We have been in Kenya just two weeks and what an incredible 2 weeks it has been. Daryl, Rusty (my brother) and Mark McMillan (my cousin) arrived within 1 hour of each other from three different states and connected in Kenya without difficulty. Our trip as a trio started out eventfully with arriving at the Guest House just outside of Nairobi at 12 midnight. After an exhausting trip we found ourselves soaked from the rains as we were both entering the guest house and trying to free our taxi driver from the clutches of slick, thick and not movable mud. Mark walked in the rain to get our vehicle where it was being stored as I was sure we could pull out the taxi with our four-wheel drive Land Cruiser, affectionate called “the Beast”. I promptly got the Beast stuck almost up to the axles and there both vehicles would remain until the next morning when we were able to get a tractor to extradite the masses.
We connected with Kepha Pondi a Living Waters Board Member who was joining our team from the Philippines and we joyfully left Nairobi on Monday April 4th. We located and purchased a well-built 7 X 12 open utility trailer which we promptly loaded with a 2500 gallon water tank for transport across Kenya. I was not sure the trailer was the right thing to do, but I was impressed that we would use it in this project at some time in the future and I was able to make the purchase at a very good price. As a side note the trailer has been used every day on the project and I do not know how we would have done without it. In addition to the water tank that was carried across Kenya it has transported tons of foundation stones, loads of construction supplies including metals and wood, fencing and numerous trips from the Shamba (farm) with staff to and from the feeding center. God immediately put the trailer to good use.
Each of our team has played invaluable roles in which I on my own could not have accomplished in a months. Kepha has successfully negotiated the transportation of the purchase of a container to transport supplies from both the fence supplier and the water tower supplier via lorry from Nairobi to Rusinga. This was no easy task and required much of his time on the phone as we experienced multiple delays in the materials being pronounced ready for pick-up tomorrow. As most of you know tomorrow never comes, however in Kenya it finally arrived 8 days later. He also was in frequent contact with the lease agreement attorney to finalize the final draft of the 50 year lease agreement that has been worked on for the past 5 months. Kepha also spent hours auditing the financial records between Living Waters and our strategic partner in Kenya to assure all documentation was in order. Thank you to Kepha for his tireless pursuit of reconciling all concerns from supplies to transportation and more.
Mark has had a great experience as this was his first trip to Kenya. Last night he commented how much he was growing to love this area and the people. Mark has been our on-site foreman at the farm. On any given day we have 25 workers working to clear brush, did out trunks, dig foundation footers for the water tower and main gate, stack brush and so much more. Keeping 25 people accounted for and all of the tools they are using is no small task and Mark will be sorely missed when he departs in 2 weeks. I know he would love to return for Phase 2 later this summer, however, a sponsorship for his air transportation would have to be found. At 25 years old, Mark brings an incredible presence of harmony to difficult situations and a youthful energy that inspires all of us. I have been very blessed to have shared this experience with him.
My brother Rusty has been busy in multiple ways. It is always good to have another person to run thoughts and ideas past as two are better than one. I am in uncharted territory for this project, but with God in charge, I just follow His leading. Part of that blessing was having Rusty here. He has done most of the vehicle driving as I have found my foot is less than more, healed after the accident I had in January. I am doomed to have this clumsy walking boot on whenever I am at the farm or out of the house. It is very difficult to drive with it, so Rusty has become my chauffeur. I must use a walking stick and I gather a lot more attention than I desire as I hobble through the markets in Mbita gathering supplies. Mark and Rusty have been great in the kitchen and have not complained with the discovery that our solar refrigerator control panel malfunctioned and there are no spare parts in Kenya available. This means a trip to Kisumu on Tuesday to buy a new refrigerator. It is most difficult to adjust to no refrigeration in the kitchen where things will start to mold in 12 hours. Ongoing challenges with ongoing solutions never end in this environment.
We arrived to a rainless rainy season where things were hot and dusty; however, about 3 days ago the rains have started which make new challenges. The rains are such a blessing to all for the crops that have been planted. Our challenge is driving to the farm on the new road we had to have put in which reaches ½ mile from the main road. The development of the road was required to get our container on-site and for future vehicle access, however, getting the work done was costly and not without multiple delays and frustrations. During the rainy season it will be a challenge to keep out of the ditches and keep from sinking in the mud.
All in all, the three of us (Kepha returned to the Philippines on Friday) are really stoked on how much the farm has changed from, much of a jungle environment to it all being cleared and almost ready for the perimeter fence installation. The fence contractors are to arrive this morning and start the layout of the fence and our objectives this next two weeks is as follows.
· Layout the fence and start manually digging 300 fence post holes,
· Pour the concrete slab for the water tower
· Start the erection of the water tower
· Install the entrance gate
· Dig a 2 foot deep ditch almost a half of mile for the water line from the lake to the water tank
· Trip to Kisumu (major energy day) to Kisumu for supplies via the ferry
· Purchase the water pump
· Avoid, snakes, hippos and mosquito
· Ongoing supply purchases for daily construction
When the container arrived late Friday afternoon it had to be completely unloaded from the contents so the container could be off-loaded from the truck and then the contents had to be replaced. This was a 5 hour project and left all of the men exhausted after they had already worked a 7 hour day in the heat. What a team I have been blessed with.
We had a most welcome Sabbath rest here yesterday and it started to rain heavily at 12:30 am. This is the only time of the day I can get internet service so I am writing this to you and sending it early (1:30 am) Sunday morning. On Sabbath morning we took a three hour motorized canoe trip out to Godthe Island where time seems to stand still. The only visible modern day items are motorized canoes and tin roofs. There are no roads, no electric and people live entirely off the local resources. The island is very rocky and has numerous birds and monitor lizards. On the way back across to Rusinga Island we jumped ship into the refreshing waters of Lake Victoria for a welcome and refreshing swim. We cannot swim near the lake shore due to hippos, and parasites in the water.
I ask that all of you keep all of us and this project in your prayer and thoughts. I am trying to make arrangements to either extend my time here or will have to return early June in order to complete the initial phase of this project. It is a huge thing to develop a farm in the middle of the jungle and I must have underestimated the time commitments to have things on schedule. I must have forgot that time slows in Kenya. I need an additional 6 weeks and I think the farm would be in order to start the planting of crops.
I am going to say good bye and good night as I hope to drift back to sleep listening to the gentle rain on the roof. All of us send all of our love to you, and thank you for the multiple ways that you have supported Living Waters and the projects. Oh yes, the kids are on the official April break from school and resume in May. They have been so happy to see us and to meet Rusty and Mark. Two weeks from today my dearest wife Mary Jo, my sister Krystal and her granddaughter Elise leave the US to join us. We will welcome them with open arms and gratitude to have so many family together working together for the good for those less fortunate. I am so blessed.
Daryl, Mark and Rusty