This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not
that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

Friday, June 24, 2011

Time to grow up, little girl

Sakina really is one of a kind. Unlike most girls, she's always welcomed by the boys to join in on any sports activities. I think it's because she is the only girl in a family of 6 boys. Could you imagine being the older sister of 6 brothers? I certainly cannot. She's tough, smart, talented and beautiful. Her father died years ago and now Sakina works so hard to ensure that her mother, who has succumbed to AIDS, is taken care of as well as all of her brothers. That's not an easy job for anyone yet alone a 17 year old.

Most days, Sakina has the opportunity to attend  Oasis. She partakes in the vocational training sewing class and has had the opportunity to learn a life-long skill. Over the last few weeks, Sakina has not been able to attend class; instead, she's had to take on jobs to help support her mother and brothers. Today, as I was walking home, I passed Sakina and Brenda on the road. While Sakina's a tough one, Brenda's the sweet one- never failing to show her shy, gentle smile.

Both girls were carrying loads of firewood that were twice their height and four times their weight. They had walked for miles to reach the forest where they are able to cut down tall, skinny trees with just one machete. Their legs and arms were filled with scratches and their bodies looked exhausted. I've heard that women who collect firewood often succumb to illnesses of the lungs. The physical toll this jobs takes on their body will weaken these young girls in no time. Simply watching them carry such a heavy load on their heads makes my neck and head hurt. It's both amazing and sad to watch girls I love work tirelessly to provide for their families. Usually this job is done by mothers, but these teenage girls have forfeited their childhood with hopes survival for both their families and themselves.

I know that selling firewood won't provide enough money to feed her family and I wonder what else she'll have to do to earn the money she needs. The thoughts that pass through my mind as I contemplate the options are heart breaking. I can't help but wonder how long it will be before these girls, as many others have, come face to face with the fact that selling their bodies brings more revenue along with less work. That thought alone makes my stomach churn. So what's my role in all of this? I believe it's to  pray, to encourage and to guide these precious girls with the hope and light of Jesus Christ. There's no one solution to their problem that I can provide, but I can provide the one Solution that can change their lives the most.

Sakina and the firewood she had collected

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Immigration Issues

Here's my view from inside the immigration office. Some of you have heard about my immigration issues and, for those of you who haven't, trust me when I tell you that this wasn't the first time I've run into trouble entering Kenya. While this marks my forth run in with complications, this is the first time I've actually been pulled inside the immigration office and told to remain there until they decide what to do with me. Talk about an adventure! I'm happy to report that I was admitted back into the country :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lunar Eclipse!

WOW!!! I just saw the lunar eclipse from Kitale, Kenya. So beautifully amazing! I really don't think it gets much better than that! Definitely a once and a lifetime experience that I'll forever remember! Thanks God for letting special things like that happen for our pleasure and thanks Sister for calling just to tell me to look up :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blanket Drop

A few weeks ago we had an incredible opportunity to bless the lives of many children who live on the streets. We headed out around midnight to ensure that the boys we would be fast asleep. We were doing a blanket drop. Life on the streets is difficult. It's cold, lonely and uncomfortable. Nights are spend trying to stay warm and out of harms way. Children gather together and sleep in huddles as a survival mechanism. Being alone isn't safe nor is it warm. The kids sleeping on the streets don't have any place to call home so they look for places that protect them from the weather- the cold, the rain, the wind, the hail. Tonight the low in Kitale is 57 degrees with heavy thunderstorms expected. A miserable situation to find yourself trying to sleep through. Most kids don't have any blankets and they're lucky if they have some kind of jacket. I can tell you that I wouldn't last 10 minutes on the streets. No way, not a chance.

Their tiny bodies were curled up amongst one another, as close to a building and under a covering as they could get. We quietly, trying not to wake them, placed blankets on each child. We didn't want this to be something that we made a show out of; instead, we wanted it to be unanimous, something that they could only thank God for not us.

It was humbling to see the way they slept. It looked miserable and made parts deep inside my heart ache. An ache so deep that any description would never do it justice.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fashion Show!

After completing our skirts, Leila suggested we have a fashion show for the girls! It was the perfect opportunity for them to show off their great work. Check out some pictures below!

the Oasis sewing class!

me with the girls :)

let the fashion show begin!

and of course Etao wanted to join in!

strike a pose!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A mile wide, an inch deep

Last week I decided to dive into Rick Warren's book on Bible Study Methods. I've never really investigated different methods for studying the Bible; instead, I usually just open up my Bible, start reading and scribble down my thoughts as I go. I'm enjoying learning about various study methods that I've never really considered, but I've found that the things listed in this book are a bit out of reach even for me- a person living on a nice compound in Kenya with a small library full of Christian literature and access to the internet. Let me pause here and say that I'm not criticizing Rick's book at all. I've obtained some very useful information from this book that has helped improve the way I study the Bible. This book was written for people in his community, church and culture. You simply can't take what is written for American culture and apply it to a third world country- it doesn't transfer as nicely as we'd like it to. 

