Hunter and the Hunted

20 04 2013

I thought I was going to find me some elephants and take some great pictures to post on Facebook and blog about.  What actually happened was that I got chased from the mountain and seriously was scared into a near panic.  

You may have followed me on Facebook or here at my blog.  If you have you know that every now and then I take time off of my normal routine of  work and enjoy going into to Mt. Meru and looking for elephants.  They come down into our area where I live and eat corn sometimes.  Last November, they killed a farmer when he tried to shoo them from his corn field.  Elephants are NOT nice animals.  I know you seen them in the circus and Tarzan had a great relationship with Timba, in the old Saturday morning movies.  But in real life they are the bullies of the Serengeti and the most dangerous animal our side of Mt. Meru.  

The first time it occurred to me to go looking for elephants was while  jogging one morning I came across some elephant sign.  Meaning huge droppings.  I knew elephants came down the mountain but only through reputation and rumor.  I even knew they had killed a local farmer.  Again, just a story to me.  But these droppings were real.  I jogged back home wolfed down  a quick breakfast and headed out with my faithful dog Kuji.  The cur female that has puppies like Carter has liver pills.  None live, but she persist.  Below she leads the way after finding some droppings.

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I get water, hiking boots and I am off.  We find where the elephants had came out of the tall grass and start backtracking.  You can read the details on my past post called, under recent post called. 

Sunday Safari: Elephant Poop, Monkeys and a dog named Kugi

On this first trip I was turned back  by  Columbus Monkeys.  On my return trip I found it was not the monkeys disdain for me, it was Kuji.  The monkeys were totally indifferent on my second and each subsequent trips.  They viewed Kuji as a threat.  On my next few trips I found amazing elephant signs, incredible trees, beauty, strange cave like holes and a beautiful gorge.  I left Kuji behind. 

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This last trip, the most memorable was almost an after thought.  I had just enjoyed a great afternoon of bible reading at my house church.  Many of my members are illiterate.  So at least once a week we have a formal time of just getting together and reading the bible.  We talk about discipleship and many issues pertinent to our walk with the Lord.  

Frankly, the only reason I went up on the mountain this day was it had rained for three days straight and this was the first pretty day in a while.  So after everyone left at about four in the afternoon I head out for a quick two hour jaunt.  One hour up and then quickly back down.  It gets dark here at promptly seven PM on the equator and even sooner up on Mt. Meru under the trees and canopies.  Mama James, told me that I was heading too high up on the mountain each time and that I needed to look more to the North East.  I reproved her that I was following the freshest signs and that the elephants were all over the upper mountain. However, on this day I did not have the daylight to really go where I wanted so I just decided to confirm my suspicion that Mama James did not know what she was talking about.  I should point out at this time I get a lot of misinformation and that Africans are NOT curious about their own surrounding and sometimes it is amazing what they don’t even want to know about their own history and surroundings.  Having said that Mama James grew up here and is unusually bright.  She has been a wealth of information for me on social matters and I have learned to take her Que on many issues.  However, I truly looked down on her insights into elephants because I was tracking them and she was not.  So, there.  

I did take my compass, my panga, (machete) and my rungu, (Maasai club).  I did NOT put on my normal camouflaged gear.  In fact I put on a bright sky blue safari shirt and had a bright yellow Tanzanian souvenir shirt underneath it. Off I went, sans Kuji.  

The stroll started uneventful.  The grass was very tall here after the rains making the initial trail to the forest difficult.  The thorns and briers seemed to have particularly enjoyed the rainy season.  Once I entered the forest the trail was clear and wonderful as always.  Against my personal preferences I used my compass to take only the directions that Mama James indicated. North East not North West, after entering the rain forest.  After well over an hour and nothing of note I decided to take a break, pick some fruit for questioning around the dinner table in a couple of hours and then head home.  Just before I did I noticed that I was facing a bit different than I assumed on my compass.  The trail seemed to now be heading back towards the house.  140 degrees South of my normally Northward direction.  The path was much clearer than before  and very broad.  I then turned right towards the house and headed up a beautiful hill with giant trees at the top.  Wow, what a spot.  It was like something out of a National Forest back home.  No underbrush, tall trees and open.  I could just envision setting up a tent and relaxing.  

