21 January 2016

Whistling Thorns, a walk on the wild side

We ought to take outdoor walks, to refresh and raise our spirits by deep breathing in the open air.  
      ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (1st century Roman philosopher)

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least - and it is commonly more than that - sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. 
      ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American writer and philosopher

Beautiful large aloe, with red flowers

Seed pods of a Sweet Thorn Acacia

I'm not sure, but there seems to be some sort of fungus on this plant.

Beautiful flower of a Sweet Thorn Acacia

Robai and I enjoyed our 'nature walk' (as she called it). I always enjoy going to this lovely and untouched spot for a stroll. One is always guaranteed to see a Maasai or two grazing their cattle and goats.

We didn't see any zebra this time, but we did spot some Thomson gazelle.

We finished up our day by sharing a pizza at Whistling Thorns, while looking at the stunning view of Ngong Hills on the horizon.

We were joined by a pair of giraffe. Look... I do believe one of them is blue!

19 January 2016

Hanging out with Robai (Janepha), a very bright and inquisitive young lady

Kenya's academic calendar ends in late November, which makes the month of December a long school 'holiday' (vacation). Robai spent just over three weeks with me, for the primary purpose of studying three science textbooks - Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. She also went through a Bible study book and read a couple of my novels written by Kenyan authors. In order to give her an occasional break, we ventured out now and then. Here's a glimpse of some of our adventures.

Ngong Hills
It's always fun taking my friends up on Ngong Hills!

It's also fun flying kites up there :)

Giraffe Center
She did very well feeding the giraffes and thoroughly absorbed the intern's talk on the species.

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
She was enthralled to see the orphaned elephants and to learn about their rehabilitation.

It's always fun to watch them romp and play in the mud!

There are also two orphaned ostriches currently at the center.

Life in Kenya can be so random. We ended up getting a lift in the back of this pick-up the last bit of distance to Sheldrick.

Site of 1998 terrorist attack on US embassy (downtown Nairobi)
Although a difficult subject matter, Robai was glad to learn about this attack through the museum and video.

Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC)
Statue of Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya's first president), with the Law Courts behind

Robai was amazed to see this view of downtown Nairobi from the top of the KICC building!

Other necessary activities
Besides getting a haircut, Robai also paid an overdue visit to a dentist for an extraction. 

13 January 2016

Five 'fools' for Christ; more on the Ecuador Five

Sixty years ago this month, five missionaries were killed in the jungle of Ecuador. Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian were viciously speared, beaten with clubs, and hacked to death with machetes by a small gang of Waodani (Auca) Indians.

The events surrounding their initial friendly contact with the Auca Indians (Auca is a Quecha word meaning: savages) and their brutal spearing deaths was covered by worldwide press, including a ten page article in Life magazine in January 1956.

The following are excerpts from two articles appearing at To Every Tribe.

One was written earlier this month to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the martyrdom of the 'Ecuador Five' and the other one was written in 2011 on the 55th anniversary.

In his book - Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith - Steve Saint, son of Nate, offers these insightful portraits of the five men:

Jim Elliot was impetuous but focused.  Both a college wrestler and a writer, his good looks and physical strength were matched by a deep introspection.

Ed McCully, president of his college class, had played football end and won his senior oratory contest.  Everyone expected him to go to law school, but something stronger called him to the jungles of the Amazon.

Nate Saint was born into an artist’s family but picked up a stray gene.  He loved the technical and mechanical aspects of life and wanted to use his interest and skills for a purpose with dimensions that would honor God and outlast the temporal.  Flying support for missionaries was a way to fulfill both of his desires.

Pete Fleming was the youngest of the group, but in some ways the group’s sage.

Roger Youderian was the guy you sent to do the job when it took dogged determination and a completely willing heart to get it done.

Five common men
Here were five common young men whose unifying distinction was less their inherited abilities or acquired skills than their commitment to seek God’s will and to carry out his purposes for their lives.

They were aware of the risk
Having done their homework, they understood that from the days of the conquistadors in the sixteenth-century until the encroachment of big oil companies upon their territory in 1955, encounters with the Waodani had ended in death.  Still, these common men had the uncommon, burning desire to follow Jesus’ command to take the gospel message into all the world, particularly where the name of Jesus had never been heard.

