Before the summer of 2010, not once in my life did I ever think I would step foot on African soil. Yet in a missions meeting held May 2010, when they spoke about the Africa trip, I felt a tugging on my heart. GO. It's kind of hard to explain. It's kind of like the "Voice" from Field of Dreams, except you don't actually hear it audibly. You hear it in your spirit. And that day I knew that, without a shadow of doubt, by God's grace, I would be serving His good people in Africa later that summer. May, June and July were crazy months. We had a team of a dozen, and we spent these months in the States getting to know each other (it helps to ease the process of spending two weeks seeing one another in close proximity 24/7), sending out support letters to friends and family, doing many fundraising events, getting our necessary shots (big fun that was) and preparing our hearts for the exciting journey ahead. It wasn't all smooth sailing though. Violence and protests broke out in the land a couple months prior to when we would arrive. The US Embassy urged us not to go at the dates we had targeted, and we had more than a few members step down from the trip. It was a decision that was between each one of us and God. I knew in my heart I was called to serve in Africa, and that the Spirit of the Lord would protect me, so onwards I marched
I'll never forget when we landed after a long 24 hour flight. I was sitting next to a Kenyan and we had been talking the final half hour of the flight. He was visiting his family from Chicago, his new home. "You're going to enjoy Kenya," he said. "The people here are very much friendly and we love to just talk. It's not like how it is in America, you know. In Kenya, people can sit and talk for the whole day. Try that in America and see how far you can get!" We wished one another well before getting off. I remember thinking to myself what a nice guy, if everyone in Kenya is like this, what an awesome trip it's gonna be. It wasn't long though before the first bit of bad news came. A few of our luggage bags didn't make it over, including one of mine. Worse yet, it was the one with my boxers. Lord, you gotta be kiddin' me right?! But He also provides ;) One of my teammates, Jon, whom I quickly became good friends with, had brought with him extra new boxers. It would be enough to hold me over until my missing luggage arrives (God willing!). As we waited for our Kenyan hosts to pick us up, we converted our US dollars to the Kenyan currency (shillings). Then we waited outside in the cool night, at around roughly 11 PM, anticipating our hosts
It wasn't long before a big bus pulled up and a whole bunch of friendly Kenyans jumped out eager to shake our hands and hug us. They were our hosts. We all climbed aboard and each team member sat next to a Kenyan. I sat next to Jeff, whose facial features reminded me of a dear old college friend back in the States. Immediately I felt our spirits connected. As we drove by the busy roads, Jeff shared with me how we were going to pass by his ex girlfriend's house in a bit. "I was ready to propose to her," he reminisced. "But I kid you not, the day before, she dumped me. It burned in my heart for a long time." And then, there it was. In the dead calm still of the night. I saw Jeff's ex's house. An idea flashed excitedly through my mind. "Hey Jeff tell you what. YOU. ME. A BAG OF EGGS. THAT HOUSE. 3 AM TONIGHT." And that's when we all heard the greatest, loudest laugh ever heard. Jon, who was sitting 3 rows back, yelled "PARTY UP IN STEVE'S ROW!"God bless that Jeff. From that 15-minute bus ride, I already knew this mission trip was going to be something else...
The family that hosted us was a local pastor who we partner with back in the states. The goal of our trip was to work with the poor children and orphans of Kenya. We unloaded our things and met our host family. They were very nice. Two high school boys, one girl about to enter high school and the pastor and his lovely wife. We took bucket showers, a major adjustment, but it wasn't so bad once you got used to it. The guys slept in one room while the girls slept in another It hadn't hit me yet that I was thousands of miles away from home
I'll never forget lying in bed that night, amongst four other brothers. Our flat single beds were on the ground next to each other in a small cramped little room. It was 1 AM. Everyone was dead tired and had already crashed, but I was wide awake. My mind was racing. Different thoughts came and went. I thought about the needy children we would be working with, hopefully that we would be able to bless them somehow, even in the smallest way. I thought about what if Jeff and I had really followed through with the egging two hours from now. I thought about my family and friends back home. And that's when I heard it. A cacophony of various (wild) animals howling and hollering. Dogs barking, roosters crowing (Kenya roosters' clocks are all messed up, believe you me!), cats screeching, maybe even wild coyotes. It sounded like bloody murder out there. And for the first time, it REALLY hit me... Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore... I closed my eyes and fell off into a deep sound sleep...
