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Thika: To Kill and to Bury (but a really awesome place)

July 13, 2009

We visited Thika, Kenya again this past week. We were actually in Thika for a full seven days, spread out between two weeks. Over our 7 days, we visited with 5 churches that LIA is partnering with in the Thika community. Thika has a history of being a factory town. Thika used to be very neat and clean, but as times have gotten harder, you can now see piles of trash along the dusty streets. Thika is like a little Nairobi, in the next couple of decades, there probably won’t be much distinction between Nairobi and Thika as they move towards each other.

Life in Abundance is actually partnered with 8 churches in Thika, but we only visited the 5 which have active OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) programs. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we visited three different churches that needed help with various “plaster repair” projects.

On Tuesday, we joined members of Christian Church International (CCI) in building an outhouse for one of their members. Before we got disgustingly muddy, we visited with the children at the CCI Early Childhood Development program. I made a little friend named Maggy, we spent most of the morning chasing each other around. The children were pretty young at this school, so we just spent time tossing them into the air and spinning them around. The family we were building the toilet for lived right behind a concrete-block Catholic Church. The church had two outhouses within 100 meters of the home, but that family is not allowed to use them. CCI had come together to raise support to help this family build their own toilet. When we arrived, men from the church were building scaffolding made of sticks and rocks to enclose the “toilet”. A hole had been dug about 3ft. down into the ground, and planks of wood were nailed to a square brace (to create a floor) that was just larger than the 3×4 ft hole. There is a hole cut out in one of the planks for the waste to fall into the hole. Next, the men began mixing dirt and mud (with a hoe, right on the ground) to create the plaster. I went to get water from a well with some of the women, then we all started plastering the structure once the mud mixture was made.

We finished the toilet in about 2 hours, and the family was very thankful. After we were all mucky and dirty, we headed down the road to the pastor house where we helped make Banana jam and Body oil. CCI has started these two economic empowerment programs to bring in extra money for the church. The banana jam was simply smashed bananas, mixed with sugar and boiled till the sugar dissolved, then fresh squeezed lemon juice was added for tang and as a preservative. Dollops of the delicious yellow goo were dropped on to our palms, and we eagerly licked up the banana-goodness. The body oil was a mixture of melted candlesticks, cooking fat, lemon juice and an antiseptic. The churches sold the products for a meager profit, but I think that banana jam would sell for crazy amounts at a store back home!

We visited another church called Good Hope International this week on Wednesday. This church had started a chicken project to generate more funds for the church. Pastor Peter’s wife taught the students at Good Hope. After our visit, we learned that she was a trained teacher- and you could really see the amount of time she put into helping the kids learn. She would use every opportunity possible to continue educating the kids- she used the back of our LIA van to quiz the kids on their knowledge of the alphabet! We met a little boy named Bernard who will remain in each of our hearts forever. Bernard was an interesting boy. He wasn’t more than 5 yrs old, but he had enough confidence to get up and toddle out of the classroom whenever he desired. He was definitely the troublemaker of the class, but his little infectious grin and quirky mannerisms captured each of our hearts. He wore his little toboggan on his head and waltzed around the active football game with no regard for anyone but himself. What a funny little kid.

We were helping Good Hope with another plastering project; their church was constructed of mud bricks held together with mud cement. They are currently working on expanding their building, and some of the funds from the chicken project will go towards their expansion. This day, we were helping to put up walls to a kitchen. The OVC programs often include a feeding program which feeds the children porridge, and they needed a better space for the porridge to be prepared! Some members of the church had already put up the stick scaffolding enclosing an area of about 7ft by 4ft. There was a sheet of tin nailed to the top of the structure to serve as a roof. We started out by placing some bricks made of mud in the structure (you kind of sandwich them between two layers of the sticks), then we packed mud in between the bricks. There were lots of small pebbles (just another new challenge) in the mud mixture! We finished in about 2 hours, we worked along with 2 guys from that church as well.

There was also a little girl named Mbithi, she had a huge wound on her ankle, it was super infected, lots of dead skin all around- pretty gross. My team mate Daniel Bachman cleaned her up with the first aid kit we brought, and I just set her on my lap and hugged the living daylights out of her. I just felt like I needed to sing her a song, so I hummed some songs and held her tightly when the alcohol pads made her wound hurt. It was just such a beautiful time of love- God was loving on me, and I got to love on that girl, it was such a special moment. Keep her in your prayers as her wound is healing!

On Thursday we visited End Times Restoration church where we helped to rebuild the church. The church existed, but it had been so weathered that it was the stick structure filled in about 60% with dirt/grass clods and mud. Before we started the “plastering”, we played with the kids (of course). We played some fun games with the kids, one was called “Meaty” (basically Simon says, someone in the middle shouts “Meaty” and then the kids shout back and clap, then they repeat that; then the person in the middle starts naming types of animals, and the kids repeat the animal named and clap, but if they clap on an animal that they DON’T eat, then they’re out! The kids were pretty young (2-8?) and they didn’t exactly know what kind of meat they ate. They just jumped and clapped happily (they thought that they ate snake and zebra- we had no idea what the correct answers were, so we just hopped along with them!)

There were many church members (mostly women) who were helping to mix mud and pack the walls with clods of grass & dirt. There was lots of thorny brush that had been used to fill in the scaffolding, so it was really hard to get the mud in there without poking yourself. A few puncture wounds later, we had pretty much finished the church! We were running short on time; we were heading to take tea with Joseph and Alice Muula. We stepped inside the finished church to pray, and they brought out giant bowls of rice and beans. We did our best to fill our stomachs (which already had lunch in them) with the delicious rice and beans! It was rough. And Lauren’s stomach was feeling upset, but she ate it like a champ.

