“We have an endless supply of affirmations.”
Our flight to Detroit was uneventful and we spent the three-hour layover in the Detroit Airport (which is probably 2 miles long and very pretty) eating Sushi, drinking sake, and getting to know each other. George Rutenbar is 82, in a wheelchair and attended lovingly by Frank Williams, the de facto head of our group. George, Frank, Julie Law (the artist), Pam Carpenter, Mary Beth Hodges, and Sharra Poteet have been on this trip before. Sherry Green; husbands Terry Hodges, Larry Carpenter, and Eddie Poteet; and Cherry and I are the newcomers. We left Detroit around 7 PM. Our daughter Haley, attending the University of Missouri, was working during our layover and we got only a quick goodbye as the plane doors were closing. The flight to Amsterdam was easy with the help of an Ambien and movies (The Departed for me, Marie Antoinette for Cherry. I think Scorscese will win the AA for best director but I doubt if The Departed will win best picture). KLM is a nice airline. We had a nice chicken dish for dinner with a Chilean red wine.
We had only enough time in Amsterdam to walk to gate F8 and go through security again (odd since we did not leave a nonsecured area). They “caught” Cherry with 8 oz of shampoo and confiscated it. Nasty stuff that shampoo. Eight hours to Nairobi – 9 hours ahead of Dallas time. We left Nisha, a girl from Bombay who got a degree in accounting from a Dallas County Community College and, after a month or so in India, will return for a Masters at Tarrant county community college. Cute girl. Didn’t know TCCC offered Masters Programs.
We are in our room, # 666, which some think is an evil number. We can handle it. It is 11:45PM. Hello Ambien, good night Nairobi.
It is February 23rd and I got up and played four holes of golf with Steve and 6 or 7 others on the team using Steve and Tony’s borrowed clubs. Steve is 6’ 9” and Tony is 5’4” so it was hard to be consistent. I am sure that not playing for 6 months had nothing to do with my erratic shots. After breakfast we were in our Vans headed about 20 km outside of Kitale to Sister Freda’s Clinic. It is a compound on probably 20- 30 acres consisting of a clinic/hospital, houses, livestock buildings, a school, and new construction for 4 doctors. They have just broken ground on a Vocational school for 11 nursing students, apparently one of the few occupations open to women for stable employment. Sister Freda hopes to have this school up and running in a year. We tour the facility taking many pictures of the clinic, full of waiting patients (80% who are seen for free), hospital rooms (probably 6 in all). We see a man with HIV/AIDS with malaria who has been nourished back to health. He is the only patient in a 4-bed ward, attended by his wife. We also
visit, pray over, and photograph a mother and 2-day-old newborn. I am surprised to see the operating suite complete with anesthesia machine, where Sister Freda has done C-sections by herself! Although Sister Freda has paid the local government twice electrical grid power is still one mile away. They run the generators sparingly and usually close after dark. I should add that “Sister” is a British term of endearment for “Nurse.”
“ Sometimes all God has to do is show us the cane and sometimes He has to beat us with it to get us going in the direction He wants us to go.” Dean Romesburg
On the grounds we are introduced to the Chicken Coop project*** (Mission giving opportunity ), a free standing corrugated metal structure that costs $1600 to build. It has two layers or “floors” – the upper one for broiler chickens and the lower for layer chickens. The project employs local labor to build these and they have initially been given to local pastors to supplement their income. Each “coop” will generate about $180 monthly (average income in this region is $25 monthly) since there is a shortage of chickens and eggs in Kenya. Some of the chicken we will eat on this trip will come from this project. We see the building containing the 68 m deep water well and Generators. This is similar to Saddleback’s “Holy Cow” program where people (usually pastors) are given a milk-producing cow, which becomes a source of revenue for the family.
After returning to the Kitale Club for lunch we head out in our vans to a “Police Station” in a village outside of Kitale. We held a clinic for hundreds of people in a field on a table and two benches, with supplies on the ground, and 2 goats lying within fifteen feet. Cursory history, standup exams, then dispenses antibiotics, pepsid, singular, antimalarials, and skin cream (mostly antifungal). Terry, my dentist buddy, gave out his toothpaste-impregnated toothbrushes and nearly started a riot. The “non-medical members of the team played with the kids and did a puppet show on health practices. Ryan Birtcher, a young staff member then ran to one end of the field as Steve announced, “Who wants to play chase the Mzungu!?” and hundreds of kids chased Ryan round and round until he fell to the ground and was swarmed under. We saw a Muslim lady in our clinic, which made me think “Not only is our charge as Christians to help the poor and people who live to less than 40 years of age but it is wise for Americans to show the world we are a loving and caring people.”
After the clinic we went with Sister Freda to visit a home in the area. Emily, a well dressed young woman, visited our “clinic” and said that her mother in law had been unresponsive since Emily’s husband, the mother in law’s son, had been killed 2 years previously. As we drove up to the house we noted the woman sitting outside. She rocked slightly and would not make eye contact. She became tremulous and agitated when touched and did not respond otherwise. I felt she was schizophrenic. Her daughter in law confirmed that she had been hospitalized at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi and given medication for her condition, which had run out. Sister Freda prayed and laid her hands on the woman. She is a remarkable and saintly woman. I took a picture of a man in the yard who said he had Actinic Keratosis, but his thickened skin and lips looked too severe for what I think of as a relatively benign condition. We returned to the Kitale Club exhausted and fell into bed at 9:30.
