20 September 2008

Update on Joe

“It is in our intimate relationships with people who are poor, or more accurately our friends who happen to be poor, that our tainted views of God are transformed. It is our intimate relationships with our friends on the streets or in red-light districts that open our blinded eyes to really see Jesus for who he is. Through their desperation and forced vulnerability, they help us see what intimacy with God looks like. We are compelled to follow our friends who are poor, to God’s heart.”

- Christopher Heuertz, Simple Spirituality

I bought a hamburger the other day for Joe. He really enjoyed it. On another day, I added some "chips" and a coke. He was thrilled, saying he hadn't had a "soda" for over a year!

He's supposed to be eating lots of protein to assist his body in recovering from the TB. He very rarely gets meat, though.

He told me that when he started the treatment 6 months ago, he weighed only 36 kilograms (80 lbs)! He's gained some weight, but not nearly enough. Now he weighs 46 kilos (101 lbs). He's also still quite weak.

Guess we could legitimately call him a "100 pound weakling".

I'm slowly getting the inside of his house painted. It takes me two hours (one way) to reach his place from where I live. I usually paint for about four hours and sit down for a cup of tea and chat with him for another hour. It makes for a long day. I've gone twice now. I think I'll finish up with the painting in two more visits.

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act.”
Proverbs 3:27

This is Jeroboam. He's a keyboardist for a nearby church and also an electrician. He's re-doing the wiring in Joe's house. Now Joe will have an outlet! He's really been wanting to listen to a radio.

He loves to read. I recently gave him a Bible. He was so happy! He's had to borrow one lately.

“God is in the business of taking people just like you and me
and using us as conduits of hope and justice to the oppressed.”

- Joel Vestal, Dangerous Faith

Life's Little "Necessities"

I hope you'll take the time to try this little exercise.

Just do some counting and add up your points.

You may want to go grab a pen and piece of paper first.

And maybe a calculator.

Do you have a roof over your head? if yes… 5.00

Is your house heated? if yes... 1.00

Do you have A/C in your house? if yes... 1.00

Number of cars you own x 4.00

Number of beds in your house x 2.00

Number of toilets in your house x 3.00

Number of water taps/faucets x 3.00

Number of showers per week x .50

Number of phones you own x 1.00

Each computer you own x 2.00

Hours you’re online per week x .25

Each TV you own x 1.00

TV hours watched per week x .25

Number of videotapes x .05

Number of CDs or DVDs x .10

Each item of clothing x .01

Pairs of shoes x .25

Number of loads of laundry per week x 1.00

Number of electric appliances x .50

Number of plates or bowls in kitchen x .01

Number of meals you eat in a day x 1.00

Every vitamin you take daily x .05

Number of daily glasses of water x .25

Every year of school you’ve attended x 1.00

My total is 66.80

Joe’s is 24.34

What’s your total?

(From Joel Vestal's book, Dangerous Faith, with a few modifications)

Some Interesting Information

80% of the world's population lives in sub-standard housing!

One half of the world's population is malnourished!

Some Sobering Information

Only 30% of the world's population is able to read!
What would your life be like, if you couldn't read?

This one may be hard to read. It says, that 59% of the world's wealth is possessed by only 200 people.

The other 6.7 billion people in the world share what's left over!

How the world really shapes up (VICTORIA MOORE - March 2007)

We all know what the world looks like. However, this computer-generated modified map - or cartogram - redraws the globe with each country's size proportionate according to the d
istribution of the world’s wealth.

Compare, for instance, Africa with the US.

Imagine... Only one person in 100 throughout the world has a college degree.
Likewise, only one person in 100 throughout the world owns a computer!

(I used statistics from Dangerous Faith, by Joel Vestal, to make these pie charts)

Weekend in Nakuru

Jim on the back of a boda boda

Playing a bau game at Hyrax Hill museum
(I believe this is the oldest game in the world.
It goes by many names, including Mancala)

The view of Lake Nakuru from the top of Hyrax Hill

On the edge of Menengai Crater

This extinct volcano cauldron is one of the largest in the world It's an incredible 30 square miles! There are numerous steam vents (some can be seen in the photo). This was my first time to see Menengai, but hopefully not my last!

Tour at Kebirigo Tea Factory (during trip to Kisii)

The plucked tea leaves arrive from the shamba in a lorry and are unloaded. This factory receives 200,000 kgs of tea leaves every day during the rainy season! That's over 200 tons! During the low season, they receive 40-50,000 kgs per day.

