Thursday, August 2, 2007


Has God ever taken you somewhere and then you realized He had many purposes for you going? That's how I felt about Kenya this time. One of those purposes was for me to meet a group traveling with World Connex. We met them at High Ridge School and tec Center. We knew ahead of time that we would meet to travel together to the Safari, but little did I know God had His own special purposes for me.

Once we introduced ourselves we realized that we were all connected.

1)Brooke was their trip leader and she was an intern for Buckner last year and had travelled with us to Busia.

2)Victor works for World Connex (in Dallas) and is on the Board of Buckner, but also attends Concord, which is down the street from my church.

3)I went to high school with the brother of Pastor Clark, who is from Dallas and pastor in Austin. I knew the former pastor at Rev. Clark's church and a student at UT who attends the church came from the church where my father is a pastor.

But the connection that has birthed an on going relationship is the one with me,Victor and my father. Our common interest is getting more African Americans involved in missions. Whether it is by church, vocations, individuals, pastors, giving, going, praying - however the Lord leads we know that we are not well represented in missions. Part of it is a lack of education on our role in missions, especially in Africa.

This connection also brought an awareness to me from Victor- that what I did in Kenya, which was more than just sewing, was really about economic development. Part of the ladies knowing about the love of Christ from me, is knowing He would send someone to help with the practical parts of their lives. They needed a plan on how to make money for their basic needs. I can now see that a simple plan is coming together than can be understood in any language.

I was also reminded that in my own spirit I had caught hold of the plan presented by our pastor, Dr. Tony Evans on New Year Eve.

Start where you are

Use what you have

Do what you can do

This sudden awareness opened my eyes that I had been working this plan all along and the result was going to Kenya, using my teaching and sewing skills and bringing supplies to women who could not otherwise afford it. These supplies can now help them "start where they........"

The other side of Kenya

Typical Masai village house - cow dung, straw and mud- built by the women

Masai Warriors

Masai Jumping contest
Masai women singing
Airplane at landing strip

Water Buffalo
Melissa and Carla standing in the Land Rover
Leopard spotted in the tree
Lioness' and cubs resting

You can't talk about Kenya without talking about Masai Mara. This is the natural land where the Masai tribe lives in harmony with animals. While I have been several times, I like to see the reaction of those going for the first time. I did not tell Kristen or Melissa that this was a place where you encounter the awesome creativity of God. Once you see it, a zoo means nothing to you. This land and all its inhabitants allows you see why God said what He created was good!

As typical with most groups that I have been with to Kenya, they start out looking at the schedule and wondering why is there a need to go to Masai Mara when we could spend that extra day doing more mission work. They forget that its okay to take a few hours to see another part of the land. After traveling 8000 miles and staying for a month it would be ashamed not to see the natural beauty of Kenya. This time was no different. But as usual I stayed silent about the issue until they were able to see it for themselves.

To get to this land you have to take a long drive or go by small plane (which is what we did) and be ready to land on an airstrip (okay it was a dirt road). When we landed we were greeted at the terminal (I mean thatch and metal covered sheds) by our drivers. It appeared like we were in the middle of nowhere. But we were in the perfect place to encounter God's creations. We loaded up in the Land Rovers(the best way to travel on safari) and took an hour long drive down winding dirt roads to our accommodations. We saw elephants and giraffe's along the way and the excitement began to build about Masai Mara.

Once we arrived and checked in we were lead to our room - a luxury tent. You have to be there to really enjoy it but it was as nice a staying in hotel. Yes, it had a restroom and shower attached. I'm not a camping kinda girl, but I enjoyed staying in the tent.

By now it was lunch time and we were ready to eat. When Melissa saw the variety of food and fresh vegetables she came over, hugged me and said "thank you".

After lunch we went back to the land rovers and headed out for our sunset safari. This safari meant we were taking a drive, about 4 hours, to see animals in their natural habitat. The next morning we headed out about six am for a sunrise safari before breakfast. During the morning safari we were taken to a Masai village where we got to see the tribe up close and personal.

The Masai are a people have always lived on this land. Most of us know them because they are the tribe that wears the color red. The pictures that you will see are only a glimpse of we saw. I will post others at a later date on a website for pictures.

