Sunday, April 30, 2006

Speed bumps

There are 36 speed bumps in the 10-km drive from town to our village. Thirty six! Twenty six are in the 7-km stretch that's tarmac. (Yip. That means that our gravel road with all it's potholes and ditches still has speed bumps, too!)

Until this week, the main road between here and town had only about 15, maybe. I was so happy when I saw the city trucks putting down new tarmac on stretches of the road to town, thinking they're filling up potholes. Instead, they added more speed bumps... I honestly think that at least half the potholes on the roads could've been filled with the tar the government uses to build speed bumps.

I don't get it! Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Places I have visited

Up to age 18, I had never flown. But on a few family vacations (from South Africa) we drove across the border to neighboring countries: Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and self-governing "homelands" which are part of South Africa again since 1994: Transkei, Lebowa, Kwazulu, QuaQua, Venda and Bophutatswana.

In 1987, I went to the US as an exchange student, and the US, Canada and Germany were added to my list of countries visited.

While attending the University of Pretoria, I got the chance to go to Namibia with friends (that's before that country was made famous by Brad and Angelina...). I also went on a university choir tour, and in one trip, I added a slew of countries to my list: Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

A few years later, I moved to Taiwan, and from there, I got to visit Hong Kong (which was independent of China at the time), Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Guam (though that's technically a US territory), Singapore, Kenya and New Zealand.

Then I went back to the US for grad school, and Mexico got added to the list as we did missions preparation weekends across the border.

Now that I'm living back in Africa again, I've had the chance to go and teach in Ethiopia, and next week, I'm going to Sudan for outreach.

I would've never thought that in my life I'd get to see so much of the world! Traveling isn't my goal in life. It just so happens that I've had the opportunity to see much of God's creation.

The most beautiful place I've ever been? There are several that stand out:
* the underwater splendor of Sipidan Island (Malaysia)
* God's Window (Mpumalanga province, South Africa)
* the Outeniqua Forest (Eastern Province, South Africa)
* Grand Canyon (USA)
* Taroko Gorge (Taiwan)
* Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)
* the Maasai Mara (Kenya)
* Swakupmund (Namibia)
* Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)

But then faces pop up in my mind, of people whom I love who have made even obscure little villages and towns some of my favorite places in the world.

Somehow, I believe, my visit to Sudan next week will have such an impact on my life that the faces of the kids living among the cattle, for example, will probably be etched in my mind... I can't imagine it being otherwise.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

One week till Sudan

Next week this time, I'll be boarding a small plane with eight others. It's a two-hour flight to Lochichogio (Lochi), where we have to clear customs. Then we take off for another two-hour flight to Padak, where we're praying we'd be able to land. There is but a gravel landing strip in Padak, and when it rains (like it does this time of year), they sometimes have to turn planes back to Lochi.

The team I'm going with are mostly medical people: four nurses and a physician's assistant. Then there are two pastors, one community health care trainer, and me. While the others are offering clinics, I have to go and interview all of our orphans to get their stories. I'll also be talking with our teacher who is single-handedly caring for 13 of the orphans. (Fifteen more currently stay with extended family.)

I also want to write something about the life that many of our students live, among thousands of cows in a cattle camp. Cattle camps are areas where children take care of cows. They sleep with the cows and drink the milk from the cows. To the Dinka, cows are invaluable! The children who take care of the cows are anywhere from age three upwards. They burn cow dung to keep pests off the cows, so these kids are easily recognizable: They're all covered in white ash. I am planning on staying at a cattle camp one night. David Tarus, one of the ELI directors (and a pastor), is also planning on spending a night among these children, so I should be safe. I cannot imagine really getting any sleep, though...

While the pastors and community health-care trainer is doing teaching, I'll be recording their sessions--as well as the Dinka translations--so that we can put this, with Dinka music, onto CDs or other pre-programmable, solar-powared devices that we can then send into remote villages.

