What sane man just turning 60 packs a large backpack with everything he needs to live for 5 weeks as well as his computer and all the gear I'll describe in one of the letters, and sets out alone across East Africa without a plan other than 5 locations he wants to reach during that time... no idea where he will sleep, eat, or how he will travel?
Okay, take the "sane" out of that question and you've got me... my letters back to my family, friends and folks in my home church, Dayspring Community Church in Lawton, OK make up this thread. To read them in chronological order, please scroll to the bottom and read the articles in the order they were posted.
I have no doubt that tomorrow as I wait in the Dubai airport and contemplate the past month, I’ll have some observations or remember other stories to relate, but this afternoon I am biding my time until I travel to the Nairobi airport to head home. I am feeling an unusual mix of emotions as the final hours tick away.
Then something happened that changed my day dramatically. A dear sister here at the Mayfield House has been under a long sustained attack from evil forces and I have listened to her story and been moved. In her mid-late 70s, she is a native Kenyan i.e. her grandparents immigrated here from England about the turn of the previous century. Her family built and owned a large estate and she is the last of her family that was on it, then a man who had moved here from the Middle East started trying to seize it from her, hiring thugs to beat her workers anytime they left the land to go to town, starting fires, and generally attacking her using his wealth to buy off politicians and even judges. He married a young Kenyan girl whose three brothers are attorneys with high connections and so he “inherited” a seat in the inner circle using his money to buy favor. The local people were aware of what was transpiring so when they caught some of his thugs one night a fight ensued and one of the thugs was killed. The Saudi had her and her foreman arrested for murder and imprisoned. He hated her both because he couldn’t buy her off and because he despised her as a Christian and as a woman, believing no woman should own property. His wife, now also a Muslim, came to the prison every day hollering out taunts and loudly offering the guards and other inmates money to kill her. The cost of attorneys depleted all her resources and forced the sale of her land… which the foreigner got. The first judge was bought by the Muslim man and it looked like she was going to be killed for the false charges, then a change of judges (inexplicable other than by the hand of God) brought her before a Christian judge who was angered at their attempt to bribe him and then to threaten him. She has been freed, but might end up destitute, without family or home, after her family having been a pillar in that community for generations.
Anyway, this woman saw me sitting alone, knew I was leaving today, and asked only if I would be here for dinner. Then what transpired moved me deeply as it spoke to the very deepest things in my heart. But as I started to write about it to you, it struck me that it might be better for me to give you a peak into our marriage today by sharing what I wrote to Kellie:
I am sitting here with tears in my eyes as I write to you… I had begun a letter to everyone but was struggling as the final hours here tick away. In two hours I’ll be headed to the airport and I have so many questions.
I had been sitting in a large common area, but quite alone as I was on my computer with my earplugs in, not visiting with anyone since lunch.
With a mixture of emotions flooding through me, but a sober sort of melancholy probably crowding the others, I had withdrawn to the downstairs library, a sort of quiet little nook with a more comfortable sofa and out of the way of all traffic. I was listening to Chris Tomlin as I was meditating and reflecting and the older lady I told you about (the one imprisoned falsely and losing her family estate) walked past, heard the music and looked in… asking only if I would be here for dinner. A few minutes later she came back and without even speaking just handed me a handwritten note and a little card. I really hadn’t discussed much of myself with anyone, preferring to ask questions and listen… I already know my story.
But what she had written was this scripture:
'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.' (Jer 29:12-14)
That was probably the one thing I needed to hear more than anything else I can imagine.
And the card said:
Wherever you are going… God will be there with you.
“If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psa 139:9-10)
And Chris Tomlin is singing, I Will Follow…
I am SO GRATEFUL I have a wife who can understand my heart and who shares my love for HIM. Someone to whom I can speak of the deep things within me, the things which stir me, the things which convict me, the questions and the joys and the fears… and know you share my heart.
I LOVE YOU!
I share this because the reality is that I am not contemplating a decision that impacts only me. If I am going to be coming here regularly to build this pastoral training school, teaching both pastors and evangelists, I believe it is essential their wives also be taught and I’m not the one who can do that. And anything I decide is going to impact our finances in a major way. I’m pretty certain God placed me in the career He did, after I was no longer able to preach full time, for a reason. For years I thought it was so I could support missions… perhaps it was more personal. I am blessed that all of my clients are believers who support me in my missions; something that hasn’t happened by accident but by my design. I could never see building wealth for those who would then use that wealth for purposes contrary to Father’s will, often even to oppose His Kingdom. So, I culled my original book of business years ago in Phoenix and focused upon improving the positions of those who would then be “sending” the preachers and missionaries, supporting the orphans and providing for the advancement of the Kingdom in every way.
An amusing aspect of staying here has been the “Dueling Loud Speakers.” In the morning and evening one can hear the prayer calls from the nearby mosque, something I’ve mentioned before, but in this instance, right next door is the Nairobi Baptist Church, possibly the largest Baptist church I’ve ever seen. And they have LOUD SPEAKERS on their roof that play Christian music, from hymns to contemporary, throughout the day and most of the day. I am fairly certain that my distaste for the Islamic prayer calls is nowhere near as great as their distaste for the Christian music praising God. And the Baptist church is TALLER than their mosque… another sore point, I’m sure. It appears to be at least six stories tall and the sanctuary has balconies that just don’t quit… I have no idea what their seating capacity is but it has to be huge.
As I’ve had music playing this afternoon, as I can’t always hear the music next door from inside, I began thinking about something I read a while back. There are more people each week singing Chris Tomlin’s songs the songs of any other musician… If I recall correctly, it said more people around the world are singing his music praising God than all other song writer’s combined. I might not be accurate on that last part because it seems incredible that it could be so, but the fact is I’ve had his music playing for several hours now and haven’t had one song that didn’t move me closer to God. I doubt he ever dreamed when he started writing music that he would reshape the assemblies of all kinds of churches around the world, that people of all ages would be drawn closer to Father through his work and that his music would be sung by hundreds of millions who have never even heard of him.
It’s a half hour until dinner and I leave for the airport half an hour later. I probably won’t have Internet access until tomorrow so I want to get this out before leaving here. I am coming home a little lighter baggage wise than I came—both physically and spiritually but I do have one more suitcase. I had to go to the store today and ended up at a Nakumat, which put the store I wrote about a couple of days ago to shame (and definitely dwarfed the Kisumu Nakumat in every way; size, quality, cleanliness, selection, etc.) This one was a mall in itself, and as modern as an American store… with prices to match. Anyway, I had to go buy a suitcase because I had purchased two small wooden carvings and there was no way I was getting them into my backpack! So, I got a small carry-on style that I’ll check so as not to have to deal with it on the plane, and I packed the carvings carefully using some of my clothing around them to protect them. So, my backpack is lighter too. I didn’t want to have to manage two bags while in Africa and I didn’t want to carry a suitcase and you sure couldn’t roll one where I’ve been so I had packed as I did to come, but now for the flight home… I’ll roll a little suitcase along with me as I go check my bags. I have a big duffle that my backpack fits into very nicely that I use for packing my backpack inside for the plane or buses to avoid having straps snagged on anything and torn loose.
Those of you who have accompanied me on this journey through my letters, I ask you to pray for me now both for a safe journey and that I might continue to hear Father’s voice as I seek to discern His will for our lives.
Thanks for all the encouragement so many of you have given me along the way… it has made more difference than you can imagine.
I wrote that title before writing this letter and then realized afterward, I hadn’t even mentioned what I was thinking about when I wrote the title. Where I am for the next three days I have room and board. I was told this about the food they would be serving me before I came here: “If you were just arriving in country from America, you probably wouldn’t care so much for the food. But since you have been in Kenya for over a month, you will find it delicious.” That was prophetic. I love the food here, but might not have a month ago; it’s all a matter of perspective. And that all comes later below…
I had an awesome time at Mark Daubenmier’s home with Mark and his family and spent the night there last night before traveling on to Nairobi today. Of course, we both shared our Kenyan travels stories from the day when we first got together—he had made a trip into Nairobi during the day and was planning to be back around noon and arrived home around 6 PM. I had a challenge with the bus that worked out but was a little like Keystone Cops for a few minutes.
If you recall from my last letter, after having had a crazy time traveling to Nakuru, the 4th largest city in Kenya, it was a simple matter to get a ticket on a GOOD bus for my trip onward. At 8 AM, with buses leaving hourly, the earliest bus I could get on was at 1:30 PM, so I grabbed the ticket, took my computer and parked in the restaurant to await my departure time. I did create myself a minor panic, because they were constantly announcing buses departing for Nairobi, which is how my bus and ticket were scheduled—they were just going to stop at an intersection along the way and drop me off. Well, as they were announcing these, and with my difficult hearing, I decided to go outside so I could be sure I didn’t miss my bus. I still had an hour to wait they assured me so I sat down on a seat outside the bus terminal, wrapped my arm in my small computer bag strap and leaned on my computer and promptly fell asleep. I’m talking about sitting on a busy sidewalk outside a teeming bus station with big diesel buses roaring in and out constantly and all the vehicles that brought the departing passengers to the station coming and going and all kinds of vendors hawking their wares… and I went sound asleep.
Understand, I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP to sleep properly. That is an electronic medical device that pumps air for me to force my breathing; with it I sleep very well, without it I am constantly restless and do not sleep well at all. The problem here is the first part of the description of that device—electric—because I’ve stayed as many places where I had no electricity available as I have with it available. Or the one outlet is so far from the bed that the extension cord I brought won’t even reach it. Now, after a crazy drive and no real sleep, I fell sound asleep sitting in a chair on the sidewalk outside the bus station. And slept. For over an hour. I awakened, looked at the time and panicked. It was 1:35… had I missed my bus?
Well, I hadn’t missed my bus, I got on and even got a front seat so I could watch road signs to be sure I got off at the right place. And the bus left right on time, Kenyan time, an hour and 45 minutes later.
The drive was superb with vast herds of zebras everywhere; one large herd even sprinted across the highway in front of us, ducking between vehicles and causing some general confusion as people were forced to stop suddenly or swerve to avoid collisions. Then there was a herd of cape buffalo that I estimated between 300-500; I had never thought about them being anywhere near a highway. They are one of the 4-5 most dangerous animals in Africa. We saw hundreds of baboons right along the highway, apparently picking through people’s litter. There was also one flock of flamingos that must have numbered in the hundreds of thousands as it streamed across the sky for 10 minutes. It was a thoroughly delightful drive for me as I just love both the wildlife and watching the people.
The only really different traffic thing I would share with you that I witnessed on this ride was something that caught my eye on the highway well ahead of us and caused me to double check to see if I was seeing what I thought I was. Sure enough as we pulled alongside and passed a large truck, there was a man on a bicycle who had a hook on a rope and was being towed along at highway speed about 3-4 feet behind the truck, with the driver obviously oblivious to what was happening behind him. The man on the bicycle was a delivery man it appeared as he had large plastic crates with jugs of milk on the rack behind his seat. In fact, he was carrying 24 gallons of milk behind him… and he had one foot propped up on his handlebars cruising down the highway hanging onto a rope hooked to a truck!
I had a challenge on the bus because the driver didn’t speak English and there was a misunderstanding about where I was to be dropped. It had been explained to him prior to our departure from Nakuru that I was to be dropped off at the intersection of Kijabe Road to go to Kijabe Hospital. The Rift Valley Academy where I was actually going is next to the hospital but since the hospital is much better known by the locals it was easier to say I’m going to the Kijabe Hospital.
When we arrived at Naivasha, (accent on the second syllable) the driver stopped and indicated for me to get off.
No, he INSISTED I get off; essentially kicking me off the bus. (as if he could do that if I had refused)
Fortunately, I had my large backpack in the bus’s luggage compartment so the driver had to get out too to unlock it so I could get my bag out. We argued, not speaking the same language; rather he let on that he didn’t speak English, and a vendor (we got swarmed the moment I stepped out of the bus) actually started translating. I KNEW my intersection was 20 minutes PAST Naivasha; well, it turns out that the Kijabe road leaves and returns to the same highway and there are actually 3 intersections that could be labeled—if they ever labeled anything here—Kijabe Road. But when I convinced him mine was 20 minutes PAST Naivasha, then he knew where I wanted to be and I took my big bag on the bus with me and we forged onward, arriving 20 minutes later where I was supposed to be.
Amazingly, from this point he was very friendly to me and had suddenly developed the ability to speak English and was asking me questions as he drove. He even got off with me at the correct stop and accompanied me as I got a taxi about 100 meters from the bus, just in case I needed assistance—or a translator! Oh, and I never had to lift my big bag at all as 2 “helpers” grabbed it the minute I tumbled it down the stairs and off the bus, and carried it to the cab… to get paid of course. “Oh, it was heavy, we carried it… surely you would be so kind…” and yes, I paid them and we were both happy. Until you get used to this, you get the impression someone is stealing your luggage as they push and shove one another to grab it.
Mark was to have met me at the intersection but his morning run into Nairobi had turned into an all day thing, we were communicating by text, and I took a cab from the intersection to the school and Daubenmier’s home. In earlier letters I’ve referred to Steve Peifer, founder of Kenya Kids Can and author of A Dream So Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger; Steve returned to the U.S. for a furlough the week I arrived in Kenya and though we had been visiting, our meeting in person on the trip wasn’t going to pan out. Mark though has assumed the reins for both the programs of Kenya Kids Can; feeding nearly 20,000 children in public schools daily and installing secure, solar powered computer labs at remote public school locations. Rift Valley Academy is a ministry of African Inland Missions and is a boarding school for the children of missionaries whose children need an education they couldn’t receive where the parents are working. They have students in all grades from 30 some nations, but Steve Peifer, when he was a dorm parent there started these other programs to help the children of Kenya. The work has been transformational for tens of thousands of children and families and both programs intrigued me. When I hear about someone who has conceived an idea then managed to implement it in the real world and that idea works, well, I want to see what they are doing, how they are doing it, what pitfalls they encountered along the way, how they’ve changed the program as they have progressed, what it costs to do it, whether we can network together for the benefit of their ministry and ours… essentially, I don’t just want to hear about it and read about it, nor do I just want to witness it. I want to know everything I can about it.
This is Christianity with leather soles actually walking into people’s lives. And this ignites the passion within me.
So, when I was coming to Kenya and I had read about one of the greatest impacts any one person had envisioned and inspired upon the Kenyans, I made it a point to put Kijabe on my agenda. What a blessing it was that I did so!
Of course, it was novel too just to be in the home of an American family in Kenya. I’ll share photos later of some of the homes I’ve been in… let me tell you, it feels wonderful to be back in an American home, even if that home is in Kenya and everything speaks of Africa wherever you look. And it was novel to have an American wife/mother cooking dinner and sitting down with a large family to enjoy a meal; they have 7 children, including 3 adopted Kenyan children. This family was an inspiration just getting to know them.
The taxi ride to their home was wonderful even in spite of the road. Once we left the highway, we drove off the cliff. Well, that is almost literal; we drove off the edge of the Rift Valley, the largest natural geologic feature in the world at nearly 4,000 miles long and hundreds of miles wide. It is a valley that drops about 6,000 feet from the edge to the floor and then has some of the deepest natural lakes in the world in it, including Lake Tanganyika at about 5,000 feet deep.
Well, let me tell you driving off the edge of that valley rim and starting the switchbacks downward is an awesome experience with some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. And finally arriving at the school, less than a fourth of the way down from the rim, just a 10 km drive from the highway, I was greeted with what has to be one of the most beautiful campuses on this earth. It was founded in 1903 and Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the main building which is still the centerpiece of the campus.
Then, this morning after exhausting every question I could conceive related to the Kenya Kids Can programs, viewing thousands of photos and videos and taking hundreds, I proceeded on to Nairobi. Mark asked me where I was staying and like most of this trip, I hadn’t actually planned that. I told him I wasn’t picky, I just wanted a quiet room where I could spend my final days in Kenya in prayer and meditation and the Word as I try to hear Father’s will for our lives. He suggested, then arranged for me to stay at the Mayfield House, a facility owned and run by AIM, African Inland Missions, to house missionaries of all kinds as they pass through Nairobi coming or going to their respective missions. Room and board, three meals a day, is under $40 for someone who isn’t an AIM missionary (unaffiliated, they call it), less for those working through AIM.
It is like paradise, beautiful grounds, small but quiet room, the most gracious service and Wi-Fi that works!!! But the highlight has to be meal times in the dining room. They set the tables, 6 to a table, and serve homestyle on each table and you sit with other missionaries from around the world involved in an assortment of ministries almost beyond description. I have yet to meet an American here, though they are well acquainted with J.L. and Patt Williams. I’ve eaten today with Australians, English, an Indian, native Kenyans of both African and British descent, and Koreans, and have seen many others from a wide variety of places. There are probably 30 people here right now. The conversation is incredible, listening to these people’s tales of what they are accomplishing for the kingdom; I’m humbled in the presence of these men and women. Sometimes I just sit and think, “What have I been doing with my life while these people have been changing the world?”
At the same time, I believe that Father gifted me for my work I am doing now; I think it was more than a transition career and am convinced I will always remain an Investment Advisor as that is critically important to the lives of so many Christians who are thereby empowered to finance the growth of the Kingdom.
…for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"
“How will they preach unless they are sent?” No missionary acts alone, he is simply the feet on the ground for those who SEND him, a partner in God’s work. And I help people do that. I don’t believe it was an accident that when my full time ministry ended and I moved to Phoenix for a computer engineering job, that the first day there “THE PLAN” fell apart and I was launched into a new career—a career where I rose quickly and have been gifted. I believe this is a part of God’s plan for my life and today I’m trying to sort it all out as I have also been called to train pastors in the most unlikely of places. (for me)
This is the prayer I solicit from you; that I hear Father’s voice as He guides me in His way; pray I be sensitive to His Spirit, immersed in His Word, wholly surrendered to His will for my life and Kellie’s.
And as I thought and prayed about all of you, particularly those of you at Dayspring, my mind tonight turned specifically to Daniel Pickering and Dwight Hicks who volunteered to step up as usher/greeters for Dayspring during my absence. (and hopefully beyond—hint, hint) You are both in my prayers as I am so grateful to know that this need at home is being filled.
