Graduation

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On the 19th of August Bridgeworld College held its ninth graduation ceremony. 30 students received diplomas or degrees in theology, 14 students received diplomas in counseling psychology, and 5 students received diplomas in social work. Though I had not personally taught any of these graduates, it was a joy to participate in the ceremony.

Rev. Dr. Mwaya wa Kitavi, CRWM Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, gave the graduation address. I am indebted to Dr. wa Kitavi for arranging the opportunity I have to volunteer at Bridgeworld College. As we had previously only met via Skype and telephone, it was very good to finally meet him in person.

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Furahia siku ya kuzaliwa, Gwennyth!

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Last Thursday, August 11th, Gwennyth turned 5!  Because I had to teach on Thursday morning, we had her birthday outing on Friday (or “Second Birthday” or “Birthday Boxing Day,” as we called it). We did celebrate on Thursday with cake, presents and a special birthday supper complete with Gwennyth’s all-time favorite thing to eat for supper, Kraft Mac & Cheese, imported by Jody from the United States to surprise her.

P1010747On Friday morning we walked to the Giraffe Center, run by African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. The center has Rothschild’s giraffes, which are different from the Maasai giraffes we saw on safari a couple of weeks ago. The Rothschild’s giraffe is an endangered species, and the center is both a sanctuary and breeding center for them. The older giraffes remain at the center, while their young are reintroduced to the wild. As part of their reintroduction, they spend time in a 100-acre bird sanctuary and nature preserve where we were able to hike and experience what the landscape of Nairobi was before the settlers build the city.

 

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Interacting with the giraffes:

Enjoying the Nature Preserve:

We loved the giraffes, and we think they liked us too!

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Bridgeworld College Prayer Requests

Every Monday morning the faculty and staff of Bridgeworld College gather for worship, Bible study and prayer. The time of prayer is not like other prayer meetings in which I’ve participated in the past. After the leader lists a prayer request, everyone begins to pray aloud. With Korean missionaries on staff and various Kenyan tribes represented, it is not uncommon to hear prayers offered simultaneously in three or four different languages: English, Korean, Swahili and Kikuyu. I recently realized that one of the reasons Jody and I were so warmly welcomed to the college was that this group has been praying for our family every Monday since January in anticipation of our family’s time in Kenya.

To help you help us by your prayers, here are some of our prayer requests at Bridgeworld College:

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For the students of Bridgeworld College, for their families, for their physical, emotional and spiritual health, and for their financial needs.

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For the faculty and staff of Bridgeworld College, for unity of purpose, for grace and strength in our daily work, and for the college’s faculty development program – the school hopes to have 10 full-time African lecturers within the next 6 years.

For the college’s extension programs where students can study toward a Diploma of Christian Ministry using Timothy Leadership Institute curriculum, and for the potential  development of a third extension program in Mombasa.

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And for a couple of special events coming up: the African Leadership Summit, an off-campus conference co-hosted with the Global Mission Church of Korea (August 10-12) and for the college’s graduation ceremony (August 19).

“You help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Cor. 1:11)

 

 

On the Other Hand …

One month ago, we had just landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport here in Nairobi! Where has the time gone?  Well, if you’ve followed along some, you know we have already had some “dream-come-true” experiences as a family here in Kenya, and I think the saying that time flies when you’re having fun is ringing true for us.

On the other hand, there has been a comfortable feeling of normalcy setting in as well. Ryan goes to the college most weekdays, spending time with other staff there, with students, studying for his own class prep, and in chapel or other meetings.  We are grateful that he is able to use a college vehicle for most of his transportation needs, and we often have had that car here at home on the weekends as well. P1010562

The rest of us are finding our own routine not always that different than it was back in Pella – we still have beds to make, dishes to wash, laundry and cleaning that is never quite caught up… Some of us are not caught up on sleep yet, either.
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Of course not all the “normal” is chore-related: we’re taking time for playing games, reading, enjoying the backyard, and getting together with friends.

 

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And sometimes even the “normal” that is running errands feels new and fun, for example when it involves using Uber to get a ride downtown, and getting lunch at the supermarket bakery because it smelled so good.

 

Still, sometimes Monday is just plain Monday, here in Nairobi too. And you know what? We are kind of glad about that!  It is only natural to be constantly aware of how many (many) things in our day to day lives are different from what we are used to, but we are realizing that dwelling on that can make us tired and overwhelmed.  When we look for parallels or even similarities, we find the foreign to be a little more familiar after all, and we are less frustrated, and more content. Even more, we are finding plenty of things to appreciate about those differences!

We are also trying to find the positive side or things that “go wrong,” and look for ways that we can learn and grow, and appreciate situations that we might not have chosen, even in little things.  Not having electricity all day last week Monday (and then again much of Saturday)  was inconvenient in some ways, but it pushed me to figure out baking in our gas oven, and to reach out and ask for help, which is not usually my first inclination. Our laundry situation is similar: for various reasons, the washing machine intended to be installed in our home has still not arrived, which means a keeping a big bucket in the bathroom for hand-washing emergency things, and relying on the generosity of a helpful friend while we wait.  We are quite thankful for Dr. and Mrs. Lee at Bridgeworld, who have asked Ryan to bring loads of laundry with him to school so they can take it home, and return it the next day, all fresh and clean.  People joke about the “laundry fairy” needing to visit their home – well, I’m afraid I have her all tied up here in Nairobi for now😉  It’s humbling to ask for help sometimes, but we find that it’s truly a blessing to be helped, and things like this are one tangible way we feel God’s loving care over the little (or not so little, when you’re a family of 8!) things in our lives on this side of the world.  So, Happy Monday to you, whether it’s a normal day or not – we wish you blessings in whatever your day brings.  Thank you so much for the encouraging comments and notes we’ve received – those make any day bright!

