Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Oh, the places they’ll “go”

A few Sundays ago, around 6:50PM, I heard the screams of our dorm girls as they stampeded down the stairs and into our dining room, where, prior to that moment, I had been quietly sitting.  As they talked over one another, fighting to be heard, I made out shouts of “Eww gross!” “It’s everywhere.” and “Who did that?”  Finally I heard the phrase that made the whole picture come into focus, “SOMEONE POOPED ON THE FLOOR.” Cue. Jaw. Drop.

“Wait, wait, wait, let me get this straight… someone POOPED on the floor?” By the sight of the heads nodding up and down, I knew I’d surmised correctly.   My mind started racing… “What do I do? Who would do that and not clean it up?  How can I give whoever did it an opportunity to clean it up anonymously?  We did NOT cover this in dorm parent orientation…”

Before I could answer the questions in my head, one of the dorm girls insisted that I needed to see it, looped her arm in mind, and half-dragged me up the stairs to the dorm bathroom.  As I hesitantly peered into the stall, I saw poop on the ground, poop in the toilet, and poop sprayed all over the toilet seat.  Seriously not an exaggeration and seriously gross.

As luck would have it, the girls had youth group starting at 7PM and before I could even decide what to do next, they all bounded out the door, leaving me staring at a disaster of a toilet stall.  Though I racked and racked my brain, I just couldn’t think of a way to allow the “pooper” to clean it up without causing extreme embarrassment.  And so, before I could give the idea too much thought, I grabbed a roll of paper towels and a bottle of bleach spray and headed in.

All the while I cleaned, I avoided breathing through my nose and just kept telling myself, it’s just poop, you’re a mom you deal with poop all the time, just don’t think, just spray and wipe, spray and wipe.  A half bottle of bleach spray and nearly a whole roll of paper towels later, that stall was cleaner than clean, but I still had to figure out how to address the issue with the dorm.

After I spent ten minutes washing my hands, Jared and I talked and decided what was done was done, but that our goal needed to be ensuring it didn’t happen again.  As the girls returned from youth group, we were sitting in the living room waiting for them, directing them to join us to have a brief meeting before bed.  In my calmest possible voice, I told the girls I’d cleaned it up- making sure to emphasize that I’d used a lot of bleach so that they wouldn’t start avoiding that stall- and that I wasn’t mad, but that if something like that happened in the future, they were old enough to step up and clean it themselves.  Then, just as I was instructing them not to tease anybody it happened to, they all burst out laughing and yelling… “It was a prank!”  Cue. Jaw. Drop. Again.

Once again, 9 voices started talking all at once, explaining and describing their part in the hoax.  They couldn’t believe that I hadn’t realized their display was really a combination of soggy toilet paper rolls and mud, but, as I tried to explain, I wasn’t exactly studying what I was cleaning up; I was holding my breath, squinting my eyes, and just trying to finish as quickly as possible.  As I got over the shock, I was so relieved it wasn’t real, that I couldn’t possibly be mad and even joined in their laughter.  It had been a well-played prank and a great reminder not to be surprised at the places these dorm girls will “go”.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Baking with Sunshine

Some of you may remember our post from a few years ago about our many attempts to find a way to bake in the bush.  We worked our way through baking in a pressure cooker, baking with charcoal, baking with sand, and baking in a brick-oven.  Some methods were better than others, but all had one thing in common: difficulty regulating the oven temperature resulting in burned food and many frustrations. 

As we think about returning to Tanzania in a couple years, Jared is determined to find a more reliable and efficient way to bake.  As he tossed around different ideas, he kept coming back to the sun.  After all, we use it to power lights, charge computers, heat water, and dry clothes.  And given our location just south of the Equator, it is plenty intense.  Jared began researching solar oven options online and wisely decided to time his tinkering with last month’s visit from my brother, Andy, who just happens to be an engineer.

