Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kenya Trip Report

It's FINALLY HERE... the email to my prayer supporters, family, and friends about my trip to Kenya... enjoy:

Jambo Friends!

Jambo is Swahili for hello... in case you all didn't already know that... :)

Well, first off I must apologize for how late this report is in coming to you all! I arrived home from Kenya very sick, so I have been lying in bed for the past week. After going and going and going for ten days though... I must say that a week of rest has been NICE!
The second thing that I have to say before I say anything else is thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all of your prayers while I was down in Africa! God did some incredible things... and now for a recap:

Sunday, June 7th - I got up REALLY early in the morning and we left our house in Bristol at 6:00am to arrive in London by 8:30. I said goodbye to my daddy and then walked past the gates to find the rest of my team who had flown from Kansas and just arrived in London that morning. Luckily I found all 15 of them and we had a lovely time talking and hanging out in the airport waiting for our 10:45am flight. We waited....and waited....and waited... until finally a voice came over the loudspeaker announcing that the "flight to Nairobi has been delayed due to the fact that the plane was struck by lightning on the previous flight and needs to be checked over." Wonderful. So we waited and waited and waited some more. Noon came and went... and finally, a voice came onto the speaker again and said that the flight has been delayed even more because they decided to switch planes... so we had to switch gates. All in all our plane didn't take off until 1:30 or so in the afternoon. Which was kind of a bummer since the flight down to Nairobi is about 8 hours. Also, Kenya is 2 hours ahead of London.... It was awesome to see what God did before we even arrived in Kenya. Who says he doesn't arrange the seating on a plane? I think he does...haha. I was put in the very middle of the plane... between two women that I didn't know. One was an American woman, and the other was a young Kenyan woman who was returning to Kenya for the summer after studying in London. It was neat to learn that she was in college too. I started talking with her and she was extremely interested in what type of work my team and I were going to be doing down in Nairobi. She was super sweet too... telling me of what to do and not to do in Africa... where the best malls were located, the cleanest hospital to go to if we needed one, etc. She even gave me her phone number and told me that if I have extra time and want to do something to give her a call! I thought that was really sweet. Oh dear, at this rate, this email is going to take forever. Oh well... anyway, at one point in the conversation she asked me what we were teaching the kids in VBS... she asked me what "VBS" was. It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to share about Jesus with her. I went on to tell her that we taught the kids at VBS about Jesus, and how He came to die for their sins. That He took the penalty for them so that they could one day live in Heaven with Him if they believed in Him as their Savior. Her eyes shined as she looked at me and said "Dats so awesome!" in her cool Kenyan accent. I remember sitting there and laughing at God for the rest of the flight... that he is involved so personally in our lives that he took interest in something like seating arrangements. It just confirmed to me that my Lord's fingerprints were still all over the trip... and that my mission didn't start once I was on the ground in Kenya... it had already started.

Let's see... what to say next. Hmmm... Oh yes, so we arrived in Kenya that evening and went straight to the hotel/resort. It was gated in... which made me feel safer, since we were in the heart of Nairobi. I LOVED our rooms. They were very simple... but they had a bunch of mosquito netting over the beds. The very first night that we were there... Darcy (my roommate and friend) and I decided that since the windows were closed and stuff... we probably didn't need to use the mosquito netting. We said goodnight and after awhile I started to drift into a peaceful sleep....until suddenly Darcy JUMPED out of bed and told me that something was buzzing by her ear! Haha...needless to say, we used the nets the rest of the time we were there.

Monday, June 8th - I think the entire team was a bit jet-lagged on this day. I was doing fine because I have been living in England... so the time difference really didn't affect me at all... for which I was VERY grateful! Luckily, this was simply orientation day. We woke up at around 7:30 and ate a YUMMY breakfast at our hotel... I'm serious, Kenyan food is AMAZING. I love it.
After breakfast, we went to the large head school called Pangani that is run by Missions of Hope. This is a school for children from the Mathare Valley... which is the second largest slum in Kenya. Mary and Wallace were the ones to start missions of hope and Mary had a wonderful time telling us about all the different centers and how much God was growing the ministry. Missions of Hope started by Mary asking several different people to come up with a list of the 50 neediest kids that they knew... then Mary took all the lists and looked at which names continually came up. She then put together her own list of the top 50 neediest children and started holding a school for these children in someone’s home. Today, the ministry has spread to eight centers (if I am remembering correctly) as well as one boarding school! Talk about multiplication! They now feed and educate over 1,000 children!

