restorying faith and values

Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Storytelling is God's Style

Story is the bedrock of the Bible. It doesn’t matter where you start. Turn to the beginning and you’re faced with two stories of Creation. Turn to the end and you see a seven-headed dragon spewing a tsunami in the desert. Pick a random spot in the middle and you’ll find Nathan wielding the sword of story to smite King David’s soul with self-incriminating judgement, Daniel recounting mirrored dreams of a multi-storied statue to a stressed-out king, a cupbearer explaining to Pharaoh that he knows precisely where to find the man who can interpret dreams, Paul calling himself a fool as he recounts the long list of abuse received by himself for the Gospel, Peter saying silver and gold are out of his reach but the story he has is worth much more, or any number of stories told by Jesus causing one disciple to write, “He said nothing without telling a story.”

Why all the stories?

Let’s imagine, for a moment, the God of the universe loved a little blue-green orb and its sinful inhabitants so much He decided to send His Son there on a rescue mission. They plan the rescue mission in detail. When His Son sets foot, in the flesh, on terra firma the plan is perfect. His approach, His delivery, His every act intentionally communicates in ways these creatures understand perfectly. To be understood is His greatest wish.

God sent His Son telling stories. Sent to reveal the character of God, Jesus brought Love to the world and in so doing saved them from the sin which bound them. Story after story, Jesus laid out the nature of God, mankind, Sabbath, law, love, obedience and more. Ultimately – through His life, death and resurrection – Jesus bridged the chaos between creature and Creator – restoring us by restorying us.

Then, promising us greater power than He displayed, Jesus handed the story to you and I before heading back to His Father. We are only disciples when we are disciple-makers. And we are only disciple-makers when we tell the story. God’s story is told when we feed the poor, when we care for the sick, when we embrace the lonely. We tell the story of God’s Love when we act within His character – communicating to be understood. We are effective as preachers, teachers, parents and parishioners when we care enough to connect people, in ways they understand, to the God who loves them – first by meeting their needs, then by restorying their lives.

The Great Commission is the mission statement of God’s storytellers – His disciple-making manifesto. We grow the Kingdom of God when we restore and restory lives. Bringing people into the Kingdom, baptizing them into God’s story and teaching them to seek to be understood - we send these disciples out with a story worth hearing.

Worship - Our Eternal Purpose

Worship

Any created being able to comprehend their nature as both created by God and loved by Him has but one response.

Worship

Created in God's Image, we more than other creatures, have reason to honour Him. We understand God's love for His children, His passion for life and His care for creation.

Worship

We worship God by loving Him and others, living well, and caring for creation.

Worship

Like the angels around the throne, the only response in God's immediate presence is, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty - who was and is and is to come."

Worship

It was our purpose in the past. It will be our purpose in the future. And, it is our purpose now!

Worship

Monday, March 06, 2017

Sabbath - From Chaos to Completeness

Introduction

What has been the darkest time in your life?
What/who brought you out of the darkness? 
How did you respond to the light?
What changed in you after that experience?

Read Genesis 1:1

What is your favourite opening line for a book/movie/poem? Why?
Is Genesis 1:1 a good opening line for the Bible? Why?
What three things are revealed in this short verse? How is it a good opener for the Bible?
1. In the beginning – God
2. In the beginning God – created
3. In the beginning God created – the heavens and the earth


Creation and Re-creation

Every new beginning in life is the recognition of a new focus for your time and energy; a master in whom you will attempt to find solace, purpose and identity. How are new beginnings with God different than all other new beginnings?  (New beginnings that start with the true God – the actual Creator and Re-creator of life – will fulf the soul, the heart and the mind. For in Him we live, breathe and have our being.)
How does the Bible’s opening Creation story teach us about the creation and re-creation God wants to do in our lives?

Read Genesis 1:2

What state was Earth in before God started Creation week? (tohu-va-vohu, chaos)
How did you feel when you were in your darkest time?
What did you wish for? 
In your darkest moment, did light seem possible? Why?
How did you feel about God at that time? Did He feel close or far away?

Where was God’s Spirit before Creation week began? (hovering near the surface)
When we are in complete darkness of soul, is it easy to feel the presence and love of others?
If God’s Spirit is always hovering over us, why does He allow the darkness?

Esmerelda Devlin, a famous stage designer says, “You need to start without light to find it.”
What does this mean?

The lights often go off right before something amazing begins. Can you think of one?
(Bedtime - dreams, Sleep over. Movie, Concert – 80 thousand people in the dark, waiting for the light to shine on one person.)

Read Genesis 1:3-5

What do you think Earth looked like  when the lights first came on? (Chaos)
When you first came out of your darkest time, what did your life look like?
Chaos looks different for each of us - depending on where we are when we see God hovering above us and start over with "In the beginning God." 

In the fairytale of Humpty-Dumpty, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. Unlike the false gods of this world, God can do the impossible. Lives shattered in a thousand chaotic, formless and empty pieces can be put back together again. 

What helped you see God hovering above you in the darkness? How can we help others see God?
How has God recreated you? What is He currently doing in you?

Where do you think this Bible Study is going?
Now that the light is shining – what will Creation reveal? 

 Read Genesis 1:6-25

What did we see in these verses? (Creation from Chaos)
What did God create? (A safe environment and filled it)
How did God do this? (with the power of His Word)
God “saw” his work each day as what? (good)
Why does the author say God “saw” it rather than “said” it was good? (leading somewhere)
Why didn’t the author say “perfect” but only “good”? (God wasn’t finished yet. Chaos was still being reformed)

On the first day, God switched on the lights on Project Earth. Under the watchful eyes of those outside the story, He created something good that pointed to something perfect. Who was watching? (Angels, other created beings) 

As with any well told story, there is an intended audience. Who was the author’s audience for the story being told in Genesis 1? (God’s people and the surrounding nations)


Waking up the Neighbours by Shaking up their gods

The Israelites’ Mesopotamian neighbours believed Marduk (the god over all gods) calmed chaos when he defeated Tiamat (goddess of the sea) and then created the heavens and the earth. What impact do you think the story of Day 1 and 2 had on the neighbours?

They also believed Tiamat mated with Abzu (the god of fresh water) to populate the pantheon of lesser gods and then Tammuz (god of food and vegetation) blessed the land providing crops.  Day 3 suggests the Israelite God spoke and the waters separated, land appeared and plants started growing – all at His spoken command! No physical prowess needed. What might the Mesopotamian neighbours have thought of a God who creates with his voice alone?

Day 4 confounded the neighbours’ belief that Anu (creator of the stars  and father of the gods), Shamash (god of the sun) and Sin (god of the moon) were hovering in the sky looking over them. Instead, the stars, sun and moon were created by the Israelite God to provide light and direction and were not Gods at all. Can you feel the frustration rising?

