Jogging With Glenn in Africa

21 02 2015

Slow getting up this morning as sinuses have made a rare appearance. I determined, however, to go on a morning run. After a bit of reading and prayer, I don my running shoes and head out the door starting my watch timer. I leave my little low rise building in Umoga Two and begin my run by walking out of my neighborhood to the nearest road with a shoulder I can run on. For about four minutes I have to stay in the dangerous streets in my area, or risk sliding into the black foul water and filth that runs in the open ditches on the sides of the road. Dangerous because of traffic not people. I am a part of this community and thus protected by my belonging. To harm or rob me would be very problematic here as local street justice can be brutal.

Upon reaching the corner I turn left and begin to run. Let me qualify that. Jog. I am always reminded as I start out in my limited gait of days long gone in my late 20’s when I bristled at anyone who called me a jogger. I was a runner. I accidently ran the first mile of a five mile run in Nashville one time well under a 4:45 minute mile pace. It is certain that a 4:20 to 4:30 mile was within my grasp. I ran a marathon at under a 6:50 pace and had ran over a hundred miles a week on multiple occasions preparing for a marathon. The memories go through my head and it makes me smile. Not because I was a good runner. I was only average. No, I smile because I am running now at about a 12 minute mile pace on this rocky shoulder at 6000 ft altitude in Kenya. The land of real runners. Olympians and world record holders. I am now that shuffling old guy I used to pass over and over on a dirt circuit in the woods of Brentwood, TN. My mind drifts to animism.

I am fascinated by the cultures I serve in. Animism and Islam dominate the non-Christian environments I work in. And even the Christians here are trying to serve Christ with their past influenced by Islam and Animism as their heritage. Just was we American Christians try to serve Christ from our biases and backgrounds. Every culture presents challenges to the Kingdom of God. But the ultimate culture to survive, the only one that is salient, is the Kingdom Culture of King Jesus. Or as I have just identified it, the Kingdom of God. But it is very helpful to understand what challenges the other cultures we are planting the Kingdom of God among and the strongholds and issues that each believer might struggle with as we share the Good News of the Kingdom of God in making disciples. For example if you are an America, you have been raise to value independence, self-sufficiency, venerate capitalism and have strong values molded by the heroes of your culture that values success as being the goal or purpose of life. Rock stars, movie stars and sports figures were idolized as the epitome of success in our cultures even as they model, greed, egoism and self-promotion. Even as a Christian, you may have put a Christian spin on the American Dream and think that this is God’s plan for you. If you follow me you know that I challenge Americans to turn in and actually forsake and betray the American Dream and take on a Kingdom Dream. But that is another story. This morning we are just jogging together in Africa.

In Animism spirits, ghost and different expressions of ancestral approval dominate traditions both within and outside the African church. One brother recently told me that African’s live for the dead. Magic and envy dictate many traditional practices as they strive not arouse the jealousy of another and thus bring an evil energy that could harm their good fortune and fate. I muse on the implications of these truths from the outside looking in. Westerners basically, dismiss these influences at their own peril and are blinded to their implications. Our discouragement of the African abandonment of all commitments when a funeral arises is just one of our many frustrations with our target peoples. It is best to understand these things to be able to more correctly deal with them in light of God’s will for His people. Africans do not share these things normally and have learned to speak of things in a way that Westerners cannot understand, veiling their customs and ways to our eyes to better get along with us and please us while not interrupting their traditions. I pray for wisdom and discernment. A man speaks to me in English, I reply that, today I am only speaking Swahili and greet him accordingly. It has been said that unless and until you speak to someone in their mother tongue you will never know a peoples heart or even their true thoughts. I am informed by what a tribal man said to me one time. He was so excited that I was speaking to him in my limited Swahili vernacular. He stated that if I bothered to learn his language then that means that I love him. I have decided to love these people. So I am going to become fluent in Swahili. It is so much easier to parrot the multitude of reasons to just stick with English. I know a hundred reasons not to learn Swahili. Frankly, it the mother tongue of few but the day to day language spoken by everyone in Tanzania and known and used frequently in all of East Africa. I work among 10 mother tongues that all share Swahili to do business and speak to one another. Maybe someday I will learn another language after Swahili. Perhaps Arabic or Somali. Some go so far as to say that a missionary that does not speak the native tongue is destined to fail. Or to at least flounder and waste much time and money and potential fruit due to the stubbornness of failing to learn the language. They even say we produce false converts to Christianity. Instead we produce a mere shadow of what God has in mind. While I will learn this language I disagree with that point. The bible tells us that the Gospel IS the power of God to save to all who believe. I believe it. Even if it is through a poor translator or a poor grasp of the language, it is not our expertise nor our clarity that will produce Kingdom Citizens, we call Christians. Paul says so in Romans 1:16. He even states that it is good even when it is preached with poor motives. So of all our shortcomings it is silence that will cause the failure of the mission of the Great Commission, not our methods.

Most people don’t know that 85% of all people that come to faith do so from a one on one witness. Not the millions of sermons from the pulpit or thousands of annual crusades. Only 10 % of Christians every share their faith with an unbeliever. And let’s face it. In a crusade almost no one even knows who made a profession of faith. Not so in one on one ministry. I am not against street preaching. I have done it both here and in America. Many times. But if the intention is to make disciples then we must connect with the new believers in their new faith. I greet again and again on my run. Children, adults and youth. At one time early in my time here I used to tire of everyone trying to greet the white guy. Many view me as a human ATM machine running down the street. I am nothing to them. Others are truly affected that I speak kindly and directly to them. Some yell, hello Johnny, thinking all whites are named John or Johnny or at least so many are that this attempt might be their lucky day. I smile and tell them my name and greet them warmly now. Almost all of them. It is no longer a burden. Like learning their language it is an act of love. It connects us in some very small way just to greet each other in their language. I know at the car wash down the road they can’t wait on my return from my run to all yell their greetings. I smile and greet them back. Once a young man ran up to me in an almost menacing way and asked me if I am lost. He looked desperate and perhaps even meant me harm. A foreigner far from home and perhaps lost could be easy pickings for a thief. I answer him in Swahili and tell him I live here. I am not lost. I am home. He looks disappointed. As I said a man connected to the culture is no man to mess with. I am connected.

