Friday, January 29, 2010

The Girls!

We have 21 students in our class. 15 boys and only 6 girls. My days are surrounded by boys, boys, boys. I do love the boys; they are wonderful young men but my heart delights being around girls. So I want you to meet my new sisters for the next 3 months. From left to right is Rebbea, Rahab, Faith, Loma, and Tswilah. Aren't they beautiful? The boys are already fighting over them to be their valentines dates.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Becoming a real missionary

Kenya is one of the most missionary-populated countries in all of Africa. There are few places in Kenya where you won’t find a missionary. Sometimes I questions why I am here knowing that there is already so much work going on here but then I am reminded that God indeed led me here for a purpose.

Somehow we have made the missionary life look glamorous. We drive around in our big range rovers or land rovers (there is quite the debate over which car is better), we live in some of the nicest houses in town, we eat our comfort food like pizza and ice cream, we only shop at the local supermarkets, we have washing machines and water coolers, we let our kids go to the best schools in the country, we fly instead of taking the bus, we get pedicures and manicures, and we never do anything for ourselves as we have maids and guards to do everything for us.

I won’t lie; I am guilty of living this lifestyle too. Some of the nicest places I have ever lived in are here in Kenya. I enjoy not having to wash my own clothes or clean my own house. I like being able to get an ice cream cone for less than $1. My life is good here.

I have been having some interesting conversations with some Kenyan friends of mine over the past few days about missionaries. Unfortunately, they have some pretty negative views about the way we live here. We often come and live comfortably while staying away from the places that need our resources and us most. Many of us tend to interact with each other more than the Kenyans. You find us at the local pizza joint rather than in the slums eating maize and beans. We come and think that we are making huge sacrifices to be here. I tried explaining to my friends how much we actually do sacrifice to come here but I did not win that argument. My friend said to me, “you come to preach the good news to the poor but I never see any missionary in the ghetto where the poorest of the poor live.” He made a good point. There are many Kenyans who are missionaries too who are supported by churches in the west. They often live better lives than top business people here in Kenya.

It really made me think of what kind of missionary I want to be. It made me think of the people I want to reach. If I want to reach these people, I need to become like them and take on their way of life. Why should I pretend like I am reaching them when in actuality I am just coming close but not too close lest I be uncomfortable? But part of me doesn’t want to give up my comfy and privileged life. I don’t want to live in the slums. And what about my safety? Or my health? I cannot drink the water here or I could get sick.

So I am challenged. What sort of missionary should I be? More than that, what kind of missionary does God want me to be? What kind of life does He want me to live in order to reach those who need to be reached? If I am His hands and His feet, whom does He want me to touch and where does He want me to walk?

After numerous conversations, my friend said to me, “Nikole, just become a real missionary…”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Give us clean hands

He who has clean hands…He will receive blessing from the Lord”  Psalms 24:4-5

Ok, so I kind of butchered that verse and took it a wee bit out of context but I need clean hands. Literally. We all do. Every afternoon we have to work on the compound for two and a half hours. This means pulling weeds, digging, slashing or, if you are lucky, cleaning. Yes, the lucky ones get to clean as in mop, dust, sweep, wash the cars, etc. Those are the jobs where your hands don’t hurt for days afterwards. Yesterday I spent my day pulling weeds. These aren’t tiny garden weeds that we find at home; they are huge weeds up to your knees. After two hours, I had three blisters that had popped, a couple small cuts, and dirt in the depths of the wrinkles on my hands. I have had two showers and still haven’t gotten all the dirt off my hands.

I thought it was just my poor, precious, fragile mzungu (white person) hands but when I look at everyone else’s hands, they are just the same and some are even worse. We are all feeling it. I have used more band-aids in the past week than I have in the last 2 years.

However, one of my classmates said to me yesterday, “Nikole, I don’t know where the myth came from that mzungus are weak because you are much stronger than I am. I admire that.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How many people can you count?

How many did you get? Well there are 19 people crammed in that photo. Some of them you can’t see cause they’re sitting under someone or on the floor. We went for an outing on Sunday and the only way we could get there was by our van. So we crammed all of us 18 students plus 4 more staff. It is a dusty, bumpy road so there were lots of laughs as everyone banged into each other. Needless to say, our personal body bubbles were popped. 

