Wednesday, December 26, 2007

December 26, 2007 - A 2-hour Walk

“We’ll walk for an hour and then turn around and come back.”

That was the plan. Juli, and her two friends (April & Julius) with whom she’s climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro were going on a walk in the morning. Although I’m not climbing I opted to join them. We were to meet at 6:30 in the morning, walk until 7:30 and be back in time for breakfast. That’s not exactly how things turned out.
As we walked, we saw either a large hill or a small mountain in the distance. We started wondering how far away it was and made our ways towards it. Six hours later, not only had we made it to the base of the mountain, we had climbed the mountain, and made our way back for a late lunch. It was a tiring, yet wonderful experience.

The view on top of the mountain was amazing, but even more wonderful was the friends we met along the way who helped the white people figure out where in the world we were going. One man, Silas, stayed with us for three hours, solely out of the goodness of his heart. Countless others walked with us part of the way or gave us directions. Juli has told me since I got here that there would be no way that I could get lost – my appearance alone makes me an anomaly in the surrounding communities. Someone would eventually find me. What she didn’t tell me about is the number of people who would stop what they were doing to help me find my way.

A few funny things that happened along the way, and a few lessons learned (or re-learned):
• As we were walking the men who were leading us gave out a sudden yell. A rabbit had come scurrying right in front of us, chased by two dogs. Juli said she had never heard Kalingi (the tribal language) yelled like that.
• We crossed a structure that was supposedly called a bridge, but was really a bunch of sticks that were randomly nailed together. The first time across, Silas remarked to me “you’re shaking.” And I was. I did much better the second time through.
• When we were almost near the base, we were going to turn back because the sun had started to rise and we were worried about getting burned; Silas was the one who encouraged us to keep going and reach our goal.

• If you are going out in Kenya, wear sunscreen even if you think you’ll be back before the sun rises. You might not.
• When going for a hike, bring snacks and enough water to double your trip. You never know when you might change plans.
• If the opportunity appears to change plans and have an unintended adventure, its usually best to take it. You probably won’t regret it, and if you don’t take it, you’d never know anyway. The best things happen in the unexpected times of life.
• Help people you meet along the way. You never know when you might be the one in need of help.
• God’s creation is truly amazing. If you have the opportunity to explore it, do so, and appreciate its wonder.


December 25, 2007 - A Kenyan Christmas

We started the day with presents. For those who may not know I played Santa Clause as I brought several gifts for Juli from the States. She enjoyed them all and I know it meant a lot to her to have some things from the Sates. After eating breakfast, we went to church, and came back to a “light lunch”. Our light lunch consisted of a couple of tables of food, so it was probably a misnomer. We then set about slaughtering our supper. Those are pictures I will not be posting.

We watched “Jack Frost” in the afternoon and had a very good dinner consisting of sheep, chicken, salad, fruit, rolls, and other things. Afterward, we had a gift exchange with the 30 or so people who had gathered. All-in-all it was a good day surrounded by people who visibly express love.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

As I celebrate my first Christmas far from all that's familiar, I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas! I miss you and look forward to seeing you soon!

Merry Christmas!



December 24, 2007 – An Unexpected Blessing

Jen and Davis have been serving with Juli in Kipkarren for the past year. They have two little girls who are precious beyond words. Their family is getting ready to go to the Congo. Davis was raised in Kenya by missionary parents, and his grandparents were missionaries here before them. Serving in Kenya is therefore like coming home to him and so his family is preparing to learn yet another language (French) to go to a country that is unfamiliar.

Davis’ parents still live in Kenya and they invited us over to celebrate Christmas Eve with them. Considering the size of our group, this was no small invitation. In total, about 18 strangers descended upon their house. They were amazingly hospital, as has been every person that I’ve come into contact with. What I didn’t know was that the plan was to have an American Christmas dinner. We had turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans, carrots, rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy and much more. This was topped off with vanilla ice cream with pecan and pumpkin pies. I had no idea what Christmas would be like when I came to Kenya so I was so blessed to have a bit of home.

However, even more of a blessing was getting to share the meal with a group of people who, although strangers, shared the common fact of wanting to join together in celebration of our Savior’s birth. Whether it was through our white elephant gift exchange (a very strange concept to the Kenyans in our group) or through the Christmas skits we enacted (I have video that will provide laughs for years to come), the celebration was a constant reminder that we had a common bond – a bond that transcended nationality, culture, political affiliations, or any other artificial division. We shared the loved of Christ.

I knew my Christmas in Kenya would be different. I’m so amazingly blessed that there was also much that was the same.


