Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Life at the center has been amazing. I have fallen in love with the people who come in and out of those doors.

Yesterday I was telling a teacher how much I wanted a bracelet that represented the flag of the people we work with. It's hard to make the star at the center of the flag, most come out as a diamond. We had discussed where to commission such a bracelet. One female student overheard and smiled that I wanted the flag design. "Good!" she said.

Today, in the morning, I was sitting in class when I hear a knock on the door. Two of the girls were standing outside wanting to meet me. One had the bracelet I wanted! It was a gift. But oh no! It looked too small! I shied away and apologized for not having dainty hands. They insisted it would fit and worked it on, stretching the unstretchable bracelet.

One of those girls waiting was the one who overheard. The other had been absent the day before.

I later found out the whole story. The one who overheard saw the bracelet on her friend's wrist and begged to buy it from her. The other girl, exasperated, asked why. When it was discovered that teacher Jenny wanted a bracelet like it, she decided to give it to me directly.

Coincidentally, the girl who gave me this bracelet is the one I had pre-chosen to intercede for on this day. As Ram*dan is in full swing, some of us have chosen to do personal fasts. For me, each day will hold a new name of someone I know who I fast and pray for.

I love these people. I love their openness and hospitality. How generous and giving they are. I pray for them as a people, as a nation, and as my friends. I hope you pray for them too.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
~ 2 Corinthians 10:4


Sunday, May 4, 2014

One Year

On the 25th of April we celebrated one year in Kenya. Here's what I learned so far:

You can easily wear an outfit two days in a row. No social stigma with that.

Having pets is an outrageous luxury.

Cars have the right of way. If you're trying to cross the street, it's better to go in a group of people than going solo.

Some people work harder than I ever will and earn less than I ever will. Being American is like winning the lottery in most people's eyes.

People would rather barter than pay a fixed price at a store. Most places have no indication of price or value on their wares until you ask.

Beauty is as important as the rest of the necessities. Even if you don't have enough money to buy nice things, you should at least indulge in that $3 pedicure or $5 hair extensions.

Being white means you deserve to get stared at. Children especially find white people strange.... like seeing Santa Claus out of season.

Eating with your hands is an art.

People like to watch accidents and fights. Actually, they prefer the front row.

Bananas with cooked meat and rice make for a delicious meal. Especially when all three are mixed together in one bite.

The mixture of dust, dirt, and water makes for the thickest mud you've ever seen.

A men holding hands with other men (and women holding hands with other women) is way more socially appropriate than a man holding a woman's hand.

Spending time with people is way more important than spending time alone in your house with your stuff.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Beware the Ides of March

Life in Kenya has been busy. Already March is upon us. Seven weeks from now we will be celebrating our one year anniversary abroad.

In our ESL program, our teachers teach two classes each daily. We have about 50 students and over 150 on our waiting list for registration! We started English Club two Fridays a months and it's been a blast.

Our first meeting it POURED rain to the point that we needed to "create" a bridge from the street to our gate over the river or rainwater. We had almost 40 people show up despite the downpour. Laughter and smiles abounded as we did "the human knot" and talked about husbands and shopping among the ladies. The boys argued and debated about politics and foreign policy. Our second meeting was about pollution and trash and involved lively discussion on beautifying our neighborhood.

In our Primary School we continue to grow in number. We have 25 students ranging from 2.5 years old to 14 years old (the highest level we have now is first grade), most of which take our bus. Wednesday sports days bring unusual energy and excitment in our kids. Our four teachers work hard at keeping the learning standards high in the classroom.

Jenny has been working largely with school administration, juggling salaries, food and supply expenses, admission fees, registration applications and the waiting list. Jeff teaches mornings and afternoons and meets with students in between classes.

