Thursday, May 31, 2018
I was also visited by many friends from around Nairobi including Sylvester Opiyo and Douglas Masheti, both of whom I have known for over 10 years now. They work with orphans in the slum and are great examples of sharing the love of Christ. These close friendships are the by-product of our mission philosophy. We do short term missions, but with log term commitment. The church is its people and each human brick in this tapestry plays a part, everywhere in the world.
Time to head down for breakfast, Friday is a very busy day since we will need to take inventory and pack everything up at the close of the clinic. I expect some laughs and some tears as we part company with our friends at Waithaka this afternoon. Blessings, everybody!
It's already 9:30 pm here, so I'm going down for the count. Just wanted to let everyone know we're having very successful clinics and hope to finish strong. Tomorrow is the Kenyan equivalent of our July 4th, the date in 1963 when they became independent of the British. We really don't know if we'll have a very good Friday or maybe be sitting on our hands. I think it will be one or the other, with no middle ground. More to report after we wrap up the clinics tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
We had a nice dinner after the clinic and shared more stories. I told about Noah and about an elderly woman that came to the clinic to have bandages removed after we had sent her for cataract surgery the previous day. When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was Will Bach, my team member and friend standing right in front of her. He's a big guy and she must have thought she had seen Sasquatch or Yeti, because she yelled out "It didn't work!" We've already gotten a lot of laughs from that story, but imagine the culture shock she must have had. And don't worry, Will has a great sense of humor and loves this one!
We're beginning to run out of some of our supplies and my team is making distance glasses for both teams and some lens and frame combinations are getting pretty low. We hope to restock on what we need rapidly. At the very worst, any order we can't fill will result in the patient getting a prescription for what they need.
Well, it's about time for bed here. We make sure we get our rest and try to stay hydrated in order to serve others in the best way possible. Blessings everybody!
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
After working at the clinic, we came back to Little Daughters and freshened up before going out as a group for a nice meal at Darry, a fine restaurant. I had been there in November of 2016 for lunch, they have beautiful spacious grounds, peacocks walking around and water features with many places to eat outside. We were inside and had entrees from the menu ranging from various kinds of fish and chicken to steak. A good time was had by all and we've just returned home to get some much needed sleep. More to follow as the week progresses.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Based on previous trips, I will not be more tired than I am right now. Getting things running smoothly is quite an effort, but it pays off the rest of the week. I'm ready for an early night and an early morning. Blessings, everybody!
Sunday, May 27, 2018
The Pipeline team was fed a very good meal after their worship by the congregation. They are wonderful hosts and I'm sure their clinic will be a great blessing to their neighborhood.
This evening, Pastor Kevin and I worked with our teams before and after dinner to get everyone up to speed on how the clinic will be set up and will operate. I trained the folks from both team after dinner in using the autorefractors to examine eyes for distance vision. It's been a very long day, I'm heading to bed to get recharged before a very full week. Blessings everybody!
Saturday, May 26, 2018
We were up bright and early, had breakfast and were on the road to the Nairobi National Game Park by 7am. It has been very wet in Nairobi lately, so the native grasses had grown high and the animals were not as concentrated around water features as much as during drier times. Nevertheless, we managed to see most every major animal with the notable exception of Lions. I'm not worried about that, 17 of us are staying over for 4 extra days of safaris in the Kenyan countryside, there will be ample opportunities to see Lions! I did get one of my best every images of an African Widow Bird, a beautiful black bird with a long flowing tail that almost looks like a wedding train in flight with brilliant red on its head as well as what I think were a pair of Augur or Marshall Eagles nesting high in a tree. Plus, some up close and personal shots of Superb Starlings, another incredible creature. We were in the game park for almost 5 hours and had several adventures. The Land Rover I was in had to push a Toyota van out of a muddy low spot when it had gotten buried up to its axles. There is a professional courtesy among the safari drivers when one of them gets stuck. While we were in one spot for a while, which is not good for hunting down more animals, it is good for observing the different birds and other critters coming and going.
|African Widow Bird|
After the safari, we went to The Veranda, a very nice restaurant we have frequented for years. Your meal is served outdoors under palm trees, the food is good and there are multiple gift shops for those that need that last minute souvenir. After a late lunch, we went back to Little Daughters and got some of the team reassigned to other rooms, as we had to double up while our friends from Salem Lutheran Church were here. For the remainder of our time in Nairobi, those that wanted a single room now have one. Pastor Kevin and I, along with Travis and Ted, managed to organize all of our supplies into separate footlockers, suitcases and other containers. This was done early so that Pastor Kevin and the Pipeline team could get their gear to the clinic Sunday after church. My team, going to Waithaka, is going to worship at Kawangware and will probably get back to Little Daughters around 1 or 2 pm, when we will have lunch at a nearby Java House. To get an idea of what Java House is, think of a Starbucks with good food. I always get a pound or two of Kenyan AA coffee ground from beans while I'm in country. It's a nice treat on occasion and rivals Kona coffee in my humble opinion.