Early the next morning, we woke up at the butt crack of dawn. One by one, we shuffled off into the restroom taking turns like zombies. We saw the girls without their makeup [Now those are the real zombies -Ed.]. We were all experiencing jet lag, yet there was a quiet sense of excitement for the next two weeks to come. We gathered at the breakfast table and the pastor spoke with us. On the agenda for today? We'd trek out to the local schools and introduce ourselves to the children, and advertise that we'd be working with them throughout the next two weeks we were there. We had several school trips booked for the day. It was one of those crazy traveling days. The pastor also reminded us of Kenyan customs and norms. Expect to be touched, a lot, he said with a smile. The children will especially pull and feel the hair of the girls. They love to do that. Before we left he prayed, and then we were on our way
The 12 of us, with three Kenyan guides, walked out to the first school. It was about two miles from Pastor's house, and so instead of taking the bus we wanted to take in the sights and sounds. It was just a loooong dirt path. Along the way we saw Kenyans out and about, and everyone waved to us. The man sitting next to me on the plane was right, this wasn't like the ol' US at all, heh. I'll never forget when we turned the corner and all the children on cue jumped and cheered for us. They treated us like we were rock stars! They even sang a collective song for us in Swahili. Clearly they were prepped for our arrival and it was quite goosebump-inducing. They never knew us, never met us before, but they treated us like we were kings and queens. That will humble you fast. Also, it was a timely reminder to me of how blessed I am, and how blessed many of us are, particularly here in the states. We introduced ourselves each with the microphone, advertised our program and performed musical skits for them. They watched on with great interest and clapped loudly whenever one of us spoke. It was pretty surreal. They treated us like we were movie stars!
The second school we hit up afterward was held indoors
I'll always remember standing back here, with my team members and our Kenyan friend helpers setting up the sound system, as the children filed in. Wasn't long before the whole room was filled! More songs and musical skits, much to the delight of the children. They were crammed in there like sardines. Yet they all seemed so happy, so filled with joy. Reminded me of the many things we sometimes complain 'bout that aren't really that big
The room was overflowing within a matter of seconds!
The next school we raided was easily the most affluent we saw on the entire trip. The little children were all dressed warmly and the school itself was the nicest looking
They also sang a well-prepared song, in unison, for us!
Sweet kids, eh?
We returned the favor with songs and dance moves of our own
Love the looks on their little faces as we juked and jived to our various musical skits advertising our program to them in the coming weeks
See the one with the glasses? My favorite one right there, heh
The next school was much smaller, and they had lovely red uniforms. Each team member got to pin a badge of honor for the children who did best academically. Many camera flashes ensued and the children loved posing with each of us. Very cute bunch, and extremely well behaved
Gotta love the yellow jacket wearing little rebel there!
This part was cool. These children, one by one, stepped up proudly and proclaimed loudly what they aim to be when they grow up. Answers of doctors, teachers and nurses. We wrapped it up by dancing free for all with all the children. Great time
Then, my two team leaders were called to be at a certain place, and they appointed me as the MC for the next school visit, covering their spots. WHOA! Alrighty then... OK Lord... use me as you will... give me strength too!
Of course, the next school, the one I was MC'ing, had to be the loudest and craziest of all the schools. This crowd stretched ON left and right. I've always said the Lord has a good sense of humor. It was quite the unique experience, one that I'll never forget. When we handed out flyers it was sheer pandemonium. By now we were all quite exhausted. It had been a long day. My kind team members told me I did a good job in place of our two leaders, who were out Of course... the school I was in charge of... had to be the craziest!
From sheer chaos and madness to... a nice calm still scene. Now all of us were able to take a deep breath and relax. Our day of work had concluded and it was back to Pastor's house for dinner preparation and more planning for the day tomorrow coming up. I took a moment to take in this scene, to remember the craziness that filled this area not five short minutes ago, and how peaceful it now was
Awesome 1st day! Time to climb back into the matatu (mini-bus)
After heading back to Pastor's we all took a load off and chilled in the living room. The two main facilitators were still out on business, so I led the debriefing session. It was a great, crazy day for all of us. Then some of us headed into the kitchen and helped Joy, Pastor's wife, with making the samosa. Man, I love me some samosa! It wasn't long before everyone came back and dinner was ready. We said grace and then was off to the race!
I could happily eat samosa all day long... [I'd take that bet -Ed.]
This was a typical meal during our stay. Joy is a mean cook, believe that! It wasn't anything fancy but it was so delicious. Although I craved for American food, I can't complain with the food they served us in Kenya. We always got seconds
There was nothing like a hot delicious meal at the end of a long day
PASTOR LEE: ENTER THE PIMP
After dinner, one of our dear Kenyan host friends, Pastor Lee, called all 12 of us over. It was a classic scene. He sat there in the middle of the living room, in this single person desk (quite random). He briskly signaled for us to come over. We all thought he had something dead serious to talk about. Maybe something deeply spiritual. Maybe he just wanted to pump us up for the day ahead tomorrow. We all waited for what seemed like forever as he just stared at each of us silently, caught in deep thought, his mouth agape. And then, one of the most unforgettable lines on the trip was uttered from his mouth: "How do you turn girls on?"
We all paused and looked at each other like, "Whoa wait-a-sec here... did he JUST say what I think he just said? No he dih-ent!"
