Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ninakupenda Baba! (I Love you Father)

Habari everyone!! We appretiate you taking the time to check out how we're doing here in Kenya. Everything has been going wonderfully! We each have struggles and hard days, but I know the team and myself have been so blessed by everything that God is teaching us and by everything we've been taught while we've been here in Kenya. I'm sure everyone has been telling you about all the amazing things we've been able to experience here in Kenya, so I'll try not to repeat them.

So my job is to cover Sunday's. I am so happy that this day fell to me. This last Sunday was quite a learning experience for most of us. We've been learning how to be very flexible since coming to Kenya. Sunday was a day that our flexibility was forced to be put into practice. We worshiped at the Nairobi Central Corps, which is the largest corps in  this territory along with being the largest in the world. Sheri was in charge of leading the service and Nate was preaching. When we arrived, we were all excited to see USA Mission Team on the sign in front telling the congregation that we were doing the service that day. Everyone is Kenya is very hospitable and we drink a lot of tea wherever we go. That morning was no different; we had breakfast at the corps officers home - boiled eggs, sausage and sandwiches. When we finished, it was time for the morning service. It was very interesting. :D Nate joined the brass band and played the cornet and the rest of us sat up on the stage with Captain Jen, the ATYS, and some other officers. The music was beautiful and the service was so very different from anything that we had experienced in the USA. The praise band lead us in praise songs in swahili and each song book song was sung in both English and Swahili by the audience. Their timbrel brigade presented a song which was so different than what we're used to. They sang and played at the same time. Ashley gave her testimony and the team presented an item - the song "How Deep the Father's Love." Nate's sermon was awesome (and so now we secretly refer to him as our resident preacher :). He talked about running the good race and even brought in a few examples of Kenyan culture that I hadn't been aware of. So we all had an awesome experience on Sunday.
There was another service in the afternoon, but unfortunately I was unable to attend. Health issues have been affecting our team the past few days and that Sunday was no different for myself.  But we have amazing people around to support us. The Lt. Colonols Howards have been such a blessing to have around. Along with taking me and Ashley to go get medicine and take us back to the compound, they have been so kind as to let the team use their skype to phone family, and their internet for countless hours as we get back in touch with our loved ones. We each thank God for their encouragement and support.
I was very encouraged when the rest of the team came back to our little "home" in Kabete - they were singing and praising God, which was quite an encouragement to Ashley and I. It's hard to have to miss things, especially when we're here specifically for this reason - to serve God and do what is needed to be done. I know its been hard for many of us to have to miss out on different things. But we know God is helping us through and is here for us and is taking care of us. We pray that you would continue praying for our health.
So last Sunday was Father's Day, and as I previously said, the Howards were very good to us in letting us call our fathers. I'm pretty sure all of our team got to talk to their dad's, or at least a member of their family. It was such a blessing, since I know everyone has been dealing with homesickness and a bit of culture shock. I got to talk to my father, mother and brother all at once which was such a booster for me. Its really hard not being able to talk to family whenever we feel like it.
So thank you for your support and your continued prayers. We have been blessed by this opportunity and we pray that God would use us in remarkable ways.

Love and prayers,


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wacha!? Ahhh...(Kamba Greeting)

As the title suggests, "Wacha" is the way that a person from the "Kamba" tribe in Kenya would greet someone younger than themself.  The greeted person would then respond by simply saying "Ahh" (descending tone). This is just one example of the many Kenyan words and phrases that our team ar has picked up since our arrival here.  There is so much more that I could say...but I will save my valuable computer time to share with you all a bit about what we did on last Saturday, the 19th.  This was our very first Saturday here in Kenya, and with it came many other "firsts" as well.

I am the only member of the team that did not grow up in the Salvation Army...a secret I am sometimes reluctant to disclose. :) I only discovered the Army since coming to Houghton College (Love Wellsville Corps!).  That being said, there are many "army" traditions that I  have never had the distinguished privledge of experiencing.  Some of these include timbrel drills (I thought they were called tambourines
??) youth crusades, brass band performances, and open airs.  On Saturday, I had a chance to experience most of those events in the uniquely Kenyan conext.  The team visited a Salvation Army corps in the city of Thika, about 45 minutes or so outside of Nairobi.  There we were expected to lead a big Salvation Army Youth Rally with hundreds of students of all ages.  They represented about 20 corps from around the area.  And what a bunch they were!

