Friday, June 30, 2006

It's almost 4:30am

...and I'm still up. Heading to bed now. I was working on a video presentation for a team that's planning on having a fundraiser soon... Now, it's time for bed. At least I'll be able to get 3 hours' sleep before having to be in the dining room for breakfast with a visiting team.

Had neat times of ministry with individuals from the visiting team today. That's one of the things I love most about my job: connecting with visitors. They're often in a very unique place where God can do/is doing something new as they are out of their comfort zone.

Tomorrow is packed with visitor stuff, plus communications work. Thanks for praying for effective use of time!

I've been going to bed around 1 every night this week. Don't think that life here is slower than at home... In fact, I find that it's sometimes more challenging getting the same amount done due to simple tasks taking much longer than at home.

Anyway! I need to sleep.

Lala salama!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

12 Steps to mailing a package in Kenya

  1. Wrap goods carefully.
  2. Tape package closed.
  3. Wrap and address package.
  4. Drive to the Post Office.
  5. Be told to unwrap package for inspection.
  6. Fill out forms for Kenya Customs.
  7. Walk to Kenya Customs Authority, in a different building.
  8. Present package to clerk. Have him look at everything inside the package!
  9. Have clerk stamp customs forms.
  10. Seal package in front of clerk.
  11. Walk back to Post Office.
  12. Mail package.

At least I know now that if ever I mail a package from Kenya again, not to seal it before taking it to the Post Office! And to go in the morning. That's when the customs clerk is at the post office, inspecting all incoming packages and deciding who has to pay import tax before being allowed to claim packages...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Gods Must be Crazy

This past Saturday, for movie time, one of the Kenyans suggested that the kids watch The Gods Must Be Crazy, an old (1980) movie from South Africa. I wasn't sure the kids would like it, but figured since most of the movie is narrated, the kids would at least be able to understand it.

It turns out that the kids loved the movie! Today, when I went to visit with the kids, they were telling me that they wanted to see the same movie next week! One girls' room even told me the movie in great detail, laughing like crazy. I have never seen these kids laugh so hard! In fact, I'm told that they laughed so hard during the movie that it scared some of the littler ones.

"When our mother comes home on Friday [from maternity leave]," Vitaline said, "we're going to tell her the whole movie!" It seems like they've been rehearsing scenes from it, and even some of the quietest ones are quick to reenact scenes from the movie. What fun!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mission Impossible

After writing my earlier update, I looked over at where Elliot/Barra-Barra was sleeping. He was hanging suspended between two leaves, Tom Cruise style, but fast asleep! I've moved him to his cage so he can rest comfortably on a stick. I'm too afraid he might fall out of the plant if he sleeps like this!

Today through my windshield

After a wonderful visit by my sister, I headed back to Eldoret today. On Thursday, I had driven to Nairobi with a colleague who was meeting a team. That evening, I met up with Liesl and had a wonderful meal and a stay at a nice hotel (thanks to her work--my copayment was the same as if I would've stayed at the missionary guesthouse!) On Friday, I dropped off the car with the mechanics for an oil change and new front shocks, she and I flew to Eldoret after she presented the workshop she was sent to do. She met the kids and my colleauges, experienced a big, Kenyan rain storm, hung out with me on Saturday, and then we had to head back to the city. We picked up my car and on Sunday, I showed her around Nairobi and took her back to the airport so she could return to South Africa.

The plan was for me to head to Eldoret right after breakfast this morning, but after just a short while on the highway, I discovered that everytime I reach about 50mph (80kmph), the steering wheel starting vibrating terribly. I was finally able to turn around and head back to the mechanics, then to a tyre shop. (In case you wonder, in British English, we write tire with a y.) Got the wheels balanced and aligned, and it was 2 pm before I could leave the city. Not good, since the drive home is at least 5-6 hours, and I didn't want to drive at night.

So I drove non-stop, being kept company only by Beth Moore's teaching. Great stuff! It made the stressful ride not stressful at all. I listened to "Believing God" while having to duck sheep crossing the road, a drunk man that almost fell in the road in front of my car, and more... I crossed the equator 3 times--it's a winding road with Nairobi south of the equator and Eldoret 1 degree north of it. I passed several bicycles loaded high with charcoal and snapped a quick picture. If you look closely at the photo, you'd be amazed what a load these guys carry on their bikes!

