Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nyaga (Peter) = amazing

this is an experience we will never forget.

Crystal and i had one of our best days ever with Nyaga (Peter) - our sponsored child with Compassion International. We sponsored him back in July, 2007 when he was 5 years old and have "watched him" grow up, written letters back and forth with him, and prayed for him ever since.
we definitely feel like he has become a part of our family! that's how we think of him.

we got to meet him on Tuesday in his village = Tharaka, Kenya. maybe the coolest thing ever. pretty emotional.

we used to call him Peter, but now we learned he actually goes by Nyaga, so we call him that. i've written about him several times before - HERE & HERE are just examples.

Nyaga is an orphan. that alone breaks my heart. just like it breaks God's heart. God loves orphans so much, defends them, and is their Father. i love that.

his mom died when he was like 1 or 2 years old. they don't even know what she died of. they took her to a hospital that was far away, but she died a couple days later. i bet Nyaga doesn't even remember her.
his dad left even before this. maybe just after Nyaga was born? hasn't been back since. no one knows where he went. just abandoned them all. heartbreaking.

but Nyaga is doing just fine! he has tons of other brothers and sisters... his oldest brother is Japhet. this guy is MY HERO! i'm sure i'll write a post on him at some point. he's 27 (like me) and has become DAD to Nyaga and his brothers and sisters. he stepped into this role at 20 or 21 when his mom died and they were all orphaned.
now Japhet has a wife and baby of his own. he is a straight up amazing man. he takes care of the whole family on about $7 per month! incredible. less than a quarter a day. and that's working his butt off on a farm and doing any other job he can find.
that really puts into perspective and helps Crystal and I see where our support is life changing.

we got there and gave Nyaga a big hug right away! he's 9 years old now and had never seen a Mzungu (white person) before Crystal and i. we sat and talked with him at the project and looked through his folder.
a while back we wrote him a letter about how much Jesus loves him and wants to be his Savior. he wrote back saying he totally understood and had already put his faith in Jesus to be his Savior. pretty exciting. they had a record of that in his file too. + all his doctor visits, all his school grades (always in the top 10 in his class which means he'll probably qualify to go to University!), and all the gifts we've sent him = including the GOAT he bought :)
(the goat has since died, but had a baby goat that Nyaga still has.)
it also talked about his spiritual growth and mentioned that he is excellent at memorizing Bible verses. Crystal said something like "so you like memorizing the Bible, huh?" and he hopped up and quoted Luke 2:52 word for word... haha, pretty cool.

over the past 3 years we write back and forth about his favorite things to do/fav games and it's always soccer. so, we got to give him his 1st ever soccer ball! big smile on his face. he said he wanted to go straight out and play soccer with me right away. so we went to the field and played a while. crystal played with us too & even his brother Japhet. really special.

we had some Chipati and tea together at the project before we went to his home. we talked a lot and really got to know each other. Crystal asked him what he wants to be when he grows up and he said "President". i might have teared up a little for several reasons. (read HERE to see where i mentioned that almost 3 years ago.) that's a normal thing for American kids to say, but not kids like Nyaga. usually they have no hope because they're stuck in poverty. i can tell that God and Compassion have changed his life and his future. i asked what he wanted to do if he became president and he said "help all the people of Kenya." :)

he liked holding hands with us. like everywhere we went he wanted to hold one of our hands. pretty cool.

it was pretty far to his home from the Compassion project. like 4-5 km! takes him a while to walk! so we drove the van to his house. on the way i had him put on my sunglasses. i think he looks like a younger (way cuter) version of Jay-Z.

we got to his home and saw where and how he lives. There was a "house" + a "kitchen" (mud walls & tiny room with a fire) + a 2nd "house" to sleep in. both homes were like 10x10. I asked Nyaga where he slept and he took us to the kitchen. i guess he just sleeps on the floor because there's no room in the house to sleep.

the family gave us one of their chickens! that's a BIG DEAL for a family that makes $7 a month! the eggs are a big deal to eat & sell & even eating the chicken would be a huge deal! we were humbled. Crystal got a video of Nyaga handing it to me. then it flapped it's wings in my eyeball.

i think i've mentioned before how one of Crystal's biggest spiritual gifts is GIVING. she LOVES to be generous and give gifts! so she has the gift of gifts. she bought so much stuff for Nyaga's family and even fun presents for him.
we gave his family so many awesome PRACTICAL gifts and Japhet and his wife were SOOOO thankful! they kept thanking me and hugging us after opening each gift!

we hooked Nyaga up with a ton of gifts too. i think his favorite was the little stuffed animal tiger. he loved that thing! he was rocking this Carolina Tarheels shirt we gave him too. we told him that's where we live (our state) & i'm sure we also explained that they're the best basketball team.
He loved eating some pixie sticks! we gave him a big bag of all sorts of candy and he went around and SHARED with everyone. that was pretty cool. we chewed some bubble gum together and tried to blow bubbles.
we gave him a ton of school supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks, a calculator, etc... (everybody was "ooohing" & "ahhing" over the calculator!)
we gave him a couple coloring books - 1 is all Bible stories and even a lot of activities + a BIG box of crayons & a pack of markers + drawing pad.