Pain is Personal - December 23, 2007

I have a dear friend (miss you, Gini) who likes to say “Pain is personal.” Since she’s had more than her fair share of troubles to deal with, I’m inclined to go with her insight on this subject. Pain is personal – we evaluate our hardships based on our own experiences and our own perceptions of how things should be. Despite our best attempts, it’s very hard to experience another person’s pain.

I’ve been reminded of my friend’s wisdom repeatedly in the last few days. The reminders have come most frequently through a little boy who is visiting the community with his family. His family is from the States and although I doubt that in their home country they are considered wealthy, they have a lot compared to anyone in this village. However, this is lost on this little boy. His first night here he complained repeatedly about a slight scratch on his finger. Additionally, in a car crammed with 18 people, he was very concerned about his comfort. When offered dinner, he wanted to know about other available options. All of this is understandable – he is used to having these things be of importance. But surrounded by kids who’s feet are so scratched up they probably will never heal, who take a seat where its given regardless of their comfort, and who are blessed just to have enough to eat, its difficult not to see the contrast. The children of this community have a broader perspective on pain and so their relation to it is much different. The things that may seem major to the little American boy are of no concern to them.

I was reminded of how personal pain is again today. I woke up with a stomach virus and spent most of the morning sleeping (quick side bar to reduce my mother’s worry – I feel much better.) After church we intended to go on our Christmas visits, delivering food, clothes and blankets to those in need. Juli had prescribed rest, and so I slept through church, but was determined to go on the home visits. It was a good day, and I believe that the four families we visited will have a better Christmas as a result. However, my slight illness quickly became of little concern when we visited the home of Hannah. Hannah is a lady who has a benign tumor in her face that due to lack of medical care has grown beyond where it’s operable. This rampant growth of cells has changed the bone structure in her face as it seeks to expand into every cavity. Even with pain medication, she hadn’t slept for three days. Despite her obvious discomfort, her gratitude for our visit was abundantly expressed. This woman, who has so much to worthy of complaint, raised her hands and sang with us:

What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Pain is personal. Thankfully, so is our God.

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A Missed Opportunity - December 22, 2007

A few days ago David received a call that the President’s wife, Mrs. Kabaki, would like to come for a visit. As I mentioned earlier, Kenya is getting ready for their presidential election and the two front-runners are very close in the polls. The plan was for Mrs. Kabaki to come to David’s house for lunch, to visit the children’s home to for distribution of Christmas gifts, and to go the clinic for a campaign rally. It was a little odd – expecting to serve the president’s wife lunch –but surprisingly all of us took it in stride. It was a good thing to because in a country where “there is no hurry” plans rarely come to fruition like you intended.
Mrs. Kabaki was running severely behind schedule and she went to the clinic first. People had started gathering in the morning and she arrived somewhere around 3 pm. After the rally, we went to the children’s home to await her visit to the kids. However, it never came. Mrs.Kabaki’s security detail took her out of the village along the back road. The children, also, had been waiting since the morning, dressed in the campaign’s colors and practicing their songs. Their disappointment when they heard the news was evident. A whole day had been spent in preparation for a visit that never came.
Although its hard to know whether it was the wasted time or the lack of Christmas gifts that caused the children their dismay, I can’t help but think that Mrs. Kabaki missed an important opportunity to bless the community through blessing those who are most in need. Also, she didn’t get to see the heart of the people as she never saw 30 smiling orphaned children, some of who are infected with HIV, welcome her to their community and sing about God’s blessings. She may have felt that the campaign rally was the most important stop in her plans, and for this campaign, she may have estimated correctly. But if she was looking for the greatest opportunity for impact, I have to believe she choose poorly.

Dinner Preparation


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Here are some random pictures. Enjoy!


Friday, December 21, 2007

Because He Lives

Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know, He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

If you ever want to feel God’s presence, be around when 93 orphaned children sing this song. I guarantee you it will help put life in perspective.

Today was Guardian’s Day at ELI’s children home. It’s a day in which people who took care of the children after their parents died can come and visit them. Mostly its grandparents, aunts and uncles and neighbors who, while unable to provide long-term care, are still important people in the children’s lives. The kids put on a special performance that included dancing, singing, speeches (of course), prayer, memory verse and poetry recitation, and a dramatic reenactment of the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Sidebar – the part about the father killing the fatten calf takes on new meaning in a culture where wealth is measured by the number of cows you own.) The day started at 10 and it went continuously until 3 – and this was a short celebration by Kenyan standards.

In so many ways, the day was extremely special. To see children with joy on their faces is always a pleasure. To watch them as they visited with those who they hadn’t seen in over 6 months warmed the heart. But in other ways, it was a heart-breaking day because there were some children who had no visitors. For them, they relived their abandonment all over again as they watched their adopted brothers and sisters open presents, receive hugs and kisses and be told that they mattered. Although the Director of the children’s home try to make sure that members of the community would be providing gifts for those kids who he didn’t expect to have visitors, still some were neglected. For a few, it was a pattern of repeat behavior, as they had no visitors in April at the last Guardian’s Day.

