A Whirlwind……

Training in Juba

That would be the best word to describe our trip to East Africa!  It was a busy, busy trip.  And it has taken a few weeks to really get adjusted back to US time.  And to try to catch up with life going on here.  I had my 6 month medical checkup earlier this week and I am sad to report that I lost no appreciable weight on Africa.  With all that work, I was hoping for a little reduction!


New Life Mission Staff in Juba

I got an email from Pastor Sosthen from Kiryandongo today.  I wanted to share the pictures he sent me of the okra that we planted.  It sounds like they are still dry but the irrigation is working well with the okra.


The Garden in Kiryandongo
An Okra Plant

Here is a little synopsis of our trip, by the numbers:

19,241 miles travelled in total

1777 miles traversed in Africa, between Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda

123 pastors/wives/students/staff/business people trained

Items distributed among the 4 training locations:

40 drip irrigation kits                     45 tshirts                          30 neckties

360 packs of seed                              16 pounds of crowder pea seed

25 ball caps                                          4 sets of tools for preparing the buckets

28 USB cards with the training videos

10 Story of the Bible scarves

Installing a kit at the Harvesters in Yei

We were very pleased with the way that the trainees soaked up the information that we presented to them.  They were eager to learn and very receptive to what was taught.  We are encouraged that our efforts will make a difference in enabling these folks to produce food for their families during the next dry season.

Our plans for this year include distributing another 750 drip kits, along with some grain storage bags.  While our trip to Africa was fully funded, we still need some funds to fulfill the costs of this second phase.  If you would like to be a part of our work in East Africa, please let us know.

We want to wish you all a happy Easter!  The Easter message of love and redemption is why we are doing all that we are doing in East Africa.


Jon’s Namanga Notes

After our Sunday of worship, fellowship and hanging out at the Jesse Hotel, we left Kigumba, at 7:15 am on Monday February 29th, for our ninety minute drive back to the airstrip at the Kinyara Sugar Plantation. Brian’s timing was perfect, as we saw the welcomed sight of our Pilot Jay and our AIM Cessna 206 making his final approach. IMG_1298.JPG

Jay flew us to Entebbe, where we caught a commercial flight to Nairobi to meet our friend Mac MacGruder and one of Mac’s young student interns, Paul Strong. We loaded into Mac’s Range Rover Defender for the three hour drive into southern Kenya, past Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance and squarely into Maasai country.

Mac Magruder and Paul Strong

The Maasai are a proud tribe of warrior-herders. For centuries they have wandered this region, grazing and taking care of their herds of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys. Even today, they recognize no borders and the countries of Kenya and Tanzania allow them to cross borders and graze freely. The men wear a colorful, one-piece garment cloth called a ‘kanga’ and they protect their herds with their lives. They travel light and their discipline, intense pride and toughness demand respect and admiration.


Mac with a Maasai man on the left and a woman on the right.


Simon chose to relocate and minister here, in part, because he was impressed that those attributes would be powerful tools in God’s hands. He was right.

Our destination was Namanga, a small village on the border of Tanzania. We arrived at the Namanga River Motel and met our host Simon and his wife, Agnes.IMG_1642

After a brief visit to Simon’s home and the site of the raised planting beds, we settled in for dinner at the motel and a decent night’s sleep.  Until a couple monkeys started running on the roof!IMG_1236

There is a story behind the demonstration garden. The beds, the irrigation posts and mulch were prepared by several day laborers, hired by Simon. These men were well-known drunkards and drug users. After completing the work, one of these men told Simon that he wanted to turn his life around and start coming to church. However, he had several tattoos. In this culture, tattoos are associated with a shameful lifestyle. The man told Simon that he is ashamed of his tattoos and he does not want to embarrass the church. Simon assured him that he would be accepted and gave him a dress shirt and a tie that we brought with us. He completed both days of training and will be in church on Sunday. Please pray for his salvation.  You never know what little things (a shirt) God may use to bring someone into the Kingdom. IMG_1694

On Tuesday morning, at 10:00 am “Africa Time” more than 30 Mobile Messengers showed up eager to learn. These pastors have been trained and equipped by Simon and With Open Eyes (WOE). Many had walked and ridden their WOE supplied motorcycles for hours to attend this training: many from deep inside Tanzania. Several wives attended as well.

