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