Boniface

I was supposed to have a meeting in the office before picking up a few staff members downtown to go with them to visit one of our clients in the hospital on the other side of the city. I woke up at 7am and I realized there was actually no way I could make it to the office (the opposite direction of town), have a meaningful meeting, and still make it to town when planned. So, I turned the meeting into a phone call, made some coffee, and got on the road, sending a text letting my colleagues know I was on the way.

Despite excessive traffic (can you call it excessive if it’s the norm?), and a misguided google-maps that caused me to take two u-turns, I made it to the meeting point at exactly 11am. I called one of my colleagues. When I said, “I’m here” he made a surprised sound and said, “OK, I am on the way.” I could hear in the background the shouts and laughter of schoolchildren which meant that he was still at the center in Mukuru that has a primary school attached to it – and is on the other side of town. I parked the car, paid someone to wash it, walked to Dominos and ordered a pizza. As I downed a large Swahili chicken pizza in a matter of minutes, I realized I might be a little bit of a stress eater. I tried to catch my breath while I responded to some emails.

An hour later, I met up with my colleagues. We went together to the hospital. I had asked to meet this client because his story was shared with me last week and it had left an impression on me. I wanted to meet him, and – if he allowed it – take some pictures to share his story. What I had been told was that he was a young man who was very sick. He had joined our program a few months ago when he was bed-ridden. He has been refusing to take his medicine, and often refuses food, so he his health deteriorated. So, last week he was admitted to to hospital. Currently in Kenya, doctors are on strike, so it was a bit of a process getting him admitted into one of the private hospitals and it is really only because of our staff advocating for him that he was admitted. This past week, our staff has been visiting him and taking care of him. They have even bathed him. I wanted to share this story because I am so impressed by our staff.

When we finally arrived and found his room, I met Boniface – he likes to be called Boni for short. He looked like a skeleton with skin on, but he had bright eyes and a beautiful smile. As soon as I saw him in the hospital bed, clutching his blanket and looking so desperate, any thought of asking to take his picture was gone. There was no way I could strut in there, just some white dude with a camera wanting to snap a few pictures of a sick guy. How disgraceful. How disrespectful. I know it’s part of my job, but I wish social media potential wasn’t always at the forefront of my mind like that.

We intended to visit with him, and encourage him for an hour or so and leave. However, as soon as we arrived – around 1pm – he said that he had been discharged, and would not forgive us if we left without him. Based on the way he looked, I could not believe that he had been discharged. The catheter bag that was collecting his dark urine indicated to me that he was severely dehydrated and still needed care. We had a private consultation with the doctor to confirm if what he said was true. I resisted the urge to butt my white nose into this business, and allowed the Kenyans to talk. We were told that he was right. He had been discharged. A theory of one of my colleagues is that the hospital decided he was a hopeless case and that they were sending him home to die.

We called Boni’s mom to come and get him. As with almost everything in Kenya, the discharge was more of a process than I expected it to be. We didn’t leave the hospital until almost 6pm. Two of my staff members, Boni, and his mom all in my car, listening to the radio and and talking about normal things like traffic and the new mall that opened, and I was trying to ignore the fact that I was basically driving Boni to his death bed. I was so angry that he hadn’t been treated better at the hospital and that they had just written him off. How could he still be dehydrated after a week of being in the hospital?? What had they been doing?? I was feeling that way, but to the hospital’s credit, I should report that they did waive his fees and prescribe him some medicine. So, it wasn’t all bad.

We arrived at Boni’s house, and helped him into the house. You could practically feel the relief that he felt as he laid down is his own bed and let out a deep sigh. There’s something comforting about being home. His mom had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for driving them home – using public transportation would have been a cost, probably would have taken at least an hour longer, and would have meant that she would have had to carry him by herself from the highway into the slum where they live.

