Tag Archives: Kenya

Leaving Home.

In four days I leave for Ethiopia. This will be my third trip to Ethiopia. I’ve also been to South Sudan four times, and I’m not even sure how many times I’ve been to Kenya. Every country I’ve been to, and every city, and every village has been different in some way or another. Cultures are different. Tribes are different. Nations that border each other have vastly different characters and cultures. I’m only talking about East Africa. I haven’t even been to central or West Africa, and only passed through South Africa.

I sincerely wish everyone could do what I do, at least once. I wish everyone could uproot and leave home, truly leave home and go somewhere so far out of their comfort zone that you couldn’t stand on a stool and see where your comfort zone is.

I hear so many people say, “We are so blessed here. We have so much we take for granted.”  Having traveled to the places I’ve been, I know how true that statement is. I also realize how little the people saying it realize what they’re saying. If you take something for granted, then by definition you do not understand what it is that you either have or do not have. It’s easy to say, “We have so much,” because that’s the more obvious observation one can make, but it doesn’t mean you understand poverty. There is so much depth to what we don’t understand that I can’t describe it without taking someone with me and letting them experience it for themselves. There is so much more than, “We have so much.” There are cultural things we have so engrained within us that we have no understanding of how other cultures think. Each time I go, I understand a little more, and I realize more how much I don’t understand.

The observation of “We have so much” also belies our idea that our culture is somehow superior to other cultures, because we see them as having so little, while having little understanding of what we lack within our own culture. What are the divorce rates within American culture? How much of this “We have so much” is actually things we don’t need that get in the way of family relationships and friendships? How many families have been broken up because we had a choice of either building a legacy with our spouse or children, but we chose instead that a career was important and having a nicer car than our neighbor? How many of us have heart disease, cancer, gout, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity because we are “rich”? While most Africans would be considered poor in our eyes, it’s not always because they lack basic necessities. Rather it’s because our idea of “richness” is so monetarily based that we fail to see our own poverty. I know many Africans that have a legacy that I can only dream of.

There are so many other things we take for granted that I could get into, but I fear that it would only evoke a deer-in-the-headlights look in many readers. I say this not to be demeaning or to look down on people. It’s because I’ve been there.  It’s fairly easy to describe some ways of doing things that are different, but it’s virtually impossible to describe the different ways people think. Which brings me back to the beginning. If you ever have the chance to do missions, by all means go. Get to know the people one on one. Build relationships. You’ll find you learn just as much what you didn’t know about yourself as you do about them.

People walking along an open sewer in a slum in Africa

Leaving Footprints In The Enemy’s Territory.

I’ve taken a break for about a month and a half, but I am back to writing. Exciting things have happened since the last time I wrote. I got to see a church come together with their brothers and sisters half way across the world. The video above was shown at our church in South Carolina. The purpose of the video was to make people aware of not only what life is like in the slums of Kibera, Kenya, but also to awaken people to the heart of the people there. If you only show gloom and doom without showing people that the needs and wants and dreams of people are the same everywhere, you rob them of their dignity and make the problem of poverty even worse. So I thought it was important to hear from the people there without overlaying my own thoughts about the situation.

Two Sundays ago, I saw our church come together and sponsor 45 children from Praise Assembly Kibera so that they can go to school, and begin the journey out of the slum for the next generation.  We have two church services, and after the first service, there were only 12 children left to sponsor. This is exciting, but it tells me that the vision wasn’t big enough, which is also exciting. I can’t wait to see what can be done when the size of the vision meets the size of the hearts of people to fulfill that vision. I fully expect God to stretch the idea of what is possible when people are obedient to his calling.

We also now have a new missions coordinator appointed, and I’m thrilled to see what can happen when there is one person to bring everybody under one roof, so to speak, and get us all moving in the same direction. Let’s leave our footprints in the territory the enemy thinks he owns, and move with boldness and without fear into the places God wants us to go. That is the kind of thing that brings me excitement.

A Year In Photographs.

