26 November 2007

Quote of the Month

“God is using me for His purposes throughout the world. As long as I maintain my own personal interests and ambitions, I cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests. I must give up all my personal plans once and for all and allow God to take me directly into His purpose for the world. My understanding of my ways must be surrendered, because they are now the ways of the Lord. The purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him.”

- Oswald Chambers

December Prayer Letter


My injuries are well on their way to being 100% healed! I’m able to walk well and have been doing a fair amount of biking, too. I’m quite happy about these developments!

I’m reasonably settled into my new house. I’m enjoying it immensely and have had numerous guests for meals and/or overnight already. I’m especially enjoying the many birds outside my back door. (You’ll notice I’ve posted more about that below.)



I’m traveling to Mombasa on Thursday. (This is a much delayed trip to see Masudi; I had booked a ticket there three months ago, just prior to getting hit by the car.)

On the 5th, Karo, Jim, Joy, and I will go to see Karo’s parents in Siaya. From there, I’ll go to my place at Matunda.

That’s a LOT of miles to travel, as I crisscross much of the country. As you likely know from what I’ve said before, the roads in Kenya are atrocious, to put it mildly! By the time I reach my destination, I’m usually exhausted. Please pray for me in that regard, for safety on the road, and for good visits with those I’m traveling to see.


I’ve had recent bouts with ringworm plus intestinal bacteria, amoeba, and parasites.

Ever Present Cultural Differences

I came to Kenya just over six years ago, having received absolutely no training regarding cross-cultural ministry. The Holy Spirit compelled me to come; so I came. There are so very many cultural differences between the African (or Kenyan) view of life and that of the Western (or American) viewpoint. Some are subtle; others are very in-your-face.

I find some of these differences to be quite admirable and some even to be endearing. However, at various times in the past six years, I’ve been frustrated and confused as I encounter some of these different approaches to life. There have been occasional misunderstandings and moments of friction. Of course, neither the African or Western approach to life is superior to the other. They each have merit and each one works well in its own setting and context.

But… I cannot escape the fact that my entire being is saturated with being a Westerner. It’s how I lived for 45 years. It’s what I know. It’s what I passively absorbed as a child and what I now subconsciously exude as an adult.

I’m currently reading a book about cultural differences when it comes to money matters. The author (who has lived and worked in Africa for 25 years) lists and aptly illustrates 90(!) different approaches (between the two cultures) to this one subject. I’m finding the information to be so enlightening!

Let me share just one major difference: Africans readily share space and things, but are possessive of knowledge, whereas Westerners readily share their knowledge, but are possessive of things and space.

Here’s an interesting quote from this book – “Interpersonal relations between Africans and Westerners in Africa may be friendly and cordial, and typically are, but developing significant friendships on a personal level requires considerable effort.” The author goes on to state that the most significant reason for this difficulty is “the important place that material resources are given in African friendships”.

I have another book that compares three cultures as related to tensions about time, judgment, handling crises, goals, self-worth, and vulnerability.

The assignment God has given to me in Kenya, has me primarily interacting with Africans (not Westerners). Additionally, this cross-cultural interaction is very up close and personal, primarily in either my home or in Kenyan homes. So… it’s inevitable that such tensions arise from time to time.

Romans 12: 1, 2 (The Message) says,
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking… the culture around you (ones culture of origin) drags you down to its level of immaturity…”

I don’t want to be an unthinking Westerner. I want to “fix my attention on God… (and) be changed from the inside out”. I want God to “develop well-formed maturity in me”. To put it another way, I desire to function as a Kingdom citizen, and not as an American citizen living amongst Kenyan citizens.

Would you please pray with me for increased sensitivity and decreased prejudice in this crucial area?

“Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead.
You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am.
Self-sacrifice is the way – My way – to finding yourself, your true self.”
Luke 9 (The Message)

Photos of Some of "My" Birds

Purple Sunbird
These birds are quite small and hover almost like a hummingbird.
Their feathers are iridescent.

Red-Cheeked Cordon Bleu
This was one of the first Kenyan birds I ever identified.
They are also quite beautiful and commonly seen.

Robin Chat
These are fairly common. They're smaller than an American robin.

African Pied Wagtail
These are quite common all through Kenya.
Their tails almost constantly “wag”, thus the name.