i got to pray for Nyaga and his family at his home & i had to stop because i started to cry so just said "Amen". when i looked up i think Carol (our Compassion staff guide) was crying too.
when we asked Japhet what we could pray for i totally expected him to say something like - a better job or more money to live on than $7 per month... but he said "that our family could live in good harmony." that's beautiful. it looks to me like they have better family harmony than most already.

while walking through his village we met some of his friends and he introduced us. that was pretty cool.

we had lunch together and while we were waiting on it to cook we colored a picture together. he let us take it home with us. i think it will stay on the fridge for a long time.
+ we wrote him a note on the drawing pad. he read it out loud as i wrote it. really good at reading English - the Compassion project peeps said he's one of the best in his class!
we just wrote that we love him and God loves him so much. we'll pray for him, we're proud of him, and we want him to live his life for God.

i found him the perfect size full Italy World Cup uniform. we gave him that out on the soccer field. he was so excited. i bought an Italy jersey for me and we wore them together and we said we were "teammates". later i gave the adult jersey to his brother Japhet (who told us he was going to play soccer with Nyaga and his new ball all the time and teach him to be a great soccer player...) & i told Nyaga that they are teammates. it was like i had given Japhet a new car. he wore it the rest of the day.

during the whole day Nyaga laughed out loud a whole lot. he laughed with joy and smiled so many times! :) he had so much fun with us and we had so much fun with him. it was amazing.

maybe one of the coolest things was that we gave him his 1st ever Bible! we wrote in it for him and told him to read it as much as he could, follow it, live by it, and love it. that was a cool moment... to give this awesome boy his 1st ever Bible that is his own.

Crystal and i each brought him our favorite snacks/candy to share with him. Crystal's was pop rocks! he passed them around and no one knew what to think! they were so surprised. they were all like "oooooH!" haha. he didn't like my fav at all = slim jims. we told him he could spit it out & he did. :)
but he did love the smarties & gobstoppers.
oh yeah, and we gave him the game "Jacks" and taught him how to play. His brother, Japhet said they really liked it and would play a lot at home.

he wrote us a note in his new drawing pad & drew a pic for us.

at the end we planted a tree together to commemorate our visit. kind of like a marker to remember us by. it was so hard to leave him & i was fighting back tears a lot at different times. Crystal told me not to start or else she wouldn't have a chance!

we gave him a big hug and told him we loved him. we told him to work so hard in school and always follow Jesus with his life... that's the best life possible.

i've really just been writing details because i don't think i can express the emotions or the experience. it was really not explainable. like nothing in the world. we'll remember this forever. i hope we get to hang out with him again some day. we've already talked about how we want to sponsor him to go to University through Compassion (which is a much bigger commitment) and we told him when he goes to University we really want to visit him again.

There are just so many pictures and videos to share from our day with Nyaga and really from our whole time here in Kenya. soon we'll be posting a ton of that stuff on Facebook!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


on Monday, Crystal and i made the tough journey to the village of Tharaka to meet Erick! Erick is an awesome 8 year old boy that some awesome kids in Charlotte, North Carolina sponsor!

we are just blessed enough to be the representatives of those Upstreet kids to Erick and do our best to convey their love and friendship to him. later will be the difficult task of trying to share this amazing experience with all of them!

We got to spend the whole day with Erick in his village and even at his home.

1st we visited the Compassion project office for that village. They took us through a very detailed and organized file on Erick. it was very very impressive. we learned that his family's total income is about 1000 kshs per month... that's about $14 a month. less than $0.50 a day. wow. so, the $38 per month that the Upstreet kids send to sponsor Erick is HUGE!!!

the visit wasn't exactly what we expected because Erick didn't speak much English or even Swahili so we had to use a translator for most things.
he was pretty shy at first too. that's not surprising at all because Crystal and i were the 1st MZUNGUs he's ever seen! (white peeps) i'm sure he might have even been a little scared at first.
but he definitely opened up way more as the day went on.

we played on the playground at the CDP (child development project). me & Erick rode the merry-go-round together.

we visited and hung out at his home for a long time. they were honored by our visit and made a big deal of it. they served us Ooji (sp?) which was NASTY! i managed to down the whole cup though. i don't even want to describe what it tastes like.

Erick has a new baby brother! & 4 total kids in the family, and his grandmother lives with them. both his parents were very nice and so grateful to all the kids who sponsor Erick. they must have told us "thank you" like 20 times.
the grandmother found out Crystal was a nurse and asked Crystal if she could pull some of her teeth that have gone bad. didn't expect that one.

we got to visit the church Erick goes to = AIC Karou (African Inland Church). Erick's pastor hung out with us most of the day too. he was a really nice guy. he's been the pastor for 3 years at the church in this village. we all had lunch at the church together.
we learned from some of Erick's letters that he likes to play the drums at church. i saw the drums sitting there and asked him to play for us. he laid down some sick beats for us and i got it on video. he was excited to play for us.
he took us to his school and then even brought us into his classroom and introduced us to his classmates. he even showed us his desk. he was SO PROUD and excited.
we met his principal and talked with her. because of our visit Erick got to skip school. i know the Upstreet kids will like that.

most Kenyan "homes" are on a "compound" where a big family probably lives. there are usually at least 2-3 "buildings on the compound + some type of "shamba" (farm). There's usually a "kitchen" as a separate building - just mud walls and a fire in the middle where they cook their food. Erick's home had one of these.
Then Erick's family had an actual house that they slept in - mud walls and 2 tin sheets for a roof.
we hung out in a half-built house. the sticks were up and the tin roof & next the father will build the mud walls. he said he is building this for the boys to sleep in because currently 7 of them sleep in the 1 house which is about 10x10. not a lot of room if you like to move in your sleep.
*We found out that they're able to build this extra home probably because Erick has been sponsored these past few years. That saves the family a lot of money on school fees, clothes, medical care for Erick, etc...

