Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Just your typical field trip

6 nights, 7 days, 16 seniors, 3 adult leaders, 1 20-seater bus and 1 awesome bus-driver; put it all together and throw in bungee jumping, white-water rafting, rock climbing, repelling through a waterfall, cliff jumping, camel riding, milking, and eating; this all adds up to a pretty amazing experience, right?

Well, when these guys are assigned to hike with you for protection, you know you’re in for excitement.  Better to be safe than sorry should the scenario arise where we cross paths with a cape buffalo…or bull elephant…or leopard…or lion.  It’s important to arrive without incident so that you can jump off cliffs for the morning’s activity.


In the course of one afternoon we chilled at a chimpanzee sanctuary and then posed for selfies within feet of the last living male of the Northern White Rhino species ON THE PLANET.  Later, we shoveled his dung.  That’s what you call scarce scat.


If you were a camel at our Northern-most stop in Laikipia County, you were either on our dinner menu as a burger, on our breakfast menu as a sausage, milked by one of us just after sunrise, or our mode of transportation through the deserts of central Kenya.  50% of those options weren’t terrible (if you’re the camel).

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This was truly a “bucket list” trip.  One of our students had always wanted to be in two places at once.  She nailed it by standing in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere at the same time!


You know it’s a good day when you have to wait for an elephant to cross the road before passing and you get to snap a photo of 4 sleeping rhinos.


Then there was the visit to a tree-house restaurant; while waiting for our meal, we hung out with some of the locals (we didn’t see the sign until later…I promise)


Most of the week, we were within sight of Mount Kenya – a pretty spectacular backdrop, and the actual mountain that another group of students from RVA were climbing while we gazed up at it.


We petted and fed a blind rhino and learned about conservancy in a room full of artifacts and animal bones with signs that begged us to interact.

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We hiked, we camped, we drove and we slept.


Each night devotions were led by a pair of students and we all shared what God was teaching us around the campfire. 


We herded, counted and sprayed cattle for ticks.  We climbed and belayed. 


We plummeted from varying heights, always wearing our safety equipment with a smile  :)


A primary school welcomed us with open arms, showing off their newly acquired technology while we shared our dancing “skills”.  Another quick visit to a local village tested our ability to move rhythmically to music as well.


It was the most exhausting yet rewarding excursion in memory.  We bonded, we sang, we got sick of each other, we shared, we cried, and we got dehydrated. 


We drove six hours on a rocky desert road at an average speed of about 10 kilometers per hour without ONCE stopping to pee (perhaps the best demonstration of our state of dehydration).


We were stretched WAY outside our comfort zones, we were challenged and encouraged, we stood in awe of our Creator as we marveled at His creation.  We learned a lot, ate well, drank too little, and slept better than expected.  We sang loudly, laughed often, and grew closer as friends.

Overall, I’d say our field trip* was a success**, eh?

 *This was just one of several trips that RVA’s junior and senior classes take each March, called Interims.  Our group traveled within Kenya while other destinations included Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, and many more.  One of the goals is for the students to experience a different part of Africa from the context that their parents work and serve in.  Another aim is to learn about a current issue affecting the lives of those we visit – our team focused on conservation and the unique struggles that arise between government agencies attempting to preserve “wild” Africa and land owners trying to earn a living.  It was fascinating to hear from both sides of the same issue.

**Success on a week-long adventure like this was only possible thanks to a gift provided by our family.  A quick shout-out to the Meyers clan, specifically my awesome sister, Rachel, for loving on our kids while we were away.  Check out their adventure in Kenya too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

“Get in the boat!”

This was the title and theme of a charge Dad gave to the students of Rift Valley Academy on the last day of school before December break.

He spoke during the final chapel service of the term, a much anticipated, culminating event at the end of each trimester here at RVA. 

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We have a flag raising ceremony every Friday, as required by all Kenyan schools. All 500 students K-12 gather in the courtyard between the cafeteria and Kiambogo, the oldest building on campus.  There we rise, as the national anthem is sung in both Swahili and English, often accompanied by a student-led choir or the wind or jazz ensemble.  Kenya’s National Anthem is striking – a prayer offered by a chorus of voices:

“Oh God of all creation, bless this our land and nation.  Justice be our shield and defender.  May we dwell in unity, peace, and liberty, plenty be found within our borders.”