imageI am sweating profusely in the 85 degree weather without a cloud in the sky. Unless a Kenyan is an athlete in training they would never run. At least not one my age. In Tanzania many would speak to me in a manner that implied they were actually distressed that I seem to be sweating and can’t imagine that I am enjoying myself. They shake their heads in disbelief when I share I love to run for exercise. People that survive from hard manual labor cannot conceive of such a thing. That’s okay. I finally near my building. Walking again I enter my little slum like court yard. Open ditches with who knows what flowing in them and children playing everywhere. Its Saturday they are off from school. They get excited. They all begin to yell different greetings. All at once. I stop and answer them over and over and over smiling as even they are astounded at the sheer volume of greetings they have just delivered. Then I raise my voice and say, hamjambo. A greeting one person can use to address a crowd. How are you? Plural of course. It actually and literally means, business? (pl), the implication is “how are things for all of you?”. They smile and they have learned in school the proper response is for them to reply in unison, hatujambo. Basically, no problems. Literally, no business. Business, problems, matters, they are all the same here. They laugh and giggle at our connection in this small matter. I see adults sticking their heads out of their many doorways in my little complex. No doubt amused and curious as to the Mzungu, (white man) living in their midst that obviously love kids. They approve, but I am aware that adults here pay little attention to children they don’t truly know. But that is ok. I have run. I have prayed. I have meditated and mulled over the daily dilemma’s I face in this culture. Someday soon I will be speaking to these people as less and less as that stranger. I will always be the Mzungu. But my dream is to be the Mzungu that they know loves them. Modeling the love my Father in Heaven has for them. Incarnational love. Jesus came for His culture in Heaven and lowered Himself to become a child in order to relate to us. He was God incarnate among men. I want to follow His example. That is what a missionary is. That is what all Christians that understand their role is life are. Incarnational agents of their King. Ambassadors of His Kingdom. His very agents for the Kingdom. Well we are done. We went 47 minutes today. Much to do. Let’s get on with it.

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Baboons, Blood and Mad Bull Elephants

24 09 2013

elephants full 006

I know it’s not a National Geographic shot but hey, I don’t have a long range lens.  This took work.  And here is how the story goes.

Many of you may remember if you follow my blog that I have really wanted to get a shot of our local elephants.  Their signs are everywhere but really only come out into our shambas, (little farms) at night.  In November a group of elephants came on a man’s shamba and he tried to shoo them off and was trampled.  They don’t like humans and are afraid of nothing,

If you go back to my post in the past in the March archives you will find my original adventure Sunday Safari.  I found nothing but a huge number of signs.  That means elephant tracks and poop.  In April I returned and found the elephants, but was literally chased and ran for my life.  I have learned much in my little forays onto Mt. Meru.  And finally, success.

Now on my past journey I announced that I was going elephant hunting on Facebook before I went.   I was ambushed on that trip and could only surmise that the elephants had been tipped off by a Facebook spy, posing as a fan.  Or, the alternative, they are actually ON Facebook and watching for just my kind of behavior.  So this time.  NO warning.  Just up and go!

Like the last trip I left to head towards the mountain three hours before dark.  I knew where the elephants would be.  All three of my dogs went with me.  They think we are now inseparable.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like dogs.  But frankly can do without them, personally.  I merely fed one starving dog out of pity and now I have her two grown puppies to tend to and they think we are a pack.  They jog with me every day and on this day went out hunting for elephants.

Right away I knew I was low on calories.  I had already run today and lifted s little bit of weights with a new brother.  So I was not exactly fresh.  I asked Mama James for some bananas and we were out.  I stopped by the crude shop in our area and they had nothing but cookies. I decided to just stay hydrated and hungry.

I entered the forest near where I live.  I realized right away that not only did I not have food this time but I also left my compass at home.  No worries, I will just try to pay attention.  Just a note, this is yet to work.  I need my compass.  I hiked up steep hills and right away there were elephant signs everywhere.  The dogs were panting and probably wondering where we were going.  UP and down hills we followed the trails.  There were an incredible amount of elephant sign.  Much more than I remember.  And among them were now, baby elephant sign.  The large elephants leave waste behind that could fill a bushel basket every time they go.  Large pellets, as big as cantaloupes.  But now there were little ones, like little square oranges.  I really was excited at the prospects of seeing a mama and baby and fearful of being seen by the elephants with a young one in tow.  They are aggressive and dangerous alone.  With a baby they are deadly.

We walked for over an hour.  Every now and then the dogs would venture far in front of me.  I was regretting their coming.  They were loud and I could tell becoming very thirsty.  Then I started hearing monkeys.  Monkeys hate dogs.  And dogs love to run and try to catch the baby monkeys.  Fortunately, they are never really successful.  But it has been close a few times.  First, they chase some Vervet Monkeys and then the beautiful Columbus Monkeys.   But then a strange thing happened.    It sounded like a dog was barking from just a few meters away.  By now we were two kilometers into the woods and I could not imagine a dog here.  I was right, no dog.

The puppy of the group I call Happa, went boldly running straight at the barking sound.  The other two dogs followed.  And then I heard yelping and all three came running back with their tails between their legs.  Howling.  The older dogs hid behind me and Happa, stopped and then boldly went right back at the barking sound.  This time he returned in a dead sprint and unfortunately for me there was a huge baboon on his trial.  Did you know that baboons hair stand on end when they are angry and bare their fangs in a most fearsome manner.  A baboon can quickly kill a dog and as I said, all primates hate dogs.  The baboon was startled to see me standing there.  He broke off the chase and returned into the forest.  I could see him sitting on a log 30 meters into the trees watching me and then I noticed the dozens of other primates all around him.  He was the protector of quite a clan of baboons of all ages.  We quickly left the area.

It was then I began to think of an exit strategy.  I did not want to, necessarily, have to come running FROM an elephant TO a pack of large baboons.  I knew it was time for a strategy.  The droppings from the elephants were now a mixture of old droppings with some much fresher.  I looked down and realized Is was bleeding.  A lot.  Evidently, my adrenaline as so high that as the baboon attacked I have moved back into some thorns and had cut my fingers and arms.  Blood was running off me and onto the ground.  I guess my heart was really pumping.  I took my pulse and realized I needed to calm down.  I opened my backpack and bandaged myself while standing surveying the forest.  No time to let my guard down.  Do elephants smell blood like sharks?  Nah!

