Wrap Up Thoughts

“And what is it you love to do, Katie?” the woman from Scotland asked her

Katie didn’t have an answer “Just about anything. I’m here to help.”

“Yes, every young woman I have met from the West has come to help They want to do something important and useful so they can go home knowing that they helped changed Africa… The surprise you will discover is that you will not change Africa, my dear. No, Africa will change you… The key is for you to discover what you love to do, what you were created to do, and then do it for the people around you with love. That is the abundant life, dear girl, no matter where in the world you live.”

Finally and Forever- Robin Jones Gunn

 I intended to write a profound, long, inspiring wrap up post, but nothing I’ve been trying to write sounds genuine, so I’ll keep it short. I’m back in the US. The flights home were exhausting and long. I’ve been home just over a week now. I’ve been reunited with my family and Jared. I went to visit Cornerstone and had a really nice visit with my college friends. I started working again. I’ve been cold ever since I got back. In a lot of ways it feels like nothing changed here. It all seems so familiar.

I really like the above quote, which is from one of my favorite authors. I can’t deny I subconsciously thought I could go to Kenya and invest my heart in something and make a difference and feel good about myself. But that’s not what God had for me on this trip. I certainly didn’t change Kenya, but God certainly changed me through Kenya. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I do not regret going.

 God revealed so much of His character to me. He taught me about myself and who He made me.

 I didn’t find my “thing” in Kenya. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not fall in love with Africa just because you are a white American who loves Jesus. As much as I love the story of Katie Davis, I am not her like I thought I could be.

 God reveals Himself everywhere in this world. I found God in Nairobi, in the mountains, in the deserts and starry nights of Korr, in the sunrises of Zanzibar, in the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, in the wild of Maasai Mara, in the beauty of the Rift Valley, in the joy and hope of Kibera Slum, in the happiness of First Love Children’s Home, in the frustration of Karen C Primary School, and even in the chaos of USIU. God was constantly reminding me of who He is and that He owns this great big world, no matter where I go.

 “Stuff” is over rated. Kenya (and Africa in general) makes the realities of essentials of life so much more real: food, water, health, life, death. I want to live with less stuff and use what God has given me wiser and with better stewardship. I think stuff gets in the way of us being amazed daily by God and what He does every day in His creation.

 My God is real. He is active in my life and in His world. He is my hope and my freedom. This world is bigger than I knew, there are countless ideas, worldviews, cultures, religions and ways of life. Every person is searching for something, and I know I have found the answer to this crazy life we’re thrown into: Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. He loves me, and you, and every other person, and wants a personal relationship with each one of us. All we have to do is believe He is the Son of God, believe He can forgive everything you’ve done wrong, and His love and grace saves you, forever.

 While all cultures and peoples are unique and distinct, we all are all children, parents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. We all eat, drink, sleep, work, play, live and die. No matter the color of our skin and the language we speak. We all believe in something and we all want something to fulfill our lives and make us feel like we have a purpose.

 So what’s next for me? I’m back at Gerber’s Garden Center, my summer job, for a fifth summer. I get to spend a week in Washington state helping get a camp ready for summer with my church’s college group. I will be working for Lorain County Metro Parks in June and July as a “seasonal naturalist intern”, meaning I help plan and run nature/adventure day camps for kids. I am working as much as I can to save money for this next school year, and my soon need for a car. Jared and I get to be in the same place for the first summer since we’ve been dating, and we have quite the to-do list of summer activities. I’m so happy with how easily we fell back into our friendship and being able to talk about everything and anything and enjoy doing whatever we find together. In the fall I’ll start my junior year at Cornerstone, which will be quite full. I will be living in the apartments with 3 new roommates. In a lot of ways, although I am back in what is familiar, it seems like I’m starting again, or even on the outside. This is home, but is it? I find myself already wondering what comes next after college, where I’ll end up, what I’ll end up doing. I still have a strong desire to travel, I have a feeling it won’t be long before restlessness and the travel bug sets in. I still seek adventures. It’s pretty great to know that my God has a plan, and that it’s better than anything I could come up with!