Days 5 and 6 offended a multiplicity of gods. Lahar – the god of cattle; Sirtir – the goddess of sheep; Enten – the god responsible for the ewes, goats, cows, donkeys, birds; (the memory of) Kingu – whose blood Marduk used to create humans – and more. 

The neighbours had a god for everything – even beer (Sirtir) and barbers (Ninkamunna) – and were being confronted with the one true God who created everything, everywhere and everyone. The Mesopotamians were accustomed to hearing about other gods and adding them into their understanding of the world around them. But this God of the Israelites was both singular and jealous.

By this far into the story, the neighbours would have been saying, “This God is not like our gods. We cannot add Him to our pantheon. He is either the only God or nothing at all.” And their faith was shaken into chaos. They could not serve their gods and this new one. They had to choose. It was an unheard-of idea – and a difficult one! 

Would this story have switched off the neighbour’s lights sending them into spiritual chaos?
How is that a good thing?

How are people today like the Mesopotamians?
To what lesser gods do people give time, energy and attention? 


God's Temple

There is one more act of Creation that provided the final sword strike between the Babylonian pantheon and the Israelite God. Every god had a temple. To satiate their worldly needs, worshippers headed to the temple of the god of that need and made their offering. In the middle of each temple – no matter the god - was a statuesque representative image of the God for whom the temple stood. Each pagan temple was designed to focus the attention of the worshipper on the image in the middle of the temple. 

The people built these temples to honour their god then worshiped there. Genesis 1 tells the story of a God who built His own temple. His first act, was to switch on the lights so everyone could see what he was doing (without a sun! In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And Revelation 21:23 says in God’s presence there is no need for sun or moon as the glory of God provides all the light needed.) God, the Light, shows up and begins working on His temple. He builds a ceiling and the floor (sky and sea), then the sidewalls (earth and water), then entrance and exit (time: day and night). Finally, after the temple is finished…

Read Genesis 1:26-31

What new realisation did you have in your reading of these verses?
How many times was the word “image” used? Why? (so the point wouldn’t be missed!)
These image-bearers were not to stand still but to care for the temple. How? (care, rule)
How good did God see things at the end of Day 6? (very good)

What does it mean to you that God created you in His image? 
How does being the representative in the temple – His image-bearer – affect your life?

Read Genesis 2:1-3

How many days it take for God to complete his work? (six)
Why have a seventh day? Was it necessary? (Holy rest is re-creation)
In the text, did God ‘see’ the final day as anything? (no)
What did God ‘do’ to the seventh day? (blessed it)
Holy (Heb: qadash) means “Set Apart”.  The phrase “Made it Holy” is actually the same word twice qadash it qadash. Why would the author describe God’s act of blessing the Sabbath as “setting it apart it was set apart”? What are we being told? (Sabbath is important!)

What does God do on His ‘set apart’ day of Creation? (rests from all His work)
In God’s work of recreating us, what benefit is a day ‘set apart’ each week? 
What does this phrase mean to you: “set apart I am set apart”?
What might happen if we do not set a day apart and truly rest? (back to chaos)
How important is it to you to ‘set apart’ the Sabbath day? Why?

Conclusion 

Genesis 1 introduces a God who takes His people from chaotic to complete, from broken to blessed, from formless to purpose. Slaves in Egypt could become free in Canaan. Prisoners in Babylon could become worshippers in Jerusalem. God brings light to darkness. Jesus is the Light of the world. He defies the gods of the land by rewriting the rulebook. He is not one of many but the one and only. 

First God redefines our gods. Then He redefines us. We are His holy – set apart – people.
For six days, we work – serving as God’s image-bearers in His earthly temple through careful stewardship and acts of compassion – and on the seventh day, set apart by Him for one express purpose, we bless what He has blessed and set apart what He set apart by resting with Him and in Him.

Next week we will continue our study of the Sabbath. 
Now that we understand where the Sabbath came from, let’s see where it can take us!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pork, Alcohol and the Adventist Christian - Discussion Guide

Introduction: 

What are some drugs available today? Which ones do you take? Why? Not take? Why?
What about drinks? Are there some things you don’t drink? Why?
Are there some foods you do not eat? Why?
(Safety, health, culture, Bible)

What different laws were there in the Old Testament? (list as many as you can)

Three categories of OT laws:
Ceremonial laws – pointed to Jesus (fulfilled at the cross)
Civil laws – governed the Theocracy (laws of the land)
Health laws – based on our human nature (we are still human, they still apply)


Unclean Foods: To eat or not to eat

Read Deuteronomy 14:8
Why use the world Unclean? What other  beings were called unclean  in scripture? (leprosy). Why? How do the two compare?
How is a pig ‘unclean’ in its diet/lifestyle? (eats rubbish, lives in filth)

If you use the Old Testament to support not eating unclean foods what problem do you face?
(As a young church, Adventists argued heatedly about this!)
Uriah Smith rejected using the Law of Moses against eating unclean foods: "We believe there is better ground on which to rest than the ceremonial law of the former dispensation, for if we take the position that that law is still binding, we must accept it all, and then we shall have more on our hands than we can easily dispose of.” (Uriah Smith, "Meats Clean and Unclean," Review and Herald, vol. 60 (July 3, 1883), p. 424.)

Is it a sin to eat unclean food? (No)
"We do not, by any means, believe that the Bible teaches that its [pork] proper use, in the gospel dispensation, is sinful." (James White, "Swine's Flesh," Present Truth, vol. 1 Nov. 1850, p. 87.)
So why not eat unclean food? (Health as shown by God in the Bible. Science is catching up!)
How does this apply to being a vegetarian? Why?


Alcohol: To drink or not to drink

What are some reasons people drink alcohol? (Social lubricant – good thing?)
What are some reasons that drinking is not wise? (Safety, health, loss of filters/boundaries)
Are there any laws in scripture about drinking? (No laws, just proverbs)

Read Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 23:21
Where do proverbs come from ( life lessons)
How do you learn life lessons? (from living)

Read Proverbs 23:29-35
What experiences do you think Solomon went through to come up with such proverbs?
What experiences have you had or heard that shape you in this area? (Dad cold turkey)
It is a common occurrence for people who become Christians to be convicted that drinking alcohol is not what God wants them to do. Many received special help/miracle to help them quit. Why do you think this happens?

Read Ephesians 5:18
What does being drunk do to you in the moment?
What does being a drunkard do to you over time?
Why does Paul compare being drunk with being spirit-filled?
What does having God’s Spirit do to you in the moment?
What does having God’s Spirit regularly do to you over time?


