Journal Excerpts from Kenya Mission Trip 2019 (author Rene Smith)

January 28, Monday

Michael is really sick with head cold/flu symptoms since coming home from Ghana. Please pray for his healing and protection for the rest of us. He pressed out to service yesterday but has been pretty miserable. We are packing to leave as a family for Kenya this Sunday.

January 29, Tuesday

I’ve pulled my neck weighing 12 pieces of luggage over and over to get that perfect 50# mark to be able to take all we can to Huruma Orphanage. Since Sunday it has gotten so stiff I really need a touch. I need to finish packing today.

January 30, Thursday

Seems like the devil is trying to attack from all sides this week. Ethan went snowboarding today and had a bad fall landing on both wrists. He can not use his hands tonight and is in a lot of pain. I pray there aren’t broken bones involved. We needed those hands on this trip. We have just gotten him home and settled in bed. Praying he can get needed sleep.

January 31, Friday

Fractures to both growth plates, right radius and multiple small bone fractures in right wrist. So much to process today. Sometimes it’s hard to see the good in difficult things. So I’m thankful if he had to break something, he broke arms instead of legs.

February 4, Monday

Leaving JFK. Feeling your prayers. 
A better day today!An empty flight means extra seats beside us all. What a blessing.

February 5, Tuesday

We made it to Nairobi. Ethan’s pain is mostly gone tonight. We thank the Lord.

February 10, Sunday

We began our time at Huruma with a weekend meeting. There were morning and afternoon services each day. Each service had a teaching session followed by a message. After the afternoon session the men and women had split sessions for a short time of sharing. They do not have services at night. It is so wonderful to be here a little longer than a typical 2 week trip. We are looking forward to spending time with the orphans the next week and a half before we make a trip to Tanzania.

February 11, Monday

Ethan is teaching the boy’s Spanish phrases and they are teaching him Swahili. As Michael and I walked to the dining hall tonight some boys passed us and said “Hasta la vista! Adiós amigo!”

We had an electrician out and learned that the voltage coming in from the main line was spiking way over 300. We have had to have work done on the guest house for things that were not functioning. Craftsmanship is greatly lacking in Kenya. I don’t know how the electricians and plumbers stay in business. I was so happy to get a working stove so we can cook. This week I am going to bake 200 cupcakes with the girls for a party to pass out all of their gifts from sponsors!!

February 12, Tuesday

Our first family meal—breakfast burritos with wraps from home and the sweetest pineapple you’ve ever tasted. Michael has been meeting with plumbers, electricians mechanics and builders. It is always good to do projects with oversight so we will do what we can while here. Some projects are on faith because we don’t have funds for all. We are traveling to the interior to visit two congregations for service.

Today we visited two congregations for service. The second is a new work at some distance into the interior over really bad roads. At one place our driver stopped and got out to to see which way to get through the deep mud. Michael slipped over into his seat and we took off to the other side. When Elfas got back in and said “That was awesome”. ? We were served food at each place and enjoyed the fellowship with all the people. We passed out Gospel Truth issues in Swahili

February 13, Wednesday

Michael studied this morning while Ethan and I worked on his college classes and Vanessa helped me clean and organize in the house. This afternoon, Michael and I attended the local cottage midweek service which is held in varying homes from week to week.

Stellah house Meeting is held every Wednesday afternoon. It is an adult meeting so the children stayed behind as we drove about 20 minutes away into very back country until we came to a widow’s home settled in a valley with a wonderful breeze. She walks two hours to come to services at the orphanage. Michael taught a wonderful lesson on having an answer for the hope within us. Afterward, this sister graciously welcomed us and fed us all chicken, Ugali, avocados, papaya, pineapple, mandazi and chai.

February 14, Thursday

Two pots, one lid. I’d like rice with my lentils but my lentils won’t fit in the small, lidless pot. Michael somehow found a piece of red velvet cake and a silk Rose for V-Day. Dinner will be special with or without rice!

