Tuesday, June 05, 2012

My Journey To Kenya, and Beyond

The following is a letter that I sent to our senior pastor, Keith Stewart.  I decided to post the letter because it details the journey that I have been on that have culminated with my trip to Kenya and my ongoing fundraising for water projects in Africa.  I figured this is as good a time as any to share this as I have my second of three half-marathons coming this weekend.

My back has decided to act up again, keeping me relatively immobile during a recent trip to India.  Thankfully, I was able to work since all of my meetings were moved from the office to the hotel due to a strike that was occurring in Bangalore during our visit.  Since I have been home, the back is better, but I can tell something is still amiss.  After mowing the backyard today with little pain today, I've decided to continue with my plans to run this weekend in Chicago.  I would appreciate your support as I am still far from my goal of funding a deep water well (borehole) in Africa.  Since my visit to Kenya, I am more dedicated to this goal than ever, having seen the transformative effects of what clean water access can have on a community.

I would appreciate your support, regardless of the amount, to this effort.

[[[  Click here to visit my fundraising page and make a donation ]]]


I am sitting in India, but I find my thoughts continually going back to Kenya.  Since I cannot attend the meeting with you this week, I thought I would put my thoughts to “paper”.  I wanted you to know the profound experience that World Vision, sponsorship, and the trip to Katito have been to me and my family.  I apologize, in advance, for the long read.

When you first started to discuss Katito, I was not moved.  My reaction was probably like that of many others…I questioned why Africa was becoming a priority when there was (is) so much need locally.  As you have since discussed, my initial feelings, or lack thereof, were just a cover-up for my own self-centeredness and malaise.  I asked, “Why Africa?  What are we doing here?”  The questions should have been, “What I am doing here?”  But, I wasn’t doing anything, so I never asked that question because I didn’t like the answer.

Even though my heart was not in Africa, Angie and I sponsored several children.  It was important to Angie and I have learned to follow her heart, as hers has always been directed towards others more than mine.  However, making monthly payments was the limit of my participation.  I fostered relationships with our sponsored children not directly, but through my children…encouraging them to write to our sponsored children, but never doing it myself.  Again, I relegated responsibility to others.

We then participated in “Step Into Africa” at the church.  God began to work in me, or more accurately, I was becoming amenable to allowing God to work in me.  My experience in the exhibit was profound.  Unfortunately, my self-centeredness was stronger.  Although moved by the experience, enough to sponsor another child (which really was a replacement for one of our children who moved out of the ADP), I continued to limit my participation to making monthly payments.

Then, Lorraine stood on stage and mentioned the run to help raise the final $68,000 to complete the water project.  She stood on stage and I remember what she said vividly – “any physical ability can participate”.  I thought about this, and decided to participate.  However, my motivation continued to be selfish.  I was going to run to see if God would change me…my body, that is. I know I am a man who requires goals, and I thought I found the perfect opportunity to lose weight and get into shape.  I signed up and started to diet and train.

God did change me, but not in ways I ever imagined.  He started to change my heart.  Yes, I’ve lost 60 pounds during this process, and have run several half marathons, but this change is minor compared to the love that I now feel for our family in Katito.  As I did my training, I kept thinking of what I was training for.  I would think about our sponsored children and the others that the water project would help.  This was an entirely cerebral exercise, as I had no clue to the real suffering, the real needs of these people – but I thought of them nonetheless. I started praying for them.  I started to love them, sight unseen.  I was also moved by the amazing generosity that I saw from the people that donated to my cause.  I raised over $3000 with last year’s run and am still amazed by that result.

My heart change resulted in me wanting to do even more.  This year, with the help of World Vision, I have signed up for three 13.1’s to try and raise $13,700 for a deep water well.  Although this well will not go to Katito, I am supremely confident that wherever it does go, it will be a tremendous blessing to the people that it serves.  To date, I have raised over $3,600.

Then, I got the call that I was being invited to go to Katito to celebrate the completion of the water project.  I cried when I got that call.  I am crying as I recall the call.  I blogged about my feelings then, so I won’t recount it here.  If you are interested, you can read it here:

Needless to say, your prayer that we get “wrecked” has been answered.  I have been so profoundly changed that I still cannot adequately process or communicate my feelings about the trip.  I do know one thing, that God wants more from me and that, for the first time in my life, my heart is amenable to that.  Josh led us in “lecto divinia” while in Katito, and God said to me (in a voice more sure than I have ever heard) that He “NEEDS” me “ALL IN”.  It was a most profound experience in a plethora of profound experiences.  I am still unsure as to what He meant, but I am open to the possibilities and am spending more time than ever with Him to figure it out.

I want to thank you for your teaching and guidance.  I am glad that your heart has been broken with the things that have broken His.  I am glad that you’ve so passionately and eloquently have shared what that means.  I have heard your message, His message, and the message of the wonderful people of Katito.

