Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Cat Ate My Homework

When I left my home this morning for time with the visiting team, I left my computer open. When I returned two hours later, my inbox was empty. Flannel might be the culprit. She may have inadvertently stepped on the right combination of keys to permanently delete all mail. None of the unanswered messages are in my deleted mail box. I was able to retrieve some by going into my GMail account, but if you had recently sent me a message and have not heard back from me, please resend it...

And yes, I now close my computer before leaving the house.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saturday night

A nasty flu virus has been making the rounds in our province. This particular virus typically nails people for about 3 days. My body's been successful at fighting it off, till Thursday, when I started sniffing...

By Friday (during the graduation) my body was aching more and more, but I couldn't leave since I was supposed to take photos. By the time the ceremony was officially over and guests were having lunch (at 4 pm), I headed home, got into bed, and slept. Till the Salvation Army Band woke me up around 9 pm, playing their hearts out. But I got to rest, nevertheless. By the time they started playing again this morning at 7, I started thinking evil thoughts. But they left soon enough for the campaign, and after breakfast, I lay down and woke up only at noon! My body obviously needed the rest. I never sleep like that!

I got some reading done this afternoon, and feel a LOT better than I did yesterday this time! No fever. No aching body. I just am still coughing, and I sound like a base. But I feel much, much better. Tomorrow, I'm taking two interns to Kakamega Forest. I have a meeting in neighboring Kapsabet on Monday morning, so it helps that I don't have to drive the road by myself... I wouldn't mind getting away by myself for the day, but it's smarter to have some men in the car with me. And the guys are really excited about getting to go to the forest.

Here are some of my favorite non-graduate photos from yesterday's event.

I was up at dawn on Friday to catch some of the action on the compound. Here, graduates are getting ready for the Big Day by cleaning out their rooms.

In the kitchen, an assembly line was cooking fresh chapatis. Keep in mind, this was around 6 am. Lunch was only served at 4 pm. Since I was up so early, they offered me a fresh chapati, which I shared with all my friends in the kitchen.

The kids love eating clovers! I caught Naomi pulling out clovers from the flower beds while the ceremonies were going on (and on).

This little one is called Navy. He belongs to a neighbor, Mama Sifuna.

Solomon is the son on David Tarus, our director.

Two more neighborhood kids. I don't know the little one on the left's name, but the smiley face on the right is Brenda, another one of Mama Sifuna's kids.

For more photos from the day's events, visit my Flickr page.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chicken Anatomy 101 ... and The Art of Making Friends

Today, I stripped the guts out of a few chickens. For real. I didn't kill the said birds, nor did I de-feather them. But I walked into the training center kitchen this afternoon, where staff were busy preparing for tomorrow's graduation. Which included the gutting of a half dozen chickens.

We're expecting 500 guests tomorrow for the SACDP graduation, and you don't send people home without feeding them. They will have traveled from far. The family & friends of the graduates (as well as any curious neighbors) will be fed rice and "soup" (sauce with perhaps a bit of meat in it, if you're lucky). The guests of honor (the chief of the village, the speaker for the event, the ELI Board and about 50 other very lucky people) will be fed rice pilaf, chicken, beef, and sodas.

So I found Miriam and friends gutting chickens. "May I join you?" I asked. There's nothing like bonding with Kenyans ladies in a kitchen.

"Have you ever slaughtered a chicken?" they wanted to know.

"Never! Will you teach me?"

Which they did. Miriam showed me how to cut open the backside ever so carefully. "Don't rupture anything! Now carefully cut the hole bigger and bigger so you can get your whole hand into the back end."

"Don't cut your finger!" Oops. Too late. The knife is terribly blunt for a job like this, and my knuckle is stinging. It's but a flesh wound, I console myself.

"Pole," they say. (Sorry.)

"Let's continue," and I do my best not to be a weakling. (Hours later, the cut on my thumb knuckle is bleeding and throbbing. But I'd never complain to my Kenyan neighbors about a triviality like that. It would only prove that we wazungu really are chickens.)

Next, you cut off the neck. "Don't rupture the crop. That will smell badly." Succeeding at the simple procedure of removing the crop (how on earth does one chicken eat so much corn?!) makes me feel like I've just mastered the art of kung-fu.

"Now, put your hand in the opening you had cut in the back. Just use two fingers. Release all the intestines. Be careful not to..." You know the schpiel by now. Don't rupture anything. But how on earth do you pry loose all the guts and not rupture something!

"Make sure you can see your fingers all the way at the neck, so you can pull out the esophagus." Done. The esophagus, heart, spleen, liver, stomach, the large and small intestines, the rectum all come out with a huge plomp! But they're still attached to the final exit.

"Now, you cut that out." No more warnings of rupturing anything!

The final steps are to clean the carcass by getting the lungs out. They sit like two little pink sponges, tucked in tightly in the rib cage. There are also little bubbly thingies stuck to the back bone. "What are those bubbles?"

They laugh at my ignorance. "Those are eggs. These used to be layers. But now they're old."

