Monday, September 12, 2011

A Girl with a Great Destiny: The Royal Bridging Center for Girls

     In August I taught for the second time in the Royal Bridging Center for girls (RBC).  RBC is an extension of our Royal Ranger ministry in Kenya and was started by Rev. Patrick Kawe as an “alternative rite of passage” for adolescent boys and girls. In Kenya, tradition dictates that a boy is circumcised around age thirteen. This pagan ceremony involves a one to two week period of recovery in which boys are encouraged to prove they have become “men” by experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Also, they are expected to “cleanse” themselves by seeking out a sexual relationship.
     Many Kenyan Christians allow their boys to participate because of cultural and social pressures, much as a parent in the USA might feel pressured to allow their child to celebrate Halloween or for their teen to go on a questionable spring break trip. As a result of the ritual, many boys do themselves great spiritual harm. Furthermore, there was also a big church dropout rate for the ones that had been attending a church. Rev. Kawe describes it, in a classic African way, as "leading a child by the hand until we reach a river, and because there is no crossing, we ask a crocodile to ferry the child to the other side. Of course the child never arrives because the crocodile eats him on the way. Instead, we should be building a bridge across the river to safely guide the child on the way to adulthood."
     So, the Royal Bridging Center was created as a one week alternative event where boys are circumcised by a Christian doctor and then surrounded with a godly environment during the recovery period. Pastors, special guests, and Christian counselors teach the boys what God’s word says about manhood and help them prepare to be a godly husband and father one day. As a result, 100% of the boys who have gone through the program so far have stayed in the church and also have grown spiritually. Some non-churched boys have even found Christ through the Bridging Centre. The program has now been expanded for adolescent girls to spend a week learning how to become a godly woman and keep themselves pure until marriage.
     With such success among the boys, we wanted to offer solid training for girls.  Debbie Barthalow, a fellow AG missionary, and I created a curriculum on purity for the girls attending the center.  Last year we graduated 9 girls.  The subjects tackled in the teachings make most Kenyan moms squirm.  Purity, abstinence, marriage, dating, self-worth based on biblical teachings and much more are included in the teaching.  After the first girls graduated, so many mothers thanked us over and over again for presenting this information in our center.  The generation of churched mothers that exist now never had parents that were open about these sensitive subjects.  In some parts of Kenya, Female Genitalia Mutilation (female circumcision) is still practiced.  Parents just do not know how to talk openly and unashamedly to their children about abstinence because it involves a taboo subject.
     This year, we took on the girls at Kenya Kids.  This summer, I was thinking about the girls at the children's home and realized that most of them do not have parents and might never be taught about purity and their destiny as a woman of God.  After I told a men's class in Florida about the need for the girls to go through the program and to be sponsored, the men overwhelmingly donated the money for the girls to attend our center.  In August, 12 girls graduated and 10 were from Kenya Kids.  During the graduation ceremony, the girls smiled and received their certificates, roses, and a necklace as a reminder that they had "crossed a bridge" into womanhood.  My favorite gift which the girls received was their shirts.  I posted a picture below. 

We gave each girl a journal to take notes. They had fun decorating their notebooks. 

The girls in church during their graduation.

     I consider it a privilege to invest in young girls.  When I was young, so many women took the time to teach me the ways of the Lord.  My heart is full of thanks for all the ladies from my mom to my Sunday school teachers who took time from their busy schedules to fill me up with the love of Jesus and His teachings.  In a few years, I hope the Lord allows me to see where God takes these girls.   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Blending of Dreams - Part 1

     Last weekend, a dream came true for me.  I took a trip which blended ministry and a little literary history.  Our family volunteered to help a medical outreach team heading to Masai Land.  We packed a few sleeping bags, two days worth of clothes, some snacks, and our adventurous spirit and rode out into the Wild West of Kenya.  The Overlander Truck picked us up at 5am from our comfortable compound and departed to a place with no electricity, no running water, and no cell phone reception. I never imagined the lack of cell phone reception would be harder to live without than running water.  The party of about 20 people went by highway until the road ran out and then took a left on a dirt road.  We continued on until a chain of hills appeared in front of us.  A church sat in the fork of the road and that is where we pulled in and called home for the next few days.   (At the bottom of the post is a button labeled "location".  If you click on the button, a map will appear and the area at the foot of the Chyulu Hills is where we spent the weekend.)

