Thursday, December 4, 2014

African Holidays


Merry Christmas!  Our family hopes you had a great Thanksgiving and are ready to enjoy a wonderful Christmas celebrating Jesus.

Our Thanksgiving was a sweet time with our “family” of coworkers here in Nairobi.  We had a large group over to our house and enjoyed volleyball and football after lunch with the kids.  Sarah cooked two turkeys and they were delicious!  Others brought many sides and we had a large spread that would make any American proud.

Saturday we were invited to a tailgate party with friends before the Clemson/Carolina game.   They are big Clemson fans from Greenville so we tried hard to be nice!  It was a noon game in the USA so it was 8:00 pm here – we had fun making it as American as we could!  The only problem was that the Gamecocks could not get it done on the field – but it was a fun day to enjoy some American football.

School continues to go well for the kids.  Rainey is on the worship team for the middle school and leads their chapel service and her basketball team won the region championship!  Asa is doing well in school and he is playing softball in after-school intramurals.  I am currently down 5 milkshakes to him because of his proclivity to hit home runs.  Below he is dressed up to be "Principal for the Day" as part of his leadership team duties.

Nehemiah and Benny are doing well and ruling the compound – making trouble and climbing trees.  Benny had some stomach troubles since our last blog but they have cleared up and Nehemiah received a few stitches for a fall off the bed.  But all of that is par for the course with these two.

We have decorated for Christmas with our 5’ artificial tree and one strand of battery powered lights.  Our stockings are hung on the security bars in our windows, along with candy canes on the tree. 

Our work in Nairobi has been gaining traction as we have been meeting people from all backgrounds and developing relationships that have allowed us to share what is most important.  Those relationships have taken us to different areas, from the slums with tremendous poverty to middle class Kenyan churches that don’t look too different from your church in America. This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach in a small rural church and challenge them to share the good news they have received with people that are different from them.  Like in America, the church here has to work hard to overcome barriers and reach out to people that are not like them.  People from other faiths in Nairobi look different, dress different, and live in different areas of town.  It takes intentional effort to be obedient to the great commission!




Sunday, October 19, 2014

African Griswolds


Let me first say that, as my West African friend Simaga tells me, I have a “good wife”.  This weekend would have been a disaster without her flexible and adaptable African attitude. 

Rainey and Asa atop the Karuru Falls
with the Gura falls in the background

The kids had a fall break with a Friday and Monday off from school. We decided it was the perfect time for some quality family time in the wilds of Africa.  I had heard a lot of neat things about the Aberdares National Park 2 hours north of Nairobi.  In fact some friends had told us about a cabin you could rent from the Kenya Wildlife Service.  It didn’t have electricity, but there was a caretaker who lived close by that would supply firewood, and keep the water hot.  The Aberdares are a mountain range right on the equator but over 12,000 feet in elevation. It is not uncommon to have frost on the ground in the mornings – thus the hot water was a big selling point with Sarah and Rainey.
This is the water fall, Kururu, that Asa and Rainey
are at the top of in the picture above


We met this guy on the road - or maybe 10 yards off of it.
We packed the suv – loaded up all the essentials, including two extra kerosene lanterns, flashlights, food, pots, pans, games, clothes etc.  Most of the clothes went in a water proof duffel bag a friend had given us from the states.  Being tight on space, I threw the big duffel on the roof and strapped it down with a bungee cord.  Everything else somehow fit inside with the 6 of us.  Friends told us it would take 2 hours to the nearest gate from Nairobi.  We left at 11:00 and stopped to get some kerosene.  I had saved on old soap can (which I had been itching to reuse) and filled it up with Kerosene and set in the rear of the suv. 

Fresh leopard prints on the road not far from our cabin.
We took off in the right direction and only took about 40 minutes to get lost.  Africans don’t put a high value on signage.  So after asking for directions a couple of times, we drove through a torrential thunderstorm, complete with hail.  In the midst of the blinding rain we hit multiple speed bumps (they are everywhere here and locals call them sleeping police) at speeds faster than they were designed for.  Shortly thereafter we start to smell kerosene.  

We make a few more turns and finally confirm we are headed in the right direction.  3 hours and 45 minutes after leaving, and 1 hour 45 minutes after our friends told us we should be there, we arrive at the gate to the National Park.  It was still raining and the guards laughed at the fact that I had a bag on my roof.  I tried to explain it was waterproof but they just kept laughing.

Asa curb stomping us in Monopoly.

All the boys rock hopping in Africa.
We drove another 30 minutes through the national park on dirt roads with little signage and finally found our cabin.  It was rustic, but about what we imagined.  Beds were made, it was clean, and the fireplace was ready.  The rain was ending and the air was cold.  I would guess it was in the fifties and heading much lower with darkness coming.  The caretaker brought us some extra lanterns and our first load of firewood.  Sarah started unpacking the food and preparing supper.  

Being the domestic despot that she is, she had made two casseroles that she could simply warm in our awesome cabin.  She looked around in the sparse kitchen and there was no gas oven as had been advertised.  Frustrated, she made alternative plans and decided to simply place the frozen casserole dish on the gas burner on low.  I began unpacking the things from inside the car, all of which smelled like kerosene because my container had been leaking and our  numerous encounters with over zealous speed bumps.  

