Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mountain Sighting

I lift my eyes up to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” – Psalm 121:1

It’s winter here in Kenya, which means that in the central province where I live it’s cold and cloudy and misty most every day. Mt. Kenya, which I can usually see from my front porch, has been covered with clouds for the last 2 months. Lately I’ve found myself forgetting it’s even there anymore. Last week though, while I was sitting on my porch cuddling a hot water bottle and nursing a cup of hot tea to try to stay warm and feeling a little down, just for a moment, the clouds began to slowly part. As I watched them graciously step aside, there, bathed in pink and gold evening light and standing just as strong and majestic as ever, was The Mountain. I quickly called to Ruth to come out and look, and the two of us stood together gazing at that glorious sight, receiving the beautiful gift the Lord was beaming to us and soaking in His love and goodness.Then, all too soon, signaling the end of the most spectacular drama we’d witnessed in months, the cloud curtain fell and all was misty and gray again.

It’s hard to describe what that brief glimpse of the mountain has done for my soul. After so many weeks of dreary, cold, plodding days, the kind where I act out of obedience rather than passion, out of faithfulness rather than fire, where at the end of the day I sometimes forget to take my glasses off before wearily falling into bed and then I wake up a few hours later with their shape imprinted on the side of my face, that brief mountain sighting reminded me that beyond the clouds, through the plodding and misty hardships of this life, there He always is, gloriously loving me and standing strong for me even when I’m tired and don’t see it. 

And the thing is, it was just a glimpse. The clouds did close in and the mountain is once again hidden. But my plodding feels less heavy now. I can step lighter because He has given me just the small bit of encouragement I needed. Even when I can't see past the mist, He is there. He sees my plodding and what it sometimes is costing me even when others don't, and He is faithful and steadfast and true through it all.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

March in Zambia

I spent the month of March on a working vacation in Zambia. I say “working vacation” because Ruth and I were asked to go support the work of Kids Alive there, and while we were still as busy as ever, it was rather nice to have a change of scenery and become acquainted with another arm of the ministry. I spent most of my time working with the sponsorship coordinators and pestering everyone with my camera and questions for some stories and photos I was collecting for the US office.  It was great to meet and work with some of the extended Kids Alive Family and learn about what God is doing in their beautiful country. We were even able to break away for two days to see Victoria Falls and walk with some full grown lions in Livingstone!

Here are a few highlights of the month:


  Visiting the two Kids Alive community schools in Mongu, western Zambia. Every day Kids Alive provides free education and lunch to more than 700 of the poorest children in this area.


Spending time at the Msisi Care Center, where Kids Alive offers counseling, scholarships, after school support, lunch and hope for a brighter future to more than 50 children who reside in one of Lusaka’s largest slum areas

Getting to know some of the devoted staff members who have committed their lives to loving and raising more than 80 beautiful children in Kids Alive’s full time residential program. What an honor to have been able to spend the month learning from these remarkable people.

Being present when a huge gust of wind ripped the entire roof off of the boys’ home during a freak thunderstorm, throwing it onto the nearby powerlines. God protected us in that no one was hurt, and I was able to use our car to drive through the storm to the power company and have the electricity turned off immediately. Not a happy highlight, but definitely a memorable moment! If you’d like to help Kids Alive put a new roof on the boys’ home, please visit: 
Seeing Victoria Falls: The Smoke that Thunders

Walking and playing with two full grown lionesses in Livingstone – definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

Overall it was a great month. I learned a lot, made some new friends, had some very memorable experiences and hopefully was able to make a positive contribution to the ministry there!

Now back to work here in Kenya – we have several busy months ahead of us!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Journey Continues

My journey of trusting God through uncertainty, and learning to be present and grateful in the times and places He allows me to be, is not yet over.  I think in my lifetime that journey probably won’t ever be fully complete, as I’ve been learning and exploring the depths of trust and gratitude for many years, and every time I think I've "got it down", He takes me even deeper, but this particular season of uncertainty over my immigration status is definitely not yet over. God has been again proving Himself to be so good and faithful however, and I have seen Him answer my prayers in small yet very tangible ways in these last two months.
For example, Ruth and I were asked to spend the month of March serving in the Kids Alive programs in Zambia (More about that in an upcoming post), and because the chaos of the recent elections effectively shut down almost all government offices for the past 3 months, my Kenyan work permit has still not been approved. So leaving to go to Zambia would mean having to obtain another visitors’ visa upon my return to Kenya, something that, without an approved work permit, gets harder every time I leave the country. After a lot of prayer, I decided that I would “just go” and trust that if God wanted me to be allowed back into Kenya, He would make it happen.
After a wonderful month with our partners in Zambia, as we boarded our return flight from Lusaka, I began to feel very nervous about how I would be received at the the immigration desk in Nairobi. I spent the entire flight (except for the one hour when I fell asleep listening to a random bollywood film soundtrack) praying that the officer would be kind and I would be granted another visa without being harassed like I was last time (in January the officer questioned me for almost 20 minutes, threatened to arrest me, and then gave me a visa that was only valid for 3 weeks).   I asked God to help me word my visa application in a way that was truthful, but would raise the smallest number of questions.
 When it came time to make the application, I nervously began filling in my details as always, but when I came to the line where I was asked to list my occupation, a thought, very much from outside myself, popped into my head. To my surprise, instead of “Missionary” or “NGO volunteer”, the words I usually use to describe my profession, my pen formed the word “Writer”. Writer? I suppose I do write for work quite a bit, I thought– reports for donors, newsletters about our programs, stories about the kids for their sponsors, this blog – but I never ever in my life have considered myself to be a  professional writer of any sort. Because the thought was so clearly not mine, and because the more I thought about it the more I realized it was technically true, I decided to go with it and see what would happen. Well it worked! The immigration officer was the kindest I’ve had yet, and he accepted my application without any queries. We chatted about the weather in Nyeri this time of year; he asked me if I’ve learned to speak any Kikuyu yet. I smiled and tried (probably rather ridiculously) to be as charming as possible - and that was it! Stamped!  Approved! Just like that. No harassing, no threats. No ulcers. Three more months (that I will in NO WAY take for granted) to legally be in this place to which God has so clearly called me. I walked down the stairs to baggage claim wearing what Ruth said was the biggest smile she’d seen from me in weeks, inwardly shouting praises to God for His clear intervention, grace, kindness and favor.
Maybe this example seems small and insignificant, but to me it’s huge. It was such an immediate, perfect answer to my prayers and proof that God IS working all things toward His good purposes. True, He didn’t miraculously open the government offices and compel the officials to go to work and approve my work permit. He didn’t blind the immigration officers and let me walk across the border undetected. My status here is still very tenuous. But He did miraculously show up right when I needed Him most, calming my nerves and giving me exactly the words (or I suppose just the one word) I needed right when I needed them. He is faithful and his timing is perfect. I am beyond grateful. Amen.
P.S. The next time I freak out about my future and forget about being grateful and trusting His faithfulness (which in all honesty could be as early as tomorrow), if you wouldn’t mind, someone please show me this post? Thanks so much :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Learning through Uncertainty

The end of October, November and the beginning of December were possibly my busiest times so far with Kids Alive Kenya. For about 7 weeks, I was kept on my toes hosting back to back teams from the US, UK and Taiwan. Each team brought its own small challenges, but each team also brought huge blessing, encouragement and new partnerships for Kids Alive Kenya and for me personally. It’s exciting to watch the direction in which the Lord is taking this organization, and the hearts He is touching and bringing together around the world to help make the vision of KAK a reality.

Two days after the last team left the country, I flew to Michigan to spend Christmas with my family. My time in the States was greatly needed, and it was wonderful to be able to spend time with my family and a few friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for several years.

Upon my arrival back in Kenya last week, as I drove from the airport to the Nairobi guesthouse where I was to spend the night, a strange feeling came over me. It was one I’ve only ever felt in my life when I’ve been travelling to a very familiar place like my childhood home or my family’s Lake house. A feeling of comfort, peace and belonging. I was a little surprised by this feeling, as my life in Kenya has never really felt particularly certain or comfortable. Being the only American in a town of people who mostly have never interacted with someone outside their tribe (let alone their country) has often caused me to feel foreign and out of place. While I should be used to it by now, I still feel a little uncomfortable when every time I walk through town I’m met with open mouthed stares, whispers as I walk past, marriage proposals from drunk men  and shouts of “hey white person!”. So I was confused by this “belonging” feeling that came over me, but after I slept off my jetlag and had time to analyze it, I realized that it was a gift from the Lord for a moment that could have been filled with anxiety and stress, and a reminder that as long as I continue to follow closely after Him, I will always be exactly where He wants me – which is exactly where I belong.

