Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday mornings - jumamosi asabuhi

It has been awhile since the last post. No, it's not that I have been busy. I have really come to hate that word. It seems like "stayin' busy" is almost an American greeting these days. It always seems like a vague excuse for not getting something done, while reassuring oneself.

The reason for the gap is that the road grader of my mind has had its blade set too deep, and a quick blog post turns into a five page essay. I forget what I wanted to convey, then I wake up and it is morning, the next day. Just like I'm about to do again here... my quick Saturday morning story turning into a philosophical introspection.

Saturday mornings for me offer a golden opportunity. From 9am to 1pm the hardware stores are still open deep in the bowels and just below the heart of the city. Because of traffic, the golden time is really 9 am to 11 am. During the week, they keep the same hours as I do at the hangar, so I rarely get a chance to get to them.

I whip out my PDA the night before and make a to do list.

Screen material for our windows
AC compressor for the car
Machine a flywheel puller for a BMW F650 motorbike
Look for a suit for a wedding in two weeks

This morning I got a late start. I have been wanting to slow down in my quiet time and spend more time with fewer Bible verses. Then I discovered a GREAT resource: It has a complete Strong's reference with quick links to click on and a tenth the weight of hardcopy! Then I felt inspired on how to write an end of year letter for AIM AIR, so I typed out a rough draft. By then, it was almost 10.

I drove into the industrial area. It is kind of exciting place, especially if diesel fumes, dust and vehicles going every direction seems exciting to you. I found General Engineering, the machine shop. I had to wiggle the car over a curb between a Mercedes and a pickup. I didn't want to drop off the curb and bump the Mercedes, so I left the car kind of angle out, ready for a quick getaway.

The machine shop supervisor saw my picture and instantly knew what I wanted. "I can have it ready by Monday," he said in a strong Indian accent. He assured me it would be made with strong steel.

As I walked back to my car, a city official in a yellow trench coat intercepted me. She was selling parking permits for the day. 140 shillings. Lucky it was her and not the trench coats with the tire boots. I pay my fee, and put the ticket in the window.

Because I really like my parking job, I decide to walk to some of the other shops. I walk from one end of the street to the other trying to find a good deal on a 12 volt air compressor to put in our car. Not on the list, I know, but I could really use it. One shop has a decent one for a higher price than I like. The other has a cheaper one made in China. It looks like it might fall apart in the first attempt at operation. While I look it over, Breanna calls me back. I had tried to get ahold of her between shops.

"Hey babe, I found some air compressors for the car, and I want to buy myself a Christmas present." She asks about my previous wish for Christmas. "I could really use this today!" I plead. It's true. I am trying to get a tire fixed on a Honda XL 600, another bike I am borrowing until... forget it, it's a complicated story.

I find a store with screen material. They also have foot pumps, so I decide to ask for the air compressor there. The owner sends a Kenyan boy out as a runner to some other shop. He returns with a Craftsman unit. For 7000 shillings, almost $100. I don't need one that bad. So he sends out another runner, and the guy comes back with a cheaper one of still decent quality. I take it. It will be a big help today, and provides peace of mind when we are driving outside of the city.

Time is running out, so I move down to Dar Es Salaam road where the used car part stores are lined up. A missionary gave me a tip on finding AC compressors. Traffic is getting bad, and I finally find the area he mentioned. The street is full, but I pull into a parking area made for about 5 cars. It is so tight, I crawl out the passenger side.

I find the shop. It is upstairs in what would work in the US as a small used CD shop. Here it is a junkyard. With shelves of car parts: stereos, mufflers, engines, wheels, rims, I squeeze in trying to find an employee. I explain what I am looking for. A guy comes downstairs with me and looks at the part on the car.

We run back upstairs. On top of the car stereos I had noticed a Fender bass guitar plugged into a boom box stereo unit. Apparently one of the customers was interested in it and a worker was showing it to them. I guess neither of them knew how to play it.

"Do you play this?" they ask me. I nodded, wondering what about me would have even made them ask. With grease and oil stained hands, I strap on the bass. The strap is so tight, I almost feel choked. We get it loosened, and I start pounding away. It is terribly out of tune, and produces sounds of perhaps a different culture's scale system. I tune it briefly, slap the strings a little more, then realize I am losing focus.

"It sounds very good, but the strings are raised way too high" I tell the guys.

Meanwhile, the other worker found an AC compressor of the same part number still bolted to an engine on the bottom shelf. I can't believe in this small of a shop he could find one.

"How can I be sure it will work?"

"You can install it. If it doesn't work, then bring it back."

"How long do I have to bring it back?"

"Maybe one or two days."

Hmm, not too great, but probably a decent deal for here. I ask for their number and promise to think about it.

Glancing at my watch, I realize I am let to get home and load up the kids for a small group Christmas party. With traffic the way it is, there is no time to swing by a taylor and ask about a suit.

