Thursday, December 30, 2010

birthdays, fun church services, singing, singing, and more singing

Ok more videos!

This first video is my 22nd birthday. I remember being quite sad in the morning missin' my peeps back home but my classmates very quickly made me feel loved abundantly. My roommate made me a cake and we had a big party. However, as you will see, their version of 'Happy Birthday' is much...rowdier...than ours.

We went to a school just down the road to speak to them however just as we got there the rain came pouring down. The roof was tin so you couldn't hear the person next to you with the rain pelting down on the tin roof. So to kill time we sang. It was a blast!

We travelled to a slum on the other side of the city to attend one of their sunday services. The slum was a whole bunch of broken down cement buildings with extremely dusty and dirty paths seperating them. Then, all of a sudden, you see this bright blue tin church right in the middle of it. It was quite a lively church. We squished in like sardines in a can as beads of sweat dripped down our faces. 

This was one of the most popular (and one of my fav) songs in Kenya this year. We organized a big youth seminar but before the sessions we had to do a little worship session with Senior, our talented musician. 

When you pretty much spend every hour of everyday with the same people for 4 months, you grow really close to one another. This video I took while we went on a weekend camping trip. We all got on this rickety wharf (which looked like it would cave in at any moment) that was perched above a lake that was known for its dangerous hippos and we had a little impromptu singing session. These moments would happen all the time. They were so precious.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

my momma

I was in my room today when I heard someone shoveling my driveway. I knew that my brother was still sleeping and my father has an injury so neither of them would be doing it. I peeped out of my window only to find my momma out there. My momma is a pretty handy woman so it's not surprising that she was out there but I thought she had gone to the gym.

She had already gone to the gym and decided to shovel the drive her gym clothes.

one of the many reasons why I adore my mother...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kid's Camps

One of Word of Life's biggest ministries is youth camps. Every holiday season they hold numerous weeks of camps where kids come, learn about Jesus, and just play! Camps are extremely exhausting for those running them but incredibly rewarding. One of my favourite camps is when we actually leave the property and go to kids who would not be able to attend our camps because they could not afford it. We go to the 'slums' and 'ghettos' of Kenya and we meet the greatest characters. These kids have probably seen and experienced more than we ever will in their young age so it is so amazing to treat them to a fun day. Here are just a few of my fav moments of camps this year. 

Kids love to dance. We bring along the latest gospel music and have great DJ's that play the kid's favourite hits. Mini dance sessions are a must.

Kids in the ghetto dance much differently (a little on the provocative side) than those in the village. We saw some..uh..interesting moves. But it's all the know. They see it in their older siblings and the latest, coolest celebs. 

A dear friend Chao is a talented dude. He has an album and has played this song numerous times at camps to the point where all the kids know the words. So cool. 

World Cup Fever hit Kenya hard. I am pretty sure that every kid, whether they could even talk or not, knew all the words to K'naan's "wavin flag" and Shakira's "this time for africa". 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Yesterday, after another tough day, I decided to look through some of the short video clips that I had taken during various adventures this past year. They bring so much joy to me. They are more than photos. When I watch them, I can remember how I felt, what it smelt like, what the atmosphere was like, and so on. So I have uploaded a few of them and will be sharing them on here every few days or so. Most of them, if not all of them, are singing and dancing. I think my favourite part of Kenya is the singing and dancing and worship styles. Kenyans have such rhythm and these loud, almost boisterous, voices.

Ok, these two videos are of the 800 girls that we visited when we went to their high school in september. I love girls! I have such a huge heart for the young girls of Kenya so this weekend was so nourishing and amazing for me. Now, I guess this school has a special theme song which I had never heard before. Our first night there, they started playing the beats on the keyboard and all of a sudden all the girls went crazy. They started screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs and jumping around. It was so much fun. Imagine being in a room with 800 girls with such excitement.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just when you think your week sucked

My week has been kinda....sucky. For lack of a better word.

Yup, it has not been the easiest, most pleasant week of my life that's for sure. It started when I got the news that something I had been working on for a long time didn't come through. I had a lot of faith and heart and soul put into it and it just didn't happen. At first I comforted myself by saying that it wasn't meant to be and God has something better for me. But that still doesn't take away from the fact that I am disappointed.

Sometimes, as Christians, we feel we are suppose to be these uber cheery and ridiculously happy people all the time. But that's not what God has promised us. He promised us that life would be rough. There would be tough times. But he also promised us His peace and His joy which doesn't always mean being cheery and happy. His joy is that deep heart-knowledge that He is truly wonderful even when our circumstances aren't. His peace comes from knowing that He indeed has good plans for us and that there is hope for us. However, I can still cry,  can't I?

Ok, well apart from that I came down with the worst stomach flu. I had been so cautious not to get it since I knew it was going around, but of course my fears became reality when I woke up with a terrible tummy ache on monday morning. Let's just say that the rest of the day was spent in the bathroom.

I guess what makes it worse is that I was all alone. My parents had gone to Mexico on a vacation and I was by myself in the house. I absolutely dread being by myself in the house. I do not sleep if there is not another body in the house.

Then  I questioned my life and where it was going. Often I look at what I have under my belt and there is not a whole lot there. Friends are graduating from university, finding good jobs and getting married. I can't seem to find a job for the life of me and I have little schooling (and the schooling I did to was to work in the Non-profit sector ie. make no money). I know I get a little irrational (and if you knew how old I was you would think that I am crazy to be thinking stuff like this and should just enjoy my life). I wouldn't trade living and being a missionary in africa for anything. But in those low moments, that's where my mind wanders.

So if you mix my disappointment with my awful flu plus being lonely plus questioning my life and add in another dozen challenges (that seem small now but in my state, they were only one more thing to knock me down) it was a pretty sucky week.

