Monday, September 01, 2014

A long-awaited arrival

As we took off from Wilson Airport heading north, I was pretty much glued to the window, enjoying the view as we left the city, flew over commercial and individual farmlands, caught a glimpse of the peaks of Mount Kenya through the billowy clouds, and watched as the landscape got more and more arid.  Rivers now run dry split the earth with artery-like fans, while hills that rolled slowly up suddenly dropped off in a Pride Rock-esque platform and cliff.  Circle fences of thorn bushes - pens for the animals - became visible from the air. (See here for a glimpse of my journey)

Suddenly the land that was beautiful became both beautiful and familiar.  We were nearing Korr! There are some very distinctive mountains nearby, and from the air or from the ground, I can easily pick them out. Five years! I have been dreaming of coming back to Korr for five years, and I was almost there!

We circled over the town and lined up to the airstrip.  Once on the ground, the usual crowd had gathered - an airplane is always an exciting event! The hot dry air hit me as soon as the door opened - yes, back in the desert again! A nebeyaa?  I greeted the kids and the mamas that were around as my things were unloaded.

Over the last few days now, I've been unpacking and getting settled, and reacquainting myself with my old friends, with the mamas at the church, with my way around town, and with the language. What a difference to have a base of language to build on now coming back. It's been fun to pull out what I remember, and I'm happy with how it's coming back. I will be looking for a language teacher this coming week or next to get going again on Rendille. Isabcha 'dona! (I want to learn!)

Tonight, I just came from dinner at Pastor Jamhuri's house, where I heard a little more of how he came to be working as the pastor of AIC Korr, and of how much the church is growing, especially in the villages.  What a blessing to be back in this amazing place!

I've listed some prayer requests after the photos - thank you for keeping me and the Rendille people in your prayers!

 I really CAN see my house from here!

 One of the luggas (dry river beds) that runs through town


 Rendille mamas work very hard

I'm here!

Please pray for the Rendille church, especially for the elders - the men of the village - who are the most resistant to the gospel.  

Pray for me as I navigate culture and a new role - both for me and for the secondary school where I'll be working. Everything right now - living, teaching, cooking, even speaking - is a huge learning curve.  It's great, but it's tiring.

Pray, too, for the schools as they open for the final term of the school year. Please pray especially for the primary (elementary) school, as they are in a very desperate situation.  Currently there is no food for the final term. No food means no school here in Korr, so while the primary technically opens tomorrow, the children will be sent home for a week while the headmaster and some others travel to the county headquarters in Marsabit to see if there is any county funding for food for the school.  Please pray for favour with these officials as they meet with them on Thursday or Friday of this week.  It would be devastating to have to close the school for the term, especially for the class 8 students who are due to take their major primary leaving exams at the end of this term, determining their entrance into secondary and beyond.

Thank you for your prayers!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where does the time go?

In some ways, it feels like I've been in Kenya for much longer than I have (I'm sure missing my man has something to do with that!), but in other ways, the time has flown by. I fly to Korr on Friday - finally! It has been almost exactly five years since I was last in Korr, and I am SO looking forward to being back.

As I look to the next few days, they will be busy busy as I prepare to head up. Monday, I will take part in a short term orientation.  Tuesday, I will deliver whatever supplies can't go up in my colleagues truck to the AIM Air hangar to be flown to Korr. Wednesday my stuff will fly up, and (hopefully!) be met by someone on the desert airstrip to take it to my new home.  Thursday I will pack up here at Mayfield, do some last minute shopping, and fly to Korr on Friday. It will be a quick turnaround to get settled and figure out what I'm teaching, as school starts on Monday! YEEKS!

But at the same time I'm looking forward, I thought I'd put down a few highlights from the last almost two months - mostly to answer the question of, "Uhhh... what have you been up to the last two months, Hillary?" :)  There's a few photos here, but if you've got a hankering for more, check out Kevin's and my photo-a-day blog for everything from the exciting to the mundane! You can also check out my facebook photos - I have and will be posting lots of photos from the past two months before I head up to Korr, while I still have good internet!