We departed and arrived at the Muula’s house about an hour late (Kenyan time). We had an awesome time talking with them, they leave for Jamaica in about a month (this was the couple I mentioned about in the previous post), so we were asking how they thought things in Thika had been going. Anyways, they shared so many positive things with us, I wrote about 4 pages of notes in my Moleskin. So much has happened with the churches since LIA came in last year, and the whole idea of LIA is to create a sustainable atmosphere for the churches- it’s not like they pour tons of money into the churches- no dependability is created! The churches learn how to provide for themselves and for their communities!

Okay, so now we’re to Friday! We ran around to a few stores to pick up some odds and ends. We purchased 2 mattresses for the family of children that were sleeping on wooden beds. We delivered those and said goodbye to some of our new friends in Thika. Then we traveled back to Nairobi and chilled for a few hours before going over to Dr. Emily Obwaka’s (LIA country director) house. We had dinner with Dr. Emily where some AMAZING food was served! Dr. Emily was just asking us what we had learned since we arrived and stuff. My 3 things were relationships, faith and prayer.

As the title suggests, the meaning of Thika is “to kill and bury”. I had been struggling for a few days with the slightly violent attitudes I had seen in Thika. God is needed in that community- witchcraft is a large issue, as are HIV and AIDS. The churches are growing in unimaginable ways, and as they continue to put their faith and hearts in God, they will be able to absolutely transform their community!

We’re headed to Kisumu this week to help LIA get their “Street Children” program started. We’ll also be with the Post team from SECC at the tail end of this week heading into next week. We’re all pretty excited to hang out with ~20 other college aged kids! Our Poland counterparts are thick in their summer of camps, be praying for their continued patience and strength in dealing with lots of children! Daniel had the opportunity to go home for his older sister’s wedding this weekend (I wish I could have been there!), the pictures looked beautiful! He’s headed back out to California for a few weeks before his internship with InnerChange comes to an end. The InnerChange group decided to get out on the streets a bit more to minister to people, so pray for their protection- and pray that God brings those who need help to the places where his crew will be! The summer is winding down quickly, we only have this 10-day Kisumu trip and another trip back to Makueni to prepare and help out at the medical camp with the SECC medical team. Then we come home?! Wow.

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Can you feel the love tonight?

July 6, 2009

Watching the Lion King while in Africa is probably one of the best activities you can ever do. We visited with Pamella and Francis Bukachi, two LIA staff members this weekend. We were only a team of four as Daniel (after his bout with malaria) was having some stomach issues. Anyways- we’ll get to our awesome visit with the Bukachis in a moment. Since my last post about Makueni, we have been in Nairobi hanging out at the LIA office and then we traveled to Thika. On Monday (LIA’s prayer and fasting day), we traveled to the local Arboretum for a day of praying out in nature. I was needing some alone time, and while my time on Sunday was more than enough, God wanted some more time with me 🙂 Being surrounded by so many species of trees was the right prescription for my needs.

God took me on a journey back through one of my notebooks, and it was so humbling to read some of my prayer requests- and to realize that they had been answered! He also showed me how things I’ve read about in various devotional books (about Love, Grace, Simplicity, Forgiveness, etc) have been much more apparent in my life. It’s amazing that in just a few short months, the Lord can help you to better recognize your shortcomings and faults. And through recognizing that I am broken; it’s made me even more dependent on God- which is the ONLY way to live!

On Tuesday- we wrapped up some loose ends around the office- Courtney finished the new layout for the LIA Kenya quarterly newsletter, and I posted some videos up on Vimeo- check them out! You should play them in the following order: Ben, Lauren, Daniel, Holly, Courtney- hopefully you’ll see why after you view them! This was one of our video projects to send to The Post team from SECC coming to Kenya (in just a few weeks!) Enjoy them!

On Wednesday we traveled to Thika- northeast of Nairobi. LIA is partnered with 5 churches in Thika, and this past week we got to see how those churches are truly growing! On Wednesday we visited Christian Church International. There was a small tin church that had started it’s own Early Child Development Center. Volunteers from the church community teach two classes- the ‘baby class’ (basically a daycare with learning) and a ‘pre-unit’ class (preschool/kindergarden ages). The 30 children greeted us with porridge stained faces when we got there. For some, this may have been the first time they had seen a white person, a “muzungu”. We had a chance to sing songs with the kids. We performed “Jesus Loves Me” and tried to teach them “Mercy is falling”. They also sang back some English and Kiswahili songs- one of their favorites seems to be a song called “Ebenezer”. We had a fun time playing and singing with the kids- but it was difficult to look at the faces of the children of poverty that were dancing before our eyes.

Some of the kids were HIV+, some were orphans, and most were from very poor homes. About half of the children had shoes, most had holes in their worn clothing, and a few didn’t even have lunch. Their school benches were so full of children that not another one would fit on a bench. Yet without the Early Childhood Development program, some of the children may not be alive today due to lack of food (the porridge is a feeding program within the program). These kids are getting an opportunity to learn the basics- ABC’s, numbers and some words. These kids have hope because of what the church has done.

Somehow, in the dry, dusty land that is Thika- the members of Christian Church International have been able to provide for these kids. The volunteer teachers and porridge cook love these kids unconditionally. The most touching story, mentioned on our Team Blog, was of a little girl. We drove her home from school- it was a 10 minute van drive- which means a walk of an hour plus for her to get to and from school. When we were at the school- this little girl had such a lack of energy. She was all smiles, but you could tell her little body was just plain exhausted. Why does this girl have to walk so far? She lives right next to a government funded school- but the mandatory uniforms cost 50 schillings- about 70 cents. Her family can’t afford it, so she has to walk close to 4 kilometers to and from school. Wow. Just think about that. And so many other children are in a situation very similar to hers- lack of food, lack of money, yet a desire to learn and to be surrounded by people that give them love.