I'll put it on the list for next Saturday...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yay! Jerry passed his last test needed in order to apply for his Kenyan Pilot's License! Please, still pray as now the paperwork goes to the Kenyan government....but hey nearly eleven months into living here and he can finally apply (that was sarcasm, but we are all smiles here,  so no worries)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heaven's value increases

Today was another sobering day. I found out a mentor to many missionary pilots died in a training crash. I imagine, today, pilot rooms in every corner of the globe fell silent.

Ron put me through his paces in January 2008 to help me get to where I am now. He was a gifted pilot and extraordinary instructor. He started by giving a lot of his energy and wisdom at Moody Bible's flight program in Tennessee, then recently focused on prepping soon to be missionary aviators with what they needed before taking the tough technical evaluations of the ministries they were called to serve.

The pilot he was with was probably at the same place I was one and a half years ago... eager to get the evaluation behind him, eager to get out to the field, and appreciative of the knowledge he was soaking up from Ron in the right seat. I can even picture the flight they must have been doing when the accident happened.

I doubt we will know what happened, but I do know Ron knew that C 206 like an old friend. For my training we drilled and drilled on emergencies I had previously only wondered about. I felt confident with both what I learned and his ability. That's the shocker that guys in jungle stained pilot shirts all over the world are wrestling with. Even the best ... even the best.

A friend told me on the phone today "Jerry, you should think about doing something else. This aviation stuff is dangerous." I told him "It always has been."

In our candidate training in New York before coming out we watched a sermon on video for a missionary's funeral. The African pastor talked about the story of a man who sold everything so he could buy the field which had hidden in it a priceless treasure. To that man, the value of the field was everything. We can say that with the sacrifice of Frank, Ryan, and now Ron, the value of Heaven is so much more. They gave everything to have that treasure.

Mission aviation is not the best job for anyone's health ... but the chance to give it all for God's kingdom is something I would not trade, even for the world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now, what is going on?

Editor's warning: This post has zero pictures. I know, I know. We are saving up for a new camera. Any suggestions?
Now, what is going on?

Much. Breanna is:
tutoring some kids from Kenya off and on,
teaching drama at a new homeschool gathering which several missionary families participate in every week,
as well as homeschooling all THREE kids now (Isaiah has to do his math, too :).

On Wednesday's there is horseback riding for Olivia around noon, then in the afternoon its monkeynastix (motor skill developing exercises) for Grace and Isaiah. Because it takes almost an hour to go to these events in traffic, Breanna is one tired lady on Wednesday's when I get home.

As for me? I am flying a desk a lot. Logged probably a couple hundred hours since my last blog post - of desk time. As one of the other pilots puts we, we hit a perfect storm when it comes to starting our flying duties here at AIM AIR. We have one Kenyan registered 206 that we can fly, but it only has single controls, so it isn't suited for training. I need to do one more thing for my Kenyan commercial license, but AIM AIR would like me to do a couple training flights so I can familiarize myself with the area first. HOWEVER, our two brand new 206's are US registered and the Kenya governing body for civil aviation has not been desirous of us operating those beautiful birds inside the country. That will hopefully change next week, maybe TOMORROW! That would be great news for me.

For myself and the other new guy, this is not what we envisioned our first year at all. But God's ways rock, and they are not our ways, which are usually lame. So I am taking this time to get into the PR job a little more, help out with desk stuff, make coffee (just kidding, not my job - well OK I could make a pot occasionally), remind people to order their AIM AIR calendar, write letters for AIM AIR, and continue to prepare myself with Nairobi airspace and AIM AIR procedures. When we do get to strap into the new birds, it will be nice. They are our strongest, lightest, quietest, and smoothest 206's in the fleet (can you say - about to be really spoiled).

There is another thing that really gets my heart pumping related to PR. I can't share much now, but it is a direction I hope AIM AIR pursues that I am really excited about. In fact, I will boldly say that I think God brought us out here and now to be a part of this.

AIM AIR, you said? Yeah, it's on its feet. A little shaken, but not destroyed. In fact it feels like business as usual most of the time. Until the International Director came by just to share his sorrow with us, and today we had a nyama choma (goat roast) together in the hangar as a way to acknowledge life does move on and it's OK. Both times I realized how close tears were to the surface. When the accident is brought up it puts a lump in everyone's throat. It will probably be like that for awhile.

We do miss the convenient life of the US, but we love the work that God is doing out here. Clinics, churches, schools are going like crazy in Sudan, exciting things are happing in northern Kenya (32 Samburu warriors and wives accepted Jesus a couple weeks ago), and the Tanzanian Africa Inland Church just celebrated its 100th anniversary. It is great to be a part. And THAT'S what is going on!

P.S. If anyone has creative input regarding or our calendar and movie, please shoot me an e-mail. I would love to read it!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Socks and shoes

"I asked him: 'Dude, why are you wearing two pairs of socks?'
"He told me: 'Well, someone gave me these shoes, and I really like them. They're just a little too big...'"

