Welcome!

Welcome to my blog!  If you’re here for the first time, we are missionaries living in Meru, Kenya.  You can learn more about us on my About Me page.

Make use of the categories to the right…you can select Reflections for life lessons (or musings), and Bible Study for content I am sharing as an extension of our work in Kenya – Njia Nyembamba (Narrow Way in Kiswahili).  There are also some travelogues from our travels in Europe and Africa over the past 15 years.  Thank you for visiting!

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Matthew Study Part 2 – An Overview of the Gospels

Matthew Bible Study

When there is a big event, we tend to read different news articles about it.  For example, for major events in Kenya or East Africa, I may like to see reports from one of the national papers like Daily Nation, BBC for a global perspective, and perhaps a couple of USA-based reports such as CNN.  Why?  Because each offers a different viewpoint and different intended audiences, that when put together can offer a complete picture of the event and its impact on the world community.

The four Gospels give us similar differing perspectives.  As I mentioned in our first session, when doing Biblical studies, it is helpful to understand when a book was recorded (and history surrounding it), who wrote it, and the target audience.  Although our study is in Matthew, occasionally I will refer to other books for a different viewpoint.  The following is a summary of the basic facts about each Gospel.  This is a very abbreviated list…if you want to take a deeper look, please contact me, and I’ll give you more resources.

 

Matthew

The Author: Matthew (Greek name) or Levi (Hebrew name) – a Jewish tax collector who was recruited to be one of Jesus’ twelve disciples (see Matthew 9:9-12; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32).  Several passages clue us that he was likely from Capernaum, Jesus’ home base for ministry.

Timeframe: Written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70.  Most scholars believe it was written between AD 50 and 60, so may have been the first Gospel penned.

Purpose and Audience: Matthew was written by a Jew for a Jewish audience, focusing on Jesus as the promised Messiah and King.  Many Jewish customs are unexplained, assuming a familiarity with ceremonies, practices and teachings.

Remnants of Capernaum, at the north end of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus recruited many of His disciples. (Source: BibleWalks.org)

Remnants of Capernaum, at the north end of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus recruited many of His disciples. (Image Source: BibleWalks.com)

Mark

The Author: John (Jewish name) Mark (Roman name) was involved from the church’s infancy, was was likely giving a self-portrait as the youth mentioned in Mark 14:51-52.  His mother’s home was where the early Jerusalem church met, and some scholars propose it was the location of the Last Supper.   He accompanied Barnabus (his cousin), Paul and Peter in their missionary journeys.  (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37, 39; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13).  Early church historians document Mark’s account was that of Peter’s.

Timeframe: Many scholars believe Mark wrote the Gospel in Rome under Peter’s supervision.  Peter is thought to have arrived in Rome sometime after AD 60 (otherwise Paul would have included him in greetings in Romans), and was executed by Nero around AD 65-67.  I’ve seen a large range of possible dates, but most scholars seem to agree Mark was penned between AD 57-68.

Purpose and Audience: Mark was written from Rome for gentile Christians (especially Romans) facing persecution under the Roman emperor Nero.  His gentile focus and intended audience outside of Judea is apparent in his explanations of Jewish customs and local geography.  Mark’s action-packed account was concerned more with impact, and thus was not a strictly historical narrative as Matthew and Luke were, which is why the order of events may vary from the other Gospels.  His focus was on Jesus’ suffering as a servant who also conquered life and death, giving early Christians encouragement to endure persecution with the hope of Jesus’ triumphant return.

Luke

The Author: Luke was a Gentile physician who joined Paul on his second missionary journey at Troas (note change from “they” to “we” between Acts 16:7 and 16:10).  Early historians record that Luke was from Antioch in Syria, and may have been exposed to the Gospel at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26), but by Paul’s second missionary journey may have been dwelling in either Troas or Philippi (see map).  At the least, Acts shows a lot of interest and familiarity with Philippi, and Luke apparently remained in Philippi from Acts 17 to instruct the infant church, and later rejoined Paul at Troas (Acts 20:13).  He accompanied Paul to Jerusalem just before his imprisonment, and was with Paul on his journey to Rome when he appealed to Caesar.  It is likely Luke remained in Judea during Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea (between AD 57-59), and used his proximity to Galilee, Jerusalem, and Antioch to conduct personal interviews and research for the content of Luke and Acts.

Timeframe: Acts concludes with the first Roman imprisonment of Paul, so the earliest Acts could have been written was AD 62.  The book of Luke predated Acts (the “previous account” referred to in Acts 1:1), so is thought to have been written between AD 60 and 62, after utilizing the years of Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea under the Governors Felix and Festus (Acts 23:23 to 27:2) for collecting first-hand accounts (Luke 1:1-3).

Purpose and Audience: Both Luke and Acts were dedicated to “Theophilus,” which means in Greek, “friend of God.”  Theophilus could have been a pseudonym for early Christians, or more likely an actual person – possibly a Roman dignitary – referred to as “most excellent” in Luke 1:3.  Theophilus may have even been a member of Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22), or the one who funded the production of Luke’s two volumes.  The purpose of Luke was very clear, “to write an orderly account…that you may know with certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:3-4).  It was written by a Gentile for gentiles.  His perspective as a physician is apparent, with a lot of attention in both books to illnesses and healing.  He was well-educated, using a formal version of Greek similar to that of classical literary works and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament).

