Last Day in Kima

February 22, 2009

Solomon has had the (un)fortunate privilege of hearing my speak alot this week. Today I traveled along with Solomon, a 2nd year student here at KIST, along with others (Steve & Marilyn Cook from the US, Rebecca the school Nurse/Academic Dean, and three other students) to his home town, Kakamega, to take part in his church service. Solomon was one of my companions to Obunaka Secondary School earlier in the week. Between the conversations on that walk and others during this past week, it never came up that he is married and has two young children. The lack of a wedding ring also failed to prompt questions on my end. Today I got to meet Solomon’s wife, son, and daughter. He hasn’t seen them in over a month. When we first arrived to Kakamega, we spent some time in his home. It is a typical home, not more than 20 x 20. The walls are made of mud that has been sealed with cow dung. The roof is thatched which makes the home cooler but requires regular maintenance. There’s a single, common room when you enter and then two rooms set off only by a curtain. Cuckoos (chickens) have free reign. Solomon’s wife shared tea and bread with us as we heard more about his family. His mother is the second wife of his father. His mother had five sons and he is the fourth. In order to afford the school fees at KIST, Solomon had to sell off part of the land which is his inheritance. 

After tea, we drove just a few hundred yards to his church. A very simple building made of brick and a tin roof. Inside, two rows of benches faced a make shift stage comprised of two small wooden tables in front row of plastic chairs draped with purple linens. To the left of this area was a set of a plastic chairs for the choir. Outside the church, to the right, two latrines stood with cement floors and a square hole in the floor. Past the latrines, a group of women were already at work, cooking lunch for us, their guests.

As people trickled in, I realized that the predominate demographic was young children and older women. Very few men of any age and only a handful of younger women were present. The latter was partly due to the cooking outside. Still I was quickly overwhelmed with the feeling that I ought to, on the spot, chance my message. Speaking on wisdom and what it looks like to make wise decisions seemed a little out of the sweet spot of children and older women. During the hour between the start of the service and my time to speak, I asked God for clarity and wisdom myself. I decided to go with what I was prepared to share. I tweaked it a good bit from the same topic I developed for my talk at Obunaka, and felt confident in connecting with the audience. In the car, as we were about to leave, Phyllis (a KIST student) shared a word of encouragement that was so meaningful to me. She said that my message was very clear and that the people heard it and that it should be helpful to them. In international contexts, my main goal in speaking is clarity. In that moment, I was very grateful that Phyllis chose to share her reflection with me. 

Our lunch, after the service, was a veritable Kenyan feast. I couldn’t tell you (I just don’t remember!) the names of all the foods that sat before us. Most of us ventured into each bowl out of curiosity and gratitude. We did have an opportunity to specifically thank the cooks before departing for the trek back to campus. 

Our group pulled into Kima as the Sunday afternoon chapel was beginning. We ran in and joined everyone. Afterwards, I caught up with Donald. He was insistent that he would meet us when we departed tomorrow about 7:30am. I have some notes for him from some of you that I’ll combine onto a single sheet and print off for him. I decided to give him the shirt I wore this week during our runs. (I had it washed!) It’s a yellow shirt with “running” in green and a nike swoosh and it’s dri-fit material. A great shirt for a great runner and something to remember our friendship. 

In other news, the huge fruit bats that have been attacking the tree outside the house are gone tonight. They have dominated the sensory landscape at night all week. Apparently they had their fill or, perhaps, they’re on to a new fruit tree. 

I’m packed and ready to leave for safari tomorrow. I could fly home instead and be completely content. I’d be lying though if I didn’t say that I may have trouble sleeping tonight. I love animals…almost as much as people.

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If you would like to leave a comment of encouragement for Ronald on the small stories I’ve shared or on his testimony, I’ll make sure he gets your note before I leave Monday morning. To comment, click on the title of the post and enter your note in the box below. Thanks!

(Click on the thumbnails for full screen viewing)

I spoke in chapel at KIST again today. My point and purpose was twofold. I wanted to challenge the students to pursue honor as their primary pursuit as leaders rather than power. Power is everything in Kenyan culture. Power also is responsible for the prolific corruption at every level of leadership in Kenyan culture. As students training for ministry I suggested that they can choose to say, “I am, I have, I deserve this position and can do with it whatever I choose” or you can pursue honor which requires you to surrender your will and ambitions and realize that “my confidence is my God and my faith sustains me.” The other purpose of the message was to show them what honor looks like. I asked the faculty, staff, and administration to come to the stage and face the students. I then read a rewritten version of Paul’s introduction to Philemon.

I will always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers because I hear (and have seen with my own eyes) your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all these students. I pray that the faith you share with us all may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ. I have great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the students have been refreshed through you, my brothers and sisters.

Then I asked them to spread out across the front and sides of the room and requested that the students join one of these leaders who had modeled honor to them, lay their hands on this person and pray a prayer of thanksgiving over them. It was so cool to watch. Lunch back at the house followed chapel. Chris Smith (Principal Don Smith’s wife) told me that she was so thankful for that time at the end of chapel and that she just cried as the students prayed for her and Don and their kids and their ministry at KIST.

Ronald and I ran again this afternoon. He finally confessed to me that he is a national runner. For those of you who know something of running, he’s done a 27 minute 10k and a 1:05 half marathon. Ridiculous. Great conversation after the run. A number of other students from a class (in which I guest lectured today) came over to join us. We talked together for about a half hour before heading our separate ways for dinner.

I have to share this from an email I received from Erin today.