 Father God, thank you for this semester. Thank you for never leaving me, for being my constant comfort and strength. I failed a lot this semester, but You are a loving God, full of grace. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for carrying me through, for drawing me closer to You, and for using this difficult time to challenge me and grow me. I pray that I would remember what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done, and that I would move forward with a changed heart and a changed view on life. I pray that I would follow You, that I would know You better every day, and that I would live like You. I love You Lord. Amen.

 Finally, dear readers, thank you. Thank you for following me on this journey, for your encouragement, and for the support of simply reading what I’ve been up to. I think I’ll hold on to this blog for now, and see what other adventures come my way. I encourage all of you to trust God and step out of your comfort zone sometime. I think wandering is good for you, as long as you’re wandering with God and not away from Him. God has made a pretty amazing world, and I encourage you to get out there and explore some corners of His creation! I’ll leave you with another quote from another favorite author of mine. God bless.

 “And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”

Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

Wild- Maasai Mara Safari

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel, that is the purpose of life”
102_3900If you ever get the chance to visit Africa, go on safari. If you get to go to Kenya, go to Maasai Mara. SAFARI WAS AMAZING!!! I absolutely loved it, and it was absolutely wild. I think photos will speak louder then my words for this, so I’ll keep descriptions to a minimum. We left Nairobi in two safari vehicles, drove through the Rift Valley, and when the pavement ended, faced an awful dirt road. Finally, we were at the edge of the park. Then another solid hour of bumpy, dusty roads. Almost immediately into the park, we started seeing the animals! We stayed at Ashnil Resort camp inside the park, which had beautiful accommodations and delicious food. Ellie and I shared the luxurious safari tent. When I say tent, this thing had wood floors, a fancy bathroom, and a deck, all nicely decorated! The resort was on the Mara River, where we could see crocodiles and hippos. We also got a chorus of hippos all night long, which is slightly terrified, as they sound like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park!

Monday evening we went on our first game drive. There is nothing but God’s creation for miles in every direction. Huge expanses of grassy plain, broken up by the occasional single acacia tree or groves of trees stretch forever. In the distance, I saw hills and mountain tops. It’s not like a US national park, the only building or structure I saw in the park was our camp. The dirt roads cover miles upon miles, and the experienced guides know them like the back of their hand. The first night, we saw zebras, elephants, warthogs, hyenas, giraffes, tons of varieties of gazelle/impala, many birds, and then the best part: lions! We found four males lions sleeping in a pile under the shade of a tree! In the safari vehicles, you pull right up to the animals, say 10 feet away. The roof of the vehicle pops up, and some people can even sit on part of the roof. Standing in the vehicle/sitting on the back is quite a rush… until you hit a giant bump and nearly fall off!

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Tuesday was our full safari day. We spent many hours of the day trying to find lions and cheetahs, while seeing all of the aforementioned animals. We also saw crocodiles and hippos in the Mara River, as well as water buffalo and jackals. Finally, right before lunch, we were rewarded by finding several female lions hiding under a group of bushes. Even better, they had adorable lion cubs! We ate our lunch under an acacia, atop a hill, with a view that never seemed to end. After a few more hours of our drive, we returned back to camp.
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Far too early Wednesday, I woke to something scampering around in the darkness. I thought for sure there was an animal, probably a monkey, inside the tent. “Ellie! Ellie!” I lay frozen under my mosquito net, calling till Ellie woke up. “I think there’s an animal in our tent!” After listening more closely, we decided they were outside, running over top the tent. We talked for a bit, trying to scare them away. At one point, we could hear them on the deck growling at each other. Pretty scary, and neither of us fell back to sleep before our 6 am wake up call! We then went out on a morning a safari. We found a pack of probably 10 lions, an awesome find! After that, the one thing we really wanted was to see a cheetah. All of sudden, our guide spotted a cheetah at an incredible distance, and took off. We got so close to the cheetah, snapping as many pictures as possible. While watching, the cheetah left and we thought it was going on a hunt. Sadly it didn’t. We then headed back to camp. I rode on top one last time, enjoying the breeze and bounce as we sped past zebras and gazelle. I believe more and more after this trip that I was made for wild, open spaces rather then densely crowded cities! This was a trip of a lifetime, and one I won’t quickly forget.
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Anticipation

