Saturday, October 11, 2008

Prayer Letter #1

Hello friends and family!

Most of you know already about the adventure I’m embarking on in January, but I wanted to write to give you a little more information about where I’m going and why I’ve decided to go. For those who don’t know yet, I’m headed to Africa in the new year for a seven month short term mission with Africa Inland Mission!

I’ll be going to Kenya, and though my assignment is not yet officially confirmed, it looks like I’ll be going to the north central part of the country, potentially to a little (and I *DO* mean LITTLE!) desert village called Korr. I will be spending two terms teaching in a national (Kenyan) school, working with the missionaries that are already there, and getting to know and working with the Rendille people. The Rendille are nomadic camel herders who have, for the most part, resisted the influence of the modern world. Most still live in traditional huts, wear traditional dress, and live very similarly to how they did hundreds of years ago. I’ve been fascinated to read the little there is about them on the internet, and look forward to living among them!

So what on earth has prompted this? Well, in one sense, it’s something that has come up really quickly (I only applied for a leave of absence from my job on September 11!), but in another, I think it’s something that God’s been nudging me towards in all kinds of different ways for a very long time.

I think I was thirteen or fourteen when I first had a desire to go to Africa. It was Missions Week at my church, and we had a missionary from the Ivory Coast visiting. I don’t remember what he talked about specifically, but I do remember feeling like God was calling me to at least explore the field of missions at some point in my life. I remember feeling very certain that one day somehow I would be heading to Africa.

Over the years, as I’ve matured (hey, don’t laugh! :) ) and grown in my faith, I have learned that something that gives me the greatest sense of joy and purpose in my life is seeing people – kids in particular – take steps towards a deeper understanding of Jesus. I have discovered this largely through working at Camp Kawkawa, but also through various other things I’ve been involved with at church, and just generally in my everyday life.

Around May of 2007, I began to think about the possibility of maybe taking a leave of absence for a short time. I’d been teaching for four years, and maybe it was coming time to go try something different. I have always said that, while I love what I do, I wasn’t sure if teaching was going to be what I did for my whole life. I have often wondered if I might end up doing something along the lines of more traditional ministry work. Of course, I had no idea what that would look like, but I began to think about some possibilities. More specifically, over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about taking six months to go do some kind of missions work. Africa has continued to fascinate me, and through workshops, musicals, performances of African dancing and drumming, and many friends who have been there, it’s been increasingly on my mind and my heart.

It wasn’t, however, until the very first week of September that I actually decided to do anything about this growing “nudging” towards actually going. I began to research different organizations and opportunities, and I began to pray. I applied for my leave and got it (three business days later!), and things have been moving at light speed ever since. I even was told I had a tentative placement before they had even received my application form! Things are coming together, and it’s starting to sink in that I AM GOING TO AFRICA in less than three months!!!

I cannot wait to get there. It is going to be SUCH an amazing experience, and I know that I will grow and be challenged more than I can even imagine. I’m excited about so many things: living in a culture SO different from my own, learning about life in a developing country, the adventure of travel and seeing some of Kenya. And of course, teaching will be an adventure in itself! In Korr, there is only primary school for the Rendille people – no high school for them anywhere – and then only IF there is a teacher available. Here I am! Send me! I’m looking forward to helping open up a world beyond sun, camels, and sand to these precious kids!

Most of all, though, I can’t WAIT to see how God is working in Kenya. I’m excited to experience God in a different way than what I have always known here in the setting of Western Christianity. I am eager to see how the gospel is relevant to Kenyans in ways I would never think of while looking at life through my Western lens. And of course, over all this, I want to learn how to share Jesus’ message of forgiveness and abundant life in a relevant and meaningful way to the people I am working with. I believe that the Jesus story is Good News – the BEST news! – and I want to be one who says, “How could I NOT share?”
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I’m writing this letter for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m writing to let you in on some background about my upcoming adventure, and I’m hoping that you will be able to share some of my excitement with me! :) Many of you already have! Thank you for you comments, emails, and words of encouragement as I’ve been telling you about my big news! It’s so wonderful to know that you are cheering me on as I go. And for those of you I see regularly, thank you for your patience with me, as Africa seems to be pretty close to all I talk about these days! Heehee! Your encouragement means so much to me, and your continued contact while I’m gone would be very much appreciated!

Secondly, Africa Inland Mission is an organizational body, meaning that they will not be paying me to work for them. I will be relying on people to partner with me financially to cover all costs such as airfare, insurance, and general living expenses while I am there. I don’t have specifics about how much I will need or how to give just yet, but would you begin considering whether or not you are interested and able to support me as I head off to Kenya? I will send more information in my next letter once I have a confirmed placement and know more details. It’s humbling to ask for support in this way, as I’m a pretty self-reliant kinda gal, but I know that God will provide!

Finally, and most importantly, I am writing to ask you to pray. Please pray for me as I am preparing to go, for the Rendille people who I will be working with, and for the missionaries, Grant and Loki, who are already working in Korr. Would you consider being one of my regular prayer supporters? I appreciate random prayer at any time, of course! In addition, I am specifically looking for a team of people who will commit to pray for me regularly as I prepare to leave and while I am gone. I will do my best to keep you updated when I can (internet access will be spotty at best!). I really believe that what is done here in prayer is just as (probably even MORE!) important as anything I will be doing in Africa! Some specific prayer requests that I have right now are as follows:

• that my placement would be confirmed as soon as possible and that I get my visas approved quickly
• that I find someone trustworthy to sublet my basement suite from January through the end of July
• that God would provide the funds I need to be ready to go in January
• that God would be preparing my heart and mind as I get ready to leave
• for the kids I will be teaching in Africa and the kids I am teaching here in Vancouver, and that I would not just teach the curriculum, but be a reflection of Jesus’ love into their lives

Thank you for reading! I’m looking forward to my next letter - it’ll be shorter, I promise! :) - when I can tell you some more specifics about my placement and other developments!

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