Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Goodbye Mountains and Hello Coast!

"No Weather Beats Fashion"
an obvious reference to the heat
A month has passed and so much has changed.  We have said goodbye to many good friends in Iringa, and we have driven across international boundaries into Kenya, finding our long sought home of Mombasa. 

I am typing this now because I can’t sleep, it is 5:40 am and power has been out for a couple of hours, which means fans don’t work.  No fans = no sleep, at least for me.  The power outage brought all 3 boys to my bed and each of them seemed to be set on having some appendage on top of some part of my body.  I tried at 4:00 am to explain we all would feel cooler if our skin didn’t touch but no one seemed to believe this theory.  So I left them with Sarah and I have come downstairs to write our first Mombasa entry.

 NLD and Benny telling  James,
one of our Swahili teachers,
goodbye.
Our trip to Mombasa began well, and ended well, it was the part in the middle that was little hairy.  It was a two-day trip that we began on Wednesday the 19th.  The clutch in our truck went out about 2 hours before our stop for the first night.  So there we were, on the side of an African road, with a rooftop carrier full to the brim, a 1957 aluminum trailer so full we couldn’t close the top, and a truck full of 6 humans, a guinea pig (transport for a friend), a cat, and 5 chickens. Seriously.  

Thankfully, in true Dinkins style, I had strapped two plastic chairs, a pack and play, and a stroller to the top of the trailer we couldn’t close with strips of rubber from used inner tubes (that is the closest thing you can find to a bungee cord here).

So we unloaded our chairs and stroller and proceeded to have a nice picnic there on the shoulder of the road.  I am sure we were a sight for the many African buses that paraded by all afternoon.  We drew many honks, and a lot more stares.  Thankfully, we had a decent shoulder to push the truck onto off the road and we also had cell service, which is absolutely not a guarantee.  We were able to call friends who came from two different directions, each about 2 hours away.  They arrived within 5 minutes of each other after our long wait and we were able to take one of their cars on to our stopping point that night.  The friends used their other truck to tow our vehicle to a safe place for the night and reunited with us later that evening.  All in all it was worse for our friends that it was for us (except for Nehemiah who managed two bee stings during our 2+ hour “picnic”).
African "picnic" induced by our clutch burning up.

Nehemiah loving his chic during
our car trouble.






Thursday we were forced to rest while we worked out a vehicle situation.  This was actually a blessing because we would need the rest.  Friday we headed out on the road again and only had about 4 hours to finish our trip.  These were the most stressful however because they involved our first unassisted border crossing.  One, it’s an African border, second, they speak Swahili, third we had undocumented animals in the truck.  I really don’t know how drug runners do it.  The stress is almost unbearable.   If I had been unable to get these chickens across the border, I would have had to answer to Sarah (the chicken whisperer) on why I didn’t get to the vet for the appropriate paperwork.   Throw in the guinea pig  (an extra and unplanned for critter we picked up during our overnight stay to deliver to Mombasa friends) and I felt like I had 50 kilos of white powder under my seat.
At a friend's house - feel free to
caption this yourself!
I played it cool, left the kiddos in the car at the customs stop, answered all their questions truthfully and they never asked about animals or looked in the car.  When the last guard handed us our paperwork through our cracked window (we couldn’t unroll all the way lest he hear a cocka-doodle-doo or see the cat) we passed through the last gate and hit the accelerator.  We were free!  Our car erupted in cheers and the party was started.  Just a few hours later we were crossing on the ferry into Mombasa.

Our last meal with the young boys we had been
ministering to in Iringa.
It has been tough acclimating to the heat but we have been able to bear it.  Our new home is more than adequate, and we even purchased two single-room AC units to aid us in sleeping.  They aren’t quite working yet though as we’ve got some electrical problems we are sorting through.

It is a relief to finally be here.  3 years of planning, training, learning, and travelling to get here.  It is time for the rubber to finally meet the road.  Pray for us as we do adapt, as we begin our work next week with the NGO.  We will be looking for opportunities where we can serve folks through community and business development.  The needs are endless, so we seek wisdom from God to put our time, resources, and efforts where he would have them, that they would have a positive affect on people lives now, but that they would also allow opportunities to share the news for eternity.

