Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back Across the Equator, Through the Great Rift Valley and On My Way Home!

I am back in Nairobi for a few hours and then off to the airport. We left Missionary Gurath's home in the Moi's Bridge area this morning around 8:30 am, dropped off Pastor Mayhew, Pastor Gurath, Stephen Mayhew, and Russ Schmitt at Eldoret so they could catch taxis to Uganda and Kisii. They all stay one more week except Pastor Gurath who will be here for six months. The five hour ride took me back over the equator and through the Great Rift Valley...beautiful!
I apologize that the blog has not been updated as regularly as I planned but internet access has been pretty sparse since we left Nairobi on Saturday (9/4). We left around 9:00 am on Saturday as we made our way to the city of Kisii which is the nearest large town near the aids orphan school in Etago. We arrive in Kisii late Saturday afternoon and checked into our hotel. We rested and cleaned up and got ready for our meeting with the pastors who live in the Etago district of the CLC-Kenya. Two of these pastors serve as teachers in the temporary seminary that was started when the seminary in Himo, Tanzania was forced to be closed. These men are teaching four students who were previously attending the Himo seminary. They meet for one week each month in the church building in Chotororo for classes and then work one-on-one with one of the pastors. We sat with the seminary teachers for about two hours discussing the curriculum and classes schedules as we encouraged each other in the blessed privilege the Lord has given us as we serve Him. We also discussed some of the challenges they are facing. They understand that this is only a temporary solution to problems posed by the closure of the seminary in Himo and thus it would be not be good stewardship to build any permanent buildings for the seminary or provide much more than we are doing right now. While we can’t provide for any major improvements I am hopeful that we can provide a little more financial help for a few necessities. It is humbling experience to hear what some of the pastors and seminary students here endure for the sake of the Gospel. For example, these students attend classes, sleep, eat their meals, and study in a mud waddle church building with a mud floor and metal roof. They bring in mattress to lie on the floor and bring warm coals inside the building at night to stay warm. There is a vacant house nearby that could be rented for lodging and class room for $70/week but that is far beyond what they can afford. When we asked what other needs they had they asked if it would be possible for a little additional funding so they could purchase a few necessary items such as folders for each student, a stapler, a few notebooks, pens, and pencils. Pastor Mayhew will assess the needs of the temporary seminary in Nairobi next week and then send recommendations to the KINSHIP committee. Thank the Lord for the dedicated men and their families who sacrifice so much for the sake of the Gospel.

Seminary students of the Etago District of the CLC- Kenya

The next morning we got up early to make the 1.5 hour drive from Kisii to Etago where we were to attend worship service and see the new class rooms that have been added to the aids orphan school. When we arrived we found the church building full of children waiting to begin. Pastor Mike Gurath led the brief Bible study for the children about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Once the service began the Lord was praise with the voices of 172 children singing to the Lord. I had the privilege of preaching and was glad to have the opportunity to proclaim the Word one more time since I would be leaving in just a few days. I preached the 10th chapter of John where Jesus comforts and encourages us with the Good News that He is our Good Shepherd who knows us and willingly laid down His life for us.

Etago Aids Orphan School. Classrooms on the left, church on the right.

After the worship service we went to the school where 172 children attend grades K-7. The Lord has certainly blessed the efforts of the school staff and KINSHIP working together for the sake of our Savior’s kingdom. These children, who have been orphaned because of the aids epidemic in Africa, are receiving the truth of God’s saving word along with an excellent education. This school, in district testing, ranks 18th out of 150 schools and ranks 1st in the immediate Etago area. This is all accomplished with just $200/month subsidy from KINSHIP and classrooms that are built for $3500 each. What a blessing for the members of the CLC, through KINSHIP, to be involved in bringing up these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This school at Etago is just an example of what could be done in hundreds of other CLC affiliated congregations throughout Africa, India, Nepal, and Myanmar. As the Lord wills and provides we can spread the Gospel to the little children.

Worship service with the school children and congregation at Etago, Kenya

On Monday we traveled to the Moi’s Bridge area where Pastor Mike Gurath will be living and working for the next 6 to 12 months. Pastor Gurath has been called by Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Phoenix, AZ to serve as a missionary to the newly formed Emmaus Milimani Lutheran Church. This congregation was established after a woman from Moi’s Bridge, Kenya attended services and joined Holy Cross. She is an older woman who wants to start a confessional church and school in her home area. She has donated a large piece of land and quite a bit of her own money to build a church and school. They currently have 110 students enrolled in their school. Most of the children are from families that are too poor to pay the tuition at the other schools in the area.

