Friday, January 27, 2012

Kenya, Part 3: Blood Is Thika Than Water

This is the third of a multi-part series about my recent trip with a group of former SOS Summer Staff to Kenya to work with farmers and orphans in the name of the gospel. I will post another part every few days until the story is complete.

After a brief foray in zucchini-picking while our machetes (or pangas as they’re known in Africa) were being sharpened, we set to work hacking down rows of maize. We swung our pangas until our arms could take it no more. I liked to pretend that I was Link, the main character from the Legend of Zelda video games, swinging my sword to destroy monsters. All that panga-swinging became so ingrained into me that I even found myself swinging a ghost-machete as I drifted off to sleep and hitting the wall of my tent (and probably causing some confusion for the guards).

All the panga-swinging that went on did not come without its share of potential dangers. Thankfully only one team member was injured throughout the process. Amanda managed to cut her finger tip pretty severely when it came time to chop up the stalks of maize to make the feed. (Don’t worry, she’s fine...although she did get to know what it's like to visit the doctor in Kenya pretty well). But, by and large the silage-making was smooth, but difficult process. Sitting in a circle chopping up what became silage afforded us a wonderful opportunity to get to know the women we were working with. Once we had spent hours sitting on rocks using logs as cutting boards, we made a big enough pile to mix in molasses and store the feed in a very large bag. The molasses was mixed with water and placed in several buckets. We used our hands to splash the mixture onto the large pile of obliterated corn stalks and to sift through the pile making sure that the sticky substance made its way throughout the entire batch. We then filled buckets upon buckets with freshly made silage and carried to the bag, which was constructed of a long plastic tube tied together on end with twine and turned inside out. One muzungu* was designated to stand inside the bag and stomp down the silage as we slowly filled it one by one. Gabe was particularly good in this capacity, closely resembling a soccer player juggling a ball between his feet as he trod repeatedly upon the cow feed. We spent two days working on the process that led to a full bag of silage.

The day after we filled the first bag of silage was New Year’s Day. So, after attending a great church service with local Kenyans, we took the day off to hang out and play with the kids at the children’s home. Many of the children were impressed with my ability to make animals out of pipe cleaners, and I enjoyed being able to use my rarely-employed skills in that area to bring a small amount of joy into some of those children's lives. There were a variety of craft items available and it was lots of fun working with the kids on artistic projects. As we shared our creations with one another I was reminded that art is, in many ways, a language that transcends culture. God is the Creator and as people who bear his image we too are naturally creative. God definitely used that time as a cool reminder that despite our differences, people across the world have a whole lot in common, as well.

Another day of work produced another bag of silage, and our day in Thika was quickly coming to a close. In the mean time the had construction team finished the playground and the team working inside had completed a great paint job that really brightened up the children's home. After finishing our work for the day we said our goodbyes to the people we met at the children's home and went back to camp for our traditional afternoon tea. A few of our friends who worked in the children's home joined us for tea including Susan who oversaw our work on the farm and another very dear man who worked at the children's home whose name I'm unfortunately unable to spell. After sharing tea with us and before saying goodbye, our friends told us they looked forward to seeing us again. While they hoped we would return to Kenya at some point, they also looked eagerly to the new creation when all of God's people would be gathered together. There were several times on the trip when a Kenya Christian would joyfully speak of the paradise to come, in a way that is more uncommon in the United States. It is very easy here in America to get caught up in what is tangible and right in front of us. We become so consumed in our earthly lives that we often lose sight of the things of the kingdom. In Kenya where there are less personal comforts and many people work very long hours of intense physical labor, the desire for the new heaven and new earth is much more deep-seated and present in day to day life and conversation among Christians. I eagerly await being reunited with my new friends in this world or the next, and have definitely been renewed with a sense of excitement for the Kingdom to come.

The next morning we loaded up the Overlander. It was a bittersweet moment to be leaving Thika, which also meant we had to say our goodbyes to Evans and Ezekiel. It was such a treat getting to know these two godly men. We were so thankful for the way they cared for us and looked out for us while we camped at Thika and I miss them very much. In the short time we spent with them, Evans and Ezekiel became like family to us. One of the many wonderful things about Jesus is that in HIm we truly are family! The Body of Christ is a mysterious and glorious thing, that I am extremely thankful for it. But unfortunately finding family on the other side of the world made it that much harder to leave behind. But in spite of the sad goodbyes, there was still a whole of Kenya to experience...

*muzungu - The word for a foreign, white person in Swahili. Literally translated it means “confused person, wandering about”

Cutting silage with Gabe and Amanda (just before the finger incident)

Susan and me

Making an elephant out of pipe cleaners

Our team with the kids on their new playground

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kenya, Part 2: Africa At Last

This is the second of a multi-part series about my recent trip with a group of former SOS Summer Staff to Kenya to work with farmers and orphans in the name of the gospel. I will post another part every day or two until the story is complete.

