Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

A late lunch (3pm) of curried vegetables was followed by a trip to town to try to find some bits and pieces for our time in Kisumu. We hope to show the Jesus Film there however Pastpr Tom does not have an adaptor jack to take the earphone socket on the laptop to the jack on the PA system. After a few visits to shops we came across one of these shops every town should have. This guy had a tin of just about everything, including the jack adaptor/converter we were seeking. The price was 150 KES (Just between £1 & £1.50 depending on the exchange rate). We bought it and Pastor Tom said “that’s your problem solved” and I replied, “its not my problem, its your problem”… the shopkeeper laughed involuntarily!

The next stop was the supermarket. (there is a new mall being build in Narok and this supermarket owner has increased the space in his shop by opening an upstairs floor). In a supermarket with Pastor Tom is an experience, first he cant make up his mind whether he wants a trolley or a basket, he chooses the basket then grabs a trolley and puts the basket in it, muttering something about buying the whole shop, then he dumps the basket in another trolley and proceeds with the trolley and no basket, all in the space of about 10 steps. We were searching the upstairs of the supermarket, the household goods and clothes section and stopped to ask a couple of staff lads a question. They were sold out of the item and quipped “maybe next time”. Unusually I stopped and said “maybe there wont be a next time” and followed that with “have you heard the Gospel, the Gospel tells us ‘behold now is the accepted time’” there followed a short exchange in terms of what this meant in terms of their own salvation and the fact that Jesus could come back tonight. Just then a box fell from a high up shelf and hit one of the lads square on the head. He was unharmed but was visibly shocked thinking I had something to do with it. I said, perhaps its time you guys went to visit the pastor to make sure you are ready if just in case Jesus returns tonight. We picked up some groceries and the like, then back in a taxi to home.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

When you first hear the name Ebola you could be forgiven for mistaking the name for a new board game being advertised by Waddingtons in advance of the Christmas rush. However this horrific disease is no game. It is far more serious than can be imagined, especially for those who have the disease or who are at risk or acquiring it. Not only for them though, Ebola has become world news. The sensational reports on news programmes from the BBC to Aljazeera have certainly had their effect. Half empty flights to West African countries have knock on effects in a wide variety of other ways; on tourism, trade and the plethora of controls that have to be put into place at airports and borders to try to limit any spread of this most awful infliction.

Sunset on Zuarungu Ghana

Ghana now behind me I enter Kenya early on Sunday morning. The plane lands and is parked some way from the brand new (after the fire) terminal building; we are told before disembarking the flight to choose between a green bus and a red bus (for a colour blind bloke in the dark, not easy) green for transit passengers and red for those entering Kenya. At the bottom of the stairs there is only one bus for everyone (neither red nor green as far as I could tell). As we enter the terminal from a ground level back door, and enter a large brightly lit white painted room, we see a white coated, masked medic pointing an instrument at each passenger in turn. A beep and a tick box followed by a not and its all over. Our first experience of an Ebola screening is painlessly over. However Kenya is worried. Nairobi airport is a hub for international travellers from all over the world. On my last trip through this gateway to the world the airport was razed to the ground by fire and it was clear then just how many people use this airport; since all of them were outside lining up at various makeshift tables to sort out what to do now that there was no international dimension to their airport. Surely not another problem to trouble this already teetering economy, after Al Shabab and fire now Ebola rears its ugly head.

From the Ebola assessment on to the shambles that is immigration and baggage reclaim then customs follows and I am through to the street-side to be greeted by a mass of name and logo boards as taxi drives try to locate their passengers. Pastor To, although leaving Narok at 4am is still some way off, eventually I get a text saying “we are 10 mins away”. Soon I see his quick step and smiling face as his apologies precede him with his arms wide to greet me. “Sorry, sorry there was somtheeng on the road”. I eventually found that the ‘somtheeng’ he was referring to was a collapsed flyover which had caused havoc with the much lighter Sunday traffic.

