The Uber Ride That Almost Wasn't

Words by Jeremy

“Don’t open the doors”

In an uncomfortably calm tone, as was fitting for his demeanor, our Uber driver stated the definite obvious in what I suppose was his best attempt at reassuring our safety. Never mind we were stopped in the middle of the road after just exiting the highway or blocked in by unknown cars on either side. Never mind the 3-4 passengers coming out from said cars and coming up to ours. Never mind there was someone deflating all the tires or trying to open the doors while we still had absolutely no clue as to what was happening. After a couple of minutes - in what seemed to be suspended animation - we discovered these people to have been Uber drivers on strike, apparently upset that our particular driver was still picking up fares (scab!)

Fortunately, as was told to us by a bystander, the pedestrians who were rubbernecking the incident managed to shoo away the offenders, which then gave us an opportunity to recoup and think about what to do next. After a shoddy attempt at calling our regular driver for Nairobi, who happened to be attending a funeral with many of his other recommended drivers, we sensed it was safe(r) to exit the vehicle and were relieved to discover the actual nearness of our destination - a nice mall with a big playground (and a place to get frozen yogurt).

I don’t know that we were in any immediate danger, no matter how it seemed in the moment, but apparently, the perps weren’t out to harm us but rather vandalize our driver’s car for being on the wrong side of the picket line. In a country where mob justice can often be the only justice, how do you modernize the economy while not compromising generations-old cultural –isms?

I think the “hakuna matata” lifestyle was a little too hakuna for us that day*. We were hoping to have a nice family day, which was clearly stifled from blatant opposition, but I’m so grateful for God’s covering and protection. And for that frozen yogurt.

*This incident took place over a year ago, and we’ve not had a similar encounter since. However, we have decided to refrain from using Uber due to the lack of intervention on not just our situation, but on their apparent lack of interest to adjust operations during the strike. The good news? Uber was willing to refund us the $6 fare we spent on that taxi.

KMTI, an epilogue

Words by Jeremy

If you have been following our newsletters, you will know that I have been enrolled in a local bible college known as the Kenya Ministry Training Institute (KMTI). Every quarter for two full weeks (six days a week), I sit for class with around 40 other students from all over Kenya over a two-year period to study biblical foundations and how to practically apply scripture in our everyday lives. After recently completing my second-to-last term and participating in the most recent graduation ceremony, I have been reflecting on my time at an international bible college and how grateful I am to have had this cross-cultural experience.

Most Christians from a western culture would probably takes this type of education for granted, having access to learning from a young age and having the fortunate circumstance of receiving biblically-sound teaching every week, generally speaking. I am no exclusion to this generalization. However, for the hundreds of indigenous pastors in East Africa, many of whom don’t have any biblical training at any level, I can’t speak highly enough of an institution like KMTI and the implications it has on the thousands of churches throughout Kenya and Uganda. The Kenyan government is very soon requiring pastors to obtain a diploma or certificate from an accredited Bible-training institution, much like Rwanda has implemented. Therefore, this marks a crucial time in which the spiritual leaders of Kenya and Uganda need to have a solid foundation for their beliefs (don’t we all?)

As my time at KMTI begins to wrap up, I was again reminded of the assumptions I brought into this beautiful country and how they have been challenged, corrected, and enlightened thanks to the vulnerability of my fellow classmates. Originally, attending KMTI served a two-fold purpose - getting to study the word in a formal setting and promoting Youth Venture. I now realize, however, that God was also using it to open my eyes a little more to a specific part of Kenyan culture, stretching me and challenging my mistaken certainties, if you will. Below are just a couple of these observations that I hope will encourage you, the reader, in thinking about the mistaken certainties you yourself carry and how they play a part in your view of the world around you.

  1. When I first started school, it seemed like the questions being asked reflected students’ opinions and theologies. It was my assumption that I knew “better,” had a more accurate understanding of scripture, and that most Kenyan pastors are doing it wrong. I have now come to realize that that was and is not always the case (on both accounts). Sure, some students may have had their views and theologies challenged in how they’ve been applying scripture and the format for their Sunday service isn’t “right” because it’s different than what I’ve been used to for over the 20 something years I’ve attended church, but I think many of them are genuinely coming from a Truth-seeking position. The questions they ask may be indicative of their personal interpretations of scripture, but it has been encouraging seeing many of my classmates grow in their understanding of the Word, both in the class and in conversation. There’s an excitement they exude when discovering how Truth can be applied in their lives. For me, it’s a humble reminder that I certainly don’t have church and scripture all figured out, no matter how educated I may be.

  2. My first point proves that it’s easy to criticize things we don’t understand, especially when we think we are right. However, even western believers can have the propensity to create their own theologies (God forbid!). What I’ve come to appreciate about my time at KMTI is remembering how simple the gospel message is and realizing how complicated we can make it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with learning and advancing in knowledge. Scripture tells us that the wise add onto their learning (Proverbs 1:5), but we mustn’t also forget the following passage, which comes a couple of verses after: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). When the process of learning, or learning for the sake of itself, becomes the main thing, we end up missing the Main Thing - the fear of the Lord. With KMTI being a foundational biblical institution, it’s helped me to remember to stay grounded in the principles of salvation, repentance, faith, justification, regeneration, and adoption into the Kingdom - and that it’s not so complicated afterall.

  3. Based on my limited time in Kenya, I believe women are becoming a major driving force here. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me because in much of rural Kenya, women are doing most of the work - gathering timber for cooking and heating, fetching jugs of water from the village well, keeping the house clean, taking care of the children, and tending to the husbands various needs - all this is in a typical day! On a more relatable scale, the first couple of graduating class at KMTI did not include any female students. Now, in my most recent cohort, almost more than half of the class population was made up of women, a growing figure every term. Incredible. Amongst our more beautiful counterparts, there also seems to be a better understanding of certain biblical principles than my fellow males are able to grasp. It’s no wonder that Adam himself needed Eve - a suitable helper. In much of Kenya, particularly in rural areas, women are oppressed in a such way that would make many wazungu shake their head in disapproval. In knowing women are becoming empowered in and through biblical truth, however, I’m encouraged to think about how effective they will be for the Kingdom and for their country.

Though Nairobi is the technological and commercial epicenter of East Africa, much of Kenya is still majorly deep-rooted in cultural and tribal traditions and rituals, further exacerbated by cults, witchcraft, and a misunderstanding of scripture. It will take more than a weekend crusade, a week-long conference, or a two-week Bible class to break free from generational bondages and live a life of biblical Truth and Freedom. However, thanks to institutions like KMTI and many others, I’m hopeful in the change to come though, in true Kenyan fashion, I can expect to see it taking place slower than my western preference. As they say, “haraka haraka haina baraka” - there’s no blessing in a hurry!

Me, You, and We

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Words by Jeremy.

Upon the first few month of our living here, we absorbed and observed various aspects of Kenyan culture. Of course, this wasn’t limited to the likes of eating ugali (a dry, mashed potato-like corn meal), right-handed driving, and shaking hands for an awkwardly long period of time. It included other aspects that seemed backwards or impractical for our ever ”advanced” Western minds: preference for talking on the phone rather than texting, walking everywhere, and being in no rush (or, rather, keeping time) for anything except driving (I’m still dumbfounded by this). One other example that I found so interesting and confusing was Kenyans’ handling of burials for the deceased. Rheanna and I tend to consider ourselves culturally sensitive when traveling internationally, which may manifest through exhibiting more patience, grace, and respect of locals and their way of life. Regarding burials, however, and probably amongst a handful of other cultural differences, I probably lacked the sensitivity required to fully understand and appreciate the complete happenings of a burial. I haven’t yet attended one yet, but here’s how I perceived it upon hearing about them:

When someone dies in Kenya, it’s a BIG deal - for family, friends, villages, and, really, the entire community. People will literally stop what they’re doing to attend a burial ceremony for a couple of days, including taking time off from work or school. People in attendance may travel for an entire day by public shuttle to the deceased’s rural village to pay their respects. Eventually hundreds, maybe even thousands, will gather over a three-day period to send off the deceased into the afterlife. I recently discovered that it’s “common law” for the burial to last three days, which includes traveling with the coffined body via caravan - something that’s obviously inconvenient for my oh-so busy schedule (read: sarcasm) - visiting the bereaved family, and attending the funeral ceremony. During the family visitation, I was told the bereaved must provide food, drinks, and even accommodations for guests. I’m not sure if there’s a cap on how many need to be taken care of, but, in general, it’s the responsibility of the bereaved to provide for any and all visitors.

