Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year! Take Cover!! This morning at church I asked my friend, Jack, who is an officer with the Pinecrest Police Department, whether he would be on duty tonight, and he said he would be. He also told me that all the officers that would be on duty would be called back to the station shortly before midnight to take cover in the parking garage until about 12:15 AM.

The reason for that is the local custom among a significant portion of the population of running outside at midnight New Year's Eve and firing off guns in the air. The problem is that the bullets are known to come down after they are blasted up. This warm custom has had lethal consequences for the general public in the past.

Maybe the worst place for this sort of thing is in Hialeah, just across the Miami Canal from us. Jack told me that the officers on duty over there are ordered to take shelter under the expressway bridges around midnight.

UPDATE: A very sad illustration.

FURTHER UPDATE: Another report on "celebratory gunfire" in South Florida.
Jet-Man. Amazing video. And here's the article to which Drudge linked that alerted me to this amazing European.
Coffee - Pleasure and Pain. I'm glad I don't have to believe everything I read on the Internet. But then there are bananas.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Church and State

"Importunities and excessive pertinacity and unjust petitions have caused us to have too little favour or confidence, while certain bishops cease not to go to the Court...who spurn and contemn the salutary counsels of our most holy brother an fellow-bishop, Gratus, so that they not only bring to the Court many and diverse petitions (not for the good of the Church nor, as is usual and right, to succor the poor or widows or orphans), but even seek to obtain worldly dignities and offices for certain persons. This evil therefore stirs up at times not only murmurings, but even scandals. But it is proper that bishops should intercede for persons suffering from violence and oppression, afflicted widows and defrauded orphans, provided, nevertheless, that these persons have a just cause or petition.

If, then, brethren dearly beloved, such be your pleasure, do we decree that no bishops go to the Court except those who may have been invited or summoned by letters of the God-fearing emporer. But since it often happens that those who are suffering from injustice or who are condemned for their offences to deportation or banishment to an island, or, in short, have received some sentance or other, seek refuge with the mercy of the Church, such persons should be succoured and pardon be begged for them without hesitation. Decree this, therefore, if it be your pleasure. All said: It is our pleasure and be it decreed."

Canon VII from the Council at Sardica AD 343 or 344
John Edwards. In Mark Steyne's gunsites:

John Edwards had a dirt-poor hard-scrabble childhood but managed to sue his way out of poverty. He's made 25 million bucks just from suing tobacco companies. His is an inspirational message: If I can do it, the rest of you haven't a hope in hell. But fortunately I've got a thousand new government programmes and micro-initiatives that will partially ameliorate your hopeless mediocrity. (I paraphrase.)

My favourite line in the Edwards spiel comes about two-thirds in, when, after outlining the regulatory hell in which he's going to ensnare banks, the pharmaceutical industry, the garment industry, etc, he confides: "But I'll be honest with you. I don't think I can change this country by myself." It's good to know the other 280 million Americans aren't entirely redundant. His basic pitch is that the entire electorate are victims, and his candidacy is the all-time biggest class-action suit on your behalf.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Aidan and his daddy are now the proud owners of their first pairs of boots. Pictures will be forthcoming.
Danielson Video

Here's a new video from Danielson.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Brunch Traditions
Every Stokes Christmas Day, we have a sausage egg breakfast caserole. Oh man oh man. It is so yummy. This year, the Stokes Patriarch & Matriarch were visiting the Stokes Scions in Austin. Brunching at Walt & Morgan's new house, we also enjoyed the company of Kellsey's parents.

Sue, surprised that Stokes would each such heart-clogging fare as the sausage egg caserole (and cheese grits!), made a comment to the effect of, "This even has biscuits and gravy in it!"

Which set me to thinking: Somewhere, back in the mists of time, a very wonderful person was eating a farm breakfast of eggs, biscuits, gravy, sausage and cheese. That wonderful person (perhaps the cook?) thought, "You know, these things all taste so good. I bet they would taste even better if they were cooked and served all together!"

Thank You, Mrs. Sausage Egg Breakfast Caserole Maker! Wow!

And now, I'm off to run several miles and throw the kettlebell, so as to turn this delicious calorie bomb into useful energy and muscle.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Waiting for Guffman. Actually, we're not waiting for Guffman. We are sitting at the gate at FTL waiting for the plane to Dallas, from which we expect to connect to a flight to Austin. We are here very early, because we worried about Christmas week crowds. But we beat them easily, so here we sit. We all know how Carol is about getting to places early. (Sigh)

It's not all bad, because, among other things, a busy airport is a great place to people watch and to eavesdrop. Down the concourse a bit is an American flight loading for Port au Prince. It must be full, because there is a big line of people, most all of them apparently Haitians. They are well dressed and obviously able to afford a trip back home for Christmas, back home to the poorest country in the hemisphere, but there they are, having somehow made their way to America and made their way. God bless them and God bless America.

