Climbing Mount Rainier

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Dear Friends,

Terry and I are departing in seven days for Seattle, Washington. While there I will attempt to summit Mount Rainier. The journey to the summit is expected to be strenuous, difficult and require a variety of skills. I send you this letter to ask for prayers, prayers for safety and success. While I worship the Almighty in this adventure I pray He will give me rest. My success is only possible with His strength.

To give a brief back drop to this adventure, I signed up with the mountaineering company, “Alpine Ascents” to climb Mount Rainier. The mountain stands a magnificent 14,411 feet and is the fifth tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

After signing up with the company in August 2016 I began to train in earnest. It is said that the best way to train to do anything is simply by doing the activity. Since I live in the Midwest to train by climbing a mountain is not a viable option.  I needed to adjust my training to include exercises closest to climbing itself.

First off, to climb a mountain takes strength. Muscular strength is needed for nearly every climbing task, including controlling and balancing heavy loads, hoisting your pack and gear up the mount, preparing and seating up camp. I had never worked out with free weights before. Fortunately a trainer at the gym I was going to was willing to give me the special attention needed to teach, support and encourage me as I learned.

Mountain climbing also requires cardiovascular endurance. Repetitive activity over long periods of time that involve the use of legs, heart and lungs is what builds the needed endurance. I started going to a spin class.  During these classes I wear a belt around my chest that monitors my heart rate, calories burned and overall effort in real time. These numbers are displayed on a screen during the class, they show up on an app and they are e-mailed to me. I practice paying attention to what my body is doing. I practice pushing myself when I didn’t want to.  I practice feeling uncomfortable, out of breath and with my heart beating fast.

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It’s The Stories That We Carry With Us

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Dear Friends,

I am home now. It has been twelve weeks since I boarded a plane in Nairobi, Kenya to begin the journey home. As I am adjusting back to life in the States I find myself slowly processing our time in Kenya. There is much to reflect on, celebrate, contemplate and pray about. As I do this one precious story keeps coming to mind. It was a story Mama Kingsly, our house help, told me on our last afternoon together.

As I reflect back I remember her standing in the middle of the living room with her feet firmly planted. It was from this platform that she took a deep breath and began to craft her story with heartfelt words, expressions and posture.

“One day, about a year ago, I received a phone call from the husband of one of the missionary families I was       working for at the time. He told me that his home had flooded. I knew he was staying at the house alone because the rest of the family was in the States visiting family. My heart sank when I heard his words. I knew then that when I went to his home the next day I would find a dirty and smelly mess. It would take hard, hard work to clean and I would have much mopping, scrubbing, and moving of furniture.”

She then bowed her head and passionately said, “I prayed hard and fast. I heard God say, ‘Joyce (AKA Mama Kingsly) be strong and courageous.’”

Kenyans are master story tellers and Mama Kingsly can be especially engaging when spinning a story. As I listened to her that day I was drawn into the straightforward scenario. I was connected to her in a real way as I found myself despairing, moaning and hearing God speak right along with her.  I miss those stories and I miss the storyteller.

It is the dance between biblical stories and life experiences that God has taught me most about who He is. This particular story is full of impactful lessons.

It teaches to immediately turn to the Lord in prayer when facing insurmountable circumstances. It reminds me to think of the words “be courageous and strong” when I face impossible situations. Lastly, I learned that a simple story brilliantly told will come to mind and impact the heart many times after it is shared.

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:7

For it is the stories I heard, the lessons I learned, and the friends I made that create the rich and rewarding memories I now carry of Kenya.

And so dear friends, I close this series about our time in Kenya with this thought. Walk with the Lord as you face life’s challenges and joys, for then you will be strong and courageous.

May you be blessed by the wonder of His story.

Laurie

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Winding Down

Dear Friends,

We are scheduled to leave Kenya this weekend so our time here is winding down. As we reflect on our experiences these are some of the pictures that flash through our minds.

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When we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport these were the lines waiting for us at customs and immigration. Pick one. (And, as luck would have it the line we picked moved the slowest.)

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Next experience was the overwhelming traffic here in Nairobi. Street merchants, literally, make their living selling items to people who are waiting in vehicles when traffic is at a standstill. This young man is selling sugar cane.

