African Mission

Carrie Roesser is a member of Covenant Players, a non-denominational Christian theatre company engaged in spreading the Gospel through drama and music. Covenant Players has about 500 members working throughout the United States and in 28 foreign countries. Traveling in small groups of 3 or 4, they perform their Christian oriented programs in schools, churches, prisons, nursing homes, military bases and many other settings. Carrie has been a member of Covenant Players for the past five years, traveling extensively throughout the United States and Europe. This summer, she accepted a new challenge in her ministry, to work among the native people in several third world countries. This will be the continuing story of her current mission to Africa, which began at the end of August 1995 and will continue through June 1996. The story will be added to each time Carrie is able to phone or write with some interesting information about the mission.

August 15, 1995,
Carrie and Isabella , a young woman from Poland, learned they would be assigned to a mission in East Africa, including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. They were instructed to try to locate John, a young African man who lives in Kenya and wishes to become a Covenant Player.

August 25, Carrie and Isabella flew from Frankfurt, Germany, to Nairobe, Kenya, with a short stop in Cairo. They left the airport by car and observed a large herd of giraffes just five minutes from the airport. Soon they arrived at the first of many host homes which they will stay at during their mission. The home is owned by an African man and his American wife, and is very large. They have seven dogs to protect the property from the many thieves who abound here. The first couple weeks will be spent getting organized and perfoming at several local churches in Nairobi. A primary objective will be to locate John, since he will become an important member of the team. Locating him will be a formidable task, since he lives in the bush and of course, has no phone.

September 16, Carrie called to wish her mother a happy birthday and to bring us up to date on her activities so far. They were successful in locating the third member of their unit, but it was not easy. They rode a bus for eight hours to reach the youth camp John had been working as a counselor at. When they found him, he took them to his home, which was a six mile walk into the bush. His family greeted the three enthusiastically and invited them into their home, which is a clay hut with a palm frond roof. Of course, electricity and running water do not exist. Some of the villagers must walk for a full day round trip to obtain water which they carry home in plastic buckets on their heads. To honor the visitors, John's sister made a sort of grating sound with her mouth which caused all of the family's chickens to come to her. They killed one of the chickens and cooked it over an open fire for their guests. Carrie will leave Monday for a small city north of Nairobi, where they will spend two weeks performing at local churches. Although some of the churches are nice , many of them are little more than clay huts.

September 23, we received a postcard from Carrie, sent a couple of weeks ago and we also received an E-Mail message which was sent only minutes before we received it. I was very surprised to get an E-Mail message from Africa and we responded back immediately. In her postcard, she relates that the "hair dresser" in Kenya has an open air shop consisting of three chairs around a tree with mirrors nailed on the tree. She also tells how the locals paint the lines on roads by hand, and while they are at it, they paint the inside of the potholes, which are many and large.

September 30, Carrie phoned again with exciting news of their recent "Safari" into the Samburu Game Park, in Kenya. They took four of the street kids they have been working with on the trip. Just about every African animal imagineable was observed up close. They are at the World Reach children's center, which is in a bush village at the base of Mount Kenya where they are working with many high school age kids, as well as many homeless and street kids. She indicated that the older kids are so much better behaved than the younger students they have been with last week. The young kids are very difficult to keep under control, with frequent cane beatings given by their teachers. This was very disturbing to the missioners, although John, a native African, explained that it is a common practice in their culture. The group will return to Nairobi soon, and will go to Uganda later this month.

October 18, we received several brief E-mail and phone messages recently as the group prepares to leave for Uganda. Many details such as visas, passports,travel arrangements etc. had to taken care of, amid a very busy schedule of performances. The busy schedule resulted in considerable contributions which will come in very handy in the next few months. The group has been promised a house to stay in and transportation to the many places they are scheduled to perform while in Uganda. It is not clear whether much communication will be possible during the two months in Uganda, as the country is not as well developed as Kenya. Carrie hopes to be able to send E-mail through a university there, so they will not be totally out of contact.

