Sunday, July 31, 2016

Equatorial Kenya

Leaving Nairobi, we pass countless flea markets, but perhaps they're called mosquito markets here.

We all start to get to know each other. We talk about faith and ministry and church. Some of us are cultural addicts to deodorant; others are not. In a few days we'll all be brothers of the sweat fraternity and such petty distinctions will be meaningless. 

We pass fruit stand after stand: vegetables and fruits galore. This is lush Central Kenya, the verdant bread basket of the country. Vendors from Nairobi come up here for their produce.

We arrive at the equator. At least, that's what the sign tells us. It's a bit of an anti-climax. All my life I've pictured it as this magical belt of shimmering hotness, perhaps a mile or so wide, encircling the whole earth. But other than the sign, a few excited Japanese tourists and a Kenyan watching over two little buckets, it's all rather nondescript.

The buckets straddle the equator underneath the sign, and on either side of a white line painted on the concrete. For a couple of hundred Kenya Shillings ($2), we can watch the water swirl clockwise on one side, and anti-clockwise on the other. But ever since I singed my eyebrows with a Bunsen burner in a high school science experiment, I have been wary of such undertakings. We move on. In just millimeters we have gone from winter to summer. I look behind me, but snow is not falling. I must ponder this some more.

In Nanyuki town, we meet the rest of our  team. The team is, of course, seven, the perfect number. Benson and Joshua, both part-time pastors, are our guides. Patrick is the cook, assisted by his son Anthony and Joshua's nephew, David. Meschack, not to be confused with Shadrach or Abednego, is a very sharp, and funny, part-time theology student at a Pentecostal school of which there are hundreds in this devoutly religious country. He, like Samuel (who is related somehow to someone, but I can't remember who), will be a porter. Probably it will take all seven of them to carry me off the mountain. They are a kind of modern day equivalent of James and John, Peter and Andrew with their fishing business. Only I am not Jesus, and I will be following them.

We have lunch at a restaurant (of sorts), do a final equipment check (leaving dead clients on the mountain is never good for business), load the just-purchased supplies, and head toward the base of the mountain on a rutted dirt road.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Nairobi Departure

We are roused by the alarm at 5am. I turn on the light and look up at the mosquitos I squashed on the ceiling last night with a climbing pole. Jonathon has the only mosquito net since I figure he has more years to live than me anyway, but I am not keen to hasten my demise with Denge or Malaria or Chikunguya.

The van arrives a little before six, and we load our packs and selves into our budget vehicle. Three of our team is already with us, so we head into heavy traffic towards downtown Nairobi. It is a chaotic vehicle-fest with cars weaving in and out of roundabouts like ants eight deep.

As the sun comes up, we take Jonathon's damp underwear (not from backseat driving, but last night's wash) and my shirt and spread them out on the seats to dry. We're all family now.

Our next stop is to get an American 'pastor' who turns out to be on Athletes in Action staff, and a Dallas Seminary grad, so we talk friends we have in common. He has just come from a mission in South Africa with his twelve year old son. So we have that in common too.

Then we pick up a real pastor, a Kenyan who, like our guide, is bi-vocational. We are sandwiched in like kernels in a maize cob, driving down the 'super highway' with smoke belching from all the vehicles around us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

All Good Things Come to an End

They say: All good things come to an end. But I say: God things don't. This has been an incredible week where we have seen God at work.

[That last paragraph was written a few days ago, before we left for our debrief retreat. I gave up.

It's been so frustrating to have virtually no access to Wifi and a cellular service that was non-existent. Kind of put the kabosh on my blogging plans. Apologies for that. Some fiber-optic cable problem apparently had Kenyans steaming, and not just from the Lodwar heat. Anyway, enough of my griping.]

I don't have all the stats at my fingertips; you can get those and a ton more information at But hundreds came to genuine faith out in the villages, the pastors were hugely encouraged by the leadership training they received all week, and our 14 Pathway pastors are engaging with the principles of Bible Study and sermon prep so well.

The resources out in the bush/desert are so few, but the work of God so evident, it is an unquantifiable privilege to just observe it first hand, let alone participate and contribute to it.

Those at Lakeview and Galena Bible Church and a few others are in for an inspirational treat when the team gets to share all that God did and how he used them and what they saw and learned, and the deep love they now have for the neglected and even despised Turkana tribe.

One of our team members, Barb, said this amazing experience was more than she could have ever imagined and that it was like living the New Testament experience of gospeling and church planting with people who have not heard the gospel, yet are so hungry for it. I couldn't have put it better.

I'll come back here and flesh out some more details with additional pictures when I'm back home with a keyboard and camera cable.

