Many miles were spent on the pavement and dirt roads in Kenya. We were constantly on the go, driving and walking from place to place seeing places of need and areas of ministry we could pour into. Our time was short so our mission was urgent. Many days, to save time and money, we would even make PB &J’s in the car from a bag of bread and whatever left over jelly we had. One afternoon we drove hours away to a village to see a child that Jon sponsors and has kept up with for years. As we drove the countryside became more and more what you picture Africa as, grassy plains, flat top acacia trees, with whirling dirt storms in the distance. As we soaked in our surroundings, I borrowed Colby’s pocketknife to fix my lunch. Our knives were the only ones we had on hand. He finished his sandwich and left it in the peanut butter for me to use. I jokingly, yet seriously, commented that we better pray before we eat just so we don’t catch something from this knife that I knew he had been carrying for weeks since we got to Uganda. We all had them, Colby’s just happened to be available that day for lunch. Colby chuckled as he said, “It’s clean, I germexed it a few days ago.” After I lathered on the peanut butter and had half way eaten my sandwich, Will chimed in with a poorly timed piece of information. My teeth were sinking into the chunky tasty sandwich when he says, “Colby… was that the same knife I saw you cleaning the dirt from your toenails last night?” The no longer hungry car full of men sat in silence as my stomach began to churn. Colby shot guilty eyes my direction and responded… “well…”
Thankfully the day held many more events and adventures that took my mind away from what I would have rather never known. We reached the village and Jon got to love on his boy that seemed to be on fire for the Lord. We toured his school and were pleased to find out that he was top in his class of about 300 kids. He also was telling Jon that he always shares Christ with those in his school. He is a great kid and it was great to see that sponsorships really do change lives. Be prepared... As we were out already 5 hours from Nairobi, somehow elephants came up in the conversation. Last year in Nakuru we got a chance to see lions, zebras, baboons, and all kids of wildlife, but Jon and I each said, I have never seen a wild elephant. “Are they in this area of Kenya?” The Kenyan’s with us that day said, “actually there are usually many of them not too much further from where we are now.” We immediately all got excited, not knowing fully what we were getting into, and agreed we should make the trek. On we went in search of the wild African elephant. Two hours later we see a sign that says Ambersoli National Park 18km. We were getting close, but with that sign the pavement turned to rough dirt roads. The car we were in was not prepared for what was to come. One hour later, we maybe had gone 9km because the road was so bumpy we were only able to travel about 10kph. Another 5km passes after about 45 minutes more and we thought the road may never end. Jon posed a question to the group that no one wanted to hear, “Have you guys seen a gas station in a while?” No one spoke. The silence was deafening. I thought to myself, gas station… I haven’t seen civilization in hours…much less a gas station. We decided that even though we were under a quarter tank of gas if we made it to the park there had to be some gas there for all the safari trucks that come in. On we went in great hope of some fuel and elephants. As we continued down the road we noticed grass huts formed into compound like structure. African men and women dressed in red garments and brightly colored beads began appearing everywhere. Kabu said, “This is the infamous Maasai tribe.” They have centuries of history in Kenya. We made it to the park, got good news that there was gas another 18 km, elephant sightings, and got to speak with a maasai warrior who had his earlobes pierced and pulled over the tops of his ears. “Why are his ears like that?” Colby asked. Kabu informed us, “He is a maasai warrior, and when they kill a lion in a battle in the wilderness, they do that to his ears to signify his achievement.” He was serious. Not too much longer we saw what we came to see, giant African elephants painted the horizon. Everywhere we looked we saw the gentle beasts moving slowly through the marshland. One would blow water in the air through his trunk as a mother guarded a baby closely in the distance. At one point the largest elephant of them all with tusks at least 8 feet in length we thought was going to charge the vehicles. It was incredible. I almost forgot to mention in the background of these elephants, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, and ostriches, was the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest peak in Africa. We crossed into Tanzania and couldn’t see the peak because it climbed past the clouds. It was all such an amazing sight. I try to not use the word awesome often, but this was truly awesome. It reminded me that we have an awesome God. We gazed at the elephants and finally pushed on to find our much needed gas.
Unfortunately, when we got to the place they said that should have gas… what we feared, came true, they were all out. The tone in the group got much more serious. What were we to do? We are in the middle of nowhere and monkeys are trying to climb in our open windows! So we prayed for angels… hopefully angels with fuel on hand. We talked, prayed, and set back to get out of the park before dark to get back to civilization. We all were somewhat hopeless that we would make it back, but we drove on faith. After leaving the park we stopped by one Maasai village to ask if they knew of a place. This tribe still hunts their food and walks everywhere they go… not sure why they might have gas, but it was worth a shot. No gas, but they pointed us in a direction that said there may be hope. As we went back down the bumpy dirt road that took us two hours to go 18km last time we all became nervous and our faith was tested. We realized that it was pretty stupid to get out in the middle of nowhere without a full tank, but regardless of what we should have done… we were not in a good situation.
The sunset allowed us to snap a few incredible pictures, but we knew the darkness was not what we needed in this time. If we did happen to run out, we weren’t sure what the wild animals or maasai warriors would think of stranded Americans and no one within screaming distance. My imagination raced and all I could think of was Colby being drug away in the jaws of a lion. Of course, I would have tried to save him, but still… Suddenly, in the distance we saw a light! We went to it and met a police officer who again pointed a finger in a distant direction. Some sort of civilization surfaced, but no gas station. We stopped and asked. Remember this is not Birmingham; we were in nowhere, Kenya. Thankfully… God sent angels. An owner of one of the shops in the small town had 20 liters of gas that we quickly agreed to pay for. Long day, amazing times meeting Jon’s boy, Maasai warriors, seeing God’s creation, and experiencing a laugh in hindsight of how closely we got to a bad situation.
After an amazing week God did produce fruit in Kenya. Sozo Children International has now spread its wings across borders. We are now sponsoring education for seven children that are in need through the local church in a community we got involved in. The pastor of the church identified children that were genuinely in desperate situations. We will support them with providing school fees to a school in Kenya that will truly supply to their needs. If you are interested in sponsoring these children in Kenya, we still need many sponsors. Email me at email@example.com and invest in someone else’s life today. We have been given so much, use it to pour into others and change a life. It will truly make an eternal impact.
We arrived at the airport to fly back to Uganda, sad to leave our new friends, but eager to see our kids again in Uganda. God is doing so many amazing things; we are just hanging on right now and relying on His strength every day. A small plane took us back to the “Pearl of Africa.” We realized the reality in our “budget” flights by the hand written boarding passes. It gave us a good laugh. This is Africa.