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. 

DSC_0011 (3)

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 :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

the god of fear

We wear it like a badge of honor. It is a sign of wisdom, proof of discernment and good sense. We are quick to confess it, proud to reveal that we feel it, and prouder still when our obedience to it informs our decisions and guides our actions. It's worshipped in our politics, our planning, our churches, and our families.

We talk about it with the assumption that it is justified. We refer to it like it should be obvious. At the first sign of shame, we conceal it with words like "concern" and "being responsible".  We are convinced that it should be touted with confidence by anyone who has a true sense of the state of things - anyone who is informed or aware or who sees the pitfalls, dangers, or risks. Certainly it is prudent. Certainly we are in the right when we warn others about their reckless actions, or offer our opinions about the craziness of their choices.

At all costs we must never disobey this god. He demands our allegiance. He requires our constant deference. He insists that we forever bear his "cross of anxiety". It is VERY heavy, but we have long honed the muscle groups necessary to carry it.

How many things are left undone due to our devotion to this god?

We rarely venture onto the other side of the tracks. If we do, it is briefly and only to serve the related demi-god of guilt.

We applaud ourselves for standing alongside people we can identify with and pushing away those who need us most.

We don't hesitate to change our profile picture in support of one people group that was terrorized on one horrific Friday in November, but we refuse to hold out our hands to a group of people who've endured countless Fridays of terror, several years worth of homelessness and unknowns, and who've forgotten that 'security' even exists in this world.

We have no problems protecting our own children, while refusing others the opportunity to protect theirs

We hold onto conservative, American principles, proclaiming safety, liberty, and the pursuit of health, wealth, and happiness as if they are gospel truth, while the real Gospel message of unmerited grace to undeserving sinners is somehow ignored.

The god of fear enables us to worship family, comfort, safety, and security. It allows us to care for the less fortunate of our choosing, freeing us from debilitating thoughts of having to care for those who are different. It allows our guilt to be assuaged simply by placing a few bills in the offering plate, by sending a check to the most deserving go-fund-me campaign, or even by ‘liking’ a convicting post or hash-tagging whatever’s trending at the moment.

As we close our borders, we cripple our torch-bearer by disregarding the very inscription that she (and we) were once known for:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Maybe that's why she's weeping.

weeping lady liberty

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I miss Sudan

“I miss Sudan.”

He was feeling reminiscent today, nostalgic even. Sometimes we chat about tests he’s studying for or issues with friends in the dorm. Often it will be the ups-and-downs he experiences in his walk with the Lord. We focus on accountability and the constant struggle of sin in our lives. Once in a while the conversation might turn to that girl, the one everyone assumes he likes but he insists is just a good friend.

Not today. Today, he wanted to talk about home. Sudan.


Of course, any mention of the word home with MKs exposes a broad range of meanings. For this student, at least today, home meant Sudan. This is where he spent most of his childhood. In the years before coming to RVA, he lived on a farm outside of the city and commuted to an International day school.  His best friend, another MK from Switzerland, went to school with him.  This is the period in time he remembers as the good ole’ days, though as he describes his life there, it’s hard to believe why.

He remembers, with what can only be described as fondness, the harsh living conditions; if they had relied on rain for their water supply, they would’ve died of thirst. It was a remote place, a hard place, but it was undoubtedly the place their family was most needed. The Sudanese people they served were not Christian, and their ministry was making an impact. They were helping people. His dad was training them to raise crops in an unforgiving environment, how to get clean water, and how to conserve. 

NIKON D3100058


A place where rain would fall only a few times a year and the mercury would climb higher each day, the air so thick it was hard to breathe – this is the place he was homesick for today.

At certain points in the conversation, I couldn’t tell if what he was missing more was a time or a place. Growing up for this young man has been a series of goodbyes. Goodbyes to people, farewells to places, and see-you-laters to chapters in his life he won’t likely see again. It was a simpler time, though, and a younger version of himself battled less with the unknowns and the what-ifs of a teenager. He smiled as he explained how he used to be able to relate to just about anyone, as long as there was a soccer ball involved; it was the one language in which everyone was fluent.


South Korea doesn’t feel like home, although that’s what his passport says. South Sudan, where his parents are now working, doesn’t either. Kenya is where he goes to school and has spent the vast majority of the last 4 years, but its not home either.

The reality is - he can’t go home. In December of 2012, his family, along with all other Christians, humanitarian aid workers, and anyone affiliated with anything that wasn’t Muslim, were forced to leave.

“We were told to leave, but we couldn’t because they were holding our passports.”

It was a purging of the country. The government wanted to make it a Holy Nation, and in Islamic terms, that meant no infidels. Everybody out. They were forced to go to the airport and wait for someone who promised to bring their passports to them. As it turned out, that ‘someone’ didn’t show up that day. So his family spent the night in the street across from the South Korean embassy.

He chuckles as if the significance of that day just now struck him, “Huh. That was Christmas Eve.”


He and his family left their home in Sudan on Christmas Day of 2012 and will likely never go back. Today he’s feeling a bit gloomy, a little down.

What could I say?

Sometimes I feel like I have something to contribute to the conversation – some pearl of wisdom or a Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to mind. Once in a while I can offer a strategy for fighting sin or a bit of perspective from an adult who’s been there. Not today. Today I had nothing. I just listened. I asked a few questions. I told him I would pray.

I failed at an attempt to make him feel better:  “everybody goes through changes as they grow up”  I said.  I regretted those words as soon as I said them. Of course, he wasn’t offended. I’m not sure he even sees his story as different from anyone else’s. He’s never mentioned any of these details before today, and we’ve been meeting weekly for over 2 years.  ‘'


I am blessed to be involved in mentoring relationships with several young men on campus this year. Every time we sit down, I’m challenged. Every time we talk, I’m encouraged. Every time I hear a story about what they’re struggling with and how the Lord is working in their lives, I’m convicted to walk closer to the Lord myself. What a privilege and an honor to work here and live life with these students!

Who’s mentoring who, anyway?

*this story was published with the permission of the student*

Saturday, October 31, 2015

many are the FACES of R.V.A.

Enjoy these shots from Multi-Cultural Day.  It is one of the most memorable events on RVA’s calendar for sure, a full day of celebrating the diversity with which God has blessed RVA! 

Students and staff are encouraged to dress in such a way as to represent their “home” countries.  For some that means where they were born (their passport country), for others they represent where their parents are currently working. For most, it’s a combination of all the places they’ve called home at one point or another. 

As you scroll down through the pictures, you may notice that the most patriotic thing I own is a Buffalo Bills polo.  Sorry, America.


The best part of each Multi-cultural Day is the FLAG CEREMONY.  This year, 30 flags were carried by students hailing from those countries.  They hold their flags high, processing as their National Anthem plays, and then they have the chance to greet or bless the crowd in their heart language.  We cheer loudly for each one, but the most enthusiastic cheers go to Kenya each year! 


We LOVE these students.  And we are PRIVILIGED to be a part of what God is doing in this GLOBAL COMMUNITY. 


Thanks for allowing us to be here.  For the expansion of His Kingdom.  Until the whole world hears. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...