Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 5: Zacchaeus and Trusses

Today the whole team went to Malewa Primary School to meet 300 elementary and middle school kids. The night before, we had a quick planning meeting about a bible story we could teach the kids. We all agreed that the story of Zacchaeus in Luke would be appropriate for the students. We decided that Carrie would read the passage from Luke and I would make the application for the kids. Then we all taught them the song we all know from childhood and taught some basic motions for the song. After several times through, the kids had it. After we finished the song, we took the kids outside to play soccer and we taught them Duck, Duck, Goose! Then they taught us some name games where we had to remember names in a few minutes time; that turned out to be interesting as some of their names were Swahili and others were English.

Teaching the kids was a familiar experience for me since I had been a preschool teacher before I went to China in '08. I had subconsciously “sworn-off” kids because I had been burned out. I noticed for a few years after China, I had lost my touch and desire to be around kids. But that has since faded. I felt really natural with the kids and I felt like I was in my element. That was an encouraging step for me to take. Maybe my swearing off of kids was pride, I'm not sure, but our being there with the kids at Malewa Primary reminded me that Jesus allowed the children to come to him. I have felt like the disciples when they were too prideful and busy with larger, more important matters, so they thought.

We left Malewa to have lunch and begin our afternoon duties. We took Simon, a pastor of a few churches with on the way back. He and Matt had to ride on the carriage on the roof of the Land Rover. How scary, but after some time, I wanted to try it, but I was always dressed inappropriately for that rugged of a trip.

Simon's wife is a teacher at Malewa and she mainly deals with the spiritual side of their education. Associated with the school is a church where the head leader is called a prophet. This prophet is idolized to put in bluntly. Before we arrived, there had been some controversy about our coming and the head of the school had tried to cancel the event. Apparently, the prophet of the church didnt feel that missionaries coming to teach the kids about the bible was a good idea. So you can see why I used the word “idolized” in describing the situation. Once again, seeing and hearing firsthand helps us know how to pray for schools like Malewa and churches.

We enjoyed a relaxing lunch and then headed up to the work site to build the trusses for the community center. We used raw cut damp spongy cypress “2x4” wood. I learned a lot about building trusses. I can officially add that to my resume:)

After several customized cuts for each individual truss, we figured out how to make templates and cut all similar pieces. One truss was taking us up to 30 to 40 minutes. When got the system flowing we hit a record time of 15 minutes and 27 seconds. We had a few hours to finish 11 trusses. We accomplished that goal. Since we finished, were earned our day of fun, but you will have to wait for that story:)

Each night we had dinner guests and the evening guests were a couple who run an environmental camp in Naivasha for the local kids and a guy who had been teaching English in Sudan. I have enjoyed getting to know other people in Africa who are giving their lives to spread the gospel. It has been so inspiring and it takes the edge away from actually stepping out to live in another country. I remember what it felt like after returning from China. The abrupt uproot of my life wasn't evident until I came back and tried to re-establish myself. Over the years, I let fear set in of not having the comforts of life. Comfort is like stagnant water, it stinks.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day 4: The Joy of Their Salvation

The fourth day of being in Kenya was probably one of my favorites and full of impact. There is an organization called Back to Africa. 

This organization sells paper beads made into necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Mothers and wives spend countless hours rolling magazine paper into beads. What they earn from their work supports their families. We were able to visit and share with these women in a city named Gil Gil. We drove up and saw 10-12 women sitting on the ground with their beads in hand tirelessly stringing and securing the fasteners. We sat and chatted with the women as they shared some of their stories with us. Many of these women have been victims of abuse or abandonment. They are doing all they can to support their families. All of the women were mothers and we called them 'Mama- (first born)' as the custom is. One of our teammates, Pat, had prepared a devotional on Proverbs 31:10. She shared the background of the the virtuous woman and then simply read the Word of God. It was translated by one of the women who spoke English well, and the family resemblance of the body of Christ was evident across culture and language. As Pat read the proverb, we realized that we were surrounded by virtuous women. Proverbs 31:17-20: 

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

These few verses portray what these women were doing in their daily lives. We had the chance to give them some toys and coloring books for their children and also soap and toothbrushes for the family. They were so grateful for the things we take for granted. We overheard one of the ladies telling another that she was going to share the items with her  neighbor because she knew that the family was struggling. When we heard this, it reminded us of the Widow's Offering from Mark 12:43:

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.

