Crescent Island

Crescent Island

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grade Level: Adulthood

Since moving to Kenya in August, I have learned many things, some very surprising and some less so. I have learned about living in Africa, what missionary kids are like, what it takes to be a teacher, and many other things. Being an adult can be really hard, and I am learning so much more than I expected when I was a kid. But I think I currently have a solid B/B+ in Adulthood. Warning - it's a hard course. If I'm going to do part of it anywhere, it may as well be in an awesome place like Kenya.

Here are a few of the things that I have learned:
-You can get beautiful roses for incredibly cheap here because there are many flower farms in the area.
- Ugandan pineapples are the most delicious.
- Rugby is a big deal.
- Missionary kids generally don't understand sarcasm.
- It takes a really long time for your lungs to adjust to living at almost 8,000ft above sea level.
- Living alone is not so terrible.
- Keep windows closed or you could have bugs, monkeys or stray cats coming into your house.
- Working, living and worshipping all in the same community can be overwhelming and great at the same time.
- Elementary students really love their teachers.
- Watch out for Safari Ants: they bite.
- You have to get really creative while working on decorations for a Christmas Concert when you can't just run to Michael's.
- Cooking from scratch isn't as hard as I thought it would be, it just takes a lot of time.
- Remembering how to play a viola is like remembering how to ride a bike, there is a brief period of shaky and awkward, and then you are back to your old skill level.
- Kenyan cars have a backfire mechanism that reminds you to slow down if you are driving faster than 80 miles an hour, and it will make you jump every time.
- If your name is Stephanie (or Steve), a Kenyan will give you the nickname "Stevo".
- Sometimes God moves you all the way to Africa to show you His calling in your life.
- Teaching is a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding.
- God is faithful.

Yes, God is teaching me many things here at RVA. It's exciting, and a little overwhelming, that it's already November. Three months have gone by, and I have already learned so much. I can't wait to see what else I learn during my time here. Our Christmas concert is coming up, November 20th, and we have a lot of work to do, but the students are definitely up to it.

Please pray for good rest, continued health, and a strong finish to this term.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Giraffes, tortoises, and monkeys...Oh my!

For this midterm break, I decided not to do a big trip, but instead take a couple day trips with other women here on staff. On Saturday five of us single ladies and one mom and her son went to the area of Karen, which is west of Nairobi. The area of Karen is named for Karen Blixon, who wrote the book Out of Africa about her life. In Karen, we went first to the Giraffe Center. At the Giraffe Center, you get the opportunity to be right up close to giraffes and feed them. It was so fun to see these animals up close, and I became friends with the littlest giraffe who could just barely reach his head up to the platform to get the pellets. Giraffes are such beautiful animals and so gentle. Near Giraffe Center is the Giraffe Manor Hotel, where you can stay and the giraffes come right up to your hotel room. Can you say Bucket List?!

There are also tortoises at the Giraffe Center
After going to the Giraffe Center, we decided to go to the Karen Blixon Museum. This is at her house, and the place that the movie "Out of Africa" was filmed. It was so interesting to hear more about her life and the history of the house and the land. It is my favorite kind of museum to visit - a place where historical figures actually worked and lived their lives. And I would move into that house immediately. It is beautiful. 

After visiting the house, it was time for lunch and we headed over to Tamambo, which is the restaurant on the Karen Blixon property. It was a little more pricey, but absolutely delicious and beautiful to sit in the garden. I also purchased a painting from an artist selling his work there in the garden. We also got a free dessert from the manager because his niece attends RVA! 

Our last stop on our trip was to Kazuri Beads. While we missed seeing the women work, because they only work half days on Saturdays, we did get a tour of the factory/workshop. It was really interesting to see where the beads are made and what the process is. We then went into the shop to spend good money in supporting the women who are employed there. And while we were at Kazuri, we happened upon a little monkey taking a nap. I thought he was dead at first, but he was just resting. We all took turns petting the monkey - he is a Sikes monkey - and taking pictures. 


