Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Sunday, July 31, 2016
We have had a powerful, beautiful day! Impossible to believe this is our last night here. I overheard Sydney Stewart saying " I am going to be so homesick for Kenya when I go home". I think we are all feeling that, although a nice hot shower and clean towel/ bed will help ease us back home.
Amazingly, after our crazy late day yesterday, all were up and dressed and ready to go this morning by 9 to get to church (except Lainey and Jake who were not feeling well). In sacrament meeting, Bowen and Abi gave the most wonderful, spiritual talks. Abi spoke about faith during difficulty and shared the story of "footprints", Bowen spoke on families and how we can each make a positive difference in our family. After two of the Kenyans also spoke, our entire group and all of the Kenyan youth, stood and sang "A Child's Prayer". AHHHH the room was ringing with their voices and radiating with their smiles. They truly did all look like brothers and sisters! Becca, Sydney, and Cal taught primary. Brooke, Naomi, and Olive taught Young Women, Jason and Jacob volunteered to run the nursery for the last hour so the nursery leaders could go to a combined meeting. A woman in the ward had brought a bag of Chipati for our youth because she had been so impressed with them last week, (The Kenyan version of a homemade tortilla). This was lucky, because the missionaries grabbed us to say there was a baptism of two converts taking place right after church, so our "starving" youth agreed to stay another hour. Isaiah and Drage spoke, (they were phenomenal). Of course after the meetings we were swarmed with members wanting to speak with our youth, get their email addresses etc. I asked a few of them to help us find the house of the woman who was preparing our lunch. We walked to this humble home, which was literally a 15' X 15' corrugated metal lean to. All 33 of us, plus the 4 youth who accompanied us, and the Young Women's Pres., all piled into this room and sat around on the floor and bed. She brought out two trays of the most delicious samosas and sandwiches for us. When we had finished eating, we asked her to tell us her "story". She had been a political activist in Zimbabwe. She was torutured and burned, and fled to Kenya in 2009. The Kenya government wanted all refugees to go home, but she would be killed because of her political activities. She lives day to day making samosas and selling them on the street for $.20 a piece. She is now married and has a 2 year old son. She shared her conversion story and the spirit of her sweet words was palpable in this tiny humble home. Brian left a blessing on her home, and we gave her an extra $100 with our payment for lunch. She tearfully walked with us to the bus stop, and expressed how that simple monetary gift from us would change her life!
I am so grateful to share these amazing, sacred moments with your beautiful children. They are a light to everyone they come in contact with. They are ambassadors of everything that is good in the world, and Brian and I feel deeply humbled and blessed to be with them. I am grateful for your prayers for our safety, they have been felt and provided a shield of protection throughout these 2 weeks. If all goes well, you will not hear from me tomorrow night because we will be on a plane on our way home! Fingers crossed. Brian did point out that we all ate sandwiches with salad on them today, that was probably rinsed in very unsanitary water......keep praying!
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Today was a crazy long day. We started off on a bike ride along a dirt road with zebras, wart hogs, and gazelles along the way. We were supposed to stop after a few miles and walk up to "Pride Rock", but there were buffalos on the bridge over, and evidently buffalos cause the most deaths in Africa, so they circumvented us over a different route and we didn't get to climb the rock. Next we hiked up through a gorge and free climbed up a rock face to get up to the next level. They had guides climbing up next to us and guiding our feet to make sure we made it up safely, a little sketchy! Next we hiked up to a lookout point, found monkeys in a tree, had lunch, swam in a geo thermal hot spring pool, and finished up on the MOST beautiful lake. We rode in a boat and saw giraffes, baboons, zebras and wart hogs on the shore, but the crowning moment was the 10 HIPPOS we saw wrestling in the water only a few feet away from us!! They were so cool! We thought it had been a perfect day and returned to the bus totally exhausted at 4, ready for the 2 hour bus ride back......the driver and our guide helped us onto the bus, started the bus, then disappeared, we sat on the bus with it running for 30 mins. I finally ventured out to figure out what was going on, but noone was anywhere to be seen. I hiked around the lake, and there found our driver and a group of men squatted in a circle behind some bushes....long confusing story, the woman who managed the bus, had never been paid by the driver for the safari he had driven yesterday, so she was demanding more money. Our guys wouldn't pay, so after 2 hours of shouting and discussion, they told us to get off the bus with all our stuff and they would call matatu's for us. I assured them we would pay the difference and just wanted to get the kids home, but they flatly refused, saying this bus driver was no longer trust worthy, and we would not do business with him. It made no sense, as I am sure this was more expensive, and it was now getting dark, we had run out of water, and it was dinner time. The taxi's finally came, we arrived back in our neighborhood at 9 p.m., but were stopped at the end of our street and had armed police board our matatu's to ride in with us. We arrived at the house to see police cars in the driveway and the guards walked us in. They assured us this is all just precautionary, "better to prevent than cure", was their remark, but we were all a little confused and exhausted! Luckily, Mama Mary had a lovely dinner of beef stew waiting for us, and Izzo had picked up the birthday cake I had ordered, so all was well. Most of the kids are already in bed, and I am heading there now. Tomorrow we will lay low, go to church, have a final group meeting and get ready for our last adventure before heading home. I had met a woman at church last week who told me she struggles to support her family because she is a refugee from Tanzania and Kenyans do not like Tanzanian refugees. She makes Samosas every day and sells them on a corner. I offered to buy 100 of them for our lunch tomorrow (they are little fried triangles with beef and spices in them) so we are walking to her house after church where she will fry them up fresh for us. this will be an adventure in itself!
