Looking Back at Kenya Mission Trip
1:45 P.M. CT, SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2012
As we take the long journey home a few members of the Baylor Sorts Ministry Team reflect on the past two weeks:
Say yes to God. This is one of the most valuable things I'm taking back with me from Kenya. Say yes to accepting challenges. Say yes to stepping outside of my comfortzone. Say yes to new things, unfamiliar places, people, even ideas. God didn't create me as one perfect, ideal person. I come with flaws and faults and everything in between. Thankfully, though, God grants me opportunities to learn and grow. This is what this trip has been for me; a time to observe quietly, a time to realize the change needed within my heart, and most importantly a time to grow closer to Christ. Through these unbelievably eventful fourteen days I've been able to witness first-hand the outcome saying "yes" to the opportunities God presents us can have and the tremendous impact 45 people can have on the lives of strangers- simply by saying yes.
One of the things that struck my attention that I will take back is a short and simple message I heard a man preaching at 5:30 in the morning on a sidewalk of Nairobi when we were visiting with the kids living on the streets. I pray I can constantly be reminded of the moment when he said; when you become sick, hungry, in a financial struggle or in need who do you turn to first? Is it your doctor, medicine, savings account, etc. or do you first turn to God to provide comfort for your needs? Maybe you are not in need, but who do you turn to first to say thanks. I want to be one that looks to God first.
Summing up this entire trip in a single paragraph would be grossly inadequate. So I'll just talk about one recurring theme that I've gathered over the past 2 weeks: growth. As a returner I had a different perspective on this trip from last year in that not only was I taking in my surroundings and trying to be attentive to what God had to show me, but I was also able to witness how these ministries and some of my teammates had changed and grown in the year since we were last here. That sense of growth really hit me the day that we spent at Nairobi West Men's Prison. Of course we had a blast playing soccer with the inmates and getting to see their childlike smiles emerge through the desolation of their daily lives. But what was encouraging to hear was that our work in the prisons over the past 3 years had opened the doors for more ministries. Walter, our contact in ministry who works with the children of the mukuru slum, is now in talks with Nairobi West to begin a weekly sports ministry visitation program. It has been so rewarding to see Walter's ministry grow, if only marginally as a result of the work that the Baylor Sports Ministry Team has done in partnership with them. We can try to personally impact as many lives for Christ as possible during this short visit, but I can scarcely think of a better way to spend these 14 days than to fortify the permanent ministries in the area who can cultivate throughout the year the few seeds that we have had the privilege to plant over the past 2 weeks.
It wouldn't be fair or even possible to sum up this incredible experience in a couple of sentences, so I won't insult you, the reader, with such a fruitless endeavor. However I will supply you all with a singular moment that I expect will stay with me for the remainder of my life: I met a couple of young boys named John and Samuel, both currently living on the streets of Nairobi. John, nine years old and shoeless, ran away from home because he wasn't being fed by his parents and was made to sleep outside. He is not welcome back home. His support system is his equally youthful friend, Samuel, who ran away because he no longer wanted to do chores. Upon asking him if his life on the street was a better set of circumstances, he broke down and cried, saying it wasn't. He said he wanted to go home, but his parents didn't know where he was, and he didn't know how to get home. Boniface's ministry has found a way to get him home, and for that I thank God and am grateful; but I wonder, who will be there to provide companionship and friendship for John, shoeless and on the street without a family, now that Samuel has gone? It is quite haunting to picture, but I remind myself we serve a just God, and I sincerely believe He will provide. I encourage you all to pray for the millions of children around the world in similar situations.
If you feel inclined, feel free to ask me about this life altering journey.
Sam Shalala IV
Baylor Grad Student
Safari Helps Bring Kenya Trip to a Close
11:05 P.M. CT, FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2012
We returned today after a day and a half at the Masai Mara Game Reserve, where we took time to reflect on our mission experience and prepare for our transition back to the US, while getting to see some of Gods magnificent creatures on the beautiful plains of Africa.
One African said, "You have given so much to Africa, it is time to let Africa give back to you."
It was a thrilling experience and refreshing time physically and spiritually. When we got back to Nairobi we met up with the kids from the Mukuru Slums, many of whom our students have sponsored over the past two years. It was just a chance to individually spend time with and encourage boys we have worked with so much.
It was a great way to wrap up our time here. Before we begin the long journey home tomorrow, we will share some insights and reflections from some of our team members so you can get an idea of some things we have learned over these two weeks. Thank you so much for your prayers. We will sure appreciate them these next two days.
