Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

For New Year's Eve the 6 senior couples that live in Nairobi in the same complex had a progressive dinner and game night. We barely made it to midnight but we always have a great time whenever we are together (no pictures of the excitement though).
The following Sunday Jan 2nd was a special day for us because another of our students was baptized (this is number 7). Mutinda is an amazing 17 year old young man who has been attending the branch long enough that many of the branch members mistakenly thought that he was already a member. As we taught him he asked very thoughtful and deep questions and willingly did all of his reading assignments and came to class each week prepared with questions and answers. He was so ready to be baptized!!
The following Saturday Jan8th the Nairobi couples went to eat at a restaurant that specializes in unique meats barbecued on a rotisserie and then they bring them to your table and slice off a piece for you if you want. The most exotic meat was crocodile.
The following weekend Jan 13th-18th we traveled up to Eldoret to help in a Zone Conference Training and attend the wedding of President Dominique KoGo's (he is the first counselor in the Kenya Nairobi Mission Presidency) daughter-pictures to follow. The celebration lasted the entire day. We found out when we got there that we were both on the program as speakers for the wedding.
The next day-Sunday Jan 16th we attended church in one of the local branches before returning home to Nairobi. An interesting side note is that whenever we visit a branch they invite us to speak.
Again today Jan 23rd we went to visit two branches in the Kilungu Hills and both of them asked us to speak. We have decided that we need to either stop visiting any more branches except the one we are assigned to or beef up our file of impromptu talks.
Next Sunday we will return home to our friends in the Kilili Branch where we think we will only have to teach the investigator sunday school class.

This is the Branch President Davis Makiti about to baptize Mutinda.

I predict that this young man will not only be a great missionary but a great future leader of the church here in Kenya!

Can you tell what Karen is saying about having a piece of crocodile meat? She is such a party pooper!

More Christmas celebrating

On Christmas day after their service projects each zone or area met together for white elephant gift exchange, a nice dinner, and a viewing of a video slide program reviewing the year 2010. The senior missionaries in each zone helped provide food and the missionaries provided the entertainment. All reports from the missionaries indicated that it was an enjoyable way to spend Christmas away from family. The Tanzania 2 zones spent Christmas with the President and Sister Burgener in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The Mombasa Zone was at the home of Elder and Sister McBride. The Kitale area went to the home of Elder and Sister Beecher. The Kisumu/Busia zone met in the home of Elder and Sister Fox in Kisumu. While the rest of the Eldoret Zone met in the home of Elder and Sister Lurf in Eldoret.

Pictured below are the 3 zones (Upper Hill, Buru Buru and Chyulu) that spent Christmas day at the Mission Office.

On the far right of this picture are the Assistants to the President-Elder Lipengah (with reindeer antlers) and Elder Mangenela (with Santa hat) conducted our celebration. 2 of our 10 Sister missionaries-Sister Duma and Sister Motloi are seated next to Sister Broadbent (in the center).

Our Christmas tree this year was different from any other in size shape and decorations. This is a Baobab tree made from banana leaves with home made decorations from Kenya artisans.

Another beautiful face from the Cancer treatment wing of Kenyatta Hospital.

Still another face that I will not forget from the Cancer wing.
It was a Christmas that we will never forget! Our hearts go out to our own children and grandchildren who have been so supportive of us being so far away from them. We love you all so much. Each of you are in our thoughts and are in our prayers everyday.

Christmas Eve Service Project at Kenyatta Hospital

For Christmas, President and Sister Broadbent asked each Zone of young missionaries to organize a service project for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The response was incredible! We heard reports on some of these projects and got invited to join one of them. The zone closest to the Mission Office had planned to go to the children's cancer wing of the Kenyatta Hospital. They rented one of those air-filled jumping cage and set it up in the hall way. They also brought large balloons for each child, played games with them, held them, sang songs with them, held hands with them and hugged them. For a couple of hours or more these little kids we able to forget about chemotherapy, and the loneliness of being couped up in a hospital bed at Christmas time. Some of them with no hope of recover, and others with no family near enough to come visit them for the Holidays. We were so proud of the way these young missionaries shared their love without any reservation.

One bashful little girl caught my eye and Karen's hand and heart.

This little guy was content to play in the box that we brought the gifts in far away from the action. When I asked if he wanted his picture taken he nodded yes and his eyes lit up when I showed him his image on my camera.

Some of the kids followed me around asking me to take their picture. You can see grandma in the background with her new found friend who would not let her go.