 Finally, I started by back down the trail and found droppings left   in the last hour.  The elephants  were very near.  But where?  Paths cross this trail from many directions all the time.  It is evident from the signs, that the elephants travel all the trails up here, eating and just being elephants.  I know I am going to be 57 years old in two weeks, but I simply must spot those elephants from a distance this time and not have them ambush me from 50 feet like last time.  I truly thought I was going to be killed on my last trip.

I climbed a tree and looked around.  I was looking for a high spot to look down on the elephants.  I want to watch them, unseen.  Besides, everyone has told me that elephants hate thorns and they hate to run downhill.  So the ideal situation would be for me to be on a hill, with thorns between me and them and a great way to run down.  I could tell from climbing the tree that I was very high on this hill and that I was nearing the area where the elephants should be.  I descended noting that at my age climbing a tree would not be a good option of escape.  I am a very slow climber.  As a kid I swung and lunged at branches climbing with ease.  Now, frankly, I thought too much, calculated too long, and moved to slow to evade anything by going up a tree.  Scratch that option.  Finally, I got to a spot that seemed familiar.  In the distance, from a ridge, I spotted a landmark I recognized.  Meaning,  if the elephants were near where I found them last time, I was within a few hundred meters.  I saw a path leading down to where I could get a good look over the ridge.

It was then I realized that these jumping running and generally loud dogs might be the best thing for me to escape.  I figured if the elephants come after me they would have to choose who to stomp.  Since it was me and three dogs I decided that I had a one in four chance of not being targeted.  We came to the ridge and I heard one of the same sounds that lead me to the elephants last time.  The crushing of branches, munching of leaves and the occasional grunting.   There were obviously more than one elephant this time.  Of course there were last time but I did not know it until it was almost too late.  I am a bit more experienced now. Elephants don’t travel alone.  There are always more.  You don’t see elephants at first you hear them.  And hear them I did.

Immediately, I saw two problems.  One, the thorns.  As I said I was told that elephants hated thorns and if you are chased climb under a big thorn patch. Well.  These elephants had actually plowed through the thorns and were eating the trees growing in the their midst.  Scratch off, hiding in the thorns.   The next thing I noticed was that the dogs, which normally barked and chased anything that moved, were flattened on the ground like pancakes, in terror.  The elephant would never see these guys if they looked for me as these little guys had no intention of raising their heads six inches off the ground.  Scratch off multiple options for the elephant to choose from if and when they decided to attach.  And last but not least, the elephants were down below me but had a clear path to run straight up at me and the only way I could run downhill from here was to run right at them.  I was excited to be so near again and sure I would succeed this time in getting a picture,  but none of my intel or planning was working out to my advantage.

Now I had another problem.  There was a huge clump of thorns easily 12 feet high in front of me.  The elephants had made a trail going to both the left and right of the clump.  I heard two elephants, at least.  I am looking at the left trail around the clump, big enough for a truck I might add, when I hear the elephant stop eating and go silent.  I hear it began to move towards me very slow.  Then I hear another elephant making a noise at the other trail bend.  Man, two elephants, one on each trail and I can’t see either one.  Then they began to move quickly.  But it seemed they were everywhere going in every direction.  All the branches below me began to be pushed in directions to both my right and left.  I moved to right trail on the other side of the clump to get see if I could see the other elephant and to see if it was coming.  I was reminded that the last time this happened they actually came at me together at the same time as though they were in a military maneuver.  I thought they would just bluff me and then leave me alone as long as I moved away.  I was wrong.  There were seriously searching for me to do me harm.  Of that I am sure.

I looked down at the dogs and realized they were all three sitting at my feet whimpering and staring at me.  It was as though they expected me to make this terrible sound and these terrible animals go away.  It was apparent they would be of no help in a crisis.  About that time to my amazement one elephant trumpeted and began to actually run.  This brought back the nightmare of my last trip to this part of the mountain.  Running, sweating and fearing for my life.  I had no idea which way to run and just froze trying to get some more information before I moved.  I did not want to choose a path that lead me to a certain confrontation.

I heard some terrible crashing and another elephant trumpeting then I saw a huge male elephant charging.  But, praise God, he was charging at a 45 degree angle from where I was.  I don’t know where he had picked up a scent from where we were earlier or thought he heard us over there earlier and perhaps upon hearing us again decided to challenged that position.  Whatever the reason, he had now lumbered 150 meters from where we were.  He was behind us but It was evident that when he got to the top of the hill, our hill, he was just standing there looking around.  The sound stopped.  It was then my brain registered that he had run up that steep hill at about twice the speed I could run on flat ground.  He was now behind me and there were elephant noise in front of me and below me.  Was I being surrounded by these guys?  I looked and looked where I thought the sound was coming from and soon realized that the silence of the forest was playing tricks on me.  It sounded like elephants 50 feet from me but I finally saw motion two hundred meters away.  A momma elephant and her young.  They were paying me, no attention.  They were just eating.  The little one leaned on the mother almost the whole time. In the picture above you have to look to see the little guy next to her.  Later, I got a blurred picture of the little guy with his trunk extended.

elephants full 005

Daddy on the other hand had huge tusk.  I now had my pictures; it was time to head home. I worked my way slowly to the left of the momma and baby and descended at a slow rate as not to intercept them.  Only the puppy followed.  The two adult dogs were so afraid they were frozen to the ground where I left them.  Sorry, you will have to come on your own.  I am not going to carry you.  About thirty minutes later they caught up.   I had to be diligent.  I was now on the same level of them in the bush and knew they would come this way soon.  They travel each night right to where I am walking now heading to feed on corn.  I occasionally saw a place on the ground where they elephants dug the grass up and wallowed in the dirt.  This is their home. They love it here.  They are raising their families here and are willing to kill to protect them.  But I am learning the rules.  The last time I passed here it was dark, I was covered in sweat exhausted and my heart was racing.   But the sun was still up and I would be safe going this way for the next hour.   My heart was calm and I was having a ball.  I walked home past the dirt homes of some of my house church members.  I prayed for them.   I arrived home, ate my meal, told my story and studied Swahili, read the bible, prayed and went to bed.  I thought about you as I went on my safari.  I knew, if things went well, that I would tell you this story.