Baylor Athletics Chaplain
Recapping Kenya Journey Thus Far
10:10 P.M. CT, WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2012
Finishing Strong: Day Eight in Kenya
4:50 P.M. CT, TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012
What a beautiful day it was to be in Africa this morning! Our group woke up at 5am in to go see, feed, and fellowship with the street kids at 5:15. We had been once already, earlier in the week but it was rainy; when we arrived today, we were surprised to see the size of the group had doubled since the last time we saw them. But, with this growth of the group came more notice of their ways of masking their pains with glue bottles which they inhale from to get rid of any hunger pains or escape reality at times. After getting to pray with them, we invited all the street kids to the City Park later in the morning where we could just hangout and play with them and clearly see their faces in the light. Though people here call them trash, we wanted them to know God loved them.
(Kehri) I met a very lively baby about three named John. He didn't talk much but I saw the joy through his smile. After a while John and I were playing peek-a-boo and other games. I didn't want to leave John when it was time to go but I was hoping by inviting his mom to the park I would see him again.
(Alyssa) I went down the line of kids greeting them and ended up sitting next to Liz Graham with three of the street kids. They didn't speak much English but just sitting there with them seemed to be special. Then, my friend Edward, whom I had met earlier in the week showed up like I hoped. It was great to see his smiling face and he also helped Liz and me communicate with the boys we were sitting with. After some time, we prayed for them.
The Lord has shown me that He is always at work in any circumstance and that He will always provide.
We drove back to the Gracehouse to eat breakfast and get prepared to go to the park and for the rest of the day. We packed extra sandwiches and brought out balls to play with them.
(Kehri) When I got off the bus at the City Park I was expecting to see John and his mom but sadly they did not come. One girl though, caught my attention, her name is Caroline. She's is 21 with a four year old baby that stays with sister. She told me that she likes to live on the street (said she was the dictator of the streets). She also told me that she sniffs the glue because she is stressed. It's sad. I know Jesus is the only one who can change her.
(Alyssa) We got off the buses at the park and I'd say about 3/4's of the kids we we with earlier showed up. I played every sport that was going on at some point. First volleyball, then soccer, and ended on football. As we ended our time, Boniface sat the kids down and talked to them about how faithful and loving God is. We then gave them the extra sandwiches and were off to the volleyball game. I had such I great time just being able to hangout with the street kids and show them that they are more than people might make them feel. I was also very excited for our volleyball game we would play against the African Cup Champions!
Baylor vs. Kenya Prisons; we warmed up and began to play. Kenya Prisons (the players on the team are all prison guards) won the first game; Baylor next two then they came back and won the fourth game pushing it to five sets. Last year the Kenya team won in five games; this year we won not only redeeming ourselves but beating the African Cup Champions! Afterwards we talked and prayed with them individually and then ended up making a lane in which the acrobatic and tumbling team were flipping and doing legit stunts for everyone.
(Kehri) As an assistant coach of our volleyball team today I have to say they did a really good job and had the crowd very excited. I am proud to say that I love the volleyball girls and that they played very awesome. YAY!!!
(Alyssa) It was such an exciting match! They were great competition and made me feel like I had not played volleyball in a longer time than I really had, oops. But it was still so fun! Afterwards, I got to share with one of their players named Mary. It's cool to get to hear their stories and encourage them. We couldn't flip but Jordan Teel and I did the worm together own the lane before we left and brought a few laughs.
All and all today was a very heart-warming and unforgettable day for everybody on the team. As Wes would say "lets go out and give them heaven!" And that's what we've tried to do! Thank you for your prayers!
Kehri Jones - Baylor Track & Field,
Alyssa Dibbern - Baylor Volleyball
Thoughts from Monday
8:05 P.M. CT, MONDAY, MAY 21, 2012
Our day started out with a trip to the grocery store. We ended up paying about $300 dollars for lunch to feed about a hundred people for two days. Not thinking much about this amount, Kim shared with us that a cashier in the past told her that that's less than he makes in one year. We easily spent the same amount in 20 minutes that this man works 365 days for.