By the time it started getting dark and it started raining, I was close to home. The rain caused swarms of flying ants to come out, and I saw a kid eating these as fast as he could catch them!

Didn't see any zebras or baboons on the side of the road today. It's not unusual to see those near Nakuru. The were probably there, but I was paying attention to the road. For about 70km (40miles) before you get to Nakuru, the road is terrible! There is hardly a smooth stretch between all the potholes. In between ducking potholes, you have to keep an eye on the trucks passing both ways and trust none of them kick up stones that will chip your windshield... After Nakuru there's a smooth stretch for about an hour, and then comes a road that doesn't have as many potholes, but deep ruts! This is worse than potholes, I think, because passing a slow-going truck on those roads is tough. The road is once again winding, and imagine going over deep ruts on a winding road!

I was very, very thankful to pull into our compound at 7:30, five and a half hours after leaving Nairobi. Didn't get to see the kids tonight, but I'll go and greet them in the morning. There's a lot I need to get done this week, but I believe it will be a productive one.

But for now, I'm off to Dreamland after this long day...

Friday, June 23, 2006


Yesterday, my sister arrived in Nairobi. She's presenting a workshop in the city today, so I drove to meet her. What fun to have her here! We went to dinner last night, and this morning, after she left for work, I set out to run errands: Arrange for the transport of my vehicle, drop off payments at travel agents for teams, drop off my car for a service. I'm able to take the car to Africa Inland Mission's Technical Assistance Missions workshop. They've serviced the vehicle the past 2 years, so they have all the records, which is nice. And they are reliable. In Eldoret, you don't always know what they're putting into or taking out of your engine...

The drive down to Nairobi was faster than the drive to Eldoret. It took just 5 hours to get to the city. That's a long time for just 320km, though. You'd understand if you saw the road. At least 3 hours are on terrible roads! I'm thankful for a car that's strong enough to handle these roads.

I'm now off to take care of a few more errands before meeting up with my sister for the journey to Eldoret so see can see my world. Her office sent tons of stuff for the kids. The kids are really excited about meeting a family member of mine.

I've mentioned before that Kenyans don't believe you should sleep alone. Single women often "borrow" a neighbor's kid to sleep with them. (Odd, I know!) One of the first things the girls said when they found my sister will be staying with me is, "Good! Then you won't sleep alone."

Liesl will only be in Eldoret for a day before having to head back to South Africa.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thank-you note after the girls' night

"Dear Adel
Receive many greatings from Joyce, and my family. May God bless you. I want to say much thanks because you call us big girls because we are special to God. Thank you much for the card which they write about my life and they write for me 'she like smiling, reading, drawing, playful obedience. She love Jesus. She like to sing. She is helpful.' [We had the girls write notes of encouragement to others about what they saw in their sisters.] I was very happy for that card it will help me in the future those words. I enjoyed being in your car. In fact, nobody has ever being in your car we were the first one to enter inside your car and you decorate your car with shiny flowers.
Yours lovely,
P.S. Memory verse you teach us is Zephaniah 3:17, 'The LORD your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing."

Off to Nairobi, again

Tomorrow morning early, I'm driving to Nairobi. My sister Liesl will be landing in Nairobi in the afternoon to do training in the city on Friday. I'm going to meet her for dinner, and on Friday when she's doing training, I'll be able to take care of business in the city--details for teams coming throughout the next few weeks.

It's about a 7-and-a-half hour drive (about 6 if you're in a matatu!) Now you know why I'm driving myself! When you're in a matatu, there are too many near-death experiences! Or so I think, in any case. It's not that I'm afraid to die. I'd just not prefer to die in a matatu accident. And so I'm driving.

On Friday night, Liesl and I will fly to Eldoret. My car will be spending the night at the mechanics, getting new front shocks. On Saturday night, we have to head back to Nairobi since Liesl flies home Sunday. I'll pick up my car on Saturday night and drive back on Monday.

