29 February 2016

GeoCache, a fun challenge - aka "The World's Largest Treasure Hunt"

Adventure is worthwhile.   ~ Aristotle
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game using GPS-enabled devices (such as a smart phone). Participants navigate to a specific set of coordinates and look for the geocache container hidden at that location. Once a cache is found, each 'geo-cacher' signs the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.   ~ geocaching.com
[Click here to view a 75-second explanation.]

Gloria introduced to me this fun activity, having discovered it herself a few months ago.
The first cache I found was near Nanyuki, at a curio shop on the equator.

This shop attendant helped me find the cache with some general clues, all the while enjoying watching me search.
Meanwhile, our tuk-tuk driver (in the white shirt) was quite fascinated with the activity.
In locations such as this one, it's considered good manners to purchase something, which Gloria and I each did.

Gloria fills out the logbook with the date and her GeoCache nickname

Nanyuki War Cemetery

Along with our tuk-tuk driver we headed next to the Nanyuki War Cemetery, where we hunted for another cache. Part of the fun of this activity is to visit and learn about new locations. We spent a fair amount of time strolling through the beautifully landscaped grounds and reading some of the tombstones. The caretaker (pictured on the right) explained many things to us.

We even got a great view of Mount Kenya off in the distance. 

Leap Year 
Because leap year only comes around once every four years, the GeoCache app on our smart phones allowed us to see even more caches over the weekend. After church and a great lunch we headed off to find a few more, all in the Karen area.

The first one was at the Karen Blixen Museum

The next two were inside Oloolua Forest. We ran out of time, energy, and daylight so we'll have to go back again
for the other seven located here. The first one was near the waterfall in a hard-to-find spot.

The second one was near the large bamboo plants and also quite a challenge to find.

The contents of this cache include a Bible verse. Pretty neat!

After finding these two caches, we enjoyed watching a few Sykes monkeys frolic in the forest. They were after food crumbs leftover from a large group that had come for a tour of the forest. Hope you'll enjoy the video I made!

February 29th: Leap Day makes for an extra day in the year to GeoCache!

Today - Leap Year Day, 29 February 2016 - we each did our own hunting.
Gloria headed to the Nairobi National Museum and I headed to Ngong Hills, near Upper Matasia Road.

The one I was after was simply impossible to find on my own.
Luckily, these three guys knew about it and helped me uncover it.

Here's the logbook and cute little gnome I found inside.

Perhaps you'll also decide to take up this great activity! Do something different than your normal routine. Get outdoors and enjoy God's creation. Stretch your mind and stretch your legs.
You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.   ~ Paulo Coelho, Brazilian lyricist and novelist

25 February 2016

Pioneer, by Nancy Honeytree

Pioneer, pioneer
Keep pressing onward beyond your fear
Only the Father goes before you to your own frontier
Youʼre a pioneer

Uncharted wilderness stretches before you
And you thrive on going where no one has gone
Still it gets lonely when darkness rears
So sing by the fire until the dawn

[repeat chorus]

You travel light, and you travel alone
And when you arrive nobody knows
But the Father in heaven, He is glad you can go,
For those who come after you will need the road

[repeat chorus]

And what you have done, others will do
Bigger and better and faster than you
But you canʼt look back; no, you gotta keep pressing through
Thereʼs a wilderness pathway and itʼs calling you

Calling you, calling you clear
Keep pressing onward, you can't stay here
Only the Father goes before you to your own frontier
Youʼre a pioneer

Only the Father goes before you to your own frontier
Youʼre a pioneer

[written and sung by Nancy Honeytree]
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Do not go where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and make a trail.
     ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have followed God closely,
my feet in his footprints,
not once swerving from his way.
     ~ Job 23:11, Message 

23 February 2016

An interesting look at a few distinctions in culture, by Yang Liu

Attitude toward punctuality

Visual designer Yang Liu created simple illustrations of a few differences of daily life in Eastern and Western culture. Having lived in both China and Germany, she's able to portray this sampling.

Blue represents western culture.
Red represents eastern culture.

How to stand in line

Independent versus dependent

Approach to solving problems

Arrangement at a party 

Noise levels in a restaurant

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During my 14 years in Kenya, I have observed these same distinctions. Perhaps these simple drawings will help you grasp some of the many challenges I interact with frequently.

I am, after all, an alien living in a foreign land.

