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Archive for September, 2011

Weird Experiences

One of my failings is a love of history.  My friend Mr. Ravi in India asked me once how I knew so much about the slang and the people of India and my answer was history.  I learn an awful lot of history from historical novelists like C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brien, Bernard Cornwell, and, I am a little ashamed to admit, George MacDonald Frasier.  You can learn more real history from a fictional story like “Flashman on the March” than a lot of highly regarded classical histories.

I never knew for instance, that World War 1 was fought in Africa and not just the fields of France and Germany until I read Forester’s fictional “African Queen”, and of course saw the delightful movie of the same name.

The reality of the war of course took a great toll on the lives of real Africans who died by the hundreds as porters and scouts and workers as the British tried to drive the Germans out of East Africa.

Jump ahead a few decades and my enjoyment of Issac Dinesens great book, “Out Of Africa”.  Karen Blixen is the real life baroness who lived on a farm in the Ngong Hills just outside of Nairobi.  The story is told through the devise of her love afair with the hunter Denys Finch Hatton, and the great artifice of the story is his love of the nomadic life of the Maasai  and their independant warrior tradition and her love of the more settled tribes that cared for her farm.  As Wikipedia relates ”

Denys’s upcoming death in a plane crash is foreshadowed in this film by the tale of Maasai people who reportedly would always perish in captivity. At his Christian funeral in the Ngong Hills, as Karen prepares to toss a handful of soil into the grave in the European ceremony, she hesitates and cannot do it, then she turns away from the other Europeans, and instead, she brushes her hand through her hair, as is the African custom. With Denys gone, the head servant, Farah, takes Karen to the station, for the train to Mombasa. Settled back in Denmark, she receives a letter from a friend, “The Maasai have reported to the District Commissioner at Ngong, that many times, at sunrise and sunset, they have seen lions on Finch-Hatton’s grave” in the Hills. She supposes that Denys would have liked that, “I must remember to tell him.” She never returned to Africa.

One of the more intriguing parts of the story is how the British were divided as to whether of not to arm the Maasai, who although they are Pastoralists (care for flocks and herds) are also considered to be rather fierce warriors.   The argument ends concerning the arming issue with a simple question – “when this war is over, who is going to disarm them?’  That almost mystical regard for Maasai has been a part of all of my trips to Africa.  I am always fascinated when I see them walking down the roads in their red and blue checked robes and their spears and rungo clubs.  It never ceases to amaze me that I can get out on a lonely road not seeing anyone near in any direction and turn around and a Maasai is standing nearby as if to protect his historic claim on the land.

Hence the weird experience.  The February trip with the two District Presidents was, at least for me rather exhausting.  The last couple of days were to be spent in the Mara looking at animals and unwinding.  We got up before sunup to take a landrover out onto the plain and it was a chilly morning.  The driver offered me a cup of boiled milk and coffee and a blue and red checked blanket to keep the chill off.  Being a “macho” kind of guy I declined the blanket but ran for the front seat of the land rover because it is the most comfortable spot.  As I approached the landrover this is what I saw and I will go to my grave believing this is what I saw – two warriors in full blue and red checked robes.  They had the “eremet sero”, or leaf bladed long spear and the spears were painted white which meant they were prepared for war.  They each carried a rungo (club) and each of them had beaded head bands and looped copper ear rings.  They stared straight ahead and never acknowledged that I was getting into the vehicle.  Thinking that they were being transported to some remote village I settled into my seat a bit worried about the significance of a war lance but I settled in nonetheless.  One of the fellow travelers came along and said “did you see the Maasai guys in the back seat?” and I whispered back as fiercely as I could, “yes and be quiet about it”.  About a half and hour later while everyone was laughing they asked if I wanted to meet the Maasai guys.  Here is what I saw –

David Chuchu and my friend Richard (sorry Richard I can’t remember your last name).  No spears, no clubs, no jewelery – just two guys that were cold.  I will never forget that morning – it truly was a strange thing and of course everyone thought it was hilarious, but it was still strange.

Anyway that’s David on the left.  We will get out an itinerary soon of where David will be in North Dakota and Minnesota.  I’m pretty sure he left his spear at home. 


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David Chuchu is coming etc.

