5 August 2013

Humbled in Kajiado and Hazards in Nairobi!

Two weeks ago we signed off our last update with these words: “We’d value your prayers: that the hospital tests for Ruth would go well; that Ruth’s blood would once again flow as it should and that we would continue to be flexible and patient in all of this”!  So, time for some feedback, especially as Ruth had another check-up this morning!  During that first week here in Nairobi Ruth was prodded and poked, x-rayed and scanned, and had numerous blood tests. Thankfully, every test came back as a negative, which in medical terms I suppose is actually a positive!  That ‘calf-muscle strain’ that developed on the flight over has now been officially labelled as an “unprovoked DVT”, meaning that there is no obvious cause, although Ruth suspects that her genes might have a lot to do with it!  It would seem that Ruth will be on medication for some time but we’re thankful that she’s responded well to a new blood-thinning drug which doesn’t require regular monitoring.  We’re also thankful that our insurance company has already paid up in full for the costs we’ve incurred so far!  So, hospital visits almost completed and our plans for attending the orientation course aborted, we’ve done what we can to make the most of our time here in Nairobi.

Traffic chaos in Nairobi
Nairobi traffic chaos
Life in Nairobi: Steve first came to this city 29 years ago to stay with an MAF family for a month during his school holidays, and it’s been interesting to see the various changes that have, and haven’t, taken place. The roads are more congested (except on Sunday mornings when half of Kenya seems to be in church!). The matatus and buses still spew out their toxic ‘fume plumes’ - which makes walking in town hazardous to the lungs - and I’m sure the drivers have their own highway code!  Give way to the right at roundabouts’ seems to have become, ‘Do what you want and keep your foot down’!  And as for the pavements…!  You dare not look up for fear of falling down an uncovered manhole or cracking your shin on a sawn-off lamp-post stump!  Using a zebra crossing is also a bit of an adventure because drivers seem to be intent on not stopping!  And yet, despite these obstacle courses, people seem to get on with their daily business without any thought of suing the council for all it’s worth!

But on the other hand, if you chose to ignore the street beggars and one of the biggest slums in Africa, the standard of living for many people seems to have gone up a notch: new buildings springing up, newer cars on the road and new shopping malls popping up around the city where you can buy pretty much anything. One thing I can’t get used to is browsing the book section within a supermarket and finding Christian books for sale. At the check-out of a clothing store, equivalent to the likes of M&S, I found copies of an illustrated children’s Bible!  And in the doctor’s waiting room the TV screens were showing God channel- type programmes. One thing that hasn’t changed in the last 29 years is that there still seems to be some respect for the Christian faith.  That respect may only be on the surface for many people, and I do wonder how long it will be there, but at least there’s still a general acceptance of Christianity that often catches the visitor to Kenya by surprise. What a contrast to the UK!

Our base during this time has been AIM’s Mayfield Guest House, a place of ‘comings and goings’ as various missionaries stop to refuel (spiritually, physically and mentally!) as they make their way here and there.  It’s been fascinating to hear the various stories and catch a glimpse of what God is doing in lives around this vast continent.  We’ve met up with AIM staff at the Eastern Region office and visited a Kenyan friend that Steve worked alongside whilst leading a Tearfund team back in 2004.  We spent an afternoon on safari in Nairobi National Park doing a spot of birding and where we also had a close encounter with a rather hefty white rhino!  Yesterday we attended a service at Nairobi Pentecostal Church where over 3000 people clapped and sang in unison as part of a very well organised communion service – just imagine washing up those cups after the service!

One of the highlights so far though has been a visit to an Africa Inland Church project called the Kajiado Child Care Centre, based about 40 miles from Nairobi. An AIM friend from the UK was working there for a month and encouraged us to visit.  Those in the AIM family will know the name Colin Molyneux and you’ll be able to make the link when it comes to Kajiado and off-road wheelchairs!

Esther in her adapted wheelchair
The Child Care Centre was set up back in 1979 by two AIM missionaries to rehabilitate and help children with disabilities overcome the numerous challenges they face, especially in a society where the disabled are sometimes shunned.  The centre runs two orthopaedic workshops which provide artificial limbs, braces and callipers, and custom-made wheelchairs fitted to meet individual needs.  It also provides physiotherapy services, home-based care for children with cerebral palsy, community medical outreach programmes, schooling and accommodation for 80 children at preschool level (patients and pupils).  All of this treatment is provided free of charge due to the fact that the majority of children come from families who simply can’t afford to pay for such care.

It was an inspiring day, especially as we were able to meet a wonderful Christian man called Daniel, who had grown up at the centre as a child suffering with polio – and who is now its Managing Director!  We also spent time playing with the children, some of them wrapped up in their balaclavas, and others bravely battling their various disabilities.  The teacher was more than happy for us to spend time in the classroom although we’re not sure we contributed much with our ‘stick-men’ drawings and faltering Swahili, but we certainly came away feeling blessed!  If you would like to know more then please take a look at their website:  www.aick.org. 

So, we’ve tried to do as much as possible during our enforced stay in Nairobi and although it’s been a tad frustrating not being able to ‘carry out the plan’, we’ve made the most of our own Nairobi-based orientation course!  On Thursday (8th) we begin our six-day LAMP course (Language Acquisition Made Practical) and this will hopefully set the scene for our 3 month Swahili course which begins in Tanzania on 24th August.  We hope to leave Nairobi and fly back to Tanzania a week on Friday (16th).

Thank you once again to those of you who have prayed for us; for Ruth in particular at this time. We’ve certainly felt that support and appreciated the many emails we’ve had along the way.  As serious as it was, we’re thankful that Ruth’s health issue wasn’t any worse and we’re thankful for the excellent medical care that she has received.  As from Thursday, we hope to be back on schedule but, as we’re finding out in Africa, never hold too tightly to a timetable and trust that He knows better! We hope to be in touch in September – God bless.