The next part of our day was spent at St. Kizito, and we believe this experience is better summed up in the smiles that were captured in the pictures but we'll try our best to convey the joy and faithfulness we witnessed today. Our trip to Kizito's was something we'd all been looking forward to but nothing like we could have ever imagined. From the moment we got off the bus we were greeted with genuine Kenyan hospitality in the form of song and dance. Stepping through the gate we were immediately embraced by the children who wasted no time in making us their personal walking jungle gyms. From dancing to laughing to just being held, these kids valued every second we spent with them, but behind these smiling faces comes the harsh reality that these kids live day to day dependent on what God provides for them in their poverty stricken families. It's almost impossible to remember that these kids live with nearly nothing when all we see is the joy they get playing around with us and their friends. Part of this effortless happiness is due to their faith driven teachers. Despite the fact that the staff and children live only by donations, the teachers offered us tea and chapattis, making sure we felt welcomed while giving us what little they had. Not only were we able to give our arms to holding the sweet kids, but we also had the opportunity to give the school house a fresh coat of paint. We loved being able to help out but we also just enjoyed sharing each others company as we became covered in paint. We left Kizito's the same way we came in; embraced not only in a choreographed dance but also in the warmth and appreciation they showered upon us. Leaving the faces we had grown so fond of was difficult to say the least but knowing that these people were so trusting in the Lord despite their situation gave us peace of mind.
Next we ventured to Kazuri beads which was a neat business created to employ single women in Kenya. Our appreciation grew as we were walked through the process these women perform to make such beautiful painted clay jewelry. Many schillings later, we left the factory content with our findings and exhausted from a long day.
This trip has taught us to be thankful for everything we have from water to shoes to toilet paper and also to be satisfied in every situation. Spending time with the kids today has made us realize how much we have but how easily we forget to be thankful for these things. We pray that everyone on this trip is able to bring the things that we learned from the smiling faces back with us and apply them to our everyday lives.
Hope Ogden and Jordan Teel
Sunday in Kenya
8:25 P.M. CT, SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012
After participating in the youth worship service at the International Christian Center in Nairobi and having a special team lunch at the Carnivore, we headed back to the Grace House where some team members ventured out to the Masai Market next door and everyone took some time to rest as we head into week two. Here are some thoughts from different team members as we reflect on the past six days:
It's very hard to pick one highlight from our first week in Kenya, but I'll try! I have learned so much about myself and about God's love since I've been here. Yesterday, our longest day with sports clinics, really made the biggest impact on my life. I was really hoping that I would eventually connect with one specific kid, and that's when I met Brian! He was in my first volleyball group and we became instant friends- we even made up an awesome handshake! The best part of that day was getting to share the gospel with Brian. I gave him one of the bracelets with different colored beads, each representing a different part of the story of Jesus. When I was explaining the last bead which represented heaven and the hope we have when Jesus is in our heart, Brian flashed the most amazing smile. Even though he got to hear some pretty amazing news, I think that experience had a bigger impact on me. While I'm reflecting on my time here in Kenya, I've realized that God has shown me what true, real, awesome love means; he has healed my heart and changed my life. I feel so blessed to be a part of this amazing group of people, getting to share the love of Jesus through the talents God gave us. Thank you all for your prayers!
To start, I'll say that this entire trip has been indescribable...but I'll try to describe it anyways.
God has really shown his love through my time spent here. I've learned so much about His faithfulness when I got the chance to play volleyball with some kids in the sports clinic we held on Saturday. Even though we were outside in the sun for hours, the smiles I received when I asked some of the kids if they love or know Jesus made it all worthwhile and touched my heart in a way that nothing else could. I've been so blessed by this trip and one of the best ways I can describe it is through Matthew 5:8. The Bible says "You are blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and your heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world."
I want to thank you for all your prayers and I want to ask you to continue to pray for us as we begin our final week here in Kenya. Y'all are awesome and just know that we are all having a blast and a half spreading the word of God.
The first week of our stay here in Africa has been amazing and so much more than any expectation I may have had. From spending time at the slums, hosting sports clinics and visiting Nairobi's prison, it has just been a great experience and I am so thankful I have been able to be a part of it all. What has been most eye opening here is how appreciative, friendly, welcoming and giving the people have been even when they may have had not much to offer. One specific example that I'll never forget is when we were visiting the prison and one of the men offered me some of his own lunch. I have never heard more people say "welcome" or seeing so many smiles than I have here in Kenya.
The most important thing that I have taken from my experience thus far is how much the people I have met here solely depend on God. Some people we have met here live in the streets or slums, have no parents and some have given up their job and source of income to follow God's call. They look to God first in any and every situation and know that he will provide for them. I just think it's amazing how evident God's presence has been here and have realized how much so many of us may take for granted. I am so glad I've been able to experience so much in just a week and excited for what is still is ahead for us.
