Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One Final Video


Friday, August 22, 2008

Home Again

I am writing this post from my bedroom in my apartment located in Lynchburg, VA...USA.

My plane landed in Newark, NJ around 11:15 Wednesday morning. After some debriefing at the AIM Pearl River office in NY, I was able to get a good night's sleep before making the 8 hour drive back here to Lynchburg yesterday.

It is strange being back here. I thought It'd take more adjusting...but it feels like I haven't been gone that long...or never left. My car was in pretty good shape for not having been started in nearly 3 months. The brakes and wheel bearings sounded a little rough, but a little driving around got them back into working condition. I was able to get my Burger King fix, as well as a large bottle of Mountain Dew on my drive back! The next few days are going to be filled with unpacking and taking care of all the things that have been neglected since I've been gone.

It's hard to believe Africa '08 is now over. At times it was what I expected...and other times I could not have imagined all I'd experience. I'm guessing that's going to be a common theme running through my journey...by the Way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The End?

This quite possibly will be my last post I write while living in the continent of Africa.

The thought of leaving on Tuesday evening is mixed with joy and sadness. Part of me is extremely excited to get back to my family, girlfriend, and those I love...yet the other part is not ready to leave.

So many thoughts flood my head today and the last few days. Things I have learned...relationships I've built...the changes that have taken place back home since I've been gone...and my future ministry. I don't know if I have taken full advantage of my time here...if my questions about a future ministry have been answered...or how much of an impact I have made since being here.

I think back to all that I have been able to do and see...Mt. Kilimanjaro...the Nile River...Tanzania...Sudan...Uganda...the Greenhouse orphanage...a safari...multiple maintenance projects...scraping glue ;)...a robbery...and countless talks an relationship building. It is more than I ever thought I would be able to do; each one with its own challenges and learning processes. To write down all I have learned would take longer than I have time...and I honestly probably don't know yet all that I have learned or will learn as I reflect on my time here in Africa. Yet one thing I will say here at the end...

God is faithful and works in ways that we could not imagine or even comprehend. Yet He loves His children and will place them and direct them through circumstances and tasks that will allow them to know Him better. I believe this trip has allowed me to know Him better...which should have been my only goal to begin with.

I thank you all for all your prayers and support throughout this trip. I would not be here without those things. I look forward to chatting with each of you and telling you more about my experiences.

So now at the end...I don't consider it the end...just the beginning of the next phase God has for me on my journey!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Uganda - The Greenhouse Orphanage

Children; If anyone were to ask me (and I expect to be asked quite a bit) what the greatest thing I saw or experienced during my entire three month stay in Africa was…I would tell them that. I would tell them about my trip to the Greenhouse orphanage this past weekend in Uganda.

Kevin Kalibbala is one of my close friends from my time at Liberty. Anyone who knows anything about Kevin, knows he is passionate about one thing…his kids. Yes, despite his age of only 21 he is the ‘father’ of 64 kids. He started and runs his own orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. The Greenhouse orphanage is Kevin’s dream to help orphans have a good life despite not having parents to support, love, and raise them. Being an orphan himself, he started this orphanage to give orphans the chance he never had. His success as a track star in Uganda has helped him get much of the money needed to start the orphanage and support them and his three other siblings. He came to Liberty on a track scholarship and is trying to get the best education he can to go back to help his orphanage and kids. The past year, as I have gotten to know Kevin better, I have come to admire and respect him…as well as fall in love with the children he has taken in. So, when I was planning this trip I always had a desire to go see his kids and the orphanage that is always close to Kevin’s heart. Leading up to my trip to Uganda I did not know if it was going to work…but in the end (despite Kevin not being able to be there, having to buy another Kenyan visa, and the travel logistics) I got on the short flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda.

Kevin’s sister, who is the only one running the orphanage full time with Kevin’s absence, was there at the airport with two of the kids to pick me up. We traveled by taxi the hour trip into Kampala (Kampala doesn’t have an airport) to the orphanage.

Upon my arrival, all the kids had gathered in the dining/play/recreation room to welcome me. They all started clapping and began singing me all the songs they knew to welcome and greet me! How precious it was to see all the kids so excited and happy to have this ‘mzungu’ (white person) there with them. After my warm welcome I gave them the gifts I brought them from America. Some small glow-in-the-dark bracelets was about all I could find to give to each of the 64 kids and carry in my bags. Yet I found out only 39 were at the orphanage. The others were still in their boarding school which didn’t let out until Aug. 15th. Yet I was so blessed to be here with these children.

The next 4 days (Friday-Monday) were filled with me teaching them all the games and songs I knew. They really wanted me to teach them anything. I tried to transport myself back to elementary school and my Awana years to remember any game or song that I could recall. We filled hours with duck-duck-goose, shipwreck (which they called ‘rock, tree, brush, fence’), relays with the crab crawl, sack races, three-legged races, and just plain foot races. They enjoyed most of the games I think…and even taught me some of their own. I could kind of catch on to the rules through their Lugandan tongue. They also taught me some of their own songs, how to dance (luckily none of that got on film!), and a little Lugandan so I could say a few words to them in their own language (English is the national language so many of the older children could speak it well…which they helped me translate to the other kids).

