Star Wars Heroes And The Real Deal

Riding into Nairobi is an adrenaline rush.

I got there at about 4pm after the ride from Arusha that included the most confusing border I’ve ever gone through. Due to building works, all the normal roads, gates and signs were missing and I found myself a mile down the road into Kenya without going though the Tanzania exit and Kenyan entry formalities. I was an illegal immigrant! Major no no as I had no visa and I have to register the bike everywhere I go. I could get into a lot of trouble at roadblocks, let alone trying to get into Uganda. I managed to find the way back and got it all sorted thanks to a customs official who tried to be stern and unforgiving but couldn't help laughing. I like Kenyans.

I had been warned about Nairobi traffic but nothing can prepare you for going through the center of town in rush hour on a motorbike. It's total insanity and any road signs or lane markings are purely decorative. Cars and trucks were weaving around everywhere with motorcycles darting in between, trying to find routes through the gridlock. At one point I found myself between two dump trucks angling to try and get into the same lane and slowly getting closer and closer. I was hemmed in from behind with no room to squeeze through the gap. It helped me get in touch with my inner Star Wars and I discovered a deep affinity for how Luke Skywalker and Princess Leah must have felt. I had this sudden urge to shout “R2, shut down all the garbage compactors on the detention level…do it now!!!!”

I managed to get through though and arrived at the house of the Walton’s, the family I was staying with. And what a family. You know when you meet people and just feel better for being around them? Philip, Katherine and their 5 kids are those people.

Phil is a biker and adventurer. He knows more about the KLR I’m riding than I ever will and has some great road stories to tell. He is one of the new breed of business missionaries and sees the world through a kingdom lens that totally resonated with me. He’s also one of the founders of BRCK; a company that has invented a device to bring portable Internet to rural and urban communities in Africa that anyone can access for free. He and his partners are working on getting these devices into schools and have some major plans for how it would transform education in Africa, which totally got my attention. As Phil talked to me about it, I could see his passion, but it really caught fire when he talked about the company being all about Kenyans. He wants this to be the company where Africans come into the West and show them how to do things better and he is deeply committed to social transformation and the concept of a rising Africa. They have major well know backers including one of my favourite rock stars that has a famously social conscience and I think they are going to do it.

We had a great meal with another lovely couple who are also engaged in education and we got to talking about how the church has lots it’s sense of adventure and risk and what that means for young people and their faith. As someone deeply committed to the next generation, Phil and I were on exactly the same page. They don't want something worth living for, they want something worth dying for and it's the challenge and the cause that motivates them, not the smoke and flashing lights. That's why the issue of justice is spoken of so vibrantly by the new generation. So many of them just get it, but will have no truck with the soapbox preachers or the Fox News right wingers.

However it was later in the night that our talk took an unexpected direction. [I asked their permission to write the following story, which they were happy for me to do].

Katherine and Phil sat and talked to me about what happened two years ago. Phil was in the US on business when he got a call from a business partner to say that Terrorists had attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi and that Katherine and the kids were trapped inside. He sat there watching things unfold on TV, while his family remained inside for hours, Katherine and the girls hidden under a table caught in the worst of the crossfire, the two boys hidden in a store room. It’s Katherine and her daughter who became one of the images of the attack and who were on the front pages and in the magazines, as after a few hours, a rescuer engaged the terrorists and called them to run to him while bullets flew everywhere. The African woman who had sheltered their daughter was shot, but the family got out.

Phil told me it shouldn't have happened, that they were fully visible under the table, and you can see them on all the CCTV footage [they are a major part of the HBO-BBC documentary that was made], but that he just felt God telling him to pray in his room, that the terrorists would be confused and cofounded.

I sat as they told me the whole story, glued to every word. I was profoundly moved by their dignity and calmness as they shared about both the event and the after effects. I could sense how this traumatic experience has not impacted their love for Africa and Africans which is deeply inspiring to me. I was able to share a few of my own experiences in Bosnia that were similar, but I never had to protect my family like Katherine did, or sit half way across the world and pray like Phil did. I think the Walton’s are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

I was sad to leave them this morning. I wish I could have stayed longer with this remarkable family and I truly hope I get to hang out with them again.

Leaving Nairobi I rode out in the rain and was passed by two bikers on touring bikes. They waved me into a rest stop so we could chat. I love this new community of bikers that I suddenly feel part of. They were riding from Mombasa and when I told them I had come up from Cape Town they couldn’t believe it. They started asking me all sorts of questions and for touring advice and I suddenly thought…”Wait a minute, they actually think I know what I’m doing”. “Guys seriously” I said, “I’m just a beginner” which made them really laugh. But I am, and all I could think of as I rode away, feeling way cooler than I actually am was, ”Please God, don't let me fall off in front of them”.

I rode down the escarpment into the Great Rift Valley along a Cliffside road with amazing views. I’m living the dream today. I’m now at a camp on the side of Lake Naivasha organized by Ryan and I pretty much love him right now. It’s beautiful! As I rode in I looked to my right and there was a giraffe, 50 feet away. The hippos come out of the lake in the evening right up to the camp fence, so guess where I’ll be hanging out tonight.

It's a rest day tomorrow and I am ready for it. Time to laze up before the last leg, with one more stop in Kenya, one in Uganda and then into Rwanda.

Right, off to have dinner with the hippos. Talk to you soon.

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