28 August 2008

Work Begins on Joe's House!

Joe with Bishop Wanjala

Today, the fundi cemented the floor of Joe's house! Tomorrow, he will:
  • put new corrugated iron sheets on the roof
  • put up 1/4 inch plywood on the walls
  • have a door made

Hopefully, if all goes well, this structural work will be finished no later than Saturday!

Hopefully, Joe will be able to move in on Monday (it will take a few days for the floor to dry).

Please continue to pray for the final details of furnishing and equipping his house and for continued improvement regarding his health.

Joe posing for a photo, as if he's scooping the sand for the floor

p.s. If you missed the story about his need for a house, just scroll down to the post after my grandkids' photos. Thanks!

25 August 2008

My Five Grandkids






Let's Build Joe a House!

I met Joe, a bright young man with a great smile, about six years ago at Bishop Wanjala’s church. He loves to read and he loves to worship the Lord with vibrant singing and dancing. I’ve always enjoyed his company.

Joe has had a very difficult life. His mom rejected him from infancy because he wasn’t fathered by the man she married. Subsequently, he’s been shuttled back and forth between relatives and his mother has verbally abused him his entire life.

As if that wasn’t enough, he’s fallen on some especially tough times lately. Several months ago, he contracted tuberculosis. He grew extremely sick and weak. He came back to Nairobi to be treated. His mom reluctantly allowed him to sleep in her house, as long as he stays away during the course of the day.

Throughout all of these hardships, he’s maintained a positive outlook on life. His trust in the Lord has never wavered. He knows God has a plan for his life and he’s eager to put all of the past behind him.

He finishes his six-month TB treatment this Sunday, the 31st. On that day, his mother will unsympathetically kick him out of her house.

He’s not yet back to 100%.

In fact, he doesn’t have enough strength to work.

He needs a place to lay his head. He needs help.

Will you help build Joe a house?

Bishop has agreed that he can stay on his church compound rent-free in an already existing room (about 10 x 10 feet). It’s rather crudely constructed (of corrugated iron sheets), but would suffice. It does, however, need several improvements to make it habitable.

In an act of faith, I’ve scheduled a “fundi” (carpenter) to come on Thursday morning to start the improvements. He’ll be finished by Saturday.

Please consider becoming involved in this project. Besides the structural changes, Joe will also need some bare essentials with which to live. The prices listed are approximate:

House ($270):

  • Cement the floor - $50
  • New corrugated iron sheets for the roof (the current ones are scrap pieces; it leaks during rain) - $70
  • Plywood to help insulate it from the cold - $60
  • A wooden door and frame - $30
  • Nails, hinges, latch, padlock, etc. - $30
  • Labor - $30

Furniture ($110):

  • Bed frame - A church member will donate one
  • Foam mattress - $20
  • Blankets and sheets - $40
  • Coffee table - $20
  • Couch - $30

Other essential items ($150):

  • Utensils, such as Kerosene cooker, basin, bucket, flask, pots and pans, silverware, dishes, etc. - $50
  • Food items to get started - $25
  • Clothes (right now he only has 1 pair of trousers and 5 shirts, 3 of which I gave him) - $30
  • Personal grooming items - $15
  • Miscellaneous - $30


Acts 2:45 tells us that the people

“gave to anyone as he had need”.

Indeed, this young man has a need! He has nowhere else to go. He has no one else to turn to.

If you want to help build Joe a house, you can send your contributions to my Omaha address –

PO Box 34083

Omaha, NE 68134

Make the checks out to me, but indicate “Build Joe a house” on the memo line. If you want to pay for a particular item in the list, specify that as well.

Whether or not you’re able to help Joe financially, please offer him a word of encouragement! I’ll compile them and give him a printed copy. You can email your words of encouragement or post them here on my blog.

Please also remember to pray for him!

Joy and Karo

Karo is blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.
I'll keep it a secret how old she is!

A Few Days With Jim

Kids in Kenya are currently on their August "holiday" from school. I spent five days with Jim a couple of weeks ago. One of the things we did was to go to the National Museum in Nairobi. It was closed for a two-year renovation and just recently re-opened. We really enjoyed it! Both of us liked the bird display the best.

We also went to Uhuru Park. This is a large monument there.

A stop for pizza rounded out our day!

An Outing on the Lake

Uhuru (Freedom) Park is quite beautiful. It even has a lagoon where one can rent boats. Jim and I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure! You can see from the photos below that the city of Nairobi looks very nice from this vantage point.