February 15, Friday

Thursday Michael and Ethan traveled all day to three locations for service while I stayed with Vanessa to do schoolwork, iron our clothes (on a flat surface ) ?and go to town for supplies for the weekend. After a family meal together Vanessa helped me sort and prepare all the gifts for the orphans.

Thank you for all the gift packs and extra supplies to give the orphans a special treat. Saturday we are having a party together after lunch.

Morning devotions with the primary school and baking cupcakes all day. The new oven performed beautifully for 8 hours of baking. You can only fit one muffin tin in at a time. These are for the celebration tomorrow. We also started portraits and thank you videos. Michael is gone having services. Every day is packed from morning to night. I can’t seem to ever get to bed before midnight.

Ethan was put in charge of printing a set of 20 back issues of each Gospel Truth for some ministers that are new. Two staff members are assisting him and it has been an all day project. We really need to provide these in book form because they contain most of the main doctrines with many supporting subjects. Now that we are on Issue 27 there are years of foundational issues that new contacts have never read.

Every night Michael sits down to study and this happens in minutes ( he falls asleep), then he rouses himself to work some more. He goes all day long, serving these people he loves so much. Observing needs, implementing projects, seeing tradesmen early and leaving for services all day to get home and struggle to stay awake as he prepares for the next day. Often he preaches 4 times in a day. I’m so glad we can be here with him on this trip. ❤️❤️❤️

Michael, Bro. Peter and Sis. Rhoda traveled over some terrible roads to reach this congregation yesterday. They had service under the tree with someone translating into Luo, a native dialect. The translator was not fluid which makes it very hard when you know you aren’t effectively able to share your heart. Afterward, they visited the nearby school and gave a Bible lesson to the children. When they got back, all three looked pretty road weary.

February 16, Saturday

Our daily ritual. Thankful for removable casts and this roll of tubing I found on Amazon last minute. I can wash his cast with antibacterial soap at night and dry it and refresh the lining so it doesn’t itch or smell so bad with the heat. At night he uses an ice pack for a while when the casts are off. I found an ice tray in Nairobi and there is a small freezer on the refrigerator here which is wonderful. His fingers are more useable as the wrist bones heal and the swelling has gone done mostly. They do still ache especially if he uses them too much. He has been such a good patient.

PARTY TIME!!! Thank you all. The children were overwhelmed with joy at all the gifts and they LOVE cupcakes. Later some of them could be seen walking the grounds with gifts still clutched in their hands. They love the fidget spinners and watches and were made so happy today.

After our busy, busy day we slipped away for a quiet walk down the old trail and wound up at Bro. Peter’s mother’s home. She broke her hip last year so we found her sitting on a foam mattress on the floor shelling maize into a bowl. We had a word of prayer together before making our way back and cutting through the soccer field where Michael showed to boys he could still do pull-ups on their bars. We are sitting on the porch enjoying the evening sounds, laundry drying on the line beside us. We are so tired, but so blessed and grateful for this day, the one so many of you made possible. ❤️

We go through a large bottle of drinking water a day. It’s one thing we don’t chance—drinking local water—even though the well should have good water. So one of the last things I do at night is refill the water bottles. We keep one out and one in the freezer ideally. Thankfully, we have had no major stomach issues with food. The children have been taking some meals with the children at the orphanage. They take their own dishes and utensils and the food is hot and fresh.

February 17, Sunday

Dinner at Bro. Peter’s home. Her girls prepared a wonderful meal. They have a large family as they keep their orphaned nephews and nieces also. They are coming here tomorrow so I’m wracking my brain to make an American meal with available groceries. So far I’ve determined dessert as Apple crisp. The chicken here is so scrawny and tough it is hard to get off the bone. Not sure if cooking longer would work or not. And then I only have two pots. ? This will be interesting.

Sunday morning Michael gave teaching on How to Behave in the House of God and then preached a stirring message on the Danger of Delay. This Sunday was just the local congregation with the orphans. We had a real breakthrough altar service. Many orphans came forward and knelt to pray. My10 year old was among them. It was with holy awe that I knelt among them praying with different ones. Probably 3 dozen children and adults came forward and other orphans came to pray later as well on the guest house porch. Thank the Lord for the convicting power of the Spirit and the saving grace of Christ.