Sunday will be our last day of relative rest and relaxation, then we saddle up to do what we came to do by showing the love of Christ to the people in the slums of Nairobi by caring for both their physical and their spiritual needs. Please pray that we will be a blessing as we bless others.
As I write this, it's about half an hour until dinner at 7pm, during and after which Kevin and I will divide our group up into teams and announce worship times and other details for Sunday in Nairobi.
The wifi in our convent is pretty good now, so I'll be hopefully sending out more news soon and possibly even post some pictures. Blessing to everybody and thanks for your prayers and support!
Friday, May 25, 2018
We got through security at Heathrow with only a little delay here and there. One of our autorefractors got a close examination but was allowed through. Some of us had water bottles that we were able to refill at a special filling station. Many airports around the U.S. have these too. After spending. $3 or more, it's a little bit of a relief to get a free refill.
We boarded the plane right on time and have already been served water and a snack. Lunch should appear soon. Anything but chicken curry, please! We'll, it was chicken, but at least not curry. I had lunch and then a short nap. I'm sitting on this flight with Thomas, a Concordia DCE student who is doing his internship at Salem. He is excited to be on his first Kenyan mission. Salem always does a great job with driving home the fact that mission and being a DCE should go hand in hand.
We're about 5 hours from Nairobi as I write this. If the past is any guide, we'll arrive and spend an hour or more clearing Customs and Immigration and claiming our baggage. Then, we'll board buses and take about an hour getting to the convent we will call home for the next week, the Little Daughters of St. Joseph. Tomorrow morning the teams will go to one of several attractions and then have lunch. The Salem teams are driving to their clinic locations tomorrow afternoon as well. Hopefully, after a full day of activities we will all get a decent night's sleep. I'm sure the choices for tomorrow morning will include a photo safari at the Nairobi National Game Park, maybe a trip to the Elephant Orphanage or possibly the Karen Blitzen Museum. We'll make the decisions about who is doing what around midnight and then be up bright and early for a quick breakfast and saddling up.
We are now about 40 minutes from landing. I hope we shoot through the process, but with 2 large teams traveling together that's probably not realistic.
16 of our team members all gathered at Redeemer starting around 9am, loaded luggage and clinic supplies in our charter bus and left on time at 10am sharp for Bush International Airport in Houston. Our other 3 team members joined us there for checking in, going through security, food and some fellowship. Our 20th person, Alison is already in Nairobi. More on that later. We saw many of our old friends from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball arriving as we did. After some happy greetings, they prepared to get a group picture. I couldn't help myself. I stood in the back row and photobombed them. I was right next to one of their leaders and my good friend Kevin Pieper. He realized what I had dond after the fact. We had a great laugh.
Only Travis and his mom Julie had issues in security. Travis' carry on got thoroughly inspected for who knows what. Julie's Bible set off alarms. It is a very dangerous book after all! I know it's made a radical change in my life, that's for sure. We boarded our British Airways 777 without incident and took off for London on time. I shut my eyes for about 45 minutes before drinks and snacks were served. A while later, dinner service began. Our choices in the back of the plane were either chicken curry or chicken curry. They had already run out of vegetarian pasta due to a large number Indian people and others on the plane that had made that choice. So, I ordered chicken curry with a smile. It came with a small salad with balsamic vinegrette, a roll, rice, crackers and cheddar cheese and a chocolate and caramel shortbread confection. I'm glad I had a burger at the airport! Airplane food can fill you up but it's still a TV dinner.
We always instruct our teams to try to sleep after dinner on the way to London, since it helps with the 8 hour time difference in Nairobi. We also stress staying awake from London to Nairobi, since we arrive around 9pm and are usually at our rooms by midnight. If you're tired upon arrival, you can usually at least get some fitful sleep before an early Saturday morning safari or other attraction. With lots to do on Sunday, from worship to lunch to getting ready for our clinics, we are nearly acclimated to local time by Monday night. Sometimes, I've actually slept well as early as Saturday night.
