Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kenya Testimony~ By Brandon Roche

Before I begin, I have to say, there is nothing you can read, watch, or hear about that really does what I experienced justice. I believe in order to really understand another culture and how God is working in that culture, one has to actually experience it firsthand. In the span of two short weeks, I have made some lifelong friends and glimpsed a small piece of an amazing culture and people that are hungry for God.
Our team consisted of 12 people, 7 students and our leader and his family, a wife and 3 young children.

Our leader’s name is Severin Lwali. He was born and raised in Kenya, specifically, the village we were going to. He was our guide at times and translator at other times. Without him, the trip would have been next to impossible. We left for Kenya on the 24th of June and arrived in Nairobi on the 26th at 4:30 in the morning. Two hours later, we woke up for a college-targeted church service called Frontrunnerz. Severin was speaking that day so we had to arrive a bit early. The service was held in a tent, with a few rows of wooden pews and hundreds of white lawn chairs filled the makeshift sanctuary.
Before we even had a chance to take in our surroundings, people were greeting us and making us feel more welcome then any church I’ve been to in America. The praise and worship started so we all took our seats and I watched in amazement as the 20 or so people in the room worshipped God with the most sincerity I’d ever seen. After the first service was over, a few of the women brought us to another smaller tent on the side and gave us tea and a pastry that resembled a doughnut without the glaze. Then the second service started and before we knew it, about 300 young adults crammed into the tent. During praise and worship the tent exploded with hundreds of voices, and not only that, but everyone was dancing. The praise and worship team did a few songs in Swahili that had a kind of reggae beat to them; this is when we saw the true Kenyans come out. Every single one of them has this rhythm engrained into them and can dance like no American ever could, or at least no American on our team. A few of us tried to dance along but to no avail. After church we met the 4 interns that would be accompanying us to the village. They were interning for an organization called the Journey, a college ministry on campuses all around Kenya. Ken, Joey, Grace, and Gracie were complete strangers that day, and by the end of the week became very close friends. I think overall, the Frontrunnerz service was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The rest of the afternoon consisted of catching up on sleep and a meeting concerning the rest of the week.
The next morning we woke up around 7, ate breakfast, and began our long journey to the district of Busia, where the village Butula was located. This was the village where Hekima Academy was located; the school Severin’s mother and father started and now preside over. This was the school we would be working at all week. The drive took almost 12 hours even though it was only about 300 miles to the village. That gives you an idea of how bad the roads are. When we arrived in the village that night, around nine, we ate dinner and crashed, tired from the long journey. The next morning we ate breakfast and discussed plans for the week. Starting on Wednesday, we would begin our VBS we were putting on for the children of the school. The age of the children we were teaching ranged from 3 to 14, so we had to be very versatile in our teaching. The theme of the VBS was 1 Timothy 4:12, “Do not let anyone look down upon you because you are young, but set an example to the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” This was a great theme for these kids because the children in Kenyan culture are to be seen and not heard. But to teach them that even at a young age they can be an example to their peers and relatives was a whole new concept for them. We started off the morning at something called assembly, a meeting of all the kids in the school every morning. The teachers were very gracious and allowed us to completely take over and talk to the children. Severin introduced us to the teachers and children, which was followed by very intrigued looks at the white people. This was another favorite part of mine. I was able to bring my guitar and we were able to teach the children a song. We taught them I Could Sing of Your Love Forever with a faster, more upbeat rhythm to it. We made it faster so the children could dance, and dance they did. One of the interns, Gracie, loves to dance and came up with a few moves simple enough for the children, and us, to learn. It was amazing! Seeing them dance and sing along was just incredible.