This is it! I fly home in a few hours! I fly home in a few hours? At times this semester lasted eternity, at times it flew by. Change is always bittersweet, whatever the situation. This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I don’t regret one bit of it, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Crazy… Yesterday I was riding around Maasai Mara in a safari vehicle watching lions and getting up close and personal with cheetahs, zebras, elephants, and giraffes, and this weekend I’ll be settling back into a summer in Lorain County. I have a long travel ahead of me (over 20 hours of flights), but people I love are waiting on the other side. I’ll post lots of safari pictures and a wrap up blog in a little bit, after I’m back to fast American internet:) Until then, this is my last post actually physically from Kenya! Asante sana dear readers, I am very grateful for how many people read my story, and for all the encouragement and prayers. Stay tuned for some awesome pictures!

White Water Rafting and Bungee Jump

Video

This past weekend was full of some awesome adventures- perfect to cure end of the semester slowness. We camped at Savage Wilderness Camp in Sagana Town. Saturday morning we had our safety briefing, then loaded up and put in down the road in the Sagana River. The 3 hours of rafting that followed was full of fun, adrenaline, and beautiful scenery! We rafted over class 2-5 rapids, played around in the rafts and rapids, flipped a few times, and got thoroughly soaked. During the calm parts of the river, we enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine, the lush green river banks, and bright yellow river birds. These birds had woven basket-like nests that were hanging from palm fronds and tree branches, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Absolutely beautiful.

Saturday afternoon, it was time to face fears and jump. Bungee jumping was of course optional, but I figured why not, I mean I already paid off the semester! My stomach was churning and I was pretty shaky when the time came though. I’m not necessarily scared of heights, and climbing doesn’t scare me, but we’re talking 180 feet here! The climb of the tower/crane thing was just an extremely long ladder while attached to a harness, and then we climbed into the basket at the top. There was a gap in the floor, you stand with your toes over the edge, feet on each side of the basket, and the bungee cuffs are wrapped around your feet, with a backup on your shoulder harness. So, not only are you 180 feet in the air, about to jump, but you also have your feet tied together and weighed down. Umm. The view from the top was worth it. Green farmland, hills and peaks, stretching for miles in every direction, and I could even see Mount Kenya pretty clearly. Finally after all the instruction from the guide, and me questioning if anyone ever peed their pants up there (no, and he reminded me which direction I would be hanging if I decided to do so), it was time. The gate was opened. I said a prayer. I stared. And stared. And stared. Every part of your being screams that you are crazy and foolish. Jumping 180 feet, what are you thinking?? My breath shallow, my whole body shaking. After an eternity of 30 seconds I knew i couldn’t make myself jump. So I kindly requested the guide give me a little push. And down I went! Thrill, and sheer terror, screaming all the way, heart in my throat, and then the bungee caught, and I bounced up, and down, and up, and finally slowed down. Then the blood rushed to my head, I spun till I couldn’t tell which direction was up. At this point, a man in a kayak throws you a rope, and they pull you back to shore, where you get unhooked, and come to the realization of what you just did… Crazy!! I’m glad I did it, although I can’t say I will be jumping (haha get it) at the chance to do it again. Adrenaline filled weekend in deed.

10 days!