This month we have also seen another side of Kenya. We spent two days camping in the Masai Mara amongst the wild animals. I could hear the *woop woop* of hyenas and even heard heavy panting and sniffing along our tent for five minutes one night and monkeys arguing and playing with equipment the next night. The Mara is home to the Big 5: Elephants, Leopards, Cape Buffalo, Rhinos, and Lions. We watched a lion feast on his breakfast as jackals and vultures watched and waited. We were temporarily chased by a baby elephant (with mama watching!) and even got stuck in mud in while crocs of cape buffalo casually watched.

We also visited another town in the Northeastern part of Kenya, home to a large population of refugees. Most inhabitants there consider the river just before that town to be the true border between Kenya and its neighboring country, and therefore don't consider their town a part of Kenya. We visited a Primary School in the area in hopes of partnering with them some time in the future. The ladies enjoyed a salon visit and came back with henna art on their feet and hands. We ate roasted goat meat in rice under the Milky way. It was wonderful.

Every day we thank God for allowing us to be here, for the relationships that we have, for the relationships we are establishing, and for the opportunity to do what we are doing. What a privilege!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Imagination and Knowledge

This Friday our ESL school is beginning a biweekly English club open to anyone in our current 4 classes and the general public. One of the activities we’ll be doing at the English club is hosting debates. Yesterday I used my students as gunny pigs.

I posed a famous Einstein quote “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” I then asked them to pick which is more important knowledge or imagination and to explain why. The vote at the beginning of the class was 8 for knowledge, 4 for imagination. It was interesting some of the negative connotations imagination had for many of the students. Everything from killing to witch doctors came up. While knowledge was touted as being given to man from God. Many students also said that people are hired for their knowledge, not their imagination.

The debate was good in that it was one of the first times I really heard some of my students open up and really speak their minds. Often times especially for the women here, it’s difficult to cross that barrier. Hopefully the English club will be a place where thinking for ones self can be fostered.

In the end one or two students switched positions saying that imagination is more important. Most of the class agreed that imagination and knowledge are entangled in such a way that they are important to each other. That some people have more imagination, some people have more knowledge, and that it’s important to work together allowing each person to use their gifts full potential.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little...

Christmas. In Africa. What a blessing!

It's been incredibly busy these past couple of months. We hired a School Administrator, Head Teacher, three other teachers, a groundskeeper, and day guard. We ran into some personal and professional problems with our Admin and had to make a difficult decision to let them go. We had several families meander in with kids, some families without, and all wanted to barter the price of tuition while their children gave us blank stares (they didn't know English, nor the national language, nor were they very responsive to our basic Somali). We had money troubles with the bank in the States, refusing to transfer money to Kenya. Which in turn gave us trouble with the furniture, textbook, and school supply people in getting our stuff in time before all the companies took their holiday.

Registration forms have been printed, student and teacher handbooks written, uniforms designed and displayed, syllabi purchased from the MOE, curricula made, to do lists were conquered, and errands were run. Even so... we all feel like we've forgotten something. Perhaps the cook, who isn't hired yet.

The ESL school has been booming! We doubled our attendance since last term and almost doubled in our inquires since this term. My students did phenomenally well, all who stayed the full course passed with A/B averages. They were incredibly proud of their certificates of completion which we handed out on the 19th. It was a wonderful, yet informal, ceremony complete with lunch, jokes, and lots of pictures! I may not be teaching my class come January because my work at the Primary School is a full time job, but I know they will be in good hands.

Christmas shopping is a new experience in Kenya. There are still the usual questions of "what to get so-and-so" and "when do I plan my shopping day(s)" plus the added "who would even sell this" and "where can I get this without paying five times the price it's worth" to answer. House wares and furniture tastes are different here.... pinterest has helped me a lot in some of my decorating and creation.

We found some toys for our next door neighbor's kids and the young boy found his present by accident. As a result, rumor has spread throughout the whole complex that the muzungus (white people) bought gifts for all their neighbors. We hope the built-up anticipation doesn't end in disappointment on Christmas morn.

