Saturday, December 20, 2014

Answer to prayer: hearts united

We got the picture! Is this machine not the most beautiful thing? I did try it... not as easy as an electric.
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. -1 Thess 2:17-20

Over the last two months as I sat in Nairobi waiting for the go-ahead to return to the coast, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 became my heart’s cry and my soul’s yearning. On October 7th, I left where I call home here in Kenya and really wasn’t sure when I would get to return. The goodbyes seemed beyond what I could imagine and I didn’t feel finished. I’m grateful for all the counseling, prayers offered on my behalf, shoulders to cry on and good food to pass the time. I’ve learned so much in the last couple months that I pray I can remember as I transition into what’s next.

But I can’t begin to put into words how excited I was when I got the email on November 21st and realized God had answered my prayer of 1 Thessalonians. As the days went by I began to prepare emotionally, spiritually and physically for my return. Three days in the village was all we could manage with people’s busy schedules but I was willing to take anything I could get.

On Thursday Dec 11th I boarded the bus and like so many times before was overjoyed to be headed “home”. The buses have sure improved over the last year and it was the most comfortable trip I’ve had. I have to admit I wasn’t about to take one bit of it for granted so maybe my attitude helped a bit. I arrived around 6:30am the next day so ready to see everyone. I was not about to waste one minute of daylight lying in bed when I could be out seeing people.

Friday and Saturday, after breakfast with my family, were spent out in the community spending time with different families, catching up with people, getting to hear how God had been working in their hearts over the last two months and encouraging them. Friday, God put together a time of remembrance for Mama Clemens and we got to go back to her house, praise God for her life and put the final piece, a cross, on the top of her tombstone. Just another way God showed me His perfect timing in my return.

My most memorable moment
Sunday was church. Rewind a bit, when I first came to Kenya with the expectation of learning Kiswahili, I set a personal goal to be able to greet the church and share a few words all by myself at the end. Because this wasn’t “the end” exactly, and I fully look forward to my return in April (I’ll leave that for another blog post), I was prepared to speak to the church but with a translator. I had a beautiful little message in English and expected someone to translate for me. I asked Elizabeth, I got the look like I was crazy with a very determined no. I went up and asked Pastor if he would “help me”. He smiled and said, “You know Swahili you can do it”….I can try… and so I did. I did scratch a lot of what I was going to say but I was amazed (thank you Holy Spirit!) for how well the words just flowed. I said everything I wanted to, I read from my Kiswahili Bible and really wasn’t nervous at all. I enjoyed it actually and looking back this was most definitely my most memorable moment of the trip.

After church we took lots of pictures (see below), I got to join choir for their practice and learned a few Christmas songs and dances and laughed a lot! I went to Elizabeth and Selina’s afterwards to get some good pictures with them and their family, we prayed together and then said the extremely hard, tears falling, heart wrenching see you laters at the gate of the primary school.

The hardest part of the entire trip was the following day, boarding the bus for the 10hr drive back to Nairobi. As soon as the bus pulled out of Malindi the tears fell. By the time we reached “my stop” I was shaking I was crying so hard. I texted Elizabeth to let her know we were passing and I really was not okay. Her response, “my heart is crying”.

I’ve put off writing this because of just how painful it all was. But really, looking back, I don’t think I could have asked for anything more in those three days than what God gave me. I do thank God over and over for the reconciling that happened and now wait with eager expectation for April, getting to return to celebrate a wedding! I got the closure that I needed that I can now enter the New Year ready for what the Lord has next. I’m thankful He allowed these last few months to be focused on healing and I really can’t wait to see what He has next. The ministry at the coast was beyond anything I could have asked for or dreamed of. And therefore I know that whatever is next is going to be even better if that’s even possible…

Our awesome church choir! Love this group!
Selina and Elizabeth. Man if I could get one more squeeze in!
Thankful for my Kenyan parents. Loved getting to spend the weekend with two of their girls and two of their grandsons.
Shadrack and his beautiful new wife. So fun to get to see them there! 
Beautiful twin girls!