Dale, one AIM AIR's seasoned pilots, recounted the story in a completely wry manner. Many of the guys normally based outside of Nairobi were now here at the hangar to help out in any way possible because of the crash. Dale was talking about Jim, one of the other "old timers". Dale took it upon himself to introduce me to Jim. Only Jim wasn't around. I guess that's what made it so much fun.

I love being around the pilots here at AIM AIR. I truly feel blessed. They are a great bunch of siblings to hang out with, and sharp professionals that challenge me inside the cockpit.

Now I am watching a slideshow from another pilot, Mike. It is jaw dropping to view these images snatched from the depth of central Africa. His talent has been a very real force to help many people get to know AIM AIR from across the globe. I read his blog post before the slideshow, and I felt the goosebumps slowly rise.

Mike is taking his talents forward again, this time to be our flight operations manager, a position I am sure he will excel at. Two months ago he had me cornered on a boat off the Kenyan coast and said (not asked) "You need to be the next public relations officer for AIM AIR"

I was torn, but not too much. I am still trying to get used to being a part of AIM AIR, I am not sure how I can even think of being the voice for the organization. I still have a lot to do before I can be a fully operational pilot here. Yet, I loved the idea of being able to communicate for this ministry I love so much.

Since Mike didn't really ask a question, he didn't wait for an answer...

I think a lot about this new challenge, and what I want to do, but mainly what I don't want to mess up. As I watch the photos stream by and the words of the essays fade in my head, I realize I have some big shoes to fill.

Better wear some more socks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Isaiah's answers a question on fighting and shares his life's ambitions.

Jerry to Isaiah (who is taking a tumultuous bath with Grace): Do you fight with Grace?

Isaiah, with his head cocked slightly in his thoughtful pose: No, I fight by myself.

A month ago we had our house painted by a former AIM AIR intern, Paul, who was desperate for work. Isaiah was really taken with watching him. It must have been significant to him, since up to that point his ambition in life was to be a race car driver, a pilot, and a train engineer. Suddenly he started saying he wanted to be a painter.

"This boy makes many problems," Paul would tell me. Isaiah was his shadow and "helped" him out by pouring thinner into a bucket of water, and "painting" with a brush that was set aside.

Now his ambitions have changed again. He says he wants to do what I do. I asked him, "What's that?"

"I want to ride motorcycles and fix motorcycles."

I guess I really did spend a lot of time getting that motorbike running.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

09 09 09 flight

Relocated a 206 to Entebbe. Maintenance was finished in Nairobi on it, and they needed it back there. I had installed the VG's (Vortex Generators) on the 206 we took to Entebbe. It was neat to see how they performed on the flight that morning!
We also dropped of some bags at Mfangano Island for some short termers (their luggage was lost on the airlines and arrived a couple days late).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Working late in the hangar

It's not as bad as it looks ... at least I hope not! I have been
working into the evening on a motorcycle project for a friend's bike.
It will be a good way for me to get around Nairobi, as well, since my
friend said I am free to use it.
So, I invited the kiddos to come hang at the hangar with me one
evening this week. Izzy was feeling tired after watching me on a
mechanic's stool for about 5 minutes. I grabbed a creeper from beside
an airplane and put him on it, with the cleanest shop towel I could
find to use as a blanket. A minute after I took this picture (using
the camera on our laptop - sorry about the poor quality!) he was
dreaming about motorcycles instead of watching me struggling to fix one!

Note: Grace wanted to be in the picture, too, and rolled over in an office chair with her "tiredest" expression she could muster...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Breanna's Other Kids

Kilimanjaro, our seven month old German Shepherd pokes his head out the gate to see who’s here. Philip, the Kenyan second grader I tutor on occasion, stiffens, drops his backpack on the ground, and runs, screaming, down the street.

Truphena, our househelper, his mother, laughs heartily, calling, “Philip, come back!” Joash shrugs at his brother’s overreaction and comes inside, making a beeline for our Playstation. Eventually, after tethering Kili, I coax Philip inside.

Helping Philip with his homework is one way I get to express my gratitude for all his mother does to help us, in keeping the house clean throughout the week. Tutoring is a way for me to minister, through the talents God’s given me, to those he brings into our lives. And he’s brought several Kenyans into our lives that we are able to help by giving them work, and enabling them to better provide for their families. For about $5 a day, each, Truphena cleans our house, and once a week, Wycliffe does yard work, and Frank, one of the neighborhood guards, washes our car.

Brian, the five year old son of our yard worker, comes for tutoring Saturday.
Indeed the one hour I pour into Brian every week requires a lot of prayer to get through patiently and I constantly try to remind myself how God and Brian’s parents see this precious child, so full of potential.
Wycliffe’s son, brian, is a bundle of energy, definitely a hands-on learner, and I’ve found he needs a good fifteen minutes to explore and touch everything in reach before I can hope to hold any of his attention. He’s difficult to reign in without much patience and determination. In a country where teachers are overworked and schools are crowded, it’s easy to imagine him being passed over by teachers and labeled too difficult to manage.