We were able to bless the whole family with a ton of practical gifts! i don't even remember them all but 1 of Crystal's spiritual gifts is definitely GIVING, so she went shopping and HOOKED THE FAMILY UP! = bed sheets, towels, hand towels, knives and spoons, cooking utensils, cooking fat (very popular), tons of rice and maize, biscuits (like cookies that Erick shared with everyone), cooking flour, and tons of other stuff.

the Upstreet kids wrote a LOT of letters to Erick and we gave him the big stack. he was so excited. Then we gave him a big framed picture of the whole Upstreet group (+ 2 smaller copies). He LOVED this!

after the family gifts we showered some gifts on Erick. = a Spiderman backpack for school (or whatever he wants to use it for), a big bag of candy (smarties, pixie sticks, suckers, etc... which he passed around to everyone), a game of Jacks, coloring books, a big box of crayons, lots of stickers that Crystal picked out for him, a whole bottle of bubbles & we blew some together!
+ we hooked him up with a Ridge Church t-shirt and a Camp Upstreet t-shirt.

we prayed for him and his family at their home before we left. we also got to give Erick his 1st every Bible! that's pretty awesome.

i'm sure i'll have a lot more thoughts later. getting a little car sick writing this while riding on these Kenyan roads though...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


the last 2 days have been amazing. we've spent the whole 2 days Erick and Peter in their homes in Tharaka, Kenya.

the last 2 days have also been hard. tough. exhausting. rough. probably the roughest on us physically. i don't think i've ever seen anything like what i've seen the past 2 days. and i've seen a lot. i think Erick and Peter's village makes Karima look like Beverly Hills.

i have so many emotions, but i'm honestly just too overwhelmed to write about these experiences. i know many of you would love to hear about these visits - especially everyone who has had a part in supporting and praying for Erick. and i promise i'll write about them soon. i think i just need some time.

i honestly keep having a thought creep into my head = "am i even making a difference?" with everything that i could ever do - does it even matter with this HUGE task we have ahead of us to help the least of these? is what i can do even a drop in the bucket?
i remind myself of the post i wrote HERE. i hope Crystal and i making a small difference for the renown of Jesus, for His Kingdom, and in some precious lives that we love so much.

but sometimes i feel like Reese Roper when he wrote these words back in the day... it used to be one of my fav songs long ago:
"I put my face down in my hands, water wells inside my eyes,
What do I have to give them? does it matter if I try?
I can't stand to see you suffer; I try to intellectualize
A formula to end your pain; 
it doesn't work. God knows I've tried.

What does it matter any way?
13 cents or all i own?
how can i ever save the world on cup-o-soup and student loans?
and i... wanna try and save the world!
but it never goes that way
God, i don't know what to do..."

Monday, September 27, 2010

letters to Erick (from Upstreet kids)

By the time you are reading this we have probably already met Erick and will be hanging out with him all day! we get to see his home, his school, his church, and meet his doctor! i am so excited.
**The kids in Upstreet at Ridge Church wrote a TON of letters to Erick. they are AWESOME! i just picked out a few phrases from a few of the letters. ENJOY!

pretty much EVERYONE wrote about being excited Erick could go to school & they hope he's making good grades, learning a lot, having fun at school, etc...
"Dear Erick, it was awesome to read about how you go to church and how you play the drums. It felt really good to hear that we were going to help you. My family has been praying for you. I've been really happy to hear how you're doing."
"I hope you have everything you need to have a great lifetime. love, an Upstreet kid, Josie."
"I think we have a lot in comen, like we both like soccer. And this is my letter to you. I hope you like it. P.S. - tell Patrick to learn your language."

"I hope your having a great day so far. I just want you to know we will all ways know your there And we care for you. thank patric for sending you all these letters and ask him why he looks so weird.  and if he really does give you the picture of all of us Im proply going to be on the top row and I have bright blond hair. Avery - P.S. - I am a boy and i know my nam souds like a girl. But is not"

"my favorite thing is my stuffed animals named bunny. what is one of your favorite things? my favorite subject in school is science too."

"I also hope that you are learning about God. Recently, I had a birthday party. I raised about $40 for you. I hope you can use the money...
when was  your birthday. whenever you had it, I wish you a happy birthday."

"Dear Erick, I hope that you do not get sic that much. Love Lily"

"Dear Erick, I hapy you hav fun in Keney - Love Aidan."

one girl wrote "I love to play soccer and dodge ball." then included a detailed picture and description of how to play dodge ball on the back! it was awesome.

