Thursday, January 31, 2013

God's Plans are Perfect

At the end of November I met with CMF employees and discussed possible opportunities for long term service with them. About a week later I met with one of their missionaries from Kenya who is in the US on furlough. By the end of that week I had received permission to apply to CMF and plan a vision trip to Lodwar, Turkana, Kenya in January. That meant that I had less than 30 days to plan a trip....or should I say, I had less than 30 days to be faithful and trust that God was in control of this trip. I did not have time to question or research much about Kenya. I did not have time to worry or over analyze anything about this trip. It is not really typical for me to be this "out of control" (as I was just reminded of by my Myers Briggs test results and Psych evaluation). However, I knew that this was God's trip and He would guide me and allow me to experience what life would be like in Kenya.

The airport in Lodwar, Turkana, Kenya. There is a runway to land on.
All my travels went smoothly and the first week of my trip I was able to join the short term group from two churches in Colorado who were there building a school out in the bush (desert) at Kakimat. It was great for me to experience being a part of this group, especially since all my short term missions trips have been with medical groups. I really enjoyed getting to know them and working with them on the school. Their commitment to the people and students in Turkana is incredible. It extended to donations of school supplies, sponsoring children to attend school, and buying school uniforms. They also helped the local economy by not bringing sandals from the US for the children, rather buying sandals made from old tires right there in Lodwar.

Picking up the shoes "ordered" earlier in the day.
The 10 members of the group from Colorado were also joined by Prosper, a pharmacist from Tanzania. He was friends with the group leaders and was invited to join them on this mission trip.  It was really interesting to talk to him about his mission experiences and life in Tanzania and to see him interact with the Turkana kids.

Prosper is wearing the blue hat and tan shirt.

He is helping lead the kids in a song.
Prosper had never been to Turkana before and his family and friends had concerns about him going there on a mission trip. While I was in Nairobi many people seemed to question me about why I was going to Turkana. I did not fully understand this until I talked to Prosper and to the missionaries about this. It seems that Turkana is not really considered part of Kenya, by the rest of the people of Kenya, and the area is rather discriminated against. I think that is the best way I can describe it. I am sure there is more to it than I even began to understand during my short time there, but sadly there are people who asked me "why" I was going to Turkana not in a curious way, but more like "Why in the world would you ever want to go to Turkana or even live in Turkana?"

Turkana women in traditional dress.
This made me sad and made me realize that this is the place that I believe God wants me to serve with Him.  I also came to realize that this would be much harder than I could have ever imagined. The people of Turkana have endured many droughts and hard times. They have seen a lot of relief come to the area from many different NGO's (non- government organizations, secular and religious) and often that relief was needed. However, the people have become very dependent on the relief and have not understood the benefits of development that could help empower them to do for themselves and not just wait for the next relief truck with food to show up.

One of the CMF farms,  helping people understand and experience development through Farming God's Way,  with irrigation water provided by solar powered pumps for the wells.

 During the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training that I attended last fall, I learned that the hardest places to do CHE are the places where the people are already dependent on relief from the NGO's. It was rather discouraging to come to the realization that Turkana is that type of place. I know that I will not be facing this challenge alone. It will be God, me and many others working together to make a change. It will also take a lot of prayers and I need you all to begin praying for this area right now. Pray that those who have the vision for development and CHE continue to be encouraged and that this knowledge will multiply as we also spread the love of Jesus and the hope that we have in our loving God. He loves everyone, including the people of Turkana. 

While in Kenya I was able to learn a lot about missionary life from the perspective of a missionary who has lived and worked in Turkana for over 16 years  (Gene Morden) and from a newer missionary who has been in Turkana for 3 months, but was in Kenya previously as an intern for CMF (Eric Pitts). It was great to just sit and listen to them talk about anything and everything, from the frustrations of the city electricity being out more than it was on (I will need a generator) to Eric's feeling that the people of Lodwar were finally starting to accept him. He was really happy that I was there and could take over the label of  "newbie" even if just for a few weeks. 

Gene in the "grocery store".

Eric and the aquaponics system. I think he added the fish this week.

There were many things that made life in Lodwar seem "normal", from being able to speak English while shopping in Lodwar and ordering food in the restaurant, to watching TV shows and movies on DVD's and Netflix while eating popcorn. Other things were definitely different, such as driving on the opposite side of the road and vehicle while, dodging potholes, people, piki-piki's (motorcycles), goats, sheep, chickens, more people, more potholes, more piki-piki's, more chickens, more goats and the speed bumps and other vehicles. I must say that going 4 wheeling in the desert was also a new experience, especially during a rain storm. It was also a great experience to worship with the Turkana people in 2 different services. I love to hear their singing and praising of God.

Worshiping together in Kakimat on the 6th.

Worshiping together in Lodwar on the 13th.
At the produce market.

Flat tire.....I got a little scared when they put the jack right on the sand to raise the vehicle!
This is a rather good and non crowded area of the road!
Had to take one of the vehicles in for service at the Lodwar Toyota. 
Turkana baskets. I will be buying a few.

When Gene initially asked me what my expectations were for the trip I honestly told him that I had none. I really wanted God to show me whatever he wanted me to see and that was fine with me. It worked out well and I was able to experience so many aspects of life and meet so many people associated with CMF and some from the local government and other NGO's. We met with a veterinarian from Somalia working with Veterinarians without Borders and another Turkana business man with a heart for development. Each of these people seemed interested in following up with me when I return to Turkana.

So at this point I have to remind myself and you all that I have not been accepted by CMF. I should get the news by the end of next week. I had my interview and Psych evaluation on the day after I returned from Kenya.  In my heart I know that God planned this trip and allowed me to have such great experiences for a reason. I choose to believe at this time, it is because I will end up in Turkana. But if this is not the place or the group, I know that what God allowed me to experience is not without reason. I stepped out in faith and allowed God to be in control of this trip and it was awesome. I am so glad that He allowed me to see Turkana and to meet so many wonderful Turkana people. God's Plans are Perfect.

Seeing camels all over became common and normal.

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