Think of Lee as the Kenyan version of "Mr. Brown"...
"How do you turn girls on?" he asked again, like a child asking for a cookie. In his little desk, which looked slightly too uncomfortable for a man of his size to be sitting in...
After the initial shock wore off, one of the girls answered his inquiry. "We love a man with confidence. That, a sense of humor and poise is very big to us. It says a lot about the guy"
"Pastor Lee, what do YOU think turns girls on?" one of the guys asked, playing along
"Well, I use this...." he fumbled around in his pocket and for a second there, we all kind of gave each other a funny look like what is UP with this foo?! He's not a small guy, and the desk was fairly small so he barely fit in it. His face strained as he reached deep into his pocket. It was quite comical. Finally he pulled out a pen and held it high in the air with a grin plastered ear to ear, like a knight in shining armor upholding his mighty sword after slaying the vicious dragon
"That's your great trick?" we asked, flabbergasted
"Not a trick my friend but a deadly weapon when wielded in the right hands... the mighty pen"
Some of us were playfully rolling our eyes at this point, but all of us were enthralled. What a funny, strange man this guy is.... his verbiage and mannerisms are nothing short of HIGH-LARIOUS. On top of this add his Kenyan accent and oh, it's Night at the Comedy Club!
"You see," he continued. "When I have this, this pen I'm holding right here, yes, this one... when I have this, when I am wielding this pen you see here, it is not merely an ordinary pen. Suddenly... it becomes... something entirely more... than just... a regular pen... you see?"
He is what you would call a grade-A classic character. He shared with us his pickup line: "Hi m'am. Do you have one second? I'd like to show you this cool new pen I have... or perhaps I could entertain you in letting you borrow it?"
He had us rolling in stitches! The girls were trying to help him, but he was adamant on keeping his pen routine, claiming that it yields him great success all throughout the land of Kenya. It was hard to tell whether this was part of his shtick, whether he was dead serious, or whether he was plain crazy. I guess that's what makes him so special and endearing. You never knew what he'd say, but whatever it was, you could be sure of one thing: you'd be laughing -- sometimes with him, but most often, at him
The best part though of that night was when Lee called it a night and bidded us farewell. He headed off and once he did, we asked Pastor a burning question...
"Pastor, is Lee a pastor?"
"Lee?! Oh no. Good grief no"
"Oh? We've been calling him Pastor Lee all night, and he never once said anything..."
"Of course not. Lee just likes having that title, and he'll take it from anyone who gives it to him"
We all looked at each other like "MAN! Bamboozled, by THAT fool?!"
The trip was sure to be memorable before Lee. After meeting Lee, I knew I would surely never forget these next two weeks... and Lee did not disappoint. In fact, he passed with flying colors!
Saw this back home at a bookshop and immediately thought of Lee. He would have loved this set. Pens guaranteed to leave an impression... when you can't!
God bless "Pastor" Lee... more like Pimp Lee
Early the next morning we headed out to a local church to work with the children there. We thought WE had arrived bright and early, but much to our surprise, there were already little kids there who beat us to it. You could hear them buzzing; it was remarkable how they looked up to us as though we were rock stars
These kids just have a tremendous spirit about them
Our helpers gave us a tour of the building. It was quite cramped but I was excited about the prospects of working with the children in no less than an hour. Walking through these halls really hits home how blessed I am. Take a look
I told myself next time I feel like complaining, I shouldn't
A peek into one of the rooms that we'll be working in
It's like a prison cell. Devoid of any color or life
Then they took us on the rooftop where we saw the slums stretch out before our very eyes. It was a crazy sight! Later that day we visited the slums and sat in one to speak with one of the ladies. It was maybe 8 feet by 8 feet, 10 by 10 at the most, with no electricity. She lives with her 5 kids jammed up in there. Insane. The craziest part was seeing a baby crawl around in the mud on the road. Being there shifts your perspective. We really are blessed!
Whenever we think we have it bad, someone always has it worse
I'll never forget my experience of sitting in one of those slum shacks. We were only there for 20 minutes, squeezed in like sardines -- I can't imagine living there. It was a good reminder that the next time I feel like complaining about little inconveniences (i.e. lack of parking spots, light just turning red, etc.) I really should think twice and be GRATEFUL and thankful. You can see this stuff on TV but it doesn't hit you until you walk it
Pictures will never compare to what it's like to actually be there
While we were taking photos, some kids down below spotted us and were extremely playful with us
I *LOVE* the little Michael Jordan impersonation there!
They were so happy to see us. I couldn't believe it. After all, who were we but normal people? But everywhere we went, we were greeted (and in some cases, mobbed) like we ourselves were the actual Second Coming
Bless their little exuberant hearts! "WHAT UP LITTLE MAN?!"