We prayed together and were leaving, but when we walked out of the door, a man was standing outside. I could see in his eyes that he was a hard man, and that he was not happy to see strangers there. He asked who we were in a confrontational way. Boni’s mom intervened and told him that we were from the hospital with Boni, and introduced this man as Boni’s older brother, Michael. She then quickly tried to cause a distraction by showing me her chickens and telling me they were about to lay eggs.

Michael stepped in between her and me and asked me, “What were you doing with my brother?”

Not knowing if he knew about his brother’s HIV status, I said, “We were bringing him from the hospital. I’m from the church. I think you know my colleagues who are also from the church.” I pointed at my colleagues.

“I know them”, he said. “ What organization do you work with? You work with people like my brother? Do you know about his situation?”

Was he referring to Boni’s HIV status? I still wasn’t sure, so I said, “Yes. We work with people like your brother. I work with an organization the supports churches who have community programs.”

His next question surprised me. He said, “I can see in your eyes that you care about my brother. You’re very emotional” (I’ve gotten that before), and then he asked, “where does that come from?”

Without thinking, I said, “My faith. Jesus. It comes from Jesus in me.”

At this point he glanced at his mom and my colleague who were listening intently to our conversation, and he grabbed my arm. Pulling me away from them and behind the house, he said, “Let’s talk over here.”

My mind drifted to the car in front of the house that I was pretty sure I had left unlocked and the laptop in my bag, but I brushed that away. It seemed important to give Michael my full attention.

“I work in construction,” he said,” I work very hard. It’s good work, and I like it. But I come home and my brother is sick on his bed. He is depressed and sometimes crazy. He doesn’t even want to get better. I don’t understand it. He doesn’t take his medicine. In my job, I fix things. It’s what I do. But I can’t fix this. All my money goes to him, and he doesn’t even get better, doesn’t even say thank you. I’m tired of it. He just wants to die, and sometimes I wish that he would.”

“Michael.”
Not really knowing what to say, I just started talking. “Boni is lucky to have a brother like you. You are hardworking, and you have been taking care of him. You are a good man. But… I know that it isn’t easy.” – When I said this, his eyes softened for the first time since we had begun talking.

“I know it’s not easy,” I continued, “and I know that it seems like you can’t fix this. Some of it is fixable, though. He is sick, and the medicine will fix that. You should encourage him to take it. But, he is also struggling with depression and that is in his mind, and in his spirit. That’s hard to fix, and sometimes our efforts to fix that in other people make it worse. Be easy on him. This program we have will help him. We will be counseling him and encouraging him and making sure he eats well and takes his medicine. Our hope is that he will get better soon. I believe we will see him walking in a few months. We want to come along side him – and you – to make sure that happens.”

Before he responded, his mom came over and said, “You should really be going.” She was right. It was getting dark, and it would be best for me to be out of the slum before it got too late.

As I turned to go, Michael grabbed my arm again. “Will you come back?”

“My colleagues will be coming every week.”

“No. I want you to come. I want to hear more about this faith you have.”

“Ok. I will. I’ll see you soon.”

______

I’m sitting at home now processing all of this.

I’ve seen enough to know that I can take nothing for granted.
I know that Boni may not get better.
But, the brightness in his eyes, his big smile, and his supportive – though somewhat reluctant – family give me hope that he will improve.

If you are a praying person, I ask you to pray for Boni to gain strength and to improve in his health – and in his attitude.

Pray for his mom who is so sweet and is doing her best to take care of him.

And, most of all, pray for Michael. Pray for him to have compassion on his brother, to remain strong and to continue to have steady work, and to be open to hearing more about this faith that I have.

Thanks for reading. I’ve realized that I only blog these days when I need to process something…so, thanks for being my therapist 🙂

Book Review (Kind of)

I’m reading “A Farewell to Mars” by Brian Zahnd.
Brian is the uncle of my good friend, John.
That’s why I’m reading it – and, because John asked me to read it.
Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have had any interest.
This is because I have a pretty strong dislike for most modern Christian literature. That could probably be the topic of a whole blog post, but let me not get into it right now.

