Friday, September 28, 2007


Hello Friends and Family!

We went to a conference this week called the Monday Church conference... It was about a new way of looking at the church... in that we should see our vocations, our callings as more than just a job...but where God has called us to be, and where ever our job is, that is 'OUR' church... that is where we minister to the people in OUR congregation... and then on Sunday's all of us 'pastors' gather back together to be equipped and filled and ready to serve. It's an interesting concept that really validates the fact that we are not all called to be pastors or church workers, and yet God has still included us in His plan for His Kingdom.

One thing that I REALLY appreciated about the conference as well is that the speakers really emphasized that our job is not just to 'save souls'...but to walk along side of people as they transform their lives and to live a life of service. Especially in the context of the poor, so many people believe in Jesus, and they are just waiting for the glory of heaven, relinquishing all hope for here on earth... yet in the Lord's prayer he says, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven...”

It was just an opportunity for a renewed perspective that God has a calling on my life and those that I will be working with, not to just wait for heaven and not to just 'survive,' but to be LIVING here on earth .

On another note: Joel's birthday was yesterday and I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who sent a fun email his way! He has a lot of irreplaceable memories with many of you and I know that many of you have been a part of shaping him into who he is today... which is someone I'm very thankful for!

We LOVE to hear from you and what is going on in your lives!

Snapshots on life:

  1. All cell phones here are 'pay as you go,' there are no long term agreements or plans... Nice :)

  2. I'm reading a book called 'The Kite Runner,' right now. I'm just a short way into it, but it is VERY good so far, and I recommend it already :)

  3. There is a house being built next door to us, and last night when we came home (around 9:00pm) there were probably at least 50 men all working together as one solid machine to combine the sand and rock to make concrete and then pour the roof. This process MUST be done all at once or the house will have a pour foundation to build any other stories on... It was AMAZING to watch so many people work as one unit to complete a job (in the dark!).

  4. All around town there are people who are roasting corn by the side of the road... they put a seasoning on it and it tastes similar to popcorn... it's very good!! It's an African treat :)

  5. When we walk through areas where they are not used to seeing white people, we will often hear one of two things:

    1. Mzungu!! Which means white person (or European)


    2. How are YOU?! And the kids all say it the same where the 'how are' are in their normal voice and then the 'you' is emphasized and they say it for longer and usually with a higher voice

If you watched the Constant Gardener, there was a very short scene where Tessa is walking around Kibera, and the children are saying, 'how are you?!' and this is EXACTLY what it is like

That's all for now... I pray that these blogs provide insight for you... and if there's anything you want to know more about... don't hesitate to email us! We really hope that our time in Kenya will be educational for everyone, not just ourselves :)

Conference, Construction and Constant Gardening

This week has been a change of pace for us. We have participated in a conference with several African leaders around the role of the church in transforming society. (I should point out that 4 of the 5 presenters were from the states) It has been an interesting case study in developing an image of the African Church, the struggles that it deals with and the lessons that it might share with the rest of the world. It is interesting to consider what the African Church might look like without Western Influence. Africa as a whole seems to be a very tribal continent, recognizing the interconnectedness of various facets of life and lifting up the importance of community. Somehow, there has been a shift to a dualistic nature toward isolating pockets of life, separating the mind from the spirit and in some ways losing a sense of what it means to live in authentic community. I should say that my observations were based on some of my own preconceived notions as well as a conversation with church leaders about the role of western influence in African societies. I wonder what it might take to let Africa be itself, to feel empowered and equipped to live with nonwestern systems. The conference was valuable. It raised some interesting ideas, allowed me to be a part of a process of contextualizing western thought amongst Africans and affirmed my taking for granted of access to continual education.

Last night on the way home, I experienced something pretty cool. As most of you know, Mandy and I are currently living with Gideon (CTM Nairobi) and his family. Gideon’s sister in law, Rose is building a house next door. All of the homes in our community are made out of block/cement. It has been interesting to watch the builders work from the ground up to develop the home. Over the past couple of weeks, the walls were completed and prepared to lay a cement ceiling. (This is done so that the homeowner can build additional levels when financially able). I am not very familiar with African construction, but I guess that when a ceiling is laid, it needs to be done in one shot…so an early start is necessary along with tons of human power. Well, at approximately 9 PM, they were at their prime. It was dark out, but the moon was full and there were at least 40 people working to pour this roof. It was incredible. Everyone had a job and collectively they created a giant machine. From the sand, water, crushed stone runners and cement ratio supervisor to the assembly line up the stairs to the roof, each person knew their role. A constant chatter was present and despite the hard work, limited tools, and very little compensation, people were committed to finishing the job and doing it well. It was amazing.

Late last night, Mandy, Rose and I watch Constant Gardener. Trinity (our home church) is going to watch it and discuss it tonight. Part of the movie is filmed in Kibera, a slum that we live very close to in Nairobi. It was interesting to watch it for a second time. I remember the first time that we watched it in the states. Both of us had a gut-wrenching feeling about what we were getting ourselves into. It seemed so extreme, so horrendous and so unjust. In viewing it after having spent time in Kibera, it took on a new persona. Kibera is no longer so bad…it is what it is. In some ways, I am extremely frustrated that I am already desensitized to these living conditions. In other ways, I feel like I have begun to see beauty in Kibera. Through the injustices, I see people living in community that are beautiful, that are wise, that work hard, that help others, that laugh, that dance and sing. Through this inner debate, I hope that I never stop questioning the why. Why are these 1 million people called to live on a 600 acre plot when others of us around the world live in such affluence?

This is the latest and greatest from Nairobi. We will be sending our first monthly newsletter shortly. Thanks for checking out the blog. It is great to know that our experiences can be your experiences.


Monday, September 24, 2007


Some refer to Kibera as a middle class slum. My version of middle class looks a bit different than temporary structures and horrible sanitation systems, yet something about the people, the economics and the opportunities that it provides boosts the state of the community. It wasn't till last Friday that could trump its state. We entered a slum on the west side of Nairobi to visit Mark and Moses, two products of the slum that have given up the past 10 years to run a community center on the perimeter of the slum. We walked for a total of about 250 yards in the slum and both immediately felt something different. Something was missing...or maybe something was present. Maybe it was psychlogical, none the less-different than anything else that I have experienced.

I will write more about this community later but wanted to share a brief story about Mark and Moses...These guys are Mandy and I's age and have lived in Mathare for their entire lives. When they were teenagers, they started hanging out at a building where that Matatu (taxi) stops along one of the main roads east of the city. After finishing high school, they stayed committed to the center and began spending more time there. The center has since evolved into a place for kids to hang out in the evenings and a church on Sunday mornings. There is no electricity or running water, but they have a generator that they bring in occasionally. The center attracts 50-75 kids each night. The center, called THE INSPIRATION CENTER is all that and more. Well, maybe not the center itself, but the guys that run it are as much of an inspiration as I have ever seen. These guys have had the opportunity to leave the slum for 10 years, yet they have remained committed to serving this community that is crying for help.

Recently, they partnered with a rotary club to do a project in their community. Wanting to truly make a difference they asked the residents what they would like to see changed. Most of them wanted to see the community bathrooms improved. With no sewer systems, community bathrooms are the only solution to people defecating on the streets or “flying toilets” when people poop in a bag and throw it out of sight. We first went to a recently renovated public toilet. The facility was light, clean and carried a sense of pride with it. Soon, we walked to another facility that had not yet been touched. I usually have a high tolerance for this kind of stuff but I nearly puked. It was absolutely disgusting. Mark and Moses shared their vision for this bathroom and for 11 more bathrooms throughout Mathare that they hope to restore in the future. I couldn't help but think about Jesus as he washed his disciples feet the night of the last supper. These guys are washing and restoring the “feet” of this community...not because they have to, but because they are committed to restoring the lives of individuals and transforming their community.