We absolutely loved talking and sharing the Gospel with the street kids this past Friday. It was awesome to be able to pray with them and to show them Christ's love for them through us. Those kids live by faith alone and have absolutely nothing, which was heart wrenching and inspiring at the same time. This experience has just affirmed that God has new mercies every morning and loves us no matter who we are or what situation we are in. All of us feel so blessed to be able to serve these beautiful people!
Ginger Plemmons and Courtney Shaw
Baylor Acrobatics and Tumbling
This is my second year on the trip and when I came last year, feeding the street children did not move me in the same way that it did this year. This week, as soon as we stepped off the bus in downtown Nairobi, Isat right down with a boy...he told me his story and asked Whitney and I to pray for his future, to get off streets, start going to school, and eventually get a job and have a family. We asked if he knew Jesus, he said yes. We gave him one of the gospel tracts we were handing out. He asked if they had more because, he wanted to give them to his friends. We were so excited that he wanted more so we gave him a stack that he took and put in his jacket pocket. We then gave him a bracelet that shared the gospel through colorful beads. We shared the story with him and had him recite it back to us. It was awesome. Then, we gave him bread and milk which may have been his only meal for that day. As soon as he had his bread in hand, he offered to give it to me. I was in shock, I couldn't believe he was offering the little bit of food that he had to me. He was living on the streets and kept insisting that I have some. After numerous attempts to hand me his bread, I finally convinced him to eat it himself.
Then he told us about his knee. He fell in a manhole a year ago and broke his knee but received no medical attention. Our trainer came over and looked at it. It was still swollen and you could tell nothing had been done to take care of it. She was asking the boy questions and he said it aches sometimes and the pain comes and goes. So I rolled up my jacket sleeve and showed him the scar on my left elbow and told him I broke my elbow and had to have surgery on it and I experience aching pain that comes and goes as well. I cannot fully articulate what happened in that moment, but it was incredible. We felt a connection through our similar circumstance that couldn't be experienced without that pain of those injuries. From the outside, as small as it may seem, it surpassed our cultural and language barriers and was a moment where we could truly relate. I know without a doubt God had divinely placed me in that open spot on the ground with that particular boy to speak with him that morning. Not only did that interaction encourage him in his situation, but it also encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. Times like this confirm and remind me why I came on this trip not only in the first place, but for a second year in a row.
Last year I experienced many difficult and amazing things here, so I thought I had a good idea on what to expect this year. But this experience thus far has touched me in a totally different way. I am still in awe at the relationship that so many of these people have with God. So deep. Reciting verses from the bible like crazy and trusting in Him for literally everything. This week has been a humbling experience for me and so many others on the team. We are so fortunate, and we tend to forget that at home. When we come here, we realize our problems at home are not as big as we think they are. The only thing many of the people have here is their relationship with God and they are completely satisfied with that. It reminds me to just let life happen and let God do his work. I admit, I try to make everything happen instead of trusting in God and letting him make it happen. Being here, reminds me to just let God work in his crazy, unexplainable ways. I want everything to be black and white, I like structure, I want to know what is next and have control over all events. But, here I am reminded that whether what happens is what I want or not, it is in God's plan and what God has planned is always better. In the past, I have had things not go right and that was Gods hand in my life. Through those struggle and disappointments, I became better for them. (Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose).
I just pray, hope and wish people back at home can have an opportunity to experience this or just to believe. Sometimes I don't trust God, but then when I come here and stuff like this happens and I'm in awe at what God is doing.
Another teammate on the trip and I were talking last night and he reminded me to trust in God too. We talked about how we have seen God's work in our own lives, and how we have tried to control our lives, not letting God have total control. Even now, how we are not trusting fully in God. Our conversation last night was another moment that confirmed what God has been reiterating to me not only this week, but this past year.
Thank you so much for reading our blog and following us on our journey here. We hope God is using us to speak to you and encourage you as much as we are being encouraged through the people here.
Sports Clinic Wraps Up First Week in Kenya
2:55 P.M. CT, SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2012
Today was another long day in Nairobi. It started out with breakfast at the Gracia House & then a short ride to the Railways Club sports complex. There we held basketball, soccer, & volleyball clinics for kids around the city. Within the kids was a group from the Mukuru Slums that we were with the first day of our trip. When the kids were done playing we were able to feed them, what seemed to me as a small snack. However, the kids scarfed the food down as if they hadn't eaten in days, and it killed me to think that for some of the kids it may have been their first meal in days.