And thanks to Cindy for being there for Kellie when she needed some help! You are all great friends, and I am so appreciative we have you in our lives.
In His service,
Short takes from the road:
Okay, these are just some interesting little bits and pieces from the last couple of weeks. Stories within the story, if you will. Some of them the guys will find more interesting and some of them the ladies (mothers) will find more compelling. First, the technology things, ladies might just want to skip down a ways?
Surprisingly to me, no one here seems to carry tools. Three times, three different vehicles I’ve been riding in have experienced mechanical or physical problems. Once it was just the antennae falling off and needing a screwdriver, once it was bad diesel clogging a fuel filter and once it was a broken off lock pick inside a car door lock.
MultiTool to the rescue: I’m carrying small folding multitool with which most guys are familiar, so when Stakwell’s antennae came off and was flopping loose and he was examining it, I asked, “Do you need a Philips screwdriver?” which caused him to look at me curiously and ask, “Yes, do you have one?” And I whip out of my multitool. It is an understatement to say he was amazed as I showed him the rest of the tool after he fixed the antennae. Then on the rough drive out of the Samburu wildlands, our Cruiser experienced a fuel problem. The only tool the driver had was a single box end wrench which, of course, was the wrong size and wouldn’t have gotten some of the hose clamps off anyway. They were amazed when my multitool transformed into a very good set of pliers and an assortment of screwdrivers. And we were soon on the road again. Then when the broken off lock pick from the failed break-in was stuck in Naftaly’s door lock, needle nose to the rescue. These guys can’t believe the tool; they’ve never seen anything like it.
For the guys who want details, mine happens to be the Gerber Legend 800 pictured below:
When modern meets undeveloped:
The flashlights available here are straight out of the 1950s. They are large, awkward, use D-cell batteries, and don’t shed much light. So, at Stakwell’s one of the men on his crew was amazed when I lit up the night with one of my flashlights. (I carry multiple flashlights including my phone which actually has an assistive light app that uses the camera flash as a very bright light) My flashlights are all compact, heavy duty, the best one even armored, and all use AAA batteries. Fortunately, I brought a couple of the Coleman MAX flashlights which provide 70 lumens… I keep one in each bag so that I will have one available and then put one in my pocket anytime I’m leaving and might be out after dark. Though I see well in the dark, I’m not as coordinated as I once was and tripping could result in an injury to old bones that I don’t want to risk. My brightest flashlight is still quite compact but is a spotlight with 150 lumens, not particularly good for walking around but I use it for two things; lighting street signs from a distance (not any value here!) and for security. 150 lumens flashing in an intruder’s or assailant’s eyes at night will temporarily blind him and provide me options for escape or defense. I sleep with this light at hand. (I have been attacked in multiple countries throughout my missions life.)
I gave one of my Coleman MAX lights to the young man, Samson, from South Horr who was so helpful to me throughout my stay there… and who fell in love with my flashlight and borrowed it several nights. I know what I will bring for gifts to many people on my next trip! (I also gave him another set of batteries and promised to send some more)
BATTERIES: a necessity for our modern electronics from flashlights to cameras to cell phones and computers. I have tried to standardize everything that I can and while I think it is always feasible to have a change of batteries for everything (the one thing I don’t is likely to become a regret this week as we may be videoing with my camera) but it is also good if you can recharge.
But most of the time when we think recharging we are picturing walking over and plugging something into a wall socket. Guess what? Welcome to Africa and many places without electricity! (and it being undependable even where it exists) So, how do I make sure I have fresh batteries and can recharge?
I brought a very compact folding Goal Zero SOLAR charger and power pack. I can keep my AAA batteries charged and charge my computer or cell phone. I just lay it in the full sun and it will charge it’s little power pack which will also charge either my phone or computer. (this model only about half charges my computer, but better than nothing)
Zagg Sparq 6000: I have seldom been as pleased with any purchase as I am with this device. It is a compact little thing that you charge when you have electricity available and that will recharge my cell phone fully twice. Understand my phone is much more than just a phone for me, but is texting and email, GPS, Bible and research tools, compass, calculator, currency converter, Kindle and Audible books, alarm clock… I could go forever it seems. I have been in hotel rooms without electricity, on LONG bus rides without electricity, extended walks, etc. and this thing is a lifesaver. Stakwell uses a Samsung Galaxy Note II and because he uses it intensively is always running out of power. When we were sitting in a coffee shop the first day and his device started flashing him warnings he was scrambling through an email exchange with a company in Europe for which he consults; he was amazed when I pulled out my Sparq and plugged in his device and he was able to continue his work and his device charged up. Several times then over the next week he asked if I could charge him up. I was bemoaning that I had forgotten it is customary to take gifts to give your host and so I was brainstorming with Kellie what I could give Stakwell when the answer became obvious. That final morning at 5:00 AM before I boarded the truck to leave, I told him that I wanted to give him something and when he saw what it was he actually became quite moved. He knew I valued it and used it regularly and so he knew that it was a true gift given from my heart. I will admit if I could have found a way to wait until the last day of my trip to give it to him, I would have hung onto it a couple of more weeks! But perhaps that was a part of the sacrifice I needed to make.
Now, MOTHERS, this will mean more to you:
When life meets the practical: After a little public thing in which I was involved that would have unsettled many people, a man who had been observing me approached and sat by me and began to discuss some serious things. Well, we got past the “group dynamics”, “mob mentality” and “political manipulation” items and he related to me that he is the head of the Counsel that oversees the branch of the Department of Education of Kenya that caters to the deaf. He explained how he has a ‘deaf’ son (most of us who are ‘deaf’ are actually just extremely hearing handicapped and not actually profoundly deaf), but that what really concerned him was that his son had some speech defects and didn’t seem to be learning how to speak clearly enough to function in life.
Did you ever feel like God put you in a specific place at a specific time for one very specific reason? This was one of those moments for me. My deafness stems partially from a congenital defect and partially from disease as a young child but when I started grade school my speech defects were significant; I could not pronounce either ‘L’, ‘S’ or ‘R’ in words which makes many words unintelligible. I was able to explain to this father that his son’s speech defects were likely a result of his hearing problem, that he couldn’t hear the letters so had no idea how to form them. A therapist, with a button on a string, taught me what my tongue was supposed to do to make certain sounds and with repeated drilling, I developed the muscle memory to pronounce sounds I cannot hear. So, here I sit explaining to this father that a nearly deaf young child with speech impediments grew up to become an acclaimed public speaker with just the help of a speech therapist when I started primary school. As I explained his son can remain in public school and have the therapy at home afterward, just an hour 3-4 times a week, can change his life. And I told him that his son needs to sit on the front row in school, he needs to discuss this with the school and the teachers, because whether he knows it or not he will be lip reading in order to hear and he will need to be able to see the teacher up close to excel in school.
Language Challenges: I perhaps have an advantage when I cannot understand others because of a different dialect (and because their mouths shape words differently than Americans do and I’m dependent upon my eyes to hear)… I plead my deafness. However, one time when I simply could not make out what a lady was saying, in frustration she burst out with an exclamation that I heard clearly, “I’m speaking plain English!” Well, yes, perhaps, but dialects can make the same language seem foreign to us. A real example was when I visited in Naftaly and Christian Wainaina’s home in Thika. Their 6 year old daughter and their 19 year old niece who lives with them are both named Griss. I know that because they told me very plainly several times; Griss. The next day I asked Christian how they spelled that and she looked at me peculiarly and said, “Griss. G-R-A-C-E, Griss.” Okay, do you understand now what I mean by dialects making comprehension a challenge?
Then there was Rosa, the language and religion teacher from the high school in Lake Turkana who rode in the middle on the trip out of the Samburu country, and with whom I visited extensively. I had recharged her phone with my Sparq that first day when they arrived as it was dead and there was no electricity and we had visited as I sat with the teachers and got acquainted with all of them. Later that evening a group of Kenyans of British descent rolled in to stay the night and I ended up at their table after dinner joining in their conversation. Now realize, Rosas first language was Swahili although she learned English from the time she started school. But these guys were native English speakers whose second language was Swahili. Rosa related to me the following day as we drove that she tried to listen to our conversation but couldn’t understand a word we were saying, even after having visited with me for nearly an hour with her group. And this brings up a major language comprehension issue: SPEED.
When we talk we get to rolling and the separation between our words disappears. Those who speak a different dialect will hear all the sounds but not be able to distinguish the breaks thus will not be able to comprehend words. It is necessary when speaking, even to English speakers, who speak a different dialect to have a distinct break between each word. This increases comprehension 10X or more. And it goes both ways. Tim Ouma, a pastor here, and I have visited about this—he hadn’t realized what the problem was—and once he saw it he agreed to monitor me as I teach. I gave him permission (he never would have done so otherwise) to use specific hand signals if I began speaking to quickly, running my words together or he was unable to hear me. When I speak with conscious thought, he understands me 95% of the time (vocabulary is always another problem) but when I speak quickly, focusing upon my thought rather than my speaking, he doesn’t understand hardly anything I say. Of course, using a translator for the 30% of the pastors in the assembly who don’t speak English helps me to focus upon my speaking.
Right now, I’m praying that the Spirit might intervene as He did on Pentecost and every man be able to hear me in his own tongue!
And, after the drive here to Kisumu, I think maybe the Kenyans should be looking to see if this man reported on NBC has a cousin here in Africa; someone has obviously stolen some of the roads that maps show come to Kisumu: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/02/19839063-russian-man-accused-of-stealing-an-entire-road?lite&lite=obnetwork This guy in Russia actually STOLE a highway! It was built in reinforced concrete sections and he just went out there with heavy equipment and stole the whole thing! In other cases people have been stealing bridges in Russia for the salvaged steel… one man is going to prison for 2 years for going out with a cutting torch and disassembling and removing a bridge that connected one city with the rest of the country. They followed the tractor tire tracks to his shop where he was cutting up the steel.
Yes, I think someone in Kenya is stealing highways!
And with that note, I’ll close. J
Saw this NBC article this morning (I have good Internet service at this hotel) and though it is good news, it doesn’t tell the whole story about solar power. http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/out-darkness-solar-power-sheds-little-light-powerless-communities-6C10867721
You know you are in a different part of Kenya when you walk down the street to a Uchumi Hyper Supermarket that reminds you more of a Walmart store than anything you’ve seen in Kenya to date. They even had a Samsung kiosk where I was able to buy a micro USB connection cable to replace the one I had left at Mark & Sherry Daubenmier’s home yesterday. It was an odd sensation walking through the store and seeing things like Pringles or Heinz ketchup on the shelves, and even an odder sensation that though it sparked a flow of saliva seeing those things, not being inclined to pick anything up both because I knew lunch would be ready shortly after I arrived back at the AIM Mayfield House and because I had no desire for any empty calories at this point in my journey.
The staff here was surprised I was going to walk the 2.5 miles to the store and then the same distance to return… they wouldn’t let me leave last evening when I realized I didn’t have my cable as they lock us into the compound at 6 PM for safety. And there have been some muggings in the dark hours on the street along which I walked today, but I don’t go walking in the dark here anyway. The best way to survive an attack is to avoid it! But I have gotten so used to being the only white person on the block that it doesn’t really concern me getting all the stares. I think I get as many funny looks because to me the weather is very pleasant today, in the upper 50s and overcast, and I’m hiking along in a short sleeved polo shirt with a bare head while the Kenyans are all wearing coats and shivering. Had I been wearing a jacket while hiking like that, I know I would have been sweating; instead it was a beautiful day for a walk. And yes, even in the daytime, I walk alertly, always aware of my surroundings and other’s movements. I walk briskly enough that anyone overtaking me would be obvious and I would just step into a business or change sides of the street. (an interesting maneuver entailing jumping between cars to the yellow stripe, pausing for an instant on the center stripe while assessing the opposite traffic and then darting through a gap there—something I perfected in China where cars don’t yield to pedestrians very well.)
To me it was humorous that the staff here was so pleased when I walked back through the gate as though they are uncertain whether you can find your way or they are concerned for your safety walking in the middle of the day. They have no idea where I’ve been in the past few weeks! This is the good part of Nairobi, nice apartment buildings, big churches, modern hospitals, and lots of BMWs, Lexus, Land Rovers and such on the street. And modern supermarkets and restaurants! Still, I’m blessed that while I’m in the best part of Nairobi, I also am enjoying the most pleasant and affordable lodging I’ve had in Kenya other than when I was staying with Stakwell—hard to beat free. (Stakwell is planning to join me for dinner here as he is in Nairobi on business.)
I was drawn outside to one of the garden areas this morning by a most familiar sound that I’d never heard in Kenya previously; a lawn mower. Sure enough there was a man cutting the small grassy areas surrounding the outdoor lounge areas which are all landscaped beautifully. Another employee, Nicholas, stopped and visited with me. As I laughed about the lawn mower, he said it was the first one he’d ever seen in his life, explaining he was raised in the bush and only occasionally saw passing vehicles. Even the washer and dryer with which he works daily were the first of those machines he had ever seen too; he insisted then upon showing me the laundry room which is as modern and spotless as any industrial laundry room you’ll see anywhere. He was obviously proud of his work but wanted me to know that if I brought my clothes he would wash them by hand, I needn’t be concerned about them being in the big industrial washer; he just uses that for linens and towels. He did have a small residential washer but he said that was for when he needed to wash a small load of something the same color. He also showed me a deep freeze for meat storage and told me about when he had first come to Mayfield House and a guest had asked him for some ice cubes. He didn’t have any idea what ice cubes were, or even what ice actually was other than knowing the word. The man took him by the hand and led him to the refrigerator in the lounge area and showed him the ice cubes in trays and explained to him how to make them. He held one and was amazed and then he had his first cold drink. How different life is in the modern world!
I couldn’t resist showing Nicholas some photos of snow from South Dakota, serious snow that covers houses and blocks highways.
Snowblower on articulating loader clearing highway.
Traveling down a South Dakota highway that has been cleared.
A highway during the winter in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Note, those are tree TOPS visible above the snow; you can see their comparative size when looking at the vehicles on the highway.
It is necessary to clear the heavy snow load from your rooftop before more snow accumulates as the weight crushes buildings.
Of course, he was amazed. The Kenyans who have been to the city know there is snow on Mt Kenya but few have ever been there to see it; as Nicholas said, only wealthy people or tourists are able to go there.
I pointed out to him that there are many Kenyans that live in the area surrounding it and to them it is a common sight, and he had to stop and think about that for a few minutes as “KENYA” to him is the part of it where he was raised and now Nairobi. All he saw from here was small tour buses leaving to go to Mt Kenya just as they do to go to Masai Mara or other tourist locations that are just names and vague concepts to most of the local people. Most people who live a subsistence lifestyle know little of the world outside their own horizons. Many children here don’t have any concept of an ocean or even the planet itself and even adults when you unfold a map in front of them have no clue what they are looking at and GPS absolutely confuses most of them beyond expression.
Nonetheless, Nicholas asked me if it would be possible for him to have a copy of my photos of snow, he wanted to show them to his family. I wish I could have eavesdropped on that display and sharing.
And yes, those of you in Dallas, TX and Lawton, OK reading this… those are what I was wanting God to call me back to… and I end up called to the Equator in AFRICA!!! I think HE has a sense of humor; or perhaps he just knows what we need to give up even if we don’t.
Now, those of you reading this in South Dakota, imagine trying to explain pasturing and feeding cattle in the winter to herding people who send half naked kids out each day to shepherd the cows or other livestock as they graze through the day and get them home at night—most are broke to lead or will stay together as one kid swishes a stick at them but they have to keep them together through the day and then bring them in to pen them in thorn corrals at night to protect them from predators or marauding enemy tribes. This is winter to them and the grass is just jumping up everywhere in this cool wet growing weather. And every roadside, every park area in the cities, center medians where the streets or highways are divided, EVERY place there is any grass, there are cattle and goats and sheep and donkeys being herded through the day as they graze.
And all this made me think how blessed we are in America to live the life we do… and yes, I’m as concerned as anyone about the direction our nation is going. And with my obsessive reading I’m probably more cognizant of the disturbing trends and developments than most with whom I visit, yet, I still believe we have it so much better than these people do.
Mothers, can you imagine sending your 5 or 6 year old child out in the morning with livestock to tend and knowing he won’t return until dusk? And in the arid regions, knowing he won’t have anything to drink through the day unless he milks one of the animals into his hand to drink? How about thinking about the lions, leopards, cheetahs, buffalo (the single most dangerous animal to humans, most say) and elephants? Or the snakes; this is the land of the Mamba, the Cobra, the Rock Python and worst of all, the Puff Adder; can you imagine sending your children out knowing those are everywhere? Or even the baboons can be dangerous to children. I think most mothers I know would get sick just thinking about sending their children out a single day like that, much less living that life and knowing they would have to do that every day just to subsist.
And the saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” well, that sounds pretty pious but is largely irrelevant to people who have no soap, little water, and one change of clothes. Yes, there are natural substances they use for cleansing and detergents, but seeking those takes time and time is one of your most precious commodities when you are just trying to get enough food to stay alive. I’ve now been in the villages and even in the tiny stick huts in which millions live and studied their lives; things we take so for granted are simply unknown to them. I’ve watched children crawling around in the dirt and manure because there is no other place and watched young mothers carrying their children constantly rather than placing them down among the thorns and filth. There is no place to go where it is clean, no place to sit or to lie down other than on the ground or a skin on the ground which is itself constantly being covered with the dust. Kellie reminded me of Luke 9: 58 where Jesus said, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." I think he might have empathy for these people who are experiencing the same turmoil for a completely different reason.
Most of these people have no shelter from the blowing dust and little from the rain. And try imagining if you depend desperately upon rain for survival, yet live in a mud hut which will disintegrate in the rain; what a mixture of emotions that must create.
Below is a picture I took of a small part of Sarima, a village of about 800 just north of South Horr where I stayed. The huts are about 5’ tall and not very large.
