There isn’t a place in the world I wouldn’t want to go, at least once. I don’t say this in a bragging way, it’s just the way I feel. Not sure why. I guess I like the idea of seeing new places and meeting new people. With this in mind, I was happy to make my first ever trip to Asia a few weeks ago.
The way I tend to do travel, and decide where to go, is probably not that unusual, tho I haven’t discussed it at length with others, and didn’t get the idea from observing some other person. It’s on the basis of relationships that I decide where to go. Clearly the Lord can prompt us to go to places where we don’t know anyone. For the most part, that hasn’t been the way it’s worked with me.
It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to go back to the spring that I protected with a team in 2008, my first trip to Kenya. Mishael said it was very doable so we struck out on foot one morning for the site and made it there in 20 minutes or so. What came with it was a flood of memories. When we arrived at the spring, with it’s plaque – Uhuru – we came upon a young girl, maybe ten, who was filling two buckets with it’s yield. It was good to see the spring was in good shape, and that it’s usefulness persisted. It had been seven and a half years since we did our job there. Apart from a little faded paint and such, it continued to function as well as ever. We took her by surprise, as we did most children in Kenya. I think my skin looks fluorescent to them. She was, nonetheless, good humored. After a few pictures and the feeling that someone had just walked over my grave, we surveyed the nearby fields, trees and relatives in the area that Mishael has called home all his life. To have had the experience of protecting this water source in the first place was a huge blessing, and certainly an eye-opening, life altering event. To have been able to visit it again reinforced it’s impact afresh. It was almost like visiting a monument from a different age, at least in my life.
Heading Out for Tigoni
If you are going to ride the bus to and from Nairobi to the Tanzanian border at Isibania, brace yourself for a long journey. It takes a ton of time with multiple stops on boarding, a stop for a break midway, and then, on the return trip, the long climb up the escarpment (hill) that leads you from the famously fertile Great Rift Valley into the Central Highlands of Kenya, which are beautiful, and, have quite a different climate. I should have brought a sweater!
Pat Selvey had prepared to meet us near Tigoni, so we prepped the bus driver in advance and jumped out, glad to be free of that part of the journey and in the company of friends. In a few minutes we arrived at Tigoni House – a name donned by Pat for the in country headquarters of Hydrating Humanity. Pat, along with Matt Peterson and Josh Young, founded this clean water effort some years ago. It is quite a welcoming place! Grace, Pat’s wife and co-laborer in the effort, offered us the kindness of long awaited friends, complete with fluent Spanish, which I know was an added blessing to Israel. Grace was raised as missionary’s child in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Did I mention Guanacaste is one of my favorite places on Earth?
Predictable internet and a warm sun welcomed us with open arms. We relaxed and began to unwind from the whirlwind of movement the week prior had contained. And we slept.. and ate, and enjoyed friends.
In what seemed to be a very short time we were headed into Nairobi on our departure day. We had the great privilege of meeting up with friends who happened to be in Nairobi at the same time, and we talked, chatted and enjoyed good coffee and stories of a King and His approaching Kingdom, and our lives in His service. God has arranged his Kingdom in such a way as to give relationships central importance. I am thankful for that and blessed by it, beyond words. The three hours passed like a moment.
With the help of Alfred, who drove us, we arrived plenty early for our early evening flight to Qatar. We entered the queue, and, found out that Israel’s ticket had been purchased for the wrong day! What was a bigger bummer yet is that the flights were too full to get him changed. We parted ways at the check-in line, but not before another pleasant surprise! A young woman named Celine that had spent time with our team in 2010 just happened to be in the check-in line! Impossible! What made it more impossible, she isn’t even living in Nairobi currently. Mind = Blown. Very good to see her and hear of her life since 2010. Many changes and advancements for her, and we got to share in her joy!
A ten day trip to Kenya is a really short one… It takes two days to get there and two days to get home. Keep that in mind for your future plans. And now our minds contemplate returning to Kenya, with a team, in 2016….
Israel arrived to Arlington after an overnight trip from Juarez. It was great to see him, and the sense of anticipation went up a few notches when I grabbed him from his drop off point, just off I-20 a few miles from the house. He was in pretty good shape even tho he had been on the road overnight, including the customary delays that come with catching a ride.