We were privileged to participate in the installation of Pastor Mike Gurath as missionary to Emmaus Milimani Lutheran Church and School. Pastor Gurath will also spend one week a month teaching in the temporary seminaries in Kenya, alternating monthly visits to Etago and Nairobi.

Pastor Mike Gurath - Missionary to Emmaus Milimani Lutheran Church and School

You can find Pastor Gurath’s blog at:

Before and after the service I enjoyed my time with the children. There were two children in particular who will stay in my memory for a good long time. I would have loved to pack these two up and brought them home with me. The first was a little boy who for some reason wanted to be my friend. We were just standing around waiting for things to get started when this little guy (probably 3 years old) just walked up next to me and grabbed my hand. I looked down at him and he just grinned. A little while later I noticed a little girl (probably around 4 or 5) looking at me and when I made eye contact with her she smiled and looked away. I picked up a round dried up pit from some type of fruit that was lying on the ground and attempted to communicate to her that I wanted to play catch. She caught on rather quickly and the fun began. I got down on one knee and we started to toss the “ball” back and forth and she would squeal and giggle with delight with each toss. Within just a minute or so all the other kids had gathered around and my little friend from before wiggled his way through the crowd of children so he could be next to me. After I caught the “ball” I handed it to him and helped him toss it to the little girl. He just grinned with delight. I really miss my family and as these two little children warmed my heart today it made me thankful that I will be home with them in St. Louis.
Emmaus Milimani Lutheran Church and School

I leave in an hour for my flight from Nairobi to Brussels to Washington, DC to St. Louis. It will take around 23 hours. I can hardly wait to get home.

Thank you for your prayers...and keep them coming for the people of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and DR Congo.

Friday, September 3, 2010

To Tanga and Back

The past few days have taken us from the Arusha/Himo/Moshi districts of CLC Gospel work in Tanzania (near Mt. Kilimanjaro) to the Tanga district which is southeast. This district includes the city of Tanga which sits on the east coast of Tanzania on western side of the Indian Ocean. While you can tell that we are further south and near the sea by the change in temperature, we have not yet seen the Indian Ocean because we have spent the last two days traveling in the hills/mountains that rise up and separate most of Tanzania from the Indian Ocean. This is a very beautiful and fertile part of Africa. The hill sides are covered in lush vegetation where ever the land isn’t farmed. The majority of the land is covered by acres and acres of maize, tea bushes, and many other varieties of crops. I can’t even begin to image the effort that goes into scratching out a living in this area of the world. It reminds me a lot of the farming that I saw in the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal but on a much smaller scale as these hills certainly wouldn’t be considered mountains by Nepali standards. As we traveled over the bumpy, dusty, rutted, and washed out roads (that our little Suzuki 4X4 certainly wasn’t built for) I began to think of what the daily lives of most of the people we were seeing consisted of. Most of them simply get up each day and work the land so they can have enough food to harvest to pay for the very few things that they can’t make themselves from the land around them and still have enough food to eat throughout the year. Then I started thinking about the many similar people I have seen and preached to and taught in India and Nepal and how their lives really aren’t that much different. Then I began to think that in actual numbers…the vast majority of the world’s population lives their lives from day to day with very little hope for a better and more comfortable life. The thought of saving up extra money for a new I-phone or a bigger TV or a nicer car just isn’t even a possibility. It is so easy to lose touch with the fact that we Americans, even those who are middle class or below are rich beyond belief compared to the vast majority of the world.

The past few days have been packed with lots of travel and stories to tell. I will try to keep my summary short. On Sunday (8/29) Pastor Mayhew, Pastor Gurath and I traveled six hours by car from Arusha to Korogwe where we met pastor Gondwe at a roadside restaurant. Pastor Gondwe was a teacher in the seminary before all the trouble broke out. He is well versed in English and a wonderful communicator of God’s saving word. He is was blessed with the opportunity to meet an Anglican pastor a year ago who was troubled by the fact that the Anglican church now accepts and endorses the ordination of gay pastors. One thing led to another and Pastor Gondwe began to teach seminars to Anglican pastors up in the hills/mountains that surround the city of Tanga. For some reason this area was predominately evangelized by the Anglicans many years ago and so most of the churches are of this denomination. Currently, Pastor Gondwe is working with 45 Anglican congregations and 42 Anglican trained pastors who wish to become Lutheran. He is taking them through a thorough study of Christian doctrine and he reports that the pastors and members alike are thrilled to be learning the truth of God’s word since most of the teaching and sermons they were hearing before were not based upon Scripture. Praise the Lord for this wonderful opportunity to proclaim His truth!