Today we plan to invite a friend over for late lunch (a visit which will most likely last till evening if she comes at all) and visit the school to collect some pre-registration fees from our ESL students. Tomorrow will be our "girls only Christmas party" where the girl students and neighbors in our apartment complex will enjoy some cookie decorating, dancing, and singing. The following day will be the BIG Day!

I can't believe how quickly this year has gone and especially how these past couple months have flown. It's exciting and wonderful to be here, working and living with our wonderful neighbors and students. We love the relationships we have, and we hope they continue to grow as the days go by.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! We love you!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Neighborhood #1

Life in Africa.

We wake up to a rooster in the morning at times and at other times we hear the call to prayer in the early morning hours. We walk by more scattered chickens, dogs, some goats, and a constant stream of people coming and going.

We buy our fruits and veggies from Jane, who owns a small wood and tin shack full of produce and non-perishable groceries. Vegetables are fresh and sold at every corner and all along the road. Sodas are dirt cheap, provided you return the glass bottles to be refilled. Milk is purchased in small sandwich bags or triangular cartons. People set up their shops every morning and in the evening most gather up all their wares into a large sack and take it home with them.

Being white (not Indian or Black) is a spectacle and invites comments from strangers, beggars, children, and anyone else with an opinion.

Neighbors know who you are, what you have, what you don't have, and who you spend time with. Almost any price can be negotiated, meaning if you don't negotiate there's good chance you're paying more than anyone else who fights for a better price.

Almost anyone will stop and conversation with you if you approach them. Frequenting the same place makes friends quickly.

Piles of trash and sewage is a regular site walking in our the neighborhood. Sometimes you will find small gangs of children sifting through the garbage while sniffing glue. Everyone wants your money but most will appreciate you more if you give them recognition.

Tea time is important for any self-respecting Kenyan. If you don't take time to have a break you are missing something in your life.

This is our neighborhood. This is our home. We have unpredictable plumbing and electricity. We have reliable friends. Life is fresh and wild here. This is life in Africa.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Anniversary Celebration

This week we celebrated two things (on the same day, actually):

1) One full year as man and wife.
2) Six full months in Kenya.

I love being a wife. I love learning about God with my husband. I love his insights. I love being in a safe environment with him while my expand my patience and grace. I love watching his patience and grace expand in dealing with me. I genuinely believed I married the man God wanted me to marry, and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

I love being in Kenya. It's an incredible challenge being here. I have really spectacular days and I have really difficult days. I love the people I work with. Sometimes I experience frustration as a woman in a Muslim context -- the restrictions that apply -- but overall I find the culture of the Somali beautiful.

My students are wonderful. I have 10: nine men and one woman. They are all determined to learn. We joke together, they continually test classroom boundaries. They all sigh as I make them repeat the conjugated verbs over and over again. It's a blast. I care about all of them and pray for them regularly.

If you would like to join with me in prayer, please do! In particular, Abdi's wife has just miscarried and they are grieving that loss. My one girl student tests social convention by attending my class regularly and being the best student. Pray for courage and hope to remain with her as she makes a better life for herself.

The Primary School is moving forward. We hired some new staff to help direct us in legal and academic decisions. It is a lot of work, nobody really knows where their job ends and other jobs begin. We brainstorm together, not really knowing the possibility of our dreams or ideas. We have a HUGE portion on our plate these upcoming weeks, especially these next four weeks. We anticipate beginning enrollment the end of next month.

Please pray for wisdom, energy, and focus for those of us working on the Primary School committee (especially me). We need it!

Our neighbors are wonderful, we see them regularly throughout the week. We play games and occasionally they stay long enough to get some food in their bellies made my yours truly. They are a genuine, good-natured, honest family. Complete with the drama that teenage life and young life brings.

Pray in particular for the oldest daughter living there. She is experiencing incredible stress and frustration. She is afraid to share her whole story to me and divulges only parts. I can see the worry and sorrow on her face.

We love you. We love this season of our lives. We have much to celebrate and be thankful.

"Give thanks for the Lord for he is good, His love endures forever." ~ Psalm 107