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Friday, August 31, 2012

RVA in pictures

Welcome!  We would love to show you some photos of our new home here at Rift Valley Academy.  As a disclaimer, the photos really do very little justice to the beauty of this place. 

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This is upper gate.  RVA has three gates like this but this is the one closest to our house.  Africa Inland Church (AIC) of Kijabe is just across the street in this picture.  We worship there once a month with the students and each Sunday during breaks.

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Some of the roads winding throughout the school’s campus.  We have a network of dirt roads that connect our houses & dorms & school buildings together which make it seem as though we live in one big neighborhood. The roads here are quite rocky – no need for high heels here.  Speaking of shoes, everyone takes off their shoes to go inside houses & dorms, but we still need to have our floors mopped several times a week.  It’s “the dust of Africa” as they say.

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DSCN4709 There are many different styles of houses around here.  Some are two story, some are ranch, some are duplexes.  Here are just a few examples I snapped pictures of.  The little white ranch in this last picture belongs to us!  It’s a great little house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms and it suits us well. 

Taking a little walking tour down onto the campus of the school ….

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The view as you look to your left on the way down to the school.

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Next is the prayer chapel.  This building is open for prayer/devotions for staff members.  Our boys, however, insist this house belongs to the three bears.  We have yet to see any sign of them or Goldilocks though.

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This building is called Centennial and is where our chapel and Sunday Worship services are held.  RVA has chapel daily; mandatory chapels are Monday, Wednesday & Friday and praise chapel is Tuesday & Thursday. 

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Next is the laundry & arcade buildings.  For you Americans, it is not an arcade as we know it! Arcade in British English is a store.  This is the school store.

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Moving on, just past the arcade is the clock tower and cafeteria.  Chai is served outside of the cafeteria immediately following chapel each morning. 

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Speaking of chai, students hang their mugs off of this metal tree and retrieve them each morning during chai time.  Staff members have chai break at the same time in the staff room, and this includes a time of prayer & praise as well as announcements.

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Classroom buildings & Dan’s Algebra 1 Classroom.  He is teaching four sections of Algebra 1 and one section of Math 7 this year.  He has about 90 students in grades 7-10 in these five classes. 

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Kiambogo is the oldest building here at RVA.  The cornerstone was laid by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 and back then the building was only as large as one room for the entire school.  It’s been added onto several times, evidenced by the mismatching brick on the building’s exterior.  Today, it houses the main office and business offices. 

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This group of photos consists of the gymnasium, where JV and varsity basketball are played, the upper and lower rugby fields and one of the outdoor basketball courts.  The two small boys running across the rugby field are indeed Ethan & Nate.  We take them there periodically to let them run out their excess energy.  This outdoor basketball court happens to be near the elementary school and is called the Titchie court.  Ethan has informed us he needs a pair of roller skates to skate on this particular court as some of the bigger kids do. 

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Titchie Swot (another British English term – this one meaning Little Learner) is the elementary school here at RVA.  It serves mainly "station kids” which are children whose parents work at RVA or at Kijabe Hospital, Moffat Bible College, or CURE Children’s Rehabilitation Center.  Behind the school is the playground – a favorite of my children.  There are also two Titchie dorms serving children in 5th and 6th grade, who do board here, but boarding at a young age is becoming the exception rather than the rule, as parents are finding more support for homeschooling children through at least the elementary years. 

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Lastly on this tour of RVA are a few of the dorms.  The junior and senior high dorms are set up so that the dorm parents live in an apartment attached to the dorm.  They really become like family as they are able to study and hang out in their dorm parents’ place as well as take care of and be responsible for their own rooms & bathrooms in the dorm.  Our dorm parents have a 24/7 job taking care of their students.  They have one evening a week off-duty, where they receive dorm coverage to attend a Bible Study or be with their family without 18 tenth graders in their living room.  This year Dan is covering a dorm on Monday evenings from 6-9pm for a couple who traveled with us from the states. 

One last place here on campus that I forgot to take a picture of is student health.  These people are fabulous! We have three nurses on staff here who, between the three of them, are on call 24 hours a day.  They are available for consultations and will come pick up a sick student at any time of the night if need be.  They are able to supply OTC medication and have prescriptions filled as well as escort you to Kijabe Hospital for appointments or tests, etc.  They are a great resource to have here and we are very thankful for them!

Well, I think that may be just about all of the school.  I did leave out the maintenance building, although they are great too.  Hope you enjoyed your tour! 

Blessings to you this labor day weekend!  Celebrate for us – no labor day breaks here in Kenya!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Raccoon rhymes with Baboon

In the states, our concern with trash storage and removal usually revolved around raccoons.  Many times, if we forgot to completely secure the lid on our trash bin in PA, we would wake the next morning to discover our friendly neighborhood scavengers had done their best to remove, scatter, and scrape out the last bit of whatever edible morsels they could find, leaving a wonderful, stinky mess to recollect and try to put back into the shredded plastic bag from which it came.

