I uploaded a bunch of the photo’s I took in Kenya here- http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2211427199209.123248.1053360046&l=e0f45da2d3&type=1
I uploaded a bunch of the photo’s I took in Kenya here- http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2211427199209.123248.1053360046&l=e0f45da2d3&type=1
We arrived back from our trip to Lake Victoria/ Kisumu yesterday. It was a fun and exhausting trip that I will momentarily go into detail about, but first I want to describe a typical day for us here in Mombasa, because I don’t think I’ve had the chance to do that yet.
We usually wake up around 8 o clock. At 8:30 Matilda will serve us breakfast, which is usually chai tea and jelly and butter sandwiches. At around 9 a taxi will pick us up at the house and bring us to the church, which is only about a 2 minute drive a way (they don’t like us walking there). We get to the church and usually get our first readers in around 9:30 or 10. My first reader usually arrives around 10, but it always depends. We read until about 1 or 1:30 when Matilda comes to the church and brings us lunch, which is usually spaghetti or rice with beef. After lunch we’ll continue to read until around 5 or 5:30 when readers usually stop coming and we hang out until 6 when the taxi comes and picks us up. Every day each of us will have anywhere from 5 to 10 readers. Kenyans we’ve found are quite inconsistent. I have about 4 readers who come every day, and then maybe 6 others who will come some days. Also, almost every day there are one or two new readers that one of us who is not busy will take to read. When we’re not reading, we usually read our own books or talk with members of the church who often hang out during the day. If we aren’t busy at the end of the day we’ll go to choir practice with the youth of the church and learn their songs and teach them some American ones. (Clarification: Kenyans regard youth as pretty much anyone who isn’t married. So at Soweto the youth range from ages 18-30). After we leave the church we come home and have coffee and relax. Some nights we’ll walk to the cyber café to catch up with the internet. Then around 8 we’ll eat dinner. After dinner we will hang out with whoever happens to be at the pastor’s house that night or watch a TV show or movie. Then we’ll usually go to bed around 10 or 11. That’s pretty much the typical weekday. Here’s what happened this past weekend in Kisumu!
We left our lessons at noon last Thursday to get home and have lunch before we had to be in town to catch our bus. Accompanying our team on the trip was Pastor Paul, John (a partner of Paul’s at the church), Matilda (Our Kenyan mom), and Ferdinand (An 18 year old youth of the church who we spend a lot of time with). The bus left at 5 and was pretty nice compared to what I was expecting and what we encountered later in the trip. The ride was 14 hours total including a few short stops and one 30 minute stop for food at around 10. I slept for about 5 hours total I think, either way we were exhausted when we arrived in Kisumu at 7. We first went to Pastor Paul’s sisters house, who had breakfast prepared for us. We relaxed there for a while and then went into the city to a museum with a bunch of Kenyan history, mud hut replicas, and Alligators! After that we travelled about an hour to Pastor Paul’s Sister-in-law, which is where his wife also lives when she is working in Kisumu. We spent the majority of the day there. They live on a sugar plantation, so we got to all eat a ton of sugar cane. I’ve never eaten sugar cane right out of the ground before, so I was pretty amazed and satisfied. After relaxing at their house we ate lunch and got to know the family there.
Around 5 we headed to our next destination. I should first make something clear. Pastor Paul planned this whole trip for us, so we really had no idea what we would be doing there. Additionally, Kenyans (I think in general) don’t like to inform us Americans about anything going on, so we’re pretty used to being in the dark about plans involving anything besides reading at the church every day. So pretty much anytime we got in a taxi or Matatu, we had no idea where we were going. This time, we drove on a paved road for about 45 minutes, and then veered off onto a dirt road for about ten minutes. We were all very confused and it was dark at this point so we could see nothing, especially considering very little of this side of Kenya has electricity. We eventually started to drive on grass on what clearly was not a road. Finally there was a drop off with rocks in front of it that the taxi clearly could not go over. At that point we realized that we were dropping off Pastor Paul’s wife at his mother’s house. So that made a bit more sense. She walked away in the dark and we turned around and headed back to the paved road. Somewhere along the way at this point we learned that we were going to stay at the house where John grew up, and that it was very similar to the mud hut replicas we saw earlier in the day. After another few minutes on the paved road we went on the dirt road again and eventually reached another drop off that we couldn’t cross. This time, we called motorcycles to come pick us up. Why not right? Almost immediately as we get on these “motorcycles” it starts to dump rain. This caused a few of the bikes including mine to slip in the mud. We ended up abandoning the bikes and trudging through the mud to our destination, a mud hut in a mountain in the middle of somewhere. We arrived to warm greetings from John’s family and we ate popcorn and chai tea as we dried off in their house. That night Taylor and I got to sleep in the “Simba,” which is a small hut the firstborn child traditionally builds on his father’s homestead until he is able to live on his own. It was an extremely cold night but a very cool experience.
