Sunset on the Mara

Our Wednesday began with the melodic song of the hippotpotumus. We headed out at 6:30am for our wonderful morning safari run, and first thing out of the gate Carey spotted the rare and majestic leopard! Our safari was blessed with everything from hyenas to crowned cranes and though it was an early run it was totally worth it.

After a fantastic buffet breakfast we said goodbye to the lovely (though fluffy bunny) safari club and headed all the way back to our second home in Kijabe.

Once we arrived, a group of us went to some of the local stores to pick up some chai tea and souvenirs. Then we went back to Esther and Isaac’s for dinner and discussion on what we learned while in Kenya, followed by cake and chai.

The discussion touched on a lot of deep topics, but these are things we will strive to carry with us for the rest of our lives. Our group hopes to be more humble, relationally oriented, thankful, generous, and aware.

Pray for us as we prepare to head out tomorrow with approximately 19 hours of flight time (one flight is 16 hours straight :/ ). Before we leave we are hoping to tour the Kijabe hospital and look around Nairobi a little bit.

Be prepared to get back your sunburned, but emotionally awakened Kenya team 2016!

Darcie & Paige

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Wild animals . . . lots of them

It was early and sunny morning and we saw them. Lions! A male and a female on their honeymoon. The majesty that was presented in them was stunning. It is one thing to see them in a book, but it is another to see them mere feet in front of you. We had been there for only moments when the male stood up and begun to walk towards us. Corri, Kayla and Naomi all became skittish, and Jonathan and I became excited. His royalty came and brushed up against our Land Rover. After that we saw a many more beautiful creatures in the Mara. From elephants to zebra, the morning was not boring. After the ride we came back and relaxed poolside.

-Zach

 

We hung out at the pool for a while, while some swam, some laid out, while others played Euchre. Apparently being on the equator means you have to apply sunscreen every five minutes or some people get awful sunburns . . . aka me. After relaxing for a few hours, we went on our afternoon game ride. We saw more lions, baboons, secretary birds, and a large herd of dozens of elephants! We ended our safari watching the sun set over the acacia trees where zebras were grazing.

-Michelle

 

When we got back form the last night ride we retreated to our rooms for showers and a short time of relaxation. After that we joined in the lobby of the resort for our last dinner here. This dinner in some sense foreshadowed our departure for home. Laughter from memories of the past week filled the air. Even though we have two days until arrival at home we are feeling that this is the end; or at least we see the end in sight. Tomorrow morning we will have a chance to go on one more game drive and our hopes are to see cheetah. After that we will head back to Kijabe and spend our last day with Isaac and Esther.

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Greetings from Masai Mara!

Today, we left bright and early to experience a different side of Kenya. It was a five-hour car ride, most of which was spent sleeping until we met some true Kenyan roads! As we approached our destination, we came upon a road block: A GIANT MUD PIT. After watching our van nearly tip over avoiding the mud, the rest of the group learned to drive really fast through the center of the pit. It resulted in a funny story and some great pictures!

Once entering the game park, we were greeted immediately by an assortment of critters (although some of us had been looking for birds most of the way). To our amazement, impala, Masai giraffe, zebra and a rare, heavily guarded white rhino were waiting within. For most, this experience stirred emotions, and in my case, resulted in a few tears (guess who wrote this section…). Once at the resort, we settled into our “tents” and proceeded to eat a meal that left many of us too full to move.

Once we were all settled in, we got to experience a wonderful safari. We met many animals within a few feet away from us. I had two favorites. Many of you will be able to guess who is writing this section! We saw hundreds of zebras! The best part was being able to get up close and personal with white rhinos. Considering that they are critically endangered, the fact that we were able to get within 10 feet of them, was pretty gosh darn remarkable. (Don’t worry to all moms and dads out there… We had trained professionals with us… Carey, Michelle and Darcie)

Both vans that went on the safari experienced similar situations, all comparable to the earlier mud pit incident! We were all able to see a wide variety of species and, as we were about to leave, we came together to see a heard of African elephants with a backdrop of the Kenyan sunset. Overall, the day was a success, and Michelle only tried to escape into the wilderness once! (Don’t worry, we got her back).

