Saturday, April 27, 2013


I think we’ll let some of the pictures do the talking here.  In short, approximately 5 and a half inches of rain reportedly fell in the span of about 4 hours last night.  People that heard the initial flashflood thought it sounded like a train derailed on the tracks that pass immediately above our campus.  Really scary stuff.

DSCN6612One of our security guards stands in awe of the damage that water can do.

DSCN6609The water brought down trees, railroad ties, rocks and everything else that the mud carried with it.  The house you can see in the background was spared by a few feet.  Our staff chaplain and his family live in a house a few yards on the other side, right behind the camera in this shot.  Almost like threading a needle, the slide went right between and neither house was damaged; we are praising God for that. 

Unfortunately, many people in the Kijabe fared much differently.  Please pray for the families affected – it turns out mud slides and mud homes don’t mix well.  There have been reports of several casualties; a few young children were trapped in their home when the flood came through.  Absolutely unthinkable.


DSCN6618This is what’s left of the guard-trail and perimeter fence.  Most of it was buried or washed down the hill.DSCN6629Many hands make light(er) work.  Lots of students woke up excited to help where they could.  This is from inside the main service gate of the campus.  They dug for awhile before it could be opened completely again.  The mud was about 6-8 inches deep, which is why you can’t see many feet!

DSCN6632  Crazy missionary kids - getting muddy just for fun.

railroad culvertThis was the cause of a lot of the trouble.  It’s an old tunnel under the railroad just above campus, used only for foot traffic.  As the debris came down the mountain, it clogged this tunnel and the water built up on the other side like a dam.  A good fifteen feet of water, mud, rocks and trees have piled up to form a small “lake”, and the water keeps pouring over the top of the tracks.  The above shot is courtesy of Jeff Davis.  Below is a picture of the same railroad tunnel a few months ago when we were on a hike.


Here’s another set of before/after shots.  Luckily my touristy father took a few pictures on his hikes while he was visiting!


road out of Kijabe

The two pictures above show the main road we use to get out of Kijabe.  This morning we were told that only 1 of 4 roads out of Kijabe were passable.  I think the conditions have improved since this second picture was taken this morning, but you can see the road collapsing into the ravine and the tunnel towards the top of the picture that was blocked by mud and debris as well.

Thankfully, nobody at RVA was hurt or affected seriously other than minor water damage in a few houses, but we are concerned for many of the families in our community.  The housing most people live in cannot hold up against some of the rain we’ve been receiving.  Water is a concern as well – most of the water lines that were running to the surrounding areas were washed away, including the lines to Kijabe Hospital.  RVA uses a bore-hole that was unaffected, so we’ve been put on a tight water restriction so that we can better serve our neighbors as their water needs continue to mount.  Pray that RVA can be a light in the days ahead, that we can discern where the true needs are and be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those who need him most.  The scariest part is that the rainy season is far from over – we’ve been told it rains here until July. 

Even as I type, it’s starting to rain again.  Please pray.

“Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…

‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:2-3,10

Friday, April 12, 2013

Teaching in Africa (Part 2)

Teaching at RVA has been a great experience so far – God has blessed me with two successful terms and I’m gearing up for the final stretch of our first year here.  A previous post started a list of some of the unique aspects of working and living here with these students.  Here I’ve simply continued that running list, starting with number eleven.  Enjoy!!

11. I’m routinely asked to pray before class or before a test.

DSCN5314And, as a coach, I’m always asked to pray before games, during halftime in a game, on the bus on the way to games - we are well covered in prayer!

DSCN652112.  We’ve used at least 8 different students as babysitters :)

13.  The 4-6 week breaks, called “vac”, make teaching in the trimester system a luxury I will miss dearly if I ever go back to 9 month schedule in the States.  Just when you reach the point where you’ve run out of steam and need some extra motivation for teaching (in the States this was always around Thanksgiving for me), here the break allows you to recharge your batteries before another term!

14.  Laundry days – watching your students drop off and pick up their clothes at the laundry service provided in the middle of campus…kind of different. 

15.  Rugby.

16.  Staff game challenges.  So far, I’ve played soccer (football) against the JV team twice, basketball against the varsity boys team once, and hope to play rugby against one of the teams in the third term!  It’s great practice for the teams, and the staff get the pleasure of playing in front of a crowd, just like in the good ole’ days :)

DSCN644317. They know our kids.  Almost all my students know our kids, and many of them on a first name basis.  This is a pretty unique blessing – my boys have lots of great middle and high school big brothers to look up to.  When I go play basketball on Sunday afternoons, I’ll usually take the boys with me and they will inevitably end up running around with a handful of my students.  Being a boarding school, students are always hanging around somewhere and Ethan and Nate won’t let them go by without saying hello and asking them to play.  The more Evie talks (which is increasing by the day!) the more we realize she knows all the names too – she can recognize a few of the girls in my classes from across campus.  Hannah and Haley are two of her favorites :)

18.  The students I taught in Beaver Falls Pennsylvania had their share of challenges at home – divorce, drugs, poverty, and teenage parenthood were just the tip of the iceberg.  In my frustration with students and their lack of effort in Math class, I often needed to remind myself of the life they had to go home to every night. 