I want to introduce to you my dear friend Rahab. I met her in Mombasa last April. She is now a student with me and she is also my roommate. I love her to bits and pieces. I don’t know how I would survive without her. She is such a sister to me. We took this picture one morning just before breakfast. The mornings are beautiful here as the sun rises and the birds start chirping. 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Look who's knocking at my door

I turned the corner to my dorm yesterday and look who I found in front of my door. Yup, he wanted in. I told him that I do love him but it is impossible for me to let him in. First, he wouldn't fit through the door.  Second, he would make it stink inside and he might end up doing potty in there and I definitely don't have time to clean it out right now. And thirdly, the others would miss him and think it was unfair that he got to visit me and they didn't. I didn't want the others to resent him. So I kindly asked him to step back so I could get to my door without any of his yucky flies getting into my room. I saw him today and even after I rejected him, he still loves me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

5am jogging

I am in day 2 of Bible boot camp. Yes, this is not just bible school; it is combined with a boot camp. Day 1 was great but by the end of the day I was exhausted. As I sit here it is 6:08am. I ran under the stars at 5 this morning. It was difficult to get up this morning but when I walked outside and saw the bright stars in the sky, I was in awe. I know that this early morning will catch up to me later in the day.

Our schedule is strict. The only time I can get on the computer is about 6:30-7:00am as the rest of the day is full. I am busy learning scriptures everyday as they are expecting us to recite 60 scriptures at the end of the course. My poor mzungu (white person) hands are blistered and bruised today after pulling weeds in the field for 3 hours. We had our first class yesterday morning and I loved it. I loved that my textbook just happens to be my favourite book in the world. This morning we have our first quiz on what we learned yesterday.

The only free time we have is on Saturday afternoons so that’s when I plan to catch up on sleep, laundry and emails.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Big Bugs

Last night I was in the bug squishin’ business. I was sitting in my room and everywhere I looked I seemed to see huge bugs crawling across the floor or flying in the air. Tiny cricket-like bugs were crawling around in my bathroom. They weren’t scared of me either. I would stomp my feet at them hoping they would scurry away but they just kept coming so I would kick them. I found a great big beetle stomping it’s way under my bed. I quickly scooped it up and chucked it out the window. I had mercy on the poor fella and spared his life but this guy wasn’t so lucky.

I always felt bad for this bug. I thought God gave him too big of a body for his tiny wings. When he flies around, he sounds like a mini airplane. He is so loud. The kids in Eldoret showed me that he isn’t the smartest of the insect kingdom either. They used to catch these big flies, roll them around in their hands like dice and then let them go. The bug would fly up and down and all around in circles and loops. It was pretty funny.

Today is a beautiful Sunday. I am excited to go to church this morning and hear all the singing and hymns. Here is a picture of my backyard. If you look to the right you can see my dorm room where I will be living the next 4 months. The rest of the campus is behind there. It’s a beautiful place.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Torch Bearers

Mom and Dad sent me this picture yesterday. The Castlegar News had come to write a story about them. My dad is carrying the Olympic torch through Salmo on January 23rd (which happens to be my brother's birthday). My mother carried the Olympic torch for the 1988 Calgary Olympics while she was 8 months pregnant with me. So technically I carried it too right?

 I am so excited for Dad to have this opportunity in a few weeks but I am quite sad that I will have to miss it. I wonder if they will be watching the winter Olympics in Kenya? I hope so.

My Roomies!

This morning I said goodbye to the four lovely ladies I have been staying with. They were huge blessings in my life these last few days. If it weren't for them, this would have been a very lonely experience. From left to right is Kristina, Amber, Me, Shannon, and Mana. This picture was taken at about 7 this morning right before they headed to class. When they all left, I found little notes of encouragement on my desk that they had written to me. I am thankful for facebook so I can keep in touch with them and hopefully see them again one day!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last night in New York

Well tonight is my last night in New York state. It just hit the girls in my dorm that I am leaving in the morning and that has made them sad. To be honest, it makes me a little sad as well. I have really started to bond with these girls and I have had the privilege of entering into their worlds and experiencing their personalities. The students here have been very encouraging to me. I have never seen so many students so focused, so hard working, and so loving. I wish I could follow all their journeys and see where they are in a few years.