Conclusion: The heart of the matter

Read Romans 14:1-4
What character strength is Paul encouraging?
(Treat others kindly)
Continue reading: Romans 14:5-6
What spiritual strength is Paul encouraging?
(Conviction followed by action)
Continue reading: Romans 14:7-8
What conviction is Paul encouraging?
(Live and  die for the Lord!)
Continue reading: Romans 14:9-10
What end game is Paul calling us to focus on?
(Jesus' salvation in the judgement)

Read Romans 14:13-23
Some Bibles call this section: The Law of Love…. Why?
How has our Bible study today challenged you to live your life tomorrow?


Research Notes:
The Development of Adventist Thinking on Clean and Unclean Meats


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saying Sorry - A formative experience

Our church has two really great traditions.
1. Family Worship: Every week the entire family sits together for the Divine service after participating in aged-based Bible study classes.
2. Children's Story: Almost every week we have a story for the children before the sermon.

When I preach, I use the children's story time to prepare the kids (and the big kids) for the topic of the sermon. I often give the key point of the sermon away in the kids story. But I never tell them I've just set them up to think more deeply about the sermon.

For the children's story before the sermon "When the Lost are Found" I told a story which happened the day before in my work as a chaplain.

I told the children the following story:

On my way out of the school for a meeting with a local pastor, I encountered a grade five girl crying uncontrollably in the school foyer. The receptionist said, "She was very rude to her mother and ran away when I told her not to speak to her mother like that! Could you talk to her?"

I invited the girl to my office and texted the pastor as I walked, "See you in a bit. Caught up in something!"

When we got to my office we played UNO until the silent sobs stopped. Then I asked, "What happened?"

"I just wanted to say bye to my Mum." She started to sob again.

"But she was gone when you got back?" I asked.

She nodded as she cried.

We played another hand of UNO.

Her composure regained, I asked, "When will you see your mum again?"

"After school. She picks me up." Choking back a sob, she added, "I just wanted to say sorry!"

"What will you do when you see her after school?" I asked.

"Hug her," she said. "And say I'm sorry."

"I bet she will hug you back," I said. "And she will tell you she loves you. You know she loves you, right?"

She nodded and sucked in a ragged breath.

We played another hand of UNO.

"You know," I said, "this is a good thing - that you have to wait all day to say sorry."

"Why?"

"Because, you will think about it all day. And you will play out the upcoming conversation with your mum a thousand times. Do you know why this is a good thing?”

She shook her head, “No.”

Do you think today is going to be an easy day for you?”

“No,” She said, “My class is gone on an excursion. We were late and I missed the bus. That’s why I was mad.”

“Wow, that’s even more time to think things through,” I said.

She nodded.

“That’s why it’s a good thing.” I said, “You will be practising saying sorry all day long! That is a very good thing!”

She looked at me like I was a bit odd. I get that look often from kids.

“Next time you get mad at your Mum, do you think you will say something mean and run off?”

Her eyes widened in understanding, “No way!”

We played another hand of UNO.

"I know something pretty amazing about you," I said.

She looked up startled. "WHAT?!"

"I've been here at this school for three years and this is the first time I've had one of these chats with you. This means you are a pretty amazing kid and have your stuff together. You’re a good kid!”

She nodded. It was obvious this fall out with Mum was a rare and very difficult thing for her.

“And I know, after today, you will be an even more amazing kid!"

She didn’t look convinced. “Why?”

“Because you want to say sorry! That means you are already awesome.” I smiled. “It’s a lot harder to say sorry than it is to be nice in the first place.”


I paused in my storytelling to the littles at the front of church and scanned the audience. Looking back at the kids, I asked, “It’s not easy to say sorry because we have to admit we did a bad thing. When I do something that hurts someone else, I have to say to myself, “You did a bad thing, Dave.” Then I need to tell the other person I am sorry. It’s not easy.

When we say sorry, it shows that we have love in our hearts. Listen carefully to the stories I tell in the sermon and see what else you learn about saying sorry!”

After the Sermon:

A man who has two kids in our church said to me afterwards, “I think I learned more from the children’s story than any of the kids.” He laughed. “I find it really hard to say sorry. Thanks for today. I was very challenged.”

After watching the video of the Sermon:

I received a facebook comment from a friend who watched the sermon "When the Lost are Found." Mike Freisen asked: "How do you approach desire as a formative experience?" The children's story wasn't on the video, so I wrote this blog to explain how I introduced the sermon with this children's story. Thanks for the question, Mike! I hope the children's story is a fitting answer to your question.

The process of confession involves a time of sorrow for your sin. This is the 'walk home' the Prodigal son embarked on in which he practiced his speech of repentance. The forgiveness of the Father is much more deeply reformative when we have spent time in prayerful confession and passionate repentance.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

When the Lost are Found - A fresh look at Luke 15

Through the Lens of a recent trip to Maasai Land in Kenya, I explore the context and content of Luke 15. Could it be teaching us something completely different than we thought?


The Text: Holman Christian Standard Bible - Luke 15

15 All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
So He told them this parable: “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.
“Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ 10 I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
11 He also said: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthyto be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast,24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Monday, February 13, 2017

Joseph rescues yet another victim of female circumcision and child marriage

Having spent a week in Joseph’s world, my heart is easily pulled back there. Moments ago, this story popped up on Messenger and now I’m back in Kenya, sitting at Joseph’s feet studying the tears in his reddened eyes as he tells me what he did today. 

NOTICE: THIS STORY CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT AND SENSITIVE MATERIAL WHICH MAY OFFEND SOME PEOPLE.

** This story has been edited and photo removed due to people fearing for the girl's safety. Thank you for your concern for her privacy and safety. Hopefully someone is concerned enough to help! **

---

Joseph wrote:

It was another beautiful dawn when, once more, I had to hit the ground going with hope as I embarked on a Rescue Mission in a land that is miles away from home, perhaps the most daunting journey that anyone can keep in the deepest canyons of their hearts.

The day was calm, the sky so clear and my heart beating at my chest wondering how it will all unfold.

**** is a 10-year-old girl from a village in the remote part of Kenya. In January this year her step mother lied to her about going to visit an aunt in a nearby village. Little did she know there was an arrangement made by her parents for her circumcision.

They set out together at 11am and after two hours of walking found themselves in an old hut at the edge of a forest. They had a nice traditional meal and afterwards she was informed by the old women living there of her imminent genital mutilation.

As if her well-being was important to them, they briefly counselled her. Then they went ahead and circumcised her using an old blunt knife they sharpened with a stone while she watched.

Her cries to stop it all fell onto deaf ears.

