It has been almost a week since I landed back in the States and I have had some time to think about and look back at the month I spent in Kenya. I don’t think that I will ever be able to put words around all that I experienced and learned in my time there. I can without a doubt say I learned more about my own faith and how God is working in the nations than I thought possible in such a short time. I came face to face with motherless children and extreme poverty, but most importantly Jesus. His extreme love for His people courses through the nation of Kenya and through the people there.
I learned so much from my Kenyan brothers and sisters about how not only to share God’s love through actions, but with words of truth. Knocking on random doors, not knowing who was waiting on the other side was so far beyond my realm of comfort. Doing this, I met some of the most incredible people longing for Jesus and for Him to come into their lives. I learned to step out of my own world and live with abandon to glorify His Kingdom. I learned to be more open to others around me, what they are going through, and their views of the world. A wise man taught me that when it comes down to it, if you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your and my sins, and that He is the only way to Heaven, the rest is just us trying to explain our faith.
There is a deep longing within all of us to know Jesus, and this desire is so apparent throughout Kenya. What it means to be a Christian has become somewhat distorted in this day and age. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very strong believers following Jesus there. There however, are also a lot of people claiming the name of Christianity but not knowing what it means in any sense. These people are so wanting of the truth and are so accepting when they hear it, but that’s the thing…they have to hear it. God blessed me in so many ways on this trip, teaching me so much, and showing me the work that needs to be done. I hope that everyone reading this will join me in praying for Kenya and all the nations of the world, that God will send workers out to glorify His name.
I don’t even know where to begin… We spent the past week on the coast in Kilifi which is about an eight hour drive from Nairobi. On the drive down Tuesday I saw lots of African wildlife, giraffes, baboons, zebra, and even some elephants in the distance! It was a very tiring drive on Kenyan roads but the last hour was exhausting! We drove down an unpaved road and through some villages. It was absolutely the bumpiest road. You may think I’m over exaggerating when I say that there were craters and small valleys on this road, but I’m not. I don’t know how many times I hit the ceiling and slammed my head against the window.
We got to Kilifi right before sunset and I cannot even explain how beautiful it was. The water was SO blue and the sand was SO white. The house that we stayed in sat in a little bay where you could see out into the ocean and was absolutely gorgeous! I had many great experiences in Kilifi and cannot even begin to tell about all of them here but I will try to give a bit about some.
ACO’s ministry at the coast only started a year ago, so it is much less established than other areas of the country. One thing that ACO tries to do is while discipling students at the University, they try to get them to reach out into the community. We went to a children’s home in Kilifi to try to get a foot in for future ministry opportunities. The home was established by a German couple and was very well run. It was not Christian-based but was definitely one of the nicer ones I have seen here. We got to love on and play with the kids for a few hours after they got out of school. Of course I want to take all of them home, they are so sweet!
The coast is predominantly Muslim, so it was a completely different experience than what we have been doing in Nairobi and Nakuru. We went to a town near Kilifi called Mtwapa which was called the “Las Vegas of Kenya.” There is an active nightlife, drugs, and a whole slew of other things going on there. We met a man there who has been doing ministry and is connected with some churches in the area. He told us about what he does and then we went out to share about Jesus with people. I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous. I really had no idea what to expect and how people would respond. My group ended up going to an apartment building and knocking on the first door. We met a young man and his younger sister there. They were both Christians but were in some serious need of encouragement. We spent about two hours with them just talking about struggles and the importance of plugging into a group of believers. It was not the experience I was expecting since we ended up talking to believers, but I know God led us to them and was very present there.
The university in Kilifi is Pwani University. School is not in session for them right now, but we went to campus and did a prayer walk. It was a really neat experience, and I love seeing how similar yet different universities in Kenya are from those in the States. We spent our last day in Kilifi relaxing and playing around. We went to a public beach where there were actually waves and played around in the white sands and crystal clear water. If you know me, you know how terrified I am of the ocean, but I actually got in up to my chest and was okay! After I got out, I found out a couple of our people got stung by jellyfish, so I’m really glad I didn’t know that while in the water!
We left Kilifi Sunday morning around 11:30 and headed to Mombasa. We went to the market which was absolutely crazy! It was SO hot and there were SO many people everywhere! I was inches away from getting hit by a tuktuk twice. I have never felt like more of a minority. Being a white, Christian girl there, I definitely stood out. We got to see Old Town Mombasa which was beautiful. It had an old Arabic look to it with intricate woodwork and narrow alleys. It was like something right out of a movie.