Here in our waiting area and down a few seats from us was, until momenttn ago, a policeman from the Broward Sheriff's Office ("BSO" to us S. FL folks). He had been speaking on the cellphone, and is a loudmouth. He was sitting there blaring out his conversation for quite some time, and it made me wonder whether he is on a break or simply goofing off. I could not help but hear what he was saying, and what I heard makes me think he is the sort of person who would goof off and take every advantage he can of whatever perks he can claim from his government job. I have to remember that there are policemen like Jack Dewhurst, who would be exceptionally good whatever he did, and this BSO type cannot be taken to characterize all of them.

He must have been speaking to another policeman. They were apparently going down a list of fellow officers, gossiping like a couple of old . . . well, I was going to say "biddies" but that is terribly not PC and I want now to take the opportunity to apologize.

Anyway, one person they discussed was someone who is about to retire. "His wife will keep on working," the loudmouth said, "she has a few years to go. . . He needs to get himself a girl friend, someone to play with while his wife is teaching school." There was no irony in his voice. I think he really meant it.

They kept on the subject of retirement. He said his own wife wants to quit work. "I told her that we would have to cut back on some of our luxuries: the yard man, the housekeeper, the pool service. She said, 'Why?' I said we want to continue to live comfortably and we can't keep those other people working for us if she stops work. . . . I straightened her out. She's not retiring before I do."

He finally finished his 20 plus minute call, got up and swaggered away. Carol allowed that if she were married to him she would kill him.


Carol, you can retire whenever you like. But I would prefer that you skip the boyfriend.

(This post written on 12/21 at about 0830)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Greetings from Ayman al-Zawahiri. Here. Thanks, Instapundit.
A friend of mine emailed me the following today:

[I]f we had followed the example of the “ Frogs” and were producing the same % of nuclear power as they are now the Middle East and Russia would be drowning in their cheap oil. We would be the greenest, cleanest country in the world. We wouldn’t be in a war with Islam. Japan and China would be sucking hind teat in productivity and the Gore Greenies wouldn’t be on the radar screen.

Here is his reference authority.
On Getting One's Priorities Straight.

Mario Cristobal, on being appointed the new head football coach at Florida International University:

Are you ready to build something special, or what? I am ready to play a football game right now . . . Am I going to rest? Am I going to sleep? My family, I love you and I'll see you some time in 2011.

I love it!
Swap Sites. Below are some "swap sites" that a recent Popular Mechanics issue identified. I haven't used any of them . . . yet. But I did get a gift card this week for an expensive, national chain restaurant which we don't like. I'm hoping I can swap it. Let me know if you have any swap sites and if you have dealt with any of these:

Gift cards:





(Let me also know if there is a "The Palm" restaurant in your neighborhood. If so, let's deal!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A bargain!

From an op-ed piece in yesterday's WSJ:

This being The Wall Street Journal, we went straight to the bottom line. How much, we asked our visitor at a recent editorial board meeting, does it cost to free one North Korean refugee hiding in China?

The Rev. Phillip Buck pauses a moment before replying, apparently making the yuan-to-dollar conversions on the abacus in his mind. "If I do it myself," he says, "the cost is $800 per person. If I hire a broker to do it, it's $1,500."

Why aren't we pouring money into this project?
On Billing Time. This nails it.
World Magazine on Africa. Two interesting articles in the December 16 issue: One of them describes the work of the magazine's "Daniels of the Year", Peter Jasper Akinola and Henry LUke Orombi, whose "biblical stands are making a difference not only in Africa but in the United States, as the crisis in the oldest American denomination [Episcopal] reaches its climax."

The other pertains to the AIDs ministry of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church.

In the November 19th issue, World had this article on AIDs prevention in Uganda. (This article is in the magazine's "archives", and you may need to buy a subscription to access the entire article. If you already subscribe to the magazine, then you need simply register. If you do not subscribe, you can buy an internet only subscription. But I find the paper magazine handy to drop in my brief case and read during the "down" moments of the day. It is really not very expensive.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Radfords of Kitale. On Sunday, our last day in Kenya, Mary said good-bye to us at Mayfield, the AIM guest house in Nairobi, in the late afternoon. Our flight to London did not leave until 11:30 PM that night, but Mary and her friends needed to return to Kijabe while there was still daylight. We would stay at the guest house, have supper there, and then one of the guest house employees would drive us to the airport. As Mayfield is a transit point for missionaries, we had the opportunity to meet several of them, and among them were Nathan and Carrie Radford, who have a prison ministry in Kitale, a town near the border with Uganda.

Nathan is a tall, fine looking young man in his late twenties or early thirties. He told us that the town of Kitale is "only" 8 hours away from Nairobi by bus, and it's a fine service with new buses. This is a good thing, because the last ten miles or so on the road to Kitale is so rough that automobiles can no longer negotiate it. But the bus can, and Nate found that to be entirely satisfactory.

Nate has had typhoid fever once, and malaria several times. The prison in which he leads a Bible study and discipleship class (using publications from the Navigators) is so filthy that when he comes home for lunch, he has to completely shower and change his clothes. If he merely washes up, he will inevitably get sick.

