Thursday, March 4, 2010

Scouts, Friends, and Speaking Fake Swahili

Hello my dearies,

I hope this little bloggy finds you well. I am doing very well and am in the sunny weather of Kakamega. However, the rainy season has come early this year which is both good and bad. Early rains mean early crops, but it also means flooded rivers and tons of mud. The rain has been a nice change, though, from the scorching weather of December. My nose skin was actually peeling, honestly. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me. People thought I had a skin disease.

The last month has been one that has been a little bit relaxed with work, but filled with socializing and friends. I have spent a lot of time recently with my friends and neighbors just taking in as much as I can. My Swahili is really coming along too. I can hear quite a bit which has posed a new temptation of eavesdropping. However, when I speak it is a big problem. I speak broken Kiswahenglish really well though. Also, there is a youth language here (kind of like Ebonics but more prominent and formalized) called Sheng and it has really confused me a lot. I have just started to realize that a lot of the words I speak are actually Sheng and not Swahili, yikes.

During the month of February, many wonderful things happened. First, we had a meeting for a group of 20 young people who will be going to Sweden in July for a Salvation Army youth conference. A lot of our time has been spent preparing these young people to go, and we are now happy to say that passports have been gotten for all of them, that tickets are bought, and that Visa appointments are booked. It has been a long process, but God has been good through it all.
During Valentine’s Day weekend I went on a trip to the Shigomere Division to take the PSS program to a new area. The PSS program, which I have talked about sooooo much, is a program that works with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs). This is a beautiful program which is almost like the heart and soul of the youth department. I went with a small team to start some PSS ministries in a new area (called the Ebushibungo Center – I dare you to pronounce it correctly and quickly). There we taught lessons, played games, encouraged leaders, and left small incentives for the corps (churches) in that area to begin the program which will help the youth and the community as a whole.
The following weekend I was able to take place in one of the best weekends of my life. It incorporated almost everything I love in life: African wilderness, mountains, children, singing, campfires, games, traveling, camping, the bible, grown men in scout uniforms, and so on. Needless to say, I went to a Nationwide Scout Camp. It was wonderful. We took 33 people across the country to a place called Nyeri to camp and to learn more about scouting. Nyeri is the place where the founder of scouts (Lord Baron Robert Baden-Powell) resided and was buried. So every year scouts travel there to pay tribute and to have a celebration. This year marked the 100th year of scouts in Kenya. (Look below to see just how awesome LBRBP is).
It was a great weekend where I was able to spend a lot of time with some children that I really love and to get to know some other Salvationists. Also, I am now officially a Kenyan Boy Scout. Yea, that’s right. Be jealous. Traveling across the country with 20 children and 3 leaders is really tough and stressful, but it was definitely worth it to see how happy all of the children were to be able to go to Nyeri (all for the first time) and Nairobi (many for the first time). It was great.
It is hard to believe that I have been here for one year already. I came to Kenya last March and its March already. Life has gone so fast. But its great to look back and see the wonderful things that God has done and taught me and shown me. I am different in a lot of ways and have really grown a lot. I am excited to share with everyone what I have seen, heard, and learned. Which brings me to my plans for returning to the States…….I will arrive in the US on March 31st and will be flying directly into Omaha. However, I will be going to Chicago shortly after. Once there, I will spend time with my family and friends and explore what God has in store for me next. I am not quite sure what I will be doing, but I am praying and keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open to what God has.

Please pray for me that I will be open and obedient to God.

Prayers Requests:
-The Kenya West Youth Section
-The Scout Movement
-For me to finish my time well and productively
-For my family
-For my Corps (Kakamega Central and Mayfair Community)
-For me to be prayerful and obedient

Much love y’all,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Junior Soldiers, My Corps, and It's Way Too Hot

Dearest Ones,

The rainy season is over and it is now hot. Too hot. Non-stop sweating and 6 bottles of water a day is the current name of my game. But all is well. The fuit trees are starting to bear fruit, there are tons of baby animals, the children are back in school, and the youth programs are getting off to a good start for the year 2010.