October 28, in a letter, Carrie writes "What a day today was. It's our first Sunday in Kampula, Uganda. We had 2 programmes this AM. We walked 1/2 hour to our first church. It was hot and sunny and I remember thanking God for the slight breeze. I wore African clothing with my back brace underneath, and my white sandals which I live in now. The church consisted of boards nailed together for walls, a tin roof, dirt floor and some poles to hold it up. There were strings running from pole to pole and when we arrived this AM they had pink and blue toilet paper everywhere. Just before we were introduced, as we were setting up backstage (outside the church) it began to sprinkle. By the time I finished my introduction, it was pouring and Isabella and John were outside geting soaked. Then as they performed the first play, it was my turn to stand outside in the rain. The plays are translated into Swahili by Annette, who will be with us for the next two months. Well, then it was time for our longer play, a Biblical play with Martha, Mary Magdalene and Thomas, just after Jesus was arrested. Isabelle and I entered the "stage" just as it began to down pour. Keep in mind this was a tin roof, so basically they could not hear anything. I could not hear Isabelle who was on stage with me. I kept praying that God would quiet the rains and wondered if I should stop the play altogether. But we plowed through, ending just in time to leave for the next church to perform again. One small problem. Since the streets are all dirt here, we found ourselves driving in deep mud. If you think driving on ice is bad, try driving on mud. The car slid off the road several times, and we got stuck. We finally got out and walked. Imagine it, white sandals, pouring rain, deep mud, walking up a hill to a church. This one had walls and a roof, but no doors or windows. We arrived during the preaching, which in itself is an experience to behold. It turns out that this man was preaching on precisely what we were going to do our plays on. We were not given a theme, so that must have been Divine inspiration. Finally we got to our host home, where we share a room with our hostess, who never looks into our eyes. This is a sign of respect here, but it makes me crazy. We also share the room with a lizard, several mice and some big cockroaches, the largest of which we have named Willie. For dinner we cooked some rice and onions, after spending considerable time sorting the rice grains from the stones, bugs, dirt and other stuff in it.....I will look for an email address to send you further details."

November 11, Carrie wrote ".... We are still in Kampala, but will be heading north to Fort Portral soon. Uganda is beautiful and so much nicer then Kenya, but they are poorer here and so are we. I've never been faced with such challenges, at times there is no food and we haven't enough money even for bread, but then just in time God provides in some wonderful way. That doesn't mean however that I wouldn't appreciate another package with goodies to eat and the other things we had talked about (Mom & I). We had a great time in the bush last weekend. Sleeping on the floor in a clay hut and the couldn't believe, but it was great! ..."

November 20th, update by Elisa Roesser
We spoke with Carrie at 2am (ughh)Sunday Nov. 19. She wished us a Happy Anniversary and got to speak briefly with John who is home for the hunting season and Thanksgiving. The conversation was a challenge because we were groggy and the background noise was intense. In Uganda in order to recieve international calls you have to go to the post office and wait for your call. Carrie said they have spent quite a bit of time in the bush and consequently her back is sore due to the fact that they sit on the ground with no back support (chairs are non-existent). Also the diet has left a lot to be desired - green bananas cooked daily are a staple called matoke, fish cooked and eaten with heads attached, and some rice but little else. Carrie's work has it's high points also. She was asked to choose a name for a newborn baby girl so she named her Elisa Christina (after me and Isa's Mom). So somewhere in Uganda I have namesake !! I was thrilled and honored.

December 4th, Carrie wrote..
"Hi guys, long time no E mail, but I managed to get back to Vicki's place one last time and figured I'd send one off. First let me tell you I got both my packages last week-Thank you so very much...I loved them! I had just arrived back in town after the longest week of my life. Shortly after arriving up north, Iza fell ill so John and I were performing without her. Sat PM she was hospitalized with Malaria. There was no room for her and no nurses available, so she slept on the doctor's room examining table and I on the floor to care for her. I was up all night trying to help her drink somethink, holding her when she was ill and trying desperatly to learn the major play that John and I had to perform the next AM. We were broke and having problems with one of the pastors and hosts. It's a long story, but we found a man who pastors a large church here, loves our ministry and preaches in America 3 months of every year so he understands life on the road. His church paid our hospital bill by raising more money than they ever had before after John and I did that play Sun am. He found us a very comfortable, quiet host home where she could recover and get back her strength so that we could travel again, and he made sure John and I were eating well and had everyting we needed. He was a angel from God I'm sure. Anyway Iza is fine now and we are back in Kampala preparing to head back to Nairobi next Mon 11 Dec. But I am tired! I'll really need our holiday when it finally comes-I've wished more than once this week that I wasn't the leader. But I'm OK!... I'll be on E mail access after 20 Dec I think..... I sent you a package today airmail so I'm hoping it will arrive before Christmas. Got to go... Love Care."

December 7th, it was 3 AM our time (10AM in Africa), but it was the only "window" during which we could phone Carrie. She had notified us in her last E-mail that she would be at the post office then. We were greatly releived to hear that Isabella has recovered from her Malaria, and the group is rested and preparing for the long bus ride back to Kenya. They will leave on December 11th, early in the morning, and arrive in Nairobi that evening.

December 8th. Today we received a package from Carrie with baskets, pictures, ( click the underlined links to view them) paintings and other memorabilia.

