The breeze wafts through the room. The birds chirp, sing, and warble in the trees. Dogs bark. Cows’ bells ring. The waves rhythmically roll onto shore in the distance. The sun hangs low over the horizon of Lake Victoria. The day is nearing it’s end. I am home after spending my first official day at Christ’s Gift Academy (CGA). The school is about a 15 minute walk up the hill from my house (and I can proudly say I have successfully been able to navigate my way there!) While I can hear Lake Victoria from home, I can see an even more stunning vista of trees, lake and sky from higher up the hill in front area of the school. At night the many lights from the village fishing boats make the lake look like it is it’s own city- amazing!
So, where to begin? Here I am. In Kenya. As I think over these past days of travel and settling in, I find that there is just not enough space to share everything! One thing that has become more than obvious to me is that I am in a new world. This is a world with geckos on the walls; with bright, hot sun and pounding rains; with beautiful, black faces and bright, welcoming smiles. It is a world full of handshakes and greetings and community; a world of new smells- not all of them pleasant; a world in which a walk to school takes one through a herd of goats butting heads and past the cows grazing alongside the roadside. This is a world in which one must always watch where you walk in order to avoid a twisted ankle or stepping in a fresh cowpie. It is a world of odd toilets and bucket showers and a world with little electricity so candles are lit around 7 pm. It is a world in which God is constantly praised and where the exclamations of, “Praise God!” and “Amen!” punctuate most conversations and testimonies and even begin most speeches.
Sunday evening was my first night in Mbita (pronounced em-bita). Steve and Judi, my team leaders, had myself and my roommate Kristen over for supper as we live just on the other side of the compound and haven’t had time to buy food supplies. Eating with us were two young people- Maurine and Caltex. As we prepared to sit down to a supper of spaghetti, bread, and greens, Steve first suggested that we pray. So, with the six of us taking turns, we welcomed in the New Year by praising God for His blessings and challenges in 2016 and asking for His guidance in 2017. What a blessing to be able to commune with God’s family this way!
I have discovered that most people in the area speak at least a little English, if not quite a bit. They have different ways of phrasing things and strong accents, but I have thankfully found most people here relatively easy to understand- when they speak English, that is! The people here in Mbita are primarily from the Luo tribe and so the mother tongue is Luo. Swahili is also understood and spoken by many here and this is the language that Steve and Judi believe would be most helpful for me to learn. Many in Eastern Africa understand Swahili and so, when I am able to get into South Sudan, knowing some Swahili will be more beneficial than Luo. And so, along with teaching and tutoring at CGA, I will be sitting in on KiSwahili classes in an attempt to learn as much of the language as I can. It is also our hope that I would be able to teach English to some of the gardeners and mamas at the school who were unable to finish their own schooling and didn’t have the opportunity to learn English.
Today we spent the day, as staff and teachers at CGA, discussing our theme for the term (which, in Kenya, is 14 weeks). The theme is “Good News.” The good news of the gospel is alive here in Mbita. It is our hope as educators to get the joy that the gospel brings to permeate the lives of our students and our fellow teachers. I understand that the concept of being a Christian witness in every area of our lives is still a difficult concept to grasp. Teachers, while claiming to be Christian, will misuse their authority. Students, while claiming to be Christian, will be dishonest on tests. All Christians sin, yes, but most of the teaching these past days has centered on the importance of knowing the good news of the gospel and living it out. Because, if we teachers do not know and understand the joy that the gospel can bring, how are we able to pass that joy on to our students?
As I begin the long and challenging process of settling in, I covet your prayers. I ask that you would pray for health- as new foods and new cooking methods are beginning to create havoc on my system. Second, I ask that you would ask God to increase my personal joy in Christ Jesus so that those I encounter and get to know will see Christ in me. I want to serve God wherever and however He desires. I ask that you would pray for perseverance and grace for when I feel lonely, homesick, beaten down, exhausted, or sick. I also ask that you would pray for humility in my tasks, an open mind to learn what God is teaching, and an open heart that learns to love these people God has brought into my life.
These next months, I will be striving to learn KiSwahili, learn how to cook, learn how to find electricity to charge various gadgets, learn how to ignore the rats in the ceiling and the flies in my water, learn how to truly listen across cultures, learn how to wash clothes and clean house, learn to make sure I am using clean water, learn how to shop for food at nearby village stands, learn how to teach in such a new cultural setting. These and so many other skills need to be learned and, by God’s grace I am learning!
Thank you for your love and support!