Lake Naivasha: Fisherman’s Camp + Hell’s Gate

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Our weekend in Lake Naivasha was without a doubt one of my favorites of this whole semester! Classic Kenya, what was supposed to be leaving at 2 turned into confusion, multiple gas station stops, an over packed car, ice cream run, and finally we started the journey out of Nairobi at 4:30. The view of the Rift Valley is breath taking. So green and vibrant, hills and peaks, stretching for miles and miles. Feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment to see Mt. Longonot again and know I climbed it. After parting ways with Jeff, the Semester in Kenya group searched through the darkness to finally pull into Fisherman’s Camp at 7:30. While we couldn’t see anything, we knew we were right on Lake Naivasha. Our first night consisted of dinner at the camp restaurant, which gets an A+ for food and a D+ for customer service, and a fire at the campsite. Kenya is not a place where the customer is always right, Americans are spoiled by our customer service standards! Our tents were small and made me think of old military tents. We had a little mattress and a warm blanket, and I shared with Brittany. Kirk became fire master, and kept the fire up most of the weekend. The stars were brilliant, the air cool, the atmosphere perfect for camping. My kind of adventure weekend!
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Saturday morning, I unzipped my tent and met the gaze of a monkey on the picnic table. Good morning Kenya. The camp is beautiful! It sits on a lagoon of Lake Naivasha, picture the Florida everglades or Louisiana bayou. Many different kinds of birds, in many sizes, some seemingly as big as me, flutter around. We had a lazy morning, got told we didn’t need any more maple syrup at breakfast, and got ready for our outing: Hell’s Gate National Park. I have been looking forward to this trip all semester! The park is just down the road from our camp. We sat outside the gate for about an hour while Tyler bargained, bribed, reasoned, and worked out our entrance fee and bike rental fee. We got our rental bikes, very Kenyan with sketchy brakes, and took off into one of my new favorite places. We rode past rock faces, green hills, rock towers, zebras, antelope, gazelle, wildabest, warthogs, and water buffalo. We took our time, went at our own pace, and enjoyed the ride. Absolutely incredible scenery! This is the national park that inspired the Lion King. You can’t help but praise the Creator and His creativity… I think I got the hang of taking one-handed picture from the back of a bicycle now. After riding about 7km (4ish miles), we came to a paved road, and found the ranger’s station. Next stop, Hell’s Gate Gorge.
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Part of our group joined the park guide to hike down into the gorge, and I am so so glad we did! For about a minute we hiked downhill, and then climbed into the gorge. From there, the rest of the hike took us up and down rocks, past waterfalls, through streams and dry river beds, around twisting and winding rock walls, and past so many incredible things to see. At one point you could turn left to enter a narrow gorge, or continue straight in the wide river bed. We took the left path first. The walls are covered in people’s carvings, ironically all around the “no graffiti” signs. Every so often we saw “emergency exit” signs next to ropes to climb out in case of flash floods. This trail ended at a cavernous wall called the Cathedral. From there we backtracked, and then finished climbing out of the gorge. An amazing adventure, and incredible place to explore! At the beginning, we asked if this was the trek to see Pride Rock, and were told yes. By the time we got to the end, still no Pride Rock. The last few minutes it started to pour, so we hustled back to the ranger’s station. There we were told that you actually have to bike to see Pride Rock. Oh Kenya… those who didn’t hike had already left, and it was pouring pretty hard, so we were able to ditch the bikes and hitch a ride on the convenient Daystar University bus that had a group of students visiting. We arrived back at the entrance to find the other group had got a ride as well. We spent the rest of our evening pigging out on an abundance of food, playing card games, and sitting around the fire making Kenyan style s’mores. At one point during dinner, a man came up to us and told us there were hippos on the edge of the water! The camp had an electric fence between the campsite and water, and we got to watch a momma and baby hippo eating outside the fence! While they are very dangerous, they are also very cute. I feel asleep that night happy and with a heart full of adventure, trying to avoid the wet spot on my mattress.
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Sunday we just hung out, had a lazy breakfast, hung around the fire. We waited out some rain, and then boarded a boat at the camp to go on a hippo safari! The sky was overcast and dark the whole time, but the view was still grand. Mountains, Mt. Lonognot, Hell’s Gate, forests, lake houses, and so much green. There were floating plants everywhere in the lake, and a multitude of water birds. After a bit we saw our first hippo poking his/her head out of the water. A bit further and we saw a group of five hippos bobbing up and down. It took some maneuvering of the camera to catch them with their heads above water. Finally, we came across a group of 12-15 hippos! Now that was a neat sight. At one point one of the hippos heaved have of his massive body out of the water and then sunk. We started to head back, but asked is we could watch the group a while longer. Our guide got us close, very close, like within 20 feet of the hippos. I think we were all beginning to think, “ok, that’s close enough!” Then someone moved to suddenly, and the hippos began snorting and popping up and down in the water. An awesome sight, and one that gave quite the adrenaline rush. We then headed back to camp, huddled in our rain jackets as the rain picked up. It was mid afternoon, and Jeff came to the camp to meet us. We ordered a late lunch, which took seemingly forever with our not too friendly waiter. Finally, with our van crammed and loaded down with us and our stuff, we drove out of the valley and back to Nairobi.
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This was definitely a favorite for me! I love camping and hiking. Biking through the national park was simply amazing. Our whole group got along extremely well this weekend, and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. We got to see a handful of animals, got to see some spectacular views, and I came back to campus with a full heart and a sense of an adventure well completed. This is the kind of thing I came to Kenya for, this is the kind of things I love to do, the type of traveling I crave. Now there is 17 days till I fly home. This is the last week of USIU classes. Next week is finals. Then Easter weekend. Then safari. And then a long journey home to a very rewarding sight of the people I love. Thank you Lord for a great weekend and a great adventure.
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Gratitude Lately- Countdown

