Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kibera


So it’s Kimber here…

I first just wanted to say Thank You to everyone who helped support all of us. Without you guys (and God of course) this opportunity could not be possible. This experience has already impacted all of us significantly and we have already learned so much.

Last week, we were focused mainly at the LIA clinic in Kibera. All the people from the clinic attended training with us so it was great catching up and seeing them in “action”. The clinic was also located on the same grounds of a small, primary school. I really enjoyed playing with the kids and just loving on them. While there, we got the opportunity to sit with some 5th and 6th graders and talk to them. They asked us some pretty tough questions. Talking with them broke my heart as well as opened my eyes. These kids seemed so much older than they really were. When you think about it, many of these kids live in a small hut with their entire family. They are exposed to everything that goes on inside their home; what their parents watch on TV, how their older siblings talk… One of the questions a little girl asked was, “Why are you guys rich and we are poor?” Try answering that how a 10 year old could understand. Training equipped us for this answer by explaining the definition of poor. There are many types of poor: physical, emotional, spiritual, etc… In America, many of us are considered “rich” but which type? We can be physically rich but if we are spiritually poor aren’t we still at square one?  We told them that while we do have materially poor people in America, we have many other types of poor.  A lot of people are spiritually poor and emotionally poor.  Some people have all the money in the world, but they aren’t happy. 

6 Americans at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kenya with a Somali.


Although the Somali country director’s background is Somali, he lived in Ethiopia for a lot of his life, so on Wednesday he treated us to an Ethiopian dinner. The atmosphere was so perfect, I actually felt like I was on vacation. He ordered for us because we had no clue what was happening on the menu. When our food came, there was so much! Traditional Ethiopian food is like some meat and some sauces and some other stuff served on top of injera. Injera is this bread-like stuff that serves as your utensils. You just dip it in the meat or whatever you feel like dipping it in. Oh yeah, Ethiopian food is eaten community style so we all just ate off two large plates. All the stuff you dip the injera in is served on top of more injera! We tried to finish it all, but it was so much food! After dinner, we had Ethiopian coffee. The coffee was so flavorful because they prepare it some special way that only Jim could explain (he’s our coffee expert). Coffee was served under a little tent where we sat on little stools. It was a really intimate setting and we enjoyed just sitting around and being a family together. We also shared coffee with 2 other people-one was a girl named Addis and the other was a guy named Anzy. The country director shared Christ with Addis and we got the opportunity to hear about Anzy’s life. It was such a great night getting out of the apartment and immersing ourselves into yet another cultural experience.  

blessings from Somalia


Hey everyone! 
Love, grace, and peace from the Kenya-ers! 

So we have been in Kenya for 4 weeks now and I (Amy) have just been reflecting on everything that has happened, what God has taught us, and just the countless blessings He has poured out on us. One of the biggest blessings has been sharing a home with some of the LIA country directors. For the first 10 days the country directors from Sudan and Egypt stayed with us and this week, from Sunday to Thursday, the country director from Somalia stayed with us. We are so thankful for the opportunity and privilege to live with and get to know these amazing people from various countries. Countries that not only have completely different cultures than ours, but also countries that don’t experience same amount of freedom as we do—especially in the freedom to worship. We are so thankful for how these country directors openly shared their lives with us.  They were transparent in telling us their struggles and challenges, but they also passed on so much wisdom to us—wisdom that could only come from an intimate walk with the Lord and from their experiences. These country directors could have simply lived with us, but instead they took the short time they had to invest and pour into us. So so good.

