Welcome to the R&J Dixon Photography blog. We'll try and keep this updated with info regarding our happenings.
Today... I woke up in a soft, comfortable bed
Today... When I woke up I did not have bumps and scars from tons of chigger bites on my legs and feet
Today... I took a shower with clean, warm water
Today... I put on a set of fresh clothes
Today... I took a drink of clean, fresh water
Today... I ate breakfast and planned more meals for the rest of today
Today... I walked out of my house and did not have to step across contaminated streams of water
Today... this child had none of these luxuries!
Forewarning… this is gonna be a long one! :)
Have you ever seen what God does, through His Holy Spirit, when His people are of one mind and one focus and are committed to Him and His glory? During our recent trip to Africa we experienced this first-hand. On Wed morning (in Kitale), as we gathered together for our morning devotional, Laci began by explaining she believed God had spoken to hear that morning when she was praying. Laci felt that God clearly said He was going to do amazing things this day so we ought to be prepared. She was right!
As we finished our breakfast and departed we had plans to stop by a local secondary school (High School) and visit with them for a bit before we headed to Chisare for a Pastor’s Conference and then open air crusade in the village of Chisare. God had begun a work already. We did not know it yet, but He did not intend for us spend a bunch of time at this school that day. He planned on us being in Chisare longer and to prepare our hearts and minds for His work. As we pulled into the school and departed the Toyota van we discovered the school administrator who was to escort us through the school had been called away unexpectedly. Because we did not know anyone else from this school we could not stay. So, we loaded back up and headed to Chisare and the church where the pastor’s conference would be held. This is God’s Hand At Work Pt 1.
The ride to Chisare was like any other while we were in Africa, beautiful and educational at the same time. The landscape in Kenya is just beautiful. Trees, bushes, topography, etc. are all amazing. But, you also see the conditions people live in that many Americans would not understand, yet you also see a content and happy people (you mean I don’t have to have the biggest house, car, TV to be happy?). Chisare is a small village on the outskirts of Kitale. As you arrive here you is as if you are stepping back in time. And it’s absolutely beautiful!
God’s Hand At Work, Pt 2… When we arrived at the church preparations were being made for the conference (we were quite early). Mostly it was several men trying to set up a make-shift sound system that would broadcast the conference to the surrounding village. The church had no power so they had to run a very long extension cord from Pastor Moses’ house to the church and they were trying to “hot link” the soundboard directly into the power cord (all the while live power is being pushed through the extension cord). Our traveling light and sound expert, Matt, noted this was highly illegal in the U.S. The Kenyan’s were making it work through. This whole process took nearly two hours because of various issues. But, God had a plan! While these men were diligently attempting a fix to the sound issue several ladies from the church and village began singing Swahili worship songs. It was amazing. As our hearts and minds settled and we listened, and tried to sing as best we could, God moved. His Holy Spirit was already beginning to stir us all (Mzungus and Kenyans)! Oh, through some of this impromptu worship the sound was fixed but we continued as we were still waiting for folks to arrive. And, this is Africa. They start when everyone arrives (not when a clock dictates) and finish when they are finished (not when the clock dictates). This was difficult to get used to at times, but this day… well, God had a plan!
As was expected, the conference was amazing. We worshiped God in song for 30 to 45 minutes, had the standard introduction of the team as we also shared our greetings with the Pastors and other attendees and then God spoke through Scott about our need to start living “like we serve a God who made the sun stand still” (Joshua 10:1-15). Ok, so, before God told Laci that HE had big plans for this day, He spoke to Scott about this message about living like we serve a God that is all powerful. Well, that just has to be a funny coincidence, doesn’t it? Pshaw. NOPE! God’s Hand At Work, Pt 3.
