Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mission trip dates for Spring 2018 have been set!

Hello all!  It's been a while since I posted to this space.  We didn't send a team to Kenya this November, but we are gearing up for our next mission trip, which will be from May 24-June 3, 2018.  We expect to be working in Nairobi again, possibly at some of the smaller church plants that we have served through our clinics in the past, such as Waithaka or Pipeline.  We would like to continue to help these small, but vibrant, churches grow.  Those details are still being worked out with our Kenyan friends.  As always, we will go where we can do the most good, both in terms of the needs of the people for vision care and in regard to our primary purpose of evangelism.  If you are interested in more info about this mission trip, please email or me at and we'll send you detailed information.

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  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

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

The plane ride to Houston

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. 

Got to London OK

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

Saturday activities and let the travel begin!

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

The clinic finishes on a high note

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

Thursday surpassed all expectations

A little more about last night’s dinner at Pampa.  Catherine’s son Eugene has always been able to outlast all comers at any “all you can eat” affair that I’ve seen him at.  Last night, he met his match.  The new world champion is Ben Westergren.  After all of us had surrendered by turning our green chip in front of our plates over to red, Ben was still sampling everything that was offered to him.  We thought it was hilarious, because got the kids half price deal and buried the rest of us.  The restaurant lost that bet because It was just short of unbelievable.  We all had a lot of fun with it and the conversation around the table was wonderful all night.
We breakfasted and left about 20 minutes later than usual this morning because there was absolutely no traffic, on foot or vehicular, to be seen.  It was the easiest ride to and through the slum of Kibera that I had ever experienced.  We didn’t know whether we would have a big day or if people might be doing other things on their holiday.  It was the former, we served 667 people before it was all over, with 23 new believers coming to Christ today.  Thank you, Jesus!  Just like yesterday, it was a steady flow of people, we never got a chance to really catch our breath.  We do rotate from one station of the clinic to another, because some jobs are standing and some are sitting, some are repetitive, while others, like triage, involve staying engaged in conversation with our patients, so you need to be attentive at all times. 
I was called out of the clinic to meet with Bishop Bakari near one of our evangelism tents.  He was sitting with an 18 year old guy that had obvious problems with his eyes.  It turns out that he has keratoconitis, a condition where the eyes become more and more shaped like the end of an American football.  We have had luck referring boys less than 10 years old to a clinic for treatment, but the older ones sometimes can only get partial treatment or hard contact lenses that temporarily push the eyes back into shape.  He had gone to one of the clinics we use without the benefit of being connected to Vision for Africa, our project and was told it would be at least $2000 per eye.  It might as well be a million dollars.  I worked with our doctors and they feel they can get the price down to possibly $600 per eye.  In these cases, we typically agree to pay a portion and ask that the family and community fundraise for the rest.  It has worked out well almost every time and it results in more people have skin in the game and actively praying for a good outcome.  I will follow up and report on how things go.
This afternoon, Joseph and Wayne from Waithaka came in to have a follow-up visit for Wayne after his successful surgery after our clinic there last November.  He was the young boy that had a hole in his left eye tear duct that resulted in a chronic dry eye condition.  I’ve posted pictures in the past of him before and just after his surgery.  It was a joy to see them both again, and Wayne is just fine now.  I’ve been in contact with Joseph, the father, by email since we first met.  Another thank you, Jesus!
We have a big day tomorrow, probably 500 or so patients before we must begin packing up the clinic and having one final devotion with the Kibera volunteers.  We have prepared diploma quality certificates of appreciation for them and will award them individually.  The recognition goes a long way with the younger volunteers.  In the past, many have framed them and put them on their walls.  We will say our goodbyes through laughs and tears and will spend our last night at Rosa Mystica.

Saturday, we will be going to the Nairobi National Game Park for a photo safari including a stop at the Elephant Orphanage.  Next will be a nice lunch at the Veranda, a wonderful outdoor dining experience, and finally we hope to get to feed the Giraffes at another attraction.  More to come as time permits.  Thanks for following our adventures and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

We had an awesome Hump Day!

We started our day at the clinic by sending all hands down to the school to examine 300 students with an eye chart and for other problems.  I stayed in the clinic and setup each station so we would be prepared to open when the others were done.  It’s a good thing I did, we were swamped all day.  None of us ever had more than a moment’s break the whole day, it was a steady stream of humanity.  By day’s end, we had served 535 patients in the clinic, so including the children, we made a difference in the visual lives of over 800 people. Praise God!