As I said before, this past week the country director from Somalia stayed with us.  I’m not going to say  his name because of security, but he is fantastic.  I have had Somalia on my heart for the past year so when I found out that he was from Somalia I was so EXCITED! He told me how they are helping people affected by the famine, how they are helping orphans, and the struggles of building relationships and sharing Christ.  Despite all the challenges, he is one of the most joy-filled, energetic people I’ve ever met. He has such a close, intimate walk with Jesus.  It’s evident in his understanding and knowledge of scripture and by the way he carries himself and lives his life.  One night, he sat in on debrief and debrief turned into him just pouring into us. At one point, he talked about how much he loved the word of God.  He said that he would never leave Christianity, even if it was wrong, because that is how much he loves Jesus and His word.  This brought tears to my eyes especially as I reflected on my own walk. I want to know Jesus as intimately as he does. I want to have a love for the Word that leaves me hanging on every word and desiring to know more. Sadly, I haven’t put in the time and energy to grow that relationship with Christ.  He ended the night telling us about how the most important thing is to just love Jesus. Our ministry doesn’t matter; just love Jesus. When we do something for others, we do it simply because we love Jesus. At the end of the day, just love Jesus. We ended the night praying and just telling Jesus how much we love him. It was so powerful and way better than any prayer time we were planning on having. 

The four days with him were such a blessing. He shared his testimony with us and poured so much wisdom into us. I am eternally grateful for all that I learned from him.  Everything from the way he talked to the way he lived his life was modeled after Christ. He had so much wisdom and knowledge of God, but at the same time he has this child-like faith that I admire so much. It was so encouraging to hear how faithful God had been to him and how he has persevered despite the hostility to Christianity in Somalia. In America, we have a church on every corner and you can get a Bible almost anywhere—we have the freedom to seek Christ openly and to proclaim His truth to everyone, yet our lives don’t display that freedom. We can openly live out the gospel and we don’t, while our brother from Somalia doesn’t have the freedom to live out the gospel openly, but he does. He has much more at stake than we do. Our reputations might get tarnished, but his life and the life of his family is at stake. It just shows how much we take our freedom for granted. I’m encouraged by his testimony, but I’m convicted at the same time because my life needs to look drastically different. I’m so glad that we got the opportunity to share our home in Nairobi with ,him and I pray that I will get to visit him and serve with him in Somalia. 
 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Makueni - Retrospective Thoughts


James: Our week in Makueni exposed us to part of the ministry LIA is involved in and the model they use (the CHE model) to effectuate holistic community change. We learned about and participated in construction projects, played with kids, and evangelized with the pastors (which wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be).  We saw the powerful effect a coalition of pastors and churches can have on a community, and already I'm anxious to see how I can encourage churches back home to effectively share the Gospel locally. It was comforting to be reminded that people are people, regardless of where they live and what perspectives they have; we're all under the same grace and love the same Jesus.


Overall, the time we spent with the pastors and members of their churches helped tremendously in further solidifying the understanding of how LIA operates we gained in the previous weeks' TOT training. 

Makueni Overview

Bonsai here.  Sorry for the long delay between posts, we had very limited internet access while we were in Makueni last week.  I am going to give a brief overview of what we did each day and then others will post more detailed experiences that they had while there. 

On the first Sunday we all went to a small (20 members) evangelical church called Amen Gospel Church. 

On Monday we met with the Pastor's Fellowship group, went to a school and played with like 200 kids, and went to Pastor Stephen's house for lunch with all the pastors and many of their families. 

On Tuesday we helped do construction on a building that is going to be used for a storeroom for grain and kerosene so the churches can buy grain and kerosene in bulk and sell it at a fair price all year so the townspeople  won't get taken advantage of by businessmen charging way too much during the dry season.

On Wednesday we did evangelism visits to people's houses with Pastors and LIA staff.  The Mi2s were Amy and I, Jim and Rebecca, and Daniel and Kimber.

On Thursday we went to a construction project at a church for a Pastor's house/church office.   There wasn't much the Mi2s were able to do because of lack of tools but Jim, Amy, Kimber, and I went on a donkey caravan to get water. 

On Friday we did home visits that turned into evangelism and I helped lead my first person to Christ! (more on this in a later post).  We also had a bonfire that night with Pastor Stephan and many of the youth from the town. 

On Saturday we met with an HIV/AIDS support group and prepared sermons.

On Sunday we all preached at different churches and had to say goodbye to Daniel and Margaret from LIA Makueni office and the Pastor's fellowship.  The pastors presented us with some REALLY cool gifts, too!

