Monthly Archives: September 2012

Building a Church: Baragoi

One of my favorite things that I do is working with our church planters in Northern Kenya. It feels almost like taking a vacation, getting away from the busyness of ministry and actually doing ministry. To me it is all about preaching the gospel to people who may have never heard before.

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Pastor Pokisa baptizing new believers last month!!!

In reaching out to the lost, you see that the scripture is uniquely powerful in different ways in different areas and contexts. In the town of Baragoi, peace and reconciliation are extremely relevant.

Tribal conflicts have been a part of life in Africa for thousands of years. This reality becomes clear as you drive through the center of Baragoi. The left side of the town is Turkana and the right side is Samburu. The main road serves as in imaginary uncrossable line. As we teach God’s Word, we take every chance possible to show that we are ALL created in the image of God, and that Jesus died to save everyone.

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Upper Left: The old kitchen for the feeding program.

Upper Right: Women from the church preparing the plates of food.

Bottom: Enjoying a good meal!

 

 

Part of our plan is to develop a strategic ministry center in Baragoi. We have acquired 5 acres from the government which we pray will be a key site to reaching surrounding communities with the message of reconciliation. We have started a satellite branch of our Bible institute there to train pastors who can reach into new areas. We are also working on designing the property in a way that will bring the different communities together. We feed children from both major tribes over the weekend and are working on setting up soccer and volleyball on the property.

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Youth from the community preparing the ground for volleyball. The are a lot of rocks and thorns in Baragoi.

The first step after getting the plot was building the church building. Since Baragoi is a 2 days drive offroad from where Abby and I live, making sure the leadership was prepared to oversee construction in my absence was an important step. To help, one of the founding, Kenyan missionaries, Stephen Pokisa, moved with his family to Baragoi.

This was a huge step of faith because security is not as good and access to essential resources is much more of a challenge, but Pastor Pokisa was essential in leading the project. In addition to overseeing the church construction, he is providing spiritual mentorship for the local church leaders, and as a Maasai (a sister tribe to the Samburu), he is helping the mostly Turkana leadership reach out to the Samburu people.

The church building is now complete and is really helping boost the ministry in Baragoi. The room that the church use to rent was even too small to hold everyone. I am looking forward to seeing the church in person when we have the official dedication next month, but until then, here are some of my pictures and then ones that Pastor Pokisa gave to me (Note the only camera he has is a cell phone).

A special thanks to Cielo Vista Church in El Paso, Texas for providing the needed funding (www.cielovista.org), and to everyone who has been faithfully praying for our ministry and the work in Northern Kenya.

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Mixing the first batch of cement as construction begins.

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Paul, the contractor, showing the workers how to do a good job.

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Pastor Pokisa practicing taking pictures on his phone.

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This elderly lady was collecting stones in her bucket to sell and get something to eat. Life can be very hard in Baragoi.

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All the water for the project will be carried up the hill by ladies from the community. It may be faster and less strenuous to use a vehicle, but this provides jobs.

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Concrete does not come premixed. You buy stones, sand, water, and cement and mix them all by hand.

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With the footers poured, this is the last I have seen of the project. Baragoi town in the background.

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Putting the final touches on the foundation.

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The walls are starting to go up.

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Ready to pour the upper ring beam.

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Trusses in place.

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Roof on and time to work on the front veranda.

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The only hiccup in the project was a slight miscalculation on cement for the plaster. Overall, a very smooth project!

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The colored windows add some beauty.

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Raised pulpit in the front. No windows in the back to give a good backdrop and a few translucent panels in the roof for natural lighting. (these are some of the finer details I have picked up about designing a church in Kenya)

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The completed church from the side.

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Completed church from the front.

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Hakuna Matata (No Worries)

Most Americans know a little swahili even if they do not know it. The movie The Lion King is uses a number of swahili words and “hakuna matata” really does mean no worries. Even more surprising though is that Timon and Pumba’s lifestyle of hakuna matata is reasonably biblical, which seems strange considering the duo are best classified as irresponsible and probably reckless—not generally seen as American ideals.

I am helping a friend coordinate a water project in the northern town of Laisamis, where we also have a church plant. Trying to keep things moving forward, I plannned a special one day trip with Williams to meet with the water officer, take pictures of the site, and map out the project with my GPS.

Our car is vibrating to pieces, and since our front end is literally being held together by zipties, Williams arranged a rental car for this trip offroad. Amazingly, although this particular road is unbelievably bumpy and has probably caused the most damage to our SUV, there are no big obstacles and it can be driven by small car, a Toyota Corolla complete with tuner exhaust in our case. You do have to endure people staring at you as they shout in concern, “where are you planning on going in that baby car?”  

The idea was to leave at 7am, make the 3 hour drive, meet and do everything in Laisamis, and then be back in Nanyuki with time to prepare supplies to send with our orphans and sponsored students the next day. We were on schedule as we prepared to leave Laisamis.  

