Ndeda Island is a Kenya landmass of fishermen in Lake Victoria. This huge lake is Africa’s largest. It is renowned in part for its abundant yield of brown bass and tilapia.
The 10,000 who live in Ndeda Island catch the fish and haul it to coastal towns such as Kisumu where it is sold.
Mary, my wife, and I, were invited in 2007 to host a Bible conference on this bustling island.
Upon our arrival to the shores of the island, most of its children hurriedly gathered around our boat. For most, they had never seen a white person (mzungu). We were a novelty, a new toy for them to play with, and for the next five days, they were glued to us.
I was sadly informed that Ndeda Island did not have a single toilet ( choo) to accommodate its thousands of inhabitants. Their potty was a vast corn field which also served as food that had been cultivated through human manure.
Mary, is genuine missionary. Being part of Youth With Mission in the 80’s, she knows how to rough it, every time and anywhere.
Mary was an evangelist in Amsterdam’s red light district, smuggled Bibles into then communist Russia, and served Bogota’s street kids, los gamines.
I, however, am a tourist missionary. I love the mission field but do need hot baths, and American toilets if possible. I don’t like eating weird food as well.
I tried to wrap around my brain the concept of how do 10,000 people go potty daily in one corn field?
It wasn’t long till I found out.
As we closed upon the tall vegetation I took my leap of faith and soared “where no man had gone before.”
“Oh My God!”
“Oh No, Watch Out!”
What I discovered, I would not wish on my worst enemy.
This was a mine field of excrement.
Separating one husk, and one tree one from another, I could not find a two by two square feet space that was free from human feces.
Every other stride was met by yet another horribly dirty deed that must be sidestepped.
It was the most ghastly sight ever.
I did my number one and rushed out of the horrid field.
“Oh my God, what will I do when its number two?”
It was unfathomable to think of going back into the corn husks, and this time to squat. I am a tourist missionary after all!
For Mary, this was not a problem. That night with flashlight and toilet paper, she nonchalantly skipped back into the trees like Mel Gibson did in “ Signs”.
Ephesians 2: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loved us,
God is rich in mercy! Hallelujah!
Reports came to us that the one choo, the only real toilet in Ndeda Island, would open for its first business day the next morning. Indeed this was a magical toilet!
All this transpired as we stepped onto the shores of the island. Such is the walk of faith, where God splits the Red Sea as you step into it. But, you must step into it!
For every visit to the magical toilet it was three Kenyan shillings, equal to two cents.
We woke early the next morning and proceeded up the hill to the potty with toilet paper in our hands. The entourage of kids caught glimpse of us and quickly assembled behind like ducklings.
What a sight! Two wzungu ( white people) toilet paper in hands, going to the choo, and trailed by twenty kids.
This choo was clean and fresh. We gave the lady who managed it our three shillings and were grateful to God for the rest of our visit to Ndeda Island.
This magical toilet is the rich man’s potty . Not many have the three shillings to spend on a choo and continued fancying the corn field potty.
As for me, I gave every member of our evangelistic team 21 shillings so they could relish seven visits to the Magical Mystery Toilet In the Corn Field Potty Tour.
And no, these are not strawberry, but corn fields, forever!
Never say never, to God!
The things that I’ve said never to are the things I’ve done.
In my twenties I vowed I would never give up my promiscuous playboy life style.
God then kept me as a nine-year celibate till He brought my wife Mary.
Or after leaving Miami, Florida, in the 90’s I vowed never to go back.
I did not like Miami’s lack of seasons, insane Cuban/ Venezuelan drivers, and its mundane “concrete jungle” image. Now we are back, pastoring.
I said that I would never go to Africa. Not only have we gone there for seven years, we lived in Africa, and love going back.
So this is another saga in the “never say never” land.
We are not your common missionaries travelling overseas to help with the construction of homes or wells. We are Bible teachers. In Kenya, for example, we’d spend three weeks on a Bible conference whirlwind tour to three or four locales.
So many preachers go to the big cities, Nairobi, Mombasa, and Nakuru, where the offerings are big. Few, go to the rural towns where honorariums are corn, eggs and a goat. Or where there are no toilets, running water, or electricity.
But this is where we felt led to go. Who will teach these precious ones God’s Word? I’m so glad that God sends us to where few go.
So here we were at Ugunja, Kenya, close to Lake Victoria and Kogelo, Mr. Obama’s Kenyan hometown.
We were staying at Pastor Elias Onduas.
