Kenya 2016 Mission Trip: Post #4

October 23, 2016

By Jan Barkley

When I felt led to go on this mission trip to Kenya I initially thought that one of my functions would be to help with construction. Michael and others had talked about building a new structure at the farm, and having worked construction on mission trips in the past, I had missed the opportunity to build something. On a work day in August when we were testing a construction technique, Michael turned to me and almost off-handedly said, “Hey, Jan, you’re a cook, right? We need to figure out how to bake fruit breads with our excess produce. Do you think as a side project that you could figure out how to bake some banana bread there or something like it? Oh, and by the way, we don’t have an oven and the only heat source is a wood fire.”

jankenya2016aWell, I love a good challenge so I started researching baking in cast iron dutch ovens using coals, trying different processes and recipes. I had a plan that I thought would work and, thanks to my husband, we figured out a way to stuff six dutch ovens in suitcases without going over the airline weight limit. It was becoming apparent to me that my little side project was becoming my whole project. It’s important for the farm to be able to use the produce to create something of added value and help get the name of Sodzo out in the community. Most people in this area have never tasted anything like banana bread or zucchini bread and restaurants and hotels in the larger towns nearby might be willing to buy it.

jankenya2016bArmed with my dutch ovens, cake pans, and baking ingredients, I arrived on Wednesday for my first day on the farm and met George the cook and his assistant, Josephine. They were so warm and welcoming. In the morning I watched as they skillfully prepared large pots of a kale, potato and carrot stew and a separate mix of beans and corn for the boys for lunch. They knew how to poke the logs just right to get the correct heat. The food that they prepare is so delicious! The vegetables are fresh from the farm and George gets amazing flavor out of a few simple ingredients. And there is plenty of it. George and Josephine make enough so the boys can take heaping plates of food and come back for seconds if they want—so important for growing boys.

jankenya2016cIn the afternoon it was time to work on the cakes. The bakery will primarily be Josephine’s responsibility so she joined me along with Eryoy, the farm manager, who also likes to cook. We worked on a sweet tomato spice bread because their tomato plants were so prolific. We immediately fell into an easy rhythm while working together, laughing and sharing stories about food and family. After we put the batter in the ovens and set them in the coals, I explained different ways they could modify the recipe, swapping mangoes for tomatoes as the season changed or adjusting the spices. “This bread is very forgiving,” I said. Josephine chuckled and replied, “That is very Christian!”

We had a good laugh about the pun but I found myself turning that phrase over and over in my mind for the next few days as we baked more bread and worked together. This bread is forgiving. I think it’s no accident that Jesus used bread and wine to symbolize forgiveness and redemption. Forgiveness changes the past. It wipes clean the wrong and lets us start again.

Bread changes our past. It satisfies our hunger and lets us start again, renewed for the task ahead. The boys at the farm have pasts more terrible than most of us can imagine yet this bread, this farm, this place is forgiving. It is changing who they are, allowing them to start again with future of plentiful plates of food, of education and skills to build a future, and most importantly, of people who love and care for them.

jankenya2016dWhen I arrived at the farm on Friday, Josephine and Eryoy, pulled me into the kitchen and showed me what they had been doing that morning. They went on the Internet and looked up a recipe for a vanilla cake from the Cake Boss (I had to laugh!) and made it on their own. It was perfect. They were excited to try different kind of breads and cakes with things that they like. They were now the bakers, so I became the sous chef—helping George cook lunch. I got to learn how he combines his ingredients and regulates the fire and how he makes a pot of cabbage, tomato and onions taste so good.

This bread is forgiving—and I feel renewed for the future, too.


Kenya 2016 Mission Trip Post #3

October 22, 2016

By David Johnson

Soccer Tournament

Today is National Heroes Day in Kenya, and that means the kids did not have to go to school today. Instead, the staff scheduled a soccer tournament with the Laarei Catholic School boys, a private institution similar to Sodzo International. The boys had new cleats in bright orange and green colors, which really stood out, courtesy of Dave Robertson. The team from Laarei had bright orange uniforms. Sodzo won the tournament 2 to 1. The boys were very proud of their win, deservedly so. Dave Robertson and J Hill refereed the game and everyone came out to watch. It was a big deal, and I can’t help believing that we were all inspired by how well our boys played as a team, with no one person hogging the ball.

