A short video clip from the trip ;)
Following two weeks of travelling from village to village, camping out under the stars, sharing the gospel through open-air cinema and giving out food to the hungry. I thought I would just give you some short experts from my diary to paint a colourful picture for you, highlighting some funny moments, giving you points to pray for and to inspire faith in you.
The battle begins - Loiyangalani
Peter and I had flown out to the remote eastern shores of Lake Turkana in Peters small Cessna. I have to say the plane is certainly growing on me, after take-off, Peter handed over the controls and allowed me to fly the nearly 2 hours over to this remote village. It was my first time flying over the lake and it was vast, some 20km wide and more than 290km long.
Imagine this short flight had saved me 3-4 days of driving through really rough and dangerous roads, and that's just ONE WAY! There is even one section on this road that had a high percentage of highway banditry with even police being stoped, robbed and sadly killed. So you can imagine my relief that we had flown.
There is a price to missions and I pay it gladly, but when we can mitigate risk, well let's just do that instead.
As soon as we landed at the airstrip a missionary picked us up in his land cruiser and we sped off to the next village and boy oh boy did we fly down those rocky, gravel roads. It felt like we were on 2 wheels going around some corners. We went over one hill very fast, to fast, and as we passed over the brow of the hill and could see the other side we were facing a tight corner over a small bridge, we turned but it was a bit too late and we dropped over the side of the bridge into the dry river bed with a big bang, the driver laughed and said 'oops'. Good job these land cruisers are pretty indestructible I thought, that sounded expensive..... I looked over at Peter and saw his knuckles were turning white holding onto the hand rest.
Watch this video to get an idea of the kind of roads around Loiyangalani
The dangers of hyenas - Moiete
(Warning: not a fun story, skip this paragraph if you need)
As we were cowering for shade beside the only concrete building we heard a sad story from the village leaders of a lady who had gotten drunk a few nights before and had fallen asleep in the middle of the dirt road coming into town. It wasn't long into the night before a pack of hyenas found her eat her whole! When people found her in the morning they saw the leftover alcohol and were happy as there was some left, they took it and were on their way.
This story broke my heart, alcohol had such a strong grip on this community. The destruction it led to in this instance was complete, the greed was evident in the peoples joy in finding the leftover bottle, whilst ignoring the human remains next to it. It made me sick, but it also reminded me of where I would be without my Saviour and why they so desperately needed to meet Him and be set free by Him.
(Not my photo)
After a few great days of meeting with the leaders of the community planning and organising, we felt we were set to return the following week with our whole team, trucks and gear to carry out a 2-week outreach, showing the Jesus film, holding small market open airs, running training sessions and seminars and delivering food to the people who were on the brink of starvation. We felt ready.
BUT then a day before we were due to set off we got a call. The district commissioner, the head of the county and chief of police had made a complete about-face and would not allow us to come back. We tried everything we could but the decision was final and the door was firmly shut.
It felt like a spiritual war was brewing, these people needed the help but we couldn't be the ones to help, not now at least.
So what next?
Attempt 2 - Katilu
Well, we didn't even have to wait a day before we got a call, Bishop Peter, an old friend, had received permission for us to carry out our outreach as planned but on the west side of the lake. Seeing as everything was packed and ready to go, and God had opened a door we didn't hesitate and left straight away. We were to visit a different village every day for 2 weeks running a full program from morning till night in each location. Wonderful.
BUT not more than 7 hours into our drive and the truck just stopped moving. The gears in the drive shaft system had sheared off completely leaving the main propeller shaft to spin freely. This thing was not going anywhere. It took us about 4 hours to diagnose the problem and that fact that it was not fixable on the side of the road, so I drove the team back to base in our back up car (we always take two vehicles for this reason) it took 6 odd hours to get home, where the team picked up a bigger truck, the plan was to tow the other truck, and trailer home! Then they drove back another 7 hours, hooked up and towed it all back home again another 7 odd hours. The team pulled in at about 5 am and were shattered as you can well imagine.
