Monday, June 29, 2009


It was back to serving coffee today. Great to be with the Starbucks crew again, and I had a wonderful time sharing a few stories with people about my trip. I also talked with my manager about setting up a meeting with her and the district manager. I'm curiuos to find out what Starbuck's involvement is with the coffee plantation that I visited in Ruiru, if any. The workers are paid so little for such hard work, and are so uniformed and misinformed about AIDS and other diseases. I plan to be involved in East Africa in the future and travel over there as often as I can get the time and resources to do so. Maybe I can be a Starbucks representative and do AIDS awareness education and do some work on fare wage advocacy.

Until that gets ironed out, it's full steam ahead on the precious gemstone business. I've got a call into U.S. Customs Import Division, and I'm going to check with the IRS about setting up a second company using my EIN number. I should know soon just how close I am to getting this thing off the ground. I'm thinking "Boraka Gemstones". First reactions? Boraka is Ki-Swahili for "Blessing". I'm figuring if I can get a gemstone business started that pays for all my trips to Africa, that would be a real blessing! I'm also planning to turn a portion of the profits from the sale of 2+ carat stones over to paying for grade-school fees for orphans in Kenya. That way these stones can be a blessing back to East Africa in another way as well. So, pray with me that the details of this new business venture come together, so I can put the profits to good use.

That's it for today. I think I'll take a little nap. I'm still waking up at 5am. Maybe tonight will be a full night sleep.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Well, I made it back. After two flights totalling out at 16 hours of fly time, I have touched down and am trying to reaclimate to Seattle. So far so good...other than the jetlag. Have you ever shopped on E-Bay at 3am? What else does one do when he slips out of a deep sleep into the land of the conscious with little hope for an immediate return. So, early this morning I bought a gemstone scale and gemstone carrying case. I don't know if the deals are better at 3am or not, but I felt accomplished. While I was in Kenya I was able to obtain some Tanzanite and Emerald stones, as well as the connections that could lead to a new business. Anyone got leads on what it takes to become a precious gem dealer here in the states? How about connections to some trustworthy jewelry dealers? If anyone's interested in Tanzanite, Emeralds, Rubies or Saphires, let me know. I may have a deal for you! Don't worry, these aren't "Blood Diamonds".

O.k., so other than the jetlag, I am beginning to settle in fairly well. One of the beautiful things about this trip is that I haven't gone through all the emotional hype that often comes with mission trips. From beginning to end things have gone quite smoothly, and I haven't been plagued by the typical roller coaster. Hmm...maybe that's a bad thing. I might be missing something. Oh well. It feels good to be on this side for a change. I'm much more grounded. Now if I could just get my physical body to land on the ground as well, that would be great.

Till next time...

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Well, as you can tell, the past week has been quiet on the communication front. Although I had more access to the internet while I was a the Miwani Center, time was fleeting. Last Friday I hopped on a one-way commuter flight from Nairobi to Kisumu Kenya. After attempting three landings in the rain at the airport, the pilot put the plane down with a harsh thud, which never-the-less, elicited applause from a good majority of his passengers.
After the landing, Heidi from the Miwani Center picked me up from the airport and we drove over to the bus station where we also gathered Anne, a local Kenyan school teacher, and Ashley a woman in her early twenties also from Seattle who was there doing a 10 week health care study in order to finish up her bachelors.

For the next couple days, I was on the farm. And wow what a farm it is. 120 Acres of maze, napier grass, mango trees, dairy cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and vegatable gardens. The Miwani Center, also known as Nehemiah International is an agricultural orphanage "striving to promote sustainable integration of orphans and children living under difficult circumstances into the society; so as to increase their access to opportunities that exist around them through spiritual development, skill training, networking and dissemination of information." They are attempting to become one of the first self-sustaining orphanages in Kenya, and they are well on their way.

Wolfgang (the man in the picture above) and Heidi Oelschlegel are from Germany, and they are the ones overseeing the farm. Right now the Miwani Center has a full functional dairy farm where they produce some of the biggest cows and richest milk in Kenya that they sell to local business and people in the community. They grow all their own feed on site in order to feed all the livestock, and are in the process of growing individual gardens for the families that are on site. Right now they have a board that consists of five people (two Americans, one German, and two Kenyans). This team is trying to develop the center in such a way so as to have ten homes on site where Kenyan Parents would come and help tend the farm while raising orphans in their own homes. Right now they have three sets of parents and room to build another 7 houses on site.

I believe this organization is quickly becoming one of the most effective models for care of orphan children in Kenya. They work hard, play hard, and teach much every minute of the day. Some of their dreams in the future are to establish and run a medical clinic on site, be more involved in community education and awareness in the local schools surrounding the compound, and have a deeper level of impact agriculturally on the area. They are also looking to do more counseling with the families that are raising orphans and community development work that focuses on overall care and attention for their families on site. Hmmm...sounds like an area maybe I can help out with.

Before I sign off for this post, I want to mention that I returned safely to the U.S.. I'll be writing more in the days ahead, but for now, here are a couple more pictures of Nehemiah International...the Miwani Center...the Farm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

VISITING FOCUS (Families Orphans Children Under Stress)

I am going to put up more pictures on this post, because I think they speak louder than my words can.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I visited FOCUS yesterday. What an incredible experience. We weren't there very long, but in the couple hours we spent, I was able to see the organization's mission statement come alive right in front of my eyes. It reads, "Every Child Should have the Opportunity to Smile." And smile they we did.

