Many of you may wonder “What does an eMi project trip look like?” Here’s a snapshot of our activities each day.
Sunday, May 31 - We arrived in Nairobi at 10pm (after having flown from Denver through Chicago and London) and got to our local hotel at about midnight. Slept to the sounds of a mild party with Kenyan rock music and the occasional rooster crowing.
Monday, June 1 - We met Holly, Pastor Julius and his son Erick at the hotel, loaded into two 9-passenger vans and drove across the beautiful Rift Valley to St. Anna’s Guesthouse in Kisumu, where we would work that week. Most nights of the trip we had dinner at Pastor Julius's home.
Tuesday, June 2 - After breakfast we drove 90 minutes to the project site in Kabondo. After a walk around the land, we went to meet the 50 orphans in a structure they use for school about 5 minutes drive away. We then met with Pastor Julius, his sister (who is the government’s appointed supervisor of the children’s care), and Holly to discuss their vision for the orphanage. There were many questions to consider, such as the type of housing (home vs dorm), what to do as the kids get older, whether to have latrine facilities or restrooms and showers in each home, whether to have kitchens in each home or a community dining facility. Each decision comes with trade-offs that range from cost to the actual feel and function of the community. We returned to Kisumu and Pastor’s home for dinner. After we got back to the hotel at 9pm, about half of the group shared their personal testimony with the team. The remaining team members would share theirs over the next day or so. This is a rich time in every eMi trip as we learn how similar we all are despite our very diverse backgrounds.
Wednesday, June 3 - The architects stayed in Kisumu to work on developing the plans of the orphan homes and dining facility so we could share the progress with Pastor and Holly that evening. I took the remaining team members back to the project site where we performed percolation tests on the soil (to determine the size and type of on-site wastewater system), water quality testing for two of the community’s water sources (a 45-foot deep open well and a nearby river), and we used a 60-meter tape, compass, sight level, and GPS unit to survey the layout and topography of the site. It was a lot of fun stretching the tape through 7-foot tall corn fields and our team had the energetic assistance of the local Kabondo community members as we went about our work!
Thursday, June 4 - Our team got feedback on the design and spent much of the day developing the REVIT models for the buildings while the site team worked on analyzing the survey and water testing data from the previous day. Typically, we have about 4-5 workdays like this one but due to the extended transportation on this project and the need to present on Saturday, we really only had 3 days to pull our design together into a presentation. This could have caused great stress to our team but we worked together incredibly smoothly and joyfully.
Friday, June 5 - After getting more feedback on the layout of the inside of the homes and the dining facility, and coordination of the septic and absorption field layout, our civil team met with the local Living Water International representatives to determine the factors to consider in drilling a new well to serve the kids. Unlike the current water sources which have bacterial contamination and must be boiled or treated with chlorine before use, our project will include a 60-meter deep sealed well, a pump and two days worth of water storage. We hope that the LWI folks will be in position to help us further when Touched By Love is ready to dig!
Tomorrow I will share the details on the remaining days of the trip, including our presentation of the completed project and our closing time with the full team in Nakuru.
We just watched a lion chase a zebra. Well, actually we just ate dinner, listened to a Kenyan sing John Denver and Bob Marley with a fetching colonial accent, then returned to the room to download approximately 516 photos from our game drive. That was where we saw the lion and the zebra having a National Geographic moment.
So I ought to back up a bit. We left IAA in Kinangop this morning (June 9) and drove to Nakuru National Park where we are spending the evening at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge. Our team reunited with Gary and Kevin’s project team, who were on the other side of Kenya all week, and we had time for an afternoon game viewing drive before dinner.
Having toured plenty of national parks and developed some understanding of when to go wildlife spotting, we were not expecting to see much at 3:30 in the afternoon. Most animals are active in the early morning and evening. So I don’t know if we just got blessed like crazy here or what. We saw rhinos, giraffes, baboons, crowned cranes, guinea hens (think colorful but dumb-as-a-post chicken), warthogs, baby warthogs, baby zebras, and more zebra, one really dumb zebra, cape buffalo, and more gazelle-ish things than I could count. It was already pretty awesome, but then we saw the lions.
There was a pride of females lounging in the brush about 100 yards off the road. We were stoked to see them inactive even from that distance, and after watching them for about 20 minutes we drove to another part of the park. We circled back to go to the lodge for dinner and we passed the spot where the lions were before. They were still there, only they had moved closer to the road and we could now clearly see there were at least 16 of them, most of which were cubs.
