Friday, January 19, 2018

Out of the mouths of babes...


Well, we are finally at the end of our last day in Maua.  We said our farewells to the work teams yesterday, and passed through the gates of the compound at Maua Methodist Hospital for the last time...for this trip.  Today, we spent the day at a school in the area and we worked with the Hospital to conduct a Medical Camp. At this camp, all of the children were given worming pills and a sucker (to help with the medicine’s taste...spoonful of sugar and all), while the adults went through a serious of medical screenings. These screenings included eye glasses, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, etc.  The purpose of the screenings is to funnel all medical needs through the hospital...not to treat at the camp. Very wise.

When we arrived, we were met by a multitude of children eager to play games and make silly faces for the cameras.  They were a delight!  At each location we were at, the children had much the same reaction.  They loved having their picture taken (most of them), and loved even more seeing their pictures on the screen.

Each night of the trip, we meet for a brief devotional and a few questions to lead us through processing or decompressing the events, thoughts, and emotions from the day.  Tonight, we began by singing the hymn, “Open My Eyes That I May See.”

Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That will unclasp and set me free.

Open my ears that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear.
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.

Silently now I wait for thee
Ready my God Thy will to see
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit Divine.

Our first point of discussion jumped right to the point and asked where we had seen or heard God’s truth.  As I reflected and pondered that point, my mind went to the children.  You know....out of the mouths of babes.  I’ve also been reminded of one very obvious fact while here in Kenya.  We are very different than virtually everybody else.  Suffice it to say, that in a country of darker skinned individuals, our pale white skin would be easy to pick out of a line-up.  For many of the children we were with today, if they have seen a white person up close, they have not seen many.  They were so intrigued that they kept gently touching the back of my arm and running away just to see what white skin felt like. 

Here’s the point.  Our visit to this school today thrust that community, and especially the children into an environment where they interacted not only with a stranger, but one that could not be more different than them.  What I found of note was there reaction and response to meeting someone so different.  It was not a reaction of fear, opposition, animosity, or even division.  It was wonder!  They were fascinated, not fearful.  Perhaps from these children we can learn a lot.  Our society in America has come to a place that tells us that if someone is different than we are, then they are our enemy.  Why?  I think it’s because animosity from a place of fear is much easier.  What if we took the time to get to know those that are different from us?  What if our response was one of wonder rather than division?  Honestly, if we were to hack away at all the layers we would find that we have far more in common than we think. And, if we can spend our time celebrating that which we have in common and learning from each other, then the rest would come to matter less and less to us.  

My prayer is that we can come to a place of fascination rather than fear...of celebrating our differences rather than fighting over them.  We are all in this together.  God has more than enough love, mercy and grace for each of us, and there is nothing we can do to gain any more of that grace over others.  So, why don’t we put aside the petty arguments and take a lesson from these beautiful Kenyan children.  What can we learn from those different than us?  

Bwana Asafiwe

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lives Changed


Today we finished the house and dedicated it to Bessie and Alfred.  Bessie and Alfred are a brother and sister that both have AIDS and have lost both parents.  In fact, the only living relative they have is an uncle that donated the land where their new home now sits. As I am writing this, and later as you are reading it, Bessie and Alfred are living in their own home with a concrete floor and metal roof.  For the first time in their life!  The ceremony was emotional if nothing else.  Lots of singing, dancing, celebrating, and many tears of joy.

Tonight, our devotional probed the question, “What will you tell someone who wasn’t with us at the dedication about today?”  The short answer is really that it is something that you should experience first hand.  I can describe it and show you pics and videos, but none of them will do it justice.  This was an event where the whole community came together to celebrate for Alfred and Bessie, and as I’ve discussed earlier on the trip, celebrating is not something the Kenyans do lightly. 