Brian and Philip are both improving in their schoolwork and it warms my heart, not because “I” did that, but because, in spite of who I am, God used me to change these two little guys lives just a wee bit!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hangar Tour

Guests were arriving, and the chief pilot asked if I could give a tour of the hangar. Visitors love to see the variety of planes in the hangar (especially the DC-3...the BIG one).

AIC Runda is a new church in a small slum. However, this slum is in the middle of Runda Estate, a high class gated neighborhood made up of mansions. In a place where wealth and success peer down from above, Musioki and his family faithfully shepherd this church.
It’s fun to introduce visitors to the Kenyan workers in the hangar. Several of the Kenyans working here serve as pastors in addition to their 5 day work week on the hangar floor. Musioki is one of them. From Monday to Friday he works in dispatch keeping our airplanes at a glistening shine and helping us clear customs. He’s usually in dark blue coveralls and a fisherman hat; so when we visited the church he pastors on Sunday, I hardly recognized him in a suit.

Ushers led us to the front bench of honor, as the youth dance team rehearses their “special” to be performed in the service.

Musioki had invited us to see the results of a church fundraiser, mainly a new sound system. The speakers pulsed with upbeat worship songs as the youth perform synchronized hip hop moves. It’s a joy to watch -young kids and teenagers all having fun dancing, singing and praising the Lord in their way, in church.

After church, as they feed us lunch, Musioki shared his passion for the church. His quiet and reserved nature belie his focused vision; encouraging the youth (and adults) to express themselves through dance so they feel valued and an integral part of the congregation.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, and after the hangar visitors meet Musioki, we proceed on our tour. I carefully avoid the paint room with tarps carefully pulled around it to obscure any view of its contents. I’d been instructed to avoid it, “nothing they need to see in there.”

When it was my turn, Musioki translated my words into Swahili. I “borrowed” a message from Erwin McManus on Jesus’ power over death. Death is all too familiar to them. I was out of my league, but I prayed they could embrace the message of hope.

In fact, these days everyone at AIM-AIR gives it a wide berth. Usually enclosed to contain paint fumes and overspray, now it contains the evidence of the pain that’s hiding just under the surface of our controlled emotions- causing a lump in the throat, halting steps and moist eyes. Burned and broken pieces of a Cessna 206 lay scattered, orange tags cataloguing each piece. Each piece has been carefully examined, to determine the “why” we all want to know. Two friends, co-workers, fathers and husbands have gone to their heavenly home much too soon for our understanding. In my head I find myself repeating the words to the song... you give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name!

One day we will be able to ask God why pilot Frank, and mechanic Ryan, both husbands and fathers of four each, had to leave this earth and their ministries here in Africa so soon. Until then, we rejoice in knowing that they are home in God’s presence.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Quick prayer request - Kenya Census

Tonight marks the beginning a nation wide census here in Kenya, the first in about a decade. The hot button issue is the question regarding tribe. A lot of people are very upset about it being included, especially since the post election violence a little over a year ago. Animosity across tribal lines was quite strong then, and several people here would rather that the question was not asked.
Please pray for peace during this upcoming week. Because we live close to a large slum, rioting and protests may not be too far away. Pray for everyone's protection during this time.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A chance to breathe ... and some links

All thanks to God, Ryan has made it safely to a burn unit in South Africa, and it seems like the whole organization was able to take it's first breath in awhile.

There is a page on AIM AIR's site that covers the accident in detail... LMB accident. Two funds have been started for the Toew's and for Ryan Williams and his family. The costs are always a burden you hate to think about in the wake of this kind of tragedy, but they are a reality.
Also, I had been thinking about an AIM AIR facebook page for a looong time, and decided this would be a good time to kick that off ... the timing seems strange, but I really wanted to offer it as an avenue for the AIM AIR family extended throughout the world to be able to receive news and respond as they like. The link is: AIM AIR facebook

