I realize how long it has been since my last blog post. Before I left for Kenya my goal was to blog twice a week, I am surprised at how difficult of a time I am having finding time to write blogs. I would be lying if I said it is because I am so busy, I certainly have time to blog but I do get caught up in a lot of what is going on around me in Kenya and trying to stay in touch with myself- Good Self Care if you will.
I have now been working with the OAIC for about a week and a half, I am still really enjoying my experience here. There have been a lot of challenges but it seems a lot of challenges I will be able to learn from. This weekend I traveled with David, from the OAIC Kenya chapter, to several meetings concerning the 10.10.10 day of prayer. On Saturday we traveled to Huruma, an informal settlement (slum) on the other side of Nairobi. We met with several pastors from the Huruma area to talk about the Millennium Development Goals, ways to mobilize their congregations and ways to get more people from the community involved in the movement to make the MDGs happen. I was slightly nervous to begin speaking but after a few minutes of explaining I noticed that the pastors were engaged and truly interested in what I had to say. That’s something I have noticed here- a lot of respect for what anyone is saying. I think the pastors I have spoken to are sincerely ready to get their congregations involved and make a difference so they are eager to listen to anyone who is also willing to help or may be able to inform them of something new. The disappointing point came when I finished speaking and David asked if anyone was able to understand me and the overwhelming response was laughter “hapana” meaning no. He explained that I am too fluent in English, speak too fast and have too strong of an accent so he translated into Kiswahili for me- after that finished they were very happy to have heard what I said and thanked me profusely which was really reaffirming.
On Sunday I did the same type of thing this time traveling to Kibira and Kayora (sp?). In Kayora we went to church- an AIC church. The service was amazing but there were certainly some differences that were interesting. When we walked in we were asked to take our shoes off, I had been following David most of the day as I still have not figured my way around, I followed David to his chair and was slightly upset that he hadn’t designated a seat for me so I awkwardly stood next to him, after a few moments I looked around and realized I was the only woman on that side of church- as if I wasn’t standing out enough as the only tall Blonde girl with her hair not covered not speaking Kikuyu, I just had to make sure everyone knew I was there and I was a little lost. The women were very friendly when I found myself a seat on the woman’s side of church. We sang really joyful songs, in the AICs the song goes as long as the congregation is feeling it, there is no hymnal to say stop singing, which is really kind of liberating, it makes worship really enjoyable, joyful and exciting in a different kind of way. There were lots of drums at this service which I absolutely loved- one song was lead by two youth in the church a girl and a boy about 12 or 13 years old, I have never seen youth so empowered and excited to be leading worship. In the middle of the service (which is about 1.5 hours after I arrived) we presented our project and the Millennium Development Goals, the congregation was unbelievably appreciative of the newsprint paper I had brought with the MDGs written on them, they immediately took the paper and taped it to the front of the church. Again, of course I spoke for minutes only to be told that no one understood me. David translated a conversation between myself and the congregation for me. I introduced myself as Grace Lindvall from New York (he translated me as Grace Maxwell- I am not longer Grace Lindvall as people find Lindvall very difficult to pronounce, when I explained it was my family name, not Maxwell they said “well, we don’t know them” therefore, I am not Grace Maxwell, no more Lindvall in Kenya) the congregation asked if I was married, I shook my head and they clapped with joy and asked if I would like to join their family! I told them I was still a little too young to be thinking about marriage and they agreed, they then thanked me again for coming to visit them and graciously told me that I was the first Muzungu to visit their church and that even though they couldn’t understand what I said they could see the Holy Spirit working through me- what an amazing thing to say to a person! I am continually shocked at the generous compliments I hear, the people I have met thus far in Kenya are extremely kind and joyful, its amazing to see.
I was speaking to another YAV who has traveled to Africa before about the incredible amount of joy present here. It’s really true, I traveled to Kibira which is thought to be one of the largest slums in the world- we opened the meeting with a moment of prayer and the people were down on their knees thanking God for each aspect of their life- there is so much gratitude and joy in conditions that I would find so difficult to live in. Its amazing that people really appreciate each aspect of their life. I thought about how many of the gifts I am given on a day-to-day basis that I simply overlook and the friends and family and relationships I have been blessed with that I take for granted, I often thank God for the big things in my life forgetting how lucky I am to have a working sewage system and drinking water that comes out of my faucet and 3 balanced meals a day and a family that will do anything for me. I guess its an experience that will and already has already really made me reflect on the gifts I have.