Had an outing to a nature park for NLD's birthday
and were entertained by this jumping baboon and several pythons.
Finally here,


The Dinkins

**almost forgot, if you would like more information about our work, and ways you can be praying for us, please email me at stephen.dinkins@gmail.com and I will add you to our list for that as well. *

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forward

Our long journey is nearing completion.  On February 20th, Lord willing, we will embark on a loooong drive to Mombasa Kenya where we will live and work for the foreseeable future.  It will be nice to have house to call home, to grow some roots in a community, and to care about the paint color in any particular room!  It has been well over a year since any of those were true and over 2.5 years since we pulled out of Sumter driving the UHAUL.

We are grateful for the support and prayers that have been lifted on our behalf since the inception of our adventure.  Our language is going well, we are gaining confidence and starting to hear the spoken language better.  We have realized, and conceded, that language is something that keeps growing.  Our idea of "fluent" is still a long way off and it will take several years of speaking the language and making mistakes to get to that point.

Rainey rocking it out for "Headlight" in our house on Friday nights
Rainey is doing well, though she has times, like me, when she misses "home" and our family and friends there.  She is, however, investing heavily in the students around her and has had roughly 15 students in our house every Friday night for the last 4 weeks to fellowship, play games, eat, and study the bible.  She plays her guitar and leads music every week and she even taught the lesson one week herself.  It is not easy to live as a teenager cross culturally but she is making the best of it and Sarah and I are proud of her efforts.

Asa is diligent with his schoolwork and his after school clubs.  A couple of days a week he stays after school for football club (soccer) and he is getting better and better.  He also stays one afternoon a week to learn new boardgames.  I am happy to see him having fun after school, when I was kid if I was at school after 2:00 it was because I was writing the Gettysburg address on the chalkboard 100 times.

Nehemiah and Benny continue to light this place up.  As Benny grows he is able to do more and more and he and NLD are growing closer.  It is a joy to watch them play and explore together.  Now the potential of damage from inadequate supervision has not doubled but rather grown exponentially.   One of their favorite activities is to go to town, where I sneak them a chocolate bar before Sarah can find out, and on our return they climb on top of our truck and sit on the the luggage rack on our dirt road and driveway.  You should see the looks on some of the nationals' faces.

Asa, Nehemiah, and Benny sorting out their candy from FBC!
The circle of life continues here too - Rainbow just hatched another chick and Sa (aka Dr. Doolittle) actually saw him come out of the shell.  Our turtles have escaped, we've had to return a cat (not Rainey's) and also had a brief episode with a goat - but those are all stories for another update.  Right now we are focusing on being lean for our 13 hour drive to Mombasa with a vehicle and trailer that would embarrass Granny Clampett.

Don't send anymore mail to our Iringa address, we will not get it before we leave - and if by chance you have sent anything, please email and let us know so we can search the post office for it before we leave.

Our good friend Mama Elizabeth and her two children
Emails will stay the same, but our phone numbers will change so we will update those when we cross the border.  We will also post a new address for Mombasa should you feel the need to drop a bag of sour patch kids in an envelope made out specifically to me....just saying.

Our next update will be complete with pictures of our new home, city, and community.  Keep praying for our family's health and safety, our journey to Mombasa, and our work ahead with the NGO doing business and community development - that we would find areas where we can help and make a positive difference in lives.  Until Mombasa.........


From Africa,

The Dinkins

"I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward" - David Livingstone


8 boys w/o families come over every Tuesday

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A glance back and a gaze forward, resolving to seek God and what He wants for us and from us

2013 was without question the wildest, scariest, and most adventurous of our lives.  It began with 8 weeks of training in Virginia, a quick stop in SC to say goodbye, continued for 3 months in Vancouver Canada, a month in Kenya, and finished in Tanzania.

We just returned from a few days at the beach which were an absolute blessing.  We were able to take a break from language, focus on our family, and just rest and have fun.  After such a tempestuous year, to end it so peacefully was a gift.

