Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ruined and Wrecked

So, it's 8:45 pm, and I'm making granola.

I totally failed at the whole 31 Days of Reflection thing. I have been constantly reflecting on Kenya. Just not here on the blog.

I find it hard to pray. I have ever since we landed in Nairobi. I wish I could explain why, but I can't.

I've been reading books like "Wrecked" and "Greater" and blog posts like this one. They bring tears to my eyes--because I'm happy someone else gets where I am. Because it makes me sad that I haven't done more since I returned. Because I'm frustrated that I can't get myself together enough to do something.

And while these books and posts are awesome, I should be seeking my guidance from The Author and Perfecter of my faith. But all I can muster is a little "Lord, show me what to do now" prayer every morning. And that's about all I can get out.

My African pastor and his wife just returned to Kenya today. They have been here in the States, visiting our church for Missions celebrations and trying to round up some other churches to join in ministry with them. It was good to see them, but it has also wrecked me, even more than I was before.

I asked about the sewing ministry, where they are training girls to sew, giving them a chance at life that doesn't involve selling their bodies, just to feed their families.

I met those girls. They sat next to me while they nervously twirled paper beads. The girls that I sang with, clapped with, worshipped with, prayed for. The girls I carried fabric on my back through fields in the mountains of Kijabe for. The girls that walk for miles to get to class, when they can.

They walk for miles to learn how to use a broken-down sewing machine, while I have one in my home and a spare collecting dust in my basement.

Wilfred tells me that the five sewing machines they have working are falling apart. That if the girls can't find some success selling what they have made, they will have no choice but to go back to the lives of fourteen-year-old prostitutes they're trying to leave behind.

And my brain can't wrap around why these girls are on the verge of collapse, and I'm making granola.

I saw them. I want to do something. I just don't know what that something should be. And right now, God isn't letting me in on His plans.

But, I got wise council from Bob Schindler of Mission ONE this weekend. Basically, he said that I should think of this time as walking around in the dark with a flashlight, and all I can see in front of me is what the flashlight illuminates. He explained that, in his early days of ministry, if God had shown him then where he would end up today, he would have been terrified and ran in the other direction.

Good point.

So, I will choose to be thankful to have just enough light for today, and trust that God will turn on the spotlight ahead when it's time. He didn't wreck me for no reason. :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 Days of Reflection: Day 4

Sunday morning. Time to venture to the first of our three ministry locations: Kijabe, Kenya. Here, we would be visiting the property our home church had helped Wilfred purchase near his home to use for neighborhood ministry.  (Wilfred was our leader, driver, translator, spritual advisor, prayer warrior, and entertainer.) Today we'd be visiting a church, and seeing the property. We will also be spending time with some of the local children.

We had two cars, and decided to split up between them--no need to pack into just one. Wilfred suggested that the three of us girls went with him, as would Carl, and the boys could ride with Joseph. Later he would tell us that God told him to take the women because we might be scared! I love him! So funny.

Anyway, God made the right call, but not because we were scared. Let me explain.

From the time we left Naivasha, Joseph and the boys got swarmed by merchants, pulled over, and stuck in the mud. Really stuck.

Like "shouldn't have worn my Chaco's today" stuck.

Will! Get out of the van!

The calvary!

Or not. Didn't want to get dirty for church.

At least we were stuck in a pretty spot.

Us ladies stayed off to the side, taking pictures and admiring the countryside. All those strapping young men on our team: football players, martial arts gurus, Army men--they could handle it!

We were stuck for over an hour. Once we finally got out of that mess, we had to climb up the mountain to reach the village. We thought we were safe until we saw these roads:

The local children were sometimes paid to fill the ruts with rocks to make the roads more passable.

This was the good road three months ago--before rainy season.

Massive rains during their wet season had washed everything out. I had never seen roads this bad in my entire life. Wilfred's driving (and Joseph's too) was amazing on this terrain. That Land Cruiser would go anywhere!

At least we had views like this on the way up, even if we were being tossed around like rocks in a dryer:

Reflection of the Day: American boys don't know SQUAT about four-wheelin'. They'd never get out of the African mud!