The clinic was an awesome, and at the same time, a humbling experience. It was hard to watch as some of the kids in our basketball group played shoeless, but it didn't seem to phase them at all. They were just happy to learn and play. When we ended our session Lindsay Palmer asked the group if they could recite John 3:16 and it was awesome to see that every single one of our kids knew the verse.
Another thing that stood out to me was a handful of soon to be college students that were in our group. Two of them, Leslie & Ariel (both guys) were going to attend one of the top graphic design schools all the way in Malaysia. Two others stood out to me because their English was so good. Ended up that one was going to University of Washington with hopes of becoming a doctor & the other was from my home state of Pennsylvania. With all the struggles and problems going on it was cool to meet young Kenyans that have overcome those struggles & are in a position to make a difference themselves.
After that some of our team went to watch the Africa Cup Volleyball finals, where the Kenyan national team that we met earlier in the week won the game. While they were there, the rest of us went to the New Life orphanage to visit with the babies there.
At the orphanage I got to play with toddlers while some of the others played with younger babies. All of the orphans were abandoned, products of the struggles in Nairobi. The experience was another awesome one, even though my attempt to feed baby Adrian was a complete failure. Though the youngsters probably already forgot about me, I wont forget the faces & names of babies like Adrian, Lucas, and Moses.
When we returned to the hotel we had a surprise outside waiting for us. Not sure what the African name for "Luau" is but that's exactly what it was. There was African dancers, music, & delicious food. It was a great ending to a long long day in the sun & to end it God dropped a little rain on us. And by a little I mean it poured. That didn't stop the party though, everyone hopped out & had a refreshing little dance in the rain.
Today was definitely the longest day but an amazing one in that. It is very humbling to see that even though the people struggle so much the still came out to not only play with us but to learn more about Jesus Christ. This experience has truly been a blessing, and I am disapointed we only have a week left.
Day Four Comes to a Close in Kenya
7:45 P.M. CT, FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012
Early this morning we had the opportunity to meet with men and boys that live on the streets of Nairobi and hear their stories as we shared bread and milk with them. This experience was so much more than just providing a meal for the homeless, it was a rare chance to get a small glimpse into the lives of men who live on the streets everyday. One man we talked to had been on the same street corner for over 30 years and was 69 years old. Boniface was able to open the door for us to visit these men and share the gospel with them. We gave them pamphlets that explained the significance of a life with God and two of the boys we shared with, James and Douglas, committed their lives to Jesus.
In his youth, Boniface went through some hardships within his family that led him to live on the streets for a time, he says that this is the reason why his heart is full compassion for the street boys. Later, he was able to get off the streets, receive a full education and become a pastor for a church in Kenya. He felt God's call to minister to the street boys and proposed the idea to his church who rejected it. Boniface simply left the church, his salary, his home, and his life of stability to start a ministry for the boys who live on the streets, quickly burning through his life savings. Today Boniface lives completely by faith, relying on God to provide for himself, his family, and the boys he takes into his own home from the streets.
Later in the morning we endured a long bus ride to visit Boniface and his family at their home, which was one of the most meaningful experiences we've had since we've been in Kenya. Our team split up, some of us built a fence, some cut the grass with a tool called a slasher, and many of us pulled weeds in the front of his house. It was really incredible to see how much work we were able to get done as a team in only a couple hours, work that would take Boniface and his family days to complete. As the team worked, it was awesome to see how the accumulation of small actions done by every team member added up to transformation of Boniface's land. It was a really good reminder as to why were here in Kenya and why were serving. Although we can't change all of the hardships that many of the people we encounter face, we can do many small things that eventually add up to make a huge difference. Today was significant to us because it showed that even manual labor is a way to express God's love to people.
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself"
Rachel Nankervis, Katherine Berg & Jennifer Gueldner
Looking Back at Day Three in Kenya
3:20 P.M. CT, THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2012
We came on this mission with an open heart, open mind, and eager expectations. So far, those expectations have been exceeded further than we could imagine. We have seen God actively working in so many people's lives, and children glowing with joy from God's love. Whether the people we have come into contact with are living in the Mukuru slums, working at the Gracehouse resort, or are prisoners, they all seem to be able to remain faithful despite their environment.
