Thursday, May 31, 2007

Call to Prayer

From where I'm sitting and working, I can hear the nearby mosque's call to prayer. I've heard it several times today. Soon, it might be a reality in my neighborhood in Ilula, too. I'm told that a mosque will soon be built less than 3 km from our base. Kenya has a growing Muslim population, and I pass through a predominantly Muslim community en route to Kipkaren every week. I've been reading much about Islam, trying to understand what they believe and how we can reach the Muslim women in these communities. (Cross-gender evangelism is totally offensive to them.)

I want to know what my neighbors believe, not because I want to attack them, but so that I can love them and have conversations with them. I would love to introduce them to Jesus! But that would be a process that I'd want God to truly show me step by step how to approach.

Even tonight, at dinner, I sensed God reminding me how ignorance creates chasms. It might be fear of the unknown. Or it could be pride. It's ignorance, nevertheless. Case in point: At lunch, I noticed how one family was sitting by themselves. No-one joined their table. The girls all wore dresses. The wife wore a head covering. The young husband looked very serious. I wondered who they were, what they believed.

At dinner, I passed by the table with my new neighbor-friends (the ones who live "just up the road") and asked the other family if I could join them. They were incredibly polite and well-mannered. And they were friendly, though somewhat quiet. In fact, I had a delightful time visiting with them and learning about what they do in Meru. Yes, they dress differently. They even talk funny, but that's simply because they're from Arkansas. They're Mennonites, and if the opportunity arises, I'll ask them more about the specifics of their faith.

As a result of visiting with them and reading up about their faith, I no longer have to shy away from talking with them.

I pray the same will be true of my Muslim neighbors, that I'll get to befriend some ladies in our area and break bread with them...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some things I've done today

A not-entirely-exhaustive list of things I have done so far today.

  1. Hit "snooze" on my alarm clock.
  2. Drank 2 cups of coffee.
  3. Studied Genesis 27, the "blessing chapter," about Jacob stealing Esau's blessing.
  4. Identified with Rebekah (Jacob's mom, who sometimes didn't get that God's will will prevail, even without my "help.")
  5. Ate an egg sandwich at the airport.
  6. Wondered if the egg sandwich was safe to eat.
  7. Wore blue jeans for the first time in Kenya.
  8. Crawled into a really small plane. (Seriously! Aero Kenya has added new flights, but not all of their flights are full, so they've acquired some smaller planes. You cannot be taller than 4' if you'd like to walk in this plane. All seats are isle seats. Most seats are window seats. OK, technically, all seats are window seats, but the two front seats don't have windows.)
  9. Sat with my feet on top of my carry-on back-pack the entire flight due to lack of space.
  10. Chatted with some pastor from some town in the Deep South about the work his church does in Kenya.
  11. Read an Afrikaans magazine en route to Nairobi.
  12. Fell asleep.
  13. Waited for Mayfield driver George to pick me up at the airport. (Mayfield is a missionary guest house run by Africa Inland Mission in Nairobi.)
  14. Read a few pages of a book while waiting.
  15. Waited for George to run errands after picking me up from Wilson Airport.
  16. Read more pages of the book.
  17. Visited with the staff at Mayfield.
  18. Wrote thank-you notes to supporters while sitting outside in the Mayfield garden.
  19. Listened to good music while writing notes.
  20. Had Yorkshire pudding and roast beef for lunch at Mayfield. First time ever to have Yorkshire pudding, that was.
  21. Met a missionary family who live "just up the road" (a 2-hour drive) from me in Ilula.
  22. Agreed to connect in Eldoret sometime, which is their nearest "city."
  23. Went to the international airport with George, to drop off my damaged luggage at British Airways. (The extendable handle by which you pull my big suitcase was broken off totally during my journey to Kenya. I had filled out a report when I picked up the luggage, and they told me to hand in the bag the next time I'm in town. They'll either fix it - how I don't know - or replace the bag.)
  24. Was sent from BA's counters to international arrivals to drop off the said luggage.
  25. Had to explain to the security dude why there's no Kenyan stamp in my passport. (I had grabbed an old passport when packing. And yes, I have several passports since my country only issues skinny passports and you have to get a new passport when yours is full - they don't add more pages.)
  26. Dropped off my bag and was told that BA will get back to me since their official left "just 5 minutes ago."
  27. Waited for George.
  28. Read some more from the book.
  29. Caught up on friends' blogs.
  30. Putzed around on my computer.
  31. Answered some e-mails.
  32. Read more.
  33. Took a nap.
  34. Downloaded updates on all my favorite podcasts. (I cannot download audio from my neck of the woods.) And in case you wonder, my favorite podcasts are, they are sermons by John Piper, Chuck Swindoll, Joyce Meyer, Erwin McManaus, and Bill Johnson, and video podcasts from National Geographic's Video Shorts and their NG Atmosphere. My computer will be running all night and probably much of tomorrow, just downloading all the podcasts!
  35. Read more.
  36. Made some work phone calls.
  37. Ate too many Pringles, which, by the way, you don't get out in Eldoret. Check out their Web site. They don't even show they're in Africa. But then again, according to their site, they're not in Greenland, either. Or anywhere in the Middle East.
  38. Made this silly list.
  39. Took a long, hot bath. (One of the nicest things about being at the Mayfield.)
  40. Read more.
  41. Visited with a Mennonite missionary family at dinner time.
  42. Pretended to understand what their 2-year-old blue-eyed girl was telling me all through dinner. Did get that they recently had a herd of elephants walk right through their shamba (garden) at night. They live north of Nairobi, near Mt. Kenya.
  43. Learned from them that you can get arrested for talking on your cell phone while driving in Nairobi. They'd know. It happened to them today.
I think today can officially count as a restful day. I'll be getting a Mayfield vehicle tomorrow morning, go to get my hair cut, pick up some things in the city, connect with friends, watch a movie, perhaps?

