Sunday, July 19, 2015


Now this is a good sign; I am filled with confidence

My confidence is a little shaken. Two mangled engines sit
at the end of the Lodwar runway

A smaller version of Rio's Jesus, on the hill, looks down sadly
on the twisted turbines

Our 12-seater is in the air. All is well.

Looking back over Wilson airport and Nairobi

The tragic Nairobi slum

Elephants from the air

Back on terra firma. Debrief and safari time.

Walkabout In Lodwar

More Turkana Village Pics

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Stately Turkana Men

Acacia thorns profiled against sitting Turkana man's face
The men met separately quite far from the women under another Acacia tree. The Acacia is named from the Greek word, akis, "thorn."

The old men began by clearing the area where they and we would sit from thorns using their sticks. Even the young men carry these sticks everywhere, along with the tiny little wooden stools complete with their leather handles (you never know when you might need to sit down). This is an accessory for men; the women just sit on the ground.

When I got back to SEND Center where we were staying, I took off my sandals to get the sand and small pebbles out of them. A two to three inch Acacia thorn had pierced the outer rubber of my sandal. One of the girls had a small piece of one break off painfully in her foot, which became infected.

A lot fewer men than women came to be taught. In this patriarchal culture, the men have the power and so it is essential that the men also embrace the gospel and understand its implications for male-female relationships. This is slowly starting to happen, and the status of women is improving.

One of the early male converts wanted a Christian wedding when he came to faith. He had five wives. He asked Sammy if he could take a sixth wife so he could experience a Christian wedding. Sammy laughed and told him no, but that he could re-enact a Christian wedding with his first wife.

At another village, a young man from the Nairobi team was talking to the men. They asked him if he was married and refused to listen to him since he was not. One of our team members, Chris, got on his knees and begged them to listen to this young man's story. They did.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Coming Home. More Later

I've been away from WiFi for the last few days so haven't been able to post more updates and photos. Plenty more to come, however, from my time in the village.

This has been an incredible mission trip finishing up with a debrief and safari at the Masai Mara game park.

Got to see some of God's awesome creation up close. And I mean real close! I'll say and show more in the next week once I'm back in Wisconsin.

Waiting at the airport in Nairobi currently to board the flight to Amsterdam.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Beautiful Turkana Women

We arrive to see that the team from the two vehicles ahead of us have begun. The women are the first to come, and a growing number of them listen to the initial greetings.

The music begins and there is much dancing and the joyful trill of women ululating. One even blows a whistle from time to time. They are happy. 

Life is very harsh for these beautiful people, and the gospel has brought them hope and help.

Out to the Village

Some of the team before the group photo
Most of the week, Gary and I have been teaching the pastors at the SEND Center. The rest of the team has been out in the villages doing evangelism, teaching the Bible to believers of different ages.

On Friday, he and I finally get to join them. We go to a village called Nakabaran, about 70 minutes' drive from Lodwar.

It's a rough ride. The proper "road" is way worse than driving on the baked sand and rock and so our speed varies from a crawl to a good clip. Twenty-five or thirty of us are jammed, sardine fashion, into Jonah, the truck. But aside from shaking our fillings loose, all is well.

Until we hit the dried up river beds that are soft and enveloping, that is. Jonah sinks deep, like the prophet into the waves.

We dig (well, I don't, but some do), we push (yeah, I did), and we pray.

A lone Turkana boy, probably out with goats we can't see, comes out of nowhere and stops by to watch the show.

Some of the team members pile into the two other vehicles to make sure we have each ministry represented at the village.

Twenty or so minutes later, the sand gives up its grip.

In heavy rains, these river beds can become deadly. Not that long ago, one of the pastors was swept downstream about a mile but, miraculously, survived.

Gary's son, Danny, gazes at the desert from the truck
In the words of Boromir describing Mordor, Turkanaland is "a barren wasteland." It is a harsh desert that only the hardiest can survive.

There is very little vegetation, and precious little water.

The Turkana people live on the edge of calamity, yet this is the land they love. This is their home.

Hero of the Faith #4

Francois Nitunga is from Burundi and was working in refugee camps under the title, "bishop." I affectionately nicknamed him, "BB" for Bishop Burundi.

In the ethnic strife in Burundi between Tutsi and Hutu, 400,000 were killed, including Francois' father. How powerful to have him teaching the pastors on the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Additionally, Francois heads up the Jesus Film, which has been shown every night in a different village on this mission. Many have come to Christ as a result.

One evening, I was able to go out to a village, about 70 minutes' drive away. It was pitch black, the night sky declaring the glory of God. The stars and the Milky Way were the most vivid I have ever seen them.

In the distance a few hundred villagers watched the Jesus Film in their own Turkana language. What an amazing tool for the gospel. Many stood to indicate their faith in Christ. They will be followed up by the pastor and the church in the village.

Francois has been faithfully doing this for, I believe, around 15 years. What a guy.

After the Lord and the Jesus film, his next passion is Burundi coffee, which he constantly informs us in his Francophone accent: "is the number one coffee in the world. Just smell eeet. Mmmmm."

And so every morning at breakfast, he brews up a jug, and does the rounds, and we all partake and acknowledge that yes, Burundi coffee is clearly #1.

Hero of the Faith #3

Dr Patrick Kuria is an amazing Kenyan, though a very humble man.

As a young child, his family was poisoned by someone with a grudge. His brother died.

When he was older, some medical missionaries invested hugely in his life in every way, extending the gospel and the grace and love of God towards him. "Without God's grace," he says, I would be nothing. I was just a boy in the village watching the cows."

They shared the gospel with him, and education, and a world of possibilities. He eventually went to the U.K. to do his medical training.