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One of my favorite blogs to read when I should be doing homework is called Today’s Letters. The author, Emily, like to post “Gratitude Lately” posts every once awhile, so I’m going to borrow a page from her book today. 22 days from today I will be back in the US. Three weeks from tomorrow. I would be lying if I said I haven’t been counting down, because I definitely have. It’s time for me to go home, to be with the people I love again. Kenya has been a challenge for me, but I know I have grown, learned, done awesome things, seen awesome things, met some awesome people, and have grown so much deeper in my relationship with God. I find myself surprised when I realize I wouldn’t trade this semester, despite the hardness of it. I still don’t feel like Kenya is the place for me, but I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, even if it was not at all how I expected. So, in honor this thought process, and in honor of my countdown, I want to talk about 21 things I am thankful for about this semester.
1. Fruit stands! Fresh fruit, and so cheap. Bananas for 10 shillings (less than 10 cents), apples for 30, and watermelon always available.
2. Movie shops- you can get a movie or tv show season for 50 bob (shillings- less than 50 cents). 3. The perfect weather- always warm and sunny, I find myself craving a rainy day
4. USIU’s track- so glad I discovered this hidden treasure- as its literally at the very back of campus behind construction of a new building. It’s usually empty, quiet, and peaceful back here. Perfect for turning my running shoes red from the dirt or for a moment of solitude for some me and God time.
IMG_20140324_101311 5. San Marinos, Cool Breeze, and the mall food court- The first two are inexpensive restaurants right outside the school grounds. We’ve pretty much given up on the cafeteria. And it’s always nice to go to the mall food court for some more options or semi-American food.
6. Hot water- wasn’t expecting a hot shower all semester! Definitely appreciate that one
7. Skype- so thankful for my frequent Skype dates home! One of my favorite pieces of technology no doubt.
8. Stephanie- my lovely roommate. I enjoy our culture conversations and movie swapping
9. Adventures- last weekend we went hiking, rock climbing and four wheeling in Athi River. It was beautiful, and a lot of fun! It’s always grand to get out of the city for a bit. The adventure parts of this trip are definitely some of my favorites, like climbing Mt. Longonot or paintballing.
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10. Travel- Refer back to posts about Korr and Zanzibar. Great experiences!!
11. The fact that I’ve stayed basically healthy. While many of my group have faced some serious sicknesses or injuries throughout the semester, I’ve only had some small stomach problems and a couple colds. Thanks Lord!
12. Kibera- I’ve gotten to tag along to Katie’s favorite place a few times now. I am constantly amazed by the joy, hope, and love of Jesus in that place. Kibera may be poor, dirty, and smelly, but my heart is always full after a day there. The Idagiza’s are incredible examples of Jesus in their community, and have shown me true love and welcome. From meals, to hugs, to a beautiful necklace, I’m confident that we will be “friends forever” as Mama Mary told me today. She also told me I am a part of their family, and tell my family at home that I have a family here too. Thank you Pastor John, Mama Mary, Lydia, and Lillian for your kindness and friendship. May God abundantly bless you for all you do for His kingdom. And thank you Katie for sharing your special heart-place with me, I see how God has used this in your life so clearly.
13. The fact that smiles, hugs, and pictures don’t need the same language. Whether it’s in Kibera, First Love, Korr, Zanzibar, or anywhere in between, I love getting to make a little child smile and giggle by simply playing with or hugging them. Precious.
14. The assurance of Jesus Christ and His grace, truth and love. The other night, our group met at Jeff’s with a handful of his Muslim friends to have an open-forum style discussion about Islam. While it was slightly hectic with so many people, it was interesting to learn from them about their faith. I am so thankful for the freedom I have in Jesus Christ, and the fact that His grace saved me from my sin, set my free from rules and regulations of religion, that His truth reigns in my life, and that He love me always.
15. Movie nights- we have a lot of free time, so we have quite a lot of these. Especially when movies are only 50 bob…