The next day we visited Redeemed Gospel Church. In January, the church started a chicken project (selling chickens and eggs) and a farming project. We visited the chickens, we looked over the 1.5 acres of farmed land in awe. Six months ago that same land was dust and grass, now it’s a place where locals can come to buy their vegetables! We also visited with the OVC (orphans and vulnerable children). Like Christian Church International- this program had a porridge feeding built into their system, as well as education from a volunteer teacher. The kids were awesome- we split our time between playing silly games with the children and helping to transplant some “Sukumu” plants into new holes. We had the chance to put in some labor into their project, and the pastors and teachers were so appreciative.

Those two visits in Thika were enough to convince me of LIA’s wholistic ministry. The churches are supporting these children, the churches are providing incomes for themselves, people from the church community are getting involved- and others are being reached via the small businesses that these churches are initiating. The body, mind, soul and most important- spirit are being ministered to!

This has been such a packed week- I apologize for the length of this post, but I want to make sure I include everything! On Friday we attended a commissioning ceremony for Joseph and Alice Muulas (and their two children). Joseph and Alice are LIA volunteers- and they are headed to Jamacia in a few weeks as missionaries. We had the opportunity to have dinner with them the night before their commissioning ceremony, and again we were shown such hospitality and love from people we just met. At the ceremony, there was a lot of praying for the Muulas family, as well as a time for them to share how God has worked in their lives to lead them to Jamacia. They have been missionaries in several countries in Africa- and now the Lord is leading them to new territory- Jamaica. Joseph and Alice are so smiley, so in love with God, and so in love with one another and with their children. What an awesome picture of a family!

Then we attended a pre-wedding party for Gus and Rose (LIA staff) who are getting married one day after we leave 😦 The party was put together by the “wedding committee”. The purpose of the gathering was to fund-raise for the wedding. Each guest wrote their name and the amount they were donating to the couple on the list, and the MC of the event read off the names, AND the amount donated! How cool?! There was no shame from anyone, and at the end everyone gave whatever extra they had!

On Saturday we headed to the Bukachi’s house (mentioned above) and had delicious home-cooked food and fellowship. And yes, we watched The Lion King and it was amazing- we pointed out sights and animals we had seen, it was the greatest Lion King experience I’ve ever had. Courtney spent the night in a tent with the 2 Bukachi girls- Joann and Emma, and Ben (without his partner in crime, Daniel) slept with the two twin boys- Abraham and Michael. Lauren and I had an adventure– we slept on the concrete “patio” of the water tank under the stars in the Bukachi’s back yard (Bukachi is fun to say, by the way).

The temperature dropped throughout the night- to probably 40 degrees or so, and a rude awakening by a bathroom call sent me inside to the warmth of the home- to stay. I didn’t find the idea of coming back to chilly blankets too appealing. We attended the Milimani Community Church with the Bukachi’s this morning, where we sang the one Kiswahili song we know in front of the congregation of about 15. After the inspiring church service (where Lauren was fighting the Benadryl doze in attempt to clear some strange face rash), we headed to a Masai Ostrich farm.

We ate some ostrich (very tasty) and then we rode an ostrich. We rode an ostrich while having ostrich in our stomachs. Is that wrong? Riding an ostrich is awesome, it was only a 30second ride, but for sure a once in a lifetime experience! I have plenty of pictures and video!

So, after a busy week of seeing lots of new sights and meeting new people- we’re headed back to Thika this week (Monday-Friday). Keep us in your prayers as we visit more churches- protect us from sickness- the kids in the schools often have nasty colds. Our Poland counterparts are busy with their camps, and it sounds like they may not be getting enough sleep or alone time as they would like- Pray that God gives them enough to get through each day- enough patience, enough graciousness, enough love! Also keep Daniel (my dear boyfriend) in your prayers. He had an awesome opportunity to have some one-on-one time with the Lord these past few days- I can’t wait to hear all about what our Father has shown him! Keep up with his BLOG as well! I love you all, thanks for keeping up with my summer!

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Makueni Update and Living for Christ

June 28, 2009

We just spent part of the week in Makueni, Kenya. Makueni is the location for the medical camp that will take place in August. We will be joined by ~25 medical professionals from SECC to serve the community of Makueni. The Mi2ers accompanied 4 LIA staff/volunteers to scope out the facilities within the AIC Dispensary (Africa Inland Church), we would be using in August. We made tons of lists and “to-do” agendas for when we return to set everything up in August. The facility we’ll be using is gorgeous– it has two large wings with spacious rooms that could be used for operations (a theatre as the Kenyan’s call them), there are plenty of other rooms for consultations, specialists, pharmacists and nurses. The construction of the building was stopped almost prior to it’s completion, I think due to lack of funds. The building has never been used– but it’s a beauty. I can just imagine the empty corridors bustling with people someday! On the same campus as the facility we’ll be using is a running outpatient clinic, a small pharmacy, a maternity ward and a mortuary. We were getting a tour of the AIC Dispensary and they wanted to show us the “motor” room. We followed our guide to a small building, about 200m to the left of the guest house we were staying in.

We stepped into the little building and saw this large green rectangular box, about 4 feet high and about 7 feet long. It kind of looked like a generator, and we had been told about their generators before- so we just figured this is the building where it was stored. Then, the guide proceeded to open up a door; I was expecting to see a room full of mechanical instruments and more generators. The soft sunlight poured in through a window opposite to us, perfectly outlining the silhouette of a 103 year old man lying on a metal table. We were all absolutely shocked. I turned around for a minute, just to get over the shock of seeing a dead man (no clothing) just lying by himself in this large room. After getting over our initial shock, we entered the room, and saw the man up close. He was so very thin, but he looked like he would have been a joy to talk to! They were embalming him with fluids, and the family came on Saturday to pick up the body. Apparently funerals and the transport of the body are huge parts of Kenyan traditions– a large group of family and friends crowded outside of the mortuary to see off his body. It was an interesting moment, because while the body moving was taking place, there was also a large meeting of people under a tree nearby.

