Below are several emails that serve as a sort of journal for our trip to Africa. The first one is from Chuck the others are all from Lorie. I hope you enjoy reading them. The missions team we were privileged to lead consisted of: Chuck & Lorie Neighbors, Jonathan Neighbors, Erik Williams, Jeremy Hoffman and Joe Hydes. You can click on the smaller pictures below to see larger ones.
Date: Sun, 03 Mar 2002 12:27:16 +0000
Subject: Greetings from AfricaJambo!
(That’s Swahili for hello!)We are having an absolute blast over here. I wish you could be here with us. This has been an overwhelming experince so far. The trip was exhasting (no surprise there!) Had 11 hours to kill in London and went to Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace.Day one consisted of arrival late morning and just getting out of the airport and to Rosslyn Academy was an experience to remember. The traffic in Nairobi is … well on steroids. We determined to fight the jetlag by staying awake all day even though we were dead tired. We went to a street market and experienced some first hand bartering–quite an education. I swear that the US car salesmen have nothing on these venders! We are staying with a wonderful missionary family the house is a mansion in Kenya standards and still very nice upper middle class home by US standards. Yesterday we had a FULL day. Visited a Kenyan home in and garden in the countryside for tea (think storage shed). Up to Rift Valley lookout, dodging baboons in the highway. Home for lunch and then out to eat at the Safari Club. Ate Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle, Hartabest, Beef and Chicken. This place also had a floor show (think Las Vegas meets Nationl Geographic). Mostly dance that was uninspired and then all the sudden in the middle of the show these acrobatic dancers who just blew us away, incredible stuff! The back to the boring dancers for another half an hour.This morning was awesome!! We performed at Sunshine Academy, a boarding school for high school age Kenyon boys, 600 of them. These are the elite of Kenya and considered to be the future leaders of the country. While not a Christian school, the are required to attend Christian services -(the president of Kenya is a Christian and this is his school). We did Road to Jericho and the response was a dream. They laughed responded beyond our wildest imagination. Catching us all off guard. Erik preached afterwards and there were about 25 decisions for Christ and another 20 recommitments. We stayed and prayed and visited afterwards for about an hour. They have kept us busy! Hardly any time to email so this afternoon we have a few minutes to catch up. You were on my mind and I just wanted to get you a quick update. Please keep praying for us. Some of the team are fighting some cold symptoms. Nothing serious but still a distraction. Some of you may get some of this same information from Lorie.Blessings,Chuck
Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2002 23:57:06 -0500
Subject: GREETINGS FROM KENYA!Jambo! I’m sorry it has taken this long to e-mail all of you, but this is the first free moment we have had! We arrived safely in Nairobi what would be Friday, March 1 for them, after a couple of 9 hour flights, with an 11-hr layover in London. The flights were perfect in every way and all of our luggage was waiting for us on the belt when we got thru customs! It is Sunday afternoon here, and we are all on computers in the media center at Rosslyn Academy e-mailing our loved ones (Barb and Bryan, Jeremy is safe and well and trying to get an e-mail thru to you).Where to begin? Nairobi is a huge city which is absolutely, stunningly beautiful in its natural beauty, and heart-breakingly wretched in its man-made poverty and filth. We have all been ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the vegetation (they actually have poinsettia trees here! I’m bringing one back for next year’s Evening in Dec., Dave!) You just would not believe the beauty. The folks we are staying with have a banana tree in their back yard, and boy, do they taste good (the bananas, not the people we are staying with…) The two things that have struck me the most here are: the no-holds-barred driving – you take your life into your hands every time you go somewhere. They make lanes out of ditches and medians and constantly honk their horns and pull in front of you with no warning. They have these buses – huge van-type things that carry about 20-30 people, always crammed full of people and going VERY FAST! The smell of diesel fuel is overpowering at times. The other thing is the in-your-face aggressiveness of the vendors and people you don’t realize are vendors, who want money from you for every little thing – they are relentless.At the airport we got all our luggage on carts and the guys were doing fine pushing them out to the vehicles in the parking lot. We were met outside by about 6 Kenyan men who I don’t think were even employees of the airport, who offered to help us. Okay, they didn’t offer – they took over, with us saying “no” the whole time. And they’re talking Swahili to