Saturday, December 31, 2016

Anything can Happen in Kenya

As we were driving to Kapune, Carole said, “There is a clear plan laid out for the next three weeks but anything can happen in Kenya. So, expect anything!”

Yesterday, at then end of the morning meeting, wailing could be heard down the valley. A number of the Maasai young men took off running to see what it was.

I walked up alongside Joseph and said, “What’s happened?”

“Something bad,” he said. “The wailing means something has happened.”

“What kind of wail is it?” I asked.

“Someone is very injured,” he said, “or very sick. Maybe worse.”

There are three kinds of Maasai wailing. Each is intended to convey a different story to neighbours. There is a wail for injury, a wail for death and a wail for stolen cows.

Joseph pulled out his mobile phone and called a number. He talked in Maasai for less than a minute and then hung up.

“A four year old girl has just died.” he said, “In a house down there. We knew she was not well yesterday. But it was worse than that.”

“What happens now?” I asked.

“There will be a funeral.” Joseph said, “but not a big one or a long one because it is a small child. It will go for one or maybe two hours.”

“Why is it less than other funerals?” I asked.

“A funeral is when people come to show respect and tell stories of the person who died.” Joseph said, “A small child has few stories and has received no respect yet. People will come to give respect to her parents and family but there will be few stories for a life so short.”

Last night, the message came through the Maasai grapevine that the funeral would be today. “Very quick,” Joseph said, “because it is not needed to give time for people to come. To show our respect, we will not have a meeting while the funeral is happening.”

This morning, Joseph came to our house and said it was up to us if we wanted to go to the funeral. He gave reasons both for going and against going. “You will show respect by showing up but you will also present them with a dillema of what to do with you. We give much respect to Muzungus. They may not want to weep in front of you. There will be much need to weep for a little child dying.”

After deciding that we would stay here and work on various projects, Joseph said, “Also, could you all come have a look at Vivian, her angle is not better today.” We had been told the night before that a child had pulled a muscle.

“Can she stand on it?” Courtney asked.

“No,” Joseph said, “not at all.”

“That’s not good,” Carole said, “Can she move her toes?”

“No,” Joseph said, “I don’t think so.”

“It could be broken, Joseph,” Carole said. “We might need to take her to hospital. We will come look now.”

We walked down to Joseph’s house. He picked up seven year old Vivian and brought her out into the sunlight. There was not a tear in her eyes and she didn’t make a noise. Her ankle was swollen but not as much as a sprain should be.

I reached down to the good foot and said, “Can you wiggle these toes, like this?” Joseph translated. I closed and opened my hand. She wiggled her toes on the good foot.

“Now this foot,” I said, opening and closing my fingers near the other foot. "Can you wiggle these.” She tried and grimaced in pain. One toe moved slightly.

“We need to get her to hospital,” Carole said. “We will go get the Prado.”

Normally, a motorcycle taxi would be called and injured people ride on the back to the hospital. It is a blessing that Leon and Carole were are with a vehicle. Just a few weeks ago, a pregnant neighbour woman had been in labour for four days in her house before her husband called Joseph for help. She was taken to hospital on the back of a motorcycle taxi! Unfortunately both she and the child died in hospital.

“This is why I have enrolled to learn to drive,” Joseph told Courtney today. “We must have a vehicle for these children, for emergencies. And I must learn to drive!”

The trip to the hospital is a long bumpy journey back down the worst road in Kenya. Courtney offered to drive. Two other Maasai girls went in the back with Vivian.

As she walked out the door of our Masai mud house, Courtney said, “You’ll definitely be writing the story of this day!”

“I’ve already started,” I said, looking up from my writing table.

“The end of the story is yet to happen,” Carole said as she followed Courtney.

“I’m sure your day will be filled with adventure!” I said, “It will be a chapter all it’s own, no doubt.”

Once they were off on their journey, Joseph and I sat down for a marathon storytelling and writing session.

“You know,” I said to Joseph, “Carole told us anything can happen in Kenya.”

“True!” he said, “Very true!”

Friday, December 30, 2016

Maasai Cows

On my first day among the Maasai, Joseph told me a story about a local politician who was trying to win the votes of his fellow Maasai people. He told them he was just like them and held the same values. He said his family meant everything to him. But, Joseph said, “We know this is not true because he doesn’t have even one cow!”

Joseph explained that the man is rich with money and has a big house. He sends all five of his kids to private boarding school. “But without cows,” Joseph said, “we know he does not really love his family and is not a true Maasai like us.”

Last night Joseph sat down with us Muzungus and explained the importance of the cow to the Maasai. Yes, every cow has monetary value. A small adult cow costs about 20,000 shillings (about $2,000 USD) and a large bull at it’s prime is worth 60,000. But the monetary value of the cow is a very small part of why Maasai have cows.

A herd of cows shows that the Maasai man who owns them has respect and shows respect to others. At every major event in the life of a Maasai boy, he receives a cow from his father. When his middle two front teeth are removed as a boy, he receives a cow. When he is circumcised at 13, he receives a cow. When he becomes Morran (Maasai teen warrior that protects the community), he receives a cow. When he is married, he receives a cow. And when he is a real adult, he receives a cow.

“How many cows will you have received by the time you are adult?” I asked.

“Many cows!” Joseph said.

I asked about the girls. Joseph explained that in primative Maasai culture, the children and women held value in the same way as the cows. They showed the respectability and wealth of the man. “A man who is married is respected.” Joseph said, “A man who is married for a long time and has wisdom - like my father who has much wisdom - is respected most of all.”

“What about now?” I asked, “Do Maasai still value women as possessions?”

“Only the primitive Maasai.” Joseph said, “The modern Maasai man chooses his own wife and treats her with equal respect. And he loves his children. But we still give the cow!”

When a primitive Maasai man is shown a wife by his parents or modern Maasai man chooses a wife for himself, he then takes a cow to her father as a gift and says, “I wish to talk to you about marrying your daughter.” Then they agree on a dowry. Joseph explained that the dowry is consistent in each clan and the dowry you pay is the one of the clan of the wife to be. They do not change the dowry based on their perception of the suitors wealth or the brides beauty. “Some clans it might be 7 cows.” Joseph said, “Some it might be 14 cows. Some more.”

“Is it rude,” I said, “to ask a Maasai man how many cows he gave for his wife?”

“No!” Joseph smiled, “Because it is just about the wife’s clan. I gave 20 cows for my wife. And once I am married, I follow the wishes and rules of her clan. I become part of her family.”

Once married, the Maasai man gives a cow to his new father in law to be allowed to eat under his roof for the rest of his life. If he does not give the cow, he can never eat in his wife’s father’s house. This special cow also means that a Maasai man is a full adult. “If a man does not get married,” Jospeh said, “he cannot be a full adult.”

“Never?” I asked.

“If you, David, are not married but wish to shake the hands, you will take a cow to the most respected man in your community. That man - who is very much respected by all the community - will tell everyone that you have given him the cow and are now to be respected as a full adult.”

Joseph explained Massai men and women are catergorised in age-sets. Children are to show respect by offering the crown of their head to be touched by anyone in a higher age-set. When you leave childhood the touch moves to your shoulder. When two full adults meet, you shake hands.

“How do you know which age-set a person is in when they approach you?” I asked.

“They will offer you the correct part of their body,” Joseph said.

I have seen this many times over the past few days. Now I understand. Most of the children, when they approach me, make eye contact until they are about a metre away then they look down and step closer. I had thought they were shy. They were actually showing me respect and requesting that I receive that respect with a touch.

“What if you touch the wrong part?” I said.

“You give a cow!” Joseph said. “If I touch a married woman’s head, I give a cow. If a child touches someone in a higher age-set on the head, their parents must give a cow. Even if someone else sees it happen from afar, they must report it to the child’s father and a cow must be given.”