Africa Based Orientation (ABO)

This is the three week intensive orientation that all full time AIM Missionaries take part in before starting (or very shortly after starting) their assignments.  I want in part because it would be good for me to do it for my own time in Korr, but also so that when I return to Canada to continue working with AIM in helping send others to full time ministry (AIM calls this mobilizing), I can speak to this really intensive and unique experience.  Some highlights from ABO

- Meeting over fifty adults and thirty children who are headed to and working in all parts of Africa.  We started the three weeks with hearing everyone's story about how they came to be where they are. At first, I was worried it would get a little tedious, but this was definitely a highlight of the whole time.  I loved hearing how God has been moving in different peoples lives and in different ways, all leading them to want to serve in Africa.  I was so impressed how, over and over, people talked about God's perfect timing, and how God has been teaching people to give up control of this or that area of their life.  Mostly, I kept looking around the room at people from Canada, the US, Brazil, England, Australia, Holland, Korea, and even those who had grown up in Africa - brothers and sisters from all around the globe, going to countries all over Africa - called to make Christ known.  It was awesome in the traditional sense of the word, and humbling, and so, so exciting! I'm so grateful for these people, many who will be friends for a long time to come!

- Four and a half days on African cultures and worldview.  We had many presenters, and many topics, but my favourite (surprise, surprise!) were our seminars, given by a Kenyan, on culture, religion, worldview, and the Bible.  His insight into his own culture was impressive - it's really hard to see and understand one's own culture from an objective point of view, and he was so incredibly perceptive.  I was humbled by his passion to see God's transformation in the broken parts of his culture, and challenged to look at my own culture with objective glasses, too.  His workshops were also a challenge to my black and white thinking.  Things are not always as right as we think they are, nor as wrong as we think they are.  If anything, these seminars taught me to give pause before jumping to conclusions about certain cultural practices I see, while still looking to scripture as the ultimate measuring stick.


- I have had some amazing opportunities to see and experience some of Africa's amazing beauty.  I have hiked down into an ancient crater in Nakuru, visited an archaeological site in the Rift Valley, taken in breathtaking views of lakes and hills and valleys, seen baboons, zebras, buffalo, monkeys, and antelopes on the side of the road, and been flipped out of a raft on the Nile's raging rapids in Uganda.  Seriously? Is this my life? God has made a pretty stunning and exciting world, and I'm so grateful to get to see this corner of it.

New Friends

- In addition to the people I've met at ABO, staying at Mayfield for several weeks has allowed me to get to know a whole host of different people.  Some just come through for the night, while some - like me - are here for longer. We share meals together, and it is always so cool to hear where people are from, but also what they are doing all over Africa.  Mayfield is really a hub for missionaries in East Africa and beyond, and it is always so interesting to hear people talk about their passion, whether that be working with kids with disabilities in Kampala, translating the Bible in Northern Kenya, teaching English in Dar Es Salam, training pastors in Nairobi, investigating IT or business opportunities in North Africa, doing accounting for the TIMO program in Arusha, visiting refugee camps and development projects to better connect with the refugees they work with in New York, or any other number of things that bring people to Africa.

- Some of the longer term people, like my friend Marlene who is on holiday from her work in South Sudan or my friend A. who was staying here for a holiday from her work in the Islands, or my colleague Steve who I will be working with in Korr, have been blessings to me as I'm here.  They are friends to bounce ideas off of, share recipes and movies with, go supply shopping with, play cards with in the evenings... I am so grateful for people who make what could be a lonely, transitional time a time full of laughter and prayer and friendship.

Preparing for the Future

- The end of my time in Kenya is not the end of my ministry with AIM.  My main 'job' before heading to Korr has been to prepare myself as best I can for my role as a mobilizer, working with AIM back in Canada to help people through the application process, to help with their transition to Africa, and to raise awareness and support for AIM in general throughout Alberta.  ABO was one part of that.  I have also been to visit the three of AIM's four regional offices in Africa.  Two are in or around Nairobi, and one is in Kampala (I got to go to Uganda! Wheeee!) The South Region office is in South Africa... I'll have to get there one day, but not this time around.  I've met with leadership there and learned about what they are dreaming about for the countries in their regions and a little bit about how each region operates.  I've spent time at Tumaini, AIM's counselling center, and will be getting a tour of Africa Based Services next week.  AIM Air, Financial services, the IT department, insurance services, and more are all a part of AIM's support network for missionaries serving throughout Africa.  It has been a time of learning and observing, and more and more I am excited about mobilizing people to work towards AIM's defining mission:

With a priority to the unreached, Christ centered churches among all African peoples.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nairobi Life

When I first came to Kenya, Nairobi was a big scary city. I ventured out every now and then, but I certainly was a little timid, in part because I was brand new to Africa, and because I didn't spend very much time here.  Now, however, I'm ok with going to the park, taking public transit, negotiating a taxi, and exploring the city.  I'm cautious, of course, but it's nice to be more comfortable in the city. I'm certainly enjoying it more.  Here are some observations about the biggest city in East Africa.

(Photo shamelessly stolen from Google Images :) )
* Crossing the street. I kind of feel like I'm taking my life in my hands. For one, I am still getting used to the fact that the traffic drives on the other side of the street as at home. I naturally look for traffic coming one way, but really should be looking the other. This means that I look BOTH ways really carefully and look like a doofus checking for traffic coming down the wrong side of the street. (But hey, this is Nairobi, stranger things have happened!) Also, I have to constantly remind myself to look for piki pikis (motorbikes) that fly in between the lanes. However, a pretty sure fire trick is to cross with a Kenyan.  I have debts of gratitude to many strangers who have unknowingly helped me cross the street. Yay!

* Matatus. These are 14 passenger minivans that are a major part of the transportation network here in Kenya (when you think 14 passenger, hold that sort of loosely...).  They're a cheap way of getting around, and while you have to keep yourself really alert - pickpockets are common - they're really handy. They're also kinda crazy, though they usually pretty reliable. Not sure how my friend would agree with that after today she was told her matatu was going just down the road to the shopping center, but instead ended up on an hour long 'diversion' through Kibera slum, but hey...  Most are pretty run-down, but often are personalized with different sayings, decals, and the like painted on them.  Buses, too - whatever the owner likes is plastered ALL OVER the roof and sides of the interior - Janet Jackson, the New York Knicks, Jesus Saves posters, you name it.  And there's usually music bah-LARING. It's a party, I tell you!

People walking, pikis, matatus (with the yellow stripe), busses, lorries, and trucks with random guys hanging out in the box. Yep, pretty much a regular Nairobi scene! :)

* Greetings.  As a white woman, I get a lot of attention walking along the street.  "Hallo!" People (let's be serious, men) will call out. I usually ignore them, or just mumble a short answer and carry on my way.  But little kids are fun. The standard little kid greeting to any mzungu (white person) is, "Hawahyoo?" (sound it out, you'll get it ;) ) I'm pretty sure they think it's all one word and the mzungu  word for hello.  It's really cute, and I always answer, "I am fine! Habari yako?" (How are you?) They are usually surprised that I answer in Swahili, and look at me kind of shocked.

* Exploring. In my travelling around, I've discovered some fun things. Like today, when our taxi diverted down a back road to avoid the traffic (but encounter about a bazillion potholes), I discovered Big Mama's, a Korean BBQ restaurant just a few blocks away from where I'm staying.  Travelling out to another AIM office in Kabete, a suburb north of Nairobi, the other day, we drove past a CASTLE! Seriously - a stone, turretted, castle! City Parks. I haven't  been to any parks in Nairobi until two days ago when my friend Marlene and I headed over to... City Park. (Such a creative name, I know!) It was a beautiful park with gardens, a gazebo, a picnic area, flowers and flowering trees everywhere.... and MONKEYS! Monkeys everywhere! Monkeys that love to jump up and climb all over you! Good times were had by all - lots of laughs, and lots of photos, for sure!

* A new attendant for the public washrooms? * Marlene and the monkey
* My peanuts are all gone, what more do you want? * Pretty park
* Amenities. There are lots of things to be said about Nairobi in terms of pollution, crime, and whatever. But I feel quite safe here. I'm aware of the risks and like to think I'm smart about them. But Nairobi is also a pretty cool city. It really is a modern, global city, and there is so much to see and do here. As I've been taking different taxis around and talking to people here and there, I like to ask them, "What do you like about Nairobi?"  Most people generally answer with something like, "The opportunity. You can get anything or do anything here." I am certainly grateful that there is a place I can get what I need before heading up to Korr. And I'm grateful, too, for amazing mobile phone capabilities (not just in Nairobi, but in Korr, too!) like mPesa, a mobile money transfer system that can be used to pay at shops, send money to friends, etc, and like really, really cheap rates to call Canada. It's the same price as calling down the street! Amazing!