Our plan was to then head to the train station and catch the train at 7pm. It was an overnight train and we would get back to Nairobi at 9am the next morning. We got on the train and surprisingly left right on schedule. We had bunk beds with two people to a room. I was on the top bunk that was ridiculously high up, with just a bit of rope to keep me from falling off. The train was so rough, I truly thought it was going to derail. It swayed side to side and jerked forward. Eating dinner was a chore! Soup and tea were sloshing everywhere! After a long day we all went to bed fairly early. I had a super hard time falling asleep because of the movement of the train. And I thought I got carsick…that’s nothing! The train would stop about every 15-30 minutes at a station to pick up or drop off more people. Eventually I felt the train stop and I fell asleep around 2:30am.
I woke up to a couple of our guys telling us it was breakfast time and the engine on the train wasn’t there anymore. We headed to breakfast and found out that a cargo train ahead of us had derailed and our engine had to go to help it out at about 2:30am. It finally came back around 8am and we headed on our way to Nairobi. We finally got into Nairobi around 4pm and then spent another hour traveling on a matatu back to the house. Let me remind you that it was an 8 hour drive from Nairobi to Kilifi… from the time we left Kilifi, we spent 30 hours making our way back to Nairobi, 21 of those hours on a train. It was very long and tiring but a great African adventure!
I can’t believe my time here is almost up. Today is our last day to go to Kenyatta University and tomorrow we’ll go to the baby orphanage one last time. I have fallen in love with this country and its people and am not ready to leave it!
The past few days have been amazing! On Thursday we went back to Kenyatta University in Nairobi and met up with some of the girls we had met the Monday before. We had met three girls there that really touched our hearts. They were all already Christians and Monday, we spent a lot of time talking about what salvation meant to them and listening to prayer requests. Thursday when we went back we met a couple of their other friends and spent almost two hours talking with them again. It was incredible how open they were and how much they wanted us to be there. Their dorm room where four people lived was about the size of my bedroom at school. There were eight of us crammed in there for two hours and they were more than happy to share the little that they had. We talked a lot about Catholicism and I loved learning some of the similarities and differences. It was funny because they, and everyone we meet here, is super excited and interested about Obama since he’s from Kenya.
Friday we went to the mall for lunch and then went to the Massai market. That was quite an experience! There were SO many people and booths selling things, and they are all literally pulling you in different directions. Everyone is saying hello and shaking your hand and then not letting go. We had a few of our Kenyan interns with us as well helping us try to barter and get good prices. The sellers were getting really mad at them for helping us so we didn’t pay more than we should. They would start at ridiculous prices, like $300 in American money but eventually you could get them down to a couple dollars.
Yesterday we did a Nairobi “safari” where we went all around town doing different things. First we went to the History Museum where we learned a little bit about the history and traditions of Kenya. I generally love museums but honestly this one was a bit boring. They had a few interesting animal exhibits though. After that we went to a place called Kazuri Beads where they made tons of pottery and jewelry. We saw how they molded them, baked them, and then painted them. One woman I talked to had been working there for 26 years! We went to KFC for lunch. It was so nice to have some real American food again but after not having it for so long, it makes you realize how greasy and bad it really is…still delicious though! We went to the Giraffe Center after lunch. We got to feed and pet them! We even got them to kiss us! I’ve got to say it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! It just makes me even more excited for the safari we’re going on! After dinner we went bowling with the Stickney’s kids. It was their first time to bowl, as well as one of the Kenyan interns. Everyone beat me, they did awesome!
This morning I decided to go to the Kenyan Baptist church with Sam, the cook, and some of the other interns. I expected it to be totally different than church in America but it really wasn’t. The service lasted about two hours, so only a little longer, and the music was more gospel style than what I am used to. It was a really neat experience! They invited us for a cup of tea afterwards and were so welcoming! Tuesday morning we are headed to Kilifi and Mombasa where we are going to be learning how to minister in a predominantly Muslim area.
I just can’t get over how hospitable everyone here is and how much love they have for everyone they meet. I love that I can call these people my brothers and sisters in Christ!
