Kisses from Katie, devos: Rich and Poor

Shoes vs. Feet

Shoes vs. Feet

Rich and Poor

Jesus said, “You will always have poor among you.”

We know that we, as Americans, are among the richest people in the world. Much of the time we can ignore this uncomfortable truth: that while we live in plenty, others suffer and die from the lack of food, shelter, and medicine. But on a trip like this, we can ignore it no longer, and that is a good thing. God does not want us to live in ignorance of the needs of others. So what do we do with this tension?

Questions for thought/discussion

  1. What are our responsibilities for/to the poor?
  2. What do we “do” with the extravagance/materialism of our culture and the great need of people in places like Africa?
  3. How do we avoid giving out of guilt? What’s the “right” motivation for giving?
  4. What do we do with the argument that we have needy people in the U.S. and we should give to them first?
  5. How does contentment relate to this issue? What does contentment look like in our home culture? Not just being content in having less than some BUT in having more than others? Is there such a thing in being content in having more?
  6. How does God view our homes/our spaces/our stuff? Is sharing more difficult than giving outright?

Africa devotions, continued–finally

Sorry for the delay. We were in Wisconsin for a week at a log cabin graciously offered by a former Wheaton Academy family to WA teachers for vacation use. Wonderful place–river on one side of the property, farmland (and I LOVE farmland) on the other–and good old dial-up Internet!

It was awesome. I was able to check/send e-mails for work, but I couldn’t get the “add new post” page on my blog to load. I buried my phone deep in my unused purse (Dave had his available), and thoroughly enjoyed the lack of constant communication.

Anyway, I’m back in suburbia (hopefully it won’t offend anyone if I say “bleh”), so I’m back to posting. Africa devotions, continued:

God’s Heart for Women and Children
When the disciples wanted to keep children from approaching Jesus, He (Jesus) became indignant (a polite word for “ticked”). (Read Mark 10:13-16).
We’ve become so used to this story, we’ve forgotten how shocking Jesus’ words and actions would have been to the people of his culture, which categorized children as lesser. Even his disciples—who’d spent quite a bit of time with Him by this point—were surprised.
Children and women have suffered in every culture and every age and are still suffering today. Often this happens with the complete support of organized religion. In Christ, God was clearly saying NO! My heart is for these little ones. Through the Law of the Old Testament, God had already SAID that He cared for the least: the laws that protected widows and orphans and strangers were very different from the laws of surrounding cultures. In the person of Christ, God SHOWED He cared for both women and children, for all those denied equality by society. Christ honored them with His words, stood up for them with His anger, and demonstrated His tenderness through His touch.
Questions for thought/discussion
1.     As you’ve watched and interacted with children, what have you learned is universal about them?
2.     How has your time with children helped you to understand how God wants you to approach Him?
3.     Are there any people you treat as less than equal?

Africa Devotions, cont.: Not “right/wrong,” just different

These girls from Katanga LOVED the camera!

These girls from Katanga LOVED the camera!

One of the first lessons cross-cultural travelers need to learn is that cultural differences are not usually “right” or “wrong.” They are simply different. Every culture—including our own—has both “good” and “bad” things about it, “beauty” and “ugliness.” As we learn to break through cultural divisions through genuine friendship with people of other cultures, we will begin to more clearly see our own culture’s “beauty” and “ugliness.”

One of the hard parts of Kenyan and Ugandan culture is the number of street children and orphans. Another is the many children who die from preventable causes. These problems seem overwhelming.

But there is also beauty. Often the people who have absolutely nothing (especially by U.S. standards) welcome others into their homes and into their lives in extraordinary ways. They share in ways U.S. citizens find shocking. They embrace a different pace of life and a strong commitment to community, and they place much less value on appearances. In these same countries are people (like Mary and Wilfred) who love orphans and street kids with their whole hearts and do all they can to help them.

As Katie Davis (of Kisses from Katie) lived in Uganda, she began to have a more critical view of American culture, specifically of our materialism. (Read page 23 of K from K). When we (as U.S. citizens) encounter developing-world cultures, some of us feel the same way Katie did; others feel more tempted to defend U.S. culture and find fault with the third world. Both are normal reactions. We need to be gracious with each other as we process the differences, and we need to be honest with God as we wrestle with this. There are no easy answers.

