Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Indeed it is a strange world.  I found this poem posted in a common area at Fiwagoh.  I have read it several times since my arrival home, and find it to be more than a little convicting, very spot on, and humorous all at the same time.

A Strange World

A lot of people are like wheelbarrows- No good unless pushed. 
Some are like trailers - They have to be pulled
Some are like canoes - They have to be paddled
Some are like kites- If you don't keep a string on them, they will fly away
Some are like footballs - You cannot tell which way they will bounce next
Others are like balloons - Full of air and ready to blow up
And yet, others are like neon lights - They keep going on and off
But very few like a good watch - Open faced- pure gold - quietly busy

I am sure I am not alone when I say my life is filled with people that could easily fit into one or more of these categories.  The wheelbarrow, the trailer, the canoe, the kite, the football, the balloons, the neon light and it is the very few (and often they go by somewhat un-noticed) that stand out like a good watch.

So many in my world are are no good unless they are pushed. (like the wheelbarrow)  I spend more of my day than I would like to admit, pushing my people (mostly the dwarfs) to achieve, manage their responsibilities, and get some sort of passion for life!

Sadly, no matter how hard we push and pull them, there is no moving a strong willed, arrogant and prideful person beyond themselves, and if we need to get something done, and they are not willing to be pushed, they tend to get drug along behind. (like the trailer)

Oh, how I wish some of mine were still little enough,  still small enough that even the "threat of a paddling", was enough to propel them towards good and right behaviors.  At least in those years, their eagerness to please, often over wrought their selfish impulses, when there was even a threat to their backsides in play.

Many of us can relate on occasion to the fact that if we were not "tied down", tethered to the ground we would be like the kite, off in the breeze we would sail, chasing day dreams and shiny things.  Sometimes I believe this is an escape mechanism for the wheelbarrow and for the trailer, but others exhibit this trait simply because this is who God created them to be; creative and flexible. (hang on kite)

We all know those that are prone to random behaviors. When the only thing that is certain in life is that they are going to bounce when their disposition becomes triggered.  The struggle here is that their being triggered is the only know entity.  When and where the trigger happens and where that individual ends up after they are triggered no one knows.  (can something that shape even be in the "ball" family)

I can speak honestly about this point in the poem, and I am sure I am not alone, sometimes I am so full of hot headedness, disgruntled-ness, frustration and anger, that one little pin prick will have me blowing air at anyone, no one, or everyone!

"Hello in there? Anyone at home?"  We sometimes refer to this around the kingdom, as being intentionally obtuse... but it rings true I think with us all.  Sometimes we are on, and sometimes we are off.  Unfortunately many of those around us in the world have no ability to control it when we are on and when we are off.  General flighty-ness, mental illness, social and learning disabilities are the cause of this on again off again dispositions in some of our family, friends neighbors and co-workers. ( neon lights are so bright initially, they flicker on/off for a long time when they are burning out )

But friends, how many of us can say that we know, or are one that,  who on a regular, steady, and unchanging basis, works on task, quietly behind the scenes, for the glory of the Lord and for the edification of others.  What usually happens to those that are the consistent, calm, practical, and steady at what they do?  They get taken for granted.  They may look good on the outside, but their true form, being the back bone to many, never changing, always to be counted on which is so desperately needed, that it is take for granted. (like a good watch)

I understand that you may not be in agreement with all my analogies outlined above, but is not that the great thing about the arts (poetry, painting etc) We the consumer take from it what we each need to, leaving the same images to resonate with others, perhaps in a completely different way.  It is great that in the world we live in we can all have opinions and they do not have to match up with one another 100%!

So here is the remainder of my thoughts and ponderings on this poem:

What would the world look like if more of us were encouraging wheelbarrows to work to their full capacity? If we load the trailers with tools for success instead of just pulling them to the next thing without explanation?  Instead of turning the other way, we confronted poor behaviors in others and were willing to in return accept the criticism of ourselves from others without defensiveness?  What if we encouraged dreamers to dream while keeping their feet on the ground and providing resources for their dreams to become reality?  What if the crazy bounces in life that caught us off guard could be handled with grace and mercy, recognizing that we are all unique and different and handle what life throws at us differently?  What if instead of letting things build up until we are ready to blow, we talk about the things that cause us stress and hurt feelings, so that our balloon was never on the verge of popping.  What if we loved and paid attention to those around us who's life seems to be on a dimmer switch, seeking ways to assist them, encourage them and find resources for them, so their dim moments lessen and they had more chances to be more like a fresh neon light. Bright!