Seriously, I don’t know whether there is a cure for this reality… it would be easy to get jaded and cynical and just shrug it off. But I can’t do that. I can’t fix everything, but even in the midst of poverty people who come to know God can have hope and peace—true wealth. So, what does their future hold? And what part might I ever play in their futures? These are questions I can’t answer today.
But the one thing I do know, I am GRATEFUL for where I was born and when and ALL the things with which I’ve been blessed. I think that everyone in America should get to experience for a time the true poverty of parts of this nation; it would change a lot of attitudes and hearts. A favorite hymn from long ago came to my mind as I was writing:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
I have visited today with those who are in missions/ministry in such a wide variety of ways:
And outside we can almost always hear Christian music playing from a nearby church, along with the laughter of children.
There is a craft center here at Mayfield House where you can purchase handcrafts fashioned by and supporting ministry among various tribes across Kenya, or just raising money to feed their children. There are libraries, a movie room, nurseries and children’s play rooms as well as a playground, multiple conference centers, a bookstore, snack shop, and about anything else you can imagine, all with an undercurrent of profound faith… I have to admit this is a humbling experience for me just being here and it is inspiring.
And I should correct something from an earlier letter when I quoted a price… I was reading the wrong thing. Until October 1st, the price to stay here with 3 meals a day is $25/day. And with that they are furnishing me transportation to the airport on Saturday for my flight out.
I had planned when I put this trip together and thought I might have an extra 2-3 days, to spend those days in the surrounding wildlife parks as I never tire of watching wild animals. Even this morning when a group was going to Masai Mara and had an extra seat and I was tempted, I realized that what I really wanted to do was simply to spend some time in silence, prayer, meditation, and reading as I seek to hear Father’s direction for our lives. By the same token, while I had planned to spend the day this coming Sunday touring Dubai, UAE after meeting with the Christians there for worship, the safety alerts and the closing of the embassy persuaded me to just spend the day in the airport, probably one of the most comfortable and pleasant in the world. But by this time I am glad I have that time just to sit and think. And pray. And listen.
So now I’m on the quiet and meditative portion of my journey. I hope nothing more happens to stir up excitement, I’m ready to just coast for a few days.
Thinking of home…
I’ll write an informative and fun letter later, but this is urgent that we pray about this need: (I’m asking Dorrie to send this out to the whole church, please.)
One of the things that I believed Father was calling me to Kenya to do was to network believers together. This was largely a concept which Dwayne Hall had inspired within me, and it has become a passion of mine as I am convinced that I cannot in myself accomplish all I see that needs done.
Well, I just got out of a meeting that has me choking back sobs of joy at just the possibility that might be before us. The others from the meeting are going to their home this evening to pray about this opportunity and so my prayer is that you be praying that God influence them positively in this matter.
The Need: Gloryland Orphanage in Mubende, Uganda which Dayspring supports, has been notified early this year that the lease on their property will be terminated at the end of this year. It is a prime property on Main Street (and the main through highway) in Mubende and the landowner just wants to do something more profitable financially with the property. They are going to have to build their own property to house the orphanage and school before the first of the year.
The Current Situation: Gloryland has succeeded in purchasing and getting clear title on 5 acres of prime land about ½ km above the current location. On this land they raised enough maize (corn) to feed the children through the next harvest and surplus to sell to help pay salaries for their teachers and houseparents. The city planning commission believes in Gloryland’s mission and staff enough that they have given $10,000 to seed the development of the new property which is unheard of in Uganda.
Today’s Meeting: I have just met with a group of believers, putting their treasure where their hearts are, who are looking for opportunities to build orphanages that they can then essentially walk away from and won’t have to manage or support. They have 10 orphanages here in Kenya, in Haiti, Puerto Rico and many other places, and their list of business ventures both in Africa and America is beyond what most of us can imagine. They are leaving Africa on Tuesday flying to India to weigh orphanage opportunities there.
They are praying tonight about whether to charter a plane tomorrow to fly to Uganda to meet with Pastor Moses, Michael and the rest of the staff and see Gloryland and their plans. I have emailed them a copy of Gloryland’s proposed building plans. I have presented them the current situation with Gloryland and it sounds “too good to be true” to them and to me. But they said it would require virtually a miracle for them to be able to make this trip—going to Mubende tomorrow—work.
And so, I am asking you URGENTLY to join me in praying for that miracle!
The fact is that Dayspring would gladly jump to fulfill this mission if we could, but the need is beyond our financial resources. The building plan is for an orphanage and school for 500 children as this ministry and the need is getting larger steadily.
Thank you for your prayers!
I came to Africa to train pastors; we have launched a new Bible School specifically for pastors called The Barnabas School of Pastoral Development and are off to a great start with a strong enrollment and are now in our 3rd day of classes. I’ll explain in another letter how this school will continue and function.
My public sessions with the whole group are running from 8:00-12:30 each morning and have been exceptionally well received. Pastors Duncan and Dolores Dotson of Rockwall TX are the other teachers in the school and I love hearing both of them. The additional studies, follow-up questions, etc. have run into the evenings.
The entire school has been really intense and I have no doubt God’s calling me to this ministry was not a one-time thing and I am seriously praying as to whether this is the life calling for which I have been listening for the past year or more. I have no clue what the shape of my involvement will be but I am trying to keep my heart open to what HE wants of us.
I have found myself teaching differently than I ordinarily would, primarily because EVERYONE here is in congregational leadership in one form or another. But more than at any other time in my life I have felt the Spirit of God simply seize the moment, direct my words and heart and bring transformation to those attending. The first day my lessons went essentially as I had planned and the response was profound. But the second day, something happened to my planned lessons and it felt to me like God just took over.
One of my greatest delights is the way that these people respond when ‘voicing’ strong affirmation. I don’t get a lot of “amens” or “preach it!” like I would in the states, but they are definitely demonstrative… just not what one in America typically expects. One of the older pastors, in fact, a man who pastors a group of pastors over a wide area of northern Kenya, is the one who delights me the most with his response. He sits on the front row over to my right as I’m teaching and when he gets really excited, he jumps to his feet and does this tribal thing that for all the world I would swear is an imitation of a Prairie Chicken mating dance and call. He spins in place with his feet thumping and is crouched to the side that he is spinning, but with both hands to his mouth, one hand the fingers holding his mouth in a tight spread fashion while the other controls the exit of air coming out and creates a warbling sound. I’m serious, I think of a male Prairie Chicken every time I hear it and just love to look over and watch him… and most others who even notice it do too. You catch that where I said “who even notice it”? His response is not so extraordinary here as to attract special attention. Yes, indeed I AM in Africa!
The first day, after going nonstop for nearly 4 hours—I did stop just a little early as Pastor Dolores hadn’t greeted the assembled yet and they have a strong affinity for her as she has been involved here for a number of years—I was dripping like a wet rag and was exhausted though exhilarated. Some of us sat down for lunch together and the young man, Lucas, who had been translating into Swahili for those who didn’t understand English had joined me and was sitting just to my left. We had been handed bottles of cold water straight from the fridge (a treat here) and he had just taken one long pull on his when he looked over. I was just setting my bottle down on the sofa between us and Lucas’ eyes suddenly bugged out as he looked at it, then exclaimed, “You changed your water to wine?!?!” Well, actually, I had just dumped a tiny packet of Rasberry Lemonade Crystal Lite into it and given it a quick shake, but it did have a very pleasant rosy color. As the humor struck me, Lucas very sincerely extended his bottle to me and asked, “Would you pray over mine too?” I was almost disappointed to have to tell him what I had done and showed him the little packets and then he thought his mistake was funny, but for a moment, I think he thought I was surely something more than what I am. I still laugh just thinking about it, but he did enjoy the raspberry lemonade.
Several questions from pastors yesterday convinced me that I needed to completely change my lesson plans for today. There were serious and practical things that needed addressed. Our team is meeting early each morning to discuss the day and encourage one another, so this was the time that I laid out what I had in mind. The reality is I wasn’t sure when I awakened how I was going to accomplish what I perceived needed done, but while I was in the shower, if what I have in my room qualifies as such, everything became clear. I got new notes printed up and was off to teach. It happened that the illustration I received on my first day here when I did the slick wet floor ballet pirouettes with my big pack was the perfect place to start and they enjoyed the story almost as much as those who witnessed it firsthand that day in the restaurant.
Yesterday afternoon was sweltering here in Kisumu even though it is the middle of winter here and all the little children running around were covered with a sheen of sweat. These kids belong to the cooks, the pastors, the dishwashers and laundry ladies and all the others who are serving here. Well, I happened to notice on the ‘highway’ that goes past the ‘church building’ a man pushing a little hand cart that I could see from the graphics was an ice cream cart. It was fun trying to get him over there because when I would point at him across the street and motion him to come over, he would pause and look all around him and behind trying to figure out who I was summoning. Finally, as he drew closer and the third time I pointed at him and motioned him over, and after looking all around again, he pointed at himself and questioned, “Me?” to which I nodded enthusiastically and called him over. I had him go ahead and roll his cart inside the gate and into the middle of the grassy area and by then we had about 10 kids attention. I asked him how much his ice cream was, turned out he only had popsicles and only one flavor of those… brown, whatever that was, I never tasted one. He told me they were 5 shillings apiece, about 5.8 cents apiece, so I told him to give one to every child and both of us would count as he passed them out. This guy quickly transformed from a worn out guy walking down the highway in traffic to an energized peddler who just walked into a bonanza. I asked one of the boys to go ‘into the building’ and get the other kids but he wouldn’t do it until he got his popsicle—couldn’t risk the peddler running out! I think a few kids from the neighborhood might have come in through the gate when they saw what was going on and I even invited a couple of teenage girls that brought little children up close to have one, which they did. The count ended up 38 happy children and totaled just under $2.25 for me, and we left the peddler with only two popsicles left. Somehow I think he was as happy as the children.
For some reason, during our last prayer and praise period of the evening yesterday, I was surrounded by children who all wanted to hold my hand or lean on me. Most of them had been friendly, but a little shy previously, but the popsicles obviously bridged that gap. I also got more than a few “thank you’s” from the mothers. The financial reality of many of the people here is that they have NO money in their pockets, they managed to get here on faith that they would somehow be able to travel back home. We were discussing this evening what it would cost for transportation to help the pastors return to their homes, some of them live several hundred miles away. Fifteen, in fact, came from the Samburu tribe in northern Kenya where I was last week and you recall that I related my trip to you. And their food here is being supplied by This Is Your Season Ministry in Rockwall, TX. In fact, there are pastors here who do not own a Bible—that will change tomorrow as the purchase for them was just arranged this evening. I don’t think most Americans can comprehend the way these people live—but if you ask me who is truly “rich” I think I would lean toward these people who have nothing material but are wholly devoted to Father and exuberantly joyful.
Yesterday, I needed in a most serious way to address with the pastors the issue of pride; do not think pride is only money based, position can create as much of an issue for our hearts as possessions. Well, on my second day in Africa God had addressed the problem of pride in my life and thoroughly broken me, forcing me to face the most excruciating humiliation of my entire life. I had not realized how much pride I harbored until I was faced with being stripped of it, and then it became painfully evident. The story won’t translate well in this letter, and is a bit lengthy since I’ve almost reached my cutoff anyway—at least that’s the excuse I’m going to use for not sharing it with you now—but in that moment, I realized that if I were to talk to these people about pride and their need to be humbled, I needed to have the humility to speak of my own pride. I did NOT plan to share this story EVER with anyone (other than the one I’ve told so far), but in the moment I was compelled to make the ridding of my pride complete by exposing myself to these people. Well, the story had its desired impact; it left me totally without a shred of pride, feeling as humiliated as I had on that original day. In fact, a few hours later, when I emerged from the building, a couple of groups of ladies across the way started pointing my direction and laughing and the story got repeated in its full humiliating detail again… those cooking and cleaning hadn’t heard me tell it so ladies who had got the pleasure of relating the story. This morning, I asked the ladies how many of them had gotten more laughs at my expense later in the day by sharing the story with others. About five of them raised their hands and acknowledged it. At least they were honest. I doubt I will ever be preaching at Dayspring, or anywhere else in the U.S., on pride, so am hoping I will never have need to repeat the story again! But the reality is, after my pride was so stripped away, I don’t know that I could be any more humiliated by publishing the story in a book. I’ll contemplate this before my next letter… until then, you can hang in suspense.
Prior to the school beginning I had actually been seeing some reduction in my waist size, and hopefully a corresponding reduction in my weight, but the cooks at the school are so intent upon honoring their American guests that I am having to be very careful to avoid GAINING weight now. And our hosts will not allow me to walk. Our hotel is less than 1½ km from the church so I could easily walk over there in the morning, but they insist that one of the hosts has to drive me back and forth each time I come or go and I do not wish to offend them or get the young man driving me in trouble for failing to tend to his responsibility. He did actually tell me that if I was seen arriving afoot or by any other means of transportation it would pose a serious problem for him and he would face discipline.
Okay, back to a point with something I did earlier in my letter; several times I placed a word or phrase like ‘church building’ or ‘go into’ in a quotation indicating the word was used to refer to something other than what is normally perceived. This church doesn’t really have a building. For some time they met under an expansive bamboo roof on poles, then they were able to semi tack used tin over most of the bamboo. Now, in anticipation of eventually having a building, they poured footers and built crude block walls partially around the ‘roof’ but some distance larger and actually extending higher. They are hoping to sometime be able to roof the walled portion and even eventually to add doors and even windows where today there are simply large openings in the walls. We aren’t really indoors at all, so going into or out of it or calling it a building is a little bit of literary license. The floor is partially concrete and partially tamped earth. And this is where most of the pastors are actually sleeping during this week of school. I wonder whether my longing to know God more fully would create in me a willingness to sit for endless hours under this tin roof and sleep on this rough hard floor? I don’t know, because I have a bed and a shower and an actual toilet, so am not faced with that decision. I don’t feel guilty for the difference, I am GRATEFUL to God that He has provided for me as He has! And I know from the way these people honor me, they wouldn’t want me to join them there on that hard rough floor, even though most of them have never had a room in their life as nice as this little hotel room.
We don’t have to feel badly that we have been blessed so abundantly—but we should sure be moved to gratitude. I didn’t choose my parents or where I would be born, it is solely by HIS grace that I am who I am where I am. I pray I will always recognize that and never feel entitled to any of my abundant blessings.
I seriously do not know what my future holds. And right now, I’m fine with that.
I have said I’ve wanted to live by faith… well, that means not being able to walk by sight but still walking courageously and boldly with the confidence no longer in myself, my gifts and work, but confident in HIM.
Many times earlier in my life I would have told you I was walking by faith, yet I almost always had my own plan and map to carry out that plan. I think I never quite ‘got it’ because I never had to do it before. But here I am today with NO plan and no map and not even any idea what tomorrow holds, yet I rest in Him.
I have been praying for over a year for His guidance in my life, having come to a conviction that He was calling me to more than I have been living. I have earnestly sought to hear His voice, feel His direction, and I still seek that. I know that this trip was a response to His call, but I don’t know yet what this trip was about in the bigger perspective. I know why I came and I know why I came earlier than the school to visit Gloryland in Mubende and to visit Stakwell in Kenya and I can honestly say these trips have provided for me a cultural immersion beyond anything I could have anticipated. I have had my eyes opened to many things that I am convinced will shape my future, but how, I don’t know.
Have I been exposed to the things I have in order to make me a better voice or spokesman for these needs back home? That is possible. Have I been connecting relationships, building a network to facilitate mutual benefits to several different ministries here? Or have I been getting my heart and eyes opened to a cry for our voices, our presence, our lives? And if the latter, what shape will that take? Would we be like Tony and Rebecca, spending a few months on ‘the field’ and having a reprieve for a few months at home? Would we be like (or with) Dolores, traveling about constantly to different places having brief powerful impacts upon leaders in each location? Or would we be leaving home, family, and life to move to a different part of the world?
“God will break you for a short time yet, then He has a plan for your life…” the prophet spoke to me. Well, I’ve been broken and He has offered healing in each instance drawing me constantly closer to Him and into His presence. Most of my roots in America have been severed with the loss of our home and the alteration of the country I loved—I’m not blaming Obama like Republicans do, he only stepped up the tempo on the exact same agenda Bush was implementing, perhaps with shades of Carter and Clinton thrown in there. But I, the “Voice of Democracy”, the ultimate patriot, the defender of “The American Way”, have become disenchanted and believe that it is unfixable and I don’t particularly care whether I sit around here to watch it come apart. We can’t change anything at home; can we make a difference here?
To me it’s funny… don’t know whether it will strike you the same way… one of the BIG things that has prevented me from thinking of leaving America is my love for shooting and hunting—though I haven’t hunted much in quite a while. And then, to be told that private gun ownership is banned in Kenya (and Uganda), but then to learn that everyone I met in north Kenya has a gun(s) and that I could take my guns there and hunt freely if I chose. And I just spent 6 days in semi-desert country that was chock full of game birds from dove, quail, partridge, grouse, guineas, ostrich and others and occupied by a people who don’t eat birds. The Samburu people keep chickens for eggs but feed the dead birds to their dogs. They don’t eat birds! Stakwell has eaten guineas and ostrich and likes both, and he eats chicken every time he is away from home, but in South Horr he doesn’t eat birds either… the cooks probably wouldn’t cook them. So, to me that was a funny thing for God to place in front of me as I closed out a week of the most peaceful spiritual transformation I’ve ever experienced.
There was also a surprising ministry opportunity at Stakwell’s that I had never considered until I found myself availing myself of it as it posed itself… travelers come through there, spending an evening and a morning easing about before and after they sleep. Each time I found myself engaged in spiritual conversations and watching people’s eyes opening. I had people express very strongly held convictions and watch them start to puzzle and then listen when they heard articulated well reasoned perspectives they had never considered. I do have a surprising ability to carry on conversations about many things so can engage people wherever they are most of the time. Just as I was writing this, I acknowledged I have always had a little bit of disdain for the idea that you could make an impact with a brief encounter and suddenly God told me to consider Philip in Acts 8:27-40 in his encounter with the Ethiopian. This brief encounter was very much in harmony with God’s will and absolutely had a permanent impact. So, that poses an entirely different door that I hadn’t considered.