I thought I would share quickly snapshots of the week:
  • High: Almost all the pilots came to Nairobi, and it was nice to have them around and listen to them take digs at each other (especially the old timers - you know the ones that don't know what a blog is ;)
  • Low: I've still got to study for this crazy test next week. Kind of hard to concentrate and find time.
  • Quiet: The hangar floor was eerily quiet as guys worked on some smaller projects / cleaning up.
  • Busy: Bookings was initially full of phones ringing off the hook as the fantastic staff tried to take care of everyone who was depending on an AIM AIR flight, now voluntarily grounded.
  • Frustration: It seems some bystanders took sections of the wreckage, making investigation hard. Some tv footage (from what I was told) showed locals holding the tail of the airplane and shaking it jubilantly, like a trophy. Some said seeing the zoom in on the burned AIM AIR logo was something they will never forget.
  • Admiration: Some of the bystanders, I understand, probably saved Ryan's life, even in the midst of fire. Thinking of that makes the frustration melt away, and my eyes moist.
  • Not awesome: Ryan was supposed to fly out yesterday morning in a medevac, but it was delayed by at least two hours because apparently Nairobi hospital wanted the bill paid before he could go in the ambulance (the figure I heard was enough to buy a brand new Land Cruiser in the US). As one person said: "That's why we are flying him to South Africa! So you don't have to deal with this!!"
  • Awesome: All the letters of support from other operators here in Nairobi, other missionaries and mission groups, all the churches in the US, and all of you! Thanks! Breanna decorated a bulleting board, and all these messages are being stapled on it as a way to encourage and comfort the immediate family of Ryan and Frank, and also the entire AIM AIR family here in Kenya.
  • Grisly: The wreckage is down in our paint booth. It is incredible anybody survived, much less three people.
  • Touching: Everyone is pulling together to help the wives, being with them as they walk through the wreckage: both physical and metaphysical.
1The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on me, because Jehovah did anoint me To proclaim tidings to the humble, He sent me to bind the broken of heart, To proclaim to captives liberty, And to bound ones an opening of bands.
2To proclaim the year of the good pleasure of Jehovah, And the day of vengeance of our God, To comfort all mourners.
3To appoint to mourners in Zion, To give to them beauty instead of ashes, The oil of joy instead of mourning, A covering of praise for a spirit of weakness, And He is calling to them, `Trees of righteousness, The planting of Jehovah -- to be beautified.'
-Isaiah 61

Monday, August 03, 2009

When you try so hard to do everything right...

Last Friday I stayed late in the hangar to work on a personal project: repainting a bicycle as a belated present for Isaiah. I stepped out of the bead blast room and Ryan our piston fleet supervisor, motioned for me to come out to the ramp.

“I need you to help me push this Caravan into the hangar.”

Caravans are usually moved by our little tractor tug. But another operator had a DeHavilland Dash 8 idling on the ramp waiting to get past. Hence the urgency.
Ryan grabbed the tow bar and we strained and pushed against the beast. We got it out of the way.

Behind the Dash 8, one of our newer Cessna 206s appeared. Frank was returning from a day of flying.

After shutting down out of the way, he came and asked us, with a smile on his face “Did you guys make that Dash 8 wait?”

Ryan explained how we moved the caravan by hand. He added our other caravan was fully loaded. There was no way we could get that one to budge.

I looked at Frank and said “Now if you had been here, it would have been no problem!”

He laughed. Its a great laugh, one I hear a lot in the pilots room.

Yesterday afternoon I was making pancakes for a late lunch and the power went out. I was annoyed because it seems to be happening more and more. I didn’t think anything of it.

Some AIM-AIR friends knocked on the gate a couple hours later.

“We stopped by to see how you guys are doing.” they said.

“OK” I was a little confused by the strange look on their faces.

“You haven’t heard anything?”

I shook my head.

Then I learned that same airplane that had taxied in Friday afternoon, with Frank and Ryan on board, had crashed through some power lines and into a residential estate less than a mile from our house.

Frank did not make it. Ryan has severe burns and several broken bones. Please remember Ryan and his family and Frank’s family in your prayers.

Right now we have more questions than answers. We just went through an extensive evaluation of our operation, identifying ways to make it as safe as possible. This is a very hard time for the AIM AIR family.

I am not sure if there are aircraft to move around in Heaven or not, but I can imagine whatever God is working on up there, He is probably turning to Frank, with a smile and a twinkle in His eye “Frank, now that you are here, this will be no problem!”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The real deal: my first flying in Africa

So it came together pretty fast. Nate is a pilot that came just before we did, and has paved the way for getting through the Kenya licensing requirements. He needed a handful of hours before he could apply for his license. So a plan was devised. We needed to swap a Cessna 206 with one in Uganda. The 206 was rebuilt just last year, and is the "shipping container sister" to the plane I have been working on, and maintenance wanted more hours put on the plane. It has been sitting in our hangar because of regulatory issues here in Kenya (imagine!)

So this was a good chance to get some training done. The trip was longer than the hours Nate needed, so they invited me to come along. I will need 10 hours of recent flying to get my Kenya license, too.

We left on Isaiah's birthday (Tuesday) ... I know... I will make it up to him. We returned home today. We carried some mail, equipment, a nurse working in Lake Victoria and her mom from Germany coming to visit her, and also engine oil for the pilots based in Uganda. I saw Nate put some pictures up from the trip, so all apologies for borrowing those. I shot some video, which I will crunch together into something coherent hopefully!

The picture above is one of our first stops. The runway is right on the beach. Lake Victoria is more beautiful than I imagined.

The highlights were:
*Visiting the missionaries working at the lake and hearing about their work. The church is maturing there, and they are finding less focus needed for church planting. Most of the work is now medical related, with a big emphasis on HIV/AIDs. Approximately 8 out of 10 people around Lake Victoria are infected.

