Great church service and the mountain

The church service was awesome. It was based on how easily we judge ourselves when we don’t get caught. More on that for sure.

One great point was that we teach our children to share then fail to share our resources for those in need.

Yesterday as we climbed the mountain we also picked up trash. It was a great feeling to leave the place better than we found it.

This has been an awesome team and an experience worth sharing. Just ask me when I return!

The picture is of the team with our trash!

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The summary of the first week in Africa

It’s very early in the morning. I don’t sleep well in all honesty. I didn’t sleep at home because there is always so much to do at work and in prep for this trip both mentally and physically. Now that I am in Africa the excuses should be gone but the results are the same. Today my lack of sleep comes from not knowing what lays ahead for us today as missionaries and on Mt Kilimanjaro next week.

To say that I am scared would be wrong but to say that I am less than anxious would also be wrong. As a Christian I have tried to prepare myself for the things I would see here and the experiences I would have. I have determined that I should probably do as we say in the Great Banquet: don’t anticipate just participate.

Below are the pictures I have been promising. A little story follows each one that in no way captures what God is trying to teach me but it will perhaps give you a taste of Africa and our lives in Kenya. Thanks for taking the time to read, for being great prayer partners (we did and continue to need them please) and for being you.

One thing for sure that has come from this trip is the power of relationship. The impact of a smile, a rolled eye, a questioning look, a hug of success or encouragement and a simple shared memory or experience seem to be far more significant than many of the things we would normally consider. Everything in Africa seems amplified – positive or negative. Perhaps i am just more in touch with reality as the day to day process of my normal life is put on hold. Again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you and love you dearly.

Here’s the trip thus far!

The beginning was the beginning! We had three planned connections from Indy and made exactly zero! Three days found us on four continents. As the picture pretty much sums up I was tuckered….but not from the physical part. I was exhausted because I put solving the problems of challenged air travel on my back. At each airport I negotiated our way to the next relying on my own ability to solve the problem (talking with my team, travel agent and anyone else that could help our plight) and not sincerely praying once that God would work it out. Sorry Father. We did arrive but our luggage did not – at least not yet.

(picture of me in the Istanbul airport – my first time to be on Asian soil. Won’t be my last! The people, air service and surroundings were great.)

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Interestingly enough, our Kenya based missionary Dave Bell and myself both had the same thought occur to us at the church service on Sunday after the luggage had been missing for three days. “This may not be about you Joe. It may be about others.” I couldn’t argue with Dave since God had placed the very same thought on my heart as well. I felt so little as I realized I had been frustrated with the absence of my tooth brush and undies. Poor me! Oddly, after recognizing my recognizing my attitude, the luggage showed up just a few hours later.

(Kailey and me outside of the church service)

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Much of this trip is around the building and Devlopment of sustained agriculture. Specifically inside of greenhouses. There are three phases: build the house, plant the house and manage the crops. We have done all three to different degrees. But there is more. There is also teaching the recipients to share at least 10% of the harvest with other orphanages or children’s homes and teaching them how to sell or trade the excess harvest for the other things they need.

(this is a picture of me getting to turn the water on for the very first time at a house planted a couple weeks ago by another CSI missionary team.)

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(This is our team building a greenhouse from the ground up. Certainly not in my normal skill set but I had great instructors!)

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(This is the inside of a greenhouse after the crops are coining in. It was planted last season. The greenhouse we put up this week marks the 18th house put up by one of our missionary teams)

The trip has been about the babies as indicated by the smile on my brides faces below. Actually the picture is missing but just envision Barb with the biggest smile you can! The missionaries protect the children at all cost and keep their pictures off the net.

It has been about the children who would otherwise be starving if the ministry were not here. The smiles in their eyes and the songs on their lips made my heart smile. The ministry matters my friends, Thanks for your support.