The meeting was an area meeting, where the community gathers to discuss various issues. What was slightly shocking yet amazing was that they opened with prayer and song. Imagine- 100+ people gathered under an acacia tree, women wearing bandanas, men tying up their bicycles and grabbing a seat under the shade. Benches and chairs were dragged out of the medical building to seat people, but people were still strewn across the ground with dry grass. There were a few main speakers, though it looked like anyone who wanted to speak could talk. Anyways, they opened with prayer, and then the most beautiful songs rose from their lips. It was such an awesome moment. All of these people, standing in the shade of God’s beautiful tree just lifting their voices to their creator and Lord. The voices mixed and mingled and created such a wonderful sound that I’m sure pleased our Heavenly Father.

Our God is good. Anyways, the rest of the time in Makueni was spent getting supply lists together, Pamella from LIA talked with pastors, health officers, etc. to make sure everything was in place for August. We also had the chance to witness a chicken slaughter. Courtney really wanted to have the experience of killing a chicken, so Pamella brought one back from a market after she had run some errands that day. After Pam got back to the guest house, we were just chatting away, and she pointed down underneath the counter top and there was Ms. Hen. Her legs were tied, so she couldn’t move, but we had no idea she was just sitting patiently under our counter. We got an 8min video of the process, so ask and we’ll show it to you when we get back. Courtney did a great job- thought the knife wasn’t too sharp, and the chicken wiggled around a bit (you go for the jugular). When we asked Jacob (an LIA driver), “So what’s the process of killing the chicken”. He replied “Chicken will die.” No lies there, folks.I helped with the plucking process. We ended up with a delicious chicken dinner that night, though Lauren didn’t partake.

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We’re back in Nairobi now; we leave for Thika on Tuesday. I’m finally taking a day off by my self for some reflection and alone time with the Lord. Later today, I’m meeting with a couple from America who are now in Kenya with InnerChange, the same organization that Daniel is with. They work with Somalians, and I’m interested to see what they’re up to and where God is calling them.

And I’m also considering transferring colleges– from Denison University to the University of Kentucky. There are many reasons behind considering a transfer, but the most important one is being surrounded by more Christian people. It’s been very difficult in my past 3 years at Denison to have good conversations about faith. Lately, God has been convicting me about not being as involved in church and fellowship with other Christians. Maybe Denison is my mission field for next year, I’m praying that God shows me a clear answer as to where I should be attending next year. Pray for our guys in Poland, their camps start up this week and their schedules are going to get a LOT busier. Be sure to check out our Kenya team blog as well! Also keep Daniel in your prayers . It sounds like InnerChange in the Mission District may need to come up with a new vision on whom they are reaching out to, and the methods in which they are reaching. He’s had some awesome experience so far, and God is just growing in him so much!

God has also been doing some major work on my heart. He’s been showing me more and more how He is the most important thing to truly live for. Often times, I think we get accustomed to living in and for this world. Get a good job, make good money to support a family; it’s all about doing what we can to advance in this world. And I think that Christians have gotten the wrong picture of what it means to be a Christian. I see (and I am guilty of this as well) Christians living for the world, but they also fit God into the picture. In reality, God is THE picture. He created the picture, He has a vision for the picture!

I listened to a sermon on Grace by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church today, and he was explaining the types of Grace that we are given by God. God decided to love us (we did not first choose to love him). He chose us from every single broken and sinful person on this earth. He offered us the opportunity to love and follow him. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit instills in us a new set of passions and desires– and your deepest passions are transformed into line with God’s desires! God provides for us- he gives us what we need, he gives us enough money, he gives us enough food, he gives us enough! His grace is more than enough! God is eternal, and he promises that his grace is also eternal (Philip 1:6-7)

God is showing me this message of the transforming power of His grace. I want to experience this grace; I want to give my EVERYTHING to my creator, my friend, my savior, my father! My passions are becoming more and more of what He desires for this world. I’m so eager to learn more and more about the Lord. I’m willing to give up everything that I am and everything that I have to live for him. And you know what, everything that I am and everything that I have are gifts from the Lord- there’s nothing to lose!

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Mombasa sounds like Moufasa

June 22, 2009

Greetings! I hope all is well in whichever country/state you’re reading this! As mentioned in the previous post, we traveled to the coast this past week to visit Mombasa. Whenever Mombasa is said, I always think of they hyenas saying “Moufasa” from the Lion King. The Kenyans loved the Lion King, and they really do use “hakuna” in sentences! Anyways, the stereotype of Mombasa is a super laid back, touristy sort of town. It was definitely touristy- everywhere we went, people immediately associated white skin with lots of money. Our LIA volunteer and friend, Beth, had to do an awful lot of negotiating as we tried to get a reasonable price for a Matatu (14-passenger vans that drive INSANELY). And the laid back/nice attitude that is supposed to permeate the culture of Mombasa? I felt that everyone moved at a quicker pace than what we’ve been exposed to thus far. They walked faster, the matatu drivers seemed more rushed, and people even RAN on and off of the ferry that takes you from Mombasa inland to Mombasa island. I actually got to experience my first agitated Kenyans- we hopped in a Matatu to take us somewhere, and we had asked them to stop and wait while we re-loaded a cell phone, but the people on the van started to get pretty irritated. We ended up getting off of the bus to wait for Beth (who was the one who needed a re-charge), but man, they were getting irritated!