And dead, I think. But I don't say it, 'cause my sense of humor just doesn't translate. And then I get to fillet open the stomach ("That's the grinder," my friends inform me) and remove the contents and the inner lining.

I feel like an accomplished concert pianist, wanting to make a bow. But I don't. I realize that this is a simple procedure that my friends have performed since they were adolescents. I honestly don't mind that I've had to wait for today to do this and learn from my friends.

"Here's another one. See if you can do this on your own. This is your test." I'm glad to say I passed. With honors, they say. But I think they're just being polite.

Later, after preparing my own chicken for dinner (simple: take the thawed chicken out of the plastic bag, remove the plastic bag of gizzards and keep for my helper, and pop the chicken in the toaster oven), I go for a walk on the compound. I hear laughter from the kitchen. My new friends are sitting down, having a cup of chai. "Join us!" they invite me. Which I do. I try to follow the conversation in Swahili, and ask Miriam every so often what a word means. I'm learning, even though it's taking time.

Walking back to my home, I peek into my neighbor's home. "Rebecca, do you have dinner plans? Not yet? Join me. And bring anyone of your choice."

During dinner with Rebecca and Ruto, they ask about my music. "Where does it come from?" I introduce them to the strange world of an iPod. Conversation becomes more serious, and Ruto asks, "Aren't you lonely here?"

As singles, they, too, can understand some of the loneliness we all face. We end the evening by praying together. They had shared with me some of their burdens, and together, we take them before the throne of our God who knows our hearts, our struggles, our desires.

I didn't get all the tasks done on my list for today, but I thank God that the spontaneous events that did occur today (especially those that I don't get to write about here), ones that were obviously on his agenda for me today.

And I'm thankful that nothing ruptured. In fact, the opposite happened. My heart was connected with those of some of my neighbors through simple acts of community and friendship.

For that, I'm infinitely thankful. It was worth the cut on my thumb. In the process, my neighbors were reminded that when cut, we all bleed just the same.


Peace is a deep disposition of the heart.
It is humility,
an ability to let go of the need to be right
in our own eyes or the eyes of others,
an ability based on the knowledge
that our rightness or wrongness in any issue
is totally irrelevant to God’s love for us
or our neighbor.
The peace that comes with claiming our self in God
is the foundation of our ability
to carry God’s reconciliating love to others
in the most humble places
and humble, everyday ways.

I read this quote this morning by church historian Roberta Bondi and it stuck in my heart. Even as I dealt with some painful cultural challenges today, I can go to bed with peace in my heart...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Are we relevant?

Last night, I listened to a Podcast I had downloaded while in the US. It was from a pastor from one of the churches we visited during class--the one church that actually got my blood boiling for the arrogant way in which they were doing inner city ministry. (Basically a we-have-arrived mentality. OK, there were actually many things beyond the we-have-arrived mentality that saddened and frustrated me about our visit to their brand new, very expensive campus. But I won't go into that now. It's just not necessary.)

So I decided to download at least one Podcast from their guru pastor, so I could actually hear him teach and decide if my assessment of the said church may have been wrong.

It wasn't.

Other than making a completely inappropriate comment about how he hopes they have "lots of hand sanitizer" at their new inner-city campus (?!), he proceeded to teach a lesson from a Q&A series. The specific lesson was on the emerging church.

What he said about this movement was good and true and solid as far as I my understanding goes. In fact, I learned a good amount about different streams within the movement.

It was the pastor's introduction to the sermon that really, really rubbed me the wrong way.

"Since you guys are all here at [our church], it means you really don't care about the emerging church. Which is good. You shouldn't! So just bare with me while I answer this question and then we might get into something useful..."

What really saddens me about this attitude is that a pastor (or anyone in a Christian leadership position, for that matter) would actually tell his people that they should not care about one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the Christian church. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what's happening in any of the groups within the emerging/emergent church, we should live informed lives if we want to be relevant. If we don't know what the different groups within this movement believe, we will either condemn the good along with the bad, we'll embrace the bad along with the good, or we'll simply not care.

As far as I understand our role as Christians, none of these options are really an option. We should in fact care. It doesn't mean that all of us need to become experts on every topic, but we should at least care to know enough so we can have an informed opinion. Or know enough to say "I don't know enough about this topic to have an informed discussion," and listen to what our friends have to say, then, in our study times, compare it to what the Bible teaches before we set out to simply argue with friends.

If we simply live life in the "I'm 'in,' so I don't have to care about what's going on 'out there' lane," we would become not only irrelevant, but we're missing the mark. Completely.

I've missed the mark many times in my life. I thank God that he's not given up on me, but opening my eyes daily to areas where I do, in fact, need to care more.

The journey is long. There's so very much to learn. God forbid that we'd ever not care to learn more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things for which to be thankful

Recently, we've been having power outages almost daily, mostly in the evenings. I'm thankful that we do have power, though, even though it's been somewhat sporadic. Right now, it's on. It's been on and off (more off than on) since 4 pm. Which is a pain when you're trying to study. That's what I do in the evenings.

Since I've got to get back to my reading (but wanted to get some computer stuff done quickly while we have power), here's a list of things for which I'm thankful tonight.