I have to admit I was approaching this book like I do any modern christian literature: with an overly critical and skeptical mind.

The author got through to me pretty quickly, though, with his representation of the gospel. In the second chapter, Mr. Zahnd challenges the reader to move completely away from the idea that the Gospel is “something like trying to push people onto the last chopper out of Saigon.” The salvation offered through Jesus is not just a post-mortem bus ticket to Heaven. The power of the gospel of Jesus is intended to redeem and save the whole world, to reconcile all things to God. I already know this, but I appreciate how clearly and strongly he states it.

Furthermore, as a test to this hypothesis, the author asks the question, “How has Jesus made the world any different than it’s always been?” He challenges the reader to imagine what a world would be like without Jesus and his teachings. After failing to imagine this on a large scale, I started looking a little closer to home, and I had a realization that blew my mind a little bit. My answer to this question will not allow me to ever doubt the redemptive power of Christ ever again.

The follow statements are absolutely true with no exaggeration:

Without Jesus, my family wouldn’t exist.
Without Jesus, my parents would be divorced.
My brother and I would be alienated from each other.
My adopted brothers and sister would not be a part of my family.
My Dad and I would be estranged, and I would harbor bitterness and anger toward him, and we never would have had that conversation that led me to joining the Peace Corps. I probably would have joined the military and had a very different life – one that I probably would have hated.

I could go on with examples, but this was enough for me. I have seen reconciliation, forgiveness, and redemption firsthand in my family. This is how it played out:

My Dad chose to make my mom and the family his first priority, and my parents chose to be reconciled, and to break cycles that they had inherited from their families.
My brother called me from his duty station in Texas to ask me to forgive him. He is now a constant source of wisdom and friendship.
My parents chose to adopt, because they see it as the most obvious expression of God’s love, and I have learned so much about what love and family means.
My Dad and I were able to humbly restore and build our relationship to the point where I consider him a friend, confidant, and mentor.
My family is a constant source of love, support, and wisdom.

These things are a direct result of the power of God working in the hearts and minds of my family members through our belief in Jesus. That is the restoration and redemption that Jesus offers.

Then I think about how much God has done in other people’s lives through God’s expression of love and redemption in my family. My parent’s home is a place where people find love, community, and healing through the ministry they work in, but also just simply because they open their home and hearts to everyone. This is also a direct result of Jesus working in my family, and using us to work out His redemption of all things. Amazing that He uses people that way.

Yes, I do believe in an inevitable, final, and full restoration and redemption of all things, but we don’t have to wait for that. Salvation is offered now. Redemption is offered now.

We must believe, despite all that is wrong and broken around us, that redemption is possible. We must believe that by our actions and in our relationships, we can show love in a way that fosters redemption, healing and hope.

This reminder is powerful to me. I work with people who are living with HIV, in poverty, in slums, and often in broken and abusive family situations. Although I constantly see stories of improvement, healing and restoration, sometimes situations don’t improve. Even in the successful cases of our clients, I can say 100% of the time, situations don’t improve as much as I would want them to. Even when we get people to a point where they are managing their disease well, are economically stable, and have a good family situation where kids are supported and going to school, they are still living with HIV, and in poverty, and in slums. It’s hard not to be disappointed or overwhelmed sometimes by seemingly hopeless situations, and the numerous and deep root causes for why these people are in these situations.

But the people in these situations have hope.
Often, they have more hope than I do.
Why?

Because they believe that restoration is possible now, and they believe that even if it doesn’t happen now we can still have hope in the coming, final restoration. All things will one day be made right. Because of this, we can have hope in the midst of the most hopeless situations.

Until the day when all things are made right, we can and must believe that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we can live in a restored relationship with God and with each other in a way that brings redemption and healing to us, and to the world around us. People who live in this belief make up the Church. People who live this way are the Kingdom of Heaven. We are called to start making things right, now.