With Open Eyes Mobile Messenger Motorbikes

Travel logistics forced Jim to condense two days of training into a day and a half. We started in the classroom setting at Simon’s church on Tuesday morning and moved to the field by noon. After Jim led the students in the first installation of a drip irrigation system and planted the bed in okra, the men installed a system and planted beets. Then, not to be outdone, the ladies installed a drip system and planted a bed of Mississippi Silver Hull Crowder peas. IMG_1730


After a late lunch, we concluded training at the church. We were honored to share the evening meal with Simon and his beautiful family at their hillside home, before turning in for the night at our motel.IMG_1797

On Wednesday morning, we started training at 10:00 am and virtually every pastor was present, again! These men are hungry to learn and their grateful spirits blessed us. Jim completed the training, reviewed the basics and then entertained questions about problems unique to their circumstances. After tea and a group photo, we departed for Nairobi where we shared dinner with Mac and his family in their home, before departing for the Hilton and our last night in east Africa.


Kiryandongo Refugee Camp

Our departure day (Friday, February 26th) from Yei started with the kids worship again. ‘Jesus is the winner man and the devil is the loser man.’  If only we as adults could remember that.

About every government interaction in Africa is an adventure and in South Sudan it is even more so.  We went by the immigration office in Yei and picked up an agent and gave him a ride to the airstrip.  He stamped us both out and I thought we were good.  Well, another agent wanted to check our bags.  Really?  Some of them were already on the plane and had to be walked back into the little office.  We had to open them all up.  He found nothing and finally we were able to load.

We had a short hop to Arua, Uganda, where we had to land and do immigration into Uganda. Arua is also the home base of AIM Air, who we were flying with.  We taxied in and got out.  We walked over to a tent near the runway where an official was waiting.  We paid our fee, gave him our paperwork, and he stamped our passports.  Done!  No baggage check, no nothing.  Easiest entry I’ve ever had!

Arua, Uganda Immigration Office

After getting topped off with fuel, we loaded up and headed on. We had about a 45 minute flight to our destination at Kinyara Sugar Plantation.  It is pronounced Chinyara….all K’s are pronounced that way in Uganda.  The change in the scenery as we entered Uganda was noticeable.  More developed, more pavement, better houses.  Also more green.  We also flew over a huge lake……hmmmm….don’t remember the safety briefing on the life vests when we started out.  Were there any life vests?  Don’t know, didn’t ask.  We could see the sugar cane in the fields as we approached Kinyara.  It was very pretty scenery.

Kinyara Sugar Plantation

We landed and found our driver waiting. My original contact had taken ill, so we had another driver in his place.  His name was also Brian, though.  There were 2 Ugandan officials there and we had to sign in with them.  But that was it.  We then had about an hour drive to make it to our accommodations in Kigumba, also pronounced, Chigumba.  We could not get over the good condition of the roads.  It was a welcomed change from South Sudan.



We checked into the Hotel Jesse in Kigumba. Relatively new, but no air conditioning.  Oh boy.  We dropped our bags and headed on out to Kiryandongo refugee camp.  Also pronounced Chiryandongo.  Our driver straightened me out on the pronunciation…..I had never heard the names spoken.

The corner of the garden with part of the camp in the background.

The camp was about 30 minutes north of Kigumba.  I think we arrived around 1pm.  Pastor Sosthen  is the Mobile Messenger from With Open Eyes who we met last year in Lui, South Sudan.

High level meeting in progress with Pastor Sosthen.



He had to flee the Lui area because of the fighting. They came to Kiryandongo last July and the area around Lui is still unstable.  He does not have plans to return home anytime soon as he does not want to expose his children to war.  He has lived through it and wants better for them.  The Kiruandongo camp was formerly used by Kenyan refugees.  The area that Sosthen is in was uninhabited when he got there.

Sosthen started this church when he arrived.  They have built a structure and already had to double the size.  We had around 200 there for Sunday worship.  He has a network of pastors in place at Kiryandongo to help him with the ministry.  They will be able to use the irrigation kits to better feed their families and also provide some extra produce to sell.

Joseph, a Kenyan refugee and farmer is on the left.

Joseph is a neighbor to Sosthen and a former Kenyan refugee. For now, he is staying put also.  He has bought some land from the Ugandan government and is farming.  He was eager to tell me that he uses herbicides and some fertilizer and has seen great results.  He was very interested in the training we were doing.  He could not attend Friday as he was returning from his father’s funeral in Kenya.