The eastern Mediterranean in the 1st Century - note the location of Troas, Philppi, Antioch of Syria, and Ephesus.

The eastern Mediterranean in the 1st Century – note the location of Troas, Philppi, Antioch of Syria, and Ephesus.

John

The Author: The disciple John, brother to James and son of Zebedee.  His family had a flourishing fishing business on the Sea of Galilee, evidenced by the presence of hired servants, multiple boats, and business partners Andrew and Peter (Luke 5:1-9, Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20).  John’s mother Salome may have been Mary’s sister, which would have made John Jesus’ cousin (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, John 19:25).  John’s position in the Last Supper would have been taken by the youngest of the disciples, and he was thought to be at least 10 years younger than Jesus.  Jesus gave John the responsibility of caring for Mary at his crucifixion, and they initially dwelled in Jerusalem until they left before the Romans invaded the city and destroyed the temple around AD 70.  Early historians record that John moved to Ephesus (see map – western present-day Turkey), and remained there until he died of natural causes (close to AD 100) after returning from his exile to the island Patmos (thought to be AD 95-96).

Timeframe: The book of John is thought to have been written before his exile, around AD 85-95, when John was already an old man.  The Gospel gives a unique perspective of a disciple who had many years to ponder Jesus’ teachings, and to highlight the essence of who Jesus was – specifically his preexistence and deity.

Purpose and Audience: Since the other Gospels had been circulated years before, John did not seek to duplicate their content; in fact 93% of the book of John is not included in the other Gospels.  The purpose of the book is clearly stated in John 20:31, “…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  John was written with gentiles in mind, using elements of Greek philosophy in the prologue and offering explanations for Jewish customs, names, and locations that would have been unknown to gentile readers.  John’s other books (I, II, III John, Revelation) also reveal struggles within the early church to battle rampant false teachings; John specifically addresses facts about Jesus to refute some of these beliefs threatening to degrade the true Gospel.

 

Next Lesson:

The historical and political background of Judea at the time of Jesus

 

Sources:

The Nelson Study Bible, 1997

Erdman’s Handbook to the Bible, 1973

The Life of Christ (part one), Generation Word

Exploring Acts, John Phillips, 2001

Exploring the Gospel of John: An Expository Commentary, John Phillips, 2001

 

Categories: Bible Study, The Book of Matthew | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Matthew Part 1 – Study Resources and Tips

Matthew Bible Study

Welcome to our Bible study of Matthew!  

When I disciple a new group, I really like to start with the Gospels.  What better place to start than the words of Jesus?  I especially like Matthew because it is very comprehensive in the actual teachings of Jesus.  So many phrases from Matthew we’ve been able to quote since grade school, but familiarity can sometimes cloud our eyes.  I want to take a fresh look at them within context and an understanding of history, culture and the original language, and I hope each of you will view old familiar passages in a new and powerful way.

Before we get started, I want to give a good foundation for this and other Bible studies you may do.  It is my goal that those of you who are joining me will not be simply students, but that I will be equipping you to be teachers yourselves.

What is the difference between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea?  The Sea of Galilee has both fresh water sources and an outlet – the Jordan River.  The Dead Sea only takes in water, but never releases it except by evaporation, and the resulting toxic levels of salts make it unable to support life.  As Christians, if we only receive teachings, but never share them, we become stagnant.  My challenge to you is to study and learn with the goal of discipling another who is not as far along in their walk as you.  You will find your own reservoir will grow and flourish as a result.  And believe me, nothing challenges you more to grow in your walk than guiding another!

One thing I will stress in our study is the importance of proper interpretation and application of the Scriptures.  Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

 

1. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit as you read.

Who better to help you interpret the Scriptures than the author!

  • II Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
  •  Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (ESV)
  • John 14:23; 25-26 If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (NKJV)
  • John 16:13-15 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you. (NIV)

 

2. Read Scriptures in context.

Each word is part of a sentence, which is part of a paragraph, which is part of a book, which is part of the entire message of the Bible (see point #7)! No interpretation should contradict the entire message, and other scriptures as a whole should help interpret the passage you are looking at.  Jesus gave us an example to follow in Matthew 4:6-7…even the devil can use scriptures, but Jesus refuted his misinterpretation with another scripture.  Can I say it again?  Context is one of the most important things to consider to avoid being misled!

 

3. Consider the original language/vocabulary and differences in translations.

If you’re reading an English Bible, that’s not the original language! The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with a small amount of Aramaic) and the New Testament was written in Greek.  For any of you who speak more than one language, you know that it is not always easy to explain words and concepts from one language to another.  Different Bible translations approach this in different ways.  See the table below:

Comparison of different English Bible translations

Comparison of different English Bible translations

Translations such as the Good News Bible seek to convey the message behind the actual text, and paraphrase it to make it easier to understand.  The New American Standard and King James/New King James versions intended to be a more literal translation from the original language.  But even the literal translations are limited – sometimes you need more than one English word to translate the rich vocabulary of Greek and Hebrew, and that’s where the Amplified Bible comes in.  Then, right in the middle, is the New International Version.

