Friday, June 24, 2005

What do you mean it's already over???

Well, today is the last day for the GCC team to be in Nairobi. After a grueling week of ministry, a couple days of safari and debrief, and today’s souvenir shopping, the team is going home. I can’t believe it is over! It was a barrage of whirlwind days that slipped by faster than I ever thought possible! My grandiose schemes for updating this blog every day were clearly a bit off! Hmmm… Maybe next time 67 Americans come over to Nairobi for two weeks, I’ll have more free time!

I won’t write too much about what they did during their ministry week, because they’ll be home to tell stories really soon! I guess I’ll just share a few highlights.

On Wednesday, we worked at Mama Ngina Children’s Home. Our team cut grass, washed clothes, cut potatoes, and played with orphan babies. These babies were so heart-breaking! They receive very little physical affection, and were actually reluctant to be held! I could see the GCC team having trouble playing with these babies. Each one was struggling with a mix of emotions – joy at the presence of such tiny little lives, confusion that babies could live the way these ones do, and rage that parents would simply abandon these children!

On Friday, our team visited a church in the Fuata Nyayo slum. Part of the experience included visiting congregation members in their homes. Having already had similar experiences, I was able to step back and watch the reactions of the GCC team as they witnessed extreme poverty for the first time. Visiting a slum is one of the most eye-opening things a person can do. Visiting a home in the slum and talking with fellow Christians living in poverty is a whole other matter. These students will never be the same!

This Tuesday, we arrived at Massai Mara to enjoy a few game drives and debrief sessions. The group talked and shared for two days, working through some of their experiences, processing the shocking things they saw, and simply sharing their hearts. It was an amazingly valuable time.

Though the animals were a little scarce at this time of year, we got a chance to see at least one of just about every kind (lions, giraffes, elephants, etc.). I was able to enjoy the company of my sister and parents while we did our game drives. Other than a one hour-long incident involving a lot of mud and several broken tow-cables, we had a really great time together (although I sure had a good time getting stuck in the mud)!

Well, that’s about it for now. I will put much more information in my next Kenya Email Update (which will also be posted here). Right now, I look forward to spending a week with Chris Yonan, who will be staying in Nairobi until the 3rd! Later!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What happened to sleep?

I originally planned to update this every day this week. Ha! I’ve been so busy with the GCC team; I haven’t even had a chance to make it to the internet cafĂ© since Sunday afternoon! Seriously, I’m barely getting enough sleep, while these jet-lagged Americans are showing up fresh and chipper! Isn’t that backwards somehow? They should be the ones dragging their feet each morning! Not me! I live here!!!

Anyway, about the week… On Sunday, the Mombasa Road team was given an awesome Kenyan welcome. They were all brought up front to the beats of a traditional Kenyan welcome song. Then, to their great surprise, several church fathers and “mamas” came up, draping Massai blankets around the guys and wrapping kangas around the girls, then prayed a blessing over each of them. The Massai blankets symbolized their nature as “spiritual warriors,” while the kangas (traditional Kenyan garments) represented the servanthood of the girls. It was so cool. The best part? They got to keep their gifts!

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself serving chai to a few members of the Waiyaki Way GCC team. It was the first time I’d ever made tea for so many people. The tea was a little strong, but I don’t think they knew any better, so it was ok! Hehe… After tea, I sent them off to enjoy their first night with host families (the GCC team has been living in houses and apartments all across Nairobi since that night!). From the conversations I’ve had with our team, living separately with families has been a great experience so far!

From this point, I have no idea how the other teams have been doing. The only GCC members I’ve seen all week have been for our church plant (Mombasa Road). We had a good time doing some team building on Monday morning. I led the team in some fun discussions and a crazy Kenyan game called “Shake.”

In the afternoon, teams of four went walking and praying through different parts of our district. This “prayer walk” was a great way for the team to see exactly what our area really looks and feels like. It was really good, but we all came back totally cooked by the sun!

Tuesday was definitely the most intense day so far. We took our team to a small prison in the industrial area completely overflowing with over 5000 inmates. We presented the gospel and played some Christian music with a group of DJ’s called “K-Krew.” It was a little overwhelming to see a sea of prison-hardened faces light up at the extremely rare entertainment we were able to provide. The stench of sewage and body odor (which I’m getting used to here) added to the surreal and shocking experience for our team.