2/24/07 Tumaini orphanage**** is just down the road from the Kitale Club. Boys and girls live there. It is on several acres and has classrooms and dorms for the kids. There is a very nice Chapel where we all met and the kids sang for us. Francis a 13-14 y/o street boy who heard the street preaching of Steve Rutenbar and then stood in front of Steve’s Van and said, “You said if we’d stop (drugs/glue) we could come to Tumaini.” We met 7-year-old Juma and his 4-year-old sister. Their parents divorced and then the mother died (probably of AIDS) – they were living on the street and brought here by Lisa Romesburg. I spent a lot of our time there visiting with the Andrews. Andrew Masai (shown above) was a former “head boy” at Tumaini. He lived there for 12 years. He is tall and articulate and enjoys “football.” He has completed 2 years of college and wants to go to Nairobi to complete training as a master mechanic. We toured the dorms but as Cherry says, “When I grew up on a farm my chickens lived in better accommodations than these kids.” After watching the boys play soccer I gave little Andrew my Lone Star hat and Big Andrew a magnetic pen and later sent him clothing.
Today at the Deliverance Clinic Cherry and I bathed kids. This may be the only time these kids get a bath in months. I treated a case of left elbow monoarticular arthritis that I am sure was gonococcal. Saw a case of gonorrhea with concomitant syphilis (painless chancre), and probable TB (bloody cough and apical rales). We treated the first two with Doxycycline and referred the TB for therapy to the local TB clinic. A four-year-old girl had infected “sores” or bites over all of her body. So simple to treat with topical and oral antibiotics but she is 4 y/o and on the street. She has no one to care for her. No one! A four year old on her own and her situation is unbelievably common.
In the evening after our meal we heard from Ben and Christine Tanguli, who started their talk to us by saying, “Just your coming encourages us.” He is a former car salesman in Kitlale who heard the call to be a missionary in 1998. Christine joined him in 2003 as a full time missionary although she had been working for pay at the Kakuma Refugee Camp*** in northwest Kenya, approximately 450 km north of Kitale and 150 km from the Sudanese border. There are 70 000-100 000 refugees under protection of the UN High Command - 80% from Sudan, but also from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burundi and one or two individuals from other parts of the world. There are 23 primary schools, 3 secondary schools and 5 pre-schools. Teachers are drawn from the refugees themselves. Ben conducted a course for pastors in the camp from different denominations using The Purpose Driven Life and using the theme “I belong to you and you belong to me. We are one.” (I wondered if this was a Rick Warren quote). He then gave a brief account of the conflict in Sudan.
Sudan has an Islamic government that controls the North of the country. The South is where most of the Christians live. They refused to be governed by Islamic law and persecution of them by the Islamic government began. He described atrocities like flaming tires being forced over heads and arms being severed. War and genocide began occurring as the government and the Janjuweed, a group of light skinned Islam herders and renegades, began terrorizing the region, supported by the central Sudanese government, Iran, and China. They have committed untold numbers of unspeakable atrocities on the population of Darfur, putting mines around communities and then bombing it. Raping women and girls, murdering men and boys and throwing babies into fires. The Janjuweed are attacking primarily southern Muslims. Moammar Kadafi of Libya as head of the African Union has spent billions trying to influence African politics. The US and UN think he has become more moderate but Steve Rutenbar says that is a lie. He is still as radical as ever. Franklin Graham has a hospital in the Sudan that is bombed regularly by the Sudanese government. Ben and Christine are working in Poktap or Pok Tap, Sudan, which is about 90 miles north of Bor on the map on previous page and a rough 5-day drive from the Kenyan border. According to one Web site “Poktap is just some huts and a primitive airstrip.” The Tanguli’s have established a faith based school and orphanage. They need partners to help drill a water well, funds for building the orphanage, a tractor for farming in this fertile area, prayers and money. They are truly doing dangerous and noble work. If you want to contribute here is their information. ****
Ben and Christine Tanguli
Shekinah Glory Missions International
P.O. Box 4126 Kitale, Kenya 30200
Steve again mentioned Saddleback’s Church-to-Church work – Saddleback gets the materials and allows native missionaries to do the work. Steve sees himself as an “evangelical entrepreneur.” He likes to bring people together empower local people and churches and then step back. It appears to be a formula that works.
Mary Burgess, a Saddleback nurse told me a Rick Warren story, one that he tells about himself. His brother Jim, who apparently died recently, worked for the San Francisco 49ers for several years and, according to the story, at one time was Joe Montana’s bodyguard or personal assistant. As such he received several Super Bowl rings. He gave one to Rick when he knew Rick was to have an audience with the Pope. “That way”, Jim said, “if he asks you to kiss his ring, you can reply, ’I’ll kiss yours, if you’ll kiss mine!’”
