Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve blessings

Merry Christmas! (It's 12:01am!)

I intended to get this post written on Christmas Eve but baking and watching Christmas movies and eating sugar cookies from around the world distracted me a bit!

This was the first Christmas Eve that I didn't celebrate with my Dad's side of the family and today will be the first Christmas I won't go to my grandparents on my Mom's side. It's just weird. Honestly, even though I've baked sugar cookies, kind of decorated a tree (see below), sang Christmas carols and watched Christmas movies it just doesn't feel right! I guess you don't realize how much you love traditions until you can't fulfill them. But what doesn't change... the reason that we celebrate this holiday anyway... Jesus!

As we ate dinner (breakfast style) and enjoyed delicious cookies and watched Polar Express I thought about the fact that this world celebrates the birthday of our Savior, whether they realize it or not. Giving gifts, eating food, gathering with family and friends, that's what you do for birthdays! No matter where I find myself, the reason doesn't change, and that part I love!

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!

Christmas Eve dinner... Egg scramble, leftover chili, leftover veges and toast.
(Family who are about to eat chinese... I'm a bit jealous!)

Christmas Eve fun continues with the Polar Express, German vanilla sugar cookies, American sugar cookies, tea and lots of laughter.

Enjoying some Irish tradition of Coco Pops and laughing through a Christmas episode of Father Ted!

However, my favorite part of my Christmas Eve day was the time Jesus and I spent together this morning watching a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll. My prayers have been pretty consistent and to the point lately. Jesus, this unsettling, changing of plans all the time, my way not happening, things not making sense, feeling lonely, etc. are just hard and I don't know how much longer I can handle it. I know you are enough, I know you love me, I know you only allow to happen what is best for me, but it just doesn't make any sense. 

And then I hear these words...

Difficulties, to say the least, was Mary and Joseph’s life easier or harder once Jesus arrived? Harder. Let me be clear. I can’t promise you that if you stick close to Jesus you’re gonna get rich. You may be poor like them. I can’t promise you that life will be simple. It might get complex like theirs. I can’t promise you that your suffering will go away. It might intensify as theirs did. We don’t come to Jesus to use him for an easier life. We come to Jesus for eternal life, which is a quality of life that begins now, and a duration of life that lasts forever.

They had difficulties, not the least of which was all the moving. I mean, you just look at the difficulties. They’re probably teenagers. They’re poor. Joseph’s trying, as a carpenter, to make ends meet to feed his family. Any of you men feel that? Just feeding your family is hard enough. Imagine you keep moving, unannounced, to a different country in the middle of the night. It’s difficult. Everybody’s gonna think that your wife is a tramp. Your son is gonna have all kinds of confusion because he’s Immanuel, God with us.

Now, go from Nazareth to Bethlehem with your pregnant wife so Micah 5:2 can be fulfilled, and he can be born in Bethlehem. Oh, they’re trying to kill him. Complicated. Who is? The king. “Well, who do I call?” Can’t call the police. You can’t call the military because it’s the king who’s trying to kill your son. Move to Egypt, they’re in Egypt for a while. Move to Nazareth, moved to Nazareth for a while.

It’s difficult because everything for Jesus is hard. Everything for Jesus is hard. If you’re gonna be with Jesus and do what’s right for Jesus, it’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be hard in ministry. It’s gonna be hard in business. It’s gonna be hard in families. It’s gonna be hard in relationships. It’s gonna be hard financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally hard. You know why? Because there’s resistance. You know why there’s resistance? Because Satan hates Jesus, and he makes life hard for all the people who are close to Jesus. There are a lot of difficulties. That’s the story of Mary and Joseph.

and he continues...

Sometimes when the Lord says, “Do this, don’t do that,” it’s because he loves us and he knows what’s going to happen, and he’s trying to get us to move quickly for our safety. Praise God that sometimes he answers our prayers no. “Can I stay?” “No.” “Can I go?” “Not yet” or “no.” See, a good parent, a mother or father, knows that if you always say yes, you don’t love your child. Amen? Because they’re going to ask for things that are not in their best interest or it leads to danger.