The next day we got up and had a massive breakfast including mandazis (think donut holes but with barely any sugar), corn on the cob, and popcorn. That morning we explored the small village and relaxed. It was so quiet and peaceful there. We all loved it. About 2 hours after breakfast we were served another enormous meal, leaving me the fullest I’ve been thus far in Kenya. Shortly after, we left for our next destination, which happened to be the exact place we dropped off the pastor’s wife the night before. We got there and met tons of the pastor’s family. And explored the homestead. Once again, it was a mud hut type house. This one was on a mountain and overlooked the city of Kisumu. It was quite beautiful. We also got to hike up the mountain behind the house and see some other cool homesteads. It felt like being transported back in time. Later in the day we were summoned to watch a lamb get slaughtered for dinner. It was a very interesting experience. That’s all I’ll say. Dinner by candlelight (no electricity) was very delicious and hard to see. After a short devotional with the whole family we spent some time looking at the incredible sky of stars and then went to sleep.
The next day was Sunday. The night before we decided we would stay until Monday in order to travel during the day and see the African wildlife on the side of the road. So we got up around 8:30 and waited for Pastor Paul to take us to church. We ended up having church at the house with lots of family and friends. Taylor was called upon to give a sermon which he was not prepared for, but he did great. On our way out of the pastor’s home village we stopped by his church to say hello. Apparently they expected us to stay for a service and have lunch, but we had other plans so we had to leave after a few minutes of visiting. We proceeded to drive back through town to Matilda’s grandmother’s house. Matilda’s grandmother is 96 years old but looked no older than 80 and moved around like a child and made us all food and tea. She lives in a beautiful village about a mile from Lake Victoria. It was almost unreal how cool the village was. We spent the day sitting in the shade and reading and eventually visited the lake, eating sugar cane along the way. We ate a very late dinner and then proceeded to Matilda’s uncle’s house nearby to get some sleep.
Monday was our last day. The plan was to get up and eat and then meet the pastor and John at the bus station to catch a bus around 12. We woke up and Taylor and I started talking to Matilda’s uncle for a little before breakfast. His name is Barack and he is a 62-year-old man who has lived in his house his whole life and is now retired. He told us that he loved Christianity but did not think he was saved and didn’t think he had the ability to live a Christian life. Taylor began to talk to him more and read some bible verses with him. It seemed as if the man desired to be a Christian but did not quite understand that the last thing such a life demands is perfection. After talking for a while we prayed for Barack and headed over to eat breakfast.
Eventually it was time to leave so we said goodbye to Matilda’s grandmother and then headed over to say goodbye to Barack. When we arrived he expressed to Matilda that he decided he was ready to be a Christian and wanted to be baptized. We were struck with a dilemma of missing our bus and baptizing this man, or praying for him and leaving. We decided to stay and go down to the lake and baptize Barack. We called the pastor, who cancelled our tickets and headed back to the village to meet us. About an hour later we headed down to the lake and Taylor baptized Barack. It was such a cool experience. At first I think we were a bit conflicted because at this point we were ready to be on our way home. But after we thought about it we realized that this was ultimately our purpose here in Kenya. Not just to teach people the words of Jesus, but to also live them out. It was amazing to see the words of Matthew 28:18-20 (“Go and make disciples of all nations…”), which I had preached on the Sunday before, put into action. I didn’t really understand it, but I knew that none of what was happening was our doing, but truly the work of God in this man’s heart. We don’t really know a lot about Barack, but it was clear from his receptiveness to the Word that he had been searching for something, and he had somehow found it in the words God had put on Taylor’s heart that day. After Barack was baptized, we knew why we had stayed an extra day in Kisumu. We left that village with humbled hearts and much hope for Barack’s future.