Clinton Javisa is one of the graduates of last year. He scored high enough that he is teaching In the secondary school while he waits on his future college plans to come together. When Michael talked with the graduates earlier this week, Bro. Peter asked them if they were saved. Clinton said no. Michael told him he appreciated his honesty and that we would be praying. All week he has been carrying a burden for him. They had conversations and Michael assured him that he was not pressuring him but that he needed to count the cost and be prepared to make a life long decision for Christ. This morning Michael had a heavy burden for an evangelistic message and when his eyes searched the crowd, Clinton was missing. This evening Clinton came looking for him and they sat together on the porch of the guest house talking about what it means to be saved. Clinton asked Michael to lead him in prayer and gave his heart to the Lord. His face was shining when they called me out to share the good news. I looked at his shirt and said, “Shine like a diamond, Clinton!” It’s your time to SHINE. Michael came inside, eyes glistening and said, “That’s what makes the whole trip worth it right there”.

February 18, Monday

This is midterm break so most students have gone home for a week and will come back next weekend. This means a smaller group of mainly orphans are remaining here. Today was a harvest day and they all worked so hard and finished the plot they were harvesting for maize. We spent $20 for meat to go with their noon meal which was brought to them in the field. When they came home some of them roasted ears over the fire which was a real treat. Maize is tough and chewy more like field corn, not at all like sweet corn.

Today we went to market. Vanessa bought fabric for a dress and we shopped for food to have Bro. Peter and Sis. Rhoda’s family for supper. Dinner prep was interrupted by electrical outages and the electrician needing to work right next to the stove but eventually, we completed a meal of stewed chicken like gumbo but with Masala seasoning instead of Cajun over rice with lentils and corn muffins of maize meal and beef sausages with apple crisp for dessert. Bro. Peter and Sis. Rhoda came along with their 5 children and 5 orphaned nieces and nephews which stay in their home. We had a lovely time. With all the reverses in dinner prep Michael jumped right in and helped me not only with preparing, but until the dishes were done, which included having to unclog the kitchen drain of excess plumbers putty. As he said. “Mission work starts at home”.

February 19, Tuesday

A terribly long 9 hour day of traveling to two congregations in Kisii region where Bros. Joel and Wilson minister. I felt like someone put me in a tumble dryer on low for much of the day. The roads don’t even have to look bad to be really rough and cause you to have to snake your way avoiding the largest stones. Vanessa and I worked on learning decimals in the front of the van while Ethan learned more Swahili from Alan, Bro. Peter’s son who is also 16. 

There were a large number of children so I pulled a piece of paper from my bible and folded it into a boat, borrowed a wrap from Sis. Rhoda and we made a storm with the boat riding the waves telling how Jesus calmed the storm. The memory verse was “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”
It was such a blessing to pray with one of the former orphans at the Home to rededicate her life to the Lord. She is now married with a child. We were fed meals at both places and we got back to the orphanage at about 6 p.m. Exhausted, I asked Michael, “Was it worth it to spend 9 hours and only reach two small congregations?” He only said, “It was to those who prayed to be saved today.” ? So we sat on the porch in the cool evening until the mosquitoes drove us into the warm little house.

February 20, Wednesday

One of the orphans asked the children how we Americans can drink tea without getting our noses in it!!! ? ? ?

A slower day. A simple breakfast of boiled egg and toast with jam as Michael and I weren’t eating. Vanessa worked on school. When I have a bit of time, I am making corrections to Swahili Gospel Truth issues. Michael attended part of a funeral of a local man. The girls washed our laundry which I had to bring in this afternoon to beat a thunderstorm so now it is half dry to sort through. ?Ethan played Aggravation with the teens. Michael installed new seats on the swings then took us to town for some local fare tonight. Our car tire was locked because we were white folk. After haggling some time we left with a $5 fine. Parking is .50. It is common to be taken advantage of continually, overcharged, lied to because we are Muzungus. This is one of the challenges of serving: keeping a soft heart to needs around while having wisdom to know when to say “No.”