NOTE – I am blessed to have many beautiful birds visiting at the back door of my new house. Whenever I have bread crumbs or produce cuttings, I share with them. I thoroughly enjoy watching their antics! In order to attempt to share this joy with you, I’ve posted the following photos that I got from the internet. Most of them, however, do not do justice to the beauty of the birds at all.

Northern Olive Thrush
This bird is rather large, in comparison to the other ones.
He tends to rule the roost, so to speak, forcing the smaller ones to defer to him.

Purple Grenadier
The male of this species is absolutely beautiful, with purple and orange feathers! They aren’t the most frequent of my visitors, but I marvel at them each and every time I see them.
Speckled Mousebird
There are 6-8 of these interesting creatures that hang around. They behave and look almost more like a mammal than a bird, thus their name I guess. They are rather large (compared to my other visitors) and sit down on their rump when eating on the ground. My bird book describes them as “gregarious” and I would concur.

Beautiful Sunbird

Black-Necked Weaver (Similar in appearance to a Baglefecht Weaver)
Mr. and Mrs. Baglefecht are my most frequent visitors. They are bright yellow; the female has a predominantly black head, while the male has some orange mixed in with the yellow on top. They often tap their beaks on my window to say “hello”.
African Fire Finch
These tiny birds are also beautiful.
I never cease to marvel at God’s creation and all the variety!
Simply amazing!

Little Bee Eater
I don't actually see these at my place, but I do spot them now and then.
They were commonly seen when I stayed at Gaby's place.

Superb Starling
These are fairly commonly seen throughout Kenya.
They’re a bit bigger than a robin and are quite “superb” looking, with their iridescent plumage.

Bronze Sunbird

Odds and Ends

Christmas Cards

I'd love to receive Christmas cards from anyone that loves me! My address is:

PO Box 1534
Nairobi, Kenya 00502

However, please don't attempt to mail me any packages without checking with me first. They can become quite expensive for me to receive. And... sometimes they never even arrive.

Glimpses of Life in Kenya

Happy Donkeys
Sunday, while biking to church, I saw a van. On one side, in big block letters, it said, “Happy Owner, Happy Donkey”. On the other side, it said, “Donkey Ambulance”. Not exactly a sight one might spot in the States! The use of donkeys for beasts of burden is on the increase in Kenya. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance about how to care for them. This then leads to much abuse of these quiet, humble animals. This ambulance is obviously used to come to their rescue. There are organizations in Kenya that educate people about donkeys and monitor reports of abuse.

Exchange Rate
When I first came to Kenya in 2001, the exchange rate for US dollars to Kenyan shillings was 78. Today, it’s only 64! While this is an indication of a good economy in Kenya, it means my US money is worth much less. For instance, six years ago, $100 US dollars would buy me 7,800 shillings. Today, that same amount will only buy me 6,400 shillings. This is a difference of roughly $20!

01 November 2007

November Prayer Letter

There are (or will be) six homes clustered in this grouping.
Mine is on the right of this photo.
The entrance is between the two spots that appear to be white (due to the sun).
Behind where I'm standing are six older homes.

The entrance to my house!

The corner window is in the living room.
The sort of "bay" window is in my bedroom.
The front door is between those two windows.
The small window is from the bathroom.

Hallelujah! I give thanks to God with everything I've got –
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
God's works are so great,

Worth a lifetime of study – endless enjoyment!
Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial –
This God of Grace, this God of Love.

All his products are guaranteed to last –
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:
He's so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
The good life begins in the fear of God
Do that and you'll know the blessing of God.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!

Psalm 111

My New Home

During the time I was in the States, I often asked God to choose just the right place for me in Nairobi. I saw it as another adventure with the Lord; I was curious and eager to see where it would be and what it would look like.

For two reasons, the search wasn’t as easy as I might have hoped. First of all, there was the little matter of my accident and subsequent recuperation period. Secondly, after weeks of looking, I just couldn’t find anything!

Word-of-mouth (through my church and other sources) only led to places that weren’t suitable for one reason or another. Places I looked at from newspaper ads proved to be quite inadequate. An agent I hired was a conman. Legitimate rental agencies didn’t have anything in my price range.

