Monday, April 18, 2011

FAQ's for Kenya Missionaries

April 6, 2011

FAQ's for missionaries Steve & Alene Burgert

What are "FAQ's"? Those are the "Frequently Asked Questions" that are often posted on business websites. Let us share a few FAQ's that our friends and family have asked us, including some posed by members of our recent work team from USA.

But before the FAQ's we do want to share praises with answers to prayers:

A. Great work, fellowship, and ministry time with the 12 members of our home church in Loveland, CO these past two weeks. They served on a work team project at a nearby village to help with church office and water tank construction.

Work team at church office

Team members at a church member's home

Water tank under construction

Water tank nearly complete

B. Graduation of the 8 chaplain school students on April 2nd and over 500 joined in the graduation celebration.

Alene & Steve washed the chaplain graduate's hands as a symbol of their call to serve as they have been served.

C. Baptism of Peter, the former prisoner mentioned in the prior newsletter on April 3rd. He will start studies at the pastor's college in May.

Peter's baptism

Please join us in prayers for:

A. Our World Gospel Mission retreat at Malindi, Kenya (on the India Ocean north of Mombasa from April 7th to 11th. We will share time with the WGM Kenya missionaries and a pastor from USA. May it be a time of refreshment of body and spirit and great fellowship.

B. The Lord's direction for the next group of chaplaincy students to begin classes later this year.

OK, here are the FAQ's:

1. Do you have electricity in your home? We do have electricity in our apartment most of the time, but in February with a significant drought there was insufficient water-flow for the hydroelectric plant at Tenwek. There were frequent gaps in the electrical power provided by Kenya Power & Light and the Tenwek diesel generator power for our home (up to 12 hours at a time), but only extremely brief interruptions in power for the patient care areas at the hospital. Romantic candlelight dinners were frequent as a necessity. We are thankful for a propane gas stove and battery-operated electronics like our computer. We are thankful for recent rains here in this area of Kenya to allow the crops to grow well and prevent famine, but also for the electrical power.

2. Do you watch TV? We do not have a TV, but we do frequently watch a DVD episode from a TV series, such as "Monk," "All Creatures Great & Small," or "West Wing" on our computer monitor. For local, national and international news we keep up via the internet. We also enjoy using a satellite radio given to us by a retired missionary to listen to NPR (National Public Radio) from USA or the BBC from UK.

3. Are you threatened by wild animals where you live? Frequently we do have to watch out for cows and donkeys on the road as we walk to and from the hospital, but there are no wild animals of concern in our area. Most nights we can hear the interesting sounds of the frogs, which remind us of pop bottles clinking against each other. We give thanks for our safety.

4. Do you dream in Swahili? We had three intense months of Swahili training when we first arrived in Kenya and that has served as a great foundation for our interactions with others here. Although we do dream about our lives here in Kenya, (including struggling to say something in Swahili!), we cannot really say that we dream in Swahili.

Around Tenwek, most young and middle aged (50 and below) Kenyans speak 3 languages - their mother tongue (Kipsigis), Swahili, and English - although very few speak any of them with good grammar or according to the rules we have learned. So we have learned to do what most of them do, which is mix all three until you get your point across. There is also usually someone standing close by who knows the word that we forgot or who can translate into one of the other languages. Fortunately, everyone here is also eager to help us learn, even if they are laughing the whole time we are trying to pronounce the word we just learned. Actually we have learned that they are not so much laughing AT us as they are just so excited that a white person is trying to speak in their language that they just can't help themselves. They are truly happy when we try, and it's kind of fun to surprise them with a few bits of conversation. I have learned to say "I am trying to learn Swahili" or "...Kipsigis" and the nicest response is when they smile and say "You already KNOW!" I find I am recognizing more and more in each language, even though I don't have the time I would like to review my grammar. It wouldn't usually help anyway, because their concept of grammar is very utilitarian. Language is a tool - just grab it and use it whatever way gets the job done! When you live in a survival culture, I guess that makes sense.

5. Do you need to file income tax returns? Yes, even from Kenya, Uncle Sam wants us to file our income tax returns. In addition, we get to pay income tax here in Kenya as well!!

6. How hot does it get with your living so close to the equator? Even though we live within a couple of hundred miles of the equator the temperatures at Tenwek are very mild. The elevation of about 7,000 feet keeps the temperatures between the 50's and 80's most all the time throughout the year.

7. What do you miss most from home? Truly, Kenya has become "home" for us, but we do miss family and friends and certain foods like tossed salad. However, the thing Alene misses absolutely the most is being able to go out by herself for a walk or sit under a tree or climb one of the local hills and hide for awhile without being noticed.

