Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving in Kenya

As each American holiday approaches Chris and I have the same conversation, which includes the tough decision of whether or not to acknowledge the upcoming occasion or to just let it pass in hopes of our kids not remembering.  If we choose to celebrate, our options are limited since there aren't any organized community activities, related television shows, decorations and such.  Of course, we can make our own decorations and create our own fun, but is all the effort worth it?  Sometimes the answer is "yes" and other times the answer is "no".

This year, the decision to celebrate Thanksgiving was made for us!  

The two yellowish buildings on the right are called The Nyayo House
and are home to the Kenyan Department of Immigrations. 
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving we left Mikinduri and headed to Nairobi in hopes of (finally) obtaining the 3-year work permits that we've been trying for months to secure.  On the way to the big city we talked about what else we might want to do there, but agreed that our business at the immigration office trumped everything. 

All praise be to God, on Wednesday afternoon we had our legal papers in hand!  When Vivian, the immigration agent, gave us our documents we danced around, jumped up and down, and yelped (quietly) for joy.  She couldn't stop laughing and smiling.  She said that most people just take their envelopes and go...imagine that!!  After leaving Vivian's office we flooded heaven with prayers of thanksgiving for always providing for us.  Our hearts overflowed with gratitude and we excitedly shared those feelings of appreciation with one another.  As we walked back to the truck we spontaneously began recalling the countless occasions when the Lord has provided for us in such incredible ways.  Did we need to celebrate Thanksgiving the next day or was it enough to just embrace this moment?  It's so hard to know when to detach from our American traditions, and when to hang on.  We want to enter fully into this culture, but we also don't want our kids to lose their identity as Americans.  We decided to wait until Thursday to see how everyone was feeling. 

This is our friend Agnes, her daughter Juliette,
and son Delight.  We've been blessed to be able to
spend time with them during our visits to Nairobi.
Early the next morning the phone rang.  When I answered, a chipper voice said,

"Happy Thanksgiving!  It's your Thanksgiving, right?"  

I was amazed and humbled by my friend's thoughtfulness.  She lovingly insisted that our family go to her home that evening for a delicious Thanksgiving feast that her family was eager to prepare.  They'd heard about Thanksgiving and had even seen it celebrated in movies, but this would be their first opportunity to experience it themselves.

We were SO honored and graciously accepted their invitation.    A few hours later we were looping around the huge interchange and heading out to Kikuyu County on the Southern Bypass, one of Nairobi's largest expressways.

Kikuyu County is home to the Kikuyu tribe, which is centrally located.

They occupy the area just north of the capital city of Nairobi, as you can see on this map.

The landscape of Kikuyu County is hilly and a bit dry.  It has been divided into private parcels that people refer to as their "compound" or "homestead". 

This is an example of a typical homestead that is well established with crops, irrigation, composting, and livestock.

After exiting the expressway we turned this way and that on the bumpiest of roads.

Finally, we arrived at Agnes' family's compound.  She, her husband, and two children lived in Nairobi for many years, but recently decided to move back to the village in Kikuyu.  They built this beautiful home and have begun establishing their compound.  They've planted vegetables and fruit trees; created a suitable water system, and built an enclosure for the chickens and rabbits which are a sustainable food source.  In the years to come I anticipate them adding other livestock and increasing the size of their gardens.

When we arrived Agnes and her family were hard at work preparing a delicious Kenyan feast of chicken stew, mixed vegetables, chapati, and potatoes.

Anna jumped right in and helped Juliette make chapati (flat bread).

I was put in charge of making the mango juice and chopping up the veggies, which is my forte.

When everything was finally ready it was displayed on the table.  Agnes was SO happy to be able to provide us with such an amazing feast and our hearts overflowed with thanksgiving for her love and gracious hospitality!!

All praise be to God, we had an incredible Thanksgiving that was a perfect blend of our American tradition and the Kenyan culture.  Yet again, the Lord has blessed us in abundance.  He constantly provides for us in ways that far exceed our little imaginations and fills our hearts with confidence that He will continue to do so in the days, months and years to come.  