This brings us to the ride home. We got to the bus station without much idea of what was happening. We waited around for a bit and then actually inquired about what we were waiting for. Apparently the buses were sold out so we were waiting for an “alternative mode of transportation.” We continued to wait as the sun went down. And as this happened the amount of drunk people and poor children increased around us. At one point a man threw a glass bottle on the ground which shattered in our direction, we were all okay but a bit startled. We ended up waiting for 2 and a half hours. Literally this whole time a man stood about 10 feet from us whispering at us as if we were having a conversation. It was very strange. Finally, a matatu arrived and we jumped in. It’s hard to describe, but matatus aren’t really the most spacious mode of transportation. In fact, they are likely the least spacious mode of public transportation in Kenya. So we proceeded on the drive at around 8:30 PM, and after 4 or 5 short stops and many hours of driving arrived in Mombasa Tuesday afternoon at 12:30 PM. I can say that this house in Mombasa has never felt more like home.
So that was my weekend. It really gave me a love and appreciation for Kenya. I really wouldn’t mind living one day in a mud house on a homestead in a village without electricity. It truly is the most simple way one can live, and the peace surrounding the homes is incredible. I think we all had a great time in Kisumu and really appreciated all the hospitality our hosts all offered. It never ceases to amaze me how many times a Kenyan will say, “You’re welcome” when you are in their house. And they really mean it. I think that’s all I will say about the weekend, my mind is spent and I’m exhausted from all our travel today.
Tomorrow begins our last three days of lessons here. Saturday is our last day in Kenya and my birthday, and Sunday we will depart for the States. It’s crazy how fast my time here has flown by. It continues to get better every day and I know I’m going to miss these people and this country so much when I leave. I doubt I will post another detailed blog while I am in this country, but expect pictures, videos, and another update in the next week or so once I am back in the states. Also, if anyone would like to read more about our experiences here, Taylor has also been keeping a blog and is a much more eloquent writer than I, so you can read that here
Also, the slow internet here prevents me from uploading pictures, but when I get home I will try to put corresponding photos into these blogs and many more on facebook, so don’t worry!
headed out in a couple hours for a 13 hour bus ride to Lake Victoria for the weekend. Excited to see the second largest lake in the world! I’ll put up a longer update when we return next week. hope everyone’s doing well
I’ve been in Mombasa for about a week and a half now. We all feel very immersed in the culture at this point and are learning more and more every day about how this country operates. My first week of lessons went very well. Monday and Tuesday I had about 8 readers each day and the rest of the week about 5-7. I’ll talk briefly about a few of my readers that have really stood out.
One is named Kefa. Kefa is a taxi driver who gets paid around 300 shillings (~4 dollars) a day if he’s lucky. He has dreadlocks and always wears awesome t-shirts. He has been my most consistent reader. His English needs a lot of work, and he has trouble understanding the exact message of the stories we read, but at the end of each lesson he is always so happy and takes away a positive message each time. He always tells me that his heart feels full at the end of our lessons and that he wants to improve his life and live like God wants him to.
Another one is named Mary. Mary is in her late 50’s and is a widow who has many children that she takes care of. (not sure if they’re hers or grandchildren). Mary tells me every day about her desire to be a missionary to all of Africa and to tell everyone about God. She is constantly telling me passionately about how much she love God and wants to share His love with others. I can’t begin to describe how inspiring a woman with such heart and passion for the Lord is. You just don’t seem to see such dedication in the States, especially despite such unfortunate living circumstances. (she spends her days taking care of children and does not really have a steady source of income).
Another reader is Charles. Charles is a 23 year old college student who studying computer engineering, is on his break for the summer(winter for them), and lives with his parents. His neighbor is an active member of Soweto and told him about LST. Since he is on break, and doesn’t really have a job, he comes to the church every day around 10 or 11 and will do lessons until another reader of mine comes. He speaks very good English and is very familiar with the Bible stories so our lessons go quick. I will occasionally try to tell him that it is best to only do a few lessons each day in order to be able to digest the material, but he will continue to sit at my desk until another reader comes or I offer to do another lesson and we continue. For me, it is often exhausting, but I admire and am inspired by Charles’ thirst for the word and desire to continue learning.
