Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Ministry So Far

Last month... Where did it go?

       It seems like life here has a way of upsetting my perception of Time. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't cease to be linear, but I'm positive that there is not a constant rate of Time throughout the days/weeks/months. One day I'll be in a meeting planning events for the month with the youth team, and the next day I'm trying to remember to post pictures of the most recent event on our facebook page. And the day after that we're planning events for this next month.
       We just had our month planning meeting with the whole BlueSky team yesterday. It's funny how in those meetings Time doesn't even pretend to be keeping it's regular, steady pace. It taunts me by slowing to a crawl and taking breaks when ever it wants. Sometimes it even teams up with Conversation and goes in circles. 
       For last month, we decided to take the first few events with the students kind of slowly by not running a full program and focusing more on building relationships. Since we knew we would be meeting in houses and not in our own youth room, which will be built inside our climbing gym, we decided that it might be too odd for us to try to have music, skits, games, and talks. Instead, we just made our BlueSky events the "place to be" on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons for the Highschoolers and Middleschoolers respectively. We did a pretty decent job of it, too. Not every event had the same attraction, and some fell on the same day as large parties or school retreats or torrential downpours that managed to mangle roads and the cars on them, but kids still came. 
       Now we have established ourselves as a group of people who care about the lives of students beyond merely a fleeting interest. Unfortunately, we still don't have our youth room as the funds for constructing it haven't fully arrived. As a result, we decided in our most recent meetings to forego the awkwardness of being in someone else's home and to run our programs as best we can with what we've got. Now we have scheduled people for talks, skits, games, songs and the like. We are using the basic structure of the YoungLife program, since many of the BlueSky team knows it and participated with YoungLife in the past. 
       It always astounds me to see how God has brought all of us from so many different backgrounds together to run this ministry, but with a unity that can only come from him. It really is a blessing to be here with all these people, striving for the same goal of sharing the love of the all-encompassing God to kids who don't know what life is outside of all the compartments they've sequestered themselves in.
       Just wanted to let you guys know the direction we are headed this month and ask you to keep us in your prayers as we transition to our new style of program. We want to boldly speak God's Word while humbly live alongside these students.

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Some Videos for Your Viewing Pleasure

So, one of the guys on the trip, who goes by the name of Chase Cobern, took a lot of videos on our various excursions and has taken the time to create some pretty sweet little movies to commemorate our trip/s. They are rather long and are probably a little more "inside-joke-esque" than I realize, but I figured if you have time and want to see more of what it's like out here, then you might want to watch 'em.

Here's the link:

Thanks, Chase, for all your hard work on throwing those together!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Post-Summer Goings On.

So the summer staff left, the week of recuperation from summer camp was over, we moved into the house, and regular life began.

I live in a house that is in one of the nicer parts of town and very conveniently placed near one of the schools that participates the most in our ministry. The school is the Rosslyn Academy, and is a Christian school that has a student body made up of MK's, Diplomat kids, some Kenyans, and generally kids whose parents are the international type. It's about 5 minutes walking distance away from my house and it's also where my new church meets. Rosslyn is the school that BlueSky has been working with the longest when it comes to student ministry, so we have an easy time going to the school and hanging out with kids whenever we want.
The other schools we focus on aren't as easy to get into. We have to have reasons to be there so we don't creep out the staff or make kids think we are proselytizing, which would be something they would tell the staff, who would in turn be creeped out. The International School of Kenya (ISK) is the school I want to focus on the most. It is not a Christian school, but has a similar demographic as Rosslyn. I know a lot of the Middle School kids that go there because a fairly large group came to camp, but I haven't found a good reason to visit consistently yet. I tried to find a job as an assistant coach, but the guy I talked with kinda gave me the "I'll call you," and never actually did. Oh well...

(This just in! I wrote that last part a few days ago. The athletic director at ISK just emailed me and offered me a job working with the middle school kids who tried out for the soccer teams but weren't good enough to play for the A or B teams. They need someone to practice with the kids once a week. This is an awesome opportunity 'cause now I'll get to show up on campus with a purpose at least once a week! This is a Huge answer to prayer!)