It’s been an interesting couple of days. I was uneasy at first missing home and having to adjust to environments that I am not typically comfortable in but I can say that God has really helped me adapt to the point where I might actually miss it here a little. Ok, maybe that’s going a bit far but I will definitely look back and remember that this was a wonderful experience.

It’s been interesting to learn more about the lives of these girls I am staying with. Today I asked a couple of them why so many of them wore rings on their marriage finger. They told me that they are purity rings that their fathers gave them at an early age. I think every second girl has one here. I asked them if the ring really helps them to “keep pure” (aka remain a virgin till their married). They said that at first it did remind them and it was their excuse not to have sex but now they said it’s much more than that. They now realize the importance of keeping pure and it has become a personal thing between them and God. I respect that.

I have also been learning a lot about the military. I am pretty sure that every third person you meet has a family member or members in the military. I was speaking with a young girl today whose father is in a dangerous country in northern Africa with the military. As I started talking with her I could sense her uneasiness about it. As strong as she seems, I can see that it takes a toll on her and her family. One of my roommates has 3 of her siblings enlisted in the army. I asked her if she ever worries and she said that she definitely gets worried when they are overseas. About 5 minutes later, a girl walked into our roomed quite upset as one of her friend’s brother died in Afghanistan yesterday. The reality of it really hit me hard. We had 4 soldiers in Canada die a few weeks ago and it definitely hurt my heart even though I didn’t know any of them. So my heart hurts for these students who have family members overseas and they are over here trying to keep their minds off the reality of it.

Do you remember that show that Rick Mercer did called “Talking with Americans”? Well I have experienced a bit of that myself this week and it’s been hilarious. A man asked me the other day if my name being spelt with a ‘k’ is a Canadian thing. I giggled and politely told him no. Yesterday a girl burped then excused herself because she thought that Canadians were extremely offended when people burped. Then I was asked “what is school like in Canada?” I didn’t quite know what to say to that because as far as I know, it is pretty similar to school in America. And finally today I was eating with a new friend and she burst out loud after I spoke and said, “Wow, it’s true! Canadians really do say EH!”

I am ready to leave American soil and land on African soil in just a few short days. Please keep all my flights in your prayers. Pray also for my luggage to arrive all together and intact with me on Thursday night. I AM SO EXCITED!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Someone to eat with

I came to New York knowing that I would know absolutely no one here. I am pretty used to being independent and having to make friends wherever I go but this place has presented a new challenge for me: someone to sit with during meal times. You see, this is a dorm school and has a cafeteria where everyone comes and eats during certain times of the day. Now, not knowing anyone, it’s hard to find someone to sit with at meal times. I find myself looking for my roommates or some familiar face that I can plunk my plate down beside. The first couple of days I was intimidated but now things are getting better.

Today I had two familiar faces come to the school just to have lunch with me. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other better and laughing about our various adventures in other cultures. They are two people who are helping me with all the details and logistics of my trip. After the meal, they expressed to me how proud of me they were. I am sort of a guinea pig I guess. I am the first person in their program to come to New York for a few days so they don’t necessarily know what to do with me at most times of the day. They are going to try to get the people that are going through their program to come to New York to do somewhat of an orientation before they go on their trips but they haven’t figured out all the details yet. So I am the first one ever. And I am ok with that. I find that my experiences in Africa have helped me to adapt to these situations. I often find myself completely content waiting for someone or not having anything to do. I find that I can interact quite well with the people around me.

So tonight I had the privilege of eating with a couple of my roommates. We were all up in the dorm and decided to go down together to eat. They saved me a seat and everything! I am starting to bond quite well with them and the dorm life is becoming more comfortable for me. They are also being very hospitable and adjusting to my early bedtimes. I am sure it’s not so easy for them either to have a new roomy. So I have to admit, I might miss them just a little when a leave on Wednesday.

BY THE WAY, in less than 3 days I will be in Nairobi! Isn’t that exciting!?? 

