“The Lion King” Comes to Life

There is only one word that can be used to describe the last 48 hours: EPIC.

These past two days, we were able to bless our ministry contact, his family, and the cooks who have been serving us on a two-day safari in the Masai Mara, which is the Kenya side of the Sarangeti. Here is a photo of the savannah we saw on the first day we arrived:

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It was seriously like the Lion King coming to life – there were animals nearly everywhere you looked. Some favorite moments included:

1. Climbing on top of the van to take a photo with the elephants:P1020906

2. Finding a male and female lion hanging out in the shade under the tree, then watching them lick each other and YAWN…

Snapshot 2 (10-31-2012 8-52 AM)

3. Watching a giraffe watch us watching a giraffe

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4. Crossing the Mara River by boat

Snapshot 1 (11-1-2012 10-25 AM)

5. Zebras: One of God’s most beautiful creatures

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6. Lots of photos under the really cool-looking African trees: P1020934

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7. Pitching our tents in a native Masai village, where we were one of the first white people to stay…I stayed up late that night around a campfire talking to some young boys about what it takes to become a Masai warrior.

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8. Watching the sunrise the next morning, while an elephant family crossed on the field behind

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9. Then running across the savannah to try to take a photo with the giraffes!

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to see what we saw – I had been praying that God would send me to the “bush” where there was no running water or electricity, and He did! I love the adventures that God takes us on and the beautiful ladies that He has given me the opportunity to share life with!

Here’s my teammate Megan’s video from our safari journey:

And here’s Adam’s video about the Masai:

The Masai from Adam Smith on Vimeo.

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October Newsletter: Kenya!

Newsletter 11/03/12
In this month’s newsletter:
Preaching the gospel all over Kenya
African safari!
(See the elephants behind?)
Next month: Serving in Mwanza, Tanzania

Preaching the Gospel in Kenya

This past month, we lived in a small town on the southwest corner of Kenya called Isibania. I seriously love Africa! I love the green hilly valleys  that we explore on our morning runs, the sing-song language of Swahili, and how worshipping Jesus here is more like a party than a church service. There are also some really funny things about being a mzungu (white person) in Africa – read my blog post about this here. It’s a whole different lifestyle here in Kenya – in many places there is no running water, so every day we pulled up gallons of water up a well for bathing, washing clothes, and cleaning. Although when I lived in America I deemed running water to be an essential part of life,  I’m starting to re-evaluate the things that we really need to be happy.
This month, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to share the word of God at schools, police station, and even a prison! In addition to this, our team had to prepare and give three sermons each Sunday. It’s been a joy to see God work through my teammates to share God’s word. A few testimonies include:
-At an all-girl’s high school, 14 girls came up to pray to surrender their lives to Christ
-At the prison, dozens of men responded to re-commit their lives to following Jesus
-On our last day of ministry, we were so impressed with the attentiveness of the boys at an all-boys high school as we shared the gospel. We heard later that many boys that night were delivered from evil spirits and had been set free – praise God!
If you’ve ever wondered what a day on the World Race is like, I videotaped a day in our life,which includes sharing the gospel at a Kenyan prison, killing and cooking a chicken for dinner, getting stuck in a massive afternoon rainstorm, and praying for students at a high school. Click on the picture to watch the video:
An African Safari
At the end of the month, we were able to bless our ministry contact, his family, and the cooks who had been serving us on a two-day safari in the Masai Mara, which is the Kenyan side of the Sarangeti. Two of our pastor’s children had never been on a safari before, and it was so incredible to experience the diversity of wildlife of God’s creation with them. We saw giraffes, babboons, a male and female lion, zebras, and more! The highlight for me was sleeping in the native Masai village and staying up late around a campfire talking to the young boys about what it takes to become a Masai warrior. We then woke up the next morning to watch the sunrise, and as the sun came over the horizon a family of elephants crossed on the ridge behind. It was so surreal…definitely a moment to remember forever. You can read more about our Safari adventures here
Next month: Tanzania
In a few hours, I leave to take an overnight bus to Mwanza, Tanzania, where we’ll be doing more house visits, preaching the gospel, and praying for the sick. 
Prayer Requests:
  • Please pray for my friend Emily. Emily is one of my closest friends on the World Race, and she had to go back to America because of difficulties overcoming an eating disorder. I’ve always felt that there is something incredibly freeing about cutting your hair, so I decided to shave my head in honor of her. Pray that she would find the right treatment program and she would find her freedom.
  • God’s continued protection and health for the 55 people in my squad. Already a few of my squadmates have been diagnosed with malaria.
  • Greater unity among the members of my team as we continue to grow together
Thanks for joining me on this journey!  My prayer for you today is:”May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

In His love and joy,Kelly

A Day in the Life on the World Race: Kenya

On our flight to Africa, I watched a documentary entitled, “Life in a Day,”  where one day in 2010 thousands of people all over the world filmed themselves as they went about their day. The movie producers compiled these together beautifully into a film which shows the kaleidoscope of people and cultures that exist on our planet describing the story of a single day on earth.

