We are called to love…


And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works,
Hebrews 10:24 HCSB

http://bible.com/72/heb.10.24.HCSB

To Experience God’s Splendider…My Visit to Nakuru

 

Originally written on March 13 – All weekend I was told that it had been seven years since I had made a trip to the small city of Nakuru, then today before I left I was told that it had actually been nine years. Wow! I can’t believe that I passed through, but had not made an actually visit to this small city known for it’s lake and flamingos. I guess that was why I was so determined to make a visit to see my friends Pastor Joel and his wife, First Lady Ruth, and the Beautiful Courts Christian Church.

One of the things I love about Kenya is it’s natural beauty in just about every city or village one visits. I guess part of that is due to the fact that Kenya is a part of the Rift Valley (the Rift Valley goes from Egypt, or Israel according to some, all the way down to Mozambique) . So you are constantly seeing hills, mountains and valleys as you drive through much of the country. Of course there are also the savannas and the gorgeous coast. But the Rift Valley is a must see…the delight of seeing the valley floor as one looks down from the high grounds of the Rift. No matter how many times I see it I fall in love with it over again each time snapping pictures like it is the first time I’ve looked upon such beauty…I fall in love over and over.

This past weekend I had to the opportunity to fall in love with new parts of the Rift Valley, natural wonders of God’s hand. On Friday morning before I was to speak at the lunchtime service in Nakuru my host took me to see the Menegai Crater, that is reported to be over 800 years old, with the last eruption being 300 years ago. Though the crater is an active volcano it is safe to visit the upper ridges or to even hike down into it and enjoy it up close and in person. Of course due to time we viewed the crater from the ridge.

One of the things I learned about the crater or the power of an active but dormant volcano it has the ability to be a source of clean energy. The Kenyan government realized this ability  a few years back and have started to drill down into the crater to pull energy that will be available to source the whole of the nation in about three months time. This will be great for a country that gets most of its energy from water sources. During times of drought like now, the country often have times when the power is cut for most of the day so that electricity can be available in the evenings. Oh, how we in America take electricity for granted.

Viewing the crater, actually my first time seeing a crater in person, was an amazing moment. To see something so beautiful, that was once so destructive full of destructive force, was the opportunity of a life time. Photos will never show what delight the eyes enjoy when looking upon such natural beauty in person.

Another opportunity that I enjoyed during my time in Nakuru was a day trip to Nyahururu in central Kenya to see the Thompson’s Falls. The falls are very small in comparison to the famous Victoria Falls of Zimbabwe and Zambia. None the less, it was a beautiful sight to see. However, my host had no idea what it would take to go or to come back up. There was no usual path down that one might find in other countries. This was all about trusting your legs and arms to work for you. The journey down was tricky, but the way up was painful and exhausting for everyone…even the young people. But once down near the falls it was like being in the middle of a lush green hole full of trees and rock formation surrounding you on every side. We chose not to go to the pool or base of the falls due to the strong mist. To see such beauty close up, watching others take it all in was a personal pleasure. Unlike Americans or Europeans, Kenyans are often the last to enjoy their natural beauties that bring tourist to their country. So I was enjoy both the sites and nationals enjoying what their country has to offer. Most of the visitors seemed to Kenyan nationals, and I stood out like a sore thumb once I opened my mouth…and also because I was the only one sweating on the way back up.

One the drive back to Nakuru we made a stop near a curio shop that had a lookout spot. You could look down and see the valley of the Great Rift. It was so beautiful, with all of it’s green lush producing fields. Kenyans are often amazed when I tell them that we study about the Great Rift Valley in American schools. They have no idea that the West considers that to be a part of the history of human civilization. Throughout Kenya there are so many wonderful spots to take in the beauty of the Great Rift Valley floor…always worth taking a moment to just gaze upon the beauty of God’s handy work.

 

 

Sunday Up In the Kalenjian Highlands

My first Sunday service for this mission trip was to spent way up in the Kenyan highlands with the Kalenjin tribe. There are many tribes here in Kenya, and several of them are related, are a part of the same tribal group. The Kalenjin are a part of the Nilotic, which include the more popular or known Kenyan tribe Maasai. The Kalenjin are also the Kenyan runners we see in most marathon races…and the ones who often take home the prize.

The ride was a long, painful, and tedious one up a rough narrow winding dirt road (more like path). You really need a Jeep Rubicon to make the journey up the hills. I never know how their cars make it. One thing for sure is their tires are made from a far superior rubber than our expensive ones in America. It seemed to take an hour to reach the place. But I imagine it was only about 30 or so minutes ride.

