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:
- 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,
JUSTIN ARTHUR ROSE III