It wasn't long before our room filled up with the Kenyan kids. Manning this station was me, Jeff and Terri, one of my fellow team members. Our station was the Bible story telling hour. The kids were so well behaved and eager to hear us talk. We shared Acts 12:1-19 with them, roleplaying the story. I played Peter, Terri played the angel and Jeff, bless that Kenyan's good heart, played Rhoda the female servant, with girly voice and all. Needless to say, it was a big hit with them! Laughter erupted everytime Jeff spoke in character as Rhoda
The story is about how Peter was in prison and back home his peeps were praying for him to return safely. When he did, Rhoda answered the door and was so excited she ran back to the praying folks to let everyone know Peter was back. They told her she's out of her mind. Gotta love the irony of them praying fervently for his return only to not believe it. An angel had set Peter free; the Lord had blessed Peter. Everyone rejoiced and cheered HALLELUJAH! It was a blast performing for these kids. Jeff's quite the thespian!
On the car ride home I sat in the back of the bus with one of our Kenyan friends. I loved this dude. We called him E, and he's got the greatest laugh -- well, OK, it's tied with Jeff. I just love how Kenyans have this fire and zest for life and laughter, it's so freaking awesome. So, E and I were just chilling in the back of the bus, and we ended up sharing our testimonies to each other on the ride back to Pastor's house. Good ol' Jon sat one row ahead (the one who lent me his new boxers since my luggage got temporarily misplaced by the airline). The topic moved to girls, and E was sharing with me his angst (at age 20) to get a girlfriend
"Yeah Steve, I can't help it man. It's been on my mind 24 / 7. I just want a girlfriend. Right now!"
"Man, just chill. You be alright. I tell ya, what I wouldn't give to be 20 again. You got your whole life ahead of you... you'll be just fine. In the meantime, trust me, take a chill pill on the ladies"
"Hmmm... good points there. I like you Steve. I like you a whole LOTS! *laughs his big laugh* Say, by chance you don't happen to have a chill pill on ya right about now, do ya?"
I pretended to dump a chill pill in his outstretched hand. "Need some water?" I added
And then, RIGHT ON CUE, Jon, without looking back, offered E his water bottle. That Jon has amazing comedic timing man lemme tell ya! E and I started cracking up a storm (again) and one of the leaders up front said, "Sounds like they're having a PARTY back there!" Love the spirit of that Kenyan. E and I had each other laughing all the way back to Pastor's house. All the while, in the back of my mind, I couldn't escape the bleak visuals of the slums or the baby crawling around in the filth of the land. No words can do that justice. Just something you have to breathe in, see with your own two eyes, smell with your own nose. E was a good reminder to me that sometimes, as Tyler Perry penned, you just have to..... laugh to keep from crying
"Ooooh child, things are gonna get brighter..."
Later that night our team split up and slept in different places. We wanted to be closer to the church we would be working with the next day so to maximize time, pockets of us left to different locales that evening. It was just me, Jon, E and Isaiah who stayed at this other pastor's house. It was a rainy night, and I recall walking into a small house with no light. The pastor and his wife did not have electricity. We used flashlights to navigate our way around the house. I really felt homesick that night. Nearly all of my team members were somewhere else, and I had gotten used to the 1st Pastor's house. This new place that Jon and I were staying at for the night, it was like we had stepped back into the Dark Ages. Before we headed off to bed, all six of us sat in the pastor's living room area, predominantly in the dark as the heavy rain whipped outside. It was me, Jon my team member, our Kenyan helpers E and Isaiah, and Pastor #2 and his wife. I sat across from Isaiah and he started to share his testimony with all of us. I will never forget this. Isaiah's one of those guys who has a booming, commanding voice. He's a big guy, too. The type that when he talks, people naturally stop and listen. I couldn't see his face in the dark for jack, but his booming voice reached out to all of us from the darkness
"About three years back, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. I was doing things I shouldn't have done. Smoking things I shouldn't have smoked.Taking things I shouldn't have taken. One day my friends and I -- we got into a fight with a rival group. Before I knew it, the silver glint of a 9mm gun blinded my eyes. Then I found my legs carrying me. I heard shots being fired off, shots that passed right by my ear. I heard the shrieks of my friends and the sickening THUD as their bodies fell against the ground. But there was nothing I could do, nothing except run, run, run. I don't know how I managed to escape with my life that afternoon, except by the grace of God. At that moment, I knew God kept me because He still has plans for me, good plans for me to fulfill yet. I gave my life over to Christ, and made it my mission to work with the youth, help show them the right way to live and to grow up. I know that's the calling God has placed on my life, and I've been happily living it out these past three years"
Wow. Quite a powerful story. The atmosphere was crazy too: heavy rain just outside, darkness all around, couldn't see anyone, could only just hear his booming voice. And yet somehow... it was calming and soothing in a way. We're so bombarded with visuals and technology here in the states. It was actually nice to just sit in the darkness and hear Isaiah share his story. It felt like I had stepped into a time machine. It did not feel like 2010. After hearing Isaiah's testimony, I no longer felt homesick. It's amazing howa little light can brighten up the darkest of rooms...