Thanks for asking about our daily lives. The first year here was "finding our place" and now we struggle to "find our balance" as we have become aware of what is possible and what still needs to be done. We have been reading the mission field director's recommended book "When Helping Hurts" and praying for wisdom in how to help in ways that lead to self-sufficiency as well as wholeness (physical, emotional, spiritual). I (Alene) have experienced so much joy as "mom" and encourager to chaplain students and increasing numbers of ex-prisoners who are surfacing and are SOOO happy to have an advocate for reconciliation back to their homes and communities in a culture that has not been ready to accommodate those who have been to prison - even if they were not guilty in the first place, which is up to 50 percent of those in prison in Kenya! The churches are only just starting to agree that the mandates of Jesus apply in these cases. But it has been exciting to see Kenyan churches and pastors lay hold of this ministry and start to mobilize their members for visitation to the prisons and help for these men and women after release. To me, it clearly indicates the presence of God's Holy Spirit when you see people respond so positively to this conviction. They have expressed a sense of shame (their words, not mine) that God had to bring someone from another country or culture to make them aware of their neglect for those who are locked up and then ignored (at best) or completely rejected (sometimes with violence) when they try to come home. These are really tough situations in a culture that is so land- and community-based. Kenyans cannot just pack up and move to another town, because no one will accept you in the new place unless you are from their clan or related to one of the local village families. And certainly no one will give you or sell you any of their land for a home or farm! With education, things are slowly changing, and the youth are more mobile and globally-aware, but traditions die hard in third-world countries. I see these issues of forgiveness, healing, and peace-making as the heart of the Gospel, and in a region that has been well-evangelized, this ministry brings the reality of Christian discipleship to a deeper level.

Sometimes it is very wearing to always be the foreigner, but then I see how much joy it gives them to have you acknowledge their presence or visit their home or pray over their children or speak at their churches or attempt to speak their language or offer to help in some small way - and that it literally speaks God's presence and His remembrance to them, and I have to repent of my selfishness to want to hide from them sometimes. The feeling is natural, I know, and I don't live with any great guilt about it, but I try to focus on the blessings and overall sense of deep joy, satisfaction and yes, even "being at home" (in spite of being the foreigner) that I (we) have in being here. I can give a recent example of the way God blesses me through these times. I was driving 4 young men (ex-prisoners) and one of their moms back to their various villages after taking them all to a Bible study afternoon in Mugango, feeling a little sorry for myself as they all happily chatted in their mother-tongue oblivious to my sense of being left out and ignored as "just a driver" for the outing. As I stopped to let one of my passengers and his mom out, they noticed that one of my tires was hissing madly and quickly deflating. Suddenly my four "sons" jumped into action, one even running to the nearest town to get the correct size spanner to remove the tire nuts (somehow had been left out of the tools for our car) while the other three jacked up the car, kept local kids from climbing in and stealing my purse, and dealt with the aggressive passersby who were eager to make some money by helping the stranded white lady. I felt so protected, loved, respected, and blessed - I was so grateful and proud of them that my heart nearly burst. Those are the times when the Lord reminds me that my times of discomfort are well-compensated, and that my willingness to be the outsider is also part of what witnesses to them and leads them to love and welcome us.

Otherwise, small things like foods we miss or small inconveniences of water supply or power outages seem to be fading in importance as we settle into our "new normal" and I am thankful for this sign of truly "entering in" to our new culture and home. If anything, I am becoming more and more surprised by Kenyans' staring or curiosity - somehow I feel like I must be turning brown like them as I get to know their language and their customs and many of their villages around here, but their reactions tell me that I am still as white as ever, and now I am the one who is surprised and a little disappointed that my skin still gives me away as an outsider. I don't know if that makes any sense to you, but that is what has come out, so I will leave it.

8. What has surprised you the most in caring for patients? Steve expected to see many patients with infectious disease, including those with HIV infections, and he has, but he has been very surprised to see an average of one or two patients admitted to Tenwek Hospital daily, because of ingesting poison as a suicide attempt/suicide gesture. This recurrent pattern of behavior clearly demonstrates the need for many people to know a deeper meaning to life.

9. When will you take your furlough time in USA? World Gospel Mission uses the term "Home Ministry Assignment" rather than "Furlough" to appropriately describe the time back in USA as a continuation of ministry there, re-connecting with family and friends, and further developing the support-base needed for a return to service in the mission field. We plan to return to USA in March 2012 and we pray that pledges for financial support will allow us to return to Kenya in 6 to 9 months. Typically, one year out of five is committed to Home Ministry Assignment.

10. Does World Gospel Mission send me envelopes for my on-going contributions to support your ministry? World Gospel Mission does not send out envelopes for each donation and they request that donors send their contributions directly to World Gospel Mission either by US Mail:

World Gospel Mission

PO Box 948

Marion, IN 46952

[indicate: "Acct #02273-Burgert"]

or via the internet:

and click on "Contributions"

The third option is to set up an automatic transfer of funds (electronic funds transfer) as from your checking or credit card account. Please contact us at and on the subject line indicate: "Burgert EFT" Steve and Alene are so very grateful for your support!

11. How can I be involved in your mission service? There are many ways to partner with us in Kenya. It is great that you are taking time to read our email or paper mail updates and we greatly cherish your prayers on our behalf. Financial support has been a crucial ministry involvement making our service here possible.

Regardless of your occupation, we also encourage you to consider ways that you may want to serve in missions by checking out other opportunities through World Gospel Mission's short-term mission possibilities:

We are excited that the work team was able to come from Colorado to work with us here at Tenwek in March 2011 and we encourage others to let us know if they would like to visit us or serve with us here in Kenya.

All of us are called to the mission field - to share the love of Christ worldwide, including in our own backyard. Please let us know how you are answering this call, so that we can mutually encourage one another in our unique areas of service.

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