16. The ability and means to go to college. This has been a frustrating semester academically. I’m not very impressed with USIU’s academics. I still can’t understand my economics prof, and I’m not good at economics as it is. But, I am thankful that I even get to go to college and pursue my dream of teaching and working with high school students. I look at Lillian, who dearly loves her Kibera kids, and loves being a teacher, but paused college to stay with them. Thankfully, she is able to start up again! I am thankful that God has provided financially for me to go to school.
17. Camp Judson- Not a day goes by when I don’t think of some aspect of my summer on staff. Judson will forever be in my heart, and one of my best summers. It has followed me here to Kenya! I taught some PE at Karen C, and taught them Elbow Tag, Blob Tag, Run Rabbit Run, and Zoo Keeper. One day I sat with a group of 8th grade girls and taught them a bunch of camp songs. That same day I taught several classes “If I had a Little Red Box” and “He’s my Rock, my Sword, my Shield.” More and more I see myself being involved in camp ministry in the future…
18. Karen C Primary- While my internship/volunteer project didn’t turn out how I hoped, I am still thankful I got to do it. I did get to teach some classes, which was a good in-classroom experience. I helped grade essays. I got to talk with Kenyan teachers and learn about the education system. I met a new friend who was student teaching. And hey, it looks great on my resume
19. Time to read- with our abundant free time this semester, I’ve read a lot of books. I don’t remember the last time I read so much during school!
20. Learning what really matters. Why do we need so much stuff? Why is it we’re the richest country but lack so much joy? Kibera kids could teach us a thing or two. What are we chasing with so much of our time and resources? What is going to matter in the end? I believe its knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, loving Him, loving others, and finding His purpose for life. What do you think? 21. Appreciation- Being Kenya has made me appreciate life in the states in ways I haven’t really thought of before. There’s little things like vegetables, washing machines and dryers, ice, real hamburgers, American junk food, country music, being a majority, being able to pet animals that aren’t diseased, not being stared at and approached for being white etc. But then there are serious things like the privilege of going to Cornerstone, having parents who love me, never knowing what it’s like to be hungry or thirsty, never having to be scared of diseases. I am blessed in many ways.
22. Time with God- being here has been hard, I think I’ve been pretty open about that. I’ve faced feelings of failure, loss of self-confidence, loneliness, defeat, weakness. Through it all, God promised to never leave me. He walks with me, whispering His love to me, flooding me with peace, comforting my heart, giving me strength constantly. There’s no way I could’ve done this thing without my amazing God. He has become increasingly real and close to me this semester. I’ve clung to Him, cried out to Him, begged Him, questioned Him, argued with Him, and He remains. He loves me. He’s with me in Kenya, in Kibera, in Zanzibar, Korr, Michigan, Ohio, and every single part of His creation. He’s shown Himself so strong and incredible to me. From sunrise, to sunset, to stars, to zebras, giraffes, ostriches, mountains, oceans, deserts, forests, orphans, slums, cities, and villages. God is with me, and He loves me. I’m amazed by you Lord, thoroughly, absolutely, and completely. Thank you.
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22 days left. There’s still some adventures to come, there’s one more week of classes, and then finals week. Three weeks to wrap up this semester and this adventure. I have my summer job to go back to (fifth summer at Gerber’s already??), and I’m waiting to hear about another job I applied for. Jared and I have some major catching up to do and a summer to-do list to complete. I’ll get to see my family and favorite furry friend (Barkley) again. I have an upcoming trip to Washington state with Trinity’s college group to help a camp get ready for their summer. My fall classes for CU came together. I secured a spot in the on-campus apartments, although who my roommates will be a mystery. Life continues, wherever you are. Father, take us through these last weeks, help me get through economics (please!!!!), keep us safe in our travels, and take us safely home. Lead us all in our next steps. I pray that we would all grow closer to You as a result of this semester, and we would take what You’ve showed us into the next parts of our lives. Amen. Have a wonderful day!