Tomorrow we will go to Mama Ngina Children’s home to paint the walls, cut the grass, and play with the young orphans. Thursday we will be receiving training in Muslim Evangelism, then doing a community survey that will hopefully open up doors into some deeper conversations. Add that to the slum visit on Friday and Saturday’s “Crazy Olympics” outreach event, and these guys going to officially have the busiest and most culturally challenging week of their lives!

I guess I’m learning that coordinating and leading an international team in all these events is pretty exhausting! It’s just a good thing dad and mom are bringing me some Starbucks coffee when they arrive on Thursday morning! I’m going to need it!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mzungu Invasion!!!

I can’t believe it! After five months of preparation and anticipation, the mzungus have landed! Pulling gigantic suitcases and bulging carryon bags, the Grace Community Church team greeted Nairobi for the first time! Unfortunately, the airport experience wasn’t perfect. Eight pieces of luggage never showed up! To the amazement of all, there was no complaining (despite the prospect of sharing underwear and toothpaste!). These guys are such troopers!

I got to see my sister for the first time since leaving in January! It was great! With a couple inside jokes and small talk about her journey here, we were right back where we left off! Honestly, it is so great to have her in Nairobi with me! Though we won’t see each other much this week, we’ll have plenty of time to catch up at Massai Mara next Tuesday and Wednesday…

After finally getting transportation sorted out, it was time to leave the airport (about 2 hours after they landed!). With bleary eyes and dazed expressions, the GCC team filed onto three shuttles bound for the Methodist Guest House, where they spent their first night here. Many of these guys hadn’t slept in two days! But guess what… They weren’t allowed to go to bed! Following the advice of several “jet-lag experts” in the group, the team was required to stay awake until at least after dinner!

They did whatever they could to stay awake. Playing cards, talking, drinking tea, playing more cards… drinking more tea… Honestly, I admire their efforts. I know how hard it can be to fight the urge to sleep! If only there was an easier way to get on the rhythm of a country halfway across the world!

I don’t think have any idea what they are in for this week! After receiving a very Kenyan welcome at church tomorrow, they’ll be spending the rest of the week living with host families. During the daytime, they’ll be visiting prisons, helping at children’s homes, experiencing the slums, doing street evangelism and prayer walks, etc. When they go home at night, they’ll be eating Kenyan food, enjoying Kenyan hospitality, greeting visitors, and trying to figure out this extremely different culture! It will be a busy week!

Stay tuned here for more updates and pictures!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

White People - We're Hopeless...

Ok, being white here is SO weird! Especially being a white American! When I walk down the street, I feel like a circus parade, with everyone staring at me all the time! Sometimes I just feel like throwing down my bag, raising my arms and yelling out “Are you not entertained???” like Russell Crowe in Gladiator…

There is this basic mindset in Kenya that all white people (mzungus) are filthy rich. Because I’m pretty much as white as they come, taxi drivers wake up from their day-long naps to holler at me, street kids stop playing with their friends to hobble over and ask me for money (“Brother? Buy for me bread? Five shillings?”) and random people will stop me on the road just to say hello. I guess they think that I, being the ignorant and absurdly wealthy mzungu, would like nothing more than to shower them with money!

One of my intern friends said that when he was growing up, he honestly believed that you went to America when you died. Another man I met here was shocked to realize that we actually grow crops in the states! He simply thought that we imported all of our food.

The other day I talked a matatu conductor down from 20 to 10 shillings because I wasn’t going very far. When I got on, I heard a woman behind me asking in Swahili “Why does he need to save money?”

I often get ripped off when I ride matatus because I’m white. Ok, I used to get ripped off. Now I’m armed with an arsenal of Swahili words and phrases to totally make the conductor feel stupid. “Wewe! Ulisema mbau!” (“Hey, you said 20!”), “Hapana. Silipi thelathini. Kila wakati mbau!” (“No. I’m not paying 30. It’s always 20!”), or my favorite, “Unafikiri mimi ni mzungu mjinga???” (“You think I’m a stupid white person???”).

I’m learning to live with it. There’s really nothing I can do, so what choice do I have? Whenever I take the time and energy to gently realign a matatu conductor’s mindset about white people, the next mzungu he sees will inevitably be a chirpy, camera-toting American holding a 1000 shilling bill and asking “Jambo! Is this enough to get me to the Hilton hotel? Do you know what hotel means?”

White people – we’re hopeless…