February 21, Thursday

Vanessa’s dress in the colors of the Kenyan flag. A 6 yd. piece of fabric costs $11 and Sis. Mary, a seamstress in the church made it for $5, even making a skirt out of the remaining fabric.

Butchering chickens with a dull knife was quite impressive to my citified children.

The boy’s bathroom is being converted to a shower room only. The plumbing just never worked out in the original bathrooms. The children weren’t ready for this step and it was plugged up all the time so we went back to latrines. Rather than leave them empty we boarded up the toilets and are just going to use the shower stalls for bucket baths.

Harvesting again. The rains come next month so they need to replant soon. These fields help bring the food bill down a little. It costs $150 per day for food here and they are feeding 220 children 3 meals.

Today is day two of harvesting and Vanessa joined in at the first field. The new chain saw was put into use today. It will be helpful for cutting down trees and cutting into firewood for the kitchen. Michael went to the hardware store to get supplies to finish some projects. I worked on ironing clothes washed yesterday. Ethan did tutoring again. Michael and I went to visit a new minister that has been very interested in the truth. We went over roads that turned into a walking trail that turned into an arroyo. I just closed my eyes part of the time. It was in a beautiful valley. His family served a traditional meal and we visited about farming methods and other topics. This evening we are preparing to go to Tanzania tomorrow.

February 24, Sunday

The Lord was so merciful to grant protection and spiritual deliverance while we were in Tanzania. It will take me a few posts to document it. We thank you for your prayers in our behalf. I want to eventually share the story of a girl tormented by evil spirits who was set free. Praise God for the power of the blood of Jesus. It has lost none of its power.

The guest house rents rooms for $4/night.

The Lord blessed with anointed services usually marked with a teaching session immediately followed by preaching. There would be lunch and then the same pattern in the afternoon which concluded services for the day. Topics ranged from the Old and New Covenant, Salvation, Consecration, Holiness and the Church of God. The crowd was smaller because some have fallen away through time, not willing to follow the narrow way of Truth. We are thankful for those who are standing. Michael has printed the Bible studies from the Gospel Truth issues that correlated with the topics and they were eagerly received. We thank God for those who sought the Lord in prayer. Please pray that the church will grow in Tanzania.

February 24, Sunday Evening

“Were you bewitched?”, one of the students asked when we returned from Tanzania. Thank you for for prayers once again. They know Michael has gotten sick there multiple times. We appreciate the Lord’s mercies.

I think the rains are starting. It sounds wonderful on the tin roof. This is our last week at Huruma. But the drips of leaks on the ceiling tiles sound ominous. Hoping they don’t come in over anyone’s bed. 

February 25, Monday

This being our last week at Huruma, I am working on sponsorship details in earnest: updating information, taking yearly photos, and collecting letters. Michael is trying to wrap up various maintenance and improvement projects and we are enjoying our last few days here. As the rainy season approaches, laundry gets more challenging. All of it was still wet tonight so it will go back out on the line tomorrow.

February 26, Tuesday

This morning we had a simple breakfast of Toast and Avocado with hot sauce and sweet pineapple on the side. I spent the day working in earnest on Swahili Gospel Truth and sponsorship correspondence, photos, letters, etc. Michael took the children on an outing to a wild game preserve and they even took a short boat ride. Tonight we had one pot spaghetti made everything but Italian seasonings, because there are none. I added Masala to mine and the others added cayenne for more flavor. Bro. Peter and Sis. Rhoda dropped in and Alice from the office brought me a stack of letters from orphans so we welcomed them in for a visit and served them some American spaghetti. Sis. Rhoda said it was “too sweet” which means delicious. Everyone is tired out tonight. Traveling anywhere is wearing to the body because you just jostle about so much you feel a little beat up. A positive from having a hot day was that I put the laundry back out and it actually dried!!! :-

February 27, Wednesday

Baked oatmeal with fresh mango this morning. The new oven is marvelous to have. Today was midweek fellowship. They have a wonderful tradition of house to house prayer meeting so the congregation gets to know one another better. Food is always served afterward. Bro. Fred who hosted was thanking the Lord for healing him. In 2017 after elections he was in town and got caught by a mob who was rioting. If you don’t join the activists in burning and vandalizing they will sometimes kill you. Someone hit him so hard with a heavy iron post that it broke his upper thigh bone. He was in bed for 6 months and has a permanent limp but thanks be to God he can walk. We had a simple supper of grilled cheese and played a round of Aggravation before devotions.

