Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Ten of us have returned to our homes, weary from our travels, but still aglow with the memories and blessings of a wonderful mission trip. Jeff Myers has stayed an additional two days to visit with the family of his surrogate Kenyan daughter from his time in West Virginia. As was sung by the children at one of the churches where we worshipped: “I’m no longer the same, I’m no longer the same, He has changed my life, He had given me a new name, I’m no longer the same!” We look forward to scheduling a time in the very near future for the group to share their experiences with our congregation.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Prayer at our closing devotional:
Heavenly Father, we felt your presence during our stay in Kenya. Help each of us keep the fire alive, not just tomorrow or next month, but for the rest of our lives. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make this trip as we pray that our efforts are well-directed and fruitful. Bless all those we met during our stay and we pray that your love and generosity will touch all the peoples of Kenya and help fill their lives with hope. In turn, we recognize that the challenges we see in Nairobi are found throughout the world, including in our own country. The job is daunting but we pray that world leaders, civic organizations, churches, and resourceful individuals will make the plight of the discouraged a priority. As we leave Kenya, provide us safe travels home to our communities and loved ones, and help keep our commitments to our Kenya mission partners alive and well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. Bwana Asifiwe (Praise the Lord)!
You may have noticed that our blogs were in red and green – colors of the Kenyan flag, along with black! We’re on our way home now – sitting at the Internet Center of the Amsterdam airport…..another long flight ahead to Atlanta and then home!
Monday, August 13, 2018
“Karibu” – Swahili for “Welcome” was the first word we heard from Susan and Ruth when we arrived 11 days ago in Nairobi. It is a word we heard and felt often during our stay. We felt warmly welcomed by the nine congregations with whom we worshipped on the two Sundays we were in Kenya. On this final day in Kenya, we visited the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and drove through the central city area, which was quite a contrast to the communities we visited throughout the week. We were welcomed back to the Nairobi Central Presbytery office for refreshments and a chance to meet two more of our Bahati Scholars. We concluded our visit with a warm welcome in the home of Ruth, the Presbytery’s accountant, who provided a lovely supper. To all who welcomed us, we say “Asante Sana” – “Thank You Very Much!”
Sunday, August 12, 2018
As we reflect upon this trip, we are truly grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful program and to be an advocate for these beautiful people (Kenyans). We have truly seen God’s love and grace in the students, the administration, the workers, and the churches involved in the community. We have had a wonderful time with the scholarship students and will cherish these memories for a very long time.
Saturday, August 11, 2018
We had the opportunity to visit the Karen Blixen house (remember the movie “Out of Africa” with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford) and the Kazuri bead factory in the Karen area of Nairobi in the morning and to travel to the Kayole Center for the homeless girls in our scholarship program in the afternoon. Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, you can imagine how special our visit with the girls was! Each girl presented us with a letter to her sponsor and we were touched by the care with which their envelopes were decorated!
Friday, August 10, 2018
Today was the day we met the Bahati Scholars, 57 and counting. We met them at the Stedmak Gardens in the Nairobi suburb of Karen. It was the start of a wonderful day beginning with song and prayer.
There we visited the zoo including lions, cheetahs, gazelle, baboons, ostrich, and a huge exhibit of snakes including 15-foot pythons and the black mamba, the world’s deadliest reptile.
All of us joined for lunch of chicken, turnip greens, and goat soup. We walked to a nearby field for some games and friendly competition. John Carter Cross led a large circle of almost 100 in warmups and calisthenics. We broke up into five teams and completed in classics like sack races, tug of war and baton relay and soon-to-be classics such as balance the egg race, bobbing for oranges, bread-eating contest, ballon blowing, and sharks and minnows! Our Kenyan friends offered up a game of soccer….USA declined.
While nursing Joel Wood’s injuries, we distributed gifts we brought from home including HHI t-shirts, backpacks and Casio watches.
After eight delightful hours of fun and friendship, we concluded with Kenyan tea featuring Swahili mamdazi and sahami (donut-like pastry and chicken sausage). Optional dish was sautéed matumbo (cow stomach).
In many ways, this may have been the most important day here. We had the invaluable opportunity to meet one-on-one and in small groups with each of the kids and learn their backgrounds, their disappointments, their hopes and dreams. It put a face and personality to a name and convinced us that our mission here is extremely important.
We took short videos of most of the scholars and look forward to sharing them with our fellow members at FPC.
May God Bless.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Today we said goodby to the Maasai Mara but not without seeing the last of the big cats, the leopard. We will miss the Maasai Mara, but are looking forward to visiting with the Bahati Scholar students tomorrow. As the plane took off we observed the results of the “great migration” and are awed and thankful for God’s creation.
In the afternoon most of the team visited the Eastleigh Community Center and elder Phares Mithamo who visited FPC last summer as part of the Presbyterian Peacemakers Program. There we were impressed by the many ways the program is helping boys who have been rescued from the streets, including an impressive pottery vocational training program where we saw a young deaf boy “throw” a cup in less then a few minutes and where Phares Mithamo presented Rev. Joel with a chalice/vase for our church! Others stayed behind to get some much needed rest so we can all be ready for the activities tomorrow with the students. We are now over halfway through our mission trip – looking forward to the activities to come but looking forward to getting home to South Carolina.
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
The Mission Team left Nairobi early Tuesday to travel to the Masai Mara National Reserve for some long anticipated recreation time. The trip took us South and to the escarpment that runs along the edge of the the Rift Valley where we enjoyed a spectacular view of the valley before descending the winding road to the area know as the “Cradle of Humanity.” The souvenir-laden road wound through grassy plains, farmlands and tiny towns while we all enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the progress of our mission work and fellowship with each other.