I had told you that you would not be driving in there and related how when you go to ‘visit’ Stakwell it would be a fly-in trip… then yesterday my mind turned to what kind of vehicle I would want if I were living there and from that turned to the drive and realized that you would never quite comprehend WHERE you were if you didn’t drive in there at least once. But I would rather drive you in, would definitely not want your first trip in to be with LeMan’s Peter! And, I would NOT want you to ride in the back of one of those Land Cruisers like we were in yesterday! Stakwell’s yes, it would actually probably be my ideal because I would want to do as he does and carry people about helping them and that would require the additional space. I also like that the larger Land Cruisers in the dark green or a dark blue look like official or police vehicles and so don’t attract the same kind of notice that flashier vehicles do. An example of Stakwell’s practice: we are heading north from South Horr and see the two school girls who carried and sold the milk to the camp, he pulls over and calls to them, they jump in and ride the 3 km to their school and hop out calling cheerful thanks to him. That afternoon on the way back into South Horr, the teacher has just left the school and is heading for town, so we pull over and pick him up and take him on into town with us, just dropping him where we turned into the camp. Just little things like that I know are part of why people love Stakwell—and his crew, because they do the same thing, having been trained by him. And then it hits me humorously, I’m contemplating us living in South Horr! How funny. Could I live there and fulfill the calling for training pastors? Does AIM need more in-country pilots? But I know, I know for certain, if I were going to LIVE in Kenya I would prefer South Horr to Nairobi, Thika, or any of the other locations I’ve seen thus far that are far more densely populated and more in motion. And yesterday my mind turned to jobs that would be available as some of the ‘development’ that is soon to transform that country takes place… supervisory jobs such as Stakwell’s which provide income, resources and yet lots of free time.
But then, I ask, do I want to live where I must deal with Muslims on a regular basis? (even if they are essentially non-observant) Or could I communicate Christ effectively to these people? Certainly, they need the gospel. On my mind realizes the irony of that question when we are being faced with constant confrontation with Islam in America and I am so frustrated with the people who haven’t got a clue of the consequences of the course we are pursuing. Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. Rebecca spoke of feeling open hostility from Muslims I think in Nairobi; I can see that if you got in the predominantly Muslim areas. I ended up in a Muslim market yesterday, still in the truck thank goodness, but was still accosted by a man who spotted and targeted me. We drove off and my driver, Peter, commented, “Why do they have to be that way?” and I told him that Muslim markets are like that all over the world and we aren’t particularly welcome there… only our money.
By the way, my guard dog’s name was Bear. Fits him.
Ok, back to my question about Muslims; I received a shock in the conversation at Naftaly’s house when we were discussing Muslims. Edward, the principal/teacher, Stakwell’s cousin who rode with us, commented that there are NO Samburus who are Muslims, that they could NOT become Muslims and remain a part of their community. Naftaly said it was the same with his tribe, the Massai. Confused, I asked, “Where are all these Muslims I’ve seen in Samburu land and here in Thika coming from?” and all three, Edward, Naftaly and Christian instantly said, “Somalia, we’re being overrun!” So, even those Muslims I saw in South Horr are foreigners; they are NOT Kenyans, they have no rights to the land or the benefits coming with the development, they are just people who have come in and parked. We stopped this time in a Muslim community that we had just passed through going in; turns out one of our passengers was Muslim and from there so we had stopped as an accommodation to him. Then when we ended up in Isiolo (pronounced Isholo) where Naftaly met us, there is a huge Muslim market and that is where the man would have accosted me had Peter not simply driven away.
That makes educating the locals to the dangers of this “invasion” even more vital.
Christian related that 11 of the 16 homes in their compound are now occupied by Muslims and it has changed the neighborhood. But she said the reason is that when they come in they pay 7 months of rent in advance where most of the Kenyans have to work at making their rent each month, so who would the landlord prefer—the landlord, of course, not living there and not cognizant of what lies ahead. Christian related that all the women carry knives, the curved gilded kind, and when they come outside because the children are fighting and there is noise, they are drawing their knives as they come out the door. Then one day she went to talk to one of the other mothers because her children had taken Christian’s girls’ ball. The mother screamed at Christian and challenged her related to the ball and sharing and then about an hour later half the ball came over the wall into their yard. I related to them how they take over neighborhoods and others, not desiring conflict, or fearful for their lives, simply move out and yield it to them. I shared the mindset difference between teaching children not to explode in anger, that it is a negative emotional response and unacceptable, and them considering this honorable and encouraging it in their children… the light came on in Christian’s face because she has seen exactly that happening.
On Friday evening I had carried my computer bag into Naftaly’s house rather than leave it in his car and he ended up laughing at me saying, “This is our neighborhood, who would steal it?” Their neighborhood is walled and gated and guarded… however, a majority of the people are now Muslims. Saturday morning when we came out of the house after breakfast to head to Nairobi, Naftaly couldn’t unlock his car door. Ended up there was something stuck inside the lock, one of the other neighbors had witnessed several of the boys around his car, and when Naftaly turned and asked them, they were belligerent about trying to pick the lock. It took a number of minutes to get the broken off wire they were trying to pick the lock with out of the lock so we could get in the car and go. I had left my computer in it, though no one could see the bag for the dark tinting… but it was a car to break into. I had told Christian they should be thinking about where they are going to move because it will reach a tipping point for them in this neighborhood and with two young girls, they are going to end up moving. Naftaly had been a little incredulous, but then he couldn’t imagine the ball cut in half and half tossed over (to share it ostensibly?) but after the thing with his door locks, he was thinking awfully hard about it. He has a wife and two children to consider.
It was a mystery I had to solve before I could relate it to Kellie, for being convinced she would be coming here on my next trip I really didn’t want to share something with her that could cause her imagination to run wild… mine was already contemplating what I thought were all the alternatives.
It had all started when I discovered I had a roommate in my beautiful stone cabin at Samburu Sports Camp in northern Kenya. As a general rule bugs don’t “bug” me, not even spiders. I try to ascertain whether they are beneficial or detrimental to me and then take the appropriate action, either squishing or relocating them. I generally don’t like to share space with spiders because I get tired of clearing out cobwebs and spider webs and it just seems more efficient to clear out the spiders. But this spider was something unusual, my best guess being that he is a camel spider common to northern Africa and known to most of our troops who have done time in the Middle East. This particular specimen was about 3” across, as large as a fully grown tarantula, though he didn’t stand up tall like a tarantula. But the remarkable thing that struck me and first clued me in to his possible identity was his speed. After I determined I wasn’t going to share my space with him and knowing that relocating him would be only temporary, I determined that a quick kick would terminate him right where he now was on the stone wall.
Wrong. My “quick” kick hit right where I intended but he was 10’ away by then. And that is when the fun started. That spider could traverse the 25’ from one side of the cabin to the other, running across the very uneven surface of the stones, faster than I could move across the concrete floor. Quick didn’t begin to define him. But worse was that though he would run from me, he would immediately follow me back across the room obviously confident in his speed keeping him safe and either predatory or curious about me. I was especially careful tucking my mosquito netting in that first night as sharing a bed was much more intimate than I cared to be with that speed demon and our contest would have to be deferred until the next day. Well, he survived the morning chase and insisted upon circling me in the stone shower as I prepared for the day, but that evening a lead of about 6’ on a kick crippled him and with him running in circles on the floor I simply stepped on him though I didn’t grind him or obliterate him, just stepped on him lightly enough to know he was dead.
And this is when the mystery began. The next morning, thinking I would wash him out the drain with my shower, I was surprised when I went in there to discover the dead spider was no longer there. That caused me to go to the other side of my cabin to check on a very large cricket I had also killed but hadn’t picked up. It too was gone without a trace. Okay, so something had come into my cabin in the night and totally removed both the large dead spider and the large dead cricket. And this was my mystery. There were plenty of places a crawling slimy intruder could get in, but what was it? A snake? A lizard? I finally settled on lizard because believing it was a lizard felt better than thinking it was a snake; I had seen a couple of really long (perhaps 8’) snakes that were thinner than a garden hose and had no idea what they were but I was aware Kenya has some unfriendly snakes.
That evening, I stepped on a large water bug, probably about 3” long, and though it crunched, again I didn’t grind it into the concrete intending rather to clean it up… but I left it when I went to bed.
Very early the next morning with it still dark outside, I went to the restroom where the large bug lay on the floor. I had only indirect light from a small flashlight I laid on a high shelf, not really wanting to face bright lights yet. As I sat there I saw the dead bug slowly but steadily “walking” across the floor. This called for a closer examination, I KNEW that bug was dead. When I shone my light on it, I was surprised to see about 20 small ants under each leg of the bug, lifting together and carrying the entire bug steadily across the room. By the time I had taken my shower they had gotten it to the wall where there was a very small hole through the mortar, perhaps as large as a pencil lead. That afternoon when I returned to my cabin, I saw they were dismantling the bug and carrying tiny pieces through their tunnel. By evening all that was left of the big water bug were the wings; not a trace of the rest of the bug.
And thus the mystery of the dead bugs walking off was solved and it wasn’t anything as sinister or threatening as a snake. And now I could tell Kellie about it; it is one thing to relate that there are spiders and bugs, quite another to think you might have a snake in the room. But I did conclude that if/when I build my own stone cabin here, I plan to include some weather stripping and make the screens a little tighter just because I know Kellie would prefer it.
...and I continue learning.
Savoring the peaceful sounds of the quiet village, I sat quietly meditating, writing briefly, sipping my cup of tea, watching the birds, simply being at peace. I sat in the restaurant pavilion at the Samburu sports camp (off season) which has the upper half of the walls heavily screened for wind, sun and insect protection and gives the enclosure a very subdued peaceful feel. Completely in harmony with this stillness, a smallish lizard was making its way up the outside of the screen.
The idyllic moment was interrupted suddenly when a cat flashed suddenly onto the screen where the lizard had been a moment earlier, reminding me, even as he added a nice portion of protein to his diet that nature is not a kind world. In spite of Walt Disney’s efforts to convince us that only man is an evil predator in this otherwise harmonious world, every animal, from microscopic to gargantuan, is either a predator or prey… some are both. Most people are both, we are predators by design and inclination (though some don’t like to acknowledge such) but most of us are also preyed upon by others. That reality has become much clearer to me here where I am able to observe people in their most primal existence.
Today is a quiet day of meditation, study, reflection, prayer, and pure gratitude for life and harmony with my Creator.
I left my table for a few minutes of activity as one of the children coming to play with Marybell, Stakwell and Fransesca’s 4 year old, left the gate a few feet ajar and quite a number of young goats wandering past found the invitation irresistible. It took several of us a bit to “herd” the goats back to and out the gate as young goats are less cooperative than would have been an equal number of 2 year old children… and they’re a lot quicker than children and had several round buildings available to use for their evasion and escape maneuvers. I suppose I could have tried to reason with them that they were welcome to stay for a barbecue this evening? J But I never found reasoning with 2 year old children particularly productive either.
Returning to my table afterward, the atmosphere has transitioned to one of joy and laughter and happiness as about 10 children are now playing with Wendy, 6, and Marybell on and around the playground. Having walked through most of the village, I’m fairly certain these are the only swings, slides and climbing towers for children in the community. So, we speak of poverty, yet hear the children’s laughter and I am more convinced than ever of the truth of Jesus statement, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." I will admit frustration with children at home who have so much and yet don’t appreciate what they have.
And then, in a conversation with a South African couple earlier, the wife asked me, “What are we doing to the people? We try to help them improve their condition and yet everywhere we drive they approach with their hand out; we have created a sense of entitlement where we wanted to create sufficiency. Have we really helped them?”
This is not a simple question.
I know the tribesmen here need to discover farming to survive so applaud the farm project just north of the village here. Farming is the cornerstone of civilization; until people began farming cities were not possible. Only when a few could produce enough to feed many were people able to cluster together and begin developing other skills. When every moment of one’s day is committed to being able to eat and remain alive, you don’t have time to write or invent or teach or even to just think. When people are able to give themselves to other endeavors, creating income with which they can buy from the farmers the food needed for existence, then civilization advances. And the farmer not only has food but he has excess income to purchase other things that are being produced by the non-farmers as well. Before farming no cities existed or could; most people don’t grasp this cornerstone of civilization. For Americans, we have come to take farmers so for granted because they are such a tiny segment of our society and yet we have never known famine in America in our lifetimes.
On our journey Tuesday to Lake Turkana, we became the transportation for trade for some of the villagers who would otherwise have had no such option. We carried a goat to be sold in the fishing community and 5 LARGE bags of charcoal. The goat brought several times as much in the fishing village as it would have anywhere near the original community, as did the charcoal, but without us going and Stakwell willing to be a servant for the less fortunate, this wouldn’t have happened.
That trip did offer me my first real olfactory overload. As I said we had a large goat tied in the back of the Land Cruiser, 5 large bags of charcoal (freshly made), and 8 men, most of whom hadn’t had a bath or shower in months. Lake Turkana is a fishing village on the shores of this huge lake and their only industry is fish (and government). But without electricity, there is no way to preserve fish other than drying, so there are drying facilities, really just crude buildings with endless racks upon which split fish are air dried. So, we ended up with a lot of dried fish on the way back the following day. So, add together the pungent odor remaining from the goat, the smoky after smell of the charcoal, the bite of the diesel leaked from cans, the men themselves and the dried fish, and it was just about enough to overload my senses. (making the clear clean air today so welcome!)
I mentioned the goat we took for the Turkana villager… he sold it to the resort where we first went and where I stayed. The following day after all the meetings were concluded, we returned to that resort for lunch. Please, understand I am using the word “resort” as they do… it is NOTHING like you probably have in your mind! It was a fenced and gated compound. It had multiple bandas (small cottages) for rent and it served food wherever you found a place to sit. My banda did not have electricity and the public areas of the “resort” only had electricity from dark until about midnight. By “electricity” I mean there were two outlets to be shared by all the guests there for charging devices and there were some electric wires tied between the palm trees from which there was an occasional low wattage bulb dangling. Most people still used their flashlights to find their own banda. So, that was the resort, but the cook did a nice job so we were back there the following afternoon to eat before hitting the road back here. There were six of us at the table and it was obvious what the main man thought when he brought plates to set the table; he brought six plates with one knife and one fork. Even in nice restaurants most Africans do not use silverware other than to dish up food from the serving dishes, so we know who the knife and fork were intended for, don’t we? Well, I came here to learn as much African culture as I could, so I simply laid the knife and fork aside and did as my hosts were doing. (note, I am talking about high government officials along with Stakwell) Their main staple here is ugalli, something these people eat every day. It is white maize flour (their corn kernels are white) and they leave it until hard to pick it and then dry it, shell it and grind it into flour. They then start water boiling and keep adding the maize flour and stirring until it is thick enough a strong man couldn’t stir it. They ordinarily serve up a large portion, two cups or more per person and though it looks like white mashed potatoes, it is stiff enough you can cut it with a knife and then it is mixed with beans or used with whatever else you are eating. In this case we were eating goat; the whole carcass was cut up into ¾” cubes. As Stakwell observed when we first ate together, in America you don’t get bones in your meat, in Africa, you get bones in your meat. They cut the carcass with a cleaver or machete without regard for bones so there are often shattered bones in your meat. So, here we are digging in with our hands, dipping the ugalli in the goat juice, popping pieces of meat in ones mouth and working the bones back out when I just happened to think and say, “So, is this the goat we hauled down here?” To which the immediate answer was, “Yes.” We hauled him down here and he was sold to the resort, then the following day they sold part of him back to us for lunch and we hauled that portion back to South Horr. Interestingly, the realization had no impact upon my appetite. Perhaps I’ve adapted too quickly to Africa to start finding this normal?
I topped off the afternoon by taking Francesca’s 4 wheeler (complete with California license plate, but that’s another story) out for a spin to capture photos. While my main objective today was birds and thorns—every bush and tree has thorns—I was on my way back when I saw a Samburu tribesman walking that I had seen before and I stopped to ask if I could take his photo. He allowed me to and then admired the photo thanks to the wonder of digital photography. Then he asked me if I could give him a ride down the road… we were within a kilometer of where I was going. Understand that 4 wheelers are virtually unknown here and everyone was stopping to watch and wave or shout out something to this big American cruising along. So, here was a tribesman (dare I saw warrior) in full traditional attire, spears in hand, asking with childish anticipation if he could ride with me. I agreed and moved forward a little and he started climbing aboard. This is a smaller model that just has foot pegs for the rider and nothing really for a passenger but he managed to put his feet up on the sides of the seat just under my hips. The traditional garb of a Samburu is called a shuka but most Americans would call it a skirt… so you get the picture. Even with his spears in his hand, when I shifted into gear and started off his claws were digging into my sides and by the time I passed 3rd gear and we had the wind blowing his headgear he was clinging to me for dear life. I stopped when we got to the turn into the camp and he clambered unceremoniously off and stood laughing and with a grin from ear to ear and waving as I took off up the gate. Something so simple to us for we take it so for granted, but is unthinkable to most of these people becomes an absolute joy for a grown warrior. Do we ever stop being children? I hope mine is always the heart of the child that Jesus said we all need. As an afterthought, had I not risked stopping and asking about taking his photo—and some don’t want you to unless you are paying them—I wouldn’t have had the joy of seeing his joy so fulfilled. I’m sure he told the story well when he got together with his buddies a few minutes later. I wonder though whether he admitted to how tightly he clung to the big American so that he could laugh about how deeply his fingertips were able to sink into my sides… certainly there is more meat on my bones than on a dozen of these guys! (though it is getting less all the time judging from the fit of my pants and where the tail of my belt reaches now—YES!)
My afternoon concluded with two little girls, probably 6-7, daughters of the workers here at the camp, joining me on my porch as I sat in the porch swing visiting with Kellie on the phone. The girls were intrigued and so I switched to speaker and they could hear Kellie speaking even as they saw her picture on the screen. But once they got close enough and their caution dissipated they busied themselves examining the long white hair on my now suntanned arms (Africans don’t have hair on their arms) and running their hands through my hair from behind the swing as they talked excitedly and giggled away. Children are children everywhere, aren’t they? Of course, Kellie was also able to hear their chatter and giggles… and those of you at Dayspring can ask Tony Archer about their obsession with arm hair. J
May my heart continue to be filled and my waist continue to shrink!