“Respect is very important to the Maasai,” I said.

“So much important!” Joseph said. “Without respect the whole community is not strong.”

Joseph went on to explain other reasons a cow is given. Sometimes it is done as a social contract. Sometimes as a gift. At weddings, family and close friends bring a cow. When a child is born, family brings a cow for that child. When a child is adopted, the new father gives the child a cow. When a child gets high marks in school, family will give cows to the father. When a new house is finished, family will give a cow.

“What if you one day, you give the cow to me because my child got good grades, and then the next day I gave the same cow back to you for another reason?” I asked.

Joseph laughed. “I have never heard of such a thing happening! But, it would not matter. It is your cow when you receive it. You can do what you wish. You can even sell the cow the next day. No offence will be taken.”

“So it’s ok to sell the cows,” I asked, “If you want money to buy something else?”

“Yes, of course,” Joseph said. “But every cow you sell makes you less able to show respect to others. And a small heard means you are not much respected by others.”

“So a Maasai man wants to keep his cows,” I said.

“True!” Joseph said.

“The primitive Massai believed,” Joseph said, “that there was once a beautiful valley, like the garden of Eden you talked about yesterday, where the Maasai lived. On one edge of the garden, there was a very high cliff. One day all the cows were created on the top of the cliff. The cows jumped down into the valley. This means all cows are given by God to the Maasai.”

“All the cows in the world?” I asked.

“Yes!” Joseph said, “Every cow in the world is first a Maasai cow.”

“That’s a great story!” I said, “It shows that the Maasai believe God respects and loves them.”

“True!” Joseph said, “But it has a bad side too. If a primitive Maasai man wanted to be a real brave man, he would steal the cows from tribes who were not Maasai.”

“Because the cows were God’s gift to the Maasai!” I said.

“Yes,” Joseph said, “But this is not the way of the modern Maasai. Stealing is against the law and brings disrespect.”

“There are many other reasons a Maasai gives a cow,” Joseph said.

If a Maasai does something to anger another Maasai, they can give a cow to cool the other person’s anger, so they will respond kindly. A respected family member, not involved in the conflict, can also bring a cow to ask the offended person as a plea.

“For example,” Joseph said, “if a wife has an affair, the wife’s father gives the husband a cow then says, 'please consider carefully. You are both my children.’ This usually helps.” The decision still belongs to the offended party but the cow softens the heart and invites careful reflection. It also shows the respect of the family member who gave the cow.

If you injure someone, a number of cows is required. Every part of the body has a price in cows. “If you draw blood from any other Maasai in anger,” Joseph said, “you must give one cow.”

“What’s the worst thing?” I asked, “What requires the most cows.”

“Murder,” Joseph said. “If you kill another Maasai, you must give 49 cows.”

“That could take all your cows!” I said.

“Yes,” Joseph said. “But a Maasai must respect other Maasai.”

“It certainly explains why you are such gentle people!” I said. “A few generations of living like this and you would learn to be gentle and show respect to everyone.”

“True,” Joseph said. “There is one more time a Maasai man gives a cow. It is a very special ritual. It is when one man chooses his Olkiteng Loolbaa - a very special friend. This friend is your equal. You tell him everything and he tells you everything. If this man tells you to do anything, you must do it.”

“My Olkiteng Loolbaa helps me do the right thing.” Joseph said, “He will challenge me when I do the wrong thing. I must do what he says. If I do something wrong - he will go to the panel of elders to seek wisdom. Then he will bring their wisdom to me. And I do the same for him. A Maasai can never be a leader in the community without having an Olkiteng Loolbaa.”

Joseph then explained the process of choosing a life long Olkiteng Loolbaa. “Once a Maasai man chooses his special friend, me must sit with their family and tell them he has chosen their son to be his Olkiteng Loolbaa. The family must agree before you choose this man. They will tell you if he is a man of respect worthy of being your Olkiteng Loolbaa.”

“Then you have a special ceremony. “In the ceremony you bring a perfect full grown bull - no blemishes on it’s coat or anything wrong with the bull, like a bad eye or something. This bull is slaughtered and a party is given for everyone from the age-set and both families. After the celebration, they give each other a cow each.”

This choosing of the Olkiteng Loolbaa is central to the respect culture of the Maasai. They both a mentor and accountability partner that seek and give wisdom to each other for the rest of their lives. It is an agreement of goodwill - ensuring the community will be strong.

In Maasai culture, the cow is everything. It is the glue that holds community together. It is the currency used to maintain relationships and show respect. Child or anyone in an age-set lower that the full adult dies, they are buried next to the house. When a full adult dies, they are buried in the cow pen. “It is a sign of the greatest respect,” Joseph said. “We will not even move the pen to another place for more that one month.”

A Maasai man who has all the money in the world but has no cows is not a real Massai. “A house is not a home,” Joseph said, “until it has a wife and a cow.” The lack of cows near this politicians house demonstrates that he has been shown no respect by others. His lack of cows also means he can show no respect to his children or anyone else in the community. And when he dies, he is buried in shame.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Living with the Maasai

Living here with the Maasai is a very peaceful and enjoyable experience.

Each morning, I wake before dawn and walk out of our mud hut and down the hill to the toilet. When it is dark here in Kapune, it is VERY dark. There is no power, so there are no lights other than the stars. There is a solar panel on the roof that provides enough power to charge devices and run two small lights - one in the kitchen and one in the lounge. There has been no moon for the past two nights, so it has been an amazing display of stars!

After walking back up to the house, I get my iPad and spend a couple of hours writing. The first sound heard each morning can be heard all night - the tinkling of the bells around the necks of the cows in the pen. As the sun rises, so do the roosters. Then the cows begin lowing and the children awake. The sponsor kids sleep in a room filled with bunk beds just in front of where I sit to write in the lounge. They come out, one by one, to head out into the morning air. Those who remain in the room chat and giggle to themselves. One little boy just came out struggling to zip up his hoodie. He walked over to me for a hug and then I zipped him up.

The children understand more English than they can speak. While English is the primary language they are educated in at school, the majority of the time they speak Maasai or Swahili. Joseph likes to joke that the kids thing Swahili and English are the same. They speak a mixed jumble of both.

Maasai children greet adults by offering you the top of their head. The adult then places their hand gently on the child’s head and says, “Supa” which means “Hello.” On the first day, when we arrived all the children greeted us as we exited the Toyota Prado. After greeting them in their way, I said, “Let me show you how I greet the kids at my schools in Australia.” Then I offered them my hand for a high five. Once I got across the language barrier I got some good hard high fives and lots of laughter. But, later, when I lifted my hand for a high five as I approached any child they would see my hand and offer the crown of their head. So, today I’m going to try a low five (under hand) and see if I can get some!

Once the Muzungus (white people) begin to wake, the preparations for breakfast begin. The small kitchen area is behind the lounge room, between the back three bedrooms. Any cooking is done on a gas stove or on small fire pots. The children bring us one of these pots of smouldering charcoal before each meal.

Breakfast for the Muzungus consists of porridge, cereal and toast. It is filling and delicious. The children all head down to Joseph and Mercy’s house for meals. Due to the very real possibility of getting typhoid from the local water, all food preparation for Muzungus is done with bottled water brought in from the city. The Maasai stomach is used to the local water. So, we prepare food and eat separately.

It is almost 8am now and two girls have just come in with makeshift brooms (they grab a handful of palm fronds or a tree branch) and are now sweeping the mud floor. Next they will bring water and douse the walking area to keep down the dust during the day.

In the two daytime meetings yesterday, Joseph and I told the two Creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.

Before lunch, as a gentle breeze blew and the warm sun shone on the rolling hills, Joseph and I explained how the first Creation story is about God creating good life from chaos. He starts with the mess we are in and, once we say “I see you, God” (in the beginning God) He says “Let there be light” and then there will be light in your life. And as he continues a ‘good’ work in you he leads you to rest in Him. From chaos to meaning. From suffering to Sabbath.

