Sunday, July 21, 2013

Take Tea

I think I can describe my experiences in Kenya so far simply in saying that I have already learned more than I ever thought I could learn in a week.  About…

I’m not studying education, but if the best way to learn is through experience, then I am definitely on the road to knowing how to teach in a classroom.  Tutoring is nice because you get to make sure at every step through the problem that your student understands, and teaching is crazy hard because you have no idea how many of your students are following you.  It’s hard, but I’m starting to figure it out, I hope, and I’m starting to realize that I do like it a lot, despite the challenges!  I love giving people the gift of math, if that’s not too cheesy or nerdy, by helping them understand and appreciate it.

World Politics:
Fun fact: Obama is Kenyan.  Enough said.
Many of my teacher-friends know just as much about the American political system as I do, and, a little over a week ago, I knew NOTHING about the Kenyan government, or any other government in the world for that matter.  Now, thankfully, I can say that is no longer true.  I could tell you a whole lot about Kenya’s government system.

Loving Kids:
It doesn’t require being able to speak the same language to sing and dance and tickle and play and be silly.

Life for Orphans:
Before coming here and spending so much time with the residential kids, I thought that Americans adopting international orphans and bringing them to America was the absolute best thing for them.  Now, don’t get me wrong, orphans being in homes is definitely best for them, but I’ve learned that that home doesn’t have to be America for them to have the best life possible.  These kids are used to life here and the culture and the way things are.  They have a community, a school, friends, and essentially a family in the residential home, even though it doesn’t quite look like your average kid’s family. 

Human Suffering:
Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why is life so unfair for so many people?  Why is there human suffering?  It’s okay for me to not have the answers to those questions.  It’s okay to say “I don’t know why there has to be suffering on earth, yes it upsets me too, but I do know that God is living and powerful and good.”  The only thing we can do is stand in front of a mirror and ask that question to ourselves, following up with “what are we doing about it?”

They are excellent kissers.

My Passions:
I’ve known I am passionate about loving kids (particularly underprivileged and orphans), spreading Jesus, experiencing all parts of the world, and learning math, but I have never before been in a setting before where I pretty much get to do all these things at once.  I’ve always wondered how God could possibly use my strange personality and interests that do not correlate at all, but I think I am starting to see how.  I don’t know what it’s going to look like exactly, but it’s been a huge answered prayer to see how God can use my gifts and passions for His glory.  Such a powerful reminder that He is in control and has a plan for me way bigger than what I have for myself! (Coming into this trip, I had no idea I would become the kids 5th, 6th, and 7th grade math teacher, but God is teaching me so much and using my skills and passions in ways I never thought of to glorify Him and further His kingdom!)

Cooking Natural Fresh Food:
In the kitchen at the BCC (one of the funest, most physically demanding, and hottest places to work in the whole place), almost all the food comes straight from the BCC’s farm right outside.  We go pick vegetables, chop them up, and throw them in the stew for lunch.  The food is all absolutely delicious.  I’m sure I will get sick of ugali long before my time here is up, but I love chipati and everything with fresh vegetables in it is delicious.  I’m excited to spend some more time in there in the coming weeks and learn how to make all the wonderful Kenyan dishes.

Sharing Jesus:
You don’t need to have any earthly wealth to be spiritually rich and share Jesus.  I have learned this through some of the kids, who have so clearly shown Jesus to me in how they love me and prayed for Jesus’s blood to cover my family and me.  Despite knowing that I came to Kenya to help them, they have offered me Jesus with every opportunity they have.  I was also moved by the pastor’s sermon this morning, which included a call to make yourself available because God will use you and to invest in the things that matter for eternity instead of the things of this world.  He challenged his congregation full of the poor and the needy to share Jesus with everyone in their lives who does not know Christ.  Sharing Jesus requires nothing but knowing Him yourself, and that is the richest that one can ever be.

Marriage, Divorce, and Patrimony:
So here in Kenya, it’s perfectly legal and socially acceptable to have multiple wives.  I mean, it doesn’t happen in every family, and I certainly don’t know the statistics or anything, but all the people I have encountered see it as a perfectly normal social practice that they abstain from because it is a sin for Christians, but they know people who do it.  As my teacher friends were telling me about the practice of patrimony in Kenya, my mouth was wide open in shock, and I could not stop shaking my head and saying how terrible that whole concept is.  On the other hand, divorce is VERY uncommon.  They followed this question up by asking me about divorce in America.  They explained that they highly value the family unit, and so if a man wants to be with another woman, he just adds her to the family instead of destroying the family by breaking apart from his wife.  They could not wrap their minds around how it is possible that half of marriages in America end in divorce, and our society still survives.  After talking with them for a while and letting myself see it from their point of view, I realized that they have a point.  I mean, patrimony is not okay.  But it’s also not okay for me to so quickly judge their culture when there are many parts of American culture that are considered okay, but are just as bad, according to the Bible.  It’s crazy how we judge things that seam different and bad so quickly that we often don’t stop to reflect and realize how perverted and wrong our own mindset and culture is.

Trying to Teach a Class Full of Kids at Completely Different Academic Levels:
It’s just really hard.