He carried on this ministry as a bachelor for several years, but prayed for a wife, and met Carrie back in the states through a Christian dating service. They started a correspondence and, eventually, his parents, missionaries in Kenya, and her parents, retired missionaries back in the States, met one another. Then Nathan came to Carrie's town and met her. They courted and married, and she came back to Kitale with him and she does prison ministry among the smaller population of women in the Kitale prison.

He has been doing this work in Kitale for several years, and the prison officials have learned to trust Nathan, and now they allow him to carry on an extensive ministry. He has obtained permission to build a chapel on the prison premises that he can also use as a classroom, and has raised sufficient funds from supporters back in the states to buy the materials. The prisoners themselves have volunteered to help him build it.

Nathan said that when one is sentenced in Kenya to prison, his family abandons him and will have nothing further to do with him. What desperate, forsaken men are these! And what sort of ministry is this? A ministry to forgotten men, who are outcasts and have no apparent future. This is the work to which God has called Nathan.

Nathan has a page on the "Baptist Faith Missions" website, the sending organization. His monthly prayer letters are there, as is a photo of him and Carrie. I've enjoyed reading his prayer letters.
Leaky Roof. In one of Mary's posts there are several photos from our trip to old Kijabe. The first one shows the inside of a school room; the gentleman in the photo is the headmaster. You will see some white spots in that photo. Those white spots are of sunlight, shining in through holes in the tin roof. All of the roofs on the school buildings have those holes. We were told that the area has two seasons, rainy and dry. What it mess it must be in those school rooms during the rainy season! I have asked Mary to look into the matter of putting new roofs on the school building. What would it cost? What would it take in leadership resources?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Unprotected" by Dr. Anonymous. This new book by a campus physician was reviewed this week by the WSJ, but I cannot link to the review. Here is another review, however. What irony: in the university world, the hazards of over- and under-eating are carefully addressed, smoking is frowned upon, fatty diets and insufficient exercise are condemned. But the health consequences of unrestrained sex are ignored.

The WSJ review:

As the author observes, "surveys have found that sexually active girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active."
Hello on Sunday. I have been wanting to post something for days. I hate to look at that Tancredo post the first thing. I almost took it down. I find him and his message that disgusting. Sorry.

Carol and I went to a Christmas dinner at the Dewhursts last night. Van and Juliet were there, as were Hank and Marti Spence. Hank's been coming to our Friday morning breakfasts, and he reads our blog. He told me about the many missionaries in his family. There are even four martyrs among them, men who were murdered in Brazil in the early 70s. His family includes Rob Spach, the chaplain at Davidson College. Rob's father is a former moderator of the PCUS. (Another connection to the Spachs: my lawyer friend, Paul Louis, a giant of a litigator, knew Bob's father. They were in the Army Air Force together in WWII.)

I have been wanting to post on what we learned about the schools in Kenya, particularly in the area around Kijabe. The availability of a lunch makes a tremendous difference in school attendance. The government does not supply the lunches, but outside people may, and missionaries connected with RVA are doing so. It is so cheap! Fifteen dollars will buy one lunch for one child for an entire school term (3 months). One of Mary's friends on the faculty at RVA is ramrodding a program in Old Kijabe, and I will post the details when I get them. Another missionary there who has a large program going is Steve Peifer, and here is where he describes it. How can one not save his loose change and feed a little one over there for three months!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Portrait in Nastiness. Tancredo's mouth is a marvelous, hateful object, as indicated by his latest on Miami.

On having his scheduled speech before the Miami Rotary Club cancelled on account of security concerns, this paragon of diplomacy and statesmanship said, according to the Miami Herald:

"I knew speaking your mind could be dangerous in Havana -- I guess it's equally dangerous to do so in Miami," Tancredo said in a statement. "Apparently, there isn't much of a difference between the two anymore.

"I hope to someday return to Miami when it has been able to extricate itself from the clutches of the radical multiculturalists."

The security concerns arise from the nature of the place where he was to give his speech, a restaurant called "the Rusty Pelican". I am very familiar with that restaurant. It is out on the causeway to Key Biscayne, and has very restricted parking availability. The crush of the press, police, political people, and ordinary Rotarians, not to mention the regular customers of the restaurant, would have made a horrendous problem for the restaurant and the club. If I had been the Rotary Czar, I would have found another venue for this man's speech. If Tancredo had any backbone, he would have helped find another venue. But he has as much backbone as he has good sense.

From time to time I celebrate my continuing registration as a Democrat. This is one of them. The day may be coming when I might even vote for a Democrat again.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More Photos from Kenya. Mary posted some here and here.
Back Home, Safe and Sound, and Missing Mary. Carol and I landed in Miami yesterday (Monday, I think), about 5:30 PM, three hours late, and Pastor Van picked us up and took us home. We spent the evening unpacking, and speaking to folks on the phone. I, for one, was desperately trying to get to 9:30 PM before collapsing in bed. I almost made it.

How we miss Mary!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Photos from Maasi Mara. Check out Mary's blog.
Visiting Dorcas.

