Monday, July 30, 2012

Week Five in Nakuru, Kenya

Oh my, the time is flying by. No pun intended. There are lots of flies here but most of them just congregate on food that is being served outdoors. Not much different from what happen at our picnics in the US. But that isn't really what I wanted to tell you.

What I wanted to tell you is that this week has been a very eventful week! Somewhat overwhelming.

Every week we go shopping on Monday to stock up on dry goods and produce. There are items throughout the week that we usually need to pick up extra but for the most part, Mondays are dedicated to shopping and getting our buying stuff out of the way. That is always and experience. Street vendors, hawkers, beggars and glue sniffing boys hooked on huffing and panhandling for more glue. 

Abba and I met with a pastor that comes to the Wednesday meeting. He has a plan for an orphanage, school and church complex that he is looking for funding on. We told him that we were not here to finance projects but to share what God had given us to share about Kingdom Life. There are many pastors and other persons looking for funding for their projects. We are more interested in seeing men work hard and growing into things rather than getting a sum of money to build things that may or may not work out. Plus, we don't have that sort of financing. Banks do but they don't loan on speculation. They loan on collateral. He has none. So if his project will be financed and built we offered he seek God for the timing and move slowly. There are lots of orphanages, schools and churches here. I think there are something like a 1000 or more of them here in Nakuru.  

Nakumat Devotions
We usually stop at a store called Nakuamt for some of the groceries. Amma met a man whose name is Glipson and he had invited Abba to speak at an employees daily morning devotional meeting they have. Imagine that. The whole store of employees, singing, praising, praying and worshiping God, in the store, with the owners permission (he's Muslim) and they invite us to speak. It was a real spiritual experience. All these people are devoted to following God and loved everything we had for them on Saturday morning. The owner of the store likes for them to do this because he believes that their commitment to God and righteousness helps prevent theft and employee issues. The atmosphere of walking into Nakumat is spiritual in that you know the employees care about you and show that freely. They are always asking how you are doing and what they can help you with in a way that is genuine and not pretend or for monetary gain.

Last week was not much different but that we started preparing the guest house for our new guests. Yes we have a guest house and it was in bad need of repair and painting. So, Patrick and Gideon began to clean up and paint on Monday. Here is a before picture of the shower to give you a feel for what they were up against. They work diligently cleaning, scraping and sanding the walls for application of paint. Almost every surface needed something done to it. I bought some electrical sockets and switches and repaired the electrical in the house. It's European style electrical but very easy for a do-it-your selfer like me. I would have got with John Fagan but he's not in town. We also repaired the window latches that were broken and got things so they would be able to open and close correctly. 
Paint job is done
Bright, fresh paint
At the end of the day we discovered that neither Patrick nor Gideon are painters. I think Abba took some pictures to share with Zemar and Nathanael. It looked horrible. There was paint all over the place and all in the wrong places. So, Patrick, knowing I wanted a good paint job and being the responsible man he is, found a fundi to help. A fundi is a trained and professional person. This one was a painter. He was pretty good too. They started to repair the mess-ups and get a good coat of paint on the ceiling, walls, doors, trim and floor. Yes, the floor was painted as well. The final product was two days coming but was well worth the $25 we spent for the fundi. Here are some after pictures.

Patrick at the slum house
 Patrick and Christine are now moved into this house and they are ecstatic about it. They were all smiles and giggles when they got here. They have been living in a very small two room apartment with five children, in the heart of the slums for 20 years. I have pictures of their old place to show you. It was a terrible place to live and raise a family. But that is all history now. God has given then a new home also. 