We took a tour of the school and I was not prepared for what I was going to see. Some of us went into a classroom where a bunch of children were seated. After quoting about 5 memory verses to us, the children sang us a song in English and then sang the same song again in Swahili. I don’t remember the exact song that it was, but I remember it having to do with water… and Jesus being the living water. Tears came into my eyes as they were singing because they were all so passionate about what they were saying. It really touched my heart that they were singing about water too… because water is so scarce in Africa, clean water anyway. Oh hey! And I just found a video that someone else on the team took of the exact song that these kids were singing! Standing in the classroom while these children sang to us was just incredible. You can check out the video of it at the following link: (I'm not sure if it works... if it doesn't, I'm sorry and I'm working on it.)


After they were done, they wanted to know our names and our occupations. It was great to see their faces when I said my name, because there was a girl named Emily in that class. She got the biggest smile on her face when she realized that we shared the same name. You would actually be surprised how many of these African children have English names.

After eating some delicious little bread/donut things called mendazis, and drinking some African chai, we split into teams and actually went out into the Mathare Valley. Walking through the slums and hearing kids yell “howareyouhowareyouhowareyouhowareyouhowareyou” over and over again was an incredible experience. Later we learned that half of the children know what the phrase “how are you” means and they are actually asking you a question. While the other half just associate the phrase with white people… since that is the phrase that first comes out of almost every white person’s mouth! Haha…So in essence, when a little kid says “how are you” they are saying “hey look! A white person!” It was really funny but just about broke my heart at the same time when we would drive through the slums and little kids would start running after our bus screaming “howareyouhowareyouhowareyouhowareyou” at the top of their little lungs. Sometimes I would say “fine, how are you?” Then you should have seen them smile and get all shy! It was so cute.

Tuesday, June 9th – Today was our first day of VBS at one of the schools. We had about 120 kids. It was a lot of fun to see how excited these kids were. We performed a skit which they all loved. Then I taught them the memory verse: John 3:16. I was blown away because a lot of these kids already knew this verse! So I taught them some motions to go with it. J That all happened in our general assembly. After that, our team of 15 split into groups of 3 and 4 because we each had different “stations” that we would be doing for VBS. My job was to sing with Tina who also sings and plays the guitar. We also taught the children actions to go along with the songs, which they really loved. If you click the link below, you can watch a video of us praising the Lord with these children:
Let me tell you… seeing poor African children from the slum pile into a classroom to praise the Lord with Tina and I was incredible. A smile seems to go a long way with these children. I just wanted to spend quality time with them all and take every last one of them home with me! It was also awesome to see some of the children really worshiping… not just singing with their mouths, but praising with their hearts. The teachers also would really get into the songs which was SO great to see! I could talk about the teachers for hours and hours. You can tell that they really LOVE these children. I learned later that their teachers salary is only 90$ a month!

After our VBS time in the morning, we split into different teams and went out into the slums with the “Bring the Light” ministry. This ministry is so great because their main job is putting skylights into people’s shanties. Often the shanties are so dark that no one can see anything at all when the doors are closed… well, those shanties that are fortunate enough to have doors. Some of them just have sheets hanging over the doorways. BUT… the cool thing about this ministry is that they don’t JUST bring light to the shanties… they talk to the people about how Jesus can bring light to their lives and souls. Our teams didn’t actually put any of the skylights in, but we would sit down with the people who lived in the shanty and talk with them about Jesus and if they had any needs that we could pray specifically for. I was so amazed at how grateful these people were for the encouragement that we brought to them through this ministry. I remember sitting in one of the shanties and picking up a Bible that was translated into Swahili. You should have seen everyone laugh at me as I tried to read it out loud! Haha… I think I failed. It was fun to try anyway!
Here is a video of one woman singing a song for us when we visited her shanty. She was very shy and modest about it but when we heard that she sings in the choir of the church that she attends we begged her to sing for us and she eventually did... in Swahili!:

Wednesday, June 10th – Today we did the same thing as yesterday. We had a half day of VBS and then did house visits in the slums with “Bring the light”.

OH……haha…I have a good story for you all. Well, at the school where we did VBS there were bathrooms… but no toilets. So there were several stalls… but only holes in the floor where the toilets should have been! Our team had an interesting time of learning to use those “toilets”.

After we did “bring the light” in the afternoon, another girl and I were able to sit down with Juma, Rafile, and Andrew and get a lesson in Swahili! That had to be a major highlight of the day. I was even asked if my mom or dad was Kenyan because they said I was picking it up so easily! Haha… actually, I found that the little Swahili that I learned was even easier than Spanish. It’s nice because most words are pronounced exactly how they look. For example: “Mzuri” means “good” in Swahili…and it is indeed pronounced “Mmmm zori”… or some people just say “Missouri”. Haha… we told them that Missouri is a state next to Kansas and they had a good laugh at that.

