Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Safely home

The travel team has arrived home safely and with all our luggage! Josephine and Peter will be getting on a plane in Nairobi today so continued prayers for their safety.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Prayers for travel

We would love prayers for traveling mercies and safety as we fly out in 11 hours.

Over the last several days we have had team debrief conversations in the midst of Kenya adventures, including a wonderful safari and an up-close encounter with baby elephant orphans.

Photo - John Lewis and three bishops

Saturday, August 11, 2018

John Lewis - Kingdom Story Update

Some of you know that John Lewis has been doing 2 two-day Kingdom Story seminars for Kenyan/East african pastors. One seminar was in Meru. The second one is in Nairobi. Read below for John’s description of the Nairobi conference.

About 70 pastors and leaders showed up yesterday for the first day of the Nairobi KS 2 day conference. They hail from 6 or 7 neighboring counties; one person coming from 650 miles away, one bishop came from Rwanda. Several students at our host college also came from Sudan and Uganda. It cannot be easily overstated: it’s very special in Africa to have pastors from different denominations and regions meet together in one place, share their stories and their struggles, laugh and eat together. They are normally “tribal” and isolated.
The flow and impact of the first day mirrored the first conference; God is moving and laid the foundation yesterday for a great 2nd day today. Here is a super fun story…
Some of you may know that KS hosted two Anglican bishops from southern Sudan to be transported and housed here in Nairobi for the conference. It’s a long way and finances for them are as you can imagine, tight.
Last night I had dinner with the two bishops and their spouses. What a delight, what men of passion and commitment who have suffered under Islamic persecution and persevered in their calling. And what eagerness they had to discuss the possibilities of making KS resources available to train young pastors in their two southern Sudan counties in the years ahead. The church has grown and practices evangelism diligently. Discipleship is another matter. The condition of the church is weak, and many members remain immature in their faith and lifestyle. This is not surprising when you also consider many of their pastors are young men without even a full high school education. And both bishops are convinced that the foundation for maturity includes a deep heart familiarity with God’s word. And they love the KS approach; they love story!
What also came out during dinner is that there are three counties that cover all of Southern Sudan for the Anglican Church, and each of these counties also has an ecumenical church group that brings together all the area pastors and denominations in the area for collaboration. The Anglican bishops are excited down the road to use their influence to share the KS resources with these pastors as well. They imagine our work with them going viral in south Sudan.
So what the third county’s bishop? He wasn’t invited to the conference, or present yesterday. But at dinner I added a little miracle to our collection: Peter, the bishop of the third county had phoned them. He was “just happening” to come into Nairobi tonight from Sudan to do an interview to get an out of country visa. Yes, he could join us for the 2ndday of the conference! Moses and Abraham want us to all have lunch together to finalize the follow up plans for each of the bishops in their three countries for the year ahead! They are asking me to consider dong a training conference in each of the three counties of south Sudan in the year ahead.
Be encouraged.  God is on the move, and went ahead of me here. Thanks for your prayers and support…and know that the fields are white for the harvest, the pastors eager in this country. Our work to this point has prepared us well to be and serve here.
To God be the glory! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Photo - walking to Robert’s house

Monday - final day in Meru

Adahlia is a quick healer and has been feeling great since Monday night/Tuesday morning. Thanks for the prayers!

Monday began with a visit to John and Carissa’s sponsored child Robert. Hope guardian Amalia and her friend Susan are very invested in Robert’s life. They joined the team for the visit. (Side note: It becomes clearer and clearer that the Guardians invest much more money in these children than what we sponsors send in. They love these people like family and when they ask for food or another necessity, they find a bit of extra money from their own humble income to help. It’s really inspiring.) The vans parked on the side of a road and we walked a pretty long way down a trail/narrow dirt road. As we walked, kids silently emerged shyly waving at us and walking along with us. By the time we reached Robert’s house we probably had about a dozen kids there! Amalia informed us that these were all cousins to Robert and we were experiencing a true village. A family who has a piece of land and subdivided it between family members over the course of generations. They all live in community. When Carissa thanked the grandmother for taking care of Robert, Josephine quipped “It takes a village.” Suddenly that saying made perfect sense!

During the visit Carissa toured the home and got to know the grandmother better. I (Pam) had the village girls teach me their clapping games, which was a joy. Josephine translated the stories that go along with the rhythms, which were just as silly as my sing-song stories growing up. Darren pulled out his phone and we taught the children the cha cha slide and the hokey pokey. They were more than willing to give it a try. Sometimes we’d dance too close to the goats or run into the clothes line but it was all good.

As we said goodbye, the children escorted us all the way back to the road. Robert grinning up on John’s shoulders. Girls gripping both my hands. When our hands got sweaty they both let go and studied their hands. I think they expected the sweat to be white like my skin!