  • So I'm thankful for my Kerosene lamp, which provides enough light to read by.
  • I'm thankful for my house that keeps me dry.
  • I'm thankful for Flannel who keeps me company.
  • I'm thankful for my friendly neighbors who came to dinner last night, and that I was able to make some goodies and share it with a dozen or so people tonight.
  • I'm thankful that my community is asking some of the hard questions of life, like what Christians should be like, or what the Gospel truly is, and why it is that things got ugly earlier this year despite the fact that Kenya's a Christian country.
  • I'm thankful for the chance to study, and for all I'm learning in this program, even though some of the things I'm learning about myself (stuff I should be doing very differently in ministry) isn't always fun to learn. But it's good, and for that, I'm infinitely thankful.
  • I'm thankful that the very nasty flu virus making the rounds has not affected me.
  • I'm thankful for God's provision every day, and for his grace.
  • And I'm thankful that my reading pile is going down... (The pile on the right in the picture are the books I've read. The pile on the left (and on the desk) is what I'm aiming to have completed by the end of next week, so I can focus on writing my paper on women in ministry. I think that's what my topic will be, at least.
  • I'm thankful that none of our kids got hurt when the bridge (on which they were walking) broke on Sunday! (More about that later this week.)
  • I'll be thankful when the power's back up later so I can get this posted and possibly take a warm shower. (Without power, we don't have warm water. It's a risk to get into the shower while the power keeps going out... You end up taking really cold showers!)

Back to reading!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday Night Live

I believe in many parts of the world, Friday night means the work week is over, that you can kick back and relax, perhaps catch a movie with friends (or even go on a date, imagine!), and look forward to two days of pure relaxation, of doing whatever pleases your heart.

In some places where I've stayed, I'd get up early on Saturdays and go to farmers' markets to buy fresh-baked goods and home-grown vegetables. I'd go for breakfast with friends and enjoy the day in the garden, or wherever the road takes me.

Here, Friday nights aren't much different than other nights. I had a colleague over for dinner. Caught up on children's home blog posts since our power was out all day. Went to encourage kitchen staff. Chatted with the intern about what he's learning. Now, I get to finish the second half of the text book I was supposed to finish last night, but couldn't due to power outages.

Tomorrow, I could go to an all-day AIDS campaign. I am not going since I'm behind on reading. On Sunday, I'll sleep in a little, spend my devotion time in my gazebo by the river, then head out to the 3-hour church service, a stone's throw from my door. I might be asked to take colleagues to town to catch a bus.

I miss the variety weekends bring in cities and towns bigger than a rural village. I miss the freedom of wheels to take me places to escape. I miss my friends and family tonight.

But Flannel's here. She's been a great companion, and I know she's happy I'm stuck at home.

The Salvation Army Band is playing to their hearts' content in our training center hall. Some of my sweet colleagues would say, "Isn't that wonderful?" They can go on for hours, playing every tune in their repertoire. Again and again. But the always-a-tint-off-key sounds floating into my room, droning out the soothing music I had playing, is too much for me tonight. And they'll start playing again tomorrow morning at 7:00. I'm complaining, I know. Right now, I'm not going to apologize for complaining. I want to be out with friends. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

After the storm

This afternoon, we had one of our typical afternoon storms. Rain. Lots of it. Thunder. Lightning. Hail. More rain. I love the sound of it on my metal roof. But I always wonder which of my neighbors might have gotten caught in the storm as they're walking from one place to another...

After the storm, I put on my gumboots and a rain coat, and headed over the children's home for devotions. I love watching the kids sing and dance.

Rooney, dancing in his onesies! Got to love it!


Reading Bible

Improvising - using water barrels for drums

They get so excited about sharing their testimonies and memory verses! Kit, an intern, led the devotion, and then the kids were asked if they had payer requests. Hands went up and many kids all wanted to say they have to remember to pray for Jeptum!

Kit, leading devotions. The girl in front of him is Flovia. Read her story here. She came to us in May, too, severely malnourished. The staff nurtured her back to life. She's now the newest member of our children's home.

Jeptum (in the photo below) moved to our community in May. She's 17, and has diabetes that is out of control to the point that Jeptum is blind. Since she has moved here, staff and members of the home-based-care team have been taking care of her, trying to get her sugar levels under control so she can receive surgery.

Her condition has improved greatly, but not to the point yet that she can receive the eye surgery. The kids, however, have been fervently praying for her healing. I am joining them in believing God for Jeptum's healing!

I love being part of this community, where people care deeply about their neighbors. I am learning much from my Kenyan neighbors...

Heading back home, I chatted with some of the little neighbors, kids who go to our school and live in the dorm. They love having me take their pictures!

Then I stopped by the kitchen to visit with the staff who were cooking for a group of trainees. Here's Ruth (not one of the kitchen staff - she's our social worker).

I headed home, not sure what I'd cook tonight. I have lots of veggies in the house, and with it still being pretty cold after the storm, I made a pot of vegetable soup.

