Meet Silas…

We met Silas pretty much on day one when we moved to the village here in Kenya. He owns a shop just across the street from our house, where he lives and works with his wife, daughter, and newborn baby son.

Though we didn’t know it from the moment we met, Silas was eventually identified as that “man of peace” that would be instrumental in expanding the Kingdom of God in our community.

2014-06-24 17.24.31Recently, we helped Silas to purchase a piki piki (motorbike), in hopes that a fledgling business as a boda boda (driver) would help provide more comfortably for their family so that Silas would be more free to invest his time “on the mission.” Most recently, he coordinated many of the brothers (under the direction of Charlton Sweazy) to construct a home for a widow in our fellowship. He also regularly shares the Gospel of the Kingdom with visitors to his little shop, runs patients to the local clinic under Wanda’s direction, and visits satellite fellowships that are still in need of teaching and discipleship. If there’s anything to be done, not only do we trust Silas to do it, but he is always willing.

If Silas has a fault, it’s his memory. Rumor has it he suffered a head injury as a youth and was never the same (though we’ve never confirmed that to be true). In any case, he often confuses the English words “remember” and “forget” and he’s always “remembering” something–which is really “forgetting.” So when you call him to pick you up on his piki piki, he sometimes gets distracted and then “forgets to remember,” or “remembers to forget.” In other words, multiple phone calls by way of reminder are often necessary. And sometimes he shows up at the door and, after greeting and small talk, when asked if he needs something, he may stand there with a dazed look for several minutes before, with a shake of his head, he says, “Oh, yes!” and then proceeds with the reason for his visit.

We love Silas!

Riding on the piki today behind Silas, on my way to a women’s meeting, reminded me just why someone like Silas is such a gem. For starters, let me compare him with many other drivers at the boda boda “stage” in town (the place where you can hire a driver from a sea of motorbikes). Many of them are drunkards (not necessarily abstaining in order to pursue a living as a driver). Some are just plain rude and crude. Then there are those who lack not only a desire for safety but common sense as well. Couple that with dirt roads where potholes are the rule rather than the exception, impromptu speed bumps pop up unexpectedly, and pikis share the road with animals, pedestrians, bicycles, the occasional car, and other unsafe pikis often driving at high speeds, and a ride into town (or even a couple kilometers to a women’s meeting) can be downright scary.

I meditated on this as I rode peacefully on the back of Silas’s motorbike this morning. Needless to say, Silas is as straight-laced as they come. He drives at a moderate speed and even slows down for speed bumps so I don’t fly up off the seat. I smiled when we came upon a little girl, maybe a year old, sitting in a little pothole in the dirt path we were driving on. I wondered what Silas was doing as he stopped and beeped his horn, since the house we were at wasn’t our final destination. Turns out he just wanted to get the attention of the girl’s mother, who was busy doing her wash in the courtyard.  They had a short conversation, and then Silas said to me, “Yeah, many drivers they go too fast and they might not see her.” True enough!

I called him to come pick me up as I thought our meeting was wrapping up, since for him it was about a 15-minute ride and I didn’t really want to wait around. However, as it turns out, our closing prayer time went on longer than I thought it would and, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Silas pull up on the path outside before we finished. He ended up sitting there for about 10 minutes and I wondered what was going on when I saw him turn around and disappear down the path the same way he had come. To my amusement, when I exited the house I found him giving one of the neighborhood little tykes (about 2 years old, maybe) a spin on his piki, safely situated on the gas tank in front of him. Needless to say, the boy was smiling from ear to ear.

I apologized for making him wait and said,”Those Mamas prayed long today!” To which he simply laughed and said, “Yeah, it’s like that.” (That’s one of Silas’s favorite phrases, which he uses liberally and sometimes in a way totally unrelated to the conversation.)

To my surprise, one of the Mamas from the meeting begged a ride home, since it was on our way. Without missing a beat, I got squashed between her and Silas like a mzungu sandwich. Ordinarily, having a piki driver practically in my lap would make me uncomfortable, but knowing that it also  made Silas uncomfortable actually made me feel better. I noticed that he scooted up on the gas tank as far as he possibly could to create more space for me. ;)

So now you’ve met Silas and gone with me a  morning errand on the back of his piki. …”It’s like that.”

Some of us are Normal

I know that many people don’t “get” homeschooling. We’re not a majority, so it seems we constantly have to prove ourselves. I’ve been guilty of singing the praises of homeschooling, while minimizing the difficulties, occasional blunders, and frequent uncertainties. But I still cringe when I read news articles and blogs talking about how homeschoolers out-perform their public school counterparts on tests of all kinds. And what about those who play musical instruments practically from the womb, or shine like stars in the universe as they go out boldly into the community and earn friends of all ages for themselves?

Certainly, many homeschoolers excel in this nurturing environment and are able to develop in their personal giftings to an extent that they could not in a public school environment. Many are also well-socialized, despite the stereotypes that try to portray otherwise. I’m happy for them, but what if some of us homeschoolers are just…normal? (Like many public-schooled children are…normal.) After years of homeschooling, and speaking on the homeschool circuit for several years, I can honestly say that many homeschoolers probably feel that they have to justify their methods and “results” to fellow homeschoolers more than they do to outside critics.