We could not hesitate, we found the taxi, we sped through the growing traffic surge narrowly missing a number vehicles and pedestrians before I exclaimed ‘Slow Down Please’! Eventually after a number of further similar outbursts from me which followed and the sight of an up-turned vehicle across the carriageway the driver took Pastor Tom’s advice and slowed down. Thankfully I was able to nod off, I had had little sleep on the flight and so it wasn’t hard to succumb to my lead-like eyelids. After a 2 hour drive we were in Narok, a brief stop at Pastor Tom’s house and now off to church where I was to be the preacher. No rest for the wicked – I must be especially so!

The Opiyo Household

The almost four hour service with songs, testimonies, choirs and the like followed by my preaching took place in the new church building. When I say ‘new church building’ what I mean is an iron sheet clad structure which uses the skeleton of the circus tent, which was the previous sanctuary, to hold wooden straps on which iron sheets are nailed. There is a concrete floor and platform on which stands a right royal looking lectern, worthy of any posh pulpit. The back of the platform is draped in curtains showing how lovingly this congregation cares for it place of worship. The site is not ideal since the landlord keeps raising the rent for this struggling church making it more and more difficult for them to afford the purchase price of land to build their own more suitable and long-term place. Poverty is brutal, it has no grace and favours no-one. Thanks to the Living God he can make a way for such people in His own way and in His own time. Our western mindset and world view does not allow for this patient approach to God’s provision, but through long years of ‘practise’ these folks remain in faith that God will provide for them.
As I sit hurriedly writing this post I hear Pastor Tom and Eunice’s children playing happily with some other local kids in the dusty garden next to their wooden house, with is pit latrine and concreted shower at the foot of the garden. This meagre yet welcoming place has become my home for a couple of days. The kids are enjoying some of the very few toys I was able to bring with me.

The ‘business’ of the day is finance. Pastor Tom has to go off to his office to deal with the many people who need to speak to him about school fees, about church finances and many other issues of finance. Money, money seems to be on the lips more often than anything. You see here there is no guarantee of money at the end of the month, there is no guarantee of money at anytime. It seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind all of the time. There isn’t much time from the last meal to the next one; “will I go to sleep hungry again today”; “the time for school fees is here again”; “how do I get transport”; “my roof is leaking and I no means to fix it”; those and many, many more problems face those in poverty. Our western sensibilities may ask “ well, why don’t you just…”, but there is no just. One ex-team member put it like this on her return from Africa “I had no idea how lilt ‘nothing’ really is”! I am reminded of this each time the west in me tries to give a trite answer to an impossible question.

I am on ‘money business’ today also. A number of donors have given funds for various little projects and so I have to exchange some Sterling into Kenya Shillings and exchange rate ranging from 100-140 KES to £1.00 depending on the fluctuating rate and which Forex or bank is used). Pastor Tom took my little wad and is off to the bank and will return with a bundle well up to the task of choking a local donkey, of which there are many. Other business like finding a local sim so I can get access to emails and blog will also be completed today before our long journey to Kandaria village where we have projects, near Kisumu, Kenya’s second city.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

You don’t have to walk far around the school compound until you feel a little hand slip into yours. The desire to be with the Solomia and to touch this strange creature can frighten some but cause others to be more friendly and sociable.

The work on laying the new cement floor in one of the classrooms was to begin today. The ‘ingredients’ had arrived in the last few days and the labourers (some of the young lads from the community who needed some extra money for school fees) were now on site as was Pastor David who had travelled with us to Ganre the other day. He has learned some building skills and does some ‘tent making’ using them to augment his pastor’s salary. As I went down to the school from the pastor’s house to see what progress was being made, I though I was all alone, however I felt a wee hand just gently grip mine and then I knew I had some friendly company.

The new classroom floor

David was pegging out the floor, running twine between the pegs and using a spirit level was trying to make sure there was a point of reference for keeping the floor level across the expanse of the floor. At the same time a batch of concrete was being mixed which would form a 6 inch apron which is levelled and smoothed to form the new classroom floor. Pastor Peter said “the school kids will be sooooo excited when they meet their new floor”. The young lads worked so hard without a break, borrowing in sand, cement and fist sized stone chunks as aggregate for this mix. Water then applied and the mixing process began. Once mixed then into a wheelbarrow again and right to the spot where David and his assistant tamped and levelled the concrete into place. My intention was to give them a ‘wee hand’ of my own, however when I saw how these guys scrabbled over the sharp stones in their bare feet I thought better of it and just watched and took pictures instead.

