01 October 2007

Prayer Letter, October 2007

It’s the first of the month and time, once again, for my monthly prayer letter. As I sit here at my laptop, about to convey my thoughts to you, let me admit to you that I share the following sentiments confessed by Oswald Chambers over one hundred years ago:

"Writing is, I fear, to take the proportion of a big undertaking. It is one thing to think; it is another thing to express your thought in writing. However, I shall undertake it."
-Oswald Chambers in an 1896 letter quoted in “Abandoned to God”, a biography by David McCasslan

The first time I traveled to Kenya was only one month after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. You’ll likely recall that, in the wake of that awful tragedy, the US government strongly urged its citizens to not travel by air. However, believing that the safest place to be - in all the world - is in the center of God’s will, my two traveling companions and I went ahead with our plans to fly to the other side of the world.

My life has never been the same since that decision. Six years later, I am still here.

I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of incredibly positive experiences over these past years. Indeed, I have a treasure chest of very fond memories. My life is rich in wonderful relationships with people from cultures and ethnic groups from all around the world. Indeed, I am wealthy in friendships!

What God has me doing here in Kenya is rewarding and satisfying, beyond imagination. I have an unwavering awareness that this is where God wants me. That knowledge and certainty brings a delightful sense of expectancy to each and every one of my days. Those of you that know me well have accepted the fact that Kenya has become – in essence – my home.

However… there have also been difficult times over the past six years; many, in fact. Some are due to the cultural differences encountered by living in a foreign land. Others are just simply a part of daily living on this fallen globe.

Learning the ways and thought patterns of an unknown and alien people group is quite challenging. Virtually every aspect of this foreign culture is at the opposite extreme of my American upbringing. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve succumbed to the sense of having been offended. Likewise, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve likely caused more than my share of offenses.

I could go on and on about the multitude of expectations that arise simply based on the fact that I have white skin. I so often wish I could blend into this environment like a chameleon!

Physically speaking, I’ve had several tropical diseases. I’ve had numerous bouts of typhoid. I was hospitalized for ten days with a serious case of malaria. I’ve had amoebic dysentery and all its accompanying annoyances. I suffered with typhus (tick/flea bite fever) for six long months.

Even the seemingly simple task of worshiping my Lord with a measure of comfort, familiarity, and freedom in a different culture has been a difficult hurdle to cross.

Both my rental house in Nairobi and my house at Matunda have been broken into on more than one occasion.

Allow me to inform you of the latest difficulty I am overcoming. “A righteous man may have many troubles…”

“This has really grounded you for a long time. Someday, God will let you know why He allowed this to happen. And when He does, I think you’ll have another one of your stories to tell!”
– Chunge (my doctor)

Part 2, My Life is in His Hands

After stepping outside, Kim told me, “It’s a beautiful morning. The sun is shining bright.” The morning of Sunday, August 19th seemingly begged him and me to join the congregation in worship to our Lord. We’d just returned to Nairobi after our thrilling trip to Kakuma Refugee Camp.

After a simple breakfast of tea and bread - accompanied by Sara Groves’ and Fernando Ortega’s wonderful lyrics - we went to Karen Vineyard Church. The service was great, as was the fellowship afterwards. We chatted at length with our friends, Sam and Mike.

Around 2:30, Kim and I boarded a matatu. He dropped off for home at Langata and I continued on, carrying my duffle bag with me. As he alighted from the “mat”, I thought to myself, “He’s such a great friend!” We had spent the past week together; I was still on a high.

Arriving in town, I maneuvered the bustling, crowded streets with no problems, making my way to Coast Bus Lines booking office on Accra Road. After buying my ticket to Mombasa (for Wednesday), I returned the ticket agent’s kind smile and thanked him.

My next destination was to board a bus to Bishop and Margaret’s house. I was eager to see them and their family again. I always enjoy sharing stories with them and I was eager to tell them about finding our friend, Mark, at the refugee camp.

Throughout the day, it had repeatedly occurred to me that it was such a great day. Even as I left the booking office, I had the same thought. “This has been a great day!”

I was in one of the most congested areas of downtown Nairobi - an area, in fact, that many avoid. There are so many vehicles – town matatus, vehicles traveling upcountry, private cars, hand carts, bicycles, pedestrians, etc. One must be ever alert for potential pick-pockets. It cannot be overstated that the area is “chaotic” and “congested”.

Actually, there’s no way I can adequately describe the ever-present crowded conditions throughout much of Kenya. Whether it’s a home, a bed, a church, a small cafĂ©, a public service vehicle, or a downtown Nairobi street… there never seems to be ample space to live, sleep, worship, eat, travel, drive, or walk. There are crowds of people everywhere.