The Scripture teaches that pure and undefiled religion is to take care of orphans and widows in their distress. In many ways this was put into action today. But in many more, there is still much work to do.

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December 20, 2007 - God provides through His people

Through a series of mistakes, I ended up coming to Kenya with an extra pair of slippers that were too small. I really had no reason to pack them, but I felt compelled to anyway. Two nights ago, Alison, Juli’s roommate and good friend, mentioned that she needed to buy new slippers; I asked what size she wore and wouldn’t you know – it was the exact size that I had packed. I’m not sure you could call it a miracle, but it was definitely evidence of how God provides even when we don’t understand how.
In fact, today featured constant reminders of how God provides. Through another set of “coincidences”, ELI’s children home received some visitors from the African Finance Corporation (AFC). After the tour, this company gave a significant donation to the kids for Christmas. It was completely unexpected and two days prior, I don’t think any of the staff had even heard of AFC. The gratitude for the gift was palpable. When everything that you have comes from the beneficence of others, the amount of grace you show in acceptance increases exponentially.
After the visitors and some rest, we went to celebrate the birthday of Rehma, who is one of David’s son. It wasn’t a typical birthday celebration for me. After the few presents were opened, speeches were given by Rehma’s brothers and sisters, close friends, a teacher, and his father. In fact, Rehma himself started the speeches. It was hard to imagine the same thing happening in the States. Most twelve-year old American boys I know wouldn’t have stood for it. Kind to think of it, most families I know wouldn’t have either.
After the birthday celebration, we had a family meeting. As Juli’s friend I’m part of the family by extension, so although I couldn’t understand much of what was discussed, I sat and listened. (And ask Mercy, David’s daughter, for some translation assistance.) The subject was Christmas. We were deciding which needy families in the community we would visit and what could be provided for them. Everyone in the family shared their contribution. In the middle of the discussion, we learned of an immediate need. A woman had given birth to a daughter that very evening. This woman was from a town about an hour and a half away but had been displaced from her home due to tribal conflicts. She literally was leaving everything behind when she went into labor. Immediately, the family set about finding what we could bring her. Mercy had a mattress and some blankets that she went to gather. We gathered extra rice and beans, and leftovers. Then we left. It was ten o’clock at night and we went to find this lady to provide for her what we could.
Because this lady was displaced from her home, it was a little difficult to locate her. Once we did though, the moment was priceless. She was staying in another woman’s home – someone she didn’t know but who also gave what she could. We enter the home with our pots of leftovers and I wish you could have seen it. In this tiny one room hut, there laid a woman with a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Five hours earlier she had given birth. After staying at the clinic for two hours, she walked with her baby and her toddler to whatever abode she could find. The lady who provided the home was so happy to see us, you would have thought the child was her granddaughter. The baby’s father had returned home in the midst of the conflict to try and gather a few things. Juli, ever the nurse, examined the baby and pronounced it healthy. Then we stood in this tiny room, sang a song that proclaimed God’s goodness and prayed. From now on, that moment will signify Christmas to me.
God always provides for His people. A lot of the times, His provision comes through His people. May we be listening for His voice so that we don’t miss out on the chance to be a part of His provision


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Holiday - December 19, 2007

Juli and I began the day as we did yesterday - with a walk. This time we awoke even earlier and partook of the sun rising as we started our journey. On the way back, we ran. (Juli is very strategic – she walks when its mostly uphill and runs back on a mostly downhill. I would like to think that we could have ran the whole time, except I know my lungs are not used to the 6,000 feet elevation. My stubbornness probably would have caused me to persevere, but we’ll leave that challenge for another day. The approximately two-mile run, however, felt very good.) I was glad that on our way back, we did not meet any of the Kenyan runners. We saw them on our walk yesterday and despite the fact that they had already been running for an hour and a half, they maintained a brisk pace. One of the men from the community was the pacesetter in the Boston marathon. Juli says that they often invite her to run with them; sometimes grabbing her hand and coaxing her along. I hate to think how my running would have been shamed if they were to have joined us.

After our walk, Juli received the good news that one of her sheep had given birth to twins last night. This is one of the interesting things about this area. Despite the prevalence of disease and death there are signs of life everywhere. Children and young animals can be seen wherever you go. When Juli went into town for a management meeting today, I took a walk around the village. It was a national holiday today so things were very low-key. On my walk, children would literally come running from the houses down to the road to greet me. Being a foreigner, you grow to appreciate the audacity of children. They have no fear about approaching you and do so without hesitation. The children and the elders help make a strange place feel more comfortable.