We are so used to taking what extra we have for ourselves. If I have an extra $20 dollars at the end of the month, chances are I'm going to save it or spend it on myself. Very few times do we think in our culture to help our neighbor who is in need.

After the devotional was finished, the women sang a song in Swahili. We couldn't understand it, but it was beautiful. Before we knew it, they had us dancing and singing with them. We sang some familiar songs in English and Swahili. The expression of joy was one of the most beautiful things I've experienced in my life. Their joy is pure and true and I say that because they don't have all the luxuries and comforts that we have or most of the world has; they only have Jesus which is all they will ever need.
(I have pictures and video of this morning and I will post them when I receive them from my team)

The afternoon came quickly and we spent it hiking up a mountain for an hour. It was roughly 3 miles and we were headed to a place called Gatamaiyu to hang doors on the outhouses at a church. We were running an hour behind schedule, but TIA (this is Africa). Much to our surprise, members of the church were there waiting for us to begin. They held a special service with a customized message to mention our coming. The village was very humble and shy on the comforts of life, but the beauty of the natural surroundings and being so high in the mountains trumped anything that was lacking. There were a few natural gardens and a water basin filled with natural spring water from the Rift Valley. As the doors were hung, we had plenty of time to chat with the locals and hear about life in the village. I would say they were the most joyful bunch of people I'd met. The ladies in Gil Gil had joyful expressions during their worship, but the people in this humble village just overflowed with joy. They absolutely loved their way of life. It spoke a lot about how we live and the distractions that take us away from the bigger matters in life. The sun started to go down and we had to get back because there are no city lights up there and the hike was rocky and gravity was against us. As we rushed back, the people from the church and others from the community walked a long way with us. Their smiles will remain in my memory forever. Our urgency to get down while the daylight was still on our side pushed us home just in time. In the mean time, we were able to catch the most beautiful sunsets.  

At the end of this day, I walked away a different person. Joy, love and faith were some of the common virtues I experienced. Seeing the people in Gatamaiyu increased my faith that God is all sovereign and any fear I've ever had about life, money, jobs, family and what not, is totally and completely irrelevant. If God shows such great faithfulness to a people living in the humblest conditions, what do I have to be concerned with? Well, His work that is. The great commission has become greater in my view during these two short weeks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 3: Socialite's Dream

I titled this post 'Socialite's Dream' because anyone who loves meeting and mingling with new people several times a day would have enjoyed this day. I thought this day was quite essential because it was the first time it hit me that I was actually in Africa.

The hallways at Helping Hands
An overhead shot of the school
We began our second day in Naivasha with a visit to a school called Helping Hands. This school cares for and educates children with special needs as well as those with out. We met two boys, Charles and Isaac, who use their skills to make ceramic pieces that are made into jewelry as pendants and charms. You will hear more about jewelry in day 4's post. I want to talk a bit about Charles: about 10 years ago during elections and campaigns for Kenya's upcoming leader, Charles remembered seeing men with machetes, riots and chaos at a young age. Shortly after, he lost his mother; his father had also been gone. 

My ability to recall the details accurately is failing, so I've kept this vague. Charles puts all his strength and energy into making great pieces of ceramics for jewelry. Isaac is new at this trade as he is learning and perfecting his skills. He is learning from Charles' skills and work ethic. Isaac was the quieter of the two boys, but he has aspirations to get into a good university when he's done with school. Both boys have such sweet spirits. Being able to see them in their daily life helps me to pray for them more effectively.

Pat (L), Carrie and Amy (R) outside Helping Hands

After leaving Helping Hands, we needed to go to the local grocery store. While living in America and teaching ESL, I have become very accustomed to diversity. I think we were the only four Americans in the store. I experienced being a minority in China, but there were one hundred plus Americans in Xinzheng. In Naivasha, it was real life, not an enclosed bubble of a familiar society. The store was packed with people and the lines were so long that the typical American customer would have gotten antsy. 