The scriptures put it this way:

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-20 (Also, check out Colossians 1: 15-23)

To my Christian friends reading this, who say you believe this, I want to ask you, are you living your faith in a way that is restoring, reconciling, and redeeming the world around you? Is your church living this out? I’m asking myself the same questions.

To my non-christian friends, I wonder if this is a new way for you to look at my faith and understand who I am. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Journal Entry, 2014

I used to journal a lot. I have two journals that I still write in periodically. One is for life-narrative, and one is more for reflection. Today, I was waiting for a meeting, and I pulled one out to write in it. Instead, I started flipping through it and reading it. There is an entry from May 2014 – about two years ago, and a few months before my moving to Kenya. It was supposed to be a narrative of a weekend I spent in Virginia, but it waxed reflective. I can’t help myself sometimes. It made me smile to read this, because it shares happy memories of loved ones, and I am feeling home sick. It also reminded me of the season of life I was going through at the time and reinforced the truth that seasons, for better or worse, don’t last. Here is the entry:

As the sun sets outside, the growing darkness inside is so gradual, it is almost imperceptible. The eyes slowly adjust to continue their task – reading, perhaps – and the strain they take on with the growing darkness is borne without complaint.

When suddenly a light is turned on, the initial shock is followed by relief as the eyes become aware of the difficulty the darkness had caused them.

So it is with depression.

A gradual onset means a steady acceptance and adaptation. You don’t fully realize that you have started to smile less. Instead, you simply feel that you are someone who just doesn’t smile that much.

My friend Morie asked me some poignant and knowing questions the other day while we were having lunch outside in Virginia.

Referring to my return from Cameroon last November, she asked, “When you came back, did you feel like you weren’t at home?” I reflected, and she continued, “Do you feel like you are closed in on yourself? Like you’ve become shy and unable to answer people directly or speak up when normally you would have? I’m just curious,” she said.

She was asking these questions because of her experience moving from Guatemala back to the U.S. Her questions struck a chord in me.

I never would have admitted that I didn’t feel at home in the US. It is home.

But, her question allowed me to admit that it didn’t feel like it. Things had changed. Or I had.

Realizing this has helped me explain why I have felt depressed and “closed in” on myself these past few months. This recent inability to speak up and my current aversion to maintaining eye contact aren’t my new norm. It is depression caused by reverse-culture shock.

As the light begins to dawn on me, I am surprised how affected I have been by culture shock, and how unaware of it I have been. I expected reverse-culture shock, though, I guess I imagined it differently. I expected some funny anecdotes and maybe a minor emotional break-down in a grocery store freezer section. I didn’t expect it to be so deep-rooted, or for it to manifest as depression.

I am relieved to be in a place where I can recognize it and that by that recognition it is becoming pat of the past.

This past weekend I drove to Virginia. I needed it. I love Virginia.

After getting off work early, I drove to Chambersburg with Aaron to load some tools in his truck. I appreciate him and value his friendship and perspective on life. When we finished, I continued on to Takoma Park and had dinner with Uncle Steve and Aunt Kathy. They served salmon with asparagus, coleslaw and potato salad, and a bottle of champagne. We laughed about the “difficulty” of life when Uncle Steve said, “We are out of red, so we have to drink the champagne!” As the evening progressed, I shared with them about my new job in Kenya. We talked about family, travel and politics. It was so enjoyable.

Sunday, I had the opportunity to sing in the band at Barcroft, and to share about my going to Kenya. It was great to be back and to be a part of the music again. I miss it.

In between music rehearsal and the service, I went to Starbucks for tea. The man next to me noticed the Bible I was reading and started a conversation. His name is Brom, and he identified as Muslim. We spoke for an hour about religion and philosophy, citing C.S. Lewis, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and others as we hashed out what Christianity is and how it complements an intellectual life. I pray that he will continue seeking You. You reward those who seek You.