Andy drafted a preliminary design based on the oven Jared had picked (a simple double-walled glass tube with a rubber lid), and brought both the oven and the materials they would need in his luggage.  For days, they assembled and disassembled, tweaked and fine-tuned; constructing fixtures to help focus the sun’s rays, creating a sundial to align the tube’s position, and rigging our kitchen thermometer to monitor the solar oven’s heat.

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In a word, they were focused.  And let me tell you, all that tinkering was beyond successful.  So far the solar oven has not only baked bread, it has also cooked cookie bars, brownies, apple crisp, chocolate cake, squash, French bread, rice, and banana cake.  Not to mention, black beans, baked potatoes, and steamed carrots.  All with zero gas and zero electricity- just the free, God-designed power of the sun.  All though we can only use it on full sun days from 10AM-4PM and Jared may damage his retinas from the glare of the reflectors, at least we’ll be eating well!

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Visitor’s View- Guest Post

2017 is our year of visitors.  Jared’s parents in January, friends from Indiana in February, my brother and his family as I write this post, and my parents this coming July.  An unusual, but fun year, and a great chance to make face-to-face memories with ones whom we usually only see via Skype.

So, to mix things up a bit and give you the insider scoop on what it’s like to visit RVA, here are some excerpts from our Indiana friend Summer’s thoughts on her recent trip.

In February, I had the pleasure of traveling to Kenya with my friend Laura and spending a week with Jared and Megan at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) in Kijabe.  Jared and Megan picked us up in Nairobi and I was immediately impressed with Jared’s East African driving skills- turning left into traffic, speed bumps, rough roads- all handled effortlessly.  We were thankful for the chance to have lunch with Kijuu (Jared and Megan’s R. friend from Tanzania) just before he headed back to Tanzania and loved hearing about all the ways God is using him to spread the Gospel among the R. people.

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After lunch, we drove 1.5 hours up to the RVA campus.  It’s a beautiful campus- flowers, stone buildings, and colorful hanging laundry; sunrises and sunsets over the valley; bright and abundant stars; a basketball court just above their dorm.  Outside of the campus gates, there’s a beautiful market filled with a variety of produce and a small store with some basic items.

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I was a little intimidated about living with the teenage girls in the Hoods’ dorm, but I ended up really liking them.  Laura and I jumped into dorm life, playing board games, participating in their devotional time, and reading them bedtime stories.  I was impressed by the number of opportunities for RVA students… sports, music, art, foreign language, woodshop, AP classes, and drama, just to name a few.  Aside from caring for their dorm girls, we observed Jared helping at the elementary school and Megan giving tours to prospective families and managing two campus apartments for visitors.  We also had a chance to take Swahili lessons from the teacher they meet with on a weekly basis.

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Two things I came away from RVA with… (one) It takes everyone.  There are 120+ staff members serving at RVA.  It takes biology teachers, dorm parents, administrators, nurses, and even construction managers to run this school, which is part of enabling families to take the Gospel throughout Africa.  (two) God gives grace for what He calls you to.  Megan and I have similar personality types- both task oriented and desiring things orderly- and yet I see God giving Megan patience and flexibility amid the crazy of “parenting” 11 kids under 14.

So, how can you be praying for them right now?

(one) Pray for the Lord’s wisdom, guidance, and presence with them as they disciple the girls and care for their emotional, spiritual, and academic needs.  Pray that He will continue to fill them through their relationships back in the States, new friendships through RVA and AIM, and time with Him.

(two) Pray for the surrounding of their home/dorm that it could be a place of encouragement and joy and that the girls would love one another well.

