04 April 2008
Praise items -
- God granted safe travel for me upcountry twice last month. The roads in Kenya are atrocious. Suffice it to say that any and all travel is rather dangerous.
- My time with the Illinois team was very exciting, both ministry-wise and fellowship-wise. I believe God used us to challenge, inspire, and bless others, as He simultaneously worked in each of our lives.
- The 1st Benevolence Committee meeting that I chaired went quite well. God has assembled an enthusiastic and talented team for this new endeavor. I’m pleased to be a part of it.
- The fellowship group that meets in my house had some great times of nourishment – both in God’s Word and via the stomach!
- I got to see a fair amount of Bishop and Margaret and their family, which is always good!
- Rose and Sammy got into a new (and cheaper) house. That’s an answer to prayer!
- God had a really cool blessing lined up for me! Just this past week, I unexpectedly got to go to the Nairobi National Park (with a fairly new friend and two others). What a thrilling five hours! We saw so many animals, including my first-ever sighting of a Secretary bird! We also spotted numerous beautiful, elegant Maasai giraffes. We saw plentiful eland, buffalo, Cole’s hartebeest, impala, tortoises, warthogs, crowned cranes, vervet monkeys, ostriches, vultures, and zebra. Additionally, we saw a hyrax, a waterbuck, a tiny dik dik, and a jackal. The scenery itself was spectacular! God is so creative. Just imagine. He made everything for our enjoyment!
Prayer items –
- Please continue to pray that my work permit will be renewed.
- Pray for wisdom regarding my decision about my house at Matunda.
- Pray for safety on the road, as I will again travel to Matunda in about 10 days.
- Pray for my ongoing support level and that enough will come in to pay my rent every month.
I’ll conclude by quoting the words of Job. I pray that I can honestly echo his sentiments:
“The Almighty knows the way that I take;
when He has tested me I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed His steps;
I have kept to His way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of His lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”
The following excerpts of two poems are from Songs from the Slums by Toyohiko Kawaga. In the early decades of the 1900’s, as a young man, Kawaga lived in the slums of Tokyo, Japan.I've included them to help illustrate my story that follows. Enjoy.
As I feel my way
Along the muddy paths.
Are sloughs of slime
After the rain –
Rutted with wheel-tracks;
Ploughed with wooden shoes;
Strewn with the skins
Through the mire
Wade ragged boys and girls.
The muddy pools
Mirror the wretched shops.
Through the slop.
OUTSIDE MY WINDOW
And broken sandals,
And foul, reeking mud
Make one great compost-heap…
I know that vile things
Jump, and crawl, and leap…
With sidewalks a rare phenomenon even in the cities, keeping a pair of shoes clean and dry isn’t easy during the rainy season. Getting clothes to dry on the line requires much patience.
This is the season of large-winged termites awkwardly fluttering about, as they escape from the sodden ground. Frogs, which had been hibernating since the short rains in November and December, have now reappeared. Their seemingly orchestrated, noisy croaking is quite comical! Stagnant pools of rain water become ideal environments for mosquito breeding.
After being virtually tethered to Nairobi during the months of January and February (due to the post-election violence), I was on the road a fair amount during March.
My first trip was to Matunda for a funeral. After returning to Nairobi, my bus followed a huge dark cloud as I headed home. As I arrived at the stage near my house, the evidence indicated that a heavy rain shower had just passed through the neighborhood. I alighted from the bus, consciously aware that I could easily fall in the soggy, slippery mud – especially since I was wearing flip-flops and carrying a heavy bag!
Sure enough, in spite of my caution… down I went! My bag, my buttocks, and both of my hands were instantly caked in mud! As a matatu passed by me, the conductor yelled out the window, “Pole (Sorry)!” My falling must have been quite the sight!
The following week, I traveled with a team from the States to Awasi (near Kisumu). There for four days, we made numerous treks from our guesthouse to the pastor’s house. This 20-30 minute walk was quite a challenge. Almost the entire distance was through a very low-lying area that had turned into a virtual swamp with the rains. Reaching our destination still dry was an exercise in futility. Ha! My shoes got soaked by the cold water of huge puddles on more than one occasion. Funny enough, the local people didn’t struggle with the situation like we foreigners.
I next traveled the short distance to Kisumu to see Humphrey (Collins’ older brother). In the early stages of medical school there, I wanted to encourage him with a visit. The evening started dry, but by the time we finished dinner, a downpour had descended upon the city. “Deb, I’ve really appreciated the two times you’ve come to see me like this. I hope you will do it again.”
I gave him my umbrella as we parted company.
