20 min read

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen

Travel (B)

This is the second part of the long list of travels I felt important to share. Again, it is undeniably a long chapter containing lots of memories that warm my heart as culture drew me in to learn more through many life-altering sights, scents, and experiences. Most importantly, I need to share what God did during my travels – not so much through me but through the combined efforts of those I traveled with. I want you to feel what I felt. I pray that someday you can see what I saw. I pray your heart will be moved to experience some of the same passion compelling you to step out of your comfort zone and into a sacrificial faith walk with God. He will always show you greater things than you could ever imagine! Many of those "greater things" will flood your heart with heart-rending compassion.


This was the first mission trip I organized and led. I went to Kenya with WCCM (World Class Cities Ministries) in 2007 and felt the Lord impress on me that I should bring my own team the next year. The calling was strong, especially since my first trip was life-altering! Let me explain ...

I was offered an opportunity to go to Kenya with WCCM by Jeanice. She knew Bill Wilson, the director of WCCM and he had invited her to travel with him. She offered to pay my way if I would travel with her and Bill's team. I literally shocked myself when I said I would do it if it was okay with my husband. Understandably, he was reluctant but he didn't say no. So, I got all the necessary immunizations in preparation for a 2-week trip.

A few days before the trip, Jeanice came down with pneumonia. Her doctor wouldn't allow her to go – she was very sick. So, with some serious nudging, I agreed to go ahead and make the trip without her.

I got on a plane and flew to Baltimore to meet up with the group. I was with a group of total strangers, I'm an introvert, and I was alone without a travel companion. It was an experience destined to fail. I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. I was a nervous wreck not knowing what to expect in Kenya. Yes, I'd been overseas before but England, France, and Switzerland was not Kenya! This was a different ballgame altogether!

After many hours of flight time, we finally reached Nairobi where we were greeted by Pastor Kai and a group of women singing in Swahili. It really hit me that I was in Africa, in a culture totally different, many people speaking Swahili or other African dialects.

There were two small busses waiting for arrival. I boarded one and managed to select a seat that was most likely made for children. We had about a 6-hour drive to Nakuru with my legs unable to straighten out or stretch. It was the most uncomfortable I had ever been. About 2-3 hours into the trip, we stopped in the middle of nowhere for anyone who might need to use the bathroom. I was ecstatic because by this time I really had to go! I stepped out of the bus and immediately felt the difference. The smells, the stars, the trees ... the eeriest feeling ever. Yet, there was a hint of beauty in it. It was pitch dark but the sky seemed so close. The stars glistened against the black night. But, there was no bathroom in sight. The men just went out into a clump of trees. A few of us women looked for a private area where we could squat. And, squat I did! I squatted so much that I lost my balance and fell in the puddle I had just created! Now I was again boarding the bus filled with strangers and the little seats unfit for adults, but this time, I did so with wet shoes and a wet skirt that would have to do until we reached our destination ... another 4-5 hours. I prayed no one could smell what I was smelling on my shoes and skirt. I wanted to cry!

We finally got to Nakuru and were assigned our rooms. Since my travel partner wasn't with me, I had a room to myself. Under normal circumstances, it would have been great. But, I was in a strange country, strange furniture, strange smells coming from the kitchen, strange everything! Even the bathroom was strange with a strange toilet.

The next few days were filled with activities and travel to small outlying communities/villages. It was interesting and I tried to take it all in, but I was so beside myself because everyone knew everyone but I knew no one. A few tried to befriend me but I think my introvert showed too much to really break through the uncomfortable barrier I'd built around me. My comfort zone was back in Ohio not in the middle of Africa!!

A few days before the trip was over, we went to Bungoma where we were to visit a Bible school. We arrived later in the afternoon and had a buffet supper before retiring to our rooms ... again, I was alone. To be honest, I was miserable. I remember laying in bed crying, desperate to return home. It wasn't the bugs in the rice, but it was being so far away from my husband and children in a strange land without a friend to share the trip with.

Early the next morning I got up to get ready for the day's activities. I remember walking into the bathroom to shower and standing in front of the mirror over the sink, crying out to God. I told Him that mission trips were not for me. I will never forget the sting of tears flowing down my cheeks as I cried out, "I promise I'll do whatever you want me to do from my home, but please don't send me out of the country again. This isn't for me!" The tears wouldn't stop.