More Shots of Our Time Together

Streetboys often bathe and do their laundry in this river.
Foot and vehicle traffic passing by, as well as curious onlookers, doesn't seem to bother them one bit.

We met Sammy in town.
He was on his way to register for driving classes.

Signs like this one appear at various places throughout Nairobi.
Seeing men urinate in public is very common.

On another day, we rode bicycles to a reptile garden, of sorts. William breeds two kinds of chameleons that are endangered in Kenya - Jackson and Bearded. The two photos (that I got online) are of Jackson chameleons. The information he told us was very fascinating!

13 August 2008

A Great Quote

Dangerous faith is living a life of obedience to Jesus
and not worrying about the consequences.
It’s a holistic faith that is about bending every aspect of our lives
– every daily routine, every unusual circumstance –
to glorify God, even to the point of risking our very lives.
After all, God is less concerned about our safety
than He is about receiving glory through our lives.

- Joel Vestal, Dangerous Faith

Four Photos and a Quiz Question for You

African Hoopoe
Isn't this bird absolutely bea-u-ti-ful?!
I saw one of these for the first time at my recent personal retreat.

I’ve been painting my new house. It’s looking great! I’m almost finished with the sitting room, kitchen, and hallway. I still have the bedroom and bathroom to do.

Painting in Kenya is rather challenging. As my neighbor very accurately says, “There’s not a straight line in the place!”

I do love to paint and I love the new finished look in my new abode.

This is what many of the roads look like in Kenya! Have you ever seen such a thing?!

Quiz Question:

What is a "push stud"?

By the way, no fair using Google!

I Sang on National Radio!

Can you believe it?! I sang on national radio in Kenya! Me, who has absolutely NO musical talent whatsoever!

One of the Christian radio stations in Kenya, recently re-named “Radio 316” has a great morning program with an announcer called Mike-on-the-mike. He’s very funny. One of my favorite things that he does is to call unsuspecting people on their birthdays. He always comes up with a funny angle and somehow manages to get the people to go on and on talking and sometimes singing, without even knowing who he is or that they’re on the air.

I submitted Karo’s name for this funny ploy of his. However, her birthday was just a few days after they unveiled their new name and programming. So, Mike-on-the-mike wasn’t quite into his normal groove.

Surprisingly, he called ME! He said he wanted to turn the tables a little bit and get ME to sing. Somehow, his manner immediately convinced me to just go ahead and sing “Happy Birthday” to Karo. He also recorded me saying a brief greeting to her and a few words about the new station name. Then he asked what song I wanted played in Karo’s honor.

Then… he called Karo and played the recording of ME for her, all the while recording her reactions. It was quite well done and very funny.

She was, of course, pleasantly taken aback and told me that I was full of surprises!

Update on John and Eloise Bergen

[NOTE: I’ve compiled the following from two internet news articles.]

The two elderly Canadian missionaries who were viciously attacked in Kenya returned to Canada a few weeks ago, with words of forgiveness for their attackers. Still bearing visible scars and seated in wheelchairs, John and Eloise Bergen arrived at the Calgary airport to a joyous, tearful group of fifteen family members and friends.

"I'm alive, I'm alive," called out John Bergen, looking frail and with his left arm heavily bandaged. "We're great, we're alive, we're a little bit torn at the edges, but we're great," he told reporters. Speaking as relatives caressed his head and clasped his hands, John said he bears no malice toward the thieves who left him for dead. "We hold nothing against our assassins," said John, his left arm still heavily bandaged and stitches still marking his right arm.

Asked about his wife's actions that night, John started to cry and said simply: "She's the queen."

Eloise Bergen said that she was just learning to smile again through her damaged mouth, which she said still felt frozen. But she said it was "awesome" to see her family. "I'm smiling big inside, and I'm so happy to be home. So happy. Thank you everybody for praying for us."

John Bergen told family members that angels kept the machete's blows from taking his life. "What a machete can do to a person, just one blow, is amazing. For him to have as little cuts as he has, and to not have any limbs severed, is unbelievable," said Lance Bergen, the couple's oldest son.

"They chopped my arms; my arms were only tied together with some soft tissue. And the people that saw the bones sticking out actually had to leave the hospital, go outside, and throw up."

The Bergens arrived in Kenya just four months ago, primarily to help women and children made widows and orphans by the post-election violence earlier this year. They say they still want to go back and continue their work.