1. Please pray for safe travels, including that we may be able to land in (and fly out of!) Padak.
2. Please pray that I will be able to spend one night at a cattle camp in order to effectively tell the story of the lives of 50+ kids who currently attend our school and whom we feed. Especially pray for the interaction with these children, that I'll be able to share the message of Jesus Christ in a clear way.
3. During all the interviews and visits, I'll be using a translator. Please pray for a good translator!
4. Please pray for me as I'll be using new audio recording equipment that I've never used before, that everything will go smoothly and there will be no technical glitches. Please also pray for
5. All of our food (lentls, rice, ugali) and water was sent by land. There might be a few times that we may be offered goat meat. Please pray for protection against any food-borne diseases, as well as protection from malaria. Right now, I'm fighting some bacterial infection... Please pray for complete health before we leave for Sudan!

Thanks for being part of this journey.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Candlelight dinner

Tonight, I had nine guests over for dinner. OK, three of them happened to be kids, but still, nine humans in my house is a LOT of people. It was great, though. I had cooked chicken and vegetables, and made baked potatoes and garlic bread in the outdoor oven. And I baked lemon poppyseed muffins to go with the salad.

I know! I hardly ever cook like this any longer. I simply don't take the time to cook such meals since things take much longer here. So, in between editing articles and dealing with visiting team arrangements, I put dinner together. It made for a good goal: Finish this task, then I can get up and prepare the next thing.

Just as everyone was here, the lights went out and then, BAM! there was a loud thunder. It's been raining almost every evening for the past few weeks, and tonight was no exception. Fortunately, I had candles burning, so none of the kids were scared. In fact, when the power came back on an hour or two later, we turned off the lights since it was so cozy...

My point? Despite the fact that I was running between my home and the outdoor, woodburning oven, I can bake and cook a decent meal. It just takes more time and planning.

Last night, I put on my rain coat, took The Best of Dr. Suess and went to read The Cat in the Hatto my boys. A good end to a difficult day. It's so true, isn't it? When things are tough, look away from yourself, see how you can serve others, and things simply don't seem that tough any more.

Monday, April 24, 2006


This morning, I headed into town to pick up a stepdown transformer so I can get a toaster oven given to me by dear friends to work. The whole deal with getting the transformer has been a test of patience, but that's a different story. Knowing I'll be able to cook good food in an OVEN tonight, I first headed to the market. Bought vegetables, and with a heavy bag in my one hand, I didn't keep my other hand in my pocket, holding my wallet.

As I left the greater market area, a guy came walking toward me, waving plastic bags and locking eyes with me. I never buy plastic bags from individuals since the vendor who I buy from provides bags. I thought this was weird that the guy was trying to sell me a bag though he saw I was leaving the market, and the next moment, I felt my wallet move in my skirt pocket as the guy brushed past me. THANK GOD I felt it, and immediately said, "HEY!" He jogged off running backward with a smile on his face, like saying, "Oh, well!" He didn't manage to grab my wallet, and I'll be sure to be more careful next time. Yikes, eh?

Next, I picked up the transformer and headed home, excited to cook food in an oven for the first time in months. However, as I plugged in the oven, it blew! My beautiful Cuisinart toaster oven might now just be a large paperweight... I'm praying that I might be able to have it fixed.

It's just one of those days! Things can only get better from here on!

Friday, April 21, 2006

NCBC in Africa

NCBC in Africa
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
NCBC short-term missionary Dana Wolschlager passed through my town today, so we were able to meet up. He's with Africa Inland Mission, so after having sodas and visiting about our experiences in Kenya, I dropped him off at their missions college, which is up the road from where our base is.

The Road

The Road
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
This is the road we take for our morning walks. There have been a couple of times that I really missed the paved roads of Cedar Rapids. Paved roads make for "cleaner" walks. But nothing beats the smell of fresh air here (with the occasional whiff of cow manure).

I drove this road today without getting stuck, but vowed not to take this route again until the dry season. In many spots, there are deep dongas (trenches) on the side of the road where, if your car slides in the mud and slides into one of those, you'd be more than stuck. You'd have to be lifted out!

Anyway, this should make you appreciate city roads in the developed world.

Update: April 2006

In less than two weeks, I'll be leaving for Sudan. I'll be accompanying a medical team to capture on film, in words and on audio the fast-growing ministry of ELI Sudan.

One of the stories I hope will materialize is that of our 53 students who live among cows. I plan to walk home from school with them and capture their lives among the cattle for which they care. Until now that they have the chance to go to school, their lives have centered around their cows. For many, the only "food" they've been having for years has been the milk they get from the cows. Now, ELI has a food program which provides them with a meal at school three times a week: Rice and lentils.