After lunch, after watching the Kapune Church Choir sing and dance in traditional Maasai fashion for nearly an hour, Joseph and I told them the second Creation story. God has a plan and a place for us. From the dusty dirt of lonliness he creates life - creation, creatures and community. His plan is that we live in positive relationships - a cord of three is not easily broken. When we love Him first we will love others not as above us, or below us but as equals. All of us - created in the image of God - to live in relationship with Him and each other. There were some really fantastic questions from two women after we finished. They wanted to know, if God created woman from the side of man, as an equal, why are there so many abusive husbands? So, Joseph and I began telling them the Great Controversy story. My answer, simply, was, “The way you treat other people shows which game you are playing - God’s game of putting Love first, or Lucifer’s game of putting Self first.

Today, the first meeting will happen sometime mid-morning. As Joseph says, “Kenyan time is not like Muzungu time. We are not so concerned.” And it’s true! Yesterday’s 10am meeting started just before noon. It really doesn’t matter because the people are relaxed happy people and they come for the day.

They walk everywhere. And many of them live kilometres away. So, they walk a lot. Many of the people who come to the meetings walk for more than an hour to get here. And they walked home afterward. And they will be back today. It’s a peaceful slow life. It’s beautiful really.

The Maasai people are 100 per cent about community. They do everything together. And they take their time. Just now a group of girls came in to take the chairs (Brought up last night for worship here in the lounge) back down to the meeting tent.

Before and after the morning and afternoon meetings yesterday there was a choir singing and dancing to music they had prerecorded. They danced and sang for hours over the day. Every service was embraced by music. Those who sing and dance do it with joy. And those who watch, do so with respect and interest.  Joseph said, “The music will be much better tomorrow. Many people could not come because of a funeral.”

The writing of this post was paused as Joseph in to tell us more about Maasai culture. I have just learned about the value of cows, the dowry for a wife and the system of respect for elders. That will make an interesting chapter in the near future.

Last night, after night had fallen, the children started coming into the lounge for evening worship. Most of the day’s visitors had begun the long walk home but some of the children had staid for the night story. 51 people packed the small lounge room in our mud house. They sang so beautifully, danced with joy and laughed throughout. Then, Joseph and I told them how much Jesus loves them.

After closing with prayer, many of the children began their long walk home. The Maasai can see in the dark much better than we Muzungus. Joseph explained to them how to be careful on their way home and invited them all back for the next day’s meetings.

It’s 10.04AM, the morning meeting is due to start. Joseph just walked in and I asked, “Are the people showing up?”

“Yes! They are showing up.” Joseph said, “I am expecting them by ten o'clock.”

“It’s 10.04,” I said.

We laughed together and Joseph said, “We say, there is no hurry in Africa!”

Angelo's Story

Joseph and Angelo
In past generations, Angelo would have been killed at birth.

Born out of wedlock, he is considered ‘cursed’ and therefore a curse to his family. While most tribal Africans no longer murder babies born to unwed mothers, the stigma still remains. These babies are still called ‘cursed’ children.

Angelo’s father and his tribe still practice the old ways. Shamed by the birth of this ‘cursed’ child, he decided to end the baby’s life. There are two ways this death can be accomplished.

The first way is to lay the newborn infant on the threshold of a cow pen. The opening to the pen is only wide enough for one cow at a time. Then, the cows are whipped into a frenzy and forced to leave the pen. In their stressed state, the cows will panic and trample the baby in their effort to get out of the pen.

The second traditional way to kill a ‘cursed’ child is by using poison. There is a long history in Maasai culture of specialist trained midwifes who help in the delivery of babies. The Maasai men wait outside the hut as the baby is born while the women assist. The midwifes are trained in the use of medicines. They have medicines that help life and medicines that end life, if needed. A ‘cursed’ child was one of those reasons for ending the life of the baby.

Angelo’s father paid the midwife who assisted in the birth to also poison the baby. Because Angelo’s mother didn’t practice the old ways, the poisoning was done without her knowledge.

The poison entered the newborn’s bloodstream and began it’s evil work. Amazingly, Angelo didn’t die. But the poison damaged the little boy’s mind. He would often drop into unconsciousness and have seizures which caused his little body to shake uncontrollably.

The weight of having a ‘cursed’ baby who was also now fitting and inconsolable caused his mother to look for a way out. To protect the baby and herself, she sent little Angelo to live with her older brother’s family.

Angelo’s uncle kept him for a year and then sold him to a rich man who said he would help Angelo. Instead, Angelo was left outside with the animals. Angelo spent the next four years of his life, until he was five years old living and eating with the the rich man’s livestock.

Maasai boys often look after the livestock. The rich man had sons but had sent them all off to private boarding school. Because he lived in a secluded place with his own water source and grazing area, the rich man did not fear other Maasai children seeing the boy at watering holes or in the fields. Angelo was the alone with the animals and the occasional interaction with the rich man’s family.

It was the only life Angelo knew.

Joseph has a network of informants he calls ‘ladies under the ground’ who subtlety infiltrate suspected situations. Mobile phones have made these types of rescues all the more possible. The stories spread quickly and when the stories get to Joseph’s informers, they call him.

Upon hearing the story of Angelo, Joseph went to the sight to see if the story was true. Getting to the boy was not easy. Joseph had to walk in at night to avoid the attention of the rich man. And then he had to find the boy. The place where the rich man lived, like many Maasai homes, had no roads. The Maasai are great walkers. They will walk amazing distances and think nothing of it. Scientists have studied the Maasai metabolism and circulatory system and are convinced that the hundreds of generations of Maasai herders who walk all day long for their entire lives has made them a truly unique people. They walk faster and further than most other people groups could even imagine.

Joseph decided he would need to walk through the jungle to get to little Angelo undetected. This meant he would be walking through the territory of lion, cheetah and elephant. So as he entered the jungle, Joseph found a giraffe and encouraged it to head the direction he needed to go. Maasai have long used Girafee as their guides at night in dangerous areas. A girafee will not knowingly walk near dangerous animals. For the entire 47 kilometre journey, Joseph shepherded the giraffe who smelled their way through the jungle and arrived safely on the other side well before morning.

After searching for sometime from the edge of the jungle, Joseph found the boy alone hiding in a bush watching the rich man’s cows. The boy was terrified of Joseph, having seen very few people in his life, and would not come out of the bush. Joseph noticed that the boy was wild and difficult to communicate with.

Convinced the story was true, Joseph used the weapon of his trade, a mobile phone, to call Leon and Carole Platt in Australia - the Education Care Projects Kenya coordinators who source and provide sponsorship for the children. Without sponsorship, there was no reason to take the boy.

Early in his rescuing work, Joseph, used to attempt to care for children on his own until funding could be found for putting the child into boarding school - the safest place in Kenya for threatened children. But now, well known for his work, Joseph cannot afford to take every child home to join his family of five children.

“I receive a call about a child in need of rescue nearly every day,” Joseph told me. “I have a 15 children in the program right now. They are fully sponsored to go to school. They have food, clothes, education and most important - they are safe.” Joseph paused and then asked, “Do you want to know how many children are on my list, right now? Children that I have verified their stories and they need safety?”

“How many?” I asked.

“One hundred and sixty one. That many need the safety to be on the program.” Joseph studied me with his powerful Maasai stare. “Can you help me to get these sponsors, David? Is this something you can do?”

“I will try, Joseph,” I said with tears in my eyes. “I will tell your story. When western people have their hearts touched they are very loving, kind and generous people. But, in the west, everyone is asking for money. So, we need to hear real stories to believe the money will actually help.”

