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Just in case you are still wondering why in the world I would want to live on a sailboat, this was my view when I woke up the other morning. The clouds resting atop of San Diego’s downtown buildings first captured my attention. The penetrating rays from the sunrise burnt through the clouds so that part of the buildings were illuminated and part hidden. When I awake it is common to see pelicans, cormorants or other sea birds around the boat. The other day a seal dove right beside me. This is my place with a view.

Life, On a Sailboat

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It all started three years ago when I flew from Alaska down to San Diego to visit both the city and Bethel Seminary for potential studies. Since I was carless, I rented a bike and took a 26 mile ride that took me all over the city. One of my destinations was Cabrillo National Monument where I got my first good overlook of the city, its layout and the beautiful San Diego Bay. On my way up to Cabrillo National Monument, I stopped at an overlook to gaze out at the ocean.

Life, On a Sailboat

meeting-tristen

I had the privilege of meeting my new little nephew Tristen, this week! My sister Rebekah gave birth to Tristen on Sunday, April 13th. He was 8 pounds 4 ounces and 21 inches long. Although we live half a country apart, it’s great to be able to see the little guy and talk with him over Skype! This picture is a screenshot that I captured during our first “conversation” together. I’m thrilled to be the proud uncle of two adorable nephews! Welcome to the family, Tristen!

Life

Kayaking the Nile

Taking advantage of a rare lull in our schedule, we took brief trip to Jinja. Famous for its location at the source of the Nile, Jinja is one of the most popular destinations in Uganda. We arrived at our hostel just in time to join a truck full of rafting guides out to a campsite overlooking Bujagali Falls and the Nile. Waking up the following morning, we stood amazed by our view. The camp’s hillside setting allowed a large scale view of this beautiful, historical and important river. Deciding that there was no way that I should miss an opportunity like this, I hired a guide and decided to go kayaking.

The water was surprisingly warm. Ibra, my guide, was about my age and a friendly guy. A brief refresher course got me going and soon I was moving into new kayaking territory. Learning the t-rescue is the first step in learning how to “roll.” Although I had already learned the “wet exit” or how to get out of a kayak when it tips over, the t-rescue was a new approach. While upside down and under the boat, you are supposed to run your hands along the side of your boat until you feel another kayak bump against your boat. Despite being upside down, you somehow keep oriented, push off the other boat and flick your hips, snapping yourself back above the water. Sounds easy, huh? Or not. It was surprisingly hard to orient myself to being upside down and breathing in water.

From there we launched off into the fun part of the trip. We started at the damn, just near the source of the Nile, where it meets Lake Victoria. Passing through intense rapids was quite a thrill. Exotic birds appeared along the shores, the water and on the Nile’s islands. Between rapids, Ibra and I carried great conversations. The sun shone brightly on us but a breeze kept the weather pleasant. The trip reinvigorated my interest in white water kayaking and I’m excited about more opportunities in the future. What better place to go kayaking than at the source of the Nile?

Africa, Life, Travel

My grandmother died last week, while I was in Africa. It was incredibly difficult to not be able to be there to say goodbye or even to attend the funeral. I wrote this letter to be read at her funeral:

While fully confident that God’s timing is perfect and that His providence never fails, I cannot begin to understand why He chose to take Granny home at a time when neither Rebekah nor I could be there to say goodbye. Over the past few weeks I cringed every time I received another email from Missy, fearing that it would confirm Granny’s death, forever settling that I would never see her again. I cried out to God to preserve her life. I longed for that time in March when I would be able to return and see her again. Were it not for my being stuck in the heart of East Africa, I would have been there for her and would be sharing in the grief of friends and family at the funeral today.

Although I will never see her again in this life, I know that I will see her again in the life to come. In our special times together, Granny shared with me about her genuine faith in Jesus Christ. She trusted in Jesus, believing that His death had paid the full price for the penalty of sin. Now this same Jesus has freed Granny from the presence of sin for she lives in a place that He prepared for her in heaven. Living eternally in the presence of her precious Savior, she will never again taste the pain caused by the sin of our fallen world. She has received a new body with perfect health that can never fade. Every hurt and pain that she has ever experienced has been healed by Him who gave His life for her.

While it is comforting to know that death can only mean gain for Granny, we who remain behind in this life will grieve our loss. She truly loved us and we all felt it. I’ve lived far away for so long but in those special visits that we had together, she expressed her heart for us as her grandchildren so vividly. I thank God for the gift of her life. I have long considered myself blessed to have a grandparent alive on both my mother and father’s side of the family. Now Granny is gone, leaving a void that can never again be filled.

I’m so grateful for the way that she loved my father and sought to lead him down the right path. Over the years she has shared her memories of my father with me and I will treasure them forever. He died when I was so young but by Granny and his sisters have helped me to learn more about his life by sharing with me how much he meant to them. I trust that their long-awaited reunion in heaven has already been beyond wonderful. Although their graves lay side by side in this world, their souls reside in a much better place. I long for the time that I too will be with them.

