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

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Music, Oceans, and Alligator kabobs

hello my everyone,
I am sorry that it has taken me so long to write an update, but I promise I have some decent excuses. I am doing well, and have been here now for 6 months. In some ways it feels a lot longer and in others it feels a lot shorter. I am completely in the swing of things, I feel totally comfortable, and I don't even think about the fact that I am being stared at all the time or that i have different skin. The first few months were very difficult, but God has been faithful to me.

In the middle of August I took my leave/furlough/vacation for two weeks and had a chance to see a little bit of the country. For the first few days of my leave I was able to rest, read, and run errands, just being able to do a lot of things that I often don't have time to do. I then got on a bus and took a 14 hour bus ride across the entire country to the City of Mombasa. Mombasa is a really old town that is about half Muslim and has a lot of arab landmarks, architecture, people, and history. While I was in Mombasa I stayed at a Salvation Army Childrens' Home and had a chance to meet many youth and many Salvationists (who were so welcoming to me even though I was from a different Territory). I had a chance to play soccer, pray, and watch Alvin and the Chipmunks with the children.
While in Mombasa I went to a really old fort called Fort Jesus which (apparently) is built to look like Jesus stretched out on the cross. The Fort is in a really great area called Old Town that has dozens of Mosques, tiny roads, and thousands of people. I also had a chance to see most of the city, take a ferry across the river, and travel up to the beaches. At the beaches I swam in the Indian Ocean, saw monkeys, held a huge snake, and ate a crocodile (not very delicious).
After I left Mombasa I had a chance to travel Nairobi which (even though it is the capitol) I had spent no time in. I was able to go around and see the downtown, many Salvation Army corps and compounds, and had a chance to worship and play in the band of the largest Salvation Army corps in the world (Nairobi Central, with over 3,000 Senior Soldiers). I then traveled with an officer friend to the area around Machakos, which is a very dry and dusty place. It was the driest place i have ever been, and yet it wasn't overly hot. Right now in Kenya, we have a water crisis. Much of the country does not have enough water, rivers are drying up and wells are very low. Because of the water crisis, crops are failing and cattle are dying which is causing food shortages. We also are going through a power crisis, which means that we are going through a lot of power rationing (so there are some days when we just sit around the office and chat). But God is good and is really helping his people.
After Machakos, I went to Nairobi and picked up Mike Steinsland from the Airport. Mike is the coolest and decided to come and spent 10 days with me. He was here for my birthday, he brought me many gifts from many different people at home (thanks everyone), and we had a really good time together. I had a chance to show Mike a little bit of my life and he was able to meet my friends, coworkers, and officers. Mike even had a chance to slaughter his first chicken. He had never even touched a live chicken before (we are so proud of him). However, we forgot to tell him to hold the chicken for about a minute after the head was off. So he let go of the chicken and blood got everywhere; all over himself, me, the walls, plants, our friend Kerry's shirt, everywhere.

Mike and I then had a chance to be facilitators at the territorial music school. We were able to teach the guitar class. We were worried that we would not have enough instruments, but God was so gracious to us. We taught the men in the class how to play Amazing Grace and we spiced it up to be in a kind of African style. We were really proud of the guys and they really progressed a lot in one week. In fact, there are two that have come to my office every day since the Music school in order to be taught more.
At the music school I was able to be in the brass band, the staff band, and the united chorus. Mike and I both had the chance to give devotions and we were both greatly blessed by the music, bible studies, and people we met through the week. During the talent show, we were able to see 30 presentations (there were only 100 people) of people's talents. We were also able to take part in a Cultural Night where we saw a traditional Turkana War dance, a circumsion ceremony (minus the actual curcumsion), a Kekuyu presentation of a woman's responsibilities, and the cleansing of a house after a death in the family. it was really fascinating. I even talked about the Corn Palace and Mike said he likes loud music. it was great.
The final concert of the Music School was held on Sunday morning and we were able to do a very loud and wonderful crusade with all of the bandsmen, singers, and timbrels (tambourines).
I am now back in the office and am trying to catch up on all of the work that I missed because of being away for 3 weeks. I am almost there, but as soon as I catch up I know more will come, its just the way it is, and its ok.