The last month has been filled with office work and to be honest has felt a little bit "slow". I know that the things we are doing in office are important and vital to the effectiveness of the rest of the year's programmes and I'm sure that it will speed up with time after the start of the year. The first of the year is filled with establishing programs and budgets and plans, etc., and so we havent had much time to go "out" into the field and stuff yet.

I have become really proud of my Corps (church) to see how far they have come in the last year. The youth group is really growing, becoming more established and organized, and the music groups have come far. The band has set up a bank account in order to save money and buy instruments, we have been training new recruits, and the guitar group is growing in number and talent. Last week, we commissioned 15 new youth workers to help with the youth work of the corps and community.

Throughout town little roadside shops have been popping up called "Valentine Love Centres". These are the cutest little valentine's day shops you'll ever seen. You can buy plastic flowers, candy bars, fake bushes, cards, stuffed animals, clocks in the shape of wine bottles, and i even found a huge rubber tarantula in the midst of all this love. They are excellent. I love reading the cards, my favorite being "You make it easy for me to shower you with sentamentality" - how beautiful.

This past weekend I had the chance to travel to a brand new District of the Salvation Army called Lugari District. It was Junior Soldier Renewal Sunday, where the young people of the Corps renew themselves to God, and I was at the Matete Corps. I had the chance to lead the Renewal Ceremony for about 70 young people, and challenged the entire corps to encourage the youth and to renew their own promises to God as well. The ceremony was really beautiful and it is great to ee a church congragation which invests so much into their youth. I also had the opportuniy to dedicate 4 sheep which had been bought to distribute to members of the community. The goal of this programme is to "eradicat poverty", which is a huge but wonderful undertaking.

This month two Americans, named Shanon and Roxanne, from California came to teach in a Salvation Army school just down the road from the THQ. So now we are like a wazungu circus with all these white people running around. It has been nice to have some new faces and we are really enjoying them. They will be here for about one year.

Please pray for:

- The Territorial Youth Programs
- The THQ
- Our World Youth Convention Delegates and preparations
- Decision Making
- My corps (Kakamega Central and Mayfair Community)

God Bless friends,


Friday, January 8, 2010

Krismasi na Mwaka Mpia na sijui kiswahili

Hello my dear friends,

I am writing to you from the beautifully warm and sunny weather of Kakamega while most of you are knee deep in snow. All I can say is “suckers!” As you are shoveling your walks and deicing your driveways I am letting off a slight sweat and eating garden fresh veggies. Again I say “suckers!”

I am doing well and would like to share with you a little bit about what has been happening in my life over the past few months. I must admit that they have been quite busy, but that they have been filled with a lot of wonderful experiences and memories of which I am so grateful for. At the end of November we had the annual Commissioning service for the Salvation Army of all of Kenya (which is the time when the students in the Salvation Army seminary get ordained as pastors). This was a wonderful weekend where over 10,000 Salvationists came together to worship and celebrate the new officers who were commissioned. The weekend was filled with long band processionals, dancing, singing, and a lot of “flowers”. When some is going through a big life changing event (graduation, marriage, etc.) all of their friends and families buy them plastic sparkly neck ornament things (like the Hawaiian leis). It was great to see the happiness of the people as they celebrated graduating and the graduation of those they loved.

In the month of December I spent a lot of time traveling from place to place in order to meet with and encourage youth and youth leaders from around the Salvation Army. The middle of November marks the end of the school year so most youth are at home and free during the entire month of December, which makes it the best time to meet with the youth. We were able to travel to Eldoret, Moisbridge, Tongaren, Migori, Kisumu, and Agai Sondu in order to hold PSS community follow ups and Fun Days. During these visits we did home visitations, encouraged leaders, and held games and tournaments amongst the local youth. Highlights: I lost in a hula hoop competition to a 5 year old girl after 4 seconds, we were able to financially support some groups in order for them to start some small businesses and become stable and independent, played so much soccer, and tons of others. It was really great.