Sunday, January 10, 2010


So for the last 3 days, Word of Life has a large mission conference here. There are probably about 800 people attending the conference from 3 different bible institutes. Word of Life is a worldwide ministry. I learned that it is in 65 different countries around the world. We have had the pleasure of listening to the stories and life lessons from the co-founder of the organization. It’s amazing to see how much this organization has grown since it was started just over 60 years ago.

I have also been amazed at the huge international community here on this compound. Last night we had an international concert where various choirs made up of the bible institute students sang songs of worship to the one and only God in their language. We had songs in English, French, Japanese, Korean and even Swahili (which the students from Ontario sang). Dieu, Dios, Mungu, God. I was reminded of the nations and our calling to reach the nations. Sometimes you don’t even have to go to them; they come to you. Here is what the conference auditorium looks like. The first year students take all their classes here. It's quite the classroom.

One of my roommates is from Japan and she has been teaching me a lot about Christianity in her country. She said that 80% of Japanese Christians are saved outside of Japan. They come to other countries and hear the Good News. She also told me how she is hoping to go back and be a missionary in her own country to reach the youth. The average age of a pastor in Japan is 65! Here are some treats she shared with me!

The students from the Bible Institute in Quebec also did a presentation today of the various ministries they work with in Quebec. I was humbled as I realized that that is my country and there is still so much need. A strange and new technique for evangelizing they showed us included dynamite. Yup, one of their alumni was now working with dynamite so they thought that they should blow up an old car with dynamite! There reasoning behind it was that we as Christians ought to have the most fun because we have been given life in abundance! I am just glad that their little dynamite display didn’t end any of their abundant lives.

It’s been a fun couple of days meeting people who are interested in the same things I am and have the same heart towards people that I do.


Saying goodbye is torture. I feel bad that I have put my parents through it 4 times now. It never gets easier either. I think now they are bit more at ease with me going away since they trust that I can take care of myself and now my dad has seen where I go so he understands as well. But in saying that, the waterworks still fall heavy on the departure day. I was doing really well up until I had to say goodbye to my brother before we left for Spokane. I am balling my eyes out and he smiles at me!? And the last thing he says to me is, “good thing my sweater is almost waterproof.” I do love my brother. He did sort of fake run after me when we drove out of the driveway.

Our trip to Spokane was tense. The three of us were anticipating the final goodbyes at the airport the entire time. I didn’t eat much and dad was in a daze. Mom had tears in her eyes every few seconds. It’s awful. So most of the time it’s a big relief when I go through the security check and there is no turning back.

This picture is really embarrassing but I thought it was hilarious and needed to share it!

3 planes later, I landed in Albany, New York. My baggage didn’t quite make it and arrived a day late. The flights were all delayed so I arrived quite late at night. My connections were short and I found myself dashing through airports that I have never been too trying to locate my gate before my plane left. I did stop to take a picture of the Chicago airport though. It had this crazy underground tunnel with bright lights and multi-coloured walls. So cool!

Girls Dorm

I have been placed in a girls dorm.

I never realized how much I disliked dorms.

When I went to school I rented out a basement suite and had a roommate. We each had our own rooms, our own space, and it worked out well. I never had to worry about sleeping on a bunk bed or sharing a bathroom with 8 other people. I could turn out my lights whenever I wanted to sleep and wake up when I decided to. I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I could play my music loud. I could throw my stuff all over the room or I could keep my room really tidy.

But this dorm experience is challenging me. I have to admit that I don’t find it very comfortable or appealing. Most of my friends loved dorm life and I just don’t get why. It’s not that I don’t like the girls I am with. They are so warm and welcoming and fun to be around. I think I just like my space. I rejuvenate when I am alone and its quiet and I can be in control of my surroundings. Maybe that’s it; I don’t like not having control. I don’t like being unsettled and living out of a suitcase.