During our trip to old Kijabe yesterday, we visited Dorcas, a member of Pastor Peter's church, a widow who had broken her hip and could not leave her little house. Carolyn, knowing that elderly women tend to get cold, especially elderly women who cannot move around very much, had a coat to give her. It was among a number of pieces of clothing that a group from Carolyn's church in Massachusetts, a group that comes every two years to put on a week long VBS for the children in old Kijabe, had left behind for distribution to the community there. Prior to visiting Dorcas' house, we went by the shamba of one of the elders, Samuel, to drop off the clothes there. (There were several trash and shopping bagsful.) Carolyn asked him if the elders would kindly distribute them to the neediest among the church members and their families, and of course he was happy to do so. But she held back the coat, because she wanted to be sure Dorcas got it and wanted to give it to her herself.

We then walked with Pastor Peter to Dorcas' house, down several paths between small shambas, each of which had one or more mud huts at the edge of an area where corn and other vegetables were planted. We came to Dorcas' shamba, and the first picture shows the entrance. Through the gate one enters an open space in front of the living structures.

The second photo shows the entrance to Dorcas' little house, and standing there are two of her granddaughters. They are the children of her son, who lives in the structure just to the right of the open door. These two children captivated me, especially the little one. When you meet anyone among the Kenyans, the first thing they do is to stick out their right hand to shakes yours. The children, no matter how small, do exactly the same thing. We met these two little ones first. They came out into the yard. I was in the group of Carol, Carolyn, Mary and Pastor Peter, but behind them. As the younger little one approached with her hand out, she started going down the line, shaking each grown-ups' hand, but then she saw me standing behind the others, and she stuck her hand through the line, out of turn, and we shook hands together. When the group of us turned to walk toward Doras' doorway, she grabbed my hand, and I lost my heart.

The third photo is in Dorcas' little house, with her two granddaughters. She spoke mainly Kikuyu and Pastor Peter translated. She seemed a woman of great peace, and at one point she said that she was ready to go when God called her. Carolyn gave her the coat and the minister prayed. It was a touching visit.

The last photo is of the younger of the two granddaughters and me.

Not for Fires. We visited Mary's class room again this morning. As we were walking out, we saw some printed instructions for, what seemed to us at first glance, responding to a fire alams. As we looked closer, the instructions began to look a little odd: (a) close the curtains when the alarm is sounded, (b) leave the classroom and shut the door, (c) sit the children down in the hallway, out of the line of sight of any window, (d) as many children as possible should to into the Bible Studies Dept (which has no windows and door from the hallway that locks.

This are "lock down" instructions. At each end of the hall-way that bisects the class room wing there are double metal doors to the outside. Mary says that these are locked when there is a "lock down" drill. She said that there were such drills in which she participated at schools in the US. But, she said, these somehow seem "more real".

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rough Justice. Carolyn Dewey is one of Mary's best friends here at RVA. We have gotten to know her this week, and she is a blessing. She and Mary share a "worker", Jane, who also works for others to fill out a busy work week, and Carolyn drove us to Jane's home on Thursday for the lunch that Jane had prepared for all of us. There is much to tell about Jane, her family, and home, about the luncheon, but I want to relate a story that Carolyn told us as we drove back from Jane's home to RVA.

She said that the police in Kijabe had killed a man about 8 months ago. Some young men in the area burned down the police station in retaliation. (I didn't get whether anyone was injured in the attack.) In response, the police rounded up all the young men in the area and put them in jail, all the young men the police could find, and there were many. They made no serious attempt, apparently, to identify the perpetrators, they simply rounded up the young men. Many had alibis, including one of the men who holds a security job at RVA and was on duty when the attack on the police station occurred. Some of the young men in the area avoided arrest by fleeing to the forest and hiding out for awhile. The ones caught in the round-up, however, were kept in jail for upwards of six to eight months.

Jail here is a terrible place. The jailkeepers don't provide food or medical services; it is up to the family and friends of the prisoners to sustain them. These are poor people who must sustain the prisoners, many very poor people, and now many are without the support of the young men inside.

Carolyn said that the families finally were able to hire a lawyer, who did not much of anything. They changed lawyers and he began to make some progress, but I don't know how it all finally turned out, or whether it has yet turned out.

I thought about the lack of a newspaper to publicize this outrage, the lack of civil rights lawyers, the lack of plaintiff's lawyers who can sue the police, the lack of civil and criminal laws that protect the civilians from the police, the lack of resources on the police side, resources to train and propertly manage police and investigative resources that can be applied to determine the likely perpetrators, the lack of grand juries who determine probable cause, the lack of money to hire lawyers, the lack of lawyers. This is part of what it means to be in the third world. It is simply not about starvation. In fact, the lack of systems that would appropriately respond to the crisis of a policeman shooting a civilian is probably closely related to the existence of starvation in the community.