Finally, I gained my composure and made it down the stairs to the dining room. There was a table with an empty seat, so I put a few familiar items on my plate and sat at a table with three others from our group. We chit-chatted a bit but I was still visibly uncomfortable in my surroundings.

After I ate a few bites, I took a deep breath, climbed the three flights of stairs to my room, grabbed my suitcase, and drug it down the stairs to be loaded on the bus. Once again, I ended up with a seat that was too small. I nearly began crying again but I managed to control myself not wanting to make a scene.

First stop was Bungoma Bible College (still operating today). It was founded in 1988 and has since graduated over 2000 students into the ministry. The school provides free tuition and housing for students. Students are responsible for their own food and meeting other financial needs. The unique thing about this College is that they encourage international enrollment. I never would have understood the meaning of that unless I had witnessed it first-hand.

As we exited the bus, we were met by someone from the school who told us that chapel was in session and we were asked to be quiet as we entered. We were led into a large room with tables and chairs set up in classroom style. The windows were open, allowing a warm breeze to flow through the room this particular morning. I followed the group but found my way to the back of the room away from the others. I didn't feel like I belonged there with my tearful outburst just a few hours earlier in the bathroom at the hotel.

Eventually, I began to listen. There was a beautiful blend of voices worshiping God in many different languages. I was reminded of Revelation 7:9-12:

"I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

It was at this time, under these supernatural circumstances, that I unmistakably heard the voice of God speaking to my heart: "This is what I have called you to. This is why you are here. This is what I have entrusted you with." Nations! That was my call! And, this is why I have stood my ground about traveling to Africa, India, Haiti, and other nations to minister God's love, salvation, and grace to people from other nations, tribes, and languages. My family wasn't happy when I boarded planes to travel to far-off lands. But I could never deny that moment when I was so distraught and painfully unhappy with my circumstances ... a moment when the Father led me to an international gathering of worshipers to speak very specifically to my heart.

Peace flowed in my heart from that moment on. I knew in an instant that I would be back to Kenya the next year, but this time not with strangers of position and power within the denomination, but with those who might not otherwise have an opportunity to experience the power of God at work on the mission field.

Several ladies from Potter's House in Columbus were part of the team. Our sponsor in Kenya, Pastor Kai, worked with some locals to dig two wells (boreholes) and organized a two-day free medical clinic for those in need. We hired a doctor and clinicians who were able to see hundreds of patients during those two days. We also did a children's conference, giving every child a baggie with crayons and a coloring book. For most, it was the first time they ever owned crayons. It's hard for us to imagine, but it was true – more than that, it was amazing to witness! The women's conference was huge for us and for the local women. The trip was a success for the Kingdom of God.

The pictures below show some of the acts of mercy and ministry that took place that year in Kenya.

There were more trips to Kenya over the next few years. I loved the people and their culture although it broke my heart to see the hungry babies, the mommies thin and frail due to malnourishment, oohhh, the sights and sounds of Kenya filled my heart with compassion to the extent that I almost resented my life of comfort. I had to find a balance and that wasn't easy! To this day, running water when not being used pierces my heart. I cringe when I see people not use the water and let it run freely down the drain. Every drop has a purpose and should be used – at least that's how I feel after seeing widespread thirst with no clean water to drink.

We were on a bus traveling to a village for a meeting. We drove through a small village where children were only half-clothed in torn shirts, no shoes, and hair that looked like it had never been washed. One little boy was by a small pond that was visibly stagnant and unsuitable for human consumption. Yet, he dipped a big orange container into it to gather water. No doubt he was taking the water home to his mother so she could feed her family. I cried. Lord, please make a way for these people! Dirty, polluted water was all they had access to while we allow the water to run freely without a second thought. After seeing that little boy, my thoughts about the free-flow of water changed drastically. After viewing that scene, I will never view the priceless gift of clean water the same.


My first trip to India was another eye-opener! Having my experiences in Africa, I assumed I was ready for the sights and sounds of India. And, I was partially right, but not totally. The spiritual oppression in India was weighty. Everywhere we looked there were idols and statues of pagan gods and goddesses. The sounds of chanting and strange music kept me on the alert, reminding me that we were in a land where Jesus was the enemy and people who worshiped Him were the minority. In fact, Christians were lower than the lowest caste on their social scale. They were denied the rights of all other citizens who honored the Hindu way of life. And, yes, Hinduism is as much a part of the culture as it is the religion. Only those who reject Hinduism understand just how much it influenced their daily life.