Okay, seriously? This family’s brother, sister, grandmother, or elder just passed away, and you’re demanding them to feed you and give you a place to sleep? Talk about insensitive...

Also, does a burial really have to be three long days? Why does a funeral have to be some showy event as if the president is coming to town?

These, and similar thoughts, ran through my mind when I first heard of how a burial is handled here. I couldn’t believe that Kenyans spend more money on the dead than they do on the living, and I was so frustrated at how much of an inconvenience was imposed on the bereaved.

That was my thinking until a few days ago, after speaking with Larry Neese and George Wafula, directors of the Kenya Ministry Training Institute. Larry has been living in Kenya for more than 20 years, and George is one of the sharpest men I know, Kenyan or not. As cultural and spiritual mentors, they gave me insight into just how insensitive (my word, not theirs) my thinking was. Thanks to Larry and George, I learned that the key word when it comes to burials is interdependence. When a Kenyan farmer is looking to plow his shamba he probably doesn’t have the resources to do so with his own equipment. In fact, he will borrow almost everything from neighbors or friends. One will provide the oxen and yoke, another will have the plow, and perhaps a third will lend the chain that connects the oxen to the plow. When this man is done plowing his field, he will then assist the three friends in plowing each of their own fields, along with everyone who lent the other equipment. A burial is conducted in the same manner.

In my brash judgement of assuming the bereaved pays out of pocket to accommodate their guests, I was blinded from realizing that other people contribute to the costs. Additionally, what I thought was an inconvenience to my actually not-so-busy schedule, that is, the 20-car caravan, is really a sign of honor amongst the guests for the bereaved and the deceased.

You see, rather than the immediate family of the deceased taking care of everything, much of the community is involved. A chairman of the village coordinates with a family representative regarding the logistics, local government officials may provide a generous financial contribution to pay for the drinks, another villager may donate the two cows for the beef stew to feed the hundreds of visitors, and the church may offer its property for the funeral ceremony. The point being - everyone contributes. Of course, in some cases it may not be completely altruistic; someone may contribute because he knows his time will be up one day and is looking to reap what he sows, but I think it is a beautiful picture of community nonetheless. It goes beyond “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” All of it - the tireless travel, the long ceremonies, the endless hand-shaking - is a true sign of honor and respect for one another.

As Christians, we often reference the church in Acts as a prime example of, well, Church - sharing everything with anyone who is in need or want. It’s kind of a romantic idea of what church can look like, yet in the modern day I think we tend to consider this principle only in terms of material goods. Can I borrow your car? Can I do some laundry at your house? Do you have a hammer? Will you house sit with my golden-doodle? I never considered how it could actually relate to life after death, to the lives of the bereaved, and how honor is given to our brothers and sisters who have passed on before us. I’m learning that amidst whatever confusion, frustration, or inconvenience someone else’s way of life may cause me, there’s always something to appreciate about how that person’s life may actually be a blessing to me and others. I hope to dog-ear this page in my own story and be more mindful of the various spheres in which community can truly flourish.

Here’s a Kenyan proverb that perfectly sums up the point of all this:

I am because you are, and you are because we are.

I need you. I rely and depend on you, maybe even for my very survival and livelihood. But as much as I need you, I am there for you, too, and as much as I am there for you and you for me, everyone else is there for us.

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As a Westerner, I don’t think I can ever fully understand the Kenyan mind or culture no matter how long I live here. In fact, I’m probably not as culturally sensitive as I thought I was before arriving in country. I know I’ll get frustrated when a meeting is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. but doesn’t actually start until 10:30 a.m., and I know I’ll always exasperate, under my breath, why that driver had to pass me so dangerously on the road just to get stuck behind the delivery truck going 15 mph. Fortunately, there are two things I can always count on: 1.)  the forgiveness and kindness of a Kenyan, simply exemplified by his or her gentle smile and awkwardly long hand shake and 2.) the grace of God to remind me that I am still just a visitor in this strange land.

