Thinking back over the past week, the string tying up the bundle of
disparate experiences seems to be learning. This Sabbath finds me
more educated, in a very diverse group of fields, than the last one
(although I suppose that should be the case every week). May I share
some of my new knowledge with you?

After spending Monday and Tuesday finishing our leach field ditch and
measuring, labeling, and sorting several hundred panes of glass for
the windows in the orphanage, we packed all Jared's things from his
house along with our bags in to his old Land Rover truck (see the
previous post for a picture). While waiting for Jared to finish up a
few things, Eric Johnston, Luke, and I decided to try out Jared's
kite. At the orphanage site there is plenty of open land and it's
almost always windy; perfect for kite flying. Jared's kite is a 5.5
meter, two-handled kite, and is quite a bit bigger than any I've ever
flown before. Wow! It's a totally different experience than the
little kites you fly as a kid. It was kind of like trying to wrestle
a powerful flying horse with a devilish sense of humor all around the
field :P But it was lots of fun, and a good workout too!

Next Luke and I got another opportunity to practice an essential
skill--essential at least in Africa--riding in the back of a truck.
Africans have developed this into a fine art, perching atop mounds of
sundry luggage with apparent ease. I have yet to master it, but
thanks to Luke's advice and lots of practice (around town in Nairobi,
5 hours out to the orphanage on Sunday, seven hours back on Tuesday,
etc.) I've learned a few tips. First, it helps to come prepared: a
Thermarest is crucial to long-term comfort! Second, a tarp is also
critically important, both for protection from the rain and to deflect
the cold wind. With these two components and room to stretch out,
riding in the back is actually preferable to the cab. Unfortunately,
with all of Jared's furniture, and Moses and Thomas, two of Jared's
employees along for much of the ride, stretching-out space was a
little limited, but we managed :)

Back in Nairobi, the learning experience shifted into high gear.
Before we could leave, there was two vehicles that we needed to make
some minor repairs to; the orphanage's Land Cruiser Prado and
Frontline Builders' Land Cruiser truck. Both needed to have the front
ends rebuilt; the Prado also needed to have its 4WD hubs switched to
the more reliable manual version along with a few other things, and
the truck needed new front shocks and some work done on the rear
bushings. Because much of our days were spent running errands and
going through the process of getting travel permits for S. Sudan, we
got a little behind on all this work. We planned to start driving
north on Sunday, so things were starting to get tense when Thursday
evening rolled around and we were about halfway finished with the
Prado and hadn't yet started on the truck. So we decided to utilize
some of the free time between dusk and dawn :) Unfortunately, one set
of nuts and lock washers on the right axle inside the spindle on the
Prado didn't fit very well, and the snap ring wouldn't quite go on.
After putting all the pieces on, discovering the problem, stripping
everything back to the knuckle, including removing the studs from the
spindle, putting it all back together again, having it still not work
and disassembling and reassembling yet again, finding a prodigal
gasket and going back to put it on, I have learned quite a bit about
the inner workings of Land Cruiser axles! We ended up going to bed
about 3:00, because we were missing a bearing on the truck. Thank

Friday was one of those days where, as Luke said, you probably would
have accomplished about as much--and been much cheerier--if you'd just
stayed home and had a party. Practically everything went wrong; parts
were the wrong size or missing altogether, shops were closed for lunch
or for the weekend, traffic was terrible, we were 15 minutes too late
to pick up our travel permits, the pump broke back at the orphanage
(Jared had to go back today to get the water working), and last but
not least, a swarm of bees from next door, upset about having their
honey stolen by the neighbor, made things very unpleasant for Luke as
he tightened the last few bolts before Sabbath! Guess what Friday's
lesson was?

Fortunately we closed out the day with a delicious supper of
freshly-made salsa: tomatoes, onions, garlic, chiles, cilantro,
lemon, and salt. Mmmm! And then it was Sabbath. We sang some hymns
and fell asleep in the living room. God's day of rest is definitely a

Jared and Eric left today to go fix the pump. Luke, Linda Shin (an RN
who works at the AMS clinic in the Mara), and I stayed here, listened
to lots of wonderful music and a good sermon, and then did a little
exploration of the area on Luke's new motorbike. We happened upon a
nice little surprise, the Langata Botanical Gardens, during our trip,
and stopped to walk around. We saw lots of different flowers and
birds, and even a little three-horned chameleon :)

Other highlights from the week: receiving a nifty rugged blanket with
water-resistant canvas on one side, complete with a little carrying
case, perfect for sleeping out in the bush, from Andy Aho, learning
how to ride a dirt bike, reading two excellent books --
'Cross-Cultural Servanthood' by Duane Elmer (thanks Mindi!), and
'The End of Poverty' by Jeffery Sachs. Really good reading; I
definitely recommend them for anybody interesting in working in the
third world!

So, that's the news. I'm blessed beyond belief; good friends, honest
work, lots of learning experiences. Even when things were going crazy
Friday, I couldn't think of any place I'd rather be, or anything else
I'd rather be doing. God is good.



First Week at Jared's Orphanage

I like Kenya. The weather is pleasant, the scenery reminds me of Arizona, there isn't too much malaria, we've already seen a variety of wildlife, and I've met some new friends. We weren't planning on lingering here for quite this long, but I'm glad things have worked out this way.