I came to Kelowna to hang out with my brother and visit my Deda in the hospital. I have to say that my Deda is making great improvements!! I didn't know if I would ever see him again but now we are having the most precious moments together. He still has a long way to go but God has worked miracles in him. He has started asking me to pray with him. He absolutely loves it. He holds my hands and closes his eyes. He then puts this grin of contentment on his face and listens to me pray. Just as I say 'amen', he looks at me and says, "that was beautiful." He has been a little source of unexpected joy in my week.

However, I was struck in my gut as I was leaving the hospital tonight.

I got in the elevator with an older woman to go down to the first floor. She was getting off at the wrong floor so i corrected her kindly. She told me she was going to the smoking area of the hospital but didn't quite know where it was. I had passed it many times so I offered to show her where it was. We got off the elevator together and she asked what I was doing there. I told her about my grandfather and how he had been living in the ICU for the past two months. I then asked her if she was here for long and she sort of shrugged. I then realized it probably wasn't my place to ask what was wrong with her. I got a little flustered and started trying to redeem myself. She just looked at my and said,

'I have terminal cancer.'

Terminal cancer. Like the kind of cancer that will inevitably kill you sooner or later. Ouch.

I didn't know what to say to her so I just showed her where she could go have her smoke. She thanked me and that was the end of our conversation.

I walked out of the hospital with a whole new perspective. Yes, this week was tough but it can't be compared to walking around with a death sentence over your head.

Just when I thought my week sucked, God showed me how blessed I really am. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

5 years ago today...

.. at the tender age of 17 years old, I stepped onto the property that would change my life. After travelling for 8 hours on long, dusty, bumpy roads, crying the whole way and then getting into a city where I didn't know anyone or any place or what to do, I found someone who knew someone who knew someone who took me to Empowering Lives International Children's Home in Ilula, Kenya. December 6, 2005 was the first time I went to my 'home' in Kenya. I showed up in pants which, I was quickly told, was a no-no. I was crying with no idea where I was and wanting to go home. I was greeted with such incredible warmth and love and acceptance. I was astounded that the children's home was so 'luxurious'. I had braced myself for much worse. I remember being put into a dorm with some ladies I didn't know. I had supper with a team from America who was there. 

And then I was brought to the other side where the children slept. It was dark and they were just getting ready for bed. However, they knew that a visitor was coming and they all scurried out of their rooms. Within seconds my waist was full of tiny little arms, hugging me tightly and welcoming me home. It was the most incredible night. I had dreamt since I was a little girl of coming to an orphanage in Africa and I was finally there. 

Little did I know that it would be the first of a bajillion hugs from these children. Since then, I have visited Ilula more than 10 times. I have been so blessed to be apart of the children's lives and watch them grow up into the amazing young people they are. Some of them are now almost 17 years old which was how old I was when I first met them. The staff have become some of my greatest friends and supporters of my ministry in Kenya. And the director and his family, the Ronos, are like my own family. When I sit in their living room, I know that I am home. 

I AM SO GRATEFUL that God brought me to Ilula. It was an extremely rocky journey, but God has an amazing plan and nothing can hinder His purpose. 

I have a 'home' in Kenya filled with a family and siblings who love me like one of their own. 

Here are only a few of the hundreds (possibly thousands) of photos I have taken over the past 5 years. 
John, Emmanuel, and Esther made me feel so welcome. They are now some of my greatest friends. Emmanuel(far right) is now a giant and towers over me. Esther (with the bandana) is in the US fulfilling her dream of entering the medical field. And John (behind) is studying engineering in a local university. My brothers and sister! 

Leah (right) and I go back to my first night in Ilula. When I arrived, they put me in a dorm with some other ladies who were there for a pastor's conference. One of the ladies just happened to be Leah and her daughter. I didn't remember her until she was hired on as staff about 2 years ago. She quickly reminded me who she was and our connection and we laughed! She is teaching me to make mandazi.

In 2005, I spent my first Christmas away from home. I remember us waking up at around 6am and being summoned to the kitchen to cook a special meal for the children. We worked so hard for these precious children. I remember the satisfaction I felt treating the kids to something special when I am so used to being spoilt on Christmas morning. I have now almost mastered cooking the local food. 

One thing I love about going to Ilula is that I always end up meeting some cool people who have come to serve for a short time. This is Jamie who I met in May this year. She had such a gentle spirit and loved to treat the kids to her special baked treats. There are so many others that I still love to keep in contact with. Such cool people. 

This is Valentine. I love her. She is my sponsor child. It is rare for someone to actually know their sponsor child but I have had the privilege to actually see her grow and be a part of her life. I get to know what her personality is like. I get to see her giggle and play and cry and go to school. I get to see where my money goes. It is so special. 

I have learned to dig. Or at least I try. 

The girls are my fav. I ABSOLUTELY ADORE them. My fav is spending my nights with them laughing and singing and answering their questions about life, God and everything in between.

I love when they play with my hair and touch my arms and wrap themselves around my waist.

These are just some of the parents. This is when they only had 1 child. Now they have 3 beautiful boys. The boy in this picture is now 5 years old and plays a mean game of UNO. 

My Kenyan family. I know I look different, but when I am in their house I feel no different.

I will never get tired of their welcome ceremonies. I always get teary-eyed even if it is not me being welcomed. 

These 4 are siblings who watched their mother get struck by lightening and die. I remember the oldest, Mercy(far right) explaining to me the whole story during a thunder storm one day. She broke down in tears as she feared the lightening. 

I had no idea when I ended up in Ilula on December 6, 2005 that my life would change. I had no idea that I would encounter God the way that I did and the way I do every time I go up there. I have learned so much from these beautiful people. I almost forget they are orphans now. To me they are just kids. God's kids. 

Crispy cool

I think the question I have been asked the most since I got back is, "How are you adjusting to the cold snow?" To be honest, I have adjusted just fine. It was quite cold right when I left Kenya so maybe that prepared me a little bit but I haven't really suffered more than everyone else. I definitely don't enjoy the cold or the snow. There have been a few days that I stayed inside all day which I am quite happy with. 
However, over the past few days, the sun (and my dog) have dragged me out of the house for a few walks.