I’m weeping as I write this. It seems so impersonal to merely write an email at such a critical time of life. I hope that my family can understand how badly I long to be there today and how much it hurts to be so far away at this time. Please know that I am grieving with each one of you and that I share in your loss.

Thank you for being there for Granny as her life ebbed away. I’m sure that you made her feel loved during her dying days. I do not know why God chose now to take her home but I do know that everything He does is right and that I can trust Him. I thank God for Granny and all that she meant to every single one of us. May she now rejoice as she rests in heaven. I believe she would say to us with the Apostle Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philipians 1:21)

Life

Ken

I have met the most unbelievable people staying at Nairobi Backpackers! Its like every time I say hello to someone, I discover another incredible and interesting person! Let me tell you about a few of them:

Rob
I just met Rob tonight as he was getting off the internet. He mentioned that he was glad he was able to catch up on his work emails. I asked him what he does for a living so he told me that he was leading a trek to the top of Mt. Kilemanjaro! When I mentioned that I was interested in climbing Kilamanjaro, he told me about a local guide who could give me a good deal. He informed me that now is a wonderful time to go because there is more snow at the peak than he has ever seen. I learned that he’s a freelance travel guide from Austria and gets hired to take people all over the world. What an amazing job! He also told me all about Zanzibar and got out the map to show me the best way to get there! Rob is one cool guy!

Caroline
Caroline is a brilliant and sophisticated doctoral student at the University of Washington. She is originally from England and has carefully retained her English accent. When talking to new people I enjoyed telling them that she was from Seattle and then watching her immediate clarification that she was actually from England. Caroline studied the Aids epidemic in her Master’s program, making her a fantastic source of information. She also has interest and knowledge about many of the issues in Africa today. She is on her way to Sudan where she is working on research for doctoral dissertation about Sudanese women who helped to negotiate peace from the grassroots during the long war in Sudan.

Vera
Although she is white, Vera is a native of Zimbabwe and his lived in Africa all of her life. This fact has earned her the right to have a biting sarcastic wit and sense of humor in matters related to Africa. She made us laugh our heads off as she described various conversations and experiences that she has had in Africa. She has led game hunters into the bush for years. She has a hardened and tough sense about her that has earned the nickname of “black rhino” from the Africans. When I’d come back from the World Social Forum in the evenings we would sit around and have the “anti-social world slummit” with Vera. Behind all of the jokes and laughter though, it is evident that Vera cares about the needs of Africa… she just has her own way of addressing them. She currently lives in Zanzibar where she runs a five-star resort.

Ludwig
Ludwig is one of those all around nice guys that you only find every once in awhile. He is an engineer from Germany and came to work in Nairobi as an intern for an NGO. As he described some of the experiences that he faces at work, it is evident that it must be hard for him to work in this atmosphere. He seems to patiently grin and bear it, however, and keeps on working hard no matter what happens. When I encountered him in the city center the other day, he invited me out for cappucino. He always seems eager to help and I like that about him.

Kevin
Kevin is an illustrator from Brighton, England. He does his pencil drawn illustrations from his studio off a city street, so that people will stop by and talk, making art a more social experience. Every year for the last 20 years, he has taken October to April to travel somewhere else in the world. He takes pictures wherever he goes and then brings them back to England to use them as the basis for his illustrations. He showed me his work online the other day and his drawings are intricate and stunningly realistic. I would love to get some of his work someday. He was always up for a good conversation, and whether we were discussing India or his horrific safari with the Australians that he swears must have been Steve Irwin’s family, it was always entertaining and a good laugh!

Celina
One of the few Americans that I have met here in Africa, Celina is from Los Angeles. She came to Nairobi to attend the World Social Forum before heading to Ghana where she will be working in a refugee camp. She seems to have a genuine heart for the needs of people and in particular for Africa.

Ken
The owner of Nairobi Backpackers Hostel is a man named Ken. Having spent his career in the British army, and after working for many years in Africa, he decided to stay and run the hostel. He doesn’t need the money but says that he’s had the chance to have a lot of experiences in life and he simply wants to help young people have that opportunity. He’s working on developing an affiliated group of backpacker’s hostels from Addis Abbaba all the way to Cape Town. He learns the names of the people that come through his hostel quite quickly and he’s been very helpful to our group.

DJ
DJ Church is a teacher from Canada. He is very interested in current issues and knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has decided to take several years off to travel the world. He’s also a writer and has begun writing on various themes that he encounters along the way. He’s an excellent writer and very interesting to talk to about things that matter. Fortunately, we met him in Nairobi and are staying at the same place as him in Kampala.

Nairobi Backpackers, with all of its interesting guests, has been an amazing place to stay!