Immediately after the circumcision, she bled so profusely that she went into a coma for almost three hours. She came back to her senses at about 9 pm in evening. Two days afterwards she was taken home for recovery and traditional teachings.

Two weeks later a 66-year-old man came to visit her parents accompanied by three elders. They were there to make dowry negotiations.


**** felt the world was coming to an end as she watched the old man, looking frail and disgusting, settle with her parents on a dowry of 7 cows, 5 litres of beer, 4 blankets and 4 bedsheets. That is all she was worth. What seemed like an impossible nightmare was a painful reality.

She vehemently refused but all was in vain.

Her suitor organized for a group of nine men, who came for her by force, tied her by hands and legs and when she screamed for help they tied her to a nearby tree, beat her terribly until she bled profusely. They stripped her naked and walked her for 16 kilometers. Women and children along the way cried all they could to plead for mercy but with no success.

She was taken to the old man's property and put in a specifically built small hut. She came to learn it was built in preparation for her arrival.

Because **** was a virgin, the man hired a traditional midwife to prepare her. She made a fitted pair of pants that held a buffalo horn at the middle. Reason? The sharp pointy part was to be inserted into ****’s vagina to break her virginity and within a few days and to make it easier sexually for her husband.

**** told me this story at 3am in the morning when I rescued her under the cover of darkness. This was an ideal time for the rescue due to security issues and it was all organized by a lady friend who saw it all and the only hope was me.

My worry now is the old man's man hatred for me. Because of his age, he has the respect of others. This is our culture. He also has political connection because of his influence and wealth.

I have placed  **** with a motherly woman who will care for her until I decide the best course of action.  ****’s birthday just passed. I would love to see  **** placed in school like a normal eleven-year-old girl.

I call upon friends and well-wishers to join me in prayer as I seek a better future for this little innocent girl.  

Life, at times, gives us no reason to keep pressing on.

But destiny is in all our hands.

-----

If you would like to help go to http://educationcareprojects.com/donate/ and make a donation putting “Help Joseph” in the second “Address” line (or somewhere else where you can write a note). Or contact myself and we will arrange it.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sunday in Eldoret

On Sunday, I stayed at the Adventist Guest House and my work came to me. The rest of the Education Care Projects Kenya team headed out to Hands of Hope Academy.

GRV Children's Ministry Training Day


Pr Abigail Gichaba, the Children’s Ministry Director for this conference - the Greater Rift Valley Conference - and I worked together to put together a special day of training for her regional children’s ministry leaders.

When I headed to breakfast at the Adventist Guest House, I noticed a flurry of busyness in the hall where I was meant to take the meetings. I popped my head in and said, “Wow! This looks great, what’s happening in here today?” I was told there was to be a wedding. “Have you ever seen an African wedding?” One of the florists asked. I told her, “Yes, on television.” She laughed.

I then went to the front desk and inquired about today’s venue for the Children’s Ministry training. A few minutes later the receptionist brought me a piece of paper with the name of the church on the other side of Eldoret where the meeting was happening. By this time, Leon was with me and he called Carole in their hotel room to get more details. Pr Gichaba had said it would be here, at the Adventist Guest House. Carole came to the dining room and gave me Pr Gichaba’s business card. I rang the number and she said, “I am just driving into the compound. I will see you shortly.”

When Pr Abigail walked in she listened to the story of our dilemma and said, “I am here now, everything will be fine!” As she walked out of the dining room to arrange things, I looked at Leon and said, “Now that’s leadership!” He laughed and said, “Especially in Africa!”

There’s a phrase “TIA - This Is Africa” used by locals and travellers alike to describe the “anything can happen” attitude and reality of the African people. Pr Abigail was right. Not only was everything fine - it was amazing. She arranged the most beautiful setting imaginable - outside, under the big tents, on a mild sunny day with a gentle breeze. Pure magic.

Pr Abigail and I shared the teaching load and presented material on Sabbath School, Gracelink, Vacation Bible School, children’s choirs and storytelling. The theme for the day was TCI - Total Child Involvement. TCI is Pr Gichaba’s mission for the churches in this conference.

Nearly 100 people listened as we spoke. My words were repeated by a translator for those who do not understand English. It is always fun working with a translator when the audience is adult. They all help the translator with words they struggle with - and sometimes words they did just fine with. Then a discussion ensues as to the correct word. It certainly keeps people listening!

Pr Abigail started the day with introductions and then I presented worship - my favourite sermon, God's Storytellers which demonstrates that both Children’s Ministry and Storytelling are at the heart of the end time mission of God’s people. The next segment I did was about building and telling stories that teach a key point. In the next section I taught them how to plan and present a narrative sermon which will keep people listening for the entire time. My final section was on Sabbath School. I taught the four purposes of Sabbath School, the NEW Church core material and I demonstrated a workshop they can run in their churches.

It was a full day and finished with a photo taking session in which nearly every participant wanted a selfie with the Mzungu. I’m glad I wore my new Maasai shirt. It was well received by the guests and made me look the part in the photos!

Parents Day at Hands of Hope Academy


While I was participating with the GRV Children’s Ministry Training Day, the rest of the team from ECPK were out at Hands of Hope Academy. Courtney Tyler ran a special program for the older girls looking at their health, wellbeing and self-esteem. Leon ran a program for the older boys called ‘Valiant Men’ in which they explored what it means to be men of God. Carole hosted a beautiful experience for the new families.

A Matatu (mini bus) was sent to pick up all the parents and they were brought to the school to spend a day seeing the new environment where their children were being educated.

Each parent of the six children came along and sat together. They all greeted their children and watched with joy as their little ones played with the 60 other students. Carole told me it was a beautiful experience and the parents showed their appreciation many times during the day.

It was important to Leon and Carole that the families of these new children understand they are always welcome at Hands of Hope Academy and their family is still intact. Their children are being educated to bring a better life to their families, not taken away from them.

I was very moved by this gesture. I spend my working life with children as a state-school primary chaplain. My goal, everyday, is to empower the children to return home and honour their parents through compassion and cooperation. To see these Kenyan children separated from their families was very hard for me as it goes against my daily practice.

The integration of the family into the Hands of Hope experience is exactly what my aching soul needed for these families. I too went to boarding school and know that it can seperate or strengthen families based on the way the school connects with the parents. I believe Hands of Hope Academy is on a very healthy track.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sabbath Testimonies at Hands of Hope Academy

Sabbath afternoon at Hands of Hope Academy we sat outside in the shaded quadrangle between the buildings and shared stories from our lives.


