This blog is going to have a different feel than the way we typically write. We wanted to give an opportunity for those that support us and our ministry to get to know us better. We are NOT good about posting on social media. So this will be a platform to engage with those who follow us. We are often asked questions about our life and ministry in Kenya. We wanted to take this time to answer some of these questions and maybe tell a funny story or two. We have listed five for this blog but if it receives a good response, we are happy to answer more! I hope you enjoy reading it, because we enjoyed writing it!
1) How is Erin?
I am feeling so much better! We never received any definitive answers from the doctors in Kisumu or Nairobi. There were crazy amounts of testing completed, and everything showed normal results. In fact, the last specialist we saw said “If you still feel bad, I would suggest you travel to a country with more specialized medicine!” We honestly believe that it is the prayers of the saints (that’s you reading this blog) that has been a part of my healing. I have gained strength day by day. I have gained weight and confidence in eating again. As crazy as that sounds, you want to fast when all you eat comes up or out immediately. Is it not incredible how perspectives change through hardship, right? But we are so thankful, we continue to trust the Lord, and we are hopeful that this season is behind us.
2) What’s it like living in Kenya?
This question is a little bit broad. It is awesome, crazy, fun, sad, and hard all at the same day. Somedays you feel like you are on cloud nine and sometimes you feel like your heart could not hold any more sadness. One of the hardest parts is not the lack of electricity or water at times, but being away from our friends and family! However, God is so good to us. We are so thankful for such a wonderful community around us here in Kisumu. We worship together, eat together, and do life together. It is a new kind of family that we rarely saw in the United States. I guess it is like a community family or a small church family. However, as much as Kenya is our home, we are excited to be journeying to our other “home” this fall to spend time with our families and friends.
3) But seriously, what is it like living in Kenya?
Lions don’t usually walk down the street where we live, but hippos sometimes do!
A funny story – We had just moved into our first house here in Kisumu. It was really late at night. We were sitting in our living room indulging in an American television show we brought from the US. All of the sudden we hear a pop. Keith says “That sounded like a gunshot.” Again we hear a pop, which is shortly followed by another. After maybe five shots, they stopped. We asked our guard in the morning if they heard the shots in the night. They said they did. The guard seemed so cool about it. We probed further. Was someone shot? Are gunshots normal? The guard smiles big after our barrage of questions. He says, “They were shooting at a hippo.” Apparently, a hippopotamus had come out of the lake too far and the Kenya Wildlife Service was using gunshots to scare the hippo back to the lake. The hippo continued to walk up our street towards town. Unfortunately for the hippo, the last shot we heard was not a warning. We quickly opened the gate to look for the hippo on the street. There was not a speck showing where the hippo had gone down. We were looking for a carcass, bones, or blood. The guard again laughed at our naivety. The townspeople had come and carried pieces of the hippo away to eat. They carried it ALL away. Overnight. The blood had dried on the asphalt, leaving no trace of its presence. Thankfully since that night, the gunshots have been few!
But let’s get back to the question. We live in Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya located on Lake Victoria. However, for those familiar with middle Tennessee, it is about the size of Gallatin with the population of Nashville. There are a few restaurants, grocery stores, and paved roads. We do hear lions roar most nights, as a few of them live in a sanctuary located near our home. Our home is located in a walled compound, and the house is made of concrete. We have running water and electricity, precious commodities in Kenya. Like in most developing nations, these commodities are unstable, but again we are totally grateful they are there. There is no air-conditioning in our house, though. (The temperature here gets pretty hot, but we do have fans to help circulate the air). The people here make it all worth it. Beautiful faces and souls like the one of this Kalenjin woman inspire us to continue on in the work here. She is made in God’s own image! This nation is still in desperate need of truth, light in the darkness, and love to be shown.
4) What do you eat?