I am not an adventurer.  I am just a regular guy trying to take the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the least of these.  People with the same hopes and dreams all people have.  To raise their families and provide for them.  They just happen to live right next door to antelope, elephants, boars, leopards, monkeys, buffalo and giraffes.  And sometimes I take a walk and go visit them.  I see what I can see.  Thanks for coming along.  I hope you enjoyed the adventure.  You know you can come and visit and I can show you amazing things.  Karibu! You are welcome.





Part Two: Training with Marc

9 08 2013

I landed in Nairobi and was picked up by a brother at the airport in the middle of the night.  I was taken to a part of town called Kayole.  To my Western eyes it looked like a bombed out, abandoned city.  It had every appearance, to me, of being dangerous and at this time of the night, deserted. I remember thinking I did NOT want to work in the city.  I wanted to go to the villages of Tanzania.  I was glad to being going somewhere else to serve.   Little was I to know that I would be planting house churches in this neighborhood in 6 months and would consider this the nicest area that I had churches in. This was NOT the slums.  More on this later.

Marc baptizing new believers in Kenya.

Marc baptizing new believers in Kenya.

The next day I boarded a bus and rode many hours to my friend and mentors home, Marc Carrier.  If you read my last post I shared that Marc had a very different vision of missionary work than what most are aware of.  Whereas, I was told I would need 50 to 80K to even GO to Africa, Marc had a different vision.  I came with a 500.00 commitment from my home church.  100.00 of that was to go to a translator and the rest to food and lodging and then of course travel, bibles and the rest.  It was my goal to raise another 500.00 in monthly pledges, but I failed.  I had commitments from my church, Island Community Church in Memphis, TN for the initial 500, but I only had 280 raised from other givers.  200 of that disappeared in the first 90 days as the person that pledged had a terrible business downturn. I know this sounds crazy but this was my original budget and now let me share my mission model.  It was my intention to buy one bicycle for myself and one for a translator.  We would go out door to door and share the Gospel of the Kingdom, leading the lost to Jesus, teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus, plant house churches and teaching door to door evangelism and discipleship.  I believed God would provide for the needed supplies like bibles and that we would rely on the “man of peace” that Jesus said to look for when you enter an area to share the Gospel.  See Luke 10, Matthew 10 and Luke 7.  You will get the idea.

I suggest you look on the tab on this blog entitled, The Mission and the Method to fully get the scriptures for my model. Click on that tab now if you want to see this next session in detail. There is also a cool movie.  GO! The great commission is to GO.  Make Disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and TEACH them to OBEY all that Jesus commanded and lo I am with you even to the ends of the earth.  Notice it did not say go and preach the gospel and get people to pray the sinners prayer, or get them saved or converted.  Or even to get them to believe.  Nope we are to go and make disciples.  This is very different than what I had done most of my life.  But I learned I was doing evangelism the proscribed way by Western Christianity.  But I was simply avoiding and thus disobeying the Great Commission.  I now call that method the Not so great commission.  I like Jesus’ method better.

How did He call people to discipleship?  If any man wants to be My disciple He must lay down His life and take up His cross and follow me.  He must hate his mother, father, sister brother, children, YEAH even his own life and follow me.  In fact He says you must give up EVERYTHING and come and follow me.  Trust me almost everyone wants to explain to me that this is heresy.  I was actually told it was heresy just three weeks ago in a Facebook post.  Imagine, quoting Jesus almost word for word and being told that what you just said is heresy.  I guess Jesus was a heretic.  At least His preaching seems to be, when placed next to the teaching of the Reformers.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  We also teach and model the church in the house, discipleship, literal obedience to the commands of Jesus and other things taught and practiced by the early church.  Many no longer emphasized in the Western Church.  I will stop there an hope you went to my site and read the tab mentioned.

At Marc’s home I was welcomed and almost immediately we went out to watch Marc do a seminar on these types of teachings.  Teachings on expanding the Kingdom of God the way Jesus did it.  I studied diligently and took notes on everything Marc said.  I had NEVER, called men with this type of message to repentance.  Don’t get me wrong.  I emphasized repentance.   But sitting under Marc’s teaching I also learned that men needed to not only be sorry for sin, not only say I am a sinner and profess faith but to actually turn from that sin. When someone wanted to surrender to King Jesus, we were trained how to lead them in repentancee.  As I later learned to apply this, I would literally share some of my personal sins from when I repented.  I would then share how I turned from those sins and even renounced them to God.  Marc trained in repentance, renouncing, confessing and turning, openly and verbally from sins.  He even told of taking a lighter and writing down sins and then renouncing and repenting form them and burning the paper like in the book of Acts.  I was so looking forward to the seminar winding down from the teaching part and going with Marc to actually witness his sharing this new way of expanding the Kingdom.  At least new to me. I was really curious about this process of leading people to repent and renounce their sins.  That is NOT what Marc had in mind.

After the last period of teaching, Marc announced that now some brothers from his ministry would actually take out pastors, elders, leaders and deacons and share so others could learn.  I could not wait to go and was really hoping that Marc would train me personally.  He did.  He told me to take a group out and show them how to do it.  My mouth fell open.  But I have not done it.  Marc asked me if I took notes and paid attention? I told him I did.  He told me he knew I could do it and for me to take a group of pastors.  So here I go with 5, yes 5 pastors in tow waiting on ME to teach them how to do it.  Well I went out that day and shared about five times that afternoon and one time the next morning. Now of course the first person rejected the Good News but then there were five guys sitting on a bench I shared with. I shared OK but did a terrible job of leading them in the repentance part.  But the next morning I followed the instructions exactly.  To my amazement a young man  was  ready to lay down his life and surrender everything to Jesus, naming his sins and turning from them and towards the Kingdom of God and Jesus the King of that Kingdom.  I very slowly had him name and renounce the sins he wanted to repent from.  He had sexual sin and was also involved in the occult.  He was very ashamed but confessed and repented.  He removed the occult objects and we took him straight to the river for baptizm.  Marc baptized new believes that afternoon. I was so excited.  I had led my first person to the Lord in true repentance since becoming a missionary in Africa.