Hearts So Full

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When we first moved to Kenya, we often talked about our longing for community and to be reunited with friends and family. So, hosting a couple of family members this past year as well as welcoming a couple of our closest friends and fellow church members to Kenya were pure joy. After hosting a few different people, I think we are starting to pick up on the gift of hospitality that Kenyans have naturally and innately carried for generations.  

In fact, we recently hosted someone that Jeremy had only met in person one time. A couple of years ago, it might have seemed unusual to welcome someone we knew to the extent we know Kyle. However, he’s been following our journey since we before we moved, and he’s been consistently keeping in touch, slowly building relationship with us and showing us his intent on truly caring for our mission. Even though he was only here for the weekend and we all had to deal with a sick child, his presence ministered to us as I’m sure it did for him. God can use Phase 10 (the card game) as a ministry tool, right?

In their meek way, Kenyans hold true to Paul’s instruction for the Romans: “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7, ESV). They just love visitors, especially wazungu from America. They seem to really and fully appreciate guests as made evident in their universal, hospitable attitude. Furthermore, honor takes on a completely different meaning here than it does in the States. For us, we will be seated in front of the entire class, we are usually welcome to preach if we are visiting a church, and it often takes quite a few minutes to introduce us before a Youth Venture club can begin. No matter the circumstance we get a sort of special treatment, being held in high honor for taking a couple of hours from our day just to make an appearance.

Sometimes our Western need to get things done in an efficient and practical manner can look at such formalities with impatience; we have seen this in ourselves and in others. However, over the past year of living here we have come to appreciate this particular africanism. Kenyans are onto something that we Westerns could more readily adopt. Aside from a biblical command to have a welcoming attitude towards the sojourner as well as our brothers and sisters, visitors can give us something more valuable than we could ever repay as decent hosts; they fill our hearts. The least we can do is unconditionally honor and enjoy their presence without feeling like we need to be somewhere else.

Living in Surrender

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Sometimes, the biblical life of surrender can seem so...serious. The principle is often paired with other biblical principles of selfish abandonment and relinquishing control of ourselves to the Lord - offering our lives in complete servitude to God and His mission - summed up in the cliche “let go and let God.” However, we all know that God has a sense of humor, and one of the things we’ve learned about living in Kenya, as Westerners, is the need to have the same. While at dinner with some friends the other night, we were talking about and comparing what it’s like to drive in the States versus driving in Kenya. Jonathan, a Portland native and our friend who runs family reintegration centers in Kenya, aptly summarized our driving experiences in Kenya as a lesson in surrender. Interesting.

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Driving in Kenya, especially in more remote areas like Kitale, is other-wordly.

It’s a bumpy, dusty drive toward town. Fortunately, the last half mile is along a tarmac road that was most likely laid within the past 10 years or so. The trade off, however, are the innumerable potholes spewn across the road in what could only have been intentionally planned by the engineers to help regulate traffic and speeding.

Pedestrians and cyclists walk about as if the tarmac replaced the dirt roads that previous generations frequented to get from village to village; so these folks all seemingly have the right-of-way. Their returned glares speak to this mild sense of entitlement if you offer a courteous beep of the horn so as not to bump anyone.

The streets also provide an overwhelming mix of boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and matatus (public shuttles) that swarm around like bees on honey. There’s some unspoken bond amongst all boda and matatu drivers. If you knock or accidentally hit one with your car, you better make sure there’s no damage or injury because they will come together and interrogate you in such a way that you begin to question your competence as a human being, let alone a driver, regardless of fault (which in most cases, is “certainly” theirs).

Truck drivers and public charter buses make up another category altogether. They both drive their large, multi-axle vehicles as if they’re sedans, and they always seem to be in a rush yet are obviously the slowest-going on the road. It’s equally exhilarating and frightening to see a charter bus in the rear view mirror speeding its way along the shoulder to overtake our little Subaru - on a two-way highway. It’s more so flabbergasting that the bus has a giant sticker on the back window that reads “God is with us.” There’s a hidden message in there somewhere, I’m sure of it!