* Diversity. Nairobi is a city of contrasts. A short matatu ride from the slum (or a long one, depending on the diversions and traffic!) is the YaYa Center, a super upscale mall.  There is the Mercedes dealership with the traditional Masai man herding his cows among the cars. You can get gelato at the mall, or take a camel ride down Ngong road.  You can rent a paddle boat in the lake at Uhuru park or drive out of town and saddle up for an ostrich ride.  And there is a continuous roller coaster of smells that assault your senses.  One minute you are smelling the vendor selling BBQ maize, the next you are hit with the acrid smell of burning trash or bus exhaust. And then a few steps further, and back to bougainvilleas or wood-fired pizza.

All within a short walk is Toi Market - a huge second hand clothing market - Java House, and Nakumatt, the Kenyan version of Wal-Mart.
All in all, it is an amazing place to stay for this time. I'm grateful for the chance to get to know this always-changing, surprising, heart-breaking, yet exciting city.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Plenty of baskets

One of the challenges of living in Korr is that it is a full day's drive on a road frequented by bandits to any semblance of grocery store.  There are small shops in town where you can usually buy UHT milk (in tetra packs that don't have to be refrigerated), tea, flour and sugar, and where potatoes, cabbage, and onions are hit and miss (but there's ALWAYS Coke... you just have to drink it hot!), but that's about it. Since I have neither a car nor the desire to meet any bandits, that means that I need to bring two-and-a-half to three months worth of supplies to Korr with me when I head up at the end of August.

Last time I lived in Korr, I lived with Nick and Lynne, who had 30 years of experience doing this.  They shopped and cooked, and I was - thankfully! - along for the ride. But they are nearing retirement, and short termers are now to do their own shopping and cooking - and I am happy to do so.  But for the first time, I am trying to figure out - how on EARTH do I plan for three months of food?

Oh yeah, and we have no fridge or freezer.

No problem, just go to the market each day and get what you need, right? Nope. No market... Hmmmm.

No cheese... no yogurt... no meat... no cold water............

After some time to wrap my brain around that and some great conversations with people who have even less than I do - we have an oven! (I'm told it even works, though there are conflicting reports...) - I have started to see not what we won't have, but all the possibilites for what we will.  And I'm looking forward to the challenge.

I like delicious food, so ramen and rice for three months just isn't going to fly. So... what to do?  Get creative, of course!  Enchiladas! Curry! Bean burgers! Cabbage salad! Pasta! And get used to eating things from tins. Tuna, ham, vegetables, fruit... soak the beans... bake the bread... rehydrate soy mince with beef bullion... discover that there are processed cheese slices that don't have to be refrigerated (so, so scary, I know, but... CHEESE!).  Learn that to keep something cool overnight in the desert where temps don't usually dip below about 30-35C (and daytime temps are anywhere from 40-50C!), put it in a jar, put a sock over it, and put it in a bucket of water.  Voila! Cool enough not to spoil and you can finish it off the next day.

And the most exciting thing? I'm told there is one spot on one of the shelves in the pantry that can keep REAL! LIVE! CHOCOLATE BARS! at a just cooler than 'melted puddle of goo' temperature.  Booyeah!

After making a list, checking it twice, and asking for recipes from people so nice, I made my way to Nakumatt.  This is Kenya's version of Wal-Mart, and it's fabulous.  You can buy anything from motorbikes to mushroom soup, and pretty much everything in between.  Yesterday, I made a start on my list (I seem to have ended up with copious amounts of chocolate things: chocolate, cocoa powder, chocolate cookies, chocolate UHT milk, drinking chocolate... Aren't you happy to see I have my priorities in the right place?)  I FILLED a cart to overflowing - not just with chocolate, don't worry! - and decided that that was enough for one day.