Now this is how I train to share the Gospel.  Repentance.  Real repentance.  We name sins and renounced them.  I asked men and women if they will give up everything for Jesus.  I have been known to carry a lighter to set booze, pornography and simple sheets of paper on fire, with sins written on them, after repentance.  I began to ask men and women to renounce their sins.  Think of Paul at Ephesus .  They brought out their books and things of sorcery and set them on fire, renouncing them. There was a fire in Ephesus, and now, there have been fires in Africa. I know this is backwards to the way we do things in the West.  We want people to get saved, believe and get baptized.  Usually we asked them to realize they are a sinner and tell God they are sorry, repent, and accept what Jesus did on the cross for our sins as we pray a sinners prayer making sure we touch all of these theological points.  Good points by the way.   Then we hope over the years that they grow up into a mature believers and we refer to this process as sanctification.  Sanctification is a process that both happens when God sets us apart unto Himself and it happens in us in the here and now as we grow. We want to get them saved and then we hope that some day they will grow into a disciple.  That is the opposite of Jesus.  He called them to be disciples from day ONE.  To give up everything, right off at the point of making a decision.  He nor the Apostles spent time during the initial sermons preaching the wonderful effects calvary has on the believer.  We love those truths.  However, if you look at Peters first sermon in Acts he barely mentions Jesus death on the cross.  In fact he talks about it only to mention that after death Jesus ROSE.  The whole nation of Israel and thew world was waiting for the Messiah, the annointed one, the Christ.  And Peter and the Apostles in Acts over and over proclaim Him to be the King.  Christ is not Jesus last name.  The Christ is the annointed promised King that came to introduce a new Kingdom that will never end and will crush all Kingdoms.  And indeed, even now it crushes the kingdoms of darkness in all that surrender to their Kings. It is the Kingdom that will never in active in the lives of all the follow and are disciples of Jesus.  Sorry, got excited.

We all in the past believed that you just get them saved and hope they became disciples.  It was a long ongoing process that few attained to.  But Jesus showed us how to lead men.  He called them to discipleship.  To lay down everything, to sell all and buy the field with the treasure in it that is like the pearl of great price.   That was Jesus standard.  Marc ask a question.  Wo gave us the  right to lower the standard of becoming a disciple.  Jesus set the standard for discipleship very high didn’t He?  He says you have to give up everything to follow Him.  Again,  who gave us permission to lower it? Moving on.

We were to go on another seminar but after a very long journey the brother that had set up the seminar turned out to be ‘not ready”.  So we returned home. During that next week Marc shared with me, answered questions and took me to house church meetings.  Cindy his lovely wife, cooked great meals and modeled the Proverbs 31 wife for me and the community as she raised her 20 kids.  Only kidding. I think she has seven or is it nine.  I love them all.   I left Marc eager to get started on my own, practicing church planting reaching the lost and making disciples.

Got decorated with lizards at Marc's house.

Got decorated with lizards at Marc’s house.

I soon left Kenya and headed to Tanzania.  The country I would call home for two years.  My missionary work would actually begin in earnest.  I would find me a translator/disciple and head out into the wilds of Africa and begin to share the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Turns out, that is NOT how things worked out. See you on the next post.





One Year: Part One

24 07 2013

One Year.  Has it been a year? As I reflect I can feel myself becoming emotional. This may take more than one rewrite.

To understand where I am today you will have to understand a bit about how this all came about. Just a few years ago I was a happy committed Christian going to a Southern Baptist Church in Memphis, Tn. I have never been a denominational person and in fact have frequently been critical of most denominations. I have always admired the Southern Baptist for their commitment to reaching the lost. Something near and dear to the heart of God. I was challenged by my pastor, Dr. Jeff Brawner, and the ease at which he shared his faith. He was my pastor when my journey began. When very young in the Lord I was a consistent witness for the Lord but had slowly witnessed less and less. I was became very involved in making money, at this point in life, owning multiple businesses and enjoying the American Dream. I live in a tony flat in Downtown Memphis, drove a Porsche and enjoyed the finer things in life. As a Christian I went to church, tried to serve there as best I could and was a pretty good giver. That is what Christianity is about in the West. Right? I was just like everyone else. Living just like any successful American Christian. But then everything changed.

In my quest to share my faith more, I started working at a ministry sharing my faith in one of the poorest zip codes in America with a ministry that also passed out groceries. I was praying with many people to receive Jesus into their hearts. Hundreds over the course of the next few years. But there was a problem. Here is a guy driving a Porsche telling the poor about Jesus. One week, a lady I had prayed with to receive the Lord, was standing outside a long time after the ministry closed. Her groceries were at her feet. I asked her what she was doing and she said her ride had abandoned her. She had the groceries we gave her, but no away to get them home. We loaded them into my car and then it hit me. Even with my Boxsters’ double trunk we had to each hold multiple bags of food in our laps and slowly go to her home with the convertable roof down.  We looked pretty silly.  I felt pretty silly, in my mid engine Porsche hauling groceries in the hood.  I took the bags to her house and then noticed the tiny surroundings she was living in. She thanked me profusely and I left. I would not be exaggerating if I told you that was the beginning of a big change in my life. I stopped at the next stop sign.  I realized that my whole life was geared towards ME.  What did I want, what made ME happy, what made MY friends respect me and think I was cool. I realized I was changing.  I wanted to know what pleased Jesus. I ws tired of always chasing the American Dream.  On that day I realized I had a new heart.  A Kingdom Heart and a Kingdom Dream.  I had found the treasure in the field and I was going to sell everything and purchase that field.  The field that contained the treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Kingdom of God.

How do you witness to the poor and not get to know them and serve them? Who were these people God was sending me too. How could I serve them in this stupid sports car? What was the message I was sending by bringing the gospel to them in this impoverished area and then going home to my home of luxury. I know all the theological reasons to justify just about anything I want to justify. That and a dime used to be enough to allow you to make a phone call. But I was not interested in justification for my lifestyle. I had begun to study about the Kingdom of God. It was all coming together. In my studies about the Kingdom of God I had come to realize that Jesus teachings were the teachings of a new Kingdom. Not theology, but a new way to live as a Kingdom Christian and not as a cultural Christian. I began to long for a new form of Christianity.  A cultural Christian really fits in good.  That is what I was.  But I looked NOTHING like the Christians of the bile. Then I found some Christians that were different.  I read David Bercot explaining the beliefs and lifestyle of the early church. I read Marc Carriers books on kingdom expansion. At the same time we did a bible study in my home bible meetings called Radical, by David Platt. Then I met Marc Carrier and visited with him and some of his house church people and wittnessed a new way to live.  In obedience to Jesus.