The old water source
The lorry
The old bath and shower
Newly painted Guest house
The kids are able to be with us and we are starting to feel like a real family. Patrick and Christine served us a new home meal Saturday night of traditional rice, ugoli, greens and stew. Patrick even found a pelipeli (hot pepper) for me. It was hot but I loved it. We spent most of Saturday morning helping them get things loaded into a lorry (truck) and then transporting it and unloading everything at the new house. Quite the ride too. I rode in the back part of the truck with some of the kids and Patrick. Very exciting. We videoed a lot of the move and interviewed Patrick and Christine before and after the move. I'll update those when I have some free wi-fi, since it costs too much to upload all that from my SafariCom modem. To say the least, everyone was so happy that they are out of the slum house and in the guest house now. 20 years of living that way, hawking belts and whatever else he could do to provide a meal a day, in a good week and pay the rent. We only wish we could help more get out of the slums. They are stuck there without someone lending a helping hand. They live on about $30 - $40 a month income. If you want to help someone better themselves and you feel inclined to assist them, please let us know and we will find a connection for you to do so. If you want to donate anything to helping this family stay out of the slums, please click on this link to do so.

We also visited the Grace and Mercy Center that another one of the pastors takes it upon himself to provide administrative and provisional services for the school. Everything they get is donated either by James’ church or other people who want to help the school. The teachers who are there at the school are literally dirt poor but they teach, feed and minister to these children who are worse off than them. The children are mostly orphans because their parents abandoned them, died from aids or violence, or were left with a relative and they are not able to support them any longer. There about 85 of these children and they are all in varying age groups and a quick needs assessment showed that they may only receive the one meal a day that they get for a school lunch. That is if the school has enough resources to provide a lunch that day. Old rickety benches serve as community desks and smaller rickety benches serve as the chairs. Some have plastic chairs to sit on. There is not enough room to put two books back to back on some of the tables or contain the number of children needed to teach. Our visit was a very cheerful visit for the children as our three youngsters played games and spent time talking with the kids. It was hard to leave but we have an open invitation to come back this week. School is out for a month after that.

Later Wednesday night we invited Tabu, Millie and Leon, their son, to dinner. We hadn't seen Tabu for over a year and really wanted to visit and catch up on how they were doing. We would also like to do something with Tabu and Simon is a business way. I'm thinking computer and website work. Simon is being trained in website construction and Tabu has prior experience in computer sales and repair. We will see what God puts together for us.

Suzy helping Kate make pizzas
Elizabeth's daughter Modesta
Friday night we got together with our neighbors, Johnny and Kate, the kids (14 of them) and had a pizza party. Suzy and Zach helped put things together and we brought salad fixin's (my favorite part) to the party. Modesta was spending the night with our girls and she fit right in to the mix of people that were there. It was a refreshing time of good fellowship and fun. Kate and Johnny are trying to buy an 8 acre piece of land to be able to move onto. They want to have plenty of room for themselves, orphans, produce growing, livestock and additional dwellings for facilitating their ministry goals. They have made a video and signed up for a fundraising site like Kickstarter called Indiegogo. You can watch their video for raising money to buy the land here. If you would like to donate to their campaign, please do so. It's for a really good cause and their heart is to take care of orphans and those suffering from AIDS/HIV here in Kenya.

Children at Peter's Church
Thomas's 500 chickens
Saturday Amma was able to address the ladies of Peter Melody's church. They really love her and all she brought to them. They served us rice and beans when Abba and I arrived to pick up Amma. Watch Amma's blog for details. Sunday both Abba and I were in different churches preaching. Abba went to Thomas's church and I went to Peter's church. I sort of got hijacked by Peter (in a nice way) when we were picking up Amma on Saturday. Zach came with me and we had a good time there. The church building is not much more than a small room in a multi-room building with another church competing for time and space at the same time. Interesting dynamics for both churches. Not sure why they aren't together in all that. Yes I am, I just wish they could see themselves working together. The picture they represent there is that Christ is divided but I can only pray they see that one day and allow God to bring them together. Anyway, afterwards Abba picked us up and we went to Thomas's house for lunch. Traditional meal of ugoli, rice, stew, chopoti, peas and beans, chicken and soup. Some of the elders of the church were there and we were packed into one small living space for a couple hours visiting and eating together. Thomas raises chickens and he has 500 of them. He uses the income to support himself and the church.