But in the middle of our wrestling, we can hold tight to a beautiful picture God gives us in Revelation of people from every tribe, nation, people, and language gathered in equality around His throne in joyous worship (Rev. 5:9 and 7:9). Someday the titles “haves” and “have-nots” will be obsolete, and we will have complete, perfect unity.

Questions for thought/discussion:

  1. How do you feel about the differences between U.S. culture and other cultures you’ve experienced?
  2. How do we let go of cultural differences and see people from different cultures as simply another expression of God’s incredibly creativity—another facet of His image?
  3. How does the passage in Revelation bring us hope as we continually process these issues?
  4. Pages 219-224 of Kisses from Katie: How does God’s picture of the body of Christ—the family with brothers and sisters—fit into Katie’s insistence that we should treat everyone God brings into our lives like family?

Kisses from Katie devotionals

DSC_0028Before we went on the trip to Africa, Dave asked if I would write devotionals for the team to use while on the trip. We had asked the girls to read Kisses from Katie, a wonderful book about a girl from the suburbs who went to Uganda after she graduated high school and who now, in her early mid-twenties, has adopted 13 Ugandan girls and lives there full-time. I used Scripture and Kisses from Katie and wrote short devotionals that, I hoped, would cover at least some of the issues and opportunities for growth we would encounter in Africa.

Well, I think doing the devotions IN Africa was fine, but, for me, they seem more necessary back here in the U.S. As always after I return from being in Africa, I feel like I’m stuck in no-man’s land, wondering… well, lots of things.

I don’t know if these will be helpful for anyone besides me, but over the next few days, I’ll be posting the devotions, which I’ve adapted to fit a broader audience. Some are pretty short, but all have discussion/for-thought questions.

 

Everybody Act Medium

Pastor Chuck Swindoll once told a story about some kids who built a clubhouse. They put a sign on the outside that read, “Nobody act big; nobody act small; everybody act medium.”

Those kids knew that harmony and fellowship aren’t possible when people think they’re bigger than others OR when people believe they’re lesser.

But when people view themselves—and everyone else—as “mediums,” equals, there can be fellowship.

Looking from God’s point of view helps us to understand ourselves as “mediums.” Though WE see our human distinctions of wealth, class, education, strength, and beauty as really important, God doesn’t. We all “rate/rank” the same with Him.

Questions:

  1. Read Philippians 2. Paul takes the idea of “medium” to another level. He says to think of others as “better than ourselves.” What does this look like when we’re working/living alongside people from different cultures/backgrounds?
  2. How do we look for similarities rather than differences?
  3. One generality about the American mindset is that we consider ourselves the heroes. This is a particular temptation when we are entering into situations with people poorer than we are. How can Philippians 2 help us to relate correctly to people in these situations?
  4. What are some ways we see Katie doing this in the book? What can we learn from her example? (page 7 “…saw myself in those little faces”  and page 12 “This is the place where…”)

 

Africa Connections Info

Dave and I have mixed feelings about missions trips.

That’s a weird statement considering we just got back from leading one.

On one hand, you spend a LOT of money to get there that could be used instead either by the organizations you work with or by full-time missionaries. Sometimes missions teams go in with the idea that they’re coming in to save the day (not exactly a Philippians 2 attitude).

But on the other hand, often the money spent to go on the trip is like an initial investment. It opens up the team members’ eyes and hearts–as well as the hearts and eyes of their friends and family members–to needs and Gospel opportunities they had no idea of before so that future support gets funneled in directions it would not have otherwise. Mission team members find that they are “mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by … (the) faith” of the people they meet. (Romans 1:12)

My hope is that those of you who have read my blog have, in a sense, traveled with us and been impacted just as we have. Some readers have already asked me about ways to contribute to some of the ministries we worked with, so what I want to do in this post is provide links to all of the different organizations we worked with while we were in Kenya and Uganda. You can learn more about these organizations and donate to them at the website links provided. I’ve also included the link to the specific blog post I wrote about our experience at each organization.