But they loved Jesus more
I’m convinced these men, who deeply loved life and their families, had counted the cost because they lived with one condition - that they would submit that love to a greater love.  They loved life and family, but they loved Jesus more.

Hard and difficult words of Jesus 
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 14:26-27 and 9:23-25)

I dare not stay home
Jim Elliot learned of the spiritual plight of the Waodani people in the summer of 1950 when a former missionary to Ecuador warned him of the “great challenge of the dreaded Aucas”. After ten days, largely devoted to prayer, Jim began to set his sights on Ecuador. Well-intentioned friends urged him to reconsider. Perhaps he might be better suited for stateside ministry and the obvious needs that remained there. However, once assured of God’s direction, he would not be dissuaded:

I dare not stay at home while the Waodani perish. What if the well-filled church 
in the homeland needs stirring? They have the Scriptures, Moses, and the Prophets. 
Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers. 
Jim Elliot

Reckless abandon
As Jim prepared himself for the rigors of pioneering the gospel in the Ecuadorian jungles, a friend and fellow classmate at Wheaton College, Ed McCully, was compelled to join him. Ed wrote a determined letter to Jim explaining his rationale for exchanging his pursuit of a medical career, for one of trail-blazing the gospel in Ecuador:

Jim, I have just one desire now, to live a life of reckless abandon for Christ, 
and I’m putting all my strength and energy into it. 
Maybe the Lord will send me some place where the Name of Christ is unknown. 
Ed McCully

Three years later, in Ecuador, only days before the final flight into Auca territory where they were slaughtered horrifically, Ed scribbled a note in the margin of his journal which simply said the following:

I’m willing to give my life for a handful of Indians. 
Ed McCully


Tragedy or triumph?
Soon after the search party, led by missionary Frank Drown, discovered the mutilated bodies of the missionaries, newspaper headlines around the world screamed things like:

“Tragedy in Ecuador!”
“Five Missionaries Slaughtered!”
“Five Young Lives Wasted!”

Certainly this was a disastrous event in the lives of five families who lost husbands, fathers, and sons. Was this murder a win for the enemy and a set-back for the gospel? Or, instead, was it a meticulous, divine providence, in every detail, designed to accomplish an even greater, global advance of the name of Jesus?

With the benefit of sixty years of historical reflection, the following is part of what we know.

Elisabeth Elliot and her daughter Valerie, with Waodani

Eternal impact
Several of the wives and children of the slain missionaries returned to the Aucas and the gospel was eventually established throughout the Waodani Region, including converts among some of those who did the spearing.

Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) invested the remaining decades of her life in ministry among the Waodanis and she is buried there.

Steve Saint (Nate’s son) returned as an adult and responsibly transitioned the Waodani Church (and culture) into the 21st Century, largely free of harmful dependence upon Western manpower and money.

Missionary impact
The violent and highly publicized death of the five men caused a panic among mission agencies. They wondered how the threat of persecution and martyrdom might affect ongoing missionary recruitment for the most difficult and dangerous places. However, by God’s grace, this proved to be an unwarranted concern. Instead of fewer missionaries, mission agencies were inundated with applications for missionary service.

Only the Lord knows exact numbers. Vast numbers of missionaries throughout the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and even until now, testify that the killing of the Ecuador Five is what God used to compel them into mission. Nearly three generations of missionaries, tens of thousands of them, have been catapulted into the worldwide harvest of nations, because of this one incident.

Where is the tragedy?
If Jim Elliot could speak today he would be laughing! I really believe that. What incredible wisdom of God that he would use their deaths to actually result in the answer to their best prayers for the Waodanis, that they would come to know Christ!

Victors not victims
Missionary martyrdom is not a detriment to the advancement of the Church. Instead, persecution is a divine incentive for even more forceful gospel advance. On the very day that Stephen was stoned to death, a great persecution was unleashed upon the church in Jerusalem which catapulted the gospel throughout Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. [See Acts 8:1 - Acts 28:31.] Still today, God’s gospel martyrs suffer, and through their agonies, the gospel is propelled into places where it would not have reached otherwise.

