My iPod alarm clock went off at 7:50 am. I got out of bed at 8:30 am. This I know for sure: I am not a morning person. After brushing my teeth with a cup of filtered water and washing my face, I went into the kitchen to boil some water for a cup of tea. As I fixed an egg sandwich for breakfast, Madison and Spencer (almost completely ready for the day) played a game of chess. They wake up at least an hour before I do. As I ate my homemade English muffin with an egg, the kids went into the school room to start school for the day. I had filled out Spencer's school to-do list the previous night, so he did not need me immediately.
The morning passed rather quickly. I read Spencer his history--we learned about feudal Japan--and gave him some math problems to do. We started getting ready for the kids' swimming lessons at around 10 am. Every Wednesday, Madison and Spencer take swimming lessons at the local Christian school, Rosslyn. A group of missionaries from different denominations founded Rosslyn some years ago. Many missionary and embassy kids, as well as nationals, attend the school. It has a Western feel to it while still being pretty diverse. Madison and Spencer play sports at the school as well as take swimming lessons.
All of us piled into the car at 10:30 am and off we went. Now, one thing that never crossed my mind before I got here was the driving. First of all, the drivers drive on the left side of the road in Kenya. Therefore, the driver's side of the car is on the "wrong" side of the car. Several times I started to get into the "passenger's side" only to realize there was a steering wheel in my way! The style of driving in Kenya is different than the style in the states. In order to get out from behind a slow driver, drivers casually weave in and out of the correct lane. A difference in the quality of the roads exists between Nairobi roads and Northern Virginian roads. The person who brought the speed bump to Kenya could be sued for damages to vehicles as well as pain and suffering. On the twenty minute trip to Rosslyn, we run over 17 different speed bumps. And then we drive over some roads that contain so many deep ruts we have to weave around the road in order to avoid hurting the tires.
Once at the pool, Madison goes first while I help Spencer with his school. During Spencer's lesson, I usually get into the pool and try to swim some laps for exercise. The first time I tried swimming here, I had only been here for a few weeks. I got out of breath very easily. Nairobi lays at a very high altitude, and some say it can take up to six weeks for a body to adjust to difference in pressure. Exercise was pretty hard for me until my fourth or fifth week in Nairobi.
After swimming we go back home and eat lunch. The Whitmans have introduced me to the Miracle whip/garlic salami/dill pickle sandwich--so delicious. My energy often wanes after lunch, so I lay down for a quick nap. Our neighbors, the Burrs, invited us over for dinner that night. Stacey put me in charge of making dessert. I whipped up an Italian Cream cake with cream cheese frosting. Kim Burr made a delicious dinner of sloppy Joe's, macaroni and cheese, and her husband made onion rings. We sat around and shared music and talked all evening. When the kid's bedtime came around, Stacey and I went home, put them to bed, and she and I watched a few episodes of House.
Living with the Whitmans in Kenya is very different than I thought it would be. They live with a strange mix of familiar and unfamiliar. We eat teddy grahams and pringles, yet the tap water is undrinkable and the milk is very strange. Store-bought milk comes in a cardboard carton and does not need refrigeration. The milk goes through a process where it is zapped at extremely high heat for a second. This kills any bacteria that could grow and also makes the milk taste rather bland. The kids drink a different milk. The Whitmans buy milk from a farm and pasteurize it themselves. While the milk is whole fat, the cows are so thin that the milk has the fat level of 1% or skim. A large water filterer and a water distiller sit on the kitchen counter. All of our drinking water comes from those filterers. The city tap water is safe to cook with, though, and none of us have gotten sick from any contamination yet.
Evenings are usually very quiet for me. All the Whitmans go to bed by 8:30 pm or 9 pm, so I usually spend the evenings reading or watching TV on my laptop. At first, I felt rather lonely, but as time passed I came to really appreciate having some uninterrupted time to myself and with God. I have found that loneliness can be very important when it comes to our relationship with God. In the states, I did read my Bible everyday, but many things distracted me from spending a lot of quality time with the Lord. This experience has really stretched me in ways I didn't know I needed stretching. It has taken me two months to realize why the Lord brought me here to minister in the Whitman's home instead of in a slum or an orphanage or with some other ministry to nationals: the Lord has brought me to a place of solitude and quietness because He wants to speak into my life. If I was as busy here as I had thought I would be, I would never be able to hear God's voice like I have in the stillness of ministering in the Whitman home. We certainly have times of business and excitement, but there have been so many quiet afternoons and evenings.
"'For I know the plans I have for you' declares the Lord,'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11 For the life of me, I could not figure out why I was on a missions trip and not sweating in the heat of the sun while building a church or teaching a VBS to foreign children or something "missions trippy" like that. But the Lord knew why He brought me here, and the Lord knew He could bless the Whitmans through an extra pair of hands around their home. I kept wondering when things were going to get "exciting" (after the excitement of the novelty wore off in week 2 or 3), but things got really exciting when I was still and quiet and the Lord spoke truth to my spirit. He revealed things about myself to me that I had not known before, and it never ceases to amaze me how little I know and how much God knows about who I am in my inmost being.
The Lord can certainly speak to us wherever we are, sometimes it's just easier to listen to Him in some places than in others. God brings us out of our comfort zones in many different ways. Maybe it's college, a new job, a move, or maybe even a ministry you have never tried doing before. The Lord always knows what's best for us and what will make us grow in our knowledge and faith in Him. Sometimes these changes come painfully and sometimes He speaks softly to our spirits. I praise the Lord for the difficult aspects of this trip (the homesickness, unfamiliarity, loneliness, etc.) because if I had not experience discomfort, I would not have leaned on God and pursued Him the way that I have. Even if we don't always know the Lord's plan for our lives, we can know His plans are amazing and beautiful and better than anything we can imagine--even if we do go through pain to receive the fullness of His plans for us.