We hope and pray that you also had a blessed Thanksgiving.
Peace, joy and love!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially 
so that we can continue serving those in need, please visit:

or call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Thank you and God Bless!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

My Newfound Love of Languages - by Katelyn

Image result for world with languages
"With languages you are at home anywhere."
     -Edmund De Waal


Portuguese is spoken in 10 different countries throughout the world:
  • Brazil
  • Portugal 
  • Timor-Leste (East Timor)
  • Macao
African  Countries - 
    Image result for portuguese speaking countries flags together
  • Mozambique 
  • Angola
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Equatorial Guinea 
  • Cape-Verde
  • Sao Tome and Principe

"The limits to my language mean the limits to my world"

                    -Ludwig Wittgenstein

In the middle of August I started taking Portuguese classes at Consolata because I realized that I have a newfound love for different languages that can make my world even more colorful. I started the class off with a huge advantage by being fluent in Spanish due to living in Peru for the last 3 years. With that I was able to bypass 3 of the 6 levels of Portuguese offered at the language school. Consolata Language/Philosophy School is where my family and I have been living for the last 3 months in Nairobi, Kenya. We were taking Swahili classes for 4 hours a day and completed the beginners course a couple of weeks ago. On top of doing Swahili for 4 hours a day, I returned to the school after lunch to do 4 hours of Portuguese in the afternoon. The grammar side of Portuguese is the exact same as Spanish and that made the whole learning process easier. 

"Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things."
                               -Flora Lewis

My teacher, Vania, is from Mozambique but has been living in Kenya for the last 5 years during college to become a restaurant or resort manager. Vania told me from day one that the parts of the language I needed the most work on were the pronunciation and my accent. Vania lived in Cuba (where they speak Spanish) for about 6 years with her family a couple of years back. That was a blessing in disguise because she was able to correct me when I was leaning too heavily on my Spanish or tried to say things Spanish-like. 

Image result for cool world map wallpaper
We would switch-up the learning style from day to day between talking, listening to music, going for walks, watching Brazilian soap operas, and book-work. While I was learning the language I was also learning the Mozambican culture and way of life. Most of our conversation was about the characteristics of the places we've lived and how that affects the way we see things. The way a language is used and the emotion it holds has everything to do with the lives that it expresses. 

"Language is the road map to a culture. It tells you where it's people come from and where they are going."
-Rita Mae Brown

Image result for cool road wallpaperI was also able to 
start seeing the differences and similarities in the Portugal-influenced    countries (ex:Portugal vs. Brazil). I enjoyed having her as my teacher because she didn't focus on the grammatically correct Portuguese but rather on the way people "actually speak". I feel as though her teaching style was effective because it was open-ended and more like a friendship than a teacher- student relationship. After 140 hours of class I was able to pass the final exam with a 98/100 in all the categories: speaking,listening, grammar and writing. I am very proud of myself and thankful for the opportunity to be able to learn yet another language. 

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head...if you talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart"
                                       - Nelson Mandela 

Image result for racial equality artIf we only have one life, then why not be able to talk to everyone? I want to be able to see everyone's point of view and experience more of life with people from a wide variety of places. As of right now by knowing English, Spanish, Portuguese and Kiswahili I could go to 116 out of the 195 countries of the world and be able to communicate effectively. 
That blows my mind. 
Languages open so many doors and make the world seem a little bit smaller to me. I would be honored if one day I could use these languages, and any others, for the greater glory of God in any way possible. Learning a language isn't just words on a page, it's accepting everything that that language stands for and holds true. When you speak in a language that is not your own you are being given the privilege to walk with the countless number of people before you that have used it to express their love, loss, hopes, dreams and futures.

Image result for the  past present and future wallpaper
Becoming part of another culture is a great responsibility that shouldn't be take lightly. It is a great honor to be able to learn any language that means so much to so many people. In the future I would be super blessed to return to Consolata to be able to study French and Arabic... which would allow me to feel at home in 170 countries of the world. I have a newfound love of languages and only God knows where this will take me in life or what it will bring. Thank you to all the people that make this amazing life possible.

God Bless y'all,

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially 
so that we can continue serving those in need, please visit:


call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Thank you and God Bless!


Friday, November 1, 2019

Getting Bit by the Bug - Or Not?

Years ago, when I found myself struggling to understand the difference between "sacrifice" and "suffering", I sought counsel with a priest who explained it quite simply; sacrifices are those intentional acts of love that we choose to make, while suffering is something that we endure as we deal with life's hardships.  He spoke about the difference between the hardships resulting from human sinfulness and those that we face when the natural world follows the scientific rules that God established at the dawn of creation.  I listened attentively as the priest explained the spiritual necessity of making sacrifices, and encouraged me to thank the Lord in advance for any opportunity that I would have to suffer in this lifetime.  I left satisfied with my new understanding and felt inspired to modify the age-old saying "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" to somehow include Jesus so that I wouldn't forget to invite Him into my difficult moments.

Last year, when my family and I participated in a week long retreat that included instruction on what one person called "holy indifference" and another referred to as "living without a preference", I found myself contemplating the ideas of "sacrifice" and "suffering" all over again.  As missionaries living in the third world we have ample opportunity to make sacrifices.  We accept the discomforts and inconveniences, with a clear understanding that they do not constitute "suffering".  We strive to "live without a preference" and have a "holy indifference" as to how things go on any given day.  I want to be like a blindfolded little girl, excited to receive whatever the world puts in my hands...good, bad or otherwise.  When I remember, I thank the Lord in advance for any hardships that I will face, and beg Him for the grace to endure whatever comes my way....even the Nairobi Fly! 