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I scouted it out and realized I could hear someone pounding nails.  I was near the gate entrance to the Mt. Meru park.  The Momela Gate.  Interesting.  As I faced that direction I saw a path with big elephant tracks coming up a hill.  So they did come up here sometimes.  Not many signs here, but hey, in the hard rain it is possible that many have washed away.  I reluctantly turned to leave and just then heard some grass “crunching”.  This is a sound that so far in my travels has actually been large Columbus monkeys jumping from tree top to tree top.  Making a loud swooshing sound as the leaves all collide and rub each other.  I walk in that direction.  I look and just below the hill is a huge field of tall grass.  I see some of the tops of the grass swaying like something is pushing them aside and the same swooshing sound.  Could it be?  Have I finality found these big guys?  About that time I heard a loud sound I can only describe as a huge creature passing gas.  Yes an elephant fart.  Sorry, I just call em as I see em.  Or in this case, hear them. 

Now, normally I have a plan for this scenario.  See in my vision of how this works, this is my well laid out safe scenario.  Locate the elephants via sound or sight from a distance.  Sneak up to the top of a hill and peak down and secretly take pictures.  Just before doing so locate a plausible escape route and perhaps a tree with low branches to scurry up in case they lumber your way.  

Well as I noted before there were only huge tall trees.  No low branches.  I was right on top of a large hill and it was seventy five yards across at the top so no precipice to peak over and hide behind.  The swooshing got louder.  Well, I want this picture so I will just sneak up snap it and get out right?  

Not so much.

 As I neared the area of the sounds, I had to go INTO the grass with the elephants.  As I did I realized that I could only see about ten feet ahead of me.  After a few steps I heard an elephant pass gas again and realized that I was right behind him and that I still could not see him and, and, and…….

About that time the elephant, trumpeted.  Well I have heard that at the zoo.  I have heard it on TV.  I have heard it in 3D at the theater   But this time I heard it from 20 feet away as the elephant obviously sensed my presence and turned to confront me. I did not run but tried to very quietly, walk very quickly out of the grass.  I was soon back on the hill in the open.  I glanced back and noticed the grass was being pushed down rushing in my direction like a wave on the ocean.  The elephant trumpeted again.  Where to go?  I took off in the direction of home and quickly realized that I had one elephant coming behind me and another had flanked me.  This one was now also trumpeting and running parallel to me, blocking my next move to head home.  I wanted to go South West, and he was forcing me due South. I had been holding my camera behind me determined to get a shot of this beast evidently chasing me.  However, he stayed in the grass just on the edge of the forest preferring to crash through it making as much noise as possible.  

I can’t tell you how horrifying it is to be chased by something you can’t see, that knows where you are, evidently, and  trumpeting his seeming attack about every 10 seconds.  I realized that if I kept running with my right arm behind me glancing back to get a shot I was going to run into a tree or off a ledge or something.  I lowered the camera and concentrated on escape.  I realized I would HAVE to enter the grass in front of them and cross to get heading home.  As I started off the hill into the grass, elephant number two was now sure he had me in his sights and started  plow at me like a bulldozer through the grass.  I quickly realized that in the grass I was a sitting duck.  These guys don’t actually try to get you with their tusk or snouts.  They just run over you.  End of story.  That was the word from the locals and I could see first hand how this could happen in a split second, right now.

I cut back left away from home into the thicket next to the grass.  Both elephants had me in a pincer action now bearing down.  I kept pushing into the thicket following some trail that was taking away from my home.  Away from safety, but away from the thudding feet and crashing branches.  By now I had to reluctantly put up my camera.  Not a hard decision.  I had come to the conclusion that I did not care if I ever got a picture of these guys.  Right now I was hoping just to get home.  

The elephants now began to slowly look for me.  The trail ended but they kept coming, but now slowly.  I was confronted with a brier thicket of considerable size and no other way out.  Perhaps the elephants knew I was out of options.  I made a decision.  I got on the ground and crawled into the ticket.  I had no idea if they would follow me.  My heart rate and profuse sweating told me I simply did not have the courage to try to simply run through them or make any bold action other than flee.  I could not make any sounds but let me tell you.  If the term “scream like a nine year old girl” has ever been one you laughed at, well so had I.  However, I longed for the FREEDOM to scream like that.  Meaning I was far enough away that giving my position away was no longer a danger.  

