INTRODUCTION: Just a slight disclaimer for my readers. Yes, this is a copywriting site. I intend to focus most of my attention on just that. However, as I mentioned when I put this site up on the internet I “discovered” my love of writing when our family of ten (yes, my wife and I and 8 children, ranging in ages from 4 to 20 something!) went to Kenya for four years, serving as missionaries in that beautiful country. We still call it 4 of the best years of our lives, and when I say “It’s a Kenyan day” I’m referring to the cool mornings and crystal clear skies that greeted us virtually every day there. This excerpt will give you an idea of my writing style, which I try to carry through to my copywriting efforts. By the way, most of the pictures on this site were taken…you guessed it…in Kenya.
So here’s a slight taste of the beginning of those days. If my readers want more I may consider posting more chapters of this “book”. For now go with me to Nakuru, Kenya!
June 2008…It took a little time for Beth to get situated; we checked her wheelchair at the gate. This was the much prayed for chair that arrived just the day before our flight. Already I can see we will be “veddy glad” for it here, it seems like it’s made for Kenya with its rugged frame and knobby tires…
…We spent the night at Hampton House; a guest house that I believe is run by Baptists. Walls and gates everywhere, anything that’s not nailed down has a tendency to disappear. The next morning it’s on to Nakuru…Very interesting countryside, some mountains and shrubs, we saw a few zebras and a lot of baboons right along the road. We received a warm welcome from our new “unit family”; in the evening there was a meal for all of us together…Once we hit our beds we had no trouble falling asleep, but about 1:00 or so 4-year-old Keith came over to our bedroom, “My shoulder hurts”, then a little later, “Is the house falling down?” This house does creak and groan; it will take a while to get used to it.
“Nyumbani” (Home) to Blankets
Matthew 28:19–20 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
It’s rush hour in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, which means three lanes of traffic heading madly in one direction and three in the other. Those six lanes dissect four to six others in the confusing “roundabouts”, or traffic circles that are prevalent here. This mzungu (white man) is hanging fiercely onto the seat, white knuckles shining in the moonlight. Our family of ten left the safe haven of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania twenty-eight long hours ago with some of our younger ones experiencing their first plane ride anywhere, let alone two eight-hour flights from “home”. Left behind were our oldest daughter, son-in-law, one grandson, and oldest son.
As we come up to the first traffic light on what I used to consider the wrong side of the road, my grip tightens. “Uh… isn’t that light r-red?” I stammer in what I hope is a near normal tone of voice.
“No one pays any attention to traffic lights; this is Kenya,” answers Bishop. “It’s not hard to get used to; you just need to drive defensively and expect the unexpected!” In the meantime, I’m wondering why they even HAVE traffic lights if no one pays attention to them!
VROOOM! We proceed at breakneck speed through the roundabout with a matatu PSV (Public Service Vehicle) mere inches away from my door. Adding to my nervousness is the fact that the tote (conductor) is hanging out the open side door drumming up business. It’s beyond me how he’ll fit even one more person into that 12 passenger-sized vehicle. All I can see are heads, shoulders, arms and bodies packed so tightly it’s impossible to tell which belongs to who, let alone get a head count! Meanwhile, on the driver’s side of our vehicle, a piki-piki (motorcycle taxi) comes within a hairsbreadth of banging heads on the van mirror. The piki-piki is fully loaded – driver plus three… yes, THREE passengers. Indeed, this is Kenya. And if this is what Bishop calls driving defensively I’m not at all sure I want to see him go on the offense. Oh no, cover your eyes; there goes a City Hoppa bus hopping (so THAT’S why the strange name!) up on the sidewalk, neatly conjuring one more lane out of thin air…offensive driving at its worst!
Thankfully we only need to endure six more roundabouts and their accompanying close calls before settling into the comfort of Hampton House on the outskirts of Nairobi. The hour is getting late; a long hot shower and a soft bed will feel good, in that order! But what’s this? No washcloths anywhere! There are plenty of towels, but how to take a shower without a washcloth? This appears to be an acquired skill employing a bar of soap in place of the missing cloth. Most Americans haven’t mastered the art, myself included. Thankfully though, the shower is hot, the mattress soft, and sleep comes quickly.
The next morning birds are twittering and sunlight streams through the windows of the guest house by the time our sluggish, flight weary crew finds their land legs. We pile our 40-odd pieces of luggage in or on the trusty mission van (Thank you, Lord, for roof racks!) and head the two hours toward our future home in Blankets, Nakuru! As we glide through the verdant green of the Kijabe forest area halfway through our journey, my mind starts to register the fact that Kenya is not just one vast desert. In Kijabe, the air is often laden with moisture in the form of fog or light rain, and small produce stands line the highway on either side. Certain times of the year there are huge feed bags bulging with freshly picked pears. Roughly hewn shelves of wood provide ample display space for the local abundance. Today stalks of rhubarb are in neat rows like so many red-clad soldiers standing at attention. Other more exotic fruits that I can’t identify are similarly arrayed. Prices are negotiable; bargain at your own risk!
