Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tender Foot

It has been an awesome 2 1/2 weeks in Kenya so far. Last friday a friend of Jared and mine took us to visit some families in the Mathare slums. I will never forget what I experienced that day. 

I thought rather than ME telling you what happened I would let Nashawn tell you a little bit about his everyday life in the slums. Hope you enjoy :)

today at school i saw two zmugus (white people) at school today. One of them was from orgone. The other said he was from pensoulvainya. I liked them. The one from orgone gave me this journal. he said if i write about my life in it then he will turn it into a book in america. i would like that very much. today is 26 january 2012. my name is Nashawn but peole call me tender foot because when i was little my feet were turned in and i couldn’t walk. I am 11 now and i can walk. Mommy says Jesus healed me. i am the oldest in my family. i have 2 little brohters Jesse age 8 and christopher age 6 and my sister mercy is age 9. 
We go to school and are very lucky. sometimes we don’t go to school because mommy has us go to the city to beg for money. Mommy doesnt go because she cant walk like i couldnt walk. she is nice but not when she drinks changaa. i do not like changaa. it makes people angry. sometimes when we go to the city we get lost. last time we didnt get any money and it was night time so mommy would be angry and we got lost. we got very scared because the people were fighting. and mercy got sick. i think the chicken she found was not very good. i feel bad because i had the bread.   Christopher is my brother that is 6 and he cried all night. he wanted to find the school because the school is safe. I remember a man picked us up and looked in our pockets. i told him that we didnt have any. when i grow up i am going to be a pilot and i will move to america and make money to get my family out of Mathare.
money is hard to make here because there are no jobs. every 3 months we have to pay for school. it is hard. on 1 january we had to pay for school but we didnt have any shillings so they said we couldnt come back until we paid. that night mercy went missing and mommy was very worried. me and my brother jesse went looking but couldnt find her. the next day she came home with the money and we went to school! i asked her how she got the money and she cried. she crys a lot because of the money. mommy calls her a slut but i dont know what that means. i am going to learn the drum so i can make more money. i remember i saw a person playing the drum and he made lots of money. but you have to ride the matatu down town. i have never rided it but i will when i learn. the end. 

Unfortunately Nashawn and his family are fictional characters, but inspired by very real living conditions in Mathare and Kibera. During our short stay in Mathare the 3 of us stumbled upon a field with hundreds of school children playing and singing, so we walked into the school building to ask the principal if we could play with the children. There the principal told us stories of the children living in Mathare, which is what inspired Tender Foot. While listening to her speak about these childrens living conditions my heart melted. I am not sure what I struggled with more, the fact that these little children wander the slums by themselves, often times getting lost, or that they find their way out to the city as young as 6 years old to beg for money, or GIRLS, little girls, not even teenagers, selling their bodies just so they can eat and go to school, or Single moms living in 10' x 10' tin shacks with holes in the roof, 6 kids and no father, or the majority of adults being drunk on Changaa (literally meaning 'kill me quick' which is a homemade liquor that is often made with battery acid or jet fuel to give it more kick, which often times gives drinkers blindness or death due to methanol poisoning), or the fact that sewage was less than a foot away from the doors of homes, or the stacks upon stacks of rotting garbage. OR if what I was struggling with was the fact that I have complained about how much money I make back home, or complained about still living with mom and dad, or have complained about eating spaghetti.. again. At that moment I wanted to slap myself in the face for being so ungrateful for what I have and taking so much for granted.  

To our surprise the principal ended up letting us teach grade 8 which consisted of roughly 100 13-15 year old kids for TWO HOURS!!

After a short time to gather our thoughts we entered the classroom with a wonderful greeting by all of the children standing up and reciting a friendly welcoming phrase, then they quickly sat down in complete silence, every one of them giving us their complete attention. I had never seen a classroom of 30, much less 100 kids be so polite and attentive. We began with a game of charades, and then taught them heads up 7 up :) Jared, Nashawn (lol I liked his name so much I decided to use it for Tender Foot)  and I then each took about 15 minutes to tell them stories about what Jesus has done in our lives. I started off by having them all keep a beat clapping their hands while I did a short drum solo on their desks. Within seconds every one of them were drumming on their desks and dancing in their seats. Smiles and laughter flooded the room. I continued on to tell them my testimony and how I found relationship with Jesus through playing the drums at the church. And how before I knew Jesus I thought God and prayer was very boring. I could barely contain my excitement speaking to that class. Something changed in my heart at that moment. I felt so passionate about the hope and safety these kids could find in Jesus. The lives that could be changed and the miracles that could happen through desperate people desperately in need of a touch from God. I too want to be Desperate for God. 