I love this quote -

17 February 2016

A glimpse into my life, via a four-day road trip to Eldoret, Bungoma, Kitale, and Matunda

There wasn't really anything special about this trip, but when I got home I realized I had some nice photos of everyday life. It occurred to me that some of you may like to see them.

On any given occasion, there are so many photos I would love to get for you, but it's not always a conducive situation. I try to be sensitive to the people and environment, not wanting to offend anyone.

I enjoyed a nice lunch with Agnes and Adu at Bungoma Tea Room

A bicycle boda-boda and a couple of kiosks at Kitale town

Motorbike boda-bodas waiting for customers, Kitale town

Various shops at Matunda market

"Self-selection" supermarket, Matunda 

Long-time friend, George, at his small shop at Matunda

Nathan, Martin, and I had a nice lunch at Olive Inn, Matunda

These delightful children came running over to greet the mzungu, and asked me to take their picture

Also at Matunda market

We hung out together while I waited for the Kangaroo shuttle van to Eldoret

Such simple joys, hanging out with a mzungu shosho (white grandmother)!

Notice the gunny sack near the guy sweeping the drainage ditch.
Believe it or not, there's actually a guy sleeping inside the bag, Eldoret town.

We encountered a fair amount of afternoon rain and fog on the way back to Nairobi.

Towards the tail end of my trip, on a bus to Ngong town, it was such a
pleasant surprise to bump into this lady, the mother of a good friend of mine.

I checked out the brand new Karen Hub mall and had a cup of chai, Karen shops

The final leg of my trip was a motorbike boda-boda ride to my house, during
which we got caught in a sudden downpour. I got quite wet and mud-splattered.

15 February 2016

What a privilege to be a blessing in the life of a young person, with the help of some friends

A photo of Martin and me, in front of my mud hut,
is on the back cover of my second book.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.   ~Philippians 2:3-4

I met Martin in 2003 when his father grazed cattle in the area where my mud hut was located (Mtoni, near Matunda market). Whenever he smiled, his entire face lit up... and he smiled a lot!

Gradually we became friends and hung out together, especially after he finished school each day. I got to know the whole family and had many meals with them.

Through the ensuing years, they had various difficulties, all of which are common to poor, jobless, and landless villagers. After a while I lost track of them, partly because of a series of moves they had made. Two years ago I heard from Martin's mom, Mary, that Zadok (Martin's father) had died.

Recently my friend, Nathan, did some inquiring and found Martin. We all had a great reunion at Matunda market! Nathan has a tender heart for people in need and, like me, has always liked Martin. I believe the Lord prompted him to try to locate our mutual friend.

Martin, on the left, plus Nathan and part of his family

Martin's mother and older sister both moved away and, not knowing their phone numbers, he has no way of communicating with them. His grandparents are struggling to raise the two younger boys. That means Martin (approximately 19 years old) is basically on his own, trying to find his own way in this world.

My friends, Bishop and Margaret, have also always loved Martin; there's something special about him with his magnetic personality. The Lord laid it on all of our hearts that a motorbike of his own would help him earn his daily bread. He had been hiring one and using it a taxi to carry passengers, commonly called a boda-boda. He made daily payments to the owner, but the guy recently decided he wanted it back.

I shared the need with some of my friends and they responded! After looking at four used motorbikes with Nathan, they chose the best one and we purchased it.

Technically the motorbike belongs to me, meaning I will keep the 'log book' (registration, etc). Martin will make weekly payments to me through M-Pesa, a fabulous way to send money through cell phones. If he sticks with the payment plan, the motorbike will be his after exactly one year. From then on, 100% of the fares collected from his passengers will be his. We all agreed this is the best way to handle it, instead of just giving it to him outright.

As Martin repays me, I'll put that money into the fund for paying school fees for the eight students I'm sponsoring this year. It's a win-win situation all around!

Martin and I signed an agreement and Nathan was our witness.

Here I am, ceremonially giving him the keys, while Nathan applauds the happy occasion

By the time we finished with our task, it was 2:30 and we were hungry!

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:16

To those of you that contributed, thank you so much for investing in this young man's life! Please pray for Martin, for safety as he drives the motorbike and that he'll develop a good base of customers. 

11 February 2016

"Let another praise you and not your own lips." (Proverbs 27:2)

This short video features a small sampling of folks with whom God has placed me in relationship here in Kenya. It was filmed in November 2015 for the website of my missions sending agency, Ripe for Harvest.