Of course there are many here that need a wee hand. Kids in particular. Many have lost parents due to HIV/AIDS and other such tragedies, however for less that the cost of a monthly trip to McDonald’s a child could be rescued, sent to school, be given food, clothing and accommodation. Even the children of pastors need help. Pastors get paid so poorly in the main and are doing an amazing job under very hard circumstances. Their kids don’t always get school fees, or turn up to school as the ‘poor relatives’. Further to this a pastor often takes into his household children who are destitute and cares for them as his own, putting further stress on the already limited family budget.

A wee hand required

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Before coming to Ghana Vince, my travelling companion and one of Mission International’s trustees, had told me of a remote village where he had preached on a previous occasion and where Pastor Peter had attempted a church plant. The ‘plant’ had been unsuccessful really because the church building, which was intended to double as a school, they had put up had fallen down and was nor reduced to a mere pile of blocks and rubble. Differing estimates on how long it would take to get there were unreliable due to the road conditions after heavy rain, however we set off to the village of Ganre (Silent N pronounced Garrey). The bus made its way along long stretches of road at walking pace and through villages with waving residents as they saw their first glimpse of the legendary Solomia (Soolomia) white people… (we felt a bit like abominable snowmen, some were intrigued by our appearance and some of the kids were scared out of their wits).

Eventually the bus came to a halt. We could drive no further, from here on in there was no road, only paths through tall crops of maize, millet and sorghum with beans, groundnuts (peanuts), tomato and potato crops as well. Although extremely stoney, this is clearly very fertile soil, and the people were clearly hard working too. “Wontenga” (good afternoon) “Naa” (I heard you [respectfully]) as we trudged along the narrow, muddy paths through traditional Frafra settlements until we came to a large Boubad tree. The base of this tree (of which type there are many, and many much bigger) was about 20 metres around, with an overhanging spread of leaf covered branches giving shade to a small group of people. While we were still a fair distance away we could hear a loud hooting sound. Pastor Peter said “that’s the alarm”. One of the boys was making a noise not unlike that of a shipyard hooter when the days work is over. Soon people began to arrive from all over. They were disappointed that they had not had further notice of our arrival, never-the-less about 100-150 people, including many children, had gathered to see the white’s. As people greeted us personally they would crouch down briery on their hunkers in respect and say a few Gurenne greetings before withdrawing. No handshakes were exchanged unless requested.

Ganre outreach

We initially took a look at the collapsed church/schoolroom building and mused over how different things might be for this community if their church had not fallen down. One old lady committed to keep the site respectable complained that people were now using the footprint of the building to plant crops, this to her was the ultimate insult. After we had preached and many had come to Christ, we discussed with the community what Mission International could do to help. To a person they all wanted a church, a school and a clinic. We encouraged them to pray since at present we do not have any funds to help them, but we did promise to try to find the funds necessary to put up a new school classroom, which could be used as a church on a Sunday and could also be used for clinics until further funding is found. The children here have to walk about 10 miles to school, yes there is a closed school, but there is a huge dam and a waste dump there and when it rains no-one can pass that way.

Ganre outreach 2

We left them concerned that we might struggle to fulfil our promises to them, however was can but try to help this remote, needy but hard working community. Our journey back was eventful too. We came to a small bridge on the road that crossed a ditch or stream. The bridge had collapsed into the ditch leaving a difficult crossing to negotiate. A few young men were there taking advantage of the stranded vehicles trying to cross. They helped us by guiding the driver over the remaining strands of bridge and once carefully over they demanded payment for their ‘help’. We coughed up 4 Ghana Cedis but they, seeing whites on the bus, decided that more could be extracted from us. A few raised voices and it was all over their payment was sufficient and we went on our way. Soon we were home and another day was almost over. Life is just so different here. The struggle to survive bring out the best and the worst in people. The fear of hunger drives hard work as well as the ability to harness less welcome skills.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Due to the nature of the culture in Ghana church rarely starts at the scheduled time. Anyone who has ever visited the continent will know this fact, often to their cost. This Sunday was no different for Vince speaking at the 8.am (8.30ish) service and me for the 10am service. This morning was not so late starting. It turned out that even without any collaboration on subject Vince and I preached on virtually the same thing. Vince’s tongue in cheek comment to me was “its almost a co-incidence”.