There very obviously needs to be policemen here (as everywhere). Yesterday, Carolyn took us down to "old Kijabe" to deliver some clothes and food to some very poor people there. We were met by the pastor of the local AIC church, Pastor Peter. He is a recent graduate of the Bible college at Kijabe station, and seemed an extraordinarily fine young man. At one point he referred to the new policeman in that area, a man whom, the Pastor said, the community already greatly fears. Pastor Peter said, however, that he thought the man a good man, and said that he is glad to have the him in the neighborhood. As Pastor Peter said that, I remembered Carolyn's main concern as we got into her car to drive down to "old Kijabe" and that was the "thugs", as they refer to such people, who might meet us on the roadway. Everyone with whom we have ridden in a car at RVA prays before he or she turns the engine on, prays for protection, not only from automobile accidents and break-downs, but also from thugs.

Among the people we met in old Kijabe was an old man, who said he had been born in 1911 or maybe 1916 (I don't think he could quite remember). He was thin and a little stooped. His hair was white, which is unusual to see among the people there. He lives by himself and is not well. He has no family in the area. Carolyn brought him food. After an earlier visit by Carolyn with a delivery of food, young men broke into his little mud hut and stole the food and beat him mercilessly, an attack from which he has not yet recovered, months later. I understood why Pastor Peter was glad to have a fearsome policeman in his neighborhood, and maybe I understood a little better the story that Carolyn told about the round-up and jailing of all the young men in Jane's neighborhood.
Wild Animals Nearby. Thursday evening, after our visit to the hospital, we walked to the “SuperDuka”, a little grocery store, about a fourth the size of the average US convenience store. It is down the hill from RVA and just beyond the AIC church we attended on Sunday. Nathan was behind the counter, just to the left as you walk in. He is an elder in the church and did the Kikuyu translation on Sunday as Pastor Simon preached. We went there to purchase some Christmas wrapping paper (he had two tiny rolls in stock) and we also bought ourselves a “Stony”, which is Kenyan ginger ale that comes in bottles. It is a Coca-Cola product, according to the bottles. We asked Nathan to open the bottles, intending to drink them on the walk back up the hill, but instead we stood there sipping them as we talked to Nathan. We discovered that he is a good source of local news, and he told us of wild animals nearby, an elephant and a leopard.

The elephant was in the forest not far from RVA. The forest must be some sort of protected area, because there are little farms everywhere else, but none there. Nathan told us that two women were in the forest getting wood (he said this disapprovingly). They came on an elephant, who picked up one woman with his trunk and flung her about, killing her. It injured the other woman badly, but she survived and is in the AIC hospital.

The leopard is hanging around the little farms, called “shambas”. No one has seen the leopard, but it kills in a distinctive way, and people have found its kills, mainly sheep. The sheep are penned up at night, but this is no problem for the leopard, Nathan said. The leopard comes into the pen, grabs the neck of the sheep in its jaws, and then tosses it out of the pen. He then rips open the throat and laps up the blood. It eats no more of the sheep, but just leaves the carcass there for the people to find the next morning. They immediately recognize it as leopard kill.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

First post of a photo from the Maasai Mara. Mary's internet connection is dial up, so she suggested that I upload the thumbnail version of this photo. I took it with the modest telephoto lens that Canon sells for the camera we purchased for the trip.

Hospital Visit. This afternoon we met the RVA assistant superintendent Mark Buhler and his daughter April (10th grade) and walked down the hill to the AIC hospital, to visit children in the pediatric wards, including one with children who have spinal bifida or hydrocephalous or (as is often the case) both. Mark told us that there is apparently a greater incidence of this problem among children in Kenya, and it may be related to a lack of folic acid in the diet. In any event, children born with these birth defects and the mothers who bore them are often rejected by their husbands and communities.

We first visited the ward with the children without these birth defects. None of them was alone: a parent, in most cases the mother, was with them, usually lying in the bed with them. The children were all little children. Mary had asked us to bring over some bottles of bubbles, the kind with the wand which you dip into the solution and blow on. So she would blow bubbles for the children and then hold the wand for them to blow, and that simple thing cheered up both the children and the mothers.

Among the most heartbreaking was a mother and child from one of the Somali refugee camps. (There are two such camps in Kenya, one with 90,000 people and one with 130,000 people.) The little child had somehow rolled into a campfire. Its feet had burned off and after coming to the hospital, one of its legs had to be amputated. There were no private rooms in the ward but for the one that this baby and her mother occupied. The physicians suggested we not go into the room, and we didn't. But I could hear the baby crying. We were talking a bit outside the door to that room, and the mother opened the door and stood there and we said hello and she greeted us. She was slight, small young woman, probably not even twenty. I felt so sorry for her and her baby. April had to go outside the ward for a few minutes to collect herself.