To describe our year as "transitional" would be an understatement.  Learning to adapt, to be flexible and fluid has been our m.o.  Globetrotting with four kids in tow is not for the faint of heart, and we have at times certainly been emotionally and physically spent.  But it has been worth it.  First, because we know the Lord has called us to Africa, second because the experiences for each of the six of us will forever shape us and our worldview for the better.  

Meeting new friends, learning a new language, experiencing and adapting to new cultures, seeing God's beautiful creation in Africa, and experiencing brushes with terrorism and medical emergencies have all been events that shaped us and formed us closer to who He wants us to be.

We would not trade the last 12 months and we would do it all over again for how it has changed us. We are constantly reminded there is SO MUCH MORE out there than we were seeing and experiencing.  Our fear of losing something good was keeping us from experiencing something great. God indeed has a plan for us, and it is greater than what we are able to design for ourselves.  We have to be willing to take the plunge, to walk where it scares us, and to be obedient to the pull in our souls.

Sarah and I are not perfect, we are sinners thankful for a Savior.  We disappoint him daily I am sure, but we are trying to follow him, to serve him, and to please him in what we do.  We are thankful for the favor he poured into our lives to enable us to say yes to the call to Africa.  We would not have been able to but for his matchless grace.

Looking ahead to 2014 we are so excited.  Another 8 weeks in Iringa to polish our language, improve our vocabulary, and practice sharing the truths that are eternal.  Then we finally hit our destination of Mombasa. For three years we have been working towards that point, where we can settle into a community, invest in people's lives, and make an eternal difference for people that have not heard the truth of the good news.  

We are thankful for this break in the calendar that allows us to reflect on the year past and look forward strategically and expectantly to the year ahead.  We have set some goals for our work, for our family, for our personal lives and we are anxious to see how the Lord leads us in this year.  We rejoice in today and thank the Lord for the past.  We have a hope for the future grounded in the one true king and our expectations are for him to continue to transform us and the nations for is glory.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving is the same in Africa (sort of)

Thank you Jesus for forgiving my all of my sins, healing all of my diseases, and redeeming my life from the pit and crowning me with your steadfast love and mercy (Psalm 103).  Every good and perfect gift comes from you, and you do not change (James 1:17).

Thank you for friends and family, relationships that add to my joy, sharpen my walk following Jesus, and provide the encouragement I need to take another step.   

Thank you for your word, which is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword (Heb 4:12). Thank you for your revelation to your creation and your desire to bring us back into a saving relationship with you (2 Peter 3:9).

Thank you for changing my heart and making me a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), clothed with Jesus righteousness (Zechariah 3:3).  

Thank you Father for the wife you have gifted me and the children you have bestowed to us.  Thank you that I have never gone hungry.  That I was raised in a family who loved you and me.  That you have given me warmth, health, and shelter.  Trucks, houses, land, medical care, safety.  There is no place to end.  For everything in my life I thank you, the one true God who is sovereign over everything.

      Aside from our physical location, our food, our new friends, and new language, Thanksgiving remains the same.  It is a time to celebrate what the Lord has done for us, to recognize that he is the ONLY source for good in our lives and thank him deeply for every little (and big) thing in our lives.  He is so worthy to be worshipped and followed.  The Dinkins in Africa thank him for the chance to follow him to East Africa and for those who love us so well back home.

    Tomorrow we will celebrate with new friends (and Granny and Mimi all the way from South Carolina!) and do our best to enjoy American traditions.  Benny and I went and found a turkey today form a local farmer - we got to watch them strut around the yard, pick the one we wanted, and tie him up and bring him home!  Once we got home I had some help to kill, pluck,  and clean him (out of sight of Sarah and the kids) and I just finished getting him prepped for the oven in the morning (with many instructions from my mother).  

    Our language is going well, though it can still be a little overwhelming.  Just when you gain confidence from studying vocab and having a couple of good conversations, you meet someone who talks 100mph and you can't understand anything.  We have made progress but have a long way to go.  