It had been a hot night, the fan in our room works well, however it makes so much noise making it difficult to sleep, so it has been switched off. Sleep comes easily due to tiredness but it is so hot and humid due to the rains, that it can mean waking in the morning hot and uncomfortable. After a shower and some breakfast of porridge with condensed milk and omelette with bread and tea we have some preparation time before church. The reason for such a delayed prep time is due to being out last night, at a village showing the “Jesus Film”, and returning very late.
The Jesus film
These beautifully dressed people who turned out to church this morning are a credit to the Frafra people. Even from their poverty they take such pride in their appearance and present themselves well even if in the simplest of attire. I have always said that `africans can look great in just about anything. The colours and patterns that would make us look sick make them look vibrant an joyful. All of this goes together, with their enthusiasm for the Lord and their determination to worship no matter their situation or condition, to make for a wonderful service. Singing to the beats of multiple drums and percussion instruments mixed with jumping and dancing makes for a very splendid service. One highlight is the offering. No begrudging tightly folded notes or dutiful coins here; the offering box is placed on a stand at the front of the church and this is the signal to the dancing congregation to, in single file, dace past the box on one side dropping in their offering with their right hand holding their wrist with their left hand as a mark of respect, and off round the other side of the box back into their places.

The preaching is easy in this atmosphere; the people are hungry and ready to hang on every word. Their ready appreciation when a ‘good point is powerfully made’ is enjoyed with clapping and whoops of excitement. Not a hint of any unbelief or existential angst at all, just a readiness to hear what God has to say and to discover how that works out in their lives for real.

A relaxed walk in the sun on the Saturday afternoon was followed by a ‘chance’ meeting with a local Frafra pastor who was working in a remote village and had come to visit Pastor Peter to find out if he had a copy of the Jesus Film. He said “no but…we have two visitors from Scotland who are carrying a copy and it includes the Gurenne (Frafra) language on it. They also have a projector and a simple screen and they would be willing to help out”, his excitement was evident with outbursts of ‘Its a miracle’ made the joy of helping al the more pleasing. So our Saturday evening was now organised.

The process of getting to the Jesus Film village was a real challenge. Finding a suitable vehicle, a sound system and negotiating the muddy potholed roads. After all of this we were at least two hours late in getting there, however everyone was still there and we got set up and started. About 15 minutes into the film the rain came on and we had to hurriedly dismantle everything and set it up elsewhere as the people ran for cover. Thankfully they remained and the film was shown to its mid point and since it was late we told everyone to return the following day to see the remainder of the film.

The following day (Sunday) we returned to find a growing group of people eager to see the remainder of the film, the group grew to about 1000 people, out doors in the darkness, lit up in places by flood lights and other bulbs hung around the quadrangle of a school. Where there was any form of light there were zillions of insects vying for their place in the light and the vicinity around the light, where they could not be seen were further insects trying to get to the light.

It was announced that the ‘evangelist from Mission International’ would be preaching. I was asked as we arrived at the village school if I would be happy to ‘say something’ and when I asked for how long I should speak the answer was “only 30-45 minutes”. Talk about a wing and a prayer.

People were obviously moved by the film, there was wrapped attention though out, laughing at some things, for example when the little boy steals Herod’s fine cloak that was put on Jesus as her went to the cross and which fell off on the street. This seemed to tickle their imaginations. There was rapturous applause when someone was healed or raised from the dead during the movie, but when Jesus arose greater applause than ever. They loved the ‘Greatest story ever told’.

Preaching a gospel focused message to this group of people was so enjoyable, except for the mouthfuls of insects I would inhale with every breath, since there was a light bulb only a metre from the lectern. I buttoned up my collar to the top because the insects were getting into my shirt and biting me which was very distracting to say the least. Some 90 or more people came forward at the altar call and the pastor told me that after such a successful mission a church plant would be taking place in this very remote location.