We have been able to go on a one day camera safari. Got to see a few of my favorite animals (14 species and a few birds!) Rhinos and warthogs are my favorite mammals though I would love to see a gorilla and an elephant at some point in the wild.

Enjoy the pictures my friends. I thank you again for the prayers and the support. As I learn more about myself and Africa I remain humbled to be where I am and to have what I have. Among my many blessings rest assured that you are one.

Each night we have devotions as a team. Last night was my turn. It is a message I teach my students at Purdue and try to remind my team. We have filters that we use to look at life. Sometimes those filters of judgment belong but other times we need to change our lenses. God is doing a good job adjusting the lenses this week!

We climb a practice mountain tomorrow to prepare as a team. Somewhere between 9-11,000 feet above sea level. (Yes I know that is a big difference but seem to have conflicting data at this point. Probably over the feet versus meters thing. Regardless it is nothing like Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet above sea level.) It will be a great time for the climbing team to learn to work together.

Embrace the day my friends. It is a day the Lord has given each of us.

Big Joe

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Big results – teaching to fish

Mission trips consist of many different attributes. Most who come to a country want to see the devastation, starvation and challenges that we can only imagine from home. These are the more common trips and change people’s hearts forever.

Other trips are designed to provide confidence for those who financially support the ministry efforts. We want to help ease the pain today but most importantly we want huge impact long term. Positive return on equity knowing that resources are limited is a fiduciary obligation and that is being met here.

This has been a trip of both but mostly the later. Sadly part of the tip feels sterilized because of changing political climates. The last month the violence has really picked up and fraud has become exposed. I am proud to say we have been able to see some long term results that truly matter.

The situation is tough especially for water. Assuming the spotty Internet works you should be seeing men at a water bore hole filling tanks of water most of us wouldn’t consider bathing in.

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We have also seen huge success. Both in the form of an orphanage of what would otherwise be starving children. We have also seen a greenhouse in action, planted a new one and built one from the ground up!

I can’t wait for you to see the pictures. I feel very safe, I am enjoying the team and the children and I am ready to face Kilimanjaro.

Talk to you again soon I hope and pray.

Big Joe

Church, comfy couches and extraordinary compassion

Day one was filled with slap happy missionaries playing with babies and walking through the local “neighborhood.” I felt no fear though I suppose I should have as we were warned to be on the look out. What I saw were very big eyes, all friendly blurting out their first American verse: “How are you?”

Truly most of the Kenyans speak some English if not fluent. Reminds me what Zig Ziglar pointed out: What do you call a person who can speak one language – trilingual; somebody who can speak two languages – bilingual; one language – American! I don’t mean it disrespectfully but it points out to how most of our lives we live in our comfort zone. I have been in more than 20 countries and can barely speak a few verses of anything other than Hoosier. I am not very adaptive and in part because I don’t have to be.

The church visit was interesting. First time I entered via security! The head of the US embassy attends that church and covers security. The embassy was leveled in 1998 and they still take security seriously. The sermon reminded me of foundation and how we can so easily loose perspective and get caught in the minutia. I will work more on that later.

Needless to say, we have many pictures to share, stories to relay and hopefully I can tell you what those big eyes are trying to say.

Andy Stanley talks of comfy couches and things we merely except as parts of our lives because they have been around so long. It appears to me much of the differences between the place I live and the place I am visiting rests in the acceptance of situation. How easily I could improve theirs – not the work but the situation. Interestingly enough I am sure they could do the same for me. “Worry about the plank in my own eye” seems applicable.

Be well my friends. More on greenhouse efforts tomorrow.

Zero delay and the ministry begins

We got to the hotel room last night and the hotel lost power five minutes later! Did come back on an hour later.

We had plans to rehydrate, get to know the team and catch up on a30 hour plane trip but God had different plans. We have already rescued an orphan this morning.

The picture below is a picture of a recent rescue with Barb and Mike. Love in their eyes.

