Thursday, 28 July 2022

Back safely in the USA!

After over 40 hours of total travel time (flights plus layovers) we have landed safely in Phoenix. Praise the Lord! (“Bwana asifiwe!”) 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Delayed for a day…but it could have been MUCH worse.


Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya.

We woke up Tuesday morning to the news that there was a one-day labor strike happening with grounds crew workers at Lufthansa (the German airline we were going to be flying out of Nairobi into Frankfurt on the first leg of our trip.  After going to the airport and back, sending messages, making phone calls, and Pastor Gurath sitting on hold for over an hour we finally got confirmation that our flight for Tuesday night was in fact “delayed” 24 hours till 10:25pm on Wednesday. 
This, of course would cause us to miss our connection to our United Airlines flight back into Chicago. 

Jemima Sagala sent a driver to pick us up and take us back to her house to stay overnight. The Sagala family has been so generous to us throughout this whole trip. We thanked them for their kindness and we thank the Lord!

Well, things got really hairy for a while, but after 3+ hrs on the phone with United (and the agent telling us that it wouldn’t be till Aug. 3rd that we could get a flight home because of this strike in Germany! 😳) we ended up having to refund our flights and after searching and searching miraculously found flights that will get us back to Phoenix Thurs. night at 8:18pm.  So, a day later than planned, but it could have been much, much worse.

The United Airlines agent said that millions of flights have been affected by this strike. We were very fortunate to have found one. God was certainly watching over us! 

Please pray that our Wednesday afternoon flights back to America go smoothly. Hopefully, my next post will be reporting a safe landing back on home soil! 

-Pastor Luke

“Safari” to Nairobi

Well, maybe not the type of “safari” that pops into your mind when you think about Kenya…”safari” means journey in Swahili. However, on our journey from the little village of Matunda to the big city of Nairobi we did happen to see a few packs of zebras and several groups of baboons (some of which had little ones hanging on to them—sorry you can’t see them in any of the photos I took since they were taken from a moving vehicle from a bit of a distance). 

Beautiful valley & mountain scene on the drive to Nairobi.

A roadside baboon digging for treasure.

Yes, those grainy white and black images are zebras 😄

This baboon is carrying a young one on its back—sorry for the limited picture quality.

Large pack of Zebras near the highway.

We decided not to stop and pick up these hitchhikers 😏

We left in the pitch dark at 6am and saw many children out already walking along the roadsides to their schools—many of them likely walking several miles to get there. Yet another reminder of how good we and the children of our country have it. Our skilled driver, Dan, got us to the Nairobi area in near record time. We dropped off a load of the avocados we had brought from Mary Sagala at her sister, Jemima’s, home in Karen (a suburb of Nairobi—we stayed at her beautiful home when we had first arrived in Kenya). She provided us a delicious lunch of rice, beef stew, chicken, and vegetables. 

Pastor G. & me with Jemima & her brother, John Sagala.

After all the travel, the places we’d been, and people we’d met and ministered to, it felt like it had been much more than 3 weeks since we’d first arrived at Jemima’s home! 

Our driver, Dan, dropped us off safe and sound at the Four Points hotel in the Nairobi Airport for a good night’s sleep before our flights back home. We gave him our thanks and appreciation for the wonderful work he did for us. He really is an impressive young man, an excellent driver, pleasant to be around, and a pleasure getting to know over the past 3 weeks. Again, thankful to the Lord for leading us to the right people to help us on our “safari” (journey)! 

-Pastor Luke 

Monday, 25 July 2022

Everything Except a Wedding and a Funeral - The “Grand Finale” Worship Service at Holy Cross

Holy Cross congregation waving “hello” to their brothers and sisters in Christ in America.

Sunday was the “Grand Finale” worship service at Holy Cross Lutheran Church on the campus of Emmaus School. By m count there were approx. 50 people squeezed into the small church building. More than half of the congregation was children, a good number of whom are students at the school. Several of the school teachers attended as well.  

Entrance to the church building.

We packed so much into the worship service that Pastor Gurath and I joked that we had everything but a wedding and a funeral! Allow me to show and tell you…

Baptism of baby Nancy.
Installation of Jasper (in the glasses and tan pastoral robe) as assistant pastor and and Elvis (blue jacket) as acolyte.
Pastor Gurath preached the sermon.
I preached the children’s sermon (the 30 or so children fully filled up the center aisle and front of the church). Mary Sagala did the translating into Swahili.

Pastor Gurath and Jasper distributed the Lord’s Supper.

During the offering the congregation sang a hymn called, “At Calvary.” Pastor Samson (seated next to me in the front of church) said the prayers for the service and also led in the singing of the hymns to “practice” for the service as we waited for people to come.

