On Safari to Tanzania

 Last week we took the journey (safari) to Tanzania, one of Kenya’s neighbouring countries. The plan was to look at one of our completed projects and then have a look at some potential new ones. It was also a good chance to see our Aussie mates the Pocknall’s. Last year we bumped into them at our local mall and have kept in contact ever since. The Pocknall family are amazing (Andrew, Jenny, Maddie, Lauren and Oliver).

Arusha has about the same population as Christchurch but no where near the facilities as Nairobi. It’s a bit like a big country town. On the upside there is a whole lot less traffic than Nairobi. It’s also about 3 degrees warmer in Arusha.

Apparently you’re meant to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

Traveling by road from one country to another in Africa is not as easy as it sounds. A few months ago when we got our car we were meant to get our transfer papers done but ‘someone’ in the office didn’t get it done. Hence, the papers were still in the name of the car dealership.

Because of this the insurance company would not insure us for Tanzania. It’s only about $50 for a couple of months insurance but we were forced to get it at the border and hope we got it with a legitimate company. Africa is one place you don’t want to end up insurance-less.

We were to leave on Thursday but everything fell apart on Wednesday. Pete was out at the farm and everything was left to me (just the way the cookie crumbled) to organise and Monday was a public holiday so it was a super short week anyway. For the whole morning we got conflicting reports ‘yes you can get through the border’, 30 minutes later ‘no, it’s impossible’. What an emotional rollercoaster. By 11am I was ready to throw in the towel but my brave husband jumped on his motorbike and came to my rescue.

Image           Shuttles waiting at the border.

First to hit AA who said it was no problem. Go to the car dealership to see the boss – he’s out of town. Insurance guy says we’re too much of a risk.

Thursday morning we head out. I had thrown my hands up in the air and decided that if we drove the 2 hours to the border and they turned us back we would come home, pick up our tent and get out of Dodge for the weekend.

The road to the border is 176km’s and it’s been built really well. Most of the time getting out of Nairobi is a real drag and can take an hour. It took us 20 minutes. The road we took is the same one that trucks use to get to the port in Mombasa and it has endless trucks.

ImageNot sure how long the trucks were parked at the border but it would’ve been ages.

Just before the border is a place called Paradise Gallery. It has flush toilets (always a bonus) and a large shop with allsorts of Kenyan artwork. There, Pete asked the owner if she knew of someone who could help us at the border (a 2 minute drive). Of course she did! So, we ended up with Sitoki, a Masai man who for $30 got our car through the border. We waited while he found some friends who he could negotiate with. Normally if the car isn’t in your name you can’t get insurance or through the border.

We wanted to take the Pocknall’s some food goodies from Nairobi but every blog I read said how things are stolen at the border or confiscated. We had neither and kicked ourselves for not taking more through. Who knows where the Kenyan Police were. We just drove through.

Of course you have to go through all the rigmarole of completing departure and arrival forms, paying $50 each for visas and then an American $20 for a car which wasn’t in our name.

ImageSigning in and out of immigration

After about an hour at the border we simply kept driving. The hardest thing was dodging all of the trucks lined up that were waiting. Then there were the multiple ‘diversion’ signs which were a waste of time. Before we knew it we were on our way for the 2 hour drive on the Tanzanian side.

ImageSo many trucks it was hard to find a parking spot.

The hilarious thing about the Tanzanian road is that it was only completed a couple of years ago. Now some intelligent person has decided to build in new culverts AFTER the new road was built. So every few kilometres we were diverted onto a dirt patch where they were building.

 

TIA – this is Africa

Yes I am filthy rich!

Last week one of our co-workers made a statement ‘it’s okay for you guys, you’re rich’. They didn’t say it to me (which is just as well) but to Pete. It really bugged me. There’s always the assumption that just because you’re white, you must have loads of money.

I suppose, when you live in a country where the majority work for $5 a day or less, then what we make does make us magnificently rich.

Richness goes far beyond the money you earn.

I know of people who live a lavish lifestyle, drive the best cars, fly first class all the time and where cash is never in short supply. In this sector there are those who are the most miserable and there are those who are happy as anything.

I also know people who have absolutely nothing, live in a shack, looking for work and struggle to survive from day to day. In this sector there are those who are the most miserable and there are those who are happy as anything.

Pete went back and asked our co-worker what she meant. I mean, here we as missionaries in Kenya, totally reliant on the generosity of our friends and family to put food on the table. But people let you down, their business goes down the toilet or they change their minds and go on holiday instead. Ultimately, our reliance is upon God, we just pray that He will touch peoples hearts to partner with Him, via us.

