Monday, May 2, 2011

My Africa Story - The CliffsNotes Version

(Meet Dillon, an adorable little boy who was at the conference the whole week with his mom. He seemed to turn up everywhere I was. I finally got him to smile on the last day. It seemed fitting to start this post with his introduction.)

It's hard to believe I returned from Kenya a week ago...
or that I left for Kenya two weeks ago.

Thanks so much to everyone who's been *mostly* patient with me in my lack of posting either on here or facebook about my grand adventures.
(I say mostly, because some of you have not been patient. And that's okay, too. *wink*)

I think I'll need to share things in bits and pieces.
It just can't all be told at once, and some things I'm still processing.

And then there are some things I'm not sure I want to share...
because sometimes trying to put experiences into words somehow diminishes the beautiful intimacy of it.
So, I think there are a few experiences I will save just for God and myself.
(God is so cool to give us amazing moments like that.)

People ask if I was shocked by anything... what was the most memorable experience... if I was changed.
Truly, I don't think I was surprised by any of it, just thankful to finally have the experiences myself.
And all of it was so incredible, I don't think I can narrow anything down to just one or two that will stand out.
In the end, everything changes us to some degree.
Like I said, I'm still processing.
God and I are talking through a lot of things.
But isn't that how the whole of life should be?

So, I'll take time to share on here.
I'll post photos and try to put my experiences into words.

My Africa Story - CliffsNotes (and some pictures)

The *extreme* synopsis is that we arrived in Nairobi Monday night, minus three bags.
(Mine was the only one that made it. The other girls didn't get theirs 'til Wednesday night. Which was crazy since Melissa had to leave on Thursday.)
The women's conference was Tuesday through Friday at Word of Faith Church in Kiambu.
They have 500 churches in Kenya, so women came from all over.
(Many spoke English very well, but some only knew Swahili, so we had interpreters during the sessions.)

We each spoke two sessions and led workshops Wednesday and Thursday.
It was... how shall I say... intense
And wonderful!!!
After the conference was over on Friday afternoon we had a tour of the college grounds that is also run by Word of Faith. The college teaches everything from Bible courses to hairstyling to auto-mechanics.
(Awe.Some. opportunities for their students!)
Then we were taken to the Children's Home they operate. The children proudly showed us their rabbits and cows, and were most proud to show us where they each slept.
Then they sang for us in both English and Swahili. It was beautiful.
(There really are no descriptive terms that can accurately describe this. It was beyond words.)
Saturday we were able to visit the National Park in Nairobi and see wildlife!!! Ooooo... how cool that was. Giraffe, rhinos, even a lion!
Afterward we were able to stop at a market in Nairobi so we could *ahem* shop.
Afterward we toured the incredible farm of Bishop Thomas (the head pastor over Word of Faith) and relaxed a bit at his beautiful home before boarding the plane home.


Like I said, intense and wonderful.
(I'd do it all again in a heartbeat!!!)

Me and Kim, enjoying the airplane ride...

Have I ever told you that I love to look out airplane windows?
It's so Bette Middler, "From a Distance."
(Except that song is so theologically wrong it kills me, but still...)

We stayed at a beautiful retreat center, Brackenhurst, about 30 minutes outside of Kiambu.
This was taken standing on our front step. Hear the birds?

The grounds were absolutely gorgeous. So serene and peaceful. Definitely a different experience from downtown Nairobi.
But, it was a very safe and secure facility... which evidently is a good thing for four women traveling internationally.

On our way to the church Tuesday morning...
(Kathy! I didn't get your face in the picture! But, Kim and Melissa seem to be having a blast.)

Me being me...

Meet Patrick, who so graciously drove us each day from Brackenhurst to the church and then back again every day.
Oh, to be in a car for that long with four women.
He's very brave.
(Patrick, you have mad driving skills. I know I already told you this multiple times. I want the world to know, too.)

There was so much wonderful fresh fruit!!!
This is me eating Passion Fruit for the first time. Yum, yum, yum...

Our walk down the hill to the sanctuary was beyond description.
(The Administrative Offices are at the top of the hill, and the sanctuary is about half way down.)
The sound of worshipping Kenyan women permeated the air, and there was such a sense of peace, and yet anticipation for what was going to come.
I tried to capture it on video, and I know it's shaky, but it's a moment I will never forget.
(I was trying very hard to walk on the uneven ground... downhill... in heels... while holding a videoing camera... and not fall over. Cut me some slack, here.)

Coming back up the hill...

Some of the children that hung around the conference. (Boy, did they love having their picture taken! "Show me! Show me!")

Okay, so many stories. So many experiences. So many pictures. So much I want to say.
This is a good start, and I can hardly wait to share the rest...
in pieces...
over the next few days and weeks.

Keep checking back.
I want you to experience this with me. To see. To hear. To know.
And maybe, someday, to go?

I can hardly wait to go back. With my husband... and my children.
I left a large piece of my heart in Kenya with these people.
But, God already knew that would happen, didn't He?
I suspect that's why He sent me.
(Right, Bishop Thomas?)

SO much more to come...

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