Yesterday, out of the blue when we were eating spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, Luke said, “Daddy eat meatball?” I laughed so hard. I said, “Daddy probably isn’t eating meatballs right now. Daddy’s in Kenya.” To which Luke replied, “Daddy at Ganma’s house?” I said, “No, Daddy’s in Kenya.” His reply was, “Daddy Kenya gee-affe (giraffe) el-phant, ze-ba.” He was still muttering it when he went to bed last night, “Night night Daddy Kenya gee-affe, el-phant, ze-ba night night Joey, night night Cha Cha…” He is so funny!

This picture was taken by Logan, a member of our team, yesterday. Ronald and I met up again this afternoon to run. As gifted a runner as he is, Ronald is also gifted with patience. He gladly runs at a pace that allows me to keep up and, at least for a little while, for us to chat while running. Eventually, windedness and heat begin taking their toll and it’s quiet for the latter stages of our run.

Even more than the runs, I love the conversations we’ve had after running as we sit on the rocks nearby our finishing point. Ronald (27 by the way) is a devoted follower of Christ. His experience and perspective as a Kenyan is both fascinating and sobering.  Yesterday, Monday, we spent most of our time talking about our families. Today we moved into more serious matters. Most of our conversation surrounded dating, marriage, and AIDS. He was completely shocked that Erin and I did not get tested for AIDS before we got married. It is a reality in Africa. Ronald and I talked about the process of getting tested and the counseling you receive. He’s been tested three times in his lifetime. We talked about what dating is like and how and when you go with your girlfriend to get tested. We talked about the emotion of that in preparation of what you do if you’re negative and she’s positive – or vice versa. Today our conversation ended with me sharing pictures of my family that I brought along. It’s a simple plastic photo album including a picture of Erin, Luke and I, a couple other pictures of Luke, as well as a few of my siblings, parents, and (of course) Chandler and Joey my cats. My two favorite comments from Ronald were, “If I ever get to meet your family I feel like I’ll already know them from these pictures and from our conversation” and “wow, those are cats? Do they eat the rats?” To the latter I said no, we feed them dry cat food to which he responded, “you mean they are pets?”

I really enjoyed speaking in chapel this morning. I felt completely at peace. A couple of times during the singing my eyes drifted out the open door in front of me to the bright blue sky along with the trees swaying gently in the breeze. For whatever reason, something Alan said and showed me the other day popped into my mind right before going on stage. With his iphone, he had taken a close-up picture of the very short hair on the back of my head and called it an “African pineapple.”

Guest house in Nairobi

Redeemed Gospel Church outside Nairobi

We arrived safely in Kisumu Sunday evening, flying from DC through Amsterdam to Nairobi. We stayed the night in Nairobi at a beautiful guest house with great security. Apparently many call Nairobi, Ni-robbery as the crime rate is extraordinary at night. Despite this, I was amazed at the cleanliness and beauty of the city and surrounding area. We spent Sunday in Nairobi before catching an evening flight into Kisumu where KIST (Kima International School of Theology) is located. Sunday morning we attended Redeemed Gospel Church. This is Charlie’s church. Charlie was one of our drivers in Nairobi as well as safari guide later in the trip. The stories he told about Masai Mara on the way to church has me crazy excited about the safari. But that’s later. I love animals and as once in a lifetime as safari is, I came to invest and be invested in KIST.

I’ve had a great time in Kisumu. We’ve been here for only 24 hours but in a word it’s been fulfilling. Phenomenal ministry conversation. There is an incredible amount of worldwide ministry experience among the people that have gathered here for the week. Not a huge team – 10 of us – but everyone is dripping with the abundance of life (joys and frustrations alike) spent serving God. I can’t remember the last time I have soaked up so much so willingly.

Tomorrow I speak in chapel. The first of a two part series as I speak on Thursday as well. Tomorrow I’m speaking on the necessity of focus in one training for and, ultimately, living a life of ministry. The apostle Paul uses three illustrations in 2 Timothy 2 that when overlayed provide a fantastic point of reference for us: the solider, the athlete, and the farmer. Thursday, the purpose involves the reality that who and what you listen to will impact what you do.

In the world of life goals, I fulfilled one today. I ran with a Kenyan. I ran with a Kenyan who was literally half my weight. Granted I have about 5 inches on him but still. I’m really glad I’ve lost the first half of my 30lbs before arriving in Kenya. In any case, I was pretty giddy for most of the run. According to Ronald we ran at a level C. I think we finished at an H. We started by running around a field a couple times and then took off down a dirt path where we arrived at the top of a hill overlooking a soccer field. We ran down to this field and around it a couple of times before running back up the hill. Ronald glided up the hill (in soccer cleats) as I lumbered behind him. We returned to the school via the same trail and began what I thought was a couple warm down loops. 1 loop, 2 loops, 3 loops, and I began to worry, 4, 5 and now I was breathing like an ox. I slowed down and he raced off. I waited for him to come back around. As Ronald approached, he started trotting, imploring me to join him. By trot, I mean that kind of run you do when you’re crossing the street and you feign quickness to the car that’s waiting to turn.  And today was simply my “orientation.” Ronald convinced me that we should run everday this week. I may lose that other 15lbs before returning…no joke.

After our run, we sat down on an adjacent rock and shared about ourselves, our families, and schooling. Ronald (not married but “searching”) and his family are refugees from a town in Kenya that was affected by civil war in the very recent past. He showed up to KIST with only the clothes on his back. Now in his second year, Don (the principal here) tells me he’s one of the sharpest students in his theology class. I have a feeling we’ll be spending some time tomorrow talking about my chapel message. I couldn’t believe how excited he was when he found out I was speaking.

That’s all for now.