Leon’s Story

Leon started with the story why he decided long ago to follow God’s leading. When his daughter Karen was just 17 months old, Leon ran out to the car in a rush to make it to a meeting he was late for. When he arrived at the meeting, a lady at the venue came rushing out to the car. She pointed at the space between the car and trailer it was towing. “Do you know your daughter is on the back of the car?”

Leon said, “It is impossible that a 17 month old child could stay in place inbetween a car and trailer at those speeds and conditions. We were saved from a horrendous tragedy. At that moment, I heard God say to me, “Keep working for me and I will always look after your family. I have not stopped listening to his leading since that day.”

Leon continued, telling of the beginning of Carole’s work in Kenya. Nine years ago, the first time Carole went to Kenya, she went with friends and Leon stayed home. “I didn’t feel God’s call for me to go to Kenya,” Leon said.

Three years after that trip, Leon went to Kenya  because he wanted to support Carole’s passion. But it still wasn’t his passion. A year after that trip at a men's meeting, a friend said, “Do you know you’re unequally yoked with your wife?” The call then came, loudly, from the Lord, “Join with your wife. Make her mission yours as well.”

“The devil has put many problems in our way.” Leon said, “This just firms my resolve that we are doing the Lord’s work! I am convinced I must serve the poor children in Kenya and I will keep doing this no matter what the devil does to try to stop us.”

His story finished, Leon invited others to share their stories.


Kevin’s Story

A young man named Kevin came forward and shared his story. When his father left his mother for another woman, his mother murdered the new partner. This resulted in life imprisionment for Kevin’s mother and his father abandoning him. “When I was still on all fours, before I could walk, my father left me,” Kevin said.

Kevin’s aunt looked after him until he was two years old and then she didn’t want him anymore. Just a toddler, Kevin wandered into the streets and lived with the many homeless children in Eldoret. When he met Eucabeth, he was approximately five years old. She asked him if he wanted to go to school. Kevin said yes and Eucabeth took him to meet Nestor and enrolled him in Hands of Hope Academy.

Kevin finished his testimony by thanking the school and sponsors for saving his life and making it possible for him to be safe and have an education.


Francis’ Story

Francis was born under a cloud of confusion about who his father was. The man married to his mother said, “Where did you get that baby?” Believing Francis wasn’t his, he threw her out.

They lived in many various places as his mother followed work to support him and his sister. After another unsuccessful marriage, the poverty became too much for her and she moved onto the street. An aunt looked after Francis and his sister.

Francis knew where his mother slept and went to find her one day, as she had been sick. He found her blanket but she was not in it. When he told his sister, she responded, “Yes, Mother left us today. She died.”

Francis, then ten years old, became a street child himself. He went into care homes and back to the street numerous times. During this time his leg was broken when a car hit him, he had dental trouble, and he started using drugs. One day, Eucabeth took Francis and three of his street friends to see Nestor. Only having enough sponsorship for three, Francis was sent back to the street.

Some time later, Francis was arrested and Eucabeth called Nestor. Sponsorship was available and Francis was taken to Hands of Hope Academy.

Francis concluded his testimony by thanking God and saying when he has graduated and is making money he will sponsor kids like himself to come to Hands of Hope Academy.


Judith’s Story

“I faced many challenges before I came here.” Judith said, “When my parents died, I lived with my older sister.” Her sister went out looking for work all day and often didn’t come home until very late. “I had to find food for the other children.”

Judith wasn’t able to go to school when she was old enough because she was too busy surviving. “When I asked to go to school, my sister would not allow it,” Judith said.

“Bigger kids would abuse me and I would cry because I knew if Mum was still here, she would protect me,” Judith said. Finally, Eucabeth convinced Judith’s sister to allow her to be schooled and she was brought to Nestor and enrolled in Hands of Hope Academy.

Judith finished her testimony by thanking the school and her sponsors and saying, “When I graduate and have a job,” she said, “I want to help my sisters.”

Judith graduated from Hands of Hope Academy in 2016 and passed the entry exam to go to High School. She left for High School on Monday morning.


Marion’s Story

Marion’s parents died when she was in 3rd grade. She moved in with her aunt but her aunt was very sick. In a short time she was living on the streets with friends. She tried to continue going to school as a street kid but failed her high school entry exams.

Marion spent many years living on the streets, begging for money and sleeping rough. She would occasionally go back to her aunts house but always ended up back on the street.

“When I met Eucabeth,” Marion said, “she told me ‘Don’t roam around town. You need a home.’ ” When Eucabeth took Marion to meet Nestor he said, “If you want to pass school, you will need to repeat grades.” She said she was willing to do that.

In 2015, Marion started grade 5. She is now in grade 7 and hopes to successfully pass her High School entry exam after grade 8 next year.

Marion finished her testimony saying, “The life I left was horrible. There were no rules and no future. I would like to thank everyone at the school and my sponsors.”


Morris’ Story

Morris ran away when he was abused by his step mum. He was welcomed by street boys and began a life of crime at a very young age. They walked from town to town, stealing from people.

“Once,” Morris said, “my friends stole from some people and were chased, caught and beaten to death. I was so scared I ran away. I got to Nairobi.” He was arrested in Nairobi and put in juvenile detention for 3 years. Then, the court sent him home.

“They gave me 1000 shillings ($10US) and told me - go home!” Morris said. He went to Eldoret and was put in jail there for criminal activity. He was a street thief, drug user and seller. He tried to sell drugs in the wrong area and, as punishment, was beaten and molested by the criminals who ran that area of town. He was taken to hospital in Nairobi.

Getting out of hospital, he travelled across the border to Tanzania and joined a crime gang. When one of his friends was beaten, he went back to Kenya. He made his way back to Eldoret and, arrested again, a friend introduced him to Nestor.

“Nestor told me, ‘What would you do at school?’” Morris said, “I would study.”

Morris was just 12 years old when he started at Hands of Hope. Now, three years later, he’s in grade 6 and is doing very well.

Morris finished his testimony by thanking everyone for giving him a chance to change his life.


Jeremiah’s Story

Jeremiah spent most of his young life avoiding school. He would make his parents believe he was going to school and then would go to town instead. Finally, he got so tired of being forced to go to school that he ran away from home.

Jeremiah walked to Eldoret and lived on the streets. A local school rescued him and he stayed for two weeks before running back to the streets.

When Eucabeth found Jeremiah, she told him to meet her at a church the next day if he wanted to change his life. He came and she prayed for him inside the church. Eucabeth then asked him if he wanted to take education seriously. He said yes and was taken to Nestor.

Jeremiah has been at Hands of Hope for five years now and is doing better each year.

He finished his testimony by thanking the school and sponsors for helping him.


