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2013-07-11 digital edition

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2013-07-11 / Church

The Eyes of Kenya

By Nancy Newkirk


Nancy seen at the eye chart. Nancy seen at the eye chart. Traveling to Kenya, Africa, Nancy Newkirk of Lexington was part of a Vision Mission team of 30 people with the Texas Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, who provided eyeglass clinics to the people while sharing the Gospel of Jesus their real mission!

In April I had an opportunity to travel to Africa on a mission, which was near the top of my bucket list. I found out about this trip when I heard a friend talking about it at Bible Study. She said she was going on a ‘Vision Mission to Kenya’. I asked if they had need for one more volunteer and they said, “Yes!” I learned this would be a 10 day experience, with mostly people I had never met.


Nancy is seen with the other seven people in her group. Nancy is seen with the other seven people in her group. The trip was all set up as far as air, places to stay, meals, safaris, and a work week, which was when our group would supply vision glasses to some of the local people of Kenya. This was a Vision Mission where 30 people from across the Texas Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod teamed together to travel to Kenya for the purpose of providing eyeglass clinics. We not only supplied glasses, but shared the Gospel of Jesus, which was our real mission.

We met at the Houston Intercontinental Airport, flew to Amsterdam, and then on to Nairobi, Kenya, where we arrived over 20 hours later. We had flown nearly 9,000 miles and had arrived at a location of about 5,600 ft. elevation, just below the equator.


Nancy with one of the volunteer helpers and a patient. Nancy with one of the volunteer helpers and a patient. Once in Kenya, we spent the first two nights in Nairobi. It was a nice, clean place with good meals provided. The next day we went on our first safari to an island where ‘Out of Africa’ was filmed. This gave us a chance to adjust to the 8 hour time difference. On the second day, we all left with our own group to the region where we would be setting up our vision clinic. At the second location, the accomodations were even nicer than the first, and meals were even tastier. Both locations were chosen by the LC-MS of Kenya.

The team that I joined included Pastor Tiner and Debra Smith from Immanuel Lutheran in Giddings, who were all a part of the Redeemer Lutheran Austin group. There were eight of us, total. This clinic was in Kiambu, about 20 miles north of Nairobi. The clinic ran for five days and around 1,450 were served visually and witnessed to during that week.


Nancy is one of the people in the boat, as they are led on a safari where they got close and personal with a giraffe. Nancy is one of the people in the boat, as they are led on a safari where they got close and personal with a giraffe. Each person visiting the clinic was registered, the gospel was shared, and their eyes were charted. From the 10 crates of equipment, frames, lenses and other supporting material that we took with us from Austin, distance and reading glasses were provided.

There were also 3 local Kenyan doctors providing vision care to those in need who came to the clinic. But the greatest moments during our clinic were often the quietest, and people were baptized.

After our work week was completed, we went on another safari. Of the Big Five we saw a rhino, a water buffalo, and nearly saw 3 lions, but they were in the tall grass by the time we arrived, about 1 minute too late. The elephant and leopard were not to be seen that day. After this safari we went back to our first location and met up with the other groups who had traveled to different parts of Kenya for their work week. We visited a while, then all left for the airport and our trip home.


A Kenyan man shows off his nice new glasses. A Kenyan man shows off his nice new glasses. It really was an organized mission, and though intense at times during the planning stage, the only things I had to do before we left were get some shots and write some checks.

A friend told me before leaving home, that trips like this are often very rewarding. She said ‘You go to help others, and you’ll be amazed at what it will do for you!’. She, of course, was right, and I’m so thankful for this opportunity.

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a sovereign state in East Africa. The capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya is situated right along the equator, on the eastern coast of the African continent. Its coastal region is on the southeast, and to the east lies Somalia. Ethiopia is to the north, the Sudan to the northwest, and Uganda directly to the west. The southwestern border of the country is marked by Lake Victoria, and southward lies Tanzania. Kenya's geography is marvelously varied.

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