We went to the Lang'ata women's prison today, and were able to interact with a few of the prisoners, through basketball and volleyball. We were amazed at the faithfulness of the women in their tough situations. They believe they are alive because of God. When asked about John 3:16, many of them recited the verse word for word. It was incredible to see God's Word speak to people halfway across the world. It really is a small world. We both remember watching the mission video from previous years and noticed the same happiness in some of the same women from today. It was cool to actually experience the same freedom that we saw in the women from the video. We feel like they may have more freedom in the prison than we do in America with everything that we have. These women were so thankful for our love and were so joyful. During the time we had with them, it was almost as if they weren't in prison. They may be imprisoned by Kenya, but they are not imprisoned by God because of what He has done in their lives while there. Their belief has set them free.
On the way back from the prison, we stopped at an overlook of the Kibera slums, the largest slums in Africa.The 1 kilometer area houses about 1 million people. The thought of cramming 1 million people into a space less than 1 mile long has been on our hearts all day. The houses are so closely built, that you could walk across the rusty metal roofs to get from one side to the other. We stood on top of the van to get a full picture of the slums, and from our view we were overwhelmed by the mass of people in such a small area. We aren't even sure if we see 1 million people in an entire year. We were humbled by the fact that we were able to get back in our buses and head back to our hotel, with hot showers, and warm meals cooked for us. We are just so thankful for the people we got to spend our time with today and will cherish the experience forever.
Lori Williamson and Kristie Serrano
Baylor Acrobatics and Tumbling
Today we went to the West Nairobi Men's Prison and did sports ministry with the men there. Every day has been special so far but today had a special impact on me and my heart. We played soccer and volleyball with the prisoners, toured the facility and created incredible friendships.
The word prison implies a lot of negative things to me. It implies being confined, depressed, and violent. So when I saw that was where we would be going today, I was hesitant. Even once we arrived I was slightly nervous, but once I saw the prisoners and how excited and happy they were to see us the fear and anxiousness was immediately gone. The men were like everyone I've met so far in Kenya, incredibly welcoming. They went out of their way to introduce themselves individually with huge smiles and once the drills and games started those smiles became permanent and high fives and laughs became contagious.
I played volleyball all day on a hard dirt and rock court but that never stopped anyone. The prisoners were running and jumping on the rocks barefoot but they weren't the slightest bit phased. Once they were taught the basics they were off and running passing, setting, and even spiking balls left and right. I wouldn't have believed I could have had so much fun chasing volleyballs all over a field but the level of enjoyment I got out of today is indescribable.
After we got done playing sports, it was time for the prisoners to have lunch and the head of the prison allowed us to see where the prisoners stayed and what they do every day. We saw the same men we played sports with again eating lunch in the courtyard and they asked us to come hang out and have lunch with them and a couple of them even offered their lunch to us seeing that we hadn't yet eaten lunch! We saw where they have their literacy classes and the small chapel where they pray and go to church daily. When we were showed the barracks where these men stayed, they were dark, gloomy, an cramped for space. Yet, all of the men in them wanted all of us to come see and talk to them.
The thing that had the most impact on me was when the warden told me, "Please don't feel like you are in a prison, feel that you are at home and welcome." I can not find the words to explain the impact the prison and it's inmates had on me but I can say that my outlook on the simple things in my life and the thanksgiving I have for the Lord, Jesus Christ has changed for the best.
Day Two: Group Visits Orphanage, New Life Center
3:55 P.M. CT, WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2012
This morning we had the opportunity to meet the Women's African Cup Champions. This weekend they will be defending their title for the fourth year in a row. Many of the women on the team are also players for the Kenya national team. After Kate shared her testimony and Bri prayed for them, we got to hang out with them and get to know them as individuals. They were so friendly. As we started talking with them, they told us about both their athletic and personal lives. Many of them were not only players, but they were wives, mothers, and workers. I couldn't imagine having to be a mother and a high-level athlete at the same time. Training three hours a day for volleyball, then going to work and/or taking care of kids would be exhausting. I respect those women very much for all of the things that they do. It was a lot of fun getting to know them and they also enjoyed getting to know us.
After we left the women's team, we headed off to Maximun Miracle Orphanage where we donated nine mattresses for the kids who live there. They were so thankful for those mattresses. They were simply thankful for our presence alone. The mother and father of the orphanage took some time to talk to us and they were so genuine. We were especially touched by the mother. Even though she hardly spoke any English, she had a certain warmth about her. This year is her eleventh year to be the mother to these children, and it takes a lot to do that. You could tell that she gives these kids a sense of security that they need. They were so welcoming; they loved us and they didn't even know us. Then a couple of the boys came in and expressed their thanks to us. One thing that was unique about these kids that Wes pointed out was that these kids don't introduce themselves as athletes, students, or by where they live, but by their faith. They introduce themselves as children of God, finding their worth and identity in Him.
