29 April 2018

Lord Egerton's Castle and Menengai Crater at Nakuru; church, sight-seeing, and visiting friends on Easter weekend

From the castle, you can see Menangai Crater on the horizon

Lord Egerton’s Castle: A Monument to Unrequited Love

No love story in colonial Kenya is as tragic as Lord Maurice Egerton's, who sustained two refusals by the woman of his dreams. Enchanted her during a vacation in England, Egerton set out to convince her to marry him and move to Kenya. When he invited her to his home, a thatch-roof six-bedroom, she dismissed the house as being as small as a chicken coop. He misunderstood her refusal, thinking she only refused him because he had a small house. So he decided to go enormously majestic.

Egerton built an elaborate four-story castle with 53 rooms, a symbol of wealth and extravagance. Much of the materials were shipped from Europe; the building engineer was from Rome and 100 construction workers were brought in from Asia and Europe. Guests from Zimbabwe and Malawi attended the housewarming party but the woman for whom it was built dismissed it, leaving in a huff only two hours after arriving. She returned to England and married someone else.

Lord Egerton became a recluse, closing his castle to everyone except a small group of friends, doctors, servants, and overseas bands he invited to entertain him. All the visitors had to leave their female companions at least eight miles from the castle. Egerton (1874-1958) put his energies and fortune into agriculture, founding the Egerton Agricultural College, now part of Egerton University. He was also a pioneer aviator, avid traveler, farmer, wild-game hunter, and amateur filmmaker.

I've been at Menengai Crater a few times in the past, but this time I wanted to log an Earth GeoCache.

Menengai Crater, in Kenya's Great Rift Valley, is a massive shield volcano with one of the biggest calderas in the world. It's the largest volcano caldera in Kenya and the second largest in Africa. The volcano formed about 200,000 years ago and the prominent 37-square-mile caldera formed about 8,000 years ago. Volcanic-formed rich loam soils enrich the adjacent farmland around its flanks and the caldera floor is covered with numerous lava flows. The Menengai volcano is considered one of the best-preserved Krakatau-style calderas in the world. Volcanic activity continues and a current geothermal project is underway to produce power.

The geothermal plant (far left), one of many inside the caldera, harvests dry steam from miles below the surface to create electricity.

Curio (souvenir) and food kiosks at the top of the crater

Lake Nakuru, from a distance

I hung out with Dimi and his mom all of Easter Sunday...

... and got to see Trena and her family again.

Celebrating baptisms at church on Easter Sunday

It was a bit chilly for the sunrise, but a blanket and hot cup of chai helped!

Great spot to meditate on God's Word

Once the fog cleared, the beautiful scenery was revealed and a new day began - Easter Monday

24 April 2018

God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy; four ladies' retreat at Eldoret

Carol, Margaret, Deb, and Linet at Kerio View Hotel (Iten)

We might see keeping the Sabbath as something we should aim for, but end up still falling far short of the discipline. We allow ‘real life’ to get in the way and we make excuses.

We rank God’s commands, accepting some but ignoring others. Breaking the Sabbath and committing adultery are in the same list of ten commandments in Exodus 20. In fact, practicing the Sabbath gets the most attention. But we tend to read the list with our own lens and not God’s perspective.

When asked how we’re doing, we often respond with, “Oh, I’m so busy. I’m tired. I’ve been exhausted lately.” We seem to think that being ‘busy’ gives us worth, importance, an identity. We often wear our busyness as a badge of honor. The great socially accepted sin of our age is to be overworked. We fill up our lives much more than our capacity. Our pursuit of stuff and activities is relentless and frantic.

Not practicing a rest day is the great unspoken sin among Christians.

God blessed the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3). God blessed this day so it would be fruitful, or life-giving. When God blessed this day, it was a gift from God to his people. We need God’s blessing in our lives. We need rest and recharging to nourish our souls.

Sabbath is a day to appreciate what we already have and to rest in the goodness God has given us. It’s a day to worship and a day to rest, to cease from our labor. If ‘doing things’, ‘accomplishing ambition’, and ‘acquiring stuff’ are my top goals in life, I’ll never enjoy Sabbath rest.
[excerpts from Chris Arnold's sermon, Karen Vineyard Church, January 2018]

Enjoying an afternoon out at Kerio View Hotel, with a beautiful view of the Great Rift Valley and a nice meal

Recently my three good friends and I intentionally stopped our normal day-to-day activities for the sole purpose of entering into God's presence. We rented a guesthouse in Eldoret for a 3-day retreat, using meditative exercises to soak in God's Word. By using various activities - such as Lectio Divina, Imaginative Contemplation, Visio Divina, and Examen - we experienced the divine in a unique and powerful way.

