Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Friends and family,

Joel and I were at a restaurant the other day and began to think about some of the aspects of Kenya that we are going to miss when we come back to the states, that we wish we could adopt as Americans....

~Kenyan Soda. It's GREAT for so many reasons.

  1. It comes in a glass bottle, then it is returned to the factory, cleaned, and REUSED (without having to break down the glass completely to create a new bottle). Plus, it feels so much cooler to drink soda from a glass bottle :)

  2. There is NO CORN SYRUP anywhere to be found in the drink, just good ol' natural sugar.

  3. Stoney: It's a soda similar to sprite but made with has way more kick than your typical ginger ale.

~Mango Juice: I wish I could describe just how wonderful mango juice is. It is so thick it tastes like a smoothie and it's to die for when it is served cold (baridi tafadhali!)

~Natural lawn mowers: Before the elections we took a trip to Lake Naivasha and on the way there, there were goats and donkeys tied up by ropes all along the highway. Their job was to keep the grass mowed (and I'm guessing to become someone's dinner down the line). Can you imagine if the millions of miles of America's highways and freeways were contracted out to goats, cows, and sheep, we would have a whole new market of free range meat :)

~Electrical Outlets with an On/Off switch: I'm not positive if this exists in the US or not, but most outlets in Kenya have a switch, providing you the option to turn the power off completely. I'm also not sure if it's an energy saver or not, but it's a nice idea none-the-less.

~Dukas: Forgive me if this is a repeat on the blog...but I am continually amazed by the 'duka'. About 25 meters away from our front door is a group of small shops that sell all of the basics: milk, bread, eggs, fruit & veggies, toilet paper, etc... This is also one of those things that is great for many reasons:

  1. Local business/jobs: These dukas provide jobs for MANY people in this city.

  2. No need to drive to buy the essentials

  3. You can literally buy your 'daily bread' so everything is fresh and delicious

  4. Builds community: instead of buying your food from 'no name sales cashier', you get to know the people and share in this life together

~People walking EVERYWHERE: We realize that most people walk simply because they do not own a car and possibly cannot afford public transportation, but going for a walk is never boring because there are so many people out and about. The Nakumatt by our house (a store the size of Fred Meyer or Target) painted the lines on the edges of their sidewalks when we first arrived in September and it is already needing another coat because there is so much foot traffic and it wore the paint off!

~Chai: Kenyan's love their chai. It is simple to make (just boil water, milk, and tea leaves together...add ginger if you like:). Most people take their chai with 2 spoonfuls of sugar, so it is a very sweet drink. Regardless of the heat outside, people are always up for a cup of chai. We like how it draws people together, you will never go to a guests house without taking a cup of chai :)

Of course there is a flip side...there are many things that we are also looking forward to coming back to...

~Root Beer
~Speedy Internet
~Talking a walk at night
~Good beer and wine
~Good Cheese
~Fat Free milk
~American Football
~ATM cards (everything is paid in cash here)
~our family and friends!!

On another note, please keep the pastors we are working with in your thoughts and prayers. CTM will be hosting a one day retreat to provide some time and space for the pastors in our network to relax as well as take a step back from all that has happened these past few months and to reflect and pray. We are hoping for this to also allow our pastors to heal. Thank you for being on this journey with us!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The last entry in question???

For the past 7 Sundays, we have said to each other, “this is the week that we will know how the upcoming months will pan out”. Last Sunday was no exception…things have been peaceful here throughout most of the country for about two weeks now. We are moving around with caution, but the fear is no longer paralyzing. We were confident that Condi’s visit would either make it or break it.

While we don’t know what happened behind closed doors, Condi’s welcome was split among tribal and political lines as either the US flexing their muscles too much or a much-needed visit from a leader whose country has a good taste of democracy. Her comments to the Kenyan people spoke of a need for “real power sharing”, a direction that the current government had not been very open to. Well her overstepping of boundaries/concerned visit (however you look at it) was helpful in setting the stage for the week’s negotiations. Kofi has asked for a breakthrough in the negotiation process by tomorrow (Monday) while the opposition has promised “mass civil disobedience” if things are not cleared up by Wednesday. So, perhaps our weekly glimpse of hope is more justified this week.

Gideon was involved in a week-long pastor reconciliation meeting in one of the slums of Nairobi. It focused on tribal differences and the role that they church plays in reconciliation. We did not attend as it didn’t seem appropriate. Many of these meetings are taking place in cities throughout Kenya at this point, hosted by an organization that formed in Rwanda following the genocide. We continue to work on some of the upcoming developments with CTM and find ways to support pastors in a myriad of ways. Over the upcoming week, we will host a retreat for the pastors in our network and provide a space to think about how this impacts our work.

