"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt...and go out to dance with the joyful." - Jeremiah 31: 3-4

Monday, March 29, 2010

Let It All Out

One of my favorite songs is "Let It All Out" by Relient K. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I only just realized the song was more deeply about Jesus than it was about a relationship. I can remember the exact moment that I finally understood the true meaning of this song. I was in Kenya, in a shuttle on the final leg of my journey back from Meru. I made a playlist of songs to get me through the next six to seven hours and put this song on there. It was raining and I was looking out the window at the countryside when I really heard the lyrics for the first time.

"And you said I know that this will hurt, but if I don't break your heart then things will just get worse. If the burden seems too much to bear, remember the end will justify the pain it took to get us there."

I love how you can listen to a song or read a verse a hundred times and then one day, it just hits you. It comes alive. It finally means something. On that rainy day of traveling in Kenya, God spoke to me the exact words I needed to hear.

Instead of hearing the song as I had every single time before, as a love song intended to convey the pain and struggle during a fight or break up, I heard a conversation between myself and Jesus.

He said "I know that it hurt, but if I didn't break your heart then things would have only gotten worse."
I said "I know, but it was a lot to go through. You understand that, right?"
He said "It was a heavy burden to bear, but it was worth it! You are here now! I have you back in my plans and in my arms."

My turn around was not easy and yes, it was painful but the outcome was better than I ever could have asked for. I got a whole new life! A new heart. A new mind. If it weren't for that pain, I cannot honestly say that I would have ever been able to receive those things. I lost a lot but I gained so much more! In the end, God used what Satan intended for evil, for good.

Now, every time I hear that song I remember my conversation with Jesus and why He had to break my heart... in order to save it.

"Reach out to me. Make my heart brand new. Every beat will be for You, for You."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm in a strange season of life at the moment. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm relying on God to provide or being straight out lazy. I need something to do and I need a job. Since I've been home, I have completely rearranged my room. I've cleaned it better than it's been cleaned in years. I finally went through my closet and got rid of the clothes I haven't worn since the 9th grade and threw out bags of unnecessary things that I had stored up on shelves and in drawers. Great, right? Yeah, well as nice as it is to have a clean and organized room, I can't just keep cleaning my room for the next five months. I hate being lazy! But I feel like that's all I've been doing here at home since I came back from school last May. I've been in and out of the country so much in the past eight months that I didn't really noticed how much my lack of having a job would affect me. Not only financially, but mentally and emotionally as well. We are warned to avoid idleness and unfortunately that it exactly what I am right now. Idle. Ugh, I hate to even say it but it's true.

Thankfully, I've just been given a small cleaning job that should keep me busy for a few days at least. My excitement about doing work was more of a gift from the Lord than the work itself. The past few days, I've been battling with whether or not I am simply a lazy person or if the right job just hasn't come up yet. When I felt truly joyful about being able to work, it was God showing me that I don't want to be lazy and that when a job is made available I will be happy to work. I know that He will provide me with the perfect job. I have no doubt about that, it's just a matter of when. Unfortunately, patience was never exactly my strong suit... but maybe that's just one more thing Jesus will teach me in this season.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This is how the dictionary explains it...

-"A group of people having common interests."
-"Sharing, participation and fellowship."
- "A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within it exists."
-"A group of men and/or women living a common life according to a rule."

This is how I explain it...

Instant bonding.

I haven't seen some of these people since November. It breaks my heart to say that I don't know when I'll see some of them again. I'm not sure why God brings people into our lives, only to take them out much too soon. My only hope is that they have all loved knowing me as much as I have enjoyed them.

On May 5th, I'll be flying out to Reno to spend two weeks with quite of few of the people I was in Kenya with, along with quite a few people I was not in Kenya with but already feel connected to due to all of our personal ties to Transformed International. I'm ridiculously excited! I miss my friends and I'm looking forward to making even more. I just wish I didn't live all the way across the country and could visit more often!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Malindi #4 - The Final Installment.

Malindi is filled with poverty, prostitution and brokenness. You would think that in a place so dark, organizations and missionaries would be jumping at the chance to work there... but there is no one. It is a tourist town, seemingly well-off and established but if you dig just a little deeper than the high-class restaurants and night clubs, you will find devastation unlike anything else in Kenya. Malindi is home to a community of forgotten people.