Each year, I try to publish some of my favorite photos of the year. This year, as I went through my files for the various things I took pictures of this year, it became apparent to my the vast diversity of things I shot this year. Up until this point, I hadn’t realized this year was different from any other. Sure, I take pictures in Africa every year, but this year there was so much more than that. From Eastern Ethiopia to shooting a wedding in the Bahamas to documenting life on a fishing boat, I truly have a lot that I’m happy to have captured this year. I’m posting quite a few photos in this blog, and there are many more I could have posted. Some made it in for the technical quality of the photo, some for the backstory or the story the picture tells. Hopefully the latter two will represent well. Please enjoy. I look forward to the adventures that 2016 brings. All photos can be clicked on for a larger view.

Men working on a shrimping boat off the coast of South Carolina.
Men working on a shrimping boat off the coast of South Carolina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wide panorama of the Kibera slum, largest urban slum in Africa
wide panorama of the Kibera slum, largest urban slum in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

A patchwork of farms surround a small village in Ethiopia.
A patchwork of farms surround a small village in Ethiopia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time goes by around a bride and groom in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
Time goes by around a bride and groom in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental portrait of Sarah Sanford-Rausch.
Environmental portrait of Sarah Sanford-Rausch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People watch as a whale shark and manta ray swim past at the Georgia Aquarium.
People watch as a whale shark and manta ray swim past at the Georgia Aquarium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite wedding shots of the year.
One of my favorite wedding shots of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can you not love this elderly man from Ethiopia?
How can you not love this elderly man from Ethiopia?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gratitude of a woman saved from starvation.
The gratitude of a woman saved from starvation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A portrait I did this fall on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina.
A portrait I did this fall on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture for me sums up what Harar, Ethiopia looks and feels like.
This picture for me sums up what Harar, Ethiopia looks and feels like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A shot at sunset as the storm rolled in near my home.
A shot at sunset as the storm rolled in near my home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite of the wedding I shot in Hopetown, The Bahamas this year.
My favorite of the wedding I shot in Hopetown, The Bahamas this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The captain of the fishing vessel I was shooting on this fall.
The captain of the fishing vessel I was shooting on this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time lapse of the waves rolling in past the bride and groom.
Time lapse of the waves rolling in past the bride and groom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candid portrait of a girl in Kibera, Kenya.
Candid portrait of a girl in Kibera, Kenya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action portrait of dancers for a Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine.
Action portrait of dancers for a Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

time exposure of young man standing in flowing water looking at dead flooded trees
time exposure of young man standing in flowing water looking at dead flooded trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woman walking with a donkey in the highlands of Ethiopia.
Woman walking with a donkey in the highlands of Ethiopia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Pat Conroy in this environmental portrait in his home.
Author Pat Conroy in this environmental portrait in his home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite Ethiopia shots ever, taken in Dire Dawa.
One of my favorite Ethiopia shots ever, taken in Dire Dawa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait taken for Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine.
Portrait taken for Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastors totally lost in prayer in Ethiopia.
Pastors totally lost in prayer in Ethiopia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time exposure of waves and driftwood in the ocean at sunset
Time exposure of waves and driftwood in the ocean at sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wedding portrait I shot on Fripp Island.
A wedding portrait I shot on Fripp Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopian athletes playing football (soccer) at dawn.
Ethiopian athletes playing football (soccer) at dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short time exposure of traffic in downtown Nairobi, Kenya.
Short time exposure of traffic in downtown Nairobi, Kenya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I photo I did for a couple's engagement this fall.
I photo I did for a couple’s engagement this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids hamming it up for the camera in Kibera, Kenya.
Kids hamming it up for the camera in Kibera, Kenya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying a "Stoney" with my wife in Kibera.
Enjoying a “Stoney” with my wife in Kibera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my couples in an avenue of oaks.
One of my couples in an avenue of oaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Athletes receiving new shoes donated from Nike in Ethiopia.
Athletes receiving new shoes donated from Nike in Ethiopia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple watching the storm roll past just after their wedding.
A couple watching the storm roll past just after their wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back From Kibera

Less than forty eight hours ago, we got back from Kibera. All in all, I’d say the trip was a success. We were able to build good relationships with the people in the church and help out in the daycare. We were also able to help in some financial ways, but I see these as secondary to the job we came to do, which was build understanding of the issues and the people so we can partner for the long term. None of that can be done if we go with blinders on and a singular goal to build something or feed somebody. We are broken in certain ways, some of us financially, some of us spiritually, some of us in other ways. The goal of missions is to help each other overcome these various forms of brokenness. As I think over the issues I saw and more is revealed to me over time, I will write about these more in depth.

