Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day Eight: A Day of Worship


As we were saying goodbye at the Learning Center yesterday, Evelyn the head teacher made a statement that they had little to give.   We had each received some beautiful gifts from Evelyn and the Ray of Hope team; we were also given warm, delicious meals each day prepared from scratch over a charcoal fire on the balcony; we learned many lessons about how we might live our lives differently, as well as lessons about ourselves and our attitudes; we experienced effusive love at every turn.  Our blog is full of examples of what we have received from our Ray of Hope friends.  
It’s difficult to say that we could offer anything close to what was given us if the tables were turned and we were the hosts in San Francisco.    This all comes back full circle to the question we asked ourselves at the start:   “How can we make a positive, lasting impact?”     Of course we can offer material possessions and money-   the uniforms have not been replaced in some time and they are frayed and tattered; the concrete floors have large craters in them; pay raises have not been given in some time.    Ray of Hope is like most other non-profits:  they struggle to make ends meet.   Their website shows what our gifts will do:
More importantly, we can continue our work to build a long term relationship with Ray of Hope that will yield many lasting benefits.    We can help guide the organization’s future with our support:  for example, what is the vision for next steps in the computer lab?     We can tell Ray of Hope’s story-  more sponsorships  (about US$550 per year) are needed for the children ready to go to public schools.    We see some of the children turning into men and women- for those who will not get into college, how can we help them learn a trade?
The Ray of Hope model works- projects are guided by the aspirations and self-identified needs of the communities served, and with just a few exceptions Ray of Hope employees live in the communities served.
Craig and Angela viewing the inside of a classroom
at Dr. BT Cooper School
It’s difficult to believe that we could give the people of Ray of Hope as much as they have given us.   If you had just two pieces of bread left, would you give one piece to a visitor?   If you had just $1 left in your wallet, would you give it to someone who needed it even more?   These are the lessons we saw first-hand in Kawangware; truly practicing these lessons is how we can make a lasting difference.


Today we worshiped at another UMChurch in Nairobi, which was a distance from the guest house, it gave us an opportunity to see another section of Nairobi, It is a church that has been established for some time. It was a sizable physical structure , given Kenyan standards, that has several worship opportunities during the week for adults and children.
Rev. Karen preached the sermon of the morning, with Pastor Freda translating. It was a pleasure to watch them work together spiritually to give the message, "It is Well With My Soul."

After service we walked to the school that the church sponsors for children who are orphaned in the neighborhood.  Their enrollment is 132, classes will start on 4 September for the Fall semester.  The teachers are not paid a standard teacher's salary. The school teaches from pre-school to high school. Most of the children who attend the school live with their relatives or guardians. The church is currently renting the structure where the school is housed, they are hoping to raise the funds needed to purchase the property.

When we returned from the tour of the school, a sign of traditional Kenyan hospitality, we were served a delicious meal. Another example of people who have so little willing to graciously share what they have with strangers. The generosity that has been shown to us has been overwhelming.

The pastor and members of the Praise Team, were given CDs of the Glide Ensemble as a token of our appreciation of their hospitality.

The members were very welcoming, and were very accommodating in answering  our questions as we walked to and from the school.

It has been a blessing to be a part of this team, everyone brought their best self to this trip, and gave their all to the children.

I was received warmly by the team, for that I am grateful. Now there's a bond between us that shall bind our hearts forever.

Miscellaneous Facts I've Learned or Observed of Kenya

-Because the electricity is so expensive and unreliable there are phone charging shacks, where you pay 10 \= (the symbol for shillings) to charge your phone. The majority of Kenyans have cell phones.

-The majority of Kenyan men I observed to be clean shaven, I saw a few goatees but no full beards.

-At the Crocodile Park, non-Kenyan citizens paid more than Kenyan citizens. I was told that I looked too American, to "pass" for a Kenyan.

-Kenyans work a six-day work week.

- Lotto and Scratchers have come to Kenya, and there are several Casinos in Nairobi.

-Their presidents are elected for a five year term, and can serve two consecutive terms.

-There are 40-45 tribes in Kenya.

-For weddings the bridal cars are decorated with fresh flowers.
Following worship, a group photo

-Addiction to glue has become a problem, initially it is sniffed to take away the hunger pangs.


What is Community?

I learned a long time ago as I was raising my family, that family is not necessarily defined by blood. Family is whoever you consider to be your family. But when it comes to community, I have always had a strong sense that I want to give my time, efforts and gifts to the community I live within. It's not hard to see the needs of people all around me.

This week has changed my definition of community. I now have friends that I care for deeply, that are a part of my community. They are geographically far away, and yet, they are still a part of my community. Their needs are as real and as important as the needs of the people in my geographic community. 