We don’t have a car, our own place to live in and our stuff is still in boxes 4 months later. Thankfully some friends bought us a motorbike, and we are house sitting for our team members for a few months.

I wonder whether this HIV + grandma in Kibera will see her grand daughter grow up?

I wonder whether this HIV + grandma in Kibera will see her grand daughter grow up?

So, I’ve re-evaluated the statement on being rich and I can tell you I’m filthy rich!

  1. I’m married – we’ve just celebrated 25 years of being together. Amazingly we haven’t killed each other yet, in fact we love each other more than ever before!
  2. We have the best kids – okay, there were times I wanted to give them away, but they are awesome. I wouldn’t swap them for anything.
  3. I’m in a job I love – heck, daily I’m involved in bringing positive change to young people, able to help our diverse team reach their potential, and I even have my own desk!
  4. I’ve travelled the world – okay, not to Europe or South America and Antarctica is still on my bucket list. But I’ve been all over the place from backpacking in Tanzania, palace hunting in India and in one of the best hotels in Dubai just to mention a few. I’ve lived in one of the most beautiful countries in the world (New Zealand), lived and loved Aussie and now live in Kenya.
  5. I know who I am – I had the privilege of coming to know Christ when I was 14. Man, I’d be a mess without Him. I know I’m a child of God, I know I’m Heaven bound one day but until then, there’s the adventure of life. So even though it sucks sometimes, I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Sure, I’d love to have an endless cash supply to increase the effectiveness of what we do here in Kenya. I’d love not have to scrap together a few dollars so our teachers have better resources. I’d love to be able to take a long weekend off and travel 9 hours to the beach.

All those things will come eventually, but if we are always looking at what we don’t have, then it blinds us to all the magnificent things we have right in front of us.

Things come and go. Our faith, our friends and family, they are the real things that make us rich.

Okay, I’m Ready To Go Home Now

I woke up this morning feeling angry, frustrated and ready to kill the rooster next door who announces EVERY morning that it’s 4am. I was over constantly finding new areas of my body swollen from mosquito bites overnight even though we have the state of the art bug killer system in our room. The fact that I haven’t got malaria yet is a miracle. Both wrists look broken but they’re only swollen. My forehead is a racing track for mossies and they leave not little hills where they’ve been. I have to sleep with a pillow over my head to keep the buggers away (yes, that’s how I feel) but they are so persistent they burrow under. I feel very justified squashing them and are SO happy when I find a dead one on my pillow.

Then I whacked my head on the window because it has a small frame to keep out burglars, even on the second floor. I had to buy a cheap second phone for a system here called MPESA, which enables me to transfer funds to you via a phone if needed. We’ve taken it in twice now and it still won’t work on the system. I’m told that I will get a text message so I can put credit on it. Three days later, still nothing.

We’ve waited 2 ½ months for our visas so we can stay in the country rather than drive 3 hours to the border and visit Tanzania for a day and then come back. On the same day I get a rejection letter from last year I get an approval letter from the lawyer. He tells me it’s costing $100, the Minister of Immigration’s letter says $1,000. Flip, I’m a development worker, we live from day to day, where would I find $1,000 from? Eventually we find out it’s a typo (sack the secretary I say) and I stop having a heart attack.

I realised today that I haven’t been out in the sun in over 8 weeks and I’m lily white. It’s ironic since I live in East Africa and not far from the Equator. All simply because it’s been head down and bum up working 24/7.

To put it in a nutshell, I miss the ease of life in Sydney. Sure, people complain they have to wait 25 minutes to talk to someone on Optus, but at least you can actually talk to someone.  Traffic is bad in any city, but if you get pulled up by a cop he’s not going to threaten to throw you in jail because you indicated to turn then changed your mind. And he won’t demand a $100 on the spot bribe while holding a rifle. If you take your phone in because it’s dodgy then they ask for your passport first, which you want to leave at home because you don’t want it stolen.

What I really wanted to do was put my head back under the covers and ignore the fact that I had to head to the office to answer the never ending stream of emails. I wanted to cry, kick something and pack a pre-school tantrum. Of course, I couldn’t because it changes nothing, and our housemaid (comes with the house sitting) would arrive soon and she would tell me to have more faith and get myself together (got to love her honesty).

Instead I went where I should’ve and that was to the Word of God. I’m reading through Matthew and at the end of chapter 19 the disciples say to Jesus ‘Hey, we’ve given up everything to follow you, what are we going to get out of it’ (my version). Jesus quick reply is that they’ll get back one hundredfold, and eternal life. Nice one Jesus! Put everything in perspective, what really is the thing that matters in life, is the eternity we get to hang with him.