It's almost 11 pm. I've been doing admin work stuff for most of the evening, and my eyes are tired of staring at my computer. Guess I should add that to the list.
44. Punched numbers till my eyes were cockeyed.

Rain. No rain.

Though it's the rainy season, and though we've had some days - even weeks - with plenty of rain, we've not had as much rain as we need. Davis, my neighbor in Kipkaren, explained the plight of the Kenyans well in this letter.

Even as I've been typing this, we had rain for just 15 seconds or so. I am praying that the rain will return.

Tomorrow, I will be going to Nairobi for 3 days. I've really not had any time out since I've been back, so these breakaways to Nairobi are critical for sanity purposes. I need to get a haircut. I'd love to see a movie. And I'll simply relax by going to sit and read a good book in a good coffee shop! (We don't have coffee shops in this area.) I also need to return a damaged piece of luggage to British Airways at the airport, and I am meeting with friends who recently lost their 9-month-old baby.

Before I head to bed: Today, a weaver bird came and sat by my window and kept pecking at the window. It was really cute. Then an African paradise flycatcher flew right into my kitchen and out again, and perched on my kitchen door! Later, as I took out my trash, there was a pair of cinnamon-chested bee-eaters right above my head, just watching me watch them. And yesterday, a Ross' turaco was playing in the tree right by my house! It was especially neat to see it fly - the tips of its wings are the brightest red imaginable. But even as it was just hopping about the tree, eating seeds, the contrast between its bright yellow beak and red crest was beautiful!

I love God's creativity with all these different birds, and with the people he has placed around me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sad news . . .

After having had dinner guest over, I went to visit with the directors at the children's home. (Unlike in Ilula, I don't usually spend time over at the Kipkaren Children's Home at night.) While visiting, I enquired about whether or not they've seen the kittens over there the past few days. (Last I saw Duchess was on Friday night, and Nuru was last seen last Wednesday.) Alas, the kittens haven't been at the children's home. Heading back, I asked Cosmas (the night watchman) if he's seen them. He says that he last saw the dogs chasing one of them at night some days ago, and when he got to where they went, "the cat it was gone." As in mauled. "When these dogs chase," Cosmas explained, "they are serious. Especially at night."

Ugh. I don't think I've prayed for kittens before, especially not for them to be raised from the dead, but I'm truly praying that Duchess and Nuru will just miraculously show up soon. I'm praying that they're just on a little safari in the bush.

The kittens do my heart well. They are both incredibly affectionate (and very clean). I'm really praying that the cat Cosmas saw being chased is another one from the area...


Sunday, May 27, 2007


The other day, a neighbor was over here for chai. We were chatting about this, that and the other when she mentioned how it takes her long to walk to the main road every day to catch a matatu to the school where she teaches, "because I'm in my old age now."

"If you don't mind me asking, how old are you?"

"I'm 45."

Forty-five. Old age? Here, people are encouraged to retire at age 50, so I guess considering that she's close to retirement, she might think she's old. It just baffled me, though! Forty-five is still young! She easily has half of her life yet ahead of her. It's probably very cultural, our approach to age and aging. I am a firm believer that you're only as "old" as you allow yourself to feel. Granted, I can tell my body's getting older. (I'm fast approaching 40, but then again, "Life begins at 40," right?) But I don't even think of myself as "middle-aged"!

Perhaps I was influenced by Doris, with whom I worked for almost 8 years. She's 77 this year, and I'd say she still won't say she's old. She took up scuba diving in her 40s.

I'm rambling. Need to get ready for church. I'm in Ilula today since I was asked to take the interns to Kipkaren on Friday night so they could see the children's home on that side.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Point in case

You may have thought that I was exaggerating in yesterday's post. Not quite. When I got back from the children's home office around 7 tonight, I discovered that there was indeed some level of water pressure in my house tonight. I immediately jumped into the shower. But every so often, the pressure would go way down to a trickle. My electric shower works with water pressure. Too little pressure and there's no heat. But with just a little pressure, the water is scalding hot! The only way you can get it to cool down is to turn on the water to pass through the heater faster. But without water pressure, that's an impossible task. I'd turn off the water for a while, turn it on again to get at least some water. Ah, the joys of living in rural Kenya. Just as I was halfway done washing my hair, bam! the lights went out. So, no electricity. Just a trickle of water. Enough to get the shampoo out of my hair. I'm sure by now you can't wait to come and experience this for yourself. It truly is an experiment in patience. Our friends at Kenya Power promised that power will be back soon. They're just doing maintenance on a nearby line. And they kept their promise. Moments ago, after an hour of reading by gas lamp, power came back on. I love Kenya Power. Even the crickets outside are singing songs about how great Kenya Power is. Or so I think, at least. They might simply be enjoying the cool air.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

If your phone, power and water all work at the same time...

