Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here and There

I am surprised my heart has never burst from how much I love these kids!

As I drove home from a 3.5 hour trip to the grocery store (ugh, seriously) I thought about how nice it will be to just be able to go to Target or the Wal-marts and get food and other needed items.  But then almost immediately I thought about how I would miss the "fun " of my shopping experiences here.

As we prepare to come back to the U.S for a visit later this year, these kind of thoughts are continually running through my mind.  I can't help but think about how much I will miss my little friends and their hugs, smiles, fist bumps, and laughs.  But then there are absolutely no words to describe how unbelievably ecstatic I am to be able to play with our niece and nephews. Words are unable to capture how excited I am for hugs from our parents and siblings, shopping trips, Sunday lunches. I cannot wait to have coffees and dinners with our friends, but then I feel some sadness when I think of not seeing our teammates, co-workers, and friends for a few months.

I think of how much easier driving will be there, but then I will sort of (surprisingly) miss the adventure that driving brings and the huge feeling of accomplishment and bravery after each trip.  I am so looking forward to some really good pizza, but I am going to miss the places we have Ethiopian food and Indian food.  It is exciting to think about waking up in our family's home, but we will also miss our new house.  Our routine will be so much different as we temporarily leave jobs and roles we absolutely love.  In that, we know there is time needed to refresh and reflect.

We are looking forward to seeing loved ones in person and not through the computer screen.  We cannot wait to share about Missions of Hope with our supporters and partners (and anyone who will listen!)  The ache of missing our family and friends will be gone for a few months.  Yet we will still miss so many people living here that we really love.  While being surrounded by English may be easier, we will really miss the Swahili and other languages constantly spoken around us.  While we are looking forward to worshiping in the way we known most of our lives, we are really going to miss our fellow church members and the dancing!

When I am honest with myself about this, I desperately want these things to sort of cancel each other out.  I want to feel neutral or maybe what I want is to feel normal.  When I pray about and prepare my heart for this time, I shed tears over both things.  Happy and sad. Comfortable and a little scared.  Ready for rest and to exhale, yet knowing I will miss the pace of life we have here.

Our lives are a seemingly constant paradox.  What was once so foreign has now become so familiar.  And what was once so familiar and all we had ever know will undoubtedly be in some ways foreign.  As we straddle the globe, we accept this as reality.

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote this, praying for the unknown to become the familiar.  God answered that so abundantly.  My heart sings when someone calls us Kenyan, or friend, or "one of us", and especially when the kids know me by my name.  So even as I write this, I am so thankful for that. I am so glad that while we SO, SO much want to see and just be with all of you there, our heart is at home here as well.  That is a precious gift.

Oh my goodness, we are so looking forward to being with you.  Your prayers and encouragements sustain us.  We could not be here without you.  We cannot wait to share a laugh, a story, to hear all about your lives, to share about our friends here and God at work in Missions of Hope, to share a meal, to take a road trip, to hug you, and so many other things.  In those times, we bring here, this beautiful place we also call home, to you.  Together the worlds collide and we see God at work all over His created world.  He weaves our lives together into this beautiful display of love and grace.  Together we share and together we see Jesus more clearly.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Processing Today

The attack in Nairobi that began yesterday and continues into today hits close to home  Because, well, it is close to home.  We can hop in the car and be there in about 7 minutes.  Many, many times since moving here, we have hopped in the car and went to West Gate mall.  The mall is very upscale so we can only shop at the grocery store, purchase our monthly Internet, and maybe eat at a few of the cafes.  We shop there often because sometimes the grocery store sells Dr. Pepper.  If we are really lucky, it sells Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese!  We bought our appliances there.  We took our families and visiting friends there. It was one of the first places I drove to and frequented alone.  It never felt unsafe.  Never.

Yesterday that changed.  My heart hurts so much today as I try to make sense of something that does not make sense.  Today people are mourning the loss of a loved one.  Someone they likely said "see you later" to yesterday as they went off to go to the mall for a normal Saturday.  Others are in the hospital nursing wounds. Some will be released and able to go home to their families.  Some are critical.  Some will probably not make it.  And for those who escaped the mall, they now have to live with this trauma.  What started out as a normal, beautiful day in Nairobi will forever change the lives of so many.  In an instant.