As I was walking through Majenga, I felt the heaviness of empty lives. It brought me back to something I had written in my journal during my sophomore year in college. I don’t have my journal right next to me, it’s in America and I’m sitting in a Java House in the Nairobi airport, so I don’t know exactly what I wrote but it was something along the lines of “I feel so empty yet so heavy.” Heaviness and emptiness are not two things that are usually put together. If something is heavy, it means it is filled with something. If something it empty, it is light and easy to carry. But a life of sin is exactly that – heavy and empty. Sin was surrounding us that night as we walked through the alleys and roads lined with boarding houses occupied by prostitutes and the men who had purchased them. At one point, we walked over to a few women who were sitting on the steps outside of their house chewing on mirra and drinking tea. They were laughing and joking around and seemed to be enjoying themselves. We asked them what they were doing and they replied that they were getting ready for work. I was silent. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth I would start screaming. These women were getting ready to sell their bodies and they didn’t seem to care at all.

We walked around Majenga for about half an hour. Martin pointed out all the boarding houses to me and after a while I just told him to stop; there was a boarding house every ten steps. We exited the area of Majenga and not two minutes later, Daniel called Nate’s phone. He told us that he had been feeling really heavy for us in the last half hour and wanted to check and see that we were okay. Obviously, Satan isn’t messing around if Daniel could feel what we were feeling all the way across the country.

We sat on the major strip in New Town Malindi for a little while after leaving Majenga. New Town is where all the touristy things are, the nice hotels, restaurants and night clubs. It is where we spent most of our time when we went to Malindi during the internship program. Going back to it that night was a whole different experience. I saw things that I didn’t see before, felt things that I didn’t feel before and realized how blind I must have been back in November when I was first here. I watched the prostitutes walk by in their short skirts and barely there tank tops. They were all smiles, eager to get paid a few thousand shillings that night. I wondered how they felt the next morning, waking up at 4pm, showering, getting something to eat and getting ready for another night. Were there depressed? Angry? Did they ever say to themselves “I can’t do this anymore”? Or had they become so hardened and shut off from their emotions that they just went through their cycle of life like it was any other. Like you would get up and get ready to go to classes, or pick up your kids from little league, or go out with your boyfriend or girlfriend for dinner and a movie… this was their life. It reminds me of a Proverb in chapter 5 about the adulteress.

“She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.”

I remember when I first read that, I didn’t think of the girls I had met earlier, Mercy, Neema, Leena… I thought of these women, smiling and laughing. Mercy knew she was wrong, Neema didn’t want to be a prostitute, Leena prayed for a better life. But these women knew nothing of their sin. It seemed as though no one had ever told them that they had other options. These women were described exactly in Proverbs. “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” – Proverbs 5: 3-5. “She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.” – Proverbs 7:11. These women were prostitutes through and through.

It was a long night and we went home earlier than expected. Exhaustion was taking over, both physically and spiritually and we all just wanted to rest.

The next day we went to the woman we first visited after arriving in Malindi. She had prepared us lunch and it was delicious. After eating, I got a chance to ask her some questions about herself and about prostitution in general. She told me that she had been in a relationship when she was still in her home town of Nakuru. She had been engaged to be married to him when she became pregnant and he left her. She had owned a shop that sold shoes and when he left her, he took everything with him. She came to Malindi to find work to support her baby. I asked her more about her ex-fiancĂ©. She was open with me when I asked personal questions. It felt like I was talking to a friend and she seemed to feel the same. She told me that she thought she loved him but was now unsure if love was even real. I was beginning to see a theme here. Kenyans don’t want to believe in love. “Why don’t you believe that love exists?” “It just doesn’t seem possible for someone to love you forever. People always leave.” I asked her if I could share some of my story with her and she said yes. I told her how I had thought I was in love before but the boy left me just like her fiancĂ© left her. She looked at me as if to say “see, I told you love isn’t real.” “But I still believe in love, he was just the wrong person,” I continued. She looked surprised. I tried to explain to her that just because our hearts get broken by one man, doesn’t mean that they have to stay broken. We can heal and we can find real love. She looked away from me and looked to the sky. I imagine that she was either thinking I was crazy or that I might be on to something. After some more girl talk, we all said goodbye and I headed back to Maweni.