This is the last time blogging for Carey and I. You can only guess why. (That rhymed!!) Well, I am off to make sure she does not run into anymore cactuses.

Peace,

Jonathan and Carey

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Seeking the lost

When one of our vans broke down today, half of the group had to wait on the road until the second van could return for us.

At church we sang in three languages (Kikuyu, Swahili, English), and Isaac Munji preached on the parable of the lost coin and the lost sheep. Isaac dropped coins in the field and the entire congregation searched for them, reinforcing his message. Normally we think of ourselves as the lost coins or sheep that Christ searches for, but Isaac introduced a different concept, that we should be going out to search for the lost sheep in Maai Mahiu, Canton, and the world.

After church, the entire congregation, adults and children, gathered to share lunch. We sang songs, had our hair played with, and spent time laughing and playing with the children for the last time.

Later in the day, during a hike down the mountain, a pair of sheep with a trailing goat meandered away from their herder. Even after they disappeared in the bushes we could hear the goat crying before we turned around and saw the herder coming to find them.

–Christina Stump

P.S. We updated a couple pictures from yesterday’s entry. Check them out.

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Tiny hands and big smiles

On day six of our adventure, we went to the Lulu House where we spent the day with a group of local children that are supported by RVF. Our team split into two groups after we were introduced to the kids. One group played with the older kids outside and the other did activities with the younger ones inside.

The first group played soccer, ran races, and had a dance competition outside. While we managed to beat the Kenyans at running (minus Jonathan, who lost his final race!), they definitely out-danced us! We might have embarrassed ourselves while dancing for them, but we earned lots of smiles, which made it worth it.

Inside, the younger kids worked on crafts and taught us some of the games they play at school. We didn’t understand much of what they were saying, but it was so much fun to interact with them and earn their trust.

After this, we had the honor of serving all of the women and children of the Lulu House lunch. It was a beautiful moment for our team to be able to serve those who have been serving us. When we were done eating, we closed with prayer and said goodbye to our newfound friends, who we will be seeing again tomorrow.

After we left, we spent a short amount of time visiting with the parents of Esther (one of our hosts). From their beautiful home, we were able to see one of the best views of the valley (pictures will come later), while enjoying a delicious cup of chai tea. Our final stop for tonight was dinner at Isaac and Esther’s house, which consisted of rice, chicken, vegetables, mashed potatoes, potato soup, and fruit salad.

Overall, it was a wonderful day full of smiles, sun and a strong presence of God’s love! We look forward to spending more time with our new friends tomorrow and will be sure to share how our relationships grow.

Kwaheri from,

Carey Titus and Maddie Wagler

 

Ps: The weather has stayed in the 70’s during the day and the 50’s at night, perfect for our plans! In addition, the only rain we have experienced was during the night and led to a great night’s sleep!

 

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Experiences of grace

On this fine Friday we started off with house visits to deliver much needed food to various families associated with the Rift Valley Fellowship. Our 12 person crew was split into 4 groups and each was accompanied with RVF staff members to show the way. Each of the groups was handed bags filled with smaller bags of cornmeal, sugar, and rice for these families in need, and were to visit 2-8 houses. We set off walking not quite sure what to expect, but I am sure everyone who went can now talk about how their life has been changed this day.

