Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Home" sick

"Homesick" - the distress or impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from the specific home environment or attachment objects. Feelings of longing are often accompanied by anxiety and depression. These symptoms may range from mild to severe.

Interesting how you can be homesick for somewhere that isn't even your "home".

The other day I was having the worst Kenya homesickness ever. I miss the bonfires, the roasted corn, the stars that look like an explosion of glitter, fresh sugarcane, Mama Carol, having roomies, giraffes, shower parties, laundry gatherings, tea time, gas station "chips" (french fries), GIANT avocados (the size of your head), motorcycle taxis, my team mates...

my favorite Kenyan snack
So in my distress, I decided that I needed roasted corn. Not wanted. NEEDED. So I drove to the store. Bought corn. Came home and proceeded to try to roast it on my gas burning stove....
Can you say, "epic fail." ? :(
Apparently it's a different kind of corn. It didn't turn out right at all. Not even close. I wanted to cry! *sigh*

I'm not unthankful to be home. Not at all! I love my America. I love my California. But somewhere in there, Kenya snatched a corner of my heart too. I don't want to live there, but I love the people there. They are some of my dearest friends. And yet, I know half of those friends are now spread all over the world, back in their own homes or on new adventures.

But I figured the best way to fight homesickness is to look at what I have here that I'm now more thankful for than ever. :) So here it goes...
- Climate control (air con? what?!)

- Good, real coffee.
- Bread I can eat. (wheat allergies aren't so easy to accommodate in 3rd world countries)
- Hot showers.
- My car. Being able to go where I want, when I want is such a freedom.
- Apples! (not a common fruit over in Western Africa)
- Not being a novelty. Being "normal". Blending in. Not drawing obscene attention to myself by just walking down the street.
- Safe water. (I will never complain about tap again.)

And it helps. :) It helps a lot when things seem down to make a point to look for the good. Search for that proverbial silver lining in everything. It may be hiding, but it's there if you look hard enough.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Last week of main outreach: Mombasa

Our last week of outreach, we traveled to the coast! On our way there, our bus broke down (in the middle of the night, of course) so it ended up taking about 30 hours to get to our destination. A little South of Mombasa, we were right on the shores of the Indian Ocean! It was super humid, and there were coconuts and tourists everywhere! :D

Muhammad's birthday celebration in Mombasa
The community along the Coast is strongly Islamic. We were even staying in a Muslim neighborhood. We had to be very aware of how we were dressing so as not to offend the people we were trying to reach out too. We did beach outreach and lots of door-to-door ministry, which proved to be difficult. We werent particularly prepped on the Qur'an. There are also many "social rules" that we had to keep in mind, such as:
- When entering a Muslim home, always step 1st with your right foot.
- When carying your Bible, make sure it is in your right hand and never hold it below your waist.
- Never set your Bible on the floor.
- Never write in your Bible. (This was hard because most of us had made lots of notes in our Bibles because we've been studying them for quite some time. Very few people on our team even had an unmarked Bible.)
and many more. Each "rule" has roots in Islamic culture and while it wasn't demanded that we follow them, we wanted to be as culture sensitive as possible to the people we were talking to.

One of the couples that we got to talk to were so sweet! As we were passing by their house, I just had to stop and talk to her. She was washing dishes in a basin out front. Her braids were piled high on her head and her nose ring sparkled in the sunlight when she looked around. There was something about her. You could see, she wanted more from life. She wanted it at it's fullest. She was full of spunk. Her eyes snapped with personality. She was a passionate person. We struck up an instant friendship. It turned out that she was a non-practicing Muslim and her husband was a back-slidden Christian. We talked with them for quite some time and they were so excited to give their lives to God. I've never seen someone so enthusiastic about their new found faith; it was inspiring. I wish we could have hung out more with her that week. She is truly an amazing lady, and I'm so happy to be able to call her my sister in Christ!