After we left Korogwe we traveled up into the hills for about three hours over some of the worse roads I have ever seen outside of Nepal. We arrived at the mountain village of Kwamkole where Pastor Cecil (who was formerly with the LCEA) is the pastor. He is assisting Pastor Gondwe in instructing the Anglican pastors and congregations. We attended the service where to two men were being ordained as pastors. We then traveled about an hour to a Massai village to visit another congregation that pastor Gondwe oversees. This congregation is made up of Massai people who are the herders of Africa. They live out in the bush and raise cattle and stick to the old customs of their tribe. Slowly, these people are being brought to Christ. They were very excited to have us visit their stick wall church and share the Word of God with them.

By the time we returned to Kwamkole it was very late in the evening and after some discussion (most of which we couldn’t understand) we were told that we would be spending the night in the Kwamkole. We fully expected to be sleeping on the floor of Pastor Cecil’s home and believe me, after the many hours spent in the car we were OK with sleeping anywhere. As it turns out, Pastor Cecil is also quite the business man. He has constructed a small hotel behind his house that he rents out to traders who pass through town. We didn’t know this as they began to lead us out of his home and down a narrow path between buildings and then down a slope to what seemed in the dark to be some sort of barn or shed for the animals. It was dark with no electricity so we were being led by flashlight and you could hear the chickens and goats be shooed away as we approached. Much to our delight we were led into an enclosed structure with eight small and basic rooms with nothing more than a bed, a mosquito net, and a small battery operated lantern by the bed. Definitely not the Hilton, but not bad at all. The communal bathroom consisted of two rooms…the first one had a hole in the floor with a foot block on each side (a squat pot) and the other room had a big barrel of water and small bucket to scoop the water over body for a bath. We all slept incredibly well! The next morning we arose to a beautiful scene as we looked out over the mountain side where we had just spent the night.

The next morning (8/30) after our 7:00 am breakfast we were on the road again driving over some the worse roads known to man on our way to visit four congregations. About 15 minutes into our journey we came around a corner and suddenly stopped when we saw a motorcycle lying in the road. There were a few people standing around a man in the ditch. When we all got out to see what was going on we found a man sitting in the ditch with the nastiest wound I have ever seen. It was a gash just above his calf muscle on his right leg. The gash was probably about 10 inches long. He also had a either a dislocated shoulder or a cracked collar bone. Needless to say he was in pretty bad shape. As the locals gathered and discussed the various ways of getting the man down the mountain and to a doctor I grabbed my first aid kit and a clean t-shirt from my suitcase and bandaged his leg and arm. It seemed that the general conclusion was that he couldn’t ride a motorcycle so he would just stay there and wait for a lorry (truck) to come by. We were pretty insistent that we take him in our vehicle even if it meant that we would have begin walking until they could come back and get us. It was decided that the pastor who was with us would hop a ride on a motorcycle and the injured man could ride in the vehicle. We gave the man some pain reliever, got him loaded in the car and began the three hour ride over extremely bumpy roads to the hospital. They kept telling us that is wasn’t far. After about an hour and a half in the car we could see that the bandage was completely soaked with blood and there was a large pool of blood on the floor so we had them pull over so we could take another look. It seemed that he was losing a lot of blood so I used my belt to apply a loose tourniquet above his knee, hopefully this slowed the bleeding. When we arrived at the clinic they took him in right away and we went on our way to visit a congregation near Mobosa. We passed right by the clinic on our way back to the main road and we stopped in to see how he was doing. We were told it was a good thing we got him there but nothing more than that. I don’t even know his name, but he has certainly been in my prayers.

We were under the impression that the congregations we were to visit were fairly close together since we were supposed to visit four. As it turned out, our travel times were grossly misjudged because Pastor Gondwe uses a motorcycle to visit all of these 45 congregations in the mountains and he is able to travel much faster by avoiding the many big rocks that protrude in the middle of the road and the many washouts and other obstacles. He is also able to cut through the forests rather than stick to the main road. A long story short…we arrived the second congregation we were supposed to visit at 5:30 pm instead of 11:00 am as we were told. The congregation sat high in the mountains and is a former Anglican congregation that has joined the Tanga district of the CLC. They are very excited about what they are learning from God’s Word. They have begun constructing a new church building by making bricks themselves. They have the walls about three quarters of the way built. They would very much like some assistance from us for the roof once the walls have been completed. We felt really bad about being so late when we saw the joy in the hearts of God’s children as we approached their village. They met us about a couple of miles away from the village with singing and clapping and waving branches of leaves in the air as they formed a procession on the way to their village and their new church. It was quite a humbling experience so see their joy in the Lord and their commitment to serve Him when they have so little to begin with. The name of the village is Kissani…please remember them in your prayers.