Inside this ward was a refugee from Darfur. She had burns as well and was there, I think, because they were short of beds in the adult section. Mark told us that her village in Darfur had been raided by the Janjaweed (?), the Muslims who are making war on the Christians there. The village was destroyed, she was separated from her husband, and, along with her seven children, terribly abused and taken north into slavery. She was finally sold as a second wife to a Muslim man. Encouraged by the man's first wife, she ran away, sending ahead her five oldest children. But she didn't get far with her two little ones, when the man came after her on horseback, firing at her and the children. But instead of killing them that way, he set fire to the bush in which they were hiding. The little children were killed and she was terribly burned. Meanwhile, the older five children had reached a place where there were sympathetic people, and they got someone to come back looking for their mother and little siblings. They found the mother and carried her away from that place. Her burns were not treated well, and the scarring on her arms caused them to be stuck together, the forearm of each to the bicep area, although she had the use of her hands. She supported herself and children weaving little crosses from palm leaves in a sort of micro-industry project. Some time elapsed and she heard of the AIC hospital here in Kijabe, and recently she underwent operations at the hospital to "unstick" her arms. Mark said that when last he saw her she was in a great deal of pain, but today she seemed comfortable, and we were able to speak with her a little bit and to pray with her. Her name is Mary.

Mark told us that Mary told him that she never denied Christ through all of this, despite being urged to worship Allah by her captors. She is concerned, however, about her children, the five older ones, because they were in the hands of the Muslims long enough for the indoctrination of the children to begin in earnest, and she is not sure that they will accept Christ. However, she is hopeful. If you have space on your prayer list tonight, you might put those five children on it.

Then we went to the second ward, where the spinal bifida/hydrocephalic babies are treated. Before we went there, we ran into the senior physician, for whom that ward is especially his responsibility. His name is Richard Bransford, MD, and the ward has a name of its own, Bethany Kids, and its own support organization, He is an older man, probably in his mid to late sixties, and has been there for thirty years.

We mentioned that our Mary had been diagnosed hydrocephalic and had a shunt. He became intensely interested (not that he was disinterested during our conversation up till then), and Mary had him feel her shunt, which he did, and then he called over a nurse and introduced her to Mary and the rest of us, and had the nurse feel Mary's shunt. He told us he would very much like Mary to meet the mothers of the children who had to have such shunts, because mothers are often despondent over the outlook for their babies, and that Mary would give them hope. Mary said she would be glad to help with this.

After that we went over to Dr. Bransford's ward and met the mothers and children there (and one father!). Mary told one of the mothers that she had a shunt and had the mother feel the bump on her head . She showed the mother the scar on her abdomen through which the drainage tube had been inserted. The mother simply lit up in amazement, and two others who were watching Mary lit up as well.
Back in Kijabe. We returned to RVA from our safari to the Masai Mara yesterday about 4:00 PM. There are a lot of stories and photos from that trip. I have to get my thoughts and memories sorted out, not to mention all the photos. (Our new Canon is working great; Mary took a lot of photos; and Carol is getting some great shots with our old Fuji.)

Sunday evening, before we left for the Masai Mara on Monday, Mary had Tim and Bonnie Cook over for supper. Tim is the superintendant of RVA. Tim's parents were missionaries to Tanzania, and he attended RVA. He was easy to talk to and surpisingly candid about the sitatuion in Kijabe and Kenya. Among several other things, I asked him whether there was much contact with Roman Catholics.

In answering, he referred to the valley that we can see from the school, looking west. (The school is high on an escarpment, and the views are beautiful.) He said that he is in a group of missionaries and clergy from all denominations, including Catholic priests, who work on issues in the valley. I asked him what sort of issues mainly.

He said, "Starvation".

We are keeping up with our emails from home, and among them this week is an emal from Carlos and Caryn Benitez, who are with Wycliffe in Niger. They said that Carlos is working on a translation of the Book of Ruth for the language group among whom they are working. I thought this an odd place to start a translation. But I have been reading the December 2006 issue of First Things, and the lead article is one by Phillip Jenkins, entitled "Believing in the Global South". (This is a must read and next month should be on-line, if you don't subscribe to FT.) His thesis is that the growth of the Christian church in Africa and Asia arises from how close the cultures there are to the cultures in the Old and New Testament. Here is one paragraph that ties in what Tim described as a major ecumenical concern with what Carlos is translating:

"The prevalence of hunger and natural disaster helps explain the enormous popularity in Christian Africa and Asia of the Book of Ruth, a tale of a society devastated by famine, in which women survive by dependence on each other and on trusted kin. In the American context, the book attracts some interest from feminist scholars, while Ruth's plea to Naomi, "entreat me not to leave," is included in blessing rites for same-sex couples. In the Global South, the book's interest lies in how the various characters faithfully fulfill their obligations to each other and their relatives. What the North reads in moral and individualistc terms remains for the South social and communal."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Sermon. Pastor Simon's text was Colossians 3: 1 - 10, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth". He would preach for a few sentences in English, and then an elder standing with him translated into Kikuyu. He spoke by way of introduction about the presidents who had led Kenya since independence, and their promises which they never fulfilled, no matter how hard they might have tried. "Even President Bush makes promises that he is unable to keep". He said, "We need someone who can keep his promises."

Setting your mind on things above does not mean not to have tv, not to go to movies, not to have fun. We cannot set our minds on things above, we have not the power to do so, until we have Christ. Solid theology.

We think about things above, he said, when we think about Jesus and the things that he did, when we think about the positive things Christ did, how he treated people, how he prayed for them, how he connected with God, how he loved us so much.