This is the view from my brother's driveway in Kelowna. The mountains are absolutely gorgeous.

I really love living next to a large river. I think I take it for granted too much. It is truly incredible.

This is my dog Lucy. SHe is getting old and doesn't get out much so she takes every opportunity she gets to sniff everything. She is often the one who forces me out of the house for a walk. She just looks at you and this wave of guilt overcomes you and you just have to do it. 

She is adorable. 

I have  seen a lot of beautiful places all around the world but there is a world of beauty in my back yard. I am blessed to live here, thats for sure! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hunger Pains

Yesterday my mother decided that she was going to make a turkey. So she put the turkey in the over around 1pm thinking it was going to take at least 3-4 hours to cook. Around 4pm she called Dad and I to come for supper. Now, I am still adjusting to meal times. In Kenya I would never eat supper before 8pm so to be eating any earlier than that has sort of thrown me off a bit. 4 in the afternoon was a little on the early side even for my parents but the turkey was ready so we sat down anyways and had a wonderful meal.

At around 10pm last night, I started rolling around in my bed. I could not fall asleep. For those who know me well, they know that I have a very early bedtime. It is rare to find me awake past 10pm. But last night I just couldn't fall asleep. I rolled around till about 11:30pm and then realized why I couldn't sleep. I was so hungry because it had been 7 hours since we had supper. I tried to  go to sleep with the hunger pains but I just couldn't. So I decided to get up and go join my dad on the couch to watch tv. My dad had just returned from playing tennis so he was chomping down on some nice cheese and left over turkey from our 4 o'clock supper. He offered me some of it and I gobbled it down so fast. I sat there for about 10 minutes and snacked on a few other things until I decided to head back into my bed.

Once my head hit the pillow, I immediately started to doze. I guess it was my hungry tummy that was keeping me up.

As I laid in my bed, I started to think of all the people in the world who were going to bed hungry tonight. Not because they had an early supper, but because they simply could not afford to eat.

I started thinking of some of my friends in Kenya who I knew struggled to put food on the table and wondered what they had had for supper or if they had to forgo supper and just head to bed.

I remember one friend of mine who told me that when there was no food in the house for supper, her father would either make them laugh so hard with jokes or yell at them so loud so that they would forget they were hungry and go to sleep without supper. How hard would that be for a father who couldn't provide food for his family?!

I just silently prayed last night for all those that I know and that I do not know who are not eating tonight. I am so thankful that I am not one of them. I now have a better understand of why we 'say grace' before we eat. As much as we ask God to bless the food before us, we must stop and thank Him that He has indeed put food before us.

I looked up some stats on World Hunger from the the World food programme website and here are just some of the hard stats that I found:

- 10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the death

- 925 million people do not have enough to eat - more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union

- Women make up a little over half of the world's population, but they account for over 60 percent of the world’s hungry.

- 5 percent  of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia

-It is estimated that 684,000 child deaths worldwide could be prevented by increasing access to vitamin A and zinc

-Lack of Vitamin A kills a million infants a year

I have a really hard time believing that God put all these people on this planet and went, "Oops, sorry there is not enough food for everyone." So why are people starving? 

I know there are those who accuse God saying, "If God is so powerful and wonderful, then why is He letting people die of hunger?" But God is looking at us and saying, " YOU are My hands and My feet! You are My body! You tell me why My body isn't feeding the hungry?" 

Doesn't it seem ironic that in developing countries, kids are dying because there is not enough food on their tables and in the West, kids are dying because there is too much food on their tables???? Obesity is a major problem in the West. Kids are eating too much junk. However, in Asia and Africa we have kids who never get to eat. Something is a little backwards. 

But last night I got a little taste of what millions of people feel when they go to bed hungry. It was humbling. My heart aches for them even though I don't know who they are. 

So what do we do? What do I do?

Live simply so others may simply live. This phrase has repeated itself over and over in my head so many times in the past year as I am constantly challenged to give up my own comforts so I can share with others. There are so many biblical examples of this. If you have two tunics and some one doesn't have one, give on of yours to them. When you see someone hungry and don't feed them you will be accountable to God one day who will say, "when I was hungry, you didn't feed me." Or that wonderful proverb that promises us that those who give to the poor will lack nothing. What about the rich young ruler who came to God and said, "Ok, I have pretty much done everything right and followed all your commands carefully, now what do I do?" God tells him to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. He walks away with his head hung low. 

I read this verse in Proverbs yesterday that I really loved. Proverbs 15:17, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred." 

Sometimes after church in Kenya, I would like to treat some friends to lunch. I never had enough money to take them all out for pizza or steak or some fancy meal. We had to make do with cheap kenyan food. But I can't count how many awesome times we had sitting and laughing and fellowshipping around that cheap kenyan (bland) food. I would trade that for eating pizza alone any day. What a blessing it is to live simple and share with others. Not only share money, but share our lives with each other. 

Empowering Lives International is doing an interesting challenge right now where they are asking people to live on less that $2 a day. They not only are asking for your money to help empower the people that they are working with in East Africa, but they are asking you to join in and feel, experience, learn what its like for our friends on the other side of the world. They are walking along side there struggles. It's such a cool challenge. If you want to learn about it go to Love in Action

When you sit today with food before you, thank God that He has chosen that food to be placed in front of you even though you really don't deserve it more than anyone else. It's just His amazing grace.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hours in the ICU

It's been 2 weeks since I have arrived back in Canada. I am sorry I have failed to blog but I guess Canadian life just isn't as interesting as everyday life in Canada. I could talk about the great Kraft Dinner I made the other night or the way the malls have all their christmas decorations out now. But it seems so boring.