Well, that's a lengthy rundown on last week but I wanted you all to know that there is a lot of things happening here. So many needs. So little we can do other than try to find where God wants us to be involved and sharing the Kingdom life we have with others. In regard to that Kingdom Life, almost everyone we talk to about that life is amazed that we have been together 20 years and still are able to love one another, live with each other and take that life out to others around the world. I only hope we appreciate all of that as much as they do and not be lax in our responsibility to share all God has given us with others around us. No matter where we are, I want to be the first to stand up and say, God is Good, All the Time and Living this Life is an extraordinary and amazing privilege for me to be a part of. Thank you my brothers and sisters in Christ back home, for praying for us and taking care of my wife and children there. Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us here as your sent ones in Africa. May God bless your socks off and enlarge your hearts for all those around you. I know He will. I'll leave you with this video of Noah and some of Patrick and Christine's children to enjoy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week Three & Four in Nakuru, Kenya

I just realized that 2 weeks have gone by without an update. I apologize for not keeping you up to date. It's been a busy 2 weeks for us here. A lot has happened. But in it all we have seen how God always has a purpose and how He always takes care of us.

George is always a gracious host for us but we are now moved into a house of our own. Not that we want to be exclusive because we don’t. We want to enlarge our tent pegs and invite George and Nellie and Patrick and Christine to join us in this house. We want to show those around us what the family of God looks like and how the church takes care of one another. It’s a whole new ballgame, excuse the puniness, but it really is like starting over again.

God has been so good to us here. There have been many times God has shielded us from harm and kept us safe. Even without us knowing He was doing it. Amma wrote about her purse getting stolen so I won’t write about that. If you would like to read her account on her blog, just click here.

The house God has given us has been awesome. Three houses up the street live Johnny and Kate, Kenya missionaries, with their 5 children and 7 Kenyan orphans that live with them. They are really sweet people and we love them. We need friends like them and God have given us even more than that. We have met a number of indigenous and European missionaries, pastors and their families, as well as people from all walks of life to give us hope and joy, living here in Nakuru.

Recently we have had a run of events that has hampered us but God has protected us and given us so much more than we could ask for. Circumstances always look different than what is really going on, especially when we only see in part. Spiritual things are happening all around us but we just don’t see them. But when God appears then we see clearly what reality is. We have been plagued with ATM limits, unavailable funds, and when we ask the bank about what is going on we are told, there is nothing we can do but wait or do without. So we have waited and God has added to our resources, covering the loss of what was stolen from Amma. We have used the card to purchase what we need for groceries in the mean time knowing that we must wait a few days for ATM cash to be available.

The guest house needed to be cleaned out and scrubbed after the last occupants moved out so this was started by Gideon, one of the Kingdom Hikers. We have put some repairs in on the cabin, like light bulbs, window hardware and door locks. Patrick and Gideon are now painting it so Patrick and his family can move in this weekend.

Pastor meetings on Wednesday are growing and not just in numbers. Spiritual growth is the most evident summation of what is happening. A new freedom to live and share the spiritual oneness of Christ in us has been appearing strong in those that are attending. They are hungry for the truth about how to live this life as the church and members of it. Pastors come from all around Nakuru. Some come as far 30km away. Most men walk a great distance to be there each week.

Abba is visiting several churches and teaching there. He is teaching a commitment class at ALF each Sunday morning and then during the service at ALF or another church that wants to host him. He is teaching three or four times each week plus spending time meeting pastors, missionaries, visiting other organizations, pastor conferences, schools, orphanages and other mission minded works. We have had to make him take a day for slowing down a bit and collecting his thoughts, rest and relaxation. He feels the pressure of time and wants to pack all he can into the time he has here.
Amma is also teaching, visiting churches, mission works, women’s conferences, ladies functions, meeting with missionaries, keeping our household in order, shopping, planning meals, etc. She works along side of Abba and keeps pace with him every day.