Makueni was so neat and it was so helpful having very little Internet access because it allowed us to focus on God more.   Look for many of us to be writing blog posts that summarize our best experiences from Makueni.

Bonsai

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Hey everyone! It’s Amy. First I’d just like to say thanks so much for keeping up with our blog.  It means so much to have people back home aware of what is happening over here in Kenya and to be praying for us.  Today we will be departing Nairobi and traveling to Makeuni to serve in the projects that LIA is in involved with there.  This is our first trip away from Nairobi and this is the first time we will really be engaging in ministry, so we need YOUR prayers!!
  •      Pray for team unity. God has really used these past two weeks to unify us and for us to really get comfortable with each other.  These past two weeks were absolutely necessary to prepare us as a team before we go out in the field—we couldn’t have gone out earlier and have been as unified as we are now.  But we also know that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy and we know that he will aim to divide us so pray that we stay unified.
  •      Pray that our hearts, minds, and souls will be completely vulnerable to Him.  That we would be completely open to His spirit’s leading.  That we will allow Him take over.  That we will be completely open to all that He has for us and all that He has to teach us.  We don’t want to miss out on anything.
  •      Pray that we He will give us His eyes.  That He will destroy any expectations or presuppositions that any of us have about the community, poverty, our role, slums, etc.  We want God’s perspective. We want to see this community and these people as He does and not from our American worldview.  That He will break our hearts for what breaks His.  That He will love the people through us.  That we will understand our roles as interns—vessels that have been entrusted with the gospel,  who are to live and breathe it in actions and words. 
  •     Pray that Jesus will be glorified.  That Jesus will be exalted.  That Amy, James/Jim, Bonsaii, Daniel, Kimber, and Rebecca won’t be seen, but rather that Jesus will be seen in our actions and words.  That God’s kingdom will invade Makeuni and that God’s will be done in Makeuni and in our lives. 

Thanks so much for your prayers! The power of prayer is unfathomable and we have definitely seen the evidence of your prayers in these first two weeks! We love you all so much!
-The Kenya-ers

P.S.   We won’t have access to internet for the 8 days-ish so that’s why you won’t be hearing from us!
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and forevermore. Amen

Friday, June 8, 2012

Graduation Day!!!

Bonsai (James B.) here.  What a week we have had!  This was our last week of our Training the Trainers training.  On Tuesday they took us on a field visit to Kibera Slums.  It is the largest slum in Africa and we saw just a minuscule part of it where LIA is working.  They have a health clinic that a fellowship of churches are running with LIA's help for just a little bit longer.  There are also community health evangelists (which are the members of the churches) that go out into the community and teach good health practices and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ through home visits. 

We also saw a shoe project where residents are taught on the equipment to make these really neat flip-flops that they are initially sending to a company in the United States to sell.  That contact is almost over though, so they are exploring other ways to sell the shoes.  It not only provides income for residents now, but gives them the training and confidence to work for a bigger company that uses similar machines. 

Since we recieved the full 10 day training that the leaders of the churches had, we were able to participate in the graduation ceremony on Thursday!  Dr. Florence and the Chairperson for LIA’s International Board was there to present us our certificates.  It was a great accomplishment to finish and be able to take this knowledge with us in the future. 

On Friday we went to Nairobi city center and got to walk around downtown.  It was really neat seeing such a modern city in the middle of East Africa, but also sad that these modern skyscrapers were so close to Kibera. 
We have an amazing week away from Nairobi ahead of us.  This will be the last time I will post until we get back next Sunday, so please keep Egypt in your prayers as they prepare for their critical elections on June 16th-17th that will decide the future of their country.  The already limited freedoms of Christians are literally at stake so I cannot stress enough to please keep them in your prayers.  Thanks a bunch for your support!! 
~Bonsai~    

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dancing in the Church - Kimber and Bonsai


Hey everyone!