Big Asa leading the way on our hike from the stream.
I was outside when the explosion rang out over the mountains.  We went in to the small kitchen to see the frozen casserole on top of the range without any glass casserole dish – it had detonated and shattered into a million pieces, on the floor, on the countertops, and in the casserole.  Supper was in peril but we did not fret because we focused on the fact that we had hot water for a good shower and plenty of dry clothes to put on and enjoy the warmth of the fire.  As Sarah worked on another supper adjustment, I went to find the caretaker to ask him about the fire for the hot water tank.  He lowered his head and said “uhh... I am sorry but the hot water tank is not working…. a family of elephants came through Tuesday and knocked it over and snapped the pipes.”  I asked him if he could walk back to the cabin with me and explain that to my wife.  He declined.  

A little assist from Asa.
As I strolled back to the cabin I thought of ways to spin the no hot water predicament and came up with nothing – except the cool fact that elephants frequent our yard.  That did not impress the girls – the boys however went on an instant search for elephants.  Supper was almost ready, the fire was going (slowly with wet, soft wood), and Sarah was ready to change into some clean, dry, and warm clothes.  She unpacked the bag that had been on top of the car to find the clothes soaking wet.  We ate our spaghetti by the faint light of the lanterns, with the delicious aroma of kerosene, the potential surprise of glass in our food,  surrounded by wet clothes that were hung everywhere possible to dry.  We finally made it to sleep that evening shivering in damp, cold, dirty clothes under insufficient blankets with everything we brought strung out all over the cabin drying.

Off Road in Africa.  On the hike down to the falls.
It was all uphill from there.  The next day was awesome.  We saw elephants from our front porch, waterbucks in our yard, and Sarah had an up-close encounter with a Bush Duiker on a hiking trail.  We found two of the most beautiful waterfalls we had ever seen, and visited “Queen’s Cave” at Magura Falls which is named for Queen Elizabeth.  She was there visiting and having “high tea” when she received word that she had ascended to the throne when her father died. We made our way back to the cabin seeing various animals and came across some huge leopard prints in the road – we had just missed him!  Sarah won our double elimination checkers tournament that evening and received a nice rock from Queen’s Cave as her trophy.

Rou is on top of the world.
The next morning we made pancakes and ate on the porch (at least the boys braved the cold) and then had family worship before we packed up and started for home.   We were going to drive to another section of the park for another game drive but fog had settled in very thick – and visibility was extremely limited.  We did however come across a small herd of Cape Buffalo who weren’t too far away. 


The Cape Buffalo met us in the fog
on our way out of the park this morning.
Family vacations are never without their obstacles but we pushed forward and enjoyed the good things.  I am thankful that even a long ways from home and our extended family, God has allowed us to have some neat times together making memories that will last a lifetime. 




Asa at Queen's Cave.









The whole fam.  We had a 900' drop behind us!



These three are at Queen's cave
 (below the waterfall) - Queen Elizabeth
was here when she found out
she had ascended to the
throne of England.
This is Gura falls as seen from the top of Karuru falls.  These were made famous in "Out of Africa"

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Place of Cool Waters

Nairobi, is the capitol of Kenya, the largest city in East Africa, and our newest home.  For a few reasons, the most important being security, we are moving from the coast of Kenya in Mombasa, to a place whose name means "a place of cool waters".  We pray that it indeed would be refreshing for our family and place where we can settle.

Since our July 2nd post, many things have changed - but our purpose remains the same.  Rainey and Asa have returned from a trip to the states to visit family and attend Ambassador Camp.  They had a great stay but we are so glad to have them back here.  The decision to relocate to Nairobi was not an easy one, but the timing was good so that the kids are able to start school on Monday, only a couple weeks late on the semester.  They are very excited and have a great school to attend here.  It was started by three different missions organizations and has a considerable western influence while also hosting many Kenyan children and children from non missions families, so it is diverse.  They will have opportunities to participate in sports, drama, and other extra curricular activities like they would have in the states.

We are living in a duplex on a compound not far from town that has several units, and some room for the boys to ride bikes, climb trees, and chase the occasional monkey.  Our stuff from Mombasa will be moved up in a few weeks, right now we are using some temporary furniture belonging to our company.

Before the official decision to move we had come to Nairobi to meet with some leadership to discuss the security situation and had been up here a few weeks.  Once the decision was made to make the move, Asa and I drove to Mombasa (8 hours each way) this past Tuesday and returned Wednesday to fetch Indi (his 2 month old puppy) Sa's chickens, and Rainey's cat and her new kittens, and a few turtles.  It was an interesting ride back but Asa was a good sport.

In a few short weeks I hope to write again with some pictures of Nairobi, our new home, some areas where we work, the people, and the culture.  Until then we ask you to pray as the kids start school, as we being language tutoring again, and our work begins.

If you would like more information about our work, how you can pray more specifically, or how you can help in other ways, please email me at stephen.dinkins@gmail.com and I will gladly add you to our email group list and provide any other information.

