Friday, May 7, 2010

Update 5.3.2010

April and Devan Arrive! - The eagerly anticipated time finally arrived and after much worry (because of the Iceland volcano) and a changed reservation, April and Devan were both able to travel successfully – Devan through Amsterdam and April through Dubai. Devan arrived Friday evening and we enjoyed a day shopping and visiting with him before the three of us picked April up on her birthday at the airport Saturday evening. We greeted her with birthday flowers and came home to birthday dinner – even Italian chicken with our last two cans of real cream of mushroom soup! (We may never see it again here.)

Early morning trip to Kilili – Braving confused sleep schedule, we awoke early to prepare for a trip to our farthest away branch, Kilili. We got ready in darkness with just one lantern between us as there was no power! April showered and washed her hair by lantern light. We couldn't find the matches to light candles as we had used them for birthday candles the night before. Welcome to Africa! We were glad we prepared most of the lunch before going to bed. We headed to the hills and enjoyed seeing everything through new eyes. What an adventure and culture shock as the beauties and differences of culture were experienced for the first time. Pictures we have sent home just don't do justice to the real thing – from mud huts with thatched roofs to ox carts and people carrying things on their heads. One big giraffe almost walked onto the road before us – we were looking at a further distance before we noticed him.

At the Kilili Branch people were so warm and welcoming. They loved meeting our children. Elder Blake and I were both supposed to speak in Sacrament Meeting but President Makiti just had me speak as Elder Blake was busy interviewing two sisters to be baptized. At the end of the meeting April and Devan were asked to say a few words to the people. They did a nice job of greeting the people.

April had made 300+ CTR bracelets – enough for all the children in our four branches (she made and baked clay CTR beads) and even enough for the young women. The primary president had her greet the children as she translated for them. April also told them “Waja” (Kikamba greeting to a younger person) and the children answered, “Ah.” It was fun. After the meetings the presidency gave the children the bracelets and helped them put them on. They were so proud of them as they showed them to family and friends. It was a fun experience after all the work and effort.

Baptism - After sacrament meeting there was a baptism for two special sisters who had been waiting and preparing for a long time. They were very ready and excited. The whole branch stayed for the service out in the courtyard of the church where the baptismal font was surrounded by the water tank on one side and banana and papaya trees on the other. It was hot with the African sun beating down, but the Spirit was there.

African Shopping Trip - Monday we spent shopping and preparing for the Masai Mara Safari with the other couple missionaries. We visited Jogo Market (after getting lost in the Nairobi slums!) It is like a factory with small booths where they make what they sell. You can watch them cut out and stitch (on treadle sewing machines) almost anything – even soccer balls! We bought one (soccer ball) for Mitini Branch with the family money from Christmas. April and Devan bought safari hats and a few other things for friends and family. We next visited the “Zebra Market” where they have many beautiful African arts but they start the price very high (especially to Mzungus) and you are expected to dicker on the price. Devan really got into it and they enjoyed the experience (for one time) but said they thought we “fed them to the wolves!” as people were clamoring “Come to my booth, Come see my things for you!”

Unbelievable Adventure at the Masai Mara – Tuesday morning we climbed aboard the bus for the airport to begin our 1-hour flight trip to Masai Mara, the most loved safari park in Africa. All the couples from the Kenya Nairobi Mission, a couple from the D.R.Congo Mission, and five family visitors traveled together – twenty-nine of us. The weather was perfect for flying and we flew on three small planes. Devan and April both got to sit in the co-pilot chair for the flight as we were on different planes. Looking out the window we could see the scenery change and become more like we had pictured Africa from the National Geographic pictures we had seen. It was beautiful. As we landed on the dirt runway we were were loaded into safari vans and taken to the Intrepid Lodge where they gave us hot washcloths to freshen up and cold juice as they oriented us and assigned tent cabins. The four of us were assigned a double tent with a sitting room in the middle so we could be together.

There began three days of safari rides and delicious buffet meals together in the open dining area. Devan and April even enjoyed swimming in the pool (Devan had a sunburn to show for it!) Our guide, Rafael, was a Masai and we learned much from him about the culture of his tribe. He was a wonderful and knowledgeable guide and could answer any question about birds, animals, trees, or plants. We kept pinching ourselves to see if it was real and not a dream. The country was so big and beautiful that as we viewed God's handiwork we thought of the scripture in Alma 30:44 which says “...all things denote there is a God;” We could feel that.

As with all good things, it ended too soon and on Thursday late afternoon we were headed to the small runway for our flight back to Nairobi. We'll share just a few of our favorite animal pictures. Our biggest adventure was when we were viewing a large group of elephants, and one of the herd (which we hadn't seen and who had been separated from the others) came running up behind us trumpeting loudly. I don't think we've ever seen April's eyes so wide! Even the guide was surprised.

No Time to Rest! - Friday morning early we left for our high-in-the hills branch, Ilima. I think April and Devan may have thought we were exaggerating about roads (trails) we drive to get there, but they don't now. It was a beautiful day and we were greeted as usual by a large group of children who are always excited to see the funny visitors and the white truck. The members enjoyed meeting our family and April helped teach keyboard class while Devan entertained, and was entertained by, the neighborhood children. He looked like the Pied Piper – especially since he had treats in his pockets. As we saw the scenery through our children's eyes were were again awed at the beauties of these hills – of the majesty of God's handiwork. We ended with a temple preparation lesson and headed home to rest.

Baby Elephants and Shopping – Saturday we visited the baby elephant orphanage just outside Nairobi. We were delighted by the antics of these little orphan elephants and how much they liked their caretakers. (See pictures.) We finished the day with some shopping for souvenirs as the week was drawing to a close and it was getting time for family to depart. We ended the day with a game of Rook – Isn't that family tradition?

Last Day in the Hills – Sunday we went to Mitini and Kyambeke Branches where the greeting was the same, warm and friendly. April was asked to pray in prayer meeting before church and lead the music for sacrament meeting (which is okay except that you have to sing a solo of the first line as an introduction before people join in, because there is no accompaniment! They also sing most hymns differently than they are written which is interesting to lead.) It was testimony meeting and what a thrill to see these new members (most of them just months in the Church) bear such strong, simple testimonies. The Church is the same all over the world.

We left shortly after meetings were over to get home and get Devan to the airport. Monday we enjoyed time with April visiting and preparing her things to go. We took her to the airport that night. She was ready to get home to Brian and the children. He was so good to encourage her to go and make it possible. It is now so quiet around our flat! (We have heard from April and Devan and we are thankful that they are both home safely.)

We love and appreciate our family and friends. Thanks for the fun surprises you sent to us in April's suitcase! The only thing that could have made the week even better would have been to share it with you also. Have a wonderful week.

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