From May 26,-June 26 my wife Melanie and I and my son Noah embarked on a life changing mission to the country of Kenya. The trip was graced with little indicators that God was watching over every little detail.
I was so affected by these little God moments that I wanted to chronicle them in this blog. A “wink” is a little acknowledgment that somebody is noticing you. During our trip, it felt like God was winking at us. A wink is short of an audible voice, but when special little moments happened repeatedly it became clear that God wanted us to know that we we centered in His will and safely in His care. The following paragraph is some preliminary information you need to know about why we were in Kenya and after that I will list the “winks” from God indicating that there was something special about this trip.
Thirty years ago a high school friend named Kathy Roesler went on a mission trip to Kenya and shortly before she was to return home lost her life to a very aggressive strain of malaria. She was buried in Mombasa Kenya marked by a simple wooden cross that faded over time. Four years ago, I came to Kenya, visited her grave, discovered the missing cross, and had a concrete marker erected in memory of her with her favorite verse-“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” The reason I was able to go to Kenya is because God placed a wonderful Kenyan man in our church in Illinois who has a ministry to Kenya and he has opened the door of this great nation to me. His name is Dr. Peter Giteau and I count him as one of my dear friends. He is from the small village in Kenya called Ngurumo where we funded the building of the new church that we were coming to Kenya to dedicate. Today he is the Vice President of student affairs at Northern Kentucky University. (Wink)
Dr. Peter Giteau, Noah, and I
Dr. Peter Giteau, Noah, and I
May 26 we leave for Kenya.
May 27. We have a very long layover in Amsterdam. We toured the city which felt devoid of God. Our tour guide bragged that unlike many European cities Amsterdam is not dominated by churches. ” Amsterdam is a city of the people,” he said. Of the few churches we saw, only one remained a church while the others had been converted into apartment buildings. The smell of marijuana permeated the streets wafting out of the coffee shops where people stared out at the streets with blank eyes revealing vacuous souls. However, on the most prominent square we read a sign that greeted us and all travelers to this city. Wink! Amsterdam
May 27. We boarded the plane from Amsterdam and were seated next to a group of students who were the age that my friend Kathy was when she was going to Kenya. They were giving their summer to missions in Kenya. One of the students was from Church of the Highlands which is the headquarters church for the organization I belong to. (Wink) The gentleman in front of me was a world renowned MD trained at Johns Hopkins who is a practicing Jew living in Ethiopia and working with some of the worst bone disfigurations in the world. HBO has done a documentary about him called “The Crooked Shall Be Made Straight” I spoke with him for a long time about his work and why he has given his life’s work to a third world country. We talked about God and faith and he told me his reason for being there is “he wants to make a difference.” (Wink)
May 28. We landed in Kenya and got picked up by our missionary hosts Larry Hardin and his daughter Natalie. They took us to an orphanage in Nyahururu called Mt. Moriah Children’s Home. I worried some about our diet while in Kenya but the orphanage directors, Daniel and Kenia had a special meal awaiting our arrival-Filet Mignon. (Wink). We met the orphaned children and I told them the story of my friend Kathy and then we had an Easter egg hunt because they had never heard of one.Easter egg
May 29. Met with thirty missionaries for a one day retreat. Noah led in worship and the Presence of God was so strong that missionaries came forward for prayer during our singing time. It was an powerful sign that we were on a special mission. (Wink)
May 30. We drove to the small village of Ngurumo and saw the amazing new church that we were able to help build with the money we had sent four years ago. The Village Pastor stood on one spot and exclaimed passionately to me. Four years ago this was a field and you stood on it and declared “We are standing on holy ground’ Today it is the altar of our church and it is indeed Holy Ground! (Wink) I preached the first night of the crusade and our Word and worship were well received. church
May 31. Melanie preached to the church and is very well received. The people loved Melanie and increasingly warmed up to us. Some had never seen visitors from America. Some had never seen white people. The crowd was significantly larger than the first night and the people loved Noah’s worship songs. He was given the Swahili name for Noah- Nuhu! (Wink)
June 1. This was the day of the the dedication. Visiting pastors gathered in the pastor’s office. The man across from me stands and introduced himself as Richard. He reminded me that we had met four years ago. He remembered my friend Kathy’s story. He told me he lives near the city where she was buried and now goes to visit her grave. He showed me pictures of the grave that he brought with him. He has been cleaning it and caring for it. He took a bus 12 hours from the city of Mombasa to be at the dedication of the church that afternoon. He told me that he was also a missionary to that city and her story touched him deeply. He drives an hour and a half every time he visits the grave of my friend he never knew. (Big Wink!) RichardWhen I finished preaching I gave him my neck tie to symbolize our brotherhood.
The dedication of the church was amazing. God gave me a message that day that he dropped into my spirit and I preached clearly and without notes through and interpreter. The building was beyond full. Four hundred people descended on that church that seats 250. (Wink)dedication
That night we drive to Nairobi to prepare for a two day safari the next day. We stayed in a cheap hotel called the Khweezah Bed and Breakfast. I had booked it online from the US. Some of our hosts worried about the location of the hotel. We arrived and the hotel was perfect for us. It had a restaurant on the roof which overlooked the beautiful skyline of Nairobi. We had both dinner and breakfast on the roof.
June 2 We left for our safari on the Masai Mara. Our hotel was luxury tents with wooden floors and a king sized bed and a bathroom and shower attached. The nicest surprise was that Melanie and I had our own separate tent from Nuhu. (Wink) tent
June 3. The safari was amazing. We saw things that some never see on safari. We saw a cheetah eating a gazelle, we saw two lions mating, and we saw the beginning of the migration of the wildebeests. While Noah and I were playing ping pong at the resort, a camera crew came and asked us if I would tell them why I came to Kenya in spite of the travel advisories and talk about how safe I feel. Tourism is way down because America put out an advisory against coming. I gave a glowing report about Kenya and the next day I was told by our driver that he saw me on their national television station that night saying good things about Kenya. (Wink) lions
June 4. Back to Nairobi. I had a wonderful conversation with our Christian driver David about faith, the plusses and minuses of westernization and what following Jesus is all about. (Wink) Jun3 5. I was waiting in the lobby of our guest house at Cooperative University for our ride to visit Christian Ministries in Africa. A well dressed Kenyan woman sat on a couch across from me. I greeted her and she asked what we were doing in Kenya. Her face lit up and she told me that she was the president of the University and that she had graduated from a seminary with her PhD. in psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California in 2004. With shock I told her that I graduated from the same seminary with my doctorate two years after her. She told me she didn’t believe in chance meetings and gave me her card just as her ride pulled up to take her away. Last year she was the graduation speaker at Fuller invited back as winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award. Okay, we didn’t have everything in common. (Wink) Meeting David and Jennifer Hatley was one of the highlights of our trip. They are generals in God’s army. They have been in Kenya since 1985 and oversee 200 churches, have an orphanage, school, numerous Bible colleges and are simply making a huge difference in that nation. (Wink)
June 6. Smooth sailing through all the airports and plane changes and arrived safely in Knoxville which is the center of my heart for ministry and was greeted by our two daughters. (Wink) Time and eternity will tell the significance of all of these little signs that God was with us, but Its wonderful to think that the God of creation is intimately interested in the smallest details of our lives. The story continues and I have a new sensitivity to look for the little winks that God gives us on our individual journeys that let us know that He is with us and that we are never ever alone.