The question now is, how will I continue to serve them?


The Dr. B.T. Cooper school
Today we worshipped at the Kayole United Methodist Church. It is the first United Methodist Church in Nairobi (1996). The worship was spirited—almost like contemporary Pentecostal. I had been invited to preach the sermon, and as I was preaching it was being translated by a clergy sister, which was a wonderful experience of sermon-sharing!

Following worship, our hosts gave us a tour of a school they run. It was a small compound with a gravelly courtyard. Classes—with rough floors and tin roofs, were on the perimeters of the courtyard, as were several (pit) bathrooms. The school mainly serves orphan children, and once again I have been so moved by witnessing the depth of our new friends’ commitment to serve the most vulnerable in their communities.

Please keep Robin in your prayers. She stayed in bed all day and is running a high fever.


As I sit here and write about today. Listening to the rain became so painful when it use to feel to relaxing. Thinking of the children who live in small homes that sleep on the floor. With holes in their roofs and rain easing in under the door. I feel so sad knowing that they are suffering right now. I pray that they remain safe from thieves, who use the rain as a distraction to make their way into the homes. Every time I listen to the rain, it will remind me of the children we served this week. It will remind me to never forget what our mission at Glide is. To serve the marginalized. To feed the hungry, to cloth the sick, and always show unconditional love and acceptance. Let me not forget that no matter what, I can always help, even if its a simple payer. God, thank you for everyone we have encounter this week. We ask the you keep us all safe. We ask that you feed our souls with your presence.  Cloth us with your arms and heal us with your word. Amen


Half a world away, the Temple at Burning Man is getting prepped to burn.  The Temple burns every Sunday before Labor Day, and rather than it being the party of all parties (like Saturday night's celebratory burning of The Man when 50,000 people gather in a circle 50-people deep to watch fire dancers perform and the wooden effigy burn). The Temple, on the other hand, is more a quiet place of reflection.  It's beautiful and silent in all its enormity, and it serves as a sanctuary that evokes reflection.  It's cathartic.  It's intense.  It's a quiet, yet spiritual safe-place that serves as time for pause, release and going deep. Real deep.

Offering a token of our appreciation to our hostess
While friends from all over the world are winding down after a week full of dust storms, interactive art, community, spiritual awakenings, intense emotional revelations, art-car hopping, radical inclusivity, radical self-reliance all while having moment after moment - - - while leaving no trace they were ever there in the first place, I sit at the Guest House our last night before we depart for our retreat tomorrow and am beyond grateful I was exposed to Burning Man 5 years ago.  I would not be on this journey today if it weren't for the experiences I gained on the Playa in 2008, 2009 & 2010.

This week, just like the transformative weeks that unfolded in Black Rock City, Nevada (the home of Burning Man), our team came together for one heck of a pilgrimage.  We experienced dusty conditions.  Food was sparse at times, but love was abundant. We made art.  We were self-reliant, yet, also taken care of by each other. We're even leaving Ray of Hope with no trace, or any burden of trash, per Kirsti's spot-on suggestion.

We depart for our retreat tomorrow, where we will all be able to begin our own decompression and self-reflection. However, before the mind can go there, I listen to the rain outside and can't help but wonder how this weather is affecting our new friends in the slums as their homes are being soaked.  Our new friends in Kwangware - and beyond - will be in our thoughts with the different seasons, with every bite of food, with every privilege granted, every breath taken and every fire burned.


Today we bring the body of our time here in Nairobi to a close.  We visited our second church during our stay, and the hospitality was once again warm and accommodating.  This church was in a part of Nairobi we hadn’t visited before. The area hosted a different level of living, more affluent then Kawangware, but still a slum.  It was something to see the disparity in lifestyles in such small vicinity.  Brand new large single-family homes on one side, slums on the other, all separated by a twelve foot wall.  It looks like the have-not’s are in the process of being pushed out.  All that said, it was good to experience another side of Nairobi.
Knowing our time here in Nairobi was coming to an end, I noticed something today.  I realized that in this short time that I had grown to become acclimated to Nairobi life.  I wasn’t so on guard at every moment as I once was.  Traveling on the Matatu’s didn’t seem to be as much of a death defying rollercoaster ride. And crossing the street today, a group of us signaled to each other and just crossed, amidst the speeding cars. When in days before it had been a well-choreographed group production, looking like a group of Americans I’m sure.  This past week has shown me that over time we learn to survive, whatever the situation wherever it may be.  I am proud to have been reminded of this in Nairobi visiting Ray of Hope     

Pastor Karen and Pastor Frida were sermon partners today

The Glide team enjoying a wonderful meal, provided by the Kayole congregation

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