I went back today to get more of my ACTUAL food, and when one cart got so heavy I could barely push it anymore, I huffed it up to the front of the store, got another, and kept on going. Three hours and two grocery carts later, I was not finished, but was exhausted.  What? It's just grocery shopping, right? Wrong!

You know, it's really, really tiring hauling carts around the store, wondering where things are (Nakumatt uses a different logic than I would in where things are placed) so there's lots of back and forth looking for things.  And then there are the brands.  Very few are familiar, so I don't know what to look for.  You want baking soda in Canada? Go to the baking aisle and scan the shelves for the yellow and orange Arm and Hammer box. Whether you want that brand or not, you can find it easily because you know what to look for. In Kenya, it's a quarter of the size and blue. Oops, I missed it the first time.  All purpose flour - no problem, right? Look for Robin Hood, there you go.  Nope, there are umpteen different varieties and brands of flour - maize flour, chapati flour, bread flour, brown flour that's not actually whole wheat flour, baking flour... what to buy? And which brand it best? Pick the wrong one, and your bread comes out like rubber, I've been told.  And tinned peas. Some taste like peas, some taste like tin.  Which brand is which? The one you've been told is best is out of stock.  Pick a few different ones, then. If one brand is bad, at least you won't have 15 tins of the same kind!

I still have probably two more carts worth of stuff to get another day, and then comes the sorting and packing into boxes for transport.  Some will come up with me on the plane. Some (hopefully most) will go up in the truck with Jim and Laura. Some will wait in the AIM Air hangar to go up when there is more weight available for freight on another flight two, four, and/or six weeks later.  This provisioning is a steep learning curve, let me tell you!  But it's a fun kind of learning - all part of the adventure!

I'm guessing that by the time I'm done, I will have about five grocery carts full of supplies for my three months - that's definitely plenty of baskets!

But it's also baskets of plenty.

I am very conscious each time I haul a grocery cart (or carts!) through the checkout that I am privileged beyond belief.  I can just go to the store and buy what I need. Not even what I need - what I want - totally superfluously! (I may or may not have copious amounts of nutella.) 

When I talk to people about the food challenges of Korr (really, Hillary? What challenges? I have FIVE. CARTS. of food), they ask what the locals eat.  Not much, I tell them. Unless people have jobs, and very few Rendille do, the local diet is mostly camel's milk, a sort of thin maize-meal porridge, and tea. Food aid is a major part of their survival.

What I have access to is ridiculous. What we have access to in the West is ridiculous. It's not that I need to feel badly for having so much, just that I need to be aware, to be thankful, and to use my wealth well.  I have baskets of plenty.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Arriving in Kenya - Foreign to Familar

One of the books recommended to people coming to work in Africa about cross cultural adjustment is called “From Foreign to Familiar.” This seems to be a really good way to describe how I’ve been experiencing the first few days and weeks back in Kenya.

I remember very distinctly my first arrival in Kenya back in January 2009. As we left the airport, the cool evening air was filled with… it was FULL. It smelled of wet pavement and diesel and the acrid smell of burning trash. But it also smelled of rain and cool and dirt and the sweetness of many flowers I didn’t yet know the names of. All of this – in one breath – told me: I’m in AFRICA! Almost everything I experienced after those first breaths was new.

This time, while some things have changed, there is much that is comforting and familiar. I recognized the route home from the airport. I knew the names of many of the staff at the guesthouse - and they remembered me! I don’t know if I should be comforted or worried about that fact!) I knew the way to the bank, to the shopping center, to the coffee shop. Taking public transport was not (quite as) daunting as the first time crossing a crazy Nairobi roundabout or jumping on a matatu – Kenya’s famous rickety, loud, and overcrowded mini busses. The traditional Massai man wrapped in a shuka (red striped blanket) herding his cows through the new car dealership was still amusing, but not novel.

I am looking forward to eventually getting back to Korr. There will be things that are different, to be sure, and in no way am I saying I have learned all I have to learn about life in Kenya – far from it! But I am enjoying the shift from foreign to familiar.

As I think about getting into teaching come September in Korr, this is my prayer for both myself and my students. For me, that language, culture, and relationships that start out so foreign become more familiar as I learn and study and observe, as I laugh, struggle through, and walk alongside my students and my friends. 

