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Appleseed Travel Journal

Things I Remind Myself

Being catapulted from one culture to another sometimes feels a little like Dorothy leaving Kansas and ending up in Oz. The time zone is opposite, you are awake when it’s time to sleep, the food is not home cookin’, and you have to watch out crossing streets because the cars are whizzing by on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

But, we have made our way through a stopover in Nairobi and now to Rwanda where trainings and sessions have begun.

In case you have not followed my (Roger’s) Facebook posts, here are a few posts of our journey thus far:

Someone has been praying for us. It's almost first class when you have two empty seats next to you to stretch out on! Always grateful for these little mercies. Now for some shuteye!

airplane seats

Things I remind myself as I enter the African culture: 1. There must always be time for a greeting no matter how big of a hurry I am in. 2. Things don't have to happen on time. 3. Indirect communication is polite: "Maybe tomorrow" is better than "No, I'm not interested." 4. Personal space has a different meaning, so just get over it. 5. People usually treat me with understanding and grace no matter how much I muff it up. And I will! Any other cross-cultural reminders?

a street in Africa

Starting first training/strategizing/planning with amazingly fruitful/faithful leaders in Rwanda. To be honest, 'faith' for me is always two parts insecurity (what am I doing here? who am I? can I really make a difference here?) and one part just jump-off-the-cliff go for it anyway. And somehow God always does more than I can imagine. Can you relate?

It’s always a joy to worship with these friends from Rwanda and Burundi!

Does It Make a Difference?

At the end of a long trip, I think of all the sacrifices being made by donors and partners who are giving generously and church planters on the field who lead teams and projects faithfully. And, in my weariness I can find myself asking, “With all of the problems in the world, is this giving and sacrifice making a difference?”

But then I remind myself of the many, many statements that I hear from people over and over that reflect the simple reality that lives are being changed. These simple ‘testimonies’ always speak loudly to me that it is ALL worth it!

A life transformed by the Gospel: “I became truly free. I was bound by such superstition and religion that was like a heavy load in my life. But I found total freedom and peace through God’s grace.”

Clean water for a village: “We were amazed that these people would provide us clean water for our children who struggle with disease. We were excited to hear their message.”

Bore hole dug providing irrigation for farming: “We were walking three miles each way, every day, to get some water for eating and cleaning. Now, we have water for ourselves and we can grow enough food to eat and sell to pay for school fees.”

Abandoned children rescued: “Do you realize that many of these children on this playground (over 300) would not have food every day, would not be receiving this education, and many would not have people in their lives who truly care for them?”

Training and support for more church planters: “We need you to come to our area and train the people we are working with. They need this training because it is clear, simple, and will help us to reach out to so many people.”

Thank you, once again, for joining together with us through yet another adventure!

FUN TIME IN MALAWI

Well, little did I know that Malawi is called, "the warm heart of Africa!" This tiny little country about the size of Pennsylvania and 1/3 of that is Lake Malawi. It's much like the other countries we are in, EXCEPT that it's true, these people are indeed exceptionally warm, friendly, welcoming, protective, helpful, and very loving. Just last week a white visitor had gone missing and the people all over Malawi were in search for him. They are very group oriented—what's mine is yours, not individualist like us! So, in their minds, one of the "group" was missing, so they all looked for him and indeed, even found him holed up in a hospital where he was suffering from malaria.

So, this week we are with Steven (DR Congo) and Kaskil (DR Congo) who felt God was telling them to go to Malawi to reach the people there, especially the Yao people who are mostly Muslim. Some of the people they have reached are with us and come from the North, South and Central Malawi. We are so excited to get to spend time with them…they desperately want to learn and are very engaged in the process.

As an added joy, Joseph, a Malawian, traveled from his place in southern Malawi to be with us. He is a YWAM'er whom we met up with and got to hang out with recently in Thailand. Roger originally met him 10 years ago when he joined Brian Hogan (YWAM) to do a training on simple church planting. Then and there, Joseph went home, resigned from his mega-church to reach an unreached people group in Malawi by using the same disciple-making church planting principles we are. We had no idea!! So, now he is not only helping us out with translation, but his experiences here in this country are making for such a rich time together. We really love and admire this man so much. He had the largest church in all of Malawi and left it to become a farmer in a region 99% Muslim. He and his family have been living there for six years now and have seen hundreds come to Christ. Such a humble, precious man who is very inspiring to be with.

A Few of the Funny Things I See and Hear Along the Way…

smiley face “I can tell by your faces how they are shining that you are doing very well…strong and happy.” - A Kenyan Friend

“OK, there’s something I want to react on…” - Ugandan Friend

“OK, well, it’s very important, but it’s not very, very important-.” - Kenyan Friend

“You wear those things…up to down here (pointing to ankle)…” - Friend along the way

“Sometimes when I think about these things it soaks me in tears…” - Kenyan John Wanyonyi

“It is not bad; ok, well, let me say it is not very bad.” - This is what most everyone says in response to a question I’ve asked when they are trying to tell me something pretty much sucks!