     A fellow missionary couple ran the medical clinic.  The wife is a nurse and her husband coordinates the logistics of running the clinic.  His years of running the business end of a large church comes in handy.  On this assignment, 5 people from the US flew in the night before and helped minister in the clinic. After we arrived and unloaded the medicines and equipment, the clinic started.  Andy and I were stop number 2 in the line up. After the local people registered outside and received a number, Andy and I welcomed them in and weighed them.  Then we took their temperature, blood pressure, and then asked them why they wanted to see the doctor. 
      Our first 15 or 20 patients were older men.  In the Masai culture, respect is shown for the older men by allowing them the privilege of being first.  Their dark, deeply creased skin and holed earlobes are the images I hold in my mind.  I remember the cloudy eyes looking at me as they explained how they could no longer see well. The older women followed the men.  On average, most ladies were 10 kilos heavier than the men. 

     Throughout the next 2 days, we met 9 warriors who had killed lions with their spears.  I am an animal lover and hate to hear that any animal was killed for the sake of tradition but I have to say that I was impressed with the skill it takes to kill a lion with a spear.  Since arriving in Africa, I have been about 10 feet away from a huge lion.  I sat comfortably in a safari vehicle but my heart raced as I took an up close look at the lion's massive body.  I would not want to meet the lion on foot in the wild with nothing but a spear to protect me.  The Masai said, "If you miss the right spot on the lion when throwing the spear, you are dead."  So, if the spear hits a few inches to the left or right of your mark then you have only made the lion more angry and able to kill you.  The people who came to the clinic are people who live among the lions.  It is like living in the woods in the US and when you go for a walk and come upon a deer.  The lions live in the area like deer live in the woods.  

     At night, we camped in tents.  Thick, thorned branches cut from the bushes surround the church property.  The fence of thorns served as our only protection from the local wildlife.   In the middle of the night we heard the hyena roaming around for dinner.  During a one of our short walks, Spencer and Andy saw jackals eating a gazelle.  Early one morning I heard there was a giraffe over the hill so I hurried out to see.  I found a baby giraffe eating branches from an acacia tree with his mom.

     The name of the town which hosted us was Otiaseka which sat with the Chuylu Hills on one side and Mt. Kilimanjaro on the other.  Most days clouds surround Kili so she is not visible.  On the last morning of our stay in the area, the clouds cleared and the view of Mt. Kilimanjaro was magnificent.  The largest mountain in Africa took my breath away.  Our departing gift from the land appeared from the clouds.  I shared the moment with my kids.  A feeling of gratitude filled my heart as I thanked God for allowing us to make this memory  together. 

     Below I posted a few pictures from the trip.  In my next post, I will write about my time discovering Ernest Hemingway's campsite from his 1953 stay in Kenya.  A doctor named Joseph saved a woman's life a few years ago and because of his act of kindness, I was able to take a tour of Hemingway's old camp.  Stay tuned. 

The long dusty road to the site.

Our accomodations for the stay.  Notice the thorny fence on the right that served as our fence and protection.

The Chyulu Hills were a beautiful sight in the morning.