Tyler and Daley (two of the people who joined BlueSky at the same time as me) are feeling like their focus should be on one of the Hindu schools in the area and decided to look into opening up the doors to Premier Academy. I'll help out with that school too, but I'm feeling a little more drawn to ISK.
So far, we are kind of limited to visiting the people we already know from camp, but that will change as the year goes on and the weekly programs pick up. We're especially looking forward to the Rock Gym opening up as a hangout option and a place for our youth group to meet. Three guys, Stephen, Andrew, and Jason, are heading up the designing and construction of the Rock Gym. They've been here since the beginning of this year trying to get that gym up and running and the funds recently came through to start the whole process. It will be the only climbing gym in Kenya and even East Africa. God has really been guiding their steps as they put this thing together from Scratch:
1) They found a very central location for it in Nairobi, in an up and coming shopping center called Diamond Plaza.
2) The Rent got lowered to way beyond what they were originally told because the people who own Diamond Plaza really want them to build the gym there.
3) We've received enough donations specifically for the rock gym in order to start building.
This place is going to be awesome. Students will be able to come climbing with us, hangout, and move beyond that awkward stage when they're still wondering why we chose to live here. And parents will be able to drop their kids off, go shop, grab a coffee, hit up the spa, etc. and then come pick their kids up. We think it will be a more welcoming location than meeting in different people's homes every week since it won't be in a particular school or in somebody's house that the kids don't even know.

The Lord is really moving in powerful ways!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Update #2: The End of Camp. The End of Summer.

Bullet Points for those who don't want to read all the way through the post:

1) During the 3rd session of camp, I got Malaria. I was sick for almost the whole week, but then got the medication I needed and healed up just fine.
2) During the 4th session of camp, one of my campers was a special needs camper named Vinit who managed to win over the entire camp's love through his hilarious antics.
3) During the 5th session, I co-lead the oldest kids age group with Tyler Fleet (one of the guys who is currently living and working with me). The week started off a little awkwardly but then through a series of unfortunate events, we bonded and went on to win just about as many awards that the camp has to offer.
4) After camp, we all went to the Maasai Mara and safaried it up until we couldn't safari any more.

The actual Post:

