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. *

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