For 6 days (from May 3-9):

* we'll live in tents in heavy rain and strong winds
* we'll wear gumboots due to this being the rainy season in Sudan
* yet we will have NO access to running water
* which means we will not be able to take a single shower or even a sponge bath (I'll "harvest" rainwater for a daily cleaning)
* nor will we have access even to an outhouse (bring your own shovel)
* and we will eat instant oatmeal for breakfast, rice and lentils for lunch, and ugali (corn mush) for dinner. Some nights, there might be goat meat with the ugali

But it's so worthwhile, because

* we'll get to share Christ with people who have never heard of Jesus
* I'll sit and talk with children who rely on a fellow cow herder to read to them from the Bible once a week because no one else can read yet
* we'll minister God's peace in a land that's been torn by war for 21 years
* in addition to taking photos and interviewing people, I will be recording sermons and teachings done in the Dinka language while we are there. I'll also record Dinka singing. We'll then compile the singing, teachings and sermons on CD in order to send this to remote areas with a portable CD player and speakers. (The singing is to draw a crowd.)

I need you to pray for me and for our team. Please pray . . .

1. for our health, especially protection against malaria! I am told that at this time of year, you don't swat mosquitoes—you literally wipe off the swarms from your arms
2. for extra patience with ourselves, one another and our host culture despite the extreme circumstances
3. for safety in travels (especially landing on a gravel airstrip during the rains!)
4. for safety (from rain) for my camera and recording equipment
5. for Spirit-led conversations with the Sudanese
6. to hear God's voice clearly throughout this journey (and beyond!)

As often as we can, we'll use the ELI satellite (Irridium) phone to call in reports to staff who will update the ELI blog Check that site for news, prayer and praise during our time in Sudan.

Praise God that the majority of this mission has already been funded. (We'll have to charter MAF planes to take is to Sudan and back, which is the costliest part of this mission.) I need to contribute $500 toward this trip. I will also have to purchase the digital audio equipment, which is another $700.

If you would like to contribute toward this mission, please send a check to ELI, P.O.Box 67, Upland, CA 91785. Write 319 in the memo line. Please also e-mail me so I know which funds are meant specifically for the Sudan ministry.

Thank you in advance for your prayer support as well as financial support, without which we at ELI cannot do what we're doing.

"Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of
all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth. Judge
righteously. And plead the cause of the poor & the
needy." Prov. 31:8-9

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
It's Easter break and the kids have been keeping themselves busy with all kinds of activities, including gardening.

Here, Rogers is looking at Vincent who's decided to split across the double-dug bed. The kids were over at my place today to pick up several seedlings as well as packets of seeds for their garden. They LOVE this new adventure: Small-scale farming. :) They've been making very small gardens along the fence, so branching out to a bigger area is a step forward.

Click on Rogers' photo for more of the Rotich kids' gardening fun.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Women's Bible Study

Tonight, the Ilula Women's Bible Study group met for the first time at my house. Two of the orphanage moms showed up. Having 24 kids, their schedules are packed! But they had been praying for a Bible study group for a while and were very excited to come.

We decided to do a study by a ministry called "Women of the Harvest." It's not too much for their schedules, yet it still has you in the Word and has some good questions for discussion.

Since tonight was the first night, we just spent time visiting and praying. By the time they left, it was pouring. It still is! I doubt we'll be able to walk in the morning. The road will be a mud bath.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Early morning walk

This morning, Amy Rogers and I went for an early-morning walk. It really wasn't that early, but since I'm still trying to get over jet lag, 6:45 felt too early. It was good, nevertheless, and something I'd like to keep doing.

We walked directly south for about 30 minutes, passing farmers working in their fields, kids playing (it's Easter break), some cattle, even a jogger. (OK, we didn't pass her, but our paths crossed. Due to the elevation of 7,000 ft, this area is very popular for runners.)

It was incredible to be out so early, to appreciate the freshness of everything around. Birds were chirping, and the trees and fields were various shades of vibrant green. With the rains having started, everything's growing beautifully. The corn is about a foot heigh.

It's hard to believe that it has taken me several months before getting back into my morning walking routine. Of course my shoes were caked with mud when I came home--one of the joys of walking on muddy roads during the rainy season.