Here it’s similar, but extremely different at the same time.  Tough family situations?   Yes, but for very different reasons.  7th grade is a rough age to be separated from your parents for 3 months at a time; this is the age when many of them start boarding, if not a few years later in 9th grade.  A few students this past term were not only separated from parents, but were told that their parents could no longer stay where they were ministering.  Missionaries certainly aren’t welcomed with open arms everywhere, and many of our students must hold loosely to the concept of “home” – it could easily change against their will at any time.  Some parents are serving in areas that their kids aren’t allowed to talk about; can you imagine answering the question “how was your break?” when you’re not supposed to say where you were?! 

19.  Loneliness and depression – neither are strangers at a school filled with kids away from home, uncertain of what the immediate future holds or even could hold.  When these families say “yes” to answer God’s call to serve, they say “no, thanks” to many of the comforts and pleasures of the simple family life they could be enjoying with their kids under the same roof.  Think about that for a minute - what a sacrifice.  If you think about it, pray for these families as they prepare to say goodbye for the final term of the year.

20. Bizarro sports world.  I was unable (or unwilling) to stay up and watch the Super Bowl this year; remember, there’s a seven/eight hour difference so it wasn’t airing until the wee hours of a Monday morning with school scheduled to start in a few hours!  But I’m an NFL fan and I still hoped l could watch it later, without knowing the outcome.  In the States, this would’ve been an impossibility.  The minute I opened my car door to report to work the following morning, a student would be talking about it or someone would be taunting someone else about how their team won or somebody would’ve said something to me giving away the result and spoiling my attempts at a foreknowledge-free viewing experience. 

Not at RVA!  Most of these kids couldn’t even tell you what NFL stands for, much less care about who won the Superbowl!  One thing I’ve learned about the sports world of Africa:  soccer is the REAL football and American football is a game for wimps with pads and helmets.  If you want to hit someone, play rugby.  So, unlike anything I could’ve pulled off in the States, I was actually able to go a few weeks without knowing!  I simply shielded myself from several potential leaks:, Facebook, and fellow American fans by telling them I hadn’t seen it yet.  Then a few weeks later I was able to sit down with a few friends and watch the game as it really happened (minus the commercials and halftime show – it only took about 2 hours!) and it was a great game! 


As a very bitter Bills fan who endured the last 12 years in Pittsburgh where they won two Lombardi trophies and a Stanley Cup in that time-span, a Ravens title is about as much as you can ask for.  :) 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Love thy neighbor

Africa is widely known for its wildlife – visions of safari trips through grasslands in a Land Rover and extremely large camera come to mind.  Lions, elephants, giraffes, etc.  All of those things are real and reasonably close to us and we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing them first hand already in our short time here.  But most of the time we are at RVA, on a campus which itself boasts quite the wildlife variety within its own fences.  These are the neighbors we see on a regular basis and we’d like to introduce you to a few of them :)

DSCN4642IMG_3731If you read our blog regularly, you’ve already met our friends, the pinching ants!

DSCN4677DSCN5406And there’s a good chance you’ve heard about our friends, the tortoises.  Not really “wild” life – just some pets of a family on campus.  They recently laid a bunch of eggs; maybe a pet tortoise is in our future!

DSCN4983IMG_3833Baboons: the dumpster-divers of the community.

DSCN5472IMG_3986No, these aren’t climbing skunks!  Colobus monkeys are actually endangered, but you wouldn’t know it living here.  They are always playing in the trees on the edge of campus somewhere.  Their call is very distinct – imagine what a cow might sound like if it was coughing up a hairball… it’s something like that.

DSCN6400Found this little guy crawling across the kitchen floor the other day.  I think it’s a millipede.

DSCN6039DSCN6330DSCN6334DSCN6038Chameleons have become a family (aside from Courtney) favorite.  They don’t show up all the time, but they provide much entertainment whenever we stumble upon one!

DSCN5783DSCN5787Is “stick-bug” the scientific name for this one?  Not sure, but he was pretty cool to watch.  He hung out on our front door for awhile one day.

DSCN5264If we’ve seen one, we’ve seen a thousand.  These little skink lizards are about 4 or 5 inches long and hang out in our flower beds, often basking in the sun on our sidewalk whenever they’re sure they won’t get crushed by a toddler’s crocs.

DSCN4730I wish I had more pictures of the birds we see around here.  They say Kenya boasts some of the best birding in the world.  This big guy was perched in a tree in our neighbors yard. 

DSCN5268Whenever it rains consistently, these not-so-little slugs come out of who-knows-where and crawl around in the drainage ditches. 