A Panaramic View

Baobab Tree and my favorite scenic path

Mt. Kilimanjaro in the early morning hours

One of our first patients in the clinic

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily Life: Take Two

      Okay, back to life in Africa.  So many people have asked me to write about what life is like here in Kenya that I am finally sitting down to do it.  I mentioned in my Part 1 post that this would be hard for me.  The main reason it is going to be hard is because the days vary greatly from one to another but I can give you an idea of what it is like for us. 
    We live in a one story home on the mission's compound.  It is a long ranch style home.  We have running water and electricity.  The house has 3 bedrooms and kitchen and a usual American feel.  The climate in Nairobi is unique and lovely.  I imagined Africa as ALL HOT.  Nairobi sits high on a mountain so the humidity is minimal and the weather about the same all year long.  Since we are below the equator, the seasons are flipped in relation to the Northern Hemisphere.  Right now in April, we are entering fall.  Most people refer to two seasons here, the long rainy season and the short rainy season.  We should be experiencing the long rainy season right now when rain will pour down for days and days not stopping but letting up briefly for a drizzle.  Last rainy season, I seriously thought about beginning work on an ark.  Mud gets on everything.  The dirt roads become like rivers and you can forget owning any white socks...they get exchanged for tan ones because no matter how hard you try, you can not keep them white. 
     We have had few showers lately but not the long days of rain.  The rain is essential.  It seems simple; no rain, no water.  A large dam holds the rain water and uses large turbines to generate power for most of Nairobi.  When the water levels drop, the turbines can not run.  A little over a year ago, East Africa experienced drought conditions.  The Kenya Power and Lighting posted new schedules for power in the newspaper.  If you lived in our section of town, the power was turned off Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 am until 6 pm.  (It did not always come back at 6pm though.)  Saturdays were sketchy.  Sometimes we would have power and sometimes not.  The first week we struggled as the sun rose the power snapped off.  The hot water heater stopped making hot water, the coffee pot, tea kettle, stove, washer, computer, tv, dvd, internet, lights, fans, and you name it, did not work.  The quiet that comes from no electricity is deafening. 
     During this time of power rationing, Kenya also rationed city water.  The water rationing greatly challenged my sanity.  From Sunday night around 8 pm until the next Sunday at 10am, we had NO running water from the city.  Turn faucet, no water.  For 10 hours out of a week, we had running water.  In our backyard giant tanks stand like towers.  Those tanks filled up during the 10 hours of running water and as much as they were able to fill up that is how much water we would have for the coming week.  Our tank,s however, were the second in line to fill up since we were on the hill.  Our neighbors at the bottom of the hill had their tanks filling up first, before the water would reach us on the line.  We got very creative with our uses for water.  I posted some pictures on facebook with the saving about 8 gallons of water every time we did laundry.  Since the water was on Sundays, we got up early, went to the early church service, got home around 10:30 and started doing laundry. It was NOT a day of rest, I assure you, but that's okay, when the power went off the next morning at 6 am, we got some rest.  We also started cooking in the fireplace with my grandmother's cast iron cookware that she gave me when Andy and I got married. (I'll try to insert some pics...I went to look for them and their on the computer that got fried by the power surge.  I'll post later.)
     I assume everyone knows this but we do not drink from the tap.  All the water we drink or brush our teeth with is boiled and filtered.  Just last week our outside helper came down with Typhoid.  I can only think of Typhoid Mary when I hear the word, Typhoid.  The sickness sounds like one that only existed a long time ago but in Africa, it is still common.  You can get sick from it by eating badly handled food or drinking contaiminated water.  So, all my vegetables are washed with clean water and those which are not peeled, are bleached then rinsed again.  We don't have an electric dishwasher so all dishes are done by hand and must be thoroughly dried before putting away because I don't use boiled or filtered water to wash my dishes.  You should see the kids when we hit American soil.  They run to the faucet and drink from it.  However, it becomes such a ritual NOT to drink from the tap that when they go to brush their teeth, the go to get a cup of water and realize Gran (my mom) doesn't have a water filter and they can just turn the faucet for water.  
     Now that we have water regularly again, it is such a relief.  The city water does go out occassionaly but most days of the week, we have water.    Electricity still randomly goes off.  You'll be in the middle of baking a cake and POP, off goes the power.  I'll blow drying my hair and POP, off goes the power.  I'll be cooking dinner for my soon to arrive guests and YEP, you guessed it, POP, off goes the power.  We have a 5 minute rule.  If the power doesn't come back in 5 minutes, it's going to be a long one!  One day the power went off and on 22 times.  That was just ridiculous!!!!  Otherwise, we just laugh it off. 
     My cooking skills have improved tremondously since arriving in Kenya.  Just like Macedonia, everything must be done from scratch.  We were really craving sausage awhile ago so I hopped online and looked up a good Jimmy Dean recipe.  Andy mixed it all together and played around with the taste and before long, we smelled sausage in the kitchen.  I miss frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, chinese boxes and all those fabulous things that Walmart has to offer in the frozen food section.  I did see a frozen  pizza the size of my hand in the store here in Kenya but I would have to sell my birthright in order to afford it.  Oh, there are frozen french fries by McCain's now.  I only have to sell my diamond ring to buy them but that's okay....better than my birthright.  I merely miss the conviences.  Imagine a world with no drive thrus.  That's my world. 
     But, lest I lead you astray, Kenya far exceeds my expectations as to variety.  They have a large grocery store that provides us with more than enough food!  We are blessed.  When a lady contacted me who was moving to Nairobi from Skopje (which is where I had lived before this), she asked me what could I get here in Kenya with regards to the food group.  I replied that it was a shorter list to say what we could not get because of our plentiful options.  Macedonia was a bit the opposite.  No cheddar chesse, no cream of tartar, no cinnamon, no this and that!  But in Kenya, this is not true.  I just simply miss the convience of coming in and putting a meal together in 10 minutes.  Or, I miss driving thru and ordering a bucket of fried chicken or hamburgers and bringing it home.  On the upside, living like this has also improved my organizing skills! 
     Hope this has helped you get an idea of what it's like here.  I'll try to occassionaly write a blog about daily life and what we encounter and do.  I know I could write an entire blog about the traffic, driving on the other side of the car and road.  During a holiday, when nobody was at work,  it took 25 minutes to get to the airport.  On a bad day, it took my friends 5 hours!  I'm not kidding!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Brewing Interest