Near the end of the service Pastor Calvin from St. Peter’s in Kitale was asked to say a few words and he presented Mama Anna Sagala with a “Women of Faith” headscarf from their women’s group. Anna wore it proudly the rest of the day. 

At the end of the service Pastor Gurath conducted a dedication of the well that had recently been constructed on the property.

Mary Sagala commissioned a plaque for the well dedication.

After the well dedication we went back into the church for some cake and sodas. Pastor Gurath and I also passed out “sweets” (candy) to the children (and to all the “older children”—aka, adults 🙂).

We ended the day of worship by singing “Rock of Ages” in Swahili.

I had to get a picture of cute baby Nancy after the service.

24 Swahili catechisms with explanation were passed out to families after the worship service
(this was the last half of the shipment that we had picked up from the Lutheran Heritage Foundation on one of our first days in Kenya).

After the church service Mary took a number of us to a restaurant in Moi’s Bridge that has a big open pit BBQ on which they grill goat meat. The meat was perfectly done and the seasoning was so tasty. Probably my favorite meal I’ve had in Kenya. We all ate way too much!

Vocabulary I learned at the restaurant:

Mbuzi = goat

Choma = grill, BBQ

Nimeshiba - “I am satisfied!” (“I am full.”)

Nimeshiba sana - “I am very satisfied!” 

Me, Pastor Gurath, Martin (Anna’s grandson), Mary, and Anna Sagala in front of the gate to Mary’s home.

We went back to Mary’s house to pick up several large bags of avocados to take to driver Dan’s family and Jamima Sagala’s family in Nairobi. I think they were trying to fill our vehicle so full that we wouldn’t be able to fit ourselves in it and would have to stay! 

They thanked us both for making the long trip and for serving the church and school while we were here (and said special thank you’s to our families for being willing to have us gone for so long). They also wanted us to express their greetings, love, and prayers to all of you in America. 

After a very long “Lutheran goodbye” filled with profuse amounts of “Asante sana” (“thank you so much”) from us to both Mary and Anna for their care and hospitality to both of us—and for all they do for thr people they serve so selflessly here in the Moi’s Bridge area—we went back to our hotel for the night. We were both quite tired from all the day’s events, but also very happy and praising God for His strength and safekeeping as we completed the 3 weeks of work we had come to do. Bwana asifiwe! (“Praise the Lord!”)

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Worship at St. Peter’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Kitale

The servants of the Word for our worship service in Kitale. Pastor Calvin & his congregation had robes and stoles available for us to wear for the worship service.

Saturday morning we drove up to Kitale (about a 45min drive) to visit and worship with Pastor Calvin and his congregation, St. Peter’s.  Currently St. Peter’s meets in a large tent on Calvin’s property. They are saving up and praying that the Lord will bless them with the resources to buy a small plot of land in the area and build a permanent church structure. According to Calvin there are no other Lutheran churches in the Kitale area (which is one of the largest cities in this region). He thinks that the closest Lutheran church in the area is Holy Cross in Milimani (which is on the same campus as Emmaus School, near Moi’s Bridge) which is at least a 30 minute drive away. 

For now this small but very committed congregation of Lutherans makes very good use of the facilities and resources they have. By my count there were 40 people at the worship service. Thanks to some donations from a couple of CLC churches they have a sturdy tent and plenty of chairs. They also have enough hymnals to pass around (which is good, because their services are very much intentionally “Lutheran” in flavor—they follow a liturgy and sing lots of hymns from the hymnal). Pastor G. and I were also given hymnals to follow along with. Even though I could only pick out a few Swahili words we were singing or reading we both did our best to sing along and read the Swahili words as best I could (Pastor Gurath was much better at it than I was, of course!). I was asked to do the children’s sermon and say prayers for the children. Pastor Gurath preached the sermon while Pastor Calvin translated.

One of the hymns from the worship service. I think this one was, “No Friend but Jesus.”

At the close of service the congregation sings the final hymn and follow the pastor(s) out as we all shake hands and finish the hymn facing each other in a circle.

The Swahili Lutheran hymnal that St. Peter’s uses.

I didn’t get a photo of the fully decorated altar in time, but I did get two more members in this photo of the front of their church tent.

A number of women were proudly wearing their St. Stephen Lutheran “Women of Faith” headscarfs. They have a very dedicated and active women’s group.

Pastor Calvin, Mary (one of the founding members of the congregation), and Robert, one of the council members and assists with pastoral work as well.