What do I use?  I use New King James and my husband uses New American Standard as our primary reading Bibles, but when we teach, we use all the versions listed above, in addition to a lexicon (I’ll discuss in a moment).  It is important to get other perspectives, and I like referring to versions like Good News when I need to bring difficult concepts down to a child’s level. If you are teaching the Word, I highly recommend investing in at least one of the translations on the “literal” end.  As we get deeper in our study, you will see why it is so terribly important to be as close to the original language as possible.  (Note: there are several different copyright dates of Bible versions – for example 1975 verses 1985 – which accounts for slight variation between the different sources, depending on which one they are accessing.)  This PDF handout has several website and mobile device resources you can use as tools in your personal study.

Bible Study Handout (PDF)

If you really want to get deep in your studies – learn how to use a Lexicon.  This is basically a dictionary of the words in the Bible, categorized by a Strong’s Number, which was assigned to each word root (prefixed by G for Greek, H for Hebrew).  The handout above has resources for online concordances (word lookup) and lexicons.  One of my favorite tools I use on my smartphone is MySword (Android) and eSword for PC/Apple.  If you go to the KJV+ included for free in your download, each word has a Strong’s number hyperlink where you can view both Strong’s and Thayer’s lexicon references for that word.  For e-Sword, the initial download includes tons of commentaries, historical references, maps, images, etc., all for free.  The included Bible versions are a bit limited, but you can pay to add your favorites for about the price of a basic hardcopy Bible.  We also really like Blue Letter Bible for online – I linked straight to the “How to Get Started” page since it requires a bit of explanation the first time you use the advanced tools.  (They also have an institute with free seminary classes – BLBi.org.)

 

4. Consider the historical framework, culture, and life circumstances of the main characters and intended audience.

This step can require a bit of research! Did you pay attention in your World History class?  I’m currently teaching my son history, and it has been so helpful for me as I get to review Egyptian, Babylonian, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman cultures.  Sometimes we can be very ethnocentric, with little knowledge of other cultures across the world.  To understand and apply biblical truths, we really need to have a broader understanding of what the main characters of the passage were encountering in the world around them.

Note that a cultural awareness can encompass both the historical context and the language.  For instance, several verses contain idioms – or common sayings at the time – that cannot be correctly interpreted without an explanation of the meaning behind it.  If you have a Bible with commentary, it can really help.  You can also find resources with commentary linked above.

 

5. Understand there are Biblical genres – or types of writings.

The Bible includes history/narrative (including the Gospels), the Mosaic Law, wisdom, poetry/psalms, prophecy and letters, among other categories. Letters are especially important to look at with understanding of context…an epistle may be written to establish doctrine, guide or correct a particular church with an issue they are having, express needs – sometimes all of the above – and others are simply personal correspondences which are windows into early church life that give us examples of godly relationships and interactions.  For a more in-depth explanation of genre categories and advice on how to interpret them, see this link:

http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=31435

Why do we need to understand the genre?  There are a lot of things that are documented in the Bible that are most definitely not an example for us to follow, especially when we lift passages out of context and/or combine one passage/genre with another.  A great example my husband likes to use:

…and he [Judas] went away and hanged himself…Go, and do likewise.  One is from Matthew 27:5, historical narrative, and the other is Luke 10:37, Jesus’ teachings.  It’s pretty silly, isn’t it?  But how many things are taken out of context, used to justify what one wants to hear and believe?

There is one particular passage in III John verse 2 that we hear all the time as justification for the belief that God intends to give us anything we wish for: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”  First of all, the word “prosper” (NKJV, NIV) is often misinterpreted to mean riches…if you go to the original Greek, it means more to have a good journey – or to succeed in reaching goals – than it does material wealth and fame.  Second, this is a letter, from one person to another.  We’re reading someone else’s mail!  In fact, this was a very common style of greeting between friends in the 1st Century.  My husband jokes about this – if he sends an SMS to a friend saying, “I hope you and your business are doing well” – should others pick it up and parade it as a promise from God?

 

6. Approach your reading like a journalist – ask who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Not only will asking these questions help you keep things in context, understand the intended audience and even the historical background, it will poise you to glean the most you can from the Scriptures. I also recommend keeping a journal to write down something that spoke to you from your reading…it can be as brief or as long as you like.  I find when you are looking for something special to document, it helps you to read actively, expectantly, rather than drudging through an exercise to check it off for the day.

 

7. When you read, keep the big picture in mind.

Did I mention context? Just kidding…I think I did on every point!  Remember that the Bible is a collection with one unified purpose: to show God’s character and His ultimate plan for our salvation.  When you step back and look at it as a whole, you see Jesus, from the very first words in Genesis (John 1:1-5) to the end of Revelation.  It is a love story between the Creator and the creation (I John 4:9).  It is the story of a world destroyed by sin, of broken people living broken lives, and a perfect Savior who sacrificed His life redeem us and restore us to a right relationship with Him (Romans 5:18, 6:23).  It is a story of people who had faith in God, and endured numerous hardships, torture, and death with the hope of the promised eternal reward (Hebrews 11-12, Romans 8:18-25), and encouragement from Jesus Himself to persevere to the end (Revelation 22).  Amen!