It was a fantastic day, and Karen is such a beautiful area to spend time in. So far, I have not been disappointed at all with what Kenya has to offer and experience. Now, back to term tomorrow and six more weeks until vacation time. 

I would love prayers for confidence in my abilities and that God is using me exactly as He needs, as well as energy and excitement for the rest of 1st term. 

A view of the Rift Valley on the drive to Kijabe, Mount Longonot and Kijabe Hill in the background.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Unofficially Sponsored by Skype

At the beginning of choir a few weeks ago I passed out notecards to each of my students. I told them they could each write down one question they wanted me to answer, in order to let them get to know me a bit. They asked questions like "What is your favorite memory from college?", "What is your favorite band?", "Where do you get your cute clothes?", "What brand of lipstick do you wear?", and "What is your middle name?" - I was asked that question by three different students. A few different kids wanted to know about my dating history, which I declined answering.

There were also several cards asking more serious questions. One of the cards asked me for advice to girls about being a single female on the mission field. This question required a more thoughtful answer, and one that I tried to answer in the context of my life.

At this point, I do not feel called to be on the mission field long-term, but I am called to be here at RVA for the next year, or so. I told the students that following Christ means listening for His call in your life and stepping out in faith in that call. I have been blessed to hear God's call several different times in my life - attending Whitworth for college, moving to the Bay Area in California, and coming to serve at Rift Valley Academy as the choir director. Every time I have been called and taken that step of faith, God has provided and blessed me.

Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
The other advice I gave them was to make use of Skype as much as possible. The hardest part about being out here is that I miss out on daily life with my family and friends back home in the states. For friends and family back home, their daily lives have not changed too much, it's just that I am not there. But my life has changed so drastically that I do feel that distance with people back home. Skyping (mainly with my family so far) has been such a fantastic way to keep in touch and not feel as homesick. I can see their faces and talk to them about life here and life there. I have even Skyped with (almost) my entire family a couple of times - my brother wasn't able to squeeze onto the couch with everyone else.
Skyping with the crew!

I have also used Skype to connect with some friends. This last week I have skyped with one of my best friends, and two other couples who I have been friends with since college. I love being here and being a part of this community, but I have had moments of feeling so disconnected from my life back home. Skype calls have really been wonderful in keeping me connected with those important people.
Skyping with one of my besties - Kurt!
As I said to my choir students, Skype is an amazing way to keep in touch with people when you are alone on the mission field. Emails and messages are also fantastic. So if you ever feel like emailing or skyping or having a Google hang out with me - just let me know! I would love to talk with you and hear what's going on in your life and tell you about mine. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Obstacles for exercise

I'll be honest, I have slacked off on my regular running schedule since arriving in Kijabe. There are a few things that have held me back.
View of the valley from my run
The first is that the school is at almost 8,000 feet above sea level. And even just walking from one part of campus to another leaves me very much out of breath. I wanted to give myself time to get used to that. Unfortunately, everyone here told me that it will take me months to actually get used to the elevation.
View from the guards trail that I run on
Another view from where I run
Another excuse that I have used in avoiding exercise is that I've been "settling in and getting used to my schedule". Which is true, but that's not a real reason to avoid exercise. In fact, I should have gotten a jump on it sooner so that it would be a part of my regular schedule.

Then I had finally started to go on morning runs with a friend, when I was hit by a cold. We started to do three morning runs a week on the guards trail that is a 2 mile loop around campus. Then she got sick, and we went another week without regular exercise.

This is a colobus monkey
The good news is that I am finally feeling better, and wanted to get back into the rhythm of regular exercise. Especially since I just committed myself to hiking Mt. Longonot over mid-term. Sunday was so beautiful, I decided I would go for a late afternoon run. I was about halfway through the loop when I found another terrifying obstacle on my path. I first noticed a few colobus monkeys in a tree near the path, watching me run. Up ahead, I saw another tree moving - a clear sign that monkeys were there - and I expected to see more colobus monkeys. When I turned the corner near those trees, I saw several baboons on the path ahead. I quickly, and quietly, turned around and found another path to take to continue on the loop. No way was I going to run past those terrible primates.
A baboon - for reference
I did finish the loop, and enjoyed the scenery along the way. It is hard work, but worth it as long as I can get past all the obstacles. Please pray that I can keep up with my schedule and be prepared for the hike on Mt. Longonot.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


One thing I had wondered about when preparing to move out to Kenya was the community of friends that I would build here. Would I spend time with families? Would I be the only single person? Would there be anyone else my age?

