For hours, our truck undulated back and forth over the rough roads. There is a point where the bones in your body begin to creak and moan from the pain of the endless hiccupping from one pothole to the next. We were on our way to Pokhari, a small village south of Gorkha town in east central Nepal.

Pokhari was hit hard by the first earthquake two weeks ago. From all the reports, there was nearly nothing left of it. A few days prior, Tim Darms had done an assessment in the village and come to find out that after the quake, the freshwater spring in their village had stopped flowing and now they were walking long distances for water. Those that didn’t walk the distance for water collected water from what was left of the spring: a muddy puddle. A medical team reported cases of bloody diarrhea in the children, and all evidence pointed to the water source. Pokhari needed water. They needed help.

This installation was several days in the making and we had spent the last week moving pieces around the chessboard to be able to accomplish this. It was going to take over a kilometer of piping to move water form a nearby source to the center of the destroyed village. To say Pokhari is remote would be an understatement. It is located about 2000 feet on top of a ridge, deep inside a valley, several hours outside of Kathmandu. To move the heavy piping and machinery, we had a helicopter lift scheduled the following morning from the valley floor to a loading zone on one of the terraces high on the ridge.

The plan was for the team to hike up very early in the morning, mark out a loading zone for the chopper and then wait for the lift to happen around mid-morning. Everything had to go perfectly.

As we rolled up on our campsite at the base of the trailhead, there was anticipation in the best of forms. A nervousness surrounded our camp as we all continued to dream and scheme about the installation slated for tomorrow. There were a lot of moving pieces. The final preparations were set, tents pitched, and a few hours of sleep were in order.

When a helicopter touches down, it doesn’t do so politely. Its rotor blast kicks up a dust storm big enough to temporarily blind the ground crew, which in this case was Seth, Craig and myself. The rest of the team had begun hiking early and had already reached the landing zone on the top of the ridge in Pokhari. It was now up to the three of us, plus a few other friends made the day prior to load the piping and chlorinator elements into the chopper at the valley floor.

We loaded the piping in the backseat, and the other elements into the cargo holds. I jumped in the front seat to join the team up top. It took two runs of the chopper from the valley floor to the top LZ to get all the piping, but we got it there. As we were flying through the valley and up to the loading zone, I could just barely see the Himalayas in the background. Their snow-covered peaks were parading in stillness just past green hills in the foreground. It was just a very gentle reminder of the beauty and majesty that exist here in Nepal. In the midst of the chaos and the destruction, it seems that the Lord always sends these calming reminders that He is with us and that He is upstairs cheering us on.

As the chopper took off and the humming pitch cleared the valley, we all began gathering the load and moving it into place. From there, we nearly immediately went to work. Pitching tents. Making camp. Coordinating with the community. Mapping out the source. Finding the bladder installation location. It was clockwork and we were the timekeepers. Tim led the team like a champ, moving each of us, including myself to accomplish different jobs from laying the piping to creating a catchment tank for the clear spring up top. Tosa went to work on the chlorinator, the bladder tank and the tap stands, while we were moving 1km of piping into place.

I’ve worked in the developing world for nearly a decade now and have visited many communities in different cultures around the world and there was something very unique about this community. The way they were fully involved, every one of them, from the youngest to the oldest. If they weren’t lifting, they were digging. If they weren’t digging, they were finding tools we didn’t have and needed. It was quite special to see how involved they were in the entire process.

By the end of the first day, we had water flowing from the spring through the chlorinator and into the bladder. It was an unbelievable accomplishment given the circumstances of the day, but we had succeeded.

It was dark and so we all retreated to our campsite that we had made on the loading zone where the chopper had just 7 hours prior dropped off our kit. We built a little campfire and all sat around it and told stories from the day. There were several of us, a varying international contingent with 5 continents represented sitting around that campfire. The stars came out in full force and one by one we each retreated to our tents as the fire dwindled.

The next morning, we awoke to find that the community had done extra work through the night. They had run extra piping from the school to another tap stand in the village about 300 meters away. There wasn’t much work left to do, just putting the finishing touches on the system and doing a bit of training. The community was ecstatic. There were smiles and laughter overshadowing the sadness.