Please pray for:
-My Family back home
-Visa issues
-Territorial finances
-The students as they go back to school
-The youth of the territory
-Me to quickly understand more kiswahili
Thanks everyone
much love,

Friday, August 7, 2009

Catherine Doherty's Little Mandate

This is “The Little Mandate” which is at the heart of the teachings of Catherine de Hueck Doherty who started the Friendship House and the Madonna House and moved into poor neighborhoods to live among and serve the poor.

It is written as a command or commission (mandate) from Jesus.

"Arise – go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me. Little – be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike. Preach the Gospel with your life – without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you. Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me. Love…love…love, never counting the cost. Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast. Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbor’s feet. Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you. Pray always. I will be your rest."

I have been trying to follow this mandate, which I think comes directly from the teachings of Jesus.

I also really like the ideas Catherine has about poustinia - which is going into a small, sparsely furnished cabin or room to fast and pray and be in the presence of God for 24 hours. (Future prayer room idea?)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dancing, Matatus, and Youth Seminars

Hello dears,

I am currently greeting you from behind my desk in beautiful Kakamega, where the Lord has decided to make my home. I am here and am doing well. I have had the opportunity to travel to see Salvation Army work around the territory, to meet new friends and strengthen relationships with those around me, and I have even been taught how to do some Kenyan dancing (but its not quite tolerable yet, give me a few months).
Since my last post I have been keeping busy, but not too busy. I have been enjoying the company of those around me, have been getting more involved in my corps (church), and have really enjoyed working on our farm. We could start a salad company, since we have more lettuce and cucumbers than we know what to do with.
On the 10th of July I had the opportunity to go visit a friend named Mike in his hometown of Moi's Bridge. It is a small town, but with a lot of Salvation Army ministry occuring within it. Mike is an active PSS member (as defined in earlier entries) and is the leader of 4 PSS groups within that area. I had the opportunity to lead a meeting where we discussed the Way Forward for the PSS program and discussed ways of how we can work together. I was then taken to see the PSS ministries that are occuring within the Kaptien Outpost (a church plant by the Moi's Bridge corps). When I arrived in Kaptien I was greeted by the community who was excited to have a visitor, since I was the first person from THQ to ever visit the outpost. They showed me the income generating projects that they are doing to raise funds for the youth and then allowed me to be a part of their Kids and Youth (KAY) Club.
During the KAY Club we played games, sang songs, had a Bible lesson, and had a lot of fun. After a small group time, the youth went inside the church building to have a time of displaying their talents. There was singing, dancing, reciting poems, dramas, a fashion show, and others. There was even a three year old boy who recited a long poem complete with hand motions, dramatic actions and pauses, and a very professional bow. I picked him up out of joy, but he was a little bit scared. I am happy to see that God is moving within the PSS program and is doing something good in the midst of his children.
This past weekend, I had an opportunity to lead a youth seminar in Kapsabet District. We arrived on friday to see all of the officers (pastors) and youth workers waiting for us. The place where we were told to arrive was called "Dangerous Forrest" so we were a little bit sacred of what was before us. But they were anxious to have us come and teach them so that they can grow in youth work. Kapsabet is a brand new district (only one year old) and they are facing a lot of financial problems, yet their leaders felt it was important for a youth seminar to take place and the corps were able to fund the whole weekend. I am very happy to see a District within the Army that is so dedicated to youth work. On friday, we led the youth workers through several seminars and tried to encourage them to work tirelessly for the youth in their corps.
On Saturday, the youth arrived and we have a day full of seminars and teachings. The youth were so excited to be together and praise God. They listened intently to every word the TYS (the man in charge of all youth in Kenya West) and I said and were eager to put it into practice. On Saturday afternoon we held a very wonderful crusade, where the youth marched proudly and sang loudly. One child held my hand, and when the others realized I would allow them they all grabbed on. I had one child on each finger and several on each arm. During the open air, which was filled with dramas and dancing, i was pulled onto the "stage" and was told to dance. I tried my best.