After church I had lunch with the Franks, the Khoelers, Steph, Grandma Morie, and Chayton and Jonny. This is where Morie asked me about culture shock. It was so good to catch up with these friends.

I was reading on the porch at Mom and Dad’s house in the afternoon when Jessica came home. We talked on the porch for a long time before making a spinach and feta salad for dinner. Afterwards we had some wine and listened to music and danced.

David came over and we talked about the summer and caught up on each other’s lives as well as our friend’s lives.

Monday, I had breakfast with mom and dad, and talked about their move to Pensacola and my move to Kenya. Then, I, went to Gainesville to have lunch with BJ and Pop Pop. They are preparing for their move to Pennsylvania and have a really good attitude about it, and talked about serving and helping the other people in their retirement center. It was good to hear their thoughts on it. There is so much transition happening in our family right now! Exciting stuff.

I went home to visit with Grandma and told her all about Kenya and heard about all she is going through. I am praying for her and admire her strength.

Then, I spent some time in the yard with mom and the boys. After a phone call with Justin, I jumped on the trampoline with Drew and Evan until we were exhausted and laughing. Then we joined the family on the back porch for dinner. After dinner Dad told me and Jessica about [a friend] and what his family is going through. So sad. In sharing and in the conversation following, I was reminded how much I admire Dad’s wisdom. I am thankful for him and for my family.

After dinner I went for coffee with David and Christian, who just got back from Nigeria. It was great to hear about his experience. Jessica and I talked them into joining us for the Cody Fry concert we were going to. It was amazing.

Tuesday, I woke up at 5am to get back to PA for an 8am meeting.

Heckuva two days!

Happy New Year! (better late than never)

It is still the month of January, so I find it appropriate – or, at least justifiable – to post a “Happy New Year” update. Having now been in Kenya, and in my role at CARE for AIDS (CFA), for over one year, I am feeling very settled and at home in both my role and in Kenya. I am constantly amazed by the beauty of Kenya and the generous, friendly people here (Kenyan and otherwise). I want to quote a friend to sum up a little bit how I generally feel about my life here: “How can you feel homesick when every day is an adventure?”

Now, I will clarify that I do love and miss friends and family back home, and I do love and miss the good ‘ole US of A. I rarely feel “home sick”, though. I know that I am where I am supposed to be right now and that is being confirmed for me constantly in my personal, professional, and spiritual life. Maybe I would feel more homesick if I wasn’t in constant communication with people back home through Skype and iMessage, and I am thankful for the ability to stay in touch and feel connected that way.

Professionally, I am continuously falling in love with the vision, mission, and approach of CFA. We really are having an amazing impact through local churches on families living with with HIV in poor, overpopulated areas of Kenya. I also love the interest CFA takes in staff development and donor engagement. Although I have a tendency to be pretty optimistic and idealistic, I can confidently and objectively say the CARE for AIDS is an organization that pursues and achieves excellence on every level of what we are doing, and I am so grateful to be a part of it, and humbled to realize that I am playing a part in it and adding value to the organization as we continue to make an impact and continue to look at how we can do what we do in bigger and better ways.

Every monday morning, we have a staff meeting that opens with hymn singing and group prayer. This is not only beautiful, but it goes a long way in giving us focus as a team and building unity among us. Little things like this trickle down through the organization, impacting our daily tasks and making a big difference in the spirit and attitude in which we all approach our work. It makes me think of the following verses:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you are working for the Lord” – Colossians 3:23

and

“Be filled with the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” – Ephesians 5:18-21

Obviously, as an organization and as individuals, we are not perfect. This year, though, I have seen how powerful and effective a group of people can be when they have a common goal and when each individual desires to live in community like Christ taught us, and has a passion to care for people in need like He showed us.

In my personal life, I have found a great community in Nairobi, mostly through my church. This community has provided opportunities for cookouts, Korean culture nights, rock climbing, camping, game nights, and countless encouraging and fun times. My church has also provided me an opportunity to be involved in music ministry – something I have always loved.

