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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back to School

As much as I loved traveling, seeing other missionaries, and meeting new friends, I am so glad we are back at Mariann.  I feel more grounded being here with our students and our friends in the community—they have become our African family.  Towards the end of April, I started to get an unexpected and strong wave of homesickness.  I really struggled to be in the present and not let my mind wander to thoughts of when we would return home.  I let doubts creep in (i.e. are we really making an impact here, am I really utilizing our limited time here), which led to discouragement.  But just as God has provided for us immeasurably, He lifted me up in multiple ways.
            First, seeing the smiling faces of our kids was a wonderful welcome.  But soon after we arrived back at Mariann, we had such an encouraging visit from Monte Cox, David Hatfield, and Phil Hoggard—three elders from Downtown Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas.  Their presence and kind words were so edifying.  We also gained a new teammate, Abbie, who is so Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.  The three of us have had so many great conversations about God in the past few weeks.  God knew what I was feeling and provided just what I needed when I needed it.  Mom sent me a calendar where she wrote encouraging verses on random days.  Strangely enough, the verse for May 10 was from I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  That was the same day that Abbie arrived.  J
            At the same time, though, God has been working on me.  I love it when He gives you a wake-up call at a time when you don’t even realize you are asleep.  Even being in as wonderful a place as Sang’alo, Kenya, Satan will still attack you.  In fact, I think it may be easier for him to catch you off guard because you think you are safe.  I wish I could expound more on some things that God has shown me lately, but I will focus on two:
First, God has given me this sense of urgency to proclaim His Gospel to everyone I meet.  It sounds simple and obvious enough, but I know that I have been too relaxed for a long time.  While reading the Prophets, one sees the terrible nature of sin and the urgency of God’s call to repentance and salvation.  As our time winds down here, I feel an increased pressure to spend every moment wisely and intentionally.  But why should life in general be any different?  My days on this earth are numbered, and this world needs Jesus. 
Second, God has given us His Holy Spirit to live in us.  This also seems like a pretty basic Christian concept; but when you dwell on this simple fact, it will blow your mind!  Part of the reason I was getting discouraged was because I was relying on me rather than the Spirit of God.  As Kyle Idleman, the author of Not a Fan puts it: why would you choose to walk when you can ride?  We choose to struggle on our own rather than get out of way so that God can work in us.  Idleman also points out that we always say, “How cool would it be to be [insert person from Bible here] because he/she [talked to God, saw God, etc.]?”  The truth of the matter is that we have God living IN us.  When we get to heaven, these revered witnesses will be asking us, “What was it like to have the Holy Spirit living and working in you?”  Pretty crazy thought. 

As our friend Arap Chumba would say, “It’s like that.”  I hope I didn’t ramble and made some ounce of sense.  There are so many thoughts running through my head so I have difficulty writing them out. 

Only in Africa...

So I know it’s been awhile since I last posted…so get ready for two new posts!  So much has happened in the past three weeks, but I will try to hit the highlights. 

Of course, we love spending time with the kids here at Mariann; but we have also loved getting to know the teachers.  They are a hoot!  We’ve started a staff movie night every Friday.  Which movies have we watched so far?  “The Sandlot” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” J  Our friend, Susan (aka “black mzungu” or “black American”—the kids’ nickname), was especially captivated by the movies.  At the point in “The Sandlot” where Benny hits the ball so hard toward the camera, Susan jumped because she thought that the ball would come out of the screen!  We find that we have to explain some things—the game of baseball, the Fourth of July, why animals are talking, etc.—but I think it only adds to the experience! 