And one final tip: don’t be afraid to write in your Bible. 

A pastor friend of ours always asks for the Bible of the deceased when He prepares for a funeral.  What better way to have insight into the favorite passages and testimony of a person than to follow their breadcrumbs through the pages of their favorite Bible?  Mine is like a cross between a textbook, manual, teaching reference, and old friend!  I write down insights I picked up in studies, deeper Hebrew/Greek word meanings, cross references to related passages, and reference to a commentary or quotation so I don’t have to search all over for “where did I read that?”  Many people like to document dates and circumstances when they read something that really spoke to their lives – when you read it again later, it is wonderful to remember promises that were fulfilled and difficult times God carried you through.  It’s your Bible!  But if you do make annotations, I suggest doing it in a fine pencil, and leave room for other notes in the future.

So get acquainted with some of the resources I gave you, get a journal/notepad ready, and let’s dig in to the scriptures!

 

Next Lesson: Overview of the Gospels

Categories: Bible Study, Bible Study Resources, The Book of Matthew | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mid-2015 Already???

For those of your that check regularly (I’m so sorry Enken!), it’s been a REAAAALY long time since I’ve posted! Some of that is because after 3 years in Kenya, the days start to look the same. Yep, got up, fed the chickens, fed the dog & cat, did laundry, taught Riley science and history, fixed whatever is broken today in the car/house/farm, worked on the computer, went to town with family to [insert ministry activity here], came back at dark, closed the chicken house, fed the dog/cat, fixed dinner, checked Facebook, read a book, and crashed. The truth is, I’m usually so worn out at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is spend time on the computer composing! (The paucity of FB posts lately really highlight that!)  Dale’s schedule has been even crazier – he also teaches Riley’s other subjects, and heads to town for most of the day leading Bible studies, providing a listening ear and spiritual counsel to people who request it, and coordinating tons of other missions/ministries.

It has indeed been a busy year filled with ups and downs. God blessed us with the resources to finally purchase a 4WD vehicle earlier this year – a 1989 Land Rover Defender 110 – but it was a project! Riley and I spent over a month gutting the inside, cleaning years of caked dust and mud, painting the interior, and troubleshooting/rewiring all the electronics. We were in a hurry to get it back together and working in time for the rainy season in late March, and finished on the very day it started dumping on us! It was so much fun to conquer the giant hill by our house after a day and night of solid rain without the slightest hesitation! Our days dreading the rain are finally over!

Sandi by steering wheel

It took forever to troubleshoot the electronics…it took me a couple of weeks just to find an elusive short circuit! I had to rewire several things, install relays, and repair the whole ignition circuitry.

 

chickens in the Land Rover

I had the back gate open on the Rover, and the rooster tried to convince one of our hens it was the perfect place for a nest!

 

Riley and Sandi in the Land Rover

Our first drive in the Rover after we finished a month of electronics work.  The Warthog (“Pumba”) conquered the mud!

But…the engine was in such bad shape, we really couldn’t wait any longer to do an overhaul. Riley and I removed the hood, front bumper, and radiator, as well as any other parts we could remove in preparation for a good friend of ours and his team of two other mechanics that came to strip down the engine, re-machine the cylinders, and rebuild it with new parts. I was underneath the car replacing the exhaust system, installing new seat belts, and fabricating brackets to secure the rear seats better. In only a week, we were back up and running with a good-as-new engine! It took us a few more weeks to work out all the kinks – problems with the carburetor and the distributor, but as of now, everything is finally running great.

gutted Land Rover

What a Rover looks like with the entire front gutted so our mechanics could pull out the motor for the overhaul.

 

Immediately after the engine overhaul, our whole family was super busy preparing for the mission team coming in June from our home church, Highland Baptist in Moore, Oklahoma. One of the things we planned to do was start building a playground for the Ark Children’s Home. We got an arc welder, and Riley and I taught ourselves how to weld so we could fabricate as much as possible before the team arrived. That was a big job with lots of cutting and welding!  We also had to repair the damaged safari rack that came with the Land Rover so we could use it to carry Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes to a remote location for one of our missions.

dirty face

Metalworking is dirty business! I did all the cutting, and Riley did much of the welding.

 

Riley and playground steps

Riley did an awesome job learning how to weld! Here he is tacking steps to a platform that will have a slide and fire pole.

 

Our mission team arrived mid-June, and we had two jam-packed weeks with a pastor’s seminar, a worship seminar, an OCC mission, playground-building activities, and school missions.  Since Dale and I were providing all the transportation, we were the first ones up, and the last ones home each day…whew!  Although tiring, it was a great time, and opened even more doors to ministry.

Land Rover with boxes

All the work was worth it! The safari rack and Land Rover both ready for duty on an OCC mission into the interior.

 

The HBC mission team posing with all the Ark Home and Macecall Children.

The HBC mission team posing with all the Ark Home and Macecall Children.