I would never be the same. My businesses were suffering from the housing fall out and everything in my life was crying for me to address all these material needs and problems in my same old way. Fight for prosperity and my American Dream. The problem was, I now had a new dream.  That Kingdom Dream. I no longer wanted to lay up treasure here on earth. I wanted to lay it up on heaven. I no longer wanted to be a culturally acceptable Christian. I wanted to be a Jesus, accepted Christian. I realized that the early Christians were a wonderful key to understanding scripture. After John the Apostle died, we have the actual writings of men that were disciples of Paul, John and Peter. They spoke the Greek language and Hebrew language among others the bible was written in. They could actually ask people that knew Paul what he meant on certain verses. Their elders knew the Apostles and the men the Apostles had laid hands on and placed in the ministry over the saints. They practiced a different Christianity than the one I knew. I had been taught you could not live the life Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. In fact I was taught that the teaching were designed to prove I could not obey Him. After reading about the early church I realized this was a lie. Simply put, if you take the most literal and plainly rational application of Jesus and the Apostles teachings and obeyed and followed them you would be right at home with the early church.  If you chose to follow the theologians and Reformers you would feel totally out of place. I decided to turn my world upside down. I came to the conclusion that the Kingdom of God was a kingdom that SEEMS upside down to the values of the world. This time, instead of justifying my lifestyle, something I was very good at, I dumped my lifestyle and started over. I decided that that verse about seeking the Kingdom of God first was not just an interesting verse, but a commandment to be obeyed.  So here we go.

The businesses were in disarray anyway. The economy and circumstances from our largest customer put us in a terrible place. It was time to realize this was not the way.  I sold the Porsche and sold off anything of value I no longer needed.  I invested it in the poor saints in my ministry of discipleship with men saved in our grocery ministry. I bought my dad’s big Lincoln that could carry 8 men and a ton of groceries. Now I could take five widows home with groceries and I could be a means of transportation for those without a car.  I quickly learned that many I had “lead” to pray the sinners prayer were NOT disciples. In fact almost all of them were not even nominal Christians. I began to actually start to try to make Disciples of Christ instead of making converts to Christianity. Obviously, this is the Great Commission, not leading people in the sinner’s prayer. I went on a mission trip with my church, Island Community Church to Tanzania. I have never been the same. Somehow, I connected with the people and the country in a way that few do on such a trip. I was excited to share my faith with so many from a new culture but longed to make disciples and not just sinners prayer, converts. I left knowing I HAD to come back. Many people receive a huge calling from God on high saying “GO to Africa”. “Do this and that and lo I will go with you!” Me not so much. I just heard. “I am waiting for you in Africa”. I looked into going the traditional missionary route and was told I needed to raise almost 50 thousand dollars before I could go. So I asked my new brother Marc Carrier about what he thought of the direction I was going. He alerted me to the fact that I could live comfortably in Africa for 500 dollars a month.  As long as I lived like an African, NOT like a Wazungu, white person from the West. That was the encouragement I needed. I began to move forward with a fundraising goal that was thus informed and within a few months knew this was God’s plan for me. I would GO poor, to the poor, to make disciples of the poor to reach the poor. Stay tuned for part two. The actual application of my ministry plan. If you want to sample my journey, read David Platt’s Radical.  Then get three books by David Bercot.  The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down, Will the Theologians Please Sit Down and will the Real Heretics Please Stand UP.  IF you want to put it in practice read the Kingdom Essentials by Marc Carrier.  Email me for the link, it is free.  See you in the next post on phase two of my journey to Africa.





Anarchy in Africa

9 06 2013

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Got hit on my motorbike again this week.  That is the fourth time.  No injuries.  Again.  My dear brother Marc Carrier was run off the road a couple of months back on his motor bike and had to have knee surgery.  I have been run off the road at 80kph twice but both times I was in a place with a wide and clear hard packed dirt area on the side of the road I could simply coast to a stop on.  Praise God.

Driving in Africa on a motor bike is fun, adventurous and dangerous.  My first few days after buying my little Chinese motor bike, (for around 700 dollars), I was pulled over by a policemen.  Now they don’t have cars or motorbikes to pull you over with they just flag you down as they stand on the side of the road or in this case stand at an intersection.  I had not broken the law.  But I was going to get a lecture about riding here.  I was in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.  He scolded me for NOT running a red light.  You see here red light is great decoration.  They change colors from red to yellow to green just like back home in America.  But NO ONE uses them to either know when to stop or go.  We have rules of the road here but they are not written.  In fact I have no idea why they write rules about driving in Tanzania at all.  It is the unwritten ones the officer wanted me to understand.

You see here we have a hierarchy.  We have goats and donkeys on the road.  They don’t count.  We have pedestrians and they do NOT have the ride of way.  A real problem for me as I refuse to participate in their intimidation.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Next we have push carts, then three wheeled taxis called tuk tuks or bajaji’s depending on where you are.  Then there are the motor bike riders.  Our bikes are called piki piki because that is the sound they make at idle.  If you use them for a cab and carry passengers you are a boda boda.  We are next in the hierarchy.  Then comes cars, gari’s and then vans, matatu’s and the rich peoples cars, ( I will explain later) and trucks, called lorrys and finally the big buses.  They are the top of the food chain along with the few large tractor trailers.  Piki Piki’s  due to their size and versatility are expected to basically NOT impede traffic.  As I was told by the policeman it was my job to NEVER cause anyone to slow down or stop.  Since no one stops at the traffic lights and I stopped at a red one, he informed me I was going to get killed.  And I would get NO sympathy.  He told me to learn and abide by the unwritten rules or sell that motor bike and get a cab like all other Mzungus.  That is, white people.  Of course I can’t buy a car, only the rich can do that here.  They drive like they own the road and everyone else is a peasant.  They drive like the road is theirs and everyone else is scum and need to bow and scrap when they near.  And the Africans do.   The most self seeking and intimidating drivers on this continent are Africans that have “arrived” and drive an expensive vehicle.  I have literally seen them push a pedestrian off the sidewalk with their front bumpers and then roll the window down to cuss them for not getting out of the way.  The pedestrian apologized.