     Rainey and Asa are really hitting their stride in school, meeting friends and finding their place.  Tonight after a rugby match Rainey had 8 friends over to "hang out".  Sarah quickly whipped up some food for them and they played a few games and laughed a lot.  The little ones are doing well to and for the most part we are all healthy and injury free (minus a stomach bug here and there).  

    Mom and Amelia arrived last Friday and they have been a tremendous blessing for each of us.  They will stay until Tuesday, so we are cherishing each day and already planning their next visit.  The kids have loved showing off Iringa to them, giving them guided tours of their school, the local markets, and "western" hot spots for coffee.

    We hope that you have a blessed day of thanksgiving with your family and that your entire holiday season is full of thanks and reflection on what is most important and what the Lord has in store for you.

Ever Thankful,

The Dinkins





Monday, October 28, 2013

Life is Back to Normal (Sort of)

If there is such a thing as normal in Africa, our life is back to it.  After a rocky September, we have found the relatively calm waters of October.  We are back in Iringa Tanzania and are pursuing the language again with the passion of when we first arrived.  We are starting to get a taste of what it is like to communicate in Swahili, the heart language here, and we love it. 
            We have settled back into a rhythm with school for Rainey and Asa, and language lessons for Sarah and me.  All of the kids are relatively healthy and your prayers (and ours) have been answered thus far with no other accidents or illnesses. 
            We are finding ourselves vested more and more in the people here in Iringa and that is a blessing.  We are developing relationships that revolve around eternal things and finding opportunities to share the truth that changes lives.  We are looking forward to our work in Mombasa and we have friends currently looking for a house to rent there.  It is exciting to think in that after Christmas we will have a chance to finally settle in a “permanent” home that we can really invest in.
            After the whirlwind travel to Nairobi and all of the security/terrorism issues there, it has been good to be back in the small town of Iringa.  The president of Tanzania came to town a few days ago to celebrate the Tanzanian equivalent of our Independence Day.  It was neat to be a part of this culture and see the president and festivities.  Every day our eyes grow wider to a world vision that includes so much more than our roots in SC.  The Father has made such a beautiful creation, so many beautiful people groups, and so many different cultures.  I marvel at what our kids are being exposed to and the contrast from their worldview as children compared to mine at their respective ages.

            We will do our best to keep you updated and in the loop as we move forward and as always, we enjoying hearing from you.  Don’t be shy to drop us an email and let us know what is happening in your family’s life.
           
            On the adventure,
           
Stephen, Sarah, Rainey, Asa, Nehemiah, and Benny
(Along with many critters)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wheezing, Malaria, Burns, & Terrorism

Malaria, Wheezing, Burns, & Terrorism

There is no good place to begin since our last blog entry.  So much has happened.  We are tired, but we are recovering.  Many readers may have received email prayer requests and so this may be redundant but bear with me.

Not long after our last entry on 9/3/13 our youngest began to have significant wheezing (significant as defined by his parents in a rural African town).  We were on the phone with a dear doctor friend at home and with some medical folks from our company.  After several days of pretty heavy treatments nothing was getting better.  On the fifth day our company decided to fly Benny and me to Nairobi to see an allergist and try and get things under control.  We were in Nairobi one week waiting on Benny to improve with new medication.  Two days before we returned home, Sarah called me with news that Nehemiah and come down with Malaria.  They visited the hospital to confirm with blood work and he began treatments that day.

We finally were able to go back to our family in Iringa on a Friday.  We arrived in the morning, had a great lunch with our whole family and decided to visit a friend’s house out on the edge of town.  It was here that Nehemiah (our 3 year old) stumbled in a dark room and fell into or over a small charcoal stove that had a pot of boiling water on it (We, nor our host, realized that an adult sister was in the room cooking with this small charcoal stove).  That night, while he laid on my chest with burns on his backside, he took his final malaria treatment.  Poor little guy was having a rough go of it.

He suffered 2nd degree burns on his bottom, the back of his thighs and on one foot.  We rushed him to the local hospital and then the next day by the Lord’s provision we flew back to Nairobi with the entire family for Nehemiah to receive proper care for his burns.  We are 14 days past the accident now and Nehemiah is doing better each day.  He is eager to bust outside and burn some energy but we are trying to keep the reigns on him a little longer. 