“…in other words, God is the Director of Operations…” - Malawi Friend

“Brooks, I have known you and Roger for a long time now. You have become very, very old, but you remain the same. You and Roger love each other so much. You are a great model for us. You must tell us what your secret to a happy marriage is.” - Burundi Friend

Today I watched an impertinent boy, belonging to an obviously quite wealthy Indian family, after being patted down by security, giggle hysterically and then turn right around and pat down the TSA guy!

“OK, well, it’s far, but not very far.” - Almost everyone in response to our asking how far something is or how long it will take to get there.

“You can see these people (Roger and myself) are very old now, but they keep coming back to Africa. That’s how much they love us here.” - DR Congo Church Planter introducing us to his leaders

Flying from Malawi to Kenya (about two hours), I was frantically touching the small screen in front of me trying to produce a display of long missed TV opportunities, but all of my pounding produced nothing but a blank screen. Just then a stewardess arrived passing out headphones. I told her that it seemed my screen wasn’t working. She said, “I know. But just in case it should decide to come, here are your headphones.”

Visiting about things of personal import, a new friend asked me, “We were just discussing (she and her friend) and may I just ask you, ‘How long is it that you keep your hair?’” I had no idea how to answer. For her, she will “keep” hers (a wig or weavings) without removing, and often without washing, it for up to 2 months. For now I think I’ll just keep mine as long as I can!

What cracks me up in a day in our lives…

Getting to be with passionate, excited, focused followers of Jesus who want to share their relationship with God and message of Hope with others is such a joy and most definitely a privilege. These young, and sometimes older, people are often a mixture of city and village folks. Ranging from white-collar businessmen and women to shepherds from a small, perhaps 100 hut village, they all share a common love for and pride in their nation and their God.

Today, for example, we spent the day with people from Turkana and Pokot Counties in northwestern Kenya. This region is very dry, hot, barren and considered by some, even Kenyans, as quite barbaric. Wealth is counted in terms of numbers of camels or cattle. Cattle-rustling is the way of acquiring more wealth and status. This wealth is guarded by Mk47’s. Gunfire is common. Ninety percent of the people in the areas these folks come from are illiterate.

The differing tribes we are with today, even though from the same country, are made up of two different tribes with some coming from sub-tribes of those tribes. In their own areas they could be stealing animals from each other, but here in a neutral town and county, Kitale, Tranzoia, they lay down any animosity toward each other and gather around one central person: Jesus Christ.

No matter how many times we come or how desensitized I become to many things in Africa, when I stop to think about how it would be at home, I just have to giggle. For example, it’s only a few hours into the day and here’s a sampling of “normal” as we pass through our days in East Africa:

  • I woke up to somehow being all tangled up in our mosquito net just trying to shut off the alarm.
  • Taking a shower this morning, I had the all-too-often surprise of being lathered up and then the water shuts off.
  • While at breakfast a resident American missionary was telling us how he had to send his family home last week because his home had repeatedly been attacked by “thugs.” He was seeking refuge here at our compound while he tried to close down all of his work here in Kitale.
  • Entering our meeting place (a hotel of sorts with a restaurant and meeting rooms) because of so much congestion of motorbikes, donkeys and chickens, stalls filled with products ranging from vegetables to cooking pots to clothing, vehicles, and many, many pedestrians, I watched as a man was struck down in the middle of the road just trying to get across. Instantly, there was a crowd of no less than 50 people crowded around the poor man who was sprawled on the ground holding his head.
  • A couple of hours into the training, the electricity went off, and no one even commented, even though we were all sitting in the dark for some time.
  • While I was somehow trying to manage straddling the squatty potty, a male employee came pounding on the door of the ladies room, requesting entry to hand me a roll of toilet paper. I’m quite confident this luxury was afforded me purely because I am a muzungu.
  • One mama brought her 3-month-old son and her 5-year-old daughter with her to the training. Unless the mom is nursing, the older sibling, as is quite typical, is in charge of the younger. Often the little girl is pacing the hallway, bouncing the crying little one in her arms to calm her.
  • People easily converse with us and each other in Swahili interspersed with English and if they are talking with their compatriot, they then switch to their own tribal language.
  • There is no conversation I have had today, much like every day, that is not accompanied by lots of touching, high-fiving, ease and laughter. It’s pretty awesome!

And, this is just my morning while doing a training in the city! Trainings in the villages are something else again, but always a joy and an experience I could never fully convey. Without them, my life would be sorely lacking. I so, so wish you could be with us…for even just one day!

5-year-old taking care of her baby brother
Ladies room door…you can tell because “Laid” is written in chalk on the door.
Tea time break
Roger after a long day of training hanging out with Rahan and Allum, the kids who live where we stay.

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