Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
Now we are in Nairobi, reunited with the other mission helpers, and ready to share our inspiring stories with each other over the next few days as we make our way back to the states.
In the Lord,
~ Team Etago
Sunday, July 29, 2012
What a privilege it has been to work along-side these faithful and gifted servants of our Savior. Thank you Lord for all you have done!
After an 6:00 am departure from Moshi, TZ and an 8 hour bus ride...Team Tanzania (Lucas Brown, Ashley Elliott, Randy Wittorp, Jessica Ohlmann, and me) made it safely back to Nairobi today (Sunday afternoon). We are waiting for the other two teams to arrive this evening. Later tonight we will join in worship as we rejoice over the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us over these past few weeks here in Africa. It will be fun and encouraging to hear all the stories of what God.
Now it is time for a good hot shower, nap, and a good supper!
We leave for home (with a 1.5 day layover in Istanbul) late tomorrow night.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
"Life is an opportunity—benefit from it; life is beauty—admire it; life is a dream—achieve it; life is a challenge—face it; life is a duty—complete it; life is a game—play it; life is a promise—fulfill it; life is sorrow—overcome it; life is a song—sing it; life is a struggle—accept it; life is a tragedy—confront it; life is an adventure—dare it; life is luck—make it; life is too precious—do not destroy it; life is life—fight for it. Be blessed." ~One of the teacher here in Etago
These words were heard being read by Loren as Gretchen and I were in the middle of an interview with one of the teachers. They fit so perfectly with the things we had heard about the lives of some of these teachers that my heart couldn't help but be humbled by the things surrounding me. These last two days have been especially humbling and eye opening, that I thank the Lord for the privilege of having spent them. ~Life is an opportunity; life is beauty.~
Thursday noon, Gretchen and I interviewed all of the teachers, asking them different questions about their lives, and there was one that especially pulled at my heartstrings as I listened to the selfless love that he poured out. This teacher, Nicholas, is twenty-three years old, has been teaching here at the school for two years, and teaches 7th and 8th grade science; 7th grade Swahili; and 5th, 6th, and 7th grade Christian Religious Education. He lives in a small, poverty-ridden house with his six brothers, four sisters, and his father who had a stroke that is causing much difficulty. Nicholas is the 4th born child, but the oldest son, so he takes care of the family for his father. Almost half of his monthly wage, which is less than 30 American dollars, is used to pay for his father's illness, while the rest goes to his siblings' school bills and what they can afford for food and other needs. Nicholas is also a very intelligent man—having gone to "computer college," driving school, school for plant operation and road construction, and two years of school for teaching. Seeing his accomplishments, it is obvious that Nicholas is smart and could be working for more wages—but he chooses to teach here at the school. He chooses to work for 11 ½ hours Monday through Friday for 10 months of the year and make far less than what a person making minimum wage in the United States would make in a month, and he chooses to use all of that money for the rest of his family. What a selfless, respectable, Christian example. Nicholas has chosen to use his talents to help the children at this school get an education not only for their lives here on earth, but for their eternal lives. Nicholas has chosen to put the needs of others before his own, and to do the Work that the Lord has set out. Philippians 2:3 "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." ~Life is a challenge; life is a duty.~
The 7th and 8th grade children have school from 8 am to 4:30 pm (like the others), with a break of 2 ½ hours, only to come back for class from 7pm to 10pm and stay overnight. The 5 male teachers here teach all of these 11 ½ hours, and some stay overnight with the children. For many of the children here, it is a wonderful blessing to be able to stay at the school. Many of them come from extremely poverty-ridden homes and families that cannot feed them or support them in their education, so the school allows these underprivileged children to live at the school for all ten months. The teachers selflessly allow these children to live here for free and go to school here for free, and they even provide them with what they can afford for food, which is more than their families can do; and the other school children who come from more privileged families and who are able to pay for school and live at home, bring what they can of food in order to help provide for the other, less-privileged children. This love for one another that is shown so abundantly here at the school is extremely humbling and heart wrenching. ~Life is a tragedy; life is a song .~
