It's now Tuesday morning and we have completed our first whole day on the ground here in Kenya. The morning started off a bit slowly - it always does on the first day. We carefully split our team into two groups, two vans each, and one pharmacy van (from which we give out medications). And after having breakfast, we were on our way.
Speaking of the medications, I have not yet had the chance to tell you the way in which we received the medications. It is amazing how God works. So, Dr. Hudgens and a small group went to the airport to negotiate the release of the medications from the FDA organization official. He said that when he first arrived and they began to speak, he was not being very helpful. There were two issues. First, we had to declare the medication value and pay a tax on it. Second, and more concerning, they wanted to know the exact expiration dates for all the medications. Well, before we come to Kenya, we have to repackage the medications in little zip lock bags to hand out to the Kenyans. So, the pills are not in their original package. That's a problem.
Behind the scenes and unbeknownst to us, Bishop Achange had been exploring his contacts to find a solution. First, he phoned the district health officer for Taita-Taveta county, who in turn called the airport asking them to release the medicines. And secondly - this is the best part - Bishop had a contact with a customs official from another district. Apparently, this official is the 'head of the customs office' but in another district. Bishop called him to ask for his assistance. The official told him that he just so happened to be in Nairobi and would drive over to the airport himself. The medications were finally released after paying a small tax of $100, which just so happened to be the extra money Dr. Hudgens received from exchanging money at the bank. It's seemed that God not only provided a way to release the medications but also He gave us the exact money we needed to pay the tax.
Back to yesterday... So we loaded up the vans and headed out to the church sites. The drive took us 30 minutes and we finally arrived in a small town called Mwatate where the first church as built. The church building is built on the side of a hill so it is visible from the town itself, which you can see in the distance. It's tough to describe how scenic it is. There are small mountains all around us in this part of southern Kenya and it has been quite overcast. Clouds linger of the mountain tops through the day, creating a beautiful backdrop to the mission work.
I praise God that when we arrived, the church at Mwatate (and Bura) were virtually complete. They had already begun to set up tables and chairs and seemed to be ready to open the clinic. It's a testament to the Agape leadership and their preparations for this mission. They have done an incredible job here. My team, lovingly called Team B for Bura - or as we like to say, Bura the Best - then got back in our vans and traveled another 15 minutes down the road to another town called Bura. When we arrived at the second site, the church wears mostly complete. There were a lot of delays because of the rains apparently. But I thought it looked great! I did notice that there was a lot of mud around. Even inside the church, it was somewhat muddy which I thought could be a challenge for us. But after about 15 minutes or so, Robert Miriri drove up with his car stuffed with large bags of sawdust which we then spread over the floor of the clinic. It worked amazingly. Shortly after this, another car arrived with our tables and chairs for the clinic and church. Bishop had purchased chairs and tables for us to use, but they were not available and would not be ready for the clinic. But the shop owner graciously gave us extra chairs/tables to use for FREE until the new ones arrive. Again, God providing.
Both clinics went very well. At Bura and Mwatate, we saw approximately 100 patients each. The first is always a bit slow and we expected it. Because it was slow, I did have the opportunity to witness to my new friend Francis who came to see me as a patient. See, Francis is an admitted alcoholic. He has been a daily drinker for at least 10 years. When I saw him, he was obviously inebriated. Trying to reason with a drunk man is folly, I know, but I wanted to try at least. Bernard (my nurse interpreter) and I spent at least 20 minutes talking and praying with Him. He said He wanted to become saved and we did pray together for Him to receive Christ. I'm eager to see if there's any fruit or true conversion. I told Francis to come see me every day in the clinic, but He must come back sober. We could continue to talk about alcohol (and particularly withdrawals) later but I wanted to see him every day to encourage him as much as I could. At the crusade that evening, I saw Francis once again. Still drunk but was singing every praise song (while stumbling around). Join me in praying for him. He is certainly bound by alcohol and needs the kind of freedom only found in Christ.
To give a little reference of where we are, take a look at the map of Voi. There is a road the heads southwest toward Tanzania. This the road we travel to Bura and Mwatate. They are nearing completion of a project to pave this road all the way to Tanzania which will no doubt increase the traffic (and grow these cities). So in another five years, these cities will become bigger and more populous, so these churches are strategically located where the people will be. Also, the county government has decided to move their offices from Wundanyi in the mountains to Mwatate, where our church is located.
Also I've learned that part of the strategy for coming to this area is because the Taita and Taveta tribes are marginalized in their country. Because of national and regional politics, they find themselves as the opposition group, which has caused them to be somewhat neglected when it comes to funding, healthcare, and infrastructure developments. For example, many of our patients in Bura were farmers, or Shamba in Swahili. They would come into the clinic complaining of dehydration-like symptoms. I would then encourage them to drink plenty of water, but as Bernard pointed out to me, there is no good clean water source here in Bura. And the water they get from the river is not good. Marginalized. I am glad to come to such a people as this to share the good news of Christ.
We have a big day ahead of us today. We are expecting many more patients than yesterday and more witnessing opportunities. We had many salvations yesterday through both clinics and Crusades. I don't know exact numbers yet but will share when I can. God is working through our entire team to make an impact for the Kingdom here in southern Kenya. Pray with us as we advance