In Response to Garissa

Do not think this is directed at any one person but know that I have probably felt the pull to come “home” at one time or another in search of “safety.” We are not guaranteed safety in the Bible. Not once.

There are 148 students dead at Garissa University in Northern Kenya. If you haven’t yet heard about it start watching world news. It is sad. Tragic. An unthinkable act of terror.

In response someone wrote on a friend’s Facebook wall, “It’s time for you to come home. This could have been [your child].”

WHAT?!

Of course it could’ve been one of us. It could’ve been one of us in Europe or China or Australia or yes, even “home” in America. Terror does not confine itself to Kenya. It doesn’t even confine itself to Africa or the Middle East. It is evil and it is everywhere.

Day-to-day life changes when living under frequent security warnings from our embassy, the Kenyan government and other world leaders. Once again we do not go to shopping malls at night or on the weekends. We avoid large gathering places. We do not travel to certain areas in the country. We listen to advice given and heed warnings about threats.

Yet, this does not define our lives. There are other places to shop or see a movie or go for an ice cream. There are other events to attend and places to vacation. Please do not mistake our carefulness for constant fear. We merely try to be “wise as serpents” while “innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

This does not make me brave. This is a day-to-day reliance on the goodness and faithfulness of my God. He is in control. Yes, He is in control even when circumstances seem out of control; even when terror comes to my country; even when suffering and sadness happen.

Easter Meals

Easter meal smallEaster just two years ago found us celebrating in South Sudan with teammates from 5 different countries and South Sudanese from many tribes. We cooked all morning over charcoal, went to church where there was much dancing and then feasted on lamb stew and rice from disposable plates under flame trees while sitting on plastic chairs. We shared the Gospel story through song, translated it into Arabic and some heard it for the first time. Our house was a place to hear of Jesus’ sacrifice and His love.

Easter MealThis year we celebrated in the comfort of our new home with friends and teammates who work in 3 different countries. A big bang from the night before meant the electricity was out through the night and into the morning disrupting my plans to throw a roast in the crockpot (not even an option in South Sudan). Instead we cooked with the gas oven and stove top to make the meal, a much easier medium to work with than charcoal. After church we gathered around our wooden dining table to eat off of matching ceramic plates and metal cutlery, our conversation focused more on encouragement for tired teammates while the meal was a taste of home, something not normally served in the countries they work. Our house is a place of refuge and a place to be refreshed.

Sometimes I wonder why God brought us to South Sudan and back again. I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer for sure. Sometimes it feels like we were pulled out of the front lines only to be placed on the back burner; always hearing exciting stories but not quite able to participate in them. Yet both roles are important; that of evangelist and that of encourager to other Believers. There are many examples in the New Testament of both.

For now we are certain this is where God has placed us. Pray for us that in the role he now has us we will be effective in spreading the Gospel by supporting our teammates well and that if there is opportunity we will embrace it.

Beautiful Creation

Watamu, Kenya

Watamu, Kenya

Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane, Nairobi National Park

hartebeast

Hartebeest, Nairobi National Park

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo, Nairobi National Park

Rothschild Giraffe

Rothschild Giraffe, Nairobi National Park

Flame Tree, Malakal, South Sudan

Flame Tree, Malakal, South Sudan

Bird in Malakal

Bird in Malakal

Arial view of River Nile, Malakal, South Sudan

Aerial view of River Nile, Malakal, South Sudan

Doro, South Sudan

Doro, South Sudan

Hell's Gate National Park, where Lion King was sketched.

Hell’s Gate National Park, where Lion King was sketched.

Airplane view of Northern Kenya

Aerial view of Northern Kenya

 

United States of America

I am thankful for the United States of America. I am thankful for laws and the officials that help enforce these laws. I’m thankful for a justice system that, while imperfect, works. I’m thankful that corruption once exposed is not tolerated. I’m thankful for the right to vote and that this process is peaceful. I’m thankful to have a voice in my government. I’m thankful that our military protects its citizens. I’m thankful that, while there have been attacks, the last major war fought on American soil was over 100 years ago. I’m thankful that I grew up living in peace, that I could go to school, that I could worship in church and that my childhood was relatively carefree.

Kenya is considered one of the most stable countries in East Africa. I’m thankful to live here. Yet, independence from Great Britain was only achieved in 1963, a mere 51 years ago, after a bloody conflict. Just 7 years ago during the presidential elections, tribalism and politics caused violent clashes all throughout Kenya. Citizens do not generally trust the judicial system or law enforcement officials and mob justice still occurs frequently. In 2003 the government abolished school fees for primary schools but the best schools and secondary school still cost a good deal of money. Kenya has come a long way in a short amount of time but it still has a long way to go.