There were many things my group witnesses and like the rest of our crew we will never be quite the same. I could tell you about Peter and his three children, whose wife past away this week, or the single mother who left her nine children alone in a bathroom-size house all day in search of food, but instead I will share about the unanticipated visit our group made today. Our guide Maggie took us to a house that she lived nearby that she said desperately needed our help. We arrived to find a small house with three small children in a bare room. In the center of said room was an open flame that was polluting the air that they were breathing, it did not help that they were sitting dangerously close to the fire and boiling pot, with their feet literally a breath from the scalding embers. Our group did not have any food left to offer, because we had not known anything of the condition of this family when we set out, so we offered the best we had by praying with them. As we were praying it was hard to ignore one of the boys who had what appeared to be a large burn on his forehead that we were told was from an accident. He was hobbling practically into the flames as he picked up what appeared to be rocks and sticks from the ground, putting them in his mouth to eat, then spitting some out in disappointment, though swallowing others. As we were leaving our group leader Isaac told us that we were going to come back with food, and it was going to be today!

Sure enough, we were back in less than an hour with three whole bags of food for them. Their gratefulness could not be expressed in words, and the same could be said for how such need has moved the hearts in our group. How are we supposed to walk away from this? While I am sitting in my comfortable home with more than enough food there will be a house in Africa with three small children tottering dangerously close to a boiling pot, throats burning from fumes, waiting for their mom to return, hoping for food, never truly understanding their situation, but living it every day. The hardest part is they are REAL! So very real, seen with my own eyes and it is something that must never be forgotten.

-Darcie Riffle

 

The home visits that we made today will leave a strong image in my mind of the experiences of grace found in an area of such poverty. As we visited single mothers with over 10 children living in a small home, or a family that can not find an income to feed their family, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of helplessness for these families that we were now face to face with. It was impossible to ignore the children in the streets, alone, playing in the dirty water while they should be in school, or eating things that they found on the streets. It particularly bothered me seeing a little boy under the age of 2, sucking on a plastic bag and wondering around while we talked to his grandmother. I am so thankful that the Rift Valley Fellowship had enough food so that we could hand it out to some of those that need it. It breaks my heart seeing how these people are struggling this much to find a way to provide the basic necessities of life. Now that we’ve heard these stories, we can not say that we don’t know what is going on. We are responsible for this information and can no longer be ignorant. As we continue to pray for the work that the RVF is doing, Isaac and Esther are continuing to be active in this situation and are examples to all of us.

-Michelle Kozminski

 

We ended our day with a trip to the Maai Mahiu primary school where we were able to talk with the 7th and 8th graders about life in America. The classroom was of average size, with approximately 18 two person desks, each filled with 5 or 6 children while more lined the wall in the back. Though the situation in the classroom was not the best, we were very encouraged by all of the motivation and ambition that was very evident in these children as we talked to them. From surgeons, to lawyers, to mechanical engineers, to pilots, there were no small dreams in this classroom. Regardless of their situations, they were grateful for the opportunity to attend school and had big plans for their future. What more could you ask from these brave and hopeful children.

