Friday, June 25, 2010

From The Pearl to The Pride

The sun has just risen over Lake Victoria as I sit waiting to board the next flight to Kenya. A Ugandan voice continues to make announcements I can’t interpret as it mixes with the feedback squealing through the overhead speakers. Our plane is late. A hot cup of African coffee and a Mountain Dew has yet to fulfill my desire of pulling me out of my exhausted state. On top of my Christmas Eve type of anticipation of seeing my friends and family that kept me from sleeping last night, African storms filled the skies and shook the house. These storms also brought friends. Giant flying ants with wings a few inches long fluttered throughout the house. They even accompanied me in the extra cold shower this morning. Julius explained that when it rains hard enough, these ants seek dry areas. I guess the closest dry area to their anthill home was inside our home. Julius also explained that these are the same ants they occasionally eat! Jay commented, “Great, the kids can catch their breakfast today and clean the house at the same time.”

We just boarded the plane and I now write from 27,000 feet in a small steel tube. Nairobi bound. Lake Victoria resembles more of an ocean than a lake. Our budget booking has now revealed the truth in the word economy. I can barely hear myself think over the roar of the engines coming through the thin walls. As we were squatting to not hit our head on the ceiling a friendly flight attendant welcomed us. “Is this first class?” we jokingly asked. She replied with the same tone, “It is all first class today.” Appreciating her sarcastic humor I smiled and raced Jay to the window seat. Does “Shotgun!” apply on aircrafts? I would argue it does. The flight attendant then proceeded to explain the safety regulations. The intercom binged and then came the same schpill as usual. The intercom was really unnecessary for the twelve passengers on the plane, but for production sake it was nice. Honestly, I am so thankful to be aboard this flight. Even on top of the excitement of reuniting with my mom and some of my best friends, I have the next hour in the air to think. Even if it is about nothing. It is uninterrupted, unplanned, unstressed time to think.

A reality just hit me in the airport. As I was starting to type this post I had this sense that eyes were on me. I felt the stare of someone just feet from me. I looked up to see Sam. Sam is the guy that I sat next to on the flight from London to Uganda. We had eight hours to make hopefully unforced conversation. Thankfully Sam was a great guy who had the same heart for the Lord and passion for missions. He was 18 years old, traveling to Uganda by himself, to do mission work. He was very easy to talk to even though sometimes I lost his words due to his strong British accent. I would kill for a British accent. Think about that! “Cheerio!” Anyways, I met Sam on the flight to Uganda, and on the next flight we both boarded out of Uganda, three months later, we meet again. What are the chances? We briefly caught up and exchanged quick stories of our stay. He had been working with churches and small villages. Our flight boarded so I didn’t get a chance to tell him the exciting news and what God has done in my life over the past three months, but it really got me thinking. Three months. Wow. The time has flown and crept at the same time. One moment, usually in high stress trials, I can hear the extremely slow tick of the clock. The next moment I feel like I just blinked and weeks of excitement passed. I am so amazed in what has been accomplished in the time here. Things I never thought would happen at speeds I didn’t think possible. That is just a small piece of this entire story that is so incredible. Another piece of evidence that shows this has not been put together with human hands. The only way this happened is the power and presence of our Creator. Jay and I are Two twenty-three year old guys that haven’t a clue how to speak the native tongue, adjust to this foreign country, or raise kids in a land and culture that neither of us know. I was going to retype that but I decided to leave it… We don’t know how to raise kids… at all. We are learning fast and experiencing something our future spouses will appreciate. It proves a truth I have learned while being here. God does not use us based on our abilities. It is not up to our abilities. It has nothing to do with our abilities. It is only the direction and willingness of the heart. That sounds like some deep thought that has some ambiguous meaning, but the meaning of that truth is something that has been so clearly revealed to me. God does not require us to have everything figured out before we go to him. God does not ask for us to change before we surrender to his will. God does not desire us to have an action plan, 3-step process, or business model before we decide to take steps of faith in his direction. It is the simple yet complex change of heart that I believe is desired from God. I am very comfortable with a business plan and organization, but sometimes God calls us out of our comfort in order to show us that HE is the one that is doing the work. Once we release control and let go of pride, God shapes our surroundings and us exactly how he needs it to be for his will to be done. This could have never happened by the strength of people. Yes, people were involved, many of them, all being very hard workers, but all glory goes to God. He takes the impossible and the unattainable and makes it possible and attainable. He makes the distant shore seem close enough to grasp with him being the rudder steering the direction of our life. That is the reason I think sometimes the least likely people in the most complicated situations are used to point to his greatness. It is the way that God shows these things can only be done through him.