Madam Kazungu, Mama Pili and her youngest, Hilda

Onesimus, he loves to make me speak giriama
Sweet Mariam, loved how she attached over the weekend :)
Almost got the whole family! There are 7 sisters in all and one brother, wrangling all of them was a task :) 
Loved getting to unite with this beautiful girl! She has the most amazing voice and I enjoyed getting to worship with her again!
These two guys have been such an encouragement to me while I've been here in Kenya. Thanks Silas and Samuel!
Me with my Kenyan brothers... Peter, Shadrack and Samuel
More group pictures with Selina, Elizabeth and all the kiddos at their house
Me and the kids!
I'm big Kadzo, Selina's Kadzo and then baby Kadzo :) 
Mercy! I love this girl! She's grown up so much in the last two months. I loved teaching her and I think she equally loved being in my class. She told her mom (also a teacher) who would teach her when I left?
Asha.. one of my students
Jumwa, aka Joyce... Selina's oldest
So thankful I had Monday in Malindi to connect with this awesome girl! She starts form 4 (senior year of high school) in January and we as a team will help contribute so that she can finish  this year strong and hopefully continue into computer work. 

Thank you Jesus for allowing this sweet reunion to happen. What a privilege it was to get to know each one of these beautiful people you created, that you have drawn to yourself. I pray I was able to be an encouragement to them as you continue to equip them to spread your good news! I can't wait to see how you will use them in my life as we continue this adventure together. I also pray for all the little people that I got to love and teach. May they desire to shine your light through their lives and make decisions to follow you wherever you will take them. Thank you for the smiles, laughter, and songs we got to share together in school. I pray those simple English songs about you will forever be in their hearts. And I can't wait for April! May you continue to work on my heart during this time of ministry transition here in Kenya. I love you Jesus. 
It's in your precious name I pray, Amen

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I will show you

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” 
- Genesis 12:1-3

God made this promise to Abram. I will show you. God called Abram to go and then said He would show him where. And then there was another promise. I will bless you…and you will be a blessing to others.

I read this from my Christmas Advent devotion by Ann Voskamp and was overwhelmed with the reminder of how God answers our simple prayers. I haven’t prayed a lot lately, especially for myself. It’s mostly been something along the lines of, “God can you just show me where to go.” And He always only leads one step at a time.

The last month I’ve finally had enough strength (so I thought) to start talking with leadership here in Kenya about long-term ministries. We’ve tried to walk thru many doors only to find them close in our faces before we even took a step.  Many closed doors on an already tender heart. I wasn’t sure I could take much more. I started journaling, trying to see what God was doing. And I realized, as I searched out all these new places with new people, I felt like I was abandoning my village family from the coast. I don’t feel finished there, I need that closure.

So the next step. I get to return to the village. I get to return to my home here in Kenya. I get to return to the people that stole my heart. I get to return to my Kenyan family who has blessed me beyond words. I will show you. And He has answered. And I have peace. I travel Thursday night Dec 11th and return Monday night Dec 15th. 

I will bless you…and you will be a blessing to others. That is my prayer as I return. That God would bless this small amount of time together. That God would bless each conversation, each meal that is shared, and each hug that is exchanged. I pray that it would be a great time of blessing one another.

So that is the next step. I’m so incredible grateful that I know something. Once I return to Nairobi I will get to celebrate the birth of our Savior with some great people and then start the New Year looking for that next place where our Great God has already ordained for us to go and continue to share the Good News of His birth and death and resurrection. I think good things are ahead.

Let the blessing begin.

