26 August 2010


I (Heather) think I'm just beginning to sense the scope of transition that our lives have gone through in the last month.  I'm sitting here in front of a beautiful, roaring fire (it's in the low 50's here at night) trying to make sense of everything that we've seen and experienced in the last month.  I haven't written anything thoughtful lately because it's been hard to know what to write.  My mind feels so full.

Of change.  

There's the practical side: lots of little differences in our daily lives add up to a big adjustment.  Very little in the grocery store looks familiar.  The power goes out.  The plumbing is different (if there is any).  No clothes drier, no dishwasher, and a completely different house.

And there's the experiential side.  Traffic is less than orderly, and while we aren't driving ourselves, it's still tiring trying to make sense of it.  We see building after building made of concrete or mud bricks, bars on the windows and doors, tin roof on top, sometimes cheerily painted, but certainly no nice little two bedroom vinyl-sided ranch-style homes with flower beds out front in a nice neighborhood with sidewalks.  It's a challenge to comprehend an almost entirely different way of life that we are now surrounded by.

A few more big changes are happening on Monday.  Aside from Faith heading off to kindergarten, two Kenyans will begin working for our family.  Hannah will help me inside every morning Monday through Friday, as well as two additional afternoons every week, and Edward will be taking care of our yard three days a week and will also start a garden for us.  We've known we would be hiring two workers to help with the additional daily effort that is required to live in Kenya, but we really hadn't decided what to think about it until just the last few days.

You see, it's a bit strange to come from the states as a low-income family to be one of the wealthiest families around.  Yep, in Colorado, because of the size of our family, the salary Jim received as a teacher, and my choice to stay home with our children, we qualified for heating assistance, food assistance, and healthcare assistance.  That was one way the Lord provided for us and allowed us not to worry over our finances, and we were thankful and never ashamed.  And here we are in Africa, probably at the same level of frugality (by American standards), on the other side of the spectrum.

On our first full day here at the school, it began.  A knock on the door.  "Hodi?" (Anybody home?)  A Kenyan man introduces himself and lets us know he is available to work in our yard for us.  We tell him we are new and we will think about it, but we want to wait a little bit before making a decision.  More men come each day.  We have written the names and phone numbers down of eight or ten men over the last week.  Some return, a few days after our first meeting, wondering if we have made a choice.  Most have no work at all right now.  They each hope that we will choose them.  They each hope that we will be the ones to help feed and support their families, send their children to school (school is not provided without cost here, nor is it required: it is a privilege), and maybe a little more than that.  All of a sudden, we find ourselves wondering...

How can we choose only one of them?

And we find our hearts have turned from pride in our abilities,
We've always enjoyed, and have been capable of, gardening, cooking, and keeping up our home.

To humility in the role we will play in these two lives, that we were first so reluctant to accept.  
We'll be their employers.  Their whole livelihood.  Probably for many more people than just themselves.

The Lord has provided us with great material wealth, and while our expendable income is far from endless, a little goes a long way here and we've been given a big job to be good stewards with what we've been given.

Suddenly, it doesn't seem too difficult to step aside and allow myself to be served in my home and to be helped with all of the simple, yet constant, needs around me.  Yes, I can do dishes and chop up vegetables myself, but Hannah would also be honored if I allowed her to do it.  Jim could keep a wonderful garden, but Edward will be happy when we enjoy salads and vegetable from the garden that he planted and cares for every week just for us.

We will be blessed by spending time with them, becoming friends, hearing their stories, and letting them teach us a little more about living in Kenya.  And we will be blessed by the lightening of our load here in Kenya.

While this change will certainly be challenging, and I'll probably just want to "do it myself" at least a few times,

I can't help but feel 
                                that this change 
                                                           will be good.

24 August 2010

The last bit of ABO

Before we move on to life here at RVA too quickly, there are a few more experiences of ABO that we'd like to share in pictures.  

