Eve “Wairimu” Smalley

There were so many incidents that affected my understanding of Christianity in Kenya and of my faith in relation to the Kenyan Christians. One specific moment that stands out to me was after church at RVF. One of the street boys came up to me and said, “Forgiven.” I was confused for a second until I realized he was pointing to my foot. He again pointed to my tattoo, which says, “Forgiven.” Then he said, “Forgiven! Yeah, you’re forgiven and I am forgiven.”

I was so incredibly touched and it really made me think about how God’s grace transcends all cultures, all mistakes, and is available to everyone. No matter where we have been or where we come from, His grace can cover us. He is always ready to extend his forgiveness, if we only choose to accept it. Though we live halfway across the world from each other we share the same faith and God is God no matter where we are.

Throughout the trip I was thankful for the nightly discussions our team had. It helped all of us process everything that was going on and I learned so much. I think going into Kenya I already had an appreciation for the culture and the people because of the academic readings and discussions we had to do. It gave us more cultural awareness and helped us to want to learn more from the people.

As I look back on this trip I am so thankful and blessed for what God has shown me.

Why didn’t we get that on video?

This morning after breakfast we learned how to make our favorite Kenyan foods from Jane, the Daraja House cook. Some of the recipes we learned to make were chipatis, chai, tortilla chips and ugali. We are excited to try out these recipes for all of you, but we may need to practice first!

Some of us played card games while others finished up last-minute packing for our journey home tomorrow. After we finished packing up, we had some free time so we decided to go back to the vine and take our turns swinging. We shared a lot of laughs and have some funny stories to tell when we get home. Unfortunately we didn’t get it all on video.

Later in the afternoon, Esther and Isaac and some of their fellow RVF staff came to visit us to talk about our time with them. We sang worship songs in English, Swahili, and Kikuyu. We also shared stories about how we have been impacted by this trip, specifically in Maai Mahiu.

This evening we had the opportunity to go to Isaac and Esther’s home for dinner and fellowship. With great remorse we said our goodbyes, took pictures and then headed back to the Daraja House.

We are excited to share all our stories with our family and friends. Can’t wait to see you all Saturday afternoon!

Patty Rhinehart and Rachel Dawson

P.S. This is not the last blog entry for this trip. We’re planning one more next week: a compilation of our responses to what we’ve experienced and learned. Check back in a few days!

Bartering for bargains

Today we made one of our last trips to Nairobi for some last-minute shopping. We went to the Sarit shopping center, which again looked more like an American shopping mall. After spending some time there we went across the street to the Blue Dukas, which are small shacks in which the owners have souvenirs and their trinkets to sell. This was definitely an interesting cultural experience! As soon as we stepped into the dukas the people descended upon us.

It was so overwhelming at first; every shop owner was trying to pull us into their shops and trying desperately to convince us to buy something. Once we became more confident we were actually able to barter with them and make some good buys. It was fun to experience more parts of this culture and to learn from them. In the short amount of time we have been here I am so grateful for all the different cultural experiences we have had.

On our way back from shopping we stopped and bought grilled corn on the side of the road. As soon as the van stopped the eager sellers descended yet again with all kinds of produce. The corn was worth it, though: it was so fresh and good. Definitely one of the highlights of the day.

As the end of our trip is near I look back and cannot believe all that we have seen and done in these past three weeks. God placed each of us on this trip for a reason and we have grown and learned so much.  As we look forward to returning home we are full of anticipation and apprehension. It is going to be hard to return to our culture after everything we have experienced.

As we wrestle with these things, we will grow into who God wants us to be. It is frustrating when it seems like we are too insignificant to make a difference in all the poverty and hurt we have seen here. However, we need to remember that God does not expect us to change the world. If we are willing to give God control, He will equip us for what we are meant to do, and that can have a greater impact then we can ever imagine. I am so blessed and thankful for what God has taught me on this trip, and I know that it will affect me for the rest of my life.

Eve Smalley

Coming to a close

Our time in Kenya is quickly coming to a close, so we wanted to let you know what to expect for communication over the next few days.

First, we’ve been using a pay-as-you go cell phone plan, and our current block of airtime has been used up. Since we’ll be leaving so soon, we’ve decided not to purchase another block. So the next time you’ll hear from us by phone, we’ll be in Dulles Airport in Washington. We’ll be calling to let you know we’re on our way and when to expect us in Cleveland.

Second, we will have limited e-mail access today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday). If you don’t hear anything from us, it’s just because we’re very busy with some last-minute tasks and packing. Friday and Saturday we’ll be traveling, so you won’t hear from us then.

Finally, we will try to update the blog tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday), even if it’s only a brief message to let you know we’re OK. As with the cell phone, however, we’re using a pay-as-you-go internet plan, so if we run out of data allowance, we may not post there, either.