I pushed into the thicket.  At first blindly moving forward.  But the further in I went the thicker it got.  Finally, I realized that I was cutting myself to pieces   My arms were cuts, my clothing was torn and it was getting harder to go forward.  I had struggled for 20 minutes and probably had gone no more than fifty feat.  I tried changing directions.  No relief.  

Finally, I came to the conclusion I simply had to go back or stay here for good.  It was now after six PM.  Darkness would come.  I retreated the way I entered.  No elephant sounds.  No matter what I tried to tell myself about heading back the way to the hill and then the trail home I came I could not do it.  The sound of the elephants and their anger was still fresh in my mind and I was NOT going back in that direction.  I continued away from home towards the East.  Every fifty to a hundred feet  I would find a trail leading South and follow it into more thickets.  A huge deer jumped up in front of me scaring me to death.  Add to that three pheasant taking off making the sound of a helicopter and you realize I am still quite scared.  I thrashed and cut at the occasional briers with my panga.  Too thick.  Darkness was coming.  I used my rungu and broke the branches.  I realized that I had to slow down.  I was still operating in fear mode and continued to cut myself at almost every turn.  My hands were bleeding all over and I was sure my head as well, as many thorns had poked my head.  My ear was almost pierced by one thorn, I seriously would have had a missing ear lobe had I not stopped in mid stride.  

I prayed.  I asked God to show me the way out.  And of course I then had a vision of a beautiful lighted path with rabbits playing on it and daisies growing on the sides and followed it and went home.  NOT.  

Instead, in a few minutes, like always, I simply KNEW to slow down, don’t panic.  Everything was going to be fine.  Don’t stop, don’t run, walk out.  

It was getting really dark now.  Yes I packed my head mounted lamp, thank you brother Tripp.  I hated turning it on as everything in the entire forest would know where I am.  We have leopards and cape buffalo also to contend with.  However, no local has ever been attacked by either OUTSIDE the park.  And that is right where I am. On the edge of the park.  I walk hoping and praying for a trail.  I find many false ones.  But with peace that everything is going to be fine, I am in fact, fine.  I now realize that my host family will be worrying about now.  My phone has the ringer turned down, of course, but I realize that if I am still in here around eight I have to call.  Talk about a humbling experience.  “Hello, I will be a little late, I am lost.”  

I see lights far off in the distance and my compass tells me it is the little village of Maji Chai.  I hear a Pentecostal preacher holding a revival there.  I laugh, his hollering over a loud speaker in Swahili is like a vocal compass.  Just head West of his voice going South and you will be home.  Except you can’t go West as the trails all lead East.  Eventually I find my way South.  First I come to a trail that ends at an honest to goodness cliff.  Thanks again for the headlamp Tripp.  But as I suspected the trail picks up again to the East and heads sharply down.  I am at a much lower altitude now.  No briers at all.  I hear running water.  Insects begin to flock around my light.  I swallow a few breathing.  Pitch black now.  My glasses keep fogging up.  In the light I am aware that I am entering cooler air and vapor like steam is coming off of my clothing and skin.  I am stopping every 20 feet to clean them the fog my body is creating on my glasses.  I wish the bugs would leave and about that time a huge bat swoops down and catches a large moth right in front of me.  OK, that was fun.  But you know after the elephants this is all small stuff.  I eventually come to a marsh, after crossing a creek.  Yes, a marsh.  

I am actually following elephant trails in the grass now but I have no fear.  I am over a mile from the incident.  I know from where they were and my previous tracking that they are going to the corn fields to the West of my shamba, (farm).  I am to the East of the shamba.  The water is over ankle keep and the going is very taxing.  But again.  I am safe.  I have no fear.  I am now on a stroll.  After another thirty minutes of checking my compass I emerge onto a road.  I look at my phone and have dozens of calls all from my family here.  I call them and tell them I will be home in a while.  I eventually come to a house on the road and in broken Swahili find out I need to go East.  In thirty minutes I am sitting down for supper.  I recount my story to an excited audience.  I go to my little house and take a shower.  I wash my wounds.  I ache all over.  I get in bed but strangely I am still amped up.  I sleep little. The next day I have scabs all over me from cuts.