I took some to my neighbors, too, and am now ready to finish another book from my reading list. Right now, I'm reading a book on the traditional cultural practices in the Kalenjin culture. Though most of them are no longer practiced, there are still some remnants of these practices left today. In fact, even as I was working on a project with my colleague Mwei this morning, he was telling me about some of the traditions which are contrary to our Christian beliefs.

I'm learning much from my neighbors. All it takes is a curious mind, a listening ear, and a relationship built on trust.

Some of these components come easier than others.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I was sitting around the lunch table today with three dear Kenyan colleagues, having a meeting about child sponsorships.

"Adele, is that all you will eat? Or is there more coming?" Emily asked, looking at my bowl of fruit salad.

"This is it. I'm just having a salad for lunch."

"But will that really satisfy you?" she continued, really concerned that I would only ingest a bowl of fruit.

"It is sufficient, yes. I'm trying to reduce." (That's Kenyan for loosing weight.)

"Eh! But Adele. There is nothing wrong with you." Veronica chipped in. "Is it your culture that says you are too heavy?"

You've got to love these ladies! I explained that my culture has nothing to do with the fact that I'm trying to loose 10 pounds. (I didn't add that I actually have a bet going with 2 friends - whoever does not loose 10 lbs before mid August has to pay up!) They suggested that I overcome the hurdle of tight-fitting clothes by simply buying bigger sizes. But that's exactly what I do NOT want to do.

We talked about the fact that another colleague of ours told me this week, "Eh! Adele! You got really big in America!"


Except, my friends suggested it was truly a compliment. It wasn't meant in a condescending manner whatsoever. I should know. I'm African. But it still just doesn't feel good when friends make comments like that.

Or like the one from another friend last week. "Eh! Adele! Your hair is really . . . BIG!"

I just smiled a really odd smile and said, "Thank you."

I'm not from Texas. I don't aim for big hair. And honestly, it wasn't "big."

Anyway. I don't have hangups with my hair or my waist size. I just am trying to get in better shape.

On a completely different cultural note: I have gotten an offer for my car. I called a colleague who is interested in rebuilding it and told him the offer I had gotten. "If you can meet the offer, the car is yours."

He called back 5 minutes later, offering me less, but adding 2 cows to the offer. It really made me laugh. I'd actually consider the offer, funny enough. It depends on the condition of the cows. I could let them graze at friends' house so they can get the income from the cows. It's a way to help people without giving them a hand-out.

I think it'll be funny to say "I sold my car for x amount, plus 2 cows." But I don't think it'll come to that.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Thank you for giving me Jesus"

This morning, after I had had chai at a number of colleagues' homes in Ilula, I noticed Silas Sifuna standing at our training center, obviously waiting to visit with me. Mama Chiri was there to translate.

It's the first time I've seen him since his graduation and baptism, and he was beaming!

"He has come to say 'thank you,'" Mama Chiri explained. Silas explained to me how different his family's lives are now that he is sober and his children and healthy and in school.

"But the best thing I got in rehab is Jesus," he said with the biggest smile ever. "Thank you for giving me Jesus."

And then he explained how, when they moved back home after rehab (Mama Chiri was taking care of his children during that time), that there were NO JIGGERS at the house any more. None. Not even one, he emphasized. "Those jiggers were all Satan's work!" he said without blinking.

We continued visiting about life at the Sifuna house. He's been trying hard to continue finding day jobs. Sometimes he works at our training center (whenever there's a job), but most days, he walks throughout our neighborhood to look for a temp job.

"This week was hard. I didn't find work even one day," he explained. He made it clear that all he is asking of me is if I would keep my ears open about a job in that area.

I was able to send him with some Unga (flour for ugali) and sugar (considered a staple here for chai), and he was very thankful for that. And some bread I had bought yesterday. Unfortunately I didn't have more food with me. But I know Silas wants to work; not get handouts. At the same time, it helps being able to come home with something to feed the kids.

When I drove by his house later in the afternoon, the kids came running. I was thankful from the depths of my heart to see all four looking really good. Kipruto speaks more than before, saying, "Mzuri" (Fine!) with the biggest smile when you ask him how he's doing. Joanna (Jemutai) was sure to use all her 1st grade English on me, and told me that they really like school.

She made sure to tell me "Adele... Pole kwa ghari" (Sorry about your car!). I know she really, really meant it. Here, when one person in the community suffers, so does everyone. People hurt with you!

I picked up Kit, our new intern, from the airport, and headed back to Kipkaren in the rain. The kids here couldn't be more excited about Kit's arrival. He's our first intern this year, and the little ones can't wait to teach him Swahili.

Kit and I joined Allison, Juli, Michelle and some of our Kenyan friends for dinner at David's house, ending the evening with a game of Sequence. (We girls won, just so you know.)

Like almost every single day in Kenya, it was yet another packed day, but a good one... Tomorrow, visitors are coming to my home for lunch. I'm planning on serving lunch in our new gazebo by the river.

Anyone joining us?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Home in Ilula

I could see the children off in the distance as I drove down the road towards Ilula. They were heading back to school after lunch, but were curious to see which vehicle was coming up the road. Once they recognized me behind the wheel, they came running! I couldn't even get out of the car; they were coming up and hugging me through the window.

