About Impact

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 9, Part 2

After a great morning at the Chokichok school, we walked back to the house to pack up our gear and head back to Lodwar. It was tough to say goodbye to our new friends who were already like family. So hard that I'm pretty sure we said we were leaving 14 times before we actually did!
Family photo! Bill with Erus and his family.
The whole gang!
Back in Lodwar, we all enjoyed a cold shower and some food before catching our plane to Nairobi. We were all pretty tired when we got back to the guesthouse and were grateful Bill postponed our departure to Narok until the next morning.

Our time in Chokichok was by far my highlight of our trip. I'm still striving to find the words to articulate that experience. Hopefully they will come soon so I can help you understand how great the experience was. I'm not sure that will happen though. I guess you all better plan on making the trip for yourself!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 9

All of the schools we had visited up to this point in the trip were private schools run by Missions of Hope International. Today was the first government school we were able to visit and the differences was startling.

The school in Chokichok didn't have enough teachers, classroom space or supplies. Community members were volunteering their time to teach due to the shortage of teachers. As many as three classes may meet in the church at one time and when it got too loud the class would search for what little shade there was to have class outside. I only saw one chalkboard eraser in the entire school and was a little upset with myself that I didn't pack any in the huge box of supplies we brought. There is no running water at the school. Children walk a couple miles to get water if they run out during the day. The government doesn't always deliver food on time for school lunches so students often chose to stay home instead of attending school.

Despite all of these set backs, and many others I didn't share, there are several parents and community leaders that are striving to provide the local children with an education. The teachers were passionate about the opportunity they had to teach and the students were eager to learn. It was fun to visit with each class.

Singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with the grade 1 class
And let me say these students looked great in their new uniforms!

This girl was all smiles the entire day!
After visiting all the classes the entire school gathered in the courtyard for an assembly. Parents came with baskets to give us as a way of saying thank you for visiting and providing uniforms and school supplies. The students sang songs and selected a student to give a thank you speech. It was a wonderful assembly...and very warm!
Saying thank you on behalf of the students
I'm pretty sure if we let these two spend much time together everyone would be laughing!
An incredibly humbling experience. I almost cried!
Thank you to all of our students and alumni who helped provide these uniforms! You really have no idea how much of a difference it makes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 8-9

In Kenya there is a phrase, "The Big 5" that people often reference, which I'll tell you more about later. During one of our pre-trip team meetings we came up with a Turkana Big 5 or all the things we might not want to see while sleeping outside in Chokichok. Things like sand fleas, scorpions, snakes (think spitting cobras), spiders (think hunting spiders), and 'squitoes (mosquitoes).

When our team returned from our trip to Lake Turkana, we prepared our mats and settled in a bit before dinner. Erus' wife had prepared a wonderful feast of rice and goat and chai. There was so much food! After dinner we called it a night and went to sleep under the moon. It was just a few days past the full moon so the sky was bright and most of the stars had disappeared, except for the Southern Cross. I was far to excited to sleep so I did a little journaling and watched the stars and moon move across the sky before I finally fell asleep.

The girls asked me to sleep on the end because they thought if any of the Turkana Big 5 found us, the creatures would find me first and I wasn't as scared as they were. They also made me check the outhouse for creatures.
We woke up the next morning to the sounds of roosters all around the village talking to each other. While we did wake up up with a few bug bites, this guy didn't bother us but he did get into a hut and found a place to keep warm during the nights strong winds.
While we were having chai in the morning, we asked Jeff to read a little bit from 1 Samuel for us. We three girls had been reading through the book each night and whenever we had some down time together.
Then a handful of people from the church came to visit. Bill and Erus translated for us and we had a great time. We all learned a little bit more about the walking sticks and stools the Turkana men carry with them and Jeff and Eric got their very own stools.
After many laughs it was time to pack up our beds and head to school. On the way I learned how to carry baskets like the Turkana women. It might be awhile before I can carry a 30 pound tote like my friend.
We didn't spend much time at Erus' home but every moment there was amazing. I will forever cherish that night in the desert. Tomorrow I'll share about the our visit at the school.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 8

The morning of day 8 I was very excited because we were heading to Chokichok, the trip I've been anticipating long before arriving in Kenya. We spent the morning worshiping with the church. When we arrived the building was overflowing with people.

All the children sat on the ground in the front of the building

I loved listening to everyone clap and sing praises. The choir did two different songs complete with some spectacular dancing. They were great!

Bill shared another great message about hope and Erus translated for him. I really enjoyed listening to Erus read Scripture in Turkana.
It is pretty safe to say I enjoyed everything about worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Chokichok. (Yes, including the heat!) After the message and a couple songs the church brought their offerings.
The church asked Bill to introduce all of us and then they decided they wanted to give us all a Turkana name. This is a great honor because it is a sign that we have been welcomed into their community and we are like family. A member of the church who is around the same age or stage of life is selected to give you your name. I was given the name Lokaale, which means flood or rushing water...I think.
Prior to our trip we asked our students and alumni to help us purchase school uniforms for the students in the Chokichok school. At the end of service we presented those uniforms, prayed over them and the students, and passed them out so students would be all ready for school the next day.
After service we took a quick tour of the school and spent some time trying to stay cool in the limited shade. Jeff and I taught the kids some simple games and they taught us a few as well. It wasn't long before we were surrounded by our new friends. All of us girls also received handmade bracelets and necklaces from our sisters in the church. The girl who gave me my jewelery was also named Sarah.