“Thank you, David. Thank you, so much!”

Joseph continued the story of little five year old Angelo.

After receiving the call about this urgent rescue, Leon and Carole added little Angelo to the prayer chain at their church in Kingscliff Seventh-day Adventist Church and within hours offers to assist financially were made available.

They called Joseph back and he went into action.

Joseph approached the boy and said, “I want to make you free and take you to a safe place, if you wish to come.”

Angelo said, “I am free here. I suck milk from the cows whenever I want. I eat berries off any bush I want.”

“His words were not good like this.” Joseph said, “But he told me these things. He only knew one life. He had no idea how a child should be living.”

Joseph made his way back out of the jungle and stayed in a nearby town. Every day, he would talk to his ‘ladies in the ground’ about how he should approach the boy and numerous times he made the trip back through the jungle to visit the wild boy.

Finally after two weeks of talking to Angelo, trust was built. He was convinced by Joseph’s stories of a better life where children have food, clothing, education and safety. Angelo agreed to come with Joseph.

Joseph took Angelo to the Catholic boarding school - the safest school in Maasai land. He paid for clothes, tuition and and food. Angelo had never worn shoes. Never used toilet paper. Never brushed his teeth.

A few weeks later, the school called Joseph and said, “This boy is not able to be here. He bites the other children. He doesn’t sit still to learn.”

Joseph went to school with Angelo. He sat with him every day all day for many days. He helped Angelo do the right thing. He explained how to be a good student and play nice.

“This is why we need the school Leon is building,” Joseph said. “It will be a safe place for children like Angelo. These children are so struggling they need to be safe for a long time before they can be educated like normal children.”

The little school is being built just over the hill from Joseph’s land in Kapune, Kenya. Leon, a builder by trade, has been leading a team of eager locals to build the school. Each day, Leon feeds his crew lunch and pays them a local day’s wages.

“When the Kapune Adventist School is ready,” Joseph said, “We will take the children there. Most schools are after performance. We are about life.”

Joseph talks a lot about justice. “I hear these stories," he said, "I see the men who are harming these children. And I want justice.” Joseph paused to choose his words. “But I do not do justice. God does. I do charity. Kindness and safety is what I do. Justice is impossible in Kenya but charity is possible.”

Joseph uses the word charity where you and I would use the word mercy. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it truly takes the charity of people like you and me to make Joseph’s work possible. Second, the word mercy is reserved for one person in Joseph’s life. One person who makes his work, his passion and his heart for children possible. Mercy is the name of Joseph’s wife.

I jokingly told Joseph that he should change his name to Justice. Then there could be Justice and Mercy working together in Kenya. He laughed and said, “No. Mercy is enough. Mercy is what the children need. I cannot bring justice. Only mercy.”

If you would like to help bring mercy to children like Angelo, please donate to Education Care Projects Kenya. Every dollar comes to the work here in Kenya. There is no costly organisation taking a cut. It’s just Carole and Leon Platt donating their time and energy - and here in Kapune, Joseph and Mercy changing the world one child at a time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Worst Road in Kenya

The journey from Nairobi to Kenya is a fascinating one.

The beginning of the day was filled with unruly roundabouts. Each one presents it’s own new challenge. The only similarity between this roundabout and the next one is the complete lack of rules as to how they are to be navigated.

Give way to right. What’s that? Not a rule known in Kenya.

The bigger your vehicle, the more likely you’ll get through the roundabout unscathed. Unless you’re riding one of the million plus motorcycles in the city. If that’s you, just weave in and out and around, over and under, any potential setback - be it a parked vehicle with people huddled around it’s exposed smoking engine or a transport vehicle barrelling through the roundabout using all the lanes. Just hang on, shut your eyes and ride like you’ll live another day. And, you just might.

Before leaving Nairobi, Leon pulled over at a petrol station. “I accidentally left a few litres of oil here. I purchased it yesterday before picking you up at the airport but forgot to take it.” Not wanting to be late picking us up, they decided to stop back on the way out of town today.

Pulling into the crowded petrol station, the manager came rushing out to our Toyota Prado and approached the driver-side window before Leon could even get out. Leon opened the door to the words, “You left your oil. I have it in the shop waiting for you.”

Leon got out and followed the man into the shop. A few minutes later, the oil stored in the back, Leon was driving once again. “Kenya has a lot of people who want to take you for a ride.” Leon said, “The Muzungu is a big target to the dishonest person. But, time after time, we meet the good ones. I thanked him for being a godly man. He told me he believes in God and tries to do the right thing by all people.”

“Muzungu?” I said.

Leon laughed. “The white man. That’s what they call us. Muzungu.”

We drove in silence for some time. We passed carts loaded high with wheat, charcoal and other products. Each cart was ridden by one or two men and pulled by anywhere from one to three donkeys. The road was littered with speed humps. Originally built to slow people down, they have become the best place for one roadside shop after the next - each with just one or two products.

The humps are so steep, the vehicle comes nearly to a stop at each unless you don’t notice one and then you are launched into the ceiling and given a reminder to keep a wary eye for the next. So, the roadside shops are a welcome reminder: Slow down, speed kills - or gives you a massive headache, at the least.

Later, descending along the side of a large escarpment, Leon said, “That’s the Great Rift Valley.”

The mountain dropped away dramatically on the left side (my side) of the vehicle and I stared out into the abyss of ancient Africa. The chasm between rolling hills and occasional mounds gave evidence of prehistoric volcanic action. Leon pulled over and said, “Well stop here for a look. They will try to sell you things. You can buy if you wish.”

Stepping out of the vehicle, the ground fell away just a few metres away. A rickety wooden overlook invited the brave traveller to step out in faith. Made from old pieces of rough hewn timber, you could see through the many large cracks to the plummeting depths below. My trust in the make shift landing fell even further when I saw a sign at its far end. The sign said, “The World Trade Center.”

Finally, I dared the few steps required to get out to the railing - just to prove to myself that I was a manly man. Proof gained, I retreated hastily to solid ground and leaned in a manly fashion against the bull bar of our rugged Toyota Prado. We were a tough brave pair, waiting patiently for the rest of the group. I was guarding the Prado and it was defining me - a silent statement of solidarity and security in numbers.

While holding the bull bar in place, I was approached by a man with a basket of trinkets and treasure. He kept handing me things and speaking in broken english. “Just $500,” he was saying with each trinket he handed me. I dutifully took everything handed to me. When I had four of the big five - made from petrified wood, my new salesman friend pulled out a paper bag and offered to package my purchase for me.

I had said a number of polite things during the interaction - all attempting to imply I was not purchasing today. Finally, As the bag was being filled, I said, “I don’t want to buy anything!”

The man looked shocked, took the trinkets from my hand and said, in his best english yet, “Fine!” Dropping the trinkets into his basket he shuffled away to the next unwilling customer.

Back in the car, we began comparing currencies. Everything is in Kenya Shillings (Ksh) and, after doing some crazy hard maths - for my word-driven mind - we realised that one shilling is one US cent. So, those trinkets had been $5US each.

When we reached the next big town we pulled over to buy food supplies, have lunch and purchase SIM cards for Courtney and I. After waiting for a good 45 minutes, it was our turn. We were amazed when we both walked out of the Safaricom shop - with 3 gigs of Data, 50 minutes of talk time - having spent only $13US. Telstra and Optus need to come to Kenya and learn!

Because of the rolling hills of Kenya, mobile technology has transformed the interconnectivity of the people. One simple tower on the occasional hill and the mobile technology reaches even the most remote spot. Here we are, 2 hours from the nearest paved road and I’m posting pictures, videos and blog posts with four bars of 3G internet. Joseph says, “Yes, we are not remote Maasai, we are modern Maasai!”