The driver took me the Brackenhurst conference center about an hour outside of Nairobi, and helped me to my room that was already arranged for me. After sleeping for a total of maybe fifteen minutes on the plane rides over I was definitely ready to go to bed. I went to bed that night knowing nothing of the next day other than the fact that I was to meet someone at the coffee house at Brackenhurst at 7:30 am. So around 7 am the next morning I stumbled around the conference center until I found the “Muna Tree Cafe” and sat down to wait for someone to arrive that would know what to do with me. Before long Horace Tipton, the founder of Planting Faith approached me and asked me if I was Andrew, to which I responded “Yes, and I’m very happy to see you!”.

We hopped in his car and made the 45 minute drive to where the team was camped out in Thika, with a short stop at the grocery store on the way to buy machetes. We arrived at the camp, thankful to have survived the chaotic Kenyan traffic, and we were greeted by my team members. It was a happy reunion! Even though it had only about two days since I’d seen them, it seemed like much longer.

We were camped next to a children’s home which is also a small farm with a school and a church right next to it. I walked the short the distance to the camp bags in hand and when I arrived I met the team from ACTS that was accompanying us. There were five Kenyan men, each of them a joy to be around. Daniel was our guide, who stayed with us throughout our entire time in Kenya. We also had Paul, our driver, and Reuben who cooked for us, as well as Evans and Ezekiel our guards who patrolled the camp at night keeping watch and warding off stray dogs. The rest of the group had traveled to Thika in a massive vehicle known as the Overlander, which is essentially a large trailer truck, except instead of an actual trailer it had a large open-air seating area with cargo space underneath. The Overlander was pretty much the ultimate camping vehicle as it was where the ACTS team stored all their supplies, include the tank for our drinking water, and it even had a place for our driver Paul to sleep. Daniel and Ezekiel helped me set up my tent and then I headed back to the area where we were working.

Our team had been divided into three smaller teams with different tasks. One team worked inside the children’s home doing some painting, another team worked on making silage to feed the cattle, and the last team built a playground for the children. Since, I arrived late I had already been drafted onto the silage-making team. The next few days of work on the farm were incredibly eye-opening to say the least...

For more information about ACTS visit:

For more information about Planting Faith visit:

(To be continued)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kenya, Part 1: No Passport? No Problem!

This is the first of a multi-part series about my recent trip with a group of former SOS Summer Staff to Kenya to work with farmers and orphans in the name of the gospel. I will post another part every day or two until the story is complete.

I know everyone who is reading this is anxious to hear about everything that happened during my time in Kenya. But, it is important that I start the story before i ever actually set foot in Africa, as my journey to Kenya took an unexpected turn for me almost as soon as it began...

Two days after Christmas, I met the team at SOS early in the morning to pray before departing for the airport. After the prayer time one of the trip leaders, Anna, told us to make sure that we seen our passports and other necessary travel items that day. As I rummaged through my bags a sinking feeling begin to emerge in my stomach as I realized my passport did not appear to be among my luggage. I was really beginning to worry as I boarded the van to the airport, still frantically searching my bag. A quick phone call home on the way to the airport confirmed my suspicions - I had left my passport in my printer in Texas after making a copy of it (which I did manage to pack). After sharing the news with the trip leaders Anna and Drew we calmly tried to determine a solution to the problem. Thankfully God had a plan to use what seemed to be a rough situation to his glory and to make it part of unforgettable experience.

After arriving at the airport I immediately visited the Delta special services desk and was miraculously able to change my flight from Memphis to Detroit to a flight from Memphis to Dallas for an extremely low price (at least compared to what it could have been). The agent was initially skeptical of my request, but once he found out the price of the flight change he grinned at me and said "God is smiling on you!". That statement stuck with me throughout the rest of trip. Although forgetting my passport and having to travel separately from the rest of my team was not the way I had imagined this trip going in my mind, it was exactly what God wanted and he orchestrated his plan perfectly.

I bid the rest of the team goodbye from their gate and spent the next few hours in the airport and in thought and in prayer. God made it very clear to me as soon my team had flown away, that I hadn’t truly centered my heart on serving Him in Kenya. Between graduating from college, trying to complete work an album, and spending time with my family at Christmas, I had failed to really prepare my heart for what was before me. Even though it’s certainly not the way I would have chosen for it to happen, God used my time traveling alone to Kenya as a means of giving me focus and preparing me for what was ahead of me, and I’m so grateful for it.

After a few hours I got on a flight from Memphis to Dallas. Along the way I made some new friends and even ran into a couple of former SOS summer staffers on the plane! My father graciously met me at Love Field to bring me my passport and set me on my way to Atlanta the next morning to catch up with my group. After barely making my connection from Atlanta to Amsterdam, a short layover in the Amsterdam airport, and a long flight to Nairobi I finally made it to Kenya. After making my way through customs and baggage claim (and sweating a whole lot -- no air conditioning in the Nairobi airport!), I saw a driver waiting in the pick-up area holding a sign with my name on it. An amazing sense of peace washed over me. I hopped in a van with the driver without even knowing where he was taking me, but I didn’t even care, because I knew I had arrived on the greatest adventure of my life so far...

For more information about SOS vist: