Kenyan teachers and their schools…

Two workshops are now completed, and Sue and I believe that we have learned as much as the teachers participating in our workshops—which we hoped for from the beginning.  The teachers’ lessons are about teaching vocabulary, developing writing lessons, and the use of graphic organizers.  Sue and my lessons are about education in Kenya. One of our workshop participants has 70 eighth graders in her classroom, and teachers tell of having one textbook for every five students.  Those are the extremes, but nevertheless, even in better conditions things are far from ideal in Kenyan classrooms.


Perhaps you wonder how Sue and I can bridge our American instructional strategies to be appropriate for Kenyan students.  We are acutely aware that we have not faced their challenges, yet the common threads that bind us together are the desire for students’ success and the love of teaching.  We admire the teachers’ willingness to try the new instructional strategies.  They do so with good humor and ask thoughtful questions as they think of the ways they will apply what they are learning to their own classrooms. 


 In a workshop evaluation, one teacher wrote that the workshop taught her things to help her enjoy teaching—“to change her attitude” she wrote.  Sue and I hope that what we have delivered are some ideas that will make teaching, even with all the challenges, more enjoyable for our Kenyan colleagues.  Joy is what the workshop participants gave us, and as always, we are deeply grateful for the opportunity to experience Kenya through relationships with others.


We are off to Eldoret where we will meet more teachers.  All is well.




What more can I say? All we can do is support their efforts in order to educate the students in Kenya.  Theirs is not an easy business and we certainly want to help them in any way that we can.










Impressions from Mary and her friend, Sue Dauer

ImageSharing sights of Kenya—the first five days…

The last five days have been a gentle re-entry into Kenya and have overflowed with hospitality and welcomes. 

Nairobi with its energy of a big African city provided a shopping excursion for supplies for the upcoming teacher workshops and a trip to a museum.  A forty-five minute flight transported us to the city of Eldoret, and then a drive of two hours delivered us to rural Western Kenya and the area known as Amagoro.

As the guest of Zach Drennen, appointed missionary and all around great guy, we have toured the market place, sipped bitter lemon soda pop with two lovely local ladies and got our handouts for the teacher workshop copied in a little shop on the main road of Amagoro.

ImageToday we attended the local Anglican Church, Saint Thomas, where we introduced and briefly spoke.  Clapping and swaying with several Kenyans to the song “This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made” did indeed make us glad and we definitely rejoiced in it.

Tomorrow is the first teacher workshop.  It is little like anticipating the first day of school when you were about eight—excitement, a bit nervous, and plans to wear the favorite outfit in the suitcase.

All is well.  Mary


Hi this is Sue, Mary’s ”partner in crime”.  It’s a very warm day so we are getting some R&R after the rousing church experience.

Image Yesterday we experienced a terrific storm late in the afternoon, which was amplified with the large tin roof of the Mission House.  Cool fresh air followed, leading to a pleasant evening, spent with two local Peace Corps volunteers.  One is teaching science at the local girls’ high school, the other working with small business startups.

As Mary said we are looking forward to meeting the teachers tomorrow with whom we are working.  Mary’s organizational skills with keep us on track and I know it will be a joyful experience for all of us.

To my friends and family, I didn’t being the right technical support so will communicate with you through this blog and Jim’s email address. Love to you all!  Sue











Trying to get it right…

Some of the first teaching staff of Hope and Resurrection Secondary - 2008
Some of the first teaching staff of Hope and Resurrection Secondary – 2008

Reflecting on my first experience as a missioner in South Sudan–I fondly call those first days “missionary boot camp.” Things were not going well and it was frustrating and confusing. On the eve of our seventh trip to Africa, I look back to my first experience.  It is not pretty, but I learned a lot from my frustrations and doubts and recalling the learning curve of the past somehow prepares me for this upcoming trip.


I recall one morning sitting under a lone neem tree with meager shade in the dusty compound where we were staying in Rumbek while waiting for the truck to arrive from Uganda with all the supplies to open Hope and Resurrection Secondary School  The act of writing a journal entry is vivid. I was not with Jim on the errands because two days of walking around Rumbek had caused a large blister on my left foot.The only shoes that I could wear were Jim’s size eleven flip flops, and I wondered if I was relegated to these large flip flops for the next nine months.


