You can view all of my photos here: http://picasaweb.google.com/111566975066286666728/Africa201002?authkey=Gv1sRgCIXPw4L-yJWgHQ
This happened during the conference in Chesower, Uganda. Watch the door and window.
I am at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi waiting for tonight’s flight to Amsterdam. It has been a wild weekend and I guess you could say this journey concluded with a bang.
On Saturday we went to Kakamega to celebrate the graduation of our largest class from the Redeemer Bible College certificate program. The journey was slow going due to bad roads. I should tell you that Kakamega is a district known for being a hotbed of witchcraft, so the rest of this will make more sense. As we got to Kakamega the car began overheating and we learned that the cooling fan had shorted out. We had to get a push and pop the clutch to keep going. I developed a pounding headache that was compounded by heat and potholes. I was unable to beat the headache even with Ibuprofen. We finally made it to the graduation ceremony and wouldn’t you know it we didn’t have a certificate for one of our students. Not just any student mind you, but the best student in the class. To make matters worse this young lady had been overlooked when completing a previous program. With some fancy footwork we’re able to smooth this crisis out.
We next went to the home of a local widow who wanted to host the students. It was getting late and the heavy afternoon rains were moving in, so it was suggested that we go ahead and leave. As I was leaving the widow came out and complained about me leaving without having a meal. Again fancy footwork was required.
So finally we were on the road. The rains began pouring we navigated several deep puddles and seemed to be doing well. Shortly after passing through Bongoma our driver struck a pothole and both passenger tires blew out simultaneously. The car came to rest precariously hanging out in to traffic and it was now dusk. Our driver and Pastor Adams began the journey on foot to Bongoma in search of a tire repair shop, while Principal Ngaina, Mary, little Judah and I stayed with the vehicle. As it continued to get dark I realized that our poorly lit car was likely to get hit, so I stood off to the side. I’m glad I made that choice. In the next 2 hours I watched a tractor trailer hit the same pothole and blow out a tire. I watched another one hit the pothole and nearly enter the ditch with us. I watched a third vehicle hit the pothole and also blow out a tire.
Of course the other danger was highway robbers. Everyone who walked past would look at us and comment on how dangerous of a place this is. I also determined that two men who stayed by to be “watchmen” were actually casing us. Finally after 2 hours Pastor Adams and our driver returned with a cab. They had been all over Bongoma and found no place to repair the tire until morning. They had convinced the cab driver (with a lot of money I might add) to come out to the highway to retrieve us. They also “rented” (for a lot of money again) a spare tire to get our vehicle back to Bongoma. The taxi driver took us to a hotel that he said was the best in town. As I was waiting on my dinner I noticed the prostitutes coming from upstairs and retrieving more customers (when I later told Mary I had seen this activity, she was horrified. She had hoped I wouldn’t notice). Needless to say we ended up at another hotel for the night and the cab driver returned with a friend at 3AM to retrieve his spare tire.
As morning broke the car was up and running again, but I noticed a large bulge in the wall of the driver’s side rear tire. I was assured that we would drive slow to protect that tire. We agreed we should pray before we left and off we went. We stopped about an hour into the journey for tea with Mary’s sister. We were scheduled to speak in my friend John’s church at 11AM. We told him of our journey and he asked us to continue on. We finally arrived at his church at 12:30 (when church is scheduled to end). John’s church is one of the most energized “alive” churches I have been in. The people received me well and through another service to hear me speak. I was also intrigued to see a white woman attending the church. I learned that she is a nurse from California on mission with Saddleback Church. After the service we had lunch with John and his wife, although we were already supposed to be in Eldoret to meet with more Bible College students.
Finally around 4:30 we returned to Pastor Adams home. I did a quick job of packing, sent my wife a Mother’s Day email and we were off to Eldoret. When we arrived at Pastor Maheri’s home around 7:30PM everyone had already left. She said they had used the afternoon to pray and worship. Throughout the evening several guests dropped by and we had a great time talking about faith and our respective cultures. Pastor Maheri also blessed me with a beautiful wall hanging to remind me to pray for Kenya. In spite of all of the difficulties of the weekend, and really the trip for that matter, the journey ended on a high note. Truly God saved the best for last.
I caught an early flight to Nairobi this morning and have about 11 hours until my flight to Amsterdam. The news says the Iceland volcano is causing problems again, so we will see what the day holds. After three weeks away I am ready to be back with my wife and children.
The past few days Pastor Adams and I have remained in Kitale. We have used our time to talk about his ministry, the needs of some of the pastors we have been working with and to record some promotional videos. We have also been planning two pastor’s conferences for January of 2011. We will be conducting one of the conferences in Nairobi and the other conference will be hosted by Rev. Peter Ngaina here in Kitale.