Despite the rough ride, it is one filled with much natural beauty as you climb higher and higher. The red earth against the lush green hills that seem to just roll up and down as you go along. As you travel along the dirt road you see people, old and young, moving up and down going about their normal life. There are dirt bikes with their passengers, sometimes with as many four people on a single bike, moving quickly up and down the hills, dodging the holes, cracks and mud puddles.

Finally we reached our destination way up in the hills. The building itself seemed to lean sideways on the hill, resting in place. Securely resting in place.

The service was already underway when we arrived. We simply took our place in the front and joined in the service. Time is not really a factor in rural services here. I guess simple because many have walked miles to be in service and are in no rush to get back on the road.  So though the service had already been going for some time before we arrived, there was more singing and speaking from the other preachers and pastors. It’s not thought of as rude for someone to get up and exhort before the main speaker. I’ve become accustomed that tradition. And actually it serves me well, being that it’s hard to preach an hour message when you have to constantly pause for the interpreter.

This Sunday I preached about Mary in Luke 10 and John 12, how she broke the traditions and customs what was considered right and proper among Jewish women. She broke custom twice in order to 1. learn and hear Jesus teach 2. to submit herself in the most intimate way a woman could in worship to Jesus. In doing so Jesus elevated her to a status that was reserved for men, and for a wife in the later instance of her exposing her hair to Jesus. Customs and traditions are very strong in Kenya, especially customs as pertaining to each tribe and the role of women. After the service was over and I was getting my things to go to the car, a young lady came up to me. I assumed she was just going to give me the usual greeting. But instead she fell into me and begin to weep. You can never go by the expressions or “Amen” here. Often the people just look at you while you minister with an occasional response. No, here they listen with straight faces. And I personal have no problem, because its typical of me when I’m listening to a message. However, this was the first time I can remember having a young adult respond this way after the message. Because we didn’t speak a common language all we could do was look at each other smile and hug.

The congregation enjoyed a special moment later in the service. The Member of Parliament for the county had made the journey to the service. Bishop John wanted to bless her in prayer and also give the people an opportunity to meet her. Her assistant is a member of Bishop John’s original congregation in the village where he is from. In one way the Member of Parliament see’s Bishop as a spiritual leader. Following the service we had a n opportunity to enjoy Sunday dinner back at the house in the village. Bishop John no longer lives in the village, but now lives in the small town where the late Apostle Derek Hubbard lived outside of Nairobi. So this visit and meal was a special treat for Bishop John’s mother and those who had the privilege to assist in preparing the meal, because their were two special guest in the house – the member of Parliament and an American.

After a long Sunday, and a sleepless weekend, it was nice to be back at my host home outside of Nairobi on Sunday evening. We arrived just in time for dinner and bed. It’s normal to eat and then call it a night here. That may be why many of the men have nice plump and round bellies. Of course I made sure to enjoy a nice long sleep, and a lazy day around the house relaxing and catching up on my blog post.

Now as I sit on the balcony in the cool of the evening, enjoying my music playing through my mini-speakers…I bid you all farewell and a blessed Monday on the other side of the world. May the grace of God be with you all!

The Road Much Traveled

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

My trips to Kenya have always turned me into a story teller, because everywhere you turn there is moment waiting to be told to someone. My early travels to the country often left me speechless, because I was never prepared for the unusual, at least to this American city girl, events or sightings.

Some of the most unusual things one can see here are the things that you witness as you travel along the roads, be they the rocky dirt paths, paved streets, or highways. It seems I had forgotten about the unusual travelers along the the road. Being that I haven’t been in Kenya since 2012, there were a few things I forgot, though I don’t know how. Maybe I didn’t forget, I just put them in the back of my mind until I witnessed them the other day.

For instance, as we traveled up a dirt path (and it is really consider a road to somewhere) to the Bishop’s wife’s restaurant we had to pause and give the right away to the herd of goats that were coming from market. The last thing you want to do is hit someones’ heard. It could spell death, or at the least a major fine or fight. So the driver yielded to the goats until the road was clear again. .

This is always funner when traveling down the highway and you have to slam on breaks for a cow or a herd crossing. Yes, a herdsman will cross his cattle across a busy intercity highway. And yes, you will yield all right to the herd and the herdsman.