The very next morning the rest of our team members drove over. It was a damp, moist morning thanks to the heavy rain throughout the night. It felt surreal just standing in the middle of the road, in this country, soooo far away from the comforts of home. On the agenda for today: we'll be heading over to the local church to help hand craft some items the kids could take home with them. We had to make thousands and thousands!
Nothing like the smell of early morning and a brand new day ^_^
We made so many of these it was insane. But we also had plenty of time to talk as we worked, and it was fun connecting more with team members as well as our Kenyan helpers. Plus, knowing we had a small token to give away to the kids and seeing their faces light up was surely worth all the man hours we put in that day as a team
Each one was stuffed with cotton so it was a super mini-pillow
During our two week trip we had one day off for pure sightseeing. We went to the museum, the zoo and we even did some shopping for family and friends back home. This was another crazy day because later that night, during our daily share time before bed, one of the girls kind of voiced her displeasure that we "wasted" one day from somehow working with the kids we came to work with. I guess no trip is complete without a little drama and internal strife. It was dead silence in Pastor's living room that night after she shared. We all shared our thoughts and it was actually quite the breakthrough. We were one week into our trip, with one left to go, and that night proved to be the catalyst for us bonding like a real team should. Something happened that night. And we realized we really needed to band as a team to finish what we'd started. Later that night, in the guys' room, Jon, the male team leader and I stayed up til 3 AM talking about it. The other guys passed out. We just laid there on our beds speaking in the dark. Jon and I encouraged our leader, who was under extreme duress. He's always been so even-keel, but that night I saw an emotional side of him I thought I'd never see. He thanked me and Jon for our support. The next morning an amazing thing happened. Around the breakfast table we were all laughing and just talking excitedly about the day ahead. Not once was a word mentioned of the previous night. It was an unspoken catalyst that drew our team closer together. After all, if you can't be honest with the folks in your fox hole, then who can you be honest with, honestly?
Our trip ended with a bang. One of my favorite memories was our last day working with the kids. In this story telling hour we re-enacted Acts 3:1-10 where Peter heals a lame beggar in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It was awesome because we had one of the boys volunteer to be the beggar. He sat there shaking and begging. But the BEST thing was, the kids without cue began coming up to him to give him whatever they had. It wasn't part of the script -- but to me it showed the compassion of these children's hearts, and you couldn't help but be touched by it. Even though it was acting, they really wanted to help the beggar out. Gotta love the little boy there looking on with a concerned look ready to lend a helping hand. It was just one of those moments that will always stick with you
I'm not ashamed to admit witnessing this gave me goosebumps!
It was a bittersweet day, our last day in Kenya. At the end we just played with the kids, danced, Red Rover, etc. I felt like I was 10 years old all over again. Before we piled into the matatu, they all tried to prolong the day; some even asked if they could come back to the States with us. I'll never forget their joyful faces and unabashed spirits
Farewell for now, friends! Much love and God Bless!
The night before we left Kenya we made envelopes for each other and pasted them on the wall. Here we could write little notes of appreciation to each other. I felt like a 6 year old kid on Christmas Eve. It was just like a nifty Christmas stocking! That night we all sat around in Pastor's living room, our last night together, writing our notes to one another. The only rule was, you couldn't read them until you were on the airplane ride back home. One of the sisters drew this up for me, because well, I developed a reputation on the team, heh. One day I was playing soccer with the Kenyan kids and I scored the winning goal with a mid-air karate kick. Didn't mean to, I saw the ball flying in the air and instinctively, leapt and karate kicked the ball into the opposing net for the victory. Everyone was cracking up and the soccer karate kick stuck. Hey -- I can think of worst things!
Good ol' boxer-lending Jon! Can't spell but such a good funny dude
This is from Jon's sister, one of the many girls Lee hit on, heh
The female team leader, this one. Her check's in the mail pronto...
Sure had some good times with this brother. Great conversations
This is the male team leader Jon and I encouraged until 3 AM
CONTACT was our favorite game to play riding in the matatu
[Ha! Did I write this? Looks like I could have... -Ed.]
Lee somehow snuck this note in my stash, the crazy chap! ^_^
Ah, many memories with our crazy pal Lee indeed... good times
Oh God bless her sweet little heart. She was a cool teammate
Yep, this woman is MADLY in love with me :D [Riiight -Ed.]
[Have I got or met the wrong Steve? Hmm -Ed.]