The trip home was an ordeal. My wife got sick to her stomach half way through the first flight, and is still a bit uneasy two days later. It was to the point where she came that close (you can’t see me thumb and forefingers about half an inch apart) to not getting on the plane from Zurich back to the United States. A couple missionaries saw what was going on and came to pray for Lynn. She met someone in the last five minutes before boarding who had some prescription nausea medication, and she was able to settle her stomach enough to board. God truly puts the right people in the right place.  My friends wife also got sick to her stomach on the plane, but not to that extent. Then we had to get through the nightmare that is customs in Dulles (very close to dullard), where everything is done in the least efficient manner possible. Our plane was boarding by the time we got through that, but we still needed to get to a different section of the airport entirely. As I rounded the corner I saw the sign that said the next train would be coming in 23 seconds. I shouted back the information to everybody else, and we managed to get onto that train. After getting off, I ran ahead to the gate and found they were about to close it. I told them my group was right behind me, and they let us on. I can feel my blood pressure rising even as I write about it. Nonetheless, we made it on our last plane and back home.

I have been going through the pictures from the trip. I have far fewer this time. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my role was very different for this trip, and I was watching out for three other people rather than focusing all my attention on taking pictures. Nevertheless I have some that give what I feel is a good representation of our trip, and I will post more later as I have something to write about. Enjoy.

child in Obedis' daycare in Kibera.
child in Obedis’ daycare in Kibera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children on the outskirts of Kibera. They were there as I shot video interviews.
Children on the outskirts of Kibera. They were there as I shot video interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking dinner together
Taking dinner together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl having a good time with the kids.
Carl having a good time with the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lynn in her element, teaching the kids, and trying to learn some Swahili.
Lynn in her element, teaching the kids, and trying to learn some Swahili.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kibera right after a heavy rainstorm.
Kibera right after a heavy rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A child looking in the window of the daycare.
One of Obeid’s daughters looking in the window of the daycare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obedi making ugali.
Obedi making ugali.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nairobi shortly after dark.
Nairobi shortly after dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty in the little things.
Beauty in the little things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunny and Obedi walking through Kibera.
Bunny and Obedi walking through Kibera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market on the railroad tracks.
The market on the railroad tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An overview of Kibera.
An overview of Kibera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masha and Gaz, great guys.
Masha and Gaz, great guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the daycare kids.
One of the daycare kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week In Kibera

I’ve been in Kibera for about a week now, and honestly have been too busy to write up to this point. I was terribly sick yesterday, but fortunately had a lot of people praying for me, and I recovered very quickly. Thanks to everyone who was praying. The trip is still ongoing, so there will not be much in the way of reflection. That will undoubtedly come later. I can say that I have learned a lot this week, and have more questions than I started with. They are not bad questions though, and I’m sure they will lead to growth and a bettering of my understanding about how to partner with the church in Africa. For now then, here are some pictures from the trip. When I get home and I have had time to ponder, I will write more.
For those of you following this blog for the photography aspect, all of these pictures were shot with my small Canon G1X. The large SLR frankly was just too conspicuous and risky to pull out. U til next time.

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The First Day In Kibera

This is just a very short post today, for those who are following our trip. We made it to Kenya yesterday, and today was our first day in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. We visited with Pastor Obedi and his wife Helen. It was good to see them again, as well as the fact that things have improved since last year. We also spent a lot of time with the kids, about 45 of them today! I did say this would be short and I will keep that promise. Until next time…

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Children of Agreements

In my last post I wrote a bit about agreements. It’s been a while since I’ve written, but the subject is still on my mind. Now that I’ve become aware of it, I have become more able to see what kind of agreements people make (including me) that we shouldn’t enter into.

In the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” Tommy is telling the others about how he met with the devil at a crossroads and agreed to give up his soul in exchange for being able to play the guitar.  Delmar responds with, “You sold your ever loving soul to the devil for that?”  To which Tommy responds, “Well, I wasn’t using it.”