The youth were very excited to have us there. For many of them, I was the first white person that they ever talked to, so they kept me up late asking me questions, which i was happy to do.
When we travel to other cities we use a vehicle called a Matatu (which means "for three" but I'm not exactly sure why). They vehicles are kind of like Hippy Vans and are used as buses. They are only supposed to hold 14 people, but they will not leave a city with less than 20. So it is common to be sitting in the aisle on a piece of wood or to have someone leaning on you or sitting on your lap. I have several interesting matatu stories, including oddities with breastfeeding mothers and vomiting grandmothers, but perhaps another time.
Thank you all for continually praying for me and reading this blog. I really feel your love more than you can know.

Please pray for:
-Music Camp
-Territorial Finances
-The Divisional Youth Officers (DYS')
-Our crops
-For me to continue to adapt to the new language and culture
-My family in the US
-My corps (in Kenya and the US)

Much love,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Living on a Pillar

I've been thinking a lot about a Desert Father named Saint Simeon Stylites. He lived out in the desert and was trying to withdraw from the world, but pilgrims kept coming to him for advice, miracles, and prayer. It got so bad that he could spend no time alone in prayer and reflection. One day he stumbled upon some old ruins and decided to make his new dwelling on top of one of the pillars (it was about 9 feet high). He decided that living on top of a pillar was what God wanted him to do. He tried escaping into quiet reflection and prayer horizontally, now he would try vertically. So he made his dwelling on top of a 45 foot pillar (the greek word for pillar is styloi, thus he received the name stylite).

His disciples would send him food up in a basket and every afternoon he would allow the pilgrims to come up to him via ladder in order to receive prayer and counseling.

He said that he was "called to give up movement" and he would always be on his feet. He stood on top of the pillar and fastened himself to a pole so that he could sleep standing up. His only excercise was to bend at the waist, which he did after every prayer. the point was to symbolize that he was constantly pointing heavenward and that he would not stray from the Word and Will of God.

He lived on top of his pillar for 37 years all the while giving counsel to kings and political figures, discipling many followers, counseling, writing letters, and spending countless hours in prayer.

From his example, a series of Stylites started to spot the wilderness as his followers sought to escape into quiet reflection.

I find it interesting that we use the term "up on a pedestal" to say that people are highly respected or looked up to, and yet here is a man who is using a very high pedestal as a form of escape from the sinful world and invited others to come up to him by a ladder to meet with him in his sanctuary of solitude.

Hagiology is so cool.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The other day I was in the city of Kitale and a man came up to me and took my hand and said, "Oh you look exactly like someone. Oh, who is it? Oh yes, Tupac Shakur!"

So, if anyone has any questions that they would like to ask here is the place for you to ask them and I will gladly answer them.

I was asked a whole bunch of questions by a day camp that my friend works at, and the questions were really good. My faorite question, which I chose not to answer, was "why do birds have baby birds?"

if you want to watch the video of their questions it is here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sunday School, handshakes, and Muzungu-ness

Dearest ones,

I hope that this blog entry finds you well. I am doing fine, I have been very tired for the last few days, but mostly because I have decided to stay up really late and watch movies for the last two nights. So it was a bad decision. But otherwise, Kakamega is good. The climate is good, cool in the mornings and evening and hot during the day. My farm is starting to look wow! The corn is tall, the beans are red, the spinach is like spinach, and the cucumbers are many. Soon we will be harvesting peanuts, something that i am very excited about.

Since my last post many things have happened. i have attempted to learn several popular Kenyan dances, all of which have failed horribly. I have been attempting to learn the dance moves of Rose Muhando (a popular Christian artist - youtube it, parts of it are crazy) but they are impossible.

I had the opportunity to travel to the Musudzuu Division two weekends ago in order to lead a Divisional Youth Seminar and Youth Leaders' Workshop for all of the youth of the division. This was a really good weekend, but was very tiring. It started on Friday with about 100 youth leaders coming in order to learn about Sunday School leadership and program. The TYS (my boss) and I have decided that Sunday School is a major need in our Territory. Most Sunday Schools are boring and formal, so we are attempting to revive the Sunday Schools in our Territory, which is proving to be more difficult then expected. These youth leaders were very receptive and said that they learned a lot and are planning to make great changes.
We visited a Salvation Army school and I am quite certain that I have never been stared at more in my life then I did by those children; it made me feel very awkward. The place where we were was very rural, and most of these young children had never seen a muzungu (whitey) face to face before, let alone touch one. So every single child wanted to greet me. They wanted to shake my hand and say "how are you?" which they repeat over and over again. So i created a mass handshaking system where i shook about 40 hands at a time, in order to make it through the 300 students of the school in a relatively short period of time. On Saturday, we were with all of the youth. There were about 600 youth there to worship and learn from us. We sang, danced, and taught them and then went on a huge crusade. We marched for 10 kilometers, 5 miles, each way and then held a very wonderful open air, and then returned. At the end of the 10 mile trek of dancing, i was quite tired, but the youth were all very happy. They even stayed up until midnight singing and dancing. All they need is a Yamaha keyboard that plays drum beats and they go on for hours.