While having my injury treated at Chunge’s clinic one day, I stopped in the lab to see his wife, Ruth. As we talked about my quest to find a house, she called a friend of theirs. Steve Kabii, who “happened” to be just nearby, came right over. As I chatted with him, I felt like his prices were too high for my support level. He told me plainly that meeting my expectations in my price range ($150-200) would be difficult. “That’s a tall order!”Later, in Chunge’s office, we also chatted about my search for a house. Chunge also called a friend, but I felt that rent was also too high. Chunge and I often talk about spiritual things and on this occasion, I pondered out loud that perhaps the Lord would have me stretch my faith a bit. I simply was not finding anything.

I mostly dismissed Steve and his units from my mind, because of their cost. But several days later (on a Thursday) Karo and I “happened” to meet him at Karen shops. On the spur of the moment, knowing that his units were just down the road, I asked him if he’d take us to see them. I thought it’d be good to see what a $250-350 house looked like. They were all nice, but I still felt like they were too high for my budget. I explained my needs and my current support level. Steve encouraged me to consider the two-bedroom unit (in order to host friends for meals and for overnight) and offered to reduce the rent by $50. Figuring it wouldn’t stay available for long, I told him I’d make a decision in a week.

I was frustrated and tired of bouncing from house to house. Additionally, I couldn’t continue presuming upon my current host’s hospitality. All this time looking and I’d found nothing. I felt I’d almost exhausted the possibilities.

Not knowing what to do, I sent out the “urgent matter of prayer” email that next morning (Friday). That same day, I also made two last attempts. I called an agency I was familiar with. They not only didn’t have anything in my price range, their cheapest current listing was $475! I also called Patrice, my laptop repair guy. While it was great to re-connect with him and his family, the place he knew of simply wouldn’t work for me.

I had only one more place I felt I should look. If nothing turned up there, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Kim and I had planned for some time to look around Langata on Saturday. But, it turned out that he had to postpone until Tuesday. That would bring me almost down to the wire with my deadline with Steve.

On Saturday, unable to get Steve’s units out of my mind, I checked my email. I was eager for some advice; I needed some direction. His compound was nice and his houses met every one of my priorities. I questioned if my target price range was too low. Several people emailed to say they would be in prayer for me. I was grateful for that! I also heard from three key people in my life. Two boldly said I should take Steve’s two-bedroom unit and trust God for the increase in support. The third person told me that God normally doesn’t go into action until He sees us take a step of faith. I saw each of these responses as definite direction from the Lord.

Sunday was church; Monday, I stayed home and rested. My feet were quite swollen and my legs – and brain – were tired. Besides, I didn’t see any need to engage in much ado about nothing. After all, I knew of nowhere else to look.

Finally, Tuesday came. Kim and I spent a solid two hours traipsing around Langata. We inquired at no less than a dozen “estates” (little neighborhood areas) and/or apartment buildings. At each place, the answer was the same – “hakuna vacancy”. On the one hand it was discouraging, but at the same time, it seemed to be confirmation that I should take one of Steve’s. The one and only place we found was a one or two-bedroom apartment (in a fairly congested neighborhood). The two-bedroom was only $20 less than Steve’s two-bedroom house. The building was still under construction, meaning there would likely be several more months of construction noise. Comparing that one with Steve’s two-bedroom, Steve’s house stood head and shoulders above.

After our marathon search, I took Kim to see Steve’s compound. There are twelve units, three of which are in the final stages of construction. Basically, in all my searching, his one-bedroom was the one and only house I’d seen that would suit my needs. The price he was asking was the only drawback. I’m a simple person and I didn’t feel like my priorities were too high, but I couldn’t find a thing in my price range.

Kim, who had stayed abreast of my entire search, fell in love with Steve’s two-bedroom house. To be honest, it appeared that it was the one God had reserved for me. I called Steve and told him I’d take it. The following day, I had another email (from a fourth key person) encouraging me to take that same house. I saw it as final confirmation to my decision!

The following day, I signed a two-year lease. That will lock in the price for 24 months. Paying that much rent is a big step in faith for me. Please pray with me as the Lord stretches me again in this area of trusting Him!

On Thursday, I spent five hours doing some touch-up painting. Kenyan painters don’t demonstrate much craftsmanship or pride in their work.

The move on Friday went fairly smoothly, gathering my things from three locations and from one end of town to another. Gaby surprised me by blessing me with several additional household items. Karo and Jeremiah, who came along to help move, joined me for a hodge-podge lunch. They both love the place. Karo is eager to see how I arrange my things and can’t wait to come and spend a night with me.