*Seeing friends I had met before. One was a nurse out there we went to Africa Based Orientation with, and also a family we met at homeschool week at RVA.

 *Meeting the other remote AIM-AIR pilots. We had a float plane accident shortly after our family arrived here. But the pilot in charge of work on the lake (Dale) was very optomistic about the future and a replacement float plane. A lot of people have come offering support. He loves to use aircraft and boats to reach the fisherman in the many cramped fishing camps around the lake.

*Being able to spend a day landing on that strip off the lake. Great practice and a great location.

* Spending some time fishing with Dale and his son Josh.

* Visiting Entebbe airport. Very nice facility. It was the location of hostage crisis during Idi Amin's rule over Uganda, but has been redone quite well.

* Flying again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy 11th Olivia!

Can't believe my baby's 11...over a decade old! We love you and everyday we are blessed by you!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

DC3 in Sudan video

Here's a video I put together from my chance to be the flight attendant on the DC3 into Sudan. Unfortunately all the interesting stuff was when I was busy on duty, so I could not get it on video. I will share more soon...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quick request for rain

We are out of our first rainy season of the year. For our neighborhood, we received a fair amount of rain, but the eastern section of Nairobi missed out on a lot. I have heard of a clinic across town that hasn't had water on in two months.

Up north the situation is more desperate. Sections of Kenya have missed rains for three years or longer. The lakes we flew over in the DC-3 were quite low. Our friends we stayed with in Kurungu drove down today and said it was very depressing to see dying animals along the side of the road. In Korr, which is in the heart of Rendille country up north, the churches have started a program to haul off and burn dead animals for people.

Please keep these needs in your hearts as you pray.

Pray for wisdom for us and other missionaries to wisely respond to the need. Churches in Nairobi are doing drought relief ministry mainly transporting food to areas nearby that have not had crops. Missionaries in places like Korr may have to make tough decisions about how much help they can afford to give, and there are times when good friends are lost because of hunger. I have heard that if there is not enough food to go around, the goats will be fed before the children because they are what is needed to sustain the family through the drought.

In His own words, Jesus said He came so that we "may have life, and have it to the full." He also declared Himself the living water. The Rendille picture heaven as a place where water flows over the ground, like a stream. Our hope is in line with Jesus' promise that the rains will come and life will flourish throughout East Africa, and the people will live full lives and find the One who is Living Water for their souls.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hitting the books and a Grace-ism

This is an excuse post... I have a lot I want to write about, but my free time is being consumed by studying for a Kenyan commercial pilot test. I am the next guy in line to take it, and the previous pilot has assured me it is quite rediculous. Questions about Polar Fronts, flying to Scandanavia... not much about flying in Africa. I think it will take about 160 hours of studying for me to have a chance of passing this thing.

I did go on a neat flight on the DC-3 as a third crew member ... the flight attendant. It was really interesting, and I want to share more when I finish condensing it so it doesn't ramble too long. I also edited a video I took when I wasn't buckling passengers in or unloading cargo.

I did want to leave you with a Grace-ism: We went to the animal orphanage today for our family time. It is a place where abandoned or wounded animals found in the game parks are taken in. There were quite a lot of cats, and in one cage two male lions were strutting right up agains the fence to the female pen, where the lionesses were sleeping on some logs looking the other way, completely uninterested.

Grace was at the fence watching, and when I got closer I heard her singing as the lions paced: "Hut two three four ... impress the women ... hut two three four ... impress the women."