I am in Kelowna right now where my Deda has been in the ICU for the past month. I sort of felt that I needed to come spend some time with him and my grandmother. Its a great opportunity since I am not held down with a job or anything right now. Plus I am enjoying hanging out with my brother again who lives and goes to school here. Although, we are not the chattiest brother and sister. For the past hour, we have been sitting silently in the living room with our eyes glued to our computers. That's just what our relationship is like I guess. God didn't give me a chatty sister who I could share clothes and make-up with. Instead He blessed me with a mellow brother who is super responsible and takes very good care of me but who doesn't really like to talk a lot.

I have been spending about 4 hours a day at the hospital with Deda. He is still in very critical condition. He is in one of those units that have a bajillion machines that hook up to every part of his body and beep all day long. He has his very own nurse who stares at him from their desk and is right there when he needs him or her. It's a very high-tech, exclusive area of the hospital.

It's been quite enjoyable hanging out with Deda. He is not really able to talk but just mumble/whisper so no one can really understand him. But he likes to point at things and make big facial expressions and he can be quite funny. We just found out today that he can have internet in his room so we are going to try to see if he can watch the Grey Cup tomorrow on the computer. He loves football.

The transition back to Canada has not been nearly as difficult as it has been in the past. Jet lag was awful. It took almost a week and a half to stop getting tired at 5pm and waking up at 4am. But otherwise I haven't gotten a big dose of culture shock or have any illnesses that I carried back with me. I am living simply and trying to get back involved in the community. Canada just doesn't have the same sense of community and interdependence that Kenya does. I do miss Kenya ALOT but I am determined to enjoy the moments I have here in Canada. I know that I will be back in Kenya in just a few short months.

I am learning to be prayerful in my everyday steps. I have never before spoken to God so much and so frequently through out my days. I will sit and silently pray to Him whatever is on my heart or mind at the moment. I ask Him to go ahead of all my steps whether I am entering the hospital doors or waking up in the morning or just simply reading my books. I want God to be apart of every detail of my life right now. I am leaning on Him to keep my spirits high and to diminish all feelings of loneliness and sadness. I keep checking in with Him and asking, "Ok, is this missionary life that I live REALLY what you want me to be doing?" I see all my friends and the people around me who are graduating from universities, getting good jobs, saving up for their pensions, getting married, having babies, paying mortgages and investing in stuff. And where is my life heading? To the village with no water or electricity or security. No financial stability or investments. I keep thinking about these things. I know they are not things that we should really strive for or base our decisions on but we must be wise and plan carefully. But the more I seek God, He keeps reassuring me that He has good plans for me. He will provide all that I need. He has given me a passion and He wants me to pursue it. I think He would rather have someone who finds their passion and lights the world on fire for Him than someone who just settles for anything that will pay the bills for the rest of their lives.

As you can see, my thoughts go back and forth and are a bit mumble jumbled at the moment but hence why I am seeking God more than ever. When there is uncertainty in my life, I come closer to Him and listen more carefully to where He is leading me. It almost makes me crave being more uncertain in my life so that I would drawer nearer to my God.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nikole's favourite things

Yesterday I watched Oprah for the first time in years.  When I was in high school, I used to love to come home, sit on the couch with a cup of tea and watch Oprah. In the past years, I have gotten over my love for her. I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed with the message she preaches these days and the ultra-spiritual new-age tone to all of her shows. The only time I love watching is when I hear stories of Africa or other parts of the world.

But yesterday was her infamous, 'Oprah's favourite things show.' The show that pretty much every devout Oprah follower (and even many people who could care less who she is) wishes that one day they will be apart of. It's the show where she picks her favourite things and gives them away to her audience. Sweaters that cost $500 or authentic diamond watches that could pay the mortgage of your house. Ok, there were some cool things. Yesterday she gave away a baking pan that was designed so that everything you baked in it had an edge. Don't you love the edges? Like when a nice pan of brownies are made, I love the crunchie, gooey edges. Or the edges of lasagne where the cheese burns and gets all crsipy. Now there is a pan that is shaped a certain way (sort of like a snake) so that every piece has an edge. That was pretty cool. But she also gave away a shiny purse and shoes from some hot designer and some crazy hair products that are made especially for african hair. And to top all things off, everyone got a cruise on the biggest, bestest cruise boat in the entire world. It was pretty cool.

After just returning from Kenya where consummerism involves the mere basics to life (if that is even possible), naturally I was a bit repulsed. However, it prompted me to think of my own favourite things that I would love to be able to share/give to you like Oprah gives her audience.

Some of my fav things:

-Jesus! (this is #1)
-a good cup of coffee
-laughing until your belly hurts or your cheeks ache
-playing crib
-my family
-roasted maize
-listening to kids sing in swahili
-african sunsets
-my dog
-lululemon pants (this was one of Oprah's yesterday but I started wearing them in gr.9
-my bible
-fresh fruit and hanging with the ladies who sell the fresh fruit
-loving friends
-sukuma wiki (kale)
-the rehma boys
-the sunshine (which Castlegar doesn't seem to see much of these days)
-worshipping at my church with no walls in mombasa
-my pretty computer
-a good book
-getting mail
-riding on motorcycles through the village
-afternoon naps followed by tea
-hanging out with my one true Love, Best Friend, Provider, Father, Maker, Comforter, King, Hope!

Ok, those are just a few of my fav things. Maybe next year I will have another one like Oprah.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Airport arrival

Leave it to my mom to snap every second of my arrival in the airport. 

My dad reaching over the bars to give me a hug. I pushed my little cart away and gave him a hug though.

A smile after surviving the 24hour+ journey. I won't lie and say that it was enjoyable. It wasn't. There were definitely some highlights and definitely some bumps but I made it and my feet are happy to be on the ground again.

Daddy-daughter hug. No tears this time. I think after being able to see each other on a regular basis on Skype made things easier.

I didn't know that they had video screens watching you as you come around the corner so that your loved ones can see when you will come out of the gate. So my parents waited anxiously watching this video screen till I finally arrived.

Mommy and me. 

