Sharing a few more photos and one more story

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A beautiful bird in the compound at Kajiado
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Teachers, Carol and David, take me to town to see the sights

A week plus three days home from Kenya, no longer jet lagged and caught up on re-connecting with family and friends, yet I am restless.  I am still overflowing with the people whom I met and the sights which I saw on the other side of the world, and so I am not yet fully present to being home.  By choice I want to keep those vivid memories close to me a little longer. The memories are like a collage, all layered on top of one another and woven together into a whole experience that was incredibly rich.  I am sharing one last experience with you before I put this blog to bed until the next (I hope) trip.

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Nursery school children

At morning tea time on the last day of the teacher workshop in Eldoret, I did as I always did which was to follow the custom of asking for a volunteer to pray a grace. Kenyans are comfortable with saying extemporaneous prayers in a group, and up to that time there had never been any hesitation for someone to stand and say a grace that was so beautiful that I often wished that I had written it down.  But on this morning, the twenty-five teachers with whom I had spent the last two and half days, were quiet in response to my request.

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A visit to a primary school classroom

 

A teacher named Roseline said aloud, “You pray for us, Mary.”

“I will, but I am feeling the emotions of knowing that later today we will say good bye to each other.  I think these feelings will come out in my prayer,” I told them.  They all nodded their encouragement to me.  I bowed my head and forgot entirely to pray for the tea about to be served, for instead my prayer was about the twenty-five teachers in the room—for each of their classrooms and all of their students, for their making do without enough materials and books, for the small pay checks that they must stretch, and for the crops that they cultivate around their houses and the cow they milk so that their children have enough to eat. When I came to the “amen” and looked up, there were twenty-five teachers smiling back at me and then they clapped.  It was a moment that I could not have anticipated or orchestrated.  It was one of those times when I had let myself be entirely vulnerable.  In forgetting myself, I gained empathy and caring for the teachers and in turn had received their affection—not based on my credentials or how good the teacher training the workshop had been, but simply because of the humanity that we shared and recognized in one another.

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A furniture business along the road

And I am being vulnerable with you now, for you might think how crazy and sentimental I am.  That is probably so, but the truth of the lesson remains the same.  We often hide behind our accolades and titles, when our compassion and care for others near and far is our real accomplishment and the one that will count the most in the end.  Africans are good teachers of such things.

 

 

With fondness,

Mary

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Stores going out of the town of Eldoret

 

Plan B

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Margaret, Philomena, and Carol, teachers at the workshop

The third teacher workshop required Sue and I to work far out of our comfort zone, which resulted in a rich experience and one that we are pleased to have had.  Prior to leaving for this trip, I wrote in a post that God is in the surprises, and how true that has been for us while in the Anglican Diocese of Kajiado.

Upon arriving at the guest house in Kajiado we were told that all was arranged for secondary teachers to attend the workshop, and a great many of them were teachers of math and science.  We experienced some initial panic since our workshop is designed for primary teachers with a focus of language arts—it felt like a humongous gap.  Plan B evolved over the next day, as Sue and I re-wrote our workshop plans and poured over two battered Kenyan secondary textbooks to better understand of their curriculum and possible needs.

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Teachers working together on note taking for non fiction text.

We began the first morning of the workshop with some nervousness, but by lunch we knew that Plan B would work.  For the next three days, we enjoyed interacting with our secondary Kenyan colleagues.  What good sports they were to try the new ideas that we shared, and there was a lot of laughter and good humor throughout the three days.  It seems like we have known them much longer than three days, so dear are the connections.

The evening of the last workshop day, there was a dinner for us and the teachers as a time to present the certificates of completion to the teachers.  I expected a simple dinner and a quick awarding of certificates, so was surprised by the important people who attended—Bishop Lenini, many clergy of the diocese, and the chairmen and board members of the two secondary schools from which the teachers came.  Making speeches is a fine art here, so there were many including our own thank you for the gracious consideration shown to us.  The best part was an invitation to return and continue to develop the partnership the was begun during this last week.

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A visit to Joseph’s chemistry class–a teacher who was part of the workshop.

This morning we were invited to visit one of the secondary schools to see the teachers who had participated in the workshop in their classrooms with students.  Our visit ended with a student performance of a Maasi dance.  It does not get much better than this.

As I write this, I am decorated with Maasi jewelry—a large necklace of many strands and bright beads and silver circles—which was presented to me last night at the dinner as a gift of appreciation.  Sue also has a necklace and Jim was given a purple shirt embroidered with beads in the Maasi style.  I repeat—it does not get much better than this!

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Jim and Sue watching birds and relaxing in the late afternoon

We will be posting this on June 13 when we return to Nairobi for a night before flying to Kigali, Rawanda for sightseeing.