Now goats, donkeys, cart pushers and pedestrians are basically excused for their actions due to their inability to maneuver at high speeds.  Although they are hated by the rich Africans.  Or at least they treat them like they hate them at rush hour.   Everyone just tries to intimidate them into staying out of the way.  This is done by incessant honking, purposefully driving right at them as though you intend on murdering them and sometimes using your vehicle to literally push them out of the way.  I did not mention bike riders but they are like pedestrians.  I have witnessed them pushed off the pavement by cars who wanted to pass by but did not get the response they wanted when they honked their horn.  Cab drivers have opened their doors purposefully to bump me out of the way while I am driving and as I mentioned just the other day I was hit.

It was not a normal collision. A driver was next to me.  I was driving near the shoulder.  We are expected as motor bike riders to use the sidewalk, shoulder, median, ditches, passing lanes and in between lanes as our domain if the road is occupied.  As I passed this little Rav 4 a car in front of me hit his brakes.  I then pulled into the lane with the little Rav and apparently he did not approve.  As is acceptable here he quickly accelerated up to where he could get his left fender parallel with my rear tire and then turned left to push me back out of his lane.  As he did he began to push my rear tire to the point of making me turn sideways.  I think he just wanted to bump me and had no idea that this was a possible out come of our contact.  I,  of course, had no idea what was happening.  I had cleanly passed him and was in front of him, so to me for some unknown reason my bike was moving sideways.  We were going only about 20 mph.  I finally realized that a car was pushing me.  I cut my front tire back towards the direction we were all trying to travel and of course the car quickly realized that if he persisted he was going to force me completely sideway meaning I would then go down in front of him and he would run over me.  He hit his brakes.  Now a few months back I would have been furious at this overt and callously aggressive action.  Now I simply understood we were now driving under a set of rules I had not seen in Arusha, Tanzania.  I call those rules.  Dar es Salaam rules.  The rules the cop explained.

You see Arusha is a very nice civilized place to live.  I live 45 minutes from here and we have different rules but that is not relevant here.  In Arusha, we stop at lights use our blinkers to turn and drive a  reasonable speed.  But this was rush hour.  I had not driven here in rush hour.  I quickly realized, we were under Dar es Salaam rules.  I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Syrana staring George Clooney.  In it he realizes he was set up and finds out the man that has ruined his life.  They have a conversation at gun point.  George informs him that if he does one more thing towards him or his family he will murder him, his wife and children and destroy every friend and thing in his life he values.  At least that is how I remember it.  The man looked at him and smiled cynically and said, Beruit rules?  Beruit rules, Clooney answers.  These two men had been spooks and counterterrorist spies in the cold war.  They now had a clear understanding of each other’s intentions.  This is what I now realized in Arusha.  During rush hour everything changes, even in Arusha.  Dar es Salaam rules.

Everyone drives as though there were complete anarchy and that the world is coming to an end and they must get home to save their women and children.  They will batter, swerve, intimidate, drive down the wrong side of the road and yes even push another vehicle just to get a momentary advantage in traffic.   I refuse to drive this way in relation to those underneath me in the hierarchy but I must understand the rules in order to survive and thrive.  I was not angry at the drive of the Rav vehicle.  I just now understood the rules were changed.  But I know the rules.

I learned to ride in Dar es Salaam and the policeman’s advice was correct.  I have been in a pack of 30 motor bikes riding mirror to mirror spreading across two lanes and both shoulders at 60 kph and approached an intersection with cars going in all directions.  I glanced at the other riders.  They were all inches from each other and I was completely surrounded.  They smiled.  They all hit their horns about 50 meters from the intersection and we just went through the red light.  There were cars going every direction.  But without a single word of conversation these young men all knew we were a formidable force since we were so numerous and that by our ability to intimidate the other vehicles we were in fact moved up the hierarchy to near the top.  No one hit their brakes we just went through horns blazing.  All the cars hit their brakes and we went through.  They looked at me and smiled again.  Dar es Salaam rules.

Now in Dar it is crazy.  I have driven all over the Eastern side of Tanzania.  It is beautiful.  I have driven in Nairobi, Kenya.  A much larger city than Dar. But there Is NOTHING like Dar es Salaam.  We are the Beruit of driving aggressively.  It is insane.  But out on the highway I just love it.  I think of my dad as I ride.  Dad used to love to drive around our county back home.  I have a feeling that when he was younger riding his bike he would have loved to drive here.  Not in Dar perhaps, but hey even here, it is fun.  Piki Piki riders never get caught in traffic jams.  We almost never stop.  We go between lanes of traffic, jump curbs, drive in medians and the police give us the thumbs up.  Now I still get pulled over sometimes. But mostly so policemen can practice their English.  I am not kidding.  They ask me where I am from, where I am going and how I like Tanzania.  I tell them I am a missionary.  I am here to tell people about Jesus and that I love it here.  I tell them I have a house here now and I have been adopted by the Wameru.  They laugh approving of my presence and constantly chant, karibu.  It literally means welcome.  But it means more.  It means they personally welcome me into their lives and approve and applaud my being here.   They are thrilled that I love their country and people so much that I have built a home here.  They slap me on the back and keep saying karibu.  I say asante kaka.  Thank you brother.  They grin so big I thing their face will split.  They wave me on.

I get back on the road.  Sometimes I pull off the road and drive into the bush.  Less than 5 kilometers off the road where I travel sometimes the Masai still kill lions.  I see baboons and antelope.  I don’t do this often and I don’t go far.  But I do love to go.  But I soon return to the road.  I have to remind myself not to stare at the mountains and splendor of the plains, bush and animals.  I have to remember to keep my eyes on the road.  Sometimes it’s hard.  There are speed bumps here that are enormous.  They call them tuta’s.  It’s the same word for the explosion of bombs.  That is because if you get distracted and hit one without slowing down you will get a real close and personal understanding why they call them that.  Been there, done that.  Not fun.  But remember we don’t have policemen with police cars to enforce the speed limit.  We have tuta’s.  Speed for long and you will find one.  They are quite effective for keeping the speed down.  My dad would love the freedom of having almost no rules or laws.  Just you and the road, your wits, a few informal rules and a world of adventure.  You are all on your own here on the road.  Even in traffic.