December 12, Email from Carrie, edited for spelling:
" Hi guys, I'm Back in Nairobi safe and sound. We did take the expensive bus and we rode all 10 hours in sheer comfort. However, the person who was supposed to pick us up at the station never came. Without giving you the long story, let's just say the past 24 hours have been terrible! The bright side is, we are currently at the home of our contact church in a beautiful house and just finished a great meal and I just got off the phone with some Americans who have agreed to have for Christmas!! They have E mail access too and a phone and a big fridge and maybe even running HOT water. Today is Iza's B-day and it was borderline disasterous, by noon we were in tears not knowing where we would sleep tonight and out of money and we couldn't find a working phone anywhere in the city (I tried the 7 I could walk to) Today was a public holiday so everything was closed I couldn't even buy a cake. But our hosts came to the rescue and baked a big cake for her. My leadership has been a great challenge these past few weeks, sometimes I wonder if it's too much for me, but then God does something incredible and I realize I never should have tried making decisions without him in the first place. I will call this weekend at some point. Remind me to tell you about Steven Segal, our last Sun in Kampala and our last PM. It's harder to be in Kenya now after being in Uganda. I'm sure it will pass and I'll get used to it again but right now I hate it here- people are rude and they live with such low standards. In Uganda we were poor, but the people respect themselves and others. Anyway, I'll talk to you soon. ....."

December 24th, email from Carrie
Hi Guys! It's Christmas Eve. I got my tiny tree today, put my disco Christmas lights on it and my tiny ornaments and little red bows. All the presents are under it. It looks nice, but it's not home and there is nothing to open from home (don't feel bad, you've sent me plenty already) so I'm missing you terribly, thinking about you at Mo and To's tonight. I've been teaching John how to bake Christmas cookies all day. We just finished a wonderful meal of fondue. We'll be watching a video (Miracle on 34th street) tonight. It was a pleasant and warm day for sunbathing, but I just could'nt bring myself to. In fact, I was wearing a turtleneck to try to convince myself it was cold outside, eventually I had to put on shorts. The Bakers are great and our home is very comfortable. I can take a shower and dry my hair every day. They have 10 puppies and a bunny (no it's not for Christmas dinner). I'm looking forward to talking to you on the phone tomorrow. Merry Christmas! Praise the Lord! Drive carefully! Put a piece of coal in my stocking for me. Bye! Care.

January 2nd, email from Carrie
Hi Wazee, for the interest of your Swahili learning that means "old People". Thanks for the Email of New years. I was going to call at midnight, but I slept through yours. What did you do? We were with other missionaries playing games and at midnight we went outside and lit some fire works but it was a far cry from last new years with Troy. Oh well, it was nice and next year I'll be home. I wanted to answer some of Mom's questions for your African unit. Firstly, Kwanzaa means first and if by that you mean you want to know if the first of the year is a big celebration here, well, it's much like Christmas in that they get together with family and eat a lot. But it's not celebrated like in the west.. Games: They play pass the current, where everyone stands in two lines making them two teams. Then each line holds hands and when the leader says go, they squeeze the hand of the next person and the first line to get the current passed to the end wins. Otherwise, They play checkers, but they use soda bottle tops as checkers on a home made board. Also, they play with a ball, but they make the ball themselves. it's usually paper or old rags rolled up and tied together with rope. Your kids should make one and then play kickball or something. There isn't a lot of room for playing though, because right after school, the girls must collect firewood and water that they walk a long way to get and carry it back on their heads. The boys go to tend the cows, goats or sheep. But mostly they are not in a pasture, the boys job is to keep them off the road and keep them from getting run over. It is very common to see young boys with a stick that they use to steer the animals by hitting them on the butt, walking along side the road. As for Family life, well, I personally don't like it. The women and children are almost slaves for the men. I have never seen a man holding a child here. It's a disgrace apparently. Also I have never seen the women or children cry. And of course in most areas where there is not electric, there is little you can do after dark. Most of the men go to the town centre and drink. It is common place to find the drunkards walking the streets. But I suppose that is common in any country. All children in African wear uniforms to school. The color of your uniform is how you tell who is from which school. You know the form of punishments, but did I tell you that for the older students who are too old for the cane, their punishment is to work in the farm of the school? Most schools have a small farm and a cow or two for milk. I haven't learned any tribal dances, but each young person is taught them from the start. They do dance in church - all denominations. The services are never less then 2-3 hours. There is plenty of drum beating and shouting and dancing. Now lastly to food. In Kenya the typical meal for a family would be ugali and sakumawiki. Not sure if they are spelled right. They first is crushed corn that is cooked into a thick white fairly tasteless food. the latter is a veggie that is green from the spinach family but bitter. I call it landweed because it resembles seaweed so much. Actually when it is cooked right, I like it. Both of these are served in a bowl and eaten with the fingers. Then of course sometimes there is chicken that is very hard to chew. I'm not sure what happens to the white meat because when ever I've had it hear I've only found wings, legs, necks and feet. Go figure. Anyway, hope that helps. I'm leaving here tomorrow to go back to the Winters where I was just before here. If you want to Email me there I'm there until Sun am.