Some of you have been asking God for things. I don’t know about Mary and Joseph, maybe they wanted to stay somewhere. Maybe they wanted to settle down. Maybe they were tired of all of the chaos and the death sentence on their Son but when God moves them, he moves them because he loves them and he moves them so that his love might protect them. So it is for us. Don’t question the goodness of God. Trust, trust the goodness of God and obey the commands of God. That’s the dutiful picture of Mary and Joseph.

The whole sermon was really good but these 8-10minutes hit me like a boulder falling from the sky (think Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner) and I'm now laying flat on the ground unable to move for awhile. Mary and Joseph's lives got difficult once Jesus entered the picture. They had to move a lot once Jesus entered the picture. As I reflect on His birth I'm reminded that He didn't have an easy life nor did He promise I would. All He asks is that I would trust Him. God, born as a baby, lived a perfect life, died because He loved me and rose again proving to this world that He really was God. How can I not trust Him? Just like Mary and Joseph, I too have plans for my life, but upon Jesus entering the picture, all those desires must be laid down and His ways must be at the forefront. He is good, even when it's hard. I'm really praying that through this beautiful Christmas Day I can really acknowledge Mary and Joseph's trust in God to go where He asked them to to fulfill His plans and remember that He asks the same thing of me today. I pray that whatever the plans hold for today, tomorrow, this next week and so on that I can honestly say to God, "Okay" and really mean it. 

"If you say go, I'll go. If you say stay, I'll stay." -Rita Springer

LINK to the full sermon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

bus trips to the coast and back...always an adventure!

Some fun statistics on traveling from the coast to Nairobi with comparisons to California

Driving distance from San Diego to San Francisco 502 miles.
To drive from San Diego to San Francisco should take approx. 8 hours and 16 minutes (by car)
Actual time it takes to get from San Diego to San Francisco (according to google maps) is around 7-8 hours.

Driving distance from Nairobi to “the village” is 332 miles.
To drive from Nairobi to the “village” should take approx. 7 hours and 5 minutes (by car).
Actual time it takes to get from Nairobi to “the village” is anywhere between 10-12 hours!


I have to admit there are nights where I have dreams of the smooth, straight roads that exist in America. There are also nights where I have nightmares about potholes and terrible dirt roads that exist here. I was giving directions to a friend taking me home from a hang out last night and I had to include more directions on avoiding potholes and speed bumps than I did on left and right turns.

pretty sure this is one of the streets I walk down often in Nairobi... that's just sad I recognize it.
who knows how deep this hole actually is
 I was also thinking the other day that streets in America have lines to separate the two sides of the road and very rarely to cars cross it… unless to pass but that doesn’t really happen in the city. Street lines don’t exist here and it’s not surprising when your commute involves more driving on the right side of the road than the left… which would be fine if we were in America but we’re not… we’re suppose to drive on the LEFT side of the road here!
yes the bus is on the wrong side of the road...and do you see the truck coming on?? This happens ALL THE TIME!
Another thing that amazes me is the lack of traffic lights and stop signs to help the flow of traffic. Drives that should take around 5 minutes can stretch to more than an hour! This also means there aren’t designated areas for people to cross the street, instead you look right, cross to the middle, then look left and finish crossing once you have enough room to finish (usually sprinting).
no other words needed
And the funny thing is… all these differences from America… seem completely normal now! I’m actual thrilled when the matatu’s (see below) I am in drives aggressively because then I will get to my destination less late than I already was! …I have picked up the terrible habit of running late and even worse not letting the person know! What is wrong with me??
And I saw all this to give you an idea of what commuting looks like here. In the village it’s all walking (my village is tiny) but when I want to go to Kilifi or Watamu or Malindi I take a matatu and they drive just as crazy as the city drivers.

BUT! Nothing truly compares to the buses that drive from Nairobi to the coast. It’s a normal diesel bus you would see in the states, the seats recline, the air definitely does not work(maybe doesn’t exist) and lately (probably due to rain and then rust) the windows don’t open either. And for some odd reason the stereos are never broken! Good thing I can sleep through just about anything! But I’ll tell you what I can’t sleep through… off roading in these buses on dirt roads that aren’t suppose to be roads with potholes bigger than the one’s on the “actual road”.  They do this because they are avoiding traffic or slower trucks and it’s quicker than waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic, but definitely not comfortable for the passengers who are trying to sleep!
The buses that travel to the coast (and other parts of Kenya) look like this. MASH is the name of this company.
I have been in Kenya for almost 5 months now and will have made the drive 7 times! 7 times!! This last trip back to Nairobi however is definitely one to note for future.

