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Leaving Kenya

7/30- 8/01/03
Welby Lehman writes:

Wednesday we met Harold and Annetta Miller, long time missionaries in Africa. They currently work as MCC reps in Sudan. They took us to a newly built, largest in Africa, Hindu temple. It was my first time at a Hindu temple. We were required to remove our shoes and observe silence, but we whispered anyway. Before going into the temple we saw an exhibition on Hinduism and the country of India. The exhibition was elaborate and educational. Though I don't agree with Hinduism, they hold many of the same values that Christianity holds and I enjoyed hearing their perspective.

One thing that hit home for me was a statement that said if every American cut their meat consumption by 10 percent, the grain used to feed the animals could feed millions of people around the world. As Christians, how can we deny this and not change our lifestyle? The temple itself was very ornate with stone and wood carvings. The interior was entirely wood, and was carved in India with wood from Kenya. I wonder how many millions they could have fed if it wasn't so ornate. A Hindu man told us about the religion, the temple, Lord Shaminarayan, and answered our questions as some people worshipped near by. I had learned some things about Hinduism in classes at EMU, so it wasn't totally new to me.

The most interesting thing to me was overhearing the 5th successor to Lord Shaminarayan talk with Ben Tyson. He spoke English well, was very polite and told Ben a little about Hinduism and it's presence in the US The conversation ended soon after Ben told him our group was Christian. I thought, "Yes, right on Ben," and I wondered if I would have had the strength to do the same.

We then went back to the guest house and Harold and Annetta talked to us more about the history of Christianity in Africa and the relationship/ debate between Traditional African Religion and Christianity. I enjoyed hearing from them and learning from their experience.

Thursday we got up early and headed to Nakuru National Park. It was a relaxing day full of new experiences, sights, sounds, and smells. It was like a drive-thru zoo with no cages, or tacky gift shops. There are also no elephants in nakuru mostly due to it's small size and we didn't see any lions either. But the highlight of the day was seeing a leopard. There are only 40 leopards in all of nakuru, plus they're nocturnal so to see a leopard is rare. It was the first time Krista had seen one in her many trips to African game parks. We saw many zebras, giraffes, rhinos, impalas, flamingos, water buffalo, and even a nesting pair of ostriches. We also enjoyed other beautiful birds and the exotic African landscape. A favorite place of mine was the Baboon Cliffs where we ate lunch. It is a high place overlooking the lake and the rest of the park. From there the flamingos looked like a pink blanket over the water and the buffalo like black dots. It was a great day, an unforgettable experience, and very tiring.

Friday was my birthday, and I hadn't mentioned anything to anyone because I didn't want it to be a big deal. Apparently that didn't matter because my dad made sure Don knew about it and slipped him some money to use for my birthday. When I arrived at breakfast there were two presents and a card waiting at my place. Plus, some of the girls had written a short birthday song in the van Thursday, and they sang it for me. The gifts were an African shirt and a book entitled When Lions Could Fly. The gifts were very thoughtful, and I especially liked the shirt.

Later that morning, two professors from Daystar University in Nairobi came to the Guest House to talk to us about Islam and Muslim presence in Africa. They are Christians themselves and so they had some interesting perspectives. I think I got the most out of their talk when they asked the rhetorical questions: What does it mean to be American? As the world gets "smaller," do we need to redefine citizenship? With the direction we're heading, where will we be in 20 years? I think those questions are very valid for our Christian walk in a global context.

In the afternoon, we split into two groups and toured downtown Nairobi. My group stopped of the site of the former US Embassy, which was bombed August 7, 1998. The government of Kenya, the US, and other countries have financed the construction of a memorial park at the site. Seeing the memorial brought back memories of September 11, since I didn't have any recollections of the Embassy attack. Over 218 people died that day, almost all Kenyans, but I don't remember it as an event that caused much concern back home. However, it's very special to the Kenyan people, and they are honored when Americans visit the memorial.

When we returned form our city tour, I was told that we were going to go a on a driving tour and eat supper on the road. I thought that was a little strange but went along without giving it much though. Well, as I sat down in the van, I was promptly blindfolded, and I soon discovered that we were going some place special to eat. Everyone was excited, but I didn't know what to expect. They kept me blindfolded all the way to the restaurant until I got out and was standing in front of the sign. We were at Carnivore, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, where they serve all-you-can-eat meat of game-park animals.

Having just been to Nakuru, we were able to remember what impala, water buck, zebra, and ostrich looked like before they were skewered and roasted over the fire. We also had crocodile, lamb, pork, beef, and chicken. It was quite a lot of meat to eat in one meal. When it was time for dessert, many of the waiters came to my table, holding a piece of pineapple pie with a sparkler stuck in it and singing an African Happy Birthday song. Thankfully, there was another boy not too far away who also had a birthday, and they sang to him, too. It was all lots of fun, a great experience, and made for an unforgettable birthday.

Greg Nicholas writes:

In the past couple of days we have worshiped with a couple of different church groups in various ways. Saturday was a great day of fellowship with a group of young adults here in Africa. We played volleyball first, then moved on to other games throughout the afternoon. We were able to eat lunch together as well as have a couple times of joint worship between our groups. It was great to see two groups of young adults from two completely different cultures come together under the uniting presence of our Lord and Savior. I can only describe the uniting of our groups--the way we came together in God's name--as miraculous.

Then, Sunday morning, we attended Mathare Mennonite church, which is a very small church located in the slums. The worship went from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Some of the people we hung out with on Saturday were from Mathare, so we had met a few of them. The pastor preached and a couple of people from our group spoke as well. The songs were very spirited, and worship was much louder and involved than I have seen or experienced in a couple of years. I loved it. Even when the songs were being sung in Swahili, which I can't understand, I felt God moving through the words and the spirit of the people. The service was especially interesting to me, because I was one of the two people to preach from our group. Don Tyson was the other one. Amazingly, I was not nervous. I felt strengthened by the Spirit, and I felt that He was working through me and what I had to say.

After the service, we had a fellowship meal with the people. It was wonderful to see the kindness and love that was shared by the brothers and sisters who live halfway around the world. It was amazing to see all the food they brought for us, even though we knew they didn't have much money at all. When we were saying good-bye, they made sure to wave and tell us to send their greetings wherever we go. It was a wonderful time of fellowship.

On a more personal note, this cross-cultural has had many ups and downs on a mental and emotional level. It was easy for me to be full of joy at one moment and be frustrated the next. Every day has been incredibly full of activities, and at times, it wore me out. Friday was a turning point for me. I asked our leaders if I could have the afternoon off, and as the rest of the group went to the market, I stayed in my room. I had four hours alone. For the first couple of hours, I was not at peace with the roller coaster of emotions. Finally, I admitted that I did not understand what God was trying to do in me. All of a sudden, I decided I was not going to allow Satan to hold me down anymore. At that time, I felt God showing me that He is with me. God let me know taht He understood what I was going through. Since then, I have been just resting in the Spirit and listening to what God wants me to hear. It has been a wonderful couple of days because I have been able to see the moving of the Lord's Spirit in all our lives. I am blessed to be with this group. In the past two weeks, God has taught me patience and humility, and He has also brought me great times of fun and joy. God is moving and working in and through our cross-cultural.

Heidi Bowman writes:

As our time in Kenya wraps up, I have lots of mixed emotions. We have had an incredible time here, learning to know each other and ourselves. I think that most of us have come to feel at home here in Nairobi and in the Guest House, so in many ways, it will be difficult to leave. I, personally, have felt God moving in ways I didn't know could or would occur. He has shown me His hand and His beauty in everything around me--the people in our group, the Kenyans and their hospitality, our surroundings, and so much more. The questions that God has been raising for me are ones that I think many of us have felt. What does God have for the rest of my life? What is He trying to teach me here? How does what I'm learning here make a difference for the rest of my life? Yet, in spite of (or maybe because of) all these questions, God is showing me that I can trust Him with all of my life. In conclusion, the amazing things that we've felt and learned here in Kenya make it difficult to leave. I guess we can also view it as a challenge, though, to take what we're learning and apply it to our time in Zimbabwe. I trust that God has so much more for us to learn--more than any of us can imagine.

What is ahead of us is very exciting. We leave this afternoon to fly to Harare, and we will be at Victoria Falls after that, before we move on to Bulawayo. My prayer is that we will continue to see God's hand in so many ways around us--in the astounding beauty of Victoria Falls, the connections between people in our group, and the worship of Mennonites from all around the world in Bulawayo. We feel your prayers and would appreciate your continued support as we move on from Kenya into what is yet unknown. God is moving, and we trust that He will continue to do so.

Photo galleries:
(most to least recent)

Victoria Falls
and GYS

AIDS orphanage

Gallery 2
First impressions

Gallery 1
Travel and arrival