 I applied for a Kenyan work permit over a year ago, but because of a lot of complicated, extenuating circumstances, I still haven’t been approved (despite the fact that all I want to do is to work as an unpaid volunteer for an organization that cares for Kenyan orphans). What this means is that every time I leave the country, it gets harder for me to obtain another visitor’s visa to get back in. This time the immigration officer I met at the border issued me a visa for only one month instead of the usual three, and said that if my permit isn’t approved by the first week of February, I’ll have to leave the country and possibly never be allowed back in again.

It’s been a week since my return, and very little progress has been made toward my approval, which has left me in a state of extreme uncertainty. Will I be leaving Kenya in 3 weeks?  Should I start packing and looking for flights? If I have to leave, will I ever be allowed back in? God, why is this happening – don’t you want me here anymore? If not, then where do you want me?

And yet, as I've been churning these questions over and over in my mind, that peaceful "belonging" feeling hasn't quite left me. And through all of this, a twofold theme has been surfacing in my devotions, conversations and prayer life: the importance of gratitude and being present. The immediate future may be very uncertain, but into my worry-filled thoughts this week, God has been gently whispering that while I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, He does. He does. So I shouldn’t waste today with worrying about tomorrow, but rather focus on and be grateful for the gifts and tasks He’s given to me for today. Easier said than done, I know, but if He is teaching it to me, then I have full confidence that He’ll give me what I need to put it into practice.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Day in My Life

This week, Ruth and I have been travelling around to all of the Kids Alive Kenya homes for various reasons. It’s been so wonderful to spend time with these other members of the KAK family, as well as sort out several things with different people face to face.
When I have the opportunity to talk to friends and family in the States, I'm often asked "so what did you do today?" and when I say things like "I went to the supermarket in town",  they ask "is that it?" and I often feel guilty, like I need more to show for my day, but well, yes. That's all I did today. It often takes more time to complete everyday tasks here than it does in the USA, and often what I set out to do in a day is not at all what I had planned in the first place. Here's an example:

When I arrived at the Nyamarambe home two days ago, I had planned to use my time there to take photos of the kids and staff in their daily routines, collect some stories for a newsletter I’m writing, talk with the home manager about the plans for the Library we’re putting into that home this year and discuss the possibility of sending some service teams there next summer.
When I arrived however, I received a text from the Nairobi office asking me to follow up on some missing progress report photos that needed to be sent to US sponsors a few weeks ago. After some investigating, I learned that the photos had been taken, but the memory card of the camera that had been used was corrupted, making it impossible for the home to send the needed pictures, and the students had all returned to their boarding schools. After some discussion on how we could best obtain the missing photos, the home manager told me that one of the students whose photo we were missing was at a boarding school about 20 kilometers away, and we could travel there the following morning so that I could take the photo and send it in that afternoon. He said the journey would take about 2 hours total, roundtrip.
The next morning I left the home at about 8:30 am on the home’s motorbike and waited in a nearby village as the driver went back for the manager. Once he arrived, we caught two more motor bikes to the nearest town, where we caught a matatu (public transport van) to the town nearest the student’s school. From there we took two more motorbikes to her school where the headmistress allowed us 5 minutes with our student to say hellow and snap our photo. After our brief visit with her, we were released to make our return journey by the same means as we’d come. Along the way I received many puzzled stares (white girls don't usually ride motorbikes around here. If they come here at all, they're usually in airconditioned landrovers with Kenyan drivers), had “mzungu!” (white person!) and “how-ah-you!” yelled at me countless times by children and adults alike, and received one proposition of marriage. I ltold the man as graciously as I could “thank you very much, but no. I do not want to become your second wife and take you to America".
We finally arrived back at the home, very dusty, tired and hungry, but triumphant at having completed our mission of taking one photo, at around 4:30 pm. What a day. Now I just have to figure out how to get the other 10 missing photos J

Friday, September 28, 2012

Recent Snapshots

Bittersweet moments

Just before take-off at O’Hare International Airport: Saying a teary goodbye to my family (not sure when I’ll see them next) while my Kenyan boss who hasn’t seen her family in weeks stands by and watches…
Just After Landing in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport: My Kenyan boss has a teary reunion with her family while I stand by and watch….

The price of cross-cultural ministry?