(three) Pray that God would prepare them for returning to the R. people after they finish this chapter at RVA.  That He would guide where they go, who is on their team, and prepare the hearts of the R. people to receive the Gospel.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Crisis in Kijabe

Two and a half weeks ago, we faced the scariest moment of our 2 years as parents.  Driving back to RVA, after spending the morning grocery shopping in Nairobi, Addilyn began seizing about five minutes from home.  As soon as I realized what was happening, I cried out to Jared, frantically dug in my purse to find my phone, and called our RVA Student Health number, all the while praying that one of the nurses would answer and be able to help me.  As the cell phone signal went in and out and I repeatedly dropped the call, I managed to communicate enough to the nurse for her to instruct us to drive straight to Kijabe Hospital (a mission hospital just outside of RVA's gates).  Once I got off the phone with the nurse, she called ahead to the hospital so that by the time we arrived there was a doctor waiting to receive us.  Within 7 minutes of Addilyn starting her seizure, we were in the hospital's emergency department and being cared for by a group of nurses and doctors.  
 
Waiting for test results at Kijabe Hospital.

I could write pages of God's faithfulness to us during that terrifying day... from the fact that we were only five minutes from the hospital when she started seizing, to the fact that the attending doctor had not only graduated from Jared's alma mater, but was also from a well-known children's hospital in our home-state, to the fact that so many friends and family rose up in prayer on our behalf when I was struggling to form words and thoughts.  We were thankful for the way God clearly showed He was with us through each step, thankful for the fact that all of Addilyn's tests came back normal, and thankful to live near such a good hospital.

(http://kijabehospital.org/)

It's moments like this when we're reminded just how thankful we are for easy access to healthcare.  Unfortunately, over the last three months, access to healthcare is becoming anything but easy for the people of Kenya.  For the last 80 days, every Kenyan government hospital (which provide about 50% of healthcare) and every government clinic have not had any government doctors. Kenyatta and Moi Hospitals, the 1800- and 800- bed national referral hospitals, have been deserted.   Hundreds of government employed doctors have been protesting in the streets over a longstanding dispute over work conditions.  This has left thousands without options for healthcare, whether preventative or urgent.

Doctor's Protesting in Nairobi (www.steeres.com)

To further compound the issue, a concurrent nurses' strike at Kijabe Hospital started this past Sunday night, and Kijabe Hospital was forced to close its doors to all but emergency and critical patients.  The stories we've heard these last three months as a result of the strike have been heartbreaking... patients being turned away from 4 different hospitals, only to show up at Kijabe when it's too late; patients who would have normally made it, dying as a result of lack of equipment or space; death tolls going up ten-fold as a result of the lack of access to medical care.  These are real people, not just numbers; family after family facing the loss of loved ones.

Friends, we are crying out to you to join us in praying for resolution.  Please pray for the doctors, nurses, administrators and government officials, as well as for the patients and their families who are suffering as a result of this crisis.  It's a complicated conflict, and we don't wish to take sides, just to see it come to an end.

If you're interested in reading more about the ongoing strike, the blog of a local missionary doctor and her family has a number of articles written from a point of view inside the crisis.

Caught in the Cross-fire (written 25 days after the strike started) 

Strike Impact (heart-breaking retelling of the strike's impact)

Shutdown (written since the start of the nurses strike on Sunday)

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.
 Psalm 18:6

Friday, January 27, 2017

If Grandparents come to visit...


If Grandma and Grandpa come for the holidays you can be sure they will want to go on a Safari Drive. And if they go on this drive they might see lions close up, elephants taking a bath or zebras solemnly grazing.


And after they go on the drive, they're probably going to stay for a while and want to partake in some holiday traditions. They will definitely want to make a ginger bread house but they might also want to read Christmas stories. After reading stories Grandma might want to cook waffles and dip chocolate buckeyes. 


After finishing the holiday traditions, they will want to go outside again. So they will probably want to go see the sights in Nairobi. An elephant orphanage or giraffe center might do, but they will really like it best if they get to tour a tea plantation. 



 After all this excitement, it might be time for them to go home. They would surely have had a wonderful time and made some unforgettable memories with their granddaughter. I'm sure one of their favorites would be singing bedtime songs to Addilyn each night. And after singing those songs they just might have a feeling that it won't be the last time that they come to visit!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Multicultural Day!