And for my students, and for the Rendille people in general, that the Christ they hear about would move from foreign to familiar in their hearts – that the forms and the culture of my faith in Canada would be done away with, and that as my students wrestle with their faith, that this faith would become truly theirs – truly Rendille, truly personal, truly transformational.

I am so grateful to get to be back in Kenya, and for this wonderful place just waiting to teach me so much.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The day of waiting

I have a To Do list app on my phone, and it's great! I can make lists, categorize, prioritize... but none of those little icons or crossed off items seem to do justice that is the hilarity of my day.  For example, yesterday.  The morning started with two things on the agenda: doctor's appointment with a new potential doctor, and read the rest of the day. Oh, if only it were that simple.

I overslept, so had to throw on some clothes and run out the door in the morning in a blazing panic. I managed to get to the office for my meet-and-greet just a few minutes late, and was welcomed by the receptionist and the student doctor, who took my info and gave the the requisition forms I needed for my pre-Africa blood work. We chatted for a few minutes before the senior doctor - the one who would actually be my doctor - was supposed to come in.  We chatted about Africa for a while, then on to him and where he was from... and the process of becoming certified in Canada... and where in Alberta he wanted to settle... and how people back home told him he'd never make it... and how his kids, age 9 and 6 loved to ride their bikes... and all the countries he'd lived in before Canada... and how he likes Alberta  but finds Calgary too big... and what the heck? I mean, he's nice and all, but this was a LOT of chit chat...

Eventually, he kind of looked at the door and told me, "Dr. D should make himself known any minute now... I hope I'm not too boring..." Oooooh, he was trying to fill time. The poor guy!  No, he wasn't boring, but usually if patients have to wait, they are left on their own.  Time passed... and passed... conversation dried up, he went back to his computer to look at the information.  "Anything else that is interesting that you could tell me about your medical history?" Some more awkward conversation...

Where was this Dr dude?

Over an hour later, I decided to leave, as I had other stuff to do that day.  Thankfully, having not actually eaten breakfast on my frantic flap out the door, I was well past the 12 hour fast required fro bloodwork, so I decided to try and go for a walk in and kill two birds with one stone.  The wait wasn't too bad for such a busy lab, and all went off without a hitch.

Oh, except somehow I manage to stab myself in the neck with my mechanical pencil, lodging a piece of lead under my skin.

Yep, I'm talented that way.

After the bloodwork, I hadn't eaten for about 17 hours, and I was RAVENOUS.  I stopped for lunch, lugging my backpack in with me so there was no risk of my laptop being stolen.  I was going to be lazy, but distinctly though, very likely it won't get stolen out of my car, but I'll sure kick myself if it does, just because I was too lazy to bring it in with me.

Um, isn't that what TRUNKS are for? Whatever. I hadn't eaten in 17 hours. I blame the brain fart on that!

I tried not to wolf down my lunch TOO fast, and then headed to school to settle in for an afternoon of solid reading, but when I parked, I realized.... I left my backpack at the lunch place! AURGH!  Back I went, and there it was, happily sitting on the chair where I left it.  I sheepishly grinned at the couple that was keeping my backpack company, grabbed it, and went BACK to school.

My backpack, however, had irritated the little piece of lead that was still in my neck. I tried to get some work done, but my fingers kept finding the irritating little bump, and the heebie-jeebies crept up.  A friend who was also studying that afternoon offered to try to dig it out with a pin I had in my purse (yes, we washed it!), but to no avail.

Approaching the "GET IT OUT! GET IT OUT!!!" stage, I abandoned my post again and went over to the clinic a block away.

"So, what seems to be the trouble today?"

I gave the nurse a good laugh - all in a day's work, right? The doctor came in and poked around, digging most of it out.  The rest will probably come out on its own, she said.  Or, you know, I'll have pencil lead in my neck for the rest of my life. One of those.

It was now about 3pm.  My doctor's appointment was at 9:30. I had such great plans for the day!