The agreements we make are frequently not made so explicitly, but they are made nonetheless. I’m finding that most of the agreements we make are made not because we met with the devil at a crossroads, but because bad things enter our lives, and rather than fight them, we become comfortable with them over time, until we finally fail to see them at all. Then, even when we are given an opportunity to be free of what plagues us, we’re so comfortable with our affliction that we choose not to give it up.

This blog is mostly about Africa and missions, so let me give you an example from that vein. I will shortly be going back to Kibera, Kenya. I’ve been to a lot of places in Africa that seem hopeless, but Kibera is possibly the worst.  The filth alone is enough to completely overwhelm. People live (and I use that word loosely) on less than two dollars a day. Disease is rampant. Sewage runs between all the shacks. Children are abandoned during the day as mothers go out looking for work. There are constant fires because of electrical shorts from spliced wiring as people steal electricity from neighbors. Garbage has literally formed layers like a geological feature that you can see from the past hundred years.  When you ask people what they have hope for, they literally come up with nothing because hope is a distant relative that died a long time ago. For some people poverty is a temporary thing; a temporary setback until they are able to get back on their feet. Kibera’s poverty is something much worse. It’s poverty that is over 100 years old. It’s no longer simply a lack of resources, it’s now a pervading state of mind. It’s old, generational poverty.

Many people living in Kibera do not have what it takes to extricate themselves from the slum, but some do. These are probably the saddest cases, because they have made an agreement that Kibera, as bad as it is, is ok. The first time I was in Kibera, after about forty five minutes, I literally felt like I needed to get out. From that point to being so comfortable with it that you decide not to leave even if you can is almost unfathomable to me.

Now, I’m going to preface my next statements by saying that I have a real problem with prosperity doctrine, which is unfortunately popular both in the United States and Kenya. It teaches basically that if you have enough faith, God will bless you and make you rich. I could go on for an entire blog about how this is wrong both scripturally and in the real world, but I won’t. While I don’t believe it is God’s intention to make us rich, I do believe he cares for us as his own children, which we are. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.  ““Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11: 11-13

The bible frequently talks about how we will suffer along with Christ if we follow him, but if we realize that we are beloved children of God, when he sends the opportunity to be freed from bondage and suffering, it hardly makes sense to then say, “No, that’s ok. I’m good”. While we are called to suffer with Christ, we are not called to make agreements with the devil simply for the sake of taking on suffering. “My marriage is bad, but it’s ok.”  “I live in filth, but it’s ok.” “My children are starving, but that’s just life.”  These are all agreements from the pit of hell. Something I have been learning is that I don’t pray big enough. I pray for something but cut short the full extent of what I need, or the needs of someone I’m praying for. When you realize you’re praying to an infinite God, it suddenly seem stupid to put limitations on your prayers. I met an Ethiopian pastor recently who said “I always pray for something, then double it.”  He’s not praying for riches, he’s praying for the lost to be saved, for the captives to be set free, and for a bit of God’s kingdom to show up here on Earth. The first step in that process is to stop accepting the physical, spiritual, and mental squalor that we have agreed to live in.

A child of agreements in Kibera
Children of agreements in Kibera

The Africa Everybody Has Seen And The Other Africa.

As I was thinking about all the posts I’ve done about Africa, photography, and missions. I’ve done posts on the people I’ve met and the broader concepts of all things related to Africa, but I’ve never published a post about the landscape of Africa. When people think of Africa, they usually think of herds of animals on the grasslands with the occasional Acacia tree breaking up the horizon. Sure, there’s that aspect of Africa, but there is so much more to it than that. There are jungles, scrublands, deserts, big cities, mountains, even glaciers. Today I decided to feature some of the landscapes I’ve seen on my travels in East Africa. These are all from South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya, so you can imaging all there is to see in the other fifty or so counties. I’ve specifically tried to exclude people from these shots to focus on the landscapes, but there are some. Let these give you a sense of place, and please enjoy them. All can be clicked on for a larger view.

tea plantation on the slopes of Mt Kenya, Kenya
tea plantation on the slopes of Mt Kenya, Kenya

 

 

 

 

 

View of Juba, South Sudan from the top of Jebel Kujur
View of Juba, South Sudan from the top of Jebel Kujur

 

 

 

 

 

 

orange glow of sunrise over the Ethiopian highlands
orange glow of sunrise over the Ethiopian highlands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

giraffe grazing with the skyline of Nairobi, Kenya in background
giraffe grazing with the skyline of Nairobi, Kenya in background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kibera, the largest slum in Africa and the third largest in the world.
Kibera, the largest slum in Africa and the third largest in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dry landscape and mountains of eastern Ethiopia near Somalia
dry landscape and mountains of eastern Ethiopia near Somalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

180 degree panorama of Nairobi Kenya taken from rooftop.
180 degree panorama of Nairobi Kenya taken from rooftop.