Kim and his sister, Julia, joined me for lunch on Sunday. Kim brought a backpack load of my books that he’s been keeping. He and I are praying about starting a Bible study group in my house.

God has blessed me above and beyond what I could have imagined! The house is ideal in so many ways; I love it! And… it has two bedrooms; I was only hoping for one. A gal from church has one of the other houses on the compound and a fellow from church is taking one of the almost-finished units in December. Chunge and his wife live just around the corner. I’m invited over for tea in their garden this Sunday.

I am alert with expectation to see what God has in store for ministry opportunities in this house. I believe it will be a place of physical refreshment (after tiring cross-country trips) and for spiritual renewal – not only for me, but for others as well.

I’m fairly settled in, although there’s still much to do. For instance, I need to borrow a sewing machine and make several curtains. I’ve had the plumber come twice, trying to iron out the kinks in a couple of leaky areas.

Steve’s compound is just down the road from Ngong Dairy – a huge expanse of land owned by the Kenyatta family (Jomo Kenyatta was Kenya’s first president and his son, Uhuru, is currently active in politics). The main house was used as Karen Blixen’s house in the filming of Out of Africa. Several noteworthy tenants have lived there in recent history. I find it interesting to live down the road from such a location, considering that my other rental place was across the road from the Nairobi National Park.

So far, I haven’t seen any Sykes monkeys or baboons at this new place (like were common at my other house), but I do hear noisy hyrax every evening. Several pairs of beautiful birds frolic and sing outside my kitchen window – red African Fire Finch, attractive Purple Grenadier, and brilliant yellow Baglafecht Weaver. As I watch them and marvel at their splendor, I’m reminded of two verses in Matthew, chapter six:

“Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest entry the first morning in my new house:

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). Our Lord unwaveringly asks us that question, and it confronts us in every individual situation we encounter. The one great challenge to me is – do I know my risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit? Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust what Jesus has said? Or am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary? If I follow any other method, I depart altogether from the methods prescribed by our Lord – “All authority has been given to Me… Go therefore…” (Matthew 28:18-19).

I can relate to Abraham’s journey of faith. I, too, have been called to “go therefore” and live as an alien and a stranger in a foreign land. I don’t live in a tent, but I do desire to be distinguished by living above the crowd!

“The fundamental fact of existence is that trust in God – faith – is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents.”

Hebrews 11 (Message)

My soul resonates with Sara Groves’ lyrics in her song, He’s Always Been Faithful:

Morning by morning I wake up to find

The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine

Season by season, I watch Him amazed

In awe of the mystery of His perfect way

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

This is my anthem

This is my song

The theme of the story

I’ve heard for so long

God has been faithful

He will be again

His loving compassion

It knows no end

Two Kenyan Holidays, Both in the Month of October

Joy eating ice cream

Jim (on the right) and a neighbor boy, Dan

Statue of Dedan Kimathi, one of Kenya's heroes who fought for independence from the British.
The above three photos were taken on Kenyatta Day (named for Kenya's 1st president).
It is now being renamed "Heroes Day".

My friend, Vera, and I got together for lunch on Moi Day (named for Kenya's 2nd president)

Update on My Injuries

Your heart is revealed and your character is forged when life doesn’t turn out the way you planned. Sooner or later the storm strikes. It’s in the act of facing the storm that you discover what lies inside you and decide what lies before you.

John Ortberg (Pastor and author)

It is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It’s for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome the pain of problems.

Scott Peck (Psychologist and author)

The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even in the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.

Victor Frankl (Nazi death camp survivor)

It is when we are in the valley, where we prove whether we will be the choice ones, that most of us turn back. We are not quite prepared for the bumps and bruises which must come if we are going to be turned into the shape of the vision. We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God? The beatings will always come in commonplace ways. There are times when we do know what God’s purpose is, whether we will let the vision be turned into actual character depends upon us, not on God.

Oswald Chambers (Preacher and author)

And in Your hands, the pain and hurt

Look less like scars and more like character.

Sara Groves (song writer and singer)

Resilient people find meaning and purpose in the storm.