Fast forward to Africa.  Kenya is completely devoid of raccoons (to my knowledge) but that doesn’t mean another member of the animal kingdom hasn’t stepped in to fill their role.  Here at RVA, as any veteran can share, it’s the baboons you need to worry about.  As the newbies on the block, the thought of seeing baboons around campus is kind of exciting – our boys especially, although scared to death of them and sure that these storied creatures are more foe than friend, are very anxious to spot their first baboon.  To date, we’ve only experienced one instance of nighttime-baboon-trash-removal, and it consisted mostly of Evie’s dirty diapers being strewn about our yard.  Not pleasant, but thankfully there were only a few in the trash barrel that night! 

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There are other types of monkeys around too, and so one sunny Saturday morning the kids and I set off on a “monkey hunt”.  Most of the sightings we’d heard about were near the perimeter fence, so our trek consisted of a good 2-hour hike around the guard trail.  I guess it’s about 4km long, and it completely encircles the campus.  They call it the guard trail because it is mostly used by the 6 or 7 security guards that are stationed 24 hours at the three gates into campus and who patrol on a nightly basis along this path.  It turns out it’s a great hiking trail too, so this is where we chose to seek out our primate neighbors.

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Unfortunately, we came back empty-handed (or sighted).  No monkey sightings of any kind were had that day.  The one instance of excitement that quickly turned into not-so-exciting was our discovery of a pair of large tortoises along the trail.  Very cool to stumble upon if they had been legitimately wild, but we soon found out (mostly clued in by the fading painted name, “Tilly”, on their shells) that they were in fact pets of the Tilly family on campus!  


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The other success story that resulted from our adventure was discovering a few great look-out spots.  The view from pretty much anywhere on campus can be awe-inspiring, but one that we found along the bottom portion of the trail was stop-you-in-your-tracks cool.  It’s hard to see in the picture (our cameras have yet to get a photo that does the views here any justice), but it’s a great look at Mount Longonot (the highest point around and a great hike from what we hear) and the valley below.  Ethan’s inquisitive thoughts came out as two questions:  “Is all of that Africa?” shortly followed by, “Can we see Beaver Camp from here?”
Not quite, Ethan :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What do Missionary Kids do for fun?

 

Well, these missionary kids take advantage of the steep slopes here at RVA and ….

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sled down the hills in cardboard boxes, of course!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And so it begins …

 

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On Monday, July 9th (one day after my 30th birthday) we left Beaver, PA to begin the first leg of our journey to Africa.  We traveled to Peachtree City, GA for a few days, then onto Nairobi Kenya for a few more days, to Machakos Kenya for three weeks and finally to our new home in Kijabe at Rift Valley Academy.  But this weekend, the 24th through the 26th of August, our ministry begins.  We have had 6 1/2 weeks of preparation, including travel & training, all in a sense leading up to this weekend, when over 400 students and their families will flood this campus and our work begins. 

Are we excited? Absolutely!  We are thrilled for the kids to arrive and to plug into their lives through teaching, small groups, Sunday School offerings, sports, and tons of other things that RVA provides.  Are we feeling prepared? Yes & No.  Dan has been busy this week with lesson planning and getting his classroom ready.  We had two days of staff inservice earlier this week, going over policies and procedures as well as finding out about the various roles we may play this year and how we can best serve the students & their families. 

It takes an army of people to make this school function & function well.  There are full-time teachers, part-time teachers, dorm parents, nurses, physical therapists, counselors, coaches, IT people, maintenance people, administration, security, and many more positions held by folks who love Jesus and want to further His Kingdom by caring for missionary families.  Most of the people in the positions above are fully supported missionaries (like us!) who rely on the generosity and prayers of their churches and supporters (like you!) to keep them here.  This school simply could not function without you!  There are also a number of Kenyan staff members in maintenance and security and in numerous offices here, who although they receive payment for their services, are just as dedicated and committed to the care of the missionary family. 

And beginning tomorrow, they will arrive.  Tomorrow is New Parent Orientation, and new students will come, along with their parents, from all over Africa to get settled in here at RVA.  As you can imagine, it’s a hard thing for parents & children to say goodbye for a three month term and as you can imagine, its even harder the very first time they do it. 

Thankfully we serve a God who understands separation and loss, who sees from an eternal lens that we simply do not have.  Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 1:27-28 “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”  In the same way, these parents are entrusting their children to the care of the Lord and He has hand-picked a community here to care for and raise up these kids.

Join us in praying for these missionary parents & children as they grieve and adjust, that they would cling to the Lord in their need and that these families would grow closer together as a result of their distance and closer to the Lord, that their ministries would be fruitful and glorifying and that their children would flourish & grow in the knowledge of God.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

10 things we learned at A.B.O.