After going to that 8:30 service we split into about 5-6 groups and attended smaller churches in the community for their worship services. Most of our group left even before the Deliverance Service to spend the day with the Mt. Elgon Church where they had been before. They were taking greetings (and $4500) from Waxahachie, TX to the people of that Church to help them build a sanctuary. So Cherry, Terry, George Rutenbar, and I were taken by Stonic, our tour director, a Masai warrior who killed a lion (the boy he was hunting with had his throat torn out by the lion and died), and the “Mr. Fixit” of the trip went in the Land Rover to Birunda Church. Birunda Church is a small mud and stick building with three rows of seats and a dirt floor. Sister Freda and Agnes, her assistant, attend this church. We also met a friend of George’s, a consultant with the United Nations Environment Program. His name is Paul Chabeda. He traveled the world for the UN consulting on water quality. Moses’ older brother, Joseph Wanyonyi, is the pastor of this little Church. George preached from 1st John –How to have a relationship with God and is meeting with the members of Birunda Church all this week teaching them from this book. (Cherry leans to me and says –“This is what we are doing serving in Kenya, having fellowship with God, the only source of true joy.”). I gave Pastor Joseph my sports coat, Terry gave his to Ben, who was our interpreter during the service, and we had tea with the membership after the service and made several new friends. The Birunda Church needs our prayers and support.
Pastor Joseph and Violet Wanyonyi
2400 Kitale 39200
I saw Asuran James Machuria, a man with six toes on each foot. He told me that his 3 and 9-year-old sons have the same condition as his left foot. I have emailed Sister Freda that they may be helped at the CURE Hospital in Kijabe.
We arose at 6:30 on Monday the 26th. I could get up and go golfing with Steve but I think not. One morning I do want to walk to the third fairway and show Cherry the monkeys. I have a few ideas for finishing my novel based on what I am seeing here but first I want to finish this travelogue. After breakfast we travel again to Deliverance Church and The Purpose Driven School where the children perform for us in the sanctuary and I make another friend. The children are dressed in white shirts or blouses, blue sweaters, and green, pants, shorts or skirts. A group of 8 boys do several rap songs complete with movements learned no doubt from American rappers. I still don’t like rap – American or Kenyan - but the other kids enjoy it immensely and applaud wildly. In their white socks and black shoes the kids smile uncertainly at us. Then some hesitantly at first and then eagerly they come to sit among the Mzungus, Tatu sits with Cherry, Larry sits with Sherry. They speak hesitantly and shyly but obviously are bathed in our attention both on stage and in the audience. The school has 300+ students, 17 who live on the street. We are told only 40% of Kenyan kids go to school because 60% can’t afford the cost of uniforms.
My new friend is Peter Mwasame. He is the Deputy Principal of the Purpose Driven Academy. He is married to Easther and has two children – Shalom and Don Moen. He makes about 7000 shillings monthly (a little over $100) and his wife earns about $40 as a tailor. He is saving around $10 monthly to return to college to get a degree that will allow him to teach in secondary school. Right now he teaches in the primary school. This education will take him about 3 years, most of which he will do by correspondence except when he is out of school at Deliverance. Then he will travel to Nairobi. His goal is to have his own school.
We left Deliverance and went to Maziwa**** and the open air school there. Of all the mission opportunities I think this moved me the most. As we drove up the children were chanting
“Welcome… Welcome... Welcome...” and then some of the older students sang a song about their needs. They need classrooms, books, chairs, toilets. “All education leads to success.” they sang.
“Who is better off the prisoner who knows God or the Orange County resident who thinks he is God.” Steve Rutenbar
In the afternoon we went to Kitale Prison. There was some pecking order posturing by prison officials but we finally were allowed to enter. Steve told us to take nothing in – no personal effects or cameras. As we entered Ryan said to Steve, “We’re not going to play chase the Mzungu in here are we?” While Terry and his helpers held dental clinic in an 8x10 room we could see the rest of the team in the “yard.” A PA system was set up. Allison sang, soccer uniforms were given, soccer was played, and it rained – hard. The team retreated to the Women’s Prison after getting soaked and we pulled teeth. It was the only time in Kenya I was a bit concerned about safety. At one time there were 18 people in the small room and that many prisoners outside the door with no security in sight. Dental instruments, Sharp dental instruments were in easy reach of anyone but nothing happened and we pulled probably thirty teeth. I did the anesthesia, which I think worked at least 80% of the time.
Steve told us a story from a previous trip of a man on the team, Roger (a pseudonym), who brought his wallet into the prison and sidled up to Steve during the visit and said, “One of the guys in here stole my wallet!” Steve replied, “I told you not to bring it in here! If that’s true it’s been passed through so many hands there is no chance of recovering it. Chalk it up to experience.” But Roger wouldn’t let it go and went over Steve’s head and told the Warden. Steve did not find this out until after the visit and was understandably unhappy with this turn of events. As he was contemplating what to do, Roger called him and said, “Steve a miracle has happened! Jesus has rescued my wallet from that prison and brought it back to my room. Isn’t that marvelous?” Steve said (in so many words), “No, that’s not marvelous. I’m a minister and could get fired for this but that’s BULL(oney!) (Steve, I wanted to give you “plausible deniability”!). We are going back to that prison and you are going to personally apologize to the Warden and to the inmates.” Eventually Roger did just that but not before learning that through the Warden’s “interrogation” three or four men had already confessed to taking Roger’s wallet!
