Monday, August 31, 2015

Lessons from my father

I went to class today.

As I arrived at the third floor of the building that looks out over the Great Rift Valley, there was a group of students standing at the doorway of the classroom I was aiming for. They were busy talking about some last minute schedule changes. Entering the room, there were maybe 20 students already seated, filling out the obligatory first-day survey and textbook cards. There weren’t any seats available, so I sat at a table in the back. That’s when my dad looked up, noticed me and smiled. After a long day of introducing students to his U.S. History and American Government classes, I could tell he was tired.

Dad teaching

But I’ve never been more proud.

My dad is the second Mr. Schmidt that many of his students have met here at RVA. When I came 3 years ago, I struggled to pronounce some of the same names he fumbled over today. His go to phrase over the past week has been, “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, and he’s certainly not in Alden, teaching at the public high school where he began and [thought he] ended his teaching career. Although he mastered the art of pronouncing some of the Polish-American “ski’s” that make up much of Western NY’s populous, nothing prepared him for the Korean or Kenyan names he saw today. By 7th period, when I sat in, he simply smiled when he got to another one he knew he’d butcher, and then humbly asked a student nearby to translate for him.

The students were extremely polite…and quiet! I remember being blown away my first day at how quiet everyone was, not sure if it was out of fear or respect. I now know the answer, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with teaching here.

Many of the “kids” are hardly that anymore. Most are seniors and Dad congratulated them on finally reaching the top of the pack. He talked about political cartoons and faith, liberals and conservatives, cultural clich├ęs and mandatory textbook covers. I could tell he was in his element – this isn’t his first time teaching American Government.

But it is his first time teaching in Africa.

I’ve learned innumerable lessons from my father over the years. The greatest irony in all of this was when the principal asked me if I’d be willing to be my dad’s mentor teacher. I laughed out loud and then realized he was serious. How do you mentor someone who’s been your mentor?

I may have the title this time around, but the way I’ve witnessed my parents’ walk in obedience over the past few months has mentored and encouraged and challenged me in ways that I’ll never hold a candle to as I attempt to support Dad in his new role.

Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks for loving Jesus enough to do things that are hard and scary and new. I can already see the impact you’re going to have on these students – they may or may not talk your ear off over the next few months, but I can assure you they notice your obedience, they admire it, and they won’t soon forget it.

I know I won’t.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Beauty and the Beast

DSC_0011aOk, a bit of explanation.  First of all, our guest and dear friend, Sabrina Knapp, recently starred in her high school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” as Belle (we were privileged to see it via DVD copy and can now easily agree with every other review we’ve heard – she NAILED it!)  So for the title of this post, the Beauty is Sabrina.  Secondly, “the Beast” is what we will refer to as the week we just had with her touring various parts of life and outreach here in Kenya (not to be confused with the vehicle that President Obama tooled around Nairobi in last weekend, also referred to as “the Beast”)

One week is only a fraction of the time Sabrina has spent with us, but we all agreed that this week has been one of the most varied, thrilling, raw, exhausting, and down-to-earth real since her visit began in the middle of June.

We are thrilled to report that very soon, you will have the opportunity to hear directly from Sab – she has agreed to author a few guest blog posts for us, so stayed tuned!

Here, in mostly pictorial form, are some highlights from “the Beast” with our very own “Beauty”.  ENJOY!

MONDAY, 27 July:
Building a fence with Pastor James.NIKON D3100048Pastor James started a ministry called Brook of Hope to rescue abandoned street boys in Maai Mahiu, and has recently raised funds to buy a piece of land there.  He hopes to begin construction of an orphanage, school, and outreach center to provide hope to more children in need.  We assisted in putting up a fence around part of the newly acquired property!  The short video on their blog is worth watching, and tells a bit more of his story.

NIKON D3100068

NIKON D3100066Both of my boys wanted to be sure Grandpa Schmidt saw these pictures of them working hard on a fence.  They did a great job!

TUESDAY, 28 July
Family movie day in Nairobi – Inside Out.  Great movie – sorry no pictures :)

Visit to local Kenyan Primary School to see Kenya Kids Can in action. 
A few of our colleagues here at RVA are heavily involved in the oversight of this program that had its beginnings in 2002 with another RVA family, the Peifers.  KKC’s aim is to “enhance the education of Kenyan students by providing meals and offering computer training to impoverished schools.” Over 16,000 students are receiving a hot meal at lunch each day in 26 different schools, and for many of these students, it’s their only meal that day.  It was ironic that Tuesday night we had just written a blog on star power because on Wednesday, we were the celebrities!


As we went around visiting each of the classrooms, the most common requests were either to hear the mzungu children talk or to shake their hands – volunteers were not hard to find. 