each other and we’re thinking they must realize what fools we are. We get to the vehicles and they immediately start unloading the bags, with us saying “Okay, thanks, we’ve got it” the whole time. Kristin Dixon, our contact person, took out some coins and gave them to the main guy and indicated it was for all of them (and yes, they understand English perfectly well – everyone here speaks English). He looked at it with a mad look on his face and held out his hand for more, and I mean, they weren’t leaving till they got more. So one of the men who met us took out some bills and paid them and they finally left shaking their heads. It was sort of scary.BUT–the school is out of the city a little ways, and the folks that Chuck, Erik and I are staying with are in a beautiful residential neighborhood, and it’s another world altogether. Our home is a beautiful 3-story 3-bedroom, 3-bath home with a lovely veranda. Jonathan and Jeremy are staying on campus in a 2-bed guest room (have to go outside to use the bathroom). Joe is staying on our street in another beautiful home. The hospitality has been overwhelmingly wonderful, as these people from Rosslyn have made us feel like royalty. Just to remind you, Rosslyn Academy is a North American school for missionary kids, embassy kids, and some Kenyans who want their children to get an American education, and they will go on to American universities. These are the cream of the crop kids (K-12).The first day we were here we were dog tired and were ready for bed at 3 p.m., but we went to an outdoor marketplace that was a real experience. The Masai people come here from wherever they live every Friday with their hand-made wares, and boy, this is awesome stuff. Well, we were in a daze and decided we’d just look because we were zombied out and would probably end up buying things we regretted later! These vendors were unbelievable! Kristin said she wears a hat and sunglasses so she doesn’t have to make eye contact and just walks on by if she’s not interested. They wanted our hats and our t-shirts to trade for items. Luckily we brought extras for that purpose (you’ll be happy to know we did NOT take off our t-shirts right then and there, although I was so hot I felt like it 🙂 – we will go back next Friday and do some serious shopping (looking for a drum for you, Liam!) The weather is warm but not unbearable – about 80 degrees F. Hardly any insects (although a HUGE flying beetle about 3″ long flew by us at lunch today and almost caused some spilled food – I won’t say whose…). Last night we ate at the Safari Club, a very classy outdoor restaurant where they have a huge spit grilling all kinds of exotic meats and they come around with a grilled animal on a skewer, and slice off some meat for you on your plate. We sampled chicken, beef and pork (not so exotic), then came the hardebeest (my personal favorite…no really!), zebra (or zeeblaw, as the man pronounced it), giraffe, gazelle and others I can’t remember. It was a most enjoyable evening and it was hard to believe we were in a third-world country, as it was very classy.Contrast that with what we did that morning. Kristin arranged for us to visit a Kenyan woman who she’s become friends with, who used to work at R.A. Her name is Mary, and about 6 years ago a team from Salem Alliance raised money and came out and built her a house (she has their photo on her wall to this day, and is SOOOO grateful). By “house” I mean a dwelling made out of concrete blocks for walls, dirt floor, no electricity, metal corrugated roof, a 2-room home where everyone sleeps in the living room. Mary greeted us at the lane with smiles and hugs and she was so honored to have us come and see her. She has NOTHING that we would consider of any worth, but is one of the most joyful, contented people I have met because of her love for God. She had made us some chai (tea), boiling the water over a fire, of course, and had it ready in thermoses. She had gone out and bought a cake, too. She took great pleasure in having us in her home and serving us. Hospitality is extremely important in African culture – they see it as an honor and blessing to have strangers in their homes. She poured us steaming hot tea mixed with milk and sugar. Then she prayed. A beautiful, humble prayer thanking God for bringing us her way. We drank in her hospitality and her tea, which were delicious. I had a hard time holding back the tears during her prayer, and looking around her humble, primitive home. After tea she showed us her garden and well. Jonathan made the mistake 🙂 of asking where the toilet was, and was led to the back yard and a hole in the ground. I decided to hold it till we got to the next place… There were two little boys about 4 – adorable (the people here are beautiful), who she was watching and they were out in the yard. I kept hugging them; the one boy’s smiles took my breath away. The other one had tonsillitis and felt horrible, but never complained or fussed. I looked over at him and a single tear fell down his beautiful black skin and my heart broke. That was very hard, but so wonderful, too. I’m