 I spend much of the next day at the motorcycle repair place getting my rings replaced and pulling splinters out of my hands.  I am full of them.  I am really sore over my entire body.  I am cut all over. I am thankful.  God is good.  

I don’t know about my next adventure.  I know where they live now.  I think I even know a hill that overlooks that spot.  But for now my adventurous side is assuaged.  My little boy nature is in a state of hang over from it’s overindulgence.  Today is house church day.  The one day a week I get to cook for my little house church family.  I could not have written this story yesterday due to swollen fingers full of the tips of thorns.  But I write it today as I hurry off to fellowship with the people I have grown to love.  Please pray for me.  Pray that I connect with my tribal family.  Pray that they know I love them and that I can model how to love others.  Elephants are cool.  They are not eternal.  Only the eternal truly matters.  God bless you as you live for that which will last forever, and learn to neglect that which is passing.  

 

 

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Kuji the Dog

20 04 2013

Kuji the Dog

Yes that is Kuji, and that other thing is what we refer to as elephant, “sign”.





My Week in Nairobi

17 04 2013

As many of you know I went to Nairobi this past week with a couple of issues in mind.  One to check on a new brother who was formerly a Muslim and had been attacked  by radicals.  We will call him Caleb.  Caleb had hospital bills and perhaps a home that had now been compromised to the radical Muslims.  Hospital bills and a new residence were financial issues to be dealt with.  The other reason I went was to purchase the Overlock sewing machines for my sisters in the house churches in Mathere and Kayole.  I am so appreciative of all my brothers and sisters that have contributed and made these efforts possible.

I began in East Leigh where many of the persecuted live.  As always we have to be flexible.  This is the underground church.  We stagger our times to meet and choose our meeting places carefully.  My mere presence compromises some of their secrecy.  Trust me there are few white people that go here.  I have NEVER seen another one on my visits.  This is where the bombings occurred around Christmas.  We recently had a sister murdered here by a machete attack.  My short term mission group coming in a couple of months will not be  coming here.

We ride the crowded Matatu mini bus to East Leigh.  We arrive at a brothers home and he is not there.  We find he has headed to the meeting place ahead of schedule.  This is not a bad idea.  We meet up and enter the restaurant.   The food is excellent here and it is one of two safe restaurants we go to when I come.  For 10 bucks we have two huge platters of food for four, that could have fed eight.  Four sodas and six cups of coffee while we talk.  I am surprised the Caleb speaks some English.  He is from Ethiopia.  His wounds are looking good but he is sore in the ribs and his broken nose is giving him problems.  My dad had his broken many times and I tell him that it will get better but straightening it is just as bad as getting it broke.  He seems to decide to leave the now crooked nose as it is.

Another brother, Kevin, updates me on his work with the glue boys.  These are small young boys that spend their days begging, stealing and sniffing glue.  I have had Kevin simply loving them and feeding them and telling them of Jesus.  They go to the Catholic church to eat all the time.  They are told of Jesus, but to them He is irrelevant.  They sleep in alleys, move around a lot and all carry knives.  It takes him days before they trust him with a name we think is real.  More days till he knows where they really live and a bit about life.  The police round them up regularly to find out about crimes in the area.  The glue people are responsible for most snatch and run crimes.  They will rat on each other for a few hundred schillings.  They will stab someone for a thousand schillings.  It is said they will kill someone for a thousand schillings.  How much is that?  Around  eight dollars and thirty cents.

Keven is also from Ethiopia and like Caleb has little education and cannot find meaningful work since Kenyans don’t really care for refugees and would rather hire someone from their tribe or at least a real Kenyan.  We talk about buying a wheel barrow and buying some pineapples and bananas and selling them on the street. A good business and if you add some bottled water you can make a decent living.   We think we can do this for about 6000 schillings.  We decide to investigate.  For now the brothers will receive rent from us for two rooms.  About 60 dollars.  They will let some others live there with them and sometimes have as many as eleven in one room.  Kevin has nine living with him now.  He charges them all a bit to stay and then can buy food.  They cook right in their rooms.  They open the door to let the smoke out as there are no windows.  They are so thankful.  They smile and tell me of the glue boys, thank me profusely for the rent money and I give them some to buy more rice for the kids.  They tell me that they are feeding them about three times a week and still have five hundred schillings left over from last month.  I tell them to keep it.  We go to Kevin’s room and talk of making disciples, loving like Jesus loved and laying down our lives for these glue boys.  No one want to work with them.  They stink, they lie, they steal and they are just little boys.  They are just the least of these.  They all carry knives and they use them.  Kevin is learning how to share with them.  I can’t be directly involved and I truly regret it.  A musungu ( white person)  is viewed as nothing but a silly, stupid rich person to be fed a line and get some money.  My presence in this instance is problematic.  I watch from afar and disciple Kevin for a while.  His true mentor is a former Imam that is my contact.  We pray and I head back home.