 

 

 

 

 

aerial view of village in south sudan
aerial view of village in south sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

village and livestock along the white nile in South Sudan
village and livestock along the white nile in South Sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise and acacia tree in Africa, (the cliche Africa shot)
Sunrise and acacia tree in Africa, (the cliche Africa shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lush waterfall in the cloud forest on Mount Kenya, Africa
lush waterfall in the cloud forest on Mount Kenya, Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

street scene in Juba, capital of South Sudan
street scene in Juba, capital of South Sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

village with grassfire in background, South Sudan
village with grassfire in background, South Sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wide panorama of mount Kenya at dawn. Mt Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa at over 17,000 feet.
wide panorama of mount Kenya at dawn. Mt Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa at over 17,000 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

aerial view of Juba, South Sudan and the white nile river
aerial view of Juba, South Sudan and the white nile river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hyenas at dawn in Kenya
Hyenas at dawn in Kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

low aerial panorama of Juba, South Sudan
low aerial panorama of Juba, South Sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

patchwork of farms in Ethiopian highlands
patchwork of farms in Ethiopian highlands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bor, South Sudan at night with star trails
Bor, South Sudan at night with star trails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial panorama of the downtown area of Nairobi, Kenya
Aerial panorama of the downtown area of Nairobi, Kenya

 

 

 

 

 

Roundabout in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with light streaks from time exposure
Roundabout in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with light streaks from time exposure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juba, capital of South Sudan at night
Juba, capital of South Sudan at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wild impala in forest in Kenya
wild impala in forest in Kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopian Orthodox church backlit by morning sun rays in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Orthodox church backlit by morning sun rays in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

aerial view of nile river and town in south sudan along the Juba-Bor road.
aerial view of nile river and town in south sudan along the Juba-Bor road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tank along the road between Torit and Juba, South Sudan
Tank along the road between Torit and Juba, South Sudan

 

 

 

 

The elephants at the Castle Forest Lodge in Kenya
The elephants at the Castle Forest Lodge in Kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sudd, where the Nile spill outside its banks to form one of the worlds largest wetlands in South Sudan.
The Sudd, where the Nile spill outside its banks to form one of the worlds largest wetlands in South Sudan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Friends And New Friends

In just two weeks I leave for Ethiopia. I remember the first time I traveled to Africa; the excitement, but also the sense of fear. The feeling of “oh dear God, what am I doing?” Things are different now. This is my seventh trip to Africa since 2010, and my third in the last eight months. There is no longer any fear involved. It’s only my second trip to Ethiopia, but I feel as if I’m going to visit an old friend. That old friend is Africa. I love the people. I love the places. I love the friends I’ve made along the road. There are people in South Sudan and Kenya in particular that I talk to on almost a daily basis, and they’ve become good friends to me.

My first trip to a country is normally where I get the lay of the land. My second and subsequent trips are when I make friends. I don’t know why that is, but that seems to be the way it plays out. Perhaps I am only able to understand the people after I’ve been there once already. Each culture is different, and it’s often hard to understand the way people think until you understand at least to a point the environment they’re coming from. Friendship only comes after understanding.  So even though I made friends on my last trip to Ethiopia, it is this time that I feel I will cement those bonds. So this blog is written for my old friend Africa, for the old friends I’ve made in South Sudan and Kenya, and to the new ones I’ll make in Ethiopia.

I will be posting update blogs as I travel whenever I can, and as a photographer I will have photographs whenever bandwidth will permit. Feel free to follow this blog for email updates. I’ll be traveling into new territory, so I’ll try to be as honest with first impressions as possible. I’m not saying where I’m going yet, but will post once I’m there. Here’s a few of my friends from over the years.