Safarific!

Last week the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Watt (Geneva College, Pennsylvania) taught a week-long intensive course at Bridgeworld College. All theology students were required to attend the course, which meant that Ryan’s regular classes did not meet. The break gave our family the opportunity to enjoy a much-anticipated three-day safari to the Maasai Mara.  I think our senses of awe and wonder at God’s creative hand have been mightily renewed!IMG_1450

Timan, our excellent driver and safari guide, picked us up early on Wednesday morning for the 6-hour drive from Nairobi through the Great Rift Valley on our way to the Sentrim Lodge at Maasai Mara. It was fun to get out of the city, and we were thrilled by the views!

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We were also thrilled and relieved to reach the lodge, as the last stretch of road (seen above is a particularly smooth bit) was as rough and dusty as it was scenic.  Warm washcloths and cold drinks were provided during check-in, and then we appreciated a late – but quite delicious – lunch. Next, we eagerly embarked upon the afternoon game drive, successfully spotting a few animals on our “must-see” list already!

The kids were delighted by our tent/building accommodations at the lodge, and the grounds were beautiful. (Click for larger views.)

The waiters and other staff were kind and helpful, and took time to interact with our kids. We all loved the hot, fresh naan baked right there at the buffet during supper; in fact we loved almost everything we tried during our meals here, including different stews, curries, fresh chapati and injera (different African flatbreads), omelets, local veggies, fresh fruit and juices, not to mention yummy sweets and desserts, like trifles and mandazis (sweet coconut donuts).  Sleep came easily after such a full day!

We had beautiful weather on Thursday, which was an all-day game drive including a picnic lunch on the African savannah.  Amazing views over the vast plains, coupled with so much beautiful, interesting, and exciting wildlife made the day pass quickly! (click to view larger photos in slideshow.)

Try as we might, even accumulating over 1000 photos amongst our cameras and photographers for example, the immensity and scope of the experience feel impossible to capture in words and pictures.  It may be cliché, but truly, you had to be there!  Upon returning to the lodge, although the water was cold, it felt good to take a quick swim before dinner. P1010365

Friday morning we got up extra early for a morning game drive, and were well rewarded, including experiencing a breath-taking sunrise.  Back at the lodge, we enjoyed a huge brunch spread before checking out.P1010412P1010481We were able to visit a Maasai village en route back to Nairobi.  The people there were friendly and welcoming, and it was interesting to get a little understanding of the way they live. Some things seem unchanged over centuries, such as the construction of bush-fencing in the center of the village to protect their goats and cattle at night – their lives depend on their animals – while other things reminded us that these are also modern times, such as the sight of a herder using his smartphone as as the cows ambled by.

We arrived home Friday evening exhausted, yet excited and still in awe, and possibly the dustiest we have ever been!  Mud puddles in the bathtub that night… and then a good sound sleep!

 

 

Oh, did you want to see some of the animals?  ;)  We managed to photograph a few along the way: (click any image to view larger as a slide show.)

 

This song came to mind throughout our game drives:

All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise (and weird!) and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.

Furahia siku ya kuzaliwa, Torin!

IMG_1647We’re counting last week’s safari to the Maasai Mara (blogpost and pictures forthcoming) as Torin’s special birthday outing. We enjoyed a quiet day at home yesterday, made quieter by the lack of electricity for most of it.

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Torin asked for pizza for his birthday supper and was excited to have it delivered by motor bike.

 

 

 

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I’m proud to say that Jody successfully baked a very yummy cake without a measuring cup in a gas oven that has neither thermometer nor thermostat.

 

 

 

 

Jody and I always delight in how much our children enjoy celebrating one another on their birthdays!

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Furahia siku ya kuzaliwa, Bronwyn!

The kids were very excited when they realized that most of us (everyone except Saeryn, in fact) will celebrate a birthday in Africa.  We sometimes try to plan a special event or family outing to celebrate a birthday, so are thrilled and thankful to have some new and exciting opportunities to do that here in Kenya together!

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To celebrate Bronwyn’s birthday, we went to the elephant orphanage  near our home. There are currently 24 elephants being cared for here, and we were able to see 20 of them.  The other 4 are very new to the facility, and not ready for visitors.  Most of these babies lost their mothers, and therefore their entire herd & family, due to poaching. It is very important to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to have Kenyan keepers and managers, in order to promote ownership of the elephants, and spread understanding of the need for their protection.  Some of these keepers will care for one elephant for up to 10 years until they are successfully integrated into a new herd!  Each elephant is named, in correlation to where they were rescued, and we heard their different stories, and some about their unique personalities and traits, which we could even see as we watched them interact with keepers and each other.

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We loved watching the baby elephants (aged 5 months to 2 years) being fed by their keepers – and laughed at how some of the bigger ones could hold their own bottles!

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It was a lot of fun to get up close and personal with the elephants.

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It definitely was a birthday to remember. We’re told the elephants won’t forget either!