Pastor Prabhakar and his sweet wife, Sumathi, and a slew of kids met us at the airport on my first trip there. All the children were dressed alike in uniforms of blue shorts or skirts and white shirts. They sang a welcome song to us as we exited the airport. It was so sweet! They each took a moment to greet us and put wreaths of marigolds on our necks. The marigold wreaths got so heavy that they were cutting into my neck! Once we were in the vehicle, I had to take some off. (I prayed no one was offended!)

We spent the next 10 days or so learning about the culture, the foods, the ways of life of those living in Andhra Pradesh state. We loved on the children, met the pastors, visited leper colonies, and more. We were blessed to speak at evangelistic meetings and see people respond to the Word of God and the message of freedom, grace and love.

We were invited to attend a House Church Summit in Delhi but, unfortunately, Jeanice ended up sick again. So, I made the trip alone, meeting up with Pastor Prabhakar and a friend from Australia. The meetings were so exciting as we learned how believers in other countries handled persecution by secretly meeting together for fellowship, encouragement, and worship.

The Indian people put great importance on honoring those who have blessed them and encouraged them. This photo was taken in 2007 with Pastor Prabhakar (far right) and his family.

(L to R) Front: Jan, Melissa, Jeanice, Cherry; Back: Devadanam, Suneetha, Chinni, Baby, Sumathi, Jonina (the baby) and Prabhakar.

We took a group of ladies from Potter's House one year introducing them to Pastor Prabhakar and his family while being exposed to the culture in India. It was an amazing trip and many memories are attached to it. Another year, Pastor Doc from the Willard Church of the Nazarene went with us. Unfortunately, he brought home a bad bacterial infection and was sick for a few weeks afterward.

I was personally impacted by the sacrificial life of our pastors. Most of the 34 men live in small villages, some very difficult to access. Some of their churches are in areas where radical Hindus regularly destroy the homes and churches of Christians. Some of our pastors have been beaten, their churches burned, and worse if you can imagine. Yet, they continue to share the Gospel, minister to their congregations, and sponsor evangelistic meetings in their areas.

However, some of the most impactful days were those when we took food and supplies to the leper colonies. Although leprosy could be eradicated, it takes money to be treated. The lower caste people are unable to afford treatment so they suffer much like the lepers in Biblical times. They are outcasts from family and society in general. Pastor Prabhakar serves two leper colonies, each having about +/-20 adults suffering from open wounds, loss of digits and limbs, and ostrasization from family, friends and loved ones. It is a painful life, both physically and emotionally. For an outsider like me, it's unbelievably heart-wrenching to experience.

Because the modern-day leprosy is not contagious, I had no problem touching them. There was a woman on my last trip that hadn't been hugged in years. Her leprosy wasn't readily visible until she lifted her dress to show us where she suffered most. She had an open wound deep into the thigh muscle that eventually would take her leg. She had a few other areas affected but her thigh ... there are simply no words! She remembered me from previous visits and was so happy for the visit; I hugged her and just held her as she cried. Even as I write this I cannot imagine going years without a loving embrace from anyone ... tears well up in my eyes as I remember her frail body fighting the pain of leprosy and loneliness.

Leprosy continues to invade the lives of men, women, and children in third world countries including India. Known as "Hansen's Disease," leprosy first attacks the nervous system and the victim no longer can feel his or her extremities. Injuries, insect or animal bites, or deep bruises can no longer be detected; in their untreated condition, the area becomes infected and dies. While there is treatment to arrest the disease, it is not always readily available to those in impoverished areas. It's not uncommon to find people suffering from this dreaded disease missing toes, fingers, nostrils, ears, and other areas of their infected bodies.
Even though advancements have been made in treating leprosy and a great deal of effort has gone into educating people regarding this ancient disease, those suffering from leprosy remain society's outcasts.
Leprosy is a slowly progressing bacterial infection that affects the skin, peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes. Destruction of the nerve endings causes the the affected areas to lose sensation. Occasionally, because of the loss of feeling, the fingers and toes become mutilated and fall off causing the deformities that are typically associated with the disease.
The infection is characterized by abnormal changes of the skin. These changes, called lesions, are at first flat and red. Upon enlarging, they have irregular shapes and a characteristic appearance. The lesions are typically darker in color around the edges with discolored pale centers. Because the organism grows best at lower temperatures the leprosy bacillus has a preference for the skin, the mucous membranes and the nerves. Infection in and destruction of the nerves leads to sensory loss.
The loss of sensation in the fingers and toes increases the risk of injury. Inadequate care causes infection of open wounds. Gangrene may also follow, causing body tissue to die and become deformed.
Because of the disabling deformities associated with it, leprosy has been considered one of the most dreaded diseases since biblical times, though much of what was called leprosy in the Old Testament most likely was not the same disease. Its victims were often shunned by the community, kept at arm's length, or sent to a leper colony.(1)