The rest of that third day in Malindi was occupied by a fairly substantial event. But it is not my story to tell. It might be blogged about by Nate ( eventually, but if not then let me just say that Kenya is a country of corruption, deception and lies and it is hard to trust the people here. Unfortunately, we had to experience that first hand.

On our last night in Malindi, Sarah expressed to me several times that she would miss me. I was surprised to feel that I would miss her too. I had begun to feel at home in Maweni. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to live there and not just visit. I pushed the thought away. I was getting ahead of God and rushing to conclusions. Just because I felt at home in Malindi, didn’t mean that Malindi would someday be my home.

That night Sarah announced to me and Nate that she didn’t want to go to sleep because then she would be waking up and we would have to leave. So Nate, Sarah and I stayed up and talked until around 3 in the morning. She asked us questions, told us stories and shared her opinions on some pretty serious issues. That night and early morning is one of the best memories I have from all of my trips to Kenya.

We left Malindi early on the morning of Friday the 26th and spent over twelve hours on a bus heading back to Nairobi. Obviously, I had a lot of time to think and talk to God. The only conclusion I came to on that bus ride was that God wanted me in Malindi that week. He wanted me to meet those girls and hear their stories. I don’t know exactly why. I don’t know if He wants me to go back to Malindi someday. I don’t know when or if He’ll bring me back to Kenya. I don’t know if I have a ministry there. What I do know is that right now God is calling me back to America to finish school, so that is what I am going to do.

This has been the most incredible year of my life. From last March until now, my life has not slowed down even for a moment. I have been on a whirlwind of adventure, transformation, restoration and rebirth. I have spent more time in Africa than in America over the past eight months and I forget what it is like to spend more than two months at home. I haven’t truly lived in the United States in a long time. I’ve simply been visiting between trips to Kenya but now, it is time to go home. I look forward to seeing what is in store for me and what God will have me do next. I’m excited to begin a whole new adventure.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Malindi #3

On our second day in Malindi, Andrew and Scott walked around town while Nate, Martin and I met with the group of girls that Sarah brought together for me.

I’ve been sitting here for a while now trying to figure out how to best describe that afternoon. I’m having trouble putting into words the things that were going through my head while I was sitting in that room. I was surrounded by women who willingly sold their bodies to men who didn’t even know their names. The intensity of it all was hard to handle at first. The emotion in some of their eyes was devastating, but what was worse was the lack of emotion in the eyes of the others. You could immediately tell which girls were lost in the lifestyle and which ones still clung to hope of a better life.

Mercy was one that still had hope. I noticed her immediately after I walked into the room. She was tall, slender and absolutely beautiful! She wore a long pair of plaid shorts and a thin strapped tank top with her hair covered by a red bandana. If you saw her walking on the streets during the day, you’d probably assume she was just out grocery shopping. At night, I’m sure you would get a different impression.

But before I go into more detail about Mercy, let me tell you about some of the other girls. There was Leena, a 24 year old woman who was much taller than the other girls because her father was a Maasi (a tribe in a Kenya that most of you have probably seen on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel). She was sharp, direct and teetering on the edge of giving up hope and still fighting for a better life for her and her young child. She answered the majority of our questions and was very well-spoken. Again, if you saw her during the day in her baggy white, button-up shirt and skinny jeans, you would only notice her because of her height. She was just a girl like any other, nothing labeled her as a prostitute.

Then there was Maria. This girl in particular broke my heart. She did not speak. She rarely made eye-contact and her mother, who was in the room with us, didn’t even know how old she was but guessed around 17 or 18. Maria had been being used for sex since she was a young child. Her mother told us that she was “not normal.” I looked at the mother in shock and disgust and said “and you wonder why?” under my breath. This poor girl never had a chance to grow, mature or develop into a woman! She had her childhood stolen from her by her mother who used her body to make money. Maria’s facial expressions were that of a scared and curious toddler. She was a young adult, but acted like a baby. She wore an oversized, dirty set of pajamas and no shoes. Maybe she did have a minor mental disorder but being forced to perform sexual acts with men since childhood definitely did not help. Again, Maria didn’t speak to us the entire time so we did not get to hear her story but just by looking at her, you could tell that it probably would not have a happy ending.