Christmas break was really great, but it was much too short. I felt busier during Christmas than I did while at work. By the time I realized I was on leave, it was over. But I am not complaining, it was a really great time. On Christmas Day I went to church where we had plenty of Christmas festivities. In Kenya, everyone goes to church on Christmas Day. We started the morning with doing a brass band march and processional of Christmas Carols through the neighborhood. I was playing the bass drum which is at least 25 pounds and is a beast. From there we started the church service which was filled with singing, dancing, and a lot of old ladies walking up and down the aisles shouting and praising. The service ended with us all feasting on Christmas Cake, something that I think all churches should adopt. After the service I was chosen as a judge for youth group competition. The youth groups from all the outposts (church plants) were told to prepare a song and dance and a memory verse and it was my job (along with my sidekick Wiseman) to see which youth group was the best and should get to take home the trophy. It was excellent because the group that won was from a tiny little outpost called Musa. They were so happy to have the trophy that they marched up and down the road dancing, shouting, and singing the “We won a trophy” song (yes there is such a song; as well as a song for cutting a cake and opening presents (singing and dancing cultures are awesome)).

After church I went to my friend James’ house where I was able to have Christmas dinner with him, his wife, his daughter, and some friends from church. It was a really great time of conversation and fellowship. It was not the same as being at home (where my older sister got engaged on Christmas morn) but I definitely felt loved and surrounded by good people. I then traveled outside of Kakamega and had a chance to attend my first “Mass Wedding” where four brothers (who were all in their 50’s and 60’s) were all “wedded” at the same time. Apparently all of them eloped while in their 20’s and had never gotten around to having a service. It was a great to see these old men make their vows and make the marriage “legal”. I then traveled to stay with a family in a village called Butiti and lived the village life for a few days, which was wonderful.

On New Year’s Eve I had a little party-ish thing at my house where a bunch of guys came over and we watched movies and I got them hooked on my American music, Taylor Swift and Nickleback (joke?). We then all went to church for the New Year’s Eve praise night. Pretty much all we did was sing and dance for about 6 hours straight as we brought in the New Year. Spending New Years at church was probably the best way I could have done it. The next day we were all at church again to celebrate the New Year and to dedicate the year to God.

I thank God for his faithfulness and love to me this year, I can truly say that God is good and that his mercies are new every morning.

Please pray for:

- Wisdom

- Against laziness

- For the Territorial Youth Programs

- For my corps (Kakamega Central and Mayfair Community)

- For my family back home

- For the Kenyan Government

God Bless everyone,

much love


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PSS, Water Fights, and Guitars