If I purposed each day to be aware and react according to the needs of those around me, it would be my hope that I would be more like a good watch and less like a balloon.  But even as I type these words, I am in no way desiring that others see me, or my works and efforts on behalf of others, it is my goal that they would see Christ through me.  That in my encouragement, and steadfast work, supporting and lifting up those around me that I would be showing to those in the world that have lost their place and feel discouraged, the unconditional love of Christ and the difference that He made in my life and how He can impact their lives.

Even if you do not have a relationship with the Lord consider this, kindness, grace, mercy and unconditional love have never hurt anyone.  No one has died being kind, extending grace, and accepting others unconditionally.  When we do these things, we stand out, like a good watch.  When we are pure in our intentions, seek to serve others before ourselves, we decrease and others increase. In the lives of believers we decrease and Christ increases.

My corner is crowded with wheelbarrows, trailers, canoes, kites, footballs, balloons, and neon lights.  In my corner there are also some beautiful good pure gold watches!  I desire to be more like the good watches. I want others to be their best, in their own unique ways be transformed into good watches,  steady, happily and eagerly doing the things that God has intended for them to do.  I want others to see Christ in me.  His beauty and glory.   At the end of my poem, I want the Lord to greet me with His arms open, saying "Well done my good and faithful servant!"  Matt 25:23

Monday, September 17, 2018

Visiting the Wild in Kenya

In the last 20 years of short term mission trips, each out of country experience has included a cultural day/tourist day. There can be mixed emotions from some of your supporters, as well as team members regarding "fun sight see-ing" trips in a mission trip itinerary.  These are built in because in reality some people will only get to a foreign country once in a lifetime. What a great opportunity to experience all the the country and culture has to offer by adding to the experience with a local cultural experience.

Africa was no exception and it certainly did not disappoint!  I honestly can say that as we were preparing to leave Fiwagoh to head out on the "tourist" portion of our trip, I was sad.  At the time I thought I could do without the safari and the tourist portion of the trip, that I would rather stay at the orphanage for those last two days!!  However, I found that after a good nights rest I very much enjoyed (as I have in trips past) the tourist portion of Africa. I was so blessed to do a few sight seeing things, that are specific to Africa, and if any of these items you read about below, are not on your bucket list, you may want to reconsider!!

Our safari started early on a foggy Friday morning before sunrise.  Our safari driver David was prompt in pick up but was certainly having some struggles as we started off.  The poor guy had his window stuck in the down position (for the entire day)  and at some point prior to our departure, had his drivers door break, so he was unable to get in and out on his side of the vehicle.  He kept a great sense of humor about the situation, and we were an encouraging group to hang out with, so we helped him put the top of the safari van up and down, and made sure to ask if he needed anything when we would leave the vehicle.


The day was not only foggy but cool.  It was after all winter in Africa!  We began our journey at the Nairobi National Park.   While the fog hung to the ground the images in the distance looked like apparitions,  but were clearly the outlines of safari animals.   Ostriches, vultures, and some rhinos in the very far distance!  As the morning fog lifted, we were able to witness up close many other species of animals.  While sadly, the "big cats" evaded us in a very stealthy manner, here were some of the amazing creatures we did witnessed up close!  

African Buffalo 





Ciconiidae (a stork family member) 


Numididae (guineafowl family) 


We spent many hours riding in our raised top safari vehicle scanning the horizon for the wonderful creatures that we currently had only seen online or in a zoo here in the states.  I will not lie, I was disappointed that I did not get to see any big cats, but I fell in love with zebras, and the beautiful birds and of course who doesn't love a giraffe or four!

As our safari tour concluded, we discussed the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Elephant Orphanage.  They provide for a small fee, a "show" one time a day, for one hour, where they bring out the elephants and share their stories.  All of these elephants have been rescued from a situation that would otherwise have lead to their death in the wild.  Elephants that have been trapped, left behind after being separated from the herd, or their adult parents killed due to poaching of ivory, were just a few of the heartbreaking stories of these elephants.

During the hour of the open visit, tourists stood around the outside of a dirt arena, cameras poised to catch images of these huge, gentle, and fun loving animals.  One of my favorite parts was when the animal keepers started to feed them from the bottles! 

After years of working to diligently reproduce the formula of a mother elephants milk, the orphanage has mastered the combination, which is mostly made from human baby formula.  These little one's certainly enjoyed their breakfast the day we were there! 