And peppering me with questions!

"Will you stay, Adele?" I will indeed stay for the night, but I need to head out again tomorrow to pick up an intern from the airport and go back to Kipkaren.

"Is this your car?" No, it's not. It belongs to Kipkaren. I'm just borrowing it today. I took the team to the airport this morning, and will leave again tomorrow to pick up the intern.

for your car, Adele. Can we put in a new battery and then it will go again?" I'm afraid not. It needs much more than a new battery...

When will you come to stay for a long time, Adele?" I live in Kipkaren now. I only come to visit you. I'm so glad to be here to see you.

"Will we see a movie tomorrow?" No, but I'll show you pictures after school of my trip to America!

"Will you show the children in Kipkaren a movie...?" No, I don't show them movies... Are you excited to see photos from America today?

And so it went on and on, till they had to run to school. The pre-schoolers hung around after I parked the car, eager to help me carry my few things to my house. When the older kids aren't around, some of the little ones come out of their shells. Edison kept wanting to hold my hand. He rarely says a word. Kipkurui wanted to impress me by eating as many clovers as he possibly could. Kibiwott was climbing as high as he could into the bottlebrush tree by my front door and jumping down to impress me...

After several cups of chai at staff members' homes, I went to show the children the promised pictures. Afterwards, Vitaline wanted to pray for the people in Iowa who had lost their homes in the flood. (They've been praying for Iowa ever since I sent a message asking them to pray for the river not to flood the city of Cedar Rapids!)

I stopped by their devotions later, and was asked to share a Word. I shared from Jeremiah 29:7, a verse that has been mulling in my mind the past few weeks. It wasn't hard for them to understand the concept of the verse. I encouraged them to even pray for the crops of their area, for people's land to yield much fruit, for the families in their neighborhoods. I love seeing them "get it." Believe me, they'll pray!

Now, I'm off to dinner at the Ronos' home. I had forgotten how much colder it gets in Ilula! In Kipkaren, the temperature is rarely below 60. At Ilula, especially during the rainy season (now), the temperature easily drops to the 40s and 30s at night. Tonight is one of those chilly nights.

But my heart is warm with love for these children. I have missed them immensely.

It's good to be home.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Yesterday, I took a visiting team to our AIDS campaign nearby. I saw this kid wearing this T-shirt which I thought was pretty funny since he'd have no idea what video games are...

The sky was a dark, dark gray, and not wanting to be caught in the heavy rain storm, we left before the event came to a close. I was particularly anxious to get home since I knew that the vehicle I was driving (one of our ministry vehicles), was less-than-perfect for the muddy roads, and as it were, the roads at our center were a muddy mess from several other 4WD vehicles having gotten stuck the night before. When I pulled into the center about 30 minutes later without having gotten stuck, I praised God from the depths of my heart.

This morning in church, Dennis came and crawled up on my lap. The children sang their hearts out and danced and danced for hours in worship (I'm not exaggerating). It really was good to be back in church.

This afternoon after lunch, I baked some cookies and took it over to the new team gazebo by the river.

Every so often, we'd watch a child or a grandma cross the river on foot. The water is getting dangerously high (up to waist-level for the kids), but the reality for them is that they'd have to walk a mile or so to get to the nearest bridge.
This gazebo is my new favorite hang-out spot! It's perfect for early-morning times with God... The team and I (with Michelle) played a round of Phase 10. It reminded me of the night after the attack on my car, when we girls got together to play Phase 10 and diffused some of the tension through lots of laughter.

"What attack on your car?" you might ask. While I was in the US and talking about some of the events that transpired at the start of the year, I remembered that I never posted the story on my blog due to the sensitive nature thereof. So, just so you know, I'll post an excerpt below from an e-mail I had sent friends.

But before posting it, I want to make it clear that things are fine here now. I'm thrilled that our community is talking about changes that need to happen within the church (i.e. in our community's hearts, not the corporate church).

It's bizarre to even think that these events were such a reality just a few months ago. But the evidence of the clashes remain in burnt-down houses and tented camps along the road which never used to be there... At least the remains of the burning truck to which I refer in the letter was finally removed from the side of the road last week.

Here's what I wrote on January 31, 2008:

Today was one of the scariest days in my life. Or perhaps THE scariest one ever.

Everything seemed peaceful this morning. So much so that our director called and asked if I'd like to go to town. He knew I needed to draw money. (The lady who helps clean my house has no other source of income. If I don't pay her, she literally cannot buy food. So I needed to go to the bank.) I agreed to drive.

The road to town was somewhat normal. There were about 3 vehicles still smoldering from unrest 2 days ago. But all the roadblocks were out of the way. Things seemed as normal as it can at this time.

In town, everything seemed truly normal. I went to the bank and did a few other errands, like stocking up on cat food and buying groceries that would last me a while.

Then I went to Tusker's to wait for the rest of the group. As my colleague Michelle and I were sitting in the parking lot, chaos broke out. People were running everywhere. Police came charging down the road. A man ran to my car shouting "MOVE! YOU'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!" But I couldn't. The rest of the people were in the shop, which had been immediately closed. So we locked the doors and waited.