We are so thankful for the Lord’s healing and the hundreds that have been praying for him.  We will be in Nairobi for a few more days as we make sure we are all rested and NLD is totally healed before we head back to Iringa for language training again.

Roughly one-mile away terrorists attacked a shopping mall and murdered over 60 people.  Sarah and her mom (Susan, Sarah’s sister Kelly, and a dear friend Martha Hester came to Nairobi to love on us and encourage us as we dealt with another trial) were getting in the cab headed over to Westgate (the mall attacked) when the taxi driver said he had heard there was shooting there and he took them to another mall with grocery store.  Again, we are thankful for the Lord’s timing and protection for our family, though our hearts hurt for the many that were slaughtered by the radical Islamic terrorists.   It has been surreal to have something to terrible to happen so close by.  We could see the black smoke billowing up from the explosions in the mall from our yard. 

So, boring our journey has not been!  It has been quite a ride so far in Africa.  Adventure would be a gross understatement, but through it all we are thankful to God that is has not been worse and that he has been our protector.  We are committed to our service and we look forward to what lies ahead.  We do thank many of you that have sent notes, emails, and prayers our way.  It has made all the difference.

Hoping October holds better days for our family and East Africa,

The Dinkins



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Our first Sunday in Tanzania at church
    I am trying hard not to begin this post with some Swahili.  It is tempting to "show off" our new language skills, but I would inevitably make mistakes that someone would notice.  We have finished our first month of language school here in Iringa and it has been eventful.
   
     We have had a few setbacks, but thankfully by God's grace we have bounced back each time.  Benny suffered trough a terrible ear infection, we all took turns with some stomach issues (thank you Africa), I was in bed a couple of days with a bad back, and Nehemiah slammed his finger in our door and completely sheered off his right middle fingernail.  That required a trip to the local hospital to make sure it wasn't broken or didn't need more attention than we could give it with our $15 Wal-Mart first aid kit. After cleaning it, the surgeon inspected it and felt comfortable it would heal.  He said it would take up to a year for it to completely heal and look normal.  Please pray that the Lord would heal it totally and that we would be able to keep it clean and injury free while it does!
Haircut time
 
     Our language lessons are going well and we are making steady, if slow, progress on vocabulary and basic grammar.  We are finding out that the easy part is memorization and recognition of the written words but hearing and understanding the locals speak is whole different task.  Rainey seems to do this much better than Sarah and I.  I think her musical ear is really paying dividends.

   Sarah's chickens are doing well, we just had four small chicks hatch this past weekend.  Asa and Nehemiah are ecstatic about having more critters.  These will be on top of the kitten Rainey has adopted and the turtle that our language teacher brought the boys!
Rou painting the fingernails of a new friend
    We had the chance to visit Ruaha National Park this past Saturday.   It was truly amazing to take in God's creation in such a close-up fashion.  We saw 8 lions in three different groupings and two of the sightings we were able to drive within about 10 yards of them.  They were magnificent.  It was a little surreal, being so close and knowing that if you got out of the car you would be dead in minutes.  We also got up close and personal with a pile of elephants and giraffes and even saw some Kudu, which are usually pretty reclusive.  We hunted hard for cheetahs and leopards but struck out, but there is always next time.

     We have had opportunities to share our faith with some that speak English and have been encouraged by their responses.  We look forward to the day when our Swahili doesn't present boundaries with the people we come into contact with or the work we will be doing with the NGO.
Took this picture off of our back porch
     Rainey and Asa started Iringa International School on Monday and have had fun getting back in a school rhythm and meeting friends.  Their classmates are all African or European, but each of them have a few American teachers so they have enjoyed connecting with them.  Below are some more pictures of what we are up to and what life looks like on this side of the world.  If you would like more real-time pictures or updates on African happenings, follow Sarah, Rainey, or me on Twitter or Instagram, the buttons are above.
   
     Following Him,

     The Dinkins







 

Rou's adopted daughter, Gladys