Generally, things are going very well, and I am constantly humbled and grateful that I have the opportunity to live in Kenya and work with CARE for AIDS. I will continue to do so as long as I am able to do so. Thank you to those of you who are enabling me to be here financially. For those of you who are supporting me – in case you haven’t been made aware yet – I have a new donation page. Check it out here, and let me know if you have any questions about it.

Thanks for reading and for praying for me and thinking about me. Keep looking here for (hopefully more regular) updates, and think about coming to visit me in Kenya!

Peace and Love,
Ryan

Check out some of my favorite pictures from this past year…sorry for all the selfies 🙂

IMG_2673.JPG

IMG_2182.JPGIMG_2117.JPGIMG_2004.jpgIMG_1616.JPGIMG_1594.jpgIMG_1121.JPGIMG_0757.JPGIMG_0022.JPGIMG_9990.JPGIMG_9989.JPGIMG_8796.JPGIMG_7153.jpg

I’m Baaack

Well, I have been back in Kenya for exactly one week as I sit down to write this post. I was about to go get ready for bed, because I have another full day of work tomorrow – and my day tomorrow will involve driving all over Nairobi which is exhausting due to the traffic, and the necessity to be ever vigilant of pot-holes, unmarked speed bumps, and goats. However, as I finished my large bowl of leftover pasta and my Invisibilia podcast, I suddenly remembered how I had returned to Kenya resolved to “regularly update this blog”, and I realized if I didn’t force myself to post something right now, then most likely, six months would pass before I posted an apology about how “I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve posted”, and would have no idea how to sum up everything that had happened. Hence, this post.

The problem is even a week is hard to summarize. When I was in the US recently, I noticed a weird trend -especially in NYC and DC – of people walking around with video cameras, recording literally everything that happened to them, and everything they saw. I also heard a rumor that people have drones following them around to document their entire life. As an expat, there is a certain pride in feeling superior to my home country nationals by looking down my nose at cultural developments that I am missing out on, and this was an easy target. But now, I am thinking that it would be very helpful to me, because what if I spend twenty minutes writing a blog update and forget to tell you about how my bathtub, with an open window above it and ceramic tile all around it, has become a death trap for geckos and how my morning routine now often includes saving their (non)souls from sure starvation? Even a constant documentation of my life would be inadequate, because how would I describe, for example, the equal parts frustration and joy I felt as I watched my dogs happily run away from the bath I gave them yesterday to roll in the dirt?

Side note on this: My dogs actively seek out dirt and dust and cover themselves in it. My philosophical quest to discover the reason why they do this has left me with three possible answers:

This is some basic survival instinct to mask their smell.
This is a cry for attention (because more dirt = more bath times with Ryan)
They are stupid.

Returning to my desire and inability to describe my life to you, I would like to acknowledge that my Mom gave me excellent advice on how to approach this. She suggested that I create a blog schedule based on themes. For example, the first week of every month, I could write about a Kenyan food experience, the second week, I could give a work update, the third, a travel/adventure update, the fourth week, I could discuss how wise and helpful my Mom is. This is great, and I plan to implement a schedule like this, but that requires planning and forethought, and I am currently lacking in both of those as regards this blog, but I am still determined to post an update tonight. So, without further ado, my update:

I arrived in Kenya a week ago, and easily walked through customs with my two year work permit (yay!), found both my bags waiting on the carousel (double yay!), and was picked up by my boss and friend, Duncan. Evidence in the morning suggested that upon arriving to my house, I opened my suitcases, threw all of my belongings everywhere, and promptly collapsed on my bed. After a cup of coffee that morning, I acted like an adult and put everything where it belonged, and even put on a tie for work.

My first week back has been very full, and mostly with work. I had been gone for five weeks, so I have a lot catch up on, new projects to implement, networking relationships to rekindle, and only two weeks to do it in because I will be hosting teams in the house starting the 18th, and when teams are here, it is hard to have my focus be anywhere else. It’s all good though, because I have loved reconnecting with everyone in the office and in the field, and absolutely love the work and impact of CARE for AIDS, so I am not in any way being facetious when I say that I love the fact that I have so much to do.

