21 November 2009

The Greatest Day Ever.

The actual day was Monday 16 November 2009. But it literally may have been the best day in my life thus far. I mean, when I daydream and think about everything I want to do in life, this day nearly encapsulated all of those desires.

The day began when I woke up at 5 in the morning in order to watch the Colts - Pats game. Lucky for me, it was on our ESPN channel in the house...sweet, I know. So basically the Colts sucked it up the whole game, shown by a 17-point deficit in the 4th quarter. But because of many fortunate events and the understanding that this was the morning of the greatest day ever, the Colts came back. Holding the Pats on a huge 4th and 2 play on the Colts 30-yard line with 2:00 left, the Colts marched right down the field and scored with :13 left on a BEAutiful pass and catch - Peyton to Reggie. The Colts won 35-34, and I wanted to pee my pants I was so excited.

We drive to school, and I proceed to differentiate the instruction to my students by watching a taped "mock" performance from last week and evaluating it. It was great - worked for every class, was fun, different, and I noticed a pretty significant difference in their sound (and posture...) when we rehearsed afterwards. The teaching day ended with a comment I made to the high school choir about "making the good better"...they awwed. It was a special moment.

We leave school, and I'm in great spirits. As we get home, I finally work up the courage to introduce myself to some of the guys working with the Chinese food business based out of our house. Turns out one of the delivery guys is a music teacher! What the heck, right? We got to talking, and he invites me to a choir rehearsal on Tuesday night - the Nairobi Music Society choir. Yes, please. I come inside, change, eat some snacks on my bed, thinking about how great of a day this is when I hear basketball being played outside. I think, "Heck...let's just add some more greatness to this day." So for the next hour and a half I play basketball with Cymn, Robert, Edward, and Fred...it was great.

I then eat dinner, have great conversation with Harrison, Cymn, and Steve, watch some KTV (Kenyan Television) news, make a playlist of "Greatest Day Ever Reflection" music, and I sleep fully.

Simple joys: American football, teaching a fun lesson, meeting a Kenyan music teacher, playing basketball with 4 great Kenyan guys, and having great conversation. Mmm. Great.

15 November 2009

The Loss of Hope.

I always thought that a person who had lost all hope equaled a person who was weak and did not have enough willpower. I understand now that a person’s hope is not so much lost as it is stolen. A young woman has no choice when she is kidnapped, drugged, and sold into sex slavery. A beautiful, young girl who is betrayed by a person who is close to her in order for him to have a few moments of pleasure whenever he wants is rendered paralyzed to resist, think, or later, speak about it to those around her. A boy living amidst violence and chaos, surrounded on all sides by the influence of gangs, members of which are the only people in the world he has to trust, has no choice to even see what the other side of the fence may hold. If these young men and women have not hope, it is not because they have lost it themselves; it has been taken from them. Satan has invaded their lives…their stories, and hastily taken their hope, their chance, their futures. In no way is it their fault. They have not chosen this path for themselves. Much like those of us who have been blessed to have a loving, hopeful path fall before us, they have been cursed to have a painful, discriminatory, abused, frightened, hurtful path fall before them. They have had no such choice to live in a suffocating environment as I have had no such choice to live in a family of a father, mother, and sister who love me and support me in everything I do. The loss of hope is just as natural for them as are the thoughts toward the future, daydreams about who I want to be someday, and hope that I experience everyday are natural for me.

I will not profess to know why this is the case. I just know that Satan has so much of a hold on this world that hurt is obvious to abound in people’s stories. It is not my job to “fix” hurt. I am immobile to fix hurt. It is impossible for me to fix hurt. But the One who ‘wrapped our injured flesh around Him, breathed our air and walked our sod, robbed our sin to make us holy’ can. He is the King of Redemption stories…He is Jesus, the King of The Redemption story.

He can place meaning in a story where there once was none.

He can give the woman sold into sex slavery a reason to live, a person to lead her out of it, a reason to share her story. He can give the girl raped by the man she trusted a voice to speak, a reason to love, and pride in the woman she will become. He can give the boy surrounded by gang pressures a way out, a future abounding with meaning, an influence that will lead him to the other side of the fence.

He can give hope. He will give hope. He does give hope.

And for that, Lord, we thank You.

"God has a way of bringing unique challenges to help each person mature. No matter what decision you make, God will always send His angels to get you through the struggles." -- Teaching Hope

The past couple of days have impressed upon me the need for hope. I am beginning to understand how difficult it is to keep a mindset of hope when a person is in a situation or environment that does not lend itself easily to it. This writing was inspired after I read a section of the book Teaching Hope entitled “Challenges” and a long conversation had with three great friends here in Nairobi.

