Since Ryan and I are both Canadian by birth, we have noted that Thanksgiving Day in Canada is coming up this Monday, October 10th. In light of that, we would like to share a couple of things that we are particularly thankful for right now – indeed, God has done great things for us, and we are glad! (Psalm 126:3).
“Oh, it’s no big deal…” “Just routine paperwork…” “Stamp, stamp, good to go!”
Those comments sum up what we heard we could probably expect as we went to the Ministry of Immigration downtown in Nairobi to renew our visas. When we entered Kenya, we were given the standard 90 day term on the business visa, and knew we would need to get that extended this week in order to complete our commitments here. Thankfully, staff at Bridgeworld College are familiar with this process (not to mention this country), and Pastor Philip, Dean of Students and Head of the PR Department at Bridgeworld offered to come along with us to the offices yesterday, October 5th.
First complication: traffic was terrible. That’s not really surprising, but we had left in good time, and taken a route away from a large agricultural trade show in the city, so we hoped it wouldn’t be too bad. It was slow going. Which means not going at all for significant chunks of time. Which means turning down all manner of items appearing for sale at your window, from oranges and grapes to dish towels and steering wheel covers. Nothing to do but wait! Unless you want to buy some candy or a necktie.
Second complication: one of the girls (we had just taken 2; the kids didn’t need to be present as they don’t have their own entry visa) was carsick. Baby wipes are amazing things, and I now need to restock my bag. Whew.
Third complication: there appeared to be some kind of official government function going on in the area, and the parking lot we’d planned to use was closed. Parking is … difficult in the city center. It’s difficult in most city centers, I know, but the thing we find extra-tricky here is the lack of signage or information and the very real risk of paying the wrong person and returning to find a parking boot on your car. After a bit of driving in circles and waiting behind buses, we did find a lot not too far from the building we needed to visit, and were glad Philip could help with communication there.
Fourth complication! Now it’s getting fun! or something … The “no, not really,” answer to Ryan’s question “Do we need any additional documents or anything?” when he called Immigration earlier this week was not quite accurate. We made our way into the building, through the security checkpoints with the (heavily) armed guards, took a number, had our number called … and got handed twice as many forms as we’d expected. Plus a request for photocopies of said forms, and of our passports, and for 2 new passport photos each. You see, now we were applying for Registration of Foreign Nationals in addition to a visa extension. Okay … “No problem,” said Philip, and almost before we knew it, we were standing at a bus stop across the street having our photos taken in front of a piece of white(ish) fabric the photographer’s helper was holding up, and then re-taken when the prints were shown to us and had a decidedly blue background instead of the required plain white.
Surprisingly (and thankfully!), all the forms, copies, and photos actually didn’t take too long, and we were soon back in the Immigration building getting fingerprinted for “Alien Cards” and chatting with several other people in the midst of similar processes. Suddenly we were done, picked up our 8 newly stamped passports, and 2 cards of “Proof of Application for Alien Registration,” so that we can come back in 8 weeks to pick up our new Alien Cards. We have no idea what these cards are for, and furthermore, won’t actually BE here in 8 weeks … Although, if you look at our visa extension stamp, you’ll see it says “Extended to 07-01-2017” which is of course January 7th, 2017 … so … 😉 Give thanks with us that we had a very helpful friend with us in Pastor Philip, and that in spite of complications (Kenyan speed bumps, you might say), our visas were extended, and we could complete everything in one trip!
Sidenote: maybe it helps if you bring two cute daughters with you everywhere: Kenyans love children and even the military guards were talking to the girls and joking with them! Every official we encountered through the process was friendly and kind; in fact most everyone we’ve met here in Kenya has been so, and quick to offer to help us. Definitely something we appreciate and are thankful for!
We are also giving thanks for the church home God has provided for us at St. Matthew’s (Anglican Church of Kenya). It has been very refreshing for Ryan to participate in the life of a church without any leadership or pastoral responsibilities. Interestingly, worship at St. Matthew’s feels both more relaxed and more formal than what we have become accustomed to at home. The services are lead by a (usually robed) liturgist and follow the Book of Common Prayer. They include at least three Scripture readings (an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, and a New Testament or Gospel reading). The songs, a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary Kenyan choruses (often sung in both Kiswahili and English), are usually accompanied by drums and, sometimes, a keyboard. Communion is celebrated monthly with the congregation going forward to receive the elements while kneeling at the altar. The congregation also goes forward to give their offerings, which often include first fruits (literally – fruits or vegetables, though last week there was also a live chicken!) which are then auctioned off to the rest of the congregation. The kids have been warmly welcomed to Sunday school and quickly involved by the church’s children in their after worship activities and football (aka soccer) games.
While the worship services are longer than the services we are accustomed to at home (usually lasting 2 hours, though the St. Matthew’s Day service lasted 3), they do not feel long, perhaps because they are filled with so many different elements. For example, this past Sunday the worship service included: an infant baptism, a thanksgiving for a mother on her fortieth birthday (her entire extended family went forward to give thanks to God in prayers led by the vicar), the commissioning of the Mother’s Union as they begin a special week of service in the parish, three Scripture readings, a sermon, the readmission of a person to the Lord’s Supper, communion, and the auctioning of the first fruits offerings.
September 21 was St. Matthew’s Day, which our church celebrated on Sunday, September 25 with a combined all-parish worship service (there are three congregations in our parish) at St. Matthew’s. A choir from Church of the Good Samaritan and a few smaller groups of vocalists led the songs. That week the singing was all in Kiswahili so we could not sing along very well, but it was a delight to be in the midst of enthusiastic worship. The highlight in the service was when the families of each congregation were invited forward to be blessed and prayed for by the vicar. Afterwards, we enjoyed a wonderful picnic lunch together on the church lawn.
This past Sunday, October 2, was World Communion Sunday. This has become a significant celebration for us as we remember the unity we have with brothers and sisters around the world. What a joy it was this year to actually share the Lord’s Supper on World Communion Sunday, on another continent. with Christians from another tribe and language and race (we are the only mzungu -white people- in the church), knowing that our church family at Faith in Pella was also gathering at the Lord’s Table that morning.
Isaiah 12:4 seems very fitting right now:
“And [we] will say in [this] day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.'”