Thursday, July 31, 2008


The Nile River

Mud, mosquitoes, rain, swamps, heavy lifting, little sleep, and quick turn arounds…amazing! My time on my trip to Sudan the past two days was indeed amazing. Despite the list above, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
On Wednesday, I was able to go as third crew on the Samaritan’s Purse (SP) DC-3 flight throughout southern Sudan. Our trip began on Wednesday morning loaded up with cargo flying to Loki in northern Kenya. There we had to quickly unload all our cargo (several hundred kilos of supplies) and attempt a feat probably never before seen in missionary aviation history. We had to attempt to put two 25 ft. long boats, 5 outboard motors, and all the rigging and floorboards into the DC-3. The video I captures of two very large boats fitting into our plane is humorous to say the least (I hope to put it up once I can get a good internet signal). We got several pictures of the task which many AIM Air guys have requested to see. I thought the caption for them should be “The DC-3’s new floatation devises.” Once loaded to the gills with our cargo. There actually wasn’t enough room to get back to the cockpit. Crawling through the small space we left ourselves (and me with 3 opened bottles of coke) was an adventure in and of itself. We then had to take this cargo to Malakal, Sudan. Being able to see the Nile (actually the white Nile) right next to Malakal was a incredibly exciting. Yet we could not enjoy it for long, for we had to get back to Loki before dark and reload our cargo to be ready to go back to Sudan in the morning. We did without any problems. We stayed the night there in Loki at a very nice hotel that SP provided for me and all the crew (thanks Franklin!). Some other SP guys were there that are working in Sudan, and who we were going to fly back into Sudan the next day. It was really good to be able to talk to them and find out what they are doing in their church rebuilding project in southern Sudan.

The 5am wake up call the next morning was a little rough (partly due to the mosquitoes that nearly ate me the night before)…but I was excited to see more of Sudan. We headed out to our first stop in Kurmuk. On the way there we flew in Ethiopian airspace for a time and I got to see the Ethiopian highlands where the Blue Nile gets its origin. Yet flying over Sudan this time of year (rainy season) most of it looks just like a large swamp; our next stop didn’t help change my mind. I knew the place we just landed was muddy due to the plane sinking in some, but hopping out of the plane and sinking an inch or two in mud was more than I expected. We were refueling here so they began rolling out barrels of fuel. However, they were getting larger as they rolled. The mud was so thick and sticky, as they rolled the barrels in it there was about 3 inches of mud caked around the whole barrel. It was quite funny to watch. Our next stop was in Kauda just on the border…actually somewhat within northern Sudan. Here we dropped off several of the SP guys and picked up some more Sudanese passengers. Pieri was our last stop in Sudan for a quick fuel drop (AIM uses it as a fuel stockpile), before heading back to Loki. More passengers and cargo were loaded and unloaded. I got pretty good at moving cargo nets and straps down in place…as well as serving coffee and tea as any good flight attendant would do. Heading back to Nairobi, I was pretty dirty and tired…yet very happy to have seen and been in the place that I have been trying to get to since I’ve been here.We never stayed in a village or strip long enough for me to really meet anyone or see much of anything. Our schedule was so tight and we had much to do to get back in the air…I barely had time to take pictures. Yet I did see a lot, and have felt like I helped the flight crew out at the same time. Therefore, I can’t say too much about Sudan, but despite its downsides, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip there and can’t wait to go back maybe doing the same thing

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A day in the life...and more

Having a video camera (that thankfully wasn't stolen) has allowed me to document my time here in Africa. Yet I realized I haven't filmed as much as I'd like. So I brought my video camera to work for a day to film so of what goes on at the hangar and some of the people I've been working with. I hope you enjoy this first installment of a day in the life...