After the worship service another hearty meal was served (chicken, beef, rice, homemade chipati, and bananas—so flavorful when they come right off of the area banana trees!). We stayed for quite a while talking with Calvin and a number of the church leaders. They and the rest of the congregation all expressed their deep thanks for the support, love, and prayers they have received from their brothers and sisters in Christ back in the U.S.A. Both Pastor Gurath and I expressed greetings, prayers and Christian love from all of you, as well as our appreciation for their hospitality and the joy of sharing in worship and fellowship with them.

Some of the dedicated “Women of Faith” from St. Peter’s who made and served a delicious meal to all after the worship service. So thankful for them and all the women who have done so much for us on this trip!

One more “grand finale” of a very special day of  worship at Holy Cross tomorrow (Sunday) and then we begin the long journey back home on Monday. The time has flown by and the trip has been nothing short of a parade of blessings. At the same time, as we near the end of our 3rd week here, we are both looking forward to returning home to see our families, loved, ones and congregations again. Blessings to you all in Christ!

-Pastor Luke

Friday, 22 July 2022

The Road (Back) to Emmaus

Thursday morning we returned to Emmaus School and were excitedly greeted by the children once again. Handshakes and high fives till my hands were red (the children thought it was funny when I said “Ouch!” and shook my hands…I think it only encouraged them to give me even MORE enthusiastic high-fives 😆)! 

Are they waving or just trying to give me more
high-fives? 😄

The standard 8 (grade 8) teacher asked us to meet with his students in their classroom to chat with them and ask and answer each others questions.  We asked a few questions of them as they were getting ready for important exams in September in preparation for 9th grade and high school. They all said that their favorite class was science, so their questions of us were about science. Pastor Gurath and I being the “scientists” we are (ha!) did our best to answer their questions about the importance of plasma in blood (Pastor G. had donated plasma back in his college days so he gave a really good answer that impressed the students greatly). They asked me about the planet Pluto and quizzed me on the planets in our solar system (I think I passed their quiz!).  

Then the REAL questions they wanted to ask came from the students (all girls): Were we married and did we have children?  They screamed and squealed with delight at pictures of Pastor Gurath’s adorable little girls…and then reacted (with a little too much surprise 😏) at how beautiful our wives were when we showed them pictures (see video below).  Yes, yes, we get it, even people in other countries can see that we’ve obviously “out kicked our coverage” and been blessed with wives that are far too beautiful, talented, and amazing than we deserve (Hi Anna & Jewels!).  We closed our little Q&A session with them by praying for their upcoming exams and for God’s blessings to them as they prepare for high school.

The students reaction to pictures of Pastor Gurath’s wife, Anna. “Wow! So beauty!”

One last selfie with the standard 8 students.

Around 10:30am we gathered with the teachers for a “teacher seminar.” Very similarly to the one Pastor Gurath conducted at St. David’s School in Etago, he led the teachers in a summary study of the main teachings of the Bible as they are laid out in the CLC’s “Statement of Faith and Purpose.”  The teachers all got printed copies to follow along with and take with them (plus we dropped off the rest of the Small Catechisms—both the ones with and without the explanations—for both the teachers and students to use). The teachers all seem to read English very well and speak it clearly, which is good to see! 

It was also very enlightening when we came to the subject of Creation and Pastor Gurath mentioned that unfortunately many people in the USA and in most of the schools the theory of evolution is taught and believed as fact. They literally laughed at the thought of this, since they realize how impossible it is that all of creation (including ourselves) could somehow come out of nothing. According to them most people and teachers here in Kenya believe in creation. In this category it appears that Kenya is far ahead of the U.S.! 

Pastor Gurath leading the teachers seminar.

The Emmaus School teachers and Mary Sagala (on the end in red, who also attended the teacher seminar). 

The students (and even Mary and some of the teachers) saw us off with a song and dance. One little guy, Fabregas, really loves to dance (he’s the one in the front with the book bag)!

That afternoon we visited with Pastor Samson. He is very elderly and blind, but still preaches and has many Scripture passages and many hymns buried deeply in his heart and mind. He is anxiously awaiting being reunited with his wife and being with His Savior in heaven soon (he says he “turned in his application long ago”  🙂), but he also acknowledges that God’s timing is best. 

When we entered the house he greeted us with a hymn. After conversation and a meal, which was made and served by a woman and her daughter who help take care of Samson, he sung a closing hymn (with those who knew it in Swahili). 

Pastor Samson greeting us with a hymn as we entered. Mary Sagala also knew the hymn and joined in. 

Mary, Pastor Sampson, and the family that helps care for him. 