Starting, I’m going to make a couple of corrections that might have no consequence to most of my readers but are a matter of accuracy. My hearing challenges (many don’t know I am nearly deaf and must be able to see your mouth moving to hear you speak) compounded with hearing English spoken with an entirely different dialect have combined to create some real misunderstandings. Unfortunately, most of the Africans seem willing to allow me to call them the wrong name rather than to risk embarrassing me by correcting my error.
Okay, I guess all that is just more cultural immersion.
Last evening I left with Stakwell to travel to Lake Turkana, a ‘city’ on Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world. And that drive resulted in me having to make one of the largest corrections related to my travels here. I thought the road I traversed with Peter, my race car driver, at the wheel at the first of this week was about as bad as a road can get. WRONG!!! Lake Turkana is the capital of this district of Kenya and there was a meeting of government heads we were attending this morning where Stakwell was making a presentation. I cannot comprehend what possessed a state to select that location as their capital city! The drive there was way beyond what our drive last week was even though Stakwell was driving and he is slow and cautious in comparison to Peter. I did not know there was anywhere in the world as hostile as that country through which they have half attempted to fashion a road. Picture 20 trillion rocks ranging in size from baseballs to basketballs to houses stacked endlessly for 60 miles. It is even rare for the cactus to get a root in that environment. I’ve taken both snapshots and videos for any who just can’t believe what it can be like.
When we got to the actual “city” I was even more confused about why the selected this location, just 20 kilometers from Ethiopia, for their capital. Nonetheless, they credit the city with having a population of 20,000 which includes many scattered huts clustered about in small clearings carved out of the rocks. There is ONE industry in the place; fishing. …make that two, with farming various governments being the most profitable. Everywhere I looked there were signs advertising “This program sponsored by ___________” Surprisingly to me, most of the financing is coming from the EU and Japan, two entities heavily backed by American taxpayers. This left me questioning why we are funding governments (through foreign aid) who in turn provide funding to 3rd world countries and receive all the political traction for the help? Why don’t we just reduce the amount of foreign aid provided to various governments by the amount that feel they have in excess to give away to 3rd parties? Then, if we want the good will gained through the beneficial support of actually needy countries, we could give directly to those countries and cut out the middleman who neither appreciates us nor credits us for their ability to finance these projects.
Getting off the political philosophy and dealing with the cultural realities which are my reasons for being here…
Africa is volatile, Kenya is right up there at the top of that. Yesterday before we took off for Lake Turkana I was visiting with a missionary working in Kurungu, just up the road. He showed me a bullet hole in the left hand passenger’s door and told me about the event. The prior missionary was driving down the road when bandits ambushed them; he raced away and escaped the attack but the bullet that pierced the door struck his wife in the leg, severing a major artery and she was bleeding to death even as he was racing away for their life. He staunched the blood flow the best he could and called the American Inland Mission organization who got a Cessna 206 in the air almost instantly. They coordinated a rendezvous and the plane landed on the primitive road, picked her up and rendezvoused with a jet air ambulance that got her to a hospital. Although they saved her life, the couple returned to the states and this missionary is now here from Toronto. Then just a few minutes ago I heard the head of the Red Cross in this part of Kenya, himself a Samburu native, tell someone on the phone that he wouldn’t be somewhere in the morning because it wasn’t safe to travel after dark and he was staying put right here at Stakwell’s camp until morning. We also have a large group from South Africa who arrived here this evening about the same time we arrived back from Lake Turkana.
So, after hearing these things and seeing the near-fatal bullet hole in the Land Rover, (I understand they replaced a good bit of glass in the vehicle after the incident too) I started rethinking the inconvenience of having a squad of armed security forces riding with us to Lake Turkana… standing up through the roof with their rifles—actually looking for antelope for meat, not for bandits. I’m sure that sight would have deterred most bandits along the road.
On a semi-different tack, not personal security but African volatility; my trip might be changing shapes due to the Nairobi airport burning down today. I’m not sure this is in the international news but numerous vendors had just been served eviction notices in the past 3 days because of being late on payments… then the place burns to the ground. Hmmm… Of course, it was primarily still the frame structure erected by the British around the second world war. Of course, this will affect those who are coming here to join me more than it impacts me as no international flights are arriving in Nairobi. I’m sure I’ll just be assigned to another flight out.
I’ll be here at Stakwell’s about 2 more days then will be heading to Kisumu where I will be teaching in the Barnabas School of Pastoral Development. This role is beyond stimulating to me to contemplate!
Again, today at Lake Turkana I was impressed with how Kenya has such abundant natural resources and yet is awash in poverty. And I was impressed all over again how Christianity and education (the two go hand in hand) impact a culture and improve the lives of everyone who comes to know God. Although I cannot say such at this time, I am getting a strong impression that God’s calling upon my life was not just for one brief trip here… HE has been changing me daily since arriving in Africa, just as I have prayed that He would.
Please, continue to lift me up in your prayers,
For this week I will have very limited connectivity as I purchased an Airtel modem (what was recommended for me in Nairobi) upon my arrival for Internet and an Airtel SIM card for my phone. I made sure I had both charged with full bundles of time/data and carried with me some extra credit to be added as needed prior to coming to South Horr where Stakwell lives as I was unsure what might be available here. Well, it turns out Airtel does not have coverage out here, only Safaricom does and neither my phone nor my modem will connect. A brother here was kind enough to allow me to use his modem last night so I could send an email to Kellie so she would know I was safe and sound even though out of touch, but with electricity available for only about 2 hours each evening (after the solar panels have recharged the batteries) so that everyone must recharge devices then, communication would be severely limited anyway. I did bring a solar charging device and a Zagg Sparq so can keep my phone and flashlights powered up.
Oh, and an aside, I had to purchase separate modems and SIM cards for Uganda when I went there as Uganda and Kenya systems are not compatible.
Just thinking of a week here at Stakwell Yurinemo’s place without being connected to the outside world… actually that thought brings a tremendous sense of peace washing over me as long as Kellie knows I’m safe and I know friends there are caring for her. Btw—thanks to Travis Moore for going over and mowing our lawn, Kellie says it looks great!
As most of you at Dayspring are aware, we have been supporting Stakwell’s ministry to young people in far northern Kenya for a number of years. Stakwell is a Samburu, I encourage you to research them a little on Wikipedia or just ask Judy Baer—she would be glad to tell you about them and to share Stakwell’s story—who came to faith.
in Christ as a result of being sent away to school, which happened to be an American sponsored Christian school. So, he was raised speaking English primarily though he is fluent in Samburu, Swahili and something else I can’t recall at the moment. With the help of JL & Patt Williams and friends, Stakwell established and developed a sports camp where they bring tribal youth from all over northern Kenya with much the same philosophy as Kent Susud’s Sportsquest ministry with which Dayspring is heavily invested and involved. Bring the kids in to learn sports, hone their skills and have fun and then teach them about God while you have them here. All coaches, counselors, and facilitators are Christians. Right now it is the middle of winter here and school is in session so there is not a camp going at present which makes the entire environment most peaceful and spiritually uplifting. Stakwell does employ quite a few people here doing various services so there is always some activity but with just one day of observing it appears to be never hurried and always subdued.
Because the camp is located in South Horr, Kenya we are surrounded with the sounds and activity of a remote tribal village. Goats, cattle, and chickens are ever present. The goats (thousands of them it appears, of a very small species) and cattle (small native cattle that look like diminutive brahmas) are always passing nearby with men or children following them as they go out to graze or return to the security of their nighttime thorn enclosures. Although South Horr seems to be in a garden paradise because of the presence of water here resulting in many large trees, including banana trees, you don’t have to go very far in any direction and you are back in the desert. And although this part of Kenya is arid South Horr is in a valley surrounded by mountains, which means the sun doesn’t “rise” (appearing in the sky) until about 9:00 AM and sets by 6:30 PM each day regardless of the season. The sky does get light earlier and stay light later but the sun isn’t in view.
It was also quite an experience getting here as South Horr is at least a couple hundred kilometers from the nearest actual road. I was truly surprised when I traveled over some of the “roads” that Google maps indicates are in this part of the world… they obviously haven’t sent their little camera cars here! I had studied the maps online and thought it was just a matter of finding transportation; was I ever wrong! If you want to locate South Horr, go to Google maps and view Kenya. You will see Lake Turkana in the extreme north of the nation; South Horr is just off the SE point of the lake a few kilometers. I have to say that my love for off-roading excitement was fully satisfied yesterday on the drive in here. By virtue of acting as a consultant for the Lake Turkana Wind Power company, Stakwell has use of a Land Cruiser, but this isn’t like any Toyota Land Cruiser sold in the U.S. This truck is substantially larger than a Suburban and sits twice as high off the ground and is built SOLID with a suspension that is beyond stiff. The closest thing to this truck that I’ve ever seen in the U.S. is a military HumVee. The man who drove us in here has a real love for driving and somehow manages to blend off-roading with LeMans style racing; although I’ve owned off road vehicles and have enjoyed challenging terrain, I’ve never had anything that could have traversed the country we did to get here in twice the time it took us without being destroyed. I did however see a lot of African wildlife on the trip and I did accomplish my ultimate goal in getting immersed in the African lifestyle and culture so as to make my teaching at the pastor training school culturally relevant.
And that brings me to the title with which I started this letter. This culture is ancient and has existed relatively unchanged for many centuries (yes, the tribesmen often still carry spears here) however, they are experiencing a new phenomenon. With westernization and the first stages of the introduction of technology, they are already seeing some cultural changes. The first to be mentioned to me is that the younger generation is now losing their respect and reverence for their elders as they become exposed to outside cultures. The second apparent one relates to the cultural question I posed you here last week regarding polygamy. It turns out that the church here in South Horr is made up almost entirely of polygamists though they are teaching the next generation that God’s will is one man and one woman. However, outside influences are leading many of the younger people to disdain marriage altogether and to accept the disavowal of vows made to a spouse and before God. So, as a culture now being influenced by the outside, it appears they are running from one extreme to another, from polygamy right past monogamy to simple immorality. While some of us might shake our heads at this, a true introspection into the current state of the American church and the trends within it would make us realize we are not a model for them in this regard. I myself am not, for I am not married to “the wife of my youth”, a reality that weighs upon me in spite of knowing God’s grace.
So, though some of the Samburus are being blessed even by the limited introduction of modern technology; motor vehicles, electricity, radio & TV, the Internet, western clothing and food, better building materials, those same blessings can also be curses as they introduce ways and attitudes that are not beneficial to them.
My question for myself and you today is this, “Are we able to see the curses that we have accepted into our lives as we have been blessed by so many technological advances?” For instance, most of the Samburu have one change of clothes which looks just as they did several hundred years ago, while modern fabric and manufacturing technology have created for us a fashion industry that dictates constant changes in style and has created within us a desire to own closets full of clothing and wear something different each day… or several times per day. Most of us would never consider our desire for more clothing as materialism, but can we really call it necessity? (consider the state of many of our not-too-distant ancestors) And automobiles are necessities, right? And our desire for new ones or better ones?
Most of us don’t understand the advertising industry and the psychological tools they employ to create within us longings for things which we would never even consider without their efforts. …Which is the actual reason I don’t have TV… I have come to understand my own psychological weakness for their manipulation. I know I can become focused on ‘things’ and take my eyes off the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer where life truly exists. It is so easy for me to get focused on this physical world and take my eyes off the eternal Kingdom. May this week in South Horr, Kenya renew my focus!
Not being particularly well versed in monkey ways, I’m not certain what those two were doing on the tin roof of my cabin last night as they raced from one end to the other and then rolled and tumbled from the ridge down almost to the eave all the while making their peculiar monkey noises. Were they fighting, playing or was it amorous? I don’t know. All I do know was it wasn’t helping me get to sleep!
Then this morning I awakened (late) to the most amazing cacophony of bird and animal noises I’ve ever heard. South Horr has no PA system so if any of the Muslims here do the daily prayers—which I’ve seen no sign of here—it is unheard and invisible. I do know there are some Muslims here, but suspect they are non- . But what we do have here are the sounds of nature and a pastoral society. Cattle, goats, camels, sheep, chickens (well, I guess you don’t herd chickens) all add their voices to the dozen or more bird species that are vocal here in the morning hours. Now this is a sensory delight to one who is most at home in the outdoors and loves farming and ranching.
I received an unusual and accidental compliment yesterday from several people in the community here. Few people got a good look at me as we came roaring into South Horr with my LeMans driver, Peter, at the wheel of the truck on Sunday; but some saw a larger, older, white haired anglo in Stakwell’s Land Cruiser and word spread that J.L Williams was here. Then as I walked the village Monday morning with Thompson, one of the young men here at the camp whom Stakwell had assigned to help me find things, several of the older men called out to him to ask whether I was J.L. Of course, he explained that I was not, but that I was a friend of J.L.’s which I have learned carries a lot of weight in itself. I was humbled by the mistaken identity as I have come to appreciate the impact J.L. & Patt Williams have had upon humanity around the globe; they are truly one in tens of millions for the good they have done for untold numbers of people. One of the clear manifestations of their impact can be seen just in this Samburu village. We drove past several dozen villages on the way here and yesterday I visited a couple of other tribes briefly and one Tuscana village extensively and the contrast between this village and all those others is beyond description. It is almost as great as the difference between this village and a U.S. city. Quite a few years ago J.L. met an ambitious young Samburu man, Stakwell Yurinemo, and came here to visit his home and that was the beginning of a tale of service, transformation, and advancement that rivals any I’ve ever seen. Stakwell was just wanting to build a church building for the growing congregation of Christians here in South Horr and while J.L. facilitated that simple desire he also cast a vision for that young man which ignited a spark deep within Stakwell that is unlike anything the Samburu had ever experienced in their centuries of history. We at Dayspring and in America know mostly about the evangelistically oriented aspects of Stakwell’s life, which is significant, but he has gone on to be not only a tribal leader extraordinaire but has become a regional voice and force with a worldwide network of associates and influence. He has been instrumental in making South Horr the object of numerous other missions and has helped in bringing societal change of a nature that has not only created a new kind of wealth growing in this area but is transforming a warring tribe of nomadic herdsmen into a settled and growing civilization supporting itself and attracting industry and international investment. Wherever one goes, even among “enemy” or rival tribes, Stakwell’s name elicits smiles and welcomes. He is impacting everyone in the region. He argues before the government the case for a tribe of Massai—a rival or enemy people to the Samburu—who are otherwise without an official voice or an articulate spokesman. Some corrupt government officials are seeking to run an ancient tribe of Massai off their land so they can give the land to some corporations for the development of geothermal energy which is a tremendous resource of that area. Stakwell has succeeded in putting this issue in the international spotlight so that the Massai can retain ownership of their property and prosper from the development of the energy there. He is doing the same for another group north of here where oil and gas surveying have indicated substantial resources.
And the project that I have personally witnessed is the ground stages of an international wind power development that will not only be located on but will benefit numerous tribes, including the Samburu. Stakwell serves as consultant, data gatherer, and facilitator of the development—projected at 7-8 Billion dollars but which is already pumping money into the area. They have erected towers on high country in the region to the north of South Horr which are gathering data for the development. Well, this is Africa, a 3rd World Continent and Kenya, a 3rd world country even after years of British colonialization (and still host to considerable British forces). Other companies would steal the data, various tribes would steal the materials, from cable to tower, and some would just seek to destroy the program to preserve the old ways. (of poverty, short lifespans, and intense daily struggle… but they know nothing else and fear change) So, it is necessary to protect the towers. Stakwell managed the hiring of security forces from the tribes to protect the towers. These forces, out of concern for their own lives, I’m sure, as much as protecting the equipment, have transformed these hilltops into fortresses. The outer perimeter is a high barrier of thorn shrubs interlaced to form an impenetrable wall of deadly thorns; this protects against lions and would also be a deterrent to human attack. Then inside that they built about a 4’ high stone circle around their hut which is just a woven branch thatched thing where 6 men sleep and live. A few feet away is a smaller enclosure of stone which is a defensive firing pit. As I surveyed the place I realized they were relatively secure from any opposition that would likely come against them with the only outside firing position that could reach inside their defenses being a rocky knoll about 800 meters away, not likely a threat from anyone who would be coming against them here. The men are equipped with a mix of .303 British Enfields (WW I era rifles which are still very serviceable) and AK47’s. These men are ‘deputized’ or unofficial police force and it is humorous seeing their attire with various pieces of uniforms from multiple different militaries. So, there are about 24 families among the local tribes now receiving soldier’s wages even while remaining largely at home… a huge step up for these men who would otherwise be herding goats during the day with no income. We went there because there is no water anywhere near those ridges where the wind towers would be located and we carried 22 five gallon containers of water to fill their 55 gallon plastic drums. It was approximately 50 km one way to the security camp and Peter, the race car driver J, and Rio a worker here at the camp, were making the run so since Stakwell was in meetings all afternoon, I just jumped in and went along. Was I ever glad I did!
