30 August 2017

Another visit in the village; this time at Kocholia near the border with Uganda

Adu is in Form 2 (sophomore) and Pope is in Form 3 (junior).

I squeezed in a stop to see Agnes and her boys at Kocholia, which turned into a four-hour visit. We had a nice time together and I finally got to see the two schools where the boys attend.

The two boys and I squeezed onto one motorbike that was passing by, as the school is a fair distance from their home. Oh, my! The driver was not only unfamiliar with the road, but also seemed to be quite a novice at driving a motorbike. Additionally, parts of the road were covered with stones. We actually ended up in the ditch at one point. Needless to say, it was a rather precarious ride!

The guy in the white shirt is the evangelist at the church next door to the church, and the lady was the gatekeeper on the day we stopped by. They ended up giving us an impromptu tour of the school compound.

This gentleman works for the school taking care of the cows and other tasks

Yummy! Hot chai, warm roasted groundnuts, and hot roasted maize!
Great snacks in the village!

They're growing up! Zach is now in Class 2 and Duane is in Class 5.

To get to Duane and Zach's school, we walked... also a bit of a distance, but at least it was in the direction of the stage where I could get a vehicle to Eldoret. Along the way, we stopped often to visit with neighbors or relatives of Agnes.

It added more hours to an already long day, but I'm glad I opted to stop for the visit.

28 August 2017

Jinja and Kampala: Nile River, Mto Moyoni, and hanging out with good friends

Once again, I had a wonderful time at Mto Moyoni, a retreat center on the banks of the Nile River. I enjoyed the fabulous view as I ate breakfast on my veranda, read a biography about Corrie ten Boom, and mostly just relaxed. The monkeys were also entertaining to watch.

Red-tail monkey, also known as Black-cheeked, White-nosed Monkey

The sun comes up on Lake Victoria

American Supermarket, a rather interesting name!

I climbed all 720 steps in the minaret at Uganda's National Mosque

Once on top, we had an amazing 360-degree view of Kampala

A special added bonus was being able to hang out for a whole day with these two guys! Ryan was a missionary in Uganda for 3 years and Jacob is a missionary in South Sudan... and we're all from the same hometown! From a human perspective, it could seem like coincidence that we were all in Kampala on the same day... but we believe God set it up.

25 August 2017

My brief sojourn of silence and solitude; enjoying God's great out-of-doors at Mabira Forest

Since 1992, Kenya has had a history of tribal clashes surrounding their elections. They are a young nation and learning this foreign concept of democracy has not been easy. During my almost 16 years living here, there have been four elections - 2002, 2007, 2013, and this year, 2017.

You may remember how bad things got following the 2007 election. It's referred to as Post-Election Violence and was the top world news for weeks on end. When the disputed winner was announced, chaos and mayhem broke out. Close to 1,500 people were brutally killed and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. Businesses, homes, and churches were looted and burned to the ground. This political, humanitarian, and economic crisis put the nation at a stand-still for a full two months. It was not a pleasant time!

And so, like so many others - foreigners and locals - I decided to get away from Kenya during the days surrounding this year's election on August 8th. During the 2013 election, I opted to take a little vacation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; this time I crossed the border to Uganda spending some time in both Jinja and Kampala.

I arrived at Mabira Forest on the 7th and didn't leave until the 10th. There was zero internet reception the entire time I was in the forest. It was wonderful to not be engrossed in what was going on!

Mabira is a rainforest about an hour from Jinja. I stayed at a small cottage in a place called Griffin Falls Campsite and thoroughly enjoyed myself! I met and chatted with folks from around the world: Japan, Poland, Hungary, etc. Some came for the forest itself, some for bird-watching, and some for the zip-line. Some stayed for a night or two, and others came just for the day.

I did one long hike with Hussein, our guide, plus several short ones on my own. I was always on the alert for spotting the Red-Tail monkeys, as they jumped from tree to tree high up on the forest canopy. I reveled in the variety and colors of the many, many butterflies - so lovely. One day, I ventured out for a two-hour hike alone.... in this place where the trails are not marked! Luckily I found my way back.

In the afternoons, ah... I sipped chai and listened to the rain; there's nothing better than that! Each evening and into the night, I built and stoked a campfire, all-the-while listening to the sounds coming from within the forest: monkeys, Turaco birds, owls, tree hyrax, etc.

Please join me now, on a short excursion into the forest!

I think I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray. 

Poems are made by fools like me 
But only God can make a tree.

~ Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), American poet
[excerpts from her poem titled, Trees]

This fern, as small as my finger and on the floor of the forest, was so amazingly delicate

The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain
is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world.
~ John Tyler Bonner, 
biology professor at Princeton University

If I am united with Jesus Christ,
I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing.
A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me.
What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things.
~ Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest

Come to the woods, for there is rest.
There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.
~ John Muir (1838-1914), 
Scottish-American environmental philosopher

It's good to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment,
to tune in to the smells, textures, tastes, and sights of the forest. 
Today, most people spend much of their lives indoors, tethered to devices.
It takes a while to clear out the clutter in our brains and tune in to the natural world.
The environment of a forest can boost our immunity and mood, plus lower our stress.
~ An article on "Forest Bathing", 
National Public Radio

There were many, many butterflies in the forest - SO fun to watch as they frolicked in the air.
Many were prettier than this one, but they weren't still long enough to get a photo.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.
~ John Muir (1838-1914), 
Scottish-American environmental philosopher

Hussein was our very able guide on a two-hour hike in the forest.
The four of us stopped often to crouch low and look at the variety of mushrooms and red ground flowers,
or to gaze at the butterflies fluttering around us and the beautiful wildflowers. We were in awe of our surroundings.
Here we are at a rare clearing in the forest, near the waterfall, where we had enough light for a good photo of us.