The team flew out tonight with full hearts and having learned much. Wayne, however, was unsuccessful in his bid to master the no-hands-with-the-basket-on-the-head trick.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Villages

One of our teachers, who is here teaching church history for a few days, has been able to set up a wifi hotspot from his phone, which is allowing me to post, though probably not photos.

My son, Jonathon, was the first to succumb to the dreaded runny tummy (on top of sun burnt feet). His indisposition lasted only 12 hours, for which we thank God as he was able to head out to the village today.

Gary, my co-teacher for Bible Pathways, and I "took the day off" so we could also get to the village once in our time here.

I've been looking forward to this all week, and it didn't disappoint. The people are so hungry for instruction, so open to the gospel, and so grateful for the ongoing care that Share International provides so many in so many ways.

Every month a medical team goes around to the villages, but they've coordinated with our visit, along with the Jesus film showing last night, the animal vaccination team, the eye doctor and food distribution.

We do our welcomes in the rudimentary church building, which has literacy blackboards in the corner, and then head out to different Acacia trees to minister to different age groups.

Jonathon, Clea, Edi and Maggie are with the children, some of the Nairobi team, and their interpreters. And around 400 kids. It's the biggest group so far. They do a great job teaching Jesus's parables, and the gospel.

I go and join the men's team and each of us share in turn. I talk about Jesus as the Good Shepherd from John 10, and bring in my New Zealand experience of sheep to these fine goat herders. The translation doesn't miss a beat until I get to "sheep dog." The translator struggles. He knows what a sheep is and what a dog is, but not quite how these two come together. We finally break the impasse and move on.

Sammy wraps everything up and calls men to take a step of faith in Christ. Seven respond.

There is a man with a large and deep cancerous wound who has not been followed up properly by the medical clinic in town. The ministry arranges for him to go by ambulance to the specialists in Eldoret.

I love the holistic work this mission is doing to really change lives, both for eternity, and in the present.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Turkana Highway... in the Sun...Shine"

You're probably only singing the above line to yourself if you were once an Eagle's fan.

Church on Sunday morning was a lively two-hour affair with the visitors (us) placed, as is customary, in the front row. Worship was exuberant, with much dancing, jumping, clapping and ululating. We all went up front to put our offering in the basket. Gary (my co-teacher in Bible Pathways) preached an excellent biblical message, and there were a couple of guest artists who lip synced to their recordings. After the service, every hand had to be shaken in a long line.

The Turkana people are passionate for God, warm and welcoming.

After lunch, we bundled into a school bus to head to Lake Turkana on, arguably, one of the worst roads in the world. Normally the ministry uses a four wheel drive truck, but it was unavailable. Most unfortunate. The drive was 7 1/2 hours round trip, including off-road detours around washed out bridges.

But the deep-green lake that is the second largest in Africa and goes up into Ethiopia, provided the perfect venue to baptize  perhaps 30 believers from the surrounding villages. It was neat to be able to step back and let two from my team, Steve and Wayne, help with the baptisms. Good is definitely at work in Turkana.

The way home seems even more bumpy. After 7 hours without facilities, some are about ready to burst, so we stop at a strategic place with a defile on either side. Women head toward the Acacia trees on one side, men on the other.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

First Full Day

Network data problems here, meaning no blogging, emailing or chatting on WhatsApp. If you're reading this, it means I've gotten close enough to a cell tower--perhaps on the way to the Jesus film showing tonight, or to baptisms in Lake Turkana tomorrow afternoon after church.

Speaking of which, Sammy was sharing about the time he was baptizing a man and asked him, as is the custom here, what baptismal name he had chosen for himself. "Mary," he said. I guess he ended up with another name.

Well, the weather report for today--you guessed it--is hot and sunny. Probably somewhere north of 95 degrees. If I had internet, I'd give it to you more exactly.

We start the morning with group devotions and prayer for God to work through us. After a breakfast of a crepe and sausage, the team heads out to the village, an hour or more away. With some of the team still en route to Turkana, Clea and Jonathon and Edi have to improvise a bit, but it goes very well with the almost 200 children. Similarly with Barb with the women.

Back here, our Lakeview elders, Steve, Wayne and Dave, step into some pretty challenging culture discussions with the pastors, as the three of them teach on leadership. Like what kind of cultural practices are neutral, and what are evil? (For example, a rite of passage to be recognized by the community into male adulthood includes killing a goat, then a bull and doing something with the entrails). How does the gospel, and Christ, transform culture?