And I might add, although I do not consider wind powered electricity a viable economic substitute for electrical production in America, the economic infusion this development will bring to this area even before it provides electricity where there is now none, is going to prove worthwhile to these people regardless of whether it ever provides an economic benefit to the European taxpayers who will ultimately fund the program through grants. In America there would not be any of the wind farms we have if it were not for the government (taxpayer funded) grants financing them. When programs are economically viable they do not require government funding because private investors will always put their money where there is the opportunity (even with risk) of making a profit. This is also why, scientifically, there is forced taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research and no government funding for adult stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research, while destroying unborn children to derive the base materials, has never proven any value medically beyond hypothesis and thus no value for investors, while adult stem cell technology has been replacing organs and healing diseases for nearly two decades and is funded entirely by investors. Technology that works economically has no trouble finding funding and does not require government funding. But there are people along the way who will benefit from this program even if it isn’t worth much to the Europeans funding it. So, this paragraph was a mixed rant. J
We also carried water for a mission school at a Tuscana village a little further away. And that is where I spent the time in the village among the people, though I never found anyone who knew a single word of English other than the school teacher who was showing me around. It hit me so I asked, “You aren’t Tuscana, are you?” to which he replied no and explained that he is here as a missionary from Nigeria teaching the children but that his greatest difficulty was persuading the adults that there was any reason that their children needed to go to school. They have NO vision for their children beyond herding goats (the only animals they had) and living this nomadic life of abject poverty that is beyond anything I can describe. We spent about an hour together and after he had shown me the Tuscana likestyle, I shared with him motivations for the students learning that he hadn’t even contemplated and I left with him excited about how he could inspire the kids to want to learn. As we were walking through the village and I clicked an occasional photo, an older lady came running us down… one that had been hostile to me from the first if I wasn’t going to pay her to take her photo… and demanded of the teacher to know what I was “seeing”, concerned I was scoping out their property to come back and raid them. I didn’t see anything in that village that was worth carrying off if it was given to me other than a goat, not even as a souvenir. I’m serious; these people have NOTHING other than the jewelry in their ears or the beads around their necks.
On the drive we did have some excitement, which Rio attributed to my being there as he claimed it was the first time they had ever seen gazelles or zebras or blue guineas, or dik diks on that drive. We had one large but adolescent ostrich that we came upon crossing the road which decided to make a run from us down the road. I got a great video (in spite of the road and Peter’s driving) as the ostrich sought to outrun Peter and our Land Cruiser on that bumpy sand road for about a quarter of a mile before it finally gave up and left the road. Wow! Those birds can RUN! (they are also huge… much larger than the ones I’ve seen in zoos or ostrich farms. I also got a video of several grays zebras running across in front of us and a few snapshots of birds and the gazelles, including one classic pose by one male gazelle. Because of seeing the blue guineas I learned something peculiar about the Samburu; other than the Muslims, Samburu do not eat birds. (Stakwell does when he is away from home!) They keep chickens only for the eggs and do not eat the birds.
I went in a “store” in South Horr yesterday searching for a SIM card for my phone as Airtel does not provide coverage here and Kellie and I had been out of contact for just over 24 hours… the longest since I’ve been away and if I didn’t do something we would not visit for a week. Thompson accompanied me there both as a guide and a translator because my phone has a feature that makes it an issue here. As with many of the newer smart phones, the Samsung S3 uses a micro SIM card. They don’t have micro SIM cards in Africa, but I learned my first day in Kenya that a regular sized SIM card can be cut down to micro size for use in these phones. Both Samsung and Apple make a tool to do this, but I learned you can just lay your original card over the large card being careful to align the contact points and trace then trim to fit, using a knife, scissors and file, all of which I have on my multitool. Of course, that was foreign to the girls running the store we went to here in South Horr, but what I really wanted to relate was the “store” itself. Thompson and I stood on one side of the counter and the two girls stood across the counter from us. Thompson is about 1/3 my width and yet the two of us covered the store from left to right… it was less than 6’. There was just room inside for us to get through the door and stand at the counter, some stores you stand outside the store to be at the counter. Behind the counter the store extended back about 6 or 7 feet and they had shelves along the back and one side wall. When we came in the girls were playing American pop music on the radio which was plugged into a power strip that was wired with alligator clamps to a car battery. A small TV was also plugged into the strip though it wasn’t on at the time. On top of the store was a solar panel and a satellite dish. In the back was a 6’ X 6’ room where the girls lived. The total inventory in the store consisted of about 12 glass bottles of soda of which 4 were Coca-Cola and 3 were Fanta Orange, the others were assorted. They also had for sale a stack of match boxes, a package of D-cell batteries and then the display of SIM cards and airtime cards (look like scratch lottery cards). After they sold me a SIM card, they had one left and had probably half a dozen more airtime cards. That was the store. And there they make their living. But the store was built of brick and stuccoed and painted with a tin roof, a permanent structure as most of the homes and buildings in South Horr now are. As I walked down the main road through town (no pavement within 200 km) I saw people walking along talking on cell phones and spotted satellite dishes and solar panels on many of the homes and just west of town you can see a new cell tower on the hill. There is also a hardware store (actually pretty well stocked and owned by Stakwell) and a clinic. I know this doesn’t sound like much to most of you reading this, but this is the first step of civilization from the stick and grass huts or stick and mud huts that make up most of the villages I’ve seen where none of these developments have occurred.
There is even a school, single room, of course, for ADULT education and one of the graduates lives here in Stakwell’s camp and has become the manager of the new farm they have instituted just north of town that now occupies the days of 480 of their residents. This young man is the one who is providing the Internet link for me to send these letters to you. His name is also Peter, though he is nothing like our driver. The farm is a large parcel of several hundred acres fenced tight to keep the goats and wildlife out and which has an extensive drip irrigation system for each farmer to access for his own plot. There are also greenhouses and other extensive support for these farmers to learn how to do this new life. These are first generation farmers and the farm has strict bylaws about what must be done by each participant. But most people, either here in Africa where they have never seen anything but herding or hunting/gathering or in America where most people think food comes from the grocery store, have never realized it is farming that created civilization. Prior to farming there were no cities as large groups of people could not survive in close proximity. With the advent of farming, a few people could provide the food for many people, who were then able to cluster together and develop other skills. You can’t have a blacksmith (machinist), a carpenter or brick mason, an author or printer, a teacher, or any other professions until farming enabled the masses to purchase their food while they focused their attention on other endeavors to generate income and develop other technologies. Also, here in South Horr the intention is to move the people from a nomadic herding existence to an agrarian lifestyle to eliminate the tribal wars. It was the farmers and their fences that ended the range wars of the early American west.
The schools do have electricity through solar power via grants from various foundations… most of which grants trace back to Stakwell therefore ultimately to J.L. & Patt Williams in one way or another. Interestingly, the grant for the farm came from Japan and the organization here administering it, and for which Peter works, is the Kenya Red Cross Foundation.
So, seeing a people transformed through the fruits of a visionary who came to this remote land years ago and nurtured a young Samburu tribesman, then being mistaken for him as I walked around was truly an accidental though humbling compliment. And apologies to J.L., I know you aren’t near my girth, but you know to these Africans all us white people look alike.
Preaching Christ transforms lives in more ways than most ever imagine when they think of evangelism. I was reading an editorial in the New Yorker magazine by a renowned atheist from central Africa a while back who said that whether he believed in God or not, his witness of how Christianity had impacted his native people and others throughout Africa, all the good that had been wrought by those spreading the gospel whether by caring for orphans, building and staffing hospitals, educating or teaching to farm, these testified of the love of God being LIVED through his people.
I can’t help but look at my own life and wonder whether people would say that whether they accepted what I believe or not, my life is a blessing to all those around me? What about you; is God’s love reflected in your life so that all those around you see you as a blessing?
I’m going on the road with Stakwell this evening through tomorrow as he has business meetings in the city of Lake Turkana north of here; I understand that is an actual city. So, until I return, this is Jack signing off and wishing all of you God’s richest blessings… and that you might have eyes to SEE them.
Well, I was wrong about the two day drive, though it would have taken me twice (or 3 times) as long to drive it. We traveled over 600 km today, with nearly half that off the pavement on roads like I’ve only gone off-roading on for sport. I would have really enjoyed the road in my Scout when I had it, but no way could I have run it as fast as the driver did in that Land Rover. (and the Land Rover is unlike anything they sell in the U.S.) Anyway, we’re at the camp, I’m in my cabin which is quite nice except it has no outlets which doesn’t matter because they only have electricity for a few hours in the evening anyway, when they turn it on from the batteries from the solar charger. Also, I have NO connectivity… phone or Internet… as Airtel apparently has no coverage up here. Safaricom has a nearby tower and has a great signal, but my phone won’t log onto that network, otherwise I would use it for email. I’m going to have to write things here, save them to my jump drive and send them from Stakwell’s computer… if possible. (I haven’t talked to him about that yet.)
I didn’t fully understand what was happening with transportation either. The guy who drove us up in his car, Leonard, took us to a town just past where the pavement ends on the “highway” to Ethiopia. Trucks were coming through, with armed guards riding on top, and that is considered the highway. Of course, the paved part of it wasn’t much better, we were slowed down to 10-20 sometimes just picking our way through the holes. So, at that non-town at the end of the world, Stakwell’s wife, Fransesca, was awaiting us with the two guys that drove her over there. And then we swapped. Fransesca and a sister (with a tiny baby) got in with Leonard to ride to Nairobi where they are attending a conference and we got in the Land Rover and headed out across nowhere for hundreds of miles. But our driver (that’s his fulltime job, I believe, driving the Land Rover) drove that road like it was a LeMans race course. Seriously, he was running 80-90 kph part of the time, then having to brake hard for a tight curve or to pick his way across a washout, then accelerating hard to get back to speed. For the first hour I thought perhaps he was just trying to scare me; see if I would scream. Then I realized he just enjoyed driving and he was attacking the road out of sheer pleasure. I hadn’t noticed when we were in that small town before getting in the truck what I saw when we got here… he is crippled in his left foot and walks with difficulty, his foot turns under even with a corrective shoe. So, perhaps the pleasure he gets out of driving is because he doesn’t enjoy walking. I visited with him about it once we were here and he was cleaning the truck and he does enjoy driving. I tell you, I had to hang on as he took the curves… I couldn’t snap a photo if I wanted to.
I’ve seen lots of wildlife today, but no elephants or giraffes yet. Lots of ostrich, antelope, guineas, jackals, monkeys (lots of monkeys and jackals around the town) and one really big male baboon. Bigger and prettier than any I’ve ever seen. But then the first big ostrich we saw was way beyond anything I’ve ever seen in a zoo or ostrich farm. And birds… unbelievable number and variety of birds. But more than anything else, was goats! Next was camels, then cattle… though the Samburu cattle are quite small. They look like diminutive brahmas.
Stakwell’s laying down resting… I don’t think he got hardly any sleep last night and of course, couldn’t sleep on the drive. We picked up the girls at the school then came here and he had the manager take me to my cabin and he went to shower and “rest” and is still “resting”. J
I had a shower and changed shirts and cleaned my pants the best I could with a wet cloth… we made that long desert drive with windows down and sometimes we were in 12” of DUST, not sand, dust. And it would just boil up around and in even when we cranked the windows up before having to slow down in the deep stuff. I don’t know how to describe the ride, but I loved it and you would have hated it! J
I was a little struggling with the “desert” aspect of this country and then ¼ mile before hitting South Horr we dropped off into a river bottom and everything was green and lush with a small cool river running through it. The town is scattered along the river for over half a mile and is very quiet except for the chattering of children, the sounds of chickens and birds, occasional cattle bawling… restful beyond description.
I’m frustrated that I don’t have connectivity… and apparently won’t all week… but, this is Africa. Stakwell knew he had great reception and doesn’t realize I don’t. Obviously, he is on Safaricom… and I should be! But Nanyuki was the last place I could have bought a SIM card or time and that is 9 hours away driving like crazy, so I just have to accept what is. I will still make every effort to contact you each day, using Stakwell’s computer or phone.
I think you would love it here, you would like the cabin even without any electricity other than a light for 2 hours in the evening. I’ve taken photos and you will see. And I’m not in the facilities I thought I was going to be where I would be using community showers and restroom; I have my own private, very nice, shower and restroom. I’m pretty sure I’m staying in JL’s cabin. It has 3 full size beds and the décor is exceptional…obviously done by one of the ladies.
Okay, correction, I’m using Peter’s Safaricom moden because Stakwell apparently never woke up. J
I’m about to head to bed but wanted to get this letter to you.
I suppose most would say any alarm clock is unwelcome as one awakening you means you were still in need of sleep. And I suppose some of you are thinking I’m still on those roosters in Mubende that couldn’t tell time. But this alarm clock is different. I just realized this morning that I have arisen each morning at 5:00 AM and gone to the restroom… usually going back to bed. This morning I realized what was happening every morning at 5:00 AM; the mosque was broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer. Unlike our President, I do not find this “the most beautiful sound in the world”. I find it an ominous warning of impending conflict which, in spite of John Kerry’s Middle East negotiations, loom inevitable. In Uganda, where the Islamic government takeover with Idi Amin in 1971 resulted in the deaths of half a million Christians, and the forces were then repelled as they sought to take over northern Tanzania and he was ultimately run from Africa to die in exile in Saudi Arabia, Muslims are today involved in a “peaceful invasion”. What most Christians (or Westerners in general) cannot comprehend is the insidious nature of the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya. Essentially, it states that a Muslim should live at peace with those around him until they have gained enough power to subjugate them; it is a doctrine of “divinely sanctioned” deceit. It teaches that Muslims are obligated to lie while they make inroads into a society until they have the power to destroy their enemies—defined as anyone who is not Islamic. Christians cannot imagine denying Christ in order to save their own lives, much less to advance in public position; Muslims are commanded to lie about denying their faith if doing so can advance their cause. If you wish to understand this doctrine better I would recommend you read: http://www.meforum.org/2095/islams-doctrines-of-deception
And so, I have been awakened each morning the past few days by the reminder of this “peaceful invasion” which ultimately spells doom for any society which ignores history and reality. (as most do)
Helping the pastors here to understand the historical ramifications of Islam as opposed to Christianity is fundamental to their success in growing churches over the next decades. No peace process can ever be successful because of two FACTS:
Enough of what some might consider politics but I must face as the opposition pastors must be prepared to face in the churches here.
Another strong cultural thing I learned that will help with one of my lessons in Kisumu… this from my Nairobi friend and driver, Naftaly; the tribe native to the Kisumu area has two serious problems related to AIDS: First, their tribal law is that if a man dies his brother is to take his wife as his own; secondly, the prevalence of witchcraft there has found great strength in AIDS. In the first situation, if a man dies of AIDS, his wife is infected and the brother will contract it from her and likely die also or she will die after transmitting it to him. He will also then have transmitted it to his own wife. Thus, the chain of infection is guaranteed by tribal law which is still strong in that region. At the same time, the witch doctors are pronouncing curses upon houses and families (I’m sure after they see the first signs of infection) that appear to be great power on their part to kill anyone associated with that family. This apparent power gives them additional holds on the people and makes them struggle to be freed from the demonic even if they learn of Christ. So, between the encroachment of Islam in their “peaceful invasion” and the continuance of the black arts and demonic, Kisumu pastors are caught in some serious enemy strongholds and unless this is approached as spiritual warfare, they cannot win.
I fear that all too often we forget we have an enemy and that he is powerful. I see this manifest in Christians when I hear them asking, “Why would God do… “ when the reality is so often this is the work of our enemy in this world. The one thing for which I am grateful teaching here is that the spirit world is is very real to the people, as it is to most 3rd world countries because they haven’t gotten blinded by the scientific rational approach that has subsumed Western civilization since the “enlightenment”.
And yet another perspective revealed to me and verified when I queried it in Mubende during my sermon, the problem that brought the prodigal home to his father wasn’t running out of money, he was able to support himself after his money was gone, the problem that brought him back was the drought and the famine it produced. I’m not sure I’d ever seen that before in Luke 15. But something Steve Peifer wrote in “A Dream So Big; Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger” came back to me, these people “live a drought away from starvation all the time.” It wasn’t his wastefulness, it was the drought that produced his famine and caused him to turn his eyes back to his father. I’ve loved Luke 15 all my life, taught from it countless times and just saw it in a new light!!! I’m moved to tears even as I read it again and contemplate the implications both to myself and the younger son:
"And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!”
Yes, Father can continue to teach an old dog… J
I think in America if I were to teach that, people would say, “Famine? What famine?” To people at home, the famine is invisible because we’ve never experienced a famine. We’ve heard of famines — happening somewhere else — but we have no memories of famine. To us, the parable is about the irresponsibility of the son who "squandered his estate in reckless living” (v. 13). To us, the way people become destitute is by being irresponsible. But as Jesus tells the story, the son was not actually in need until a famine arose.
He lost everything, but he could support himself well enough without his inheritance — until the famine came. When the famine came, he was reduced to feeding unclean pigs; then, because of the famine and resulting poverty, his wages weren’t enough to buy food for himself. To an African, the story is all about the famine. The famine drove the son to shameful living, and the famine drove the son back to his father.
I can’t help but wonder how many things within His Word I have been unable to see because of living a life of privilege and the filter that places over my eyes. And I am shamed about how I have bemoaned my financial difficulties these past few years when I have thought things were tight, yet I know now I don’t know “tight”.
And even as I wrote that a knock on my door brought my attention to the present and the girl had brought my laundry. 1 pair of trousers, 3 shirts, 3 pairs of socks, and 2 pairs of shorts—290 shillings, $3.40 to have laundry done. I tipped her 100 ksh (about $1.15) and she acted astonished and very pleased. This is the same girl I have seen scrubbing and mopping the floors here constantly. She mops with a large towel rolled up and bends over double holding both ends of the wet towel and swaying back and forth as she cleans the floor. Then I realized I had probably just doubled her day’s income.
Something that amazes me, they sweep the sidewalks and streets in front of their shops and businesses with hand tied, long whisk brooms which calls for bending over double to sweep and having your face right down in the dust you are stirring up. They use pieces of plastic as from cutting the side out of an antifreeze jug for a dustpan and scoop everything into an old grain sack. This is a process repeated several times a day to reduce dust and litter from the streets and sidewalks. Oh, how privileged my life is!
Stakwell Yurinemo, whom Dayspring supports and has for some years, is picking me up in a few minutes and I will be on my way to the far northern Samburu tribal lands!
Please, continue to keep me in your prayers. (and Kellie too as our sporadic connections sometimes leave her concerned.)
A LOT of Traveling!