A few other random updates: Mandy and I went to a 4 hour church service on Sunday (extra points for us!), I played my first ultimate frisbee game on Sunday, we are both feeling much better...thanks for the prayers, we now have a Kenyan cell phone (see the right side contact info if you're interested), we start Swahili lessons 3x/week next week, we met up with Lorraine-an old friend from PLU and we are at a conference for 4 days this week looking at how churches work with other sectors to transform society.

Sorry for the lame update. I am tired after 8 hours of listening at the conference. I will write more later this week! For those of you that are interested in photos, bear with us-we want to be sensitive to our roles and will take pics when we build up relationships with the kids and leaders that we are working with.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Flickering Lights

It has been a week of power struggles in more than one way.

The first, we were without electricity for 4 days last week and without internet for 6 days. Two days without power due to a tall truck that took down the wire near Gideon's home and the other two days for who knows what...maybe because of the furious rains that came in!

Perhaps more important, the processing of power distribution in what it means to enter into this community. In our preparations, we explored the realities of power in a community that isn't used to seeing many “Vanilla Lattes”, the baggage that comes with it and the unavoidable topic that we have CHOSEN to enter into a hard place plagued by injustices, extreme poverty and unfathomable living conditions. I think that we are in a dangerous situation if we ignore these conditions, yet since our pre-trip planning a new dynamic has emerged.

***I want you to know that we are having a wonderful time. My thoughts below outline some of the questions that we face. These experiences are also surrounded by warm hospitality, people that are interested in learning about us and leaders that have blessed us in many ways.

The Mitatus
Mitatus are imported used white Toyota vans from Japan and Europe converted to squish together 15 passengers, and whose muffler secretes enough soot to make a gravel road look like asphalt. Each one tells a story with a layer of stickers on the exterior, blaring music and the young man hanging out the side herding passengers at each stop. The roads are FULL of these vehicles...people line the streets waiting to be picked up.

As I wait on the side of the road, I become the newest prey for the 20-30 shilling (40-50 cent) trip down the road. “Mzungu CAAM HEEYR”, (White person, come here) they call. I look at the route on the side of the van making sure that it is headed in the correct direction and jump in. I soon wish that my 34 inch inseem was cut in half as my knees dig into the seat ahead of me. Around me, people are talking...perhaps catching up on the upcoming Kenyan election, maybe pointing out a nice car or commenting on the driver's lead foot. But me...I don't know. I have no clue what they are saying...later to find out that they are joking about charging me more because I am white.

Down the pothole ladened road we the mercy of one of many CRAZY matatu drivers...with inches between us and the car next to us, ahead of us and behind. Music blaring, Swahili lingo flying, stenches permeating, coins passing...and the white kid in the back seat.

Where the streets have no name...
I wouldn't know where to begin in painting a picture for you of what Kibera might look like. Some day, I hope to be able to find a way to share its personality, its appearance and some of the stories that are derived from it with you...but for now-as I have already begun to lose my initial shock, I will share some of my first impressions.

A bit of context on Kibera:
Kibera is the largest slum in Africa...Although there is now way to completely tell, there are around 1,000,000 people living in this area. NWesterners...this is more than Seattle and Tacoma proper combined. Michiganders...more than all of GR Metro. They live in approx. 2 square miles. (5,280 feet by 10,560 feet). A railroad track cuts between their beloved turf and it sits in the midst of a valley. Kenya is in the process of dealing with a dilemma in which rural villagers are moving to Nairobi in groves. This has been a common occurrence for decades. Historically, people moved to the city to make some money, to get educated or to make connections that would support their rural agricultural needs. Times have changed...and now they are not returning to their native communities. As people come to the city, the only affordable housing lies within the slums. While Kibera is by far the largest slum in Nairobi, there are 169 other slums throughout the rest of the city. 170 slums in a city of 4.5 million people! The main distinguishing factor about a slum is that the government owns the land, and residents are not allowed to build permanent structures on it. Consequently, infrastructures are terrible and people are forced to make temporary dwellings...usually mud/stick walls and rusty tin roofs. Electricity is available yet water comes from the river flowing through this sewerless community. Each year, people live with the question of whether or not they will have a place to call home in the future.