Beach evangelism/skits
This last week was just what we needed. Our ministry was challenging but SO fantastic, and in our free time we were able to re-coup on the beach.
Our free day ended up falling on Valentine's Day, and I can honestly say it was the BEST Valentine's Day I've ever (and probably ever will) have. I mean, come on, Jesus took me on a trip to the Indian Ocean! Warm breeze, glorious sunshine, white sand, clear water, swimming, tanning, collecting shells, checked out tide pools, window shopped, people watched.... I couldn't ask for a better day than to spend it with the lover of my soul in such a beautiful place. <3

Funny moments:
- Making swim suits out of our old clothes because we didn't pack any and had no money to buy any.
- While swimming in the ocean, one of the girls got stung by something on her foot. We had been talking earlier about how the only way to treat a jelly fish sting is to pee on it... I'm sure you can guess what happened. ;D
- The Kenyan sales people all up and down the beach recognizing us after a few days and telling the other sales people, "They're not tourists, they're students! They don't have money, stop bothering them!"
- There were tons of tourists everywhere and they were all Italian. Had a few ladies try to chat with me.... in Italian. Lol. We had no clue what the other was saying.
- The house flooding in the middle of the night because someone didn't shut off a pipe. I was sleeping on the floor. Waking up to my leader standing over me with a flashlight, laughing hysterically, "Sam! You're swimming!" I still can't believe I didn't wake up sooner, laying in 2 inches of water!
My team! <3

Wow! So this post concludes my outreaches in Kenya! It was an amazing experience, and I can't thank you all enough for all your support!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Main outreach week 4: Kakamega

Cut sugar cane. Yum!

We thought we were going to be in the city this week, but actualy we were in a small town on the outskirts of Kakamega (a good hours drive from the city). The area is all sugar cane fields. Our housing here was definitelly unique: we stayed in a cleared out store front! That was pretty fun!

However our 2nd day there, I got really, really sick. Horrible, could-not-get-off-of-the-floor sick. But it only lasted 2 days, so I was fine. No clue what it was. Definitely felt God challenging me through it though: was I still going to praise Him? It was a challenge, but I overcame it, and was spiritually stronger coming out of it (and had a deeper appreciation of being able to participate with my team).

After I had recovered, I was able to re-join with ministry. We worked a lot with the local high schools this week. We went and talked to the kids, hosted a youth conference at the church, and had revival meetings for the church congregation. I even got the oportunity to give the message at one of the revival meetings. Public speaking is not my thing; I hate it with a passion. But I realized this was something that God had put before me for His glory, and I needed to get over myself. I was pleasantly surprised how well it went and I give all credit to God (there's no way I could've given a message with out choking on my own spit). I'm so glad I had the chance to share with them, and God taught me a lot this week!

Transporting the sugar cane to market.
Funny moments on outreach:
- Making friends with a baby donkey. We named her "Carl". The owner even offered to sell her to us.
They're so soft and fluffy!!! <3
- Driving through a sugar cane field and the workers giving us free sugar cane!
- Getting stuck with a crazy motorbike driver (they're version of a taxi). Racing other motorbikes, driving so close to sugar cane bales that my legs got all scraped up, etc. I seriously thought we were going to crash. :O

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Week 3, Main Outreach: Mt. Elgon

          Traveled to Mt. Elgon! *que Lord Of The Rings theme music* (near the Ugandan boarder) The roads were terrible! I shouldn't have been surprised, all roads in Africa are bad, but this voyage was painful! But we got to the town at the base of the mountain fine, and the family that hosted us was so kind! We were able to stay in their home.

Our time here was packed! We did door to door in the mornings and high school ministry in the afternoons. Part way through the week we hiked up Mt. Elgon to minister to the community up there for 2 days, then we came back down and worked with the local churches.
Local's homes atop the mountain.