A wise friend once said that when we get to Heaven our life on Earth will be like some vague memory compared to what we’ll have – forever. I quite like that philosophy.

So when I say I’m ready to go home you can be super spiro and think ‘Okay she’s ready to die and go to Heaven’. Not really, while to live is Christ and to die is gain, I’ve got a whole lot more to get in my life before I quit this place.

Am I ready to go back to Sydney? No, but when I do get to go on holiday boy am I going to enjoy it! Kenya doesn’t feel like ‘home’ yet, but we both agree, we aren’t meant to be anywhere else.

So when I say I’m ready to go home I’m talking about having a whole day off tomorrow. Staying in bed and reading, hanging out in my pj’s watching a DVD and then maybe cook something wickedly yummy and full of chocolate.

Until then, I will keep my eyes on where they are meant to be, on Christ who endured everything just for me. That’s when I’m trying NOT to scratch my myriad of mossie bites! Right now, I’m getting a towel, laying it on the ground and taking the next 10 minutes to try and get a tan.

Life In A Shipping Container

This coming week sees us living in Kenya for 2 months. It also sees us moving out of living in a shipping container (converted of course) and into a real, life house. In all we haven’t lived in our own place for 5 months, so we are going to be very happy campers.

Most of the time it’s been great living there. It’s onsite, so we’re close to work. We have some immediate neighbours as there are quite a few people living here too.  However, it’s had it’s challenges and ‘cabin fever’ has taken on a new meaning.

While most people wouldn’t even consider living in a 6 metre container, it’s a good learning curve.

Millions of people around the world for whom poverty is an everyday occurrence live in nothing bigger than a 3 by 3 metre area, usually with 5 family members. It got me thinking about what life in a extremely small area is really like.

 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s complicated

You plan and then something comes in to interrupt it. The power goes out unexpectedly and if you don’t have charcoal for the BBQ, or it happens just as you go to start cooking, what will you have for dinner. Belongings have to be stacked up because there’s no room for drawers or a wardrobe, it is so easy to mess up. Over the last couple of months we’ve bought some plastic drawers and a sort of freestanding wardrobe. I think to myself of the millions of people who the amount of belongings they have fit into one plastic bag. They don’t have several pairs of sneakers or two jackets for when it gets cold. They wear one set of clothes until they literally fall off their bodies. If their home gets destroyed by fire, war or floods there’s no government handout, but somehow they start all over again.

 

2. There’s no privacy

If I had a lounge, I would purposely sit in it wearing my pyjamas watching a DVD. Where we are living there are two rooms and at any time, the people living in the same compound can come in. Both rooms have doors to outside that have large glass panels in them. I wait some time in the mornings before I open them just to have ‘our’ space. If I were living with poverty, my whole family would use the same room for everything. There’s no ‘time out’ space, if you want to study you have to do with everything else going on.

 

3. It can be noisy

Sound travels and bounces off walls. You can hear all sorts of body sounds, music, animals outside and anything else happening.  While our container is lined and painted, those in poverty may have a shack that leaks, doesn’t lock and is unsafe. When it rains here, it pours, but at least our roof is a good one. I often think of those in places like Kibera Slum whose homes have rushing streams through them when it rains.

 

4. You can use one thing at a time

As with most places, ours doesn’t have lots of power points. We were clever and bought a multi-box with us from Australia which helps. But, our kitchenette (a benchtop) is all we have to work with. If someone is working in the kitchen the other person has to wait. You can’t have two of you preparing vegetables at the same time, the other one has to go outside to do it.  Compared to those living in small shacks in the slum, we are living in luxury. We have electricity (most of the time) and a kitchen area. Often the one room home is shared for all activities. Or, they work outside their house where a dirt track, chickens, an open sewer system is.

 

5. Sometimes you’re climbing over each other

The sink isn’t deep enough to do the dishes. We have a huge bowl to wash our dinner dishes in. However, the person drying the dishes needs the person washing to move over to the right to put the dishes away. But, we have a tap. We have the ability to boil hot water. We have a place to hang the drying towel. What we don’t have to do is walk to the nearest water point and carry back 25kg’s of water after paying for it. While we can pour the dirty water down the sink, many people have to throw it outside their front door.