kenyasoccer2016Nathan Benesh and Mindy Brock helped build a new fire pit to be used to make bread to be sold to local merchants. Jan Barkley taught Eryjoy and Josephine how to make tomato bread and banana bread. Now before you jump to conclusions about tomato bread, give it a try, even it you don’t like tomatoes. The bread tastes more like a spice cake than bread and it is delicious. Tomatoes are sliced and grated using one of those fancy graters one uses to grate cheese. Add a little flour and sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and before you know it, there is a tasty treat ready to come off of the fire in the dutch oven. In order to accommodate being able to cook multiple recipes at the same time, we discovered that a new fire pit would be just the ticket to success. With that in mind, and under careful guidance by Jan, Nathan and Mindy did a bang-up job of preparing the fire pit. What was unexpected was the unsolicited help we received from the staff and boys to help finish the pit.

J, Dave, and Greg got things going this morning with a rousing round of “slap the hands” with the boys. They picked up the concept quickly and were giving J and Greg a run for their money!

In honor of Heroes Day, and because the guests from Laarei were there, the cooks butchered a goat to make goat stew for lunch. The stew was served over rice along with potatoes and carrots, followed up with Chapati bread. We really do live in a small world after all. Chapati bread looks surprisingly like flour tortillas and tastes about the same. Some of us actually put the stew into the chapati bread and ate it like a tortilla.

The fellowship and fun times we shared together helped to emphasize the message we are trying to convey- “what happens to you makes a difference to me”. The sense of pride the kiddos felt after winning the soccer match was palpable. The interaction with the kids has been beneficial for both. We have played games, sung songs, held art class and let kids be kids. “What happens to you makes a difference to me” is not just a cute, folksy saying, but is one way we used to help share the Love of Christ to these kids and receive the love from the kids. What a wonderful blessing this has been for all of us and we’re not finished yet!

David Johnson grew up at South Main, is married to Susan, is the son of Anne, has three daughters and two grandchildren. He works in the Broadcast Ministry and serves on the Building Committee.

Kenya 2016 Mission Trip: Post #2

October 21, 2016

By David Johnson

Road to Maua: Karibo – Welcome

When I think of Africa, I visualize hot, desert land with wild animals running around, kind of like what one would see at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom exhibit. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to ride in the truck with Elijah, on my journey to Maua, to discover lush vegetation along the base of Mt. Kenya. Reality was nothing at all like what I visualized Africa to be like.

We left Nairobi at 11:15 AM, after exchanging money and getting drinks and snacks at the local mall. Elijah became my tour guide, explaining all about the landscape and people of Kenya, as we drove the road to Maua. We traveled a two lane road with cars, motorcycles, buses, transport vans, pedestrians, as well as farm animals all along the way. In Kenya, the cars drive on the “wrong” side of the road…oh, wait, I mean the “other side of the road” than how we do it in the United States. I noticed that when cars flash their lights at oncoming vehicles, they are actually trying to get traffic conditions up ahead. A friendly wave means that the traffic is clear, whereas turning on the windshield wipers means there is heavier traffic up ahead.

lunch group.jpgAs we started down the road to Maua, we came to small villages and towns, as well as larger populated areas. Thika is the area where pineapples are grown. Mangos are grown in Muranga. Khat is cut and chewed kind of like tobacco, and may have some medicinal effects on people. Khat is a cash crop in Kenya, where it might be considered a drug in other countries.

We drove beside pineapple groves, mango trees, rice plantations, coffee farms, pumpkin patches, banana trees, field potatoes, eucalyptus trees, greenhouses filled with vegetables, flowers, and fruits for export, wheat fields, watermelon fields, pine trees, not to mention street vendors selling all sorts of fruits and vegetables along the way. We also drove beside cattle, sheep, donkeys, goats, elephants, monkeys, chickens – wait, did I say elephants and monkeys? There were elephant crossings at the base of Mt. Kenya, where we saw a herd of elephants wandering in the forest. We visited a treehouse cafe that had monkeys climbing all over the trees as we ate lunch together as a group.