My songs they didn’t catch onto well…except one…which I was more than happy to help them learn. I have some great video of the children singing a rousing rendition of “Country Roads”! Many of you I hope to show it to you upon my return (I gotta leave something for my return J). Cathy, Kevin’s sister, and the hired cook were more than gracious hosts. They, despite the meager finances, had cold water for me every meal and meals that were fit for a Ugandan king.

The pictures that I have uploaded on my pictures page do not do my time there justice. I hope you can see the love and precious joy that is in these kids. I felt like I did not do much during my time there except play with them…yet Kevin (who I did get to talk to some while being there) said all he wanted me to do was so the kids love. I pray I did that and am amazed how much I can do just by playing and singing with children. I can see more now why Jesus had such a high regard for kids. They are so innocent and precious, yet each with their own personalities, gifts, talents, hopes, and dreams. It was sad as well to walk the streets of Kampala (which Ben, Kevin’s younger bother who is in high school took me around to see) and see all the beggar children sitting with their hands out. These kids were just like the ones in the orphanage…I wanted to help every kid I came across…and I’m sure Kevin does too…yet he and I can only do what we can.

I know I am changed after seeing and spending so much time with the kids. I will always have their faces and smiles in my memory. I was sad to leave…as were they. Several of the kids were crying (the older ones hiding their faces to prevent me from seeing) as I pulled away in my taxi. It was then that I knew that I had done a lot to show what love I could to these kids who literally had nothing. I will continue to pray for them and ask that you do the same. Please visit www.greenhouseorphanage.com and learn more about it and how you can help Kevin and his kids.

I thank God for this amazing time and experience…it tops all that I’ve been able to do yet (which is a lot when I stop and think about it) and for his gift of precious children!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The End of a Day in the Life

The Ride home from a day in the life...


The Boat Adventure

Here is a small video from my trip to Sudan:

The Boat Adventure (from Sudan):
2 boats, 5 motors, 1 DC-3, and tons of missionary creativity


Monday, August 4, 2008

A day in the life...(part 2)

Welcome to work, chai, and lunch...unedited, unscripted, and you probably didn't need me to tell you that.


A Whirlwind Week

What a week! From flying over Sudan in a DC-3 to, a day later, living in a village eating boiled chicken and rice with no electricity…these past few days have really worn me out.
After getting back from Sudan late Thursday night, it was a short day at work before I headed upcountry with one of my co-workers in the hangar. Mzee Stephen Kituo has worked for the past 20 years in the AIM Air engine shop. He is also a pastor and has a fairly large shamba to which he invited me to this weekend. I was excited to finally live in a village setting for a few days and get out of the hustle of Nairobi…and a hustle it was.

Mzee and his wife

Our trip began at around 11am. Mzee has to leave this early in order to arrive home before dark. We boarded a matatu for the bus center. After trekking through the streets now mud covered instead of dirt covered, we boarded our bus. Wanting to leave one always boards the fullest bus. This ensures you leave sooner than a less full bus…yet doesn’t ensure you a good seat. The only one left for me after Mzee took the open seat in the back, was more of a half a seat; the other half taken up by a rather large woman in the seat next to mine. For the next 4 hours I attempted to remain in my seat and not the isle which was less than a foot wide. My legs had no where else to go except the isle…that is until it was occupied. Every so often, the bus made routine stops. At these stops vendors were so gracious enough to board, at least 20 at a time, the bus and bring their merchandise to your face…literally. The less than foot wide isle was filled with vendors trying to squeeze by the others trying to make a sale. Needless to say, I got up close and personal with the lady next to me as well as some posteriors of the vendors passing by. When we weren’t stopped, I was lucky enough to have been seated next to the speaker; which, cranked up as loud as I think that small speaker could go, provided me with 4 hours of blaring reggae music for my entertainment. Complete with live chickens in the luggage rack, this bus trip was a memorable one to say the least.

Mzee is also a pastor in his village for the past 5 years. This is the reason he makes this trek every weekend to be with his family and to lead his church. His wife, sons, daughter, and grandchildren were gracious hosts. Normally he does have power; but his inverter has been broken for the last 2 weeks. Thankfully I was able to help him fix it while I was there. He should have power when he gets the parts and goes back home next week. I got the full tour of his shamba. He has many crops, cows, chickens, and goats to keep him busy while he is there. The scene was much different than Nairobi, almost desert like. The river was completely dry that sustains this valley and the villages around. This being the dry season everyone digs wells and carries the water to their crops and livestock.
Sunday was the highlight of the trip. I was able to go to Mzee’s church and worship together with them. While I did not understand a word of the Kamba being spoken during the service, I was able to sing (as best I could) with them and enjoy being with them that Sunday. Mzee allowed me, with an interpreter, to share my trip with them and what I plan to do in the future, right before a guest speaker from a local college gave the message (I am told I am lucky this is the case…or else Mzee would have asked me to preach, which he often does with guests who come).

After Mzee completed some meetings he had with church leaders, we both rode on the back of two piki piki’s (motorcycles) to the nearest town. We stayed in a hotel there for the night before getting up at 2am to catch the matatu back to Nairobi.
Needless to say, I am very exhausted from that trip and from both trips so close together. Yet they were both a good experience. Not all entirely enjoyable…yet good. It was very interesting to see how hard these people in the village work just to sustain themselves. Living, or making a profit to live, all depends on the rain or your efforts to work. While I still have not gotten my picture taken in a dung hut yet…I am thankful to God (and the Kituos) for this experience at the end of a whirlwind week.