Since getting here, I have been very lucky to meet several other single, female missionaries on campus that are around my age. It has been great to have a group of ladies to spend free nights and weekends with. They all understand what it means to be living this life, especially as a single woman.

Katie with Monte - Cassandra's great dane puppy
Emily, Katie, Liz and me at New Parent Orientation
Me and Cassandra being our regular selves
Cassandra and Emily on our way to the dukas (shops)
In this group we have 3 dorm moms, 1 student teacher, 1 photographer for Cure (which is just down the hill from RVA), a P.E. teacher/basketball coach, and me. We are all single women between 21 and 31 years old, and most of us are in our first year serving in Kijabe.

As a group we keep each other sane, sharing food, laughter and stories from our days. We have encouraged each other and supported each other as only single female missionaries can. On our nights off, we share left over food and watch fun movies together and talk about things we are struggling with and how God is working in us and through us.

I am so thankful to God for bringing these women into my life. Already, I know that they will be people that I keep in touch with for a long time after we all leave Kijabe. Unfortunately, three of them are only here for 1st term, and will be leaving in December. We are all aware that time is short, and we are taking advantage of the time we have here together.

In just two weeks we have our mid-term break, and we are looking at some fun day trips for us all to take together. We are planning on heading to Karen, a city just west of Nairobi, to check out the Giraffe Center, elephant orphanage and Kazuri beads. We also plan to do another day to Kitengela Glass and Amani Ya Juu. Hopefully we'll have some good adventures, and good rest over the break. And I plan on taking lots of pictures to share with you.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my full schedule and productive class time with all of my students.

Prayer requests:

  • Campus has been hit pretty hard with a couple rounds of sickness so far this term. We would all love prayers for rest and good health for all of the students and staff. 
  • I also ask that I can continue to wisely plan my time, and not overwhelm myself by getting involved with too many things. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Missionary Kids say the darndest things

I have been here for a month and a week, and have been teaching for 2 1/2 weeks; and I am exhausted but absolutely loving it. The kids are amazing - hard working, thoughtful, and so fun - and the other staff and faculty here are so supportive and encouraging. My schedule is a little hectic, but I am starting to get into the rhythm of this life. And I am starting to learn what these missionary kids are like.

Since term has started, I have decided to keep a list in my notebook of all the things the kids here at RVA say to me. The Titchies (elementary school kids) say some really funny things, and if I don't have them written down somewhere I'll completely forget. Here are a few examples for your enjoyment:
"That lipstick is really bright! ...It's distracting." - 3rd grader
[after politely raising their hand] "Did you just have a baby?" - 1st grader
"Your face is really white." - 1st grader

The Junior High and High School students also catch me off guard with what they say, but in a very different way. As a few people have said to me, the kids here at RVA like to go deep right away. When my friend Cassandra and I had our first Caring Community - seven 9th-grade girls - we had a time where they could ask questions to get to know us. I was expecting questions like "what is your favorite color?", "where are you from?", "who's your celebrity crush?". That is not what we got - well, we had a few of those questions. However, the girls asked questions like "Do you vote Republican or Democrat?", "What you believe about abortion rights?", and "Do you think America is going to fall like the Roman Empire fell?". 9th grade girls asked these questions! To say this surprised me, is an understatement.

These girls are just trying to figure out their worldview, and they are searching for opinions from all the Christians around them. They are trying to find the "right answer", however, the world is too complicated to have one right answer, and these issues themselves are complicated.