Zach, Suzie and Nikki are the helpers and runners for Amma and Abba. Their duties include, but are not limited to, cleaning, laundry, cooking, prepping the table. Clearing and washing dishes, opening and locking the gate (several times a day) yard work and other duties as they come up. Zach is Abba go person when he needs a quick job done. Abba and Amma want to keep him but we will have to see how that settles with his mom.

I am the guy that helps plan, follow up and assist Abba and Amma with the daily routines and run interference for the money requests and time requests. I am scheduling and charting events for us to do as well as trying to log as much as possible for reporting to MAT and the church at RCV. My primary duties here are to help make an accounting of the church finances, Georges finances and business ventures that are in progress or need to be assessed for financing. Amma and I have met with Simon, Elkana and Christine on the I-SEE training, met with Elizabeth on her business expansion, looked at Nellie's Chicken project, scheduling meetings with Simon & Tabu about a computer business, Patrick and Fred about a Piki Piki business and a motorcycle each to get started. There will be more and training for those businesses comes into play as well. We will be looking at the LEARN program closely this next week and doing interviews with the kids the week following.

A well needed appliance
Even though our time seems to slip away quicker than we can account for it, we are happy to be here and involved in the lives of the people here. Every day seems to open another door for us to touch the things of God. Every new person we meet offers us another opportunity to be involved somewhere. It seems endless and we have to really look for God in all the right places as to not be torn in multiple directions. At the end of the day a bowl of popcorn helps us to relax. We try to review the day and recall events on our calendar but some things slip past us and one day fades into another. 

The needs of many are very great here. Everywhere you look there are beggars on the street. Some are disabled, maimed, blind and/or homeless. Others are kids hooked on glue, sniffing and begging for money to get more glue. Hawkers are at every corner and parking place to plead with you to buy their product. It is virtually an endless stream of people moving up and down the streets at all hours of the day in their pattern of relentless pursuit for something; mostly money or a meal.

Simon meets his arm wrestling match
Our purpose for being here is spiritual, in that we want to share this life of the Kingdom of God with people here but also practical in that we want to help people learn how to take care of, not only themselves, but others like them. Caring and loving one another in the character of Christ is what they need and want. They tell us that we when we talk to them about the live we live in the US. It's hard for them to believe thee is this place where people are more concerned about others than themselves. They are afraid but intrigued by the possibility of such a life happening in Nakuru, Kenya. They want it but don't know how to go about getting it. So we share what we have learned about living this life with them. Some of them cry, sit in amazement or stand in disbelief. But all of them go away wondering, "Can this be so? Can this happen to me?"

We desire to see this life we now live in the US to be transferable to the nations. God has us here in Africa right now. We are working towards that end. Bringing the torch of this life to those who live here. If you are interested in helping, get a plane ticket and come quickly, or you could donate something towards the work we are doing here. Either way, "the fields are white for the harvest but the harvesters are few." Click here for a link to DONATE.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week Two in Nakuru, Kenya

This is the second week for us in Kenya. It is quickly coming to a close. This is Friday night here and there are so many things that have gone on here the past week and a half I can scarcely remember it all. I will try to touch on the most important parts.

Driving from Nairobi to Nakuru is a wonderful trip now. A few years ago it was a torturous trip that would take 6 hours or more. Now it takes 2-3 hours on nicely paved roads. We landed here on Wednesday night of the 27th of June and spent the evening at a hotel, ate breakfast in the morning , visited a Massii market, had a coffee and proceeded on our way. Arriving in Nakuru on Thursday the 28th was a home coming experience. Old friends and surroundings made us feel very welcome. We unpacked and made ourselves to home. We were tired and needed a rest from the trip over here.

The weekend found us meeting with missionaries both on Friday and Saturday. We met several couples and singles at another missionary’s house on the edge of town Friday afternoon and evening. One couple that was of much interest was a couple from Denmark. They have been here 16 years and built several programs for helping women in crisis, children without the ability to care for themselves, a school and several other works to help with the people of Nakuru.  Others there are all involved in working for God’s interest in those disadvantaged in Nakuru and the surrounding area.