These children are considered some of the most underprivileged kids in Ruiru. Many of them wouldn't have one consistent meal each day if it wasn't for FOCUS. They bring the kids in for morning porridge at 10am, send them off to school, meet back at the center for afternoon porridge at 4pm, play games with them and then send them back to their homes...often with enough grain to feed the whole family one meal at night. I wish you could be here to see the faces of these kids. For a little while they set aside all their cares and concerns and play. And they play hard. And the adults play with them, laugh with them, hold them, give them a shoulder to cry on. I was blessed to spend time with such amazing kids and their staff. This is the kind of ground roots mission organization that puts the heart of the people it serves at the most elevated place.

I was able to hand over all the note pads, pens, soap, a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide, and a bunch of ziplock bags and band-aids to the director. He said there was nothing I gave him that wouldn't go to good use. Thanks again INTERACT!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Yesterday morning we said good-bye to Malindi as well as Mama Betty and her home cooked Kenyan meals. We headed back to Ruiru where we began. It's a long journey by car, and the roads are almost non-existent in some places. Although the trip was only about 550km, it took us over 10 hours to return. If you ask a Kenyan what are some of the most insane things their culture does, driving might rank highest on the list. When they pray for traveling safety, they mean it. I have never been in a place where the potholes are deep enough to bottom out on, the speed bumps are about 18 inches thick and not marked, and at times there can be four lanes of traffic on a two lane road. When no one is moving they just make the road wider. It's as simple as that. At one point in time we were three lanes thick going one direction with one opposing lane headed the other way. All this was in a dust storm where you couldn't see the condition of the road or more than three cars ahead of you. Thankfully everyone was going at the same pace and Charles is a very careful driver. Well, enough of that...we made it, and we are thankful.

Today will be a little slower in the morning. In the afternoon, I will be delivering supplies to an organization called FOCUS. It is a program set up by nationals to help under-privelleged kids with their school fees, supplies and food. They also take care of some of the basic medical needs of the kids. I found out that someone from the States that I used to work with about 10 years ago is overseeing the Backpack Program at Focus. What that means is that once a year he comes over with other people and brings suitcases full of backpacks which are full of school supplies that are then handed out to the children. Today I will be bringing the pads of paper, pens and band-aids that INTERACT provided. My new friend Allen said that these things will mean so much to the children and he wants me to be there to present them in person. I'll try to let you know how it goes.

I just got word back this morning that the manager from the coffee plantation called a pastor I am working with over here and asked him if there was any way their church could help start an educational clinic and church on site at the plantation. Apparently our time there had a tremendous impact and he wants more for his people. I was so encouraged to hear that as I believed we were well received and that the information was helpful, but it's really hard to tell what the impact truly is until later.

O.K., time to catch up on e-mails. I'll try to post more later. Thanks for your support!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


As is often common when traveling to foreign countries, I picked up a bug yesterday morning. It's too bad too, because I have loved the food, and it took me out of afternoon tea and a fish dinner last night. But, alas, I am back on my feet. When I was here 8 years ago I caught something that put me out for three days and caused me to plead with God to take what life I had left and get it over with. So in comparison...I'll be just fine.

The past two days we have been working with a handful of youth workers who are making an impact in both their churches and communities throughout eastern Kenya. I got a chance to talk to them about mentoring and counseling students yesterday. I talked with them about confidentiality, empathy, listening, curiosity, humility and false promises. Their young people are being furiously chased by hopelessness. It's pushing them towards drugs, prostitution, theft, alcoholism, etc. It's painful to see people with such promise throwing in the towel because it hurts too bad to keep going; or even more, that they would need to sell something as personal as their own bodies just to eat.

But it doesn't need to stop there...and the youth workers in this picture have committed to making a difference. They have talked indepthly about the importance of relationship, compassion, patience, perseverance and faith. And they are excited. I wish you could have been in the room when these Kenyans lead each other in traditional songs prior to our meetings. It was beautiful to see them beginning to return to their own roots, and leaving behind some of the restrictions introduced by colonial Christianity that has swept their nation; and in many regards, ravaged their cultural traditions and freedom of expression. I am seeing them coming alive again, and the light of hope in their eyes is beginning to burn brighter as it lights their way one step at a time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Two days ago I spent an afternoon at a coffee plantation and shared about AIDS with the workers. A tight community hungry for a better understanding of what is happening to their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, children and friends. A vibrant group of people who lack the basic knowledge of what, to them, is still an illusive disease in their midst. "Can it be passed from one person to another through a mosquito?" "How about kissing?" "What should we do if one spouse has AIDS and the other one doesn't?" "Does anyone have a cure?" "If you have TB does that also mean you have AIDS?" These are just a handful of questions fired off one after another for over 45 minutes. I have some questions of my own that I keep asking myself...Why do these people not know? Why are their people in this world who don't know that there is a deadly disease living behind the innocent eyes of their neighbor and friend? Why is it that they don't know the basic precautions they can take to keep it from spreading? And we have problems with our economy?

Yesterday was a travel day. From mid morning to late evening we were on the road on our way to Mombasa, a coastal community. This is a resort town where the Italians particularly have settled in for vacation. Europe has infiltrated this area. But even though the white skin is reddening in this town, the black skin still pervades, and has found some important and well deserved business in the pocketbooks of an international community looking for a little rest and relaxation. It is beautiful here, and for the price, it's no wonder people flock. Four of us are staying in our own separate rooms in a country villa for less than $20 a night per person, and our meals are being cooked by one of the finest African "mama's" around. We will spend three days here working with a handful of youth workers being trained by my Kenyan friend Charles in the ways of ministry and national care of students ages 12-30. Amidst what will be a pretty rigorous schedule, there will be time for a dip in the pool. I'm looking forward some time to kick back. I wonder if I can get my hands on one of those coconuts hanging from the trees by the pool!