Monday, October 1, 2012

On the Road Week One: Karibu!

Karibu (Welcome) to ATS!
Sitting at 6400 feet above sea level, at the base of Mt. Elgon, Kitale is a beautiful city.  The internet says that the population is 250,000, although I am told by residents that no-one actually knows the real population, as the results of the census taken ten years ago has not yet been released; to them the number is much lower.  It has a small town feel to it, with the mixture of nicely developed areas, densely populated sections, and also a rural area, with cows on the road, dirt roads, and room to breathe.  In short, after living in Accra (metropolitan population of 5 million) and close to Monrovia (population of 1.3 million), it feels just perfect for me. 

A portion of the breadbasket
This portion of the country is also known as the breadbasket of Kenya, due to the concentration of agricultural work going on here that provides much of the food for the country.   The weather is cool…at least to me.  It would reach approximately 75 F by noon, but rained every day by about 2 pm, dropping the temperature ten degrees.  The temperature rose again some days in the 70s again by evening, or would stay in the 60s, depending on how long the rains lasted.  They say that these rains are normally over by the beginning of September, so it is unusual to still have rain this late in the year.  [The team found it continually amusing that I was so cold.  I don’t know how long it will take this West African blood in me to adjust to cooler weather!  The good news is that I will be fine if I pack my winter clothes.]  Bob would have absolutely loved this weather. 

The Africa Theological Seminary (ATS) is on the outskirts of Kitale, on approximately ten acres of land, with an additional ten acres adjacent for future development; the land is currently being leased by farmers and used for growing maize and bananas.  ATS hosts approximately 300 students, all of whom are in ministry at the same time as working on their various degrees. 
Part of the ATS campus, including the house where I will stay.

The ATS (ICM-Kenya) team, along with Sheryl 
from the ICM-USA team.
The International Christian Ministry team was delightful.  There were actually two teams that I met – the ICM-USA team and the ICM-Kenya team.   I met some very kindred spirits on the ICM-USA team.  This is a very gifted group of leaders, deeply grounded in serving the Lord with their lives.  I know that I will learn a lot from them.

Part of the beautiful campus of ATS
The ICM-Kenya team was very welcoming and affirming of seeing the need to add Business as Mission as a course for their church leaders.  This is a young team of very educated and capable leaders, working with church leaders who are making a difference in the many villages and cities around Kenya and beyond.  While I was there, they hosted a two day alumni conference, focused on teaching Orality and the art of teaching the Bible through story-telling.  I had a chance to meet a number of pastors and church leaders, all of whom acknowledged that they are not doing anything to empower and equip their business members for the Marketplace, all of whom acknowledged that they tend to see their business members only in terms of donors, and all of whom extended an invitation for me to start the pilot project at their church!  There was great excitement about this concept, with many church leaders mentioning that they had never even considered this as a concept. I thank God for this affirmation.

The only disappointment in the whole trip to Kitale was learning that they don’t eat their food very spicy and plantains are not part of the regular diet, even though bananas are grown here.  However, I think I can deal with that!  Hot sauce will remedy the one, and I can definitely learn to live without plantains!

Road in front of the ATS Seminary...look familiar?
I plan to move to Kitale in mid-January and will start teaching at the beginning of February.  By mid-to-late February, I will travel out to start the pilot project.  At this time it looks like it may be to Busia, which is right on the Kenya/Uganda border, although it is very early to tell.  The Bishop of the Church in Busia, who is an alumni of ATS, is the head of sixteen churches, and is recommended highly by the ICM-Kenya team as a church leader who knows how to mobilize and support his people.  

Masai Mara
When I left Kitale, I was informed that our plane was late and that we would have to make a detour, delaying our arrival in Nairobi by about four hours.  I was delighted to then hear that our detour was to the Masai Mara, the large game reserve in south-western Kenya!  We flew in a small ten seat plane, and stopped twice in the Masai Mara, allowing me to see elephant, giraffe, ostrich, zebra, wildebeest (migrating to Tanzania), baboons, and impala!  What a treat!  Being able to fly low over the game reserve allowed me to see so much and I thank God for the free, albeit brief, safari experience!
As you receive this blog, I have left Kenya and am in Ghana.  I hope to report on week two next week. 
The beautiful countryside of Kenya