We began the VBS by talking about Josiah and how he was only 8 years old when he became king. And that he was a great example for his people because he was constantly following after God’s heart, even though kings before him did not. The first lesson was very hard for me because I am used to speaking so fast. Without those interns there helping us, I would have never been able to communicate anything to them! They were a huge blessing. While some were teaching the lessons, others from our team lead a game that related to the story, or did arts and crafts with the children. After the lessons, we ate lunch and talked about the day, what things could we improve on, and overall, how the lessons went. In the afternoon we went back to the school and played all sorts of game with the children, we taught the children games like 500 and monkey in the middle, and they taught us some of their games. Ken and I were responsible for playing soccer with the younger children, ages 6-9. That was a blast! It eventually turned into a herd of children chasing a ball, but it was fun nonetheless. The rest of the week proceeded the same way, VBS, lunch, meeting, and then games until the children had to leave.

On Friday, however, we were privileged to accompany the kids and teachers to an awards assembly for all the schools in the district. There were about 65 schools represented at the assembly and Hekima Academy was ranked number one in the entire district! This was incredible for the small private school. A group of Americans with the kids was also great PR for the school.  On Saturday we hosted something like a carnival for the children and their parents. We had carnival games and tons of candy to give away. We also had relay races and tug-of-war we could play with the kids, teachers, and parents. After the fun and games, we all sat down as Severin gave the message of salvation to the kids and parents.
That evening we were given a goat to slaughter and eat, and that’s exactly what we did. One of our team members, John, cut its head off, while others were responsible for stringing out its intestines, which are considered a delicacy. That night we shared roasted goat, which was delicious, with the teachers of the school. They thoroughly enjoyed but unfortunately we had to say our goodbyes. I loved hanging out with the teachers because they were just as curious as the students, but could grasp the answers we gave them a bit better than the students. It was very sad leaving the next morning, as some of the students waved goodbye.
From there, we went to Lake Nakuru to go on a safari. That was the tourist section of our trip.

We stayed the night at a lodge called flamingo hill and woke up early the next morning to go see the wildlife. It was incredible!  When we got back to the lodge we ate breakfast and left for Nairobi again. The rest of the week was supposed to be filled with outreaches in the city alongside more of the Journey members, but unfortunately this didn’t work out. Brent, one of our connections to the Journey ended up being in the U.S. at the time we were in Kenya, and because of that, a lot of our plans fell through. We attended a few Journey hosted events to Kenyatta University but the rest of the week was filled with mostly learning more of the Kenyan culture.
Overall, the trip was an amazing experience that, like I said, I can’t do justice by typing up this testimony. God did amazing things to and through us while we were there. Going to a country where people have very little is eye opening and heart breaking at times. However, one thing I noticed from each Kenyan was the amount of hospitality they gave us. For instance, when we were in Butula, we stayed in Severins’ parent’s house. They gave us literally all they had and more while we were there. They didn’t even stay in the house, they gave it to us and they stayed in a neighboring building on their land. When we were in Nairobi we went to Journey leader’s apartment for a few minutes. The living room was about 12 by 12 feet maybe, but instead of saying he didn’t have enough room for the 12 of us, he welcomed us in and fed us. I think the big theme here is the amount of community and family that Kenyans have as opposed to Americans. If we have guests, we give what we want to give, but in Kenya we were greeted with everything they had.
God is doing great things in Kenya and from this experience, I hope to begin to travel the rest of the world and experience God in other cultures.
Brandon Roche, Joplin, Missouri
~Note from Ronda
My heart is busting at the seams right now!  It makes me so happy and so sad all at the same time because in America we are so disconnected from the rest of the world.  I can picture the freedom and see these people dancing and singing before the Lord and he is clapping his hands and stomping his feet to the music (in my mind).  What JOY!
When are the Kenyan’s going to do a missions trip to Joplin, because I want to go to that revival!
What you have shared Brandon has lit a fire in my heart.  There is a lot of work to be done in this place.  Thank you so much for sharing.  I am tremendously grateful for you.  You welcomed Sam and I with love and hospitality from the moment that we met you.  You treated us like we were best buds and I think that it is a gift God has given you.  You are one of the friendliest, most out-going, sincere individuals I have ever met.
I can’t wait to see what all God has in-store for your life.  He is going to do great things through you, and you are going to do great things through Christ.
Lord bless you brother!
Your friend and sister in Christ,

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