1. Kibera Girls SoccerAcademy:

http://www.kiberagirlssocceracademy.org/

This is a FREE secondary school in the heart of the Kibera Slum (the second largest slum in the world) that provides girls with a quality education so they can continue on beyond secondary school to universities and colleges. Great program.

Blog link: https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/11/day-3-in-africa-a-gift-of-a-day/

2. Springs of Hope Orphanage run by Kenyan Mary Musyoka:

http://www.entertheventure.com/

Venture Corps is a U.S.-based non-profit that advocates for several non-profits run by Kenyan and Ugandan nationals. You can find more info on Springs of Hope on Venture Corps website and donate specifically to it or to the Venture Corps general fund.

Blog link: https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/10/meet-mary-day-2-in-africa/

3. Mercy Childcare run by Ugandan Wilfred Rugumba:

http://www.mercychildcare.org/

Mercy is dear, dear, dear to my heart. Our son, Patrick, is from Mercy, and I lived with Wilfred and his wife, Vena, for five weeks during our adoption process. Almost all the ministry we did in Uganda was through Mercy and its founding church, Light the World Church in Kampala, Uganda.

Blog links:

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/15/seeing-ugandans-light-the-world-day-1-in-uganda/

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/16/beauty-from-the-awful-day-3-in-uganda/

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/22/final-days-in-uganda/

4. UAPO (Ugandan American Partnership Organization) (In Uganda, known as the Akola Project):

http://www.theuapo.org/ (this site has information about the UAPO)

http://akolaproject.org/ (this is the UAPO’s shopping site–beautiful jewelry and very soon, some amazing woven bags)

Blog link:

https://jenunderwood.org/2013/07/19/our-gifts-gods-purpose/

 

 

 

Final days in Uganda

playing with babies while others painted

playing with babies while others painted

Wilfred and his wife, Vena, left for the States this past Tuesday, leaving us in the very capable hands of Angel and Rachel. Before he left, he and Dave talked about the painting he wanted us to complete at the babies and toddlers’ home: two accent walls, a mural (of our design) on one of the accent walls, and the entire living area (a BIG room). He wanted us to paint it in a gloss coat rather than the current flat paint so the walls could be cleaned.

Dave looked over the entire job and said, “We’ll try, Wilfred, but I am almost certain we will not be able to complete all of this. That’s a lot, but we’ll do what we can.”

Britta with a couple of the little ones

Britta with a couple of the little ones

We had good reason to be proud of our team of girls (we’ve had good reason this entire trip) because they completed the entire job. Some girls played with and cared for babies and toddlers (keeping them away from the painting areas); some painted; some planned and painted the mural; some cleaned paint drips (Deb Smith was on her knees for probably three hours!); some cleaned rollers and brushes so they could be used for different colors. In the end, it was completed! They worked HARD!

naptime!

naptime!

We wanted to get the job finished, but we also wanted to give the two ladies who work round-the-clock there to have a bit of a break and a fun day, so when lunch time rolled around, Angel, Lauren, and I went down to the nearest chapatti stand (a pancake/crepe made from flour, oil, salt, and water and fried on a griddle [don’t hold me to that recipe; I’ve only watched them do it]) and made the cooks’ day. Their eyes grew a little round when we said we need FORTY rolexes (that’s egg fried with salt and chopped vegetables rolled [hence the name] in a chapatti), but you could tell they were a little excited to make such a big sale. One guy began making more dough by hand, up to his elbows in it as he kneaded, and another began chopping veggies and then frying eggs with them. The main guy had on a pristine Starbucks apron J and thanked us for our patience.

Deb's knees were red by the end of the day b/c she spent so much time on them! What a trooper!

Deb’s knees were red by the end of the day b/c she spent so much time on them! What a trooper!