Once again, you just don’t seem to find many people in the States who are this hungry to study the story of Jesus, but nearly every church member I have interacted with has shown a similar desire to learn about God as Kefa, Mary, and Charles. It is really very inspiring and convicting.
Reading and teaching students all day is extremely exhausting, but lesson after lesson I am reminded why I am here and why these stories I am teaching are so important. We are constantly being nourished by Matilda’s wonderful meals, Chippati is our favorite dish. It is basically pita bread, but a bit different, more African maybe? It is served with beans, small peas, or corn and is truly delicious. Matilda is already planning to make us bags of it to take with us on the plane back home. One of the leaders of the church, Daniel, gave us all Kenyan names. Taylor is “Nuru”, which means “a bright light”. Abbie is “Rahema”, which means “redeemed.” Kaitlyn is “Pendo”, which means “love”, and I have been named “Baraka Kwetu”, or simply Baraka, which means “a blessing to us.” Things like this have made us all feel so welcomed here. Every day while we are in between lessons, members of the church are talking to us, welcoming us, and getting to know us better. We’re all so thankful for the welcoming spirit of this country and of the church here.
This past weekend we decided to travel to Malindi, which is where Kaitlyn traveled on an LST trip a couple years ago. It was a great trip. We left Friday afternoon after a half day of lessons and took a bus with Frank and Matilda. We arrived at the church in Malindi, Uzima Church of Christ, and were greeted by the pastor and a few of Kaitlyn’s old readers and friends. We spent the night hanging out on the church grounds. The church was basically in the middle of a forest and had a large grass area, kitchen, and several rooms for us to stay in. Our favorite part of Uzima was the giant mango tree that covered around a quarter of the grounds. Throughout the night mangos fell on the ground around us and picked them up and ate them! They were so delicious. We slept well that night and awoke the next morning to the sight of Americans walking through the church gates! To our pleasant surprise we got to meet and hang out with the LST team that has been at Uzima church for the summer. They were all from Tennessee Tech University. It was so great getting to talk to fellow Americans and to compare LST experiences with other workers. We ended up spending most of the day with them at the beach and the church and it was really a fun time. We left the church around 4 and headed back to Mombasa for the night, where we had dinner with our good friend David and his brother Brian who is one of Taylor’s readers. Their house was the nicest we’ve been in in Kenya and they made us a huge meal, rendering me the fullest I’ve been since arrival. As we arrived back from dinner around 10, our spontaneous pastor informed me that I would be delivering the Sermon the following morning at church, 12 hours later. I was exhausted from the days travel but managed to write out some notes for a message for Soweto Church of Christ.
The next morning we woke up around 8:50, the normal time we wake up for church at 10, only to be informed that the taxi was coming in 5 minutes and church was starting early. Of course the rest of the congregation seemed to have missed the memo as well considering we were the first ones to arrive. Eventually everyone arrived and I gave my sermon on Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus’ final words to his disciple. The message was largely inspired by David Platt’s book, “Radical,” which challenges the American church to live beyond its comfortable suburban lifestyle (I really recommend this book). In the book Platt talks a lot about Jesus’ last command to his disciples, to go and make disciples of all nations. I spoke about how this should be our mission as Christians, to spread the gospel, not to simply sit in church and consume it for ourselves. I think I spoke truth, and hopefully had some positive effect, and that’s really all I can ask for.
After church we had to prepare for our first LST party. Incidentally this was also our last LST party because we are planning to travel to Lake Victoria this weekend and are leaving the next one. So we gathered all our decorations together and threw a “Western Luau Birthday Party.” To our surprise, mostly children showed up, so they participated in most of our games. The crowd favorite was musical chairs. We convinced adults to join the last round, making for a very entertaining ten minutes. Our beloved Matilda won and everyone went nuts. It was quite a fun time. After the indoor portion of the party we headed to a nearby soccer field and played soccer and then volleyball. After four hours of activities, our exhausted team headed home and relaxed for the rest of the night.