On Saturday, the 4th of July, I marched in two parades. But sadly, neither was for American Independence. One was for a Union Organization and one was for a mass group of police and army personel. Luckily this gave me the chance to learn the difference between the uniforms of police, APs, MPs, Forest Department, Prison Guards, and others, but of course I have forgotten most of them. After the two parades, the band went and played in a memorial service and then did home visitations. It was a very long but very good day, i learned a lot of Kiluhya Traditional songs.
The following day I led Sunday School at my corps and tried to make all of the youth act like lions (simba), but they wouldnt. There was only one boy who tried to act like a scary lion and the face he made literally scared me a little bit. I then went to a soccer game which was the district championship for High School teams. There is a Salvation Army school near my office which I often visit and both the girls team and the boys team made it into the finals. This was an amazing thing for them because they are small and new. The teams that they played were big and old. But our team (called Kakamega Township) did very well, but sadly lost. However, the next day on the National News they interviewed the principal of the team that one and he made a reference to a "Salvation Army Muzungu" who was in Army uniform and was rooting for Township. Then the people on TV made fun of me. I was quite proud to be known as "the white man in all white" (which is our sunday uniform, which is quite schnazy).

We have been planning many things for next year; including the calendar, budget, youth events, trainings, and a Youth Congress.

I have been struggling with certain things and could really use prayer. I have been lonely and have been feeling homesick. Also, many of our programs have been changed by the leadership, which is frustrating and difficult.

Also, I taught the TYS the word "finna" and hopefully he will continue to use it.

Please pray for:
-Territorial Finances
-For me to work well with my leadership

Much love y'all,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Juniors

The Salvation Army was started by William and Catherine Booth. William was both really cool but also really crazy (in a good way). But let me just focus in on one of the reasons why he was really cool: he knew the importance of children in the church.

He wrote a book called "Sergeant Major Do-Your-Best of Darkington No. 1" in which he writes about the work of the Army and the role of the Sergeant Major, who is kind of like a deacon and is second to the pastor within the church. He writes from the Sergeant Major's point of view.

In one of the chapters Sergeant Major Do-Your-Best discusses how his corps (church) had a horrible youth ministry, but once they started their new initiative to the youth it brought new life to the church.

I think everyone should read this if they have the time. If you are not in the Salvation Army you may not be interested but it is a good read. It will take betwen 10 and 20 minutes to read. It has really made quite an impression on me. Its real good.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

changing things up

So for the last couple of days I have been thinking about changing the way that I do blogs a little bit. I know that people seem to enjoy my current style of Blogging, but i am going to try something a little bit different, and see if it works.

So this is what i am going to do: I am going to use this blog to post some of my thoughts, things I've been reading, little blurbs on things, and the such. I will try to add at least something small every few days. Then one to two times a month (like i have been doing before) I will put up a big report of what i have been up to.

Does that sound like it will be ok? I think it sounds alright.

So instead of contacting people via email and facebook whenever I update, since I plan to update more often, I will only do so when I write the longer report things.

What do you think? Do you think that this could work?

much love,

Monday, June 22, 2009

PSS, so many youth, and electrocution

My friends,
I feel like I am constatnly apologizing in the first sentence of each blog, but once again I am sorry. I keep telling myself "Self, update that blog!" but then I don't. But today, I will. I will do my best to update more often, of that I promise.

Life is still treating me quite well. I feel more and more comfortable each day, my kiswahili is coming along well (I find myself understanding more and more words when listening to others speak and can count to 39 without thinking about which language I am speaking in - which I feel is a good step), and I am becoming better at working in an office. I have learned how to manage my time and fulfill many jobs within one day.