You can see my section on their website here - http://www.ripeforharvest.org/about-deb-smith/

09 February 2016

The need for a new missions paradigm, by Sarita Hartz

The old paradigm of missionary story-telling was presenting oneself as the sacrificial hero, only telling stories of the triumphs achieved, with a radiating halo around the missionary’s head.

Here’s what a new missions paradigm would look like:

Get rid of the unrealistic expectations
One of the most damaging issues leading to missionary burnout is inflated and unrealistic expectations of what life will be like on the ground and expectations missionaries have of themselves. Heroic jaunts into the jungle to unreached tribes are fewer and farther between. A more apt representation would be less glamorous trips to the local market to try and negotiate for your supper, or a hot and dusty afternoon spent at your computer trying to write a newsletter with 20% of your battery left because the power is out again. That chasm between what you thought life would be and what it actually is, can lead to despair.

I thought I had to hide my feelings of being overwhelmed with real missionary life, so my supporters would continue being a part of my ministry. What I wanted to say was, “Today I spent eight hours in a government office trying to not get kicked out of the country, and no one got saved.” Trying to represent the super-hero version of myself and telling the happy stories led to self criticism, feelings of failure, and fragmentation.

Failures should not be swept under the rug
The reality is failures are an integral part of success and learning from them is how we create lasting and beautiful change. We need to give people the freedom to fail and celebrate the humility it takes to admit it.

Living in a different culture and understanding it takes time. It takes a lot of adjustments to create something that is effectively changing lives. It takes humility to say you were wrong and to try it a different way. We need to give our missionary leaders the freedom to make mistakes, share them, and get back up again, knowing we support them. Our obsession with only “success stories” will be our downfall.

We need to tell the truth
We need to tell the stories of heartache and disillusionment. As we expel our stories in exhales of honest surrender, somehow it helps us heal. Otherwise, we become isolated and continue to spiral down into despair. We must celebrate the tiny victories, but not inflate stories for our newsletters. We need safe people to whom we can say, "Hey I loved this girl for seven years and she still stole from me."

When we tell the truth, it gives others permission to do the same and we realize we're not alone. Telling the truth disrupts isolation, and ushers us into a community of other like minded souls who are safe and authentic.

We don’t have all the answers and we don’t need to
We often think our solutions to fix people are the correct ones. It takes a lot of time to learn what will really work to change lives in your particular culture. But taking time to just listen means there aren’t a lot of action stories to write home about. We need to understand it takes time to become culturally relevant and that change in people’s lives is often slow.

Our calling should not be more important than The Caller
In talking to missionaries, one of the big themes that continues to cause stumbling is falling into the trap of letting your calling define your identity. You’re the celebrated hero and the sacrificial martyr. But being a missionary isn’t about all that. It’s about being a partner with God to love people, about being an extension of Jesus, about being in a love affair with Him. The work should always take a backseat to your primary relationship with God and the Holy Spirit.

God does not need martyrs
God doesn’t need my sacrifice, he doesn’t need me to save the world. It’s his joy to co-labor with me. It’s his joy to partner with me so I can pursue my passions and bring glory to his name. The only thing required of me is to worship him forever. As we fall more in love with God, we fall more in love with people and the desire to see them walking in freedom grows. The work doesn’t depend on us, the work depends on God’s spirit.

We need saving before we can save others
One of the key differences between missionaries of old and new ones rising up, are that we see a need for emotional health and we aren’t willing to compromise our health because we realize without wholeness, we will be of no use to anyone. It’s imperative that missionaries protect their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

We need to forgive each other
If you’re a missionary you’ve probably been wounded by the way the church or sending organization has failed to look after your hearts. If you’re a church or sending organization you might be resentful of the less than fruitful efforts of some missionaries. What we need is brave and open communication, compassion and understanding. It takes great vulnerability to talk about your needs, to admit weakness, to say you need help or you don’t understand why something went wrong. Let’s be different. Let’s be intentional and proactive; let's be forgiving, kind, and open-hearted.

My hope is to see a new breed of missionaries and churches rising up, forgiving each other, and starting afresh with new eyes. My hope is that you will begin a conversation with other missionaries, churches, and leaders to say we’re not satisfied with the way things have been. Let's be brave and begin a revolution.

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See full article on Sarita's website.