Josephine gave Crew Leader shirts to the children from the back of the van and we took off.

That afternoon we met with the Hope Board. This post is already long, so suffice it to say it was a bit of a love fest. They wanted to thank us for UPPC’s investment, and we wanted to thank them for their investment in the children. It was wonderful to hear personal accounts from them of kids lives being changed — graduates from the program who are able to support themselves so the next generation in their family will not be in the same desperate place financially. They fervently report that the program is changing, not just kids’ lives, but future generations. Praise God for this good work.

Monday, August 6, 2018

From Jason: Prayer Request & Reflections

Well, the Kenyan bugs finally made themselves known.  Our poor little Kanana (Adahlia) has been vomiting this morning and is dealing with other food poisoning symptoms.  Hopefully it passes quickly.   Emily and I have been attending her, and as she sleeps I thought I’d write you a couple thoughts.

I have loved getting to know the local Hope Guardians more.  They have hosted us in there homes and churches, and we’ve had them join us in many of our visits.  I’m so impressed by the quality of character and resourcefulness they show.   Here are a couple quick snapshots:

 Ibrahim is honored and respected and clearly the patriarch of an entire region.  He speaks with authority and grace at the same time.  He is humble in his ways-  eating lunch with a gaggle of preschoolers, clowning with his helmet at the ceremony,  getting down to help wash the hands of our children.    And he knows what he is about-   introducing himself as “the father of nations” and simply as a “farmer”, and taking time to greet each child at the seminar despite being the best dressed and most revered person there.  

Esther and Amalia are teachers with big big hearts for the students they serve.   And also so much more than that.  Esther is finishing a PhD in local inheritance laws and customs and their disenfranchising effects-  on top of being a women’s advocate on an international scale, and a loving  wife and mother.  

Beyond her teaching, Amalia has a sprawling set of enterprises with her husband (who himself is en route to a PhD in green supply chain).   Rental units, construction, farming.

Harun works for a giant tea company and spends his Sundays playing the keyboard for the rousing services at the village church we attended.  

It is fun to get to see these friends in their own environment.   We are blessed to be in this work together.  

We head to Elijah’s house tonight, and I’m excited to spend some more time with him. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday worship - photo

Sunday worship - photo

Sunday worship

We attended Peter’s childhood church this morning. It has a nice brick building now, which was not the case when Peter was a child. It even has a sound system and boy, was it blasting!! We waited in an anteroom for quite a while before filing into the front two rows. (Have I mentioned the Kenyans love their ceremonies?) We noticed the men sat on the right and the women sat on the left. Soon we were enjoying praise songs in the language of Meru. Then a men’s choir sang, swaying left to right with the music. Next the “young mamas” choirperformed, which includes beautiful singing and energetic hopping and dancing. Then unexpectedly we were summoned to perform “what we had prepared.” Thankfully I had thrown in our VBS song lyrics in the morning so we led them in two songs From Day Camp. I found it emotional to look out on all those precious faces as I sang, “Everything that you have made is beautiful. Oh my God, I can’t believe my eyes.” I was so overwhelmed by gratitude to be included in this little family of God in a rural village. I know the people’s lives are difficult, but you should see them fervently praying aloud all at the same time. They love the Lord with everything they have.

John Lewis delivered a wonderful sermon on offering all you have to the Lord (as with the loaves and fishes). Josephine was his right hand person, interpreting for those who didn’t understand English. Carissa was called on to pray for the sick and elderly.

For the offering, they placed a large container at the front and groups of people processed forward to put in their gifts. Men first, then women, then youth. Many people do not have cash to offer so they bring from their crops — corn (on the cob or dried), dried beans, yams, bananas, or green beans. I wondered what the church would do with the produce. I didn’t have to wonder for long. As soon as the offering song ended a woman began to auction off each item in turn. A teenage boy would take the produce to the winning bidder and bring their money back to the front to deposit in the container. What a beautiful demonstration of the sermon — bring what you have and let God multiply it. The generosity of the people is moving.

When church ended, we were invited to the grassy area out front where I had noticed women scrubbing white plastic chairs. We were asked to go first — washing hands, then grabbing a bag lunch: 4 slices of white bread, a still-warm hard-boiled egg, a whole banana, and a Fanta pop. While we sat in the plastic chairs, the congregants sat on sagging wooden benches completely segregated by gender. This was yet another incredible cultural experience, showing just how wonderfully diverse and beautiful is the family of God.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Seminar photo

Joyful opening worship - a lady from the back row began a call and response. Dancing began, and other women supported the leader with high pitched trills. The song lasted about 10 minutes. This song of worship was the most moving part of the day for Jason.