It is nice to be back in Castlegar. I have unpacked and am getting over jet lag. Although I was awake at 3am this morning for a little while. My bags are unpacked and I have settled back into my room. I am drinking 2 cups of delicious coffee a day and eating lots of tasty foods. I am now on the hunt for a job. I went to go print off my resume yesterday and found out our printer doesn't have ink in it. I was stuck. This would have been a lot easier in Kenya as there are cyber cafes everywhere that you could just go and print something off for really cheap. But there is not one cyber in Castlegar. So I struggled to think of what to do. Dad said he would print some copies off for me at work today so I will be able to start handing them out within the next couple days. 

Anyways must get ready to see a friend now! 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcome Back Nikole!

Yes I am home! I endured the 19 hours of flying high in the sky and have landed safely in Vancouver. God's hand was upon my whole trip. As the plane was taking off in Nairobi, I was reading Psalm 68 where I found this verse, "Ascribe strength to God; His excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds" (vs.34) 

So the plane ascended into the clouds, I thanked Him for His strength in the clouds. 

I landed in Amsterdam only to meet up with another missionary couple who were on the same flight. We got chatting and they invited me into some fancy shmancy lounge with them where I got a nice chair to relax in, free delicious food, free internet, and a chance to hang out with a cool couple. It was such a blessing. The flight out of Amsterdam was just wonderful. So smooth, calm, and uneventful. 

I landed in Vancouver thanking God for the amazing journey. I didn't like all of it but He brought me through it. I walked around the corner and was greeted by my parents and grandmother. It wasn't the tearful reunion that I am used to (which I think has to do with how much we used skype this year) but it was wonderful to be in their arms again. 

We headed to my Uncle and Auntie's house stopping at A&W for a big, juicy burger. When we arrived there, I found this big "Welcome Back Nikole" sign on the table. My precious cousins had made it for me. Since they weren't here, they drew me some nice pictures and some directions around the house. It was precious!

But it is now almost 5:30 am. I have been up since 4am. Jet lag has gotten the best of me. I was so exhausted last night so I was convinced I would sleep but I guess my body had other plans. 

Anyways, thanks to those of you who were praying! God is so good! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The final minutes.

I am sitting in the Nairobi airport after some rather tearful (ok extremely tearful!) goodbyes.

Now I feel at peace and am ready to get on the plane.

I didn't sleep very well last night. I knew I had to get up early this morning so I kept checking the clock every hour or so. I also had so much running through my head. So I was wide awake at 4am this morning.

I got to their airport super early. We crossed the city in less than 20 minutes when it would usually take 45mins. I got to the airport only to find that my bags were too heavy. I am so used to being able to take 2 bags that are about 23kgs. However, I get to the check-in both and the lady tells me that I am only allowed 30kgs in total. (Maybe it is a Kenya Airways rule since this is the first time I have flown with them) Yesterday, I actually purged some items and sent them to Mombasa to be kept for me when I return so I thought that my bags were pretty light.

So after the lady told me that my bags were too heavy, I asked her, "So what do I have to do?"

She just sort of looked at me like it was not her problem. The fact is that she really didn't know what I was suppose to do.

Ah yes, this is still Kenya.

She then says that I have to go to another booth to buy for extra luggage. She said it depends on my final destination. I told her I was going to Canada. Then she said she didn't know. Then she came up with a solution.

'Why don't you just take out about 3kgs and put it in your carry on luggage?'

I thought to myself 'But my bags are about 6kgs over the weight?'

So I opened my bags right there and took out a couple of my bibles (which are the heaviest things in my bags) and stuffed them into my backpack. However, it wasn't 3kgs. It was maybe only 2 or less. She looked at me and said, 'Ah yes, thats ok.'

If this was Canada, that would never fly. I just wondered how many other bags were overweight or how many other things are being looked over. But I am choosing not to think of those things and trust in my God. He knows what is on and not on my plane. He knows what is going to happen. So why must I worry???

My frustration with Kenyan systems hit an all time high yesterday when I went to immigration and told me that my work permit had STILL not been completed even though it had been 5 months since I applied and they told me it would be finished last week. I was so upset. I pushed my way through to some of the top people. The issue was that it had been approved but not signed. The lady who was suppose to sign it was sitting in her office with the permit right in front of her yet she wouldn't sign it. I don't know why. She was just being difficult. Maybe she was looking for a bribe. So I pushed and begged and screamed at the people to give me my permit and finally it got done. I started to feel bad thinking I went to far but I just kept reminding myself that I was fighting for my rights. It was not my fault that it has taken so long to get it. It is nothing I have done so why should I have to suffer because of someone's laziness????

I stayed in immigration for 2 hours even after they had officially closed. The lady who stamped my passport said I was the luckiest person to get this done. I didn't think I was lucky. A lucky person would have had no problems. I just decided to stand up for myself for once.

So I am leaving Kenya with a 3 year work permit (am only allowed to work as a missionary) with the ability to enter the country as many times as I want without paying anything. This is a huge blessing!!

Alright, I must get going. Looking forward to sitting near the window and flying over Africa! Hope I can see some great landscapes!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1 more sleep in Kenya

It's almost that time. I am in my final hours here in Kenya. In less than 24hours I will be on a plane back to Canada.

It's bittersweet. I can't describe how I am feeling. I go back and forth between being sad to leave and excited to get home.

I am in Word of Life Kabete. I am actually staying in the room across from the one that I stayed in my first night in Kenya. I woke up this morning and reflected on the last 11 months and all that has happened. I thanked God for the numerous things He has taught me, the good and bad times I have gone through and learned so much from, and for the amazing people I have been blessed to encounter. I reflected on the ministry and the lives I have seen changed because of Christ. I recounted the many laughs and cries that I have had. I am so grateful for the the ways that He has transformed me to become more like Him.

I don't feel like I will be in Canada for too long. I can't stay away from here too long. I am still praying about the path that God is leading me down right now. I am excited for the many dreams and visions He has given me for my future.  My heart beats harder and faster to see Him being glorified.