"Dear Erick, I hope you have fun at school and I think your cool. by Trinity"

"I hope you like the money we gave you. You smiling makes me smile." (with a BIG smiley face)

We are going to meet him in just a few hours (around 3AM monday morning EST). He is an 8 year old who lives in Tharaka, Kenya - an extremely poor village. Erick is a boy who really had no hope about 2 years ago.
But some kids around his age in Upstreet decided that wasn't OK. They decided that it's not OK for him to grow up without a chance to go to school. they decided it wasn't OK for him to die as a child from some preventable disease. They decided it wasn't OK for him to die without knowing about Jesus. 
so, they did something about it. God had blessed them, so they sacrificed some of that money God has blessed them with and send it to Compassion to support Erick. He has a new life now. He has hope. he is BLESSED.
Tomorrow Crystal and i get to meet him and shower gifts and blessings on him and a bundle of letters from the Upstreet kids (which i crack up laughing AND cry while reading!). we get to see and experience and hopefully capture his new life... the POWERFUL change that the small actions of kids have made in his life!
pretty stoked to meet him. will definitely be posting ASAP about this experience!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

your small actions = POWERFUL

Crystal and i have stayed with a lady named Maggie this weekend. She picked us up on Friday and we just left her home this afternoon (Sunday).

She is an amazing lady and has turned her home into a "mission house" where she invites any missionaries or people doing "God's work" to come and stay for free. She was an awesome host + her son Robert (who is the same age as us).

She has been a missionary to the United States and to Northern Ireland - both times just following God's call on her life even thought it seemed "crazy" and she was able to see many miracles along the way, since both were humanly impossible. God definitely used her in big ways to see people come to know Him and to spread His fame.

she lives a "missional life" in Kenya even though i bet she has never heard that phrase. she follows Jesus more extravagantly than we do even though she has very little. God has used her to change and bless so many lives!

Maggie is a great example of how God uses our small actions to do powerful things.

Maggie was born in a slum. if you don't know what a slum in Kenya is like just google it... or Wikipedia "Kibera" or look it up on YouTube. Crystal and i wanted to visit one, but not even Kenyans dare go without armed security.

Maggie was born in one of the largest slums in Kenya and grew up there. This means she had NO CHANCE... humanly speaking. 
Her Dad died around the time she was born so she never knew him. Her mother had nothing. in the slum they had nothing. Her life that began in extreme poverty was destined for disease, an early death, prostitution, or at best a life of begging in the slums with living conditions that would make most of us vomit.

Then when she was 8 years old God rescued her. Her life changed dramatically because of a "small" action. One of her father's old friends showed up at the slum. She was telling me the story and said this man came who she had never seen. He said "I heard what happened to your father and I wanted to help?"
This man had enough money to take 1 of the 5 children and "adopt" them and make sure they could go to school. that 1 child was Maggie. she went to school and worked hard and even graduated High School. She even went to University. She even became a nurse. God has used her to bless so many other lives... including ours.

all because 1 man wanted to help. his action was powerful!

Abraham is another example. 
he is in his 20s and works for 410 Bridge. He grew up in Naivasha, Kenya. He told us that when he was 10 years old a lady came to his village from Texas. She was on a trip with Living Water International and they were putting the 1st well in his village!
She gave him a coloring book and taught him to color. She taught him about what the coloring book said and it was about Jesus and how Jesus died for Him and wanted to be His Savior and change His life.
Because of that lady from Texas and that coloring book she talked to Abraham about, he became a follower of Jesus as a 10 year old boy. now he is a missionary with 410 Bridge and God is using him in powerful ways to change the lives of Kenyans AND Americans.

he told us a really awesome story that the men in his village used to tell. i want to share it with you, but i've already written too long. so, i'll save it for another blog on another day. his quote to sum it up was simply:
"You don't have to understand divine things. You just have to obey the call."

That's awesome. Just ACT. follow what God is leading you to do. leave the powerful part to Him. you never know how your small actions will be SO POWERFUL to change someone's life.

*on this note i can't help but think about Erick Base Kiria. We are going to meet him in just a few hours (Monday morning). He is an 8 year old who lives in Tharaka, Kenya - an extremely poor village. Erick is a boy much like Maggie who really had no hope.
But some kids around his age in Upstreet decided that wasn't OK. They decided that it's not OK for him to grow up without a chance to go to school. they decided it wasn't OK for him to die as a child from some preventable disease. They decided it wasn't OK for him to die without knowing about Jesus. 
so, they did something about it. God had blessed them, so they sacrificed some of that money God has blessed them with and send it to Compassion to support Erick. He has a new life now. He has hope. 

Tomorrow Crystal and i get to meet him and shower gifts and blessings on him and a bundle of letters from the Upstreet kids (which i crack up laughing AND cry while reading!). we get to see and experience and hopefully capture his new life... the POWERFUL change that the small actions of kids have made in his life!

pretty stoked to meet him. will definitely be posting ASAP about this experience!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

no matter what (Kenya day 10)

i have to admit it was WAY different driving off on our own on Friday! Driving through Nairobi after everyone we knew had left was a different experience. being the only Americans around was a different kind of feeling.