Another fact of interest that I gleaned while at the orphanage, is way that farmers are currently helping keep elephants from getting snared in their fences.  (Some of the elephants have been caught up in fencing and injured as they attempt to raid farmers crops.)  There are several initiatives in Africa, for bee fencing, as it seems that these large animals are deathly afraid of little tiny bees!  They are so afraid that they have a special "bee alarm" sound that they emit if they are fearful that they are around bees.  Those pesky little bees really sting the elephants in sensitive parts, their ears and trunks!  Bee fencing costs between $1- $5 us dollars per 100 meters (328 feet) to install.  When the elephants are headed to the fields to graze, they hit a sting that has nests attached, releasing the bees and causing the elephants to sound their alarm to the entire herd, and they all run away, saving the farmers crops.  Between their grazing and their heavy stampeding feet there is nothing left of a field once it is trampled by elephants! Amazing that some bees are all it takes to sound the retreat!

Each elephant at the orphanage is named in a way that is associated to the location or the situation in which the Wildlife Trust rescued him or her.

For example here is Edie's story: 

"Estimated to have been born in April 1999, this female calf was about 4 months when rescued from a well on the Namunyak Group Ranch North of Lewa Downs. Her family had struggled all night unsuccessfully to try and retrieve her, but had to leave when tribesmen and their cattle turned up. She endured a rough ride in a lorry before being flown first to Lewa Downs Airstrip and from there by Charter plane to Nairobi. She is named "Edie" by special request of the Craig family who own Lewa Downs Ranch, to honor the memory of one of their donors named "Evie". The closest Samburu word we could find to "Evie" was "Edie" which means "over there" and with the approval of the late Evie's family, we thought this more appropriate. For many weeks Edie suffered from deep depression grieving for her lost elephant family, and was very sore and bruised from her fall, able only to lie on one side of her body for more than a month. In all other respects, she was not in bad condition and tender loving care from both the Keepers and the other elephants soon made her happy again."

Edie climbing on Imenti  Edie
If you are like me, your heartstrings are tugged by this adorable elephant! You can be part of the experience at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust even from so far away!  If I ever return, I am going to adopt an elephant and then schedule an appointment some evening I am in Kenya, and "put my elephant to bed".  If you just have a love for elephants, without plans to travel to Africa, for $50 a month you can adopt an elephant of your choosing from the orphanage.  When you adopt an elephant, via email you get:
A fostering certificate with a profile and photograph of your adopted orphan together with a description of the Orphans’ Project;
Adopt an Elephant OrphanAn interactive map indicating where your orphan was found and a description of the habitat and the plight of the elephants (or Rhinos) in that particular area;
Adopt an Elephant OrphanA monthly summary highlighting events of the previous month together with a direct link to the ‘Keepers Diary’ for your elephant. In the diary you will be able to access the daily calendar entries and the monthly photos. These updates can be printed off to enable you to keep a journal highlighting the progress of your orphan;.
Along with the update you will receive a collectable monthly watercolor by Angela Sheldrick;
Adopt an Elephant OrphanFrom time-to-time, you will receive news of new arrivals and rescues written by Angela Sheldrick with accompanying photographs;
Adopt an Elephant OrphanAnd most importantly, as one of our foster parents, you are considered part of the DSWT team and we will be keeping in personal contact with you as an important member of our project.


(Do I sound like I love this program? Well yes!  Will someone be getting an elephant this year for Christmas...again yes! ) 

Our time at the elephant orphanage was short but oh so sweet!  If you are interested in more information, follow this link : David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
While our time at the orphanage was too short in my opinion, we had one more stop to make!  
Next stop the giraffe sanctuary!  We headed to the Giraffe Center, part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (Kenya) LTD. 
Now I am not sure what I thought it would be like to "feed a giraffe" but I got my treats and climbed the stand to wait my turn.  While that turn never really happened I did have a giraffe's attention later on the ground.  Here are some photos from the team's adventure in feeding these amazing animals.  