He had some practical things to suggest, one that struck me was "The night before tomorrow think about Jesus and God". He said that if you go to bed after listening to the news, you will wake up upset; angry, you will wake up angry, but if you pray and meditate before going to sleep, you will wake up refreshed. "This simple practice has helped me a lot."

He also suggested, "Ask God to give you a heavenly perspective on people, events, and circumstances."

Pastor Simon struggled to communicate how one could be both dead and alive, as the text suggests. He said that God wants us, "Not dead or alive, but dead and alive". He was frank to say that "I don't understand that, but I believe it, because it is in the Bible." He gave an illustration about how a man, who had become a believer, was approached by some old drinking frieds who were not aware of his conversion and who wanted him to go out an carouse. He turned down the proposal, saying that the man they knew who would have gone with them "is dead". But the minister knew that the "dead in Christ/alive in the Lord" idea was not a figure of speech, but a reality, an idea that he could say that he did not understand but one in which he believed by faith. He disarmed me by this admission.

He said that when he got to verse 11, he could not at first figure out how it fit with the previous ten verses. He said that he nearly decided to cut off his text at verse 10, but he kept thinking and praying about it. Then he saw that the references to the various ethnic groups in the text related to the various people groups with whom his listeners were very well acquainted. He said that the point is that one dies to whatever negative things he brings from his people group. He listed them. The Kikuyu are known as lovers of money; the Masai for their love of cattle; the Kamba, best known for their witchcraft; and the Luo, who prefer many wives. (There was some laughter as he ran down these stereotypes, and he grinned as he gave us the list.)

He quoted a familiar saying, "At the foot of the cross, the ground is level." But what really made the point was his firm and outright rejection of the idea that "This is how I am and no one can do anyting about it".

"You are not", he said, "who once you were."

More on the Worship Service: An Upcoming Wedding is announced. An elder delivered the announcements. They were first in Kikuyu, and apparently the church fathers didn't get the memo that the successful contemporary service really doesn't do announcements. It seemed long. Then he switched to English. He said he would just mention a couple of things in English. Fair enough.

The English announcements were mainly about an upcoming wedding. That seemed innocent enough: this must be one of those weddings where the congregation is invited. No, that wasn't the point. The point was this: if anyone knows of any reason why this wedding should not go forward, he is to see the pastor. One more thing, this is the second time that this announcement has been made and there will be no further announcements, because the wedding date is getting close. So let us know.
Sunday Morning Worship. We went to the Africa Inland Church, Kijabe, this morning. There is so much to tell about the service, which was unusual for this church, because it was a combined Kikuyu/English service. Usually there are two services, one in English at 830 and the other in Kikuyu at 1030. This was at 10:00 because there are elections to be held today for the ruling board. There were many parts of this experience. I took notes and I will put some posts up about it. I thought how much Doug and Sue, Mike and Mickey would have liked it.

It was a dignified service. The Kikuyu are earnest people and the AIM people through whom God gave them Christ are a good match for them. So the adults were quiet - there was none of the back and forth we see in the African-American services. The men sat mostly with the men, and the women with the women and children. I estimated there to be over 600 hundred men, women, and children there. What I would call the "regular" part of the service lasted two hours or so. Following it, however, the church was to serve "holy communion". After that the elections were to be held. We would have stayed, but we had been identified as visitors and during the break between the regular service and the communion service, the usher nearest us asked us to follow her to a place where visitors were welcomed with tea. So out we went. The lady was quite firm!

It was an admirable service, and the chilren's part was no exception, The children sat with their mothers and grandmothers, but there came a point where they were to leave for Sunday School, which is somewhat similar to our worship service. But there was no "children's sermon" that preceded their dismissal, as in our service. Instead, the pastor asked the children to come to the front of the church so that someone could pray for them. Up to that point, men led the service, but here an older women was invited to come and pray, a "susha" or grandmother, and she offered up a prayer in Kikuyu for the children. I didn't understand what she was saying, but it clearly came from the heart. As the children were led out, the congregation sang, as in our service, but it was not "Jesus Loves the Little Children" and the congregation was not singing to the children. It was the pastor and the children who principally sang, and the congregation sang in support. The minister led the children in "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord". He would sing first "I'm a Soldier" and the children and the adults supporting them would sing "in the army of the Lord."

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Not to interrupt dad's great posts, but let me interrupt him to mention that Tom Waits's new album Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards (3 discs) is completely listenable and tremendous.

Real Gone, his last release, was great, but some of the songs left me with a headache. No headache with this album, but that probably has a lot to do with all of the fumes from the Despair press....

Here's a good interview with Tom Waits from Pitchfork.

If you don't yet own any Tom Waits, you should start with this album.
Water. Water is towards scarce here. At the very least, it is well respected. In Nairobi, we weren't to brush our teeth out of the spigot of the bathroom sink, and we were to drink only bottled water. But here at Kijabe station there is a spring, and we drink the water untreated. People are careful with the water here, not because there is something wrong with it, but because there is nothing wrong with it.