These kids showed more enthusiasm than I ever remembered seeing in any group back home.  Each group was excited to represent their home corps with some sort of presentation.  These presentations usually took the form of what Kenyans call "Gospel Dances."  And let me say...there are few words to describe them.  I would have to admit that they would probably make most Americans uncomfortable if done back home but here...dancing is just as natural as breathing.   Unfortunately any pictures we may post of gospel dance will fail to show even the half of it.  Although it is the most unusual form of worship I have seen so far, it is one of the most joyful and expressive!  I have yet to find a Salvation Army function here in Kenya where it isn't used. 

The Kenyans were very eager to learn some of our American worship songs.  Most people here speak English to some degree, but we almost always need a translator for those with poor English or for the young children who have not yet begun to learn English in school.  Sadly, our Swahili is not nearly as good as their it took us a lot of effort to learn even one song in their language.   We feel pretty wimpy with our fluency in only 1 language as we work with Kenyans who generally speak at least 3. 

The open air crusade for me was like going back maybe 50 years in America, to a time when the word of God was commonly proclaimed from parks, public squares and soapboxes.  Here in Kenya, the Corps is boldly unahamed to march in huge numbers out into the market place where they announce the gospel message to all who can hear it.  The energy was so tangeable as I witnessed hunndreds of salvationists marching, singing, dancing and preaching the Word with overwhelming vigor.  Hopefully the pictures will show at least an idea of what these open air meetings are like.  They have really challenged me to consider how timid, polite and compromising we Americans have become in our resolve to speak the word of God.

Well...that is all I can add for now, as my online time is dwindling.  Even after this post, my head is spinning with so much that I could continue to share.  Know that we are being challenged and stretched here in so many good ways.  More to come (including pictures :)...thank you all for your prayers and support!  Please keep it up...the difference is felt!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mungu Ibariki (God Bless)

On Friday the 18th, our team was blessed with the opportunity to tour 5 different schools around the Thika Division. We left our temporary home in Kabete bright and early (7AM) and headed past the outer limits of Nairobi into Thika, a community in which the Salvation Army has such an incredibly vibrant presence. We began our visitation at Joytown, a primary school for physically handicapped children. Many of the children at this school are orphans. It was sad to learn that most handicapped children in Africa are disowned by their families due to the social stigma that culture attributes to "shameful" disabilities. During our brief time with the children, we were able to sense their happiness and see their beautiful smiles, even in the midst of situations that many within Western Culture would consider hopeless. Upon leaving the primary school, we visited a secondary school for the physically handicapped, in addition to another primary, secondary, and high school for the visually-impaired. We were greatly blessed by the award-winning student choir at the secondary school for the visually-impaired. It was great to hear these children sing with such emotion and energy as music has become a power coping mechanism. One of the main objectives of this school was to cultivate independence and self-responsibility. Just because the children were unable to see, did not mean that they were in anyway incapable of leading a productive and purposeful life. We were encouraged by the student's cheerful spirit and I can say with great confidence that our team was blessed to fellowship with such strong and faithful young people!

While we encountered such hope and strength at each and every school that we visited, we were also briefed on a few distinct challenges that confront these schools on a daily basis:

1.) Lack of Finances- High operating costs and low public sponsorship/inability for students to afford tuition, have forced the schools into rising debt. It is not the goal of the Salvation Army to deny any individual membership, however sometimes this reality must become the last resort.

2.) Lack of Transportation- The primary school for the blind in particular has close to 200 students enrolled and only one 14 passenger van. Because of these constraints, the school has been forced to make multiple trips to transport students and/or have exclude students from extra-curricular activities.

3.) Lack of Vocational Training Programs- If funding were made available for vocational training, students could leave school with a marketable skill or specialization that could translated to a career rather than a rough life on the streets.

4.) The Effect of HIV/AIDS- Students admitted who are HIV+ require expensive treatment and certain health precautions on an around-the-clock basis. Financial and staffing constraints further complicate the steps towards achieving quality education for these students.

5.) General Repairs and Maintenance- Various areas and classrooms of the institutions are in dire need of repair and general modernization. For instance, paved walkways would make it much easier for wheelchair bound students to navigate the campuses.

Perhaps one of the most challenging complexities of this visit was realizing that many of the obstacles that confront these students can either be prevented or at least properly treated in the U.S. due to widespread access to essential vaccines and medications. It is sad to see with your own eyes the powerful level of inequity that exists in our world. While we truly believe that we are all children of God who are made in the image of the Father Himself, it is still challenging to see so many people suffering with various afflictions. Why has God chose to bless me with good health, a loving family, and financial security? It is so easy to get preoccupied with thinking that we deserve a life that is easy and comfortable.

In reality, we are not deserving of anything. However, the Lord is a merciful and compassionate God who simply asks that we make the best of the situation that we are dealt with. I know that I myself was challenged by our visit to the Thika schools. Would I claim joy if I was forced to bear the burden of a  physical/mental disability? We were truly humbled by the smiles on the faces of these children. It is in these moments when all hope seems lost, that Christ reveals the joy that comes through unwavering faith and a cheerful heart.