"We just believe so much in what they're doing, for them to want to go back after all this happened." said Robyn McGough, who is married to Lance Bergen. She said the Bergens have been an inspiration to many. "They don't have any idea of the impact they've created," Robyn said. "There are more miracles that have happened here than I have ever seen in my life," added Lance Bergen.

"They're doing as good as can be expected but there needs to be some emotional healing," Steve Pippin of Hope for the Nations said in a telephone interview from Kenya. The couple is expected to undergo physiotherapy and trauma counseling while in Canada. The Bergens are keeping their home in Kenya and have left all their possessions there. "They're just very tired with the whole ordeal, but they definitely want to come back," said Pippin.

The trial for the six men charged in connection with the violent home invasion is expected to start on Oct. 3.

[NOTE: I’ve been emailing John Bergen the past few days. I’ve told him that many of my blog readers have committed to pray for them. The following is a quote from his emails.]

“All prayers are welcome. We have been healing and will soon be teaching about forgiveness. We are very excited. Not to forgive gives you bondage to the devil as he wants us to hate and have revenge.”

Update on Joe

Please continue to pray for Joe. He will finish his 6-month course of treatment on the last day of August. His mom still insists that he must move out on that day. However, he doesn’t know where he’ll go.

Also, his left lung is still quite painful. The doctor has told him that he may have to do a 2nd course of treatment, this time for four months.

He so desperately wants to heal completely so he can get a job and become independent.

Ten Year Anniversary of Kenya's "Bomb Blast"



Friday, August 7, 1998

First came two explosions, then the mighty sonic boom, the ground shook and the skies over a corner of the city darkened with a mushroom cloud.

As the smoke and dust cleared, tons of paper thrown up by the blast wafted lazily over the city, coming down in slow pirouettes that belied the force of the explosion that had sent them into the sky. August 7th is a date of horror etched in the collective memory of millions of Kenyans.

The target of the terrorist attack - the US embassy - a stout, solid, fortress in downtown Nairobi, was still standing defiant, but gutted on the inside. Twelve American and 31 other embassy staff, nearly all Kenyans, lost their lives. A total of 213 people were killed.

Adjacent to the embassy building, the taller seven-story Ufundi Cooperative House, not constructed to withstand bomb attacks, had crumbled to the ground. Next to it one of the Nairobi skyline’s landmarks, Cooperative Bank tower, fondly called “the Bellbottom”, also remained standing but it too was gutted with all the windows blown out and the innards destroyed.

Ground Zero, where the embassy and the Ufundi Co-op buildings once stood, has been transformed into a charming little memorial park. It radiates beauty and serenity; a place with park benches and beautiful lawns occupied by those looking for peace and solitude. Some come just to relax and contemplate the skies. Others come to mourn.

But nothing can take away the fact that the island of peace and quiet was born out of terror, the worst terrorist attack recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. A shiny granite memorial etched with the names of all who perished makes for the centerpiece of the park.

Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the August 7, 1998 bombing at the Memorial Park, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the Government will pursue and apprehend suspected terrorists within the country. “Let me assure Kenyans that this Government will do everything possible to prevent us from ever again being attacked.”

The move comes at a time when Kenya security forces are on the trail of Fazul Abdullah, widely regarded as the architect of the Al Qaeda-led Kenya and Tanzania 1998 bombings.

Internal Security minister George Saitoti said the country’s security agents have put in place measures to pre-empt future attacks. “We have 24-hour surveillance on our borders to ensure that similar strategies do not occur.”

The mood was somber for relatives and family of those who perished, as survivors of the explosion expected the Government to speak about their compensation.

Former Trade minister Joseph Kamotho (centre) is escorted by aides out of his office at Cooperative House.

A US marine at the scene of the blast.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga lays a wreath to mark the 10th Anniversary of the August 7, 1998 bombing in Nairobi at the Memorial Park.


I could call this post “Circumcision” or I could call it “Why I Avoid Being at my House at Matunda in August of Every Even-Numbered Year”.

The Bukusu clan of the Luhya tribe (which heavily populates the Matunda area) still practices a traditional method of circumcising their boys. They do so every August of even-numbered years.

In the process, they make a LOT of noise at night. It disrupts my sleep to say the least.

These men are drinking a home-made alcoholic brew. Notice the boy in the back of the group. He is the one to be circumcised. The men are his uncles.