... you're probaly not be in Ilula. A good friend used to say that of Malawi, where she was a missionary. It's more and more true of this neck of the woods.

We've had a lot of issues with water recently. I have to remember to turn on the water before getting soap on my hands. Or test the shower before getting ready to get clean. But even if you do so, often times, when you're halfway through a shower, the water would just stop. Just like that.

Similarly, we've been having a number of power outages recently. I am not sure how things work at home, but out here, the fuses in the huge transformers seem to blow every so often, as it did today. By the time I got to Ilula, power had been out all morning. Kenya Power didn't know of the problem. They came out to fix the fuse 5 hours later. I'm thankful indeed that they did come to fix it. As Westerners, we're pretty dependent on power. (I am, at least. My computer battery only lasts that long. And the stuff in your fridge gets bad after the power is off for some time.)

On a different note: Today, before I left Kipkaren to return to Ilula, I stopped by the school to take some pictures. A first-grader was crying really hard out on the playground. I went to check on her and found that little Viola had a terrible sore on her toe. Puss was oozing out... I was trying hard not to look grossed out by it. I could never be nurse! I did take her to the clinic, though, where they took good care of her.

Back in Ilula, I visited with the kids for a few hours this evening. Like they often do, the kids had a million questions about everything under the sun, from Osama to earthquakes! They also got to sing "Happy birthday" to my brother Henk. The kids were laughing hard at me speaking Afrikaans on the phone to him. Henk is 42 today. This is a photo of the mountains in the town where he and his family live. (This is where Henk works.) South Africa's been exceptionally cold recently. Places that rarely ever get snow, got snow.
So, happy birthday again, Henk. Hope you have a wonderful year!

On that note, I'm off to bed. Lots to get done in the office tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday night in Kipkaren

The retreat in Rondo was incredible! I had considered doing all kinds of activities but went back to the question, "Why am I taking the management team on a retreat?" It was for us to get to know one another. And so we ended up just having fun. We arrived before lunch on Sunday. I told everyone that they could choose if they'd like to go on an afternoon hike after lunch. Two of the guys decided to stay behind and rest, but the other two gave them a hard time about it, so we all ended up hiking for about almost three hours. We saw lots of monkeys (black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and red tail monkeys), tons of butterflies, even a donkey. (OK, the donkey was on its way home through the forest. But it was the biggest animal we saw.) Oh, and lots of ants, too. Cocktail ants (small ants that are poisonous) and safari ants (bigger ones that are very aggressive). We had a guide that told us about the different plants, which ones have medicinal value, how the olive baboons use some trees to communicate by using it as a drum, how certain fungi can help improve your memory... We really had a great time of laughing and relaxing despite the tough hike. Stopped about halfway. I had packed some cold soda for everyone, so we took a break and were refreshed.

Once we were back at the retreat center, we sat in the garden and prayed for one another, for the staff, and for ELI. It was a really neat time of ministry. After a really nice dinner, we headed back to our home for Jenga and Uno. I had printed a pack of questions, so everytime someone tossed a bean bag at you, you first had to draw a question, answer it, then jenga (build). (You could also choose to answer a question someone had drawn earlier.) If you let the tower fall, you had to answer a "Truth or Dare" question. We had a ton of fun! After that, we played Uno till the time that the solar power was turned off, and everyone headed to their rooms. I went to walk in the garden for a bit, just to appreciate the stars so deep in the forest. It's really breathtakingly beautiful!

I was the first one up and out of the door on Monday. The Kenyans really appreciated the opportunity to sleep in! I watched the sun rise, spent time doing my devotions in the garden, (hence the picture above) and once the gate into the forest was unlocked, I went to sit in the forest for a while, watching easily 100 red tail monkeys forage for food in the branches high above my head. One came down very close to me to come and pick up seeds from the ground... (They bury these seeds in one spot and let them rot a bit before eating them!)

After breakfast, everyone took time for devotions, where after we had a time of sharing. Many said how thankful they were to be able to get to know each other on a different level than they had ever known one another. Everyone wants to go back soon! (That won't be possible. It's very pricey!) I'd be happy to take them for day trips. Just can't sleep over as a group... :)

Had lunch in town, and then we all headed back to Kipkaren.

It was cool to run into some of the team on our grounds today, being able to relate on a level we've not related before. It was a good, good thing to go away with the team!

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be heading back to Ilula.

Click here to see more photos of the time in the forest.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I'm tired and it feels like I have a cold or something coming. No good. I'm going to Kakamega Forest with the Kipkaren management team tomorrow. I don't want to be sick. I think it's from the lack of sleep last night. The youth group from our church in Ilula had an all-night prayer and praise event last night. It's wonderful that they did that. It's just challenging when something like that is within a few steps from your bedroom window.