Like the Revelation 6 martyrs, the Ecuador 5 should not be viewed as defeated victims, but rather, as conquering victors with King Jesus.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those 
who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they 
had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, 
Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants 
of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was 
given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, 
until the full number of their fellow servants, their 
brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. 
~ Revelation 6:9-11

They triumphed over the accuser by the blood of the Lamb 
and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives 
so much as to shrink from death.
~ Revelation 12:11

Nate Saint with a Waodani man

In reflecting on his father’s legacy, Steve Saint has written,
"Dad strove to find out what life really is. He found identity, purpose, and fulfillment in being obedient to God’s call. He tried it, tested it, and committed himself to it. I know the risk he took, which resulted in his death and consequently his separation from his family, was not to satisfy his own need for adventure or fame, but was in obedience to what he believed was God’s directive to him. I suppose he is best known because he died for his faith, but the legacy he left his children was his willingness first to live for his faith."
That’s the life of faith which should resonate with our souls. A God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered life which leads to radical obedience and reckless abandon for the glory of His name and the advancement of His kingdom. May the testimony of the Ecuador Five encourage us live surrendered lives for Him.

We honor the gospel heroics of these young pioneers today and we give praise to our great God who gives this martyr privilege to some of His followers. As Jim Elliot once wrote,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep 
to gain that which he cannot lose.

- - - - - -
Click these links to see the two articles from To Every Tribe:

11 January 2016

Five 'fools' for Christ; a tribute on the 60th anniversary of their deaths

Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian were martyred 60 years ago this month. They died on January 8, 1956 during an effort to make peaceful contact with the Waodani people of Ecuador.

Wow, I was only 6 months old when that happened... and now I'm a missionary. Interesting to put it into that perspective.

Ed, Roger, and Jim on the beach where where they were speared by Waodani warriors.

Roger Youderian, Peter Fleming, and Ed McCully with their wives and children

The tragedy became a defining moment in the history of evangelical missions. Hundreds of young people were inspired to take up missionary work and thousands were moved to deeper commitment to Christ.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch this video! Steve, son of Nate Saint, shares how God has continued to the write the story that began in the jungles 60 years ago.

Jim Elliot's now famous quote, handwritten in his journal in 1949
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

A few months after penning the above comment, a former missionary to Ecuador told Elliot about the Waodani (Auca) Indians, a small and fierce unreached people in the jungle. Elliot sensed a call from the Lord to reach this people for Christ and arrived in Ecuador in 1952.

I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth till they were older. God is peopling Eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women. ~ Jim Elliot, 1950

Many of you are familiar with Elisabeth Elliot, widow to Jim. After his death, she and her three-year-old daughter, Valerie, continued to live with the Waodoni for two years. She later became the author of over 20 books and was a speaker in high demand. I posted a tribute about her after her death in June 2015.

Nate Saint with Mincaye, one of the men that speared his father

After the death of Nate Saint, his the family moved to Quito where young Steve attended school. Meanwhile, Rachel Saint (sister to Nate Saint) and Elisabeth Elliot successfully made peaceful contact with the Waodani and lived with them in the jungle. At 10 years of age, Steve Saint began staying with the Waodani during the summers and became friends with many members of the tribe.

In 1994, Rachel Saint died after spending 36 years with the Waodani. When Nate traveled to Ecuador for her burial, the Waodani invited him and his family to live with them. During the 18 months they were there, they helped the Waodani develop a desperately needed economy.

In 1996 he founded Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center (based in Florida), whose purpose is to "enable indigenous churches to overcome the technological and educational hurdles that stand in the way of their independence." Among I-TEC's notable projects is the development of the I-Fly Maverick "flying car."

Saint appeared in and narrated the 2004 documentary film Beyond the Gates of Splendor. In 2005 he published his memoirs, End of the Spear, which was made into a movie in 2006.