We drove beside boys playing soccer, men playing games at a table, girls in uniform walking home from school, ladies carrying bamboo on their backs, motorcyclists with 3 passengers on the motorcycle, transport carriers with up to 20 people in their vans, men leading donkeys down the road pulling their carts and loads of hay, men pushing bicycles up the hill, cows grazing by the side of the road, carcasses hanging in the butchery windows, donkeys either fighting or playing on the side, shepherds walking their flocks by day, using short sticks to prod the cows, sheep, and goats along the way.


monkey.jpgCars were passing motorcycles, while oncoming traffic was headed their way. It was a seven hour continuous drive of playing “chicken” with oncoming vehicles! There were no street lights along the highway, so once the sun went down, stars would come out at night and one could easily see the oncoming vehicles up ahead.


All of this reminds me of the old hymn, “This is my Father’s world” as I encountered beauty and majesty of the land I was traveling through. The dry, arid lands that showed up as we circled around Mount Kenya reminded me of West Texas or Arizona because of the cactus and what could probably be passed off as mesquite bushes. Timau County was at a much higher elevation and the area was a good bit cooler. This area was home to sheep with merino wool, with greenhouses on either side of the road, filled with roses for export. Water-catch systems were used for the dry season. We finally made it to Maua town, with its majestic mountains on both sides, to arrive after dark to our destination for the week.

Yes, the road to Maua was spectacular, and yet, I believe it is just the beginning of the journey for what God has planned for the Sodzo International mission team, as we prepare to go to “the farm” to interact with the boys. The people of Kenya that I’ve come in contact with are inviting, friendly people and I can’t wait to see how God will use me to minister to the Kenyans this week.

David Johnson grew up at South Main, is married to Susan, is the son of Anne, has three daughters and two grandchildren. He works in the Broadcast Ministry and serves on the Building Committee.


Kenya 2016 Mission Trip: Post #1

October 18, 2016

By J Hill

We’re here in Kenya, halfway around the world in a place that’s full of beauty, contradictions, and surprises. It’s a place that feels both totally foreign and completely familiar. Today was our first day at Watoto wa Ahadi rescue center. It’s difficult to explain how amazing the center really is.

img_3771Geoffrey Mochama, the rescue center’s program manager arrived to take us to the farm just after breakfast. When we first left Maua, the blacktop out of town is busy but otherwise a fairly normal blacktop road. About a kilometer down the way, the road turns to dirt. From there on the road is not simple. It takes a truck, preferably a four-wheel drive, and if it rains, the road becomes impassable. As you travel there you go through one township after another. Each township is alive with activity. People carry huge stalks of bananas on their backs. Motorcycles whiz by with 3 or 4 or 5 passengers. If they don’t have multiple passengers, they’re carrying lumber or multiple crates. People of all ages come out of every shop as pass. What seems like choruses of children wave with excitement. The road gets steeper and rockier and then all of a sudden evens out. You see the first fenced property in quite awhile and Geoffrey says, “this is it, we’re here.”

IMG_3776.JPGAfter entering the gate it’s immediately apparent that this is the beginning of something amazing. Six months ago, 34 street orphans moved onto this farm. Six months before that there really was no farm, at least not one in any organized, recognizable fashion.

Today as we walked the farm, there is a dining hall, a dormitory, a school building, and staff housing. There are crops being grown and chickens are being raised. As we get out and walk around, several of the kids are under the tree with their teacher making beaded necklaces. They’re comfortable and healthy and happy to see us and we are happy to see them. After lunch we had time to spend with the kids. We played soccer. I got to draw with a talented young man named Jacob. We just had time to get to know one another.

For sure there is work to be done. More building needs to happen. More programs need to be put in place. But it is absolutely clear that there is a safe place for 34 of the world’s most vulnerable kids. That there is a place where they know what happens to them makes difference to someone. Watoto wa Ahadi means Children of Promise and Watoto wa Ahadi rescue center is a place where God is working through so many people to put a part of creation back together.

Peru Operación San Andres (OSA) Fall 2016 Mission Trip, Day 4

October 14, 2016

By Patti Peymann Romeril

I am a pharmacist and dispense medications while I am here in Peru. That is my job, my worldly task. I have recently also come to the understanding that this is my “vehicle”.

I am not the most outgoing individual. It is difficult for me to share my testimony or even be openly religious. But here, as I hand out the medications and counsel the patients how to take them, I can see Jesus in their eyes. While serving as a pharmacist, I am serving my brothers and sisters in Christ. And in doing so I am receiving the Love of Christ as well. God has used my skills as a pharmacist to allow me to share His love in a way that I am most capable of reaching many. It’s not about how many medications I dispense or even if I am able to successfully communicate how to take them. That is important on a worldly level but not on a spiritual level. It is more about how I use this as my vehicle to serve their spiritual needs – and mine.

