Monday, February 27, 2017

Homeschool week at Rift Valley Academy

It is time for me to introduce this wonderful school to you all because it is about to be a very important part of our family next year. Rift Valley Academy is a boarding school for missionary children whose parents serve in African countries. Eli and I both graduated from this school and have very fond memories of our years there. It is crazy that now, almost 18 years later, our oldest has been accepted to join next year. 

Joshua playing handbells
The 5th and 6th graders playing handbells 
 Several times a year the school invites homeschooled children and their families to come for a week and experience a bit of the Rift Valley life. Children spend part of the week taking a standardized test to make sure they're keeping up to standards in their education but they also get to attend classes with the RVA students and are paired up with a "pal" for the week. We came in 2015 and that was what got Isaac thinking about coming here in the first place. About 4 months after the last homeschool week Isaac asked us if he could apply, so we did. And this week we found out he has a place which is very exciting (and sad for me!)

The boys with some of their friends eating in the school cafeteria

The boys had a very full week making friends, attending classes and playing really hard on the playground and on the hockey courts. Their favorite game was playing hockey while skating on a ripstick (type of skateboard). Needless to say, we were all exhausted when we got back to Nairobi on Friday evening.
Emily and I eating lunch just like old times

Emily was my roommate and best friend during my years at Rift Valley Academy and isn't it amazing that both of our oldest sons will be starting at RVA next year?! It was really special to spend the week with Emily and her family and what memories it brought back!
Emily and I 
The day we left RVA we got the boys' test scores back and were so thankful and encouraged to hear that they are all doing really well in their grade levels. What a relief that was for me as their education has been my full time ministry for the past 7 years! Hopefully we can jump back into our homeschool routine back in our Nairobi apartment with new vigor, knowing we're right where we need to be.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why it's so cool to grow up in Doro, South Sudan

I thought I would give the boys a fun creative writing assignment today by having them write an essay about why Doro is a fun place to grow up. I thought it would be a good activity to think about all the wonderful things about the past year and a half that we got to live there. Isaac and Evan jumped right in. Joshua didn't find it quite as easy and burst into tears. Suddenly I realized what I thought was a good idea maybe was not so great after all. He said he was upset because he doesn't like writing and he didn't want to have to write something long. I'm wondering if maybe it wasn't the best day to give the assignment since we've just said goodbye to Eli for a week as he flies into South Sudan on a small assessment team. But I thought each of their little essays were unique and wanted to share them.

Here is Isaac's:
Life in Doro for a boy

Some people think South Sudan is a horrible place, not to mention a refugee camp! But those people have the wrong idea! If you live at the edge of the camp like me it's really great. Every morning I wake up to the good smell of breakfast cooking or occasionally Sudanese zalabia (fried doughnuts). After that, we jump into school for like 4 hours and by the time we're done it's lunchtime so we hop on our bikes and ride over to lunch club for some okra or kudra soup. Then we come back to our concrete home to have rest time. At 2:30 we have a choice of about a million things to spend our afternoon. We could go get stuff at the market or go play at the crashed Russian cargo plane. We could go find a tree in fruit or go catch grasshoppers for our 11 cats to eat or we could play soccer with our refugee friends or build a grass hut. If there was rain we would have mud ball wars. There are a lot more things like fishing or swimming at the river but I'm tired of writing so why don't you come and see them yourself.

By Evan:
Doro Memories

Doro is a fun place because there is only half a day of school. And once school is done we play with all our friends and go to the river, swim, fish and play with our friends. We also climb so many trees and get the fruits to eat. There are also crashed airplanes that we love to play in. When it is rainy season we play mud fights, catch grasshoppers, or we just sit around under trees talking in the shade. If we get bored there are two little girls named Annabelle and Mikat that we also swing and play with. That is our life in Doro.

By Joshua:
Fun in Doro

Doro was fun because you could do anything. Like fish or play with your friends. It was so fun. But then dudes with guns came and scared everyone. They kept shooting all the houses but we got in a plane and left.