For me it was fine. i actually kind of like it, but it was still different not knowing anyone and being "on our own". i know for Crystal it is much more scary and it takes big courage from her. she is so awesome and so brave. she's a trooper.

i thought it was awesome that the 1st thing i read while still in bed Saturday morning was this:
"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for i have put my trust in You. Show me the way i should go, for to You i entrust my life." - Psalm 143:8
wow. God was speaking to me through this. 

driving through Nairobi Friday night, i know Crystal was scared. no idea where we were heading. even driving through a couple slums. millions of people were everywhere.
we were with our new friend Maggie we had met like 30 minutes before and planned to stay with her all weekend. Maggie is awesome and a super cool lady (i'll tell you more about her later). but there was a BIG need to TRUST GOD NO MATTER WHAT.

so Friday night was a little "rough". Crystal and i prayed together for safety and protection and to be aware of God's presence with us. 

it was so fitting that i have been studying Psalm 91 for several weeks BEFORE we came to Kenya! i even spoke on it recently. i really love that passage and it's so appropriate for us being here. in Psalm 91 God invites us to live in the SHELTER and REFUGE that is HIM! it's beautiful. When we make HIM our HOME we have rest and protection from everything.
Crystal and i read Psalm 91 together Friday night. it's awesome that it doesn't really matter where in the world we are if our "HOME" is still in God. He is our HOME in any country.

Then we read the Psalm that i read when we 1st got to Kenya. Psalm 139:5-12 = God is with us WHEREVER we are. there is no place we can go to get away from God's presence. we read that together and it filled me up with such peace and confidence in a God that i can trust no matter what. no matter how "unsure" our surroundings might be.
so, when i woke up Saturday morning - because of the roosters crowing at 4am - the sun started to come up shortly after. i read the next Psalm = 143 & verse 8 was shouting to me as the new day and sun peeked into our room = "let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love." and it did. the fact that we woke up safe and sound in this place that for many Americans may feel the opposite... pointed to the fact that God won't fail us. His love for us won't ever stop. i literally felt the sun bringing me news of God's unfailing love.

in America we have to "trust God" all the time. most of the time it's "different" though. Friday/Saturday Crystal and i were learning to trust God at another level. we are literally following this verse "to You i entrust my life." and that is a very beautiful thing.

i'm 100% confident in our God. He is with us and we trust Him no matter what.

going to church now with Maggie in Nairobi... then leaving for Meru = 5-6 hour drive. update when we get there.

Friday, September 24, 2010

transitioning in Kenya

Right now Crystal & i are riding in the back from Nakuru to Nairobi. just loving every second of the beautiful Kenyan countryside. Crystal and i are riding with the other 3 from the Ridge team - Amy, Tiffany, and Keith. we've become tight with them. it's been an awesome 9 or 10 days together. We're dropping them at the Nairobi airport for them to start the long journey back to Charlotte.

but it feels like we've been here in Kenya for a month, not just a week! it's crazy. i honestly feel like i can't even remember much about America. it feels very distant and far off. i feel like i'm slowly forgetting customs and conveniences that we had there. i know that sounds crazy after only a week, but i'm just being honest.
i'm speaking less and less English and more and more Swahili. Kenyans are starting to ask "How long has this Mzungu lived here in Kenya?" haha... a week. i wonder how long it would take me to blend in?

so, the Ridge team is headed home and Crystal and i will be "on our own" for a while. i'm really excited about it. i remember talking to her before we left about the kind of life we want to live. even though it may be slightly more scary, risky, and unsure - i think when we're 100 we'll want to look back and have chosen the more ADVENTUROUS life. the life that was LESS SAFE. the life that was a little more EDGY and worth telling stories about.
i hope we're heading in that direction.

i don't know what to expect of staying in Nairobi the next few days. crazy city of about 3 million.
i can't even imagine the experience of meeting and spending the day with Peter, the child we sponsor through Compassion. and then meeting Erick, the boy that Upstreet at Ridge sponsors through the same org.
living and working in the orphanage in Havilla i am sure will be mind blowing. but i know that i cannot imagine leaving those orphans that Crystal and i will pour our whole hearts into.

it was so hard to leave Karima. i connected with so many kids and adults. they definitely didn't want us to leave and i didn't want to leave either. definitely hard.

the beauty here in Kenya absolutelyshouts God's glory! it's awe-inspiring. it just enthralls me with God's glory all day long.
not to mention we saw some pretty freaking awesome animals these past 2 days. i know you probably care about that more than my random thoughts, so i'm sure we'll post some pics soon.

i'll still be trying to post every day. looking forward to actually "sleeping in" for the 1st time tomorrow morning though (like past 6am).
peace out for now

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"whatchu talkin' bout Willis?"

This is Willis Maina. (hence the "whatchu talkin' bout Willis" reference in the title.) Willis is a good friend of mine now here in Karima, Kenya.

He has an awesome home and we hung out at his place together for much of the day on Tuesday.

He spoke fairly good English + i could speak pretty decent Swahili by that time, so we could communicate pretty well. and i can still whip out my trusty iPhone app and type in any word to figure out how to say it.
Lucy came with us too (she's Tiffany's good friend and a teacher at the school) and speaks great English so is a great translator.
We hung out with the whole family (except the kids) = Willis, his wife (far left), and his mother (next to Willis). i didn't catch her age, but she is VERY old!

we hung out in the "kitchen" which was a mud hut with a fire in the middle. it was like they were trying to smoke us out of that place! i straight up just couldn't see like half the time. i think someone has a pic somewhere after i came out of there and my eyes look like i've been on drugs for a while. they were just laughing saying - "you can't let the smoke bother you." yeah, well...