Nate Hinzman

Ninakupenda! (I love you!)

Thursday was what we refer to as a "free" or "rest" day, when in reality it is neither free nor very restful. I've only had one free day to base that fact off of though...anyways, we had all had a fairly late night and slept in. I was the first one up, and I know this because there was a pounding noise around 1000 (that's 10:00 a.m. in military time). My first thought was that it was a bird, as some of the common birds around here are pretty large and could fight an average sized dog. When the noise continued, my second thought was that it was one of the officers and that I had better get myself out of bed and answer the door. But once I opened the door I finally realized that it was Derek, and that our international friend from college had come to visit! She stayed over for about an hour, and we all talked and traded a few stories, all the while drinking the chai that she made. Side note: if you drink tea that's not at least half milk, the Kenyans believe you are sick and might as if you have a cold. Apparently, that's the only time they don't load up their tea with milk. I don't like tea, but I am growing quite partial to chai. So, she ended up leaving before the rest of our team woke up, and we walked her to the gate and said goodbye.
 We noticed that the guard's very cute daughter was watching us, and spent time trying to bond with her and talking to her father. Nate ended up passing us, and we headed back to the house, where finally a few of my female teammates had woken up. We all chilled around the house for a few more hours, playing cards and bursting out into random songs, two of our favorite ways to pass time. Eventually we did devotionals and then took a break. Yes, a break - I myself tried to take a nap. Then at 1500 (3:00 p.m.) we reunited and worked on our Spoken Word, which is like a spoken interpretation of the Bible, with Ashley's added flair of interpretive dance.
The Lt. Colonels Howards are stationed here and live about 100 feet away from our house. They had graciously invited us over for dinner, and also to use internet (thanks so much!). When I headed over the computers were taken, so I watched a few minutes of football (that's soccer for you non-European hooligans). The World Cup is going on, and it's being hosted by South Africa, so it's a BIG DEAL! Soon, the rest of my team arrived and the Howards served us tea and salad, and then spaghetti for the main course. It was delicious and comfortingly reminded us all of home. We spent a lot of time talking about everything, from skiing to London, and then for dessert we were served orange creamsicle floats! Could it get any better? Finally, finally we all finished with researching videos to use as skits and got this blog up and running, and headed back. We finished up the night by perfecting our Spoken Word and listening to the sermon that Nate wrote out for the Sunday service. It is fantastic, by the way.
We finished the day with our usual breakdown and prayer.

A few added personal thoughts-
-We live, cry, laugh, pray, act, work, eat, clean up, sing, do everything as a team, and our bond only grows stronger.
-I can see that all of us are benefitting immensely by being surrounded by striving Christian peers. A day hasn't gone by that we don't teach each other something meaningful.
-I can only hope that we might bless those around us now as much as they've blessed us, whether it's from inviting us to a delicious prepared meal or simply offering a smile.
-The Kenyan way of worship, which tends to be high-energy, fun, and inspiring, definitely speaks to my soul and I can't get enough of it.
-Unexpectedly, the weather is cool and cloudy, there are few mosquitoes in Nairobi, and the food hasn't bothered us once.

I will end by saying that all of us could write pages and pages about a single day, though you probably think our posts are quite long enough. Thanks to all of you who are reading, praying, and otherwise supporting us. God is good.

Peace and love!

Maisha Nzuri ("The Good Life")

Habari! (hello!) We've been learning alot of Swahili latley especially from our new friend Martin. Martin has been a huge blessing to us driving us, making sure we were safe and teaching us about Kenya. He is one of the many kind and loving people we have been so blessed to meet here. Its still is amazes me that were here, but we try to remind ourselves of how great this is so that we wont have any regrets.

 Well today we had an amazing visit to the Nairobi girls center. On our way there we were able to see a glimpse of the vibrant life in Kenya. The streets are truly alive here, filled with people! The nature is beautiful as well! My eyes are always glued out the window as we drive by everything. We drove past street markets with fresh fruits and vegetables, hand made furniture, jewlery and clothing. We also saw some goats and chickens just  walking around.  In the midst of these busy streets was the girls center. We were warmly welcomed and told about the center. Girls starting at age fourteen come here for different reasons and can learn different trades for two years, and when they graduate they have the skills needed to help them find work. They fed us a huge meal before we did our service with the girls,but before we ate we had to wash our hands. I mention this because hand washing is truly a humbling experience here. Whenever you are about to eat a meal in a kenyan home the host will wash your hands. Well they give you soap and pour water over your hands. We have experienced so much kindness and thanks that we dont even deserve! This process reminds me of when jesus washes his disciples feet, and is really humbling.