David (our director) came running. "Get in the back!" he shouted. I moved. But we weren't going anywhere. The rest of the people were still in Tusker's.

Slowly, the chaos died down. News came that an opposition MP had been shot right in Eldoret, by a policeman! Then emergency calls started, with people shouting, "Ooooooo-wi!" That's the way they shout when there's a crisis. These cries were for people trying to steal street vendors' goods. We sat in my car watching opportunists trying to steal from vendors and others chasing them... We could do nothing but wait and watch and pray.

Finally, the rest of the group came. About 12 of them, I think. And everyone had LOTS of supplies. We tied one bag of school supplies (worth about $100) onto the roof of my Land Rover, along with a metal trunk for one girl's move to high school next week. Plus 2 mattresses, for that same girl and one boy, for school dorm. EVERYONE crammed into the car. I don't know how, but we did.

But then we managed to finally get through on the congested cell phone network to our second driver, who was elsewhere in town trying to reach us. He returned and took most of the people while 5 of us stayed in my car plus all the supplies were still with us.

We stopped on our way out to fill my tank with diesel (in case we may have had to flee by car later and would need fuel). Then, at Mayine, a little town right outside Eldoret, things were BAD. (For those of you who've been here/know the area, it's when you pass the first Muslim mosque on your right.) A truck was on fire right on the road. "We've got to keep going," David said. There was no way we could turn around. He had to drive right into the mob.

And then we were surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of angry men. David had his window down just a bit, trying to tell them that we're from the area and we work with orphans, that we're Nandis, that they should let us through. Meanwhile, people were banging against the car, hitting the windows with what sounded like iron pipes!!! I literally sat with my arms in the air praying out loud for God to protect us from the evil that surrounded us. As I was sitting in the passenger seat, people are banging against my window too, shouting for me to give them money. I looked right into the eyes of a man standing in front of my car with a football-sized stone, ready to throw it right at me. I just prayed!!! David told one of the guys, "Tell that man not to throw the stone at us." The guy said, "Hey, don't hurt the bishop!" He knew who David was. So the guy didn't throw the rock...

Guys had climbed on top of the car in the meantime and got the bag of school supplies and both mattresses.

When the men started shouting "Burn the car!" and "Give us the white girls!" David just started driving, because you could FEEL the heat from the burning trucks which were about 10 feet from us. (I honestly believe God opened a path through the mob. There's no way we could just get through!) Then we heard one rear sliding window break, and next, a pomelo-sized rock came through the rear window. There was glass all over, but no-one was hurt. Not even a bit. (If there were people in the back, it would've been different!) David went through about 3 more road blocks like that, just telling the guys in Nandi, "What are you doing?? We're just going home!" When one guy came at the car with a pick axe, David said, "Don't hurt the doctors!" The guys assumed we were medical doctors and said, "Pole!" (Sorry!) But you could just see the evil in people's eyes. It was scary!

As soon as we could, we got off the main road and took back roads. We must've passed through another 20 road blocks easily! There were signs on the road blocks saying things like "STOP. ODM ROAD BLOCK." But now we were in Nandi country, and people knew David, so we were let through everywhere. It was still scary, though. At one place, guys came at the car with bows and arrows, and more rocks, of course, and machetes, but David just calmly talked us through all those blocks to the point that everyone wanted to shake hands with us in the car!

By the time we were about 5 miles from home, the side window fell out. It had been completely shattered. The rear window just has a big hole in it and is completely shattered, but it's still in place. There's not a single other scratch or anything on the car!

I can honestly tell you that I had NEVER been so thankful to pull up to our center!

I KNOW that I know that I know God protected us. BIG TIME. How else does a mob bang on your windows and only ONE window shatters from the banging, but doesn't break and allow the guys to loot the car?? (The rear window was different. It was a rock thrown from further away. But it didn't hurt anyone!)

The second car reached home shortly after us, having gone through a lot of stuff but nothing quite like our ordeal.

Tonight, I thank God for his protection.

I stared evil in the eye. I hope I never have to go through anything like this again.

I am not planning on going to town again at all until I have to leave for Ethiopia for class later in February. When we're in the village, we're safe. But please, please keep praying for God's protection on us, and on every vehicle.

Today, 5 months after that terrible day, I praise God that deep changes are occurring in our community, and that we have not lost hope since we have not lost faith in Christ. As a community, I believe we're walking through this and coming out stronger.

It's been an eventful year so far. One I won't forget easily, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

In Awe

It's after 11 pm, and I just got in a little bit ago. I spent much of the afternoon at the children's home, visiting with the parents, and greeting the kids. I must've hugged each and every one three times, at least! And there are about 100 of them, yes.

Patrick was eager to show my his new puppy. Dennis just woke up from a nap and gave his signature chuckle as I held him. Viola wanted to hold my hand the whole time but realized quickly that it just won't work when I'm hugging so many kids. (They're the ones in the photo with me.) Little Brian (a 2-year-old biological child of one of the sets of parents) grinned from ear to ear when the kids asked, "Uyu ni nani?" (Who's that?) and he'd exclaim, "Adele!"