Thankfully, Willis was still finishing up working in his shamba (farm) and asked me to come help him carry his tools in from the farm + he wanted to show me all his land and farm.
this was pretty awesome just getting to walk and talk with him! he had corn fields, and onions, and potatoes. i told him my wife loves potatoes.

He took me to the 2 homes where his children live - also mud walls and mud floors. only 20 feet from the home where he slept. he has 4 children and the youngest is an 8th grader at the Primary school i've been teaching at. she remembered me when she came home for lunch. his oldest is another girl who is married and works at a Kanisa (church) in another area of Kenya.

He was growing a ton of Cypress trees too. He showed me one that was like 50 feet tall. then he took me to the ones he was growing that were like 5 inches tall. he taught me how to grow them all in 1 spot & then transplant them to a bigger area when they grow. They have to constantly grow these trees to use for firewood. Fire is a pretty big deal in Karima. you need it for a lot of stuff!

speaking of that, the cool story of the day - when we were all in the kitchen, Lucy was teaching me how to make a fire if you don't have any money for matches. BUT you still have to have some dry leaves and/or hot coals. (it rains everyday in Karima, so dry leaves may be hard to come by.) she said that if you don't have anything to make a fire, you just go to a neighbors home and TAKE fire from them. she emphasized that you NEVER "BORROW" fire because that is TABOO in Karima! and she just left it at that.
* "Why is it taboo to borrow fire?", came the question from the Mzungu...
you would never say you are going to borrow fire, you just take it BECAUSE in Karima they believe every home, every family should have fire... you need it for everything. so, everyone should have it, SO WE SHARE. just come take some of my fire so you can have your own. of course you're not going to borrow it.

WE have a LOT to learn from the people of Karima!
that is some awesome true community and selflessness.

I thought Willis had a pretty sweet crib. looks like a futon.

During our conversation, Willis found out that i love eggs. He has 7 chickens, so he snuck off and then came back and surprised me with an egg! i tried to refuse but he insisted. that was an honor, because an egg is a valuable thing in Karima. he insisted i was his honored guest and i must eat some fried egg!
i had already finished the Chipati and Tea the women made for me. it was all really good. so, they fried the egg and i picked it up and ate it with my hands. best egg i've ever eaten!

Then Willis brought me outside and said "In Karima we say - 'when you eat an egg you must feed a chicken.' This is because you need the chicken to lay another egg tomorrow to replace the one you just ate, so you better feed it! haha... so i got to feed the chickens too.

FYI - women talk about a lot of stuff around the fire in the kitchen. Willis' wife was talking to me about my wife and how we've been married for 5 years, but don't have any kids, etc... all the women said that NEVER happens in Karima. when someone gets married they have kids 9 months later! every time. i was like "cool".
 Then she turns to me and says "So you are using contraceptives?" & i was like "uhhhh..." a little bit of shock that i was having this conversation with 4 or 5 African women. we had to talk through that a little bit and then she said "so you are doing Family Planning."
what in the world? Lucy even said she had never heard of it, but this lady had found out about it somehow - read about it somewhere? she finished off the conversation by saying "so you are not Catholic."

well, good eggs and good times with the Willis Maina family at his place in Karima.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

teaching in Karima Primary School

Jambo from Kenya everybody! Habari ya asubuhi? mzuri sana...

The past 2 days i have had the opportunity to teach in the Karima Primary School. this is the school for 1st-8th graders in the village of Karima. (but there are 15 year old kids in 5th grade, etc...)

I have taught 3 different classes the last 2 days. the more Swahili i can speak, the better they can track with me. i got a Swahili Bible Tuesday too.
These kids are so easy to connect with. sometimes it's hard to tell if they're "getting it". but by the end it's obvious they're with me.

i've simply been talking to each class about the greatest thing they can do. Jesus told us the greatest thing we could ever do (the Great Commandment) = love God and love people... love our neighbor.

I got to have a lot of fun with them going through Luke 10 and that story... the whole story of the Samaritan helping the Jew. the kids were acting the story out + different sections shouting stuff out together at the top of their lungs.

the best part is at the end of the story when Jesus says "Go and do likewise" -> so for all of us = go & do the exact same thing = LOVE, show compassion for your friends and enemies... always. just like this Samaritan guy.
They talk through ways they can respond to their enemies like Jesus wants them to and how they can show love to everyone... since it's obvious that everyone is our "neighbor".

On Tuesday i also hung out at a home in Karima, but i'll try to save that story for it's own post. pretty awesome.

i get to go out with each class for "PE" which is basically "free time". when i get done teaching they all want me to play "kandanda" (soccer) with them, so we get all excited and go out to the "field". then i ask where the ball is & they don't have one. bummer.

so Tuesday we brought one and i took it out to the field with my class and there was a straight up MOB. hundreds of kids mobbed me. for some reason i thought they would organize into teams... haha.
they just ran around kicking the ball in circles like a big swarm of bees.

so, i organized a little soccer tournament which was pretty fun and challenging with the Swahili i know. teams of 6 & we just played 5 minute games. they made "goals" with their gum boots. i had them all pick team names and they were all like Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal, etc... i was cracking up.

good times. these kids have absolutely captured my heart. it's all over for me. their unbridled joy and love for life in their circumstances absolutely overwhelm me. i could spend all day every day with them.
i can literally feel God's love for them so so strongly. i just want to make sure they feel it. i want to make sure they know that they are prized and loved. i hope they "get it."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2 minute update from Karima, Kenya

haven't had any time to write lately, so here's just a quick update as i'm riding on the CRAZIEST road ever in the backwoods of the mountains in Kenya. i don't even know how i'm typing bouncing in the air, etc...

yesterday was awesome. crystal and i worked in the primary school (1st - 8th grades) in Karima all day. i taught 2 different classes = 6th & 7th grades throughout the day.

