Book Review – The Kenya Diaries

I met Dale Garris in the Philippines in 2005. We were both speaking at a conference in the western area of Mindanao. I have to admit, when I first learned that I was sharing the platform – and with an American, at that! – I was somewhat cautious. The message God had given me to bring was full-on commitment, and I was none to keen to have it watered down by some blab-it-and-grab-it “faith” preacher. I need not have worried. Dale’s message was very much like my own, and we flowed together as though we had been collaborating for years, rather than having just met for the first time.

That was Dale’s first missionary experience. I chuckled to myself several times as he wrestled with the more interesting aspects of life in a developing country. By the time the trip was over, he thought that he would be perfectly happy to return to his home in Texas and never set foot outside the “Good Ole U S of A” ever again. So I chuckled to myself even more when he e-mailed to say the Lord was calling him to go to Kenya. He has since returned there twice, and has also ministered in Nigeria.

This book is the story of his first trip to Kenya, written initially as a journal that was e-mailed home on a daily basis so that family and friends could keep up with what he was doing. It is raw and honest, and doesn’t try to pretty things up. Dale is a prophet of the old school; I don’t think he is capable of prettying things up! What he encountered in Kenya was raw culture shock. The Philippines had just been a fairly mild introduction to the way of life outside the developed world. He sums it up at the beginning of Day 2: “This is a brand-new experience for me. I am looking down a long road that will stretch for 30 days, and I have no idea what is in store for me. The anticipation is mixed with an excitement and a small touch of trepidation. I have this sense that I am about to fill a role that I have never played before. The question that keeps rolling through my mind, ‘What on earth am I doing here? How did I get here?’ “

From the joys of a third-world hotel that looked “more like a worn-out, faded picture of some former hotel in the tropics with Humphrey Bogart”, to a river baptism where he sank in mud up to his thighs, to meetings where the Spirit of God pours down in awesome power, we are right there with Dale through the pages of this book. We feel his exhilaration and his exhaustion. We feel his confusion when things didn’t go as planned, his frustration with “African time” (something that every western missionary has to deal with) and his compassion for the unbelievable conditions in which the people live.

More than that, we go on a spiritual journey: the journey of a man who starts out wondering why on earth he is going, and ends up saying (on the second last page) “Now the burden is on me to get back.” Dalen Garris did a great ministry in Kenya. He brought a new dimension of the Spirit to hungry hearts and opened them to the concept that there is far more in the Christian life than they had ever dreamed, if they are prepared to pay the price. Kenya also did a great ministry in Dale: it moved him in a new direction, launched him into a new dimension of the ministry, and changed his heart forever toward missions. For that alone, this book is worth reading.

The Kenya Diaries by Dalen Garris is published by Revival Fire Ministries