     I love to read.  An ideal day for me would be a cup of tea, a comfy seat, a cool day and if it is raining that's even better.  I've picked up one of my favorite authors again and discovered his son published a manuscript a few years ago that his dad, Ernest Hemingway, never made into a book.  To my delight, the book is ALL about one of his trips to Kenya.  The little paperback is 320 pages long and I sped to page 250 and realized that I was close to the end so I slowed down a bit.  "True at First Light" captured my attention from the first page.  Secretly I am glad I did not discover the book in 1999 when it came out.  I could not have appreciated it.  Until you visit Africa; the landscape, the feel, the smell and the wildlife are hard to understand.  Hemingway's humor and serious nature blend to make this book come alive for me. I constantly resist the urge to sit down and finish the book.  Some might find it slow and not about much since it takes place in a safari camp near Kilimanjaro.  I would disagree.  Hemingway knew quite a bit about the culture and the people by the way he describes and interacts with the other "characters" in the book.  I highly recomend reading it.   

    So, as I dance close to the end of the book,  I have decided to go on a hunt of my own.  I have heard that there is an old British Club that Hemingway visited and wrote in while he was here in Nairobi.  I want to go and eat there.  The safari camp where he lived for a few months is also not far away.  My dream now is to drive out to the town close by and attempt to meet the grandsons of the people he worked with while he was here.  Hemingway's close friend in the book, Pop, was the first Game Warden of Kenya.  A man the mission uses as a mechanic has lived in Kenya for generations and possibly knows of this man, Pop's, family. I will have to do a lot more research but I'm looking forward to it. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Rendille People: A look inside a remote tribe of Kenya

     The Rendille People live in the Northern part of Kenya on the border of Ethiopia.  They are a people group who resisted Islam as it charged south many centuries ago down the eastern part of Africa.  Instead of accepting Islam, the tribe kept the traditions of their ancestors which included many Jewish traditions and customs.  For example, the Passover is a feast which is celebrated among the people.  Today, the Rendille tribe numbers around 60,000 people.  As far as the Christian world is concerned, they are an unreached people group.  The Joshua Project currently lists the Rendille as unreached.  You can go and learn more about them by visiting this website. 

     Our neighbor, who is an AG missionary and Vice Chancellor at the theological seminary here in Kenya, has been leading teams out to the Rendille tribe.  Last year, he took a team of people and spent several days out in the area with the tribe and went out witnessing to the people.  As a part of the follow up and attempt to get the Rendille off the unreached people list, he invited Andy and Patrick to go on the survey trip to count how many people who gave their hearts to Christ were still attending church.

   The trip, like the Pokot drive, proved to be exhausting.  The guys loaded boxes of rice, cases of water and fuel barrels on the roof rack of the land cruiser.  Before they reached the villages, 8 men were crammed into the car for the journey.  At some points during the trip, they drove for hours without seeing another car on the dirt road.  Large herds of camels surrounded by men with machine guns appeared on the road in the desert.  Camels bring in a lot of money up in the North.  A camel can go 2 weeks without water and brings in $1,000 for his owner.  When the guys passed a herd of 100 camels, they were watched by the guards intensely.  Other tribes in the area are known to raid the camel caravans and steal the animals.  

     The land where the Rendille people live is harsh.  When I saw some of the pictures, I thought  the landscape looked like  where Luke Skywalker grew up in Star Wars.  Rocks litter the landscape.  As far as rain is concerned, it has not rained for 3 years.  Have a look at a few pictures.

Those round domes are the homes of the people. 

A Rendille Man

A small village

Kids gathering

On the trip, the gas stations could be up to 8 hours apart.  This man ran out of gas so the guys stopped and allowed the guy to siphon a few liters of gas they were carrying as back up.

Look at the bead work on their necks! These ladies arrived at the church for an impromptu meeting and received rice packets donated by Convoy of Hope.