James in Nairobi
James in Nairobi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and Joseph in South Sudan.
Peter and Joseph in South Sudan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dejene and Ketsela in Ethiopia, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new friend Bekela in Ethiopia, who was gracious enough to let me stay in his home and give me two cups of espresso and a pepsi every night before bed.
My new friend Bekela in Ethiopia, who was gracious enough to let me stay in his home and give me two cups of espresso and a pepsi every night before bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jimmy and Njenga in Kenya. Great guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Would It Look Like?

There has been a reoccurring theme lately with random things I’ve read; with conversations I’ve had with people, and with the events in my own life and the lives of people around me. That reoccurring theme is the faithfulness of God and hearing God’s voice. The initial catalyst for this theme for me I think was the decision to go back to Ethiopia, but other things have built upon it since then.

As I’ve been drawn more and more into the events and the lives of people in Africa, I’ve become closer with certain people in ways I never would have imagined just a few years ago. I find myself wishing I could go back and visit with many of these people again, but there is only so much time and funding available for someone with a family and three kids. Besides, many times East Africa doesn’t necessarily need my physical presence, as many things can and should be done through and by people already there.

I talk a lot with a friend in Kenya, who has given up a lot to minister to kids who have been lost along the way somewhere. He ministers to girls in a reform school, many of whom are estranged from their parents, and to kids who are in prison, among others. He has given up any form of financial security to do this, as this is all volunteer, and any funds that come in are through the generosity of people who believe in his vision, and by the grace of God.

Last week, he asked me “how do I hear God’s voice concerning the things he wants me to do?” This question caught me a bit off guard, because I felt totally unqualified to answer it. For me, it was like Michael Jordan saying to me, “so tell me about this game you call basketball.” You see, the problem is that while he is out there doing, I am still currently unlearning what I have either been taught explicitly or by example from American culture. The great depression taught our culture a lot about security and setting up contingency plans. Our parents and grandparents swore they would never go through something like that again. Their children found a good job with a pension that would take care of them. They valued job security above everything else. Work that job for 35 years no matter how miserable you were; no matter how far from your true calling that job was. Get a job with health benefits, dental, pension, matching 401k. Wait until you are financially secure until you have children so they won’t have to go through the things you went through. Leave nothing to chance. Leave nothing to faith. Leave nothing to God. I don’t need God anymore, because I’ve got a contingency plan for everything. Life’s decisions became based on fear of the lack our parents had, and not on faith, or even on reality.

So here’s how that went. The children of the baby boomers who grew up with everything provided for them came to expect everything. They (we) still live on a fear based existence, unable to live without a well thought out escape plan from all of life’s struggles and problems, but now we expect to have everything handed to us. Well, let me tell you thing from the point of view of a business owner; job security is a myth, as fictitious as the Minotaur or the Medusa. There is no security in life, only the illusion of it, so prettily put together in a welcome packet with a brochure of your company’s stock options with a big red bow on top. We’ve given up our God given talents, our vision, that fire God placed into us to make the world a better place, and traded them for a matching 401k.

What would it look like if we started living by the seat of our pants again? What would it look like if we took risks? After all, there is no reward without risk, and we’ve given up an awful lot of reward.  We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking the only reward is financial, and in doing so given up our souls.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

I’m still pondering this idea in my head, and I’m not yet fully sure if it’s true, but my thought is that God speaks to us the most when we put ourselves into a position in which we MUST hear him. This is why I feel unqualified to speak to my friend in Kenya. He has given up everything, and put himself in a position where he has to hear from God if he’s going to move forward. I personally believe this is the way to go. It’s not a comfortable way, because there’s always that gap between hearing from God and when everything comes together, but the alternative is to live in a manicured facade of security that I know does not exist. I would rather live in a manner that fulfills the destiny God has placed me here for. As such I have started to wean myself off of the high overhead that comes with the  typical American life. I believe it’s healthier in the long run, allows me and my wife more freedom to do what God calls us to do, and is a far better example to my children. This has not yet all fully ruminated for me, so as I think further about this, I will probably write again. What I learn this time in Ethiopia may further clarify things for me as well. So until next time…

The girls at the reform school in Kenya where my friend volunteers.
The girls at the reform school in Kenya where my friend volunteers.