wondering how I will ever again take anything for granted or complain when there’s no hot water for a shower or that I didn’t have time to dust my house that week.Today was amazing (Sunday morning). We did our first performance, at Sunshine Academy, a boarding school for 650 Kenyan boys! Not a Christian school (10% are Christians), but the president of Kenya is a Christian, so he appointed a chaplain at this school (a very prestigious school) and the chaplain (who we are staying with!) invited us to do the Sunday morning worship service. We did our main play that we’ve been working on for Rosslyn, which is about 35 minutes long. They were a fabulous audience, they roared with laughter (thankfully, at the funny parts) and loved the play. Afterward, Erik spoke to them and held them with rapt attention. He invited them to have a relationship with Jesus at the close of his talk and about 50 raised their hands. Afterward we shook hands with almost every one of them 🙂 and about 10 came to us asking for prayer or asking questions about their salvation. Very earnest, sincere. We were flying high after that.Visited an elephant orphanage afterward on our way home and saw several warthogs (think Pumbaa) in addition to baby elephants who have been rescued in some way. Yesterday while we were sightseeing we saw about 10 baboons along the highway. Erik and Jonathan were making all of these strange noises out the window (they were either trying to scare them off or mate, I’m not sure…) We spend much time laughing at Erik, Jeremy and Jonathan. Erik is absolutely fearless, will talk to anyone and instantly draws people to himself – it’s inspiring just to watch him in his humble way communicate with people. About an hour after we arrived at Rosslyn Friday we were eating lunch and we looked over and Erik was talking to two Norwegian boys in fluent Norwegian. The looks on their faces will stay with me for a long time – pure joy and appreciation for this unique and loving man!Tonight we are enjoying a potluck supper with the Rosslyn staff, and look forward to meeting all of them. Tomorrow starts our week here at the school. The students are anticipating something exciting and new, but I think they are skeptical because their previous speakers for their Spiritual Emphasis Weeks have been disappointing. I think God has a different plan for this week!Well, I hope I haven’t bored you to tears. Just know that we are all having the time of our lives and are so glad we came. God is working in us and it is such a privilege to be here doing his work! I’ll e-mail again…until then,Kwaheri,
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 12:45:42 -0500
Subject: Still alive and well in KenyaHi y’all! Just wanted to let you know that we are still alive and kicking! It’s Monday evening at about 8:30 and we are completing our first day serving Rosslyn Academy – what a wonderful day! We did a 9:00 a.m. chapel service, which we’ll be doing every day for spiritual emphasis week. Middle and high school kids together crammed about as tightly as you can get them. Erik, Jonathan and Jeremy and some students led out in worship and sounded great! The students instantly connected with Erik (actually the high school students are much more reserved than the middle schoolers, and have more of a ‘prove it to me’ attitude, but they’ll come around). We began with improv, which they absolutely loved! Then Erik and some students did a scripted improv called The Prodigal, and that went over well. Tasted some Kenyan food today…hmmm…not so good. One of their staples is called oogala (like we’d eat rice or potatoes) – it’s like cream of wheat that’s turned into a thick paste that can be sliced – no taste. Ate it with a sauce and some kale. Yummers. Had our first taste of real Kenyan shopping today. Brad & Kristin took us to one of millions of shopping areas where they have these dukas, little lean-to’s, all connected to each other that snake back and around for what must be miles. The vendors see a group of 8 white people coming and they were on us like flies on honey. We’re instantly everyone’s best friend. As we were leaving and going out onto the actual street, a little street urchin, a boy of about 10 with pitiful eyes came up and held out his hand for a coin. I can’t remember who caved in first but one of us dropped a coin into his hand. All of a sudden there were 5, then 10 kids swarming around us with their hands out and we tried to give each of them at least one shilling (less than a penny), then we started to recognize the same faces again coming back for more (it was hard to tell them apart), so finally we had to just walk straight ahead – they followed us to the parking lot two blocks away. That was hard. The poverty here is raw and in your face.This is definitely not a hardship mission trip. We are in a lush, beautiful area with fabulous people who are so excited that we are here and all of our needs are being met. The hard thing is seeing others’ hardships – the Kenyan people – and not being able to relate to them in any way whatsoever.Please pray for Erik, Joe and Jonathan, as all have colds (and for the rest of us that we don’t catch them). Pray that the high schoolers open up and allow God to touch their hearts.I hope you are all well – we miss you! Please write back – no one responded to my first e-mail 🙁 and it would be REEEEEALLY NICE to get some mail! We all live for these evenings when we can come to the computer room and check our mail.Love and hugs, Lorie (Mom)