I will end with the words of a community health worker that we met in Katito.  Her name is Mary, but she is called “Adult” and I wouldn’t be surprised if you know her.  She is 76 years old, has an indomitable spirit, and cares for a woman with AIDS (also named Mary) with four small children.  She asked us to “never forget” what we saw that day…and I have not and will never forget.  I will forever remember the amazing love and grace that we saw that day and each and every day in Katito.   It energizes me.  But I also realize that there is so much more to do.  And, as I cultivate a relationship with Mary and her family (as Angie and I will be sponsoring one of the children of that family), it is my prayer that we can help that family know God’s grace as much as they’ve help me see it for myself.

Please let me know how I can help with the celebration weekend or sponsorship.  I want others to experience the life change that I have experience.  I want others to understand that when I am asked, I say I have nine children, four here at home, and five in Katito.

And, although I am unsure as to what it really means, I know that I am “all in”.

God Bless,


N.B. I have blogged about my experience with the runs and fundraising at:

And, have begun posting my journals from the Katito trip at:

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Days 6,7 and 8 - Kenya Journal

It was a difficult transition for us to go from Katito to the Mara.  In an instant we went from incredible poverty and need to oppulance.  The Maasai Mara Game Camp was a beautiful resort in the middle of the Mara.  We had incredible food, great accomodations, and everything we needed.  I know I wasn't the only one on the team to struggle with the transition, but it was explained to us that the Kenyan's really believed it important for us to see the beautiful side of their country.  Kenyan's are amazingly proud of the beauty and abundance of their country and wanted to make sure that we experienced the good with the bad.  And experience it we did.

Kenya journal - 11-13 May, 2012

Friday morning was our getaway day.  Some of us decided to return to the market before we left.  Peter drove us and we did some final shopping and returned to the hotel for checkout and to pick of the rest of the team.  Amazingly, the entire IPA team returned to see us off.  That was bittersweet, as we got to see them all again, but also had to say goodbye again.

We flew from Kisumu to Nairobi and saw off Justus and Tracy.  We then got into our vans and drove to the Sarova Hotel to take care of the safari charges.  This was the one part of the trip that I was concerned about our security.  We did not know our drivers (although transportation had been arranged prior).  When we arrived at the beautiful hotel, my concerns were eliminated, at least until we saw our plane.  After taking care of the charges, we drove to the small airport.  We waited a while for our Air Kenya flight.  Our plane had 11 seats.  Our weight allowance for baggage was 33 pounds per person...we were all way over and had to pay $360 total in baggage fees.  Our 45 minute flight to the Maasai Mara was incredible.  We stayed at 10,000 feet and saw Maasai villages and their Acacia tree rings that protect them from the animals.  We saw some game from the plane, including a couple of elephant near the airstrip.  We landed on the dirt runway at the Keekorok airstrip...it was terribly frightening and exciting.

We met our drivers, we given a refreshing towel and drink of juice and were whisked to our first game drive.  It was unbelievable.  I don't remember the names of all of the animals, but needless to say we saw everything over the course of the three days.  The only animals my car did not see were baboons, zebra, leopards, and crocodile.  We saw everything else: elephants, tipu, herdebeast, Grahame's gazelle, Thompson's gazelle, cheetahs, lions - including lions feeding on two cape buffalo, cape buffalo, antelope, rhino, giraffe, hippos, and many others.  After the first drive, we went to the hotel.  We checked in and went to our tents. They were awesome...very comfortable with a great shower / bathroom.

We ended up going on that drive on Friday, two on Saturday and another on Sunday.  The itinerary was to meet for coffee at 6:00am and leave the camp at 6:30am.  After about 3 hours of driving around, we would return to the hotel for breakfast.  Except on Saturday, where we had a bush breakfast scheduled.  We ate in the park with giraffes in the background.  It was amazing.  We had champagne, great food, and great company over amazing scenery and giraffes keeping a eye on us.

We returned to the hotel and several of us decided to fish in the pond.  Using rods with no reels (like fishing with cane poles), we caught a lot of fish: Nile carp, mudfish, and tilapia.  It was fun and very relaxing.  We then had lunch, tea, and went out to our evening game drive.

Sunday was the same, but we decided to go to the river to see the hippos.  We got out of the cars and saw the hippos in the water.  Because the water is high right now, there were no crocs where we were.  We learned that the river we were seeing feeds into Lake Victoria, which feeds the Nile river.

We returned to the hotel for breakfast, but I skipped thinking a shower was more important.  We checked out and stopped at the Maasai village.  They danced for us and we went into one of the dung homes.  The corralled us ito their market and gave us the hard sell.  Ultimately, I had had enough of that and decided to head back to the cars.  We did learn that the Maasai do hunt lions and are required to be part of a hunting party that kill a lion in order to get circumcised and married.

We then left for the airstrip and took our 11-seater to Nairobi, where our drivers were waiting for us to take us to the international airport.  We then waited several hours for our flight to London.  I'm on our flight to Dallas as I type this.  We have about 2 hours left and I am getting excited about getting home and seeing my girls.  I am also excited about continuing what God is doing in me, as well.