"What is the Nairobi Fly?" you may ask.

Well, it's a beetle about 1cm in length that can neither sting nor bite, but holds within its tiny little body a toxin that some say is worse than a cobra's venom.  That acidic fluid is released when a person squishes the bug against his/her I did in the middle of the night when I felt something crawling on me. 

In the morning my neck felt a bit itchy, but I figured the mosquito had probably just gotten to me before I had the chance to get to him.  As the day progressed the spot on the back of my neck became itchier and started feeling hot.  At some point, I looked in the mirror and noticed a large red welt with about 40 little whiteheads.  "I must have gotten bit by a spider or something and not just a mosquito." I remember thinking.  Within a couple of days it became obvious that something was happening.  The splotch on my neck now extended down to my collar bone, I felt a little bit like someone was holding a branding iron against my skin, and the whiteheads had turned into pussy bumps.  When I tried to relieve the unbearable itching, the squishy bumps broke open and caused an even more intense burning sensation. 

My loving family encouraged me to seek medical attention, but I remained confident that it wasn't anything that a good, thick layer of hydro-cortisone cream wouldn't cure.  When that didn't work, I tried other creams, rubbing alcohol and even some anti-fungal medicine that was laying around.  I wish I could say that I was deep in prayer and offering all of my suffering for the salvation of souls, but in reality I was just being "bull-headed", as my dad says.  It wasn't until chunks of skin started falling off of my neck that I was willing to admit that someone who knows more than me should probably take a look at what felt like a serious burn.  

The doctor at the hospital informed me of my encountered with the Nairobi Fly.  He told me about the acidic venom that was released when I smashed the bug on my neck and determined that I had also developed a secondary bacterial infection which was causing dark patches to form on my neck and red bumps on my face.  He prescribed a combination of topical steroid / antibiotic creams, pain relievers, antihistamines, and oral antibiotics which I took for many days. 
Slowly the bumps disappeared, the swelling subsided, and the burning waned, leaving me with a large patch of raw, sensitive skin that made me aware of even the slightest of breezes.    

I think it's been about a month since I was bitten by this mysterious little insect.  The pain in my neck has been replaced by a strange, itchy, tightness that I think is just the new skin growing back.  I continue to self-medicate with various creams and wonder what kind of scar will remain.  As I've thought about this crazy Nairobi Fly experience I've realized that it's been a PH Test of sorts for my spirituality.  I never felt angry at God because I knew that this is a perfect example of what the priest described as the hardships we face when the natural world follows the scientific rules that God established at the dawn of creation.  I don't know why He filled Nairobi flies with a toxic venom that burns human flesh, but He did, and that's alright.  I don't know how or when this bug got into my room, but I'm confident that the devil had nothing to do with it, so that eliminates a whole category of spiritual confusion that I believe gets the best of people at times.  I tried to embrace an attitude of "holy indifference" and just accept the discomfort without wishing for something else.  I didn't second guess our decision to come to Kenya, so that's good news, but I also didn't offer any of my suffering up to the Lord....for anything; I just quietly endured.  

Now that this hardship has passed I've realized that my suffering, minimal though it was, was all but wasted because I insisted on doing it alone.  I hear people talk about uniting their sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, but I don't think I even know what the practical application of that looks like.  I've read about redemptive suffering, but I'm obviously not far enough along in my own spiritual journey to be able to do what the scholars teach.  When I'm honest with myself I see that I just reverted to my "tough girl" attitude whereby I decide that nothing (or nobody) is going to make me suffer...and so I didn't, even though I had the opportunity to.  Through prayer, I've realized that this quandry of "sacrifice" versus "suffering" is really about my inability to surrender to the Lord.  I'm perfectly willing to make sacrifices because, as the priest said, it is an intentional decision that I am making out of love.  One might rephrase that and point out that as long as I'm the one making the decisions, I remain in control.  When we suffer, we must endure something that is out of our control, which I must not be ready for quite yet.  I beg for your prayers, that I am able to learn how to surrender in a real way so that I may obtain the abundance of graces that the Lord has for me.  I will continue to thank the Lord in advance for upcoming opportunities to suffer, hoping that I'll do better next time!  I will also continue to make sacrifices, especially for those supporting us in this life of missions, because that's all I know how to do at this point.  I thank you for your willingness to journey with us.  I thank you for your love and prayers.  I ask that Jesus fill your heart to overflowing so that you may share that love with all those you encounter..... even the Nairobi Fly...hehehe!!!

Peace be with you!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially 
so that we can continue serving those in need, please visit:


call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Thank you and God Bless!