On the way home we were so tired we nodded off, even the potholes could not keep us awake; the taxi driver was laughing at us as we wobbled about in the car as we slept.

Sleep came easily that night again.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

It has been an eventful day since we arrived in Accra Ghana just over 24 hours ago. Our flight from Amsterdam was about half full; we think because of fear over Ebola. I initially thought it might have been after the MH17 crash over Ukraine, however on reflection I suspect Ebola is the more likely cause.

On arrival at Accra I thought that my bags had been opened since the red suitcase I was carrying was slightly open along the zip, however I discovered that I had not locked either of the cases I was carrying and I think perhaps I was the culprit who had left the zip open a little. It would appear that nothing has been lost and that everything is in-fact intact.

Our first night was spent in a seedy hotel in a run down (or up and coming, it’s hard to tell which direction places are heading here) sector of the city. We had stopped off at a mall to get some food; fried chicken as it happens, which was very good and very welcome too. Vince and I arose early-ish in the morning. We had initially heard that we would be leaving at 4am however it was now 8am and no sign of Pastor Peter or the two lads. We prayed about the day that God would look after us and that he would use us for his purposes however the day went. We had no idea what was to lie before us, however after 25 years travelling in Africa I have learned one thing and that is…expect anything. We went out into the street to grab a packet of biscuits and some soda for breakfast since it was apparent nothing was planned for this most important meal of the day. When we came back in we munched the biscuits in order that we could take our meds (malaria tabs and I am taking Meloxocam for a sore back) and soon after the bus driver, a young lad with broken English and just as broken teeth, came in with a toilet roll and a bar of blackcurrant soap for each of us. Soon we were on the move. I was to be a long journey, or at least so I was told. Estimates ranging from 14-17 hours driving.

Initially the roads were good and after we had taken on a load of fuel and had exchanged some Sterling into Ghana Cedis (at an exchange rate of around 6:1) we were on our way. Not far out of Accra the roads turned from dual to single carriageway and then to mud and potholes. The rough stretch was relatively short lived and the roads soon became very passable, with only the occasional pothole in the tarmac. Our first port of call was Kumasi, a large thriving university town. We had noticed that the driver was using the gears to brake the bus a lot as we approached some of the mountainous ‘sleeping policemen’ or speed bumps on the road. When we reached Kamasi we discovered that he was nursing a braking problem with the bus and that the vehicle needed to go into the repair shop for a while to deal with this. Vince and I were dispatched to a local restaurant to grab a bite while Pastor Peter, the driver and Dominic, the lad who was travelling with the Pastor, went off to get the vehicle brakes fixed. We drank, we ate, we drank some more Malta and coffee and we played on Facebook and we frittered away the afternoon until dark when at last the guys arrived back with the bus. Over the time we had waited text messages and calls came in from Pastor Peter to let us know the state of play. Encouraging sounds of “we’ll be there soon” and “we are nearly finished” were mere figments of the imagination as the news of their return stretched out. The latest news was that we are going to stay In Kamasi overnight since it is now too late to drive to Bolgatanga, our final destination. However when the vehicle did come we were to find out that indeed we were going to drive through the night to Bolga. This was the crucial decision. Disconcerting comments like “the breaks are nearly fixed” as we headed off into the night were not what we wanted to hear, but putting our trust in the Pastor we reluctantly agreed with the decision to go. All went well for a while but soon the bus was in no condition to continue so we stopped and parked up for the night with Tamale still some 3 or 4 hours away.  Stopping meant that we could see what transpired in the morning. The sore back that I have been nursing for the last few days is certainly not much improved as a result of the bumpy roads.   Our prayers this morning with that of the many people who have promised to pray for us back home, have been answered so far.   Please keep praying because we have seen lots of accidents some serious, some not so as we have travelled.