I got a text around 6:30pm, my bus was late and I was to report to the station 30 minutes later than originally told. (normal) Just before 8pm I left the place I was staying in Malindi and walked the 10 minute or so walk to the station, getting there just after 8pm (late as usual) and the bus arrived around 8:20pm. (pretty good) We boarded and pulled out of Malindi at 8:45… only 45minutes late, not bad. I stayed awake to wave bye to my village (even though everyone there was asleep or in their homes… no electricity will do that) and fell asleep soon after that. I woke when we stopped in Kilfii to pick up a few more people and but slept through the Mombasa stop. Around 11:15pm I awoke to our bus off the road, on all sides were other buses near inches from the bus I was in… and none of us were moving. I found out we were just outside of Mombasa and people decided this would be a good time to move very large containers which meant blocking the one road for long periods of time. This was when I discovered that only one window opened in the entire bus (a few seats in front of me), it was around 85 degrees outside and so much warmer inside! Those around me (all Kenyan's) sat in sweaters and suits (I don't know how they do it!), I sat with my skirt pulled up as far as I could without being inappropriate and a t-shirt that I’m sure had sweat stains on, babies crying, kids wanting to get out and walk and everyone curious as to when we were going to move again, if ever. The gentleman sitting in the blessed seat with the window that opened got up to close it and with tears wanting to weal up in my own eyes I kindly pleaded, “please sir do not close the window”, he looked at me, smiled and sat down… I wonder if he saw the sweat on my face and felt bad for the mzungu??!

About an hour later we finally passed the 20 feet or so that was blocked and now was following a long line of traffic. Our bus driver wanting to not tailgate (that’s kind of him), not drive slow and make up time from just sitting decided that the side of the road would get us where we were going much quicker. I definitely didn’t sleep, held my hand on the seat in front of me (thinking that would have helped me not to fall over if our bus actually did…) for most of it and prayed a lot!

yup that was me... just in the bigger bus pictured above...

another part of the road that we take to get from Nairobi to the coast and back.... good times!
We normally would stop around 2am to use the toilet and stretch our legs… we made it to our stop at 3:30am… surprisingly I wasn’t dying. I normally arrive at the gas station where I have a taxi waiting for me around 6am… I got there just after 7:30am… with the taxi ride to my home in Nairobi I opened my door, set my stuff down, looked at my phone and it was 7:45am… Over 11 hours of traveling that should have taken 7!!!! I remember thinking, I am so glad I don’t have to see that bus for another 3 weeks!

I really am not complaining, it’s not the most fun part of ministry here and it would be nice if I don’t have to do it as much in 2014 but I am thankful that God has kept me safe each time I’ve gone back and forth. I’m thankful that He gives me patience, that he has kept me from overheating, and that the Holy Spirit is alive within me so that I can see these trips as mere adventures. I’m thankful for these buses that allow me to travel to my ministry for $16 and not have to fly for over $100 each time.

However, I do thank each and every one of you who pray for me and now you know a specific way you can be praying for me when I say "I'm headed back to...(Nairobi or the village)" :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