Our Mercedes unimog and trailer hauling cinema set up and 2 tonnes of food
Peter didn't seem to let the setback set him back. We had planned to deliver our first set of leadership seminars in the first 2 towns and pastors had already travelled great distances to be there and we didn't want to let them down! So at 6 am Peter and I set out and flew down the hill to a small airstrip, we jumped in the back of a small taxi and pulled up outside the church at 8 am ready to begin.
As they were preparing us some chai there was a bit of a commotion near the front row at church, I went to see what it was and the elders were killing a snake, a first for me (a snake in a church that is), and maybe fuel for a future sermon.......
Over the next day or 2, I shared about 3 sessions on foundations of leadership with Peter and Pastor Onyango (our Kenya coordinator) sharing the rest of the sessions. Peters dad had built this very church in the 70s and he had later been baptised there as well, so we were treated like family. Unfortunately, after several days, the team had still not been able to fix the trucks so we would have to return home until everyone was ready, plus they needed me back there to drive the spare car down.
Once again Peter and I could feel the devil prowling around like that lion waiting to devour, not happy with the task we had at hand.
Attempt 3... back on track
We were off again, and this time we made it to the church where Peter and I had just been a few days before, it was about 8 pm and we were finished after a long days drive and about 4 hours worth of breakdowns. Over the next few days, we would go through 14 belts related to the breaks, steering and air pressure for the truck and each belt snap required us a good long stop to get it fixed
The camp set up
We were a team of 10 hungry men so the cook was always the first to set up, he would have to find an empty hut to set up the kitchen and get the kettle on so we could get our teas and coffees. Over the course of the trip, we went from 3 meals a day to 1 or 2 meals a day with lots of tea in between. As we were moving from village to village there just wasn't time to cook hot meals. Once the kitchen was established we would begin our program preaching, teaching and showing cinema. We would use the Jesus film and a series of new films based around an African chief responding to the Jesus Film. We used this to explain the Gospel and foundational Christian teaching. People would sit in the dust and every village was different. We would get back to camp around midnight then try to find somewhere to sleep, I usually chose to sleep on the roof of the truck under the stars. A decision I might later come to regret, but another blog for that story ;) If we were lucky and the village had a well we would take a midnight bath under the moon washing off the day's dust and sweat (very few villages had wells).
Deren, my brother in law sleeping next to me onto of the truck
"Is it safe chief?" - Lopuri
The first night took us a while to work out the best set up. At one point an old man was blocking the road and unwilling to move, after begging him to move he reluctantly did so, but as I walked past him, he attempted to hit me with his stick, real thick rod with 2 cycle cogs at the top! haha, careful now....
Later sitting with the leaders discussing the night the local MCA told us stories of raiding and shooting that was happening very close to us, he had photos and videos of the action and was eggar to share it with us. That night 1 man was shot and killed, another neighbouring village also caught fire and was burned to the ground, no one was hurt but all the houses and our church was destroyed. It seemed like a lot was happening in our neck of the woods and lots we needed to be prayerful over.
a conversation with the chief...
Chief; “nowadays there is peace in the area, no more violence, the area is safe.”
Me; “oh I didn’t realise it was bad. When were all these killings and violence?”
Children gathered around watching the Jesus film, we used the trailer as a platform
Under arrest, fire, and some missing teeth - Katilu
The set up was much faster but the local church was running a program to help us, once we were set up it was hard to take back control of the program and prevent it from turning into a church service! It was important to us that this outreach did not look like a church service with a lot of religious language, church music and so on, the whole purpose of this outreach was to preach the gospel to those who had never heard it, the outcasts, those in bars and clubs, those that would never dare set foot in a church, we were here for them!
In hindsight, it seemed like God was protecting us because just as we were about to take over, angry police came to arrest us and impound our vehicles and take our cinema set up!!!