When I walk again tomorrow, I'll be sure to take some photos so you can join the walk with me.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


This evening, I've been sitting doing Sudoku puzzles. I had picked up a puzzle book in South Africa after trying a few puzzles in an airline magazine on one of the flights this past week.

If you haven't tried sudoku yet, give it a try. But be warned: It's addictive!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It's GOOD to be back!

Thank you, Mrs Brooks!
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
What a Good Friday! It's an absolute joy to be back home. I arrived in Eldoret this morning, delighted to see that everything has turned into a beautiful green! We had had a lot of rain during the time I was away, so the crops are starting to grow, turning what was a dull shade of brown for too long into lush shades of green.

From the airport, we had to drive slowly to sidestep the deep mud holes on our road home. I can only imagine what the road will look like in just a few more weeks...

First, I had to go and greet the kids. I WISH I could show you a picture of their faces as they literally started RUNNING towards me, seeing who could get the first hug. And then I had to hug all 96 of them, many whose faces had spots on from a recent outbreak of chicken pox. After I hugged each and every child, they sang their newest songs and praised God for my safe return.

Then it was my turn to talk. The kids ALWAYS want to hear who sends their regards! So I brought greetings from my family and from the friends whom I had gone to see in Florida. ("We receive them," the kids often say when you tell them that you bring greetings!)

They beamed when I told them that I have a gift for each one of them. Danette's mom had made fleece pillow cases for all the kids before the Iowa team came in December. However, some of the cases didn't make it over with the team, and I was thus the bearer of gifts since I now had enough to hand each kid one.

After dinner, they lined up. First, the girls from East Wing came and organized themselves according to size. "The littlest ones first!" they declared. "Next, medium size!" Then the boys came, a bit less organized than their sisters.

After that, I headed to West Wing, where the kids were still having dinner. As they finished their meal and washed their hands, they came over to receive their gift. Margaret told me, "Tonight, we will have sweet dreams!"

I had really, really missed the kids. It's amazing how they have crept into my heart.

Oh, before I forget: The boys from West Wing were very proud to show me that their garden is now expanding. Before, they had in and of themselves, made just a little garden along the fence. Since the recent team from NY had put up a kid-height washing line, it has freed up the entire area along their fence for gardening! They've been tilling the ground, preparing to plant some vegetables of their own. I can't wait to take them some seeds tomorrow that I had purchased in South Africa, and some that I had gotten from ECHO, a ministry I had visited in Florida.

Since this is the start of their Easter break, I'll invite some of the older boys over to come experiment in my greenhouse and plant some seeds to transplant to their garden.

So, about the vacation: I spent the first week in Pretoria, working from my sister's house. I came down with a bug which I thought might be malaria, so I had tests done right away. I was glad to hear that it was just a bacterial infection, and I was well before I got on the plane for the 17-hour flight to Atlanta.

From Atlanta, I flew to Fort Meyers, Florida, where I met up with friends for a delightful, restful week on and around Sanibel Island. We did a lot of shelling, walking on the beach and simply relaxing. I got quite a bit of sun, so I'm a darker shade than I usually am.

After 9 days in Florida, the journey home began. There was the 17-hour return flight (7.5 hours to Ilha de Sol, an hour refeuling time, then another 7.5 to Johannesburg--it's a killer flight!) from Atlanta to Jo'burg, a day and a half with my sister and family in Pretoria, the next flight to Nairobi, where I had a couple of meetings scheduled, and finally, this morning, I was happy to walk off the airplane in Eldoret.

Other than visiting with the kids, catching up with the Albrights, and unpacking, I was able to take a good nap this afternoon, not having had good sleep this whole week. Yeah, jet lag!

Tomorrow, I have to head to town to buy groceries, and then we'll have our usual Saturday afternoon movie time.

It's strange how it simply doesn't feel like Easter here... No Good Friday services. No Easter eggs. I doubt there's a sunrise service on Sunday, but I might be wrong. (Which suddenly reminds me of how, when I was involved with youth ministry in Taiwan, the youth group would make breakfast for the whole church after the sunrise service!)

I'll once again be posting regular updates on my blog now that I'm home.

May you have a blessed Easter and be inspired by Christ's victory on the cross!