Today is Monday. We have two weeks left here in Mombasa and I’m trying to soak up every moment. Our readers continue to grow and we continue to build relationships with them and learn from their lives. Often times this culture baffles and confuses us, but we are learning that all of the things they do are simply what they know. We are trying to adapt, but our Americanity(?) precedes us and we can only long for our own culture when the Kenyan way prevails.
Cultural differences aside, we are truly blessed to be given this opportunity. We constantly are telling people about the generous family members and friends from home who have supported this trip and made it possible with their financial contributions. I continue to be thankful for all who donated, you have no idea how much of a blessing you have been to me and how much of a blessing this trip has been. I am confident that we will all continue to learn and grow as we begin the final two weeks of teaching here in Kenya.
So I finally have some time to give a bit more of a detailed account of my experience here in Kenya. I’ll start by saying that I was absolutely exhausted when I got here. We got to the Mombasa airport and were greeted by about 20 members of the church and our friend Kaitlyn who had already been there for a couple weeks. They all greeted us and sang us songs. It was an amazing way to be welcomed to Kenya. We then took a taxi about 15 minutes to the pastors humble little house in a very cool village only about a 10 minute walk from the church. All four of us share a room about half the size of mine at home. The rest of the night was kind of a blur. We ate a few times and i met a lot of people whose names I didn’t remember. The next thing I remember was waking up at about 5 am to Muslims singing nearby and roosters crowing. The first day was difficult for me. The house we are staying in does not have running water or a flush toilet. Also, being from California any sort of humidity is shocking for me, so sweat has covered my body almost constantly since I got here. Jet lag also was still in effect, so around noon exhaustion hit again. Luckily we only did a few hours of lessons on our first day before going to get our friend Taylor, whose initial flight got delayed, at the airport. The lessons were refreshing. I remembered why I came here and what my real purpose is. Seeing Taylor was also great. After picking him up we went back to the house and basically repeated the previous day until later on when we took a Matatu (basically a 14 passenger van that’s used as a taxi) into the city and walked along the ocean. The most shocking part of the day was seeing a golf course along the ocean.
Friday was our first fully day of lessons. I ended up teaching about 10 of them. At the end of the day we were all exhausted, but filled with joy and the knowledge that we are here doing the work of God and spreading the gospel. For me its an amazing feeling. Like I said in my previous post, it’s so cool seeing these adults come to the church every day eager to learn the stories of the bible. For me the stories are almost second nature. Not because I’ve studied them as an adult, but because I grew up learning them in Sunday School. It’s cool seeing these people read the stories for the first time, it almost makes me see the stories from a new, fresh perspective. After work on friday we all ate dinner, hung out and went to sleep.
Saturdays are our days off. Everyone wanted to go to the beach in Mombasa so that’s what our mission for the day became. We all went with our Kenyan friends David, Frank, and his wife Matilda. Frank and Matilda have been especially wonderful to us. Frank is pretty much with us 24/7 and leads us around the city and communicates with locals for us. He’s very funny and is fascinated by black americans, which we find hilarious. Matilda cooks all our meals for us and does our laundry. She and Frank are amazing, loving people and we all enjoy being around them a lot. The beach was a great experience. The water was so warm and shallow until about 100 yards out. We spent the majority of the day there playing in the water and relaxing on the sand. Today I have quite a sunburn to show for our beach day, but it was worth it. I also got out my camera Saturday and made a little video of our day, which I tried to put on the blog but failed because of the internet speed here. Eventually it will make its way to the internet though, hopefully along with some more videos.
Sunday we got an extra hour of sleep because church doesn’t start until ten. Of course I did not take advantage of this and awoke at my seemingly routine inexplicable hour of 6:45 AM. I kind of like it though because its the only time I have to relax alone and charge up for the day. Church lasted from 10AM until 1PM. It was quite the marathon. Taylor gave the sermon and did a great job and our team all sang a few songs for the congregation. The church has about 30 or 40 members, all who are so grateful for our presence there. It’s so humbling, really. There’s nothing really special about me, I’m just a kid from California who for some reason thought it’s be a good idea to go to Africa, but these people are overwhelmed with praise for the blessing they see our team as. They see us as a team sent from God to help their church. It’s such a good feeling to know that God is using me, God is using our team to minister to people and to encourage a body.