It's a short trip for Liesl, but I'm delighted that she's able to come and see where I live, to meet the kids, especially! They're thrilled to meet one of my relatives. It's just really confusing to the kids that Liesl is younger than I, yet she's married and has two kids and I'm still single. Go figure! I told them that they shouldn't forget that I have 96 kids! They just laugh when I say that. But I know they love it that I call them my kids...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Dangers of Ironing

A report on BBC radio this morning talks about a very strange practice in Cameroon, Africa: breast ironing. In an effort to prevent their daughters' breast to develop (and thus attract the attention of boys), many mothers in Cameroon use hot wooden planks to "iron" the breasts of their daughters.


There's now a Cameroonian television campaign going on to discourage this practice... In case you're wondering, they claim ironing really does work. Doctors are concerned about the long-term effects, but the mothers who do it don't seem to care. Sad, sad.

Slip slidin' away...

Tonight, I went to see Victor Kiprop, a brand new little Kenyan baby. He's the son of Nelson and Dorcas, coworkers of mine. Victor was born at 3 am last night, and in order to see him and his mom, I had to drive to Dorcas' mom's home, not too far from here.

It was getting dark by the time I left, and I wanted to make it home before dark. I took the shortest road from where I was, thinking it's the smartest thing to do... What I didn't realize was that it had rained quite a bit while I was visiting, and the shortcut has some VERY bad spots, including ditches on the sides of the road.

When I hit the worst spot, I put my car in 4WD and moved ahead, until I started sliding and the car ended up almost 80 degrees diagonally to the road. It's a scary feeling seeing the ditches come closer. I thought, "My car's strong, but not strong enough to get out of a ditch!" And by now, it was pitch dark...

I prayed non-stop as I put the car in reverse, straightened out, and started through the mud again. "God, ONLY You can get me through this! Take the wheel..."

And I got through! Phew! Needless to say, I won't take that road again at night, nor after it had rained on and off for 3 nights! (The road was fine when I went to town. The last bout of rain really made things tough, though.)

As I pulled into our compound, I thanked God for brining me home safely. (In case you're wondering, I avoid driving at night simply because it's not a smart thing to do when you live out in the boonies like we do. So don't worry, such ventures aren't the norm for me.) I'm very, very thankful for a strong vehicle that was able to handle the mud well. There's no way I would've made it through that easily with one of our other vehicles. Yeah God, eh?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pouring rain

Right now, it's pouring rain! I love the sound of the rain on my metal roof. I love that all the crops are getting watered--our area hasn't had the typical rainfall for this time of year, and everyone's been praying for good rain. I'm really hoping that it will continue to rain all through the night so the soil can really get drenched. And I love that I know that even if it does rain all night long, that my car should have no trouble making it to town tomorrow to drop off visitors.

(The rain just let up. Bummer! The crops really need good rain!)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Chameleon and the Rhino

Jared, one of our interns, preached this morning. He talked about being called as Christians to live dangerous lives and used the illustration of being like rhinos. Rhinos cannot see very far ahead, but when they charge (without knowing what's very far ahead), they can still do great damage. Chameleons, on the other hand, weigh every little step and move slowly. And they catch only a single fly at a time.

It is said that a person is like their pets. I hope I'm not like Elliot/BarraBarra and too slow and measured in everything I do! I want to move mountains through faith in Christ--not merely catch little flies...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What is missions?

When I was at a missionary guest house in Nairobi, another missionary asked me about the work we did at ELI. I told him about our ministry, about doing agricultural training, amongst other things. Somewhat sceptical, he asked if we were able to succesfully integrate spiritual training with agricultural training...

This has led to some interesting discussions with colleagues. My neighbor Brian Albright puts it well: We've never been able to seperate Christ from anything we do!

Think about it. It is when we compartementalize our faith (God is part of my church experiences, or when I visit with Christian friends) that we become ineffective Christians. I am not saying that you need to wear T-shirts with blazing slogans or mention Christ in every other sentence. Sharing Christ in everyday activities deals with how we interact with the clerk at the bank, with the packer at the grocery store, the neighbors who think differently from us. Not?