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1.  Due to persecution and a bleak outlook for the future, Bills fans can be found fleeing to Africa!  I was looking for an excuse to get this picture on the blog.  There’s so much going on here.  First and foremost, you’ll notice the beautiful scarf my lovely wife is wearing.  Reason:  this was taken immediately before our mosque tour and all the ladies were required to cover their heads out of respect.  Secondly, you’ll notice one of our new friends, Jamie, looking over my shoulder.  What is notable about him is not so much his PhD in Old Testament, or the fact that we witnessed his daughter take her first steps while at ABO, or even the fun we had with he and his wife Kim as they introduced us to the game Dominion; he quickly climbed the charts on my favorite persons list simply because he is a fellow long-suffering Bills fan!!  As a math guy, I gotta ask, what are the odds!?


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2.  Nate is a ladies man.  Meet Carla, his first crush.  She is a short-term missionary who came to help out with the children’s ministry while we’ve been at ABO.  One of his famous lines to her (unprovoked, by the way) was “If you’re far away, I will run to you.”  Since we are assuming there will be many more to come, we thought it important to document his very first!


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3.  How the other half lives.  We’ve been, and will continue to be, extremely spoiled as Mazungu (white people) in Kenya.  Our living accomodations have been far and away better than how the majority of Kenyans live.  Our home visit Saturday night really opened our eyes to this.  We visited a family who runs a small home for children on a plot of land no bigger than the floor plan of many U.S. houses.  This was basically a chance to see how many of the local people live and share a light meal with them.  Our hostess was very gracious and hospitable, truly an example of someone giving out of their poverty – we were thankful that the couple that went with us spoke Swahili well so that they could translate for us.  Language barriers mean nothing for little kids – Ethan, Nate and Evelyn had a great time playing with the local children, feeding the chickens that were running everywhere, and exploring their garden.


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4.  Hakuna Matata is more than just a song from The Lion King – it’s a way of life! Pictured to the right is a decent sized termite mound (about 2 feet tall) on the campus we stayed at – right in the middle of the front lawn.  To the immediate left and no more than 10 feet away, is the spot where the local laundry service felt is the best place to lay out our laundry to dry!  Keep in mind that termite mounds are built essentially from the feces of termites…No worries!

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5.  There’s something about a little blond haired girl that all African kids are automatically drawn to :)  This was taken outside during our home visit.


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6.  Public transportation in Kenya makes for great entertainment.  Whether you’re riding on the back of a Boda-boda (bicycle), cramming into a Tuk-tuk (3 seater that often fits 7 or 8!) or reading the bumper stickers on the nearest Matatu (a mini-van-sized taxi) – coincidentally, we found this one sitting in the parking lot immediately adjacent the mosque!


7. God is at work in Africa!!  Not that this was news to us, but we were encouraged to hear specifics about how and where our fellow missionaries are living and sharing the good news of Jesus.  We heard a report from each of the different regions that AIM is actively involved in fulfilling the great commission and their own mission tagline, “Christ-centered Churches among all African peoples.”  It was great to feel a part of such a huge effort – many of the students we’ll teach and get to know very soon have parents spread out in all these locations around the continent!  And to think that AIM is just one of many mission organizations, planting churches and partnering with indigenous groups to spread the Gospel.  TIMO (Training In Ministry Outreach) is doing hard things, going to hard places.  Some of the most unreached groups are in some of the hardest locations to access or to live in.  TIMO is going there.  Watch the TIMO video here!


8.  Prayer is Often, Foremost and Essential.  We spent time in prayer at ABO each morning after we had a time of Praise & Worship and a devotional.   We prayed specifically for people groups, regions, and AIM members.  We learned before coming to ABO that the US office spends time in prayer three days per week specifically praying for AIM missionaries and needs of the teams.  Prayer is taken very seriously and we are thankful for their commitment to it!


9.  God’s Word makes for really awesome breakfast!  Each morning the devotional (Spiritually Fit session) was based on a different chapter of the Book of Psalms and was so encouraging.  Some highlights included meditations on Psalm 131 and our dependence on God.  There is no need to “concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me” – God will take care of the big stuff as we rely on him!  Psalm 73 reminds us that God is more than big enough to hear out doubts, let us dwell on them and then lead us to reassurance in his Sovereignty.  Verse 26:  “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  And Psalm 3 – the question is not if, but when the troubles of this life come.  David’s answer in verse 8?  “From the Lord comes deliverance.”  Jesus’ answer?  “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33


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10.  We survived!  Sunday night we had a celebration dinner commemorating our completion of ABO.  A couple of the girls got really creative and went for a Survivor themed evening and we were treated to extremely well-received burgers and hot dogs (usually by this time of the summer we’re sick of grill food – not this year!) and even topped it off with ice cream and apple crisp – a real treat and very rare considering our African context. 


It is hard to believe we’ve already been at RVA for 5 days!  We’re settling into our house, unpacking our things slowly, attending orientation and language learning, as well as navigating buying groceries and basic household necessities in town.  We continue to be encouraged here by those we meet and we are looking forward to beginning this first term with the students in a few weeks.


Thanks for reading – more updates to come!

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