Our oldest son gets a lot of attention here in Africa. He’s just shy of 15, but he can repair phones, do electrical and plumbing work, fix motorbikes, and more. He’s always been more comfortable around adults than other children. Probably part and parcel of being the oldest child who got the most focused attention. That, and his particular personality and intelligence. I wouldn’t say that he can do what he does *just* because we homeschool. Truth is, we homeschool seven other children as well, and the others don’t show these same aptitudes and abilities. Does that mean our homeschooling is not successful? NO. It just means that God made each of our children differently and has individual plans for their lives.

None of our children play a musical instrument (except one, who is self-taught and  picks up the guitar only occasionally). Some can barely hold a note in song. While a couple of them are interested in art and pretty good at drawing, we haven’t really done much to hone those skills. Our oldest girls can cook and sew, but only to a certain level of functionality. You won’t find them whipping up four-course meals or sewing Victorian-era dresses; instead, they’re making spaghetti with an awesome homemade sauce and attacking our never-ending mending pile. We’re living in a foreign country and trying to learn a second language, but it’s been a slow and not very pleasant process over all. One of the kids loves animals and would spend all day catching critters and learning about them, but confesses that he doesn’t see much career opportunity in doing so.

And when it comes to that socialization? Some of the kids are pretty good at it, and others are still “works in progress.” However, I don’t think that’s based on the fact that we homeschool, but rather is largely a function of personality. Would they do better in public school? I think it would be detrimental to their progress in social development, rather than helpful. Instead, homeschooling allows me to see areas where my children need to grow, and enables me to work those lessons into daily life. It’s a slow-and-steady process, but we persevere.

As an aside, I also cringe when I read or hear teachings about how the teenage years are (or should be) a “myth” for the Christian homeschooler. We’re going to have two teenagers in our family all too soon, and I can tell you that growth spurts (and the accompanying tiredness), hormones, and emotions at this age are all too real. Many Christian parents have done their very best through this stage and have “lost” their children to the world. I don’t think we need any more guilt (albeit well-meaning) as we navigate this already-difficult phase of life.

In the final analysis, our homeschooling family is pretty average. However, we’re not after academic success or worldly accolades. Ultimately, we want to raise children who love God with all their hearts and who love their neighbors as themselves.  But even in their spiritual growth, our children are probably pretty “normal” for their various ages and stages. Some are not regenerated, and we’re just trying to teach them habits of obedience and good behavior. Others are seeking to please God but occasionally struggle with the flesh and have questions about what we’ve taught them and try to live out. I don’t know how our journey is going to end, but I trust God. And I’m okay with being pretty normal.

The Hidden Enemy: High Expectations

It’s innocent enough: “What’s for lunch?”

“Rice.”

Oh.”

After this same exchange with four children in a space of about five minutes (possibly including a couple of eye-rolls and a sigh or two–not from me), I start thinking to myself. They used to really like rice. I could make six cups of rice and they’d ask for more. Today I’m making three and there’ll probably be left-overs. Their appetites just prefer all the things they enjoy. Why can’t they be grateful with what God gives us? Are they ever going to learn contentment? They don’t think about our neighbors here…for most of them, rice is an indulgence. And they don’t even put margarine and salt on it!

Suddenly when the fifth child asks, “What’s for lunch?” my answer comes in an irritated tone. When the sixth child asks, I respond, “Rice! Let’s just be thankful, okay?,” which is usually enough to send the confused child back to wherever he/she came from.

It’s amazing how I can over-think a situation.  Often, my assessments are correct, but I’ll admit that I have a tendency to over-react. After going through scenarios like this more times than I can count, I’ve realized something: I have high expectations. So often I expect my children to behave like little adults. To respond like I would in a given situation. To remember and do everything we have taught, trained, and encouraged them to do. To apply Biblical wisdom to their life situations, even if their immature minds still don’t necessarily have the experience to do so. And when they fail? I’ve been known to nag. Criticize. Correct unfairly. Over-do the discussion (lecture?)

Sigh.

Aware of my own deficiencies and the potential consequences in my relationships with my children, I’ve been working on it for some time now. Slowly and steadily making improvements and not taking things so seriously. Expecting my children to be foolish (the Bible says they will be). Not making too big a deal of it when a new visitor comes and three of the girls scurry around the corner, giggling, to avoid greeting him (despite how we have tried to train and encourage them to exhibit good manners…without prompting). I’m learning to shut my mouth during conversations and let my children share their thoughts and experiences without putting  in my two cents before they’ve even finished.

The other day I had an email conversation with a dear sister in Christ that confirmed that I need to continue this battle against my high expectations, because they are indeed a hidden enemy. And the stakes are high. I want to share her experience with you–truly, an older woman who is reaching out to teach younger women how to love their children (see Titus 2:4).

She is at the stage where she is watching her children, now fledgling adults, make some decisions she wishes they did not make. There is distance in their relationships, so her influence is limited. She is praying fervently and trusting God to work all things for good. And though she doesn’t say it, she’s hurting.