We stayed at a little a guest house run by Africa Inland Mission, and we were RIGHT on the Indian Ocean. Our guest house was in a gated area, so we had to remember to take the keys out every time we went to the beach. Our first night there, I think we were all a little thrown off at first when the owner of the compound, Martha, was warning us of all the dangers that surround Mombasa. For example, there are these beautiful blue jellyfish that you have to watch out for on the beach, you shouldn’t be out after dark, there are dogs in the compound that are out from 10-pm-5am (y don’t sound like friendly dogs), etc. And, the water was collected rainwater, so we had to be conscious of how much water we used. It was a nice guest house, three bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, spacious sitting room, and doorstep that basically backed up to this view:

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This is a view of the Indian Ocean at about 7:30am! The waters are extremely clear, and there is an expanse of coral reef about a quarter mile from the shoreline. We spent two of our three days on the beach- we picked up some beautiful seashells, we saw some spiny sea urchins (I tried to give everyone a little lesson on my knowledge of sea urchin anatomy and their developmental processes, but alas, no one was interested except for me). We all went a little sunscreen crazy, so no one got too much sun. We spent one day visiting Fort Jesus- an old Portuguese fort that had been captured by the Arabs, (You can read more on our team blog, http://www.mi2kenya09.blogspot.com for more details!) After visiting Fort Jesus (which, by the way, was constructed so that it looks like a man from a birds-eye view), we went with a friend and LIA staff member relative, Frida, to her church (on a Thursday afternoon!) The church was called “The Maximum Miracle Center”, Mombsa is HOT, and I think the enclosed space of the church plus the heat kind of zapped all of our energy once we sat down. It was kind of neat attending a lunchtime service, and we got up and introduced ourselves when the service was over (to a “crowd” of about a dozen people).

Besides getting sun ansd seeing some sights, we also learned how to make an authentic Kenyan stew from Beth! The boys took some time to make shell-necklaces, Ben even brought along some dental floss for that purpose alone- necklace making. While the trip was fun, and we saw some great sights and got to experience some of our missed KY humidity, it was a challenging week for myself. My spirits weren’t as high as usual, I think if I had just one day to myself to rest and spend some time with the Lord- I would’ve been more pleasnt on the trip. I’m trying to learn how to take a little bit of alone time each day so that I don’t end up having one “Bad day” every few weeks, but it’s a learning process. It’s so awesome to be working alongside Lauren, Courtney, Ben and Daniel- but we don’t ever really get a break from each other. I guess that’s a part about communal living that I’m going to have to work on.

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But I’m going to go get packed up for our trip to Makueni! We’ll be having the medical camp at the end of our 3 months with the SECC Medical team in Makueni, and we’re getting the place prepared for the team to come on in. Apparently Makeuni is VERY very dry, and we’ve had a little bit of trouble getting rid of colds and such with all of the drastic climate changes. So pray that everyone’s lungs clear up so that we can fully enjoy our experiences! And I haven’t gotten to run in over a week (obviously with all of the safety issues of Mombasa). I miss my running time! I hope that we’ll have some safe expanses of Kenya to romp around on this coming week! Also, we’re staying in tents again, so pray that everyone gets restful sleep as we’ll be clearing out rooms/cleaning/hauling stuff this week.

And I’m so excited because I get to have a Skype date tonight with Daniel (www.godismyjudge.wordpress.com)! I’m so excited! Thanks so much for reading, all of the blog readers- whether I know you are not, are in my prayers! I Hope you are all being extravagantly blessed by our Lord!

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Maasai Medical Camp

June 12, 2009

Wow, it’s been such an awesome week! This past week our team traveled to Kajiado, Kenya. Kajiado is in the rift valley province of Kenya, and there were some spectacular sights as we drove out to the middle of nowhere. We stayed with a missionary couple, Josiah and Sarah Kirisuah. Josiah and Sarah are of the Maasai tribe, and they live on a beautiful piece of land that overlooks a valley where Josiah’s native tribe of ~400 live. Josiah is a pastor at the local church that they started, in addition to the church, the Kirisuah’s also started a primary school for the local Maasai children.

Sarah and Josiah showed us such hospitality. For each meal, Sarah created wonderful dishes that filled our stomachs and our hearts. She also took the time to explain many recipes to us so we can replicate them when we return home 🙂 Josiah and Sarah have an extraordinarily beautiful piece of land, and it was so neat to hear Josiah talk about the land as God’s portion for him and his family. God has truly blessed this family with many talents (their daughter, Neema, is an extraordinary award-winning singer), great dreams (they hope to open a medical clinic, Neema hopes to open a school for arts), and outstanding relationships with their Maasai family and friends. If you Google “Maasai”, you’ll probably see a picture of a tall, lean warrior with a red and blue plaid cape over his shoulders. You’ll probably find stories of how the Maasai drink blood and how they are a ‘culturally preserved’ tribe. You may or may not find that the Maasai people are some of the kindest, healthiest (they live on meat and milk, yet have no heart problems?), most genuine people you can ever meet.

We helped out the village with building a dam so that they could one day have a large water source. The dry summer tends to be very difficult for the heardsman and farmers, and the dam offers hope that they can continue to make a living the way they have for hundreds of years. We helped by hauling huge stones (the area is FULL of rocks), we also had an assembly line where we passed cement up to the dam wall. It was great to mix in with all of the Maasai, and we had no idea what they were saying- because they speak Maasai, so the little bit of Kiswahili that we know was basically useless. But the smiles and funny interactions exchanged made us all instant friends. I’m not going to go on and on about how awesome the Maasai are, you’ll just have to come out to Kenya to experience it yourself 🙂

I got stung by a wasp on my first trip to the restroom, and I wanted to document the moment. This is such a beautiful picture, Nemma, the singer, decided to hold my hands- and this beautiful picture is the result!

