Monday, April 11, 2016

Now I Know Why People Here Have 2 Spare Tires

In what has become the normal for our family in Africa, things have been a little crazy.
  • Move to a new house - check
  • Injury requiring stitches - check
  • 10 hour car rides with 4 kids - check
  • 2 tire blowouts stranding you on the side of an African road (on the same trip) - check
  • Involuntary meetings with traffic police - check
  • Days without water in your new house - check
  • Kids shooting people with guns - check
  • Trainings and out of town trips requiring Sarah to single parent - check
  • Sickness and hospital visits - check
  • Power outages but your generator won't work - check
  • Calendar with zero rhythm or consistency - check

It is April in Nairobi and the short rains have started.  It's warm and the end of school is just around the corner (and so is our 6 month visit to the States).  We can almost taste Chic-fil-A, Outback, and breakfast at the Guignard Diner.

Our three year term in Africa has seen its share of twists and turns.  I have had smoother rides on Space Mountain.  Multiple moves, a new language, new schools, new friends, new cultures, multiple new supervisors, injury, malaria, four children, multiple new pets, new cars, new sides of the road, new traffic laws, new strategies, and new family back home (that we all haven't met yet)!

But in all of that - God has demonstrated his constant faithfulness.  Our family and friends, new and old, in Kenya and in the States have loved us, prayed for us, served us, given to us, encouraged us, and partnered with us to accomplish the task we were given. Our singular desire when we left Sumter in 2011 was follow God and be pleasing to him.

The first three months of 2016 have simply been a continuation of that pursuit - though it rarely takes us where we think it will!  In January and February Sarah was not feeling well.  She was lethargic, had chest pains, stomach issues, and a near constant head cold.  Finally she went to see a doctor and after a couple of weeks of tests (all kinds), she was diagnosed with allergy induced asthma.  This was probably due to mold in the house we were living in (it was rainy season) and the asthma produced reflux and the constant head cold.  Faced with all of that information, the Lord was gracious that the company had a another vacant house (recently vacated due to the company's voluntary retirement incentive) that didn't have any roof leaks or mold problems.  Though we hated the thought of another move, we are thankful for God's provision of another house that is more than we need on a safe and  secure compound.

Since Christmas we have hosted a two teams from SC that were overwhelming blessings for our entire family.  We had chance to serve with them, laugh with them, and pray with them.  I also had a chance to return to Mombasa on the coast with some national friends - we met some of my old friends and did some work together in strategic areas and had fun learning from each other about how we go about our work in different areas.  Watching a couple of 40+ year olds see the ocean for the first time and play in the waves was worth the 11 hour drive down to the coast!  In addition to my time in Mombasa, I also had a chance to go to a training near Nairobi where I learned some new things about training people to become trainers of others.

That left Sarah home alone but she is a rock and managed everything superbly.  At least until our son who will remain unnamed shot a pellet gun at our night guard and the plastic pellet got lodged in his ear canal and Sarah couldn't get it out.  So when I finally checked my phone at the conference and saw 342 missed calls from Sarah along with some text messages that I wouldn't want my kids to see, I realized something bad was happening.  I braced myself and called Sarah to hear the story of how she had been unsuccessfully trying to get the pellet dislodged.  I tried to offer some encouraging words but I don't think they helped much.  The rest of the story is that the next day I had to hire a taxi to take the poor night guard to an ENT who was able to get the pellet out, without any permanent damage to our friend's hearing or ear!

Another roadside pit stop.
All of that stress faded a little last week when went to the coast for a vacation.  Well, the stress faded once we reached the hotel.  It took about 3 hours into the 10 hour trip before we had our first tire blowout.  It wasn't that big of a deal because I am the son of a tire man.  I can change a tire in my sleep.  It was no big deal.  I pulled my jack and of course the lug wrench.  It wasn't until I tried to put the lug wrench on a lug nut did I recognize a small (big) problem.

The lug wrench was too small.  If anybody has any advice for taking off lug nuts without a lug wrench or any other tools I am all ears!  By God's grace I spotted a fellow close by and asked him if he had a "spinner" as they call a lug wrench here.  He said no, but he had a friend.  So he called the friend and told me he would be here soon to help.  My confidence was not too high.  We settled in to wait for the friend to bring the wrench.  I was thinking at least an hour....TIA (this is Africa).

God is so good - within 5 minutes 2 guys pull up on a boda boda (motorcycle) with a 4 way spinner and they wouldn't let me lift a finger.  They dismounted the spare, switched the flat tire, and put everything back where it belonged in about 10 minutes.  I thought, "well that was easy but they are gonna want to charge me a lot."  So I asked "Shingapi?"  or "how much to I owe you?".  They looked at each other and I braced...."how about 500 Shillings?" they asked ($5). I gave them 1,000 ($10) and told them to give some to my friend who called them.  Isn't God good?  A flat tire in the middle of Africa and we were back on the road within 20 minutes with clean hands and it only costs $10!

It took another 6 hours to lose the second tire.  We were 20 minutes from the hotel, the pool, and the beach.  The hotel came to pick up the family and it took me a few hours to arrange some help.  It was difficult as I didn't have a spare but before nightfall I found Sarah and the kids in the pool without their phones having a big time.  Apparently they weren't too worried about me. Guess they trusted my CIA background.

The stories continue hear in Kenya - we look forward to sharing many of them when we hit the states later this summer.  We look forward to sharing the ones with eternal significance and the ones which only have produced eternal laughter.  We are excited to see many of you soon.

From Kenya,


Here a few pics of life here lately and our most recent trip to the coast.

Asa before his middle school banquet. 

Asa during a basketball timeout, getting instruction from coach.

Rainey before her latest high school dance.  

Nehemiah at the beach.

The best family pic we could find!
Benny, exploring the tidal pools on the coast.


  1. Good to catch up on the Dinkins. I can see you guys have made a mark on East Africa and East Africa has made some marks on you. Keep aiming high for Him! Dan

  2. That's life in the jungle - wow. We're anxious to see you when you get back to SC.

  3. I miss you all already! God is using you in such amazing, eternally significant ways. It was an honor to see what you do and how you do it. And I love laughing WITH you! Blessings from all the Swain's!