Today was a productive day. Got lots done, including some gardening, washing my car, as well as showing the rest of Cars to the kids. They had watched half of the movie a couple of weeks ago when the power went out. The kids were a little perplexed at why Lightning McQueen didn't win the race, but other than that, they were their own selves, cheering every time their hero car made a good turn.

It's late. I'm tired. The wind is blowing. I think we'll have more rain tonight. It's been great falling asleep to the sound of rain pounding on my mabati (sheet metal) roof many nights. I wonder what sounds I'll hear in the forest tomorrow night...

Friday, May 18, 2007


I once saw a movie where the family played this game at dinner table, asking what everyone's highs and lows of the day was. Just a different way of saying, "Tell me about your day."

My highs for today?
  • Praying with our interns this morning and really being excited about the things they are experiencing by being here.
  • Getting an early-morning phone call from my sister Liesl, a call from my folks later plus a text message from my other sister, Sanet.
  • Studying Swahili. It's encouraging to see how much I really do understand.
  • The storm. We had a huge thunder storm this afternoon. Terrible lightning and thunder. Heavy rains. But it was wonderful. Great weather to get lots of work done. It inspires me!
  • Having a tropical burger (sort of) for dinner. I have a pineapple in the fridge. And ground beef. And bread rolls. So I made a burger. I even put some pickles on it. I had made these last year and everyone whom I had given a jar to raved about it, but I've never dared to try them myself. Till tonight. They are good!
  • Trying to connect to a person who accidentally left his cell phone in my car yesterday. Which meant I had to make a trip to town, which I wasn't planning on doing. (It takes up much of your day.) And then being confronted by some hard-core beggars and vegetable vendors in town. It's always hard for me to know what to do. I usually don't give beggars money because of lots of glue sniffing in town. But some days it's just harder than other days to try and get into your car with bags and people crowding you asking for money or trying to sell you tomatoes and onions. I so want to respond in the most Godly way. I don't always. Sometimes it's just overwhelming. Sometimes I just want to get into my car... I walked off to go and buy bread for the one lady, but when I came back, she had left.
  • Being far from friends. I don't think that'll ever get easy.
Tomorrow, I'll be in town, doing work from some corner in a restaurant while waiting for the interns to get their e-mail and shopping done for the week. Will be meeting with Kierra (ELI staff) and I'll be planning the leadership retreat to be held in the Kakamega Forest later this weekend. I really am looking forward to that!

I'm off to be to the howling of the area's dogs.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This made me smile

Something cute that happened tonight. When I went to say good-night to the kids, I rubbed their heads affectionately like I often do. Little Margaret came to hug me, reached up, and rubbed my head. :) I couldn't help but smile. Even as I'm sitting here, ready to crawl into bed, it's making me smile - especially thinking of the expression on her face when she did it, as if to say, "I have figured out what you're saying when you do that. So I'll do it, too."

... and then he cried

After I got back to Ilula this afternoon, bringing a new intern to the home, I sat with 10-year-old Rogers and explained to him that one of his sponsors is in the hospital and not doing well at all. He just buried his head in my side and started crying hard. Rogers had never met the man. He had never even gotten a letter from him. But he knows that the man cared enough to support him, and it hurt to hear that he wasn't doing well. At times, I think I forget that these kids know first-hand the pain that death brings. Each and every one of them had buried their moms, and even their dads, had they been around. Death is a harsh reality in their world.

It's good to be back in Ilula. It was good to see the kids today. They were in rare form when I quickly went to say good-night to them, imitating scenes from VeggieTales' Queen Esther. I had shown them that movie 2 weeks ago, and they had memorized lines and songs from it, even with a complete American accent. It was really funny listening to them!

I am preparing for a leadership retreat I'm leading this weekend. I'm taking the management team from Kipkaren to the forest for team building. I am really looking forward to getting to know each one of them on a personal level, and doing some activities that will challenge us all.

Had Swahili lessons today. It's good to be able to study with someone else - Jen Davis in Kipkaren. Their family is new to ELI, but her husband grew up in Kenya, so he speaks Swahili fluently. Jen had taken Swahili in college, so she's ahead of me, but I don't mind that. That makes for a good challenge to try and catch up. I look forward to being able to carry a conversation in Swahili. I catch myself thinking a lot in Chinese lately because of trying to learn Swahili. I read one time that any languages you learn at a later stage get saved in one area of your brain, hence the tendency to think of phrases in a second (or fifth) language when trying to acquire a new language.

Time for bed. It's way late! Lala salama.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ruby Tuesday in, the opposite of Blue Monday. It's a gorgeous day. I've been up since early. Spent time praying with neighbor Jen this morning very early. That did my soul well. Had no power for a while due to wires being replaced in the center, so I worked on getting furniture into the house. Right now, it's raining. It rained quite a bit the past couple of days, which is good. The crops need the rains.

Speaking of crops, some of the interns from the agricultural program made double-dug beds for me yesterday. That is, they made beds for my vegetable garden by digging the soil at least 2 ft deep and tilling all the soil. I have three beds ready for seeds. I'm planning on planting baby spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet peppers and some herbs.