PattiPeymannRomerilPeru2016A.jpgThere are many more patients to serve, many more houses to build, many more worldly needs that we will never fulfill no matter how many times we return. But that’s not what we are called here for. We are here to be the hands and feet of the Lord. We are here to serve the spiritual needs and in turn receive His love. Unlike the worldly needs, the spiritual needs are multiplied exponentially. As we serve, the love of the Lord is felt by us and those we serve.  And they in turn pass it on to others.

PattiPeymannRomerilPeru2016B.jpgJesus wants us to do for others as He has done for us. I am still trying to determine what my vehicle is at home. Here it is clear to me and I strive to carry that back with me and continue to be the Hands and Feet of the Lord. The worldly tasks seem to overshadow the spiritual needs. But I continue to strive to be a good servant in all that I do.

What is your vehicle?  How do you serve others, share the love of the Lord, and fulfill spiritual needs in your worldly tasks?

I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet. So you also should wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example. You should do as I have done for you.- John 13:14-15

Patti Romeril is the director of clinical pharmacy for Memorial Hermann. She has been coming to Collique with OSA since 2004.

Patti Penmann Romeril is the director of clinical pharmacy for Memorial Hermann. She has been coming to Collique with OSA since 2004.

Peru Operación San Andres (OSA) Fall 2016 Mission Trip, Day 3

October 14, 2016

By Charis Smith

Lunch making has its own spiritual lessons. This year I’ve learned: “Pieces of bread are not alike.” I am not required to do the shopping because Spanish and managing transportation is necessary. However, I have to make do with what I am given. So, sometimes the loaves of bread, though each are nourishing in their own way, can present a challenge for a perfect sandwich. I run out of whole wheat in the middle of a spreading and have to have a bi-color group. Or the square slices have to mesh with the rectangular loaf and jelly hangs out of the edges. At 11:30, none of these differences matter. All are in a sandwich bag where they belong and people are happily fed and no one gets sick.

charissmithperu2016So God looks at us in Collique, “People are not all alike.” This one has medical knowledge while the other one twists bandaids. Spanish is necessary, but mothers hand over children to the nurse who smiles and holds out her hands. Dentists don’t do eyes and the vision group doesn’t use drills. Music, colors, games, and lots of bouncing keeps children workers busy. At 5:00, each boards the bus, having fulfilled their purpose: the sick are healed, sight is restored, and children are taught how to find the kingdom.

sandwichesperuCharis Smith has been lunch lady for 11years. She and her husband David are longtime members of South Main where Charis teaches 1st grade Sunday School.




Peru Operación San Andres (OSA) Fall 2016 Mission Trip, Day 2

October 12, 2016

By Sam Law

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

Friday morning…off to Peru:

I never wish a day like I had this past Friday on anyone. It was one issue after another. I had done surgery on Wednesday for a rather complicated patient, but had expected her to go home on Friday. Instead, things had gotten a little bit more complicated and required extra time.

At this point I should explain that when I travel, I think ahead of time about what I am going to take with me. The actual packing takes place the morning before my flight. So when I got home from the hospital, I was 30 minutes behind schedule. Things were going well until the time that I was to leave. I went to the place where I always keep my passport and it wasn’t there. PANIC! I thought, “I am going to have to call Ruth and Luis and tell them that I can’t go.” After 30 minutes of panicked searching, I found it where I sometimes keep Sunday School materials.

Thirty minutes before I was scheduled to be at the airport, I called Ruth and told her I was on my way but would be a little late. She was gracious. Traffic was terrible at first, but, fortunately, after that it was smooth sailing to the airport, parking, getting the shuttle to the terminal, and boarding the airplane. I had paid a little extra for United’s Economy Plus and sure enough, more legroom was better. However, a seatmate that took his seat and half of mine plus an uncomfortable seat cushion made it difficult to rest. Our flight was not too bothered by Hurricane Matthew, but there was a little more turbulence than usual. We got to the hotel about 2 am and I was able to get 4-5 hours of good sleep.