It should seem like nothing after enduring a flight half way around the globe, but the couple of thousand kilometers I’ve covered here in Africa over the past week have been LONG. I can’t describe the vast majority of their highways, I know of nothing to which I can compare them. And though some of the drivers believe that others of the drivers are going way too fast, speed is relative. We have streets in most U.S. cities which have speed limits as fast as I’ve seen any drivers here going, so the question isn’t actually speed, it is speed relative to the road condition and traffic. The fastest I’ve seen any traffic flowing is 80 kph or 50 mph and the fastest I’ve seen any vehicle going (and I was sitting where I could see the speedometer clearly so am not guessing) was 90 kph or 55 mph. (that was a cross country bus I took that traveled through the night to cover a 13 hour trip. So, at night with no pedestrians or botas (the underpowered little motorcycles) or bicycles or donkey carts or hand carts or livestock grazing… 55 was only too fast for one reason: the highway was atrocious. Made with no engineering for the road bed, just asphalt laid over sand and clay soils, the road had ruts like a country lane after 3 weeks of rain. Seriously, there is an 8-10” difference between the bottom of the ruts pressed down by the weight of overloaded trucks (‘lorries’ here) and the in between parts that have been pushed up. So, when a vehicle with dual rear wheels goes down the road the back axle is inclined to try to climb out of those ruts first one way then the other which is a sensation not unlike being in a small boat in rough water. And you do remember how the disciples were praying when they were in that situation don’t you? But the daytime traffic is what really gets interesting on the highways. All of the above mentioned hazards join the buses on the highway, each going its own respective speeds, and the bus, seeking to maintain its 80 kph pace is constantly ducking around other vehicles, or blowing its 3 pitch air horns to move bicycles, botas, and slow moving things of every shape off onto the shoulder to avoid being run over. They start honking about 400 meters before overtaking them, thus giving them roughly 20 seconds to move or die. I have seen some terrified looks on the faces of people (especially ladies sitting side saddle on the back of a bota) watching this huge diesel bus (Greyhound style coach) roar, horns screaming, down upon them and pass within 1’ of them. And the bus is doing that several times every kilometer most of the day. The driver is blowing the horn, hitting the brakes, shifting, stomping on the accelerator and fiddling with his radio every minute he is driving… there is no stretch where things just get what I would consider normal.
Adding to that, the potholes are often large enough to swallow a smaller car so traffic swerves around them to the other side of the highway into oncoming traffic. I’m not sure which would be worse, swerving over into oncoming traffic trying to time dodging the pothole with oncoming gaps or slamming on your brakes and hoping the overloaded lorry behind you doesn’t smash you to smithereens when its brakes don’t work well enough.
Then, you must add to that the constant speed bumps designed to force traffic to slow to 20 kph or less every little bit. Even many of the villages or communities along the way have “installed” their own speed bumps by shoveling about a high ridge of dirt and rocks across the highway to force traffic to slow down. The jury is still out as to whether they have done this to increase safety in their communities or to stop traffic as the vendors (hawkers) gather at these aggressive speed bumps to sell their produce or drinks or cooked goods to travelers forced to come to a virtual stop.
And such is the excitement that has accompanied most of my journeys so far.
I did learn that there are buses that have good safety records and buses that don’t and this morning I was faced with a real dilemma. I had a journey to make north of Nairobi, the first leg of going to visit Stakwell Yurinemo in northern Kenya. My dilemma was that the only public transportation running this route are what are referred to a Matatus, substandard Chinese made box shaped MINIVANS outfitted with 14 seats and upon which luggage is piled as high as they can balance it. Anyone who can figure weights and balances knows that is a wreck waiting to happen, and they do happen with all too great of regularity. The drivers don’t have to be licensed (most auto drivers here have NO training or license) and they compete with the other brands for time on the runs… and the first Matatu to reach a group of people waiting on the highway gets the fares, so they are constantly speeding ahead, passing in ridiculous fashions and then slamming on their brakes to get to the side of the road to pick up someone else. They never get too full to stop for more passengers! Did you know that a 14 passenger van can actually carry over 20 with just a little minor shoving? Well, in the previous 850 kilometers I had traveled in a bus, sitting in seat 1, a large recliner right in the windshield on the other side from the driver, (the door is about 3 rows back) I had witnessed the aftermath of Matatus missing curves (probably that weight and balance thing combined with speed), smashing head on into a semi, hitting a guard rail trying to avoid a lorry; seriously 3 accidents in one day that combined must have accounted for well over 20 deaths that I saw shortly after they occurred while they were cleaning the debris from the highway. Plus, we passed several Matatu boneyards where I could witness how poorly made those things are by the little that is left after a crash. So, this is choice #1 for my trip north from Nairobi.
Choice #2 was to hire a small commercial vehicle with a licensed commercial driver that I saw advertised for $150 for the round trip. Not bad if you were splitting it 4 ways, but I was splitting it one way. The Matatu for $4 ($8 round trip) or the commercial rental for $150 round trip. Sometimes my economizing doesn’t serve me well and I was venting about this when Naftaly, my cab driver friend who has consistently met me every time my bus arrives in Nairobi or I have anywhere to go, said, “$150 round trip?” He had earlier said he could take me up there for $120-130 including gas, which I had declined. We pulled over and got out the calculator and started working on the math… taxis here don’t have meters… and he said that he would take me up to Nanyuki and return a week later for me for $150 U.S. (13,000 KES, Kenyan shillings) So, I decided I wasn’t going to put my life on the line, get packed into a sardine can and endure the 4 or 5 hours of misery it would take in the Matatu. We had a most pleasant drive, enjoyable conversation and made the trip more quickly than the Matatus would have as we simply drove without stopping every few minutes to discharge or board passengers. So, I missed the excitement, but I am writing from the comfort of my hotel room in Nanyuki with a view of Mt. Kenya to the East and Stakwell is picking me up tomorrow at about the same time my laundry will be done! I am safe, snug and rested. I suppose I could parallel the price I paid to an insurance premium; they always seem high if you don’t need the insurance, but when you need it, suddenly the expense for the premium disappears from our minds. I’ll never know whether this expenditure saved my life, but it well might have, and it certainly saved me extended hours of discomfort.
This small town is the nearest town to the trailhead to Mt. Kenya and numerous outfitters come through here daily which accounts for why I was able to buy a can of sardines, some oat crackers, a KitKat bar and a carton of Del Monte Pineapple-Passion fruit juice just to scratch an itch for something tasting familiar. My usual adventurous nature related to food when I travel got dimmed considerably after the stomach issue which debilitated me one day last week.
As an added bonus Naftaly lives near the highway we drove coming up here and he wants me to meet his wife and children on our return trip to Nairobi.
These African nations have neither the police manpower nor finances to patrol the highways and the limited speed monitoring is done by a crew of three officers in white uniforms standing on the roadside with a radar gun flagging people to stop when they are clocked exceeding the 80kph general highway limit. Instead of highway patrolmen to control the flow of traffic as we have, they generally depend upon their speed bumps which FORCE everyone to come to a virtual stop regularly so remove the possibility of running excessively fast for long distances. I guess they figure the faster you accelerate after a speed bump the harder you will have to brake for the next one. But this constant stopping plays havoc with trucks and buses and fuel economy in general.
I apologize for writing this entire letter about travel, but that seems to have been on my mind this evening. For those who want to witness some of this more closely, I did sit in the front of the bus with my video camera recording for several extended periods.
The countryside is amazingly beautiful and both yesterday and today I was impressed with the reality that the extreme poverty surrounding me everywhere is the result not of a lack of resources but of government corruption for decades. Most of the beneficial development that has been accomplished in both Kenya and Uganda was done under the rule of the British Empire and since they left, things have been going downhill. Although the electricity is sporadic and undependable once you get away from Nairobi, none that I have found has been developed or expanded since 1963 when they were made independent from Great Britain. Further, the Kenya-Uganda railway which connected all of East Africa to the ocean no longer operates other than one tourist section and the Kenyan Air Force was disbanded due to govt. conflicts. As a nation, though it has the highest GDP in East Africa, Kenya is just not advancing significantly. Each ‘county’ or district in Kenya is a semi-autonomous government ruled by a Governor, most of whom are entirely self serving and government ‘jobs’ tend to be more . The natural resources of this land are just beyond imagination, with most of the nations able to grow two full crops a year on the same land because of being located on the equator. Seasons are almost inconsequential for growing as I have seen corn (‘maize’ here) at every stage from just being planted to mid-cycle to harvesting. They are harvesting bananas, coffee beans, potatoes, tea, beans, cabbages and multiples of other crops all the time. This trip was timed perfectly to suit me, it is winter here. Of course, winter at the equator means it is in the upper 60s to low 70s each day. They have ‘winter’ twice a year and summer twice a year. Also their mineral production is not impacted by weather. This is just the ideal natural world for great economic development and there is almost none.
The future lies in rescuing and educating the next generation in these countries! And that is what Dayspring has been doing with its involvement in both Kenya and Uganda. Consider this: in ONE generation India went from being the most impoverished nation on earth to become a global economic force in the high tech and manufacturing worlds. ONE generation changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people for one country; it can be done here as well.
Well, it’s Monday evening now, I’ve spent the day with Pastor Moses and the incredible servants at the Gloryland orphanage and school in Mubende, Uganda, met more brethren from around the country and eaten some things I’ve never eaten before—and yes, that was a bit risky on my part after having had the debilitating stomach issues on Saturday.
I was involved in a discussion here with a group of pastors this past evening where I was asked a question I’ve never had to personally face in all the years I’ve preached and taught but for which I should have been prepared because Rebecca Archer had told me how the pastors here answered this issue. I was sure their response was not God’s will, but I hadn’t given further consideration to the question. Again, I was blessed and amazed as I simply heard scriptures placed in the forefront of my mind which make the answer quite obvious. The question: “How do you deal with polygamy?”
The pastors here have been dealing with it by ignoring it: Not ignoring the question but ignoring the situation by NOT teaching polygamists. Because they couldn’t see an answer to the dilemma they simply walked away from any teaching opportunity that involved polygamists.
I’m attaching the answer which I have now written out for them and I would appreciate any feedback any of you back home have to offer on this topic or my answer. Seriously, I invite your feedback. But basically, when they inquired of me, I felt the Spirit speak to me three scriptures: Judges 11: 30-40, Numbers 30: 1-4, and Deuteronomy 23: 21-23. I’m sure I’ve not read or considered any of these scriptures in a year or two—or more—they weren’t passages that should have readily come to my mind. Yet they did. Thus I’m convinced God placed these passages in the front of my mind for a reason. But understand: He didn’t give me an answer, just these scriptures, the conclusion I drew from these particular scriptures was my own. I’m interested in knowing whether you would have drawn the same conclusion from the same scriptures being placed in your mind at the moment you were asked this question. (btw—I didn’t answer immediately. I asked a return question so they spoke for a few minutes while I weighed these passages and considered the implications to this topic.) And I ask for your feedback because I WILL BE FACED WITH THIS QUESTION REPEATEDLY HERE, and I’m here to be training pastors so my teaching will be shaping the future of multiple churches in both nations for years to come; this isn’t a light responsibility I’ve assumed here. It is more than a little intimidating and LOT humbling, especially as it has been several years since I’ve taught regularly.
I’m coming back inserting this paragraph after I completed the letter because of the experience I just now had. I took the file I’ve attached here addressing polygamy around the corner from my hotel where there is an Internet Café so that I could print copies for two of the pastors returning to Kenya in the morning after breakfast together and for pastor Moses. I had gone earlier but the power was out there so they asked me to come back again in a couple of hours—this is Africa—so I returned and they had electricity and I got my lesson printed. The owner of the shop saw on the screen what I was printing and asked, “Is that a Biblical response ‘On Polygamy’; are you a pastor?” And the discussion was on! He wanted copies of it and even saved the file on his own computer so that he could share it with his pastor and they could pass it on. So, please, if you have some feedback or suggestions for me, get them to me quickly!
Ok, I’ll await your feedback on the above question, but don’t delay as I’ll be moving to my next destination in two days!
Now, to the current…
I experienced a Sunday yesterday like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life up until now. And let me tell you, this was much like I’m told ‘crack’ is, it can be addicting with the first use!
We started at 9:00 AM, and I had been told I was preaching the main sermon during their primary time. They didn’t tell me that meant I would be the 3rd preacher. And the 5th. They didn’t even tell me until after I had preached the first time that I was to preach again. The quirky part of my mind says they were withholding that commitment until they experienced what the first time was like… waiting to see if they wanted to listen to me twice.
When we finished our assembly and they dropped me back at my hotel, it was just as those of you at Dayspring were beginning worship. We are 8 hours ahead of you, so that means it was 6:30 PM here! We had just gone 9½ hours with a brief break for lunch. And when I say 9½ hours, I mean the most intense, challenging, edifying, uplifting, emotionally charged 9½ hours I’ve ever experienced. Everything in their assembly other than a few of the songs was bilingual as about 80% of the people speak English but about 20% speak only Lugandan.
They were singing as we walked in, and yes, I was arriving with a group of pastors apparently late to church. (or as one of them said, right on time, “African time”) We took our places and I must say I’m still not sure about the honor they bestowed upon me. They had special seats set up at the front along one side for the visiting pastors, mine was in the center and draped with white lace as was the table in front of me upon which they placed my Bible and a bottle of cold water. (they don’t ordinarily drink cold water here, but had already learned I do) When I say “placed my Bible”, I mean I was met by a usher who hurried out to our van and took my Bible from me as I opened the door to get out—we had a little tug-of-war for a moment until I realized this was a special courtesy—and he carried it ahead of me to place it on my table and indicate where I was to preach. When I got up to preach he was there a breath ahead of my movement and seized my Bible again, and just to prove I’m a slow learner we had another brief tug-of-war before I yielded it to him, to carry it up to the pulpit and place it there before me, placing my water bottle on a shelf in the pulpit. After the service closed, the usher was there to gather my Bible and notes and put them inside my Bible case and zip it up to carry out to the van for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he zipped it from the wrong end. Just kidding.
But that unusual cultural courtesy aside, the service itself was overwhelmingly moving. It flowed quickly through fantastic singing—I couldn’t spot a person there not totally immersed in their praise as the tin roof on this little church building was rattled. Only about 200 could fit inside and crowds gathered at the back outside the opened wide double doors (garage door size) and out the side of the building outside the main entrance. And the people outside in the dusty yard were singing and dancing at the top of their lungs as well. It was in the middle of the first song that I thought of Kellie and asked, “How would she like to be here?” and I started weeping at the thought; I’ve never seen people so pouring themselves into praise and I know she would have felt more at home there than she does anywhere she has ever worshiped. Her response when I related this to her was that she doesn’t think she could survive if it is that intense and goes for that long! But as I reminded her there were 5 sermons; two shorter ones (about half an hour each) and two longer ones of a full hour each (as I was instructed to preach). Then the singing was itself in sections as the Gloryland children sang three separate sets of traditional African praise songs complete with tribal attire and drums and they did one dramatic song that was so moving many of the children in the assembly were crying with broken hearts as they watched and listened. One little two year old boy was so moved by the drama that he came running up to the front and knelt down beside a boy playing the part of a hurt child (complete with bleeding wounds and bandages) and sought to comfort him. The older children just stood transfixed weeping even as most of the adults were deeply moved as well. The difference was the adults could remind themselves this was “just” a dramatic presentation while the children were swept up in it as reality.
There were also times when people came up to testify, to address questions to the pastor after a sermon—yes, they really do that—or for prayers. During one time as people were offering testimonies, others were coming up placing folded slips of paper in Pastor Moses hand. He wasn’t paying them any attention, just receiving them so it really made me curious. It turned out that they were requests for special music from specific people. He shuffled them all around drew one out and opened it and called out the request and a beautiful little 4 year old girl came up and sang a worship song with a gorgeous voice. So, while I was assuring Kellie that she could survive 9½ hours of an intense assembly, I had to admit I was the most emotionally exhausted I had ever been after worship.
I do want to add that I have often been moved at Dayspring by Michelle Lillis’ free interpretive dancing in worship. I have told her several times I envy her the freedom she feels to dance like that and I would love to feel that I could do the same. But part of my restraint is also that I know what I look like and there is no way that my dancing would inspire anyone. So, as I was preparing for this trip and having seen some of the videos that Tony and Rebecca had taken while they were here, I had determined that if they were dancing here I was going to dance with them. I told Michelle I would and she even prayed for my feet that they might be loosed to dance before God. I had also told Rebecca and some others that I intended to allow myself that freedom. Well… “IF” shouldn’t have been in my statement, the church is dancing constantly! Men and women, boys and girls. And I didn’t even realize I was dancing with them until I thought the little table where my Bible and water bottle were was in my way. So, Michelle, my feet were freed! And my heart rejoiced.
But that wasn’t the half of it… I haven’t been sure I was going to share this until this moment… during one of the more vigorous of the traditional tribal dances (Rebecca, it’s the one where they wear the fur things that shake as they do.) as the Gloryland orphans were dancing their hearts out and bare feet were slapping up a dust storm on the concrete, one little boy of about 10 danced right over to the table in front of me and reached over, took my water bottle out of my and sat it down, took me by the hand and insisted (believe me, I resisted for a few moments) I come out onto the floor with him and dance. Their smiles were all brilliant but he had been absolutely glowing every time he came near me and there was simply no way I could refuse him. So, there I was out on the floor with him, my big feet slapping the concrete as I crouched and shimmied and swayed—and I can guarantee you from the response of the whole church that I looked absolutely ridiculous. The kids were still praising God in their song but most of the adults were just roaring with laughter as they jumped and clapped and pointed.
The fatted calf, the robe, the shoes, the ring,
All for me, unworthy son.
But sweeter than these, the most wonderful thing,
God ran to meet me, I saw God run!
As I spoke that poem I realized, and so spoke, that when that young boy had danced over there with that smile across his entire face and his eyes dancing as beautifully as his feet, I knew I could not do anything but make his joy complete and I willingly sacrificed my dignity for his joy. At that the entire congregation of adults leapt to their feet cheering and applauding the point that love overwhelms our dignity and that God loves us like that.
INCREDIBLE is the only word I can think of to describe the day.
I came in, undressed and bathed, sat down in a chair and realized I couldn’t call Kellie for a couple of hours and promptly fell asleep in the chair. Then, after we got off the phone I never even turned the lights on in my room (nightfall had overtaken me during the phone call) but went directly to bed and slept for 11 hours!!!