This has been a good time for me to be refreshed and prepared for weekend. Tomorrow we will be overseeing the graduation of our certificate class in Kakamega. This extension of Redeemer Bible College is one of our newest. It is also our largest graduating class with a total of 38 approved to receive their certificate. This is a testament to God’s sustaining power, as this extension went through some hardships when an instructor was caught stealing money from the students. The Lord allowed this issue to be resolved in a manner that kept the college in tact.
Sunday I will be speaking in the church of John Juma. John was my driver in Uganda last year. He is a very humble man and displays a true servant’s heart. It is truly an honor for me to speak in his church. In the afternoon, we will be traveling to Eldoret, where I will meet once again with Pastor Margaret Maheri and newest class of Redeemer Bible College. This class is made up of influential professionals from the Eldoret area, and it shows great promise for bringing greater opportunity for Redeemer Bible College.
I will be spending the night in Eldoret on Sunday, so that I can catch a 10AM flight to Nairobi on Monday. I will then be flying back to the US at around 10PM Sunday night.
We have also had a great answer to prayer. The driver we have had most of the journey has been very unscrupulous, charging more money than agreed and making increased demands. This caused our in country travel budget to be spent early on. We have been having to seek God’s provision for every new leg of the journey. God has mad provisions through the hands of his children on two continents. Even greater though is our getting to know a seminary student who drivers a car here in Kitale. Adams and I both felt led to inquire if he could drive us our remaining trips. Not only could he drive us, but he has agreed to do it for half the price of the man who had been driving us up to this point.
Once again I find myself with a schedule change. I had originally been scheduled to speak in two churches in the Mount Elgon region of Kenya on April 18th. The delay caused by the Iceland volcano caused me to miss this speaking engagement. We had determined that we would try to reschedule that engagement for today, but our travel expenses have been much higher than anticipated and the necessary funds were not there.
Pastor Adams and I met yesterday with the overseeing Bishop of these churches. We explained our situation and I told him that a solution would need to be found if we were to come. I asked him to give me until 10:30PM last night to give him a final answer as I wanted to give God time to work and provide. The Bishop agreed to my request. Adams and I felt that God would provide for us, but only to speak in one of the churches. Adams shared this with the Bishop and he decided not to have me speak at all (this was at 5PM by the way).
I have seen on several occasions here in Kenya that the local pastors lose interest in having your work with them, when they learn that you will not be dropping a load of western money on them. Adams said last night that the Lord is showing him that some who had come seeking to work along side of him really had impure motives. It is sad that so many in the Kenyan church serve the god of money. They are more concerned with obtaining money from the West than they are in furthering the good news of Jesus Christ.
Adams has shared many stories with me of the misdoings of pastors in this area. There are many westerners doing mission and church work in this area, but they cannot even enjoy fellowship with the people of this region, because they are so often taken advantage of. In my heart I believe that God is going to use men and women like Adams to remake the church in this region. It is interesting that many of the local pastors are envious of all that Adams is doing, even though he lives by faith and has no outside support. It has brought many of them under conviction.
I believe the Lord has me remaining in Kitale the next few days for a couple of reasons. I believe that I am first of all supposed to pour my life into Adams. He tells people that I have become a spiritual father to him. I also believe God is using this time to help identify some other leaders who share Adams level of commitment to the work of the gospel. In due time the reasons will become clear.
On Wednesday we journeyed to Uganda. My border crossing was uneventful, although my Washington, D.C. issued Ugandan visa gained a few extra glances. Pastor Adams said the border official inquired as to whether I might have any money on me.
From the border we headed high into the mountains to the village of Chesower. Chesower is a small agricultural village that was hit hard by a drought last year. Upon arrival, I was met by Pastor Bon Labu and John Chebures. I had met both of them last year through the graduation ceremonies of our Bible college. Pastor Labu has been ministering in these mountains for over 30 years. He is a strong man in both character and stature. He walks up and down the mountains ministering throughout the region. John Chebures was one of our graduating students from the first class of the Bible college last year. We were blessed to be allowed to stay in a home that is currently under construction. Even the owner had not stayed in the home yet. The toilet facilities were a little more rustic. The toilet is a series of planks layed across a deep pit with a hole in the planks. A step of faith to say the least.
After a snack of small bananas and tea we hiked about half a kilometer up hill to the church. The church is one of three in the village and has about 400 members. The church is a mud structure with a metal roof that overlooks the surrounding farm land. I spoke for about an hour in the afternoon on the topic of waiting upon God. I also prayed for about 75 people. Pastor Labu shared with me how timely this message had been for him, because he was contemplating leaving the ministry, because of discouragement. We chose not to have any evening sessions, because it is the rainy season in Uganda. During the evening I sat with Pastor Labu, John Cherubes and Pastor Adams. We talked about our countries and cultures, enjoying a great conversation. As we were coming to an end the heavy rains began.
