Friday, January 27, 2012

Kenya, Part 3: Blood Is Thika Than Water

This is the third of a multi-part series about my recent trip with a group of former SOS Summer Staff to Kenya to work with farmers and orphans in the name of the gospel. I will post another part every few days until the story is complete.

After a brief foray in zucchini-picking while our machetes (or pangas as they’re known in Africa) were being sharpened, we set to work hacking down rows of maize. We swung our pangas until our arms could take it no more. I liked to pretend that I was Link, the main character from the Legend of Zelda video games, swinging my sword to destroy monsters. All that panga-swinging became so ingrained into me that I even found myself swinging a ghost-machete as I drifted off to sleep and hitting the wall of my tent (and probably causing some confusion for the guards).

All the panga-swinging that went on did not come without its share of potential dangers. Thankfully only one team member was injured throughout the process. Amanda managed to cut her finger tip pretty severely when it came time to chop up the stalks of maize to make the feed. (Don’t worry, she’s fine...although she did get to know what it's like to visit the doctor in Kenya pretty well). But, by and large the silage-making was smooth, but difficult process. Sitting in a circle chopping up what became silage afforded us a wonderful opportunity to get to know the women we were working with. Once we had spent hours sitting on rocks using logs as cutting boards, we made a big enough pile to mix in molasses and store the feed in a very large bag. The molasses was mixed with water and placed in several buckets. We used our hands to splash the mixture onto the large pile of obliterated corn stalks and to sift through the pile making sure that the sticky substance made its way throughout the entire batch. We then filled buckets upon buckets with freshly made silage and carried to the bag, which was constructed of a long plastic tube tied together on end with twine and turned inside out. One muzungu* was designated to stand inside the bag and stomp down the silage as we slowly filled it one by one. Gabe was particularly good in this capacity, closely resembling a soccer player juggling a ball between his feet as he trod repeatedly upon the cow feed. We spent two days working on the process that led to a full bag of silage.

The day after we filled the first bag of silage was New Year’s Day. So, after attending a great church service with local Kenyans, we took the day off to hang out and play with the kids at the children’s home. Many of the children were impressed with my ability to make animals out of pipe cleaners, and I enjoyed being able to use my rarely-employed skills in that area to bring a small amount of joy into some of those children's lives. There were a variety of craft items available and it was lots of fun working with the kids on artistic projects. As we shared our creations with one another I was reminded that art is, in many ways, a language that transcends culture. God is the Creator and as people who bear his image we too are naturally creative. God definitely used that time as a cool reminder that despite our differences, people across the world have a whole lot in common, as well.

Another day of work produced another bag of silage, and our day in Thika was quickly coming to a close. In the mean time the had construction team finished the playground and the team working inside had completed a great paint job that really brightened up the children's home. After finishing our work for the day we said our goodbyes to the people we met at the children's home and went back to camp for our traditional afternoon tea. A few of our friends who worked in the children's home joined us for tea including Susan who oversaw our work on the farm and another very dear man who worked at the children's home whose name I'm unfortunately unable to spell. After sharing tea with us and before saying goodbye, our friends told us they looked forward to seeing us again. While they hoped we would return to Kenya at some point, they also looked eagerly to the new creation when all of God's people would be gathered together. There were several times on the trip when a Kenya Christian would joyfully speak of the paradise to come, in a way that is more uncommon in the United States. It is very easy here in America to get caught up in what is tangible and right in front of us. We become so consumed in our earthly lives that we often lose sight of the things of the kingdom. In Kenya where there are less personal comforts and many people work very long hours of intense physical labor, the desire for the new heaven and new earth is much more deep-seated and present in day to day life and conversation among Christians. I eagerly await being reunited with my new friends in this world or the next, and have definitely been renewed with a sense of excitement for the Kingdom to come.

The next morning we loaded up the Overlander. It was a bittersweet moment to be leaving Thika, which also meant we had to say our goodbyes to Evans and Ezekiel. It was such a treat getting to know these two godly men. We were so thankful for the way they cared for us and looked out for us while we camped at Thika and I miss them very much. In the short time we spent with them, Evans and Ezekiel became like family to us. One of the many wonderful things about Jesus is that in HIm we truly are family! The Body of Christ is a mysterious and glorious thing, that I am extremely thankful for it. But unfortunately finding family on the other side of the world made it that much harder to leave behind. But in spite of the sad goodbyes, there was still a whole of Kenya to experience...

*muzungu - The word for a foreign, white person in Swahili. Literally translated it means “confused person, wandering about”

Cutting silage with Gabe and Amanda (just before the finger incident)

Susan and me

Making an elephant out of pipe cleaners

Our team with the kids on their new playground

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