What is your drive to church like?  This is the walk to church for most people in the desert.

Do you see the rocks behind the children?  That is the landscape for miles and miles!

I had to include this photo.  While the men were visiting a pastor's home, they sat in this room.  The wall behind the men seated on the sofa is made up of pillow cases thrown away by the airlines.  You know those thin cases covering the pillows you get on the airplane?  Well, not everything goes directly to the landfill. 

The people gathered to praise the Lord.

Welcome to church in the middle of the desert.

When your shoe breaks, you have to fix it.  This man decided that the time to fix his broken shoe was in the middle of the sermon.  He found a good rock and was working hard to repair the damage. 

     I think pictures speak better than words.  However, I have one last story to tell about the people.  In one village, the people have a well as a source of water.  Villagers walk for miles to come fill their canteens, plastic jugs and such.  They leave early in the morning from their homes before it gets so hot and begin their journey.  The pastor told the group of visiting men that many people in the surrounding villages have developed throat cancer, mouth cancer and other forms of cancer lately.  Suspecting the water, which is the common factor, scientist came out and ran tests on the water.  When the results came back, it was not good news .  The levels of mercury and arsenic in the water was at dangerous levels.  The poison was naturally occurring, nobody was contaminating it.  Imagine getting up every morning and walking to  your only water source.  Every step you take closer to the well, you know it is a step that brings you closer to death.  Yet, if today you don't go get water, then you'll die faster of thirst.  Digging a new well is costly.  Digging a new well anywhere in the region won't work because all those poisons are in the ground.  It breaks my heart to think the people are in that situation.  Please pray for protection for those villagers.  Please pray God provides a solution soon. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Snapshot of our daily life: Part 1

This might be the hardest post to write.  While I have a daily routine of sorts, I do not think we have two days that are the same.  Sometimes I feel like we live 3 or 4 lives at the same time.
      Life #1: We have a mission life which involves meetings, gatherings, organizing guest houses, ladies Bible study, holiday functions and other events.   The Kenya field has around 17 missionary units working all throughout Kenya, and some beyond.  Every family is unique in their purpose here and their style.  Macedonia, while we were there, had a bumper crop of 3 families at the most while we were assigned there.  So, one of our "lives" involves working with our fellow missionaries. 

     Life #2:  The COMPOUND!  Nervous is the word I would use when I found out we were moving to a compound 2 1/2 years ago.  The stories about compound life flooded my mind.  (not good stories either)  So, needless to say, I was apprehensive about living in a neighborhood that was walled, gated, barb-wired and fitted with electric fencing.  What was on the outside did not scare me, it was who I was going to be locked in with that worried me.  Let me quickly put all of your imaginations to rest, compound living has not lived up to those scary stories.  The benefits have far outweighed the cons of living so close to my fellow missionary friends. I could gush on and on about these awesome people.  At any moment, I can walk across the street and ask for a cup of sugar, sit on a swing and talk about my day, ask someone where in the world I can find cream of tartar in this city, and borrow a snake catcher or a dvd.  My husband has cranked generators for my friends when their husbands were out of town, and I've had a neighbor's husband on my roof during a rain storm fixing a broken tile because my kitchen roof was leaking when Andy was in some foreign land other than Kenya. Day to Day the compound produces some form of life.  Everyone on this 5 house compound takes a turn at "The Books."  Someone has to pay the security guards that guard the gate.  There is everything from buying the guard dog food to paying the water meter man who stops by irregularly to collect the money.  The job is big but sharing the responsibility does help ease the burden. 

Life #3: The JOB!  We interact with the national church and their Royal Ranger program.  We also attend a national church each Sunday.  Andy travels around the country; training leaders, encouraging outposts, leading camps and holding seminars.  Since he is responsible for any country in Africa that either has Rangers or wants to have Rangers, he also travels outside of Kenya.  With the new curriculum, we organize getting the material printed for outposts too.  The job is immense and overwhelming but God is in charge of getting it all done so we just do what we can in the hours we have each day. 

Life #4:  Family, Friends and Supporters in the States!  I don't think I have to explain that very much.  Communication is essential for keeping up relationships. 

Life #5: AGWM.  Assemblies of God World Missions.  Two words: Financial Reports.  I only need to say that keeping up with EVERY receipt for dollars/shillings spent and reporting on it IS no easy task.  Accountability is of high importance!