And even stranger event happened once as I was taking a taxi from a city to the village. Seldom is a taxi used by one passenger here, but rather a group of people. The group can be in size of 4 to 10 or 12 people. Don’t ask how a car can hold 12 people. Just now it can in this part of the world. So once while traveling, the driver stopped to pick up passengers. As I looked in the mirror I noticed  a rather odd looking passenger looking at me from the boot of the car. I turned around to see if I was really seeing what I thought I had seen…yes, a goat was looking at me and talking! I quickly pulled out my video camera and started videoing I knew no one would believe me otherwise.

During my nearly week of stay here in Kenya I have encountered many herd crossings and yielding the right away to the goats and cows. No matter how in a hurry we were, we gave way to the other travelers along the way. I’m curious to know how much road have some of those herds traveled in a weeks timing. Travel to market, travel to varies grazing land, or  just traveling…those are some serious travelers.

 

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Goats leaving market in Kiserian

 

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A narrow road shared with the herd and oncoming driver.

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Goats crossing the highway

Back Here After Four Years

What a difference time can make. It has been a little over four years since I’ve last set foot in the East African country of Kenya. On Tuesday, February 28 I arrived on familiar soil to a place that has undergone several changes and upgrades.

First noticeable change, though I knew about it, was the airport. The Jomo Kenyatta airport had a major explosion and fire nearly four years ago. That required the international section to undergo a major much needed renovation. Prior to the upgrade the airport seemed to be locked in the 60’s or 70’s, very gloomy and old. So it was nice to see a newer looking airport, though going through immigration and customs was still very slow and confusing…not much had changed there. For the first time I’ll make use of the airports domestic terminal later in the month when I travel to and from the coast. Being out of practice and getting a little older (that excuse seem to work for everyone else), I’m just not in the mood for the nine hour bus trip to the coast and nine hours back.

Of course there were a few other changes I noticed as I traveled to my hotel that night, and later the next day as I traveled to the home of my host. There are new business hotels that hopefully will remain economical for those traveling to this extremely expensive country for those traveling solo. For a nice safe and clean hotel one can expect to  pay a minimum of $160 a night for a single room. And that just starting out. Want a stay at the American hotels like Hilton or Holiday Inn, then look to pay around $230, and you that may not include breakfast or internet.

The major upgrade, thanks to the Chinese who also own some of the new business hotels, is the road improvements. The Chinese have been very busy upgrading Kenya’s roads and highways. Years ago the Germans had made major contribution to the upgrade of the main highway between Nairobi and Mombasa, which was desperately needed as the journey is already long and tedious.  Now the the Chinese have taken over all major road work. And whether the roads are quality will remain to be seen, but they are very nice for now.

Unfortunately, the driving is still as scary as ever. I’m trying to embrace the custom and sit back and enjoy each trip…but while I’m in the Nairobi area I’m staying put as much as possible and just enjoy the lovely home of my host.

Seeing South Africa Through Different Lense

Well, I must say that I’m so excited to be back in South Africa. South Africa is like home to me, with family and friends throughout the country. So the opportunity to so many dear ones is an added bonus. But it is the time spent in fellowship and worship with God’s people in this part of the world that always make the visit a blessing. There are always new brothers and sisters in Christ that we meet with each visit.

However, before we began our ministry time here in the country, I planned a little bit of sightseeing time in Johannesburg and Pretoria (the seat of the presidency), thanks to the high speed commuter train that runs between the two cities.

For years I have desired to visit the famous, and sometimes infamous, Soweto. I was rather surprised that my mum said yes to the visit. I have to say, I’m learning not to believe everything the media and certain people in South Africa about some places and people who get negative press. The visit was very eye opening. Soweto, like any city, has it’s very wealthy areas, middle class, and “stay out” areas.

Our “tourist time” took us on a quick tour of Jozi and Soweto, and a couple of day trips to Pretoria. I decided to put my camera to work. Below are few of the many things I saw through my lens.

My Time in Potchefstroom

This past May one of the Bishops in our fellowship of churches in South Africa passed away after a short illness. While there was some preparations made for the church and leadership in the event of the senior pastors passing, the ministry was not fully prepared for the earthly departure of Bishop Joe Mokwena. And after my May visit to Potchefstroom, at the advice of Bishop Nelson Haines in Durban I felt it necessary to return before the close of 2015.

The sole visit for the December trip was to visit with the ministry leaders and church family to encourage them. One thing I continued to hear throughout my week visit there was knowing that New Life is “here to support us” gave them the strength to continue on despite the grieve and pain they feel after loosing such a devoted and involved husband, father, and spiritual father.