Inside Pastor Sosthen’s Church

We started setting up the projection equipment and nothing wanted to work right. We were using a small generator and a solar panel to run the computer and the projector.  The projector I had was drawing too much amperage.  Thankfully, Sosthen had another one that we were able to use.  We were in Sosthen’s church.  It is a long mud walled building with a tin roof and a dirt floor.  At least it provided some shade from the hot sun.  We probably had 50 people in the meeting.



The ‘Professor’ teaching about soil structure.

I got through about half of the classroom material and then found out that the group had not eaten lunch. It was nearly 4 by this time.  We took a break and had lunch.  Goat stew?  Beans and eggplant that might be best described as stewed.  No utensils, save for a thin bread type thing to sop it all up with.  To begin, someone holds a pan and pours water for you to wash your hands.  And the guests always have to go first.  Somehow, Jon missed the goat.  Definite shot of apple cider vinegar for the night!



On Friday afternoon, after lunch, Jon did a devotion with the group. And yes, he was barking like a dog again!  He had the congregation rolling.  They really enjoy hearing about family and what goes on back in the States.  It also started trying to rain.  Rain on a tin roof is great for sleeping but not so much for public speaking.  Jon was able to wrap up and we headed back to the hotel.

Oh, the sights you see!  Notice the wording on the mudflaps!

We cleaned up and ate supper at the hotel. The total for three huge plates of rice with a piece of fried chicken was $30,000 shillings…..about $10 USD.  Our driver was staying just down the road in another guest house and he walked down there after eating with us.  The electricity is not dependable in Uganda, so the hotel has a generator.  They cut it on about 7pm.


About 12:30am, we had a loud thunderstorm. About that time the generator also cut off.  No more fan.  Did I mention no air conditioning??  So it got kinda warm, but we got a fairly decent night’s sleep. We had breakfast at the hotel…..some REALLY good pineapple.  I also had an egg and a bread thingy.

Good morning from Kigumba!

We were back out at the refugee camp by about 9, after stocking up on bottled water and a couple Cokes. We did a little prep work on setting up the stands for the water buckets while waiting on everyone to arrive.   The group then had chai (tea) and doughnuts.  The tea was the hottest thing I think I’ve ever tried to drink.  It would have definitely nixed any stomach bugs if you had been able to drink it without burning your mouth!



We went through the remaining training videos and then went out to the garden to put in some of the irrigation. Man, was it hot!  The people were quick to pick up the details of installing the drip line.  We got the lines laid out and they were able to see some of them in operation with the water.  Pastor Sosthen had gotten a 1000 liter tank and run a hose from the water point.  This tank will be used to fill the buckets when needed.

Look – what pretty orange buckets!

We then had lunch. More eggplant, cabbage, beans, the bread thing, and boiled chicken!  And lo and behold!  A bottled Mountain Dew!!  I hadn’t had one in a week and a half!  Nectar of the gods!

Happy, happy, happy!

A few of our folks wanted to review the irrigation video now that they had seen it in the field.  So we did that and then went back out to the field later to plant the beds we had prepared.




We planted some okra seed and then finished off the beds with mulch from some straw they had collected. I was impressed with how it all looked.


As we were winding down, one of the ladies came up and stood beside me and was giggling. She wanted a picture with the farmer.  So I obliged.  It appears Kristin has some competition!

IMG_1583It rained a little more that afternoon and thankfully cooled things off a bit.  We got a reasonable night’s sleep aside from being awakened at 5 am with the Muslim call to prayer.  We went back out to the camp to worship with Pastor Sosthen at this church.

The church’s oldest member.

The man on the left above WALKED over an hour and a half to get to church on Sunday morning.  That also meant and hour and a half back home.  He is in his eighties and lives in the next village.  So tell me again your excuse for missing church??


Pastor Sosthen interpreting for Jon.  Note the dirt floor and the beautiful wood in the roof. 

Jon preached a great sermon on God’s plan for us to work.  After shaking every hand in the building, we went into Sosthen’s house and had lunch.



After talking for a while, we bid our hosts adieu and returned to Kigumba.


Whew! What a trip!