This past week was filled with the extraordinary wonders of God’s creation. The landscape was beautifully filled with tall, thorny Acacia trees, towering red termite hills, sparse shrubs and blue skies that went on forever. At night, we got to watch the moon rise (I’ve NEVER seen a moon rise before), and I swear we could see each of the stars in the Milky Way. This past week was full of relaxation and beautiful sights, but we also did some hard work. Like I mentioned earlier, we helped to schlep materials for building a dam. The day before we left, we set up a small medical camp (which we advertised when helping out with the dam). We opened up the small church and about 150 people ended up coming! We held the camp from about 10am-4pm. My job was to do an ENT(ears, nose, throat) examination, and I also checked the eyelids for paleness that could suggest anemia. Here are some realizations:

-Children do not like ear scopes. In fact, they are terrified of them. The children like to slump to the floor, which makes it necessary for me to go down to the floor to get a peek into their ears and nose- all in all, it often looked like I was pinning a child on the floor, I promise I was only trying to help.
-The insides of peoples’ noses look different from one another. I mean, seriously, there are so many different inner-nose structure types. It was pretty interesting. But, when the interesting nose structures were inflamed or incredibly snotty- that’s when things got kind of gross.
-Apparently elderly Maasai women don’t have people asking them to open their mouths very often. Whenever I would demonstrate how they were to show me their lovely tonsils, they would laugh quite a bit. The women, lovingly called the “grandmothers’, also giggled when I proceeded to look up their noses.
-I know absolutely nothing about eyes, ears, noses and throats. I mean, I can tell if something looks bad, but I have absolutely no training to diagnose anything. But no worries, once the patients passed me and Ben for blood pressure, they went to fake Dr. Daniel and then proceeded to the pseudo-pharmacists Lauren and Courtney. No worries though, we did have Pamella, an LIA staff member and registered nurse on hand. So we were semi-legitimate.

The people needed basic medicines: de-wormers, pain relievers, antibiotics, anti-fungal medications- so our lack of knowledge about most things medical didn’t matter too much. The medical camp was a fun experience, though Daniel and Ben are feeling a little under the weather today, so keep them in your prayers.

Some fun experiences I had in Kajiado:
– We watched a goat castration (i.e. vasectomy) and we documented it with video and pictures
– We watched a goat become our dinner (I wrote a detailed how-to list for how to have goat for dinner)
– We drank copious amounts of Kenyan tea (tea, milk, water and sugar- mmmm)
– I got to take some AWESOME runs– my shoes are now a terra-cotta red color from the beautiful Kenyan dirt
– I fully intend on going back to Kajiado, and I told Sarah and Josiah that I would be back to visit them. Who knows? Maybe I can work in their dream clinic someday 🙂 P.S. It’ll take about 4 million Kenyan schillings ($50,000) for them to get the clinic up and running- if you happen to want to donate, let me know!
– I miss e-mailing Daniel. We didn’t have any internet access this past week, and I’ve missed talking to him. He arrived safely in California last week, and he’s been going through his orientation these past few days! It’s been so nice to finally read e-mails from him. Keep him in your prayers please!

Tomorrow we are headed back to Kibera slum to do a school outreach program with Nairobi Pentacostal Church. Pray that we’re able to have some good interactions with the children- as you may have read in the last post, the slums are a difficult place to be. We’re also not really sure what we’re doing, and we don’t know how much of a language barrier there will be, so I’m just praying that God leads us into some awesome fellowship with the people we meet. And I also want to thank God for the work he’s doing in the lives of people back home. I’ve been praying for many things this summer, especially for my family, and our Lord is faithful! Prayers are being answered!

What a beautiful picture of joy and laughter

What a beautiful picture of joy and laughter

God bless you all!
Holly

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Sunburn, Slums and God’s Children

June 4, 2009

On Monday June 1, Daniel, Lauren and I atteneded the Madaraka Day celebration. Madaraka day is the day Kenya attained self-rule in 1963. Let’s take a look at my fashion choices, can you tell what I’m missing?
I decided to wear a tank-top because it feels like the middle of summer to us, but the Kenyans think it’s cold because it’s winter here! I also donned a baseball cap to protect my face from the “winter” sun. I slipped on my Chacos (which I think I’ve worn every day since I’ve been here), and I also wore capris.. Anyways, now that you know what I’m wearing, notice that I forgot to put on sunscreen. More on that later.
Dr. Emily from LIA picked us up and dropped us off at the stadium. We got there around 10:30 am, and we waited till about 11:45 till anything started. It was pretty neat because we got to sit in the stadium seats, we got there before it was getting super crowded. There was a marching band that played as the Kenyan armed forces marched around the field. Then there were some other groups that walked a lap around the stadium, there was a brief air show, some Masai warriors did a dance performance, and there were circus-type acrobats who did some nifty tricks (doing a handstand on another persons ribcage, anyone?) Then the prime minister came out and talked, and then the President came and spoke for a while.
At one point though, when the Prime Minister was speaking (it was all in Swahili, so we didn’t know what he was saying)- some guy started shouting about 5 sections to our right. The Kenyan guards were all over him immediately, but it got our hearts pumping for a while- especially since we had no idea what was said by the Prime Minister or by the unruly man. We decided to take off around 12:45, the President had started speaking, and we were getting REALLY hot- that’s another thing I’ve noticed, Kenyan’s don’t sweat. We headed out to one of the exits, but it was closed. We decided to stay there because someone told us the doors would open once the President was finished. People kept pouring into the little area where we were, and we stood packed like sardines for close to 30 minutes. It was a little unnerving at points because we were a little scared that someone would get rowdy again, but no one did, the heat didn’t help with the closeness either. When they finally opened the doors, everyone was pushing and shoving toward the exit. If you would have fallen, you may have been trampled. It was like you were standing in this river of moving people, and you just had to follow the current- I’ve never been in that experience before! But we’re safe, nothing bad happened 🙂
Back to my lack of sunscreen, my malaria medicine makes me sensitive to the sun. I got a bit burnt on my shoulders and in my “elbow pits”. My feet, on the other hand, got pretty toasted. I look like I’m wearing white Chacos . It’s more like sun irritation from the malaria med. It doesn’t hurt at all, but boy was it red! Everything has pretty much faded into a tan now though! Lauren has an awesome leathery-feeling forehead due to her extreme sun exposure, and Daniel, the redhead in the group, really didn’t get burnt too badly! See all of that patchyness? Thanks doxycycline.

