My friend has arrived.
Bob Blanck came to visit and we will be heading to Tanzania on Saturday to climb to the top of Africa.
“The end of a chapter” – This letter has just gone out in the mail.
Dear family and friends,
We want to give our most sincere thanks to you for the financial and prayer support you have given us over the last three years. It has been a blessing to be serving the Lord here in East Africa, all the time knowing you were walking with us, sharing in God’s ministry. You have been an integral part of His work here, all for His glory.
God has done great things as we have experienced more of Him through the eyes of another culture. Living among Kenyans has given us a greater understanding of scripture and its application to life. It has been a wonderful gift from God to be able to share with many African churches, helping believers grow in knowledge and love. Many relationships have been built that will last for eternity. It has also been a privilege to use our gifts and skills to help missionaries as they serve Him in Africa.
We now find ourselves at the end of a chapter. We came out with a vision to further God’s kingdom through the use of computers. In the last three years we have built a team of four Kenyan professionals who are ready to take over what we are doing. Desiring to be good stewards of God’s resources, we feel ready to hand the work over to these men and move on to what God has next for us. They would appreciate your prayers, just as we have.
At this time, God’s long term plans for us have not been completely revealed. Leaving has been a difficult decision to work through, but we are confident in the Lord that this decision is the right one and at the right time.
We will be headed back to California in August and will no longer be supported missionaries in September. We trust that God will lead you in finding a new place for His resources to best glorify Him. We are looking forward to sharing with many of you in person.
Mungu ni mwema, wakati wote. God is good, all the time.
In Christ’s Fellowship,
Paul, Cammy, Petr and Andrej
I played my last match with Santiago at Laini Saba on Thursday. We were actually supposed to play the Glory Secondary School, but they backed out at the last minute because most of their good players were not at school because they lacked school fees, others were taking exams. At the last minute the Laini Saba team agreed to play us again, Sele is their captain.
They all really wanted me to score, even Sele. I was set up great on a free kick and all I had to do was tap it past the keeper, but I just could not reach the ball. I had one attempt on goal in the second half, but it was nothing for the keeper to be too concerned about. With about 10 minutes to go I slightly pulled my left hamstring (I am not as young as I used to be, my dad loves that line). Two games in a week is a bit much at my age. I guess I will never play in Europe. I hobbled around the rest of the match (I have a trip to Kilimanjaro planned in two weeks). Right about the end of the match we got a penalty. All my team was yelling, “Paul take it.” The crowd was yelling, “Mlami!” (Sheng for man of tarmac, white man). Being really tired, I forgot to keep my head down, then the twinge of pain in my plant leg caused me to pull up. It came right back off the crossbar. I felt I had shamed my team, but they were all so gracious to me.
Sometimes walking through Kibera I think of “Mos Eisley.” But I really have to say, despite their faults, the boys of Santiago are really great friends. They have treated me better than I deserve and asked nothing in return. In fact, on more than one occasion they have bought me things. Unless you have lived here, you cannot understand what a big deal that is. I will miss them.
A couple of years ago I went to a leadership conference here in Kenya. One of the speakers was a Kenyan professor. He was great. There was a story he told that will always stick with me. He was talking about development in Africa and how we need to understand the problem before we offer a solution. And to understand the problem, you have to understand the people. However, I took something completely different away from his talk.
He told of a village in Africa where an NGO came in and found that there were a lot of health problems. They came to the correct conclusion that most of the health issues were caused by sanitation problems. The people used “the bush” in the mornings to take care of business. This was contaminating the water supply, which in turn was getting people sick and creating a vicious cycle. So they decided they would spend some money and dig pit toilets for the village. This they accomplished in no time and had nice outhouses build over the pits. Content with having fixed the problem they moved on.
Six months later they came back to asses how things had improved. The first thing they found was that the pit toilets were clean, too clean in fact. They had never been used. They did not understand, and the reason was because they had not taken the time to understand the people before they offered a solution. That was the professor’s point. However he went on to explain why they had not used the pit toilets. In their culture, their standing in the community had a lot to do with the height of their “pile” in the morning. The taller it was, the better. A tall pile is an indication of two things. First it is an indication that you are eating well. You can afford to eat a lot. Second, it is an indication of health. When you are sick, your pile fails the slump test.