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There are occasions when traffic is flowing quickly. When this happens the street merchants rest along side the road waiting until rush hour and traffic gridlock.

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Children outside playing or on their way coming and going to school are an everyday sight.

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The streets overflow with entrepreneurs and small businesses. These pictures show businesses that sell everything from sodas to hair weaving.

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One of the first people we came to know and care for was Mama Kingsly, our house help.

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Our first venture ordering out was pizza from “Aquarius”. Here the cooks are preparing one of the toppings for our pizza.

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About six weeks into our time here our car broke down. This man, his truck and two other workers towed our car to a repair shop.

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We have not seen one stroller. Instead, Kenyan women tie a length of cloth called a kanga around either their waist or chest as a sling to carry their children. Here a mother with her child is waiting to cross the street.

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Near our home are train tracks. This picture shows a mother and her two children, one walking and the other on her back, making their way along the tracks to where they live.

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Part of our time here was during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. We saw many Muslims coming and going from the Mosque.

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We took the opportunity to visit four different churches. This is a few of the ladies in the choir during opening prayer.

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In Kenya we saw many sharp contrasts between traditional ways and technology. While on safari to Massa Mara our driver hired a member of the Massai tribe to make certain we got the best experience from our game drive. The gentleman above is a member of the Massai tribe, lives in Masai Mara, and except for the ball cap is dressed in traditional garb. If the photo was enlarged you would see the cell phone in his right hand. It seems Kenya runs on cell phones.

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One Saturday we toured a tea plantation. Here is a gentleman explaining part of the process of picking tea leaves which is done by people and not machines.

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Saturday we will drive through this gate as we head off to the airport. For us the closing of the gate as we depart will be symbolic of bringing our time in Kenyan to an end. Thank you for joining us on this journey with your prayers, encouragement, financial gifts and overall support.

The next letter I write will be state side, until then.

Laurie

Bribes and Corruption

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Dear Friends,

Would you ever pay a bribe?

If you’re like most westerners, you’ve never really thought about it. You’ve probably never been asked for one. The temptation has never been there. It’s a non-issue.

Fortunately during our visit to Kenya we have not been put into a situation were a bribe was required or expected. But, the people we work and socialize with daily tell us that in Kenya the giving and receiving of bribes is common. In fact, it happens every day, on every socioeconomic level and in just about every aspect of society. Examples of bribes are payments to make traffic violations disappear from records, for admission to schools, to facilitate passports, and for identification documents.

Mama Kingsley, our house help, told us her son had his apartment broken into and his valuables stolen. After assessing the damage, making a list of the stolen items, and talking to neighbors to find out what details they could, they headed to the police.

The police talked with Mama Kingsley and her son. They also listened and wrote some notes. After a short while it became apparent they expected a bribe if they were to proceed with any kind of investigation. Mama Kingsley told me, “it was then we just walked away, we have no money for a bribe and if we did we would not pay it. It is not right” If they had paid the bribe there was no guarantee an investigation would take place. But, it is certain that since they didn’t pay a bribe nothing will ever come of the police report. Mama’s son will have to learn how to get on without the stolen items and make peace with the fact that his loss will never be investigated.

On our drive to Masai Mara, the game preserve on the western side of the Kenya, the last 70 kilometers took place on a dirt road full of rocks and pot holes. We have been told that the road has not been paved because politicians are part owners of the airlines that fly people in and out of the park. If the roads were to be improved it would take business away from their airlines because people would drive instead of fly. To insure that this does not occur the politicians won’t approve funding to improve the roads and have paid government officials who oversee road construction not to develop the roads.

On the flip side, having ridden on that bumpy road I would venture to say that the undeveloped road system deters heavy traffic which must help to preserve the game park.

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Bribery and corruption are difficult waters to navigate and something most in the West don’t really feel a need to think about. But for ordinary Kenyans paying bribes and dealing with corruption is a way of life. They would find it hard to imagine life if the bribes and corruption came to an end.