11 November 2009


I'm successfully making the transition to football. Because in Kenya...football is where it's at. They say it's the most popular sport in the world. And after tonight, I can tell why.

I watched the varsity team play in the semi-finals game versus their archrival, Rift Valley Academy, this evening. It was incredibly exciting. It made me want to start playing football. Actually, it makes me want to start playing football...like...right now.

Here's how it went down: The game was dead even through the entire first half. Both teams had very strong defenses and skilled goalkeepers, and there had been few shots even close to getting in, so the score going into halftime was nil-nil. The pace was a bit quicker the second half, and a few balls nearly scored, but impressive plays by both sides contained the score still to 0-0 after 89 of the 90 total minutes. With less than a minute to go, Rosslyn kept the ball deep in RVA's territory; with a strong offensive push, a lot of heavy body contact, and a goalkeeper not quite getting to the ball, Rosslyn scored the one and only goal of the game! The crowd went nuts, I high-fived some of my middle school students sitting next to me (we had previously been beating on drums and blowing extremely loud noisemakers throughout the game together), and a few short seconds later the refs blew the whistle, and Rosslyn advanced to the Finals.

It's things like this that connect you to a school and its students. Sitting amidst a community cheering for their team, playing drums and yelling at referees with middle school boys, asking other teachers if they've heard updates on teams playing away games...I really do feel so much more a part of Rosslyn Academy after tonight.

Ok...but seriously...I want to go play football right now.

p.s. I'm going to incorporate this into my choir rehearsals tomorrow. I'm trying to get my students to understand the concept of a sforzando, in which you attack a note, back off quickly, and crescendo out of it. Rolling a football from one side of the piano to the other, the choirs are going to sing from forte to piano, crescendoing, and decrescendoing...and hopefully they'll make the connection from the football pitch to the choir room. Thanks, teachable moments.

08 November 2009

Other Peoples' Stories

Sometimes I just love getting wrapped up in other peoples' stories. Especially if they're real. Take Donald Miller for instance...he's done some awesome things, and he's great at writing about them. Or a friend of mine here in Kenya named Laura...she's been here for 3 months, living in a hut in the northern part of Kenya for most of it, and she has some funny and crazy stories to tell. Or pretty much any of my students here at Rosslyn Academy...because they've either lived in 4 different countries in their 12 years of existence or they've grown up speaking multiple languages or their dad works for the UN or their mom works as a missionary in a local organization...or because they're just different than I am.

The trouble is...I can sometimes get caught up in someone else's story and forget about my own. I mean, here I am in Kenya, living in a neighborhood where I can count the number of white people on one hand, people with completely different cultures and backgrounds surround me, and I still have the option to forget my story and seclude myself in another person's.

That's why I have to constantly pray that God would help me to remember that I am here, in this world, for a purpose that He wants me to fulfill. I love books and movies because they can help me to see a different side of the world I don't know, they can fill me with empathy for others' stories, they can remind me of how to live my story, and they can give me knowledge of how to help other people...but if I forget to live these learned things out...well...it's not worth a lot, is it?

03 November 2009

Above the Clouds

I just lived a great story.

For the past 3 days, I had the opportunity to hike up the 5199 meter (17,057 foot) Mount Kenya. I for real climbed a mountain. I mean, we had it all: a guide, a cook, porters…we walked in and above clouds, through rain and snow, and loved every minute of it. We walked nearly 45 miles in the 3 days…from the Mount Kenya National Park gate at 2650 meters all the way to the summit of Mount Kenya at 5199 meters. It was an incredible experience.

On Friday, we hiked a consistent uphill trail about 5 miles to Old Moses camp to spend the night. Saturday we left and hiked a rainy, muddy, and difficult 15 miles until we reached Shipton’s camp at the foot of the snow-capped peaks. We began in the dark hour of 4 a.m. the next morning, and we reached the cold summit at 7:30 a.m., climbing through the wind and snow.

We spent a few minutes taking pictures and reveling in the idea of being on a summit before playing in the snow and having a snowball fight with Simon and David, our Kenyan guide and one of the porters with us on our hike.

Following a nice, warm breakfast at the foot of the peaks, we began our seven hour hike on tired legs back to the gate where we rode a matatu (cheap and ridiculous form of dangerous Kenyan public transportation) back to Naru Moru and caught a cab back to Nairobi.
But basically the point of all my hiking boils down to this: I walked above the clouds…it still blows my mind.