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An the adventure begins

We left Indy for Chicago…..but didn’t make it! First the plane was delayed to bad weather then it hit birds and suffered damage. The young man at the counter after more than an hours effort put us on a plane to DC with no boarding passes or tickets! The thought being that we had a better chance from Dulles than Indy. He went out of the box (with my support) but we left the United booking system apparently.

I texted one of my staff who quickly contacted Karen the travel agent. They worked diligently (even though it was Karen’s day off) while we were in the air to find us an itinerary to get us back to Zurich to get to Nairobi but the Zurich part was impossible. We opted for Amsterdam! Hey no worries…we are flexible!

The agent at the counter at Dulles was less than pleased we had no boarding passes. After far more than an another hour of discussion (thank you Lord for delayed food service for the plane – apparently the right food went to Paris!) the ticket agent, supervisor and my travel agent all agreed that we were cleared to go to Amsterdam and fly to Nairobi on KLM. Yahoo!

For some reason they could only print my ticket at United but assured me the rest would be waiting upon our arrival. They we overly optimistic!

The United people in Amsterdam said they were now out of the loop and we were to head to KLM. KLM promptly pointed out I had a seat to Nairobi and the others should be fine but they weren’t. After another hour of discussion we were informed that United had messed up and KLM could do nothing. The agent at KLM jested that we could be here for a week. That wasn’t acceptable! Still not sure who really created the problem.

Back to the Untied booth with a new face. A nice lady with a huge smile. Mike and i kept our smiles on too. We told her the problem and she said she could fix it. Thus far she has! We are in Istanbul and leaving for Nairobi in a couple hours. The flight on Turkish Air was great. The airport nice but the currency a little different! We still have our longest flight left apparently. Istanbul to Nairobi.

I think we will make Nairobi but our bags never made it to Amsterdam. Please pray for them and for us to arrive safely, smiling and ready to do Kingdom work. On a side note, after we go through the check in to leave Amsterdam, we did indeed meet a missionary from Mexico who had been stuck in Amsterdam for an entire week! Honestly, rerouting seven passengers several times is a feet only accomplish by a very powerful force. Again Jesus, we thank you!.

(written at 6 pm Istanbul time. Who knows when it will load)

Intentional austerity versus forced austerity

Austerity is the big economic conversation in the world today especially in Europe. In simple terms it means to reduce the amount of money being spent today that provides social benefits like early retirement ages. It also means to live on less than you could for one reason or another.

Many “Grandparent historians” (people who lived through a particular time usually as a child and with clouded understanding) will tell you that the era of World War II was a period of austerity in the United States and they would be accurate. But the misconception is that people had no money to but things where in reality cash was abundant for many Americans. What was not abundant were things to buy. All possible supplies went to the war effort – either our boys or to France and England to fight the enemy.

People recall as children their parents needed four tires but could only buy one. The assumption was they could only afford one but that was usually far from accurate. It was called rationing and made the American savings rate surge. It was painful and frustrating I am sure to have the financial resources to acquire what you “needed” and yet not be able to buy them. This delayed gratification helped propel the US to economic stability and to become the financial juggernaut as the worlds premiere and dominant economy. (Sadly today our savings rate is closer to negative but recorded near 3% versus the 25% during the war time era.)

As we embark on Kenya my family will experience austerity in a similar fashion. I have found myself on mountains wishing I had this or that – usually food or water – and not been able to acquire them at any price but I have never been a place where I wanted something, could in theory afford to buy it and yet not be able to do so. My children have certainly never seen such a time.

As we pack and prepare for the journey I find myself trying to pack every conceivable want or need into our luggage and yet at the same time fully hope that we will experience the “I wish I had….” moments.

I contend the the biggest human emotions, actions or beliefs that lead to personal peace and happiness are the ability to truly forgive others for their transgressions and to intentionally count our own blessings. I may not learn about forgiveness in Kenya or on Mt Kilimanjaro but I am willing to bet we all learn to be more grateful for the little things we have in our lives.