The tea leaves are spread out to wither. When the leaves arrive, their moisture content is 100%. After 5-6 hours, this will reduce to 65.5-66%.

Derrick and Jeremy tried to do the spreading like the workers.

Linet is showing “two leaves and a bud”.
This is what the workers "pluck" from the tea plants.

Our Tour Continues

The next step in the processing is called CTC. It stands for cutting, tearing, and curing. After that comes CFU. This is where the continuous fermenting units are located. An enzyme in the tea leaves reacts to oxygen in the air. This is a naturally occurring process and takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. When it is completed, the tea leaves will have a coppery color.

The fourth step is drying the leaves. Below is some of the firewood that's used to dry the leaves with hot air.

By the time the leaves come out of the dryers they are almost black in color.

The 5th step is cleaning. “Magnets” grab all the pieces from the tea leaves that shouldn’t be included in the final product. The 6th step is sorting the various sizes of cut leaves. There are several grades: BP-1 and PF-1 are primarily used for exporting. PD and D-1 are very fine (almost like dust) and are used for tea bags. F-1 is the finest and is primarily consumed in Mombasa.

Step 7 is packing. Kenya exports much of its tea leaves to the UK, Germany, France, and the US. There are also some extracts removed from F-1 tea leaves. This is used for making such things as shoe polish and beer.

The final step is called Quality Control. There are trained “tasters” who taste the various grades of tea hourly. They primarily taste for acidity. BP-1 has a low acid content and D has the highest. The tasters don’t add milk or sugar.

Now when we see a tea shamba,
we’ll know how much work it takes for us to enjoy a cup of chai!

All four of us thoroughly enjoyed our tour! The boys will undoubtedly remember it for years to come. It actually was amazing that we were allowed in. Standard procedure is to send a letter requesting a tour a month in advance. Not only did we not do that, but we had two children with us, and... I was allowed to take unlimited photos!

I'll bet you're glad I didn't post all 40 of them!

07 September 2008

September Prayer Letter

These statistics about TB were in the paper just this last last week:

  • Kenya is ranked 13th in the world of the "most burdened" countries with TB.
  • 70% of Kenya's cases are between the ages of 15-34 (which includes Joe).

I believe the following quotes are very applicable to my friendship with and assistance towards Joe.

Grasp tightly what is real in life.

- Malawian proverb

Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute!

- Proverbs 31:8, 9

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. (NIV)

Make friends with nobodies. (The Message)

- Romans 12:16

I believe that in our own journeys we should seek out relationships with the poor and oppressed… Jesus said that what you have done to the poor by feeding, clothing, and loving them, you have done to Him (Matthew 25:40). Perhaps one reason Jesus so strongly emphasized ministry to the poor is because He knew that we would meet and experience Him in the midst of loving and serving the poor.

- Joel Vestal, Dangerous Faith

Update on Pick-Pocket Experience

God blessed me with contributions to more than make up what was stolen! Indeed, He is good!

My Mom ordered a “theft-proof” hip pack online for me. Some friends from Nairobi who were just in the States have brought it for me. I'll likely have it this week.

I’ve initiated action on replacing most of my various cards. The thief doesn’t seem to have attempted to use any of them. Apparently he was thrilled enough with the wad of cash!

  • My US bank had already issued a new ATM card for me. However, it was mysteriously lost in the mail when my Mom mailed it to those same friends (who were in the States).
  • I’ve applied for a new ATM card from my Kenya bank. I should have it in a few more weeks.
  • I’ve applied for a new alien card. What a joke that whole experience was! I first went to Nyayo House (where the immigration offices are) and was told I had to have an “official police abstract”. So, on another day, I went to the Karen police station. First thing I had to do was make my own photocopy of the form! Good grief! Once that was accomplished, the female officer filled it out with the sketchiest information. But, it was duly stamped, thereby making it “official” I guess! She then informed me that I had to go to Langata CID for an “official receipt”. Oh, for Pete’s sake! On another day, I went back to this same police station, only to be told that particular department wasn’t open. On yet another day, I went again. This time I found the proper department open; however, the young man was unable to find the receipt book. He dug and dug through – literally – four-foot high and haphazardly piled books of records. As if this sort of thing happens daily for him and as if I have nothing better to do with my time, he matter-of-factly informed me I could go to one of three other CID’s in the city... or come back another day. Since I had to pass through town anyway that day, I headed to the one at Railway Station. Once in the general area, I had to ask three people before I found someone that could direct me to where the police station was located. I amazingly found – not only the correct department – but, to my good fortune, it not only was staffed but the receipt book was available! I waited in the short queue and, after paying 50-bob, was presented with my “official receipt”, also duly stamped. On yet another day, I went back to Nyayo House with my two “official” – yet practically-speaking (in my opinion) worthless – pieces of stamped papers. The woman at the counter seemed pleased that I came bearing them. However, I’d forgotten several photocopies of other documents that were necessary. This, of course, required me to leave the building and find some place that makes photocopies. After returning with them, she told me that “lost cases” cost 2,000 shillings ($30)! Aye! I was shocked; the original is only 1,000/= per year. Fortunately I had barely enough on me to pay it, without once again leaving the building. I was then told to wait until my name was called. Then I was escorted to a dingy waiting room to again wait. When my name was called... again, I was finger-printed (again), not once per all ten fingers, but twice! I now wait 5-6 weeks for it to be “processed”.
  • I have yet to apply for a new Smart Card from Nakumatt. (These are used to accumulate points based on how much you spend on groceries, etc. The points can then be redeemed at various values for groceries, etc.) I’m supposed to pay $7.50 for a replacement, even though the original one was free.
  • I’ll replace my Nebraska drivers’ license when I next return to the States.