Of course, in the event of an emergency, we do have ways of contacting appropriate people. So . . . for the next couple days, watch the blog, and remember that no news is good news!

Spiritual safari

The Kenya team had another early morning today! We left for a morning safari ride at 6:15 a.m. With Benson and Wilfred at the wheel, we traveled through the game park once again. From the vans we watched the sunrise, an incredible display of God’s creativity. We were blessed to see more buffalo, impala, and zebra today! These animals were together in incredible numbers today—at one point, we counted over 25 zebra in one place! The baboons were awake and active as we traveled this morning. They were in the road, in the trees, and in the brush. We drove to a lookout point where the baboons came a bit closer than some of us expected. After snapping a few pictures of the view, we headed back into the vans before the baboons decided to revolt.

We headed back to the lodge and arrived just in time for 9 a.m. breakfast. After enjoying our morning meal, we packed our things and prepared for our journey out of the park.

Although we did not get a glimpse of the “Mufasa” we all wanted to see, we were able to see some flamingos, two more hippos, as well as three rhinos! The first rhino encounter was a black rhino. The second rhino encounter was a mother white rhino with her baby. The horn on the mother was incredible! Even Dr. Dixon said he had never seen one so large. Even without a second lion sighting, it was an incredibly exciting and eventful safari!

After exiting the park we began our journey back to Kijabe. We had all enjoyed our time at the game park, but we were anxious to come back to the Daraja House, our “home” here in Kenya. Benson and Wilfred brought us safely back to the Daraja House in a few hours, and we were all thankful to relax for the afternoon. Some took the opportunity to nap, others headed to the roof to enjoy the sunshine. It was a wonderful time to reflect on the weekend and our many experiences.

There has been much reflection as our time in Kenya in coming to a close. We have seen and experienced so many different people and places here, it can be difficult to make sense of it all. We have seen the poverty and struggle of Maai Mahiu as well as the wealth and comfort of the Nakuru Park Lodge. It brings about important questions. Should we feel guilty for being Americans who can afford comfort? What about our return to Ohio? What should we do then?

These questions have deep and complex answers. We don’t know why we have been blessed with comfort. We do not know why we have any of the blessings we have. We are wrestling with the question of what to do with what God has given us. All of us have been given gifts. Being born in America is a gift. Going to Malone University is a gift. Eating three meals a day is a gift. A gift. We have not earned them. God is not obligated to give them to us. For some reason, he has chosen to do so. Rather than feel guilty that we have been given these gifts, we are trying to focus on living a life of gratitude for these gifts. To be thankful for each and every gift God has given and live with open hands. If we return to Ohio with an attitude of thankfulness rather than guilt, we will be better able to use the gifts God has given us. He has a reason for giving us these gifts and our prayer is that he will show us how to use them. As we continue to process what we have experienced in the coming days, weeks, and years, we pray that God will continue to challenge us to a live a life of greater thankfulness. God is taking us on a “spiritual safari” to travel even deeper in our relationship with him.

Alexis “Njeri” Kreiner

Today we were tourists

After an early departure from Kisumu this morning (6 a.m. to be exact) we were on the road to Nakuru. It was about a 5-hour drive with all of the construction and traffic of the roads. I think we all are becoming a little more accustomed to the roads and driving in Africa. Our first few days here all of us would be wide awake and sitting on the edges of our seats wondering how our drivers, Benson and Wilfred, would make it down these roads. The roads are so skinny and it is a rare treat if they are paved! Potholes, bicycles, motorcycles, donkey carts, and fellow “matatus” are just a few of the obstacles we go through each day on the road. But by this point in the trip, we all have grown to trust our dear drivers and know that we will get to where we need to go when we are in the hands of Benson and Wilfred (and the Lord). So needless to say, most of us slept for that 5-hour drive, through the bumps and all. We stopped when we were about halfway for breakfast, which was chai and mandazi. This is comparable to a Dunkin’ Donuts stop for coffee and donuts. After our quick breakfast we were back on the road.

Two hours later we arrived at Lake Nakuru Lodge where we were greeted in the lobby with hot towels and a glass of mango-pineapple juice. (Dad, you would love it here!) It feels like we are in another world at this lodge. We are staying three to a “room” but it is more like a little suite. Each room has a small back porch, which looks out onto the African landscape. Speaking of which, while sitting on our porch today, Patty, Rachel and I were taking pictures when all of a sudden a pack of baboons came running through the grass about 2 feet in front of us. We ran back into our room and shut the glass doors as two baboons jumped onto our porch and started to stare at us, maybe hoping for a bit of food. After that ordeal, we walked briskly to the restaurant in the lodge where we served ourselves an African buffet complete with tropical juice to drink and homemade mousse and cake for dessert. What country are we in again?? Oh yeah . . . Kenya . . . Africa. It is easy to forget where we are, the few times we have gotten to eat and stay at these extravagant places. It is funny—we have only been here for two weeks yet we already feel accustomed to Kenya. Whenever we go to places that are touristy all of us kind of stare at the other people and think, “Huh! Look at those tourists!” Even though we are one of them, it doesn’t feel like it. I think because most of our experiences have been interacting with people at church, schools and in the towns we visit, it feels odd when we do “touristy” activities. But this girl is thankful for the tourist day we had!