January 15th EMail from Carrie
"Guess what I ate today? Two game meats that I can't spell: hardabeast and something like a elk, one of the animals from the pics. It was yummy. They were out of Zebra and croc so...maybe next time. " On wed I will head down to Mobassa for one week before going to Tanzania (Moshi 1st) we will be in Tanzania until April 16. If you'd like to call me this weekend, call (254) 2- 512344. Otherwise, I'll try from Mombassa because I don't know what the phone situation will be in Tanzania.

February 4th, letter from Carrie
"Hello from hot Mombassa! I'm in the tropics now. My hosts have banana, mango, lemon, coconut, passion fruit and papaya trees growing in the front yard. Yesterday as we rounded the corner by the mall, we had to stop because there in the middle of the road stood a camel eating a tree. I Laughed. I had to go to the doctor today. I had a high fever and head aches, and diarrhea. I thought it was heat exhaustion or over exposure to the sun, but I wanted to be sure it wasn't malaria. I was waiting in an outdoor waiting area when a nurse came out and said I would have to be admitted because I had malaria. I cried, it couldn't be happening, we were supposed to leave for Tanzania the next day, and we were broke. Then the doctor called me in and confirmed that I had malaria and would have to have to be hospitalized, and how much it would cost. By chance, I looked at the file he had in front of him and said "excuse me, but that's not my name. I'm American, not German. Sure enough, they had someone elses test results. I was releived and went home, but the poor girl with malaria was very sick and had to be admitted. (Second letter) We are in Moshi, Tanzania. It's also hot! We are at the base of a hill they call Kilamanjaro. I think it looks like a bump with snow on top - but they are very proud of it, so I say ooh and aah with the best of them. I am feeling much better and we are performing a lot. Tanzania is behind a bit from Kenya and Uganda. The public transportation is scarce, and the vehicles are ancient. Phones do not work well and the roads are terrible. You can buy most things that you can in Kenya but at a higher price. People seem to beg more here and life in general is slower. We will be leaving soon for Dar es salaam, which is the largest metropolis here.

March 24th letter from Carrie,..
"We find ourselves once again in the phoneless, waterless, heat stricken Dar es Salaam! We returned from Zanzibar on Friday. Zanzibar was beautiful - white sandy beaches and warm emerald water. We performed in the high Anglican cathedral near the former slave market. It is in the heart of Stone town, which is named for the particular way of constructing houses. Lot's of tourists about. The worst thing about the tourists is the way they do not respect the local culture. For example, it's a Muslim community, as are most coastal regions in East Africa. Women cover their entire bodies, except their face. It is highly offensive to have bare arms or legs, yet the tourists wear bathing suit tops and shorts. The Muslim men enjoy it, but I can't see how they can behave that way. As it is, after living here seven months, I feel naked if my skirt isn't down to my ankles. Sometimes in the city I go sleeveless, but never in the villages or on Zanzibar. The food at our guest home on the east coast was so bad that we paid local people to cook for us. They would boil eggs for lunch and we'd eat them with crackers. At mid day we each ate a coconut from a local tree. Then at night they would prepare cassava in coconut sauce and fresh fish. It wasn't bad and it sure beat the restaurant. Today we performed in a Presbyterian church and did a play called "The Triumph", about palm Sunday (a week early). It went surprisingly well. On Zanzibar we also went into some Muslim schools. We did an improv of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son with them, and got away with it. We also did a teacher's workshop there...."

May 2, EMail from Carrie
"Hi Guys, Long time no E mail eh? Life has been great here. We spent one and half weeks in paradise, as you heard I was out snorkling when you phoned. I got hooked and went everyday. The fish were incredible and it didn't cost me a dime (shilling) The beach was beautiful and the exercise was just what I needed. We made some good freinds where we were and it was hard to leave. For the first time since I arrived I had real conversations with people my own age but Africans! I came to see that we are not so different and I grew to love some of them. With only 4 1/2 weeks left I feel like in some way I got past a barrier that has plagued my whole mission here: an inability to relate, understand and love the people. So for me this past few weeks have been valuable. Now about home, I got my flight times from ECO I leave Frankfurt on 6/6/96 at 11:40 am and arrive in Newark at 14:10 and leave for BuffAlo at 18:20 pm. I'll be landing at 19:46 6/6/96!!!!!!!!!But I don't yet know the airline. ..."
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