That night when we were driving home, I was talking to some girls in the back of the van when suddenly our bus came to a stop. I looked up and realized that we had gotten stopped by the “police”…which I might add are extremely corrupt down there in Kenya. The entire police system is really messed up. It’s actually probably a lot like it is in Mexico. Anyway, I looked up to see two uniformed men carrying huge machine guns circling our van. Yikes… that’s a scary sight anytime… but at night on the side of a road …in the heart of Nairobi…my heart started beating so loud I was sure that everyone in the van could hear it. I looked over at the girls sitting next to me and I told them to pray… because this happened in Mexico and they wouldn’t let us go until we had given them money. Our van driver, John, is Mary’s brother and a native Kenyan. We could all hear him arguing with the two men in Swahili. One of the men walked over to the van door and opened it. In that moment I was thinking “I bet I’m not getting out of this alive.” I had heard of all the violence that goes on in Kenya, especially at night… but we all kept praying. Even though most of our nerves were on end… it was strangely silent and calm in the van. Eventually, and much to our relief and thanksgiving, they let us go. I asked if we had given them any money and John said no. Then I inquired as to what he said to make them change their minds. He replied “I just told them no”. HAHA… God must have been at work there… because no one just tells two armed men a simple no and get’s away with it. God’s protection was around us that night and it was so great to be reminded of that fact even though the reminder came through a scary experience.

Thursday, June 11th – Today we went to a new school called “Mabatini” and did a half day of VBS with about 90 children. This is an interesting school because it’s actually just a row of shanties all together in the Mathare slum that they made into a school. They don’t actually have a school “building”, it’s just a group of shanties that have been converted into classrooms. We had a great time with these children and teachers. The teachers at this school are so passionate about what they are doing for these kids… it’s so great to see that they really care.

Since this school is kind of “in the middle” of the slum, little children who aren’t part of the school are always running around. In the building where Tina and I sang there was a window that little children would always peek through by standing on a bench outside. When we were done singing, Zelly and Kim would always do a puppet show for the children. This particular day Tina and I went outside and saw all those children crowding around the window to watch the puppet show. Several of the smaller ones couldn’t see because there wasn’t enough room to stand on the bench, so Tina and I walked over and tried to pick up as many as we could so that they could watch the puppet show through the window. Holding these little children close had to be one of the biggest highlights of the trip for me. My arms and legs got so tired I didn’t think I could hold this little girl any longer, but I didn’t want to put her down! If my arms could be the arms of Jesus to her…for even a little while, it would be completely worth it to keep standing there with her.

That afternoon we went to another location called Kosovo and did an afternoon of sports with about 350 children. This was a great time for me because I really enjoyed interacting personally with the children. There’s nothing like running around on a dirt soccer field with a team of 30 children to really get you wiped out… but it was a good kind of wiped out. I wouldn’t have rather done anything else with my time. These children were absolutely enthralled with the crate of sports balls that we brought. We had to actually keep someone at the crate to guard it because so many of the children wanted to play with the balls. It made me sad… I wish we could have given a ball to each of the children that they could keep. But since we had 350+ children… that wasn’t possible. L Overall though, that afternoon was a great afternoon.

Friday, June 12th – Today we did VBS at Mabatini again. It was great to be able to work with the children a second time and teach them some new songs.

That afternoon we were able to go to the open air market in Nairobi, which was a ton of fun! It was pretty stressful though just because you have to stay on your guard ALL the time and you have to do some major bartering in order to not get ripped off. Some of the teachers and local Kenyans were there to help us barter. I learned the art of this when I was in Peru, so doing it again wasn’t so bad… but it was definitely stressful. However, at the end of the day I came home with some pretty neat items.

Saturday, June 13th – I know that I probably shouldn’t pick a “favorite day”, but out of all the days that I was in Kenya… this day had the most impact on me. We got up pretty early and drove an hour and a half out of Nairobi into the countryside to a boarding school called Joska. After driving on the paved road for awhile we suddenly took a turn onto a dirt road… that didn’t look like it was very well used. The neat thing is that the dirt down in Kenya is very red! It makes the landscape look really cool. Anyway… we didn’t just drive 2 minutes on this dirt road… we drove for about 30 minutes. We had to go really slow because there were so many holes. Halfway through the ride I felt really motion sick because I was in the back of the van and I hit my head on the ceiling several times! Haha… so halfway through the ride I moved up front and felt a little bit better. I just wanted to get out of the van before I threw up. OH also, we were stopped again by the police… and this time we had to wait for 20 minutes until they finally let us go. This experience wasn’t nearly as scary because it was in the daylight, they were both women and they weren’t armed. But God’s protection was given to us once again.