This man of God oversees forty churches in Kenya, and yet lives in Ugunja’s abject poverty. His hut is three miles from greater Ugunja, the site of our Bible conferences.
Every morning we’d eat breakfast, and shower and shave enfolded in nature’s sounds.
With an attaché case full of Greek and Hebrew reference books we’d walk nearly two miles through trees and dusty paths to the highway. Once there, Elias would flag down the fourteen seater Toyota minivan called a matatu. If eleven people were on board we could squeeze in, if not, we’d have to wait for the next one to zoom by us.
Sometimes, the larger bus would also swing by. If it was not packed we’d get on.
The only other transport is the infamous bicycle taxis, the Boda Boda’s.
The Boda Boda, is a bicycle with a modified basket or extension suitable for one passenger.
They were commandeered by young, tall, slender Kenyan guys.
On occasions when it seemed that only crammed buses whirred by us, Elias would suggest, “Let’s take the Boda Boda into town.”
I’d smugly reply, anger coursing up my veins, “ There is no way I will take the Boda Boda. I will never get on a Boda Boda.”
I would be a fat American white ( mzungu) preacher, with a bag full of books, long sleeve shirt and tie, riding on the back of a Boda Boda!
Can these skinny guys hoist me up the Ugunjan hills for the next two miles?
What if I fall?
Are the Kenyans going to laugh at me? “Look at the fat mzungu on the Boda Boda!”
“ No Pastor Elias, I will never take the Boda Boda”, I cynically reassured him.
The next morning back we were on the highway’s edge. Matatu after matatu crammed with folk like sardines whooshed by us.
“Let’s walk to Ugunja, Pastor Elias”; Anything but the Boda Boda, I thought.
The walk was long and hot. Vehicles whizzed by us kicking rocks and dust in our faces. At our pace we’d get to the conference late.
“Well, are you going to humble yourself and take the Boda Boda?” the Holy Spirit asked me.
“Alright Pastor Elias”, I blabbered loudly; “Get the Boda Boda!”
After being helped unto the basket, I was astounded at how this skinny Kenyan bicycled me effortlessly up to my hilly destination.
By gosh, it was the most enjoyable trip of my life time!
From then on I’d ride on Boda Bodas when possible.
I learned to dance the Boda Boda in never never land.
My Experience With Florida International University Students: Part One
Our church, has been privileged to be invited twice by the FIU ( Florida International University) Wesley House to offer a homemade meal specifically for its international students.
All of us who went to college know the phenomena of eating a homemade meal after being subjected to years of cafeteria food.
Part of what Wesley does, and does well, is to give students opportunity to know each other and discuss matters about God informally over a hot meal.
I met neat kids from Nepal, India, China, the Caribbean and South America.
Quite honestly, I was a bit tentative when I went to FIU.
Since 2004 I have been heavily involved with the church. Doing mission trips to, and later moving to East Africa, our emphasis was on the church.
Since coming back to the USA to pastor, my focus has continued with the church.
In many ways I’ve lost contact with the unchurched world. I do believe that it’s been all in God’s timing.
The unchurched world of the 90’s is different to the unchurched world of the 2000’s.
The American 90’s were a time of prosperity. There was little “perceived” need for God. I say “ perceived’, because God is who people need the most.
America was relatively resistant to the gospel. People were busy making money and segregated along political and social fronts.
With the inception of social media the world has become one huge amalgamated melting pot of interactive ideas, opinions and statements.
The ghettoized lines between, liberals and conservatives, gays and straights, atheists, Christians and Muslims have in many ways been erased.
The extravagances of the 90’s are being replaced by belt-tightening of the 2000’s.
The self-sufficiency of the last decade is being exchanged by the realization that the guarantee of jobs after college, or a thriving capitalist economy is gone.
The integrity of the USA political system is at its lowest ebb. Leaders with godly convictions, and a backbone to support them are an endangered species. It appears that our political system is beyond hope or repair.
Activist judges abound, who issue verdicts along political lines and not with righteous integrity.
The churches’ prosperity teachers, which sadly turned off many, are now the exception.
In the 90’s the liberals spouted off while conservatives held their tongues. Now, no one holds back.
The unchurched are no longer going to church to hear another religious message or an appeal for more money.
The America of today, is much more assimilated along social lines. In many ways our nation is unknowinlgly coming back to God’s design for people.
I don’t see the hunger for God that I see in Africa. I do see a fresh hunger though, for authenticity, relationships, a need to be heard and accepted, and to be loved for what one is, and not for what one is not.