Bribery and corruption is not just a problem recognized by the locals. Part of President Obama’s speech given during his recent (July 2015) visit to Kenya talked of the corruption. Here is a piece of that speech.

“Here in Kenya, it’s time to change habits, and decisively break that cycle. Because corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could.”

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There is a level of corruption that has gone on for centuries in every country worldwide. In other parts of the world it is conducted sparingly behind closed doors or by hidden nods of the head. We are learning that in Kenya it is open and everywhere.

God does not like corruption and He offers divine wisdom on the topic.

“A just king gives stability to his nation, but one who demands bribes destroys it.”
Proverbs 29:4

“Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”
Proverbs 4:24

Until next letter,

Laurie

What’s happening in the hanger – Week 11?

Dear Friends,

I know I started writing my articles on a two week cycle but my work turning wrenches hasn’t been consistent so my writing hasn’t been either. It is more exciting to tell everyone about the neat work I am doing to keep the airplanes safely flying than it is to tell you about the needed administrative work I have been doing to help meet the needs of the organization. But, God has given me many giftings and I try to serve as called.
Jenny, an MMS apprentice, arrived in Kenya late evening on 2 August. She recovered from her travels pretty quick and was in the hanger on Tuesday the fourth. Laurie took the picture below this evening as we were finishing dinner.

 

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On Wednesday we received a warranty replacement engine from the US for the airplane that has been patiently sitting in the corner waiting. While I have been doing paperwork in the office, the rest of the team has been using the time to complete needed inspections so the airplane was ready to receive the engine and be back in service as quickly as possible.

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Thursday the team started the engine installation and I moved back to the floor to help. The engine compartment has a lot of “stuff” packed in a small area. You basically build in layers and if you put the wrong “layer” (set of accessories) on first, the layer that lives underneath can be difficult, if not impossible to install. Planning is important. By Thursday afternoon the engine was mounted to the airframe and we spent the rest of the day and Friday installing accessories.

 

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Monday morning the hanger was full of airplanes needing phase inspections so the engine install was put on hold. Two pilots stationed at a northern base had a medivac run into Nairobi over the weekend and their Cessna 206 was due for a 50 hour inspection. The decision was made that they would complete the inspection in Nairobi before returning home so they started bright and early. Jenny and I were assigned to a second Cessna 206 that was due for 50 hour inspection and Dan, with the Kenyan team, started the inspection on a Cessna 208. The northern team left Monday afternoon and the other two aircraft were back in service Wednesday afternoon. Dan and the Kenyan team switched back to the engine replacement and by the end of the day Friday the propeller was installed.

 

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Until next letter,

Blessings,

Terry

Little Dresses For Africa-The Rest Of The Story

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Dear Friends,

Back in April, even though I don’t sew, I participated in a sewing event organized by our church to sew dresses for little girls in need throughout the world. And this event was specifically for Africa. (You can read more about this event in an earlier blog titled “Little Dresses For Africa”).

There was a lot of conversation while the dresses were being sewn and I spoke with an older lady who has sewn more then 250 dresses for this cause. In the course of our conversation she told me that she had not seen a picture of one of her dresses on a young girl and how much she would like this opportunity. I shared that I was going to Kenya and offered to take some of her dresses with me. I told her I would try to deliver the dresses to girls in need and, if they would allow, to take their pictures. The sole purpose of this endeavor would be to bring those pictures back to her. As you can imagine, she was thrilled with this plan.

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After the sewing event I was given a box of new dresses by another group. Between the two groups I almost filled a duffel bag with dresses for our trip. During the first 6 weeks we were here I waited with anticipation that God would give me an opportunity to deliver these dresses. Nothing happened. I declared to Terry, “I am not packing up these dresses and taking them back home with us! God better bring some girls to me.” And true to God, two opportunities presented themselves in the last three weeks and I have been able to be God’s hands and feet. What an honor and privilege.

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The first opportunity was with a neighbor. This family has two young daughters, ages 3 and 8 months. The 8 month old has had substantial medical issues and is not developing as she should. Kenya does not have medical insurance or financial assistance programs to help out with such situations. As you can imagine their medical bills are great.

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The family was grateful for the two new dresses God had me bring to them.