Neema… Neema was wearing a pink dress that looked like something a elementary school aged girl would wear to a birthday party. It was sparkly and frilly and not something you would wear at age 22 in the middle of the day. But it was her only item of clothing. She had nothing. She had no home, no belongings and all she carried around with her was a few hygiene items and her medication. Neema had HIV and it was clear that she was not coping well with the disease. “I came to Malindi to get a job, but instead I got AIDS,” she told us through her tears. She cried almost the entire time and simply put – she was a mess. She said something that surprised me though…. “Jesus is there. He is around. I still believe He loves me.” After she said that, Nate and I exchanged glances. Did this mess of a woman, who looks like she could honestly die any day now and is living a life so void of happiness and love just say that she still believes in Jesus? I was in shock. I was thrilled to hear it, but still… in shock. Neema was struggling in ways that the other girls were not. Because of her HIV, she had trouble getting customers. No one wants to sleep with a woman with HIV. She did not want to be a prostitute but she assumed that she had no other choice. And now, even that was failing her. I don’t know what will happen to Neema. I can only pray that her faith in Jesus will bring her joy in her remaining time on earth.

Elizabeth was the oldest woman in the room at age 30. She reminded me of back-country trailer trash. She was crude, loud and disrespectful to herself and others. But still, my heart ached for her. She said multiply times that it was because of their problems that they were in prostitution. Their problems included having to provide for themselves and usually a child. She had given up hope. I asked her what she would do when she was too old to be a prostitute and men would not buy her anymore. She shrugged. All she knew was that that night she would be out on the streets offering her services for a few hundred shillings. Elizabeth was a prostitute for the Africans, not the Italians who pay thousands of shillings for a night with a woman.

The Italians are number one. They are who you strive to get as “customers” but they are picky. They only want young, skinny, beautiful, clean girls. If you are a little heavier, which is natural for most Kenyan women, the Italians will not want you. If you are not stunningly beautiful, they will select someone else. Many of the girls expressed that one of the hardest things about prostitution is the rejection they feel when men do not want them. Leena said that they will actually line girls up sometimes and choose which one they want. The others are left feeling inadequate and still in need of money for that night. Unfortunately, because of their desperation these girls will do anything the Italians request in exchange for a few thousand shillings (usually anywhere between $36 and $100). They shared with us some of the things the men will make them do. I won’t repeat any of it here because I don’t think I could even stomach having to write it out. As if these girls were not degraded enough having to sell sex, these perverted men made things a million times worse.

As our time came to an end and the girls began to get up and gather their things to leave, I thanked everyone for being there and then quietly asked Mercy if I could speak to her for a moment. During our time with the group, she had shared that she was in a relationship with an Italian man for a couple of years prior to becoming a prostitute. She became pregnant and the man left her immediately. In her own words… “He destroyed me.” When I heard her say that, I knew I had to speak to her one on one. She agreed to talk with me and we went across the alleyway and stood next to a small shop. I asked her more about the Italian man she was dating. “He told me that he loved me and would be with me forever,” she said in broken English. I asked her if she thought he truly loved her. “I thought so but no, he did not. I do not believe in love. It does not exist.” “So did you think you loved this man?” “I thought I did, but I know now that I did not. Love is not real.” The verse from 1 Corinthians came to my mind… “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Maybe Mercy had some faith and I know she definitely had hope, but she had no love. The greatest gift we’ve been given is absent in her life, as well as the lives of most of the others. I connected with Mercy. In some small way, I felt her pain. I understood the hurt and the destruction caused in her life because of that man who left her. “He told me he would love me forever,” rang in my head over and over. I had heard those words before. “I will love you forever.” The pain that I had healed from came back for a moment as I looked into her eyes. I felt like I was looking into a mirror at myself from two years ago.