When I accepted Christ in 2009 I never imagined I'd be in Kenya one short year later. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and it reminded me of how blessed many of us are. So many times I can complain about the dumbest things. A long line at the grocery store. A traffic light turning red right before I can pass through. Being sniped on eBay. Really, REALLY? A trip to Kenya helped to put things into perspective. They don't have much in terms of luxury items, but they have exactly all that they NEED: a tremendous love for God | Jesus, and a humbling real love for each other. I mean, look at this little kid here taking notes diligently with a pure heart completely trusting the Word of God. What an AMAZING people the Kenyans are. My honor working with them!
If you would only have faith as small as a mustard seed...
The past two years since I accepted Christ as Lord and Savior has been one heck of a roller coaster ride. From being in huge productions to leading a small group of young adults (I got fast track promoted you could say) to traveling to Kenya... I have met and worked with a bunch of wonderful folks. I've made some awesome friends and had some of the best experiences of my life. But of course, the biggest one being growing closer to Jesus. I know in our society today it is not cool to profess your faith, especially Christians, who sort of have a bad rep with non-Christians. Unfortunately, like any other faith, you will always have a certain group of jacked up people who represent the faith all wrong. A true Christian should be full of love, grace, and compassion. But rather than get into a debate over religion, I will just say, I would not trade the past two years for ANY other years in my life, and I look forward to what the future may bring. I once did not know anything about Jesus Christ, when all the while He knew everything about me. I'm thankful to be so blessed, happy to bless the less fortunate and excited for the future. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11). Amen, and hallelujah! Good night y'all ^_^
Wow... what a journey. Kenya is full of amazing brothers and sisters. I think the Kenyans actually blessed *us* more than we blessed them. God willing, perhaps one day, I will return. For now I'm sponsoring a child and excited for what God will bring in the future. HALLELUJAH
Why, ASANTE SANA, good sir. GOD BLESS US ALL! ^_^
For those in a rush to get home, no worries, all good. Drive safe! For the rest of us, we're gonna have a little after party, yay! Below I will share additional Kenya memories followed by a Q & A
So many, but here are highlights of a few other tidbits...
My misplaced luggage arrived about one week into the trip, woo hoo! Needless to say, Jon, who lent me his brand new boxers (thank God he was thoughtful enough to bring new extra ones just in case of emergency), told me "Hey Steve, please... keep 'em"
Speaking of Jon, he's one of the funniest dudes I've ever met. Great guy. We really bonded on this trip like blood brothers. He made everyone laugh, 24/7. One time his sister shared a poem she wrote, really eloquent, and after she wrapped up Jon went "Man, I didn't even know my own sister was a poet" causing all of us to crack up :D
Lee, what can I say, a truly funny brother, absolutely quirky and a bit strange, but it all added up to his charm, y'see. It was not long before he was hitting on all the girls on my team, even proposing to one of them (don't ask, and yes, it was the one who wrote his name in her note to me). Lee often went to me for advice [That's the blind leading the blind right there -Ed.] and I'll never forget that classic first night where he uttered that question "What turns girls on?" Once, when we were playing cards late at night, Lee asked me if I preferred Steve or Steven. I said either is cool by me. He nodded deep in thought before declaring with great authority: "LET IT BE STEVEN"
Random, long, edifying conversations with our Kenyan friends/helpers, and with my team members everyday. So many beautiful stories shared, so many uplifting hearts, so many heartwarming smiles. The Kenyans don't have much in terms of traditional 'riches' as you and I may understand it, but they are rich in community and faith. Their love for God and for one another is, quite frankly, awe-inspiring. They work TOGETHER to maximize their limited resources and they're like one big family -- each doing their part to help the whole
Yep, mosquitoes went to town on me. Repellent stickers, DEET, stuff don't really work
Loved their church services in Kenya. So full of life and spirit. I also cherished the early mornings singing gospel songs with Joy (Pastor's wife) and her teenage kids. There is something so pure and beautiful about the Kenyans' faith. Mighty To Save was our fave
"Everyone needs compassion... a love that's never failing... let mercy fall on me...
Everyone needs forgiveness... the kindness of a Savior... the hope of nations...
Savior... He can move the mountains... my God is MIGHTY TO SAVE!
Bucket showers weren't fun, especially COLD water bucket showers. Definitely makes you grateful for running hot water back home! We also had to handwash all our clothes. God bless washing machines! Seriously now... can I get an Amen? [AMEN! -Everyone]
A couple months before we would fly to Kenya, protests and major violence broke out in the land. Videos were leaked online of bombings. It was brutal, like a scene you would see out of an action movie. The US Embassy highly urged us to change our target date, claiming it would be too unsafe for us to visit. Four team members dropped out, and our remaining team dwindled to 12. We saw some Kenyans packing heat, and the scariest moment of the trip was when we were riding along in the matatu (mini-bus), some HUGE Kenyans with automatic rifles stopped us in the middle of the road. Pastor was with us, and they conversed in Swahili for a bit. I was praying pretty hard, believe that! After what seemed like forever, they nodded at Pastor and let us pass through safely. Thank God!