We really needed to get away from the city for that 24 hour period. We were now refreshed and ready to go for another 2 weeks of ministry

Super + Natural = Miracle

Over the last few weeks I have heard this phrase in conversations and sermons. I saw this with my own eyes when we visited the New Hope Babies Home in Nairobi. We heard several missionaries talk about it, but we had no idea what we were really going to see.
As we entered the gate we saw what looked like 1- 3 year olds on their way to the play area. After going on a tour and being told of the process by which these abandoned and orphaned children go from HIV positive to HIV negative, we know that a miracle is involved. God used the natural medical knowledge about antibodies that he gave men, to bring about a super example of His miracles. Out of 900 babies only 50 have died. That’s the short version.

What I want to talk about is our day with the kids. During the tour we saw children from 4 days to 3 years old. We saw pictures of kids up to 7 years old who were still HIV negative who had been adopted out from the Home. After the tour, we scrubbed up and headed outside to be with the kids we saw when we entered the gate to the home. They were enjoying the sunshine and we joined in on the fun. I saw a boy and a girl and wagon. I put them in the wagon and pulled them around the play area. I watched as they leaned back and began to grin. After 10 minutes I thought “I'm sure they have had enough”, but when I stopped the wagon they both started flailing their arms for me to keep going. At first I laughed and then 30 minutes later I found myself still pulling that wagon. I also watched Kristen and Melissa as children flooded them to be picked up and held. It was awesome to see all these children happy and healthy. The workers appeared to love their jobs and made sure that all visitors treated the kids like any other kids. We were told that positive and negative children are kept together and we would not know which ones had been infected by HIV. The truth is we didn't need to know. All we needed to know is we were there to show them love.

After a couple of hours of sunshine the workers led us back into the home where we helped with the rest of their routine - Wash their hands, sit at the table, pray for the food and eat lunch. As with typical 2 year olds, some food landed in the mouth and some on clothes and the table. Since it was close to 1:00 pm the children were then taken to the restroom where 2 workers cleaned their soiled diapers, put them on the potties, put on fresh diapers and had us put the children in their various beds for their afternoon nap. That was just in the class that I worked with, which had about 12 kids. Kristen and Melissa were in another area doing the same thing. I don't remember how many children are able to stay at the home at one time but this was another job that I saw where love and commitment was the key.
I think the pictures speak volumes. Enjoy the little miracles we encountered in Kenya.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The BCC and TEC Centre

The two pots and burners where everything gets cooked!
Daniel making chipati bread for us.

Agnes preparing kale

Melissa and her air guitar potato smasher

Carla cooking cow peas

To understand the mission you have to know about the Baptist Children's Center and TEC Centre. This is a large compound that sits between two slums. On one side you have the Miles Seven slum area and on the other you have a slum mostly occupied by Muslims. While the BCC orphanage sits at the top of the hill and is not open to the community, the TEC Centre is at the bottom of the hill and is open to the community. There is only a gate separating the two.
The BCC has a 48 bed orphanage, dining hall/kitchen, showers/toilets/clothes washing basins, craft room, live stock shed with cows/chickens, play ground and storage room for donated supplies. The TEC centre has an Office, Sewing class, two school buildings, a chapel, a clinic and a large vegetable garden- all open for services to the community. While we were there a seminar was being held on how to take care of your relatives who have HIV.

It doesn't take long to understand in order for the Orphanage to survive in that area, some community development has to be in place. The community knows that outsiders come to help the orphanage and some of them are in desperate need for services. So the TEC Centre is the community outreach that makes sure the orphanage can exist within the slum. Besides the sewing class, they have had woodworking and computer classes in the past. All of this is done with solar power. Electricity will not be available until the end of this year. The school is open to the community and the orphanage kids as a primary school. We would say Pre-K through elementary grades. There is an over crowded World Vision school next door so a new class building was opening the Monday after we left to bring the orphanage kids back to a smaller class environment. We were told that one grade had 120 kids so they divided the students to come half days to school. While going to school is supposed to be free to all Kenya children up to 12 or 13 years old the government does not operate or support any school. So it really is through the passion of the people that schools exists at all. The government also requires uniforms for the school but makes no provision on how citizens in a country with over 50% unemployment can afford to buy a uniform. But God has allowed for schools to rise up in spite of the lack of books and supplies and still have the children taught basic education. Most people who run the schools will tell you that it cost about $3-4 a day per student to run the school and pay the teachers.

While I did go specifically for the sewing program, the interns were sent with the kids from the orphanage in mind. Each day they served in the the kitchen, at the school and clinic. At least once a week they would visit us in the sewing class. I also had the opportunity to serve in the kitchen and at the clinic. I know it has to be a commitment on the part of the workers to do this day in and day out.