Rental cars in Kenya are opposite of America. Instead of picking it up full of gas and returning it full, you get it empty and any gas left will be enjoyed by whoever rented the vehicle (individuals let car companies rent out their private vehicles). To me, it almost feels like a game to try and return it with as little fuel as possible. Inevitably, you never buy enough fuel on the first fill-up.

We were going to add some fuel in Laisamis before we left, but when the person started at 200 shillings per liter when it normally goes for between 110-120 fixed price. She dropped down to 180 a liter as Williams walked away annoyed by their attempted price gouging. After careful calculations on our fingers, we decided to go for it—127km through the bush to the next gas station on a quarter tank in an unfamiliar car with very spotty cell phone service in between.

At 60km out the low fuel light came on and I started praying inside. At 10km out the car sputtered on a steep hill. Being a Florida boy, I had only heard stories of people’s cars stalling while climbing an incline even though their tank was not completely empty yet. Luckily we made it over the hill and never had another steep spot.

My heart was racing and I could see the nervousness in Williams grip on the steering wheel. Most Kenyans who travel in the bush have a story of fearfully spending the night under the stars with their car. As I was praying, the phrase hakuna matata and Matthew 6:34 popped in my head. The verse in Matthew says, “Do not worry about tomorrow,for tomorrow will worry about itself…” Luckily I have never realized until just looking it up that in ends in “…Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Anyways, that wonderful phrase made popular by Disney gave me peace. I committed the situation to God and decided that whatever happens I am in His hands.

We coasted down the last hill into Archers Post and the engine stalled as we pulled in front of one of the shops that sells fuel (notice I said shop. There are no gas stations, but only shops that have fuel in 5 liter bottles). Praise the Lord!!! We were so relieved, and bought 2 bottles happy to only pay 120 shillings a liter.

The car sputtered a little as we worked the air out of the fuel line, but soon we were cruising again, hakuna matata. 10 km later the car sputters to a stop in the middle of nowhere.

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I have heard that when a fuel tank gets to the bottom the crud in the bottom can splash up and clog the filter. I always carry a full wrench set in my car on trips but in the rental, all we had was my swiss army style mutitool that I keep strapped to my backpack, more useful for the knife and bottle opener than dinky pliers. We could not loosen any of the fittings needed to check if there was a fuel flow problem.

Williams hitched a ride to the nearest village and came back on a motorcycle with the local handyman/mechanic. I was left watching the car with Mary, an older Turkana lady who only knew about 4 phrases in english. It was very awkward at first but she was extremely nice as we struggled to find things to talk about in Swahili. I am good at certain topics, but others I just do not have the vocabulary for and we had a lot of time to fill.

When she found out I was a missionary, she kept repeating “karibu Kenya mara kumi (welcome to Kenya times ten),’ and “Kenya ni inchi yetu/yangu/yako (Kenya is our/my/your country).” It was nice to feel accepted when so many people love to yell “hey mzungu” (mzungu translates white person but has an underlying connotation of foreigner).

Mary also repeated a significant phrase to fill the silences, “hakuna matata.” It took multiple times before I realized the significance. My life lesson on worrying was not over yet. One minute I was praising God for His faithfulness in letting us reach the next fuel stop, and the next I am frustrated that we are broken down. As we sat on the side of the road, Mary sang me a little, homemade song that in paraphrase translation goes, “Hakuna matata. Kenya is a good place. Kenya is your/my/your country. In Kenya there are no worries or problems. If you do not accept them, you will never have any problems. God is in control. Mary repeated these sentences over and over in different orders whenever we ran out of things to talk about and I felt both comforted and convicted.

John was not a trained mechanic, but he was very good at troubleshooting the problem and he had tools. In the end though everything checked out fine. The fuel system was working, but the car was acting like it was starved for gas.

We tried flagging down people to tow us but no one had a rope and you may only see a couple cars in an hour. Again, I always travel with tow straps and recovery gear in my car. It was getting late in the evening and we decided to push the car to Ngaremara, the closest village, before it got dark. Maybe someone there would have a car to tow us to Isiolo and the nearest garage and hotel.

There was a car but thinking we were desperate the driver was trying to overcharge us by a lot and we still had a repair bill to pay. We tried flagging down a few more vehicles with no luck. While Williams worked on a ride I sat and waited. A few girls who knew english well came and started talking to me. They told me to go over to some shops and find the man who works in Sudan. They said he would definitely help us. I thanked them for the advice but we already had a backup plan. The motorcycle driver who came with Williams and John the mechanic was a pastor. He told us to call if we had any trouble getting to Isiolo to sleep.

We called Pastor Peter and he met us in town. We pushed the car to John’s house and they welcomed us in. We did not know that our mechanic was going to be our host.

John and his wife Josephine were incredibly gracious. They fed us chicken for dinner, borrowed a mattress to put on the floor for us to sleep on, and made us feel completely at home. In the morning they fed us bread and eggs. Chicken and eggs are like delicacies for the people in these rural areas and very generous.