October 31, 1994. On this night I experienced one of the greatest nights of my young life. It was an epic drama-filled coming-of-age Halloween. That night the Johnsons (a super cool couple who lived in my cousins' old neighborhood, which was essentially my second home growing up) created and hosted a phenomenal haunted house. And it was free. I would always remember it with great fondness. It was more than just a simple haunted house. It was about being a kid enjoying life. And the Johnsons left a lasting impression on hundreds of kids over the years I'm quite sure
Actually, I know they have. Ten years later, Halloween 2004, I returned to that epic neighborhood to see if the Johnsons were still kicking around, and whether they were still scaring and entertaining kids. To my sheer joy and delight, they were STILL there! In an era of constant change it was refreshing to see SOME things never change! I went through their haunted house as a young adult now, and at the end introduced myself to Mr. Bill and Mrs. Becky Johnson, telling them that I was the kid 10 years ago who was so touched by their efforts to entertain me and my pal, as well as a bunch of other kids. They were overwhelmed. They never knew they had such a fan! Halloween '94 was simply a night for the ages for yours truly. You can read more about my '94 adventure here: Memories of Halloween. Even to this day, nearly 20 years later, every time Halloween rolls around the corner, I still can't help but think back to that coming-of-age night. And every time I recall it, Bill and Becky Johnson always flashes through my mind fondly
What does this have to do with Kenya? In June 2010 I decided to visit that old neighborhood. I wanted to see if Bill and Becky were, by chance, still around. I'll never forget driving over, and seeing the same exact house that played such a pivotal HUGE role on that unforgettable epic Halloween night of '94. It was being worked on as I approached. I asked the workers if anyone was home and they said "Sorry, the lady just stepped out." Bummed, I decided to sit in my car and there I wrote a note for Bill and Becky. I explained to them how much their grand haunted house effort meant to me back in 1994, how I met them ten years later in 2004, and what I been up to the past six years. I also shared with them that I was going to Kenya the following month and that I had accepted Christ as Lord and Savior the previous summer. I really felt compelled to write all of this. I dropped it off in their mailbox and left. Later that night, Becky called me! We ended up meeting for lunch later that week and it was there she informed me that sadly, Bill passed away a couple years ago due to cancer. I was stunned, and saddened. She also shared with me how much my letter touched her heart. She never imagined in a million years their haunted house efforts over the years would stick with me for so very long. She also could not believe that I had accepted Christ, as she too herself is a Christian. Isn't it remarkable how something like this could happen; it's God no doubt!
Lee playing basketball -- I don't know whether to laugh, or to cry, maybe both =Þ
It was actually quite awesome going two whole weeks with no cell phone or internet use. Everyday we were constantly face to face, communicating, collaborating, connecting. It was extremely refreshing... it really was as though we'd stepped into a DeLorean. Man... here in the States... I mean don't get me wrong technology's been such a huge boon but going to a place like Kenya and seeing the sense of community thriving over there, you really see how much of a difference there is. Are we TOO isolated in this modern age?
For all the technology that is suppose to make life more convenient for us, and in some ways connect us more (i.e. social media), are we actually MORE detached than ever? Just some food for thought... but boy did I love the old school connecting in Kenya ^_^
On our second to last day after working with the children at a local church we walked back to Pastor's house. That's when one of the 14 year olds we worked with that day, Moses, walked with us home. The whole time he was hanging with me, telling me how much he appreciates our coming here. It was humbling. "To you this may not mean a lot, but to me, it means the world. I will never forget you guys. NEVER." I told him don't worry, the feeling's mutual. What a GREAT kid. He made me laugh when he asked if we all lived together back in the United States. That would truly be something else, ha!
Lee talked about visiting us in the States someday. Sounds like a sequel could be in store... and sounds like a great premise for a movie. Maybe we could call it Coming to America... *wink* But seriously, Lee in the States? Better lock up all your daughters...
Every night we held a meeting before bed to share our highs and lows of the day. I loved this because you could see different perspectives from each person, and what they were experiencing, and how each one processed things. Someone's high could be somebody else's low, and vice versa. Plus, there was just a lot of good laughs during these precious moments... especially when our Kenyan helpers, like Lee and E, joined in on the fun ^_^
Lee proposing to one of the girls on my team was quite the sight to behold. You just had to be there to witness it. We all laughed. She declined his offer politely. Then Lee turned around and proposed to another female team member, Jon's sister! Oh snaps! That's when Lee and I had to have a little mano e mano talk... and why in the note Lee wrote to me he called me his "closest mentor." Like I said, what a classic character...