Friday we had lunch at Mary Sagala’s. Her granddaughter, Tessie, also helped make and serve the meal. Mama Anna Sagala and another grandson, Martin, who is in grade 3 at Emmaus School joined us later that afternoon. The large meal of chicken, beef, rice, chipati, potatoes, stewed cabbage (aka Kenyan Kraut—that’s what I call it in my head 🙂), and salad was delicious! The conversation that afternoon was equally delightful. As we left Anna had me try on the preaching robe she had made for guest preachers here at Holy Cross Church. It fit perfectly & I am honored that I will be the first one to wear it for the service on Sunday (see photo below).


“Kidogo” More Swahili:

“Kidogo” = a little

Habari = “How are you?”

Mzuri = “I am fine!”

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Good Bye Uganda

Wednesday morning we packed up and left the Continental Hotel in Iganga to make a few visits on our way out of the country of Uganda. Our plans were to meet in Bulandani with Pastor Tannas and in Busia with Pastor Absalom.

Pastor Daniel accompanied us all the way to the Kenyan border. All three of these pastors know each other from when they all lived in Busia (which is a busy city at the border of Uganda and Kenya).

Our first stop was in the little rural village of Bulandani and Pastor Tannas’ home and church next door. Pastor Daniel has known Tannas since 2004. Tannas had gone through serious family tragedy and serious personal and spiritual problems. father had committed suicide which caused Tannas great sadness and spiritual problems. Pastor Daniel helped him work through these issues with the help of God and His Word. Now Tannas shepherds his own congregation. Yet another incredible testament to God’s saving grace! 

We spent time talking with Pastor Tannas, eating some local pineapple, mango, and the best chipatti we’ve had on the trip so far (homemade by Pastor Tannas’ wife and still warm—delicious! I made sure to tell her that hers was the best chipati in Uganda AND Kenya :)  Chipati, if you’ve forgotten is the flatbread that is similar to a soft tortilla and is eaten in India, but has been adopted by a number of African countries as well). 

After talking and eating for a while we walked to the church where we had a short worship service in which Pastor Gurath and I were both once again invited to preach and Pastor Tannas translated into Lugandan. The congregation was very receptive and appreciative and said they were blessed by the message and thanked us deeply. We, as usual, we’re equally blessed to be able to share God’s saving Word with them!

Preaching at Pastor Tannas’ church in Bulandani.

Some of the members of the church.
When we took this picture Pastor Tannas wanted me to make sure and let everyone know that they usually have many more people and many more children at their services on Sunday, but this service was on Wednesday at 12noon, so many children were in school and many men were at work. 

Cute babies alert! 

After some effort (and a little help from his mama) this little guy cracked a smile for me 😊

Children eating ugali (Ugandan style) and fish (Nile perch). The ugali is dipped in the fish “soup.”
Some of the women who helped make and serve the meal. Tannas’ wife is in the white shirt and light blue head scarf. His eldest daughter is the one walking.

I tried some of everything at lunch.
Chicken, Nile perch (fish), rice, buttered noodles, and  Ugandan-style ugali. Ugandans make their ugali from casaba, sorghum, and/or millet (as opposed to maize, like Kenyans do). Our driver from Kenya really liked it. It is very sticky and dense. As Pastor Gurath said, “This will stick with you till tomorrow!” He wasn’t kidding. It was very filling!

One of the commenters on an earlier blog asked about the women and their participation. Those who were attended today were almost exclusively women (only a few men and some small children). In fact, in every church service we’ve been a part of the women have outnumbered the men. In both of our Kinship schools at least half of the teachers are women as well. So, yes, the women attend and are very involved (in addition to usually being the ones making and serving the delicious  food we’ve enjoyed on this trip!).

Pastor Tannas and his wife have 5 children, but he says he cares for a “small family of 9” (I think this also includes his elderly mother, who is also a member of the congregation). He also works part time as a teacher in a nearby school. He stretches his meager income to help support his family, send his children to school, and also helps support his church. On their property they keep goats, chickens, and rabbits for food and for income.

Pastor Tannas & me.
From the time I met him at the previous week’s Pastoral Conference I have been impressed with Tannas’ wise insights in the Word and his commitment to preaching it and shepherding his flock.

Pastor Tannas’ firstborn, Emmanuel, is in high school.
He made me this decorative star as a gift! 

The rest of Tannas’ children.

We only able to meet Pastor Absalom briefly at the border, and weren’t able to visit with his congregation this time. He is a very busy man who work as a counselor to young people (teenagers) in addition to shepherding a congregation in Busia.

Pastor Absalom, me & Pastor Daniel.

The Lord gave us a smooth and trouble-free border crossing back into Kenya and safe travel all the way to our hotel in Matunda on Wednesday night.  Bwana asafiwe! (Praise the Lord!)