This dear woman has a vibrant walk with the Lord. She’s tried to live a sincere and authentic walk with the Lord before her children. And here, near the end, she wonders, What could I have done differently?

And here’s what she was kind enough to share with me, very honestly and transparently: she could have lowered her expectations.

My thoughts wander after reading her email. It’s evident that she’s realized (and her near-grown children have even told her) that it’s been difficult to be people different than she is, and different than she expects them to be. Somehow, they’ve felt like they could never measure up. Maybe, due to their discouragement, it was easier to stop trying. I imagine myself in her place. I wonder if the children grew tired of being over-corrected, of having their attempts at individuality overly stifled, of being expected to “perform” to a level that perhaps they’ve not been capable of. So over time, they’ve grown quiet. Distant. Independent.

She prays.

And today I pray that for me and my children, that these efforts I’ve made to change myself and alter my expectations (and responses) will have been made in enough time to make a difference in their lives, and in their walks with the Lord. I pray that the experience of my friend, and other Moms like her, will reach other young Moms in enough time that they will surrender their high and false expectations and live in the reality of the everyday. No matter how things look, we must love, we must serve, we must persevere. Most important, we must trust God to do what we cannot in the hearts of our children, and to take the meager offering of our mothering and make a masterpiece of it.

 

 

 

On Feeling Like an “Outsider”

Recently we got a chance to visit with a fellow missionary family here in the Kitale area, which was a great blessing. During the course of our  conversation, I was asked if (now that we have been here in Kenya for almost two years), we feel like we have really “integrated” into the community here. My answer was mostly no, but I’ve been thinking about the subject off and on ever since.

In one sense, I think we have integrated as much as we possibly can. Local children no longer chase after us yelling, “Mzungu, Mzungu, how are you?” everywhere we go. Our children are no longer harassed by constant attention (stares, poking, prodding, and pushing) when they are out and about in the neighborhood. I am blessed to see our yard full of smiling and laughing brown faces in addition to the eight white faces of our children on most afternoons. Even better, I like to hear the back-and-forth conversation in Swahili as the children play. Even Enoch (age 2) has picked up an impressive little vocabulary. I laugh when he asks his friend Nila, “Taco nini?“. What he really means is, “Unataka nini?” or, “What do you want?” but of course he’s only two…and he doesn’t understand that everyone is giggling at him not just because he’s adorable, but because taco is a bit of a crude word in Swahili.

Crowds of kids no longer line up along our fence and stare for hours on end; it’s only during school vacations when children visit from farther-away places that we can’t name each and every one of our little guests.  And we no longer welcome a seemingly unending stream of adult visitors who are trying to figure us out. Most people know who we are and why we are here.

Hosting a home fellowship is a small part of our “mission” here, and it’s really just a means of showing people how it’s done so that more local home fellowships will be birthed; we have little interest in spear-heading a mzungu-centric “church.” Our first attempt at house-churching attracted way too much attention–too many people, all committed to other local churches and not coming out of much beyond curiosity–or a desire to garner the favor of the wazungu. But even that has changed; now the majority of folks come for the purposes of fellowship and discipleship and we rarely have visitors  who don’t sincerely want to know more about the Gospel of the Kingdom and what it means to live as a follower of Christ. So even in that regard, I feel a much greater sense of acceptance and effectiveness.

We have different ways of doing things, all oddities to our neighbors and the subject of much conversation at first: we don’t really like ugali; we homeschool; we don’t really believe (as most people here seem to) that it takes a village to raise a child and children should be seen and not heard; we are certainly more technologically advanced than most folks around here; and of course, we have a larger house and more possessions than almost everyone we know. All these differences have, for the most part, been slowly accepted as a part of who we are and, though we are obviously different, we’re no longer viewed as “outsiders,” as much as we were at first. We’ve been welcomed, accepted, and, as much as is possible, integrated into our community.

On the other hand, there are ways in which I don’t think we can ever really integrate. Learning Swahili has been a struggle and, though most of us can follow a simple conversation and make small talk, it will be a long time before we’re fluent enough to hold a meaningful conversation. This is particularly difficult when it comes to ministry and fellowship/discipleship. Relying on translation is a necessary discomfort for me; I know I am missing out on so much in the development of relationships and greatly wish that there was better integration in that regard. We would be much more effective for the Kingdom if circumstances were different but I trust that God can work through us even with our limitations.

As well, there is  much that we cannot culturally comprehend, as we have a very Western mind-set and and ingrained lifestyle that is very different from what is normal here. We’ve learned, and continue to learn, much about communication, realities of life here, and ways of doing things; but without first-hand experience we often find ourselves, by default, on the “outside.” I don’t know if we can ever really overcome these differences, any more than we will cease to be an oddity simply because of the whiteness of our skin.