I wrote slowly because I wanted to fill up some of the time that was passing so slowly.I recalled teaching my American seventh grade students what a hero’s quest was through the reading of Robert Nye’s version of Beowulf, and revisiting the plots of movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.That hot morning when nothing seemed to be going as planned, it occured to me that I was experiencing the ancient literary story pattern of a hero’s quest. The points of a hero’s quest that could be applied to my situation were the great obstacles that had to be encountered and conquered, and the knowledge that the final test to be met was not an external one, but an internal struggle for truth.

This is some of what I wrote that day:


Has the plot emerged for you now?A missionary couple comes to Southern Sudan to help start a secondary school.They are sincere but naïve. Their faith is as strong as it can be for people who have not had to come through any great tests.They bring talents developed over a lifetime and an earnest desire to be of help.Yet nothing prepares them for the combination of the heat and poverty and a way of doing things that seem inefficient.Any sense of empowerment that was felt in the United States is at loose ends in Africa.Life slows down to almost a standstill and very little is accomplished in a day.The task of opening a secondary school looms large.Unlike a fictional hero’s quest, Mary and James do not have a treasure map or key or magic potion.They do have guides if they will stop and listen.They will have rest if they claim the quiet days rather than fight them.Is there room for God in this fantasy?Remember the lessons are to plan loosely, count on nothing until it actually happens, and be prepared for surprises.God, of course, is in the surprises.


As I got to the end of my entry I raced to finish the thought—God is in the surprises.I was relieved by my own ending, almost as if it was a totally new thought for me, which it wasn’t. If the realization of my need to turn my concerns over to God had not sunk in, then a glance down at my left foot with the blister the size of a nickel and the too big flip flops served to remind me that this mission in this place at this time had challenges to which I could not anticipate or understand.


That journal entry foreshadowed what was ahead for me in the next months–not the hero part of the quest for I never felt like a hero.  What was foreshadowed were the divine suprises in the form of the sweet good things that redeemed all the difficulties.  The memory I share today is a touchstone for me.  It reminds me that my most important preparation for this trip to Kenya is to be ready to be awed by the richness of another culture and to be open to recognize the surprises that will unfold on this journey.

Much appreciation to all of you who allowed me to re-visit an earlier time,


Kenya, here we come…

On May 20th Jim and I leave for Kenya to conduct teacher training workshops.   The plans for this trip have had a few hiccups along the way because this time we are working with three different Anglican bishops in three dioceses.  As a result, working out the scheduling and details were a bit more challenging.  Our friend, Sue Dauer, of Salem, Oregon, is going with us.  In 2011 Sue and I discovered that we work well together as co-presenters, so her company adds to the trip.  We have received much help from Mission Personnel staff of the Episcopal Church.

My tailored dress made in Kenya in 2012

To what do we look forward?  Seeing three places in Kenya which are new to us.  Meeting the teachers who will be attending the workshops.  Getting to know the three bishops and their staffs who have already been gracious to us via email.

Last year at this time, we were getting ready to return to Hope and Resurrection Secondary School in South Sudan.  The visit to them was good, which made it all the more difficult to comprehend the violence of civil war in that nation beginning on December 15.  There was a time when the Board of Hope for Humanity wondered if the school could even be opened for 2014.

BUT Hope and Resurrection Secondary School is open for this school year with an enrollment of 188 students—81 of which are girls!  All of the seniors of last year’s graduating class passed the government exit exam for the third year in a row.  The top performing student in the WHOLE nation of South Sudan on the government exit exam was a student from—YES—Hope and Resurrection Secondary School.

What is the lesson in all this? For me it is not to easily get discouraged and to be ready to stay committed for the long haul.  It is about thinking of mission in terms of what it means to each person to whom you reach out and help.  The school continuing even at a time of insecurity for the nation as a whole, encourages me to be bold in my personal choices and gives me hope.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matthew 6:33.

I will post when I have something in which you might be interested.  Please join me on this trip.