Friday, July 29, 2016
A sobering, amazing day at Kibera slums. The largest slum in the world, housing nearly 2 million people. Many agencies and governments have tried to assist, but there is so much corruption, nothing ever really makes its way in to make a difference.........but our kids spread sunshine today! Laden once again with donations, we trudged through the sewage running in the streets to a small 3 room school house (kind of) housing 66 students. We made bracelets, gave love, and learned from those amazing children. Then we were taken to a pub in the slums (not sure why) and told about the 100 proof alcohol sold there that is poisoned with ethanol. We went to two look out points where we could see over the entire slum area, (while we stood at this overlook, I started quietly singing "Because I have been given much", within a few minutes we had a quiet chorus singing, "because I have been blessed with thy great love dear Lord, I'll share that love again according to thy word.) and then we were taken to a bone grinding shop where they make jewelry and other gifts from animal bones........finally we went to the city and the kids got to do their shopping. I must say that I HATE cities in third world countries, where traffic comes to a total standstill, there is no order as to who get's to proceed through the intersections, sometimes lasting 20-30 mins. What should have taken 20 minutes took almost 2 hours! But when we finally arrived, they were in heaven! baskets for $3, jewelry for 1$, happy shoppers! We hurried home to host a birthday dance party for Abi, Alex, and Laura ( the refugee camp teacher). I made pans of brownies, we hooked up speakers on the patio, and the kids are all out having a dance off. I wish I could teleport you here to see the joyous abandon of these youth out dancing with some neighborhood kids and the boys that work at the house. Laura just came into the kitchen with tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug " this is a historical moment in my life that I will remember forever, noone has ever had a birthday party for me!"
Thursday, July 28, 2016
The paradigm shift for me came when I rode the first safari day with a maasai warrior sitting next to me. He was 20, spoke great english, swahili, and maasai, had graduated from 8th grade, then at the age of 14, been circumcised down at the river with the group of boys his age, and headed out into the wilderness for 5 years. This is their rite of passage. At the end of the 5 years, they must kill a male lion with spears, and return home. As I was asking about his life, he told me all this very matter of factly. I asked if he was allowed to come home early if he killed the lion in the first few years, and he said, "no, it is only done at the end, but we would not want to come home early. We love this time of being men together". I had heard that you had to kill a lion before you could marry, but he assured me this is not true, you actually have to "jump high". The Maasai's are very high jumpers, it is part of their ritual dancing, and the children at the school had demonstrated this for us (I will post their dance to facebook). His parents will choose his wife, which he is fine with, then he will remain at home in his tribe and raise cattle and have a family. It all seems so logical and reasonable to me when I am riding in a jeep with him hearing it explained. I wonder whether our western culture, with anxiety, depression, teen suicide rates, would not be better off with this plan! We were able to visit a school yesterday and again today before leaving. How easy it is for your children to jump in with their whole hearts and give love. This is definitely our most interactive, daily service trip we have done. Every day there are multiple opportunities to connect. We saw amazing animal dramas played out on safari, hyena's eating a buffalo, Lions hunting a baby elephant and the mama elephant running them off, a pride of lions guarding their cubs up to a large rock overhang..... a million zebras and wildebeasts, and a tower of girraffes (did you know that is what a standing group of girraffes is called?)
Tomorrow we are going to Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. We have been told that we will literally be walking through sewage, to wear sturdy/ dirty shoes, and are being taken to visit four families. We will bring them gifts of food and bedding. It will definitely be a day to put our "we can do hard things" motto to the test. Tomorrow night we are hosting a neighborhood dance party to celebrate Alex and Abi's birthdays, as well as Laura, one of the teachers from the refugee camp. We have invited her to come and are going to pay her taxi fare. She is SO excited and asked to bring her mom with her. She says she has never celebrated her birthday before. We are going all out with ipod and speakers, bday cakes from the store, birthday banners and streamers. Not really sure how it will all turn out, but the kids are super excited!