We last left our intrepid hero as the final three weeks of camp were quickly approaching. In fact, it was the night before camp that he sent the last update. (Enough third person, our “hero” is ME!) So anyway, I sent that update, and then began the longest stretch of camp of the summer. The kids that came for these sessions of camp (unlike the previous two) were mostly from backgrounds that know slim to none of what the gospel really means. Each week we had a full camp (and two of the weeks we even had extra kids that we squeezed in last minute) and only a few of the kids knew Jesus. It was an incredible time for all the campers and staff as we all learned how God works in our lives. The campers learned through the stories from the Bible that we shared with them every day. The staff learned through all the joy, sorrow, sicknesses, camp-outs, games, annoying kids, kids that were a blessing, arguments, reconciliations, prayer times, worship times, etc. … It was clearly evident how Holy spirit was working in us and through us to share the love of Christ with these kids and each other.
During the third session I was placed with the youngest age group, the Longonots. These kids were wholly dependent on counselors to do everything for them. Maybe not everything, but almost everything. They were 7-9 years old and had the attention span of a dead goldfish. I was thrilled to be their counselor, but I did not know how demanding they would be.
This is where it gets interesting. I had been doing all I could to feed, dress, and generally keep these kids in line when all of a sudden, two days into the week, the incubation period for malaria ended. And entered the … post-incubation period... I don’t know what that’s called, but it was like getting hit by a train and staying on the tracks as it continued to run me over and over for what seemed like an eternity. Monday night, I had just finished doing the luchador skit where I fling myself around and try to get kids to laugh by hurting myself, when I started to feel pretty awful. The fever was beginning to kick in full force and I, not knowing any better, blamed it on being sore from the aforementioned skit. As the evening carried on, I started feeling worse and worse. By the time I got back to the room and got in bed, I was in a bad way. To give you an idea of how bad my fever felt (without using train metaphors) I need to explain that it doesn’t get colder than about 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. I was in a 20 degree sleeping bag with blankets on top of it and was still unable to feel warm. I was colder than I’ve ever felt. It got to be so painful that I was afraid my groaning/subtle crying would wake up the kids. I barely slept at all that night, and woke up feeling much the same as I had the evening before. I spent most of Tuesday in the room while the kids were doing all of their activities. But by the time Tuesday evening rolled around, the leadership staff noticed I was sick and didn’t want to worry the kids so they sequestered me into the sickbay (AKA a room away from the campers). It was there that I spent the remainder of the week. On Wed they took me to the clinic to get my blood tested where they told me that I had Malaria and gave me the medication to get rid of it. From that point on all I did was stay in the room watching movies on my laptop and try to recuperate.
It’s funny how I started out the week babying kids who needed other people to do everything for them and finished the week as one wholly dependent on others. God decided to pull the “ol’ switcheroo” on me and let me know that I need him more than those kids ever needed me.
Other than that, I don’t remember too much of third session. It was really just a blur of pain and healing. But I learned a lot.
Session four brings us to the penultimate week of camp. The time when we as a staff had two paths in front of us. One path led to happier campers, more energetic skits and games, and incredibly worn out camp counselors who still had one more week of camp ahead of them where they would do the same. The other path led to a pretty decent week of camp with fun and games and a generally lackadaisical attitude throughout all of camp staff followed by another week of the same. I can’t give you everyone’s experience, but I might be able to fill you in on which path we chose by explaining what happened to me.
For this session I was placed with the Lengai, which is the second time I was placed with this age group. These kids are one step above the Longonots and have developed enough to know how to put on their clothes and even where their clothes are in their suitcases. But they also have garnered themselves a little bit more energy than any person could ever need. Coming off of a week with Malaria, I wasn’t exactly in the best shape to keep up with the delightful little tykes. However, I was not the only counselor in the cabin this week since we had a massive amount of girls sign up and barley any boys. There was such a shortage of boys that we had three counselors in one cabin with ten boys. The cabins weren’t too big, but neither were the boys, so although it was cramped, it wasn’t terrible living conditions. We had so many in one cabin because there was a bit of a mix up in the signing up process and one unfortunately named young man had been placed in girls camp (a problem that was quickly remedied upon his arrival) as well as having a last minute addition of a certain Vinit Patel.
Vinit warrants his own paragraph and so I will give him one. We were told about him the morning he showed up when his parents quickly signed him up after being told that a spot had opened up due to someone not being able to make it and furthermore noticing that he would not be the only child with special needs at camp. Cheryl, who had Down’s Syndrome, was also at camp this week. Vinit, we were told, didn’t have Down’s, but rather a chromosome disorder that gave him the same appearance and someone with Down’s. He was placed in my cabin because, although he was 13 and should be in the next age group, he was in the same year at school as the younger kids. When I first met him, I was a little scared of how the week would go. I’ve never had experience caring for kids with his needs before. I just got off of a week with kids who needed meticulous supervision and was not feeling up to the challenge again (especially having been so recently sick). How would he interact with the other kids? Would they pick on him relentlessly? How would he participate in the rest of camp? Would he want to play the games? If he doesn’t will I have to sit with him the whole time? Am I going to be able to concentrate on any of the other kids, or will my focus be only of Vinit? etc.... I’m sorry to admit that most of the thoughts included in the “etc.” became pretty selfish after a while. I was a little resentful that he was placed in my cabin. Anyway, Vinit showed up late Sunday night (the first night of camp) after all the other kids had showed up because his parents had to go pick him up and drive back. I went to meet him and was greeted by one of the happiest I had ever been introduced to. He had a great big smile and was incredibly excited to be at camp. I took him to the room and introduced him to the other kids and our cabin was finally assembled for the week.
