Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On the Road Again

I left my home in Wilmore a week and half ago and spent a lovely week with my parents, visiting with family and hiking around some favorite places.

Sunday morning, I left for Taylor County Camp Meeting and have had a lovely time meeting new people (and future missionary colleagues!) and wandering the grounds. I am not the speaker here, but have set up my display and met some really wonderful people.

I leave Wednesday to head back to Rome for two days, then back to Wilmore. ( Three cheers for sleeping in your own bed!) Then it's up to Ohio, Michigan, then Indiana--and I will be speaking at all those places.
I am still in need of $2500 in our own bed!) Then it's up to Ohio, Michigan, then Indiana--and I will be speaking at all those places.I am still in need of $2500 in monthly support, as well as about $6000 in one time gifts. I am trusting and praying that God will meet these financial needs. If you would like to contribute to God's work in Kenya, you can give onmonthly support, as well as about $6000 in one time gifts. I am trusting and praying that God will meet these financial needs. If you would like to contribute to God's work in Kenya, you can give online here or send in a check. ( Send it to: World Gospel Mission, PO Box 948, Marion, IN 46952-0948 and designate it for account #125-15732). If you have questions about giving and how it all works, you can read more here or (of course) ask a question in the comments sections. I'd love to hear from you!
As always, I covet prayers not just for the financial needs, but also for safe travel and endurance for my car, as well as for myself.
I am adding my schedule down below. If I am near you, let me know! I'd love to come see you.

July 7-11 Taylor County Camp Meeting (Butler, GA)
July 15-21 Mt. Hope Bible Camp (Otway, OH)
July 21-27 Eaton Rapids Camp Meeting (Eaton Rapids, MI)
August 6 Chandler Holiness Camp Meeting (Newburg, IN)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Interested in more?

We are making great strides around here in our technological know-how (or at least pretending we are) and you can now subscribe to my monthly email updates by clicking on this link. If you would like to receive the updates through snail-mail, feel free to add your street address and I'll mail 'em to ya.

Please note that the email updates will be different than the blog posts, although you can subscribe to those, too, if you really like me. (See the link down on the right side.) There will be some overlap in info, but I will try to share new stories, pictures, and information with you each month in the newsletters.

I am also trying to come up with a pithy little title for my newsletters, so if you have any ideas, shout them out in the comments section. (My aunt and uncle have called their newsletter the "Lewis Ledger". I like the alliteration, but, so far, haven't come up with anything creative.)

On another side note, I had a root canal yesterday. (Oh, fun!) I share that with you not because I think everyone likes to hear the words "root canal", but because of the poster my dentist (endodontist?) had tacked up on the ceiling above the chair so that the patients could see it as he worked on their teeth. Underneath the picture of a purple-pink sunset reflected in a lake, it's said "What appears to be the end is really just a new beginning." It is certainly applicable to my life as I come to the end of my last school year here at Lexington Christian and start focusing more on Kenya. But I am not sure what how it would apply to other people laying in that chair. Does everyone having a root canal think it's the end of something?

On the upside, I have not had much pain--either during or since the root canal and am very thankful.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Meet the Family

If you are interested in learning more about the families and kids I will be working with next year, check out some of the blogs and pages below.
There's a lot going on around Tenwek!

The Bemm Family
The Chupp Family
The Crognale Family
The Galat Family
The Manchester Family
The Roberts Family
The White Family

 And there are more on the way!

Monday, February 13, 2012

All That I Can't Leave Behind

The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.  -G. K. Chesterton

Last weekend, when it was sunny and bright and warm, I headed out to the Kentucky River to hike and enjoy the weather. Wandering through the lovely fields in Shakertown, I realized how much I love that place and how much I will miss it when I move back to Kenya. And then I started thinking about all the other things I would miss, but the things that would replace them in my life once I was back at Tenwek. So here we are, in no particular order.

Ten Things I Will Miss
 1. My family
 Need I say more?