I was so inspired by this film that I decided to make a “Life in a Day” film about living in Kenya and our ministry opportunities on the World Race. This month, we’ve had the opportunity to preach the gospel in schools, the police station, and even prisons. In addition to this, our team had to prepare and teach three sermons every Sunday! It’s been such a joy to see God work through my teammates to share the word of God.

The bible says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes(Romans 1:16), and we found this to be so true. Although Kenya is supposedly 82% Christian (Source: Operation World), and most Kenyans have been taught from an early age about the life of Christ, still many do not understand about the value having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A few testimonies include:

At an all-girl’s high school, around a dozen young women coming up to surrender their lives to Christ:

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At the prison, dozens of people came up to receive prayer to re-commit their lives to following Christ

Snapshot 1 (11-1-2012 9-02 AM)

Our last day of ministry, we were so impressed with the attentiveness of the boys at an all-boys high school as we shared the gospel. We heard later that many boys that night were delivered from captivity to bondage to evil spirits and had been set free – praise God!

If you’ve ever wondered what a day on the World Race is like, you’re in for a treat! Don’t miss this film, which includes sharing the gospel at a Kenyan prison, killing and cooking a chicken for dinner, getting stuck in a massive afternoon rainstorm, and praying for students at a high school:

Finally, here is my teammate Megan’s video about our month in Kenya:

On Being a Mzungu

Every little girl dreams about falling in love. But I never thought that my first love would be a continent.

I’ve been in Africa for sixteen days, and I’ve seriously fallen in love with this place. I love the green hilly landscape of southern Kenya, the deep rich color of the skin of African people and the sing-song language of Swahili. My favorite thing is how worshipping Jesus here is more like a party than a church service.

Here is our team striking a pose at The Rocks, which became our favorite place to watch the sunset:P1020596

And here is the beautiful African savannah (Can you find Peace running down the hill?)P1020770

But there is one thing about Africa that still mystifies me. Nearly the moment I walk outside the gate of our house, a pervasive chorus fills my ears: “Mzungu! Mzungu!” I turn into a “come and get me” target with dozens of small scantily clothed children sprinting towards me, their feet pattering on the reddish brown dirt.

Here is a photo from a group of us making faces after being caught in the rain:

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If you’ve never visited Africa, you’ll find out quickly that Mzungu is Swahili for “White person.” The question I have is: how do you respond to someone who yells at you, “White person?” Imagine walking down the street, as people state the obvious back at you, saying “Tall girl!” or “Blond hair!” or “Cracked tooth!” How would you respond? I’ve come up with three options:

1. Wave and smile. This is usually my favorite option as it minimizes verbal communication and yet communicates friendliness. The “Queen Elizabeth” hand wave usually works quite well.

2. Say, “Jambo! Habari?” (Swahili for “Hi! How are you?”) Note that this can be a bit awkward if you are yelling across the street. If you go this route, take caution as the other party may assume you can speak fluent Swahili. If this happens, just nod and smile and say “Ehh” until they finish.

3. Ignore the comments and continue walking straight. This option is not for people with sensitive ears, as usually the other party will assume that you can’t hear them and respond by yelling “Mzungu!” louder. My recommendation is to use this option sparingly, as it feeds into the stereotype of Americans being stingy and closed off from the rest of the world.

After the word “Mzungu,” you often hear “How are you?” In fact, the two often are coupled together, creating a sort of a sing-song rhyme that children shout out along the streets: “Mzungu! How are you? Mzungu! How are you?”  One thing you should know is that “How are you?” in Africa doesn’t actually mean “How are you?” It’s more of a statement than a question – what they actually mean is “How are you.” It’s a greeting, but they don’t actually expect you to respond. I found that out the other day when a dozen African children sat on the ledge, saying, “Mzungu! How are you?”

I responded “Fine.”

They came back with, “How are you? How are you? How are you?”

Thinking they didn’t hear me, I replied again, a little louder, “I’m doing good. How are you?”

And they replied again, “How are you?”

So if you ever come to Africa as a Mzungu, don’t expect to tell people how you’re doing. A good technique is just to smile and nod. I learned that from a Friends episode and it’s never failed me.