Silas’ Story

Silas and his sister were treated like slaves by their family. Silas was forced by his grandparents to look after their sheep instead of going to school and was caned if he didn’t please them. His sister ran away when she was accused of something. Silas was sent to his mother and she forced him to work preparing vegetables to be sold by street vendors. Finally Silas ran away as well.

After living on the streets, Silas went home. He was sent from his grandparents to his mother to his brother and back and forth. He met some friends who were stealing money from people. They made him work for them.

When Silas finally met Eucabeth, he was more than eager to go to school. He was brought to Nestor and enrolled in Hands of Hope where he is thriving.

Silas finished his testimony by saying, “Thank you Nestor ans sponsors for saving my life!”

If you would like to support the work of Handers of Hope Academy fine to Education Care Projects Kenya today.

Sabbath at Hands of Hope Academy

Sabbath at Hands of Hope Academy was a very full day. After picking Eucabeth up in the city and driving the 30 minutes to the school we arrived at 10:30am. The children were already in one of the classrooms singing songs.

We joined them and listened to their beautiful music. They have song books in English and have learned lots of songs that I am familiar with. Courtney commented that they have changed a number of the tunes. They have adapted the western hymns and choruses to tunes that suit their style and rhythm. The songs are the better for it!

After a few songs, a teacher named Kelvin invited me to come into the adjacent classroom with a group of students. They were the platform party for the church service. We planned who would do which part and then we headed back into the worship room.

The church service was a typical one but with extra singing. When it was time for the sermon we explored Luke 15 together. I told them every time God finds one of his lost children, He throws a party. It is so amazing how the three stories of lost things in Luke 15 speak to this culture.

Loosing a sheep is a very real danger. One boy told - in the testimony time later - how he had to count the sheep every night and if he did not have them all in the pen he would receive a beating.

The next story, the lost coin, is very meaningful to those to whom a 20 shilling coin stands between starvation and their next meal. Losing a coin is a desperate situation - especially in the background of these orphan children.

Finally, to an orphan, the story of the lost son - embraced by the father - is a powerful desire in each of their hearts. I assured them their Father in Heaven loves them so very much and when He returns, He will hug each of them. Then there will be an amazing party with the longest table and more food than they have ever seen. We finished with prayer and then sang more songs.


During the afternoon, we had lunch - rice and beans - and a time of testimonies in which a number of the children told their stories. It was a moving time filled with tears of remembering and thanks to the sponsors and school for the lives they have now.

Christianity really has skin on it here in Kenya. There are so many people making a difference in the lives of orphans and widows. It’s like the stories of Jesus coming to life all around you.

After the testimony time, we walked out to the garden plot where they grow some of their food. It was a leisurely and lengthy walk through Kenyan bush and past numerous houses made from mud and sticks. As we walked, kids took turns holding my hands. When we stopped, I was asked lots of questions. My favourite was, “Why don’t you Mzungus shave your head like normal people?”

I spent time telling them stories about living in Australia and America. They spent time stroking the hair on my arms and slapping my hands to watch them turn red. They asked me to lean down so they could feel my hair. “It is so soft!” They said, “Do your children have the same hair as you? Can you show us pictures?”

Then it was a game of flipping through photos on my phone and showing it to a circle of kids eagerly waiting to see the next Mzungu teenager.

I learned some Swahili as well. I can now point at my nose, teeth, ears and eyes and say the Swahili word for each. Many of the kids speak passable English as they learn it in school. The older the student, the more likely they are to understand most of what I say.

When we arrived back from the walk we began making dinner - Ugali and cooked cabbage. One of the teachers cooked soy-meat in a beautiful sauce for the Mzungus. It was delicious.

Finally, almost 9pm, we drove back to town, dropped Eucabeth off at her home, drove to the Adventist Guest House and fell into bed exhausted just after 10pm.

It was a wonderful day that I will not soon forget.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Eucabeth's Story

Eucabeth Owino has a God given passion for helping poor children in Eldoret, Kenya.


“I love people!” Eucabeth said, “I walk in all these areas. I talk to people in the slums. I visit the street kids in the fields.”

When she returns from visiting the slums and dump, with information about people who need immediate help, Eucabeth connects them to the organisations who can provide their needs. “I check to see that it is safe to go out there, for other people,” She said.

Eucabeth runs a clothing business in Eldoret. She uses this as a base from which to connect the two worlds in her city - those who need and those who provide.

“While my marriage was falling apart,” Eucabeth said, “I wanted to die. I tried to die. But God would not let me die.”

“One night I dreamed about street children.” She said, “They were brought to me in my dreams.”

When she woke, Eucabeth decided it was just a dream. Then she had the dream again the next night. And the next.

“For two years,” Eucabeth said, sadly, “I refused to help them. Then, one night in my dreams, God said, ‘You died two years ago. I gave you your life back. Now it’s time for you to live for me. Go and give life back to these children!’ ”

Eucabeth has now worked with the street children for four years. “I do spiritual counselling.” She said, “I tell them what God says they should do and what He says they should not do!”

“Sounds like parenting,” I said.

“Yes!” She laughed, “They all call me Mother.”

“They appreciate someone telling them the truth,” She said.

Eucabeth connects the children she meets with a number of organisations. One of these organisations is Hands of Hope Academy. When she finds a child who seems like a promising student, she calls Nestor and once they have sponsorship they arrange a rescue (for the orphans) or a recruitment (for the children with families). Then the child begins the process of Christian education providing a hope and a future.

“Some children on the street,” Eucabeth said, “I take them home. This is my reconciliation work. I reconnect them with their parents, and make sure they do the right thing. If they have a home, they need to live there, not the dump. But other kids have no place to go. They really suffer.”

“The street children have no hope without help.” Eucabeth said, “I organise people to teach them skills. Some are very good at sport. Some music, drawing and painting. These skills give them hope.”

Eucabeth is a living breathing example of incarnational ministry. Just as Jesus walked and talked with the poor, shared His life with the destitute and healed them one by one - Eucabeth is changing the world one child at a time.

Oh that the world had more like Jesus!

Hands of Hope Academy

We arrived at the Adventist Hotel in Eldoret late Wednesday night after a full day of travel. After carrying my luggage into my room, I had a shower. While it has a long ways to go to be a shower like home, it was water falling from above and it was a beautiful experience!

The bed was wonderfully comfortable and the second shower in the morning was another gift from above! The showers here use an instant heat mechanism that you must switch on before entering the shower. After waiting for it to kick-in you turn on the single knob and find the sweet spot where cold and warm are equalised to your liking.

Interestingly, the shower is above the toilet. The one room serves as shower, toilet and sink. The toilet is completely soaked as is the entire tiled floor of the bathroom. This leads to slippery moments and a constant mental reminder to check the floor before entering the bathroom later as it will most likely be wet and as slippery as a wet fish.

After showering, I put all of my dirty clothes together and took them to the housekeeping people. For a small fee, they washed, dried, ironed and folded all my Maasai muddied clothes. This is a true blessing for Adventists travelling Kenya!

In the dining hall at breakfast, Amos came to visit. Amos was Leon and Carole’s very first sponsor child here at Hands of Hope Academy. They had not seen him for four years and it was a joyous reunion of storytelling. Rescued as an orphan as a small boy, Amos attended Hands of Hope Academy and showed himself to be a committed student. Amos is now a few months away from graduating from university with top marks. He has been studying mathematics and statistics. He told us of his desire to become a statistician and how difficult it can be to find a job. He said he was intending to do further study after his attachment (placement) at the end of this term.


At breakfast the next day, I entered the dining room and introduced myself to the only man in the room. A laptop in front of him, Hesbon was preparing for a meeting he had in a few minutes. I asked him what he does for work. He said, “I work at hospitals all around Kenya.”

“Do you see a lot of traumatic injuries?”

“No, I don’t work in that part of the hospitals.” Hesbon said.

“Oh, what is your work?”

“I am a statistician.” he said, “I collect and compare data from all our hospitals and help them provide the best service by analysing the data.”

I told him about Amos and he said, “I have just sent a young man from his attachment to Nairobi where he is to start a new job this week!”

“Do you need another attachment?” I asked.

“If I do not use him,” Hesbon said, “I will arrange for an attachment in medical statistics for Amos.”

Leon walked in and I introduced them, giving him a quick update. They swapped stories and details and it looks like Amos will not struggle to find an attachment!

When we were all sitting down at our second breakfast here, Leon said, “That is a God thing!”

Carole said, “God does things like this for these children over and over. He truly blesses them because they are His special children.”

Inbetween those breakfasts was an amazing day filled with meeting children in situations both before and after being taken to Hands of Hope Academy.

First we drove to the Academy and met Nestor, the passionate leader behind all that happens there. Nestor is an administrator and insures that the students and teachers have all they need to provide the best education possible for the children rescued from the Eldoret area.


Most of the 59 children at Hands of Hope Academy were living on the local dump before they were rescued, cleaned up and taken to the boarding school just outside Eldoret. Among all of the children rescued, only one has left the school and returned to life on the street. This is their choice but the change in their lives is enough to keep most focused on a better future through Christian education.

Late last year, the students participated in an evangelistic program and 29 of the 59 were baptised. This combination of faith in Christ and education gives them the best possible start in life and leads them toward eternal life as well.

The other children at Hands of Hope University, like the five we met today, came from slum areas around Eldoret. The parents of these children have decided to send their children to the boarding school to provide a hope and a future for them outside of the slums.

After visiting the students and sharing a time of worship and games with them, we entered each of Eldoret’s three slum areas to meet the families of our five newest recruits. It is hard to describe the poverty and dire need we encountered.

The mother of one child, Margaret, explained to our translator that when they cannot come up with the 200 shillings a week rent ($2 US) for their slum house, the landlord comes and locks the entire family outside until they give him the money. I asked the translator how much rent was, just a few blocks away, in the city. “About 7000 shillings a month,” she said. To leave the slums, a family must afford nearly 10 times the amount for rent. It is an impossible situation. So they continue living in makeshift housing with their livestock and children all sharing the same tiny room.

All of the children we visited in the slums were about seven years old - ready to start school. First we met Agnes and her parents. Our translator, Eucabeth, showed the parents photos of their son John who started at the school a couple of months ago. At first they looked at the pictures not sure it was really him. But as she flipped from one photo to the next they realised the gorgeous clean boy wearing the school uniform was, indeed, their son John. Laughter and tears followed as they showed the pics to the other children in the room.

The transformation truly is amazing. As I am writing this, the others are outfitting the five new students with clothing and shopping for their needs this term. They will return here soon and we will scrub the kids down and give them fresh haircuts. Then, in their new clothes and looking their very best, we will take them to meet their new school friends.

Margaret (pic by Courtney Tyler) 

The second child we met was Margaret. Excited about going to Hands of Hope Academy, Margaret stood by the open door the entire time we were there. When we explained that tomorrow we would meet them in the city to shop for school and then we would go to school, she shook her head. She said something and the translator said, “She says, ‘I want to go now!’” We assured her than we truly would take her there tomorrow and she relented.

The third child we met was Mary. Her mum, a single lady, lives with her sister and struggles to feed her children. Both Mary and her mother were so excited about the opportunity for a new life for Mary.

To reach the final stop we put the Prado into low gear and crawled up a steep hill to the poorest part of the slums. Turning left and driving down a long walking track, we found a tiny shack made from corrugated siding which housed Sophie, her mum and many other children. “Where do they all sleep?” Courtney asked as we walked across the rubbish strewn ground toward their home.

With her long dreadlocks and intelligent eyes, Sophie was my fast favourite. She was dirty from head to toe but exuded beauty and wit. As we talked to her mum and played games with the kids - they love shaking Mzungu hands and jumping like rabbits - our final recruit walked up with his mum.

Mentally challenged, his mum is cared for by the community around her. Through the translator, Collins’ mother expressed her joy that we would educate and care for her beautiful little boy. Clearly a bright young man, Collins is a perfect candidate for Hands of Hope Academy.

Carole just stuck her head into the dining room where I am writing and said, “We are back! We have six, not five!” Leon had been praying for a certain boy - if it was God’s will for this one too, although a sponsor is yet to be found - and this morning at breakfast he said, “God has put this boy on my heart. We must see what we can do.”

Finding these five students amongst the thousands in the slums of Eldoret is the passion of Eucabeth who served as our translator on this trip. Eucabeth walks the streets of the slums every day and talks to the people. Walking with her, it is clear that everyone knows her. She exudes the compassion of Christ as she embraces and exchanges greetings with the people.

Most of the students sponsored to attend Hands of Hope Academy are orphans rescued from the Eldoret dump. These children spend their days rummaging for food and doing odd jobs for shop owners to earn enough to buy glue. The children on the dump put the glue into bottles and strap the bottles under their nose. This shoe glue is highly toxic and gives them a quick and consistent high. It also damages their brain.

Eucabeth walks the dump talking to the children. When she finds a new child - one with a fully functioning brain - Eucabeth calls Nestor at Hands of Hope Academy and says, “I have found a child who is able to go to school. Do you have another sponsor?”

Without Eucabeth, it would be impossible to find the needles of potential in the jumbled haystack of Eldoret’s children. We will learn Eucabeth’s story next.