That was a long paragraph for one kid, but he managed to single handedly change the course of the week. The first day of camp wrapped up with all the kids signing up for the activities they would be doing all week and everyone headed to bed. We made all the kids get ready for bed and Vinit proved capable enough to accomplish the whole ordeal by himself, but it took quite awhile. That was the first indicator of how the week would go: slow but generally happy. The kids seemed to welcome him pretty well, and one of them even had a cousin with Down’s and was good at talking with him when no one else was really listening to him. The next day at skills (the activities the kids do all week), Vinit basically sat on the side of each skill watching the other kids play the games when they were too physically demanding, but received plenty of attention from which ever counselor was close at the time, so he sat contentedly. Lunch was another indicator of the tempo of the week as Vinit had to be encouraged to eat more with every bite. It’s not that he wasn’t hungry, it’s just that the kid ate slower than anyone I’ve ever met. He always had to take food with him when he left meals. After lunch is when I started to notice that the kids were starting to make fun of him. One kid in particular would notice when he was doing something particularly silly and bring the other kids in from outside to laugh at him. I have to admit that I didn’t like that kid too much. He was such a little suck up. I was a bit mean to him from that point on. I called him out on making fun of Vinit and from then on he became Vinit’s defender making up lies about other kids and tattling on them so that I would get them in trouble too. The kid was a snot. As the week went on, we learned better how to deal with Vinit’s eating habits and the other kids learned to appreciate Vinit’s silliness without making fun of him and life went pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t completely smooth.
Vinit did have some issues with not getting his way as do all people, but his reaction was a bit more flagrant than others. I had to tell him to stop throwing water in people’s faces during one of the games and told him if he did it again he wouldn’t be allowed to play. After that, I became “the mean one” and a child who loved everyone he met didn’t love met. Which meant that whenever I talked to him he would ignore me and not do anything I said. Thankfully, since there were two other counselors with me that week, I let them take over for awhile and was able to get to know the other kids better. (Side note: If Corbin and Wes hadn’t been in that cabin with me I would have lost it. Those guys backed me up and prayed for me and with me and were a huge encouragement the whole time.) By the time Thursday rolled around, Vinit was talking with me again and I was noticing positive changes in the other kids. They were able to take the weird jokes and comments that Vinit made and participate with him. He really did say some crazy things, so I was really proud of the kids when they took it in stride and let him be himself. Even “the little snot” was beginning to stop being such a suck up all the time and I started to realize that my grudge against this kid was foolish and stupid. My anger blinded me to the fact that I’m not there to make the kids better people over the course of the week. I’m there to love them with the love of Christ even when they’re being little snots ‘cause Christ loved me first. He didn’t wait for me to be a better person. So what right do I have to begrudge that kid? It was an insightful and painful moment when I realized I was being a jerk to a kid that was supposed to be learning who Jesus is from me.
By the end of the week, everyone in camp knew who Vinit was and all of the staff fell in love with the kid. He even managed to emcee the awards ceremony (basically paper plate awards). He was one of the most challenging kids I had to deal with, but he was also one of my favorites.
As the fourth session finished up, my spirits started to lift as we approached the final week of camp. Don’t get me wrong, I loved camp, but it was time for it to end. I was tired and we had been going non stop all summer. Even the time inbetween sessions we managed to fill up with non-stop activity like what I already told you about in the previous update. So when Amanda, the camp director, told me that I was going to be with Kilimanjaro, the oldest kids age group for the final and fifth session, I was ready for kids who could dress themselves and the varied activities that come with that group.
The Kili (short for Kilimanjaro) guys get to experience a completely different side of camp. Rather than playing all the games and singing all the songs that the littlest kids get to participate in, they play on high ropes courses and climb mountains and go caving and camping. There is a much more relaxed feel to the whole week than the rest of camp’s activities. In other words, it was exactly the week I needed.
The guys showed up on Sunday, awkwardly stood around saying goodbye to their parents and then Tyler, who co-led the week with me, and I showed them around camp and began to teach them what sarcasm was. (Coming from the international culture, some of them had to adjust to our American witticisms.) We had a cabin full with 12 high school guys, 7 of whom were of Hindu and Jain backgrounds and 5 who were from nominally Christian backgrounds. The guys didn’t exactly jump head first into camp. It took our first high ropes course that night before things started running smoothly. But after they got to know each other and us a bit better we were able to get a long swimmingly. The next day we did some more ropes course stuff, rock climbing at the nearby cliff face, and then played some of the camp games with the younger kids, but the week didn’t really begin until Tuesday when we started on our three day trip.
We joined up with Andrew Conway (the leader of our expedition and one of the guys I live with now) and left pretty early to drive to Mount Suswa, so we could have enough time to explore the cave system throughout the mountain. It was a four hour drive through the Kenyan country side, which changes quickly from lush mountainside to barren plains. The last hour of our trek was spent on the worst path I have ever been on. There was no other way to get to the campsite, so we had to grin and bear it as we drove over the rockiest, most uncomfortably bumpy ride of my life. The campsite turned out to be right next to the entrance of the caves, so we quick set up camp and headed on into the volcanic tunnels.
The tunnels were an intricate system of over 70 caverns, some of which were connected and we were able to rappel into  in order to continue exploring. The caves were amazing. The Maasai guides who led us through them told us that National Geographic had done a special on them and had been through the very same caves we went through. They also told us about the animals that live in them at night. One portion of the caves has an open roof where it caved in long ago. Piles of rocks are scattered everywhere and some huge tree roots have descended into the cave from the opening. Those crazy baboons having been going there for so long that all the rocks have been rubbed smooth and shiny from their butts. It’s simultaneously really cool and really gross. The baboons will only go so far into the cave because leopards will take their kills into the deeper portions of the caves to keep the food for themselves. But even the leopards won’t go too far back because the bats live really far in the cave and they really know how to keep anything out. I don’t mean to be too crude, but the stench that they create is one of the worst things that I have ever smelled. We got into their section and the entire floor of the cave was covered in about five inches of what appeared to be fluffy dust. In actuality it was just guano. It was gross. We only had to crawl on it on our hands and knees twice though, so it wasn’t too disgusting...