Definitely saw and felt God's love on this trip. It absolutely strengthened my faith and walk with the good Lord. The times spent in the slums and with the orphans... I felt so guilty going back to my home after two weeks. There had to be something I could do... so I decided to sponsor a child. For $35 a month, my child's basic needs will be taken care of. About one dollar a day. It's so worth it, and I want to encourage you if you have the means to look into it as well. Together, we really can make a difference in the world. It's a blessing to bless others who are less fortunate than us. Trustworthy organizations are worldvision.org and compassion.com. Just putting it out there. If you feel led, go for it
First thing I did back home? Of course... ordering a large combo pizza ^_^
Time for a brief Q & A . . . .
What did you believe in before Christianity?
Indifferent, although I did believe there existed one great God
A:Admit you're a sinner in need of a Savior (Jesus Christ)
B:Believe that God sent His one and only son, Jesus, who died on the cross for your sins and mine, and that He rose from the grave three days later. He is the atoning sacrifice and the one true living God. He loves you and has a perfect plan for your life if you would only trust in Him
C:Confess out loud with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior of your life
I confessed Christ as Lord and Savior many years ago, but fell out of church life and all that a while back. Had some issues at church. Never returned. However, lately I feel God's been trying to get my attention. Is going to church essential?
Christianity isn't the Lone Ranger. Jesus told us to love one another as He has loved each of us. Look, I've had my share of bad church experiences. I've changed churches. Now I am at a place where I know God wants me to be, and I'm sure if you're prayerful about it that God too will lead you to where He wants you to be. We need community and a local church body to grow. Plus, it's easy to fall away when you're on your own. I know it can be scary, but it's worth the effort!
It's cool you're Christian but I just don't believe in it. However, I do like the idea of sponsoring a child in dire need. I want to help with donating $30-$35 a month
Check out WorldVision.org or Compassion.com. Those organizations are trustworthy. Thank you for your heart! For just one measly dollar a day roughly, we can make a HUGE impact! ^_^
My sponsor child and I are pen pals. I hope to visit her some day!
I'm going through a really rough patch. Job stress, relational issues, is Christ really the answer? Does He really, truly bring fulfillment, joy and salvation?
He is the answer to all things since He is the Alpha and Omega (first and last). However, being a follower of Christ doesn't necessarily mean it's blessings upon blessings. The Bible (Word of God) is crystal clear that we will suffer in this life. The good news is, with faith in Christ we are promised not to go at this life all by our lonesome. He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). I could go on and on, but let me just say, as it is written in Matthew 7:7-8 -- A.S.K.Ask and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you :)
I can't believe you're brainwashed by all this crap. What's wrong with you?
You're not the first to say this, nor will you be the last. Hey, you do what you gotta do, playa. As for me, this is my life, my faith, and I'm just trying to spread God's love to a broken world. I'm broken as heck myself. But I've been blessed in many ways, and will look to bless others
I feel like my being here right now is no coincidence. I know God's been trying to get my attention for a while, and right now, I just know I am ready to accept His free gift of salvation. What do I do? Do I have to be in church to get saved?
Wow! Praise the Lord! My friend, this will be the greatest day of your life :) The answer is NO you do not have to be in church. You could be naked (though I hope you're at least in your PJs) at home! All you have to do is say a simple prayer. If you would like, I can lead you. Just say the following out loud and open up your heart as you say these words. Let's pray
Dear Heavenly Father, God, I come before you humbly and boldly, asking for your grace and love to fill my life. I admit that I have been trying to live this life the way I saw fit. But I now realize, I've just been running around in circles. And Lord I'm tired of running in circles. Would you come into my life, take me from darkness to light, and help me to walk in your ways and to walk in your truth the rest of my days. I admit that I'm broken and in need of a Savior. I believe that you sent your one and only son to die for MY sins, that He resurrected three days later and that He is the ONE TRUE living God. Thank you Lord for all that you've done, all that you're doing, and all that you will do. I give my life and trust to you. May your will be done in my life from now on. Thank you for saving me, for loving me and for keeping me. In the mighty matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. AMEN
OH WOW! THIS IS CRAZY! I FEEL ALL TINGLY! SO, WHAT NOW?!
Ha, I know exactly what you mean; that's the Holy Spirit entering. But remember -- it's not all blessings. There will be challenges ahead. But always lean on the strength of Christ, and He will see you through all situations. First off, definitely buy a Bible if you don't already have one. Start reading it. I recommend starting off with the book of John. Find and commit to a local church body. Find Christian brothers and sisters to form friendships with. Find a small group
Most importantly of all -- start praying and communicating with God through Jesus. Just like a friend you must talk to Him to develop the relationship. I've found that God really reveals Himself to first year Christians. This is a great time for you. It's beautiful! I'm excited for you! God bless and wish you all the best! Don't worry, just put yourself out there -- God will open doors for you and He will do the rest! You make the genuine effort to grow, and He will show up BIG time :)
PS- Welcome to the family! You're in GOOD hands ;)