06 August 2008

Poor People Steal

“Poor people steal; this is a trait they have in common with the rich, whose thefts vary only in the degree of the necessity and the quality of the theft.”

from Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen

I was pick-pocketed today. What a terrible experience! I didn’t realize it until much later.

I woke up at 6:00am for some reason, without even using my alarm. I toasted a couple pieces of wonderfully delicious homemade bread for breakfast. I then enjoyed three cups of chai while I read Romans, chapters 7-9 and Oswald Chamber’s entry for the day.

Then I painted the ceiling trim in my house. Hmmm…. not sure I like the color, though. I’ve been doing lots of painting lately, in fact. Generally, I like the results.

I left my house walking and rejoicing in the absolute splendid sunshine! Nairobi’s weather has been chilly, overcast, and rainy lately and I’d grown more than tired of it! Today, there’s lots and lots of blue sky and warm sun!

I arrived at Karen shops and made a withdrawal from the ATM machine. There’s always a fine line between withdrawing a fair amount (which means walking around with lots of cash) and making less frequent withdrawals (which cost about $7.00 each). Well, this time I opted to take out enough for today, tomorrow, and some extra.

While buying a newspaper and some phone credit… and waiting for change (a common annoyance in Kenya), the bus that I would normally use (City Hoppa) went past me.

So, instead of waiting 20 minutes or so for the next one, I walked over to the more busy bus stage. I had hoped to get some sort of bus, as I find them more comfortable than matatus (Nissan vans). However, there were none in sight. I spotted a matatu with the front seat available and decided to use it. A young man carry a limp backpack climbed into the seat between me and the driver.

We went along as per usual; I scanned the front page of the newspaper and paid my fare. At one point, one of the passengers behind me tapped me on the shoulder and told me to use my seat belt. Assuming there were police up ahead, I obliged him. The young man sitting next to me attempted to do the same, but couldn’t get his belt to come loose from wherever it was stuck. I tried to help him as best I could; he never was successful and alighted at the next stage anyway.

Lots of work is being done on the potholes on Ngong Road lately. Oftentimes, the traffic is diverted to allow the men to work. Today was no exception. The “mat” I was on had to take a detour a short distance from where I wanted to alight, so I got out early and walked the short distance.

I had a funny feeling about the struggle my seat mate and I had with his seat belt. I checked my fanny pack for my phone. Whew! It was still there!

I stopped to see a friend briefly at her office and then got a few grocery items at Nakumatt. When I reached the counter to pay is when I discovered that I’d been pick-pocketed!

He’d stolen a small leather coin purse. Several important items were inside it – Omaha and Kenya ATM cards, my new alien card, my Nebraska driver’s license, a reduced-in-size copy of my passport, my Nakumatt Smart Card (for collecting shoppers’ points), etc.

I had withdrawn $187. He’d gotten all but $7.00 of it!

I felt my face grow flush as I told the man at the cash register not to ring up my items. I instinctively and instantly knew exactly what had happened! It was the young man sitting next to me on the mat. The whole thing had been a ploy! There never were any policemen ahead of us. It’s likely the passenger behind me, as well as the conductor (and possibly the driver) were all in it together!

It’s a common tactic. He had used his backpack (sometimes it’s a newspaper or a package) to hide what his hand was doing – rummaging in my fanny pack. The seatbelt story was a way to distract my attention.

I froze in the checkout line as my mind came to the realization of what had transpired. The checkout guy and sacker of my line and the one next to me were all very sympathetic. They didn’t try to rush me along at all, but listened to my story and tried to encourage me in my plight.

I checked the front pocket of my fanny pack and was relieved to find a 100-shilling note and some coins. At least I could get back home. My other plans for the day were suddenly very insignificant.

After I alighted from the bus, I could hardly stop the tears from falling. Once I got home, I turned on my laptop and desk phone in the sitting room.

Then I fell on my knees in my bedroom. I didn’t even know how to pray but poured out my heart to the Lord silently through my tears. Interestingly, in the morning I had read this verse –

“We do not know what we ought to pray for,

but the Spirit himself intercedes for us

with groans that words cannot express.”

I got online immediately to send an email to my bank alerting them to the stolen ATM card.

Such incidences are so, so very discouraging!

My consolation is that my Father in heaven knows what happened. He sees my tears. He loves me. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

I also praise God that I wasn’t harmed physically.

This unpleasant episode seems to highlight the importance of your prayers for me! Please re-read again the following prayer items in my prayer letter (in the next blog entry).