The story is that when Africa Inland Mission, one hundred years or so ago were looking for a place to build a school, they found land in the lower regions and were about to purchase it when a very powerful, English settler, Lord Delamere, blocked the purchase, and the mission had to look elsewhere. They found this beautiful place, with its own spring, something that the other property lacked.

Mary has a plastic bucket in her shower. It is there to catch some of the water, so it can be used in the toilet. She said that when there hasn't been much rain, she plugs the bathtub drain so that all the water from showering can accumulate. Then she ladles it out to a bucket for reuse. Out the wall from her kitchen, there is a pipe from the drain of the sink into a graywater tank, and that is used to water plants.

The water felt different hitting my skin when I showered; it seemed lighter. When I shaved, the razor ran easier and the skin felt smoother and less burned. Maybe the lack of chlorine and other additives makes the difference and perhaps the water is not so heavy with minerals as it is in S. Florida. It is very pleasant.

The water has a subtle, clean taste. It feels lighter as I drink it, as it feels on the skin when I shower. It is satisfying to drink too. I don't know whether the walking and extra exercise makes me more thirsty, but when I sit down to eat and drink the water, I notice how good it is to drink it. It is not a conscious perception of any sort of flavor (unless "clear and clean" is a flavor") but I can tell that my body is eager for it and will take all I want to give it. When I drink water at home, I reach a sort of limit fairly soon,
The Air. I have never been in air like this. It took me several hours to figure it out - something was different, and then I realized how clear and bright everything looked, a little like the way everything looked when I first looked through perscription eyeglasses. But I was wearing no glasses. We are at an altitude of 9000 feet and there is no pollution, or if there is, then it is nothing compared to what we live in at home. The sun is bright, the colors are bright and deep. This is new.

The air is also empty, waiting for fragrances. As I walked along the guard's trail around the school campus, I picked up for just a few moments a cigar and a few minutes later a woodfire - not long, because there are so many places for the smells to run. When we finished unpacking the car, I washed my hands in Mary's bathroom, and then walked outside again. to the yard where the car was parked. Jill remarked on a pleasant fragrance in the air. It was just the residue of the handsoap.

I was not out long, really, but I had some "sun" on my nose and my forehead. I brought some sunscreen, and am going to need to use it every day. In this air.
A Market in Mary's Front Yard. Here is a report from mid-afternoon Saturday. We have not made it yet out of RVA grounds and down to Kijabe, where the dukas stand, because a sort of duka spread itself out in front of the area where Mary lives, between her and the main soccer field. Some Kenyan women had set up a vegetable market in this area. They had spread out blankets and on them all kinds of vegetables and fruits: cabbages, pineapple, onions, bananas, mangos, papayas, passion fruit and sour oranges, strawberries, squash (all kinds of squash), zucchinis, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins. Just near by other Kenyan women, and a couple of men, spread out on blankets crafts of all sorts, including marvelous carved animals by an older fellow named Joe, jewelry, fabrics, straw purses, tote bags, things with all sorts of colors. These people come on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Mary intended to stop there for some vegetables, and we did, but the wares caught us and we spent probably two hours there, buying things. When we finally finished it was lunch time, and we went up the hill to Mary's and she served us more of the tasty vegetable soup she served us last night. As we ate, the women below began entertaining themselves with singing (it was a slow day with the students gone) and entertaining us in the process. I wish that I could have recorded them for this post.
Hello from Kijabe Station! It's 0937 Kenya time, Saturday morning. We left Miami Wednesday evening about 1730 Miami time. I have no idea what happened to Thursday. I remember sitting on an airplane, and that's about it. We arrived at Niarobi in the wee hours of Friday morning, got a few hours of sleep at the AIM guest house called "Mayfield" and spent most of yesterday at two shopping centers in the city. About 1730, driven by Mary's new friend Jill Wilson, we arrived at the station, 48 hours (plus 8 for the time difference) after we left Miami.

How shall I describe this place? It is as if a piece of South Florida were moved up to gentler parts of the Blue Rige. From a perspective up on a ridge (about 9000 feet) we look out upon a wide valley, and see mountains in the near distance. The flora is lush, and there are bouganvilla and other subtropical plants. There are pine trees of some sort marching up to the top of the ridge. The weather is cool and there are fireplaces alive among the little homes at the school where Mary lives and works.

The trip to Kijabe went though rural regions that seemed too busy to be rural, too full of people, these the black Africans.
There were sheep and goats in places by the roads (which were narrow and two laned, with a good bit of traffic, pedestrians along the side, some bicyclists, donkey carts, and motor vehicles of all sorts, many of them a sort of passenger
jitney called matatus, whose drivers somehow missed the drivers' ed program at their local high school.) Very much the third world, yet I did not get a sense of oppressive poverty. (Mary said that the slums of Nairobi are another matter.)

Today is an unplanned day (How I love those!) where we will just walk around the station and then down to the town to the "dukas". "Duka" is the word for store. Mary said that there is a "superduka" there, a grocery store run by an elder in the Afican Inland Church. The store, she said, is about the size of her living room.