that long dirt road

After finding out that morning that I had one day left before a three week trip to Nairobi I knew I wanted to say goodbye to a few people. I also knew that would mean finding some courage to be a bit adventurous. There is one main road that runs through our village. It’s the main highway that travels north and south along the coast of Kenya and it separates our village right down the middle. But getting to my friend’s house wasn’t the issue (because I knew the general direction to go) it was the thought of having to show up unexpected that made my stomach turn in knots.
Me with Salena (aka Mama Joyce) and Elizabeth... my two closest friends in the village.
A friend was visiting for the day so I decided this would be fun to bring her along to. We finished lunch with my Kenyan family and then I had a long conversation with my Kenyan Father convincing him that I knew which direction to go. “Remember the map you drew for me last weekend to show me where we were going to the funeral… yea it is still in my head so I’ll just follow the road to the left, past Mama Clemens house and then Mama Joyce and Elizabeth’s house will be ‘just down the road’”…. His response, “I still think it would be good for you to travel with someone….” I then threw out the best excuse I could come up with (and it really is the honest truth)… “When I travel with one of you, the people in the village only communicate with you not with me, when I walk alone, I’m the one that is greeted.” With a convincing smile on my face that I knew where I was going and that I wanted to do it alone, he finally agreed and we left.
Mama Clemens... she is one of the most fun ladies!
My friend and I walked along the dirt road that leads to the road as I greeted one child after another and a few of the mom’s who were doing their wash or cleaning up their yards. “Habari yako-How are you?” and I would get the only response to that greeting that exists… “Mzuri-good”.  I told my friend the names of all my little kids as we walked and a little bit about them. After looking right then left we crossed the street and began the journey up the next dirt road to the left where the primary school is on our left and duka’s (mini stores) and homes lined the right side. Within a few minutes we reached Mama Clemens house and her store where of course we were greeted, convinced to sit down and catch up on life. I informed her in my broken Swahili that I was leaving tomorrow for Malindi and then a few days later taking a night bus to Nairobi for 3 weeks. We talked a bit about Christmas plans which may or may not include a walk to the beach sometime that week, and then promised we would stop by on our way back for a soda (praise the Lord it wasn’t hot chai!)
the dirt road from my home that leads to the main road.
We continued our walk down this dirt road waving to people and answering their greetings, “Mzuri!” with a smile. After just a few minutes four kids came running that I recognized. Elizabeth na Salena… wapi? Their answers… “Salena alienda nyumba rafiki kwasababu mtoto anatapika-Salena went to her friend’s house because a baby is sick & Elizabeth anaweka maji –Elizabeth is getting water” My first thought (being honest) wasn’t poor child but rather… a phone call would have been so much easier because then I would have known neither of them were home! I asked the kids where E was getting water and they pointed across the dirt road down a path. I asked them to take us and we followed. About five minutes into our walk I spotted E and a bunch of ladies around a well where one woman was rhythmically raising the handle up and down to put about a liter into her 10 liter container. E, knowing she had visitors dropped the idea of fetching water and took us back to her home.

After greeting her aunt, mom, dad, more aunts, more women from her home and who knows who the other people actually were, we sat down for a few and talked. Inside my brain, the thoughts went something like this, “If I would have called first she would have told me she was fetching water and we could have planned a time that was more convenient for her… I know she has a lot of things she needs to be doing right now and yet she is willing to just sit and talk with us like we are the only thing that matters… I have a lot to learn about the importance of people and what really matters in life… I have so much to learn from these amazing people!”

As awkward as it was to just show up at someone’s home and even more awkward when they weren’t there, it was completely normal for them and I haven’t seen her face so excited in awhile to know I had come to visit. I did however make plans to return the next day and told her to let Salena know. We walked back to Mama Clemens place, enjoyed our soda and then she walked back with us because we had a church service.

If only I could say I was as brave the next day… packing, getting my room ready to leave for a few weeks (much more difficult because creatures can get into everything you leave out and lizard droppings are no fun to scrap off of anything left out) I had about an hour before I needed to leave. I went back and forth in my head, “I should go, but what if she’s not there… I’ll just send her a text and tell her bye, wait that’s probably not culturally okay… maybe I just won’t say goodbye, that’s completely normal here.” And then I have a conversation with our associate pastor who had just come from Salena’s home…

Me- Is she home?
Him- she was when I left.
Me- should I go or should I call first?
Him- you could go, she probably is there.
Me- probably… what if she’s not? I only have an hour
About 10 minutes into our conversations
Him- she mentioned you and said she thought you might come by.
Me- she mentioned me?? Why didn’t you tell me that 10 minutes ago? I guess I’m going then…
Him- have fun!

So I went, they were both there this time. We sat on wooden chairs that I thought would break and baby Kadzo walked straight to me and cuddled while we talked. They told me 3 weeks is a long time but were very happy I would be back for Christmas “Munga akipenda-If God is willing”. As quick as the visit was (and really not okay for their culture) I knew I had to get back and leave or risk traveling at dark (not safe at all). I said my goodbyes, gave hugs and they walked me to the road.