After our dust storm settled from another short stomp and clap session we opened the class up for questions. I was expecting them to blurt out questions if anyone even had any and we would answer them as we went. But instead they silently raised their hands and handed us their written questions. lol. It was such a blessing answering these children's questions about God and America and government (they love Obama because he is from Kenya). In 5 minutes we probably had 50 questions we were sorting through answering the ones we felt most important. 
These children are so hungry for Jesus, and so open and raw about their faith. It was truly inspiring, it was such an incredible opportunity to share with them. We are going to the school again this friday so I am sure I will be coming back with many more stories as well as many more pictures. 

I was planning on talking about the giraffes and orphanage, or the guitar lessons I have been giving Bernard and Jesse, and even the greenhouse more in this blog, but it just doesn't seem to compare. So I guess this is the end. 


Saturday, January 21, 2012


Jambo (hello) from Nairobi, Kenya

It is a true blessing to be here in Kenya and to be thrown into another culture halfway around the world, with different customs, different mindsets, living a different pace of life, and yet worshiping the same God! And it is a blessing to be the minority. Being a mzungu (white) we are targeted, labeled and discriminated, yet loved and accepted by all our christian brothers and sisters. It is common to see stick houses and market place shops with scrap metal walls and dirt floors only meters away from million dollar buildings with electric fences and 24 hour security. This is a place where you can’t trust the police, and the president took leadership by force. Where your car gets searched for bombs every time you park at the mall or market, and you get searched by security before you play frisbee in the school field. This is a place with an abundance of exotic wildlife and 80 degree blue skies. A place where talking with a friend or neighbor is more important than work or ‘being productive’. A place where 20 minutes late is on time. This is a place with the craziest traffic and worst roads I have ever seen. A place where the peaceful soundtrack of wildlife is only a kilometer away from the honking and shouting of the city. This is Kenya, and this is the place that I am quickly learning to love.

Jared and I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya Sunday, January 15 at two am. It had been a long journey including 72 hours on a train and 19 hours of travel time by plane. We met our ride at the airport and drove to our new home luggage free, seeing how it was left in Istanbul, Turkey. Proceeding arrival we slept 2 hours before we woke up in time for church. With the eleven hour time difference and very little sleep on the planes and trains, we were running purely on the thrill of a new adventure. Sunday consisted of a gospel church service in a big tent, lunch in the city, a bumpy ride with two little boys in the back of a jeep, ultimate frisbee at the school, dinner and stories with a local family, getting stopped by the police, and finally, sleep. Every night the police set up a check point and stop cars to hassle the people looking for bribes. It was a bit nerve wrecking for me, there were two soldiers with machine guns slung over their shoulder telling us they would take us to court. Then they wanted to see my passport, but I didn’t have it, which looking back I am very thankful because I was told they often times wont return them. But after 10 or 15 minutes of hassling the police and telling them we did nothing wrong, they could tell we weren’t going to give them any money, so they let us go. 

We woke up monday to a wonderful breakfast followed by a walk through the farm listening to the birds. There are so many beautiful and unique sounds here. After a really good devotion time Ibrahim (our host / DOVE oversight for all of Africa / member on the anti corruption committee in Kenya) asked us if we would work on the greenhouse roof, we gladly accepted. After seeing the greenhouse I was glad I said that I would help before I actually saw the greenhouse, I may have been hesitant otherwise. The wind had blown the plastic roof to shreds, so it was our job to climb around on the stick structure frame of the greenhouse trying to piece together the roof with tape. Which wasn’t so bad until we had to hang on with one hand, standing on a flimsy wobbly stick 10 feet off the ground stretching as far as we could over the barbed wire netting below (they used barbed wire to string up the peppers) and try to tape 2 pieces of flailing ripped plastic together with one piece of tape. Jet lag made the task a bit more difficult and a lot more dangerous, but after we got our monkey legs we had a blast climbing the greenhouse. 

After work we were privileged with a cool shower and another wonderful meal. After dinner is time to rest, so I watched television with our new friend Jesse. Jesse is 23 years old and runs the farm. He told me that most people make around 250 schillings a day, which would be roughly 3 US dollars. This makes it just about impossible to have a car, or even buy a meal at the market or mall. The new big thing in town, KFC, is the one american restaurant I have seen here, and it was 700 shillings for one meal. Almost 3 days wages! The gap between rich and poor astounds me, Occupy would go nuts over here. It makes me feel very blessed for what I have, and the opportunities that have been given to me. Being an american, even if lower class, we are rich! In Oregon we are so blessed with a minimum wage job giving us $8.70 AN HOUR!! One day of work with the lowest wages possible in Oregon we make what it would take most Kenyans 23 days to make! I know that the next time I complain about not making enough money, I will remember this troubling truth and count my blessings.

