Kenya Mission, Day 6

January 1, 2006

Today’s Swahili phrase: Jambo, which means “Howdy” in Texan. We used this word more than any other, I think, and it was so easy to pronounce.

I meant to write these faster and closer together, but the work load skyrocketed on me the last couple of weeks. Several of you have encouraged me to write the rest, and I’m happy to oblige. It was a powerful trip and the needs are great.

We woke up late because of the midnight service last night, then back to the same church for a late morning service. I confess that even with the dual Swahili/English translation, I had a very hard time with the accents and following along with the sermon. I immersed myself in my bible for much of the morning.

Afterward, this being New Year’s Day, there were limited opportunities for the day. We went to the Kitale Club and the 8 of us signed up for 9 holes of golf. And since we didn’t have any golf clubs, we all shared a set. Very amusing, and it took 3-1/2 hours to play 9 holes. The real goal for the afternoon, though, was to give some work to some local caddies. Job opportunities are scarce, Kitale golf isn’t exactly a money-maker, and the caddies were glad to work for an afternoon. The monkeys running out onto the golf course was fun to watch, though.

Then we stopped at the grocery store called Trans-Mattresses and picked up dinner supplies. I think we named the concoction “African spaghetti” and it had a very unusual flavor. I didn’t ask what the spices were. The grocery store had teenage boys begging on the street. These boys had no money, and what little they gained by begging they immediately spent on bottles of glue. It was very disturbing when they pressed their faces against the van windows, eyes glassy and yellow with a glue bottle dangling from their lip. I recognized one of the boys from an earlier stop there and commented that 7 hours of sniffing glue seemed a very long time. Our pastor said that boy had been there since 2002.

After the African spaghetti, we sat down to make bracelets to give away. These prayer bracelets were made of a rawhide string and 5 colored breads: gold, black, red, white, then green. We would share a story when we gave these gifts; the gold represented Heaven, but we were separated from Heaven because of sin (black). Christ’s blood cleanses us (red) so that we appear spotless and pure (white). To grow in Christ (green), we should then spread the Good News. Some funny translations came up – we had been told to use the word “dark” instead of “black” with these beads, but Swahili word was the same wither way. In other words, it made no difference. We also had trouble with “white as snow,” since there was no snow in Kenya. “White as milk” was as close as I could get.

No pictures for today, sorry. Tomorrow, though, we meet Sister Freda and see the good work she’s doing on behalf of the Lord. Stay tuned.

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Kenya Mission, Day 5

December 31, 2005

Today’s Swahili phrase: Mungu aku bariki, meaning “God bless you.”

Woke up this morning and fixed a group breakfast. Staying in a compound with very considerate Christians is a blessing – every helped with breakfast preparation and cleanup almost to the point where were were tripping over each other. We were almost too helpful. Afterward we had a 30 minute devotional to start our day and began with Philippians. It was a good choice for our devotionals; Paul is writing in Chapter 1 about preaching God’s word and regardless of why Christ is preached, whether false motives or true, that it is still cause for rejoicing.

mosquito netting and duct tapeBefore I go on, let me fill in some pictures from yesterday. Here’s a picture of our bunk bed / mosquito netting / duct tape engineering. I’ve learned a new trick today – just click on the image if you want to see a larger picture. Saves on bandwidth. 🙂

Hey, not bad. Mosquitoes (pronounced ‘mo-skwit-os’ here) generally suffer from a lack of education and probably won’t be able to figure that out.

the Kenya vanWe piled into the van which is now far more comfortable since all the luggage has been removed, and we headed to Deliverance Church. I didn’t know it at the time, but this van was home more than the compound we stayed in.

Kenya Deliverance ChurchWhen we arrived at the church, we were all stunned at the reception. Children had lined up by the hundreds and were cheering and applauding when we arrived. Here we are inside the gate, while the children wait outside.

During the month, the Deliverance Church fills their water tower from a local well that was dug during a previous mission trip. The church now has outdoor showers and toilets, and they provide bathing water for these neighborhood children, many of them orphans. The very young, 5 and younger, need help getting in and out quickly, so we have bars of soap and burlap rags to scrub the kids. After, the church leadership provides a little dab of petroleum jelly for them to rub into their skin to help with the dry, ashen color their skin takes on during the month. We spent the whole morning here; I think someone estimated 500 children but I think that was a little on the high side.