Next it is the slums.  On my last visit I visited called all the house church leaders together and meet for three days.  Day one was teaching on the Kingdom of God.  Day two on the teachings of Jesus and Luke 10 evangelism.  We were to go out and witness the next day but it was during national elections and there were many murders in Mathere where we were going and I got over ruled by the pastors.  So we spent the day talking about challenges in the house churches.  As you might imagine they are legion.  Of course the main one is financial.  Eight to ten people living in a 10×10 room.  The women make a living watching each others children and taking turns walking the rich neighborhoods looking for work cleaning floors or washing dishes.  The men look for jobs as laborers. Over 50% of Nairobi lives in the slums.  At least that is what I am told.   About 20% of my house church leaders also run a small business.  Sewing, selling vegetables and making a flour taco type of food called a chipati.  Some are very good at it but spend all their profits feeding their house church members.  Sharing and sacrificial giving is the African way.  To accumulate money for yourself while your friends, neighbors and family struggle is not normal.  The ones that live that way quickly exit the community.  They move off where they don’t have to be around family members that are in constant need.  The more Westernized they get the quicker they move off.

I pledged on my last visit to write about the needs there and see if the brothers and sisters in America would join them in this service and buy additional sewing machines and fund vegetable stalls and buy more supplies to expand their fledgling businesses.  Not to prosper these business people.  But rather, we identified those people sharing at the greatest level of sacrifice and determined to help them.  In returned they agreed to begin to train the others on their skills.  Sewing, buying and selling used clothing and other skill sets we could identify.  This trip was the time for me to fulfill the commitment.  Thanks to your generous giving I am purchasing four sewing machines.  Your are funding a used clothing business, purchasing 80 kilos of rice for the hungry in our churches and purchasing supplies like needles, cloth and thread.  These are not loans.  These are investments into the lives of people that are sacrificially giving to our brothers and sisters.  I cannot loan to someone that is giving all they have for others.  With your help, we join in their giving.  It’s that simple.

One last note.  There is a business model in Tanzania where women with Aids are making handbags out of flour sacks and coffee bags.  They are then sold in the shops that cater to tourist.   We are going to do the same, in Kenya.  Soon we will have pictures of the bags and purses.  I wondered if you would be interested in buying them or selling them in your church or to your friends for gifts.  Many of you give Christmas gifts.  These would be perfect.  The sewing machine for this ministry model is being delivered next week.  We hope to begin sewing right away.  Let me know if you would be interested.

Thank you all for allowing me to serve these people.  I am not the one giving.  I am not the one sacrificing.  In fact, I am having all the fun.  You and your generosity are making a difference.  You have heard me say this before and if you keep reading my post you will keep hearing it.  I am you. WE are serving the least of these.  My prayer is that if someone ask you what you are doing for the Kingdom you will say with complete confidence that you are feeding the poor.  You are visiting the sick and you are serving the least of these.  You tell them you have sent and are supporting a brother named Glenn.  He is your agent for the Kingdom in Africa.   You are feeding orphans, because many of my house churches are feeding them.  And you are providing the rice.  You are clothing children, blessing widows and spreading the Gospel.  You are reaching out to the unloved glue boys.  The hopeless ones that if we can’t reach in 6-10 months will have ruined their precious minds on this glue.  I hope that your giving here inspires you to do the same in your neighborhood.  Trust me the poor are just a few miles away.  The lonely and the needy.

God bless you my brothers and sisters in Christ.  And thank you for the privilege of being here to serve the Kingdom.  For our King, and for your His faithful Church.  Please pray for us.