July was our time to catch up…our living room had resembled a cross between a mad scientist’s lab and a garage, and an inch (almost literally!) of dust had crept onto every exposed flat surface throughout the house.  Our shamba (garden) was completely overgrown, weeds were everywhere, and all the bushes were out of control!  I finally did the major pruning job on the mango trees that I’ve needed to do for a couple of years.  But…in doing so, I officially pushed the tendinitis that’s been plaguing my elbow for a couple of months over the edge.  So I’m in a very frustrating “time out” from hundreds of projects I need to be doing!  (Right now I can barely hold my coffee cup without pain.)  Why do overuse injuries take so stinking long to heal???

But…since I can’t be outside working, I’m finally getting back to writing.  I spent a couple of weeks working on graphics to “rebrand” my blog.  I plan to be writing a lot of devotionals (Reflections category) with life lessons from living over here.  If you want to stay up on the posts, be sure to subscribe using the link in my right sidebar.  Let me know if you’re reading – it’s always encouraging to know posts are not disappearing into cyber-nether, never to be found!

One of the ministry doors that opened through our mission team was a group of young women that realized they wanted “meat” – to really learn the scriptures. They asked me to come teach them – that is exactly the discipleship opportunity I’ve been praying for.  So about four weeks ago, I started going every Tuesday, teaching them in depth, starting with Matthew. You’ll see posts here (categorized under Bible Study) as I duplicate content for those who couldn’t make it. (Ladies, feel free to join our conversation and get updates on our Facebook Group page – Njia Nyembamba, which is Kiswahili for Narrow Way. I could use some active communicators on the group!)

So, I think that pretty much catches everyone up on our activities this year so far!  Stay in touch!

Categories: Meru Life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

To Nairobi and Back

I has already been 3 months, and time to extend our Visas so we can stay in Kenya.  Unfortunately, that requires a trip all the way to Nairobi!  But I was kind of looking forward to this one. We had been living with some plumbing and electrical challenges, I was really looking forward to enjoying some modern conveniences and purchasing hard-to-find items in the “big city.”

We had an uneventful drive descending through the lush, curvy mountain roads to Embu, past the rice fields of Mwea, then onto the awesome Thika super highway.  (I wish there was much more of that!)

We went straight to the Yayo House for immigrations…I think a better name would be the “Yo-Yo” house! We went to window 8 first, then were told to go to window 6.  Window 6 said we really needed to be at window 5.  Window 5 said we needed to get something at window 4, then back to window 5.  We were sent to window 3 to pay a fee, then 2 when she was too busy and the other guy was sitting doing nothing, back to window 5, then we were sent to window 1, and waited until we were called back to go down the hall for fingerprinting and registering again as aliens.  Then back to window 1 to be told we went through all that and wouldn’t even be able to pick up cards for 6 weeks!  I think we only missed window 7!  Maybe next time, LOL, but we were certainly ready to live that place and get to our hotel for much-needed rest and relaxation!

We were sent to all but two immigration windows at Yayo House.

We were sent to all but one immigration window at Yayo House.

Our adventures with the van began on our way to our hotel, all the way across town in rush-hour traffic.  It started overheating, and a safety in the engine makes it die if it crosses the mid-point on the thermometer.  Bummer!

We finally made it to our rooms on the west side…we had rooms reserved at a guest house that we were told had much better rates – only $25 per adult, but were a bit disappointed.  We were first brought to a room with 4 bunk beds and shared bathroom, even though we thought reservations were made for a family room with private bath…hardly the restful reclining we intended on.  The management thankfully moved us to another room with private bath, but 3 separate beds.  It was okay.  The simple buffet dinner was also less than stellar, especially when we found out we were charged 1000 ksh each!  (We could eat a large meal at a restaurant for under 600 ksh.)

We planned on leaving the next morning, but first wanted our engine checked out.  Kenya AA came with a couple of mechanics, and they pointed out a couple of issues – the radiator lid was jerry-rigged, and the hoses were crimped so much that flow was reduced (they weren’t curved like they should be).  The mechanics were going to try to find appropriate parts for us since we didn’t know the town, but they called about an hour later saying they wouldn’t make it back.  Oh well.  🙁

So we made the decision to stay another day in Nairobi and try to find the parts on our own.  It was a wonderful diversion…we found the hose we needed, and we found a great shopping center where we parked much of the day.  We got to shop for some household goods that we haven’t been able to find in Meru, eat some awesome Asian food, and even catch the new Star Trek movie at the cinema.  What a treat!  We switched hotels to one we knew was good – Gracehouse Resort – and had the most awesome tender beef we’ve ever had in Kenya!

We left the next morning, thinking our vehicle woes were over.  We decided to take the route west of Mt Kenya since it was less curves and fewer speed bumps.  We did pretty good until Kiganjo, where we overheated again and the van died.  We limped into the town itself, and AA met us again, and led us to a shade-tree mechanic to troubleshoot.  They ended up taking the entire radiator out to unclog, and we finally found a stock radiator cap.  After killing most of the day there, it was becoming too late to make the trip all the way back to Meru, so we decided to drive just a little further and stay in Nyeri at the White Rhino, which just happened to be across from the AA office.  It’s too bad it was already dark when we arrived – this hotel had a lot of charm.  It was here I finally got to accomplish one of my goals for the Nairobi trip – take a bath in a bathtub!  For a couple of months we were bathing with about a gallon of warm water in a bucket…I dreamed of soaking in a nice tub, and yes, it was great!