Gretchen and I also interviewed the 8th graders today, who will be graduating at the end of this month after taking a test in the coming week. Some of these children are those who live in struggling families, and are unsure of how they will be able to pay for secondary education after this. Another story that especially pulled on my heartstrings was that of a boy who is 13 years old and living with only his mother. He has no siblings and no father, due to the fact that his mother had him out of wedlock; and the two of them continuously jump from rental house to rental house when he is not living at the school. The teachers told us that this boy has very much potential—aspiring to be a doctor—but sadly after graduation, he will not have the funds to move on to secondary education since he has no father and a struggling mother, barely getting by on rent. If this boy's mother dies, he will have nowhere to go—no one to support him. He would be alone completely in the world, and as we found out from some of the other children, sudden death is not uncommon here. A few of the children's parents have died of malaria, and another's parents died in a car accident. ~Life is a struggle; life is a dream.~
These children are so determined and driven for their education and to make their lives better that it makes me look at my life and appreciate it so much more. God has blessed me with the opportunity to go to high school easily, when these children look at secondary education as a goal. God has blessed me with a home and a family that provides me with food and clothing, when some of these children don't have a home or parents, food, shoes, or many clothes. I looked at one of the children's feet today and saw toes popping out of the front of what used to be tennis shoes; and when we handed out those baseball uniforms, the smiles and excitement in the children's faces was unreal, just like when they were given toothbrushes. They all gripped their toothbrushes so tightly and waved them around in joy, that I was afraid they might lose circulation in their hands. God has blessed me with so many things in life and has given me so much more than I deserve. I thank the Lord for the opportunity he has given me to come on this trip to learn what I have and join in fellowship with these strong believers in Christ. The blessings I've received on this trip have been more than anything I could ever want or need—more than any physical blessings I could hold onto. I have surely learned more here than I have taught, and I will miss these children all the more for that. ~Life is too precious. Be blessed.~
Today was our final day with the kids, and after their beautiful morning songs and a few devotions from Loren, Matthew, and another teacher here, it was spent fully on playing with the children, talking with them, tickling them, letting them pet our hair and make it look "smart," and taking picture upon picture with them. Many of the children and teachers told us not to leave—to live in Kenya, get married in Kenya, raise a family in Kenya, and the like. It was so hard to say goodbye, especially when one of the teachers had some of the children from each class say a pleasant goodbye to us and had each of us say one to them. When all of the children were dismissed, another teacher—one that we worked with for much of the time we spent here—came up to us and gave a very wonderful goodbye speech, thanking us for the messages we have brought, the fellowship we have shared, and the work we have done. He ended his speech by saying, "let this be a beginning, but never an end." ~Life is an adventure; life is life.~
God's light is clearly being shown through these people and their selflessness, and I can assure you that they have done much more for us than we have done for them. Please pray for these beautiful people, that they may continue on with their work here, and that these families may be blessed, not only with earthly blessings, but especially with the grace of God and a strong faith so they can smile out any storms they may face.
Matthew 6: 25 & 34, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? . . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." ~Life is a promise.~
"Never regret a day in your life. Good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience, and both are essential in life. Keep going."
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Hello once again from Etago!
As Christiana described in her last blog, singing is essential and especially wonderful here. Recently one of the teachers taught everyone a new song – “With Jesus in the Vessel.” The simple, yet meaningful lyrics, “With Jesus in the vessel we can smile out the storm as we go sailing home” is a perfect theme song for the school kids here, as well as any Christian. Kate mentioned in her blog how incredibly joyous all the children are at the places they have been privileged to teach, and our team here in Etago has discovered the same. Most if not all of the many many songs we’ve been blessed to hear our children sing are about redemption, salvation, eternal life in heaven, and praising God. “With Jesus in the vessel…”
The children here do not have nearly as many earthly things that we might consider “necessities.” At the end of the school day it’s common to see a couple broken shoes left on the ground, and students showing up barefoot the next day. Terrible diseases such as AIDS are so prominent here that with lack of medical resources, many easily lose friends and family members, as one student’s sad poem reminded us. Yet despite all their hardships of life, laughing, singing, and smiling remain constant every day. “…We can smile out the storm…”
Persevering, sailing on to better days, and ultimately heaven, is what these children strive for. They certainly use their gifts and talents to the glory of God, and this is clearly shown in the great success of the school. In 2011, the school was ranked 24th in their district of 143 schools. In 2012, out of 131 schools, standard 8 was ranked 29th, standard 7 ranked 8th, and standard 6 ranked 28th. The Lord has truly blessed this group of young children.