(Please check out The Nester and the others 31 Dayers here.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days of Reflection--Day 3

Wow, this is hard just starting to think about it again. I was there in the same general time frame as The Nester. After her trip, she wrote a blog post titled "I Went to Tanzania, Don't Ask Me About it M'Kay?"

It was almost like she was in my head. I'm still not sure what I would say about my trip now, if anyone asked. I'm hoping these 31 Days of posts will help with that. Continuing on...

Turns out, the ragged shanty we passed was not our hotel (thankfully!) but was close. We drove down the gravel road to a gate, complete with a lion statue by the entrance "that Jordan thought was real). We were ushered in by hotel staff to a little room, where we were welcomed with some tasty juice and a smiling hostess. After so many hours on the plane/airport subway/van, we just wanted to crash. But, the hotel had kept dinner warm for us, and had kept the staff over to serve us.

How could we refuse?
First meal in Africa

The food was OK, but we were humbled by the thoughtfulness of the staff. We were led to our rooms, and the porters carried our bags. I have to say, these were some of the skinniest people I had ever seen but they were hauling those 50-plus-pound bags!

My room was away from everyone else's, which didn't make the team leader happy, but we just went with it anyway. I was pleasantly surprised by my room. We had been "warned" that our hotel, while best of the best for Kenyan standards, would be like a bad Super 8 at home. It had an actual toilet (yay!) and a mosquito net over the bed, so I was good to go.

By then, I was exhausted, a little overwhelmed, and missing my family. Sad, right? I hadn't even seen Africa in the daylight yet and I was already emotional! I set my iPod alarm and cried for a minute until I passed out.

My alarm got snoozed several times (like 2 hours worth!) the next morning until I had no choice but to get up. This was our only preparation day, and breakfast would probably already be over. I walked to the door to my balcony and pulled back the curtains. Remember how I thought we were in the middle of nowhere the night before? Here was my view in the daylight:

Good morning from Lake Naivasha!
I can't express how relieved and blessed and happily overwhelmed I was. Although after still only a few hours of sleep, I was ready to get going. I was here for a mission trip, and by golly, it was time to get started!

I went to the dining room, got a thick cup of coffee and, since none of my fellow sojourners were there yet, I went back to my room for a shower.

I was excited that my shower was normal--apparently connected to a hot water heater and so hot it could have blistered me! I was NOT so excited about not having a shower curtain, ledge for the soap, or a curtain over the window. That was in the shower. At eye level. Looking right into the hallway.

A made a curtain out of a towel, and made out OK. "I can do this!"

We finally all trudged out of bed, had our first African breakfast, and started getting the supplies organized by the destination. Some for the orphanage, some for the sewing ministry, some for the Maasai people. With 8 of us working, we were done fairly quickly, so we got our first treat--a flat-boat ride on Lake Naivasha.

To get there, we crammed ALL of us into one vehicle--and away we went. Wilfred explained that we were driving through an area known to be frequented by criminals. The street was covered by school girls, donkeys and goats. We could see gazelles and zebras in the distance.

Wilfred turned down this VERY bumpy road to find the boats, and this was our first up-close-and-personal view of African big game:

We piled into 2 boats and spent the afternoon riding past giraffes, pelicans, hippos, tilapia fishermen, and many kinds of birds. Then we all posed Survivor-style in front of a herd of wildebeests. Did I mention there was no fence separating the herd from the rest of us??

Our Team

I'm ready for my Survivor close-up!

Tilapia fishermen-wearing Speedos and using nets.

So, our first real day in Africa was an exciting one. But was I ready for the next one, when the real work started?

Reflection of the day: Sometimes even the easy things are hard.

(Please check out The Nester and the others 31 Dayers here.)

31 Days of Reflection-Day 2

OK, so I'm already a day behind and it's only Day 2. I couldn't help it--I worked overtime yesterday and ran out of hours! But I did think about my post. Today, I'll do double duty to catch up--'cause I'm legalistic that way :-)

But before I continue, please know that this is just a true accounting of how I felt at the time, and even now. Please don't judge--you just don't know how you will feel or react when you're in a strange land halfway around the world until you've done it. I would still go back in a heartbeat.