Hello everyone,

My life has been going pretty well. So well that i forgot, once again, to update for so long. and for that i am so sorry. Life here has been going so well and I have so many things to be grateful for. i have been staying very busy and I am happy that God has started to give me some friends who i can just sit around and watch movies with. I am so happy to say that I have a small group of guys that i feel completely comfortable with and with who i can just joke and talk and be wierd with and all that. it is really great, because i did not have that for a few months.
Thank you all so much for praying for rain, i am happy to say that we have now been receiving lots of rain which is good for food, animals, and humans. (in fact, the farmers in my area have been saying that we are getting too much rain). Today a draft version of the New Kenyan Constitution came out and they posted the entire thing in the newspaper. For those of you who dont follow world news you may not know that the political situation of kenya has been a bit sticky and shakey the past few years, so we are all very happy to see the steps that are being taken to improve on the political situation in kenya. please continue to pray for our government.
Well, allow me to tell you a few things about my life which have happened over the past month or so. at work i have been pretty much only doing stuff for PSS (psycho-social support - working with orphans and vulnerable children) but its been really great. PSS, as i have said before, was almost completely disbanded, but the TYS and I have been working hard to revive the program in our territory. At the end of October, i had a chance to travel to a medium-sized city called Kisii and was able to spend time with the PSS group there. We were able to play games, hold a seminar for the leaders, do home visitation, attend the Kids and Youth (KAY) Club, view the Income Generating Activities (IGAS), and many other things. I was able to teach the children some new games and had a chance to give a few talks on working with children. I also did a trust fall from 6 feet up into the arms of a bunch of scrawny young men. i was surprized when they caught me, but then they started throwing me up and down and i was totally impressed.
We also had a chance to view the IGAS in a place called Kakrao, where they have some very impressive businesses which help raise money for school fees and medication of the HIV/AIDS positive children. I was really touched to see the way these two communities reached out to those who are affected by HIV/AIDS and tears came to my eyes when i learned the horribly sad stories of some of these youth. but it was great to see the love and hope that the PSS group was bringing to the children and the community. They even had several youth who they saved from sex trafficking, so they can honestly say that they have saved some of these young girls' lives.
Then, a few weeks later, the TYS and I hosted PSS Refresher Course as the final step to our revival process of PSS. We brought together 28 people who have been trained in PSS in the past and brought them together to discuss our current situation, review the lessons in which they were trained, and discuss the way forward. it was a really fun time where i learned a lot, played a lot of games, and got to meet a lot of really great people. It was good to see that many of these people have a testimony connected to PSS and we hope that this sharing of experiences will allow us all to continue the PSS program in our areas.
We had a really epic water fight which ended with me dumping a huge bucket of water on my own team mate who popped me with a balloon in the back. we were able to play a bunch of games, team building exericises and so on with the children of the neighborhood and it was a great learning experience for us all.
I have been so happy to be given a chance to be more involved in my corps (church). i am now leading a guitar class in which i have 7 or 8 members, 3 of them being brand new. plus, i am sure that the number will continue to grow. there are 2 young men who have picked it up really quickly and have been performing hymns on Sunday Morning. it is so nice to see its wonderful how the old ladies of the church are so happy every time they play.
today i received a notification in the mail about my entry has finally been approved. thats right, as of today i can legally be in kenya. its a great feeling and now i dont have to worry so much about all of that. it has been a big worry on my heart, and so i thank God for taking care of it. In two weeks i will travel to Nairobi to be registered as an "alien" and then it will all be official.
Please pray for:
-My family back home
-My future plans (that God would reveal them and that I would listen)
-The PSS Program
-My Corps (Kakamega Citadel)
-The Territorial Youth Program
-The Kenyan Government
Apologies for the not so great update and the long time in between entries, hopefully it will not always be so.
Thanks y'all. Much love

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Big meetings, band, and beauty

Dearest ones,

This blog is slowly becoming less like a blog and more like an impersonal letter which I write to everyone I have ever met, and for that I am very sorry. It has been almost two months since I have given an update on my life and for that I am also sorry. However, life is treating me pretty well. I am still in Kenya and still working hard. Kenya is now receiving lots of rain (much of the county has been having intense drought) which is a huge answer to prayer.