We've been here a week and a half, spending about half ourtime in Nairobi getting supplies for Sudan and running errands, and the rest at Jared's orphanage project. The orphanage is five hours west of Nairobi, on the eastern edge of the Masai Mara game preserve, near the Tanzanian border.We drove out to the project on Friday and saw two giraffes on the way! Did I mention how neat it is to be here in Kenya? :)

The Masai Development Project Orphanage

Jared's Mansion

On Sabbath we sang and hiked and rested. If I had known what we would be doing for work that week, I think I would have rested some more. I also listened to two excellent sermons by Eugene Prewitt on revival and country living. I guess we've got the country living part down, hours away from civilization in the African bush :) Sunday, after a pancake flipping contest (which Luke won handily with a neat double flip), we started work with a bang, digging the first of several ditches. Monday we scraped cement off window bars and I helped supply the masons with stones and concrete to finish the interior walls in the dormitory. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent with a pick and shovel, clearing out somemore ditches for a leach field. With all that digging, we had no problems falling asleep at night!


Wednesday evening we drove through the bush down to the Tanzanian border and saw lots of wildebeest, antelopes, dikdiks, and some zebras! Thursday we headed back to Nairobi for more errand running. We met up with some Peace Corps volunteers Thursday night for supper at an Ethiopian restaurant! I enjoyed using some of my rusty Amharic to order our food :) Friday we picked up Eric Johnston at the airport and ran some more errands. Eric is here as an SM from Southern and will be working at the orphanage and with Jared's uncle for nine months.

One of Luke's errands

On Sabbath we went to church at Maxwell Academy on the campus of the East Central Africa Division. It's interesting how similar the academy here is to academies in the States--and all the connections we had in common with the expats there. Pastor Crutcher and his wife from GCC, a family from Union Springs Academy, and some SMs from Union. Amazing how meeting friends of friends makes for such entertaining conversation :) After lunch in the cafeteria we went hiking in the Rift Valley. The geology in the Rift Valley is fascinating. It's basically a huge crack in the earth where two tectonic plates are pulling apart. Because there's so much less pressure on the crack, magma pushes up through the crust more easily. Hence all the volcanic activity along the Rift, and the presence of the mountains for us to climb. (Don't worry Mom, the ones we were on were long extinct :) Bob and Joy Butler graciously invited us to their home for supper and we spent the evening visiting with them.

The plan is to head back out to finish up a few more things at the orphanage, put in the windows, finish the leach field, and a other odds and ends, before coming back to Nairobi, purchase the last few needed supplies and leave for Sudan a week from today. We'll see how that works out!

It's good to hear from everybody back home. We're excited to see how God has worked things out for us so far. Thank you for your prayers!



First Update

Dear Friends,

Our very fine African adventure has begun.  Luke and I left Tuesday in a flurry of preparations and last minute errands.  Bags had to be weighed, repacked, and reweighed.  Money had to be changed (post-2001 series, please), and friends and family needed farewells.  In what may be the first miracle of the trip, a package of LSAT study materials and a letter for me made it into the PO box at Collegedale literally moments before we left for Atlanta.  Thank you Lord!

Thanks to Emily, Luke's extremely gracious sister (thanks again for the burritos!), we made it to ATL in time for our flight, only to realize that Luke had left his laptop bag back at home :(  Anybody coming to Kenya in the next week or so?  

Those seat-back display screens have been upgraded since the last time I've flown.  Luke and I learned lots of interesting trivia facts and figured how to play Othello on our way to Amsterdam, and we started to learn Arabic and sent text messages en route to Nairobi--all via the little display in the seat in front of us.  Amazing!  The food was pretty good as well, although we were definitely glad to supplement it with Kristin's granola and Mom's trail mix.

Upon arriving in Nairobi, we realized that we didn't know "the precise address of our stay in Kenya," as requested on our visa forms.  Fortunately this oversight apparently wasn't a deal-breaker, as the customs officials were more interested in whether or not our money was counterfeit or not.  Outside we met up with Jared Busl and Andy Aho, and after a few errands, we eventually arrived at Andy's house outside Nairobi.

Our tentative schedule for the next week or so includes finishing up an orphanage for the Masai Development Project that Jared has been working on near Masai Mara, getting supplies here in Nairobi, and doing some maintenance on our little Toyota truck.  Apparently the front axle needs some TLC before we hammer it for 1500 km on our way to Sudan.

Thank you for your prayers and for all the encouragement and help!



Sudan Information

What's Going On?
Many of you have asked for more information about what I will be doing in South Sudan. I will be updating my blog with new information along the way, but here's what I know for now.

South Sudan has been hit hard by years of civil war with North Sudan, unstable neighbors, marauding militia groups, tribal unrest, and uncooperative weather patterns. The 2009 UN Human Development Report ranks Sudan 150 out of 180 countries on the Human Development Index, a composite measure of national health, education,and quality of living prospects. To put this in perspective,that's just below Haiti and Papua New Guinea. The average life expectancy is about 58. Around twelve and a half million people don't even have access to clean water. (more info)

I can't do much to change these figures. But, I can make a difference for some people. Luke Fisher and I will be working under the auspices of Frontline Builders, a non-governmental, OCI-affiliated organization that has been working in South Sudan since 2001. We will be based in Mundri, several hours west of Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

Our primary mission is to serve in whatever capacity is most needed. Some of the things we will probably be doing include lay evangelism training, basic medical and dental work (Luke is an RN), agriculture, possibly some building, and lots of planning and praying about future possibilities.

Who's Going?

How Can You Get Involved?
  • Pray! "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much" - James 5:16
  • Pray some more! "And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea" - 1 Kings 18:44
  • Send us encouragement: Luke, Joel
  • Keep checking my blog for updates - If you would like to receive the posts via email, let me know!
  • Donate - If you feel impressed to give funds, you can donate either through OCI (tax-deductible, be sure to designate your donation "Frontline Builders - Mundri") or directly to me, via Paypal (not tax-deductible.)


Thank you. Your prayers and encouragement mean a great deal to me.

Excelsior - Ever Upward!