This past Saturday God brought the second opportunity for me to deliver the remaining dresses. Our house help, Mama Kingsly, has an 8 year old daughter who has friends that are in need. After explaining about the dresses she invited us to her home to deliver them and to take pictures. (You can read about Mama Kingsley in a blog post titled “House Help” and about her neighborhood and home in the last blog post titled “Different Neighborhoods People Call Home”)

We went to her home and sure enough the number of girls that showed up was the number of dresses I had. It is always amazing to me when God works like that. Here are two of the pictures I will be taking to the lady who has made dresses since 2008.

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As we were getting ready to leave Mama Kingsley’s home I heard the young girl’s voices in Swahili outside the door to her apartment. Mama Kingsley turns to me and says, “Do you hear them singing? They are singing, ‘Our God is Amazing, He has blessed us.’” I could only weakly smile in response as I was overwhelmed with awe.

Until next letter,
Laurie

P.S. If you wish to learn more about Little Dresses For Africa the website is:
http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/

Different Neighborhoods People Call Home

Dear Friends,

Nairobi like any city is made up of different neighborhoods. The neighborhood we have called home while living here is Ngumo, which consists of many estates. Each estate has a gate and pictured here is the gate to our estate, “Golf Course Phase II”.

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When we approach the gate with our car the guard will look out to see who is trying to get in the estate. Since he knows us he will open the gate. If the guard does not know the person coming in they question them in regards to who they are visiting or why they have come to the estate. If they satisfy the guards that they do indeed have proper business they are given admission.

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Here is what the gate looks like from inside the estate.

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This is our street in the estate and we have many children that live and play here. In this estate each home has running water, sewer, and electricity. This isn’t the case with some housing locations in Nairobi.

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There are guard houses stationed around the estate. To read more about our housing and the estate you can check out the past blogs titled “The Fortress” Parts 1-3.

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Mama Kingsley, our house help, lives in Kawangware Stage II. Her home is located about a 30 minute drive from us. It takes her longer to get to our place in a matatus. Mama and her family live in an apartment and this is the view from the walkway in front of her apartment. (You can learn more about Mama in the blog post House Help).

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We were invited there on a Saturday and shared a meal with her family along with some children from neighboring apartments. Neighbors take care of each other here and you might say the children are her extended family.

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Her apartment complex is made up of 36 apartments. I’m guessing each apartment is about 25 feet by 30 feet. They have electricity but no running water inside the apartments. When they want water they go downstairs, fill up a jug and carry it to their apartment. The man in this picture is carrying a 5 gallon container full of water up to his third floor apartment. If we would have had to go the restroom while visiting we would have had to go outside the apartment and down to the end of the hallway to the community toilets.

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Mama Kingsly tells me that wash hanging out to dry is an every day site. Can you see the children peeking through looking at the white lady taking the picture?

Mama Kingsley apartment cost $100 a month to rent. I asked her where she considers herself financially, “I consider myself an average Kenyan.”

Our grounds keeper, Wycliffe, lives in another part of Nairobi called Woodley (you can also read more about Wycliffe in the blog titled House Help). We also visited him and his family one Saturday afternoon.

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The complex Wycliffe and his family live in is two rows of 5 apartments arranged back to back. Their apartment is on the end of the row, is one room, is approximately 12 feet x 18 feet, and is without electricity or running water. Their restroom is located in a separate cement building with two holes in the floor. The apartments are located on about ½ acre that is enclosed by a wall so the children have a safe place to play.

Above is a picture of his son cleaning up outside their front door. The door is an opening with a screen covering to help keep the mosquitoes out.

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It is African tradition that when you are invited to someone’s home you take a basket of food as a gift. In the basket we took, in addition to food, I included a dish towel I had brought from the United States. Saline, Wycliffe’s wife, was thrilled to receive it. In fact she was so thrilled she would not put it down for the picture.

In each of these homes located in each of these separate neighborhoods we have prayed, enjoyed meaningful fellowship, and felt cared for by each family as they have given us the best of what they have, warm hospitality and friendship. Each of these homes in each of these neighborhoods will always hold a warm place in our hearts.

Until next letter,
Laurie