Whether I teach kids a Bible verse, or if I teach pastors a class on leadership, or if I simply interact with the gardeners at ELI, it should all be done in the same spirit.

To me, that is truly missions.

And that makes each and every Christian a missionary. No matter where in the world we may find ourselves.

Friday, June 16, 2006


So... the girls were ready: Pillows and invitations in hand (the invitations made a puzzle which we put together later), they piled into my car. I made two trips and the girls were buzzing with excitement. Some of the boys, on the other hand, decided to ambush us as the girls walked up to the car. Boys will be boys, no matter where in the world you are!

We had a blast! The girls cracked up at some of the stories others were telling about where babies come from. Scopia, the oldest one, gave a quick anatomy lesson in Kiswahili. She remembered well what Alissa (an PA from Iowa) had taught them!

Next it was movie time. Everyone got a cupcake a strawberry milk, but many didn't care at all for the sweet milk. I kept the popcorn coming while they watched "Princess Diaries." They couldn't quite finish the movie before it was time for us to walk them home.

It's funny looking at my bathroom: little muddy footprints in every corner! The girls literally explored every corner of my home.

I wonder what they'll be sharing with the others tomorrow...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

There's great excitement at the children's home

...because tonight's the night that all the 10- and 11-year-old girls are going out for a pajama party at my house. Keep in mind that other than occasional field trips when they're with ALL the other kids, these little ones never go out for dinners or movies or sleepovers. So this is a BIG occasion.

When I went over there earlier this evening, I was swarmed by curious little ones. "Adele, what will the girls do, Adele?" "Adele, can I come?" "Adele, don't tell them what we'll do! It's our special night!" "Adele, will you really come to get us with your car?" (To which they'd shriek with excitement that they're really being chauffeured somewhere--a first! Wait till they see that the car's been decorated with foam flowers!)

I've had some chats with the moms about the program. They're all too glad that we'll be talking about the things their culture doesn't require them as moms to talk about. Some were particularly glad that we'll be the ones debunking the myths that babies come from behind the knee (!)

Ah, what fun. The interns have really planned for this evening to be very special and I know that the young ladies will go home with more than just stories to tell their sisters. They'll go home with the certain knowledge that they are fearfully and wonderfully made! That is our prayer!

But they'll also go home having eaten specially-made pink cupcakes, drank strawberry milk and fresh popcorn while watching "Princess Diaries."

What fun to be a girl!

And now, I'm off to pick up the young ones.

Green Mamba

Today, John (a young Kenyan) informed me that he had seen a green mamba on the fence by my home. "I don't want you to be scared," he said confidently, "but it got away." So, I might have a mamba around my home... I trust not! I bet by now it had escaped to the surrounding corn fields.

Unedited note from one of the kids

Today, I was given this note by one of the girls. A friend of mine had sent her a jacket, and this is the thank-you note she wrote:

Thank you for give me jacket.
I am so happy because you give me.
I love Jesus so much.
And I love you so much.
I love my parents
and my teachers all of them.
My school is called Samro.
Jesus love very much.
I love you
and Jesus love you.

Store of Moses

Moses and the ten commandments to see who is watching baby Moses.
The Egyiptian princess diceded to keep the baby for herself. She called him Moses.
Moses brought up like an Egyptians prince.
Finally Pharaoh said the Isrealites cold leaves his land.
The israelites headed for their promised land. The israelites baby be were to be killed.
The cruel Egyptian hand made laves. (slaves? ed.)
The Israelites had live in Egypt.

My name is Winsam Jeptoo

Memory verse

Ephesians 5:26
Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Girls' Night

I've been wanting to host a girls' night at my place for some time now, inviting the oldest of our girls over. Since we have two girl interns (Christy and Rachel) here to help, I've asked them to make the arrangements for the event.

Seeing that the kids have Friday off, we decided to have the event tomorrow night (Thursday).

Each of the 11- and 12-year-old girls have been given a pink foam puzzle piece made by Christy and Rachel. If they put together the puzzle, the girls will see the verse from Ps 139 about being wonderfully and fearfully made. Putting together the puzzle will be one of the things we'll do tomorrow evening.