Blessings,

Mary

Hi everyone,

As I read through Mary’s Part B, I must say that she was very gentle when she explained our feelings when we found we were to teach secondary teachers.  I’ll tell the “real story” and say that it was more like freaking out!!! But like she said, our Plan B worked well and it was very successful.

We had a wonderful group of teachers and of course we had a small group of “bad boys” and “giggly girls” like in every classroom, no matter what the grade level.  And we had so much fun with them all. We can’t wait to show you pictures of our experiences here.

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The lady from whom we bought Maasi jewelry at the market

Yesterday we were taken to the market (Wednesday is market day) when people who live in the bush come to sell produce, jewelry, shoes, clothing, and much more.  There were truckloads of cabbages, mounds of potatoes, tomatoes, and avocados just across the narrow lane from a stall selling everything from CD’s to ladies undergarments. It was indeed a very busy place.

We requested that the celebration begin at 5:00 so the teachers could get home before dark which is about 6:30.  But later in the day, we were told that it had been moved to 6 because of the Bishop’s schedule.  So at 6 pm, Mary, Jim and I went to the hall where it was to take place.  And we waited.  Nothing, and we waited, and nothing.  Finally around 7:40 the staff began to bring in the utensils, and by 8:00 pm we were eating.  It was a huge feast with chipatis, rice, vegetables and roasted meat. After eating, the celebrations began as Mary said. We feel that the jewels we were given are more precious than diamonds for we were also made elders of the Maasi tribe.  It wrapped up around 10 pm and the Bishop kindly provided rides for those who live far away.

What a wonderful time with the Kenyans in this area where we met people from the Maasi, Kamba, and Lau tribes.  They shared their culture, language, generosity, and love of teaching with us and we all are the richer for it.

Blessings to all of you as we get ready to leave for Nairobi tomorrow and then on to Rwanda,

Sue

 

 

Hidden Children

Every society has a shadow side, something sad and perhaps based on superstition that shocks us when we discover of it.  For me it was learning that sometimes poor children in rural Kenya who are handicapped  are considered a curse which was brought on by the mother of the child.

When a child with club feet, cerebral palsey or a similar handicap is born, it is shame on the family and the mother is blamed.  Sometimes the shame is so great that the father deserts the family, leaving the mother and the handicapped child destitute.  These children are hidden and not seen in public.

Imagine the life of such a child.  Imagine the sadness of the mother.  I can hardly bear to think of their isolation and despair.

 

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Patrick working with a child at the Conference Center

I know of this because there is a ministry of mercy and compassion to seek medical help for handicapped children based at the Anglican Conference Center in Eldoret where the teacher seminar was held.  The ministry was started about fifteen years ago and most of their funding came from the efforts of a woman from the US.  This visionary benefactor is now very old and funding for the work with these hidden children is in very short supply.

Yet the staff continues to work on behalf of these hidden children, often without pay.  The first step is to locate the children, and this is not an easy task.  Then the trust of the mother must be gained and the child given an initial field examination.  The mother and child usually are living is abject poverty, so money for transport to the Conference Center must be found so that that the child can be examined by medical doctors.  The handicapped child will then receive medical attention such as surgery as funds are available, and right now funds are nearly nonexistent.

Patrick, the Kenyan field worker who goes about the county side following leads to where a hidden child might be, shared some of his experiences with me.  Patrick said that when he visits the home of a hidden child, he first tries to gain the trust of the mother.  He said that he holds the child close no matter how dirty or sick the child is.

Surgery for club feet is about 40,000 to 60,000 shillings—that is about $500 to $700 in US dollars.  That seems such a small amount to change a child’s life and so little in terms of the cost in US for such surgeries.

You can guess what is next…

I would like to locate some financial help for this ministry.  If you know of any organizations interested in health, children and international causes, please share with me.  The money is administered by an NGO and the accounting is transparent and on the up and up.  A missionary couple from the UK is involved in administering funds.  If anyone feels inclined to contribute, I can advise how it can be done as a tax exempt donation.

I am sharing this—both the shock that handicapped children would be the focus of shame and the good news that compassionate people are trying to make a difference for them.  I think that I am especially touched by knowing this situation, because I was born with clubfeet, but because of medical treatment they were corrected by the age of three.  What would my life have been like if I had been a Kenyan child?

Blessings,

Mary

African Hospitality

DSCN0559African hospitality is the best.  The second teacher workshop was concluded this afternoon with the giving of gifts of appreciation that included singing and dancing in a circle around us.  There were speeches that thanked us for coming and bid us to come again with prayers for blessings for our travel.  We ended with many photos snapped, handshakes, and exchanges of email addresses.  We have been with this group of teachers for four days, but it feels like it was much longer because the thirty teachers stayed overnight at the Conference Center rather than commute home each night, and those four days were filled with conversations, laughter, shared meals and worship as well as the workshop.