But in spite of the awkwardness and the discomfort that are the inevitable outcome of so many meetings and conversations, I have hope. I know that God can use us in spite of our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). I trust that it is His work that is being done and that there is much more being accomplished than what I can see with my own eyes. And I understand more and more what it means to be “in the world but not of the world” (for example, John 15:19).  Hebrews 11 speaks of those who walk in faith as people who confess to being “strangers and exiles on the earth,” and the Apostle Peter urges us to live as examples to those around us, because we are “aliens and strangers” here. Feeling, in some ways, not totally integrated into our community here, just reminds me of how God wants me to view my citizenship here on earth. In many ways, a certain level of discomfort is good. The seemingly unending self-assessment that we go through as a result of the many cultural differences is equally beneficial.

Truthfully, sometimes I feel like it would be easier to go back to America–where we fit in better, and where relationships would be more natural and more effective for discipleship. I don’t think we will ever totally “integrate” here, but maybe we aren’t meant to. We’re being stretched, we’re growing, and we will accomplish whatever is God’s will for us to accomplish while we are here.  As with everything, we trust that God is working all things for good and for His glory.

What’s New, with Pictures

This week I got an email from my sweet sister, wondering why I haven’t written her in a while. She’s worried because she hasn’t heard from me! I had to assure her, I just haven’t emailed because really, life has been quite ordinary. (Notice I didn’t say, “Normal.”)  Since our “ordinary” doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like blogging,  as I was downloading our precious few photos from the camera (haven’t kept up with picture-taking, either) , I figured I’d update the blog with a few pics.

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Apparently my fame as a cake-maker has spread far and wide after the wedding of Charles and Ester at our house. A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors asked if I could make cakes for a Catholic wedding, a local man and woman who have been living as “married” (and have two young children) but have recently become a part of the church and wanted to make their union “official.” The larger cake was for all the guests to eat and the two smaller cakes were for the priest and for the bride and groom. I’ve never been a professional when it comes to cake decoration, and doing the work without good tools at my disposal is even more of a challenge (I did the writing with a syringe filled with frosting!), but everyone was happy with the effort. IMGA0811

And I don’t think you’ve been introduced to our Kitty. She is her Daddy’s girl and almost always comes to sleep next to him at night. Enoch terrorizes her (along with our other cat, Tiger). During the day she often trolls around looking for food and can be very sneaky in getting her share. Her favorites are meat and milk. When the boys came back from market the other day with a kilo of beef for supper, Kitty sniffed it out and perched herself on top of the backpack in an effort to claim it for her own dinner. Of course, we easily thwarted her attempt and put the beef safely in the kitchen drawer until it could be prepared.

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Speaking of Tiger, he and Kitty tend to be very patient with Enoch’s love of them, I think because he also feeds them during meal times. Here’s a photo of Enoch sharing his breakfast mandazi under the table:IMGA0816

Oh, but wait! He’s still hungry himself…

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Finally, here’s a recent shot of Jubilee, our 4 year-old, wearing her kitambaa “the Auntie Jane way.” (Auntie Jane is our neighbor and she always ties her kitambaa this way, which is different from how I do mine, but it looks cute on Jubie!) True to her name, Jubilee is usually all smiles (when she’s not stubbornly insisting upon getting her own way, particularly with her 6 year-old and 2 year-old brothers).

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Those are all my recent pictures, and some of the more ordinary happenings of our every day. God is good, all the time!

“You Eat What You Carry”

Marc was in Bidii today, visiting the church there. Sam led our fellowship and taught on God’s provision, which comes because of His faithfulness but depends on our right-standing with Him and our diligence in labor. I can’t do justice to the teaching, but he ended by sharing a story that his own mother had often told him:

Once there was a family of many children; I don’t know how many. But all the children were obedient to their father–all except one. This son, when his father said,” Let us go here,” would say, “Oh, I feel like going there.” When told it was time to sleep, he would say, “I am just feeling like doing some work!”

It came time for the family to have to move away from their home and take a long journey. Each child was given a bundle to carry as they walked. Partway through the trip, they entered a valley. Father instructed each child to pick up a rock “of a good size” and bring it with them to their destination. All the children did so, except for the complaining son. He chose a small stone and, when his father reminded him of the instruction, replied, “Am I not carrying a stone, Father?” And so they went on their way.

As night fell, they stopped to rest. Father told the children to set their stones by their sleeping places. Each one turned into bread of the same size as the stone! The children all ate their fill, though the complaining son went to bed with a rather empty belly. The father told his children, “You eat what you carry.”

They resumed their trip the next day. The father, wishing to test his complaining son, again gave the children the same command as the previous day. Again, they all picked up stones. The complaining son deliberately looked for the largest stone he could find, and carried it without murmuring. The father, who actually had no purpose for the stones, several hours later instructed them to leave the rocks behind and press on in their journey. Though the children did not understand the father’s intent, they obeyed.

This was one of two stories that Sam told, which all the children loved and were eager to re-tell to Marc when he arrived home from Bidii. Stories are a powerful means of illustrating Biblical truths, and I particularly enjoyed this one! It is interesting to hear different men in our fellowship teach, sharing what God puts on their hearts.

