(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a three-part series about a three-week missions trip taken to the town of Karen, near Nairobi, Kenya, in April by the Revs. Wyatt and Gail Jones-Timmins, pastors to St. Peter's Community Bible Fellowship of Sullivan County, along with the Rev. Danesta Whaley, Yokefellowship Prison Ministries northcentral regional director).
Does it seem a strange starting title for a missions report? It did to me as it downloaded into my thought processes. However, when moving from a missions report to an article based communication, it began to make sense.
So there it is ... a question that may well define the value of all that goes in to a mission trip: "when does a missions trip end?"
From top left, the Rev. Danesta Whaley, Revs. Wyatt and Gail Jones Timmins. Whaley, Jones-Timmins and Bishop Charles Kaloki at a well. Exterior and interior views of the church in Karen, Kenya. Bishop Kaloki.
If all of the time, effort and money that are invested in a short-term mission results in nothing more than fond memories and a feel-good sensation of a few good deeds done, perhaps this defines the end of the mission.
On the other hand, if the original call to serve allows one to leave a deposit of God's love behind and opens a deeper call to serve going forward, then one may be at the front end of a long-term mission.
From short- to long-term...
St. Peter's already had one short-term mission to the country of Haiti complete with a return trip that after several years, continues to produce strong interest and support from people in the area and beyond. Deaconess Melly Norton said it is not unusual to return home to the farm only to find items dropped off for the next shipment to Haiti.
When I was asked to write a more detailed report of our experiences, I wondered "What types of things would hold a person's interest?" And "How can I communicate the experiences in a way that might draw the reader in and maybe even get involved themselves?"
Statistics are important to some ...
Those are interesting numbers but do nothing to express or share the swell of emotions and Spirit-led experiences and that coursed through us. Not to mention the long-term impact that we still are processing.
Arriving in Nairobi
Humans seem to focus on things from two primary perspectives: "what do I recognize? (what is familiar) and "what is different." I am human enough I suppose. This is exactly what began to process in my mind.
Upon arriving in the Nairobi Airport, I noticed a distinct familiarity found in people everywhere; some folks were nice and helpful while others were rude and self-centered. No surprise there right?
Security was another matter. Every policeman or security officer had a machine gun hung over their shoulder ... very different but strangely, there was a sense of total calm. People seemed to ignored their presence as they went about their business
The recent terrorist attack at the mall on Nairobi created elevated security. You can not enter any indoor shopping center without submitting to vehicle inspection and after this, a personal security search before entering the building.
Heart of the culture
From the moment our hosts greeted us, we began to experience a humbling side of the culture of this fascinating country. They demonstrated an individual and collective 'servant's heart' in everything they did. It was a constant, not just a show. It is their way of life.
They would not allow us to carry a solitary bag or roll a single piece of luggage to the vehicles that would transport us back to the village of Karen.
It became a game of sorts over the next few weeks to attempt to load my own equipment into the vehicle each day before Walter, our adopted grandson, could catch me. When anyone saw you attempting to do the work, they jumped in with a sincere desire to serve and honor.
They all attended to us with an expressed appreciation of the efforts that we already had made just to arrive in their country. We never once felt as though we were viewed as 'people with money trees in our backyards.'
Instead, they were anxious for the soul and spirit impartation they hoped that we were bringing. They were hungry to learn what we could show them to make the lives of their children and young people better.
It became clear that our major purpose was not for the adults necessarily. It was primarily for serving their children and young men and women.
Rev. Gail Jones-Timmins brought the hope of increased skills for the teachers through the implementation of the Arts in Education program that she has utilized for many years through the PA Arts and Education Partnership and the Bradford County Regional Arts Counsel, of
ten through the Head Start programs.
The Rev. Wyatt Timmins and the Rev. Danesta Whaley taught in the Bible school as well as the International Pastor's Conference as well as 'Next Generation, Pastors and Worship Leaders workshops.
A new meaning to 'gated community'
A late supper at our host home (Bishop Charles and Miriam Kaloki) just a few hours of sleep and it was time to travel to the church for the Sunday morning service.
Leaving Bishop Charles and Miriam's home, the gate was unlocked and opened. Upon arrival at the church, a gate was opened. (Every church and most every home has a gated entrance.) Someone always is on the other side to allow or deny entrance.
The police and private security was no less prominent in Karen, Kenya. The same machine guns hang from their shoulders. There was an increase in the awareness of their presence as we observed and interacted in day to day life there.
Drive on the wrong side
Do I need to say that the roads are rough? I recently retired from the trucking industry and have driven the roads of 48 states, parts of Mexico and Canada. Gail has traveled many of those roads with me.
We will forever chuckle at any complaints concerning the condition of our roads here in Pennsylvania. or the rest of the country for that matter.
Yes, the cars travel on the opposite side and the steering wheel is on the opposite side accordingly. But there is an intentional double meaning to " they drive on the wrong side."
As the driver navigates the enormous pot holes, drivers coming from the opposite direction are doing the same. The result is that while you are traveling on their side of the road as you go around a pot hole, they may be over on your side of the road.
I had momentary thoughts of watching the figure-8 dirt-track, stock-car races at Ascot Park in California as a child, knowing that at any moment, there might be an exciting convergence at the meeting point of the figure-8.
Those fond memories evaporated as the reality of multiple near misses had me hitting the brake on my side of the car. Unfortunately, the cars in Kenya are not equipped with passenger side brakes ... a feature I would surely add into law if ever I became President of Kenya.
Whatever else I may have left behind, I am quite certain that there is an imprint of my foot in the floor board.
Thrust into service
Bishop Charles intended for this to be a day to become familiar with our surroundings and perhaps get our internal clocks adjusted. That never happened. We took our place of honor on the platform among bishops and pastors from several nations, content to just 'be,' to observe and acclimate.
It was not to be however ... We were thrust into the morning service by a move of the Spirit. Gail and I found ourselves praying over many, many people concerning broken marriages and relationships. Holy Spirit impartation took place and lives were affected positively. It was humbling to be used in such a way.
It would be the start of a whirl-wind experience that would see long days and short nights with events that warmed the heart, touched the soul and challenged the perception of life priorities.
- Contact information for those interested in hosting a presentation or to learn more about how you can become part of the ongoing mission can contact Rev. Wyatt and Gail Jones-Timmins at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rev. Wylie and Melly Norton at email@example.com