Since the initial book release, ‘A JOURNEY OF LOVE, FAITH, STRENGTH DETERMINATION’, Grover has been completing a presentation ‘Back to Kenya’, a combination of background details, pictures, and videos of his recent visit to Kenya and returned just weeks before the announcement of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
He announced an ongoing email marketing campaign and currently working to complete both a new website and a ‘Back to Kenya’ presentation of his twelve-day return trip to Kenya where he served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer 52 years ago. He covered in the book those experiences of serving in Kenya as a Black American in a newly established Republic four years after independence. The presentation includes written background details, both video and still pictures of Kenya today more specifically Nakuru the area he worked and lived during his days as a Black American. In both the book and presentation, he includes pictures of his time there. However, in the presentation he includes both still pictures and videos of places then and today. He visited farms, spoke with farmers, and discussed farming in Kenya today. He was able to see firsthand the differences of Kenya, then and now. As a junior in college, he learned about Kenya as a country, on the equator, located on the east coast of Africa. Beyond a world map, he knew little about the country although a student from Kenya was a classmate. He would later learn quite a bit about Kenya’s culture, geography, economy and much more during the summer of 1966. As part of the US Foreign AID to developing countries, he joined and trained with sixty-six (65) male college students from across America for an agriculture program to Kenya. After college graduation, he spent an additional six weeks of language and practical experience training at Tuskegee, AL. Then it was a time of truth: Who would go and who would stay. A group would go to Kenya on a two-year assignment and assist African farmers as the country transitioned from white farmer ownership to African. He was one of thirty-five (35) volunteers CHOSEN who went to Kenya and served two years as agriculture extension officers.
His initial Kenya journey begin on August 15, 1967, on a KLM chaptered flight from New York City to Nairobi. He returned to America on August 1, 1969 and enrolled in graduate school where he earned an MBA in finance, May of 1971. For the next 44 years he worked in corporate America in various capacities and retired on December 31, 2015. Since retiring, he has invested time and resources, volunteering, started and assisted not-for-profit ministries generated funds to support projects of interest.
After visiting a friend and former PCV, Jess Womack in Sherman Oaks, California on Sunday, June 11, 2017, they agreed to return to Kenya for a visit in December 2019, but the time slipped to January 2020. On Friday evening, January 10, 2020, he arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa on a Delta/Air France flight #8002 that originated in Atlanta, GA at 8:55pm EAT, his first visit back to Kenya in 52 years. He had yearned to return years earlier, but other interests took precedence.
In addition to visiting the area where he had lived and worked, he arranged to visit a pastor friend, Isaac Nyumu, and his wife Mercy. Isaac graduated from Luther Rice Seminary, Lithonia, Georgia located in metropolitan Atlanta, in May 2011 with a doctorate and returned to his home area of Naivasha, Kenya. Before he left Atlanta, I begun the process of establishing New Mercies Caring Ministry (NMCM), a nonprofit corporation, to assist in providing financial support for Isaac’s. The ministry provided minimal financial support initially, then increased the monthly to a habitable support level. In 2018, Isaac incurred medical issues which bought him back to Atlanta to address the problems. The ministry support was extremely limited, so doctors who worked with Isaac’s daughter, a nurse, in Atlanta, performed the heart procedure without cost to correct heart issues.
During Isaac’s visit, the ministry had been seeking funds to purchase a vehicle for him but could not provide living expenses, purchase a vehicle, and start a long-planned chicken business with limited funds. NMCM agreed to discontinue personal financial support in favor of focusing on generating funds to purchase a vehicle. In November 2019, the ministry with assistance of $2,500 from FBC-Atlanta provided $17,500 towards the purchase of a vehicle. Isaac and Mercy purchased a doublewide cab 2008 Toyota truck in January 2020. In February, the ministry gave them $4,000 toward starting a chicken business to produce eggs for sale. Isaac and Mercy purchased 350 chicks, only seven died as baby chicks. Their goal is to increase the total capacity to 600 egg layers, then incrementally increase egg production to sell and to sustain the ministry.
Upon confirming our visit, Isaac Gutu, the pastor, asked me to be the guest speaker on Sunday, January 11, 2020, at his AIC Mutati Kijabe Fellowship Church, located in Kijabe (Gicheingo), Kenya. The message text taken from Luke 2:52 “And Jesus grew in wisdom and statute, and in favor with God and man.”
In summary, Grover and Jess saw truly little of Kenya during their visit and had little communication with a cross culture of Kenyan. Their exposure was to those they met at church, farmers, in hotels and politicians in hotel lobbies both breakfast and lunch in both Nairobi and Nakuru. However, their limited time of two weeks were not enough time to compare it to the two years they served, lived, and working as Peace Corps volunteers. The country has grown in every aspect and has become more urban and youthful. The population has shifted from being primary agriculture 52 years ago to a more service-oriented economy, with Kenyan professionals. The shift is very noticeable as compared to our time of service in Kenya fifty-two years ago. The Asian (Indian) and expatriates (European) who filled that segment during our peace corps time of service does not exist. The most glaring outcome was the service industry consist of primarily Kenyans less than 45 years of age. Extremely impressed with the change and transition to Kenyan professional conducting and providing services whether as a chef, hotel clerk, security guard, tour guide, police, and politician.
Years ago, terrors attached and blew up the American Embassy and since the attack the Kenyan government has prohibited for security reasons picture taking of government buildings. Security guards and security monitoring are everywhere, in all shopping malls, stores, hotels, banks, game parks, both civilian and military.
Finally, Kenya is still a developing country, yet there have been positive changes and are noticeable looking from the outside inward. The Kenyan people love their country and are doing their part to ensure that the country continues to grow and prosper.
Pastor Isaac Gutu Wa-Nyumu and Mercy Muringi Gutu for allowing me to speak in God’s house that they have oversight and responsibility to feed the membership spiritually.
James Makau Nzioka, our companion, tour guide, driver and friend who was the perfect individual to accompany us during our return visit to Kenya. He knew the country, the culture, climate, and people and made our two weeks visit very pleasant and enjoyable. He was also the person who took upon himself to record pictures and videos that is make up the ‘Back to Kenya’ presentation.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Kenya, He strongly recommends James Makau Nzioka as your tour guide and any services that you may require. He knows the country, people, language, places, and things and will arrange a tour that caters to your needs making your visit a pleasant experience.
Jess Womack, my friend and former PCV who served in the same physical area prior to his term expiring and my arrival to replace him. He is really the glue that mended the trip by connecting the people and places it certainly was an enjoyable trip traveling with him and James Makau Nzioka. I really appreciate both as friends.