I see a world that is hungry for fathers and mothers.
I see a world that wants to interact along the line of being people rather than labels.
I see people who want to belong.
I see a world that is hungry to interact and discuss.
The new generations are shunning divisions and labels. They are also shunning church for the sake of going to another meeting.
People are looking for authenticity, reality and genuine relationships.
They are looking for true love. Love to me, is the ability to accept the other person while still being true to my convictions in word and deed.
The media tells me that Christianity is dying in the USA, but I believe that they are wrong.
That’s not been my experience at the two Wesley luncheons. Never did I meet disparagement or scorn when talking about God. Nor did I see walls come up with my remarks about God.
I think that the issue of political correctness has been grossly magnified by our socialist media, when it’s only relevant to a minority of folks. Our media knows how to take the issues affecting minorities and amplify them to the point that scares society who in turn adopts them as their prevailing position.
I think that most young people do not wish to be politically correct. They are looking to intelligent discussion and intelligent relationships as they carve out their own destinies.
For us who profess Christ, we must step out of our Christian ghettos and into a world that is seeking authenticity, belonging and honest relationships.
As a Christian, I do not compromise my beliefs, and I express them boldly, but in love. I don’t think that those around me want me to relinquish, politicize or sweeten them. People are attracted to those who are willing to pay the high price to stand by their convictions.
I went to these luncheons with a 90’s mindset to be pleasantly surprised.
The independence and arrogance of last decade has been replaced by the authenticity for honest relationships of this decade.
My daughter who still has doubts about Christianity works in a high end Chuck E Cheese in NYC. Sometimes they hold events for kids who have cancer or physical defects. She comments to me, “Daddy, why don’t I see the church doing this kind of stuff instead of just going to another meeting?” I can’t reply, because I know she’s right.
I say to the church in closing; reach out, step out, do the uncomfortable, be interactive, be real, and love unhypocritically those outside the church. People are people who want to know Christians as people before they know them as Christians. I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.
Warning: If you don’t like reading funny but kinda gross bathroom stories, please stop right here!
Going Potty in East Africa is a Walk of Faith.
On of our first mission trips to Kenya in 2004, we were escorted to the pastor’s toilet. Walking outside his flat I came to a little wooden outhouse. I opened the door expecting the luxury of my America toilet. Behold, there was a little ceramic hole carved in a concrete floor. I was shocked. What was I to do? I had preached and had slacks, a long sleeve shirt and a neck tie.
“Do I really have to squat here? Do I have to aim by faith?”
That event inaugurated my ongoing seven-year love affair with the East African potty endearingly christened in Swahili, the “choo.”
Of my many choo tales, I’d like to share two.
The Maasais are the folks with the big ears, the big earrings, the lion hunters and blood drinkers.
They are also some of the globe’s nicest people and a nation which God is touching poignantly with revival. Daily, are Maasais being added unto the Lord.
I was invited to teach a Bible conference in the heart of Maasai land in Simba, Kenya.
I was met by pastors on the highway to Mombasa, Kenya. After enjoying cold sofdas ( soda baridi) we commenced our track into the Simba bush and to the pastor’s home. My bags were hoisted on bicycles.
The savanna was tall and there were tons and tons of mud ( matope ).
Simba had been experiencing nonstop rains for weeks.
Today, was to be no different. The skies above were menacingly black.
As we went, the heavens split and down came the blinding rains.
No umbrella, no trees to hide beneath, just mud and flowing gullies of water all around. I was soaked to the bitter bones. All that we could do was to get more and more drenched.
In ankle deep mud, we lugged and dragged until our arrival to his cow dung hut.
As the rushing rains continued , his wife met us with towels. I went into my tiny bedroom and changed everything including my water logged handkerchief.
Now this pastor did not have a choo.
His choo was the bush.
Tonight the walk to the potty would be in drenching rain, ankle high mud, and who knows what kind of night critter to bite me as I bent over.
I prayed and made my deal with God.
“Ok Lord, I’m going to ask you a big favor,” I conjured my demands to the Almighty.
“ While I’m in Simba for the next five days, I don’t want to go Number Two. I want you to honor me and until get to my home town of Kitengela and my America toilet, don’t let me go number two. In the Name of Jesus, I bind Number Two from coming out!”
I was done with my prayers and went to sleep in my six by eight foot room.
At three in the morning, I woke up to roar of hammering rains, and an irresistible urge to do Number Two. I could not believe it!
“God, I told you that I did not want to do number two for the next five days!” I quipped.