On Tuesday, I made eggs for breakfast. I’ve had some difficulty with eggs: The first time I made them I added milk, the next time I added water, then this time I didn’t add anything- and go figure, they turned out the best! We headed to LIA and watched a short video about HIV/AIDS, then we read some questions that I think were from students that were published in an HIV/AIDS awareness magazine. Then we met with a missionary man and his wife, Josiah and Sarah, who live in Kijado, which is where we’ll be from Monday-Friday of next week. They live with the Masai tribe people (legit tribe people, the husband is one of them). We’ll be sleeping in tents and living very primitively. We’re all really excited for a “real” African experience! Of course, I asked if we could run while we were there, and Josiah said “sure, you can chase the giraffes”!!! Chasing giraffes!! How awesome!
We had our first slum experience in Kibera. Kibera is the world’s 2nd largest slum, and Kenya’s largest. It covers 7 square kilometers, HUGE. We met 3 pastors from churches there, and they took us to a “school”. There was garbage everywhere, there was dirt everywhere, it was stinky, people were everywhere- you couldn’t really look up while you were walking for fear of tripping over something or stepping in a puddle of who knows what.. I don’t even know how to explain it. The kids all were saying “allo, ow are you?” (They have difficulty saying H’s, it’s adorable). There are a few main roads that run through the entire slum, and there are TONS of mud hut shack things that are tiny businesses. Some sell minutes for cell phones (you load them up, kind of like reloading a pre-paid card), some sell veggies, some sell cooked food. I wasn’t expecting to see so many “businesses” there. And people walk like 5+ miles to town to go into the city to work. Some women make porridge in their homes, and then they carry it around and give it to people throughout the day. It’s such a strange environment; you really do have to see it to believe it.
Anyways, we visited the school, and the classroom was a dark little mud hut room with little benches and “desks” (taller benches) made out of 2×4’s. We said hi to the kids, and they went around the room and told us their names, they were from ages 5-11, but most looked younger. There were about 40 kids in that one tiny room. Then, the kids were given biscuits (cookies) for a snack, and they gave us some Kenyan tea (they boil milk + tea + sugar, it was AMAZING!) The school has a feeding program for the kids- they feed them fortified porridge at 10am, and they give them lunch (usually rice and beans) later in the day, sometimes that’s the only food the kids get 😦

It was definitely a humbling experience. I said a prayer for them all, you could feel the love of the Lord in that place. We were meeting with a woman, and we followed her son, Daniel, home from school to visit with his mom who is HIV positive. It was so strange following this 5 year old boy through the packed mud and garbage alley-ways of the slum. There are “streams” of water and who knows what else running in the walking path, so you kind of have to hop around to avoid them. We arrived at the house, went inside, and saw the sparse furnishings of a wooden couch, some buckets for water, a simple stove (coals in a pot with another pot containing porridge on top), and a bed behind a curtain. The woman’s name was Faith (she’s a Christian), and she has 3 children. She welcomed us into her home (everyone tells us welcome everywhere we go, it’s awesome), and we said a prayer with her. And she was explaining (in English) the stigma about HIV positive people. Faith told her neighbors that she was HIV+, and they basically don’t talk to her anymore. People don’t get tested, because of stigma associated with HIV. BUT, HIV medication is FREE here, but people are just so afraid of what others will think, that they’re never tested, so they never really know their status, and they never can take advantage of free medication. It’s a difficult scenario to wrap your mind around.

A picture of Kibera in the rain from Ben’s camera

When we were returning to our van to head home, it started to rain, and the mud streets turned so very slippery. But, there was a rainbow over the slum, and it was just a really neat moment. God is still present even in this place where poverty, disease and hunger run rampid. I haven’t quite digested the whole visit to the slum yet, but again, it was humbling. I cannot believe that people are living and thriving in that area. It looks like a place where people should just be dying, but people have small businesses, and some people are happy? Then I started thinking, if SOME Americans would live a little less comfortably than they do (smaller house, not as extravagant cars, etc.), and if we sent all of that extra money to build houses/set up people from the slums with money for necessities for life, we could like, eradicate that slum area. That’s almost 2 million people and it really wouldn’t be much sacrifice for us.
On Wednesday, June 3, we met a guy named Julian (who happens to be the brother of the LIA founder, Dr. Florence). He founded an organization called Youth Redemption Africa, they basically start up bible studies/Christian youth leadership training within schools. Julian put together a book called “Aroma”, and it’s basically a year-long bible study for small groups that takes you through “Milk to Meat” types of studies. The first section of the book focuses on understanding what being a Christian means, then later sections talk about evangelism, traditions (prayer, fasting, etc), and then it talks about community/church importance and what each is supposed to look like. That wasn’t a very good description, but it’s basically awesome. It was an all-inclusive bible study that I think tons of people could learn from! I’m planning on bringing a few back home!
After lunch, we visited New Life Home Trust. They take in abandoned children (not orphans, just abandoned). Anyone can bring a child there (aged 1 day to 3 months- that’s the age range they’ll accept, lots of babies!) They were telling us about the program and stuff, and they take pictures of the babies when they are found/dropped off. The pictures were so heartbreaking. Some of the babies were super skinny, someone found a set of twins that had been BURIED under mud by the parents that didn’t want them, and one baby was wrapped in a garbage bag and was found in a dumpster. It was really difficult to look at the pictures. Then, they had pictures of the babies after 2-4 weeks at New life Home, and they looked SO much healthier and happier 🙂 Anyways, they’re running an awesome Christian facility. Courtney, Lauren and I played with some kids for a few. They’re just so cute. This is a quality place for the kids to be raised until they are adopted. We were given a little tour, then we were just allowed to help out with the kids. We played with them, and then we helped them wash their hands before dinnertime, where we got to help feed them. If it’s God’s will, I may be coming back to New Life Home Trust in the future to adopt 🙂 I grabbed plenty of brochures!