A few prayer requests as we enter this crucial week:

  • Government leaders as they consider long term solutions while dealing with the immediate nature of the crisis.
  • Community and church leaders as they reconcile ethnic differences and develop strategies to transform their communities.
  • The thousands of people that are still displaced as health and morale are decreasing and many of the camps are being shut down. Many people still do not feel comfortable returning to their homes because of tribal conflict.
  • CTM as we gather as a network this week to explore reconciliation within our group and to discern how it is that we move forward as an organization that learns from what has happened over the past two months.

We hope that you are all doing well, weathering the presidential primaries, Midwest snowstorms and Lenten offerings.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

CTM Developments

As many of you know, CTM has an ideology that promotes the art of listening to people, places, beauty and affliction before developing a strategy for supporting grassroots leaders. Over the past 2 years, CTM Nairobi has been set up as a “listening post” to get a pulse on where strengths, liabilities and opportunities lie in the slums of Nairobi. This is an extremely foreign concept to us westerners. Can you imagine spending 2 years of your life just being present and discerning what it is that you are called to do in a community?

It seems that we are rounding a corner in how we translate the voices that we have heard over the past two years to something that fills a niche in how we serve leaders that are working here in incredibly difficult situations. While loose ends have been dangling since our arrival in September, the recent election skirmishes have given us permission to look at how we as a small, non profit organization, fit into the bigger picture.

We are excited to report that some really cool stuff is emerging over here as CTM walks through a journey from listening to expressing. Training and networking seems to be our strength over here, and is an image of what people are crying for over here. Networking in that models of inclusion across tribal, economical, denominational and sector barriers are far from common and training in that there is a need for the church to nurture a gospel that runs deeper rather than wider. In addition to grassroots leaders, we see valuable opportunities in acting as a convener among several community-based youth organizations that are serving youth from the informal settlements around the city. This is an exciting element as it draws from Gideon's gifts in serving youth and opens an array of opportunities for organizations to collectively provide holistic transformation by sharing resources, collaborative training and pursuing joint funding opportunities.

Who would have guessed that January, the month of uncertainty, could bear so much fruit? We look forward to learning of how this might emerge and request your prayers as we discern and look for clarity during this time. There is a great deal of planning, both formal and informal, that needs to take place. While exciting, it can also be a bit daunting!

Power Struggle

This weekend, George Bush's picture is plastered all over the news. His comments on the need for a power sharing agreement and his endorsement on sending Condaleeza Rice's to Kenya next week has put him in the spotlight of Kenya's political issues. Even though Bush and Rice are far from the situation and like us, know little about the history of the underlying issues, there voices are incredibly powerful. We were at the park yesterday enjoying a picnic and reading a book. The gentleman next to us was talking about next week's meetings with the two negotiating teams and he was adamant in saying that “Condi Rice is the world's third most powerful person” (behind Bush and Cheney). I guess that I had never thought about it that way, but perhaps he is correct. It sheds another source of light on the importance of November's presidential election. Whether we like it or not, our votes dictate the selection of not only the most powerful people in the US, but throughout the world.

This whole scenario has brought me back to a question that I have been dealing with for a while on how one leverages power in a way that draws from the strength of the party that is underpowered, promotes the use of power that is in the best interest of those that are powerless and fosters a long-term relationship in which the past use of power does not need to determine the future. In this case, what role does the US play in the Kenyan political crisis? This is a Kenyan problem and requires a Kenyan solution, but what about other countries (the US included) that have endured the growing pains of democracy? Do they play a role in all of this? I have no reservations in saying that this level of corruption from both sides would not be tolerated in most other nations. Is it ever OK for a powerhouse to come in and flex its muscles on behalf of the best interest of the citizens of a country? I have always been an advocate for the US to stay out of other country's business, but is there ever an appropriate time? Especially when decisions are being made on behalf of a few elitists with little concern for the majority of society. If there is power exerted, what implications does this have for future foreign relations?

The same question remains pertinent on a personal level. How is that we leverage power, or release it in a way that honors those that we interact with. We continue to grapple with when to push and pull or when to release and let things happen naturally. This is very tricky cross-culturally as there are many layers that can interfere. One of the more recent situations that I have analyzed is the Kenyan concept of time. To be honest with you, I enjoy not having to be on a tight schedule all the time and may have gained back a few hairs on my head for not feeling bad about being late. However, as we think about how to combat the enormous gap between the mainstream and grassroots leaders here in Nairobi, we can't neglect the concept of time. When we have a meeting with both parties and the mainstream leaders are on time and the grassroots leaders are 90 minutes late, what message does this send? As a representative of power, what is my role in addressing this situation? I think that all of you that are involved in teams and organizational structures, in particular those that are in positions of leadership, deal with similar power struggles on a regular basis.