As we passed through towns, in the final leg of our journey, we made some speed hump stops to purchase local produce - a bag of tomatoes $200, a bag of peas $150, spring onions $100, potatoes $350. And nothing seems to make them happier than selling to a Muzungu. They laugh at every word from my mouth and expression from my face. They pretend to not understand “no” and it makes for great opportunities to over dramatise the word NO! I was having fun, but I think they were having more fun than me as they pushed their hands into the window filled with vegetables and said, “You take! You like!”

Travelling down a straight stretch of paved road, Leon said, “Here it comes. The worst road in Kenya. It’s the only way into Kapune. He turned right off the paved road and followed a rough stony road that had smooth spots on one shoulder or the other worn down by foot traffic and motorcycles. Each time we would encounter someone on that smooth path the Prado would shimmy and shake as we drove both wheels out onto the stone strewn road.

After sometime on this road, it got worse. Huge ruts needed to be navigated. Large boulders blocked parts of the road and shoulders. Then, reaching yet another small village along the road, Leon turned sharply up a hill between two buildings. It was hard to call it a road at all.

What had been the worst road in Kenya now transformed into the best 4WD track in Kenya. It was steep, sideways, sharp corners, buildings and people to avoid.

Finally we came to a closed fence. Children materialised from the bushes all around. One boy opened the gate and Leon said, “Here’s the school we are building.” Just foundation and the first few layers of concrete blocks, the plan for the school is very easy to see. Two classrooms, back to back. Doors at each end, Chalkboards in the middle.

To finish our journey, Leon drove us the rest of the way - another 10 minutes - to the village where Joseph lives alongside his wife Mercy, their five children and the 15 sponsor children they have rescued from abuse, death and worse.

Reason to Party - Finding the Lost

After arriving and setting up our rooms, we had a light dinner. Sitting in our kitchen, next to a pot on smouldering charcoal with water coming to the boil, we ate toast with peanut butter and mashed bananas. Two pieces and a few apple slices was all it took to satisfy my time confused mind and body.

By the time the locals wandered into our mud hut lounge, it was nearly 9pm local time. Courtney and I were lost somewhere between there and the next morning that was soon to be dawning in Australia.

But, what happened next was worth staying up for. The 20 or so children that filled the room began to sing - lead by Leon. The faces that had entered so quietly now sang with joy. Then came the action songs. It was beautiful to watch and a lot of fun to join in. These kids have made an art of singing and laughing at the same time. If there were a picture next to the word joy in the dictionary, it would be of these kids.

Leon then said an opening prayer and Joseph introduced me. Then we began exploring three stories that Jesus told about people finding things they’d lost. Joseph translated for me.

“Have you ever lost something that you really needed?” I asked.

I have never told the stories in Luke 15 in a place where they made more sense. A shepherd looses one of his hundred-fold sheep and leaves the 99 in an open field while he searches and finds the lost one. The Maasai are shepherds. On our journey today, we drove past hundreds of groups cattle, sheep and goats being cared for by Maasai boys. And now, here were a room filled with Maasai children.

“Have you ever helped look after the sheep or goats?” I asked and raised my hand. “Raise your hand if you have helped shepherd the animals.” Hands went up around the room.

“This first story Jesus told, to show how much God loves each of you, was about a shepherd boy who lost one sheep. He counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … 98, 99. Oh no! One is missing! He counted again 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … 98, 99. Oh NO! One sheep really was lost!”

Storyteller break: This illustration worked really well alongside a translator, as Jospeh translated the 1,2,3,4,5 it gave a sense of time passing so that the 98,99 seemed to be finishing the long effort of counting the sheep!

Wealth in Maasai Land is based on the livestock you own. Maasai boys do not own the animals the shepherd. Loosing an animal in your care would be a very stressful thing indeed and could even result in loosing your job or worse.

So, Jesus first ‘lost story’ spoke deeply to these children - and to Joseph as he translated. I was just down at their animal pen taking photos in the morning light and Joseph walked up. I told him this was the most meaningful place I have ever told the story about the lost sheep. He said, “Yes it is very meaningful. Most meaningful to us.”

When I told them the boy found the sheep, put it on his shoulders and took it back to the flock there was a sense of relief around the room. My understanding of this story escalated even more as I told them that the shepherd had a party that night because he was so happy. All the children and adults nodded and smiled. They, too, have had such parties of joy!

Jesus’ next two ‘lost stories’ were received with as much agreement and understanding when each party happened. A house turned over by a woman looking for one lost coin - every coin is precious to these people as money is hard to come by. A Son who takes half his fathers wealth and squanders it in the city - the city of Nairobi is a very real temptation to the country born Maasai, until they too have been destroyed by it’s temptations and come home broken. But, it was the first story that struck home to me.

Jesus knew the people he was talking too. And his stories still speak. A point that stood out to me was the importance of the party after finding what had been lost. There is true joy represented in these stories - especially to people in cultures like the one Jesus lived in.

But, there was one other thing that made me smile when I read the beginning of Luke 15 again afterward. Jesus was telling these stories to answer an accusation made against him by rich people. The Pharisees, often disconnected from the poverty and need in the world around them, were more concerned with their own reputation than the needs of others. They were watching Jesus from afar and were very concerned.

“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” Luke 15:1,2

Jesus’s story-set answers the Pharisee’s accusations with, “I’ve got reason to party! Look at them coming to God!” But he does it by telling stories to the poor people sitting at his feet - stories they understood.

Then he finishes the story-set in a way that only the Pharisees would understand. Jesus challenges the rich and righteous men who had accused him by revealing the true nature of the brother of ‘lost son’ who, though he lived with and worked for his father, misunderstood His love all along.

“ ‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “ Luke 15:31, 32

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bye Bye Dubai

I can’t say I wasn’t warned about Dubai.

My mother in law likes to tell the story from my wife’s childhood of the time they stopped on route to Germany in Dubai. It was a hot day and in dire need for water they made their way to a cafe and ordered a bottle of water. The host turned, filled an empty bottle with water, put a lid on it and delivered it with the simple request, “Five dollars please.”

I was struck by the distinct difference Dubai offers today when, in the men’s restroom, my every move - nearly - was assisted by a helpful attendant. As I headed toward a stall, I was compelled to wait - and watch - as the floor was quickly mopped and toilet seat wiped with copious amounts of toilet paper furiously and dramatically drawn from the wall dispenser before my very eyes. Then I was invited in with a generous wave - as if a king were being anounced as he approached his throne. Upon nearing the washbasin, my trusty assistant again appeared - this time to dutifully depress the soap dispenser so that I need not touch it as I washed my hands in the automatic luke warm tap water. Having a personal assistant in the restroom was an experience unexpected but not completely unappreciated.

While the Dubai airport has lifeted it’s game remarkably and is not the kind of place today that would sell you rebottled water, its prices have followed its service - into the stratosphere. Approaching a cafe counter and ordering a latte, I was told to sit - “We serve you!” The man said, “Then you pay, when you finish.” That should have been the first sign of the price to come.

Having just finished a 14 hour flight from Melbourne, I was looking forward to a large coffee rather than the small on-flight after dinner cup I had received some hours earlier.

a few minutes after sitting, a waiter came to our table and I ordered the latte again. It was scribbled down on a notpad, as was Courtney’s hot chocolate. Courtney had just completed the Brisbane - Dubai flight. We are both heading to visit and help Education Care Projects Kenya for the next three weeks.

Having four hours to kill, we leisurely drank our drinks and chatted about our lives. Having never met before, we had plenty of material with which to fill the time. When we finished, we approached the cashier and asked him to split the bill. I paid for my drink on my bank card and headed outside the crowded cafe to wait for Courtney. After some time, concerned, I returned to the cashier. Courtney’s card wasn’t playing nice with their machine and she had pulled out some American cash.

“We can only give you local currency as change,” the man said. Courtney was not impressed as we were soon to leave Dubai and she had no need for local currency.