What it comes down to is: the people of Kitale will probably never have access to such material at all. Without their basic needs being met how can these people who live just down the street from me obtain this vast list of resources recommended for an in-depth study of the Bible. Concordances, commentaries, word studies, Bible encyclopedias, or even a single translation of the Bible when having 2-3 various translations is suggested. Putting Bibles in the hands of people here would be amazing! But at the same time not always useful because many people I spend my time with can't read. More of them can read swahili, but almost no one can read English. Only very few people living at this poverty level have ever been to school and probably none have completed school passed a primary level. It's hard to imagine not going school. It's so integrated into the fabric of our society that having mass amounts of people who don't have the privilege of education seems unreal. Of course almost everyone living in poverty would love to go to school, but they can't. It's hard to explain the complexities that hinder their ability to find a means to becoming educated. Yes, a large part of it is money, but there are so many other aspects that have deep-rooted affects as well. The necessity to stay alive. The need for older children to watch younger children. The need for house help. The need for children to fetch water. The need for laborers. The need for firewood collectors. The need for help on the farm. The need for help cooking. The need for children to clean. The need for boys to work. The need for so many things. I could spend days trying process and explain the ways that poverty affects the ability for children to attend schools. Some things, like a widow raising 9 children, are obvious hinderances to a child's opportunities, but others are difficult to uncover and even more difficult to explain. 

I'm continuing to pray that our work in the slums, including our weekly Bible study for the women of Shimo, will create and nurture both spiritual and intellectual growth. I don't want any endeavor we've started here to fade away once we leave. I don't want them to think that since the white missionaries are gone their Bible study must stop. I want to empower them to keep on going.  I want to encourage these women to do this on their own. I want the one who can read to help those who can't. 

Once again, I've wandered off topic. Surprise, surprise.  

I started this blog post to talk about the fact that people here don't have access to Bible study resources- not even a Bible. This is humbling as I think about the number of Bibles I've had in the course of my 23 years of life. I find it amazing that in America, even though we live in a culture so rich in Biblical tools, our churches and communities have become so spiritually dry. 

A few weeks ago, while I was chatting on the phone with my sister, Lauren mentioned a quote she had recently heard regarding churches in Africa-- the church is a mile wide and an inch deep. While this phrase could also be used to describe churches in countries and cultures all around the world, I would agree that it fits much of what I've experienced since arriving in Kenya. This phrase is intended to describe the areas that, although they are highly populated with churches, have not developed deep spiritual maturity within the church. Now don't start to think that there are churches all over the place in Africa because that certainly isn't the case. But it is important to know that some areas- such as Kitale- have many churches. I am not writing these things to discourage or even complain about the churches in Kitale. I'm writing these things to emphasize the potential that exists. These pastors have little, if any, access to materials that we are overflowing with in America. Things that for years I, a person who is neither a pastor nor a theologian, have been able to access with ease. They have their Bible, but rarely do they have the ability to utilize concordances, Bible encyclopedias, historic texts, theological book, word dictionaries and other Biblical resources. I really believe having these materials here in Kenya would help strengthen and develop the spiritual maturity of people and churches. Simply giving pastors access could potentially do wonders-- helping pastors grow their congregation and continue to shepherd them to a life of loving Jesus. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Songs: Love Came Down

I've decided that I want to start sharing some of the songs that have really encouraged me during my time in Kenya. There have been so many songs that have been an outlet for my feelings and thoughts. Over the last 4 months, my heart has been filled with emotions that have stretched the very being of who I am. Sometimes when I think I can't express the intensity of my feelings the perfect song comes along that allows me to pour myself at the feet of Jesus. Here's one of those songs. 

Love Came Down-  Bethel Church

When I call on your name you answer
When I I fall you are there by my side
You delivered me out of darkness
Now I stand in the hope of new life

By grace I'm free

You've rescued me
All I am is Yours

I've found a love a love greater than life itself
I've found a hope stronger and nothing compares
I once was lost now I'm alive in you

You're my God and my firm foundation
It is you whom I'll trust at all times
I give glory and praise, adoration
To my Saviour who's seated on high

Love came down and rescued me
I thank You, I thank You
I once was blind but now I see
I see You, I see You

Friday, June 3, 2011

Interested in donating to Oasis of Hope?

Since several of you guys have inquired about how to go about donating to Oasis of Hope, I thought I'd provide a link. Oasis of Hope has done so much to transform the lives of children here in Kitale. It's name really explains what this place has become for nearly 200 children- a place of hope, an oasis in the midst of a painful world. Each day Oasis helps better the physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being of children living in poverty. I have absolutely loved being a part of what God is doing in and through Oasis and would recommend that you support Oasis in its endeavor to change lives with the hope of Christ.