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 23:20:52 -0500
Subject: God is in control!I am still sort of in shock after learning of yet another way that God has protected us on this mission to Kenya. You probably remember that we were scheduled to visit a World Vision project – to see what they do over here, since Chuck in an artist rep for them. We were told that the project we were to visit was considered “intimidating and dangerous” and that we’d be escorted by armed guards. We had the choice of any day this week, and we had chosen Thursday. You may have heard on the news that yesterday (Monday), in a Nairobi slum, there was a massacre where 20 people were killed. The slum was called Kariobangi. The World Vision site we were to visit was called Kariobangi. When Kristin came in with an e-mail about an hour ago from the W.V. people saying that the visit was cancelled and why, we just stood there silent for awhile, then all silently thanked God for His protection. Is there any doubt that He is an awesome God who is in control of our lives and of this trip?I am thankful for many things this week. The weather is incredible – not too hot, and even a bit cloudy (for this Northwesterner who can’t stand anything above 85!) My health, which has been quite finicky lately 🙂 has been PERFECT over here (better!). Specifically, I have this pesky rib that keeps slipping out of joint, and in the past 2 weeks in Salem I’d been to the chiro 3x. With all of the sitting on the planes, then driving we’ve done on bumpy roads, sliding around in the vehicles, my back feels perfect, and coincidentally that rib has stayed right where it belongs! The food has all agreed with me – not even a hint of an upset stomach (and I realized yesterday I’d been brushing my teeth with tap water and we aren’t supposed to!) It’s so neat!In a few minutes we’re going with Kristin, Brad and family to a giraffe “thing” – not sure exactly what it’s called, where we are on an upper platform and their heads are right there, and we can feed them. Then we’re going to visit the home of Karen Blixen, the woman who the movie Out of Africa was about (she’s dead, of course, and will not be there). We were at a golf course/country club the other day where one of the scenes from that movie was filmed. Just a bit of trivia for you movie buffs! I know I’ll want to rent that movie and watch it again!Tomorrow I am going for a one-hour full body massage that will cost $15.00 U.S. Somebody’s got to rough it, so I volunteered (Joe had one today, and Jonathan wants me to schedule one for him, too (yes, the money is coming out of our pockets – not the support money for the trip!!!). Oh, and did I mention I’m having a pedicure too? Kristin’s treat. They are so inexpensive, she likes to treat her guests in that way. How could I say no?Friday is the orphanage, where we’ll deliver all of the wonderful items that many of you have donated. One of our new friends told me today that going to that orphanage has been the highlight of her year here so far. The children will sing for us and will be so happy we are there, and “all over us.” I can’t wait. I will be an emotional wreck, I’m sure (Joe says we’ll both cry together), but it will be very uplifting, too. I’ll let you know how that goes.Gotta run! The giraffes are waiting for us. Love you all.Kwaheri,
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2002 01:53:38 -0500
Subject: Counting down to takeoff time!hi there! (this will be in all lower case, because the keyboards are really weird with the shift key) it’s sunday evening here and tomorrow night we are leaving kenya for england to begin our journey home! i can’t wait to see everyone again. i miss my boys, i miss my friends, i miss my bed (sorry, I don’t miss work, but i do miss my coworkers!!) i heard it snowed in salem!! that will be really hard to get used to after 2 weeks in paradise.we ended up visiting a world vision project on thurs. and it was not at all dangerous and very interesting. unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any sponsored kids 🙁 saw some small businesses that w.v. has helped people to start and visited a clinic way out in the country.the orphanage visit was friday and that was really something. first, what was supposed to be an hour’s drive took about 2 1/2 because of traffic, then all of a sudden the road was closed. they were doing road work on this country road (actually i think they were paving it for the first time, since it was DIRT) and all of a sudden there was a huge mound of dirt blocking the entire road (not even a ditch to turn into a lane this time!) and we couldn’t go any farther. my mind wandered a bit and i actually entertained the thought that