I then asked Mercy if she was looking for a real job. She replied that she was but that she didn’t have an ID so no one would hire her. Where she was from, a small village near Meru, no one needed identification and now she did not have the money or means to get one. After that, Mercy had to leave because she was going to go wash someone’s clothes for a little bit of money. I was so glad to hear that she was looking for money in places other than prostitution but it upset me that something as small as not having an ID was forcing her to sell her body so she could feed her baby. I urged her to keep looking for other jobs and hugged her goodbye.

I walked away from that conversation and straight into another with Neema as she ran to me and pulled me down to sit next to her. I could tell she was desperate to speak to someone who cared. I asked her how she was. “Fine. I’m fine,” she barely managed to get out before the tears started again. “You don’t look fine, Neema.” She then called Martin over to translate for her so that she could talk more freely instead of having to speak in English and leave things out because she did not know the words. We talked for a little while about how sad she was and how hard her life had become since getting HIV. She didn’t ask me for anything, she just wanted to talk. I asked her again about her faith in Jesus. “I know He loves me. I know He’s real.” “Do you believe that He can save you?” “Yes, I do! I know He can.” Her hope was contagious. She had nothing. Absolutely nothing! Yet, here she was saying things that some Christians have a hard time believing. Jesus has the power to save. Unfortunately, she soon after told me that sometimes she just wants to kill herself. I put my hand on hers and looked her straight in the eye and told her that suicide was not an option. She nodded in agreement.

It was a lot to take in in one afternoon and I was feeling the weight of it all. But still, I had peace. Something in me connected with those girls in a way that I had never connected with Kenyans before. I felt myself becoming emotionally invested, which isn't a normal thing for me. I knew that my compassion was coming directly from God.

I spent the rest of that day mulling over everything I had just heard and preparing myself mentally and spiritually to walk through Majenga, the major prostitution area, later that night.


(I know, I know.. it's a lot!)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Malindi #2

It was around seven in the morning when we arrived in Malindi and it was already HOT and HUMID. I was prepared for this but it still surprised me how much I was sweating after standing in one spot for five minutes. The bus ride had been long and I didn’t get much sleep but I was feeling good about being there and excited to get settled in where I would be staying. Martin, a 24 year old Kenyan guy who befriended Nate and Scott during their time in Malindi earlier in the year, came with a tuk-tuk to pick us up and bring us to his home.

We were staying in a place called Maweni, a slum that is within walking distance of the beach. Martin’s family’s home was on the very edge of the slum and a lot nicer than the other houses in the area. It was constructed out of bricks made with coral, which is what most of the buildings are made of in Malindi. It had three bedrooms, a sitting room, a small kitchen and an even smaller washroom. We were greeted by Martin’s 19 year old sister, Sarah, who I would be sharing a room with. She was sweet, friendly and spoke English better than most people I’ve talked to in Kenya. I liked her right away.

After washing with a bucket of water in a tiny room that also served as the toilet (a hole in the ground), I helped Sarah prepare a breakfast of chai and buttered bread. The boys were off washing at Martin’s place, a room that he rents about two minutes away from his parents home, and I thought it might be awkward being alone with Sarah because we had just met twenty minutes ago. I was wrong. She was very talkative and so funny! I had a great time getting to know her and we learned that we share some common interests – Titanic and Celine Dion! She told me how she volunteers with the Kenya Red Cross to keep busy while she is waiting to go to college. She has been out of high school for a few years now but she has to wait for her older sister to finish college before she can go because her family is only able to support one child at a time. She is a bright girl and hopes to someday get her Masters Degree in Communication and become a news anchor. Normally when Kenyans have these dreams, there is little to no hope they will ever achieve them but with Sarah, I think there is actually a possibility that we may see her announcing the news one day. She openly told me that she wants refrain from being idle because many girls have gone into prostitution because they are bored and have nothing to do. “God, did you just open a door for me in the first half hour of being here?! Thank you!” It was yet another confirmation that I was in the right place.

I asked Sarah if she had friends that she knew personally who were in prostitution. “Oh yes! So many! I have many friends in prostitution. They have nothing else to do so they watch pornographic movies and then go out at night and act out what they see in the movies,” she said boldly. “And these girls, they like getting money to have sex with strangers?” I asked her cautiously, not sure where the line would be drawn as far as how much was too much to ask. “They are usually high or drunk. They don’t care. They don’t realize what a gift their virginity is so they just give it away to anyone and then once it’s gone, they don’t see the point in worrying about who they have sex with.” Again, Sarah amazed me with her openness but I knew that these were things that God wanted me to hear so I kept asking question after question about prostitution and the girls involved. She answered every single one of my questions frankly and honestly. I learned a lot about prostitution that morning from my new friend, Sarah, and she even offered to set me up to meet some of the girls the next day.