We did an exercise with modeling clay, using Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:1-6, about the potter and the clay - - a real practical way to engage with scripture.

I created a playlist of meditative music that we used at certain times. Because everyone especially connected with "Breathe", by John Michael Talbot. we listened to it several times as we focused on our breathing. [See video below.]

I created a workbook and a few other materials for each of us to use as guides in our journey. I also bought four nice, feminine handkerchief for those inevitable teary-eyed moments.

On one of the days, we had an intimate and simple communion service. And at various times throughout the retreat, we had some really good, in-depth discussions.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. 
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with me and work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. 
Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)

What about you? 
When is the last time you got away from the noise of the world, distractions, obligations, and your to-do list... simply to sit in the presence of the living God? I encourage you to set a date on your calendar to practice the Sabbath, one of the commands we've been given. I guarantee you won't regret it and you'll wonder why you waited so long to do so.

- - - - - -

Our intention is to set our gaze on God, to set our heart and mind on him.
We are here to rest, rest in Jesus.
If you are tired, just tell him. 

He’s listening.
Whisper a prayer to your Lord just now.
His yoke is easy and light, perfectly fitted for you.

Let go and take a deep breath. 
We need to find our balance again.
We want to let go of our frustrations and weariness.

Let this be a space of letting go.
Can you loosen your grip on things?
Can you let God be fully in control?

What are you holding onto that doesn’t serve God or serve others?
Are you clenching your fists holding onto things? 
Are you digging your nails into your palms?

Let those things go and let him be everything to you.
Open your hands to receive from him. 
Be expectant.

Let this be a space of receiving from him.
Let these two days be a time of being still.
Be still and let him talk to you.

22 April 2018

What we have lost by ignoring the third commandment

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. 
~ Exodus 20:8

[Excerpts from an article by by Kion You]

Efficiency and productivity are concepts that have reached so far out of the weekly 9-to-5 that they have become normalized standards in everything we do. In her article Improving Ourselves to Death, Alexandra Schwartz writes, “We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts, analyze the data, re-calibrate, and then repeat.”

This is misguided and harmful to engage in, but it’s also almost impossible to avoid. The pace of life grows faster and faster by the day, so we constantly try to upgrade and compete. This doesn't only apply to those in corporate environments, but even to those in ministry or social activism.

Bishop Robert Barron, in And Now I See, writes that at the heart of the matter lies our disobedience to God’s intended rhythm for our lives, a rhythm that requires a full, unmitigated day of spiritual rest after every six days of work. Just as God rested on the seventh day after creating the earth, God commanded humans to do the same, understanding how little we know about our limits.

There is a God-created rhythm in our lives that we must obey. 
God knows it's the only way we can create a notion of self - centered not on us - but on God.

Old Testament prophets continually reminded Israelites that the key to prosperity was living as God’s ordained people, and the key to that was to observe the Sabbath. “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezekiel 20:12). “Listen to me, declares the Lord, and keep the Sabbath day holy. Do no work on it.” (Jeremiah 17:24).

Jesus states in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He frequently healed people on the Sabbath, saying “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12).

Practicing the Sabbath has been described as a “protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.” It is a command that we take an entire day off from not only physically working, but from the work-oriented mindset as well.

In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pastor Peter Scazzero offers an immense wealth of knowledge that can be used to help Christians practice the Sabbath. He writes, “On Sabbath, I embrace my limits. God is God. He is indispensable. I am his creature. The world continues working fine when I stop.” We may feel that we'll fail God if we don't constantly pursue His work, but Scazzero constantly emphasizes understanding our limits, and working within them.

The insight, wisdom, and intimacy with God and others that we can achieve on the Sabbath
is unparalleled when compared to the productivity we could achieve by working that extra day.

Scazzero likens the Sabbath to a snow day, in which all pressures and obligations are lifted, and all we can do is actively, yet restfully ponder the love of God. The Sabbath, to Scazzero, is simply doing “whatever delights and replenishes you.” He acknowledges that in our contemporary society it's an incredibly far-fetched idea, and affirms it will be difficult. We must reorganize our weeks to take a Sabbath off.