My cousin Emma, carrying a picnic blanket.
2. Shakertown
 I cannot count the Saturdays I have spent wandering around that place. My favorite place to hike is not actually around the "town" itself, but the land across the road, down by the river.
I've tried a few other hiking locations around here, but I always end up going back to Shakertown.

3. Contra Dancing at ArtsPlace
You can laugh if you want, but it's one of the best things to do on a Friday night.

4. My Church 
I visited First Alliance after a suggestion by a friend in Kenya, of all places. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned and been challenged over the past three and a half years.

5. Embrace United Methodist Kids 

Three years ago, my roommate invited me to come hang out on Wednesday nights at The Rock United Methodist on Wednesday nights with the kids. Wednesday nights have evolved a number of times over those three years--Miss Melissa, the former children's pastor, is gone and now the leaders who followed her have, too, and the church has changed names. We have different leaders and different activities, but the kids are still there. A little older and often a little mouthier. Or maybe that's me. Either way, it's always an adventure. I love those kids, even when they drive me crazy, and I will cry like a baby the day I say goodbye.

6. My Job and My Coworkers
I stumbled into Lexington Christian Academy because I couldn't fathom going back to public schools and no other private school paid enough for a single girl to survive. By the grace of God, they had a job--and a great one. I have finally gotten the chance to teach art full time and I love it. I play with paint and kids all day and get paid for it.
My transition back to the US was not pretty, but Lexington Christian gave me a wonderful place to go every day and helped me find my place in this country. It's hard to feel too sad when 15 first graders actually clap and cheer (yes, they really do) over painting.

7. Autumn
I can grumble and whine with the best of 'em when it comes to cold weather (high of 22? Is that even legal?!), but I love fall. The colors, the slight chill in the air. The apples and pumpkins and squash. The country festivals. It's wonderful and cheerful and bright.

8. My Car
In Kenya, I don't have a car. I was offered the chance to raise money for a car, but that would have doubled the amount of money I would have to raise, so I opted not to. It was a hard choice--I LOVE to drive and at one point declared vehemently that I would not live at Tenwek again unless I could get myself around. I was tired to depending on other people to get me back and forth to Nairobi and I wanted the freedom of having my own transportation. But we all have to face reality at some point.
    I can always take a matatu.  

9. Plenty of Hot Water
I will most likely not live in the same place when I move back to Tenwek, but in my old apartment, my hot water heater held between 10-12 minutes worth of hot water, depending on the water pressure. And hair did not come clean in the water from the faucet (tap water made it worse), so I would haul a big bucket of water from the rain tank into the house, warmed it on the stove, poured it into two large pitchers and carried them into the bathroom before I could shower.

10. Understanding language and culture around me. 
I don't claim to be to the most socially astute person in any room, but in general, I can pick up on most social cues here in America. It took me the longest time to realize that Kenyans laugh when they are embarrassed. So when tried out my Swahili with the kids in the neighborhood and they ran off laughing hysterically, it didn't necessarily mean I had accidentally said along the lines of "I like to eat cow poop for breakfast." They were just shy and embarrassed when spoke to them. I hope, anyway.
 But there are many, many more differences in customs and culture--and that means many, many more opportunities for me to misread and misunderstand the situation.

Ten Things I Look Forward To
1. My students
They are sweet and fun and energetic and goofy and enthusiastic. I love teaching them. I'll have mostly different students this time around, but a few of the same ones. They are a joy to teach.

2. The Tenwek community
It really is like a giant family. You live with 'em, go to church with 'em, eat pizza and play games on Friday with 'em. And go on vacation with 'em. Good thing I like 'em.

3. Mandazis
This would be the Kenyan answer to doughtnuts--minus the icing. They are triangles of fried dough, barely sweet. Once upon a time, I had a Friday afternoon tradition of walking up to the shops by the hospital right after my last class in the afternoon and spending 50 cents on a mandazi and a bottle of Coke. Why not start your weekend on a high note?