Josephine had an incredible testimony to share. There were a number of girls that helped her prepare things. She explained that none of them were their biological children, but girls they were taking care of. One of the girls they rescued from a trash pile where she was abandoned. People in the village and even their family question their selflessness. Josephine is the oldest child in her family and as such is expected to help with her younger siblings’ school fees. Amazingly, as John and Josephine used their resources to care for these girls, God opened the door for school sponsorships for all her siblings. To her it was so easy to help people in response to Jesus’s love, because she saw that they more she sacrificed for others, the more God provided for their personal needs in miraculous ways. While talking to John, we found out that he learned about cars because he drives for an NGO in South Sudan. The man who works in Sudan that the girls knew would definitely help us was John!

In the morning after a good nights rest, we got a tow to Isiolo straight to a mechanic. As he looked into the fuel system problems that we checked the evening before, he found the problem. It was not a clog. The lady at Archers Post sold us diesel and not gasoline. I think it was an honest mistake as she was not the person who usually runs the shop. Still I am determined to learn how to tell diesel and gas apart even if I have to do it by taste.

Speaking of tasting gas. To confirm his suspicion that we had diesel in the tank, the mechanic injected gas into the engine by mouth to see if the engine would run. Talk about dedication. It did, so we drained the tank. Without a drain plug and without a pump, the mechanics came up with quite an ingenious solution. They disconnected the fuel line and used the cars fuel pump to push out the diesel. Relying on battery to turn over the engine and run the pump was not very practical because we would have drained all their batteries before the tank was empty. They used a squirt bottle to feed gas in the engine and let it run as it drained the tank.IMG_20120904_095740

We spent some time checking up on a church property in town before we hit the road to head home. It was such a relief to be driving again but we did not make it far. A few miles outside Isiolo we ran into another problem. The car was fine, but there were people everywhere and an 8 ft pile of branches in the road. We approached cautiously thinking it may have to do with the nationwide teachers strike. We were told to turn around or our car would be stoned and burned. We happily listened.

I thought we were stuck again. The police had shot a young man that the locals thought was innocent. They were closing the road in protest. They were not really looking to harm vehicles but just to make a point. The roadblock was set up to keep people from reaching the angry mob further down. Luckily, Williams knew a detour. It added about 45 minutes but we arrived in Nanyuki, low fuel light on and running on fumes ready to return the rental.  

Williams and I finally made it home with a story to tell and a lot of work to catch up on, but I want to end on my car watching buddy Mary and her song. Mary was a widow. She was struggling to take care of 7 children and the only thing she had to bring home to feed her and her family that evening was an avocado. Still her simple song taught the missionary hakuna matata God is in control. Our life can be full of detours and setbacks to where we are trying to go, but it is our choice whether or not we worry and stress. God had a plan and I met many wonderful people along the way. Williams is going to ask John and Josephine to recommend a child to be sponsored in our community program.

A mentor from my youth taught me that it takes 2 people to have a fight. People will be angry with you, but is your choice whether that turns into a fight. If you keep your cool, there is no fight no matter what the other person does. In the same way, life will always have problems. Matthew 6:34 “…Each day has enough trouble of its own.” You can choose to trust that God has these troubles under control or you can worry about each one. The choice is yours alone. My choice, Hakuna matata.

“There is no such thing as problems in life. Only opportunities for God to prove Himself.” –Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

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Summer with Rachel

This is a blog dedicated to my sister….Rachel.     Smile

As many of you know, my younger sister Rachel came to stay with us this summer here in Kenya. We have been planning this for years, since before Andrew and I moved here actually. Back then I didn’t know if it would really happen, but it did, and it was a truly great summer with her!

I don’t think I realized how much I missed my family until this summer.  We have Skype (which is great!) and I talk on the phone to everyone, but after spending 2 and a half months with my sister, I am REALLY missing her these days!!  I was completely spoiled having her here for so long!

Rachel is studying Environmental Science at Florida State University.  She is just starting her senior year, and is very interested in living overseas when she graduates.  She had this summer free and came to do a sort of “internship” with us here in Nanyuki.  She planned science lessons to teach to the students in our school, she attended night activities with the boarding students, played with the kids at recreation time, went to tutor with me at the orphanage, and other random things. 

I knew that Rachel would be fine living here for a few months, but she completely exceeded my expectations!!  Seriously, sometimes I felt like she was way better at living here than I am!  Because I was at the end of my pregnancy I couldn’t do everything that I normally can, and that didn’t stop her! She would go join the kids even if she had to go alone, she would lead them in silly songs and dances, and had a great time getting involved.  Not to mention what a HUGE help she was around the house. She helped me cook dinner and cleaned my dishes almost every night, helped with laundry and so much more!

If you would have told me 10 years ago that when we grew up, Rachel would be one of my best friends, I would have laughed in your face. Seriously! We were like any normal sisters and fought all the time! But I am thankful to say that it is true…we have grown up and get along great now.  And I am so proud of her and who she has become. She is a beautiful, confident, God-fearing, and passionate young woman, and I wouldn’t trade anything for the summer I just spent with her! 

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DSC_0540  Rachel teaching a song to the boarders. See her down there in the front? I think they were being pineapples at this part (Fruit of the Spirit Song).

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Rachel teaching the students about volcanoes.

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