We had dinner with Catherine and her family, including her mother, her son Eugene and her nephew Brian.  We went to a Brazilian steak house named Pampa near Rosa Mystica, because we couldn’t get a reservation at the Carnivore, probably due to it being on the evening of the holiday celebrating Kenya’s independence from the British.  It was real blessing to see Mama again, which is what we call Caherine's mother.  It was a later than usual night for us, so we all turned in when we got back to our lodging.  I’m writing this quickly Thursday morning and will continue after the clinic today.  I hope we have a HUGE day with people being off work.  More details to come about Wednesday and today…t

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday's Clinic builds on our good start

We had breakfast at 7am and then rode to the clinic.  The setup of all of our stations only took a few minutes.  We sang some Swahili praise songs with our volunteers and Pastor Kevin did a nice devotion based on the Gospel of John.  He talked about the joys of working together to share the Good News, how it is not something God wants for us to do alone.  We strengthen and encourage each other along the way and build unity in the church.
We had another very good day for so early in the week, seeing 501 patients, with 34 of them coming to Christ for the first time or wanting to know more.  It was pretty steady all day long and the clinic is now running smoothly enough for us to see much larger numbers of people easily.  Our only limitations may be how well our supplies of reading glasses and distance lenses and frames hold out.  I expect a very good week, with one question mark hanging over us.  There is a national holiday on Thursday, so we may have a monster day or people may do other things with their families.  Whatever happens, we will take the best care that we can of the people that the Lord sends our way.
At the end of the day, during our team devotion, Bishop Bakari Kea asked if anyone had a testimony to share about the God things that had happened.  Several people talked and then I told my story.   I was near the doctor’s table when an older gentleman approach Dr. Lillian.  He had been there earlier and had been told that he needed cataract surgery and that we would pay for it.  He had decided not to go through with it, saying he was too old.  I remembered that old man who had been in the same seat the day before and how he eagerly looked forward to having his second eye done.  I posted about this yesterday and there is a picture of him with Dr. Lillian on my Facebook page (I’m Dave DeVore there, so check it out).  I pulled out my phone, got the picture displayed and we showed it to our patient.  He then agreed to the surgery and I am looking forward to following his progress through Catherine.  If the story ended there, it would have been fine.  That’s where I finished in front of the group.  Only later did I find out that Tammy had seen the many leave and heard his excuse.  She shouted to Dr Lillian “Is he really too old?”  Lillian said that he wasn’t.  She followed him outside and convinced him to return, which is the point at which my story had begun.  Just look at how Pastor Kevin’s message of working together to accomplish God’s purposes had played out and how many of us He had used in the process.  All I can say is a phrase we hear often in Kenya “God is good.  All the time!”

We just got back from dinner at Java House.  I’m about ready to call it a night.  We have a busy day tomorrow and are going to the Carnivore with Catherine right after the clinic.  We’ll change and freshen up a bit at the restaurant.  It’s similar to a Brazilian steak house, they bring you meat until you surrender by raising a little flag in front of you.  We may be in fairly late, so my next report may be delayed a little bit.  Thanks everybody for all of your prayers, they have been heard and wonderful things are happening by the minute here.  Praise God!

Monday, May 29, 2017

A very good start to the clinic

I just got back from a great meal with the team at the food court across the street from Rosa Mystica in the Junction Shopping Center.  All the adults had Chinese food, while Jack and Ben chowed down on pizza.  We capped it off with Gelato from an Italian Ice Stand.  During dinner, we talked about all the wonderful things that had happened at the clinic today.
Our day had started out with a 6:30am breakfast at Rosa Mystica prepared by our friend Kennedy.  Pastor Kevin and his family had arrived late and it was a real joy to see they finally had made it to Nairobi late Sunday night.  Out of 500 on their original flight, they were in a group of only 60 that got out of London in the first wave.  Kennedy cooked eggs to order, there was sausage, toast and other cereals, etc. to choose from.  We were on our way to setup the clinic by 7:30. It was a wet morning, so we didn’t encounter nearly the foot traffic I had anticipated.  Upon arrival at the church, some of the volunteers retrieved our footlockers from the basement and Pastor Kevin and I began directing team members and volunteers alike in the ways that we would like things positioned and done during the clinic.
Bishop Bakari Kea arrived and we began the day with some music and a prayer by the Bishop.  We began seeing patients and by the end of the day 421 people had been treated for one eye malady or another.  14 people also either came to Christ or had asked for time with a pastor soon, including three Muslims.  I had one man come to me to let me know we had supplied him with successful cataract surgery on a previous trip and he wanted  us to finish up by doing the other eye.  It was a special moment for me.  I authorized the procedure and we are praying for a good outcome. Thank you, Jesus!
Diane spent time today working the eye chart and helped Tammy with reading glasses.  Elena and Jack started out with me training them on the autorefractor, only for our batteries to all go bad.  We had to rely on our doctors to do all distance glasses exams, which is a slower process.  Gloria will be bringing some more refractors and batteries tomorrow to fix this.  Elena worked with me on pulling lenses and also worked the eyechart and helped with reading glasses.  Jack was helpful all around.  Tammy was primarily doing reading glasses while Kevin and I jumped in wherever we were needed. 
It was one of the best first days I have been involved with, both in terms of numbers of patients served and in how quickly the clinic began running fairly smoothly compared to past ones.  This team has a light, fun and joyful vibe to it and I’m sure it rubs off on our patients and volunteers.
That’s about it for now, I will continue to post pictures and short snippets from my phone on Facebook and will follow-up later from home to join the two sets of material together into on coherent piece.  I’m going to call it an early night and hit the shower and go to bed.  I don’t expect to have any trouble sleeping!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A very full Sunday