I could go on but I'll stop there.  Daily life comes next but I had to give you some background on who plays a part in our lives.  Part Two shall include what a few days of our week looks like. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pokot People Part 2

     So our adventure continues with the men visiting more churches.  At one church, the pastor told the men that a school had opened nearby.  The teacher was so proud of her students, and she wanted all the visitors to see her children and school.  In the middle of a cleared out piece of land, a school with rocks as desks and a tree for shelter bustled with children. 

     The children come for school and to receive (for most of them) their only meal of the day.  You can see the school kitchen in the photo below. 

     And here is what is for lunch today, and everyday, in the school cafeteria.  Corn.  The corn is rock hard so they boil it to make it edible.  One big pot of corn to nourish little hungry bodies. 

And the local granary (below) up on stilts to keep the stash safe. 

     The children learned a song to sing to their visitors, so they all marched in to present their song. 

And then they waited for their lunch.

     The last church visited was quite off the road.  Local people had to hack a way through the brush to make a path for the cars.  Most of the places visited were close to a dirt path and accessible to the team.  The day before the guys arrived, a few people went with pangas (a long knife)  and slashed a narrow path for the cars to use.  When the group arrived, they found a few logs under a tree.  Again, a local woman pounded on her drum to alert the members that company had arrived.  

         The trip ended and the men headed home.  Gracious and hospitable, the local people waved goodbye and invited everyone back to visit.  When I host someone for dinner, I am always consumed with the amount of food I have to offer and the house being clean.  I want to make sure I have choices in case a person does not like a certain type of food or sauce.  Often as I enter the home of a Kenyan, they are simply blessed if I take a cup of tea with them.  Sugar is a valuable commodity and expensive at that.  I have learned many things about hospitality here in Africa.  When the sugar is passed to me to put in my tea cup, I think about the sacrifice the family is offering to me by allowing me to dip my spoon in the sugar bowl and take a spoonful or even two.  The small bag of sugar costs a day's wage.  A day perhaps in the hot sun, sweating and working every muscle in their body, to earn enough money to put something on the table for their family.

     The people in Pokot were blessed by the mere presence of visitors.  They insisted the men eat with them in the church.  Precious meat was offered.  Almost priceless vegetables cooked for people who in a few hours would be back on the road and in their own homes with a pantry full of food.  Yet, with a smile and happy heart, the food was placed before the visitors and a sense of pride came over the locals as they watched the men eat.
      I want to be willing to offer my best for anyone who enters my house.  I want to simply be blessed by the fact that people walk into my home and eat with us.  The Pokot had so little to offer and yet they offered more than I ever have to my guests.  I want to be more like them!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Pokot People

     Andy just returned from a trip to the Pokot Region of Kenya.  I sat down with him and looked over all the pictures of the trip that a fellow missionary took out in the bush.  Each picture flashing across the screen made me say, "That's my favorite picture."  After many favorite photos, I gave up and just studied the people and surroundings.  In this blog, my hope is to allow the pictures to tell more of the story than my words.  (I want to credit our fellow missionary friend, David Barthalow, with all the photos.  My hubby forgot his camera and so David graciously allowed us to use his gift for picture taking for our blog.) 
    First I will give a tiny bit of background.  The Pokot are a tribe of people found in Kenya.  Their region flows between two countries: Kenya and Uganda.  From our home in Nairobi, you would head northwest and drive about 500 kilometers on not so nice roads. (Understatement!)   The people live very simple and poor lives.  In the area where Andy visited, they have not seen rain in 3 years.  By the pictures I will put up, you can tell they have not had rain.
     Andy drove our Speed the Light car and packed it full of people and rice.  Our neighbor, who coordinates Convoy of Hope, donated the rice packets.  Two Toyota Landcruisers filled with Kenya Assemblies of God (KAG) pastors, visitors from America and AG missionaries headed off to a land that was dry physically and spiritually.  The objective of the trip was to access the condition of the few churches that had been recently built and the pastors who moved up to the region to reach the people.
     On the first day of touring, the men went to this church site.  The people managed to get walls up around their meeting place but no roof.  The pastor met the group and told the touring onlookers that they needed sponsors to help finish the roof. 

     This is the area around the church.

 The group continued on in their journey.   

The next church had a roof but the walls were a little less sturdy.

Then the next church had no walls but a roof.  (pull up a long and sit awhile)

     Whenever the troop would arrive in the next village, they were brought into the facility to see the place where church members met each Sunday.  The site was often vacant at first but it did not take long to attract a crowd.