As I crossed Duruma Road, I passed in front of a Honda CRV, admiring it as I did so. At this intersection, a building was being remodeled. Corrugated iron sheets had been mounted alongside the curb to keep people away from the construction zone. This pushed pedestrians into the street, as the sidewalk was completely blocked. Those of us on foot were forced to occupy and fight for the same space as the vehicles.

I contemplated stopping at Baker’s Inn for a quick snack, maybe a chicken pie. It was now about 3:30 and I hadn’t had lunch. As I continued on my way, I remember going around a young gal that had been walking in front of me.

The very next realization I had was that of being on the ground. A tire of a vehicle was on my right foot!

“Jesus!” I cried out. I instinctively hit the vehicle repeatedly, yelling all the while, “Get off of my foot!”

Eventually the car did back up. It was then that I could see my foot was badly torn up and blood was flowing. A voice in the crowd said, “You need to get to a hospital.” I asked the faceless voice, “With who?”

Simultaneously, a hand reached down to help me up. “We’ll take you.” The man helped me into the Honda CRV. Esther, the driver, apologized; stating that she hadn’t even seen me. Her attention, instead, had been on the many vehicles at the intersection.

I was in so much pain. I saw that my Keens (the shoes I was wearing) had been badly ripped. As Esther drove me to Nairobi West Hospital, she put on some worship music. Focusing on the Lord calmed me down.

As the nurse cleaned my wound – about a five-inch triangle near the inside ankle – chunks of flesh fell off. Apparently, it had been pushed along and severely scraped on the pavement. I was given two injections, one for pain and one for tetanus. The doctor gave me five injections of local anesthetic as he did his best to stitch three particularly deep areas. Both legs, from the knees down, had much bruising and swelling. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic ointment, oral antibiotics, and pain reliever.

After paying the bill, Esther took me to Bishop’s and Margaret’s. I spent fifteen days at their place, where the whole family took incredibly great care of me. They have nursed me back to health in the past, and now they kindly did so again. In those early days, I did nothing but lie on the couch. I hobbled around solely to use the toilet and to go to bed. Kim and Karo both came to see me several times. They’re such a constant source of encouragement to me! Others also stopped in to see me.

Gradually, most of the bruises have disappeared. And slowly but surely, most of the swelling has gone down. The open wound got infected, though. That required lots of trips to see Dr. Chunge (you may remember he’s the one that treated me for typhus some time ago). He took a fairly aggressive approach in those initial days, giving me intravenous injections of double doses of antibiotics. He then shifted to oral antibiotics and additionally a course of steroids. The wound was soaked in hydrogen peroxide, the debris removed, and the wound dressed each time I went in. Chunge’s wife, Ruth, also loaned me a pair of crutches.

In the ensuing weeks, I spent nine days with Kim and his family. They took great care of me. It was wonderful to get to know each one of them better, including “sho sho” (Kim’s grandmother). Kim and I had lots and lots of time to chat about everything under the sun. An occasional Vervet or Sykes monkey would entertain us by scampering along their wall or stealing bananas from their backyard garden.

Then, I had fifteen days at a quiet guesthouse nestled in a secluded wooded area. It belongs to the McCloy’s - a family from my church. Amazingly, I didn’t even know them before this happened. But, isn’t it just like a loving God to always have little surprises in store for us? It was a delight to get to know their family. I joined them for lovely evening meals on a few occasions – including a scrumptious meal of thick pork chops one night, followed by homemade ice cream and peaches. I thoroughly enjoyed the serene surroundings. Butterflies, birds, and warthogs entertained me. Screaming hyraxes announced bedtime each night. An added bonus was Karo and Joy spending one night with me.

Just three days ago, I moved in with a gal, also from my church. Gaby (nickname of “Pip”) lives in a leafy suburb area near Karen. I look forward to getting to know her better, as well. There’s already ample evidence that she’s on a mission to thoroughly spoil me. She welcomed me that first night with a hot bubble bath. She’s prepared such meals as Red Snapper filets, with broccoli and beets. De-licious! Her compound is a virtual botanical garden. I know I will spend many hours soaking up its beauty!

The current status of the open wound is that the infection has cleared up and it’s almost closed up. Soon I’ll be able to return the crutches. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I’ve been playing solitaire (Free Cell) now and then; I’ve done Sudoku and Codeword puzzles. I even did a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. I’ve done lots of reading – both God’s Word and a few good books. I’ve had some great times of personal worship and have spent time in prayer.

Recently, I purposefully set aside an evening for an intimate time of worship. During that time, in the secret place with my God, He reassured me that He was with me on that fateful day. To be sure, His hand is ever on my life.

Oswald Chambers –
When we truly live in “the secret place,” it becomes impossible for us to doubt God. We become more sure of Him than of anyone or anything else. Enter into “the secret place,” and you will find that God was right in the middle of your everyday circumstances all the time.

Part 3, His Hand is on My Life

I know… I know… I know what you’re all thinking as you read this.


The answer to that question is multifaceted.