Eventually we arrived at Joska and were ushered into their meeting hall area – where roughly 500 children were seated. We were then given a huge presentation that lasted at least an hour – several groups of children would come up and dance, sing, and recite memory verses. One group even did a skit! I was so impressed at how much these children know. One little girl said “Hello, my name is Mary… and I’m going to recite 20 Bible memory verses to you.” And she did! It was beautiful to sit and hear these children recite God’s word to us. It struck me as I was sitting there that I was actually in Africa surrounded by African children who loved Jesus just as much as I did…probably even more.

After their presentation was done, we were served a delicious lunch and then given instructions by Tina on how the sports afternoon was going to be run. We had a pretty tough time splitting up 500 children into teams of 30…but eventually we got it all figured out. Heather (another woman on the team) and I were given a group of 30 girls to manage. They seemed to be between the ages of 8 and 14. All of them seemed to get comfortable with us right away. Whenever we would move from station to station I would tell them to make a line behind heather and I. They were really good at this and would do it really quickly. The girls right behind me would always grab onto my shirt and hug me around the middle when we would line up. There were times at our different stations when we would just be waiting to go to the next station… and these were my favorite times because the girls would all cluster around me and ask me all these different questions. They loved touching my arms and comparing the color of their skin to mine. They had a good time playing with my hair too…haha. I felt 20 little hands on my head while listening to “Oooooo… it’s so soft and pretty!”. I finally had to tell them that we needed to go do something else, otherwise I think they would have done that all day! Haha… it made me smile. It’s really like they couldn’t get close enough to me. I never had a free hand that afternoon except while they were involved in a game. At all other times one of them would always come over and hold my hand and hug my arm. During one of the breaks I started talking with a thirteen year old girl named Shamim. She was one of the girls who was constantly hanging on me and holding my hand. At one point in the afternoon she asked me if I was ever going to come back to Kenya. I told her that I hoped I could one day. She grasped my hand and said “Promise to come back…promise?” Tears filled my eyes as I told her that I couldn’t promise but that I would really try. At the end of the day, I brought my camera out and of course each one of my girls wanted a picture. I told them to make a line again…and then I went through and took a picture with each one. I loved them and wanted to take them all home with me. Shamim, Slyvia, and Sarah were girls that gave me their names. I’m planning on writing to them and sending them some copies of the pictures we took.

After we were done with the kids, we took a tour of the boarding school. I was able to go into the girls dorm and was very moved by what I saw. Inside this “dorm” there are rows and rows of bunkbeds that are three bunks high instead of just two. Each bed has a trunk at the end of it with the girl’s name on it. The sea of bunk beds went on for miles and miles it seemed like. It really touched me to hear about when the girls first came to Joska. The teacher said that they couldn’t believe that they had a whole bed, blanket, and trunk to themselves! Because remember, back in the slums, these children would sleep on the floor of their shanties. The adults would always have the beds… and if the child did sleep in a bed, they definitely had to share it with someone else. After we were done touring the boarding school, which, I might add, is only one floor and made of tin and metal, we were able to tour the new dorm that is being built on the far side of the sports field. This simply amazed me. The bathrooms have tile floors and sinks with mirrors! It is going to be so incredible when they actually have the building all done because it is just so much nicer than what they are living in now. They just received money to finish the second floor. Right now, it’s just cement and doesn’t have any walls or anything. We walked up there to take some pictures.

On top of that building in Kenya, Africa, I felt overwhelmed by God’s presence. I stood staring out at the beautiful landscape…taking it all in…and I fell in love. Never in my entire life have I fallen more in love with a people, a culture, a language…a ministry… then when I spent that one day at Joska boarding school. I’ve been to Peru and I’ve been to Mexico… but Kenya truly captivated my heart like no other place ever has. More on this at the end of my report.

