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Remembering Henry

June 26, 2009, Henry, a student at ByGrace, died at the age of seven and a half.  I haven’t written about him because I’ve been struggling with this for the past month, but it is a big part of my time in Kenya.

Henry was six when I met him at ByGrace in early October of 2008.  He stood out because of his infectious smile.  He didn’t talk much, but would smile like crazy when you asked him how he was doing or talked to him.  I would always play the teddy bear game with him, where if he got to close to me I would pick him up and put him in my lap and tell him he was my teddy bear named George and say, “I shall love you and pet you and call you George.”  He would escape and then walk by close to me so I would catch him again.

Then I started teaching computer classes in 2009.  After a few classes the preschoolers persuaded their teacher to ask me to teach them as well.  So, I would teach the five preschoolers for half an hour before the older students.  Henry was my best student.  He understood English very well and would help his classmates who didn’t know English yet.  In February, Henry went to the hospital for almost an entire month.  When he finally came back, he had lost a lot of weight, but he still had his infectious smile.  I was in Lodwar when we learned that Henry had died after some time in the hospital.  Luckily, everyone at AEE knew Henry because… he was Henry.  So, we were able to mourn together.

Henry had no parents, but ByGrace was his family.  So, I would ask that you please keep the students and teachers of ByGrace in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to deal with and mourn Henry.

Henry during Computer class:
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Week 46: Goodbye Kenya

What a beautiful, painful, and celebratory week, my last week in Kenya.  I walked back through the doors of the schools which I had been going to my entire year after not going for a month (two for two months).  I was no longer Mr. Incognito to all of the smiling faces until I began to explain that I was leaving the next week and this was my last class with them.  I was under the impression when I left for Lodwar that I would have two weeks back in the schools, but the unusual timing of our closing retreat in Uganda had taken another week from time in schools.  Therefore, I walked in to smiling faces, explained that I was leaving to confused faces, and left to a mixture of faces.  I explained to them that I was sorry that I was only back for one class, but that it is the way life is sometimes.   Leaving each school was very difficult.  I was thanked many times at each school and I felt closure as I left and believe that the students did as well.

They have been the main focus of my time in Kenya and I am sure that as I continue to chew on my time in Kenya I will miss them more while realizing what they have taught me, nobody else could have.

St. Hannah’s Girls Basketball Team
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St. Hannah’s Girls Secondary School
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St. Hannah’s Boys Secondary School
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St. Nicholas Primary School
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The biggest goodbye for me was leaving African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) which has been my home and office for the past year.  Friday, we had a very nice going away party for me where each person spoke and I closed with a lengthy speech about my year in Kenya.  What a blessing they have been in my life.  I wish that I could transfer my experience with the people at AEE to others, so that they undertood how amazing the people of AEE and Kenya are.  I will miss them and look forward to the day when I will get to see them again hopefully.

African Evangelistic Enterprise after my going away party:
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During my last week, I also got to meet up with Nick from the Mark and Nick duo (I climbed Mount Kenya with Mark and his now finance, Karen).  Any who, Nick’s girlfriend, Maggie who is from Stillwater, OK, has been in Kenya for the past month visiting Nick and I finally got to meet her and see Nick again.  She has been in Thailand for the past year and so it was nice to talk with people my age about our experiences at different places in the world besides Oklahoma while still speaking in our Oklahoman accents, it was great!

The Oklahoman Trio (Maggie, Me, and Nick):
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The day before I left Kenya, I got to meet up with some friends from Austin College who are working in Nairobi for a month.  They are both members of the Christian fraternity I was in during college, Chi Tau Chi.  It was great to meet up with people from AC and talk about our friends on a first name basis.

The XTX/Austin College Trio (Emily, Me, and Daniel)
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Cosmas and Robert’s Last Adventure (for now)

Cosmas and I had our last adventure to visit his newish girlfriend, Nelly, on the other side of town.  As always, it was an adventure and great to see Cosmas before I left Kenya the next day.  At Nelly’s, we watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition and I saw some of Ugly Betty for the first time.  Not what most people from the States think we do in Kenya, but for some Kenyans it is.  Until next time Cosmas.

Nelly, Me, and Cosmas:
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Before we leave on the plane, Phyllis makes us a good big meal to send us off on a good note.  As my posts from Christmas and Thanksgiving have told you, Phyllis can cook incredible food, in taste and quantity.  She has been a great supervisor and friend.  I’m gonna miss Phyllis and her family.