After the caves that day, we got back to camp and were throwing the frisbee, or something carefree like that, when we started to see storm clouds rolling up on us. In our expert knowledge of meteorology, specifically in the Kenyan setting, we determined that the storm would be a minor inconvenience and ultimately amount to a mere sprinkle. Unbeknownst to us, this storm would forever change the course of the week. The storm began as a light frosting of rain and smoothly graduated to a torrential downpour of large rain drops and even bigger pieces of hail that could rival marbles. The sky continued to wage war on our meager tents for the next hour. The hail cut out a bit sooner than the rain, but its point was made five minutes after it decided to join the party. Since the ground we were on was basically a giant rock do to the fact that we were on a mountain, the rain refused to go into the ground through any route other than the caves. As all the high schoolers sat in the tents not knowing what to do, Tyler, Andrew, and I ran around putting all the gear we could into the vehicles (and also not knowing what to do). As the rain continued the kids realized that the it was seeping through the tents and our homes for the night were ruined. By that time the ground had turned into 2-3 inches of running water sweeping through our campsite with various pools filled with 2 inches of hail and making this experience that much colder. (At this point you might be thinking, “Wait a second, Bryce. You live in Kenya. It doesn’t get cold in Kenya. Even in the middle of winter it doesn’t get under 50 degrees and night.” Well I’m going to let you in on a secret about Kenyan weather: much like Lady Gaga’s poker face, you cannot read it.) Fortunately, one of our tents was new enough to have a decent ground tarp that held the water out and for some providential reason Andrew had neglected to set his tent up before we went to the cave. So when the rain finally stopped and drained down into the earth, we started making plans for optimal sleeping arrangements. For a while, we were planing on sleeping in the caves to get into a dry area, but is was so dusty that we decided to rough it on the outside.
(I feel the need to interrupt this narrative in order say that this whole time, the guys and girls on the trip spent this whole time laughing and carrying on as if there was no way this storm could get there spirits down. All the guys had piled into our bus and were waiting out, and the girls were in the nice tent that manged better in the storm. Overall, they were awesome campers.)
One of the other issues we were facing was that this storm happened at about 5:00pm and stopped at about 6:30pm giving the kids and us plenty of the rest of the day to think about how cold and wet we were. As we were still standing around trying to make plans for the next few hours before sleep, the Maasai guides, who had been wisely waiting out the weather in the caves, pitied us and offered their assistance in starting a fire. Not thinking it possible to start a fire in these conditions we doubtfully, but gratefully accepted their offer. By the time my clothing finished drying beside the blazing fire, I began to realize that my doubts of the fire building capabilities of the Maasai were ridiculous. They created a roaring flame from rain soaked wood and plastic hotdog wrappings. It was incredible to watch and even more incredible to feel warmth after resigning ourselves to a miserably cold evening. We sat around that campfire until about 10:30 just talking about what had happened. It was probably the best bonding experience that God could have sent our way.
The rest of the trip went without a hitch. We did more cave exploring the next day, then drove on to the next campsite which was right beside a hippo infested lake. I saw four wild hippo that night. Those things are surprisingly graceful. They had an electric fence keeping them out of the campsite, so we were able to stand on one side of it as they grazed along the waterfront. Looking at them, you’d hardly believe that they were the number one man killer in the world. They look like giant pigs with bigger faces. Thursday morning, we went to Mount Longonot for a 3 hour hike up to the rim, and then made our way back to Lukenya.
Thursday night is when we gave the more in-depth gospel message and the solo time for the campers to think about the week and who God is. The questions the guys had that night made it clear that God was working in their hearts. We didn’t have anyone profess new faith, but seeds were planted and God’s word was proclaimed. Talking with the guys that night was pretty scary. They asked some hard hitting questions that I certainly couldn’t answer with fully satisfying responses. Most of them were Hindu or Jain, and the Christians seemed full of questions too, so Tyler and I gave what we thought were correct answers while praying that the Holy Spirit was supplying inspiration. It was an intimidating conversation. The guys were very open and honest about what they believed and weren’t afraid to ask questions, even in a large group setting like we had.
Friday, the last full day, the guys jumped all the way into the camp activities and ran around camp enjoying life and being loud. They made such an impression that during the closing ceremony the next day when their parents came to pick them up, they won the award for best mountain group (age group). Normally it goes to the younger kids who are around camp the whole week. That session was the only one to have the oldest age group win. They were a great group of guys. They loved camp and made it an enjoyable time for everyone around them. Part of the cool part of my new ministry here is that I get to keep up with those guys and build stronger relationships.
Thus ended my first Camp Blue Sky summer. At least that ended the camp portion. The summer staff had a few more days, so we hired some safari vans and drove down to the Maasai Mara for a few days of reveling in the glory of God’s creation. But words can’t even describe what that trip was like. Luckily, I have over 2,500 pictures of the trip, so if you want more than words just ask and I’ll show you. I’ve never seen so many animals in my life.
After we got back from the Mara, all the summer staff loaded into their respective planes and headed on back to the states for a little R&R before school started back up. Ever since then, we full timers have been adjusting to Kenyan life and planning kick offs for our high school and middle school ministries. God is moving in great ways here in Nairobi. He’s opened many doors for us to spread his Word and share his love. But I’ll write more of that later, this is already too long.