Deliverance church serving ugaliAfterward, the church cooked up a big pot of ugali. Ugali is sort of a corn cake; it’s made by boiling water and stirring in crushed maize until it’s thinker than mashed potatoes. To me, it sort of tasted like a very weak corn tortilla with the texture of a very think cornbread. Here’s the minister’s wife and you can see the pot of ugali behind her.

Serving the ugali was interesting. The ugali was scooped out of the pot and plopped on a plate which was handed to a volunteer who handed it to the next volunteer and so on, starting with the back of the room. Maybe 15 people handled the plate passing it from one to another, starting at the back of the room. They didn’t have enough plates to go around, so the kids ate quickly and handed their plates in so they could be reused for another plate of ugali for another kid.

children of Kitale KenyaAfterward, we took a tour of the neighborhood behind the church. We caused a commotion – mzungus (white people) don’t visit Kitale often, and certainly don’t visit the housing areas. And English isn’t widely spoken, but all the kids know a few phrases like “How are you?” and “I’m fine.” It was quite a sight to see 50 children running up the hill toward us, waving their arms above their heads, yelling, “I’m fine! I’m fine!” And when we whipped out a camera, the kids almost trampled us to get in the picture.

Housing in Kitale Kenya Although later we would visit people in even more need, we were struck by the living conditions. No water or sewers, no electricity, no services of any kind. These houses were some of the best construction in Kitale.

After the tour, we headed off for dinner at the Pine Club (we had a choice of either Chinese or Indian food again), then to rest for a couple of hours.

But it’s New Year’s Eve! So late that evening we piled back in the van and joined the church for a midnight rebuking and encouragement. I have to admit I hadn’t acclimated to the accents yet so I had a lot of trouble following the sermon. The sermon is preached by two people, one of who translated instantaneously. The preacher may preach in either Swahili or English and the other person translates on the fly. It’s a very vocal service. We found out that New Year’s Eve is one of the most crowded times for the church as everybody wants to come and be forgiven for their sins over the last year and make a fresh start on next year.

We arrived at the bunk house tired and decided to sleep in late before tomorrow’s New Year’s Day service.

I probably already mentioned this, but I’m typing all of this from sparse notes and memory. I know there are Kenyans and missionaries reading this, so please feel free to drop a comment below correcting my memory or adding even more detail. I’d appreciate it very much.

Too Busy Today

Busy. Way busy.

I have the next Kenya post drafted halfway, but not ready to publish. Soon.

I need some more guest blogging. Write something funny yet controversial. Bonus points for including the names of funny animals such as “aardvark” and “platypus”.

Comments are wide open; post links to the stories that are most interesting to you today.

Kenya Mission, Day 4

December 30, 2005

Goodness, can it be Friday already?  We left Houston Tuesday afternoon and we’re still not at our final destination.  It’s like Africa is on the other side of the world or something.  😛

We woke up in the Methodist Guest House in Nairobi, and in the light we could see how quaint this place is.  We me in the breakfast room for fruit and toast and coffee.  Something I had never seen before, the cream for the coffee is heated, very hot.  Makes sense; why pour cold milk into hot coffee?  Then we had a short prayer and discussed our plans for the day.

Piling back into the van was an interesting exercise. The van seats 10 and counting the driver, we had 9 people. In our case, though, the van also had to seat all that luggage. There were 13 very large bags plus 1 or 2 carry-on items per person. It looked like we were building little forts inside the van. I took the far side window behind the driver which gave me some leg room (I have really long legs), but getting in and out was like a combination of Yoga and the game Twister.

The roads out of Nairobi was gentle at first, but then turned into terrain almost indistinguishable from the terrain. A good driver is mandatory because staying on your own side of the road isn’t part of the culture. Kenyans drive where the potholes are not, so there is significant weaving from one side to the other. There were several times I thought a head-on collision was imminent, but at the last moment both cars would swerve to their side of the road.

Road from Nairobi to Kitale

Out the window of the van, far off in the distance, we saw wild zebra. And once we stopped to let a baboon family (unrelated to me) cross the road. And far off in the distance we saw pink flamingos covering a lake so that it looked pink. No pictures of any of these; most were too far away, except for the baboons which were too quick.