Well after we stuffed ourselves we went on to the girls center. We were able to talk to the girls about their hopes and dreams, and these girls had dream big. They were full of life and we were so blessed just by being with them. The more we talked to them the more we realized that they weren't much differnt from us. I especially felt excited to talk to them because we often see white missionaries going to Africa ( which is amazing!) , but I just wanted them to know that spreading the message of Gods love is everyones job, even theirs.

Alot of us expected to come here and witness the harsh realities people live in, and have our hearts broken. Strangely and surprisingly to me i didn't find that. It is true that some of the living conditions here in Kenya are terrible and unsafe, but what im realizing is that life here is not harsh like I thought it was. Its just different. I guess being in america we get our own opinions of what the " good life" is, and if others dont have what we have they must not be living the good life. Looking at the people here in kenya I would say that they are definatley are living a different life, but its still a good life.

- Danielle Diakanwa

Karibu Sana (Welcome)!!

Hello everyone!

We have been doing many exciting things here in Kenya so far!  On Tuesday we were given the privilege of attending the chapel service at THQ!  It was our first experience worshipping alongside the Kenyan people.  We even heard a lot of Swahili!  Later, we were given a tour of the THQ office.  We met each officer there and were able to pray for them and for the department they served in.  We were all really encouraged by the hearts of these officers.  Everyone cared so much for their people and they all had such beautiful hearts!  I even had the privilege of personally praying over the Territorial Commander of the Kenya-East Territory!  Wow!  I really appreciated meeting all of the officers because it helped me to understand this Territory even more.

Later that night we were blessed to have the Colonel Howards invite us to their home on the compound for their regular Tuesday fellowship nights with some of the young adults here.  We enjoyed some time of fellowship and refreshments!  God is blessing us so much with the hospitality of his people and their hearts for serving him!  God is doing great things here in this Territory and in this country!  My team and I continue to fall more in love with it every day!  Thank you so much for all of your thoughts and prayers!  It means a lot to our team knowing that we have such great people supporting us and praying for us back home!  Asante Sana (thank you very much)!!

In Christ,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hakuna Shida! (No Problems!)

Greetings from Kenya! After a week of orientation at Star Lake Camp in New Jersey, our team made the 20 hour journey to our first destination- Nairobi, Kenya.  Orientation provided a time for the team members to meet, plan Bible studies, and prepare dramas, dances, and timbril selections.  This time allowed us to prepare not only for the cultural differences that we would encounter, but also gave us the opportunity to pray for one another as well as for our brothers and sisters that we would encounter in Kenya.  We feel so honored and humbled that God would choose us to come along side the Kenyan poeple and help further the ministry that has already been in action throughout this country.
    It has only been a short time that we have spent in this country, yet we feel so blessed to be here and in the company of such strong believers in the faith.  Our first day was designated as a day of rest and we were so grateful for this after our long journey.  In the morning we were taken to a local shopping center and were able to experience a more modernized area.  Yet as we have traveled throughout the week, we have only just begun to witness the unfortunate circumstances all around that remind us of the great need to share God's love here.  In the afternoon, we explored the Kabete Salvation Army compund where we are staying.  The compund is comprised of many different buildings and areas including a nursey school, corps, children's home, and lodging for the social services director and many officers.  At the compound, we girls stay in our own little house, complete with a quaint living room and kitchen area.  We feeel so fortunate.  The boys stay in a separate area of the compound nearby.  Daily routines are forming as time goes by such as cooking our meals together and eating around the "family" kitchen table (we often make scrambled eggs!).  Our bonds continue to grow stronger and stronger as we are learn to live in community together.
    We continue to see new things each day as we live in this country.  Some thing that we have noticed is that Kenya is very colorful! Vibrant colors can be seen any where- including on street side markets and colorful public transportation vehicles.  Side note- white people in Swahili are called "muzungus."  Also, Kenya is 7 hours ahead of the US time-wise; we are slowly adjusting.  We often hear strange birds and dog noises at night which make us laugh.
    Please continue to keep us in your prayers (including our friends on the Italy team) as we truly yearn to give our ALL to Christ.  Let your prayers be that we would not hold back, but be bold.  Please stay tuned as we have all decided to take turns posting on the blog.  Yesterday, we led our first program at the Nairobi Girls Centre, but you will hear about that soon from one of the team members!
    Love to all! We miss you and think about you often.  Sometimes we have to literally remind ourselves that we are in AFRICA- how in the world did we get so blessed? We are so grateful.

In Him,