20 February 2019

Four Ladies' Retreat: four photos of fabulous friends and four funny videos

This was the second three-day retreat where we four lady friends gathered together. Both times it was an intentional, quality period to step away from our normal routines, turn off our phones, and focus on the Lord.

I gathered several contemplative and imaginative reflections focusing on a few stories out of the Gospels. One example was the story of Jesus asking the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. We used a guided recording, which put us into the shoes of the Samaritan woman. We were encouraged to feel what it’s like to actually be inside the story - to listen, taste, smell, feel, and watch what happened. We imagined the environment around us, as well as what Jesus’ facial expressions might have been.

Afterwards, we shared what we felt during the reflection. We also discussed a variety of reflective questions, such as - "Where in my life does it seem Jesus has no bucket or rope for my deep problems?" Such probing thoughts can be quite powerful and impacting.

Because we stayed at an Airbnb that was very close to the quite renowned Safari Park Hotel, we went there for lunch one day. It was really special as we reveled in the lovely surroundings, the beautifully landscaped gardens, a lovely waterfall, and a pool.

Linet led us in two sessions on the questions God asks in Scripture. Here are just a few examples: To Adam, after he and Eve had sinned, "Where are you?" After Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, God asked her, "What is this you have done?" To Hagar when she ran away from Abraham's wife Sarah, "Where have you come from and where are you going?" To Elijah when he was hiding in a cave, "What are you doing here?" Jesus asked the woman with the bleeding problem, "Who touched me?" It was quite an interesting study throughout the Bible!

We listened to an encouraging sermon by William Carroll (Times Square Church, New York City), titled "A Word for the Weary". All four of us are involved in ministry, and we found it to be quite impacting.

We also thoroughly enjoyed some fun, funny, and tense games of Jenga!

18 February 2019

"Stop and let your soul breathe", excerpts of an article written by Karla Markus (for Velvet Ashes)

Do you remember that moment, the place, time, and circumstances when you knew deep within your soul? Do you remember the holy mixture of fear and faith, the overwhelming sense of purpose sprinkled with the anxiety of what it all would really mean? Do you remember the call?

I do. In just a flash of mental effort I can place myself back into that moment. The sounds, the smells, the people surrounding me. It was a time of action. It was go and do. It was verbs and momentum and adrenaline. It was a long time ago.

In the years between that bliss and this keyboard have been many hard days. This morning the mirror showed more wrinkles, darkened spots, and gray hairs than I may ever be comfortable with. And next to my name I now carry an age that I once believed could only belong to my parents.

I am tired from all that doing and going. 

All of that sacred work of the kingdom, in truth, has worn me down into a person I never believed I could become. And while I am certainly tempted to place the blame of my state on a thousand things – the air, the language, the bureaucracy, the inefficiency, the never ending evil plans of men in power – the fault lies within me.

I have forgotten the way of my Savior. He had a lot to do. Certainly. He had just a few short years to light the fire of faith that would overcome the world. But he never forgot the tension.

He never forgot that he’s not just to do. He is to be.

He is to be the one and only begotten. He is to be the Son, in whom the Father is well pleased, far before he’d actually gotten anything accomplished. He is to live taut between what he does and what he is becoming.

Yes, he fed the five thousand, but he also went up the mountainside alone. Yes, he raised the dead, but he also withdrew in the boat. Yes, he calmed the wind and waves, but he also almost slept through the storm altogether. Yes, he preached to the crowds, but he got up early to seek the Father. Yes, he washed the disciples’ feet, but he also went to the garden to pray.

Give and retreat. Work and rest. Serve and commune. Preach and pray. Do and be.

Along with stories of faithfulness, I could share too many testimonies of tragedy. The one who lost her marriage due to neglect. The one who worked so hard her body couldn’t keep up and she found an early grave. And those few, whose memory still stirs my tears, who in the midst of their calling lost the very One whom they sought to serve.

What good is it to save the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? In all of your doing, have you forgotten to be?

Can I ask you to restore a balance? Can I ask you to take some dedicated time to lay aside the many do’s in life and allow your soul to be? Let it be so for you. Lay down your list and trust that the Sovereign can manage this minute without you.

Stop, and let your soul breathe. Retreat and come be with the Father. Let Him sustain you as only He can. 

   ~ by Karla Markus   [see original article here]

13 February 2019

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with Linet and Jeremy

Fun with a live Santa and his helper, at The Hub in Karen

Linet, Jeremy, and I strolled around The Hub a while before having a meal at Burger King. Then we walked down the road a ways to attend Karen Vineyard's Christmas Eve Service. It was great to sing carols with the congregation!

Jeremy and Linet pose with what we think (?) was a cow 

The group, Spellcast, strolled around The Hub entertaining shoppers; we were quite impressed with their talent! We also enjoyed the singing hand puppets, and Jeremy tried his skill at riding a Segway around the open courtyard area.

The following day we enjoyed many, many wild animals at Safari Walk. The animals there live in large open areas, with natural habitats well-suited to them. We then enjoyed our packed lunch and headed home in opposite directions.

Our guide took us to an area not open to the public, so we could see this napping lioness very close.

Jeremy really enjoyed feeding this Black and White Colobus, a very beautiful monkey found in many areas of Kenya

We enjoyed watching this rhino quite close to us, as well as a buffalo, hyena, leopard, cheetah, and many other animals.

This shows the raised boardwalks from where we viewed many of the animals, including this ostrich.