We went on two safaris today, one before lunch and one after lunch. Let’s just say, out of “The Big Five” we saw three! The Big Five includes: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo. We saw a herd of buffalo almost right away. They are pretty common to see. What we all really wanted to see was a leopard and a lion. Little did we know our wish would come true! We were driving along when Benson heard on his radio that there was a leopard in a tree up ahead about 2 kilometers and that half of its kill was hanging from the tree. Benson sped up, and there was not just one leopard, but three! They were all spread out just lounging in the tree after having eaten half of an impala. And yes, the other half was still hanging halfway up the tree trunk. We were all so excited to see the leopards . . . but this day just kept getting better! All of a sudden a lioness popped her head up from the brush and made her way over to the tree with the impala carcass. She scoped it out and then scaled her way up the tree trunk, ripped the carcass down and carried it off into the bushes. It was such an amazing moment to watch and the fact that we got to see two such powerful creatures all in a moment was so overwhelming.

On our second safari we saw jackals, gazelle, more buffalo and a herd of giraffe. We ended the day watching the sunset over the fields as we drove back to the lodge. A lot of us kept saying to each other, “Is this real life? Did we really just go on a safari and watch the sunset in Africa and see lions and leopards and giraffes?” This whole trip has been such a blessing and we are all so thankful for the experiences we have had.

I can’t help but keep thinking of Psalm 104: “O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures . . . May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made! The earth trembles at his glance; the mountains smoke at his touch. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live I will praise my God to my last breath! May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.”

Becca Bankert

Six hours of church

Our day began by leaving for church at 7 a.m. We attended Kisumu Friends Church this morning for two services. All of the women were able to go up front to perform a song we had prepared the night before; we selected the song Blessed Be Your Name. The song went well but with little preparation we all felt a little uncomfortable. Dr. Dixon was able to preach a message he had prepared from Ephesians. During his message he had a translator who spoke to the non-English-speaking congregation members. After the service was over we all gathered outside and they had a system that required everyone to shake hands with every single person present at the service. Once we had greeted everyone we sat down with a few of the congregation members to have some chai tea and mandazi (doughnuts).

The first service was over around 9 a.m., and the second service did not start until 11 a.m. During our wait we sat around and talked to some of the church members. Some of us entertained ourselves in a variety of ways to help pass the time. Once it was time for the second service we all anxiously entered the chapel, but we were greeted with quite the overwhelming heat wave. The pastor of the church, John Muhanji, told the congregation that he was going to talk until two, which was not what we wanted to hear while lacking air conditioning. We got up to sing another song in the second service; we chose to sing Father I Adore You. Luckily, the service did not last as long as Muhanji warned, because we were quite sweaty and uncomfortable.

After we left the church we visited Kiboko Bay for a late lunch. Upon entering the restaurant, one of our drivers quickly noticed a hippo sticking slightly out of the water. We all rushed over to take pictures and admire the hippo as she came out of the lake to feed. Typically, hippos do not come out during the day, so we were quite fortunate to witness such a sighting. Alexis was particularly thrilled to see the hippo, because she had wished before we left the U.S. to spot one. After we had all of our photos taken we sat down for our meal. We waited for quite awhile for our food to arrive, but we passed the time by chatting and learning some Swahili words from our two drivers.

Once we had finally received our meals we climbed into our vehicles and headed to Nakumatt (a common grocery store) to buy some supplies for our journey in the morning. We will be headed to the game park lodge in the morning, and we are hoping to spot some animals once we arrive especially a lion. Tonight during our discussion we were blessed by the kind words of Muhanji who said he has noted from our visit that we possess “cultural humility.” We are thankful for the hospitality we received during our visit to the St. Anna Guesthouse and the people we have gotten to meet during our time here. Now it is time for our next adventure.

Amy Miller and Rachel Dawson

The adventure continues

Our safari (Swahili for trip) to the city of Kisumu has brought with it many new adventures as the Kenya that had we had started to feel comfortable with in Kijabe seems to have changed into an entirely different world. Today especially was a struggle at times as we tried to process all of the changes as we went about our day.

The day began with a trip to Kaimosi with our tour guide and contact here, John Muhanji, Director of African Ministries for the Friends (Quakers) in Kenya. The car ride included crossing from the Southern Hemisphere into the Northern Hemisphere. We all took gleeful photographs as we stood with one foot in each hemisphere!

