Memories of Kenya

When I got to Regan Aymett’s class at Learning Way Elementary this morning for my weekly hour of volunteer service through “Raise Your Hand Tennessee,” she and the kids were working on a little story book in which the main character decides to take a trip to Ghana.

I excitedly told Ms. Aymett that I’d been to Africa five times and was planning another trip there this September. I figured she’d just mention the fact right then, while they were working on the book, but instead she suggested I show the kids some photos, presumably next week.

So, tonight, I’ve been digging through photos of my past Kenya trips, trying to pull some that would be suitable for a relatively-secular slide show for second graders.

I have found some good photos. The story book today mentioned African women carrying things on their heads, and I have a photo from our 2005 trip in which the women of the church in Ndonyo carried our luggage up a steep hill to where our van was waiting for us:


I will not, however, be showing the second graders this photo, from the hotel where we stayed during the 2009 trip:


Other countries have elections, too

There will be a major election Saturday in Sierra Leone, the country to which I hope to travel on a short-term mission trip a year from now.

Better the election take place now than a year from now. My last mission trip, to Kenya in 2010, took place just weeks before a big constitutional referendum in that country. Our host pastor – a man I dearly love and respect – had strong feelings about the issue and talked constantly to Jan and me about them. While I was, from a very intellectual standpoint, somewhat interested, I really didn’t have a lot of background to know which side was right, and hearing about it quickly got old. It wasn’t my election, after all.

Of course, I get tense around political discussions even here in this country. Because of my work as a journalist, I don’t feel it’s right to wear my political heart on my sleeve. (Some journalists feel differently, and have good arguments for their position.) So when I am off-duty, and hear friends, family or fellow church members getting into intense, opinionated political discussion – at either end of the spectrum – I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t want to argue or agree; I just sit there feeling uncomfortable, or (if appropriate) I find an excuse to leave the room.

I had hoped that some of the political vitriol would die down after the election, and some of it has, but I still have Facebook friends whining or gloating, as the case may be, about the results. Get over it. We’ve all got to work together for the next two years.

Hopefully, the election in Sierra Leone, however it turns out, will be old news by this time next year, or at least enough of a non-issue that no one will feel like bending the American visitors’ ears about it.

Gone fishin’

From 2010-06-30

Hopefully, this will post about the time that Jan Schilling and I take off from Nashville International Airport. I’m not sure what my net access will be like, and with everything going on I haven’t had time to write a whole set of timed-release posts like the last couple of years, so this may be the last you see of me for a few days. Or not. Who knows?

Anyway, keep us in prayer as we are in ministry in Kakamega, Kenya. Jan, a good friend whom I knew through Mountain T.O.P. before either of us was involved with LEAMIS, will be teaching charcoal-making and pot-in-pot refrigeration, while I’ll be installing a water chlorinator and teaching SODIS, an easy way to disinfect water by placing plastic bottles in the sun.

Trip planning

Well, now that the symphony concert, my niece’s graduation and a couple of special sections for the newspaper are behind me, it’s time to buckle down on some mission trip stuff.

LEAMIS co-founder and executive director Debra Snellen has been dealing with most of the Kenya team up to this point, as people were deciding whether to participate and as Debra was deciding what workshops we’d be conducting, but now I’m going to start functioning more actively as the team leader, and I was sending out e-mails and Skype friend requests to the team tonight.

This is our first trans-Atlantic team, with two of our five members from the U.K., which will present its own unique opportunities and challenges.

I think it’s going to be a great trip — and a unique one.

Mission trip update

Here’s an e-mail I sent my partners a few days ago. I thought I’d reprint it here in case any of you are led to give:

Dear Mission Trip Partners:

Just a few updates about my mission trip preparations:

  • This will be a small team. A woman from Wisconsin … will go to Kenya a week early to do children’s ministry at Bishop Paul’s church in Nairobi. My long-time LEAMIS and Mountain T.O.P. pal Jan … and I will fly from Nashville on July 14, and we will be joined by two other team members … from the U.K.! This will be a first for LEAMIS. So there will be five of us total, plus several members of the church in Nairobi who will travel with us as our teammates to Kakamega.
  • We’re going to be installing a different type of water purification system this year than in the past, and I’m going to have to be trained on it later in May.
  • The airline tickets for Jan and me were purchased [last] week, and my passport is now on its way to the Kenyan embassy in Washington for the visa stamp. (You can get it at the airport in Nairobi, but it saves time to get it in advance.)
  • Because of the rising cost of the trip, which I’ll get to in a moment, we are doing our debrief at some sort of inexpensive guest house this year, not at a safari park as in the past. Our first-timers may be going on safari on their own, but Jan and I will be coming back to the U.S. on July 25, two days earlier than I first told you.
  • The airline tickets have gotten more expensive. My ticket was $2,315. The LEAMIS cost for the trip is $1,300, which means I need to turn in to LEAMIS a total of up to $3,615. (My LEAMIS cost may be reduced a little for being team leader, but not as much as I had hoped, because it’s such a small team.) So far, I’ve raised $750. My co-workers at the newspaper are holding a luncheon for me [this] week (the day before my birthday!), and I’m expecting my church to contribute, but I will still be in need of contributions. Anything you can do would be appreciated.

Contributions should be made out to LEAMIS International Ministries; checks made out to me are not tax-deductible. Put my name in the comment line. You can send them to me … [blog readers e-mail me for address] … or directly to LEAMIS (LEAMIS, P.O. Box 709, Monteagle TN 37356). Sending the money directly to LEAMIS is great, and in fact that’s what I recommend, but sometimes that means I don’t find out about your contribution immediately, and so I apologize if the thank-you card is delayed as a result.

For more information about LEAMIS, go to

Please, regardless of whether you can do (or already have done) anything financially, keep me and my teammates in prayer as we prepare for the work we’ll be doing in Kakamega.