First World Problems

In life, there are occasional days that open up the world to you through the difficulties you surpass. Today was one of those days.

Leaving Joseph’s property, we drove to the school that Education Care Projects Kenya is building to provide safety and education to the children rescued in Maasai Land. We stopped and snapped a few photos of the school’s foundation and the beginning of the walls. Leon will be back in April to continue building. Any builders willing to assist, Leon would be very grateful!


Once finished at the school, we headed back down the worst road in Kenya to get to the nearest village where we purchased lunch - chipates - a local flatbread served hot which is cross between a tortilla and a crepe. Very delicious and very hot!

We then headed back up the road toward Joseph’s but turned left before reaching it. We then weaved our way along the dirt track that took us through many small villages. Using google maps and Leon’s local knowledge we navigated our way to the Tarmac road more than 2 hours drive from the beginning of our day’s journey.


When we reached Kissi, the first large town, we stopped to have two punctured tyres repaired. This was an amazing opportunity to watch the Mzungu master of local bartering at work. Leon knew what to expect.

As we pulled into service station we stopped in the repairs area rather than at the petrol filling pumps. This gave the sharks their first scent of blood. A couple of repairmen walked leisurely toward the vehicle. When Leon, a Mzungu man, stepped out of the vehicle it was like throwing a bucket of blood in shark infested waters. They came from everywhere!

The repair work at petrol stations in Kenya - to say it in a nice way - seems to be a cooperative effort between the petrol station manager and numerous small business owners. They came from around the petrol station, down the road, across the road and in the middle of the road. “Leon loves this,” Carole said, her tongue planted firmly in her cheek.

Leon carefully selected one man and began dealing with him. Later, Leon explained, "They all want money. Every man who does anything will want to be paid substantially for his small part.”

Leon took a flat off the back of the vehicle and explained, to the man of his choice, "It has a hole in it. Soapy water and plugs are all you need to do. I will give you 150 for the job.” The man took the wheel, rolled it across the road to his puncture fixing stand, and began taking the tyre off the rim, “NO!” Leon said, “Just the holes!”

Back in the car, Carole said, “We should get some drinks. They might have something in the shop.” After a brief search, we found a refrigerator with some Fanta, Coke and fruit drink.

As I returned to the Prado with the bottles, I was accosted by a local superhero, “I am Puncture Man!” He pointed seriously at the rear tyre and said, “Flat tyre!” I agreed that the tyre was definitely low. “I fix now!”

“I am not Boss Man,” I said. Pointing across the road at Leon who was defending the abused tyre on the other side of the road, I said, “He is boss man. He decides.”

“You talk to him,” Puncture Man said, sweeping his cape aside and valiantly stopping traffic to lead me across the road by the arm. When I arrived at Leon’s side, I explained the other tyre to him. “Yes, it will be fixed next,” he said.

I said, “This is Puncture Man, he is here to rescue the other tyre from certain death and destruction.” (I may have said something less witty at the time, but stories get creative in the retelling!) Leon explained that he only hires one man at a petrol station to keep costs in control.

I explained this to Puncture Man and he was not happy. “It’s faster for two men with two tyres!” He said. I pointed sadly at Leon and said, “Boss Man.” Then I shrugged my shoulders and raised my palms in front of me.

“So bad.” Puncture Man said, “So very bad.”

“I’m sorry,” I said before I walked back across the busy Kisii road, alone and unprotected by any local super heroes.

When the two tyres were repaired the fun really began. They wanted 700 shillings for the 300 shilling job. Leon explained, before he began, that the job (which he has had done many times at many places in Kenya) is worth 150 a tyre.

Among the many comments that exceeded their language barrier were Leon saying, “I will not!” And “Come off the grass!”

“You will pay each man!”

“I will not!”

“You will pay 700!”

“Come off the grass! I will not!”

The ladies in the back seat were giggling uncontrollably. Anyone who knows Leon, loves him for his gentle nature. But, as Leon says, “When it comes to God’s money, I will not waste it!”

To save money, Leon does most of the repair work on the Prado himself. He has two shock absorbers he will be installing before we head out of Eldoret on Wednesday for our next long drive. With all the skills to repair the vehicle himself, and the knowledge of local prices, highway robbery takes Leon’s righteous indignation to unknown heights!

After leaving Kisii we had driven an hour or so when the Coke and chipates combined in an explosive brew and caused my stomach to began behaving very disrespectfully. Every bounce and jostle sent gases wheezing through my internal pipes in all directions.

After an hour or two of shifting my position repeatedly in an attempt to ease the discomfort, I mentioned my agony to the other passengers. Graciously, no-one mentioned that they were already aware of my situation. “We will stop at the next service station.” Leon said, “They will have a bathroom.”

Some time later we came into a town and found a service station. We asked about a bathroom and they lead us through a warren of backstreet rooms behind the station and she said, “You want washroom?” I nodded and she pointed at a door.

Upon pushing the door open, I knew I was out of luck. I entered and closed the door because I did not want to show disrespect. This was no washroom - there was nowhere to wash anything. There wasn’t even a recognisable toilet. Instead, it appeared that someone had installed a urinal by placing it, on it’s back, into the floor and concreting around it.

I couldn’t imagine how to use it.

I exited and the next person took their turn. Leon explained to me, “It’s not an easy task. Take off all your clothing from the waste down, brace yourself with one hand against the wall behind you and hope for the best.”

“I’ll pass,” I said.

“We can look for a western toilet in the next town,” Leon said.

And we did.

In the next town we stopped at a hotel and I was lead to the back, then outside, then around the corner of a building and shown a brick outhouse. The door was around the backside of the building and broken off the hinges. Inside, two wooden slats hovered precariously over a pit of gurgling goo.

I returned to the Prado for another hour of intestinal disrespect.

As we pulled up to the final petrol station, Leon said, “Hopefully this one will have what you need.”

“At this point,” I said, “Anything will do. This ends now!”

As I opened my car door, I said, “Here goes everything.” Laughs of sympathy rippled out of the door behind me.



Four hours after my stomach first announced it’s unwillingness to comply quietly, I entered the third toilet block. There, gaping up at me, was a concrete version of the first room. Following Leon’s advice, I removed everything within range. Then, pressing my knees firmly against the walls on either side, I became a world traveller.

The clearest defining line between two sides of the world, has been made clear to me. Those who use squat toilets and those who do not. While it is not an opportunity I will actively seek out, it is one I can now safely negotiate.

Returning to the vehicle, I was in much better spirits. As we joined the bustling Kenyan traffic and continued on our journey, I felt a new sense of solidarity with the wider world and comradery with my three gracious travel companions.