The challenge facing these lepers in India is that the treatment is not readily available to them. Treatment can cause the arrest of the disease so it no longer spreads. However, there is no medication that will reverse the damage and deformity of the body. Very often the treatment is out of reach because of proximity or it is only available if one has the money to pay for the medicine through illegal sales of medication.

Perhaps now you may begin to understand why my heart is so bonded with India and ministry to the lepers and the pastors. The poverty and suffering is beyond our comprehension. I truly believe God would have us do whatever is in our power to bring His love in the form of relief to those He has entrusted to our care.

I could spend days and endless pages telling of my experiences in India. Perhaps I'll add more as time goes on. My life has been changed, my heart tendered, and my vision altered because of the priceless sights and sounds of India and it's people. I must return!








South Sudan

South Sudan


On one of our trips to Uganda, I was delayed at immigration at London Heathrow; the lines were long and we didn't have a lot of time between flights. The team went ahead and left me behind. Granted, I volunteered to be the last in line and the one to be left behind but I felt it was my responsibility as President of Heart of God International. This allowed Denise to lead the rest of her team to Guanda.

I was rerouted through the Middle East on Qatar Airlines at a time when radical Muslims were constantly in the news. Suddenly I found myself in an unfamiliar area of Heathrow, herded onto an unfamiliar flight, with an unfamiliar stop in a strange country. This was one of the very few times I was uncomfortably nervous.

Once seated on the plane, I was able to assess my situation and I didn't like it. I was the only non-middle eastern person, a woman among 90% of Muslim passengers on the plane. The strong scent of strange food permeated the air to the point it nearly made me sick. The stewards were kind but it was difficult to understand them with their heavy accents. Although I had been to Israel and was accustomed to food from that part of the world, it was strange to me. I kept wondering if it had been "blessed" by an Imam in some sort of ceremony that would make me sick as a Christian. I was hungry but just picked at the food that looked somewhat familiar ... I didn't get sick!

We landed at the airport in Qatar for a rather lengthy layover, another unusual and unfamiliar situation. The flight to Kampala was assigned a terminal in the lower level of the airport where there were no restrooms or food dispensaries. This made it necessary for me to walk through the upper level and find my way around without losing track of time for my flight out.

The airport was busy with people; the prayer rooms were scattered throughout the upper level and they all had people in them. Prayer rugs and other items were for sale at all the shops. I kept wondering if anyone had a gun or knife under the burkas or hijabs. The bottom line is that I was very uncomfortable in my surroundings and kept the prayer line open to Heaven! Thankfully, once it was time to board the plain to Kampala, I was waiting at the gate to exit this strange airport.


Such a familiar site! I cannot begin to tell you how many hours/days I spent in this airport. It's a major hub for international travel and one of the busiest airports ever. Traveling with teams was fun as there were plenty of shops and kiosks throughout the international terminal, plenty of floor space to nap, and plenty of "Mind Your Step!" announcements by the walkways. While most signage were in Dutch, most had the English translation making it easier to navigate through the terminal.

I loved flying out of Schiphol Airport as it went over Holland. If you had a window seat, you could easily see the waterways. And, if you weren't too high yet, you could catch a glimpse of windmills for which Holland is known.

Perhaps I felt like this was familiar territory since my Bosch/Koelewyn family came from Holland back in the early 1900's. I'd read enough of the family history to know that their roots were deep and some notable people were written into Holland's history.

(1) Encyclopedia of Medicine. Answers Corporation, 2006. Answers.com 12 Aug. 2009.  (Search term: Leprosy)

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