But here's the rest:
  • The girls have been asked to come in their PJs and bring their own pillows. (Since my home is small, we'll take out all the living room furniture earlier in the day.)
  • Instead of having to walk over here from the orphanage, they'll be asked to be ready at a certain time. That's when I'll show up with my car which will be decorated with pink foam flowers (thanks to Christy and Rachel). I'll drive them to my home (all of 100 meters!), where they'll be met by the interns. I'll return to the orphange for the second carload. There will be 14 guests.
  • To start the evening, the girls will play Twister. Then they'll do the puzzle activity.
  • The puzzle will lead into a talk by the interns about all the fun things about being a girl... We're planning on making the talk as fun as possible, and the moms said they don't want to come so that the girls will be free to ask questions. And knowing some of the girls, they will ask!
  • After the Q&A session, we'll have some fun! I'll be baking raspberry cupcakes, and the girls will have the chance to decorate their own cupcakes. And we'll have strawberry milk. (I found strawberry syrup in town today!)
  • Armed with snacks and drinks (we'll also have popcorn, though that won't be pink), we'll thank cozy down for a movie. We've told the moms that the girls will be home late.
Sound like fun? I bet it will be!

God never ceases to amaze me!

Earlier last week, when I started talking to the owner of the vehicle I was considering purchasing, I still had no work permit, and without a work permit, I couldn't buy a car. I also still needed the balance of the purchase price of the vehicle. I decided to move ahead in faith while asking God to make it VERY, VERY clear whether it's the vehicle I should buy, and that he would provide the necessary means for the purchase.

As the week progressed, some supporters stepped up to cover the funding. The first major obstacle had thus been removed, and I knew I had God to thank for that!

Next: the paper work... On Friday morning, right before going to see the vehicle, I got a phone call that the NGO Board has approved my application for a work permit!! And so, I went to look at the car, I had utmost peace about it being the right vehicle for our needs here at ELI.

After the test drive and chats with the owner, I thought the vehicle's mine. However, there were still some minor things to be done: Some seats that had been removed during the cleaning had to be put back. Also, the owner needed to use the vehicle for the remainder of the day, since they were moving back to Canada and needed to move their stuff to be shipped.

Using a vehicle from the missionary guest house where I was staying, I went my way to meet with a team that was leaving. But later in the afternoon, I got a call about insurance. I needed to buy insurance THAT day since the owner was canceling his that afternoon. I rushed back to the other side of the city just in time to catch the insurance place open, buy insurance and sign the purchase agreement. Finding my way from where I was to where I needed to go to sign the papers was another God thing!

After finalizing the paper work and insurance, the owner asked if he could still use the car that night to move more things and take his wife to dinner for their anniversary. I obliged but was concerned about how I would get home that evening: I was still using the car from the missionary guest house but was staying at Flora Hostel because the guest house had no rooms available...

Trust God to work things out: After dropping off the team at the airport that night, as I drove up to the guest house, the owner came driving out with the Land Rover! He had just dropped off some more things! The timing could not be more perfect!! He took me (and interns I had with me) back to Flora Hostel.

The next morning, he picked us up again and handed over the keys to the vehicle. Soon after that, we were off to Eldoret.

The car handles WONDERFULLY over these terrible Kenyan roads! You hardly feel the potholes, and it used only half a tank of diesel on the 350-km uphill road from Nairobi to Eldoret.

When I turned into the children's home almost 7 hours after leaving the city, the children came RUNNING. They sang and praised God for the vehicle. They also prayed for God's hand to be on the vehicle at all times.

On Sunday, I was able to go to a church in town, which is something I've really needed. I'll be visiting one or two other churches before deciding where I'll stay, but I really liked the church where I went.

On Monday, after our staff meeting, I took the men from our AA ministry down to road back to the rehab center. The road between our center and theirs is virtually impassable this time of year and the men from that center thus always walk to/from meetings. I was able to drive that road without even having to put the vehicle in 4WD!

I've also spoken to the Kipkaren staff and I'll be helping them toward the end of the month to go and pick up new orphans for the new children's home. Many of the orphans live in remote areas which would be very hard to reach had it not been for the fact that we had a sturdy 4WD.