After we left the orphanage, we headed off to Ndii-ine Primary school where many of the orphans go to school. When we got there, the first thing we did was dance and sing with the kids...it got to the point where we were teaching them to "jump on it" and do "the wobble". Then we split into groups and started the sports clinic, and we got to just have some fun with the kids. One of the most humbling things about going there was that the students and the administrators were in awe of how many balls that we had. It's one of those luxuries that I never even thought about. Growing up in America, as kids we always had balls to play with, but at that school, they did not even have one. Lindsay Palmer shared with me a story about a man that she talked to on one of her visits to Kenya, who told her that he and his friends would roll pieces of clothes into a ball and play with it. I just had no Idea that something as simple as a ball could bring so much joy to children. When we were done playing with the kids at the school we sat with them and shared the Gospel to them by using the colors on our volleyballs. Then we finally had to leave, even though we didn't want to.
After we loaded up the bus, the 12 volleyball players in the group were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to the New Life Center, where they take in abandoned babies, some of which have HIV. The first thing we saw in the sitting area were posters with pictures and stories about the children. It was unbelievable to see the before and after pictures of the babies from when they first arrived. They were so emaciated and they gained all the weight back in as little as four weeks. The care and love that the people have for these babies was amazing. On average, about 20 babies get adopted a year. 1300 babies have gone through the New Life center and of those 1300 babies, 900 have been adopted so far. When we got to interact with the babies they were so sweet, happy, and healthy! The nurses and caretakers were so happy and grateful to have us there.
While my volleyball teammates and I were at the new life center, another part of our group was having a blast playing soccer with the guards of our hotel. The guards were having more fun than most of us kids. The game started up because someone had the thought that the guards must get bored just standing outside of our hotel doing nothing. (it turns out that they do) But again, it was cool to see how we can interact with people and do something so little and end up making their day a little brighter.
Day One Reflections: Joe Williams & Sune Agbuke
8:45 P.M. CT, TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2012
On my first day in Kenya, I experienced some great things! I jump-started my day with a nice wholesome breakfast prepared by the Gracia House cook then went to the Mukuru Slums. I have to say it was an experience like none I've ever had before; from the outside the slums look like a bunch of poor people barely living life, but once we began walking through, we found some of the nicest warm-hearted people who welcomed us with open arms and big smiles. Their houses were so small, but they took so much pride in them and tried to make them so nice inside.
I think the children had the biggest impact on me because of how happy they were to see us. After seeing how they lived, we then went to their schools. They were so excited about attending school daily. I looked at that as motivation because I don't have a reason not to go like they do. I thought the slums would be a sad experience, but I actually left with a bigger smile than ever because of their love. The biggest thing that stood out to me was how strongly they depend on their faith and trust in God. We played some games with them and sang some songs before we left. It was such a great experience for me! I'm so glad I got to go.
After our experience in the slums a small group went to an aids orphanage and others of us went to get a good run in to keep up our conditioning for summer workouts. Got to be ready for Coach Kaz when I get back! We cleaned up, had a delicious dinner and shared our experiences about the day in a team meeting to end the day. I'm already looking forward to day two.
There is no possible way I could ever sum up my one-day experience here in Nairobi in a couple sentences or paragraphs, but I'll have to try.
By the time I got to breakfast this morning, I already felt like the hotel staff had said, "you're welcome," more than I had said, "thank you." And even now, I'm sitting on my bed in the hotel (which is becoming more and more like a palace to me), I am clean and fed, and yet, those children in the slums that we were with only hours ago, are not. This is not a vacation for them. This is not a trip where they can go home in a couple weeks. This is their reality. I realize now that I have never truly shown gratitude for the many blessings in my life.
Our host, Walter told us that every morning he asks himself: "Why am I here on earth today?" It's a very profound question. God surely didn't put me here on earth just to play basketball at Baylor. He didn't allow me to have another beautiful day just to be busy running errands or to sit around and be lazy. God didn't give me this breath to waste. So why am I here on earth today? I hope to be able to answer this very soon.
Our first night here, I was rolling in bed, thinking and worrying about my responsibilities back in the US. After visiting the Mukuru slums, I honestly have no cares in the world. To me, the families there had nothing. Compared to them, I have everything imaginable. Yet, they had something I lacked. Some call it "peace of mind." I call it the peace that comes from fully relying on God. For EVERYTHING, they look to God. He is their Provider. Compared to what they face on a daily basis, aren't my problems small?
