Friday, September 09, 2005

How to get from here to there

Find Eldoret on the map
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Can you find Eldoret? It's Northwest of Nairobi, 6 hours by bumpy road, or a short and equally bumpy flight over the Rift Valley.

Hodi! (not pronounced howdy!)

That's what Kenyans say when they knock on your door. It means, "May I come in?" The response is, "Karibu!" (Welcome!)

A few weeks ago, shortly before I sent out my previous update, I prayerfully "knocked on the door" of Empowering Lives International (ELI) , a ministry with which I'm very familiar. I had gotten to know and respect ELI's leaders through APU. Last Thanksgiving, I took a small team from Iowa to serve at one of their training centers in Kenya.

"Hodi?" I asked.

ELI's leaders met, prayed, discussed their ministry needs, considered my background and passions, prayed some more. This week, ELI extended me a warm, "Karibu!" I have been welcomed into their ministry and onto their team in Eldoret. The position offered to me encompasses various facets of my journey to this point: editorial work, writing, project management, short-term missions training/coordinating, and down the road, teaching.

I will be moving to Eldoret, Kenya at the start of November.

This is a journey that has been long in the making. It started with me being born and raised in Africa. It continues with God taking me to Taiwan where I worked as an editor. The road then led to Azusa Pacific University, where this long-term missionary learned a lot about short-term missions. Through APU's Office of World Missions, I got to know and respect Brian Albright and his wife, Kristin, who moved to Kenya last year to join ELI. And through APU, I got to know ELI. In fact, the team I took to Mozambique last summer received training from ELI in projects we then implimented in Dondo, MZ. And once I moved to Iowa, I took a small team from my church in Iowa last Thanksgiving to serve at ELI's training center.

I came to the fork in the road a few weeks ago. I realized that I could continue to push and pray that the doors in Canada would open, or I could stop and listen if God was trying to redirect me. I took a step of faith and explained to my Canadian friends that I believe I'm heading in the wrong direction. I needed to return to Africa. Only a few days after announcing this change, I was notified that my Canadian visa had officially been turned down. This, to me, was one of many confirmations that God had indeed guided me in this change, and I knew he would open the door with the right ministry in Africa. I had sent an inquiry to Brian shortly before I sent out my previous update, and got a response that they were interested in a dialogue with me.

Two long weeks later, I was offered the position in Eldoret. (BTW, you can find Eldoret on the attached map. It's northwest of Nairobi.)

What will I be doing with ELI?
At first, I'll be mostly involved with communications. My job will encompass overseeing the big picture of all their newsletters, updates etc. I'll do a lot of writing and photography. I'm planning on starting a blog just for all the orphans. (This part is so much like my job in Taiwan!)

A second component will be communicating with short-term teams, making all their arrangements within Kenya, meeting them in Nairobi when they arrive, arranging their debriefing safari, stuff like that. I see this as a crucial component for a successful short-term mission--having someone in-country who can answer team members' questions and be there to serve and/or assist visitors.

A third component will unfold once I'm on sight and have gotten to know the leaders and the culture better. It may involve working with a national on writing curriculum for the pastoral training center (this is where my degree from APU comes in handy!) It may involve starting some community-based programs, such as a home-based orphan care program.

When will I move?
Before, I thought I had to leave the country at the end of this month. I since found out that I have 60 days grace period after 9/29. Officially, I'd have to be out of the US before the end of November. However, I'm trying to get a flight booked for November 5, directly to Nairobi. Early in December, a team from New Covenant will be coming to serve at Eldoret, and I'd love to be somewhat at home by the time they arrive. While the team is in Kenya, I will be joining their program and working specifically with a VBS for the orphanage.

Where is the orphanage? Will I be working with the orphans?
ELI's children's center is on the same piece of land where I will be living. (And yes, I'll be living in a round hut with a thatched roof and an outhouse. But more about that once I'm there!) Spending time getting to know each of the 80 children is very high on my priority list. In fact, since I'll be learning Swahili, I will be practising my new language skills on the kids.

FAQs/Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I have sufficient financial support raised?
Not yet. My support raised so far is at about 65% of the suggested budget for Kenya. If you would like to support me financially, I will greatly appreciate it! Checks can be made out to ELI. Just write the number 319 in the memo line so they know it's for my account. Mail it to P.O.Box 67, Upland, CA 91785. ELI will issue tax receipts for donations.
2. How can I be reached in Kenya?
I'll have access to e-mail. Please keep in mind that it's dial-up Internet access, so please do not send any mass forwards or large attachments. My mailing address in Kenya is P.O.Box 8199, Eldoret, Kenya. I still have a Kenyan cell phone number from my last visit: 011-254-723-270-086.
3. Do I need a visa for Kenya?
Almost everyone I've told about the news of this job almost immediately asked, "Do you need a visa?" Yes, I do. But it is far easier to get a visa for Kenya than for Canada. I just have to send my passport to Washington, DC with the necessary paperwork, and I'll have my visa in about 2 weeks. Tourism and development work are some of Kenya's major lifelines. I have yet to hear of any person who has been denied a visa to that country.
4. Do I have to learn Swahili?
Yes and no. Most adults with at least an elementary education can understand English. Some of the children at the orphanage already know English. But if I want to be able to minister to the younger children (which I want to do!), I need to be able to speak Swahili. And if I want to do any work within the community, I will need to be able to communicate in Swahili. Plus, learning someone's language shows you respect them, which I do.

Oh, there are so many more things I can share about the place I'll be, about the faith and the love of the people, about the joy of seeing Christ work in and through these people who have so little in our Western eyes, yet have faith that puts us to shame.

I look forward to walking the road with them, and with you.

Prayer and praise:

* I am infinitely thankful for this ministry connection, and for the priviledge to join the incredible work ELI is doing in Kenya
* Please pray for details of preparing for the move. I had packed my stuff long ago to move to Canada. I need to repack, totally. Out with my snow boots and winter clothes. In with skirts... (It's a Kenyan culture thing. I'll be wearing skirts all the time. Yip. You read right.)
* Please pray for meetings with donors during the next month. Beyond the basic budget, I'll have to raise funds for some major equipment in Kenya (like a 4x4 pickup.)
* For health and safety
* That God will flood me with a deep love for each of the orphans and community members; that I may see them as He sees them, and see within them the potential He has planted within their lives
* For ease in transition. There will undoubtedly be moments when I will miss the luxuries of living in the West (like taking hot showers)
* For creativity in my new job
* That I will boldly obey Christ
* For good friends in Kenya (beyond the circle of our ministry)

Ubarikiwe (be blessed)


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Destination: Kenya

This week, I was offered a gift from the hand of God. Truly. I have been invited to join the team at Empowering LIves International's base in Eldoret, Kenya. My job will encompass various facets of my journey to this point: editorial work, writing, project management, short-term missions training, and, further down the road, teaching.

I will be moving to Eldoret, Kenya at the start of November.

Check out ELI's Web site:

More later.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

We serve a BIG God

This evening, I got news from Canada that my Canadian visa was officially denied.

I am amazed at God's grace during this process: He guided me to come to a position where I started looking at options in Africa even before I got the official news. He has birthed in my heart excitement about what options lay before me. The news from Canada isn't a blow at all; it is confirmation of what God was telling me.

I also got news that I have 60 days grace period after my OPT visa (the student visa extension I'm on) expires. That means, I do not have to leave the US on Sept. 29 like I thought. It has a lot of positive implications, which I'm very excited about.

God is good, isn't he?