There was no official opening of the system. There wasn’t really time, but there was a quick ceremony where the community gave us all flowers and gifts they had made. It was officially operating and functioning and there was water in the community that less that 24 hours ago had not had it.

We packed up camp and started the long hike down the mountain. The hike was the equivalent of 3000 feet of stairs. We were moving at a fairly quick pace as we were sort of racing against the clock to get back before dark. We still had a 3-4hr drive ahead of us before we could reach any kind of civilization. A few minutes into our hike, it was clear that Tosa started to struggle. Without hesitation, Tim stopped and walked right next to Tosa. He carried out the entire rest of the hike at Tosa’s pace. It was at that moment that I truly understood what was happening. When you’re struggling, you just want somebody to be there for you. You just want somebody to say: “Hey man, I’m with you.” What Tim did for Tosa is exactly what we had just done for Pokhari. In the middle of their struggle, we came alongside, put our hand in their hand, our arm on their shoulder and said: “We are with you guys. We are here for you.” I think by doing that, we were able to inject hope into our friends in Pokhari the same way Jesus injects hope into our lives. He is the Great Provider, the One Who Is Always There. He is always walking next to us saying, “I’m with you.”

The Aberdares

The terrain is confused. In the beginning, it thinks it belongs to a form of moorish highlands, almost straight from any Scottish movie. The small shrubs scatter themselves across the rolling high plains and at 11,000ft, tiny streams carve their descent through the rolling hills. But in another moment, the bamboo overtakes the shrubs and gives way to a large deciduous forest. As we pass through different portions of the Aberdare range in central Kenya, I'm reminded much of Africa. This continent is fickle, quick to change its mind, almost like a teenager, trying to figure out how it should act in light of much of its current growth. It tends to sway from one extreme to the other, often boring you with its childish behavior, but sometimes, in its most mature moments, surprising you with inklings of adulthood. Africa is changing quickly. Domino's pizza will now deliver to any door in Nairobi within 15 minutes and as we watch commerce tug at tradition, it is nice to know there are still wild places like the Aberdares.

The Fire

The wind picked up the fire and carried it to then next hilltop.  It was midnight, but the valley was awake, glowing from every direction. Fire of this magnitude is difficult to describe.  It brings a sense of urgency, it creates its own ecosystem of need.  The fire needs water, extinguishing, man-power.  If it doesn't get the things it needs, it will destroy whatever is in its path.  In this case, us and our tented camp at the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy in the highlands of Laikipia, Kenya.  The fire surrounded us, in every direction.  It was clearly arson, a sad, Boxing-Day attempt to destroy the traditional stay of conservation: tourism.

There were only a few of us, maybe 15 men and women, armed only with a few small branches and some rudimentary fire-beaters, tasked with extinguishing hundreds of acres of brush fire.  Fire makes you hyper-aware. In our case, it was an awareness that nobody else was coming to help.  We were on our own.

The smoke didn't linger in the crevasses of the hills, it couldn't, it went with the wind, the howling wind. It hurts to inhale nothing but smoke.  In several cases, it was only after one fire was extinguished would we find any oxygen that wasn't being inhaled by the flame. For hours, we would put out one fire and then move onto another somewhere else in the valley. Just after 2am, we extinguished the last of fires.  Finally, we could breathe. 

There is more to this story.  It is about more than fire, it is about conservation and the fight to preserve what is left of Africa's wilderness.  Stay tuned for more...


The land hid itself from us, socked in under the veil of an ominous fog. I know there is more to see, more to know about this land, these people. It is begging to be understood, explained, but it is a shy creature, awkward, only revealing what it must. In some ways I’m thankful for the fog because I know what lies under it is an incredible organism, living, vibrant and begging for my return. I think sometimes imagining what the land could be is almost more powerful than knowing exactly what it is.  Mystery is the greatest compelling factor in adventure.  

What I saw of the Guatemalan Altiplano was fascinating—its tiny streams carving out homes between the patchwork fields and the gold, undulating hills and its people who welcomed us as warmly as the colors on their brightly patterned shawls. I hope to return soon.