The evening of February 26 we rounded up some cardboard and a list of our Dallas supporters and Terry made our Asante Sana signs while we listened to Francis and Patricia Sowa of the HIV/AIDS Center in Kitale, called Discovery to Recovery. Francis is a truck driver and Patricia is his wife who became HIV + in 1998 and has since become a spokesperson and educator for HIV/AIDS in Africa. She did not address how she became HIV+ (and Steve has never asked) but you would assume she got it from her husband. Although he is HIV negative, he is a member of a carrier group often called the HIV mosquito – long distance truck drivers. She told us that HIV/AIDS in Africa is associated with poverty. People in and around Kitale live on less than $1 a day. Discovery to Recovery helps people by educating and supporting them even if they are dying. 30% of the 200 000 population in Transoya (the area around Kitale) are HIV+. There are 1800 pastors throughout Kenya who are HIV+, which creates a lot of denial and shame, making education difficult. She told the story of one minister (presumably HIV negative) who had a daughter who became HIV+. He put a coffin in her room and told her, “Stay in your room until you die!” And she did - 2 weeks later. One of Patricia’s points was that with improved nutrition and support even without ARV’s (anti-retroviral drugs) people can live with HIV/AIDS. She says she is literally living proof. Her last CD4 count was 296 and her viral load is low on no ARV’s. The government has provided drugs for 500 people in this area but only if their CD4 count is less than 100. (A recent article in The New Yorker magazine mentioned the ignorance in South Africa about treatment of HIV/AIDS and the government’s support for “natural” cures and paranoia about International Pharmaceutical companies, which further limits the ability to fight this pandemic).) She said that TB and malaria allow the HIV virus to damage the immune system more quickly and mentioned a patient at Sister Freda’s who was hospitalized with malaria and HIV, whom we saw on our first visit there. The Sowa’s are supported in part by a “Holy Cow,” donated by Saddleback that generates approximately 3800 shillings (about $55) monthly from morning milk sales.
While on our way we reviewed Saddleback’s 5 Point Mission Statement for Africa.
P artnership in Planting Churches
E quip pastors to preach the Gospel
A ssist the poor
C are for the sick
When we visited with Harmon later he mentioned that he had been at Baylor University on his recent trip to the States. Working with the Engineering Department he is designing a 428 ft suspension bridge, which will be his most ambitious project at a cost of approximately $150 000. It will be built in the Savo area where the main problem is crocodiles. After crossing the bridge we walked west along the Moruny River to our clinic site, where Sister Freda had set up her medications. This is near the town of Ortum. I spent my time between seeing patients with Sister Freda and injecting teeth for extractions. Rhonda, who was Terry’s interpreter during the dental work, needed a root canal on one of her incisors. Terry did not want to simply pull it so we each gave her $40 and hope she will use it for that purpose. A gift after you give it is out of your hands and out of your control.
I saw Lilly, a young girl carried five hours through the mountains on her father’s back. She is fifteen years old and has anasarca - swollen face, abdomen, and legs and a pulse of 130 beats per minute. I told Sister Freda I thought she could have nephrotic syndrome, possibly due to malaria, since her lungs were clear and I could not feel her liver (admittedly not a good exam with her lying on the ground). Sister Freda said that she could have Kala-Azar or Leishmaniasis, which is endemic in this area. We told her father he needed to carry her to the hospital and he did - on his back again. As the father and girl passed out of sight Sister Freda said, “Now you will believe how bad things are. No one believes how bad things are.” I later received an email from Sister Freda saying that Lilly did not survive but not what her diagnosis was. I saw an older disheveled man who through an interpreter said that he couldn’t be with a woman and wondered if I had a pill for that. I said that I didn’t think so but I’d ask. So I asked Sister Freda and she said, “I couldn’t tell what he wanted. Tell him to eat fish!”
The poverty in Kenya is overwhelming. Today at our clinic by the river we were surrounded by hundreds of smelly needy people who were polite but desperate for a gift or attention or help. One man, Felix, whom I visited with early in the day as we made our way to the bridge, pestered me as we left. “You are my friend. You must give me something.” I offered him a pocket cross I have carried for at least 10 years. It was not well received and I kept it. He wanted my sunglasses. Why didn’t I give him my hat? He had his picture made in it with me. I wasn’t thinking. He left me only after I gave him a key chain flashlight. As we made our way to the vans and I was trying to ward off Felix a little boy tried to hold my hand. I was so eager to evade Felix that I ignored him. All he wanted was to hold my hand. Shame on me. I should have given him at least a moment of my attention.
Describing Lilly to the group that evening I felt very emotional and as I talked further I knew why. That afternoon in her quiet suffering I had looked into the eyes of Christ.
The next morning we were introduced to the Glue Boys of Kitale. First we saw some successes when we visited the Kitale Forest Academy school where some of the Oasis of Hope**** boys are in school. We took our signs and took “Asante sana” pictures with the boys.
The Oasis of Hope story is an inspiring one for several reasons. Short-term mission trips have been criticized as simply an excuse for feel good traveling. Oasis of Hope testifies to why they are more than that.