Needless to say, it was wonderful to see the kids again. But when the bell rang for devotions, they scattered as fast as they appeared, happy to hear what the visiting team has to share. Then came time for dinner, and as they headed to their individual gazebos, every child that passed by had to stop for another hug. I didn't mind at all.

Then I headed up to our director's home. They had started small groups a week ago, and I'm in the group that meets at his house. We were gathering at 7:00 for dinner and small group. "We're talking about the challenges that single moms in our community face," I was told.

Honestly, I wasn't excited about the prospect of dinner with a large group and long conversations, especially since it was all in Nandi, and I hardly understand a word! (I can follow some of the conversations in Swahili, but none in Nandi.) I went to sit by my friend Emily who translated as the group of 21 adults (a small group?) talked about the challenges single moms face.

We had to wrap things up three hours later (since we're leaving for an AIDS campaign at 7:30 am). But I was completely ready to continue the conversation! I am in total awe of what transpired tonight!

The single moms explained the challenges they had with raising adolescents on their own. But even married families concluded that they faced some of the same challenges. They concluded that the problems after the elections didn't only come from single families. Youths from normal families, too, were burning down homes.

By the end of the 3 hours, Pastor Helen (Cosmas' new wife!) had hit the nail on the head by saying that the church is teaching irrelevant messages, that some of the changes should be made from within the church, but that we as Christians, too, should take responsibility and make changes in our own lives! "What did YOU do differently this week? We talked about some of these things last week, too. Did you make any changes?" she asked people bluntly.

We talked about headship, about the role of fathers (one man said, "Do we as men really know what it means to be the head? We need to go back to Scripture!"), about submission and seeking to live as people created in the image of God, and what that looks like. The men committed to reach out to the children from single-parent families, to be role-models to them.

And we prayed. Everyone was on their knees on the floor, praying for our community, for God to bring healing, for him to show us what it truly means to be his followers...

I cannot begin to tell you how tonight's conversation touched my heart. The issues we talked about are issues I've been praying about for a year, that God would bring them to the surface. And when things fell apart in Kenya at the start of the year, I thought, "How can it be that a community that is supposedly predominantly Christian can break down like this? Will we realize that our faith has to penetrate the chore of our very beings and dictate the way we treat our neighbors, even if they're from a different tribe?"

I decided at the time that the only good that might come forth from the violence would be for the church to realize we're doing something wrong. But in the past few months, while I was away, I started fearing that things would simply go back to normal, that nothing will really change.

Tonight, I stood in awe of a God that is stirring up deep issues in people's hearts, and of a community who is willing to take a look at what life with Christ should look like.

The road ahead is long. And as Helen had said rightly, we can talk and talk and talk, but unless people (myself included) go home and actually make the changes God is asking us to make, the talking would be in vain.

My day started with Jeremiah 29:7, and ended with it again. I'm praying that God would show me how to live out the meaning of this verse, and I pray the same for you:

"Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you... and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

So help us, God.

As I walked home under the stars, slipping and sliding in the mud, my heart was rejoicing. And then I heard little voices coming my way... The kids had been at the training center, watching a movie and dancing to music made by the Salvation Army Band who's here for tomorrow's AIDS campaign. One by one they stopped again, hugging me with some saying, "Adele. Lala salama. We're glad you're home."

So am I, little ones, so am I.

Friday, July 04, 2008


I've forgotten how peaceful the village can be. The crickets are singing a full choral masterpiece outside my window. And when I was walking down to the new guest houses next to the river to check on the visiting team, the sound of the river was inviting me to simply sit down and listen.

I've been trying to do that more. Listen. Over and over in my class notes I wrote things like, "Listen more. Truly listen. Speak less. Listen with your heart." I could add more. Listen to your heart. Listen, above all, to God.

I catch myself still speaking more than I should. But at least I'm becoming aware of it now. And I can step back and choose to quiet down.

Even with a team here it's easy to slip into "do"-drive. It's been refreshing to do, yet slow down significantly, at the same time.

(Ah! It's raining. I love, love, love the sound of rain on my roof and on world around me. You can literally hear individual drops land on leaves.)

So, I'm back in the village. I stopped by Ilula this morning since Laban who picked me up at the airport needed to get the team from there, in any case. It was a joy to see my friends from there. My car is at Ilula, sitting patiently under a tarp. I looked at it, just briefly, but decided it was more important to spend the little time I had there to visit with the staff. I'll deal with the car issues later, perhaps next week.

Mark Tarus was beaming when he told me how well Sifuna's doing after rehab. I hope to be able to baptize Sifuna sometime in the next month. That would be amazing!

The only frustration about the visit was that the kids were at school. I didn't get to see them at all. I'll have to find a way to go back soon and visit them. Even in Kipkaren, I have not yet seen the kids since I was visiting with people who stopped by to say hi, and then spent time with the visiting team. They're a great bunch. I look forward to seeing how God will reveal himself to them this week.

I should crawl in. Flannel's already curled up on my bed. She's been following me like a shadow much of the afternoon and evening, purring non-stop!