Let me give you some background on Mt. Elgon. As you walk through it, it looks like paradise: coffee fields everywhere, everything looks green, quaint, lush, beautiful and peaceful. But it's not peaceful at all. This community has had post-election violence and tribal warring going on since 1963. There are 3 tribes, one tribe has a Rebel army that attacks not only the other 2 tribes, but their own as well. It wasn't clear to me if the cause of the fighting was over land, politics, livestock, or all of the above, but whatever the case, things are awfully intense. Why are the homes so quaint? Because the Rebel army comes through every few years and burns up all the houses, or the military burns the houses to flush out the Rebels. Therefore no church building has been built on the mountain; everyone knows that it will either become a Rebel camp or be burned to the ground, so it's not worth the investment. So people hike up and down the mountain to go to church at the bottom. This is a 2-3 hour hike each way. It is so steep that the only way to get up or down is on foot and with donkeys to carry your stuff. Even then, you have to stop and let the donkeys rest every so often if you have a big load.
Ripe coffee berries!
The people are poor. Though they have all the natural resources they could ever need at their disposal, they are being constantly displaced by the Rebel attacks. Their fields are torched and their livestock stolen. They can never get ahead. Just when they are starting to get back on their feet, the Rebels strike again. Even now, Rebel raiders hide in the surrounding forests and attack randomly.

This week, God really used us to reach out to a hurting community. A community that desperately needed someone to turn to in their grief and times of trouble. While God does not promise to remove us from situations, He does promise to walk with us each step of the way if we will trust in Him. He promises to work everything that happens to His children for their own good (even when it seems like the worst thing in the world at the time). We take comfort solely in the fact that our Creator knows the "big picture" even when we cant see past our own pain, and that He knows our pain as deeply as His own.
How people must travel up and down the mountain.

It was amazing to see the transformations as we simply took the time to talk to people. The walls, the pain, the anger, all come pouring out and melting away at the understanding of a God who wants to be their sense of peace and comfort in the midst of their chaos. The people want the Word of God. They are hungry for Bibles, but living in the middle of nowhere, there isn't even anywhere to buy them. The Athi River YWAM base is currently working on a Bible donating ministry to the Mt. Elgon area.

God moved in some amazing ways in this community! But they still have a long way to go. It was beautiful to see the local church really step up while we were there and their passion renewed to reach out to the communities that they live in. I truly believe that this place is in for some major spiritual transformation!
One of Mt. Elgon's majestic waterfalls

Funny moments on outreach:
- We had no water. I was on cooking duty with another girl and we couldn't prepare any food without water. A bit absent mindedly she prayed under her breath, "Lord, give us water". I kid you not, less than 5 minutes later, the spigot out front goes CRAZY! The hose blows right off! Water is rushing EVERYWHERE! We didn't turn it on! We couldn't turn it off! So we brought every bucket, water jug, and pot on the compound and filled them. The neighbor women even came and were able to fill their water cans. After 2 hours, it just stopped. We had more than enough water to cook, do laundry, and shower. Amen! :D
- Having a drunk man come stumbling up to us while we were doing door-to-door. He announced that he was a drunk... and tired of it. He wants to know God. After explaining things thoroughly to him and his wife so we could be sure that they truly understood, they both readily accepted the gospel!
- Passing out exhausted on the pastor's couch after hiking up the mountain while the rest of my team mates went and explored waterfalls and caves. I couldn't go another step. lol.

How we can pray for the Mt. Elgon community:

the home that my friend grew up in
- For the Holy Spirit to move. Healing existing wounds and convicting the hearts of the Rebel soldiers to stop attacking.
- That the government would continue to have compassion upon the survivors of the community and continue to send military aid to them as needed.
- A disbanding of the Rebel army. 20 boys were arrested from the local high school for being involved with them. (It's almost like a gang.)
- Strength and boldness for the believers living there. That they would continue to reach out with radical love to the people around them.
- For the written word of God to be brought to these people. That there may be enough of a supply that every person that desires a Bible may have access to one (and in a language that they can read).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Week 2, Main Outreach: Sigor

The community here has lots of children. LOTS. Everyday a large group of them would come hang out at our camp and just want to play with us. Even though this was not part of our structured ministry here, it was such a blessing to get to spend time with and feed these precious kiddos! And I am very excited for the next DTS team that goes here to run a kids camp.
Kids are kids anywhere. Just looking
for a little love.

