Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Septemba 29

On Monday I began working with the OAIC. My first three days have proven to be exciting and wonderful opportunities for learning. I will be working in communications, developing stories on OAIC programs, events and churches across the continent. The past two days I have focused my attention on two events/programs of the OAIC: the ‘Just Communities’ program and ‘Micah 10.10.10’ event. The OAIC has created a new program focused on creating ‘Just Communities’ which aims to enable, mobilize, and capacitate its member churches, AICs (African Instituted/Independent Churches which are generally smaller churches in rural areas and informal settlements (slums)). AIC churches focus their tithes on the communities they live in, often micro-financing tithes within the church and village/community the church is based in. So far I have only traveled to two AIC churches and have found that the churches are vibrant, dynamic and joyful- the AICs often split from traditional Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran etc. churches because they were too restricting in worship services, AICs embrace African joy through singing, dancing, clapping etc during worship services…. Back to the Micah 10.10.10 event….

On October 10, 2010 (Sunday after next) churches across Africa will join together in prayer. The event on 10.10.10 is simply to pray, to pray for an end to poverty, hunger, gender inequality and poor health- issues that are daily struggles for many AIC members. Across the African continent, the OAIC hopes to have 2 million members joined together in prayer for the day, the prayer is this:

O Lord, our great and awesome God, loyal to your promise of love and faithful to all who honour and obey you. Hear our prayer.
We pray for those of us who live in poverty, we cry out for those who are denied justice and we weep for all who are suffering.
We pray for strength, that we continue to care for each other, and that we rise up to the challenge of poverty and the evil of injustice.
We confess that we have not always obeyed you. We have neglected your commands and have ignored your call to justice. We have not always spoken out for justice. We have been guided by our interests and divided by our differences. Forgive us.
We remember your promises to fill the hungry with good things, to redeem the land by your mighty hand and to restore peace.
Father God, help us always to proclaim your justice and mercy with humility, so that, by the power of your Spirit, we can rid the world of the sin of extreme poverty.
As part of your global church, we stand with millions who praise and worship you.
May our words and deeds declare your perfect goodness, love and righteousness to both the powerful and the powerless, so that your Kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.

Micah 10.10 is a tool/campaign to empower churches to talk to the government, to get members involved and aware of the government’s promises to them (Millenium Development Goals). October 10, 2010 is one day of prayer to motivate, enable and mobilize members; the plea for an end to poverty does not end there, AIC churches are being asked to make a promise to work in fellowship with each other to end poverty and to act in fellowship with the poor help their struggle, also to work together to remind their leaders to honor commitments they have made to aid the poor. Micah 10.10 challenge seeks to create a strong voice in the AICs to challenge their leaders to aid the poor. The last aspect of the Micah 10.10 challenge is to mobilize AIC communities to get involved, become active and engaged in ending the poverty that affects their day-to-day life.

I write all this for two reasons, one is that this is what I am working on and I would like you to know the work I am doing but also to ask that you may also join in the Micah challenge on the 10th of October and become involved in the challenge that the AICs are facing.

Galatians 2:10 All they asked was the we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.’

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mombasa Express

I have safely arrived nyumbani (home) in Nairobi from a wonderful weekend long journey to Mombasa with my Kenya Family. We spent the weekend travelling along the Eastern coast of Kenya to some of the country’s most beautiful locations. But first, I must start with the beginning of the trip. . .

We arrived at the T.S.S. bus station as a group of eager, excited YAVs ready to travel to Mombasa for retreat. On the bus I sat behind the driver, next to Ellen, on top of the engine and next to two young Kenyan boys who were lying on the gymnastics mat that would, of course, be lying next the gear change. We spent the next 8 hours “on” the road. I learned a few things about Kenyan driving on my T.S.S. bus experience: the lines on the road are merely a suggestion or an idea, gear changing does NOT have to be a smooth movement from 3rd to 4th, if you can see the car in front of you, you must pass it, bus drivers are great DJs and turning your brights off as you pass another car is neither a courtesy nor an expectation. Upon arrival at the T.S.S. in Mombasa we went in to purchase our return tickets at which point I saw three chickens in the hands of their owners walk into the bus station as well. Once we had our tickets we were off.

We stayed at a hostel on the beach in Mombasa and were welcomed by friendly Kenyans, excited to have us as their guests. Our first day in Mombasa we found our way to 2 amazing ruins in Kenya, Gedi and Mnarani. Mnarani is a smaller site mostly consisting of the mosque at Mnarani. We had free rein over the site and explored it to the fullest, we went with a Professor of Archeology at the University Of Nairobi, David Kyule, who toured us around the site, explaining the significance of each aspect of the mosque, we even found some undocumented pots in the ground, we learned that even something as small as a broken pot can tell us about the trading practices of the people, so pretty exciting- look for us in the archeology books! After checking out the ruins, Steven and I walked to the beach and along the way stumbled upon a reptile rescue, as you can only do in Kenya. On our way to Malindi we stopped to talk to a church that has split from the Anglican Church to form an independent church. We were so warmly welcomed and really enjoyed our experience. The church has an interesting model for outreach, they microfinance the majority of the offerings, loaning the money to church members so that they may be able to attend school, have operations, etc., once the receivers of the loan have stabilized themselves or used the money to go to school and have now found a job, the money is returned by ‘paying it forward’ to another person who may be in a similar situation. The church was incredibly dynamic, involved and accepting- making me very excited to begin my work with the OAIC (Organization of African Instituted/Independent Churches).