Meanwhile, in the other building, I'm having a great time with 14 pastors I taught last year. Three of them give sermon presentations on the story of Jesus healing the paralytic, and then we explore their preaching statements and whether they reflect the thrust of the text. So much [eternally significant] fun.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Flight to Lodwar

A few hours' sleep, a hot shower and cooked breakfast, and we are ready to go. News of the terrorist truck attack in Nice has reached us, and like the rest of the world, we are saddened and sobered.

In an hour we leave for our final flight, a much shorter one, 1 1/2 hours, to Lodwar. It's pleasantly cool this morning here in Nairobi. That's about to change.

On the outskirts of Jono Kenyatta Airport we get out of our vans to walk through the first round of security. Barb has her passport and money holder safely positioned under her shirt. With people waiting behind her she discovers it is all tangled up in her bra. The most awkward moment so far in Kenya is about to unfold, but the security guard has mercy and waves her through. We call it terrorist tactic # 374.

We recall Mr Bean's blind-man-takes-off-his-trousers-under-his-swimming-trunks skit. Barb has a new nickname: Beeeeeeen.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Three Out of Four Flights

We made it out of Madison OK, despite bad weather, unlike the other half of the U.S team, who were stranded in Chicago. They were still there when we left Detroit for Amsterdam, but upon landing we learned that they had to divert to Ireland due to low fuel. Without a miracle, they will miss their flight to Nairobi and then Lodwar tomorrow. Lord, we need a miracle.

I'm writing this just an hour out of Nairobi. Some got a few hours sleep. Others, including the two Blaikies, have had none in two days now. Starting to drag a tad. But tomorrow we're headed for Lodwar and the wonderful Turkana people. Can't wait.

Update at 1:30am. Long lines at passport control. Then one box lost, which was found, like the coin, sheep and son (one of the lessons the team will be doing with the Turkana kids), then some rigmarole over a tax exempt form the ministry doesn't have yet and an unexpected but reduced) tax bill of $100, and we're on our way to the hotel.

This is how it goes in Africa, so it's all good.

In other news, the rest of the team arrives in Nairobi tomorrow so will only be one day late.

All in all, a challenging but God-blessed day! Now for some God-blessed sleep. What time zone are we on?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kenya, Here We Come

On this sultry afternoon, four vehicles loaded with 18 boxes full of supplies for Turkana, and 8 very excited missioners,  left Lakeview. Check in: smooth. Currently: waiting to board our first flight

Monday, July 11, 2016

I'm Feeling Sappy

Sometimes the English language is just not up to the task and we have to take things into our own hands. It's been a year since I have blogged, and I've spent that whole time making up new words to use. The first is "sappy." That is to say, sad AND happy. Both, concurrently.

This has been such an interesting year. In December, I told my wonderful elder board that I was spent after nine great, but demanding, years as lead pastor at LakeView, and that we needed to start a succession plan to find someone with fresh energy and vision to take LakeView into the future. She deserves that. She needs that.

We began to plan a year-and-a-half marathon, which we all realized rather quickly was not a good idea, and so shortened it to 8 months. In January I was diagnosed with Diabetes (Type II) and my extreme weariness over the last few years suddenly made sense. (My blood-sugar readings must have looked like viewing Mt Kilimanjaro through a kaleidoscope.)  But I'd made my decision, and it still felt like the right one even after eviscerating sugar and carbs from my diet and losing 25 pounds, and consequently feeling better than I have in years. The ship was launched and, in the providence and timing of God, it just seemed the right move and the right time despite not having a clue what was next.

As a very rational, logical, empirical kind of chap, you can imagine this is quite a big thing for me. For us. Some people will probably call it stupid. Others will call it faith. Time will tell.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
                                             - Psalm 34:4

Anyway, yesterday was my last official day preaching. Ironically, we are going through a series on the Lord's Prayer, titled "Conversations with God." Yesterday's passage: "Give us today our daily bread." The whole service was a great time of worship and celebration of God, and trust in his sovereignty for LakeView's future, and the Blaikies'.

And then, as slightly-imperfect people, we all had an amazing bbq-ribs-lunch under a perfect sky shaded by perfect trees. It was sublime. It is so hard to farewell such an awesome group of people who mean so much to us and who have ministered to us, as I have to them, over almost a decade. That's a lot of soul-baring and bonding. But it's time. And so, I'm sad to be saying adieu, but happy to know God is on His throne working out His purposes. I'm sappy, along with the rest of my family who came from near (Chicago) and nearer (Monona) but not far (the oldest resides in New Zealand) to farewell this great church that has had a huge part in their lives too.

Thank you, LakeView! You are forever loved.

The Sappy Blaikies (Minus One)