We had another authentic Kenyan dinner prepared for us by an LIA volunteer. She made an awesome beef stew, and rice and chapattis (wheat-tortilla like things that everyone loves). Sorry that post was so very long, but I’m just so excited to share what we’ve been doing with you all! God has definitely been opening my eyes to see how he gives people such life even in dire situations. He has also placed a few burdens on my heart, but I haven’t quite put a name to them yet. Keep everyone in your prayers, from my team mates, to our team mates in Poland, to Daniel as he prepares for his summer in California, and to my family and friends.
In Christ,
Holly

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Seeds are being planted…

May 29, 2009

Wow, today was an awesome day. We traveled about 2 hours NW of Nairobi to visit a city called Kijabe. In Kijabe, we visited the AIC (Africa Inland Church) Hospital to meet with a German missionary named Dorothy.

Dorothy shared her story of coming to faith, and she also shared about her call to missions. Dorothy grew up in Germany, where she studied agriculture in college. She came to the faith sometime during her college years, and married a Christian farmer named Thomas. Thomas had heard a call for work with Somalians, and he and Dorothy began a 9 year journey in prepraration for working with the Somalian people. Doors kept opening for her and her family, and they eventually found themselves in Wajir, Kenya (NE Kenya). Wajir is a community of Somalis. Apparently, there are 5-6 year waves of missionaries. Dorothy began to explain the nature of the Somalian people. She said that when 2 Somalian people tried to work out an issue, one or both usually ended up dead. From her explanation, it sounds like there’s not much compassion or empathy shown in these communities, and their Islamic “value” system only worsens their violence. Dorothy said the Somalians are very good at observing others, gathering resources, and they are very strategic in their planning. She mentioned the current state of the waters shared by Kenya and Somalia, and she explained how fisherman, computer geeks and weapon makers team up to hijak ships to terrorize waters. She also explained how it was very difficult for missionaries to stay in a Somalian community for long.

Our friend from LIA, Pamella, and her husband Francis also lived as missionaries in Wajir, Kenya for a time. Francis actually taught Dorothy and her husband the Somalian language. Anyways, Pamella and Dorothy were telling us that when they first relocated to Wajir, they were simply seen as outsiders. After a few years of becoming established in the community, the Somalians who were being protective would begin to study the missionary families. After a few years, the unwelcoming Somalians would eventually threaten the missionaries in some way so that they would leave. Dorothy was sharing a story about how three men came to faith during their time in the community. The Somalian men, however, were a little foolish- they went to the church, to friends’ homes, and to Dorothys’ house to share the news of their baptism. Mentioning baptism around Islamics who are very against the idea began to anger some of the non-Christian Somalians. Anyways, the day after the baptism, Dorothy, the church and other known Christians recieved threatning letters, and Dorothys famliy had to leave.

It was just amazing to hear about this womans story. I’ve read a few different books that talk about peoples experience in the mission field, but actually hearing it and being able to ask questions was so impactful on me. Dorothy then began to tell us how two German, Christian farmers began to serve at the Africa Inland Church Hospital. In 2002, the hospital was beginning to see an increase in Somalian patients, but not many on staff could translate, so Dorothy and her husband began working at the hospital to translate.

I realize that was a lot, and it may not have all been typed out very clearly, but Dorothy made an impact on me. I scribbled some notes down right after we talked to her:

  • Missions take a while; after you hear your call, it may take years of preparation before you actually “GO”
  • Establishing a home church is important; without that support and love from people at home, issues on field are even more difficult
  • Try to reconcile relationships at home prior to “GOING”; being immersed in a completely different culture, whether it’s the streets of NY or the streets of Sudan- you’re in a different lifestyle, and working on the relationships when you’re far away can be difficult
  • You can begin your mission field at home (in the States) by connecting with people who are from the culture that you’ll be working in
  • Get experience in the country! It’s okay to take a few weeks to check out the sights and learn more about the culture

And then the unevitable questions came to mind: Where do I go? When do I go?

Obviously these are things that need to be considered with lots of prayer and listening to God. I’m definetley feeling an even stronger call to enter into the mission field, which is absoultely scary and exhilirating at the same time. Scary because I don’t know what’s going to happen, where I’ll be sent, or how any of my past experiences will fit into God’s call. Exhilirating because God has given me the opportunity to Go and do his work. I’m just rambling now. I’m just excited 🙂

And, check out our team blog: www.mi2kenya09.blogspot.com. Our other Mi2 intern friends are over in Poland, so check out their blog and keep them in your prayers: www.mi2poland09.blogspot.com

And what post isn’t complete without a picture? Here’s a little kitty friend I made today, he was munchin on a french fry 🙂IMG_2678