I handed the cashier my card again and the ordeal was over. As we got outside the cafe, Courtney said, “He was going to charge me $7.30 American for that hot chocolate!”

I smiled and told Courtney the story of the $5 bottle of water from yesteryear. “Let’s have a look at my account and see what it actually cost,” I laughed.

Sitting at our gate I loaded my Bendigo Bank app and looked at the two drinks - now itemised due to the seperate transactions. Courtney’s cup of hot chocolate was a miserly $9.40 AUD… And my large latte - a cool $11.38 AUD …

“That’s one thing I love about travel!” I said to Courney, “there’s an adventure around every corner!”

She laughed. ”True!”

“From now on,” I said, “I shall call Dubai the land of the eleven dollar latte.”

“And don’t forget mop man,” Courtney added.

“How could I?” I laughed.

Now, I sit cramped in the last row of the plane, less than an hour from Nairobi. In the way of all good adventures, the memories of mop man and the 11 dollar latte have begin their journey into story.

My mind, already losing focus on the past 24 hours of travel, anticipates the adventures looming on the horizon with Education Care  Projects Kenya.

Bye Bye, Dubai.

Hello, Kenya!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Blessed Christmas

The day is finally here. I think this is the only Christmas Day in my life when I’ve been more excited about the end of the day than the beginning!

Presents were opened last night, in the German tradition of Jenny’s family, which the kids seem to prefer to waiting until the crack of dawn Christmas morning. We’ve tried it both ways. We parents certainly prefer the sleep in on Christmas morning!

This morning, while the rest of the family put their Christmas gifts to use, I checked and rechecked my bags. Particularly the kilo’s in each. I got it to a perfect 30kg between the two bags and exactly 7kg in the carry-on. In the two bags, there’s 25kg of kids shirts, shorts, pants, hoodies, dresses and more. Each bag has a illustrated children’s Bible tucked in between the clothes. And one of them also has my toiletries, sandals and a notebook in which I will write notes as I interview people. 

I can’t wait to see the happy faces as the kids receive the clothes!

In the carry-on are 5kg of my clothes, iPad, Kindle, charger, cords, and an 21000mha battery which can charge both the iPad and phone at once. :) There are also two little bags lovingly prepared and gifted to me from my wonderful daughter - Rachael! One has healthy snacks. The other bag, labelled “For extreme cases of boredom” is filled with activities for my childish mind! 

At about 1pm we headed over to visit Grandma. After a wonderful Christmas lunch at Grandma’s house, we headed home and I had a quick nap. (I only slept for a few hours last night due to my excitement!) I checked all my bags again and then the boys loaded them in the car.

After hugging everyone and saying “farewell my lads and lady” Jenny and I headed off to the airport. 15 minutes later we returned home to retrieve my mobile phone which was faithfully charging on the bedside table. An hour later, Jenny and I said farewell at the airport. 15 minutes later I returned to the curb to retrieve my mobile phone which was faithfully charging in the car's dash console. 

Half an hour later, as I was filling in my customs departure card, a security guard came in from the X-ray machines holding a phone and shouted, “Did anyone leave their phone at the security station?” I checked my pocket and retrieved my phone which was dutifully resting where I always keep it. I replied loudly enough for the security person to look at me sternly and the guy next to me to snort to himself. “I’ve left my phone everywhere else today, until now!”

In the passport queue, the couple in front of me asked where I was going. I said, “Kenya, to tell stories to children at two schools!” They both smiled and said something about that being a nice thing. Then I asked, “Where are you going?” With a smile, the woman said, “Kenya as well.”

“Oh!” I said, “What will you be doing?” 

She looked guilty… “Just going on Safari.” 

“How long?” I asked.

“Three weeks,” she looked a bit upset now. Here eyes said, We’re not doing anything for anyone else. Just us. 

“That’s cool,” I said. “Have fun! I’m doing a two day safari at the end of my three weeks. I’m really looking forward to it!”

Now, I am sitting in a small cafe in the international departure area. The flight boards in 45 minutes. And, I’m so glad for the opportunities I’ve been given in my life. 

I’ve done a lot of selfish things in my life - usually because I believed they would make me happy. Sometimes they do. But those fleeting joys last little longer than the moments themselves.

And yet, it is always in the others-focused minutes, hours and days that I am reminded the most meaningful moments in life are the ones that we give away. 

The golden rule is bigger than a playground, a family or a lifetime. When we humbly do for others what we would have them do for us (if we were in their situation) we change the world - one playground, family and life at a time - for eternity.

That’s what happened the first Christmas, when the Creator of the universe dared to put Himself in our shoes. He became one of us, walked among us and gave what we needed - for eternity - because He loved us.

He still does. He loves you and I more than words can say. So, He showed us - that’s what love does when words are not enough. 

Jesus reached in to the muck of our lives and grabbed us tight. Unable to pull us out, he dove into the muddy pit we were mired in. He defeated the darkness and pulled us up into the light. 

Then, ever so gently, Jesus wipes the crud out of our eyes so we can see past ourselves, our playground, our family, our life. And He gives us a new vision - one designed especially for us.

Jesus always heals the blind. But He doesn’t stop there. Next, He presents something worth seeing - Himself. And in beholding we are changed - into His likeness. And, compelled by His love, we reach into the world in the hopes of bringing another from the darkness.

So, this Christmas, if you are seeing more clearly than you have before - focus on that vision and follow it into the light of God’s glory. And join the mission to change the world!

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Christ's love gives gifts to His children like Victoria Falls gives water to the Zambezi River. Few dare stand directly under His love for fear of its power. Life thrives along the shore in the tumultuous mist of such power and glory! Those who have lived near it the longest call the mighty waterfall Mosi-oa-Tunya -  “The Smoke that Thunders.”

Likewise, those who have lived near God’s love long enough know the reckless abandon with which He pours His gifts of forgiveness, grace and love. The gifts Christ’s followers give to their own children can never compare. But how dare we not try!

Christmas is a time when the gift of Christ - who loving unconditionally was born to us "while we were yet sinners" – flows through those who have received His love. This is our chance to let the River – even just the gentle mist – flow through us to those we love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Brave Little Boy

“He was terrified of me!” Carole said.

She had tried everything – wrapped a Maasai skirt around herself, pulled her black sweater sleeves down, she even tried to give him a knitted jumper – but when Carole tried to go near the little Kenyan boy he cried out it fright.

“He had never seen a white person,” Carole said. “I did everything to show I was not a threat, but there was no hiding my face!”

Other people tried to help. The local Maasai leader, Joseph, came over and put his arm around Carol to show she was a friend. The boy’s aunt held Carole’s hand. Nothing would convince the boy.

“I so wanted to comfort him but I couldn’t!” Carole said, “I wonder if this is how God must feel.”

The little boy had come with his auntie to enrol in the school that is being built in Maasai land right now by Education Care Projects Kenya. “He’s on the waiting list now,” Carole said. “His auntie is looking after nine kids. She has her six and her sister’s three. Sadly, her husband just died.”

School foundations being dug in Maasai land.

“Finally, after his auntie held my hand,” Carole said, “he let me touch his hand. Poor little darling.” The brave little boy then accepted the jumper and stood outside for a photo of himself with his Auntie.

"This ministry is about educating children," Carole said, "but I also want them to learn about Jesus and come to Him. I want the boys to see real Christian manhood modelled and the same for the girls as that in itself will change their lives. And it will change Maasai land as well. Joseph and his wife are wonderful role models!”

“I guess that's why Jesus came in our likeness,” Carole said, “so we would not be afraid of Him.”

The brave boy and his auntie

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Waking up Excited!

I woke up excited today! Let me tell you why.