We continue to wind ever downward, descending slowly into the Great Rift Valley which extends all the way from Syria, through Israel in the north, down through East Africa, to Mozambique south of Kenya. Truly this is a GREAT valley; it has been called one of the most spectacular geographical features on the surface of the earth. The floor of the Great Rift Valley is dotted with small extinct volcanoes. The scenery is breathtaking, with shambas (gardens) creating a lush patchwork of different shades of green far below us. Adding to the quilt like look are thick, high shrubs framing the properties, forming a security barrier and keeping animals inside. This is KENYA? Never had I imagined an African country could be so beautiful! The beauty is only slightly marred by the many garishly colored shacks catering to tourists perched on the edge of steep 1,000 foot plus drop-offs. Bright pink, fluorescent green, and deep purple seem to be common colors to these people. Here again, no price tags clutter the product; you can buy anything from carved wooden animals to soapstone dishes; prices seem fairly reasonable to this ignorant shopper. Signs for the various shops also decorate the side of the highway. “THIS WAY TO TOILETS” the top line of one sign reads, with “WONDERFUL SITE” being the dubious punch line. Nevertheless, there are some truly wonderful vistas from these small outlooks.
As we get closer to our future home, my mind goes back a few months to the phone call that changed our lives. “Hello, my name is Ray” says a strange voice. “You may not know me, but I know a lot about you and your family! Now before I say more, you may want to sit down!”
Ok…I think this is a contact person for Amish Mennonite Aid, a mission organization with outposts in foreign countries, but what does he want with me?
“We’re looking for a family to serve in Kenya”, he continues “Do you think you could consider it?”
I answer, “You know there are ten of us Fishers in this household?”
“Yes,” he answers with a chuckle. “I also know you have a handicapped daughter, you’re chairman of the school board, and I may even know the color of the vehicle you drive!”
Ok, this man knows his stuff; he likely even knows we’re new grandparents! After asking a few questions about the staff opening in Kenya, I promise to talk it over with my wife, pray about it, and get back to him in a week or two. In the meantime, I’m thinking, “KENYA?!”
Our first thought is, “How CAN we…Is it even practical?” We have a business, a mortgage to pay, and what about Bethany, who is currently scheduled for surgery? Bethany was born with Spina Bifida, has been through numerous surgeries, and walks with the aid of crutches when not in her wheelchair. Despite having never been to Kenya we’re quite sure the houses, not to mention the terrain, are anything but wheelchair friendly! So our initial thought is, “Nope, can’t do it!” However, it seems God shoots down our selfish excuses one by one. For example, we discover all the mission houses have rooms on the ground floor only; no steps to climb. How about door widths? No problem; they’re wide enough for a wheelchair. There’s even a hospital within an hour that works with Spina Bifida patients. Slowly our perspective begins to change. The business can be sold and the profits used to pay some outstanding debts; rent for the house will more than cover the mortgage. After some soul searching we finally come to the conclusion, “How can we NOT go?” Going to work has become drudgery and I’ve felt restless lately; has God been preparing us for this time? Here we have a chance to dedicate some time to the kingdom of God; isn’t this the least we can do for Him? Is it practical? No, but why tie God down to practicality? We respond to Ray with the likelihood of giving him an affirmative answer if some details can be worked out and our children are all agreed.
Now here we are, six months later…Nakuru bound! One of the first impressions is there are literally people EVERYWHERE! Many are walking; some are riding bikes, some standing, sitting, even lying on banks making use of grass for a mattress! Little shops line the roadway with signs like “Kijabe Butchery”, “Hotel Stay Here”, and “Hope Café”. As we continue traveling we go down a long, gently sloping hill. The slight fog clears and up ahead…is it a mirage? It’s a lake; flamingoes look like a shimmering light cloud of pink on the edge of sky blue water. “Lake Elementaita,” says Bishop, “and Lake Nakuru comes next.”
Lake Nakuru lies in the middle of Nakuru Park, home to exotic animals such as giraffes, baboons, zebras, gazelles, rhinos, a few lions, and the occasional leopard. The lake itself is within walking distance of our future home, though the entrance to the park is on the other side of Nakuru town and requires a fee to enter.
As we turn off the main highway, dust flies and “our” road stretches ahead of us; a road once surfaced with macadam, now pockmarked with holes that are filled in with packed dirt, stones, and debris. Walled-in compounds containing five to ten houses each line both sides of the road. Each lane is designated with a letter, A, B, C, D, etc. “Blankets,” reads the sign above the wall encircling it all.
Walls…something we need to get used to here in Kenya. Walls, barred windows, multiple padlocks, gates, and guards to open them. There are keys, many keys, rings of keys that feel like lead when swinging from your belt. However once inside the last gate guarding our house we are welcomed by rows and rows of blooming flowers; roses being the most recognizable. Is this paradise? Welcome to Blankets, D3. Karibuni Nyumbani! Welcome home!
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
The saying goes “Home is where the heart is” but I would like to suggest as Christians our home is where God is! Sometimes we may be involved in a work in which we say, “My heart’s not in it”. However, if God is in our heart we will feel at home wherever He leads us. Truly, God’s dwelling place is among His people; in their hearts. And ultimately we will be ushered into the very Presence of God amidst beauty and glory unsurpassed! Welcome to God’s house. Welcome home!