We had the absolute pleasure of hosting Dan’s parents here in Kenya for three weeks (hence the lack of blog updates – sorry)! Fortunately for us, my father-in-law journals when he travels. It was pure delight to read his musings from his visit and I thought many of you would enjoy seeing RVA & Africa through his lens.
I’m including a rather large sampling of his observations, with his permission, of course!
Hi Friends + Family, (Some notes and information about our trip to Africa)
Our son, Dan and his wife, Courtney and their three children (ages 5, 3, and 1) are living and working about 35 miles outside of Nairobi, Kenya. They are on a two year missionary assignment. Dan is teaching math to missionary children at the Rift Valley Academy here in Kijabe, Kenya. The school has about 500 students K - 12th grade. The school is a little over 100 years old and was founded and is still run by African Inland Mission. Teddy Roosevelt was here in 1909 and helped lay the cornerstone to one of the buildings.
The school’s major purpose is to educate the children of missionaries serving full time in all the various countries of Africa, etc. It is a boarding school. Kids are sent here by their parents for three month terms. (Then they have a month off to go home and be with their parents, etc.) The school thus operates year round with a month off at the end of each three month term. The school has a very good reputation. It does also educate some Kenyans in the area and from Nairobi. It is, however, quite expensive for non-missionary students to attend. It has educated a number of the political leaders of Kenya in the past. It also competes with other private schools in sports in this part of Kenya. A few weeks ago the President of Kenya paid a visit to Kijabe and the school put on a big band and choral concert for his enjoyment.
It was quite a trip to get here. (I am not sure how Dan + Courtney got here with their three small children. And I don’t think they drugged them.) The trip tested my patience.
The time spent in the air for Paulette and I was about 15 hours from Buffalo to Nairobi. The time it took to get from home to RVA, however was some 27 hours! That is a long day! Much of the 27 hour trip was spent waiting in lines. We waited in lines at the Buffalo airport, the JFK airport, the Amsterdam airport, and the Nairobi airport, going through check points, through immigration and customs. We waited in lines getting onto the planes, waited in lines to get off the planes, the planes waited in lines getting on and off runways. We waited to get our 5 bags of luggage and we waited for local transportation, etc. I’m not really good at waiting.
The JFK and Amsterdam airports were huge! The Nairobi airport was not bad for an African airport. (Much better than the one in Haiti.) Nairobi is a very large city. Some good paved roads. One traffic light that we saw. We went through that light when it was red. Nobody pays much attention to traffic lights. Every man for himself when driving a car. You just go like crazy. Maybe twice as bad as driving in New York City. Driving on the road - on the opposite side - was a scary experience. It took a good 1.5 hours of driving in the dark and in a rain storm to get from the Nairobi airport on the southeast side of the city - all the way through the city - to RVA which is located about 35 miles out northwest of the city.
On Serving at RVA:
Mom and I are learning a lot about Dan and our daughter-in-law, Courtney. Their wiring and spirit are certainly more sensitive and fine tuned than mine. To be called to serve God in Africa is pretty far off the chart for me. Now that I have been here a few days I have discovered a number of things. They have sacrificed a number of things to live here. No rugs on the floor, no central heat in the cold season, a power grid that is not as reliable as that in America, no car, no TV, no football, a nice house to live in but very sparse furnishings, milk, meat, and food that is challenging for an American family, old friends, family and church family far away, even the holidays are different - and I have only started to see some of the “costs” of their sayings yes to God to come here.
On the other hand we have also gained more insight into the blessings of their ministry here in Africa. The RVA school faculty and family are a very unique group of people. They are from all over the world - the US, Europe, Australia, and Africa to name a few. They are a very diverse group of people, many with small children. Two staff families had babies yesterday. A number of young mothers are pregnant. (They say there is something in the water.) There are also older retired people working here. Dan and Courtney have introduced us to many friends and colleagues with many different stories and life journeys. They have all been called and said yes to sacrifice and to God’s call on their lives. They all have unique stories of their faith walk. They encourage and strengthen each other in their call to serve. The school has about 100 teachers and there is another large support staff group. People in their 70’s have come here to be dorm or house parents!
The ministry this staff supplies to the students of missionary families from all over Africa is just unbelievable! The whole community is involved with sacrificial living for the Kingdom of God. Everybody is doing without. Everyone is living a life that accepts “saying no to self.” That is a huge cultural shift from everything that is going on in American culture. What an environment for my grandchildren to grow up in! In America they would grow up always asking for more and more, to keep up with the very materialistic culture around them. Here they are challenged to live a simpler lifestyle, to be satisfied with less instead of demanding more. Here they will be more challenged to serve than to get. (Each child will, of course, make his/her own choices as they grow up.)
Most of the students that board here are older and are in high school. But there are a significant number of middle school kids that are in dorms and some are in dorms (homes) here who are in 5th and 6th grade, etc. The children who are that young and their parents who are serving as missionaries out in the bush throughout Africa are certainly making sacrifices for the Kingdom. Their need for love, support, education, correction, etc. is very real. House parents are here to meet those needs. It really makes you stop and think. In America we work hard for more stuff and ourselves and our retirement. Here you see a lot of people working for a much different set of goals.
Working here at RVA for AIM (African Inland Mission) is much different than working a job in the States. If you get accepted for a position in teaching, or any other job, you receive a stipend to live on not based on the job or jobs you do but on the number of individuals in your family. You get enough to live on here in Kenya based on family size. If you coach a sport for the school or three different sports for the school you still receive the same stipend based on your family size. You don’t receive more money for more hours of work, etc. Many of the people working here have three or four different assignments. They volunteer to do the extra assignment(s). They are here to serve, to help out, to meet needs. They are responding to a call. It is quite a challenge to do more for less. In American culture we want (demand) more money for less work.
Needless to say, I am impressed and awed by what I have observed in a few short days here in Africa.
Hopefully you enjoy seeing RVA from his point of view. We sure did. I will share part two of his entries in a few days - a bit more on RVA, Kijabe town, Nairobi & Chai time!