Reason #1

One week from today, late in the evening after all the days Christmas festivities are complete, I will board a plane to Kenya. I am excited because this trip is a longtime dream of mine. A trip to Africa with a purpose for God’s beloved children.

I love kids. If you know me, you already know this. This trip is all about kids. Africa is filled with kids who need so much. How to choose where to go?

Last year in Early January a lady whom I had only met once or twice – at events where I was telling Bible stories to kids here in Australia – contacted me on Facebook. Her name was Carole Platt. Sometime later, I discovered I had met her husband Leon at other family camps where I was storytelling.

While I had been telling Bible stories to the kids, Carole and Leon had been telling stories about other children – the ones they help in their work with Education Care Projects Kenya.

As Carole and I chatted, she began telling me about two schools in Kenya that they were passionate about. Both Schools had children already but no buildings! The children come from various desperate situations and need a safe place to live so they can go to school. Without first being safe, they spend their days looking for food, safety and shelter.

This 'family' of orphans was found yesterday - yes YESTERDAY - in a sugarcane field.

Carole asked me if I would like to go over and tell Bible stories to the children – many of whom have never heard about how much God loves them. There is nothing I love more than telling Bible stories – and no better audience than kids! So, of course, I said yes.

The rest of this year has been constant in conversation and planning. What was originally going to be some storytelling in a circle of kids has turned into storytelling under the big tent with 60+ kids. The kids will be walking hours each morning to come to the week of meetings. We will have one meeting before lunch and one meeting after lunch. Then they will walk home.

I will leave a copy of The Illustrated Children's Bible with each school.
Then they can continue telling stories long after I am gone!

I have asked the local school leader to have a group of older kids ready with a few action songs. They will be my worship team. And I am going to choose a couple of them to be storytellers. Each evening there will be a meeting for the kids who live at the school. So, here’s my plan for the week.

Each evening I will tell two stories to the local school kids. Then they will choose a student to tell each story the next day to the travelling kids in the big tent meetings. In the two daytime meetings, we will have Songs, Story 1 (me), Songs, Story 2 (local kid), songs, question time.

This format will provide an opportunity for the local kids to learn to love telling Bible stories – a passion that never leaves one once it gets you! – and an opportunity for the travelling kids to hear Bible stories told by their peers. While I may be a professional storyteller, I have a lot of things standing between me and the kids – my age, my culture, my colour, my language, my ignorance – while the local kids have walked the same dusty roads as the travelling kids.

This group of local kids love to dance and sing.
Maybe they can lead worship!

I will be able to tell you more about the children after the trip. I am going to meet lots of them. I am going to listen to their stories. I am going to take copious notes. And, then, I am going to write a book to tell their story.

Reason #2

One hour from now I will be selling clothes for $2 each to raise money for the work of Education Care Projects Kenya. We live on a block facing a T-junction – the perfect place to setup a yard sale. I have advertised it all over Facebook and will continue to do so as the day progresses.

All of the clothing – hundreds of items – have been donated by kids from the two schools where I chaplain, Dorset Primary School and Lilydale Primary School. I dropped a note in the school newsletter about a month ago telling them I am going to Africa to tell stories to two schools filled with orphans and disadvantaged kids – I said, “If you have any nice clothes you would like me to take over to them, they will wear them!”

Every day since the request I have come home with at least one more bag of clothes. There are so many! I will take my allotted 30kg of luggage filled with kids clothes. I’ll pack my own clothes in my carry-on. But the other 300kg of clothes are being sold to raise money and awareness for the Kenya kids being helped by Carole and Leon and the Kenyan schools they help through Education Care Projects Kenya.

Those clothes I do not sell today, will be sold later. All proceeds – every dollar – will be donated to ECPK. The clothes that remain next time I travel north to visit my Dad in Queensland will be taken to Carole’s OpShop – where every dollar raised goes to ECPK.

I have been so touched by the generosity
of the school kids who donated clothes.

Merry Christmas (to all)

If you are looking for a way to make the world a better place this Christmas, please consider donating to ECPK.

If you would like to rescue a person from a tip (many of the kids in Eldoret who attend Hands of Hope School are found scavenging on the Eldoret rubbish dump) rather than adding more plastic to a tip (the after Christmas tip trip – you know the one!), please consider donating to ECPK.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Biblical Wisdom

A sure sign of a maturing faith is the willingness to name and claim the spiritual giants upon whose shoulders you stand. All views of Scripture are interpretations handed down the ages and then across the table. These interpretations, while being scripture upon scripture, are always seen through the lenses of personal and cultural story.

A Biblical maverick, who claims to interpret Scripture by their own authority, is demonstrating either arrogance or ignorance. Those who follow these mavericks have tiny giants and thus can rarely see past themselves and their views. As they can’t see out of their own garden, they sit eating their own fruit and become more and more like themselves – and see the rest of humanity as the ones with the problem.

The deeper we dig in our Bible the more we unearth the foundations of knowledge set by other men. A Biblical house that stands is erected by those who chose to accept a foundation and build on it. But not all houses are homes for long. Those who choose to accept a shallow foundation will still build a house and it may be beautiful – like most buildings on sand – impressive for a time. But those who choose to build on a deeper and wider foundation of Biblical interpretation– listening to giants from across the ages recorded in various pages – will have a more robust, forgiving and embracing family of faith. Their house will stand as a home filled with loving and lovable family.

Building the Kingdom of God is about building relationships, building communities. Not being right and proving others wrong.

Just because you believe something, does not make it Bible Knowledge. That is personal (or denominational) knowledge. True Biblical knowledge changes the character and is gained by embedding the stories, prophecies and teachings of the Bible in your heart and mind well enough to have Biblical Wisdom. Biblical Wisdom is the ability to interpret life through the worldview formed by applying Biblical Knowledge to real life situations.

This is why Biblical principles (values) are much more important than Bible answers to Bible questions. (although we all love a good Bible quiz, eh?) The greatest answers in the Bible are to the questions of life. How to live. How to love. How to forgive. How to be humble. How to give generously. How to seek wisdom.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Christian Social Media Usage

Like much dialog on the internet, Christians discussants dive for the jugular far too often. Being in a discussion means you listen then talk — just like in the real world! Far too many people treat social networks as a place for monotonous monologue. That’s what blogs are for. Welcome to mine.

(cue monologue)

I love being involved in robust discussion and often encounter online bullies and those hurt by them. As a well-being worker, I can’t help pulling out my resilience flashcards when I get online. Treating each-other with kindness lets everyone have more fun on the playground! Social environments involve a personal commitment to caring for others not just yourself.

As a Christian it should be our personal mission to treat others as Jesus would treat them. Pull out all the grace stops! Let them have a full dose of God’s love and mercy. That should keep you constrained while sharing your views.

But, as we all know, there are many people who do not play by these rules online. They are mean spirited and unChristlike. Here are some tips to keep you resilient in the face of the verbal onslaught.

Don’t take the haters too seriously. Using mean or dismissive language is often a sign that a person is not as resilient as they could be and have reached their emotional limit (or theological limit, as the case may be) and are thus no longer able to take the argument further. To side step, they poo-poo the thought or belittle the opponent. My advice: See this as a weakness in their character, not yours.

Emotional: John Calvin loved the work of church father John Chrysostom, yet struggled mightily with some of what his namesake had to say. He wanted it to fit into current (at Calvin’s time!) theological thought development. In his struggles he occasionally decided to painfully discard the exegetical tradition of Chrysostom but held on to much of his practical teaching and application. That’s how a scholar works. A Scholar only butchers and bags another scholar when he has reached the end of his rope!

Theological: Scrawled in every poor preachers mental margin is this note: “Weak point — POUND PULPIT!!” One of the hardest things to say, for those of us who know everything, is: “I don’t know.” We’d rather yell our view and pound on the nearest flat surface than admit we have some thinking to do.