While in Makueni on Sunday, we (Kimber and Bonsai), went to Pastor Steve’s Church along with Beth, Christine, and Daniel (all attending training with us). Due to our bus overheating we arrived  45 minutes late, which in Kenya time is not bad at all. The church had waited for us to start and the Pastor greeted us outside to let us know where to sit.  As soon as we sat down they began doing choreographed dances to songs which told a really neat message. It was fascinating seeing authentic, African dancing. They then had offering, and, as you can see from the other blogs, they auctioned off agricultural items that were given in lieu of a traditional offering. That was interesting to see and hear. (Imagine an auctioneer speaking in Kambo-their tribal tongue). When we had to get up to say a few words to the church, Bonsai tried speaking Swahili to the church but it was not until after the service that we learned they spoke Kambo.

After the service (3 hours later) everybody greeted the pastor, then got in line behind him, shaking everyone’s hand in between; definitely a smart way to meet and greet everyone. After the greetings, we joined a group of all ages (3 years to 80 years) doing an African line-dance in the front of the church. We were definitely the least coordinated there by far. Before we left, they brought us sodas (a very well established Kenya tradition) as we talked with Pastor Steve. He told us of the progress his church had been making as well as his involvement with the LIA programs. We soon thereafter left the church, not only with a better understanding of how LIA works with the church, (and how to African line-dance), but with an understanding that we all worship the same God, just in different ways. We are both looking forward to going back to Makueni this coming up week and we are hoping to be better prepared for the dancing… maybe we can teach them some American dance moves?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Humbled by a chicken-Amy and Daniel


Hey family and friends!
In Makeuni on Sunday, Daniel and I attended AIC (African Inland Church) with Florence (not Dr.) and Judy. We arrived late, and as we walked in every eye was on the mzungus.   I felt like I was in a traveling circus exhibit. After a brief introduction of ourselves, the Kenyan Pastor Daniel, got up to preach. All I know is that the sermon was over Deuteronomy 28:1-8 and had something to do with blessings. I know nothing beyond that because the pastor spoke mainly in their mother tongue, Kambo. He would switch over to English for like 30 seconds, but it was more of a continuation of the sermon than an actual translation. 

After the service, we were planning on talking to the CHEs (community health evangelists) which are the people who have been trained by the TOT to go out into the community and serve. But the church had different plans. From what I could muster up from the weaving in and out of English, they were collecting additional offering so they could construct a fence that would surround the church property. And then out of nowhere, they started auctioning off items.  I was so confused, but Florence explained that the items they were selling were goods that people tithed with because they didn't have the money to give. I was so touched by the commitment they had to God. They didn't want to show up empty handed so they gave what they could. At one point, they brought a yellow bag over to sell and there was a HEAD sticking out. With an eye…blinking!!! It was a CHICKEN! Someone tithed a CHICKEN! I was so taken off guard that I started cracking up. It was so unexpected and the chicken kept bawking and hopping (its feet were bound together). I could barely control myself. 

Even though the chicken situation was funny, I realized that I have a lot to learn about trusting and depending on God from the people of Kenya. As I said before, I was so touched by the commitment to serving God by giving what they could and fully believing that God could use that chicken or papaya. If I don’t have the money for tithes one week, I just tell myself that I’ll make it up next week rather than giving what I can no matter how small the amount. I’m sure that giving that chicken, papaya, or whatever was way more of a stretch than 15 dollars or so would be for me. I keep that money so that my “needs” are met that week rather than depending and trusting in God to provide. These people literally are trusting in God’s provision daily so that they can eat, and I keep my money so that my “needs” are met while I have a pantry full of food. I have so much to learn. 

The chicken situation also got me wondering what the reaction would be at my church or any church in America if someone tithed a chicken. People would think they were crazy and they would definitely see that as “unacceptable”. I feel like the person who tithed the chicken would be seen as “poor”, “inferior”, and a charity case. Is that person poor? They may not have a lot of money, but at least they are giving what they can which is a lot more than what most of us give. They see it as shameful and disrespectful to God to show up empty-handed. God just asks us to give what we can and to trust him with it. He wants to provide for us. I’m reminded of Luke 21:1-4.