This time we caught them moving about a little more, flopping over on their backs and batting each other on the head with their giant paws. I had been wondering since the first spotting an hour prior why they took no interest in the massive herd of zebras that were about a quarter mile off, but clearly visible down the slope toward the water. Soon one of the adult females sat up and looked very intently across our cluster of vans because it just happened at that moment that the aforementioned clueless zebra had wandered to within about 75 yards of the lions. It all happened rather quickly after that.
The big lioness slid right past our van with not even a glance at us, crossed the road and paused in the grass. The other adult female took the other side and also crossed the road toward the zebra and bolted, as did the zebra (it was at least that smart). The chase lasted only about 5 seconds before the lioness bailed out (we decided she bolted too soon, giving the zebra too much of a head start). Even after she aborted the mission, the zebras were in a wild stampede off in the distance and making the most bizarre sound. At this, a couple of the cubs decided to take a chance, and of course they were too late and not skilled enough yet, but they seemed to enjoy the learning experience. They did not run far before circling back to mom and giving her a nuzzle on the neck. All of them were chuffing to each other, a sound almost like very loud purring with a little vocalization.
I am reading back what I just wrote and it sounds unbelievable. I’m still floored. We really did not expect to see lions at all, but to see them hunting was incredible. Two walked so close to the van I could have petted them. Our driver had to ask me to close the wide open window I had forgotten all about in my excitement, because you know, this is not Disney World and those claws and fangs are legit.
By the time you are reading this we will be home, caught up on laundry (mostly), sleep (sorta), and Instagram (totally). If you’d like to see the 80,000 other photos from our time here in Nakuru, click here for animals and here for the eMi project site. And be sure to scroll farther down to see the video that team member Jonathan shot of the zebra chase. Enjoy!
It is Sunday afternoon and I'm two days returned from my first project trip as an eMi Project Leader. The past two weeks was a whirlwind as we travelled to Kenya, met the full compliment of our team in the London-Heathrow airport, and spent a week working closely with our new friends and ministry partners to develop the design of the new orphanage for Christ Community Church and Touched By Love Ministries.
Our project site is a one acre plot of land in the small village of Kabondo, in the western region of Kenya. Though the kids have come to the care of the church for a variety of reasons, they have at least one thing in common - they are beautiful children of our deeply-loving God. Some of them were orphaned in the political unrest in 2007. More have come as a result of AIDS, malaria and other diseases. About 50 children are currently being cared for by village church families in Kabondo. Their caretakers are often widows or single moms, most of whom are poor and some are themselves infected with HIV.
Families rent land for farming. The existing school building, a 12’x13’ mud hut, is on land donated by an elderly widow in the village. The plan to sustain the orphan project is through agricultural and microbusiness development, and vocational training to include a chicken project (currently underway) and a revolving development project to produce food, income, and increase the flock to donate to other families.
Christ Community Church has a seemingly unlikely partner in the Stockett family from Vermont but that is how God does things, isn't it? Two years ago, the Stocketts met Pastor Julius Nyambuoro from CCC and learned about the great needs of these children in their community. They established Touched by Love to partner with the local church in Kenya to care for these kids. Through the work of eMi's volunteers, they will soon be able to show prospective partners plans for the six orphan homes, a shared dining facility, and infirmary that will be progressively built over the next five to ten years.
Our team for this project included architects from Hawaii and California, engineers from Illinois, Michigan and Texas, as well as two eMi interns from Illinois and Georgia who have already been a great blessing and help to our team. I had the pleasure of co-leading this project under Gary MacPhee. Gary is the first person I met at eMi and has been on staff for 18 years, filling a number of leadership positions. He is a licensed architect and a pastor and his joy and gifting in both areas is immediately apparent when you are with him. I learned so much from Gary on this trip and can only hope to lead future teams as well as he does.
As of last Monday I entered the multitasking effort of an eMi project leader and began to work with our interns and team to finish the design of this orphanage. We aim to have the plans completed by early August when I will begin to prepare for my next project trip - a site assessment for African Bible University (ABU) in Kampala, Uganda in September.
As we have spent the past week recovering from jet lag and enjoying the remaining time we had with Jenni's parents in town, we found our heads swirling in an attempt to process all we saw and experienced. It can be mighty difficult to sum it up in a well-worded blog post or newsletter. We saw and felt God everywhere, and you cannot always share that in words or put it in a box. We pray that God will keep these memories fresh in our minds, even as we gather new ones through our future projects.
P.S. Many of you may be wondering what the day-to-day experience of an eMi project trip is like. In the next two posts I will try to give you that picture.
I forgot to tell you about the chameleon. John found it down by the river and brought it up for me to see. He was rewarded with a quick tutorial in wide aperture shooting. I carried Grumpy (I got attached that fast) around trying to save him from being loved to death by tiny Kenyans. We set it on different shirts hoping it would give us a nice color-changing show, but it only changed a little.