Lydia is a successful landscape architect in Los Angeles. In her forties she has a bright smile an infectious laugh and a contagious enthusiasm for what she has done and is doing. In 2005 she went to a meeting at Saddleback about mission trips, thinking she was going to Mexico. Imagine her surprise when she found herself in Africa. She was moved by the street boys of Kitale and wondered what she might do. Geoffrey, a social worker in Kitale remembered meeting her but did not have her email. Geoffrey had been raised by an abusive Aunt and was motivated to help the children of Kitale. Networking he found Lydia’s email and asked her if she wanted to help the glue boys. She emailed back asking what he had in mind. Less than two hours later he emailed back with an eighteen-page proposal and The Oasis of Hope was born with Geoffrey’s expertise and Lydia’s energy and fund raising. In this their third year they have taken twenty to thirty boys (and a smaller number of girls) off the street into supervised housing and school. And just as importantly off glue!
Glue is an important commodity in Kitale. It is currency, comfort, and corrupting. It is sold by cobblers, who use it in shoe repair, out their back door. By inhaling its vapors it allows street kids as young as five to survive without a home or parents. It keeps them from being cold in the elements. It prevents hunger. It promotes self protective (and self destructive) aggression. It allows them to have the necessary moxie to “dumpster dive” or trash can rummaging for food that others won’t or don’t’ eat. There are hundreds of these kids in Kitale who beg 70% of the time for glue money and only 30% of the time for food money. Unfortunately most are boys since the girls are often taken off the street and abused by older men and then discarded.
Enter the Oasis of Hope. in a converted one story building near railroad tracks. Geoffrey began inviting the kids in for food and “school”. He operates on the premise that “only God can change their lives.” School involves teaching all the characters in the Bible, crafts, and puzzles. Glue had to be left outside (Oasis rule) but where the boys could see it (boys rule- so it wouldn’t be stolen.)
Lydia was able to raise funds to move the kids that followed this path to “houses” of 6 boys or girls and a supervising “mom.” In their home they learn as a family- Hygiene, bed making, chores, etc. Oasis uses a Boys town model. So far four houses for boys and 2 houses for girls have been established. In spite of skeptics in the community these children have been “mainstreamed” into the Kitale Forest Academy School successfully. Eventually some of the children are even told, “Here is a hundred shillings, go to the store and bring me the change.”
A house can be established for $1600 and support for each child, including room, board, school supplies, and uniforms. It is a wonderful mission opportunity for a church, Sunday school, club, business or individual.
The goal of Oasis of Hope is NO street children in Kitale.
On the last day of February we held our final clinic at Sister Freda’s. I consulted with a Kenyan doctor just out of training, who wanted me to see a 33 year old Type I diabetic in Sister Freda’s Hospital. Dr Daniel Tamui had just finished his internship in Nairobi and knew what he was doing, unlike some of the “attending” senior doctors who had been advising him. The man was hospitalized after developing the three “polys” of diabetes- polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia – increased thirst, urination, and appetite. The only laboratory work on the man was a blood sugar of > 40 mmol/L. I was not familiar with mmol/L as we use mg/dL in America. But it corresponds to a blood sugar > 900 mg/dL (Blood sugar of 100mg% = ~ 4.0 mmol/L). So his blood sugar was very high and probably indicated that he had some renal impairment as well. Dr. Tamui started him on IM and IV insulin. When his blood sugar decreased to ~ 10mmol/L the “attending” started him on metformin and stopped insulin. Not surprisingly his blood sugar increased to 33 mmol/L. I told Dr Tamui to discontinue the metformin and restart the insulin. He knew this was the correct thing to do but did not want to override his “attending.” He planned to total his daily intake of regular insulin and give 2/3 that amount as 70/30 insulin in the morning and 1/3 in the evening. As Dr Tamui and the patient were Christians they asked me to say a prayer for them and I did.
It is March 1, 2007 and we are leaving the Kitale Club and going to Narok, 6 hours away. I gave Joseph Waineru and Peter pictures of our family and a copy of the Apostles Creed and the 10 Commandments. Cherry gave Elijah (Speedy) some Famous Amos cookies and beef jerky and we took a photo together.
As we left Terry said to Mary Beth, “If we keep coming over here we might become Democrats.”
“Why?” she said.
“Because Democrats are for the people and Republicans are just for themselves.” We just smiled and kept our mouths shut.
Our caravan stopped for a break in “tea country” south of Eldoret near a town called Kericho. This is tea country! Kenya is the world's third largest producer of tea after India and Sri Lanka and Kericho is in the heart of Kenya's tea plantations. There are rolling hills carpeted in neat, bright green tea bushes as far as you can see. The climate here is perfect for tea with rain falling almost every afternoon. Kericho was named after Ole Kericho, a Masai chief who was killed in battle by the Gusii in the 18th century. As we drove through the colorful tea plantations my thoughts turned to the future and our return to Kenya. We’d like to come back in August with Steve R. but I have promised my 93 year old mother I will not leave her as long as she needs me.
