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.


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.


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.


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 (

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.



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…


… his first time to step foot on American soil…


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






…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.)






…his first time seeing snow(!)…


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


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


…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.)


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




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


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


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!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Still Waiting

I could sense the urgency in Kijuu’s voice as he spoke; his longing to return to the village he had visited last year, palpable.  A village where, through the Holy Spirit’s leading, he had met the old man with the wrinkled eyelids who had recognized the Bible as God’s Truth.  A man who had longed to learn more, longed to be salted, and longed to see his relatives and neighbors recognize their true origin as children of the High King of Heaven.  Kijuu had not had the chance to visit since their first meeting and the responsibility to share more of God’s Word with the man was weighing on him.

And so, halfway through my recent trip to Tanzania, Kijuu and I borrowed motorcycles and left the team to visit the old man’s village.  As we pulled up to the old man’s house, we were surprised by the number of people that filled the house.  (For a culture that predominantly lives outdoors during daylight hours, it’s unusual for such a crowd to be gathered inside in the middle of the afternoon.) After being welcomed inside and exchanging greetings, we learned that the people were gathered because they were marking the 40th day since the old man’s death.  His relatives went on to share how the man had told them that people would come to teach about God.  He had believed that people would come some day and he had been waiting for their arrival.  Our hearts sunk as we processed this- not only the news of his death, but also the realization that it was too late.  Here was a man hungry for Truth and yet there had been nobody to bring it.

God is using the death of this old man to awaken in us a sense of urgency. God created and loves this R. people, He desires for them to glorify Jesus as Lord and He is opening some of their eyes to desire Truth; there just aren’t enough people to take the Gospel to them.  Pray with us.  Pray for the R. people, pray for those who are currently laboring among them, and pray for more laborers, especially believing Tanzanians, to answer God’s call to be sent out.


Matthew 9:37-38 Then he (Jesus) said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pennsylvania Meets Tanzania

We huddled around the table on Easter Sunday, enjoying a breakfast of bread and chai.  Alec, Jeff, Mike, and George had arrived from Lancaster, PA on Good Friday and together we had made the trek down to Tanzania, where we met up with my former teammate, Kim, and our Bible translating friend, Kijuu.  The four visitors had been sent from Grace Church in Pennsylvania (a church who has adopted the R. people as their unreached people group) with a goal of gaining a clearer vision of how they, as a church, could be involved.  Though I had never met any of these men, our shared desire to see Christ known among the R. people, brought bonds that came fast and deep.  Throughout our 10 days together, three major themes emerged.

First, we prayed for the people and we prayed for the land. We visited and prayed with local churches in Kijuu’s home village, asking God for a revelation of His grace, praying that followers would abandon spirit worship, and seeking for Christ to be honored as Lord.  Kijuu took us to his former high school and, after he showed us the spot where a sacrifice to the spirits had been made during construction of the school, we prayed at that spot for God to break any bonds to the evil one.  As we went to the village where our team had served, we prayed over the Resource Center, prayed for Patrick and his family, prayed for Kim and her future, and prayed for God’s Truth to shine.  Our time spent in prayer was sweet fellowship together with our Savior.

Second, we found our time with local believers and those working among the R. people mutually encouraging.  While in our old village, Kim welcomed us warmly and went out of her way to ensure we had food, water for showers, and beds.  We marveled how the Lord has helped her to adapt to life in Tanzania- her language skills are incredible and she’s even proficient at cooking over a fire- and praised God for the ways He is opening doors for her to share Christ. 


We encouraged Patrick’s family by helping him install rain gutters and a water tank, that had been donated by Grace Church, on the Resource Center.  Patrick will now be able to collect rain water and store it for months of use.  The tank will also help the kindergarden he’s currently running to be more profitable, because he won’t have the expense of paying for water delivery.  The night after we installed the tank, God brought rains hard enough to fill the 800 gallon tank; nothing beats free water delivery!

Third, we felt the urgency for gospel centered revival. As part of our trip, we visited 2 villages asking and praying that God would open the doors for a future outreach team. As we approached each village, we were greeted by the village executive officer; the very person we needed to show us around was the first person God brought across our paths! Kijuu had copies of Scripture with him and God gave him the chance to both hand them out and read out loud to a room full of people.  As we were confronted with witchcraft, funerals, and an eagerness to hear God’s Truth, our hearts longed for the R. people to be released from their captivity. Pray with us and with Grace Church that the truth found in Isaiah 61 would become true among the R. people, for God’s ultimate glory!


The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:1-3