At the check-in desk for Nairobi, they couldn’t find our details. Then the computer yielded that we’d been booked on a two-hours’ later flight. “Will we make the same connecting flight?” I asked; “we have people who need to know.” This was on the premise that once at Jomo Kenyatta, we’d get a mobile signal, be able to ring Stephen, and see what any emails may say about accommodation and the next day conference. We had to traipse round security again. When Wakey checked the boarding passes, we’d been booked on a much later onward flight, with no given arrival time. Rukundo would have an enormous and undefined wait.
At Nairobi our phones filled with messages. “Money has not come, I will not be at D-e-S,” from Stephen. “Please confirm arrival time” from Rukundo, who’d spotted our difficulty at check-in. “Sorry, I will not get to Tanz - too many things here,” from Gregory. “Jacob will be waiting (and phone number), when do you arrive?” again, from Stephen. What few arrangements we had, had sunk. “The further we go on in the trip, the more it’s like being up the Amazon without a paddle,” I’d commented more than once during the previous weeks.
We fitted in everything we could attempt before being called to Departure. Wakey confirmed the arrival time. He rang Huw and Iain, and established that £750 for the conference had gone astray, and Stephen had malaria. We would have to arrange and run the day and pay accommodation costs with what we could manage to scrape up. Skaino’s credit card may help – but doesn’t cover cash withdrawals. I shot off as many (already written) blogs as I could hold a signal for, so folks at home had some news. Wakey rang Jonny and Jason; then Carlson. I rang Mary and Rukundo. We’d managed to scrape together something of a contingency plan. But we’d arrive very late, with no real time to arrange for Saturday’s programmed day.
“Brother Rukundo,” I’d joked in the car, “There is a story about two ants in the jungle who find the carcass of an elephant. One starts eating at one end, and the second at the other. Then they stop, to argue whose elephant it is. The elephant is Tanzania, and Gregory is at one end and Stephen is at the other. I have had to see they don’t fall out. Now you have started to eat the elephant, too, and there are three ants who must agree.” Only, now he’d be the only ant, and have to eat it all!
On the propeller-driven economy service we got no meal, and instead a steady 70 decibels of engine noise. We flew scarily close to Kilimanjaro’s snowy summit at exactly the same elevation. We stopped at Zanzibar to exchange passengers. The hot damp air of the Indian Ocean coast rushed through the open doors. The captain announced a pleasant evening of 27degrees (approaching 9.00pm).
Jacob, Stephen’s brother, was indeed waiting. Rukundo too, who’d been contentedly reading his bible. “They told me you had a visa problem,” he puzzled. “No, it was the Visa card used for booking they wanted to see,” Wakey explained. We got a taxi to the Landmark Hotel. The reception fans made an inadequate attempt to counter the heat. After three hours in the plane, they also made it impossible for me to understand the receptionist. With no time to check the rooms, another local Pastor, Luvanda, joined us. We dived straight into sorting out the conference situation. “Stephen was told there was not a budget for the three days he planned, nor for 300 people,” Jacob explained. “So, we have told people it will be on Monday.” Well, that's one relief.
I explained we only had enough to pay catering of five dollars a head for 100 attending, and Jacob looked gloomily doubtful. We established we’d get the use of Abundant Blessings Church with no up-front cost, and could check it out for facilities on Sunday. The few dollars we’d have left would have to cover taxis, etc. I fear we hadn’t made a good first impression. We let them go with a promise to meet next morning, after which potential attenders would all be contacted.
Our room was fine, and the air-conditioning was working. Rukundo had a room just down the corridor. We’d hardly eaten all day, but not by choice, like the rest of the church. Wakey phoned for some fried beef and chips. I signed the chit with no notion whether the exchange rate made the meal expensive or what. The three of us held a post-mortem on the day. We still had no idea why the flights got changed, though I’d also had this happen in India.
Then Rukundo began to unpack some of the community issues he’d alluded to the day before. “Claud needs healing and strengthening in his soul and character, not more pressure to perform in Christian leading,” we explained. (Rukundo had asked about him doing an intern period with us.) This is something the fast-growing churches that Multiply meets haven’t developed. Although late by the clock, because we’d had another hour’s time zone shift, we weren’t totally knocked out. But getting up tomorrow would be more of a challenge.