The More:

I was also thinking about all the strange, funny, and interesting things that I have seen or experienced while here. Here's a small list of some of them:

  • The other day at the Masai Market I was called Chuck Norris by two guys. (I guess it's the red beard).
  • I have heard several well-known Christian contemporary songs on the Christian radio station here in Nairobi.
  • One of those songs was the Veggie Tales 'cheeseburger' song
  • Barack Obama is the savior of Kenya to nearly all Kenyans. Many of the guys I work with ask me why in the world I wouldn't vote for him. One even told me I was blinded by my political party.
  • Chips are crips, fries are chips, napkins are feminine cloths, pants are underwear
  • There is an African Idol show. I have never seen it, but from what I hear, the contestants should really stick to singing African songs instead of American
  • Since I sometimes sing loudly when they play a song I know (some of the missionaries play their Christian music in the hangar) I am sometimes called the 'African Idol'
  • I am also called a 'white mgeki (sp?)' by one of the guys in the hangar. The mgeki are the mob in Kenya.
  • Since being here I have met two people who went to Piedmont, a youth group from Virginia (including a guy who graduated from Liberty this year), a girl from Tyler, TX (for you Heather :), and no one in Kenya knows where West Virginia is.
  • If you're a traffic cop and are tired of directing traffic, just allow a crossing lane to go, create a jam, and hop on the nearest bus outta there.
  • Cats in our neighborhood sound like children getting beaten. I have gotten worried a few times someone was actually in trouble.
  • Copyright laws mean nothing here. (ex. Blockbusters video)
  • Although there are no American restaurant chains, that doesn't keep them from adversiting: "McDonalds burger: almost like the real thing" or "Kentucky Fried Chicken"
  • A sign: "Car Wash and Chicken 4 Sale"
  • Another sign: "Striky no overnight stay"
  • Incas Flour will revitalize your man. (This was a billboard we saw everyday from work, complete with a picture of a shirtless, buff man)
  • And you know you've been in Africa too long when you find yourself saying: "Oh look! A white guy!"
I'm sure to add to this list as my time here continues, but I hope you have found this as humorous as I have.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Here's a little video of some of the things I've captured over the first 2 months. I apologize for the quality, but internet is slow here. Enjoy!


The Great Works of God

This weekend I have richly seen the works of God!

Yesterday, Nathan and Candace took Ryan and I out to the Ngong hills just outside Nairobi. Upon reaching the peaks of the mountains, we could see the grandeur of God’s work in creation. To the east spread out before us Nairobi in the distance and little farms and shambas dotting the plain. To the west of us laid the gorgeous rift valley. The plain drops off suddenly into the rift; with its jagged rock faces and towering peaks. Standing there witnessing the beauty and power of God to create and form all of this. While this moment (which was somewhat tainted with the “cow poop” statement being repeated over and over by the Robert’s daughter…which was quite funny…but since they’re going to read this I hope not offensive to them J ) was filled with a great work of is not His greatest.

This afternoon I came to grips once again with God’s greatest work. The past three weeks we have ended up at the Masai Market at the Yaya center. This market is your typical African market. All the vendors (which are quite many) lay out their merchandise in the parking lot. The whole lot is filled with carvings, boxes, clothes, and any other trinket and African whatnot that you can think of. Bartering is always required here (which I love and am sometimes ruthless in getting the price I want) and the banter back and forth is quite fun. During the past 3 weeks I have built a relationship with one of the vendors, Job. He actually only works for his bother-in-laws little shop, but he does much of the carvings. After doing some business with him and talking to him over the past couple of weeks I was beginning to get to know him. Today, my roommates and I were dropped off here and we had several hours to wait on our ride. This opportunity God provided to let me talk more with Job. As we were talking, I learned much about him…yet there was something I really was pressed to tell him. I began telling him why I was here and why I want to come back to Africa someday. The Gospel message soon followed. He sat as I began to explain to him his need, God’s provision for that need through His Son Jesus, and what he must do to accept that provision. While my witness to him was not what I would have hoped it to be upon reflecting on it and the communication between us broke down at times with language differences…I asked him if he wanted to pray and place his trust and eternal hope in Jesus. He did not hesitate much and agreed. He asked if he could pray in his own language…I was thrilled to agree. He then bowed his head and prayed one of the most beautiful prayers I have heard. Even though I could not understand it, what he was doing made it so sweet.