From A Place of Cool Waters,

The Dinkins



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One year already?

The iconic "tusks" of downtown Mombasa.
One year ago today we got off the plane in Africa for the first time as a family.  We are so thankful for the past year, even with its volatile ups and downs.  We have come out on the other side stronger mentally and spiritually.  It is hard to believe it has been a year already.

After all the moving around we are enjoying being settled and having a home.  More importantly we love getting “traction” with our work.   We are developing strong relationships that we believe will bear fruit over the coming years.

Language, though far from perfect, seems to be making strides for both Sarah and me.  The kids are excited about starting school in the fall and we are learning our new 
culture more and more everyday.

Our basketball clinic at a local school
We just had our first real “team” come from the states to Mombasa to help us and we had a great time with them.  A local school opened their doors to us on a Sunday afternoon for a basketball clinic and around 40 students showed up, eager to learn and have fun.  It was an awesome experience to work alongside such volunteers who just wanted to serve.

They also visited a couple of area primary schools and had opportunities to “teach” the kids as well as play with them.  At one school we tried to introduce American Dodgeball.  The problem though was that we played with a soccer ball – so it took lots of explaining to keep the kids from converging on the ball and kicking it instead of running away from it.

Team Bynum/Noblitt at a local school with teachers and kids.
It was a tremendous blessing for our entire family as the team was close friends from our home in SC.  We had fun with them and we served with them.  Every single member of my family absolutely loved the visit from start to end.  In fact, Rainey and Asa received an extra benefit; they flew back with the team to SC where they have attended Ambassador Camp (where Sarah and I met 24+ years ago) and are visiting grandparents and cousins.  They will return at the end of July with some family coming over to visit us. 

We are always learning more about our new culture and how our friends here “do life”.  This past Saturday was a sobering lesson as we attended the funeral of infant who was two days old.  He was the son of some new friends we have met.  It was a reminder that life everywhere is hard, but in Africa there seems to be a greater degree of difficulty for a number of reasons.  Africans are a strong people that help share each other’s burdens, a good example for us to see and model.

We wouldn’t trade this past year for anything.  We have grown more as individuals and as a family these last twelve months than any period before…..and we are just getting started.




The latest addition to the family.  Meet Asa's dog
Indi, short for Indiana Jones    
A street view of "Old Town" in Mombasa, where
many Swahili live and the culture is preserved.
Nurse Sarah and Mrs. Satcher helping kids with minor cuts,
scrapes, boils and other skin problems.
Nehemiah is ready for some medical
work with his latex gloves on!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Like Mighty Rushing Waters....


RPD with a friend in the village.
ZAMBIA - Our last month and half has taken us many places, provided more transitions, and opened our eyes even wider to creation and to African culture.  We spent time in a capital city, in a bush camp outside a small town, and several nights in a village with a host family.  All 6 of us have been stretched in many ways and are stronger, wiser, and more capable because of it.  We are thankful for the adventure we have been on.

Asa had fun chasing tarantulas and other bugs in the bush, Rainey enjoyed trying to sample dried caterpillars in the local market, and Sarah fell in love with bucket and pulley showers.  Benny loved his naps in the tent and Nehemiah introduced a dozen village boys to the concept of Wrestlemania.  Filthy would be the understatement of the year to describe the boys at sundown every evening. 
This was home for 12 nights in the bush.
His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory....Ezekial 43:2

After the training was over, our family had a chance to drive down to the border of Zimbabwe and take in one of the seven wonders of the world.  Simply put, Victoria Falls is the greatest single part of creation I have seen. Almost a mile wide, and almost four hundred feet high, the falls are the largest in the world.  To stand on the edge of the gorge and feel the mist, check that, torrential downpour resulting from the falls and to hear the rumble in my chest was really hard to describe.        Add to that feeling the anxiety of trying to hold on to Benny (2) and Nehemiah (4) and our emotions were all over the place.  All of the lookout points were at the top of sheer 400’ cliffs with little or no railing  - let’s just say that Africa’s safety regulations are quite as restrictive as America’s. 


All in all, the 30+ days without cell phone coverage, data plans, twitter and voxer allowed us a chance to truly sync with Africa.  We came to love Africa and its people even more than before when there were no other distractions, no lure to check in with family or find out what was happening back in the good ‘ole USA.  Obviously by writing this blog and posting it on the Internet we have not decided to give up wholly on our connectivity, but we did realize that maybe we were still a little too connected to “home”.  We still desire to stay in touch regularly, face time with grandparents, and check our social media – but we’ve got to learn to do it much less often and focus on the place and the people we have been set among.
A panoramic of our worship time in the village.  We had a few other couples with us.
Rainey teaching the youth in the village.
 
My first bungee jump....at Victoria falls off the bridge.
When we return to Mombasa our work will begin in earnest.  No more training, no more trips, no more classes, or transition.  Just our family, in the place we have been called to, with the hope of making a difference.  A difference today, tomorrow, and for eternity.

From Africa,

NLD making peanut butter in the village.
The Dinkins






Sa and Rou at their Med Clinic in the village.

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. *