Africa, Life, Travel

Saying Goodbye

Sometimes my life seems like a series of goodbyes. Wherever I go, I become attached and never stay long enough. Our time in Sri Lanka came and went to so fast. As I said goodbye to the children at Samudra Sri, the children’s home, I realized that although I may never see them again, I will never forget them. They did not seem as needy as the Indian children. They were more shy in general and harder to get close to. Maybe we just needed to reach out to them on a deeper level. They really seemed to respond when we did.

I had so much to do before leaving tonight but I just had to spend some final time with the kids. I went into the boys dorm and hugged and tickled them. Ravindu wanted to just hang with me. Chamarra would not leave my side. The kids began to give me gifts. When the others saw, they all wanted to give me something. They have so little that I felt terrible to take anything from them. I knew that they merely wanted to give to me, however, and to not take their gifts would’ve hurt their feelings. Most of them gave me a little plastic animal. One little guy gave me his toy car. Ishara gave me a pen. Others gave me sea shells that they had no doubt long collected. Then at the very end, little Chamarra, not wanting to be left out of the giving, gave me his box of crayons. I’m crying as I think about how much this touched me. These little guys have nothing in this world but the people who love and care for them at Samudra Sri. I was so afraid that I had not taken the time to get close to them while I was there but in my final moments with them, they showed me so much love through their little gifts. It makes me weep.

Lord, care for these children. Help us to tell their story in a way that is vivid and powerful. May their stories touch and change lives. May each and every one of them grow up to know you. Lord show them your love. Though their parents and everything they knew was taken from them by war, the tsunami, poverty, death or for any other reason, may they always knows that You are their Father.

Leaving the children tonight was more than just another goodbye. It was a sad departure. I wrote on my profile that the thing I was least looking forward to on this trip was having to say goodbye at each place and this has truly turned out to be the hardest part of the trip. How do you answer a precious little child who with a pleading look in his eyes, asks, “You go to America, then you come back to Sri Lanka?”

Life, Sri Lanka, Travel

De Silva

These last few days we’ve had the opportunity to travel to the Southern coast of Sri Lanka in order to film and take support photos for the children attending the AED schools at Galle and Tangalle. Two things stand out about this area of the country. First, it is a beautiful area lined with miles of pristine beaches. Second, it is an area tragically struck by the tsunami of 2004. Many homes and businesses still lay in ruins. Driving through this region has helped me to clarify the reality of what these people suffered.

Driving by, however, could never teach me as much as what I learned from a man named De Silva. As I climbed out of our van to take a few quick pictures of buildings destroyed by the tsunami, he approached me and wanted to talk. As we engaged in conversation, it was obvious that he had a story to tell. He took me into his home and showed me how the entire back half of it had been destroyed. They had since rebuilt this part of the home but the front was still significantly damaged. In broken English he told me about not only about the damage done to his home but also to the surrounding area.

At first I thought maybe he was doing all this to ask me for money. As he told his story, it became more evident that all he wanted was for people to know what had happened to Sri Lanka in the tsunami. He asked me to tell this story with my camera and to help get support for Sri Lanka. This is exactly what I intend to do. DeSilva helped to remind me one more time of the importance of the task that we’ve undertaken, to capture the film and photos of those who have a story to tell that may never otherwise be heard.

Life, Sri Lanka, Travel

Mounika

One evening we were on our way to a church in India and I couldn’t find a seat on the bus. As I looked around, I heard a quiet voice call “brother” and looked to find one of the little girls from the orphanage motioning for me to sit by her.

As I met Mounika, pronounced like the English “Monica,” and began to talk to her, she immediately walked right into my heart. Her English was better than I had found among any of the other children in India. As we drove, she pointed out the various types of trees and plants that we passed. She taught me about India and told me the Telegu words for things I did not know. She asked me about my sister who had previously visited India and told me that Rebekah had given her our family picture. We shared a delightful bus ride.

Mounika is 13 years old and in the “10th Class” as they call it in India. Her father died awhile back and her mother is too poor to care for her. She has an older brother in college and an adult sister who lives in Hyderbad. Watching Mounika at the orphanage, I noticed that she was a real leader among the children. She frequently led singing and prayers during devotional times. Her love for God was quite evident.

Leaving all of the children in India was very hard but I knew that I would miss Mounika in particular. She did not say much as we left but her faced showed the sadness that she tried to hide. Ten days after we left, we were rejoined in Sri Lanka by some of the team that we left in India. They brought a note for me from Mounika and this is what she wrote…

My brother Andi,
Hi how are you brother? I am fine. My name is Mounika and I am no forget you and you no forget me. I am studying well. I miss you. I am so sad and I miss you Brother Andi and I am greetings for your family and I am writing letter your sister. Happy new year and happy christmas and pray for me and pray for my family. I am pray for you and your family and I miss you brother. You will next year come in christmas. I will pray you will back in India. Ok I love you and I love your family and you and I love you Rebekah. I love all. Ok bye

I couldn’t imagine a sweeter note. I will never forgot Mounika and how she walked right into my heart on a bus ride in India.

India, Life, Travel