We are hopeful, although slightly nervous, in how the US uses its power to promote peace in Kenya over the next week.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A bit on Tribalism...

Hello all,

Below is a link to some thoughts posted by a friend of ours who has a big heart for Kenya. Happy Reading...

A follow up on what has been brewing in my mind...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

friends and family,

Joel has been very diligent at keeping our blog updated and you informed...and I have not. I often find myself at the computer attempting to 'blog' and find myself with nothing to say. But how can there be nothing to say? I often feel this pressure to write something profound that we leave you with a better understanding of our life here while opening doors for reflection in your own life. So today, I just want to put some quotes down that in some way or another have brought comfort, peace, or a better understanding of either our situation here or of my faith. I'll let someone else be profound today...I'll just be the conduit from which you receive :)

"There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability and fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability. Community is the fruit born through shared brokeness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another's wounds. Let's remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness."
Henri Nouwen

"Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that. Hatred paralyses life, love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life, love illumines it."
Martin Luther King Jr.

"God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning. 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening 'Do it again,' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy seperately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
GK Chesterton

"You are blessed to be a blessing."
Unknown (but heard Gideon say it)

"With the help of the thorn in my foot, I spring higher than anyone with sound feet."
Soren Kierkegaard

Friday, February 1, 2008

A long month

Well, the first month of 2008 has finally come to an end in this part of the world. We apologize for not writing more. The whirlwinds have picked up in East Africa and each story of hope or disparity is followed by the other. It truly was a week of highs and lows...Kofi Annan's arrival, raging tempers in Nakuru and Naivasha, the infamous front page photo opportunity handshake with Kibaki and Raila, the evolution of Kenya's “ethnic cleansing”, peaceful days, the shooting of 2 members of the Kenyan parliament, enjoying chai and discussing hearty issues with Kikuyus and Luos...what is next?

The problems that Kenya faces at this point are no longer about elections, but instead about the history that dominates people, places and relationships; A history of regional and economical inequality that have surfaced through the boils of a flawed presidential vote. The path forward remains unclear, but I can say with confidence that it will not be solved until the gap between the powerful and the absence thereof is at least acknowledged. My inner struggles for the week have not been from the horrific scenes that the international media creates of this country, nor the extremely-underestimated death toll of 800 people that have lost their lives in the past month, but instead the disconnect between those in power (government officials) and those are fighting on their behalf. (primarily 18-28 year olds without jobs and family). Until the death of two MP's this week (separate incidents), leaders across the board have shown little empathy to their followers, have tucked themselves away in nice hotels, expensive SUV's and have neglected the challenge of leading a country in a time of crisis.

One of the pastors in our network this week reminded us of the notion that a crisis is where great danger and incredible opportunity meet. While the media wants us to focus on the extreme dangers involved with machette-swinging, tire-burning, car-stopping, ethnic cleansing youth, we are trying to understand where and if the great opportunities lie within this tension.

On one level, this question defines the work that CTM does in finding meaningful ways to engage in ways that defy the appeals of responding to dangers and carrying a torch that lights a path of opportunity. What opportunities exist from the unforgettable Kenyan 2007 Presidential Elections that allow us to better “serve grassroots leaders in hard places”? This is the ultimate question that we are facing at this time...both the immediate needs of building community within our own networks to model strategies of inter-tribal, inter-socioeconomic and inter-communal collaboration, something that few other groups are willing to explore.

On another level, the existence of danger and opportunity define the lenses that we see our Kenyan experience through during this time. While the husband, son, brother and friend in me recognizes the need to tend to the dangers of what is going on around us, I can't ignore the need to seek opportunities during this time. Opportunities of perspective, of personal transformation and of calling in a world of instability.

Over the years I have become immune to news headlines portraying conflict in Iraq, anything that ends with an “istan”, and countries that start with an “S” in Africa. When you are no longer an ocean away from the commotion, the realization that these are people's lives begins to hit home. Nobody signs up to live in a world of instability, to have to question the daily itinerary because of what is going on in various parts of town, nor to have to live in fear of what is going to happen the next day. As an American, I have come live off of a calendar in planning hours, days and weeks to come, failing to recognize that this is a luxury, rather than a precious gift, one that millions in the world live without. I also wonder where this situates me as a person that is interested in educating people in the US somewhere down the road. How is it that my work as an educator is rooting for the underdogs of this world whose destiny is shaped by today's events rather than dreams of the future. Perhaps it is a privilege to dream, to plan, to expect.

Sorry for the random rumbling. In case you haven't noticed, it is tough to figure out how and why God is rocking our little worlds over here. We are however, grateful for the many messages of encouragement and prayer that we have received during this time. It has meant a great deal to know that Kenya is not alone in it's mourning.

Press prayer, in reading the news and in taking your life one precious day at a thanks and renewing hope along the way.