Update #1: My First Update.

Bullet Points for those who don't want to read the entire Post:

   1) Camp BlueSky is vastly different from anything I've experienced.
   2) During the 1st session of camp, I co-counseled the age group "Lengai" (5th and 6th grade boys)with Sean Locker.
   3) In between sessions, we visited some of the slums of Nairobi and and got to see things that I will never forget. We also got to visit a school set up to help kids get out of the slums and stay out by teaching them to read and write and a specific trade.
   4) During the 2nd session, I led a group of 7th grade boys, most of whom go to the International School of Kenya, which is where I plan on focusing my ministry.
   5) After the 2nd session, our team went to Maasai Land and helped build a chicken coop for some Maasai looking to earn a living through an alternative to raising cattle.
   6) During our time in Maasai Land, we were able to go to a goat roast at the home of one of the Maasai men we were helping.
   7) At that very same roast, I ate a goat's face, tongue, and heart.
   8) After a week, we took a trip out to Western Kenya for another week long trip. We spent the week visting churches and planting trees. We also each had an opportunity to preach and teach in the churches we visited. I taught a 40 min. lesson to a church in Western Kenya.
   9) The Week in Western ended and we got to drive over to Uganda and spend a few days relaxing and rafting through rapids on the Nile. I have a much greater appreciation for what Moses went through now.

The Actual Post:

We have had two sessions of camp from the schools that follow the American school system, and are about to enter three weeks of mostly East Asain schools (Indian) and British schools. The first session was basically all MK's and a few Homeschoolers. It was a good introduction to camp. Learning all the ropes with the kids who knew the gospel pretty well and also knew how camp generally operated, so I tried to pick up on a little of both from them. It was a good week filled with miscommunications between the staff and troublesome 10-11 year olds (which was the age group I was working with for that week) who decided it would be a good idea to have shoe fights and various other room wrecking activities. The camp is way different from anything I have ever experienced, so it took a little for me to get in stride of my usual goofy antics. But have no fear, I was able to bring my wrestling mask into a recurring skit every single week. El Pollo Loco teaches wrestling moves every Monday night of Camp and then emcees a game of "birdy ona perch" encouraging the girls to incorporate the very same wrestling skills taught to them not five minutes earlier. It generally ends up with some fellas getting crushed under the weight of fierce female fighting. We play lot's of games, and build up a lot of competition by splitting the camp in two for the whole week and keeping a running tally of which team wins. (for those of you who know what Victory Jam is like) it's kind like a recurring quest to win Tiki George every single session of Camp (You'd think that might fun but it has on more than one occasion become rather stressful). Camp is drastically different from what I expected. It's basically a non-stop week of games. There is almost no time to chill. But it's great. I really love the kids that have come through so far.
The second session was mainly kids from the International School of Kenya, which is the school I will be trying to do student ministry in. I had a cabin full of middle schoolers who had not heard too much about the gospel and were practically dying of spiritual thirst. We had cabin devotions and the kids would just keep asking questions and questions about the Bible and about Jesus and about Catholics and about various other denominations. I didn't really know how to answer all of them, but I did my best. One of the kids in particular was reading his Bible non-stop every time we got into the cabin. He was reading through Genesis and asking many questions. The whole week he kept saying things like, "I'm not the best Christian, but i'm going to try to be." Judging by interactions with his parents, they didn't take their faith too seriously, so this was his first interaction with people that really held Christ above everything else. It was incredibly encouraging to see God working in his heart as the week progressed. Another really encouraging thing is that the kids I got to hangout with seemed to actually be excited when they found out that I would be living here and hanging out with them more. I don't know how to tell you how excited I am just thinking about starting the student ministry with those guys at the end of the summer.