One of the biggest observations about driving in Kenya for us Westerners, is the seemingly lack of attention or consideration for others. Or maybe it’s just indifference to not caring about getting hit. That is, there doesn’t appear to be any right-of-way system as we know it in the States; it’s every man, woman, child, boda, truck, and bus for themselves. When it comes to turning onto a cross street and you give them an inch, you’ve immediately surrendered your opportunity to proceed, even if the vehicles that cut you off were originally two cars behind! You’re better off staggering your vehicle alongside a large truck that can serve as a buffer between any same-way traffic of the lane onto which you’re turning so all you have to worry about is the swarm of oncoming vehicles and motorcycles. Mind you, the repairable fender-bender is a small fee for the truck’s services.

The really interesting part about the urgency in which Kenyans drive is their rush on the road, yet in most every other aspect of their day to day lives, there is absolutely no hurry. “Haraka haraka haina baraka” - there is no blessing in a hurry-hurry. It’s one of those why questions that should be left at immigration; there’s no answer for why they drive this way, it just is what it is.

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The notion of surrender really comes down to asking ourselves by what are we going to get offended, with what are we going to be bothered, and to what all else can we really surrender as we faithfully carry out His mission here. We obviously can’t change nor control traffic violations and transport authorities. Nor can we implement our “better” Western driving methodologies that obviously make more sense even if for the sake of safety. The best, and really, the only, thing we can do is give up ourselves to and, thus, immerse ourselves within this aspect of the culture. We ease our grip on the steering wheel, unclench the butt cheeks, laugh it off. There’s no blessing in a hurry-hurry!

Presence in the Absence of Power

Photo by  Kari Shea  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Last week, we hosted a friendly gathering to celebrate fall (okay, it was more like a pseudo-Halloween party). Rheanna spent the previous day baking and cooking with a couple of lady friends while Rose, Shiloh, and I stayed home to clean and pick up around the house. Rheanna even stayed up a couple of hours past our bedtime finishing our costumes; bless her mama heart.

At around 3:45am, we woke to Shiloh calling for mommy and daddy. The power had gone out, which caused her night light to turn off. The dogs were also incessantly barking, as if in response to the blaring voice coming from the festival taking place half a mile away. We often joke that any event taking place at the showground eats up the power. Fortunately, we were able to fall back asleep.

We got up about three to four hours later only to find the power still out! Rheanna needed to bake a couple of pizzas and we had some party snacks, nevermind the normal food, in the refrigerator. It looked like it was going to be one of “those” days - a typical day in Kitale except we were going to be hosting some friends. We’re fairly used to the power intermittently going out in the evening for a couple of hours, but having it out on this day was particularly unfortunate.

Nevertheless, we still managed to have an incredibly fun time despite nobody else in town (and, as we later found out, no one in western Kenya) having power for most of the day; The pizzas still managed to get cooked thanks to our friends who have a gas stove at their house, and our refrigerator stayed cool thanks to the mindful investment of a quality refrigerator some months back. In retrospect, having power may not have mattered all that much considering we spent all of our time playing games and mingling in the yard. Without the power, we were actually able to enjoy each other’s company a little more intentionally and purposefully.

•••

It’s fascinating to think that after a year we can still succumb to a sort of slavery to technology. Quite frankly, the only reason we yearn for the warm glow of a 60W light bulb, aside from food preservation, is to watch television and ensure our gadgets are charged so we can thus be mindlessly entertained. The truth is, we don’t actually need these things in order for us to enjoy ourselves and any present company. When I (Jeremy) was talking with a friend about looking for solar-powered lanterns to use in future outages, he simply quipped “Light some candles.” Obviously.

During our first few months in Kenya, before we started subscribing to a satellite tv service and before we knew how much data to purchase for home wifi, we played cards practically every night and initiated a game with Shiloh called “Getchu” (get you) that also served to wear her out before bedtime. Other similar situations have created moments that we hope to forever trap in memory, something that we obviously don’t get if we are screen-timing. Although frequent power outages can interrupt our attempts at comfort and normalcy, there is something beautiful to enjoy when we have to re-focus our attention solely to those around us.