Mr. Silas is quite the character; I hope that all of you will meet him one day.  The other night, I went up to the teachers’ lounge to socialize.  Mr. Silas asked me, “Katy, do you sleep under a mosquito net?”  I answered, “Yeah, even though we don’t really need one here.”  And he said, “Oh, no.  You’ve got some mosquito bites here (motioning towards the side of his face).”  I realized that he was talking about my zits and said, “Unfortunately, those are not mosquito bites.”  Ha!  Thankfully, Africa has conditioned me not to get embarrassed and take these hilarious instances in stride. 
Just the other night, there was a snake in Standard 8’s classroom.  *Side note: Monte Cox (aka Arap Sang), who was a missionary here for over a decade, said that he only saw a snake once in all of his journeys through the bush.*  A student from Class 8, Laban, calmly came to the door of the teachers’ lounge, knocked, asked if he could enter, and informed us that there was a snake.  Quite a different reaction than an American—I would have run in there and screamed!  We all rushed to see the small green snake, which was quickly stomped by Mr. Silas.  This is how the conversation went down afterwards:
            Us: What kind of snake is that?  Is it a black mamba? (half-jokingly)
            Silas: I think it is a type of black mamba.
            Us: What?!?!  Will it hurt us?
            Silas:  It is not harmful, but somewhat dangerous.
            Us:  What?!  It is not harmful, but dangerous.  Isn’t that the same thing?
            (Five minutes later)
            Silas: It is not dangerous.

So, we have only been here five months, and we have seen what may or may not be a dangerous snake.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celebrity Status

    Yesterday morning we headed to the Tuigoin Church of Christ for a cluster service.  We took a car with two other women from the Sang’alo Church because it was an hour car ride away.  This was probably our first true cluster meeting.  We arrived around 11:20, which was earlier than most people.  The service started around 11:50 (I think they started it because the Americans were here haha) although many people were still not there.  Throughout the service more and more people came in, and you could see by the expression on their faces that they did not expect to have wzungus at church J.  Finally a bunch of children sat in front of us, but I highly doubt they heard any of the service because they were staring at us the whole time.  I mean, we are used to being stared at, but most people in Sang’alo are used to us so it isn’t as severe.  I had forgotten what it is really like to be stared at until yesterday haha.  The greatest part of the staring is that you can stare right back at them and it doesn’t phase them at all, they just keep staring.  I should clarify that most of these children have never met a mzungu in their lifetime, so we were quite the spectacle. 
    After service we ate lunch and talked with the teens for a while.  They were all very nice and asked us to sing a song with them, so of course we did.  They were the most youth we had seen at a Church of Christ since being here.  It was actually really encouraging to see all of them praising God.  They of course couldn’t help but ask about the U.S. and differences between it and Kenya.  One of the funniest questions we got was “what would happen to your skin if you didn’t bathe?”  Evidently they wanted to know if our skin changes color if we don’t shower…and maybe it eventually would if we left all the dirt on it haha, but we told them we would just smell really bad if we didn’t bathe haha J.
    Eventually the little ones started crowding in again—the teens got away fast (maybe they knew what was about to happen).  The kids started playing with our hair and then touching our skin, especially our faces so we’ll all probably break out from it J.  They were very intrigued by our skin and the fact that we have hair on our arms…what a phenomenon!  They were interested in our piercings, bracelets, and watches—anything and everything!  We were like the main attraction at a zoo. 
    The best part about the whole day was when we left the Tuigoin Church of Christ.  The kids went crazy…like little teeny bopper girls after Justin Bieber.  Katy and Abbie made it into the car before I did, and some of the kids instantly started trying to crawl in the car.  The kids outside with me kept shaking my hand over and over again.  I had a few more hands to my face…they had to get one last feel in haha.  Eventually our driver told the kids to back up so I could climb into the car.  Finally the doors were shut and we drove away.  Never in my life have I felt more like a celebrity.  I totally expect this to occur when I get back to the U.S. J.   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some Visitors and a New Teammate!

This past Thursday Katy and I were sitting in the Teacher’s Lounge after lunch and were reviewing our plan for the next day—meet Monte Cox at 9:30am to pick up Abbie at Tachasis!  All of a sudden Katy yelled, “There they are!”  It took me a minute to realize what she was referring to, but then I came to my senses and ran out to meet Monte, Philip Hoggard, David Hatfield, and Abbie!  Needless to say Katy and I were very excited to finally have our new teammate arrive! 
Amazingly Monte and his team made it out of Mariann within 30 minutes of arriving.  This may be a record J. That first day Abbie got here she met the students and teachers.  We then decided to take her to meet Chumba who lives a two minute walk from us.  We ended up staying there for almost three hours—Welcome back to Africa Abbie J! 
This weekend was great with the addition of Abbie and Monte and his team! Monte, Philip, and David were meeting with many churches in the Eldoret area—see how they are doing (Monte was a missionary in the Eldoret area for ten years and helped plant many of these churches).  We had a wonderful time visiting with these men!  Throughout the weekend they were an encouragement to us and the surrounding community!  One of the neatest things to watch was Monte speaking Kalenjin to the elders who had come to Mariann from many churches in the area and the students! You could just see the joy on their faces to see a mzungu talk to them in their language!  Maybe someday Katy, Abbie, and I can be that skilled haha. 
Abbie is adjusting well to Mariann—no surprise to us since she was in Zambia this Fall! Already she has been an encouragement to Katy and I! We are thrilled to have her as part of our team, and we look forward to seeing God use her at Mariann! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