One day I went to the clinic to see how I could help. There was a epilepsy patient on the bed and I tried to not disturb her. The nurse, Martha , told me she needed some gauze cut. At first, I thought this is a mundane task. As I sat there cutting, it occurred to me that ministry was supplying what ever the need is at that time. So I cut yards of gauze into small pieces until the container was overflowing. Martha told me later how helpful it was to her because her container was empty and she would now be ready if a patient needed the gauze. I left that day thinking - once again Lord it really is the small things.

To see two kitchen workers cook for 60-70 people 3 meals a day, everyday is an awesome sight. To work along side of them was a workout. Sorting cow peas and cooking in a gigantic pot over an open flame was definitely a new experience for me. Stirring with a large wooden spoon and peeling 100's of potatoes with a dull peeler is no joke. Grating carrots and ginger with a flat grater that was about the break, broke my heart. Last but not least was the " one knife " that cut everything. It goes without saying we purchased some new utensils before we left. I applaud Daniel and Agnes in the kitchen. God has not only gifted them to cook for this center but they are training the children in how to prepare meals. Some days we would see the children shucking maize or if we were helping they would gently move us out of the way and start doing the chore.

While I did not serve at the school, the children still found out my name and so, as before, my name is COLA or CORLA but definitely not CARLA. Two girls, Quincey and Edith would come wait at the sewing room door to walk me to lunch. On the way they tried to teach me Swahili. I tried to remember what they taught me but it left me from one day to the next. I could tell they had fun trying to get me to pronounce each word correctly.

Hopefully our presence and attempts to "help where needed" was encouragement to the staff that works daily to provide nurturing and nourishment to the children at BCC and the surrounding slum areas.

Sewing opens the door to ministry

Yes that's me sewing on a treadle machine!

Zibora - sewing instructor wearing a skirt she
had me make for her while I was in Africa.
Students at TEC Centre

Quilt blocks made by students

Carla, Zibora, Agnes and Students with bags made for staff
Fruit of the spirit embroidery by Diane Jordan, Desoto, TX

Carla and Agnes - embroidery teacher with her bag to remember me.
It says " God loves U Carla" ( I thought she was making it for me.)

Fabrics for the projects donated by Carla,
and Wycliffe Bible Translator's Sewing Room

There are two scriptures that I live by when it comes to sewing as a ministry. Proverbs 3:27 - Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to help them. Exodus 35:34- The Lord has given..... the ability to teach their skills to others.

Our first day at the BCC (Baptist Children's Center) and TEC Centre was the day that we discovered that the Sewing center was more than just sewing. Seeing Zibora, the sewing instructor, again was like greeting my sister. Zibora introduced us to Agnes, the embroidery teacher. Agnes was also an evangelist and as she showed me the writings in her notebook, I knew they were doing more than teaching sewing. They were also counselors to the women in the sewing program. Believe me when I say they felt comfortable to talk with these two women about anything going on in their lives. All of the women had two notebooks. One book was for learning pattern making and about the sewing machine. The other one was filled with notes about things they needed to know as women about their bodies, their families, and their spiritual life.
On this first day I really just wanted to communicate with the teachers, show them what I had brought over and see exactly what they needed. It was very apparent that they were excited that I had come just to be with them. Most people come to work with orphans or those who have HIV/AIDS.

They greeted me each day with a kiss on both cheeks. They did not talk much to me, but they smiled alot. I soon discovered that what I brought was like a treasure to them. In the US we sew with fabric no matter what level we sew. In Kenya they have to perfect making a pattern to size and sewing on paper before they are allowed to make it out of fabric.

I knew ahead of time that this class mainly worked on blouses and skirts so it was better that I chose projects that did not involve making patterns or clothes. I brought several purse/bag projects, pillows and quilting patterns. I didn't know at the time but this would be their first time making these items. Everyday was adventure starting with me learning how to use a treadle machine - fully operating by the pumping of my legs.

They were so excited after making the first bag, the teachers volunteered the class to make 20 more for the rest of the staff. You have to understand that I only brought 1 & 1/2 duffel bags of fabric and at the time I did not know there were going to be a total of 37 students and 3 teachers and 20 staff. I had planned to make this last with two sewing programs for the whole month. That fabric seemed to multiply and divide and there was always enough.

