Last year was not my best year for blogging. But every year is new. I will try and do better. It was so great to see so many of our friends while we were back in the USA during the month of December. We laughed and cried with friends. We shared stories, and most of all we got to be in the presence of many of you for whom we care much. But we did not see everyone. That makes us a bit sad, and it makes us feel irresponsible for not connecting with everyone. I promise we try and do the best we can! We are thankful for all of you.
This year we are going to try and experience more joy! Happiness is a gift (and dare I add a command) of God, and I am praying that he will bring more and more of it to our family. Life in a different culture can be hard, missing friends and family is definitely difficult, and watching the “American Dream” (and I mean that in all of its positive aspects, not in a cynical manner) pass you by is challenging. And yet we have so much in life that can and should give us joy. We have our local family, our local friends, a good work to do, and great weather and scenery in which to do it. Thank you God for all of that!
So I hope to share some of our joy in our work and life here in Kenya. Let us all be joyful in 2019! I am starting the joy with this picture I took on a walk today. The Great Rift Valley which extends from the region of the Dead Sea to our south passes right outside out door. We see it every day.
This is the sort of thing that can make your week. On Monday night we were hosting the weekly dessert night. This is a night where the long-term missionaries try and make the short-term volunteers feel welcome in Kijabe. It was the first time we had hosted in a long time on Monday, and every face that came through was unknown. But one big man, with a strong deep voice and a big smile caught our attention. He was looking at our Peruvian pictures, and before long we realized he had been a missionary in Peru. Even better, he had been to Curahuasi. I turned to the kids and said “¡Este hombre conoce Curahuasi!” Their faces lit up and el castellano was filling the house as we all reminisced about our favorite South American country. David could possibly be the “most interesting man in the world”. He was a Peruvian chef who had a television show. He has been a firefighter. And now he is a security expert for Samaritan’s Purse and travels the world doing security assessments. If he ever reads this, he can correct any errors! Between kidnappings, extortions, and latin american television stardom, he has lived a full missionary life. It was a treat to have him in our humble home in Kijabe. We say “¡Bien hecho a David!”
When we worked at Diospi Suyana Hospital in Curahuasi, Peru we loved our short term volunteers. The first time they came it was nice to get to know them. But then the second or third time they came it was a great treat! We knew them already, and we could rejoin our friendship that was formed previously. And there was something about the sensation that we were not forgotten, and that they were in it with us. We have been fortunate to even visit some of these friends in the US when we have come home. And now we are making an entire new set of short term volunteer friends in Kijabe. I know we will be so glad to see them when they return again in the future. If you want to do short term missions, find your place, and then go. Then go again. You will be a blessing to those who receive you.
I have been listening to an Audible book called A Dream So Big, by Steve Peifer, in which he tells the story of his time at Rift Valley Academy. Because he refused to allow himself to grow numb to the struggles and poverty of the people, he ended up being used as God’s instrument to do some amazing things. I find one thing that he kept preaching to himself very challenging. He refused to allow himself to become hardened. When we were in Curahuasi, everyone was so poor, (and frankly many times they were annoying – like the 4 kids who knocked on our door every night just as we sat down to eat dinner asking for money – even though I knew their mother was a drunk and I had witnessed her throwing rocks at her kids in the street – so how messed up was I to get hardened to that sort of pain in those kids lives), that I mostly failed at not becoming insensitive to the suffering. It was so common that it almost came to seem normal. I want to fight against it, if I can emotionally manage it, when we are in Kenya. I also enjoy the book because it gives a good snapshot into what some of our life will be like on Kijabe station in regards to Rift Valley Academy. Below is another video, and you can see Steve Peifer interviewed in the middle of it.
The last couple weeks In Peru were a rush of emotions and business as we hosted my family for the Christmas holiday. Then we had one week to sell all of household goods, say “Goodbye” and move. I was so busy I did not have time to be sad, nor have I yet had much time to miss Peru. But one thing I knew I would miss even before we left was the hike to the Mirador. I would walk out my front door, go down the steep hill, cross the Pan American Highway, and then start going uphill for over 1000 feet. From my door to the top was a little less than an hour. There was not one single time that I made that hike that I did not feel so happy to be where I was at that moment. And then as I arrived to the top I would sit for just a few moments, take a picture, and try to remember the views as I knew my time in Curahuasi was coming to an end. I always prayed and thanked God for what he had done for me and how he had brought me to that moment. There is nothing to match it in Dallas, and I miss that hike and time of reflection, silence, and solitude very much. We benefit from special places where we can be alone with our thoughts and where we can be alone with God and his creation. And when we find those places they can give us energy for the next thing that is placed before us. So here is my post dedicated to the Mirador and all the special places we have had in our lives. (I got to practice putting .gifs in the blog.)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13
I have a friend named Harry. Harry is a young German man who is exceptional in my mind for many reasons. One is that he is a single man in the mission field. Those guys are super rare. Another is that he is a German and a Christian. Some of the best people we know are German, but there are not too many Christians in Germany. And so those believers have a faith that is real and active as it has stood up to misunderstanding and ridicule. But probably the thing that is the most outstanding to me about Harry is that he likes to encourage people. He will come to me on some mornings with a big smile on his face (like always) and give me a quote from Oswald Chambers. Or he will remember to me something I said in a sermon at church. He encourages me, and it reminds me that we are to encourage one another. Encouragement stirs our faith, and it helps us to open our eyes to the deceitfulness of sin. We need each other, and as one body in Christ we need to take care of one another. Let us encourage each other daily.
As you know, I enjoy going to the hospital every other week to bake bread. One of the perks is that the kitchen workers are such a nice group. They joke and laugh, work together and take a breakfast break, and I like watching them interact. Michael is a sincere believer who, along with his wife Noemi, are wonderful examples of Peruvian Christians. He is a light in the kitchen. Their family is taking a leap of faith in enrolling in Bible school in Paraguay and they are moving in a month. I enjoy talking with Michael and Noemi because they are both super excited about seeing God’s hand at work.
When I make bread, I load up about 17 kilos of flour in this big plastic tub (that’s more than 35 pounds). As I was exiting the refrigerator room, Michael stopped me and carried the tub for me. Then he asked where to put it and how I transferred it to the mixer. I said something like, “So chivalrous today.” He said, “God is working in my life.”
“Tell me about it.”
“He is telling me to be more attentive to the needs of others.”
Yep. That sounds like God. I think this may be one of the most useful and wonderful things anyone’s ever told me God said. Thanks for sharing, Michael.