe 3 hours of on and off sleep.
I take back what I said about the food. We just had a box breakfast that consisted of soft pretzel laced with cream cheese and 2 granola bars. At least the "certified rain forest coffee" was pretty good. I'm hoping we have time for a decent breakfast at Heathrow.
Our next hurdle will be security at Heathrow. Every plane in the world seems to show up right at 7am as Heathrow opens then due to neighborhood noise restrictions. I've already warned Diane and Elena not to get concerned about what will appear to be a madhouse. The newly redone international terminal can move a lot of people through quickly when they want to. We just don't know how tight screening will be after the Manchester incident earlier this week. More to follow from Heathrow if we have the time. Our layover is about 3 hours which should be adequate.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Saturday, February 4, 2017
We saw about 2800 people and we were blessed with good weather all week and the many experienced volunteers from Kawangware as well as dedicated new friends from Waithaka. This was the smallest team of muzungus (white people) I had ever led. There were only 3 of us from the States along with Gloria Sauck, our local missionary and good friend. The clinic worked very well because of the experience of our friends that we had served with many times before.
We had 82 people come to Christ as their Lord and Savior during the week and all were given a Gospel presentation in the evangelism tents and everyone was talked to about their spiritual lives and prayed over individually in the triage station. The Holy Spirit will surely move in more lives that we may never know about.
I was blessed with being able to stay 2 extra day with Bill Goodoff from Salem Lutheran Church to do a lot of wildlife photography. I got over 5000 photos in about 2 and a half days and am still working on them as I write this! It was a great way to decompress after a hectic week at the clinic and I left for the U.S. completely relaxed for the first time ever.
I have published a photo album of the clinic at the following link. A photo album of the best pictures from the wildlife safaris will be published soon and I will note it in this blog when it is done.
Fall 2016 Waithaka Clinic
Thanks everybody for continuing to follow our progress, pray for us and support our efforts as we work to obey the command of Jesus in the Great Commission to " a