Although my walk yielded some good pictures of the community, I took my other camera which will unfortunately not connect to Juli’s laptop. So the visuals will have to wait. Those who know me will be pleased to know that despite being by myself in an unfamiliar place, I did not get lost. The walk took about two hours and it was a great experience.

Before my walk, I was reading in Proverbs 19 which opens with “better is a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.” Being in a place which knows much poverty helps bring the truth of these words to light. When there is little outside trappings to separate people, a person’s character becomes even more significant. This morning, before they left to go to the management meeting, David had a family come to his home to seek his intervention. It is not an uncommon occurrence. Those who are known to be trustworthy are sought out, their advice followed, and their influence bountiful. This is how the affairs of the community are managed.


Random Things

This is just a collection of thing that I’ve forgotten to mention in previous posts. I don’t know how people who go on long vacations recount everything. Even with this documentation, there are things that I realize later on that I’ve neglected to mention:
- When I arrived in Kipkaren on Monday, I was greeted by the children from the children’s home singing. They had a “ribbon cutting ceremony” (basically several vines tied together) and I went one by one greeting them. Some handed me flowers. Their smiles were priceless. It was a wonderful welcome to the village.

- Yesterday was a day of firsts. Not only did I cross a stream in a skirt and dress shoes (see previous post), but it was the first time I carried a basket full of breakable mugs by moonlight down a rocky path and it was the first time that I went to sleep listening to the sound of boys singing in the bush. These fifteen year-old boys had been in the bush for a month as they underwent the rite of circumcision which signifies their passage into manhood. It was very odd to be lying in bed and watching “The Cutting Edge” while listening to young men sing songs that had been passed down through generations.
- There are animals everywhere. Goats and chickens wander during the day and know which home they belong to and return at night. On Juli and my walk yesterday, we met the cows heading out for their weekly cow lick (the process of getting them de-ticked.) There are also dogs and kittens (although in Kenya – they don’t really have pets. The dogs and cats remain unnamed.) At night, the chorus of crickets is amazing and the symphony of birds in the morning is indescribable. The diversity of God’s creatures is truly majestic.
- It’s remarkable to see how Western culture has crept in. In a town where many don’t have enough to eat, you see “Just Do It” t-shirts, Coca-Cola bottles, and other emblems of Western businesses. As a student of organizations, I marvel at the effectiveness of their communications. Separately though, I must wonder whether we are serving the people well through these messages.


A 2nd Day in Kipkarren

I woke up to the sounds of dogs howling, roosters crowing, and Solomon, David’s youngest son, crying. The first two are self-explanatory, I’m not sure why Solomon was crying. I know that on Monday he was very upset that school was closed and he couldn’t go to class. Maybe that was the reason.
Upon waking, Juli and I went on one of the best walks of my life. We watched the sun rise and went to a rock on which Juli believes God dwells. Upon experiencing it for myself, I’m inclined to agree with her. We each had our own quiet prayer time before heading back home. After breakfast, I went on a tour of ELI’s facilities. I can’t remember ever crossing streams and hiking through uneven paths in a skirt before, but I’m now rather accomplished at it. My tour guide, Philip, was very informative and I learned much, not only about what ELI is doing, but about the history of Kenya and its current politics (more on the last subject later.)

Kenya was colonized by the British. During the time of their reign, the objective was to get as much out of the soil as possible without regard to the long-term damage that such pillaging would bring. As an agricultural society, the two primary sources of wealth were land and cows. When the British left, the people were ill-informed on how to create sustainable agricultural development. ELI seeks to reverse these trends through programs that teach individuals not only how to most effectively use their land, but to use all the resources of the land to improve their lifestyle. Nothing is wasted. Plants that aren’t harvested become compost or feed for the animals. Cow dung is used as fertilizer or to feed fishes. People are taught how to build double-deck gardens to ensure that water run-off is reduced. They are shown how they can take care of their cows without having to maintain them all day – allowing them to spend their time in other profitable endeavors. Also, they are taught that they can build a beehive, a fish pond, a tree farm, or a cow enclosure, on the land that they already have. In addition to this agricultural training, the Training Center hosts a library, provides computer training and a rehabilitation program for alcoholics, plus a variety of other services that help enrich people’s lives and build a stronger foundation for their future.

Along with the training center, ELI runs a children home for orphans. There are currently 96 kids at the children’s home which are divided into four groups. Each group has a set of house parents who are responsible for 24 kids. Additionally, each group has four huts – a boys dormitory, a girls dormitory, an eating area and a house for the parents. The children are expected to contribute to their own well-being and along with receiving an education at Brook of Faith (ELI’s school), they are taught farming techniques and help maintain the children’s home’s lifestock. When I came, children who are on holiday from school, were busy helping to separate the rice that would eventually be used to prepare their meals.