Don’t put me in that box!
"How do you know how to make fire?!” – one of my girls exclaiming as they all stare in wonder at my bonfire making skills

“Where did you learn to dance like that?!” – Another one of my girls astonished that I can salsa
"You know how to use an electric sander?!” – the maintenance man when I asked him if I could borrow it to help refinish my kitchen floor

Belatedly realizing I have an audience of about 30 kids/staff while I’m climbing on top of the Ambulance in my Sunday dress to get the spare tire down because the brand new one has two giant thorns stuck in it. “Meladeeth!  Be careful! You’ll get your hands dirty!”
I’m not sure where this “white girls can’t do anything” misconception came from, but apparently lately I’m all about breaking it.

If I had a million dollars
Realizing I need a tissue as tears stream down my face while typing up a new child sponsorship enrollment form for a girl at Hall Mead School*.  She comes to my Bible study each week, and has only recently begun sharing her story with me.  I so wish we could bring her into our full-time residential program. She has the best smile and heart for Jesus. Wants to be a doctor one day. “Thank you Lord that this girl will now have two nutritious meals, school supplies and a quality education at Hall Mead School. Please continue to protect and guide her as she heads up her household of a younger sister and mentally disabled mother in the nearby community.

This Beautiful Life
After a long day at the office, sitting in my front garden with a cup of tea, watching the sky change color over the peak of Mt. Kenya. Birds singing. Kids laughing across back field as they head to the dining room for supper.

Lord, it’s moments like these that remind me of the beauty of this place to which you’ve sent me. Thank you.

A Few Prayer Requests

-          Praise that my time in the States in July was so refreshing, and we raised about half of the needed funds for the new classrooms at Maranatha week

-          Praise for new relationships and friendships that are finally beginning to form

-          Please continue to pray for my Bible Study with the middle school girls here

-          We have several teams coming to serve with us in the next few months! Pray that the preparations for their stay will go smoothly, and that their time will be one of mutual encouragement and that God would be glorified through their visits.

*If you’d like to sponsor this girl or another Kenyan child like her, please visit:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Michigan Summer

It's been a little too long since my last update and I apologize for that.  I've been a rather busy girl the last few months. June was spent running around to all of the 5 KAK homes taking photos of all of our kids to send to their sponsors, writing newsletters, collecting stories, hosting guests, planning for future teams and getting everything ready for my 5 weeks trip to the US.

My brother Drew married his college sweetheart in Fort Atkinson Wisconsin on July 14th, and the Lord graciously allowed me to be there for the amazingly special, joyful and God honoring day. Since then, I've been blessed to be able to lay low for the last few weeks at my family's summer cottage on Lake Michigan in Muskegon, MI. This has been a very timely and needed space for me to rest, gain some perspective and recharge for the work God has called me to do. Spending so much quality time with family and close friends (some of whom I haven't seen or heard from in more than a year) has been so good for my heart. I've also LOVED being able to attend church and worship services in English! Not only has it been such a blessing to be able to fully understand what the preacher is saying, there's just something about praising God in ones' own "heart language" that is so soul-filling.

I can't believe my  time in the States is almost come to an end. This coming week is Kids Alive Week at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference, and I will be participating in some presentations along with other Kids Alive staff members as we seek to raise the funds to build a kitchen and dining hall for our Hall Mead School in central Kenya. Hall Mead currently serves about 320 children from our residential care programs and the local community, providing a quality, subsidized education, nutrition and care for those precious children who otherwise would not be able to afford to go to school. Right now the "kitchen" is a lean-to shack on the back end of the school compound, and the "dining hall" is the grassy school yard.  It is our hope that this week at Maranatha we will be able to raise the funds to build a proper kitchen and dining hall for our kids and staff.

After Maranatha week, I have about 3 days and then I'm on a plane back to Nairobi. I'm really looking forward to getting back to my Kenyan "routine, seeing friends and all of "my" kids again and getting back to the work and life I've been called to there.

 For scheduling and funding reasons, I don't know when the next time I'll be able to visit the States will be, and so my ticket back to Kenya is "one way" - yikes! Now, I do LOVE my job and life in Kenya, but not knowing when I'll see my American family and friends next is kindof a scary and sad thought for me. Not having that safety net of a return flight is probably a good thing for me though I think - it's teaching me to trust God in a new, deeper way....more on that later :)

Some Prayer Requests:
 - That the Lord would bless our time at Maranatha and we'd be able to raise the necessary funds for our school project
 - that He would use us to be a blessing and inspiration to the guests, residents and staff at Maranatha.
 - Praise for my time at "home"
 - That I would be able to leave here with a fresh perspective and new energy for my work in Kenya
 - travelling mercies