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We finally made the last leg of our journey the next day (unexpected hotel fees were really racking up!).  We did good all the way to Nanyuki, and even got our first glimpse of wildlife other than monkeys!  We saw some zebras grazing alongside cattle in the high plains south of Naro Moru.  Past Nanyuki the van started acting up again with some long steep climbs before we started the big descent to Meru.  The van died in the countryside west of Timau.  We finally gave up and made some phone calls, and a friend agreed to come tow us home.  But he apparently had his own vehicle problems on his way, plus he had to have a welder make a towbar since the downhill sections would be tricky with a rope.  So “just a little while” stretched to hours…and hours.  Thankfully we were just across from a little roadside stand.  One of the sweet women came to check on us and ask if we were okay.  We expected help soon, but when it was delayed, I decided to go pass the time talking with these ladies!

It was a lesson for me to take time and be in the moment.  We were frustrated beyond description, but the time I spent sitting at that stand talking with those women was really rewarding.  They had fresh deliveries of peas from the farmers, and I helped them shuck them into buckets to sell to customers.  Riley eventually joined me.  I also did my best Vanna White impersonation as people pulled up, exclaiming “We have wonderful potatoes!”  I got a few chuckles at the muzungus helping sell vegetables!  We also had several children (out of school for teacher strikes) that sat beside us and also decided to help with the peas.

Shucking peas at a roadside vegetable stand west of Timau.  It turned out to be a rewarding exchange of culture in an otherwise frustrating day!

Shucking peas at a roadside vegetable stand west of Timau. It turned out to be a rewarding exchange of culture in an otherwise frustrating day!

Finally our help arrived just as the sun was setting, and we started a slow drive back to Meru.  We had some interesting detours and got to see some new locations, but we were sooooooooo ready to be home!  I think that was the longest anyone has taken to get back to Meru from Nairobi!

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Riley’s Video

Some friends of ours in Oklahoma wanted a video of Riley talking about his life as a missionary kid here in Meru to show to a Vacation Bible School.  We tried to capture a varied view of our daily life, including our ministry work and a tour of our property.  If you can get past the poor audio quality (I couldn’t find a decent mic to use!), you’ll hear Riley was a complete natural narrator!  Hope you all enjoy this glimpse of our lives here!

Riley’s Tour of Meru from TroupTravels on Vimeo.

Categories: Kenya, Meru Life | 2 Comments

Getting Settled

We’re back in Kenya and getting settled again.  I knew I was missing it, but it really hit me when we arrived how much…the moist breeze laden with the aromas of damp soil and flowers, the lush green fields (especially now during rainy season), and the rolling hillsides of the mountainous area we call home.

Simon – a friend of ours everyone here calls “Soldier” – picked us up at the airport in his Toyota van, the same type as the numerous “matatus” that ferry travelers between cities.  It was pretty late when we left the airport, and as we drove home, I was treated with views of the afternoon sun hitting the wide open rice fields in the Mwea region, and hillsides dotted with tea farms and banana plantations as we climbed the winding slopes of Mount Kenya.  After sunset, we had a full moon to light our way.  It was magical as I drifted in and out of sleep as the cool breeze caressed my face and hair.  It’s good to be back!

Categories: Meru Life, Reflections | Leave a comment

Whirlwind Tour

I write this after a shift driving from Omaha, Nebraska to Colorado Springs with the mountains just barely coming into view northeast of Denver.  We’re getting in just before perhaps the last big blizzard of the season, and we can tell a storm is brewing!  We’re getting blasted by a 30 mph southerly wind and tumbleweeds are, well…tumbling…across the road.  It’s become a game to see if we can hit one.  I think we need to paint tumbleweed “kills” on our car’s nose art.

rental car with nose art

In the tradition of famous WWII aircraft, I had a little fun and added “nose art” for our little rental car. We had four tumbleweed “kills”…one short of being an ace!

We’re rounding out with over 3,000 miles of driving through 7 states: Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska – the first time I’d even been in the last two!  Nebraska was surprisingly scenic as we followed the Platte River on I-80…so far the least boring way to cross the Midwest of three different routes we’ve used.  It kind of brings our journey full circle…the Platte River headwaters are just north of Dale’s parents’ cabin in Southpark.  We also got to witness one of the global wonders of wildlife – the half-million strong Sandhill Crane migration.

sandhill crane

The beautiful sandhill crane (click image for more info)

It’s been a wonderful tour visiting with friends and family.  Thank you so much to everyone for your hospitality and generosity.  We are so excited to return to Kenya with your donations to buy Bibles and other necessities for the children we are serving.

We want to specifically thank our long-time friends the Smiths in Norman, OK, the Meek family in Moore, OK, my high school friend Carrie and her family in Rogersville, MO, and finally our former neighbors the Raders in Omaha, NE for so graciously opening their homes.  Without your hospitality we could never afford to travel so extensively.

I’m grateful to have so many new partners in our ministry.  We hope that you will all keep us in your prayers, and we look forward to seeing many of you in Kenya soon!  Here’s a few pics from our travels:

boy with dogs

Riley ended up sharing his bed with some very large but friendly dobermans at the Smith’s house.

goose sitting on next

An unlikely place for a Canada Goose to nest – a large planter right in downtown Oklahoma City!