To allow ourself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many demands, to commit ourself to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of our activity destroys our inner capacity for peace
and the fruitfulness of our work.
~ Thomas Merton,Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Thus, it is critical that we devote an entire day dedicated to resting and dwelling in God’s grace, not feeling the urge to constantly DO. If Christians began acting toward this calling to Sabbath, the work that we do, will undoubtedly begin to change radically for God’s glory.

article by Kion You, journalist at Brown University

20 April 2018

Maintaining friendships; playing games, celebrating birthdays, sharing meals, walking in the forest

We all love to get together over a good meal and a competitive game of Scrabble.
This time Moses was the champ and is now the proud keeper of our prestigious traveling trophy!

After the meal we enjoyed traditional British 'Creme Tea'. The crucial ingredient - clotted cream - had arrived direct from the UK!

Once again I got to celebrate Blessed Jason's birthday, along with his mom and dad. He's now 6 years old.
And just like two years ago, we had pizza again. This year we also added ice cream and homemade cake.

I traveled across town to visit Masudi and Esther in their new place.
Even though Masudi is a professional cook, Esther was the one who prepared our delicious meal.

Fellow missionary, Joanna, and I spent a whole day together starting with breakfast. I introduced her to Karura Forest and GeoCaching.
She enjoyed seeing the waterfall and the historical Mau Mau caves. After our nice hike and sack lunches,
we added a small evening meal at River Cafe (a lovely restaurant inside the forest) - a spur-of-the-moment idea. 

Robai traveled with me to Kocholia to visit Agnes and her boys - Duane, Adu, and Zach (Pope was at school).

When we alighted from the vehicle at Kocholia market, we found two boda boda guys to take us to Agnes' house. One of them confidently claimed he knew where I wanted to go... however, he wrongly assumed - based solely on my skin color - that I wanted to go to the local orphanage! It took us a while to reach Agnes on her phone, but eventually she was able to tell the guy where she lived.

19 April 2018

An adventure with Fredrick, on the back side of Ngong Hills

I had wanted to see something on the other side of Ngong Hills for a while, so finally Fredrick and I chose a day in early February. A construction company from China has been laying a new railroad track in Kenya, which I recently used on a return trip from Mombasa back to Nairobi.

What I wanted to see in my neighborhood was where they had cut a 2.8-mile (5.4 kilometer) tunnel between Embul-bul to Kimuka (near Ngong town).

I love the stark and wide-open views of the Great Rift Valley. I think somehow, they remind me of the Sandhills in Nebraska.

While still up high on the escarpment, we could see one of many construction camps for the building of the railway.
It's really changed the landscape of the area.

Fredrick politely asked for permission at two entrances to the tunnel. We didn't know if we would be allowed to view it or not... but because of his politeness and some kind guards, they allowed us a quick view and photo. I was happy to see with my own eyes what I had been reading and hearing about in the news.

The intrepid (fearless, dauntless) explorer, ha!

I always enjoy seeing the back side of Ngong Hills!

Everything is coated in dust, during the dry season

The great expanse of the Great Rift Valley

Fredrick took me to this interesting spot, a place I'd not seen before. He knows me well and knew I would like it.

Fredrick with William, the caretaker of this spot while the owner is away.

Later on, we encountered this group of school children. I chatted with the teacher and shook everyone's hands.

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.” 
~ Roman Payne, The Wanderess

17 April 2018

What causes missionaries to leave the field?

Is team conflict really the primary reason for missionary attrition? 

The source for this is a survey by ReMAP (Reducing Missionary Attrition Project) conducted by World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF). The results from over 500 survey responses of mission agency leaders, was printed in 1997 in Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition.

According to ReMAP, we can safely say: The most important non-acceptable reason as perceived by leaders of mission agencies (and some sending churches) regarding why missionaries from the US stopped working with their agencies 20 years ago was problems with peer missionaries. Regardless where it falls on a list, we know the damage and hurt that can happen when coworkers don’t get along.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of that publication, here's a different look at this subject through the lens of team relationships.