While they worked on the rolex, the three of us walked down the road to find a fruit stand. We bought two big bunches of mini bananas for about $2 and then bought several sodas for Aunt Josephine and Susanne as a special treat. When we got back we picked up our hot, steaming rolex and took everything back to the home. The babies and toddlers ate nearly as much as the adults, and the mamas shared the extra sodas with the kids and by the end they were sticky, almost comatose but happy messes. The girls on baby duty pulled their mattresses into the main room and lay down with them so they could take naps. One girl said she lay there looking into her baby’s eyes and began praying for him—for his future, for his health, for his relationship with Christ and even his future wife.

the mural the girls painted on one of the walls

the mural the girls painted on one of the walls

Dave was still trying to get enough cash to pay for the guesthouse so I went downtown with Angel to visit ATMs there. We rode a mutatu (like a mini-bus), and I had fun watching all the different passengers. Then I had a new experience: I’ve always ridden bodas (motorcycle taxis) while wearing pants (so I could straddle them). This day, though, I’d put on a skirt because I’d thought I was going to the hospital with the new baby, so I had to ride sidesaddle. I’ve always admired how the women balance so gracefully, but I have an even deeper appreciation now. I was a little hunched over from gripping the underside of the seat–probably not graceful at all!

Christy with Susanne and Aunt Josephine, the two ladies who selflessly care for these little ones day in and day out.

Christy with Susanne and Aunt Josephine, the two ladies who selflessly care for these little ones day in and day out.

Angel and I caught up with the team at a game they played that afternoon. Though a “football” match played by an official girls’ team had certainly drawn crowds in Kenya, the Kenyans weren’t really surprised. It was very different in Uganda. We often had to convince people that they really played. We didn’t play any “official” matches in Uganda simply because there aren’t any girls’ teams to play, and when we told people the girls played “football,” the Ugandans assumed it was a genteel version of the game. So when the girls played a friendly-but-competitive match against some of the older boys at Mercy Childcare home and their friends from the neighborhood, the guys were really surprised. “They really play!” they said, and we would laugh, nod, and say, “We told you.”

the whole painting/baby care team--after the project was finished!

the whole painting/baby care team–after the project was finished!

So the boys had told more of their friends, and some of the guys from church wanted a final match on Wednesday afternoon. They played on a field near Light the World church and had a great time. Fortunately I was finally able to catch up with another friend, Ronnie, who helped care for Patrick before we adopted him. So fun to connect with him and hear what he’s been up to. When Jody lived in Uganda, she cared not only for Patrick but also for another baby named Grace. When Jody left, Ronnie continued to check up on her and, eventually, when her home situation grew worse, he moved her into the home he shares with his mother. Then he moved in another child.

Ronnie, Em, and I

Ronnie, Em, and I (while Angel and I were downtown earlier this day a woman selling crafts on the street dropped these beautiful blue beads around my neck. When I protested, she said, “but I like you!” Angel then bought some from her.)

Ronnie’s story—told simply and without any fanfare, full of his joy over getting to be a dad to these two kids—reminded me of something Wilfred said to Dave a few days ago. They were talking about the book Kisses for Katie and all the work Wilfred and the other pastors at Light the World had done, beginning when they were only 19 years old. Dave said, “Wilfred, you could easily write a book!” Wilfred laughed and said, “But what we do is just normal. It’s simply what we’re supposed to do.”

Shelby and little Scovia--joyful together!

Shelby and little Scovia–joyful together!

Wilfred, Ronnie, Deo, Vena, Angel, Rachel—this week our girls have gotten to see young Christians who are “simply doing what’s ‘normal’ for those who say they follow Christ, who do ‘what they’re supposed to do.”

Wow!

We finished the game and went back to the guesthouse, where we ate another of

Em with Rita, one of her friends from the orphanage

Em with Rita, one of her friends from the orphanage

Mama Cici’s wonderful meals. Then it was packing time. The girls had several items of clothing, etc, that they wanted to give to the wonderful women who cared for us, so we made a pile in the courtyard and then enjoyed watching them try on different dresses and skirts. Christmas in July, and their joy was infectious. What added to the fun was that little Scovia from the orphanage (she’s six but has CP and is the size of a three year old) spent the night, and she is a bundle of laughter, so she had us in stitches.