The rest of the day carried on without incident, but I had to try and work double time to make up for all the waiting and running around I did.  As I fell into bed around 1:30, my mind was swirling, thinking of all the time I spent just WAITING.  I was begrudging the wasted time, but then realized - it didn't have to be that way. It could have been praying time - time with God, bringing so many things to Him - friends, family, my future students in Kenya, missionaries I know around the world, world events...

I had such great plans for the day, but maybe God's plans for my day were to give me time to pray, and I missed the opportunity.  I'm not getting down on myself, because I know God is a God of grace and second, third, and three million eighty-fifth chances.  It was one day, and it certainly won't be the last time I wait in my life!  But I do certainly realize I have a long way to go in making prayer a reflex activity.

Maybe you're already great at this, but if not, let's you and me both try this: next time we're waiting - for a light, at the doctor's office, for a meeting to start, whatever - let's spend some time praying on behalf of those who need it in our lives, then watch and see what God will do!

Friday, April 18, 2014

So Rich A Crown

This Good Friday, as I am preparing to head back to Kenya, I am reminded of my desert Easter five years ago. This is a post I wrote from Kenya in 2009. 

As a friend warned me before I headed to Kenya, "Africa is the place where even the trees are out to hurt you." Now that I've lived in the North for a while, I'm seeing that he's very right!

The smallest thorns are from trees we like to call "wait a bit" bushes. These are small thorns - less than a quarter inch long - but they come in groups of three. Two are hooked forward and one, slightly further down the branch, is hooked back. If you brush past, it's like the tree grabs you and good luck getting yourself free. Acacia thorns are one to three inches long, white, and very strong. There are some thorn trees that look like a wild, curvy tangle of Dr. Suess-like branches, others are long and needle-like, and still others can be mistaken for small branches at first glance. They are easily four to five inches long and can be as wide as a half an inch at the base.

I think the most interesting thorn trees are the whistling thorns. The bark is yellow-ish and the tree grows crooked - a few feet one direction, then another, then another. It zig-zags to the sky with thorns that have often have a big black bulb at the base. Ants make their nests in the thorns and when the wind blows at just the right angle, the air passing through the thorn makes a whistling sound.

Walking barefoot around Korr is dangerous, especially since most thorns have some type of poison that makes them not just pokey, but makes your skin itchy and irritated at best, or causes boils at worse.

So today, Good Friday, as I read the story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion, the crown of thorns stood out. I could imagine it, and I know what it feels like to have one poke my toe as I walk (it hurts!). But to have these digging and scraping into my head, to feel the blood trickle down my forehead, to be spat upon and mocked, to have every blow push the thorns deeper into my flesh... this I could not even begin to imagine. And the thorns were just the beginning of Jesus' suffering for me. In so many ways, the desert is helping the Bible come alive for me. Today, this is one.

See from his head, his hands his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e're such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Monday, April 07, 2014

The hunt for the dress!

I never have been the girl to have binders full of wedding ideas, so when it came time to start shopping for wedding dresses, I was lost.  "What kind of dress are you looking for?" is a question that makes me tongue tied... but let me tell you, this is such a fun process! It's made even MORE fun by shopping with my mom, Kevin's girls, and two of my very best friends.

And let me tell you... there are some reeeeealllly pretty dresses out there! After trying on I don't know HOW many dresses with mom and the girls, I had it narrowed down to thirteen favourites.  I know. Thirteen. But they're all so PRETTY! After the shock of seeing ME in a wedding dress started to wear off, I began thinking, "Heeeey, I could get used to this!"  I think my friend Becca has the right idea when she finds opportunities to wear her dress every now and then!  I keep telling Kevin we need to get married several times so we can use all the venues I checked out and I can wear multiple pretty dresses (cause we SO have the money for that! Bah ha!).

So two of my best friends rose to the challenge this past weekend and helped me narrow my thirteen down to five top contenders, with the help of this template:

My wonderful friends sketched and schemed and snickered and gave me five remarkably accurate (hence "3D Hologram rendering") diagrams and descriptions to help me remember the dresses as I take time to percolate and come to THE dress! How fun!

And those dresses? Yep - they totally make me want to swish like a bell and twirl like a ballerina! Squeeeee! Of course, the REAL reason it's so fun?