The third area that I toured was the clinic. The clinic recently added a new building and has room to provide the following services: eye care, labor and delivery facilities, a pharmacy, lab services, and immunizations. In addition, general check-ups and health exams are administered. The clinic is staffed by Kenyan nationals and is able to refer more severe cases to hospitals that are in the vicinity.

After my tour ended, I went to the graduation ceremony for those who had recently completed the alcoholic rehabilitation program. The ceremony lasted for approximately four hours and was composed of graduates sharing their stories and asking for forgiveness, along with preaching (both planned and impromptu) and singing. There were nineteen graduates plus family, friends and neighbors in attendance. The celebration ended with lunch. It was an amazing experience to watch as people set out with hopes for a better life, not only for themselves, but for the entire family.

PS – A random experience – when we were at the Eldoret airport, I listened in amazement as a gentleman in a plastic kiosk checked us in and shared with us the president’s travel itinerary. Political operations are much different here, and as Kenya prepares for their national election, it is the subject on everyone’s lips. The fact that a ticket agent at the airport could give us a detail accounting of the national leader’s travel plans struck me as a potential security hazard, but such is the unassuming way of life here.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Our Wedding"

I mentioned in an earlier post that recently there was a wedding in the community. The wedding was for one of David’s nephews who has become his adopted son. Over a thousand people were in attendance and when I arrived the community was still recovering.
An interesting thing about Kenyan weddings is that it is not the couple’s wedding. The event, the celebration, is seen as a community occasion. The couple actually makes very few decisions about the day. In fact, they don’t even really decide who to invite. Word-of-mouth combined with a few cards that are mailed, spread the news. There are no RSVP’s and no indication of who may be coming – not just for the day; but the groom’s family may also be expected to hosts unannounced visitors both before and after the event.
The reason it is viewed as a community celebration is because every other thing in the person’s life has been viewed as a community event. If someone moves into a new house, the community brings everything that the person needs – food, dishes, and other household goods. When the person gets married, the community provides what they need. As David shared – it serves as a reminder that someone else picked the flowers which are adorning you. Someone else sewed the material to create the dress. Others were responsible for the food preparation and service. Each member of the community provides their contribution; and the community honors that. Within twenty-four hours of the wedding, all the dishes that the community had gathered from various homes were washed and returned to their rightful owner. The idea of community celebrations may seem foreign, but at least here in Kipkarren, it’s definitely efficient.
As I learned about the wedding traditions of this village, I was reminded of the passage in Acts 2. Truly everyone here shares and they have no possessions that are their own. Everything that a person has is available for the benefit of the community.

PS - I hope to post pictures soon.

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No Hurry

There is a saying, “there is no hurry in Africa.” That saying pretty much sums up my experience yesterday.
Upon arriving in Eldoret yesterday, Juli and I learned that our ride had a broken down car in Turbo, which is about 10 minutes away from Kipkarren (our destination) and an hour away from Eldoret. The Kipkarren network was soon at work though, and another man, Ezekial, who happened to be in town that day, agreed to pick us up and take us into town so that we could wait there for our original ride. Having made it into town, Juli and I went to lunch and learned that our ride was still stuck in Turbo. We then walked around Eldoret for a while where I learned two very valuable lessons 1) Pedestrians never have the right-of-way, and 2) you have to have no fear in order to drive in Eldoret. There are no traffic lights, no real rules or regulations, and absolutely no parking strictures. The cars stop wherever they have the opportunity and the drivers make their way into the shops where they have business. Combine that with people setting up mobile stores along the street (they are mobile because they are illegal and they must quickly pick up their goods with the authorities come) and it definitely is an experience that most Western drivers are not used to. For sake of comparison, its similar to the poor areas of Mexico except even more chaotic.
In the midst of this chaos though, there are throngs of people; people who live in the moment and do not worry about keeping to a schedule or routine. After walking for a while, we learned that our original car still hadn’t been prepared, and so Ezekial kindly agreed to let us ride back with him to town. We spent some time in ELI’s office, ran “a few” errands with Ezekial (which probably took about an hour and a half) and finally made it to David’s house. I originally planned to be in Kipkarren around noon. We arrived around 6:00.
It was a good day though. I enjoyed the spontaneity of the moment although Juli would have preferred a quicker route home. The day ended with dinner at David’s house consisting of some other American visitors, and various members of his immediate and extended family. Before everyone left, we closed the evening with prayer, watched Allison open an early Christmas gift (she was so excited about the CD, Josh and Jodie) and so ended by first day in Kipkarren.