Dr Kuria readies an infant with
eye problems for his examination
"Now, I just want to give back," he told me. "I want to make a difference."

And what a difference he is making. Ours was the second of three medical missions in a row he was serving on, all on his own dime. When called, he just closes up his practice and goes. I think this is his 6th STORM (Short-Term Outreach and Relief Mission).

What an incredible example of how someone can selflessly leverage their professional skills for huge impact in the world.

I was very humbled when we were walking to the conference hall and he put his arm around me and said in his thick Kenyan English: "You know you are my brother," he said halfway between a question and a statement. "You know I love you."

There is a wonderful unity in the Christ beyond geography and ethnicity and even language that this trip has brought home so powerfully to me.

One evening we were chatting after his day in the village and he said to me: "You know these pastors you are teaching? They are like the blind leading the blind."

I asked him what he meant. "Half of them can barely see," he said. "You watch them tomorrow and you'll see what I mean."

I watched them, and it was true. They read slowly and with difficulty. The text was too small; their eyes were too strained.

That next evening Patrick and I chatted some more. "How can they lead and teach their people, when their eyes are so bad?" he said. "One of them told me he loves to study, but he just can't read any more."

Alfred, one of the wonderful Turkana pastors, who will see better
My heart was broken. Such a simple thing as a decent pair of glasses could impact the lives and ministries of these great men, their churches, their families, and the gospel.

The next morning, LakeView Church had provided $4700 for quality frames and bi-focals and photo-sensitive lenses (the sun is so harsh here) for 29 pastors!  I have been praising God since. Thank you LakeView!

Hero of the Faith #2

Peter, our translator with Dalmas, SEND Center Director,
holding the whiteboards we gave pastors to train others
Dalmas is the Director of the SEND Center, where the 15 pastors came for Pathways Bible Training, and 80 for general sessions. He also oversees the other ministries including medical, child sponsorship and and food distribution.

He used to pastor a church in another part of Kenya, then felt the call to minister to his own people, the Turkana.

He and his wife, Sarah, moved to Lodwar and began doing very effective ministry, eventually joining up with Share International.

Dalmas is a superb leader totally fluent in three languages, including English, and is amazingly astute biblically and theologically. He gave the pastors the best exposition of Acts 13 and the best talk on missions I have ever heard.

Almost everyone is having a good day
He and his Sarah have six biological children and eleven adopted children due to HIV, poverty etc. Six plus eleven equals seventeen. I'm astonished and challenged at how some of these folks live out their faith with relatively modest resources.

Hero of the Faith #1

Sammy introduces one of the first converts in Nakabaran village.
Since those many years ago, he has been a powerful evangelist. 
I have been so impressed with the quality of this ministry, Share International, its leaders, what they are doing, and how God is multiplying their efforts. It has been such an honor to witness it, and play a small part in the Bible Pathways Training.

Sammy Murimi is a wonderfully gifted leader whose vision is behind Share. To hear him address these pastors who love him, as does he them, with such directness, is so refreshing.

I decide to test out our gift of a
hand-made laundry basket
Share International is supporting 61 pastors full-time (their churches don't have the resources though they are working towards being self-sufficient) They have planted almost 200 churches among the Turkana. 

Thousands have come to faith in Christ. God is at work! The vision of Share is to saturate all of Turkanaland with the gospel. This is a huge area one staff member told me is 7000 square km and bigger than the countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi put together.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Avoiding Turkana bicycles as we straddle the road
After church we had a quick lunch and then piled into vehicles for the 1.5 hour trek on the ‘road" to Lake Turkana. It's the worst road I've ever been on.

We were in  4-wheel drive Toyota, which was a good thing as we spent as much time off the road as on it. 

Our speed varied from a high of 30 miles per hour to a crawl. I was in the middle back seat, sandwiched between the videographer and the soldier from the Kenyan Army who was accompanying us for security (we have two on security 24/7).

Joseph, one of our great Christian Kenyan soldiers doing security
As we sweated and banged together with the dust from the road coming in through the open windows, Joseph the soldier fell asleep. With the muzzle of his gun bouncing in various directions, including a few inches from my face, I hoped he'd paid close attention in basic training to where the Safety latch is.

Dr Sammy was in the front seat and so I got to ask him how this great work with the Turkana people began. When he was studying in the U.K. he went to a missions' conference. Brother Andrew ("God's Smuggler”) challenged them to commit to world missions. Sammy says he was the "only brown face in the entire group."

Over the coming months as he was praying who God would have him reach, he saw a documentary on The Peoples of Africa, featuring the Turkana people. The vision was born.
Joseph, one of the pastors, checks his
cell phone next to a pile of scaled fish

Finally, we arrive at  Lake Turkana, the second largest Lake in Africa. Pelicans fly past us and land on the green-brown water. Sammy and I wade out a small distance to find a good baptismal spot. We stop to watch some Turkana girls expertly scale and gut fish on a small sandbank. A little further out we stop to watch a couple of boys and men untangle the fish from nets in their boat.

Baptized kids climb back into "Jonah" as the Nazi truck is now called
The shallows of the Lake extend quite a distance, so we settle on a spot just above our knees. Thirty-two young people, and some adults, have just arrived on the ministry's massive, WWII era Nazi truck. They were quite a bit later than we were, and a whole lot more uncomfortable.

For quite a few of them this is the first time they have ever seen a lake. They come to us in pairs, confess their faith in Christ as Savior, and are baptized on their knees.

A village chief and his very young wife are among them. It is a holy moment and, for some, a little scary; they have never been under water before. It feels very much like a death to them. And a rising to new life in Christ.

These are the born-again leaders of the Turkana  church of tomorrow.
A Turkana woman watches her goats in the shade