John Ortberg (Pastor and author)

Current update on my injuries

It’s been almost two and a half months since my accident. Let me be frank; it’s been a long ordeal. Besides the pain and discomfort, I was very immobile for the majority of that time. The nature of my injuries required that I sit or lie with my feet up throughout most of every day. When necessary, I could only hobble or walk with crutches. I also was forced to shift from house to house, which meant living out of suitcases. I spent a lot of money on taxi fare.

However, there are many things to give thanks for:

God provided four wonderful homes where I could recuperate. And in that process, I’ve made some new friends. As you can see from my collection of quotes, I was able to do a fair amount of reading.

The truly wonderful update is that, physically, I’ve made great “strides” (pun intended)! The week of October 14th (the 9th week) was especially pivotal and full of milestones. I celebrated each and every one of them!

  • During that week, I was able to finally wear shoes on both feet!
  • A few days later, I walked approximately three miles with Karo and Joy from Gaby’s house to Resurrection Garden (a very serene green space).
  • Thirdly, the first of three scabs came off! It was amazing to me to see healed skin underneath. At that moment, I cried tears of joy and thanked Jehovah Rapha. There was a point when I sincerely wondered if those three really deep wounds would ever heal.
  • The fourth milestone, and one I had also been concerned about, is that I rode a matatu. Climbing on and off of them can be a challenge… even with two strong and healthy feet.
  • The last milestone of that week is that I went to “town” (downtown Nairobi). I stayed in the relatively non-crowded and non-chaotic area, and since it was a holiday, there were less people. For those reasons, it was a good “test” for me mentally.

All three scabs are now off. The nasty bruise on my right foot is a pinkish-red, instead of purples and blues. It’s still numb and stiff and the range of motion isn’t all it should be. I’m confident that all those issues will improve with time. The shin on my left leg is still swollen, but it’s come down considerably. Because of that, my left foot is looking more normal now. And… I’m able to walk without too much of limp.

While I do see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, I still have some time before I’m back to 100%. Currently, I need to monitor how many hours I’m on my feet or sitting up in the normal position. By the end of such days, my feet are rather swollen and tired. For that reason, during the month of November, I intend to be pro-active about staying home and relaxing at least three days of every week. This will be much easier now, since my doctoring and house-hunting days are (finally) over.

I never cease to marvel at our body’s ability to heal. God not only created us with this capability, but He placed within our body’s make-up an inherent awareness of when to stop the healing process. Simply incredible!

Several of the quotes I’ve included in this post talk about character. In the future, when I look at the physical scars from this ordeal, I pray that I’ll also sense a new level of character within me! I hope I’ve matured through this whole process. It would be a shame, after all, to only look back and say that I endured the pain and suffering. Or, to only recall hours upon hours of playing Free Cell solitaire on my laptop.

Our speaker on Sunday defined “victorious Christian living” as any happening that causes us to grow closer to God – whether it’s a blessing or a trial. God’s ongoing interest in His children is to develop their relationship with Him and to draw them closer to Him. It is, indeed, my desire to ever increase my level of intimacy with my Lord.

Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee everywhere at home… we should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience and character.

Henry David Thoreau (author)

Please pray with me, that I’ll have no fear of traffic in crowded, congested areas of downtown Nairobi, or any parts of Kenya for that matter. Pray that I’ll not lose any of my intrepidness and that I’ll be ever ready for the next adventure God has in store for me. As the following excerpts state, I want to STAND on my FEET!

Take your STAND against the devil’s schemes.

STAND your ground.

After you’ve done everything, STAND.

STAND firm then,

with your FEET fitted for readiness.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

Quote of the Month

When looking back on the lives of men and women of God the tendency is to say - What wonderfully astute wisdom they had! How perfectly they understood all God wanted! The astute mind behind is the Mind of God, not human wisdom at all.

We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God's wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God.

Oswald Chambers

Typical Public Toilet

I took this picture in a modern fast food place in downtown Nairobi. It's typical of public toilets... that is, when you can actually fine one.

It's not flushed because there's no water currently in this part of Nairobi. There's no seat, for who knows what reason?! Perhaps the owners didn't want to spend the extra money. The tank is wired shut, apparently so plumbers won't steal the various parts inside. The flush handle doesn't work. One just pulls on the wire sticking up through the tank lid. Amazingly there is "tissue" provided. That's rare, indeed!

It all becomes relative, though. At least this one doesn't require wading through an inch of water on the floor and squatting!