A few other things that I already appreciate about Kenya:
- There is always music. Whether we are hanging out, cooking dinner, or having some type of meeting, there is always music. Spontaneous outbreak of songs are totally acceptable.
- You greet everyone. Regardless of whether you know the person, or you are just walking by them on a path, you stop and shake hands with nearly everyone you pass by. On the rare occasion you don’t shake hands, you wave and say “hello.”
- People want you to feel a part of the community. When I meet someone, they often invite me to make this like home or they say “you are part of us now.” There is an amazing amount of inclusion.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Safe Arrival

I arrived safely in Nairobi. My flight was late and I was later still meeting Juli as I waited for my luggage to come down the conveyor belt. As I stood there, I realized how ill-prepared I was if anything were to go wrong. I prayed that both my suitcase would arrive and that Juli would be there to meet me. I also prayed that if either of these things didn’t happen, that my attitude and actions would glorify God. I’m so grateful that He didn’t test my faithfulness to that prayer. Both of my concerns were quickly resolved and I was grateful not to have to figure out how to use the Nairobian public phone system or how to file a claim for lost luggage.

We stayed in a guesthouse the first night here. It’s somewhat like a bed and breakfast for missionaries who are travelling through Nairobi. The first thing that struck me was the sturdiness of the gate outside of the house. In California, gates are for privacy. Here, you could tell that the gate was for security. I can’t have recalled ever seeing such a thick gate, atop of which barb wire was strategically placed. We waited until the gate’s sensors admitted us and we were immediately greeted by two of the staff. After a good night sleep underneath a mosquito net, we had breakfast with the other guests. I met an American girl of eleven who had lived in Africa (both Tanzania and Kenya) for the better part of her life. Also in the room were several other missionary families and their guests. Its amazing how the body of Christ has immediate commonality across national borders and language barriers. I know that God will bring these individuals to mind in days ahead and I consider it a privilege to be able to pray for them by name.

Next on the itinerary will be a one-hour flight to Eldoret and then an approximate one-hour drive to Kipkarren where I will be spending the majority of my time here. In the week before I arrived, there was a wedding in the community that was attended by one thousand people. Juli’s house is being used by some guests, so we will be staying at David’s house the first night. David runs the orphanage for ELI and it was his nephew that was married. David has actually adopted this nephew as a son which happens in a culture built upon community. I had the privilege of meeting David this past spring when he came to a visit to the States. He knew me as the girl who calls Juli at dinner time. (Apparently, I’m the only one of Juli’s correspondence who gets up early enough to interrupt her dinner.) David is a man whose heart is bent towards God, a humble man filled with wisdom. I look forward to seeing him again and to experience the place that Juli calls home.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

No Expectations

The other day I realized that my trip to Africa will account for the longest time I'll be away from home. The last time I was gone for an extended stay I was in first grade and was visiting Japan. I remember the experience fondly. I learned how to ride a two-wheeler while I was there, it was my very first plane ride, and it was the first time I remember meeting strangers and feeling like they could be lifelong friends. I also remember feeling like the trip was really long - so much happened in my time there that it seemed to last forever. In preparing to go to Kenya, I've reflected on this a lot. I've never had to pack for 18 days before - spanning nations, cultures and weather patterns. Last time around, all I did was pack my carry-on. This time all the responsibility is on me.

The experience of preparing to travel is especially amusing to me because its the one area of my life that runs counter to all others. Growing up, I didn't travel much partly because I didn't think I like it. It turns out, I was wrong. Once I discovered how I like to travel, I realized I love it. And that way is this - with very little plans besides how I'll get there, where I'll stay and how I'll return (and depending on the trip - the "where I stay" part is negotiable.) This is a response that tends to surprise people because in every other area of my life I'm so structured. But I travel for the adventure and when you have expectations of what that adventure will be, you miss out on all the great unexpected things that happened when you're out of your routine. If you've scheduled every moment of your vacation, you tend to focus so much on getting the list of activities done, that you don't truly appreciate any of them. Or at least that's how it is for me. So when people have asked the last few days "what are you doing in Kenya", I've replied, "oh, I'm visiting a friend." and there's not much I can do to satisfy their look of bewilderment. Outside of seeing someone who is very dear to me, there's nothing much more to know. Not because I'm unwilling to share (which sounds a lot like me) but because I don't have expectations of what the trip may bring. It doesn't make packing very easy, but I think that without expectations, I'll more fully appreciate the experience.