I haven't gotten to see this couple since this day! The groom lived at the church as the associate Pastor my entire time in the village. He was on his honeymoon when I left but has since returned. Can't wait to see them! This is the group that I traveled with to his wedding, a full night traveling Kenyan style with all Kenyans! Love love love these people!
Peter... my Kenyan big brother. I hope we can cook a few meals together and laugh like we did every night. We refused to say bye, we said see you later. And I'm sure we will say it again this time too. And little Mercy. Her and I shared tears together the night before I left, her head rested on my shoulder just outside my house. Once I calmed down she nodded in agreement when I asked her if we could eat together. She's also the one who asked her mom who would teach her when I left, her mom being the teacher who had taught her almost the whole year. 
My giriama sister big Kache won't be there...sad our two twins will be. Can't wait to see these kiddos and their siblings. 
I think this summarizes my heart for the village and the people there. Life is all about people and this young lady I can't wait to hug again!
And I can't wait to take this same picture again but with me in it! Selina and I will definitely do something laughing together. I've loved our phone dates every other night getting to catch up on what's going on there. It will be like I haven't even left thanks to this one!
And of course getting to share meals and live alongside my Kenyan parents for a few days again. Can't wait to see these faces and hopefully get the opportunity to give a lot of blessings to one another.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Over the top fried rice

It's been awhile since I've posted anything about food. Fried rice (or what I have to call American fried rice living with Asians) has been my go-to dinner when I can't think of something better. However, tonight I decided to throw in a little of everything that I had. It's amazing! The flavors that are being processed by my taste buds at the moment are so rich and just about perfect :)

Take in the goodness will you... give yourself a few minutes to enjoy :)

So nummy I may just got back for my third bowl right about now!

1) Add 2 tablespoons sesame oil and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2) Dice up: 
    1 small carrot
    1/4 of a medium onion
    1/4 of a bell pepper
    2 small potatoes
    2 green onions       ....and fry it up together in the oil combination
3) Cook 1/2 - 3/4 cup rice in separate pan
4) Once the veggies have gotten some color add 2 strips of cut up uncooked bacon
5) Stir occasionally so the bacon and potatoes get cooked on all sides
6) Once the bacon is cooked add 1 egg and stir until fried
7) Add the cooked rice to the fried veggie mixture and add 3 tablespoons soy sauce
8) Stir until all the rice is coated
9) Cut up 1/2 of a ripe avocado and a few uncooked green onions for toppings
10) satisfy your taste buds!

So instead of the third bowl of fried rice I remembered dessert. 
Behold...vanilla ice cream with a salted caramel sauce (thanks Amanda!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This is the way... Isaiah 30:21

To walk along the path of freedom, you must keep your mind firmly fixed on Me. Many voices proclaim: “This is the way for you to go,” but only My voice tells you the true way. If you follow the way of the world with all its glitter and glamour, you will descend deeper and deeper into an abyss. Christian voices also can lead you astray: “Do this!” “Don’t do that!” “Pray this way!” “Don’t pray that way!” If you listen to all those voices, you will become increasingly confused.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” —I SAIAH 30: 21

Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (p. 336). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 

Obviously not the first time someone has tried to hear which way to go.
I'm confused! It's officially six weeks since I said goodbye in person to all my people at the coast and have been missing them like crazy ever since. Besides talking to my best friend from the village everyday, I get a call from at least one other village friend a day. These people love me, they care about me, they desire for me to keep up my kiswahili and giriama. They ask how they can be praying for me, and often they do over the phone! I can't begin to tell you how loved I feel by those that I can't be with in person and how much those simple phone calls mean to me. They care, they don't want anything from me, other than to share this life with them. How cool is that??

So each time I talk with them I get to update them on what's going on. This door is opening so we're praying about that right now. A few days later, that door closed, we're praying about another door. A few hours later, that door shut too, can you just pray that I would focus on God and let all the pieces fall into place when God so desires. At this point I often hear the inevitable question, "why don't you just come back?" *heart breaking again*'s the question everyone there asks and up until a few days ago I wasn't sure how to answer it. God finally gave me that answer.