I got this shot of an Agama lizard on the boardwalk (not inside the fence enclosure)

Jeremy really liked using the binoculars!

Perhaps it was a bit out of the ordinary for an activity on Christmas Day, but we had a wonderful time at the Safari Walk! 

You'll turn out ordinary if you're not careful. 
~ Ann Brashares (1967- ), American novelist

11 February 2019

Saiwa Swamp, to see the endangered and elusive Sitatunga antelope; plus the Kapenguria Six museum

Our pre-booked taxi picked up Rose and me at 6am from Karibuni Guesthouse in Kitale.
We were at Saiwa Swamp (Kenya's smallest national park) by 7am.
We enjoyed our breakfast and chai in this banda, prepared for us by Ebrahim at the guesthouse.

We crossed the marshy swamp area on this raised boardwalk, keen to see what we came for!

I had been here one other time many, many years ago with Collins. However, we failed to see any Sitatunga.
But with Rose, we succeeded! As we walked on the trails, we noticed their quite fresh poo droppings.
Then we spotted their hoof marks, also quite fresh. Aha! Rose spotted a group of them that we thoroughly enjoyed watching!

A couple of beautiful nature shots in the forested areas

In fact, we did keep our voices down to not scare the Sitatunga

This picture is from the internet; sadly I couldn't get a good photo of the ones we saw.

A veritable haven for nature lovers, the Saiwa Swamp National Park is a forested paradise filled with exotic flowers, trees and birds. It is also the habitat of the rare and endangered semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope and as a preserve for the rare De Brazza’s monkey. Within this tropical wetlands and mosaic of riverine forest, sedges and acacia woodlands, with fringing dense rushes and grass beds. Bird life is abundant. Water birds include the Lesser Jacana, Grey Heron and the African Black Duck while the forest shelters the Narina Trogons, the Collared and Orange-tufted Sunbird, the Yellow Bishop, Hatlaub’s Marsh Widow Bird and the Noisy Ross’s Turacos which are difficult to miss. [Information from a Kenya Wildlife Service website]

We then traveled farther north to visit the Kapenguria Six museum 

The Kapenguria Six – Bildad Kaggia, Kung'u Karumba, Jomo Kenyatta, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei, and Achieng' Oneko – were six leading Kenyan nationalists. They were arrested in 1952 by the British colonialists, tried at Kapenguria in 1952–53, and imprisoned thereafter in Northern Kenya. The defendants were all convicted, and sentenced to long terms and permanent restriction.All defendants got seven years each. Kenyatta went on to the presidency of Kenya; Kaggia and Ngei served as ministers; Oneko was detained by Kenyatta between 1969 and 1974, before later serving as MP for Rarieda in Kenya's 7th Parliament; Kung'u Karumba disappeared in 1975, while in Uganda on business; Fred Kubai twice served as MP for Nakuru East – from 1963 to 1974, and from 1983 to 1988 – before his death in June 1996. [Information from Wikipedia]

We also enjoyed the other exhibits on the grounds, highlighting some of the local cultures.

07 February 2019

Recent visits with my friends in the village (Kenya's rural areas) plus one in Eldoret town

Instead of going interior to his house, this time I met Nathan and his daughter, Deb, at a nice new café at Matunda market.
Martin also joined us for chai and mandazi (tea and fried bread).
It was nice to see all of them again, and to congratulate Deb on her marks in the recent primary school exams.

Zach and Duane sit on top of the soil and stones that were dug out for the new well

Agnes and Pope are very happy with their new well (a gift from my mom).
It will make their lives easier, as they no longer need to fetch and carry water from the river.

It's a seven-hour round-trip traveling from Eldoret to Kocholia, to visit Agnes and her family.
Each time I use a total of eight vehicles - four motorbikes and four vans.
I usually stay 2-3 hours, which all together makes for a (tiresome) 9-10-hour day.
But what is the value of a friendship?
[Photo: roasted maize and roasted peanuts (yummy!), as we wait for chicken and ugali]

The road to a friend's house is never long. 
~ Danish Proverb

Robai and I met in Eldoret, at the new Java House, for breakfast.
I always enjoy chatting with her as she's quite mature and wise for her age, and always very upbeat.

A nice view of Mount Elgon, a massive solitary mountain with five peaks, on the Kenya-Uganda border
[photo taken from Rose's grandfather, Moses', house]

Close-up of a Poinsettia tree, which blooms year-round in Kenya
[photo taken from Rose's grandfather, Moses', house]

Moses, Rose, and I ate our chicken and ugali outside.
In Kenya, chicken (kuku) is typically slaughtered only when visitors come to visit.
Moses thanked us for coming, so he could enjoy chicken for his lunch :)
He used the branch to shoo away the flies.

Moses is Rose's 90-year old grandfather. This was my third or fourth time to visit this charming mzee (elder man).
He didn't know we were coming and upon seeing his grand-daughter, gave her the longest and warmest hug I've ever seen!
When we left, he thanked us profusely for coming to visit 'when he was still alive'.

No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend.
~ Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

My God-given ministry is one of relationships - long-lasting, close-up, one-on-one friendships - especially to single moms and their children. Perhaps it seems simple, and it's certainly unique, but it's how God designed me. One could say that was my norm in the US, and then at God's appointed time he re-located me to Kenya to do the same in this foreign land. It's my prayer that I fulfill his plan and please him in so doing.