The journey of life is the same way. Now if only I could apply the same level of abandonment. :)


Travel Plans

For those wondering, here's a summation of my itinerary:

Dec. 15 - Depart - fly to Houston, Netherlands and then Nairobi
Dec. 17 - Fly to Eldoret - the closest airport to Kipkarren
Dec. 28 - Leave Nairobi - fly through Brussels, NY to Orlando
Jan 1 - Back to Cali


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Journey Begins

I anticipated that my first post regarding my trip to Africa would be sometime next week. Since I'm not leaving until this weekend that would make sense. However, God has a funny way of changing our plans, and so I'm posting now. Already, I've learned something from this experience.

I woke up this morning after 3 hours of sleep with that queasy feeling that we all know and yet can't adequately describe. It was the feeling of not being sure I was completely sick, but knowing I definitely wasn't well. Desperate to return to dreamland, I tried to fall back asleep, however, it avoided me every step of the way. And so I stayed awake trying to figure out which self-remedy would return me to repose the quickest.

But I never did make it back to sleep. Instead I graded papers and did a few household things to get ready for my trip. That's where the lesson comes in. When I realized that my day wasn't going to shape up exactly like I intended, that in all likelihood I would begin taking my malaria pills on an already upset stomach, and that I would need to renegotiate my carefully crafted schedule for getting everything done before my departure, I was reminded that my plans were going to change, but His plans hadn't. He knows exactly what needs to get done before I leave, and despite my desire for sleep, being up at 1:30 in the morning definitely helped make that happen. His purposes will be brought to completion even if mine aren't. I can't say I was joyful about the situation, but I was definitely made grateful.

May every day of this journey hold lessons that are just as significant.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Into Africa

(The subject line is a rather lame take on the movie "Out of Africa" - a movie that I have never seen and don't know what its about. So the reference may be totally off-based. To all film aficionados - my apologies.)

If you've talked to me in the recent past, you know that I am going to Kenya for Christmas. I will be in-country for the better part of 2 weeks and I plan to use this blog to (hopefully) post pictures and updates. We'll see how it goes.

I will be going to Kipkarren. I covet your prayers for my trip and look forward to posting updates sometime soon.

Thank you and have an excellent Christmas!


Friday, December 7, 2007

The Attraction of Truth

In a recent Bible study a discussion emerged about whether Christ's message was offensive. Most of us that were part of the discussion concluded that it was, and that it should be. After all, any time someone is saying that you should abandon your prerogatives in order to follow His, its bound to cause some discord.

In the course of the discussion the observation was made that "most people don't like the truth." As the talk continued on we refined this to say "most people don't like absolutes" because the point was made that most people do like the truth, however very few nowadays believe that you can ascertain it. I believe that this assessment is accurate, although if those who argue against truth's identity asked me to prove it, I probably couldn't.

However, I think truth has an inherent attractiveness. If for no other reason than our pride, we want to believe that we have an accurate assessment of our lives; that we know how to navigate the world. Even those who aren't sure that the truth can be found order their lives around some sort of belief - even if that belief is that truth is unobtainable. We want to believe that we can make sense of the craziness that is this life.

Maybe if we were a little bit more consistent in living according to the Truth we claim to believe, people would think a little more highly of the Church and would be a little more attracted to it too.

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The Difference in Death

For a long time, I've thought death as the leveling of the playing field. After all, when we are no longer part of this world superficial distinctions will no longer matter. We all stand the same before the throne of God; we're all sinners in need of His grace.

I've come to see however that death is also one more area in which the difference between us and Christ is demonstrated. (Or at least I think it is. This is one of those times that I think a theology degree would be helpful.) For all of us, death is the time that we meet God. Sooner or later, "every knee will bow and every tongue confess" (see Romans 14:11) and each of us have to give an account before God for our lives. We stand before the throne upon our transition from this Earth.

Jesus, however, had the throne all along. Instead of meeting God in death, He was forsaken by Him. We have the opportunity to be restored, He was destroyed. He was abandoned, yet as believers, we finally come home.

The differences between Christ's life and our are only too readily apparent for anyone who is honest. Isn't it interesting that the same is true in death?

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Magnificent Obsession

Steven Curtis Chapman has a song that says:

This is everything I want
This is everything I need
I want this to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You, Jesus
Be my magnificent obsession

The song always struck me because of the ironic juxtaposition of a "magnificent" obsession. Most people think of magnificent as good and obsession as bad. Of course, the irony is that an obsession with Christ is an obsession with all that is holy and good; thereby making it magnificent.

However, there's another part to this. An obsession with Jesus is magnificent because it makes Christ bigger in our life and us smaller. In other words, it literally magnifies our Savior by demonstrating His supremacy. In an individualistic society where we think of even our relationship with God in terms of its personal impact, we forget that an obsession with Christ isn't about us being concerned with the right things. Just as with any real aim in life, its about acknowledging God's rightful position. It's saying "more of you Lord, less of me"; "You must increase that I must decrease." Our single minded concern with Christ isn't about what good it brings me; its about the glory it brings Him.