February 28, Thursday

My mind is starting to flit back and forth between home and Kenya. I try not to think about the conveniences of home I miss most when I am gone and don’t count the days. Kenya and home are like two different worlds in a lot of ways. I will miss all my “children” here. I love them so and have watched them grow. Tomorrow is our last day at the orphanage. We won’t come back here when he head to meetings in Kisumu region early Saturday. We fly home next Wednesday so we have a few more days but the good-byes are right around the corner.

Michael led the weekly chapel service for secondary students at 7 this morning. His day was filled with a board meeting and visiting. He also spent time getting the computers updated with proper drivers for printing. Bro. Wilson came this evening to visit and bring a farewell gift of his own home grown ground nuts. Bro. Peter and family were gone attending to the funeral plans of a pillar in the congregation.

March 1, Friday

Our last day at Huruma. Packing up the house and saying goodbyes. Michael printed a few more Gospel Truths even though he wasn’t feeling very well. The children ate with the orphans since our kitchen is packed and Bro. Peter and Sis. Rhoda are gone to a funeral.

March 2, Saturday

Today the Lord worked a very big miracle for us. Yesterday, Michael was sick all day all through the night. His symptoms were very serious and his head felt it would explode. We have been here before and while we did not wish to be alarmists we reached out to our families and congregations for prayer. The devil was manifesting himself and we really fought against him. We did not know if we could travel today and Michael was almost in unbearable pain at times. Thank the Lord for coming to our rescue and helping him to get some rest. When it was time to get up the pain had eased off enough in his head that we decided to press out in faith. The Lord gave him healing as we went so much that when we arrived at Kapsabet 5 hours later he was able to preach and participate in the service. After the service we drove 2 more hours to Kisumu where we are staying the night. Michael is not strong and the head pain is increasing again so we are trusting God will give us that portion of healing grace that we need. But we praise God for what He did today. All of this really overshadowed our departure from the orphanage. We enjoyed the 4 weeks we spent there.

March 3, Sunday

When we learned that our sweet daughter, Vivian, was attending college less than two hours from Kisumu, we paid her fare to travel to Sunday services. What joy to see her and visit. Vivian is the cream of the crop. She graduated #1 from high school at Huruma in the first group of graduating orphans and has been #1 in 1,000 students every year. She finishes college in three months with a degree in Agriculture and Education. After her practical, she will come home to Huruma to work. Del-Bren Wilkins I got to personally deliver your gift and capture her reaction on video. She loves you so much.

We rested well and the Lord gave Michael a good night. The congregation at Kisumu hosted the service and we paid fare for others to join us from Uganda and Busia on the Kenya/Uganda border and other Kenya congregations. There were two translators, one translating into Swahili and another into a different language so there were three voices alternating and at times overlapping. The churches in this area could use a lot of instruction. They are still young in faith. We had a limited number of complete sets of the Gospel Truth papers. There is great need for more of this since it is already available in their own language. We really need to make a book from them. Michael has been blessed to be feeling better. There is still a presence in his head but he has been able to preach unhindered. We are at Kisumu airport waiting for a flight to Nairobi.