In 2003, WEA (World Evangelical Alliance, formerly WEF) conducted ReMAP II, with the results discussed in Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Missionary Retention. Like the first one, ReMAP II was extremely well thought out and well implemented; it carried the research forward and expanded the pool of respondents to the administrators of 600 mission agencies in 22 countries, representing nearly 40,000 missionaries.

While ReMAP focused on individual reasons for attrition, ReMAP II looked at the organizational practices that lead to retention. Both add up to a more complete picture, with ReMAP II showing a drop over the last 20 years.

In 2006, Global Mapping International (GMI) developed Engage, a workplace engagement survey designed specifically for North American field staff serving cross-culturally with missional organizations. The 2015 Engage, which surveyed over 1,700 North American cross-cultural field workers, representing seven agencies.

The findings are presented in Thriving People: The Engage Survey 2015 Aggregate Report and are discussed in Help Your Missionaries Thrive: Leadership Practices That Make a Difference (2016). The two works are filled with valuable information for missionaries and mission organizations.

But something is still missing —>  the viewpoints of returned missionaries.
- - - - -

Given the above background, it seems we need:

(1) some new research
(2) based on the right population
(3) with a consistent set of questions and categories
(4) addressed directly to a broad base of returned missionaries

Andrea Sears is the co-founder of giveDIGNITY. Her family has been in Costa Rica for 8 years and are currently serving as the Missionaries in Residence at John Brown University this year while on furlough.

"Like any missionary on the field, I’ve seen my share of fellow missionaries come and go. This prompted some reflection about the keys to longevity. The American church seems to be moving toward a short-term model and away from long-term missions, making this question more relevant than ever. "

[Note: The remainder of this blog post are excerpts written by Andrea.]

- - - -

Our questions to former missionaries - 
What are the greatest preventable reasons that missionaries choose to return to their passport countries?

What factors need additional attention by mission agencies and missionaries themselves in setting appropriate expectations, conducting training, and actually living life in community on the mission field?

Our hypothesis 
Based on previous research, our hypothesis was that the most common preventable factor influencing missionaries’ to return home is team conflict or issues with peer missionaries.

Who participated
745 former missionaries, instead of the leadership at missions sending agencies (which is how such surveys have been handled in the past). Over 70% were from the United States, but there were also people from Australia, Canada, Europe, and other places. Over 140 countries of service were represented from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.

Ages when participants first went to the mission field 
48% - 20-29
35% - 30-39
17% - 40 and above

Stats at time of the survey 
20-80 years old - participants' age-range (the majority, 30%, were 30-39 years old) 
9 years - average time on mission field (all participants had been missionaries)

Nine categories in survey 
Host country
Mental health

What we found
Two categories ranked significantly higher than the others: family and team/agency. In relationship to the hypothesis, this directs our focus to the team/agency category.

What now?
An initial analysis of these results shows that unlike the results of previous studies, team conflict may not be the number one most preventable reason that missionaries choose to return to their passport countries. These results show that too little missionary care is at least equally important. In considering measures that need to be taken to avoid missionaries leaving for preventable causes, it would be useful to look at the top five factors that were rated significantly higher than the others.

Top five factors -
(1) too little missionary care
(2) lack of team member integrity
(3) lack of ability or freedom to pursue calling
(4) team conflict
(5) role confusion on the team
Note: While these five were significantly higher than the others, there wasn't a statistically significant difference between any of the five.

While these results point to some intriguing conclusions, there is still much left to discover. In this study alone, there are thousands of open-ended responses that give context and meaning to the raw data. It would be impossible to compile such rich data in such a brief post as this. What you have just read is an initial analysis of the quantitative results.

It is our hope to continue analyzing the data, now looking at the qualitative data and summarizing common themes and noting exceptional comments on each issue identified as a factor. For example, when people provided comments about their team conflict, what themes emerge that warrant attention? Ideally, this will give us more insight into what the participants meant by the answers that they selected.

In doing so, we hope to uncover valuable stories that will ultimately help missionaries better serve and be served in the future.

- - - -
My sources for this blog post:

  • April 2018 - http://www.alifeoverseas.com/closer-to-the-truth-about-current-missionary-attrition-an-initial-analysis-of-results/
  • November 2017 - http://www.alifeoverseas.com/why-do-missionaries-leave-the-field-help-us-find-out/
  • July 2017 - http://www.alifeoverseas.com/is-conflict-with-teammates-really-the-top-reason-for-missionaries-leaving-the-field/