That first day in Malindi is mostly a blur to me. We were all exhausted and the heat was draining what was left of our energy, but we were so excited to finally be there that it didn’t hold us back from jumping into what we had planned to do. Nate and Scott wanted to visit a friend they had made in January, so we took a tuk-tuk into town and walked to her home. She was sleeping when we got there because she had been up early searching for a job. This was the main reason why we were here. Nate and Scott had taken her out to dinner in January and while they were at the restaurant her boss saw her and thought that she was taking tourists to other hotels for business so she was fired from her job. Her other job was prostitution, but only out of desperation and only with people that she knew, never strangers and she has since stopped. I could tell as soon as I met her that she was a good person. She had a kind and gentle spirit. We only spent a short time with her before we had to go meet another Kenyan woman that the guys promised to visit. We made plans for have lunch at her home on Thursday and said our goodbyes.

After eating a dinner that Sarah had prepared for us, I was given a bucket of water to wash for the second time that day. You sweat so much in Malindi that you could take a shower every two hours and you still wouldn’t feel clean. It felt great to wash some of the dust and grime off of me but I was sweating again before I got into bed. As I was sprawled out on my thin mattress, not wanting any parts of my body touching, I finally had a chance to think and pray. Here I was, sleeping in a strangers home in the slums of Malindi, sweating nonstop, watching spiders the size of my palm crawl on the tin ceiling and I was loving every second! I felt completely at peace and I knew I was where God wanted me. I smiled as I thought of the awesome power He has to guide us into His perfect situations for our lives.

A lot of things clicked in my mind that night before I fell asleep. I began to understand the purpose of God bringing me to Kenya in the first place. I started to realize why He had allowed me to live in sin for years. It was all for His glory, so that I could bring His comfort, compassion and hope to women who may have already given up on finding joy. My heart was overflowing with God's love as I prayed for His guidance for our next day in Malindi. We would be meeting with the group of girls that Sarah was getting together and I had no idea what to expect. Would they open up? Would they think I was judging them? Would they get angry if I asked personal questions? I had never spoken to prostitutes before... but Jesus had and I trusted that He would give me the right words to say.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

God's plan - Malindi #1

I’ve discovered in the past couple of months that when God wants you to do something, He makes it happen. I’ve known since the beginning that this time in Kenya was going to be dedicated to me finding guidance and direction from the Lord. I didn’t have the slightest clue where God was going to lead me but I knew he would, so I listened closely.

I was sitting in an Internet cafe the day I was going to be leaving for Meru to visit Jackson when my Spirit became alert. I stopped what I was doing and prayed. “Jesus, what do you want me to do?” “Be ready.” Be ready? Be ready for what? Oh crap, is our night bus going to be robbed tonight? Am I going to have a crazy adventure courtesy of the Enemy? What do I need to be ready for? My mind raced all day. I just felt like I needed to be aware of something but I had no idea what to look out for.

It wasn’t until we got settled onto the bus and began driving that I shared with Nate how I was feeling. “I’ve been feeling the same way all day,” he replied. Great! So now I’m really nervous! I prayed a lot during that bus ride for safety and guidance. When we got to Nairobi, nothing had happened. The travel had been painless and easy as far as travel in Kenya goes. Confusion and frustration set in because I couldn’t find peace.

Still on edge, we sat down for breakfast at the Java House. During a conversation over French toast and lattes, my Spirit finally calmed. God wanted me to work with prostitutes.