Africa, Mostly From Above, but Some from Below

"Africa is never the same to anyone who leaves it and returns again. It is not a land of change, but it is a land of moods and its moods are numberless. It is not fickle, but because it has mothered not only men, but races, and cradled not only cities, but civilizations — and seen them die, and seen new ones born again — Africa can be dispassionate, indifferent, warm, or cynical, replete with the weariness of too much wisdom. Today Africa may seem to be that ever-promised land, almost achieved; but tomorrow it may be a dark land again, drawn into itself, contemptuous, and impatient with the futility of eager men who have scrambled over it since the experiment of Eden. In the family of continents, Africa is the silent, the brooding sister, courted for centuries by knight-errant empires — rejecting them one by one and severally, because she is too sage and a little bored with the importunity of it all."

Go Get the Frame

I typically have a very strict ban on souvenirs.  They remind of me of old people and the smoky atmosphere of my grandparents’ condo and I guess that’s something I have a tendency to want to avoid.  My grandparents had a lot of souvenirs from their adventures around the globe.  I remember an entire wall of their house was dedicated to souvenirs from Asia.  In his younger years, my grandfather had fought in WWII and served as a judge in some of the post-war tribunals in Asia.  He would tell stories of families of Japanese war veterans attempting to bribe him with large paintings and souvenirs of all sorts.  I always wanted to picture Grandpa as an upright man, but I suppose it is questionable how those trinkets and paintings made it back to America and onto his and grandma’s walls.  

However they ended up there, I suppose they helped grandpa and grandma connect back to those past memories and special moments in their own lives.  I guess that’s what souvenirs are meant to do.  They are to serve as a trigger, a gadget of nostalgia placed strategically to help churn memories of places, people and things long gone.   

The older I get, the more I’m struggling with living in the moment, the more I’m catching myself dreaming of some far off trip from years ago.  I keep finding myself in the middle of these moments that have long passed and remembering the good things that came with them.

I suppose that’s how life works.  The younger we are, the more time we spend dreaming of what is to come and the things we want for our futures.  And the older we get, the more time we spend digging through our memory in attempt to get back to some point where life was easier, or simpler or just made more sense.  I’m finding it’s easy to look backwards.  Stories are always easier when you tell them than when you are in midst of living them.  Somehow the pain has a tendency to fade away with time and be more dulled down in the story version than it was in real life.  It’s also easy to look forward.  The future is always covered with the gloss of potential and so it seems shiny and easy to look forward to.  

Even with this recognition of this growing sense of nostalgia within me and with the recognition that the future version of myself will want to look backwards even more, I still don’t buy souvenirs.  For me, I think photographs have taken their place and have a tendency to fill this void.  When I look at the photographs from years past, they serve as the monuments that help me know where I’ve been and remember the friends with whom my journey has intersected.  

This theory is good, however, on a recent trip to Uganda, I found myself stuck on a large painting I saw on a shop wall.  The size and colors of the painting sparked my interest.  It was huge and it was as vibrant as it was large.  I thought it would look nice on the wall next to some of the photographs in my room and as I began to examine the details, the painting roughly resembled a vision of a Congolese village I had years ago.  I suppose if I deeply examined the piece, it reminded me of some far off adventure I hadn’t had yet.  It reminded me of Congo and the dreams I’ve had about that country.  

The little characters in the painting were each up to their own little mystical dramas and they each probably had tremendous stories to tell of the war and of their loved ones and of the things God was doing there.  Things I could only imagine.  It reminded me of things to come and of the dream of someday finding ways to invest love into that war-torn country.  I guess the painting came with this simple idea that if I continued to chase after the Lord and dig in with a sustained faithfulness that he would continue to pave the way for those things to come.

I could feel my hard-placed inhibitions against travel souvenirs going out the window with the purchase of this painting.   I still can’t quite explain why I purchased it, but I did.   I had the artist take it off the frame, roll it up in a tube and I gave it to Brian to fly back to the US for me.  I had to stay in Africa for several more months prior to coming back to the states and I didn’t want to carry it around with me.

I returned home several weeks ago and when I got back, Brian had left the tube with the painting on my bed.  It was exactly how I remembered.  The little characters in the painting were even more colorful and life-filled than they had been when I first saw it in Africa.  Everything in me couldn’t wait to build the frame and get the painting on the wall where it was made to be.  