Since my last post, I have been staying busy preparing materials, lessons, and programs for the 2009-2010 calendar year, which began at the beginning of October. This has consumed a lot of my time and has kept me very busy. The youth section has many programs prepared for this calendar year, and it is my honor to of had a chance to be apart of the planning for the activities which will occur this year.
First of all, I want to give an update on PSS. PSS is the program that I have talked a lot about which works among orphans and vulnerable youth who have been affected by poverty, violence, or disease. The TYS and I have been workig very hard to secure funding and trainings for this program and we are happy to say that this program is soon to be fully revived in the Territory. Leaders have been identified, calendars have been prepared, and funding is on its way. We are very pleased with this news, but ask you to continue to pray that everything continues to go smoothly. In the last few months PSS leaders have been able to speak at several youth seminars and trainings, hold way forward meetings, and come together for encouragement and support. I was even able to travel to anoher PSS training in Kisumu in order speak and encourage the young people. At the beginning of October we had a big event which took up most of our time and energy. We had a visit from the Salvation Army International Secretary (IS) for Africa (the bossman for all the Salvation Army in Africa) and it took a lot of delegation, preparation, and work for everything to go smoothly. His visit was a great encouragement to us. He arrived early in the week and had a small tour of the Territory and conducted reviews and interviews. Then, on Saturday, we held a big celebration to officially open the new building. The IS officially opened the building and it was a meeting filled with dancing, singing, tree planting, horn blowing, and the like. It was then my responsibility to give tours of the building. We had a great theoretical system in place where each tour guide would take around a group of 15 people and would be seperated from the other groups; but it turned out more to be just a giant heap of people going whereever they wanted (which is what happens whenyou try to show a building to 600 officers (pastors) within a half an hour time). The next day, there was a big Territorial meeting planned, and this meeting ended up being very intense. I started off at 630am in order to arrive on the opposite side of town to begin the brass processional. The band was to march from one end of town, to the middle of town (where we were met by all the other Salvationists), and then through every single street and alley of the town, onto the final place which was to be Bukhungu Stadium (the soccer stadium in town). So we marched in our matching band uniforms through the whole town playing African tunes. There is no written music, no set duration, just a bunch of people playing drums and horns and 6,000 Salvationists marching behind them with people singing and laughing and dancing on the side of the street as we pass by. Thats right...6,000!!! Thats also right...constant spontaneous dancing!! When we reached the stadium there was a march past in which every single soldier marched in front of the IS. It took over an hour and our African tunes were blaring in the background the whole time. The meeting at the stadium was so good. People came from far and wide to be present for this meeting and were happy to sing, dance, and fellowship together. There was a gospel dance presentation from our youth in Kitale, who danced in bow ties and white socks. Our scouts set up a tent in the middle of the professional soccer field and did all of there scouty things. It was just a great day of worship and fellowship for people from around the territory.
Last weekend, I was the "Chief Guest" at a fundraising for the youth group of an outpost from my corps (church). An outpost is like a church plant which has a building and members, but usually no pastor. This outpost was in an area called Maraba and they were having a fundraiser to raise enough money to get power for the outpost. Praise God, we were able to raise enough to get power for the outpost. Also a keyboard was donated to the church. This means that the youth will now be able to do contemporary worship and gospel dance in their church. We are happy because after receiving power, we are sure that the next step is for them to become a full-corps and receive a pastor.

I have been investing a lot of time into two youth from my corps. I have been trying to invest in their skills and give them jobs around the corps which will help them to grow and learn. I have also been spending a lot of time teaching them guitar and they performed for the first time on Sunday during the morning meeting. They performed "What a Friend we have in Jesus" and are one of the first guitar groups within the Salvation Army of Kenya.

Yesterday was a holiday and we did not have work. Instead the band was hired by the government to travel to a town called Malava in order to do a procession and play in the festivities for that district. We arrived, walked around the town for a while, ate, joked around with the military police, and then marched to a school out in the country. The field where we were was on a hill and was surrounded by mountains in the distance. I remembered how beautiful Kenya is and how blessed I am to be here.

Romans 8:31 - "If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Answer: no one.

Please pray for:
-Territorial Finances
-My spiritual growth
-My Corps
-My family
-For continued rains (against drought)

Much love

Friday, September 18, 2009


Solitude is "the furnace of transformation". - Henri Nouwen

"As soon as you are really alone you are with God." - Thomas Merton

"It is easier to read about solitude than to practice it". - David Douglas

I wish I was good at solitude, but the fact is just hard. Sometimes the thought of becoming a hermit (an "eremites": an inhabiter of an uninhabited land - slight paradox) seems so appealing because many of the distractions of society are removed.

But Jesus found solitude in the midst of his disciples and ministry (friends and work) and so should I.

Thats all.

Monday, September 14, 2009


O unchanged image of the One who Is,
O Seal that cannot be removed or altered,
Son and Word, Wisdom and Arm,
Right Hand and Strength of the Most High,
Thee do we sing with the Father and the Spirit

Thou hast taken me captive with longing for thee, O Christ
And hast transformed me with Thy divine love.
Burn up my sins with the fire of the Spirit
And count me worthy to take my fill of delight in thee
That dancing with joy I may magnify both Thy Comings,
O Lord who art good.

-The Eastern Orthodox Transfiguration liturgy