South Sudan is the newest country in the world. They gained independence in 2011. After a long, brutal, civil war with Sudan hopes were high that South Sudan would have a bright future. However, just 3 years later, politics and tribalism caused countrymen to turn against each other. Now the country is 9 months into another civil war. Thousands of people died, many more are on the brink of starvation. Tensions are high, schools are disrupted, people’s livelihoods are destroyed and many are refugees in surrounding countries living off the generosity of others.

I am thankful for the United States of America. I’m not deluded into thinking we are perfect but we’ve passed through war, economic instability, terrorist attacks and many other hardships and are strong. I pray that these other two countries I love can come through their growing pains stronger and more resilient than ever before.

AIC Church

We are thankful for our church home in Nairobi, Kenya. Here we are among friends. We’ve attended this church faithfully for nearly 7 years now and are thankful to be known and loved by the congregation. We receive good Bible teaching and are challenged in our faith. The different cultures, tribes and nationalities give us fresh perspectives on the interpretation and application of Scripture.

Church Service

Sunday morning worship

Monkey Visitors

Notice our furry visitor? This guy and his troop make regular appearances at church!

New members

New member presentation

Adult Bible Study

Part of our adult Bible study

Home Is Where Your Blanket Is (Part One)

For us… most of the time anyway, Facebook is a beautiful way to keep up with far away friends.

But. Not. Today.

Today Facebook showed me the house I don’t have. The house I long for every time we discuss moving apartments or going on home assignment or changing countries.

My friend innocently posted pictures of her stunning new house complete with the quaint, white shutters she picked out herself. The kitchen is big and spacious. The fridge dwarfs mine several times over. All the appliances are shiny and new. I’m sure her kitchen sink turns on easily without a constant drip, drip, drip.

There is a fireplace! And a gorgeous mirror hung on what I am sure is a non-concrete wall that she is allowed to put holes in without contacting the landlady who lives in Nigeria because guess what? She OWNS the house.

(Friend, if you’re reading this, because you will no doubt know it is you that I am speaking of, you did absolutely nothing wrong and I can’t wait to visit you in your new home.)

The American dream right? My dream. The dream of knowing I will still be living in the same place, the same house next year because we have a mortgage of all things.

I’d pay to have the stab-you-in-the-tush toilet seat replaced because it’s MY toilet seat. I would nag politely ask my husband to fix the leaky faucet and the doors that stick. I would take out that ridiculous bidet because who actually uses those anyway?! I wouldn’t try to hang pictures with Velcro and heavy duty Command Brand hooks. I’d do all those things because we would OWN the house (at least sort of own it, you know, through the generosity of the bank and all).

Plus I’d actually have a piece of grass that doesn’t belong to the retreat center next door that I can only longingly look at through our kitchen window while wedding guests dance to obnoxiously loud music and wake up my sleeping baby.

I realize most of you probably don’t dream about having a mortgage and those of you with more sense might even try to tell me the evils of having one. But for now I’m lost in wishful thinking that one day after I spend all the time to decorate and make our house our home, I won’t have to give it up in a year. It’s just something I have to work through, knowing that our lease ends in March of next year and since I tend to round up, this year is basically over, which means March is really only 3 months away.

Blankets

Some of my many blankets, given by friends and shipped from the US in my luggage.

If, as the Zambian proverb claims, “Home is where your blanket is,” then it’s a good thing my blankets don’t weigh very much and can travel from the US to Kenya to South Sudan and back again.

Check out “Home is where your blanket is part two.”

Red Curtains

I sit here re-sewing red curtains from my old house to fit the windows in my new house all the while wondering when we will move to the next house. It’s hard to live in the moment when the moment is full of constant change. It’s tiring, this nomadic life, we live.

Just before leaving Kenya to get married I found the exact red material to match my new-to-me bedspread, a second-hand Toi Market find. Excitedly I had my new red curtains made; knowing they would be waiting for us when we returned to what would be OUR home together. Then we decided to move to South Sudan…

Instead of settling down, returning to Kenya was a whirlwind of selling household items and furniture as well as packing away things we might use later, like my red curtains. Thankfully those curtains never made it to South Sudan. If they had, they too would be lost like so many of our things we left behind in Malakal.

However, my red curtains are too short for our new windows. They need to be altered, cut, pieced together, pinned and sewn. Sometimes that’s how I feel; altered time and again. Learn this new language. Adjust to another strange culture. Find your way around this new city. Pushed. Pulled. Stretched. Sometimes scarred. Moved from place to place.

For now, though, my red curtains look fabulous complete with a shiny, brown ribbon to cover the seam. One would never know they didn’t originally belong in the window where they now hang. I hope that I can display the same adaptability (and look just as good!) as we continue to follow where God leads us.