 

6. One bathroom means you have to wait – even if you can’t

One of our sayings here is ‘Go when you can’.  Once you leave the property you don’t know where your next toilet stop will be because there might not just be one. Last weekend we had a parents meeting but had a huge lunch beforehand. The meeting went for 5 hours and there are no toilets in the slum that we would choose to use. So, the first stop afterwards was at the mall for a bathroom break. It can get frustrating when someone is in the one and only bathroom and you want to brush your teeth. I’m not sure what I’m whinging about though, we actually have our own bathroom and a flushing toilet. We don’t have to do our business into a plastic bag and throw it away, and hope I don’t walk into someone else’s plastic bag.  A billion people don’t have access to a toilet. We do.

 

So, living out of a suitcase for months on end isn’t my ideal, it’s a good reality check and opens one’s eyes to what it’s like for millions of people around the world.

However, I am going to live up being in a house!

 

Image

Christchurch CBD now is made of converted shipping containers.

Let’s hear it for Bobby & Guy

Every now and then I get people saying ‘Gee, you guys must be rich to do what you do.’ While we have been blessed with lots, financial freedom has been not one of them. Of course, if we decided not to travel every year to serve communities in Africa we certainly would’ve had the house, great dental work and the most up to date fashion.

I decided in this blog to let people know that you can actually do what we do, and probably even better by doing it sooner than us.

1. Decide where you want to spend your money.

For one week keep a notebook of everything you spend cash on. It will shock you when you realise how much goes onto things that you can’t show for.

I added up how much money Pete was spending on buying one coffee a day, over a year and it added up to around $1,500 a year. He could buy a really good cappuccino machine for that!

For us, we decided that we wanted to spend money on travel. We wanted to give our kids a global world view and let them see that the whole world isn’t white, English speaking and in the mid to high economic sector of life.

 

2. Incidental Saving

When we came back from Africa in 2011 Pete had broken his leg, was self employed, no income protection and had plenty of work to complete. It meant that for 8 weeks we had no income besides what I brought in and the few jobs of his I could do (but nowhere as good as him). Thankfully we have very little debt (highly recommended) but Pete wasn’t even entitled to the sickness benefit because we were 2 months short of being here for 10 years (Govt requirement).

Even though cash was in short supply we spent $5 and bought one of those metal money tins and made a decision that ANY coins that entered the house had to go into that tin. It didn’t matter if it was $2 or 20 cents, it all went in. We decided that the money would go towards our setup costs in Kenya.

The first tin had just over $500 in it. The second tin, which is bigger, is just over half full now. It’s Incidental saving, but it’s worth it.

We’re actually going to the States for 2 weeks before we head to Nairobi. We’ve always wanted to go to Disneyland so I’ve worked it out how we can get there for not much more than going directly to Kenya. How do we get there? Save Lizzies board money, all of it of course! We have always paid for our travel with cash, never putting it on a credit card. No point in going then spending forever to pay it off.

 

3. God is our provider

The last 2 years have been financially challenging that’s for sure. I turned down going into the corporate sector where I could’ve made 5 times the amount of money so I could set up BeyondWater and help with Afri-Lift. Last year we had no income for 4 months, 2012 hasn’t been fantastic. The bottom line is we can never bring in enough for what we want or need to do, that’s God’s job. Our role is to work hard, seek Him (Matt 6:33) and be good stewards with what we’ve been given.

 

4. Sacrifice

While you can have most things in your life most of the time, you can’t have everything all the time. For us that meant for two years in a row there was no going to the movies, buying CD’s, clothes shopping or buying anything that wasn’t related to a trip to Africa. It was the whole family sacrificing, not just us as parents. Any board money has gone into trips, we’ve cancelled our Foxtel (painful during the Olympics) and although we desperately need a new car, the old one will have to do for now. In fact, we’ve only ever had one car, public transport has been great in Sydney.

 

5. Be happy

Giving up, sacrificing and saving is a great thing, don’t treat it like it’s a burden to bear. The most important thing is to satisfied no matter what the situation looks like. While sacrifice is considered a swear word these days, it’s a good value to have in your life. We are in an instant world and if we don’t get it now, put it on credit and then spend years paying it back, then it isn’t considered worthy. We need to get a bigger vision, one that is worth sacrificing for.

Phil 4:11 states ‘for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances’.

‘If you are worried about something be happy because if you keep going it will be double worry’ that’s what Bobby McFerrin said in 1988

I prefer Guy Sebastian’s version – HERE

 

Our situation in the Western World is financially miles ahead of that of Developing Countries, yet most of us are in debt that is like sinking sand in our lives. I highly suggest freeing ourselves up to be able to do the things God wants us to do.