It is a long way to Narok. We have been in the vans for four hours on really rough roads through beautiful fertile country but poor, poor, poor. We passed through a town, Longisa, and could see the spire of its Catholic Church. Finally six hours after leaving Kitale we arrived at the Seasons Hotel in Narok. Cherry and I received our room key and were pleasantly surprised to find our third floor corner room had a balcony overlooking the city. We could also see a shop across the narrow parking lot and we spent a few minutes there after checking in. The shop was run by a minister’s wife and she said the sales benefited the Masai women. I began to doubt this story when a few days later Agnes Makhanu, Sister Freda’s assistant came out of the shop laughing and said the woman had told her and Sister Freda (who had come with us from Kitale for a clinic in Masai country) to leave her shop, that they were interfering with her selling to the “Mzungu.” Sister Freda told the lady she and Agnes were “with the Mzungu” to the embarrassment of the lady. I’m not sure a minister’s wife would have been so commercial and insensitive. Cherry and I bought Masai ruling sticks for gifts and bracelets and Masai necklaces for ourselves. After lunch we headed in our vans to Narok Junior Academy where we played with the kids, took photos, and visited with the teachers. One of the teachers had a seven-year-old son who had had a ventriculoperitoneal shunt since infancy and she wondered if it was still working. The boy was asymptomatic and growing out of his shoes so I suggested she bring him to the clinic for an eye examination looking for signs of increased intracranial pressure. Terry and I gave her a twenty for shoes with Sister Freda’s blessing.
Cherry and I rode back from the school to The Seasons (definitely not the Four Seasons) with Larry and Pam Carpenter and Eddie and Sharra Poteet. Pam had told Cherry a story that we both found very moving. We wanted to hear Sharra’s side of the story and so we hitched a ride. We saw the full rainbow that begins this narrative and a beautiful green mosque. We were taking pictures of all this and telling our driver “go…no…stop… OK...go…” Doug Goodman, who had been here before turned to the driver and said, “Wait ‘til they see an elephant!” We all laughed. The story. Fifteen years ago Pam and Larry’s son had been a passenger involved in a motor vehicle accident after a Waxahachie football game and had been severely injured. He had several fractures, a ruptured spleen, and was in critical condition. During his long recovery there were always many people at the hospital surrounding him except this one night. Pam was alone and feeling angry at God for allowing this to happen to her only child when a lady walked in and said that she had felt called by God to come and pray with Pam. They adjourned to the chapel as Pam told her of her anger at God. As the woman prayed she said that God knew how she felt because He had lost a son too. Pam said that prayer and that moment changed her life. She realized she had been focused on self and not God and began praying that whatever happened God would look after her son. Pam has never forgotten that moment when her faith changed. As her son recovered she often thought she would like to thank that woman for her prayer but she did not remember who she was. She had told this story many times always ending with her hope to know who the lady was except last year when the Waxahachie group went to the Mt. Elgon church. She told this story to the group but ended before making her request to know the mystery lady. On the two and a half hour drive back to Kitale Sharra leaned forward to Pam and said, “Pam, it’s on my heart to tell you that I was that woman that came and prayed with you that night.” And Pam dissolved in tears as Cherry and I did when we heard the story. Sharra’s version is a perfect example of the profound effect an act that we consider simple and forgettable can have. Sharra had gone to the hospital to see another victim of the crash but for some reason went to Pam. She does not remember the prayer or much else about that evening fifteen years ago. It is simply something she did. Just as her leaning forward to tell Pam on Mt Elgon who she was took little effort. She had known Pam casually for years never guessing the profound effect she had had or the need to reveal her identity.
It is 7 AM on March 2 in Narok. The diesel generator below our room is off and on pumping out black smoke and clattering unsuccessfully to light The Seasons Hotel where we are staying. From our room we see Narok, a Masai town 200 km from Nairobi. School children in blue sweaters chatter as they walk East alongside the pockmarked road, laughing and taunting each other. When the generator is silent bird sounds – swallows, roosters, and who knows what else – dominate the environment interspersed with occasional motorbike and truck. The city comes alive. A bus labeled Ole Tips Secondary Girls School rumbles into town. From the 3rd floor it is cool and hazy and there is little indication of the poverty below. It looks like a sleepy city stretching to meet the day with energy and hope.
It is no wonder the Kenyans are world-class runners. They walk or run everywhere from the time they can walk. Many of the small towns and villages have “hotels” with names like National Hotel and Butcher shop. Some are barely wooden shacks. But as the people walk great distances, as in Jesus’ time, a place for the sojourner to spend the night is essential. These places with funny names provide sanctuary for the weary traveler, even the man who walks on his hands that Cherry just saw. So many questions come flooding in at quiet times like this. Why are we so blessed and these people so challenged? What do we do to not go back unchanged to our lives? God please give us the wisdom to discern Your will for us.
After breakfast we headed east ten to fifteen miles out of Narok on a dirt road to a deserted Health Center built by the Ye Dam Church of South Korea and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. Steve later tells us that you could write a book on community development based on this building. Rick Warren teaches that you don’t build a building first. When Saddleback wanted to build a bricks and mortar church in Orange County Rick said, “No, your foot will grow to the size of your shoe. You build community and relationships before you build a building.” This is what the folks who built this building did not do and it sits empty. We have to clean the floors and shelves before we can work in it. I met Stonic’s uncle Tumanka, a physician’s assistant and anesthesiologist from Nairobi. He is associated with the African Medical Research and Education Foundation (AMREF). He came down to work with us for the day. He spends one week per month in Mogadishu, Somalia doing anesthesia. He says there is “predictable insecurity” in Somalia. Both sides will tell medical personnel when they need to “get out” because a firefight is coming. He is proud of his work with AMREF. He says that when AMREF goes into an area that they reduce mortality by 50%. He said that unlike Kenya that the incidence of HIV/AID’s is very low in Somalia because there is very little mobility, very little premarital sex, and very little prostitution. But Western diseases like diabetes and hypertension are on the increase in both countries in addition to malaria, TB and Kala-Azar (the second most common protozoan infection after malaria). The incidence of HIV/AID’s in Kenya 15 years ago was 14 % but according to Tumanka the incidence has fallen to 7 % countrywide due to death, education, condoms, and increased awareness.