As a retired public school teacher saying grace before tea, lunch and dinner at a teacher workshop still surprises me, but Kenyans weave the expression of their faith in all aspects of their lives including their professional lives.  The morning and evening worship services were led by the teachers themselves, and African songs, clapping and praying transformed the conference room into a cathedral.

DSCN0446Jim, Sue and I are humbled by the reception we have been given in Eldoret and the openness to the instructional ideas that we shared. It feels undeserved but also absolutely wonderful.  In comparison, I wonder if I have ever been as welcoming or generous as the Kenyans we have met in this place.   I provide hospitality from my abundance and Kenyans give hospitality from their limited resources—quite a difference.

The reality of scarcity was made clear when I was presenting strategies for helping students plan an essay using a prompt that the teachers told me that often appears on government tests.  The prompt starts “It was early one day…” and the students are supposed to write a story that covers a whole day.  The teachers were brainstorming possible problems to include in the story so that the story was interesting.  The “problem” that they settled on was that the family had no food for the day.  There was no drama in the suggestion—it is simply a fact that families are sometimes hungry prior to the time that the gardens are ready for harvest.

I have come to expect that my experiences in Africa will provide life lessons. For me a mission experience DSCN0399requires me to be totally in the present.  Far from home and navigating another culture, I cannot fuss about the past or worry about what will happen next since I cannot predict it.  Being here makes me feel alive and alert, and I like that.  Mission inspires self-examination and a willingness to be vulnerable—to depend on others to show you the way in the new place.  Mission transforms abstract theology into real and immediate trust in God.

Tomorrow we travel for our third and last workshop.   All is well with us, and we pray with you and yours also.

Much love….Mary

DSCN0560Hi, it’s me, Sue, and as they said in the El Doret workshop, we, Mary and I, are a tag team.  What a wonderful experience we just had.  As Mary said, we are humbled by the loving hospitality of our Kenyan friends.  Without thinking, tears rolled down my cheeks as they sang and danced round us, giving us their hearts.  It was very hard to say good-bye to these dear teachers.

I wish I could be a fly on the walls of their classrooms today.  They were so excited to get back to their classes to try out some of these new ideas. I hope that we can continue to email with them to see how they are doing.

We are having a day of rest before heading to Kajiado tomorrow.  We are looking forward to meeting more colleagues and worshiping and teaching together.

You are in our prayers,

Lovingly,

Sue

Being tourists in Kenya

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Next week’s teacher workshop has brought us to Eldoret where the three of us are the guests in the Anglican Conference Center.  The weekend before us is for rest and has provided opportunities to be tourists.  We share the sights and sounds of the Kenya countryside with highlights from today’s trip to the Rift Valley.

Some quick impressions and then photos of the last few days…

The rolling landscape is so very green,­ and I describe it as green squared. The vast dome of the Kenyan sky gives the impression that it stretches past the horizons.  In red dirt fields of maize, women bent over their hoes to chop the weeds from around the tender young plants.  Boys tended their family’s cows and shooed them out of road for us as we drove by.  Market places in small towns were chaotic with sellers and buyers—tarps piled high with used shoes and second hand clothes, wheel barrows full of sweet ripe pineapples and potatoes arranged in a pyramid were just a few of the things that tempted the shoppers.

Rose who is on the staff of the conference center, drove us past all the interesting sights to the first outlook that provides a view of the Rift Valley below.  We stood amazed and silent, hardly able to take it in for it is so wide and deep.  Small farm divide the land below into lopsided grids, and then the view melts into the haze until it meets the far off mountain ranges across the valley.  Lunch was at a hotel at the end of a dirt road that had the million dollar view of it all, and there we ate a good lunch and enjoyed Ruth’s company.

Church tomorrow and Monday afternoon the teachers arrive for the workshop.  We are pleased to have a few days off.

Mary

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Just a few sentences from Sue:

IMG_1581Mary forgot to tell you all about the myriad of butterflies; beautiful blues, purples and whites, fluttering about the lush greenness in the Rift Valley.  In addition we saw monkeys along the roadside.

We were also in the village of Iten, where the outstanding Kenyan runners come from.  There are several training camps there as now athletes from all over the world come there to train.

On the way back to El Doret, there was a downpour and raging torrents of water flowed along the side of the road.  We had a wonderful day with our very competent driver and cook, Rose.

More to come so stay tuned . . .  IMG_1561