Vince came by to get us, arriving early, so we got to the airport in plenty of time to minimize drama. His help was much appreciated, and it was good for he and Isra to see each other again.
A fifteen hour flight is a long one, maybe my longest to date. The first stop at Qatar put us beyond the continent of Africa, but with a short second flight of only five and a half hours. We lounged overnight in the Doha airport, with feelings alternating between excitement, boredom and slumber, with some sort of repeating cycle. Free internet in the airport was helpful.
Our arrival was without incident, quickly thru customs thanks to the heads up we had received in advance about the new Visa policy for Kenya. Thanks Hydrating Humanity guys! Not all trying to enter were so fortunate….
We were off in little time to Mayfield Guest House, a ministry outpost of African Inland Missions. Nice place, friendly and helpful staff, and a bed after nearly two days of movement. It was a welcome development.
Leaving Nairobi Early
We met a gentleman at the guest house, who I greeted upon his late arrival in the check in. He said he was leaving early for Ghana. I suggested, since we were also leaving early for the bus station, we’d be happy if he could join us for breakfast. He did.
Stan had spent 25 years in Kenya, and 13 more in South Africa before retiring to where he now lives at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Northern Georgia. He had grown up here, since 1951, and actually graduated from a private high school in Nairobi. He spoke of what it was like to be in Kenya during her struggle for independence from Brittain, and mentioned a few details that were clearly alive in his memory fifty years later. As we ate our toast, coffee, and some wheat thing that needed tons of milk to overcome its dryness, we had the sweet fellowship of those who meet on the field, conjoined not by familiarity, but shared purpose.
Our driver had some confusion with us and we didn’t actually head to the bus station until around [6:30]. We were scheduled to leave at 6. The bus’s pending departure at 7 created a dynamic in the ticket line worthy of a documentary on human behavior. I don’t know if that happens every day, but to my western mind, it was mind blowing. In any event, tickets procured at the last minute and Israel and I were aboard.
What can be said of the bus ride?
Warm weather cultures are used to significantly less air circulation with the added body heat bonus. We are not.
It was longer than expected, and three times as bumpy.
We arrived to Isibania, a city near Lake Victoria that spills over the border into Tanzania, after nearly ten hours in the equivalent of a Central American chicken bus, which is about what it would take to cross the Pacific side of Nicaragua, from Costa Rica to Honduras. Africa is massive.We were greeted by Faith, Mishael’s oldest son, and a church elder from one of the congregations, as well as a full stall of “iron horses” to carry us onward the remaining half hour. Mishael was close by, taking care of a business matter in town. Shortly he arrived and, after the procurement of a local SIM card, we were off at a gallop.
The beauty of the Western Kenyan countryside had somehow faded from memory. This ride would remedy that. Almost immediately there was a large rainbow in the sky, which I regarded as significant, to take the beauty even higher. In what seemed like no time, the most enjoyable part of more than three days of getting there had passed. We arrived safely at Mishael’s home.
Church Meetings, Delays, and Rain Outs
Our arrival was delayed due to a policeman stopping the bus (likely for reasonable suspicion) for somewhere between thirty minutes and an hour. Because of this, we missed the meeting we were scheduled to go straight to from the rendezvous at the bus stop. This was only the first a few gotchas, as we, the next morning, were delayed by strong rain. It was the kind of rain that wouldn’t let us leave on the motorcycle. Finally it let up in time for us to make the 2nd meeting we had scheduled for the day, and we forged on in what amounted to a light rain.
We arrived to find that the four congregations were amassed and in the full swing of a meeting, which we joined, already in progress.
The sing song rhythm of African worship is a thing to behold.
I had spoken with Mishael about a trip to Lake Victoria as an outing to see something new in the area. As we sat down to discuss it, it was determined that it wouldn’t be too remarkable, and would be a three hour trip one way. At this point we made the game time call to visit the Masai Mara, which is the piece of the Serengeti Plains that juts up from Tanzania into Kenya at it’s border. Little did I know that Israel had a lifelong dream of going on a safari… which was about to be realized.