The final question you might get is, “Give me money.”

Now this is a difficult one. It’s so hard to say “no” when there is a little African girl standing in front of you, her little brown toes extending beyond her broken flip-flops, hands held out and big white eyes gazing up at you. I’ve tried to explain that I’m a missionary, and I’m not actually rich like the African children believe that all mzungus are. Or am I? I try to ignore the fact that there is an ipod in my pocket and a laptop in my room, things that many Africans would never even dream about owning.

So you’re left in a hard spot. If you give money, then you feed into the stereotype that white people are actually rich and are there to give things. Plus, you never know where the money ends up. So I decided that a better option than giving money away would be to buy something tangible for someone to bless them, whenever the opportunity presented itself.

No more than an hour afterwards, a girl which I have seen around our place a few times asked me to buy her some molasses so she could make cookies. The store didn’t have molasses, so she asked if I could buy some bread, and I agreed. After I paid for the bread, she turned around and gave out the eleven little bread balls to all the African children that we were playing with. Here is a picture of the two of us:

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I was blown away. Here in Africa, what is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine. This is actually something that characterized the very first Christian Church: “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” (Acts 4:32) I also bought a soda for another young girl, and after a few sips, she gave the rest of it to two other young boys who follow me around and never cease to have snot crusted dripping from their noses. I always thought that if you didn’t have much, you would grab ahold of anything that you’re given and never let it go. But I’m learning that when you don’t have much, you also don’t have much to lose, so you might as well give it away to others that are in the same boat.

Sometimes I wish I could just walk around with invisible skin. Yet the blatent fact stares me in the face every day: I’m white. And everyone else is black. I’ve never been a minority, but I’m learning that although minorities in America are often discriminated against, here there is almost a reverse-racism where people crowd around us mzungus, rubbing our skin and running their fingers through our hair as if it were made of gold. In fact, this morning as we walked by the window of a school, the screaming that erupted was reminiscent of teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert. We had to literally pull the children off of us when it was time to leave. So if you’ve ever wanted to be a celebrity, just come to Africa and you will be treated as one just based on the color of your skin. P1020643

Yet something about this feels incredibly…wrong. Don’t people here understand that we actually are exactly alike on the inside? Black skin or white skin, it’s just…skin.

All this being said, I’m still left with the question – what can be done to reduce the distinction between black and white? Only love…One evening, after they had killed and cooked a chicken for us, Pastor Abraham and his family were shocked when we offered to switch meals. We chose to eat his family’s ugali (maize cake) and steamed greens while they ate the chicken, potatoes and cabbage they had cooked for us. We found out later that the only time that they eat chicken is at Christmas. It was so awesome to serve them this way, and he kept remarking how he didn’t know that white people could, in fact, eat ugali.

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Not only this, but Pastor Abraham and his family moved out of half of their home and hired women to cook and clean for the time that our team is here. He told us that we are the first team to help out with the daily chores: pulling up buckets of water from the well, doing the dishes, and sweeping. He said that it makes him feel like we are one of them.

I wanted to say, but we are. We are one of you. We are in Africa, and we are Mzungus

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Daughters of Worship

I’m so excited to share my new team with you – our name is Team Bithiah! Bithiah means “Daughters of Worship” “or “Daughters of YAHWEH.” We chose this name for us because there is one thing we all love doing – worshipping Jesus.

Here’s our first team picture in Bucharest, Romania:

Today, I want to introduce you to these five lovely ladies:

Katy Westrom, our fearless team leader. I’ve been with Katy since the beginning of the Race and we’ve been nearly inseparable ever since. Katy is so enthusiastic about everything, and because of this she never ceases to bring a smile to my face. Katy is always up for any adventure that comes our way – I can’t wait to see all the other adventures that God has in store with us.

Katie McNeil is the youngest person on our team, but you wouldn’t know it with the amount of wisdom that she shares with us. What I like best about Katie is her positive attitude – she takes anything that life throws at her in stride. If this isn’t enough, Katie is also talented at leading worship on her guitar.

Leah Johansen has a heart of compassion and is a great listener, which are incredible qualities to have on any team. I also love the way she worships Jesus – Leah has written many songs on her guitar. She has an amazing voice and heart for worship and I’m so excited to be on her team!

Megan Tschantz – I love Megan because she is from Colorado. But seriously – I love Megan’s adventuresome spirit who is always up for a run through the African streets or a hike up the mountain. Megan looks at everything in life as a blessing and her positive attitude is such a pleasure to have around!