We saw Ntayiai Ole Ntokokoyia, an 11-year-old boy, who had been paraplegic since an operation for spina bifida was performed when he was a few months old. Unusual for someone with his condition he has complete bowel and bladder control. On exam he had ankylosis of his left knee and what felt to me like bilateral dislocated hips and scoliosis. As he left he told Cherry that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. Terry and I were really taken with him. Sometimes the tragedy overtakes you and you turn away to hide the tears. I want to get him some help. If we could get him to the Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas they would probably treat him for nothing. After returning to Texas and searching the Internet I discovered a pediatric orthopedic hospital in Kijabe –CURE International with headquarters in PA. I called them and received an email from a social worker at the Kijabe Hospital. I arranged for George Sadera and Stonic to take him there, as it is only 90 km from Narok. They did and here are the results. They plan to give him physical therapy before deciding if surgery will benefit him.
We returned in the afternoon to the clinic and saw 35-40 more people – kids with asthma, otitis, and ringworms and adults with arthritis (one case of RA), GERD, tinea, UTI’s, and bronchitis. The poverty is overwhelming and the flies are everywhere. The National Geographic pictures you have seen are real. Flies land in the children’s eyes and on their lips and are unacknowledged except by the Mzungus who nervously swat them away only to see them return. George Sadera was our interpreter. He is a Masai (who had killed a lion with 5 other boys) and a college student in Uganda, who wants to enter the tourism business. He did a very good job. Asked if he wanted to be a doctor he said, “No, being a doctor is a calling from God and I am not called.” He gave me a medal that means I am an AIDS Hero. The affection and the respect feel good. Take that Health Plans!
Tonight we had a long meeting at the Seasons full of special recognition, prayers, and good byes. Steve again talked about community development and building relationships before building a building. Throwing $$ doesn’t work. Sister Freda is so gracious and thankful for our coming. She says she will pray for our return and I am sure she will be successful. I suspect this is where I am called. I pray (what a concept) that I hear that call clearly.
We sat with Doug Goodman at breakfast. He has been here for 4 weeks. He is married with 2 teenage boys. He is a product marketer and hopes to use some of those talents at Saddleback where he has been a member for six years. Although Lisa had said we were leaving at 8:30 Steve was upset with us, especially Doug, as we sat drinking coffee until 8:10. Steve said we were leaving at 8 and everyone was waiting on us! Doug had to scurry to his room to get his luggage.
The three-hour drive to Keekorok Lodge in the Masai Mara Game Preserve was another bumpy ride. The dirt road to Masai Mara is very very rough with deep gouges and ruts. We passed through grassy lands with a few trees and surrounding low mountains. Many Masai were herding cattle and goats. Some welcomed pictures and others shook their hands and heads “No” as we pointed our cameras. Sometimes we were respectful, sometimes not. The popular story is that they fear that photographs steal part of their soul. True? We took several photographs of wildebeest, Thompson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, ostrich, giraffes, and monkeys. Once inside Masai Mara we saw three elephants and two giraffes. Once inside Keekorok we got our room assignments and settled into the luxurious surroundings. Cherry and I have cottage # 88 with a view of the front of the Lodge. We changed and went to the pool where Steve and Jason are swimming. Steve was having a Keekorok Special and so we joined him from across the pool as we wrote postcards we had purchased at the Lodge Store. We didn’t last long at the pool. The sun is very intense close to the equator and I could tell I’d had enough after 10-15 minutes. We had the lunch buffet, a nice change from the monotony of the previous week - tilapia salad and a great dessert table. It is 2 PM and at 3 we go on a game drive.
Our game drive started off in Peggy Lee fashion. “Is this all there is?” But finally after an hour or so we began to see animals (along with 15 or 16 other vans racing to the scene!).
We saw Topi, gazelles, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, hippopotami (at least their nostrils), cheetah, wart hog, crown crane, ostrich, lions, baboons, and one lone hyena. And a turtle! As the sun was going down in the west we could see the full moon rapidly rising over the low mountains in the east as we viewed a 360-degree panorama through the raised roof of our van. As we looked north into a small forest we saw a family of elephants feeding at dusk. Cherry felt that God was rewarding us for our hard work with this special moment – the beauty of the sunset, moonrise, and the pachyderm representing family –the elephant. It was a moment that photos cannot capture, an image Cherry will hold forever.That evening after another delicious dinner with Terry and Mary Beth (we missed wine!) we were treated to Masai dancing (the correct spelling – is it Maasai or Masai – both
appear to be acceptable) led by Olekuya, a Masai warrior, whom we visited with later. After the Masai men danced he gave a short lecture about each dance and its significance. One dance was for battle, one for any special occasion, one for the rite of passage- circumcision, one for marriage. He said he would tell people more in a lecture in the TV room. Only 4 of us followed him and when we found he would talk for an hour we told him we needed to retire but then proceeded to pelt him with questions for the next twenty minutes. He is 27 and unmarried. He will have to pay 12 cows for his wife. His father has 6 wives. Circumcision, male and female, is still practiced from age 14-16 for girls and 16-20 for boys. The government is trying to stop female circumcision but its lack of success is another example of tribalism trumping nationalism. Killing lions is no longer allowed unless the lion is killing the Masai cattle. We slipped him $10 and took several photos with him.