Monday, June 08, 2009

The night we forgot Ugali

Learning who to trust is a big adjustment for us in our new life here. Kids who are strangers will walk up and say “Give me money!” Youths sometimes grab Grace or Isaiah’s arms and ask for me to give them just one of my kids. Sometimes people are simply asking for work or promising a quality piece of furniture, but the story they spin isn’t quite “right.” A lot of conversations I have on the street I find myself wondering how much truth there really is to this story.
There are many drops of fresh water in what sometimes seems like a sea of cons, and every chance I can spend time with them is truly refreshing.
Baba Brian, as the kids call him, or Wycliffe, is more than a reassuring realization that the world is not all bad ... he is an inspiration to me.
His dad took a second wife when he was a young guy. The family was left to fend for themselves. His mom decided to come to Nairobi for opportunity, and eventually Wycliffe told us he was living on a trash heap near a nearby market.
He went to a church school and made friends with a couple missionaries. “Thanks to God, so many people have given me work!” he kept telling me. I kept trying to tell him a lot of it was his eagerness to work and being someone they can trust.
“No, thanks to God I have been given so much work.”
Wycliffe was able to live in nearby Kibera with his wife and son. One day he was given a radio to take home, and disaster struck that night. Three guys burst into the shack and took the radio. Then they turned towards his wife, Saleen. Wycliffe realized they weren’t going to stop with the radio. He grabbed one of the thugs and threw him against the wall, on top of the second thug. The third attacker lunged at him with a knife. He got an arm up and deflected the thrust just in time as the blade plunged into the top of his right shoulder. He fought them off, but decided the next day it was time to move.
So he continues to work hard to pay for the higher rent demanded of a safer neighborhood, and despite a poor example handed to him of what fatherhood means, he is determined to provide for his small family.
Brian is his one and only son (moms and dads here are called by their firstborn’s name when addressed with respect, therefore Baba Brian). The Saturday before last was his birthday. We got together with another AIM-AIR family that are also a part of Wycliffe’s life and took them to eat at a really cool kid friendly Chinese restaurant.
Between the two missionary families, we tried to think of all possible foods that would be a new experience for them. Wycliffe and Saleen bravely faced the new cuisine while Brian and the kids immersed themselves in the abundance of toys scattered around.
Every dinner comes with complimentary ice cream scoop in a dish, and I asked the owner if they could do something special for a birthday. So Brian’s ice cream came with a lit candle and the staff sang to him.
Wycliffe told us that they will remember this as the night they forgot ugali. Ugali is their staple food, and by staple I mean it’s there for every supper.
Yesterday we went to visit Wycliffe’s house. It is in the back of someone’s property amongst rows of corrugated steel shacks. A one room home that we were warmly invited into. Fortunately today was cool enough that the temperature inside was bearable. They don’t typically spend much time inside during the day.
The electricity was on today. We could hear the televisions from next door cranked up. The train rolls by less than 30 feet away. The property under the shack is easement for the railroad.
Wycliffe shared with us a dozen photos from his life, while Saleen made chai on a kerosene burner.
Wycliffe had asked we bring a DVD player so Brian could watch a DVD someone had given him. It was a collection of sing a long songs from the US. Brian has just started school, and is overcoming a hearing problem. Wycliffe desperately wants him to learn to speak English well.
Isaiah brought a toy train to share with Brian, and when that came out, the DVD was ignored.
Brian plays with the train while Isaiah sits at Brian's desk. Like a lot of the furniture, Wycliffe found it somewhere (much to Saleen's dismay :) and brought it back to life.
After chai, and home roasted peanuts, Wycliffe showed us around outside. There is no shower, but there are three out houses for everyone. Out the back door to the compound is the train track and a trash pile. Wycliffe told us a lot of rats live there, and cause problems at night. Breanna said they need a cat, and he laughed saying some people have a hen, and the cat would cause problems there.
Before we left, Saleen prayed for us, and Wycliffe thanked us for everything. Brian ran ahead to our car. As we pulled away he was bawling.
Wycliffe and his family have left a big impression on us, and I think we all had a lot to dwell on on the ride home.
Thanks to God for allowing us to be friends with them.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A life in tension

“It smelled like bad cotton candy ... I mean cottage cheese,” Grace explained. We visited the church one of the night guards attends. The church property was quite nice, but Grace was commenting on the walk from our house to Kibera.

Between 800,000 to a million people from all over Kenya live in Kibera. The houses are shacks dug into the ground with a small amount of corrugated tin making up the walls and roof. Their is a mafia that controls who lives where, collects rent, and is the ruling authority for most of what goes on ... Oh and I have heard they call themselves the taliban ... i think it is supposedly a strange joke.

Francis took us down the walkway from our neighborhood into the slum. All along the way were stalls with various items for sale. A delivery truck was trying to maneuver its way out along the same walk way we were on.

Then we followed railroad tracks for ten minutes, again with more stalls. A left turn down a narrower path, with much less traffic, and ditch running down the middle. The smell was quite strong. This opened up to a large soccer field, the only one in Kibera. It was amazing to stumble into this much space. Next to us was a two story building, the AMREF hospital, made of brick and completely different from the shacks around.

A right turn on another walk way past a satellite dish over a shack that said video arena. A boy swinging on a piece of rope looped down below a  cross member stick of where a shack was or was being built. Then we came to the gate: Kibera Church of God.

It was like being in a village in the middle of a city of millions. A crowded village with electricity but no water.

Everyone was very friendly. We saw the mud walled school rooms and were told about the plans to put a second story on them: “We are going to reinforce the walls!” We were shown the orphanage. It is a home to 12 kids. We met with one of the girls. We were shown the church and Compassion's offices for caring for the youth. A lot went on there. We also met some visiting retired missionaries from ... Council Grove, Kansas. It felt weird and very nice to be here meeting them!

A youth named Boniface was talking to me about how he loves to reach out the youth and wants them to become compassionate leaders. “Africa needs leaders.” he said enthusiastically. Kids in Kibera are always trying to find something to do, so they flock to any activities they have going on. He wants to become a pilot, and I believe he meant a missionary pilot. Church started after 45 minutes and we walked in.