My prayer is that I may be able to engage in conversations with the kids here honestly, but carefully, so that they are seeing my heart and my relationship with Christ at the center of my answers to these questions. This will probably be something that I am learning from and growing in the entire time I am here. I know it won't always be comfortable or easy, but God will be working in every one of those moments.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Feeding the Five Thousand

Hello all! I know it has been a little while since I have written an update about life here at RVA, but the beginning of the school year is a hectic time. The past couple of weeks have held class, and music, and many meetings. But so far, I am loving it here. 

This past weekend was especially busy, as we had variety night (a night where every student signs up to do a different activity at different staff memebers' houses), caring community (each staff member is assigned a group of around 8 students that they meet with throughout the year), and outreach. 

For Outreach, I signed up to be a part of the group that organized and held a thrift shop at the IDP camp just down in the valley from RVA. IDP stands for internally displaced person. The IDP camp was formed following the violence from the 2007-2008 elections here in Kenya. The people who live in these camps had to flee their homes, and many people lost their lives. They still do not have permanent residence outside of these kinds of camps. Below is a map I found on the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre website. It gives you some idea what I'm talking about and the estimate of IDPs here in Kenya. 

Here at RVA, we get a large store of "thrift" items donated by students and staff when they leave at the end of their time here. We had shoes, clothes, kitchen items, bath products, books, toys, and school supplies that we took down. Our group of about 15 went down early on Saturday morning to organize the items that had been taken the day before. We set up in the church at the camp. Then we escorted people through the church to pick their 10-15 items. It felt like Jesus feeding the five thousand. More and more people came and lined up, nearly pushing to get in the door, and somehow we never ran out of thrift items to give away. By the time we had to leave, there were still more people and more items to give. It was quite amazing to see. I loved meeting the women I walked through with, and trying to communicate. Many of them were focused on getting just the right things, but there were a couple who really touched my heart. 

One woman did not speak any English or much Kiswahili, and I did not speak any Kikuyu - her language. At one point, though she had something she had to ask me, and turned to a man nearby to interpret. He told me that she wanted a bible as one of her 10 items. I quickly searched a found two options for her to choose from. 

Another woman named Mary asked for my help looking through the books. She loves to read and wanted to make sure to get a new book as one of her items. I helped her pick out a Princess Diaries book to enjoy. She stopped me right before I left saying thank you, and that many people had already asked to borrow the book when she finished it. 

These interactions are things that I have been looking forward to about living here in Kenya. I love meeting the people and helping to meet their needs. It was an exhausting weekend, but completely fulfilling and worthwhile. I look forward to more opportunities to reach out to the people here in Kenya.

Prayer Requests:
  • I am starting to get sick - there has been a bug going around the school (especially in the dorms) and I think I may have caught it. My throat is very sore and my nose alternates between runny and plugged. I cannot afford to get sick right now because we have Titchie (elementary school) Sunday this weekend, and I am co-organizing the music. 
  • My phone is not working - I need to get a replacement and find a way to get it out here. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Adventuring to Crescent Island

Hello all! I have officially been in Kenya for two weeks now, and I have done so much! It has been great meeting some of the staff here at RVA, and getting my house set up. I have taken tons of pictures and done tons of things - too much to write about it all here.

I thought today that I would share pictures from my trip to Crescent Island on Lake Naivasha. Crescent Island is where much of the film "Out Of Africa" was filmed. And when they were making the movie, they brought in animals to make it seem more African. The animals were left at the end of production, and now it is an animal park that you can walk around on. 
Crescent Island on Lake Naivasha
We took a boat ride over to the island so that we could see some hippos along the way. So, without further ado, the pictures:
Katie and Carolyn ready for the boatride
Waterbuck grazing by the lake
A hippo checking out the boat as it passes 
I saw a hippo!
Crescent Island
Another shot of the island and the lake
A herd of wildabeests
Zebra grazing in front of acacia trees
More wildabeests and zebras
Can you find the giraffes hiding in the trees?
There they are!
1 month old giraffe
A couple more giraffes eating from the trees. 
Katie watching the giraffes
Me with Mt. Longonot in the background

An impala skull
Another shot of the lake from the island

It was a fantastic trip out to the island, and very fun to adventure before the craziness of the term begins. I am working on getting lesson plans ready and watching auditions to select the choir members for this year.