In between sessions, we've had the opportunity to participate in various ministries in and around Nairobi. One of the five guys (burgers and fries) that I will be living with in Nairobi, Andrew Conway, grew up here as an MK and his dad, Larry Conway, has been doing slum ministries for about 15 years. Our group of summer staff is kind of large, so we had to split up and visit two different locations the days we got to see what the Conway's ministry was like. My group went on the first day to the school where the children and young adults that the ministry was able to get off the street taught basic education and vocational skills to. The Gospel was incredibly evident in their lives. Their understanding of where they had come from and how Jesus had brought them into real life rather than a glue huffing addicted life or despair was so evident. But I feel like what I saw meant nothing to me until the next day when we went to the actual slum that the kids came from. The people we met let us into their alleyways and "homes", which were filled with burning garbage and other things that I won't mention. They saw Larry and would immediately smile and walk up to him and shake his hand. These were some of the hardest people I've ever seen. They lived on the streets in some of the worst conditions and when theysaw this man walking into their lives they would be delighted to see him coming. But at the same time, a few of them only had the mental faculties to recognize him. They were so ensnared to the drugs and the life that they continued to live in that they had killed their brains with glue and petroleum fumes. And these weren't old bums like we see in the states. These people were no older than 40 and a lot of them were under the age of 13. It was heart breaking. Children walking up to us asking us for money so they could buy more glue while they were busy sniffing the current glue bottle which was tucked into their shirt collar for easy sniffing access. They were blinded to their own condition by their need to constantly be high. At one point, we walked past a man that, Larry told us, had been on the streets for the last fifteen years and was not willing to try to get off. He had been on glue and petroleum for so long that his mind was almost completely gone. He was unable to even swat the flies off of himself, which were all over him. It was right about then that I found a new appreciation for Larry and people like him that continue God's work in the darkest of situations. I had completely forgotten about the kids that I had seen the day before when we went to the school. I had forgotten the joy and new life that was evident in their faces and words. I was surrounded by so much poverty and unwillingness to abstain from life ruining sin that I felt crushed by the weight of it all.
Later that night, we all got together and talked about what we had seen and experienced and, thankfully, I was reminded of the work that God was doing in the lives of his people on the streets and his people recently taken from the streets. The other group had been to the slums the first day and the school the second and were able to see the redemption in the appropriate order, so it was easier for them to take joy from the trip. I'm so glad they did. Their talking was just about the only way I could pull out of the darkness I was living in.
There have been many experiences that have been opening my eyes to the work God is doing in the lives of his people in Kenya. We just spent the last three weeks traveling. One week we were in Maasai Land, spending a week working with the Maasai and learning their culture while we built a big ol' chicken coop so the Maasai could raise an alternative living rather than trading and selling cows. The people were so welcoming, giving us precedence over themselves in order to make sure that we felt welcomed. Their idea of hospitality is mind blowing. They even invited us over to a goat roast and we got to partake in every aspect of the experience. They even waited to slaughter the goat so that we could be there for the whole ordeal. 
To the squeamish of heart and the animal lovers, I urge you to look away and skip this next part. It's not for easily upset.
We walked into the field past the collection of house (or boma as they say in Maasai), where the Maasai men had gathered to kill the beast. The Maasai women were not allowed to join us for this event due to traditions and cultural practices dating back to when the Maasai we were with were not believers. This did not stop the American girls from joining in the festivities, though, and participate they did. Even while they were slitting the throat and pouring the blood out on the ground none of us could look away as we were horribly fascinated by the animal we had heard screaming not five minutes earlier. The men were highly skilled at taking the animal apart. Within twenty minutes they had the innards out, the head wholly detached and the skin sperate from the body. While they were doing all that, our attention had been turned towards the remnants of the goat they had slaughtered before we got there. The men had already prepared portions of the goat for us to try while we waited for the next goat to be finished and this they gave to us with the addition of a sauce of goat fat and blood to dip the pieces of goat meat in. Not everyone felt able to partake to that extent, but those of us who did, generally enjoyed the flavor it provided and some even went back for seconds (others, including myself, went back for thirds and fourths). About the time when the goat was fully prepared to be cooked and, in fact, was cooking, the group was encouraged to go back to the boma. I however had been conversing with a few Maasai and did not feel the need to go with all the white people back to the houses, so I stayed around to keep talking. Much to my surprise, staying around also included a pre-dinner sampling of the goat parts that wouldn't be in the stew they would later prepare. These parts included tongue, random giblets, the goat's face, and a rather large amount of the goat's heart. None of which looked properly cooked. As I ate, I prayed for God to keep me physically healthy and to guard my stomach with an iron lining. I didn't feel like I could refuse as the men were being very generous in offering me these choice portions of meat. I narrowly dodged eating the liver because the older men were asking for it when they were about to slice me off a piece. By the end of my time alone with the Maasai I ended up eating about one third of a goat's face, one quarter of a goat's heart, and an entire goat tongue. Then I headed up to the boma for chai and the company of my pale skinned brethren.
The squeamish are now invited back to the story.
Eating with the people, working with them, and praying with them was a blessing. We were able to go to church with them on the last day we were in Maasai land. There service was like nothing I've ever experienced. First of all we met under a tree. Second of all, people were jumping up and down, singing with all they had, and (something that will probably never happen in a presbyterian church) not only clapping throughout the whole song, but keeping the rhythm as well. They loved God and they proved it through song. There were some older Maasai men who showed up, but didn't fully participate. We found out at the end of the service that one of them men was a husband of one of the women. It was his first time coming to church and she proudly and unabashedly pointed him out and prayed for him infront of everyone for Christ to save him. It was incredibly moving, more moving when we were told later that that was a very unusual thing for a woman to do and that she could possibly have humiliated the man to the point of him beating her for it. It is such a different culture. When I think of it, I pray for that woman, that she is alright and that God is working in her husband's life. It was a good service.