"I absolutely loved getting to live alongside you, eat your food, hang out at your house, work in your shamba(farm), attempt to teach your parents English, worship the Lord together, mourn together, celebrate together, and everything else we got to do. But as far as ministry goes, you are filled with the same Holy Spirit that is within me. That means you have the same power I do to love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as well as share God's truth with those around you who don't know Him yet. My prayer is everything we talked about, whether it be living in the Spirit, being a good friend, loving your husband well, serving with arms wide open, caring for your brothers and sisters, whatever you want to take away from my time there, don't waste it! You do it, you be me. Don't be scared. You can do this and I'm praying for you every step of the way!"

So what about what's next? I get that question here in Nairobi a lot! And I can imagine those back home may be wondering the same question. Can I just tell you, our God has no time limit! And I'm sure other people are just as frustrated as I am when I say, "I don't know". I don't know what's next, I continue to try to walk through doors and lately God has been slamming them in my face (or at least that's how it feels). But over the last couple weeks He has shown me what He has called me to do, live in a rural area where the gospel hasn't been before. Whether that is here in Kenya or somewhere else in this world I don't know right now. But can I ask you to pray with me? Pray that I would keep my mind fixed on Him as much as possible and that I would hear that voice behind me when He answers and be willing to obey it.

It's scary. Who knows what He may ask me to do next, but its also part of the adventure of being a Christian. Constantly laying down my own life, my own plans, my own desires and taking up His Cross and following Him.

Prayer points:
- Keep my mind fixed on Him
- Be patient but willing to hear that voice behind me
- Healing of my heart. I still cry a lot, I'm still mad, and sleep hasn't been easy these days.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Prayer for Samuel

Taken November 2012
Can I ask you to pray for sweet Samuel. He is one of 32 kids in one family. He was the oldest student in our school because his family struggled to pay school fees. He became one of the students we supported and will be finishing KG3 (last class in nursery school) this year and entering into Class 1 (primary school) in January. Over the last year he was often in my class because he couldn't behave himself in his own class. We've had many talks, me encouraging him that he is able to sit down, do his work and do it well. I've worked with him often on learning to read and loved to see this smile when we correctly sounded out the word we had been struggling with. 

Taken August 2013
He struggles mostly because he wants attention and receives it most when he makes poor choices. Since leaving the village I have talked on the phone to him a few times when his teacher wanted to send him home. I challenged him as I had before that I didn't think he could do his work and do it well. The texts are always the same, "thanks for talking to Samuel he did so much better after talking to you." He attends church on a weekly basis and is often times around the church compound because it is a safe place. 
Taken March 2014
Shortly after leaving the village I got word that he was really struggling at home and his mom was wanting to give up. Competing with 31 other kids isn't easy and he falls fairly close to the middle. He has been on my heart so much lately and since I can't be there physical may our hearts join together for him. Pray for his home situation, school fees, and that he would come to trust in Jesus for salvation.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scars. everything sad isn't coming untrue

I have been listening to the Jason Gray album, “Love will have the final word” constantly since my return from the coast on October 7th. All these songs have been speaking directly to my heart. Lyrics have become my prayers.  

Song #1: Tell me of the hope that you know is true, ever feels like a lie from a friend, when the world’s all salt in an open wound, and they just can’t seem to understand, that you haven’t even stopped the bleeding yet. I know someday, I know somehow, I’ll be okay, but not right now, no not right now…   -Not right now

Song #2: I have no choice but to cry out for You, Please help, cause I’m helpless now. You hear my prayer when my whole world comes unglued, I know you can fix it, but I don’t know how, I don’t know how…     -I don’t know how

Song #3: It goes out to you when there’s nothing more that you can do, It goes out to you when everything sad isn’t coming untrue and every dream you chased got away from you. There’s never been a night so long, there’s never been a life too far gone. When you come to the end, you can begin again…It’s never too late for a new start, If you give God the pieces of your broken heart, when you come to the end, you can begin again…    -Begin again