 

We are now billeted in a fairly decent wee motel, although my room only has a light in the bathroom, where we can get a decent nights sleep and try to put the events of today behind us.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

 Many changes are taking place:

A new office space: Previously an Aviva call centre, Swan House has become a charity hub housing a wide range of different charities.   Mission International, one of these charities, is now located in part of the North Wing of the 55,500 sq ft property on the western edge of the city of Dundee.

Swan House collage

 From a ‘box’ to a ‘barn’!

During its first 8 years Mission International has operated from an 18ft long garden shed, but now we have a spacious suite of offices and rooms which we can develop and into which we can expand.

MI Shed
  • The shed:
Swan House main entrance
  • Swan House:
Swan House north wing view
  • The North Wing:

A new job:  Since 2006 Mission International Director Hugh Henderson has worked full-time at Dundee and Angus College (formerly Angus College) in a student support role.   On 1st July 2014 however Hugh began his new job as CEO of Mission International (a role he has covered in a voluntary capacity for almost 8 years.   The chance to develop, expand and grow the organisation is now available to us and we seek to make the best of this significant new opportunity.

A new designation:   Mission International will soon become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO).   This new designation will allow us to develop the organisation more effectively into the future.   Donors will be given more information about this in due course.  News on the changes will be posted on this blog too.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

 Mission International teams 2015

IMG_3837

Ouanaminthe Haiti

Mission International plans to send teams to the following list of countries in 2015.   If you would like to apply for a team then please complete the teams application form or if you have some initial questions then please contact us (details on left sidebar).

Here’s the list of potential teams destinations for 2015

  1. Burundi
  2. Ghana
  3. Haiti
  4. Kenya
  5. Malawi
  6. Peru
  7. Rwanda
  8. Tanzania
  9. Uganda
Uganda

Types of team

There are various types of team for which you can apply.   Although some of them appear to require specialist experience or qualifications, every team requires those who may not have all of the skills but who are willing just to muck in and serve as part of the team.

  • Mission Teams – teams specifically for Christians willing to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those they meet, travelling to often remote destinations living in sometimes challenging conditions in order to share a message of hope.
  • Mission Medics teams – Medics, dentists, mid-wives, health visitors, nurses, in fact anyone with medical expertise in any field is required to help in places where medical care is scarce.
  • Construction teams – Hard working individuals with construction and labouring skills to help struggling families and individuals build a home, a church or a medical centre.
  • Schools teams – these teams provide a life changing experience for pupils in 5th and 6th year of their education.   Team are designed to fit with the global citizenship of the school curriculum as well as provide an opportunity to travel and to meet new people as well do something to help a needy community.   Where possible tourist activities are included such as visiting a game park.
  • Self design teams – There are times when a specialist group wish to plan a team which may not fit exactly with the regular teams we offer.   Mission International is willing to work with you to provide opportunities, advice and supervision in the development and deployment of a team.
wheel barrow Hope Centre

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Already some of Mission International’s summer teams have returned from their trips overseas.   One team to Haiti and another to Burundi have returned with stories to tell. To read more on the Haiti team’s experiences click here. A further series of trips have still to go and lots of preparations are going on to make sure the maximum advantage is gained from every opportunity. Ghana, Kenya and Burundi: Mission International director Hugh Henderson and Vince Guz, a trustee of MI, will be travelling to Ghana for 10 days to visit the JoyCom school and medical centre in Zuarungu, Bolgatanga in the Upper East region of Ghana, hosted by Pastor Peter Awane.   This small team will preach the Gospel, share with the church and plan with our Partners how we can further develop the work there. Hugh Henderson will then travel onwards to Kenya as Vince returns home to the UK.   Hugh will be hosted in Narok and Kisumu by Pastor Tom Opiyo of People For Jesus Ministries for a week and will be involved in church ministry as well as check on the progress and seek the development of various partner projects such as the Secondary School at Kandaria Village. Hugh will then join Ian Mayer in Burundi for a series of community and church leaders training events hosted by MI partners Rema Ministries. We hope to keep you updated on this new Mission International blog page throughout the entire time these teams are on mission.   Often of course the local internet connections are poor making it difficult to post updates on line, so please be patient with us. Mission International is already recruiting for teams for 2015, so please get in touch with us to find out more.