The famous mobile radars used in research all over the world at the National Weather Center.

The famous mobile radars used in research all over the world at the National Weather Center.

weather globe

This was a very cool feature at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma. It was a 6 ft diameter globe with several projectors displaying the satellite image from a couple of days. The image rotated, making it look like the earth was turning! Really a cool feat of technology! Click on the image for more info.

SR-71

The SR-71 Blackbird, a super-fast high-reconnaissance aircraft at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland, Nebraska.

slide

A little-known treasure in downtown Omaha, Nebraska – an awesome public slide. We brought wax paper to sit on, and my first time down, I was airborne over that little bump in the middle!

The Rader family, our good friends from Oklahoma, now living in Omaha.

The Rader family, our good friends from Oklahoma, now living in Omaha.

Categories: Travelogue, United States | Leave a comment

Turning a New Leaf

As we have shared with many of you, we’re about to turn a new chapter in our ministry in Kenya.  As I told in earlier posts, we originally went to serve with a non-profit organization serving the community in Meru, Kenya called the Miriam Kanana Mubichi Foundation (MKMF).  We were going to volunteer our services in exchange for MKMF providing housing and coordinating our immigration permit required to stay in country.  We were originally told by the provincial immigration office that as volunteers we would qualify as missionaries, with a low permit fee.  Unfortunately, when we went to Nairobi to turn in our paperwork, we discovered we had to instead apply as employees of a non-government organization (NGO). There were some recent price increases and policy changes that made the permit unreasonably expensive for volunteers, nearly $5,000 for the permits and paperwork processing.  MKMF was unable to support us, and it was apparent this door was closing shut with no options in sight.

We spent a lot of time in prayer, asking God if He really wanted us in Kenya, and if so, to show us the way.  We both felt confirmed in our hearts that God indeed wanted us to stay in Meru.  We already had a good network of friends and had a strong heart for the community, especially the orphans and vulnerable children.

God laid on our hearts individually that we needed to talk to Ark Home, a children’s home on the north side of Meru.  We had met Alfred Muthomi the very first time we went to Trinity Chapel, and met his wife Maggie (the home’s director) a couple of times.  As far as I knew, Ark Home was also an NGO, so we would be in the same situation with immigration, but we went to talk with them anyway.

Alfred and Maggie Muthomi

Alfred and Maggie Muthomi

As Alfred and Maggie shared about the work they were doing, we felt we had found a home.  We had the same heart for the children, and most of all, a desire to give them the spiritual grounding to help them succeed as godly leaders.  They shared about a ministry they are starting called Macecall, (pronounced “mah-se-call“) which stands for “Macedonian Call” – the vision Paul had to bring the word to Europe (Acts 16:9-10).  Alfred and Maggie separately had this vision in mind, representing the needy children asking for them to bring God’s love and teaching.  God’s timing was perfect…the Muthomis were trying to decide how to register the organization.  We were able to approach them with our need to serve as missionaries, and that settled the question!

As we learned more about the Muthomis and their ministries aside from Ark Home, the more I became excited to be a partner.  Maggie is a regional coordinator for the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas boxes – something we’ve participated in as family for years.  She also has a prison ministry – something also on my heart since ministering at the jails in Oklahoma for a couple of years.  They have Awana and other discipleship/leadership activities.  We can’t wait to join in!  I’m in the process of developing a page for Macecall – you can visit it here, but please understand it’s a work in progress!

Alfred leading a Bible study

Alfred leading a Bible study

Just before we left Kenya, we had a chance to see the Ark Home/Macecall community in action.  The Kenyan national libraries were trying to grow small community libraries, focusing on the children’s homes.  We were at the library dedication with several distinguished guests from all over Kenya.  The children led a few worship songs, cute dramas and recitations.  They were so well-behaved for the hours-long ceremony, then when the dignitaries left, the real party broke out!  The grannies were dancing and singing, and there were about four football (soccer) games going with kids giggling and balls zinging around us as we sat in the middle of everything with the Muthomis and two of the grown-up children raised in the home.  Dale and I were just smiling…yep, this is the place for us!

child presenting

One of the Ark Home children making a presentation at the library dedication

Grandmothers celebrating

About half of the Ark Home children are supported so they can stay with their nearest relatives, often their grandmothers. Here are the grannies that attended the library dedication clapping, singing, and dancing in celebration.

children playing games

After the ceremony, the children had a chance to loosen up, playing football (soccer).

child chasing another

Riley fit right in! He was happy to have so many kids his own age to play with.

Dale and Alfred enjoying time with two of the first Ark Home children, now successful college students.

Dale and Alfred enjoying time with two of the first Ark Home children, now successful college students.  It was a blessing to see these outstanding young men, and we are eager to help more disadvantaged children attain their highest potential.

 

Categories: Macecall, MKMF | 1 Comment

Returning to USA

Just a short note to say we’re heading back to the USA for a few weeks during the Kenya presidential elections.  The last elections in 2007 turned out to be a trigger that erupted tribal tensions, resulting in several thousand deaths.