We have so many takeaways from this trip that it will take me a long time to process all of them.  I look forward to continuing this journal and "getting what they have!". Mambo sawa sawa...things are getting better, and so am I.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Day 5 - Kenya Journal

Today covers the water project celebration, but was only one aspect of another amazing day.  As I read what I wrote of that day, I note that I did a very poor job in capturing the joy, pride, and happiness that the team and I felt during the celebration.  It was so evident to us that the entire community was celebrating with us...you cannot imagine how it felt to be a part of that.  In my mind, I thought of all the people that raised money AND all of the people that donated to the effort to get it done.  I also thought about the transformed lives that access to clean water will provide.  I thought about the children who won't get sick and who will be able to attend school.  I thought about the women who have to walk for minutes instead of hours to get water.  I thought about the community united by the presence of the well.  I thought about the people who donated to my run last year.  And, I thought about my runs this year and the enduring need for other communities to be transformed with clean water.


Katito journal - 10 May 2012

Our day started with devotional and worship led by Springcreek. Simon led worship. We quickly realized that our worship has a lot more musical accompaniment, so it was a little awkward - but still fun. Dylan led devotional and spoke about Ex 3:1-4...he talked about how when God is with us, we can do anything. He did a really good job. Several of the team members shared reflections for their week, as well.

We then left for our activities. The first was a child headed household. The father of this household had passed a while back, but the mom died recently. The house was led by the oldest child, a 13 year old girl who had 5 siblings, 3 of which lived in the house. Two had been removed to other family, but we were informed that typically aunts or uncles will take the children that are most able to work or otherwise provide somehow. The remaining children were very young and to make things even worse, they were responsible for their grandmother, who is elderly and cannot provide for herself. There is a sponsored child in the house, so we were pleased by that...or Angie and I were likely to have a sixth sponsored child. We heard about how WV helps the family and left a gift of food with them. I believe that this is the family that we gave some direct funds to as well, having collected 28,000 shillings from the team (8000 shillings is $100). We were informed that it takes about 5,000 shillings to feed the family for two weeks.

Next was a farming cooperative of 25, mostly older women. The cooperative had been helped by WV through the donation of the cattle and seeds. The cooperative, however, had much of their own skin in the game, as they had purchased the plow. Additionally, the government had trained the members on how to plant, etc. It is amazing to see how much of a community effort everything is in Katito. By organizing their resources, they are much more able to do things that they would not be able to do as individuals. We also learned that the women use some of their crops to donate to OVC's and others. The generosity of everyone we met in Katito was another of those amazing aspects of what we saw. We plowed their fields, and some of the team planted seeds, as well. We moved to another area and discussed the cooperative while enjoying,the shade of a tree and some cokes. The women, in their amazing generosity gave us the baskets that they make. We were all ready to purchase them and instead they gave them to us.  They were really remarkable women.

We then visited Kachan primary school and saw their water projects, and were entertained by a dramatic skit. The skit was very entertaining as the lead character, Area Chief Paulo Paulo learned the necessity of washing your hands after using the latrine or before and after eating. As we introduced ourselves, I introduced myself as Chief Paulo Paulo Mzunga, which got great laughs. We saw the 30 sq. meter rain catchment tank, the latrines, the hand washing stations, etc. We also learned that these water projects not only provide safe drinking water, they are directly responsible for increasing attendance rates in school which has led to higher test scores. Additionally, the water has unified the community.

We returned to the IPA office for late lunch, which was bittersweet as we realized that our time with the IPA was running short.

Then we headed off to the Magunga borehole for the celebration. There were two large tents arranged for the celebration and the community was all present. The area chief, the area counselor, the water commission, the secondary school principle and staff, the primary head teacher and staff, the villagers, and students from both schools, as well as WV from Katito, the sub-branch, and Nairobi, and of course, us. After dancing with the villagers and students, we commissioned the borehole as Josh cut the ribbon. Then we planted two trees near the borehole. We then returned to our seats and endured several speeches from dignitaries. The children did several performances (poems and some rapping). We introduced ourselves and Josh asked me to say a few words. My focus was that we were all working together and vital to the process, and without any one part (sponsors, WV, community, etc) it wouldn't work. We then wrapped up and did some more video in the area. We also played with the children while they were given candy.

After the celebration, we returned to the hotel with the World Vision staff, for a celebration and goodbye dinner...the dinner was a highlight of the trip. We shared stories from the week and thanked the staff for their hospitality and for their work. They gave us gifts and shared a little about each of us. One of the most moving parts was when Albert shared his story. Albert is the Katito IPA leader. He shared his story about how he was from Katito, AND he was a sponsored child. He had us all in tears. His message was to uplift us as an example of what sponsorship can accomplish. He didn't need to share His story to uplift us, as the entire visit had done that, but it was the perfect end to our trip. Josh led us in communion, we hung out for a little while (it was well after midnight) and said our tearful goodbyes. It was hard to leave them and I am surprised by the emotion I feel now as I type this several days later.