Our morning break after about 2 hours of driving was at a scenic overlook above the Rift Valley, looking toward the Chogoria mountains. The scenery was just spectacular.

Rift Valley Kenya overlooking Chogoria mountains

We stopped for lunch in Nakuru. I eat adventurously when traveling so I had irio for lunch. It was mashed potatoes blended with spinach and then maize stirred in. The maize was sort of like corn, only bigger kernels and not nearly as sweet as our yellow corn. Anyway, it sort of looked like this big green mush with yellow lumps and tasted about the same, too. I have no idea why this is a Kenyan favorite, I won’t order it again on purpose.

Back on the road after lunch, we were stopped several times by armed policemen. They stop cars by laying down a strip of 6″ spikes across the road that you have to drive figure-S style through them. We asked the driver what the police were looking for; he said, “money.” The general consensus was that they do not have enough money to buy the bullets to go into their guns, but I don’t know of anybody that would ever test that hypothesis.

We finally arrived at Kitale, our destination, and checked out our surroundings. We were staying in a nice compound (we wouldn’t know until later how nice it really was), with a couple of buildings with a variety of bunk beds and multiple showers and bathrooms. We dropped off the gear and headed to town to buy breakfast for the morning. The grocery store for some reason was called “Trans-Mattresses,” complete with a picture of a mattress on the billboard. Most of the signs for businesses were in mostly-English, I’ll call it, with a mix of Swahili thrown in.

Buying groceries in a strange country is an interesting experience. You wander the aisles trying to figure out what the ingredients are and what you can combine to make something edible. They had eggs, fruit, and bread, so we mostly settled for items we recognized.

Outside Tran-Mattresses we came into one of Kitale’s developing problems. Boys outside the grocery store, living off of handouts, sniffing glue in broad daylight. Even though Kenya adults discourage this among the street children, the street children get enough handouts and a sympathetic adult somewhere to buy them glue. Shopkeepers told us that these children live to maybe 20 or 25 years old before dying of violence or their brain rotting. One of the hard lessons for missionaries to learn is that giving money directly to those in need can have devastating consequences; it’s far better to contribute to an organization that will provide food, shelter, or medical care. Even if you give these street children something that they need, like shoes, they are likely to sell them for glue money.

We took our breakfast groceries, our bottled water, and mosquito netting back to the compound where we probably spent 3 hours trying to hang them. We were handicapped by a lack of tools, but the bunk beds were handmade and oversized and the netting wouldn’t stretch properly. Some nets were cut with scissors (ok, it was tiny nail file scissors) and then duct taped back into a larger net. I hadn’t seen a mosquito all day, and it was the dry season and very likely to see one. I was also taking malarone to prevent malaria, so given all that I went without netting.

Tomorrow’s a busy day; the plan is bathe street children and orphans at a local church.

Kenya Mission, Day 2 & 3

December 28, 2005

We arrived in London at Heathrow Airport after the overnight, overseas flight, about as refreshed as, well, people that had been on an overnight, overseas flight. Simple little trip over to Gatwick; our flight to Nairobi doesn’t leave until tomorrow so we have an afternoon here.

I learned something about London. It gets cold here. It was approximately -23 centipedes in some sort of metric temperature. I had no idea it got this cold here. The bus to Gatwick was challenging, trying to get 8 people and all the luggage onto a bus in the cold. I think it took nearly 3 hours to finally get to the hotel for the overnight stay. A quick cleanup, then a trip to a pub for some lunch was the plan.

We hopped on the bus outside and when we arrived at the tube station, we hopped off to buy tickets. Well… most of us hopped off. In our jet-lagged condition we left 2 teammates on the bus, and now we have no idea where they are.

A huddle with the group: what now? We decided their most likely action would be to stay on the bus until they arrived back at the hotel, and we also found out the bus made a loop that took 40 minutes. We checked every bus for the next 40 minutes, and sure enough, it was like homecoming when we found our two missing teammates. Hurrah! We’re all back together again.