Poignant quote from the movie, End of the Spear

Missions is not something we pray for, support, or even go on. It’s a way of life. 
~ Steve Saint

The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for.
~ Jim Elliot, 1952

07 January 2016

The festive season: Boxing Day, December 26th

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” 
      ~ John Lubbock (1834-1913), British philanthropist, scientist, and banker

This was our spectacular view at Olepolos Country Club, where we went for 'nyama choma' (roasted meat). Roasted meat - or to be more precise - roasted goat (mbuzi choma) - is the unofficial national meal in Kenya. And what better day to enjoy it than on Boxing Day!*

Wuala points to where he's from, off in the distance
I had seen the sign for this place several times (on the back side of Ngong Hills), but had never been to it. Upon our arrival, we happened to meet Wuala, one of the supervisors at Olepolos. He showed us around the sprawling grounds and helped us choose the best viewpoint for enjoying our meal.

Wuala also took a lot of time showing us several paintings depicting the Maasai culture through the past 200 years or so. Each painting showed something representative of that particular "age-set" (a rigid system forming the basic political and social structure of the Maasai people). This particular painting shows the arrival of missionaries in Maasailand during the Ilnyankusi age-set. Some welcomed them, while others were quite wary.

A typical Maasai manyatta home

A really neat added bonus to our day was that Linet, Derrick, Jeremy, and Robai for their first time ever - got to not only see a Maasai manyatta home - but to go inside one! They were amazed at how small they are and also how dark they are and filled with smoke!

After the normal lengthy wait, our meat was finally ready. Wuala deftly cut it from the bone and into bite-sized pieces. We all eagerly dug into it, along with our chips or ugali and a cold soda.

I discovered later that this was also the first time for all of them to have nyama choma (actually the second time for Robai). It was yet another added bonus for our fun outing and made it that much more memorable!

When he sat beside me on the swing, I enjoyed some fun interaction with this Maasai mzee (older gentleman). I love the simple pleasure of sharing a smile with strangers.

Making a fun pose to commemorate our day :)

Gorgeous sky over the Olepolos playground

*Boxing Day originated in the UK a few hundred years ago and is still celebrated in many Commonwealth countries (former British colonies). It was a day of giving gifts to employees and the less fortunate in society. It's a national holiday in Kenya.

05 January 2016

The festive season: Christmas Day

For many years, Karen Vineyard has hosted 'Carols by Candlelight' and invited the surrounding community to join us. This year, because of rain, we got creative at the last minute and found a location with a roof. The event went on as planned and was lovely as always.

Tree being decorated in front of City Hall, in downtown Nairobi

Christmas is a bit different here in Kenya than it is in the States. The focus is more on being with family and sharing a meal. In fact, gift-giving is rare. Sadly though, consumerism makes more inroads with each passing year and all the modern shopping malls look like those in the West. I also see guys dressed up as Santa Claus more and more, sometimes in blue suits.

In Kenya, if the budget allows, new clothes are bought for the children to wear to church on Christmas morning. At the various traditional churches I’ve attended I’ve never heard a sermon on the Christmas story or even a Swahili Christmas song.

The academic year closes in late November, which means all the children are at home until early January. Families that are able travel upcountry to their ancestral areas, sometimes staying for the whole month of December. There's actually a mass exodus from Nairobi.

Along with August, December is a common month for boys to be circumcised. Christmas Eve is of no consequence in Kenya, but like most other Commonwealth countries in the world, the 26th is a holiday known as Boxing Day.

There's no 'dreaming of a white Christmas' in Kenya!

Chol, William, Linet, Derrick, Jeremy, Robai, and I all attended the Christmas Day service at Karen Vineyard. Then we headed to my house for lunch - lasagne, brownies, chai, and good fellowship.

On Christmas Eve, Linet's family, Robai, and I watched "The Nativity Story", a great movie. At church on Christmas Day, we saw part of the story acted out by a few children and, of course, preached about. Later, at my house, each of us colored a drawing of the Christmas story and read the corresponding Scripture from Matthew and Luke out loud. Together, these things helped my friends gain a better understanding of what Christmas is truly all about.

I made a simple homemade tree from the branch of a Whistling Thorn Acacia

Krismasi Njema! Happy Christmas, from Kenya!
"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?" 
      ~ Bob Hope (1903-2003), comedian, actor, singer