•••

Of course, the power turned on as soon as our guests left, and what else is there to do but laugh with God at His simple reminder of what’s really important. Trying to make normal of our lives here by attempting to keep the lights on for the sake of technology and gadgetry is almost counterproductive to the life we want to have if it keeps us from meaningful fellowship. Therefore, we can appreciate the need to light a couple of candles (or turn on our Costco night lights) once in a while.

The Nausea of Costco

Photo by  Henry & Co.  on  Unsplash

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

I (Jeremy) never thought a trip to Costco would result in the same physical discomfort as my time on a Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. I guess it makes sense given the dozen or so 4K UHD Samsung TVs that were blaring high quality nature shots in your face the minute you walk in. Or maybe it was the variety of packable stadium seats stacked next to children’s sleeping bags. Actually, when I think about it, I’m pretty sure I began feeling a little queasy the minute I got lost in the sea of clothing that always seems to have something I happen to “need,” like joggers (or sweats for those of you not up to date on the latest clothing trends like us foreign missionaries). The endless surplus of goods and consumables makes dizzy my mind and stomach on so many different levels; should I get the night light powered by AAA batteries or the one that is USB-powered? Do I prefer one with motion sensors or one that has to be manually turned on? We went with ones that are powered by an electrical outlet with motion sensor capability and also automatically turn on when the power goes out.

When we first arrived in Kenya a year ago, I thought it was difficult, or rather an inconvenience, that our shopping options were seemingly limited, especially in Kitale. Over the past few months, though, I think I subconsciously grew an appreciation for the simplicity of it all. We are not inundated or burdened with choices; we know what we want and/or need, we take what we can get, and for that we are content. There is no luxury of complaining for us!

I think in the back of my mind I always knew that coming back to the States would be an adjustment despite how many times I told Rheanna I probably wouldn’t experience any type of “reverse” culture shock. I suppose I was too excited for the paved roads, good infrastructure, and lights that magically stay on all night. Oh, and the food - I was definitely excited for the food. While all of those things were pleasant and good, I think we are really appreciating the simpler and slower lifestyle, even by San Diego standards, that we’ve since adopted in Kenya. What’s great about simplicity is that it helps us to be more present and intentional. Being less worried and anxious (for anything) makes room for us to pay more attention to any present company. It’s like living somewhere in the middle of self-awareness and being carefree - not without conviction, however!

In the end, whether we are feeling overwhelmed or prefer to take things a little slower, living within different cultures helps to keep things in perspective and truly allows us to enjoy the moment, any moment.  And while it can be overwhelming to figure out which night light to buy at Costco, I’m thankful I can still order a hot dog and a Coke for a buck fifty.


Mr. Fix It

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If someone wants to test his resourcefulness at being handy - whether as a mechanic, plumber, electrician, or other - I challenge him to come to Kenya and take a stab at it! I was feeling pretty confident myself after recently reinforcing our perimeter fence so our dog won’t make his way into the neighbor’s yard. Well, in typical Kenyan fashion, my confidence in the way things were going didn’t last long.

After coming off my handyman high from the fence, I was fairly certain that fixing two leaking sinks wasn’t going to be a problem - until it was. After four bumpy trips to the hardware store, including one by our carpenter who happened to be finishing up some unrelated work, and a few incorrect parts I am still left with a couple of leaking sinks. It’s not so much that I don’t know how to fix the leak as it is the circumstances of the leak itself. Mind you, the house is apparently one of the original colonial homes on the block. Additionally, it appears the plumber who preceded me also felt the need to test his resourcefulness by using miscellaneous, unmatching pipe fittings and what appears to be some plastic bag as a caulking agent, all of which got me asking, “what in the world is this?”

After a two minute bout of self-pity, Rheanna snapped me back to reality and reminded me that we are, after all, living in Kenya. So while every part of the situation may not make sense, it actually does - given the cultural context. If you haven’t picked it up by now, Murphy’s Law reaches another level here, and we’ve found that the only way to “cope” is by nervously chuckling “it is what it is.” There are many aspects of our typical day reminding us that we’re not in Kansas (I mean, California) anymore, which really does give us an appreciation for living here and feeling so fortunate that we get to experience life in another country - even if it means still having to call a plumber.