David Wells said "God rests too inconsequentially upon the Church." Maybe if we were more obsessed with magnifying Him, making Him larger in our life, the impact would be a little more difficult to contain and the consequences for us, and the world, a little more tremendous.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Very Christian

In talking with my mom, I once described a lady we both knew as "very pregnant." Questioning my terminology, my mom made the accurate point that you either are or are not pregnant - its not something that is given degrees of existence. She was right, but I continued to use the phrase. After all, I wasn't trying to describe the existence of the life inside of the woman - the fact that she was pregnant indicated that it was there. I was trying to describe the level of visible evidence for it.

I was reminded of this little story by a quotation I read from Nicole Richie. In describing her recent habit of picking up crucifixes and wearing them around her neck, she confessed that she got them from her boyfriend, Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden, who she described as "very, very, Christian." Leaving aside the thoughts on wearing religious jewelry as a fashion accessory, I was still taken aback by her words. After all, just as my mom had pointed on to me about pregnancy, with Christianity you either are or you aren't. Jesus doesn't leave much room for in between (See Rev. 3:16.)

Although I still think my initial reaction was the right one, I also think that there is something to the description. After all, maybe Miss Richie and others use the phrase similarly to how I was. Maybe saying someone is "very, very Christian" is an indication of the level of visible evidence for their commitment. One can argue with how that evidence is interpreted, but you its hard to argue with its existence.


I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman

A few years ago Brittney Spears had a song titled "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman" in which she extolled her transition from childhood into . . . well, nothing. If ever there was an anthem for the social phenomenon called adultolescence this was it. This is a construct signaling those years that are often spent "trying to find oneself." Its a topic that acclaimed author, John Piper, talks about here.

Its an interesting phenomenon, adultolescence, the idea that there is a transition between childhood and adultness that extends beyond the teenager years. I've heard of it before - and have seen its evidence in many people who I come into contact with. Individuals who haven't quite figured out what they want to be when they grow, even though for all intents and purposes they are grown. In many ways, I think its understandable = people are living longer so it makes sense that they have additional years to "play" before they "settle down." In addition, one thing that the article does not address, I think to its detriment, is the economic factors that make "settling down" a little less achievable early in adult life. I think its well and good that the Church encourage godly marriage "even if they are in school" - I think its extremely unwise if this leads to a lot of Christian marriages crippled by debt. I also take exception to the fact that somehow being single or "being flexible in a career" is evidenced of a lack of maturity. I don't think either is the case. Paul wasn't married and Paul had a pretty transient career - are we to conclude that he was immature?

However, I think my biggest contention with the roles of the church that Piper articulates is "6. The church will provide a stability and steadiness in life for young adults who find a significant identity there." I think this is an admirable and necessary goal but I haven't found a church yet who knows how to do it. Either they are "emerging" and often long on experience and short on doctrine, or they are traditional - and the very fabric of the church organization is built around families. Which isn't to say I don't understand the strategic value of building the organization around families - they are still the most stable social force we have. But how is a church going to integrate the young, single adults into their fellowship without making them a peripheral part of the congregation. If the only stability the church has to offer is the pathway to marriage - that's not saying a lot. People go to bars for that exact same purpose.

I'm intentionally being controversial for effect. I think the article makes a number of good points but I wish it was a little bit more directive and not as theoretical. And I wish a few church leaders would read it.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Happy Occassion

I've never been one to get all wrapped up in society's concessions to the Christian faith. Partly this is because I think the fact that our culture has historically been associated with Christian ideas and traditions has caused a persistence of watered down allegience. Sure, I'd appreciate it if people who celebrated Easter actually acknowledged that it was a day to commemorate my Savior's death. If they want a day for bunnies and eggs hunts pick some other day of the year. But that hasn't happened yet and waging a war against it seems kind of self-defeating.

However, I was amused when I attended a local city's recent Christmas concert. Technically it was called "Joyful Jingles" - presumably to disassociate it with any one of the December celebrations. What amused me was that in the introduction to a song parody about the wives of the 3 Wisemen the choir director performed a magnificent fete of verbal gymnastics to describe Christ's birth without actually saying those words. She called it "the trip to Bethlehem" and the "happy occasion." It amazed me because the song was in fact about the birth of Jesus and yet in her introduction she tactfully avoided any mentioned of that fact plainly choosing instead to describe it in the most nondescript way possible.

If you're going to celebrate a happy ocassion, I think that's all well and good. But please, if you are going to celebrate the birth of my Lord and King - can you just call it Christmas?


Better Things Ahead: December 2007

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Better Things Ahead