Two Trips - Kisii and Nakuru

Linet said this is the cafe that "fed and educated all of us kids".

Outside the tea factory

I traveled with Linet and her two boys – Derrick and Jeremy – to her Mom’s home near Kisii (a market area called Ting’a). Linet and I have actually been talking about making this trip for five years. I decided it was finally time that we actually did it! We had a great time and even extended our journey by one day. Linet enjoyed a few days away from her job and the boys enjoyed a safari during their school “holiday”. Linet’s mom was thrilled with our visit!

Two highlights of the trip were a fascinating tour of a tea factory (it was rather amazing that we were allowed in) and a day at Homa Bay on Lake Victoria. The three of them (plus a cousin that joined us) experienced their first-ever boat and motorcycle rides! Derrick and Jeremy had never even seen the lake. (Photos of all but the tea factory tour follow below. I’ll post the remaining tour photos at a later date.)

On top of Hyrax Hill

On top of Menengai crater

Jim (Karo’s son) and I spent three days at Nakuru. The main purpose of our trip was to attend Vera and Ben’s wedding. But we also went to Menengai Crater (an absolutely incredible sight!) and Hyrax Hill museum (very fascinating and educational). We frequented two adjoining caf├ęs – Sweet Mart and Tipsy Restaurant. They’re both owned by the same East Indian family. We really enjoyed their friendliness, in addition to their wonderful pastries and Indian sweets! Jim is fun to hang out with; we had a great time. (I’ll post more photos from our trip at a later date.)

Ting'a and Kisii

Linet's Mom

Derrick and Jeremy in their grandmother's kitchen

This was a first for Linet, Derrick, Jeremy, and Becky!
Linet said, "It was so comfortable!
And we didn't have to walk up that big hill!"

Every once in a while, I read in the newspaper about a "Boda boda bicycle race" sponsored by Nakumatt. It just so happened that there was one being held in Kisii the day we were there. It's limited to 100 participants. They ride 100 kilometers and they can only use bikes without gears.

Lake Victoria

I've been to Kisumu (many times) and Muhuru,
both on Lake Victoria.
But this was my first time to Homa Bay.


These people are waiting for the boat to get full(er) before it heads out, likely to Kendu Bay. Many people die every year on this lake. Such boats don't carry life-jackets and most Kenyans do not know how to swim. The boats are often referred to as "floating coffins". There have been 109 drowning deaths in more than 80 accidents since 2004 on Lake Victoria. Supposedly a new law has just been passed requiring safety features on the boats.

Homa Bay

After our boat ride, we found a small kiosk and had some lunch. The talapia we ate had been caught that very morning. Talk about fresh... and delicious! The photo above is what I was served.

I gave my gills to Linet, her boys, and Becky. They were excited that I shared them.

I, on the other hand, was excited to not have to eat them!

Derrick was the only one interested in the eyes!

We also bought some talapia from this lady to take home.
Linet's mom was thrilled with it!

I wanted to show Linet and her boys how the fish is packed in ice chips in preparation to be trucked to Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. We ended up talking to Peter and his son for quite a while. He was quite proud of his business. He's been doing it for almost 40 years! He's raised all ten of his children with this business.

These buses are but two examples of "Obama mania"
that's sweeping across Kenya!