Afterward we broke off into groups. The men sat under the shade of a huge tree and clouds over head (the weather was amazing – and as I sit writing this it’s 11 degrees outside and we had a second snow fall last night of 4inches that has covered over the 9 we received early last week). We had a basic question and answer time where the pastors and leaders could ask questions. Again, amazing! These men brought up great questions surrounding the work they do daily to serve God and lead others to a relationship with Him. While the men sat outside the women stayed in the church and Laci and Norma shared with them. And God’s Hand At Work, Pt 4 and 5 took place at the same time. Yeah, He can do that! As I wasn’t with the ladies I only know from accounts retold by Laci and Norma, but God stirred in those ladies and did a work in them, and through them, that was beyond their capabilities. Including Norma sharing her testimony (a part of her life’s journey God has lead her through) that appeared to make a major impact on the ladies that attended the conference. This testimony that only Norma’s husband, Terry, knew of. Another coincidence, blind luck or whatever, that God would challenge Norma to share this with the ladies on that day? Nope! For us men, God worked through more and more bold questions and, I believe, sat a young man right beside me. A young man that God would challenge me to pray for directly that day (that’s part of Pt 6 or 7 you’ll hear about in a few minutes), to seek to discover if he had a Bible and to buy him one once that answer was no AND to pray for him daily. Before I continue on I must say this latter part of the story was not to highlight my abilities or give honor to myself. I hope that you see from all that I am writing that this was COMPLETELY God’s day! It was made possible partly because there was a group of Kenyans and Mzungus that were willing to obey, but It was clearly God making things happen! So, back to the story… Well, both small group times were yet again amazing! God connected two groups of people who live 9 hours apart and changed hearts in all of the people attending! Ok, God, you can stop now. You’ve done enough. NO HE HASN’T!
After the conference we took the short walk from the church to the village. Several of the young men from the conference hooked up a temporary sound system in the middle of the street. As the villagers began filing out of their homes and businesses and gathering in the middle of the village we worshipped, singing and dancing, for over an hour. All of this time the Holy Spirit moved through this village, preparing the hearts of the attendees for a word from Him. All of this time another of our group, Shane, was preparing his heart and mind for a short, and somewhat impromptu, sermon for the people of Chisare. God’s Hand At Work, Pt 6 had begun. As this was outside of Shane’s usual strengths God did amazing things through Shane and he clearly laid out God’s plan for each of us to experience a love with God like we can have with no one else! Because God’s Holy Spirit moved through that village and because of Shane’s willingness to step outside of his comfort zone and allow God to use him many of the villagers of Chisare reported they wanted to accept Christ that day.
It was beyond AMAZING! Oh, but God wasn’t done yet! Afterward Pastor Adams asked me to pray for the village, as a whole, Pastor Adams then asked the villagers to come forward and our team would pray for them individually. I’ve used the word “amazing” several times to describe what God’s Holy Spirit was doing this day and now I’ve run out of an adequately descriptive word to use. As we stood in the street, hands on shoulders and arms, hearts connected with the villagers of Chisare, God’s Holy Spirit moved through that place. I’ve never “felt” God move so powerfully through a place and time as I did that day! We prayed for men, women, children, families. All of them that would come forward, and there were a lot of the people there. Even now, recalling the events of that day and ending with our praying for the people of Chisare, my heart goes there. I long for that for our churches and homes in America. For a people that are so open to God’s moving… and to stepping out of themselves and listening to and obeying the Spirit of God… that others around them cannot help but see God in them and they give their lives to Him!
Are you ready for God’s Hand At Work, Pt 7 and beyond? Do you want to experience the power and love of God? First, If you’ve not yet done so, you have to give your life to Him. The Bible tells that we can accomplish nothing like was experienced this day apart from God! We are dead in sin (Ephesians 1:4-5), so much so that we love the “darkness” not the light (John 3:19) and we are, basically, God’s enemies (Romans 5:10). The wonderful thing is that, even though we love the darkness and are God’s enemy because of our sin, His gift to us is the ability to change through the power of Jesus blood and sacrifice on the cross. Romans 6:23 says that God has gifted us salvation, not something we earned, but a free gift to us. All we have to do is accept that gift and start living for him.
If you have given your life to God, do you want to see this power of God? I challenge you… I DARE YOU! Ask God to show you that power in your life, family and church! Just see what He will do. Get together with other folks weekly and pray for your church, Pastor and leaders. Pray for the worship team, choir, teachers and other leaders. Pray for God to send His Holy Spirit to move through your church and to do mighty things. Then submit! When God says “speak” then speak! When God says, “pray” then pray! When God says, “Go” then go! When God says, “Love” then love! Several of us from Restoration Church are meeting Sunday mornings (or praying from home if we can’t be there in person) before the first service (9:15 am till about 9:40 am) to pray for our church and for God to move in and through us that day). Join us if you can, or pray from home! As we become united in spirit and heart God will do amazing things, in and through us!!