First of all, I did not want to worry all of you (or cause any undue panic) until the injuries were further along in the healing process. There was, after all, nothing you could’ve done from the other side of the world. You may object that you could have been praying. My hope is that you are always praying for me, regardless of whether you hear specifics from me! Rest assured, many were praying for me here, as well. Actually, in my defense, several key people concurred with my decision to keep quiet.

Secondly, I needed some time to take it all in myself. If I can be honest, I’ve struggled a bit with depression over the incident. I would subconsciously attempt to reconstruct exactly what had happened. I played the “what if” game. What if I hadn’t decided to go around that gal at that exact moment? What if I hadn’t paused to smile at the ticket agent? What if I had decided to use the train, instead of a bus? And, naturally I also struggled with “Why?” I guess we all want to ask God why He allows painful things into our lives.

The Lord lovingly showed me this Scripture:

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.”
-Isaiah 43:18 (Message)

And thirdly, when it was found that the wound was infected after three and a half weeks, I decided to further postpone telling you. I wanted to wait until I could give you a positive report.

The time has now come to ‘fess up. It seemed fitting to tell you in the context of my monthly prayer letter. It also seemed timely to associate it with my reflection on six years in Kenya.

Part 4, Praise Items

There are so many things to praise the Lord for in this accident:

  • Esther, not only stopped, but also took me to the hospital. It’s hard to guess – and a bit scary – what might have happened if it had been a hit-and-run!
  • No bones were broken. That is nothing short of a miracle! When Bishop came home that first day and found me in his house, he was frozen in his tracks in the doorway. After hearing my tale, he kept repeating, “Deb, it’s a miracle no bones were broken! It’s a miracle!” Dr. Chunge has also repeated that same sentiment numerous times.

“A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” -Psalm 34:19, 20 (NIV)

  • The provision of four wonderful homes to recuperate in has been such a blessing! God is so good to me!
  • God’s advance provision of funds to pay for all my expenses is such a relief. I’ve spent a lot on taxi rides, in addition to all the medicine.
  • I’ve been able to make it to church the past four Sundays. It’s been fantastic to see my church family rally around me in support, concern, and prayer.

Part 5, I Put My Life into Your Hands

Some Scripture and quotes I’ve meditated on during the past 7 weeks:

“I can’t remember a trial or a pain God did not recycle to bring me gain.” -Sara Groves, He’s Always Been Faithful (“Conversations” cd)

“You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet. It’s the fine art of being who I am.”
-Sara Groves, Every Minute (“All Right Here” cd)

One should just forget about fear;
otherwise there is no point in living in Africa.
-Francesca Marciano (Rules of the Wild)

I believe the reason God says “fear not” so often is that fear will sink us faster than anything else. Fear disrupts faith and becomes the biggest obstacle to trusting and obeying God.-John Ortberg
(If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat)

“Have Your Way in Me”
-Carol Cymbala (sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)
I put my life into Your hands,
I rest in You alone
My only hope is in Your love,
Lord, I’m Yours, I’m not my own

Keep me safe, keep me true
All I want to live for is to live for You
My earnest prayer each day, is
Lord, please have Your way in me, in me

Through every storm along life’s way
And the valleys I go through
I’ll trust You, Lord, to keep me strong
So my life will honor You

Oswald Chambers:

September 4 -
A missionary is someone in whom the Holy Spirit has brought about this realization: “You are not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19). The desire that comes into a disciple is not one of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The missionary’s secret is truly being able to say, “I am His, and He is accomplishing His work and His purposes through me.” Be entirely His!

September 29 -
If a man or woman is called of God, it doesn’t matter how difficult the circumstances may be. God orchestrates every force at work for His purpose in the end. If you will agree with God’s purpose, He will bring not only your conscious level but also all the deeper levels of your life (which you cannot reach) into perfect harmony.

Thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
-1 Thessalonians 5:18 (Message)

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
-James 1:12 (Message)

Part 6, Prayer Requests

  • Pray that the healing process would be complete and whole, with no further setbacks.
  • Please pray with me that I will once again – and soon – be able to enjoy walking, hiking, and biking at 100% capacity.
  • Please join me in praying that I’ll be able to travel to Siaya with Karo, Jim, and Joy in early December.
  • Pray that I will be able to find a place of my own to rent. The accident has pre-empted that process. I’ve been basically living out of suitcases since I arrived in mid-July. However, I firmly believe God has a special place already chosen for me!
  • Please pray against any fear developing in me – fear of crowded downtown streets, fear of climbing onto matatus, fear of traveling around Kenya, etc.


At McCloy's guesthouse

  • It is not about me. I am not my own.

  • My desire is to be entirely His!

  • “I am His, and He is accomplishing His work and His purposes through me.”

  • I still firmly believe that the safest place to be – in all the world – is in the center of God’s will for my life.

  • Another thing I know - God loves me.

  • My life is in His hands.