When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

1 Corinthians 14:26

Prince Charming

I know, every mother thinks her baby is the cutest, the sweetest, the most precocious. Our Enoch, having just turned two, is at that stage where his baby-isms have won the hearts of  everyone in the family. We’re always sharing little stories of “what Enoch just did” and laughing about his antics and ways of saying things. But he hasn’t just charmed us…it has become more and more obvious to me that many in our little village are quite taken with him.

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Enoch hamming it up with his big brother

Enoch regularly goes across the street to Silas’s shop with one of his older siblings to fetch morning’s milk and other needed items. Mama Sharon (Silas’s wife) often sends him on his way with a “sweet” or an extra mandazi. When Silas was visiting the other day, he chuckled as he told Isaiah about how Enoch came for milk while Mama Sharon was still asleep in their little room off the shop. Apparently Enoch, who knows which side his bread is buttered on, wanted to find Mama Sharon, so he toddled into the bedroom and touched Mama Sharon’s face. When she didn’t respond, he simply pulled back the covers and climbed into bed with her! Eventually she got up and went into the shop to get him his treat for the day.

Yesterday when our home fellowship met, I was saying good-bye to an older Mama who has just begun visiting with us. She speaks no English, so we haven’t gotten much beyond greetings and small talk. However, she shook my hand and then offered a hand to Enoch, whom I was holding. Surprisingly, she greeted him by name, and in response to her “habari” salutation (generally, “How are you doing?”), he properly responded, “Mzuri!” (“Fine!”) Her pleasure was more than evident, and she went on her way with a smile.

Florence couldn’t wait to take Enoch from me after our morning’s fellowship time. She asked to bring Enoch to her place, where (as I heard reported from the other littles) she washed his face, hands, and feet, then gave him some chai and a sweet. While there, he also got carried around by his favored Marie (Florence’s daughter, who is 13). Whenever Marie comes over to play, she more often than not has Enoch on her hip or is pushing him in the swing.

Many mornings as we begin our day, the neighborhood children come down the path on their way to school. If Enoch chances to be outside, he greets everyone by name: “Eh, Marie!”, “Eh, Dori!”, “Eh, Rosie!” And of course, they respond with giggles as they continue on their way.  (Marc and I were discussing the other day how multipurpose, “Eh” is. Depending on the inflection, the length of the syllable, and the accompanying facial expression or body language, it has a range of meanings. It is used to convey greeting, make general acknowledgement, or express surprise, indignation, and uncertainty, or even impart correction. I could probably write a whole post about, “Eh!” But I digress.)

Enoch also loves our neighbor, Mama Manu, who comes nearly every day to do wash. He is eager to “help” her and show her things he is doing, and his antics often, of course, make her smile. Her daughter, Nila (eight months younger than Enoch, but the same size) is his favorite friend. When she comes with Mama Manu, Enoch drapes his arm around her neck, tries to hug her, and gives her his books and toys to play with. Unfortunately, when she doesn’t respond to his gestures, he’s also been known to hit her with whatever book or implement he is trying to offer her. We’re working on that. Even so, Mama Manu is often found shaking her head over Enoch and I frequently hear her say, “Enoch, you are funny!” She even knows how to translate many of his Enoch-isms, which sometimes are English, sometimes Swahili, often a mix, and rarely perfectly enunciated.

But by far, Enoch’s favorite is our neighbor, Auntie Jane. Enoch is potty training, and these days he’s often found walking around without pants. I try to keep him in a long shirt, for modesty’s sake, but sometimes, his wardrobe is limited and we just go with the flow. I try to keep him in the house if he’s not presentable, but whenever Auntie Jane walks by outside, she usually shouts, “Wapi Enoch?” (“Where is Enoch?”) and of course, wherever he  is, he RUNS to the gate to greet her. And she always obliges by picking him up and greeting him (even if he is pants-less), and talking to him about whatever she is doing. When she comes to the house to visit, she often ends up engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with Enoch, who positions himself under the table or around the corner and asks, “Wapi me, Aunt Jane?” He regularly gets picked up to go over to Auntie Jane’s house, where she or Nyanya (“Grandmother”) make him chai or roast him some maize, one of his favorite treats.

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Enoch and Auntie Jane in the early days of their friendship. Even at 10 months, he wasn’t too young to enjoy molasses candy after she came back from the market.

Indeed, children are a blessing from the Lord. Watching Enoch thrive here in Kenya is just one more reminder of how fast these days fly by and how thankful we need to be for the way each one fills a special place in the family, and in our larger community.

 

More than “church”

Being part of the Body of Christ means more than just meeting Sunday-to-Sunday. We’ve long known that, experienced it in our home fellowship in America, and have only prayed for it here. It has been greatly encouraging to see our little fellowship flourish during our Sunday meetings…but this past week, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work, enabling all of the brothers and sisters here to function as a true body of believers. Unfortunately, it took some trials and struggles for everyone to see it, but God is just that good–even when bad things happen.