Grace was surrounded by kids the whole time, which was tolerable most of the time for her. We let our kids play outside with the rest of the kids during church. Church wasn't in English, and I doubted it was going to be something they would understand.
An  interesting sign at the front of the church
We were welcomed in church and gave our greetings to everyone from the church in America. They sang some very enthusiastic and beautiful songs, followed by a long time of giving offerings and more talking. Then a guest evangelist from Nigeria came. He was dressed in a suit with a white tie, white shoes, a ring with a dollar sign on it, and distant stare at everyone. He was introduced as Apostle Great (not Gregg) somebody.

“Genesis 8!” he began. I turned there ready for a sermon on the flood.
“And God remembered Noah!” That was as far as he got. He wanted us to know that God remembers us. We told our neighbor God remembers us.

Interesting, and a good reminder. However, after 30 minutes, I began to see he was promising a life of wealth for everyone because God remembers them. This kind of message is very popular in a place like Kibera. People were eating it up. I sat down and started reading through the bible while people jumped up and shouted.

“Put your left leg out and yell 'Hallelujah'!”

I thought about what I would say if he looked at me and asked “Brother why aren’t you excited? Why aren’t you shouting with us?”

I read while Apostle Great jumped up and down on my bench, about a foot away.
I only could think of Jesus. Surely God remembered Him. Especially Him, yet He never had the three cars the evangelist spoke of. He was God’s Son, and He didn’t even have a home. Yet He changed the world forever, and He changed me.
What the evangelist said was true: God does remember us. But I believe he stopped short on what that means for us, and ultimately why we are here.
So, I picked up the kids drawing books, Breanna’s purse, and my Bible and walked out while Apostle Great explained how one day his car finally came.

I really loved being there, but now I felt confused. James, a friend, came out and asked if he could escort us back home. Months earlier he had trained us to use the matatus in the city, and he was so excited to see us here!

“I don’t think this speaker will be done soon!” he said with a smile.

“Yes. He promised to drop the mic in 15 minutes, but his watch must be different from mine!”

James talked with us on our way back home. I wanted to pick his brain about this evangelist, and give him my thoughts, but I knew I was his guest, and I should wait. There is a tremendous amount of respect for a message in church, and no one here feels comfortable critiquing what is spoken.

It was 2pm, and we had made a critical error. We forgot to bring a water bottle. I guess because we were in the city, we forgot this necessity. So we were tired, hungry and thirsty when we got home.

This afternoon we made chocolate banana smoothies at home as an experiment. It worked OK. Then we cleaned up the house, and went to eat some Ethiopian food.

These are the extremes we live in here. A place with no water, to a place where food is served to you. It feels like a life in tension, of not ever fitting in. Sometimes people see us as an opportunity for wealth, a boss, a mark for a scam, or a manifestation of the man trying to keep them down.

The words of Peter and John keep ringing in my brain. To put my spin on them: “We can’t give you enough money, instead we want you to know life, and have it to the full.”

A guard at the neighborhood gate asked if we prayed for him at church. I said we prayed for all of Nairobi, but I would remember to pray for the guards. These past few weeks have been hard for them because of a string of car-jackings. Beyond that, my prayer is that they would truly know God’s son more than they already do.

And we both hope the future holds a chance for us to serve a church like Kibera Church of God.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Newsletter is almost here

Our family newsletter is almost ready to send out. If you aren't on the mailing list, but would like to be, fill out the entry field on the right side of this website. We will get it out in the next couple of days!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recent Prayer Needs and Praises

Praise God with us, that Jerry and his carpooling co-workers are all safe and sound when our car was struck by a bus yesterday!!! We do have a sizable dent in the right back passenger door and panel and will need bodywork done on it, however.

Please pray our shipment coming on a cargo ship from New York to Mombasa, Kenya, carrying our homeschool materials for the next two years, Jerry's tools and toolboxes, our pots and pans and other household items (and those of lots of other missionaries!) will make it here safely and not be captured or delayed by pirates wreaking havoc off the Somali coast. this if you think pirates arrrgh only on the big screen these days!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thanks for the car!!

Thanks to all of you who gave to our vehicle project, pledged a monthly amount toward our vehicle project and gave over and above our monthly support target!!! Here it is, a very well-maintained, great driving Subaru Legacy!  (with us in Nairobi National Park today)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Our Home in Nairobi

Our living room with furniture we had a fundi (craftsman)make for us.Grace at work in our "classroom", which is a servant's quarters behind the house

Our "fierce" puppy, Kilimanjaro, standing guard while the kids work in the servant's quarter classroom. Utility sink and washing machine on the right.
View out our bedroom window at sunset
Front of the house
Looking out from front door to our gate and avocado tree
Backyard, kids playing boats in the gutter :) Those black circles at the back of the yard are underground tanks that hold water we can draw from when the city water is off (which it usually is!) See the banana tree?
Isaiah playing by the front door gate
Many keys to our "fortress"
In case of emergency, or funny noise in the night, we can turn on exterior lights and alarm or just lights