after all this planning and excitedly collecting donations for this place, that we wouldn’t be able to get there! a couple of local men were speaking to our driver (in Swahili, of course), pointing, etc. and finally the driver told us there was a road “over there” that we could take. we started driving…keep in mind we are out in the country and we are now driving through a field on a “road” that isn’t really a road. we take this turn up a long hill on another “road” and end up in someone’s yard (dead end). well, we were really getting discouraged now, when all of a sudden this man we’d talked to 10 minutes ago (about a mile back) runs up to the bus (he’s about 55 years old, and he obviously just ran to catch us) and tell us we took the wrong “road” and he would help us find it. It was so neat, he hopped on the bus and directed us the entire way. Our first angel.we were met at the gate by about 20 children and workers, who came swarming out when they heard the bus (which they’ve been waiting for for an hour and a half), with big smiles and outstretched hands. introductions were made by Mama Zapporah, the wonderful, warm lady who runs the home with her hubby, Papa Isaac. then we began a tour of the place. what stuck out in my mind the most, since i can’t explain everything, was the happiness of the children, first. I expected that i’d be really upset and crying the whole time, but their joy buoyed our spirits. i admit it was hard when we visited the first little shack, where about 6 toddlers lay sleeping or just sitting on filthy, urine-soaked mattresses on the floor. two of them sat there with their big brown eyes looking up at this group of strangers peering in at them while mama explained things. i motioned to her “can i go in?” and she nodded. i went in and sat on the edge of a mattress and held out my arms to this adorable little 2-year old girl, who just melted into my arms on my lap (no pampers there, i soon realized 🙂 that was hard, just looking at these sweet little children and realizing they had no parents to love them. but the neat thing is, there ARE other people who love them, and that’s great for them. at least they have mama zapporah. joe and i were a little misty-eyed as we left that place. we saw their classrooms, their sleeping quarters (about 16 bunkbeds crammed into a room; they sleep about 3 to a twin bed), and their kitchen. woodstove with little ventilation inside a room, with two huge pots of food cooking. smelled good! mama z. introduced us to a boy who’d just come to them that week. he stood meekly and sweetly at her side as she told us about him. he has HIV and typhoid and a couple of other things that i can’t remember. i said a little prayer asking god to help me never complain about my little aches and pains again.because we were late, we had to leave earlier than planned to get back to the school in time, so unfortunately we didn’t get to see the clothing being unloaded (someone did it as we were taking the tour), or anyone’s reaction to it, but they will put it to good use (and looking at their beds, those sheets will be loved, sharon and audra!) each of us had a little hand grasping ours as took the tour (my little hand belonged to a darling little boy of about 4, Brian), and each time we sat, both thighs were taken up with at least 2 children, who were so content to just be held and loved by us for a short time.this weekend was our safari and it was an incredible experience. we saw elephants, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest (think lion king), wart hog (ditto) lions, hippos, and others i can’t remember. we stayed in a 5-star hotel (don’t think american hotels), swam in a beautiful pool surrounded by palms and ate the most incredible food i’ve ever had. such a contrast to the orphanage outing, but kenya is full of contrasts!gotta run – we’re going out to dinner tonight with brad, kristin and the kids and i don’t want to keep them waiting. i will look forward to seeing you all in a very short time!! love you! Lorie (aka madamyouwanttobuy?)
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2002 20:29:02 -0500
Subject: greetings from London!okay, i said you wouldn’t hear from us again till we were home…but here we are in beautiful london paying one pound for 15 minutes of internet time in our hotel lobby. we landed at 4:45 a.m. london time from nairobi, and we can’t check into our rooms till noon. it’s now 9:30…we’ve walked the streets for an hour looking for a restaurant that was open so we could eat breakfast (ended up backtracking to a mcdonalds we saw when we first got out of the underground train area!) jeremy and erik are asleep on couches in the lobby, joe is shopping for teapots and chuck and i are planning what we’ll do today. we’re excited that we’ll try to see les miserables tonight and we’re all going to see the lion king tomorrow night. we’re all tired but in great spirits(and we still like each other 🙂 the change in climate is quite a shock; think i’ll try to buy some gloves and a scarf today! well, jonathan wants to check e-mail, so i’ll log off. love to you all, lorie