Having been blessed with this vehicle goes far beyond my needs! It's a blessing to Empowering Lives International and will continue to be so for many years to come.

Yeah God!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Feeding Mosquitoes

It's after 1 a.m. I've been working on catching up with my regular work while involuntarily feeding a mosquito or two under my desk. As soon as I'm caught up, I'll post a blog update.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Today, I got a car!

Praising God for the car
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
In a series of events that only God could orchestrate, I became the proud owner today of a Land Rover 110. It's a bulky vehicle, but it handles the roads here at Ilula (and the terrible road from Nairobi) wonderfully!

I keep thinking, "God, is this real?" It is indeed!

As I drove into the compound, the kids cam running! They all wanted to hug me and congratulate me on getting a car. And then they gathered to praise God for providing us with this vehicle.

I say "us," because the vehicle basically automatically becomes the property of Empowering Lives. The ministry as a whole will certainly benefit from having at least one vehicle that can handle the mud roads well!

I'll write about the crazy events that lead up to me being able to drive from Nairobi today with the certain knowledge that God is so in control and that he takes good care of us! More about that later.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


This morning, I had to go to town to run some errands. For the first time since someone tried to pickpocket me at the market, I returned to Peter's stall to buy mangoes, tomatoes and apples. The vendor asked me about my long absence, and we chatted about this, that and the other. I smiled at another customer who was buying a big bag of onions, a lady dressed in business attire.

"What's your favorite amongst these," she asked, pointing to the produce that was being added up.

"The mangoes!" I said without hesitation.

"Add those to my bill," she said with a smile.

I had never met her before and most likely will never run into her again. Her name is Grace, and as I thanked her, she said, "May God bless you." Wow. He certainly does.

It was such a small gesture--the mangoes were less than $1--yet to me, it meant the world to know that here's someone who doesn't have a lot to give, yet she chose to bless someone else. I wondered if it was because she heard me saying that I've not wanted to come to the market because of some of the young guys hanging around.

Regardless of her motivation, I received the blessing, determined to remember to do the same for others..

Tomorrow, I'll be going to our base in Kipkaren for some meetings, after which I will be flying to Nairobi. There's a vehicle I'm going to look at! OH YEAH! I am SO praying that it will work out fine, that I can in fact drive back with the car on Saturday! Please join me in prayer for this!

If I have my own car, it'd mean that I'd actually be able to seriously look for a church home outside of our compound! That's the thing I'm most excited about. :)

I probably won't be able to do any posts from Nairobi this time, so next time I'll post news, I should know whether or not I actually have a vehicle.

Precious sight!

Tonight, as I went over to read to some of the kids, I discovered that everyone from the West Wing was in the gazebo. This is unusual, since it was 8:30, and at that time, everyone's usually in their rooms, getting ready for bed.

When I opened the door to the gazebo, all the kids were on the floor, kneeling and praying for Mama Joshua who is in the hospital. I just stood there and soaked in the moment. What a beautiful sight!

When they were through praying, they were excited to see me there and wanted me to read to all of them, which made my job way easier! Usually, I read to one room at a time, so I got 4 rooms in one! Oh yeah! After reading, we talked about the story (The Rainbow Fish) and how they, too, could give away their beauty to others. They started mentioning how they could bless others by sharing the fruit of the Spirit, the Gospel, by helping others, and if one mentioned they could do so by loving others, at least 10 echoed that same thought. And they also mentioned they can bless others by praying for them, like they were doing...

It's times like thos that I wish you could be right here to appreciate the moment!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Here Comes the Bride...

When I went to the post office earlier this week to pick up a care package, I had to keep myself from laughing. Normally, Don Moen's worship music is played on the PA system in the post office. Someone must have decided they're tired of listening to Don Moen day in and day out, so they're now playing a new CD: Wedding marches! You can only imagine standing in line to buy stamps, and listening to "Here Comes the Bride...." on a pipe organ.