Community and Prioritizing Relationships:
So, in America, you don’t go to someone else’s house unless you are invited, and if you are invited, you show up on the decided date at the decided time.  Just showing up would be so rude!  When I told my Kenyan teacher friends this, they were blown away.  If you don’t show up at your friend’s house periodically, you’re not really friends.  And if someone shows up at your house, you invite them in and serve them food or drink and they hang out for a few hours.  Even if you have something else planned.  Shadrack told me, “if I came to your door and you told me you were busy, I would never come back to your house again.  Even if you invited me.  Never.”  Here, they prioritize each other above all else.  It’s so special.
They also prioritize conversations.  I was talking with Absolom in the staff room one day, when one of his students came in and politely informed him that it was time for their English lesson.  He gave them their notebooks and told the student in one quick sentence what they should work on, then went back to our conversation.  We talked for another hour or so, and he just never showed up to teach his class because we were in a conversation, and you don’t just interrupt a conversation.  Even to teach a class.  It blows my mind how much they value each other as people.  I feel like I already have stronger relationships with all of the teachers here then I have ever had with my classmates or coworkers, simply because they value relationships so much.  It absolutely blows my mind. 

Being Driven to Education:
From that story, an American would naturally ask how the teacher could leave the students on their own for the entire class period without chaos ensuing.  The answer lies in the fact that the kids in Kenya want to learn.  The kids in the classroom are so self-sufficient and they work so hard without having to be pushed by their teachers because they all genuinely want to do well.  These kids value their education because they know how blessed they are to be in the school they are in.  I wish all Americans could realize how amazing of an opportunity being educated is and would really take advantage of it and appreciate it and want to learn like they do here.

Chopping Vegetables:
It’s okay if I’m really slow at it.  I’m still helping.  And I’m getting faster!  Plus, being humbled is always good.

How God Has Oriented Me to Use Me to Further His Kingdom:
I love Kenya and am so thankful to be serving God’s people here.  I am (obviously) learning so much and growing so much and helping do God’s work at the BCC, but these people know Jesus and love Him and are serving Him already.  God has made me super passionate about sharing the gospel with people, teaching them about walking with God, showing people Jesus in a new way, and helping shepherd people in the Lord.  I fail all the time, but by God’s hand, I try to do all that in America, and I often see the fruit of God’s work through it.  There are so many people and places in the world that desperately need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The majority of the people of Kenya are doing that themselves!  They are going out and telling people about Jesus and helping them in their walks with the Lord, and it is so beautiful and wonderful to see.  Right now, this is where God has called me, and I’m loving every minute of it, but I am seeing His plan is not for me to ultimately be here long term.  I’m excited to see what He does have in store for me and how he will continue to gradually reveal his plans for me to me!

The Differences Between Living in Africa and America:
So, obviously, there are about a million differences, but one really stands out to me.  Africa hasn’t had the necessary medical equipment and medicine to diagnosis and treat cancer.  The same cancer that tons of Americans have survived from has killed tons of Africans completely unnecessarily.  Millions in Africa die from preventable, treatable diseases because they don’t have access to everything we have access to medically.  I’ve always heard statements like that, but just in the past week, the reality really sank in for me and shook me up all over.  If my family lived in Africa, my mom probably would not be alive.

Kenyans worship all the time and don’t need anything but their voices.  It is absolutely the most beautiful thing I have ever heard without a doubt, and has not yet seized to fill me with joy every time and inspire me to join in, praising God.  Before school starts in the morning each day, teachers worship together during devos; in religion class, teachers lead their students in worship; in the staff room or on the playground, I always hear people lifting their voices to Jesus; and Sunday mornings are just incredible.  They truly call out to Jesus, worshiping Him and bringing Him honor.  It has brought me to worship in a new way since I’ve been here, where it’s not at all about me, but only about God.

When helping out the first grade teacher, I was asked to draw a poster for her because they don’t have access to a computer or printer or signs to purchase or anything, so everything is handmade.  I successfully drew every tool in the book (literally, the first grade English curriculum book, I drew the tools and wrote the word in English), even a plow, and they looked like what they were supposed to look like!  Who knew I am somewhat capable of creating recognizable pictures?  I never thought I had it in me.

The Holy Spirit:
On my first day in the 5th graders’ Christian Religious Education class (when I observed before starting teaching), the students were learning about the gifts and fruit of the spirit, and they all already knew all about the Holy Spirit and that it is their “helper.”  I have taught devos to tons of campers and explained to many questioning people what the holy spirit is in a complicated, theological manner, but hearing the 5th graders so simply explain and understand the Holy Spirit as our helper that God has given us for times of need gave me a sudden simple understanding of the gift that God has given us by entering us through his spirit to help us.  It’s really that simple, and that cool!  How neat that God loves us so much that he decided to come dwell inside us, simply to help us with our daily lives on earth?!

Life in the Slums of Nairobi & How Buckner is Helping:
Walking through the slum that the BCC is in the middle of and talking with the people who live there, it breaks my heart to see the conditions they are living in, but I am endlessly thankful for the work that Buckner is doing by supporting the BCC and how it improves the community by providing access to water for everyone; programs that provide education and a home for the abandoned, orphaned, homeless, and molested children; and very affordable healthcare for the whole community.

Hujambo!  Habari ya asuburi!  Mzuri!  Asante Sana!  … I’m working on it.

Sorry I’ve been so bad about blogging—free time and Internet have been scarce, but I hope I’ve made it up to y’all!

Footnote: Two of the lovely ladies I am here serving alongside are keeping a blog as well and have some really interesting, eye-opening posts worth reading because they have been doing different things than I have!  You can find it at this link.

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