I am not sure what is waiting for me at home. My mother says that my room is a mess and my closet has no clothes. I know that it is beginning to snow and the Christmas season is starting up. I hope to meet my grandfather in the hospital. I got news today that he has taken a turn for the worst and no one knows what is going to happen. I pray I can see him again. My brother has moved out so it will be the first time I will be at home and he will not be there. I have missed a whole year of tv shows, movies, and music so I will be very much behind. I will have to learn to speak with a canadian accent again. My Kenyan one is embarrassing.

With all these thoughts in my head, I have purposed to enjoy my last day in Kenya. I drank fresh milk from the cow this morning. I am sitting listening to the birdies sing sweet melodies to me. And I am letting my face soak in the warm sun one last time.

I will be back in Castlegar on Sunday so feel free to pass by or call the house if you wish.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The final days

Only 3 more sleeps and I will be on the plane back to Canada. As the days go by, I am getting more sad to leave yet more excited to get home. I am excited for seeing my precious family and friends. I am excited for NICE things like toilets that actually flush and stoves that you don't have to light with a match. I am excited for nice customer service and sweet coffee shops. I am looking forward to sane driving and police that are not corrupt. Slowly my heart is getting excited to come home.

Although I am going to miss so much here. I just love Kenya. And now I am so used to life here that I often don't remember how things are back home. I am sure I will get confused a few times when I get home. Simple things like waiting in line, saying 'please' and 'thank you' or sitting at a table in a restaurant with just the people you came with and not other people who need a seat. It's funny things like these that I will have to adjust back to. So please be patient with me.

I have been traveling this past week. I left Mombasa after saying goodbye to my co-workers and good friends. I traveled to Nairobi and then on to Eldoret the next day to visit the children at the children's home. As I crawled out of the van, they all came rushing to give me big hugs. They are getting taller and more filled out so now they give these big, hearty hugs. It makes anyone feel like the most loved person in the world. They updated me about life at the home. They just couldn't stop chatting my ear off about all that has happened while I was gone and, of course, they had endless questions about my work, where I have been, my ministry, my family, and pretty much everything else.

I spent about 4 days in Eldoret relaxing, reflecting, and just allowing myself to be loved on by such amazing people. I spent my mornings with the little kids on the property. Many of them did not exist when I came 5 years ago. I had the privileged of witnessing one of the little boys taking his first steps on Christmas in 2005. Now, we play UNO and run around in the field and then lay in the grass talking together. It was so precious.

I attended the opening of another children's home It was a long day with numerous speeches but I enjoyed seeing the community come together to support these orphaned children. It also gave me some ideas about my children's home (I mean the one I have dreamed about having since I was a little girl.)

I left Eldoret on Sunday and came back to Nairobi to catch up with old friends, work on my work visa and do some last minute shopping. I traveled to Kijabe yesterday and had a wonderful time with my hospital friends.

So that's what is happening. I hope to blog at least one more time before I leave. If not, I will arrive in Canada on friday evening then head to kelowna to see my brother and grandfather (who is still in the hospital but is doing much better!) then will be back in Castlegar on Sunday! So feel free to contact me. Can't wait to see all of you (or hear your voices if you don't live around me)!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Counselors Retreat!

This weekend was such a blast. It was exactly what I needed. I got the news of my Deda right before the retreat started and I was so blessed to have people around me praying and encouraging me. Plus, the craziness of it helped keep my mind off of things. 

We had about 40 counselors come for a weekend retreat here at Word of Life. We arranged for them to stay in some of our nicest cottages, eat some amazing food, and just have a great time getting to know each other better and preparing themselves for camps. 

On friday evenings, we have a fellowship group in town where we train these counselors. Each week we have some train us in counselling youth. We have covered topics such as anger, grief, conflict, self-esteem and many others. This weekend we had some more sessions on ethics and communication. So it was a good mixture of fun and learning. 

Here are our counselors during on of their sessions. This is our main hall where we do pretty much everything. The roof is made of 'makuti' which is essentially grass. It always cracks me up to think I live under a grass roof. During one of our sessions, it started to rain. Our roof is a bit old and is needing repair. So when it started to rain, it started leaking on pretty much everyone. We had to all find spots where water wasn't dripping from the roof. 

This weekend also gave me a chance to see a lot of my friends for the last time since I will be leaving tomorrow. This is Jacky (left) and Betty (right). They are quite the pair. They will chat your ears off and make you laugh till your belly hurts. I will miss these two.

This is Issac or, as we like to call him, Izo. He's another great friend. 

Did I mention we had amazing food?! On Saturday night, we had Coast night. The culture on the coast of Kenya is much different than the rest of Kenya. It has it's own style of dressing, own yummy food, and its own lifestyle. So we cooked a traditional coastal meal. It was delicious. Here is Rahab making chapattis. She is an amazing chef! 

On our last night, we set up a movie screen and watched a movie outside. It was so nice sitting by the ocean, feeling the cool breeze, and watching a nice movie. Although I didn't stay for long. I was pooped and hit the sack.

Good friends. I will miss these peeps. 

Tonight, is my last night at Word of Life. I have pretty much everything packed up. I have shook out all my clothes and found enough cockroaches to make me scream. I just hope I don't bring any home with me. Ha. We are having a little farewell party at my directors house tonight. Then I am outta here in the morning. I am both sad and excited. One great season over, and another one just beginning. 

The Cost

On friday morning, I got an email from my mom asking me to pray for my Deda (grandfather in Russian) as he had an aneurism that was leaking blood into his belly. He was being rushed to a hospital 4 hours away. The doctors didn't think that he was going to make it to the hospital. Usually, they evacuate these types of patients by airplane but it just happened to start snowing that night and, when it snows in the little valley we live in, its very dangerous to land or take off. So they had to drive him. He had 5 people attending to him in the back of the ambulance for the 4 hour drive. Thank the Lord he made it and had a successful surgery.