So my first day or so was a bit difficult, but the last few have really been amazing. It’s still very foreign and new, but I’m being assured that this is where I need to be. I know that by the time I leave I will be in love with this country and these people and that my heart will continue to be changed by the presence of God in this place. I’m really blessed also to be here with my friends from school. Abbie, Taylor, and Kaitlyn are all great friends and it’s so fun being here with them and to be able to share the experience with them. Tomorrow we begin three weeks of lessons. I’m excited to see what I will learn through the rest of this experience and to get to know the people I will be working with. I hope everyone in America is doing great! I miss everything about home, but this experience has been great and I know it will continue to bless me.
I made it to Kenya! we got here wednesday afternoon after a long 27 hours of travel. Started teaching lessons thursday and worked a full day friday. Today we had the day off, and we went to town and then the beach. I made a video of the day which i hope i can get up here soon. This place has been a huge blessing already. we are living at the pastor’s house, and they make our meals every day. we wake up around 7 and then head to the church around 9 where we start teaching till around 5 or 6. the lessons have been great. Friday I had around 10 readers. It’s so cool seeing people eager to learn english and the stories of the Bible. The days are long and exhausting, especially while still being somewhat jetlagged, but I’m really enjoying my first days here and i’m so thankful for this opportunity. Thank you to everyone who is making this possible, it’s honestly such a blessing and I wouldn’t be here without people’s prayers and donations. I’ll try to get pictures up eventually, we use the internet about twice a week, so I’ll update as often as possible. Until next time!
Good news! I’m fully funded! Thank you so much to everyone who donated. Really, it has been such a blessing to go from $0 to $4,000 all because of the love and generosity of friends and family. I am so thankful and grateful that God has provided for this trip.
I leave tomorrow evening, so this will be my last blog from America. I’ll be trying to update here as often as I can, so keeping checking back!
Wow. Summer has really flown by. Only about 15 days until I get on a plane at SFO to Kenya. The first few months of summer have been very productive and busy. Responsibilities are throwing themselves at me from all angles and my 20 year old self is still unsure of how to handle them all. The biggest of these has been my job. Waking up at 5:16 am aside, it has been really cool to see the produce business and to experience the process of a seed being placed in the ground and growing into a healthy, edible plant. Talking about it may make it seem like the most boring thing I have ever been excited about (besides cutco knives maybe), but experiencing it truly is fascinating. I’m still not sold on working in an office for the rest of my life, but the two month sample has been perfect for satisfying and intriguing my short attention span. Other than work, I’ve been supporting my prodigy brother’s golf endeavors, visiting friends in other cities and states, reacquainting with old friends in Monterey, and trying to figure out what it takes to mentally and spiritually prepare for this trip I’m about to embark on. And that’s where we are now.
I’d really like to talk about how prepared and ready I am for Africa, but then I’d be lying. These next two weeks are going to take a lot of preparation for the work I’m going to be doing while I’m there. One thing I’ve realized in the past month or so is that despite all the emphasis placed on the build up to the trip and the preparation and the fundraising and the practice, none of that really matters if I am unable to do my job while I’m in Africa. That’s the time that matters. Yes, everything leading up to that is very important and essential to make the trip possible, but what’s more important than all of that is what I choose to do while I’m there. I must be willing and open to letting God’s word speak to the people I’ll be teaching, and I must be determined not to water down or compromise what is being taught. So while I am getting nervous and excited about making the trip to Africa, I realize that getting there is only half the battle.
I’d also like to give a financial update. I’m roughly 75% funded for my trip, meaning I still need to raise $900 before I leave in two weeks. So yes, I still need your help to make this possible. If you believe in this trip and would like to help, please consider financially supporting me in these last couple weeks. Really anything helps. You can donate here:
Also, please continue to pray for my trip. Pray that God can use me to do something good in Mombasa. Pray that God would open my heart to learn from those I will be teaching and interacting with. Pray that he would continue to provide for this trip and to give our team the confidence and boldness to speak his word. Also pray for one of our team members, Kaitlyn, who is going to Kenya tomorrow to intern for a couple weeks before the rest of our team arrives.
Thank you all so much for your interest and support!