I’m humbled as I realize how crabby I can get in uncomfortable situations. I sort of thought that I have great adaptability skills since I have lived in Africa and all but I was wrong. I need to recall all the other uncomfortable situations I have been in and how, in the end, they turned out to be some of the biggest learning times of my life. How am supposed to grow if I am not pushed beyond my limits? One thing I like is that in these times, I am forced to lean more on my heavenly Father. The One who is always with me, my Comforter, my Prince of peace.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I hate the whole build up to the goodbye thing. I love the feeling when I am pushed through the security gate and there is no turning back. There is no more goodbyes to be said. There is no more worrying about if you packed everything. It's done and you just keep going. I am looking forward to that tomorrow. This past week has been wonderful. I have been quite relaxed and calm. I had a great last sleep in my bed. My head isn't running too much with all the details of what is happening. It's completely God. He's given me a sound mind not to fret or fear or be anxious. I only got a bit frustrated when one of my suitcases weighed in 14lbs overweight. Blarg! I had to leave a few of my belongings behind (including my old computer that I planned to give away) and switch to a smaller, lighter suitcase but all is well now. 

A few months ago I wrote a very specific list of things I needed for this trip in one of my journals. Some of the items were little things (a new power adapter, a few skirts), some were a little more finicky (a new good pair of sandals, a full piece bathing suit) and some were quite outrageous (a new camera, $10,000+ support,  and my dream computer: a Macbook pro). I surrendered them to God knowing that my God shall supply all my needs according to His riches of glory in Christ Jesus.

As I went to bed last night, I was recounting each thing on the list and picturing where it was in my suitcase. I realized that each item on that list is packed into one of my suitcases! I found a great pair of sandals last week, I got a new camera for christmas, the finances are rolling in just perfectly, and my dream computer is perched on my lap as I write this.

So God is good and He is supplying my needs in abundance!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

3 more sleeps

On Sunday we had a full house at my going away party. I have to say, I felt extremely loved. I was so humbled just to see so many people come and spend time with me in my house before I leave for another year. I just need to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who came and made the day extra special. I really think Jesus likes parties. I think He likes seeing all His children in one place at one time rejoicing and celebrating who He has created us to be and what He is doing in our lives.

3 more sleeps and I will be on my way to New York. My packing is almost done. I have said most of my goodbyes. Logistics are almost all figured out. And I am very ready to get on the plane and go. One week tomorrow and I will be in Nairobi. My heart is anxious to get going but I am enjoying my last few days at home with my family.

Friday, January 1, 2010

7 more sleeps... the packing stage

Today I decided that I should probably start packing. I am leaving for 11 months and have only started packing 7 sleeps before my departure day. I am not too stressed about it; I feel like a pro since I have done it so many times. I know which clothes are appropriate (lulu lemon = not appropriate), I know how many pairs of socks I will need (not many, its too hot), I know what I can and cannot find there (bobby pins and white people makeup are hard to come by but After Eight chocolates can be found in supermarkets), I know how to efficiently use the space in my luggage as to fit as much stuff as possible (rolling clothes saves space but creates many wrinkles) and so on.

I still haven't decided how many bottles of sunscreen I will need. Right now I have 3: SPF 30,15 and 8. I barely used any sunscreen last time I was there which did bite me in the bum a few times. This time I will be in the sun a bit more as the compound I will be living on is right on the beach and swimming in the ocean is actually part of my job. No joke. When camp time comes around, I will be expected to play in the ocean with the campers. And who said life in Africa is rough? Anyways, I still don't know how much to take and really don't want to waste space if I don't have to.

Just in case you were wondering, the Splenda is not for me. My African Mum can't have sugar so I have introduced her to Splenda. However, it's hard to find there so I make space for it and she is very grateful. Sugarless tea is like a death sentence for Kenyans.

I have also been spending some time (ok lots of time) on my new, beautiful computer. Yes, I was blessed with a new computer since mine crashed last year. I have been busy with uploading and transferring my music, files, photos, etc. I have been searching for good movies to download off iTunes. My eyes have been glued to the screen a little too much.

But in between my packing efforts and my computer addiction, I have picked up my bible and found an incredible amount of peace. My soul is at peace with all that is happening and is going to happen this year. I have been studying Hezekiah's character in 2 Chronicles and have been inspired by this bold, God-fearing leader.

"And in every good work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered." 2 Chronicles 31:21

May every work that I do this year be done with all my heart, looking unto Jesus.