My time in Meru was spent mostly thinking about what God had just revealed to me. I realized that He wasn’t telling me to be aware of danger but to be aware His voice and the small piece of direction that He was about to provide me with that day. God’s initial word was confirmed while I was Meru through many different ways. The pastor of Jackson’s church brought up a conversation with me on our walk to Jackson’s house about prostitutes. He shared with me how a lot of people come to Kenya thinking that giving out money will solve everything, but what really needs to be focused on is the “poverty of the heart.” He said that he has asked some girls if they would leave the lifestyle if given enough money to start a business so they could make money without selling their bodies. Most said that they would not stop. The lack of money is not the only cause of prostitution in Kenya. The lack of respect for oneself, the absence of real love, the feelings of desperation and hopelessness are why these girls are out on the streets at night. After returning to Nairobi, I talked with another Kenyan man who is a close friend of Daniel’s. He said that prostitutes are more likely to listen to young people like themselves rather than pastors or the usual sort that is trying to save them. They feel less judged by a young person and are more likely to open up and talk with them. This was an encouragement that I needed. Being young, there is always that doubt in the back of your mind that no one will take you seriously. Hearing that young people is exactly what is needed for this type of ministry helped me overcome that nagging fear.

But I am stubborn with God. I mean, I am really stubborn with Him! “Confirm this, Lord,” I prayed over and over. In other words... “Prove it! I don’t believe you! This is ridiculous. How am I supposed to do this? Now you’re just being silly.” Still, I couldn’t fight the peace I was feeling and by the time I got back to Kitale, I had almost fully accepted it in my heart but I was still fighting for more confirmation.

The whole next week was spent in prayer and deep thought about where I felt God was taking me. It was the last week that the guys would all be Kitale because they were going to Malindi for their last week in Kenya to tie up some loose ends from their month spent there earlier in the year. I was trying to spend time with them but my mind was elsewhere. I couldn’t stop picturing myself in Malindi.

I was trying not to think about it because I was sure it was only on my mind because Andrew, Nate and Scott were leaving on Monday, but I couldn’t shake the thought. I didn’t dare bring it up to the guys because this was their trip and I was not included in the original planning. I settled on asking Nate to look around for me while he was there and see if it would be a place I could possibly be useful. He told me that he had already been planning on doing so, which was nice to hear.

The Friday before they were to leave the boys were being super shady and having a meeting in the back bedroom. I didn’t think much of it until they came out and asked me if I could come back because they had something they wanted to talk to me about. In my head, all I could think of was the scene in Finding Nemo where they have to have an intervention for the shark. “Fish are friends. Not food.” Not sure why this played in my head… but it did and I giggled to myself as I walked into the room and sat down in semi-awkward silence.

“So we’ve been thinking,” Nate began speaking on behalf of the group. I looked around at the guys. None of them looked like they were about to dump some terrible news on me, but I wasn’t about to be sure of anything yet. He continued to tell me how it had been on his heart ever since we talked in Java House for me to come to Malindi. I was stunned but somehow not surprised. God had put this on my heart as well and now He was just confirming His plans AGAIN. I would have been a fool to keep questioning Him. The guys told me that they had just discussed it, prayed about it and asked Daniel (the director of TI) if he thought it was an okay idea. After all of that, they decided to ask me if I wanted to go. Of course, I said yes. I was glad that God confirmed my thoughts through the men and their willingness to allow me to come along.

Now here is the best “God is so cool” moment in this whole experience… There were three things that needed to happen before I could officially go. 1) My parents needed to be okay with me traveling across the country and living in the slums with strangers for four days. 2) Faith had to say it was okay for me to take a week away from working with the girls. And 3) we had to check with Nate and Scott’s friend in Malindi to be sure that there was a place for me to stay because they hadn’t told him I would be coming yet. Since I’m a girl, I obviously couldn’t stay in the same room with all the guys. While I was on the phone with Faith talking to her about everything (she was in Nairobi dropping her boyfriend, Rick, off at the airport), Nate was on the phone with Martin, his contact and friend in Malindi. I came back in the house and all the guys were in the sitting room. I was about to tell them that Faith was on board when Nate stopped me. “Listen to this,” he said with a huge smile. “So when we told Martin that Drew was going to be coming with us, he wasn’t sure if Drew was a boy or a girl so he already made arrangements for a girl to come!” I was in awe. My mouth literally dropped open. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “You really do want me to go, Lord. Okay, I believe you now.” After hearing that I already had a bed waiting for me in Martin’s sister’s room, I was pretty sure what to expect from my parents when I called them. In less than an hour, all three things were taken care of and I was officially headed to Malindi.