Cause it means I get to marry my great love!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To do lists and tulips

I have downloaded a to-do app on my phone, and it's glorious.  I can make categories (so far I have seven - school, wedding, Africa, internship, fundraising, packing, general)! And prioritize! Add icons! Set dates!

Sometimes it's wonderful, and I can go along my merry way checking things off. Sometimes I just stare at for an hour and then go take a nap.  Or, ya know, watch Netflix.  Yessiree, I pay eight bucks a month for a distraction, but oh, how I need it sometimes.

Turns out, even though all we're doing on the wedding front is booking venues, caterers (maybe), and officiants, there's still a lot to do as I finish up my masters, work, plan a wedding, raise funds for Africa (hey! my Fundraiser/Social is this Saturday in Vancouver - come on out! It'll likely be the last event I have in Van before I head to Kenya. Click here for details.), and do the myriad of little tasks to get ready to go - not to mention packing up my house and hosting wonderful friends and family who will be coming to Calgary to visit me. Seriously. I am SO grateful for my life right now.  My heart is so full of joy for all I have and how much God has given me!  There's just a lot. to. do!

Oh! And.  I'm hoping to find my dress before I go, too. My wedding dress! My. Wedding. Dress. Whaaaaaat????? (I keep telling Kevin, I get these flashes of "Really?! Is this my life?" He just smiles and hugs me close. Happy sigh.)  I've never been the girl to pour over bridal magazines or window shop at dress stores.  I have no idea what I'd like.  But I can't wait to get shopping! Squeee! And I am so excited to get to go with some great Calgary friends, with two, maybe three of my best friends from Vancouver who are coming to visit me in Calgary, and with my mama who's also coming out.  I am blessed indeed!

So in the middle of the crazy, I am so, so happy! And in the middle of the cold (it's a balmy -19 as I write this), I am looking at a vase of tulips.  I saw them at the grocery store - stupid expensive but I don't care! - and decided I needed a little spring on my table.  The make me smile - a little colour, a little pop of that early spring green... the promise of growth and good things to come.

Yes, indeed!

Friday, January 31, 2014

For the glory of God and the joy of the nations

I've often heard about people developing a sort of 'purpose statement' for their lives - something that serves to evaluate and shape their decisions and activities.  Over the last five years, mine has been developing, and - for now, at least - I've settled on "For the glory of God and the joy of the nations." This is what I want to be about.

For the glory of God...

 Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
               Psalm 96:1-4

God - Father, Son and Spirit - is deserving of all my praise, all my work, all my thanks, all my life.  It is for the sake of his glory that I want to live, making him and his great blessings known among the nations. Basically, I want to make God famous among people who have, through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity to hear!

... and the joy of the nations.

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
               Psalm 67:4

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
    let the distant shores rejoice.

               Psalm 97:1

There's a reason the gospel is called the good news!  The Kingdom of God is breaking into this world - he is setting all things right.  All those things in the world that we look at with pain - with that deep sense of "it shouldn't be this way" - will one day be no more.  Equity, justice, restoration, and peace are coming, this is certain.  And glimpses of this future and total restoration can be known TODAY!  This is good news indeed for all the peoples of the earth.

I'm not talking about cramming western culture down the throats of other people in other cultures.  That would do a huge disservice to the beauty of cultural diversity that God himself created!  And this is good news for all nations, for all cultures, for all people. I'm not even interested in forcing or coercing people to listen to the good news of Jesus.  But for people who are looking for good news and have no chance to hear, I want to be there to invite them into God's big story of restoration. 

And so, here I am - for the glory of God and the joy of the nations.

Why am I studying at Ambrose?  To learn how to better understand and best express this good news in a cross cultural context, whether in Kenya or here in Canda.

Why am I going to Kenya? To help share and equip others to share this good news to all nations.

Why am I getting married?  Because together, Kevin and I can support one another in our similar, yet different calls to make Jesus famous in the nations.  I believe we can do more together than we can apart.

Why am I returning to Canada after my year in Kenya to work as a mobilizer? To help encourage, equip, and send others to do proclaim God's glory for the joy of the nations!

 Read John's stunning vision of this new city that is to come from Revelation 21:1-4, 22-27:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away...”

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

One day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and all the nations will be there.  But for now, there is work to be done!