My first thought was, “Haha, let’s all laugh at these silly people.” But as I spent time contemplating it, I realized, I have a lot of piles of poo in my life. Things that seem so important, but really are just a piece of poo. What is the eternal value of a nice lawn (I used to be really proud of my lawn)? You water it, it grows, you cut it, and you cannot even eat it. How much time did I spend fixing every little thing on my house? I even had computerized lighting. Cool, but not of great eternal value.
I wanted to write about the significance of the tools God gives us. I am not saying we should abandon all the things God has given us to accomplish His tasks. But we need to realize what is really important. So much of what we do is to impress people. It has little real meaning outside of that. That is why their pile of poo was so important to them and they would never put it in a pit.
What is your pile of poo?
The youth of Kenyatta Market. These are some of my friends. They call me “Mister Paul.” A photographer was passing at the same time I was, so they asked him to take a picture of us. Most of these guys are fans of Santiago, and a couple of them actually play. Most of the poses are telling. Especially the empty bowl and spoon, and the guy smoking. It is not tobacco. He offered me some. If you cannot find me in the photo, I am the oldest guy… oh, and the tallest.
I played another match yesterday. We played well, but in the end lost 3-2. The referee was quite partial. They usually pay the ref 40 shillings (just about $0.50) to ref the match. 20 from each team. I told him afterward that I thought the other team might have paid 50 shillings.
The other team “Laini Saba” had one really good player, Sele. So I sat on him the whole match. If he did not touch the ball, they did not score. I obviously messed up 3 times, but I was also trying to score. In the first half we were up 2-1. In the second half he played as far away from me as possible.
Another friend from the market, Pablo (seriously that is his name), saw me there. He calls me Pablito, so I knew immediately who was calling me. After the match I asked him if he lived close to the field. He said, “Just at this corner, will you come see?” The match ended early, so I went with him to his place. His neighbors were shocked, especially Sele, the guy who I had been defending the whole match. He happened to live in the place right next to Pablo. The woman across the way could not stop laughing. The idea of an mzungu coming in to their place was apparently too much for her. I met Pablo’s wife and son and they served me chai.
Cammy was a bit worried when I did not return until well after dark. I do not carry a phone to the football matches. Who knows who will go through your stuff when you are on the field. She said, “If I called someone to say you were missing, they would ask where you were… When I told them Kibera, there would be nothing anyone could do.” Pablo walked me all the way home though. He is one of those guys that everyone seems to know.
I flew with Dan Spooner and Brian Stoltzfus. We had a great time chatting during the longer legs of the journey.
The first leg was with taking a group of 25 short term missionaries up to Lodwar. I acted as the third crew and did the pre-flight passenger briefing and served the passengers during the hour and a half flight. (The night before, Cammy said, “I never thought I would be married to a flight attendant!”)
We then flew to Lokichogio where we picked up 15 drumps of Jet A-1 to stage for other flights in South Sudan. We took them into a place called Pieri. We then headed back to Loki to load another 15 drums and to spend the night.
Loki is a really interesting town, but mostly for bad reasons. It is VERY hot. Fortunately we arrived on what another pilot called the record low, it was about 75F. All the locals were “freezing.” But the town has the feeling of a old gold rush ghost town. In some ways it brings Bodie to mind. During the civil war in Sudan all the aid agencies came to Loki. I have been told the C-130s were lined up every morning at 6AM waiting for take off clearance from the tower. With the war ended in 2005 with the CPA, many of the agencies moved back into South Sudan. In fact, NGOs operating there were required to have an office in Juba. The foreign money mostly left Loki, leaving it with all kinds of infrastructure to deal with foreign nationals and very little of use to the Turkana people.
The next morning we headed back to Pieri to drop the drums. All the kids were out. There is a village elder who looks after the drums there (he gets the empties). Dan handed him some bottle flavored drinks and a couple of packets of cookies. The children all yelled when they saw it and ran toward him. They were a little mob around him until he started hitting them with his improvised stainless steel rungu. They bolted in all directions.
We went back to Loki to pick up 3000 kgs of relief supplies for Samaritan’s Purse. It was 300 bags, each contained a survival kit for a family that has been displaced. I did not see inside but could tell it had some kind of a pot and cooking utensils, a tarp and flour. I am not sure what else was in there. It pretty much filled up the plane. We crawled over low stacks to get to the cockpit. We stopped in Rumbek for fuel. The fuel guys were pretty happy with some bottle juice and cookies. Then we dropped the sacks in Malualkon not far from Abyei. On the way back we were back through Rumbek for fuel.