Angel, Dave, and I--last morning together

Angel, Dave, and I–last morning together

The next morning we drove one last little time down the deeply rutted red roads to visit several of the older orphanage kids at their school. Then we made a quick craft shopping run, grabbed some lunch, and then headed toward Entebbe (the airport town).

In Entebbe we made one detour at my request. A dear friend of mine, Florence, had just lost a baby at 7 months of pregnancy and was still at the hospital in Entebbe. I was able to visit with her for a while and meet her husband (they’ve been married about two years), and I was able to introduce her to Dave and Emily. We chatted and prayed, and then we had to leave.

Rachel

Rachel

At the airport we said our final goodbyes. I will miss my Angel. I will miss Rachel. (I’m grateful for Facebook!)

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing trip, and the opportunity to re-connect with so many beloved friends from my earlier time in Uganda. May the entire trip be used for Your glory in the lives of everyone it touched.

Our gifts, God’s purpose

Two days ago, Tuesday—Jinja

Wilfred, Vena, and their two boys:  baby Joshua and almost-three Graham. They left for the States the same day we went to Jinja. We'll miss them here but will be able to re-connect with them in Chicago in just a few weeks.

Wilfred, Vena, and their two boys: baby Joshua and almost-three Graham. They left for the States the same day we went to Jinja. We’ll miss them here but will be able to re-connect with them in Chicago in just a few weeks.

Jinja is known as the source of the Nile River, so it’s a bit of a tourist spot. When Wilfred suggested several weeks ago that we should visit there after the day in Kitenga and the hospital so the girls could see the Nile River, we first got excited because that is where Katie Davis (the girl who wrote Kisses from Katie) lives, and we thought just maybe we could visit her. Dave sent her a Facebook message, but we never got a reply (probably because she is way too busy to spend time on Facebook!).

Some of the beautiful jewelry made and sold by UAPO (Akola Project). Our girls were in awe of all of it!

Some of the beautiful jewelry made and sold by UAPO (Akola Project). Our girls were in awe of all of it!

Then I realized that my friend Sarah Contrucci (a marketing department buddy from our time at Sterling College in Kansas) also works in Jinja. Sarah grew up on the mission field and is a wonderfully free spirit. Through her master’s work in an Eastern University program that partners with Uganda Christian University, she learned of UAPO (Uganda America Partnership). UAPO combines the beautiful jewelry made by Ugandan women with an American market. Sarah was hired as the lead designer (she’s a wonderful artist) and, eventually, DSC_0064was also named the director of the Akola Project (what the UAPO is called in Africa). She lives in Jinja, travels from there to other areas to discover new crafts and ideas, designs the jewelry that the women will make (it’s sold online), and runs the workshop and the vocational program in Jinja. It’s a busy job, but it combines all her amazing gifts.

UAPO (Akola Project) is branching out into woven bags now. This is a picture of Martin, UAPO's master weaver. Not only is he an expert weaver, he built all of UAPO's looms!

UAPO (Akola Project) is branching out into woven bags now. This is a picture of Martin, UAPO’s master weaver. Not only is he an expert weaver, he built all of UAPO’s looms!

So I messaged her and asked if we could come and tour it. She said yes, and she thought she would be there herself, but was out traveling and was delayed coming home so we actually missed seeing her. Her very capable American assistant, Elizabeth, and the Ugandan office manager, Helen, gave us a tour instead, showing us the jewelry workshop, the weaving room (incredible! Their master weaver also built the machines!), and their offices. She told us how they teach the women they work with to budget and plan, to set up savings accounts for unexpected problems, to prioritize their kids’ school fees. Akola employs roughly 200 women (well over one hundred actually make the beads in their villages). That’s 200 women who are making a livelihood that allows their kids to go to school!

What Martin was weaving! Amazing.

What Martin was weaving! Amazing.

It was very cool, and I think it accomplished our goal: to show the girls that God has designed their gifts for a purpose, and He will use all their talents, even things like their artistic ability, for His glory—anywhere in the world!