After the week in Maasai Land we went out to Western Kenya (not a different country, just not the Eastern part) and spent a week splitting up into twos and living at different home-stays. Generally the people we stayed with were the pastors of different churches in the area (the number of which totaled up to 43 different churches), but some of us stayed with various members of the congregations. The hospitality of the people here was even more so than in Maasai Land. It did help that we payed for our food, rather than making them pay for it, but you have to understand that these people had nothing and they were going way out of their way to make us feel more at home than if we were home. I was staying with a pastor that had a little more cultural exposure than other people who opened up their homes. He was generally understanding that my buddy Brett and I were probably not as exposed to his culture as we should be and made us feel very at home, letting us ask him any questions we needed and never asking us for anything. We found out later from our friends that some of their home-stays continually asked for financial support to send their kids to school or for enough money to buy certain improvements for their homes. Their poverty was abundant, but once again, we were blessed by their willingness to share their lives with us. They would tell us that it was a blessing for them to have people stay in their homes, but I felt far more blessed by them than I felt I was able to bless them.  The man we stayed with, Pastor Caleb, had a wife and four kids (two older daughters, one middle son, and another daughter). His wife's name is Susan, and his children that I met are named Davis and Frida. His two older daughters were living at the school/orphanage all the time because they did not have enough money to support them at home. Susan is an excellent cook, Davis is the most excellent four and a half year old soccer player I have ever seen, and Frida, who is approaching four, is the most bountiful drooler I have ever witnessed. She covered her whole house in drool and then would draw pictures with the piles of spittle she had made. It was amazing. Needless to say, the family we stayed with welcomed us with open arms, praying with and for us, and asking us to come back as soon as we could. We left Western Kenya on Sunday, but before we left we went to church with Pastor Caleb and his family. Part of attending church as a visitor in that culture means that you will be preaching and or teaching for that service. Thankfully, since there were two of us, Brett and I could share the burden. I taught and Brett Preached. The difference being teaching is more of a Sunday school type deal and people ask questions after your done talking, whereas preaching is the Word of God and as such, people don't question it. Those people asked some rough questions, but I think I didn't teach any heresies and they weren't about to tell me I did a bad job, so I felt pretty good afterwards. Once again, I feel the need to say that the worship during the service was awesome. The people of Kenya know how to worship God with a joy scarcely seen in any church in the states. They know that they need him to survive. They depend on him and know how he sustains them. Therefore, they worship. And they worship with a fierce devotion.

After the week in Western, we grabbed our passports and shot cards and traveled over to Uganda to spend a few days of R&R at a tiny little resort on the edge of the Nile. It was so beautiful. It was really hard to keep in mind that just a few country boundary lines away a little baby Moses had been tossed into the same river that I was looking over, swimming in, rafting on, and generally enjoying. At this point, the trip becomes a blur because we were all exhausted and trying to recuperate by doing extreme things, like rafting through class 5 rapids. We took a whole day to spend on the river paddling our rafts completely at the mercy of the water, but pretending we had the ability to change the outcome of the courses we had taken. (I believe pictures of the even will be up soon. It was a blast.) The next day was one of tourism and general boringness. But there was one bright spot. I decided that I couldn't be at the Nile without standing high above it on a platform, attaching a giant bunch of Rubber Bands to my legs, and leaping off of said platform in order to plummet 143 ft. I even dunked my head in the Nile before being wrenched back up into the air 2/3rds of that amount, where I proceded to re-plummet a few more times before they took the bungee cord off my feet. 

Other than that, there are countless stories of our group growing tighter and tighter. But those are too many to relate. I will spare you the details. We are just about to enter our third session of Camp. Kids will show up tomorrow and among those will be the grandchildren of the current president of Kenya. No big deal. We aren't worried that if we screw up we will all be thrown in jail and never return home...

If I never see you again, I love you all. If I do see you again, I'll probably apologize for writing such long emails, when I intended to only write a small blurb. Thanks for reading this if you did. Please continue to pray for us. We have such an opportunity to share God's love and I don't want to miss it.



This is my blog.

Hello faithful readers!

This is where I will be updating people from now on. I'm going to post my last couple Updates on here and then continue writing new ones as the internet connection allows.