A crowd was waiting for me downstairs for breakfast; I was an hour late after oversleeping… but that rooster was still crowing at 9:00 AM that I know from the night before starts at 5:00 AM. I was just too dead to this world to hear him this morning, I guess.
May God continue to bless you and I ask that you keep me in your prayers!
Get that hippo a tutu, it thinks it can dance!
So, it is Sunday morning here and I haven’t written since Monday… certainly not because nothing has happened but rather because I have been on the go so constantly and the little time I’ve been stopped I have been exhausted. I’ve certainly had no difficulty sleeping! I’m glad I turned in “early” last evening because when I awakened this morning at 5:00 there was a rooster crowing just across the wall north of my room—I sleep with my windows open because there is no air conditioning. I went out on my balcony to look to see what he was crowing about but it definitely had nothing to do with any approaching sunrise… there was no difference in the appearance of the sky to the east or the west and we were still 1 ½ hours from the first pink. But since I’m feeling rested and energized this morning, I thought it was a perfect time for me to catch you up on this incredible adventure and share some of what Father has done inside me in this wonderful but crazy land.
First, the flight was excellent though Emirates probably hypes their airline a little more than would be legal under “truth in advertising” laws in the U.S. Still, it was nice for a very long flight, but in included some surprises I had not considered before the flight. For instance, I didn’t realize the course we would travel so once it was light again and I could look out, I was surprised to see we were over Turkey traveling SE. I just hadn’t considered it or plotted it out, but we flew right down over Turkey, crossing the Tigris River right where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria intersect… exactly where my son, Jason, was stationed (USAF) at the beginning of the Iraq invasion. We then traveled right over Mosul (I recognized it by the Mosul dam, extremely impressive in the desert) then Baghdad, down over Kuwait and the length of the Persian gulf… I was awed at how many tankers there were coming to and from there and as we got close to the UAE the ships were very close as they all have to pass through that narrow strait that Iran has threatened to close that would cut us off from all crude oil from Iraq, Kuwait and about 1/3 of Saudi’s.
As we flew over much of the UAE circling before landing, the Saudi lady whose little girl Amirah sat beside me on the first flight, was looking out the window with me… I was amazed at the endless miles of nothing but sand. She said that is how much of Saudi looks. Of course, there were the occasional oases, the clump of palms surrounding a water hole.
Kenya, on the other hand after we got low enough to see the actual terrain, was incredible! Everything you’ve ever seen in movies or on TV was true to life. The huge flat topped trees, acacias, are really just like that and there are rivers everywhere. I didn’t see any lions or elephants or giraffes from the plane but a brother in Nairobi, Naftali Wainaina, tells me that where Stakwell lives is where the really big elephants are so I’ll get to see those in another week.
So I arrived in Nairobi late and the airport is quite a ways from the city and because my flight had been delayed in Dubai and I didn’t have communications with Samson, the brother who was planning to pick me up at the airport, he had given up and gone on home without coming out to the airport. That was fine, I already had my reservations at the Kipepeo in “City Center” Nairobi (unaware what that meant when I read it online—but that’s another story for another time!) and I managed to negotiate the flock of insistent “travel agents” and taxi drivers, to find another brother, Naftali, who helped me get to my hotel. Seriously, I just ignore all the hawkers, carry my own bags and push through the crowd. What we consider normal civility is only normal in the U.S., people aren’t going to make way for you in most of the world and they will keep hollering at you louder and louder seeking your money, so you literally must just bull your way through the mass if you don’t have someone waiting for you. I spotted someone I “knew” was a Christian—turned out the discernment was correct—sought them out and went from there.
My plan had been to sleep in Nairobi then catch a morning bus to Kampala, Uganda… you know what they say about the “best laid plans”, well I learned my first Kenyan term, “Poli, Poli” (pronounced with long o’s and an e sound for the i). It is possibly their national slogan, (tongue in cheek) and the concept translates, “No Hurry”. Literally, I believe it means, “slowly, slowly”. Well, I got bumped from an oversold bus… the online reservation did not provide me an actual printed ticket from the bus company and they wouldn’t honor the confirmation slip that had been emailed me. My choice then was a Makatu—the local bus that they pile full of people and luggage and goods and freight, and has an abysmal safety record, or waiting for another run of the nice coach bus. “Poli, Poli” So, I had a 7:00 PM bus TICKET in hand for the 12 hour (turned into 14) drive to Kampala. The 7:00 bus loaded at 9:40 PM, which didn’t concern the bus company at all related to the schedule and afforded me the opportunity to stand for 3 hours with my backpack on the cobblestones outside the bus terminal on a noisy, congested, exhaust choked street in city-center Nairobi and make friends. But that skips another part of my day and the first time Father chose to use me to teach…
When I saw my day was “open” I called Naftaly and he came to the Kipepeo to pick me up… we didn’t communicate well with both of us in noisy environments and unable to hear… with the intention on both our parts for him to just drive me to Kampala. But what I didn’t realize was that the price he was quoting was his charge for driving his car and didn’t include the fuel cost, which when we started crunching numbers (1340 kilometers round trip for him with gas over $5/gallon) was going to cost about $250-300 for gas. The $28 bus ticket and the wait suddenly seemed reasonable so we spent the day with him showing me Nairobi, taking me to a wildlife park, me going to an African Railway museum while he ran some errands, and then him dropping me back at my hotel by about 4:00 in the afternoon.
And then comes the first open door… (and the subject line of this letter)
Background: I packed with a backpack for moving around easier, but because of some of the extras (medication and first aid supplies, food (esp. protein), water purifier, extra flashlights and batteries, and I ended up bringing dress clothes and extra shoes) my backpack ended up being a bit heavier than I would have liked. (latest Marine MARPAC II) Then I have a smaller sling style backpack that I used as a carry-on and holds my computer, electronics things, daily needs, etc. THEN I ended up with a third smaller bag (also military issue) that I packed my CPAP (breathing device for sleep apnea). Because of the great way that the military equipment all attaches, I was able to combine everything together with the large backpack but I now had a significant load… not a problem!
So, here I am in the hotel dining room where I had dinner prior to my bus trip, with my backpack sitting on the floor next to the table. After visiting (on Skype) with Kellie at home, and catching a program on TV that engrossed everyone in the small dining room, and visiting with a brother who was also at my table who is involved in an NGO working with the very issue that was addressed on the program, I decided it was time to go. Well, the girl in the restaurant had just mopped the tile floor (which she did about every half hour), my shoes which have great traction outdoors are slippery as can be on wet tile, and so when I hefted my backpack, lifting it and as I stuck my right arm through the strap, swinging it around with enough velocity to carry the pack around to where this stiff, fat old man can slide his left arm in and catch the load, the weight of the pack swinging around me on this slick tile floor started me into a pirouette that I’m sure would have made any ballet dancer proud! There were only about 30 people in the dining room, both Europeans and Africans, and as I spun into the center of the floor amazingly staying on my feet, I was immediately the center of attention. Well, let me tell you, people in most of the world aren’t really sensitive about other’s feelings and have no difficulty laughing out loud at another’s folly. I have never liked being the center of attention and hadn’t a clue what to do, so as I shrugged into my pack, snugging the should straps, fastening the waist belt to shift the load and clipping the chest strap, I just spoke to a table of Kenyans who were all enjoying the show and just said, “40 kilos” indicating my backpack (that’s 100# to save those of you reaching for calculators the trouble), then as the crowd was a little surprised by that, I thought I heard God say to my inner man, “Really???” as though to chastise me, so I finished by adding, “But that’s not really the problem. 150 kilos (I said, patting my stomach) that’s really the problem.” Now, they went from surprise at the weight of my pack (which I later realized wasn’t nearly that heavy (actually 71# with all three packs combined)) to shock at my weight and were asking, “Really?” to which the answer is yes, I weigh nearly 340#. And in that moment, God spoke to me clearly and said, “Jack, I have given them to you for this moment.” and HE gave me the words. I had everyone’s attention and everyone was friendly and open and smiling and a little astonished as this apparition of huge white man and large pack standing amongst them. I said, roughly remembering:
I’m just like that man on TV was there a few minutes ago… I spend my time trying to blame the load that I’m carrying for my problems when MY problem is inside ME. No politician’s “program” or “regulations” will solve social problems that aren’t really the problem. They are just the visible effect of the real problem which is inside the hearts of men. For most of us, in our homes, in our communities, in our nations, we are focused on the loads on our backs and trying to FIX that when that isn’t really the problem at all. The problem lies inside us, it is our sin, our selfishness, our pride, our arrogance. The “program” that politician spoke about is like putting a band-aid on a cancer; it might cover it up for a while so that it doesn’t look so ugly, but it won’t cure the cancer… that will just keep growing and spreading until it kills us if we don’t see that the cancer inside is the problem and address it directly. It’s the same in your home, in your community, everywhere. We all have a God sized hole in our hearts that screams out and we are trying to fix it by putting band-aids on it. We think that having more things, gaining more power, looking better will fill the void, but it won’t. The hole inside of us can only be filled by God, through Jesus the Christ. Look inside yourself; understand that your pain, your fear, your insecurity, your anger… all these are INSIDE you, they aren’t caused by all those things we blame. And there is only one cure for the broken spirit, that is to be restored to THE SPIRIT who created you in His image. Only He can fix your real problems. Seek Him and you will find Him. He is not hiding, but standing, waiting for you to knock on the door looking for Him. Look at the things being accomplished around you that benefit people… everywhere I’ve traveled in Nairobi, I see schools, hospitals, orphanages, aid centers that have been built and are run NOT BY GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS but by men and women whose lives have been healed by the transforming power of God. Everywhere I look I see Christian ministries, God healed these people and so they are reaching out to others’ healing and helping them… but ultimately trying to heal people’s deepest problem—the hole inside that is a spirit separated from its Creator crying out to God. Hear that voice inside yourself and find the ONE who made you in His image—then you will know why you are here and the pain inside will go away. Seek God, hear His love poured out for us when He became flesh and lived as one of us in Jesus Christ. And now I have a bus to catch.
Most of the people in the dining room gathered around me shaking my hand, wishing me good travels and good fortune and thanking me for speaking truth to them. Did that 5 minutes make any difference in the end? It did to me, acknowledging the reality of my own problems and speaking His truth to these people. And I know God assures us, His word will not come back to Him void.
It was only about a quarter mile to the bus stop and the weight on my back and on my feet disappeared as I floated in the moment to my next adventure. And it was not long coming… but I must stop and will continue later. I am now in Mubende, Uganda where Pastor Moses and Gloryland orphanage is. I met with a group of pastors last evening and addressed their questions, struggles and concerns. They had begun the evening addressing me as “Pastor Jack”, but a couple of hours into the evening as Father opened my mind to teach and their hearts to hear, they began addressing me as “Man of God” and so each question or comment would begin, “Man of God, that is a hard teaching, but rings with truth…” or some such. It was more humbling than the hippo ballet across the dining room floor in Nairobi, though not as humbling as my stomach illness (probably a food poisoning) on the trip Saturday afternoon (3rd leg of the Nairobi to Mubende journey) had been… but that is another story.
This morning I am preaching in Mubende and have been instructed to preach a FULL hour or longer unless the Holy Spirit directly tells me to shut up and sit down. Hear that, Tim?
I will conclude by drawing a humorous picture in your mind. When I arrived in Mubende, still not feeling well from the stomach illness, there were no taxis (traditional taxis, as in cars or vans for hire) at the bus stop… really quite incredible here, but perhaps God’s sense of humor for me. Because I didn’t yet have a Ugandan Sim chip for my phone (yes, they are different in each country) I couldn’t download a map of the city to my GPS so didn’t know where the hotel was or would have walked. So, here I was, I couldn’t walk because I didn’t know where to go, there were no taxis other than the botas. These are lightweight motorcycles with 1 cylinder ½ horse motors that can reach a top speed of about 30mph. I have seen up to 5 people on one. (and yes, they get right out on the highways with the busses, trucks and cars) One of the bota drivers was insisting he could get me to the hotel, so you picture this… 340# of big man with a 71# backpack, 411# total on the back of this bota with a driver that was probably 5’6” and weighed not over 90#. The people along the streets sure stopped and looked and pointed and laughed. When we turned the last street up the hill to the hotel, we both had to have our feet down running along to keep the bota going forward with this load the last 40 yards to the hotel! And I had to hop off while he kept trying to go forward so it wouldn’t start rolling backwards down the hill. And now, with that picture in your mind, go and have a glorious Lord’s Day!
Well, I’m less than 36 hours from leaving home for one of the greatest adventures of my life thus far… and I’ve had more than a few. I suppose the reason I’m considering this such an adventure is because there has always been some mystique to Africa as well as I’ve never been involved in launching a Pastors’ Training School. The school is going by the name, Barnabas School of Pastoral Training, based upon Joseph the Cyprian Levite who was called Barnabas because that name means Son of Encouragement and who was the key figure in having Paul accepted by the Jews in Jerusalem and then traveled extensively with Paul preaching and teaching with him. Our school is designed to take Pastors and encourage them in their ministries, educating them in the Word and inspiring them in the Spirit. This is exciting to me. It is the kind of thing that I can commit myself to doing all day, day after day. Our classes are supposed to be videoed so that they will be able to distribute them even wider.
So, I’m coming down to the wire timewise and have too many things I need to accomplish before I leave, but that almost always happens. In that regard, I’m more prepared than usual. I’ve packed for Chile, Japan, Germany, and China trips 15 minutes before heading to the airport. This time I prepared a LIST of everything I might need weeks in advance, realizing that once I’m there I won’t be able to purchase many of the things we take for granted here. And as I’m packing in a backpack to make getting from place to place easier, including on a motorcycle in some cases, I have to be pretty careful about my packing… but then I always did prefer to travel light. I’ve never crowded a weight limit on an outbound flight; coming home with souvenirs and gifts is another thing. I’ve often bought an extra suitcase while there to carry more stuff home. Or the last time I went to Europe I packed my midsize suitcase then placed that inside my large suitcase and traveled that way, returning with both suitcases filled.
But the biggest preparations have been my classes. And not the way most people think; my problem is thinning down what I want to teach to what I have time to teach. In almost 30 years of preaching (multiple times most weeks) I never wondered what I should preach, except in narrowing down my desired material to what I had time to present and what was then a priority. I always told people that if you wanted me to preach all day, I’m ready right now; if I have an hour to preach, sing one more song while I get my mind in order; but if you want me to preach 20 minutes or less, I need a week to prepare! For this venture I have scoured the Word, prayed, and perused 7,500 lessons, articles and books I have saved on my computer trying to winnow down what I will teach. I have to make the most of the time. What do these pastors need more than anything else I can deliver? That is what I have been asking Father to show me.
In a previous letter I related how I’ve been praying for nearly a year seeking to discern God’s will for my life. I DO NOT want to be caught up in everyday affairs and miss what HE wants me to do!
Really, I was starting to believe Father was calling me back to the north country, where the climate is much cooler (downright frigid, Kellie would say) the people are sparser and the pheasant hunting is spectacular. I raised my children in Faith, SD, an awesome town in the middle of the prairie, where life was so much quieter, slower and simpler than anything I’ve experienced since. It was there I first heard Father’s voice, though He had spoken to me in dreams and visions for quite a few years prior to that incident. (another story for another time)
So, in the midst of this year of praying and listening, Kellie and I went to Rockwall, TX to a conference… I don’t even recall the specifics of the conference though I can tell you several other Dayspring folks that were there: Tony & Rebecca Archer, Travis & Laura McNett, and Dwayne and Tami Hall. On the final night of the conference a very special prophetess whom I have come to respect and honor more than any prophet I’ve ever encountered spoke callings to 4 individuals. I knew the people, I heard the calls and I recall thinking, “She is spot on!” Then, a few minutes later, she spoke to me and said, “Jack, God wants you to go to Kenya and start a Pastor training school.” And I recall exactly what I thought; “Yeah, right!” No, I was already thinking of the north country and the cool and the snow and the pheasants… and sure, I’d be preaching and writing. But Africa? The equator? Mid-summer? (she laid out the plan more fully afterward) I wasn’t prepared to hear what was being spoken to me.
The following week, back here in Lawton, I had lunch with Tim and shared the thing with him… with me still not accepting it. Tim asked me, “Jack, there are only two choices, either she was speaking from God or she was not. You know her. Does she speak from God or does she speak off the top of her head?” (that last might be a paraphrase as I don’t recall that part specifically) And I had nothing to do but to acknowledge that every time I had heard Dolores speak I was convinced she was speaking directly from God. I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone who has given their life more fully to Him and His Word and who is more in tune with His Spirit and her own. So, the obvious conclusion was that it wasn’t Dolores calling me to Africa, it was FATHER. And that removed from me in that moment the choice; I have always sought only to know His will and live it. (haven’t always done it very well, but it has always been my desire)
So, I’m going to Africa.
I’m departing Tuesday morning for Dallas where Kellie and I will spend the evening together. My flight Wednesday morning is direct from DFW to Dubai, UAE, then with a short layover and a change of planes I will continue on to Nairobi, Kenya. I am flying Emirates Air, the UAE’s national airline. I’ll tell you later whether it lives up to its hype. http://www.emirates.com/us/english/flying/cabin_features/cabin_features.aspx I will return on August 26th.
I earnestly desire your prayers. A safe flight, safe travel and lodging in country, good health, and HIS leading in every word that comes from my mouth. I want to speak nothing other than what I hear Him speaking.
Your brother in Christ,
PS. I probably won’t be posting about my trip on Facebook as a consideration for Kellie being home alone during that time. I don’t want to advertise my absence to the world. I WILL take lots of photos and will post those after my return. And I might attach some to my emails during my trip.
Jack was raised in a Christian home where he spent his youth preparing to preach God’s word. First published at thirteen, writing and speaking became Jack’s passions. Whether through newspaper columns, magazine articles, radio broadcasts or public speaking engagements, Jack continues to share his heart with his readers. His life’s motto: To Know God, and To Show Him To Others.