Tomorrow, I'll be spending time with the team, then joining the celebrations for our Dynamic Business Startup Program graduation. I'll head over to the children's home after that to go hug the kids at the Kipkaren Children's Home. In the evening, we have small group. Saturday's packed with both a kids' rally and an AIDS event. I won't bore you with the details of everything lying ahead, but needless to say, life in Kipkaren is going at full speed. As always.

It's good to be home, though.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

My baby elephant, and other tales

I have an elephant. Not as a pet, of course. She stays at the local elephant orphanage. And I'm one of probably hundreds of people that can call her "mine." After having taken slews of visiting teams to the orphanage last summer, I figured that the sponsorship would cost me less than the entrance fee I had to pay every time. Plus, it would allow me to do what the thousands of other daily visitors don't get to do: Come and help with the evening feeding.

But every time I'm in Nairobi, I have other things to do. Business to take care of. People to see. Supplies to buy. This afternoon, however, after I had completed everything from my Nairobi to-do list, I was about to lay down to take a nap.* I was afraid I might fall into a deep sleep, though, which would prolong jet lag even more. And then I remembered:

I could visit Sinya!

I hopped in the Mayfield rental car and made my way to the center. I was the only visitor (many, if not most, sponsors are international tourists who adopt elephants on behalf of friends/family at home, so very few people actually come out for the evening feedings) and Edwin took me around to meet two new friends.

First, there was a new little elephant who came to the center 2 days ago. She was still pretty aggressive as they had rescued her from an attack by a pride of lions, and wanted to be sure that I knew that she's in charge.

And then I met Maxwell. He's a 2-year-old black rhino that had been abandoned by his mom when she realized he's blind. I fed Maxwell and visited with him till Edwin came to call me, saying, "Come! Quickly! The elephants are coming!"

Next thing, the toddlers came running home with their caregivers.

They spend much of the day in the wild in Nairobi National Park. In fact, when they're ready, they get reintroduced to one of Kenya's many national parks. The babies wear blankets to protect them from sunburn. Mama elephants usually cover their young ones with dust or mud, or make them walk in their shade. But without their mamas to look out for them, the young 'uns can get burned pretty badly.

By the way, this page tells you how each of the elephants were orphaned.

For the next hour, I got to watch the little ones hang out with their caregivers, play around, even go to bed.

By 6, they started laying down, and the caregivers covered them with blankets for the night. They sleep in the stalls with the elephants!

I drove off with a smile on my face and in my heart, passing several giraffes on the side of the road. "It's good to be back in Africa," I thought. Most definitely not just for the animals and the beauty of God's creation here. The people, too, are amazing. I can't wait to see the orphans at Eldoret tomorrow, give them hugs, and to hear their latest stories...

Heading back to Mayfield, I stopped by Ranger's Restaurant, a place that overlooks Nairobi National Park. I sat on the veranda, enjoying a drink while writing in my journal and taking in the beauty of everything around me.

My heart was singing. God is doing some pretty amazing stuff, and I get to see his hand in all of it, firsthand.

It's good to be back.

* I had literally slept only one hour last night. Due to jet lag, I was wide awake and kept working all night till I finally heard the call to prayer at the nearby mosque. That's at 5 a.m. I was supposed to get up at 6, so I hopped into bed for an hour-long nap.

Shortcut to Heaven?

Today, I rented one of the Mayfield* cars and drove to Westlands, a Nairobi neighborhood, to purchase some goods for our new guest homes in Kipkaren.

I decided to take a shortcut rather than the main road which is always jammed with thousands of matatus. As I was driving along the lush back roads of Nairobi, a matatu driver coming in the opposite direction suddenly decided he wasn't going to drive on his side of the road. He wanted to pass the line of cars, despite the fact that I was coming right at him! I flashed my lights like crazy and slowed down to a crawl, so just feet from hitting me head-on, he swung onto the shoulder. I thank God that there were no pedestrians there! He continued driving on the shoulder (on the WRONG side of the road) for at least another hundred yards or so, then cut back across traffic and got back in line, not once slowing down even a little. (No, I don't think his brakes failed. His brain might've, though.)

Gulp! Earlier in the day, I was thrilled to see a cop pull over another matatu that pulled a similar trick, except it was on a road wide enough to form three lanes, so oncoming traffic could merely scoot over a bit. What cracked me up, though, was watching in my rear view mirror as the cop took off on his motorbike after stopping the culprit. He drove across oncoming traffic and proceeded his journey on the shoulder of the road, driving against traffic.

Perhaps the crazy driver from later actually learned the tricks of the trade from watching what cops do, not what they say.

But then again, for his defense, the cop was driving a motorcycle, not a minibus!


It's good to be back in Kenya.

Now you know why I'll be flying to Eldoret on Thursday rather than taking a matatu.

* Mayfield is a missionary guesthouse in Nairobi.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back in Nairobi

Just wanted to let everyone know that I landed safely in Nairobi tonight. I'll be spending two days in the city to get some goods for our new guest houses in Kipkaren, and fly to Eldoret on Thursday.

It's good to be back in Kenya!