This month has been filled with activities for PSS (Psychosocial Support - as discussed in my last post). The TYS (my boss) and I have been spending a lot of time and energy to revive this program within the Salvation Army. There are a lot of members and facilitators, but when no one from headquarters talks to them for over a year they get discouraged, feel unappreciated, and stop volunteering their time (which is what has happened). So we have tried to spend time with these people, call them, visit them, encourage them, write them letters, and so on. And I must say, God is so good. We are seeing a huge rise is PSS activities; just within the last month the activities have more than doubled.
On the 6th of June, I went to a PSS meeting in Kisumu and had the opportunity to learn, teach, and encourage facilitators and new members as they planned on starting new programs in their area. I like PSS because it works for mental and relational healing in youth through counseling and play. That's right, play! During the PSS seminars we play lots of games. We become childlike in order to win children for Christ. I like it. We shout, run in circles, sing rediculous songs, shake the bootay, and all that fun stuff. I really think that this is a good program, and I feel like this is one of the reasons why I am here. This program is important and God wants to see it vibrant again in this place, and so do I.

Two weeks later there was another PSS meeting but this time in my hometown of Kakamega. This meeting was two days long and sought to teach counseling techniques, how to start Income Generating Projects (which PSS uses in order to raise money for school fees for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC's) that they work with), Kids and Youth (KAY) Clubs, loss and bereavement, and so on. This was a great time where i learned a lot. We had plenty of opportunity to dance and play here as well.

During this seminar we were playing a game where our family was being attacked by lions and we had to cross over an electric fence, there were twelve squares, but each square could only be stepped in once, so some of us "strong" men (and yes of course I was included) were used to carry the twenty others over the electric fence. All was going well until my corps officer, with his 250 God-serving pounds of flesh, decided for us to send him over the fence as well. Needless to say, I should not have been a strong man. I failed horribly resulting in the "electrocution" of myself and my corps officer.

This month I also had an opportunity to take part in a Praise and Worship seminar. The seminar was ok, but God was good to us during the Crusade which followed the seminar. There were only about 30 youth there, but we decided to take our PA, keyboard, and bodies into a field in the middle of the small town we were at and started to dance and sing. This was, by far, the best worship experience I have had since coming to Kenya. We all danced and the people from the stores and houses started to come and dance with us. But then it started to rain, but we kept dancing. One person held an umbrella over the keyboard and we put the flag over the PA, but we kept dancing. After about 15 minutes the rain turned into a huge storm and we were forced to quickly end and run for cover before our equipment was damaged. Singing in the Rain (ha) is great. But dancing in the rain is better, you should all try it. (Sidenote: be careful when having a PA system outside in the rain for obvious reasons. While trying to move the PA I was electrocuted, but it was ok, it just felt like my hand was moving incredibly fast)
Many other great things have happened this month: I have preached the last two weeks and feel fairly good about the messages, I know God uses even me; I marched in a parade for the day of the African child; I somehow became the Deputy Bandmaster for a Divisional Band (even though I told them no and I wasnt there, they voted me in anyway); and many other things.

I have found that I am slightly allergic to a vegetable called cow peas and to perfectly ripened pineapples. The latter is very upsetting news. My tongue gets prickly and itchy. But I am still fighting the pain to enjoy the deliciousness. I heard a story of an American who came here and ate 3 entire pineapples in one sitting. Hit tongue started to bleed, but he still wanted to eat more. Americans are great.

My friend situation is becoming incredibly solid and I thank God for sending me some young guys to be my friends here who keep me from going crazy and working all the time. We pretty much just talk about soccer and band, they sometimes talk about girls but I try and stay quiet. They all make fun of me because my soccer team is West Ham United (Ian and Green Street Hooligans have hooked me).

Please continue to pray for:
-The Youth Section finances and calendar
-Living alone
-The PSS program to revive
-My family at home
Much Love,

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Ministries, Planting Trees, and Slaughtering Chickens

Dearest ones,

The past two weeks have gone by so quickly. It feels like I just wrote an update, but it seems like it is time for a new one. Life is going very well and I am feeling quite at home in Kakamega. I have been receiving a lot of emails and letters from the US which has been nice and would like to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers.