As we entered Kibera for the first time, It was raining. I got to pull my hood up over my head, focus on the muddy ground and seclude myself from the thousands of people around me. My long pants and jacket covered my pasty arms and legs, and I could bury my face by pretending to concentrate on the puddles. Was it that I didn't want to see? Or maybe, that I didn't want to be seen? Each time I enter the slums, I continually question whether I ever will or ever shall “belong”.

On Sunday, when returning from church in Kibera, a man began walking next to me and shared some of his thoughts in English: “Take a look around, these are my people. They are black. You are white. What are you doing here?” I blanked...I had absolutely nothing to say and kept walking. I wished that it was raining so that I could put my hood over my head again. He was right. What am I doing here? What gives me the right to enter into his community? Some might find this a bit cruel on his part...but you have to understand that many of these people have been taken advantage of by politicians, tourists, Hollywood actors, institution, non-profits, etc. How can I expect him to determine whether or not I am here to do the same?

For the past 25 years, I have been granted a sense of power. I am white. I am a male. I am balding and look older. I am educated. I have money. For the past 10 days, these seemingly positive attributes have been challenged. I have to rely on others to understand the language around me. I am White. I am Educated. I can leave whenever I want to...I don't “belong”.

Power is fearlessness.
Power is money.
Power is communicating.
Power is opportunity.
Power is belonging.

Loving life, identifying challenges and feeling blessed,

A preview of Nairobi

The night before we left for Kenya, we met up with some friends from church for a small send off and some final goodbyes. During the party, Kris Rocke gathered everyone around to “bless us.” It was a wonderful experience that I feel has already brought many wonderful moments our way. Someone blessed us with safe travels and our travels were not only safe but flawless.... we were blessed with traveling mercies indeed!! Another person blessed us with smooth transitions and new friendships and that have also come to pass as we have met many wonderful people already... another blessed us with a strong and growing relationship with one another and I have been amazed at the peace and love I feel when I am with Joel. It is beautiful thing to experience God through your blessings! It has taught me to be free with blessing others and to hold back on cursing. How easy it can be to curse, especially in the heat of a moment, and how difficult it can be to bless. I hope that those who blessed us, have felt a return of blessings in their own lives.

Every day has been a new experience and as I learn more about the people and their culture, I find myself enjoying each moment all the more. It's a wonderful feeling when something as simple as going to the store becomes a new and noteworthy experience simply because it is not in the context of the culture that you are used to. Instead of a writing a novel (which I feel I could easily do :), I just want to highlight random thoughts, moments, or experiences that will allow you a glimpse into our life here in Nairobi.

~ A person can buy 5 Roma Tomatoes for the equivalent of $.15 and an avocado (that is TWICE the size of the avocados in the states) costs $.05. Produce is CHEAP!! I went to the market in downtown Nairobi on Saturday and bought over 50 pounds of fruits and vegetables for a little over $10.00. WOW :)

~ Many streets are not paved, and when it rains, it gets MUDDY! Kenyans are very talented at walking through the mud and keeping their shoes clean. I gave up on this task and bought “gum boots” (rubber boots that go up to your knees and wash off easily).

~ They have a store called Nakumatt that is similar to a Fred Meyer or Wal-Mart... there are many conveniences here that I did not expect...

~I found a group to play ultimate frisbee with!!

~We travel around town either by walking (YEAH for exercise!!) or by Matatu. Matatus are 14 passenger vans that drive on set routes and are aggressive on the road!! Many times they will weave in and out of traffic making sudden stops if they see a potential passenger and are consider by some to be bullies on the road. The lonely planet guide describes Kenyan drivers as BAD... and I see it differently, it's more of a talent to successfully drive on the roads here... there's such an ebb and flow to the traffic that doesn't exist in the states.

~They have ice cream here!

~Some fun Swahili words that you can use in your conversations:

Pole, pole: slowly, slowly

Karibu!!: Welcome!!

Asante: Thank you!