Every time I give a campus tour to prospective families, I boast that RVA has students from over 30 countries. Yes, you read that correctly; the student population at our K-12 school of just under 500 kids is a mix of over THIRTY different nationalities!  We have students from Paraguay to China, Australia to Germany, South Africa to the Netherlands and (almost) everywhere in between. 

This past Thursday students and staff gathered to spend the day celebrating our diversity by taking part in what is known as Multicultural Day.  Thanks to the creativity and talent of the staff members who spent weeks planning the event, it was a huge success and a memorable recognition of the unique cultures and languages that God has given us.

The theme of Multicultural Day changes every year.  This year, in the spirit of Rio, our theme was RVA Olympics.

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Our opening ceremonies included the running in of the Olympic torch, Olympic flag and Kenyan flag…

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….and also included lighting of the Olympic torch!

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The students were divided into different country teams and then each group of teams (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania) was assigned a color to wear.  Before the games started some very patient staff members helped organize everybody into an Olympic rings formation.

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After the opening ceremonies, teams ran around campus participating in 28 different events.  Events like long jump,…

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…synchronized swimming (minus the pool),

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…building flags out of LEGOs,

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…tightrope walking,

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…and hungry, hungry hippo!

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Students were also able to pose with athletic chalk drawings spread throughout the campus.

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Our closing ceremonies involved awarding gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three teams and included what has become one of my favorite RVA traditions, the flag ceremony.  For the ceremony, the oldest student from each of the over 30 nations represented at RVA is given the privilege of carrying in their country’s flag to the sounds of their country’s national anthem and the cheers of the student body.  They then address the crowd with a word or phrase in their country’s national language.

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I’ll admit that I got teary-eyed watching the flag ceremony this year.  All of these kids are so far from not only their passport countries, but also from the countries where their families are living.  God has brought together this talented and diverse crew because He’s called each of their families to spread the good news of the Gospel. Each of their families with their varying strengths and weaknesses, culture and language, passions and talents all serving separately and yet together for the same goal.  Each willing to leave behind the family, friends, comfort, and familiarity of their passport country because they know that Christ is worthy.  And each unique parts of the Body of Christ.

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.  We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.  In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.    Romans 12:4-6a

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kijuu in America

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to take an R. person to America. All of the firsts they would experience like the first drive thru restaurant, first eight lane highway, or first ride on an escalator!  My friend Kijuu has visited the United States twice, once in 2015 and again this past April, both times to visit a former American missionary he had worked with in Tanzania. In honor of the upcoming 4th of July festivities, I thought it would be interesting to share the “firsts” Kijuu experienced in the good ole’ US of A!

These trips were Kijuu’s first experience on an airplane…

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… his first time to step foot on American soil…

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…his first time to visit our nation’s capital, Washington D.C….

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…his first time to take in the magnitude and capacity of large American farms… (He couldn’t get over how many hundreds of animals these farms keep, the fact that the tractors use GPS to drive themselves, or the fact that Americans actually grow food that is only to be used as animal feed.)

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…his first time seeing snow(!)…

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…his first time coming face to face with our second amendment…           (“Guns?!  For everyone?!  That’s impossible!”)

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…his first time eating an American dinner complete with all the fixings…

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…his first time going to a T4G (Together for the Gospel) conference…           (Kijuu was in awe of the magnitude of resources available at the bookstore and commented that worshipping with thousands of believers reminded him of what heaven might sound like some day.)

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(He was also given the opportunity to meet both David Platt and John Piper.)

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…his first time visiting the Kansas City sending church of one of his American SIL coworkers…

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…and his first time falling asleep in a minivan at the end of a long day!

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I will say, his “firsts” in my home country were a bit different from my “firsts” in his… first cup of spoiled milk, first time to butcher a chicken, first time planting 2 acres of crops, first time falling asleep under a mosquito net, and first time celebrating the 4th of July from across an ocean.  Happy Independence Day, friends!