While I hate to be this way, I always am…especially when it comes to people in Africa. There is in African culture and extremely engrained feature to always please the other person. To say no to someone is not heard of even if the person knows full well they cannot or will not fulfill the request. This thought is full in my mind during my witness and after Job’s prayer. Especially since we have done business he may have been just trying to please me and say this prayer. Yet whether this is a genuine conversion or not is God’s business and work. My job is to make sure other people know the truth…and I believe I did that with Job to the best of my then current abilities. We are meeting again tomorrow and I am hoping to get a Swahili Bible for him to have and hopefully talk a little more with him (I will have limited time). Please join me in praying for Job and his, if not current, future conversion.

This encounter and extreme privilege reminded me the beauty of God’s truly greatest work…his sacrifice of His Son on the cross to save mankind. No matter how breathtaking creation is, or even the grandeur of our future home in heaven, nothing can compare to the beauty of the love shown to us on the cross. This is why I came to Africa…this is why I want to return. Yes, for the honor and privilege to share the extravagant news of God’s redemption of mankind to those who have never heard…but also for me. I need to be reminded again of who I am in Christ and what He did for me. I, like Job, was in desperate need of a Savior. Too often I forget or take that for granted. God wants to use this trip and my work in missions in the future to not only spread His Gospel (He is very capable of doing that without me), but to shape me more in the likeness of his Son. Who I am is way more important to God than what I do… today, I was able to take another step in the journey of ‘becoming’ by basking in the glory and appreciation for His truly greatest work!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


There are a few things one traveling to Africa just has to cross off his list while there. A safari is definitely one of them. While I was able to go on one last time I was in Kenya, it was good to be able to go on another one, in a different park, with a better guide.

Last Saturday, Randy Godfried, the maintenance director here, graciously took my roommates and I about 3 hours outside of Nairobi to the Sweetwaters Conservancy. It was a fun and good break from the redundancy of work in the hangar despite the 5am wake up call. The morning was spent driving around the game park looking for the various animals. Randy had been to this park numerous times so he knew quite a few of the animal hang-outs, most of the animal names, and even some of the park rangers. Most of the animals we were looking for we found...except elephants or lions. It was the first time Randy had been there and not seen elephants.

After the game park, we drove up a road (if you can call it that...I am still amazed at the poor condition of roads here) to the base of Mt. Kenya. We were disappointed to find clouds covering nearly all of the mountain...but at least we can say we had been there. Lunch was partaken at the famous Trout Tree Restaurant. The entire restaurant is built in a tree. They raise their own trout below the treehouse dining. After a good meal of fresh trout (which was quite good) and an amusing show from the monkeys attempting to get food from the guests (I would have loved to see an American health inspector at this restaurant) we headed back to Nairobi...a little tired, but thankful to Randy and for another check on our traveling list.
(Be sure to check out my pictures page for more pics!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Modem That 'Saved My Life'

As some of you may have heard, last weekend was an interesting one to say the least. I have waited until now to write about the events in order to focus my thoughts and see how everything panned out.

To begin with, the house that Ryan, Josh, and I live in here in Nairobi was robbed last Friday. The events that took place that night were miraculous and sad all at the same time. All three of us were over at a missionary’s house for a get together of worship and fellowship. After the meeting was over, we were driven back to our house to be dropped off like we usually are not having a car and due to the danger of walking at night. I had my mind on other things when arriving home, namely the picture below

This picture is of the wireless internet modem that I borrow quite frequently from our neighbors. Nathan and Candace Roberts, a Samaritan’s Purse couple, live on the next street over from ours. We have become good friends, partly because Nathan and I both went to Piedmont. They let me borrow their modem to get online and update this blog and write e-mails. Usually I borrow the modem after they go to bed because they aren’t using it then; and then give it back in the morning. The system works pretty well…except this night I was a little worried.