Thanks for reading, and I will post again soon with more adventures!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 1

Good Morning from Nairobi Kenya! After 20 plus hours of travel, I made it to the Guesthouse in Nairobi around midnight last night. A hot shower and a comfortable bed were such welcome comforts.

Courtyard at the Guesthouse in Nairobi

This morning I am feeling awake and refreshed and ready to head out to Kijabe and Rift Valley Academy. We will make a quick stop for some shopping before the hour and a half drive to the school. I will try and post a longer blog after getting settled and (hopefully) getting some good photos of the school and my apartment.

Thank you for the prayers for safe and easy travel. Love to you all!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Final Countdown

You guys! It's August! Which means I am just DAYS away from boarding a plane and flying to my home for the next year in Kijabe, Kenya.

These past few months of preparation have just flown by and now I am checking the final few things off my to-do list. Last minute shopping, preparing my traveling documents, and mentally preparing for a huge life change.

The great news is:
I'm 100% Funded
It is such an amazing thing to have raised my full amount in just 2 months. And I want to say thank you for all the contributions and support. You are amazing people.

I have really cherished this summer at home with my family and friends here in the Pacific Northwest, and it has helped prepare me for this next year away from home.

All I can really be is excited for the adventure I am about to have and the people I am about to meet. Again, thank you for being with me on this journey, and I look forward to share my adventures and stories with you.

Please pray for:

  • Safe traveling. 
  • Good rest in these next few days. 
  • That my luggage arrives in Kenya at the same time that I do. 
  • Great time getting settled in to my new community before the students arrive. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

There and back again

Yesterday afternoon I flew back into SeaTac airport from Peachtree City, Georgia. As I mentioned, this past week I was at the AIM headquarters for Connect Week. Heading into the week, I was excited to meet people going through the same process in preparing to serve on the mission field in Africa, and learn a lot of helpful information for this next year.

I met a lot of absolutely amazing people who have been called by Jesus to reach unreached peoples in different areas of Africa. They are from all walks of life, areas of the United States and each one has a very personal story of their faith journey. It was such a blessing to hear testimonies from each of them about how God has led them to this exact point. I also met all of the wonderful people in the home office of Africa Inland Mission. They said at the beginning of the week that it is not just an organization, it is a family. And by the end of the week, we all felt like a family. It seemed as though I had know all of them for so long, not just five days, and it was hard to say goodbye. The good news is that we will all be able to keep in touch on social media, and hopefully see each other at some point during our service with AIM.

Golf Cart Party!

Another thing that was fantastic this week was all the information I learned - about AIM, serving in Africa, and myself. There is still so much that I have to process and unpack, but I feel so much more ready, spiritually, to go and serve this next year. One thing that I know, Jesus has called me and it's through Jesus that I will find my strength to be in relationship and disciple the students at RVA.

Thank you so much for continuing to support me on this journey. I have a few prayer requests:

Music Prep - I have a bit more work to do in preparation for being a choir and strings teacher: meeting with my former teachers, picking out music, brushing up on my viola skills, etc. Please pray that I will be dedicated and feel prepared enough in the next month before leaving.

Packing - I do need to start thinking about packing (only 2 bags) for the next year - figuring out the things I need to bring and some decorations to make my apartment feel like home.

Emotional prep - It is starting to become very real that I am moving to another continent for a year. In just over 6 weeks I will be landing in Nairobi, Kenya and making the trek up to my home for the next year in Kijabi at Rift Valley Academy. While I am so excited, it is a big move and I am a little nervous and sad about leaving my friends and family here at home. I would love prayers that I feel ready and that I have had enough time with people here in the states before leaving.

The streets of Nairobi

Only 43 Days to go!!!