One evening we went for a home visit.  The intention was to go just for chai, but we weren't surprised to stay for supper as well.  We drove to another local bible college and spent time with Pastor Jeremiah, his wife Rosemary, and two children, Faith (4) and Mercy (3).  (The house helper we are thinking of hiring actually attended this school and Jeremiah was one of her teachers!)  Here are Faith and Faith!  Not many of the pictures turned out well, but Faith and Joel had a good time playing in the dirt with the other children, loved looking around the yard and chasing the chickens.  
Here are Faith and Mercy, and another kid who happened to be around!  They are very sweet, energetic kids.
One of the traditional ABO events is the celebration supper.  I helped decorate, while others in the group helped prepare the meal.  We enjoyed a more western-style menu, and had a wonderful time fellowshipping with one another.
The centerpieces were animal chains that Faith's class made, here she is with hers.
Here is Faith in her class... they learned about one country and one animal every day.  (Among many other things...)
Here's the rest of the classroom.  Doesn't it look like fun?!
On Faith's last day of class, all the kids held the "Mumbuni Market."  The kids sold all of their crafts from the three weeks, mostly to their parents!  Faith sold quite a bit to us, but chose a few pictures she colored to sell to other people.  She loved to dress up and enjoyed it very much.
Here she is with her wares.
The group went out for one last soccer game.  There was a group of pretty rowdy local boys.  I left before I got knocked over by their enthusiasm for my camera!
Here's our dorm that we called home for three weeks.  
And to save the embarrassing one for last... here's our cozy room.  I think we were in the middle of packing up, but really, we didn't keep it much cleaner than this!  It was a challenge living out of two suitcases with not much else to keep things clean and organized.  Made our homecoming here at RVA that much sweeter! 

19 August 2010

Our new house!

We said goodbye on Tuesday to many of these great people at Africa Based Orientation and headed to RVA!  The drive was an incredible climb out of Nairobi to the 7500 foot elevation of Rift Valley Academy.  It was a beautiful drive and we enjoyed every minute of it.  We were met by our host and hostess and went right to our house!
This is us!  It is one of the older houses on campus with lots of character, but coming from a very old house in Colorado, we feel right at home!  The yard is beautiful and large, and the same can be said for the inside.  We'll have some inside pictures soon.  The solar panels on the roof are for heating our water, and there are many other distinctly "Africa" features of the house that we'll have to tell you about soon too.
Here is the front yard.  We have a wonderful hedge to keep the kids contained, and the family before us built this fort in the front yard, which Faith and Joel have really been enjoying!  There's also a "sand" (aka dirt) box and a swing in the tree in the right side of the photo.  It's just perfect.
Here's Joel in the living room enjoying a "long-lost" book with his teddy bears.
We are at the tail end of the wet season, so the yard will begin to dry up now, but there are quite a few flowers that we can still enjoy.  We just need to keep the kids from picking them all!

Jim is enjoying getting a few glimpses of new birds.  There's a bird feeder/bird bath in the front yard as well, and he's been taking notes on which plants seem to attract different birds.
I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I decided to settle right in to my kitchen and try my hand at an African angel food cake today... it was good stress relief, with interesting results.  I couldn't quite get the egg whites whipped well enough with the hand beater, yet it seemed to bake up fluffy enough.  It is very sticky, and I think maybe the cream of tartar, cinnamon and cloves that I brought in plastic baggies might have absorbed some chili powder taste that was in another bag close by!  But it is definitely still good enough to enjoy for the next few days, and it was good to build my confidence a little for baking here!  (We have been provided all of our dinner meals so far, so we haven't cooked much at all.)
This is Mount Longonot, out across the Rift Valley, at sunset last night.  One of many beautiful sunsets to come here.  We are so glad to be home!

09 August 2010


A few days ago we went for a little hike close by.  Some of the group went all the way to the top of a nearby mountain, we went a little ways with the kids and turned around after the first part.  Here's some photos of the way back down.  It was beautiful, and we loved getting out for a little bit.

In other news, our dorm room smells like a dorm room, the kids are becoming well-adjusted with meal times and all the people, in almost a week we will see our home, and today some of us even visited a mosque, headscarves and all.  We are being crammed full of wonderful information, so pray for time to process and really absorb everything!  

06 August 2010

Machakos town

Here are a few pictures that were taken by the family that traveled with us into Machakos.  Hope it helps you get a better feel for what it's like here!