I have been eating many of the fruits that grow around my house and my office and have been enjoying them greatly, but if i am not careful I will get sick on avacadoes. It is the rainy season and our crops are growing, so our corn will definitely be "knee high by July" which is good news. It is interesting to be a part of a community where life rides on the ammount of crops that your land produces. We pray everyday for crops and rain, something that I used to find myself taking for granted.

Two weekends ago I attended a Youth Seminar in the Bungoma Division and was one of the special guests. This was a really good time of worship, teaching, and fellowship. We arrived on Friday and were welcomed by a group of youth leaders who were there for a youth training seminar. The greeted us with flowers and then had us plant memorial trees on the property. My Captains and I had a very good time dancing and singing with the youth. After dinner, the youth worshipped with singing and dancing late into the night, and it was a beautiful sight to see.

On Saturday and Sunday we held a seminar for all of the youth of the Division and had a good open air meeting and march with these youth. They love to march down the road in their uniforms and sing loudly. Even though the seminar was for teenagers and young adults, about 40 little children came gave me the opportunity to play "What time is it Mr Lion?" (because none of them know what foxes are). At the end of this weekend we were given a turkey which decided to scream the whole ride home and relieve itself all over the white uniform of my captain.

The following weekend we had a meeting for a program called ICPSS (or PSS) which stands for Integrated Community Psycho-Social Support and is a program that works for the Social and Emotional healing of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC's). This program seeks to bring healing to children whose families have been affected by HIV/Aids, extreme poverty, or other factors. This program has been dormant for the past year, since the Kenya Salvation Army split into the East and the West, and currently has no funds. However, there are still many trained facilitators and people who are dedicated to this program so our department is doing what we can to restart it. It was great to have all of these people come together for one purpose and to see their hearts for these youth.

(Sidenote: My showerhead had huge calcium deposits on it so I was attempting to clean it yesterday. I found out online that if you take vinegar, heat it up in the microwave, and then put in the shower head, the vinegar will eat away the calcium. However, I really love salt and vinegar chips and I sniff vinegar whenever it is around. So before heating the vinegar I sniffed it and it was very pleasant and then after heating it I sniffed it and I think I burned some nose hairs or something, because I still feel the after effects in my nose 19 hours later.)

Yesterday, the band led a procession through the entire town of Kakamega in order to plant trees for "Plant Trees Day". This was a good time of ministry and meeting people from other churches and NGOs.

Also, I prepared by first chicken. It was given as a gift to the Commissioners (the head of the Salvation Army in Kenya West) and I was given the opportunity to prepare it as a Kenyan would. It was my first time killing a chicken, and it did not go very smoothly, but it didnt go horribly bad either. I then had the opportunity to partake in the "most delicious" parts of the chicken - its head, neck, and legs.

God has been very good to me and I am feeling more comfortable in Kenya each day. But living alone is starting to get to me. This is the first time that I have ever lived alone, plus I am a community minded person, so it is a little bit hard and strange for me.

Please pray for:
-My family
-Living alone
-My ministry here and that laziness would not overtake me
-For continued rainfall and our crops

Much Love,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

VBS, Seminars, Angry Cows, and Busyness

Hello Friends,
It has been about a month since I have updated and for that I apologize. A mixture of busyness, forgetfulness, and lazyness has caused me to wait so long. But many things have happened. Life if going very quickly now and I am finding my groove here in Kenya West.

Since my last update I have been very busy with a lot of programs. On April 11th We had a meeting for our young people who will be traveling to Sweden next year for the World Youth Convention. We found out that getting passports in Kenya is a very long and tricky process, involving many different government offices and paperwork. So we decided to start now. This was a good time of getting to know some youth from around the Territory. We will be sending 20 youth from our Territory to the Conference, which is an International Salvation Army Youth Conference. We learned a timbrel routine and everyone was amazing at Timbrels, except for the TYS and I.

The following weekend we had a DYO Seminar, which was a seminar for the Divisional Youth Officers (they are in charge of the youth work within an area of the Territory). This was a great time to learn about issues of youth work in the divisions and to teach the DYOs what we expect for them to do. It was an odd feeling because I was treated as their superior (sort of like upper management) even though they are doing all of the actual practical work and are much older than I. I really had a good time with those DYOs.