Back in Nairobi, I took this same team (plus Chelsie, who had just arrived from the States) to Karo and Jeremiah’s house for a wonderful lunch and time of fellowship. As we left, late in the afternoon, we saw huge, dark, ominous clouds rolling in.
It was painfully obvious that we were doomed to get soaked.
Chelsie and I headed towards downtown Nairobi. Midway through our journey, the sky opened up in a downpour! Short of the terminus, the driver of our 1st vehicle rudely forced all of us to alight on a busy street in the midst of heavy traffic. We had no choice but to step off the bus and into numerous puddles.
Chelsie wore a stoplight red raincoat with a hood and I carried a small umbrella (that I bought after giving my other one to Humphrey).
The rain was heavy! With others, in the same predicament, we sought shelter in some tiny “jua kali” (tinkerer) shacks. After waiting a while, the two of us decided to just go for it… in spite of the unrelenting rain. We boarded another vehicle. The seat next to Chelsie was constantly occupied and re-occupied by one wet passenger after another. I had a nice, steady stream of water dripping on me from the roof.
We finally entered busy, bustling downtown. We again had to walk in the rain, dodging puddles all the while, in an attempt to find a 3rd vehicle. Eventually, we arrived somewhat close to the guesthouse where Chelsie was staying. The traffic was at a standstill and our vehicle sat idle with all the other vehicles. Since we were already fairly wet, we opted to walk the last 1/2 mile or so – again, in the rain.
Once she was settled in, I headed on my way home. The closest bus stage was a fair distance away, so again I walked in the rain. Once I reached the stage, I saw dozens of people waiting for a vehicle; I decided to slog on. I ended up walking two more miles, as every stage was packed with sopping wet passengers. I figured I might as well keep moving, as I would still be getting wet standing still.
By now, except for my head, I was soaked. It was now dark My little umbrella doesn’t provide the greatest protection. I sought shelter in a gas station (with some fast food joints) and called a taxi for the remainder of my trip home.
While I waited, I treated myself to an absolutely de-lic-ious Peanut Buster Parfait. The worker tried his best to keep the floor clean and dry. A flattened cardboard box served as a doormat. A loud booming thunderbolt triggered several car alarms.
Eventually Mohammed came. Once home, I headed immediately for a hot shower.
Last Sunday, I went with the Illinois team to Karo and Jeremiah’s church. Their church is located in Kwa Njenga, one of hundreds of slums in Nairobi. These “informal settlements” have no legitimate roads, no legitimate drainage or sewer system, and no garbage collection. In the rainy season, they become almost uninhabitable!
God favored us with a nice sun-shining day. However, the previous solid week of rain had left its effects.
Our 1st stop was to a nearby supermarket to buy large amounts of groceries with which to bless the congregation. We hired two taxis to ferry us and the goods. The two drivers admirably maintained a “can-do” attitude through the mud and slop. They even tried different routes to reach our destination. Eventually, they had to admit that they were unable to reach the church because of the “sloughs of slime”.
I think the last straw in their minds were several barefoot guys trying to push another vehicle out of the foot-deep mud! We paid them and were then forced to carry the many heavy bags by hand for the remaining distance.
Aye! What a challenge! Trying to balance our Bibles, purses, cameras, and the heavy sacks as we jumped from stone to stone, ever attempting to avoid the slimy mess – “the foul, reeking mud” – was not an easy task.
As I feel my way
Along the muddy paths.”
Once we distributed the goods to the appreciative folks, we realized we’d underestimated the size of the congregation. So, a few of us went for more… again “stumbling through the slop”. This time we hired an “mkokoteni” (hand cart). The brute of a fellow at the helm was incredible! We had to practically jog to keep pace with him, as he plowed through the sludge. At one point, Joe (one of the members of the team) had to push the cart from behind, as it almost got stuck in the quagmire. His pants were splattered with mud.
Karo, amazed at our arrival, exclaimed, “By any means possible, huh?”
Traveling upcountry in a sign of support for the bereaved family at the funeral, supporting the rural pastor who’s caring for so many orphans, encouraging Humphrey who has lonely days away at college, going (seemingly w-a-y) out of our way to enjoy Karo’s home-cooked meal and some good fellowship, and attending the inspiring church service in the slum were all worth any inconveniences we suffered.
After all… mud is easily washed off and wet clothes eventually do dry out.
“So, let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good.
At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.
Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance,
let us work for the benefit of all,
starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”
Galatians 6:9, 10 (Message)
Laban is now about 7 years old.
Deb, who is named for me, just turned 5.
Hudson (another of Bishop's brothers) died about two years ago.