Sunday, June 14th – This was an exhausting day to tell you the truth. But still a wonderful day. We split up into two groups and one of the groups went to Cosovo, while the other group went to Mabatini. We attended a church service at each of the locations. I was with the group that went to Cosovo, so that was a lot of fun. We had a presentation from the children during the service where they sang some of the songs that we had taught them during VBS and recited some of the memory verses to us. It was so sweet. After church the group from Mabatini joined us and we all ate lunch together at Cosovo. Then we sat back down to watch an all-afternoon presentation from all the children. Some of the stuff was repeated from the church service since all of us weren’t there… but some of it was new. At one point all the teachers got up and started singing… then they pulled each one of us up from our chairs and wrapped african shawls around us… the men got african shirts. It was so neat because we were all up there dancing in our african garb! I loved it… this went on for probably 30 minutes… I was worn out by the time we sat back down…haha.

After all of this was over with they brought out a huge cake to thank us… and we had the pleasure of getting the “first bites”. Then each of us got to go around with a plate full of cake and give a bite to each of the children there! That was fun… who knows how often these kids get to taste really nice cake. It was so fun to watch their faces as they ate it.

We spent that evening at the Pastors house… he invited our whole team over for dinner. It was great to be able to talk with them about the ministry that is going on down in Kenya. God really is doing some incredible things. We asked them a lot of questions, one of them being: “Do you ever have a problem with children running away from the schools or boarding schools?” Mary and Wallace said that children running away has never been an issue… because they get fed at school. So often times, if they don’t come, they don’t eat. Mary said that children at the boarding school begged to not be sent home the first time… they didn’t want to go back to the slums. I learned that Joska boarding school is really structured. If I’m remembering correctly, the children wake up at 5:00am, breakfast is at 6:00, devotionals start at 6:30 or 7:00… and then they have classes all day. They even have an evening class! It sounded more rigorous than my college schedule! Anyway, it was just interesting to get a lot more information and background on the ministry.

After we arrived back at the hotel that evening we proceeded to pack up all of our stuff… and fit the things we had purchased at the market. HAHA…easier said than done.

Monday, June 15th – Today was a CRAZY day… but totally fun. We all got up really early and left the hotel at 6:00am. We wouldn’t be returning to the hotel that day, so all of our stuff had to be completely packed. After bringing our luggage down to the lobby, we all loaded into two safari vans… YAHOO! They open up in the top so you can stand up and take pictures while the driver is driving. J If you really want to feel like you’re in Africa… go on a safari. It is an incredible experience. We saw giraffe, water buffalo, wart hogs, zebras, baboons, gazelles, rhinoceraus, and much more. At one point we even got out of the vans and walked through the bush with an armed ranger. He led us to some Hippopautomaus that were in the river. Then we walked down farther to where a CROCODILE was sun bathing! Yikes… I’m sure glad that we had God and a ranger with us.

After eating lunch we went to the house of Doug and his wife. They kindly let us hang out and shower so that we would be fresh for our flight to London that evening. I had been feeling excellent until that morning. All the safari excitement made me forget about how I was feeling for awhile, but after we arrived at their house it really hit me. Yuck… I was really dreading the flight. It’s always pretty terrible to travel while you’re sick… especially with a head cold/ ear ache/ sore throat thing. However, I got through it with the Lord’s help and actually slept for a good part of the flight.

Tuesday, June 16th – We arrived in London at about 5:30am. We went to the hotel and ate a really YUMMY breakfast, and then went and toured London all day. It was a lot of fun, but since I was not doing well at all my dad came and picked me up from the hotel that night. The rest of the team flew out the following morning to go back to Kansas.

Wow… when I originally started writing this, I had no intention for it to be so long! I hope you enjoyed all the details.

Like I mentioned before when I went to Joska boarding school, I fell in love with Kenya while I was down there and I have a strong desire to return. I don’t know where God is going to lead, but my dream is to return there… and stay for much MUCH longer than just a week. If you could be praying for me as I try to determine the Lord’s will for my life, I would really appreciate it. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for all your prayers and encouragement. May God continue to be glorified in everything.

By His Grace,


PS... more pictures are coming. Stay tuned. :)


  1. Emily, I absolutely loved this post! I am so glad that you were able to go to Kenya and that all of you were brought through it safely and with wonderful memories and experiences! God bless you and all that you do! :)

    Becky Simmons

  2. Emily, that is awesome. I am so thankful that God used you to minister to the children and that He ministered to you. It was very good to be able to hear about your trip.

    I know that God will make it clear where He wants you to go. I will be praying that your dreams of returning to Kenya fit into God's plan for your life.


  3. WOW - I love to hear the work of the Lord in his children's lives around the world. We are SO lucky he is powerful and personal so that he can be the dearest Friend & Lord of people in every language and nation ALL AT ONCE!!!!
    Thanks for sharing so many details. I lived that week vicariously through you!
    Love ya!


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