The students were not only proud of the bags but surprised that it belonged to them. They would ask if we were making these items for them to take home. The joy they had when I said yes was indescribable. The hardest part of the class was getting them to slow down and sew a little straighter. The excitement of sewing on fabric everyday was almost overwhelming. I finally had to do a few tricks that I practice with the students here to get them to slow down and go straight. The key to all of this was realizing that I had to teach the teachers first and then it was easy for them to translate to the women.

One of the more exciting events was Tuesday afternoons when they would clean up early and then have a time of worship and discipleship. There were a couple of Muslims in the class and they would excuse themselves after the cleanup time. But their worship time was awesome. To see the young women who obviously were going through something find relief and encouragement in the sewing room let me know that the door to ministry was wide open.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Go to a place I will show you

Mayfield Guest House

We often think of Abraham when we see this title, but do we related to ourselves? The day before we left going to Kenya we were told our accommodations had been changed. Unfortunately no one knew what the new location looked like, where it was located or what amenities or lack there of we would be facing. Guest houses are known for their simplistic charm. Okay, they mostly look like old style dorm rooms. By the time we arrive at the African Inland Mission (AIM) Mayfield guest house, it was after 10pm and we just wanted to go to sleep. We realized right away it meant showers and restrooms down the hallway and not in the rooms. About 4 or 5 am we were awaken by the the nearby Mosque calling the Muslims to prayer. About 6 am birds with the loudest "caw" sound made their entrance and finally the bustling of people waking up to take showers before the breakfast bell range. All these new sounds and we had only been there 10 hrs.

We didn't know at the time but Mayfield would be its own adventure apart from our mission. Everyday we met missionaries from all around the world going to other places in Kenya, Sudan and other remote places. There were doctors, nurses, teachers, administrators, pastors, Refugee camp worker, families, professors.... There were 1year to 70 year olds. There were people staying in Africa for 2 weeks and others who had been there 30 years.

This new land of Mayfield provided what was to be our home for the next 28 days and the only information we had was what we just experience the night before.

By the 28th day we came to love the Mayfield staff. The whole staff was male and they did everything and I mean everything. They considered their work as a ministry and it showed in the way they cared for the building and all the missionaries who were coming and going everyday. They were polite and tried not to intrude, while at the same time if they saw you looking sad they did not hesitate to say something to cheer you up.

We had know idea what it would be like in this new land but God had already worked out the plan so that we felt comfortable without the details. Is that not what he asked of Abraham? Go to the land that you know nothing about its details and I will show you that I have already prepared it for you.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Ministry starts on the Airplane

Interns (Kristin, Melissa) and Carla

When you're getting ready to go on a mission trip you think about what you will do when you get there. But you never know what type of ministry will be needed before you get to your location.

My first encounter started on the plane from London to Nairobi. An elderly woman sat in the aisle seat next to me. It did not take long for me to realize that she didn't speak any English and I knew I didn't speak her language. I thought, well that means I will get lots of sleep on this flight.
Well the time came that the man on the other side of me needed to get out and I had to try to figure out how to get her to get up. After making several gestures she finally realized that I was telling her to stand up. When I saw how long it took to get her to move I decided it might be best if I would also get up and go to the restroom and take the time to walk around a little.

About 30 minutes after returning to my seat, I felt someone punching my arm. It was the elderly lady. She was trying to communicate something and I just was not getting it. I believed she was asking about where the restroom was, but then I realized she wanted me go with her to the restroom and watch the door. I laughed to myself because it never occurred to me that someone would ask a complete stranger to watch a locked restroom door on an airplane. Believe me when I say she stood their until I understood that she wanted me to go with her.

While she was inside I thought" Lord is this where the ministry starts? I was looking forward to Kenya and yet you put someone in my path like the Parable of the Good Samaritan." While she was not hurt physically, she needed someone to come along side and help. Was I going to be so busy getting to my ministry, to serve on the way to the ministry? Perhaps I needed to be stopped in my tracks - on the airplane- and be reminded that ministry to people is waiting at every turn. Do I pass by or do I stop and help no matter how small the task?

Well just to make sure I got the point, she punched me in the arm about 3 hours later to go again to the restroom and this time I understood right away.

On our way back from Kenya I thought I saw that elderly woman again, but she looked more relaxed and she was going to the restroom on her own. It occurred to me that it was probably her first plane ride and she didn't know what to expect and trusting a complete stranger was all she could do.

I thank God every time He reminds me of the little things in ministry.