Seminar photo

Adahlia and her entourage of new friends! Front right is Winnie, sponsored by Dawn and Matt Phillips.

Ibrahim looking “smart”

Refer to Thursday’s post if you’re not sure what this picture is all about...

Saturday - Seminar day

WiFi isn’t letting me post a picture, but this was Seminar day! It was quite a crowd! Emily has been here for Seminar several times and said it was a great turnout. The Lewis’s got to meet their sponsored child, Robert. The Boshes got to connect with Patrick some more. The Wenz family got great time with both Ronny and Risper. At one point Ronny and Risper were playing with each other — mind blown!
The day started with tea (an unmovable tradition), then there were formal introductions of the Hope Board and the travel team.
Then there were a few mini-sermons and then the workshops. The kids session included a game where you catch a ball/say a memory verse or do a trick. Lewis got to do some back handsprings when it was his turn. The teens and young adults were together — about 70 young men and women sitting under trees. I (Pam) got to share a testimony about mentoring. The parents gathered in their group and shared testimonies about the transformational impact of Hope Trust/Cherish sponsorships on their life.
Next, everyone lined up to wash hands and partake in a delicious meal of “mashed food” (potatoes and bananas), spiced rice, stewed carrots and meat, and cooked cabbage.
Finally it was time to hand out the backpacks! The families listened so respectfully to hear about the UPPC Day Campers who bought the backpacks and made the stationery. Then again, they lined up really respectfully to receive their backpacks. It was so fun to say our fond farewells as families walked up the hill to head home, backpacks swinging along.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A day of joyful children

Thursday morning we drove the most rutted dirt roads imaginable to arrive at a rustic elementary school in the middle of lush forest. The students were at an end-of-year assembly on the sloping red dirt courtyard. Hundreds of staring eyes followed us as we walked in. After the assembly ended we visited classrooms and chatted with children drinking their porridge. Most exciting to the Kenyan children was stroking the hair of the white children. The headmaster joyfully received the soccer ball and playground ball we gave them before taking off.

We proceeded to another village school - Josephine’s primary school! We were greeted with beautifully dressed women singing “welcome!” in Swahili and dancing with us as we paraded in. We enjoyed the end of their assembly, then shared a snack of bread, boiled eggs, and Fanta pop. This school has the defending national champion baseball team! We ended our visit with a long-grass/steep-slope game of baseball between the Wenz/Bosh kids and the Kenyan ball players. Three catchers did their best to keep the ball from rolling way down the hill and out of sight!

Next we visited Dorothy— the teen (now young adult) who received a wheelchair from UPPC in 2010. She was so joyful to see everyone and the wheelchair still works great!

Next we did the groundbreaking party for Watoto Center! It is currently a sloping cornfield, but the Mburugus can already picture the three terraces of playground, community center, then garden/farm at the bottom. Emily poured the official groundbreaking glop of cement between heavy stones that will eventually support the gate to the Watoto Center. Just before the big moment, Josephine’s father Ibrahim donned an orange vest and hard hat, then looking over his shoulder, quipped, “How smart do I look?”

We proceeded to Ibrahim’s shamba for dinner, including a chicken slaughtered that morning. Everyone loved seeing the acre of fertile land, teeming with healthy crops, a few livestock, and several outbuildings with new friends perpetually pouring forth from them. All people that Ibrahim has embraced, helped, and loved like family. The kids played soccer with Ibrahim’s youngest friends for a long time, then the soccer ball stayed with the littlest friend - a boy of maybe 3 - who had giggled his way through the whole game.

Just two more stops. Are you tired yet?  Patrick’s house (the high school senior sponsored by Jason and Emily) and finally a joyful reunion between the Boshes and their hosts from 2005. They were chagrined we couldn’t stay for tea, but it’s safe to say we were all bushed! What an incredible day. In John Lewis’s words: “This is the stuff!”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Challenging wifi

We apologize for the super-brief posts. Our hotel’s WiFi functions about 10% of the time. Any post that sneaks through and successfully publishes is an answered prayer!

Wednesday - Drive to Meru

After a long journey we safely arrived in a Meru Wednesday evening! Esther, Elijah, and his wife Priscilla greeted us at the hotel. They are so joyful that we are here. The Wenz family had the opportunity to hop right back in the van and meet their sponsored child, an 18-year-old senior in high school. It was another fulfilled dream to be sharing arrow root and lots of conversation together in their humble living room. What a gift.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Nyumbani orphanage

Tuesday our team had the joy of visiting Nyumbani orphanage where 130 HIV+ orphans live and thrive under the nurturing of their house moms. A year-long dream for the boys on our trip was fulfilled — an epic soccer game with Kenyan kids. What a fun, competitive, cooperative game it was.

The picture shows John Lewis holding John, who was VERY excited to share the same first name with John.