We packed up all of our rooms and moved to Rosa Mystica, another convent we have stayed many times before.  It is closer to our clinic and has great access to a shopping mall right across the street.  We then drove to the Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera, to worship with the congregation and the volunteers who will be serving their community along side of us.  We were treated to a wonderful worship experience, with many different choirs and styles of music fitted into a liturgical service that lasted nearly 3 hours.  I am always amazed how time flies.  One of our local Lutheran Hour workers, Isaac, gave the sermon and as a courtesy to us, spoke in both English and Swahili.  Our dear friend Bishop Bakari Kea also participated in the worship and poked fun at me as I introduced our team to the church.  This is a sign of being old friends, as we kidded him right back.  There were lots of hugs, laughs and tears of joy as we renewed old acquaintances and began new friendships.  At lunch, Diane and Elena commented on the fact that they had understandable reservations as we drove through the slum to the church, but they all melted away when they experienced the welcome we were given.  It feels like home to be back with our friends in Kibera.

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

Trouble plagues the Westergren's journey to Kenya, but all is well

Catherine went to the airport Saturday evening to pickup her son Eugene and Uncle Henry who had been in the States for Eugene's high school graduation, which I also attended last week.  Pictures of that great event are here: Eugene's graduation

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 in Kenya

I was showered and in bed by midnight Friday after our long journey.  The trip was incredibly smooth until we got to the airport here.  It took a while to get through the visa line and retrieve our luggage.  Our plan to go through security as normal tourists almost went without a hitch until questions were asked about what the contents of our bags were.  I'm pretty sure the interrogation was triggered by two big white X's on both mine and Diane's checked bags.  I don't know where they came from, whether in Houston, London or at Kenyatta airport here, but there they were.  We responded truthfully that it was clothing and also supplies for an eyeglass clinic.  Our examiner asked about the clinic, so I produced a letter from the Ministry of Health commending our project for the work we do. Not good enough.  She wanted to know the value of items.  Pastor Kevin had given me the invoice for our supplies, because sometimes you have to pay a tax on items brought into the country.  We acted as shocked and dismayed as we could and eventually were allowed to proceed without any payments at all!  I'm chalking this one up as a minor miracle!

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

From London to Nairobi

I wrote this on the plane:

We are about 6 hours from Nairobi as I write this, onboard a British Airways Boeing 747.  It’s an older plane, as was our 777 from Houston to London.  Neither of the planes this time around had USB or power outlets, a very nice convenience on long journeys.  However, I always come prepared and have a power brick my brother gave me a couple of years ago that is good for about 6 full charges on my phone.  It’s a lifesaver! 

I’m working on a laptop that I’m going to give to my friend Barrack at the end of the trip.  He has been a real blessing to the Nairobi area with his ministry for the street youth.  Over the years, I’ve mentored him in photography.  He has a real natural eye for beauty.  A couple of years ago, I gave him a hard time about having a dirty screen on his laptop.  He went crazy with window cleaner on it and some got down into the computer, frying it.  He uses laptops and cameras to promote his ministry, so this was a crushing blow and I felt terrible that I was at least indirectly responsible for his predicament.  I brought him a better refurbished laptop on our next mission trip and all was well for the time being.  Then, last fall, he was the photographer at a wedding, supplementing his income.  I had taught him to always have a backup camera at weddings or other once in a lifetime events, since if a camera failed, it was all over.  So, he had rented an expensive camera and he had both cameras, the laptop and his nice smartphone in his backpack as he left the wedding.  The worst happened.  He was held up at gunpoint and lost everything.  He is currently paying the camera rental shop back and has only had an inferior smartphone to document and publicize his ministry since then.  He also lost all of the wedding pictures.  What a shame!  I’ve moved into a more powerful laptop for my photography and other business needs, so I’m handing a very good laptop with a touchscreen down and am also going to supply him with a good Nikon  P600 superzoom camera to get him back on his feet again.  It’s the least I can do.  He will be joining us for a couple of photo safaris on this trip and hopes to help some with our clinic as well.  It will be good to see him again.  Friendships like this result from our mission philosophy of doing short term missions with long term commitment.  Everyone is blessed so much more than when you perform a one and done mission, leaving the people you served wondering if they did something to keep you from coming back or what.  I know that I have lifelong friends halfway around the world because of our persistent efforts with the vision clinics.  Thank you, Jesus!