David with a Project 24 shirt

If I seem like I am making a big deal of David coming here I probably am.  There are many wonderful pious workers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and I appreciate the friendship that I have with John Halake, Bishop Obare and others like the late Mary Okeyo.  Bishop Obare has preached at my churches as has the general Secretary John Halake.  These visits are “big deals” if for no other reason that the perspective we get of how other members of the body of Christ see the world and the work of spreading the Gospel as it unfolds in places we can only dream about if we think about them at all.

David will be at St. John’s in PArk Rapids this coming Sunday and at the Pastors conference at Lutheran Island Camp.  If you get a chance to be somewhere where he is look him up up and visit.

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David Chuchu is coming to town.

I understand that David Chuchu the director of Projects for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya and the Director of Diaconal Compassionate Ministries will be preaching at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Park Rapids Minnesota on Sunday October 2, 2011.  David will also be at the Minnesota North Pastors conference.  We will try and keep you up to date as to Davids where abouts.  If you get a chance track him down and visit.  He is a wonderful Christian man and embodies the churches work of mercy in word and deed. go to this link and see more information on David.

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Visitors – the missing picture

I wrote about David Chuchu coming to visit and how the first time I visited Kenya they took us to see a soapstone carving place, (September 21).  I had included a picture of the finshed product, but for some reason the picture seems to have disappeared from the blog.  So here it is (hopefully).  I will leave it big so that you can see the expression on Mary’s face as she seems to be offering the baby to us.

Finished product at the soapstone factory

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More images from Minot

Gary Bethke and the team from South Dakota
A view in the basement

The first time I ever wore a HASMET suit was in New Orleans after Katrina.  These look nice and clean and pretty.  Mine was blue.  They are hot and the work is difficult and smelly.  There is 9 kinds of mold growing in these houses and it is dangerous.
We thank the volunteers and those who are caring for them and feeding them.  If you cannot go to Minot and help perhaps you cans send a donation.  You can send to LCMS World Relief and mark it for Minot Reief our you can send it to the North Dakota District Office.  Address in on their website listed to the right on this blog.
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The Folks in White

My Friend Naomi Dunovan told me that PAstor Fenske and some Immanuel Grand Forks folks had run over to Minot to help – I asked he to write something and she did –
He’s hardly recognizable, but this is Pastor Craig Fenske of Immanuel, Grand Forks, behind that mask,” Tuesday, he and three of his parishioners: Gary Bethke, Adam Drake and Ray Steffen, drove to Minot to spend the rest of the week working in flood recovery.
Besides the warmth within their hearts, they donned the warmth of quilts as gifts for flood victims from both Immanuel and Redeemer congregations.
“We’re on West Central Avenue in Minot,” Pastor Fenske said Thursday afternoon by phone. “The street is totally evacuated. A lot of homes are without windows and doors and the water line looks like the water was 8-feet up on the house. We are about a block from the river and this was one of the most devastated parts.”
Work teams are based out of Lutheran Disaster Response headquarters set up at Our Savior Lutheran Church on Minot’s south side. Each day, workers check in at for their assignments. They are given a sack lunch to take with them for noon. A hot evening meal is provided by Minot churches. Two of the nights they enjoyed lasagna and sloppy Joes, Pastor Fenske said.
Two other couples are assigned with the Immanuel team. One is from South Dakota and one from Ohio. Pastor Fenske said LDR places the homes of young single parents and the widowed on the priority list.
“The first day we worked on a house for a young widowed mother with five children,” Pastor Fenske said. “The second day we worked on the home of an 80-year old gentleman, also widowed. We cleaned out his basement.”
Thursday the team was at their third job site. “We’re basically gutting the first floor of a two story house,” Pastor Fenske added. “We’re taking everything down to the bare studs. We are demolishing and hauling buckets of broken dry wall and plaster out to the curb.”
After a hard day of work, the Immanuel team drives 50 miles north and west to Gary’s farm home near Upham, N.D., to get a good night’s rest. The next day they eat breakfast at the farm where Adam is said to be the chief cook whipping up such things as French toast and omelets.
Pastor Fenske was not serving Immanuel when Grand Forks had its flood in 1997 so this is a new encounter for him.
“This kind of devastation is something I’ve never experienced before,” he said. “You drive through block after block after block and see the signs of this flood – windows and doors out. Personally, I don’t know how the people can find it within themselves to come back.”
Adam and his family lived in Minot before they moved to Grand Forks so it’s especially sad for him to see this devastation. When they go to a job site, “it’s like, where do you start,” Adam said. “It’s a depressing feeling when you first walk in but it’s a good feeling when you get things done.”
Theirs and so many others are the hands of God descending upon Minot.

Gary Bethke and Adam Drake

 Thanks Naomi and the folks in white. 

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The Song Catalogue.

My friend Ravi Jesupatham, also known as “Mr. Ravi” from India sent a wonderful comment about the song, “the Son Rises Here too” last night.  It was a pleasure to get up and get a cup of coffee and see his kind remarks.  Someday we need to do a blog about Mr. Ravi.  He is a wonderful Christian worker and a great friend and he has a great story.

There were also a couple of emails asking about other songs that have been on the blog and where they are.  I guess looking in the archives is too hard of work.  That’s what technology does to us.  So, bowing to the lazy, (I know these people and can say stuff like this), here is a catalogue of songs that have been on the blog site from me.

“The Son Rises Here Too”.  September 22

“Fire In The Sky”.  August 6

“Fear Not I Am With You”.  June 29

Ain’t Know Grave Can Hold My Body Down”.  April 23

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The Son Rises Here Too

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When I went to Africa I was impressed with the obvious faith and dedication of the people that I met from the Pastors to the Evangelists to the Deaconess’.  I was struck by the reason we went – to see what types of human care projects we could enter into with the Kenyans even though at that time they were not officially a partner church.  I was looking for answer to the question – “why do they seem to have so little and we seem to have so much?” 

The amazing part of all this to me was the idea of turning it around.  Have a Kenyan Pastor come over here and ask the same question about commitment.  Commitment to mission/ministry, the mercy/human care etc.  I can imagine that Kenyan Pastor asking the question “why do they seem to have so little and we seem to have so much?”

Anyway David Chuchu the projects director for the ELCK will be up here in Minnesota North and North Dakota the first few days of October.  This is one of David’s favorite songs and I am honored that I wrote it and he likes it.  If you can find out where David will be go and see him and visit with him.  You will be happy that you did.

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Matt Harrison at a soap stone factory

I had forgotten this incident.  In 2003 Matt Harrison, John Fale, Tim Yeadon and I went to Kenya.  The folks from the the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya like to say that we were the first to come and visit and attempt to partner.  ELCK has not become a partner church at that time.  We had a visit to a soap stone carving factory that was really interesting.  They would take the overbear dirt off by hand shovel and go dig the and cut the soapstone by hand and haul it out of these pits by main force.  They would carve it and the women would clean it and then it might be painted or left rough.  What I enjoyed is how they would go about their business and seemed to enjoy us watching them go about their business.

a deep hole to dig by handfinished results are lovely

 Rather than feeling like I was an intruder they genuinely seemed to enjoy us watching and they took great pride in their work as they should when you see what they can do with a piece of soapstone.

In the next few weeks David Chuchu will be visiting us in the Minnesota North and North Dakota Districts.  David is the project manager fro the ELCK and is in charge of the Project 24 rescue centers and where and how they are built. I believe that David will be at Pastors Conferences and will be preaching at some churches.  He will have a chance to watch us do our work.  I hope we can show him the same hospitality that they consistently show us when we visit.

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Good Guestions


Got this message after Bill’s blog calling Minot a “forgotten City” (Sept 1).  I have gotten a few more guestions like this since then.

Some of us can’t get involved with the clean up because we are very allergic to dust and mold. I’ve battled a sinus infection for over a year and don’t dare place myself there. I could bake and make meals for those working and that could be my contribution. Anyway, knowing many want to help but may be in my situation are there other things that need doing? What about a prayer chain with specific needs, do any of the workers/families ever need baked items? I might be really stretching myself but do they need winter hats/scarves/mittens? Who do I contact to get a number of affected families in each congregation.

We are waiting to get some of these answers – in the mean time call Bill Sharpe at the North Dakota Distirct Office.


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