Monday, July 25, 2016
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Today we took the matatu 30 mins. away to attend church services. On the way there, we practiced the EFY medley, in full voice. We were quite a spectacle driving through towns with the full choir singing out the windows. I of course was in tears listening to these amazing kids singing about being Children of God, Loving each Other, and working together. Drage and Boen blessed the sacrament, Jayden and Cal spoke, Abi. Anna and Naomi helped teach primary, Becca was asked to lead the singing in sacrament, everyone sang and brought such a strong spirit to the meeting, attended sunday school, YW/YM, and helped teach the lessons. Jacob Bingham was asked to go with one of the missionaries the third hour to teach a discussion. After church, a member of the bishopric asked if any of our boys wanted to go home teaching with him for an hour. Drage, Jake, Naomi, and Jayden volunteered to go, along with one of our leaders Matt Smith. They were supposed to meet up with us at 4 p.m. in another village where we were meeting up with some kids from the slums. We had a great time with the kids, coloring, bubbles, playing games, giving away Nick's pile of shoes, Derek's colored pencils, crayons, Ruth Ostergar's homemade skirts, Brooke Davis' headbands and bows......no matter what we had, it was a hot commodity. Some little girls followed me out as we left, begging for something more. I looked in my bag and said I was so sorry, everything was gone but a few zip lock bags. "it's okay, I would love a bag". My panic set in at 6 when we had still never heard from the group who had gone home teaching. We tried to call the number we had been given, and got a message that the phone was turned off. By now, the 1 hour of hometeaching had turned to 5 hours. I found a corner to give an earnest prayer that these amazing youth would be protected and blessed for all of their service and faith. We returned to our "home" and just as we started dinner, at 7:30 p.m., while Hayden was blessing the food and asking that our group return safely, Matt, Drage, Naomi, Jake and Jayden walked in the door!
Reporting that these few hours had been the most amazing part of the trip thus far for them.
Tonight for devotional, we had each person share what they have learned thus far. I wish I could have recorded it for each of you. Each of them expressed deep gratitude for their families, recognized that any problems or trials they felt they had experienced in life, were really inconsequential, acknowledged that true joy does not come from any kind of earthly possessions, and shared their feelings of gratitude for being able to travel and see how people are people and everyone just needs love. Drage caught everyone off guard when he announced that although he had always planned to serve a mission, it wasn't until today when he was out teaching, that he realized what an amazing blessing this was going to be and he is TOTALLY PUMPED to go. Olive shared how she has always been taught that you love those you serve, and how true this has been, Lainey spoke about how grateful she was to have come out of her comfort zone and try new things.........
Tomorrow we all go to the IDP camp and provide a food and medical day, these circumstances will be much more dire than what we have seen at the schools, keep those prayers coming on our behalf. So far so good, Nick Wagener does have a sprained ankle from his run, and Hayden has a bug bite, but otherwise all are well! Today was Cal's birthday and we have had some banners/ decorations, and several rounds of happy birthday. The group has been THRILLED with the Oreo's Darin sent for the group. I believe there are some birthday games going down right now!
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Friday, July 22, 2016
Every day is a million moments long. The IDP group has honed their skills, they made 2 chairs the first day, 13 chairs the second day, and 24 chairs today! They have a system going and have loved this experience. Today they got to break the girls and boys up and have the "menstruation/ sex talks". This piece of our trip has been amazing for our kids to reflect on the sanctity of life, pro creation, their roles, and the outcomes of the decisions they have made regarding this area of agency. The kids at the refugee camp are in such great need physically, emotionally, spiritually, that it has changed life perspectives for our group. Nicole gave the devotional and shared a quote about how life is nothing without labor, and labor is nothing without love, then Bowen read a segment from his cousins email about some very difficult specific service he had given in Argentina.
Our school group was under pressure to finish the classroom painting today and the outside of the kinder area, because we will be working on the artwork for the walls tomorrow. During recess we had a "great race" with prizes for the winners. This seemed like a great idea when there were 6 kids asking to race, but the race took off with 100 kids pushing past each other, then assaulting me at the finish line, each screaming that they had won and trying to rip the Angels Baseball caps out of my hands.........lesson learned. We were able to use some donation money to provide a "fruit day" at the school. We spent an hour cutting up pineapples, watermelon, oranges and bananas, then went to every classroom offering fruit to the kids. It was a big hit!! There was also a crazy, rap dance party that took place in the 8th grade classroom with our group. When it came time to say goodbye, there were tears and I literally had to tear our group out of the clutches of these clamoring children to board our "matatu" (taxi bus). Some of the African students had written love notes to our girls, our boys looked like rock stars with THRONGS of children trying to hold onto them as they tried to make their way to the taxi.