Last Sunday, we traveled to the CLC church in Omotembe, Kenya, and were able to join in their worship service filled with dancing and singing hymns, some of which were Kisii hymns that we are actually getting to know quite well now! J We then presented our ‘Seven C’s’ lessons to the eager and attentive children there. The afternoon was quickly filled with stops at a few homes, many hilarious conversations with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in Christ, and a very interesting car ride back to Etago in the refreshing Kenyan rain. J Thankfully, the rain stopped in time for Jennifer, Christiana, and I to help our host mother prepare supper, which includes (but is not limited to) rolling out chipati, milking a cow, and entertaining our hosts’ 5-month old son.
Monday and Tuesday we were back at school, finishing up our Bible lessons with the story of Jesus’ ascension and doing origami-type crafts. Also on Monday, the infamous blue baseball pants, among other sports uniforms as well, were distributed to the school kids, who all changed into them right away. The place was instantly transformed from a traditional Kenyan school with kids in pink and blue uniforms to a hillside full of several very energetic sports teams. J
Yesterday, our team and our hosts roadtripped to Lake Victoria. We were even able to get a ride out on the lake in a large motorboat (only after our friend in the Kenyan Navy refused to commandeer the unused ferry we found ;) ). Being in the boat, we really couldn’t help but sing “With Jesus in the Vessel.” Our time in Etago is coming to an end shortly, but we still have a couple days to teach and celebrate in the Lord with our new friends here.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
|Korogwe Tanzania area Primary School|
What a privilege to be able to plant the Seed of God's Word in the hearts of these precious little children for whom our Savior died and rose again.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Please join us in praying that the Lord will bless the truth that has been proclaimed...that these children will be led by the Holy Spirit to repent of their sins and rejoice in the forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life that is for them by faith in Jesus!
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
PS - a quick Happy Birthday to Tom Tom up there in Kenya!
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Friday, July 20, 2012
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Greetings from Etago.
This is my second blog, sorry but my first blog was deleted when the computer decided to shut down. This is just a quick note to let you know that we are all safe, healthy, and productive here in Etago.
p.s. Rachel, and family, I love you, and I will see you soon.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Greetings in the Name of our great God and Savior!
As night falls on our final day in Moshi, Tanzania, each of us here has much to wonder at and to give thanks for. For the past three days we have been in and out of small Masai settlements, taking any opportunity to share the Good News of sins forgiven through Jesus Christ.
Our trek today took us over the border into Kenya to a village in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. We had initially been told that we would be witnessing the marriage of two members of the tribe, something we were all excited to experience. What we actually ended up being a part of was so much more. We arrived and were treated to a customary bottle of Coke in the home of the congregation's pastor after greeting many of the children and adult members.
When we finally gathered in the small mud church building, the marriage service began. Pastor Todd was asked to give a short sermon in addition to the pastor's address, followed by the brief wedding ceremony. As soon as the rings were exchanged, we were then notified that there were also some children to be baptized. Jessica and Ashley held the children as Pastor Todd performed the baptisms before the Masai congregation, each member dressed in traditional Masai robes and jewelery. It was only yesterday evening that he had spoken at another pastor's home, giving words of encouragement following the passing of a elderly family member.
I don't think I've ever seen so many opportunities to speak the comforting words of our Savior's work of salvation in such a variety of life's circumstances in such a short amount of time. From baptism to marriage to finally leaving this vale of tears, we see the triumph of the cross over sin and death!
Performing the kingdom work God prepares for us carries many blessings. The strengthening of the faith of those speaking His Word and those hearing His Word of course comes to mind. No matter where that work is done, whether here in Africa or right at home (wherever home might be), whether at the workplace or at the supermarket, God is seeking for His lambs to be gathered to Him. The perspective which we receive in being a part of that work is yet another blessing. God helps us to see beyond the day to day tasks and the earthly distractions to what is really important, the one thing needful. We see the application of His Word, and are reminded of that ultimate goal, that His Word be spread. The fields are indeed white for harvest, and laborers are indeed few.