Want to take a look at some pictures from Oasis?

The Art of Sewing: Oasis Sewing Class

the class's iron, which totally looks like it's from the 1800's- one of the perks of living in a place where electricity isn't guaranteed

enjoying some music as they work

almost done!

me with the sewing teachers- all done!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

First Time

It’s been nearly 4 months since I first stepped foot in Kitale. I still remember the mix of emotions I felt as I anxiously, nervously and excitedly walked off the tiny propeller that had carried me from Nairobi to the Kitale Airstrip.  The Kitale Airstrip and it’s one little runway is hardly something you would consider an airport. I was looking for Peter. Peter who? I don’t know, just Peter. How many Peters can there be in Kitale? Well, looking back on it now there are hundreds of Peters in Kitale—boy am I glad I didn’t know that back then!

Since that day I have experienced a wide array of exhilarating, strange and rare adventures. Now, I find myself counting things that most people would consider abnormal as completely normal. Things such as pregnant women working in the farm fields with babies strapped to their backs, mass amounts of non-deodorant wearing people, a widow raising 8 children all by herself, people going days without food, run-down homes with no electricity, plumbing, water or any sort of weather-resistant infrastructure. I’m reluctant to even write this because it makes me question whether I’ve become jaded to the way things are here. I don’t think it’s that I’m becoming jaded, I think I’m just beginning to understand that this is the way life is here. It certainly isn’t quite as shocking and jaw-dropping as it was the first time I saw it. Perhaps I would have more things to blog about if things around here didn’t seem so normal now-a-days.

Okay, I’ve wandered off topic. I started this blog so that I could share with you the series of ‘first time experiences’ I underwent this week despite the fact that I’ve been in Kitale for 4 months.

First time events:

·      SEWING A SKIRT: I have to admit that I spent a chunk of my childhood knitting, but I have never attempted to sew—and not just sew, but hand-stitch a garment from simple a piece of frabric.

·      EATING UGALI: On Tuesday I spent the afternoon tutoring Charles (one of the older boys who lives at Oasis) in math and when lunch time rolled around all the girls from the sewing class insisted that I eat ugali with them. Keep in mind that ugali is a Kenyan favorite and a staple food in this culture, which made my lack of consumption almost a sin. The next day I took the boys at Oasis a pan of corn beard and introduced them to what I would consider American Ugali!

·      RIDING A BODA BODA: Okay, I should probably explain what a boda boda is exactly. A boda boda is a bicycle taxi and in Kitale they are everywhereee. Essentially, there is a chair…no a stool…no it’s more like a platform attached t the back of a bicycle just above the rear tire. There’s this sort of estranged boda boda driver that sits at the intersection just outside our compound waiting for cliental. For the first time in 4 months, I took him up on his offer to take me into town. Typically if I’m not riding to town via our vehicle then I am walking or perhaps taking a piki piki (a motor bike taxi), but today I decided it was time to try a boda boda. It was a shaky and slightly scary experience, and I’m thankful that the ride from our house to town is partially downhill and flat in most areas.

·      AEROBICS CLASS: Despite the fact that I worked at Lifetime Fitness in high school and had access to Bear-Aerobics during my time in university, I have never in my life taken an aerobics class. I will admit that I’ve attempted to participate in home showings of P90X with my best friends from college, but I haven’t ventured into the scary world of instructor lead, push-yourself-until-you-break aerobics. I want to thank Kim, an adorable and extremely athletic friend I’ve made here in Kitale, for taking me to my first ever aerobics class. I never imagined this experience would first take place in Kenya, Africa of all places! While this gym pales in comparison to anything in the US, it’s got several weights and even a treadmill, which is a BIG DEAL for a place such as Kitale.

·      RUNNING THROUGH KITALE: Hannah is one of the beautiful Rwandan girls that I live with. She is adorable and super athletic. The other day, I took Hannah to the gym in town to participate in the tae bo class I mentioned earlier. In order to get there (on time) we had to jog there. Minus the highway through town and the strip of concrete that distinguishes downtown from the rest of Kitale, all the roads in Kitale are dirt roads. Rocky, uneven, hilly, stone-filled dirt roads that frequently become mud roads. Every now and then, when I’m in the mood to run, I will run laps around our compound, but this was the first time I had ever ventured out of the compound to run—and boy did everyone find it funny to see us running by!

·      REMOVING BRAIDS FROM AN AFRICAN’S HEAD: There’s no better way to get to know someone than spending an hour undoing their braids. Definitely provides for some quality time with my family members—Hannah, Juliett and Leila! And trust me, braid removal is no easy task!

·      FISHING IN AFRICA: I love to fish. Well, really I just love being in the outdoors. This Sunday a couple of our Kenyan friends took us fishing at a nearby dam. A fun experience that included digging for our bait worms, using tree limbs as our fishing poles and walking an hour into beautiful, middle-of-no-where Kenya.