Not the grocery store, but in Navaisha Town

Within the same morning, we went to the ladies bible study at a woman's house named Dea. The ladies at this bible study are all missionaries of some sort in the general area. This week, bible study was a surprise birthday party for Dea. She married a Swiss man and he passed away within the last 10 years. Dea is from Tanzania. She is full of life at 68 and doesn't look a day over 50.

After lunch we visited House of Hope for the second time. While we were driving we saw baboons, monkeys, zebra, donkey, lizards, goats, birds, buffalo, camels, gazelle impala , sheep and cows. We asked the ladies to give a list of jobs we could do to lighten their heavy load so they put us to work washing dishes outside. We used boiled water from the wood burning stove.

After that was finished, we spent around two hours sorting through maze while we talked casually and exchanged stories.

We had many dinner guests that night, some of which we met at the bible study for Dea's birthday. Two of the women we met were part of the same family. Most of the family members are missionaries in Africa and have been for 4 generations running. Many of the locals know them well. The 3rd generation of the kids are married and they are bringing up the next. It was so encouraging to see all the families who have chosen to make Africa their home.

After a full day, I felt ready to go to bed. 

Nature Favorites of the day:

Outside Helping Hands

Near Dea's House

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 2: Discovering Naivasha

We had a later start to the day with a full breakfast and team meeting. We got our assignments and schedule for the week. We first toured the property where we saw the work site of the community center we were going to help build. In Kenya, a construction worker is called “foondie”

The Team with the Foondies

So, we met the foondies and discussed possible ways to build the center. There was a small plot of land and the trench had been dug for the foundation. The guys were to work on the foundation during the week and the girls had other projects to work on.

In our muck boots before a muddy tour

We were able to see the garden the family kept. The grew cabbage, coffee, carrots, and spinach among other things. They have been on the property for around 6 years and it has grown into a lush and beautiful space.

 In the afternoon, the men went to work digging and mixing concrete. The ladies went to House of Hope, a home for many orphans who are cared for by 4 women. We met with the women and shared some encouragement with them. Kenyan women are valued and identified by their first born child. Let's say your first born is named Elizabeth, then your name would be Mama Elizabeth. Having children and being called “Mama” is a great honor in Kenya. However, there are a lot of women who are single with children.

Later after the kids were out of classes, we got to meet some of them and see their bedrooms. They were more like dorms for kids. These children were so joyful and at peace. There were a blessing to meet. After we finished our time at House of Hope, we went back to have dinner. We all slept well that night. The lack a sleep was starting to wear us down.

Random Nature Pic of the Day: 

Navaisha, Rift Valley

Monday, January 21, 2013

11 Days in Kenya

I have just returned from a two week trip to Kenya. I have decided to post something new for the next 11 to 12 days highlighting each day I was there. We did a wide variety of work and we saw a lot. It was actually 2 weeks we were there, but with traveling and time changes, we lost a few days. Jet lag is hitting me hard this time. It never did before. I think it comes on stronger with age :) Now, sit back and enjoy the anticipation of a daily post of my trip to Kenya.

Day 1: Arriving in Nairobi

Each time I have visited a new country the most interesting thing is the atmosphere of the country. What I mean specifically is the vibe, the beat, the feel of the place. The  moment I stepped into the airport in Nairobi, I felt the slow calm of society's pace. It was a bit muggy that night due to their increased rain fall, unusual this time of year. It was fairly quiet because it 9:30 pm January 7th when we arrived. (It was 2pm January 6th when we left Chicago.) Another thing I noticed what the bathrooms were small and crowded with only two stalls and a little smelly being at the end of the day.

Our next leg of the journey was an hour and a half drive up to Naivasha, where we stayed for 8 days. Naivasha sits at 6,000 feet elevation and ears were popping all the way up. It was dark, so not being able to see "Africa" was hard as I longed to see the landscape and animals. When we arrived at our guesthouse, the first thing I noticed was a strange creaking sound. It was a tree hyrax, one of the 7 loudest animals in Africa. It sounds like an angry cat having its tail pulled. It is a nocturnal creature, so you can imagine sleeping at night:) I have a recording of it, but I have to post it later. There are mp3's of this creature on the web. Kinda cute, huh? But just try sleeping!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Off to Kenya!

To my faithful but few followers, I will be heading to Kenya on Sunday for two weeks. When I return, I will be sure to post all that I experience. :)

Thanks for reading!