The Center has a wonderful raised area for feeding the giraffes, a great area of wooded land beyond that were you can see other giraffes in their habitat, as well as a learning area and gift shop.  We were also very grateful for the hand cleaning stations, especially since giraffes are not "neat" eaters!  
Here are some quick facts about giraffes: 
  • They can weigh up to 2,800 lbs
  • They are between 16-19 feet tall
  • They are pregnant for 15 months
  • They have "horns" called ossicones (which are made of cartilage and can be deadly) 
  • They only need 5 - 30 minutes of sleep in a 24 hour period
If you are planning a trip to Kenya book mark this website for the sanctuary details, Giraffe Center in Kenya .  
I so enjoyed seeing so many different kinds of animals up close on this trip. I am not sure if I would ever tire of seeing such amazing creatures roaming free or in sanctuaries if I lived in Africa.  The way that God created them is fascinating, and sometimes scary.  But again reminds me how diverse He made the world that we live in and all that is in it!  
So glad that I had this adventure and that You can't make this stuff up!  

Monday, September 3, 2018

It's all about the Maize!

Let me introduce you to David! Quiet, hardworking and very casually witty! David was a fun young man to spend time with!  On this day, I had a last minute opportunity to make a quick trip up the the staff quarters with him to grind maize into flour.  

Some back story about the maize.  Before the maize is put in the sun to dry, it has to be sorted by hand, weeding out the kernels that were broken or "popped" or off color (like brown or black).  After the hand sorting, and the washing it was then placed out in the sun to dry.  Our team of ladies, had the privilege to sit with the ladies of Fiwagoh the day or so before and sort the maize.  If memory serves there were about 8 of us (and a few younger boys joined in too towards the end), and it took us about 45 minutes or so to sort.  I got the distinct impression that while these ladies never stop working, this work, the sorting of the maize was also a nice time of the day to sit still and chat.  During this time shared some laughs, and listened to some stories during the sorting time, however most of it was spent in companionable silence.    

On this day, the sorting and washing was already done, so David and I just had to gather the maize that was drying in the sun, and place it in a sack. I told David that I would be happy to carry the maize, and off we started up the hill.   I was carrying the sack of maize on my hip (like a toddler) and as we started the walk, another older youth stopped me and said if I was in Africa carrying things and working, "I had to do it like the Africans"!  He proceeded to show me how to toss the sack over my shoulder and use my back to carry the weight of the sack.

As David and I walked, we talked about the process of turning the maize into flour.  He said that the machine that they used was housed at the staff quarters, up the hill. It was in its own room because of how loud and messy it was. He indicated that now that they had a machine on property, they could grind the maize a couple times a week. He shared that before they got their own machine, they would have to make a plan to take it all to town, and then wait in line to grind what they would need for the month.  He also indicated that there was a big fee for this service.  I asked him what the difference was between the maize we eat (sweet and succulent) and the maize I was carrying on my back (dry).  He indicated that the field maize is grown for the specific purpose of drying and grinding into flour.  The flour is then used in recipes for cooking the rolls for the kids on the Sabbath. 

I wondered while I was visiting why they never referred to the maize as corn.  Obviously it was the same vegetable, and they clearly spoke English, but the word for this vegetable never changed in conversation from maize to corn.  It was always maize.  When I got home I looked up the word maize, and found out that it is the British term for corn.  Since Kenya was a British Colony until 1963,  this is just one of the British words that just stayed with them all this time!  

The walk was about 1/4 of a mile each way.  Once we arrived David unlocked the door to the room that the machine was housed in.  This machine is under lock and key due to its value.  Clearly this machine could/would be something that others would desire to steal or take a part for parts. 

Once we entered the room, David poured the maize into the machine on the one side where there was a holding tray.  

David then tied a sack to the end of the machine opposite of where the maize was placed. He  gave me my instructions for using the machine.   This included the overview of the on and off buttons on the wall, how to direct the maize with my hands towards the chute.  Once the machine was turned on, I would send the maize through the chute, the machine would grind it and then send it out the funnel at the other end into the sack!  

We repeated the process four times.  Taking the ground maize from the sack, back to the original tray, re-grinding the maize until it was a fine flour/powder.  

We completed the task in under 15 minutes and headed back to the orphanage.  David grabbed the bag as we exited and tossed it over his shoulder.  I asked him if he needed me to carry it back, and he looked up at me and smiled and said, "No I got it, it is lighter now!" Which of course had us laughing all the way back.  

Once again, so fortunate that I was able to live this and experience this.  Clearly the best field to table experience I have ever had!  

The next night, we were treated to chapati, an African flat bread.   It is a very labor intensive endeavor to watch the ladies make (kneading, rolling and cooking one at a time), so knowing that the chapati were made with fresh ingredients and love, made it all the better to our taste buds!  

Everything tastes better when love is the main ingredient!