Phyllis’ Mac and Cheese (The best I’ve ever had):
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The Apple Pie for my going away party:
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That’s all for now.  I will continue to blog about my memories from Kenya as they come to me.  Until then, I am taking a European detour on my way home to visit my dad’s only cousin in Paris and one of my best friends in Edinburgh with a few other detours in between those two.  I will blog about those experiences as they come, but for now I am focused on saying goodbye to Kenya.

So, goodbye for now Kenya, thank you for all of the joys and sorrows, new friends and new ways from which to view the world.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” –Semisonic

Week 45 Revisited: Kenya YAVs Closing Retreat and Dinner

Our Ugandan closing retreat did not just consist of us rafting down the source of Nile river, but another day as well. Phyllis, our site coordinator in Kenya, had told us since we arrived in Kenya that we were going to slaughter a lamb, skin it, and eat it. We thought she was joking. The morning after our rafting trip there was a lamb outside… we thought, “she’s really putting a lot into this joke.” Yeah, turns out she was not joking. Part of the broader African culture involves the spilling of blood during a major transition point in a person’s life, Phyllis explained. I personally felt, I have been eating goat and lamb my entire year with the mamas taking care of killing, skinning, and cooking our food. Therefore, I thought it was an important experience to have in realizing what occurs in order for me to eat every day here in Kenya. Apparently, it is difficult to kill a lamb, so we had a professional do the actual killing while other YAVs held the lamb down. Then some of the YAVs took turns skinning the lamb and preparing it to be cooked for dinner. That night we all sat around the grill as our lamb roasted and talked about our year of service together and our futures. It was a beautiful night spent enjoying good friends as our group of YAVs in Africa for the last time.

Kenya YAVs and Hawa in front of the Nile during our closing retreat:
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Saturday, we had our farewell dinner at a nice restaurant at the Nairobi Game Park. Each YAV was able to invite two friends and their host parents. This was another very good experience in closing our year together as the Kenyan YAVs. I realized to an extent during the year what an amazing group of seven we were, but as what brought us together was ending I really was able to grasp what an impressive and eclectic group we are. I’m going to miss my Kenyan YAV brothers and sisters very much.

My two friends, William my boss, and Rodgers, AEE’s handy man:
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Kenya YAVs at the YAV closing dinner (We’re good looking):
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I was finally back in Nairobi after three weeks away and was ready to begin attending schools again to tell them all good-bye.

Week 44 Revisited: Lodwar Videos Totaling Four

Lodwar School Choir (if you’re only going to watch one video please make it this one)

Refiner’s Fire (Tebi and me leading morning devotion music)

Hakuna Mungu Kama Wewe “There is no God like You” (Tebi and me leading morning devotion music)

Atooity Top (me leading an in-betweenie at a school in Lodwar)

Week 44 Revisited: Lodwar Stories Totaling Three

Since blogging about Lodwar, a few more stories have come to mind that I think are important to share.

First off, I ended up preaching three times in one week in Lodwar which is the most I’ve ever preached in one week to date (besides to myself).  The second sermon went the best (which is when I was asked to preach to the group of 150ish missioners that had come with AEE from the Nairobi area).  The final sermon was the Sunday that we left for our 22 hour ride home.  Nothing like preaching a good ole sermon then hopping in the bus for a “short” drive.  I have decided that I am going to miss having my sermons translated because it gives me time to think between sentences, I like that… maybe I’ll just pretend…

Story number two – I was asleep on our bus ride home from Lodwar when I awoke to a women talking very loudly from the back of the bus at 5 AM.  Tebi, who was asleep next to me, woke up too.  It was in Swahili and I was really tired so I did not know what was going on, but I had a guess.  I asked Tebi, “Is that woman preaching?”  Tebi simply said, “Yes.”  I started laughing and said, “You guys are crazy.” (in a playful tone)  Tebi looked confused and said, “why?”  Here in, ends story number two.

The third story – our bus had been going for around 20 hours which means that your typical person from the States would not be in the best mood because we had been in a bus for 20 hours and were told that it would “only” take 16 hours or so.  Well, Kenyans are not your typical person from the States thankfully because at 20 hours, instead of being frustrated, they started to sing hymns for the last two hours of our ride with smiles on their faces.  I was jealous because I was not in the singing mood, but they brought me over to the good side after a few good ole hymns, “What a friend we have in Jesus…”

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