We were not far from Juba. This was Friday, the day before independence and so there was a lot of interesting radio chatter at the Juba airport with all the VIPs coming in for the big day. The UN even moved a bunch of their aircraft to Rumbek to get them out of the way.
We were back in Loki for the night and then on Saturday we washed the DC-3. If you look at the pictures, you can see that the Pieri strip was pretty wet so it slopped up the underside of the DC-3. I commented that it looked like we had parked next to Paul Bunyon’s blue ox and it had splatter the plane. It took us all quite a long time to wash it with buckets. It felt a little like a high school car wash. The heat of Loki made everyone more than a little happy to get wet.
The other guys stayed on to fly people out of Juba on Sunday, but I had to be back in Nairobi.
We were back at our church home that is in Kawangware. My friend John Nakhumwa was sick but we had a great time with pastors Benson and Washington along with Valentino the worship leader. After church, I got to preach, we went to Pastor Washington’s house for lunch.
Kawangware is a slum, but it is quite a bit more spread out and has a much high percentage of stone buildings. Cammy mentioned how she felt a lot safer there.
I spent the last two days as the third crew on the Samaritan’s Purse DC-3. We took a group of 25 people up to Lodwar then we picked up drums of fuel in Lokichoggio to stage in South Sudan. We did another run of fuel on Friday followed by 3000 kgs of relief supplies to a place not far from the border. I will post more on the trip later.
Today is July 9. This is the day South Sudan becomes a country. It was fun to be there the day before and see the excitement in the people. And yet I could also feel the uncertainty. Pray for South Sudan. Pray for her people and their leaders.
We were back in Mathare this Sunday, at the Glorious Celebration Centre. We were there a few weeks back and Pastor Peter Kisia had wanted to have us back again. At least from my perspective, Mathare is a tougher place to live than Kibera. The economics of the place are a lot tougher. There is a lot less money in the immediate area to support the huge numbers of people living there. The largest “industry” is the chang’aa production (which happens to be right below the church in the river valley).
I met Pastor Peter almost 3 1/2 years ago. It was just after the post election violence. His brother had been killed. I think that would have been a reasonable time for him to decided God was calling him to ministry elsewhere. But he is still there, still reaching out to a very difficult community. As we looked around at the extremity of the place he commented on how it was getting better. He said before there were basically only two options to make money in Mathare, chang’aa and prostitution. Now there were other options. He has offered free lunch to all those guys down there working in by the river and he had invited an evangelist to preach while they ate. He pointed out three men in the church were former workers there. He has a school for children. We saw at least 100 standing around outside the church when we showed up. “Wazungu!” “How ah-roo?” None of them are enrolled anywhere. He also has started a sewing ministry for the women. Most of the women in the church do laundry for people in Eastleigh. Sometimes they get as little as 50 shillings for a days work with deductions if they take chai at the house where they are working. He has a good heart.
The service was great, except they had lost their audio technician. The power was out when we arrived and I was quite enjoying praise and worship. Then the power came back and the keyboard and microphones came out. There was a lot of buzzing and distortion (much more than normal). Just about everyone tried to make it better with little to show for it. So when it came time to preach, I asked if they could hear me in the back without the mic.
I preached on the need for a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-14).
Sio “Je, unafanya nini?”, lakini “Je, unafanya kwa nini?”
Not, “What are you doing?” but “Why are you doing?”
After the service they did some child dedications. True to the difficulties of the place, none of the fathers were present, just four mothers and babies. We also celebrated communion. I was curious to see what would be in the cups. It was orange Fanta. At first I wondered why it was not blackcurrant Fanta, which is purple. But then I thought what does it matter. Once you move away from wine it is clearly only symbolic. Also, they do not sell blackcurrant in 1L bottles, but they do sell orange in 1L.
Cammy and I talked about how unlike “up country” churches, the people here had to get to work. A lot of the income for people living in the slums comes on the weekends when the more wealthy people are willing to hire them to wash clothes, cars, do yard work etc.
There was an unforeseen outtage of our hosting service. It is back for now. Sorry for any inconvenience.