It's another of those "Only in Kenya" experiences. Though it wouldn't have surprised me to have a similar experience in Taiwan.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
You see all kinds of cargo on the back of bikes here. In addition to this firewood delivery, I saw a man transporting a 10-foot ladder on his bike in the afternoon. I've also seen guys transport an extra bicycle, a bed, a couch, and even a lawnmower!

Things for which I'm thankful today

  • The pouring rain
  • A solid roof over my head
  • Electricity
  • Running water
  • A hot shower
  • My pet chameleon
  • Friendly neighbors
  • Hugs from the kids
  • Internet
  • Satellite phone
  • Good books
  • Seeing kids' eyes light up when I walk into their room
  • Snacks from Nairobi
  • Seeing my own basil plant starting to grow!
  • A clean house
  • A care package I received yesterday with children's books
  • Having interns and a team to help out
  • Fresh roses
  • The ability to visit with many kids in English
  • Good health
  • Being able to watch the kids play softball with the team today, and the excitement as they succeeded in learning a new skill
  • Clean water
  • Candles
  • The smell of the damp soil outside my window
  • Great music
  • E-mails from loved ones

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kalinjin Culture

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about culture. It would seem like missionaries have really done a lot of damage by tearing down culture for the sake of making others not just think like we want them to think, but also dress like we do and sing like we do, to name just two examples.

Often, when I'm in Kenyan friends' homes, they'd make statements such as, "You know, we didn't want to have anything to do with that part of our culture, because now we are saved." Granted, some practices are harmful and should be done away with. But during a conversation with one Kenyan yesterday on the topic of piercings, the person brought up the fact that Kenyans traditionally wore the big earrings etc but "We stopped that because we are saved."

It made me think a lot about talks at Urbana 03 by a native Canadian worship group who said that for so many years, missionaries told them their pow-wows and music was bad, but they started thinking about it and decided to make music on their instruments, wearing their traditional clothes etc to glorify God. They redeemed the good in their culture rather than throwing it all away.

There are customs in this culture that are truly good, the rite of passage for young men being one. True, it's gory (to say the least) to have someone be circumcised at age 14 or above, but with this comes a month's training on what it means to be a man and taking care of your family etc. At the same time, though, the female right of passage (FGM) should totally be done away with! Many churches are stepping in and teaching girls the right stuff, but without having any circumcision, which is good.

Anyway, so what made me think of all this is the conversation I had, and the fact that Jesus lived cross-culturally and challenged the culture within which he lived. I'm trying to read the gospels looking specifically for Jesus' approach to culture. But that's another issue.

Back to Kalinjin customs. Some of the customs which blow my mind are the following:
  • A young man (above 18) should not sleep under the same roof as his parents. It is considered unacceptable. Even people with little or no money build a hut for their sons when they reach the age where they should no longer live with their parents. When a Kenyan student returned from college earlier this week, he was frantically looking for bedding etc to stay in one of our guest huts. When I suggested that he spend the night in his parents' house, he laughed at me. "Not under the same roof as my parents! Never!" Though I don't understand this custom, it's not offensive. I simply don't get it.
  • Married men are not supposed to spend any time with their mother-in-laws. When a colleague's wife recently had a baby and went to live with her mother for the first month after the baby's birth, the colleague broke tradition by going to his mother-in-law's home to see his wife and first-born baby on a daily basis. How could he get away with doing this? Every day, before entering the yard, he would call his wife on his cell phone to let her know that he is coming. That gave the mother-in-law time to disappear rather than spending time with her daughter's husband! To me, this is one of those customs which I think is more damaging than good. But one of my colleagues told me, "Come home with us one weekend, Adele, then you'll understand." I sure hope I do. Until that time, I'll wonder about the good of this custom!
  • I was visiting friends recently when we had to carry a few trays of food from one building to the next. The pastor couldn't help carry. They were saying that it is a taboo for him to be carrying food--another one of the customs which got me thinking about servant leadership. Somehow I doubt very strongly that carrying food (or helping in a kitchen, for that matter) was below Jesus!
There are many things I find beautiful about this culture. From time to time, however, some customs make me wonder... But I would not want to be guilty of the same mistakes earlier missionaries made and simply forcing change that is not merited. In the meantime, though, it's tough at times not to say something about customs I find illogical...