Game drive at Lake Nakuru National Park (captions included).

DSC_0001Good morning, Nakuru!

DSC_0014What’s so good about it?

DSC_0017Look at it this way – at least you’re not as ugly as I am!

DSC_0031I’m pretty sure this is my best side.  Go ahead, take the picture.

DSC_0046aNOW where did that cub get to?

DSC_0050aShe’ll never find me down here!

DSC_0065Wait, Dan isn’t PEEING in this one, is he? (no!)

DSC_0077If I just stay right here and don’t move, they might mistake me as part of this tree…

DSC_0109bWhy do flamingoes lift up one leg?

DSC_0100Cause if they lifted both, they’d fall over!
Bahahahahaha!  Good one, Dad!

DSC_0119Be the rock, be the rock.  Grrrr.  This camouflage thing isn’t working at ALL!

DSC_0126Courtney:  “Okay, so how many more hours do we have to drive around with these crazy people?” 
Sabrina:  “Shhhh.  Just smile for the camera!

FRIDAY, 31 July
Spending a day with Florence, a young girl we’ve sponsored through Compassion International since 2005, when she was just six years old.


What a joy to finally meet Florence.  We also had the privilege of meeting her mother, Jane, and her little sister, Lucy.  Jane said we now have 3 American children and 1 Kenyan daughter! 


The day began at A.I.C. Jericho, the local church where the Compassion project takes place each Saturday and during breaks in between school terms.


The project coordinator answered about a hundred of our questions as we all enjoyed a cup of chai together. 


The next stop was to visit her home.  I say home because house certainly wouldn’t be accurate.  The living conditions in her ‘village’ are, in a word, deplorable.  Florence’s family has recently been relocated to a plot right alongside a trash-infested creek that often floods.


The shelter that the 6 of them live in is smaller than our bedroom, and the trash heap we had to walk through to get there spills over everywhere.  We gingerly stepped over rotting food, trash, and feces, and the smell along the path was enough to knock you over. 


We are continuing to process through many thoughts and hard emotions after this leg of our visit.  True poverty is ruthless and unforgiving.  Witnessing it firsthand is one thing - caring deeply about the people who are stuck in it sheds a different light on the entire topic.  Much more on that in a future post.

With just enough room for 4 of us to sit and 5 to crowd around and watch, we brought her family a few bags of groceries and Florence a new purple backpack full of things we thought she might appreciate.  She was so grateful for everything, but her whole face lit up when she pulled out a Bible.  Wrapped in well-worn pink duct-tape, complete with underlining, notes and highlights throughout, it was a gift from our other ‘daughter’, Sabrina; she had been praying for an opportunity to leave her own personal Bible with a young girl here in Kenya before she left.  God’s plan and timing are perfect!


Florence shouted gleefully, “I love the Bible!” and held it tightly to her chest.  It was an encouraging moment as we prayed for Florence and her family. Pray with us that the truth of God’s Word would infiltrate their hearts and minds and that salvation would come to the whole family. 

From there we took a drive to the Giraffe Center.  Always a highlight!  Florence got the hang of feeding the giraffes quickly, but Lucy never quite appreciated their sticky, purple tongues.  She preferred watching from a distance :)




On our way to see the giraffes, we passed a Pizza Inn.  Making conversation, I asked Florence if she has ever tasted pizza.  When she said no, it was clear that we needed to stop for lunch!


Pepperoni, chicken tikka, and peri peri chicken – Florence enjoyed all three.  It turns out that love for pizza transcends at least one cultural boundary.  And the ice cream seemed a little cold to Lucy at first, but she ‘warmed up’ to it quickly!


We want to say a BIG thanks to Compassion International and the work they do in tough places, bringing hope and Truth and light where the darkness is overwhelming.  To God be the glory for the work He is doing in the lives of His children around the world!

DSC_0233Pictured: Dan, Florence, Lucy, Jane, Courtney, Izaac, and Boniface     
(Izaac and Boniface were our guides and representatives from Compassion International – Kenya)

That was quite a week.  We’ve had no trouble sleeping each night!

One more shout-out to Sabrina for being determined to make this visit to Kenya happen.  We have LOVED having her here and will miss her terribly after she’s gone.  The following conversation lends some insight into how much our family has cherished her time with us:

Evelyn:  “When is Sabrina going to change her last name to Schmidt?”

Courtney:  “Oh, honey, she’s not going to do that.  She’s just visiting us for a few weeks.”

Ethan:  “Yeah, but she’s pretty much our sister.”

Dan:  “Well, we like to call her your sister, but she isn’t really.”

Nate:  “No Dad.  She is.  She’s our sister in Christ!”

And there you have it, folks.


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