During the DYO seminar my friends Keri Shay and Kaitlin came to Kakamega to see me. They were traveling around Africa and decided to see the Kenyan Wildlife. It was really nice to see some friends and we went and saw the Crying Stone. Which is a giant stone which constantly cries (duh). While they were here, there was a Territorial Meeting for Self-Denial, which is a meeting where everyone from Kenya West gets together and gives money to The Salvation Army around the world. Our Territory raised over 3 Million Shillings (which is about $40,000). We had a good time dancing and singing with the people of the Territory, and it was a good time of worship and fellowship.
The following weekend I had a chance to be the guest speaker at a Zonal youth meeting. This was a meeting where the youth from 7 different corps (churches) got together and had a crusade (which is a like an open-air march/parade with dancing and singing) and had a youth meeting where they had speakers, teachings, and dances. The youth here love Gospel Dances, which are special dances that are a mixture between contemporary and tradition Kenyan Dances which are set to Christian Praise songs. The highlight of this meeting was the debate that took place. The youth split in two and had a debate on faith and healing, with each side using scripture to support their ideas. It was great to see people using the Bible to make their points and then people correcting others when they used scripture out of context. It was guided by the DYO who ended the debate by teaching them our doctrines.

The following week was a very busy, but great week for me. I was out in the field all week doing VBS with a local corps (church). The Vacation Bible School was for five days and was held the week right before the youth went back to school. I went out into the slums with the corps members and taught the youth about the Bible and played games with them. My favorite part was going on visitations after the lessons. We would walk each child home and pray for them, their house, and their family. To walk one young person home we had to walk over 3 miles, but it was worth it to see him active in the corps.

During VBS, I was playing soccer in a field and there was a cow tied to the goal post eating the grass of the field. Someone kicked the ball and it was headed straight for the cow. so I ran as fast as I could to kick it out of the way before it got to the cow. I reached the ball, kicked it out of the way, and turned my back on the cow, i was about 5 feet from her. The next thing i know, The cow headbutts me on the back of the thigh and puts her head in between my legs, throwing me up onto her back. So, i was attacked by a cow while playing soccer with some 10 year olds.
This past Sunday was a really good service. There was a youth talent show at church which involved 7 gospel dances, many acapella singers, two rap groups, and a young man who drew a bird and a caricature of our officer (pastor). I love being a part of a church that cares so much about their youth, I feel very honored and fortunate.

Also, in the past month my dad and his wife had a baby and I now have a little brother. His name is Titus.

I have a new favorite store in Kakamega. It is a wedding store and out in front is a sign that says "We sell everything you need for Weddings" and underneath is a list of things that they sell. Number 2 on the list is Boyz 2 Men.

Please pray for:
-Useful and creative ideas
-The Youth of my Territory
-My Family

Much Love,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Work, music, parades, and Obama bubble gum

Hello Internet,
It has been two weeks since I have updated and many things have happened. (However, I am a horrible photographer due to the fact that I hardly ever remember to carry around my camera. So, many of the things I will talk about have no pictures, for that I am sorry).

I am currently the only person in the youth department. The TYS is on leave, so right now I am the Kenya West Youth Department. I have been learning what it means to work in an office and am starting to understand it. It is a lot different than the jobs I have had before, but I am enjoying it. Also, I can now tell you exactly what my job is, since I now know. The job I am doing is pretty much the Assistant Territorial Youth Secretary. I plan and run territorial and divisional events for youth, training sessions, work with our youth who will be doing missions in different capacities, teach leaders, teach and grade corps cadets, teach music, and many other tasks. It is a big job, but one that I am very happy with. I see the good that it will do, with God’s help.

Two Saturdays ago I went to a Salvation Army funeral for an officer (pastor). She died from a heart attack due to complications from diabetes. The funeral was held at her family's home and it was amazing to see the amount of officers and soldiers (laity) who came out to support the family and pay respects to the Major. The service was a little over three hours long, which apparently is very short compared to most West Kenyan funerals, and was filled with a surprising amount of joy. We celebrated her life and thanked God for her life.