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Dear Jared

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Dear Jared,
Today makes two and a half years together. Woo! Unfortunately we’re still 8,000+ miles apart for another 24 days. But the end is in sight! In growing up in three different places, I’ve met and left behind a lot of people. You will always be the hardest goodbye. And my favorite hello! We’ve had quite the past couple of years huh? I think our story is a pretty good one. Met in youth group, led a missions trip together the summer before senior year, started to get to know each other better, went on our first date to the fair right as senior year started. Senior year had a lot of challenges: school, scholarships, college, future plans, family stuff, yet we became best friends and our relationship grew well. Then just a few weeks after graduation, we said our first goodbye as you went to Montana, Canada and Cambodia for YWAM EDTS. Those months were hard, waiting to hear from you, waiting for college. Patience is certainly a central theme! Finally, after adjusting to college life and Grand Rapids, I got to surprise you at the airport after five months of being a part! We had to get to know each other all over again in a lot of ways after all the change that had happened. You were in Ohio, I in Grand Rapids for most of the time, only getting a few days or weeks together at a time on breaks. You started community college. Finally, summer! Four whole months of being in the same place, just imagine it. And then I got the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do for a large part of the summer, work at a summer camp! In Pennsylvania…

Kentucky missions trip- where we planned and led a VBS. Summer 2011

Kentucky missions trip- where we planned and led a VBS. Summer 2011


First real picture together- December 2011

First real picture together- December 2011


Zoo Lights- Christmas 2011

Zoo Lights- Christmas 2011


Graduation

Graduation

Senior Prom!

Senior Prom!

Spring 2012

Spring 2012


Reunited after 5 months

Reunited after 5 months

It seemed like we’d never be in the same place. You were still figuring what came next, job, college, etc. I remember one particularly hard phone call during my one hour off one day at camp. You knew officially that Cornerstone was not going to work financially. I remember the fear and sadness, the thought that maybe we really never would get to be together… But God is good, and kept us through all of our travels, and brought you to Kuyper, conveniently just four miles down the road from Cornerstone! And so, for the first time since graduating high school, we got to be in the same place for more than three weeks. It wasn’t the easiest, but I know our friendship grew in awesome ways, as did our dating relationship. It’s so awesome to have my best friend just down the road during the stress of college! And then, once again in January, it was time to say goodbye as I followed another dream of mine in studying abroad. Michigan and Kenya are awfully far apart, especially for 16 weeks. But, here we are, the end is in sight. In the past 2.5 years, almost exactly half of that time has been spent in different places. Our story has now spread over four states (Ohio, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania), five countries (US, Canada, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania), three continents (North America, Asia, Africa) and countless time zones, miles, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and the ever-wonderful Skype call.