     A woman carrying a baby and a drum began to beat the signal that visitors had arrived.  As she walked around the village, people stopped the chores they were busy with and came to church.  The laundry, cooking, and other house duties could wait since visitors were such a rare treat. 

Before long, the members of the church were singing and enjoying an impromptu worship service. 

     After introductions and a time of fellowship, the men began to hand out the rice.  As I mentioned earlier, it has been 3 years since the people in this area have seen rain.  Only the strongest trees and people can make it through the lean years of drought.  One woman in particular stands out among the crowd.  Elizabeth is her name.  Ten years ago she accepted Jesus as her Savior.  She was 40 years old when her life changed.  The Lord spoke to her and told her to plant 10 churches among her people. 
     The Pokot tribe is unreached in many ways.  In some areas, trucks do not deliver goods, cars do not pass by, and the outside world is only spoken about and not seen.  Elizabeth has a mission now.  She wants to reach her people with the love of Jesus.  Her home is in a city nearby and she is married with children.  The Lord told her to go back to her people and so on certain days of the week, she gets on a bus and takes it as far as it goes.  Then she walks down the dusty, dirt roads from village to village.  Many of the primitive churches that you have seen in the photos are a result of her faithfulness to tell others about God. 

Elizabeth is right behind the children in the pink shirt and blue jacket.

     The one item that Elizabeth would like to have as she walks among her people is a Proclaimer.  The group of men on the trip only had a few with them to deliver to the pastors of each church.  The Proclaimer is a device that is solar powered or hand cracked and it has the Bible recorded.  The people were amazed when the men opened up the machine and it began to speak to them in Swahili.  Most of the people in this area do not have a Bible to read.  The Proclaimer is an amazing tool to help people without the means to have a Bible.  For most, even if they had a Bible, they would be unable to read it because they have never been to school. 
    With that story, I will end this blog.  I will have to make part 2 another time.  The day has become night for me and even though I have many more photos to share and scenes to describe, I must wrap this up.  Between power outages that have kept me from uploading photos and the daily chores of homeschooling and cooking, I have run out of time.  It might not seem like it took all day to upload the photos and write the few lines that I typed out, but alas, it did.     - Stacey


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Day in Masai Land

     A few weeks ago we left Nairobi with our neighbors and drove out to Masai land.  Eight people piled in a Land Cruiser.   The first part of the journey was smooth and lush.  We climbed higher and higher through neatly trimmed tea fields.  The color surrounding us was magnificent.  The plants, trees and tea  created an ocean of green.   
      When we hit the top of the mountain and began our descent, a world of brown dirt and sand lay out in the valley.   The contrast between the two worlds is striking.  When the day is clear, you can see for miles into the Rift Valley.  The Rift Valley is a geological wonder.  If you have time, go look it up on the internet.  I can hardly do justice to describe it, but from what I have read it is a rip in the continent of Africa that extends from Ethiopia to Mozambique.  Geologist can best describe the terminology of plates that are separating and different fault lines that exist in Africa.  The depression just north of Nairobi is one of the deepest in the East African Rift Valley.  The land is dry and dusty for miles and miles.  Two mountains stand tall in the distance, and I now know that those tall brown bumps are actually volcanoes.  Those giants are where our journey will take us.   

     About thirty minutes later, we are deep into the parched valley and turn off a nice, smooth, paved road onto a thin strip of a dirt road.  The ride slowly becomes bumpy and exciting.  To our right we spot zebra and gazelle.  Before we turned off the main road, we saw many people herding their sheep and goats.  The road was busy with taxis and safari vehicles loaded with people heading to safari in the Mara.  This road was abandoned and sparsely spotted with the occasional gazelle standing under brush for shade.  The short brush and stunted acacia trees allowed us to see far ahead.  When we finally hit a patch of acacia trees that were taller, our friend told us that we were in a place where giraffe usually stay.  We passed through the area slowly but no giraffe. 
     Shortly after the trees, we stopped at a Kenya Assembly of God Church.  Kids poured out of the building to see who was in the vehicle.  In this area, not many cars or trucks pass by.  All the ladies in our truck quickly grabbed our wraps and fashioned them into skirts over our shorts.  We all spent some time shaking hands and greeting the pastor and his congregation.  After a few minutes, we piled back into the car and began the bumpy crawl up the steep mountain.  At one point, we all needed to use the bathroom.  The road didn’t have a place to pull over so we just stopped the car, girls got out on one side, boys got out on the other and we walked a short distance behind a rock and did our thing.  When roughing it, I have two pieces of advice: don’t find a bush that has 2 inch thorns sticking out of it and if you have a choice between rock and sand, choose sand  (it doesn’t splash).  The picture is the road we have traveled so far!