In Kaimosi we visited the missionary complex from which the entire history of the Friends church in Africa stems. In 1902, three graduates from the Cleveland Bible Institute (which later became Malone University) came to Africa, went as far inland as the currently constructed train would take them, and began their mission in Kaimosi. They began generating income for their mission by building a sawmill. Once they had sufficient funds, they looked for needs. Slowly they built a complex of several institutions including a hospital, teacher’s college, and college of theology.

Today we started by touring the Friends Theology College and then continued to walk down “Mission Road” to see everything else these great men of vision began. We even saw the dam that they built. Our tour of FTC, a school of 45 students, was given individually by current students there, so we all had differing experiences depending on the personality of the FTC student who gave the tour. One experience involved a male student blatantly expressing interest in marrying one of the girls from our team. My experience, however, was much more pleasant as two overjoyed older female students showed me around.

Our debriefing mostly included discussion on how our experience here in the western province of Kenya has differed from our experience in Kijabe. Differences stem from several dynamics including tribal affiliations and location.

In terms of location, we have left the cool mountainside of the small town of Kijabe for the hot lakeside city of Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya. This changes brings with it the inclusion of fish in our meals, crazy traffic, and the need to sleep under mosquito nets. (Some of us are calling the nets the canopy beds we never had.)

Tribally, we have left Kikuyu country and come to the home of the Luo and the Luhya people. So far we have noticed differences in the housing and mannerisms of the people (such as woman and children balancing large bags on top of their heads). The people here are also less prone to making specific plans (especially our tour guide), so we rarely know what we will be doing in the next few hours. For example, we were told around 7 pm tonight that we will be leading a few songs at church tomorrow . . . We are all learning the real meaning of the phrase “go with the flow” and laugh a bit more as our adventure continues.

Rachel “Wambui” Fox

A new venue

Just a very quick, incomplete posting today. Our main objective was to travel from Kijabe to Kisumu in western Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria. That was achieved–we’re here safely and met our contact with the Kenya Friends. A trip we expected to take less than six hours took over nine, thanks in part to extensive road construction in one section. For most of the trip, the roads were fine, but the final section was very slow.

One highlight for the day was stopping to get sugar cane from a tractor that was bringing it in from the field–can’t get much fresher than that!

Tomorrow we head to Kaimosi, the birthplace of the Friends in Kenya. On the way, we’ll cross the equator back into the northern hemisphere. We’re looking forward to connecting more with the church here and learning about the ministries they have and the challenges they face.

More tomorrow.

To grandma’s house we go

Habari family and friends,

Each day we have been greeted by the cows mooing and the beautiful sunshine; this morning was no different. After breakfast we traveled literally over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house. Our team had the privilege of spending time in the humble home of Martha and David (Esther’s parents). Over hot chai, homemade chocolate doughnuts, carrot cake and zucchini bread David willingly told us about some of the history that his country and tribe have gone through as well as some of the gruesome acts on both sides of the battle line in the fight for independence. Also at their home Esther talked about coming back to the states with Isaac and her girls and how she felt racism from both African Americans and whites. Through her addressing the problem head on, Esther got to be friends with a woman who at the beginning displayed so much hate toward her and her family. Because of both David and Esther sharing we are getting glimpses into their stories and seeing how important communication is.

From there we traveled up the road to two widowed women’s homes. We listened to them tell Esther their story in Kikuyu. After they were done conversing, Esther translated their stories. Then we had the opportunity to pray with them for their individual needs. We left them with flour and sugar as a gift and thank you for welcoming us to their homes.

As we were leaving the final home we had a decent walk to get back to the Daraja House, and I had the privilege to walk with Martha and hear pieces of her own story. She has arthritis in her knees so walking uphill both ways (seriously) is a struggle, but that meant that I had more time just with her. Martha is 64 and has six children and 11 grandchildren. She loves irio (a concoction of mashed potatoes, corn and green leaves) and she has the sweetest spirit. Now we not only have a Kenyan mom, but also a grandma, or shosho as they say here.

Our team had some time to relax today, and I gratefully took full advantage of that on the roof of the Daraja house. The past ten days, as you have been reading, have been packed full of meetings, praying and just being with people in general. As weird as it might sound, being with people all of the time is absolutely exhausting.

Tomorrow we travel to a new town, Kisumu, to go on an adventure. This is an adventure because we are not entirely sure what all we are doing or where exactly where we going. Don’t worry parents, we are in safe hands! Fingers crossed and prayers said. We are unsure if we will have internet connection, but no news is good news in this situation!

I am currently writing in the dark as I complete this post. Poor Sadie and Becca were in the shower when the power completely shut off. Thankfully we have a few flashlights to lead us up the stairs and to our beds. When in Kenya . . .

Blessings,

Janelle “Wanjiru” (my Kenyan name, aka the curious and persistent one) Linder