After our brief visit at Kissani we drove 4 hours or so down through the mountains again, mostly all the way in the dark and then onto the city of Tanga. Pavement has never felt so good!

We checked into our low-budget hostel for the night, took much appreciated cold showers, and fell right asleep under our mosquito nets in spite of the clanging of pots and pans and other things right outside our window until late into the night.

The next morning (8/31) we gathered for an abbreviated Pastoral Training Seminar in Tanga with 20 pastors (mostly from the new hill congregations that have come over from the Anglican church through pastor Gondwe). The seminar was cut short due to travel constraints, the court hearing in Moshi, and the bus schedules. Our time in the Tanga district was cut short because of the unexpected death of Pastor Jeremiah’s niece. Unfortunately we only had time for one person to teach and pastor Gondwe thought it important to go over some of the differences in doctrine concerning the sacraments of the church so Pastor Mayhew (our part-time visiting missionary to East Africa) taught for two hours and then answered questions. A report on the work in the Tanga district was then read by Pastor Cecil. I addressed the group of 20 pastors (less than half in the district) on behalf of the CLC and our Board of Missions, applauding their zeal for the Gospel ministry and their love for the truth of God’s Word. Then I spent a bit of time explaining to them the expanse of work that the Lord has given us to do throughout the North America, India, Nepal, Burma, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and soon to add Zambia. They were a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to promise that we would be able to fund all their worthy goals, but I think they understood that the fellowship we share in the truth of God’s saving word is far more precious than the finances of this world and that the Lord will bless our joint efforts to defend and proclaim His truth.

Our trip back to Moshi that afternoon was pleasantly uneventful and on paved roads. The next morning (9/1) were up early to meet with the pastors of the Moshi and Himo districts to discuss the court hearing that was scheduled for 11:00 am. We discussed what might be asked and how their advocate/lawyer expected things to go. We walked out luggage down to the bus office and purchased tickets for the 11:30 bus with the assurance that they would wait for us. We arrived at the court house and met briefly with the advocate. He went over all the questions that I would be asked and then we compared notes to make sure that my testimony was ready. Within the first few minutes of the hearing the other side dropped their suit in light of the testimony that they expected to hear and asked for two weeks to re-file and new suit. I was told by the judge that since the suit was dropped, my testimony was not needed and she thanked me for coming. The advocate seems to think that this will most likely be the end of it. I was asked to make a written testimony with all the details we had discussed and to send it to them to be used when they make a

formal appeal to the Moshi District Land Tribunal to get the land registered in the name of the CLC. The pastors and members of the Himo congregation turned out in great numbers and were very pleased and happy that the suit against the pastors was dropped.

We hustled out the door of the court house and across the street and down to the main road where our bus said it would pick us up on the way out of town. We hopped on and headed to Arusha, about an hour away where we would catch the Impala express to Nairobi at 2:30 pm. We made it with plenty of time and even had a couple of minutes to make a quick email check in the lobby of the hotel where the bus departed from. Then it was 7 long hours on the bus. We arrived at our hotel in Nairobi around 10:00 pm, had a bite to eat, had a wonderful warm shower, and went to bed.

We arose bright and early to get ready for the East Africa CLC Pastoral Conference with pastors and evangelists from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda in attendance. We heard essays from two pastors and me along with devotions and singing today (9/2). We also enjoyed the opportunity to visit and get to know each other over tea breaks, lunch, and in the evening after our last essay.

Today we met from 8:00 till noon because many pastors had to catch a 1:00 pm bus back home. This afternoon we have nothing scheduled so we will spend some time looking into portable internet options for Pastor Gurath and I plan to check out a hostel called the Wildebeest Inn with an eye toward the 2012 Mission Helper Trip to East Africa.

We head to Etago and Kissi Kenya tomorrow (9/4) where we will attend worship service on Sunday (9/5). Our next stop will be Moi’s Bridge where I am sure the people of Emmaus Milimani Lutheran Church are anxiously awaiting the installation of Pastor Gurath as their temporary resident missionary for the next 6 to 13 months. It should prove to be an exciting few days. I am assuming that internet access will be sparse, so this might be the last you hear from me for a few days.

Remember to check out Pastor Mayhew’s blog at:

You can find Pastor Gurath’s blog at: