Thursday, JAN 23
It's a three-leg, two-nights-on-a-plane flight to Kenya.
Thank God for my friends Jonathan and Diane in London;
a nap and a shower at their home save the day. After a
nice dinner they drive me back to Heathrow for the all-night flight
and I arrive in Nairobi on Saturday, JAN 25. As soon
as I land I must go to a meeting with the folks from the
Nairobi Music Society. Some of the orchestra players are
going to be out of town for the final concert and we have
to find players to cover their parts. Lunch at Java House
is wonderful---I never expected to find a burrito nor
guacamole this good in Africa. The restaurant, started
by an American missionary kid who grew up in Africa is
a big hit with the missionaries in Kenya.
We drive to Machakos, a lovely city in the mountains which will be the base of operation for the mission. We can see the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 130 miles southeast in Tanzania. We arrive at Scott Theological College where I am introduced to lots of new people who will become friends.
If there is a climate more wonderful than Hawaii, it is probably in Machakos. The temperature rarely exceeds 80 degrees although we are located just 100 miles south of the Equator. The winds come in the evening and it is a treat just to stand outside, look at the Milky Way and observe the constellation Southern Cross.
Sunday, JAN 26
Energetic music drives the two morning services at Parklands Baptist Church. An evening concert at the German School provides a special opportunity to witness for the Lord---I used classical, popular and Gospel repertoire because lots of non-church people were attending. The fellowship was wonderful, and the Indian curry dinner was a special treat (the best and hottest curry and rice is found in Africa).
Ralph and Carolyn Partelow are missionaries with AIM (Africa Inland Mission). They have lived in Africa for many years and our friendship is the catalyst for this trip. Ralph has done a superb job of arranging concerts and speaking engagements; very little time is scheduled for rest.
Monday, JAN 27
We're off to the Rift Valley Academy for a full day's work. We arrive before noon just in time for the daily staff devotional. One of the prayer requests is for safety because robberies have been occurring on the road immediately outside the compound. The day before two missionaries were held up at gunpoint.
RVA sits on the side of a mountain, about 8500 feet in elevation, overlooking three volcanoes. You can look down into the crater of Mt. Longonot, less than ten miles away.
Missionary kids whose parents are at work all over Africa make up the student body at RVA, and their facilities are excellent. I have been asked to speak to several groups of students beginning with the young children and ending with the choral group. A two-hour rehearsal with the jazz band is sandwiched in between; we're performing several numbers together in the evening concert. The band blows loud and hard and we woodshed several new charts I brought with me for the occasion.
The evening concert is one of several which I will play just for missionaries and their families. I have a special love for them and I enjoy playing music for these front-line people. The music department has worked hard to get the piano in shape for the concert and the building is packed.
In my whole life I have never played for a more enthusiastic audience. My ears are still ringing from the applause, and I continued playing encores until the staff said the students had to leave because of classes the next day. I still remember the tears of several people who came up to let me know that the music and the ministry of the evening had touched their hearts. There is no better applause than that.
Tuesday, JAN 28
Back to Machakos via Nairobi. All trips to anywhere go thru Nairobi---there are no beltways in this part of the world. We have to hurry because former President Daniel Moi is visiting Scott College at noon. After dinner in his honor I play a concert (wearing formal tails) on a new Steinway upright piano donated to the school. It is his first engagement since leaving office a few weeks earlier. President Moi served the people of Kenya for 24 years, the second and longest-serving leader in this young democracy. Everyone is grateful for the peaceful elections.
President Moi's first stop was to visit Carolyn Partelow who is bedfast because of multiple sclerosis. Her illness does not prevent her from being a strong prayer warrior, and President Moi has visited her on several occasions because he knew that she prayed for him every day of her life.
Since the president's favorite food is goat, six goats were slaughtered early that morning for the banquet. The festivities lasted half the afternoon and everyone was pleased that things came off well. It was a big day of celebration at Scott Theological College.
Wednesday, JAN 29
I played for the students and faculty at Scott College. I met with several students who are learning piano, and I spoke at a developmental class---a challenge for a non-theologian. As I spoke, words beyond my education came to me. The class and the following discussion were stimulating, and I was honored to be with students of such spiritual and intellectual depth.
Thursday, JAN 30
This is the only free time of the entire trip so I write some music for a new solo piano book to be published in May by WORD. I enjoy walking the grounds of the college and checking out the new men's dorm under construction. Being a nature lover I study the local vegetation, enjoying the blooming bougainvillea, and the giant fig and acacia trees of the African landscape.
This college is built on land cursed by witch doctors more than a hundred years previously. The original Africa Inland Church is next to the campus; it began underneath a huge fig tree which is still living today. From this site have come many churches--- today the AIC numbers more than six million members, the largest evangelical church in Kenya.
In the evening we have a 'Super Bowl party' at the home of one of the missionaries. His friend in the USA has sent him a video tape, so we watched the game and ate chocolate chip cookies as Tampa Bay beat the Oakland Raiders; Americana is always good, even four days after the game.
Friday, JAN 31
I play for the morning chapel service and teach another class at Scott. I write music while the house where I'm staying is being packed up; Ralph and Carolyn are leaving Africa for the USA because certain medical treatments are not available in Kenya. Carolyn's multiple sclerosis is challenge enough, but a car wreck a few weeks earlier required hospitalization and added complications to her health situation.
Friday night is a very important concert for the college. The professional people in town have been invited for a concert and reception. There is no concert hall at all in this city of more than 60,000. These merchants, bankers and lawyers have never been to the campus of the college at all, and they are impressed with what they see. The fellowship is excellent, and I understand that connections were made which will serve the college and the missionaries very well for years to come. It's one of the most important things to come out of the trip.
Saturday, FEB 1
We move to Nairobi for the final concerts. The Sixeighty Hotel is a fixture in the middle of the city, close to everything in town. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has stayed here on more than one occasion; a current renovation should restore the hotel to its former glory.
The evening concert is at Rosslyn Academy. This lovely facility is located near the new US Embassy and the United Nations compound. It is jointly operated by the Mennonites, the Assemblies of God and the Baptists.
You will remember that only a few years ago our embassy was blown up by Al Qaeda terrorists; and many Americans were killed. More recently terrorists blew up a Jewish hotel in Mombassa and fired two missiles at an El Al 747 taking off for Israel; they have not yet been caught.
After the concert I head back to the hotel and catch the news on CNN. The Columbia Space Shuttle had just blown up a couple of hours before; suddenly it was as if I was back home with my friends and family sharing this horrible news. I didn't sleep much that evening.
Sunday, FEB 2
This is a busy day. The entire Scott College family is coming to All Saints Cathedral for the final morning service at which I am playing. After a quick lunch we have a rehearsal with the orchestra players. Most are American and British people living in the area. The excellent French horn player is a pilot for MAF and his wife plays cello. Julie, the first violinist, is from Wheaton College and she is excellent.
More than 1,000 people come to the concert, a ticketed event. The admission fee covered the cost of getting a good piano brought in, and for some advertising expense. This is the first time many of these people have ever heard a live piano/orchestra concert.
I improvised a medley of seven songs as a tribute to the Columbia astronauts. The medley began with America the Beautiful and contained several hymns, including one from India along with the theme from Schindler's List. The medley ended with a somber version of God Bless America; there were tears among many of the Americans in attendance.
Afterwards we had a nice de-briefing dinner at a lovely Italian Restaurant, complete with gelato.
Monday, FEB 3
All loose ends have to be tied up. At 10:00 a.m. I conduct a two-hour master class at the University of Nairobi Conservatoire of Music. No time for souvenir shopping today. At noon Bill and Barbara Kuert are coming to take me to lunch and for an afternoon at the Nairobi Wildlife Preserve. They are Assembly of God missionaries I've known for many years. We spend the afternoon driving around looking at the rhinos, the giraffes, the baboons, etc., roaming freely with the skyscrapers of Nairobi in the background.
After lunch at The Carnivore we go to the 'orphanage' of the park where animals rejected by their parents are taken care of. All the big cats are there and the lions are feisty today. We get there just as the park is closing and the warden is about to feed the lions. He lets us enter the outer cage housing the three lions; if you've never heard a lion roar at a distance of six inches, it is a sound that will send a chill down the spine of the most seasoned animal lover.
After dark I return to the hotel, pick up my bags and head for Kenyatta International Airport. The night flight will get me to London about 5 a.m.; after six hours I'll head across the Atlantic for home. As we take off I remember that the missile launchers which fired at the El Al plane are still on the ground somewhere in Kenya, and I hope they're not laying in wait for the British Airways jet I'm traveling on. The flight across the Sahara and the Mediterranean was uneventful, and after 28.5 hours of travel I am safely home. Other than a couple of minor rashes there have been no problems at all.
With humility I reflect on the trip and the wonderful people I met. So many good things happened because of the concerts; modesty prevents my repeating comments which the missionaries made about the events of the past two weeks. I am blessed just to have been in Kenya at this exact time; I have never been on a mission trip where I knew so definitely that God had ordained the time and the events---every day was fantastic. I know that much has been accomplished, and I know equally well that I did not create the success of this trip.
This concludes my eleventh trip to Africa; my spirit has been renewed and my vision strengthened. Much work lies ahead and an exciting opportunity in Eastern Europe and Turkey have just come to me. This is where my heart comes alive - on the mission field.
Thank you for your prayers and your gifts which made this trip the success it was; missions like this cannot be done alone.