05 August 2010

Africa Based Orientation

Well, we've been here at "ABO" for nine days now, with twelve days to go.  We're not counting, but we are excited to see our new home soon!  We've been learning quite a bit, the kids are enjoying their classes, we are enjoying the Kenyan food, and figuring out how to adjust in this VERY new environment.  Today is a day off, so we have been playing on the swings, treated the kids to a soda from the duka (little shop), and will try to go for a hike this afternoon.

For those of you who were aware of the election that took place yesterday here in Kenya, things seem to be going well today.  The vote was much more one-sided this time, which will hopefully keep things peaceful.

Here are some photos and stories from our time here so far.

This is the view out our dorm window in the mornings.  Machakos is a beautiful, more rural (in comparison to Nairobi) area of Kenya.  It's nice to see a few hills and mountains!

Here's a typical meal... lunch or dinner.  Clockwise from the top:  sukuma wiki (a sauteed mix of greens, tomato and onion); fried fish (that was unexpected... very yummy, and we've had it twice now); boiled potatoes; ugali (a stiff maize meal cooked... umm... thing.); and stewed vegetables.  We also have rice, chapati, other types of stew, and lots of vegetables.  There's definitely a difference, and Faith said she was ready for me to cook for her again, but we are all four enjoying trying new things.  Breakfast is bread with butter, honey, peanut butter, or jam, as well as the occasional sausage, hard boiled egg, or cornflakes with hot milk, which the kids surprisingly love.

Here's Joel and his class, playing with milk box cars out on the basketball court.  He and Faith are learning about different African countries each day, as well as a little Swahili, culture, and other "kid versions" of the topics mommy and daddy are learning about.  A few times we've woken up to Faith teaching Joel different Swahili words and asking him to repeat her.  It's pretty cute!

We have a swing set and a see-saw here on Scott Theological College's campus.  We have about an hour to play with the kids before supper, and we can often be found at the playground!

There is a soccer field just outside the gate, and one evening we walked down for a game of kickball.  A few local women keep a fruit stand by the gate, and the kids enjoyed getting a pre-supper banana.  We'll have to try the pineapple sometime soon too!

If you know Jim, you know he's a pretty fun daddy.  Faith wanted to join in the game, but was pretty small compared to everyone else.  She did kick the ball once and ran on her own, but after that she was content to ride around the bases with Jim.

This was just yesterday evening, we went down to play a Kenyan team in soccer.  Faith enjoyed exploring in the grasses while watching daddy play.

The last time we had an afternoon off, we ventured into the town of Machakos.  "Downtown" is about a mile away, so we walked into town.  This is the local grocery store where we bought a few extra things for the kids, but the picture doesn't do it justice for how busy it was!  We had to really be assertive to get that far down the aisle!  It was the last day of the month, which is typically payday, so I think everyone was doing their shopping.  We'll have to go again at a quieter time!

We also walked down the road to the open-air market.  We looked around, bought a piece of fabric to use as a picnic blanket, and talked with a few people.  There were a few kids around who enjoyed meeting Faith.  Jim has so much fun talking to the locals, kids and adults alike... he's a natural!

For the way home, we decided to get brave and try out the local transportation.  This is a tuk-tuk.  It's a three-wheeled motorbike with a bench in the back, with canvas covering a metal frame.  We rode in this with another family of four... it was crowded!  It was quite an adventure, and we've been riding around since, but that first time is always interesting!

As fun as this all looks, it's tiring, stressful, and not too easy to get used to living here.  The home we knew feels very far away, and we long for the day when our hearts know this as home.  We know that day will come, but until then, we're just taking it one day at a time and remembering with faith that we have been called here!  Jim's mom sent this wonderful quote yesterday.  A good reminder of the right attitude of service:

"There is no place we can go where Christ is not already at work before us--no nation, no home, no place of work or entertainment, no hospital, no place where the homeless; unemployed, and untended sick huddle together.  We do not have to go into the hostile and callously indifferent world anxiously, defensively, or belligerently.  We can go thankfully, confidently, and joyfully, because we go not to take but to meet Him."  Dr. Shirley Guthrie