For example, it came to Silas’s attention that Patrice has been going to stay at a neighbor’s house every time it rains (and that’s a lot during our current “rainy season!”) But Patrice has had health issues and lack of work which made it financially impossible for him to repair the thatch. He finally came into some work and Silas took charge with some “tough love” (because apparently he knows that Patrice isn’t always wise with his money).  He commandeered Patrice’s earnings, put his punda (donkeys) and cart to work, and went to town with Patrice to buy some iron sheets. Henry, our neighbor, got involved, and eventually a plan was made to not only re-roof but re-build Patrice’s house. Of course, Marc got involved, buying nails and bringing his tools so that the convening group (which included Patrice’s unbelieving family members) could all pitch in and help. (You can see some of the photos on Marc’s Facebook.)

Sam lives in the center of our village, where the road is going to be widened and many shops are threatened with extinction, including his. The day came this week when action was forced; Sam needed to demolish his shop and so did many of his neighbors. Isaiah got his schoolwork done in record time early one morning so that he could bring all of our tools to town and help out as many people as possible. (Of course, doesn’t every young man long for the opportunity to demolish stuff?) He and Sam worked together on his shop and one other before illness got to Isaiah. He’d been feeling a little under-the-weather in the morning and by noon couldn’t do any more, so he unfortunately had to come home. But, according to Sam’s testimony at church this week, not before a surprised crowd of piki drivers and other bystanders and all noted that the mzungy had come to help, free of charge. Apparently, it caused quite a stir. We pray it would be a testimony to God’s glory!

On Friday afternoon, Isaiah had just crossed the road to go visit Silas at his shop when he heard that Charles and Ester’s son, Benja, had been hit by a piki. (Benja is only 6 and a frequent playmate of our kids.) The driver immediately brought Benja to the hospital and came back for Charles, who was working right next door building the Sweazy’s house. Isaiah called me and asked if he could follow with Silas, so they came and got Marc’s motorbike and some money (just in case it was needed). I convened the children and we all sat down to pray. Amazingly, the piki driver stayed until treatment was finished and paid the bill himself (this is highly unusual for Kenya). We praised God for that provision, and for the unity of the body in response to the emergency. We also are thankful for answered prayer, as Benja lost a tooth or two (which are still baby teeth, anyway) and suffered no more than a very fat lip and a couple of other bumps and bruises.

Not more than hours later, Ester herself fell ill in the middle of the night. She asked her oldest daughter and a neighbor to get Pastor Masika (Henry) because Charles was at work (he is a night watchman). In her testimony today, she related that she was shivering violently and unable to walk. She had severe shortness of breath such that she could barely talk. Henry spent quite some time with her praying, and Ester reports that she felt a great relief of burden as a result. After he left, she was able to sleep in peace. However, the next morning, the symptoms returned. Getting her to the hospital was a cooperative effort, as there isn’t much available at 6:30 AM and when Charles and Silas tried to put her on a piki they found it impossible, since she had no motor ability whatsoever. To get from her bed to the door, she had crawled on hands and knees. Marc called a contact in town who had a car, but due to the road-widening it was unable to be moved. He then called Sam and asked him to go to the stage (where cars and bikes convene, waiting for passengers), and ask one of the cars to come pick up Ester. He was on his way, but before he completed the errand Silas ended up hailing a car that was driving by and was willing to bring them to the hospital. Funding was provided to meet the emergency, Marc put out a prayer request on FB (to which many international brothers and sisters responded), and we prayed as a family. When they arrived at the hospital, Ester was given an injection (not sure of what) and she says after a very short time she began feeling healed. The doctors could find no physical explanation for her serious illness, so they simply sent her home. And she came to church praising God this morning! We trust that her “mysterious” healing was the work of God, and give Him thanks!

Seeing the unity of the brothers and sisters here is just awesome. Each person is contributing to the needs according to their gifts and abilities, anxious to take part in the Body of Christ in love and service. One day this week, for example, Silas and Patrice came to cut and stack the remainder of our maize harvest, since Marc’s schedule was pretty full with travel and teaching. Patrice also happily stopped over here a couple of times (after a full day’s work on the Sweazy house) to fix some maize stands that had fallen. It has been a great joy to see, and participate in, what God is doing through Kingdom community in Kenya.

Sunday: Home Fellowship and Baby Dedication

On Sunday a small group met at our home for fellowship. We’re “supposed to” convene at 8 AM, since some folks still go to other church services later in the day but of course, THIS IS AFRICA. We finally got started at almost 9:00. Even so, our time together was a blessing.

We’ve tried to open our home for fellowship before, but at the time we were still the new wazungu in the community, so it was far from being true ekklesia–we attracted lots of folks interested in seeing us and our home, and having chai and something to eat. It didn’t take long before we abandoned that and started building relationships and focusing on disicpleship. We then began to meet with a very small group for a meal and mutual encouragement on Saturday evenings. That morphed into a more “open” service on Sunday morning, which includes committed followers of Christ as well as serious seekers (one of whom was baptized after meeting with Marc for most of last Sunday after our fellowship time).