Wednesday was a very fun day. Wednesday was the day we were going to Kibera. Kibera is Africa’s second largest slum and houses somewhere between 270,000 - 1,000,000 people. Different people will tell you different numbers, I don’t think anyone truly knows for sure. Kibera is outside of government, it is it’s own little world. Once in Kibera we were planning on going to one of the DOVE (Declaring Our Victory Emmanuel) schools. Unfortunately we never made it inside Kibera. Since Jared and I are mzungu (white) we needed to be escorted by 2 guards carrying machine guns and billy clubs for protection, even though we were with a native, Pastor Amboga. The only problem was that the guards wanted 3,000 shillings for a 3 hour visit inside Kibera. We decided that it wasn’t worth it, and we would come back the next week with our own security. Within Kibera there are a group of guys who can be paid by visitors for protection, and they are much cheaper. I remember talking with the guards, well Pastor Amboga was, Jared or myself aren’t so good at swahili quite yet, and seeing 3 little birds tackle each other out of the air landing right at the soldiers combat boot. There they continued wrestling on the ground. I had never seen 3 birds of the same kind fight so brutally before. Then they flew off fighting in mid air. It seems as if the land itself has been cursed with violence. Shortly after seeing the birds I turned to see a huge mural of children attacking each other with axes and clubs. I think it was supporting a message of peace, but it gave off a terrible and very violent vibe. After Jared and I were rejected from entering Kibera we walked by the entrance and it sent chills down my spine. It was a narrow path, filled with people and lined on both sides with scrap metal shacks selling all kinds of ragged clothes and old fruit. Even though we were not technically in Kibera, we were at the entrance, and that alone was quite the site to see. Walking through a market I was amazed with how much trash was everywhere, even mixed deep into the soil. A image that is permanently implanted in my brain is an image of a man picking through a field of burning garbage. There was an area, probably a 100 foot square, piled at least a foot high of trash, and there were various fires through out the lot. I suppose this man was feeding the flames, but it smelt horrific, I was amazed that the man could sit down in it. I badly wanted to take a picture, but I was told not to take any pictures in Kibera unless you have security. Kibera is a world of its own, and even though we weren’t technically in Kibera, the danger was still real, but I felt oddly safe and comfortable with my surroundings. As real as the danger may have been I know that I have God to protect me, and all I wanted to do was get inside to share this protection and hope with the people of Kibera.

Going to and from Kibera Pastor Amboga took Jared and myself on the Matatu. I really enjoy riding the Matatu. Most all of the public transportation are these small toyota or nissan vans with 4 benches in the back. The vans will pull up to the side of the road with the money handler standing outside of the sliding door pounding on the roof telling the driver to stop. Then a bunch of people pile in, and the man pounds on the door again telling the driver to go. Then these matatus fly through the streets passing cars on the right and left, honking if the car in front of them slows down for even a short moment to let a pedestrian by. The matatu We rode had 20 people crammed inside and a sub woofer under the seat with two ten inch speakers in the front blasting music. Jared and I being the only mzungus made sure to hold our things in our laps. Matatus our known for pick pocketers. I remember one moment vividly, Jared and I crammed in a little old ratty van, with 18 other Africans flying through the streets of Nairobi listening to Redemption Song by Bob Marely. It was pure bliss. 
Jared and I met Pastor Amboga at the church down town, so once we arrived back to the church Jared and I helped the church office (a modified semi truck container) fix their internet problem. Being 80 plus degrees and wearing jeans (it is not good for men to expose their legs) we were treated to hot tea. I am surprised by how everybody drinks hot drinks in the hot weather, but it was good non the less. And then it was up to us to drive home for the first time without an escort. On the way home we stopped at the Junction, which is an insanely nice, 5 story mall. It was quite the contrast from Kibera which was just a few kilometers down the road. We walked around a bit, Jared bought a phone since ours don’t work here, and then it was my turn to drive! Driving on the left side of the road, or dodging the huge pot holes big enough to crash a car into weren’t my biggest fears, it was the crazy aggressive drivers I was more worried about. But not near enough to stop me from driving. I had a blast driving home, we got a little lost somewhere in the 500 turns it takes to get home, but I enjoyed dodging pot holes, people and slow vehicles. 

All in all it has been an amazing adventure so far, and we are only 5 days in. God is really working in me and Jared both, giving us a heart for these people and this country. As much as I do miss Rachel and my family and friends, I would rather them come here, than me go back home.