Here's how things are looking at my place right now. It's starting to look more and more like a little home.

This is my bedroom. The curtains still need to be made, so the Kikoi tucked into the burglar bars is just temporary. I'm still trying to figure out how to get a little dresser into the room, too...
The living room area. The Action Packer and stuff on the right will be gone soon and replaced by a small, square dining room table. Patrick's painting it right now. Next, he'll do some shelving for the kitchen. As I'm typing, the plumber is fixing my bathroom. Or so I think, at least.

OK, lunch break's over. Back to work to the sound of thunder and the rain pounding on the iron sheet roof. Ah, I love the African rains.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Crummy Day, sort of

You get those every so often. A blue-ish Monday. Don't you? Mine started fine, albeit early. The photos came out OK, but not as good as I wished due to the fact that it was too dark not to use my tripod. And part of the tripod was in Ilula. Staff meeting went OK. Fine, really. But the enemy tries to slip in and discourage through sly ways. Photos being deleted by accident, causing me to have to spend several more hours on my project I'm working on. The morning photo project just not the way I'd like it. More delays on the house stuff. Silly stuff, really.

A bunch of my coolest girl friends attended the Beth Moore Conference in Omaha this weekend. Various ones let me know how God spoke to them through Philippians 4. Check this out:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And so, today, in the midst of silly frustrations, I kept thinking, "Let your gentleness be evident to all... Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, think about such things." Don't dwell on the silly frustrations. They will pass.

I'm heading to my home to work there. I don't want to clean tonight. I spent many hours last night cleaning, but the fundis were there again today and so I am simply not ready to scrub floors again for hours. But then again, when I've made some good progress on my project, I might decide otherwise.

Tobias tells me he'll be all done tomorrow. He says a plumber is coming to fix my shower tomorrow. (Right now, there's a collection of pipes that are hanging from a string attached to the ceiling.) And Raymond, the electrician, will then come and attach an "instant shower," a heating element so I can take warm showers. I really do hope it'll all be done tomorrow. Patrick, the carpenter, tells me my bed will be dry by the morning, then we can move it into the house. As will some of my shelves be, so I wouldn't have to live off piles from the floor. I know the chaos around me is part of my silly mood. I like things clean and orderly, so part of today's mood, I know, is simply because my world lacks order. Right now, at least. Order will once again be restored. And no, I honestly am not a perfectionist.

I did mount my mosquito net this evening, so I don't feed more mozzies tonight. Right now, they're buzzing around me, so I'd better head to the safety of my net. (I just remembered about an article I once wrote for Studio Classroom about mosquitoes... My world in Taiwan couldn't have been more different than it is. OK, unless I lived in Sudan or something. Anyway.)

Signing off. Till tomorrow, or whenever.

Oh, just quickly. This made me smile. As I looked at the Studio Classroom web site, the cover of this month's magazines features collages of photos from years before, seeing that they're celebrating 45 years in the market. The pictures are too small for you to recognize me, but I'm in there. Good memories indeed.

Monday Morning

It’s early. Very early. But I’m wide awake, thanks to a mosquito. I’ll take the opportunity to opportunity to spend time with God after this, but thought I’d jot down some thoughts first.

This evening, I provided at least one mosquito with a meal of mzungu blood. Thing is, I didn’t sleep under my net, because my net is not yet up. I will hang it this afternoon, after my bed is in my house. Yip, that means I slept in my new place for the first time last night. The place is mostly done. There are still some finishing touches to be done to the bathroom (add last few tiles, do white grout, paint and mount the door), and some minor other things (fill in all the gaps where rats can get into the ceiling, mount towel rod etc), then the place is done. Patrick is still working on furniture, so my stuff’s just in piles on my floor…

This morning, I have to go and take some photos at the school during assembly. School starts at 6:30 am, so it’s pretty early! My plan is to get a bit of an aerial view, so I’d have to take my car over so I can get on the roof for the shots.

It’d be mid morning by the time get to post this entry, so I should be able to upload the shots from the photo shoot, too. I hope they turn out nicely.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What a fun evening!

I had guests tonight. Many. As in, at the height of the evening, I had 12 people in my living room. That's a lot of people for my small space, but it was great. The dinner group was smaller (just 6), and then 6 more came for chai, dessert and games.

When I invited all the orphanage parents for games at my place, they were puzzled. "What do you mean, games?"

"We're going to play football (i.e. soccer) in my house," I'd joke. "OK, not really. But come if you'd like. Even if you just choose to have chai. But I guarantee you'll laugh."

They trickled in hesitantly, asking about the game the Davises, Nicole and I were playing (Sequence), yet not really interested in finding out what we wazungu were doing. But after the tea mugs and dessert plates were out of the way and we started playing Jenga, it was a whole different story.

Dorcas kept trying to convince everyone to keep the foundation strong. "Barak! Barak!" she'd keep urging anyone reaching for a tile. (That means, "at the top." Which made me think of Barak Obama. His dad is Kenyan. He may have named his son with the hope that he'll be "at the top" one day.)