We spent our second day in Mombasa on the water, one of my favorite ways to spend a day. We drove about 2 hours away towards Tanzania where we took a ferry to an island off the coast and negotiated a good price to take a small sailboat/motorboat combination to a much smaller island further off the coast to go snorkeling at a Kenyan national park, its considered a national park as it has over 400 species of fish swimming near the coast of the island. Our captain told us we were free to snorkel until we were pleased, leaving us plenty of time to run around on the beautiful white sand beach and swim around checking out all the fish near the island.

Our final day in Mombasa I was able to see one thing I had been hoping to see while in Kenya: giraffes, and I was fortunate enough to be able to feed them as well! We also went to Bombolulu, a project designed to make disabled Kenyans independent. At Bombolulu people are able to learn skills in making leather-ware, jewelry, cloth, woodcarving and aid devices (wheelchairs etc.) Bombolulu is a fair trade project that also integrates people who do not have disabilities into the work team. The project teaches skills so that the people involved may be able to sustain themselves rather than being dependent. Our last tourist stop before heading home to Nairobi was at Fort Jesus. We had great tour guides who took us all around the fort explaining the history of the Portuguese and Arab holds on the fort. Mombasa has an interesting history of Portuguese and Arab involvement and tension between Christians and Muslims- lots of tension in conversion between both religions.

We met back at T.S.S. for an even more exciting return journey home. The bus left at 9p. and was to arrive in Nairobi at 5a. so we had planned to sleep on the bus to be ready for a busy day of orientation the next day- oh how mistaken we were! There is nothing soothing about a T.S.S. bus ride home a few highlights: the people at the petrol station parting and running from our bus that was headed full speed into the station, the bus driver found the road too crowded so he drove several kilometers on the gravel between the two highways and being 3 wide on the gravel detour (old Kenyan road). Sitting in the front row of the bus (2 seats that are to the left of and in front of the driver) was much like a trip to six flags, without the lines. We did however make it home in good time, arriving in Nairobi about twenty minutes early, and (thankfully) safe! We shared an incredible trip to Mombasa, I am so happy to have been able to see all the amazing things we saw and thoroughly enjoyed our break from orientation!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

nyumbani Kenya

Nyumbani- home!

Kenya is starting to feel like home now. I find myself sitting now with Ellen, Kathryn and Steven at Dorman's coffee shop with a chocolate chip cookie and iced tea enjoying some time with moderately fast internet and my very own computer!

I have returned from a nice, though difficult, homestay with my Kenya family. I spent the weekend with my Kenyan Mama, Baba, and two sisters- Ndiga and Nysie. My family is absolutely wonderful and graciously welcomed me into their home, treating me like one of the family. I spent a lot of time reading and journaling my first day with my family. The next day was much more exciting- several experiences in my new favorite form of transportation, a matatu! Its strange how at home a matatu has made me feel, crowded, squished, and blaring hip-hop must be just what I needed to feel at home! We also made our way to a wedding! Unfortunately, I was a wedding crasher rather than an invited guest, nonetheless I enjoyed seeing some of the traditions of a Kenyan wedding, such as the grooms family greeting the bride and singing tribal songs to her as she proceeded into the reception, dancing in circles to traditional music and of toasts in Kiswahili! On Sunday I experienced my first time in a Kenyan church! the service was WONDERFUL, we went to the Youth service which was full of new and traditional songs, in both Kiswahili and English. I was amazed at just how welcoming the congregation was, I was invited to tea, bible study and to volunteer with the church office, in one afternoon! After church (8a-2p) I enjoyed what I would consider a typical Sunday afternoon, post-church, reading and watching TV on the couch with the family. My little sister and I watched hours of "Real Housewives of Atlanta." How comforting?
I am now back with my YAV Kenya Family, orienting ourselves to Nairobi. We have taken 2 Kiswahili classes which as a whole tunapenda (we love). We are learning greetings and the beginnings of conversations. Mama Byrd has also arranged for us to have some amazing lecturers on topics such as "Spirituality in Africa" and "Church Life in Africa" so far. I am really enjoying the time I have been able to spend with my fellow YAVs, lots of laughter and encouragement from an AMAZING group.

We are off to Mombasa on Saturday for 2 days- I will return with some exciting stories!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kenya Family- "And then God said 'TIGER get DOWN!'"

After a more than exciting journey to Nairobi- the family has arrived safely!

Our flight to Kenya left Newark, NJ at 5:30p to allow enough time to get to the airport the family (with honorary member John) left Stony Point, NY at 2:30. We shoved our bags into the trunk and tied them to the top of our car for 45 minutes and finally headed out to Newark, leaving behind many wonderful friends. Upon arrival at Newark 3 family members (myself, Ellen and Michael)learned that our flights did not exist or had been canceled. With little/no help from the Continental agent we found our tickets and began the light jog that turned into a run to gate 96. I enjoyed my 8 hour flight to Amsterdam alongside Michael and fortunately in the front row of the plane, allowing fr extra leg room.

Amsterdam!!! Ahh, Amsterdam! Amsterdam must have the kindest people I have ever met. The 3 hours I spent at the airport in Amsterdam were lovely, every person I spoke to was polite and kind.

8 hours later...Nairobi!

The family arrived in Nairobi late Tuesday evening and had a relatively easy exchange through customs, immigration and baggage claim (note: Ben collected an Australian man's luggage :( ) We found a nice taxi driver named Chris holding a sign for "YAV" and followed him to his van where we packed our things into another van and headed off for another adventure. As we left the airport Chris turned to us to ask "where to?" The 6 of us chuckled knowing that we didn't have a clue where we were headed. We called Phyllis who was waiting for us at the airport!!!?! A warm welcome I guess one could say, when two people come to collect you at the airport.

The family is all together and navigating our way through Nairobi, eager to begin homestays tomorrow and looking forward to the exciting adventure of Orientatioin Phyllis has planned for us!