Resilience: This is where mature Christian emotion and theology take us when a topic exasperates or exceeds us. Resilience says, “I’m OK in who I am and who you are. I can change myself if needed and I don’t need to change you to feel safe.”

Resilience in myself: I know who I am in Christ. He saved me while I was a hopeless sinner. He loved me before I knew anything. Knowing Him and His view of me gives me strength.

Resilient view of others: I know every person I meet was created in the Image of God. As they fix their eyes on Him they become like Him. By beholding we are changed. Knowing that all of us are on the continuum between Self and God gives me grace enough for myself and others.

Be of good cheer, you are among friends! We are all growing.

Keep changing the world,


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Children of Kenya

On Christmas Day at 10pm I will be sitting aboard an Emirates flight on my way to Kenya. Africa has long been on my bucket list but never did I think it would be an adventure like this that would take me there.

I met Carole and Leon Platt years ago – at two different Adventist Camps. Carol and I had a chat in Queensland at the SQLD camp when I was up there telling stories to the Junior kids. Leon and I met briefly in South Australia when I was there telling stories to the Primary kids. Little did I know that years later our paths would cross again when our shared interest in God’s children collided. This time in Africa.

That is, the children are in Africa. Leon and Carole have fallen deeply in love with the children of Kenya. They have been back and forth many times and made dear friends with two Kenyan couples who look after children, many of whom are orphans.

In January 2016, due to the global village of FaceBook, Carole and I began chatting. First she wanted to know contact details for my Dad as he has long volunteered with International Children’s Care and she wanted to pick his brain. Then she told me about her interest in Kenya and her passion for the children there.

She began pouring stories into my heart through her keyboard. Story after story of children being looked after by Joseph and Nestor – two men looking after children – in different areas of Kenya. Joseph, a country man, lives in a Masai village. Nestor, a city man, lives in the centre of Eldoret. Both men have been called by God to rescue and care for children. It sounds like the beginning of a great story, doesn’t it?

“Once there were two men – a city man and a country man – who both loved God’s children very much…”

Carole told me stories of children rescued by Joseph and Nestor. Some from homelessness and drug-addiction on the garbage dump. Some from sex slavery. Some orphans and some with parents who were unable or unwilling to care for them. All in need of a safe place, education and love.

The number of children helped grows each year as these two deeply Christ-centred Adventist men search, rescue, feed, educate and love God’s Children in Kenya. All made possible by the belief and  support of Carole, Leon and their fundraising expertise.

After telling me she organises trips for volunteers to Kenya to see and help the children, Carole said, “You’d be great, David!”

“What would I do?” I asked. I’m not much good with my hands – except on a qwerty keyboard.

“Tell stories!” Carole said. “Most of these children have not heard about Jesus or the Bible. You could tell them stories. Do what you do so well!”

“But, English? I don’t speak their language.”

“Some speak english,” Carole said. “The rest are very comfortable listening to a  translator. We use them all the time.”

And that is where my upcoming adventure began – nearly 12 months ago. Just an idea and an invitation.

Now, we have a solid plan. I will tell Bible stories to the children in both places. And I will listen to their stories. I will learn the stories of Joseph and Nestor – the country man and the city man – and I will take copious notes.

While there, I will blog about it, pictures included! Then when I come home, I will write a book. A travel journal of sorts. A compendium of stories. A testimonial treasure trove. And, hopefully, people will hear the desperate cries of the children of Kenya.

To learn more and become involved:

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Our Reformation Roots

There's a lot of talk about the protestant reformation in Christian circles right now. And rightly so, we're just one year from the 500th anniversary of its beginning. That's fine and good, unless you are an Adventist claiming it as your heritage. 

The reformation was, as you can imagine, a slow ball to get rolling. As Protestantism formed, another group took shape in reaction to the direction it was heading.

This new group, forming less than five years into the reformation, stood apart from both Catholicism and Protestantism. This group believed in baptism by immersion. They believed in believers’ baptism not infant baptism. They believed in Jesus' return prior to the Millennium. They believed in a faith without creed which allowed a man to follow the Word as it pulled on his heart. They believed church and state should be separate. 

These people were neither Catholic nor Protestant but Anabaptist. And it is from the Anabaptist people we Adventists emerged, in time.

Learn More:

Here is a very insightful Christianity today article telling the story of the beginning of the Anabaptist movement.

You can learn more about our Anabaptist forbearers from this website as well as many others. Do some research and find yourself in history!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Reasons for being a Christian

I am involved in a discussion forum at ClubAdventist which I really enjoy.

Every so often a question brings out something worth sharing widely.

A poster called "The Wander" started a post with the question, "What reasons would you give me for becoming a christian?"

I read through the answers given and was struck with how much my answer has changed in the past few years due to my experience of the Gospel in my life. So, I thought I would share it on my blog to hopefully reach more people.

Here is what I wrote:

My answer to this question is so very different now than it was for the first 40 years of my life. Being raised an Adventist, studying theology, becoming a pastor and leading from the pulpit for 15 years - I knew the answers and could sit and chew the fat with the best of them. My Bible and I were best of friends and we lead many people to a greater understanding during those years.

Then I fell into sin. Not that I wasn't a sinner before, I had just lived with a hedge around me. That hedge had been built by loving parents in whose house I was raised. That hedge had been prayed into place by my mother and maintained by a love in my heart for Jesus and the stories of His Word. But, that hedge can be climbed over. And I did.

When I fell it was because I had piled-up, in my mind, a litany of doubt that went unanswered for years. I knew the answers I would receive - because I had espoused them for years - So, I didn't ask. I didn't ask questions or ask for help. I was afraid. I didn't want to loose my job or my reputation by verbalising my doubts and admitting my struggles.

I read a lot. Very few authors believe exactly what the reader believes. I love this! So, I was being stretched for years but not being able to test these thoughts - iron sharpens iron - with Adventist leadership because I was sure they would fire me. Which they did, but for sinning, not for asking questions. (Although, at my firing, I was told by the conference president that other pastors with similar doubts would be rooted out and dealt with. I've yet to see this inquisition enacted - thankfully!)

Questioning God is not sin - as we learn from the oldest story in the Bible, Job. But letting those questions drive a wedge between you and God is a sure sign that the sin which is always knocking at our door is about to make its way inside. And it did.

I committed adultery. For a short few weeks, at the pinnacle of my doubts, I threw caution to the wind and let Sin take over. It was discovered quickly and when I was confronted, I admitted it. And I was fired.

On the way home, I prayed and confessed my sin to God. And yet, It wasn't until I got home that the full weight of my sin hit me.

My wife and I went for a drive. I confessed to her, told her I had been fired, the adulterous relationship was over, I had confessed my sin to God and then sat silently. Her next line is what has lead me to my new answer to your question "What reasons would you give me to be a Christian?" There is only one reason.

My wife said, "What are we going to do?"

I was dumbfounded, humbled, desperately hopeful and in agony. That word. I said, "We?"

She said, "You're not getting rid of me that easy! We are in this together. God put us together and we are going to face this together. I'm not about to do this alone unless you tell me you don't want me."

"You forgive me?" I asked.

"Absolutely!" she answered, "I love you and love is about forgiving."

And, that is my answer now to your question. Love. God is Love. And God's kind of love is not the world's kind of love. God loves with an everlasting love that seeks to forgive. Reconciliation is God's goal for humanity. To make all things right is His game plan. He doesn't have a backup plan. He forgives.

So, my answer to your question is: The good news of Jesus' act of forgiveness - while we were yet sinners - is why I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus because His followers practice His forgiveness and lead others toward Him. Anyone who is brought to Christ will see the Glory of God the Father. And in experiencing the embracing love of God, you will become a follower of Jesus, too. His Love is Compelling!

I am in Christ, forgiven. I am loved. And there is no greater place to be.



Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...