Baby Kadzo
As I walked the dirt road across the street that leads back to my house I held back the tears that so easily wanted to flow. If saying goodbye to them for three weeks is hard how in the world am I going to manage in an year and half when I have to return to the states. And it’s not just leaving these people that makes me said but the new culture I am learning and the lifestyle of village life that I love and speaking Swahili with such ease that I surprise myself all the time.

The long walk back down the dirt road.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve said these goodbyes and the tears desire to flow just as much as they did that hot, humid afternoon as I walked home. I sit in the comfort of a two story apartment, glancing up from my computer every now and then and seeing the beautiful faces of my kids, Kenyan parents, and life in the village that are captured in the pictures I’ve taken. Samuel’s eyes and smile get me every time… I can’t wait to walk that dirt road again… this time returning there to stay for awhile!

One of my favorites pictures of Samuel and I.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

school videos and picture day

Our day starts out with both classes together. We sing a chorus and then one of the teachers does a devotion with the kids. Afterwards, there is always a memory verse for the day. Here was part of the class working on it...

English: Psalm 119:60 I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.
Swahili: Zaburi 119:60 Nalifanya haraka wala sikukawia, Kuyati maagizo yako.

This particular day the head teacher decided to take a field trip outside and let the kids practice writing their letters in the dirt. It was super fun! Here's me talking with a few of the kids. The first is Nyevu working on writing an "A" and "B"... Asha is to my right calling me most the time and little Monica you see at the end. Nothing that she "wrote" was legible but I think she was saying her vowels.
Walimu= teacher
hapana= no
jaribu tena= try again
unaandica= you write
kubwa= big
hapa= here
mstari= line
ingine= another
ndyio= yes

Here you catch the tail in of Salena praying... she mentions my name... she's praying for a safe trip back to Nairobi. The other class starts before us so when Salena says Amen and the kids break out screaming they are trying to be louder than the other class and they are saying: May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and forevermore, Amen. 

School really is a highlight for me each day. I'm getting more and more comfortable and actually had a couple days on my own this last week and I survived! These kiddos, as cute as they are, have zero discipline so I was really worried being on my own. Proverbs 3:5-6 put me at ease the morning I found out I was going to be alone for the day. I play a little game with them every time I want their attention. I say/sing, "Unasikia" and then follow it by an action. It's a take on "if you can hear me...." but it works wonders and the kids LOVE it! I keep my voice really low after we finish and it was the only way I survived lesson transitions! 

It's amazing how different it is from the "western" world of schools but it is slowly becoming more normal for me. Kids wondering in and out doesn't bother me near as much anymore and when they don't start on their assignment right away I'm not as annoyed they aren't listening. Eventually they get it done and that's all that matters. We have four lessons each day. Two before break, break for PE and porridge and then two more lessons. Mornings are always Language and Math. After break we either do science, social, music, or Bible. I have taught all these lessons by now. 

A lesson usually goes something like this... the kids are asked to sit down and be quiet (asked but rarely followed through with) and then there is an upfront lesson. For math I drew pictures of 3 balls, 5 triangles, 2 trees, 4 sticks and 1 cat. On the other side of the blackboard I wrote the numbers 1-5 and then had one kid come up at a time and match them with the stick. If they do it correctly we sing a little song that goes like this (in a british accent), "well done well done try again another day, a very good (boy/girl) a very good (boy/girl), keep it up keep it up! I love the positive reinforcement! After about 10-15 minutes of upfront lesson I ask the kids to "chakua kitabu na andica ndani" take out your book and write inside. Our older group does it on their own and then brings their books up front to be graded. Our youngest ones trace numbers, and the next class up I draw pictures and write the numbers and they do the matching part. This "freetime" to get their work done lasts anywhere from 20-40minutes and then we transition to the next thing.

Right before I left I decided it would be fun to take pictures of all the kids and then get them printed while I'm in Nairobi and then give them to them when I get back. First is my class and only 3 kids are missing... then is the older class.

Margaret "Pili"


Joseph "Luganje"







Wine (pronounced we-ni)
















Older class











Said (pronounced Saeed)








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