My brain is spinning and my heart hurts so much as I cannot stop thinking about these things.  We keep watching the news and hearing helicopters flying over our home.  But what my heart knows is that God is still sovereign.  Today I get to choose to believe in that.  To trust in that.  In the midst of senseless killings, faith doesn't come as easy as it did the other day when I hung out with smiling, singing students.  Today I have to look around to see the evidence of God's love.

And you know what, I see it! 

-I see it in the guys outside our house who are selling sugar cane and roasted corn.  Just like any other Sunday.
-I see it in the number of people who are lining up to give blood to save the lives of strangers.
-I see it in the unity of Kenyans and those, like us, who live in Kenya. An unwillingness to back down even in the midst of tragedy.
-I see it in the mixture of sadness and strength in the eyes of the President.  Personally effected and unwavering, vowing to bring those who perpetrated this violence to justice.
-I see it as we watch the news and we see workers from the mall helping others to safety.  People  unknown to them before, but now united forever by this experience.
-I see it in people handing out free food and drinks to those who are near the mall.
-I see it in the prayers offered up from all over the world.

When I look around, I cannot help but see it.  Today we must rest in that.  We are thankful to reside in a place that will not let the evil of some destroy the hope of many.  We are so blessed by the way we continually see Kenyans unite together.  This nation is beautiful and strong.  We will remember the past, but look towards the future.  That is what Kenyans do.  

Today we lift up Kenya in prayer.  We believe in a God of all the nations.  The one we come from, the one we reside in, and all the other ones.  For us, our world was shaken up yesterday.  For others around the world, the fear that accompanies terrorism is somewhat a norm in their lives. We pray for them today and lift them to the God who cares.  

All knowing and all powerful, the hope of nations is in Him alone.  

Friday, September 13, 2013


Because of my(our) awesome job/life, I get to see people meet their sponsored kids for the first time or witness them seeing their kids again. I get to interact with people as they fall in love with Missions of Hope and the slums that surround. I get to hear and participate in conversations as they wrestle with tough questions.  Does my being here help?  Does it hurt?  What do I do with this experience when I go back to America?  How can this level of poverty exist?  Does it ever get easier to hear the stories of those living in Mathare Valley?

This week we were asked all these things.  And my answer to the last question was NO.  Although, somehow you get used to it some.  But not much.  Poverty sucks.  It is such a powerful tool of our broken world.  It robs people of hope.  Of their gifts and talents.  Their passions.  But we have come to know the stories that accompany poverty this severe.  We never accept them. They are never okay and we never get used to them.  But we know we are working in a ministry offering hope and  love and Jesus.  

In some ways, the stories are not as shocking as they once were, but they never settle well.  And sometimes, some stories haunt me.

The other day a little one came to meet her sponsor.  Describing her as adorable would be an understatement.  While we waited, she and I took silly faced pictures and laughed.  We counted to 10 in English and Kiswahili.  Then her sponsor came and I left the room.  In the hallway I met her mom briefly.  Then her social worker told me her story.  

My new little friend had been absent from school that day and her mother had to bring her to the center to meet her sponsor.  I asked if she was sick.  No, her mom is a commercial sex worker who didn't get up in time to get her off to school.  This story is not an unfamiliar one.  

I walked back into the room where she was hanging out with her sponsor.  Her smile lighting up her face.  She was delighted in the gifts she was given.  Gifts picked out with her in mind.  Although, the gifts were awesome, I think the smile came from love. Someone came all the way here to be with her.  To hug her.  To love on her.  To remind her that she is special.

Her smile stayed on my mind as we left work.  It lingered as we got home, ate dinner, watched TV.  When I took a shower, she and her mom were heavy on my heart.  I am sure her mom does not want to be a prostitute, but she does to survive.  To provide. I am guessing with every "customer"  she feels the trappings of poverty.  The hope being sucked away.  Her heart being pushed down deeper and deeper into what seems like an inescapable hole.

And her daughter, my friend, our student, does she know what mom does.  Does mom have to leave her at night to go earn money for the day?  Does she work from home?  