We arrived in time to enjoy a late afternoon safari game drive and were well rewarded for our seven hours of bumpy and sometimes unpaved roads. Our eyes feasted on the beauty of the Masai Mara which is a wilderness preserve near the Tanzanian border comprised of savannas (as spelled in Africa) and rolling hills. Other than lodges for safari guests and dirt roads carved through the grass for safari vehicles, it remains relatively untouched – think “Born Free”.. And we were shown the beauty of God’s creation through a number of exotic animals: buffalo, elephants, giraffes, zebra and thousands of wildebeest! We also saw a number of birds, even an ostrich and some Maribou storks. But the greatest excitement was the sighting of a pair of lions, male and female, then the subsequent sighting of over a half dozen more We are ready to do it all again tomorrow!
Monday, August 6, 2018
Monday was work day for the mission team. After breakfast, we drove 10 km across town to the Bahati Martyr Church compound. There the staff served us warm tea, orange slices, and scones (never a shortage of food for us!).
Following, we left for the Makadara Boys Rehabilitation Center, a short drive away. At this facility, Nairobi County operates a home for over 150 orphans or homeless boys, mostly between the ages of 8-14 years. They are referred to as “street boys.” Sadly, the need for this type of facility is enormous in this sprawling, rapidly growing city.
We were fortunate to meet nine of the high schools kids that FPC sponsors in Nairobi. They and twenty others helped us paint two large rooms in the dormitory and plant a dozen trees along the interior wall of the compound. All the kids have had a rough start in life but each were polite, engaging, and very appreciative of our support.
Lavon Stevens was the star of the day by giving music and vocal lessons, soccer instruction, and tips on how to use a roller to paint the ceiling (probably the least skilled of his many talents!) as scores of kids pressed around him.
Tuesday is a play day, we leave for a 2-day safari!
Sunday, August 5, 2018
On this Sabbath, we worshipped at four different locations selected by the Nairobi Central Presbytery leaders. We were initially a bit concerned to not be worshipping together as a group of eleven, but each of our four groups had very meaningful and unique experiences, and we were able to spread greetings from Hilton Head Island much farther. One group visited a very small Presbyterian mission church in the Kosovo slum area of Eastleigh, a melting pot community where Somali refugees and Kenyans are living near each other. Another visited Bahati Redeemer Church and were amazed by the wonderful sermon delivered by a fourteen-year old girl. The third group visited three churches in the Neema Presbyterian Parish and worshipped with a very large group of children who are very joyful despite their difficult living conditions. Lavon was asked to help lead the music and talk to the youth at the church pastored by Rev. Daniel Wachira, who visited FPCHHI last year when he was Nairobi Central Presbytery’s Clerk.
All the services were well over two hours in length, but the time flew by. We were invited to sit on the chancel with the leaders of each church, and we participated in worship by reading scripture, preaching, introducing ourselves and our outreach in Kenya, leading prayers, and delivering children’s sermons. We felt welcomed and honored at each location. After church and lunch at the Presbytery, John Carter joyfully led a children’s group in recreation back at our Presbyterian Guest House. At our devotion time tonight, we expressed where we saw God today. We are feeling weary and excited and grateful all at the same time. We will get a good night’s rest tonight and be ready to paint and landscape Monday morning at the Bahati Boys living center.
Saturday, August 4, 2018
“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”
Our Kenya mission team was met at the Nairobi airport Friday night just before midnight by Susan Ngari and Ruth Wanjiru of the Nairobi Central Presbytery, who had arranged to have a van transport us and our copious luggage to the Presbyterian Guest House, where we were greeted with a midnight dinner, and wearily welcomed a few hours of sleep. Saturday began early with breakfast (more coffee, please!) and a meeting with the Moderator, Clerk, and Finance Chair of the Nairobi Central Presbytery to review our Memorandum of Understanding and Responsibilities document, which gave all of us an opportunity to understand better the blessings, opportunities and challenges of the Bahati Scholarship Program. We then were greeted by Bahati children and several of the scholarship students whom Susan had invited to celebrate Catherine Ndinda’s graduation from the University of Nairobi with a degree in clinical medicine. We saw God in the enthusiasm our mission partners showed for this program, and we also saw God’s mercy and love demonstrated by the young people who have developed into mature, contributing adults since we first met them 8-10 years ago!
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Eight members of the FPC Kenya Mission team departed the Savannah airport for the three “legs” of our long journey to Nairobi, via Atlanta and Amsterdam, arriving Friday night and emerging from passport clearance just before midnight to be greeted by our hosts from the Nairobi Central Presbytery and transported to the Milele Guest House operated by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. The three members of the Cross family traveled to Nairobi on Monday, July 30th, for a three-day visit with Amy’s cousin Bill Black (son of FPC member Joe Black).
Sunday, July 29, 2018
Eleven Members of FPC were commissioned on Sunday, July 29 to represent our church in Nairobi, Kenya, where we will meet with the leaders of the Nairobi Central Presbytery, our mission partners, and will visit with the Bahati Scholars, whose high school education is funded by FPC sponsors. Follow us on this site as we enjoy meeting the students who are receiving an education because of the generosity of sponsors who are providing scholarship support. We’ll spend one day doing a work project with the Bahati students painting their living spaces and planting trees and will go with them another day to an animal park in the city. 2018 Kenya Mission Team members pictured left to right are: Mark Brown, Brian Thoreson, Barb Thoreson, Lavon Stevens, Jack Alderman, Mary-Stuart Alderman, Rev. Jeff Myers, Amy Cross, John Carter Cross, John Cross, and Rev. Joel Wood, commissioned by Rev. Lisa Schrott, far right. We will cherish your thoughts and prayers for us and for our mission partners in Kenya! Bwana Asifiwe (Praise the Lord)!