My heart leaped at the thought of being able to talk to people there, hear their stories and help shed some light into their lives. Even if I was only going to be there for a few days, I knew that this trip would affect my life somehow. God had obviously arranged this down to the last detail and I was eager to see what He had in store.

How things went in Malindi will be my next blog :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Visiting Jackson

I left Kitale on February 14th with a feeling of excitement and anticipation for what was to come in the next three days. Finally, I was going to meet the reason I first developed a heart for Kenya – my sponsor child, Jackson.

We took a night bus to Nairobi and after getting some breakfast, got on a shuttle to Meru. Less than four hours later, after traveling at breakneck speeds down curvy mountain roads, we arrived at our hotel. It was a very nice hotel as far as Kenya goes. There was a great bird’s eye view of the town on one side of the balcony and on the other side you could look out to the mountains and gorgeous landscapes of central Kenya. The sunset was a great reminder of how beautiful our God is and we watched it until the darkness fully took over. It was a relaxing night after a whole lot of traveling.

Tuesday morning at 7AM, Edward met us at the hotel to take us to Jackson’s village. He was a great guy, very professional and helpful. It was slightly comical the way he was trying to tell me and Nate about Kenya as if we had only been in the country for a week. He was pointing out mud huts and the clothing of the people. He taught us words in Swahili that we had learned a long time ago. We appreciated his kindness though. The drive from Meru to the village took about two hours. The distance could have been covered in about 30 minutes if the roads hadn’t been so terrible. But hey, this is Africa.

When we finally got there, I saw Jackson standing by a tree near the entrance of the Compassion center. I immediately recognized him by his eyes.

The Kenyans who run the Compassion project were all there to greet us with open arms. We learned that we were the first white people to ever be in that area and that I was the first person in all of the eight Compassion projects that they organize to visit their sponsor child. Needless to say, it was a pretty big deal that we were there.

We spent some time learning about the project and I got to see Jackson’s folder with all of his school records and information. They also showed me all of the letters I have written to Jackson over the years. It was so cool. I met his mother and the pastor of his church. Everyone was so happy to meet me, but I think I might have been even happier to meet them.

The entire time Jackson was really quiet. He only knew his tribal language so I couldn’t even communicate with the little Swahili that I know. There was a translator there but mostly I just kept smiling at him. I couldn’t help it, he was just so adorable.

After a little while, we started walking to Jackson’s home to meet the rest of his family. We asked how far away it was, just out of curiosity and they said it was “not very far.” So I prepared for at least a thirty minute walk. “Not far” in Kenya is usually around two miles.

I was correct in my assumption but the walk was absolutely beautiful! It was all through hills and fields and there were amazing views. At one point, we had to cross a large stream. All the Kenyans were shocked when I took off my sandals, held up my skirt and walked right across, not caring about getting wet and a little muddy. They even took a picture of me crossing it on the walk back.

Jackson’s home was on about an acre of land. It was a tradition home made of mud and a thatch roof. Again, being the first white people in the area, we were welcomed by most of the community. I loved meeting Jackson’s family. His father was a great man and a hard worker that obviously loved his children. His mother was sweet, soft spoken and very kind. His younger sister, Freidah, was lively and spunky and his baby brother, Timothy was adorable and just kept smiling. He has two other siblings but they were both away at school.

We had a great time talking to everyone and continually thanked them for their hospitality. They were so glad to have us at their home and it was very clear that my sponsorship of Jackson was a huge blessing to them. It was good to see exactly where my money is going and how it is truly benefiting this family.

We walked back to the project and had lunch and shortly after said our goodbyes and headed back to Meru. It was an incredible day and such a blessing to everyone involved. Compassion is a wonderful organization and I was glad to be able to see that first hand. I would highly recommend sponsoring through Compassion if have any interest in sponsorship. Your money will help! I can’t encourage you enough to consider sponsoring a child. It’s such a small amount of money, but it makes such a huge difference in the lives of those children.

That's all for now. Check back soon for an update about my trip to Malindi. Another incredible experience here in Kenya. God never stops amazing me with His plans for my life.