Jackson (head of the technical department) saw what was happening and grabbed Deren and I and told us to hide in the back of the truck and let the local pastors deal with this. After a few hours, all the Christians in the community decided to go and protest outside the police station, demanding the outreach be allowed to continue. When the MCA finally arrived a cheer went up from all the believers, and it wasn’t long before he got things straightened out and we could begin!
We called Peter and told him the coast was clear, but as we started up the meeting, we immediately had problems with sound, microphones, and lights, it felt like there was no way this was going to work. But just before we called it a night. In a last-ditch effort, we tried to borrow power from a nearby shop using a series of extension cords! That did the trick and we were able to finish the night off, although I fear we lost many people due to all the disturbances and interruptions. Again it felt like there was a real spiritual battle happening all around us, and I don't say that lightly!
As we headed back to camp, there was a great flash of fire in the truck cabin, followed by a wall of black smoke, Jackson hit the breaks hard, David Mwangi's head smashed straight into the dashboard and his two front teeth flew out! A few people were sitting on plastic chairs in the rear trailer and they all went flying, everyone jumped out coughing and spluttering, not at all amused. Though I must say I was rather amused.... (but don't tell the team that)
The adults sitting a bit further back watching the cinema in a market centre
Beauty at what price? Patadum
Patadum was a beautiful village, far out and remote. It can be found at the end a long sandy road that takes several hours to drive down, without the slightest sense that there might be people who live there. No development, infrastructure or anything, just natural beauty.
When we arrived a women came to greet us, singing and dancing and making a bit of a scene, I felt in my spirit something was a bit off. It wasn’t long before she was crying and wailing, begging for food, she was in a real emotional state. She seemed desperate. Her husband came and there was a bit of a domestic argument. The place was poor and the people in need of food and water. We decided this was a good place to offload a few bags of food to help. As we began to distribute the food the line never seemed to end, we hoped to give 200kg of food but ended up giving out over 400kg. It seemed like a drop on a hot stone.
I'm not sure I'll ever understand why some people live where they do, with no access to food or water. Life here was tough and it was something I had to wrestle with, knowing just a few hundred km away was a green oasis with rivers, wild fruit trees and fertile soil. Maybe life isn't that simple, I don't know.
Trying to equally distribute maize so everyone gets some
Dinner with a view - Nasagar
For some reason the plans changed, in Africa plans always change. So instead of carrying on, we were diverted to Nasagar - a large village on the highway to Kakuma refugee camp.
Here we had a great turn out for out cinema outreach and in the morning Peter preached at the PAG church, funnily enough, it had been built by our neighbour in Eldoret.
It's great to see God weaving his master tapestry through time and space.
Our dining set up at this place was rather odd as our 4 tables were set up with a slaughterhouse in the middle, so as we were eating we saw many goats slaughtered, skinned and cleaned, for some of the team it was a bit much....
Peter speaking to people wanting prayer at the PAG church
'Ants in my pants' - Nameyana
The gold town, built by people panning for gold out in the mountains, a beautiful place with a lot more wealth than other villages we had visited, but with that wealth was a great need for the gospel, as many peoples hearts in this area were turning to alcohol, drugs, and lust.
The crowd here felt a lot rowdier, and hard to minister to, captivating there attention was difficult. I was speaking about the role of their sacrificial system and witchcraft and how Jesus had come to put an end to that, but as I was sharing I looked over the crowd and got discouraged, I did a quick warp up and continued with the film. Peter encouraged me later, saying next time try to lead with a good old story to capture the people then go from there. Just like Jesus parables I thought. Always lots to learn......
The children here we’re especially cheeky. At one point they climbed up in the trees and dropped some ants down a girl on our teams top, and later as she walked home they chased her with a snake and threw it at her, mimicking her scream. The poor girl, it was her first time in Africa, and perhaps not the best welcome.