With the help of Mishael’s friends, we headed out fairly early, along a road thru Masai territory, that was much improved since my last adventure there. That time, we had actually stuck a Safari vehicle in the mud and had to recruit the help of locals to get us moving again. What made it additionally dramatic is the demand for money that followed the favor. Thankfully, our passage would be free of such drama this time.
As I understand it, Kenya has a new constitution and form of government that is decentralized, putting federal money in the hands of county government. This has resulted in many changes, and, tho there are mixed reports, I think it has a lot to do with why the roads were better. In that measure, I am thankful for the new constitution.
The first time you encounter a game park, or go on Safari, it can seem a little surreal. I know that was so in my case. All manner of exotic wildlife, things of legend that fill children’s stories, larger than life almost within arms reach, it’s a lot to take in! Had I not led us down the back road, we would have seen much more sooner… I’ll chock that bad call up to a novice mistake. Haha
We did see all of the “Big 5” except the leopard, finally, after we got on a better road. This was my first time to see the rhino.. It was cool! He wanted to hide from us, but, we did see him. Zebra in abundance and wildebeest without number, elephants, and cape buffalo, and don’t forget giraffe. Baboons and hippos also, at the place in the crook of the Mara River where the hippos gather… This experience comes highly recommended. This was my third occasion for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. I was thankful, as was Israel, on his first.
For purposes of brevity, the remainder of the trip is summarized in another blog post. To go to the conclusion blog, click here…
A gallery of photos are here, click on one to enlarge and pan thru them…
We are headed for Kenya on September 2nd, that is, Israel Juarez and I. We will be on the ground in Nairobi, the capital, and Kihancha, which is a rural town very near Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania. We are going to visit my friend Mishael Sirima, a church leader with a number of congregations, and also to connect with the Hydrating Humanity leadership team, who will see briefly as we pass back thru Nairobi on the way out. I am greatly looking forward to it, and would appreciate your prayer support. We are covering a lot of miles, passing thru the Middle East to get to Africa, and have many connections to make.
To my knowledge, this is Israel’s first trip to Africa, tho he has been in Europe and the Middle East before. I am looking forward to our time together very much, which brings me to another specific in my request for prayer. I will be translating for him! For those who know my Spanish skills, you can really appreciate the need here. Haha. No, really.
Hopefully we will have some access to internet so that we can report on how things are going, and emergent prayer support needs. As you think of us, please take a second to pray, that we will accomplish what we are being sent to do, that we will give and receive all that is intended, and that we will leave our brothers and sisters there better off than when we arrive.
Switching gears, things are busy and a lot is going on… it’s probably the same with you, I imagine.
We, at FXMissions, are getting ready for our annual Young Leader’s Event in Nicaragua, which is being planned for the early part of December. I am really pleased that we will have a leadership team from four nations represented. Next year let’s go for five! It excites me to get a broad range of perspective, and to see it brought to bear on young minds and hearts. Thank God for those He brought to me as a young(er) leader. It can be a huge blessing, to hear from and be impacted by someone from a distant land with a far different experience. The scriptures are full of such examples.
We are nearing the launch of a leadership training initiative, as well. To me it seems like this has been in the works for far too long, but, my perspective is not the most important, if you get my drift. I am hoping to launch this in English and Spanish. At the moment the plan is to do some in person and distance learning, and have those involved in each segment do something of an outreach together. Keep a watch out for some more info on this, as well as a name, and the dates of our maiden voyage! Prayers support on this front are also very much appreciated, and surely needed.
One other development I would like to mention. We recently teamed up with the folks at Engaging Missions to produce the Leadership Minute as an addition to their weekly radio program. It has been pretty well received. The concept is a quick thought on the subject of leadership, and I am hoping to actually fit the thoughts within a minute at some point. It is, brief, in any case, and hopefully impactful. I have been studying leadership for many years, complete with a few train wrecks, and I am hoping to pass along things that I have observed. If you’d like to listen to a quick thought on leadership, here’s a link to a recent leadership minute. New ones come out weekly. I hope it’s a blessing… (and a challenge to grow in your leadership capacity!)