The need just got worse and worse. I was angry at God.
“But God, you need to honor my deal!…”
Now I knew that if I did not proceed to the rain and into the mud I would do number two in my room.
Let me teach you some basic Swahili, so that when you guys go to Kenya on your safari, you will know these words.
Number one is “short col”
Number two is “long col.”
I got my roll of toilet paper and flashlight.
The pastor was sleeping in the other room.
“Pastor, pastor, I have to go to the choo, I have to go long col.”
Dutifully, the pastor rolled the big wooden door aside.
I pointed my flashlight into the gaping night, its beams catching the huge drops of rain.
As I stepped into the mud, the rain stopped. Bang!
From a trouncing down pour to a nothing in sixty seconds flat.
I looked up in disbelief.
“ My God you are so great and so good!”
I went to my bush choo full of confidence and did my long col.
Going potty in East Africa is a walk of faith.
My second and more dramatic choo story occurred in Kisangaji, Tanzania.
Kisangaji, is even more remote than Simba.
The pastor’s cow dung hut was a couple of miles from the township of Simba. Kisangaji, however, is about 10 miles from the nearest town of Mbati.
I was here on a five day Bible conference.
In Kisangaji I did not have a bush choo but the regular rural choo which is a hole in the dirt inside of a tiny structure.
I did not pray what I had prayed in Simba, but my wish was just as strong.
“Lord, until I get back to the pastor’s nice home in Arusha, Tanzania with my American choo, please don’t let me go long col in Kisangaji.”
What made it extra tricky was that our food for five days , was, ahhh yes, rice and beans. Beans, beans and more beans.
Everything, was so far, so good. It was Sunday, the fourth day of the conference. I was heading out to Arusha the next morning.
No urges for long col. Praise Him!
After the Sunday morning service we walked for nearly two miles to a small river in scorching heat.
We were to baptize several converts.
I muttered under my breath as I sweltered with perspiration running down my face.
To my utter amazement, these Tanzanians who had nothing, went on leaping and praising God, drums banging, and voices raised all the way to the river.
Africa, has taught me how ungrateful, spoiled and pampered I can be.
On the journey back, the crisis hit me.
OMG, I got the worse urge to go long col of my whole life.
I had no toilet paper, and there were no trees. It was just rocky grounds spotted with occasional Acacia trees.
“What am I going to do Lord, have mercy on me!”
I was bursting and busting. Panicking, I fold one of my fellow walkers.
I marched like a high-speed soldier, legs tucked in, frantically doing the penguin shuffle, trying just to make it back to the camp.
I spotted my wonderful Tanzanian hostess Teresia whose house I was lodging in.
“ Teresia” I gasped, “long col!” She muttered something back to me.
“ L O N G C OL!”, I articulated.
Little did I know that the Tanzanian Swahili is different to its Kenyan counterpart. She had no idea what I said!
I froze in time, now beyond exploding. Suddenly, another pastor rushed to the scene and spoke to her.
Teresia grabbed my hand and rushed me to my bedroom.
I hysterically dug through my luggage, got the roll of toilet paper and lunged to the outhouse.
Breaking in through the roosters and children I must have looked like an utter fool.
As I pulled my pants down I sprung for the hole, but did not make it.
The diarrhea came out on the floor, all over my pants and my legs. As a penguin I straddled over the hole and finished my business.
“ Oh, God, how could you allow this to happen to me?” Squatting over the hole I continued my diatribe with God.
I swear that in the midst of my complaints, God sent an angel who tapped the roll of toilet paper, which I had let on a mud ledge inside the outhouse, with his finger.
As I looked up, the toilet paper fell off the ledge, magically rolled right towards me, in between my legs, and into the hole!
“ Oh My God!” This was the utter low blow!
I think that I heard God chuckle and say, “ LOL! This is what happens when you complain too much!”
What could I do but put my diarrhea pants back on and proceeded back to the bedroom.
Past the children and the roosters I stumbled once again; I was so embarrassed!
From my door cracked open, I said. “Teresia, could you please bring me magi ( water) and soap?”
I washed myself down, put the dirty clothes in a bag and proceeded with them to where the pastors where. Quietly I told them what happened. Laughter erupted everywhere. No one mocked me. It was just so darn funny.
In conclusion, the women washed down the choo, and proceeded to stick the dirty clothes down the magical hole. I had my bottle of anointing oil in the pants. The joke was that Kisangaji had been permanently anointed.
As I said Going potty in East Africa is a walk of faith!