In the US, I live in a spare bedroom of a house that belongs to two of my best friends. It’s an average sized room, but once you fill it with my desk, the film equipment cases and laundry baskets that hold my clothes, there isn’t much room left for other things. The painting is big, and as with so many of the other things in my life, the intention to frame it and put it on the wall was quickly upstaged by the pulls of a reality where there is never enough time.  I started traveling again and my pace of life was quickly back to light speed.  For the past several weeks, the painting would be sitting on my bed during the day.   At night, when it was time to sleep, I would pick up the un-framed canvas and move it to the middle of my floor and when I woke up, I would make my bed and immediately move it back onto my bed so I could maneuver around my room.  This went on for 5 weeks.  

Every morning, I would wake up and acknowledge that the painting was made to be on the wall where it could display its beautiful drama to anybody who came by to visit, but there was still this little part of me that said, ‘It will be okay, I will just do that later.’  I think I knew it belonged on the wall, but I also knew it would take work in order to get it there.  It would take me going to Home Depot, buying the wood, the screws, the staples, measuring, sawing and constructing the frame.  I think it was a bit of laziness in me that was scared of the hard work, even though I know that all good things require work.  Add on that my walls are already filled with fantastic images from the past couple years.  Even if I did frame the painting, I would have to take something good down, something that I already enjoyed having on my wall, in order to put up the new canvas.  I don’t like change, I like things to be as they always have been.  

I was telling my friend Dave about the painting last week and about how I was moving it from my bed to the floor everyday and about how I thought it actually represented so many of the things in my life at the moment.  About how the Lord keeps putting these incredible things into my life that he is calling me to be faithful to, and how I keep saying yes, but then differing them to a later time when the chaos of life may be less or to a time where I may not be as scared of the responsibilities and work that will come with those things.  I know the Lord has made me to do certain things, some of them difficult and far beyond my capacity and its those things that my youthfulness tends to want to defer to some future, more mature version of myself to accomplish.  I guess I think that if I can place them far enough in the future, even those hard things will look nice and glossy and become easy, or at least easier than they would be now.

I told Dave about some of those things that I felt like the Lord was calling me to, some of the things I’m scared of, but know I need to be chasing.  I told him about my ideas for Congo and how we want to work with kids there.  I told him that I know the painting was just a metaphor for faithfulness and how badly I not only wanted to see the painting up on the wall but how badly I was longing for that deep and sustained faithfulness that only comes from day-by-day obedience, from doing the hard work.  I told him about how I knew that putting up the painting would require me taking down some other things, about how in order to chase some of these new things that the Lord is navigating me towards, it may require me to quit some of the things I’m doing now, good things.  I told him I knew all these things, but still I hadn’t acted on any of them.

Without missing a beat, Dave said, “Well man, it sounds like you know what you need to do.  You need stop talking about these things and you need to go get the frame.”  

Go get the frame.  – This was the phrase I needed to hear and it was the phrase I heard for the next 3 days until I sent Dave a photo of the painting up above my bed.  I’m so glad I have friends like Dave who will constantly redirect me towards the things I know I’m made to do.  And without hesitation put me in the place where I know I need to be.

We all are made to do things, special things that the Lord has pre-programmed us to do.  He has built each one of us to be great at those things.  I think I have a tendency to settle for good, or just good enough and not push for the great things I know the Lord is moving me towards and has engineered me for.  But good is easy, and I'm sick of good.  Starting now, I want great. 

Moving into this next season of life is going to be difficult.  It’s going to require sacrifice beyond what I have.  Its going to require hard work and lots of it.  It’s going to require a sustaining obedience--the kind that hurts. Its going to require me ‘getting the frame’ everyday, without hesitation.

And after all, I guess I’m glad I bought that painting.  I’m glad it’s on the wall because there it can act as a souvenir.  And like souvenirs should, it will remind me of the intersection where I launched out on to this great adventure, of the friends and people on the adventure with us and of Jesus and his constant faithfulness.  It will sit there on the wall, where its made to be, reminding me that I should be pushing towards the things the Lord made me to be.