Hiking 11 miles over Spring Break

Hiking 11 miles over Spring Break

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Alabama

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We have some pretty great memories J. Countless movie nights and Office marathons, family game nights, Zoo Lights, Prom, missions trips, Cedar Point, family holidays. Walks in the Metroparks, hiking, kayaking, watching meteor showers, bonfires. I’m glad we enjoy the outdoors together! Truck rides, fair trips, getting me to like country music. ArtPrize, trips downtown, coffee shop tours, farmer’s market, antique shops, church hopping, Meijer Gardens, exploring Grand Rapids. Our crazy little free trip to Mobile! Cheap movie tickets, Wendy’s dates, Panera dates, any kind of date! Shoepffle Gardens and ice cream. My necklace, my puppy, the care packages you made for each week of the semester, flowers sent to me while you were in Cambodia. Our truck rides to and from school, getting to just talk without thinking about homework. Hours on the phone or Skype when we’re a part. The way we can talk about anything and everything, the way you can make me smile and laugh. I love dating you, and you truly are my best friend!
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Jared, you have been so patient and understanding in the times I have gone somewhere without you or followed dreams of mine that haven’t been with you. You have been incredibly caring and encouraging, especially during this hard semester. I know that you’re there for me, no matter where I am, as long as we can figure out some way to communicate ;) Again, thank you Lord for Skype! The more I travel and try different adventure, the more my respect and thankfulness for you grows. I constantly think of you, pray for you, and wish you were here to explore with me. You are a hard worker, and have a true servant’s heart. You desire to follow Christ, and always want to find the next way in which you can grow and know Him better. I have watched you grow over these past few years, and especially in the past two semesters. College has challenged you, and grown you in many ways. I know it’s not your favorite thing, and it doesn’t always go how we hoped, but I am so proud of you! You show integrity in the way you live, and have always shown me, and all girls, respect that is rare in guys your age. You have some pretty neat dreams that I sure hope I get to be a part of. I hope this is the end of our adventures a part, and that the majority of adventures from here on out will be side by side! One thing I’ve definitely learned is that it’s not so much where you go, but who you go with. And I most definitely want to go everywhere with you! “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
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24 days my dear! The end is so very much in sight. 3.5 weeks. We have come through 12.5 on opposite sides of the world. It’s time to be together again, to spend time with my best friend, to have fun doing whatever and just enjoy your company. I can’t wait for this summer with you! Though it may not be a grand adventure, I look forward to getting to know you again and making more memories. We have our trip to Washington with the college group to look forward to. And while we’ll both be working to save for college, I know we’ll find and make time to check off as many activities on our list as we can. We’ve come through a lot, and it’s crazy to sit back and think about all God has brought us through. And yet, we’re still together through all the distance, all the change. It’s been hard, don’t ever let anybody tell you being so far from someone you care so deeply for is easy! Because it hurts, immensely and constantly. It has broken my heart to be so far this semester. We have grown up in many ways this semester, and we have learned to appreciate each other more and communicate better. God has used all our hard times for both our individual good, and our relationship’s good. So here’s to the future, to the next couple years of school, and beyond. To classes, jobs, family, friends, and following God’s plan through it all. I believe in us, I believe we have a good thing going. I look forward to things to come, to our future, to our dreams, and to adventures together.
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May the Lord bless you and keep you Jared Keith. May His face shine upon you. May He grant you peace in all things. And may you always love Jesus more than anything, or anyone else, including me. Thank you Jared, for the past 2.5 years of your time, for your patience and care, for the time and effort you put into “us” and for all the wonderful memories. Thank you for being so hard to say goodbye to and be away from. Thank you for making me so anxious to be together again. Thank you for wanting to follow God and do His will, even when you’re unsure exactly what that looks like. I hope you always know how much I care about and for you and how thankful I am for you and our time together. Happy 2.5 years Jared!

Love, me
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