Safari njema. Bon voyage. Say what you will, the past couple of months have seen a lot of traveling on our part. In late November, we were encouraged by Samaritan’s Purse to take a break from language school to attend a debriefing meeting in Michigan. Traveling from equatorial Africa to Michigan for a few weeks in December is not for the faint of heart, nor advisable to be done without a parka. It was tough unpacking all that we had experienced in Liberia, but we greatly appreciated having Godly folks with missions experience to walk us through that process, and have been astounded to see the difference that processing through that time and those things has made in our day-to-day lives and how we think about our future in medical missions.
After our time in Michigan, we were overjoyed to be able to head back to East Tennessee to visit our families for the holidays. We were also able to see a few others during our time home, including our church families. It was exciting to get to share with people we love the things that God has allowed us to see, do, and be a part of over the past year. We gave and received so many hugs, enjoyed the presence of family and friends, laughed a lot, cried a little, and ate way too much delicious food. It is hard to explain how Satan can use time and distance to try to undermine the love that exists between even family and friends and church community. We know it sounds/was crazy, but we had some (completely unfounded) anxieties that our people might not like us anymore or might have forgotten about us since we had been separated physically for so long. The Lord used our time at home to show us just how unfounded those anxieties were and to reaffirm much needed love for us from some of those we love, reminding us again and again how much we are cared for, even from afar. It’s impossible to describe the outpouring of love we experienced from our church (visit Heritage Baptist Church if you are in the Tri-Cities and looking for a solid, Biblical church that oozes love), opening their hearts and homes to us, and blessing us in so many ways.
Almost exactly one year after leaving home for Liberia, we found ourselves back in the same airport, leaving again, this time headed back to Chogoria. Feeling refreshed and renewed, with our love tank full, and our purpose clarified, we returned to Kenya. We have been back at the Swahili since, and have progressed to the point of some actual understanding and speaking meaningful sentences, albeit understood and spoken slowly. Sema polepole has likely been the most important phrase for my learning, which means speak slowly. (Not to be confused with pole which means sorry.) Also, best we can tell, there are at least 9 different ways to say “it/them,” depending on how you make the noun plural. Mind blown.
In other news, we have continued our attempt to figure out life here, exploring some (see pictures from Mount Kenya below), learning to cook some Kenyan food (githeri and sukuma wiki have both been successes… up next are chapati and ugali), and even adding a new family member.
Kivuli (key-voo-lee), which is the Ki-swahili word for Shadow, is a stray kitten who was found in the ceiling of one of the buildings here on the housing compound. After a bath, some worm and flea meds, and regular meals (he eats scrambled eggs with a little bit of tuna), he has established a fairly permanent residence on our porch and turned into quite the handsome little study partner/reading buddy. He also likes to follow me around and generally get underfoot, thus the name.
We are in the second portion of our language school currently, and are about to start adding in some medical Swahili in anticipation of starting work in the hospital toward the end of March. Nathan is excited to become more involved with the nursing students and plans to begin teaching at the nursing school around that time also. He and I are both thankful that teaching is all done in English, as our Swahili hasn’t quite reached a level of competence that we would be able to teach in Swahili at this point (or anytime in the near future). Please continue to pray for us as we finish up the formal part of language training, try to become more conversational, continue to develop a deeper sense of community here in Chogoria, and prepare to start “actual” work again. (Which we will be able to do since our work permits were finally approved this past week!) May we see with His eyes what He would have us to do each day, and may every thing we do, above all else, glorify Him.