As the water rushed over me, tears streamed down my face.  I prayed for them.  I prayed for the others like them.  And then Jesus gently reminded me, like He always does that He is with them.  He see them.  He loves them. He left the perfection and glory of Heaven to travel this broken earth for them.  His death to redeem them.  And others like them. And me.  You too.

He reminds me that she is at Missions of Hope.  In school getting a great education. He reminds me of her social worker who has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.  He reminds me of a sponsor who loves her. He reminds me that I got to hug her and share some laughs with her.  

The stories never get easier to hear.  I don't want them to.  

In the despair and the ugly, there is Beauty and Hope. Grace and Love.  Smiles and laughter.  And Jesus. Always Jesus.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I never want to glorify "busy".  I think there is such a tendency to do that, especially for me.  I like having responsibilities and tasks. I enjoy organization and hurriedness.  But in this, I can see where "I am so busy" can easily lead to pridefulness etc.  That being said, WOW we have been busy lately.  Most of our days start very early, even before the sun makes it way up, and we are off to work. We have accepted many new responsbilities. There have been vision trips to South Sudan, fires at our boarding school, Mary has been hospitalized, we have hosted visitors, welcomed the interns, prepared for ALL the teams that will join us this summer.  Tim has taken on the role of farmer in addition to the other things he was doing.  I continue to coordinate the sponsorship program on this end and will also help facilitate the teams and visitors that come to serve here (with a ton of help from so many others).  It's a lot.  And it is never ending. And we love it.  Most of the time.

Some days we have have given everything we have and we fall into bed overly tired. You know, that tired where your brain is numb (dead, in many cases), your body aches with exhaustion.  We have spent the day(s) switching from role to role, culture to culture, language to language, etc.  We wonder how we will be able to do it again the next day.  Somedays we really dont think we can. But then:

He renews our strength.
His mercies are new every single morning.
He gives us all we need.
He shows us how to depend upon him.
He is our all in all.
He pours into us so we may pour it out. Then He refills. Again. And again.
He gives us sweet words from friends to encourage.
He provides.
His grace is sufficient.
He is love, grace, patience when we have none left.
He knows us.
He puts the kids right outside the gate to hug us and laugh with us as we leave MOHi for the day.
He is in the Sunday phones calls with our families.
He gives us video chats with our nephews and our niece.
He prompts friends, families, churches to send a message to encourage.
He gives us (ok, me) quiet mornings on the porch with Him and some coffee.
He gives Tim time on the couch watching sport to relax.
He remains our constant.

In all the time we have been here, I really think we have had the beautiful chance to see Jesus as the one we can depend upon.  Always.  He is just our constant.  Honestly, there are days where I just do not have it in me. Whatever it is, and yet He gives what I need to make it through the end of the day. He gives this incredible rest to us at night and allows us  to be refreshed each morning.  With all my heart, I KNOW, we just could not do it without Him providing for each and every need.

Why we get to do this, I do not know. We love it here.  Even on the hardest days.  In just some few short months, we have seen so much more of Jesus then ever before.  He is truth.  Love. Hope.  Friend.  Redeemer.  Restorer.  Everything.

Please continue to pray for Mary in the hospital. In addition to everything else, we have also seen God as healer. Everyday she gets stronger.  The glow in her face has returned.  She is at peace.  Pray for Missions of Hope.  As God continues to grow this ministry, as the hope of Christ is shown we remain aware of the need to attack and destroy that.  We feel that so much even now.  We know things that are  not bearing fruit have no need to be destroyed, so in the challenges, we thank God for the big things he has done, is doing, and is going to do.  Please join us in praying for these things.

Oh and He also gives us this. This blesses my soul.

Right outside the gate are these sweet, sweet kids.  

The Great Rift Valley is one of the most beautiful places and it is about 90 minutes drives from our house. Stunning!

Seriously, how could you not love being surround by these children!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I wonder

The kids are on break until May 6 which means all of our high school students are back at home and are easily accessible.  We decided to update their photos and current information today.  One of the best parts, though, was that we got to take a group photo of  the Form 4 students (our equivalent of a Senior).  This special group contains some of the first 50 students recruited to Missions of Hope. The first.  This is so monumental. The first kids will soon graduate from high school and go on to do awesome things.