Pastor Jonah would cover his face every time it seemed like the tower became unstable. At times, he actually got up and turned his back to the game, too scared to see it all come down. Pastor Philip would take out a piece and get it almost all the way out, then carefully push the whole thing back. Nelson hardly said a word. He kept strategizing, until finally he said, "Imagine! We parents always just watch the children play games. I would have never thought that we can have so much fun playing games and laughing this much!"

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and before everyone left, they started asking about the game we were playing when they came in. "How does that one work?" David wanted to know. "We should have more nights like this."

Yeah God. These guys have a really challenging task, raising 24+ kids as young couples. As we closed the night with prayer, I thanked God that He's a God who created laughter, too, and that he delights in us.

What a joy to be able to serve my friends in this rare way.

What fun to let our hair down and laugh together till the tears rolled.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What if...

I sometimes wonder what would happen if the average Kenyan got to ride on roads like we have in South Africa or in the US. I think they'd think they're in heaven. No bumps. No potholes. Long, open roads of flowing traffic.

And as I was thinking of my home renovations this week, I thought, what if Tobias and Raymond and Patrick could be on a team for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Rebuild and entire, big home in a week. What if they saw the type of tools workers in the west have available. The choices of fittings. The quality of materials. The speed at which people can work.

Oh, they'd be blown away!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spinach quiche . . . and an update on my house

Since I'm living like a backpacker, sort of, with stuff all over in boxes in Kipkaren, it's been challenging to cook meals. I've bummed several dinners from my neighbors, and decided it's about time that I cook a decent meal for them. So, tonight, I made a spinach quiche. I really chuckled, wishing there could be a hidden camera as I was trying to make the quiche but not having the right utensils and pots at hand. It worked, nevertheless. In fact, it turned out pretty good! Doing the dishes by the light of my headlamp while standing on a bag of cement was quite a picture, though.

I'm heading to my (temporary) hut. But before I call it the day, here's where things are standing in my house:
1. The living area has been painted. All the ceilings have one coat of nice, white paint, too. The place already looks bigger because of that!
2. The floors have little pock marks everywhere since the tiles are being put in tomorrow.
3. The window is in. As in, one of the tiny windows were taken out and a window at least 5 times the size was put in to let in more light. So actually, it's just the frame of the new window that's in.
4. In the meantime, Patrick (carpenter) has finished my bookshelf and the corner shelf for my room. I believe he'll do the kitchen shelves tomorrow, and then the bed. (I can use a training center bed in the meantime.)

Tomorrow, the lights get put in. The painting will be finished. And much of the tiling will be done. The goal is for me to move in by Saturday. Or, at least, clean by Saturday and move in by Sunday. No more camping out! :)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I haven’t yet found a way to like them. I don’t quiet understand why God made them. Them and mosquitoes and ticks. But I can hide from the mosquitoes by sleeping under a net. And I can look for ticks. But as I’m sitting here on my bed, I’m watching a big rat as it’s watching me! It’s trapped between the plastic sheeting of the hut I’m in and the grass thatching. It’s bigger than my fist is wide. I don’t have any food out, so it’s not coming for that. It just lives here, and I’ve been hearing it every night. But tonight’s the first time I’ve actually seen it. I’m trying to rat-proof my own house as well as I can, having Tobias (contractor dude) fill any openings where unwanted guests (including mosquitoes) can possibly come in. I know, I know, it’s just part of life out here. But it doesn’t mean I have to get used to it. Or like it. Period.

The Art of Taking a Bucket Shower

After a month of either scalding hot or too cold showers, I finally had a perfect bucket shower this evening.

The routine in Kipkaren is that you get a 10-gallon cooking-oil drum filled with boiling hot water delivered either to your door (if you live in a house with plumbing) or to the shower (if you use the outhouse and shower at the foot of the property.) While I was in my new house in Kipkaren, there was for some reason no water supply in the house. So in the mornings, when Cosmas would so kindly leave the hot water by my door, I’d either have to poor the water into the big bucket and then go outside for my quiet time while the water cools down—and I’d always let it get too cold this way—or I’d have to pour the water over me in very small scoops so it’d almost cool down as I’m pouring it over me.

Now that my house is being renovated, I’m staying in an adjacent hut and using the outhouse/shower down the hill from where I live. There’s a tap outside the shower/toilet, so this morning, I added cold water from there. But it wasn’t enough cold water, and I discovered that only once I was ready for the shower. I wasn’t going to get dressed again just to get more cold water. (Sorry if this is TMI/too much information for your liking.) So it was back to the small scoops option.

This evening, I wanted to take a shower because I simply don’t like going to bed dirty, and I really was dirty from helping when the guys were sweeping cement and bricks from my house.

Cosmas delivered some water with his usual big smile. I was still in the office, working, so I let the water wait a while. But not long enough for it too cool down. I remembered this morning’s lesson, though: Don’t get ready for a bucket shower till you know the water is just right. I added more cold water from outside, and more, and “Voila!” I was able to take a wonderfully relaxing bucket shower. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right.

Now I know there are some people who’ve been here who'd say, “Oh, Adele, the showers aren’t that hard to get used to.” To you and to anyone who loves old-style camping and who might think the same thing, try taking such showers every day. In a small space. With lots of bugs, too. If you like it, welcome to rural Africa. I'm realizing that I'm much more of a girly-girl than I thought. I don't mind snakes. I don't mind lots of the stuff we deal with all the time out here. But I like being in a clean house and a clean bathroom.