The following weekend, I spent time working on my shamba, which means land, where I have been given space to grow vegetables and beans. The family that I share the shamba with had me plant about 200 seeds of corn. We will definitely not run out of corn.

I am also now a member of two Salvation Army brass bands, playing the baritone. I am a member of the Kakamega corps brass band and the United Band, which has members from all over the territory. The United band has about 50 members but, since they pay for their own travel and expenses, many do not make it to all of the practices. Yesterday, I had a chance to march in the opening ceremony for the Physically Disabled Sports Competition which is taking place in Kakamega. The Salvation Army band led the procession through the town to the soccer stadium where the competition was held. It was wonderful to watch young children with disabilities have a chance to compete and be encouraged. My favorite event was when young children with Down Syndrome ran the 100 meters. The referee yelled “twende” (go) and then the children ran while their coaches ran along side them smiling and clapping, telling them what a good job they were doing.

I am currently working on a lot of different seminars and teaching sessions that are coming up. This weekend I have a territorial youth seminar, the following weekend I have a Division Youth Officers (DYS) seminar and a Territorial Self-Denial meeting, followed by a week of Vacation Bible School, divisional music meetings, and a youth weekend in a city called Bungoma. I have a busy time coming up, but I know God will use me and has a plan for it all.

Yesterday, I saw a semi stacked with speakers playing incredibly loud rap music. When they reached my window I saw a giant banner of Obama’s face. Later I found out that this was a marketing campaign for Obama brand Bubble Gum.

this is my house

This is a baboon.

Please pray for:
- Learning Kiswahili
- Patience and understanding with cultural differences and misunderstandings
- Strength to fully commit to all that God has planned for me

Much love,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Youth, Open-Airs, and Bags of Chicken

Greetings from Kenya! My first full week was filled with office work. I needed to acquaint myself with the Territory, its procedures, the youth, and prepare for a divisional youth weekend which was held in the Eldoret Division. This was a youth weekend which consisted of youth leader training on Friday, youth seminars and an open air on Saturday, and an open air and worship service on Sunday.

I must admit that being in the office all week was kind of getting me down. I am not much of an “office” kind of guy and I was really questioning why I was here and why God would bring me across the world just to sit in an office. But then I was able to go out and meet the youth and I knew it was all worth it. I was encouraged that my office work was for a purpose and I gained energy from being with the youth. The youth openly welcomed me as there own and made me feel at home (the TYS always tells them that I am now a Kenyan and should be treated as one).

There has been very little leadership development or seminars in this Territory and it was amazing to see so many leaders eager and willing to grow in their knowledge of leading youth.

The open air meetings that we had were like none I have ever been a part of. We marched through the entire town of Turbo for about an hour and then held an open air meeting in the city center. The meeting was about an hour long and consisted almost entirely of singing and dancing. Everyone was dancing and having a good time (I was dancing too, but I know my white boy moves are much different then they are used to. I don't quite have the hip movements down yet.) Turbo is a town with a lot of drunkenness and prostitution and just by dancing with these people we were able to meet and encourage many. Many of the drunkards marched with us back to the corps (church) building and one, Emmanuel, gave his life to Christ and attended church the next morning.

I was in charge of co-leading the leadership training where we taught about leading good and attractive meetings, what are the qualities of a good leader, and what purity in our lives looks like as leaders. For the youth seminars, I taught one on abstinence and one on praise and worship. Our teachings were received well and we were already invited back to the division to teach more sessions to the youth and leaders. The young are hungry for more events, knowledge, and materials and we will do our best to meet the need of the youth.
I now feel more African. I am picking up some kiswahili, i am eating Kenyan foods (like ugali, sukumawiki, and kuku), and I am starting to get used to the way of life here. Praise God that, so far, the language barrier has not been a problem (I spoke without translation to the youth) and that I am feeling more comfortable and "at home", except for when I am stared at as I walk down the street and called "Muzungu", which means European.

We were given a gift of a chicken, so we put it in a plastic bag and threw it in the trunk.
Please pray for:
-A learning spirit
-Wisdom in what to invest time in
-Willingness to work
-To learn Kiswahili
-For the Vacation Bible School program we are currently planning
Much love