DSCN6482Our most recent run-in with neighborly “hospitality” has been with these fellas.  Termites have been flying everywhere over the last few days.  The picture above doesn’t do justice to how desperately they were trying to flap their wings into our house towards the light.  About 100 others found a way in – right underneath our front door.  This was right as we were putting the kids to bed on Monday night. 

Within two minutes our kitchen went from housing two annoying flying termites to over 100!  The massacre that followed could only be rated R for violence (or possibly win a prize on AFV for it’s utter hilarity).  Our weapons of choice: Courtney wielded my left flip-flop while I chose to clap and slap with my hands.  The resulting carnage was swept into the garbage can and we continue to find wings (every one of them has four) lying around our house a day later.


Our countertop midway through the battle (yes, we took the time to snap a picture in the midst of the invasion – these events must be recorded properly).  Would you believe that people eat these things?  Driving through Kijabe yesterday I saw kids collecting them in containers as they flew out of the underground birthing holes.  From what I’ve heard, most people tear the wings off and fry them up for a crispy treat that’s high in protein.  We’re not there yet, but it doesn’t take long for boys living in Africa to dare each other into consuming a few – even raw sometimes!

Many other neighbors from the animal kingdom are around.  Moths of unusal size (MOUS’s for you Princess Bride fans) and spiders of all shapes and sizes are the more regular visitors.  Courtney has almost come to the point where she’ll kill them herself (almost).

Just another snapshot into life at RVA.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Over the past few weeks, Dan and I have been talking about vehicles – whether or not we should look into purchasing one, what type and size and capability would be useful for our needs here at RVA, etc.  It’s been the first major discussion of a larger decision that we’ve had to make in a while. 

I suppose it was not so long ago that we were making all kinds of decisions in preparation for moving here – sell or rent our house? sell or loan or give away our cars? furniture – what are we keeping and what can go?  Since we’ve been here, though, a lot of decisions have been made for us.  The housing committee chose our house, set us up with furniture to rent until we can replace it, and we weren’t even able to drive until early November. 

It’s been somewhat freeing and somewhat challenging not owning a vehicle here in Kenya.  Of course, I feel the strain of this more than Dan does since I’m the one usually needing to find a ride into Nairobi to grocery shop or to at least track down someone going to give them a small list of things to get, etc.  However not owning a vehicle also leaves us helpless when students or parents of students need a ride into town or for helping with student outreach days each term, etc.  This is the part Dan feels more. 

So what do you want from a vehicle?

In talking, we came up with a few things we think necessary in a vehicle here and a few reasons why.  4-wheel drive capability.  The Kijabe road that winds down to RVA gives new meaning to the word pot-hole.  There are literally whole sections of road that have been washed out, and apparently it’s the worst it’s been in 5+ years.  That’s the road used to go to and from Nairobi.  The quality of roads used to do outreach in the valley and other places can be even worse.  Vehicles are used for several outreach days as well as the Christmas Eve deliveries RVA makes.   Here your car is a tool, not a luxury vehicle (which is confusing when you see the prices of cars below).  It can be used in ministry in a mighty way if it has the ability to get there.  seating for 7-8.  Ours is a family of 5 already.  In outreach, students pile in as well (and on top of the roof realistically).  If we have anyone to visit, we don’t want to have to rent a larger vehicle to accommodate OR to handle terrain (see above).  built to last.   As in America, some types of cars require more service and more expensive parts.  They notoriously break down more often.  We are doing our homework as far as vehicles that seem to last and be most reliable for people here. 

Just how much are we talking?

All of that being said, vehicles here in Kenya are expensive, compared to prices in America.  It’s almost hard to think about, however they also retain their value much better.  For instance, there is a 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser currently for sale here at RVA for $11,000 USD.  That’s a 22 year old vehicle – 22 years old for $11,000.  Compare that to a newer-but-still-10-years-old  2003 Toyota Land Cruiser and it’s likely more in the neighborhood of $25,000 USD. 

Opening a Vehicle Project Fund:

We have opened up a vehicle project fund through AIM.  The way this works is similar to giving to our ministry.  You can give monthly or one-time to the project by sending a check made out to Africa Inland Mission with “Dan & Courtney Schmidt: Vehicle Project” in the memo line.  

Then 98% of your donation to the vehicle project goes toward the purchase of a vehicle. In other words, there isn’t the 12% that goes to AIM as an organization for their work with missionaries (a service that directly benefits us by the way).

We don’t know which vehicle in particular the Lord will have us purchase or how much exactly it will cost, but in July a number of families are leaving RVA (and a new crop of families will join us) and we would like to be in a position to purchase one then.  

Thank you so much for reading, for caring, for praying, for giving.  We are exceedingly grateful for you, our support system!

Again, the instructions for giving -

Africa Inland Mission / Memo: Dan&Courtney Schmidt Vehicle Project

Africa Inland Mission Attn: receipting dept.

PO Box 3611

Peachtree City, GA  30269


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