A group of young men weighing up the message in the market centre
Hot Chai - Losigit
This was our smoothest day yet, the set up was fast, the sound, cinemas and talks flowed seamlessly. A large number of people attended and watched and listened with eager anticipation reacting to all the scenes showing us that the translation was coming through clearly and the film was being effectively communicated.
Over chai the team entered a hot discussion, the topic - if you leave your church for another you are a 'back slider' and have lost the faith. It was a hot debate but all in a great spirit. Despite the subject I love these discussions where you can see peoples characters and beliefs come to life, it gives rare insight into peoples lives and their cultural beliefs that are still very prevalent.
Praying over the newly established church, as you can see its very simple
A rather unique toilet experience - Kanukurudio
Sleeping rough, the lack of showers and 1 propper meal a day diet was starting to take its toll, whenever we had some downtime you could find the team are sleeping under the trucks trying to find some shade from the biting sun, I glanced at my watch and saw it was at 40 degrees - hot.
To make matters worse bats had decided to make their home in the cesspit of the long drop toilets, so you couldn't use the toilets without having bats fly up between your legs and see them lurking bellow as you tried to carry on your business. Something I look back on with some fondness, what an odd memory.
Not long after we arrived we were taking a nap under some shade when a pastor strolled up to us with about 50 people in tow, singing and dancing. He asked if Peter Franz was around to run a seminar, I looked over and Peter was having a snooze, wearing his crocs, shorts and a t-shirt, (not the done thing for a preacher in Kenya) I found it rather was amusing to see him comprehend what was happening. But never the less he jumped up and delivered a fantastic seminar for the rest of the morning and on into the afternoon speaking to the children, the youth and ladies attending. I shared a photo on Instagram as this was a rare place we got phone signal. It wasn't long later till I got a call from Becki, asking what on earth Peter was doing, preaching in crocs, I had plenty to smile at every day.
That night, while watching the Jesus film a scorpion 🦂 crawled past Peter. After asking him if he killed it or not he said: “if it doesn’t have a problem with me, I don’t have a problem with it.” another smile.
Peter holding an impromptu service in Kanukurudio
Almost done - Kaeris
Due to an earlier change of plans, this was going to be our last stop before retiring home, we were now deep in the Turkana desert about 1000km from home. Sitting around at breakfast I heard a story of how our security guard had used a cloth rag as a keychain for our headquarters keys so he could hang it on the door easily, one day while he was eating the cloth fell in his bowl of fish soup. Well, later that night a rat came, sniffed out the fish and ran off with the whole keychain and it wasn't till a year later that it turned up at the exit of a drain pipe.
Its takes time to spend time with people, to hear their stories, to laugh and argue, to be able to understand them and their beliefs, cultures and values, and is why trips like this are an invaluable opportunity to learn and demonstrate Christ's great love for us. We travelled very far on rough roads to share the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hundreds and hundreds of people were ministered to every day, and hundreds came forward to give their lives to Christ. Local pastors were involved in every step of the way and will carry on the discipleship and mentoring process that is vital for growth in our walk with the Lord. We gave out over 2 tonnes of food to those who are facing starvation. I can only pray it helped them hang in a bit longer.
Watching the Jesus film under the stars is simply magnificent
On a personal note, I certainly have a long way to go in learning how to deliver an effective message that articulates my faith well, but I thank God for the opportunity to try, and I also thank Peter and Becki Franz who have taken me under there wing and are shepherding me as stumble and practice, I am sure many would have written me off before now. It also takes a steadfast faith on the part of my wife, Jessie, at home alone for weeks on end with 3 young babies. We are family that is in this together and she is releasing me to spread the glory of our marvellous King, and that is not something to be missed, and cannot be overstated.
This was a longer blog, so if you made it this far well done, I hope it has blessed you, encouraged you and maybe challenged you.
Lots of love till next time.
The Rex's in Kenya