March 4, Monday

Today, John, a frequent taxi driver, drove us 2 hours to KituiI for two services. Kituii County is very dry and desert-like compared to other parts of Kenya. It was also hotter. When we arrived, I stepped out of the car and promptly got tangled up in a wicked thorn bush. The landscape reminded me of Mexico or one of our southwestern states. The pastor took us on a walk to tour the area while we waited on people to arrive. About an hour later we started service. Michael taught a lesson on what the Church of God is. There were pastors from varying backgrounds and a lot of the teachings were new to them. I was so thankful we could be there with Michael and see what he is experiencing all the times he is gone from us on trips. The Lord has given him a true gift to expound the scriptures with clarity, without compromise, and yet in a way that is full of love and understanding for those to whom it is brand new. I always enjoy Q and A time when the people ask specific questions either on the lesson or on relevant issues in the culture. After morning service, we enjoyed lunch together and followed up with an afternoon service. We were expected to pay for the meal for everyone. This has been a hungry season for them as good has been scarce. We left Kituii around 4:30 and came back to Nairobi. We enjoyed delicious pizza for supper. We fly home Wednesday so hopefully tomorrow we can rest a bit, then spend some time together as a family for the day.

Please pray for Sis. Roida. After we left she fell ill with the same symptoms Michael had the night before we left. It appears she has malaria. They spent the last week we were there preparing for a funeral of one of the elderly brothers in the congregation who died suddenly. After working very hard day after day, sleeping at the widows home unprotected from mosquitoes and drinking different water etc. she is very sick and weak and not sleeping much at night. Please pray God to heal her body.

March 6, Wednesday

On Tuesday we visited an elephant orphanage and enjoyed being there at feeding time. Afterward we went to an open air Masai market—an experience I hope never to have again. When the taxi driver dropped us, the last thing he said was, “Keep your bags close to you.” When we emerged from the vehicle, we were swarmed by men posing as “brokers” for the market. Each was asking us to let him be our guide. We were jostled and pushed and pulled. When Michael protested and refused their help, one man pushed forward and said he was the chairman of the market and only to talk to him. He directed us to the booths spread out on the ground under trees like a flea market. Michael tried to talk to a shop owner about an item and the chairman pulled out a large bag, shoved the items in and said, This is the maybe bag and he would lead us around filling the bag and then he would settle with us on a price. Michael informed him he didn’t operate that way and there would be no maybe bag. I took this opportunity to slip ahead to the next booth and look unhindered. A man promptly grabbed my arm and told me to get behind my husband. He lectured me that there are rules in this market. You talk to no one but us and you stay in the family group. Michael was also trying to get rid of the others and seven men formed a circle around us preventing us from going anywhere. For the first time, I was afraid for our safety and just wanted to leave. They were like vultures and I knew with their tribal instincts as Masai they could easily turn on us. Michael finally put his foot down and ordered them all to leave us completely. They called another man who must have been their leader and Michael talked to him also. He let them know we would only deal with shop owners and to take all these men away immediately. Thankfully they melted away leaving me shaken and Vanessa promptly bursting into tears. It took some time just to gain our (the girls) composure again and even think about shopping. The men kept coming back periodically so we were never totally at ease and one man hearing us ask one shop owner where to find something abruptly left when she directed us to a booth across the way. “He has gone ahead of you to destroy the price.” Despite all of this we found the items we were after and gratefully emerged from the market unharmed. I wish I could have taken photos of all the beautiful things in the market but I was afraid to bring out my phone. The Masai as a tribe won’t allow you to take their photos so I grabbed a shot twice and then after we left the market to walk up the hill to our hotel. We ate local for supper in search of cheap food. Swahili Plate served schwarma with chips and wraps. We had an ant walking on the plate and the place was full of mosquitoes so we were glad to get back to the hotel after an eventful day. Upon checking in for our flight we discovered it had been canceled and new flights re-issued through a different airline. Now we are flying 6 hours east to Doha, Qatar with only a 1 hour connection before a brutal 16+ hour flight to Dallas.

I feel abundantly blessed and favored that we are here at the airport, well and able to travel. I have thought many times of how different it could be and I thank all of you for your prayers in our behalf. Michael is still not feeling completely well but is much better than he was. If we make our connection in Doha we will be back in the States Thursday afternoon.

March 7, Thursday

Back on home soil! First stop In-N-Out

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