Sasa: Hello

Kwaheri: Goodbye

Lala Salama: Sleep well (this rolls off the tongue so nicely :)

I just also want to say ASANTE SANA (thank you very much) to those who sent me birthday wishes. Receiving letters from home was the best birthday gift I could have received this year, and it was so wonderful to receive even more blessings!! One of my prayers is that I will be able to bless others half as much as I have received this past month :)

Peace from Nairobi,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The time has come!

Well, we have been in Nairobi for nearly four days! Lots has happened given the first 12 hours were spent trying desperately to stay awake while the next 12 were spent giving into the temptation.

Let me start by letting you know that I have no idea how this Blog thing will turn out. Some of you want a play by play of what is up in this neck of the woods (or shall I say desert) while others see this as an opportunity to enter into our minds of chaos, of affliction and the turmoil that comes with living in different contexts. Hopefully, it will be a bit of both...something that both Mandy and I can use as a collection of thoughts and something that we can process, share and be supported through given the benefits of a technologically globalized world.

The first thing that Mandy and I noticed as we touched down in Nairobi was the overwhelming discrepancy in the number of white people on our plane compared to what we had anticipated. Granted, we were coming from England, what some might call the motherland, but it still seemed a but odd. As a rule, I equate travel with opportunity which often corresponds with money. We began to wonder if the 2:1 of the plane that was white was a correct ratio of the Kenyan populus but were soon proven wrong as we drove the streets of Nairobi to Gideon's house.

Gideon is our main link in Nairobi. He heads up CTM in Nairobi and provides support and leadership for grassroot leaders working in hard places. He is an incredibly talented man with a heart for serving others in his own community. Despite the opportunity that he had to advance his education and to work in Seattle, WA, he returned to his own community to build up the work of leaders that work tirelessly to enhance the lives of those that live in the slums. He has a beautiful family whose pictures we will post as soon as possible. They have opened their home to us as we transition into life in Kenya. Their house is a beautiful cement home that is less than 1 year old. We enjoy basic amenities, running water and electricity.

We are certainly taking our time in getting settled as 10 hours is tough to make up. Saturday, we ventured approximately 1 mile to the supermarket. I am told that this is one of the nicer supermarkets in town with many of the same products from the states. I soon learned that there is a large price gap between food that is traditional Kenyan food and that has been brought in through western influence. While rice, beans, potatoes and local vegetables cost next to nothing, cereal, spaghetti sauce and cheese cost nearly twice what it would at home. It was an interesting experiment thinking about how a person living on a normal Kenyan salary might develop a food budget.

The second half of our day consisted of a 6 hour birthday celebration for Gideon's daughter Samara, who turned two. It would have been an 8 hour celebration but the guests were 2 hours late:). I can role with this schedule! We enjoyed the opportunity to meet lots of friends and family as we joined Samara and her family in celebrating this momentous occasion.

Sunday, we joined Gideon and his family for church...which was held in a huge tent that looks similar to the Denver Airport. We enjoyed our first church visit to a Kenyan church and eagerly anticipate the opportunity to begin our weekly venture into new churches around the city. The afternoon consisted of playing games, drinking chai and talking technology and politics with Gideon's family. I always enjoy hearing what others have to say about politics!

I am not sure when this blog will be posted as internet connections are hit and miss during the day. As you go on in your week, we thank you for the support that you have already shown from afar and hope that you will think of this place often.

I am hitting the sleep zone and should sign off before I fall asleep typinggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

T-town to Nairobi:

What a journey it has been. We haven't even stepped foot in Nairobi yet, but have felt a powerful presence of family and friends as we prepare for this transforming experience. A special thanks to those of you that have gone out of your way to clear any doubts in out mind that Tacoma is a place that we can call home. From gifts and prayers to garage sale funds and home made tiles, we are incredibly grateful for those that have chosen to embark in this journey with us.

To the airport we go...9 hours to London, 9 hours in Heathrow while the underground workers are on strike and 9 more to Nairobi.

We'll catch you on the other side.

Our blessings to each of you.

joel and mandy