Saturday we met with another couple and their children, several adopted indigenous children and a variety of animals. They live in a larger type house on the north side of Nakuru. We fellowshipped, played games, and ate goat meat and chicken buffet, outside under the Kenyan sky. Zach was able to make friends and spend the night there with Andrew, a boy very near his age. Johnny and Kate were the hosts and some of the Kingdom hikers came along with us. Very fun and we returned Sunday to pick up Zach after the gathering.

Monday July 2nd was shopping day. We fix our meals as a household here and got the essentials for meals through the week. A trip to the bank was in order as well since we did not have Kenyan Shillings for our expenses here. Kenyan shillings are about 83KSH to $1US exchange rate. The rate changes multiple times a day and so you are never sure what exact rate you are getting that day. None-the-less, prices are very cheap here. So your shillings go a long way.

Tuesday we visited an Assemblies of God pastor’s conference and met several of the pastors we meet with on Wednesday there. We also met others we have never seen before. It was a real good networking time for making acquaintances and starting friendships. A man and his wife from Holland were there and Matthew (the husband) gave a great message about marriages. He is actually from the Nashville area and moved to Europe where he met his wife and become a missionary there.

Wednesday we met a man (Jacque) that was at the first missionary meeting the week before at Guava. That’s the local Muzungu (white man) hangout and coffee shop. We went from there to our Wednesday pastors meeting with about 18 Nakuru pastors. Masala tea and fruit drinks later, we met up with the rest of the crew and worked our way home. Noah, George and I went out to talk some more and make some plans for the church. 

That night we met with the clan leaders and elders to develop a plan for pledges, offerings and financial needs of the church. It was a very productive meeting as each member discussed their concerns about being too attached to us. They want to find a way to be self-sustaining. We are like a father to them and want to see them mature as sons of God to care and love each other. We also want to help them take over the responsibility to finance their regular needs. It will take some time to get there.

Poli poli
Thursday the kids went to the fair. Abba rent to a pastors conference in Rhonda and I trained Simon and Elkana on the I-See program. We have 200 glasses to start with and the boys did great at learning what to do as opticians of sorts. This is not a replacement for an actual eye exam, but it does take the same level of care for those with special needs and those who are unable to afford and eye doctor and glasses. These glasses will sell for about 1000KSH (shillings) and will be able to help man who are here in the slum areas. We will do another training next week and include Christine in our training.

Today, July 6th, we went to visit the Danish Mission work that Lief and Suzanna Madsen started 16 years ago. It is amazing the work that they have done there. Several hundred children eat their meals and go to school there every day as well as women who are in crisis are given a safe place to stay and care for their needs. Many have babies and they work at crafts and trades that can help them get started in a new life. We went to the dentist office outside of Nakuru, at a Catholic medical facility, to help Nikki with what to do about her infected wisdom tooth. They we kind enough to pull it out and send her on her way within a couple hours.

Coming home, after we ate a late lunch, we found everyone tired and ready for rest. We had a late dinner tonight and settled down to write blogs and letters.

The one thing that stands out to us is the way God is opening doors for us to walk through. After 4 years of visiting and learning the culture, meeting friends, learning to gain trust and the love of those here in the church, God has started to spread us out to the rest of Nakuru. Pastors and many other missionaries have become our friends and fellow workers. We are in the midst of a large network of Christian workers here that all have their hearts planted in Kenya. We are expecting God to do even greater things in the next few weeks to set the stage for the next time we are here.

Please pray for us that we will not miss anything God is directing towards. Pray that God will give us boldness to share the life of the kingdom with everyone he directs us to and pray that God will protect us and keep us in His perfect will. There are still many financial needs for the church here and the community around us. God keeps putting those needs in front of us. We ask that you consider helping us with some of those needs if possible.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end of this long letter. We are appreciative of all you are doing by praying and contributing to the work of God’s children here in Kenya. May God bless you and keep you in his peace.