Saturday, things improved. We met the new workers in our group. We went to Collique and had a very good lunch of chicken and rice prepared by the OSA mothers. Then we went to our areas and arranged things for our work on Monday. Dinner was at Pardo’s rotisserie chicken and it was good. I got another good night’s sleep until 2 am when a party in an apartment across the street involved loud music and fireworks. Sunday was a good day. We worshipped with Union Church of Lima and enjoyed a Peruvian buffet lunch.

line-outside-sams-officeMonday…our first day to see patients in Collique:

I was so excited to begin our mission work that I woke 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off (4:30 am).   I was able to prepare at a more leisurely pace and was on time to board the bus. Unfortunately, one of our party who was on his first trip with us, was not on the bus at 7 am. There was a miscommunication and he had to call one of his friends to have the bus turn around to get him. A moderate amount of good-natured ribbing ensued.

The traffic was a little heavier than usual. The bus drivers will tweak the route, but this time we were a little late arriving. Mondays are slow anyway because of new people and trying to improve the process, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Tomorrow we should do better with getting everyone seen. We saw 6 patients in the morning and 6 in the afternoon. Some of the patients had complicated histories and took more time to see. I think we did a good job with what we had to deal with, but tomorrow we hope to see more patients.

All in all it was a good day. The lunchtime peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were made with love by Charis (aka the lunch lady) and tasted just a little better than the usual PBJ. And I had one favorite patient today. She is 39 and has carried 7 term pregnancies. She has a smile on her face and a pleasant personality. She looks 5-10 years younger, but that is hard for me to assess. I saw her 2 years ago when she was midway through her last pregnancy. It was not planned, but she was smiling and gracious and talked about God’s blessing on her and her family. She had a healthy baby and a normal delivery.

We had a lively discussion on the bus ride home talking about our experiences during the day and our families at home. My coworkers are good people, happy doing God’s work to the best of their abilities. I look forward to tomorrow.

I guess my experience demonstrates that even when you are doing the Lord’s work, you don’t always get a Rose Garden. As I told the group during our orientation meeting on Saturday, it is important to remember that you do what you can do each day and understand that while you will not solve every problem, you are making a difference.

line-outside-sams-with-doorSam Law teaches the Chafin’s New Beginnings Sunday School Community at South Main Baptist Church and has been traveling to Collique since the first OSA medical campaign.


Peru Operación San Andres (OSA) Fall 2016 Mission Trip, Day 1

October 11, 2016

By Larry Carroll

This is my first trip to Peru with Operacion San Andres so there is a lot that is new to me. On Saturday, I first saw the OSA house and we began setting up for the coming week’s Vacation Bible School and health clinics. Then there was a baptism of 5 ladies at Luz de Esperanza church in Collique, which was very moving to me. The baptistry was a plastic inflatable swimming pool much like you would find in a back yard. It was evident to me that whether the baptismal pool is elaborate and heated or whether it’s cold water in a child’s pool makes no difference, the commitment is just as real, and the people being baptized are children of God just like me.


Each lady gave a testimony at the end of the service. I was most impressed with each of them and it was evident to me that although these sisters in Christ may be among the poorest of the poor economically, they share in the knowledge that by and by they will share in the riches of eternity in the loving arms of Christ.

Next Sunday as I go to worship in our beautiful church with dressy clothes and good shoes on my feet, my thoughts will be in Collique where these wonderful people are walking up the dusty streets to their church family to worship and sing praises to God, and although the circumstances  of their lives may be very difficult, their faith is very strong.

On Sunday, we worshipped at the Union Church of Lima and I was reminded again that children of God have many differences, but share the most important things in common. What a privilege it is to serve God side by side with many different people.

Today, as I began meeting and working with the children who come to the OSA house, I realized that concerns about a language barrier aren’t necessary. I was able to immediately communicate through a shared name, an injured finger, and high fives. When we visited the preschool, all some of the children needed to feel connected was a big hug.
You can always find ways to connect, even with differences in life circumstances, language, culture, or anything else, if you are willing. Sometimes it comes simply through listening, a smile, a hug, or clapping a hand. What a testimony and inspiration the people here are to me!


Larry Carroll is a longtime member of South Main Baptist, where he sings in the sanctuary choir, serves on the Finance Committee, and is an honored Deacon. This is his first trip with Operación San Andres.