Now for Alison's story. She has come on mission trips with both Redeemer and Salem Lutheran Church in the past. She befriended a local pastor in the Mombasa area on one of those trips. When his wife gave birth to a little girl, they named her Alison. So naturally, she just had to come a few days early to meet her namesake. What a blessing!
I've been sleeping on and off using an eyeshade. It's only about 8pm now in Austin, but that translates to 4am Nairobi time. I really should keep at least resting my eyes, but 8 hours is a big chunk to bite off all at once. It's why it always takes a day or two or three to adjust. The 777 we're flying is an older plane with no USB for charging phones and tablets or underwear power outlets or a decent entertainment system. Many newer planes have all of this and individual DVR type control over what you watch. I always come prepared and have movies, books and music loaded on my phone. Maybe we'll have a better plane from Heathrow to Kenya.
I was just awakened about an hour and a half from London by my tray table falling in my lap. I was surprised to see a "special meal" marked Hindu in front of me. I guess I've been out in the sun too much doing my bird photos! I took it back to the galley and had a good laugh with the flight attendants. My actual breakfast consisted of a cream cheese filled pretzel, at least that's what the label said and a honey and maple granola bar. I would have called it a bagel and cream cheese.
It looks like we'll be a few minutes early into London after a relatively smooth flight. The Fasten Seat Belt light only came on as we ventured out over the Atlantic from the east coast of the U.S. and one more time mid-Atlantic. It's pretty usual to experience sometimes dramatic bouncing around as you leave our continent.
I managed to follow the advice I give our teams and drank about a liter and a half of water in addition to the coffee and juices that came along with meals. It's easy to get dehydrated on long flights plus we serve in Nairobi at altitude as well. I had a large kidney stone removed in December as a caution. I didn't want any issues halfway around the world. My urologist told me I could eat anything I wanted if I drank 3 liters of water a day. A tall order, but I'm trying to keep up with that pace.
We arrived on time at Heathrow, walked down some steps to the tarmac, took a series of buses and went through security in Terminal 3 and are waiting for gate info to be posted at the last minute. This is standard procedure here, maybe to foil bad guys. More to follow from Nairobi as I am able.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Monday, May 21, 2018
I spent most of today running to various stores for last minute items like medications, snacks for the trip, a new safari shirt, some hiking shoes that should stand up to the rigors of Kenya and other things. I have made Amazon very happy for the past month since losing a backpack full of camera gear. I've gotten almost daily shipments of one little gadget or another. I am back to being in pretty good shape for the trip, with two very good Nikon camera bodies and Sigma lenses for wildlife photography for after the vision clinic ends. One lens and camera combo will also be good for typical tourist travel pictures too.
I have also been in regular contact with our dear friend Catherine Wangari as we have nailed down various details for the two clinics we will be conducting, lodging, drivers, transportation logistics, local doctors, where we will worship Sunday and many, many more items. We couldn't be nearly as effective without the support of Catherine and Gloria Sauck, our incredible nurse/missionary in Kenya who handles much of the health end of our project, dealing with community and government agencies.
Well, I have to get back to working on my checklist! Stay tuned!
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Another big change is our tour of several locations for photo safaris after the mission is completed. I had envisioned only 4 or 5 fairly serious photographers wanting to stay over with me. Out of the 20 person team, only three need to go home, so I'll be showing 16 others the country, people and wildlife I've come to know and love. Our dear friend Catherine Wangari has worked overtime to book such a large group for some of the coolest locations you can imagine. She had to come up with three to four times the rooms (in nice places), transportation, drivers/guides, game park fees, etc. and has laid all of the groundwork for a great time for all of us. We will be heading out to the Masai Mara region bright and early on the first Saturday after the mission for a couple of days of photo safaris in this cattle herding area. I hope to see my first leopard (been on my bucket list for years!) and possibly an elephant migration nearby. I know we'll see all of the usual menagerie of animals and birds and many I haven't seen before. After a couple of days there, we will make our way back to Lake Nakuru, a National Game Park that has large numbers of Pink Flamingos and many other shore birds plus Rhinos, Water Buffalo, Zebras and other animals. Our final safari will be on Tuesday morning June 5th, when we will stop at Lake Naivasha for a boat ride down a river filled with Hippos and a possible walk with the animals on an island, depending on lake levels and how wet things have been during their rainy season.
That's all for now. Come back often as I will be posting on our progress many times during the mission. God's blessings to all of you!