All of your prayers are appreciated, and I hope that through these short accounts, everyone can share in our excitement as God's Word is taught here in Africa. Thanks be to God for the opportunities we have to share the truth of sins forgiven through Jesus Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria.
Greetings from Etago!
Today it was back to school for our group! We started the day by climbing up a hill to watch the sunrise. Then we went down to the school where Gretchen and I taught the nursery and pre-unit classes and Christiana and Matthew taught standards four through six lessons about Jesus' life. After the lunch break, the younger children left, so Gretchen and I helped Christiana and Matthew teach the older children. As we were taking a break from teaching and the children were drawing on the whiteboards, we looked outside and saw all the other classes carrying rocks. For the last hour and a half of the school day, the children all ended up carrying rocks from where the truck dropped them off at the road to where Loren and Matthew were building a retaining wall for them. The children loved to help!
One thing I've learned about the children here is that they LOVE getting their pictures taken, and then you turn the camera around to show them the picture, every child in a 10 foot radius will crowd around to see.
In general, I think I can speak for my team when I say we love it here in Etago. The people here are very friendly and they treat us well. The only thing is, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I know that Christiana already said something about this, but they church they have here is literally about to collapse. The walls are made out of a wooden frame and soil, and termites ate the bottom of the frame. And because the church is on a hill, whenever it rains, the soil erodes and piles up on one side and drags the wall away on the other side. Today we literally saw a chunk of the wall just fall off all by itself. I don't know what all we can do to help, but your prayers would really be appreciated, both for the church building and our efforts in general here in Etago. Bwano asifiwe.
Hello again from Kenya!
The blessings and adventures continue on here in Etago. We weren't sure if going to Chotororo again would be possible on Sunday, because if it rained, the roads from here to there would be easily washed out, leaving us stranded there. But all were happy to see Sunday morning began with sunshine and pleasant breeze. As Christiana, Jennifer, and I were getting ready to leave for day 2 at Chotororo, I happened to glance out our open doorway just in time to witness a small Kenyan boy be put in the trunk of our host's car, and the trunk door slammed shut. This sketchy scene of events turned out to be okay when we discovered the Kenyan boy was a boy from our Etago school in standard 5, who was going to tag along with us to Chotororo. We tried a new method of teaching there; with Matthew narrating, Christiana frantically drawing utterly captivating pictures on the board, Jennifer acting as the reluctant prophet Jonah, and myself doing quite a stellar job acting in the role of "big fish," the story of Jonah was taught to the children on a whole new level. ;) Following the lesson, many pictures were taken, many hands were held (no proposals this time though…at least in English!), and many sad goodbyes took place as we left Chotororo. The people there were all so kind and welcoming to us, and the children so joyous to hear the Word and rejoice in it. What a blessing to be able to spend part of our weekend with the CLC's Chotororo, Kenya church! (Think about making that your next vacation destination! J )
Back at the school today, like Jennifer said, we taught our lessons until the afternoon was interrupted by the so very exciting delivery of….you guessed it!—ROCKS! Yes, rocks! (Used for building the retaining wall, as Jennifer said.) This seemingly ordinary element created over an hour of fun and excitement for the children, as well as us mission helpers. Christiana, once again acted "like a local" and was carrying rocks on her head, impressing many of the teachers. I guess I must've looked pretty weak, because I only carried a couple loads of rocks down the hill before a younger boy would meet me half way up the hill and take the rocks from me. This eventually led to me just standing at the top, handing rocks out to all the hard-working children. Even a two-year-old frequently found at the school was seen handing small rocks to Loren in his timid, helpful manner. The way everyone works together like a family here at Etago is so terrific, and I love it here all the more for that.
One final note…as I mentioned before, the kids here really love singing, so Christiana and I were practicing some songs. A combination of being very tired and wanting to show Loren what harmony meant after he told us the blatant lie "I only sing harmony" resulted in Christiana and I discovering hidden talent in our singing voices. "Bluesy" and "like half a barbershop quartet" were just a couple of the comments our raving fans had to say. So if you ask us, maybe you'll get to hear a fun new rendition of "Father Abraham" or "I Just Wanna Be a Sheep," some of the on-demand favorites here. J
Please continue to pray for us as we carry on our work as ambassadors of Christ!