Jon and I are cooling our heels at the Nairobi Airport waiting on our flight home.  We goofed off a little today by going to the Nairobi Wildlife Park to see some animals.  The guy who drove us wanted to get us out early as the animals are more active then.   The park is only a 15 minute drive from downtown Nairobi….depending on the traffic….which can be horrendous.  So we left the hotel at 6:30….*groans*  An overnight flight tonight to Amsterdam and then home tomorrow!

And about that hotel….the Nairobi Hilton…nice to be back in civilization!  We could have hung meat in the room last night!  And all the water pressure we wanted.  Good clean water, too!  There was even a Pizza Inn and a Chicken Inn across the street!


We made it to the Wildlife Park a little before 7.  Got checked in and started our adventure.  The first 10 minutes we didn’t see any animals, but there was plenty of evidence on the road…..you can thank me for sparing you the pictures!

We finally ran across some water buffalo.  Not long after, a pride of lions crossed in front of us.  The water buffalo were not happy.  They weren’t having any of those lions around their calves.  We got to see a nice little standoff.

You want a piece of me??

Soon, we noticed a male lion walking in the grass on the left.  On the far side of the lion was an antelope.  He was standing still and keeping his eye on that lion.



Jon began giving our driver, Joseph, a hard time about that lion being a vegetarian because he did not attack the antelope.  ‘Are we going to have to go back to Uganda to see some manly lions?’  Joseph got a kick out of that.  We went a little further down the road and then turned around.  When coming back, the water buffalo were crossing over the road again.  Then the male lion crossed….and walked toward the car before going back into the bush on the right.  He was huge!

Poppa Lion walking toward our car.

A few seconds later, a momma lion came out of the bush on the left and came toward the car.  She did not divert back to the bush, but came on down past the car on Jon’s side.  You should have seen how fast he rolled up the window as she approached!  I don’t think he was thinking about her being a vegetarian at that point!

Later, we came across a herd of female antelope with their young.  They reminded me of our white tail deer.  Very agile.




We also ran across several herds of giraffes.  They looked so graceful!


Of course, we had to have a flat tire when we were about three quarters the way through the park!  You are NOT supposed to get out of the vehicle!  So Jon and I had to stand watch while Joseph did a tire change that would have made NASCAR proud!


Yes, we survived!  Got to see some amazing animals.  I took some good video as well that I will share later.  We headed back to the hotel to finalize packing and come on to the airport.

I am going to try to do a couple more posts tonight before the flight and catch you up on some of our other adventures.  I’m sorry I haven’t been able to post them as they have happened.  Internet is a squirrelly thing in Africa!

This has been an amazing trip.  At every stop, everyone has really taken to the training that we did.  They are very excited about using the drip irrigation kits.  We look forward to good reports in the future of the benefits of our efforts.  We thank you for your support of what we are doing.

We finally found some cooler weather!

And by cooler, I mean 95 degrees as opposed to 105!  We are in Namanga, Kenya, which is a town right on the border with Tanzania.  Mac Magruder and Pastor Simon Wairerah both work with With Open Eyes and are our hosts.

Pastor Simon and his chickens.

We are staying in a very picturesque lodge in Namanga.  What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in ambiance.  Although, a fan for the room would be nice.  And maybe some bug spray.  And some screens on the windows.  But I digress.  At least I was able to finally get a decent picture of a monkey!  The monkeys are also a problem here with stealing crops.  They also have wild hogs.



We had over 30 Mobile Messenger pastors for training today.   We met at Pastor Simon’s church, the Namanga Baptist Church.   Some had travelled for hours by motorbike to come to the training.  After some more technical issues, we were able to get started.  We showed the videos on using the drip irrigation, raised beds, and composting.  We had these videos in Swahili and did not have to worry with an interpreter.


We then headed over to Pastor Simon’s house where he had started with the demonstration garden.  We explained about how to install the drip system and did one set of lines.  Everyone was very impressed when the water started flowing.  The guys in the group did another set and then the ladies did one.

IMG_1251IMG_1255We planted some okra, beets, and crowder peas.  We then put mulch on top of the beds and ran some more water through the systems.  Our students caught on very quickly.  We returned to the church to do some more training on some other topics.  We will spend some time tomorrow morning reinforcing what we went over today before returning to Nairobi.

We capped the day with a delicious meal at Pastor Simon’s house which was prepared by his wife Agnes and his girls.  It was a good time of fellowship.  It is now 10:30pm here and my eyelids are getting heavy.  It has been a long day since the 5am Muslim call to prayer.  Good night all!