This is the Upper Hill and Buru Buru zones of missionaries at their service project. You can see the joy that they brought into the lives of these kids.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Senior Missionary Service Project at an Orphanage

On December 22nd all of the senior missionary couples in our mission, including the Mission President and his wife, joined together to do a service for the Bishop Kigen Orphanage in the small farming community of Eldama Ravine located an hour north of the site where we had had our Safari.
This came about by a chance meeting that I had with the founder and director Bishop Kigen (I am not sure what denomination he represents but he is truly a great Christian man) in a shopping mall in Nairobi a few weeks earlier. As we visited on that occasion, I was moved when he told me with excitement that the 26 orphans that lived in his orphanage were planning a dinner and activity for over 100 underprivileged youth in their community. I thought "now they really have the spirit of Christmas." Here they were kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers left alone without any family to care for them, wanting to share what little they had with others "less fortunate than they." Bishop Kigen invited Sister Nevin and I to visit them for this special program. At first we did not commit to him but when we realized that it was just another hour drive from where we were going to be staying for our Safari and that it was going to start just an hour after we were planning to leave the lodge to return home to Nairobi, we told him that we would try to stop by. There is a saying that smacked me upside the head when it dawned on me that the coincidence of timing and location coupled with our chance meeting,"with the Lord there is no such thing as a coincidence." When we told our senior missionary friends about this opportunity they too were excited about the prospect of visiting the orphanage as well. With out much time to organize we put together small bags of gifts and sweets for each of the orphans and each of the 100+ guests. And several couples pooled their money to buy a few large bags of rice, beans and flour to help out the orphanage. We all got caught up in the spirit of giving-it was such a great way to bring the spirit of Christmas into our hearts.

As we drove into their compound they greeted us with singing and those beautiful smiles and waves. Already they had given us more than we had prepared to give them. They had given us the gift of gratitude and unconditional love that melted our hearts. We were surprised to see how clean they were and how happy they were. It was obvious that they had been given new clothing for this special occasion too.

Bishop Kigen included a few of us as guest speakers (unannounced to us until only a few minutes before the starting time) in a short program. Bishop Kigen translated my few remarks into Kiswahili.

This is a very common site throughout Africa: that is children caring for children. Usually it is older brothers and sisters carrying and caring for younger brothers and sisters, but here at the orphanage, it was older orphans caring for the younger orphans in much the same loving way.

Sister Broadbent and several other senior missionaries taught the children some fun primary songs. Here they are learning "popcorn popping on the apricot tree". They also sang favorites like "I'm Trying to be like Jesus" and some Christmas carols too. Then we showed them a short video on the Nativity entitled "Luke 2."

After the video the couples went with the kids and played and talked with them one-on-one. There was a lot of hugging, smiling, holding of hands, soccer playing, pushing on the swing and laughing. It was a glorious day for all of us.
I witnessed so many acts of kindness that day by my fellow missionary friends that I came away with a greater love for each of them and a greater appreciation for this opportunity to witness the impact of true love of Christ (which is the definition of charity). We will cherish the memories of this day forever.

Our Most Recent Safari

More Safari pictures

There is a funny story related to this picture. We had just arrived at the entrance to the park and were waiting for another couple to arrive so we got out of our vehicles to stretch and visit. I forgot to roll up the window on our truck and this monkey jumped in and grabbed a baggy with some blueberry muffins. He was quickly up the nearest tree to eat them, at least after trying to figure out the zip lock bag he just ripped it open.

One evening the staff of the lodge at which we were staying invited us to a special performance. Karen was pulled up on stage to dance with them she was a good sport.

We followed this Rhino for some time as he walked across a long meadow. But he decide to stop to shade himself by this tree.

When we first came upon this pride of lions they were all asleep under this twisted tree. But after a few minutes one of them heard something off in the distance and stood up. Whatever it was we were not able to hear or see it. It must have been their next meal arriving. This tree was on a ridge that overlooked the valley. It is a perfect spot for them to just wait for their next meal to walk by. The park is kind of like a smorgasbord of impalas, Thompson's gazelles, Cape buffalo, water bucks, zebras plus many more.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Busy December

It was such a blessing for us that December was so busy because it kept us from having a blue Christmas except when we would hear "I'll Be Home for Christmas". We had transfers on the 15th which meant saying good-bye to 4 young missionaries returning home and to the Public Affairs Country Directors-the Pucketts. But the good news was that we got to meet the new Public Affairs Couple the Jensens from Utah and 2 new young missionaries. These times are bitter sweet and especially tender because in most cases we know that we will probably never see them again in mortality. We were invited to our first African wedding, that of Elder Hesbon Usi's daughter. Elder Usi is our Area Seventy Representative here in Nairobi. After about the 20th almost everything shuts down here in the city because most of the people living in Nairobi are transplants from somewhere else and for Christmas they all return home. They refer to it as "going up country" to be with family for Christmas and New Years. The senior couples took advantage of this time to also go on a 3 day 2 night safari to Lake Nukuru National Park. It is known for Flamingos on the lake and Rhinos-we saw a lot of both plus a lot more.

We got brave (or stupid) enough to step out of our vehicle long enough to have this picture taken. There was a family of 3 Rhinos (pictured here are Mom and infant) grazing right next to the lake.

The second day Karen and I got up before sunrise to get some morning pictures of the Flamingos and were treated to witness about four Hyenas trying to catch their breakfast. I opened my door to stand and take this picture when I turned to get back in there were two other hyenas the had snuck up, not too far behind me. I think they were hoping to have a much bigger breakfast than a bird.

Here are a few Flamingos. We understand that at other times of the year there are significantly more of them.

I like this shot, taken just off the road, because this baby Baboon was stretching and trying to wake up his mother, that he sitting on, to have breakfast. Neither seemed to be bothered by the small herd of Implala walking by.
This is the wedding party of Elder Usi's daughter. The couple on the left of the picture is the Mission President and Sister Broadbent. The Usis are the couple between Karen and I.