We eat what the grocery store has that week. I am going to be honest and vulnerable in this moment. When we lived in the US, I was no June Cleaver. While the house was clean (most of the time), I was not good about putting together a meal for the two of us after work. I rarely cooked, and did not possess any measurable amount of cooking talent. That being said, Kenya brings a whole new perspective on culinary acuteness. Here you have to cook. I learned very quickly how to make more than spaghetti. We make our own tortillas, pizza crust, and biscuits.
The grocery store that is our favorite, Nakumatt, is a little deceptive upon first glance. It is large in size and quantity of items, but the quality is sometimes lacking. There are rows of ketchup tomato sauce, bread, and juice, but tiny amounts of refrigerated food. There have been weeks where we bought a block of cheese that costs around 1,000 Kenya Shillings (the equivalent of $10.00 USD), we rush home to open it, and it is already spoiled. Some common things in the US that are missing here are a host of dairy products: sour cream, half and half, good milk for that matter. Berries are scarce and expensive; good lettuce is hard to find and an even bigger pain to clean. I once tried to buy some asparagus but when they rang it up, one bunch of 8 was 2,500 Ksh ($25.00 USD). But please do not hear complaining. We are so blessed by many fresh fruits and vegetables. There are vegetables and fruits that are common and plenty within Kenya: mango, pineapple, kale, tomato, onion, garlic, coriander (called cilantro in the US) to name a few. We can buy frozen chicken at the store but it is a little expensive. Our beef comes from a butcher in town owned by a sweet older couple. Pasta is readily available. Mexican cheese dip, sadly is unavailable. Man we miss cheese dip. We can create most of the other dishes, but cheese dip is apparently an art. Did I mention we miss cheese dip? I am salivating as I write this….
5) What does life look like day to day?
The organization that we partner with, Church Missions Network, is multi-faceted. Their mission statement helps to connect the dots to why we are here:
“Church Missions Network (CMN) exists to bring hope through the good news of God’s love by strategically connecting humans to humans and churches to churches to accomplish more together than any of them could do alone.”
We partner with local pastors in all of the aspects in which CMN is involved. Some of the things we accomplish by working together with the Kenyans include a feeding program called K4K located in Western and Southern Kenya which feeds 10,000+ orphans and widows a month at 61 churches. Keith helps with the ordering, transportation, and other administrative tasks of this program. We also help oversee pastor training in 13 seminaries, which is so vital in ensuring our pastors have a solid foundation in biblical truth and knowledge. Another awesome responsibility here is the facilitation of short term teams to remote, unreached areas to share the gospel through medicine, vacation bible school, and youth camps. At the end of this year, we will have completed 17 weeks of teams. Each time a team comes, it not only blesses the Kenyans, but brings such joy to our hearts to reunite with old friends and create new ones!
There are so many things that I have left out that falls under Keith’s responsibilities, but I feel that I have been too wordy already on this blog. So for your sake, we will save all of the details for another blog.
We also have a new organization that we are helping set up here in Kisumu. It is called 2ndMilk. I (Erin) am spearheading this effort with a wonderful Kenyan young woman Elizabeth pictured below. We are so excited to see how the Lord uses and blesses this new program here. We will be serving babies and toddlers whose caregivers are unable to provide adequate nutrition for them. Specifically we will be targeting infants whose mother has died and the baby has no access to breast milk or formula.
The goal of 2ndMilk is to that in “Providing formula for a baby provides life, hope and a future…God’s vision for our ministry is simple. Giving life to the most vulnerable around the world through formula and proper nutrition provides hope and a future. When a baby loses its mother it shouldn’t keep them from experiencing the fullness of life. 2nd Milk comes alongside these families from birth to 2 years old providing formula, porridge, fruits and vegetables.”
We are so excited for the opportunity to help these babies in need of nourishment and empower communities in the process!
I think that wraps up the question and answer session. If you liked this format, let us know and we will do it again in the future. If not, we will go back to the usual format. Thanks for all of your encouraging words during my season of sickness. It is our sincere hope that God receives all the glory for the things being completed here in Kenya. He certainly gets the glory for my healing!
Many blessings to you and your family!