I will try to give you an idea.  Up to this point, this brother and sister have been living in “less than desirable” conditions. In fact through the eyes of a white, Protestant, male, American, it was unthinkable.  One of our team members noted tonight that our pets have better living conditions.....and she’s right.  But today, we had the opportunity to witness something incredible.  Alfred and Bessie went from their existing living conditions to a 10x20 duplex with a concrete floor, metal roof, and even a lock on the door.

It’s not often (if ever) that you get to witness the exact moment that changes a persons life.  Of course, we have all been present when friends or loved ones have surrendered their life to Christ, but for many that is a gradual change.  This was different.  This event has the potential to be that one solitary moment where Bessie or Alfred can look back and say, “That changed my life.” I don’t say this for self-gratification, I am simply attempting to convey the magnitude of today’s events.  In fact, if anybody deserves praise it is Stanley and Kathie who have been working with the Hospital on this program for 14 years!  Lives changed indeed.  

Many go through life never experience such an event, and yet we have seen it a few times in our short time in this beautiful country.  What would I say to someone not here? 2 things:

Get here and experience it!  Witnessing a life changing event like that will change your life.


We do not need near as much as we think we do.

Until tomorrow.........Bwana Asafiwe!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


(Great photo, Kevin Anderson!)

Here’s a shocker for you....another great day in Maua, Kenya.  Half of our group went back to work on the AIDS Orphanage House where they completed that majority of the work on the house.  Tomorrow, I will be joining them and we will finish it up and dedicate it to the family tomorrow afternoon. The team that worked on the house had a bit of an eventful day.  Apparently, they have received somewhat of a celebrity status.  Teens and young adults from the surrounding neighborhoods gathered to watch as they worked diligently on the house.  In fact, our very own Eric Douglas, was even proposed to.  Until she found out he was slightly over 21 that is.

Back at the Hospital Compound, we continued our work on the rock wall.  We lifted rocks, mixed cement, pushed wheelbarrows full of cement over the rough terrain from the mixer to the wall, and made great friends with Pyus, Patrick, and Samson.

Pyus and Patrick are on the work team at the wall and are just as patient as they a lot of fun to be around. Samson has patiently (and safely) driven us around Kenya for the trip. They calmly teach us to do the task at hand, but the most frequent Swahili we hear is “polepole.”  This means, “slow.”  Pyus reminded me of the obvious.  If we hurry and rush the process, the wall will fall and we will only end up having to do it again.  Polepole!  We want to keep the momentum on the task and even complete it if possible.  Unfortunately, this also means we tend to get in a hurry which can lead to sloppy work that many times has to be redone.  

Of course, it is always better to do things right the first time.  In America, however, we seem to have an addiction with getting things done quicker.  The result?  The quality is held captive by the quantity.  Samson, Pyus, and Patrick are always kind in reminding us “polepole.”  

As I reflect more on the week, I think there may be more here for us.  Our verse last night for our devotional was Psalm 46:10.  “Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in all the earth.  The Lord Of Hosts is with us.”

How many time do we rush through something just to get it done and move on to the next task? What are we missing out on when we are less “in the moment,” and more “in the task?”  This is not just about building a rock wall.  This applies to when we are with our children, spouses........or, dare I say....God?  Perhaps our new friends Samson, Pyus, and Patrick have a bit of instruction for us.  When we are tucking our kids in at night, spending time with our spouse, interacting with coworkers, going about the various tasks in our day, and even when we are spending time with our Creator.... polepole!  Savor in the moment.  Thank you Samson, Pyus, and Patrick!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

This morning we began with a brief devotional and prayer time with several of the Hospital Staff.  This time together was short and to the point, but it was easy to tell from Stanley and those in attendance that it was an important part of their daily routine.  

Our day ended with our team dividing our forces once again between the AIDS Orphanage House, and the gargantuan rock wall we are building around the Hospital Compound.  Just like the work on the house, it is all done in a rather primitive matter.  The mortar was mixed on the ground, the trench was dug by a handful of individuals with shovels and pick axes, and the wall was constructed by hand.  Nonetheless, we learned a lot and friendships were made.  We will always be thankful for the Kenyan work team in charge of the wall for their teaching and patience.  Also, they were very impressed that I not only knew of Bob Marley, but could sing a few bars of his “One Love.”  (A great tune that I’m actually listening to as I type this tonight!)

