This was my 5th trip to Kenya, my wife’s 2nd and my youngest daughter’s first. It was amazing to be able to share it with them, though it would have been 100% perfect if my oldest could have come (she had a dance commitment that worked out splendidly for her, and she is now a paid apprentice with a professional ballet company!). The whole trip was my daughters’ idea. We had talked about doing a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary and my youngest’s high school graduation, but the mission trip won out.
We helped construct an AIDS Orphan home, which is one of our usual projects. The recipient is a 15 yr. old boy who cares for his nearly-blind grandmother and lived in a mud/stick hut. Now they have a 12′x20′ two room home that will keep them dry and safe. His parents and three siblings had died. The local church has helped counsel him and he’s doing much better than he was. He seemed to have some good friends. He even helped with the construction. The grandma was so quiet all week, then at the dedication she started jumping and singing in thanksgiving (something about being lifted higher by Jesus).
Part of the group saw the Hope Companion project, a terrific endeavor where orphans are given practical business skills to support themselves, sort of a Junior Achievement Meets Jesus program. It gives the kids hope and us as well, because it makes such a radical difference. This isn’t about handouts for multiple generations, it is about making them self-sufficient. The U.S. could learn a lot from this model. Whether it was sewing, baking bread or planting seedlings for sale each of these youths were now able to support themselves and often others. One boy had 7 younger siblings he could now care for instead of having to beg from others who already didn’t have enough — plus he took on care for another orphan. That’s convicting!
We visited a bush clinic where vitamins, de-worming, antibiotics, etc. were dispensed to a few hundred people. Getting out in the community is one of the best parts of the trip.
I shared my leadership training (“great results / high employee satisfaction”) to the hospital management team. Given cultural and language barriers I set low expectations for how it would be received, but it really seemed to resonate with them. It highlights the techniques I’ve used to run successful groups with best-in-class employee satisfaction scores and remarkably low turnover (I really need to blog on it someday). I’ve presented it at a few conferences in the U.S. and shared it in a session with managers where I work, but wouldn’t have thought that it would work in Kenya. But in talking to the hospital CEO last year and hearing about their staff turnover problems, I realized that this was just what they needed to hear. Good, basic management skills are universal. I enjoyed adding Bible verses to the presentation and focused on the theme that if God had such high expectations for how Christian masters should treat slaves in the Roman empire, how much more so should Christian supervisors treat their employees well?
Our associate pastor had to cancel at the last minute, so I ended up giving a couple messages in his place. One was at the morning devotional for the hospital employees. Their scripture for the day was from Ephesians 5, starting with “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Oh, good, an easy and non-controversial topic! I embraced it as a chance to talk about how many U.S. churches hate that passage and rationalize that Paul didn’t write it under the inspiration of God, and because of that they miss out on a beautiful passage. Also, in that culture the men love that verse but tend to stop reading after that. I noted that they need to focus more on the part about “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”
The other talk was a 20 min. sermon at the church in the Kawangware slum in Nairobi. That was a huge blessing. I figured the pastor would want something lighter, but he wanted me to include topics that they face like AIDS, domestic violence and poverty. I preached on John 1:1-5, emphasizing Jesus’ deity, God’s sovereignty and how Jesus is the light to the world and uses us in his plan. It seemed to go well.
Visiting Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child, is always a highlight for me. We’ve written him for over 13 years so he is like family to us. He is in college now and works very hard. He is an amazing young man with a passion for God.
We took 12 Proclaimer audio Bibles to distribute, and I was beyond thrilled at how well they were received. I’ll blog separately on that.
In addition to the daily 15 min. services at the hospital, we got to worship there twice — in Maua and in the church in the Nairobi slum. The services are a little longer (2 hours) but much more energetic than in the U.S.
The hospital in Kenya does amazing things to help the community, and they are extremely cost-effective. They share the Gospel with all the patients. They know how to reach the poorest of the poor. They are hurting now with the food shortages. If you want to help the hospital and community, click here. Money goes a long way in Kenya! For example, for only $10 / month you can feed, clothe and educate a child.
Flight stuff: We flew on Emirates for the first time, with a 15+ hour flight to Dubai then a 5 hour flight to Nairobi. As we’d been told, the leg room was a little better than what we’re used to. Yea! But those long flights are still killers (“Let’s see, I’ve read, gone through all the pictures on my computer, napped, eaten a meal and a snack, and read some more, so we must be almost there . . . ack! 11 hours to go!”).
I took my laptop on this trip. It was a bit of a burden to carry all the stuff (it is a heavy one, plus the extra batteries and such) but I loved being able to write and edit pictures on the plane and when we had free time. That is always the hard part of returning. There are lots of things to catch up on after being gone 17 days, but my OCD nature (“It’s not just a disorder, it’s a lifestyle!” ™) makes me want to complete all the picture editing / uploading right away. With Google’s Picasa software the various albums were all set to upload as soon as I logged in at home.
Ending the trip with a couple of days on a photo safari in the Masai Mara (where they film some of the Discovery Channel wildebeest crossing / crocodile videos) is a joy. Seeing God’s creation in such an un-touched way is just amazing. No animals were harmed in the filming process. OK, maybe one zebra. Circle of life, baby! Circle. Of. Life.