Our spiritual struggle here was the religious mindset of the people. Everyone is caught up in if you are a Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Anglican, etc. They needed to hear about freedom in Christ and unity of the Church Body. This week we did market ministry (kind of like open air, and one on one conversations), door to door, and high school ministries. I got to work with the Juniors and I learned that I LOVE working with high schoolers! Who knew? All this time I thought I should be working with pre-schoool. Yay for learning new things!
Here in Sigor, it is mango heaven! So many mangos everywhere! At the market, it's 5 mangos for 10 cents! This made me very happy, and my team and I were constantly eating fresh mangos. :D
We also had to be very careful when cooking. The local herds of goats roam around, and we were cooking on a fire outside... Yes, the goats DO come up and eat ANY un-guarded food! No matter if it's boiling or not! So we had to have someone on goat duty all the time. Heehee.
Getting water in Sigor was a bit of a challenge; our guys had to walk quite a ways to the police station (police control the city water) where they were harassed pretty obnoxiously by the local police, but we managed ok. Oh, and my water filter broke. Oh well, hello straining and boiling!

Funny moments on outreach:
- Picking rat poop out of people's hair. (yes, the rats come cuddle at night)
- Choosing to sleep on the bench outside like a hobo in order to avoid the rats.
- Pepper spraying a goat that was trying to eat our bananas (That's right, don't mess with my food! lol.)
- Kids in the Sunday School fighting over who got to sit next to us.
- Tripping on my skirt as I was introducing myself to the church and doing a full on face plant on the stage.
- Waking up to the rooster crowing from the guys' BEDROOM next to ours. (The rooster was supposed to be eaten. Until then it lived in one of the guy's beds... then it got away. The men had to go chase it down.)
- Walking to the bathroom at night and passing through these weeds with dried seed pods. They rattled like a rattle snake every time! Scared me so bad until I figured out what it really was.

A personal revelation I recieved this week was in Ezekiel 28, where God is mad at the king of Tyre. He was called the "model of perfection", an "appointed guardian cherub", "blameless". How epicly impressive to have your character and giftings compared to heavenly beings?! Then he became proud because of the wisdom and good looks that God had blessed him with. He regarded himself as a god. (sounds a bit like Lucifer, eh?) Just think: God can bless us with AMAZING gifts and annointing to use for His purposes, and we can choose to glorify Him or ourselves. But choosing to glorify ourselves means we think we are worthy of glory, a.k.a. little gods. Wow! And that definately infuriates God. After all, He gave each of us those annointings and gifts in order to glorify Him. How dare we use it to glorify oursleves? It just really made me think. :)

Thank you so much for all your prayers! I appreciate you all!
The local Sunday school class.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