In the mornings we have been spending time learning Bible Stories and learning how to use them in evangelism. At first, I was very intimidated by this and wasn’t sure that I would be able to teach them to someone else. Over the past week I have begun to realize how much they help me read deeper into stories that I have known since I was 6. Seeing how since the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God has been foretelling of the Savior and the sacrifice He will make, has brought so much together for me. Memorizing these stories is helping me to instill God’s word in my heart to where I can more easily relate them to my life and see God’s power and faithfulness throughout history.
For our Bible Study, we are going through the book of 1 Timothy. I have been convicted that I need to dive deeper into my faith so that I can better understand what I believe. So often we believe something we are taught and just take it as that instead of turning back to scripture to understand it for ourselves. As a Christian we should be continually seeking to grow more in our faith, asking why something is the way it is. The basis of our faith is that Jesus came and died, He is the only way to eternal life, and our hope is in Him alone. I love that God is continually growing us to become more like Him no matter where we are in our faith.
Yesterday we had a nice relaxing day. We went to the Stickney’s kids school and walked around the track and just hung out the rest of the day after Bible Study and storytelling. We went to fro-yo yesterday at the mall and felt like we were right back in America! Today we went to the baby orphanage again and got to play with the precious children! We’re headed to campus again tomorrow to share with more people about Jesus and all He has done!
My time here already seems too short. I absolutely LOVE it here, everything is an adventure! We left for Nakuru on Friday afternoon which was supposed to be about a two hour drive. It ended up taking us about four hours or so because traffic here is crazy! We saw the Great Rift Valley which was absolutely beautiful!
On Saturday, we went to the Virginia Home which is an orphanage that ACO helps run. They have children from primary school to secondary school there. The primary students attend school there until grade 8. The children were SO excited to have us there and would not let go. They were absolutely precious. Seeing how grateful they were for even the littlest things they had was incredible. It makes you realize how truly blessed we are in America and how much we take for granted. I loved playing with the little ones but I met a girl named Ruth who I really connected with. She is 18 years old and lives with her sister, Ann, at the Virginia Home. Because Ruth is in secondary school she has to walk about 45 minutes to school. She wakes up at 3am and studies until about 5am when she gets ready and then walks to school at 6am. She does this Monday through Saturday. After she finishes University, she wants to become a newscaster and dreams of all the same things any American child would.
Saturday evening we went to Egerton University and spent some time talking to students there. The group I was with got to share the Gospel with a girl named Rae who was in her second year there. She knew about God and Jesus but had never accepted Him and did not fully understand his love for her. We got to pray with her as she accepted Jesus as her Savior. It was amazing, I couldn’t stop smiling! Afterwards we went over to one of the Kenyan ACO staffs house and had a BBQ or what they call nyama choma (roasted meat). I also got to try ugali which is one of the main food staples in Kenya; it is just water and flour mixed together to create a sticky, bread/mashed potato-like substance. There were a bunch of Kenyan college students from Egerton there as well. Several shared their testimonies. I love hearing how similar we are. Even a world apart, we struggle with the same things and face the same temptations.
Sunday we headed home from Nakuru and saw lots of wildlife along the way. There were zebras and baboons on the side of the road grazing. We stopped at a resort on the way home where there were more zebras, water buck, and a giraffe. Me and a few girls went horseback riding around the area and it was absolutely beautiful! Tonight we had dinner with the main guy in Kenya with International Justice Mission (IJM) who deal with legal issues for people that would otherwise not get help. I loved hearing from someone who is serving and following the Lord in a different capacity from a typical missionary.
I can’t wait to see how the Lord will continue to show up this week!
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6
Well, after six months of anticipation, 18 long hours on a plane, and lost luggage, I finally made it to Kenya! We got into Nairobi last night around 11:00 only to find out that our luggage was still in London. It’s supposed to get here tonight but everything is a bit slower in Kenyan time so we’ll get it when we get it!
It is absolutely beautiful here! Everything is so green and the temperature has probably not been over 80 degrees so far. This morning we began to learn how to speak and teach Bible stories as a tool for ministry. We went to the market for lunch and had the chance to explore some of the stores there. After lunch we went to a baby orphanage called The Nest where we helped fold clothes and play with the most adorable babies! Holding those children and seeing the joy in their faces as we loved on them was absolutely priceless! Tomorrow we will hopefully begin going to campus and meeting and talking with some of the students there!