The later afternoon was spent being tourists. We ate a Ugandan lunch of motoke (boiled, mashed plantains), posho (kind of like cream of wheat; a grain made from the cassava/ugali root [I think I’m using all the right terms]), rice, and a choice of either beef, chicken, or fish. As has happened several times before, I was offered the eye of the fish (a delicacy), and, once again, I turned it down. I always think, Oh, I’ll try it, but I just haven’t been able to get myself to do it. Plus—this is my copout—I KNOW the Ugandan offering it to me will LOVE it, so why should I deprive them? (though I know I’m depriving them of some very real fun in seeing me eat it!). After lunch, we did some craft shopping in downtown Jinja (SO much less congested than Kampala! And so full of mzungus! [white people]), and then went to the source of the Nile. We took a little boat ride on it (many of us dipped our feet and hands in—such a welcome feeling).

The girls' boat.

The girls’ boat.

We drove back to Kampala at dusk and ate a late dinner of beans and rice that Mama Cici prepared. This night we had water but no electricity, so we ate dinner by candlelight!

DSC_0138It was a good day.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

-I’m a day behind, so this was actually our Tuesday. Yesterday we painted at the babies and toddlers home—the girls accomplished SO much! I’ll write and post pics as soon as possible. I cannot believe today we head home! I’m very ready to see my younger three but there’s also a part of me that’s not quite ready to go.

-The little baby from Kitenga slum IS a girl. The nurse who works for Mercy took her to the hospital, so I was not needed, but they gave her medication. Today she gets tested for HIV. We have not yet heard from Eugene (I’m sure he doesn’t have easy access to Internet).

-I will also post all contact information in an upcoming post for any of you who would like more information about all the ministries we worked with

Seeing Ugandans Light the World, Day 1 in Uganda

Lots of us got our hair "done" while sitting on the "sideline" of the soccer game.

Lots of us got our hair “done” while sitting on the “sideline” of the soccer game.

Four and a half years ago I stood in front of Light the World Church’s several thousand members while Wilfred prayed over me and Patrick and the adoption process. At one point while he prayed, I looked up. Thousands of arms reached toward me and toward heaven, and tears spilled onto my face.

I have never forgotten that moment.

All of us with all of the older Mercy kids.

All of us with all of the older Mercy kids.

This morning I stood before Light the World Church again and told them how much their prayers meant to me during that time. Dave and I both thanked them for loving children so much that they are willing to care for so many of them—in particular for the one who became our son.

Tears threatened to spill again.

Anna Lindus with one of the toddlers at the Children's Village.

Anna Lindus with one of the toddlers at the Children’s Village.

I have learned so much from getting to know fellow believers from other cultures. Our God is BIG, and though we must all worship Him in spirit and truth, the different styles preferred by various cultures merely points to yet another facet of our diamond-brilliant God.

Dave offered 10,000 Ugandan shillings (equiv. $4) to anyone who would catch one of the chickens at the Village. Sela took him up on it.

Dave offered 10,000 Ugandan shillings (equiv. $4) to anyone who would catch one of the chickens at the Village. Sela took him up on it.

So today we joined together with brothers and sisters in Uganda, at the 5,000-member-strong Light the World Church with its crooning preacher (he’s also a very well-known Gospel singer in Uganda) and dancing choir and its insistence that all we have and are belong to God, so we might as well surrender it and enjoy the ride.

The girls loved it. Anna Sezonov (sorry, Anna, if I’m butchering your name—everyone’s asleep, so I can’t ask anyone how to spell it) shared her testimony in the first service. She did a great, great job—emphasizing the truth that she’s had to trust in God through difficult times.

Wilfred showed Dave all the projects they want to do at the Village (including an extensive garden--already happening) and they came back w/ 2 giant sweet potatoes, which we'll eat at some point this week!

Wilfred showed Dave all the projects they want to do at the Village (including an extensive garden–already happening) and they came back w/ 2 giant sweet potatoes, which we’ll eat at some point this week!

