We’ve arrived safely back in Indianapolis with mixed emotions. Happy to see our loved ones, relieved to be “home”, sad to leave new friends behind and broken hearted to know there’s still so much suffering in a tragically beautiful country on the other side of the world.
We ended our time in Nairobi with a trip to the school in Joska on Saturday. Boys and girls from the school in Bondeni and other Missions of Hope schools in the Methare Valley are accepted to the school at Joska based on their academic achievements. The school is about ninety minutes outside Nairobi, where there is room for the children to grow into the young adults God wants them to be. It functions like a boarding school in that the children live there and their parents are allowed to visit several times throughout the year. There are separate facilities for the girls and boys that are several miles apart. We spent time at each and were so impressed with the poise and talent of these young people. One would never guess that these children had once lived lives deprived of even the most basic necessities. In addition to the children’s spiritual and intellectual development, the teachers are also teaching them a variety of valuable life skills such as how to grow vegetables, farm fish and raise chickens. At the boys school, there is an underground spring from which they are bottling Hope Springs drinking water, providing an additional source of revenue for the school. After a long day at Joska, we had a quick meal at the Java Coffee House in the YaYa Shopping center and then gathered together for a short team meeting and to pray for two of our team members who are leaving early Sunday morning to visit some orphanages in Uganda before returning to Indianapolis.
Our last day in Nairobi began on Sunday morning with breakfast at Grace House. We then traveled to the Outreach Hope Church where our very own Graham Carlos preached a great sermon with an apologetic theme and compelling analogies to the practice of medicine. The music and worship was, as we have come to expect, spirit-filled and uplifting. To find such joy amid such darkness is nothing short of inspiring.
After church, we dispersed in different directions. A small group of us went to Kasuri (small and beautiful), a bead and pottery shop with a great mission. Kasuri employs women from homes where there is domestic abuse. They teach them how to make beads and pottery from clay. Once the women become skilled employees, their children receive assistance with education and their families are provided healthcare benefits. The jewelry and pottery the women make are beautiful and of very high quality. The finished products are exported all over the world. Other team members returned to the Masai Market near Grace House for some last minute shopping. A few team members spent the afternoon relaxing and recovering from a week that was emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausting. The day came to a close with three more team members departing for the airport to return to Indianapolis.
Early Monday morning the remaining fourteen team members boarded two safari tour vans and headed out on a six-hour trek to the Leisure Camp resort near the Masai Mara area of the Serengeti. The trip took us through small towns and rural areas with a stop at an overlook of the Rift Valley. It is stunningly beautiful and in stark contrast to the conditions we witnessed in Nairobi. By the time we arrived we were tired and covered in dust. The last two and one-half hours of the trip were on dry dusty dirt roads. A special treat awaited us, however, as we were able to see a variety of animals during a short trip out to the Masai Mara that evening. We saw a pack of adult elephants with a tiny baby (tiny in relative terms that is) elephant. We saw several adult lions at least two of which were males with those magnificent manes. It was clear that these big cats are truly “king” of the animal kingdom. While most of the other animals we saw were a bit skittish and avoided us, the lions completely ignored us. I think we were just an uninteresting annoyance to them!
That evening, we had a wonderful meal and some lively conversation. As we began to put Nairobi and the Methare Valley slums behind us, questions began to emerge. Why those people? Why that place? Why is there such devastating poverty? Why is that place so underdeveloped, especially since it’s one of the oldest parts of the world? Why are resources so limited? Is it government corruption or something more? What can we do to help? What should we do to help? Will what we do be sustainable? The questions are many. The answers are few. There is one undeniable truth, however, and that is God’s heart beats passionately in Bondeni. He loves his children there just as much as he loves you and me. They are our brothers and sisters and whatever we can do to share Jesus with them will make a difference for the kingdom.
Tuesday we had a full day’s adventure on the Serengeti and had the rare privilege of seeing a cheetah on the hunt (the gazelles were still unharmed when we left them), a female leopard carrying her baby cub, a lioness and her cubs, three young male lions whose manes were just beginning to come in, giraffes, zebras, wart hogs (can you say aku na mattata), hippos, crocodiles, monkeys, baboons and a few water bucks. As we sat around the dinner table that evening it occurred to me that there is something intangible and valuable about this time together as a group, and I missed those who were unable to be with us. This time, during which we can appreciate the glory of God’s creation and let go of the pain of his people helps us to keep His perspective and develop plans that reflect his hope and love for his people rather than risking taking actions based on “knee jerk” reactions to the overwhelming conditions of the Methare Valley.
Wednesday began our long trek home following a final sunrise excursion in the Masai Mara. Peace prevailed as the great golden orb slowly rose above the eastern horizon, reminding us that God has blessed us with so much more than we deserve and that we are obligated to share our blessings with those who do not know him. It was quiet on the Serengeti that morning. We saw some elephants majestically strolling up a hillside. We stood on the banks of a pond where hippos watched us suspiciously. Zebras, gazelles and wildebeests grazed on the open plains. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7, NIV
The six hour drive back to Nairobi took us to Mary and Wallace Kamau’s home where we were warmly welcomed, allowed to shower and fed a delicious meal before departing for the airport to board a midnight flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. Mary and Wallace shared with us some sad news about the boy’s school at Joska. They had received a call early Monday morning that the high school boys’ dormitory was on fire. By the grace of God, all of the boys who live in that dormitory were in class when the fire started, so no one was injured. Due to its remote location, and the lack of adequate resources an effective response was not possible and the dormitory burnt to the ground. At this time, the boys (just over 100) who lived in that dormitory, are back home with their families until some alternative living arrangements can be made.
We arrived at the Nairobi International Airport in plenty of time for the first leg of our journey home, a midnight flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. The aircraft was a 777 and it was completely full. Why so many people want to fly from Nairobi to London at midnight on Wednesday is a mystery. Sleep did not come easily for many of us and we arrived in London early Thursday morning a bit blurry-eyed. We said good-bye to two more team members who were heading to Atlanta via Miami for a family birthday celebration. After a short layover the remaining twelve of us boarded our plane to Chicago, only to sit on the runway for four hours before being told that the flight was canceled due to an engine failure. We were sent to a holding area where food and water were provided. We waited while another aircraft was prepped to take us to Chicago. Eventually we were informed that there would be no flight to Chicago that day and that we were on our own to re-book another flight. With a group of twelve travelers, the logistics of that were a bit intimidating. Thanks to the quick thinking of our team leader we were re-booked on a flight the next morning through JFK in New York. We spent the night at a hotel not far from the airport and a few of the team members who had the energy found their way downtown to visit Piccadilly Circus.
On Friday morning we made our way to Heathrow, an amazingly busy and confusing, multi-cultural airport. This time we were successful and our plane departed on time and we arrived safely at JFK International Airport in New York. After a short layover, we boarded one final plane, departed JFK with a nice view of the beautiful New York City skyline and arrived home in Indianapolis to the warm welcome of friends and family members.
After a home-cooked meal, a long, hot shower, and a restful sleep in my warm soft bed. I woke up this morning thinking about how blessed we are to live in this country. Our blessings should compel us make a difference for those who do not have what we have, especially those who struggle day after day and cannot even enjoy the most basic needs like indoor pluming, electricity or the assurance of their next meal. As I threw some clothes in my washing machine and pushed a button to start the flow of soft, warm water, I couldn’t help but think of the women we saw in Pengani who were bending over washboards with tubs of dirty, contaminated water. And, again, I wonder why. There is comfort in Philippians, verse 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” ESV