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

God teaches us lessons in the most unexpected situations. I have been very humbled by the chicken. 
Mungu akubariki! (God Bless)
-Amy

Hey! Daniel here. Just to make sure you are reading every word of this post so we decided to change writers half-way through it. As Amy mentioned early we had the opportunity of attending a church in Makueni on Sunday. It was a vast difference from the mega-churches I attend at home and away at college.  The building was nothing fancy, a simple structure without even doors or windows. But that did not catch me off guard. What surprised me was the makeup of the congregation. There were a decent number of women in the congregation, but most were elderly and none were youths. The majority of the congregation was comprised up of the elementary school children who lived at the boarding school next door. That was amazing to see, an entire school in the church. But then I looked and wondered? Where are the men? Where are the youths? Apart from the elders there might have been five men in the congregation, and there was no youth group. Not a single youth sat in the seats of the church. This is not okay.

When we sat down to talk to the leaders of the church Judy, one of the Kenyans with us, told them straight up that this must change. If there are no youths, there is no future of the church. When the parents and grandparents are dead there will be no one to sit in the seats. They had a hundred school children but a single high school student couldn’t be found. The church had failed to reach out to the youth of the community. They had failed to build bridges and invest in their lives. They had failed to raise up the next generation of church leaders. But there is hope. God can turn the state of this church around; he can use the congregation to disciple and pour into the youth of the community. This does not have to be the end of their story.

Hopefully for you and your church it never becomes a part of your story. The youth are the future of the Church. The Church is one generation away from nonexistence. Invest in the lives of the youth of your church. Support them as they seek out their own relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ. Challenge them. Listen to them. Encourage them. Pray for them. And never ever give up on them. The youth are the future of your church. They are the future of THE CHURCH.
-Daniel

Makueni - Jim & Rebecca




Rebecca: On Sunday, LIA took all the TOTs to Makueni for church. They split us up into groups of about five or six so that different churches could be visited. LIA works with eight churches in Makueni.

Jim and I were paired together, along with Keziah, Pastor Philemon, and Owen. We got to the church late due to bus problems but we thank God that we made it and were able to worship with them. I think my favorite part of service was listening to the children sing – that kind of stuff always touches my heart in a special way. And the pastor was very accommodating because he had a guy come up to translate his sermon into English for us non-Swahili speakers. Overall it was a great experience. I got to talk to some of the girls after the service and they were very sweet. Their names were super hard to pronounce but hopefully I'll see them again when we go back next week. And the church members didn't let us leave empty handed. They gave us gifts of produce which was really nice. Everyone at the church was very welcoming and hoped we'd come back.

Jim: I'd have to agree with Rebecca – my favorite part of the service was definitely when the children sang in English: “I love Jesus, He is my savior!” After the children sang, the choir sang & danced, and the pastor gave his sermon on Matthew 14, we were greeted personally by everyone in the church. The men were promptly kicked out of the building as the women had an exclusive meeting inside, and I found myself stuck amongst a crowd of silent, staring children. I tried conversing with a few of the older guys, but they didn't really respond at first. I sat down on a bench nearby and they followed, still staring and occasionally laughing to themselves (though I still can't figure out what was so hilarious); eventually, the young man who translated the sermon came and talked to me, which was an excellent relief from the staring eyes. I playfully tossed a broken stick at one of the kids and finally got a response, but just as they began opening up and laughing, our bus arrived and it was time for us to leave. It's definitely going to take some adjustment being a mzungu (white person) in this culture.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

oh Kenya...


Karibu Rafikis! So we’ve been in Kenya for a week and two days!  Bonsai says that is was our 1 week Kenya-verisary.  He’s so goofy.  We have been in TOT training for the past 5 days-TOT is “training of trainers”.  It’s the training that LIA uses to train the volunteers in the churches that serve in the communities.  Our days have been long and we’ve had a lot of information poured into our heads—I’m pretty sure we are all trying to process it.  We’ve all definitely had to remember that we are on Kenya time and to just be patient and FLEXIBLE when the schedule doesn’t go as planned.   We are training with 20ish other people from 5 African nations---so it’s like Africa-time on steroids!  Overall, we are very thankful to have the opportunity to take part in the TOT training especially with people from multiple different nations.  It’s been awesome seeing all these different cultures come together and to have a look into their worlds.  It’s cool how diverse we all are as individuals and as cultures and nations, yet we are all under the same sky.  We all serve the same Almighty God who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  We are brothers and sisters even though our worlds are so far apart—literally and figuratively. 