Most people say Meru is the safest place to be in Kenya, and don’t expect violence this time, but we decided to play it safe.  This also gives us the opportunity to stop by our partner churches and share the wonderful work we’ve been able to be a part of here in Kenya.  We also get to bring empty suitcases and load them up for our return!  We’ve been living off basically two suitcases each for several months.

We’re planning to leave just before the first election and stay until after the second election date in case there is a run-off election in April.  We are looking forward to seeing our friends and family again!  I wouldn’t mind soaking in a nice bath, and Riley is dying for Subway.  🙂

 

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Catching Up

It doesn’t feel like it’s been so long since I’ve written, but probably because I’m also keeping up the MKMF blog.  Please read our weekly updates at www.mkmf.org/blog

We took off a bit of time around Christmas as our project manager was out of town visiting family.  It was a welcome relief after the exhausting surge to have memorable reading baraza/library events over the students’ holiday break.  We were able to catch up on some needed projects around the house.

“Fix the Truck Month”

We had some disappointing efforts to travel – the vehicle we are using has suffered from a serious lack of maintenance, and as soon as we fix one thing, another goes out!  We could probably summarize December to January as “fixing the truck month!”  Even though we’ve been going through Mubichi to coordinate repairs, many of the mechanics working on it have not been very knowledgeable (no SAE certification to check!) – for example, one ran a battery cable across a very hot manifold, which melted through the insulation and shorted out a brand new battery just days after we bought it!  The 4WD broke just a couple of weeks after we repaired it – it turns out the part we replaced it with was HOLLOW in the middle, and quickly sheared when stressed.  We lost an entire rear differential from frictional shear because the gearbox was bone-dry – just a day after the fluid level was supposedly checked!  These and other repairs have cost us about $2,000, which has been a huge hit to our savings account, not to mention frustrating.  But vehicles here are extremely expensive, so we consider it a price for our freedom – it just has to end soon!  Each repair can be quite the ordeal – there’s not an Auto Zone or O’Reilly’s to go to for parts.  It can take all day, going to 10 or more different shops in Meru town to try to find one part.  Often the search is unsuccessful, so an existing part has to be modified, or we have to wait for something to be sent from Nairobi (which may be defective like our hollow drive shaft!).  Too many shortcuts!  As many things have been modified on this vehicle, I’m beginning to wonder what is really stock???  But I guess on the positive side, we’ve learned about every major system of this diesel SUV.  For any future repairs that aren’t that complicated, I’m thinking I’ll probably just do the repairs myself and know it’s done right!

MKMF Work

We’re in a bit of a holding pattern on many of the MKMF projects.  My major nutrition project has been put to a standstill for a couple of months now – a long-standing nurses’ strike has prevented any new admits at the district hospital.  Many families are too poor to pay to go to a private hospital – I’m afraid many children have needlessly died because of this.  Pray with me that this strike will end soon!

We hope to start several construction projects very soon – we were waiting for the dry season (now) and for funds to be raised.  We have stateside partners actively raising money to pay for paving classrooms at Kathithi, water connection for Ribui, and toilets at Ngiine.  Kathithi also has a problem with a borehole for ground water that needs to be repaired very soon…the nearest water source is rather far away.

Our book shipment has arrived at the port in Mombasa – we are just waiting for customs clearance so we can go pick them up, start sorting them out, and get them to the libraries that will put them to good use.  I’m also looking forward to having some materials I need for a science club that are also in the shipment.

Meru Life

Dale and me with our new electric guitars.  I think the red plate is hideous on the blue guitar...I hope to paint it a pearly white someday.  But I'm really happy to have a 5-string!

Dale and me with our new electric guitars. I’m really happy to have a 5-string!

We are settling into life in Meru very well.  Gradually we are learning where to buy things, and have become more comfortable navigating the chaotic markets in Meru town.  We were so excited to finally find an electric guitar for Dale and a 5-string bass for me to play in our church!  I’ve played two services now, and am really happy to serve in this way.

miter box

A $15 miter box that costs $170 here!

I also finally got to buy a circular saw as a Christmas present, which has revolutionized my ability to make our own furniture items, like shelves!  Tools here are unbelievably expensive, and I really have missed my complete workshop I had in the States.  For example, a simple $15 miter box like this  – which was in fact the very first tool I bought 14 years ago to make shelves for our kitchen when Dale and I were first married– I saw in Nairobi for 15,000 Ksh, or $170!!!  But now with a circular saw and the few hand tools I brought with me, I can do most things I need to.  It feels so good to have this independence and self-sufficiency that I have missed so badly!

Finally, we added a new member to our family last week – a Labrador-retriever-like dog named “Loafie.”  I have no idea how she got this silly name, but I’m really struggling for a better one…she really does like to loaf around all day.  I’ve missed our animals terribly, so adopting this creature was a healing balm for my soul.  She’s a sweet girl that needed love and a life outside a tiny kennel.  She’s also been a wonderful friend and playmate for Riley.  I’m so happy to have her.

 

boy and dog

Loafie keeping Riley company while he does his schoolwork. She’s a good “buddy” dog – content to just be wherever we are!

Categories: Meru Life, MKMF | Leave a comment