     Our destination was the top of Mount Suswa.  Our neighbor knew a place with caves, a picnic area and a view of the crater.  We spent a lot of time going about 15 mph but finally reached the spot.  The area was sandy and had a few trees.  With the car parked in a shady spot, we all walked over to a round circle of trees with large rocks.  Once I walked up close, I could see the steep drop beneath and the cave openings.  On a very hot and dry day, the coolness of the caves felt refreshing like air conditioning in the desert.  We climbed down the rocks and explored the opening of the caves. 

   After exploring the caves, we ate some lunch and watched a herd of goats pass by.  The time out of the car and away from the tossing and turning like a rocking boat on a rough sea was really nice.  When we were all done eating, we journeyed over to the crater.  The view from so high up provided us with some unexpected sights: dust devils.  Little tornados reached down from the sky to the earth below and swirled the sand high into the sky.  Inside the crater, the vegetation was green and truly like an oasis.  On the way back to the main road, we passed mud huts with sticks and branches visible in places along the walls.  Kids stood close to the house, half dressed and dirty.  They waved to us as we passed by.  Some with one hand high in the air and others with two hands waving back and forth like windshield wipers making sure we knew they were happy to see us. 

     We stopped by the KAG church on the way out.  Most attendees had gone, and the church was vacant.  Just behind the church was a watering hole for the community’s animals, and it also served as a laundry mat.  A small wire fence encircled the church, and we all walked over to the fence that separated us from the massive amount of animals taking a drink.  The sound was mesmerizing.  As the sheep, goats and cow created a chorus in their own language, I wanted to capture it on video and use the audio as an option for a white noise machine.  Baby sheep “bahhed” out for their mothers.  The sound was not unified and each animal called out at different pitches and timing, but the music was amazing.  Many of us stood there just taking in this moment of time as shepherds leaned against their sticks and rested knowing their animals would quench their thirst. 

     I was panicked for them though as a thought passed through my mind.  “How will they each know their animals when it is time for them to leave?”  All the different herds of animals mixed together and made their way to the square tank that caught the water.  Somehow, when it was time to move on, each shepherd began to move in between the animals and prod along his animals.  In what seemed like a matter of seconds, the place was vacant only leaving one woman bent over washing her laundry in a purple plastic tub.  She dunked the clothes in the soapy pan and then rubbed the shirt together to clean it.  She then tossed it on a woven mat all twisted and wet.  Three little girls stood alongside of her.  When they realized we were watching them, they each turned away shyly. 

     Our time was up and we needed to head back home.  When we passed back through the tall patch of acacia trees, we searched again for giraffe.  Someone shouted out that they saw a giraffe.  As the car stopped and the cloud of dust engulfed the car, I waited to see my favorite animal.  The dust settled and there beside the road was a long neck and triangular head looking at us.  I got out of the car and began to walk in his direction, and for many steps I was able to get closer and closer.  The whole trip was a blast, but spending a few minutes watching the giraffe and his family behind him was my favorite.    

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jumping In

     I am in new territory.  I joined the blogging community.  I loathe journaling so this should be fun.  However, since I am living a life in a foreign country and every day seems like an adventure of some sorts, I want to capture a few shots of my time adapting.  Right now my husband is on an adventure that I guarantee will produce all sorts of interesting blogging material.  Over the past 4 days (when he had cell phone reception)  I have received calls from my hubby and listened to brief descriptions of tribes in Northern Kenya that are remote.  The stories give me flashbacks to when I was in elementary school and sat on the front row in church and heard missionaries speak of reaching  people that have never heard "the good news" of the Gospel.   I can not wait to share some of his journey with you. 
     I want to warn you though that one of the many reasons that I have not blogged up until now was because I knew that I would not take the time to correct my punctuation or grammar mistakes.  I teach my kids at home and although we are deep into diagramming sentences I know that I will fail in making sure I do not have a run-on sentence or forget to add a comma or add too many commas.  I was an English major in college but the many years that have passed since I held the diploma in my hand and the foreign languages learned; like German and Macedonian, have blurred my memory of all the rules.  (I think that last sentence should contain a colon.  See, I told you!)  So, I will throw caution to the wind and put my stories and pictures of our grand Kenya adventure out for the world to read.