As we spent time on our trip to Kenya our team would sit down at the end of each day and talk about what happened that day, how we saw God work, how we heard God speak to us and, in general, our thoughts and feelings from the days activities. After our day on Monday, and as we began to discuss our visit to the Water Mission, Kitale Technical Training Institute and the slums in Kitale several of us noted that no amount of great pictures or detailed words could explain what we saw and experienced in the slums. I've tried (you can see the results below) to show the living conditions and the look of despair on the residents of this area of Kitale but you cannot know the effects unless you experience it first hand.
When our team arrived in the slum area, Pastor Bromwell (the Pastor of the church and Police Chief in the slums) provided us with a "tour" and introduced us to many residents of the area. Imagine a location that is 15 to 20 square blocks with residents estimated in the 10's of thousands. Most of the buildings are made of mud and sticks. Some are more solid, others are made of sticks, mud and trash (basically whatever the resident could patch together to provide a shelter). The streets are littered with trash and, in some locations drug and alcohol use remnants abound. As we are only the third group of mzungu's ("European white visitors") we seem to gather quite a crowd around us. Most are friendly, some "overly" so, and some keep their distance, only providing "why are you here" stares.
Though this is a school day and school for most of Kenya has begun for the current semester, there are MANY children running around. If they are not curious enough to walk with us they are playing with make-shift soccer balls (trash made into a ball and secured with tape or rope) or hoop toys (a wheel or circular object rolled along the ground and propelled by a child running beside and pushing it with a stick). Of course, these are the kids who, on this day, were not up in town begging for money in front of a store. Pastor Bromwell told us he's seen children as young as 4 years old walking, alone, several miles into town to beg and get money to eat. They are not attending school (their family cannot afford the uniforms and/or the fees). Dirty (no, in most cases filthy) they run around with no supervision through the filth around them. Many with so many chigger bites you can not see a smooth place on they're feet and ankles. Some are orphaned and are being care for by other family or just someone nearby who feels the need to do so. All are malnourished, most times eating one meal a day and sometimes less. When they do eat it is whatever they can find that will fill there bellies (including left over parts of animals - everyone else's trash - and miscarried calf carcasses).
As I type this my eyes fill with tears and my heart breaks remembering what I saw and thinking that these children wake up, every day, to these conditions. These slums have been there for over 200 years and it's said they are born, live and eventually die in those slums. There's no escape and no hope, for many of them.
Oh, but there is!!! We cannot change the conditions all at once but we will work to do as much as we can! How? Well, first, we are working with a local church we have very close ties with to support as many of these children as possible. To get them into a boarding school that provides a bed to sleep in, food to eat, books, uniforms and other important provisions. While in Africa God birthed this vision in two of our team members (Laci and Norma). When we currently support a child in another country we don't know where all the money is going and what % they will get. This vision was to see that 100% of the funds are going where they should, straight to the kids that need it. Also, because we are connected directly to the church in Kitale that will handling this support, it's possible you can go on one of our missions trips to Kitale and visit the child yourself. More details will be posted on http://www.restorationchurchwichita.com/ as they are worked out. You can "Like" the Restoration Church Wichita page (https://www.facebook.com/restorationchurchwichita) and get updates there as well. We will provide other opportunities for support but what you can do every day that costs $0 is pray! Pray for the people of the slums in Kitale. Pray for Pastor's Bromwell and Adams as they work to improve conditions and share the TRUE Hope (that is Christ) with the people of Kitale. The children who cannot go to school, the children who are being sold into sex slavery or who are prostituting themselves in order to buy food and survive. The teenagers and adults that numb the pain with homemade alcohol and drugs. And pray for God to send more folks who will love the people of the slums in Kitale and who's hearts ache, like mine, to see peoples hearts turn to Him and there lives change as they break out of the cycle they are in and get out of the slums.