Back to the shower: I’ll look on the bright side. If you’d stop and listen halfway through the shower, you’d hear the night sounds. And the river. And when you make your way back up the hill after the shower, if you turn off your flashlight and look up, you’d see what I saw: A sky covered in millions of stars, the milky way a thick line through the evening sky.

And you'd know that in the midst of all this stuff, God is still God. Hot showers or not.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday Night in Kipkaren

It's been a full and successful two days. Yesterday was full of culturally frustrating moments surrounding the renovation of my house in Kipkaren - workers showing up at 11, breaking for a 2-hour lunch, leaving mid afternoon. The renovations were supposed to take a week. I explained to Tobias (the contractor) that I have to move out of the hut where I'm staying by this weekend due to visitors coming early next week, so today, there were 6 guys and they worked from 8 till 6. Ceiling boards are in. A window's been knocked out and a bigger window put in (the place was very dark). Electric wiring's redone. (Previously, the place had been temporarily wired for solar power.) A gutter was added by my front door so the water from the ceiling doesn't poor onto me when I try and get the padlock unlocked in the rain. Holes were filled where electric wiring had been put in.

Tomorrow, they'll start painting. Once painting's been done, they'll do the floor tiles. I think they'll paint the bathroom ceiling first since there's more tiling to be done than elsewhere. Oh, and while they're painting, someone will replace the windows that were about to fall out because of the putty being painted before it was dry. That means I'll have to make an early-morning trip to town to buy putty. And pay a deposit at the Post Office for a leadership retreat at Rondo.

That's something I'm really excited about! Next weekend, I'm taking the management team from Kipkaren plus their wives to a retreat center in the nearby forest. None of them have ever been to Rondo. Or to the forest, for that matter. The purpose will be to do some team building & get to know each other. I invited their wives so they can enjoy the breakaway as couples, but the wives will mostly just have time to relax and have chai while the 4 men, Phoebe and I have meetings. We'll all of course go for a hike in the forest Saturday morning!

BTW, another kitten adopted me today. She belongs to a neighbor and is even smaller than Duchess. She's fast asleep on my lap as I'm typing.

I am off to take a bucket shower now, a luxury here in the evening. Cosmas got me some hot water since I got really dirty today when I helped the guys sweep my house. Construction dust is yucky. Feels like my hair is covered in dust.

Oh, among the many other things I got done today from my work to-do list, is a redesign of the ELI blog. My goal is to make all the ELI blogs look similar, but the connection was too slow today to get them all done. Next, I want to design cool banners distinctive to each. But that's on the list of things to be done in the next month. Not all tomorrow.

The frogs are croaking. The crickets are chirping. The river is flowing peacefully. My shower water is ready and calling.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Amazing grace

I could've never anticipated all that happened today. It was a wonderful Sunday. Started out really early (5:30) with a phone call from someone who accidentally called my number. I was wide awake, thinking I should just get up and go spend time with God, but alas, I decided I'll have plenty of time still, so I ignored God's invitation to an early-morning commune. When I did get up 2 hours later, the power was out. I had a great time studying/worshiping nevertheless. Then went into my greenhouse, and while I was listening to a great sermon on my iPod, I got my hands dirty planting some new seeds. Cleaned up for church and was blessed by worship without the keyboard that is like nails on a blackboard to my ears most Sundays. (Yeah, I know. God's still working on me...)

The sermon was on dreams and visions, and the speaker basically just said that God can speak to us through dreams and visions, and not to be afraid of the night and of nightmares, to pray when you have bad dreams in order to cancel them.

The sermon concluded and then Pastor Philip got up, saying he knows there are some people who are taunted by bad dreams. Before he could even invite anyone up for prayer, one of our staff was up there! (She told me later that her dead mother talks to her in her sleep, telling her current things about their family.) Others followed. We prayed for them to be delivered from the constant nightmares. As we sang during the offering, we noticed one of our 8-year-olds crying really hard. He told Philip that "I see really bad things..." so we went and prayed for him. After praying for the boy, I shared briefly from Ephesians 4, encouraging the church not only to put off the former things (or cut off dreams), but to clothe ourselves with Christ, to invite God to take control. I also encouraged others who might still want prayer to come and talk with Philip, myself, or any of the staff.

After church, Nicole (intern) and I went to the room of the boy who had been crying. We found him still crying hard, this time perhaps out of embarrassment for having cried in front of everyone. He told me that he has bad dreams every single night. I was able to pray with him some more and encouraged him. And simply offered him a shoulder to cry on. He's a really great kid, and I believe God will use him to help others find freedom, too!

As we headed out, a group of kids came to talk with us. One of the older girls shared about visions that she sees during the day, of the skeleton of her dead mother coming at her... As I prayed for her, she broke down and drenched my other shoulder in tears. Again, I left amazed at what God is doing in the midst of these children.