Song #4: Do you feel the pain of every blow that knocked you down? Or do you bear the shame of every wound you handed out? No matter what you gave or what you received, if you were left or the one to leave, even though it’s hard to hope again, this is not the bitter end… Even this will be made beautiful, even this will be made beautiful. Scatter the ashes on the wind, everything will be born again, In His time, in His hands, beautiful, beautiful…  -Even this will be made beautiful

I know I’ll be okay but now right now and I don’t know how but one day I will be able to begin again but the bleeding hasn’t even stopped yet.  I wake up every morning, I sew, I move to the kitchen to bake something hoping to escape reality when I realize over and over and over a thousand times each day that everything sad isn’t coming untrue. How does one deal? Let the wound heal, don’t apply salt and in time, even this, even this, will be made beautiful.

Scars. We all have them. Physical, emotional, tender, obvious, almost gone, hidden scares. I bare three physical ones.

One is between my knuckles on my left hand. I was making ugali bent over the jiko in the kitchen of my home in the village. The associate pastor was there like he was every night doing dishes as I used every ounce of energy to stir the flour ball into the perfect consistency to enjoy. I felt the spat of boiling flour hit my hand but I was too busy to wipe it off. The longer it sat the deeper the wound became. The next morning it was huge and when it finally popped a few days later my co-teacher insisted on using warm salt water to clean it out. Even though I totally cried each time she cleaned it I now look at that scar and remember cooking over the jiko, I remember how much my co-teacher loved me and cares for me to want to heal the burn in the way she knew how. I look at the scar and don’t feel the pain of the burn anymore. I see love.

Another one is on my right arm. In August I traveled with 8 of my village brothers and sisters to the wedding of our associate pastor about 14 hours away. Traveling Kenyan style is definitely different (a lot cheaper) but a lot longer and more interesting than traveling western style, let me tell you! We went to Mombasa and were walking around waiting for our bus when I felt something under my skin. Some sort of creature had decided under my arm skin was where he wanted to make home. It wasn’t until 3 days later when we were back home in the village that I found a sharp enough knife to dig it out (and he was still alive!). However, from the digging I have a forever scar that reminds me of time. Kenyans in a village view time completely different than I have ever known it. Time allows for laughter, for conversations, for travel, and for the deepening of relationships that I never thought I would get to experience in another culture.

My third physical scar is on my right knee. It happened while I was walking down (and I mean down) a dirt road the day after I returned from the coast this last time. My brain and my body were not in sync (for obvious reasons) and walking became something I had to think about and I stopped for a second and down I went. By the time we made it to the store I had blood coming down my leg. I took care using an antibiotic cream (instead of warm salt water!) but a tiny scar remains, reminding me of grieving, of goodbyes, of what it feels like to be so disconnected from this world you don’t even know how to walk. But Jesus conquered this world through His death and He rose, giving us hope even in these hard situations. Even this will be made beautiful.

And I haven’t even mentioned all the physical and emotional scars that are on the inside. Those seem to take longer to heal and seem to hurt a whole lot more. But as Jesus does the healing, (and He is working over time these days!) I know that one day I will be able to see something beautiful out of them. I will be able to see how God used this to teach my village community something about Himself and see why He chose to end my time at the coast after completing 13 months because He had another assignment for me to complete. I see that, as the bleeding is beginning to stop which sometimes means you can feel the cut more deeply, I know that that pain means healing is in the works. Something new has to grow but there will forever be scars on my heart to remember just how amazing my relationships, my ministry, my life was there for that time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Laura in Kenya!

Ahh it all still feels like a dream! As I look back thru all our pictures I'm reminded of just how good our two and half weeks were together. Laura could not have come at a better time! Not only was it right after my one year of leaving San Diego but it had been a really emotional and trying couple weeks and it was nice to have someone who understood me as a person and just get to talk thru things with. God allowed for lots of laughs and good tears, many memories made and a deeper friendship for sure. 

Thank you Laura for flying to the other side of the world (literally) to see me! Words really can't thank you enough for the encouragement you brought, the willingness to live my crazy but awesome life for 2 1/2 weeks and make saying goodbye so darn hard! As for our time together... I shall go down memory lane with pictures to tell of our fun adventures!