4. Kenyan Sunrises
We are only about 100 miles from the equator, with translates into straight 12 hours days, all year round. Sun comes up around 6:15 in the morning, goes down at 6:15 in the evening. That means it's dark by 6:45. And really, other than grading papers and lesson planning (most of which I did in the school room right after classes), there is not much to do other than visiting people and talking to family on Skype. So I often went to bed around 9. That meant I got up e-a-r-l-y in the morning--much earlier than my teenage self ever thought possible.
And, contrary to what I imagined, I loved it. My kitchen window faces due east and I would get up in the mornings and fix a cup of chai and watch the sun rise over the Kenyan hills. It was a lovely way to wake up.

5. Teaching a variety of subjects

I love teaching art--it's interesting to focus on one thing and one thing only. It's fun and has a different set of challenges, but I miss teaching all those other things. I love listening to kids sound out words and talking about science. I even miss those middle school science experiments. It will be fun to teach those things again.

 6. Bargaining in the Markets
I grew up shopping at yard sales and flea markets in the South, so bargaining was not a new thing to me. I loved it. In fact, the first time I bargained at a Kenyan market, the young man finally asked if I was from Kenya. I was proud. I did find out that you can't bargain in the Nairobi airport over baggage fees. And the lady behind the desk does not think it's funny if you try.
(Note about the picture: This is my favorite market picture, but technically, food prices are pretty fixed.)

7. Mangoes
I know you can buy them here in the US, too, but they don't taste the same. I would eat them with every meal. If my stomach would let me.

8. Warm Weather
As I have mentioned, I don't like cold weather. At all. I loved the warm weather all year round. Rainy season cools things off a little, but not too much. Certainly not like this. This was taken a few years ago in front of my old house in Lexington. I will gladly trade all the sledding and snow days to never have a storm like this again.

9. My Spot on the river
It took me a while to find it, but I found rock, a little ways off a walking trail by the river. Just enough to conceal me from people on path. Directly across the river from my spot is a little waterfall, tucked back in a crevice of the opposite river bank. The river, the hills behind it, and the little waterfall are a lovely view. On mornings when my friend Julie and I didn't go walking, I would take my Bible and walk down there.

10. Learning Swahili
My first two years in Kenya, I picked up a little Swahili, but this time around, I will actually go to language school. I will have to work at retaining what I learn. I teach American kids and talk to their American parents. Most of the Kenyans I know are MUCH better at communicating in English than I am at communicating in Swahili, so I will have to seek out places to speak in Swahili. I can't wait.

This is by no means a comprehensive list nor are the items in any particular order. As I was writing and choosing pictures, I kept thinking of new things to add to each list, but I stopped at ten. I am sure tomorrow when I read over this, I will wish I had left some off and added something new.
As always, I am searching for new places to speak and share about Tenwek MK School! If you have a church, small group, Sunday school, Bible study, or simply a group of friends who would like to know more about what God is doing in Kenya, leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Beginning

Months after setting up this blog, I have finally been stationary long enough to compose my first post.

So why does my life merit a blog? What I do isn't that interesting. And, come on, it is not 2003 anymore. It's 2012 and you actually need a reason to have a blog.

All of that it true. I am a teacher and, really, the only people really interested in the inner workings of your average classroom are your principal and, of course, your mother. But where I teach is worth writing about it. And if I say so myself, it's worth reading about.

My classroom may not look that much different than your average American classroom (although it's smaller than most), but it's in a different place than
 Tenwek MK
any other American classroom. It's not in America. I live and teach in Bomet, Kenya. The Tenwek Missionary Kids (MK) School is a school for the kids of American missionaries living and working at Tenwek Hospital and I am the teacher. Well, I was. And I will be again.