We walked to Erus's house after church and grabbed a quick snack before our road trip. Erus decided he wanted to take us to Lake Turkana so we would have a chance to relax and rest and see a really big lake! His children, Little Bill and Madi, came along with us. That trip was a great adventure. Big Bill did a great job driving through the dessert where the road often disappeared.
Big Bill and Little Bill are best buddies
Can you find the road?
Madi sat next to me in the car and tried to tell me all sorts of things but the only think I understood was when she was trying to teach me the Turkana word for goat, which I evidently was never able to say correctly. I may have been really bad at the language bit but our trip was long enough Madi became my little buddy. She started doing everything I did, including wearing one of my headbands. We were all a little surprised a just how refreshing it was to wade in the lake's warm water. We rested well and bought some Cokes before we started the journey back to Chokichok.

On our drive home we stopped to look at the stars. One thing I've always wanted to do that I was sure would never happen was to see the Southern Cross constellation and everyone quickly looked for it as soon as we got out of the car. There it was!!!!  I was so excited. I'm not even going to begin to explain to you how incredible that sight was. There wasn't a single patch of sky that wasn't covered with beautiful stars. As I stood there staring and the magnificent creation, Madi grabbed my hand and stared with me. For me it was an incredibly sacred moment, a moment of worship. My heart was overflowing and then God kept pouring into it.

But I'll save the rest of day eight's story for tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 7

Our team had the privilege of visiting several classes in a handful of MOHI schools while we were in Nairobi, but it was a special treat to be able to visit EVERY classroom in MOHI's Napuu center, just outside of Lodwar. We were only the second group that had come to visit the school since it opened in January.
This little girl was so excited she didn't sit still for more than two seconds.
Language can be a tricky thing in Kenya. The national language is Swahili and many speak English in the bigger cities. However, once you get further away from the big city and out in the rural areas, many people may only speak their mother tongue, the language from their tribe. When the teachers and staff arrived to begin teaching at the Napuu center they discovered many children only spoke Turkana. That wouldn't be a big problems except many of the teachers don't know Turkana. I can't imagine what teaching would have been like those first few months. So when we visited the classroom, we didn't expect to hear much English, but we were shocked at how well the children were able to share with us in English. We heard songs, poems and Scripture in English at almost every grade level!

After visiting each class and drinking some chia, the whole school gathered under a small group of acacias and put on an wonderful assembly to honor us as guests. The entire school sang a few songs for us. A few classes were selected to do perform some songs, dances and skits.

Then we had the chance to share some words of encouragement with the students and staff and spent time praying together for the school and community.

This was a common posture when children were praying.
After a great time at the school we grabbed a late lunch, picked up a few supplies (LOTS of water),  and then went to visit the Turkana Bible Training Institute (TBTI).

There weren't any classes in session at the time but it was so much fun to hear and see some of the fruit of the work Impact's president, Bill, did while he was a missionary in Turkana. There really aren't words to describe the friendship that Bill and a local church leader, Erus developed while they worked side by side in ministry. They are brothers! It was a great blessing to watch them reminisce share about training local church leaders with curriculum they wrote. 

There is a local church that meets at TBTI and we were very excited to meet one of the great servant leaders of that congregation and spend time praying with her. She shared with us that she was just sitting at home when she suddenly got this feeling that she needed to go to the church and so she did. In our short conversation her heart to share Christ's love was very evident. I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to encourage her. 
At this point, I found myself overwhelmed by the beauty of the Turkana people and how God was changing our plans for even greater plans. He is good!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Kenya 2013 - Day 6

In order to tell you my favorite part about day 6 and our travels to Turkana, I need to back up to day 4 and share an awesome story with you. 

Originally we thought we were only going to be able to spend 3 days with our Missions of Hope International friends before flying north to Lodwar, but God had two great surprises for us. First, on our last day with MOHI's Nairobi Centers we were able to meet the founders and directors, Mary and Wallace. They had a very busy schedule on the days we were there but we happen to arrive at the Pagani Center just as they were in between meetings. These two are incredible. Our team fell in love with them after just a few shore minutes of visiting with them.
While we were chatting with Mary and Wallace, we shared with them that we were flying to Turkana the next day and planning to visit MOHI's first school in that area. We half-jokingly asked if they wanted to come with us. I loved Mary's response. "Don't tempt me! That is one temptation I won't be able to resist." So we left a little sad they wouldn't come. We were only gone about ten minutes before we got a call from one of the MOHI staff members asking if we were serious about our invitation. Of course we were!!! Because so many of you gave generously, we were able to take extra funds with us to use wherever it was needed. So our second great surprise was the opportunity to bless Mary and Wallace we a free plane ride to Turkana, which allowed them to visit their school, encourage their staff and do more research in preparation for starting new centers in the rural areas. To say we were excited when Bill shared the news is an understatement!!!!!

So on day 6 we packed our bags and started our journey to the Turkana desert. The day welcomed us with some big culture shock moments. security was much easier than the USA. We boarded our plane and learned no one sits in their assigned seats. We arrived in Lodwar to find an airport that is very different than any major US airport. This is the airport!
Our fearless leader, Bill
Our base while we were in Lodwar was St. Teresa's Pastoral Center, a Catholic retreat center. We arrived with enough time to get settled in a grab some dinner. When we went to wash our hands before the meal we were greeted by this silly monkey.
Our time in Turkana was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. It did not disappoint! Tomorrow I'll share more about our visit to MOHI's school and a few other adventures.