Please be faithful and diligent in praying for me!!

01 August 2008

August Prayer Letter

In the past, I’ve always gone to cyber caf├ęs to use the internet. It’s almost always a frustrating experience, with equipment that often doesn’t work, the internet connection slow as molasses or down completely, or no power at all. Finally, by using some birthday money, I now have internet in my own home! I love it and wonder why on earth I waited so long to do it! An added bonus is that I can use the wireless desk phone to call the States for half as much as it cost with my cell phone. Here I am talking to my grandson, Tony.

This is my new alien card. I just had it renewed after letting it expire way back in 2002. I’ve never really understood their purpose (other than extra money for the government), so I had never renewed it. However (as I mentioned a couple of months ago), I have recently become more and more aware that I am, in fact, an alien living in a foreign country. So… I’ve been actively and consciously renewing my mind in that regard and decided it was high time to be a card-carrying alien! The cards run in conjunction with work permits, so when I renewed that recently, I also renewed the alien status. Silly me, I had to pay all the back amounts anyway. The process is rather strange; they fingerprint every single finger – not once, but twice! Then we have to wait 5-6 weeks to collect the card.

Nevertheless, that’s all behind me.

Debra Ann Smith is once again a bona-fide, official, and legal alien of the Republic of Kenya.

August 2008 Prayer Letter

When I was in the States just over a year ago, I sent out support letters, refrigerator magnets, and bookmarks to many of you. I recently ran across one of the bookmarks and re-read the excellent prayer suggestions on the back. They’re taken from an article titled, “How to Pray for Missionaries”, written by David Wang and published in Mission Today, May 1994. The following modified excerpts can be used as a guide to praying for me:

  • Plead the protection of Jesus’ blood over me. Diseases, language barriers, strange customs, oppression of the enemy, and difficult circumstances can take their toll.
  • Pray that I will know God’s rest and peace.
  • Pray for my safety as I travel throughout Kenya.
  • The natural love of the human heart will fail many times. Pray that the love of Christ will fill me.
  • How easy it is to labor in the arm of the flesh, depending on one’s own strength, wisdom, and ability – but how futile. Satan recognizes no power, but the power of God. Pray for the anointing of God to rest on me.
  • Pray that I may be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray knowledgeably. Be specific, systematic, and steadfast in praying for my real and defined needs. Pray consistently. Pray believing.
  • Give God the praise due Him for answers to my prayer requests. As you pray, praise Him for the answers before they are manifested. Prayer is mighty, but prayer with praise is mightier.

The Final Analysis
by Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you;
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others may destroy overnight;
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten;
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Recent items in the news:

A wave of student unrest has hit Kenya. Approximately 300 boarding high schools have closed (both rural and urban) due to students going on “strike”. Much property has been destroyed and many buildings have been burned down. One student died in a dormitory fire. Various reasons have been cited, including difficult mock and regular exams coming up, unheeded grievances by the students, poor parenting, drug abuse, etc.

Inflation is close to 30% in Kenya. Areas that especially affect the average citizen are food prices and cooking fuel. Gasoline is currently $6.00 per gallon! The cost of electricity has just doubled!

The latest health statistics show that Aids infections are increasing in most parts of Kenya. According to statistics, 1.4 million Kenyans aged 15-64 years live with HIV. The report released this week shows that 7.8% of the population has Aids. Nyanza province is the worst affected, with a rate of 15.3%. 60% of those infected are women. In 10% of married couples, at least one partner has HIV. Over 50% of Kenyan women and 75% of the men have not had an HIV test. A worrying 80% of those that are HIV-positive do not know their status.

On the average, 81% of the world’s population receives their mail at home. Across Kenya and all of Africa, only 22% have mail delivered to their homes.

Naomi and Todd Celebrate Their 5th Wedding Anniversary

Me and my kids at Naomi's wedding in 2003

A 2008 photo of Naomi, Todd, and their kids

A Bike Ride Behind Ngong Hills

Kim and I recently did our 2nd bike ride. This one was another tough ride and at ten miles longer than our first one, totaled 30 miles. It was also another chilly, cloudy day like the last one.

I was eager to see Ngong Hills from this angle for the first time. However, until mid-day the peaks were completely covered with a blanket of thick clouds (as you can see in the top photo). Finally, while we ate our lunch, first one peak and then another revealed itself.

While we ate our lunch, we were serenaded by local Maasai worshiping at a special church service. It was so neat to listen to.