Wilfred took us on a tour of the church (which was new to me—they had to move from their old location b/c the surrounding ground was too swampy) and told the girls how it was started. Here’s a quick recap: four boys who went through secondary school together accepted Christ. As they began growing in their faith, they began meeting for prayer under a mango tree, and they felt led to start a church. At the same time, homeless children began moving into their 8 by 10 meter shack—simply because the guys were welcoming to them. The church began with a small group and kept growing. The guys rented a larger place, and more children came. Now, ten years later, the “guys” are in their late twenties, Light the World Church is a 5,000 member church with all kinds of ministries in the community, and Mercy Childcare (LtW’s childcare branch) cares for about 100 children. Mercy has a home for its older children (five through 20) and has bought an acre and a half of land and is building a children’s village on it. One home has been completed already, and the babies and toddlers are housed there. We visited both the older kids and the babies yesterday, playing a match with the older ones (and a few village children as well) and rocking babies to sleep.

Eaden with a child from Mercy

Eaden with a child from Mercy

In the fast falling darkness (dusk is a short-lived event here) we drove home and ate a wonderful dinner that Mama Cici (full name Fluyencia) prepared for us. Wilfred and Vena run their guesthouse with simple hospitality, and the girls are getting a bit of a look at what home life is like—a home that welcomes everybody.

All for now.

Playing with the boys. This is Sez (Anna S) squaring off with Isaac, one of the older boys helps a lot at both Mercy and at Wilfred and Vena's house.

Playing with the boys. This is Sez (Anna S) squaring off with Isaac, one of the older boys helps a lot at both Mercy and at Wilfred and Vena’s house.

Sorry for posting this late (well, early for us). I couldn’t get internet access last night (amazing that we have it all!), so I’m posting this in the morning. We’re heading to the Kutenga slum to play soccer with the kids and visit some homes there, and then we will visit a cancer hospital.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

Africa, Day 3: Relationships

Emily and her cousins and aunt.

Emily and her cousins and aunt.

We came on this mission trip with several purposes in mind, all of them good.

Rachel making a great save

Rachel making a great save

But today, on our last full day in Kenya, a new purpose emerged, and I am even more convinced that God LOVES to see His believers grow in their relationships with each other. When we came on this trip, we knew that Assistant Coach Lauren Lindner Anderson had an aunt in Kenya. In fact, Aunt Sandy had already helped Dave with some trip details. We planned on spending some time with Lauren’s aunt and uncle.

I have so many amazing animal pics from today!

I have so many amazing animal pics from today!

Then we discovered that Emily Mascari, one of the players, has an aunt, uncle, and cousins at Rift Valley Academy, an MK school about an hour and a half from Nairobi. Dave and I have many ties to RVA, through my sister and her husband’s family and through numerous friends who have taught there. What we didn’t realize until about two weeks ago was that my nephew Seth would be there for his 2-year alumni reunion. But, free spirit that Seth is, we didn’t know if he would actually be on campus or if he would be out on some kind of adventure with his friends.

This was a mama giraffe very concerned for her new baby. the park rangers were moving it to flat ground so it could stand.

This was a mama giraffe very concerned for her new baby. the park rangers were moving it to flat ground so it could stand.

We drove up to RVA (and made it despite some brake trouble), and had the privilege of seeing Emily and her cousins and aunt reunite. Beautiful!

We asked around about Seth and learned he was still in Mombasa, so we gave up hope of seeing him. We played RVA’s soccer team in a friendly match and went to eat in the cafeteria. Just as I finished my meal, Sharon, my sister’s husband’s brother’s wife (confusing, I know) found me, and we had a wonderful time catching up and sharing. It was a complete surprise! Sharon and her husband are missionaries without a country (too much unrest) who are serving at RVA as dorm parents until their country’s politics stabilize.

And here's the baby!

And here’s the baby!

Then Seth showed up. He’d taken the all-night train back from Mombasa, and when he got on campus several people told him his aunt and uncle were looking for him. He assumed, of course, they meant his Aunt Sharon and Uncle Steve, and was surprised when it turned out to be us. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes, and then I sent him off to find Emily.

The girls climbed on top of the bus after we toured the "island."

The girls climbed on top of the bus after we toured the “island.”

(One funny note. Three years ago, when Seth was still a student at RVA, we did the same thing to him–just showed up at his dorm parent’s house. Both that time and this–I can’t believe it–we failed to get a picture of him or with him!)