However, he is still not out of the woods. He is currently on life support and kidney dialysis. His organs are pretty damaged from the trauma they experienced. He is in critical condition. So it's a bit of a waiting game. Many doctors have hope. Some think he will get worse before he gets any better. BUt there is always the possibility his body may not be able to recover. We are just waiting. 

It's not easy being so far away when things like this happen. The toughest part when leaving is trusting that God will take care of your loved ones while you are away and that you will see them again when you return. You have to surrender them completely to God. And you never really know what will happen. But that's the cost of following Christ. 

Jesus says, 'take up your cross and follow me.' He asks us to give up everything and follow Him where He leads you. He says drop your pride, your security, your good job or promising future, your money, your rights, and even the people you love the most, and follow Him. It differs for everyone. Not everyone has to drop their money-making job or their health insurance. Sometimes that's where He wants you. But He doesn't want you to get to comfortable there. Because He may just ask you to give that up too. He needs willing hearts; hearts that are willing to follow Him wherever, whenever, and do whatever He asks of you. 

God has lead me to Kenya. I have full peace that I am right where he wants me to be. It's not always easy to be here but I really love it. God has asked me to give up my comfy life and shine His light to the people here in Kenya. It's not for everyone. I believe God has given me a special grace to do it. But it comes with a cost. Yes, I had to give up my rights to a bed without bed bugs, a flush toilet, awesome food, personal safety, and many other things. But I also came knowing that anything could happen to my family. I knew coming that I may not come home and see all my family members. 

I now know that I may or may not get to see my Deda again. It's not an easy thing to come to terms with but thats what He asked of me. And I do it. Because I love Him more than anything else in this world. He gave Himself for me that I may know Him. 

"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does to take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37-38

Please pray for my Deda. It's not easy. This weekend has been heavy on me. My family is all with him now in the hospital. As far as I know, he is doing fine. Please pray that, when I get home on Nov. 14th, he will still be there to welcome me home. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The beginning of the end

Today I am going to begin to pack up my room. Right after I post this blog. I have been saying for days that I should start but today, I realized, may be the only free afternoon I have before I leave. Tomorrow we start a crazy weekend of counsellors training. We are expecting 50 people to be with us this weekend for a lot of good food, games, and training sessions for our upcoming camps. It's a good way for me to leave. many of my friends will be come so I will get the chance to say goodbye. But I really can't see myself having anymore free time before I leave on monday.

That's why I must start packing today. Well first I need to wash my clothes. Our washing machine often 'misbehaves' as our housekeeper likes to tell us. It has been 'misbehaving' all week and we are not able to get our clothes washed. So instead of torturing myself and washing all my clothes by hand in one go, I have been taking 30 minutes a day to do a few items. That way my hands don't get all raw from rubbing and my back doesn't get sore from leaning over too much.

After my clothes are washed, I will start taking down my pictures off the wall and arranging my books in my suitcases. I need to start packing my clothes too. I need to see which ones are 'worthy' to still be worn in Canada and which ones are 'strictly kenyan' and should not leave this country.

I still have lots of paper work I need to go through. I will be sorting out all my work permit issues 3 days before I leave the country. It has finally come through but I need to get all the documentation together. It' a bit ironic considering I will leave 3 days later. Then I need to start writing my thank you cards to people who have blessed me and been so wonderful to work with.

Ok, I guess the list is not that long now that I look at it. It just seems like a lot especially because it is getting so hot you don't really want to move too fast (I am kinda looking forward to washing my clothes and having my hands in cold water). Also, there is little water that comes out of my taps so to fill a bucket takes an hour. Then there are men working outside making terrible amounts of noise with all the repairs they are doing to the building. And I am exhausted. I've been having troubles sleeping the last few nights. I think its the heat. Last night was the first time I had to put the fan on.

But I will get these things done today. I am determined to.

Since I haven't been sleeping great, I have been getting out of my room to watch the sunrise in the morning. I usually take my bible and sit a rock as the sun starts to rise. These days it doesn't have to rise to high for it start getting hot. I brought my camera along today. I will miss living in such a beautiful place.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First Game

Five small boys sat behind me giving a play-by-play of the game in their own words. Simple but understandable. They sat on the edge of their seats with their eyes glued to every pass, kick, save, and slide. They jumped up and down when the ball got close to the net and cursed the ref when he made a call against their team. Their tiny bodies started imitating the boys on the pitch.

Then there was a Muslim man sitting on the bench in front of me. He was giving a more sophisticated and seemingly more educated play-by-play of the game to his friend. After every shot, corner kick, and defensive move he gave his comment on how he would have done it better. His friend beside him just kept staring at the game listening patiently to him yabber about the glory of his younger soccer-playing days.

A group of rowdy young boys showed up. The minute they showed up, things got louder and more abusive as they yelled at the coaches, the players, the ref, and even the spectators for no particular reason but to be annoying and seemingly cool. But every one resented them and eventually they calmed down after not getting the attention that had hoped for.

Then there was the mama who brought little packages of peanuts to sell to the people in the stands. She sat down beside me with an empty bucket. I was happy to see her business went well and she can go home with no peanuts left over and some money in her pockets.

And of course, there was me. The only white person in the whole place. The only girl watching the game. I just sat there quietly, not wanting to really be seen or to attract any attention to myself, but just wanting to watch the Rehma boys shine on the pitch for their very first match as a team.

The boys arrived at the pitch before any one else to get focused and warm up properly. They had taken the initiative to raise money to rent proper jerseys for their first game. Just before the ref blew the whistle for the game to start, it started to pour with rain. It had been the first time it rained in weeks and of course it had to come just as we started our first game. The first 20 minutes had a lot of slipping and sliding, bad passes and short kicks. And a lot of mud. The boys were covered in it from head to toe. But soon the sun came out again and the field slowly dried up. That’s when the real game began. 