We were getting back to our house at around 10PM. Knowing that the Roberts go to bed fairly early, I was worried I would not get the modem tonight due to the late hour (Candace later told me I was about out of luck in getting it that evening). So, wanting to get online that night and fear they were already in bed, I jumped out of the truck we were being dropped off in and rushed over to their street. Normally I would go inside and place my things of the day in before going over, but I didn’t want to waste any time…these decisions I have come to be ever so thankful for.

For, you see, our house is fairly protected. It is gated, barred and locked tightly. My roommates had just shut and locked the outer gate and were attempting to unlock the barred door to the house, when six Africans jumped right over our gate as soon as our ride pulled away. Since our house is so ‘secure’ there was no time at all to get into the house before several guys were already in our yard. The first assailant pulled a gun on my roommates and began searching them for money and valuables as his accomplices poured into our yard. Not satisfied with what my roommates had on them, the six men and 2 handguns forced my roommates to let them in the house to raid the rest of our belongings. Ryan, detailing his story to me later, remembers turning to Josh and saying, “I really hope Brandon doesn’t come back in the middle of this!”
Meanwhile, oblivious to the trauma my roommates are facing in our house, I am in the next street waiting for the modem. Normally, I text Nathan and he promptly comes down with the modem and I am back over to my house in only a few minutes. Yet tonight, I am waiting for nearly 10 minutes in his street wondering if he’s getting the texts I am sending. Ironically, I am chatting with the night security guard the entire time. After about 10 minutes Nathan appears at his door. I am relieved that he is not asleep yet, but still wondering what took him so long. He begins to explain that he never received any of my texts from that night. Then, a minute or two before he came down, he received all 4 texts I send him at the same time. He hurried down, wondering how long I had been waiting. We chat for a short time and I’m off running back to my house, eager to get online for the few times I am able to.

Upon reaching my gate, I find it open. Thinking it strange, I determine my roommates must have left it open for me knowing I’d be right back. Yet I turn to lock it to find the lock is gone. Now I am really starting to get suspicious and alarmed. Just then, my roommates appear at the door just as I’m shutting the gate. They look very frightened and tell me “We’ve just been robbed.” At just that moment I hear the sound of several pairs of feet running just outside our gate.

I run back into the house and we lock it up as I ask if they are ok and what they got. They tell me some things they took of theirs and then tell me…the robbers didn’t even touch my room. I run upstairs and find everything in my room as I left it…my laptop laying on my floor out in the open…my HD video camera I got for a graduation present sitting out on my floor…my wallet on my nightstand…my credit cards, passport, checkbook, cash, and all my electronics begging to be taken in my wide open suitcase. To this moment I have no idea why they skipped my room. You first come to Ryan’s room upstairs, followed by mine, then Josh’s. All they had to do was walk in and my story would be a little different now. The rest of the night was filled with AIM missionaries calling to make sure we were ok (by the way…AIM’s emergency contact system worked to perfection that night), talking with security, and overcoming the shock and fear you get when a gun is pointed at your head. Several missionaries who live near were here within a couple of minutes and we began the process of figuring out what happened and what we needed to do next.

We came to find out, the house caddy corner us across the street was robbed as well. Apparently, I came back to my house as they were robbing that house. I just had gotten inside the gate as they ran past it (the feet I heard outside the gate). I still am in amazement how and why God totally spared me from this ordeal! If I had not been so eager to get to the Roberts, if Nathan had gotten any of my texts when I sent them, if he did not receive them just when he did, or if I had not run back to my house…I could have interrupted a highly tense situation, or even run into them on the street. Both of which could have made a bad situation that much worse.

The robbers were apparently a gang from Kibera, the slum right next to our walled, gated community. We found a ladder propped up against our wall on our street with wire cutters beside it and a section of barbed wire missing from the top of our wall…showing us the entry and exit of our assailants. My roommates were obviously shaken up, but handled the situation well. We are doing much better now and many of the things stolen are being replaced. Josh lost his laptop, as did Ryan, yet his credit cards and passport were taken as well. Other electronics like cameras and MP3 players were also swiped. Josh successfully cancelled all his cards that night and will get a new passport in a few weeks. Most of Ryan’s things were insured and Josh’s belongings are easily replaced.