Outside of work, I have been getting my life back together by grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and resetting my routines. I have also been rebooting my social life which has involved some hosting, some lunches and coffees, a documentary night, a rooftop BBQ, and getting dive-bombed by a bat while reading alone on my balcony in the dark.

One of the books I’m reading currently is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” by Hannah Whitall Smith. The chapter I read tonight reminded me that “surrender to the Lord, and a perfect trust in Him results in… inward rest of the soul.” In the spirit of that reminder, I will choose to trust that this post is an adequate update, and I go to bed in peace, not thinking about how we all hope I will take my Mom’s advice and get my life together when it comes to updating this blog.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you will hear from me again soon. Lala Salama (Goodnight in Swahili)

So many thoughts! So little time!

I’m sitting in the airport in Pensacola, about to board my first of three flights which will put me back in Nairobi Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, EST). There are many thoughts going through my head as I prepare to go back. One of them is a reflection of my time spent in the Florida Panhandle the past two weeks: “I can’t wait to get back to Africa and get out of this heat and humidity!” But, seriously.

On a more serious note, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the past few weeks States-side. This morning, before my Dad drove me to the airport, and after a hearty “farewell America” breakfast that involved no less than five pieces of bacon on my plate, my family spent a few moments in prayer over me.

I sat at the kitchen counter, with my sister, grandmother, and parents praying over me. In that moment, I was immensely grateful for my family, and especially my parents. As they stood behind me, hands on my shoulders, I thought about what a blessing it is to have these godly, loving parents behind me. It is strange to think about how I have lived long enough to see my parents grow, but I was thinking this morning about how I have. My parents, have continued to grow is wisdom, in love and faith for God, and in love for people. It started when they first decided to adopt and my brother Jonathan came into our lives, and it has continued up until now. These past two weeks at my parents house, I have seen them in action in their new ministry in Pensacola where they are, per usual, making their home and our family a place where any one feels welcome and everyone has a place around the kitchen table for as long as they need it or want it. I have the privilege of coming from a big family. My parents only gave birth to three children, which is very practical, but through adoption, they added four more, and they have opened their hearts and their home to countless others who have become family. This is the perfect picture of how God welcomes us all into His family. I am extremely grateful for the love and wisdom I have received and still receive from my parents, and for the example they give of how to live out our faith: faith expressing itself in love.

As I reflect on this, I remember the mission of CARE for AIDS, to which I am returning. We are in the business of orphan prevention. We are keeping parents alive so they can be to their children what mine have been to me – sources of support and love, and examples of faith and right-living. Keeping these parents alive means that children are being raised in a way that will break the cycles of disease and poverty in their families. Because of my parents, I am returning to this work with a sense of awe, remembering how important parents are in the lives of children – even when their children become adults and move to other countries.

My first flight is boarding! So, my final thoughts right now are keeping with the gratitude theme! I am so thankful for everyone who hosted me on a bed, a couch, a dinner table, a coffee shop table, a concert, wherever! This trip has made me feel so unworthy and incredibly grateful for the people in my life who love and care for me, and who support me in my work in Kenya.

To those, who I missed on this trip, I thank you for keeping me in your prayers, and I hope to connect with you next time I’m in the US – or, you can just come to Kenya!

I also feel incredibly blessed and grateful to have been a part of my sister’s wedding and I am so happy for her and my new brother, Owen. They are beautiful and in love, and I can’t wait to see how God uses their marriage to glorify Himself and bless everyone who comes in contact with them.

Of the many thoughts I have returning to Kenya, one is a new resolve to regularly update this blog so anyone who wants to can be more connected with the story of CARE for AIDS, and also my life in Kenya.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully, you will be reading from me again soon.