Well, I have finally had the chance to go through my pics of Africa and pick out the one's that are "semi-worthy" for publishing (we are our harshest critics, aren't we?). They are now loaded on our website in various galleries in the "Kenya" folder and I will begin sharing them from time-to-time as I also share some stories from the trip.
I had been excited with anticipation when I first felt God stirring my heart for Kenya a year-and-a-half ago. As time drew closer for the trip the excitement grew (you know, like the excitement for the visit from the fat guy in the red suit every December when you were a kid). Even with that build up I was not prepared for the beauty I would see in Africa (the land, nature, people and culture). What an amazing place and people. From golden trees with flat tops, beautiful cactus like plants that looked like they grew out of the trees, wild monkies, zebra, water buffalo to a people who, for the most part, great you with a wave and a smile and are genuinely kind. Those are some of the reasons I fell in love with Kenya.
But the experience we had the next to the last night in Kitale was the MAIN reason I grew to love Kenya and it's people. For some reason every where we went, because we were the mzungu ("European, white person = visitors) we were treated like total royalty. You'd think it would be cool to be waited on hand and foot. To eat first and not clean up your plate or your mess) but it became uncomfortable the longer we were there. Not because we didn't appreciate the kindness, but because we felt we were FAR from deserving to be treated in such a way. That practice speaks more to the heart and minds of the Kenyans than it does the visitors though. They truly do care about people and don't just "pretend" to be kind. On Wed night Pastor Adams' wife, Mary, made a tremendous meal for us. Rice, beans, cooked cabbage, peas, chicken and chapatis (a type of flat bread like thicker tortilla shells) were on the menu this night and I must say, Mrs Mary was far and away the best cook we had while in country. We all (6 mzungu's from the U.S. and 8-10 of our new Kenyan family) gathered around the living room to "break bread" together it was the most intimate of our gatherings. We ate together, and offered greetings and blessings to each other (an unbelieveable tradition where you go around the room and give detailed blessings of kindness for one or more persons in attendance). There were several moments when the lights would go out (African electricity is not regulated as tight as it is in the States so "blackouts" or power outages occur quite often) and we'd just keep talking and giving greetings. There were many thanks for kindness, prayers, etc. And there was a group of people who lifted one another up but never above Jesus. It was an amazing time and I believe what Christ had in mind for the new church (and what the writer of Acts wrote about).
Our challenge is to turn the tv off, get away from our "me, me, me" centeredness and focus on loving Christ and others.
"Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Rom 12:10
For some reason of late I've been hammered over and over with the thought that I am not really showing the true love of Christ by loving others beyond myself and inspite of myself. It's no problem to love those who so easily love us back. Who are like us or at least have some similar likes. It's "easy" to just hang out with them when there is no effort put forth on our part to go beyond the cordial "what's up dude?". To allow ourselves to be changed by God, experience and others. To put ourselves aside in order to help and love others. To listen to someone's story that is far beyond where our cushy lives have taken us thus far.
So, God says to me, "what are you doing Robert Wyatt Dixon, to love and care for others?" What are you doing to make a difference? Not to become well known, win the Nobel Peace Prize or receive some sort of fame and fortune. To love people where and as they are (weird, but isn't that what Jesus did?)! I can't begin to describe the excitement and terror that grip me, both at the same time over trying to answer this question to God and at the thought of where He is going to lead me as I attempt honor Him with my life and abilities.
And why in the world am I rambling on about "loving others", blah, blah, blah (am I starting to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher yet?)? One, because I am forewarning you that I will be discussing this in further blogs. haha How God is continuing to change me. Why? So it can help someone else. Two, because I will be challenging you to consider your heart and life. I don't know where you are. Only you and God know that. And I'm not here to judge you anymore than the folks that show up Sunday after Sunday for free food. But, I have to ask, have you allowed God to change you? To mold you? Are you opening your heart to where He wants you to be? How has God called you to love others (not an IF: the verse above doesn't say "some of you be devoted to one another in love")?
I don't remember where I heard this. Probably in one of the youth ministries that I volunteered in over the years. It's simple, but so very impactful. "I Am Third." That is... Love God first, others second and myself third. God has only two requirements of us... 1. Love Him with everything we are and 2. Love each more than we love ourselves (Luke 10:27).
I AM THIRD