This morning as I got ready for the day I was thinking about what that must have been like for these kids.  I wonder what their parent(s) thought when Mary recruited them to school?  Did they think it was just another person wanting to "help" them because they were poor or did they notice the something different,the something very special in her? I wonder if they dreamed of the future for these children.  Did they thank God for an answer to a prayer?  I wonder what they thought when the small building at the school's initial site became a towering beacon in the slums?  A building that can be seen from the super highway!  What did they think when visitors came to their houses to pray with them and share the love of Christ?  When someone assisted them in paying school fees through sponsorship. When the school went from one school to two to 17.  What must have happened in their hearts when their kids went out to the boarding school and then passed their 8th grade national exam? I wonder what must they have thought when they were no longer given handouts or relief, but rather empowered to use the skills and talents God gave them to better their lives, their children's lives, and the world around them?  What must they be thinking now as their kids enter their 2nd term of their last year of high school?

Before that; however, while we waiting for the high schoolers to show up (some things are the same no matter what continent you are on!) I went outside the gate to see what was going on. Two sweet, little ones RAN up to me and jumped into my arms (it is no secret that I love this and I literally think my heart will explode sometimes).  In my best Swahili, I asked them their names, where they lived and where their school was.  They said "here" and pointed to Missions of Hope.  They are in nursery class.  The littlest kids at our school.  New ones.  So I wonder, where will life take them?  How will their recruitment to Missions of Hope school change their life?  What did their parent(s) think when our social workers invited them to school? When their children come home with a head full of new things?  When their kids are smiling because they KNOW they are loved.  I wonder if they thank God for an answered prayer.  If this renewed their hope.  If it displayed the love of Jesus to them. 

What the future holds for these kids only God knows.  But I wonder, will I work alongside of them at Missions of Hope someday. After they finish college or university, will they give back to the place that gave to them.  Will they be my doctor when I am sick?  Will they become a welder and make windows and desks for our schools?  Will they hold public office?  Will one of them be president?  I wonder if they will pastor a church?  or be a missionary?  Will they stand up against injustice?  Will they fight against the power of poverty? 

I wonder.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In the gap

I never know exactly how to start these blogs.  How to start sharing what is pouring out of my heart and my coffee fueled mind. So I am just gonna begin and see where it leads.  I am ever so thankful for what we are being taught.  How we get to see things through the eyes of people who are here for the long haul.  Things look so much different for us now.  Our feet are planted here and we are growing roots.  As we do that our perspective changes so much.

We work in a place that has an abundance of problems and needs.  If you have been here (or some place similar), seen photos, or heard stories you know what I mean.  For every need met, about a billion more arise and stare you in the face.  At times, it can feel like walking in quicksand or running on treadmill.  Working so hard, but not really "going" anywhere. 

People come and visit or hear of the ministry and immediately begin to think of ways to fix it all (confession: I am very guilty of this!).  And we want the problem solved like yesterday.  Faster than immediate. We meet a family, they share a need, we jump into saviour mode.  And in many ways our compassion is awesome and admirable. The problem is-we aren't the saviour. At all.  We certainly get to be a part of sharing his love with the world, but we are not Him.  And in the rush to meet needs and the frustration that can follow when those needs are not met how and when we think they should be sometimes I think we are missing the most important part of the equation.  Jesus.

The ministry we are a part of moves so quickly.  And so slowly.  Simultaneously. Missions of Hope has experienced tremendous growth in a few short years, but the work being done here is at times moves at what feels like a snail's pace.  To me.  To us.  To Jesus, it is moving exactly how it should. We aren't just getting kids in school, or helping parents start businesses, or teaching health lessons and so on and so on.  Along with all these things, there needs to be a change of mind and more importantly a change of heart for this to be lasting.  To be sustaining.  And those sort of changes just take time.

 This week there has been a lot of that swirling around me. Stories that have crushed my heart. People with ideas and fervor to change them. Right.This. Second. But so many times, right this second isn't going to happen. And this week I have been struck so many times by the phrase "in the gap". 