1st week of main outreach! West Pakot

                While traveling to Pakot, I got my 1st glimpse of what we’d be working with this week. Waiting for our transport vehicle, 3 little boys (probably 10-12 years old) came by, begging for money and food. At 1st, I thought they were special needs or something, then I realized they were high. Having nothing to do, even the children resort to addictions to pass the time. Huffing industrial glue out of old water bottles, they stumbled around the streets. None of the native people seemed to care. It was “normal”.
My new little friend! This is how African
mothers carry their babies around: on their
backs. (It's actually really comfortable)
How we slept! Outside in the dirt. Gotta love it!
                After a hilarious ride on top of a lorry through gorgeous mountains, we arrived at our parched destination. Here in West Pakot, there is not water. And being no water, there is also no food. There is one well (that was put in place by another missionary team about 10 years ago) that people walk miles to and bring their herds to use. Everything is dust and dead, dry thorn trees. The daytime heat easily reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and with almost no shade, it’s quite intense. No electricity. No running water. Not even houses. There are some simple huts that they consider their “home”, but it’s usually so hot that everyone cooks and sleeps outside.
                Peoples’ priority here is their livestock. It’s ALL about their flocks. Their entire social and economic system revolves around it. Families will have as many children as possible because the boys serve as herdsmen and girls are traded as wives to gain more livestock. It does not matter that they cannot feed and clothe these children; their kids are simply a piece to acquiring more wealth. They don’t ever send them to school (you don’t need school to raise cows and have babies), so the entire area is completely uneducated. This lack of information causes some problems, such as not understanding the effects of alcohol to unborn babies and nursing infants. Again, having nothing to do in the middle of nowhere, the people have resorted to addictions to entertain them, and have become very good at making moonshine. It is the norm for people to be drunk all day, every day, including pregnant and nursing mothers. The rate of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was ridiculous. These women have no idea that they are damaging their own children.
Some of the Pakot ladies.
                So this week, we were able to work with the community as a whole. They are a very curious and welcoming people, and would usually come to where we were staying to sit with us, eat with us, and just spend time together. Since they are not educated they only speak their tribal language, so this made it very difficult to talk with them. We had a few translators, but not many. As a whole, we knew our main job as a team there was to help the people in the practical ways that we could (providing food and clothing) and interceding fervently. The people are so spiritually oppressed and witchcraft is extremely prevalent. When we were able to speak with them, we shared the gospel, and many were very open to it.
                One of the ladies that I had the pleasure of getting to talk to about the gospel was a little, old, blind woman. After a time of visiting with her, we learned that she had heard the gospel before, but she always felt overlooked by whoever was sharing it. That as “just a little old blind woman”, she was shoved into the background and forgotten about. She felt that she was unimportant to people, and therefore unimportant to God. We later learned that she is a widow; that she had 5 children and all of them died at infancy, and that now she is all alone. In a culture where you rely on your children to take care of you in your old age, this left her in a very difficult situation. She would go from family to family, staying with them for a bit until she had worn out her welcome and they sent her on her way again. This precious woman had never been shown love. She had never been told that she was valuable, that she has a purpose, that she is beautiful and treasured. As we began to share with her how God truly sees her: as his stunning creation and lovely daughter, you could see the walls of neglect and pain coming down. I sat there and cried with her as she finally began to understand: she IS important and the God of the universe loves HER. She accepted Christ as her savior that day. J
                We adopted her as our African Grandmother and call her “Coco”, which is Pakot for “Grandma”. Later that week, my friend and I went to visit her in her home and we brought the local pastor. As we visited with her some more, (this lady whom the pastor had never met) learned that she was very distantly related to his wife! After explaining the situation to his wife, they agreed to bring her to live with them. :D We praise God that she has finally found a home where she will be taken care of.

Prayer for the community of West Pakot:
-         - Freedom from the addictions that keep them bound from living their lives to the fullest.
-          -Continued spreading of the gospel in this land, and for full time workers to go there.
-          -That the Holy Spirit would continue to move in their community. Open peoples’ eyes and prepare their hearts.
-          -Strength and boldness for the believers living there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