Well, I thought our amazing day was over, but after dinner, I met a 19 year old girl named Therese who was staying at the house with us. We asked her to tell us her story, so with our kids half asleep on the couches, she began with a day in 2008, just after the elections in Kenya where one tribe felt the election had been rigged by another group, her family was having dinner and she was working on her homework, her father was a pastor, it was a beautiful Sunday. Suddenly they heard screaming and saw 30 angry men driving down the hill into their village waving machetes. Her mother screamed for everyone to run, she and her best friend Hilda hid in a bush. They watched the men come through and burn every house down, killing anyone they found. After an hour, her friend had to go to the bathroom and stood up. She was grabbed by the men and raped by three of them while Therese hid in the bush and watched. Finally she tiptoed out to discover that her friend had bled to death and "passed". She made her way to the river only to find the bridge with a dead pregnant woman and a family massacred. She did not know how to swim, but had no choice but to cross the river and with Gods help made it across with a belly full of water, then had to run for 3 weeks with no food. A violent legacy of tribalism that exists here that we cannot begin to understand. Eventually she made it to a red cross camp. She lived their totally alone for 2 years, doing nothing but wander the camp, no schooling, no family, in the same clothes she had escaped in 2 years prior. I will let your kids tell you the rest of the story, but we were a tearful group, filled with awe for the safety, love, and agency we all enjoy. At the conclusion of her story, she shared that Izzo, one of the Agape founders, had heard her sing and brought her to the Agape house and helped her. We asked her to sing to us and our whole group joined her in "lean on me". Sunday night we will hear from another previous refugee staying here. Priceless moments. Feeling so much gratitude and love for your amazing kids!
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
this is an extremely long email that you might not care about haha I apologize. I'm using my emails as my journal for now, so ignore it if you want<
I was proud of myself for staying decently clean... until I played with the kids! Haha but I loved every second. We danced with them and taught them the whip, they attempted to teach me some Kiswahili, and we got to teach them some math. They totally knew my one Kenyan song on my phone, Sura Yako! I learned that that means beautiful face.
One girl tried to steal everything of mine including my hair ties! She kept saying "yangu! yangu!" which means mine. I had to literally chase her to get my phone back haha! But it was innocent, she was young. All the kids were so respectful and sweet:)
I had this one boy who was totally making some moves on me haha! I sat at his "desk" with him and he had his arm around me the whole time, it was adorable. He kept lying to me saying he was 15, but I knew he was 12:)
My favorites were four 12 year old girls, Edith, Nancy, Faith, and Jen. They were gorgeous! I told Jen that was my mama's name and she totally got a kick out of it.
I did have one semi scary experience, not that I was in danger, I wasn't!! After the kids' first break, I decided to walk with these two boys to their classroom. Next thing I knew they pulled me in with surprising strength and everyone in the class was so excited to see me. The kids immediately left their desks and swarmed!! They would not let me leave! I was scared that the teacher would be mad so I tried to go but I literally couldn't. They were saying "teach us!!" I eventually fought my way through but it was insane.
I actually know the most Swahili out of our white kid group haha. They were all impressed with my one long phrase that I know even though it's pretty much all I know! I thought that was funny.
Our house is seriously the nicest building here, but by American standards, it's definitely not even close to luxury. We have very limited electricity and the water only runs sometimes, but we have wifi so that's awesome!
I slept really well last night and I was actually one of the first to wake up which really surprised me. Ruth and I went out to see the sunrise, but we had barely missed it. I'm still very tired though, those kids have a lot of energy! The only thing that's bugging me though is my foot. We have a little roof thingy at our house (with an amazing view btw) that we can climb and I jumped off and I think my heel landed on a piece of glass. I didn't even realize it until I saw some blood on my sock. It's a really small cut, it's just bruised too so it hurts to walk on.
The food is actually really good here! It's super flavorful. For dinner our mama made this Kenyan dish that's just like spaghetti but even better. I didn't really like lunch though. We thought that the corn flour and water was mashed potatoes haha so we all took huge scoops. But it was gross as you can imagine! And it's super bad to waste any food here, so we just wolfed it all down. And we had some strange meat that was like 85% fat. None of us dared to ask what kind of meat it was haha!
It's so beautiful here, nothing like I expected. It's actually super super green. On our drive from the airport we got to see a giraffe and two ostriches! It was an awesome way to start off our trip. Also, the airport was like a closet compared to the airport in Dubai. We got to exit the plane off the back on to the ground which I thought was cool! Haha I've never done that before.
One of our Agape guys drives us around on a bus and it's nuts. They are crazy drivers here and I feel like there are no laws haha just speed bumps to slow you down. But oh man! We seriously catch air on every speed bump, it's awesome. It's crazy how close the cars drive next to each other, even though it's not even necessary; they just do it! And our driver will literally just stop and turn around in the middle of the highway. He's done it three times now, and every time it just blows my mind. The only nice thing here is the roads. They're pretty decent.
I can't wait till my adventures tomorrow! Asante sana! Hope you all are as happy as I am :)