This is a good place to give Nelson a better introduction. On Sunday we attended church here at IAA. In Africa church begins when it begins and goes until whenever it ends. I took that to mean we were in for a very long service, but it was maybe 90 minutes. Nelson (one of IAA's first children, now a college student) did the teaching. He was quite good at it. Nelson seems to be a natural born leader, but with a quiet and warm style. Jane says they give him as many opportunities as they can and he rises to the occasion.
Nelson arrived at IAA when he was 11. His father was abusive and Nelson witness him beating his mother to death. After his father was taken to jail, Nelson came to live at IAA and while his story is not pretty, he gives credit to God for the redemptive healing he has experienced here. In a testimony we saw on video, Nelson tells of how he trusts God that regardless of what he has suffered he knows God will make good of it, as he has already seen in many ways.
During church I had Jacob in my lap for much of the service (not because kids love me, they are usually wanting to play with the camera). Jacob is another success story. Jane and her right-hand lady, Donna, were at a hospital picking up some children to bring home to IAA. They spotted tiny two day old Jacob lying on a table, covered with a blanket. When they inquired about him, they were told, “Never mind him. He is going to die.” There was no way they were having that and so Jacob came home to IAA as well. He managed to survive even though the hospital staff completely neglected him. Today he is happy and thriving and I enjoyed his company whenever he chose to hang around me.
Like our little chameleon buddy, Nelson and Jacob changed in response to their surroundings, but they're still themselves. Grumpy only changed a little, but Nelson and Jacob are forever changed in remarkable ways by their relationship with their Savior and all those who love them here at Into Abba's Arms.
In the afternoon we presented the final project renderings and details to Jane, Nelson, Auntie Donna, and Din. This is only my second project trip, but I already know I love Presentation Day. The people we are serving get excited, ask great questions, and everyone is looking forward to God's future for the ministry. Jane has hopes and dreams for the children she serves and ideas about how that might be accomplished. But she is also humble enough to admit those are her ideas, to hold them all with open hands, and to entrust it all to God, knowing He will bring it all to pass in the best ways.
Having presented the project on Sunday, we had all of Monday to relax a bit. Well, the electrical engineers and architects were still slaving away over hot computers, but in essence, we were finished. Several people took the opportunity to fall asleep (caught on video). Tuesday morning we will head out to Nakuru for a rest day in at a lodge in the game park before we begin the long trip home.
I am no longer able to keep the days straight. But it really doesn’t matter. The experience is the same whether or not I give you the correct point on a calendar.
Our team is dear to me. It’s always encouraging to see how a group of people with little to no prior experience with each other can come together, often meeting for the first time at the baggage claim, and work together so nicely. On this particular team we seem to have a lot of history. Brad has worked with Austin and with Rudy on more than one other project. Heather is a former intern who worked with the Crawfords when they were in the East Africa office. Greg is on his third trip. Jordan is a Long-Term Volunteer and was with the Crawfords in the UK office. I could go further with this, but the web begins to get complex and my jet-lagged brain can’t take much more.
Alisha, Brad’s wife, is filling in everywhere. Her energy astounds me. A day or two ago she went down to the nursery school and taught for a couple of hours. Some of the kids only speak Swahili and none of us know all their names yet. I followed Alisha, knowing it would be good for video clips, but a mzungu with a big camera is a monster of a distraction so I had to bail. Alisha used to teach so she has the background for it, but this is a totally different experience. Besides the language barrier and lack of resources, it was stifling hot in the tent where classes are held. She took the kids out for some fresh air and to get rid of the wiggles, but finding a place to play without sheep in the way was a problem. Still, she knew how to roll with it. She had them all playing an organized game in no time while I was off being all mature and talking to the sheep.
Speaking of sheep, Alisha knows how to cure sleep issues: workout videos. I have not done anything of the sort in years, only cycling and archery. This was a “T25” Beachbody workout: all hip-hop type dance moves, highly aerobic, no stops, and we are at 9000 feet elevation. Think copious wheezing and comedic lack of coordination. If the whole Mzungu Petting Zoo experience did not leave me feeling white enough, this absolutely finished me off. Also, I was really close to barfing.
Photographically, things are going well. The computer has not acted up and Jane asked if I could put together a short montage of clips that she could share with the VBS at her church when she goes back home to Texas. I was happy to oblige and the resulting project was the inspirational kick I needed to begin creating a couple of other projects from the footage I have gathered so far. Jane’s video short is on my Vimeo channel or you can watch it below. I am taking my exhausted self to bed now.
From the Keiters:
Here is where we share our daily experiences of how God is using our life in the US and abroad with EMI to draw us closer and to make Himself known.