Danielle Kelvas – Danielle is very sarcastic and her sense of humor always makes me laugh. I really admire Danielle’s heart to learn and grow and become the woman of God that He has created her to be. She is such an inspiration to me and others!

This month, Team Bithiah will be serving in Isibania, Kenya, which is a small town on the Southwest corner of the country right near the Tanzania border. We’ll be doing a variety of ministry work, including school and prison visits, hospital ministry, and youth clubs.

Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I have seen a lot of unity among our team already and can’t wait to see how God will change the world through us in the coming weeks!

Making A Difference in the World

Many people criticize short-term mission trips, saying that they are nothing more than glorified vacations – sightseeing tours with occasional service projects. Even I myself have to admit that in the months prior to the World Race, the more I learned about missions, the more I questioned the validity of short-term mission trips. As I began to gain a perspective of God’s heart for people all over the world, I began to understand that the role of a missionary is to build relationships and make disciples of Jesus within a local community.

But with the World Race, this seemed like an unachievable task. Being a missionary to eleven countries in eleven months? How could I ever learn the culture and get to know the people and have them open up their hearts to me and share the gospel and see them come to Christ, in just a few short weeks? As I was exploring various service opportunities in other countries, someone asked me if it wouldn’t be better to serve in one country for multiple years, such as the Peace Corps? Wouldn’t that be a better way to make a difference in the world?

That was a good question, a question that I didn’t have an answer for. At the World Race training camp, I asked Bill Swann, one of our leaders, how we can really hope to make a difference in a community in one month. He answered:  “When you build relationships with another person of a different culture, there is an exchange that happens. You learn something from them, and they from you. The experiences you have together mold you and shape you, and both people are never ever the same.”

This brings me to just one week ago, the last day of our ministry in Transnistria. I felt discouraged. We had taught a lot of English, passed out a lot of invite cards, and did a lot of ministry. I had sensed that at the beginning of the month that God had a specific plan for us being there, but nothing truly extraordinary had happened. Despite this, in my prayer time that morning, I felt God speaking to me: Never underestimate the power of even one conversation.

Our English conversation class in Victory Park, Tiraspol

That afternoon, one young man rushed into our English class. His name was Dima, and he had been attending our biweekly English conversation practice for university students in the park. I remember being surprised that he was there because he didn’t know about the ongoing English classes that we had been teaching. We asked him how he got there, and he told us that as Alyssa prayed for him the day before, he felt like something happened in his heart. When he woke up in the morning, he had a strong sense that he was supposed to go to the Expo center, which is where we were teaching English. We were astounded to hear how God had led him to us that day…then some of the boys on our team sat down and shared the gospel with him. That afternoon, Dima  prayed that God would come to him and help him and change him. Dima told us later that as he was praying he felt like he was flying, that someone was holding him up. He thanked God for sending us to his city that month, and expressed how our conversations together had changed his life. We had the opportunity to interview Dima, and here is his story:

Then it struck me: Who am I to think that I can only make a difference in the world if I serve in a country for two years? Thinking this way puts God in a box. Who’s to say that one month, one week, or even one conversation can’t change a person’s life?

I realized that Bill was exactly right – Every single person we meet leaves footprints on our hearts, and impacts who we become. When we see God work through the people in other cultures, not only do their lives change, but ours do as well because God breaks us in the midst of the brokenness we see. It’s striking when you go on a mission trip, thinking that you’re going to change the world, but then you realize that actually you are the mission.

As short-term missionaries, if we try to learn the culture and get to know the people and share the gospel and see them come to Christ within a few short weeks, we may become discouraged by the overwhelming task ahead of us…because that’s not our role. Our role is simply to sow seeds – to come alongside what God is already doing in a local community and multiply their disciple-making efforts. This means we will plant a lot of seeds and sometimes we will reap what others have sown. Many times we won’t see the fruit of our efforts. And that’s OK.

So, whoever you are, whether missionary or doctor or dishwasher or stay-at-home-mom, there is one global strategy that God has used since the beginning of time: Love. This is the first and best way to make a difference in the world. Indeed, the bible says that the world will know that we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). So today, will you let Christ’s love permeate your every thought, and allow every interaction with another person to be seasoned with grace? Throughout your day, will you continually ask God, “What can I do to serve and honor this person in front of me?” This love is how we will make disciples of all nations, and show the world who Jesus is.

Highlights from Transnistria [video]

We had an awesome month in Transnistria! Our main ministry consisted of teaching English and organizing a biweekly English conversation program for university students in the park.

Click here to watch a video of the highlights from our month, which includes testimonies, swimming in the Niester River, going to a Russian football game, and more!