Dispatches from the American West

I arrived back home yesterday and am already missing Big Sky.  It was an incredible time of slowing down and reflecting on seasons past. For me, sometimes the best way to pursue forward progress is to turn around and take one step back in order to better understand my own past. Life, and maybe especially mine, happens at such an blitzing pace that an understanding of my story, of the things The Lord has done in my life, becomes increasingly fragmented.  Looking backwards provides a stronger connection to and better understanding of that story.  It serves as a sort of navigational redirection back towards the things that I know to be true, but may have just forgotten.


I think, at least to me, photographs act as a sort of monument. They help me to know where I've been and what the Lord has done in those moments. They serve as a benchmark to help remember the friends with whom my journey has intersected and the incredible stories those friends are living every day. And when I look back through the photos of the past years, it helps me better understand my own story as I realize how entwined my story is with the stories of those I've met along the way.

Dusk overlooking the river valley in the Aberdares, Central Kenya

Dusk overlooking the river valley in the Aberdares, Central Kenya

Planting Expectation

Joseph, Agnes and sweet little Irene. Irene wants to be a judge when she grows up so she can help people who are hurting by administering justice. -- I believe in her and I know she can do it. I think everyday we have the ability to plant expectation and hope in those around us. And, when we do, those little seeds tend to grow up and accomplish incredible things. - I believe in you Irene.

The Risk

"We believe in God—such as it is, we have faith—because certain things happened to us once and go on happening. We work and goof off, we love and dream, we have wonderful times and awful times, are cruelly hurt and hurt others cruelly, get mad and bored and scared stiff and ache with desire, do all such human things as these, and if our faith is not mainly just window dressing or a rabbit's foot or fire insurance, it is because it grows out of precisely this kind of rich human compost. The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with those moments, if we don't stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us and around us and inside us, we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God too."

Lake Naivasha at Sunset, Kenya

Lake Naivasha at Sunset, Kenya

Lake Turkana

When you are looking down from 30,000 feet, everything seems so simple.  It seems peaceful & easy.  But, we must know the reality on the ground is always much harder.  There are still traffic jams, deadlines, & always friction that we can't see from above.  Sometimes, I think faith is like this.  At 30,000 feet, its really easy to understand and it even makes sense, but at the ground level, its almost impossible to do.  It is messy, difficult and everyday requires us to sacrifice more than we have.

The Turkwel River running into Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya.

The Turkwel River running into Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya.

Clouds of Lodwar Region, Northern Kenya.

Clouds of Lodwar Region, Northern Kenya.

Guiding Light

We had a full moon last night in Cape Town.  I love full moons because they reflect light where there is normally nothing but shadow. 

Cape Town, South Africa - The view from Signal Hill.  Full Moon, City lights and Table Mountain covered in an ominous cloud. 

Cape Town, South Africa - The view from Signal Hill.  Full Moon, City lights and Table Mountain covered in an ominous cloud. 

I think when you are sitting on a hill, looking down on something beautiful, it's easy to process life.  There is something about the openness of a view that, at least for me, brings clarity in the midst of sometimes foggy realities. 

Last night while watching the moon illuminate the city, I was just thinking on how so many of the people in my life have been that simple reflection of light into my sometimes shadowy life.  I’ve been doing quite a bit of looking back the past few months.  I guess it’s just an attempt to try to understand the past seasons of my life and what the Lord has been doing through those past seasons. 

Ultimately, I am where I am because of the collection of seasons past, because of the intersections of people, the orchestration of the Most High, and a combo of faithfulness and unfaithfulness.

One of the things that continues to stand out through these examinations of the past is my thankfulness for the men who invested in my life when I was a punk teenager.  Those years were so formative and watching those guys, older than I, navigate through life helped me understand so many things.  It built perspective on what was important and about how crazy God is about each of us.  So to those guys, Thanks.   Thanks for your selfless wisdom, your perseverance and thanks for being a shining reflection of Something/Somebody much greater. Keep launching people.  It will change the world.


To us, whose hearts have been gripped by the soft and gentle hand of Africa, we find a certain nostalgia exists for the hours just before sunset. There is a sort of ballet that occurs in this moment, a perfect dance between the murky evening air and the glow of the lingering sun just before making its final curtsy. It is an indescribable luminescence and no other place or hour is this dance so profound than here in the heart of Africa. Every time I leave, I miss this moment, where the cools of the evening and the radiant glow provide a time of gentle calm and reflection in the midst of the chaos.