Anyway, we haven’t gotten out in the field yet, but spending so much time with Kenyans (9.5 hours a day) definitely taught us a lot about the Kenyan culture.  Here are some of the things we have learned so far:
  •          At least 7 different styles of clapping.  If you are like me, you probably thought there was only 1 type of clapping.  Well you are wrong—we have learned several different styles of clapping as we’ve appreciated each speaker at the end of each training session.  They have varied from starting the clap with one finger and adding a finger after 5 claps to giving “a round of applause” where you clap while moving your arms in a circle.  The Kenyans just love having fun and mixing things up from the traditional. 
  •          The Kenyan way of dining is different from our culture.  They mainly eat with their hands…I mean everything is eaten with their hands except for rice and a few other items.  In some tribes its considered rude to eat with a fork.  Our new friend Steve showed us how they ball up ugali (mashed potato looking stuff made out of corn and flour) and then they dip it in their stew or vegetables.  Also, you are considered greedy if you don’t finish the food on your plate.  So we have all been sure to finish our food so we don’t seem like greedy Americans. 
  •      Kenyans LOVE shaking hands—it’s their form of greeting and you better believe that every person in the room gets greeted.  It really speaks of how relational their culture is because no one gets overlooked.  But I’ve learned at least 5 different handshakes or fist bumps. 
  •      Kenyans speak at least two languages.  They definitely put us Americans to shame in the language department.  While a majority of us only speak English and rely on the fact that a majority of the world speaks English—Kenyans speak their mother (tribal) tongue, Swahili, and English.  The best part about this is Bonsai’s joke that he tells EVERYONE he meets that’s not American.  The joke goes:

“What do you call someone who speaks 3 or more languages?” “Multilingual”; “What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages?” “Bilingual”; “What do you call someone who only speaks one language?” “An American!”      
Hahahahahahaha he has told that joke to every person in our TOT training which is like 30 people, every LIA staff he’s met, and some people from Holland.  It’s his token joke and I crack up every time I hear him ask someone if they want to hear a joke.
  •      Kenyan Christians believe in the power of prayer!  Man, can these brothers and sisters pray.  I’ve been so inspired and impressed by their prayer life.  They pray before and after every session and before every meal or tea time.  I just love how they surrender EVERY thing into God’s hands. 

And there ya have it folks…it’s definitely been an adjustment to culture, but the transition has been smooth and interesting.  God has been so good to us as we’ve settled down into a new culture and adjusted to living with 7 other people (Mi2s plus our Sudanese roommate and Egyptian roommate).  I’m excited to wrap training up next week and to get some hands on experience in the communities where LIA works. 

Tomorrow we will be taking a day trip to Makueni which is a county that LIA serves in with 5 partner churches.  We will be going to attend church and to learn a bit from the pastors, the TOTs, and the CHEs (community health evangelists) so that we can see real life application to better understand all that we have been learning in TOT training this past week. 

So how can you pray for us?
·         Team Unity: It’s been great so far, but we are not na├»ve to the fact that we will have conflict so just pray that even in conflict we can be united and strengthened as a result.  Also, as we start engaging in ministry in the next week or so the enemy will try to divide us, so pray that we will be a firm support for each other and that our bonds will stay strong by the power and grace of God.
·         Spirit reliance and Spirit led:  We will be engaging in more ministry activities within the next week so please pray that we will be fully led the Holy Spirit in action and in deed. 
·         Time for prayer:  We have been having such long days and having so much information poured into us that when we get home we either want to sleep or just hang out with each other.  I know that I’ve struggled with disciplining myself to spend time with my Father and I feel like we are all struggling with that to a degree.  So just pray that we are hungry and desperate for his presence and that we can discipline ourselves.  
   Thanks so much for all your prayers, love, and support! We appreciate you all and love you! -Amy!
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