At the New Life Orphanage, a dozen of us visited the children living there. Some of them were HIV positive, some of them had other life-threatening health issues, ALL of them were abandoned. They ate, smiled, cried, and played just like babies do. Once we arrived, we forgot that some of the babies did in fact have AIDS. We just played and played and played. The nurses there amazed me. After a couple hours I was exhausted, but the men and women there had so much energy. They do such an wonderful job caring for the babies and you can tell that they love them. They played the same children's Bible songs that I grew up hearing. I left the New Life Orphanage with a big smile on my face.
I honestly can't say whose life I changed today. I let a boy named Clinton play with my camera (He took some great pictures by the way), and I played with the babies at the orphanage. The life that was for sure changed, was mine. What I've gained from these beautiful people, I could never repay.
I pray that for the rest often trip--and the rest of our lives, God will help us to keep open minds, open arms, and open hearts.
Mungu ako na mango kwako
God has a plan for you.
Baylor Women's Basketball
Almost There: Long Day's Journey
11:30 A.M. CT, MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012
Today's blog entry will probably be our shortest of the trip, due to pure exhaustion. Our journey officially began yesterday (Sunday) as we departed the Baylor campus. Nearly 15 hours later, we've arrived in Dubaiand will soon catch a five hour flight to our final destination, Nairobi, Kenya.
Thanks for all the prayers and blessings. We'll be back soon with more updates.
Baylor Athletics Chaplain
Here We Go Again
10:25 A.M. CT, THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2012
This Sunday, 45 Baylor student athletes, coaches, and staff will depart on our fourth Sports Ministry Mission to Nairobi Kenya. Our hope is that through the universal language of sport, we may be able to share the love of Christ and help to meet some of the needs of many of our brothers and sisters in Kenya.
Once again we will come alongside our wonderful ministry partners and serve in the slums, in the men and women's prisons, with the street kids in Nairobi, at the St Kizito Orphanage, and with some of the Kenyan National Teams. It's always a blessing to get to reunite with friends again, to see the growth of ministries and projects we have worked on in the past, and to join them in what they are doing now.
We are so thankful for everyone who has teamed up with us to help make this possible. It's always amazing for us to watch as so many people come together to support us financially, donate supplies, and give of their time to help us be prepared to go. It's truly teamwork at its best! As they say in Kenya, "Asante Sana!" (Thank you very much!)
An interesting dynamic to our team this year is that 34 of the 45 going with us are first timers who seem to have an eager expectation and excitement as to what God is going to do in and through us. Following the lead of our 11 returners it should make for an incredible adventure! We will treasure your prayers as we make ourselves available to do whatever we can to help meet the needs of our neighbors and to go wherever or to whomever God would lead us to. We'll do our best to give you daily updates so you can follow what we are getting to do and to know better how to pray for us!
It seems like our mission experiences have had as great an impact on the lives of our student athletes as anything that we've gotten to share with them, and I trust God is going to blow us away as we experience His faithfulness, provision, power, love and presence over the next two weeks. Thanks for taking the journey with us!
Here is a list of the team members:
Acrobatics & Tumbling: Samantha Peterson, Ginger Plemmons, Kristie Serrano, Courtney Shaw, Lori Williamson
Women's Basketball: Sune Agbuke, Lindsay Palmer, Rachel Carson (manager)
Equestrian: Katherine Berg, Meghan Murphy, Rachel Nankervis, Whitney McIlvain (graduate)
Football: Anthony Betters, Jeff LePak, Levi Norwood, Michael Valdez, Joseph Williams, Sam Shalala (graduate)
Soccer: Kate Beaudoin, Alex Klein, Lisa Sliwinski
Club Soccer: Jessica Loyd and Elizabeth Sauer
Track and Field: Jennifer Gueldner, Kheri Jones, A'mie Preston, Angel Tsai
Volleyball: Zoe Adom, Nicole Bardaji, Tori Cox, Alyssa Dibbern, Elizabeth Graham, Kate Harris, Samantha Hill, Mackenzie Mayo, Hope Ogden, Amy Rosenbaum, Jordan Teel, Briana Tolbert
Staff: Kim Scott, Wes Yeary (Athletics Chaplain), Kerry Williams (Chaplain), Robert Perez (video), LaPrise Harris-Williams (A&T coach), Mary Smart (Athletics Trainer)
Baraka, (Blessings in Swahili)
Baylor Athletics Chaplain