Our time at Heathrow couldn’t have gone much smoother, with the exception of needing to take a bus to Terminal 3 from Terminal 5.  We went right through security and it didn’t seem much tighter than normal except when an agent pulled me off to the side and swabbed both of my sneakers and ran it through an explosive detecting machine.  I don’t know if my feet smelled funny or what, but I was soon waved through.

We had coffee at an Italian coffee shop and the ladies shopped for a little while at Harrod’s next door.  Our gate assignment was announced promptly at 9:30am as promised, which is not the usual case, and we had plenty of time to get to our flight.  We boarded and took off right on schedule.  We should arrive around 9pm Nairobi time, go through immigration and customs checks and then ride to Little Daughters of St. Joseph, the convent where we will spend the first 2 nights.  This time, we don’t have any of the big red footlockers that tip off the security people to our medical supplies, usually triggering an inspection and tariffs, taxes, fees or bribes to exchange hands.  We hope to blend in with the other tourists.  We’ve been able to do this because we are now storing most of our inventory with Catherine in Nairobi and replenishing much of it within the local economy. We only brought about half of a footlocker of supplies this time and split it up among our suitcases.  Here’s hoping we shoot right through.  I expect to be showered and in bed by midnight.  If the past is any guide, I may get 4 hours of on and off sleep.

We will breakfast around 7:30 and be on the road by 8am for a photo safari at Lake Naivasha.  This is the place where we take a boat ride on a river filled with hippos and then motor out to an island for a walk with the animals including giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, water bucks, elands and others.  I’m trally looking forward to it, since I know Diane and Elena won’t fully comprehend that they are in Africa until they spot their first giraffe!

More to follow at day’s end Saturday.  We will be 8 hours ahead of Austin, so if I post something at say 8pm, it will be available at noon in Austin.  Blessings everybody! 

Got to Nairobi safe and sound

Getting shower and heading to bed. Early safari tomorrow. It's midnight here. More to come!

Thank you Jesus!

Uneventful trip so far

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.

At Heathrow

All is well so far!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spring 2017 Kibera Team is getting ready to saddle up

Our team was commissioned this morning at both the 9:30 and the 10:45 services.  There will be seven of us including Pastor Kevin and his entire family (Tammy, Jack and Ben), Diane and Elena Henderson and myself.  We will be serving in the Nairobi slum of Kibera at the Springs of Life Lutheran Church, where we have many friends from previous vision clinics there.

Click the pictures above to see full screen versions of them.  Depending on whether you are on a computer, a tablet or a smartphone, they may display differently embedded in this text.

Our dear friend Catherine Wangari has been working very hard to assemble an all star team of doctors, Pastors, evangelists and local volunteers to help us with serve the community.  Those of us that have made multiple trips will get big hugs from good friends there and our new team members will rapidly make friends.  It is a very welcoming place.  Please keep an eye on this space, as I will be posting daily reports when possible, and hope to include a picture or two.  Spotty Internet and time constraints many times mean that the bulk of the pictures will be posted after our return to the States.  I have already started a Google Photos Album with these two pictures and will add to it as I can.  I'll occasionally post a link to it as it grows.

Elena, Diane and I fly out of Houston this time, as we got a very good deal on airfare, less than $1000 round-trip.  We have a stop in London before heading on to Nairobi.  Pastor Kevin and his family are traveling separately and are laying over in London for an extra day.  We will be joined by them next Saturday after we have a full day of activities, probably including a photo safari out away from town.

That's it for now, stay tuned, more to follow as we begin our travels later this week!  Please keep us in your prayers for a safe and effective mission and especially that the Holy Spirit would work on the hearts, minds and souls of the patients we will encounter with human care on our mercy mission and more importantly, with the saving message of the Gospel.  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Reflections on the Fall 2016 Mission - includes pictures!

Now that the holidays are over and things have settled down a bit, I've had some time to put our Fall 2016 Vision Clinic in Waithaka in perspective.  This clinic was done in cooperation with the ELCK and their church in the slum of Kawangware.  It is walking distance to the Kawangware church and many of the members of that congregation live nearby and are helping to plant the new church in Waithaka.  They have a new building that is being improved upon daily and are already worshiping more than 60 people on a given Sunday. In addition to our normal goal of spreading the Gospel to large numbers of people through the vehicle of the clinic, we also were interested in helping to get word out about the new congregation in the neighborhood.

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 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To God be the Glory!