Each week we stand and sing.  Over our three years here, it has yet to get old, as we corporately lay our request before Almighty God. 

DSC_0053Thanksgiving in Kenya?  Yep, plenty to be thankful for here, too!

Friday chapels are always unique, but the LAST flag-raising of each term has its own special flavor.  It is a celebration of coming to the end, it is a time for hugs and good-byes and see-you-soons.  The student body counts down from ten and one lucky Titchie (student from K to 6th grade) rings a hand-held school bell, signaling the end of term.  It’s funny; as I sit and picture that moment in my mind, I’m not even sure what we all scream at the end of the countdown.
                                     “Vac!”  “School’s over!”  “Hooray!” 
I’m sure it’s a combination of all those – everybody cheering and smiling and high-fiving. 

DSC_0020My dad has a bit more gray hair than the last time he was in the classroom!

This time around, as the first term of our school year came to a close, so did the time of service for my parents.  They had answered the call to “get in the boat” and follow Christ’s call to Kenya sometime last spring. 

DSC_0002Visiting the home of a Kenyan friend

A need was presented in the Social Studies department, I thought of my dad and mentioned it to him, my parents prayed, and God answered!  The rest is history; Don and Paulette Schmidt served at Rift Valley Academy, living in Kenya for about 4 months.  They’ll be in the school yearbook, they will be fondly remembered by the students they taught and cared for, and my family will forever be grateful for this unexpected blessing of cherished time with them.

DSC_0015 For awhile, there were two Mr. Schmidts at RVA!  Dad’s last day of teaching.

Because he felt like God was nudging him yet again, Dad volunteered to speak at this final chapel service.  This is noteworthy because, usually by this point in the term, everybody is exhausted and few staff volunteer to speak at the last chapel – or if they do, their devotion is kept short to make time for the countdown and release of the students. 

DSC_0041“Are you going to get in the boat with Jesus?”

Well, my father, being the newbie, wasn’t aware of this minor point.  And even as he dreaded the thought of speaking in front of the entire staff and student body (and quite a few parents as well), he knew the Lord had one final thing to say through him before he left.  So he signed up.  He got in the boat.  And he challenged the rest of us to do the same.  Just like he and Mom had decided God was leading them to get in a slightly larger ‘boat’, as he put it – “they call it a 747” - to head over the Atlantic last August; he heard God’s prompting and he obeyed. 


DSC_0100Nate, having a chai break and sitting between two of his favorite people in the world:  Grandpa Schmidt and Jesse, our outside worker.

When we do that on a regular basis, when we follow God’s leading, when we answer the call, bend our will to His, lay our lives on the altar, or ‘get in the boat’ for Jesus, God does something pretty awesome:  He blesses His children.  I can report with confidence that there were many brothers and sisters in Christ who were built up and edified as a result of this act of obedience!

Baking Christmas cookies with Grandma

A song we sang a lot as a school during Spiritual Emphasis Week in October included this line,

                 “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”

Fear is what keeps us from getting in the boat – fear of failure, fears about reputation, fears concerning provisions or comfort or health or safety.  Fears of the unknown, fear of the risks and potential pain and the ‘what ifs’ and on and on and on. 

DSC_0019Mom worked mornings in the Business Office – counting lots of Kenyan shillings!

But He doesn’t call us to think about that, He simply bids us to get in the boat and trust Him to take us where He wills.  He knows best, after all.

DSC_0313Flags flying on Multi-Cultural Day, representing a few of our students’ homelands

My parents are in the middle of a life lived in obedience to God – it’s pretty inspiring to watch them.  It was a gift to witness it up close as they stepped WAY out of their comfort zone to live with us for a few months.  What they really did was open up the doors of blessing for many of God’s children. 

IMG_7753“Come over to my Grandma’s house – she’ll give us all cookies!”

What is God asking you to do this year?  As this one ends and the next one begins, are you asking yourself that question?  I want to, but it scares me.  There’s that fear again.  I need to be reminded that God leads where God is.  He’s already in the boat and is simply asking me to join Him.  Good reminders from my parents as they stepped out in faith this fall.

IMG_7348 Attending the local church service in Kijabe

Having them here was awesome. 

Thanks Mom and Dad!  Love from Kenya :)

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