-Michelle & Darcie

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Gratitude was on her face

(Corri):
Today we got to experience the stories of the Women of Courage with the Rift Valley Fellowship. These women have been on the streets of Maai Mahiu and the Rift Valley Fellowship has helped them find a home, put their children in school, and make a living. They have work by making crafts such as jewelry, bags, and figurines. We had the opportunity to support these women by buying some of their crafts.
After we had looked around and bought what we wanted the women got to have fellowship while the men went out back to pack food for the women. Esther explained to us that even though the women were going to be singing in English, Kikuyu, and Swahili, we were still welcome to sing and worship with them. At first, it was kind of awkward because we had no idea what was going on, but the women had so much energy while worshiping that it was contagious. Even though I know all of three words in Swahili, I found myself singing along to the parts I knew and stumbling along of the parts that I didn’t know. We stood in a circle, and one woman would lead and the other would kind of call in a response. Lots of clapping, loud singing, and dancing ensued from there. Overall it was a really great experience to worship God with the wonderful women.
Once we had finished singing, we split up in to groups and talked with some of the women. We shared our names, stories, and prayer requests. It was really interesting to hear some of these women’s stories and hear their requests. It went from health and wellness to praising God because one of their children was able to go to college. It was a great opportunity to open our eyes to a world that we have never seen or considered before and help us to understand God’s grace a lot more.
(Zach):
While this was occurring, us guys were packing food for ladies who had been affected by prostitution and other hardships. This food went to some of those who the ladies sung with. The food consisted of cornmeal, maze, beans, rice and sugar. Once packed in bags and the ladies were done with the fellowship we all went to Cafe Ubuntu were we had Kenyan burritos and pizza. Yes pizza, and burritos. The food was great there while the food as similar to home it was different enough to make it an experience.
After that we took the food the guys packed to the homes that Isaac and Ester had designated us to take to. When getting there we gave them the food and were able to learn and pray about what they needed prayed for. Even though they had little they were grateful for the littlest of things. It was moving to be able to bring not only food that provides for physical needs but also to be able to pray which not only brought spiritual healing to them but also spiritual grow to us. Being able to see smiles and gratitude that we came miles to just be there with them gave them a sense that we love and care for them even though we are foreign.
Over all today was a day that gave us the ability to see the hands and feet of Isaac and Ester move in the calling of God to the people they minister to. These people are not weak but strong. They are loved and they love. They cannot only use our prayer but we can learn about grace, God’s faithfulness, and God’s pursuing love from Isaac and Ester and the women they minister to. So when we see gratitude on her face we see stories of transformation and stories of the greater story that God is working out in the entire world.

by Corri and Zach

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Day 3: African Birds and Fried Green Bananas

This morning some people from our group went bird watching with Dr. Case. Seeing the great mountains and the variety of African birds was a great way to start the day!

Afterwards we headed to Esther and Isaac’s house where we were served some delicious banana bread, breakfast salad (which is a mix of tomatoes, avocados, and onions) and fresh mango slices. Then we went back to Rift Valley Fellowship to do a second coat of paint and some manual labor (we even took some time to play with the children living on the streets). In the afternoon we took a tour of the Rift Valley Academy where we met a teacher who was an expert of bird watching, which made Carey’s day.

For dinner we went back to Esther and Isaac’s where we were served goat meat and fried green bananas. Overall, it was a great day and we are excited to see what is in store for tomorrow.

~Paige Jennings and Kayla Stewart

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How to Peel a Mango

Our time in Kenya so far has been one of contrast. Yesterday we drove through industrialized Nairobi on a new highway. Today we followed the road from Kijabe to Maai Maihiu which is dirt and pocked with potholes from the last rains. On the road we met both herds of cattle and goats as well as motorcycle taxies and trucks. Children on the road waved and smiled as we passed, unafraid of the moving vehicles.

We spent the day sanding and painting the Rift Valley Fellowship’s church and home for street boys before coming back up the hill. Everyone helped, serving food and sharing during our meal. The Kenyans we worked with are very involved in their history and politics and the group learned a few new Swahili words to share with the children on the road back to Kijabe.

Today we learned a lot about service. A Kenyan man’s cart lost a wheel in town and soon three other men came to help fix it. Another man cleared the tall grass and bushes on a well-traveled walking route to Maai Maihiu. We also learned how to properly peel mangoes and that, in Kenya, you don’t drive on the right or left hand side of the road, but on the best side.

-Christina Stump

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First Day

After traveling for 24 hours, 3 different plane rides, and no sleep for 35 hours, we are finally all settled in Kijabe, Kenya and ready for some rest! We have some amazing hosts. They have cooked us some delicious meals! The people down here are so nice. We went on a walk, as a group, and the children loved seeing us! They would always say hi and then laugh. We were so confused as to why they were laughing, but we just laughed with them.

Many of us love the nature here as well! It is a beautiful country! From the trees to the animals, we have seen some amazing things. Carey has been obsessed with bird watching! She has taken a bunch of amazing pictures. Some of us are really starting to like watching birds too!

We are so happy to see what God has in store these next couple of weeks. Stay tuned each night to hear from a different member of our team about what we did for the day. Enjoy some of these pictures as well!

 

~Jonathan Davis

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