Amy & Tiffany taught a couple classes too + i hear Keith taught some kids the Hokey Pokey... that's awesome & i wish i had video.

another part of our team was working on the new secondary school (high school) that's being build and i've got some crazy stories from that too.

These kids are amazing. i could spend the rest of my life with them. many of the kids in this primary school are orphans and come to school from a nearby orphanage.
The teachers at the school are awesome. they're my new heroes.

my Swahili is getting a lot better and everyone just wants to speak Swahili to me all the time now, so i'm learning a lot more too. Catherine (who i wrote about on day 1) used to be a main teacher at the school and she and some others hooked me up with a 5th grade Swahili grammar book! they took me through like 2 pages of it during break time.

got to see my buddy John again.

it rains all the time in Karima because it's in these mountains. it's the dry season too so we weren't expecting rain. that makes things interesting. but it's definitely = mvua kwa Jesu (rain is a blessing from Jesus) especially for this largely farming community.

TODAY (it's 9am here) i am working in Karima again all day with the Ridge team and Crystal is actually going by herself to work at the clinic/hospital in Kwambakenya (a nearby village in Kinangop) and then she is going with the nurse to work with the sick people in Kiria... another village.

actually she just got off the bus to go. 1st time i've ever sent my wife off by herself to be a nurse in the middle of Kenya.
i think it is AMAZING & awesome... i think today will be an amazing experience for her. She is going to bring a piece of the Kingdom of God to that village. i only really wish i could go with her and see her in action. (i would just pretty much be in the way.)
they call her "Doctari" in Swahili. she got promoted i guess. There is only 1 nurse for the whole hospital... she runs the whole thing. no doctor.

gonna be an awesome day in Kenya.

Monday, September 20, 2010

why do you let it happen?

"Where someone is born should not determine whether they live or die."

that's something else that's not OK and it's something i think about all the time. the thought was made famous by Bono, but i'm sure someone was saying it before He was.

I think God says something similar daily to US daily... so maybe Bono was just quoting God.

ironically, when serving in a community like Karima, this is something that many of us could tend to say to God. or ask the question = "why did you let them be born in a place that would determine whether they live or die?"
and of course the real question is God asking us "why would YOU let there be places on this earth where that is the case? that's not OK."

Karima is SO FAR off the beaten path. 
Tiffany (from our Ridge team) really connected with this lady named Lucy the very 1st day in Karima. She took us to church yesterday. (& she was part of another story i'll have to tell you some time.)
Lucy said that Karima is basically a forgotten village. They are so far out of the way that even the Kenyan government has FORGOTTEN them. that breaks my heart.

Thankfully, Karima is not forgotten by everyone. thankfully some Jesus followers don't think it's OK that they would die of preventable stuff and haven't forgotten the people of Karima.

BUT, i can't even guess at how many other villages in the world are FORGOTTEN... villages that we have never been to and just because someone is born there they will die because they don't have basic needs.

we - our generation - can do something about this.
we can change it.
we can make this quote irrelevant.

and because we can - we must.

"Where someone is born should not determine whether they live or die."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

church in Karima (day 3)

Our team woke up this morning and went to 5 different churches in Karima.

Crystal, Tiffany and I all went to the KAG in Karima which started back in 2007. it was very different and interesting for sure. and LONG... i've been too used to Ridge Church only being 65 minutes and out. we were there for a good 4 hours or so!

it sounds like the church in Karima that Keith and Amy (from our Ridge team) went to may have been the coolest experience. It was the GOA (Glory or Gospel Outreach Assembly?). They had some cool stories for sure.

my experience at the KAG church was awesome too. they had us come up and greet everyone and talk a little bit. i tried to talk in mostly Swahili. they love it. they all talk about how perfect my pronunciation is = (thanks to my trusty iPhone app which has a Kenyan lady speaking each word.)
They crack up laughing with HUGE smiles every time i bust out some Swahili... i ask them if they're laughing at me because i'm saying the words wrong, but they say no, they laugh because it's so unexpected for me, a mozungu, to speak Swahili.

This is me & the Pastor of the KAG - Bernard.

we sang & danced at church for forever! i would have sat down and taken a rest, BUT the lady who was the "worship leader" came and grabbed my hand and jumped and danced with me in a death grip for a really long time. seemed like an hour! maybe 20 minutes? They got Crystal and Tiffany dancing up there too.

at the end they were planning a "small group" gathering for some men and they needed a bunch of stuff and everyone was donating something... so i kicked in some cooking fat (just 100 shillings). too bad i'll miss the small group shindig.

There seemed to be maybe 3 or 4 sermons during the service? kind of interesting... and the translator and the person preaching like randomly switched languages at different times. crazy to try to follow.