Yet all the praise deserves to be heaped upon God for keeping both of them safe. This incident is proof there are countless people like you praying for me. I may be sitting at another computer writing this instead of mine had it not been for those prayers. I still wonder why this happened, why I was spared, or why God works the way He does…yet his hand of protection is clearly seen through the modem GOD USED to ‘save my life.’

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

African Illustration

The above picture is a cartoon Billy made to illustrate our humorous encounter during my excursion to his house. I found it extremely funny and touching all at the same time. Billy loves to draw cartoons and does so in his free time. I am honored he'd draw me one. It's an illustration I will cherish...and get a laugh out of for a long time! Thanks Billy!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A tour...outside Nairobi.

Yes, after a month now in Africa...I have ventured out of the city on my own. Well... I did have some help. Billy, one of the guys I have befriended who works with me in the hangar, invited me out to his house on the outskirts of Nairobi. So yesterday, I hopped on a city bus to meet him downtown. It was really kinda fun to be out and about by myself; yet the constant stares from everyone, looking at this muzungu wandering around the city, was a little different to get used to. I'm not used to being in the extreme minority. [On a side note...several of the Kenyans I passed called me John. "Hey, John!" was an unexpected greeting I received several times. After inquiring to the missionaries, no one really knows why I was called that. Perhaps I look like some famous John they have seen on TV...I just hope he's a cool, good looking guy :) ] Billy met me a few moments after waiting in our designated area of downtown (I was quite proud of myself for finding the place without any problems). We then boarded a matatu to take us to his house in Wangegi.

When we arrived at his house, his mother had prepared a Kenyan feast for me; stew, rice, jepatis, meat, and even boiled water for her American guest. The house they lived in was only one room, barely enough for the few items of furniture and a single bed for Billy, his mother, and his youngest brother, Austin. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with them and looking at some of Billy's pictures from his days in school. Billy is working at AIM Air as a part of his attachment his mechanics school requires him to do. He is making 150 shillings a day (a little over $2), yet it takes him 200 shillings to ride the matatus to and from work everyday. Needless to say, he relies on the meager income from his mother to pay the difference as well as his school bill for each semester which runs upwards of $500 a semester. After the meal and visiting, I said my goodbyes and hopped back on a matatu toward downtown. The adventure back was typical for a matatu ride; driving on the sidewalks and bouncing up and down on the pothole filled road, all the while trying to avoid goats and people. Yet I arrived back at my estate whole and with some things to think on.

I always knew the poverty in Africa was like this, so the stories I heard from Billy and his family did not surprise me much. Yet it was good to be reminded of how good I actually have it. I don't have to worry about when my electricity will be turned on, how to get to and from work, how to feed my family, or even if the cow tied up outside will get loose in my house. I have so much to be thankful for...yet I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend with this Christian family and hopefully encourage them as best as this muzungu...or John, could do.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The 'High' of Glue

Scraping glue…yup that has been my job for the past couple of days…and will continue for another couple of days. In times past, yet even up until right before I left for this trip, a job like this would have brought me nearly into the pit of despair. I would dread getting up in the morning knowing the menial task that awaited me for that day. I do have to admit, there have been some times where I question what I’m doing here. I could be back home making good money and doing tasks that were ‘worthy of an experienced A&P mechanic.’ But this time it’s different…
Yesterday, I woke up with a Scripture verse in my head. The words, ‘who for the joy set before Him endured the cross’ kept playing over and over in my head. It has been a while since I’ve had Scripture in my head when I’ve woken up…and it’s wonderful. God knew exactly what I needed to meditate on while doing a menial, hard task. If Jesus could look at a horrible execution, with joy, knowing the benefits and the future rewards…then I could look at a task that cowers in the face of His task…with equal joy. This lesson is one I need to grasp and apply to everything in my life…joy through anything is something I have lacked, and continue to pray for God to give me and help me find again. This small lesson has made this mechanic look at slabs of rubber, glue, rags with toxic MEK, respirator, scraper, a heat gun, and many stubbed and scraped fingers…with joy!!