In between the prayer time and working on the wall, I was given the opportunity to spend some time with Kendi and Emily pictured above.  These gracious ladies are the Chaplains of Maua Methodist Hospital.  Kevin, Eric, and I went with them on their rounds through the hospital praying with the patients.  

Oddly, even after touring the hospital I still had in my mind a scene where we would be with the patients that desired our prayers in a one-on-one basis.  Keep in mind, however, that this is not the same style of hospital as Harris Downtown.  The concept of a private room is virtually non-existent unless for some reason quarantine is necessary.  Expecting mothers can be placed in a semi-private room, but the rest of them are in a large room with a dozen or so beds...maybe a curtain that can be pulled for privacy if needed.  So, most of our stops were in the middle of the room, introductions were made and we prayed for the group as a whole in the room.

There were some hurdles.  Very few of them spoke English, so we needed a translator. This made it cumbersome to maintain a cohesive train of thought with the prayers.  However, we did make the rounds and offer up our prayers for the patients of the Maua Methodist Hospital.  It was a good day.  Bwana Asafiwe!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bwana Asafiwe



Today began like any other day in the life of our unwavering-joy-filled friends of Maua, Kenya.  After an early breakfast, we join them for morning Chapel Services at the Maua Methodist Hospital.  It was basic and beautifully in-extravagant! Words of welcome, we (as the visiting volunteer team) introduced ourselves, Responsive Reading of a Psalm, singing a hymn together...unaccompanied, short devotional/message, Offertory, Lord’s Prayer, and Blessing/Sending Forth.  

I’ve always thought there is something pure about a community of faith coming to God in such a way, unblemished with the fancy embellishments that we get so distracted with.  Don’t misunderstand me....I love both Traditional & Contemporary worship including (almost) any and all instruments and “bells and whistles.”  But to come in such a way, free of all of that, in a small way can take away the facade that often times we try to hide behind.  

Today,  was most definitely an eventful day.  After chapel, we were given a tour of the Maua Methodist Hospital and a brief history.  It was as if we were teleported to the 1920’s.  The building itself was somewhat primitive (as they all are) to our American standards, but not in a negative way at all.  Much of the equipment, while it’s adequate and sufficient would be rapidly discarded in many US hospitals, but yet, amazing things are happening.  The people of Maua are receiving medical attention that was all but non-existent not too many years ago.  Stanley, Kathie, and the rest of the Saints at Maua Methodist Hospital are most assuredly to be applauded. If you are ever wondering what to do with some extra cash laying around, consider the Maua Methodist’s how they survive!

After the tour, we had tea at Kathie’s house with several of the department heads of the hospital. to work!  5 of us headed to the work site for the AIDS Orphanage house we are building and the rest stayed behind at the Hospital for whatever they needed.  Turned out we had the better end of the deal at the house.  They spent the day transporting a pile of massive hand.
At the work site,  we met Charles (Bossman), Elizabeth (Queen...and a young mother of a 10 yr old daughter), a few other workers, and Alfred.  Alfred and his sister are the recipients of the house we are building and are required a designated amount of “sweat equity” in their new home.  As you can see from the photos, we use the term “house” loosely.   It is a 10x20 building that is divided into 2 rooms with a concrete slab floor and roof. Again....not much to America standards, but to them it is everything.

As we worked, all the work was done with hand tools. sounds exhausting.  Here’s where we differ.  Everything about American culture is about streamlining and simplifying. We want everything done quicker and more efficiently...who wouldn’t?  Turns out....Kenyans.  Without even a second thought, Charles and the other workers go to work cutting boards with hand saws, and trimming excess boards with a machete.  We were told that at the Hospital, a group of ladies were trimming grass by hand with machetes.  Perhaps, yet again, we could learn from our Chapel services this morning and the work ethic of the work teams of the afternoon.