Just as we reached our maximum altitude the flight began back towards the earth. Kenya looks different. Same dirt roads, but green fields now stretch to the horizon. Instead of the thick jungles throughout the hills of Uganda, Kenya has flat-topped trees scattered about flat plots of ground. The "Pearl of Africa" looks much different the "Pride of Africa", even though the flight was about as long as Birmingham to Atlanta. This is what I pictured when I first thought of Africa. Tall trees. Large grass fields. Zoo animals roaming the wild. This fits the cliche Lion King like Africa I have pictured since I was a child. The landing gear opened and the plane jolted in the sky. I thought the bottom dropped out of the plane. I looked down. Still there.

List o’ Life: Kenya:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All Around Update

Forgive me for allowing there to be weeks between posts. So for the people that actually read this, (probably Mom, Dad, Adria) I will work on posting more often. It has been so busy here, it has been hard to find time to sit and write. It has been hard to find time to even sit. And when that desperately sought after time is finally found, I sleep. Sleep has become a luxury. If I do sleep, about the time I fall deep into a slumber, either a barking dog, a crowing rooster, or a playing child wakes me up. Things are beginning to settle though, and routines are becoming habits. Schedules have begun to calm the crazy life we have lived over the past month. We have also got a group that is here from our church that is helping. Thanks Catherine, Carrie, Tori, and Mason.

A few days ago, I drove... a car... at night. It was ok, but a few moments made me a little uneasy since they drive on the opposite side of the road on the opposite side of the car. 

We found a bowling alley! You can bowl here for three dollars. Not too bad for a little American break from the world for a while. Except, unfortunately you don't get awesome bowling shoes like we do back home. You bowl barefoot. 

Jay and I, for sake of reputation, swore each other to secrecy of this next short story, but I thought it was too funny not to tell. If you can visualize it you will know why. Not long ago it was late at night and we needed to get a boda ride (motorcycle taxi) home. It was Jay, David, and myself. The boda bodas have 2 seats. One for the driver and one for the rider. Sometimes you can squeeze two riders. We could only find one boda. So... Jay, David, and I ... and the boda driver, all got on the same one and road home together. 

A few nights ago we were watching a movie on our 13" TV we have in the apartment. A roach the size of Kansas flew into the screen and landed right where Mason and I were sitting. I don't know where it came from, but there are some ridiculously huge roaches here. The girls ran up stairs and Mason let our a girlish shriek as he jumped on the chair! 

Many things have happened with the children. I will try to sum it up as much as possible.
Last Saturday we went to the Botanical Gardens to feed monkeys. It was Vivian and Carrie’s birthday, so we wanted to do something special. Once we arrived, we all did our best imitation of monkey calls, but obviously they were not very accurate because no monkeys came running. I’m not even sure what kind of sound a monkey really makes. We waved bananas in the air hoping to catch ones attention. Even with the enticing treats, still nothing. Even though we didn’t see monkeys, we got to eat all the bananas ourselves and play in a field next to lake Victoria for hours. It is also an awesome place to hike in the jungle. It was a wonderful day away from the home.

If you were to walk inside the compound walls of the orphanage, every morning you will find bed sheets hanging out on cloth lines stringing across the yard. Occasionally a mattress is drying by the side of the house in the African sun. This is all because of the children’s bladder issues, which results in constant bed-wetting. All of them don’t do it, but the ones that do, do it consistently. I mean every night type of consistency. Ronald, a seven-year-old boy never seemed to have a problem. The boy in the bed next to him though, Michael, wet his bed every night and claimed he didn’t do it. After a while of not understanding what was truly going on, we found that in actuality, Ronald, after wetting his bed every night would take off his sheets and switch them with Michael’s dry sheets. I couldn’t even get mad because of laughing and being amazed by what a great idea that was. Today Fatuma was crying and Jay and I rushed to the room to see what was the problem. Aggie told us, “She is crying because she just accidentally wet the floor because she couldn’t make it in time to the bathroom.” Jay looked down and realized he was standing in the same puddle. This was another moment that I laughed a little harder than Jay.

This past week all 17 children were taken to the doctor’s clinic to get basic check ups and tests. Thankfully we had great help with the group that is here. We taxied back and forth between the clinic taking 5 at a time. One by one each child got tested for HIV, Typhoid, and Malaria. One by one the tests returned. I had a fear that because of the background of these children and statistics, that at least one would return with a positive test. I held me breath while I received the news and exhaled a sigh of relief when we found that ALL 17 are HIV, Typhoid, and Malaria NEGATIVE! Wow. Praise God!
Overall the kids are wonderful. They are healthy, picking up English quick, and really enjoying just being able to be kids.
The other day, we looked through pictures from about two months ago. You would be amazed how much they have already changed. You can’t see their bones through their skin anymore. Their smiles have gone from gloomy and forced to brighter than the sun. Their lives have literally physically and emotionally transformed. All glory and praise to God!