8 Cups of Tea & Broken Sandals

In Africa, we have experienced such wonderful hospitality and generosity!

Last week, Ashley and I had the opportunity to visit the family of our dear friends, Julius and Esther Kosgei.  They were my friends and CC/track teammates at Harding--a precious couple.  We awoke early to begin our journey to Timboroa, which we thought was much closer to us than it really is.  By 3 pm, we had finally arrived to their home after a hike up the steepest hill I have seen in awhile.  What a beautiful place with a gorgeous view of the surrounding hills, farms, and forests!  We immediately met Julius' mother, who is the sweetest, cutest, most joyful African lady.  We also met his brother, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews.  What a blessing to be with them!  In one morning with Julius' family, we seriously drank 8 cups of chai by the time we had visited with everyone.  They kept saying: "You must drink tea.  It is very cold here."  They served us a feast of chicken, rice, potatoes, and chapati.  And we even watched some American music videos on their TV.  Ha!

During our time here, I have struggled with my Chaco soles.  One split, so I tried to repair it with duct tape.  I finally broke down to buy some Super Glue (which cost about $0.50 here).  Just when I fixed one, the sole of the other shoe broke off.  The dusty dry season took one, and the rainy season mud took the other.  Africa: 2, Chacos: 0.  When we went to visit our Maasai friend's home, I couldn't find my Chacos one day.  Come to find out, our host had taken them to be repaired in town!  When I got them back, the sole had been sewn together.  Now they are better than ever, and I own a one-of-a-kind pair of Chacos.  Africa: 10, Chacos: 0.  :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Safari Njema

Wow!  April was quite a month!  The students were going on break, and we had to renew our visas, so we thought we would do a bit of traveling.  God was so good to us.  He blessed us with a safe journey, amazing new friendships, and incredible hospitality.  We were overwhelmed at the thought of including every wonderful experience in one blog post, so we created a brief list of favorite things for your reading pleasure:

Mtwara, Tanzania:
1.  Hanging out with the Sarah, Reed, and Andrew Fraser
2.  A scenic dhow ride along the coast
3. Camping trip to Msimbati with the Trulls and the Sims
4. Swimming in the Indian Ocean
5. Amazing food!  (Sarah is an incredible cook.)

1. Spending time with our new friend, Tumaina, and his family
2. Seeing Mt. Kilamanjaro up close!!
3. Visiting the Osotua Enduet Women's Group: fully experiencing Maasai culture through dress, jewelry, dance, and milking a cow
4. Watching music videos of Charity Tajeu, Maasai Christian singer
5. Amazing food!  (fried bananas, mashed bananas/potatoes, at least 5 pieces of fruit daily)

1. Spending time with Larry and Hollye Conway
2. Experiencing Made In the Streets, which ministers to people living on the streets and provides children with access to education and job skills
3. Walks with Hollye on the country club golf course, with monkeys running around!
4. Visiting the Village Market and eating fro-yo
5. Amazing food!  (Hollye is an amazing cook.)

Ngong Hills:
1. Meeting Seeyian and Evans, who instantly welcomed us as family
2. Hiking to the top of the hills and seeing the beautiful view of the Rift Valley

The children will be returning to Mariann next week and starting school!  We are so excited to get back into our daily routine.  Also, we will be welcoming Dr. Cox, some elders from Downtown Church of Christ, and our new teammate, Abbie, in a week and a half.  :)

Blessings to you all,
Katy and Ashley