The next morning we checked out of room # 88 after restful sleep under the mosquito netting. We went on another game drive and shouldn’t have as events of the day unfolded. We saw hartebeest and a herd of ostrich and a herd of water buffalo. Otherwise nothing new. We then went to a Masai village just outside Keekorok. The men and women were dressed in their colorful costumes and danced for us while the cameras clicked. Then the men sacrificed a goat in our honor. They placed a hand over the goat’s mouth and nose and squeezed gently until the goat became unconscious and then they slit the throat and skinned the goat collecting blood form the jugular into the crease between the skin and underlying muscle from which a favored warrior is allowed to drink the first blood. Then using two sticks of hard and soft wood on a cow patty they, through friction, start a fire to roast the goat on. We concluded our tour by visiting the village and hearing about construction of the cow dung homes, surprisingly cool and non smelly but claustrophobic for this six-footer. By this time it was near noon and we had a six-hour trip to Nairobi, where we were to shower at the Safari Park Hotel Health Club and then move onto the airport for a 10 PM flight to Amsterdam. This was truly the ride from hell over roads that were barely paved and full of pot holes. I am convinced some of them held small herds of Thompson Gazelles. We did manage to stop for one last shopping spree and Cherry bought a 30” high figure carving made from Kilimanjaro stone. It is unique and beautiful. That girl has good taste. I bought a cheap musical instrument, a Kalimba. I don’t have good taste just nostalgia. Then our van overheated and had to be abandoned. We all split up and moved to other vans. The one Cherry, Julie, and I were in stopped for repairs at 3:15 PM in Narok and we missed lunch (and a bathroom break) sitting in it. We did manage to snag some fruit from Moses, a fruit vendor. Mango’s two for 50 shillings (about 70¢). Also saw a two door Honda with eight Masai men in full-dress sitting inside. An hour outside of Narok this van gave up the ghost as we had been traveling 110-120 kph over roads more suitable for 50. It was scary. An hour later we were behind schedule but back on the road again and pulled into the Safari Park Hotel at 7:05 with 25 minutes to get our luggage, find the health club at the back of the complex, shower, dress, and get back to the vans. It was hectic and we gathered our things hurriedly after a quick shower. John, our driver, had somehow made it in our old van and we all rode together to the airport. My feet had been bothering me and I recalled an incident at home 3 weeks before when I stood up and could not feel my left foot. I severely twisted my ankle as I fell to the floor. It was a weird occurrence that had not recurred but my puzzlement remained why only my foot had gone to sleep. As I walked to the van and then was dropped off at the airport I realized that my right foot felt numb, like at the dentist and my shoe felt full around my foot. It was uncomfortable to walk and I thought, “I must get this checked out when I get home.” As we were standing in line one of our group was showing off a couple of Masai bracelets that a friend he had met in Nairobi had just dropped off for him and his wife. I reached for my bracelet I had bought in Narok and it was not on my arm. I had just given my watch to John as a goodbye gift and had not noted it missing then but that was before we disrobed for security. I frantically went through all my stuff – waist pouch, carry on, backpack, and pockets- twice, before concluding that in my haste to dress I had left it at the Safari Park Hotel Health Club. I was really disappointed and asked Steve Rutenbar to look for it when he returned to the Hotel. It had been hectic since early in the morning and I was in an even fouler mood when I realized that Cherry and I were not sitting together on our flight and I was to be wedged in a middle seat for the 9-hour flight. I told Frank that all I had asked for on this whole trip was an aisle seat! I was tired and unhappy. I boarded before Cherry and the others. Frank, who preboarded with George, smiled benignly at me as I passed him and didn’t say a word. “What are you smiling at?” I scowled silently. Instead I wedged myself in the middle seat between two rather large men. Great! And my foot hurt! I took some consolation as I looked at an edition of USA Today that Texas had beaten Texas A&M in basketball in 2 overtimes the day before. Just before takeoff Frank came walking back and told me he had an aisle seat for me next to Cherry and he was going to take my seat. I was embarrassed (but grateful).
I took the seat. Across the aisle were Terry and Mary Beth getting comfortable. Terry with his shoes off and Mary Beth with her head resting on Terry’s shoulder. I slipped my shoes off and began to relax. An hour into the flight nature called and as I slipped on my right shoe I felt resistance. Something was in my shoe. And suddenly I knew what it was. I began laughing at myself as my fingers grasped my blue and black Masai bracelet I had “lost.” I had been walking through the hotel and airport with it in my shoe! But it sure got me in a better mood as I realized what a whiner I had been.
What do you think?
The Star Thrower
Once upon a time, there was a wise man, much like Eiseley himself, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had the habit of walking along the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore; as he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day, so he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead, he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.