Monday, February 13, 2017

13+ km hike up and around Mt. Longonot

Our family at the top!
 Early Saturday morning we set out of the city in a van with a group of teammates to hike Mt. Longonot which is a crater about an hour and a half out of Nairobi. We all packed snacks, a picnic lunch and lots of water for a day of adventure in the sun

Group pic at the top

Isaac with his awesome Aunties

Isaac clambering down a steep peak

Explorer Evan

We were so proud of our boys for making the 13 plus km hike!

Sweet family bonding

Eli and the men

Some of the downhills/slopes were a little scary

Still smiling with dusty faces - proud of our day's accomplishment

Josh enjoyed guessing what type of animal each skull was
We were amazed at how refreshing and fun it was to get out of the city and experience such a challenging yet exciting hike with breathtaking scenery. We are again thankful to spend these months here with our teammates though we're not able to be in South Sudan where we all really belong.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

 Press On
When I’m alone, when I’m afraid
When I have had all I can take
Losing my grip, I start to slip away
When I can hear the voice of doubt
Inside my head, screaming loud
Strengthen my faith, and help me say today
I will follow, I will press on
Even when the walk feels long
Your hands hold me together
Your love is with me forever
Through the broken, through the victory
I will praise You through it all
And run hard ‘til the race is done
I, I’m gonna press on, press on
I’m gonna press on, press on
How many storms have I been through
How many led me right to You
You’re using the pain, the hardest days for my good,
My good
So what do I fear God, You are with me
Guiding my steps today
Through the mountains, valleys, sun and rain
Lord, lead the way, lead the way
I will follow, I will press on
Even when the walk feels long
Your hands hold me together
Your love is with me forever
Through the broken, through the victory
I will praise You through it all
And run hard ‘til the race is done
I, I’m gonna press on, press on
One step in front of the other
No looking back, no looking back
One step in front of the other
I’m gonna press on, I’m gonna press on
Songwriters: Chuck Butler / Jeff Pardo / Juan Otero

Again God has been speaking to me through songs, and most especially while I'm out on my morning jogs. Yesterday the words of a song called "Press On" really impacted me because they expressed what the Holy Spirit has been gently laying on my heart. I haven't explained this whole saga here on our blog but a couple weeks ago one of our teammates and dear friends got very seriously sick here in Kenya and she and her husband made the decision to travel to the US to get the medical help she needed. Since she was weak and they also had a 2 year old in tow, I offered to travel with them. When I found out they were flying to LA, I decided to stay a few extra days with my sister and her family and it was such a sweet time of talking, catching up and loving on my adorable nephew.
Coming back to "reality" in Kenya, battling killer jet lag and jumping right into homeschooling my rambunctious three boys didn't add up to a very easy week. Rather, by day 2 I was ready to quit and was feeling so overwhelmed with everything going on in our life. Part of me was tempted to just "escape" and pack up and fly back to America. I was feeling "burned" by Africa and just didn't want to be here anymore. But then the Lord reminded me that sometimes He rescues us from hard times, sometimes He plucks us out of hard times but sometimes He is with us THROUGH the hard times. And I am realizing that I am in that third scenario. My life circumstances are just the way it is and God is calling me to walk through it with him. So when these lyrics to the song "Press On" blasted through my headphones as I pounded out yet another mile on my run yesterday, I was struck by the prhase "I will follow. I will press on. One step in front of the other..." That is all I need to do. Put one foot in front of the other. We will get through this season. I can't avoid it. I can't skip it. I need to press THROUGH it. It's not the easy route but I know it's for my good.

Doro Assessment Team delayed

In our last newsletter we mentioned an assessment team of 5 was going into Doro. The team only made it as far as Juba, South Sudan. Various delays and rumors of unrest made it clear that this is not the right timing for them to be in Doro. They returned to Nairobi, Kenya today. Please pray that God will make clear the right timing for their return and for our team as they grieve the delay. May God redeem this for His glory. Thanks for your prayers.