There was one other moment in worship.  After the collection bags were passed there was a brief lull of silence.  Then, without warning a single voice from the congregation gently sang out a soft melody.  Almost as if on cue, the multitude joined in a “Call & Response” fashion, just as gentle and just as soft in 4 part harmony.  It was stunning.  This was so different from the deafening enthusiasm we experienced the day before.  This was....transcendent.  I have no clue what they were singing, nor did Kathie who is fluent in Swahili, but I was in awe.  I couldn’t move.... I couldn’t even reach for my phone to record it.  I was afraid of somehow disturbing this holy moment.  Wesley talked about our Sacraments being a “means of grace,” meaning it was through the sacraments of Communion and Baptism that we experience God’s grace.  Or in other words, in those moments the veil between us and the Divine is slightly thinner.  To be clear, I have the utmost respect for John Wesley, his theology and teachings....but for me, this moment was a means of grace.  

I know today’s post was a bit long, thanks for bearing with me.  I will close by saying this.....God is without a doubt at work in reconciling and transforming ways in Kenya, Africa!  Bwana Asafiwe

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What a day



Today was an exhausting day in the most wonderful way.  We spent the morning worshiping with Stanley Gitari at his church.  When we arrived, we were met with the sound of joyous singing coming from the church.  Stanley informed us it was Sunday School.  As we went inside we saw many children of all ages singing together at the top of their lungs.  I asked Stanley what they were singing, and he said they were saying, “If I die, let me die....I’m a soldier in the Army of the Lord.”  

Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me go on.  This was not a dirge or funeral march they were begrudgingly singing.  This was not a reluctant acceptance of an inevitability to come, or even a resolve to a status quo.  No....this was a celebration!  It was a song of joy proclaiming above all else, that they are part of the Lord’s chosen, and for them it meant they had joined the ranks all other believer’s to fight the powers of sin and darkness.  And for them, this was cause for celebration. (In fact, I might add here.  Salvation to the Kenya people is much more than a name on a church roster. Every time they introduced themselves, it was, “Bwana Asafiwe (God is Good).  My name is ..... and Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior.”  This rolled off the tongue with each of them so smoothly, that it was evident it was part of their normal introduction they gave to all they met.)  As I listened to the children sing, I had to fight back the tears welling up in my was one of several such moments from today.

After a tea time with African Tea and fresh mangos right off the tree (Yum!), we hopped in the vans and traveled over to New Hope.  As a District, Lisa had encouraged the churches to raise or donate $300/church to fund the digging of a water well at New Hope.  When we arrived, the whole community was already out front singing songs of joy and dancing to welcome us.  They came to the gate and ushered us all in as if they had been waiting their whole life for us to visit.  

Once inside, introductions were made and Stanley informed them all why we were there.  When he told them that we were donating $2,000,000 shillings (or $20,000 USD) for the sole purpose of the water well the place erupted in song, cheers, dancing and tears.  This was a life changing moment for the great folks at New Hope.

It’s is all too easy to lose sight of the things in life that matter.  *Spoiler Alert* The things that matter are rarely what we think they are at the time.  Today, a group of white Americans were reminded the importance of being in the moment and celebrating what matters.  This lesson came from a radically welcoming group of people with a joy that was contagious, and an enthusiasm in worship that was deafening.  May we all find joy in the riches we have that can’t be bought with money.

I could go on and on about the comically “bumpy” van ride, the joyous worship, or the happiness on the faces of the children as we took their photos and showed it to them.’s late and I’m tired.  Feel free to hop on Facebook and check out some of the postings from others on the trip.  Until tomorrow, let me say with a full heart....... Bwana Asafiwe!    

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Warm Welcome to Weary Travelers


So, as you are aware, I’ve already missed a post for this trip.  I’m confident, however, that after I share with you the events from the last few days you will understand why.