After graduating from Asbury College, I spent one unhappy year teaching 4th grade in public schools. And one was enough. I had never envisioned myself as a missionary in Africa. I had always thought God was calling me to serve in the American public school system, but God used that experience to pry me loose from the life I thought I wanted and plant me firmly in the fertile soil of East Africa.

Tenwek Hospital is a 300-bed hospital in the rural highlands of Kenya--one of the largest Protestant mission hospitals in all of Africa. Many of the parents work at the hospital--as surgeons, pediatricians, nurses, etc, their spouses have ministries outside of the hospital walls--leading womens' Bible studies, coordinating resources for local orphanages, hosting visiting doctors.

When there is not a an MK teacher, those ministries fit around the task of homeschooling their kids. That's where I come in. I moved to Tenwek in September of 2006 to meet that need. There was no way to do all the schooling for all the kids--20 kids from preschool to upper middle school-- so I focused on the elementary students and taught a few classes a week for the middle school and preschoolers to supplement what they did at home with their moms. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Was it mentally (and when it came to middle PE, physically) exhausting? Absolutely. Did I love it? You bet.

The Kenyan Highlands
It didn't take long to realize that I didn't feel satisfied in the US because that was not what God had wanted for my life. While there were certainly ups and downs, I loved Kenya. I loved the school. I loved the kids and families I worked with. I loved Kenyan culture. I loved the beautiful land. I loved my life. By December, I knew I was where I belonged. By March, I had agreed to come back for another school year.
I could tell you plenty of stories about those two years--the creatures we found in the classroom, the creatures we killed in the classroom (that one was mostly me), the rockets we fired, gingerbread houses, the angry chameleon. But that would take far too long. In fact, it took an entirely different blog (now long gone) to chronicle those adventures. (Although, if you ask, I'd certainly love to share!)

So we fast-forward to June 2008. Many of the families I had worked with were headed back to the US for a year of furlough--technically called "homeland ministry assignment" because anyone who has been on "missionary furlough" knows it's anything but a vacation.
After many tears, prayers, and more tears, I decided to head back to the US, too. I needed to work on paying off student loans before I took on any longer term commitments and the timing just seemed right. So I closed out the school year, pack up my house and boarded the plane. In tears. Did I mention that already? I did not want to leave, even though it was obviously the right choice.

My intention was to work for a few years, pay off student loans, and then head back to Kenya for good. After loving Kenya so much and the difficult transition back to the US, I never expected to enjoy living here in the US again. But, somewhere in the past few years, I have started to. Despite all my expectations, I love my house, my church, my friends, living near my family (well, that one I expected to love), and last, but not least, my job. I teach primary art at a wonderful school in Lexington, Kentucky and have loved every single minute of it.

But God does not call us to an easy life. Thankfully. And it would be far to easy to tuck in, settle down here in the Bluegrass, and buy that house down on the Kentucky river with a big yard for a garden. And just stay. Near my family. Near a grocery store and movie theatres. A teacher supply store. Little Caesar's Pizza. An auto mechanic. Paved roads. Need I go on?

But, again, that's not what God calls us to. He calls us to spread his Name all to all tongues, tribes, nations, and people. And my part of that task does not involve a lovely little cottage on the Kentucky River or living near my family. It involves moving (a lot), public speaking, strange foods, confusing customs, lots of bugs, living four hours from a grocery store, and an ocean away from my family.  It involves seeing people in poverty every day and deciding how to understand that. It involves changing thought patterns and cooking routines. It means seeing so many needs all around and having no clue how to help--or even if I can. It means being an outsider and never truly fitting in.

So I am following God's plans and I am headed back to Kenya.  If all goes as planned, I will be back in Kenya by fall of 2012. In the coming weeks, I hope to post updates on my progress and where I will be speaking. (I am currently raising my support.) I am also hoping to write about some of the ministries the families at Tenwek are involved in. Feel free to ask any questions or leave comments. If you want more info on Tenwek Hospital, what I do, or how to get involved please contact me. I'd love to hear from you.