Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Walk in the Forest

A walk in the forest, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

I'm back from the forest. After getting up at 5:30 on Thursday to make coffee for the team that was leaving, I got my things together, loaded the car, and took off for the forest with 11 other staff members from our home-based care ministry. This is the team that runs ELI's AIDS ministry, but also cares for anyone in our extended community who needs someone to walk the journey with them. People like the Sifunas, or like Hannah, or Lillian, the mom with the twins.

I'm not part of that team, but I went along to assist with facilitating some of the sessions. The purpose of the weekend was to rest, to reflect, and to plan ahead. And we did all of that, and more. We laughed, got to know each other, we ate good food and shared stories.

It was so much fun to discover what things my Kenyan colleagues simply weren't used to. Understandably, they had no idea which knives and forks to use, which side plate was theirs, or which glass. But everyone was keen to learn! They asked the waiters to teach them to fold napkins, and they wondered aloud about the strange dishes that showed up. In fact, on our ride home, Meshak wanted to know if it's really monkey meat we ate at breakfast. I assured him that bacon was from pigs, not monkeys like his friends told him... He--and several others--had never had bacon before. Nor salad, pie, or sauerkraut.

So it was quite an adventure for them. So much so that some are talking about saving 20/= a day all of next year so they can go back there by themselves at the end of the year... (That's just more than a quarter a day.)

I love it about this team. They had fun, and they had no qualms showing it. They worked hard, like they always do, and came up with even loftier goals for next year. They want to see more people tested for HIV, more people helped. Most of them can find higher-paying jobs in other places, but they choose to stay and serve here because of the immense job satisfaction. And it shows.

We played Jenga our first night, combining it with answering questions about yourself after you jengad. (Jenga is Swahili for build, so here, we use the word as a verb while playing the game.) And if someone toppled the tower, they were showered with any and all questions people may want to ask.

By the time the generator was switched off, we continued the game by candlelight and flashlight.

Same last night. They watched a movie (I went to bed early) and played Scrabble, Chinese solitaire and Uno till way after midnight.

This morning, we did some fun team building activities where I had everyone blindfolded, trying to make a square. It's always fun to do these activities, but what's even more fun is to do the debriefing afterwards. "Who was the leader? Why did others take over? Why did you not listen to that person's advice?" and so on and so forth. Learn through play.

Oh, and yesterday, Juli had us all go out and spend time reflecting on "Thus far, the LORD has helped us," (1 Sam. 7:12) by drawing stones with people or event names in them. And so, throughout the various events, people shared some of the stories from their stones, and I wrote the names from their stone stories on rocks I had collected from the forest. We brought them back as a reminder of what God has done.

We concluded our time together with a time of affirmation. Though we thought it would take perhaps an hour or two, we spent almost five hours (!) sharing what we appreciated about one another. I can attest to the difference it has already made in relationships, simply because people could share their hearts. In fact, during the ride home, everyone in my car was involved in a VERY heated discussion about Christ and culture because of something that was said during the afternoon session. It was exhilarating to be a part of the ride home, to hear people's hearts, to be able to share some of my heart with them, too.

By the time I dropped everyone at home tonight and Maru's children ran and threw their arms around their dad, my heart was smiling.

I had made some good friends this weekend. I got to know an amazing team, and they got to know me a bit, too. I discovered that some of them had been a bit afraid of me before, because, I'm told, I have high standards. But spending these days together, sharing, laughing, praying, eating, having communion, made us a stronger team. Even though I'm technically not a part of their team.

Click on the picture to see more photos from the weekend.

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