We boarded the plane on Thursday (right?  Wasn’t it Thursday that we left?).  Once our plane was in the air, I’m convinced that we entered into some wierd time-space continuum where time simultaneously sped up and slowed down. The flight was around 18 hours (I think) with a stop in London as the half-way point. Here is where it get’s wierd.  We left around 4:30 on Thursday, but then 9 hours later we end up in London, it’s the next morning, we jump on a second plane that was supposed to only be 9 hours, but we arrived in Nairobi at 10:00 pm friday night.  What?!  (Of course I understand the magic of Time Zones.). But, I was incredibly discoriented.  I’m not sure if it was the fact that I slept through the second flight, or the fact that we seemed to transition from day to night without any notice, but by the time we landed I didn’t know what day it was, what time it was supposed to be.  Wierd feeling.

But... after all of the time floating in the time-space continuum, we arrived safely in Nairobi and the Methodist Resort & Conference Center.  The folks there were great!!!  They quickly got us checked into our rooms, so we could grab a few hours sleep and then gave us a wonderful breakfast this morning before we hit the road for Maua.

Riding in the van from Nairobi to Maua was a trip.  Traffic lights, lanes, no passing zones..... all suggestions to be taken lightly.  Samson, our driver, is a champ!  With only a few close calls, a stop at a Police check (more on that in a minute), and a long day, we arrived at Maua where we will be staying for the next few days as we work with the Clinic and build the AIDS Orphanage house.

On our way today, we stopped at a farm where we learned how importance agriculture is to the people of Kenya.  Our host shared with us some of the advancements they are using to provide affordable options for farmers that will quickly produce profit as well as much needed commodities such as milk, fish, fruits & vegetables, and other livestock.  It was a great afternoon.  

All in all, we have received nothing but the warmest welcome from all we encounter.  Even in what seemed to me to be an unlikely place.  This brings me back to the stop at the Police Check. As best I could tell, the checks are placed at various locations along the road, and at each one vehicles are selected to pull over and checked to ensure the driver’s paperwork and license is all in order.  We were one of the lucky ones at this stop.  

I sensed Samson’s (our driver) anxiety rise just a bit with the stop.  Perhaps I was reading into it.....I’m always a bit anxious when I get pulled over, even if it’s something as simple as a bust tail light.  He produced his license and credentials to the Officer holding the assault rifle and we waited as he looked everything over.  He eventually gave Samson some instructions to remember about maintaining his speed and gave the license and papers back to him. 

I was sitting in the front passenger seat of the van, the side the officer was interacting with our driver from as this is all transpiring, not knowing exactly how to act.  So , I did what I do best......I sat there awkwardly and silently hoping it would be over soon.  As the officer returned the paperwork to Samson, he touched my arm and said, “veel-a-tome” 

I didn’t know he was speaking to me, so I didn’t he repeated:  “veel-a-tome.”

At this point, it was clear he was speaking to me because he was standing there awkwardly waiting my response.  Questions began to race throught my mind.

“What is he saying?”

“Was this one of the Swahili phrases I was to memorize for the trip and can’t remember”

So, I calmly responded, “I’m sorry?”  He repeated, “veel-a-tom.”  

I finally admitted defeat with myself and admitted to the officer that I had noi idea what that meant.  So he said it slower.    Isn’t that funny, when someone doesn’t understand what we are saying, we say it slower to help them as if it doesn’t feel like we are stuck in the most awkard round of “MadGab.”  

“Feel at home.”  

Oh!!! “Feel at home.”  He was simply attempting to offer warm words of Welcome.... “Feel at home.”  

While I already miss driving on the right side of the road, and good ol’ Texas iced tea, I can honestly say we have received the warmest welcome from all we have encountered.  Tomorrow we will attend a worship service, present our check of donated money to provide a water well, and get some rest among other things before we begin our work projects on Monday.  Stay turned!!!