This group, meeting now for a couple of months, has really been a blessing to us. Far from being the wazungu-centered gathering that it was initially, there is lots of interaction and participation. Our neighbor, Henry, pastor at a local church, usually opens us in prayer and filled in with a teaching a couple of weeks ago when Marc was away.  Sam and Patrice offer a welcome, encourage testimonies and praise reports, and ask for prayer requests. They also share short teachings or encouragement from the Scriptures. One will share in Swahili, and the other translate into English. They do this pretty seamlessly now, whereas at first there was a lot of whispered communication and fumbling for “what next.” Florence is a gifted singer and almost always leads us in a song of worship at just the right times. All the children who come are learning to listen quietly and be respectful of our time together.

Our time of testimonies is a special blessing to me, as I love to hear what God is doing in folks’ lives. Last week, Ester, a relatively young believer who had been very sick over the previous week, shared a testimony that still makes me smile when I think of it. (You may remember that Charles and Ester were recently married at our house.)  She said something like, “Last week satan was trying to push me down. I was sick and discouraged and I knew I needed to pray. Nobody taught me how to pray, but I learned! And now God has delivered me, and I feel like singing!” And she proceeded to lead us in a very exuberant song, with a beautiful smile and an absolute glow about her face. God is good!

After our fellowship time this week, Marc and I were slated to attend a baby dedication ceremony at the home of a neighbor, one I met through the Department of Public Health during our recent children’s clinic. We were told it would begin at 1:00, but then Rose (who was going with us) said it wasn’t “really” until 2:00. She was supposed to pick us up but by the start-time still hadn’t arrived and wasn’t answering her phone. We knew the location wasn’t far but weren’t exactly sure where we were going. Hating to be late, we decided to wing it and ask around. Fortunately, Silas was coming in just as we were going out and he commandeered a child escort to take us to our destination. (Silas has been drying his maize on our lawn and wanted to get it re-bagged before the afternoon rain, otherwise I’m sure he would have gone with us himself.)

So we arrived at the dedication on “African time,” which was great because we got to slip into some unobtrusive seats in the back row. (There were rows of narrow benches set under a tarp, which was just a bunch of burlap sacks sewed together.) But not for long. Once the organizers realized we had arrived, we got escorted  right to the VIP seating in front. I understood about 1/4 of what the Master of Ceremonies was saying, which I thought was pretty good. The speeches were all peppered with a whole lot of Bwana asifiwe (“Praise the Lord”). About midway through the celebration, just as the baby (Simon Peter) made his appearance at the front (though “appearance” is a relative term, since he was abundantly swaddled in about three blankets), it started to rain. Hard. We were at the edge of the tent and needed to push our chairs in a little to avoid getting wet. However, there were holes in the burlap sacks and, though we tried to maneuver around them, there was no safe location. Eventually a big gusts of wind threatened the stability of the tent at various locations, so men scurried around with sticks and tried to prop it up. Others got more burlap sacks and tried to cover the audio equipment, as it was large enough of a gathering to require microphone and speaker.

It wasn’t long before everyone realized that we’d need to move indoors. Transporting a group that size, plus equipment and seating, in driving rain, was very interesting.  About 120 of us stood crammed into a room approximately 14′x16′ feet, with a small path through which the benches were brought in and re-arranged. Somehow we fit enough in that everyone could sit down. Everyone was amazingly adaptable to the change in plans, the slight discomfort, and the fact that nearly all the guests were wet. There was even good humor about the few times that the host’s pigeons (also flying around inside due to the rain) perched atop some of the guests’ heads.

The dedication included prayers, gift-giving, lots of wimbo (song), and the interesting tradition of passing the little baby around, to be held by every guest in attendance. Marc tried to get a picture/video of this, as it was a very happy event with lots of singing, but unfortunately there was no lighting in the house (save what came in through the open door), so photo ops were limited.

Most were excused after the formalities, but the “VIPs” stayed behind in the house. With just a bit more re-arranging of furniture, we were served chai, rice (from a 5-gallon pail) and beans, mandazi and chapati.

The walk home was fun, as many locations in our narrow path had been flooded out, but we were just in time for dinner. Thankfully, I had made a small batch of granola earlier in the day (intended for the next day’s breakfast), but it and some bananas made a good supper, since I didn’t really have time to prepare much else.

After a day like this Sunday, we can’t help but be thankful for the continually developing relationships within our community, and for what God is doing. Bwana asifiwe!

Just Another Day

Yesterday Silas decided that we needed to board his new punda (donkeys) for the night, since he was out late with them and didn’t have time to bring them all the way to his own shamba. It made for an interesting night, as our new visitors attracted several wild dogs, who barked back and forth over the fence with our dog for quite a long time. (Or maybe it just seemed like a long time because I wanted to be sleeping and wasn’t.)

For some reason I ended up getting up much earlier than I wanted (not quite 6:00) and went into the kitchen to make my coffee. Unfortunately, we were out, so I settled for making myself hot chocolate. I sat down for some quiet time, then Jubilee (age 4, almost always the first one up) joined me on the couch. We went into the kitchen and started preparing a pineapple, scrambling some eggs, and putting bread in the oven for toast. Marc was up early, too, and he was going off to teach his weekly Kingdom Discipleship class, so I wanted to get breakfast ready in time for him to leave.