On Thursday I slept in with the heavy rains still continuing. About 10:30AM the rains subsided and we headed to the church around noon. The news of my arrival had spread and on this day it was standing room only in the church. While we were ministering a low hanging cloud enveloped the church and I was able to capture video of this cloud blowing into the church through the doors and windows. I believe it was a sign of things to come in the afternoon. I spoke on the issue of encouragement in both sessions. In between the first and second session a woman spoke of her inability to conceive a child. She had never shared her pain with the church. We were able to pray for her as a group, and I look forward to seeing how that prayer is answered. After the conference we shared a meal in the home of this woman. Her home is a mud structure with a tin roof and has calendars from the past 10 years on the walls. Each calendar celebrates a political or military leader, including US President Obama.
On Friday we enjoyed a beautiful morning and enjoyed our breakfast and banter on the front porch of the home in which we were staying. The church was not only full, but people were seated on the ground outside of the church. I spoke 2 messages of challenge to the church and prayed for well over 100 people. I then met with the pastors for another session which was primarily a place for them to share their challenges and receive counsel. The questions dealt with people who challenge leadership, church discipline, church finances and personal growth. Friday evening was again another great time of conversation and laughter with the other leaders.
On early Saturday morning we were supposed to leave for Bukwo on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon. We received a phone call that our driver had gotten very sick and would not be able to take us. After several more phone calls another man with a vehicle was located. When the man arrived he had a small Suzuki Samurai type vehicle. Pastor Labu and I are both about 6’4” so everyone was laughing. With creative seating the four of us and our luggage made it into the vehicle. It had been raining, so the roads were pretty muddy and some of our drive was exciting to say the least. We arrived in Bukwo at around 2PM and checked into a hotel that was just being completed when I was there last year. The hotel had a western toilet which was wonderful to see and used a generator for lights in the evening. The other great thing was that I finally had cell phone service again, so I was thrilled to call my wife and daughter for a few minutes. I also received an email on my Blackberry from my youngest son who was on a trip with his school to Washington, DC. The other pastors spent the afternoon and evening planning for the graduation ceremony on Sunday. The graduation had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but the District was celebrating a festival and the building was being used, so we had to make an adjustment at the last moment. I spent the evening reading several books I had brought with me.
The light switch in my room didn’t work so they had hard wired my light fixture to the generator. When I was ready to go to bed I stood on a chair and removed my light bulb. I also put ear plugs in my ears since the generator was right outside of my room. A heavy rain came through shortly after I went to bed and I finally went to sleep.
Sunday morning I was invited to speak in the BOC church in Bukwo. Pastor Adams had said many local pastors had come by asking if I could speak in their churches, but BOC was chosen since it would also host the Bible college graduation. I was welcomed warmly and was escorted to the pulpit by two women who carried my Bible while they sang and danced. They also escorted my interpreter to the pulpit in the same manner. It was a great service and the people were wonderful.
Once the service had ended we prepared for the graduation ceremony. Before the ceremony I met with a young man I had met a year earlier. When I had last seen him, he was drunk and ran into the back of a church in Kapchesoy. He had run over a mile and half from a still where he was cooking beer, after hearing God’s voice telling him to go to the church and surrender his life. This young man’s face is now full of joy and his mother came and embraced me telling me of the change in her family and in this young man’s home over the past year. A man in my church had given me a cross medallion that had been given to him some years ago when he turned his life around. He had asked that I give it to someone in Africa and I knew that this young man was the one.
I also renewed friendship with a district official who had proclaimed in last year’s graduation ceremony that he would become a student. It was wonderful to see him graduating from this first level of training. I was able to renew my friendship with many other past students and local pastors. It was truly a highlight of my journey. In all we graduated approximately 20 students from this certificate program. Many of them will continue on in a 2 year diploma program.
During the afternoon we learned that the man who was going to take me into the low lands (where the men walk around naked I might add) had become ill. We made a decision to head back into Kenya. At the border crossing the young Ugandan who had approved my entry asked me to pray with him before I left the country. We arrived back in Kitale around 5PM with a house full of visitors waiting to share tea with me. I shared tea and then the evening meal with several of the members from Pastor Adams church. Once the guests had departed I spent about an hour IM with my wife over Skype. The broadband cards here require you purchase bandwidth, so I could not video or voice conference with her, but I was thankful for the conversation. I also found myself laughing as Mary, Pastor Adams wife, was upset with him, because she felt I had not received adequate meals and a proper toilet in Uganda.
Today and tomorrow we have nothing scheduled. We decided to take today as a down day to just recharge our batteries. Later this week we are scheduled to do a graduation in Kakamega, Kenya, meet with another church in the lower areas of Mount Elgon and meet with our Bible college students in Eldoret.
Once I can get hooked into a sufficient internet connection I hope to post some photographs and video.