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Well I know this is not my usual post.  No baptisms, no hungry and the poor that I love.  Just a story about Africa and motor bikes.  It’s different here. I know it is not for everyone.  Especially the driving part.  But I must tell you that if you pay attention, and the sun is shining and the mountains are near, the plains to your side and the zebra are staring at you as you pass you can’t help but just sigh.  I am a guy, what can I tell you.  What can I say?  Yes there is anarchy in Africa.  Especially on the roads.  But sometimes I ride along on my way to tell someone about Jesus and I think.  Does it get any better than this?  The scenery, the adventure, the opportunity to tell people about the Lord and have this much fun.  I know people think this is a sacrifice.  And I dearly miss my family.  But sometimes I ride along and smile to myself.   I am humbled by the kindness of the Lord to allow me to be here and serve Him.  Sometimes I am lonely.  But at those times on the road, I am overwhelmed by this wonderful life.  This privilege, this adventure and my God.





Running with the Monkeys

7 06 2013

I go running most every day here in Tanzania.  I live in a beautiful area in the shadow of Mt. Meru.  I can see Kilimanjaro from my front door and bedroom window.  I am a missionary here and I have a team from my home church coming in a few weeks to do some dentistry and evangelism.  We are basically going to bless the least of these here in my local area with practical help and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

So this week I have been running and greeted with a pleasant surprise.  Monkeys.  Now I have always known where to go and see the beautiful Columbus Monkeys about two kilometers up the mountain.  But these Vervet Monkeys have literally moved into our area by the gross and are less than 300 meters from my home.  You don’t actually spot monkeys.  You run along and when you see even a single leaf falling from a tall tree you stop and look.  We don’t have fall here.  We have a rainy season and a dry season and a little bit of a cold season.  But even that is relative.  Basically we have spring year round with more or less rain.  The average temperature here is 72.  Yep, 72.  Just about perfect.  Flowers bloom here all the time.  It is amazing.

When a leaf falls, something made it fall.  When it falls and you hear a swooshing sound you have monkeys.  They leap from tree to tree and sometimes the Vervet monkeys will even get on the ground.  So lately I have been running with the monkeys.  They leap all about around me sometimes grunting and chasing each other.  Today’s little baby monkeys raced through the trees.  Fearful of me the possible predator.  The adults just sat and stared.  One look at this old guy and they know I will not climb a tree.  Unless an elephant is after me, but that is another story.

Today I left my home and jogged through the forest starting at about 4000 feet altitude and slowly climbing hundreds of feet up  the hills leading up to Mt. Meru.  I start off trying to do something like a “prayer walk”.  You know, praying for the lost in my area as I pass their houses or greet them on the road in my still juvenile Swahili.  But first the monkeys distract me and then later locals wanting to talk to the crazy Mzungu, white person, curious as to what he is running away from or to.  After 20 minutes of my run I hit a cross roads and change my plan.  I decide to scout out an area towards, Kilinga for places to send my evangelical team when they arrive.  We plant house churches here among the lost and new believers.  So I am not limited by geography.  In fact I have house churches here, four, and in Nairobi about 23.  We are adding them as we add disciples all over the area.  So I am determined to scout out an area we have not been to further away from my home.  I used to dread running in to questioning locals as I could not say much of anything and found myself frustrated.  But now I am better.  I answer questions.  Share what I can about moving here.  I can add “praise the Lord” to my greetings.  And tell them I have built a home here.  I am their neighbor.  But that is about it.  I need James my translator to do much more.

I run first 30 minutes then 40 minutes going further and further from my home.  I am going to turn 57 soon.  But now I can run up to 2 hours at altitude.  Pretty good for an old guy.  UP and up I climb.  Some of these dirt roads go up ridiculous hills.  I huff and puff probably running at a rate considered pedestrian by many.  Especially my young running buddies like Tripp.  I realize that as I head towards this village that I am going to test the limits of my endurance.  Finally, I turn off the main road and begin to run surveying the little house spread among the fields owned by Mzungus, white people,  from Germany and the little sambas  (farms) owned by Africans.  As I suspected there are many here and it is a great place for them to do outreach but I also realize I can’t ask them to walk this far.

At a bit over 50 minutes into my run I notice the duct tape coming off of my running shoes.  I have been here 9 months now and run quite a bit.  So my running shoes are coming apart.  My buddy Tripp is bringing me more.  Till them I am trying duct tape and glue.  You can buy shoes here but not the kind I like.  And not unless you travel many hours from my home.  At least not real running shoes.  I realize that I am running the risk of going home with one sole on my feet if I don’t turn around now.  So reluctantly I do.  I will return again and check it out in a different direction soon.

I think about the gospel we share, my brothers and sisters that are coming.  Some I have not met and others are my dear friends from my old house meetings back home.  I can’t wait to see them.  I want to introduce them to Ulukway.  The formerly degenerate sinner now following Jesus with a passion.  His wonderful children that come to house church wide eyed and constantly beg me to jump on the back of my motor bike when I come by.  To my great host family that has given me land to build my little 300 square foot house.  For them to see this beautiful place God has me in and meet these wonderful people.  Many live in horrible poverty.  But it is all they know.  We reach out to widows and the least of these.  We tell the alcohol brewers, outcast here, of the love of Jesus.  We invited them to come and lay down all they have and become a disciple of Jesus.  I am not looking for converts.  Neither did Jesus.  He came calling men to lay down their nets and come and follow Him.  To deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him.  To love Him more than mother, sister, father and brother and even their own lives and come and follow Him.  It is an awesome journey following Him.  And today it took me on a jog of one hour and twenty seven minutes.  Turns out I am faster going downhill than up.  God is good.  All the time.  Mungu ni mwema, kila wakati.

I saw more leaves falling on my return but they were back in the deep forest.  I heard the monkeys swooshing through the trees, but too far away to get a glimpse.  Part of me is still a little boy.  I love to see these animals in the wild.  We have buffalo, elephants, antelope and monkeys all around here.  And sometimes if you look around you will see the rare, Mzungu, scheming on how to best tell someone the Good news.  Huffing and puffing and looking for monkeys.





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.  

Columbus small

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.