I had some time out in the afternoon (went to town to get some ice cream, yummy!) and when I came back, I had a visitor. Joyce came to visit, just because. She told me all about school and enquired about the kids she had taken care of before. Little Kipkurui showed up, too, and while Joyce and I visited, I gave the 5-year-old a much needed manicure and some TLC.

Next, two of the young guys from church showed up, saying, "You had said we could come for prayer... We have very bad dreams every night..." I called Pastor Philip to come and assist, and another amazing time of ministry followed! Yeah GOD!

Before Joyce left, I was able to pray with her, and what blessed me even more is that she had the courage to say, "Wait, I'd also like to pray for you..." She's usually very quiet, so I especially appreciated her boldness!

Then, the power came back (it was off from 8 am till 7 pm) and I was able to get onto my computer for a bit.

What could've been a challenging Sunday (no power, challenging time at church) ended up as a day where I saw God bring healing and courage! I smiled when I remembered how God woke me up earlier, probably to prepare my heart for what was lying ahead. And though I am not trying to justify my disobedience in getting up right away, I love that we serve a God who is not limited by us. He ministered to people's hearts despite me, not because of me.

As the kids are in bed now and falling asleep for the night, please join me in praying that God will continue to fill their dreams, that he would transform them through the renewing of their minds (Rom 12:1-2) and bring deep, deep healing in each and every life so they in turn, can be used by God to bring healing in others' lives. Please pray, too, for those in the community who received prayer today, that God will continue to protect and fill them.

What an amazing God we serve.

What amazing grace he bestows on us.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


If you know Jenga, you also know the Swahili word for build. Though the name of the game turns out to be Swahili, none of our Kenyan friends have ever seen the game. (There's a kid in our neighborhood who is a perpetual waver--he waves when your car is at least 100 ft away and keep waving till you can no longer see him in the dust behind you--who is named Jenga. Which fascinated me. Why would a parent call their kid "build"? Maybe he was born while they were building a house. Or something like that.) After dinner tonight, Nicole and I taught the Rono family how to play Jenga. Did they have fun! Angelina (the mom) giggled hard as she watched us hold our breath. John and Emmanuel kept trying to scare each other. We never got past 23 rows. (Nicole and my lunchtime game went to 29. I just read, though, that the record number of rows is 40, with two tiles in row 41. Wow!)

Anyway, it was a fun evening. It's after 10. I'm heading to bed. Tomorrow's a full day.

P.S. I'm told the Rono boys kept playing Jenga till 1 am and got up to 31 rows.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
I'm back in Ilula, so it's easier to upload some photos for you to see. I took this picture one morning this week when I was having time with God up on prayer rock. The little power line in the bottom center is a new addition to the Kipkaren skyline. We got power there 10 days ago! They've also dug a borehole (70m/230') and since we now have electricity, we can pump clean water from the borehole (as opposed to pumping/carrying water from the river).

Click on the picture to see more of what's been happening in Kenya.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's hot tonight

As quickly as the rains had started a few weeks ago, so abruptly they stopped. But there are heavy clouds every day, and the air feels like it should just break out in a big storm soon. Yet there is no rain, which does not only make the farmers desperate, but it makes for sweaty people...

I know. Not something you'd want to read about. So I'll stop there. It's just plain hot.

This morning, after spending some time in the office, I picked up the headmaster (Rop) at the school and headed to town. I just needed to buy a few things at the hardware store, then come back. By the time we got to town, it was almost lunch, and the store closes between 1 and 2. (Lots of businesses here do that.) So I went to Eldo Grill (a good restaurant in town), and worked while I had lunch. Headed back to Eagle Hardware and was there for 2 hours getting only a few tins of paint, nails, ceiling boards, replacement window panes. Stuff that you'd get at Lowe's in half an hour. Went to pick up Rop again, then some other guests who are visiting my neighbors from somewhere else in Kenya. It was after 6 by the time we got home. Yikes.

Obviously, I'm not driving home to Ilula at night, so I'm spending the night in Kipkaren. Oh, part of my early morning tasks (after spending an hour on the mountain with God, appreciating the sunrise) was to move ALL my stuff out of my house into the neighboring hut. While I was in town, Tobias (our contractor fundi dude) gutted the house. He removed all the ceiling boards, and Raymond (the electrician fundi dude) chipped termite-like holes in the walls to install electric outlets. They tell me it'll all be done in a week. It's possible, since not that much is being done.

I was explaining to one Kenyan friend who commented that "you women like everything so nice" that it's our "nesting instinct." It's just part of the way God wired us.

I'm heading to dinner with the Davis family and their friends from Pokot. I cooked dinner for them last night, and much of the chicken was left, so Jen cooked a chicken soup for this evening with the rest. Fun. I picked up ice cream in town yesterday, and I can't wait to have that tonight! I am not sure if the friends from Pokot have ever had ice cream, so it might be quite a cultural experience.

Like yesterday, when some guys helped unload the tiles from my car. I gave them all maji baridi, ice water. They hadn't ever had ice before. A long discussion followed, and they were especially amazed to hear that in Iowa (and other places) the rivers ice in the winter.

Ah, the fun of living in another culture, eh?

Off to hot chicken soup and ice cream dinner... Odd combination, but I'm looking forward, nevertheless.