So, back to Nairobi...

I was very cautious in Nairobi. I stood out  quite easily, (so pale I'm practically albino), and was totally paranoid about losing my passport. Traveling abroad for the first time is a big deal--even at my age. I did a head count of our group like every few minutes.

Hope, one of our team members, had to visit the toilet and rushed back out of the bathroom saying, "I can't go in there!" Turns out the toilet in her stall was a hole in the floor. She wasn't ready for that--not while we were still in civilization, at the airport. I chuckled to myself thinking, "This is going to be a long trip for her if she's freaked out by that already!"  (Bad, judgmental me.)

It took some time to get rolling, as we had to clear customs, exchange our dollars for shillings, gather our 16 enormous bags, stuff them into 2 smallish vehicles, and stop for bottled water before we could even start towards our hotel.

Nairobi smelled very industrial--like diesel. I know that because I stood in the airport parking lot, at midnight, being stared at by the Kenyans that drove past while we waited for our gear to be packed up. That made me very nervous. I just wanted to get in the van!

It also smelled like diesel as we walked past security guards to go to Nakumatt for water. Security guards stationed in the parking lot of the Kenya Wal-Mart? Really?

That also made me nervous.

My naivete was hopefully not obvious to anyone but me. It surprised me to see people who looked just like me, dressed in nice, clean clothes, shopping for chips and soda. I guess somewhere deep down I thought everyone in Africa would look like they lived in a hut.


Once we finally got on the road, we still had an hour-plus drive to get to the hotel. By the time we arrived, we had been traveling for 29 hours. Everything is backwards in Kenya--the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and they drive on the other side of the road. It felt like we were going the wrong way whenever Joseph, our driver, would turn. I was always waiting for us to get into an accident! We passed big trucks, lumbering along those dirt roads so late at night. It was very dark, with only an occasional light shining now and then.

When I did spot a light, it was usually a lone light bulb, and the area it illuminated almost always looked like a  run-down shack or storage unit. It seemed very odd to pass people walking, or huddled in groups. It was like 1 am--what were they doing out on the side of the road so late?

As remote as it felt, it was a soothing ride once I stopped watching the traffic. It felt like the area was very quiet and, believe me, I am a big fan of quiet.

Finally, we were near the hotel. Joseph told us we were close, so I paid more attention to my surroundings. We passed a small building that said "hotel" out front, and I thought, "You've got to be kidding!" My heart dropped at the sight of it. I knew this would be a difficult trip, but was that really where we were staying? It looked like it should be condemned, and I was certain we were in the middle of nowhere.

All I could think as we drove by was, "What have I gotten myself into?"

(Please check out The Nester and the others 31 Dayers here.)

Reflection for the day: First impressions can be deceiving.

Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days of Reflection

This is a last minute decision here, and, like the title of my blog, it is subject to change. So last minute, in fact, that I have no buttons, or linkies to The Nester's 31 Dayers, or anything fun like that. I hope to get to that in a day or two. But...

I really haven't put on paper (or electronic screen, as it were) my thoughts from the mission trip I took to Kenya this past May. I have wrestled with emotions quite a bit since then, and really haven't made much headway. Perhaps just getting some of it down will help with the processing, and hopefully will be useful to someone out there in Blogland who might read it.

I am totally flying by the seat of my pants here.

So, my theme for October is going to be "31 Days of Reflection."  Here goes...

I didn't take any photos until we actually got to Kenya. Nothing at the airports or on the planes. I'd planned on taking them by the hundreds. I usually had to sit with a stranger, and never got a window seat. I actually had one once, and then gave it up. Not sure why I did that!

I had never traveled out of the States before, or gone on a mission trip, and I was "alone"--none of my family or friends were with me. To say I was nervous is a HUGE understatement!

The anxiousness about everything had subsided a bit by the time we finally reached Nairobi after 20+ hours of travel, but hit me full force when we landed. The heat of  Kenyatta smacked you like a wave as soon as you set foot inside the airport. It was busy, and noisy--even at that late hour. I was surprised, and even a bit unsettled.

I had never felt like a minority in my life until that moment...

Reflection for today: Every journey has a first step.


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