In the Context of Cultural Differences

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“One of the greatest challenges here is to realize our own limitations as we look around at a people who appear so “backward” in comparison to our developed, enlightened selves. We’re realizing how difficult it is to bring the Word of God without packaging it into our own cultural context of what it means to be a Christian...He created cultures and ways of thinking that are different than mine, and that white, Western people often times don’t even have the right questions to ask, much less the answers! It will sure be the revelation from the Word of God and not us that exposes any cultural practices that are not pleasing to the Lord. The Holy Spirit alone knows where to shed the light.”

Judy Curtis wrote this in light of a discussion she had with her Kenyan gardener regarding the process of Kenyan weddings and how to her, and myself, they just don’t make sense. I haven’t been in the international mission field very long, nor have I conversed with many who have. However, I think modern (international) missionaries are slowly moving away from the dispositions their predecessors had upon entering a foreign land. Nowadays, I think more consideration is given to the idea of cultural sensitivity when it comes to Western missionaries in the field; In addition to making disciples of Christ, evangelical missionary work is no longer trying to also make disciples of Western culture.

I’d like to think Rheanna and I came to Kenya with a sort of humility, knowing we are welcomed visitors. I also think we tend to do a pretty good job informing our teams and leaders that we are actually teaching biblical principles that come from a kingdom culture, not Western, and that any taboo cultural practices may, in fact, be unbiblical. However, after reading this excerpt from Out of It in Africa, I was a little convicted.

Am I really teaching biblical principles, or am I actually wrapping up what I’ve read in the Bible within my own personal, Western context? Is my [Western] understanding of scripture really more “accurate” than of those to whom I’m teaching?

It’s easy to think that because the Western world is so developed and “successful” we do everything right, even walking out our faith. But as we’ve seen in the recent political climate in the States, that’s haughty, dangerous ground to be treading. I think having these questions in mind as we prepare and conduct trainings opens the door for just a little more humility and grace - for myself and towards others. Knowing I don’t have all the answers, let alone the right questions, really keeps things in perspective. This all takes quite a bit of humility and thus leads us to trust the Lord to complete the work for us; we’re just doing the best we can and expecting the Holy Spirit to take over. After all, isn’t that the point of planting seeds?

I know there will be times where I may screw up and essentially misspeak for God (as if He needs me to speak on His behalf), but I am trusting the Truth of His Word to humble my heart and open the hearts of all we are reaching in East Africa. If we really are quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), especially while living in a foreign land, we begin to find that God is doing something more in us than anything we could possibly do for others.

“Out of It in Africa" - an Afterword

LeRoy and Judy Curtis, co-founders of the Kenya Ministry Training Institute, wrote a fantastic book about their experiences in Kenya. It’s actually more like a collection of their newsletters and journal entries that span their eight year tenure here. The book chronicles the months leading up to their move to Kenya until the time they returned “home,” whatever that meant for them (at the time of writing this, I haven't yet finished the book).

Without going into more detail, I want to encourage anyone who has, will, or is planning to visit and/or live on the African continent to read this book! It was really enjoyable and entertaining, especially because living here provides a perfect a frame of reference for all they wrote about. Even someone who has only visited here for two weeks would understand some of the African-isms highlighted in the book.

It's good to know that other wazungu (white people) who have lived here share in our thoughts, observations, and perspectives on Kenyan culture. It's also encouraging to hear how the Lord has walked alongside them through it all and where He has revealed his grace to them through other individuals and situations. I (Jeremy) also say this to forewarn you that much of what I write about in the future may be triggered or influenced by what I've read in the book. It's not that I'm praising this piece of text for its literary genius (no offense, LeRoy and Judy), but there's so much inspiration and insight that comes from their words. From what I've read thus far, they so eloquently put into writing much of the feelings that Rheanna and I go through on a fairly daily basis. We hope that as you read Out of It in Africa, you'll have a better understanding of our life abroad!