One Year (Cookies with Katie and Kirk)

I’ve started this post in my head probably a hundred times over the past few months, intending to put my thoughts to word. I wanted to write down my deep epiphanies and enlightening reflections in my year since Kenya. But ever since I’ve been back I’ve had a bit of writer’s block, in blogging and journaling. It’s a bit different to blog about lions and slums and culture shock than to blog about homework and classes and Michigan winters. Kenya feels like a lifetime or two ago. Yet, just one year ago, I was either on United Stated International Universities’ campus, dreading my classes, or on the road going somewhere, maybe on a trip, maybe to Karen C Primary School, or First Love, or Kibera. I was probably with Katie, Kirk or Ellie. Maybe I was hanging out with Anna and the adorable kids at First Love. Maybe I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge at Karen C, waiting for something to do. Maybe I was in the car with Maina, talking about life and Kenya and America. Chances are I was homesick, and missing Jared, and my family, and feeling lonely, and struggling to have a good attitude and to find joy in my circumstances. I was probably counting down the weeks/days till my flight home. I probably ate some naan. I probably got up early to Skype somebody back home. I think of Kenya everyday. Did that really happen?

Katie, Kirk, and I get together every so often here in Grand Rapids, and sometimes Ellie joins. We go to Cornerstone’s Sunday night worship service, Evensong, or to Katie’s house, and catch up on each other’s lives. Then our conversations turn to Kenya, inevitably. We usually tell the same stories, reminisce about the same things. In a month or two, they’ll both graduate and move on. I’ll still be in Grand Rapids, still thinking of Kenya. It’s been good for me to have them near and available to reflect on our experience with.

Which is where I found myself on Wednesday, sitting in Katie’s kitchen with her and Kirk, eating fresh-baked cookies, talking about Kenya, sharing our photo books with each other. As we talked, I found myself realizing that we each had truly different experiences, though we were on the same trip. We had different goals, different opportunities, different struggles and trials, different hardships and fears, different joys and triumphs. I think one of my struggles in Kenya was the feeling that I was supposed to be having a specific type of experience: that I was supposed to feel happy and excited about everything, because, after all, this was a trip of a lifetime. Which it was. It’s taken me the better part of this past year to accept that it was okay that I struggled. No I didn’t always have the best attitude, or wasn’t always joyful about everything. That’s the beauty of grace and mercy, God still loved me and stuck with me the entire way. I was often made to feel guilty by people around me for having a hard time in Kenya, which honestly lowered my confidence in myself. There were/are some insecurities I developed about my personality, about who I am. Like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t thrive in Kenya.

I think one of the hardest parts of coming back to America was not really having a solid community to come back to, aside from my family and Jared. Not having a huge support network of people who know me well enough to feel affirmed in who I was after feeling so dejected and defeated in Kenya. Ohio is familiar, Grand Rapids is familiar, both kind of home. I know people, I know the places. But it has been awhile since I’ve had those people who know me deep enough and still accept me. I think part of that is how transient my life has been for the past few years, and even all my life, with growing up in three towns. And to be transparently honest, though I am more introverted, that has been really hard. Not that God hasn’t put people in my life to encourage me and keep me going, but as high school friends drift away, as college changes and nears the end, my support community has shrank. It’s almost like my re-orientation back to life in America was only partial. I’ve grown to appreciate the friendships I do have, the little conversations here and there that are like a refreshing drink of water. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to come back from Kenya and start fresh somewhere else.

But then I remember the positives and the good things of this past year. I had two summer jobs I enjoyed, and God provided for another year at college without loans. I’ve been able to use my parent’s car all year for internships. He provided a job here at school thanks to my wonderful friend and mentor Kathy. I really lucked out and have been blessed with my roommates, especially for moving in with strangers. Most of my classes this year have been with excellent professors who remind me why I want to teach social studies and English as a Second Language (ESL). This semester I am doing my ESL practicum at the Potter’s House High School, a diverse, urban Christian high school. I work with 9 students from 4 Latin American countries and 4 African countries, in ESL reading, writing, math and biology. I never thought I’d teach math and science! I was hired to be a guide for a program called Christian Adventures for the summer, through Cran-Hill Ranch, north of Grand Rapids. I’ll help lead groups of students and adults on outdoor adventure trips in and out of Michigan. My relationship with Jared is wonderful, and his friendship means so incredibly much to me. For my senior year, I have one semester left of classes, and then student teaching. I will get to live with my freshman roommate Sandy, and (eventually) one of my freshman suitemates, Hillary. Especially this second semester I have felt more at home in Grand Rapids. These are all good things.

And I still think of Kenya. I don’t have an interest in going back. I don’t think Kenya is one of my heart places. I think everyone has certain places, whether is a country or a state or a town or a small community, like a school or camp or organization, that they really connect with at the heart and gut level. Those places that are always with you that you can’t wait to go back to. In one way Kenya is a heart place, simply because I learned so much there, and it will always be a part of me and a part of my story. I got to see and do so much, got to meet wonderful people like the Idagiza’s, the First Love crew, my roommate Stephanie, and my student teacher friend Dorcus. But at the same time, it is not a heart place in the sense that I yearn to go back like some of my group does. Jared and talk often about our future, and if going abroad is in it. I don’t see myself living in a long term setting overseas anymore, but I caution myself in saying that, because I don’t know where God will lead me/us in the future. It’s a challenge for me to accept the cliché “grow where you’re planted”, as I wonder where my next heart place/places are.

Kenya taught me and grew me and stretched me. I am a different person than I was on March 26, 2014. Which is how life should be isn’t? Like Paul in the Bible talks about, we, especially as Believers, are not supposed to stay stationary in our lives and faith, immature and incomplete. We are supposed to experience struggles and trials, to learn joy through them, and to become more mature in our faith. Though it was not how I hoped, Kenya did do that for me. The beauty is that even something that monumental and prominent is not the end. I still have as long as God gives me on this earth to grow and become more like Jesus. Though I mess up, though I struggle to live how I should, there are still new mercies each day, and God still walks with me as I try to walk with Him. As I look towards my last leg of college, towards challenges with finishing up, challenges with adulthood and learning to live in the “real world”, I can look back on this, this thing in my life and know that God is faithful and will help me through anything. This crazy, terrible, wonderful, once-in-a-life-time thing… As time goes on, as memories fade, as wounds heal, I can look back on Kenya and know it was for my own good, and that it is proof that my God is real and cares for me and loves me though I am imperfect and don’t handle everything like I should. Happiness is not my primary goal in life. Though I like planning and organizing, life can’t be scripted and I am not in control. So I’ll keep moving, keep trying to follow Jesus, ask forgiveness when I mess up and try to do better. Asante sana, Kenya, for what you taught me, for what you showed me, for what you helped me understand about the world. I will always remember you.102_3900

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:


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!













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.




























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.




















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


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

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!

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.





















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.









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.

















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.






Gratitude Lately- Countdown


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.





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.

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!