In the gap. The space between.  The time that elapses.  Jesus is in that.  He is so much in that.  And in that space, He is enough.  Actually,He is so much more than enough.  For all these families and children who capture our hearts, He loves them more.  I think these kid's smiles give me joy, but they give him even more. He delights in them.  And their families. Their neighbors.  He sees so much more about them than anyone else ever will.  Their needs, desires, dreams, heartaches, stories NEVER escape him.  When they hurt, he is with them.  While they wait (while we wait), he is beside them (and us), when they rejoice, he does too. 

And I think this is not to be overlooked as we work to share His love.  In the meantime, while we get frustrated or annoyed with the time something is taking to happen Jesus knows exactly when and how it is all this is going to work out.  We are tasked with trusting him.  With waiting on him. In the gap.

While God is working in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases him (Phil 2:13), it is probably worth remembering that He is still enough.  I do what I can with what He gives me and then I trust him, place my faith in Him to do the rest. 

As we continue to work here, as you continue to work where you are or where you are going, as you come here to work, let us remember that Christ is present in the gap.  He is enough.  Always.  He cares, He loves, He sees. He is also in the business of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth in his ever so perfect timing.  So in the meantime, let us do what we can with what we have been given and may we patiently wait upon Him, while standing in the gap with them.

(I definitely recognize how weird it is that I would be talking about having patience.  If God is teaching me anything it is about patience.  And I don't always learn the easy way.  I love that God is showing me the beauty of waiting.  I love that he has is changing my heart in a way that I get to be the one who says "it will happen when the time is right" "it is okay to wait" etc.  I sound like Tim :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year and Finally a New Post!

It is hard to believe it is 2013 already. Also hard to believe it has been over 3 months since we have updated our blog. 

On this day last year, we were both getting over the flu and heading to Colorado for 5 weeks for missionary school.  We knew we would be leaving for Kenya soon, but we still had no departure date.  Everything was so unknown to us and "being in limbo" had taken on totally new meaning. Transition was the best way to describe our lives.

And now, on this day, I sit in our home in Nairobi.  We are just a few days away from being here for 10 months.  So close to a whole year and that plane ride to Colorado seems like ages ago.  Without a doubt, the transition has continued.  And will continue for quite some time, but with it has come some settlement and routine.  This has likely been the most paradoxical year of our lives.  It has been the hardest and the easiest.  Filled with many tears and so much joy.  Full of challenges and accomplishments.  A great deal of confusion and normalcy.  More goodbyes and hellos than have ever been said in our lives (probably combined).  We have learned more about who we are and about each other.  We have been frustrated and happy.  Pick an emotion and we have likely felt it at its extreme.  It feels like we just arrived and yet have been here forever.  It seems like the more we learn, the more there is to learn.  We have learned dependence and independence.  We have learned shillings and forgot what dollars look like.  We have learned driving on the other sideof the road and the car.  We have learned exhaustion and energized.  We have done Christmas together and apart from our families at the same time.  We have learned how to make things from scratch and to be thankful when people send us food and other great things that we love.  We have learned that distance changes relationships.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  We have tried to support friends who are hurting from afar and felt the sting of the many miles that seperate.  We have felt love from others like never before.

As I reflect (isn't that customary for the first of the year?) my cheeks are stained with tears (no surprise in that).  We are where we should be.  In the midst of the negative emotions we have experienced, we have experienced peace like never before.  We have been waiting to be here for so long.  And here we are.  We missed the holidays with loved ones, but God gave us people we love here to spend time with.  It was kind of great to be celebrating Jesus in the place He has brought us to share His love. 

We are overwhelmed with thankfulness almost daily.  Thankful to God for sustaining us.  For allowing us to be a part of this. Thankful for new friends and old ones.  Thankful for supporters.  Those who support financially, prayerfully, and through regular encouragement.  Thankful for our families and the way they make time to share our lives with us and keep us inolved in their lives.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  Ephesians 3:18

We are quite literally drowning in God's love.  All the time.  Every single second of every single day.  For this we are most thankful.  Our prayer is that 2013 is full of blessings for you.  May you be aware of how saturating the love of God really is.