getting ready for main outreach!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! :D Wow, I can't believe it's already January! 3 months down, only 2 left.
Before we left for outreach, our camp was struck rather hard by sicknesses of all sorts: stomach infections, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, bronchial infections, strep throat, malaria, typhoid, parasites... if it was all the same illness it could have been pin pointed to something that we may have done or neglected, but seeing as how it was all different and not everyone got the same thing and it didn't really hit until RIGHT before we left for outreach, we difinitley feel it was a spiritual attack. Sadly it was severe enough that 2 of my fellow students re-agravated pre-existing health problems that were so severe that they had to return to the States for treatment. :( Our team will not be the same without them, but we are trusting God that His plans are perfect and He would not have taken them back home unless they were needed there more than they were needed here.
I was extremely ill myself; I had no appetite and wanted to throw up anything that I did eat for days (which was the symptoms of stomach infection). And knowing my appetite, that its alarming and quite out of the ordinary (I eat more than most teen boys). Before going to the doctor, my team prayed for me. I really claimed the healing as my own, knowing that God could choose to heal me then and there, or through medicine, but I knew my God is faithful. On the way to the doc, food was actually starting to sound good in theory, but I still couldn't stomach the idea of actually eating. By the time I was called in to see the doc a few hours later, I was actually hungary! After running multiple tests on me in the lab, they could find nothing wrong with me (and I was DIEING for some chicken and fries). ;) I know back in America we tend to doubt God's ability to do miraculous healings, but I will never doubt that again. I KNOW I was sick with what a few of my other team mates had, and that was a stomach infection. And it was gone. GONE! It took a day or 2 before I could eat a normal size meal in one sitting, but that's certainly to be expected when you haven't eaten in 3 days. I just really wanted to share that amazing experience with you guys. :)
Our last 2 weeks have been on outreach to Maasai land, I week in different villages. We had a kids camp during the week for ages 3-25, and revival meetings (really just church services focusing on encouringing and uplifting) every evening for the community. We would also go on home visits in the surrounding community; encouraging, praying for people, building friendships, and sharing the love of Jesus. At one home we came accross a mother who was re-mudding her house, so we got to help her. She was worried for my health though (apparently "white people are not used to hard work and I might just fall over dead at any moment"). Lol, but I had a great time helping her as long as I did and I did try to keep helping; she had to resort to telling me that she was out of mud. The people were SO friendly and welcoming! I had a hard time leaving. I made lots of new friends who all wanted to know when I was going to come see them again. It was very sad telling them that I really wasn't sure if God was ever going to lead me back here to Africa, but if He does, I will definitley be looking them up. :D
It's so humbling to visit someone who wants to give you a present of a goat or a chicken when they live in a mud hut and dont even know how they're going to feed their own family that weekend. And to refuse a gift in that culture is absolutely rude. It really makes you think about what you value: people or possessions?
My Christmas wasn't very eventful, traveling over Christmas Eve, a small group of us had decided to go ahead of the rest of the team to prep for when everyone else came, so 3 others and I were in a new village. We just went to church and ate dinner with the pastor's family. Nothing especially "Christmas-y", but it was still a nice day. Quite honestly, with the lack of Christmas music, decorations, and the 80 degree weather we're having, it didn't even feel close to Christmas time.
Funny random moments of outreach:
- all the Westerners bursting into line dancing when someone plugged their ipod into the portable speaker.
- scaring the stink out of people as they came in the dark to wash their dishes. (heehee!)
- being told by one of my African team mates that I look like Mr. Bean (I almost punched him).
- getting a Maasai name: Nolamala; "one who gathers groups of warriors". This is hilariously ironic considering all the random marriage proposals I've gotten since being here, yet on the other hand extremely profound from a spiritual perspective. :)
- swimming accross the river because I refused to go accross the REDICULOUS "bridge", which was really just 2 trees that grew at angles and were tied together in a GIANT arch over the water.
- getting a flat tire while on our safari.

We were able to go on a  safari while we were in Mara! It was AMAZING! Oh my goodness! Zebras, buffalos, wildabeast, hyeenas, elephants, giraffes, gazells, impala, dik dik, toupe, hippos, cheetahs, lions! It was crazy! The safari vehicles get SO CLOSE to the animals! It was rediculously amazing! We couldn't help poking a bit of fun at the tourists (having lived here for 3 months we consider oursleves pretty legitimately African.) We had forgotten how WHITE white people are! Seriously! We have all tanned so much! Lol. It was pretty hillarious.
After traveling all night (11pm-8am) we arrived back to our base in time for New Years. We had a Lord of the Rings marathon (how very American of us. Lol.). We also built a bonfire and chilled out under the stars.
Well, now we are leaving for our "main outreach": 6 straight weeks! I don't think I'll have any internet access durring that time, so I'm terribly sorry if I'm not able to update you durring that time.

Prayer requests:
- continued unity and creative ideas as we prepare for main outreach.
- safety and health.
- sensitivity to the Spirit and a willingness to learn and obey.

- my finger has healed up VERY nicely! :)
- God has been shaping and molding us in such amazing ways.
- I've been abnormally NOT homesick! Yay!

Thank you all so much for your love and prayers!!! :D