1st stop - the village!
Arriving in the village for the first time. She landed in Malindi and then we took a matatu (public transport minivan) down to my village.
Laura's view on our walk home. I'm not sure what she was thinking but it had to be along the lines long do we go for??
After a crazy two days at the funeral for Mama Clemens we got a few hours together in the church to catch up on life. 
One of the days of school we realized all three of us matched! This picture is priceless!
I had a meeting one day so I left Laura with Ellie to do some fun baking...yay for funfetti cake cooked village style! 
I had to let her experience ALL of village life which of course includes washing clothes by hand... I was a good friend tho and did the washing leaving her to rest and take pictures :)
She did help hang up everything... quite a bit of wash between the two of us!
Our our last night in the village my Kenya Mama asked me to make chapati for Laura. So fun for her to get to see me in one of my favorite places in the village...the kitchen!
Chapo in process...
I waited til the last day to take her on an official take pictures tour of the property.
Witnessing the way we get our water in the village. Praises that it came during the day for the whole time she was there!
2nd stop - Malindi!
The 3 of us rode together so that Ellie could enjoy some ice cream with us.
We got some awesome connecting time with the Indian Ocean as our entertainment. We only got bothered a handful of times which was a huge blessing!
Yay us hanging out together talking about Jesus, what we do best... btw Laura did you see how well we are still matching :) We adapt quickly to Kenyan culture!
Feet in the Indian Ocean...together!
Yay beautiful ocean!
3rd stop - Maasai Mara Safari
Day 1 of Safari
Breakfast before we started the journey to our safari (which really doesn't make since because I said journey twice so really the sentence should read Breakfast before we started the journey to see animals)
Yay safari vehicle! This is really going to happen!
Potty stop #1! We prefer natural toliets here! 
Our awesome tent that housed us for two nights. It was a perfect balance between village and city to make us feel very comfortable. Even had indoor plumbing!
I am so incredible glad these two got along so well! 
Safari Day 1! 
Enjoying a cup of chai after our day of travel and first safari!
Day 2 of Safari
Our guide noticed our bad breath and found us some natural toothbrushes (made out of a tree) that the Maasai use to brush their teeth. I sure had a lot of bacteria because it burned! I'm sure he was thankful we did it tho.
Safari Day 2 group pic!

Us with a cool Kenyan bird... Kenya has 1,000+ different species of birds!
We're in Tanzania!!
Our passports may not have gotten stamped but they were in the country of Tanzania...we have proof!

Thank goodness Ellie waited until just the right time to snap this picture...our kind of toliets for sure!
picnic lunch in the reserve. We didn't see any animals while we ate but just knowing we were where they could be was really fun.
The food was delicious!
Day 3 of Safari
We left where we were staying just after 6am (still dark outside) and it was pretty chilling but it was so worth it! Early game drive is awesome!
We successfully marked our territory three times in Maasai land! 
Back for breakfast, chai and snuggles!
Fourth and final stop - back to Nairobi
Started it out right with cinnamon rolls and coffee!
We had fun cooking village style, cracking coconuts and everything!
I'm so at home in this picture its ridiculous!

Just hanging out cooking dinner of a big deal!

Cooking ugali!
This is how we buy fish here...completely whole and fried to a crisp. We cut it into three pieces and then added it to our coconut stew...

And this is the final product! It was so good!!
Last day...we're in denial kabisa (completely)!
Dinner together... fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and milk gravy
eek so much delicious goodness!!
enjoying our meal and chatting about our time together as well as making plans to see each other all together in the future!
Matching lessos :)
There's writing on the back but its hard to see, it says Tumpe Mungu Shukurani - we give God thanks
Just minutes before the taxi got there. A few minutes later and there were tears. Laura, words just don't seem like enough. I'm so thankful you had such a good time and didn't really want to go! See you friend in 9 months!

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