The Ocean is Really Big

We went whale watching a couple of weeks ago, something I’ve always wanted to do. Not that it’s overrated but the whales didn’t feel like playing just because we wanted them to. I spent the 2 hours trying no to throw up, thankfully it was so freezing cold, that I didn’t. We did see a couple of juvenile adults lazily swimming a long, but no breaching or anything spectacular like that.

We went in a double decked catamaran that looked quite big in the harbour. That was until we were in the middle of the ocean. It was there that I suddenly realised the enormity of the ocean, it is really, really big.

Most mornings I head down the beach to pray, which is a pretty good way to start the day. This morning there was a beautiful blue sky, but man, was it freezing. The sight of the ocean reminded me of my ‘big ocean’ thoughts on the boat.

It was then that this came to me ‘God’s provision is much bigger than your need’.

He has so much more on offer than all the needs in the entire world. Just remember that!

Confession Time

This morning I woke up in sheer panic when I realised that in 16 weeks we would be jumping on a plane and heading off to start our new ventures in Kenya. And when I say panic, it was just that. This is one of the few times in my life I’ve been overwhelmed by worry. So I did what I do most mornings and headed up the beach to pray (thanks Ps Phil for setting the standard in this).

I got to thinking about what on earth was happening and realised some important things.

I’m not scared of:

  • Living in a strange land where everything is different, especially the food
  • Being without my dishwasher or waterbed
  • Saying goodbye to Hannah (Skype is the best invention)
  • The possibility of picking up malaria, dysentery or a myriad of other diseases
  • Being the minority just because my Swahili sucks (well, not fluent anyway)
  • The very remote but real possibility of a bomb/suicide attack happening

What it came down to is that I don’t want to be poor and not able to go out and earn money. We’re on a missionary visa and we aren’t allowed to work.

We decided in April last year that we would move to Kenya, but give it a couple of years. That way we could get more financially secure, pay off some debt and be in a strong position. When we got to Africa in September it became very obvious that they wanted us a lot earlier, like immediately. We chose to move in October 2012 because that meant we could take another team to Mt Kilimanjaro and pretty much everything we own is in desperate need of replacing, especially the car, which is in survival mode. If we stayed another year it meant buying a lot of stuff and really be no better off financially because of it.

In our minds it was all going to pan out because we could come back and work our butts off for a year. That was before Pete broke his leg and couldn’t work for a couple of months, and then the 3 months of travelling through several states of Australia for BeyondWater. Remember, Pete is self employed so no work = no pay. So, in essence the 8 months we’ve been back, he’s only worked for about 4 of these. Not the best way to start, but in a way it is.

We are really blessed because a generous business covers our rent in recognition of the role I play in BeyondWater. But beyond that there were no drop offs of groceries or even phone calls to see how we were doing. The insurance money was months in coming and that went to paying back some good friends who had lent us the money to get home. While Pete was stuck to a couch he learned, probably for the first time to really relax in knowing he could do nothing but trust God. Was it easy? No way. We got down to $30 in the bank account and Hannah was heading back to serve at YWAM in Hawaii and we didn’t even have the money to take her to the airport. I kindly suggested to her that her friends (Han, Chan & Mo) might like to do it.

But I will never forget Bevvy. She just happened to be in Sydney for the day, walked in the door and promptly handed both Hannah and myself $500 each. We lived on that for the next month and Hannah paid for her living and school costs.

One person, that’s all it takes to make a difference.

For me this morning, it was that one Person of the Holy Spirit that took me from a burdened, scared kid to one who had that assurance that if God was big enough to create the universe He certainly was big enough to look after 3 little Creans in Kenya.

Yes, we need people to believe in us and our work. Yes, we need people to give us money or we can’t go, but overall our reliance is on God, whose pretty good at providing.

Thanks for standing with us, we appreciate you all – and actually mean it.

5 Months & Counting

We are now on the serious side of our move to Kenya. We’ve had the privilege of hosting our CEO Pastor Robin Aim for a week. Pete was the chauffeur and did over 1,000km’s just around Sydney and the Southern Highlands. It was great spending time with him and talking about all things to do with Afri-Lift.

This week we head to New Zealand to say farewell to our family and friends. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been there and while we’re looking forward to seeing people we are not going to enjoy the freezing weather. I’m making sure I take a hot water bottle, my ugg boots and some warm gear we wore up Mount Kilimanjaro last year!

We’ve just printed off our supporters brochures, so if you want one please make sure you contact us.

Great news, in Australia we have tax deductibility status, which means if you support us you get a receipt you can use in your tax return. Another good reason to donate!

Don’t forget that we want to catch up with you all before we leave, so drop me a message via our site here or on Facebook.

BYE