A short tube ride, then off to a pub. Except… the first pub was full. Ok, we’ll walk around in the cold to a second pub… which was out of food. Then to a third pub that was too small… and this pub was juuust right, said Goldilocks. I was ready to eat some darts and coaster by this point. The traditional fish and chips were better though.
London afternoon, it gets dark early.
Afterwards, we took a short afternoon tour of London, trying to stay awake long enough to make sure the jet lag was over in a day. I wish I could tell you what we saw, but I can’t. I was sleepy and cold… just leave me, save yourselves!…. and didn’t take good notes. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Alley and St. Paul’s Cathedral, for sure.

December 29, 2005

Yes, we’re on our third day of travel. You know, the language here sort of sounds like English here in England, but we don’t seem to be able to communicate. We took a bus from the hotel that went to the airport, but not our terminal. It took far longer than we expected to finally arrive at the right terminal and get checked in, moments before the flight to Nairobi took off. We skipped breakfast this morning because of the rush but survived by eating the airplane seat cushions (which, by the way, can also be used a flotation device.)

Another 9 hour flight nearly due south and we arrived in Nairobi after dark. We were met by our driver Sammy who took us to a local Methodist Guest House. Exhausted from traveling, we all crashed early. We’re still not yet at our destination and have a long van ride tomorrow.

Kenya Mission, Day 1

December 27, 2005

I’ve been remiss in my blogging duties; oddly, I actually crossed “blog about Kenya” off my todo list accidentally, and it wasn’t until a friend email yesterday that I realized I had not written about this trip.

Let me preface this whole adventure by saying that I thank God for the opportunity to serve in this way. Working through friends, families and strangers, the necessary prayers and money came together in a miraculous way. It was a wonderful replacement for our honeymoon; we were truly blessed by this experience.

The night before we left I stumbled across something that I wish I had found earlier; my son gave me Civilization IV for my birthday last year. Marvelous game, and the opening song is intriguing.

Turns out the opening song was The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili. Later, Kenya Christians would sing the same words to a different tune.

Baba Yetu

Baba yetu, Yesu uliye
Mbinguni yetu, Yesu, amina!
Baba yetu, Yesu, uliye
Jina lako litukuzwe.

Utupe leo chakula chetu
Tunachohitaji utusamehe
Makosa yetu, hey!
Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe
Waliotukosea usitutie
Katika majaribu, lakini
Utuokoe, na yule, milelea milele!

Ufalme wako ufike utakalo
Lifanyike duniani kama mbinguni. (Amina)

————-

Our Father, Jesus, who art
in Heaven. Amen!
Our Father, Jesus
Hallowed be thy name.

Give us this day our daily bread,
Forgive us of
our trespasses
As we forgive others
Who tresspass against us
Lead us not into temptation, but
deiver us from Evil, and you are forever and ever!

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven. (Amen)

I had about 2 hours of this knowledge before we had to leave for the airport, so I didn’t do anything useful with it. Mom and my stepfather picked us up and drove us to the airport to save on parking fees since we’d be gone so long, and we met up with the rest of the team.

We were flying British Air out of Houston; they made a terrific deal to upgrade us to Business Class for something like $50 a person, but that was like $400 for the group. Considering where we were going, it was really hard to justify spending all that money just to be a wee bit more comfortable for 9 hours. I’m glad we skipped the opportunity.

Packing was heavy since we would be gone for 2 weeks. We packed jeans and slacks for the guys, long dresses for the women mostly (and since I’m a guy, I’m not going to be able to give a better description than that). We also have some suitcases with bibles and “Purpose Driven Life” that were really, really heavy. All in all 16 bags for check in plus a bag each for carry on. We were loaded down.

That’s it for the advance preparation, I think. Oh, shots for hepatitus and typhoid and yellow fever, pills for malaria, of course. I’m going to copy this to the Kenya mission team, so if I’ve forgotten something about the preparation, perhaps they can add it to the comments. We all watched a movie on the plane and crashed; we would be in London in the morning.

S'I Blog, je volonté Blog en français

Je blogging moins qu’habituel pendant quelques jours ; Je voyage encore une fois. Ce temps sur des affaires, ainsi le logement sont plus gentils que ceux au Kenya. Je signalerai quand je bidon cependant. Je serai dans le Havre, France, au cas où vous vous demandiez.

If you want some help translating that, go here. Don’t ask me, I don’t speak French. 🙂