More and more people started to trickle into the small, humble stadium until there were over 300 people watching the game. And guess what? They were all there to watch our boys! My cheeks couldn’t stop hurting from smiling so much as I looked around at all the people who had come to watch the boys play. It was a big afternoon as two heavyweight soccer teams were playing: Manchester United and Arsenal. Both very crucial games in the season. Yet, for some reason, people chose to come watch the Rehma boys. It just goes to show what an impact they have on their community.

The game was exciting. There was lot of close calls and intense moments. The boys played their hearts out but in the end, neither team scored. As the boys walked off the pitch, they were congratulated by the multitudes on a game well played. I learned later on that they were playing the top team in the 3rd best league in the nation. Their opponents criss-cross the country beating great teams. And our boys tied with them??!! I asked why we couldn’t play in their league and I was told that it was merely support that makes the difference. If you have the money for travel, team fees, equipment, etc. then you are able to join the league.

I sat on the side as they debriefed with their coaches in awe of what I had just seen. These boys would not have had the chance to play if we had not gotten the support to help them. They would not have drawn such an incredible crowd and created such a sense of community if they weren’t the incredible boys that they were. They will be surely making a big impact in their communities with continued love and support. We have already heard some great things about what they are doing and how they are behaving in the community.

As we walked home watching the sunset, I was talking with one of the boys about his struggles in life. They are big struggles compared to what we struggle with. Things we may never understand because we are so fortunate. My heart hurt for him. I was just glad that, for a few hours, he was able to forget about the challenges in his life, and just play.

 We still need a few things for the boys. We have really seen the need for a full first aid kit. Also, they don’t have their own official jerseys. They are going to family and friends just to raise a little money to rent them so it would be nice for them have their own set. We have been able to equip some of the boys with a few necessities thanks to some generous donors.  If you got to spend one day with these boys, you would see the amazing amount of needs they have in their lives. One thing is education. Many of them have only gone up to gr.8 because they can’t afford the school fees past that. There is not much you can do if you only have a certificate up to gr. 8. It is our prayer that one day we can also sponsor some of them to continue their education. Please pray about it and contact me if you would like to help them out in any way.

The Poor

The other day I was sitting with a friend of mine at a local food joint when a sweet, elderly woman came up to us.

'Jambo. Nisaidie. Shillingi ishirini ata kumi' 

'Hello please help me with 20 shillings or even just 10'

We very kindly told her with a smile, 'Pole, si leo' 'sorry, not today.'

My friend then turned to me and said, "You know, when I meet people like that, I always think about the scripture that talks about Jesus separating the goats from the sheep. One day, I will stand before him and he will say to me, 'I came to you because I was in need and you denied me.'"

We sat there silently for a few minutes convicted by the thought.

Living around the poor is so tough. We don't really experience it in Canada. How many friends do you have that will not be eating supper tonight because they can't afford it? Sure, there are people around us who don't have great paying jobs, are in debt, can't afford to drive a nice car, or can't afford to by the latest gadget but I am not talking about these things. That is not poverty. That is just lacking nice things.

I am talking about people who have nothing. I mean nothing. Their kids don't go to school. Their kids wear the same clothes everyday and never have shoes. They make less than $1 a day. They wake up in the morning not knowing where their next meal will come from. They get sick yet can't see a doctor because doctors cost money. They have no luxuries like TV or radio or even books or playing cards instead they play with old plastic bottles and little stones. They sit around because there is no work or they don't have enough education to get a decent job. Families of 5 live in a one small room and share a toilet with 30 other people. That kind of poor.

When was the last time you went with out a meal?

I guess I have been thinking about it more lately. I have a lot of friends who live like this. They will have $2 to live on for the next 5 days. They will eat a banana for breakfast and some bread for supper and thats all for the day. They will feel hunger pains that we can't even imagine. I have seen it first hand and lived it with them. Well, sort of. Until I get too uncomfortable that is. For me, it's easier because I know that if I am desperately hungry, I have a savings account I can access at any time.

If I gave something to every poor person I meet or every sweet lady who comes and asks me for a few cents here in Kenya, I would be broke tomorrow. The need is overwhelming. I struggle too because I am white and people believe that I have unending riches. But if I try to teach them to lean on God yet hand out money to them whenever they need it, then who are they really leaning on?

Jesus loves the poor. He has a huge heart for the poor. So if you hang out with the poor, you are bound to meet Jesus. The poor have faith like I have never seen before. I get it when James 2:5 talks about the poor being rich in faith and inheriting the kingdom of God. They will trust in God alone to provide. If God provides 3 days later, they will turn back to Him and give Him praises while forgetting about the 3 days they went hungry.

Not all poor people are like this. Don't get me wrong. There are those who steal, cheat, prostitute themselves just to eat. There are those who die of ulcers from worrying so much. There are those who go to witchdoctors to make potions of prosperity. They are not all full of faith. But I have seen more poor people with genuine, steadfast faith.

There is a man who walks around Mombasa town. I think he is mentally lacking something. Maybe due to drugs or a birth defect. I don't know. But he intrigues me. Now I see him, I divert my eyes because most of the time he is naked or wearing torn shorts and, if you are not careful, you will get more than your eyes bargained for. He has not clothes let alone shoes. He probably never bathes. He just lives on the street. Sometimes I see him fast asleep on the pavement in the hot sun with noisy cars passing by. He must eat because he doesn't have a really scrawny body but is quite built. He doesn't care what people think of him and he never really bothers people. He just lives in his own little world and day by day somehow he gets by. I don't know what his faith is like and I don't know whats really going on in his mind but he seems content. There is something about his life I admire. No cares in the world. He survives.

I don't know.

As you can tell, my thoughts are mumble jumbled. I go back and forth.

All I can say is that I am blessed to mingle with the poor. I am excited to be apart of their lives. To be their friends. Not merely just to give to them but to live with them. After all, there is the rich and the poor and the Lord is the maker of all of them.

Alot of my thoughts were sort of spurred on by an article I read this morning. I suggest you read it. You can find it here.

A lady I met when we traveled a few months back to one of the poorest village I have ever been to. Isn't she beautiful?