Deborah and Enoch went off to Silas’s shop to get our morning milk for tea, Marc and some of the kids went out chain the dog, open up the chicken coop, and get all the critters fed. Rebekah set the table, and (as is typical) Silas showed up just as breakfast hit the table. Even though it is our regular house-cleaning day (when most everything around the house gets done), Isaiah talked me into letting him go with Silas to run the punda on an errand. I asked how long he’d be gone (“an hour,” which in Africa is probably more like three) and gave him permission to go, provided he’d be ready to work at home when he returned. He put his scrambled eggs in a bag and ran down the path after the donkeys and cart.

The rest of us ate, cleaned up the mess, and sat down for morning devotions. After our family time, I mobilized the troops for work: Jonah and Rebekah cleared out the sitting room to wash the floor, Deborah stacked the dining chairs and prepared to do the floor in our eat-in area, Hannah started on the bathroom, and Micah and Jubilee tag-teamed on the dishes. I brought our small throw-rugs from the doorways outside and washed them, then brought out the large living room rug to beat and wash (using Isiaah’s pressure washer, of course!).  While I was outside, our neighbor (“Auntie Jane”) passed by and Enoch caught up with her at the gate. He LOVES Auntie Jane and he always makes her smile–especially now that he’s started saying her name (though more like, “Ah Jay!”) and asking, “Me go Ah Jay?” So of course he asked to go with her and she happily obliged. I figured he’d end up having chai with Nya Nya (“Grandmother,” Jane’s mother), and it would give me some good time to work without constantly looking around to see what the little man was up to.

Once I came in the floors all looked clean and dry, so I had the kids put everything back where it belonged and put several of them to work again on clearing out the veranda for a sweep and wash. Isaiah showed up and I had him empty out the kitchen so I could wash the floor in there (but keep in mind, clean is relative here in Kenya!). I started making some dough for mandazi (sort of a non-sweet donut that is commonly eaten for breakfast here). I needed to make a big batch for our house church meeting tomorrow morning. We used to have a fellowship meal on Saturday nights, but recently switched to early morning chai and mandazi on Sunday. Just as I started frying the first pan full, Silas showed up with a young lady in need of medical attention for her foot.

Just about everyone goes barefoot here, even when they shouldn’t (like when milking cows and standing in cow dung), so foot problems are very common. This girl had one toe nail almost coming off, with blood and swelling. I cleaned it up but knew she’d need some antibiotics as well. While I worked, I asked Isaiah to call our local chemist, who is an absolute God-send. She knew exactly what the problem was and could give me what I needed, but she wouldn’t be at her shop in town for about another hour (which was probably more like two or three; remember–this is Africa). I asked Isaiah if he wanted to go into town or have her ship it by piki piki when she had it available, but he was more than happy to get out of housework and run an errand for me. I asked the young lady to return at 3 PM, thinking that would give us way more than enough time to get what we needed for her. I made Isaiah a short market list and he went off with Jonah, who by now had finished his part of the work on the veranda. Turned out that everyone was done with their morning’s work and were begging to go to Auntie Jane’s, too. The only one staying home was Rebekah, who was anxious to read a book on the Kindle.

I continued to make the mandazi, thankful for the unexpected quiet.  Jubilee returned home once to fetch a plastic bag; Auntie Jane wanted to send me some sweet potatoes. She also reported that everyone was enjoying a snack of roasted maize. By now it was just about 11:30 and I had about half of the mandazi done. Rebekah was asking where everyone went (a sure sign she was bored). I asked if she wanted to take over with the mandazi, and she was happily agreed. By lunch time, she was finished and our count on the mandazi approached 100, which should be just about enough:

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Everyone came home at lunch time, but after all the maize at Auntie Jane’s, no one was really hungry. This meshed perfectly with my plans, which had not yet included any thought of food preparation. Realizing that no meal was to be had and most of the housework was (surprisingly) already finished, Deborah and Hannah started re-organizing the veranda while some other miscellaneous pick-ups got done. Isaiah and Jonah made it back from town without the medicine, since the chemist was late coming to her shop after all.

The kids bolted to our other neighbor, Henry’s, where he has a foundation hole that the community kids all love to play in. Unfortunately, that would mean that everyone would come home dirty, but I figured I’d deal with that later. Ever the engineer, Isaiah stayed behind to work on his most recent project–building a lap-sized weaving loom. In not too long, a piki piki arrived with the medicine–not too much before 2 PM. I started to bring in the laundry, as clouds threatened and the afternoon rains looked like they were coming. By 3:00, I had sorted wet from dry, started dicing vegetables for spaghetti sauce for supper, and then took a break to give the young lady her medicine. (Isaiah noted, with surprise, that she arrived just on time!) Deborah brought over one of the kids who was playing at Henry’s who had gotten a small cut on his toe, so I cleaned and Band-Aided it.

Marc came home from his class, I collected all the kids for afternoon jobs, boiled some water for a few necessary baths, and now I’m blogging as the spaghetti noodles cook.

Just another day here in Kenya…

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