This time of support was an extreme learning experience for me, being that I don’t have an extensive record in the ministry of comfort and encouragement in this area. That ministry that my parents have both been praised for seems to  fathom for me, while I’ve tried in the past I can’t say offering compassion and comfort has been one of those things that comes easy for me. None the less, it was a blessing and a huge relief when the host, Pastor Mario, said to me on Sunday evening that he enjoyed me and the time shared more than any other visit. And that this visit really encouraged and strengthened him. While I’m sure I have a long ways to go, I’m encouraged to know that the purpose of the mission was fulfilled in many ways.

There was one thing about this trip that I can’t say I enjoyed as much as I thought I would…the heat. God please be merciful to me during summer months! Preaching in a building that has no central AC and very small windows, with an outside temp that is in the 90s…for me it is a sacrifice of will. The more I travel and the longer I live, I’m convinced messages are not meant to be any longer than 20-30 minuets. Whoever started 1 hour or more messages must not have preached in a sauna, lol.

According to the members of Grace Tabernacle, they said I really preached. Hmmm, so I guess that means I’ll be shortening my message time from now on…

There were several things planned for our time in Potch, but time and preparation did not allow everything to be done. But the most important thing was accomplished, spending time with the pastoral staff and helping to guiding them in the coming year, visiting with Mother Mokwena, and ministering on Sunday morning. It was a delight to see that even after the passing of Bishop Mowkwena and a few set backs, the ministry is still going on, new people are coming, and the younger generation has been encouraged to step up and get to work. Thank you so much for your prayers during this mission trip.

 

Celebration Time

On Sunday, 6 December I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker for Pastor Chris Kleinsmith and City of Hope’s 3rd Year Anniversary. Pastor Chris was one of the 6 pastors who came from South Africa to visit the U.S. this past August.

Bishop Manuel, Pastor Heynes, and Pastor Gordon were also in the service on that Sunday morning. Pastor Wildebeest and Pastor Alvin where not able to make it. However, I did get a chance to see Pastor Wildebeest upon my arrival to the ” Mother City”, as Cape Town is affectionately called, as well as on Monday when I meet with the pastors. And just before I left the city Pastor Alvin was waiting for me on the other side if security to greet me off.

Cape Town is definitely home to me. So many friends and lovely acquaintances, included the workers of the B&B, that I refer to as my house. One thing I love about that city is everywhere you turn the handy work of God is on display like a grand tapestry.

Change of Season

Well, I’m on board my flight to Atlanta and then it’s on to South Africa this evening. As I look at other passengers on my Delta flight, many have on coats, sweaters, other fall slightly winter clothing. Just about everyone is appropriately dressed for the weather once they arrive to Atlanta or their other domestic destination.

Despite the comfortable climate of the plane, the passengers are smart enough to know that the air outside once they reach their destination may not be so. Therefore, they are dressed accordingly.

Once I arrive in South Africa I will be greeted by a different season than the one I will leave behind in the States. I will find myself on the first day of December feeling the summer evening warmth that is embracing the southern hemisphere. Non of my winter clothing will be suitable for the warm and sometimes hot sun of summer.

While I’m used to packing warmer clothing when I head to South Africa, this time I had to pull out those cool white linens, that are now forbidden during the American fall and winter season.

I’m having to adjust to a drastically different season. While all of my family and close friends back home will wear sweaters, jackets, and coats (for those on the East Coast and Midwest), I’ll wear comfortable summer clothing, t-shirts and linen bottoms.

The moral of this simple illustration is that despite the church cliché of “your season is changing” and “God is taking you into a new season”, there may be a new season coming but 1. It’s not always the one we want and 2. Everyone will not be in the same season.

Things may get better for some, while things seem to get worst for others. We can’t compare our seasons to the person seated next to us. In fact, we can’t figuratively dress the same way as everyone one else, because our seasons may require a different type of “material” than that of someone else’s season.

So, as believers we must learn to be understanding of those who are in their fall and winter. Don’t jump to conclusions of what is going on in their life. Like wise, don’t be envious of those who are in their spring and summer season. We all go through changing seasons at some point. If it’s winter, spring and summer is sure to come. If it’s summer, prepare because fall and winter will come.

Young Masai Men Gathering After Service

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This picture was taken in 2012. I found the way they gathered and communicated, often without saying a word, with each other very interesting.

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