There were lots of awesome kids at this church too.
We hung out with some of the children of the village later on too... they absolutely grab your heart and don't let go.

1 thing is for sure! = God was worshipped in Karima, Kenya today and in Charlotte, NC. + in all kinds of people groups all over the world. a beautiful thought.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

that's not OK! (me & John)

[i’m thinking about only trying to tell 1 main story per day even though i have like 50… we’ll see how well i stick to that.] Today's will mainly focus on my new good friend John.
[if you are friends with Crystal on Facebook you can see her awesome recap of the day. better job than i would do of recapping... even though i also may post a recap at some point.]

When we arrived in Karima this morning we danced for a while in the clearing where the brand new well is. that's when i met John.
i hung out with John and he taught me the dances and the words to the songs. You know how when we’re singing a song we rock an AIR GUITAR? well, these peeps in Kenya rock the AIR ACCORDION instead. seriously.
Then John taught me the exact moment when to yell "WHOOOO!" each time during one song & dance, so we became fast friends.
I hung out with John most of the day. Our whole team from Ridge/410 Bridge walked about 1 mile down the one road through Karima. The people pointed out their homes and farms to us + the 5 churches in the village. (pics to come later - maybe when we get home?)

I just walked and talked with John the whole time. He has lived in Karima since 1963 (must have been young at the time because he doesn't look very old to me). He is now the chairman of the village council for Karima. That's a pretty big job.

I asked him how many people live in the village and he said almost 4,000. I asked how many of them he knew personally? 1,000? 2,000? he said - almost 4,000! he knows pretty much everybody! wow. (a man after my own heart... haha.)
 Karima has BEAUTIFUL mountains all around it. the temperature is perfect and it is just a straight up beautiful place to be. i told John that and asked if he ever climbed them. He told me about going to the top of the mountains in 1978 and the experience he had.
John has a son named Patrick! how cool is that? he is 30 years old and getting married next month. 

We talked for a long time and then John took us to 3 of the 4 water tanks throughout the village and the brand new clean water well that Karima has now! MZURI! he explained to me how the whole thing works.

as we were walking to one of these water tanks I asked John how the people got drinking water before this well. He said "we would just collect it from the rain or walk to the river." and almost indignant i responded - "but that water isn't clean, right? that makes you very sick..." 

John said, "yes, i know."

it was the way he said it that jacked me up. i was already jacked that these people have been drinking dirty water all their lives - because that's all they have access to... AND they are dying from it!
BUT - he said "yes, i know" and it was as if he were saying "that's just life. that's normal. that's all we've ever known. we need water or we die. but when we drink the water... we die." there was nothing abnormal about this for him... like it was almost "OK".

THAT'S NOT OK! there is no freaking way that this should be happening. it jacks me up so much. 
for some reason, most of the "rich" in our world live like it is OK. (i want to write a lot more about it but every time i think about this all day long i get so passionate that i just tear up, well up, choke up... so, maybe some other time i'll dive in more intensely.)

Thankfully - 410 Bridge & Living Water International (another awesome org. i've written a lot about via Advent Conspiracy etc...) teamed up to make sure these 4,000 people have clean water. The well & water are working and good to go as of this month! + hopefully this week they'll get the electricity to send the water down the pipes to the "areas" where the homes are.

Check out this SHORT (20 second) video of John talking about life in Karima before & after this clean water! (i lowered the quality because the HD video would take up all my MB, but i will post the full version later. sorry for the other loud voices in the background... just try to listen to John.)

i shot a video of a community leader in Karima pointing out the graves of two people he knew who died before they got clean water. i personally don't think that should be happening ANYWHERE in our world today. Thankfully in Karima, it doesn't have to anymore.

This is Danson (on the far right). i met him today. he's 6 years old and see if you can check out the logo on his sweatshirt. He is rocking a CHARLOTTE HORNETS sweatshirt! i tried to explain to him that that's where i lived and that was the team that used to be in our city, etc... but i'm pretty sure he didn't get it. (i have other thoughts on this incident from a 30K foot view, but more on that later.)
i also met Richard today. i could tell right away that Richard is a really smart kid. he's 9 years old & as you can see has an awesome smile. he loves playing soccer (kandanda), so we hit it off. we already plan to play some kandanda together later on this week.

*Here's what i get excited about:
Richard and Danson were born in Karima and will probably live the rest of their lives in Karima. They will grow up and live the rest of their lives always having CLEAN WATER! For my friend John, he only knew dirty water. but now for Danson and Richard, it's a new era.
Their children will never even know what it's like to drink water that kills instead of water that gives life.

that makes me so happy and excited. that makes Jesus so happy and excited. That's God's kingdom breaking through and coming to earth. that's the kind of revolution i want to spend my life being a part of.
Why? because God died for these amazing people. He didn't die for them so they could die because of something preventable. he died for them so they could know Him and know His Name and be satisfied in Him. Jesus died for them so His name could be famous in Karima. He died for them because He wanted their worship. 
and there was a ton of worship going down today. 
dead people don't worship. people who die from drinking dirty water don't worship.

but God, the God who gives water... and life... and satisfaction... and salvation... and joy...
is being worshipped in Karima today. John and I worshipped God together today and celebrated His renown in a tiny little village in some mountains of Kenya.