[Note: I took 68 photos plus a few videos during my three days in the forest. I managed to reduce it down to these 10 photos for this blog post.]

24 August 2017

Visiting two families in the village on the same day, at Fafaral and Mawe Tatu

I've known Martin and his family since I first had my mud hut built in 2002. You may remember early in 2016, with the help of many of you, we purchased a motorbike for Martin so he could better earn his daily bread. However, after a few months and for reasons we don't fully understand, he decided he no longer wanted the motorbike.

Nathan, after thinking it over for a while, had the idea that we shouldn't let the blessing pass from Martin's family. So, he sold the motorbike and bought two cows for Martin's grandparents. They are now caring for Martin's brothers (in the photo), Sinclair and Tony, after their father died and the mother moved away from the area. The grandparents were really struggling to feed these two boys and take them to school. An added blessing - the cow in the photo is now pregnant! I believe Nathan's idea was from the Lord, as it has greatly relieved the grandparents of this unexpected and added responsibility.

When I visit folks in the village, I typically take a 'care package' for the lady of the house. I buy kitchen staples like tea leaves, sugar, matches, soap, cooking fat, salt, chapati flour, etc. This time I also added a new flask for keeping freshly-brewed chai hot. To say these grandparents were elated would be an understatement! Margaret danced for joy several times, while singing, "Ona! Asante! Look. Thank you!"

Robai climbed the tree to pick Guava

Mawe Tatu (three stones) is a group of very large stones that dominate the horizon for miles around. When I had my mud hut at Mtoni, I could see it in the distance and always drew inspiration from it, especially if I was feeling down.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
~ Psalm 18:2

One time, Nathan and I cycled to the largest stone and tried to climb to the top. Nathan succeeded, but I had to settle for a lower spot. On this day, we talked of doing it again some time :)

Breakfast: eggs and chai, along with the newspaper.
Everyone wonders what will happen with Kenya's election this year.

Robai and Deb, two of the students I sponsor in school

Deb's brothers (except for Laban who was talking care of the cows)

Nathan and Alice, my long-time friends

My old stomping grounds, Matunda market. Anyone need some cabbage?

02 August 2017

"Because the plane is very fast, but the soul takes longer to arrive."

Lord, you know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. 
You know everything I do.
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 
~ Psalm 139:2-5 (New Living Translation)

- - - - - - -

"Home is where there are people who know stories about you."
~ Joshua Racey, TCK (Third-Culture Kid)

- - - - - - -

I just spent a wonderful 5.5 months in the US, thoroughly enjoying time with family and friends! It was fabulous in so, so many ways and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

However, flying and living across the world - in an equally number of ways - is not easy.

Shifting from one culture to another is not easy.

However, it's a necessity for someone like me who has two 'homes' in two vastly different parts of the world. This is a brief collection of thoughts on the subject. Perhaps it will enlighten you a bit.

Ready to check-in at JFK, for my return flight to Kenya

- - - - - - -

The Fine Line Between Expat Chaos and Rhythm
by Jerry Jones

It’s exhausting being “home”. To be honest the whole life overseas thing can feel equally chaotic at its most settled points.

BUT I’m learning there is such a fine line between chaos and rhythm. We have found our rhythm and in some confusing way a part of our stability IS the movement.

If that makes no sense at all, congratulations, you might be normal. If it does make sense, you’re probably living a life overseas.

- - - - - - -

How to Give Yourself Grace: Advice to someone returning from a long journey!
by Robynn

When we return to our beloved places, we are confused and our souls are unsettled. We knew a particular way and then we became used to a different way and now we’re back to the old way.

You can anticipate some cultural confusion. We are confused; our souls are unsettled. We are whiplashed from culture to culture and can expect to be out of whack.

Try not to rush back in. Breathe deeply and move slowly. Go ahead and do the next thing on your list but don’t hurry. Your poor body has been around the world and back again.

Let your soul catch up and come home slowly!

- - - - - - -

"First you arrive physically and you are very tired.
But only after a while, your soul gets here, too.
Because the plane is very fast, but the soul takes longer to arrive."
~ Nilson Tuwe Huni Kui, 
when he first flew from his remote village in the Amazon rain forest to New York City, 2013

- - - - - - -

Culture Shock: When Your Soul Takes Longer to Arrive
by Marilyn

There are a lot of moments that transpire between goodbye and hello. We have high expectations for ourselves and expect to jump right into life, to pick up as though we are unchanged, to tell ourselves “it’s no big deal, I’m back now”.

But when our souls are still a world away, we can’t fully connect.

We need time and we need grace.