Soccer player Emily’s aunt suggested we spend the afternoon at nearby Crescent Island, where Out of Africa (remember the old Robert Redford/Meryl Streep film) was filmed. They took a couple hundred animals to this crescent-shaped peninsula that thrusts out into the Naivasha Lake. Without predators and with plenty of grazing land, the animal population is now at a few thousand, and you simply walk right with them on the island. Crazy beautiful and fun!

DSC_2629We ended the day back at Emily’s aunt and uncle’s house, where they fed us. Seth joined us, and we had even more chances to catch up.

When I think back at how perfectly this day was orchestrated–without our having any hand in it at all (we only knew we could go to RVA two days ago)–I am simply amazed. God loves His children to have good, deep relationship with each other.

p.s. He also protected us so much today. Getting that bus up and down those rutted mountain roads was very difficult.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

Day 3 in Africa: a gift of a day

All the girls joined together for a dance/singing game.

All the girls joined together for a dance/singing game.

I wish I could recognize every day as pure gift. I am grateful that today I was able to see God’s fingerprints all over its events. We began the day walking into Kibera, a slum 1 1/2 miles square inside Nairobi, like Central Park in NYC (they’re actually about the same size–Kibera and Central Park). It’s filled with somewhere between 400,000 to a million people (I know, big range, but I imagine it’s pretty difficult to take a census in a place like Kibera.

A snapshot of a small portion of Kibera

A snapshot of a small portion of Kibera

It’s hard to describe Kibera. I’ll post some pics of it, but I don’t particularly like just snapping off photos like I’m in a zoo. So I don’t have pictures of the sewage running in a ditch alongside and sometimes across the footpath or of the huge piles of trash that children search through, hoping to find something to sell to provide their families with food.

We had a few scraped knees and elbows, but amazingly no big injuries (either team) playing on KIbera's slanted dirt-and-rocks field.

We had a few scraped knees and elbows, but amazingly no big injuries (either team) playing on KIbera’s slanted dirt-and-rocks field.

Anyway, we walked to the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. We got a tour (I remembered much from when we were there three years before.) Then our girls went into a class with their students. Oh, the sounds coming from that classroom. Singing (Justin Bieber has evidently captured an international audience), dancing, chatter so loud we could hear it all the way across the courtyard. After the girls ate some lunch, they all (our girls, too) gathered in a circle in the courtyard and did dancing/singing games with each other (like “Little Sally Walker” and several other African equivalents). For some of the shyer girls, I could use some of the pictures I took for blackmail! They had so, so much fun. We walked around Kibera a bit more and then headed off to the soccer field. Fun game; the KGSA team finally won in overtime.

He knows the numbers of hairs on every one of their heads. I keep asking God to remind me of this.

He knows the numbers of hairs on every one of their heads. I keep asking God to remind me of this.

Then the boys U14 team asked to play, so the girls played some more. We had an entire fan group of little girls and boys, and the girls spent their off-the-field breaks playing with them.

Clapping games on the sidelines

Clapping games on the sidelines

On the way home we made a surprise stop. Wanee (I have GOT to learn how to spell his name) introduced us to his “uncle and aunt”- relatives of his mother who cared for him after his mother died. Turns out the “uncle” was on the IOC (International Olympic Committee. He had pictures of himself with Hilary Clinton and–oh, my word–Nelson Mandela! Such a privilege to meet this man and listen to his wife tell us about their life. She just exuded faith and was a great blessing to us.

The team with Wanee's auntie.

The team with Wanee’s auntie.

Then it was back to the guesthouse for a quick shower (boy, were we gritty!) and then to Assistant Coach Lauren’s aunt and uncle’s house (they are missionaries in the Niarobi).

the girls gathered outside of the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy

the girls gathered outside of the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy

They fed us with love, care, and lasagna, and we got to hang out with them and hear stories of their 40 years living and working in Kenya.

The team with Lauren's aunt and uncle.

The team with Lauren’s aunt and uncle.

What an absolute gift of a day!